The following Wednesday, I went outside the building with my cell phone and Mistress Hunter’s business card. I hadprobably examined it a thousand times since our dinner on Friday. The card was simplicity itself, her name in elegant script, Elisabeth S. Hunter; below that, what I presumed was her business, in embossed gold letters, “HUNTER SOLUTIONS, LLC.” A phone number below that. On the back, in Mistress Hunter’s neat hand, the number I was to call, different than the number on the front.
Friday, after I got home, I had Googled “Hunter Solutions.” After eliminating the unlikely businesses and listings with variations of “Hunter,” I found what appeared to be some kind of investment firm with offices located in downtown Washington, D.C., at L’Enfant Plaza.
No real website, just a place-marker at the web address. On Monday, I had been tempted to call the number on the front of the card and play dumb, ask a few questions and see if I could learn more, but then it occurred to me Ms. Hunter might trace the call back to me and I’d fail a test, as in, “Follows directions without question.”
I pushed it out of my mind—it really didn’t matter what she did for a living; what mattered was what went on behind her closed doors. That gave me plenty to think about. It was all I could do to not jack off at night while fantasies ran through my head like wild animals roaming through the jungle. Especially when I could connect them to a stunningly beautiful woman, Mistress Savannah Hunter, a black panther stalking her prey—me.
Time to Contact Mistress Hunter
Precisely at three p.m., with fingers trembling, I tapped the number into my phone and hit the dial button. Three rings later a pleasant, feminine voice came on the line: “Good day, Ms. Hunter’s office.”
“Uh . . . this is Paul Green,” I stammered. “I was supposed to call at three? For Ms. Hunter?”
A brief silence. “Ah, there you are, Mr. Green. Ms. Hunter is on another call, please hold.”
“Yes, of course.” I leaned against the building with the phone held to my ear and listened to light jazz, a step up from Muzak, while I fixed my gaze on the feathery cirrus clouds racing across the sky high above. An airliner traced a long, straight line under the clouds, spewing out twin contrails.
After about five minutes, the receptionist came on the line again. “Mr. Green, are you still there?”
“Thank you for your patience, I’m connecting you with Ms. Hunter now.”
There was a click, the line seemed open, but no voice. I spoke into the silence, “Hello?”
“Mr. Green,” I heard Mistress Hunter’s unforgettable voice, which for some reason reminded me of polished brass, “How good of you to call. How have you slept since our date on Friday?”
Not the question I expected, but an insightful one. “Not very well, Mistress,” I replied.
“Wondering if you’ve been selected, dear?”
“Well, I have good news and bad news for you, Mr. Green. Which would you like first?”
Good News & Bad News
Ah, the metaphysics behind that question. Paper or plastic; should the dentist pinch your cheek before inserting the needle or not; do you drink your whiskey neat or on the rocks?
Me: paper, yes pinch, on the rocks. Guess that makes me a wimp. But I wouldn’t let Mistress Hunter know that. “I’ll take the bad news first, Mistress.”
“How very wise of you . . . the bad news is I haven’t chosen you, Mr. Green.”
I felt an anvil drop on my chest and the air squeezed out of my lungs. I couldn’t speak.
Miss Hunter continued, “The good news is that you are still in the running, Mr. Green. You are one of two finalists, in fact. We’ll just have to see which one of you has the right stuff.”
I inhaled a lungful of air; my heart resumed beating. I was still in the running. Damn.
Round 2 – Who’s got the “right” stuff
“Do you have a pen and something to write on, Mr. Green? I’m going to give you my address.”
“Just one moment, please.” I switched to the speaker and opened the iPhone Notes app. “Can you still hear me, Mistress?”
“Ready to copy.”
She recited her address. It was in Alexandria, an unfamiliar street but I guessed probably not too far from the Columbia Firehouse, where we had first met.
“I’ll expect you Friday evening at seven. There’s a set of steps to the front door, and left of them, underneath, steps leading to an entrance below street level. Use those steps, ring the bell and wait.”
“Bring an overnight bag with your toiletry kit and a change of clothes for work on Monday; that’s all you’ll need, Mr. Green. Are my instructions clear?”
An Overnight Trip for the Ages
Perfectly clear. Adrenalin coursed through my body. “Yes, Mistress.”
“Goodbye, Mr. Green. We’ll expect you seven sharp.”
She hung up before I could reply.
I suppose I should have felt elated, but instead what I felt was foreboding, a sense of dread. Staring at my phone, as if it could somehow answer the question that rose in my mind like a dark thundercloud: how would Mistress Hunter choose between me and this other guy?
I sensed there would be suffering involved.
Next: The Dotted Line