By D.L. Kent
posted on 2/24/2016
1. Frankfurt International Airport
Andy Turlock flipped the unusual business card over and over in his hands. Sitting alone at the bar in the Elite Class Club at the Frankfurt airport, he sipped his second cup of coffee, contemplating what to do.
His plane from Chicago had arrived at 5:15 in the morning when most of the stores and services were not yet opened. Since his first meeting was at ten, and he wouldn’t have time to check into his hotel beforehand, he took advantage of the Elite Club’s showers to freshen up, shave, and change from his jeans into a brown tweed suit.
He had found the card stuck in the frame behind the toilet door.
His debate was whether he should notify the attendant about the card, or put it in his pocket. His Midwestern Boy Scout upbringing nudged him to hand it over with that certain veiled outrage that came second nature to most proper folk raised in the rural plains of the United States. He could hear himself saying, “I thought you should see this – probably not what the Airline would want to be associated with.” He certainly had the home town Methodist self-righteous upbringing for it; his Sunday school teacher’s voice was saying, “That’s not appropriate here, young man.”
But another, more primal reaction was raging with his long-ignored moral core. He had snatched at the card like it was a hundred dollar bill found on the train station floor, a rare baseball card at a yard sale or a hand rail if stumbling on the stairs. The images on the card had caused an immediate physical reaction, an electric shock from his eyes straight to his groin. The words more enticing than Eve's apple.
The card was printed on black high gloss stock on both sides. On one side was a photograph of a young man’s face; just a slice catching part of a faint smile, an intense blue eye, longish wavy dark hair covering his ear. The other side had the picture of a naked torso, from the neck down: smooth pecs and chest, flat abs to just a hint of black pubic hair. Across his alabaster skin ran the words, in English, "What you need." A European phone number was printed in small type along the side of the card.
Andy looked again at the face. The eye on the card seemed to look into his soul, revealing all of his long hidden secrets. The passion in his stare, the desire it stirred in Andy, were overwhelming. He had to look away.
He palmed the card as the attendant approached to refill his coffee cup.
“Is everything fine, sir?” The server’s badge stated her name as Berthilda.
“Oh, yes, just fine,” Andy croaked out, his voice not yet arrived through the jet lag.
“Do you need something?” Berthilda asked. Andy blushed and his eyes shot up to look into her face.
“Maybe to place a phone call, or something else for breakfast?” she prompted.
Andy let out a long breath he hadn’t realized he was holding. “No, no, I am just fine. Just let me know when my car arrives. I told them to call me here.”
“Certainly, Herr Turlock,” was the reply.
“Oh, yeah; maybe you can help me. I got this cell phone before I left Chicago.” Andy pulled the expensive unit from his travel bag. “They said I would need to activate it or something, for it to work here in Europe. Do you know about this kind of thing?”
Cell phones were somewhat of a mystery to Andy. Of course, he had owned one for years; it was almost mandatory for businessmen. He had bought his first one soon after he moved to Chicago to take the controller position in his father’s lighting supply business. But they had become so complicated in recent years he had just stuck with his old flip phone; until this trip, his first time outside of the United States. He wanted to upgrade to one capable of using the International circuits.
He had picked it up at the Sprint store, just after he had left his lawyer’s office on LaSalle street, where he had signed his final divorce papers. He figured he might as well add one frustration to another. At least he had some hope of figuring out the phone – his marriage of eight years was a lost cause.
Andy and his wife had been separated for almost a year, at her request. He had known all about her affair but he couldn’t blame her. He had not been much of a husband. He had lost interest in her less than two years after their wedding. He tried to blame it on work stress, on her plumping up after they turned thirty, on the death of their infant child. But he knew in his deepest, closeted heart that those were not the real reasons.
They parted amicably enough, she took the house in the suburbs and some of their savings. She was getting married to her boyfriend as soon as possible, so there were no ongoing support issues. There were no kids, nothing to keep them together or even talk about - after yesterday. He was free, and grateful for it; but still he was depressed and sad. It was hard to admit he was such a loser, the first divorce in his family's history. And he missed her companionship – they had been great friends until marriage and sex got all tangled up with it.
He was startled when the cell phone started ringing, next to his elbow. He picked it up and answered with a tentative, “Hello?”
When the party on the line spoke he heard it from two locations. He looked up to see Berthilda smiling at him from across the room, waving her cell in acknowledgement. “I hope I didn’t startle you badly, Herr Turlock? All working perfectly, I think.”
She crossed the room and took the phone from Andy’s hand. “It was already activated, but you must only make the switch to this one feature active, here, see?” Andy thanked her with a smile, which Berthilda warmly returned. Perhaps, he noticed, with a bit more warmth than was entirely warranted. She had a look like she knew a secret, the look his mother had that went along with the words, "Just wait until you grow up."
His thoughts wandered back to Chicago and his so far disappointing personal life. Sure, he was successful in his job, having risen to chief financial officer. He had earned it, too, even if his dad owned the company. It was a pretty safe bet he would take over the business soon, since his father was over sixty now. He had worked there all his life, back when the family had only owned a couple of electrical supply and appliance stores in rural Illinois. His Dad had taken a chance, bought out a competitor and a dynasty was begun. A few lucky breaks and some shrewd business decisions grew the company into a regional supply center on the south side of Chicago.
Since graduating with his MBA, Andy had contributed considerably to the enterprise by adding a line of high end lighting fixtures; with an upscale showroom in the Near West arts district, not far from the Merchandise Mart. He had even come up with some designs of his own. The purpose of this trip was, among other things, to find a manufacturer for his creations.
Berthilda discretely cleared her throat to get Andy’s attention. “Sir, your car service has just rung. He will be waiting at the front in ten minutes. Should I call for you a porter for your bags?”
“Oh, no thank you, Berthilda. I can get them easily enough. I appreciate your help with the phone.” He left a ten dollar bill on the bar as he donned his coat and gathered his things.
“Thank you, sir,” Berthilda said. “I will enjoy seeing you again as you return, I hope.”
“Ah, don’t think so – I am not returning from Frankfurt, but going on to Zurich and then Italy. But perhaps I will visit again.”
“I think you shall, sir. Frankfurt is a wonderful city. Auf Wiedersehen.”
2. Luisen Park, Mannheim
Dietrich Krouse sat in the middle of a recently mowed soccer field, his muscled legs extended in a wide V. He continued his phone conversation as he slowly bent over one knee and then the other. The early autumn sun, just past its apex, felt good on his pale skin.
“No, he has not called yet. I haven’t checked the voicemail since your last call...I will when I get back to my room. I am just starting my run.” Dietrich spoke in German to his friend on the line.
“Oh you are such a greedy little fox aren’t you?" Dietrich teased. "Of course you shall have your commission. Don’t worry my Muppet! I just hope this one turns out better than the last two - we both could use the money, eh Bertie?”
He rang off, stood up and brushed some loose grass from the seat of his silky red gym shorts. He stretched his hamstrings and back with some deep bends and squats before he began his five mile run through the campus, along the Rhine river through the Naturschutcgebiet Forest, and back to his grad student apartment at the University of Mannheim.
* * * *
The woman sitting on the bench lowered her newspaper to watch the young man jog across the lawn. She tucked her small, powerful camera into her handbag and headed to the park entrance, her eyes still following the now distant runner.
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