Home > Hidden Seams(9)

Hidden Seams(9)
Author: Alessandra Torre

And… if Vince is my father, then my father is dead. Just like my mother. And I am discovering all this, two days too late. Two days to separate hugging my father versus visiting his grave. Two days to separate a memory versus mourning. Maybe, if he’d known about me, he might have lasted a little longer. Maybe, if I’d known about him, I would have lived my life differently.

I roll onto my back and stare at the ceiling, watching the slow turn of the fan. When I was a child, I used to go to bed as early as possible. Sleep, for most of my adolescence, was my escape. I once told that to a psychiatrist and immediately felt stupid for it. What did I have to escape from? I had a room filled with anything a girl my age would want. At twelve, I had a horse, kept at the best riding academy in town. I had everything except the feeling of a family.

It wasn’t their fault. For one, I was a spoiled pain in the ass. For two, I don’t think that Kirk and Bridget are the molds that families are built from. They loved each other in the narcissistic way that a man loves his first sports car. They were a status symbol for each other, a way to impress, a way to remind themselves that they have succeeded. They were each other’s perfect embodiment of a spouse, and I was the loose thread in their seamless life.

When I was seven, I trained myself to fall asleep by reciting the list of Presidents. If I made it from Washington to Clinton, then I started again, this time working backwards, counting them down and imagining each of their faces in my mind. If that didn’t work, I started back with Washington and made myself recite an interesting fact about each of them as I went.

George Washington’s ‘wooden teeth’ were actually made of hippopotamus ivory, bone, animal and human teeth, lead, brass screws and gold wire.

John Adams blamed a day of fasting for his reelection defeat.

Thomas Jefferson was one of the first American farmers to employ crop rotation.

For the purposes of this exercise, I’d spent an entire summer, memorizing two interesting facts about each president. It was the summer before fifth grade, and if that sounds like a bleak summer activity, it was. But, it was worth it, arming me with the ability to bore myself to sleep, an ability I’ve used ever since.

I start with Washington and only get to Grant before falling asleep.


* * *


“I’m not a taxi service, Kate.” I rip open the pop tart package with my teeth. “This is why I have a shuttle. If you missed that, use one of the bikes in the lobby.”

“Anna said girls on bikes get knifed.” The wisdom is delivered in the halting English of a fresh Russian, and I break off a piece of the pastry and stick it in my mouth.

“Ignore Anna.” I sit on a barstool and pull a sock on. “She lives in Herman Gardens. Everyone gets knifed there.”

“Can’t you just pick me up?”

“No.” I glance at the clock, and yank the second sock on, pushing off the stool and working my feet into tennis shoes. “I’m late. Either hop on a bike or catch a bus, but I need you there.”

I end the call, mutter out a string of curses, and grab my keys and wallet.

Money laundering is a simple enough game, assuming, of course, that the people—like Kate—keep their jobs. High turnover increases my risks, and disgruntled employees tend to talk, which isn’t good for anyone in our business. So, while laundering is my primary business, I’m actually just a glorified babysitter. A well-paid, highly illegal, babysitter.

There are a dozen ways to wash cash, but mine is fairly simple. I own an employment company, one that provides legitimate short-term employment visas under the guise of American internships. I have partners in Russia and the Ukraine, and bring over four hundred girls each year. Four hundred girls who live in three different apartment complexes which I own, the mortgages paid for by my clients’ dirty money. The girls work in a variety of jobs, mostly in retail centers, all owned by my clients. According to accounting and tax records, the girls work as unpaid interns, with a stipend of two dollars per hour to cover their rent. In actuality, and according to the cash included in my Chinese food deliveries, they earn ten dollars per hour. Four hundred girls, fifty hours per week, ten dollars an hour. Two hundred grand per week of off-the-books expense for my clients. Almost eleven million per year of additional income for their front businesses that they can claim, pay taxes on, and account for.

The two dollars per hour stipend - the one that’s on the books? That’s my cut, transferred legitimately into my bank accounts and covers the apartment complex costs, plus the shuttle bus and security, leaving me with a profit of about four hundred grand a year. It’s not Vince Horace money, but in Detroit? I’m balling.

Stepping into the car and hitting the garage door, I start the SUV and shift into gear.



Chapter 7




I lay naked on the table, cucumbers and a scented towel over my eyes. In here, behind the stone walls and noise-deadening construction, the music outside is inaudible, and all I hear are the grinding of salts, and the soft patter of feet against the spa’s stone floor. I inhale deeply, the stress from lunch already seeping away, even before the first drop of the scrub hits my skin.

“Who is that?” I ask, the hands beginning at my ankles, a second pair drizzling the scrub along my chest.

“It’s Rocco and Andy, sir.”

I say nothing, the names familiar, my favorites out of our spa team. There is the gentle massage of sugar and oil into my feet, talented digits working the pressure points of my soles, and I forget, for a moment, the GQ interview and the questions I had struggled with.

“Do you have a problem with a man touching you?” Vince stands next to me, watching critically as I flip the tie over itself, knotting it with perfect precision.

“You’re going to have to clarify that,” I say, reaching my arms out and letting him pull the jacket on.

“In public, I will rest my hand on your arm, hug you, hold your hand.” He pulls the jacket tight, too close to me for comfort, and faces me squarely. “I won’t kiss you, not right now, not until you are comfortable.”

“I’m not sure that I’ll ever be comfortable with that.”

He smiles in a way that isn’t a smile, but more of a threat. A reminder that this situation is one I am lucky to be in, and I need to remember that. “You’ll learn to be comfortable.” He squeezes my shoulders with both hands. “It’s lips brushing. It’s nothing. But I’ll give you a few months to adjust to the idea.”

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