The man on the phone did not exist.

“Excuse me,” he continued. “This is William Masterson. I’m just calling to see when my plane is going to be positioned.”

“Can you spell your last name for me, please?” Tim asked. It was rare he took a call from a client he didn’t already know.

“M-A-S-T-E-R-S-O-N. First name should be William, not Will or Bill.”

“Yes, sir,” said Tim, typing slowly. “And can you tell me what your destination is, and where you’re flying from?”

“London out of Teterboro.”

“And that’s London Luton, sir?”

“Of course,” said Mr. Masterson.

“Of course,” repeated Tim, trying to keep any traitorous edge of mockery out of his voice. He typed Mr. Masterson’s information into the computer several times, but the flight didn’t come up. “I’m sorry, sir,” he murmured. “Can I have your account number?”

“I’m a brand new member,” said Mr. Masterson. “And I haven’t received my introductory packet yet. This is my first flight.”

“Well, welcome to HiJets, sir. I apologize for the delay—I’m pulling up your records now.”

He was not pulling up William Masterson’s records. Tim put him on hold without waiting for a reply and rolled out of his cubicle into the hall.

“Mark,” he hissed. “Hey, Mark. I’ve got this guy on the phone, and it’s the weirdest thing. I can’t even find his account, forget about his flight reservation.”

“Where’s he going?”

“From TEB to LTN.”

Mark frowned. “Him and like three other people. Ask him who he booked with, and try searching by his sosh.”

Tim clicked the hold button off. “Mr. Masterson? So sorry about that. Do you happen to remember who in our office booked your flight for you? Also, to make the rest of our conversation a little easier, would you mind giving me your social security number?”

“Of course. 987-65-4327. Did you get that? 987-65-4327. And I booked my flight with Jeanette.”

Tim rolled his chair back out into the hallway and wheeled around. He covered the mouthpiece with his thumb.

“Mark,” he hissed again. “Is Jeanette here today?”

Mark shook his head. “I think she’s got today off.”

“Shit.” Tim uncovered the phone. His social security search turned up nothing.

“Mr. Masterson? I’m so sorry, but I’m still unable to find any record of your flight. Let me apologize again for the delay. I’m going to have to transfer you up to my manager.”

“Of course,” said Mr. Masterson. “I appreciate you going to all this trouble. What did you say your name was?”

“Timothy, sir.”

“Well, then. I’ll remember that.”

Tim transferred the call to his manager. An hour later the e-mail went out.

···

“So you do what at your job?” asked Amberly on the night they met. The bar was loud; she had to lean in close to be heard.

“Think of it as a timeshare,” Tim said, missing the cardboard coaster as he put his beer down. “But for private planes instead of condos. If you’re too rich to fly first class, but don’t want the trouble of maintaining and crewing your own plane, you come to us. We move the wealthiest people in the world. And, well, the second-wealthiest people in the world. And the third. And the people who are too rich for first-class, but not rich enough for their own plane even if they wanted it.”

A round of cheers went up as someone scored on one of the televised baseball games, blocking out the middle of his sentence.

“Holy shit,” said Amberly. For a minute, Tim didn’t know if she was talking about the game or what he’d just said. “So there are like layers of the ultra-rich. Do a lot of companies do this?”

“A few.” Tim never knew whether to express pride or sarcasm with his next sentence. “But we’re the biggest in the industry.”

Amberly laughed. He twisted his smile enough to make it look ironic.“So do you work with famous people?” she asked. Amberly was on her second Long Island Iced Tea, and it was starting to show. She was wearing a cotton and nylon tank top, the kind other girls wore to exercise. Her nipples protruded like tiny marbles. Tim allowed a seedling of hope to unfurl somewhere deep in his chest.

“Well, for famous people,” he admitted.

“Like who?”

“Actually, I can lose my job for namedropping.”

Amberly laughed again. She leaned on his chair, accidentally rolling him forward a few inches. “What’s the point of working for famous people if you can’t namedrop?”

“The money.”

Amberly laughed again, though Tim wasn’t joking. It felt good to make a woman laugh like this. Mark—normally Tim came to play his wingman, not the other way around—winked at him from across the bar. Another cheer went up at the game.

“So what do you do?”

Amberly shrugged. “I work at an animal shelter. That makes me sound like a really nice person, but actually I just do administrative work.” She gave him a thumbs down. “It’s a pretty good job, except that sometimes my office smells like dog pee.”

Tim smiled. “My office doesn’t smell like anything, except when one of the older ladies wears too much perfume.”

“Someday we’ll have good jobs,” Amberly offered, holding out her glass in his general direction. Tim tapped his pint against it and watched her while she drank their toast. He was caught in the hollow of her throat.

“Where are you from?” she asked.

“New York,” Tim half-lied.

A difficult expression slid over her drunken face, half-interested, half-suspicious. “Really?” she asked. “Or are you just saying that to sound interesting?”

“It’s not that interesting.” Tim took another drink. He’d splurged on a pitcher of an expensive microbrew, but he was on his second glass and it wasn’t turning out to be a good session beer. “I’m from Stapleton, if you wanna get specific.”

She shrugged. “The name ‘Stapleton’ means nothing to me.”

“It’s on Staten Island.”

Amberly tilted her head. “Staten Island!” she said. “That’s barely NYC at all.”

Tim bristled. “Have you ever even been to New York?”

“No,” she snorted. “But on Law & Order, that’s how detectives get punished for fucking up. They get transferred over to Staten Island. So it must suck.”

Tim bit the inside of his cheek. “Ghostface Killah is from Stapleton.”

“Oh! You know, he’s totally my favorite member of the Wu-Tang Clan.”

Tim had no idea if she was joking or not.

“So,” said Tim.

“So,” said Amberly, getting the word out a little quicker. “I’ve never had sex with a guy in a wheelchair. Does everything work down there?”

Tim sucked in a quick breath. “Depends on what you mean by ‘work,’” he said. “There are things I’m good at, and things I’m not so good at.”

Amberly frowned. “Well, what are you good at?”

“Cunnilingus,” said Tim. “I’m mad good at that.” It was an effort to keep his voice loud enough to be heard over the bar noise.

“And what are you not good at?”

“Shit,” said Tim. “That’s a little cold, isn’t it? Asking for all my sexual shortcomings right off the bat?”

She threw her head back and laughed again. There was something mannish and theatrical about the gesture. He thought that maybe she was showing him her throat on purpose.

“Okay,” she admitted. “That’s fair. So, I could tell you my sexual shortcomings first.”

Tim blinked at her. He felt warm and full of beer. “Or,” he said. “We could discover each other’s sexual shortcomings the old-fashioned way.”

She squinted at him, wearing an exaggerated expression of calculation. “I want you to know,” she said, “that I am not just in the habit of hooking up with strange men I meet in bars.”

“Well,” said Tim, “me neither. I’m afraid the chair tends to scare them off.” He patted one of the wheels affectionately. He didn’t mean the words to be a challenge, but Amberly’s face screwed up like a little boy’s.

“I’ll sleep with you.” There was a hostile edge to her voice. “I don’t give a shit that you’re in a wheelchair.”

Tim drained the rest of his beer. The pitcher was still half-full. One of Amberly’s hands rested on the table. He took it between his own and kissed the back of it. She looked down into his eyes with an expression neither pleased nor offended.

Pages: 1 2 3 4 | Single Page