Hundred-dollar baby - By Robert B. Parker

Hundred Dollar Baby

Robert B. Parker

For Joan: Priceless


The woman who came into my office on a bright January day was a knockout. Her hair had blond highlights and her fawn-colored suit appeared to have been hand-sewn by Michael Kors. She took off some sort of fur-lined cape and tossed it over the arm of my couch, and came over and sat down in one of my client chairs. She smiled at me. I smiled at her. She waited. The light coming in my window was especially bright this morning, enhanced by the light snowfall that had collected overnight. She didn't seem dangerous. I remained calm.

"You don't know who I am," she said after a while. "Do you,"

Her voice sounded as if it had been polished by old money. It was her eyes. Someone I knew was in there behind those eyes.

"Not yet," I said.

She smiled.

"`Not yet,' " she said. "That's so you. I don't know now, but I will."

"My glass is always half full," I said, "Are you going to tell me or do I have to frisk you."

"God, it's good to see you," she said. "It's April."

I stared at her. And then there she was.

"April Kyle," I said, and stood up.

She stood up, too. I walked around the desk and she almost jumped against me. I put my arms around her. She was beautiful, but the incest taboo had kicked in the moment I knew who she was. It was like hugging a little girl. All the cool elegance was gone. She stayed against me with her arms around me and pressed her face against my chest.

"It's like coming home," she said.

"When you have to go there, they have to take you in." I said.

"Robert Frost."

"Very good," I said.

"You taught me that," she said.

I nodded. She kept her face pressed against my chest. It made her voice muffle a little.

"You taught me almost everything I know that matters." she said.

"That's not so hard," I said. "Because not many things matter."

"But the ones that do," she said, "matter a lot."

She let me go and stood back and looked at me for a moment, then sat back down. I went back to my desk chair and tilted back in it.

"Are you still with Susan?" she said.


She nodded. "And you're still doing what you do."

"And charmingly," I said.

"You look the same," she said.

"Is that good or bad?" I said.

"It's absolutely marvelous," she said. "It's been so long. I was terrified you wouldn't be here. But here you are. Looking the same. Full of irony and strength."

"You've become quite beautiful," I said.

"Thank you."

"And graceful," I said.

She smiled.

"Is it real?" I said.

"Mostly," she said.

I was quiet. I could smell her perfume. It smelled expensive. She was expensive. Everything about her: clothes, manner, makeup, the way she crossed her legs. The way she spoke.

"I'm still a whore," she said.

"And a very successful one," I said.

"Actually, I don't do so much of the, ah, hands-on anymore," she said and smiled at me. "I'm management now."

"It's what makes America great," I said.

"You don't disapprove," she said.

"I'm the guy sent you to Mrs. Utley," I said.

"You had no choice," April said. "I was a complete mess. You had to find someone to take care of me."

"How about you," I said. "Do you disapprove?"

"Disapprove?" April said. "I've been in this business since I was fifteen."

"Doesn't mean you approve," I said.

"And you sending me to the best madam in New York doesn't mean you approve," April said.

"I had to think about it a little because of you," I said. "And if it's among consenting adults and no one is demeaned-seems okay to me."

"Have you ever had sex with a whore?" April said.

"Not lately," I said.

"So maybe you do disapprove."

"Or maybe I'm such a chick magnet," I said, "that I never had time."

April smiled and looked for a moment at the bright morning hovering over Berkeley Street.

"Do you disapprove of me?" she said.

"No," I said. "I don't."

"I guess that's probably what I really was asking."

"Probably," I said.

"I've been back in Boston for more than a year," April Said,

I nodded.

"I never called you."

I nodded again.

"I guess I was afraid you wouldn't still be you, and, maybe, I guess, I was afraid you wouldn't like it that I was still in the whore business."

"I think the current correct phrase," I said, "is sex worker."

April shook her head a little.

"You used to say that a thing is what it is and not something else."

"I did," I said.

We were quiet again. She wanted me to help her