The Villiers Touch
The Villiers Touch
1. Mason Villiers
The girl opened the bathroom door; a swath of light splashed across the bed where he lay. Momentarily he saw her silhouette, lithe Oriental girl in tight yellow silk, and then she switched the light off, leaving only the faint illumination that came in from the living room of the suite, where a lamp burned with a soft 25-watt glow. The girl walked to the hall door, long hips swaying, and paused there to adjust a bracelet, her head tipped to one side. Mason Villiers reached for the wristwatch on the bedside table, held it close to his face and squinted: four-thirty in the morning.
The girl's voice was muted, courteous. "Will you want me again?"
"I'll let you know."
"Cheers," she said, with no particular cheer. He listened to the hall door latch behind her. He stretched-a hard crackling of lean musculature; he yawned and closed his eyes and was almost instantly asleep.
He had always been a cat-napper; he rarely slept more than an hour at a stretch. At five-twenty he was up, padding across the deep carpet. The suite was mock-Victorian, heavy with the forced freshness of recent and frequent redecoration-hotel stationery and ashtrays; complimentary cut-glass bottle of Chivas Regal and bucket of ice, both of them reflected in the waxed surface of the table; thick nubby draperies, endless sets of white bath towels that were never quite big enough-all the impersonal size and ubiquitous big-city luxury of hotel quarters for rich transients. Villiers was unimpressed to the point of being oblivious; he might as well have been in a skid-row flophouse for all the attention he gave the room.
He came out of the bathroom drying himself, tossed the towel on a chair, and walked into the huge closet to paw through his bag. It was a Vuitton suitcase crested by a bar sinister coat-of-arms. The bar sinister amused him.
He put on silk socks and underclothes and a mustard-hued shirt, and a wide burnt-olive tie; he rattled hangers past a smoking jacket and a dark Dunhill suit, kicked into lean black shoes, and zipped up the trousers of an olive Italian suit while he walked to the phone in the living room. He picked up the receiver and waited, a young man who wore expensive clothes because he had once been poor.
When the sleepy-voiced switchboard girl came onto the line, he gave instructions to screen all incoming calls before putting them through; then he had the line switched to room service and ordered breakfast. He poured a drink from the cut-glass bottle, went back to the phone, and gave the girl Sidney Isher's number.
It was good Scotch; he sipped it. Isher answered the ring coughing and mumbling. "What the hell, Mace, it's not even six o'clock."
There was a woman's acrimonious muttering in the background. Sidney Isher said, "Hang on while I get to another phone."
Villiers tipped the glass up and rolled whisky on his tongue, savoring before he swallowed. He heard a click and Isher's nasal voice: "Okay-okay. How's Canada? Find any old Rollses?"
"No. I picked up a twenty-seven Pierce Arrow."
"They hard to find?"
"Anything good is hard to find."
"Funny-you still don't strike me as the hobby type."
"Peanuts," Isher said, and cleared his throat violently. "Where are you?"
"The New Executive."
"That huge Goddamn barn?"
"In big hotels they care less." He heard the click that meant Isher's wife had finally hung up the bedroom phone. He began to speak, then stopped; he heard a whispering rustle at the other end of the line. "Turn off that fucking tape recorder, Sidney."
"Turn it off."
"You know I always use the thing. I'd be a fine lawyer these days if I didn't. Even my mother-in-law goes on tape."
"All right-all right."
He heard the scrape stop. Isher said, "It's off. Now, what's so secret?"