Here You Go
by John Rathbone Taylor
Lemon slow-clocked the line of electric guestlims parked along the rank. There were, maybe, fifteen in all. Most were the ubiquitous, bot-guided Zonda Zoom Twos. But there were also three old mano-controlled Surge Sevens: a Merxaydes hybrid unmistakeable with its driver mirrors. She eyed the silver one a second time. Remarked to herself that its wing mirror was a similar shape to her Friday night handbag.
The chauff was quick with the window.
“Here you go, Femi! I got heat-seats and ambi-sound; you get a complimentary nutro drink and crunchie bar; and for a chichi dame like you?” He winked. “I’ll throw in my door-servs and charm you with my chauff chat!”
She once’d him, then — expression and gait still neutral — walked over to peer into the rear of his lim. It had the look of clean.
“Chouette,” she said, letting him know she did street French. “In-cam working?”
His lowered eyelids and dismissive hand gesture said, “You need to ask?”
“’Fraid in-cams give me the uncomf, Mano.” She turned to look again at the other two Surges.
“Hey, wait! Pas de problème. For you, Femi, it’s off.” He reached up to the unit and flicked the switch.
She watched him do it. Narrowed her eyes, then chinned to the Surge’s rear door. He jumped out, stepped in front of her and opened it with a welcoming bow.
“Madame,” he said, immediately wondering if he should have said, “Mademoiselle”. He thought she was sassing about thirty-four. But up close, she had the fresh of twenty-four.
“Merci, Mano,” she said. “Got to say, nice lim... beaukou plush interior.”
He swelled. “Call it my ‘Marxaydes’ Surge. You picked the reevo with the lux, lady.”
“Yeah? You mean you’re reevo-minded?” she said, raising her eyebrows. “I chose right. I like that tune, Mano.”
He held the door a moment beyond necessary. She was in, twisting away from him, pushing her shoulder bag to the other side of the seat. The stretch caused her skirt to pull up, revealing shapely knees and the start of great thighs, a sight he mind-stored for drooling over later. Only my due, he thought. Chauff’s perk.
Behind the wheel again, he keyed the Surge and upped the vol of an early Metallica instrumental. He liked everything on a neat beat before he did the mirror.
But she did a wince when their eyes met. “How’m I gonna hear your charm chat unless you tone down the ambi?” This threw him, momentarily, till he figured his way to the compliment: “Oh, sí, sí, yeah, you’re right, Femi,” he returned loudly. Then, killing the sound-track and dropping his voice with it, he soothed: “And your wish is my command, every wish.”
He went into a patter line still feeling confident: “I don’t normally hang here. Usually my regulars look for me down the hill. That suit you, Femi, or d’you wanna go some other place? You got the comf car. I specialise in furthers. You only got to do the ask if you’d like me to do a di-vert. If you got the need, I got the ti—”
“No, merci, Mano,” she interrupted. “Hill’s meg. Nice of you to offer, but the bottom’s fine. S’where I work.”
He waved the Exzecubus past then swung the Surge out to the middle lane, circling and counter-circling the steering wheel with the palm of one hand. This was his way of driving: by instinct, but with skill and confidence. A mix of auto-pilot and human stylish. With the flow, yet on the get-go.
That’s how he was driving right now, because his surface thoughts weren’t on the traffic or his effortless manoeuvres through it. He was sussing his smart and alluring fem-ride, logging her extra reveals of info: “Bottom of the hill... where I work...”
It took a moment, then his mind leapt: Ho-lee-tan-ta-lyz-a, this chic has to be talking about the Agency!
“Natch that,” he said out loud. “I do bottoms.”
He said it giving her his cool and confident in the rear-view, but immediately nous’d his gaff. He winced and reddened... had to look away, again.
Lemon leaned further forward than she needed to put the lip-gloss back in her handbag. She suppressed a chuckle. As any woman would, she checked the clips of her ear rings while pushing her hair back. Then she eased back in her seat. Feigned interest in looking out of the side window as she spoke. Matter-of-fact voice, yet somehow, personal.
“If you voulez, Mano, you can do the return-collect for me. That’s if you’re back this way? Happens I’m gonna be free, after.” After what, she didn’t say. “Planning to be, anyway — from about seventeen-thirty. Could be you’d have me for the whole soir. If it don’t give you no problem?”
She let the solicit hang a moment. Then turned her face, eyes wide and unblinking. Caught and held his in the mirror again. This time, gave him her ambig’-innocent.
“We could talk more about your ‘reevo-lution’, Mano. I’m sure I don’t know as much as you, but ça m’intéresse, and I’d be a willing learner. But excuse-moi... you must think I’m presuming. I’ve already said too much, perhaps? Maybe you can’t risk it? Même tu ne veux pas — you don’t want to, even?”
He couldn’t miss her switch to the French intimate. It gave him an adrenalin charge. His imagination shot straight to midnight. He fantasised both of them dancing slow, whispering soft cooch, and smooching. Pictured himself moving on to the unbuttoning: first hers and then his. Or what if his first, then hers? Delish thoughts, these, and his eagerness to see more of those thighs of hers really set his manhood stirring. His shoulders felt broader. Somehow he sat taller. His mohican was brushing the car roof.
Only problem was, how to square such an absence with Pineapple? No easy thing to be convincing with her. What lie could he tell for staying out that long?!
As he fretted about it, he saw the obvious answer. His mouth moved like he was already giving her the bullshit: “Hey princess, got me a re-quire-a-mentary tonight. Out-of-town trick. The Friends have insisted on it. Extra dough though, and I’ll be back by the manyana.”
He nodded and congratulated himself: No hay problema, Red. You got it with your smart savvyin’, your savvyin’ and your chancin’!
“You still with us, Mano?” Lemon said.
He realised he had begun to voice-whisper his thoughts and stopped immediately. He saw in the rear view that she was staring quizzically at him. Trying to think what to say to her, he held her look a beat too long.
“Ahead!” she suddenly shouted, thrusting her hand forward, index finger pointing forward.
He braked and swerved violently, just managing to miss the back of a single robo-wheeler. Two Zooms — one following and the other approaching in the opposite lane — sounded their shriek-alarm horns and also swerved. The shock of the horns, skid squeals and near-collision wrenched his attention totally back to his driving. He leaned unnaturally forward to scour the road and traffic, wide-eyed, rapidly blinking. He positioned both hands square on the wheel, gripping tightly; he needed to, before he could get his words goin’ again.
“Robo jerk, goin’ slow like that! Sorry. Femi. For you, I mean, not me or them. Humble apols. I was thinking about what you were saying. I never expected that dumb wheeler. At that pace, must have been address-searching. Ought to be reported. But no, you mustn’t think you’re presumin’. I’d deffo like to unb— uh, be happy to return-collect you. Course I would. Avec plaisir. That’s my bizz, Femi. Seventeen-thirty... as you said it.”
She was silent. He wondered if she was in shock, or not getting the message? He bit his lip. Snatched air. Nasal. Half-shouted to her on his outbreath:
“Look, lady. Ain’t nothing to anx over between me and you here, okay? Ain’t no problemas, zero, none. Sure, we can talk about the reevo. Parlay ’bout whatever you want to. Thing is, I can read people. Can tell you’re an all-right, Femi. ‘Sympa’ — bet that’s how the rue-Frenchies describe you? Well, I’m sympa, too. I got the give in me. Trust me, Femi, I’ll be there: where you say, time you say, on the dotso.”
He checked the rear-view again, seeking her response to his head movement. Their eyes met. She still said nothing. But he got what he wanted: she definitely nodded.
He blew a long breath out. “O-kay then, sí sí,” he said. “We’re sampa and we’re savvying.”
He smiled to himself. Everything was coming back together. He picked up speed and switched back to one hand at the top of the steering wheel. Used his other hand to pull at an earlobe. Let go of it. Moved to his chin. Thumbed and fingered the designer stubble each side of it. He changed his facial expression to po-confident. He was smart enough not to talk more. Better just to act.
He was back to playing the professional chauff. Acting like his full concentration was back on his driving. Swaying his torso with the gravi-forces on the Surge as he steered it in and out of the traff lanes. Exaggerating his head movements again. Making a show that he was attentively monickering in all directions. Slowing here, accelerating there. Second-guessing for traffic behaviour... for light signal changes... even for Cop stops. He was a top chauff who told himself he knew the obstacles. A smart hombre who took his opportuno’s.
But also a reevo chauff who didn’t get that his guest-ride was no more than amused by his alpha-male pretences. He took it he was back with all the control, lead-taker again. Thinkin’ he knew just how much man-silence to use on her before imposin’ the co-rrection and the di-rection of things. The Spanish proudly called it ‘confianza’, and so confident was he, he almost sang it.
“So, Femi, now we’re savvyin’ the same, how about you tell me what it is — your sweet fem-name? ’Case I have to queue on the rue tonight, leave my lim to come rescue you? My ride, my friend, my claim.”
“M’appelle Lemone. Lemon Lemone. And your own, Mano?”
He didn’t expect her quick return. But he too was back to doing his talking:
“Renaldo. Born in Spain and christened Renaldo Angelo Caroti. To the company ’zecs, and the mano’s and femi’s of the bourgeois-ee, ‘Commie Carrot’ of course. Ditto the self-worshippin’ religio’s. Even the Fasch-Mussolini goons.” He shrugged. “So, they know I’m a reevo. It ain’t no scratch on me, Lady Lemon. I still guestlim them. Take their tips and — between you and me, since we’re savvyin’ — I pass on the intel. I got friends, see.”
“Friends?” she repeated.
“Sí, friends. They call themselves the ‘Amigos’. I wouldn’t normally be specif, but I’m talkin’ about reevo comrades secretly workin’ in the machine: you know, the big G, the Govern-omento. They’re workin’ for the people. People like you and me. I help ’em, see. Tell ’em who’s coming and going, what they’re parleying about in the back of my guestlim. I mean what they spill right there on that seat where you are couched now, Femi. It’s so comf, it’d make anyone relax and open up, don’t you think?”
“Can’t deny it,” Lemon said, making it easy for him to continue.
“Thing is, the amigos have ways of helping me in return. They get me a lot of exec rides, many of them the types they want me to share the inf’ on. And they show me the re-spect. S’why they call me the ‘Red Lux’ see? It’s my code name. But you, Lady Lemon, you can call me—”
“Zut !” she broke in, with humour in her voice. “Let’s decide what to appelle you with later, Red-Lux Mano Renaldo! You got me fascinated to learn more about these friends of yours. It’s so good to hear of reevos inside the machine, operating against the power, working for the common people. But we need to keep this conversation between us, don’t you think — to protect them? You can see I have trusted you enough to tell you I have reevo sympathies. Well, there’s more. Let me confide that I know Government stuff, too. Matter of fact, I have a position in the Agency. I might even know some of the amigos you’re talking about. I bet I also know others you haven’t had dealings with. We should swop names, you and me, to add to one another’s intel.”
She leaned forward. Laid a hand on his shoulder. Spread her opposite, bare arm along the top of the passenger seat. She spoke more quietly, her warm breath behind his ear. “Tu sais, Renaldo, don’t you think it’s like we were destined to meet one another today? I feel a real connection between us. D’you feel it too? I don’t feel I have to worry about asking you who your Friends are. I might even be able to make myself known to one or two of them today, and tonight we can go somewhere private and safe where I can tell you about the ones I know. But please, Renaldo, while you share your info with me, now, keep your eyes on the road, and your tootsy near the brake pedal.”
She chuckled and squeezed his shoulder. “And how about you pass me that complimentary crunchie bar!”
* * *
The rest of the journey took less than fifteen minutes. Lemon directed him to an off-highway turn-in, a little past the Agency building. It was his kind of hideaway lim-stop — an abandoned warehouse yard with high perimeter walls. Noisy outside rather than inside. Secluded. Easy to park and to turn a Surge in.
He’d told Lemon who his Amigo contacts were. Names where he knew them, which were mostly first names, together with their descriptions — as best he could. He understood there were others. Implied he had the oportunidades to find out more. But he held back from making any reference to the Amigos’ leader, the one he had chauffed once whom they called ‘La Jefa’.
Sympa, he and Lemon might be, but instinctively, Renaldo felt no smart reevo should risk a full reveal to any stranger. Besides, now he had this chichi piece of skirt on the hook, he could enjoy ravishing her tonight and still use intel follow-ups and this Jefa ace-card to play her with.
Lemon said she knew three of his contacts, but asked him not to speak about her with them until she had had chance to make herself known to them.
Now, engine off, Renaldo turned to face her, this time extending his arm along the top of the passenger seat. He wanted to get their rendezvous and evening and night-time destinations agreed for later, and he needed to go home and convince Pineapple he would be out on a chauffeuring night job. He also thought they might indulge in a little intimacy before they parted now.
He opened his mouth to speak. Lemon shook her head to stop him. She placed a slender, red-nailed index finger on his lower lip. Slid it further into his mouth, against his tongue.
His heart leapt.
She flashed her eyes. Smiled at him as if to say, “Don’t move.”
He wasn’t going to.
She took her hand away. Held his lusting look. Raised it again, this time to hold up the half eaten crunchie bar. She bit off a piece. Sucked and munched it. Ran her tongue around her lips. Pushed her chin forward. Tongued again.
Then she proffered the last piece of the crunchie bar towards his mouth. He let her push it on to his tongue. Closed his eyes. Moaned, with pleasure, and sucked at her two trailing fingers.
The message came through, quietly but clearly in her earring device. Unmistakeably La Jefa’s voice. “We’ve got enough, Lem. Proceed code eight, immediate.”
Lemon brought her other hand up to Renaldo Angelo Caroti’s face. Slowly ran the tip of her thumb around his cheek. Pointed the tiny Beretta at the angle where its bullet would pass through his ear canal and obliterate his brain stem.
“Here you go, Red Lux,” she whispered.
Copyright © 2020 by John Rathbone Taylor