Picture Perfect 35
The office space that Curtis Baxter occupied for his company was’t what Daniel expected. It was a second floor walkup that shared the front door with a first floor sandwich shop. The wooden stairs needed painting, the faux marble walls needed to have their faux freshened up. The black lacquered door with ‘Baxter Bits’ on it in red glitter letters stood out from the peeling wallpaper of the hall. There was a glittery red mat in front of it.
The suite took up the front half of the floor with a view of the street. A tiny reception area was barely large enough for a desk. Opposite it were two black lacquered wooden chairs. A sparkly red lacquered door with Curtis Baxter on it was dead centre of the wall. On the walls were posters for various TV shows that Dan assumed were Baxter Bit productions.
There was no one at the receptionist’s desk however. He knocked at the door.
“Enter.” Boomed from behind it.
He went into the office
“Daniel James! I never expected to see you here.” Curtis practically leapt over his desk to shake Dan’s hand.
“Nice set up you have here.”
“I’m usually on the go so I didn’t really need anything more elaborate.”
“Here’s your coffee, hun.” A short Asian woman in a very short skirt bumped the door open. “Oops. Sorry!”
“That fine Lin.” Curtis said as he put the coffee on his desk. “This is Daniel James.”
“Pleased to meet you.” She bowed and exited.
“What’s this about ACTRA rates? As I understand it, you are asking me, I’m not asking you. If you want me, and I am certainly interested, what is it worth to have me attached to this project?”
Curtis gulped. “I … uh … until we are sure Quintex wants the show I can’t make a real offer. That’s why I mentioned the union rates. You would get at least that much.”
“Okay. What are you willing to offer right now to get my participation? A signing on bonus, separate from any salary for doing the show.”
“I thought you were such a push over. Man, oh, man, I was wrong.”
“When your old host got shoved into my eye I stopped being a push over.”
“We had no idea that he’d do anything that stupid.”
“I don’t doubt that. When you’re usually on the go it’s easy miss what’s going on. I looked over your initial proposal. I won’t be available to travel until after July 6.”
“We can accommodate that.”
“I don’t really care if you can or can’t. You have a figure for me?”
“Five thousand signing bonus.”
Daniel remained silent.
“I’ll make it six grand.”
“Try that again and be more precise.”
“I can manage seven, only if you come with me when I make the presentation.”
“Why is it so important that I be there?”
“Jeremy Moxham will be there. I saw the two of you at Kevin McLeod’s circus. He has the final say and I know he likes you.”
“So that’s it.” Dan stood. “My credentials didn’t matter to you at all did they?”
“Yes, they did. That’s what brought you to our attention. I didn’t know you knew Moxham till the party. Honestly. You and I were in contact before that. Right?”
“Yeah. Yeah. We’ll do a bank transfer for the seven or do you want me to wait till the cheque passes before the pitch? Because I’m not in till that cash is in my account.”
“What if I don’t sell the show?”
“Not my problem is it? But I have full confidence that you could sell cameras to the blind.”
“We can do the transfer tomorrow.”
“I think we have a deal.” He shook Curtis’s hand.
On the street his knees where shaking so badly he went to the nearest cafe ordered a latte and sat there sipping it. Apparently Kilpatrick’s punch had more of an effect than he expected. Seven k! Not a bad day’s work. Now if he can deal with Linda this well he’ll be happy.
He could smell grilling as he went up the sidewalk to his house. That meant Sanjay was on the patio. He wouldn’t have been surprised if Sanjay was not there after their conversation in the morning.
He dropped his shoulder bag on the couch, pushed his shoes off to let his feet breathe and went out to the patio.
Sanjay turned from the grill. “Ah, perfect timing. I hope you are hungry.” All he was wearing was a lungi loosely tied around his waist. No shirt, no shoes, and from the bulge, no underwear either. “Another five minutes and these would have been over-cooked.”
There were two steaks over the coals along with slightly charred red and green peppers.
“There is a salad in the fridge. Bring it out and we can eat here.”
“Aren’t you afraid of singing your nipples.” Dan said as he put the salad on the patio table.
“Not when I have you to sooth them.”
“What’s come over you?” Dan sat at the table.
“You said you loved me.” Sanjay put the plates on the table and sat. “I know many married people who are not in love.”
“My point exactly.”
They ate and chatted about the weather, about Dan’s eyes, Sanjay’s work, each avoiding more conversation about their relationship.
“There were a couple of calls for you.” Sanjay said as he cleared the table. “You shouldn’t leave your phone turned off all day. People call here.”
“Not many have the house number. So it must have been Warszawa?”
“And not Linda.”
“Yes and someone who didn’t leave a name. The number was unknowable according to call display.”
“I have ways of finding out. What call display doesn’t know doesn’t mean I can’t find out.”
The landline rang.
“Maybe I won’t have to resort to drastic measures.” He went into the house to answer the phone. “Hello?”
“This is Phil Kaplan from City News. I was wondering if you had any comment on John Kilpatrick’s allegations?”
“From the press conference he had today.”
“No. Did he mention that he tried to put out one of my eyes.”
“He claimed that he was bounced from Unsolved Cold when he refused to allow Curtis Baxter to sexually harass him and that now Baxter is hiring you, someone who was once charged with sexual harassment.”
“What the fuck!” Dan shouted. “What the fuck!” He wanted to slam the receiver against the wall. “It’s true I’ve been approached by Curtis Baxter for a … project. Not to host Unsolved Cold. As for the rest I have nothing to say.”
“I see. Can I get an exclusive interview you.”
“Not at this time.” He hung up poised for it to ring again. It didn’t.
“What was that all about?” Sanjay asked.
“Publicity for John Kilpatrick.”
“Ah. Let’s just turn all this off for now.” He turned the ringer off.
Sanjay took him by the hand and lead him back out to the patio. “The hot tub should be the right temperature by now.” He undid the knot on his lungi and stepped into the tub. “You need to relax. What are you waiting for?”
Dan quickly undressed and got in, sitting opposite Sanjay.
“It’s hot alright.” he said standing up. “My balls weren’t ready to be boiled.”
“I am sorry.” He leaded forward to kiss Dan’s balls then sucked on his cock.
“That isn’t cooling them down.”
Sanjay leaned back. “I forget you are not as used to the heat as I am. This feels like a humid night on the balcony of my parents’ home.”
Dan lowered himself slowly into the water.
“Have you had time to give any thoughts to Sylvan’s proposal.” Sanjay asked. “He wants my answer soon.”
“I have to speak with the family.”
“They do not have to sign off on it, do they?”
“No, but they have a right to know before I make such a big decision.”
“What if they disapprove?”
“I’ll deal with that. I have to get the house appraised first anyway. Then I’d have to repay mother too.”
“She made the downpayment for me. I had just left the force and wasn’t yet reestablished in the family business. Not that I ever really left it but … it’s a long story. That’s one of things Linda hasn’t forgiven me for. She helped Dad with the store while I was in training and fully expected it would be hers one day.
“No one expected me to leave the force so soon and then when Dad died she expected to inherit the larger share.”
“Ah, family. Nothing like it.”
“What if I can’t get the money?”
“There is always India. With what I have saved now and a little help from my family I could open my own resort, an amusement park if I chose.”
“Are you serious.”
“Yes. I am at the age where I want to build more of a life for myself. You own this house, you have a business, two of them. All I have is a job, and a reputation. I own only the clothes on my back and of course my knives.”
“Is that what the let’s get married is all about? So you would own what I own?” Dan asked.
“No, that is not how that works. I know. We would need an agreement before marriage.”
Dan got out of the tub and sat on the edge with his legs in the water.
“Do you think you would be happy living in India again?”
“Perhaps. I now have the vision of how to make my own opportunities there.”
Dan got completely out of the hot tub and wrapped a towel over his shoulder. “That whack in the head may have damage my eyes but I am seeing somethings much clearer than I did before.”
“What to do mean?” Sanjay got out of the hot tub.
“All this … the ‘I’m over you sleeping around’ … the dinner … it’s all to sweet talk me into the loan for you. Isn’t it.”
“No. I am not asking for a loan.”
“A gift? Or if I don’t I’m forcing you to move back to India?”
“That is not my intention.”
“That is what I see.” Dan grabbed his clothes and went into the house.
Sanjay followed him.
“Dan!” He turned Dan around to face him.
“I’m tired. It’s been a long day. I have decisions to make.” He rubbed along his eyebrows. “I have pain to numb.”
“I have no wish to go back to India.” Sanjay said. “I don’t want a life without you. When we first met I didn’t believe men could care as we did, share as we did. But it seemed the longer we were together the harder it was for me to feel we were part of each other’s lives. I hoped you would change about marriage as the laws changed. But you have never changed. I doubt if you ever will. That is my pain. It is one I don’t think I can ever change, even if I leave you.” Sanjay began to weep.
“Then we have a basic philosophic stand-off. I don’t see a solution. I do know one thing, emotional blackmail isn’t going to change my mind.”
“Emotional blackmail.” Sanjay shouted.
“You may not even realize you are doing it. Just like that guy in the force who thought I was harassing him by answering questions about the gay lifestyle. I didn’t realize I was harassing anyone.”
“I’m sorry you see me that way.”
“I am too. I’m going to bed. This conversation is over.”