The Smartest Guy in the Room

“Nobody has to know,” said Diana.

“I’ll know,” he said.

Diana studied him on his bar stool. She seldom got to work for men like this Jason, with his strong forearms, tousled dark hair and jawline so sharp it could injure a hooker who forgot her professional detachment.

Maybe it was just as well he wasn’t the client.

“Six months ago you’d have had my full attention,” he said. “But now I have something too good to risk.”

“I don’t have a lot of experience with getting turned down. Live and learn, I guess.”

She slid off her stool and headed for the exit. In the parking lot across the street from the hotel she spotted the silver Lexus she wanted. The fifty-ish blonde woman behind the wheel wasn’t the average client either. Diana climbed into the passenger seat and plucked the button microphone from the back of her lapel. The client accepted it and handed her an envelope.

“You heard?” Diana asked.

“I heard.”

“Tell your daughter to take good care of him.”

“Thank you.”

The woman didn’t sound convinced, but Diana had earned her payday. She climbed out of the car and watched the woman drive off.

Diana went to her Taurus five spaces away, but she didn’t open the door. She had paid to park for the whole afternoon, while she did her job and wrecked a young woman’s wedding plans.

So whose plans were canceled now?

She crossed the street and went back into the hotel. At the entrance to the bar area she stopped. The man of her dreams was closing the deal with a sleek brunette. The woman had “flight attendant on a layover” practically stamped on her forehead. Diana backed out of sight behind a column, as the couple walked by and brushed shoulders in anticipation.

Diana took a seat at the bar with a good view. She watched as the elevator went straight to the ninth floor and then came back empty. Two hours and two beers later the car went up to nine again and returned to the lobby. The brunette exited, this time wearing her red flight attendant ensemble and towing a wheeled suitcase. Jason followed. They exchanged a casual kiss, and the woman left the hotel.

Diana was already moving. He wasn’t going anywhere without answering some questions. When she blocked his path, he didn’t seem surprised to see her.

“You made me,” she said. “I need to know how.”

“Why?”

Because I didn’t make you, and I hate that.

“I just do,” she said.

“You can buy me a drink.”

He had nerve, but she already knew that. She turned and went back into the bar. The stools they had occupied earlier were free.

“It wasn’t anything you did,” he said over his boutique bourbon. “It was the timing. I knew she’d try something as soon as we announced our engagement. This trip gave her the chance.”

“Your mother-in-law to be?”

“She didn’t trust me from the start.”

He gave Diana a charming, heartless smile.

“Can’t say I blame her. I’m impressed, though. She picked somebody I could really go for.”

“Business before pleasure. Her daughter being the business.”

“We think alike.”

Not exactly. Diana understood getting the money, but she preferred to earn it. That raised the question. Was she still on the client’s clock?

“Look at him,” said a familiar voice. “Thinks he’s the smartest guy in the room.”

Diana swiveled and confronted the client and the brunette in red. She winced. What was wrong with her today, that amateurs could sneak up on her like that?

“I guess it never occurred to you I could hire two just as easily as one. I already talked to my daughter. You’re history.”

The client stared at Jason until he got the message. He made a production of looking nonchalant, but he went. The client laid a hand on Diana’s shoulder.

“My daughter fell for his line too.”

“I’m usually the smartest guy in the room. Not today.”

“Nobody has to know.”

~ fin ~

Copyright © 2021 Albert Tucher

About the Author

Albert Tucher is the creator of prostitute Diana Andrews, who has appeared in eighty short stories in such venues as THUGLIT, SHOTGUN HONEY, and THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2010, edited by Lee Child and Otto Penzler. Diana’s first longer case, the novella THE SAME MISTAKE TWICE, was published in 2013. Supporting characters from her world, which includes the Big Island of Hawaii, are featured in THE PLACE OF REFUGE, THE HOLLOW VESSEL, and the forthcoming novella THE HONORARY JERSEY GIRL, all from Shotgun Honey. Albert Tucher recently retired from the Newark Public Library.

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