Thankfully, Mrs. Silva caught it. “Sara, could you give us a few minutes alone, please?”
With a nod, Sara headed for the door. Once we were alone, Mrs. Silva cleared her throat and adjusted her robe, but she didn’t make eye contact with me. Again, that was nothing new. I’d never known any of the “Mrs. Silvas” before to be able to look me in the eye.
Maybe it was because they were ashamed of our cloak and dagger arrangement, or maybe it was because they knew I would be in bed with their husband soon, or maybe it was because they were just so beaten down by life they couldn’t look anyone in the eyes anymore. I didn’t know, and I’d never asked because, quite frankly, I didn’t care.
I wasn’t a shrink. I provided a service. A means to an end.
“You’re younger than I would have thought,” she said.
“Oh?” I’d heard that one a bunch, too. When Eves went to a Meet, we didn’t dress the part. In fact, we tried to dress the opposite part so, god forbid, if anyone tried to prove a link between the Mr., the Mrs. and the mistress, the woman I looked like with the Mrs. would be the total opposite of the woman I looked like with the Mr. With Mrs. Silva, I wore no makeup, hair in a loose braid, a simple cotton dress, and sandals with no heel. With Mr. Silva . . . well, that would be a different story. “If it’s any consolation, I’ve never come across a man who has an issue with a younger woman.”
I hadn’t meant that as a jab but as a fact to reassure her. I might as well have slapped her from the pain flashing across her face.
She stared absently at the sparkling rock on her left hand. “No, I’m sure you haven’t.”
“Do you have the file?” Enough small talk. Time to get down to the reason I was there.
Mrs. Silva lifted her chin at the chair across the room. “It’s the manila folder inside my bag.”
I dialed the access code into my briefcase as I headed toward her bag. “Everything’s in there?”
“Yes,” she replied, “I think so.”
I made a face only because my back was to her. “You think so? We’re not going to get this done with you just thinking so, Mrs. Silva.” I pulled the thick folder from her bag and lifted it. “Is. Everything. In. Here?”
“It is.” Her voice took on that tell-tale wobble. That twinge of nostalgia for the good days with her soon-to-be ex combined with the overtone of what-the-hell-am-I-doing? The surest way to get rid of the wobble before it turned into anything more was to barge ahead.
Once I’d stuffed the file inside my briefcase, I slid out one of the shiny black phones. “Here’s your phone.” I held it up for her to see before dropping it into her bag. “You only use it to call or text me, and it had better be an emergency if you do call or text me. Okay?”
Mrs. Silva nodded her head. A nod wouldn’t cut it. We weren’t playing a child’s game of truth or dare; the job was an intricate task that needed to be meticulously executed in order for all of the chips to fall just the way we were orchestrating them.
“Okay, Mrs. Silva?” There was an edge to my voice when I repeated the question.
“Okay,” she said, bobbing her head. She couldn’t look away from the ring on her left hand. Too bad she hadn’t gotten cold feet on her wedding day instead.
I continued, so familiar with the speech I felt like a flight attendant giving the pre-flight spiel. “My number’s programmed in there. I will text you four times and four times only. You won’t talk to me or see me after today.” One meeting, that was it. Eve rule number two? Keep contact with the Client to an absolute minimum. Why? Each wife might have contracted us to do the job, but they were women trying to divorce their husbands for cheating, which meant jealousy ran deep and heavy in the blood. The less they saw of the woman about to seduce their husband, the better. “I will send you a G when I’ve made contact with your husband. I will text you an H for when I’ve got him on the hook. I will text you a time and an address where the Errand will be finalized, and I will text you a V when it’s done.”
“Errand?Finalized?” Mrs. Silva’s eyebrows came together. “Why don’t we just call a spade a spade and exchange finalizing the Errand for you f**king my husband?”
Bitterness. We were moving right along the roller coaster of emotions at the Meet. Only a couple more to go, and I’d be out of there.
I kept calm because it served no purpose for both women to become emotional. “If you want to call it like it is, I think finalizing the Errand would be better characterized as me f**king your husband because you want out, you want your cut, and you hired me to.” I arched an eyebrow and approached her. “Since we’ve got that out of the way, may we continue?”
Oh, and there it was. The first tear.
“How can you be so calm? How can you stand there and pretend I’m asking you to do nothing more than drop my husband’s shirts off at the dry cleaners?” she said, flailing her hands about as she struggled to catch her breath. We were getting close to the next one: mild hysteria.
My instinct was to hug her, or grab her hand, to offer some measure of comfort. But I didn’t. I wasn’t one of the best because I’d turned off my instincts; I was one of the best because I’d learned how to manage them.
Don’t get personal.
I’d held to that rule, and it had never done me wrong. Offering comfort was too personal. Tough love was even too personal. I strived for apathetic logic.
“I stay calm because emotion is a handicap,” I explained, clasping my hands to keep from reaching out. “I’m not pretending when I behave like you’ve hired me to do something no more intimate than dropping your husband’s shirts off at the Laundromat. There is no feeling in what I do. No intimacy in what I share. It’s sex. The act removed of any and all emotion.”
Mrs. Silva gave a little huff and shook her head. “Sorry, sweetheart, but sex is intimate no matter how you try to slice it.” Mrs. Silva no longer struggled to calm her breathing. She was back at sad.
I made a non-committal shrug. It had been so long since I’d had “intimate” sex, I forgot what it felt like. I’d forgotten how it felt to fall apart with someone I loved. “Not the kind I have. Sex for me is like a French kiss with a bit more skin and sweat.”
She closed her eyes, almost cringing at my words. “I’ll take your word for it.”
Okay, time to shift the conversation. Avoid talking about the actual seducing and sexing of the Target.
“Once I’ve sent you the time and location where I’ll final—” Mrs. Silva flashed me a quick look of warning. Fine. She wants it straight, I’ll give it to her straight. It wasn’t me I was softening the truth for. “Where I’ll be f**king your husband”—to her credit, Mrs. Silva didn’t flinch—“get ahold of your private investigator, detective, photographer, or whoever it is you’ve got lined up to catch us in the act, and make sure they’re there. You’ve got one chance. Make sure the Contact you’ve hired will be there because I will not be happy, and G will not be happy, if you drop the ball.” I paused, hoping she’d look me in the eyes so I could impress upon her the seriousness of our conversation. She wouldn’t look anywhere but at that ring of hers. “I’m the person who does their job. Make sure you are, too.”
After a few moments, Mrs. Silva tightened the belt on her bathrobe and sat up taller. “Anything else?”
Ah, there it was. We were almost done. She’d almost reached acceptance. Once we were there, I was out.
“Yeah, there is,” I said as I snapped my briefcase closed. “I’m sure G pounded it into you already, but in case you missed any of the keep-quiet-or-else speech, here’s a recap. Don’t. Say. Anything. About. The. Eves. Not to your Contact, not to your mother, not to your B.F.F., not to your priest, and not even to your little fee-fee dog. We help you now, you help us by keeping silent in the future.” To date, not a single Client had slipped, but if one ever did, the fallout would be disastrous.
Mrs. Silva almost smiled, although it wasn’t a particularly friendly one. “Not to mention I help you out by paying you.”
Look who was playing the moral high-road game now? I hadn’t seen that rebuttal coming from the mostly sad and silent Mrs. Silva, and I could usually spot a holier-than-thou show before I stepped foot into the Meet room.
“Not to mention we’re helping you come out on the other end of a divorce with fifty percent of your husband’s worth.” I made my way to the door. I had a file to study, and Mrs. Silva had legs to be waxed. “I’d say that’s the gift that keeps on giving for the rest of your life. Wouldn’t you, Mrs. Silva?”
She laughed tightly. “You and G aren’t nearly as intimidating as you think you are.”
Oh, dear god. Right after the actual act of screwing the Target, the Meet was my least favorite part of the whole gig. “That’s because you just met us. This isn’t a threat, and it’s not a warning. It’s the truth. Get your divorce, take your money, and forget about us.”
“Just don’t forget to pay you, right?”
I knew she was trying to ruffle my feathers. So many had tried before her, and like her, every one of them had failed. To ruffle my feathers, they had to have some sort of emotional pull over me. My Clients didn’t. Neither did my Targets.
“You can forget if you want,” I said, giving her a tilted smile. “But G won’t.”
Mrs. Silva chuckled again. Not quite as much ice but still enough to make the room a bit chilly. “My husband’s careful—discreet,” she said, and there it was: acceptance. I saw it in her eyes after she’d finally managed to look me in mine. I was out. “He won’t just tumble into bed if you bat your eyes at him. I hope you’re good.”
No wife ever wanted to know just how good I was.
“You and I wouldn’t be here now if I wasn’t.” Before I slipped out of the door, I worked up a small smile. Less than five minutes we’d ever speak to one another, and yet, two lives were affected by that handful of minutes. It had taken me some getting used to at first, but eventually, the goodbye smile came naturally. The smile that said I’m sorry, Good luck, and Nice doing business all at the same time. “Goodbye, Mrs. Silva.”
“Goodbye . . .”—interrupted by a long sigh—“Eve.”
I closed the door and headed down the hall. Clients never knew our names. Our real names or the names we took on for the Errand. It was easier when there wasn’t a name. Names were personal. Even fake ones.
After navigating my way down the wax “wing,” I headed past the aquarium counter and red-silk-kimono girl again. Plastering on a smile, I folded my hands beneath my chin, made a small bow, and said, “Namaste” in as saccharine a way as I could.
If not for the guests milling about the waiting area, I was certain kimono girl would have flipped me off or tried scratching my eyes out. I couldn’t be sure, but her brand of pissed was especially impressive.