Today’s excerpt comes from 43-year veteran captain of the Seattle Police Department, author Neil Low.
THICK AS THIEVES EXCERPTS
BY: NEIL LOW
Vic said to the older woman, “Anything he wants is on me. Bring him plum wine and a girl to scrub his back. Make that two girls, two bottles.”
Vic called the old woman Big Mama, and she grinned wide, showing a number of golden teeth. She nodded to Vic and sized Alan up quickly before she shuffled away, leaving the young woman to help Vic out of his outer clothes. Big Mama’s slippers slapped gently on the floor and the noise faded the farther she went down the hallway. Within a few moments, a small man of similar age to the old woman entered the room, carrying a tray of potions and a stack of folded towels, antiseptically white. He greeted Vic with a casual tone. His face betrayed no emotions.
Vic said, “Just relax and let them do their job, Champ, a nickname he dubbed Alan with because of his Golden Glove boxing title. Nothing happens here unless you want it. They even do your laundry while you’re soaking.”
The older woman came back and gave instructions to her young helper, who smiled shyly at the suddenly weary, young man standing with hands shoved deep in his pockets. She tugged one of his hands free, taking it into hers, and led him away.
* * *
Her delicate hands were smooth as porcelain and perfectly manicured. They moved assuredly, with grace, as she adjusted the water flow and tested its temperature. She busily worked around Alan, never making eye contact with him, until the business of filling the tub was under control, and then she stole a brief glimpse, barely longer than the blink of an eye. She was very shy or deferential—maybe both. Then, as she had with Vic, she encouraged Alan out of his hat and coat and hung them on a brass hook. She said something, but it was neither Chinese nor what he understood as English. She repeated the words as she lifted his coat to hang on the peg.
He guessed her intent and said, “Heavy.”
She tried to repeat the same word but missed.
A trace of a smile crossed his lips. He took off his tie, tucked it in his coat pocket, and leaned his exhausted body back against a wooden chair. He never took his eyes off her. She was exquisite, magically exotic. Her long, dark hair fell softly around the smooth skin of her thin neck. Her features were small and delicate, with just a hint of rouge color to her cheeks. When she squatted to take off his shoes, she wrinkled her nose but then quickly smiled. She opened a cabinet and took out a small laundry bag, inverting it, and pushing the inside of the fabric out to grab hold of his shoes, while making sure none of the vomited remnants got on her. She cinched the drawstring on the bag, and when she was done said, “Shoe shine.”
Alan nodded. She went back to remove his socks, and her hair draped onto his pant legs. With effort, she helped him out of his suit pants, and as she hung the clothing, she said something, rubbing the fabric. He had trouble understanding her heavy accent, but he understood she was admiring the material.
She took an unlabeled brown bottle from a cupboard, uncorked it, and poured its fluid into the running water. The tub soon filled with bubbles, and a strange but pleasant aroma filled the room, a flower he couldn’t name.
In a detached daze, he watched her remove the rest of his clothing. She put his shirt, socks, and underwear into a cotton bag and turned to him. “Wash laundry?”
He understood her this time. “Sure,” he said with an exaggerated nod, hoping the non-verbal cues would erase any doubts.
She lifted his arm, encouraged his naked body from the chair, and led him to the bath. He put a toe in, withdrew it, and said, “Hot.”
She bowed and encouraged him to try again.
He submerged his foot and found he could stand the heat, so he brought the other leg over the rim and settled in, sitting back into the warmth, and craving oblivion. He forced himself to not think about the shooting, which only happened a half-hour before. The effort required for him not to think, drained his energy. His muscles were tight everywhere, and they throbbed with weariness. His jaw remained clenched hard enough to make his teeth hurt, but in a moment she was kneeling outside the tub, behind him, rubbing his neck and probing his shoulders.
He groaned a noise that passed for yes.
She worked her way down his back, into the water, and his tension started to ease. Soon, he closed his eyes and started moaning, guttural tones of pleasure, catlike, sounds he didn’t know he had in him. What shooting?
She pushed him forward, and he bent at the waist and grabbed his knees. Before he realized what it was, he felt one foot and then the other massaging his buttocks. He twisted just a little and caught a glimpse, over his shoulder, of her naked body, her pubic mound inches from his face, as she slid into the tub behind him. The tension shattered and the fog began lifting. She grasped and kneaded the muscles on his back and upper arms, sliding her knees along his sides and under his arms. She worked her hands around to his chest and eased him backward and down, so his head came to rest on her bosoms. She started rubbing his temples and forehead, cradling his head, while cooing to him in a language he didn’t understand.
While caressing his forehead, she said, “Name…” She smiled and nodded enthusiastically as she said something. Her pronunciation was heavily accented, difficult to understand, so he repeated what he thought she said. “Poppy?”
“Yes,” she said with an encouraging smile.
He repeated her name, puzzling over it. “Oh, yes. Like the flower.”
Following a soft knock at the door, another woman in a silk robe entered, carrying a tray with a bottle and glasses. In a moment, she set them on a small table. She poured him a glassful and handed it to him. He sat back and took a hearty sip, hungry to return to the spot he was just in.
As he settled, the wine server dropped her robe, casual about her nakedness. She leaned over and reached in the water, where she found his right foot. She lifted it toward her and started working its sole with her hands, pulling and pushing on toes and tendons, one foot and then the other. She swung both of her legs over and sat on the edge of the tub. She grabbed his foot, again, and pulled it to her chest, resting it there, between her breasts, and then she worked the muscles on each leg in its turn.
The new masseuse said, “My name is Rose.”
She was easier to understand. He acknowledged her with a nod.
He set the stem of his wine glass on the edge of the tub. It was near empty. Rose called out to the walls, and the old woman entered the room this time, poured more wine, and handed him back his glass. She spoke to the young women, smiled at him, bowed slightly, and left. Rose stood up, turned around, and sat down in front of him, pushing his legs to the side. She slid back and placed his free arm over her shoulder, across her breasts, into her lap. She lay back on his chest and cooed the same song as Poppy.
After a moment, Vic’s voice boomed through the wall. “How you doing, Champ?”
Alan eyed the girls. They giggled.
“I’m fine,” he said loudly.
“Great, kid, take your time. Are you going back for seconds?”
“Sure,” Alan said.
The girls squealed. Rose said something to Poppy, who reached around and started stroking his chest with a light touch. Rose lifted his hand, moved it to her breasts, and helped him trace the circle of her nipples with his fingertips. His muscles stiffened.
She said, “You cherry boy?”
She spoke to Poppy, and he caught “cherry boy” among their Chinese. The girls giggled, happy at their discovery.
Rose said, “It okay. No one say what happens here. You come here cherry boy, but you not leave that way.”
Rose sat up and slid back, bumping into his hardened penis. She turned on her side and worked her hand up his thighs to between his legs. She caressed his erection and said something to her friend. She responded with a long coo, and the two giggled again.
She said, “Stand up.”
Alan’s eyes were rolling back into his head, but he found his way to his feet. She led him out of the tub with a gentle tug, never letting go of him. He sat back on the tub, gripping the edges and bracing himself. Rose was joined by her partner on his other flank. She poured warm oil into her hands, and the two women traded places. Poppy worked the warm, scented oil into every cell and pubic hair of his scrotum, inching her way along to his erect penis. They both stood next to him, holding him steady while rubbing their breasts against his upper arms.
Soon he ejaculated a heated flow, to the delight of the women. Poppy kept working her magic until his body began twitching spasmodically, and he begged her to stop. But she wouldn’t. When he was completely spent, Rose wiped him clean with a white towel. Then she said, “You feel better now. You get back in tub and rest.”
He stepped back in the water and grabbed Poppy’s hand, dragging her in with him. She giggled with delight and resumed her position in the back, and then he took Rose’s hand and had her join them. She returned to her earlier position and buried her head in his chest hair. She listened to his heart, while Poppy sang a soft, high, delicate song, which made him imagine angels.
“You rest now. You like?”