The Craigslist Murders Chapter 2
Four weeks later
Taking a tiny sip from her glass of chilled Stag’s Leap, Charlotte entered the museum’s vast atrium. The immensity of the space left her breathless, giddy. The ceilings that seem to soar up forever, the 80-foot sheet of single-pane glass overlooking the gardens, the marble and sea-foam slate floors. It reminded her of the first time she’d ever set foot in a mosque, the glory of all that uninterrupted space. What a spectacular backdrop for tonight’s dinner.
People who say money reeks have never smelled real money, she thought, while checking out the intimate groupings of snow-white, linen-covered tables. No, the money made by trustees of this museum had been so thoroughly laundered; all that was left was the discreet scent of Creed. How ironic, Charlotte sniggered. Most of the men in this room had done such unspeakably dirty things to amass their billions. But they all looked so pristine, so immaculately clean.
They lived clean, too. Smiling coyly at the male waiter and nibbling on a bit of billowy puff pastry, Charlotte thought some more about this generation of freshly-minted money–a generation that did everything but spend and exercise in moderation. They didn’t smoke. They didn’t drink. They barely ate. The women were so self-consumed, there was nothing left of them but skin and bones. Faux blondes with Sulka-smooth faces and foreheads as shiny as Granny Smith apples, they all looked the same. More identity theft, Charlotte thought as she waved to a knot of women clustered near the bar. Some were former clients and others, friends of clients.
Back in the flush of her “brilliant, break-through success” (who could forget a rave like that from Architectural Digest?) Charlotte had been invited to lunch by a new client.
“I don’t do lunch,” she’d replied, off-handedly. When the woman’s personal assistant called to cancel the contract, Charlotte panicked. The remark could have killed her career. She hadn’t meant to sound haughty. She simply had better things to do. Like work. Now, she lunched twice a week. As Charlotte continued to survey the room, she noticed a guy staring at her, pointing at her shoes. What the hell was his name?
Even at 37-years old, Charlotte knew that she was one of the best-looking women there. It wasn’t just the shoes–satin slippers, actually. She was wearing one red and one black from separate pairs that she’d picked up on sale at the Liwan boutique in Paris. And it wasn’t just her clothes–a beautiful old Beene shrug of hand-sewn red pailletes and a blissfully simple, black jersey jumpsuit. It was the pale, creamy skin, the emerald green eyes, and the shock of fiery red hair that encircled her face like a halo– “the halo from hell” some hideous ex-business partner had once called it.
Charlotte had a lot of ex-partners. But this is isn’t why the women are staring at me tonight, she thought. They’re jealous. Style, like happiness, can’t be bought. Not real style. And Charlotte had it. “Elle sait faire,” she’d overheard Caroline say about her to friends. Considering Caroline was the chicest French dealer in town, this was quite a compliment.
Oh right! Now she recognized the guy. It was the “hedgie” who worked in Greenwich Village.
“That’s short for hedge fund, dear,” the guy had said with a wink when she sat next to him at some interminable private school auction last year.
“Wow! Charlotte had exclaimed, her eyes as round as saucers. “I think I’ve heard of those.”
Half her clients were married to hedge fund guys. Where did this moron think she’d been for the past ten years? As she recalled, the auction highlights included a $22,000 winning bid for “A Bedtime Story and Tuck-in” by one of the school’s kindergarten teachers and a $42,000 bid for a cute patchwork quilt made by second graders. She couldn’t wait to get home. Christ! And there he was again tonight, bobbling up and down in the crowd, saluting her. What was with the saluting?
“Hi there!” Lunging in to plant a wet kiss on her cheek, the guy spilled half a glass of wine on his pants. “Remember me?”
“The hedgie,” Charlotte replied, politely passing him a cocktail napkin. “Short for hedge fund, right?”
“You got it, baby!” he said, blotting his thigh with one hand while grabbing another glass from a passing waiter. “Name’s Judd.”
For the next fifteen minutes, Judd tore off on a verbal ‘test drive’ in his brand-new, fully-loaded, $350,000 Maybach 57s. Charlotte had only seen these pimped out, chauffeur driven sedans, double-parked on the street. She didn’t even have a driver’s license. So by the time, he’d revved his way through twelve cylinder power packs, maximum torque of 1000 nm (whatever the fuck that was), rear aprons, and anthracite Alcantra, she felt like a piece of road kill. He then switched to the subject of his 40th birthday party.
“Did I tell you I paid for the Stones, Charlotte?” (Yes, about ninety times, she’d muttered to herself.)
“Eight million, but I got to sing with Mick!”
“What a treat for Mick,” she said.
“Who says you can’t get no satisfaction, huh?” he added, poking her playfully in the ribs, as she turned to speak with the plump, too-tan-from-a-can-man, sidling in on her left.
” I wouldn’t eat that if I were you,” the man said, snidely, pointing to the slender stalk of spring asparagus on the tip of her toothpick.
“Why not?” she was fool enough to ask. “I love asparagus!”
“Well, I happen to import 80% of America’s asparagus from Peru.”
Do you now? Charlotte whispered to herself. How absolutely fascinating.
“We fumigate the shit out of it with bleach and fungicide before we ship it. It’s not great for the prostrate,” he chuckled, eyeing his private parts.
“Guess I’m glad I don’t have a prostate,” Charlotte answered, swallowing the stalk in a single bite.