I wanted to start a business, something simple with a generous profit margin, and I decided to offer personal services to men with certain tastes. I named my business, "A Firm Hand." Its first location was a small but pleasant two-bedroom apartment on Tammany Street, an easy walk from City Hall and the courthouse. By the end of our one-year lease, it had become evident that we would need more rooms. (When I say "we" I mean my sister Belle and I and, later, Francesco.) A very kind judge and his friend, an alderman, offered to fund a larger space for our enterprise, as long as we remained close to city hall.
It has long been my experience that men in positions of prominence and responsibility like to give over their power completely to obtain full relaxation and release. We did not go in for the ludicrous red-ball-in-the-mouth and stifling latex body suits you see in movies about discipline. Disciplined submission is entirely a state of mind, you see. It's what they call 'operant conditioning.' Belle can walk into a room where her regular customer is lying on a bed and within a minute he will be fully erect and eager for her commands. She rarely uses the whip. Whispered insults of the most demeaning kind are her weapons.
One evening, I happened to meet the exquisite Francesco at a party and observed how longingly some men looked at him. I made him a business proposal before the party was over.
"You have a gift, the ability to torment with your beauty," I said. "Some people are wired to long for what they cannot have, and it is that longing which binds them to you. You will make a lot of money, and you will exert great power."
Francesco the narcissist, Belle the subtle dominatrix and I (my specialty must remain a secret, as it breaches some taboos that many would not forgive) agreed after the fourth year to dissolve the business. We were financially set for life; Francesco wanted to live on Majorca and Belle was restless. We planned our disappearance. We booked no appointments over the Christmas-to-New Year week, as we had always done. During that time, I hired a cleaning crew to come in and remove all the evidence of our activities, especially scouring away traces of blood, bodily fluids, hair and handprints.
We three met for a delightful dinner at La Brasserie where we exchanged Christmas gifts and drank bottles of 1998 Petrus Pomerol. Then we went our separate ways. The last I saw of Belle, she was walking away with snowflakes on her hair and collar, the snowy sidewalk glistening under streetlights.
A business is such a personal thing, really: It is like an affair. Most people talk happily about the beginning, but few have a happy ending to tell. It is best always to be the one who walks away. The clientele we left behind, who knows how long they grieved for us. In particular, the men who had fallen in love with Francesco -- obsessively so -- may have suffered broken hearts for a while.
It is good to know that these politicians, these men of power who sit in judgment of others, may have felt some pangs of loss when we disbanded. I would like to think that we moved them emotionally, the ones who had come to depend on us for pleasure and something more.
It is not often that such men reveal their most naked selves. They did, to us, as much as any man can who looks over his shoulder at all times for the hidden camera. Oh yes. The cameras. We took those with us, also.
I suppose some day, if the money runs out, we three might get in touch with the good mayor of Tammany Street and a judge or two.
But probably not.
Certain skills are portable and always in demand.