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Playing the Fool

by Gary Clifton

Ralph Jones leered across his huge, oak desk. He was sixtyish and fifty pounds overweight. A huge mole protruded off the end of his nose like a stray piece of sausage. He had labored in vain, trying to arrange a dwindling patch of hair into an elaborate comb over.

“Hey, Em.” He smiled crookedly, showing rows of uneven, yellowed teeth. “C’mon in, babe. Close the door. And turn down the shade. Nosy eyes, you know. Oh, and lock that door, too.”

Emily 29, in a tight sweater, with big blue eyes and immaculate blonde hair with enough makeup to grow corn, looked 17. Ralph had hired her as a marketing executive months earlier after being unable to keep his eyes off her chest long enough to read her resume.

“Hey, R.J.” her smile flashed a mouthful of gleaming ivory as she closed the blind and turned the lock. Preceded ten feet by the aroma of a perfume that R.J. had purchased for her, she swayed across the plush carpet.

R.J. did not resist the rising of his animal lust. He stood, shorter than Emily in her spike heels, and they exchanged a lingering kiss. She didn’t flinch when his hand drifted to her thigh beneath her short skirt.

“Baby,” he gasped hoarsely, “tell me you’re still on for the Ambassador Motel this evening. I can stay till about eleven. Then I gotta get home, otherwise, Agnes will—”

“Seven at the Ambassador, baby. No worries.” She took a seat across from him at his desk, a thick envelope in her lap.

“Whatcha got there, sweetheart?” He pointed to the envelope.

“A prop. Barging in here empty-handed might make idle tongues wag.”

“I really love you, Em. If we could just figure a way to ease Agnes out of the picture. I can’t just have her knocked off, as good as that sounds. Maybe someday—”

“You’ve already said you’ll kill her later, baby. For now, a motel quickie with a tiger like you will sate my needs just fine.”

“Uh...” he stammered. “Business first. I suspect those scoundrels at Consolidated Eastern are doing their damnedest to get their grubby hands on our model JL321. I hear they have a similar prototype and could beat Jones, Ltd. to market with only a few goodies from our files.”

“Wait, R.J. Isn’t that what they call corporate sabotage?” She batted her glue-on lashes.

“Corporate espionage, honey. Those guys are vicious cyber criminals. Somehow, the scoundrels may have gotten to some of our research.”

“R.J., all files on the JL321 are in the vault downstairs. You told me no employee has access to the whole plan. You keep the only key in your coat pocket. Unless they’ve dug up Houdini.”

“Correct, baby. But, Em, we don’t have to take that crap sitting down.” He pulled open his desk drawer and tossed out a folder. “I’ve worked up a false resume for you. I know they’re looking for a marketing whiz.

“Baby, I want — actually, I need you — to drive over there today and apply for a job. With those knockers, you can compromise whatever nincompoop in their management that has access to their information on the JL321.”

“I... I don’t understand, R.J.”

“Espionage, sweetheart. We need to strike first. Take a peek at their files.”

“Peek? Steal? Oh, no, baby, that’s illegal. I’m not sure what—”

“Illegal? All’s fair in love and war. We need to see exactly what they have.”

“Darling, what are you asking me to do?”

“Emily, dammit, I pay you $250K for entertainment. Saving my company would be a true sign of your love. I need you to do anything you have to do.”

Emily rose slowly. “Anything? R.J., I thought you loved me.” She gathered her envelope, purse, and the fake resume folder and slinked to the door. “I need to take the afternoon off and give this some thought.”

“Em, wait! I love you, honey. What about the motel tonight? Baby, I hope I didn’t tick you off.”

She turned back in the open doorway. “Oh, no. Just be on the bed buck naked. Leave the door unlocked. Wait till I show up. I’m gonna put on a brand-new show.” She clattered across the secretarial pool into the elevator.

* * *

By 7:00 pm., Ralph was lying naked, as ordered, on a king-size bed at the Ambassador, quivering with anticipation.

Emily slinked in, wearing a raincoat and spike heels. She dropped the raincoat to reveal it was her only garment. “Hey, baby.” She slid onto the bed.

The door burst open. In a perfect Carrie Nation imitation, an attractive brunette charged in, followed by a handsome middle-aged man in an expensive suit. He was holding a camera.

“Agnes!” Ralph gasped in horror.

Agnes, her eyes narrow slits of deadly anger, shrieked, “Ralph, you pathetic piece of crap. Meet Fred Smith, security chief for Consolidated. And a real tiger in bed.”

Ralph bolted upright, gaping dumbfoundedly. “Emily, you must have—”

Agnes spat, “Yes, idiot. Emily. We both work for Consolidated. How the hell do you think that sweet young thing found you in the first place? Through your macho charm?”

Emily posed suggestively beside Ralph as Smith snapped several photographs.

Then Emily stood up. “Recall, Ralphie, you said all’s fair in love and war. You pay $250K. Consolidated pays both Agnes and me double that.”

Ralph cocooned himself in a bedspread security blanket and moaned piteously.

Agnes waved a small tape recorder and a file marked JL321. “I have Emily’s motel tapes and, thanks to her, your secret file, you scurrilous wimp. She and I are gonna own Jones, Ltd, lock, stock and Ralphie-less. We’re merging with Consolidated in more ways than one. And you’re out on your fat ass.

“Oh, by the way, Consolidated begins marketing the JL321 next week.” She turned and stormed out, followed by her husky boyfriend.

Emily re-donned her raincoat, blew Ralph a kiss, and followed.

Ralph slumped on the bed, dejectedly watching Smith’s full head of thick, curly hair walk away with the two women in his life.

“The world is always against me,” he sobbed.

Copyright © 2017 by Gary Clifton

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