Sequence: Give a Dog a Bad Name (part four)
Ethan’s “revolving door” for “seekers of immoral pleasures” (phrases of Rica’s in a gossip page piece, her humor cloaked in a paragraph so purely the voice of the bridling matron, that the Herald reader might take the words at face value) was itself legend, rather than fact.
His loyal retainers, truth to tell, were few.
Rascka had always been there. Also, often, a certain wiry, balding Brit, one nothing like Anselm, but something like an American gangster, whose accent Harvey labeled “Wapping”. His name was Godshaw, and he was, for all his wizened appearance, not that many years older than Rob. He was a type Rob would have liked to transmute into fiction.
But Godshaw rarely spoke to Ethan’s other guests. He’d once spent an entire evening sharing a sofa with Rob, watchful eye and sharp ear on the talk, as though he were writing a play of his own. But blatantly Godshaw eyed, unlike Rob, who hid his intentions (and honed the cult of Healy, with a standoffishness he hoped others would always mention) by pretending to read.
Harvey Planter did sometimes come to Ethan’s. And the blonde from the lake had, before that last party at Harvey’s, started showing up.
Rica trod lightly on Rob’s foot. “Are you waiting for? A chorus line?”
He didn’t study at avocations, didn’t read books, dictated letters rather than write them; this, using a telephone stenography service, rather than pay anyone to be his secretary. Ethan, the multi-millionaire.
What he called his room was not a bedchamber, no more than it was an office or a library. Ethan slept on the first floor of his house, and in his self-absorbed way, let every small acquaintance know how he had calculated the pros and cons of escape.
“It’s the window under the stairs that concerns me. Of course, the stairs are marble…but I think the marble is only a sort of facing. Underneath, they might be made of pine…anything.”
Music played. A lengthy Baroque concerto that sounded to Rob all organ and harpsichord. The phonograph, the drinks cabinet, the short tables that filled the corners between sofas, were of dark, tropical wood, with grey marble tops, square-edged, everything rigid against the walls, the carpet accented in gold and tan. The carpet, palatial in size, and somehow fitting, like one side of an album, to the expanse of pearlescent light that fell from the tall windows.
This was Ethan’s own taste, in defiance of Elsie’s, all verticals and horizontals, all dark and light, without ornamentation.
Ethan, at these gatherings, stood over his guests, or stood and looked out the window…he might sit, hunching actively into a corner, splaying blanched fingers on the seat beside him, unnerving the guest who contemplated joining him.
Give a Dog a Bad Name
(2016, Stephanie Foster)