If Ronnie Wilson had known, as he woke up, that in just a couple of hours he would be dead, he would have planned his day somewhat differently.
For a start he might not have bothered to shave. Or wasted so many of those last precious minutes gelling his hair, then messing around with it until he was satisfied. Nor would he have spent quite so long polishing his shoes, or getting the knot of his expensive silk tie absolutely right. And he sure as hell would not have paid an exorbitant eighteen dollars – which he really could not afford – for the one-hour service to have his suit pressed.
To say that he was blissfully unaware of the fate awaiting him would be an exaggeration. All forms of joy had been absent from his canon of emotions for so long, he no longer had any idea what bliss was. He didn’t even experience bliss any more in those fleeting final seconds of orgasm, on the rare occasions when he and Lorraine still made love. It was as if his balls had become as numb as the rest of him.
In fact recently – and somewhat to Lorraine ’s embarrassment – when people asked him how he was, he had taken to replying with a brief shrug of his shoulders and the words, ‘My life is shit.’
The hotel room was shit too. It was so small that if you fell over you wouldn’t even hit the floor. It was the cheapest room the W had, but at least the address helped him to maintain appearances. If you stayed at a W in Manhattan, you were a somebody. Even if you were sleeping in the broom closet.
Ronnie knew he needed to get himself into a more positive mode – and mood. People responded to the vibes you gave out, particularly when you were asking for money. Nobody would give money to a loser, not even an old friend – at least, not the kind of money he needed at this moment. And certainly not this particular old friend.
Checking out the weather, he peered through the window, craning his neck up the sheer grey cliff of the building facing him across 39th Street until he could see the narrow slit of sky. The realization that it was a fine morning did nothing to lift his spirits. It merely felt as if all the clouds had drained out of that blue void and were now in his heart.
His fake Bulgari watch told him it was 7.43 a.m. He had bought it on the internet for forty pounds, but hey – who could tell it wasn’t real? He had learned a long time ago that expensive watches gave off an important message to people you were trying to impress: if you cared enough about a detail like time to buy one of the best watches in the world, then you would probably care just as much about the money they were going to entrust you with. Appearances weren’t everything, but they mattered a lot.
So, 7.43. Time to rock and roll.
He picked up his Louis Vuitton briefcase – also fake – placed it on top of his packed overnight bag and left the room, wheeling his luggage behind him. Emerging from the elevator on the ground floor, he skulked past the front desk. His credit cards were so maxed out he probably didn’t even have enough to settle the hotel bill, but he would have to worry about that later. His BMW – the swanky blue convertible that Lorraine liked to drive around in, posing to her friends, was about to be repossessed, and the mortgage company was about to foreclose on his home. Today’s meeting, he thought grimly, was the last-chance saloon. A promise he was calling in. A ten-year-old promise.
He just hoped it had not been forgotten.