An excerpt from
The Eyes of a Wolf
The woman who had checked me in at the front desk brought me a drink while I was sitting under the trellis. I was immediately unnerved as she was only half-dressed in a halter top and shorts, and, though I had tried not to make it look obvious, I had stared at her when I was checking in. She had told me her name was Eva.
“You look like you could use a drink,” Eva said.
The drink had a paper umbrella sticking out of it. The swizzle sticks had angels on top. Mine had half its head missing. Eva brought herself a drink too, and sat down at my table. Plastic angels, most of them deformed, were spread out among the purple bougainvillea that covered the trellis. Some were hanging by a leg, others had their heads missing or no wings. They looked as if they had been attacked by a force of bigger angels and left in disarray. The shadow of one of these angels, one with only one wing, fell directly on Eva’s chest.
“I do?” I said.
“You’ve been sitting here for two hours staring at the pool.”
“It calms me,” I said.
“Why do you need calming?”
“What’s in the drink?” I asked, for something to say. Why do you need calming? What kind of question is that? I remember thinking at the time. I hadn’t said I need calming, I distinctly said it calms me.
“Rum, mostly,” she said. “I just pour different shit in.”
“You’re not a board certified mixologist?”
“No, and I don’t fuck for money.”
I nodded, as if this was something people said to each other every day, like, I don’t shop at Costco or I hated algebra, and took a sip of the drink. It was okay, but anything would have been. I didn’t care much how drinks tasted in those days and still don’t.
“Are you here on business?” she asked.
To have someone talk directly to me like that was disconcerting, but I managed to say yes in a grim, businessman-like way, or so I thought.
“Where are you from?” she asked.
“I’d like to go there.”
I nodded again thinking that sounds reasonable. I had a habit in those days of assessing things that people said based on whether it sounded reasonable or not. I was hung up on the issue of reasonableness. Insane, I know. I mean, who sets the standard of what is reasonable or not? I’m over it now, but I still have tics. I think my tics got into my head while Carol was doing my surgery. They were gathered up near the ceiling of the operating room and flew in when they saw their chance. I will try to suppress them as they are boring and will distract from the story, but sometimes I can’t, so there’s another reason for you to quit now.
“Here,” she said, handing me a card with her name and number on it.“Eva Lopez,” I said, looking at the card.
“Si, and you are?”
“It’s Hebrew for wolf.”
“I am named after the first woman.”
“In Hebrew, it means life.” I don’t know why I said this. I wasn’t showing off. It must have been the shadow floating on Eva’s cleavage. The breast angel.
“If I can help you,” she said, smiling, nodding at the card.
“Help me with what?”
I will tell you straight out that I am not a handsome guy. I keep my hair long to cover my surgical scar and also because the top of my head is a little lopsided from the loss of bone. I am constantly checking to see if my hair is covering this deformity. Also, if I get anxious when someone is talking to me, especially a woman, I feel a tremendous urge to look away. I fight this, but it sometimes leaves me looking sideways at people, with my head tilted at a slight angle. This of course makes people think I’m weird. It’s better now, but if a woman looked at me back then, I began to panic, so I tried not to stare at them, which wasn’t so easy as I am a normal male. Eva had taken the card out of the top of her blouse, from in between her breasts, which is where I had been staring. I remember thinking that if she caught me, I’d say I was staring at the breast angel, maybe remark on how charming it was.
“Do you like what you see?” Eva said.
“You can look.”
I said nothing. I must have turned a deep shade of red.
“But you can’t touch.”
I had said “I” three times, stopping short each time. After the third time, Eva looked at me carefully, her eyes serious.
“What?” I said.
“You are timido.”
I wanted to nod, but kept my head still. That’s not the half of it, I thought.
“Shy,” said Eva.
“I speak Spanish,” I said.
“I was teasing.” She said this in Spanish, (Me estaba tomando el pelo) but I’m translating for you.
“That’s okay,” I said. I took another quick look at her cleavage. I felt like a Peeping Tom, but I couldn’t stop myself. Then again, she said I could look.
Eva smiled and looked at me and took my hand across the table. Now I was really freaked out. My phone rang, which required me removing my hand to pick it up and answer it. It was Johnny calling to find out how I was doing and what was going on.
“Nothing,” I said, “she hasn’t called.”
“How long?” Johnny asked.
“Two hours plus.”
“You should go see her.”
“I don’t know where she lives.”
“What hospital does she work at?”
I looked at the pool in the bright sunlight. I had stood up and stepped away from Eva to take the call. Out of the corner of my eye I could see her sipping her drink, looking at me.
“She’s not at work,” Johnny said when he came back on.
“How do you know?”
“I hacked the HR department.”
Johnny once tried to explain to me what he does, the 0days, OTR’s, libpurples, and other weird things he deals with. It was all over my head. But this stuck: all software is pieced together by normal human beings - that is, flawed, like everyone else. They are thought of as really smart, but they’re not. They all leave holes—some small, some gaping—in the programs they design. It is these holes that hackers find and enter. Johnny, who looks like every father or husband who goes to the hardware store on Saturday morning—in fact, he does go to the hardware store on many a Saturday morning—doesn’t talk much about other hackers, but as far as I can tell, after working with him for nine years, he is the Superman of hackers. There is no software program he cannot breach, no security system he cannot disable. In 2007, when this story takes place, his job title at the NYPD was Assistant IT Specialist, but he had shocked his bureau chief with what he could do and how fast he could do it. He was, at the age of twenty-five, de facto in charge of all internet intelligence gathering for the department. If you don’t think this is a big job, just talk to any New York cop or firefighter who was on duty on 9/11.
“Can you get her home address?” I asked Johnny.
“I have it.”
He gave it to me.
“Z,” Johnny said.
“She’s on a leave of absence. Her husband called last night.”
“Leave of absence? How long?”
I clicked off and turned to Eva. “I have to go,” I said.
She nodded. “You have my card.”
I nodded, not knowing what to say. She had an agenda, but everyone does. And she was sexy. She had me thinking about things I hadn’t thought of in quite a while. Sex, for example.
“What about the drinks?” I asked.
“Forget it,” she said. “On me.”
“Thank you,” I said. “What do you do here?”
“I run the place.”
“Who’s watching the front desk?”
“Nobody. We don’t get a lot of walk-ins. There’s a bell that rings out here. You’re the first one to use it in six months.”
“You have a selective clientele.”
“You could say that.”
“Like Franny and Zooey.”
“They’re back in Guatemala now.”
I nodded. I had read all of Salinger and thought that that particular graffito was a sly joke of some kind, but apparently it wasn’t.
“I wasn’t coming on to you,” Eva said.
I was confused. Then I remembered she had reached out to touch my hand.
“I was trying to get a reading.”
“What?” I said. “Are you a psychic?”
I nodded. Who was this woman?
“Try breathing,” she said.
“Breathe in something good, breathe out something bad.