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Chapter 15 - Mr. 137

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First opportunity, I sidle up and ask the talent wrangler how it is she knows so much about vaginal embolisms. Almost a thousand women dead every year? Killed by carrots and batteries forcing air inside them? That seems like a remarkably rarefied set of facts for anyone to reference offhand. “Sorry,” I tell her, “I couldn’t help overhearing.” Holding one end of a ballpoint pen, the wrangler taps it like a wand in the direction of each man still here. Her lips silent, making the shape of each number— 27 . . . 28 . . . 29—she writes something on her clipboard, at the same time saying, “That’s why Ms. Wright pays me the big bucks.”

The wrangler is Cassie Wright’s personal assistant, project researcher, gofer, she says. Looking at her wrist-watch, scribbling some numbers, an equation, on the top sheet of paper, the wrangler tells me, “She asked me to assess the risk.”
I ask if it’s true. Does Miss Wright have a grown child?
“It’s true,” the wrangler says and looks up at me. White flakes cling to the shoulders of her black turtle-neck sweater. Dandruff. Her straight black hair, she’s tied it back in a ponytail, not a hair hanging loose. The trailing hairs frizzed and bushy with split ends.
I nod my head, just tilt my neck a little toward the kid, number 72, and I ask, “Is it him?”
And the wrangler looks. Her eyes blink. Look. She shrugs, saying, “He certainly does look as if he could be . . .”
Every week, Cassie Wright gets a pile of letters from a different thousand young men, each of them convinced he’s the baby she gave up for adoption. As part of her job, the wrangler has to open this mail, sort it, sometimes respond to the letters. An easy 90 percent of them are from these would-be sons. All of them begging for a chance to meet. Just one hour of face-to-face so each kid can tell her how much he loves her. How she’s always been his one true mother. The one love he’ll never be able to replace.
“But Ms. Wright’s not an idiot,” the wrangler says.
Cassie Wright knows, the moment you make yourself available to any man, he starts to take you for granted. Maybe the first time she meets her son he’ll love her. But the second time, he’ll ask her for money. The third time, he’ll ask for a job, a car, a fix. He’ll blame her for everything he’s done wrong in his life. He’ll trash her, rub her face in every mistake she’s ever made. Call her a whore if she doesn’t hand over what he wants.
“No,” the wrangler says, “Ms. Wright knows this isn’t about love ...”
The young men who write, asking to meet. The month after, they write again, begging. Then threatening. They claim to only want to find out their genetic history, any predilection for inherited disease. Diabetes. Alzheimer’s. Some claim that they only want to thank her in person for giving them a better life, or they want to show off their accomplishments so she sees that she did the right thing.
“Ms. Wright has never answered a single one of those letters,” the wrangler says.
That’s why Cassie Wright’s largest audience, the only part of her audience still growing, is composed of sixteen-to-twenty-five-year-old men. These men buy her backlist movies, her plastic breast relics and pocket vaginas, but not for any erotic purpose. They collect the blow-up sex surrogates and signature lingerie as some form of religious relics. Souvenirs of the real mother, the perfect mother they never had. Frankenstein parts or religious totems of the mother they’ll spend the rest of their lives trying to find—who’ll praise them enough, support them enough, love them enough.
The wrangler says, “Ms. Wright knows, even if she found the kid, she’d never be able to meet all those demands.”
She looks at Mr. Toto, at the writing on his white canvas skin, and asks, “How’d you meet Celine Dion?”
Overhead, the monitors are showing excerpts from The Italian Hand Job, where a team of international jewel thieves are plotting to steal a billion in diamonds from a museum in Rome. During the heist, Cassie Wright distracts the guards by engaging them in a double-penetration three-way. The moment the museum alarms sound, the loud sirens and flashing lights, she clenches her pelvic floor and her jaw, effectively becoming a flesh-and-blood set of Chinese handcuffs and trapping the guards inside herself.
The wrangler holds her ballpoint pen, tapping the air as she counts men around the room. “That’s why Ms. Wright’s shooting this project,” she says.
Guilt and payback.
Especially if Cassie Wright dies, she knows this movie will be the last of its kind. Sales will last forever. Even if it’s outlawed here, copies will sell through the Internet. Enough copies to make Miss Wright’s sole heir rich. Her one kid.
The wrangler says, “That’s not to mention the life-insurance money.”
Here’s another aspect of the project that she researched: Insurers don’t list deaths caused by traumatic gang-bang orgies as exclusions in most life-insurance policies. Not until now. Until six of the top insurance companies will have to fork over payouts totaling ten million dollars upon the death by embolism of Cassie Ellen Wright, payable to her only child. No, Miss Wright didn’t want to meet her kid. To her, that relationship was just as important, just as ideal and impossible as it would be to the child. She’d expect that young man to be perfect, smart, and talented, everything to compensate for all the mistakes that she’d made. The whole wasted, unhappy mess of her life.
She’d expect that young man to love her in amounts she knew were impossible.
Across the waiting area, actor 72 stands holding his roses. His head tipped back, his brown eyes watch Cassie Wright stash several cool millions in diamond ice deep inside her shaved pussy.
“No,” the wrangler says. “Ms. Wright wanted to leave her child a fortune, but she wanted the courts to sort it all out with DNA testing ...”
The wrangler holds up her clipboard so that it blocks one side of my face, one eye, and she says, “Can you see out of this eye?”
I say yes.
She moves the clipboard to block my other eye, unblocking the first, and she says, “How about this eye?”
And I nod yes. I can see out of both.
“Good,” the wrangler says. The first sign of Viagra overdose is losing sight in one eye. Half blind, you lose depth perception. She looks around the waiting area, at the crowd of men jerking the half-hard erections still tucked in their shorts, and she says, “Maybe that’s why most of you wrote down ten inches on your applications . . .”
I ask, “What about the father? Won’t he get part of Miss Wright’s fortune?”
The wrangler shakes her head. “Ms. Wright’s family,” she says, “they disowned her years ago.”
No, I meant the father of her child.
“Him?” the wrangler says, staring at me, her mouth hung open, wagging her head from side to side. “The sick fuck who talked her into this awful business? The living piece of shit who slipped her Demerol and Drambuie, then set up cameras and fucked her from every angle?” Rolling her eyes, the wrangler says, “Did you know? He mailed an anonymous copy of that first film to her parents.”
That’s why, when she went home pregnant, they threw her out.
That’s why, to survive, she had to slink back to the sick fuck and make more porn.
The wrangler barks out a laugh. She says, “Why would she leave any money to him?”
No, I say. What I meant was “Who?”
Who was that man, the father of the mystery kid who’s about to become rich?
“The sick fuck?” the wrangler says.
I nod.
And wouldn’t you know it, she lifts a hand to point her ballpoint pen straight across the room—at Branch Bacardi.

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