Keeping the appointments of a lifetime. It's a living.

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I met Jack Beauregard on a sweltering Tuesday afternoon. I parked in the circular drive of his incredibly large and beautiful house, and I watched the air shimmer above the concrete and granite of his walks and patios, my mouth agape and my eyes dazzled.

A gaudy fountain supplied a constant rainbow above a star-shaped island of landscaping at my left elbow. Before and behind me, hedges formed a maze of green walls strewn with the hues of carefully kept flowers, which isolated rolling, manicured lawns from the confines of the stone towers and peaked gables at my right elbow.

I had dealt blow all over. I had customers among the great and the small, the lowly and the lofty. I felt equally at home in the 'hood as I felt in Jack Beauregard's posh sub-division, and I refused to be intimidated. Still… it was impressive, that house. I imagined gods might live there, and that suited me fine. If they were gods, then they were gods that wanted what I had to sell. They were gods with a habit.

And I would be their messenger. Shrugging on my glib business persona, I killed the engine of my Mustang and then I pushed open the door. Leather soles to cement, I stood into the brilliant Texas sunshine. I let it beat down on my brow and burn my ears. I raised my face and my sunglass-shaded eyes to take it full on, to dare it do its worse. My lips parted to smile, and I felt it glint from my teeth with a soft, burning gleam.

Shaking my head, delirious with the heat, I slammed the door and crossed the drive to the front door, which lingered in the shade of a high porch awning that dominated a pile of half-circle stairs leading to the porch. I wondered if Mr. Beauregard would answer, or if he had household help for such meaningless chores.

I lifted the heavy brass knocker and let it strike its brass plate. Once. Twice. Three times.

Almost immediately, the knob rattled, and the massive portal swung wide. Mr. Beauregard thrust his head through the widening gap, turning it this way and that, and I knew he was checking to be certain nobody had seen me.

"Steve, right?" he breathed, extending his right hand for a quick shake.

"Right," I responded coolly. What else should a drug dealer be, but cool?

"Tommy should have told you to come up the back way, along the two-lane I poured through the horse pasture." He drew me inside with that same handshake, and he pushed the door closed behind us.

"He did," I replied glibly. I left the sunglasses in place for a moment, since I wanted to suck up all those fine things he owned with my eyes without betraying my envious gaze to his nervous study. "I don't do back ways, Mr. Beauregard," I added absently. "Tommy should have told you that."

Jack Beauregard pursed his lips into a thin smile and he let go my hand. "He did."

"Then there you go."

"But you stand out here like a booger on a wine glass."

Now I pulled the shades off my nose with a slow drag, revealing my flat, menacing eyes with a meaningful intent. "I've been called worse, I suppose."

"Look, if we are to do business, we must have some kind of agreement about-"

"Nobody guarantees we're going to do business, Mr. Beauregard," I inserted quickly, before the lecture could begin. I had dealt with his kind a thousand times, even if he might top the list. "We have to take care of a few… preliminaries first, and then I'll make up my mind about you."

That rocked him back on his heels a bit, I think. I doubted anybody else spoke to him so directly, and I'm certain he was unaccustomed to being qualified in any way.

"What sort of preliminaries," he wondered? He cocked his head, and blinked his eyes owlishly.

For the first time, I admired him up and down. He wore casual clothing, slacks and an oxford, but I knew nothing would be off the rack. I suspected his shoes cost more than most people earned in a month. His watch cost more than my car. "Nice," I enthused, tucking my sunglasses into the breast pocket of my floral print shirt.

Then I crossed the step between us abruptly. His stoicism impressed me more than the imported Italian tile that paved his floors beneath those Los Angeles loafers. He refused to flinch or step backward.

I pressed close, almost cheek to cheek. I smelled him, but I detected not the slightest stench of fear. His skin felt dry and smooth. He was calm.

Now my hands rose to feel along the contours of his ribcage, around to his firm, muscular shoulders, than back again to his flat stomach. Up to his armpits, down the length of his shirt sleeves, I felt, before my hands gripped his hips and slid from his thighs to his knees. I knelt before him. I made ankle bracelets of my fingers and I slid them up and down his calves. I lifted his right foot and removed his shoe. Turning it all ways before my curious gaze, I depressed the tongue and lifted the liner. I repeated the experiment with his opposite foot.

Rising once more, my hands glided the inside of his legs up to his crotch. I felt beneath his testicles, and I pressed an undeniable forefinger into the cleft of his buttocks. I unzipped his trousers to feel through his wiry pubic hair. I lifted his penis and tossed his gonads.

Finally, I felt through his hair and I bent his ears forward from either side of his head. "Open your mouth," I said, and then I peered into his oral cavity, moving his cheeks to either side by hooking the middle finger of each hand into his mouth, I examined the even lines of his molars.

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