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July 04, 2022

Warren Pieces 6: The Lingerie Stakes

By Jonathan D. Scott

Everyone's betting on Warren to go undercover. The only question is under wear?

"Simply put, I consider office gambling to be morally reprehensible."

The expectant smile disappears from the face of the young man with the blue tie and tan Dockers. "Jeez, Mr. Borman," he says. "It's just a football pool. I didn't know you were so religious."

Warren Borman, older, stouter, and balder, swivels in his chair to hide his computer monitor. "I am not referring to religious morals," he says. "I earned an understanding of the perils of office gambling through bitter experience. I will offer you the benefit of my wisdom if you will, in turn, do me a small favor."

"A favor? What kind of favor?"

"A very small one. One that will be worth more than what you will gain, I assure you."

The young man in the Dockers scratches at his collar. "I don't know, Warren."

"Here, take my chair. No, don't sit where you can see my computer. It will only distract you."

"But, Mr. Borman, I have to ... "

"Yes," says Warren, placing a firm hand on the young man's shoulder. "I'm sure you do."

It began on a fine fall afternoon, one remarkably like this (says Warren). I was then in the employment of Fuerst Quality Products, in the company break room seeking respite from the onerous tedium of severe underemployment.

I was immersed in the current issue of , savoring my imported baklava when the solitude was broken by the entrance of a rowdy group of engineers from Research and Development. The central figure in this rabble was Craig Fitzsimmons, a thick-jawed fellow who was in the merciless habit of flooding my email with crude solicitations for weight-loss and hair-weave products. His shirtsleeves were rolled to his upper arms; he clutched a clipboard and a thick stack of bills.

"Okay animals, hold it down," he said. "Today's winner is McCabe who had $100 on "red tube top, navy skirt, and red sling-back pumps at ten to one." Stiles had $75 on "blue skirt and red shoes" to place. Too bad, Harding. You should have known she spilled raspberry yoghurt on her white V-neck last week." He peeled off several bills and passed them over to the grasping hands of the lucky pair.

"What the devil are you up to, Fitzsimmons?" I asked, slipping the baklava under my magazine.

He looked up from his clipboard. "Didn't see you there, Borman. Just a bit of harmless office fun."

"What's all this about tubes and pumps?"

He grinned like a child with a forbidden cookie. "It's the Francesca Pool. I started this a couple of weeks ago when Sutton and Johnson got into an argument about what she was going to wear the next day. I figured I would set up a little bookmaking. Like I said, just for a little fun."

Francesca was the company receptionist. She had once been a professional model and had the sort of silken hair and soulful eyes that made women grind their teeth when encountering her photo in cosmetic ads. And her comely figure was such that even the most blasé male visitors were known to stammer and trip over their feet when approaching the reception desk.

"You've set up a gambling enterprise based on that young woman's choice of apparel?" I was appalled.

"You bet." He chortled and tucked his wad of money into a zippered pouch. "You want in?"

"I should say not." I lifted my magazine to my face.

"Don't turn it down so fast, Borman. I've got something real exciting coming up. The Great Lingerie Stakes. Bets are now open for her underwear wardrobe. You can back lace underwire bras at 12 to one. Or there's a long shot -- front snap in either blue or red at 45 to one."

I glowered at him from over the top of the magazine.

"Have it your way. It's your loss. So," he said, turning to his pals. "Who's in? White or pink thong panties are almost a cert at three to one."

"Wait a minute." Harding, a meek engineer with an alto voice, held up his hand. "How're we going to know who wins?"

"No problem, boys," Fitzsimmons said. "I've got it all figured out. I'll take the broad out to dinner, connive my way up to her apartment, and when she's distracted, duck into her bedroom and go through her drawers."

Something resembling a dogfight broke out. "Hell no," shouted McCabe. "You can't have a bookie call a race. Plus, I don't trust you as far as ... well, as far as I could throw Borman here."

As if with a single mind -- which they barely would have had if combined -- they turned to me. Fitzsimmons smiled again, this time showing his teeth. "Warren, Warren, Warren," he said, each repetition more insincere. "Seems like you're the only one not in on the pool."

I was unable to believe that anyone -- even a man whose idea of fun was to mount a table at the company Christmas Party and display his buttocks -- would have the shameless gall to expect me to participate in such an abhorrent scheme. I turned back to my periodical and pretended to be absorbed.

He strode over, sat down, and grabbed the magazine. "Listen, pal," he said in the most conspiratorial voice I had ever heard outside the cinema. "I hear you like to travel."

"Where did you hear that?"

"Everybody says so. All the guys say, 'If there's anybody that likes to travel, it's Borman.' And I'll bet you could use a few extra bucks for that next vacation."

The truth was, I was especially keen on exploring the ancient monasteries of the island of Kynthos. "I don't see what business that is of yours."

"Look here," he whispered, finding and stuffing his mouth with my imported baklava. "You help us me on this, and I'll cut you in on a piece of the profits."

"Get thee behind me, Satan." I took back my magazine.

"Five percent, no, let's make it ten percent of the take."

"Ha!"

He bent his foul mouth to my ear. "Last week I took in almost $2,500. The Lingerie Stakes are sure to bring in twice that. How about it for one evening of your life?"

My eyes fell upon the cover of Travel and Leisure and the stunning view of the Aegean Sea. Something in me stirred, some primitive passion that overcame my sense of all that is decent. "Twenty percent," I said.

"Fifteen plus expenses and it's a deal. By the way, Borman, that's the worst Pop Tart I've ever tasted.

Prior to that time I had little social contact with Francesca. In fact, our most intimate interaction occurred one morning after I had over indulged in spiced Bavarian Bratwurst, and she had paged me repeatedly while I was in the men's room. So, knowing little of the chances that she would accept my invitation, I approached her the next morning.

She was dressed in a form-fitting, low-cut, pink and violet cotton sundress (ten to one). "Good morning, Mr. Borman," she said in the mellifluous voice that even over the intercom had made her the object of so many romantic fantasies.

"Good morning, my dear," I said. "I was wondering ... "

"Fuerst Quality Products. May I help you?"

For a moment I was baffled until I noticed the thin silver headset she was wearing. "I'm sorry, Mr. Fuerst is in a meeting. May I take a message? All right. Thank you. Now, what can I do for you, Mr. Borman?"

"Well, it so happens that ... "

"Yes?"

It struck me that this was turning into more of a challenge than I had anticipated. "It's a matter of dinner, my dear."

"Dinner?"

"Why, yes. Exactly."

"What about dinner?"

I couldn't understand why she wasn't catching on. Women of exceptional outward beauty, I recalled, were often lacking in perspicacity. I enunciated precisely so there would be no misunderstanding. "To put it plainly, my dear, would you care to accompany me to a restaurant this evening? I will gladly pay the entire bill." After all, I was being reimbursed.

Her lustrous eyes took on an unexpected light. "Why, Mr. Borman. How sweet of you. I would love to."

I was then aware of a sensation just below the fourth button of my shirt, mildly reminiscent of the time a miniscule braggart knocked the wind from my lungs on the kindergarten playground. It was not merely that this pulchritudinous maiden had accepted my offer. After all, the success of the scheme depended on it. It was the eagerness with which she was looking at me, a look I would have imagined to be reserved for a gentleman a bit younger, and bit thinner, and with a bit more hair.

"Yes, well, then," I said.

"Fuerst Quality Products. May I help you?" she said, but not to me.

I steeled my abdomen and began to retreat to the relative safety of my cubicle. "Mr. Borman!" she called. "2120 Pine Street. Apartment 3B."

"Ah," I said.

"Would you pick me up at seven?"

"Ah."

"I can't wait."

"Ah."

That seemed to say it all.

Having ascertained from Fitzsimmons that my expense account was not to exceed $30, I secured a reservation at Mr. Chow's House of Szechuan. As it turned out, it was unnecessary. When we arrived at 20 minutes past seven the only other patron was Mr. Chow's grandmother, a diminutive relic who seemed to lack both a working knowledge of English and a working set of teeth.

However much the affair was a purely financial endeavor, I didn't allow that fact to prevent me from thoroughly enjoying the experience. The Moo Shu Pork plate was well worth the $4.95 and, though the décor was gaudy even for a Chinese restaurant, Francesca in her spaghetti-strap black mini-dress (seventeen to one) brightened the atmosphere considerably.

I quickly learned that one of the secrets to the maintenance of Francesca's hourglass figure was her restricted intake of calories. Although I assured her that the Moo Shu Pork was not to be dismissed lightly, she contented herself with one vegetarian egg roll and a small salad. This allowed me ample scope to reach my spending limit, which I did enthusiastically with the addition of a General Tso's Chicken and a Lake Tung Ting Shrimp.

The first awkward dearth of conversation ended when I asked her why her renowned modeling career had ended. For the rest of our meal, and continuing into the taxi back to her apartment, she went into quite some detail regarding the leering looks, suggestive comments, and inappropriate advances that had been made by men who regarded models simply as expensive prostitutes whose fees were tax deductible.

I began to understand how Fate had saved me from a life of difficulty by endowing me with intellectual rather than the physical gifts. Previously, I had no idea of the vicissitudes that Youthful Beauty endured. As Francesca's story progressed, I began to develop a great sympathy for this surprisingly vulnerable and sensitive young woman. The persistent vision of an Hellenic sunset over the Aegean was slowly eroded from my mind by the sultry eyes of my lovely companion.

Therefore when the cab driver, a man who displayed neither a respect for women nor a knowledge of acne medicine, finally took his eyes off his rear view mirror and onto his meter, I came to the conclusion that I could not complete my tawdry mission. I would content myself, in lieu of the Greek islands, with a weekend trip to Newark.

"Mr. Borman," Francesca said, gazing into my eyes in the back seat of the cab. "Would you like to come up for a cup of coffee? It's the least I can do after you've been so nice."

"Well, I ... "

Her delicate features took on an expression of ethereal imploration. "My feelings will be hurt if you don't."

"Well, I don't wish to ... then again ... but of course, my dear. Perhaps just a cup of Premium Sumatra Mandheling Emperor's Blend Decaffeinated if you have any on hand."

I paid the cabbie his due, plus an additional ten cents, which was far too much considering the lurid growling that had accompanied us from the restaurant.

Thus it was that I embarked on what would be a momentous interlude.

After fumbling with briefly with her keys, she led me into her apartment. I had barely passed the threshold when she turned and stepped closer. "Mr. Borman ... may I call you Warren?"

I was once more aware of a tightening sensation below my rib cage. "Oh, course, my dear."

"You may not know this about me, Warren, but I'm a very lonely person."

"No, certainly, not you, Francesca."

"Yes, it's true." She was so close that I could smell the egg roll on her breath. "I never had a date in high school."

Having no wish to disparage what was plainly a profound sorrow for her, I refrained from commenting that joining the chess club might have been an adequate substitute, as it had been for me.

"Boys always seemed afraid to ask me out. And the men that I've known, well ... " She paused, a brief dark cloud passing across her eyes. "They've never acted very gentlemanly. Not like the way you have. You're really a very special man, Warren."

She was standing so close that her ample bosoms made light contact with my shirt. As what I hoped was a discreet trickle made its way from my right armpit, a quite ungentlemanly thought crossed my mind. "I ... I," I said, barely able to speak. "It's ... quite nice of you to say so."

In the dim light, her pupils were large and dark and full of the tender gratitude that she was expressing without words. "It was so sweet of you to listen to me go on and on all the way through dinner."

"Ah." Perhaps it was the thought of dinner that brought to the forefront of my mind a sensation that I had been ignoring. "If it would not be too much of an imposition, my dear, might I use your restroom? Huangshan Maofeng green tea always has a powerful diuretic effect on me."

"Why, sure, Warren. It's down at the end of the hall. I'll put on some coffee."

I made my way in the direction she indicated, my legs requiring a stern mustering. The brief contact of our mid sections had thrust me into a tempest of empathy, affection, and arousal. The charms that had launched a thousand improper proposals had finally made me their prisoner.

Then something completely unexpected happened.

The door to the right of the bathroom was slightly ajar. Glancing that way quite casually, I couldn't help but notice it was the bedroom. In the light of the hallway I could see a beautiful Robert Gasparetti four-post bed. However, it wasn't the bed that caught my attention and constricted it in its fist. It was the South American Maple armoire that I was certain held in one of its handcrafted drawers Francesca's undergarments.

My first thought was to take my hand from the knob of the door. My second was to step back out of the room. However, it was my third thought, one much louder and compelling that the first, that I obeyed. And that was to quickly, cleanly, and absolutely surreptitiously inventory the contents of her most intimate apparel, thus bringing back into the realm of possibility an extraordinary Greek Island vacation.

In three steps my hand was on the brass pull of the top drawer. My intuition had rightly guided me. A pastel array of lace-trimmed gossamer panties lay stacked by a careful hand. I had been instructed to search for thong style garments, thankful that Fitzsimmons had provided me with a rough sketch for identification purposes. Lifting the stack, I quickly identified one white, one black, and one the color of a hyacinthus orientalis.

"Warren."

I spun, my entire circulatory system petrifying.

"Warren, I'm afraid a confession is in order."

"I ... I don't know what to say."

"I do, Warren. I know what I have to say. It's something I need to get off my chest." I stared at her chest, wondering furiously what it she might need to get off of it. "I'm afraid I haven't been totally honest with you," she said.

"You haven't?"

"Oh, Warren!" Even in the dim light I could see a glint of moisture in her eye. "You are such a kind, wonderful man. You've helped restore in me a faith that there are decent men left in this world. I want you to know that I'll never, ever forget you."

"You won't?"

"But I have to confess that in expressing my affection for you, I might have led you on to think that there was something more than friendship. Something deeper."

"Well, actually, my dear, I haven't really ... "

She clasped her hands and brought them to those famed sensuous lips. "You see, Warren, there's someone else."

"There is?"

"Yes. I'm completely and utterly in love. For the past few weeks I've noticed him waiting for me when I get to work, standing in the corner watching me like a sweet little puppy dog."

"You don't mean ... you couldn't possibly mean ... ?"

"He works in Research and Development. Maybe you know him. His name is Craig Fitzsimmons. I've been interested in him since the Christmas Party last year. He has the cutest little butt. Hey, Warren, by the way. What are you doing in my bedroom? Why is my underwear drawer open? And what's that you're holding behind your back?"

"Holy smoke," says the young man in the Dockers. What did you do?"

Warren sighs. "What was there to do? I couldn't bear to crush her innocent infatuation by telling her I was performing a loathsome mission on behalf of the object of her affections. Instead I said nothing and allowed myself to be turned out quickly and severely. Whatever devastating effect my deed had on the poor girl's faith in men, it was nothing compared to the consequences it held for me. As it turned out, Francesca was the favorite niece of Mr. Fuerst. I was let go from my position the next morning."

"Oh, Mr. Borman. That's terrible."

"Well ... " A thin smile comes over Warren's face. "It wasn't as bad as is might have been. Upon learning that Francesca had expressed such enthusiastic partiality toward him, Fitzsimmons immediately abandoned his bookmaking. While I was serving out my notice, I was able to take over his business.

"You don't mean you kept taking bets on the receptionist's clothes?"

Warren gives the young man a contemptuous look. "What sort of person do you take me for? Just the thought is abhorrent. However, I am not a man who isn't able to appreciate a lucrative opportunity. I shrewdly changed the direction of the enterprise to another subject -- the duration of the relationship between Francesca and Fitzsimmons. I gave what I thought were generous odds. Marriage, the long shot, went for 125 to one. The lowest odds were two to one for one month."

"Well?" the young man asks.

"Forty-eight hours," says Warren, smiling. "With my winnings and the leisure time afforded me by my period of unemployment, I spent five luxurious weeks touring the Greek islands."

"Wow!"

"My sentiments exactly." Warren reaches behind the young man to switch off his computer that, briefly before it flickers, displays a horse racing form. "Now, in exchange for this valuable lesson, I will ask you to answer my telephone calls for the rest of the afternoon, giving a respectable reason for my absence."

"Absence? Why? Where ... ?"

"Dover Downs. I plan to put a bundle on a three-year-old filly in the fifth race. Her name is Francesca."

Article © Jonathan D. Scott. All rights reserved.
Published on 2010-04-26
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