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 Chapter 16

Pizza for Elsa and Bert

The restaurant was toward the upper end of Georgetown, right on Wisconsin Avenue, a little Italian place devoted mostly to pizzas. They sat in what had probably been the living room of a private house, and Elsa remarked, "This is about as close to a little European restaurant as you're likely to find in this country."

"It's certainly cozy. I spend most of my time in fairly open spaces, and it's unfamiliar."

"Is it too cozy?"

"Not with you. In a way, it's more intimate than having sex."

"Well, considering that you hardly undressed me for sex, I can see that."

“Did you like it?"

"Certainly. Partly because of the novelty. Do you think that, if we went to the Mall at noontime, you could cause me to have an orgasm fully dressed?"

"An interesting thought. You're quite voluble when you come."

"I've been told that I also bounce around like a jackrabbit."

"I'd choose a more flattering comparison, but, doing what you do, you'd be quite conspicuous in the Mall."

"I'd probably stop pedestrian traffic for some distance."

"I wonder what mothers would say to their children?"

"Most American mothers aren't terribly articulate or imaginative. Instead of telling the children that I was having a religious reawakening, they'd just hustle them away."

"Perhaps with a few words of caution about foreign tourists."

"Of course, when I was in passion this last time, my fastenings came undone. You'd have to carry me off."

"I'll always be happy to carry you off."

"Speaking of that, you're quite strong, surprisingly so."

"I was a wrestler in college, and still do some."

"I thought wrestlers were huge hulking men."

"Those are the heavyweights. Most of us are in the middle-weight groups."

"I see. A middle-weight wrestler with funny steel-rimmed glasses and a peculiar, mildly sadistic, smile."

"I've never tortured anyone."

"But you like to embarrass women. Very gently with your wife, perhaps not so gently with numbers like myself."

"It won't always be like tonight. I can do the more ordinary things."

It struck Elsa that Bert was being quite comfortable with himself, particularly when the pizza arrived. That was good. She wanted to know more about him, and she had the feeling that, eventually, he might turn out to have useful information, things that went well beyond the concerns of the Capital Couples. A good place to begin exploration would be with the young mistress. "Speaking of that, your little friend seemed reasonably happy after dallying with Erik."

"I gathered that she was going around for a second helping with someone. I told her I'd be back for her later. I couldn't have left her there otherwise."

"She can't really satisfy you, can she?"

"Not really. But she's very good company for my wife."

"By God, Bert! You take on a young mistress to provide company for your wife. I've been around a certain amount, but I've never heard of that one."

"It sort of happened one night at a party."

"I see. Luda is a lesbian, isn't she?"

"My God! I don't think so."

"I'm not sure, of course, but my intuitions are generally correct. If so, she may be very good company for your wife."

"This is getting deeper than I meant it to be."

"You might want to change plans before things go too far."

"Yes. I really don't think Joan has any lesbian tendencies. And she’s so traditional that it’s hard to imagine anything like that.”

“That’s good. There are sometimes very strong emotions associated with sex between women, and that could get messy."

Bert now did seem a little worried, which was also good. Saying nothing, Elsa looked deeply into his eyes. He then said,  "The other thing, Luda is really meant to be a present for a senator."

"You are amazing, Bert! Why are you giving her to a senator?"

"I have extensive business interests in Latin America, and you can't do anything in those countries without the agreement of the government."

Elsa knew that the governments in question would likely be dictatorships, and it didn't seem likely that Bert's social conscience would prevent him from dealing with them. Confronted with a possibly sensitive subject, Elsa tried humor, "I bet the head of a typical Latin government is a big fat guy with some Indian blood who wears a comic opera uniform that he has trouble buttoning over his tummy."

"Those are the African dictators. Some of the Latin ones make decent playboys. Others have a touch of paranoia, and can be dangerous. A bribe offered at the wrong time in the wrong way can set them off. Particularly if they find, or pretend to find, the amount of the bribe to be an affront to their dignity."

"So you have to tread, and bribe, with great care."

"Yes. People say that I coddle the dictators, but I have to deal with the established governments. If I went out into the hills in search of the rebels, I'd accomplish nothing beyond getting myself killed."

"You said that Luda was to be a gift to a senator. Could she also be a gift to a Latin dictator?"

"Probably not. Those gentlemen supply themselves with young ladies very easily. What they really want is American support, particularly in the form of arms shipments."

"So you trade Luda to a senator for arms for your favorite dictator?"

Elsa was laughing as she spoke, but Bert replied seriously, "He gets the arms if he can make out that the rebels he's fighting are communists. I help him make that case, and get it to the right senator. The arms then flow, but the senator has to be thanked in one way or another."

"Are these rebels really communists?"

"Not usually. They're just pissed off peasants in an age-old cycle. However, we're beginning to move away from making them communists to making them illegal drug producers. And the rebels usually do grow coca leaves."

It was pretty obvious that Bert was helping get Latin American peasants machine-gunned by the dictator's thuggish army. But that really wasn't her concern. She asked, "Will you be taking Luda around to the senatorial offices with a big bow tied around her waist?"

Bert, now laughing, replied, "The senators and congressmen all have unpaid volunteer assistants. I take a young lady around and sign her up as such. Nature then may take its course."

"Will Luda know all this?"

"Only part. She'll be given to understand that powerful friends can ease her way through life, and that's all she needs to know."

"Fair enough."

"The only trouble is that, when I took Luda around, the senator's chief of staff and Luda made big eyes at each other."

"Is the chief of staff more fetching than the senator?"

"Oh yes. He's a handsome accomplished man, surprisingly young for his position."

Elsa burst out laughing, and said, "I know this isn't funny for you, Bert, but I can't help it. It sounds like something out of an opera. The beautiful girl, promised to the horrid old man, finds her true love and elopes with him."

"She'd better damn well not elope!"

"Is Luda clever enough to service the senator while carrying on a secret affair with her lover?"

"I don't know."

"And, then, if the lover really is her lover, he may have difficulty with an image of Luda, naked, in the arms of his boss."

"Yes. But he's a Washington professional, not Romeo. I think he'll realize what a good thing he has."

"Of course, sexual jealousy is, indeed, stupid. The Capitol Couples got past that a long time ago."

"Well, I guess it may work out all right."

"Keep bringing Luda around. I'll get to know her a bit, and I may help her see the advantages in her situation."

"Okay. Can I often see you alone, like this?"

"Most certainly, Bert."

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