We All Need Something

It’s late, I’m excited about this new book, and I feel like posting something else tonight, so I’m tossing out another excerpt from The Hunt. This picks up right where we left off. Have fun.

I took the bus. I had no idea what was going on, but I didn’t see what other options I really had.

The address brought me to a nondescript glass office building. The woman had given me a suite number on the tenth floor. When I arrived, I found a plush office furnished almost entirely in white. Behind the reception desk was a beautiful woman in a white suit.

“Um, hi—”

She didn’t answer me, just picked up her phone and pressed a button. “Caitlyn is here.” Then she looked up at me.

“She’ll be right out.”

Feeling dizzy, I stood there in silence. The woman at the desk went back to her computer.

In a few moments, the woman I’d talked to appeared. She was in her fifties, but in good shape. Big blonde hair but tasteful makeup. I knew enough about women’s suits by then to know what she had on must have cost a fortune.

She put out a hand. “Welcome. You can call me Madeline. Please come back.”

I followed her to a corner office overlooking the mansions of Highland Park. We passed other offices on the way there, but as far as I could tell, there was no one else in this suite. Her desk was heavy glass with almost nothing on it beyond a phone, a new MacBook Pro, and a manila folder with a few documents inside it. She directed me to sit.

“I’m sure you’re feeling a bit confused at the moment.”

“You could say that.”

“To lay the groundwork here, I am aware of the dire straits you currently find yourself in, your job situation, your student loans, your credit card debt and other problems. I’m also aware that despite your qualifications, your chances of getting employment again in the legal field are quite slim. And I am aware of why that is so.”

I didn’t bother asking how. There were ways of finding that stuff out, and how she did it didn’t really matter.

“Okay.”

“I’m also aware that you have been considering more, shall we say, unsavory employment out of desperation.”

That got my attention. “How the hell do you know that?”

“When someone in your position begins making those sorts of inquiries, it draws attention. We would like to offer you a chance to get back on your feet and get a fresh start.”

I was not liking what I was hearing.

“What do I have to do?”

“Take part in a fairly simple game against five men. If you win, this will be your prize.”

She drew something from the manila folder, which I immediately realized was a check. She slid it across the desk toward me. When I saw the amount, my eyes bugged out.

“That is a certified check, made out to you, in the amount of one million dollars, plus an additional amount to cover the income taxes.

I stared at the thing in shock. If it was counterfeit, it was a good one. And from everything I’d seen so far, I was convinced it was genuine.

I slowly pulled my eyes away from it and looked at Madeline.

“A game?”

“Yes. You ran cross-country in high school and college, did you not?”

I was no longer surprised that she knew these sorts of things.

“Yes.”

“This game will take place at a large ranch northwest of Austin. I know you’re familiar with the area, so you should have an advantage. You will be placed in a confined area ten miles long and two miles wide. If you can reach the exit without any of the men finding you and catching you, that check will be waiting for you there. That prize will be yours, free and clear.”

I stared at her, not believing what I had just heard.

“If they catch me?”

“They will be hunting you, essentially. They will be armed with tranquilizer guns. You’ll be in no danger whatsoever; it’s simply to provide more of a sense of adventure.”

My state of shock kept battling with the sight of that check. Whatever was going on here, I was convinced now she was absolutely serious about this offer.

I swallowed hard.

“What if I get caught? What’s their prize?”

Madeline smiled.

“You.”

Me?

“You will serve the man who catches you, however he wants, for one year. At the conclusion of that year, assuming you fulfill all the terms of the agreement in this folder, you will be paid $250,000 for your services. Given your financial straits, we can begin drawing against that sum to bring you out of default so that your debts do not continue accruing. It won’t be a million dollars, but you will be debt-free and have enough left over to make a new start somewhere else.”

I just sat there as my ears rang.

“Caitlyn, you were researching how to become a call girl. This would not be so terribly different, you would just be serving one man instead of dozens. Surely that would be preferable.”

“You mean, like, I would be some kind of sex slave?”

“Call it what you wish. His harem girl. His courtesan. His geisha. You might even look at it simply as becoming a rich man’s mistress for a year, if that makes it easier.”

“Who are these men?”

“There are plenty of wealthy men in the world who are willing to do whatever it takes to have a woman like you at their beck and call, Caitlyn. You don’t need to know who they are. Suffice to say we are very selective, and they pay us very well for the privilege.”

“Can’t they just rent a hundred hookers?”

“It’s much too easy. At that level of wealth, challenges can be difficult to come by, especially with respect to women. Think of the thrill of having caught one who didn’t want to be caught, a woman who isn’t available to anyone else.”

“What’s to stop me from bailing on him?”

She opened the folder and handed me the document inside. “This is the agreement you will need to sign. As you’re a lawyer, I’ll dispense with the explanation and just let you read it.”

It was about ten pages long. As I expected, it didn’t mention the sex at all, since that would have made it meretricious and therefore void. If I lost the game, I would just be committing to one year of “personal services,” the parameters of which were vaguely defined but left mostly to my “employer’s” discretion. There was a non-disclosure clause. There was the section about my pay toward the end.

But the last section made the bottom drop out of my stomach. I was agreeing to pay liquidated damages of $250,000 if I breached the agreement.

When I looked up at Madeline, she finally spoke. “You see the answer to that question. If you ‘bail,’ as you put it, you would not only not receive a cent, you would be essentially doubling your debt. You may be wondering how enforceable this might be, but I can assure you it has been vetted by some extremely competent lawyers. And challenging it would require money you don’t have.”

“You’ve done this before?”

“Oh, yes. Many times.”

“And these men are all chasing girls through the woods?”

Madeline shook her head. “Every game is unique. The one I described has been designed for you specifically. We don’t want to make it too easy, or what would be the point?”

“How many girls win?”

“I’m not at liberty to discuss such details. It has no bearing on your situation. You’re still a good runner, are you not?”

I hadn’t kept up my training like I had at UT, not since law school, but I was still in good shape. Of course, I didn’t run with guys chasing me with tranq guns.

“You could get ten miles across such terrain in about an hour, wouldn’t you say?”

“Roughly.”

“A million dollars for an hour’s work.”

“If I win.”

“Yes. But you’ve won at so many other things in your life, Caitlyn. You’re a winner. It’s time to be one again.”

A black Cadillac limousine picked me up the following afternoon and took me to Dallas Executive Airport. At Madeline’s direction, I had packed an overnight bag, telling my roommate only that I had an out-of-town interview. Waiting at the airport was a Gulfstream jet. Madeline was waiting inside. As soon as I was in, we took off.

“How much do you charge these men to take part in this?” I asked her a while later. “I’m just curious.”

“One million dollars each. Per game. If they lose, they get nothing.”

“And they pay it?”

“There’s nowhere else they can get what we offer. Think about it.”

“That’s quite a profit for you.”

“We have considerable expenses for this operation. There’s a great deal else going on that you’re not involved in. Finding suitable women to take part is not easy. But yes, it is lucrative.”

I kept telling myself that one way or another, I was getting out of this hole I was in. If I lost, well, at least I would be out of debt. I would have to fuck some guy for a year, but maybe he might be cool. Maybe he might be a lot more than cool.

And if I won, I was more than back on my feet. I would be able to go where I wanted, work where I wanted, do what I wanted. I could start my own firm, do a million different things. I couldn’t retire on 750 grand, but I could get my life back on track after Traci Royall fucked it up. And maybe I could even pay her back for that somehow.

I was confident I could win. I had been a decent cross-country runner in college. I hadn’t run much more than five miles in years, but I knew I could make it easily. I was indeed familiar with the area Madeline had described; I had run more than one race there while I was at UT. It was well-wooded. There would be plenty of places to hide, to sneak through. I had all day to do it; I didn’t need to race straight there. The men would be on horseback, but she had assured me they would not be using dogs or anything else to track me, just their own wits.

We landed at a small airfield just after dark. There was a Range Rover waiting for us. Madeline drove us about two hours out into the woods before pulling off the highway down a narrow road, which led to a single-story ranch house. She showed me to a room.

“Get a good night’s sleep. You’ll need it.”

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