The Fountain

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Brie watches Terryn's Tesla speed away up Beverly Park Lane then turn towards Mulholland Drive and out of sight. Her heart thumps as she faces the residence. Twin pillars stand on either side of an elaborate gilt iron gate with date palms exploding like fireworks. She presses the intercom.

"Password?" says a female voice.

Brie hesitates.

"Password please."

Brie leans forward to the speaker. "Bimini?"

A pregnant silence, and then, "You're standing in for Lorelei?"

Brie leans forward. "Yes."

"You don't need to press your lips against the microphone."

Brie looks up to find a surveillance camera watching her.

The voice says, "Have you been trained?"

Brie shakes her head.

"Well come in," the woman says, the gate trembling into action. "The guests arrive in an hour."

Brie walks up the cobblestone drive lined with palm trees. Fifty yards up around a bend, an archway leads to a vast cobbled courtyard where a grand stone fountain spits streams of water skyward. Halfway through the darkened archway, the house makes itself known. It is a stately Tuscan villa the size of a modest hotel with two floors of warm-stone stucco, fifty-something elegant windows, and a tile roof the color of cocoa. Well-tended ferns in terracotta urns undulate in the breeze of the hills. Beginning at the fountain and extending to the steps leading to the front door, there is a long silk rug the color of blood. Brie avoids the red carpet on her way to the steps and walks up.

A woman wearing a severe black suit receives her. "They're telling me that Lorelei didn't formally refer you. How is it that you're here?"

"She forgot to," Brie says. "And now she's out of town, so she had me log into her email to RSVP. Is that all right?"

The woman's jaw flexes. "You can't just walk in off the street."

Brie feels her muscles loosen in relief. Good. She shouldn't be here. The thought of explaining to Dita...

"But I'm short a girl. Your arrival is actually a tremendous relief. How do you know Lorelei?"

Brie can feel her cheeks flush. "We work together."

The woman stands there scrutinizing Brie. She unclips a two-way radio from her belt and presses the button. "Attendant orientation, please." She looks at Brie. "Phones and other recording devices are not permitted on the premises. You can stow your purse in the changing room, but you'll need to give your phone to me." She opens a black leather pouch and holds it out to Brie.

Brie digs into her purse. "What if I need to check—"

"There won't be time," the woman says, gesturing for Brie to put the phone in the pouch. She drops it in.

"You'll be paid in cash at midnight when your official duties end. But because midnight is rarely when the festivities are over," she says, handing Brie a slip of paper, "we provide you with a pre-paid shipping address so you may mail your wardrobe back to us at your convenience. You will most likely leave in it."

Brie takes the shipping slip and tucks it into the outside pocket of her purse.

"Don't be chatty with the clients," the woman tells her. "You are here to escort them from encounter to encounter and make them feel comfortable, not tell them every sordid detail of your life."

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