Her name is Leila Williams. That’s what it says on the security report Welch has sent over. She’s 27, a part-time art student, working in a small art gallery in the Belltown area, five or so blocks from Pike Market Place. She’s signed her NDA and the boss has an appointment to meet her at 8pm. Her photograph shows a pretty woman, with shoulder-length brown hair and brown eyes.
She’s got some minor offenses for public intoxication and one for possession of marijuana – both while she was in her teens. Nothing since. She moved out west three years ago and has worked steadily since.
So why the fuck does she want to be Grey’s submissive?
I’ve hired a non-descript room in an unremarkable office block for the interview. Obviously he can’t meet her at his office and he won’t have her at Escala until he’s decided that he wants her. Hotels are out for ‘reclusive bachelor’ Christian Grey: not when who-knows-what paparazzi could be lurking behind the potted fucking palms, waiting for their money shot.
I’ve worked for a lot of rich men since I got into personal protection. Grey isn’t the first one to use prostitutes and it isn’t the first time I’ve been asked to procure them. Some of the hookers I’ve known, professionally, that is, have been well-educated, rational people who see it as a simple transaction based on market forces: they have something to sell; someone else is prepared to pay well for it. They’ve been well dressed, well washed and drive more expensive cars than I can ever hope to afford. I’ve seen the other side, too: dirty, unwashed, crackheads that I’d happily cross the street to avoid. You’d be amazed how many men there are whose dicks get hard just thinking about that kind of trip. Reckless endangerment doesn’t even begin to cover it. A man behaves like that, I’m out of there. I can’t protect a man who chases that sort of thrill. Or maybe I’m kidding myself: I can’t work for a man who takes advantage of people – of women – who uses and tosses them away.
Perhaps it’s a small distinction: but I have my limits.
The whole Dom/submissive thing is not something I get. I didn’t even know there was a distinction between that and S&M until I started working for Grey. Live and learn.
Not that we’ve spoken about it. I don’t go up to my boss and say, “Hi, sir! How’s it hanging? So about that ho you’re planning on banging: how’s that work?”
No, I listen, I pay attention, and I do my fucking homework.
It turns out that Grey has been having these… relationships ever since. He keeps files in a locked drawer in his desk. I’ve seen the files. The Williams woman is file number 12. And you know what? All the other submissives had long, brown hair, too. Which is a relief. And now I get why Gail, Andrea, and all the other women close to Grey in a professional way are blonde – so he’s not attracted to them. Thank fuck. Beating the shit out of your boss for looking too hard at your woman is not a great career move. Or the woman who might be your woman. My woman.
I’ve worked for Grey for two months now and I’ve got fucking nowhere with Gail. She’s friendly, we talk, we have a laugh together… and that’s it. I’ve checked my contract with Grey again and there’s nothing in there about relations with other members of staff, but I’m still not sure if he wouldn’t fire my ass if something happened between me and Gail. I don’t care about that so much, but if I got Gail fired… well, I’d feel fucking awful.
So on a Wednesday evening in June, a couple of weeks before the boss’s 24th birthday, I’m driving him to his appointment.
Do I approve? I don’t need to: this is my job. But I have to say it sits awkwardly with me because I know what he wants to do with this woman – or rather to this woman. If he just wanted to fuck her bandy-legged, I guess I could accept that. After all, it’s consensual. I’m not sure where he’d stand legally, whether it would class as prostitution – excuse me while I look for my fucking law degree – but the fact is, apart from the fucking, I know he wants to beat the crap out of her. I mean, I’ve seen the shit he’s got in his so-called playroom: belts, canes, whips, chains, handcuffs and stuff I don’t even want to think about. Ok, I get the handcuffs, but why would a man want to hurt a woman like that? Why does Grey want to?
He’s a fucking control freak at work but thanks to him a lot of people get to pay their mortgages every month. To people who work hard and deliver, he’s generous to a fault. And I know he’s sincere about his feed-the-world project at WSUV. Plus, he’s paid for Sophie to go to a great pre-school; even her bitch of a mother has had to admit it’s shit hot.
The truth is Grey’s a fuck-up but at least he knows it. Some bad shit happened to him when he was a kid and I’ve noticed that he doesn’t let anyone touch him, not even his family. They don’t hug him, they don’t pat him on the back. Well, Mia tends to tackle him like a line-backer but I’ve noticed even she is careful how she does it, only ever touching his arms. The exception to the rule is the Lincoln woman. Whatever their history is, I’d bet my bottom dollar that she’s part of the fucked-upedness. No doubt she got him into this whole weird BDSM scene.
I do a quick re-con of the office then escort him in. The only people around at that time are the night security guy who passes us in without blinking, and a Hispanic-looking cleaner, who’s wearing headphones while he polishes the floors.
When the Williams woman arrives she looks nervous and younger than her photograph. She’s quite a looker, although a bit on the skinny side for my taste. I prefer a woman with curves like… mind on the job, Taylor!
I take her up to the rented office and wait outside. I can’t help wondering what sort of questions Grey is going to ask her. Some weird fucking job description where the boss asks the staff if they take it up the ass. Most bosses don’t bother to ask.
Forty minutes later she walks out looking pretty pleased with herself so I guess it’s a done deal. In the car on the way back to Escala Grey tells me to order a brand new Audi A3 in blue, insured in her name and delivered to her apartment in the Broadview neighbourhood. No wonder she was looking so fucking pleased with herself. I hope she feels the same when he’s beating seven shades of shit out of her.
Reading up on the internet tells me that some women like that shit. I don’t get that at all. There are even places, nightclubs, in Seattle where women pay men to beat them and fuck them. Maybe I’m in the wrong job. I suspect the boss used to go to places like that, but that would be way too risky now for the mega famous, mega control freak that he is now.
Grey heads straight to his study when we get in. I head straight to the staff kitchen for my fix of Gail.
She smiles when she sees me and it’s like suddenly seeing the sun on a grey, Seattle morning. I can’t help grinning back.
“Hello, Jason. How was your day?”
“Fair to middling dull. Yours?”
She laughs. “Well, perhaps I can cheer you up with linguini alla puttanesca.”
“Sounds good, Gail. But everything you cook is damn fine.”
“Flattery, Jason!” She passes me a glass and a bottle of beer. “Although I don’t think flattery is in your job description.”
I sigh, thinking of some of the weird shit that is in my job description.
“What’s the matter?”
I debate whether I should mention the Williams woman, but I figure she’ll know one way or another, and sooner rather than later.
“The boss has hooked up with another of his women – a new… submissive.”
Her face falls. I can tell she feels the same way about it that I do. Then she sighs. “Oh well, I suppose it was bound to happen. But I don’t understand it: why a nice, young man like Mr Grey feels the need to… well, you know. He’s got such a good heart – I just don’t understand where this… this darkness comes from.”
I think I’ve got a better hook on the situation than Gail, but it doesn’t mean I understand it.
“Gail, can I ask you something?”
She looks up at me expectantly, her wide blue eyes curious.
“Of course, Jason. Anything, you know that.”
“Well, I was wondering, what did the boss say to you about… about these women and… about his, er, playroom?”
For the briefest of moments I think I see disappointment flicker across her face, but it’s gone so quickly I can’t be sure.
“Well, when I came for the job, I signed my NDA, of course.”
“And we had a normal sort of interview. He asked me about other places that I’d worked, why I’d left my last job and so on. I thought he was a very pleasant young man, very serious, a little earnest. He explained that he lived here alone but he was planning on hiring additional staff for his personal security… but that was all. He had no family living with him: no wife or children. I knew the job required me to live in during the week and that he might need me occasionally at weekends, to be agreed in advance. I’d run the house: organising the shopping, cooking, most of the cleaning, and organise any household maintenance. You know, the usual.”
“I admit I was a little nervous about working for such a young man. I wasn’t sure if he would… try anything. Especially as I would be living alone with him for several months to begin with. But then he said that he had a female guest who came every weekend. I was relieved because, of course, I thought he meant a girlfriend.”
She sighs. “Oh dear, then he said, and I’ll never forget this, ‘My weekend guest is an employee – a special employee. Miss Saunders doesn’t mix with either my family or my business acquaintance.’ I was surprised but not as shocked as you might think: one sees a lot of… eccentricities as a housekeeper – as I’m sure you have, Jason.”
I nod. Too fucking true.
“Then Mr Grey suggested that I look around the apartment so I knew what I was getting myself into. Those were his words. I was delighted: the place was modern and light and airy; both the staff kitchen and Mr Grey’s kitchen were well equipped and just a dream to work in. And then… and then I walked into his playroom.”
She shakes her head in disbelief at the memory. “I felt like Alice falling down the rabbit hole. My immediate reaction was that I couldn’t possibly work for him. And so I went back to his study and told him I couldn’t take the job. He didn’t look surprised he just asked if he could explain the situation in more detail. I nearly walked out but… I suppose I was curious as to what he could possibly say. He told me that the playroom was purely for the uses of himself and his weekend guest and that everything that happened in there was consensual. He said it was only ever just the two of them and that there were never, er, additional guests. He also assured me that our relationship would be purely professional. But I had my doubts. I said I’d have to think about it but really, I had no intention of taking the job. We shook hands and I left.”
“What made you change your mind?” I’m so fucking curious now!
“I met his mother. Doctor Trevelyan happened to arrive just as I was leaving. He was so sweet with her. And she was so, well, loving and normal. Mr Grey introduced us and she smiled and said it would reassure her to know that someone was looking after her boy. And Mr Grey laughed and rolled his eyes at her. I went home and thought very hard. In the end I decided I’d give it a month’s trial. And… well, here I am.”
She smiles. And I’m amazed: she is one brave woman.
“But I’m curious, Jason. What were your first impressions?”
She’s put me on the spot. I go for honesty.
“I thought he was a twisted son of a bitch.”
Gail gasps then laughs. “Well, quite!”
“And if there was anything illegal or if he was into kids or… goats or anything, I was out of here.”
I think I’ve shocked her but then she starts giggling and I can’t help laughing, too.
“Goats?!” she says, her eyes dancing with humour.
“Yeah!” I say, laughing, “No goats!”
“No goats!” she agrees.
I look up and I see Grey standing at the door watching us. I wonder how much he’s heard, but he doesn’t seem worried.
“Oh! Good evening, Mr Grey,” says Gail. “I’m afraid Mr Taylor isn’t too keen on my recipe for curried goat!”
I nearly choke on my beer.
Grey pulls a face. “I can’t say curried goat would be an item I’d like to see on your menu, Mrs Jones.”
“No, sir,” she says, with a straight face. “No goats.”
There’s an awkward pause while I keep my eyes down, staring into my beer like it’s the last water in the desert.
“The linguini alla puttanesca will be ready in five minutes, Mr Grey,” she says, smiling at him gently.
“Thank you, Mrs Jones, that sounds excellent. And I’d like to go through the week’s menus later.”
“Certainly, sir,” she says.
He wanders off and I can’t help thinking how lonely it must be to hear the laughter of other people in your home but know that none of it is for you. The thought is sobering. I look up and Gail is still smiling at me, distracting me from my thoughts. I can’t help smiling back.
“Jason,” she says, “can I ask you something?”
“Sure, Gail, what is it?”
“Are you ever going to ask me out?”