I found out about Los Altos from a friend of a friend, some guy who visited the city and came back going on about how great the club was. “You guys need to go, I’m telling you,” he informed us with a sly smile that told us everything and nothing at the same time. There was something he wasn’t telling us and the only way to find out was to see for ourselves.
I had no intention of going, of course. If you knew me, you’d know that clubs weren’t my scene. I rarely went out, especially to bars. The only place I frequented was an Irish pub down the street from my office where I’d kick back with a few of the locals and shoot the shit. They were mostly from an older generation, reliving their glory days, regaling me with stories that I never quite believed. Mostly, they let me be, knowing that I preferred my own company. All except Ms. Peggy, but I don’t have time to go on about her.
The only times I would go out were when I screwed the courage to ask someone out, usually to go and see a movie, though I rarely did that anymore. I just went alone. Sometimes, if I was in a really good mood, I’d ask Jeannine the receptionist out for dinner. Like me, she preferred her own company so I never felt that she counted as company. We didn’t feel the need to fill the silences so it never became awkward.
My employer sent both Jeannine and me to the city to go to some waste-of-time seminar. We left, wondering why we were forced to sit through hours of lectures that would have been better suited to a couple of emails when Jeannine looked at me, a coy smile on her face, and asked “What are we going to do now?”
“What do you mean?”
“Here we are, in downtown after dark. It’s still kind of early. We could go back to the hotel, maybe grab a drink at the bar, or maybe just go back to our rooms, or we do something out of character. Let loose a little. What do you say?”
“I have my briefcase,” I stated lamely, embarrassed by how ridiculous I sounded.
“So do I,” she laughed. “And I don’t want to go out like this in any case. Let’s head back, change into something a little more casual, something appropriate for a night out, and meet in the lobby, say around eight? Then we’ll see what happens from there.”
“Sounds good,” I answered, still a little less sure than I would have liked. In fact, Jeannine’s sudden aggressiveness had me out of sorts. She was the quiet, bookish woman, a few years older than my thirty-four. She was unmarried, and had never been married before, though she was once engaged to some guy that ended up hooking up with some bimbo in Vegas and she dumped him.
I didn’t know what she had in mind, so I took off the suit and dressed in some khakis and a dress shirt, no tie. I put on a sports jacket and met her by the doors. She was dressed for a night out, wearing a blue cocktail dress, heels, and her hair was down. She always kept it either in a bun or in a pony tail. She looked unlike herself and looking around, all the guys noticed.
“I was beginning to think you were going to stand me up,” Jeannine joked, taking my arm into hers. “Where are you taking me?”
“How about Los Altos?” I said, not knowing what else to say.
“I heard about that place,” she said knowingly, gazing at me with a surprised look. “I’m surprised you know about it.”
“Oh, I guy I know told me about it,” I stammered.
“If you say so, Romeo,” she grinned before adding cryptically, “I hope you’re the type that can handle that kind of fun. I don’t suppose you know how to get there?”
“It’s not far,” I replied, trying to maintain my composure, though I was unnerved by how she was acting. “It’s maybe a couple of blocks. Let me hail a cab.”
“Or we can walk. It’s a nice night out, don’t you think?”
I nodded, but didn’t say a word. I was too busy dreading what the night would have in store, as I usually did whenever I went out. The club, from what my friend’s friend said, was owned by a Colombian couple who fled their home country to get away from some drug lord’s promise to kill them. I don’t know why they were in danger. I didn’t catch the story.
What I do know is that they came to the city, with nothing more than the clothes they were wearing, and after a few years scrounged up enough cash to open the club. From the outside, it didn’t look like much. It was housed within a crumbling brick facade amongst towering skyscrapers. There was a few businesses on either side, but I was surprised it hadn’t been bought up yet and developed.
On the north side there was two massive iron doors that led into the club itself, but they were never opened. Instead, you had to go through a glass door which opened to a long corridor in white tile, beige walls, and harsh florescent lighting. At the end of the hallway, a bouncer ensured that only the right kind of people were let in. I was afraid we would be turned away like most of the people ahead of us were, but to my surprise he let us in.
The doors opened to a cavernous warehouse space, where freight was shipped out at one time. Once my eyes adjusted to the dim lighting, I found that there was a bar on the left. To the right was the iron doors that remained closed. I think that’s where the trucks would back up to and were loaded off the dock. On either side of the bar were ramps that led to the namesake club, Los Altos, or the heights. It was exclusive and one had to be let in, and they didn’t let just anyone in.
Jeannine took me by my hand and led me up the ramp, towards Los Altos. I knew we would be turned away for sure, but to my surprise we were let in. “Good to see you again, Baby Doll,” the doorman greeted my date. “And I see you’re bringing in a newbie. Hope he’s up to it.”
“I think he will be, when the time comes,” Jeannine said brightly before planting a kiss on the doorman’s cheek. “And I think you owe me for last time.”
“I don’t think I do,” he laughed, “but I’ll pay up all the same.”
Jeannine pulled me into cozy room, at least in comparison to the warehouse behind us. It was still at least as big as a ballroom, with vaulted ceilings, but no dance floor. Instead, there were plush sofas all around, with plenty of nooks and crannies to hide in. Up aways I could see a guy reclining back while a woman’s head bobbed up and down.
“Are they doing what I think they are?” I asked, wondering what kind of place we had found ourselves.
“Forget them,” a husky voice replied behind me. I turned around and saw a Latin woman, seductive and sexy, though I didn’t think she was all that pretty. “I’m Amalia, the proprietor of Los Altos. My husband is around here somewhere, probably playing with one of the guests. I’m guessing this is your first time here?”
“It is, Amalia,” Jeannine answered for me.
“Jenny!” Amalia greeted my date warmly. “So good to see you. I thought you forgot about us.”
“Never,” Jeannine batted at the owner playfully.
“Then does he know that what happens here can’t be discussed out there?”
“I wouldn’t have brought him if I thought he was a snitch. You can trust him, I promise.”
“Good. He looks like he can use a little stress relief. I think I may want to play with him sometime.”
“Not before I do.”
“I understand. But come, let me buy you two a drink.”
Amalia walked ahead of us and we followed her towards a side room. It was private and our host left us for a moment before returning with a couple of glasses of champagne. “Salud,” she toasted us and we returned the gesture. I took a sip and she smiled. “You need to relax. Jenny will help with that. If that doesn’t work, well there’s plenty of us who’d love to help you out.”
When she left I turned to Jeannine who laughed at my reaction. “Are you okay?”
“Okay? What kind of place is this?”
“Isn’t it obvious? It’s swinger’s club. I couldn’t come alone, and I was hoping I could convince you to come but since you suggested it first I thought you knew.”
“The hell I did!” I said a little louder than I meant to. “Do I look like that kind of pervert to you?”
“Are you saying that I’m some kind of pervert then?” She asked coldly. “Are you suggesting that I’m some sick slut?”
“Well – um – no I’m not, I’m sorry,” I stammered.
“Well, I am,” she laughed again. “Oh come on and relax. I’m the same quiet girl from work, but once in a while even a good girl like me needs to unwind.”
“Unwind? How? By fucking anyone who happens by?”
“Sometimes,” she said quietly. “I like you, you know. That’s why I never tried to sleep with you. I’ve slept with just about everyone else at work, even Laura, the girl you’ve been making googly eyes at for weeks. They all know to keep quiet. I hope you will, too.”
“How many people have you slept with?”
“Does it matter?” She asked as she grazed my cheek with her fingers. “I could tell you if you want. I’ve kept tabs on who I slept with, who I’ve blown, and just about everything else I’ve ever done. It’s not all bad. We’re all tested once we join. Amalia’s strict about that. I’d like you to join, too. I’d like a boyfriend and I kind of wish it would be you. It’d make it easier for me, and like I said, I like you. What do you say?”
I stared at her, wanting to submit to temptation but also wanting to escape from this hedonistic paradise. I never would have pegged her for a swinger, and I never would have thought I could ever find myself in a place like this. Before I realized it, I found Jeannine in my arms and I had begun to kiss her and I lost myself in her. I wanted to run but I couldn’t move. I had to have her and I had no power to deny her.
I am lost.