A few minutes later, Alan rolled the Escalade to a stop in front of the renowned restaurant owned by the Frenchman Michel Dubeau on 78th St between Park and Madison avenues.
"So what time will you be leaving this joint, Big Dick?" asked Alan.
"You know what," replied Brink, "Don't worry about it. Take the rest of the night off. Go drink a 6-pack, watch a ballgame. Candy and I will catch a cab later, or maybe we'll even walk." He reached over the front seat and handed Alan a stack of folded hundreds.
"What?" answered a befuddled Alan. "You think that's a good idea? There's always a leak in there funneling your business all over town. By the time you step outta there later, there'll be snoops and cameras waiting to hassle you."
"Nah, Alfred'll take care of me. They'll fix something to get me out of there on the sly. Don't worry about it. Go jack yourself off all night."
"Alright, well, call me if you need me," answered Alan as he got out of the car to open a backdoor for his passengers.
Candy Kane stepped out onto the curb first, looking like a kid arriving at Disneyworld for the first time followed by the blasé Brink.
"What's the matter, kid?" asked Brink as he offered his arm for Candy to hook onto, "You look a little bewildered."
"It's … it's …so…beautiful" she said finally with some effort as her pumps stepped onto the giant welcome mat with the name Michel on it flanked by two potted palm trees.
"This is nothing. Wait until you see the dining room," replied Brink. "But all of this is just superficial dressing. What matters most here is the food. Michel is a master chef and New York's longest-reigning three-star Michelin chef. Only a handful of his peers on Earth can match his skill and taste. This restaurant is his masterpiece. "
Arm-in-arm they walked through the front doors where the aforementioned Alfred LeDuc, a 10-year veteran of Michel awaited them. He was elegantly and expensively dressed in a dark suit and black tie. His hair was combed back, and he had a pencil-thin mustache. LeDuc was the quarterback of the dining room. Constantly reading situations as they evolved and controlling the tempo of the evening, he had razor-sharp vision and eyes in the back of his head. So precise were his interpretations of the moment that he seemed to read the minds of everyone in the room, which, in effect, was his job -- to figure out what might affect the delicate sensibilities of Michel's high-paying patrons and position them and his staff for maximal customer satisfaction.
LeDuc glided over to the couple to greet them as they entered. His prompt attention to Brink was a signal of Brink's importance as well as a tactic for buying himself some time. Brink had arrived unexpected on a Friday night at 7:30 pm to a restaurant that required reservations 6 months in advance. LeDuc was caught in an all-out blitz and needed every precious moment he could get to scramble his way to safety. Some pointless chit-chat would distract Brink and stall him.
"Mr. Brink," said LeDuc, "what a pleasant surprise," which was a polite way saying of asking, "what the hell are you doing here now without fair warning?"
Brink knew the dance and understood what LeDuc was doing, and it didn't bother him in the least. It actually pleased him because he knew that LeDuc was acting under pressure and would manage to amaze him as always by pulling off the impossible.
"Alfred, it's great to see you again. How long has it been now -- 3 … 4 … maybe 5 days?" asked Brinked while laughing at his own wittiness.
"Far too long, Mr. Brink. I suppose the release of 'GloFish Syndrome' has clogged up your calendar and kept you from us as only another #1 bestseller can do?" Feeding Brink's ego in addition to his belly was always a no-brainer.
"Ah, so you've heard about it?" inquired Brink.
"it's the talk of the town, Mr. Brink," answered LeDuc as he slowly ushered Brink and Candy Kane in the direction of a destination that only he knew. Through the course of the conversation he had clandestinely signaled an elite team of his staff a complex set of instructions to set up a table in a strategically located location that would both showcase the Neoclassical dining room and offer a degree of privacy. As LeDuc and his guests slowly flanked the space to avoid unnecessary attention, LeDuc's people slipped in and out and around the columns and arches of the grand hall imperceptibly like ninjas making preparations while dinner service to the other 140 + diners continued seamlessly.
"Will you be expecting any further guests this evening, Mr. Brink?" asked LeDuc.
"I should think not, Alfred. The lovely Ms. Candy Kane will be more than adequate company quite on her own," replied Brink while sliding his hand down to grab a hunk of her butt.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Ms. Kane. My name is Alfred LeDuc, and it is my honor to make sure that you have an evening nothing short of exquisite. Please feel free to call on me at any time if there's anything I can do for you."
"Oh my gawd, that is so cute. Thank you," she replied.
The threesome was now standing in front an elegantly set table for two in the shadow of two Greek-style columns that offered a view of the entire dining room and a greater degree of privacy. Nonetheless, some of the diners had taken note of Brink's arrival and began to sneak looks in his direction.
"Will this be to your liking, Mr. Brink?" asked LeDuc.
"You're a wizard as always, Alfred. Thank you." Brink reached out his hand, which was full of hundred dollar bills, to shake LeDuc's. The exchange was made, and LeDuc moved to pull Candy Kane's chair for her. Brink sat himself down. "Is there anything else with which I can be of further assistance?" asked LeDuc.
"That's all for now," answered Brink. "We may need you later for an exit strategy."
"Of course," answered LeDuc. "Enjoy your meals." Then, like a ghost, he vanished.
"Well, Candy, what do you think?" Brink asked his date rhetorically. "I can't decide which smell I enjoy the most here -- the smell of the food or the smell of the money. I'm kidding, of course. Money is everywhere, but dishes like the ones we'll have tonight are rare. There isn't a place in the world where I'd rather drop 20 grand."
Within moments, a waitress dressed entirely in black appeared like a ninja out of nowhere.
"Rebecca, it's so good to see you. How have you been?" Brink asked her.
"It is excellent to see you, Mr. Brink. I'm doing very well, thank you," she replied.
Before Rebecca could go any further, Brink said, "You know what I like to start with -- Chivas Regal 18 years, straight up. Ms. Kane will have … let's see …how about a Champagne Mojito?"
Candy smiled approvingly.
"Very well, thank you," replied Rebecca, and she disappeared just as imperceptibly as she appeared.
"You seem so far away over there," said Brink to Candy who was sitting across from him at the round table. "There's no need for us to be so formal. Relax, Candy."
He moved his chair over to be next to her, and under the table, he resumed his earlier stroking of her thigh. "There, isn't that much better?" She giggled a little.
Rebecca arrived with their drinks and asked Brink if they'd like to see menus yet. He declined and indicated that they would be dining from the 8-course tasting menu. He had already taken a large gulp from his drink, and before she could vanish into thin air again, Brink ordered another Chivas.
"Look, over there," said Brink to Candy in a muffled voice while pointing with his eyes to a large table in the center of the room underneath an even larger chandelier. "It's the mayor, and then at the table to his right, it's that rap star."
"Oh my gawd," said Candy. "It's Smooch Puppy. I'm gonna pee my pants."
"You like him?" asked Brink.
"Oh my gawd. I listen to him like … all the time."
"Really? Why? Isn't it all just about him 'pimpin his bitches and hoes'?" asked Brink.
"Whatevs," she replied incredulously. "His beats … oh my gawd … they're like the best."
"I suppose that's his girlfriend with him? Isn't she a model or something?" inquired Brink.
"Oh … my … gawd! Where have you been? That's his wife, Lisa LaFontaine. She has her own show on TV, which I watch …ALL the time."
Brink polished off his second drink and signaled for another, which arrived almost instantly. "Are you referring to that God-awful reality show about those five Upper East Side women who spend their days shopping, getting their hair done, complaining about their maids and having affairs with their drivers?" asked Brink.
"She's my hero," said Candy. "I SO want her life. You know she's from the town next to mine in Long Island?"
"Oh yeah," said Brink. "Well, from what I can tell, you two are pretty much alike. You keep playing your cards right, and you'll be right where she is before you know it."
Candy looked down into her drink dejectedly, "I'll never be like her. She's so beautiful."
"Cheer up, kid," replied Brink. "She's got nothin' on you. Trust me. You're way hotter than she is."
"Really? You're sweet, but I know you don't mean that."
"Listen, sweetheart, I know you don't know what I do and wouldn't care if you did, but I have a lot more money than Smooth Puppy or whatever the hell his name is over there, and that's precisely why I mean it when I say you're more beautiful than she is. I could have any woman I want, but I chose you … from an extensive online catalogue of beautiful women."
"You're really rich?" she asked.
"Made the Forbes 400," replied Brink.
"Forbes Magazine reports on financial matters. Every year they print a list of the 400 richest people in America," he answered.
This seemed to comfort her just as their first course arrived.
"Mosaic of venison and daikon radish," said the waitress Rebecca while placing a mostly empty plate in front of each of them. "Would you like another Chivas, Mr. Brink?" she asked.
"Yes and another drink for the lady as well, but I'd also like for you to bring out a bottle of the '61 Chateau Latour, " said Brink.
"Right away, Mr. Brink."
"What is this?" asked Candy as she stared down bewildered at a bite-sized array of dazzling textures and colors artfully arranged in miniature geometric patterns and accent swooshes and swirls. "It looks like candy."
"Isn't it beautiful? But it definitely isn't candy. It's the 1st of our 8 courses, my little Long Island lovely -- basically deer meat with paté of goose liver and daikon radish," replied Brink
"It's so tiny," she said.
"Yes, it has to be. The French discovered long ago the concept of the multi-course meal spread out over an extended meal time to sustain appetite throughout the meal and aid in digestion. When you get to the equally small 7th and 8th courses, you won't think they're so tiny."
Just then Rebecca re-appeared with the bottle of Chateau Latour and began the ritual of showing Brink the bottle and label for approval, pulling the cork and having him taste the wine. With the taste sample in glass, Brink began his elaborate display of wine connoisseur. First, he lifted the wine glass into the air up above head level in front of himself to inspect the color of the wine in finer light. Satisfied, he lowered the glass and began to move his hand in a circular pattern to swirl the wine and bring out its aroma. Then he lowered his nose into the glass as far as it would go and took in a long smell. Satisfied, he finally lifted the glass to his lips and took a small sip, closing his eyes as the wine entered his mouth. He paused for several moments like that as his lips and mouth twitched slightly. Rebecca awaited patiently, as Candy looked on with a stunned look on her face.
"Exquisite," said Brink finally, prompting rebecca to pour wine into Candy's glass and more into Brink's. "One of the most robust wines I've ever had with a nose of cassis, cedar, walnuts … just stunning."
"What were you doing? What are you talking about?" asked Candy.
"I was tasting the wine," said Brink "to make sure it's up to the standard of its reputation. What you have in front of you is a wine that was bottled at the French wine estate Chateau Latour, one of the most celebrated estates in the world. It's been maturing for over 50 years in that bottle as recommended to bring out all the accents, subtleties and complexities of the grape."
"You're saying' this wine is 50 years old? Isn't it expired?" asked Candy.
"Quite the contrary. Drinking it 30 years ago would have been a huge mistake. You would have missed out on all the nuances that make this one of the finest and most expensive wines on the planet. This bottle alone goes for for more than $5,000 here tonight, which is why I want to make sure that it hasn't turned to vinegar. If you don't handle and store the bottle just right, from the temperature of the wine cellar to the angle of the nose of the bottle, you can destroy the wine. Now, I'm too concerned because Michel has one of the finest sommeliers in the entire country working for him, but nonetheless, every once in a while you get a bottle that's a dud."
"What's a summa-lear?" she asked.
"It's a guy who's an expert on wine and other beverages," replied Brink. "High end restaurants like this one usually hire a sommelier to oversee the wine selection."
Well into his 4th drink, Brink's high decibel pontificating and fondling of Candy had begun to attract glances from other diners. Brink was completely unaffected, and his behaviors only amplified as the evening moved forward and he continued filling his glass. As they carried on their public display of excess, staff members dashed in and out clearing the table and bringing successive courses and more wine. To keep them attentive to his needs and tolerant of his behaviors, Brink fed them in turn twenty-dollar bills from a roll that he left sitting out on the table throughout the dinner. No act was too small to warrant a tip. If a busboy came over to fill the waters, Brink would slip him a twenty. At one point, even Alfred LeDuc came by to check on them to see if he could augment his previous tip. His cooperation was rewarded with 10 twenty-dollar bills.
Around the time of the 4th or 5th course, Candy announced to Brink, "I have to go to the little girls room."
"Oh, is that right," slurred Brink. "Well, lemme show you where it is." He stood up with a wine glass in his hand. Staff descended rapidly on the table in anticipation of a disaster. After all, the drunk Brink was on his feet and about to be mobile.
"It's nothing," said Brink. "The little lady has to go the little girls room. That's all." He lurched slightly, sending a splash of wine airborn. "I'm going to accompany her. Save my spot."
Two busboys pulled the table back slightly for Candy. She stood up oblivious to the fact that her skirt was up around her belly button, revealing her lace panties.
"Whoopsie," she said as she pulled her skirt back down to her upper, upper thigh and re-arranged her chest. "OK, I'm ready. Let's go potty."
Together, they walked a crooked line arm-in-arm along the fringes of the dining room toward the ladies room. Brink still had his wine glass in hand, and Candy was wobbling like a newborn giraffe trying to navigate her stiletto heals. All eyes were on them to see if they would make it without a disaster. Miraculously, they arrived at their destination without incident.
"Well, this is me," said Candy as they stood in front of the ladies room. "See ya in a few minutes."
"Don't be silly," replied Brink. "You're gonna need some help in there." He pushed open the restroom door and poked his head inside. "Anyone in here?"
"C'mon," he said to Candy. "There's no one in there. Let's have some fun." Together they went in.
A few minutes later, another female diner arrived at the same ladies room and attempted to open the door but could not. She stood outside the door patiently for several minutes without suspicion before her patience began to wane. Finally, she stood next to the door and was just about to knock loudly and call out to whomever was hogging the bathroom when she heard what sounded like squeals and laughter coming from inside. She decided to seek help from a staff member and returned shortly afterwards with a busboy. The busboy also tried to push open the ladies room door without success and also heard what sounded like a party for two coming from inside. He decided to go for backup and arrived a few minutes later with Alfred LeDuc.
"Escort this woman to the men's room," said Leduc to a staffmember, referring to the woman who had been waiting to relieve herself "and see to it that she has privacy." To a second staffmember, he said, "Stand guard and let no other guests come through here until I emerge with Mr. Brink and his friend."
LeDuc put his head close to the door to take stock of the situation. He could hear the frolicking within and could see that the door had been intentionally jammed or blocked.
"Mr. Brink," he called out. "Can I be of some assistance?" There was no response. He applied a little pressure to the door to test its immovability. Finally, with no resort remaining, LeDuc gave the door a blast with his shoulder and managed to burst through.
Sitting atop the sink were Brink and Candy. She was on his lap and facing him as they kissed. Neither of them were wearing underwear. They did not stop to take note of LeDuc.
"Mr. Brink," said LeDuc in a firm voice, "We have other guests who are waiting to use the restroom."
Finally, Brink detached his face from Candy's and looked over at LeDuc. "Alfred, can you give us five minutes?"
"It has already been about 20 minutes," replied LeDuc.
"Oh alright," said Brink,. "We're done."
"Thank you," replied LeDuc. "I'll wait for you right outside so you can get situated."
Not long afterwards, Brink and Candy emerged from the bathroom dressed as if they had just played a game of touch football in their nice clothes. LeDuc was waiting to escort them back to their table.
"Change of plan, Alfred," said Brink as he handed LeDuc a handful of hundreds and a credit card. "We're going straight home for dessert."
"Agreed," said LeDuc as he summoned a staffmember to take the credit card. "I hope everything has been to your liking."
"You've outdone yourselves once again," said Brink, "and someday, I swear to you, I will make it to the later courses."
"I look forward to that day. Shall I take you out by way of the service entrance?" asked LeDuc.
"Please," replied Brink as he paused near the kitchen entrance to sign for his bill. "Thank you, Alfred."
Outside, the temperature had cooled slightly. The ragged couple stumbled over to Park Avenue, and wiithin moments, Brink hailed them a cab.