Friday, November 23, 2007

Feel the Burn, Week 4

NYSD readers may recall an early contributing weekly series "The Adventures of Dickey Scott." Dickey Scott, the creation of a New Yorker named Scott Briggs, was a kind of roman AA clef about a personal trainer working in the gilded halls of Manhattan's higher social circles. Once upon a time, in real life, Mr. Briggs was one of those personal trainers. He discontinued the series a couple of years ago when he sat down to "write the book" about Dickey Scott. Today, Feel the Burn is completed and now available.

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The Snake Loves Armani (continued)

“Who was that?” Dickey asked Caroline before she had a chance to sit down at their table on the patio at Orsay.

“Who?” she asked, playing dumb.

“You know who. The handsome man on the street that just kissed you and patted you on the butt.”

“Oh, that guy,” she said dismissively, once again, twirling her hair. “He’s just flirty.”

“Once again, who is he?” Dickey insisted.

“I can’t remember his name. He’s some ex-cabinet member from an extinct presidential administration.”

“You’re lying. You remember everyone’s name, even the janitor from your grade school in Worcester, Mass.”

“That’s only because HIS Barbie doll collection was bigger than mine.”

They both laughed. But in the seven years that Dickey had known Caroline this was the first time that he felt certain she was lying.

 He was about to dig further when his cell phone rang. He looked at the caller I.D., which showed that the call was from his good friend and fellow trainer, Max Sanchez.

“It’s Max,” he said to Caroline.

“Oh my God, I bet it’s about Consuelo,” Caroline gasped, squeezing Dickey’s hand, knowing that the city’s wealthiest widow was near death from cancer and that Max had been perpetually by her side.

 “She died about an hour ago.” Max stated bluntly before he even said hello.

“I’m sorry, Max,” was all he managed to say.

 “I was at her side. I told her it was time to go and she just said ‘thank you’ and closed her eyes.”

Dickey felt tears welling up in his eyes and Caroline was already digging in her purse for a tissue as she clung to his left arm.  “Where are you now?” he asked Max.

“I’m still at the house. I’m waiting for the coroner to arrive. He has to officially pronounce her dead.”

“I’ll be there in five minutes,” he said.

Dickey placed a fifty-dollar bill on the table and stood, giving Caroline a hug and before hailing a cab and heading to Fifth Avenue and the landmark, six-story mansion owned by Consuelo Piermont.

Chapter 5: The Mansion

Max was standing on the front stoop of the mansion, located on Fifth Avenue just south of Eighty-first Streeet, when Dickey pulled up in a mini-van posing as a cab. He was talking intently to an impeccably dressed man and only half-waved when he saw Dickey standing on the corner. Dickey decided to give them privacy and headed across the street, to the park side of Fifth Avenue, and sprang for a bottle of water from the pushcart vendor. He took a seat on a nearby park bench – opposite an elderly woman dressed in vintage Chanel – and settled his gaze on Max in conversation. The contrast of the two men made him laugh.

Max stood in conversation barefooted, in a simple white t-shirt and a purposely faded and frazzled pair of Roberto Cavalli jeans. The man he was talking to was in nothing less than a two thousand dollar suit, French-cuffed shirt and expensive, English shoes. But if you sent both of them strolling down Fifth Avenue, side-by-side, the one that would turn heads would be Max.

Max Sanchez is an ex-con from Spanish Harlem. He grew up on the street, bouncing from one foster home to the next and as one might imagine, ended up in trouble with the law. At the age of nineteen, he was busted for stealing a car and carrying a concealed weapon. It wasn’t his first felony. He was sentenced to three to five years at Riker’s Island. He served eighteen months.

Once out, the tall and chiseled featured Latino with mocha-colored skin and intense, green eyes, moved into the Harlem YMCA for what was to be a temporary home until he could get back on his feet. He spent his days searching for a job and his nights pumping iron at the Y. One day, the girl that was supposed to teach an aerobics class that Max was taking didn’t show up.  Max volunteered to teach the class. It changed his life forever.

Soon, Max got his own gig teaching classes. He was a natural. Within weeks he had a waiting list for his sessions and the girls were showing up a half hour early to jockey for a position in the front row. Somewhere along the way, a reporter from one of the city’s magazines did a piece on Max for the “Spotlight” column that the reporter wrote weekly. One person who saw the piece was the recently widowed billionaire, Consuelo Piermont. Consuelo had lost her husband six months earlier in a plane crash and had basically been consoling herself with martinis and Havana “super slims”. She had decided it was time to make some changes in her life and get back into fighting shape. After seeing the photograph in the magazine, she knew just the man for the job.

Max made the trek from Spanish Harlem to the Upper East Side three times a week. Reluctant at first, Max started to look forward to his visits “downtown”. Consuelo worked hard and Max respected her discipline. And besides, she was bright, witty and seemed to have a genuine interest in Max’s well being – a nice change of pace.

About a month after their training relationship began, Consuelo invited Max to the opening of the Metropolitan Opera. He declined at first, but in the end relented and showed up at Lincoln Center with Consuelo in her chocolate brown Rolls Royce.

Dickey was escorting Caroline on the same night and met Max during the first intermission. He was visibly uncomfortable as Consuelo introduced him to Caroline and Dickey. Consuelo had not been seen at a social event since the death of her husband and the sight of her with a tall Latino man half her age had the socialites gawking and whispering at every turn. Max would later tell Dickey that he felt like an exotic pet at the zoo.

During the second intermission, Dickey intercepted Max outside of the men’s room and invited him outside – away from the fray. They talked about training, a bit about his past and their mutual passion for the Yankees.  He was guarded during their conversation but showed hints of a dry wit and on the way back to the theatre, thanked Dickey for saving him from the ogling socialites inside.

A week later, Dickey landed two box seats to the Yankees game. He called Consuelo’s home, having no idea how else to reach Max, and invited him to the game. He accepted.

They had a great time at the game, their personalities meshing with ease. Dickey was surprised by his natural curiosity. He was well read (Lots of down time at Riker’s, he mused, admitting to becoming a voracious reader while in jail) and incredibly well spoken, without a hint of slang in his voice.

He chuckled when Dickey told him as much, saying, “I’m multilingual – street is my second language.” 

 That was all four years prior. They have been friends ever since.

“Who was that?” Dickey asked Max after embracing him with a consolatory hug, moments after the well-dressed man shook Max’s hand and disappeared.

“Jarret Paine, Consuelo’s attorney. I called him right after she died. She had asked me to do so.”

“Why?” he asked, perhaps a bit intrusively.

Max looked him in the eye. “Consuelo told me last night that she was leaving this mansion to me in her will.” He motioned towards the historic residence behind them.

Dickey arched his brow, absorbing the magnitude of what Max just said. “God, Max. That’s mind blowing.”

“I know.  I didn’t get much shut eye last night.”

“What did her lawyer say?”

“He shook my hand and said, ‘Welcome to the family of Paine, Sawyer and Trueblood.’”

“His law firm?” Dickey asked, not quite getting it.

“Yeah. He said that Consuelo had retained him to represent me for – what did he call it – perpetuity?”

“Forever?” he asked in amazement. Max nodded. “So it’s true then. She did leave you the mansion.”

“Yeah and according to the lawyer, she also set-up an account that will keep this crib up and running.”

“I hadn’t thought of that,” Dickey admitted. “It must cost a fortune to keep this mansion in shape.”

“And then some,” Max said, as he absent-mindedly massaged his temples.

“When will you legally own this place?”

Author, Scott Briggs
“I don’t know. The lawyer said that Consuelo had requested a reading of her will with all the relatives present. I guess once that happens, I’ll be changing zip codes.”

Dickey was about to ask Max about the relatives when he noticed him looking over his shoulder. His jaw tightened. Dickey turned to look. It was the coroner.

Twenty minutes later, two men took Consuelo Piermont out on a six-wheeler and Max took out a bottle of Cuervo Gold from the liquor cabinet. He poured two double shots and handed one to Dickey. He raised his glass. “Life goes on, my friend.”

Dickey raised his glass. “Like never before,” he replied knowing Max’s life would never be the same again.