As the Met’s marketing director continued to eat, it became fairly obvious that, with the exception of a minor skirmish in the Middle East and a fire in the Paris subway, nothing of major importance was happening on the international front. The Pope was about to leave Rome on a tour of Africa and, in Great Britain, tabloids had once again leaked rumors of a possible rift between Prince Charles and Lady Diana.
The news was equally tame in America, where the President was vacationing at Camp David, a Continental Airlines jet had made an emergency landing in Cleveland and, down at the San Diego Zoo, one of the few panda bears in captivity had given birth to twins.
The anchorman reached for a piece of paper, glanced at it and looked up in surprise. “And now, this item just in from our news desk,” he said.
“Authorities are baffled by a mysterious death at the Metropolitan Opera House in Lincoln Center where, less than an hour ago, baritone John Axenbourg collapsed and died onstage. The popular American opera singer was known to millions for his work on both sides of the Atlantic and had starred on Broadway last summer in a revival of Man of La Mancha. Axenbourg, who had just been seen in tonight’s live telecast of Das Rheingold, left no survivors. Police are requesting an autopsy.”
A split-second later, the anchorman’s bland, but reassuring smile returned to his face. “And now, here’s Dan Duttlinger with the latest in sports.”
“Thank you, Ron.”
As if by instinct, Frank reached for his bedside telephone, picking up the receiver just as the phone began to ring. Pressing a button on the remote control which would lower the sound coming from his television set, he brought the receiver to his ear in time to hear Drew Gelfand’s tense voice.
“Frank? It’s Drew. We’ve got a big problem on our hands. I don’t know if you saw what happened at the end of the telecast, but John Axenbourg is dead and the police think he’s been murdered.”
“I know,” replied O’Connor. “I just heard all about it on CNN.”
“It’s already on the goddamned news? Christ! Why can’t they react that fast when something good happens?” barked Gelfand.
“Who killed him?” asked O’Connor.
“How the fuck should I know?” answered his boss. “All I know is that he’s dead, his manager is escorting the body to the coroner’s office, and I’ve got a police detective sitting in my office who happened to be present at tonight’s performance. I need you to get some messages to Axenbourg’s manager, Glenn Rosenzweig, and whoever the hell is his publicist. Make sure they’re both in my office at 11:00 a.m. tomorrow morning. And Frank, you’d better be there, too. We’re going to need your help in planning a funeral for the poor bastard. Once we’re done with all of that, you and I have to develop some kind of strategy for dealing with the media. See you in the morning.”
There was a click on the line, followed by a dial tone.
O’Connor paused for a second, stunned by the anger in Gelfand’s voice and then placed the receiver back in its cradle. Reaching under the bed for his personal Rolodex, he quickly found the home phone numbers for Glenn Rosenzweig and Pat Gilford. As he waited for each of their answering machines to respond, the Met’s public relations director tried to grasp the impact of what he had just witnessed on TV.
“Murder at the Met” had been the last item on Saturday night’s prime time news broadcast. Even if Axenbourg’s death was a tragedy, this was one crisis which had some potential for getting the company free publicity.
After leaving messages for the dead baritone’s manager and publicist, O’Connor carried the empty snack tray back into the kitchen and laid it on the counter. Any hopes he might have had of resting at home on Sunday had been thoroughly shot to hell.
Returning to the bedroom, he took one of the videotapes he had rented from the bright yellow and red plastic bag from Tower Video and placed the cartridge into his VCR. There was a soft, whirring sound as the tape moved into position and then a grotesquely obese woman’s naked body came into view.
The camera panned in close, focusing on a set of massive thighs which were riddled with stretch marks and patches of cellulitis. Exhausted, but still horny, Frank O’Connor slowly undressed as the opening credits for Thunder Thighs: Big Bertha Balls the Boston Bombers flashed before him.
Moments later, as he sat on the edge of the bed, his fingers stroked his swollen cock until O’Connor silently -- and with almost clinical efficiency -- reached a sexual climax.
His tensions released, Frank shut off the VCR and went into the bathroom to wipe the splotches of sperm from his hairy abdomen. After brushing his teeth, he shut off the light in the bathroom, turned on the switch to his electric blanket and, with a sigh of exhaustion, crawled into bed.
By midnight, his arms were tightly wrapped around a pillow and O’Connor was sleeping like a baby.