I arrived at Henri’s mansion a few days before my host. Mark’s plan was for me to stay at Henri’s for a few days until my host arrived and then to travel with the Frenchman back to Los Angeles. But what Mark didn’t know was that Christine, the woman he had met, was dead. And I was under no obligation to follow his plan.
I arrived at Henri estate impressed by what I saw. It was luxurious. It spread out before me as a striking blend of a Mexican hacienda and a European castle. Two stories, Spanish tiles, white washed walls, it looked like the vacation home of European royalty. And stepping inside, the décor felt the same.
Casem was the 60-something year old butler that met me at the front door. His dark complexion and white hair made him look very much in place at this house. And although he didn’t where a white collar and vest, there was no questioning that he was a world class valet.
“If you can follow me Miss Richards,” Casem said immediately sending a shiver down my spine.
“Actually, it’s Ezie,” I said abruptly correcting him.
“I’m sorry Miss Ezie,” he said with a slight bow. “Please follow me.”
That wasn’t quite what I meant. Ezie was my first name. But not having thought of a last name yet, Miss Ezie would have to do.
The inside of the mansion was quite different for the outside. The oversized foyer had walls covered in what looked like alternating beige, tan and white kitchen backsplash tiles. Ahead of me were archways leading to different parts of the house. And to the right was a grand staircase that circled the room.
Casem led me up the stairs under one of the many archways. Leading me down the hall I passed one stately painting after another. And at the very end of the hall was a room lit by the glowing light flooding in through the sheer scarlet drapes.
“Is the Moroccan room to your liking?” he asked giving me a choice.
Christine would have accept it graciously and gushed with gratitude. I didn’t do that. I walked in and looked around.
The room was well named. There was a large Persian rug covering the floor and a chaise that looked like it belonged in a Sultan’s palace. On a low table near the entrance of the room was hookah, and everything in the room was a shade of purple.
“This is fine,” I said turning to Casem.
“Very good,” he said about to leave.
“Excuse me, when should I expect Henri?” I asked feeling a little lost.
“He will be arriving in two days.”
“And is there wi-fi access in the house?”
“I’m afraid not, Miss Ezie. But if you need access to a computer, you can find one in Mr. Lachey’s office on the main floor.”
“Lunch will be served at 12:30, a light snack will be at 3:30, dinner will be at 7, and if you would like, I can prepare fruit and crackers with tea at 9. Will there be anything else?”
“If you have a particular time in mind, please let me know. Otherwise I can prepare it once I know you’re awake. Will that be fine, Miss Ezie?”
“That’s fine,” I said before watching him turn and leave.
Standing by myself, I compared the room to where I had spent the previous week. There was no comparison. This room couldn’t even be compared to my apartment in Los Angeles. The rug probably cost more than all of my furniture combined. Hell, between the drapes and rug, I could probably cover my rent for a year. This was true luxury.
I crossed the room and pulled back the wall-long curtains. Behind it was a sliding glass door. Peering outside I saw that my room overlooked an oversized lap pool and sprawling greenery. To the right looked like stables and to the left was a wooden planked building that had a salon-styled door. Perhaps it was a separate bar area, or something like a sweat lodge. Finally, beyond that was the woods.
Feeling the weight of my life slowly lifting, I let myself fall onto the bed. It was soft and welcoming. The minute I closed my eyes I could feel myself drifting off to sleep.
Fighting the urge, I got back up and entered my ensuite bathroom. At the far end of it was a tub. Christine had never been a tub girl. It took too long and she always had so much to do. I, on the other hand, couldn’t wait to fill it up and sink into a mound of bubbles.
After 30 minutes of soaking in the tub, I felt more than relaxed. Wrapping myself in one of the fluffy bath blankets, I re-entered the bedroom. Rifling through my bag, all I found was dirty clothes and the last thing I wanted was to put those back on.
Instead I did something that I would never have before done. With the towel still wrapped around me, I left my room in search of clothing. It was kind of exciting. I had no idea who would be behind the doors that I opened and anything could happen.
The room next to mine was a blue room with high ceilings and blonde wood floors. The closet was empty. Next to that was a blue room with purple highlights. That closet was also empty. Next to that was a room with twin beds and another with no bed at all. Both of their closets were empty.
The last bedroom on the floor was at the opposite end of the hallway to mine. Though having beige walls and a light blue raised ceiling, this was obviously the scarlet room. The scarlet printed rug and chaise was highlighted by the scarlet colored sheer fabric draped over the bed. This had to be the master bedroom, and I was sure that I would find clothes within.
Entering the large walk-in closet I was right. The room was lined with men’s shirts, pants, suits and shoes. I couldn’t imagine a man owning so much clothing. And seeing how much Mr. Henri Lechey had, I was also sure that he wouldn’t mind if I borrowed a few.
Finger through the hangers I found a white linen shirt. It had a long tail and would do nicely. Dropping my towel I put it on and found it long enough to cover anything intimate. And with it being only slightly opaque, I knew I had found what I would be wearing for the rest of the day.
As I descended the stairs I could feel the cool breeze blow between my legs. I wasn’t wearing any underwear. The breeze was to be expected. What I hadn’t expected was how liberating wearing only a men’s shirt would feel. Even when I spotted Casem at the bottom of the stairs waiting for me, I felt no need to cover myself further.
“Lunch is ready,” he said not batting an eye.
“Thank you, Casem,” I replied following him through the maze of rooms.
Lunch was served in the formal dining room. I didn’t like that. It felt a little stuffy. Dinner would be fine there, but tomorrow’s lunch had to be by the pool.
After lunch I explored the house a little more. I quickly found the office on the first floor and entered finding the oddest sight. Two of the four walls of the space was covered in plaques with flowers and leaves pressed behind glass.
Examining them closer I found an inscription on each one. There was what looked like a Latin name I couldn’t pronounce next to a date. Underneath that was a country or set of numbers.
There had to be 50 plaques and the countries listed ranged from Peru to Thailand. At that time I figured that Henri was a botanist, but he turned out to be something much more interesting than that.
Settling into the office chair I checked my email. There were a few from my Indian developers. They had a delivery they wanted me to check. Another email was from my mother.
I sat deciding whether or not Ezie had a mother. Certainly she didn’t have to. Ezie could have been the product of an immaculate conception or test tube experiment or something. That was possible now-a-days. But either way, I decided that I didn’t need to look at the email now. Christine would have answered it immediately. Ezie didn’t feel the same obligation.
Walking through each of the rooms, I found a study, living room, piano room and no photographs. Stepping outside I circled the pool and stables and headed to the saloon.
The grounds were beautiful. Walking around barefoot I felt only grass and even the smooth pebbles along the walkway gently sank under my feet. I was ready to call Henri a pampered debutant with no connection to reality until I pushed back the saloon doors and entered the jungle room.
I called it the jungle room, but that is only because I didn’t know what else to call it. The walls were covered with instruments and not of the musical variety. These were toys, sex toys and each was prominently displayed.
Walking in partially naked, I suddenly felt weak. And once I got over the feeling that I was a naughty girl reading my parent’s dirty books, I found the courage to remove one of the toys from the wall.
The first thing I grabbed was a paddle. It was old. It could have even been used for branding because the paddle and the etched image of a couple having sex, was charred.
As I looked closer, all of the toys were old. This wasn’t a fetish room as much as it was a museum. It was a room devoted to sex toys from different cultures and era, and some of them were beyond imagination.
Touching everything, exploring everything, I wondered what type of man would create such a place. How disturbed was he? Was this someone who I wanted to meet? And would this be someone who I should be indebted to?
My thoughts abruptly stopped when I spotted a door at the other end of the room. There was nothing special about the door. But what could possibly be inside if this was what he displayed freely?