She came to the concierge office and announced herself in the afternoon as newly arrived from The States. We all knew what she’d hope to find when she went to the herr doktor’s room. The scent of another woman’s perfume, maybe a bit of lingerie, certainly the remaining aroma of another woman’s sex. A wife’s concerns, like radar, must be inborn and hers were no different.
Frau Brund corrected me, but because there is no Ms. in the German language, women are forced to be one way or the other. Naturally Ms. Brund had that butched-up, filling figure with too much jewelry and make-up with the chopped hair of the fully liberated. Both Ms. Brund and her sisters in spirit are seen at the hotel, often doing what she just did. It’s to be expected.
Of course he cheated on his wife, and afternoon sex must be the very best of all. We delivered a bottle of 2004 Clos d’Ambonnay and half of kilo of beluga caviar off-property to the boat house. There are ways to do these things and Swiss hoteliers have been at it longer than the American woman’s ancestors had been living in the Great Melting Pot.
We gave her a key to his room after checking her passport, without calling our guest. His instructions. He remained a step ahead. As much of a predator as herr doktor was where his taste in women was concerned, his wife must have had confidence in her own, honing her skill to a fine art with the great man as her prey, and half of his bank account as the prize.
She came back to the desk, frustrated by the immaculate room, windows open and a breeze coming in across Lake Zurich from the Alps. “I’ve been around town. The shopping is not as good as in Cannes or Monte Carlo.” Frau Brund didn’t look me in the eye through those overly blue contact lenses.
“May the hotel be of some assistance?”
She huffed, rich, indulged, annoyed, “When is Doctor Mark Brund due back?”
“I wouldn’t know, Mrs. Brund. He seems to work very hard. Always rushing here or there with academics and bankers. Then again, this is Switzerland. It’s what we do.”
“We don’t do that in California.” She had a sense of vulgarity about her in much the same way as the Housewives of Beverly Hills do in that American reality show that the young people watch and try and imitate — an annoying whine to her voice that would do the Kardashians or their father, now a famous woman, proud.
“I hope to visit one day,” I replied with maximum cheer. “You know he did say something about taking the train down to Lake Cuomo for the afternoon. A meeting with Italian industrialists perhaps? You could always call him.”
She did that very thing, and his assistant answered, a former British sergeant major who ran interference for him in a number of matters, not the least of which was this one. Looking at me, narrow-eyed, she said, “Lake Cuomo?”
She rummaged through her purse. “I must be out of cigarettes.”
I reached into my desk and offered her an unopened pack of Gauloises.
“I smoke Marlboro’s.”
“I’m sure that we don’t carry that brand.” Before I finished the sentence, she pivoted and walked toward the entrance to the hotel and a taxi.
In this business, one must be able to anticipate our guest’s needs and be prepared to act on those needs. It’s a boutique hotel, private driveway, no signs, none of the vulgarity of mass market. Dr. Brund ordered fine champagne for them both and caviar because his Russian mistress liked it. I don’t know if she liked the taste or the fact that he bought it for her. He commented to me that he’d have preferred something else and suggested that including it in the gift basket that we sent to the suite that his wife just searched was a waste. I took note. That’s my job.
The boat house is rented to special guests of the hotel. It’s an old, scaled down Belle Epoque style villa that kisses the shore of Lake Zurich. There is a small jetty and an indoor dock with power boats. The water in the indoor dock is heated in winter and it doubles as a swimming pool when the boats are lifted and stored overhead during the winter.
Unless you were familiar with the arrangements that our guests made, you wouldn’t think that anyone lives in the boat house unless they hide in the dark, behind the gossamer drapes. Guests of the boat house don’t bask on the balconies. At most they might use one of the wooden Bosch power boats to entertain on the water. We almost always have notice of boat use because the guests ask the kitchen to pack a lunch or snacks for the sunset. Dr. Brund’s, ah, niece, the fetching Russian movie star, a former ballerina with piercing blue eyes and a body that defied gravity, didn’t plan an afternoon on the water. As much of a predator as Ms. Brund was, Nina Netrekebo lived on a different plane of existence. The difference between the two women was the same difference as exists between scruffy aggressive house cat and a young Siberian tiger.