Chapter 2: Diamond Studs

Stepping into Yvonne’s office always made Luca feel like he was flying shotgun in Wonder Woman’s invisible jet—all glass and girly gumption, fueled by fantasy. At 33 stories above downtown with floor to ceiling views of the bay, it was seemingly more appropriate for a senior partner at a law firm than for the owner of Diamond Studs, even if it was the city’s most exclusive male escort agency.

Born Yunru Chen in a small Chinatown rooming house, Yvonne left San Francisco at 14, traveled the world on a wing and a prayer, and returned Yvonne Knickerbocker to amass a small fortune and a large circle of friends by catering to the kinks of a rarefied clientele.

For the most part, the Internet had killed off the middleman in the paid-sex industry. But business at the high end was, as she liked to say, banging. Nonetheless Yvonne liked to keep her business interests diversified, and one of those interests provided the reason for Luca’s visit. He took a seat across from her. She had a phone to her ear and, with the other hand, gave him the sign for “gimme a second.” Yvonne’s conversations were always fun, so he settled in to listen surmising that she was speaking with Konor “The Kong” Harrison, former A-list porn star and one of Yvonne’s biggest earners. He couldn’t hear Konor, but whatever he said obviously tickled Yvonne who threw her head back in hysterical laughter. “Don’t you get sassy with me, fucker, or you’ll never suck dick in this town again!” she quipped into the phone. “You’ll be stuck doing big dick shows in Bangkok by the time I’m through with you.” More hysterical laughter. “Of course I’m kidding, you know I love you.” She looked at Luca and rolled her eyes. “Ok, let me go. My lunch is here. Ok, kiss kiss.”

“You have something for me?” she asked him, not wasting a moment. Luca turned, fished through a messenger bag and removed the squirming puppy that had been delivered anonymously to his doorstep. He placed it carefully on her desk, which—to that point—held nothing but an ashtray and a copy of the Physician’s Desk Reference.

“Awwwww. It’s so cute.” She picked up the excited little ball of fur and let the doggie lick the tip of her nose. Luca’s surprise at Yvonne’s display of humanity must have shown on his face, because when she caught him watching her, she shrugged and mustered a, “What can I say? I love dogs.” before calling out for her assistant.

Frida appeared in an instant, silently took the dog from Yvonne, and left as quickly as she entered.

“Really? You’ve got her involved in this, now?” Luca asked. “She’s practically a kid.” “She’s 25 and studying to be a veterinarian. This whole thing was her idea. I love this generation. They’re always thinking.”

Not entirely sure about, or comfortable with, the goings-on in the room next door, Luca did his best to make small talk as he waited. That was, after all, his instruction. Deliver the dog. Wait. Take the dog away.

They chatted about the weather, speculated about Bruce Jenner’s transition, and dished about the lunch she was having later with the mayor at Tadich Grill, where she loves the fried oysters. Then, out of the blue, she surprised him by casually offering, “By the way, if you ever feel like going out, let me know. I’ve had a request.”

“For me?”


“Really? Who?” Luca had gone on “dates” for Yvonne in the past, but it had been years. His 40-in-the-rearview ego was flattered that any of his former clients might still be thinking about him.

“No one you know. But I think you’d like them. If you’re really interested, do a few sit-ups and then we can talk.”

Before he had a chance to press her, Frida returned. Under one arm she held the puppy, freshly bandaged around the middle. In the other hand she held a small stainless steel surgical tray. The tray was draped with a white cloth. And on the white cloth sat the biggest, pinkest, sparkliest diamond Luca had ever seen. Yvonne’s eyes widened and a little gasp emerged from her lips. Before Luca had a chance to get a better look, one of the two burner phones in his bag cut short his sense of accomplishment and relief.

A new text message read: Friday. Mario’s. 3:00.