[Ed. note: this article was originally published on June 3, 1996.]
Every five minutes during the Jitney ride out to the Hamptons on Memorial Day weekend, Janey Wilcox wanted to stand up and scream, “I’m Janey Wilcox, the model, and I’m spending the weekend with Zack Manners, the English billionaire record producer. So fuck you. All of you.” Just to make herself feel better.
She was wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses with her hair pulled back in a ponytail, trying to read The Sheltering Sky. But a thought kept inserting itself into her brain, like a pencil point being pushed into Silly Putty: Zack Manners was not exactly there. He was not, as Janey liked to say, completely in. His invitation had been vague—he had left instructions with his secretary that they should meet at “6-ish” for drinks at the Palm in East Hampton. Janey wasn’t sure if the invitation extended to the whole weekend or just Friday night, and the uncertainty made her more excited about Zack than she had been about any man in a long time.
Janey arrived at the Palm at 6:15 P.M. She expected Zack to be at the bar. He wasn’t. She ordered a margarita. At 6:45 P.M. there was a commotion outside. A green 1956 250 G.T. Boano/Ellena Ferrari pulled into the circular driveway. The car had right-hand drive. Zack got out. He wore old tennis shoes and walked with his hands in his front pockets of his khaki trousers. Janey became very animated, talking to two men next to her. Zack came up behind her and whispered, “Hullo there,” in the ear.
“Oh. Hi,” she said, a little coldly, and looked at her watch. “I should scold you for being late, but the car makes up for it.”
“That sounds promising.”
“It is. If you play your cards right.” He leaned towards her. “Do you have a dark side, Janey? You look like a girl who has a dark side.”
Janey laughed and so did Zack. She flipped her hair over her shoulder. Jack lit a cigarette. Filterless. In the daylight, he was not quite as attractive as she remembered. He had bad English teeth, ranging in color from a sickly yellow to a light gray. His nails were dirty. But there was the car. And the money. And the whole summer. “Let’s take things one step at a time, O.K.?” she said.
“I guess that means you want to see my house before you decide whether or not to fuck me,” Zack said.
“Come on,” Janey said. “I’m interested in you. Everyone says you’re fascinating.”
“Everyone,” Zack said, “is a fool.” And then: “You’re going to love the house.” He stood up and pulled her off the barstool. “I got the house just for you,” he said.
“Of course you did,” Janey said. She believed him, not thinking for a moment that it was unusual for a complete stranger to rent a house in the Hamptons in the hope that she would be with him.
She nodded at the valet, who held open the car door. She slid into the front seat. The car was in perfect condition. She shook out her hair. “It’s beautiful,” she said, feeling generous.
“Ah yes,” Zack said, “I suppose this is where I’m supposed to say, ‘No—you’re beautiful, Janey.’” He looked at her. “You’re a very silly girl. Don’t you know that it’s dangerous to be silly?”
“Maybe I’m not silly,” Janey said. “Maybe it’s just an act.”
“Maybe it’s all just an act,” Zack said. “But then, where does that leave you?”
He turned onto Further Lane. “I told the rental agent I wanted a house on the best road in the best town in the Hamptons. I hope she hasn’t done me wrong, Janey.” He growled a bit on the word “wrong” and Janey thought he was adorable all over again. They turned into a long gravel driveway. “I know the house,” Janey said. “It’s one of my favorites. A friend of mine rented it five years ago. Pool, tennis court.”
“Did you play tennis without your knickers on?”
“Oh, please, Zack.”
“That’s how I imagine you, all in white, without your knickers…”
The house was fronted by a long green lawn that was always set up for croquet. It was a classic shingled manse, built in 1920’s for a rich family with a pack of kids and servants. Zack pulled up to the front. “Come along, come along my lovely, and we shall see,” he said, jumping out of the car and taking her hand. There was a wide porch and a balcony that ran around the second floor. “A veritable fun house,” he said, turning around. “Now, I expect you to play lot of naughty games.”