The video project was two years old. Elmo started it when a customer who had run out of cash left a black-and-white industrial video camera as collateral—and of course never returned. On a lark, Elmo installed it safely out of sight in 103 and wired a monitor to the storeroom next door in 102. He polished off the better part of a quart of bourbon the first night he watched his customers perform in silent, grainy black and white. At the high point of the winter busy season, he outfitted four more rooms with color video cameras and sound pickups. He found it superior to masturbating with magazines.
A year ago, he started his plans for 122, the Lamp Post’s love nest. Elmo installed a vibrating king-sized waterbed, a big mirror on the wall over the bed, and a bigger one on the ceiling. The bathroom got golden designer faucets, a shower with two heads (high and low) on a flexible arm and a quiet-flush toilet—everything to make the customer happy. On a good night he might get double the rent. On other nights he could be a sport and throw in the Love Room at no extra charge.
Then there was the equipment Elmo installed for his own benefit. The corners concealed two high-resolution, low-light color cameras with infrared detectors. Four high-fidelity microphones went in and over the bed. The shower was monitored too, although not with infrared, since few people showered in the dark.
Elmo watched. He counted the strokes, counted the lies, and counted the minutes and seconds to orgasm.
Here was intimacy without having to participate, commit, or perform. He sampled passion in a hundred flavors. He could have several lovers a day. He was invisible and invincible. No one saw him. No one touched him. None could spurn him.
Elmo had struggled with this small obsession for a time. He knew there was something dirty about this business, so he avoided “looking in” on his customers for days at a time. But he invariably returned to his monitors when he faced the unanswerable question: Where’s the harm?