Friday, March 8, 2013

Can I Expense That?

Damian pulled into the hotel parking space and the engine sputtered off. As usual, the door did not want to open when he pushed against it. He put his shoulder down and gave a harder shove. It squealed past the point of resistance, flinging wide. Thankfully, the space next to him was unoccupied. He'd chosen this space – furthest from the door – for just that reason.

Sometimes, it is considered mercy to kill a lame horse, Inigo pontificated.

Damian chose not to respond. Instead, he yanked the trunk open and removed his luggage. He slung a black bag containing a laptop over his shoulder. The other, larger piece was on wheels. Damian heaved it out and pulled on the handle. It slid halfway, and then stuck.

Damian pressed the button again and pulled. Nothing. He pressed harder and jiggled things a bit. The handle would not budge. He pulled and rattled, rattled and pulled. No dice. He cursed, but that didn't solve the problem, either. Finally, Damian turned and trudged toward the hotel, stooped at an uncomfortable angle.

I wonder if she got my voice message, Damian's mind wandered.

Are such messages often waylaid? Inigo asked.

Damian considered. I suppose it depends on the person.

She could have lost her phone for all Damian knew. Or left it at home while she was at work. Or turned the ringer off and didn't realize he was trying to reach her. Whatever the case, he hoped she wasn't sitting alone at home, waiting on him. Not that any girl ever would ever do that. Ever.

He considered calling again, but didn't want to risk pushing the number of missed calls into double digits. It would seem desperate, he reasoned with a nod.

Inigo let that one pass with only a chuckle.

The check-in went as smoothly as one might expect. His last name had been misspelled: G-a-r-d-n-e-r, Gardner. People always insisted on adding an extra “e” for some reason. He was neither a botanist, nor a tiller of land. Wide brimmed hats made him look silly, and his thumbs were most assuredly not green. In fact, all of the plants in his apartment were plastic.

The room was tolerable. There was not an inch of dust on the faux-wooden surfaces. No shards of glass lurked in the bathroom sink. The air was free of a musty chlorinated smell. The bed was only slightly lumpy when Damian lay down atop the comforter. He'd been in worse. Heck, he might even risk sleeping beneath the covers.

There was a time when one was fortunate to be able to sleep on something other than straw, Inigo noted. Shall I call you Lord Damian?

If you wish, fair subject, Damian answered. He waved his hand majestically to the amusement of the empty room.

If the voice in his head could have scowled in disgust, Damian was sure Inigo would have. It made him smile. The smile made him think of Genny. Damian pulled out his phone and stared at it. The clock read quarter to eight.

Damian sighed and reached over to turn on the bedside lamp. It was long, skinny, and utilitarian, like everything else in the room. Perhaps he would do some reading. He began to rummage through his things.

It is not too late! Inigo interjected.

Damian sighed. She is over an hour away, Inigo. There is no way I would be able to keep the date now.

A pity.

A knock at the door startled them both.


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