Chapter 3: October 12th
For the first time in years, I slept uninterrupted by dreams and woke with an energy that I might have never felt before. Sunlight poured into the room through the window, spreading across the carpet like diluted watercolors. Stretching, I untangled myself from the covers. The blue silk rose up in waves and spilled to the floor like the ocean onto the beach. I tied the robe around my waist and walked to the window. The lights in the District had disappeared, hidden away from the watchful eye of the sun. Condensation glistened on the inside of the dome and dropped to the ground in a light, misting rain, which the sun caught and refracted into faint wisps of rainbows.
The phone on the bedside table rang twice. I leaned over the bed and picked it up, curious.
"Good morning, Mr. Wilton," came a woman's voice from the other end, "This is Angela from the front desk with your wake-up call. It is now 8:30 am. Someone will be up shortly with your breakfast."
"Certainly. Please enjoy the rest of your day, Mr. Wilton."
There was a click from the other end and that was that. Moments later, there was a knock on the door. Crossing the room, I looked through peephole, but couldn't see anything besides a mess of purple irises and yellow lilies in fisheye view. I opened the door and let in a brass-tone cart and the small man who pushed it, almost invisible behind a towering arrangement of flowers. In the shadow of the rustling bouquet sat a platter of fresh fruit, a pile of toast and a steaming silver vessel that exuded the aroma of coffee.
"Good morning, sir," the small man said, rattling past me with the cart. He situated it beside the window, pausing for a moment to adjust a flower that had shifted out of position. He gave a little nod to me and left, closing the door behind him.
I approached the mass of blooms with an equal measure of suspicion and awe, moving around it carefully to reach the coffee pot and cup. I poured some of the steaming black liquid into the white porcelain cup. I added a good measure of cream, watching it spread across the surface like white ink before dropping in a spoonful of sugar and stirring the contents into a muddy brown. The hot liquid ran down my throat and settled with a warm, comfortable weight in my stomach. Setting the coffee down on the bedside table, I took up the platter of fruit. Strawberries, sliced peaches, bananas and an assortment of cubed melon were laid across the plate in an artful pattern, all at the peak of freshness. I took up a silver fork and set about destroying the careful handiwork of the hotel's kitchen staff. The fruit was sweet and flavorful, but artificial in a way that I couldn't quite place. The toast was thick, buttery perfection.
I finished off my first cup of coffee and went for another. While I was reaching for the silver pot, I spotted a card buried under the foliage of the bouquet. Forgetting the coffee, I plucked it from its clear plastic holder. I sat back on the bed and unfolded the card, which bore a watercolor print of a rabbit nestled among a clump of daffodils.
Inside, the handwriting was the same thin cursive as that on the card from the UT station. The handwriting that I had to assume was Miss Werner's. The note inside was short.
Hoping that you found the Tyler Hotel to your liking, it's my favorite in Edison. I'm looking forward to seeing you again soon and wish you the best of luck today.
p.s. Check the dresser!
H.W. was Miss Werner, I was certain. And the note confirmed that she had been involved with my release. But it raised several new questions. How did she know my name? What else did she know about me? And, most importantly, when would I be seeing her again?
‘Check the dresser?' Maybe there was something in there that would shed light on Miss Werner's mysterious intentions.
The dresser was small and sat unobtrusively in a corner of the room. I opened the drawers, all of which were empty but the third. Inside the drawer was a brand-new black suit, neatly pressed and folded, a bright white oxford, on top of which was a blue silk tie, and a pair of shiny black shoes.
I was amazed, but what was even more incredible was that everything fit perfectly. I now stood in front of the bathroom mirror, after struggling with the tie for a few minutes, barely recognizing myself. With the sleek, stylish cut of the suit and hair that, by some magic in the hotel shampoo, was full and shining, I looked for all the world like an Edisoner. I picked up my own threadbare gray suit from beside the toilet and realized, for the first time, how worn out and dirty it was. Years of pastel and ink stains had ground their way permanently into the fibers and the hems of the sleeves were dark with charcoal dust and graphite. I considered throwing it away for a moment, but I couldn't part with the cheap, thrift store suit. It was one of those things that, by now, were ingrained into my soul as much as the charcoal on its sleeves.
I folded it up and managed, somehow, to fit it and the sneakers into my case. I transferred the card from yesterday into the pocket of the black suit, along with the greeting card from the bouquet. Popping the last bite of toast in my mouth, I picked up my case and easel and reluctantly said farewell to my room. I would have been content to remain there until the hotel security dragged me out, but today was October 12th and I was hoping to get some answers.
The lobby that had been empty last night was bustling today. Luggage racks rolled to and fro, pushed along by the hotel attendants in blue uniforms. Smartly dressed men and women sat under the oak tree, reading the paper, typing at their slim little keyboards or talking in loud, important voices on their phones. At the concierge desk, the peonies had been replaced with lilacs and the balding Martin had been replaced with a prim middle-aged woman with dyed blonde hair and tomato red lips. She accepted the keycard with a graceful, long-fingered hand and wished me a good day.