“Um… hi,” I say, suddenly realizing that I have no idea what name we checked in under. I guess that shower did nothing to wake me up.
“Good afternoon Mister Rose,” the voice on the other end kindly bails me out. “What can we do for you?”
“I seem to have misplaced my laptop, is there any chance you have one that I could borrow for the day?”
“Absolutely, I’ll have one sent up right away.”
“And I know I’m pushing my luck here,” I say in a nervous rush, “but do you have an image scanner as well? I have some important documents that I need electronic copies of. For a meeting. Tonight.” Emma mouths the words ‘shut up’ at me as she pulls off a sock and I do.
“I can send one up with the laptop,” comes the efficient reply, “or we would be happy to do the copying for you.”
“No no, that’s quite alright. It’s just that they’re very confidential. Not that I don’t trust you guys.” A sock to the face lets me know it’s once again time to stop talking. I fling it back at Emma, stick out my tongue, and then turn away from her distractions.
“Of course, sir. Your equipment should be there in ten minutes. Is there anything else that we can do for you?”
I order a hot lunch and ask to have it delivered at noon before hanging up. I turn to let Emma know the good news but with a flash of a bare shoulder she disappears into the bathroom. She didn’t just… right behind my back? No, of course she didn’t.
I hear the shower stutter to life and I let my towel drop to the floor. I get dressed reluctantly, wishing I could just crawl into bed and sleep for a year or two. Emma’s still enjoying the hot water when a sharp rap on the door lets me know our diligent servants have produced as promised. I grab a ten from the bedside table, shuffle to the door, and exchange the cart for the tip. The delivery boy is surprisingly rough around the edges for such an upscale hotel, his teenage face cut in several places and not by misguided attempts to shave. He looks vaguely familiar but I’m unable to place where I might have seen him before. Either way, he certainly didn’t recognize me, nodding his thanks and heading for the elevators without a word.
I roll the cart into the room and abandon it at the foot of my bed. Work is going to have to wait; I need some damn sleep. I strip back down to my underwear and crawl under the covers just as Emma shuts off the shower. I allow myself a brief moment to fantasize that she’ll join me in my bed instead of climbing into hers before shutting my eyes and allowing sleep to take me away.
* * *
The pavement is cold beneath my bare feet as I move slowly down the dark alley, steadily approaching a brightly lit square. Wondering what’s happened to my shoes, I look down to find that my feet are not the only part of me that’s missing their protective coverings. I swear softly and dart my head in five directions at once, trying to confirm that no one is watching. Finding no questioning eyes, I shrug and continue to make my way through the scattered garbage.
I reach the end of the alley and remain in the shadows as I peer into the open area before me. There is a small crowd gathered near the far wall, their backs to me. They are a ragtag bunch, thick with layers of mismatched, ill-fitting clothing. Perhaps if one wanders this way I could mug him and steal his outermost outfit, at a minimum. But no, now that I look closer, they are just children, hardly three-quarters of my height. They won’t do at all.
I look around the rest of the square as rain begins to fall and find it empty except for a smoldering oil drum and a couple of ripped bags of trash. I glance back to the children and take a quick step back, stumbling over a wooden board. Why are they rushing towards me? Are they carrying knives? What are they shouting?
I turn to flee but I slip on an unseen patch of ice and the ground rushes up to meet my face.
* * *
“It seems that neither of us is safe from disturbing dreams,” Emma says, perched on the edge of my bed with one wet hand on my shoulder, her shirt clinging to her still damp body. Her hand trails lightly along my arm before returning to her lap and I sit up slowly as the children in my dream return to my mind’s eye. I close my eyes to block out the very real temptation of Emma and try to focus on their faces.
“I think I just had a dream about Puppy,” I tell her and I sense her body stiffen. “But there were others there with her. They seemed familiar, like I’ve met them before… but I can’t remember. Just like the room service kid.”
“You recognized the guy who dropped off our equipment?” Emma gets up and I open my eyes to find her inspecting the laptop, her bottom lip caught between her teeth. “They couldn’t have found us already… could they?”
“I think we’re okay for now,” I tell her before a yawn escapes me. “I think if he worked for the bad guys I wouldn’t have forgotten him. If you reckon the laptop is going to explode you can stick it in the bathroom and close the door. Otherwise, leave it there and get some rest. We’ll get to work after sleep and food, alright?”
She reaches for the cart’s handle and then pauses, unsure if I’m being serious or not. I slide back down and close my eyes to let her do as she pleases. Before I nod off again I hear its wheels on the bathroom tile and the gentle click of the door closing. I smile and do my best not to be disappointed when Emma gets into the other bed.