I have time for 3 things in my life: work, Maria, and work. After that, I work. Here’s some rough 1st draft work. The final piece will be substantially more lyrical. Substance first, style second, always.
I woke up in the hotel room with the sun already low on the horizon. A groggy check of the time told me it was three-thirty, nearing sunset. The maid hadn’t been in the room, judging by the clutter, but Dark’s bed was made. I was certain she’d not slept it in. We were both exhausted when we’d hit the room, and I was torpid even before she even managed to help me get off my suit. The other pillows had faint traces of her perfume, but that was understandable since I remembered her lying next to me, watching me drift to sleep. Nonetheless, given our situation and the recent tension between us, it was inconceivable that she would have slept next to me.
I got up, emptied my bladder, and decided I’d been wrong about the severity of my concussion. Forgoing room service, I grabbed some snacks we’d brought to the room and downed a half-liter of water before climbing back into bed. As lay there on the Dark-scented pillows, I wondered if she had, in fact, slipped under the covers next to me the night before. I didn’t have to wonder long. I slipped my hand under the pillow, ready to grab a bit more sleep, and got it tangled in one of Jeanne’s bras. Not only had she joined me in my bed, apparently she’d stripped off in the process. It probably meant nothing, I reasoned. I’d been out like a light and she was probably too tired herself to move. She knew I wouldn’t awaken and I was in no shape to do damage even if I had. Besides, the woman trusted me more than I trusted me. Sleep took me then, as I lay in bed watching the room slowly dim, all the while imagining my nude little Jeanne breathing next to me in bed. The dreams I had were wondrous things that night. Ah, to be a man with a vivid imagination and a woman worth envisioning.
It was nine o’clock the next morning when I finally awoke, more clear-headed than I’d been since Danni clocked me in her flat. Sleep turned out to be the only medicine I needed. The first thing I did was turn to check the other bed. It looked the same, with the covers tucked underneath in the way the maids always prepared the room. Every time we returned to our hotel room, Dark would yank out the covers along the side and roll down the bedspread, muttering about the filth on hotel linens. It was the only part of sharing a hotel room we’d agreed upon. I was sure she’d never make it up that way herself. This time, sans the fog I’d been floating through, I jumped out of bed and began to take inventory. All my things were there, and none of Dark’s were. It’d been thirty-two hours since I’d seen her last, smiling at me and caressing my forehead as I drifted off to sleep. She had been gone when I awoke the evening before, and I’d had no idea.
I was less concerned with her safety at that point than I was about my job security. My mission wasn’t only to help Dark solve a mystery. Hardesty wanted the two of us joined at the hip. He was worried about something, despite his assurances to the contrary. I needed to know what. Protocol said I was to call him if we ever got separated for an extended period. This certainly qualified.
I found my phone still tucked in my pants pocket. The battery was deader than I felt. Cursing, I plugged it in and jumped into the shower to make myself presentable. By the time I’d showered, shaved, and gotten dressed, the phone was charged and was buzzing up a swarm of messages. Most were from Hardesty. A couple were from Samuels. None was from my partner. The most recent message, with a timestamp of seven o’clock that morning, was from Hardesty. It read, I’m in London. Contact me via Monica. We think Dark’s gone rogue.