A brief introduction to, hopefully, whet the whistle. (Updated 7th July 2021)
|Rain? Snow? Maybe hail? The weather couldn't quite seem to make up its mind. It made no difference anyway, he was equipped for anything.
The skyline lightened perceptibly for an instant, and Mr. Moonlight appeared. He smiled, allowing himself a brief expression of his self satisfaction. He prided himself on being one who knew how to make a grand entrance. Shielding his face from the driving snow, with his umbrella, he sauntered towards the solitary individual that constituted his audience.
Maria Guadalupe Herrera had been alternatively softly praying, and loudly cursing, as she tried to coax life back into her taxi. Her breath steamed in the cold air, because Maria had been trying unsuccessfully for the last 30 minutes. She stared through the windscreen at the approaching man. From what she could observe beneath his umbrella, the guy was wearing a smart pale suit, and also carrying a case. What worried Maria Guadalupe was that she was almost certain, he had not been there a moment before.
Snow can trick you like that, she thought, though not really convincing herself.
The man opened the rear door.
“Hey! I can't take you anywhere Mister. My cab's not working. Okay?”
Ignoring this, he pushed his now neatly folded umbrella, and small case before him and slid himself onto the back seat.
“Sure it does. You've been waiting for me.” An unfamiliar accent, British perhaps, Maria Guadalupe wasn't sure.
The engine started suddenly, and the heaters began to blow loudly, startling Maria. Unnerved, she clicked the meter and flicked on wipers.
“Where to then?”
She looked out at the wretched weather, waiting for a reply. It bothered her that though he had just climbed in from a mixed bag storm, the man's clothing was completely dry. It bothered her more that she wasn't as scared as she should be. It was as though her mind had dispassionately seen she should be afraid, and just decided to ignore it.
“You can drop me at the corner of Heartattack and Vine.”
This last he sang in a strange raspy voice, which then broke into a deep and somehow smug chuckle.
Maria Guadalupe turned and looked quizzically at his face, which was large, smooth and bland.
“I'm sorry? I don't know where that is?”
“Doesn’t matter Miss Herrera. It was a song reference, and evidentially not one you’re familiar with. Do you know a good hotel?” He asked.
“Take us there, I’ll call ahead and confirm our reservation.”
Maria Guadalupe noted both the ‘our’, and the fact that he was going to confirm a hotel reservation despite her not telling him which hotel she was heading for. Fear scratched futilely at the silent room it was imprisoned in deep within her. Her hands and feet moved automatically, and Maria’s taxi pulled away into the mixed bag.
Maria’s cousin Felipe was the manager of the Saint Valencia Hotel, and their informal arrangement was that if a guest asked for a good hotel then Maria would deliver them there. In return she enjoyed the occasional free meal in the restaurant, and Felipe didn’t object if she dined with a couple of friends.
It was to the St. Valencia that Maria that was automatically heading, when the thought of Felipe’s reaction to her booking in with her strange passenger pushed itself into the forefront of her mind. The idea of Felipe talking to her mother suddenly unlocked the door for her fears. Maria desperately wanted to be free of the man.
It occurred to her that as she hadn’t told the man where she was going, if he had made a reservation at the St. Valencia he could hardly make a fuss if she delivered him somewhere else. She took a right and headed for a different, and much more expensive hotel. The Osiris was new, themed, and very exclusive. Maria had an idea that you didn’t get a reservation at the Osiris just like that, she rather hoped that was the case.
As they pulled up at the entrance to the Osiris, Maria realised that she hadn’t been thinking straight, and began worrying about what would happen when her customer learned he couldn’t stay here. A valet opened his door and Moonlight was already getting out of the vehicle. He opened Maria’s door himself since the valet obviously had no expectation of doing so.
“Park this please.” Mr Moonlight instructed the young woman, who looked surprised. He pushed a note into her hand and strode up towards the doors, which were swept open by the doorman. Maria found herself climbing out of her taxi and trailing helplessly after Moonlight, who was moving purposefully to the reception desk. Behind her the valet climbed gingerly into the taxi and drove it away.
“and this is my assistant Miss Herrera.”
“Good evening Miss Herrera.” If the receptionist was in anyway phased by Maria’s appearance, he was very carefully not to show it. She was handed an electronic key card emblazoned with hieroglyphs. “You in the Isis Suite, that’s on the eighteenth floor, Heather will show you up. If you require anything just let her know.”
Bewildered, Maria followed the smartly dressed woman named Heather into the lift and up to her suite. Her mysterious customer had watched her cross the foyer then turned to the receptionist. Maria had seen him receiving his own key card just as the lift doors closed.
Having assured Heather that she didn’t need or want anything at the moment, Maria stood awkwardly in the middle of a lounge that was bigger than her family’s entire house. She had no idea why she was here, why she hadn’t just run away, or driven away, or done anything but follow the strange man. She didn’t even know his name.
There was a knock at the door. Opening it Maria was unsurprised to see the man, minus umbrella, but still holding his small case. He smiled at her, and somehow it made Maria feel small, she stepped back and he entered the hall, crossing to the lounge and leaving her to follow after him again.
“My name,” he said, “is Mr Moonlight, but you will address me as Sir. We will be stopping here for a while, and you are going to be my assistant, and my driver. Now you’ll need clothes and such.”
Reaching in his case Moonlight presented Maria with a black credit card. It was embossed with her name, and a number and expiry date, but there was nothing to indicate what sort of card it was.
“Sign it on the back.” He instructed. “Tomorrow I want you to go buy yourself a few different outfits at least, formal and casual. Get yourself whatever else you need, toiletries etcetera as well.
Get us a new car, go for something with a bit of class.” Moonlight stared at the woman. “The card doesn’t have a limit, you’ll have no difficulties.” He waved a hand vaguely at the room. “Get something that won’t look out of place in the car park here.”