by LJ Frank
Johannes was an ambiguous man to his colleagues. And, once he decided to change his identity everything followed with an almost uncanny certainty. It was a textured physical and emotional state of transition. Doubt, fear, and skepticism departed. He knew what he had to do. At some point any reservation he might have had was replaced with a new spirit and courage if not, shall we say, cheek. There was no turning back once a decision was followed by the first step taken in the form of a scheme.
The female partner in the scheme was an enchanting woman who went by the name of Anais who he met by chance at an art gallery as they came in from the rain and literally bumped into each other. Their accidental rendezvous was followed by a lengthy chat and a month of telephone conversations and text messages into the early morning hours. They both felt the mutually seductive excitement surrounding their desired life objective. It was if they were soulmates if there is such a thing. Though not completely impoverished they were temporarily unattached to a job and both suffered from an emerging 21st century syndrome of economic vertigo. They were desperately looking for an “out” or an “escape” from their status, a scheme if you will.
Arriving downtown, Johannes found his way to a fashionable men and women’s clothing store adjacent to the luxury hotel where the scheme would unfold. He selected a suit, shirt, shoes, hosiery, underwear, hat, and a fashionable raincoat and placed them on hold telling the salesclerk he would call him when he was ready to have them picked up and that being within an hour or two at the latest. He showed him an identification and asked the salesclerk for his full name. He noted he was staying at the adjoining hotel. A few minutes later he departed the store and headed towards the lobby of the hotel. As he was leaving the store Anais had also arrived as planned and minutes later departed after placing her selection of a business suit, hosiery, ankle strapped high heels, lingerie, hat, and a raincoat on hold leaving a similar message to another salesclerk.
Reaching the front desk, Johannes, asked a clerk what rooms were available with king sized beds. Given the time of day, the clerk said rooms were in the process of being cleaned. Johannes smiled to himself and thanked the clerk and noted he needed to make a call and walked away with his phone in hand. Meanwhile, Anais, walked in the hotel lobby about ten minutes later and went through the same process.
Upon reaching the floor in which the rooms were still being cleaned Johannes took note of two women with separate cleaning carts. He walked by one of the carts and grabbed a bath towel and walked to the end of the hallway and into a beverage and candy machine room. There was one person retrieving a bottle of soda. He waited until the person departed, then hurriedly stripped naked and placed his old clothes, underwear, and shoes in a nearby waste container. He then wrapped the towel around him with only his wallet, phone and a candy bar in his possession.
Walking down the hallway he approached the cleaning lady and apologized to her and explained he was accidently locked out of his room after taking a quick shower and ventured down to the beverage room but realized he left the key in his room. He told her the number of the room and she obligingly unlocked the door for him. He then texted Anais. Several minutes later she was performed the same ritual with a different a cleaning lady taking the room across the hall from Johannes.
Johannes called the concierge and gave him his room number and asked if he would have someone pickup his clothes and delivered to the room from the adjoining clothing store and charge it to his room and to give himself an appropriate tip in the process. He gave him the salesclerk’s name. Anais followed the very similar ritual. A different porter was sent to retrieve her clothes.
While waiting for their clothes Johannes opened his door and peered out into the hallway at the same time Anais opened her door with a towel wrapped around her. They both smiled at each other.
“Very good disguise?”
“Thank you. It’s probably the wig. Perhaps while we wait, we could a…?”
“By all means…your room or mine?”
She waved him over and just as they were about to get together, he noticed two porters carrying packages and suit bags down the hall.
“That was fast….” Johannes said.
“Yeah, I think so.”
“He then hurried back across the hall to his room and as he was closing the door, he looked back at Anais who let her towel down enough to expose a breast and then quickly adjusted the towel and then said, “See you soon, Alexander.” And just as she said that the man with her bags began handing her the packages and suit bag. She thanked the man who said the tip had already been deducted.
“Alexander?” Johannes asked. At which point the other porter handed Johannes his packages and a suit bag. The man also mentioned he had been tipped as displayed on the receipt. Johannes nodded and thanked him and closed the door. “How did she know my birth name?”
He then received a text message. “Which do you prefer, Johannes or Alexander? Do you know my birth name?”
“Why would I?”
“What was the name of the female private detective you met one year ago in Chicago that pretended to be a psychologist?”
“What? You were the psychologist. You’re a chameleon.”
” I thought her name was Ciara.”
“See, you remember. I’ll let you ponder. I’ll be over in a second with the clothes and we can compare, get dressed and get out of here.”
Johannes shook his head. He heard a knock, opened the door and Anais entered the room exclaiming, “Come on we need to hurry!”
Their towels dropped and upon dressing made their way to the elevator and down to the lobby, where they noticed the concierge and another man enter the elevator with one of them asking, “which floor were they on?
Johannes and Anais hurried out the entrance and hailed a taxi.
Once inside the taxi the driver stepped on the accelerator and simultaneously asked, “Where are we going?”
Johannes was about to tell him when Anais interrupted him. “May I make a last-minute suggestion?”
“What is your suggestion?”
She smiled and leaned forward and whispered to the taxi driver. And then leaned back and kissed Johannes on the lips and whispered, “No conspiracy allowed. I want this alternative to be my gift to you and me.”