Short Story: The Experiment

Source. Pexels. Cottonbro, Photographer

by Sue DeGregorio-Rosen, RN, CLNC, Contributing Editor

These are not my things…….I said loud enough for a l’agent de police standing near the hotel entrance to take note. There were three Louis Vuitton trunks in front of me in the middle of lobby. I had reserved a room for my stay in this luxurious city with one baggage in tow. 

I have never owned anything like this, I scoffed at the bellhop.

Madam, the tags say they belong to you. What, would you like me to do? He asked in English.

That was when I recognized him by his voice and eyes, he was the young man from my flight who sat next to me. I began to understand. These trunks were shipped from Los Angeles (LAX) to the Charles de Gaulle airport (CDG) in my name purposely. He was the decoy. I didn’t recall the mustache. He was also my escort and bodyguard. I knew there was risk before I agreed to this assignment. I bit my lower lip. 

Phillippe shrugged. (That was his name.)

The three trunks contained documents that were to be delivered to the French Embassy. They should have told me I would be receiving them in such expensive luggage. I may have been more careful not to draw attention to myself.  My bellhop cleverly rushed me and the trunks into the elevator and hit floor 7 making sure that we were discreet enough to remain on the move without any questions raised.

When we reached the 7th floor, Phillippe pulled the trunks from the elevator and showed me to my room.  He remained as quiet as I as he unlocked the door and we both stepped inside.

Working undercover was an adventure, and for some agencies the operation could last up to a month, while others may last as much as a year, depending on the circumstances involved. Details. I didn’t know all of them. That can lead to problems. Confidentiality. Sort of like being a guinea pig. Any activity can lead to covert chicanery.

 But for my own and my employer’s protection and anonymity, I was given limited information concerning the particulars.  

I was always booked under an assumed name, whenever I agreed to deliver or make an exchange.  My work was legal, in my mind, in my world. The name and the bodyguard were just another level of protection that became the “norm” for me.

Phillipe informed me that he would be staying in my room.  There was a chaise lounge that would serve as a bed for him.  I already got the feeling that my colleague was quite comfortable with this kind of arrangement.  We would be here for 3 days, and I would receive further instruction prior to departing.

How did I ever get myself in this kind of work?  My father. He was engaged in this type of work for as long as I could remember, and I was next in line, if I wanted to be.  Of course, it was, I saw nothing wrong here, the money was above sufficient and enabled me to experience other places and people.  Unconventional?  Yes!  But the perks made me a willing participant, and men like Phillipe were certainly not hard to look at.   

Would you like to get something to eat?   I always had to ask my escort. If I wanted no interaction, then none happened, but I was a sociable woman and wanted this young man to feel at home during our time together.  We both knew we would never cross paths again, as a measure of security.

Phillipe agreed and we grabbed our coats and headed down to the closest restaurant.  He was familiar with the area, and so he led the way to the Pierre Garnier, which was a wonderful choice.

I had learned that when in France, order the local wines, but I let Philippe do the honors.  We sipped our wine for several minutes before we began to converse.  What do you talk about with someone that has an assumed name and you don’t know where they are from, and you can’t ask much?  

How’s the food here?  I asked.

Superb, I think you will be pleased.  

I was already pleased with the ambiance, the wine as I took in my surroundings.

 I learned that in many French restaurants you can expect le menu to be written on a board known as l’ardoise, which is either affixed to the wall or displayed in a case.  As I scanned the items I decided on the Coquilles Saint-Jacques.  That was safe, shrimp and scallops, and I did love seafood.  

Phillipe, however, was staring at my hands.  I have long fingers and a well-kept ruby red manicure with very little jewelry.  

See anything you like?  I asked.

I do, your hands are lovely, as is the rest of you. This is a city of very beautiful women, but you are a different kind of beauty.  And so now, enough of that, I will order.

He was becoming more interesting to me to say the least. I found myself wanting to know what I could about him, even in this short interlude we would share.  Handsome, clever, and delightful to have as a companion.

He told me that he felt the most lovely thing he was noticing about me was my desire to connect and interact with the outside world.  Not everyone in this line of work extends themselves to include the escort in a social element.  He said that when one is interacting with the outside world, you are not looking at yourself, you are looking at the person in front of you.  And he was looking at me. 

Please, go on, why do you say my beauty is a different kind? You have piqued my curiosity?  I crossed and uncrossed my legs and I watched him notice my bare legs as my skirt hiked up just enough to know his pulse would react.

Honoré de Balzac once said that whoever does not visit Paris regularly will never really be elegant. That’s a bit haughty I suppose, but you have an elegance about you. You fit in quite well. Someday you will return. Let’s enjoy our dinner.

And so, we did just that.  Dinner was amazing and I was hungry.  We ate in silence until dessert.  We decided to share the cherry and rose eclairs. It was fun to share, and it was a very simple yet intimate thing to do. When we finished, Phillipe took care of the expense and we walked outside to these exquisite streets in the most romantic city in the world. 

Tomorrow will be an early meeting, and of course, I will accompany you.

I didn’t answer, I was too busy taking in the downtown that was littered with orchids that reminded me of a lavender fairy dust.

Phillipe took my hand and asked me if I would like to walk a little.

Of course, lead the way. 

Your hands are soft, like a newborn.  

Now that’s a good come on, I laughed.

You think I am coming on to you?  I am just enjoying your company.  It’s not often that I get to travel with a woman who I find so stunning.  I am just enjoying myself.  Have I offended you?

As we were talking with each other, I noticed something.  Something was in the air.  It was an intuitive feeling, haunting, but nothing I could explain, a silence that in the breeze sent a shiver through me. 

No, not offended but curious.  You are a man, and I am an unnamed female who you will never see again in a strange city, on assignment. I am trying to enjoy myself, also, please don’t misunderstand, but I am curious. What is it that you want from me?  What’s the game?  You will be sleeping in my room.  Can I trust you?  What are the rules?

Ah, you understand the difference.  The game and then the rules, as in rules of engagement……….and the rules are….

Just then we stopped, looked briefly at each other, and turned to look behind us……..