Wednesday, September 27th,
“Wait a minute, Dana.” Evan placed his hand on her shoulder,
halting her movement toward the ramp. “We should not go out the way we came
“You’re right. Hal. And…and who knows who else.” She took
out her sunglasses from her jacket’s inner pocket and put them on. “Your hat.
And your shades.”
He smiled. “Oh yeah.” He removed the hat from his jacket’s
pocket and hooked it on his head. “I need to be able to see now. I’ll put on
the sunglasses once we get out of here.”
“Okay. But which way should we go?”
“I saw people way down at the other end, leaving their
vehicles, but they didn’t exit over here.” He pointed to the distant right
corner from the ramp’s basement level position. “Has to be another exit over
“Yeah, but. What about meeting up with someone else?”
“It will be all right. Besides. I have the gun.”
“Yeah, with one bullet.” She began heading along the parking
lot’s road leading to the left side of the expansive garage. “Come on.”
He followed her, flanking her right side, her steps faster
than earlier. “But are you up to this? Do you feel okay?”
“Yes, I do, thanks. I think the rush of adrenaline from
Hal’s bullshit woke my body up, you know?”
“Well, okay. Just keep me informed.”
“I’m still shaking a bit, but I’ll get over it.”
Evan kept his senses alert and heightened, keeping watch all
around them as they walked. He noticed people again, exiting or entering
vehicles, but on the distant north side of the large building. No one was
nearby, not even behind them.
“I need to ask,” he said. “If your dad, Carter, and Hal are
a danger to you, and a danger to me, and you don’t want to involve the police,
what do you plan to do now?”
“I don’t know, honestly. I just know I need some coffee and
food right now.” She glanced at his hands. “And you need to wash that
disgusting creature’s blood off of you.”
He held out his hands. Globs of blood stains were
everywhere. His jacket did a poor job at removing any of it. “Yes, true that.”
He realized something else. “And thank you, Dana, for attempting to defend me.”
“Of course. It was the least I could do after my shitty
treatment of you at the party.”
“Why did you do it, though? Why did you hang with him?
Someone you obviously despise, referring to him as a disgusting creature.”
“Because I basically had to, Evan. That’s really all I can
tell you right now. You’re just going to have to trust me about this.”
“Okay. I understand. But, though I thanked you about
attempting to defend me, really, Dana, you need to let me do this. That’s why I
tried keeping you behind me. It’s a lot harder for fighting off an opponent, at
the same time--”
“While protecting me,” she interrupted. “I know, I know. I
get it, I get it. And I’m sorry. I’ll try not to do it again.”
“It’s all right. I’m just trying to be my very best for
“And you are, Evan.”
She picked up the pace. He could easily keep up with her,
but he still felt concerned by her sudden need to move faster.
She didn’t speak, and he kept quiet too. A few older people
were walking to their vehicles up ahead, so it was a good time to do such a
About a minute later they arrived at the building’s end.
From Dana’s request, Evan entered a single toilet bathroom, though leaving the
door open so she could stand within the doorway, and he washed his hands
thoroughly. Then with Dana helping, he wiped down the jacket and other spots on
his clothing, using damp paper towels, until no trace of the blood could be
seen, at least in the dim lighting of the area.
He also determined once he was wiped clean that he only had
some minor scratches and abrasions and that most of the blood was from Hal. And
interestingly, none of his wounds were bleeding much now, if at all.
Soon after, Dana led them into an empty, quiet elevator near
the bathrooms. She pressed the button for the street level. It was a quick trip
up, but enough time for Evan to don the sunglasses again.
When the door slid open, they entered a foyer and then
exited outside to South 5th Street.
“I don’t see Hal anywhere,” she said quietly. “Do you?”
The sun was brighter, warmer, and allowed better lighting
everywhere, a needed benefit from under these shades. He scanned all around, to
the left and right from where they stood on the sidewalk and across the street
to the other sidewalk. Traffic was somewhat heavy, one-way, in a northward
direction, but he still was able to get enough of a view. “No. I don’t see him.
Maybe he actually left the area.”
“I hope so. I don’t trust him.”
“Where do you went to go now?”
“Starbucks, at City Center.” She headed to the left. “Come
on. Let’s get out of here.”
She led them only a short distance until stopping. “We need
He looked across the street to where she stared. “An
“Yes. I already checked on the map. It’s a back entrance to
City Center. Less people.”
He glanced inside the vehicles and buses passing by. Except
for those vehicles with tinted glass, he could see most people didn’t show much
interest in either of them, like earlier. “I’m not comfortable with this. And
people are basically ignoring us.”
“At the moment. Someone will eventually find out. Besides,
you’ll protect me.”
To their left, the nearby intersection traffic light turned
red. The traffic stopped eventually and gave them clear passage across the
Not hesitating to think about it further, she began her trek
across the street. Evan followed her. They had to step across Metro Transit
line rails embedded in the road, though he made sure, glancing left and right,
that no trains were nearby.
They arrived at the sidewalk and then stepped across and
entered the alleyway. Dana took the lead again, though Evan walked near her, on
her right side.
The alleyway was dark, dirty, with some type of corrosion growth
from water or mold growing on the sides of the lower brick walls. And the
smells. Rotten food from garbage. Urine. Even sewer reek. “Not the most
pleasant walking path, Dana. You sure you’re okay with this?”
“Exactly why I’m okay with it. Good cover, ya know?”
They continued walking. No one was nearby or up ahead in the
She didn’t talk much. She just seemed eager to get to
Starbucks. And she was definitely walking faster than before the brawl with
When at the end of the alleyway, about thirty yards in
length, Dana led them to the right, northward more or less, on to another long
alleyway. This alleyway was somewhat wider than one car width and had plenty of
those metal waste containers for business garbage collection. Each time they
passed by one, smells of rotting food and other waste filled the air around
them, worse than the other alleyway. A few people stepped outside to toss out
garbage or do other things, but none seemed to notice who they were.
She often looked up and around at the tall buildings.
Made him wonder. And he finally had to ask. “What are you
“Oh, just curious. Making sure we’re heading in the right
Their path also led them under several of those enclosed
pedestrian footbridges or tunnels, part of that Minneapolis skyway system Dad
often talked about. They kept moving, passing by a few other people who again
didn’t notice them, and soon arrived in that parking lot next to the famous Bob
Dylan mural wall. Dana acknowledged the mural, said she had seen it before, but
continued walking past it. She led them to the parking lot exit that arrived
onto Hennepin Avenue, directly next to another one of those underground parking
spots. She passed by it and took a left onto the sidewalk.
Evan stayed to her right, on the side closest to the street.
“I thought you didn’t want to be near traffic.”
“We have no choice at this point. There is no other way,
except for walking through the hotel next to us, but we probably need a keycard
to get in.”
He looked up a moment while they walked. He roughly counted
fifteen floors. “Sure is tall. Like where we stayed, at the Hilton
“It’s the Embassy Hilton. But that’s nothing compared to
City Center. Has like fifty-two floors. You’ll see it up ahead.”
“Yeah. I’ll check it out.”
The sidewalk was wide. More people were walking about than
along the other sidewalks. Dana kept her head down, the hat doing a pretty good
job of hiding her face. They passed by bike racks and tall metal streetlights.
A few people did look at them, even with some alert, wide eyes, but they didn’t
say anything. This wasn’t good. Eventually, though, they arrived at another
traffic light intersection, between Hennepin and South 6th Street.
“It’s over there. To your left.”
He looked up in that direction. “Yup. That is one tall
building. So, where are we heading now?”
“Straight ahead. We’ll be entering City Center from
She waited for the pedestrian light signal, the countdown
orange hand, to turn to the white walker.
And it was taking too long. He wondered of her thoughts.
“You doing okay?”
“Yeah. I am. Just wish this goddam light would turn. Then
again, not sure why I want to hide away anymore. What difference does it make
now? Hal for sure told them.”
Traffic was loud and distracting and flowing to the south,
their left, on 6th Street, another one-way road.
“You have enough on your plate right now. Just stay in
“Yeah, yeah. I will. For now.”
The white walker sign appeared. Evan again stayed to her
right, making himself a barrier from any turning vehicles or bikers, and then
headed across the road with her.
She walked on the sidewalk until finding a glass door
entrance. Above the entrance were signs reading Minneapolis City Center and 615
Hennepin Avenue. She pulled to open the door but had some difficulty. Evan
immediately helped hold the door for her, allowing them both to step inside a
foyer area. He opened the next set of doors for her and they entered a wide
hallway leading into a mall up ahead.
“At least we haven’t seen any sign of Hal yet,” he said,
keeping on her right, but a bit behind.
“Yeah. And let’s hope it stays that way.” She was looking
around the hall. White walls. Numerous hanging paintings and murals. Or tall
windowed sides of various stores. “Looks the same like I remember. They used to
open later, like ten, so we’re lucky they open at nine now.”
“Maybe the stores aren’t open yet though.”
“I know Starbucks is and that’s where we are heading.”
He sneaked a few glances at her, beneath her hat, as they
continued walking. Her facial skin he could see, unhidden from the sunglasses,
still appeared pale for her. But probably not best to say anything now. Coffee
and food, like she said, would probably help a lot.
Soon they were walking within the main part of the mall, a
large open area with a stunning ceiling. One side of this area, to their left,
consisted of the side of a building five to six stories high. The opposite side
was a building four stories high. A high, metal-framed glass structure covered
the top of this uneven structure, as a slanted transparent ceiling. And there
was an escalator some distance before them, leading to the mall’s second floor.
Still no sign of Hal or anyone else who detected Dana’s
She pointed up ahead to another mall hallway, beyond the
escalator on this same floor. “That way, for Starbucks.”
She remained mostly quiet with their walk, but Evan
continued to watch all around them, for any hint of trouble. But fortunately,
few people were walking around the mall. And those he did see were mostly
older, laidback, unaware. Yet he did catch glimpse of an older man, walking
away from them down the mall’s other hallway, carrying a black case, who did
look a bit familiar.
Why, though? Didn’t matter. He wasn’t heading their way.
It wasn’t long before they were within Starbucks. And it was
packed with several lines of people.
Dana quickly showed her discomfort again, keeping her head
down, the hat and sunglasses hiding her away. Her earlier words at not caring
if people saw her now seemed to have been forgotten or ignored. But he did his
best to shelter her, stay closer to her, and after she gave him some cash, he
ordered and paid for the specific coffees, ice in hers, and donuts for them both.
And again no one seemed to notice their true appearances.
She didn’t want to sit in the decorative, homey Starbucks
seating area. It was too crowded for her.
They walked back out into the mall. Evan recalled seeing a
narrow hallway, off the main walkway, leading to a rather dimly lit, hidden
lounging area. With her holding the coffees and a bag with the donuts, so he
could keep his hands free, he guided her in direction of this lounge area.
It was apparent they weren’t the only ones seeking a less
crowded, quieter place. Several other Starbucks customers were coming and going
down this hallway too, food bags and coffee containers in their hands. But
still, they didn’t notice Dana or him, obviously more occupied with their daily
lives. And once at the lounge area itself, it was far emptier of a location
than in Starbucks. Only a few people sat on some chairs and sofa seats.
Dana sat on an empty sofa in the room’s corner. No one was
close by, the nearest person maybe fifteen feet away. Evan sat to her right.
She placed the coffee and donut bag on the coffee table
before them. She looked at him, from beneath her hat, sunglasses yet on. “I
used cash because I don’t want them searching me out, even if Hal knows
“Yes, I’m aware.” He took a sip of his coffee and leaned
closer to her. “Are you ready now to tell me more of what’s going on here? I
understand about Lloyd, Hal and Carter, the danger aspect and all, but I just
need to understand this better, to protect you better.”
She removed that small zipper purse from inside her jacket’s
pocket. “Another reason I needed something to drink.” She unzipped the purse
and removed a small, round plastic pill box, not much larger than a quarter.
She clipped the pill box open and took out four different pills from a bunch of
similar ones. “The doctor who treated me said I was lucky. I could have died
from the combo of oxy and alcohol. So, I’m decreasing the oxy and taking some
other pills for pain and oxy withdrawal.” She cupped her hand, tilted her head
back, and poured the pills into her mouth. “I guess you can see why I wanted
ice in my coffee.”
“Okay. I hope all that works for you. But you never answered
She took a big sip of her iced coffee and swallowed the
pills. She looked at him. “If I told you…you would never believe me. So, it’s
He gazed into her sunglass-covered eyes just below the brim
of her hat. “Try me.”
She pressed her lips together and frowned slightly. She
reached out to her coffee cup, touching the sides of it yet seemingly lost in
her thoughts. But then something captured her attention to her right. “Who the
heck is that?”
Evan quickly focused his eyes along her sightline. A man was
approaching, his stride determined. Now it became clear why that man, earlier,
carrying a black case, seemed familiar, though the view was only on his back
side. Frank Ragno. That pushy, annoying reporter in Casper. Just wonderful.
This might not end well. “He’s a pap, I’ve seen him before.”
“Great. Oh well, what can we do. Here comes the party.”
Frank soon arrived by them. He grabbed a chair and pulled it
over near the end of the coffee table, several feet from Evan. He sat down and
gave a hard glance around them both. “Well, well, well. You know, I thought my
eyes were lying, but after getting tips from my Twitter fans, sightings of you
two walking around town in disguise, I had to follow up.” He focused on Dana.
“Hello, Ms. Zypher.” He looked at Evan. “Hello Mr. Turrone. I mean, you two
celebs didn’t honestly think your fans wouldn’t catch on, eventually, did you?”
Dana stared back at him. “What do you want?”
Frank leaned closer in her direction. “Look. I know you two
want to stay incognito, so I’ll keep my voice low. So, let’s keep an air of
Anger began simmering in Evan. This was the last thing Dana
needed now. “Didn’t like you then. Still don’t like you now.”
“I see.” Frank did a slight, reprimanding finger motion at
Evan. “And that’s the kind of disrespect that will get me all loud and noisy.”
Dana placed her hand on Evan’s
shoulder. “Let me deal with this.” She sighed. “Not feeling the best, here, as
you must know. Again, what do you want?”
“My apologies, for your illness, Ms. Zypher, although from
what your fans relayed, you seem much better. So here’s the thing. I’ve been
covering you for years, since your first YouTube videos when you were sixteen.
And as I told your boyfriend here, on--”
“Uh, no,” she interrupted. “He is not my boyfriend. He’s
“Could have fooled me, but okay. See,
I was wondering how it is, he calls out to you, at your Casper walk-in, and you
stop, frozen, and barely turn your head back. I’ve never seen you do that
“I was only a bit surprised, because he called me by my last
name. That’s all.”
“Yeah, quite the surprise, when I’m sure you’ve heard fans
call you by your last name before. And I’m sure that guy he beat on was quite
surprised too. Quite the dangerous, unpredictable guy you got here, Dana.”
Evan couldn’t contain himself anymore. He swiped off his
sunglasses. “Yeah, exactly Frank.” He stared dead on at him. “Which is why I
would advise for you to leave, right now.”
Frank stared back. “Is that a threat? Are you seriously
conveying a threat to a news reporter?”
“No, it is not a threat. It is a guarantee.” Evan knew his
anger was emanating with intensity from his eyes, because Frank shifted his
stare to Dana.
She reached out for her coffee, her hand shaking as she
grasped the cup. “Evan. I need to leave. I’m…I’m not feeling so well.” She
slowly stood up while holding her coffee.
“Sure.” Evan put back on his sunglasses. He seized hold of
his coffee and the bag of donuts, standing up with her, locking his eyes and
awareness on Frank at the same time. “I agree. We should leave.”
Frank stood up too. “Not to add to
your discomfort, Ms. Zypher, but I hope you realize your boyfriend here came
from a religious cult family. Something I hope you’ve been aware of.”
She covered her mouth and handed her coffee to Evan. He
quickly rearranged all he was holding so to take her cup, holding it securely.
Her hand yet over her mouth, she swallowed hard and looked at Frank. “You…you
can say and do whatever you want. I…I don’t care anymore.” She began
maneuvering herself around Frank and then took off down the hallway.
“Congratulations,” Evan said, staring daggers at Frank, even
if through his sunglasses. “You just did add to her discomfort, big time.” He
moved away from him and rushed after Dana.
“Oh yeah?” Frank called out, from behind Evan. “Well I’m
sensing quite the disrespect and rejection here. Hey! Everyone! There they go!
Dana Zypher and her beau, Evan Turrone!”
Trying not to drop the donuts or spill the coffees, Evan
continued moving, ignoring startled eyes and confused expressions, until
reaching up to Dana. She was just nearing the end of the narrow hallway. “I
can’t believe he just did that!” he said, low enough however so no one close
could hear. “If anyone needs a hard beat down, it’s that loser jerk!”
“I need a bathroom,” she said, nearly crying. “Get me to a
He recalled seeing bathrooms, on the main walkway, not far
from here. He glanced back at the lounge area. People were standing up from
their seats, staring, holding their phones out, but appeared confused,
disoriented. Frank was likewise holding a camera up and recording. But Frank
stayed back. And no one was following Dana.
Out on the main mall walkway, Evan clutched the two coffees
and donut bag with his right arm and circled his left around Dana, attempting
to support her and get her moving faster. And she didn’t resist.
She covered her mouth and kept moving.
He saw the bathroom’s entrance hallway up ahead, on the
left. Arriving by it, he guided Dana until he brought her before the door of a
single stall, family-type bathroom. He checked the doorknob. It was unlocked.
He opened the door for her, confirmed no one was inside, and she walked in. He
asked if she wanted him to come with her, but she said no. However, he
requested she leave the door unlocked and she did.
He listened carefully while she was in the bathroom. She was
throwing up again. The poor, poor woman. His heart felt crushed and broken. He
had to help her. He just had to get the truth out of her, one way or another.
But then, of course. What about the consequences?
He held his ear near the door. She was coughing, and heaving
less, but she was not yet completely done. He wondered about what Chella had
said, about Carter pressing too hard on Dana’s sternum, from the CPR. Yet, she
seemed okay in this regard, didn’t mention any chest pain up to this point.
Would it make things even worse to discuss it with her now?
His mind hunting for solutions, he could think of only one.
He searched in his pocket with his free hand for the Unihertz and brought it
out. He did all the recent phone security steps and promptly clicked on Art’s
He waited, looking around for Frank, or any other paps or
fans, but fortunately no one was approaching, except for people strolling by
out in the mall. He stepped far enough away from the door, near the opposite
wall diagonally across from it, so Dana couldn’t hear.
“Evan,” Art said, once answering. “I
know your thoughts, but we are getting conflicting signals.”
“Conflicting signals? What do you mean?”
“The EBEs, and other entities, attempting to conceal Dana’s
true circumstances are fighting us in the extreme now.”
“Damn. Please Art, please tell me, will she be safe, and the
rest of her family, be safe?”
“To the best of my and Kamal’s combined efforts, we were
sensing positive outcomes, but we are no longer able to confirm, adequately.
That is the issue right now. We do feel quite confident that Neraeh and her
parents will be safe, but we are not sure for you and Dana. I am sorry I cannot
give you a more definite answer.”
“Well, so much for watching out for us, and how you--”
The bathroom’s doorknob was clicking, turning. Evan
immediately swiped to end the call. He shoved the Unihertz back in his pocket.
He walked over and reached for the door, helping to open it.
Dana stepped out, holding her hat and sunglasses. A light
scent of vomit still floated in the air from the bathroom. Her face was pale,
her eyes blood-shot with dark circles beneath. The blond wig framing her face
didn’t help at all, only emphasizing her exhausted, weakened condition. She
definitely did not look that good. “Are you feeling better? Is there anything I
can do for you right now?”
She couldn’t even look him in his eyes. “No…no I’m not
He glanced around, checking for Frank, fans, or other paps,
but again, none were approaching. He looked at her. “What’s wrong, Dana?”
“Besides the fibro…and leftover shit from my stupid drunken
episode.” She swallowed, and then eyed him closely. “Yeah. I was throwing up
again. Hope you don’t mind, but, the Embassy Hilton. I want to go there. I need
“Wait a minute. What you need, if you’re feeling like this,
is to go back to the hospital.”
“Damnit, Evan. Hal threatened us both and lumped my
so-called dad and Carter in with it too, and you want to expose us like that?”
So-called dad? Interesting she said that. “Okay, sorry. We
can head to the hotel. I just wonder if you need medical help, that’s all.”
“Oh, believe me, I do. But I need more help than they can do
for me.” She made her way around him and then stopped a moment. She put on her
sunglasses and hat again. She looked at him. “Good. Your hat and shades are
still on.” She stepped closer to him. “Here. Give me those coffees and donuts.
We can get more later.”
“I agree.” He handed them to her. “They’re just getting in
the way right now.”
She headed out toward the mall, tossing the coffees and donuts
into a trash container along the way. Her steps were slow at first, but then
she picked up the pace.
He followed her, until they were both out in the mall
walkway. He walked along her left side since she stayed more on the right of
the main walkway.
His eyes and senses alert, Evan noticed the same few men and
women, up ahead, who had been nearby when Frank the dumbass made his scene.
They were sitting on benches in the center of the walkway. And they were
staring at him, and Dana, mumbling, pointing, with one of the women even
arising from the bench. “They see you.”
“I know. Up ahead. You see where we can turn right? That
will lead us out to Sixth Street.”
“I see it.”
She walked faster. He did the same and remained near her.
Dana turned down this other hallway, just as those people
were about on them. She increased her pace, until arriving at the glass doors
to the outside. Evan turned back a moment and called out to these people,
firmness in his tone, explaining Dana wasn’t feeling well, and she needed her
space. His behavior and words obviously impeded them; they stopped approaching,
only staring at first, but then apologizing and saying they hope she feels much
better soon, or even asking how or why she got hospitalized. He didn’t answer
and focused back on Dana.
His eyes astutely searching, he could see Dana was standing
outside on the sidewalk, but bent over, holding her stomach.
He rushed out the doors and ran up to her. He grasped his
hands on both her shoulders. “Are you okay?”
She breathed in shakily, several times, before gradually
standing up straight, her body trembling as she did so. “I think so. We need…we
need to get a room.” She pointed diagonally across the street.
He continued to hold her shoulders and looked around. One of
those glass-windowed pedestrian tunnels was connecting the second floor of City
Center to the second floor of the Embassy, almost directly above them, but more
to the north. “We could go up there, that glass walkway. Traffic wouldn’t be a
“No.” She loosened her shoulders free from his grasp. “I
don’t care if I get hit by a car. Do you?”
“Well, of course I don’t want you getting hit. It’s my job
to protect you.”
She stared at him from under her sunglasses. “I mean, do
you, Evan, mind if you yourself get hit?”
What sort of question was that? Something definitely wasn’t
right with her. “I don’t want to get hit. I’m only eighteen. But if it means
saving you, then yeah, I’ll take the bullet, or the car strike, whatever it
She gave him a half, smirky smile. “Yeah. Whatever, I
He wasn’t sure how to respond to that.
She walked up to the edge of the sidewalk and directed her
sightline to the Embassy’s entrance.
Evan rushed over to her left side, positioning himself to
protect her from the one-way southbound traffic on Sixth. Her recent behavior
had him on edge. He took a secure hold of her shoulders again. “Don’t shrug my
hands off. Got it?”
He kept his eyes to the left, on the traffic light. Vehicles
were slowly stopping at the intersection. “Or I’ll embarrass you and pick you
up and carry you across.”
“Yeah, well, I’m not a baby.”
“No, but you’ve been sick. Don’t fight me on this.”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever.”
The last vehicle passing through since the red light, a
maroon Dodge Ram the same year as his own, zoomed by, leaving the street free
of traffic. He began walking by holding her shoulders, but then took hold of
her left hand, since she now seemed able to walk. They even jogged the last few
steps up to the Embassy’s front doors.
The Embassy had the same revolving door entrance like the
Hilton Minneapolis. He continued holding her hand, and pressed the door’s edge
to swing around, bringing them into an entrance foyer. The doors might be
similar, but this hotel definitely lacked the spectacular high-ceiling spacious
abundance of the other Hilton. He looked around. Stairs and some elevators
ahead, some sort of restaurant, bar, and lounge combo to the left and the
reception intake desk to the right. He headed toward the reception desk yet
holding her hand.
She pulled back on his determined motion. “Hold on.”
“Why? What is it?”
“Just wait. I got to check something.” She reached into the
inner pocket of her jacket with one hand and pulled out her phone.
Making sure his awareness was in high gear, Evan scanned
around. A man in a business suit walked nearby but didn’t show them any
interest. No one else was nearby. But this place. Brown and white floors. Dark
brown wall, gold elevator doors. White, tan and maroon colors elsewhere. A
disturbing flashback suddenly entered his thoughts. That underground base. The
commons area, with those seats and that TV. And the hull, surrounding him. And
Dad. And the others. His breathing ramped up. He shook his head and stared at
the floor, forcing it away. Not being very alert here, Evan!
“Hey,” she said. “What’s wrong?”
“What? Oh, nothing.”
“You sure? You just squeezed my hand and shook a bit.”
“I did? I’m sorry. Did I hurt you?”
“No, you didn’t. So why did you do that?”
He smiled at her. “I’m okay. Just a bad memory.”
“Well, all right. Come on.” She tugged on him, pulling him
toward the entrance. “I saw a store outside, up the street. Need to go there.
Besides, can’t have you acting all weird and shit in front of everyone.”
“Oh, I’m acting weird? Who was the one who nearly collapsed
to the sidewalk out there?”
“Hey. I’m not feeling well. What’s your excuse?” She kept
him walking toward the revolving doors. “Can you release my hand now?”
“Yeah, sure. But you need to stay near me.”
When on the sidewalk, Dana headed south. He stayed on her
right side, the side near the parked vehicles and the road. She soon led them
inside the second store down from the Embassy, some food and drinks business.
His arising suspicions while they walked soon proved true; she went directly
over to the vintage bottles of wine and other liquors.
“I need one of these,” she said,
picking up a Copper and Kings 750-milliliter bottle of brandy.
“Uh, what?” He drew closer to her, so no one could hear.
“You just recovered from alcohol poisoning! You know, the doctor, the close
call, and decreasing your oxy?”
“That’s where you’re wrong.” She spoked quietly too. “Still
recovering. I need a slight buzz to get over this. Can’t do it cold turkey, you
see.” She turned and faced him. “I can’t use my card to pay for this. I’ll get
traced. And, not sure what to do about the hotel room, too. Kind of why we’re
here, trying to figure this out.”
He knew exactly what to do. He dug into his jogging pants
pocket and removed his wallet. He opened the wallet and revealed that wad of
cash. “Remember the money you gave me, in Chicago?”
She stared at the money. “You still have that?”
“Never spent a cent.” He removed it and handed the money to
her. “Five hundred dollars.”
She placed the brandy on the shelf. She gently took the
bills from his hand. “Wow. Well, thank you.”
“It is your money, so no problem.”
After a few more words, especially about the dangers of
mixing alcohol with her prescription pills, Evan ultimately lost their
disagreement. She would not change her mind. She insisted on buying the brandy.
However, she also picked up some pretzels, potato chips, and cheese cubes, so
at least those could help lessen the alcohol effects some.
Upon stepping up to the counter to pay, the older guy behind
the counter requested Dana’s ID. Fortunately, though when he eyeballed her ID
card, he didn’t seem to have a clue who she was. He simply put all her items in
one sturdy brown paper bag and completed the sale.
Evan again walked on the street-side of Dana, while they
went back to the Embassy, though she didn’t want him holding her hand, or even
putting his hand on her shoulder. He sighed and simply stayed near her, and
At the Embassy reception desk ordering the room, a
middle-aged Asian woman, who eerily reminded him of Akina, did seem to realize
who they might be. The woman gazed at him and Dana with a curious, perplexed
and even amused expression. And even though they could pay in cash, they still
needed a credit card. Evan supplied his. Dana decided on a regular king-sized
bedroom, with a bathroom, but no suite. At this point, several other people
behind the desk, two men, were staring more than they should be, and smiling,
but they said nothing. And none of them seemed concerned about the bag of items
Dana led Evan over to one of those elevators with the
gold-plated doors near the entrance.
“Eleventh floor,” she said, eying the Embassy’s keycard,
numbered 1112, once in the elevator. She pressed the number 11 button. “Here we