Well the pizza was good, but not even close to being worth ten bucks a slice. At that price a medium pizza would be almost a fifty bucks. Way, way more than I would ever pay at home. The place had more class than a pizza hut, I had to admit that but not that much more.
“I’m going to drop you at the terminal,” Lamar informed me when we were back in the car.
“I thought you were flying with me?” I asked.
“No, I’ll be going over on a military flight with Lucy. We will join you tomorrow,” he said.
“I guess that makes sense,” I said.
“Of course it does, we are pros. We even act like it at times.” he said smiling. “You will be met by a local, who will take you to a hotel. They want Lucy to react with ordinary people, so there won’t be any fancy hotels on your trip, but they are all approved by the company, so stay with the plan.”
“I would image that all the hotels are wired for video and sound,” I suggested smiling.
“Of course, the bosses want to protect their investment.” he said. “But the good news is they consider you an investment and want to protect you as well.”
“Not as much as Lucy, I’m sure,” I replied.
“Probably not, but you get to stay under the same umbrella.” he replied.
“Nice way to put it,” I said as I exited the car. “Well I guess I will see you in jolly old England.”
“You will for sure. Some of the time I will be directly involved with you two, but every country will be a little different.”
“Okay, well I guess I better go get screened.” With that I left him in the parking lot.
Inside the terminal it was back to limping around trying to find where I needed to be. I reported to the passenger loading area well before the plane was to leave. I didn’t think to pick up a book, so I was stuck with reliving my past to fill in the time. The experience wasn’t all that pleasant. Mostly they were simply painful memories. One after another, they marched through my conscious mind. No wonder I drifted in and out of sleep.
I managed to wake up when the people around me began to stir. I joined them in line to have my one large combination purse and emergency carry on bag scanned. By emergency, I mean it held my make up and clean panties. A few other things like a hairbrush with a plastic handle which could be pulled and twisted to remove it from the brush part. When removed it, the handle became a four inch dagger. or so I was told by the man, at the flea market, who sold it to me. He also told me once it had been removed it would never xray as one piece again. I might have wasted my seven buck on the stupid plastic hair brush, or maybe not. It was one of those things you only knew about for sure when you needed it. You know like airbags on a car. You trust they will work, but how do you know until you need them.
The hair brush remained a hairbrush, since the flight was long but uneventful. Being trapped in a jumbo jet for eight hours with 400 and change passengers was no fun at all. As usual my luck was rank. I sat across the aisle from a crying baby, and next to a guy who wanted to tell me about his business experiences, whenever I woke up.
“Yeah the advertising cap business has been really good this year. I buy the blank caps from China, then embroider them in the states. I got the best of both worlds, China cheap but still a custom made in America label business.” He said.
It was at that point, when the hairbrush handle began to look like a reasonable way to shut him the fuck up. Instead I closed my eye and pretended to be asleep. That was difficult as well since the baby began to cry. Pull out a boob and feed that kid, I thought. I was actually asleep when the announcement came. “We will be landing in Heathrow Internation Airport in ten minutes, please move your seats to the upright position and secure any loose items.” There was more, but I tuned her out as well as the baseball cap manufacturer.
If this flight were an hour longer, I would kill that bastard, I thought. We were on the ground just seconds after that thought passed through my mind. Clearing the red tape was no fun, and of course the CIA didn’t help me at all. The best way to hide something is to pay no attention to it. Yes, I understood that, but understanding didn’t help the pain in my leg, while I stood waiting to have my passport stamped.
Just to make passing through airports easier I had brought the cane made from a couple of pieces of pvc water pipe. The pipe was empty to make it easier to search. The rubbler tip slipped right off so that the whole pipe was accessible. Believe it or not I passed through the scanner in the airport security without any problem at all. On the other hand the British Customs and Inland Revenue inspection was very interested in the empty cane. I offered to just leave the cane with them, but nothing would do but they ran it through a metal detector and xray machine. It would have been hilarious, if I hadn’t been in pain and suffering jet lag.
Me and my one suitcase with nothing at all of value inside, wandered out into the commons area. I didn’t even bother looking for a sign with my name. I just limped toward the exit. Outside that chrome and glass door was a long line of taxis. If I made it to those doors and then to a taxi, I had no idea where to go, but I needed sleep badly enough to just say take me to a hotel.
“Ms Stone, this way please,” the feminine voice said from behind me. I turned to see who was speaking. What I saw was a woman older than me even, with really bad looking teeth. She was also a good forty pounds over weight. I know I’m no beauty, but she was a true hag. I hoped she wasn’t the CIA’s idea of hide in plain sight. If it was, then I was on the wrong side for sure.
“And you are?” I asked.
“Christine luv,” she said.
“That doesn’t mean a thing to me,” I said. She looked harmless but they say Ted Bundy did as well.
“Luv, the man what hired me said to tell you rotomouse,” she said.
“Rotomouse,” I repeated then laughed. Only someone for real would confuse the name like that.
“So where are you taking me?” I asked.
“Why to your hotel of couse, Luv,” she said.
“Very well, let’s go.” I followed her to the taxi. It was a very plain looking vehicle and could be any age at all.
The traffic was thick as fleas on a blue tick hound in rural Georgia. It was also terrifying for one who had never been in London. Every thing was backwards of course. I would hate to drive in this mess, I thought.
The drive was an almost 30 minute long nightmare. Christine whipped in and out of traffic like a kamikaze pilot on speed. I sat in the back seat with white knuckle terror gripping me. The transition from bumper to bumper traffic moving at 40mph on an old street, to a less threatening traffic pattern was something for which to be thankful.
At the same time the traffic was cut in half, the buildings turned into almost row houses. Most of the poorly matched stone walls of the houses reached five or more stories into the air. I wasn’t sure that I would feel safe in the building where she stopped. The sign over the door should have read ‘ready cheap hotel’. Instead it read Winston Saxon Arms. A grand name indeed for a dump. It wasn’t even up to the standards an American hooker would use for her Johns. Of course that was an exaggeration, but the image of a hooker refusing to enter with her John was amusing.
I was surprised when a man much older than me came out for my bags. Once inside the front door, I was greeted by a couple not much older than me. “Welcome to the Winston Saxon Arms, they said together. I am sure they rehearsed it a thousand times with a thousand other guests before me.
“Thank you I’m exhausted, could you show me to my room.” I said.
“That will be twenty quid,” Christine said. I hadn’t noticed her tagging along behind me. I truly was exhausted, I thought.
“Well Luv, if the man who hired you, didn’t pay up front, you need to go find him. If you took a job from a man, you don’t know without being paid first, you are the dumbest taxi driver on the planet. And if you have already been paid, then you think I’m the dumbest tourist on the planet. Now move along Luv.” I said with a smile.
“Quite right,” the man of the greeting committee said to Christine. The burn phone, Lamar had given me, rang with of all things the theme from Magnificent 7.
“Hello,” I said.
“See that’s the kind of thing Lucy needs to learn,” Lemar said. “When you get settled in and have a nap, we will all go out to dinner.”
“Good, you are paying and no tourist joints either. Something nice with good food and local atmosphere. Save the chrome and glass for the state department pukes,” I said. If the Roomba was listening in, let her get a second lesson at the same time. I was way too tired to give a shit how it looked or sounded to a digital recorder.
The bedroom was small with very little light coming through the heavy drapes. Since I wanted sleep more than a view, I quickly undressed, then slipped between the coarse sheets. It was no luxury hotel for sure, but I just didn’t care at that moment.
It was 11AM local time when I fell into a sleep which could easily be mistaken for death. It was a dreamless sleep, so when I awoke I couldn’t remember falling asleep or having been asleep. What I could do was tell that my mind was again working at almost full speed. I would gladly accept that as opposed to the malaise I felt when I arrived at the 3rd rate hotel or whatever it was called.
There was a very discrete sign on one of the doors. It read, shared bath please knock. I knocked. When there was no answer, I went inside to pee. Everything in the bath was old, but not as old as the building, of course. It also had the look of being shoehorned into the small room.
After I peed I wiped myself with what had to be the most coarse toilet paper I had ever felt. Was I becoming disillusioned with the ‘England on a dime’ tour. That pirate gig was beginning to look some better.
I had remember to lock the door connecting to the adjacent room, but I almost forgot to unlock it. I left my door to the bath open, while I collected clean underwear. I took a shower in what had to be the smallest shower known to man, or woman in my case. The water never quite got really hot, but it did get warm enough. I put the same jeans back on, but with a clean tee shirt. It was warm enough in the room for just the tee. Even a lightweight cotton sweater would have been too much on that afternoon. I sat on the tall bed trying to think. My mind was coming up to speed, but it wasn’t nearly as fast as I would have liked.