Another Writing Exercise………
In the gathering dusk, you are wandering aimlessly down street after street, trying to get your bearings. Something has happened to you, but you’re not sure what it was. You have a throbbing headache and there’s blood on your sleeve, likely from your head wound. You don’t know where you are, or quite where you should be going. A search of your pockets produces a matchbook from “The Jolly Pirate” club, no address. You also have a note with instructions, “Don’t forget to tell Andre about the plan – he’ll be at the hotel Olympia in the lobby at 7PM.” Who’s Andre? Who wrote the note? “The Jolly Pirate”? What’s going on?
First things first, always the best start. So, where am I? What city is this – it all looks so strange. I’m wandering, block after block, taking random turns. There are no street signs here, so for now, I have no hints about which country this might be.
The streets have been empty of people and cars, but finally I saw a taxi, and flagged him down. After getting into the back seat I still had a problem; I couldn’t understand the driver. After repeated attempts at communication, I mentioned ‘Hotel Olympia’, his eyes lit up a bit, and off we went.
As we pulled up in front of the hotel, I was relieved to see everything presented in English; the hotel name, the newspapers in the rack, the taxi stand signs. Well, that was a relief – apparently my driver was the one with the language problem, not me. I stepped out of the cab, wondering how I was going to pay the driver, and the doorman said, observing my efforts to magically find money, “Mr Edwards, so nice to see you again. Shall I pay the driver for you, and have the amount added to your bill?” I could have kissed his feet. “Yes, yes,” I replied, and practically bounded into the hotel.
At the desk, I was greeted warmly by name, again, and the desk clerk continued, “We have you down for your usual room, sir. Is your baggage coming later?” I nodded, and he handed me the key to room 724. Maybe 724 was my lucky number or something. Well, things were looking up, somewhat. I now had a name, and a place to stay while I sorted this out. For some reason, I avoided spilling my whole story to the desk clerk, choosing to find out what I could on my own.
Next morning, in my room, I did a little detective work. The first thing I found on my little desk was a small stack of brochures, and the top one read, “Things to do in Charleston.” Bingo! But, I wondered why I was here, and, oh by the way, ‘Who is Mr Edwards?’. I can answer, ‘Me!”, but that’s of little help right now. There is also a phone directory, and I found a ‘Jolly Pirate’ club listed. It’s described as a ‘Fun Place on the Riverfront’. A quick call to the front desk, and I now knew that ‘the riverfront’ was only a few blocks away, an easy stroll.
I proceeded cautiously down to the lobby, and upon entering, I took a seat near the elevator and did some ‘people watching’. I had no idea what Andre looked like, so I was really just putting myself out there so this mystery person could find me. After an hour or so, I gave up and headed toward the revolving door.
Outside, dusk had overtaken the city, and it was a pleasant evening in Charleston. Now there were people everywhere, and this was somehow comforting. Earlier, I felt I was trapped in a dreamworld, devoid of people, but now I was just another tourist, out to enjoy The Riverfront, wrapped in the anonymity of the crowd. It was time find out just how jolly this Pirate might be.
After only a block or so, I got the feeling that I was being followed. It’s hard to say how I knew, but yes, there he was, a fellow in a white suit, and matching white fedora, and he would periodically duck into a convenient doorway to avoid my searching glances. Could it be Peter Lorre, or ‘Our Man in Havana’? Yes, I like old movies. Hey, that’s something at least – I have memories of watching black and white movies. I stepped quickly into a doorway myself, and waited.
He passed within easy reach, so I reached out and grabbed him, rather forcefully, right about where his tie was knotted, and slammed him into the corner of the doorway. Apparently, this sort of thing comes naturally to me, as Mr Edwards. I wonder if I have other names. He was struggling, but since I my right hand was holding his shirt collar in an iron grip, and my left forearm was pressed against his throat, he couldn’t get much done except cough and sputter. He started to flail his arms, but more forearm pressure settled him right down, and he relaxed, somewhat.
Maintaining the right amount of pressure, I let him talk. He was angry, no big surprise, and he said, “It’s Andre, you fool! What are you doing?”
Amiably, I asked, “Well, why didn’t you contact me in the hotel lobby, instead of following me?”
He scowled, and said, “You were supposed to find me in the bar, and when you didn’t do that, I found you and followed to see where you were going. Are you working both sides of the street?”
I leaned in harder and said, “I think maybe I’ll just kill you, and wonder about you later. I’m already tired of your attitude!”
He flailed some more, and I relaxed just a bit. This time, he was less strident when he whispered, “Ok, ok – let’s start over. What are you doing? Have you forgotten this plan entirely? We need to team up and go to the Pirate, then we can get the Maltose Falcon. Why anyone would want a stupid bird made of pressed sugar, I don’t know, but that’s what they are paying us for. Here, this is your part of the money, just like you said, $5000.”
My memory was starting to come back now, and the ‘plan’ was coming back to me, after his prompts. Yes, I was to accompany Andre to the ‘Jolly Pirate’, pick up our two helpers, and then we’d head over to Sullivan’s Island, to a place called ‘Poe’s Tavern’. There we’d find Big Nose Johnny, who apparently was blessed with a king-size proboscis. Big Nose was in the way now, and we were to ease him out of the picture.
One memory I was still missing – my motivation for doing all this. It might have made sense before my mystery injury, but now I just had a bad taste in my mouth, and a foul odor in my nose. This whole thing smelled, and I decided to cut my losses and slip away.
I released Andre, and he slumped against the door. I slapped him twice, quickly, and a cut opened up on his cheek. He winced and shrank back.
I leaned in close and said, “I remember now, you’re the one who clocked me with that baseball bat, and I won’t be forgetting you. Steer clear of me from now on, or you’ll be real sorry!” He drew back even more, nodding and sniveling.
I walked away, waiting for my memories to finish filling in, if indeed they would, but for now, back to room 724 for some rest and reflection. And, time to make a new plan.