Communication can be difficult, especially when it's easy.
As he stood up from the limousine, the first bellboy pounced. "Welcome, sir. Please follow me. Joseph, help them with the bags." (You look rich. So let Joe do the work, and give me the tip.)
The young man introduced himself as he led them across the lobby past the front desk. "I'm Peter. Anything you need, just let me know, sir." (Keep the cash flowing, and I'll suck up just as much as you like.)
He provided the essential service of pushing the 'up' button on the elevator panel. When Peter turned, he stiffened, just for a moment, as he took note of the two men who'd followed from the car. Humorless, dark clothing, intent. Bodyguards.
The door opened, allowing them all to board. "Will you be staying with us for a while, sir?" (How much cash are we likely to extract from you, anyway?)
"My plans are not settled yet." (Excessive curiosity jeopardizes your tip.)
He stole a glance at the impassive faces at the front and side of the elevator. "I see, sir." (Shit! I'm sorry, I'll be good!)
Thereafter Peter was a model of laconic decorum as he showed them the facilities of the executive suite. Two large bedrooms, two bathrooms, a well-appointed central room. It would do.
Joseph arrived with the bags as Peter was finishing. Thame pulled out his wallet and presented each man with a fresh twenty. He nodded to Joseph. "Your efforts are appreciated." (Your efforts - as opposed to Peter's - are appreciated.)
The bellhops left with dissimilar expressions - Joseph smiling, Peter nervous.
Stephan and Alejandro had already begun sweeping the rooms, attempting to satisfy themselves no traps or bugs lurked about. Thame loosened his tie, opened his briefcase, and started looking over the faxed reports from far-flung subordinates. Most of them were garbled and scrambled. Useless ... to anyone but him.
The border dispute between China and India bore watching. It would be stupid for either side to escalate - but nations weren't always sensible. And when they weren't, there was often money to be had. Which side would be better to sign on with, though? At first glance, India seemed more promising, all told. More accepting of mercenaries. But long-term concerns might urge a different choice.
He'd had time to get through two briefings before his security team conceded they couldn't find issues ... yet. Thame gathered up the papers and made for the desk in one of the bedrooms.
Alejandro spoke up as he passed. "Need anything, sir?" (Will you be working long?)
"Not at the moment." (Into the night, I fear.) "Perhaps you could look into some companionship for the evening?" (Get me a girl. You know what I like.)
"I'll check, sir," Alejandro replied. (I don't care how horny - or lonely - you are, security comes first.)
"That will be all for now, I think." (I'll stay here until morning, just keep the room secure.)
"Fine, sir." (Keep the shades drawn this time.)
He had some difficulty getting back to the briefings. It was disconcerting how much had changed in eight months. He hadn't rated such elaborate protection before.
Stephan and Alejandro had always been assigned to high-risk clients since he'd hired them. Former soldiers in Spain, they had become bodyguards afterward. Set assassins to block assassins, went the logic - and it had proven sound logic several times.
But his own risk was rather higher, now.
Her voice sounded sharp, but it wasn't the phone's fault. Her frustration would have been obvious, even before. "Two weeks?" (Your daughters are growing up without you!)
"Nichevo." (It can't be helped.) Usually he stuck to Greek anymore, though sprinkled with words from a dozen other tongues. Such as that wonderful Russian term. It conveyed resignation and fatalism so perfectly.
As his first language, though, Greek was the easiest to carefully phrase things in. There had been some embarrassing incidents before he'd hit upon the trick of making neutral comments, letting the message he intended get conveyed.
Portia didn't sound mollified. "Come home as soon as you can." (Or else.) "I love you." (Though you make it hard sometimes.)
"I love you too." (Despite your harangues.) "See you soon." (As I can.)
He hung up the phone and sat for a moment. This life had never been in his plans. When he'd gone into intelligence, it had been in a nice quiet office. Even when he'd worked late, it was only twenty minutes from home.
Now he was away far more often, and for far longer, than ever before. And he still wasn't sure if his family was safer or not.
Alejandro would give him hell later, he knew, but he pulled open the curtains and looked out at the clouds. Natural scenes were restful now. If trees or clouds or mountains or rivers contained messages from God ... those, at least, he could not interpret.
He went back to reviewing more reports, jotting down recommendations. Choosing clients was enormously more important now. They needed jobs Scylla could accomplish - ideally ones no one else could do. But they couldn't be jobs that would make irreconcilable enemies.
Not yet, at least...
A knock at the door to his room. Stephan leaned in. "Sir? Dinner is here." (I agree with Alejandro about the drapes, you know.)
"Thank you." (Fine, fine. I'm closing them.)
The evening sun had just fully set when another knock came at the door. Alejandro called through, "Sir?" (She's here. The girl you wanted.)
"A moment." (Let me secure my papers.)
It took scant seconds to store the reports in his briefcase and lock it. He came to the door and opened it.
Stephan had the better English. "Mr. Panagitis will see you now." (She's clean, no weapons.)
Thame's eyes widened briefly. The young woman was, of course, attractive. He'd guess her at one hundred seventy centimeters without the heels, clean-limbed, with a slender waist that accented her rounded bosom and hips. Full lips, nose slightly wide, open brown eyes. Smooth skin, naturally. All to be expected, given the price he could afford to pay. What he hadn't expected was the tone of the the skin - a rich brown, coffee with at most a hint of cream. And her black hair was lustrous, but tightly curled.
Her dress was tan, sleeveless, and while not overly tight, followed her curves with suppleness. As befitted her station as a higher-end escort, the skirt was above the knee but comfortably below the hips. The neckline revealed an enticing rather than titillating amount of cleavage. The heels matched the dress and were perhaps just a centimeter or two higher than average. A light wrap, necessary on a March evening, hung off one arm. She held a small red clutch in one hand; he noted the shade matched her nails.
She stepped forward, smile firmly in place. "Very pleased to meet you, Mr. Panagitis." (I think maybe you're not pleased to meet me. But I'm a competent professional.)
He smiled himself as he stepped back, waving her into the bedroom. "Thame, by all means. And you are?" (Let's be friendly, or at least professional.)
"Candace. Or Candy. You pick." Her smile never wavered, but he sensed her meaning. (It'll help tell me what kind of night I'm in for.) While she approached, she was taking in data - his dark hair and eyes, his beard, the slight frown-lines around his eyes. His tall frame, square though not overbroad shoulders. His expensive shirt and shoes, the fashionably-pastel suit pants.
"I'm pleased to meet you as well, Candace." (I'd prefer a young woman, not a girl.) She brushed by him and he closed the door.
Her eyes were making an experienced sweep of the room as she set her wrap and purse down on the table by the door. Taking in the tidiness, the lack of alcohol smell. The matching jacket and tie set neatly aside. "You seemed a little surprised just now." (You're disappointed I'm not white, right?)
"A surprise is usually an opportunity, I've found." (Actually, I'm intrigued.)
"Have you been to Atlanta before?" (Haven't run into too many black people, have you?)
Americans had such a toxic attitude about race. Slavery had left deep wounds that had closed with a great deal of scar tissue. Europe's colonialism had been no better in practice, except that it had fostered a certain isolation. Racism by policy, not everyday behavior. Segregation was less marked.
"No, though it seems a very pleasant city. Certainly the people are interesting." (Please, relax. I'm not what you fear.)
A very slight frown as she visibly put the issue aside. "Where are you from?" (I can't figure out if you have an accent or not.)
"Greece, originally. Now ... an endless number of hotels, it seems." (I'm hoping for some companionship as well as sex.)
"Wow, you sound like you grew up around here." For once, words and intent were congruent.
He replied with the same alignment. "I have a special talent for languages."
She glanced at the door. "Are those guys gonna stay out there?" Several meanings there. (I don't want an audience) along with (I want to be able to run if you turn out to be a creep) and (If you need bodyguards, I don't want to get in any crossfire).
He responded in kind. "They're very discreet." (I'm the only one you're here to entertain) along with (You have nothing to fear from me) and (They're just a precaution).
.... There is more of this story ...