It was Sunday morning, the middle of it to be exact. I didn't often get up this late, but I was out on a date last night. I had taken the lady dancing and then we had returned here. I saw her to the door about four-thirty and then went to sleep. Both the dancing and the exertion here wore me out.
I had just sat down with my coffee when the doorbell rang. Christ, I didn't need this. Probably some church group wanting to read to me. One of those groups whose Sabbath was on Saturday.
It wasn't. A man about my age stood waiting for the door to open. He looked somewhat familiar, but I couldn't immediately put a name on him. "Hey John Brooks, long time no see. Invite me in."
"Do I know you?"
"Sure you do. We were in school together. A class ahead of you at BUHS. I was from Putney so maybe you don't remember me."
I tried to place him and it did come to me. "Gordon, ah, Gordon Smith, right?"
"You got it. I smell coffee and I could use a cup." This person was pushing me and I began to resent him. I opened the door and he brushed by me. He was carrying a briefcase and set it down just inside the door. "Geezus, John, you sleep late. I've been sitting in my car across the street waiting for some sign of movement. I didn't want to wake you."
"Yeah, and I didn't expect company today. Is this business or social?"
"Maybe both. I would like to talk to you. It'll take an hour of your time at most.
"Well I might as well brew a fresh pot of coffee while you tell me what you're here for."
"That would work." He said this, but at first didn't enlighten me further. He was looking around and I took the time to observe him while building the pot. He had on a baseball cap, jeans, and a nondescript shirt. The only thing that struck me out of place was his shoes. They were black and highly polished. This jarred my mind enough to remember that back in the far distant past Gordon had gone on to college and then joined the FBI. All of this happened possibly ten years ago.
"Still with the bureau, I notice."
"What do you mean? What makes you say that?"
"Your shoes are polished. Nobody polishes their shoes in today's world. Especially no one from Putney, Vermont."
"You're sharp. I'll have to remember about the shoes."
"Why don't you get to why you're here? You didn't come to see me to remember old times. Not when we'd only had a speaking acquaintance."
"Okay, but first let me rattle off some facts about you. You graduated high school 11 years ago and you are twenty-nine now. You were married with one child, losing both in a single car auto accident with your wife driving. You are partner with your older brother in a business that designs, builds and installs factory inventory transfer systems. The business is quite lucrative, giving you and your brother more than an adequate income of approximately eighty thousand a year. How am I doing?"
"Your nickel. It sounds like I have been investigated. I can assure you it is a legitimate business."
"I agree. Our investigation confirms that it is. Now to your social life; you're dating three different women all with benefits. If you sleep over, you never stay for breakfast and on the same note, if they sleep over, they never stay for breakfast. You have sworn never to get close enough to another woman where marriage is in anyway suggested. You make that understood by the third date so there is no misunderstanding. Would you care to explain why marriage is off the table?"
"No? You must have some good reason."
"I have, in my own mind, but it is nothing you need to know about."
"I can guess the reason, but I'll let that drop for now. I'll try to get to the point of why I'm here. First let me recap your life just a little more. You work everyday, but you are not in charge of the day-to-day operation in the business. You could take a couple of months off and your business wouldn't suffer that much."
"You're correct in that, and with today's technology I can stay connected no matter where I am."
"The proposition I'm leading up to is one where that wouldn't be possible. It would be one where you would be out of touch completely. The cover is that you would be on vacation. At the end of that time, you would come back and resume your daily work habits. When you return you could tell everyone about the wonderful vacation you had and how you met the love of your life."
I stared at Gordon and started shaking my head, denying that this was going to happen. "John, there is a little child involved. The government has invested a lot of time on this project. This has to happen in the next few days or an agent may be killed and possibly the child too. You wouldn't want that to happen, would you?"
"Damnit, Gordon, cut the bull shit and spell it out. You've been dancing around something and all you've given me are some hints. Just enough so if I turn this down I'll feel guilty. I'll probably turn you down anyway. Get with it. Right now I'm telling you no to whatever you are going to suggest. I'll only leave the door open just a crack. You can try to convince me to open it up fully, but I doubt it."
"Okay, John, now I have your attention. I knew after we looked at you this was going to be difficult. My superiors just ordered me to do it and I said I would try."
"Keep talking. You still haven't given me anything. You're going about this all wrong. Spell it out or get out." I think now I had Gordon's attention.
"John, this is the FBI's protection program I'm referring to. We've built a background for a woman, but we find it isn't enough. We have taken an orphan child out of social services to be with the witness, but still it isn't enough. We need another level of safety for her. She could be killed if she is found. We think adding a husband, a child and a change of name will do it. I'm here to convince you."
"It's a damn poor way you've gone about it. I'll listen, but I won't promise anything until you explain it all." I stopped and looked at Gordon. He was weighing what he was going to say. "That is if you ever really get to it."
"Fair enough. Capsulated it's this. Homeland Security and various other agencies worked this person into a terrorist cell years ago and she has been working undercover for the last four years. You know those leaks that have been happening? Well, we realized early on that she may have been outed. When this was confirmed, a five-man team went in and got her out of there. This happened a few months ago. We lost two men because the terrorists were waiting for them. The agent was also wounded, but has survived. Now we need to find permanent protective cover for her."
"How old is she?"
"She's twenty-seven. She is so paranoid she claims she probably won't see twenty-eight. The bureau has retired her and we need to put her somewhere far away from her former life."
"Was she in and out of the country? I'm asking, would she be recognized if she traveled to certain areas here in this country?"
"Just what was her job, anyway?"
"She worked mainly as a courier between the U.S. and the mideast by way of Spain. She was pretty damned visible and that was intended by the terrorist thinking if she was visible she must be just a tourist and just what she appeared to be. She's never been to New England. Her travel was always from the District of Columbia and points south."
"So what is it you want from me?"
"John, it isn't what is wanted, but what is needed. This woman served her country extremely well and saved untold American lives in her capacity as an undercover agent. We believe her terrorist cell has been wiped out. The problem lies with the parent organization. They want her dead. You would be serving your country if you would take her on as your wife and the child that she brings with her. Everything is in place for the child to be adopted. This would take place at the time of your wedding. This makes the cover deeper."
"So what you are trying to convince me of is my gaining a wife and child within the next two months. Why don't you just have them move in with me?"
"Not safe enough. The plan would be for you to take on a false identity and get married under an established false identity. You both would be secreted in a safe house. You would then marry using your real name and the child would join you at this time. This should cut her trail to the bad guys forever. They won't be looking for a married woman with child and living in a community where she apparently grew up. In essence, two levels of security. We have the paperwork already generated to make this happen."
"Why would this take two months?"
"Because she has a distinctive southern drawl that she should get rid of. We would want the child to bond with you and your wife by calling you Mommy and Daddy. You would have to settle on a common background. We expect that in two months time she can eliminate her southern roots and take on New England ones. If she is ever looked at they will see she knows the history and events that have happened around this area. She'll be good at that. She is quite intelligent and will pick it up very quickly."
"What's her name and where was she originally from?"
"That's something that is better you don't know."
"So after we learn all of this we will be acting as husband and wife and all that goes with it?"
"Of course. She really will be your wife. Your marriage will be a true marriage. Not one in name only."
"Can I at least see a picture of her before I agree to this?"
"Sure. More importantly you should look at the child. My superiors worked hard to choose a child that was similar in looks like the one you lost."
"You really want to tear me apart don't you? I think I'll pass."
"You can't. Your country needs you. Think what will happen to that woman if she is found? She already has had three bullet holes drilled in her and has survived. The government needs to get her into an environment where she is safe for the rest of her life. Think of the child if not the woman. The child is an orphan and we've already taken her from the institution."
"You bastards have a lot to account for. It is you who should be thinking of the child and what you have done to her. I'd say the woman was expendable, but not the child."
"You can save them both." Gordon and I had a staring contest. He won.
"Let me see the picture of the child." I examined the picture intently. This three-year-old-girl looked so much like my lost little one it sent shivers up my spine. "Now let me look at the woman." I fully expected this person would resemble my wife, but here I was greatly mistaken. The woman in the picture was very thin and pale. She had a sad, hopeless look on her face.
The woman was dressed in a blue cotton gown which had no style. It was just something to cover her and I suspected it was something furnished by the recovery staff. It was difficult to tell if there was any womanly shape to her at all. Gordon handed me one more picture. This had to have been one before she had been shot. She was dressed in jeans and a maroon top. She wasn't overly endowed but that made little difference to me. The jeans were rounded out nicely and the rest of her appeared adequate. I made up my mind.
Gordon took my acceptance in stride, just as if I had agreed when I first opened the door an hour ago. "You will leave Boston for Chicago tomorrow afternoon at four. There will be a seatmate with you. Keep any discussion low if you speak to him. Better if you don't hold any conversation other than the weather. When you reach O'Hare he will walk ahead of you and there will be a vehicle ready to pick you up. Follow your seatmate into it. Can you get to Boston in time for the flight?"
"I'll have to get my brother to transport me. How long before I leave here and how will I be traveling? I'm always flying off somewhere on short notice. My brother and my mother expect it. Todd drives me and I take a bus home when I return."
"Your mother is still living? I wasn't aware."
"Just goes to show, you aren't perfect. One thing, you better have the woman cut her hair. A shoulder-length pageboy is pretty distinctive. Maybe have the child with her for the haircut and if the little girl wants a cut at the same time like her mother, that would help them bond."
"Aren't you going to ask names for mother and daughter? He was grinning as he said this."
"Why? I'm assuming they are all false. Maybe not the little girl's. I hope you haven't given her my dead daughter's name."
"We aren't that insensitive."
"Thank you for that. I'll make sure my brother can drive me to the airport. We can discuss the company business at that time. I'll go see my mother this afternoon and tell her I'm leaving. I'll tell my dad, but he won't pay attention. There is a ball game on this afternoon."
"You seem to have everything covered. Here are the tickets for your flight. You haven't asked about what the government is paying you for remuneration."
I smiled at Gordon. "I would suspect they will pay me anything I ask for within reason. I'll take it up with your superiors. I doubt you have the power to haggle."
Gordon was shaking his head. "You'd make a good agent. Being an agent takes attitude and you seem to have a lot of it. Anyway, I'm supposed to hand you $3,500. It will be two months before you return. That will cover your monthly expenses here on your home. It is made out to your company. My superiors will explain why. Something about not burdening you with extra taxes. Oh, and leave your credit card home. You won't need it. Here's one you can use."
"I'll leave now. I don't know if I will see you again. I've accomplished what I set out to do. John, you are doing the right thing for your country and I have faith it will be for you too."
"You had better get to hell out of here, Gordon, before I change my mind about this."
I called my brother and asked him to come see me. "I'm busy. I'll see you tomorrow at the shop."
"Todd, I need you to see me now. This is urgent."
"You in trouble of some sort?"
"Maybe. I can't tell you much, but I do need to see you."
"Okay, put the coffee on." I could always count on Todd.
Twenty minutes later, "Hey Todd, thanks for coming. Coffee is poured."
"Good. What's got your shorts in a bind?"
"Todd, I had a visitor this morning. He was a government man. He has asked me to do something for the country. That's about all I can tell you. Also I need you to drive me to the airport in Boston by two tomorrow afternoon. I think I'll be gone about two months. I'll be talking to Mom and Dad and telling them I'll be on a vacation paid for by one of our clients. I want you to back me up on this."
"Where are you flying to?"
"The midwest. After that I don't know."
"It doesn't sound like you know much about this?"
"I don't but it is something I have to do. I also need you to keep my house up. I may not be able to tell you just when I'm coming home. I have a check here to pay my bills. It is made out to both of us c/o the Material Handling Company. I'll give it to you now." I scribbled my signature and handed it over.
Todd peered at it. "Why is it made out to us jointly?"
"Probably to confuse anyone who might question me. I can say it was to pay a bill for services rendered. Just deposit it. I'm sure it will clear."
"This is some of that damned cloak and dagger stuff isn't it?"
"More than you want to know. I'm going over to spend the afternoon with Mom and Dad. I'll pack a satchel tonight and we'll leave for Boston before noon tomorrow. You can drop me off at the airport and come right home if you want to. I'll need to go through security and get the boarding pass."
"You're sure you won't tell me more?"
"I'm sure. Anyway it doesn't concern you that much."
"Okay, I'll let it go." That was my brother. We've always had a good relationship no matter whatever we each were involved in.
I went over to my parents early in the afternoon. The first thing Mom asked was if I would stay for supper and I said I would. "Invite Todd and Mary and the kids. I'm all set to go on vacation tomorrow. Todd is taking me to the airport. I have tickets for a city out west. When I reach there, I'm going to rent a car and travel around and see the sites."
"John, that's great. It is about time you got away from here and broadened your horizons. You might even meet someone. Someone who will make you put the loss of family behind you."
"I doubt it, Mom, but it could change. I've pretty much come to grips with the past."
"Maybe that's good, but you do need someone to make you forget. You know all of these women you have been dating are soon going to give up on you ... and then where will you be?"
"Mom, we've gone over this before. Let it be." I wasn't giving out any hints of what had been set out for me. If I showed up with a child who called me Daddy my mother would be happy. She was as crushed as I was when her granddaughter died.
I naturally thought a lot of Todd and Mary's two kids and they thought a lot of me. The boy, Todd Junior, was seven and the girl Ginny, was almost ten. Mary worked out for a few hours a day. She arranged her schedule so she was home most of the time when the kids were. I often helped them with their homework after supper if Mary and Todd wanted to do something together. I was going to miss them during these next two months.
Mary was a little upset that I was going on vacation for so long and told me that next year it was Todd's turn to have an extended vacation. I agreed that it was a good idea and I would take over his duties. I said goodbye to Mom and Dad. Todd was staying a little longer. I knew Mom would try to find out more about my sudden decision to go on vacation. She wouldn't learn much. I could look forward to at least one more inquiring phone call from Mom before I left because she was a person who just had to know.
I went home, packed underwear, a couple of shirts, a pair of kakis and one pair of dress pants. If I needed a suit and I well might, I would buy one off the rack. I would wear jeans and a tee shirt to travel in. I was going casual.
I went to bed fairly early. Gordon had left the pictures of the woman I was to marry and spend the rest of my life with. I soon put these aside and lay looking at the little girl. I had lost mine when she was three and this one looked about the same age. Tears came to my eyes. Gordon had said this little girl was an orphan. God, she must be lost and lonely. I went to sleep with the picture of her in my hand.
On the way to Boston, Todd said, "You don't seem too excited about going on vacation."
"Todd, don't ask questions. I'll tell you what I can when I return. I'll caution you and the rest of the family that some of what I'll be..." Then I hesitated. "No I'm not going to tell you anything now. You'll just have to wait."
"Okay, if I have to I will. Mary is going to make my life hell with her questions though."
"I suppose, but I can't help it." After that we discussed what Todd would have ahead of him in keeping the business going for the next two months.
I was a more than an hour early so bought a book from the rack to pass the time. I was a fast reader so knew I would finish it by the time my flight set down at O'Hare. I kept my eye on the different people who were waiting to board. I couldn't pick anyone out that would be my seatmate. I did have to check my bag because it was too big for a carry-on. I had a window seat. Just before the plane was ready to fly a man, sixty, rumpled suit, white scraggly hair slid in next to me on the aisle. He just nodded, but didn't speak.
I turned to my book until we started down the runway and then I watched as we rose into the sky. I spent fifteen minutes looking down at the distant ground and horizon and went back to my book. No word at all from the man next to me.
Just as we were descending he asked, "Luggage?"
"I'll wait while you pick it up and then you are to follow me at a distance. Get into the same SUV right after me." I nodded that I understood the directions. My bag was one of the first on the carousel and I picked it up looking around for my guy. He was thirty feet away and he started walking. When we reached the front area, a black vehicle with tinted side windows pulled up and he got into the front seat. The back passenger door was opened from the inside and I slid in. No word was said.
The driver was a young man, dressed much like I was. We pulled away immediately. There was a woman sitting beside me. She looked to be not much older than my twenty-nine. Her first words were to query me, "How are you set for the restroom? We have a two-hour trip give or take."
"I'm good for that long. I went on the plane."
"Fine. Before we get to the next stop, I'm going to change your looks and I'll be asking you to wear a blindfold for a half hour before we reach our destination. We're taking you to one of our safe houses. This isn't to protect you so much, because you aren't in any danger, but to protect others who might have to use the house. Not necessary for you to know the location."
The man in front that sat beside me turned to me, asked, "I noticed you finished the book you were reading. May I have it?"
I was feeling cute. "Sure you can have it. You can check my fingerprints and probably you can lift some DNA if you need to." The three were silent. The driver looked into the rearview mirror and the guy in front stared back at me. I glanced at the woman beside me. I smiled at her and said in a gravelly voice, "Just kidding, lady."
"Looks like we have a jokester here. I was informed your name is John. So Johnny, would you like to explain why you are so light-hearted?"
"Hey why wouldn't I be? I'm about to be married and I'm soon to meet a little girl who looks much like the one I lost. You people have given me a chance for a do-over. Why wouldn't I be light-hearted?"
"So, it's the child and not the woman you are interested in. Gordon said he wondered about why you changed your mind so suddenly."
"Oh, the woman is part of it and I may not love her as much as I did my wife, but I can treat her with respect and be nice. That is as long as she is a good mother to my new daughter."
"You're a strange person."
"Well, this is kind of a strange situation I've found myself in isn't it? I don't think anyone knows how it will play out yet. I get the idea that there is some danger involved, no matter what you say. I get married under a false name and then I disappear and immediately get married again using my own name before even becoming acquainted with someone I'm expected to spend my life with. Gordon told me this little girl is an orphan and hasn't ever had any parents to love and care for her.
"I know I can be a good father to her and I'm willing to go a long way for the woman. From what little I've been told, I'm guessing this person has never done any parenting, so I'm looking forward to showing her how to be a good mother. What do you know about her?"
"I know she is intelligent and the last several weeks have been mighty rough on her. She was wounded and one of the terrorists she worked with was someone she had drawn close to. We think he was the first one killed. Whether that will affect your relationship, I have no idea. You will have to deal with it though."
"That fact was kept from me. This might make our being married a bit difficult."
"You'll have two months to sort it out. Don't give up before you even meet her. I was just warning you so you won't say something that will drive her to dislike you.
"You mean like if I declared I hate all terrorists and there never was a good one. Years ago people used to say that the only good Indian was a dead one. Something like that?"
"You are very perceptive."
"Thank you for telling me. What have you told her about me?"
"She has been told that you are a really nice person and that she would come to love you after a period of time. You can take it from there. Are you surprised by any of this?"
"No, not really because there are always some facts omitted and I knew there would be. One more question. What happens if we are incompatible and can't get along?"
"That will be for your handler to sort out if you can't get along. Meeting you, and talking with you for these few moments, I don't believe there will be any problem. This woman knows she needs to keep out of the spotlight so she will be trying nearly as hard as you to make a go of it. You have to remember her protection will be totally in your hands."
"I think I can do that."
"It's time to put your blindfold on. First I'm going to fit you with a wig and put a moustache on you. I'm good at this so you'll look quite natural. Three hours from now you will be a married man. A retired judge will officiate and the wedding will be recorded."
"I'm not wearing anything suitable."
"A suit in your size is waiting on you when we first arrive. The ring will be in your pocket. You will meet your child two days from now. That will give you time to become familiar with your wife."
"Just how familiar am I supposed to be?"
"That's entirely up to you. I hope you won't be boorish and I have faith you won't be."
"Question: Am I going to get to know you more than just during this ride? I'd like to become your friend."
"My husband wouldn't approve. And no, I won't be seeing you after the first month."
"Would you tell me your name or do you go by 'Nice Lady?'" I was intrigued with this woman. And just a little sorry she was married. Her husband had to be one lucky person.
"I guess it had better stay as 'Nice Lady.' You are a charmer though." She handed me a curly black wig to put on. She went about making sure it fitted over my natural hair. Where a few strands escaped, she took shears and snipped them off.
Then she picked a moustache out of the case she was holding her lap. The color was identical to my wig and when it was affixed she trimmed it neatly. She colored my eyebrows. "This will rinse right out. Luckily it won't be warm enough to sweat and make the color run. Now I have to have you put on the blindfold. I hope you aren't claustrophobic?"
"No' I don't think so." I put the mask over my eyes and 'Nice Lady' made sure it was adjusted properly so I couldn't see. I sat back and relaxed. I had no way of telling, but it seemed like a pretty lengthy time before I could feel the vehicle slow down and pull into a driveway. I heard a garage door opener and shortly we drove forward. My door car opened and I was helped out. I thought my blindfold would be removed, but it wasn't.
I was guided forward. "Put your right hand out and you will find a hand rail. You have four steps up." I knew I was entering into a kitchen when I was urged forward. It smelled like roasting chicken. Still the blindfold wasn't removed. My guide, whom I thought was still the nice lady, kept me going. I sensed there were other people in the room I was being walked through.
"Hi Caitlin, back already?"
"Shut your mouth. You know you aren't supposed to name any names. Now he knows what my name is. Keep it up and I'll have you tossed back out into the cold. I can only save your ass if you do exactly what I tell you."
I now knew what the nice lady's name was. I also knew I wasn't alone in the safe house. Other people were quartered here. I was walked down a hallway and into a room where I was told to sit. This time I was told I could remove the mask over my eyes. "Okay, you can change your clothes now. They are in the closet. I didn't realize that you would be seen when I brought you in. I had better change your disguise again. I'll make sure you aren't seen going out. I'll be back in a minute. We'll be leaving again soon."
"Why bother? I take it I won't be returning here."
There was a half-bath and I used that for relief. I wanted to take a shower, but there was none here. I must have been nervous because I had perspired some and the weather was warm. My satchel was by the door. I dug out some unscented deodorant and I did take the time to change my underwear before donning the shirt that I found hanging under the grey suit jacket with the trousers. Black shoes were on the floor beneath the suit. I looked at myself in the mirror. Not too shabby!
Almost as soon as I was dressed, Caitlin opened the door. She had another wig and moustache that matched the new wig. "Really Caitlin, this isn't necessary. I'm in disguise already."
"I guess you're right and we have to get going. We're behind schedule. Never mind the blindfold if you promise not to look around and will forget anything you see."
"I can do that. What's next?"
"Back into the vehicle and on to your wedding. We have twenty-five minutes to get there." The rooms we went through to get to the car were now empty.
"Okay, let's go. I'm anxious to be married."
Caitlin stopped me and said. "John, you can kid about this wedding all you want to because it is a throw-away event. The next one in two days is an actual one. You should be serious since it could last you a lifetime."
"I do understand all of this. I just try for a little humor sometimes and I guess I was being facetious."
"Actually John, you are very good to work with. You are some different than many of the assholes that come through here. I think the woman who you are marrying will find she is a lucky person. Just don't forget that she deserves the best for what she has done for our country. She was one of our top operatives and we were lucky to save her. In a way you are the prize she won for her dedication."
"Caitlin, I think I'm going to keep thinking of you as that nice lady. By the way, what is your last name?"
"Caitlin Bluth is my name." I was asked to put my head down between my legs as we pulled out of the garage. When I was told it was okay, I sat back in the seat with my eyes closed. I was trying to keep Caitlin thinking I was a nice guy too.
We were moving along city streets and finally the traffic diminished. We soon pulled into a driveway. "We're here John." I looked about. We were sitting next to a two story house with a light on by the back door. Again we entered through a kitchen, passing by a dining room and then we entered into a big room with a fireplace. There was a Bible stand off to one side.
Just then a door opened and the woman who was to be my wife walked in with a man I took to be one of the agents. Caitlin was looking at me and spoke. "Burtrum, Sandy is now ready to join you as your wife. Randall, the man beside her will be your witness. I'll be Sandy's. The judge will be in to marry you in a minute. Sandy has her engagement ring on and Burt, you can dig out your wedding rings. Burtrum Polk, meet Sandra Cassidy. I have the license in hand." I didn't have time to more than glance at my soon-to-be wife, before she took her place beside me.
Caitlin walked across the room and knocked on the door. A doddering old man came out. He had a few papers in his hand and I could see they were in large print. This was apparently the wedding ceremony. The service was a disaster. The judge dropped the papers and we had to wait to have them picked up and returned to him. Of course they were out of order and he repeated some of the words twice. But I guess we were married, or would have been if this were a true wedding.
We were now man and wife. "Mr. and Mrs. Polk you may kiss." I brushed Sandy's lips with mine and hugged her lightly. I then turn to Caitlin and hugged her while Sandy hugged Randall. I shook his hand and Sandy and Caitlin clung together momentarily. I'd guess they knew each other. We thanked the judge and he wished us a happy future. We returned to our vehicle. Sandy was now sitting beside me. Her hand came over and held mine.
"Burt and Sandy, I have ordered a wedding dinner at the hotel for you. Your room has been reserved for tonight and tomorrow night. It is late for the dining room, so you will have to consume it in your own room. I'll leave you alone to get acquainted and I'll be seeing you at checkout time the following day."
As we got out of the vehicle, Caitlin said our luggage had been delivered to our room. We entered and I went to the desk for our key card. I was informed that our dinner would arrive in twenty minutes. I had my first chance to look at my wife in the elevator. I knew the glasses she wore were probably for disguise. She was dressed in an off-white sheath that didn't fit well and she didn't fill much of it out either. Her hair color was much different than what she had in the picture that Gordon had shown me.
I began to smile and was challenged, "What are you laughing at?"
"I'm not laughing at you. I was just wondering what we are going to look like when our disguises are removed."
Sandy then smiled with me. "I was wondering the same. Sometimes I wonder what I look like myself. I've had my looks changed so many times I wonder if there is any true me. I certainly will look different when my health improves."
"What is the long term prognosis?"
"Bodily functions will be normal. Looks not so much... ; that is, when I keep the scars from showing. They won't bother me that much, but they will generate some questions and comments you might have to answer. You will be asked why you would marry such an ugly person."
"We can work up a story to cover the questions, I'm sure. It will be up to you. Here's our floor."
We had a nice large room and our clothes, what few we had with us, had been unpacked. Just as soon as we looked around, Sandy excused herself and went into the bathroom. When she came out, I used it.
"So what now?"
"Sandy, we are both hungry. Let's put off any serious discussion until that is finished. Maybe we should wait until morning because I'm quite weary. It has been a long day and I suspect I'm somewhat jet-lagged."
"You mean we aren't going to consummate our wedding status tonight? I thought you would want to do so immediately."
"I'm good. I had sex last Saturday. If I had known I was going to be suddenly married so soon, I wouldn't have made the date with the woman."
"Was she a special someone?"
"No, just a good friend. You'll meet her at some point. Neither of you should be jealous."
"Are you a jealous person? There are some things in my past that could cause you pain if you knew about them. However, they were all job related and you shouldn't be jealous."
"Fair enough." Just then our meal arrived. It was a full meal, with appetizers, wine, a small whole chicken, three sides, coffee, and a cheesecake for dessert. When we were satiated, I leaned back and sighed. "That was a really fine meal. Better than I've received at most wedding receptions I've attended."
"I've forgotten. It has been years since I attended one. I've been out of circulation for many years. I'll pack up the dirty dishes and you can wheel the cart out into the hall. I'm going to get ready for bed soon."
"I'll see if I can find some news on TV. Take your time." I sat in the recliner thinking about this woman who was my so-called wife and who was soon to be for real. I hadn't seen anything in her makeup that would grate on me. I hadn't seen anything that turned me on that much either. She was friendly in a distant sort of way. Well, maybe I was, too.
When Sandy came out she was wearing a robe. What she had on under it I couldn't tell. I showered. I did remove my wig and was careful about not getting my moustache too wet. I wasn't cautioned about it, but didn't know how solidly it was affixed. I put on a clean tee and wore new briefs when I crawled in next to my so-called wife.