Jonathan couldn’t just swing the door shut in the odd man’s face, not with the way those unblinking pair of eyes was bearing into his. He was like that one dreadful thought personified: the kind that nestles in your headspace, and feeds on your pessimism, just when you need everything to go perfectly. The last thing Jon needed on his mind was the mental image of his marriage proposal getting ruined because an armed, trigger-happy sociopath barges into the hotel room, and expresses his unjustified outrage by kidnapping Jon’s to-be fiancé.
The man seemed like he actually might become outraged if Jon shut the door unceremoniously. And unfortunately that wasn’t even the scarier part; the worst thing that could happen to Jon, who was in a fake bellboy uniform, was meet another bellboy named Gideon who might or might not like fake bellboys.
It was befitting, perhaps, to Jonathan that a man should drop by uninvited just as he did. Just his usual luck. His lovey-dovey lady didn’t look so happy about him surprising her at her expensive roost of a double hotel-room either, moreover in some uniform pushing a cart full of specialties that had set Jon back by several thousand bucks.
The godawful price on that wine and she didn’t even bat an eyelid. Jon'd hoped that at least that wine would make her perk up, but she'd just walked off and into the bathroom.
“May I enter if it’s not an interruption?” asked Gideon in a baritone that could make fellas like Javier Bardem, and Rick Astley feel less manly about their voices.
Jon swallowed as the bellboy crossed the threshold.
“Are you having dinner?” asked Gideon, not taking his eyes off Jon.
“Y-Yeah… Dinner. Actually, about to have it. Yeah. Um… If I may be so bold as to ask you -”
“Don’t bother,” cut in Gideon, “I will be off for my shift soon.”
“Yes… but… Can I help you with something?” offered Jon timidly.
“I’m not sure you’re s’posed to be here,” said Gideon, taking careful notice of the interiors but eyeing the exotic looking food a little more than necessary.
“What? No –” Jon faltered. “We b-booked this room.”
“I mean, me,” Jon offered quickly.
“Did they cut you a discount?”
“On the room.”
“Oh… No, actually, I mean… Don’t think I qualified for one.”
Gideon stepped closer to Jon, making him subtly lean away. “Mind if I offer you company?”
Jon must’ve been sweating bullets with the way he felt so threatened.
“Thank you.” Gideon brushed past, seated himself at the table, and added, “I must wait.” He eyed the laden cart again. “Is the wine a gift?”
“Yes, but sir, with all due respect,” began Jon, steeling his nerves, and stepping into the man’s line of sight. “Do you want something? Because… actually, even I happen to be waiting for someone," he lied.
Gideon fixed his unsettling gaze on him once again. “This room musta been out of your budget.”
“No, actually, not at all. I have been saving up… much.”
Gideon’s eyes riveted to Jon’s crotch area. “What kind of man blows months’ worth of his salary on that wine?”
Jon frowned, indignation stirring beneath his mask of apprehension. “I beg your pardon?”
“What kind of man gets too big for his boots?”
“I… This is… This is not any of your b-business, sir, with all due respect –”
“I asked,” continued Gideon, putting his hands away from Jon’s view and into his lap. “What kind of man gets too big for his boots?”
“I… I don’t know…”
“A bigfoot,” Gideon said flatly. A silence followed. The two men let the answer hang, prolonging the quiet too much for Jon’s comfort, before Gideon threw his head back with laughter.
Jon didn’t know if to follow suit. He found the feller’s chortle an even stranger attribute of him than his unassuming scrutiny of bodily areas that fell short of use in a conversation. “That’s… That’s funny, though… I… I, like I said, happen to be waiting for someone and –”
Gideon returned Jon’s stare. “You told me twice. Is it a girlfriend?”
“Yeah… My girlfriend will be here in a few minutes.” Jon wondered what in the world must his fiancé-to-be doing in the bathroom still, and whether his embarrassment would be easy to handle if she announced her presence to the stranger.
Gideon took on a deadly serious tone again. “Has got to be the apple of your eyes to deserve being mollycoddled so much. I trust that she's the love of your life.”
“Yeah… Yeah, she is. I... love her,” Jon said, then emboldened himself. “In fact, I am thinking of proposing to her today, so I'd appreciate it if you allow me my privacy.”
Gideon didn’t budge.
“Why did the wife divorce the bellhop?”
Jon felt the skin on his arms prickle. “I’m sorry, what?”
“Why. Did. The. Wife. Divorce. The. Bellhop.”
Jon moistened his dry lips as he decided to humour the man. “Uh… I guess… Um… Because… She was… She was not his wife? Maybe. Cuz ‘the wife’.”
Gideon’s expression didn’t morph. “Wrong. Because he was carrying too much emotional baggage.”
Jon waited for him to burst into laughter again, but like he had figured, the night wasn’t going as per his expectations at all.
Gideon stared silently.
“Also because she was cheating on him with a rich bastard. Also because she hated being thought of as a liar.”
Jon’s skin was crawling. He could swear he saw a maniacal gleam in the man’s eyes. To his even greater discomfort, Gideon started to shuffle his hand, which was concealed by the table top, around in his lap in the creepiest of ways.
“Then,” Gideon continued, “she divorces him. But he still wants her. He craves her. And he will go to any lengths for her.”
Jon felt like his skin was peeling, as if with each word the man uttered, Jon’s façade was crumbling. His sanctified, affectionate cover that sugar-coated his lustful, self-driven self was eroding in an undignified, ill-timed manner. All his aspirations he had assumed an expensive wine and exotic delicacies could fulfil tonight felt like they were abandoning him alongside his courage and optimism.
A click of locks snapped him out of his thoughts.
He turned to look, and right behind him, out through the slightly ajar bathroom door appeared the person he wanted to see the least at the moment: Anne, his fiance-to-be.
Anne’s smile was constrained. She had to force her words out, just as she was. She saw the two men sitting across from each other at the table, both eyeballing her in a premonitory manner, only one of them an invited guest though. But tonight seemed all about unannounced visitors, all of whom just somehow knew where to find her. She wished she could just run.
But she couldn’t. She had played the right card at the wrong time, and now, she was caught in the trap she had laid for someone else.
“Anne?” went Jon with a quivering voice, almost as if he wanted to sound surprised. “W-What are you doing… doing here?” His eyeballs were bulging in his desperate attempts to gesture Anne, but to both their bad lucks, he didn’t even have an idea that Gideon had drawn a pistol from under the table.
Gideon threateningly motioned to her with his forefinger to be silent. She knew he was planning to pull the trigger soon, but the catch was she couldn’t even hint Jon.
Gideon slipped the firearm underneath the table as slowly as she walked to the table. “Ah, Gideon,” she began in a grudgingly honeyed voice. “Welcome.”
Gideon flashed her an unappealing smile, while Jon’s puzzlement surfaced in his expressions.
“You know this guy?” Jon asked.
“Ah, honey,” Anne furrowed her brows as she turned to him, “you should welcome my guest– guests, you know.”
“You invited him?”
“Yes, I did,” replied Anne, regretting her decision already. “Can I get you a drink, Gideon?” She had to hold it together: she couldn’t let things get any worse than this. She didn’t know that in a single turn of events, both her and Jon’s life would be on the line.
“Yes, my sweet,” Gideon said, “some wine would make this easier.”
Jon nearly looked outraged when Anne grabbed for the wine he had bought for her. As she poured a glass, a weird, metallic sound could be heard. It was as though Gideon was grinding a steel pocketknife with stone underneath the table. A suppressor.
“Honey,” Jon managed, “what’s going on? Who is this man? Why is he here?”
Anne placed the glass of wine in front of Gideon, who suddenly yanked her arm, drawing her face close to his.
“Thanks, my sweet,” he whispered, audibly enough, and kissed her cheek, “I hope you are prepared to fulfil the agreement.”
“Hey, what the hell –” Jon started.
“Honey,” Anne turned to look at Jon, her face contorted. “I’m sorry. I can’t –”
“What’s going on?” Jon’s alarm grew.
Anne straightened up, pulling away from Gideon. She was about to break. “Jon, I… I did something terrible –”
“GIVE UP THE ACT, YOU LYING BASTARDS!” Gideon thundered, and threw a disdainful look at Jon. “And you. Jon? Johnny? Django? Who d’you think you’re fooling, huh? Me? Me? Do you know who in the Lord’s good name I am? D’you?”
Jon was shaking. “I- I- I- don’t- who- what –”
“You,” Gideon gritted his teeth, and smashed the wine glass on the floor, “ugly, selfish pig... You took all that I had left, even when you have more than I could ever have.”
“I- I have no- no- idea –”
“Anne,” Gideon turned to her. “Tell this dumbass to stop lying or I swear I will –”
“Maa ee don uuh gaah.”
A peculiar voice from the bathroom interrupted them. Another bellboy of about forty five emerged, sidling through the ajar door, one hand under neatly folded towels, another holding a toolkit. He looked well-groomed, but what was striking about his appearance was his misaligned jaw.
The bellboy nonchalantly shambled to the midst of the three occupants of the dining room, unfazed as though nothing was out of order.
The bellboy turned to Anne. “Uh deh dah jah.”
Anne nodded, and tried for a smile.
The guy caught sight of the shattered bits of glass on the floor, and shaking his head, bent down, and set aside his toolkit to sweep the glass up onto the towels with his bare hand. He started humming a song, oblivious like a child.
Gideon and Jon traded quizzical looks with Anne, who looked as uncomfortable as one could possibly look.
“What is this guy’s problem?” whispered Gideon, frowning.
Anne mouthed, “He’s deaf.”
“Then why are we whispering?” Gideon’s voice regained its former forcefulness.
“Because y-you are,” Anne replied, standing stiffly next to the bellboy.
“What in the hell was he doing there in the bathroom with you?” Jon chimed in, his eyes betraying some fresh suspicion he was too hysterical to have before. Anne knew it wouldn’t take more than a moment now for Jon to realize that in this game she had started, only he was defenceless. And it was all her fault.
“He’s a p-plumber,” Anne managed to say.
“He’s a bellhop,” Jon said.
“And a plumber too, what’s your point?” snapped Anne, despite the numbing fear creeping down her spine.
“Yeah, and what was he doing?” Jon’s voice grew an edge.
“There was a pipe burst!”
“Yeah,” Gideon snorted, “laying some pipes, now, should that be surprising?”
“Shut up, Gideon,” Anne growled.
“No, no, no, I’m starting to sense I’m missing something,” Jon interrupted, speaking quickly like he used to whenever Anne tried to hide the fact that she wasn’t rich. How else would she land a man so unbelievably handsome? But poor…
“Thank goodness you have some brains, huh?” Gideon mocked. “If some gal tried this kinda hocus-pocus business under my nose, and I had half the brain you got, I would still know what the hell I’m missing.”
“What is he talking about, honey?” Anne could hear a catch in Jon’s voice.
“Don’t believe him,” Anne pleaded. “Please.”
But she knew he wasn’t going to listen to her. Jon asked, “Are you… Are you cheating on me?”
Anne shook her head, tears brimming in her eyes. “No, sweetie, no, no, no, he’s lying! You have to trust me! I swear –”
“Anne, stop lying to the poor bastard now,” Gideon said. “The man deserves to know the truth at least.”
“I’m telling the truth,” Anne said, desperate. “I swear I was planning on spending my whole life with you but- but- this –”
“Aaaaah goop aah maaaaa!” the bellhop burst into singing while picking the shards of glass.
“But what?” Jon was tearing up. “I- I- I thought you loved me… But you… But you are cheating on me with… with him?”
“No!” Anne cried. “I- I- I –”
“I am her ex-husband, you fool,” Gideon said, offended. “Good Lord, if I was as dumb as you, I wouldn’t even be mad my wife is ditching me.”
“W-What?” Jon looked at him. “You…”
“No, Jon! I swear,” Anne sobbed. “I swear I wasn’t going to ditch you. I promise. I-”
“Shut the hell up, woman,” Gideon snapped. “The man's bout to die and you still won’t stop lying to him. Tell him the truth. Tell him how you are going to ditch him after you get him to sign the divorce papers and pocket half his net worth. Tell him how you ditched me, saying I was too broke for your high-maintenance self.”
“Die? Divorce papers?” Jon looked at Anne for an explanation.
“No, no, no, I love you, I promise, but I can’t say–”
The deaf bellhop sneezed.
“TELL HIM!” yelled Gideon.
“Anne, what is he talking about?”
Gideon shot Jon a scornful look. “D’you need me to smack some sense into you? Don’t you see that she has been lying to you the entire time? I’m kinda surprised though, really. You are dumber than I imagined you would be. Plus, bad at lying. I don’t even see why she left me for you. Your dumbass doesn’t even know what her favorite wine is. Can’t buy brains with all that money, can ya?”
Jon looked like he couldn’t decide whether to focus on being incredulous, or bewildered. “I- I- I don’t have a lot of money. She’s the richer one –”
“IS ANYBODY WILLING TO TELL THE TRUTH TONIGHT FOR GOD’S SAKE, OR NOT? Because by the Lord’s good name I am about to let loose hell on you liars.” Gideon drew his firearm and pointed it at Jon, who nearly toppled backwards.
“I’m n-n-not l-lying, I d-d-d-don’t know,” Jon stammered. “Please- I’m- no- no –”
“I’m a fair man, buddy boy, I believe in second chances,” Gideon lowered his voice into an explanatory one. “And that is why I will give you, not two, but three chances to admit your lies.”
Jon swallowed, shaking uncontrollably and blinking rapidly.
“Did you know she left me for you?”
Jon shook his head, and as a tear trickled down his cheek, wiped it with the back of his hand.
“I trust you,” Gideon said. “Is your name Carlos?”
Jon shook his head, but a little less vehemently this time, more out of fear of being mistrusted than anything.
Gideon pressed his lips together, and stared for a jiffy. “Do you love her?”
Jon didn’t move an inch, nor did he steal a glance at Anne.
Gideon looked at his ex-wife, and started chortling again at her horrified face. “This- This- This is your –” he laughed even harder, “This is who you settled for instead of me? A man with money for you, but no affection for you? You made this bastard your husband?”
“I’M NOT HER HUSBAND,” yelled Jon suddenly, lunging at Gideon.
Jon toppled backwards in his chair.
“Do you know what happens to a liar when he dies?” asked Gideon, standing up, to a shell-shocked Anne.
Gideon dropped to the floor like a 6-foot tall domino.
“He lies still.” The deaf bellhop rose to his feet, a gun tucked between the folds of the towels he was carrying. He dragged away the chair at Gideon’s feet, and with a slow but proud gait, went to stand over his dying body.
“Who… are... you?” croaked Gideon as his eyes started to glaze over.
“I’m her husband Carlos,” replied he in a mellifluous voice, as though he didn’t care that he had just shot a person. “And yes, I’m the rich bastard. And yes, I knew she was cheating on me with… what’s his name? Johnny?”
Gideon laid motionless, his last unuttered word having left his mouth agape.
Carlos turned to Anne. “Good job with the pretending, firstly. I thought you might give me away... So much for our last reunion though.”
“I hate you,” she whispered.
“For what? For being smarter than you?” Carlos snorted. “You marry a penniless sociopath first, break his heart, marry me for my money, then fall for a pretty, young face like Johnny’s thinking that I won’t know, then plan to take half my money to lure the penniless idiot kid and promise to run away with him. But no, you had to take it a step further. Promise to pay your ex a good share to shoot me dead some unlucky day without briefing him much, but nah… See, I have ears where none do. Sorry not sorry, but I had to tip poor Johnny about where he’d find you tonight, and Gideon about where he’d find the supposed “me”. I couldn't possibly miss this!"
“Nobody knew about this place, so how did you know where to find me?” asked Anne, not looking away from Jon’s body.
Carlos headed for the door. “Oh, that was easy. I own this hotel too."