A short story – Champagne please

Champagne bottle and glasses
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I saw her from across the bar. An image of a porcelain figure flashed through my mind as she slipped into a seat in the corner. She was making a note in a small leather diary as I moved towards her. I sat at the next table. She looked up and smiled. I fell in love immediately with her sparkling blue eyes. She spoke first.

‘Nice bar.’

‘Yes, very nice’

Oh, great start. She’s going to be hooked by your devilish sense of humour now isn’t she? I tried again.

‘It’s my one vice, staying here whenever I’m in the area. How about you, been here before?’

‘No, I was just passing and decided I deserved a drink.’

‘Please. Allow me.’

She smiled a perfect smile.

‘Thanks, but I must warn you, I’m celebrating.’

‘So it has to be champagne then!’

She tilted her head slightly and smiled again.

‘Yes. I think it does.’

Champagne bottle and glasses
Champagne bottle and glasses

For once, the waiter was looking straight at me as I turned towards him. A bottle and two glasses arrived in seconds and the conversation flowed. At her invitation I moved across to sit opposite her. We introduced ourselves.

‘So, Emma, what are we celebrating?’

She thought for a moment before looking up at me and smiling again.

‘Let’s just say I’ve got rid of the man who wasn’t making me happy any more.’

She raised her glass and we drank a toast to getting rid of unhappiness.  I accepted the cigarette she offered and produced my lighter. Her cool fingers touched my hand to steady the flame. That smile again. She slipped off her jacket, revealing an expensive looking cream silk shirt. As she twisted in her seat to place the jacket behind her, I started to think of what may lay ahead tonight.  She seemed different, not like the rest.

He was already there as I made my way through the bar. Nice suit. Clean shaven. Too much cologne, but expensive. He seemed nervous. Maybe he’s not like the others. Always too sure of themselves. Probably a rep. Used the hotel before, not like me. Must do OK, sprang for champagne. The waiter kept staring at me. Still, easier to order drinks. He was quite entertaining once he relaxed a bit. I started to enjoy myself. Eyes out on stalks when I took my jacket off. Maybe he is like the others. It’ll cost him! 

I ordered another bottle. This was getting expensive but I figured it was an investment. I don’t suppose my boss will pick up the tab but I had a decent commission coming this month. Let’s live a bit. The waiter lingered just that little bit too long, eyes fixed on her all the time. No tip for you mate.  She asked about my job.

‘I sell surgical equipment: everything from the humble scalpel to huge body scanners.’

‘You must be good at it, judging by the suit and the expensive taste in drinks.’

‘It keeps me off the streets. What about you?’

‘Publishing. Magazines mainly. The glossier the better. Lifestyle, travel, fashion, you know the kind of thing.’

‘Sounds interesting. Who do you work for?’

‘I don’t. They work for me!’

With that, she excused herself and glided towards the bathroom. Alarm bells sounded in my head. Out of my league! My slight exaggeration of the scale of my job and this bombshell scared the life out of me. It was more than a slight exaggeration as well. I sell stationery. I calmed myself. This is just a bit of fun. A one night stand, nothing more. I could flash the cash, bluff my way through and try to get her upstairs. By morning it will all be over. A bit of fun, that’s all – unless she turns out to be just like the rest. Then it won’t matter anyway. Relax, enjoy yourself. This could be fun.

She smiled as she slid into her seat.

‘Are you hungry?’

‘Absolutely.’

‘Great, this is on me – no arguments.’

That was fine by me as the champagne had set me back nearly a hundred already. The waiter carried the remains of our drinks into the restaurant and we were soon settled behind huge menus.

I offered to pay for dinner and he accepted. Conversation was easy but I would bet that he lied about his job. It doesn’t matter of course, we all do it – even me. Twice his eyes lingered a little too long when he thought I was reading the menu. Maybe he is like the rest. When I suggested we take brandy and coffee in his room his eyes almost popped out on stalks. Come into my web!

As we walked to the lift I fingered the ring in my pocket. I must remember to put it back on in the morning. With the other hand, I fingered the blade, cool against my touch. My heart pounded in my chest and ears. She smiled, just like the rest.  I heard a swish of silk as we turned the corner; mouth dry. I fumbled with the key. She laughed and said not to be nervous. If only she knew.

He almost dropped the key. I took it from him, my hand brushing his just a little longer than necessary. A suite – nice.  I took the armchair opposite him. A tap at the door as the drinks arrive. The waiter actually winked at him as he left. Just like the rest. I teased him as we drank. He leaned in to kiss me. I placed a finger on his lips.

She suggested I take a shower while she made herself comfortable. I looked back from the bathroom door as she shook off her jacket. She kicked off her shoes and laughed, pointing to the bathroom. I ducked inside and soon the hot jets of water heightened the pleasure and anticipation. Wrapping a towel round my waist I took the knife from the pocket. Casually draping the jacket over my arm to conceal the blade, I took a deep breath and opened the door.

As he emerged from the bathroom I was ready for him. He hesitated a moment when the bed was empty. He actually turned, eyes bulging, pleading as the knife slid expertly between the ribs. A twist, pull and slash – he fell to the floor, throat gurgling. I wiped the blade on his jacket. Then I saw the glint of metal in his lifeless hand l. I smiled. You can’t trust anybody can you? Just like the rest.

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