At two o’clock that afternoon, Zach and Charlie’s bus arrived in Nashville, Tennessee. Then they boarded a train northbound to Columbus, Ohio. By seven o’clock that evening, they arrived in Columbus. From there it took them another two hours by bus to reach Cleveland. Once they reached Cleveland they took a taxi to the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel, located in the Public Square.
The Public Square was the geographic center of Cleveland and the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel had been the premier place to stay since it was built in 1918.
It was nine-thirty in the evening when Zach and Charlie arrived at the hotel. Their trip was exhausting, but when they saw the size of the building they immediately felt exhilarated. It was much larger than their hotel in Memphis. They noticed that each of the windows on the ground level had navy blue awnings, and there were flagpoles over the entrance that displayed large vibrant flags.
A doorman cheerfully greeted them while he held the door for them. He asked if he could take their bags. They both hesitated briefly, and then surrendered their bags. They weren’t used to people catering to them, but they were beginning to get used to it.
Once inside, Zach and Charlie climbed the red carpet staircase through the main entrance into the lobby. They were amazed with the size of the chandeliers that hung throughout the lobby. It had many architectural details, including high ceilings, arched windows, and a dramatic stone fountain in the lobby. The marble floor shined like glass. Sofas and chairs surrounded small round tables that lay upon luxurious rugs that covered areas of the floor, and there were beautiful tropical palms staged strategically throughout the lobby in large decorative pots.
They couldn’t believe they were finally in Cleveland, Ohio. Other than Graziano’s car, the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel was the most sophisticated and luxurious thing they have ever seen. It was a far cry from Zach’s old carnival trailer and Charlie’s old slave quarters where they once lived only a few months ago. They never imagined seeing a place like this, let alone stay in one.
The front desk was sleekly crafted. When Zach and Charlie approached the clerk behind the desk, he greeted them with a polite smile. He was young and looked like a college student. “May I help you?” the clerk asked with a smart smile. He gazed at them with a censorious glare.
“Yes,” Zach said. “We wired ahead and reserved a suite for the week. Our names are Mullins and Franklin.”
“A suite, I see,” the clerk said. He looked as if he doubted Zach. “One moment, please.” He slid open the drawer below the counter, searched through a folder, and removed a card. He looked surprised to find the reservation and that their suite had also been paid in full. “Yes, here it is,” the clerk said. “We have a reservation for Mr. Zachary Mullins and Mr. Charles Franklin.”
“Yep, that’s us,” Zach said. He was relieved they had their reservation. Their trip made them exhausted, and he just wanted to get cleaned up and relax.
“Do you have any form of identification?” the clerk asked.
They looked puzzled at the clerk. “What, like a driver’s license?” Zach asked.
“Yes, that will do, or even a passport,” the clerk said.
“A passport? Are ya kidding?” Zach said. “We’re not traveling to another country, so why do we need a passport? Neither of us drive or have a driver’s license either.”
“Then I’m sorry, sir. Without proper identification, I can’t check you in.” He put the card back into the folder and closed the drawer.
“Wait,” Zach said. “Why do we need identification if it’s already paid for and we’re here?”
The clerk rolled his eyes. “Well, how do we know you are Mr. Mullins and Mr. Franklin?”
“Well, then tell us this Sherlock,” Zach said. His temper was beginning to escalate. “How would we known ya had a reservation for us if we weren’t who we said we were?”
The clerk paused for a moment. He looked as though Zach had made a good point, but then he began to shake his head. “No, no, we need to see some form of identification.”
“Can we speak to your manager then?” Zach asked.
“He’s a busy man,” the clerk said. “We’re all very busy with the exposition and all.” Then he looked on and dismissed them as though they were wasting his valuable time. Then he waved on the next guest in line, but Charlie didn’t budge from where he stood.
“Get your manager ... now ... please,” Charlie said. His deep bellow echoed throughout the lobby. He was tired and hungry, and he wasn’t in the mood for any nonsense.
The night manager overheard Charlie’s thunderous voice rumble from where he sat in his office. He exited his office to find out what was going on. After the clerk explained the situation to the manager, the manager asked to see the reservation card. The clerk promptly removed it from the folder and handed it to him. The manager examined the card carefully and then turned to Zach and Charlie. “This reservation was paid in full by a Mr. Graziano,” the manager said. “You two gentlemen are Mr. Mullins and Mr. Franklin?”
“Yes,” Zach and Charlie said.
“And know Mr. Graziano?”
“Yes, he’s a good friend of ours,” Zach said.
“Wait here then, please,” the manager said. He took the reservation card into his office with him.
Zach and Charlie watched as he picked up his telephone and asked the operator to connect him with the telephone number on the card. He waited for the call to go through.
“I think he’s callin’ him,” Charlie said to Zach.
When his call connected, the manager introduced himself to Mr. Graziano and explained the situation to him. Before he was able to finish, he had to pull the telephone away from his ear. The shouting from the receiver became unbearable.
After the thrashing the manager received from Graziano, he began to apologize into the telephone. When he hung up the telephone, he exited his office and approached the young clerk with his face as red as a beet. “Check these gentlemen in immediately,” the manager said to the clerk. Then he turned to Zach and Charlie and apologized for the inconvenience. He politely informed them that he spoke to Mr. Graziano and that everything was in order. He also informed them that they were staying in one of their nicest suites. “If there is anything you need, I will personally ensure that it will be taken care of immediately.” Then he signaled for the bellhop and handed him their key. “Please escort these gentlemen to Suite A.” He smiled nervously at Zach and Charlie as they followed the bellhop to their suite.
When they got to their room, the bellhop opened the door. The first thing Zach and Charlie noticed was that their suite was bright, spacious and had high ceilings with thick crown molding. The plush spacious room was well-appointed and had upscale amenities. The living area was stately and had two large separate bedrooms that were connected to it.
From the living room windows, they could see the World’s Fairgrounds lit up a few blocks away in the distance. Lake Erie was just beyond it. They found the view fascinating. They were eager to see the fairgrounds, but that would have to wait until the morning since they were hungry and exhausted.
After the bellhop left they called room service, and ordered food, cold beverages and ice. It was hours since they had eaten anything and they were starving.
When their sandwiches arrived, they ate and drank their soda pop as if it were their last meal. Then they headed to their rooms and went straight to bed. They were going to need their rest, tomorrow was going to be a full day at the World’s Fair.