July 7th, 2007
Maxwell Eaton was late for the meeting. He was always late for meetings. Either because of his binging the night before or because of his hangover the next morning.
This morning was no exception.
But as far as Eaton was concerned, if his company was paying for the hotel, he was going to take every advantage of it. And that meant the in-room mini bar.
Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, he stared into the mirror in hopes of making himself more presentable.
Looking back at him was a waste of a human being. Hair askew from static. He was actually surprised his body moved as much as it did to generate electricity. But that’s what happens when you sleep on the wool carpet in front of the bed. He quickly looked back and checked out the sweat stained area when he collapsed. No puke. Excellent. Better than expected. No need to brush my teeth this morning. No one liked puke breath.
He considered calling his wife. He let that idea pass as quickly as the gas which burst forth from his rectum seconds later.
Eaton took a deep inhale. Man, what the crap did I eat last night? Glad Gayle wasn’t here to smell that.
Gayle, his wife, hated these week long sales trips.
She wasn’t worried about him cheating. No. She actually aspired for that. At least she’d understand that. Cheating with someone younger, tighter, hotter seemed logical. But she knew his vice was at the bottom of the bottle. After that, no one else could make room in his pants. To her, liquid friendship was not one she welcomed, and not one she could fathom.
Eaton ran his hands over his huge gut. His hairy belly almost seemed to rumble under his meaty fingers. Eaton was a sad fifty year old salesman.
He knew he could sell.
His bosses knew he could sell.
But in life, he sold himself short. Not unlike his five foot eight stature.
He felt booze gave him the edge, the freedom his tight ass competition held firm.
Sometimes it worked.
Sometimes it tanked.
The last thing he remembered was the waitress at the hotel bar telling him he had had enough, him telling the waitress he was a VIP guest, and then him sitting outside the hotel, covered in ice water.
I guess that was the V.I.P. treatment.
He ran his stubby fingers over the jowls of flesh on his face. He could feel the hairs protruding out of his skin at sharp and less than dignified angles. His eyes were still bloodshot. He knew he still had some of the sour mash still in his system. He reached across the dresser and found a half-finished scotch.
With a flick of his wrist, he chugged the burning fluid down his throat.
He felt a quick jolt of energy.
“Damn that felt good.”
He waddled into the bathroom and decided to get his show on the road.
A half hour later, he exited the hotel room, dressed in a brown checkered jacket, crisp pants and a pair of sharp black dress shoes. Not polished too hard. He wanted to appear an honest working man.
He checked his cell phone. No calls. The digital read out also showed, no attempted calls. Not even from his wife.
He looked around the room and found a small vodka bottle under the end table. Completely full. Just a one ounce bottle from the fridge. It must have slipped from his fingers last night when he returned to the room, angry and annoyed, and after he rummaged through the mini-bar, carrying the entire contents to the sofabed to watch porn.
The auditorium could wait. These trade shows rarely started on time. That and only the best customers came after lunch. He snapped open the bottle and chugged down the vicious contents.
It felt good. Maybe he would grab another at the bar before heading out.
He reached the elevators and pressed ‘down’.
The musical chime filled the empty hallway.
Odd he thought, every morning this week when he got up, Marta, the Portuguese cleaning lady, a pleasant woman if not a little round at the hips, always greeted him with a sweet “Bom Dia” She was always pulling that huge maid cart behind her like a mule pulling a wagon. Wheels creaking in defiance and toilet rolls stacked one atop the other like the leaning tower of Pisa, waiting to fall over. He was amazed she kept the damn thing so stable as she pulled and grunted with every inch. He definitely knew he would be giving her a tip. The fact that she cleaned up his barf twice this week deserved it.
The elevator doors opened.
No one on board.
He gave it no more thought and entered the elevator. He paused one last time to check the hallway. Empty. He let one more fart go before he left the ninth floor.
‘One for the road.’ he chargrined.
Reaching the lobby, he exited the elevator, twisting his wrist to check the time.
Then it hit him.
Not a thought, a revelation or an idea.
A fist of solid muscle, pressed directly into his kidney to do the most punishing damage and bring down the victim.
Eaton dropped everything he was carrying as he dropped face first to the floor. His briefcase opened, sending his sales paraphernalia flying, pens rolling under lobby chairs, and his cell phone sliding away.
Had it not happened so suddenly, in the open lobby of this posh hotel, he might have been more prepared.
He was about to scream for the police when he felt the cold barrel of a snub-nosed revolver, smelling of gun oil and something sweet pressed hard against the back of his head.
Any desire to yell for help was curbed instantly.
But he knew the rest of the staff could see this. He was sure the police would be called shortly and this hostage taker would be quickly subdued. Once he understood no demands were going to be met.
He tried to get up, only to have a large combat boot crash across his lower spine, sending him the floor with a sputtering gasp of spittle.
Eaton had enough. But before he could shout out, ‘Take my wallet you bastard! The most you’ll get is a couple hundred bucks at best. That and the credit cards are maxed.’ The next words he heard from his assailant knocked the wind right out of his sails.
“Don’t you move you Motherfucker.” The man yelled, “You’re under arrest!”
Eaton looked up to find himself staring down the faces of two RCMP. Both very imposing and both very pissed.
The one holding him down was a big burly man, huge in size and a face like a pit-bull. Chiseled with muscle and age, his white skin seemed leathery from too much cold. His black hair was speckled with hints of white and his green angry eyes were locked on Eaton, daring him to move.
The other, a short bowling ball of a man, by no means fat, simply rounder than your average individual also glared at him. His short black hair, Italian features and youth were tempered by his cold blue eyes and clean-shaven face. This officer had a patch over his left eye, not covering it completely, but definitely covering a huge red welt on his cheek.
“No catching ME by surprise this time.” He looked like he was going to level another blow to him, but the officer maintained his control.
The first punch, the one to bring Eaton down, was obviously thrown by this peacekeeper. And it appeared it was fueled by a bit of ‘payback.’
Eaton could not imagine for what. The most anger he ever exhibited on one of his binges was a forceful tirade into the phone when his wife had the misfortune of answering.
Eaton gasped out a few words, “There… Must be… Some sort of mistake.”
“No mistake my friend.” The big officer from atop him snapped. “We got the whole thing on tape.”
Tape? What Tape?
Eaton used what little leverage he had to try and turn himself over. But that muscled knee stayed pressed firmly between the points of his shoulder blades. He wasn’t moving anywhere.
Within seconds, his arms were expertly pulled behind his back and cuffed.
Now he felt the rage coming.
“What the Hell is going on?” He screamed. His words, though choked by his lack of breath having been winded as hard as he was on the marble lobby floor, did not lessen his fury. “What the fuck is going on?!”
The one officer whispered into his ear. Something garbled. Something he couldn’t quite catch. But it certainly sounded like, ‘You sick Fuck!’
The smaller cop, the one which hit him like a train engine barreling down the tracks into a deer having made the fatal error of making a break for the woods in front of the ever faithful redeye, was pressed against a chair. He looked like a coiled spring of energy just waiting to be fired.
“The wagon is coming around. Once we clear the way, you’re history.”
Eaton looked up to the crowd now gathering around him.
The muttered whispers of, “He’s the one.” “That’s him alright.“ “He killed that girl.” “Saw it on the news this morning.” “Right in the alley.” “Blood everywhere.” “Knocked out a cop to escape.” “Drunk as a skunk.” “Security caught the whole thing.”
Eaton’s world was falling apart around him.
Then he saw it.
He had to blink, because he couldn’t believe it.
His rage, his indignation, his planned lawsuits he was going to levy fizzled out like a candle in a downpour.
For standing in the crowd, near the exit doors, at the rear of the audience, focused on him was a face.
Smiling at him.
Nodding to him.
The face was his own.
From the flabby skin, wrinkles under the eyes, to the chipped tooth at the front of his mouth when little Billy Summers knocked that fly ball out of the park when he was fourteen.
There was only one difference in the face.
One Eaton spotted right away.
Though he was looking through his own eyes, the ones staring back at him had a malice Eaton never possessed.
The second Eaton just grinned.
A vicious grin like the devil himself had risen from the fires of Hades and stopped by to give old Eaton a fond ’How’s this grab ya!”
And the face disappeared.
No one saw it. No one shouted out from the crowd, “Hey! Wait! Let that innocent guy go. The real one went that way!”
Everyone had their eyes on him.
The drunken deviant who beat a waitress to death in the alley when he didn’t get that last drink.
For a precious few seconds, one fleeting thought entered Eaton’s mind.
’Maybe I did do it. I mean, what I just witnessed was obviously the vision of a madman.’