Elaine looked over her reflection in the mirror. Her simple sparkly gold gown cascaded gently down her back. She could hardly recognize her dark lined eyes, shadowed eyelids and red lips. She hadn’t dressed up like this in a long time. She gently touched her glossy coifed hair and made one last glance over before grabbing her long faux fur coat that she had snagged on sale at a department store down the street. She needed to blend in as much as possible. She maneuvered through the busy hotel lobby and down the street as the sun dipped lower in the sky. She scanned the area before ducking behind a magazine stand. She shivered as she waited patiently, watching puffs of warm air escaping her lips.
Just as she began to worry he wouldn’t make it Sal, the elderly gentleman who she had met the day before and who owned the magazine stand, shuffled around the corner. Elaine’s nerves jumped as she noticed the impassive look on his face.
“Were you able to get it Sal? Please say you did.” He looked at her solemnly before his wrinkled face broke into a wide grin.
“You doubt me kid?” he wriggled his bushy grey eyebrows at her. Elaine smirked and wagged her finger at him.
“I am too nervous to play games with you Sal.” Sal chuckled and placed two tickets in her gloved hand. Elaine looked at him quizzically. “Two tickets? I only need one.”
“They come as pairs. If I only got you one you would look suspicious.” Sal was better at this than she had suspected. Elaine appreciated his logic but saw another gaping hole in her perfected plan. She looked at him helplessly. He put his finger in the air as if expecting her question. “Don’t worry I got you a date.”
“He’s my nephew. Don’t worry I just told him your boyfriend bailed on you and you needed a backup date. He won’t try anything.” Elaine rolled her eyes. That wasn’t exactly her concern. She didn’t have time to question Sal more as a young man a few feet taller than her poked his head around the corner.
“Hello there. I’m Matt. Don’t worry I will be on my best behavior I know I’m just a stand in.” Matt’s youthful face broke into a broad smile similar to his uncles. His bright eyes made it difficult for Elaine to deny him of this obviously exciting experience.
“Thanks kid but how old are you? You look like you just turned 18.”
Matt frowned. “I just turned 21 to be exact.” Elaine threw her hands up.
“Sal this isn’t going to work. How am I going to look with an 18 year old?” Matt grunted in dissent before Sal grabbed her elbow and led her away patting her hand soothing her.
“Trust me. This will work. Matt is very smart and mature for his age. He will know exactly what to do.”
“I hope you’re right.” Elaine glanced back at Matt doubtfully.
With a little bit of Sal magic, he was able to take Matt’s baby face and add a bit of stubble to make him appear a few years older. Elaine begrudgingly admitted that Matt was acceptable and a jittery Elaine and an elated Matt walked confidently down the sidewalk to the entrance of the Scorpion hotel.
As they waited to give the doorman their tickets Elaine leaned over and hissed into Matt’s ear. “Remember what we talked about. Don’t ask questions; say everything that I told you to say; nothing more got it?”
“Geez, I got it for the hundredth time.” He grumbled back before plastering a smile as he walked up to the doorman, producing the tickets to him. The doorman glanced over the tickets and gave them back before opening the door with a flourish. As they entered they both gasped. A grand ballroom opened in front of them with round tables everywhere filled with bedazzled guests in their richest finery. Plumes of flowers and peacock feathers filled the vases in the center of the tables and hundreds of candles floated in votives around the room. The lights were dimmed to allow for a more delicate ambiance but the room still sparkled lavishly. The amazing décor threw Elaine off for a moment before she gathered herself.
She quickly got her bearings and steered Matt toward the back of the room. As she glanced around she immediately noticed the worst person imaginable that she could come across. What was he doing here? Shouldn’t he be in hiding?
Nick Palatnokiv turned his head and stared directly at Elaine.
To Be Continued…