Not knowing what else to do, or where else to take my newly acquired damsel in distress I, Dexter the Dark Defender, chivalrously suggested a cheap hotel. She insisted on the same one she was at before, I guess out of some misplaced since of safety or familiarity. Unfortunately the human smoke stack that was working there when I got her luggage was still there. She made me prepay for a month, even though it was a by the week place and I was sure that she charged me more than the normal amount. I had used all my cash earlier and I had to put it on my Dinner's Club card.
I had every intention of fleeing the scene as soon as I saw her step through the door way, but she just looked in the room nervously and twisted her hands, which would have made me look diabolical, but considering a stiff breeze might blow her away it mainly just made her look like a child about to soil themselves which was probably more to the point. The way she had her knees slightly bent and her constant shifting from one foot to the other made her look neurotic to boot. She timidly looked into the room and then to me pleadingly. It was night time and the room was dark.
"I know that look well, no need to ask. I am a father of small children and that makes me a professional boogieman slayer…" I turned on all the lights as I went and I looked under the bed, opened the closet door, and checked the bathroom.
As soon as I came out of the bathroom she darted inside, now apparently afraid of the outdoors. She shut, locked and chained the door thereby cutting off my only escape route. I was fifteen feet from her and she just closed the door but I could already smell her. I can smell decomp all day at work, but body odor I find thoroughly repugnant. I know it wasn't her fault but the horrid stench of months without bathing was turning my stomach upside down.
"D-Dexter?" she asked nervously.
"Yes?" to pat my own back; I gave every ounce of effort to not sound annoyed, sarcastic, or projectile vomit as soon as my mouth opened.
"I-I need things. I don't have a wallet, or money or a cell phone, or even anything to pawn. I don't have a way to buy things…"
"What things? Like a toothbrush and hair brush?" she nodded vigorously reminding me of my son Cody.
She started shifting her feet again and wringing her hands, "I mean I have money, but I can't get to it…"
I nodded, "that's okay. We will tackle that problem next. Make me a list and I will go get what you need and dinner while you shower. You can use the sample bottles until I get back. Are you going to be alright for a few minutes?"
She went to bite her nails and there wasn't anything left to bite, she nodded rapidly. She went to the little desk in the room and got a pen and hotel stationary and rapidly started writing, and writing and writing… She went on so long I wondered if it would be impolite to step out for some fresh air, but luckily as I was about to cave she ripped the paper off the pad. It was numbered one through thirty-five. She must have seen my dismay, "I can p-pay you back. For all of it..."
"It's not that," I lied, "I usually alphabetize my lists…" She actually gave a small snort, nearly a laugh at this, which for some reason pleased me.
"No, you don't…"
I laughed, "I really do."
"Well, I think it's all on the same isle."
"I'll take the key in case you're still in the shower when I get back," she nodded nervously. Every time I stepped to the door she did to, I wondered if I could use this tactic to get her under running water. It looked like her trepidation was building again, I pulled out the knife I had given her previously and she instantly recoiled. "I'm going to leave you this, this kind you can flip open with your thumb and a flip of the wrist, watch… like this. It's locked open now, so it can't close. You press this silver part when you fold it. Try it a few times…" she did. "Okay, now just don't cut me again… go shower."
I went to the nearest Walgreens, passing a CVS on the way; you see I have an abnormal hatred for acronyms. Maybe it's because acronyms were going to be responsible for my eventual visit to the electric chair, because let's face it; Miami Metro was never going to catch me. Everything on her list was health and beauty related. It wasn't alphabetical, but it did have some semblance of order, she listed the items according to value. Cheapest items were first starting with lip balm. She would win the car if she was ever a contestant on the Price is Right. It did make me start to fear the end of the list though as the prices for things kept going up. Everything was generic except for Herbal Essence Shampoo, but anything that made her smell better I was in favor of. Permethrin cream was near the end of the list and two short years ago I would have had no earthly idea what it was, but small children and apparently kidnapping victims were magnets for lice. I bought a pack of combs as well; apparently she didn't know they went hand in hand.
I swear the next time I want to torture someone I will buy some of the nice shiny tools Revlon makes. I thought I was aware of every device capable of inflicting pain imaginable but I felt as though a whole new world had been opened to me…
The last three items had me stumped though, something about First Step, One Response, and Home Access. When I finally found them I was floored, the first two were pregnancy tests and the last was an at home collection kit for HIV testing. I thought I had been Daring Dashing Dexter that had rescued the Darling, Damsel in Distress. The truth was that she was still a prisoner, only now of her own body. The pregnancy tests were of the five minute variety. The HIV test had to be taken back and sent to the lab, it took twenty-four hours at least. Talk about a long day…
The old woman that checked me out was flummoxed by my 39 items, her 35 plus the combs, vitamins, and Ensure that weren't on Lumen's list, as well as one impulse buy. I'm sure she was use to the nervous new husband buying tampons but this looked crazy even by my standards, I mean what woman needed ALL of this stuff at once. After the tenth time she looked up I offered, "They're for my sister… she just got out of prison…" the old biddy looked horrified, "but she said she found love for Jesus while she was there so some good came of it all," this seemed to placate her 'inner church lady' which I am convinced is a Dark Passenger in a fuzzier looking but more evil form. Maybe I will start on Church Ladies when I finish ridding the world of serial killers.
That excuse worked until she got to the HIV and pregnancy tests and she raised an eyebrow, "Well to think of it, she did write to me about him. Maybe it is actually a guy named Jesus (Heyzeus)? They do allow conjugal visits now…" she scoffed and hurled the last two tests into the bag looking utterly scandalized. I made a mental note to never go in here with Deb or Lumen and collected the multitude of bags and departed.
I got back to the hotel to find Lumen sitting in exactly the same spot in the same appalling condition I found her. I expected her to be jumpy or to try and attack me or something but she just turned and looked at me with the saddest doe eyed expression, her huge brown eyes gently blinking at me. Something wasn't right; I knew there wasn't a driver behind the wheel. "Earth to Lumen? Lumen, it's Dexter, I'm back. Are you in there?"
She blinked her eyes rapidly three or four times and looked at me confused and afraid, "What?"
"It's Dexter… are you okay?" I put the plethora of bags on the bed.
"Uh, yeah… you're back already?"
"I've been gone almost two hours…"
"Oh. I kind of shut down now if no one is around, kind of like hibernation. Sorry. Did you have any trouble?"
"No, I have everything and more." I realized that she had in fact moved while I was gone, she had taken off her blouse and jeans and put back on the rag I found her in. I pointed at it, "I think you're moving in the wrong direction. Why did you even bring that thing with you?"
"It's a reflection of my inner self…? Maybe they can get DNA from it? I'm wearing it because I feel weird in clothes now. Everything is too rough…"
"I have an old under shirt in the car if you want it to sleep in?"
"Okay, I'll grab it in a minute. Why didn't you shower?"
"It makes me need to pee and…" she nodded to the bags.
"Okay, let's do this." I got the bag with the tests and opened the boxes, "These take five minutes, the other we have to turn in and it takes twenty-four hours at least. The antibiotics I gave you are the best thing out there and should take care of anything else… According to the box we are looking for a frowny face or a blue square; pee here and here and then fill up the cup and seal it."
She looked embarrassed but thankful at the same time. She excused herself and came back a few minutes later and put the tests on the makeup table and sat on the floor near it. A few minutes later my stomach nudged me, "It's time…"
"Can you, would you look?"
I walked over slowly and looked at them both, "well, if we were on a TV commercial this would be horrible news. You're not pregnant. You need to check again ten days from the last incident though," she nodded.
"God, I was so worried. I don't know if I could have… fixed it. I always thought that I would never be able to do that… I thought if I was raped and got pregnant that I would have it, but in this case I wouldn't even know which one was the father. You sure you don't want to eat first, you must be starving?"
Something in the way I swallowed at the thought of food, trying to keep from vomiting, finally showed on my face.
"Oh my God, I stink don't I? I have to smell like a dead body or something?"
I nodded rapidly. "First if you want, I'll show you how to do an ad hoc rape kit, to collect DNA evidence. Here let me show you how, and then I'll let you decide when you get in there. We should put that shirt in a bag as well. Now shower…"
"I might be a long time?"
"Take your time… I know I would. I'll grab that shirt…" I dawdled at my car for an obscene amount of time to let the room air out. I knocked on the bathroom door which elicited a tiny "yip" from her, "Is it okay if I open the door to put the clothes on the floor?"
"Yeah, you can leave it open if you want. I think I would rather be able to hear you…"
"I brought some clean boxers and a bowling shit too. Take your time…"
When she finally came out of the shower almost all the shampoo was gone and her skin was pink all over from over scrubbing. Dexter didn't notice, he long ago eaten his pickle and chips and fell asleep with his head on the small table. She was unsure on how to wake him up and she gently rubbed her hand on his shoulder, his eyes fluttered open and he saw the halo of blond hair with the light behind her and she was wearing his work shirt.
"Hey, you…" I said in my distinctive lover voice everyone has. I was waiting for the customary 'hey, you' back in that cooing voice that used to drive me up the wall but that I now love so much.
"Hi," came from a deeper voice than normal. "Sorry, Earth to Dexter… It's Lumen…" she realized who I thought she was and I could tell that she felt horrible.
I lifted my head and reared it back in a very Deb like way, "wow, sorry. You shine up well, there was a woman under all of that… Okay, well you neglected to tell me what you wanted for dinner, so I made the indomitable selection of the best culinary advancement since fire: the Medianoche sandwich. A Medianoche consists of roast pork, ham, mustard, Swiss cheese, and dill pickles. It is a close cousin to the Cuban sandwich, the chief difference being that a Medianoche is made on soft, sweet egg dough bread similar to Challah rather than on crustier Cuban bread. Like the Cuban sandwich, the Medianoche is typically warmed in a press before eating and is universally known as one of the Culinary Seven Wonders of the World. The other six wonders were easily forgotten once the Medianoche came into being. It is also the second best driving food behind bananas."
This time she reared her head back, "well okay, that's some endorsement. I'm game." After a few bites she looked at the bag, then in it and pulled out the receipt. "Fifteen dollars for a ham and cheese sandwich on stale flat bread?"
I was flabbergasted at her wholesale rejection of mans greatest culinary achievement, "…well it's a lot better hot!"
"Well after your stunning introduction I was amped for something that would cause an epiphany or an earth shattering change in my inner self. What does Medianoche mean anyway, Mediocre?" she giggled slightly at the horrified expression on my face and she brushed loose hair behind her ears and for the first time he saw her as she must have been before she was taken.
"No, it means Midnight. In Havana it's served in night clubs as a snack."
"All I know is that if I spent fifteen dollars on a ham sandwich I would feel like I was being ra-" and just like that the moment of laughing and the twinkle in her eye was gone. "Look, it's late Dexter and I have a lot to do tomorrow. I need to get some money wired so I can pay you back and I need to set up a PO Box. I need someplace for them to mail my new debit cards and checks and everything to. I need to get a rental car, a computer, and a phone too."
"Okay, well dinner was a bomb but try this… on for size," I pulled the fluffy teddy bear out of a bag that I had put to the side earlier, hiding it. She immediately gave me an 'as if' look. "Yeah, you say that now but wait until tonight… I looked for a body pillow but they didn't have them there. But, he's here if you need him." I placed it on the bed near her and turned the knob to leave.
"Dexter? Thank you, it was sweet, really. I would have killed to have a Teddy in that hole I was in." I turned back to see that she was crying freely, "Can I ask one question and get a truthful answer?" I know I looked wary of the deal, but I nodded. "Will I ever really see you again? It's just that I don't know anyone at all here and I would rather you tell me…"
I looked at her solemnly, knowing if I hadn't have come in to search the room that I never ever would have come back. I looked at the door knob and back to her and rocked on the balls of my feet, "tomorrow morning, 7:00am sharp at the café across the street. I need to be at work at eight, but I can drop you by the bank."
"Thank you, for everything…"
She had subtly stuck her foot in the preverbal door of my life and I know that I wouldn't be easily rid of her. I turned and left, wondering if Harry was right? Should I have just left her to die? I thought this was going to be an easy situation to rectify but I was in for a rude awakening… it was going to be murder.