Except for the final three lines of the message, Jonathan couldn’t make head or tail from her rambling. Algorithms? NDA? A total mystery. What didn’t puzzle him was Victoria’s apparent preference for the exclamation mark. As if her nail got locked on the key. He sure could teach her a thing or two about writing. He left the mail unanswered and went in search of the clothes, she had mentioned.

The bag was from de Bijenkorf department store and sat under the low bench at the foot end of the bed. He pulled it out and emptied its contents on the bed. Five boxershorts, two shirts, a pair of jeans, five pairs of socks and a couple of Tees fell out. Five? That girl had plans for five days? Fat chance. Jonathan unwrapped a pair of boxershorts and held it up. He wasn’t too crazy about them, preferred the tighter slips that kept his balls in check. He ripped off the price tag. It was an easy choice. All he had to do was go to the party and find out what was going on. With a little luck he’d run into the mysterious Dallas Bard. If not, he could vanish around midnight, like a male version of Cinderella. No way he was going to stay with these freaks.

A knock on the door made him lose his balance. He pulled up the boxershorts and dashed over to the door.

In the hallway stood a waiter with a trolley, which held two silver-plated bell covers and a wine cooler with a bottle of what looked like champagne. Without a word, just a short nod to acknowledge Jonathan’s presence, the waiter pushed past him and went straight for the table. He folded out a white linen placemat, placed one of the silver covers in the exact middle and, with careful and measured movements, laid out the silverware. He popped the cork without so much as a soft fizz and poured a glass, then lowered the bottle back in the cooler. Water and ice cubes sloshed against the scratched silver. The man smoothed down the white napkin on his black-sleeved arm and looked at Jonathan, eagerness and expectation written all over his face.

Somewhat bewildered, Jonathan looked back, painfully aware of the pasty blubber that poured over the orange boxershort and not sure what the man exactly expected him to do. He folded his arms but dropped them immediately again. Victoria had mentioned a party, not some room service or whatever this was. The waiter must’ve made a mistake in the room number. And why not. This day seemed all about mistakes and mistaken identities. Jonathan stared at the well-groomed man, but waiter’s face didn’t reveal a thing. Only in his eyes gleamed something that looked pretty much like contempt. Physically paralyzed by the man’s frosty stare, Jonathan’s mind raced. What the hell did he want? Was he going to stand there and watch him eat?

After what seemed an hour, the man shrugged and turned on his heels. With a barely audible hiss he strode to the door, closing behind him without a word.

A tip. He had waited for a tip. The words shot through Jonathan’s brain like an arrow of ice. It took him a few minutes to get his bearings back.


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