As we debarked, I noticed Helle’s not-so-secret admirer right behind us. “That’s what I was afraid of. Get rid of him.”
She almost asked what I was babbling about, but turned and saw, so with a dramatic sigh she shook her head sadly and gave the guy a small flick of the hand to send him away.
“Screw you,” came the muttered answer.
“Get in line,” she yawned, then realized her instinctive reply was not the best thing for the situation. But by now I had gotten into the game and eye-lasered the guy, who may not have known what discretion meant, but still realized it was the better part of valor.
“I have been thinking,” the redhead mused as we made our way through the train station passageways to our destination, seemingly not burdened by her bigger-than-required backpack.
I would have usually tried something like “How unusual,” or “Oh-oh!” at this point; unfortunately, I’d already done so three times today.
“Good boy,” she grinned at my silence, but was fortunately sidetracked when a very obviously American family asked us for directions to Tivoli. The redhead happily provided the info while the family’s third wheel, a boy of about five, stared up at me. “What’s your name, mister?”
“Paul. Can you say that?”
Helle stopped from giving directions to mutter, “Paul. . .” in a warning tone.
“Good!” the little boy yelped, reaching down to peel off the star sticker on his book and slap it on her miniskirt.
“So young and yet already knowing you don’t mind being touched there.”
She looked up to see how the parents felt about that: Mom was laughing, Dad looked jealous. Oh well. . .
Right before the stairwell to the basement was a beautiful young blonde collecting money. I had noticed such girls all over Scandinavia, championing all sorts of causes–this one was Amnesty International–and had to figure the people in charge of these campaigns chose the gals that were sent out with the buckets by their looks. There figured to be three types of people who donate money on the street: single men, all types of women, and men who wanted to impress their dates/wives as to how generous they are. Since the last group would give no matter who was taking the money, it had to be decided which of the other groups to appeal to. Since women were more likely to give to causes, plus there were a lot more female volunteers. . .
Of course I’ll give!” Helle squealed in the meantime, reaching for her purse, not bothering to check the pin on the girl‘s chest. “I love animals!”
I couldn’t resist. “Yeah. She’s been arrested for it twice.”
“But never convicted!”
The blonde smiled at me, and I figured that if I ever ran into her on the street she’d remember me. For a moment I wondered if any guy had offered her a big fat donation for some alone time, but luckily being next to the redhead cured me of having to wonder about anything for too long. Besides, the girl looked conflicted as to whether she should chance losing the donation by being honest about which cause she was supporting, and I didn’t want to make things more difficult for her. Luckily Helle simply plopped in her money and headed down the stairs.
“Am I the most fuckable woman you’ve ever met?” she teased as I followed her, no doubt realizing we weren‘t out of earshot of the money-collecting blonde yet.
“Oh yes,” I murmured, all the while knowing that telling her “Most fuckable” and “Best fuck” were not remotely the same thing wouldn’t help my cause one bit right now.
We entered the room in question and stopped just inside the door to glance around. It didn’t look all that special, although it might have a different perspective after a ten-hour train ride: lots of seats, some computer desks in the corner, phones over there, and a big hotel-front-desk type thing at one end. Doors went deeper into the building, no doubt housing the kitchen and showers.
At the counter was a tall blonde, on the customer side. She could have easily been a local, I thought, but was dressed like a tourist. As I’d often told women, and not just models, the confused look is really sexy, and she looked particularly sexy right now. . .
“What do we do first?” Helle whispered.
I was still smiling toward the blonde, who had a really anxious expression on her face as she looked around for help. “You go ahead and take a seat, rest.”
She glanced at me, then at the place my eyes were pointed. Making no comment other than a knowing grin, she continued on her way.
I was thinking the blonde would make the perfect decoy for this caper, so I had to check her out. . . but that was not all I was thinking.
As the guy who’d just entered approached her, Lisa took a peek at the beautiful redhead he’d come in with. The girl was grinning, and was kinda looking at her the way guys usually did. The blonde didn’t go for that sort of thing, but it was better than the redhead thinking she was about to steal her guy.
“Waiting for help?” I started with the obvious.
“Yeah, so don’t cut in line!” She grinned, letting me know she expected some fun if I was going to stay in the conversation.
“You’re pretty much plastered against the counter, so that’d be hard to do. I know Copenhagen pretty well, so if that’s what you need. . .”
“Not quite. Going up to Sweden in a few hours, just want a chance to clean up and make some dinner. I will be coming back through here, though, so if you’ve got some time after that, you can tell me all about this town.”
“Sounds good. I just ate on the train, but I could use a shower too. Hope there’s more than one.”
Not quite so fast, buster, her laughing eyes told me.
“So what made you decide to travel around here?”
“My parents wanted to visit me on their trip,” she confessed, “but I really didn’t want them to see where I live in Rome.”
“Or your friends?”
“The guys I sleep with, yeah. So I told them I’d already scheduled my own trip. That was on the phone, while I was quickly looking through the internet for travel bargains.”
“You could have gone with them on their trip, after Rome. They probably woulda paid.”
She sighed. “My parents taught me to love traveling, but they also taught me not to travel with them. Very embarrassing. They’re going to the Holy Land, or some other God-forsaken place.”
I hid a grin, since I wasn’t sure if she was joking. “So how did you get an Inter-Rail pass? They don’t sell ‘em to Americans.”
“I’m studying art history in Rome. If you’re a resident for six months, you qualify.” She didn’t bother asking why I had one, since I obviously did. Then she grinned. “You’re thinking about what I said, right?”
“When I said ‘guys I sleep with.’ You’re wondering how many.”
“Okay, but you’re wondering if I’d be easy to persuade.” She turned to look at the redhead again, smiled, and winked at me. “No one here knows who I am, one of the great perks of living far from your hometown, or even where you live now. So. . .”
I found myself liking her, and hoping she wasn’t a plant. She seemed like a smart cookie who had her life exactly how she wanted it, and just in that there was an attraction. That type of person rarely bullshited. On the other hand, if she was part of the gang. . .
When I didn’t reply, other than to grin, she figured it’d be better to tone it down a little. After all, there was plenty of time before she caught her train to Sweden. Well, who knows where I was going next, she was no doubt thinking, but knew I’d make time, if only for a little variety from the redhead. “Ever been to Bermuda?” she tried next.
“Friend invited me there, but I was too scared to go.”
“Scared? It’s a safe place.”
“Not that. The Bermuda Triangle.”
“You put a lot of feeling into that one word.”
“I do my best.”
“Do you have any idea how many boats and planes have disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle in the last sixty years?”
I smirked. “Know how many haven’t?”
“Um. . . not offhand.”
I like the theory of a ship full of magnets sinking and drawing others down.”
You would,” she said shortly, but smiled brightly to take out the sting.
So how do you afford living in Rome?”
“Not what you’re thinking,” she replied severely. “Fulbright.” When I didn’t reply, she added, “That ain’t a toothpaste.”
“Sorry.” Her smile didn’t look apologetic, though.
Over the next few minutes she regaled me with tales from her exciting life; she sounded like she needed to get it off her nicely curving chest, so I stood there and took it like a man. Not that it was all that boring, but most of it was typical middle-sized-town Americana: art posters over the bed, tons of pets, going skiing, grandma’s hand-me-down furniture. Pretty typical of strangers waiting for their next travel connection, though I was glad she wasn’t asking about me, at least not yet.
Then she turned it up a notch–or a hundred–by saying she loved sex in exotic places. Instead of finally asking about the plural in her Rome romances, I instead wondered if this place was what she considered exotic.
“A shower’s as good a place as any.”
“You are totally without scruples!”
“I know,” she smirked. “I’ve even dated a congressman.”
“He dump you for someone cheaper?”
And finally, just in time, someone showed up behind the desk, an obviously local guy who was grinning hugely as he checked our passes. I recognized him as the prime suspect, but right now it didn’t matter: if he was the bad guy, it would be Helle’s job to figure out. At the moment my only job was to find out if this luscious blonde was part of the theft ring. . . yup, someone’s gotta do it. Not that I thought she was, but I believed in being thorough, and a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. . .
“You can leave your bags here,” the guy pointed to a spot against the wall. “No one will steal them. You, sir, are in cubicle number four, and you, madam, are in number one.” He grinned again, knowing damn well we were going to get together, but giving us our privacy.
Lisa didn’t know about being called madam, but wasn’t about to take the time to argue. She snatched the key up with a big grin, blew the guy a kiss, and dropped her bag in the place told, barely remembering to get her shower essentials before leading the way.
I took a second to look back at the room. Everyone seemed deep into their own thing, ignoring us. Helle had fortunately chosen a seat not quite facing where we’d dropped our bags, but would be able to see it out of her peripheral. She proved that now by turning to me and mouthing “You lucky. . .” but I couldn’t make out the last word, which was probably just as well. . .