Viper

The clerk gave us the fisheye when I signed the register, but I was used to that by now. It was better to appear to here for an immoral purpose, to hide the fact that I was here for another.

My companion was still in her hypnotic trance, and while under other circumstances, I might have taken undue advantage of her(I never did claim to be Galahad), I had other things to do. Besides, I was still hoping that our relationship could develop along more normal and rewarding lines later.

Instead, I left her sleeping peacefully in the room while I exchanged my sleazy-pickup-artist clothes for attire more suitable to my next role. I slid out through the window and easily down to the ground. After making sure there were no witnesses, I slopped a little whiskey on my shabby coat and pulled out my harmonica.

Five minutes later I was just another busker, in a quaint, touristy, but somehow a little disreputable, part of the city. I gained a few dollars worth of change for my playing, which was admittedly not gifted. I have done better, but I feared standing out if I played at my best.

By necessity I didn't stick too close to the hotel. I had to gamble that my quarry wouldn't come the wrong way. I didn't look up at the faces of passersby, but that wasn't how I expected to recognize him anyway, and it would be safer if he didn't see my face, just the brim of my hat as I sat and played my harp. (Of course I had two hats, the other to catch the money. The sun was too hot to go without one on my head, though.)

I lost the gamble, though. After an hour he still hadn't passed before me. He could still have come another way, but I was starting to get the feeling he'd slipped through my fingers again.

Stumbling to my feet, I picked up my money-filled hat and walked unsteadily to the nearest phone booth. I dialed the number of the hotel not half a block away.

"Yes, my good man," I said in my most cultured voice, cast faintly so as not to make anyone suspicious should they hear me from the street. "Frightfully long distance, I'm afraid, so I can't talk long. May I just inquire whether a certain party has checked in safely? Look, old chap, I said I haven't got long, and I'm rather afraid you don't want me to grow testy, or I'm afraid I shall have a word with your proprietor."

Hanging up the phone, I sighed. As I suspected, my quarry had eluded me entirely. How, and why, I couldn't be sure, but I would have to find out. There were still a few avenues I could try before reporting a failure to my employer.

First things first, though. The viper in my suitcase was likely to be getting testy by now, and I wouldn't want him to get free and take out his frustrations on my lovely companion. I set about retracing my route.

Based on the words: Register Fisheye Viper Harp

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The Den of Ubiquity/ Aaron V. Humphrey / alfvaen@gmail.com