He had walked into trouble, Jeffery King could sense it before he had taken a step into his hotel room after he secured the door. He clicked the wall light switch on and looked around. The queen size bed was undisturbed, as was his bulky hooded jacket on a hanger and his suitcase he had stashed under a oak wood table. There were no visual cues things were amiss, but the warning klaxon in his mind did not abate. It got louder.
Jeffery frowned as he turned to the light switch. As he did so, realization struck like a sledgehammer's blunt head swung into an old brick wall of a building under renovation. He had left the light on when he had departed to attend the dinner/writer's conference event in one of the hotel's pavilions hours before, because he knew it would be dark by the time he returned.
There was a giggle just before a young woman strolled out of his bathroom to stand in front of him. Her golden blonde hair had been separated into double ponytails that ended at her tanned, slender waist that was exposed by a bright yellow cropped-in-half shirt. She hooked her thumbs on her black yoga pants and smiled up at him. Her cornflower blue eyes sparkled.
"Hi," she said with a drawl. "I'm Alexis. Alexis from Texas."
The young woman briefly covered a sun tattoo that encircled her navel with both palms as she giggled again.
"Um, hello, Alexis. I'm Jeffery. Can you tell me why you're in my room, please?"
"Sure, honey," she replied as she hugged him. "I just knew you would be a sweet heart from reading your book. Mark let me in. He works here."
A huge man who looked capable of holding his own against the entire Houston Texan offensive line walked out of the bathroom and glared at Jeffery as he spoke. A diagonal scar under his dark brown right eye twitched while his mouth moved.
"Well, King, I hope you enjoyed your hug from the honey. You and I have an appointment with my employer after we have ourselves some business. You're outta here, babe."
"But--but you said I could talk to him. I like him," Alexis protested.
"You did talk to him. Now you're leaving. Go hug a stray puppy or something. Make like a tree and vamoose."
Mark turned his glare on her.
"Whatever," she snapped as she opened the door. "It's 'make like a tree and leave,' by the way."
Alexis displayed her temper with a slam as she exited the room.
Jeffery's heart pounded, but there was no way he was about to give some hired thug the satisfaction of knowing that.
"Your employer is that chemical research conglomerate that's not happy with the article I wrote making folks aware it's negligently dumping toxins in Oregon's Willamette River, a policy they're continuing after doing the same thing in the Colorado and Hudson." The writer grinned at his nonplussed antagonist. "And I'd venture to guess your name's not really Mark, either."
Taken aback by an assignment so far out of alignment with how they routinely evolved, the goon took a few seconds to respond.
"No," he admitted. "I got a passkey with no problem from some dude even smaller than you, but that Alexis dame saw me at your door. The next thing I know she's yammering on about how she's some super-fan of yours and wanted to surprise you. To shut her up, I let her in. I've had jobs get screwed up worse. Damn, she's fine." He smirked. "Too bad you'll never find that out like I did, King."
"Before we handle the business you mentioned, I'd like to respectfully ask a favor," Jeffery said, and beckoned the goon as they walked to the sliding glass doors at the opposite end of the room. "I've never been this far from my hometown before, and I'd really like to look up into the night sky with a breeze in my face as a visitor of a city I won't see again." He spread his hands out from his sides and pivoted to gesture around them. "Look, we're fifteen floors above the street, you've got more than 80 pounds on me, I'm not armed with so much as a fingernail clipper, and you're right here. What am I gonna do?"
"That sign says to stay off the balcony."
"Dude, they put that up to keep kids inside and lawsuits to a minimum. Come on, man, you and I are adults."
Jeffery opened his room's glass door.
"Whoa there, bitch," the goon warned. "I'm going out first. You're not gonna swing balcony to balcony like some chimp and get away. I saw those movies, too. I'm not stupid."
He stepped outside.
The balsa wood splintered immediately under his weight, and the hired muscle plummeted as he shrieked like a mule entangled in barbed wire.
"Nope," Jeffery agreed. "You're abysmally stupid."
His entrance door was flung open, and hotel security charged in, followed by Alexis.
"Where's that asshole Mark?" she asked her favorite author.
"He tested gravity," he replied. "I'd say the poor ape failed in a spectacular fashion."
"Good riddance." She embraced Jeffery again as she gazed up into his hazel eyes. "Let's get better acquainted, word man."
"I'm definitely in favor of that."
"Sorry about your trouble here tonight, Mister King," one of the security officers said. "I hope the rest of your evening is more pleasant."
"Oh, I'd say it's going in that direction. Thanks, guys."
The door clicked shut behind them.
"Now, where were we, your majesty?" Alexis from Texas purred.