Duplicity Ch. 03bypartial2passion©
Hello everyone- I hope you enjoy this chapter. Don't be shy and please comment. Not only does it really make my day when I read them but I often get ideas for your observations. ;) So thank you in advance for your comments and ratings. Also many thanks to honeybree for her great editing.-p2p
When they got back to Santorini it was evening and there was a visitor waiting for them. The man was tall, had pasty white skin and dull gray eyes.
His hairline was receding as if his hair had found out some shocking news and decided to run for cover.
He had a greasy cowlick styled to one side. His bushy brown mustache collided with his nostrils and he wore eyeglasses. He was a heavy set man. Under his long-sleeved shirt you could see his squishy thick arms. His large pot belly set itself up high and was adorned with a fanny pack. His khaki pants were a bit too short and his white tube socks were visible.
He smiled as if excited to see Sienna and Jason.
"Can I help you?" Sienna asked.
Jason squint his eyes at the sight of the stranger. He chuckled but quickly covered it up with a cough.
"Princess, don't you recognize him? It's cousin Merle, from Long Island."
Sienna wrinkled her brows but then smiled. She giggled and gave Merle a tight hug.
"Welcome to the island, Merle. We're so happy to have you! And this is Layla our wedding planner."
Layla shook the hand of the groom's cousin in a professional way while Merle creepily stared at her through the top of his glasses. His gaze was steady on her every move.
She slightly cringed inside. Eww...as if. She thought.
Layla knew she had not lost her mind as of yet. This guy's looks couldn't be saved even being related to Jason Bane. He must have gotten daily beatings with the ugly stick.
Layla suddenly remembered a couple of excuses to get the hell out of there... and away from gross cousin Merle.
"If you will excuse me, I really must go tend to some arrangements. It was nice to have met you Merle."
Merle nodded and watched her walk away.
"Why don't you come inside? We really should catch up." Jason said and made arrangements for his luggage to be brought up.
"Let me show you to your room... Merle." Sienna grabbed his arm and sped away with him to the 4th floor.
The room they chose for him was purposefully isolated from the rest. Layla's room was the closest but was still around the long hallway's corner. It was like a studio apartment, he had all of the essentials he would need.
He had a fully stocked kitchenette, completed with a full bar, a master bathroom, a separate living room with a sofa and a balcony. Sienna and Jason wanted him to feel comfortable so he would stay as long as possible. They also set up an adjacent room as a gym for him. And coincidently the room's position in the house was centrally located in case of an emergency.
When they got to the room, Sienna closed the door and couldn't contain her laughter and excitement as she bounced on the bed.
"Holy shit Sean! I didn't even recognize you. How did you manage to look like a pudgy older white guy?"
Sienna started poking his arms and was amazed to find the fake skin was soft and realistic. His hands were his own but it didn't look completely out of place. Any exposed skin on his neck, face and hands were airbrushed to a natural-looking peach color.
Before he could respond there was a knock on the door. Sienna peered through it slightly and then opened it to let Jason in.
"Welcome man, we've been waiting for you to arrive." Jason clasped Sean into a one armed hug. He couldn't help but laugh in wonder as he inspected Sean's disguise.
"God damn Sean, this is amazing. It looks so real. When I sent you pictures of my family I didn't know what to expect. But you really look like we could be related. But I guess you got all the nerdy unattractive genes."
Sean scoffed and said, "Yea, I guess I did. So you don't have to worry... you get to stay the pretty boy of the family. The disguise isn't perfect but it'll do. If Sienna couldn't recognize me then we should be fine."
Sienna nodded but cautiously said, "But did you have to look so..."
"Ugly?" Jason finished the question.
"Geez, you people are making me feel like a science experiment gone wrong... Listen, when you're trying to blend in, you should try to always look low key. You'd be surprised how easily unattractive people get overlooked."
"That makes sense." Sienna put her hands to Sean's cheeks and squeezed them as if touching a baby. She looked into his eyes.
"The details on this thing are amazing... You even have bluish gray contacts to match Jason's eye color. Where did you get all this stuff anyway?"
"I got my connections..."
It was obvious from Sienna's expression that she expected him to elaborate.
Sean sighed. "Alright alright, it's basically from a manufacturer that sells to mayor movie studios. I got a hookup from a guy I did a favor for once. He can design any mold to look just like anyone. But this disguise is a bitch. I have a full body suit underneath and it's hot as hell. I'm carrying about 60 pounds of extra weight. But it will work because I can wear anything and I'll look like a normal overweight guy. I even brought Merle some swim gear to impress the ladies." Sean chuckled as if he couldn't wait to get into his persona.
"Oh no, don't tell me Merle likes Speedos..." Sienna made a face.
Sean laughed. "Hey take it easy on cousin Merle. It's not easy being a big guy."
"Well, I hope you can take the heat. It gets really hot on the island sometimes." Jason said.
"Please... I'm a professional. But speaking of bringing the heat..." Sean looked off towards the door. "I think I'm going to like my stay here." He said smugly.
Already knowing where Sean's mind was going, Sienna shook her head and tutted disapprovingly.
"Hey Casanova, you might want to dial it down a notch. You look just like the serial killer from that movie The Lovely Bones. I think you should go for more of the mysterious quiet type. Layla is very reserved and proper. There is no way she'll venture out to play with you... especially not with cousin Merle."
"What? Cece... I was talking about the weather here." Sean said cheekily.
"Uh-huh. Sure you were. I know my brother a little too well I'm afraid."
Sean reached out and kissed the top of Sienna's head and smiled. "Yes, you do."
"So I think we should always refer to Sean as Merle. Just in case we slip up somehow. I know it'll be hard but we have to help Sean remain in character." Jason reasoned.
Sienna and Sean nodded in agreement.
"I hate that fucking name by the way." Sean grumbled.
"Hey! Show some respect, it's a family name." Jason said good-naturedly.
"Well I have to say that I'm impressed, Shhu... I mean Merle." Sienna said quickly.
"Cece, don't think too much about it. Just focus on how I look at that moment and remember that I'm Merle... and Sean." Sienna wrinkled her eyebrows while Jason scratched his head.
Jason and Sienna said their goodnights and left him to get settled for the night.
Sean removed the body suit and all the props and felt immediate relief. It was like he could breathe again. He would have to get used to wearing it most of the day. He unpacked and carefully arranged the closet so "Merle's" clothes were neatly in front while all the disguise materials were behind.
Sean took a long hot shower as his mind drifted to what was to come. He hoped his plan worked. He was so preoccupied with his thoughts that it wasn't until the water began to cool that he realized how long he'd been in.
It was odd to be back with Sienna and Jason. He was surprised at how quickly their relationship blossomed. And Jason was quickly becoming the brother he never had.
As he stepped out of the shower he got goose bumps as the cold air touched his tanned skin. Sean toweled his heavily muscled body and tied the large towel at the waist.
His moist chest rippled and tapered off into pronounced abs and obliques topped by a sprinkling of hair. His throbbing veins ran up and down his arms. And his bright green eyes caught sight of it.
The scar on his right shoulder reminded him, of his recent travels. It reminded him of the task that was to come.
The next couple of days went by quickly. Sienna spent a lot of time with 'cousin Merle.' They discreetly talked about old times and about future plans. Even though there was still some residual ache in the pit of their stomachs; they trudged on and were grateful to have been reunited. It was time to heal.
When Sienna or Jason weren't around, Merle kept to himself and barely spoke to anyone else. It was interesting how people reacted to his disguise. For some reason, people seemed to talk to him even without him initiating conversation; they felt comfortable around him. The housemaids enthusiastically chatted with him about their home life or what problems they were facing. Merle just took it all in stride.
He could always be found in a spot off to the side of the courtyard's bar. He would read, work on his laptop and drink... but mostly drink. A habit he picked up in Afghanistan.
From that vantage point it was easy to see all the movement in house. And there was a lot of movement. The place was slowly transforming into an elegant reception venue.
The workers would come and go, bringing materials in. They put up reams of white fabric and with it create a massive tent-like structure.
Merle kept close watch. He had to observe any suspicious behavior among them.
But most of all he observed Layla. She was an interesting character.
She was definitely a leader. She directed decisively and was available when any employee had any questions. Everything was handled gracefully and with decorum.
When she spoke... people listened.
She didn't seem to smile much though.
When the table linens mistakenly arrived in an off-white color instead of bone; she demanded their immediate return. She hadn't even opened the package completely and knew it was wrong.
"Off-white is off-white and bone is bone". She patiently explained to the phone representative. She had only been on the phone for 15 minutes and somehow managed to talk directly to the owner of the company.
"Yes, well close enough will not suffice. The words... close but not quite, will be what your company says when asked if your linens were used in the Bane's wedding..."
Layla continued, "Mm-hmm. That's what I like to hear. I'll expect the replacement package here bright and early tomorrow morning. Thank you."
When Layla hung up, she happened to catch Merle's gaze. It stopped her momentarily but she continued her tasks unfazed.
Her quick dismissal bothered Merle. Even though his goal was to not draw attention to himself... she didn't have to seem so unaffected by it.
He refilled his flask with straight up vodka at the bar.
Layla walked outside down to the entrance of the long driveway. She needed to ask the guard about another delivery she was expecting. Merle didn't know why but he followed her.
Layla was handling a box cutter with some orders that had just arrived. She was going through her mental checklist of the things she needed to do.
"For fuck's sake... be careful handling that thing." Merle's annoyed deep voice grumbled behind her.
As Layla turned to see him, he took another swig of alcohol from a flask.
"Isn't it a little early to be drinking, Merle?"
"Never too early, never too late for alcohol. And don't you ever stop working? I swear you're like a machine."
"It's my job... I'm not here for vacation. This wedding will go on without complications." She said as she continued to cut open the box. Unfortunately, she accidently applied too much pressure with the cutter. It slipped and nicked a slice down the side of her thumb.
She let out a surprised scream and cursed herself for allowing her concentration to slip.
"Shoulda listened to me."
Layla inhaled and exhaled. This was partly because of the sting and partly because Merle was annoying the hell out of her.
She was seriously thinking of sharing the pain with that handy box cutter. But it wouldn't be appropriate to have an all-out knife fight with the groom's cousin.
Without asking, Merle grabbed her hand and looked at the wound.
"This is going to get infected if I don't do this right now."
Merle's brow scrunched in concentration.
He had this self-righteous confidence as if he knew exactly what he was doing. He lowered his lips to the wound and gently blew on it.
His breath vibrated throughout her body. Suddenly Layla was uncomfortably distracted by his presence. She never noticed how tall he was before or how massive his chest was.
"It's not that bad. Just a light flesh wound. Now hold still... this is going to sting like hell."
Merle looked at her deeply and she felt herself slightly shivering. There was something about the intensity she found in his eyes that knocked her off kilter.
He had these eyes that just looked right past you, through you and into you... all at the same time.
Momentarily forgetting about her hand; she felt open and exposed... she recoiled at the possibility.
He pulled his flask and poured the contents on her hand.
She felt the sharp sting. But in truth, what bothered her more was that she wondered what it would be like to kiss him.
Merle pulled out a clean handkerchief he had in his back pocket. With one hand on the liquor flask and the other holding hers steady... it seemed he was out of hands.
He slowly lowered his mouth to the handkerchief and with his teeth tied the ends tightly around her hand.
Layla followed his every movement. She felt herself get wet from having his lips so close and knowing that his teeth were tugging her secure.
The pressure and sting set in and it broke Layla out of her trance.
Layla cleared her throat and whispered, "Thank you."
Merle nodded and walked away.
In truth he didn't really have to pour alcohol on her immediately. She could have safely walked back to the house and gotten treated with a first aid kit.
But he had this irrational impulse to heal her, punish her and heal her all over again.
"Hey there you are. Jason and I wanted to see if you wanted to go out to dinner. There's this little place on the other side of the island."
Sienna stopped walking and faced Merle. Sienna squinted her eyes... intently studying his face.
"You know it's funny that even though you look like this completely different person, I can still read you."
Merle sighed, "Spit it out, Cece."
"Nothing, I just wanted to see how you're doing."
"Yea, keep telling yourself that. You're not fine. Something has gotten under your skin."
"What do you want from me?"
Sienna inhaled and exhaled. This was obviously not going in the direction she wanted. She would just have to try another time. She wondered how she could get him to open up to her.
"Actually, I need you to go into town tomorrow and get your measurements for your tuxedo. Layla will get you all set up. And I hope you don't mind but I've volunteered you to help her with some wedding stuff."
"Me... You want me to help that woman who looks like she has a permanent stick up her ass?"
"She's not that bad. And yes, so stop complaining. She needs the help. She's been working hard and you seem to just be sitting there... alone."
Merle silently grumbled, "Well don't be surprised if I replace that stick she has up her ass wi-"
"What was that?"
Sienna gave him a hug and walked away. Shaking her head and laughing to herself at what she heard him say.
The next morning, as always Sean woke up at dawn. It was his routine and he needed little sleep. He put on some sweats and a hoodie and sneaked off to the small gym next door. He needed to work out. He seamlessly ran 5 miles on the treadmill, did some weights, pushups and sit-ups. By the time he was done, he was covered in sweat. He took a shower and made some coffee in his room.
Then he went through his routine in creating Merle. He airbrushed his hands, neck and face. Slipped the body suit on and made sure all the seams were undetectable. He affixed his silicone nose and with a liquid adhesive brushed the edges down. He then set his bushy mustache and eyebrows. He made sure his greasy strands of hair clung to his bald head. He added some finishing touches to the airbrush makeup. He put the contacts in and finished with his glasses.
"Merle." He nodded at the reflection in greeting. It didn't matter how many days went by, it was surreal to see himself transformed into a completely different person.
As he gathered his things and left the room; he thought it was time that Merle became a little more proactive.
He went downstairs and found everyone at the breakfast table. Sienna smiled when she saw him and gave him a hug and kiss on the cheek.
"Are you hungry? Here, have some bacon and eggs."
"I hope you slept well Merle." Jason said.
"I slept like a baby."
"Good. Well after breakfast you'll go with Layla to get your tuxedo measurements. And Jason and I will have to run some errands. Do you need anything while we are away?"
"Nope. Layla and I will be just fine, won't we?"
Layla who was trying very hard to ignore the whole ordeal was suddenly the focus of attention. She plastered a fake smile.
"Of course we'll be fine. You two don't have to worry about a thing."
"Ok then, Sienna and I will probably be back by dinner time." Jason said as they left.
Layla and Merle were left alone.
Merle munched on his scrambled eggs while staring at Layla in curiosity. It was time to test the waters and see what kind of woman Miss Layla-the-wedding-planner was.
"Sooo... are you going to be assisting in... my fitting?" Merle asked and wiggled his eyebrows.
"I'll be present to make sure everything goes as scheduled."
"Oh, but I think I may need a little extra help if you know what I mean." Merle reached out and touched her hand.
Layla instinctively smacked his hand away.
"Don't think I don't know what game you're playing." Layla said seriously.
"Whatever do you mean?" Merle said coolly.
"I've seen how you try to come off as a mellow quiet guy. But there's always some wise ass in every wedding who thinks he can make a play for the wedding planner. Don't think just because you're some rich older white guy related to Jason Bane that I'll fall at your feet. I won't tolerate any inappropriate behavior from you. Although I am simply an employee at this event, you will respect me. Or so help me God, I'll stick my foot so far up your ass you'll taste my toes in your throat... Do I make myself clear?"
Merle chuckled and almost choked on his eggs. He did not expect Miss Proper to say that.
"Crystal." He said after swallowing.
He was rather impressed with the fire she seemed to have all of a sudden. He really was just testing her out to see how she would react.
He needed to know who this woman was. In this environment, you can never be too careful. At least that is what he told himself.
"I'm sorry if I offended you. What can I say; I had to give it a shot, right?"
Layla pursed her lips and arched her eyebrows.
She cleared her throat. "I'll be downstairs in 10 minutes. Please be ready to leave by then."
He watched her leave the breakfast table. He couldn't understand why but he rather enjoyed seeing Layla uncomfortable and flustered.
There was something about her that piqued his curiosity. Merle memorized her expression when she told him off and threatened him with bodily harm.
In that moment, he saw a speckle of vulnerability in her eyes... and in that speckle he found honesty.
As they approached the car, Merle courteously opened the backdoor for her to get in. But Layla's face remained neutral as she walked across the other side of the car, opened her own backdoor and climbed in.