My name is Bud, at least that is my nickname. I lived this story and now maybe I can die happy but first I want to share my story. I am obviously a man and was just about to turn 50. I have had ups and downs in my life and right now I am on an up.
I was married, unfortunately, and have two daughters both out of high school. I stayed married all these years because I do dearly love my daughters, to split with their mother would cause them pain and force them to make choices. When I married my wife I was deeply in love with her but as the years went by she changed, or maybe I did. She moved out of our bedroom over 6 years before. She claimed I snored, well I do but it was never a problem before. I pressed and never got the real answer. I tried to be a good patient husband and loving father and I think I succeeded. But my wife kept getting more distant, to the point where she would leave the house and not even bother to say she was going out and just plain ignore me. Make dinner and feed the girls but not tell me dinner was ready. It broke my heart. I finally just said fuck it and ignored her. To say things are not good is an understatement. The only good thing is we didn't fight. Hell we barely spoke to each other.
So with all this understood maybe the rest of the story will make sense and maybe you can understand that I was lonely and not just a shit.
It was February, convention season in the industry I work in. I have, for years made a habit of going to the big annual convention. Partly for business, to see what's new and keep up with trends, and yes partly to get away. They always hold these things in warm places. Vegas, Florida, Southern California, Houston. It gives those of us in the colder climes a chance to warm up and play a little golf in the middle of winter. I took full advantage of the situation. The convention usually runs for 5 days I would always be gone for at least 7 maybe 10. Arriving a few days early and staying late. It was after all my vacation. I didn't take one during the summer, why bother, my wife wouldn't go with me anyway.
The people who owned the company I ran, approved of my "vacation" and never had any trouble paying for my expenses. I always offered to share the cost with the company but was always rebuffed. They just plain appreciated the work I did as it enabled them to live lives of leisure. For several years I had chosen one or two subordinates to travel with me, partly as a reward for their good work and partly as a chance to learn new industry techniques.
This year I was traveling alone. The guy who was supposed to go with me had disappointed me two days before we were to leave. I heard, thru the grapevine that he was quitting and actually would not be returning to work when we got back. He planned on getting the free trip and thumbing his nose at us. I fired his ass the same day. The only other person I considered taking was unable to go as his wife was pregnant and due any day. So I wrote off the first class ticket and resigned myself to losing the deposit on his room at the hotel. In the long run it was cheaper than taking a traitor for a week in Vegas.
Let me step back. I don't mind when somebody decides to change jobs. Hell I've done it enough in my life, sometimes you just have to. I do object to sneaks. If you're going to quit be a man stand up and say so. I can respect that. But to accept the trip, and not give notice so you can enjoy yourself at someone else's expense, that plain sucks.
So I made the hour and a half drive to the airport and was sitting in the waiting area contemplating the first leg of the trip and then an hour lay over in Cincinnati before the final 4 hours to Vegas and some relaxation.
I have lived in a small town for the last 25 years so am used to knowing everybody and having everybody know me. We joke that our town is so small we have to drive a half hour to the Wal-Mart. I have lived in cities when I was younger and travel regularly so am not uncomfortable in urban settings. When I travel or am in the city, I put on my city persona. Ignore the world and everyone in it, but keep your eyes open also. When I am home I am much like the rest of the town, open and friendly. Stop and give someone a ride home, Wave to everyone as you drive down the street, Take 15 minutes to get to the table in the diner because you stop and talk to everyone on the way. Just small town stuff.
So I am sitting in the airport with my city persona and am surprised when somebody calls my name.
"Hi Mr. Jenkins. What are you doing here?" I am immediately suspect of this voice. Why would someone know me here? What do they want? Full city mode, in other words.
I looked over and to my surprise was greeted by a familiar face. A young girl from town, who works in the grocery, went to school with my youngest daughter, "name?name? can't remember her name. Kahlea! That's it." I know her father in passing. Stop shake hands say hello that's all.
Kahlea was a beautiful young girl. 5'6" give or take about 115 to 120 lbs. long blond hair and the most beautiful green eyes. She had a nice shape, I noticed it often at the grocery where she worked. She had what can best be described as an athletic build. Strong legs a flat stomach and a nicely rounded ass with the shape we all find attractive. Her breasts were nicely rounded and showed well through the tight shirts she wore. Not big, but well defined, probably a C cup.
I recovered from my surprise. "Well hello Kahlea, what are you doing here?"
"I'm going on vacation to Vegas." She proudly exclaims
"Who are you with?"
Now she pauses and the smile turns to a sad frown. "No-one I'm by myself. My two timing boyfriend was supposed to go with me, but I dumped him and I didn't want to waste the money. I couldn't find anyone else to go with me so I figured I'd go by myself."
"Kahlea, your not 21 yet. They won't let you gamble or drink. Your not planning on getting in trouble out there are you?"
She gets a sly smile. "I got Jen's ID." Now Jen is her sister who is 4 years older than her and they do look a lot alike. When they were both working at the store I had trouble telling them apart.
I sigh, and think to myself, "Not my kid, not my problem." But when you live in a small town you sort of adopt all the kids, if for no other reason than you know their name and their parents.
"Kahlea, I don't want to lecture you and you should have fun but Vegas can be a perfect place to get into trouble. Promise me you'll be good or at least careful."
"I'm 18 and can take care of myself." She replied indignantly
Opps! I stepped on teenage pride. "I know. I'm just saying that if you need help out there, I'd like to give you my cell phone #. You can call me. I'll be there about 10 days, OK?" Then as an after thought, "Say maybe you can help me. Since we're both traveling alone maybe you can help me out. I'd be willing to pay you."
"What would I have to do?"
"Well I'm going to go to a convention and I may need someone to help me keep notes and carry samples and stuff. Just a couple of hours for two or three days. I had to fire the person I was taking with me, I could use the help."
"I don't know? I am supposed to be on vacation."
"How much money do you have with you?"
She proudly raises her head "I saved up and have $350 to spend."
I groan inwardly. There have been days in Vegas where I went thru that much in an hour. "Well that should be enough. But wouldn't it be nice to have another $300. I'm offering you $100 a day to help me."
Her eyes got big. I had a good idea what she made at the grocery as both my kids had worked there at one time or another and I had just offered her what amounted to a weeks take home for a days work. I could see she was interested. "Today's Friday. The convention doesn't start till Monday so you would have the whole weekend then part of Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to help me then the rest of the week for yourself. I really would appreciate it."
"Well Ok, since you really need the help. But that's too much money for what you describe."
"Well that's the offer. If you think it's too much wait for the first day and see how tired you are before you refuse it."
"Ok fair enough." She agreed.
We spent the time waiting for our plane to be called, chatting. It became obvious that she had been nervous and was relieved to find somebody she knew to talk to. Even though we really didn't know each other I was a safe familiar face. After all what can be more benign than the father of one of your school friends, someone you had seen around since you were 6 years old.
Our conversation turned to the flight and I asked about her seat assignment. She was all excited to tell me she had a window seat and wanted to be able to take pictures. She had never been on a plane before and was not scared but excited. I called up the mental image of the planes seating chart and was not exactly sure where she was but I had my suspicions. So I dug out my laptop and signed onto the "net" through the airports wireless connection, then to the airlines site. It was as I feared. The published seating chart had her sitting on a window over the wing. There was no way she was going to see anything.
"Come on." I told her "We're going to get your seat changed to a good one." And I took her by the hand and led her up to the boarding counter.
She protested all the way, "I cant' afford to change seats. They'll charge me for it."
"Look Kahlea, I can get it changed for you for free. Just follow my lead and be quiet."
We got to the counter and I proceeded to work on the clerk. She didn't want to let Kahlea change to the extra First Class seat I had already paid for because her name was not on the ticket and they wanted me to cancel the ticket and pay the premium price for it all over again. I raised hell, between that, my frequent flier card and my threat to move to another airline that was leaving a half hour later I got my way. I tried to get Kahlea her money back but had to settle for a voucher for her unused ticket to be used at a later date.
We just finished the paperwork when they started boarding us. I could tell the attendants were glad to see me leave and get on the plane. "Another jerk out of my hair." was written all over their faces.
Kahlea was still unsure about accepting the ticket. I insisted and once we were onboard I led her back to the seat she would have occupied. She looked at it and at the big First Class couches and back at her old seat and the view of the wing. "Thank you." She said. "But I still don't feel right about it. That's an expensive seat." As we settled in I explained how I had come to have an extra ticket and that the company had paid for it and would lose the money if we did not use it. Besides since it went on my frequent flier card I got credit for the miles so she was doing me a favor. Finally she accepted it and settled in.
The first leg of the flight was uneventful a bit over an hour and we landed in Cincinnati for an hour layover. It was near lunch time so I treated my new young friend to a burger in one of the airport pubs while we waited. I was glad I had found her. She would have probably managed fine on her own but you could tell she was a little overwhelmed by the airports and the different gates and terminals. She just would have been uncomfortable by herself. I was feeling very paternal toward this little girl. The second leg was even less exciting than the first. I fell asleep and stayed that way for most of it. I woke about an hour from Vegas and found myself covered in a blanket with a pillow under my head. The three Scotches I had at lunch had taken their toll. I looked over a Kahlea and saw her staring out of the window fascinated by the sight of the ground 30,000 feet below. She heard me stir and glance over and smiled.
"Have a good nap?" She asked.
"Yeah, I did. Where did the blanket come from."
"The stewardess brought it. She thinks you're my boyfriend." She said with an evil grin.
"How did she get that idea?" I asked.
"Well once you fell asleep she came over and asked me if my father would want a blanket. I told her you weren't my father and I must have been a little snotty about it because she apologized all over the place and then asked if my "Gentleman companion" would like a blanket. I could see by her face what she was thinking. So I played it up a little. I told her that you would want coffee when you first woke also, like I knew, from experience exactly what you wanted when you woke up." She giggled a little, "She should be showing up with coffee any minute now."
I barely had time to realize what had gone on while I slept when the stewardess did show up with coffee for me and apologized for insulting my "companion" with her assumption. I brushed it off and thanked her, chuckling all the while.
As I sipped my coffee I realized that I had not asked Kahlea where she was staying.
"Oh I got a great deal on a room for a week. It was only $200 for the whole week." She answered. She gave me the name of the hotel and it was not one I was familiar with and I discounted it as Vegas is full of hotels and Motels and just because it is not a big name on The Strip, doesn't mean its not a perfectly good place. But $200 for a week was cheap. I was going to spend nearly that on my room for a night, of course I had booked a small suite, what they called a Jr. Suite, really not much more than an oversized room big enough for a sitting area along with the King sized bed and desk.
We landed and I led Kahlea thru the deplaning process and the terminal to the baggage carousel. She was upset her bags weren't waiting and I laughed and explained that they never were it would take a few minutes. She asked me where she should go to get a bus to get to her hotel. That was when I realized that she had no transportation plans. I offered to drop her off with the rental car I had reserved.
"I couldn't impose like that. You've already been so nice to me." She demurred
"It's not an imposition besides I will have to know where you are if you decide to help he out this week, won't I."
She agreed and gave me the address she had written down. I grabbed my cell phone and called the VIP desk for the rental car company. I told them I had arrived and would be there shortly that they should have my car and paperwork ready. Also I needed directions to the Red Spur Motel and gave them the address. The clerk paused and then said "Yes Sir, will you be staying there?"
I told him I would not but needed to go there. Our bags arrived and I loaded them on a cart and pushed it to the rental car desk, where I was ushered behind the counter to the manager's office. He was very polite when he asked "Are you planning on parking the car in the area of the Red Spur?" I must have looked puzzled when I told him that I was not. "I'm sorry for intruding but we have lost a few cars in that area of town, and well I must ask that you not leave the car unattended there." I agreed and felt a tightening of my gut for the little girl I had befriended. He handed me the keys and I signed the papers. He apologized again and had an attendant load my bags in the car. I looked at the map they had given me and the red lined route to the address I had given them. It was to an area of town that I was not familiar with, but one that was easy to get too. I started out and drove over the familiar route from the airport and down past the convention center. Then I got to an area of town I did not know and quickly found the Red Spur. I pulled into the lot and looked at Kahlea.
"You're not staying here?"
"I have to I already paid for it." came the distressed reply.
Her distress was due to the sight before us. The place was a dump! Badly in need of paint and repair. There was broken glass in the parking lot as well as one car up on cinderblocks. There was a man on the ground leaning against the signpost, he was either drunk, drugged, sleeping or dead. I was not about to go find out which. One of the doors to a room was hanging open, half off its hinges and there were bullet holes in one of the windows. It was the kind of place I would have gone to in my much younger and wilder days, if I had been looking for a cheap whore. It was not the kind of place I was going to let this little girl off at. Not and be able to go home and smile at her parents when we ran across each other.
She began to open the door and get out. "Get back in this car, young lady." I ordered in my best enraged father voice. It worked, she jumped back into the car and closed the door. "Now I'm going to go in and get your money back. You lock the doors and do not open them no matter what, until I get back."
I took a deep breath and got out of the car. I heard the automatic locks click before I stepped away. I went into the office and calmly explained why I was there. I got a uncaring shrug and "no refunds" from the clerk. I nearly lost it and I slipped back to the way I would have acted 30 years earlier. I threatened and bullied until the manager appeared carrying a baseball bat. He was apparently taken back by the man in the expensive suit standing at his counter and shouting obscenities and threats, as he stopped in his tracks. I told him I wanted the girls $200 back. He did not hesitate. He reached into his pocket and peeled off 4 fifty's and handed them to me, with an apology. "Please tell the bosses I'm sorry for the misunderstanding." I took the money and started out the door, as it closed behind me I could hear him berating the clerk. "Are you trying to get us killed? Can't you tell when a guy's hooked up." He was screaming. I smiled, he apparently mistook me for someone having to do with the underworld. I was not about to correct him I just wanted to get out of there.
I got in the car and got the headed for the hotel I had booked. As we drove away I noticed Kahlea was crying. "What's wrong Kahlea?"
"I can't stay there, I don't have enough money for someplace else. This is a disaster and I dragged you into it because you're nice to me."
I drove in silence for a couple of minutes until I got to a part of town that appeared a little safer and I pulled over. "Kahlea, look, I'm sorry but I couldn't let you stay there. You'd be afraid all the time and may end up getting hurt. I could never live with myself if I had left you there, especially if something happened to you." I paused and handed her a handkerchief. "Now, just like the airplane ticket, I have another room reserved for that guy I fired. You can stay there. It costs a little more than that dump but you'll be safer and you can pay me back when we get home. Ok?"
"How much more is it?" She asked
"Only a couple of dollars a day" I lied. While I had not booked the guy a room equal to mine it was still a $75 a night room, but I was not going to tell her that.
"Well if you're sure it'll be Ok and you let me pay you back."
Now she started to cry again as she threw her arms around me and kissed my cheek. "Thank you for being nice to me."
Now I was embarrassed. "You're welcome now stop crying and fix your makeup. This is a nice hotel and I don't want them thinking I am some pervert with a kidnap victim checking in."
She released me and smiled through the tears as she got herself together.
We arrived and Kahlea was amazed at the difference in what she had chosen and what I had booked. The Valet unloaded our car and parked it and a bellman took charge of our bags. I ushered her to the checkin holding her elbow so she wouldn't get lost and to give her a comfort level with the huge busy lobby of the 5 star hotel. I had reserved the rooms in the company name but they still make you check in as individuals. I took Kahlea's ID from her and took care of the details. As the clerk was entering all the info she stopped and looked at me. "We originally had you assigned to different floors, I assume you want adjoining rooms." I simply nodded, slightly embarrassed at what the girl was discreetly asking. It wasn't that I had any designs on Kahlea but I knew she would feel better, especially after the debacle to the place she had chosen, if a friendly face were close by. It really was not worth the effort to correct the clerk's misconception. The more I would deny it the more convinced she would be and in truth I knew she didn't care anyway other than to get me comfortable as it was my name on the credit card.