THE BLUE DOVE#1: The Advocate Strikes! Part Four
Industry and shipping had started leaving Border City over a decade ago when the Great Recession began. In an effort to save jobs, the mayor and town council had turned their focus to tourism and retirement communities. Their efforts were supported by local businesses and funded through municipal bond initiatives. One such idea was the Atlantic Oceanfront Resort. It was an impressive structure situated on the ocean. It was primarily two buildings, modeled after the Greco-Roman architectural tradition. The first building was a resort hotel. The second building was a conference and performing arts center. The structures were connected at various levels by glass sky walks. The resort had been a success, solidly booked for a variety of events by local residents and out of town corporations year round.
Jacque, the maitre d’ for the Atlantic Oceanfront Resort, was impeccably dressed in a designer suit, complete with a pink handkerchief protruding from his jacket pocket. He was young, tan and slim, his hair greased back perfectly in place with a pencil thin mustache. As Natalee and the other members of the homecoming committee filed into the building, Jacque smiled and methodically straightened his suit and adjusted his silk tie. “Late,” Natalee fumed. She smiled and took a deep breath. “Life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent of how we react to what happens to us. I choose to be happy. Right.”
Anthony skidded his sports car into the parking lot of the Atlantic Oceanfront Resort. Windows down and radio blasting loud music, he drove past a row of cars and whipped into an empty parking space. He checked his hair in the rear view mirror and quickly tried to brush it into place while fumbling to turn off the radio.
“Man, I love this song,” Anthony said. He hopped out of the car and started running toward the main entrance. Without even looking back, he pointed his keychain at the parked car and pushed a button. The headlights flickered on and off, the windows closed and the doors locked. He bolted up the stairs, past the fountain, and entered the building.
“S’il vous plait. S’il vous plait. Please. Please. Come in, Ms. Bennett,” Jacque welcomed her. “So very pleased that you could make arrangements to see us today. Is this the remainder of your party for this evening?”
“Unfortunately, we are missing one,” Natalee answered. “But what else is new.”
Jacque took her hand and gently kissed it. Natalee was flushed. Suddenly, Anthony slid through the crowd and across the marble floor beside her.
“Nope. Nope,” he said, panting. “Everybody is here.”
“How nice of you to join us,” Natalee whispered. “You’re sweating like a pig. What did you do run a marathon?”
“It’s a big parking lot,” he answered.
“And your friends,” the maitre d’ interrupted, gesturing toward the students behind them.
“Yeah, yeah,” Anthony said. “That’s her entourage.”
“Our entourage actually,” she replied.
“I thought you said they didn’t like me?” Anthony whispered to her.
“Don’t be such a bore,” Natalee replied, with a smile.
“My name is Jacques,” the maitre d’ remarked.
“Of course, it is,” Anthony sarcastically answered. “Jacques.”
“And I will be giving you a tour of the grand ballroom of the Atlantic Oceanfront Resort,” the maitre d’ continued. “This way, s’il vous plait.”
The group began walking down the central hallway. It was lined with statues, paintings and floral arrangements.
“So, this is for your homecoming dance? Non?” Jacques asked.
“Are you really French?” Anthony quipped. Natalee punched him in the arm with a smile.
“You’ll have to excuse the skepticism of my boyfriend, Mr. Jacques,” Natalee said. “It is for our high school homecoming dance. I’m going to be the homecoming queen.”
“How can you be so sure of this?” the maitre d’ asked. “Do you not cast ballots for such an honor?”
“That’s what the entourage is for, silly,” Natalee chuckled. “Votes.”
“What’s that room over there?” Anthony asked, pointing.
“That is a 900 seat performing arts theater,” Jacque casually remarked. “Not important.”
“And those rooms over there?”
“Smaller dining rooms. Conference rooms. Not important.”
“And upstairs,” Anthony said. “Will those elevators take us to the main hotel lobby?”
“Yes, Mr. Blake,” Jacques replied. “The luxury hotel has 350 rooms, an exercise gym, 3 indoor swimming pools, a spa and an outside pool with beach access. But, for the purposes of your event, that is not important.”
“We won’t have access to those areas?”
“No, Mr. Blake,” the maitre d’ remarked. “Only to the grand ballroom.”
“Here, we are,” Jacques said. He opened two large, gold doors and motioned them inside the room.
The grand ballroom was the size of three football fields. Six, crystal chandeliers hung from the ceiling. The floor was marble and white pillars cascaded down each side of the floor. On the arched ceiling, a mural was painted of a blue sky, dotted with white clouds. The grand ballroom directly overlooked the ocean. Anthony walked over to the panoramic view from the windows. Natalee gazed about in awe.
“It’s beautiful,” she said with a smile. She twirled around in the center of the room.
“When would your guests be arriving?” Jacques asked.
“Doors would need to open at 5 o’clock,” Natalee replied. “Will the main drive be available for limousines?”
“Of course, madam, of course,” the maitre d’ said. “We can provide all the decorations as well.”
“No need for that, Jacques,” Anthony chimed. “The entourage will handle all that. Where are the sailboats?”
“Sailboats? I’m afraid I don’t understand, Mr. Blake,” the maitre d’ said. “Why sailboats?”
“Sunset should be around 5:45ish. Having sailboats will make for a pretty cool backdrop for our photographer. But more important than that, I like sailboats.”
“I can certainly see if that can be arranged, Mr. Blake.”
“Four,” Anthony continued. “Maybe five of them. Surely, you must know some people down at the marina who would be willing to help us out?”
“Don’t you just love his attention to detail, Jacques,” Natalee remarked. “Can you just imagine how well he must have done with purchasing our decorations?”
“Cute, dear,” Anthony quipped. Suddenly, his cell phone rang. He pulled it from his pocket. It was Gabriel. “Hold on a second, I need to take this call.”
“Of course you do, sweetheart,” she called out to him as he walked away. Natalee turned back to the maitre d’. “He thinks he is so important. So Jacques, let me ask you a question.”
“Oui”, Ms. Bennett.”
“Red or blue?”
“Red or blue, silly,” Natalee repeated. “What color dress should I wear?”
“Rouge,” Jacque replied. “Rouge is your coleur.”
Anthony stood over in a corner of the ballroom.
“What do you got?” he quietly said into his cell phone.
“May have a possible lead,” Gabriel’s voice responded.
“I’ll be back home shortly to suit up.” Anthony hung up and started walking back toward the group.
“I’ll just need to darken my tan,” Natalee laughed, taking Jacques by the arm. “I’m beginning to think you really are French!”
Anthony walked up behind them. He casually removed Natalee from Jacques’s arm.
“Are we done here?”
“If there are no more questions, Mr. Blake,” the maitre d’ responded, straightening his suit. “There is only the matter of payment to the resort.”
“Send the bill to me,” Anthony quickly shot back. “First John Entertainment Productions. You know the address?”
“Merci,” Jacques replied. “As you wish.”
“One more thing,” Anthony said. He walked to the center of the ballroom and extended his arms. “Pay attention everyone. I want to rent the whole facility. The hotel rooms, the conference rooms, the dining rooms, the swimming pools, the theater. Everything. Even the exercise rooms and the kitchens.”
The group of students smiled and clapped their hands in delight. Anthony pointed over to the maitre d’.
“This is not regular, Mr. Blake.”
“Make it happen, Jacques,” Anthony remarked. He turned to Natalee. “I need to get going.”
“Another late night rendezvous, handsome?”
“You might call it that.”
Natalee took him by the arm and started to lead him out of the grand ballroom.
“You don’t get off that easily, sweetheart,” she said. “Take me for a walk down the beach. Whatever it is that you need to do, it can wait for a few more minutes.”
“What if it is important?” Anthony asked. “What about your entourage?”
“More important than us?” she answered. “I can hardly think to care what could be more important than us. And don’t worry about them. They will wait for me. Or I’ll call them from your car.”
Anthony turned back toward the maitre d’.
“Don’t forget my sailboats, Jacques. And if you could keep it from raining that day, that would be great too! See ya!”
The maitre d’ shrugged his shoulders as Natalee and Anthony disappeared through the doors.
It was sunset. Anthony and Natalee walked down the beach, holding hands and carrying their sneakers and sandals. The sky was a dazzling red, peppered with white clouds. A breeze cascaded through their hair while seagulls cried out and hovered around them. The waves slapped the sand, causing a distinct roar, but the two hardly even noticed.
“Can I ask you something?” Natalee said.
“Do you ever wonder about something?” Natalee continued.
Anthony stopped. “What do you mean?” he replied. “Wonder about what?”
“I mean, do you ever think there might be something more than all this?” she finished.
“You’re starting to sound all serious, Natalee,” Anthony quipped. He started walking down the beach again. She followed. “Why would people like us ever wonder about things like that?”
“Do you?” she insisted. “I’m willing to bet you do.”
“Not really. I don’t know,” Anthony stammered. “Why would there need to be anything more than this? What we can see? We have everything. Money. Cars. Mansions. Big, fancy places to hold our homecoming dance. What else is there?”
“Sometimes, when I’m out here,” Natalee smiled. “And I can hear the wind rushing through my beautiful hair. I feel the waves rushing through my perfect toes. I don’t know, I feel like I’m not alone. Like I’m a part of something. Are you a part of something?”
“Maybe once I was a part of something,” Anthony remarked. “But, not anymore. What are we even talking about here? God?”
“Who are we?” Natalee asked. “What proof would ultimately convince you?”
“I could ask you the same question, which is why I never ask,” Anthony replied. “Reality is something we don’t want to see. Maybe it’s best if it’s something we don’t see. We’re told the world is so beautiful, but it’s really ugly.”
“We are beautiful,” Natalee said. “We have everything. Why do we seem so empty?”
“We aren’t empty,” he replied with a chuckle. “Maybe half full. But, we aren’t empty. Remind me to stop taking you to the beach at night. You’re starting to get pretty deep.”
“You’re right, handsome,” she laughed. “I’m being so silly. Wait until you see my dress. I bet I’ll make you faint!”
“Show it to me now,” Anthony said as he pulled her close.
“Oh no, not even you can get that lucky,” Natalee smiled. “I still need to take those ridiculous decorations you bought over to Saint Veronica’s. First, I’m doing some more shopping.”
“Going to the school kind of late, aren’t you?” Anthony asked.
“I called one of the nuns or whatever they are called earlier,” she replied. “Crazy, isn’t it? Working so late, but like they have anything else to do. She sounded like she was a hundred years old. Ancient. She almost seemed relieved that I was stopping by, like she expected me or something. I’ll be fine.”
Natalee kissed him on the cheek.
“Do you need me to drive you?” Anthony asked.
“Just back to my house,” she answered. “I’ll take care of it from there. Besides, don’t you and Gabriel have some secret mission to do?”
“Yeah,” Anthony slowly said, searching for words. “We have something to do, not sure what, back at the office. I think.”
“Suddenly, a new concern for your work,” Natalee said. “I’m not sure it suits you much. Have you ever even worn a suit before? I think a blue one might work on you.”
He took her hand and they started walking back toward the conference center.
“Be careful tonight,” Anthony remarked. “Saint Veronica’s isn’t in the best part of town.”
“Concern for me,” Natalee sarcastically gushed, placing her hand on her heart. “It’s almost touching enough to be cute. I thought you were more worried about my spending on your credit card.”
“That card does have a limit,” Anthony reminded her.
“Don’t be so foolish,” Natalee laughed. “When do people like us ever have a limit?”
THE ADVENTURE CONTINUES..........