Duplicity in Dubuque
by Roy Dorman
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3
“I’m hiring you to be me for a couple of hours,” said Brenda Wilson to the attractive forty-something woman sitting in her living room. “I’m willing to pay you double for whatever your fee schedule specifies for a weekend. I’ll pay for the round-trip flight and all hotel, car rental, and restaurant expenses. If anything unexpected comes up, get a receipt; I’ll reimburse you.”
Brenda’s visitor, Rose Tyler, sat up a little straighter and smiled her best “tell me more” smile.
This is sounding even better than it had over the phone, isn’t it? This comment was made by a voice that had been Rose’s constant companion for a couple of years now.
Initially, Rose had thought she might be losing her mind. Later, she decided to ignore the comments in her head, rather than try to suppress them, with the hope that they would go away.
“Everybody will be wearing name tags,” said Brenda. “It’s been twenty-five years since many of these people have seen each other. You and I will go over the yearbook to get the flavor of the class and check out who the popular kids were. You’ll want to avoid them. None of them would remember you — that is, me — because I wasn’t a popular kid.
“I didn’t go to the first four reunions. I’m sure a lot of folks didn’t, but I decided to put in an appearance for the big two-five. Only I’m not really going; you’ll be going as me and will hopefully impress the group for me.”
What’s this? Watch yourself, Rose. It’s no coincidence that you and she look so much alike; this woman has done her homework.
Rose Tyler — not her real name — was in the escort business. She usually attended functions as a “date.” Most often, she posed as the girlfriend, sometimes as the fiancée, and sometimes even as the spouse. Going to an event solo would be an adventure.
“Well, you’ve got my attention. I think this is the most out-of-the-box idea anyone’s presented to me since I’ve been in the business. I like the idea of going stag too; it makes me — us — seem more mysterious. Do you have a script for me, or should I just make things up as I go along?”
Brenda realized that although she had come up with the escort idea on her own and had made the preliminary arrangements, she hadn’t worked out all of the details. “Let’s see. You’ll be using my name from when I was in high school. I was married for a while but have been divorced for years.
“My father is dead; my mother is in assisted living in San Diego, and my older brother, Bob, and older sister, Susan, each have grown children with families of their own. Bob and Susan went to the same high school but had both graduated before I got there.
“I’m an IT person responsible for the web page for the Grundels clothing chain. Somebody might ask you about clothes or Grundels, but probably won’t ask about the ins and outs of web page designing. I live here in San Francisco with two cats and am very happy.”
“Are you?” interrupted Rose.
“Am I what? Happy? Sure, I’m happy enough. If you mean why I am sending you to my class reunion, I suppose I have some unresolved issues from high school. But I’m quite comfortable with my life as it is now.”
“Okay,” said Rose. “Didn’t mean to pry. I guess that slipped out because I kinda like you. And I like being a part of what you’re doing; I feel like I’m in some kind of spy story. Now, is there anybody I should try to talk to or anybody I should avoid? Someone who might see right away that I’m not you?”
Maybe somebody she’d like you to confront and take down a peg or two?
Once again Brenda took a moment. Thinking back on those days was sometimes painful. She glanced down at the yearbook. She thought of the many times she had almost thrown it out. Now here it was, playing a part in her scheme.
“Let’s look at the yearbook... Here’s Mary Lou Paulson; popular. Jill Matson; popular. Wait, I know, I’ll circle the popular girls and boys and put squares around the regular kids. Anybody who’s not either circled or squared, I don’t remember, and they probably won’t remember me.
“There’s me; you probably looked a little like me 25 years ago. I only had one sorta close friend, Nancy Jenkins, but she died in a car accident the summer after our senior year. Some of the regular kids may come up to you with small talk about back then. You know, teachers we liked or hated, incidents in class, but I’m not worried; I’m sure with your experience you can handle anything they throw at you.”
* * *
Before fastening the chain lock, Rose had checked out the hotel room as she always did; she was a creature of habit. She looked in the bathroom and opened the closet. In her business, she had had some close calls, and she always liked to make sure she was the only one in the room. Only then did she feel she could really relax.
The room was in an older hotel that looked ripe to be bought up by a national chain and renovated. She was on the first floor. There were outdoor corridors, and her rental car was parked right outside her door. Though she didn’t think the outside corridor design was as secure as the indoor design, being only ten feet from your car was a plus.
The flight from San Francisco to Dubuque had been uneventful, and the drive from the airport also had gone smoothly. The plane tickets had been in Brenda’s name, as was the car rental, the hotel room, and the Visa card. Rose wasn’t carrying any of her own ID. Getting through the TSA folks at the airport had been dicey, but she looked enough like Brenda to do it.
She also had Brenda’s yearbook. Rose thought she would look at it a bit more before going to the reunion. Brenda had taken care of paying for her reunion fee, and Rose (Brenda) would be on the list of attendees.
Rose found that she really did like Brenda. She was smart, kept herself fit, and was good at her job. Before leaving San Francisco, Rose had checked out the Grundels web page and had found it to be very classy. She and Brenda had had dinner together the night before. Rose had told Brenda that it was part of the character study.
“So what happens if I blow it; ya know, somebody figures out that I’m not you?” she had asked Brenda while they were having an after-dinner glass of wine at the restaurant.
“No worries; you still get your whole paycheck,” Brenda had said. “In fact, it’s kind of a win-win situation. If you pull it off, I have the satisfaction of putting one over on the powers that be. If you’re found out, they’ll spend the rest of their lives wondering what the hell I was up to.”
Last night, as Rose was drifting in that mish-mosh period of pre-sleep, she had wondered again why Brenda was doing this. Most of the time she just played her role and took her money. This time she was letting her personal feelings enter into it. As she was falling asleep, she rationalized that she was just getting into the part. Now, twenty-four later, as she was getting ready for bed in Dubuque, those same questions once again nagged at her.
Maybe you like her because she seems to be a little like you. Like us.
* * *
Rose had heard of Dubuque but had never been there. She found it to be a medium-sized city on the Mississippi River with many historic old buildings in the downtown area. She decided to get a little exercise before lunch by wandering the streets. She was surprised when she came across a set of two small cable cars going up the side of a steep bluff. The scene reminded her of the cable cars in San Francisco, and she took it to be a welcoming omen.
Omen? Why would you be thinking about omens in Dubuque, Iowa? Damn, Rose, hang on; it may be starting again.
There were a few other people enjoying the Saturday morning, and Rose wondered how many of them were her former classmates. She nodded and smiled at the folks who caught her eye just in case they engaged her in conversation later that night at the reunion.
“I thought you looked familiar,” she could say.
Of course, close to half of the people at the reunion would probably be partners or spouses who hadn’t gone to Hempstead High School. Rose figured they would be going through the motions just as she was going to.
She decided to take a cab to the reunion. She’d probably have a few drinks and didn’t know the city. No sense looking for trouble. Tomorrow afternoon she’d be flying back to San Francisco. Right now she was going back to her hotel room for a quick power nap.
* * *
Copyright © 2018 by Roy Dorman