The Dorchester Hotel, London
An Arch Patton Short Story
This is the hotel I used in Europe as a sort of a hideaway, heal up joint, and spa to recover from missions. It is very expensive now and was even more so back when I was an active intelligence agent in the field. The Dorchester Hotel prided itself on being able to accomplish any mission given to it by a guest. One bad night I came into Heathrow at two a.m. in the morning on a Sunday. I called the Dorchester Hotel and registered with the ‘company’ Amex card. I then asked for the concierge. Robert came on the line. I told him I was a guest and that I needed a haircut, shave massage immediately because I had a meeting only five hours away. He asked me when I would be arriving at the hotel. I told him.
He said: “it will be my pleasure, sir.” He then hung up.
I stared at the silent phone handset. ‘Just like that?’, I thought. Really? I got my luggage, got a cab and got to the hotel. The doorman took my bags and then the car. I walked over to the concierge counter and there stood Robert. He had the crossed castle kind of thing they put on the lapels of those special agents in concierge that pass some kind of hugely difficult test. I told him who I was. He told me to follow him.
We went to the Dorchester basement by a back stairway. There a barber’s chair was set up in a small room. A woman washed and cut my hair, and then lathered and shaved me with a straight razor. A muscled giant came in and took me to another room for a tough but wonderful massage. Robert stood waiting when I came out. He then took me directly to my room, where my bags had been unpacked and my stuff stowed, that stuff which had not gone off to cleaning. I gave Robert a hundred-pound tip and went to bed.
At dawn, the clothing arrived, placed into the room without anyone knocking. I never did figure out how that service person operated the little lever guard I’d put in place before I’d gone to sleep. All my clothes were there, hanging like mummies, the arms and legs of shirts, coats, and trousers packed with tissue paper. My shoes were cleaned and shined. I got dressed and went to my meeting. I checked out two days later.
I was on the plane home when I opened the Dorchester envelope with a copy of the bill inside. I gingerly opened the single sheet of high-quality stationery. The bill was totally simplicity, so like the Dorchester itself…ornate simplicity. The bill charged 2400£ for the two nights and then 6,823£ for “extraordinary services.” and that was it. 6,823£, at the exchange rate then, equaled $11,367 US. I sat back in my seat, breathing deep and thinking furiously. In the Red Sea, I’d been stung by jellyfish on the mission. I’d reacted badly being allergic to jellyfish sting poison, probably from being stung so many times as a kid surfing and playing in the ocean around Oahu.
I rummaged through my diary. I found the crummy torn receipts I’d gotten from the crummy rotten hospital I’d been airlifted to in Budapest (that’s another story!). I’d gotten out of there alive to marginally recover and get to London. I smiled. I had my story.
The “extraordinary services” became medial expenses, necessary because the care was so bad in Hungary that I had to get to some more civilized place to save my own life. The mission had been a complete disaster but a total success. I’d lost my partner, and some other people died who should not have died, two of them being U.N. observers. But, as team leader, the after-action report was accepted as another success for me because the mission itself had been such a windfall for the Agency and therefore the country.
I was home only four days when the call I knew had to be coming came from D.C. The Agency is very very sensitive about auditing field agent’s expenses, especially when it comes to personal stuff that might get thrown in (like gambling, booze, piano bars, etc.). In five minutes it was over, however. The auditor bought my story, hook, line, and sinker. All I had to do was send in my receipts by Federal Express.
That I had received, at 3:00 a.m. in London on an unknown Sunday, the most expensive haircut, shave and massage of all time, would pass unknown through history until right this minute.