The Do Not Disturb sign has been on the door for two days. The front desk says the man hasn’t check out, he’s waiting for his wife.
She inserts a passcard into the slot, the indicator winks from red to green. She knocks quietly, and then knocks louder and louder.
She pushes open the door and opens her mouth to call out housekeeping but a fly dive bombs her. Its body is so fat and bloated she has time to close her mouth before it flies in. She shakes her head to get it off her lips.
There is a smell in the room. Water in a vase that hasn’t been changed for weeks. Rotting garlic. And a sound, a combination of a hum and a buzz.
She ties her scarf around her nose and mouth to dampen the smell and closes the door behind her.
Mr Jules wheels a small suitcase into the hotel lobby. He hasn’t stayed here before but the thickness of the carpet tells him the hotel trades in discretion. It is too far from the beach to attract noisy tourists who will want to sit on a balcony and sip cocktails and say loudly, isn’t this marvellous and aren’t we lucky and look at the sea. The staff are all dressed in black suits and white shirts.
They set aside a key for his wife who will arrive tomorrow or maybe the day after, he’s not sure
No-one remembers if the wife arrived but the spare key is missing.
Maybe it wasn’t the wife maybe it was a mistress. Discretion doesn’t mean that the staff don’t gossip.
I saw a man in the corridor. I don’t think he was a guest. Maybe it wasn’t a wife or a mistress but a male lover? I didn’t see his face.
It was a minor matter that got Mr Peabody out of bed that night. A guest had waited five minutes for his drink to be delivered in the bar. Service. You pride yourself on service. You are not even the chewing gum stuck to a hotel manager’ shoe, never mind a hotel manager. It’s just not good enough, you hear me, it’s just not good enough. The guest’s spittle landed on Mr Peabody’s face. Not good enough, you hear me. The guest was placated with a free extra night at the hotel.
Back in his basement apartment Mr Peabody pours himself a glass of water. He stands in his kitchen staring at the grey walls and white tiles.
I’m not good enough. It’s not good enough. Never good enough. Not. Never. Not good. Never good. Not good enough.
He wants a beer. He wants several beers. He wants to drown the voice in his head, but it is midnight and his shift starts in four hours. Mr Peabody may be a gambler and a drunk but he knows this hotel is the best gig he’s ever had in his life, and he’s not letting it get away.
In his bedroom he carefully hangs up his suit and his tie. He folds his shirt into a hotel laundry bag along with his socks and his underwear. He gets into bed naked and turns off the light.
This is the signal for the man in a balaclava hiding behind the curtains to make his move. In two strides he crosses the room, grips Mr Peabody’s wrist and twists.
‘I know your type Lazarus, the dialogue that runs in your head ‘I’m not good enough, I’ll never make it in this world.’ I bet you dream of spending a week, no a month in a hotel with everyone at your beck and call.’
Some shifts in Lazarus Peabody’s body.
‘Ah yes, I was right wasn’t I. I can make that happen Lazarus, let me tell you how.’
The man in the balaclava leans in and whispers in Mr Peabody’s ear.
Inside the room someone looks inside the empty clothes cupboard – the safe is open, the lining in the dresser drawers has not been disturbed. The curtains are drawn.
It takes her a few minutes to carefully look through the clothes and toiletries in his small suitcase. She unzips the lining and extends her fingers into all the corners. Unzips the inside and outside pockets. She finds a thick band of money which she tucks into her waistband. She also finds a sim card and a media card from a camera, she puts these into her pocket.
Outside on the balcony she finds what she has been looking for, his umbrella. She carefully wraps it up in a plastic bag.
She flicks off the light on her way out and hangs the do not disturb sign on the door.
I say someone coming out of the room yesterday. I’m not sure it was the wife. She was wearing cheap perfume.
A few weeks after Mr Jules had disappeared and the police investigation was concluded, the hotel manager took a four week holiday in the Maldives. Two of the senior staff decided to take early retirement, and one junior member bought a house for his mother.
(photo by Marten Bjork – Unsplash)