Sunday, September 18, 2011
AT THE HOTEL MONTICELLO
There was a scream beyond the wall, and a rush of flame. Turned everything a deep orange for a moment. Then faded. The scream and the flame.
Chelsea reached for the gate. Fingertips touched the cold surface. Hesitant, and then she pulled away.
“It’s a bad world out there, deary. I’d think twice before going out that gate.”
The words belonged to an old woman. Diminutive. She stood there. A smile on her face. A bow and violin in hand. More makeup plastered on than a whore down on 14th Street.
“If you plan on going out, of course,” the old woman grinned. Nodded.
“You’re new here, aint ya?” the old woman sighed. “Oh, they come and they go.”
Chelsea glanced at the gate. “No no, I’m not going” she said. Soft. Uncertain. “And yes, I’m new here,” she added, turning shadowed eyes to the old woman. “Where is here?”
“The Hotel Monticello, deary,” she replied. She chuckled. “Where else would you be?”
The old woman shuffled around on her tiny feet, mumbled something to herself, and disappeared through a door into the dimly lit edifice that rose above them.
A shadow moved in the shrubbery.
Dressed in black pinstriped suit, crushed velvet Fedora tilted over an eyebrow. He looked every bit a gangster...
Chelsea’s assessment halted. A faint memory lost, something familiar, but distant. She couldn’t bring it forth, and brushed it aside.
The man stepped forward, hands shoved in his pants pockets. He smiled. Nodded.
Nice, Chelsea smiled back. First impressions and the lot. A thought flashed: screw this guy.
Not the professional kind of screw.
The pleasurable kind.
She was impulsive.
“Sorry, I couldn’t help but overhear,” the man said. He was still smiling. “You gotta forgive Gladys; her mind drifts...”
“Should I also forgive you?”
He was caught off guard. “For?”
Chelsea’s grin was taunting. “For lurking in the bushes and listening.”
He chuckled, bowed. “I apologize,” he said, and tipped his hat by tugging its brim.
Her eyes narrowed. Her head tilted. “I accept.”
They turned to the sounds beyond the wall. No distractions. Chelsea barely heard. Her thoughts were elsewhere occupied. She grinned. Hidden in the shadows.
“Not many are here now,” the man said. He sighed. “People get a hankerin’ about what lies outside that gate. They go, and don’t come back. People die out there.”
“How did you get here?”
He smiled, nodded at the gate. “Through that gate.”
“You said that people die out there.”
“Yeah, they do. Those that ain’t got enough wits to survive.”
“Like you,” Chelsea replied. Her smile widened.
“Yeah, doll, like me.” He winked.
“How long have you been here?”
“About a month,” he replied. “Not as long as the others here.”
“How many others?”
“Oh, a dozen or so,” he said. “I don’t know ‘em all. You met Gladys, the old dame playin’ a sad cryin’ violin. And the desk clerk that don’t take no money; the bartender who looks after the empty hotel nightclub; Reggie Johnson and Susie, the gay couple, Susie’s a former prison bitch; Philip Blayne, plays the blues on a piano in the nightclub; Dixie Davis, the singer; I’m tellin’ you, doll, she’s gotta voice as sweet as a nightingale,” he said, and blew a kiss to the dusk.
“The desk clerk doesn’t take money?” Chelsea interrupted.
“No need to, not in a place like this,” he said, and nodded to the gate, “and a world like that. You just pick the room you want, tell the desk clerk, and he’ll give you a key.”
“If it’s so safe here, why a key?”
“You never know, doll,” the man said. “First night I was here, old Gladys wanted to leap in the sack with me.”
Chelsea’s eyes flashed. Her smile widened.
“I can see why,” she replied.
No mistaking her tone of voice.
Baited and hooked.
His eyes narrowed, looked down. Saw the light in hers.
“It’s getting’ cold out here,” he said.
“It is,” Chelsea said.
“Shall we go inside?” he said, and winked. “I got me a suite on the second floor.”
The tone of voice was sultrier.
He knew he could have plastered her face first against the gate, and screwed her right then and there in the shadows of the edifice. But the suite was more private.
Afforded more uninterrupted entertainment.
And a chance to get reacquainted. She certainly didn’t remember.
“Certainly, doll,” he replied and offered an arm.
She hooked it. The two of them turned toward the Monticello door.
This story has been accepted for Static Movement's forthcoming NOIR! horror anthology.