Friday, November 10, 2017

An Unpleasant Guest

An Unpleasant Guest
Bobby Derie

Mooney was on duty in the lobby when the call came in from the concierge at the desk. The lobby of the Goodman Hotel was a short hall in black marble, white tile, and dark wood, inlaid with traceries of brass in an Art Deco style that partook of a certain Gothic trend; lots of fluting and sharp edges, stylized human figures that devolved into leering gargoyles that concealed light sconces, so that they were backlit. The walls narrowed slightly as they approached the desk, making the lobby look a bit longer than it was, and, coincidentally, meaning that there was space near the entrance for a black leather chair, so that Mooney had a good view of those guests arriving before they saw him. It was his favored spot for tracking escorts as they came and went, but he stood immediately when the concierge put down the phone and nodded at him.

The house detective stood six inches under six feet, and had learned only a single rule of fashion: everything goes with black. His black three-piece suit was matched with a black collared shirt and a thin black tie, drawing attention to his pale hands and face, red-brown hair shaved down almost to the skin in a military-style buzzcut. Mooney walked with purpose to the counter, where the concierge held out the rectangular plastic card that passed for a key these days.

"Fourteenth-oh-twelve," she—no, Mooney corrected himself, he, because the concierge was transitioning—said. "Again." the concierge added, brown eyes wide.

"Mister Ranevy is proving a most unpleasant guest." Mooney remarked. "Third time, isn't it?"

"Yes, Mr. Mooney."

"And how much longer is he staying?"

"Booked through the 16th."

"The full moon." Mooney clucked his tongue. "Paid in advance?"

"Yes sir."

Mooney smiled, then rounded the desk towards the elevators, taking the turn slowly. The hallways in the hotel were generally angled so you couldn't see around the corners—sometimes couldn't see the corners, until you were close on them—and Mooney knew how easy it was to bump into people if you weren't careful. Stepping in to the carpeted box, Mooney caught his reflection in the mirror-polished brass walls for a moment. Then he turned around, facing the doors, and carefully tapped the rectangular ivory button—reclaimed from an old piano, he knew—next to 12. The concierge gave his tight-lipped little smile as the doors closed on Mooney.

On a plaque about the buttons was the brief legend of the hotel; built on Goodman's Lot, the only patch of real estate that the Colonists hadn't wanted or dared to cut down or build over. Mooney's own researches had suggested there were some other issues with the building site, and certain incidents during construction, so that there were almost certainly a body buried beneath each corner of the foundation; that was long before his time as the house detective, but his position afforded him access to certain files which even management and the current owners probably were ignorant of. Suffice it to say, it was the sort of place that attracted the occasional unusual guest at a higher rate than others. Management took that in stride; all old buildings have their quirks.

The rooms on this floor began their numbering with zero-zero-zero—Mooney's office, when he wasn't holding down the lobby—and oh-twelve was one of the suites. He knocked on the door for politeness sake, then checked his watch and swiped the card; the lock clicked open with a pale glimmer of a green LED, and he turned the brass knob and opened, but did not immediately enter.

14012 was dark—not simply because the lights were off, but because the heavy velvet curtains had been drawn across the windows and tied tight by the sashes. The suite included three rooms, plus the bath and a walk-in closet; Mooney had long-since memorized the layout and could probably navigate it with his eyes closed, but waited a moment. From the direction of the largest room, a piece of shadow detached itself from the rest and strode forward. Mr. Ranevy was a head and a half taller than Mooney, dark of complexion but not tanned, and bare-chested, the dense hair nearly covering his arms and chest in a thick mat, like the old photos of those very special people from circus sideshows.

Mooney caught his eye. "Good morning, sir. I am the hotel detective. I am afraid we've had a complaint regarding your suite. Would you mind if I came in for a moment to talk with you privately?"

"Enter freely, and of your own will." Ranevy said, a trace of one a North Umbrian accent in his speech—one that those who knew little of such things might have thought Scottish, before they learned better.

"Very droll, sir." Mooney smiled as he stepped inside; the door shut behind him swiftly, and they were in darkness.

"Shall I turn on the light?" Ranevy said. Mooney turned to face the voice, senses on edge. There were familiar smells in this suite—blood, raw meat starting to turn, and the fake strawberry scent of the lubricant discreetly sold in the hotel pharmacy, which was little more than a dispensary for pills and prophylactics.

"Some things are better if I don't see them, sir." Mooney said. "Regarding which, I must say regretfully say that there is an issue with your stay. While it is not the policy of the Goodman to interfere with our guests, and to respect their privacy, there has been a question from management about the...occupancy limit of your suite."

Mooney could not hear Ranevy breathe, but a certain tension seemed to rise.

"There is no one else here." Ranevy declared.

"Security cameras, sir. In the hallways, the elevators, the stairwells, the bar and the dining room. You have brought three people—known to us and the local police as escorts—into your suite over the last three nights. And they have not left."

Mooney felt Ranevy smile, and quietly took a few steps into the main room, laying a reassuring hand on the heavy felt drapes. "You are hear to arrest me?" the voice came from behind him.

"No, sir. I am a house detective. I am not a member of the police, and I do not have powers of arrest. Nor, for that matter, am I here to help resolve issues that the guests might have regarding lost or stolen items. I am employed to protect the hotel."

"Is that a threat?" Ranevy's voice was directly behind him.

"It need not be, sir. Provided that there is no particular issue that threatens the interests of the hotel or its reputation."

"I think you have no power or authority here, detective. I have paid for this room, and I know the laws: you cannot evict me. What I do here is my affair. Go, and tell that to your management."

Mooney closed his eyes and ripped back the sash on the curtain, stepping away. Sunlight, bright and warm, flooded through half the room. Ranevy did not even have time to scream, falling backwards, stricken by the light. The house dick kept to the shadows as the light did it's work. The bare chest seemed to go translucent as it soaked up the pulsing rays, then began to quietly smolder from within. Pockets of flesh between the ribs fell in, revealing glowing coals like a cigarette. Moonlight, Mooney knew, rejuvenated some of them; and moonlight was only reflected sunlight. Too much was like an overdose...

He waited until most of the surface flesh was reduced to gray ash, which began to float upwards on drafts of warm air from the still glowing bones. Then he carefully lifted a lamp from the table, unplugged it, and began using the heavy base to pulp the dry, gray bones until nothing left resembled a human. The teeth he picked out with a handkerchief and stuck in his pockets. A few more minutes with the Goodman's particular version of Gideon's—a curious affair that was bound in real dark green leather, and which contained a special appendix with red-dyed pages covering several useful formulae—settled the most pressing matter. Then Mooney began a systematic search of the suite.

What was left of the escorts were on the bed, in no shape to leave under their own power, but alive. Mooney picked up the phone and dialed the front desk.

"This is Mooney in Fourteen-oh-Twelve. Mr. Ranevy is checking out. He has left a bit of a mess in the suite, and has left some luggage behind, as well as a few companions that are the worse for wear. Send up a few wheelchairs, and we'll get take them down the freight to the loading dock: call a few cabs to get them home. When that's done, have the bellboy fetch the luggage downstairs, and tell room service to tidy up." He paused, and stared at the state of the suite. "Charge the damages to Mr. Ranevy's credit card. I'll take some pictures, just in case, but I doubt they will be disputed."


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