Gibbous House

By Ewan Lawrie

Nicholas Nickleby meets Psycho in a gothic, 19th-century noir

Saturday, 23 August 2014

What's in the Box II?

After Midnight at the Floridian Hotel


And still it sat there, on the bare boards. A challenge, sullen and lowering: the peeling paint proof of its age, the padlock a claim to importance. I picked up the grey telephone receiver, the push button dial had been the cutting edge of technology only forty years ago. I pressed 0 and the night guy yawned by way of answer.

'I need some bolt cutters,' I said.

'Not tonight, Mister.'

As though on any other night he'd have sent me to the all-night hardware store on the corner.

'There's fifty dollars in it, if you find some.'

'I got a cousin, might take a coupla hours.'

I didn't doubt it, his cousin had better things to do after midnight on a Sunday night for sure. With bolt cutters, too.

My cell-phone lay on the bed where I'd left it. No bars, no signal, no coverage out here in Oakum. I clicked through to my e-mail client, read the last mail. It had come in two days ago. I'd booked my evening flight out of Seattle that same morning. There was no need to reply. I threw the phone down like a TV cop and figured it didn't matter if it broke, anyhow. The window with the brick-wall view was nailed shut. I could have done with some air. I took off my tie, it ripped as I yanked at the double windsor. There would be no need to wear it – or any other tie – again.

Under the bed was an old tennis shoe and a zippo lighter with a USMC badge on it. Semper Fi, I thought and lit up another Marlboro while I waited for the night clerk's cousin.

Around 2 A.M the phone gave one of those joke rings the ironists put on their cell-phones. I picked it up.

'Lemuel's here, y' want he come up?'

'No thanks, I'll come down with your fifty.'

'Naw, gimme it tomorrow, I'll still be on the desk at breakfast.'

I didn't mention that the Floridian didn't serve breakfast, nor that I thought his cousin didn't know about the fifty dollars.

I went down and got the bolt-cutters. They looked new. Maybe the cousin hadn't had them when he went out.

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