Thursday, 5 June 2014

Midnight at Hotel Oscar (part 2)

This is part two of a crime story I'm working on. Part one is here.

Twenty minutes later, Detectives Jack Jackson and Mary Swann were in Jackson’s car on their way to the Hotel Oscar. Two officers were in the back seat, holding on to the door handles and trying not to look alarmed at Jackson’s driving skills.

Hotel Oscar was one of the larger hotels in the city. It was owned by the Martin family – one of the richest and most screwed-up families in the world. The Martins were currently featuring on one of those fly on the wall documentaries that Jackson knew his wife watched whenever he wasn’t around to complain about it. It was the most popular show in town so Jackson hated it on principle.

Mary was plainly delighted to be out of the office. She was literally bouncing with excitement in the passenger seat – although admittedly some of the bouncing was due to the knackered suspension on Jackson’s car. Despite Jackson’s determined silence, she was keen to start a conversation.

“That’s a nasty set of scratches on your bumper,” she said cheerfully as they shot past a speed camera and turned a corner far too quickly.

“Bumped a – I mean – a cyclist hit me,” grunted Jackson, trying to ignore her.

“Oh that’s terrible. You should have arrested him. Is that egg on your tie?”

Jackson didn’t reply. The two officers in the back seat tried to hide their grins.

They pulled up in front of the Hotel Oscar and parked in a tow zone.

“Police,” Jackson barked officiously as he passed through reception. He flashed his badge at the receptionist who shrugged and carried on typing on her phone. Mary had her badge out as well. She was showing it to everyone they passed, like a new toy. She was also smiling far too much. Didn’t she realise police detectives were meant to look grim when they arrived at a crime scene?

On the seventh floor they were met by the worried-looking manager of the hotel.

“I’ve only worked here a week,” was the first thing he said as Jackson and Swann emerged from the elevator.

“Oh, me too,” said Mary happily.

The managed looked at her.

“At the precinct, I mean,” she said.

Jackson sighed. “Show us the body,” he said, cutting Mary off before she tried to tell her life story.

“Body?” said the manager. “There’s no body.”

Jackson stared at him. “No body? You reported a shooting, right?”

“Yes, but the room was unoccupied. There’s no one hurt. Look.”

The manager used a plastic key card to open the door of room 703. Jackson stepped past him and into the room. As the manager said, there was no body. Shots had definitely been fired though. You could smell the gun smoke in the air – just light wafts of it seeping through the overtones of cheap hotel soap. And there was another smell – something Jackson couldn’t place. Something he’d smelled before.

“See here,” said the manager, pointing at the wall. There was a hole in the plaster. A bullet, sure enough. It had passed right through the wall. Had probably ended up somewhere in the building opposite. Jackson wondered if it had hit anyone.

“And here,” said the manager. He was pointing up at the ceiling now. There were three more bullet holes above the bed. It looked like someone had deliberately fired straight up in the air.

“What’s up there?” Jackson asked.

“Room 803,” said the manager.

“Anyone in it?” Mary asked.

“Yes, but they were out,” said the manager. “They’re not back yet but we checked the room. Would you like to see?”

Jackson nodded. He set the two officers the task of photographing the scene and then he and Mary followed the manager into the elevator and up to the next floor. Room 803 was a mess. The bullets had exploded up through the floor and shredded the bed. Pillow fluff and feathers coated the room. A small suitcase lay on the dressing table.

“Whose room is this?” Jackson asked.

The manager looked worried. “I can’t tell you,” he said.

Jackson raised an eyebrow at him.

“I’m sorry,” the manager said. “I can’t.”

“You can’t tell us whose room this is?” said Mary. “Why not?”

“Because the person in this room is a special guest,” the manager said. “They’re in the register under a false name, so there’s no chance the press will find out they’re here.”

Jackson walked over and stood in front of the manager. Jackson wasn’t very tall but he was tall enough to loom when he needed to. He loomed.

“Tell me,” he said quietly.

The manager looked up at Jackson then hung his head. “Oscar Martin,” he said.

“Oscar Martin? The Oscar Martin? The Oscar Martin who owns this hotel?”

The manager waved frantically and tapped his finger to his lips. “Keep your voice down!” he said. “No one can know.”

“You’re telling me the man who owns this hotel is actually staying here? How come?”

The manager groaned and shook his head. “I’m not meant to say.”

Jackson just stood and stared at him. He willed Mary to be quiet as well. It was an old technique. Stay silent long enough and someone will feel the urge to break the silence. It was very quiet in this hotel. He could hear the officers taking photos in the room below.

“He’s left the TV show,” said the manager, giving in to the silence at last. “He’s left his wife. If the press find him here they’ll swamp the place. He’s in hiding. Please, you can’t tell anyone.”

“TV show?” said Mary. “What TV show?”

“Fly on the wall thing,” said Jackson. “His house is full of cameras. They’ve been broadcasting live every day for the past month.”

The manager shook his head. “Not live. The TV people – they say its live but it’s not. There’s a day’s delay. For editing – that sort of thing – you know? Mr Martin left home yesterday and moved in here. He hasn’t been back. Tonight they’re going to show him leaving, and then the press will go crazy. They’ll be hunting for him everywhere. So he’s hiding here. Please, you mustn’t tell anyone. He has to stay hidden.”

“Why’s he hiding?”

The manager looked stricken.

“Come on,” said Mary, “tell us.”

The manager stared at them. “No,” he said. He looked resolute. “No, that’s nothing to do with any of this. It will be on TV tonight. It’s a surprise. I’m not spoiling it.”

(To be continued...)