By: S. McManus
The red warning tape on my door reminds me to refrain from opening it. It wouldn’t be the first time I almost waltzed straight into the crime scene. How embarrassing.
Technically speaking, they really shouldn’t be letting murder suspects out and about in the hotel, but it’s quite desolate, to say the least. An unremarkable building surrounded by farms on either side, founded on old men’s love of golf, that wasn’t quite enough to attract guests in the frosty mornings of the off-season. In other words, it’s stay inside or risk hypothermia, roughing it with the cows. But in my humble opinion, I don’t think I have the look of a criminal, just some weathered down fool.
It’s not even five in the afternoon, and the clouds are already darkening beyond the unkempt golf fields. An early winter sunset. As the sky grows dim my own silhouette begins to form in the windowpane against the egg-shaped lights of the corridor. I squint with my uncovered eye to discern the gauze firmly wrapped around my nape and right side of my face, features looking almost a decade older than I remembered them.
Well, there might be one other reason why they haven’t bothered to at least cuff me or cut off the water for my hot baths. Any helpful information, witness recount, down to the reason behind my empty suitcase and why such a strange symbols curls around my hipbone, is gone. At least temporarily. (Not that they’ve seen my hipbone tattoo)
I guess that’s to be expected when your whacked in the head with a safe.
For all I know, this could’ve all just been one huge prank save for the fact my wanderings of the long, red-and-amber carpeted corridors always lead me back to this door. Maybe I was someone who enjoyed that kind of practical joke. A completely different guy with the suaveness and eloquence the old receptionist had described me as, and not a child stricken with the backpains of a much older body.
The red tape trembles in the reflection, and with a gentle creak, the door opens just enough for the county sheriff to poke his head out. Immediately, I’m drawn to his thick mustache. It’s white, but only around the edges, and shuffles around his face as he speaks.
“Oh, it’s you again.”
There’s no hostility in his voice, I think they’ve long figured my amnesia isn’t faked as a roundabout way of going free. No one seems to care all that much about the murder at all really, rather, it’s been used by the sheriff and his partner as an excuse to enjoy the hotel amenities, while not really investigating, bidding their time for my memory to return. The hefty room service tray discarded beside the door says as much.
As if he suddenly remembered his job, his face pinches together in a frown, “Get back to the triplets, I already told you, you can’t be alone, suspect!”
He waves his bare arm around for good measure and he slams the door shut again, cutting off any view of the mess inside.
I try not to think about it too much, but the murder itself seems to have been quite gruesome. No one’s exactly told me what happened (maybe thats how they’ll know if I remember), but the tale has ranged from a knife to the heart of poor Jackie Callaghan, cyanide, and a sudden heart attack while falling out the open window to his death.
Not that I think I’d leave an open window just lying around like that, it’s freezing.
As I make my way down to the reception I’m stopped by Ms. Connor, the private investigator who comes by every so often (and makes a big show of not making herself seen) to talk me into betraying and framing my “accomplice”. She grips my shoulder, smiles with her lip-stick-stained teeth, and nods as if I had already agreed to her grand scheme. This time though, she slips something into the front-pocket of my robe, just the right size and width of a letter, and makes her way out the staircase.
I take the letter out (discreetly, just in case there really should be a reason for caution), and trace the pen-man ship, still fresh enough to stain my fingers.
From my employer
I slip it back into the pocket as if stunned, stepping down mechanically lest one of the triplets suspect something. The thumps of the hotel-provided slippers I’ve been forced to wear in the absence of my boots ring even louder, but I make it to the plush armchairs by the fireplace of the lobby, where they’re already waiting for me, giggling behind their cards.
The triplets aren’t in fact triplets at all, but rather three similarly aged young women who are never apart. They’re made up of brunette, whose hair’s been fried from all the swimming pool chlorine, a blonde, whose hair’s long been ruined by bleach, and raven, whose hair seems to be fine but acts just a tad overly cheerful at all times.
Considering I supposedly murdered her brother, that is.
“At last, you’ve joined us”, Alice, the blonde, announces, placing down her cards.
All three put on an even brighter smile, that seem a little wicked in the firelight.
I nod absentmindedly, sitting down with a huff.
“That’s right, deal me in.”
This is where I spent most of my past week- playing cards with the three non-sisters, to the sad melodies of the lanky pianist who was probably gloomier than he had any right to be. Their chatter carries on throughout the game, trading recipes, rumours and accusations that if said in the wrong tone could lead to them being the ones at the other side of the questioning table.
They’re a little bit terrifying, these supervisors of mine.
Soon enough, I’ve tired of the same game of Blackjack and excuse myself to our rooms. They nod, and delve back into their conversation, in false distraction. They may look pretty and act air-headed, but I’m not foolish enough to think they’d actually give me an opportunity to try something.
Like contacting this supposed accomplice of mine, for instance.
I make it back to their rooms after retracing my steps with a few wring turns, bumping into the sympathetic concierge who can never recommend me anywhere other than the caves which are flooded this time of year.
As I push the key in, I notice the shoe box that’s returned since this morning when I sent in my muddy boots.
Opening the box, I find the boots shine immaculate, except they aren’t quite the ones I sent in this morning. These are boots I just barely remember, sitting in the corner of a suitcase, that belong to the me I lost.
Option A: Ignore the boots and read the letter
Option B: Investigate where the boots came from and ignore the letter
OPTION A WAS CHOSEN, CONTINUE IN THE NEXT INSTALMENT.