A Bit of a Tremble

The Washwater Hotel: Chapter 2

Two months previous.

Assemblyman Hunt giddily trailed his wife up the stairs to the forth floor of the hotel. The hem of her dinner dress, stopping just above her knee, tempted him. He tickled her pale, bare thigh with the tips of his fingers as she hurried up the treads one at a time, only slightly slowed by her high heels. “Stop, stop,” She giggled, swatting back at him playfully. “Ugh, you’re going to make me fall right over, Terry.”

“Well them hurry up, then.” The Assemblyman continued to play along, caressing the back of her hand.

Sheryl eventually stopped before the door and reached her hand back. “The key- oh, give it here.” She said, wiggling her fingers.

Her husband patted the pockets of his slacks, then up to his sport coat. “Here it is!” He said with a slight slur in his voice, extracting the fine key from his inner jacket pocket. Sheryl took it up and inserted it into the lock, while the Assemblyman huddled behind her, making quick kisses up her shoulder and to her neck.

“Gosh, Terry.” She complained with a giggle and a slight shove. “What if somebody sees?”

“Then we shouldn’t waste time messing with the door, now should we?”

With a click, the door unlocked and flew open. Sheryl stumbled inside, nearly tripping over her own heels. “Whoa!” She yelped, bracing herself on the wall as she lifted a foot up to unstrap the back of her shoes and free herself from the tall wedges.

The Assemblyman shut the door after a discreet glance back out into the hall. His wife had already tossed her pair of shoes to the side and wandered to the bed sloppily. She sat at the edge of the queen mattress, crossing her legs and offering a gesture with her finger.

Terry licked his lips and eyed his woman. He propped his arm up on the corner of the wall and stepped on the heel of his opposite foot to slip off the brown, leather loafer. Just as his foot started to come free, his hand slipped, causing him to fall forward, and tumble toward the bed.

Sheryl jumped out of the way as the Assemblyman’s hands hit the edge of the mattress to catch himself. Below, there was a loud crack of the wooden bed frame breaking somewhere beneath the bed. “Crap.” Terry muttered, hefting his weight back up.

Outside, a crash of rock and a thunderous grating disturbed the normal low hum of the ocean tide. The very floor underneath them seemed to shift, and the ear-splitting buzz of the fire alarm began to ring through the halls.

“Oh god, oh god.” Sheryl shot up, her stockings scraping around the carpet in all directions.

Terry forced himself up and grabbed at her arm. “Come on now, let’s get on outside.”

“What’s going on!?” She cried.

Terry dragged her behind behind him, one shoe half on, out the door and into the hall. Some of the other guests nearby had already begun flowing out of their rooms. The lights of the fire sirens strobed uncontrollably, and somewhere in the distance there was a cry of a small child.

Following the other more sensible people, the Assemblyman and his wife hurried down the two flights of stairs. Inside the lobby, Mr. Wash and the maid from the swing shift were hurrying people out the front doors, one party at a time. Obidiah locked eyes with the Terry and his wife, motioning to him in the same way.

He’s not going to be happy about this.

“Mr. Hunt, this way please.” Wash urged, watching people from the higher levels still coming down the stairs.

By the time the remainder of the guests had been cleared out of the hotel, a pair of fire trucks had already back up around the hotel’s circular drive just outside the lobby’s doors. The captain of the brigade had made contact with Mr. Wash, and others had gone inside to look for the fire and turn off the alarm.

Obidiah Wash was explaining fervently to the captain of the brigade. “No sir, no fires. It was not a mistake that it was pulled, though. Just a little bit of a tremble, but I felt it prudent to move everyone outside. It seems to be over now.”

The Assemblyman caught word of the conversation and butted in. “A little bit of seismic activity! Do you hear that, everyone?” He howled back to the crowds of guests that were still gathered outside. “We’re on the cliff here! The hotel’s gonna go flying off! When’s the last time you had a structural assessment?”

“I can assure you, Assemblyman Hunt,” Obidiah folded his hands calmly, “the hotel is not going anywhere. It is simply a precaution in a quake of that size to make sure nobody ends up hurt.”

The firefighters sluggishly returned from the depths of the hotel, shaking their heads. “Nothing, captain. No fires, no gas leaks. Not even a crack in the plaster.”

Wash turned back to the fire captain and encapsulated his hand in his grasp. “As you can see, sir, the hotel is as sturdy as ever. It was built to last just about anything.”

The captain scratched his head with a long gaze at the Washwater before nodding to his men. “Let’s wrap it up. Head on back, boys.”

The Assemblyman stared dumbfoundedly at the fire brigade, then to the owner. “I won’t stand for this, Wash.”

“I’m sorry you feel that way.”

No you don’t.

“Sheryl. Pack up the bags.” Terry directed back to his wife. “There’s a nice casino up the road not too far. We’ll go there. Mr. Wash, you will be hearing about this from the county.”

“Ah, the county.” Obidiah smiled. “I know those folks very well. Many of them have stayed with us in the past.”

The Assemblyman grimaced and joined the others who had begun reentering the building as directed by the maid and the cook who were at the entrance holding the twin doors open.

Obidiah took a deep breath as his guests warily returned to their rooms. As most were away, he felt a tug at his sleeve. The young tanned man look up at him. “Must look.”

The owner blinked at him a few time. “What is it, Horatio?”

Horatio guided Obidiah across the grass, and around the side of the building where the gardener’s shed was located. The cliff-side just beyond that point, overlooking the ocean, was normally blocked off by way of a decorative hedge row and a sturdy fence just beyond that. At the rear of the hotel, however, the usual neat strip of land had been shorn away, and far below upon the thin strip of beach laid the rubble, broken fence, and shredded remains of the boxwood.

“Well, at least none of the guests fancied this area much.” Obidiah said with a shrug.

Too bad you weren’t out here golfing when it happened.

“Horatio-” The owner spoke up again. “See if we can’t get another set of hedges here to block off this area.”

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