The Washwater Hotel: Chapter 13
The room below Steven Narrows’, number 311, was, luckily, uninhabited. To the left of that particular room was the Guislain’s- Marianne and Anna’s- lodgings, who were still down eating in the dining room. To the right of 311 was where Joel Yannison had been staying. While he had been in the room at the time of the tub crashing partially through into the neighboring room from the floor above, he was too distracted in writing up his findings from the basement he had experienced earlier that morning to fully notice the sound. To him, it could have been someone dropping a suitcase inside the hall outside.
Marianne, upon her arrival to the dining room just a little bit earlier, found dismay in seeing Mr. Wash still present. “This should be the codger’s day off.” She said to herself.
“Hein, maman?” Anna asked her, tilting her head.
“Oh, nothing, Anna.” Her mother responded, a new plan of action forming in her mind.
Marianna had found the lunch quite pleasant, despite the situation. Anna had been reluctant in the fishy main course, and was offered instead a plate of pasta, seasoned with butter and salt, from the chef by way of Melinda. The little girl happily accepted and later consumed the simple dish.
Marianne’s secondary plans then went south as her gaze found Mr. Wash retreating to his office, instead of leaving the hotel as expected. Somewhere between the waitress taking away the lunch plates and bringing out the mousse to a happily awaiting Anna, she concocted something new.
Melinda bowed her head at the mother and daughter as she was finishing the service. “Just leave any dishes on the table, and myself or Horatio will be by to clean up later. I’ve got a bit of things to take care of about, so I will see you another day.”
“Bonne Journée, Melinda.” Marianne responded, watching her retreat from the dining hall. “Anna, it seems like getting into Mr. Wash’s room will have to wait for another day.”
“Oh-” Anna mumbled absentmindedly as she scraped up bits of the mousse with her spoon. “Okay.”
“Do you still have that drawing somewhere, maybe?”
“The one of the fish.”
Steven had managed to stabilize a single corner of the tub with the bar from the closet, potentially keeping it from collapsing any further into the floor below. The fish had just enough water to stay submerged in the low corner of the fixture. He had considered taking it up into its original, smaller container, but the creature’s comportment at the time would likely make the task detrimental to his fingers.
A knock at the door turned the racing of his mind to an uncontrolled spin-out into the barrier. “I’m completely undone. They’re going to find the fish, and this ruin, and I’m going to end up paying for it all. I’m going to lose my scholarship, and get kicked out, have to move back in with the folks…”
The knock came again. “Mr. Narrows?” The light accent came through the door.
Steven swiped his messy hair to one side and offered a smack to his cheeks. He picked up the key from beside the door and carefully unlocked it, only opening it a crack. Marianne stared at him from the other side. “Is everything alright, Mrs. Guislain?” He said, adjusting his glasses.
Marianne leaned back slightly upon seeing Steven’s reddened face. “I should ask the same of you, Mr. Narrows.”
“Salut, Steven.” Anna called out from beside the door.
Steven let out a loud breath. “Oh, me, I’m just out of shape and all tired from climbing all the stairs up here. Hello, Anna. Can I… help you with something?”
Marianne stepped forward slightly and attempted a glance into the room. Steven shifted upward to block her sight. She put on a fake smile and spoke up again. “Well, little Anna here reminded me after we saw you heading back here after lunch.”
“Oh?” Steven hummed, trying to hurry along the conversation.
“I drew you a picture! Of a fishy!” Anna said, holding up a sheet of paper up against the door jamb.
“She wanted to give it to you.” Marianne added. “Obviously, we don’t want to take up too much of your time, but perhaps we can hang it on your refrigerator or something?”
“You can add it to your school book!” Anna added.
“Oh, well.” Steven nodded. “I’d love to have you in, but the room is just a mess, especially after moving. Papers everywhere, unorganized. Can’t have them getting mixed up.
“We won’t be but just a bit, Steven.” Marianne insisted. “Anna was really looking forward to it.”
Steven cleared his throat loudly. “You know, I was actually just going to go back downstairs and turn in my dishes. We don’t need Melinda coming up all this way just for me.”
Marianne placed her hand on the edge of the door, knowing that the young man wouldn’t have the gall to close it on her fingers. “Anna is going to pester me, you know, Steven.”
Steven placed his foot at the back of the door. “Uh, well, another time? I’m going to the fish marker tomorrow morning, after I get back, we may.” With a swipe at Marianne’s fingers, the door clacked back closed, and he locked it with a swift turn of his wrist.
Marianne stepped back with a sigh. She crouched down and attempted to look through the door’s keyhole, getting only a slight glance of the light coming through the window. “Come, Anna. We’ll be sure to be back again.”
Joel stretched his arms up from the keys of the typewriter. The block of notes described the failure of the load-bearing wall down in the basement, and was annotated with a particular section number referring to a quadrant within the pages of blueprints stretched out on the bed nearby. His wandering, tired eyes took notice of a streak down the wall from the crown molding just above the bed that he had not taken notice of before.
Shoving the delicate stack of drawings aside, he carefully stepped up onto the comforter, his feet rocking back and forth on the soft surface of the mattress. He steadied himself against the wall with his hand while reaching up with a finger, dragging it through the streak of water that had formed on the wall, drawn by a singular drop that continued to inch its way downward. From about the same area ahead, several more droplets were beginning to form and continue their journey downward.
Joel jumped down and slipped on his loafers before allowing himself out of the room with a turn of the heavy key. He left the door unlocked in his rush down the hall and up the nearby stairs. His first guess was the room above his own, 413. There was no sign of activity on the other side, and he continued to the next room with a series of loud knocks.
“Marianne, I’m still quite busy, I’m afraid.” Steven called back as he went about the ruined tub exterior with the available towels. There was obviously much water still about in the void between the floor and the ceiling of the next room down, but it would have been unreachable without taking the entire fixture apart.
Joel knocked again. “Is that you, Steven? There’s something I must ask of you.” He called out in a serious tone, making sure there were no others about out to hear.
Steven finally came to the door and unlocked it, once again allowing it open only a crack. “You-”
Joel shoved his foot into the door and spoke into the small space Steven had allowed. “You don’t have a leak you don’t know about, do you?”
“That I don’t know about?” Steven puzzled nervously. He pursed his lips and moved back from the door to allow Joel through. “You can’t tell anyone about this… though, Mr. Wash is going to find out sooner or later.” Joel stepped into the room while Steven held back and made sure the door was locked after him. “Mrs. Guislain tried to get in earlier for something totally unrelated, gods, what an ordeal.”
“Dear lord.” Joel hummed, approaching the destruction. “What did you do? Hold on now, is that a fish? And how ugly!”
“Don’t mind her, please.” Steven begged. “She’ll be gone by tomorrow.”
Joel eyed the fish for a moment longer before peering at the sides of the tub where it was previously mounted to the wooden frame beneath. “Well, this isn’t original to the hotel, obviously. But it’s not to code, either.”
“Building code.” Joel prodded at the weak beams, some of which had been stained with dark mold from contact with moisture. “So it wasn’t particularly your fault.”
“I don’t know how Mr. Wash will feel about your… unexpected guest, though.”
Steven rubbed at his arm. “No doubt… hey, how do you know about the building code? What are you on?”
Joel huffed and paced about the more fancy room, giving it a once over. “The county brought me in to inspect this place. A couple of months ago, the cliff-side gave way and the whole hotel seemed to shift, is what I heard. You know anything about it?”
Steven shook his head. “Only been here ‘bout three weeks, give or take.”
“The Maritime Agency has been doing a bit of prodding, too, looking at the erosion along the coastline for some time now, especially around the stretch here.”
“My studies-” Steven perked up. “I’m following the changes in fish populations as the coastal habitat changes. I’ve heard plenty of what’s going on.”
Joel eyed the fish which seemed to stare at him from the corner of the jacuzzi tub. “I see. Well, truth be told, if Mr. Wash knew what I was doing, he’d give me the boot. He seems to think he can sit on this perch here forever.”
“Yeah, no kidding.”
“You down on the water often, no?” Joel said, making eye contact with the student. “You ever been down to the beach down below the cliff-side here?”
“Not that far, but I’m pretty sure its a short walk from the port where I’m usually at.”