The Washwater Hotel: Chapter 15
Obidiah had returned early to the hotel to discuss his current scheme with chef Brian. The fresh-faced cook was still working on the prep for that day’s dinner service when the owner came through the doors of the kitchen to meet with him. Brian looked up from the roux to greet him. “Ah, I thought I heard you. How may I help you, Mr. Wash?”
Obidiah looked about the sparking kitchen while taking in the buttery smell. “Good work, I’ve seen so far, Mr. Gates. Horatio isn’t causing too much trouble, I hope?”
“Oh, on the contrary.” Brian said, wiping his hands on a kitchen towel.
“Oh. Good, good, then. I’ve just come back in from town, where I was discussing with the butcher.”
“I haven’t had much time to be about the town so far, to be honest.”
Obidiah hummed and shook his head. “Well, don’t work yourself too hard. That being said, though… I had a task I thought I would ask of you.”
“Anything, sir.” Brian said back, meeting eyes expectantly with the owner.
“This weekend.” Obidiah began. “I’d like to open up our dining room to the public. Generate some more interest in the hotel, especially considering that we now have something to help us stand out.”
Brian peered at his sauce and carefully adjusted the flame beneath it. “I appreciate that.” He said, glancing back.
“If you could, I would like to do a traditional Sunday roast. Meat, veg, oh… Yorkshire Pudding!”
“That’s easy enough.”
“Wonderful.” Obidiah clapped his hands together. “The butcher, as I was saying, can provide us with the roasts we would need. I’ll go and send a message now to the paper and advertise the event.”
“I’ll be looking forward to it.” Brian said, his attention about to move to another dish.
“Oh, and Mr. Gates?” Obidiah stopped on his way out.
“I’ll have your first week’s pay tomorrow. If I may recommend, a day off could do you some good.” He smiled.
Joel and Steven had departed earlier that morning. Upon leaving the hotel, Steven had gone back around the side of the building to retrieve his bike that was chained up just beyond the gardening shed. With the younger man walking the bike, they began their stroll to the port up the road.
“My mentor will be arriving today.” Steven said, his grip finely on the handlebars. “It takes a couple of hours to get here from down south, so I’ll have just enough time to ride back.”
“I’m sure I can find my way about.” Joel assured him. He adjusted the strap of his bag around his shoulder, laden with his Polaroid camera and binoculars.
The smell and the sound of the ocean came upon them as the road sloped downward towards the port and the river’s mouth. There was already a collection of cars along the road of people heading to the fish market or down farther to the beach.
Steven waived at a familiar face as they passed by, dodging the people moving up and down the sidewalk. “For as many people as there are in this town, I’m surprised the hotel is so… desolate.”
“Well, it’s not the small town gossip.” Joel shrugged. “My contact at the chamber says that people still love Mr. Wash and the hotel. So much so that they couldn’t event get anyone in to do a proper inspection, as they couldn’t help but thing nothing but the best of him. But, of course, that doesn’t matter as they really depend on business from out of towner’s. There was an assemblyman from the regional government staying there at the time that… seismic event… happened. He was upset by the inaction that he basically took Bluewater off the tourism board’s map. Plenty of people staying at the casino’s hotel up the road a ways, though.”
“It’s a good enough place to study the fishing industry around here, though.” Steven smirked.
“As long as the hotel stays put up there on the bluff.” Joel sighed. “And I know I haven’t discovered all that there is about the place, either.”
The sidewalk stopped abruptly as the road split off up to the hill and the bridge across the river, and down to the loading docks by the water’s edge. Joel stepped forward against the low, decorative fence and peered back down the coastline, where the cliffs grew up, leaving only a slight strip of land to meet the wash of the tide. Far in the distance, the Hotel sat nicely perched upon the edge of the formation.
“The beach in this part isn’t much to see, but it will take you there.” Steven pointed.
Joel adjusted his bag once again. “Well, hopefully it will give me the information I need.”
Steven sighed loudly, catching Joel’s attention. “Hey Joel…”
“Well…” He began, hesitating. “Mr. Wash isn’t a bad guy, you know.”
“Obviously not.” Joel shrugged. “But the safety of the guests is in his hands.”
Steven sighed again and looked up at the sun. “Right. Well, I need to get in what work I can before the doc comes by…”
Joel kicked at the ground with his light, waterproof shoes and nodded. “Good luck.”
The tide was low, and the strip of land beneath the tall cliffs could have hardly been called a beach. The tall walls of clay-rich dirt were littered with protruding tree roots and salt-splashed rocks. Joel treaded uneasily on the rocky, moist ground while the gnats swarmed and parted as he went by. The hum of the port and the cawing of gulls therein left him behind, leaving only the rhythmic splashing of the water against the shoreline.
The hotel was the only structure upon the cliff for several kilometers. Joel could make out the sun reflecting off the sea-facing windows above, and the wind washed paint of the building’s siding. His distracted footfalls came across suddenly a metallic scraping under the mud and pebbles of the beach not too far from the hotel. Joel brushed aside what he could with the bottom of his shoe.
Buried under the wash from the tide were the squares of chain link fence, just the same as the barriers above. Sticking out in certain areas, while appearing at first glance as rocks, were the old cement footings that had originally held the fence in the ground while the fixture still was attached where it belong at the top of the cliff.
As the water ebbed back from the shore, Joel caught sight of another oddity: a thick, woody bramble seeming to grow out from the tide zone. The plant was, in fact, the forcefully transplanted boxwood that had once been the chain-link’s neighbor up by the hotel’s exterior. Joel flipped around his backpack and pulled out the Polaroid to record the scene.
The final thing Joel took notice of was the most shocking. As he took up the developing photos and shoved them under his arm for safe keeping, he noticed the side of cylindrical tube protruding out of the hard dirt of the cliff side. The tube, made of metal, was clearly a sort of pier, set deep into the ground, continuing up likely to the Hotel’s lowest levels, and then farther down into the earth past the water level. It was clear, however, that the structure had begun to succumb to the elements and rust away, leaving the hotel to only be supported by the quickly eroding dirt.
Joel took out his binoculars and peered up at the wall of earth above him. Protruding out from the formation were the telltale corners of the structure slowly easing its way out of the ground and closer to its demise. With a snap of a few more pictures, Joel began his hurried return to the port and back to the hotel to amass all of his recorded data.