The Washwater Hotel: Chapter 17
Up the coastal highway a few miles from Bluewater and the hotel found a little community that was, in fact, more casino and resort than anything else. It was not a particularly fancy hotel nor casino, but it offered up flashing lights and somewhat meaningful atmosphere that promised a good time, if not a slight return on the money shoved into the slot machines.
At one particular machine was a once energetic and and creative man. His fixated eyes, unshaven face, and clothes that had been worn for several days already, were the signs of him nearly prepared to give up hope on his search. Joseph sat solemnly and, watching the wheels go by and slowly eat away at the money that was technically set aside for petrol. It was not the house, however, that was the primary sink to his pocket that day, nor any day recent. The red marks on his bank account were still adding up, but the network company would not offer up another check his way while the star of the show was still missing, forcing the halt to production.
A rustling of papers and padding of heels across the dingy carpet behind him pulled him away from another quid being sucked away into the depths of the machine. “Joseph, you must see this.”
“What’cha got for me, Liz?” He turned back tiredly, blinking the cigarette smoke from his eyes.
His suited assistant, having been mistaken for one of the attendants too many times, flipped the folds of newspaper into Joseph’s hands. “This is the county’s paper.”
“Oh, good thinking!” Joseph said back, a slight slur to his words. “We can put out a help-wanted to see if we can come across someone brand new to star in ‘Emmanuel’s Kitchen!’”
Elizabeth grabbed up the papers from Joseph’s unfocused grasp and held the particular section taut before his eyes. “Look!” She exclaimed, shoving her finger around and to the tall ad at the edge of the page.
Joseph leaned back and tapped at the glowing ‘spin’ button on the slot machine before turning his focus back to the paper. “Ohh, what do we have here? The… Washwater… Hotel. Dinner service open to the public? Do you want to eat there? Sounds expensive, Liz.”
“Again, please call me Elizabeth.” She rebutted. “Did you not read what it says?” She pulled the paper back around and squinted the glow of the neon lights from her vision. “Blah blah blah, only 5 pounds, if you’re a local. Enjoy a meal of traditional fare prepared by our newly hired chef Brian.” She read off. “Brian!”
Joseph perked up. “Our Brian? No, no, no, no way he would be using his real name.”
“Well, obviously this isn’t written by him.” Elizabeth smacked at the paper. “He wouldn’t be advertising himself if he were still trying to dodge us.”
“I mean, how many Brians are out there that can cook?” Joseph said, flipping his head back and forth. “May not even be our man.” His eyes turned back to the slot machine, and the cocktail sitting in the cup holder beneath the coin return.
Elizabeth placed the paper in the nearby seat before giving a heavy yank to Joseph’s shoulder. “Come on now, look at you. We’re going. We can’t take the chance that it isn’t him, especially when it’s only a couple miles down the road.”
Joseph stumbled and found his footing on the ground beside Elizabeth. “Fine, fine, but you’ll have to drive.”
Obidiah took the slow, quiet of the morning to glance at the paper. The ad he had designed and sent into the paper was there as requested, touting the dinner for the coming day. He folded it up nicely and placed it before him on the desk while looking out through the windows on the door longingly.
“You know what, Horatio?” He asked suddenly to the diminutive fellow cleaning dust from the nooks and crannies of the window sills nearby. “I believe we should take advantage of this nice weather, and have our feast out on the lawn.”
Horatio stood and nodded. From the adjacent dining room, Melinda leaned in. “I agree, Mr. Wash. What a great idea.”
“When you two get a chance, pull out the folding tables and sun shades from storage down below, could you?”
Dr. Harris’ camper van smelled of pipe smoke, fast food chips, and pine air freshener. The professor and his student had took the highway down south to the bigger and slightly less touristy town nearby, where there was, luckily, a pet store. In the back of the vehicle, wedged between the folding couch and the wheel well was a proper, if not a bit small, forty gallon tank that would house the fish.
“Well,” Harris sighed, his hands on the wheel, “hopefully I can get back and get reimbursed by the department before the wife checks the account.”
“I can’t thank you enough, Professor.” Steven thanked him. “We’ll need to get the fish out of here as soon as possible.”
“Tomorrow evening, I’m thinking of heading back.”
“Tomorrow?” Steven rebutted.
“Well, I can’t go and miss the fancy dinner your hotel is putting on, can I?” Harris smirked.
“Are you kidding me?”
“What? The wife hasn’t made a proper dinner roast practically since many anniversaries ago.” He shrugged. “Besides, the water’ll need to get acclimated for the fish, am I right?”
Steven sighed and looked back to the empty, awaiting tank. “I hope it’ll be okay.”
“Hmm.” Harris pondered aloud. “Well, yes, obviously the university will reimburse us proper for a live specimen, but let’s say the thing doesn’t survive the trip. Oh, we should prepare a bag of ice to keep it nice and intact in the case it kicks the bucket. Was there a petrol station in town? I didn’t see one on the way in.”
“Professor-” Steven grumbled.
“What? I can’t promise anything with the driving conditions on the way back down. Just the most awful of drivers on the roads these days, probably Americans on holiday trying to figure out what side o’ the road they’re supposed to be on.”
“Just try your best.” Steven replied with a defeated sigh, crossing his arms across his chest.
The hotel was not far from the highway’s exit. As Harris pulled back into the neat driveway around the garden, he caught sight of a newer, white van sitting in his previous spot. “Well, what do we have here?”
Joseph and Liz had arrived at the hotel sometime previous. From their travel van in the parking lot, they had staked out the unassuming hotel before finally deciding to head inside. Mr. Wash was, expectedly, at the front desk, prepared to greet them. “Good day, Welcome to the Washwater.”
Joseph loitered just behind Elizabeth, glancing about the lobby and into the dining room. “Hello there.” The woman presented herself nicely before the owner. “We were passing through, and thought this looked like a nice place to stay. Isn’t that right, dear?” She said, glancing back to Joseph.
Obidiah nodded pleasantly. “I welcome you, then. We do have vacancies, in all three levels of our rooms, the twin suite, kitchenette, or deluxe suites.”
“Oh, we’ll just be here a night or so.” Elizabeth shrugged. “Just the most simple one. Oh, we also saw that flier- is it too late to get a seat in that special dinner you have?”
“Complementary with the room, my good lady.” Obidiah nodded. “I’ll just take down your name here, and I’ll send you off to a particular room.”
“I’m a bit hungry now.” Joseph spoke out loudly. “Did I hear you have a lunch service?”
“Oh,” Obidiah hummed. “Not today actually. Our fine chef is taking a day off, I’m afraid. We will have complimentary breakfast tomorrow morning, though.”
“Thank you,” Elizabeth sighed. “We’ll find a place to eat in town, I’m sure. Now, about the room?”
Melinda was vacuuming the third floor hallway at the time, when a certain odor came upon her nose. It was pungent and deep, seeming to creep through the carpet. Her pacing back and forth led her somewhere in the vicinity of the sole two guests staying on the floor. She stopped outside of 309 and knocked softly. “Ms. Guislain, are you in?”
Marianne opened the door gently, peering out. “Is everything alright Melinda? We have plenty of towels.”
“Sorry to bother you, but… have you sensed a certain odor?” She spoke up. “Oh, not that I am suspecting you.”
Marianne pointed her nose to the air. “Now that you mention it… a cheese-like odor?”
“Not just my imagination, then…” Melinda sighed. “Never fear, Ms. Guislain, I will seek it out.”
“Very well…” Marianne sighed and pulled the door back closed.
Melinda fiddled with the key on her belt and went to the next room down, an empty one. The odor became more rich as she approached. As she pulled the door open upon herself, the full stench of mold hit her. The source was big, black patches of the substance upon the ceiling and creeping across the carpet. The source was a large gash through the ceiling of something having crashed through, causing staining upon all the porous surfaces about with water.
The helpless maid slammed the door behind her, locking it, before making her way hastily down the steps. She passed the brand new guests on the way down, barely managing a greeting, as she went to call upon the owner. “Mr. Wash, Mr. Wash-” She cried as she arrived in the lobby.
Obidiah jerked upward and blinked at Melinda. “My, what’s the ruckus?”
“Something’s terribly wrong. You must see.”
Obidiah straightened his vest and stepped out through the gate in order to follow after the flustered maid. “Well, let’s have a look, then. All the guests are fine, I hope?”
“Yes, but…” Melinda waived her hands about, gesturing for Obidiah to continue climbing the stairs after her. “Just come.”
At the particular doorway, Obidiah braced himself. His own nose hairs trembled with the hint of the smell. Melinda opened the door once again, warily, and shielded her face from the owner’s reaction. “Just awful, isn’t it?”
Obidiah held his fingers to his mouth and nose gracefully before stepping in to survey the destruction. “Something in the ceiling broke, it looks. Dear, dear. Put down some absorbent pads for now, Melinda. Perhaps a spray of vinegar, as well. The major cleanup will have to wait until after the dinner. Ms. Guislain and Mr. Yannison will have to be moved, won’t they… Not to mention, I should check up on Mr. Narrows.”