The Washwater Hotel: Chapter 18
It was a busy morning around the Washwater Hotel. Horatio and Melinda had spent the morning putting the folding tables and chairs about the front lawn, and even Brian and Mr. Wash had helped with setting up the shade structures. With most of the heavy lifting out of the way, the housekeepers, including Heather, who had come early, were able to dress up the tables nicely with weighted tablecloths and basic settings.
Brian returned to the kitchen to begin prepping the meal. The potatoes were long since peeled and boiled for the mash. Just before they were to be served, he would mix in the dairy and force the entirety into a fine puree. He began to tackle the dessert next, a fruit puree that would have to sit in the freezer for some time for it to be ready to be served just at the end of the dinner.
Obidiah was busy about the front desk, answering the questions about the meal service either from the phone line or the guests coming down to meet with him. Marianne was one such guest.
“Mr. Wash, good morning.” She said, presenting herself before the desk. Anna was at her side, the top of her curly hair just visible above the edge of the fixture.
“Ah, good day, Ms. Guislain, Anna.” Obidiah greeted them. “Will you be joining us for our dinner this evening? You are fine with beef, I hope?”
Marianne glanced out the front windows to the setting on the lawn and folded her arms. “Oh, it looks lovely. Of course, Mr. Wash. Seems like we are expecting a lot of people.”
Obidiah nodded. “Indeed. I’ve sent out personal invitations to a few folks around town whom I thought would be interested.”
Marianne tugged on Anna’s hand to bring her into the dining room to pick up a spot of breakfast. “We will see you this afternoon, then, Mr. Wash.” She said, leaning down to Anna. “Do you hear that? The front desk should be empty. Perfect.”
Joseph and Elizabeth had already been down for breakfast, and remained to linger in the dining room in hopes of seeking out the cook to determine if he was their Brian or not. They had, however, been thwarted at their attempt to sneak back into the kitchen by Melinda, who was deviously preparing sets of silverware wrapped in napkins to be brought out later for the feast.
Dr. Harris was down outside in the gravel parking area beside his camper van with the hose from the hotel’s side yard. The clear acrylic tank was taking in the water from the nearby hose and causing the suspension in the vehicle to creak. The previous evening, Steven and himself had managed to scoop the wolf fish into its original home-away-from-home, being the plastic container, without injuring themselves or the fish. They had agreed to take it down right before that day’s dinner while the others about the hotel were either busy or distracted. The water in the tank would then have time to acclimate and become saturated with the salt they had borrowed from Joel’s room.
Joel had been cramped up in his room for almost the entire day previous, packing his things and preparing the notes he would have to bring forth before Mr. Wash when his contact from the council arrived at the agreed time later. He was nervous, both of the Hotel’s situation, and of the reaction its owner might offer.
Four o’clock hit, with the dinner service being only a half hour away. All the places were set outside in the yard, and Brian had begun to take the roasts from the oven to carve up and place into the serving dishes. The rolls from the local bakery were already set in a basket, and soon joined the Yorkshire puddings which had been able to cool just enough. Horatio, who had been back and forth about the kitchen all afternoon, began to bring out the first of the food.
The two big city folks had found seats side-by-side on the veranda, watching for the first signs of the meal starting. They perked up as the first basket of food came out the front door, only to return to their apathetic state as Horatio followed out after.
“What if it isn’t him?” Joseph said, his voice low.
Elizabeth grunted. “Are you thinking that little fellow could be their Brian?”
“It’s not too uncommon a name.” The man returned.
“Yes, but for cooks, and in this area specifically?”
Joseph twiddled his thumbs and looked back and forth across the covered deck. “What if it is him and he sees us first?”
“I’d say he has nowhere to run at this point.”
The first of the visitors had just begun to pull in through the gate and park around the outside edge of the circular driveway. Mr. Wash was at the stairs of the hotel, predictably ready to welcome even the earliest of guests and get them situated. One of the cars, a shiny, white German model maneuvered into the lot across from the tacky van. A young gentleman with ginger hair and thick sideburns stepped out.
“Mr. Tucket,” Obidiah greeted the man as he stepped up the walk. “I certainly did not expect you this day.”
Henry took Obidiah’s hand firmly and shook it, looking into his weathered eyes. “I can’t forgo a chance to attend one of the rare events at the hotel here, Obidiah.”
This man, ugh.
“Well, we’re fortunate to have you. You have…” Mr. Wash began, studying the ticking hand on his watch. “Just about 20 minutes before we begin serving. Make yourself at home.”
“Of course.” Henry nodded. “I’ll just use the loo for a moment?”
“Be my guest.” Obidiah said, moving slightly out of the way of the door. “First floor, you remember the spot?”
“Yes sir.” The younger man responded, jogging through the entrance.
Rather than using the bathroom, Henry Tucket of the city council had gone inside to meet up with his contact. Joel, having received a call earlier about the meeting, was already at the far end of the hall, the envelope with his report in his hand.
“Joel, good to see you.” Henry said, approaching.
“You got by Mr. Wash okay?” Joel returned, leaning about to get a glance down the stairs.
“The man and I are fine friends, all things considered.” Henry said with a shrug and a disheartened sigh. “I hate to do this, but it’s for everyone’s safety. Got everything together?”
Joel hoisted the packet up and wobbled it back and forth. “Everything you need.”
“Good.” Henry said, shoving his hands in his pockets. “No need to act now. I’ve got my… backup… coming in about an hour, so we’ll have time to talk him down first. We shouldn’t rile him up in front of the guests.”
“Let’s head back, then.” Henry suggested, glancing to his rear. “Just so we’re not causing any suspicion so soon.”
Dr. Harris and Steven had begun their trek down the stairs with the heavy crate. Although not as full of water as before, it was still unwieldy, and certainly not meant for bringing down four flights of stairs. A few twists and turns lower, they spotted the mother and daughter couple heading down before them, glancing about in every direction.
The lobby was miraculously empty, perhaps a boon of the appetizer of bread and butter that had already been set up outside. Many of the guests, as well as a collection of locals, had already gathered among the dining tables to converse with each other, as well as the owner himself. Just as they had pushed through the front doors and gotten down the steps with the remaining bits of their strength, they heard the older man’s voice.
“Oh, very busy, are you still?” Obidiah asked them. “Any help I can offer?”
Steven held his breath and set down his side of the crate on his toes. “Oh no, it’s not quite as bad as it looks.”
“The specimen that the good doctor here was talking about?” Mr. Wash asked.
Harris faked a smile and wiped his brow. Steven cut in before the professor could speak. “A fossil, just a fossil. Buried in here somewhere, I’m afraid. Dr. Harris offered to bring back a load of my notes to make it easier on me later.”
Obidiah smiled and nodded. “Good man. We’ll be serving very soon. I’ve just got to head up and make sure the roasts are ready to bring out.”
Steven took up his side of the container once again. “No need to wait up for us. Let’s keep going, professor?”
Harris smiled at Obidiah, then held his breath as he continued in the direction of the van.
After Obidiah had left the two, he had headed straight to the kitchen. Brian was carefully hoisting up the perfectly rare and finely sliced portions of beef roast into the silvery serving trays. Obidiah pushed through the doors and eyed the bounty of meat. “Beautiful, truly. You’ve outdone yourself.”
Brian glanced up at the owner and smiled, before turning the tray his way. “All ready to head out. That’s the last of it.”
Obidiah smiled and looked to Brian expectantly. “You’re going to join us, I hope? I believe none of the guests have hardly even seen your face, my boy.”
Brian frowned and twisted up his face. “I shouldn’t.”
Obidiah clicked his tongue, then held at his wrist daintily. “You’re positive. Well, I hope my old muscles will be able to heft all of this fine roast out there without dropping the whole thing.”
Brian looked at the floor, then to the tray, flipping up his fingers up under the edge. “Come now, Mr. Wash. Let’s head out, shall we?”