The Washwater Hotel: Chapter 20 [Final]
The police vehicles and vans that had been called previously by Henry Tucket arrived calmly, but were immediately thrown off guard by what they had arrived upon.
Obidiah Wash was at the steps of the hotel, helping up Brian and the other guests. He looked to the remains of the lobby, and sunk to his knees. “Marianne and Anna were in there… Venicia…”
The French woman and her daughter had actually escaped just in time out of the delivery entrance and had moved up the side road, finding themselves completely safe, save the ear splitting sound of the crashing building. The loud crying of the little girl notified one of the police officers who was attempting to warden off the area.
Horatio and Dr. Harris had also been far enough out of the way of the destruction. The diminutive fellow had actually not noticed that he had made contact with the gutter, as the section of roof from the veranda was no longer in the same vicinity. They both came forward out of the parking lot under direction of the officers about.
Joel and Henry had joined with Obidiah. “Mr. Wash…” Henry said blankly. “I cannot express… how much… something like this…”
“We have more of your guests here, Mr. Wash!” An officer called out, leading the two ladies about before the hotel. “We need a head count, just to make sure there is absolutely nobody in the wreckage.”
Obidiah glanced to Marianne and Anna, who still had on them the painting and the small canister. “That’s… that’s everyone.” Mr. Wash said, breathing a sigh of relief. “Nobody was still inside.”
The officers nodded affirmatively and continued to pace about the front garden, stringing out caution tape. Obidiah stood and placed himself before Marianne, glancing at the painting as she attempted to hide it at her side. “What do you… how did you?”
Marianne averted her eyes and slumped away. Anna was still producing a stream of loud tears, grasping onto the metal canister tightly in her possession. Obidiah leaned down and took her hands in his own. “Little one, do you know what you have here?”
Anna took a shuddering breath and looked up to the owner. “Huh?”
Obidiah took the canister from her. Upon it was scribed a name- Venicia. “These… are the remains of my wife. This, and that picture-” He said, pointing to the painting. “-were all that I had left of her.”
I’m… I’m still… here?
Mr. Wash bit at his lip. “I don’t know what happened here, but… by some miracle, those things are saved.”
Sarah Seer came up behind Obidiah and placed her hand on his back. “I think… Venicia… all this time was… holding to the hotel. Trying to make sure that it was successful for you.”
Obi… Obi, I’m sorry.
“Thank you… Venicia.” Obidiah sighed. “Ms. Seer, you as well.”
Joel pulled out the folder that he had had tucked under his arm for some time. He glanced at Henry, who shrugged back at him. Joel took the packet in his hand and stepped up to the police line before tossing the whole collection over the edge and in with the mass of destruction clinging partially to the cliff side.
Steven reunited with Dr. Harris, who was looking across at the destruction. “All your notes and records and books gone, huh?” The professor asked his student.
“Yup, gone. And the only that I’ve learned, all this time… is that I could really care less about fish.” Steven sighed, then turned to laughing. “At least I won’t have to worry about paying for that crazy room, now. Assuming Mr. Wash lets me go, you wouldn’t mind taking me back down south today?”
“No worries here, my boy.”
“Guess staying again with my parents it is…”
Elizabeth and Joseph regained their composure after nearly succumbing to the collapse of the hotel. Brian Gates, or rather, famous TV chef Brian Emmanuel, however, had long since disappeared, having driven off in the van the two had arrived to the hotel in. “That man!” The woman seethed upon seeing the license plate disappear out past the front entrance.
“We are really, truly screwed now.” Joseph shook his fists.
Henry Tucket grabbed at Obidiah’s shoulder. “Mr. Wash… in all honesty… well… never mind. What’s done is done.”
Obidiah crossed his arms and stared at the wreckage. “Quite. I can only ask for one thing, though, right now.”
“Anything.” Henry nodded.
“After we finish with the meal here, perhaps take me back to your office so that I may contact my insurance agent.”
“Of course.” Henry sighed, then perked up with a sudden realization. “Wait, insurance? How much for?”
Obidiah finally gathered his composure back up and stood tall to face the rest of the onlooking crowd in the garden. “My good guests, today, I am sorry for what you had to witness. Alas, the food is getting cold, so I urge you all to eat up and do not waste what we do have available to us. Any residents of the hotel may come to me and discuss the cost for replacing any belongings you had inside. For now, that is all.”
Marianne quietly fished about in the back framing of the painting, when her fingertips crossed a smooth band of metal. With a second tug at the canvas, her finger caught the edge of the piece of jewelry to slide it out. The very same ring she had worn on her finger all those years ago, then lost, had returned to its rightful place. “I already have everything I need.” She said under her breath, placing down the painting up against one of the nearby bushes. She took up Anna in her arms and wiped the tears from her cheeks. “On y va, cherie?”
Somewhere down the road, the sound of a fire engine approached.
Look sometime soon for a full E-book of “The Washwater Hotel.”