I have written here before about my job at Ultima Resort (1,2,3,4,5). It has been an uneventful couple of weeks at the resort, so I haven’t really had much to chronicle, lately. I truthfully prefer it that way. Interesting isn’t generally good thing, around here. When there are no guests for a time, we get a bit of a break. We still need to do the cleaning, gardening and lay out meals, but that is a pleasant rest, compared to when guests are around. Unfortunately, it couldn’t last and recently, the streak was broken.
I was cleaning mildew from the shower grout with a toothbrush. I scrubbed carefully around the faucet and along the edges of the tub, leaving it gleaming white. Despite everything, there was satisfaction in doing a job well and in hard work…
Oh, come on, you don’t believe all that garbage, do you?
I jumped, dropping the toothbrush, which clattered against the bottom of the empty tub. I still wasn’t used to the voice suddenly speaking in mind. It seemed to prefer that, speaking at irregular intervals after long periods of silence. Irritated, I bent to pick up the toothbrush and resumed my scrubbing,
“Of course, I do. You don’t find any value in a task well done?”
The disdainful scoff echoed through my head,
Must be a human thing. I do not find any pleasure in tedium or monotony. In fact, I go to great lengths to avoid it.
“Is that what this place is, then, entertainment?”
Among other things, I could feel the smile. Though sometimes there are unfortunate lulls.
“Well, I will try to be more interesting for you, demon,” I rolled my eyes.
Must you call me that? Demon is such an ugly label, invented by the ignorant.
“What should I call you then? You refuse to give me a name.”
Names have power, my dear.
“Maybe I could give you a fake name, then,” I mused. “How about Buttons? Peanut? Sunshine?”
You seek to aggravate me by naming me like a pet. It will not work.
“Really? Because you seem irritated, Muffin,” I grabbed the toilet brush and started scrubbing. I couldn’t let him distract me from my work. I still needed a room, after all, and he certainly wasn’t going to help with that.
You will treat me with due respect.
“I’m pretty sure that’s what I’m doing,” I flushed the toilet and stood to wash my hands. In the mirror, blood covered my face, dripping down my chin. I ignored it, he has just being a jerk.
You shall address me as Alloces. That seems appropriate.
“Ars Goetica? Really? I’m not calling you that. How about we compromise? I’ll call you Al.”
I took his petulant failure to answer as agreement. I headed out to the hall to retrieve towels from my cart.
I don’t see why you resist me. What about this existence is worth holding onto, exactly? The guilt, the pain, the boredom, the menial labor, the servitude? What is it you press on for?
“As long as I am alive, it could always get better.”
It could also get worse. Why suffer any more than you have to? I could help you, if you let me.
“You need to work on your pitch, honestly. It is pretty obvious you just want my body, so that you can leave this place and do whatever your kind do, out in the world.”
Of course I want that, I never denied it. But that doesn’t mean there can’t be any benefit to you. I am open to negotiation. There really are things I could help you with. We could even leave here together, if you wanted. There is no reason we couldn’t share your body, equally.
“Why are you bothering with this? New people come in all the time. You could get a body, free and clear, no negotiations.”
Perhaps. But do you have any idea how long I have been waiting? How long I might need to wait? There are many thousands of us here, searching for a host. More come all the time. It is a matter of luck who claims a host. If I give up this opportunity, it might be decades before I get another chance. So, you are stuck with me, until we come to terms. Might as well just accept it.
“Well, there is nothing you can offer me that is worth giving you even part of my body, permanently. So, I suppose we are at an impasse.”
I think you just lack imagination. There are many things I could offer. We will work something out, eventually.
“Look…” the sound of the bell in reception interrupted my thought. “We’ll have to continue this later,” I muttered, heading for the stairs. “I need to greet our guests.”
I arrived at the desk to find a young man with sandy hair, carrying a bag. He studied my face as I approached the desk, and his lip curled up in a look I could only interpret as disgust.
“Is your manager here, honey?” he asked.
Confused, I raised an eyebrow,
“I’m sorry, I’m the only one working the desk right now. How can I help you?”
“I suppose if you are the only one here, it will have to do. Fine. I have a reservation. Quinton Pryce. Do you need me to spell that for you?”
I shook my head.
“Now, I have someone joining me tomorrow. Her name is Melanie Tyler. I have very specific instructions for how I want her greeted, when she arrives,” he stared at me expectantly.
“I’ll be happy to help with whatever I can, sir.”
“Then get out a piece of paper, you are going to need to write this down, you won’t remember.”
I sighed, then searched my drawers for a pen and notepad. Holding them up so that he could see I had followed his instructions, I poised the pen above the pad and waited.
“Very good. See, take my advice, if you get better organized, it will enable you to offer your customers superior service. In the future, I shouldn’t even need to ask. Anticipating my needs like this is basically a requirement in your line of work. Make sure you always have that notepad ready, in case I have more to ask of you.”
I took a deep breath, reminded myself that I couldn’t hit the customers, and nodded.
“Of course, sir. I apologize for the inconvenience. Now, what can I do for you?”
“She will be arriving in the morning. She doesn’t know that she is meeting me, it is a surprise. She thinks she is meeting a client named ‘Joel Smith’, who wants to plan an event here. You will not contradict that, do you understand? If you want a tip at the end of this, Mel must not be suspicious at all.”
I nodded slowly; I was beginning to get a bad feeling about this.
“Just tell her Mr. Smith is waiting for her and send her to my suite. I will handle the rest.”
He must have noticed the uncomfortable look on my face, because he hurriedly explained,
“It is a surprise for our anniversary. I am planning to propose, and I want this weekend to be perfect,” he pulled a box from his pocket and proudly displayed the large diamond ring inside. As I glanced at it, he snapped the box shut, “Don’t tell her about that, obviously.”
“Of course not, sir.”
“Write it down,” he rolled his eyes.
I made a show of jotting it down on my pad.
Perhaps you were right, Al purred in my mind. I am missing a golden opportunity with this one.
I wanted to tell him to take his shot, then, but talking to myself in front of other people would only make me look nuts. He seemed to know anyway, though.
Don’t worry. I would never really abandon you. We are partners now.
I grimaced involuntarily at that news.
“You have a problem, sweetie?”
“No, sir. Apologies. Do you have anything you need taken to your room?” my finger hovered over the call button.
“I have a few things in my car, but I don’t want anyone touching them. I will go back for them later.”
“Very well, sir,” I lifted a key from the rack. “Follow me and I will take you to your room. May I carry your bag?”
I reached for the bag, but he yanked it away, covering it protectively with one arm,
“No! I’m fine. Besides, it’s heavy, you couldn’t manage it anyway.”
I nodded and I led him up the stairs to room 308.
“I don’t want to be disturbed. No one is to come into my room,” he instructed, standing at the threshold.
I dutifully pretended to write a note about it.
“Good girl, now you are getting it,” he smiled indulgently, for a moment I was worried he would pat me on the head. “You see how much this improves your ability to do the job? You will thank me, later.”
“Of course, sir,” I smiled through clenched teeth. “Dinner is available until 8pm, or you can call for room service until 11.”
Pryce slammed the door in my face. I sighed and turned back to the stairs, to find Manny just reaching the third floor.
“I thought Vincent was going to help you with check-ins?”
“He said he would, but he never came. Maybe he didn’t hear the bell,” I shrugged.
“You can hear that bell in every corner of this building and on the lawns. He’s in the woods again, isn’t he?”
“Probably,” I admitted. “I warned him against it, but he won’t listen. He thinks if he can find that diamond, all his problems will be solved, and he will get to leave.”
“That isn’t how this works. It is dangerous out there.”
“I told him that.”
“So, this is just another form of gambling for him, then,” Manny sighed. “It won’t end well.”
“You never know, he could figure things out, before anything happens.”
“He could, but we both know he won’t,” he ran a hand through his greying hair. “Just, be careful around him. See he doesn’t drag you down, too.”
I opened my mouth to argue, but Manny was already walking away. I pinched the bridge of my nose.
He’s right, you know, Al piped up. Smart guy, Manny. It’s how he has lasted this long. You should listen to him.
“Ugh, when I want your opinion, I’ll ask for it,” I muttered under my breath.
Alright, if you don’t want my opinion on the new guest, I’ll keep it to myself.
“What about the new guest?”
Oh, so you are asking, now?
“Yes, I’m asking.”
Well, he certainly won’t be here for long, Al chuckled. He has already decided what he will trade his life for, and once the trade is made, he will belong to us. If my brethren are clever, they might even get a two for one deal out of this one.
“What does that mean?”
His only response was a low chuckle that set my teeth on edge.
“So, you know why he came here? Why all of us came here?”
Of course. Your kind all stink of your desires, your fears, your regrets. I have often wondered how you don’t notice.
“Must be a human thing. So, why is he here?”
If I told you that, it would ruin all the fun, he smirked. You’ll see soon enough.
“That reminds me,” I continued, walking back to the fourth floor where I had left my cart. “You said something about the bride a while back that I meant to ask about.”
“You said ‘they don’t want her’. As if it was obvious, she wasn’t going to be possessed. How did you know? She had certainly done worse than many of the people here.”
What do you think this place is? Al chuckled. Do you think we lure and punish the guilty? The wicked?
“Well, it does seem that the people here are often guilty of something.”
Sure, but it is the guilt we want, not the sin. We want a suitable host, nothing more. We cannot take a life unless it is freely given, and people with strong guilt and regret are more likely to be willing to give up their lives, with the right motivation. If we orchestrate things correctly, they want us to take them, by the end. As you will. The bride would never have willingly given herself to us. Why would she? She had no shame, no regret, nothing she was fleeing from. She was, in fact, admirably self-interested. In short, she was a poor candidate.
“But the new guy is a good candidate?”
Oh, absolutely. He reeks of self-loathing and desperation. It won’t take much of a push for him.
I rolled that information around in my mind. Was this useful for me? Well, I did know he couldn’t take my mind without my permission. That was good, it meant I just had to refuse him, and there was nothing he could do. That should be easy, right? I bit my lip. Maybe. I finished storing away my cart and headed down to the dining room. It was time to prepare for dinner service.
I entered the dining room to see Vincent standing over by the wine rack, when he heard me enter, he jumped and spun around.
“Lucy, when did you get here?”
“Just now. What are you doing?”
“Just dusting the wine bottles,” Vincent rubbed the back of his neck.
“Where were you earlier? I thought you were going to come and help me with the new guests?”
“There was another guest? I must have been out in the gardens when they came, sorry.”
“Ok. Well, you want to help me prep for dinner?”
We probably shouldn’t have bothered, no one showed up for the dinner service. It was 10:30 when the call for room service finally came in. A rare steak, absolutely no vegetables. Quinton Pryce was very emphatic that there should be no plant matter on his plate. I hung up the phone and turned to the chef to request the meal.
“Yeah?” he looked up from the wine rack, where he was organizing bottles. He had been drifting over there all night.
“You want to take this up?” I offered.
“I’m sort of busy here,” he shrugged. “I’m trying to finish organizing these chronologically.”
He lifted a bottle, dusted it off and studied the label in a way that seemed a little performative.
“Alright, I guess I’ll go, then,” I sighed and grabbed the cloche.
As I headed up the stairs, Al piped up,
He is hiding something, you know.
“Gee, I hadn’t figured that out. Thank you for your insight,” I rolled my eyes. “If you are going to talk, you could at least be useful.”
Oh? He perked up at that. How can I be useful to you?
“I could use some advice on getting rid of an irritating roommate,” I muttered.
I could help with that.
“You know I am talking about you, right?” I raised an eyebrow.
Of course I do, his tone was saccharine sweet, putting my teeth on edge. And I will tell you how to get rid of me, if you want.
“Alright, I’ll bite,” I had a feeling I was going to regret asking, but maybe it was some sort of reverse psychology, and he would actually say something I could use.
Help me break the new guest. I will take him, and leave you to your own devices, I felt his grin behind my eyes.
It’s very simple. All I want is a host. It doesn’t have to be you. Help me obtain another and you are free to go, without me.
“I’m not going to help you shatter and person’s mind and possess their body.”
You wouldn’t be so quick to say that, if you knew what I knew about why he is here, about his desires, Al laughed.
“Maybe I wouldn’t be as quick, but the answer would still be no.”
Suit yourself. I wasn’t really planning to leave you, anyway, Al chuckled, unbothered. I told you, you are stuck with me.
“Unless I manage to escape.”
True, true, he replied good naturedly. I can’t leave this place, as I am now. But you won’t, either. Not without my help. And I will not be giving that, unless you agree to take me with you.
That is what they all say. Give it time. Everyone has a price, and I will find yours, eventually. Why not save us both some time and trouble and at least make a request.
“That would imply I want to save you trouble,” I fell silent as I reached the door for room 308.
I knocked briskly, eager to get this over with and get to bed. As the door opened a crack, the smell of oil paint wafted from the room and Pryce poked his head into the hallway. His eyes landed on me and narrowed.
“You again? Does this hotel not employ anything but females?”
“I’m sorry, sir?” how else do you respond to that?
“Look, I don’t want you to get upset, but I really think I would prefer a man serve me, from now on. I don’t need anyone female coming to my room late at night. It isn’t appropriate.”
I blinked, staring at him silently for a long moment.
“Maybe this is hard for you to understand,” he continued, speaking slowly. “I know you are probably looking for some rich man to marry, to take you away from all of this, but I am not available. My fiancée is the only girl I am interested in.”
“That’s great for you,” I held out the cloche. “I’ll get out of your way, then.”
His nose wrinkled in irritation, but he took the dish and spun to head back into his room. As he did, his door opened a little, exposing a large, partially finished painting of a young woman propped up on an easel in the middle of the room. The pallet and brushes indicated that he was currently working on it. The woman depicted was pale, with long, flowing straw-colored hair and dark brown eyes. Feathered white wings burst from her shoulder blades, but she was fettered, wings and limbs wrapped in chains. Despite this, the expression on her face was… ecstatic; absolute, rapturous joy. As I stared into the shining eyes, that cried tears of blood, the door slammed shut.
I just stood there for a moment. The painting had been good, amazing, even, but it left me feeling disturbed, somehow. A creeping dread clawed at my stomach.
So, are you sure you don’t want play with him, just a little? Al wheedled.
The interruption broke me from my reverie.
“I’m going to bed.”
I turned on my heel and headed off down the hall. It was getting late.
The morning was uneventful. I did my chores, worked on balancing the books, set out breakfast that went uneaten. It was a shame; the cinnamon rolls were pretty good. The only odd thing was that Vincent was being unusually solicitous. He followed me closely around the dining room, asking if there were any jobs he could take on. I assumed it was because he blew me off yesterday.
“So, what do you think the new guy is here for?” he asked, mopping the floor to remove the red brown pawprints in what I chose to believe was mud.
“Hard to say. He said he is waiting for someone, so I think that when they arrive, things will probably begin.”
“When is that supposed to happen?”
“He said this morning…” I was interrupted by the chime of the bell. “Speak of the devil.”
That elicited a small chuckle from somewhere inside my ears. I wasn’t sure if it was good that I amused a demon or not. I shook it off.
“Are you going to help me check her in, this time?” I asked.
“Look, I am sorry about yesterday. I’m here now,” he put the mop in the dark red water and headed for the lobby. “Let’s go.”
I pushed through the door behind him to see a young woman in a sharp pantsuit at the desk, looking down at a large binder of photos and swatches. She must be the event planner that was expecting to meet ‘Joel Smith’. As we approached, she looked up and I froze mid-step. I knew her. The hair was different, dyed a pale blue and long on the top with a modern undercut, and there were no wings, but the face and eyes were unmistakable. She was the woman from the painting. I stared for a moment, wondering what that meant, before realizing I was being foolish. Pryce had said he was planning to propose, so obviously he had painted it for her, perhaps as a gift. The chains had unsettled me, but who was I to judge? He was an artist, maybe it was symbolic. Vincent cleared his throat from behind the desk, startling me back to reality.
“Welcome to Ultima Resort. Do you have a reservation?” he asked, politely.
I needed to remind him to smile more, it would help to hide the apprehension he was currently displaying.
“Actually, I am here to meet someone on business,” she demonstrated a broad smile for him. “My client, Joel Smith, said I should ask for him at the desk, and you would point me to his room.”
“I don’t think there is anyone here named…” Vincent began.
“Of course, ma’am,” I interrupted quickly. I had forgotten to tell him about the false name. “Mr. Smith is waiting for you up in room 308.”
“Thank you. If I may say, this is a beautiful resort. I am so glad that Mr. Smith decided to plan his event here. Perhaps you would be interested in setting up a partnership?” she drew a gold-embossed card from her purse. “You see, I am an event planner, and I am looking for new venues to book events. I am trying to avoid the usual venues in my town,” she shuddered slightly. “But finding new places and rebuilding those relationships is so difficult.”
“Is there a problem with the local venues?” I knew better than to ask questions, but sometimes I couldn’t help myself.
“Oh, no, they are great. It’s just that I always use the same 4 or 5 venues, and it has gotten too predictable. It is safer to adjust my routine, until I have saved up enough to move.”
Mel laughed uncomfortably,
“Did I say safer? I just meant that falling into a routine gets boring. Clients want things that are new and fresh, you know? You have to have variety.”
I nodded, letting the matter drop.
“Well, what kind of partnership did you have in mind?”
“I thought perhaps I could leave some of my cards and you could point guests in my direction, and I could, of course, steer my own clients here, for their events.”
“Well, I will have to consult our owners, but I will certainly take some cards,” I replied, knowing that this was never going to happen.
“Thank you,” she beamed. “Now, I should get up to Mr. Smith’s room. It wouldn’t do to be late.”
Mel grabbed her rolling case and her sample book and rushed for the stairs.
“Do you need help with the case?” Vincent asked.
“Oh, that would be lovely, thank you!” she paused while he caught up and lifted her case, then they both headed up the stairs.
I returned to the dining room and resumed mopping.
Vincent returned a short time later, looking uneasy.
“You didn’t tell me about the new guest’s face.”
“What?” I looked up from the now gleaming floor.
“His face. It was all wrapped in bandages, and his voice was all raspy. He said he had been burned in a fire.”
“Are you sure you took her to 308?”
“Of course I did, I know how to count,” he looked offended.
“I only ask because that doesn’t sound like the man I took up to 308 yesterday. He was pretty ordinary looking. Definitely no bandages or burns. What did the planner say?”
“She seemed to be expecting it, greeted him as Mr. Smith right away and went into the room.”
“Huh. Well, perhaps it was a disguise.”
“Why would he be wearing a disguise?”
“Pryce said he made an appointment with her as ‘Joel Smith’ so he could draw her here for a surprise marriage proposal. Maybe he didn’t want her to recognize him until they were alone in the room.”
“A marriage proposal?” Vincent raised an eyebrow. “That’s odd. She gave me the impression that she was single.”
“Oh? You weren’t with her for that long, how did that come up?”
“She asked when I got off work and wanted to join me for a drink after her meeting.”
“What did you say?”
“I let her down easy, she isn’t my type, after all. She was nice about it, said that was about her luck with men, lately. She hasn’t been on a date in months because she is too afraid to make a date on any of the apps.”
“Well, apparently, she had a really bad first date a while back and now, no matter which app she uses, she keeps showing up to dates and finding the same guy. He has been using dozens of fake accounts, following her at work, chasing off anyone else she meets. I felt bad for her, she seemed really spooked by the whole thing.”
I stared at Vincent,
“So, you are telling me that she is single, and she has a stalker who uses false identities to lure her into meetings?”
“That’s what she said…” he trailed off as he realized. “We need to get back up there.”
I hesitated for a moment. We weren’t really supposed to interfere in these matters and it never ended well when I tried… but I couldn’t shake the thought of the painting, the chains.
See? I told you he didn’t deserve your pity, Al noted.
“You knew about this?” I asked under my breath.
Of course. I said that he already decided what he would trade his life for. So, we brought her to him.
“You can make her love him?”
Of course not. We don’t change people’s emotions, only enhance what is already there. She loathes him, fears him. We cannot change that.
“So, what happens when he learns that?”
Who knows? That is the fun part, his enthusiasm was clear. What will the two of them do? How will she react? How will he? Whatever happens, it won’t be boring.
“Boring?! Does that matter right now?”
Of course, Al sounded puzzled. What else matters, beyond alleviating the constant, crushing tedium of existence?
“Why am I even talking to you about this?” I shook my head and ran for the stairs, trying to catch up with Vincent.
I took too long, because by the time I reached the third-floor hallway, he was already gone. The hallway was empty and silent, though nothing seemed out of the ordinary. I hesitated for a moment, debating what to do next. I thought perhaps Al would chime in, but he seemed content to just let this play out and enjoy the show. Finally, I reached out and knocked on door 308. There was no response, but I could hear a muffled voice from behind the door. He was ignoring me. Vincent was missing. I pulled out my keys and opened the lock. The door swung open to a completely dark room. All the lights were off and blackout curtains were covering every window. Whoever had been speaking a moment ago had stopped, and eerie silence fell over the room. I took a few hesitant steps forward in the beam of light from the hallway, then, the door slammed shut behind me. I spun around, but couldn’t see anything in the now total darkness. Knowing that Pryce must be by the door, I turned and tried to move away, towards the windows. If I could get one uncovered… my thought was interrupted when my foot caught something and I tumbled to the ground, only a few feet from the nearest window.
As I fell, I felt a sudden breeze and the whistle of something moving through the air, then a crunch as it impacted a wall next to me. I scrambled to my feet, ignoring my sore knees, and ran the final few steps, yanking the curtain open. The burst of sunlight revealed a horrifying scene. The first thing I saw was Quinton Pryce, standing near where I had fallen, pulling on a fire poker that was embedded into the wall. The fact I had tripped was the only reason it wasn’t currently embedded in my head. I looked for what had caused me to fall and saw a single raised step in the center of the room. It was just one step and it led nowhere. It didn’t seem to have any reason to be there, but it was lucky it had been. Vincent hadn’t been so lucky. I spotted him lying on the ground by the door, a large bruise forming on his temple. At least he seemed to be breathing. Finally, my eyes alighted on the event planner. Mel was lying on the bed, bound in fine, silver chains. He had redressed her in a flowing white gown, and she seemed to be wearing a wig, long and blonde, like in the painting. She was gagged, but awake, her eyes wide and frightened. Pryce yanked the poker free and turned to me,
“Why are you here? Why did you have to interrupt?” he screamed. “Everything was perfect! I just had to finish it, and they promised we would be together forever.”
I backed away, deeper into the room, as he advanced on me, swinging the poker.
“You sent the white knight too, didn’t you?” he glanced back at Vincent. “I knew I shouldn’t have trusted you. Women always ruin everything. Even her! My beautiful angel. Did you see what she did to her hair? How she spoiled herself? Disgusting,” his lip curled. “I warned her not to, but she didn’t listen. Now I’ve fixed it. And when I am finished, she will be perfect, like she was always supposed to be. Like I knew she could be, the moment we met.”
He took another step towards me.
“What are your trying to finish?” I needed to distract him until I could figure out a plan.
“It came to me in a dream, last night,” his eye gleamed manically. “I know how to make her mine, how we can be together, forever.”
As he spoke, he pulled a knife from his waistband, it gleamed in the light from the window.
“When we die here, together, wrapped in shared chains, the blood from our veins mingling, we will be bound together in the afterlife. And she will finally be the perfect angel I need. Kind, sweet, compliant, and by my side forever. We’ll both finally be happy.”
“Melanie doesn’t look very happy,” I blurted before I could stop myself.
“Of course, she doesn’t!” he whirled to face her. “She doesn’t understand. But it isn’t her fault. Society has ruined women. They don’t understand that their true purpose comes from belonging to a man. I tried to show her, to explain to her that she would be fulfilled if she just listened to me, obeyed me, like she was meant to. But she has been corrupted, so she rejects the truth, fears it. Once I have cleansed her, once we are joined by blood, she will finally see my truth. We will both be ecstatic, together.”
Mel struggled against the chains on the bed, but they seemed sturdy, she was barely able to move. Tears streamed freely from her eyes, which were impossibly wide and frightened, seeming to plead with me for help. I wasn’t going to be much use to her. I was nearly backed into a corner and Pryce was now advancing on me again, poker in hand.
“I wouldn’t ordinarily hit a woman,” he seemed almost apologetic about that. “But I can’t let you interrupt.”
I took a few more steps back, now I was pressed against the wall. Nowhere left to go. He raised the poker above his head, but before he could bring it down, a small loop of chain slipped around his neck, and his head jerked backwards. His hands reached for his neck, clawing and groping, but the chain only pulled tighter. I saw a line of blood appear, but the chain continued to tighten. His eyes bulged for a moment, then, with a final, sharp tug, the chain sliced through his neck and his body dropped to the ground, a ragged wound where his head had been. Behind him stood Melanie Tyler, face streaked in blood that dripped down her cheeks like tears. Her eyes were black as ebony. She licked the blood from her lips with a small smile, then raised the head, so that she was looking him in the eyes,
“Is this what you wanted? Are we joined now?” she laughed and dropped the head onto his corpse.
She closed her eyes for a moment, wiping the blood from her face with the hem of her dress. When she turned back to me, it was with brown eyes that twinkled with mirth. Mel grabbed her purse from a table and searched around inside a moment. Finally, she offered me a little stack of cards. When I didn’t reach out for them right away, she explained.
“My business cards, remember?” she placed them in my hand. “Don’t forget to give them out. And don’t worry, I will be sending plenty of business back here. I think this is going to be a very beneficial partnership.”
She gathered the clothing she had arrived in and began to remove the bloody dress. As she did, I heard a groan from the doorway. Vincent stirred and struggled to sit up. I hurried over to him.
“Are you alright?” I knelt.
“What happened?” he asked.
“It was probably a fire poker.”
He gently probed his temple with a finger, wincing.
“My head hurts.”
“I bet,” I helped him to his feet, he leaned heavily on my shoulder.
“What happened to Melanie? She was on the bed, just over there.”
I followed his gaze to the bed, which was now empty, except for a pile of chain, some of which looked warped and melted.
“What a sweet boy, worrying about me, even now,” Melanie purred, now wearing the pantsuit again. “I am better than I have ever been. I am free. Now, I have to go, but you two take care of yourselves. Expect to see some clients of mine shortly.”
With that, she brushed past us and slipped out into the hall.
I nodded. He shook his head sadly.
“We should probably go back to the kitchen and find you some ice,” I looked at the lump on his head, it was growing by the moment.
Vincent nodded and we headed for the door.
We managed to find ice and painkillers in the kitchen, and I hoped it would be enough, because we weren’t getting to a hospital. As Vincent sat on a stool, icing his head, I slipped into the bathroom. There was something I needed to know.
“Hey, Al, are you there?” I wasn’t sure if he would even be listening. I apparently shouldn’t have worried.
I am always here, my dear, his voice came immediately. What do you need?
“I just had a question,” I had been thinking about this since the moment I opened the curtains in room 308. “Did you save me?”
Whatever do you mean? he smirked.
“I mean that step, the one in the middle of the floor, going nowhere. It shouldn’t have been there. Did you trip me?”
Of course I did. If you died, all my efforts would have been wasted. I am not about to go back in the queue and start all over.
I wasn’t sure how to feel about that, he had protected me, but it didn’t seem like I should be grateful for that. So, for the time being, I moved on.
“Why did Melanie end up possessed? I thought the target was Pryce?”
He was one target. He may have been willing to do anything to possess her, but she was willing to do anything to stop him, and Tyler made her deal first. Now, he will never hurt another woman, just as she wanted. I could do something similar for you, if you are ready for a deal of your own.
I shook my head,
We’ll see. The kind of trouble you seem to get yourself into, I suspect there will come a time where you don’t have much choice.
“I am going to back to check on Vincent.”
I turned and left the bathroom.
I guess that is where I will end for today. Nothing too interesting happened after that. Manny took a look at Vincent and said he will be alright; he just needs rest. Hopefully, he knows what he is talking about. Manny, never says much about what he did before he came here, so I suppose he might. We all decided to turn in early, and this seemed like an ideal time to finally write up this entry. I hope we will get another period of quiet, but I am concerned the Mel will keep her promise and send more guests. Either way, I should probably get some sleep while I can.
Until next time,