“Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?’
‘To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.’
‘The dog did nothing in the night-time.’
‘That was the curious incident,’ remarked Sherlock Holmes.”
― Arthur Conan Doyle,
Waking up somewhere you don’t recognise is not good. Waking up beside a complete stranger doesn’t augur well, either. And if they’re dead, that’s not a mystery, it’s a disaster.
My mysteries usually occur in the dark end of a dimly lit alley, the air redolent of scuzzy, discarded condoms, beer puke, urine and faeces, the graffitied walls dripping with a primeval slime.
This was a high class hotel suite. The sheets made the crinkly noise of Egyptian cotton and the complimentary pillow chocolate that was stuck to my face, was at least 70% high grade cocoa.
The corpse beside me was naked. Checking her pulse was out of the question. Her throat was slit from ear to ear and she was the colour of an old dish cloth. It was a big bed so little of the blood bath had oozed as far as me. Of course, I thought, it helped that she was surrounded by bloody teddy bears, maybe two dozen of them.
They weren’t just ‘bloody’, like splattered, no, they were oozing blood. It was like a teddy bear massacre. And these were just my waking moments, that fuzzy twilight where you can see the light, in the distance, but all your other senses are still playing catch up. Because just about then, I began to smell the blood and forgot about the teddy bears. It smelt like a slaughterhouse.
Then the fog lifted and I leaped out of that bed, stark naked, ready to run, as far and as fast as my feet would carry me. And that wasn’t too far because my clothes were there, by the side of the bed, folded neatly over my Zimmer frame walker. Then it occurred to me I hadn’t moved that fast in 20 years or more. And I’m naked, Christ, I didn’t even like looking at my own body, anymore; scarred, pitted and crooked as it was. Suddenly, I needed to pee. I looked around for my socks that were stuffed, neatly, into my Drew Jimmy’s orthopedic shoes. I grabbed my boxers, too and sat on the Ottoman at the end of the bed to put them on.
That done, I hobbled to the bathroom behind the bed. In there, I lifted the seat off the toilet and waited. Jesus, I thought, now with the stage fright? The bathroom looked untouched. The toilet roll had that triangular fold like it was a dinner napkin, for God’s sake. What the fuck was I doing here? Where the fuck am I? and who, the fuck, is the stiff in the bed next door? Still nothing, the sluice is open but there’s no flow. Fuck it, I have to get out of here.
I gave up trying to pee and paused, to unwrap a small tablet of soap but when I turned on the tap, it wasn’t the only faucet to let fly. Christ, I cursed, as a trickle of pee ran down my leg, soaking my boxers, before I could get it out again to point it at the pan. Of course, I’d put the lid back, so now there was pee on my feet and the floor and by the time I got the lid up, again, it stopped.
That was it. I went back inside and got dressed in a hurry, well, as quickly as my rickety 78 year old frame could manage. Composed and leaning on my zimmer, my bed companion, deceased, I paused, long enough to look her over. She was a real beauty, maybe 55, 60, or thereabouts. Blonde, if bottle enhanced, and nice jugs, too, though just a little too pert, given wear and tear. In fact, they defied gravity, sliding neither to the left or right, nor flattening like the worn out dugs of the last woman I bedded and that was ten years ago.
Before I left, I took a hand towel from the bathroom and mopped the pee from the floor. Then I took another and wiped down any obvious surfaces like the bathroom door handle and around the bed, on my side. Then I threw both towels in the bath and soaked them, quickly, by turning on the bath faucet.
Satisfied, I left, hobbling down a long corridor where I found an elevator. That tune, An Englishman in New York, was playing and I pressed the button for the lobby. There was no-one else in the elevator so I hummed along with Sting until the door opened and I shuffled out in to the busy foyer. I gazed around to get my bearings.
“Dad, Dad, there you are…where, in God’s name have you been? Every person in this hotel has been looking for you. The cops have been trying to find you. Jesus, what are we going to do with you? Don’t ever wander off like that, again. We’ve been going crazy, we thought you were dead or mugged or something.”
I looked sheepish and contrite, but I said nothing.