“Viewers are cautioned that this next report contains images that may be disturbing to some.”
Naturally, I turn toward the television to see what all the fuss is about. Photos of a crime scene where two women have been brutally stabbed to death are plastered across the screen along with images of the hotel they had been staying in and the victims themselves.
“Uh, Ric,” I manage to utter before sheer terror takes over me. Not only are we staying in the same hotel, but the two women are occupying the same room we had originally been assigned. When we’d arrived, just days before, and found there had been a double booking, we gracefully offered to move rooms. What if we hadn’t? Suddenly, I feel deadly cold.
“Maybe you should stay at the farm tonight instead,” Thor suggests. The ‘farm’ is a small rural property we have purchased for our retirement. As the house needs repairs, we decided to take a vacation at this nearby resort in the meantime. Ric has to return home on business overnight, which means I will be on my own.
“No, the report says the police have a suspect in mind – a drifter who has been seen loitering in the nearby town. The farm is too isolated. I’ll be safer here with people around.”
Somehow, in the deep middle of the night, isolation feels more pronounced. From where I lie I can see the outline of the door to our room and try to reassure myself that the deadbolt will hold. I pray the double sliding doors in the adjacent room are secured enough to prevent an intruder. I must fall asleep at some point, because when I awaken it is morning.
Relief floods me. Daylight brings a return to normalcy, sanity. All is well.
I have a quick wash and throw on some clothes, deciding to catch breakfast in the restaurant. This suite we are staying in has two rooms – the bedroom, which is accessed from the outside, and a living/dining/kitchenette area, which is accessed by the pool area of the resort. A short hallway with a bathroom separates the two living spaces. It isn’t until I pass through into the kitchen area that I notice the intruder and I stop short.
Standing well over six feet tall, he is a giant of a man, with a disfigured face and scarred hands. Like a rabbit, I freeze, assessing the situation. In my mind, I picture the exits, both locked as far as I know. How long has he been here? Do I have time to unbolt the door before he’d catch me?
As if reading my mind, he flashes a pass key. He works here, I realize. Remain calm, I counsel myself.
“Am I going to die?” I ask willing my voice to remain steady. “Because if I am, do you mind if I have one more cup of tea. Tea is my favourite thing? Could you allow me that?” An element of surprise is my only hope of defense. It worked for me once during an attempted mugging. The would-be assailant stepped in front of me and demanded money and cigarettes. In my nervousness, I laughed and said: “Do I look a smoker?” The ruse worked long enough to let me dart away from the mugger and yell for help.
He doesn’t answer, just glares at me with that menacing expression, reminding me who’s in charge here.
“If it’s about sex, I’ll do anything you want, no need to get violent.”
“It might get rough.” Do I detect a hint of bemusement in his voice.
“That’s okay, but I’d still really appreciate that cup of tea. Can I make you one?”
“No, I don’t want any damn tea!” but he doesn’t move to stop me and he’s dropped down onto the couch now, stretched across it, his legs splayed out over the end, his massive belly displaying one long scar carved into his side, and I realize he’s removed his shirt.
Cautiously, I make for the sink, feeling like I’m moving in slow motion. His voice stops me.
“Why’d you have to put lanolin on the food tray?” His voice is mournful, gravelly, and if I didn’t know that my life is in danger, I might l have laughed out loud. My mind races: He must work in food services.
“I didn’t,” I stammer. “I mean…I don’t use lanolin…don’t even have any.” Then, sensing the opportunity: “Somebody would do that?” I play the sympathy card.
“Makes my job damned near impossible,” he mumbles. “Makes me angry enough kill!”
So we’re back to that. Is that what happened to the two young women? They greased the dinner tray?
“Hurry up with the tea already; I don’t have all day.”
He closes his eyes for a moment and I examine his face. An unfortunate soul, really, I think. Large, beefy jowls, and a bulbous nose that likely indicates years of alcohol abuse. A scar covers one eye socket, and his lipless mouth seems to hang open unaware of itself.
Just as I turn again towards the kitchen, a light tapping on the door precedes the entrance of an entourage of people.
“Housekeeping, Miss.” A woman bustles in carrying freshly pressed and hung laundry. “Where would like these?” Behind her comes another housekeeper bearing clean towels, and a team poised to clean. “Is this a good time?”
“A very good time!” I turn to see that the hulk has gone. Did he slide away? I wonder. Did anyone see him? I direct the clothes to be hung in the bedroom closet and smile with genuine gratitude for the disruption, but keep my council. He may still be hiding in the suite.
Two young teens then barge through the now open door and buzz around delighting at everything in the room.
“Excuse me,” I say to them. “What are you doing?”
“This is our room! We just checked in!”
“This is my room,” I can feel the anger rising up in me. I have had enough disruptions this morning already. Things are beginning to feel surreal, and I just want some peace to recollect myself. “There has been a mistake. Leave!”
The doorway fills with what must be the rest of the family: a man and woman and four more children.
“Check-in,” I tell them, ” is not until four o’clock. The room is still mine.” I had forgotten that today was check-out and the realization brings me new hope – I might get out of this alive yet. I have work to do.
The family and housekeepers all leave with the exception of one little straggler. I start to give him directions to the lobby, then realize he is too little to understand, so I walk him down the hall instead. As we approach the reunion with his parents, I see that Ric has returned and is approaching the building. The nightmare is finally coming to an end.
I turn back towards the room, anxious to get packed up. I see him in my peripheral vision as he steps out of the shadows. I stop. Surely he won’t accost me here in the hallway, with people around.
“Did you see my scars?” he asks, eyes turned away.
“I did,” I respond unemotionally. What can he possibly want me to say? Like the wounds you left on those poor young women, I think.
I hear Ric’s approach and see the killer step away. Should I tell my husband? I decide not. Ric would react protectively, and could end up getting killed as well. I greet my husband warmly, and turn our attention to the task at hand.
Car loaded, Ric pulls toward the exit just as a police vehicle drives in.
“Stop here.” I command, rolling down the window and catching the driver’s attention. “The man you’re looking for works in the kitchen,” I tell him.
Then I signal for Ric to drive away and wake up.
It’s all been a dream.