T is for Trespass - Page 142/144

I went up and at the top turned to my right so that I was facing the street. What I’d imagined was a restaurant or lounge was actually a lavish corner suite. The brass number on the door was an ornate 2. I could hear a television set blaring inside. I went to the window at the end of the hall and looked out. Solana must have snapped the picture from a window in the suite because the perspective was slightly off from the place where I stood.

I went down the wide stairs to the lobby. The desk clerk was in his thirties with a thin, bony face and hair slicked back with pomade in a style I’d seen only in photographs taken during the ’40s. His suit had a retro look to it as well. “Good morning. May I help you?” he said. His nails had the shine of a recent manicure.

“Yes. I’m interested in the suite on the mezzanine,” I said, and gestured toward the stairs.

“That’s the Ava Gardner Suite. It’s occupied at the moment. How soon would you need the reservation?”

“Actually, I don’t. I think a friend of mine checked in and I thought I’d pop in and surprise her.”

“She asked not to be disturbed.”

I frowned slightly. “That doesn’t sound like her. Usually she has a steady stream of visitors. Of course, she’s in the process of divorcing and maybe she’s worried her ex will try tracking her down. Can you tell me what name she used. Her married name was Brody.”

“I’m afraid I couldn’t give you that information. It’s against hotel policy. The privacy of our guests is our first priority.”

“What if I showed you a photograph? You could at least confirm that it’s my friend? I’d hate to bang on the door if I’m making a mistake.”

“Why don’t you give me your name and I’ll ring her?”

“But that would spoil the surprise.” I brought my fanny pack around from the back to the front and unzipped the smaller of the two compartments. I took out the photo of Solana and put it on the counter.

“I’m afraid I can’t help,” he said. He was careful to maintain eye contact, but I knew he couldn’t resist a peek. His eyes flicked down.

I said nothing, but I gazed at him steadily.

“Anyway, she has company at the moment. A gentleman just went up.”

So much for his respect for her privacy. “A gentleman?”

“A handsome white-haired fellow, tall, very trim. I’d say he was in his eighties.”

“Did he give you his name?”

“He didn’t have to. She called down and said she was expecting a Mr. Pitts and when he arrived I should send him right up, which is what I did.”

I could feel the color leave my face. “I want you to call the police and I want you to do it right now.”

He looked at me, a quizzical smile playing across his lips, as though this were a hoax being filmed by hidden cameras to test his response. “Call the police? That’s what the gentleman said. Are you two serious?”

“Shit! Just do it. Ask for a detective named Cheney Phillips. Can you remember that?”

“Of course,” he said, primly. “I’m not stupid.”

I stood there. He hesitated and then reached for the phone.

I moved away from the desk and took the stairs two at a time. Why would she have called Henry? And what could she have said that would get him over here? When I approached the Ava Gardner Suite for the second time, the volume on the blaring television had been turned down. The modernization and restoration of the hotel, happily from my perspective, hadn’t included the installation of card-operated locks. I didn’t recognize the lock brand, but how different could it be? I unzipped my fanny pack and took out the leather folder with its five picks. I’d have preferred the cover of loud music and talk, but I couldn’t take the chance. I was just about to set to work when the door opened and I saw Solana standing there.

She said, “I can save you the effort. Why don’t you come in? The desk clerk phoned to tell me you were on your way.”

The fuck-head, I thought. I stepped into the room. She closed the door behind me and secured the burglar chain.

This was the sitting room. Doors on the left stood open revealing two separate bedrooms and a bathroom done in an old-fashioned white marble streaked with gray. Henry was out cold, lying on the plump upholstered sofa with an IV line in his arm, the needle taped in place. His color was still good and I could see the steady rise and fall of his chest. What worried me was the loaded syringe lying on the coffee table beside a crystal bowl filled with roses.

The French doors stood open, sheers lifted by a breeze. I could see the newly planted palms near the flagstone patio surrounding the pool. The terracing was still under construction, but it looked like work had been completed on the pool, which was now in the process of being filled. Solana allowed me time to get my bearings, enjoying the fear that must have been written in my face.