The Getaway

19 Jan

“Do you not like the salmon, dear?” The matronly old lady bustled around my table, refilling my water glass and clearing away the unused place setting opposite me.

“Oh no, it’s lovely,” I assured her. “I just had a long drive from the city. I’m a little tired.”

The old lady smiled in understanding and moved away. I picked up my fork and poked at the salmon. What had  they done to it? Parts of it were burnt, other parts were so undercooked that they were rubbery and transparent. I put down my fork and took a bite of my bread instead. It was stale, but I didn’t see any mouldy bits and I was feeling faint from hunger.

The old couple who ran this place were so kind, so eager to please. They had fallen over themselves to make me feel welcome. At one point, the old gent had quite literally fallen over himself.  I couldn’t bring myself to tell them their food was inedible. They would have been far too upset. Maybe the chef was just having an off-day.

After dinner I went out (“Just going exploring,” I chirped cheerfully to the old lady, who was now at the front desk.) I bought a sandwich from the local deli and ate it on a bench overlooking the sea. The man at the deli laughed heartily when I told him where I was staying. Apparently, most people who stayed at the small seaside inn ended up there, desperate for food.

Back at the inn, I took a shower and got ready for bed. It didn’t matter that much that the water was cold. It was invigorating, and I did get a blast of scalding heat whenever someone anywhere in the building flushed a toilet. Maybe I would talk to the old man tomorrow and ask if there was some knack to controlling the water temperature.

It took me a long time to go to sleep. The mattress was hard and lumpy, and every time the wind blew outside, the windows rattled alarmingly. Character, I told myself. This place has character.

At about five in the morning I gave up on sleep and decided on a seaside run. I quickly threw on running clothes, glancing around the room as I did so. At least there weren’t any bugs. I always seemed to hear stories of people staying in posh hotels with good food and hot water, and finding bugs.

Ready for my run, I left the room and started making my way down the stairs. There was an elevator here, but I thought that attempting to use it would be pushing my luck.

When I’d gone down half a flight of stairs, I heard two people whispering on the landing below me. That was odd, at this time of the morning. Something about the tone of the whispers made me hide myself behind an enormous frondy plant in a small alcove.

Snippets of the conversation reached me.

“…will find out…not even a real hotel…”

“…know we need the hotel…cover for…police”

My jaw dropped in surprise. From what I could hear, it seemed that the hotel was just a cover for some illegal activity. That would explain why this place was so bad, but what on earth were they doing here? And wasn’t it risky to be doing it in a place where some hotel guest could stumble upon it? It hadn’t taken me long to overhear something – but then again, the owners probably weren’t expecting their guests to be creeping down the stairs at five in the morning.

When the sounds of the whispering started drifting away, I crept out from behind my plant and followed the two people – it turned out to be the old couple! – as discreetly as I could. I just had to find out what was going on. I felt mildly ridiculous, like Nancy Drew, but my curiosity got the better of me.

The old couple went down several flights of stairs, all the way to a large basement. When they opened the door and flicked on the lights, I could not believe my eyes. There before me, was an enormous collection of machines, all seemingly printing vast quantities of money.

What would I do with this information? Would I shop this lovely old couple to the police? Or would I tell them what I had seen?

This week’s Indie Ink Challenge came from Hannah Pratt, who gave me this prompt: You are on a weekend getaway at a secluded place. The food is terrible. The accommodations are awful. However, the staff is so endearing that you do not find it in yourself to complain.
I challenged Cheney with the prompt: You are trapped in an elevator, and realize that the only other person in it is someone who was recently reported missing in mysterious circumstances.

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