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Authors: Room 415

Edward Lee (7 page)

Flood’s heart felt truly dead.

“And it’s a shame, too. Greed is what I mean. And the other one’s worse. Taking a commission on any girl of mine she can swing over to Phipps. I can’t be embarrassed like this, I can’t have it. I can’t have that gold-toothed piece of cracker shit laughing at me.”

“You’re talking about Ann now, ain’t you?”

“Yes. You know what we have to do, right?”

“Sure.”

“You have any problem with that?”

A chuckle. “Me? I groove on it.”

“Excellent. Tomorrow, then. You pound that whore’s face in till she’s dead.”

“Oh, Mr. Flood, our records show that you’re booked for another night,” the lanky hotel clerk observed at the desk.

“Yes,” Flood mumbled. “Something came up; I’ve gotta leave a day early.”

“Oh, okay. I hope you enjoyed your stay at the Rosamilia.” The clerk produced a receipt, then Flood made a quick exit through the revolving door to the sun-lit entrance circle.

He couldn’t leave till tomorrow, but there was no way he’d be staying the last night here. The place disgusted him, because it reminded him of what he’d done—or what he
hadn’t
done—while Therese was being raped, beaten, and mutilated. It reminded him of what an utterly irredeemable human being he was...

The wheels of his suitcase squealed as he walked over to the next hotel. He knew what he
would
do, though; he simply hadn’t done it yet and wasn’t quite sure why.
Haven’t
worked up the nerve,
he supposed.
A coward all ways...
The procrastination, at least, gave him time for some lame rationalization.
I couldn’t have called the police last night,
because the call could be traced back to my room. Couldn’t
call from my cell phone, either—it’s gotta be anonymous.
And I couldn’t call security ‘cos that’d be even worse. Leon’s
got the hotel security man on his payroll.

It worked a little, at least.

I’ll call the police from a pay phone, blow the whistle
on the shit going on in Room 415. I’ll tell the cops about
Jinny and Therese. Leon and Oscar will get questioned and
spooked, not knowing who ratted on them. Maybe Jinny and
Therese will even decide to press charges once the cat’s out
of the bag. I’ll call Henry Phipps, too, from the card Carol
gave me. The cops’ll put major heat on everybody, and at
the very least, Leon and Oscar won’t beat up anymore girls,
and they sure as shit won’t be killing this other girl tonight.

Flood sighed.

Then I’ll go back to Seattle and forget I ever came to this
awful beach...

He stowed his bags at the new hotel, then made it over to the convention center. Nathans and Farris were exuberant; Flood had his sign-up meetings with a flock of corporate buyers, and deals were sealed. It took the rest of the afternoon but to Flood, with all that guilt sitting on his shoulder, each meeting went by in a fog. By dinnertime, he was done, and when he went back out to the showroom, his associates were high-fiving each other.

“This has to be our biggest haul at a con,” Nathans was rubbing his hands together.

“You might be right,” Flood said.

“We’re making the west coast sales dickheads look like doodly-squat,” Farris added.

“Can’t disagree with that, either,” Flood said. “You guys did great.”

“Great enough for a night on the town—on the company account?” Nathans pushed it.

“Once you guys get everything packed up...” Flood gave him a company credit card, “yeah. Have a good time.”

“Thanks, boss! Won’t you be joining us?”

“No, can’t. But I’ll see you guys at the airport in the morning.”

“Come on,” Farris implored. “We’ll hit some of those kick-ass strip joints in Tampa.”

The idea deadened the little left of Flood’s soul. “No, count me out, guys.”

“He must have a hot date.” Nathans grinned.

“Nope,” Flood assured. “But I’ve got a very important call to make.”

Flood left them in the convention’s decaying buzz. He knew what he had to do, and he knew he
was
going to do it this time. The anonymity of the call would guarantee his protection; there’d be no way Leon or Oscar could come calling for him because they’d have no idea who made the call. The police would have to follow up on something this severe...

The phone coves were all full, sellers either reporting windfall sales to their home-bases, or a dismal turnout. Flood wasn’t thwarted; he simply crossed the street back to the Rosamilia but when he found their phone cove full too, he saw no harm in putting off the call a while longer for some dinner.

He ate light and tried to relax, feeling better at least for knowing that he would soon report Leon’s crimes, however late. He couldn’t blame himself entirely, could he? Getting beaten up by your pimp was a hazard of any prostitute’s calling.

Flood even recognized that these mental observations were indeed excuses, but that was okay now because he was going to stop it all.

And the time is now...

He left the restaurant and went straight to the phone cove where there were plenty of available phones. He sat in the first booth, lit a cigarette in spite of the NO SMOKING sign, and took some time to think.
And there’s another girl named
Ann,
he could tell the police.
When they find her, they’re
going to kill her.
Then he’d hang up and leave.

Easy.

But before he could dial, another voice leaked in through the gap in the booth’s folding door, a woman’s.

“Hey, Jimmy, this is Ann. Remember me? Yeah, yeah, two nights ago at the Swigwam. You said I could give you a call. Still game for tonight?”

Flood sat frozen, listening.

Ann...

Something moved then at the fringes of his vision. He didn’t quite catch it.

Figures entering the cove?

A tap, not at his door but at the next.

“Okay, Jimmy, look, lemme call you back in a few, okay? Something just came up.” A girlish chuckle. “Yeah, yeah, that too. Talk to ya real soon—‘bye.”

“There she is,” a man’s voice could be heard.

Another man’s: “We’ve been looking all over for you, we were worried.”

“I told you I’d be here, Leon. And here I am.”

Leon and obviously Oscar.

“Good,” Leon said. “I got a rich as hell optometrist wanting you in a bad way, showed him your pic in the brochure. But he’s only got an hour, and his wife’s in his room.”

“That’s cool. How about I use your room?”

“Great. Here’re the keys. Go get ready, and we’ll bring him up. He’s going to meet us in the bar in a few minutes.”

“Sure thing. I’l cal you on your cel when he’s done.” Then the door in the next booth closed, and a woman walked by.

Flood’s mouth locked open.

It was Carol.

She sauntered by, jingling keys in her hand.

When she was gone, the men talked further.

Oscar: “She ain’t on to us.”

“Yeah, the bitch is so arrogant, thinks she can get over on anyone.”

“Never even knew her real name was Ann. Guess that’s what she goes by when she’s working behind my back for Phipps. Ain’t that some shit?”

“Yeah, well. She’s got a new name now: dead meat.”

“Let’s have a drink in the bar, then go up.”

“Fine by me. Man, I can’t wait to punch this bitch’s ticket...”

Still as a stone, Flood remained in the booth. Leon and Oscar walked out of the cove.

They’re going to do it,
Flood’s thoughts grated like ratchets.
They’re going to be killing Carol in a few minutes...

The phone felt melted in his hand. The numbers on the buttons blurred in his vision, and as his shaking index finger trembled forward, a sound like distant turbine filled his head.

Wait a minute...

Flood never dialed. He got a better idea instead. He left the phone hanging and walked out of the booth. A spit-and-polish concierge smiled stiffly when Flood approached. “How may I be of service, sir?”

“Where’s the nearest Bank of America? I’ve got an emergency.”

The concierge pointed toward the front. “There’s one right across the street...”

Flood stared at the metal numbers: 415.

He gulped once, then knocked.

The low voices inside ceased when his knuckles rapped against the door.
Leon’s probably looking through the peephole
right now,
Flood deduced with a scared smile. He didn’t give a shit anymore. He knocked again, then held his cell phone up before the peephole. “Open up or I’m calling the cops. .”

The door to Room 415 clicked, then yawned open.

Flood wasn’t surprised when he stepped in and found Oscar’s pistol to his head. “Easy, pal. I’ve got business to discuss. And don’t shit a brick. I know you’re about to kill the girl.”

Oscar glared in silent rage, his bald pate nearly quivering. He shoved Flood into the main room where Leon stood.

“He says he knows about Carol,” Oscar said. “What the fuck’s going on?”

Leon gaped at Flood. “You...”

Flood surrendered his cell phone to Oscar, then nodded to Leon. “You remember me. From the elevator?”

“Jack... Flood?”

“Makes sense you’d remember faces and names, you being a pimp and all—”

Leon was aghast. “Oscar, who
is
this guy? Why is he here?”

“I’m here to talk business,” Flood began, smiling in spite of an effusion of sweat. “Of course, you guys can kill me right now, and no one would know.”

“Oh, we can kill you, all right,” Oscar began.

“Right, and you’d be stupid, which is par for the course so far.” Flood noticed a closed door behind them.
That’s
the bedroom...
“First of all, you guys talk way too loud. I overheard several of your conversations in the phone cove downstairs.” He pointed to the closed door. “And there’s a couple-inch gap between those pink curtains in there. You both are about as sharp as Oscar’s head.”

Leon and Oscar remained stiff where they stood.

“I saw you beat up Jinny two nights ago,” Flood finished. “And I saw what you did to Therese last night. You guys really take the cake for sick motherfuckers.”

Leon’s eyes bloomed toward Oscar. “I don’t believe this shit, Oscar. What are we gonna do with this guy?”

“I got a couple ideas,” Oscar said.

“Yeah, yeah,” Flood chuckled. It was beyond him how he could be keeping his cool amid these killers. “Look, I know you got Carol in the bedroom—er, I guess her real name’s Ann. I’d like to see her. What’s the big deal? You guys got a gun on me. Let’s go in there and talk business.”

Leon’s face remained stamped with disbelief. He nodded to Oscar, then they escorted Flood into the room.

Carol lay stretched naked over a shower curtain covering the bed, her ankles and wrists tied to the posts. Her eyes bugged above her gag.
God, she’s beautiful,
Flood thought. The rotund, perfect implants quivered, her flat stomach sucking in and out in terror. Flood quailed when he noted the sand-mitts on the dresser, along with a cord and tourniquet, a manual drill, and a soldering iron.

Flood reserved comment. Instead he pointed to the gap in the salmon curtains. “See. At just the right angle, you can see in from outside.”

“Bullshit,” Leon muttered. “There ain’t nothin’ but the Gulf of fuckin’ Mexico out there,” but then he peeked out and up.

“The end-wing of the building,” Floor said. “I was on the fifth floor. It was a million-to-one that the bed, the gap, and the vantage point all added up.”

“Shit,” Leon muttered and closed the curtains. He rubbed his face. “I still don’t know what the fuck’s going on. I can’t
believe
this.”

Flood chuckled again. “And I can’t
believe
that Oscar hasn’t frisked me yet. Shame on you, Osc. You’re the bulldog, right? You’re Leon’s lieutenant. It’s your job to protect The Man.”

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