Become a Fan
Full Board. (- Just for fun!)
By Michael Knell
Friday, November 28, 2003
Ron was rocking backwards and forwards on the chair behind the empty desk, sipping at his coffee in an attempt to keep warm on that cold April morning. Idly glancing through the classified section in the first edition of the evening paper, one of the ‘situations vacant’ ads leapt off the page at him.
“Full Board in exchange for seasonal help in busy Blackport hotel. Suit fit young person. Write with full details about yourself to Box No. 3326,” it said.
That was too similar an advert to be a coincidence. Too similar to the one he’d tried to follow up on a missing person’s case last year, he thought. Abandoning the coffee, he went to the filing cabinet. Fingering through the folders in the drawer marked ‘Pending’, a less harsh way of putting ‘Those you didn’t manage to solve, idiot!’, he at last came upon the one marked ‘Millins-Woodstock’.
Flicking through the pages quickly to re-familiarise himself with the case, he lifted the phone to his ear as his finger sped through the numbers.
“The Millins-Woodstock residence. How may I help you?” the reserved voice, obviously the butler, came back.
“It’s Ron Wilson, Wilson Private Investigations,” he explained. “Would it be possible to speak with Mrs Millins-Woodstock? Er, it’s about a matter we’ve spoken on before.”
“Oh, yes. I remember you sir. If you’ll hold the line I will see if she will speak with you.”
There was a loud click. Ron waited patiently. This woman was loaded, he remembered. If her son, Joey, was still missing there might be a chance to make some desperately needed money here. Last year, by the end of the season when the boy was proclaimed missing, the advert had long since gone cold. There had been no way to pursue that line of investigation; all the usual routes of enquiry had produced nothing. It was a sad case, he recalled, where the boy’s mother had re-married. The son and stepfather not hitting it off, probably neither to blame, a clash of personalities. Joey now ‘did his own thing’, apparently even preferring to sleep rough at times rather than accept help from his family. His only contact had been a brief once monthly phone call to his mother, the last one being the preceding May when he’d told her that he had followed up an advertisement and been accepted for a job helping out in a hotel, two hundred miles away in Blackport.
“Have you found him?” the excited voice suddenly pleaded in his ear, startling him out of his thoughts.
“Er… no, I haven’t,” he confessed, “but there is a new lead if you would like me to continue…”
“Yes, yes!” the voice screamed at him. “Find him. You must find him. No matter what it costs, money’s no object. Just find him! I’ll send you a cheque immediately. Start straightaway!”
David was eighteen, unemployed since leaving school, the son of a disillusioned Private Investigator, how could he say no when his father asked for his help? Anyway, it sounded like fun. Applying for the holiday position in his own immature handwriting, offering a similar background to the missing Joey’s, he waited, they waited, hopefully. Ron knew that if he wrote to the box number simply enquiring about the missing boy there would be little chance of a reply. The fact that a box number was used for such a simple transaction as seasonal casual employment was in itself worthy of suspicion. No, he knew that best line of investigation would be through David obtaining this position. He would follow his son discretely, then once he had learnt where this hotel was, book in as a guest. He felt sure, had that instinctive hunch which came with his type of work, that this hotel in Blackport would reveal something rewarding.
David’s application must have hit the right chord; the letter confirming he was accepted came back within four days. With minimal luggage, it was only two days later the boy alighted from the train in Blackport to be met on the platform by an elderly looking gentleman holding a card with his name on it. Ron had raced through two carriages, choosing to leave the train further up so there could be no suspicions they were connected. Following at a distance, he watched as the old man ushered his son into a beaten-up old Morris station wagon. At least that shouldn’t be too hard to follow, Ron surmised, hailing the nearest cab, jumping in it and feeling foolishly stereotypical when he shouted to the driver, “Follow that car!”
It was only a short drive before the station wagon stopped outside the typical terraced B&B come friendly Guest House in Lady Street, the one proudly proclaiming to be Hotel Excellent. A suitable distance away, Ron paid off the taxi driver, waiting while his son followed the old man inside. Once out of sight, he sauntered over, stopping to read the advertisement on the board outside. ‘Excellent Accommodation, Excellent Wholesome Meals. Full Board from £15 per person per night,’ it stated, with pictures of some rooms, the bar and the dining area to back it up. It all looks respectable, the investigator thought, about to go up the three steps to the front door. Then he noticed the other sign, the one hanging in the window, ‘ Sorry, No Vacancies’.
“Shit!” he exclaimed loudly. That was something he hadn’t bargained for. Idiot! How could he be that stupid?
Crossing the road, he rang the doorbell at the Hotel Velmont. Yes, they had room, they told him, plenty of room at this time of the year. He could pick any room he wanted. It was only the strange place over the road that was full nearly all the year round, everybody else along there was struggling for guests most of the time. How they did it, they just couldn’t imagine. Apparently, they didn’t even advertise, well certainly not in the usual places, they told the ‘becoming more worried by the second’ investigator.
It was on the second morning that Ron decided he would have to knock the door opposite; he’d have to challenge the hoteliers head on. He’d seen neither hide nor hair of David in all that time, not even a text message on his mobile phone. That was strange. Few people had gone in or out of the building, he’d observed from many hours sitting in a chair by the window of his room keeping watch. Unusually few for a place that was supposedly full. He was now getting quite concerned, no not concerned he conceded, he was gut-wrenchingly worried.
It was several minutes of ringing the doorbell many times before there was any response at the Hotel Excellent. Then, through the frosted glass door panel, he could hear someone shuffling along the passage.
“Yes?” the hunched up grey-haired little old lady who opened the door asked.
“I was wondering if you had any room,” Ron lied.
“No we don’t!” The old lady was about to close the door on him.
“It’s just that I know my son took the job here a couple of days ago,” he explained, putting his foot in the door. “I thought that, as I was in the area, it would be nice to stay where he worked. Maybe spend an hour or two with him, after he’d finished his work, of course.”
The woman looked him up and down. Ron thought there was a shocked look behind those leathery wrinkles, but he couldn’t be sure.
S’pose you’d better come in,” she said at length. “Follow me, he’s in the preparation room.”
She led him through the dining area where he recognised the old man clearing the breakfast plates from the tables of the satisfied guests. Following her through to the kitchen, Ron could hear the comments from the guests being shouted after them.
“Lovely, those sausages this morning, Thelma,” one called out.
“Yes, I really enjoyed them,” shouted another.
The old lady smiled back at them saying, “Then you’ll love dinner tonight. We’re having a proper family meal for a change.”
Entering the preparation room, Ron immediately recognised the face that was staring at him. It was above the remainder of his son’s dismembered body hanging lifeless from the overhead metal rail by a meat hook, conveniently next to the sausage machine. He gasped.
“You’ll join us for dinner, won't you?” he heard behind him, before the swishing sound. Puzzled, he tried to make sense of the bright red fountain that was erupting, gushing two feet into the air from the form blindly staggering around, arms flaying wildly, less than three feet in front of him. I recognise that suit, he thought, before the blackness.
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|Reviewed by Shirley Cheng
|That is very very good! Scary!|