Wednesday, October 27
Lucy spent the morning on autopilot, her emotions racing between approach and avoidance. Neither of these were terms that she had ever used in relationship to her state of mind until she had started seeing psychologists. They had a different way of speaking, those people, a wholly separate dictionary. For instance, you didn't just recall something, you had declarative memory. Or when you applied simple logic to problems, and solved them, it was called fluid intelligence. And then there was her favorite. If you were the kind of person who defined yourself by your own thoughts or actions, you weren't just confident, or happy in your own skin. No, no, no. You had independent construals of self.
Lucy almost laughed. Her inside joke - on those rare occasions when she felt good enough to appreciate a joke, inside or out - was that she was just going through her construal cycle.
Regardless, on this day, in this place, Lucy was all but overcome by her new feelings. The craziest thing had been running into Detective Byrne the day before. She had been so hyper when she saw him that, even though she knew that she knew him, she didn't realize who he was. Until he smiled.
They had met at her regression-therapy sessions. He was the man in the group who had been dead for a whole minute. They'd gone for coffee once, shared their experiences. Well, Lucy had listened mostly, because she didn't really know what had happened to her. Yesterday he had given her his card and told her to call if she ever wanted to talk. She wondered if he could help her. She wondered if he would laugh at her suspicions of the man she thought she'd seen come out of Room 1208. No, he wouldn't laugh, but he would probably tell her she was imagining things.
As she worked she looked at her watch every five minutes, for the first time in a long while not really gauging her day by how many rooms she had completed, mentally recording the time she entered and left.
Each room attendant had their own section key, an electronic card similar to a guest key, that allowed them access to their rooms but not to other parts of the hotel. If an attendant said they entered a room at 9:08 and it was really 9:21, management could find it out in a second. A lot of dismissed attendants found out the hard way that computers never lie. The lock didn't say when you left, only when you entered.
Today all the rooms blended together, and Lucy had no idea how long it was taking her to finish each one.
He smelled like apples.
That could have been anything, though. There were a million plausible explanations for this. Lots of people wear dark overcoats. For gosh sake, even Detective Byrne wore a dark overcoat.
Lucy stood at the end of the hallway, near the elevators. She looked down the corridor, at the east wing. In this direction there were eight rooms. Rooms 1201 through 1208. Today she was able to swap this wing with a girl who worked on the seventh floor, promising to fix the girl's portable CD player in exchange for the favor. But it would only be for today. Lucy would have to enter Room 1208 tomorrow. She wasn't looking forward to it.
All room attendants got a fifteen-minute break in the morning. Lucy usually spent her time reading in the cafeteria or, if it was a nice day, she would run over to Rittenhouse Square for a full five minutes in the sun. It was amazing what even five minutes in sunlight could do for her mood. Today, she stepped into the small courtyard behind the hotel. She almost got lost in the cloud of cigarette smoke. You weren't supposed to smoke within fifty yards of the building, but no one ever listened and the rule had never been enforced.
When she rounded the corner at the back to the hotel she saw her friend Amanda sitting on a delivery pallet, eating a tangerine.
'Hey, girl,' Amanda said.
'Hi.' Lucy sat down next to Amanda. Amanda Cuaron was everything Lucy was not. Exotic, dark-eyed, a true Latin beauty, always flirting. Whenever Amanda was around Lucy felt like a rubber tulip.
'Hey, I forgot to ask, did you see that guy yesterday?' Amanda asked.
That guy was the Dreamweaver. Mr. Costa. Lucy wasn't sure how much she wanted to tell Amanda. Amanda was her friend and all, but Lucy had never shared secrets with her. She'd never shared her secrets with anyone. 'Yeah,' she said. 'I saw him.'
'How did it go?'
'It went okay.'
Amanda just stared at her - she was not going to get off the hook with such a brief explanation. 'Well? Was he weird? Did he wear a pointy hat and carry a wand?'
'Oh yeah,' Lucy said. 'And he had a long white beard. Didn't I mention the beard?'
Amanda smiled. 'Is he cute?'
Lucy snorted. 'Shut up. He's like a hundred years old.'
'Is he cute?'
Lucy just rolled her eyes. 'I'm going to see him again today.' Lucy hadn't realized that she'd made the decision to do this until this second.
Amanda smiled her lascivious smile. 'Mala chica.'
They both checked their watches at the same moment. They had another six minutes.
Amanda pointed to the wall next to the delivery bay. There was something carved into the stone. RL loves TJ.
'I wonder if they're still in love,' Amanda said.
Lucy doubted it. She didn't believe in true love. 'Well, it is written in stone.'
Amanda laughed. 'I think that was probably done back when this place was apartments.'
'When was this an apartment building?'
'I think up until maybe 1999. Something like that,' she said. 'I think it was kind of a famous place, too.'
.'Well, mostly because of that little girl. You know about that, don't you?'
'What are you talking about?'
'I'm not a hundred percent sure what happened - you could ask Sergio. He'd definitely know.'
Sergio was an older guy who worked in maintenance. He had been with the building for a long time.
'But, from what I understand, a little girl got killed here,' Amanda added.
Lucy shuddered. 'What do you mean, killed? Like an accident or something?'
'No. Like killed killed.'
'What are you saying? She was murdered?'
'Yeah.' Amanda wiggled her fingers at Lucy, made spooky Halloween noises. 'They say her ghost walks these very halls.'
Amanda giggled. 'You're so easy.'
'How old was the girl?'
Amanda shrugged, peeled off another section of tangerine, offered it to Lucy. Lucy declined. 'Not sure. But not too old, though. Ten or eleven, maybe.'
'How did she ... you know.'
'How did she die?' Amanda shrugged. 'No idea. But I don't think they ever caught the guy that did it.'
As creepy as Lucy already felt today, the feeling had just doubled.
'I think it's one of the cases this bunch of nut jobs who are staying here this week are investigating,' Amanda said. 'Or talking about investigating. God only knows what they do.'
Lucy was speechless for the moment. Amanda stood up, threw her tangerine peels in the nearby Dumpster.
'So, are we on?' Amanda asked.
At first Lucy didn't know what Amanda was talking about. Then she remembered. She had told Amanda that she would go out with her for a drink at Fluid, a dance club on Fourth Street, on Halloween Eve Night - always a crazy time in Philly, to say the least - and, according to Amanda, a ton of cute college guys always showed up. This year they were probably all going to be dressed up like Robert Pattinson.
'Yeah,' Lucy said. 'Why not?'
'Awesome. And you are definitely going to let me do something with your hair. We've got to babe you up, chica. Maybe get you laid.'
Amanda giggled. 'I'll be by your mansion around eight.'
Amanda walked back into the hotel but Lucy stayed put. She couldn't stop thinking about the little girl Amanda had mentioned. Murdered. At the place Lucy worked. She had to find out more about it, although she wasn't sure why. Maybe because there was a dead zone in her own life. Maybe it was because for the past nine years she had felt a dark kinship with all young girls who had been touched by evil. They were her sisters.
They say her ghost walks these very halls.
Thanks, Amanda, Lucy thought. Thanks a lot.