Monday, 2 April 2012

Chapter Five

The building was far larger than it looked. After leaving the lobby area the man lead winter upstairs, across a short landing, up another set of stairs and down a long corridor. Like the lobby, most of the interior was unlit and furnished in dark wood, the effect being one of age and antiquity, an establishment that had never quite caught up with the modern day. Winter was surprised to see electric bulbs burning on the ceiling rather than oil lamps.

"I don't get many guests anymore," said the old man as they walked. "To tell you the truth the old place has gone a little downhill. Ever since my daughter died. She took care of it you know. Ran most everything by herself. And when she went... Well, it hasn't been the same ever since."

"I'm sorry to hear that," said Winter automatically. She was not a natural conversationalist, English being a second language to her. Natively she was Scandinavian, and although she had learned English from a young age she preferred to leave most of the talking to Christopher, who almost always had a better understanding of the way English people worked.

"It can't be helped, I suppose," said the old man. "Needs must, of course. I did love her very much, you know. Very, very much. It's such a pity..." He stopped outside one of the many doors that lead off the corridor. "This will be your room," he said. "And your friends will be two doors down from you on the other side, just over there."

"Thank you," said Winter, taking the keys that he held out to her and smiling briefly. She opened the door to the room and peered inside to find it decorated in much the same fashion as the rest of the building. "It looks wonderful," she said.

"Glad you think so. You know you do look awfully like her. Your face... it's just the shape of hers. It really is uncanny."

"Oh," said Winter, suddenly unnerved. She wished very much that she hadn't separated from Christopher, and that they'd both gone down to the car together before coming up to the room. "I'm sorry about you daughter," she said quickly.

"Don't be," said the man, still gazing a little too fixedly at her. "It wasn't your fault, what happened." There was silence, a long moment of it that stretched like chewing gum. Eventually the little man gave himself a shake and seemed to emerge from whatever memory he had been lost within. "Anyway, don't you hesitate to call me if you need anything. I'll be in the office. Sleep there, you see, so that I can keep an eye on things. You just come and ring if you find yourself needing anything."

"We will," said Winter, hoping fervently that he was about to leave.

"Good," said the man, and held out a quivering hand for her to shake. "My name's Garmondy, by the way. Donald Garmondy. Welcome to my hotel."

Winter shook his hand, and it felt to her like a ball of hollow paper.

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