By the middle of the afternoon Rosie, after consuming a large and satisfying lunch consisting of a western burger and hand-cut fries, had retired to her suite and was now sprawled on the living room couch reading the latest issue of The Hollywood Reporter and, in particular, engrossed in a puff piece about Hollywood’s latest prominently publicized pretty boy, Ethan Hawke. She was just idly wondering if his mother could tell him apart from Keanu Reeves when there was a knock at the door and a brisk voice exclaimed, “You in there Rosie? It’s me, Georgie.”
Tossing the newspaper onto a coffee table, she got to her feet and without replying hurried over to the door and unlocked it. “Oh, Ms. Jordan,” she said. “I’m so glad to see you.”
Georgie immediately breezed in and settled herself on an upholstered armchair near the couch. “Call me Georgie, honey,” were her first words. “We’re not in the office now, no need to be formal.” As if to illustrate this point, she unceremoniously kicked off her low-heeled pumps and tossed her light wrap onto the couch. “I swear to God,” she continued, “that man downstairs on the desk like to drove me nuts. Why, you know he wouldn’t even let me come up here till I showed him all kinds of ID. Finally I pulled out my business card and my corporate credit card and that finally convinced him I had some business here.”
Rosie suppressed a smile. “Yeah,” she replied, “he’s a real joker, isn’t he?”
“I don’t know about that,” Georgie responded, “but he sure know how to give a lady a hard time.” Then, apparently focusing on the situation at hand, she continued, “But how are you holdin’ up, honey? Been quite a shock I imagine. I mean, him runnin’ out on you and all.”
“I don’t know,” Rosie replied seriously. “I thought everything was okay last night. I mean, he was about halfway drunk the last time I saw him but he didn’t seem to be what you’d call upset or depressed or anything. Yes, he was a little frustrated over not being able to improve the script, but I don’t think that would have caused him to do anything drastic.”
“Well,” Georgie replied, “we’ll just see about that. First of all, is there anyplace to park around here? I left my car out on the street. I guess it’ll be okay and all but I’d still feel better parking it in a lot or something.”
At this Rosie smacked her head with her open palm. “My God!” she exclaimed. “I’m such an idiot.”
Georgie was bemused. “What are you talkin’ about, girl?”
“I mean, talk about stupid. I didn’t even go down and check his car.” Noting the bewilderment on Georgie’s face she explained, “There’s a building out back, a parking garage where we parked yesterday and I never even thought to go down and see if his car’s there.”
“That’s all right,” said Georgie soothingly, now understanding the whole situation. “I got to go down and move my car anyway. After all,” she said with a grin, “you can’t be expected to think of everything. Taking care of idiot boss men ain’t in your job description.”
Rosie smiled in return and said, “No, I suppose it’s not.”
So after Georgie stepped back into her shoes the two of them made their way down the stairs to the lobby, Georgie holding her head high and pretending not to notice Melson, who was busy doing something or other behind the registration desk. Passing through the lobby, they were so intent on their mission that they didn’t even comment on the two old bearded men peacefully snoozing in the lobby’s armchairs.
They went down the front steps and Rosie pointed to the drive that led around to the parking garage. “It’s this way,” she told Georgie, who nodded and went to her car, started it, and followed Rosie into the parking garage.
As Georgie parked in one of the several empty spaces they were met by the same old guy that Rosie and Gil had encountered on the previous day. Before he could say anything, Georgie got out of her Mustang, slammed the door, looked the old guy up and down and said imperiously, “You the one takes care of this place?”
The old man nodded. “That I am. Ain’t nobody here but me.”
Georgie looked at Rosie who nodded in agreement, then continued. “You got a red ’56 customized T-bird here?”
By way of answer, the old man beckoned to them and led them over to another space about ten yards away where indeed the T-bird was still parked.
“That it?” he inquired, pointing to the vehicle in question. “It ain’t been moved since the feller brought it in yesterday afternoon.” He looked at Georgie meaningfully. “Feller give me twenty bucks, he did, to look after what he calls his baby. And that’s what I been a-doin’.”
“So,” Georgie confirmed, “you haven’t seen this man since he gave you the money to watch his car?”
The old man shook his head. “Nope,” he said. “Ain’t seen hide nor hair of him.” He again gestured toward the T-bird. “And you can see yourself, it ain’t been hurt or tampered with in any way. Y’all satisfied?”
Georgie, now mollified, decided to take a more sympathetic tack. “Yes,” she said, “and I’d greatly appreciate it if you would do the same for my Mustang.” She gestured over her shoulder to where she had parked her car. “I might be here overnight.”
“All the same to me,” the old man said. “Long as it’s here I’ll watch it like a hawk.”
“That’s good enough for me,” replied Georgie extending her hand. “I’m Georgie Jordan, by the way.”
“Well now, ain’t that a coincidence,” the old man said, taking her hand and shaking it. “I’m George too, George Utley.”
Releasing his hand she reached into her tote bag, found her billfold, extracted a twenty from it, and handed it to George. “Just keep me in mind. I’d appreciate it,” she said, then replaced her billfold and with a wave of her hand bade farewell to George, and the two women strode back towards the hotel.
When they had gotten out of earshot of George, Georgie said, “Well, we know one thing at least. He didn’t run off and leave you. Ain’t no way he’d leave that car of his behind.”
“So, what do you think happened?” said Rosie as they reached the hotel entrance.
“Well, the way I see it, there’s only three possible things could have happened to the damn fool. One, he could have gotten himself in trouble and be in jail or the nearest hospital; two, he could have passed out somewhere on the street and still be sleeping it off somewhere; or three, and this I think is the most likely: He met somebody and went someplace with them, probably within walking distance and probably some sexy fool of a girl.” She had a sudden thought. “Uh, Rosie, dear, I don’t know quite how to put this but, um, woman to woman, Gil didn’t try to come on to you, did he?”
Rosie seemed to take it in stride and gave a brief shake of her head. “No,” she said, “and I kept expecting him to do it last night, but for some reason he didn’t. Maybe it was because he was too drunk or maybe it was because he was too worried about that damn script. Whatever the reason, the subject never came up.”
“Hm,” said Georgie, “all the more reason to think he might have met someone and gone home with her.”
By now they had crossed the lobby and Georgie paused at the front desk. Drawing herself up to her full height of nearly six feet she assumed her Angry Black Woman persona and banged vigorously on the bell.
The loud clanging brought a reluctant Fast-Draw Frankie out from somewhere in the back. Recognizing Georgie he said with obvious distaste, “Ohhhhh, it’s you again.” Then forcing himself into a more professional demeanor he gritted his teeth and said, “How may I help you? Find your missing fella yet?”
“No,” spat out Georgie, “and I’m serving you notice right now. I’m holding this hotel responsible.” She shook a finger at him. “I want this place searched from top to bottom. And don’t give me no back talk neither.”
Melson shank back from this verbal barrage and responded in a pleading manner, “Look lady, I know how you feel, but I just don’t have the authority.”
“Lady nothing!” retorted Georgie. “I am woman, hear me roar! And if you don’t have the authority, I strongly suggest you that get in touch with someone who does. And if I were you, I’d be pretty damn quick about it.” With that, she put her hands squarely on her hips and gave a little huffing sound of disapproval.
Meanwhile Rosie was standing there with her mouth slightly open, gazing with admiration at the woman who had suddenly become her hero.
“All right, all right,” responded Melson sulkily. “You don’t have to bite my head off.”
“That ain’t all I’m gonna bite off if you don’t get yo’ ass in gear.”
Melson put his hands up in a gesture of surrender. “All right, all right,” he said again. “I’m getting on the phone already.” He went to the far end of the desk on which sat a black four-button call director phone, took the receiver off the hook, punched in a number from memory, then stretched the receiver as far around the corner as the cord would allow, placing him partially out of sight of the two women.
Soon they were only able to hear his muffled one-sided conversation with whoever was on the other end. “Yes sir… Yes sir… I’m aware of that, sir… I know it’s an imposition but—but—what else could I do?” Then in a lowered voice little more than a whisper, “You don’t know what that woman’s like sir, she’s really really scary.” Then in a more relieved tone, “Yes… Yes… I see. Thank you. Thank you sir… Yes… I’ll be here.” With that he returned to the desk and hung up the receiver. Turning to Georgie he said, “That was the manager. He’ll be here in about fifteen minutes. Fortunately he lives nearby.” Then he attempted probably the most false-looking smile in the history of hotel management. “Would you ladies care to have a seat while you’re waiting? Perhaps a soft drink?”
Georgie however was not to be mollified. “No thanks, buster,” she said briskly. “We’re waitin’ right here till your manager or whoever the hell you just called shows up, okay?”
Melson put his hands up again. “Okay, okay, whatever you say. Now excuse me, I’ve got some work to do.”
Georgie said nothing in reply but waved him away imperiously. As Melson hurriedly left the area, Georgie turned to Rosie and, unable to restrain herself any longer, burst out laughing. “Well,” she said after gaining control of herself again, “what do you think, Rosie dear? Did that put the fear of God in him?” She made a comical face. “How do you like Angry Black Woman?”
“Wow,” said Rosie, still dripping with admiration. “If I’d been on the other end that sure would have terrified me.”
The two women were still giggling and making comments about Melson and the conversation when suddenly a little man strode quickly and impatiently into the lobby. He was only about five foot four inches in height with a slender body that belied his obvious age of fifty-plus years. His face was clean-shaven with small features and a nearly bald head with only a few wisps of gray hair to partially cover it. Surprisingly he wore a short-sleeved khaki shirt and Bermuda-style shorts of the same material that were baggy and reached down nearly to his knees. A scant few inches below them were a pair of brown woolen knee socks and brown leather open-toed sandals. He needed only a pair of large binoculars around his neck to look the perfect image of an eccentric British bird watcher.
With a scowl on his face and a confidence not in keeping with his diminutive stature he strode over to the desk where the two women were still standing and barked, “Where’s Melson?”
Obviously hearing the bark, a relieved-looking Melson reappeared and said, “Thank you for coming so quickly sir, I know what an imposition—”
The little man put up a hand and said simply, “Shut up, Francis.” Then, turning to the two ladies, he said in a slightly more kind yet still severe voice, “My name is Frankenberger. I’m the manager of this hotel. Now, what seems to be the trouble?”
So for the next five minutes or so Georgie, with help from Rosie, filled in Frankenberger on the case of the missing film director.
“So,” he said, summing up. “No one’s seen him since last night, eh?” He turned to Melson. “That right, Francis?”
Melson shrugged his shoulders in answer. “I questioned all of the staff personally,” he explained, “and the last one to see him was Jimmy. That was about midnight when he shooed out Mr. Hall at the time we usually close the bar. Jimmy said he was a little drunk but seemed to be walking okay.”
“So, where’d he go then?” snapped Frankenberger.
“Well, that’s the thing,” said Melson. “Jimmy was cleaning up the bar so he didn’t really notice which way Hall went after he departed.”
Frankenberger turned his attention back to the women. “So,” he said, “I don’t see that that’s really our problem. What would you have me do?”
Georgie literally stared down at the little man, fixing him with perhaps the angriest glare he had received since certain events that he’d like to forget occurred when he was at public school.
“I want this place searched,” Georgie said slowly and haughtily, emphasizing every word. “You can do it, you can have your staff do it, or I can send for whatever passes for the police in this hick town and have them do it. Which would you prefer?”
Now it was Frankenberger’s turn to be totally cowed by Angry Black Woman. “Look, madam,” he said, “we try to keep all our guests happy. That means no unnecessary intrusions, no unnecessary noise. But I can see your point. We’ll do as you say. But please, no police. It’s bad for the hotel, bad for publicity.” Then he turned to Melson and barked in a completely different tone, “Melson. Here’s what you’re going to do. You will go and check the occupied rooms. And for heaven’s sake, be polite and diplomatic. None of your jokes, you hear?”
Melson was suitably abashed. “There’s only about four rooms occupied besides theirs,” he said. “What about the rest of the place?”
Frankenberger waved a hand impatiently. “I’m coming to that,” he said. “Get Walter to search the unoccupied rooms. Have Jimmy close the bar and search the second floor storage rooms and employee areas, including the restaurant and the pool area. I’ll stay down here on the desk until you’re finished.” Then he shook his finger at Melson. “But on no account go into old Mrs. Remington’s suite. I don’t want her disturbed. When you finish with the other rooms I’ll go up and talk to her. Understood?”
“Yes sir,” said Melson.
“Well, what are you standing there for? Get to it!”
“Yes sir, right away sir.” Melson was out from behind the desk, moving probably faster than he had since participating in track and field back when he was at UCLA. Like a shot he ascended the stairs and within a few seconds was gone from sight.
Frankenberger turned to the ladies and actually gave them a slight smile. “Good man,” he explained, “but sometimes you have to light a fire under him to get him moving.”
Georgie smiled back. “Yeah,” she agreed, “I kind of noticed that.”
“I tell you what, ladies,” he continued. “It’s going to take at least thirty to forty-five minutes to search this hotel as you desire. So why don’t you step into the nice cool saloon and have a couple of drinks while you’re waiting—on the house, of course?” he added hastily.
“Why, that’s very nice of you, Mr. Frankenberger,” Georgie replied and now her tone was just as sweet as honey. “I do believe my throat’s a little dry from all that shouting.” She turned to Rosie. “How about you, honey? Could you use something nice and cool?”
Rosie took her cue immediately. “I sure could,” she said.
“Great.” said Georgie. “Why don’t you lead the way, Mr. Frankenberger?”
He did so, and in seconds both women were seated at the bar about the same place that Rosie had sat with Gil the previous evening, which now to her seemed very long ago indeed.
Frankenberger gave Jimmy his orders to search the second floor and then told him that before he left he should give the ladies anything they wanted on the house.
“Sure thing, Mr. Frankenberger,” said Jimmy with a grin. “What’ll it be, ladies?”
Georgie answered quickly, “Well, it was a pretty long and hot drive up here, so I think I’ll have something tall and cool. You wouldn’t by any chance have such a thing as a frozen daiquiri, would you?”
“Sure do, what do you think?” Jimmy answered quick as a flash. “Would that be plain, banana, or strawberry?”
“Sounds like you’ve got it all,” said Georgie, looking him up and down and then giving him an appreciative wink. “A strawberry sounds good.”
“Comin’ right up,” said Jimmy and, turning to Rosie, said, “how about you, miss?”
“How about just a nice fresh lemonade?”
“Sure, I can do that.” And within seconds their drinks were in front of them and Jimmy was saying, “You ladies be okay till I get back? Shouldn’t be more than fifteen or twenty minutes. If anybody’s up there I’ll get them to help me.” He returned Georgie’s wink and said, “You’ll watch the place for me, won’t you, ma’am?”
“No problem,” said Georgie, sipping her daiquiri.
When Jimmy had gone, Rosie turned to Georgie and with a serious look on her face said, “Do you think they’ll find him?”
Georgie replied in like manner, “I hope so but I doubt it. No matter how drunk the idiot was last night he ought to have waked up and pulled himself together by now.” She checked her watch. “‘Bout four-thirty. Tell you what,” she said in a more sympathetic tone. “You sure been put through the wringer. Why don’t you go out and have some fun? You still got that money Gil gave you?”
“Sure have,” Rosie replied, “I’ve had no opportunity to go and spend any of it. In fact, I haven’t been out of the hotel since we got here yesterday.”
“Well, why don’t you take a little shopping break? I noticed some cute little boutiques on the way in and I think even a bookstore. You can walk back and forth, no problem, and it sure is a nice day.”
Frowning slightly, Rosie said dutifully, “Well, if you’re sure you don’t need me…”
“Go on, have some fun.” Georgie made a shooing motion, which caused Rosie to quickly slurp up the last of her lemonade. “So let’s meet back here for dinner, what, maybe eight o’clock?”
By the time she finished saying this Rosie was already halfway to the door. “Sure, sounds great,” she called back. “See you then.” And she skipped out of the bar.