Gradually the sound of a ringing telephone began to permeate her semi-consciousness. Gradually but grudgingly returning to more or less full consciousness, she fumbled for the unfamiliar phone from her unfamiliar bed. After a few failed attempts she managed to put the receiver to her ear. “Uhmmm?” she mumbled incoherently.
A bright, alert, and way too cheerful voice came over the wire. It was also much too loud. “Ms. Rosario Batista?” it fairly screamed at her.
She gave a grunt of assent.
“It’s eight-thirty! This is your wake-up call! Wakey-wakey! Rise and shine! The birds are singing, the sun is shining! This is your humble host Fast-Draw Frankie saying thank you for choosing the Hotel Remington. And have a reeeally super day!”
“You too,” she muttered crossly and then banged the receiver down onto the phone. Well, she had to admit, at least she was now fully awake. She sat up, scratched a bit, stood up, yawned and then looked longingly back at the comfortable bed. She had half a notion to just say fuck it and go back to sleep. But then she noticed that she was hungry and if the dinner last night was any indication, the food here was plentiful and very tasty. Then a sudden thought struck her. She was supposed to be here with some guy. Oh yeah, Gil, her boss. Looking over at the other bed across the several feet of nightstand she noticed that it was as completely made up as it had been the previous afternoon when they arrived. She frowned. Hmmm, she thought. He’s either an incredibly efficient housekeeper or that bed hasn’t been slept in all night.
She got up and walked towards the bathroom. The door was open and it too was obviously empty. Oh well, she thought, plenty of time to worry about him later. Right now what I need is a nice long hot shower. Just the thing to clear away last night’s cobwebs from my mind.
By a little before nine o’clock she had showered, done the necessary womanly toiletries and dressed in a fetching brief yellow sundress and sandals. Still no Gil.
Maybe, she thought, going to the closed bedroom door, he came in late and decided to sleep on the couch so as not to disturb me. However, upon opening the bedroom door and walking into the suite’s living room she found it to be as empty of Gil as the bedroom and bathroom. Glancing down at the sofa she saw that the note that she had left him in her steno book was still in the same position, seemingly unnoticed.
Now she began to feel a slight tinge of irritation. She thought for sure that the big guy had been drunk enough last night to still be asleep and snoring. But as this was obviously not the case she began to pace up and down. How dare he go down to breakfast without even bothering to let me know. She figured this is what he must have done. Maybe he was one of those people who could drink all night and still get up early in the morning. Not knowing him that well, she decided to go with this scenario and left the suite, locking the door behind her.
As she reached the stairs she realized that if she didn’t find Gil she would have to go to the front desk and get another key, as Gil had the only one they had been given. Oh well, she thought, it’s only about nine o’clock. I bet I’ll find him in the restaurant. But when she reached the Frontier Restaurant where they had dined the previous evening she found only a few tables occupied, and again no Gil.
Shrugging her shoulders she went to the table, sat down, and within a scant few seconds, a waiter appeared with the breakfast menu. A few minutes after that she was engrossed in a plate containing a thick slab of country ham and fried eggs, with fluffy buttermilk biscuits on the side complete with butter and strawberry jam. As she busily set to work on the breakfast she didn’t give Gil another thought until she had totally cleaned her plate and was working on her second cup of strong black coffee.
She looked at her watch. Nearly nine-thirty. This is getting ridiculous, she thought. Where the hell is he anyway?
She finished her coffee and signed the check as Gil had done the previous evening, charging it to their room number. Then she strolled into the lobby and looked around. The lobby at this time of the morning was completely empty except for Fast-Draw Frankie, who was puttering behind the registration desk busily doing nothing in particular.
As she walked over to the desk, he looked up and gave her a wink. “Where’s that big-shot director of yours this morning?” he asked in what she thought was a rather suggestive manner.
“That’s what I’d like to know,” she said. “He wasn’t in the room when you woke me up this morning.”
“Oh!” he said, his face brightening. “How did you like my wake-up call? It’s one of my specialties, you know.”
“Very funny,” she said without humor. “But I suppose effective. Seriously, do you have any idea where Mr. Hall might be?”
“None whatsoever,” he admitted. “I haven’t seen him.” He banged on the bell that was sitting on the desk and within a few moments Walter, the superannuated bellboy, entered the lobby through the double doors by the staircase and walked over to the desk.
“Yes, Mr. Melson?” he said deferentially.
“You remember the fella that was with this girl yesterday? The one you took up to the Presidential Suite?”
“Sure, I remember him. Good tipper,” replied Walter.
“Well, have you seen him this morning?”
“No, can’t say as I have,” replied Walter.
“Now I’m starting to get worried,” said Rosie. “Where on earth can he be?”
Melson, for all his weird sense of humor, looked at her sympathetically and said seriously, “Let me just check the records for you.” As he turned his back he waved a hand at Water, saying peremptorily, “That’s all. You may go now.”
“Thank you, Mr. Melson,” Walter said, just a bit sarcastically, Rosie thought.
Melson soon hurried back to where she was standing. “I checked the records,” he said. “Apparently there’s been no charge made to the room between when the saloon closed last night at midnight and when you ate breakfast just a few minutes ago. In other words, he doesn’t seem to have used any of the hotel’s facilities since leaving the bar. Tell you what,” he continued, “why don’t you go up to your room. I’ll go around to the other hotel employees and see if anybody’s seen him. And if so if he said anything about where he was going. Should take less than half an hour.”
“Okay,” agreed Rosie, as there was really nothing else she could do. “Thank you for being so helpful.”
“My pleasure,” he said soothingly. “We’ll try to get this sorted out for you as soon as possible.”
So Rosie went back upstairs after procuring another key from Melson, and sat on the couch in the suite’s living room and waited for his call. In about fifteen minutes the phone rang and this time she picked it up eagerly.
“Yes?” she said a little breathlessly.
“I don’t know what to tell you,” said Melson’s voice in her ear. “Nobody seems to have seen him since he left the saloon at closing time last night. Jimmy said he was about halfway drunk but moving all right and it was his, Jimmy’s, impression that he was going straight up to his room and get some sleep.”
“But I checked the entire suite,” Rosie said, “and there’s no evidence whatsoever that he was even there last night.”
“Well, it’s a puzzler,” Melson replied. “But don’t you worry. I’ll let you know if I or anybody else hears from him. I’ve put the entire staff on alert.”
“Okay,” said Rosie, “I guess that’s all we can do.”
She hung up the receiver and sat on the couch, her mind numb with irritation that alternated with concern. Every time she would think, How dare he do this to me, her maternal instinct would kick in and she would suddenly become scared to death that he had passed out on the street somewhere, maybe injured, maybe—well, she didn’t want to think about that.
Noon came and went and there was still no word. She tried to take her mind off things by reading one of the screen magazines she had brought with her but found she couldn’t concentrate. In desperation she turned on the TV and began flipping through the channels. This being a Saturday afternoon in the middle of June, about all she could find on the regular channels was sports, which she was not particularly interested in, and old movies on the cable and lesser channels that were mostly of the he-man action genre which didn’t appeal to her either.
Finally she switched off the television, and after pacing the generous expanse of the suite’s living room for several minutes, decided that she had no choice. After all, she thought, who am I but a lowly temp secretary? I’m not supposed to be in charge of a situation like this. So, steeling her resolve and assuming a grim but practical attitude, she went over to the hotel directory and looked up Telephone Services. She found that in order to call long distance all she had to do was dial 9 then 1, then the area code, and the phone number. She was relieved not to have to go through the hotel switchboard.
She went back over to the couch and rummaged through her purse for her address book. Luckily her immediate boss, office manager Georgie Jordan, had given Rosie her home phone number. Figuring that this bright Saturday afternoon there would be no one in the offices of FineHall Productions, she picked up the receiver and punched in the required numbers to reach Ms. Jordan.
One ring. Two rings. Three rings. Come on, she pleaded with the telephone. Please be home! Apparently her plea was rewarded because the phone was picked up before the fourth ring was completed.
“Hello?” said a voice that Rosie immediately recognized.
“Oh, Ms. Jordan,” said Rosie, relief evident in her voice. “I’m so glad I was able to get hold of you.”
Immediately discerning the relief tinged with thinly veiled anxiety in Rosie’s voice, Georgie broke in immediately. “That you, Rosie? Where are you? Is something wrong?”
Within the next few minutes Rosie had let it all spill out of her. Almost sobbing with the release of tension she concluded with, “And nobody here’s seen him since about midnight last night. According to the bartender he was pretty drunk but should have had no trouble making it up the stairs to the room okay.”
“So.” Georgie was puzzled. “You say he just disappeared?”
“Seems like it,” agreed Rosie.
“Well, you just stay calm, honey, I’ll take over from here. But first you gotta tell me. Where in hell are you anyway?”
Rosie was embarrassed. “Oh, that’s right,” she said. “You don’t know. We’re in a little town in the mountains. It’s called Las Claritas. Since I was studying the map all the way up here I know it’s about a hundred and fifty miles northeast of Los Angeles. We’re in this really cute little old-fashioned hotel called the Hotel Remington. It’s small, only four floors.”
“Hmph!” was Georgie’s reply. “That don’t sound like Gil at all. He usually prefers the big luxury hotels—you know, the Hiltons and Sheratons. Wonder what made him choose this one?”
“Well,” Rosie replied, “we didn’t get into town till nearly six-thirty and all the luxury hotels on the strip were already booked up solid. Like I said, it’s a small town and there were only maybe five or six other places on the strip. Anyway, we—I mean I—we’re in the Presidential Suite on the fourth floor.”
“Now,” Georgie chuckled in spite of her worry, “now that sounds more like our Gil. Presidential Suite, eh?”
Even Rosie was feeling a little better now. “Yup,” she replied, “that’s what they call it anyway. It’s two rooms and pretty nice, but if I were a president I’d probably choose something a little grander.”
This gave Georgie another thought. “You okay for the room, honey?” she said. “I mean, they ain’t gonna throw you out or nothin’?”
“No,” Rosie reassured her. “Gil flashed his big-time corporate credit card and booked the room right through Sunday night. We’ve been putting everything on the room charge. So I don’t have to worry about going anywhere until Monday morning checkout about eleven AM.”
“Okay,” said Georgie, thus reassured. “Listen, I’ll be up there as soon as I can make it. It’s Saturday afternoon so I should be able to make it in a couple of hours. So why don’t you go down, have yourself some lunch, maybe a couple of drinks, soothe your nerves. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
Feeling a whole lot better about things, Rosie hung up the phone. It was out of her hands now and she noticed she was already hungry for a good lunch. Might as well make as much of this weird weekend as I can, she thought, then almost cheerfully picked up her purse and went downstairs.