PART II: THE LOST AND FOUND WEEKEND // Chapter Six: Where He Went: 2

Upon reaching the door the first thing they noticed was a sign reading, “Check All Firearms At the Front Desk As You Enter”.

“Hm, that’s interesting,” remarked Gil, pressing open the door and they both stepped into the lobby. Looking around, Gil felt as if he had been transported back into the distant past. The décor of the place, if you could call it that, was entirely of wood—wooden floor, wood-framed walls, even a high wood-beamed ceiling with two overhead fans turning lazily and creating practically no breeze whatsoever. The room was not particularly deep but it was quite wide. On the left were several chairs and a few couches, also fashioned of unfinished wood but with fairly comfortable-looking cushions placed on their surfaces. In two of these chairs old men, who looked to Gil as if they had just been prospecting in the surrounding mountains, reclined with their cowboy hats over their faces, their heads back against the chair cushions snoring away blissfully. In the center was a strip of thin carpet which led to a widening wooden staircase and beside it a set of double sliding doors. To the extreme right of the room was a large wooden desk and behind it on the wall were rows of keys and square pigeonholes with room numbers, apparently for receiving mail and other communications. The entire hotel lobby was decorated in a Wild West motif, the walls crowded with pictures of frontier life, obviously reproductions but framed nicely under glass. These pictures showed many Old West personages such as Buffalo Bill Cody, Wild Bill Hickok, Kit Carson, Wyatt Warp, et cetera, while still others depicted various scenic wonders, cattle ranches, and so on. Here and there were large animal heads—deer, elk, bear, and some unknown to Gil. Under each one was a wooden plaque with brass identifying plate.

They walked over to the desk. Not seeing anyone behind it, Gil espied an old-fashioned call bell. Slapping his palm upon the stud he produced four or five successive short rings. “Service,” called out Gil. “Let’s have a little service around here!”

At that a short stocky man bobbed his head up from beneath the desk. He was dressed in a white western shirt with pearl snap buttons, a black string tie, and a black Stetson hat. A sign on the desk read Francis “Fast-Draw Frankie” Melson. “Yeeees,” he intoned, “may I help you?”

Gil looked impatient but decided to use the suave big-city approach. Placing his hands casually on top of the desk he said, “Got any rooms?”

Melson looked offended. “Of courrrse we have rooms,” he said. “You don’t think we expect our guests to sleep in the lobby, do you?” He waved his hand expressively toward the two snoring prospectors. “Except for them,” he said huffily. “They’re just here for local color.”

“No, no,” Gil said, beginning to show agitation. “I mean empty rooms, you got any empty rooms?”

This time Melson looked puzzled. “Well,” he said, “yes sir, if that’s what you want. But I think,” he looked at Rosie and gave her a lascivious smile and wink, “that you’d at least want a bed.”

Gil’s red flush of anger was now beginning to shade more toward the purple. “Why you little—” he said, making strangling motions with his hands.

Rosie, who had been taking in this scene with some amusement, patted Gil reassuringly on the shoulder. “Let me try,” she offered. She then addressed the desk clerk. “Mr. Melson,” she said in a polite modulated voice, “we saw your sign outside, the one that said Always A Vacancy. So do you have any vacancies?”

  Melson looked at her with obvious relief. “Well,” he said, “why didn’t you say so? Of course we have vacancies.” He turned his eyes ceilingward as if in supplication. “Lord knows we always have vacancies.”

Gil, who was now beginning to calm down and recover himself somewhat, said, “Well, it’s about time. I’ll have you know I’m a very important man in Hollywood. This is my secretary and we have quite a bit of work to do.” He took his billfold out of his right-hand hip pocket, extracted a card from it, and slapped it on the desk. The card, obviously a Wells Fargo credit card, read “FineHall Productions Inc.” and below it “Gil Hall, Vice President”. “Now,” he said smugly, “What can you do for us?”

Melson picked up the card and studied it for a few seconds. Then his face brightened as he squealed, “Ooooh, a big shot Hollywood producer, are we?” He bent down and then brought forth a large registration book from underneath the desk, opened it, and placed it before Gil. “A big shot like you folks—” his tone had now become obsequious— “deserve the best rooms in the house. In fact,” he said, “we have three suites, none of them occupied at the moment. How long will you be staying?”

Gil was now beginning to feel much more at ease. He was used to people treating him with respect.  “A suite, eh?” he said thoughtfully and looked at Rosie. “That might not be a bad idea. What have you got?”

“Well,” replied Melson, “we have three suites—the Royal, the Presidential, and—” he risked another wink at Rosie— “the Honeymoon.” Then he turned to Gil and deadpanned, “Which would you prefer?”

“Well, I don’t know,” said Gil. “What’s the difference between them?”

“The Royal is very plush, all the modern conveniences, everything. The Presidential is a little more working-class, utilitarian one might say. It also has all the conveniences but none of the frills. The Honeymoon,” he said, “well, you just have to see that for yourself. Let’s just say it’s the most, uh, feminine, and is suitable, let’s say, for people who like to spend, uh, a great deal of time in bed.”

At this Gil couldn’t help but take in Rosie’s full yet slender figure. Then he shook his head as if to clear his mind. “How about the Presidential Suite?”

“That’s a good choice sir,” Melson said. “How long will you be staying?”

Gil thought for a few moments. “Well, I think maybe tonight for sure and probably tomorrow night as well.”

Melson made a little tsk-tsk sound with his tongue and teeth. “Oh, that’s too bad,” he said. “Sir, if you were to stay the entire weekend—the three nights including Sunday—I could give you a fifteen percent discount on everything. That includes room service, any on-demand television you might watch, everything.”

“Hm,” said Gil, “that sounds pretty good. What do you think, Rosie? Want to stay here three nights?”

Now it was Rosie’s turn to be flirtatious. “Whatever you say, Gil,” she said. “After all, I’m yours for the weekend.”

At this he blushed and then turned hurriedly to Melson saying, “How much would that come to?”

“Well, the suite is usually one hundred dollars a night, “but I can let you have it all three nights at a flat rate of two hundred fifty dollars, payable in advance and then you can pay all other expenses—bar tab, meals, television, whatever—when you check out. Will that be satisfactory?”

“Sounds good to me,” said Gil. “Oh, we have quite a bit of luggage in the car. Can you have it brought up?”

“Certainly,” replied Melson, all business now, and believe it or not began pounding on the desk bell, yelling “Front!” After two or three minutes of pounding a tall skinny old man shuffled slowly toward the desk. He was dressed nearly the same as Melson, the lower half of his body being fitted with Levi’s and cowboy boots. His attire was complemented, however, by a gray dust jacket which bore a name tag which said merely, “Walter”. The man was old and skinny with long spidery arms and legs. Gil thought he couldn’t be a day under sixty.

As he approached the desk Walter said in a tone that bore hints of both boredom and resignation, “Yes, Mr. Melson?”

“Walter,” said Melson, clearly reestablishing his authority, “go with these fine people, get their luggage, and take it and these people up to room 401, the Presidential Suite.”

Without blinking an eye Walter repeated in the same tone, “Yes, Mr. Melson.” He turned to Gil and Rosie. “Your luggage is in your car, sir?”

“Yes,” replied Gil.

“It’s in the garage, sir?”

“Yes,” replied Gil.

“Will I need a cart, sir?”

“It might help,” replied Gil.

Without another word Walter went through the double doors behind the staircase and soon returned with a standard luggage cart. “Follow me please,” he said and went towards the door.

Arriving at the garage they saw no one in sight. But Gil easily spotted his car which was quite obvious in contrast with the few drab modern vehicles surrounding it. He opened the trunk and Walter quietly piled the luggage onto the cart. Then they made their way back to the hotel.

Walter, showing surprising strength for someone of his build and age, somehow managed to easily pull the loaded baggage cart up the three wooden stairs to the porch and into the hotel lobby. They followed him past the lobby through the double doors beyond which a single service elevator was located. Arriving on the fourth floor Walter pushed open another set of double doors and proceeded down a narrow carpeted hall toward the opposite end. He stopped before a door which said, “401—Presidential Suite”. He opened the door with an old-fashioned large metal key and then, once inside, handed the key to Gil.

As he did so Gil noticed that the old man’s hand remained open, palm up. Knowing what that was for, Gil extracted a wad of bills from his pants pocket and with a flourish laid a fiver on the old man’s palm.

“Thank you very much, sir,” said Walter, quickly pocketing the bill. “Where would you like the luggage put?”

Gil looked around and noticed that they were in what looked very much like a large living room. Then he spied another door to his right. “I guess that’s the bedroom in there?” he asked Walter, pointing to the door. “Just put them in there and we’ll take care of the rest.”

Walter did as he was told. Returning, he grabbed the luggage cart and then, turning to Gil said, “I’m at your service sir, day or night. I have a room here in the hotel. If you need anything, call the front desk and ask for Walter. I’ll be up in five minutes.”

“Oh,” said Gil, puzzled but gratified. “Thank you very much. I might just do that.”

“My pleasure sir,” said Walter, tipping his Stetson slightly. Then he pulled the luggage cart out the door, shutting it behind him.

After Walter had departed Gil and Rosie took a deep breath and looked around. The room was large and functional, but not austere. Opposite the door they had just entered was a large window, which they soon discovered overlooked a scenic mountain valley with snow-capped peaks far in the distance. The window not only was flanked by old-fashioned, nearly transparent lace curtains, but was also equipped with an equally old-fashioned pull-down roller shade for maximum privacy and minimum sunlight, as the window was facing east. Underneath the window was a large, comfortable looking, but not plush, couch with what appeared to be foam-rubber cushions covered with thin but colorful fabric. To their left by the door was a large television set which Gil noted, with some surprise, was not bolted either to the wall or the polished maple wood table on which it sat. Further left was an archway which opened onto a small kitchenette containing a bar refrigerator and a microwave, both placed on a Formica counter beside a large stainless-steel sink. The floor up to the kitchenette entrance was carpeted with thin but new-looking wall-to-wall pile carpeting of a pale green color. The several feet of floor space in the kitchenette itself was surfaced with gleaming white ceramic tiles.

“Well Rosie,” said Gil, turning to her, “what do you think? This okay with you?”

“Sure,” she said, “I love it. It’s certainly bigger than my room on Wilcox and we haven’t even been in the bedroom yet. In fact, if you don’t mind, I think I’ll go in there now and start unpacking. Also, I need a shower and a change of clothes and I’m betting that’s where the bathroom is.”

“Sure,” said Gil, somewhat relieved at her approval. After all, it was not the sort of hotel he was used to when he traveled around the country, now that FineHall Productions could afford suites at the various Hiltons and Sheratons he was used to. “Okay by me,” he said quickly. “I’ve got a few things to do anyway. You run along and do girl stuff, you know what I mean.”

She gave a mandatory chuckle to his attempted witticism and said, “Okay, see you in about half an hour.” And so saying she turned and went through the bedroom door, closing it behind her.

Gil felt in his pants pocket for the key he had been given, then, reassured, walked out of the suite’s entrance locking the door behind him. Once in the hall he remembered that they had come up in an elevator that was behind the double doors situated almost at the other end of the long hall. On his way to the elevator he passed the doors to what appeared to be normal-sized hotel rooms, four on each side of the hall. The door to each appeared to be firmly closed and he could hear no sounds issuing from within any of them. Whistling tunelessly, he went through the double doors and found the elevator. Unfortunately the elevator had a large sign over its doors which proclaimed it to be a “Service Elevator Only” and could only be operated by a key.

Disappointed, Gil retraced his steps down the hall and quickly located a door in the middle of the hall that he had not noticed before. This one read merely “Stairs”. He opened the door and found himself on a twisting narrow flight of unpolished wooden stairs. He followed these stairs down three flights until they ended, then pushed open a door and found himself once again in the lobby.

Striding towards the reception desk he noticed that the two snoring prospector types seem not to have moved a muscle since he had seen them last. He wondered what the deal with them was. Reaching the reception desk he once again banged on the bell and was soon rewarded by the appearance of Fast-Draw Frankie.

“Ohhh, it’s youuu,” he said, not sounding particularly pleased. What can I do for you? Room all right?”

Gil shrugged. “I guess so,” he said offhandedly, “if it’s the best one you’ve got.”

Melson attempted to make a joke of it. “Oh, it is,” he replied. “You should see some of the other rooms.”

“I’ll take your word for it,” Gil responded. “But what I really wanted to know is, your sign outside said ‘Bar and Restaurant on Premises’. Where might these be?”

“We-elll,” Melson said, adjusting his hat, “they might be out at the pool. But in reality they’re just behind the double doors by the staircase, just past the service elevator you and Walter went up on. Bar’s on the left, restaurant’s on the right.” Then he continued rather haughtily, “All this information is in a booklet in your room but if you want the lowdown…” He looked around in mock confidentiality. “I guess I’m really not that busy at the moment. The bar is open every day from noon to midnight or, that is, when Jimmy runs out of customers. It is a full bar and between dining room meals you can get basic bar food there, you know, burgers, hot dogs, fries.” He looked Gil up and down rather superciliously. “Probably not the kind of thing you’re accustomed to.”

Gil let that pass. “How about the restaurant?”

“The restaurant is open for breakfast from 7 to 10 in the morning. For lunch, from 11 to 2, and from dinner, from 5 to 10.” He looked at a large clock on the wall to his right. “I must warn you though that they stop taking dinner orders at 9 sharp, even though they don’t close the restaurant until after 10. And it’s after 7 now.”

“Thanks,” said Gil, “you’ve been a biiig help.” He said this sarcastically but at the same time reached into his pocket again and ostentatiously laid another fiver on the counter.

Melson snatched up the bill as if it might fly away before he could grab it. As he did so he squealed, “Oh, thank you sir! Now I can put my oldest son through college!”

Gil gave him a menacing look but said nothing further and strode briskly toward the hotel entrance. As he was about to pass the two snoring old guys a sudden impulse stopped him and he reached out and tapped one of them on the shoulder. “Hey you,” he said in a hoarse stage whisper, “wake up! The building’s on fire!”

This got an immediate reaction from the old guy, but not one Gil expected. He quickly woke up, sat erect, straightened his hat out, smoothed his clothing, drew a corncob pipe from somewhere in the folds of his overalls, and leaned back into his chair, picking up a (hitherto unnoticed by Gil) brown stoneware jug. Then he looked at Gil and grinned. “Picture’s two bucks each, buddy.” Without waiting for an answer he yelled across to his companion. “Hey Hiram, wake the hell up! Tourists here!”

Hiram jumped to attention and began the same routine as his compatriot.

The first guy said, “My name’s Clem. That guy over there is Hiram. Picture’s two bucks apiece. You want a sound recording or a video it’s ten bucks.”

Gil shook his head in amazement. “What are you guys?” he said. “Central Casting or something?”

Hiram replied, “You might could say that.”

Gil thought it was time to tell them the bad news. “I’m not really a tourist,” he confessed. “I’m actually a Hollywood director.”

This produced grins on the faces of both of the old geezers. Clem replied, “See Hiram, didn’t I tell you?”

Hiram responded, “Hey, this may be our big break.”

Next, Gil was amazed to see them pull out manila envelopes from the inside of their overalls. These they handed to Gil in unison saying, “Resume and eight-by-ten glossies are inside. Also our contact numbers if you can use us in anything. What’s you name by the way?”

Gil was now looking rather stupefied. “Gil Hall,” he said, “FineHall Productions.” He reached into his inside jacket pocket and handed them each a business card.

They took them and looked at the cards with puzzled expressions. “Hmm,” said Hiram. “Never heard of you. You guys new or something?”

Gil, having gotten more information than he really wanted, held the two envelopes under his arm and said, “Not really. We’ve been around for years but tell you what. I’ll keep you boys in mind if we ever do a Wild West picture.”

“You do that,” said Clem, “but check out our resumes. We can do lots of other characters, you know.”

Gil was now in a hurry to get away. “I just bet you can,” was his parting response. Then he turned and went out the entrance door. He noticed that the porch was still empty. It was quite chilly out there now and the street and most of the buildings were completely in shadow. He shivered a little and briskly walked along the path around to the parking garage.

As the main drive-in entrance was still open he had no trouble entering the relatively small parking area and, looking around quickly, located a small cubicle that he guessed was probably the parking attendant’s office. Not seeing the old man anywhere in sight he walked over and knocked on the cubicle door.

A rustling of papers and the sound of a low-volume television set being turned off was followed by a gruff voice that said, “Eh? Who’s there? What’s goin’ on?”

“Open up,” demanded Gil curtly, “I’m a registered guest and I want a word with you.”

“Aaah, hold yer horses,” was the response. “I’m jus’ puttin’ on my britches. Be with ya in a minute.”

A few minutes later the door opened and the old man who had previously parked Gil’s T-bird peered out. “Oh,” he said, “it’s you. What ken I do for ya?”

“I want to tell you about my car,” Gil said. “It’s a very special vintage antique Thunderbird circa 1956.” He reached into his pocket, pulled out a wad of bills from which he extracted a twenty, and waved it at the old man. “I want you to make sure nothing happens to my baby,” he said. “Will this help?”

Blinking in surprise, the old man snatched the bill, jammed it into the pocket of his overalls, and then replied, “Sure, mister. For twenty bucks I’ll treat it like my very own, won’t take my eyes off it. Uhhh,” he looked around, “which one is it again?”

“The little red one, you dildo,” Gil replied. “And I want you to make sure that nothing happens to it. Got me?”

“I gotcha,” replied the old man, now taking a more friendly tone. “So tell me,” Gil continued. “What are the security arrangements here?”

“Security?” the old man replied with a puzzled look as if he were unsure of the meaning of the word. “Well, who’d want to break into this place? Hell, you can’t even see it from the street. We ain’t had no problems here in the twenty years I’ve been doin’ this job. That good enough for ya?”

“I suppose so,” Gil relented, “but let me tell you this. If I find one scratch on her paint job I’ll sue the pants off this glorified log cabin you people are running here.”

This brought a very different and unexpected reaction from the old man. He drew himself up to his full height and said with dignity, “I doubt it, mister. I very much doubt it.”

Somewhat taken aback Gil responded, “What do you mean by that?”

“Tell ya what,” replied the old man more conversationally, “you’re gonna be here what, a coupla days?”

“Yeah, probably.”

“Probably at some time or other gonna go to the bar and have a few drinks.”

“Right,” said Gil, wondering where this was going. “I’m with you so far.”

“Well, talk to Jimmy, he’s the bartender. Ask him about this place. He loooves to tell people its history. Then maybe you’ll understand. Now, thank you for the twenty. Like I said, I’ll watch it real careful-like. But if you ain’t got no more business with me I’ve got things to do.” And without waiting for an answer he retreated back into his cubicle and shut the door.

Still puzzling over the old man’s remarks Gil walked over to his car and was relieved to find it in the same position and condition he had left it. Remembering that he was still carrying the two publicity envelopes the old actors had forced upon him, he casually tossed them onto the little area behind the front seat. Satisfied, he walked back out of the parking garage and around to the hotel entrance again.

Upon entering he briskly strode back through the lobby, passing by the two old guys who had apparently gone back to sleep, then passed the reception desk where Fast-Draw Frankie was busily sorting through a stack of mail.

He was unnoticed as he quickly mounted the stairs and walked the three flights up to his suite. Upon reaching it he unlocked the door, went in, then opened the bedroom door.

Inside he noticed that Rosie had finished stowing away her extensive wardrobe and now had changed into a loose pink sundress emblazoned with the name Hotel Mazatlan and low-heeled brown patent leather sandals.

Gil looked at her admiringly and thought she looked pretty as a picture. “Everything okay?” he asked. “Enough room for your stuff? Bathroom okay, you know, whatever?”

Rosie, who had been sitting on one of the twin beds and channel surfing the bedroom TV with the remote, looked up at him and replied, “About time you got back. Yes, everything’s just fine. Plenty of closet space, plenty of drawer space.” Then she added somewhat apologetically, “I did use most of it though. I hope you don’t have much stuff to put away.”

“Oh, don’t worry about me,” Gil replied breezily. “We executives travel light, you know. Anything we need we can buy.”

Rosie concealed a giggle. “It must be very nice to be able to travel that way,” she replied deferentially. Then she frowned. “But I’m getting hungry. Do you think we could have some dinner sometime soon? There’s supposed to be a restaurant here, right?”

“Sure,” Gil replied, “and a bar too. I was just talking to that weird desk clerk and he told me we can get dinner anytime before nine. So I tell you what. Let’s go down to the bar and have a few drinks first. It’s only a little after seven and I need a pick-me-up after all that driving.”

“Okay,” she shrugged, “I’m not much of a drinker but I’ll go down with you, maybe have a wine cooler or something.”

“Sure,” replied Gil expansively, “Anything you want. Sky’s the limit.”

Rosie’s reply was a bit on the flirtatious side. “Don’t worry Gil, I’m not a very expensive date. I don’t really expect a lot besides good companionship and a little intelligent conversation. You can manage that, can’t you?”

“Um, yeah, I guess so,” replied Gil, wondering who this fascinating young woman actually was. Back at the office she had seemed like just another temp secretary, although an attractive one. But now in the only six hours or so since he had known her, there seemed to be much more to her than met the eye.

He looked around the room. Like the living room, it was tastefully but not ostentatiously furnished. There was, as Rosie had pointed out, a wall to his left that contained nothing but walk-in closets.  Another big window similarly shaded was on the wall opposite the door and underneath were two twin beds separated by a wide nightstand with two reading lamps and two sets of drawers. On the wall to his right were several chests of drawers that provided ample storage space. And just to the right of the door was the TV that Rosie had been playing with. This one however was fastened to the wall on a sort of swivel frame that allowed viewing from either of both beds.

“Looks like an okay room to me,” he said. “So are you ready? Shall we go down?”

“Just let me get my purse and I’ll be right with you.”

A minute later Gil had locked the door and they were heading down the stairs.

Reaching the bottom of the stairs at the reception area they turned right and pushed their way through the double doors. Just past the service elevator as promised was a set of batwing doors and a sign above them which proclaimed it to be “Winnie’s Wild West Saloon”.

As they entered they noticed that it was a smallish room only about a quarter the size of the spacious lobby but decorated in much the same way with pictures, animal heads and mementos festooning the limited wall space. The room was furnished with four rather small nondescript natural wood tables, each of which sported an old-fashioned looking kerosene lamp in its center. On the other side of the room was a small bar with a natural wood surface similar to the tables. Below it was the traditional brass rail, a couple of (probably only decorative) brass spittoons and half a dozen closely spaced wooden bar stools.

As they approached the bar Gil’s practiced eye saw that the shelves behind the bar, though small, were filled with a variety of liquors, both inexpensive and expensive. Behind the bar, rather languidly polishing its surface with a bar rag, stood a rather beefy man who looked to be perhaps in his mid to late thirties. He was wearing what they had come to recognize as the more or less official hotel uniform of black Stetson hat and black string tie over a white western-style shirt. The only concession to the man’s profession (for he was obviously the bartender) was a long heavy white apron that he wore around his waist tied in the back.

As Gil and Rosie took seats at the bar the man looked up and said in an obviously feigned western drawl, “Howdy folks. What’ll it be?”

Gil looked at Rosie questioningly and she responded with, “Just a white wine cooler please, not too strong.”

“You got it,” responded the bartender. “And how ’bout for you, mister?”

Gil, having already scanned the shelves, quickly replied, “Give me a double single malt scotch on the rocks with just a splash of soda.” He pointed to a bottle on the top shelf which was dusty and, as far as Gil could see, unopened. “Is that a Glenfiddich?” he asked.

The bartender followed his gaze and took the bottle down. “Yes sir,” he said. “Twelve hears old! Gonna set you back a bit though.”

Gil waved that away, saying, “Money’s no object. Just pour it.”

Unfazed, the bartender uncorked the bottle and proceeded. “That’s what we like to hear.”

Within a few seconds he had set both their drinks in front of them and inquired, “You people just come in? Don’t think I’ve seen you around here before.”

“Yup,” said Gil, “just got in about an hour or so ago. You must be Jimmy, am I right?”

“Yep, that’s me,” he said. “Somebody must’ve been talking about me.”

“Yeah,” said Gil, “the old guy in the garage told me to ask you about the history of this place.”

Rosie, who had been carefully studying her drink during this exchange and tentatively taking a few sips now and then, exclaimed, “Oh do please! I just love a story.”

“Well,” said Jimmy, obviously pleased, “glad to oblige.” He raised his eyes toward the ceiling and mused, “I’ve told this story so many times it’s just about like second nature to me so if I go too fast, stop me and I’ll explain.”

“Yeah,” said Gil, now really interested, “I’d sure like to know what a place like this is doing here. I mean, no disrespect, but it’s kind of out of place among all these new-type luxury hotels we passed on the way in.”

“Yeah,” Jimmy chuckled, “I guess it is at that. But there’s a reason for that which I’m just about to tell y’all.”

“Great!” exclaimed Rosie, taking a bigger sip of her drink. “We’re all ears.”

“It all started back in 1917,” Jimmy began, “when a young fella by the name of Lawrence Remington decided that when the country joined the First World War he should do the patriotic thing and enlist. He was well educated, having been to one of those Ivy League colleges back east. Harvard or Yale or something like that. His family was wealthy and he was at that time the sole heir to the Remington rifle fortune. All of which to say that, when he joined up, he was immediately commissioned as a lieutenant and given his choice of assignments. Being a daredevil, he decided to join the newly formed Air Corps.” Here Jimmy gave a chuckle. “You know that newspaper cartoon, the one I think they call Peanuts, they got that dog sittin’ on top of this doghouse with the goggles and all, pretending he’s a World War One flying ace? Well, Remington really was. Within a short time after completing his pilots’ training he took to the skies and was responsible for shooting down ten enemy planes before his own plane was shot down over France in the spring of 1918. He was badly wounded and taken prisoner but he recovered and was liberated by the Allies at the end of the war several months later. As his wounds were still serious, he was discharged from the Army and sent back to a military hospital at Fort Dix, New Jersey to recover his health. There he met a young woman, a volunteer nurse, named Winifred Lofton. One thing led to another, and as he gradually healed and regained his strength, they fell in love.

“Well, Lawrence decided that, because of his war experiences, he wanted to leave the east coast and go west to someplace where he could engage in a simple but safe and satisfying life of serving other people. Fortunately he was able to convince Winifred to start a new life with him. So, in 1919 the following year they married and came out here. Lawrence, after spending months looking for a place that was both secluded and picturesque, decided that this was the place for him. He bought the land on which this hotel now stands and had it built according to his specifications. It opened for business in the spring of 1921.”

Jimmy paused in his narrative for a moment and turned around and pointed to a picture situated on a wall high above the shelves of liquor bottles. The picture was that of a striking young woman done in colorful oils. She had raven back hair and a pale complexion that featured striking blue eyes and a mouth that was somehow teasing and sexy at the same time. Strangely enough for the period she wore a simple blue work shirt with a red bandana at the throat. “That’s Winifred,” Jimmy said, pointing to the picture. “She had this painting commissioned shortly after the hotel opened. And it’s been hanging over the bar ever since. Seventy years now. They take it down every few years to have it cleaned and the color restored. That’s how come it looks so fresh and new.”

“Wow,” said Rosie with admiration. “She was really beautiful, huh?”

“Yeah,” Gil agreed, “I could really go for a girl like that.”

This produced another chuckle from Jimmy. “Yeah,” he agreed, “who wouldn’t? Fortunately Lawrence felt the same way. The two of them ran this hotel together for about forty years until Lawrence died of a heart attack in the early ’60s. Winnie, that’s what everybody always called her, continued for a few years but then sort of lost heart. She turned over the hotel to a group of managers, some financial and some practical. She pretty much retired to the suite in the hotel where she had lived with her husband. By the way,” he said, “what room are you folks in?”

“We’re in the Presidential Suite,” Gil proclaimed proudly.

“Ah,” said Jimmy, “that would be 401, right?” Gil nodded. “That means that the Remington Suite is just at the other end of the hall from you on the fourth floor, right near the service elevator. You must have noticed it. Now,” he said, “I’m going to tell you something you won’t believe.” He leaned over and lowered his voice to them confidentially. “Winnie Remington is still living up there.”

Gil looked amazed and Rosie gasped. He quickly swallowed the remains of his drink and finally was able to stammer, “No kidding! She must be, what, ninety?”

“Ninety-four this fall,” Jimmy replied, relishing their surprise. Then, looking at Gil’s empty glass he said diffidently, “Another round?”

Gil was about to answer in the affirmative but before he could do so Rosie elbowed him meaningfully in the ribs. “It’s nearly eight-thirty,” she protested. And I’m starved.” Then she looked at Jimmy and said diplomatically, “Um, that’s certainly a fascinating story. Maybe you could tell us some more of it later or tomorrow?”

Jimmy chuckled and said, “Sure thing, miss. I’m here noon to midnight, regular as clockwork. Just drop in anytime.” Then he looked at Gil and continued, “Y’all better run along now. They stop serving at nine, you know.”

“Sure,” said Gil, starting to get up. “Thanks for the story and thanks for the drink.” He started to reach into his pocket. “How much I owe you?”

Jimmy waved a hand at him and said, “Don’t bother. I’ll just put it on your room bill. I got your room number, just sign your name on this tab.” He reached back behind him and took a piece of paper that was on a spindle near an old-fashioned manual cash register and placed it on the bar in front of Gil, who signed it without hesitation.

“So long, then,” said Gil, “probably see you later.”

Jimmy nodded his assent as he removed the empty glasses from the bar and Gil and Rosie headed out the door.

They didn’t have far to go. Just across the hall was a sign that read “Remington Frontier GrillFoods of the Prairie and the Southwest”. Pushing open the door Gil and Rosie entered and easily found an unoccupied table. In fact, of the dozen or so small tables scattered around the rather spacious dining room only a few were occupied.

Although they could see no one else in sight, nonetheless as they seated themselves at the rude table covered by a white linen tablecloth, a waiter appeared seemingly out of nowhere and hurried over to their table, menus in hand.

“Good evening sir,” he began formally, “and mamselle,” he nodded at Rosie, “you’ll be wanting the full dinner then?”

“Sure will,” Rosie answered immediately, quickly opening her menu as Gil did the same.

“Care for anything to drink before you order?” the waiter prompted.

“What do you think, Rosie?” Gil said, turning to her. “A nice bottle of wine?”

Rosie shook her head. “I’m not much of a drinker,” she said. “And my head’s still a little buzzy from that wine cooler. I think I’ll just have some coffee. You go ahead, though,” she said, letting him know that she was no prude when it came to alcohol.

“Great,” replied Gil, who was busily studying the menu. “Give me a bottle of your best cabernet sauvignon.”

“Right away, sir,” replied the waiter, turning and hurrying away.

“So,” said Gil, “what looks good?”

“I think I’ll have the Log Cabin Fish Fry,” said Rosie. This dish consisted of three different kinds of deep fried fish and the dinner included what was termed Frontier Fries and Country Cole Slaw.

“Okay, that sounds good,” said Gil. “I think I’m going with the Cattleman’s T-Bone Steak with Campfire Beans and Cowboy Spuds.”

Within a few moments the waiter returned with Gil’s wine and Rosie’s coffee. Gil tasted the wine and found it excellent. He gave him their order and was surprised to find that the waiter returned with their dinners only five minutes later.

Gil looked at Rosie. “They must have seen us coming,” he joked.

“Who cares?” replied Rosie. “This looks great. I’m eating.”

As they worked their way through the surprisingly excellent dinners Rosie said to Gil, “Now Gil, tell me about yourself. You got my story in the car. Now it’s your turn.”

Gil, always pleased to talk about himself, immediately acquiesced. So for the next fifteen minutes or so he regaled her with the story of his up-and-down life to date. She laughed out loud when he told her about sneaking down at midnight to watch movies on TV while having to quickly dispose of his drunken mother. He told her about his early days in Hollywood, eliciting several “Aaaws” from her when he related his early days with Natalie.

By the time they had finished their dinner Gil had pretty much finished his story and had completely finished the bottle of wine. Settling on chocolate cake for dessert, they didn’t leave the restaurant until nearly nine-thirty. Once again Gil signed for the dinners, leaving a generous tip for the efficient waiter, and was slightly tipsy as they started up the stairs to their room together.

“Glad I don’t have to drive tonight,” Gil croaked, slightly slurring his speech.

Rosie gave an appreciative chuckle and pretended not to notice his condition. Instead she took him by the arm and started to lead him up the stairs saying, “I know what you mean, I’m pretty tired myself.”

But halfway up the stairs Gil heard conversation and intermittent laughter coming from somewhere above. In a few moments he could see two couples coming down the stairs. The stairs were so narrow that there was only room for two people walking abreast.

As the couples approached, Gil noticed something strange about them. The women were dressed in what he could have sworn were flapper outfits with feathered headdresses partially covering short bobbed hair. Each wore a long beaded necklace that hung down nearly to her waist. The men were completely clean-shaven with extremely short slicked back hair and wearing tuxedos.

To Gil they looked like something out of a Busby Berkeley musical, definitely thirties style. He wondered absently if there was a costume party somewhere. But as they approached he became more and more apprehensive since they seemingly had eyes only for each other and didn’t seem to notice him at all. In alarm Gil threw up his hands as if to ward them off and he shut his eyes tightly.

Then a curious thing happened. He felt not the impact of bodies that he had feared but a draft of cold air as if someone had just opened a window. Daring after a few seconds to open his eyes again he saw that they were nowhere in sight.

Rosie was looking at him with genuine alarm. “What on earth’s the matter?” she said. “You look as if you’ve seen a ghost.”

Gil, still about half drunk but sobering quickly, regained enough composure to lie, “Nothing…nothing’s the matter. Uh, I thought there was a bee coming at me or something.”

“Oh,” replied Rosie with a relieved sigh, “you know you nearly scared the hell out of me. I thought I was going to have to carry you upstairs.” 

In response Gil shook free of her arm. “Don’t worry about me,” he said, “I’m okay.”

They reached the fourth floor without further incident and entered the room. Everything seemed to be as they had left it. Gil however couldn’t help but wonder what was going on.

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