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The hotel we walked into a couple of minutes later seemed quite unpromising from the outside. In fact, it closely resembled Eternity in location and exterior. It looked pretty much like an abandoned factory building, and just like the club, the street it faced was full of garbage cans. I barely found a vacant spot in the small parking lot to stop our car, and when I stepped outside to look around the place, for a moment, I thought we were in a foreign country a few hundred miles from the American border. Its exotic name—Cacadulu—had absolutely no meaning at this northern latitude and suggested a level of hygiene comparable to a Jamaican public toilet, which was hit by the most devastating hurricane. The only advantage it actually offered us was the fact that it was situated only two blocks away from Eternity, and as soon as she laid eyes on it, Lara sternly insisted that we should check into it.

When we walked inside, however, things weren’t as bad as we expected. The interior wasn’t particularly fancy, but with a little bit of help—like a glass of gin in your stomach maybe—it could pass for acceptable, and one could easily forget its flaws. The receptionist, who sat behind a small desk to our left—just before the staircase and the elevator—promptly raised her head to smile radiantly, and I had the feeling her expression was a bit naughty when she looked at me. It was very strange because we had never met before.

I secretly examined the woman. She was in her mid-thirties, with nice features and a fine figure. Her boobs were small but well-rounded and hidden under a white high-collar shirt and black, formal jacket. The uniform instantly fired my imagination because, generally, I like such things very much. Her dark chestnut hair was blunt-cut, and her mystifying emerald-green eyes sparkled with brown flecks at the edges of her iris. She had brick-colored lipstick on, and the skin on her face and neck looked pale, despite the hot summer. It appealed to my taste because I hated the latest trend of people getting overly tanned.

“Welcome to our humble but lovely Cacadulu hotel!” The chick demonstrated her pleasant and resonant voice, after which she secretly winked at me. It gave me a clear indication that she really liked me. Despite the fact that I had suspected it, her bold gesture still took me by surprise, and I bulged my eyes, grinning rather stupidly—like a redneck who had just seen a naked woman rolling around in the hay in his barn.

I suddenly wondered how I should react to this. Cacadulu sounded sort of Papua New Guinea-ish to me, and I believed that in the language of the Kangalu tribe, which lived in the upstream areas of the Sepik River, it meant, “Come, fuck my ass until I faint.” On the other hand, though, in the language of the Kwangassawo in the midstream of Sepik, it rather meant, “Let me fuck your ass until you faint.” There was a subtle but very important difference between the two, but since the chick was neither Kangalu nor Kwangassawo, obviously, I decided to forget about linguistics for now and just wink back at the woman.

Lara didn’t even notice the little fun we had, and she only cast a brief glance at me, giving me a nod toward the staircase. Instead of winking, she blinked her eyes a couple of times, but since I knew her gesture didn’t mean, “get us a room and wait for me upstairs in the bed,” nor “let me give you a quick blowjob on the stairs before we go to bed,” I just ignored it. A second later, she made it very clear what she had in mind as she mumbled, “You get us a room and wait for me upstairs. I’ll drop by the bar for a quick drink before hitting the bed.”

Then my wasted assistant did a very clumsy pirouette, and like a drunkard, which she most definitely was, she waddled toward the distant end of the foyer, where a bright, fluorescent-pink neon sign read, “Snack Bar”. It hung above a double-leaf glass door, behind which gentle and relaxing music played.

I gladly let the booze bag go there and drink her head off because I needed her out of my way now, and I turned to the receptionist instead. The woman was still looking at me naughtily and wanted to know whether I would like two single rooms or one double. Since I didn’t know what I actually liked, and Lara used the word “room” when she gave me instructions, I quickly said, “Double,” without thinking much about it. Right after that, though, the chick asked if I preferred a king-size or twin bed, and this is where I unexpectedly tripped. At first, I wanted to say twins, but as I watched her so mischievously and roguishly smiling at me, I was worried she would think I was a loser who couldn’t get a woman to lie with him, so I settled for a king-size bed. Anyway, it turned out to be another mistake because now I was giving her indications that I wasn’t up for grabs, which was something I definitely didn’t want.

Unfortunately, it was already too late for me to change anything, and the receptionist giggled softly, licked her red lips, and started writing something down. While she was doing it, her eyes kept shifting between her book and me like the eyes of a playful mermaid sitting on a rock and alluring stupid sailors to the shallows. Finally, the cutie asked me about our names, and since I had already been in this stupid situation—wondering what Lara’s family name was in Inspector Greensboro’s office—this time, I didn’t hesitate at all.

“Croft,” I said confidently. “Lara Croft!” I wasn’t actually sure it was a real name because I had never heard of anyone bearing it, but it was the first thing that came to mind. When I had to say my name, however, I hesitated more. The problem was that I didn’t want the beauty to jump up and cry, “Is that you, Mellrow? But you should be dead!” That’s why I quickly renamed myself Murphy McDougall.

The receptionist kept filling out the form, and even if my first name rang a bell for her, she stayed cool and didn’t reveal her suspicions.

Since I kind of liked the chick, and I definitely wanted to give it a try with her, and since her eagerness to give it a try with me was so obvious and intense—almost as intense as Lara’s disinterest was—I decided to fool around with her a bit.

“What a nice evening!” I started very, very unconvincingly at eight in the morning, and I wondered what a fucking moron was hiding inside my stupid head. There was no doubt that even Johnny Bravo hit on women better than me!

“Yes, it was!” the cutie agreed, not very impressed, as she finished the registration.

After my lame start, I sighed heavily and realized how critical getting off on the right foot was in such delicate situations. I would have surely had a lot more success if I had just slipped on my way into the foyer and broken my nose on the floor!

I looked around dejectedly, but it was already too late to do something like that. The floor was completely dry, plus it would have been stupid for me to fall as I stood solidly on my feet, my elbows resting on the reception desk, and my eyes trying to catch a glimpse of the chick’s breasts. I really didn’t believe anyone in the entire world would think a man with such an unreliable vestibular system was sexy. On top of that, I didn’t get to see her boobs because they were too small and remained hidden deep in the bosom of her shirt!

And here, I actually did something extremely inappropriate and totally unforgivable. It was easily the most inadequate thing anyone could ever do, and I didn’t even know how it happened. Feeling desperate and helpless to reverse the conversation and correct my pickup line, I involuntarily blurted out my thoughts before stopping myself in time. “Boy, why are they so damn small?” I murmured under my nose.

Hearing it, the receptionist sharply turned her eyes to me and raised her eyebrows, scandalized. I momentarily panicked. In an instant, I realized what a terrible mistake I had made, and I wiggled nervously, not knowing what to do. I suddenly wanted to shoot myself right in the head and then throw my corpse at the lions in the zoo. I wanted to jump from the highest skyscraper on a blanket of broken glass, and I even thought I deserved to spend a night in the cage of a turned-on male gorilla! Okay, let’s scratch the last one, actually. I didn’t really think I deserved that, but everything else was definitely on the table.

“What do you mean they’re small?” The woman behind the desk put the registration book aside, shattering all my hopes that she might have missed my blunder. She had every right to be deadly offended, and I was surprised she hadn’t slapped my face yet. “Do you mean they’re too small for your taste, or do you think their size presents an insurmountable obstacle for the owner to have a successful relationship?”

“Oh, no, no! I didn’t actually mean… No! I just didn’t… mean—” I stammered, completely paralyzed and unable to come up with a plausible lie. And how could I? I doubt that even a bunch of Oscar-winning Hollywood screenwriters could come up with something useful if they were me.

“And what did you really mean then? Because I think I definitely saw you staring at my boobs!” the receptionist insisted, waiting for my answer. Weirdly enough, she didn’t seem furious, though; she was rather curious about how I planned to get out of the hideous situation.

“Well, I meant… I didn’t mean, you know… that, and I meant, you know… something different, you know.” I heroically started sinking into an ocean of shit, feeling my chances with the chick evaporate faster than July’s rain.

“I’m sorry. What did you mean again?” The woman dragged me out of the muck only to nail me back to my cross.

I looked at her, really desperate. I had to say something, and I had to say it fast. The only problem was that I couldn’t find a viable solution to my problem. And since time passed quickly, I grasped the first straw that caught my eye.

“I meant your letters!” I cried out too loudly for it to be convincing.

“My letters?”

“Your handwriting! Yes! The letters you write are so fascinatingly small and neat!” I gabbled frantically, and luckily, the letters she had written in the book were just small enough to support my lame excuse.

“You know, I’ve never had a client so interested in my handwriting before. This is so weird! Are you a graphologist or something?”

“Yes! That’s definitely… definitely my… hobby!” I kept making a fool of myself, unable to stop.

“Okay. And what does my handwriting reveal then?” My never-to-be girlfriend started playing with me like a cat playing with a stupid little mouse in the basement. “I’ve heard these things are quite telling!”

“Yes, they are!” I swallowed dryly and stopped, unsure. Obviously, there was a slim chance for me to make things right after all, but I had to be really, really careful! I had to come up with something extremely flattering about her. I had to think of something to help a man in an unenviable position like mine turn the situation to his advantage—maybe something about her charming personality. “I think you’re… I think you’re very… changing and s-s-secretive.” At the next moment, I announced my final choice, which was pretty much the opposite of what I wanted to say.

After that, I froze again and asked myself why in the world I kept doing this to myself. I could have said “mysterious”, “mystifying”, “enigmatic”, “unfathomable”, “unpredictable”, or “complex”… I could have said virtually anything else but secretive, but no! I just had to throw more shit on my own back!

“Am I really?” My secretive lady couldn’t even get my point. “Is it secretive as in clandestine, or just aloof and reserved?”

“No, it’s none of these things! It’s more like when those small insects change their appearance and turn into a completely different thing!”

The receptionist looked at me, puzzled again.

“You mean the praying mantis? But they camouflage themselves to catch their prey! And after they mate, the female bites her partner’s head off! Do you really see me like this?”

I looked at her, baffled, and shuddered in despair. “No, you got me completely wrong again! I meant the other bugs—the good ones! I just thought you were mysterious, mystifying, enigmatic, unfathomable, unpredictable, and complex! I meant you were difficult to read!”

“Well, I’ll actually give you the last one! I really must be difficult to read given my small letters, mustn’t I?”

“No, I didn’t mean that either!” I almost cried, begging her in my mind to stop torturing me.

“What? Are my letters suddenly big now?”

“No! I mean, yes! I mean, they’re just the right size! They’re complete perfection!”

Here I stopped, terrified. They’re complete perfection?! What was that even supposed to mean? Boobs were usually cute, lovely, or beautiful—they were not “perfection”! What kind of idiot talks like this? Maybe I just had to shut my mouth and stop talking forever, because I was obviously making things worse, and no matter what I said from that moment on, it clearly wouldn’t change the fact that my stupidity was complete perfection too!

“You know what?” The receptionist suddenly looked at me, fiddling thoughtfully with a strand of her hair. There was something mischievous in her smile, which indicated she was probably messing with me. “I could be severely offended by all this, you know! But since my clients here often perform unbelievable stunts to impress me, like talking trash to me or stumbling and falling on the floor without an obvious reason, I’ll take your stunt as a not particularly elegant attempt to compliment me. Alright?”

I blinked my eyes, surprised by this sudden turn of events, but I didn’t reply. I actually wanted to cry out, “Alright!” but I was afraid to open my mouth. The woman kept looking at me for a while, but when she realized I wouldn’t say anything else, she reached out to take a key from the shelf behind her back—right beside a service door—and gave it to me. My refusal to talk soon resulted in an awkward silence between us, and to stop this torture, I just grabbed it and quickly turned around to run away like a guilty child. I didn’t even say goodbye to her.

Since there was no bellhop in the elevator and I was afraid that an idiot like me would do another stupid stunt while operating such a “complicated” machine, I headed for the staircase instead. Besides, I didn’t want to meet her eyes again when I turned around in the cabin. I only wanted to go to my room, bury my head in the pillow, and cry myself to sleep. I had just taken a few steps, though, still not having the time to shed a single tear, when the receptionist’s voice caught up with me and made me freeze midway.

“I actually wondered what you’d say about having a drink in the bar.” I unexpectedly heard her musings downstairs. “I mean if you really want to make things right between us, of course! Are you up for it?”

With a booming heart and wobbling knees, I turned around. Unfortunately, I was already around the corner and couldn’t see her face. Her intonation was promising, however. She didn’t sound reproachful anymore.

Of course, I’m up for it!” I wanted to shout, barely believing my luck. I actually wanted many other things, including spending the entire day with her, and why not the night after? The only thing I didn’t want was to meet her in the bar, where Lara was probably already swilling like a pig and abusing the bartender or some of the unfortunate guests of the hotel.

“And I wondered what you’d say about having more than just one drink in my room instead,” I hesitantly proposed, taking the risk of spoiling everything. My heart literally sank in my chest while I waited for an answer.

“You mean a bottle for each of us?” The receptionist unexpectedly liked my idea, raising the bar to a completely new level at the same time.

“Well, I thought we could share one.” I romantically tried to lower it a little bit.

“Alrighty then!” I heard her final decision. “I’ll be in your room in fifteen, carrying a bottle of Johnnie Walker and a white rose to seal the truce between us. You okay with that?”

“That would be wonderful!” I replied cautiously, out of my head with happiness. I wasn’t quite sure about the rose because I thought it was too much, but it didn’t matter. Naturally, my stomach tried to protest right after the name “Johnnie Walker” was mentioned, but I was quick to punch myself in the belly and crush the rebellion before it even started. We were going to drink a whole barrel of whiskey if we needed to!

“So you like small letters after all, don’t you?” I heard the receptionist’s voice again as I resumed climbing the stairs toward the fifth floor. These were dangerous waters, though, and I definitely didn’t want to swim in them.

“What’s your name, love?” I asked instead.

“Sandra,” the door behind the reception desk replied to me—just a moment before it was slammed. Then it became quiet down there.

©2022 S.T. Fargo


Damn you, Detective!—Chapter 10 | a Crime Story by S.T. Fargo

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