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The room smelt of last night’s room service and sweat. I looked around, I could see the source of the smells; there was a plate with a half eaten club sandwich and a few French fries on the desk, while a smart suit jacket hung on the chair. I could tell from the sheets on the bed someone had slept here last night. There were clothes folded on another chair and recently cleaned shoes were neatly placed carefully near the door. I noticed there was a wedding ring on the bedside table.
I went into the bathroom, there were tiny bits of food in the sink, which told me this was a mouthwash user, but the sink, the toothbrush and towel were all dry.
‘So he should have checked out by twelve?’ I said. I looked at the hotel manager who was waiting by the door.
He nodded. I looked at my watch, it was 6 p.m.
‘And no one saw him this morning?’ I asked. This time he shook his head. ‘And he didn’t come for breakfast?’
‘No one remembers seeing him, Mr Stanley.’
‘Why did you call me, not the police?’ I said.
‘I did call the police Mr Stanley but they weren’t interested. I want my money and you are going to get it for me.’
I nodded and continued to look around the main hotel room. There was everything you’d expect from an occupied hotel room, the only thing missing was the person occupying it.
‘Can I talk to the receptionist?’ I said. The manager nodded and we walked downstairs without speaking.
‘What time did you start work this morning?’ I asked the woman with a name Julie on her badge.
‘7 a.m.,’ she said.
‘And before that?’
‘There’s a night porter,’ she said.
I turned to the manager.
‘I’d say he left about 6.30,’ I said. He could be anywhere by now. ‘You’ll pay me more trying to find him than he owes for the room.’
‘I don’t care, Mr Stanley,’ he said and he sounded angry. ‘You just find him, you understand. No one leaves my hotel without paying.’
I nodded. ‘Can I see the bill?’ I asked. The receptionist gave me a professional smile and then printed out a bill. I looked at it. Two nights, two evening meals and two gay porn films.
Wedding ring on the bedside table, gay porn on the bill. Something didn’t add up.
‘Leave it with me,’ I said. ‘I’ll have your money by the morning.’
Coco’s was the coolest gay club in town. I smiled at the barman Stevie G. I showed him the photo of my missing man. He shook his head.
‘Try Rocky’s,’ he said. ‘That’s where all the new ones go.’
‘Archer Stanley! Finally a real man for good old Rocky.’ Rocky Sidoli was the owner of Rocky’s. He was an old friend of mine.
‘Today’s not your lucky day. This is business not pleasure,’ I said smiling at the old queen.
I showed Rocky the photograph and he pointed at a lonely looking man in the corner.
‘Can I get you a drink?’ I asked. The man looked up from his empty glass. He had sad eyes. He nodded slowly. I ordered us both a whisky.
‘You Clifford Erickson?’ I asked. He nodded.
‘I’m Archer Stanley, I’m a private investigator.’
He nodded again.
‘Look Mr Erickson, I don’t care what you are or who you are or what you decide to do with your life. But I do know there’s a nice pair of shoes at a hotel near here and a hotel owner who wants his money, and probably a wife worrying about you. So let’s go back there, you collect your things and pay your bill and then try to find another way to tell your wife you’re gay?’
He nodded, we drank in silence. I felt sorry for this guy, he was confused, I knew I was sending him back to hell, but hey, I have to make my money somehow.