Previous: Prequel: Halloween (1 of 7)
Attempting to persuade my rule-abider of a cousin to help me find the wayward adolescents who’d attempted to foam the Motel Fairwil pool with two measly detergent cubes wouldn’t be a snap.
I figured it would be akin to coaxing the guy at the cinema concession stand to refill my popcorn box for free. Upshot? There would be wary looks, cocked eyebrows, extravagant sighing, and a mild, pointless squabble, though maybe not in that exact order.
“I’m in!” Gomery exclaimed. His declaration even came with an exclamation point in tow, an unusual addition I attributed to the high feeling of Halloween night.
“I DON’T believe it. You’re not going to argue about staying here to check in non-existent guests? Where's your unflagging commitment to duty, my man?”
“I register non-existent guests every night," he shrugged. “Excuse me: Every damn night. A break is welcome, even twenty minutes to pursue some vandals. Plus, it’s Halloween. I’ve been meaning to walk over and check out some of the yard displays. Let me tell Mom, hang on.”
My cousin jogged over to my aunt’s room and knocked. Clinkly laughter from the across the way caught my attention, so I ventured closer to the fruit trees near the hotel-motel property line. Two costumed clowns, who weren’t actually wearing clown costumes but rather were acting clownishly, had slipped out of The Wilfair and were currently standing beneath the trees, canoodling and cooing in equally annoying parts. One was Frankenstein’s Monster, or some approximation of the famous, bolt-necked creature, and the other reveler rocked a Marie Antoinette pompadour.
Shouting “FRANKENSTEIN’S MONSTER” at the make-outers tempted me, because every but every last person calls that big-foreheaded, green-cheeked character Frankenstein, but he is NOT Frankenstein. Doctor Victor Frankenstein created him but the character is only The Monster or Frankenstein’s Monster.
It briefly occurred to me that focusing on matters like this a) simultaneously made me feel superior and b) hollow, much like successfully negotiating for a free popcorn refill at my favorite concession counter. More a), though, especially if I shared such knowledge with someone who seemed impressed or at least gave me a “you don’t say?”
Gomery joined me. “What’s up?”
“Oh, people loving all over each other at the love hotel, as usual. Probably needed a break from the masquerade ball and all of the, all of the, the, chocolate goose fountains.”
“What’s a… chocolate goose fountain?”
“Fancy, pretentious crap! I don’t know. Whatever the Finleys spend their suites packed with mountains of cold cash on. Tickets were frickdickingdumb to that thing. Pricey beyond belief. Did you see? A billboard on Fairfax? And for what? For one night. For one goose of a party.”
“They spend a lot of money. And they get money back. Even odds.” Gomery stared at the hotel. “We should buy a ticket one year and go.”
“Pah! For some fingerbowl food and some expensive jerk streamers and a curtsy from Fair Finley at the end?”
“Why are the streamers jerks?”
“Because they are! Or, or, or... do you get a gold bar in your goodie bag? I don’t know. I don’t KNOW!” I didn’t know, and I threw my hands above my head to further telegraph the fact that I did not know.
The canoodlers, clearly startled by my elaborate and vocal I-don’t-know-ing, scurried back inside the hotel.
“That wasn’t nice.” Gomery crossed his arms. “You scared Frankenstein’s Monster and, er.” He peered. “Mary, Queen of Scots?”
“I was on your side on the first one but you’re centuries wrong on the second. CENTURIES. ‘Les Miserables’? ‘A Tale of Two Cities’?” I tired of my list when I saw Gomery’s implacable face. “Be more placable when I’m schooling you!”
“I’ve been schooled. At school. I know both.” Gomery was lightly irritated. “I didn’t get a good look at the second costume.” He removed his glasses, hot-breathed the lenses, and cleaned them on his shirt sleeve. “Anyway, stop shouting at the hotel’s guests. Shout at our guests, for their many daily infractions. Towel stealing. Night bell ringing. Not staying here in the appropriate numbers to keep us open.”
“Don't pardon what's unpardonable. Those kissing kissers’ll be in our pool the moment we leave, guaranteed, making the water churn, and not over some laundry detergent, either. Just. Gggggffff.” I searched for the words, still heated. “Have we ever been once, to anything fun over that hotel? Or not fun? Or anything that's anything? I’ll tell you, if you’re dying to know. The answer is no. I’ve slept basically fifty feet from that ballroom for two decades and I’ve never been to a party there, ever. I’m making that my personal priority this year: Crash a Wilfair ball. Maybe the big one. New Year’s Eve! Watch me. I’m goin’ large. Do you think a top hat is too much? I can rent one from the costume shop on campus. Also, I'll need a cat to hold and stroke, as I take on a mysterious air, or, better yet, a cat doll, which is way weirder. A millionaire's affectation.”
“Fair Finley dealing with your interloping is exactly what she needs on New Year’s Eve.” My cousin glanced at the hotel’s third floor.
“Fair Finley, Fair Finley this, Fair Finley, that.” I cupped my hands around my mouth. “Faaaaaair Finley!” It was a shout toward her darkened window, full-throated to match the full-throated laughter clinkling from the hotel’s ballroom.
When no light came on and no curious, slightly appalled heiress appeared at the curtains, I frowned. “Too bad. She promised to sail to the continent with me at midnight, in a private cabin lined with ermine and emeralds. Guess she found a richer beau, though what living man is richer than me I can’t imagine. Can you?”
“Do comebacks count as currency?”
“Shyeah they do!” I confirmed. “And mouthiness is next to moneyness, at least in my personal moral code.”
Gomery clapped my back. “You’re the richest man I know, then. But my sympathy, to you, regarding your cancelled midnight flight.”
“Not flight. Sail. Not cancelled. Postponed.”
“Your postponed midnight sail with Fair Finley in a cabin lined with, er, jewels? Hmm. Now, our detergent-packing miscreants are getting away. Which direction are we headed to enact soapy justice and extract candy in gratitude for our, er. Our Halloween heroism?”
I clapped his back back. “Aw, Mer! There's the unflagging commitment to hopeless enterprises I know and admire! Let's split, before your commitment flags.”
And with that, we headed deep into the tree-lined historic neighborhood north of Wilshire and Fairfax, the two charter members of Unflaggability Incorporated.
Next: Prequel: Halloween (3 of 7)