A tenement hotel on the lower bank of a back water stream. It is too late for traffic but it rings out anyway.
In a town of fishmongers, I lie sleepless on a paper thin mattress. The hotel room seems to contract trying to collapse on itself. The walls seem to sweat and the night grows warmer. Ugly neon lights pour in past the dust caked curtains, reflecting on the stains that mark all the furniture.
The walls thin and tried did nothing to stop the shuffling and humming of a hundred sleepless patrons- in it’s own way gasping for breath. I walked to the window and saw a police van pull up.
I shuffled out, the dust grabbing my feet, slowly over the peeling floor. I looked out to the hallway, the lights dim and fluttering. I went to my neighbours door, a fast friend. Both of us sleepless and drowsy eyed. We had been drinking away the inescapable stench of the day.
He seemed skittish that night, a grim expression of resignation. I frowned- I kept him around to cheer me up. He saw me upset and smiled, inviting me with more grace and eagerness than I ever expected from him.
I sat on his dusty desk, after pushing his carelessly strewn papers. There was some ash lining the edges of the desktop. He offered me a glass, the same one we’d been drinking from for a week. I told him the usual things, how work was going, how the story seemed to have died on the vine. We were both tourists, as I repeatedly told him, both of us just wandering in and out of towns. He usual seemed baffled by this but tonight he smiled.
My editor had me barking up trees and I wished I had a listener who actually understood what I was telling him. My neighbour was some kind of salesman, always with heavy briefcases and wooden boxes. It’s how we met, I went to introduce myself and complain after I heard one too many thuds and muffled sounds of objects being dragged around.
I noticed he was wearing his Sunday best tonight. Well whatever best he could muster probably. Large sweat stains had formed under his armpits. I laughed and asked what he could have to do this late. He just smiled and refilled my glass.
I looked around as he told me he might be going back to his home town. He had told me something about that before, but I couldn’t remember what he’d said. To be honest what he was saying now was boring me too. I worried what I’d do next week.
He excused himself to go out for cigarettes and asked me to wait for him. I wished I had better neighbours. I got up to look around when he left. There were a lot of vans outside the hotel, something was going down. I decided not to care, I wasn’t paid enough to bother.
I walked over to his bed and smelt something rusty, his whole room was brown and leather like. The boxes he had stacked up seemed to have been stained by the same smell. An ugly reddish brown had seeped down to the bottoms of the ones he had stacked up next to his bed. There were a few bags by it too. Nothing well kept in the whole mess.
I couldn’t help but notice a handle sticking out from between the bags thrown about. I went back to the window. Something was certain to happen. My neighbour had kept me too long. I walked over and pulled on the handle. It was a soggy knife covered with a smelly thick layer.
I pushed one of the boxes and a strange feeling washed over me. I heard footsteps marching and thundering up the stairs. You could hear anything in this hotel. In slow motion I opened one of the boxes, already realising what my neighbour had been dragging up each night and that he wouldn’t be coming back.
I reached inside a box, hearing the door crash open behind me and the shouts breaking into the room. Murder weapon in hand, bloody evidence before me, I had missed the big story of the night.