Chapter 10: Room Service
Chapter 10: Room Service
Howard opened the door to greet Detective Collins and Alexander.
“I thought I was going to find Randall. Who are you? Are you one of them also?”
Howard gestured them in, “Yes, I know. I was there. You are Frank Collins. We appreciate your discretion, up to now. Who is this?”
“Let’s call him my witness. Where is the girl?”
“I sent her down to the bar for a bit. I told her this was business.”
“OK, then. Were you the one in the bar last week?”
Howard quipped, “I had nothing to do with it. I’m a lover, not a fighter.” His cavalier attitude deeply disturbed Frank. Does he think he is above us, out of our reach? Does he think his is not accountable for the acts of others in the Bridge? He seems to think he is granting an interview.
Alex piped in, “Really, Frank, he hardly looks like a guy who beat 5 people.”
Enraged, Frank grabbed the wine bottle from the bar, “Oh, yeah? Watch this!” …and swung it full-force into Howard’s face.
Alex yelled, “What the fuck!” lunging to restrain Frank.
Howard intervened with his body, calmly grabbing Alex by the shoulder, “It’s OK.”
Alex was lost, then he noticed that Howard was 1. still standing, 2. not screaming, 3. bleeding profusely. He fell back and squatted on a barstool, dizzy, staring as blood sizzled off the counter. He stared at the window, as pieces fell into place, while the interrogation continued.
“Did you know one of the victims died?”
Howard opened another bottle of wine, poured out three glasses, without asking, and set two before Frank and Alex. He raised a blood-smeared glass to them. “It was Emilio Hudson. He was very drunk that night, but he was provoked by those idiots.”
“Can you guys get drunk?”
“With a great deal of effort, yes. They are still debating what to do. Consensus is difficult. One faction is for banishment. But Emilio has friends. He’s actually quite funny and charming. For now, at least, he will not be allowed to return.”
“Are you saying he’s talking his way out of punishment?”
“It’s not like that, but factions form. Alliances. We cannot enforce a banishment, if they have allies. We cannot read each other’s minds, we can only talk, feel and touch through the bridge.”
Frank was calming down. He thought for a moment. He looked directly at Alex, rolling his eyes to the upper left, messaging him, ”Don’t just sit there, take notes!" Alex gathered himself, and started fingering his notepad. Frank noticed the green LED on his tablet’s camera came on.
“Speaking of which, I would have thought you all may have learned to stimulate each other.”
“We can bring each other to orgasm. It’s the first thing most of us learn to do! The elderly had been impotent years before death. It was a rare blessing of dying.”
“So, what do you need our prostitutes for?”
“It’s just an orgasm. Nothing else. Imagine having sex in the dark in a full body condom, or both of you wearing wetsuits. I like Maria. She is real, she is vivid, she is funny, and she feels safe with me. She need not fear disease, and I can provide for her.”
“How very white of you, Howard. What happens when she figures it out you are a ghost?”
“I am aware of that risk. We are working to make our stays longer. I even do some day-trading. I have become quite wealthy. None of us know where this is going.”
“You don’t know everything. I’ve been to her brothel. The smart ones, those not strung out on drugs, they ‘know’. It is like Invasion of the Body Snatchers. You are the dumbest johns I have ever seen. Men want the fantasy that their whore really likes them. In fairness, some actually do. There is always the possibility of a real relationship forming. But you... you’re not even real.”
“This is a higher barrier, yes. But several of us have done just that.”
“Do they know what you really are?”
“Detective, maybe it is you that does not understand women ...”
“Shit. I really don’t care. You seem like a normal enough guy, for a spectre. Is Randall in charge or not?”
“He is the strongest, but there are others…” His speech slowed. He looked tired and fell silent.
Alex and Frank watched as Howard faded. His features blended and smoothed and began to take on a metallic tone. The blob that was Howard shrank and melted into the floor and disappeared with a purplish white flash.
Frank looked at Alex, and asked, “What do you think he meant by ‘I was there?’”