The light to cross Michigan and Chicago avenues was red. It didn’t matter. At 5:00 in the morning the street was Jack’s. Even the touristy horse drawn carriages were gone. His pace was quick. He wanted space between the hotel and him. Most of all he wanted time to think. He walked west for three or four blocks and found himself on Rush Street. Stragglers left over from late night partying staggered from the sidewalk and into the street. A young man in tight pants and fancy shirt and a woman wearing a revealing blouse and high heel boots fell out of the disco called Faces. Neon signs mounted on buildings were ablaze. One had a silhouette of a high kicking dancing girl beckoning patrons to the Club Alabam. There were two men by the curb who caught a smoke. They wore dark suits and had a striking resemblance to Mr. Castellini or whatever his real name was. He quickened his pace. He walked passed a darkened Mr. Kelly’s. He stopped for a moment and peered into the window. As a teen his father had taken him to see the comedian Godfrey Cambridge and the jazz pianist Bobby Short. The place was shuttered. There were no people, tables or chairs, only an empty room. He noticed a sign on the door thanking everyone for their support through the years. Damn, he didn’t know Mr. Kelly’s had closed for good.
He could use a cigarette. Baseball players weren’t supposed to smoke at least not on camera. What would the public think? Jesus. Thank God the press stuck mostly to what occurred on the field. He tapped his pockets for a hidden pack. No such luck. He must have left his smokes in the room. He felt his pockets again for his cigarette lighter. Shit. What if he left that too? So what, anyone could have a lighter, even Linzie. He couldn’t let go of the thought. It was like throwing a curve ball knowing he should have thrown an inside fastball. The batter would hit it out of the park.
It was his dream to play in the World Series much less to be the starting pitcher. Long after the money and the cheers, his name would be forever in the box score. He lost out the first time in Minnesota. He had to pitch.
As long as nothing of his was found in the room, everything else was, what’s the word lawyers use? Circum…circumstantial, that’s it. The photos could have been doctored. Linzie’s and her so- called husband’s story were their words against his. He’d take his chances. He turned back to the Ritz.
The doorman who had greeted him earlier had his back to him as Jack went through the sliding glass doors. He took the elevator to the lobby, which was on the 11th floor. The cleaning staff was busy vacuuming the carpet. Others cleaned tables preparing to open the restaurant across from check-in for early breakfast. He walked around the corner to the guest elevators. This time the arrival sound of the car was soft and pleasant. He got in and punched 23. In seconds he was whooshed to the floor. He turned into the corridor and saw a room service cart by 2307. Breakfast this early and for who? He picked up a newspaper left in front of another door. He peered over the paper and saw a woman dressed in the hotel uniform knock. He went closer. She rang the doorbell. He heard her call out “room service”. She pushed the door open and went in with a tray. He was about fifty feet away. He edged closer. A moment later he heard an ear splitting scream. He froze for a second then ran into Linzie’s room. The room service woman ran into him as he entered.
Her eyes were wide and she appeared to be in shock. “Let me help you,” he said, I heard you scream.” She calmed a bit and pointed toward the bedroom. He stepped over the dropped tray and saw Linzie lying on her back naked on the bed. There was a gaping slash around her neck and a knife was stuck in her chest. Blood soaked the covers and smeared the wall.
Now he wanted to run. But the macabre image drew him closer. He fought the urge to puke. “Oh my God.” He walked backwards out of the bedroom and jumped when he bumped into the woman from room service.
“What the…” He turned. The woman didn’t speak. He touched her shoulder. “Don’t panic,” he said out loud. “Stay here and wait outside in the hall. I’ll go downstairs and get help.”
He helped her to her cart. She leaned on it and began to sob. “God forgive me,” she said over again, and made the sign of the cross. He ran down the hall. He had to get out of there. Who knows what she’d remember? He hit the down button and waited. The elevator came. There was another couple in the car. Shit. He gave a weak smile and got in. The elevator stopped on 22 then 20 and lastly 18. Seven people along with their luggage made him step back until he stood next to the couple. Everyone couldn’t have early flights. He caught a glimpse of his watch…5:30. Don’t people sleep, goddam it. He kept his gaze at the backs of the people in front. He just wanted to blend in. Another traveler on his way to God knows where. He could feel sweat on his face. He hoped the original couple didn’t notice. Were they looking at him? He stared at the digital display above the door. The car finally reached the 11th floor. Everyone stepped off. He followed the couple. The man turned.
“Don’t you pitch for Boston?” he asked.
Oh shit. This can’t be. Think. Jack paused. “No, you must have me confused with someone else.”
The man shook his head. “I could swear…” The woman tugged at his sleeve. “Sorry to bother you,” she said. “My husband loves sports and the Red Sox.”
“Not a problem,” Jack recovered, “it happens a lot.”
The couple went toward the restaurant. He heard the man say, “that’s got to be Jack Rakow. Wow.”
“Let’s get breakfast,” she said.
He waited a few seconds for the couple to walk over to the maître de and then walked around the corner to the other bank of elevators. The ride was nonstop.
He stepped out into the street. Sirens sounded in the distance. He watched as two police cars and three fire engines approached the hotel. As they pulled alongside the building, he turned east away from the emergency vehicles, and walked toward the lake and the hospital his father was in.