Rosewood

Rosewood had asked him to meet her in a motel.

She didn’t give him the chance to inquire as to why, or when. She just gave him a name, not her own, and told him to ask for it at the front desk.

Fourthstone knew what he should have done. He should have told someone where he was going. Traced the number, passed it on to the others waiting back home. He should have turned on the TV and ordered a pizza. Opened a beer, maybe. Tided up. But instead, he stood on the balcony of his apartment and smoked three cigarettes to steady his nerves before climbing into the rental car and heading to The Mirage Inn.

It was mid afternoon when he left. During the three hour drive from Sacramento, he smoked the rest of his cigarettes, took a couple of wrong turns and then stopped at a gas station to buy coffee, more cigarettes and a pocket knife. He arrived in Silver Springs as the sun was beginning to set, and fear was beginning to creep over him again.

He pulled into the car park and sat staring at the vacancy sign for some time. Whatever had possessed him to get in the car had now lost its grip. Other than a familiar voice and a direct order, Fourthstone could not conjure up a reason to enter this place. A dangerous sense of pride, maybe. A weak pang of loyalty. A misplaced trust. Rosewood had been his once. Or more, he had been hers. And no matter how much he tried she would always be his problem. He had brought her into the new world, and he had almost taken her out. Whatever virtue had existed in their relationship had been blown to pieces when he shot her. There was a chance, a strong chance that this could be the day that she paid him back for that kindness or the day that he finished the job. Either way, it was not going to be margaritas and stolen glances.

He checked his reflection in the driver side window. His black eye had almost healed. He put his sunglasses on and rolled up his sleeves. There were still blood stains on the cuffs. Then he slipped the pocket knife into his sock and entered the motel.

The foyer was all carpet and jacquard wallpaper. Fourthstone stared at the flowers infinitely entwining as he waited for the receptionist to end her phone call.

‘I’m sorry about that.’ She smiled broadly, lowering the handset. ‘Nothing ever happens here and then it all happens at once!’

‘Life has a habit of doing that, doesn’t it?’ He replied with a weak smile. The receptionist leaned in at the sound of his voice.

‘Well, you’re certainly not from around here.’ Her eyelashes fluttered, it seemed to him, in slow motion.

‘Wouldn’t be much of trip if I was.’ He said, distracted. The receptionist chuckled, but to Fourthstone, the sound was far away…

Something about the wallpaper. The thorns. William Morris. The Good Doctor had William Morris prints in his office. Fourthstone would look at them between sessions, try to focus his eyes again. Later, he’d take one down and beat the Good Doctor with it. Over and over and over, until blood ran down his hands and his adopted mother’s screams drowned out the sound of the thrashing-

Fourthstone reached behind his head and pulled the hairs as hard as he could, just as Rosewood had taught him. His attention slipped back to the present.

‘I’m supposed to be meeting someone.’ He mumbled, ‘She told me to ask for her here. The name- Her name is Patience Oakley.’

The receptionist did not seem surprised.

‘You Brits stick together, huh?’ She said, turning to her computer. ‘Her room’s left on from the terrace.’

She smiled a short, curt smile to dismiss him.

Fourthstone passed through a curtained archway into a large dining room. There, older couples laboured away at their heaped plates. The people behind the food counters stared into the distance, almost as absent as Fourthstone. The entire room had an atmosphere of stifling nostalgia. This was exactly the kind of place where Rosewood would kill him. Torture him with his memories first and then put him out of his misery

At the end of the dining room was a wall of french windows that opened onto a swimming pool and a terrace. Fourthstone walked out onto the tiled floor and stood in the fading Nevada sun, listening to the kind of floundering splashes that reminded him of the summers he spent floating out to sea. How much he wanted the water to take him.

He took his sunglasses off and rubbed his eyes.

‘Hey! Hey!’

When he turned around, he came face to face with his older brother.

‘Guy?’

‘Grayson, everyone’s looking for you. Where have you been?’

When Fourthstone looked down he was waist deep in the North Sea.

‘Guy, I- I don’t want to go back there.’

His brother waded towards him, wearing a red armband. The crest of the Good Doctor’s hospital.

‘You have to go back. They need you.’

‘I’ll kill myself. If you make me go back, I’ll-‘

‘Go back where? Sir, I’m going to need you to get out of the pool.’

When Fourthstone looked up he was face to face with a crowd of onlookers. He suddenly realised where he was. Standing in The Mirage Inn’s pool, fully dressed. He wiped the tears from his face on his suit jacket.

‘Excuse me? Sir! Do I need to call the police?’

‘He’s with me.’

Someone was wading towards him. Rosewood, in a white sundress, reached out to him. Fourthstone did not know if she was real. He did not care. He closed his hands around hers and foolishly let her lead him away.

 

 

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