The electric feeling in the December air reminds me of a strange incident that happened a year back. It makes my spine shiver and my hair stand. I had received a mysterious phone call. The number seemed very arbitrary. A husky female voice seeked an appointment with me. The time she had set was for coffee at a popular hub at 6 pm. The lady said was looking for a publicist. Said she is an actress. She would pay me whatever I quote. I had listened to her quietly and agreed to meet her. She didn’t turn up. I had waited almost 90 minutes before giving up. I paid for my coffee and started to leave. Stopping at the reception I asked if a lady, an actress, to be specific, had made any reservations for 6 pm. The elderly man raised an eyebrow and replied a curt “No, madam.”
The chilly wind blew through my hair as I drove down the near-deserted street. The sky was clear and the half moon looked as though it were sailing across the night sky. My phone rang. I pulled over and answered it. The same husky voice was quick to apologize. “I… was wondering if we could meet at the same venue. My room. 306. Tomorrow. Yes?” My interests were piqued. I agreed to meet her the next day at 7 in the evening.
The concierge was adamant. “I’m afraid madam room 306 is currently unoccupied. We have no guests there.” I wasn’t willing to let go so easy. If there was a mystery there, I was determined to unravel it. “That’s alright. One of my clients wanted to book a dozen rooms in this hotel and I was wondering if I could check out some of them. Room 306 specifically. My client is a very successful er… actress. From er… Mumbai.” Something clicked in the old man. He turned to get the keys, his shoulders drooping. I tapped my feet impatiently. That was when I noticed this beautiful portrait on the opposite wall. Gilded frame. Oil painting. Semi-nude lady on a love seat. Bygone era. Her eyes were burning embers. There was an arrogant almost haughty look about her.
“Here you go madam. My boy will escort you.” A fresh-faced attendant with cute dimples materialized from nowhere.
Room 306 looked as if it hadn’t been opened in ages. Musty smell. Sepia feel. Time-warped. Cold. Too many shadows in the warmth of the wrought iron bedside lamp. “I like this room.” I turned to the dimpled wonderboy. “Would you mind excusing me for a moment. I have a very private phone call to make.” I looked towards the door. The boy stepped out and shut the door silently behind him.
I called back on the number of the deep-voiced lady. I was told that the number didn’t exist.
TO BE CONTINUED…