It was with no little surprise, knowing how infrequently Shaw changed his clothes, that Dinah contemplated his suitcase as he attempted, not entirely successfully, to extricate it from the boot of the taxi. “‘Just pack for the weekend’, you said. ‘You won’t need much. It’s nothing special.’”
“The last time we stayed in a hotel, you complained that I had everything in a plastic carrier bag,” he moaned. “So, I thought I’d make an effort.”
The effort, as far as Dinah could tell, involved going to a carboot sale and buying the tattiest cardboard suitcase he could find. Once brown faux leather and now peeling paper, the giant post-war trunk was a symphony in duck tape and string. ‘If I were underwear,’ thought Dinah, with a shudder, ‘I would definitely take my chances in the carrier bag.’
“I didn’t want anything that looked new.”
“I thought it might arouse suspicion.”
“Presumably in a way that a mouldering, bungalow-sized cardboard valise would not. Anyway, yes, it’s very you,” said Dinah, somewhat taken aback when, rather than being affronted by her open sarcasm, he smiled brightly at the perceived compliment.
“I think it may have been to exotic places,” he said excitedly. “It’s got a really interesting smell to it.”
“You could be right,” said Dinah. “It does smell like something very exotic may have died in it…. A long time ago.”
Shaw lugged the festering behemoth up the marbled steps to the hotel under the watchful gaze of the concierge who didn’t mind wearing the stupid braided uniform, but most certainly was not paid nearly enough to tempt him to carry that particular crate. Shaw held the oversized container like a mime artist struggling with something immensely heavy, although Dinah couldn’t help but wonder whether in reality, it might not be empty. It certainly didn’t have his toothbrush in it. That was in his top pocket with something that looked as though it might once have been a comb, and a teaspoon.
As his passage through the revolving door to the hotel lobby involved standing the giant suitcase on its end and wedging himself behind it, his eventual entrance was the stuff of ‘Carry On’: the suitcase completing an additional three hundred and sixty degrees whilst a stationary Shaw clung grimly to the now disassociated handle. In the subsequent melee the concierge received a really quite nasty bruise to the eye (which may, or may not, have been attributable to a flailing Shaw elbow) and an unsuspecting passer-by found herself corralled and herded into the hotel with one shoe in her handbag and somebody else’s dog on the end of an extending lead. Dinah walked calmly to the reception desk. She and Shaw were booked in separately and occupying different rooms, Shaw had insisted on it. It was, he assured her, crucial to the investigation that they were not seen to be together. Why this might be, she had no idea and he was not about to say. As usual, although unwittingly, Shaw had kept her completely in the dark about what was going on but, when pressed, had assured her that this was a proper enquiry and, more to the point, they were being paid to conduct it. She would find out soon enough and, in the meantime, she intended to enjoy the peace and avail herself of the hotel toiletries, the bath, the hot water and the mini-bar – although not necessarily in that order – luxuriating in the knowledge that the office rent was about to be paid and that she, herself, might just be able to afford a new bra, or at least some new wires to put in the old one.
The receptionist handed over the room key with what Dinah perceived was almost certainly a raised eyebrow. “Would you like help with your luggage?” she asked.
“No thank you,” Dinah replied, suddenly conscious of The Minions rucksack on her back. “I’ll manage.”
She had barely lowered herself into the foaming water when she heard the knock on the door. She had no doubt who it was. Nobody else knocked quite like Shaw. “It’s on the latch,” she shouted. “I’m in the bath. You did say the client was paying for the mini-bar didn’t you?”
“Well, yes, I…” Sheepishly Shaw peered around the bathroom door. “I… that is… they brought my suitcase up to my room for me – it took two of them – and now they… I don’t suppose you’ve got any change have you?”
“In my purse,” she said, fully aware that Shaw would give the porters the ten pound note that she had heretofore kept successfully secreted. “It will cost you both the gin and the Jack Daniels from your fridge.” Dinah heard the door click behind him as Shaw left and settled back into the bubbles, closing her eyes only for a second before she once again recognised Shaw’s impatient knock on the door. “I told you, it’s on the latch,” she shouted.
“I took it off when I left,” Shaw shouted back.
“Well, you know, you’re in the bath and…”
“Well, your purse is on the table.”
“Does it have anything left in it?”
“…I’ve brought the booze.”
Dinah raised herself from the warm embrace of soapy water and into the slightly prickly grip of an over-washed white hotel bath robe before opening the door to Shaw who breezed past her and into the room. He began to empty his pockets onto the table. “Gin, Jack Daniels, chocolate, peanuts and Pringles,” he beamed. “Which would you like?”
Dinah pouted. Or tried to. Her robe fell open and Shaw almost broke his neck trying to look the other way whilst she pulled it back together. It’s difficult to pout and giggle at the same time. “You got me out of the bath,” she said. “You can have the tin of lager out of the fridge… and the Smarties as long as you promise not to eat the blue ones… and then you can help me get the lids off these piddling little bottles and tell me what’s going on.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, why are we in this hotel? Why are we in separate rooms when one is so much cheaper and you’re perfectly happy to sleep in the bath with a cushion, and who is paying for the mini-bar?”
“You said that. So why are we here?”
“Well I don’t actually know yet. It was all done over the phone. The woman just asked if we would be prepared to take on a case that would keep us both out of the office for two days and, of course, I said yes because I thought you could do with the break and the office is so cold since they cut the electricity off. I asked if we could have separate rooms and she said we could have whatever we liked as long as we weren’t at the office. She said we should book into this hotel and just give her the bill when we’d finished. She said she’d let us know what we had to do once we’d settled in…”
“Did you get a name?”
“Well no, I…”
“So, how do we give her the bill?”
“Well, she’ll be in touch won’t she? To tell us what we need to do.” In contrast to Dinah, Shaw knew exactly how to pout.
“Tell me, this woman, did she sound just a teensy bit like our landlady?”
“Well, now that you mention it, her voice was a little bit familiar… Shall I go and get my suitcase?”
“I think we’ll be quicker without it. Come on, we need to find a back way out… and don’t forget the gin”
I know, I know, not what you’d really call truncated, but these two just don’t work in shorter doses…
Dinah and Shaw appear periodically through my ‘back catalogue’. Should you wish to follow their story you can do so here:
Episode 1. Excerpt from Another Unfinished Novel (Dinah and Shaw part 1)
Episode 2. Return to ‘Another Unfinished Novel’ (Dinah and Shaw part 2)
Episode 3. Another Return (Dinah and Shaw part 3)
Episode 4. Morning is Broken (Dinah and Shaw part 4)
Episode 5. Train of Thought (Dinah and Shaw part 5)
Episode 6. The Morning After… (Dinah and Shaw part 6)
Episode 7. Green Ink on the Back of a Pizza Delivery Receipt – (Dinah and Shaw part 7)
Episode 8. Searching for the Spirit of Christmas (Dinah and Shaw part 8)
Episode 9. The Writer’s Circle #31 – Dinah and Shaw (part 9 – Slight Return)
Episode 10. An Item (Dinah and Shaw part 10)