Rob Wellner was satisfied, even smug, about his life until the day God reached down and plucked the back of his head. That hurts, especially when the middle finger that does it is backed by divine force. As the tile floor rushed up to meet his face, he shouted but the words sounded like gibberish to his ears.
Detective Len Muller stepped carefully into the hotel room, nodding to the corporal standing guard next to the door. "The victim is just inside, lieutenant," the youngish looking officer said, "and we have his, uh, companion in the next room down. She said she was just keeping him company."
Muller allowed himself a twitch of a grin. "Thanks, Smitty" he replied. The lieutenant reckoned she had been keeping Wellner company. That, and the stack of bills the detective could see on the dresser further back into the room. It was a the typical high-end corporate suite, all gloss and dark wood without being freaky flashy. Muller figured that Wellner wouldn't have been that type even in his indiscretions.
The television was on, the volume low. Even without looking, the lieutenant could tell it must have been some rent-a-porno from the hotel services. He glanced over just in time to see some heavy-breasted woman wearing a gold thong rubbing oil all over a soft-looking, slightly flabby man handcuffed to a bed. Oh, hell, Muller thought, yet again with the porn.
The detective took two steps forward, looking down and through the bathroom door. Wellner's left hand was down on the carpet, at the end of his outstretched arm jutting from the bathroom. He was laying face down on the tile, his right arm pointing towards the toilet, his torso twisted and legs splayed as much as his stained slacks would allow. The hair, Muller noted, was still perfect. He stifled a laugh; the position the dead man was laying in reminded Muller of John Travolta in those posters for Saturday Night Fever, a notion he couldn't shake given the white pants Wellner was wearing.
There was a faint scent of urine on the air, and without stepping into the bathroom Muller could see the puddle of liquid at the man's waist. The dead man's pale buttocks stood out in sharp contrast to the mottled beige of the ceramic. The white pants were bunched around his feet. Muller saw he was wearing black wool socks, one of which had a small hole in the big toe. He noted, too, the small blot of blood pooled in front of Wellner's mouth. Muller sucked air through his teeth and stepped back out into the hall. Turning to the corporal, he asked "Smitty, has his staff been alerted?"
The corporal said "Yes, sir. They said someone would be here soon. Coroner's on his way, too, should be here in five."
"Thanks. I'm going to talk to the woman, what's her name?" Muller said.
"Imelda, she said. Wasn't carrying any ID, and she didn't tell us much except she didn't do anything."
Muller considered that, then strode to the suite door just down the hall. He knocked. "Detective Muller, coming in," announcing his presence as he opened the door, nearly hitting the officer who had come to open it. It was someone Muller didn't recognize, but he smiled and said "Thanks" by way of introduction. Beyond him, sitting in the chair at a small desk up against the wall, was a voluptuous woman dressed in a carmine-colored evening dress. She was pretty in a feline way, chestnut hair piled high over a heart shaped face. Muller noticed that her dress was slit up the sides, and she appeared nervous.
"Officer, would you excuse us for a moment? If you could wait outside the door? And if any of his staff or the coroner should show up, please keep them in the hall, and let me know. Okay?" The officer said yes and stepped into the hall, closing the door behind himself. Muller turned to the woman. She stared back at him, trembling slightly but with a "Fuck you" gaze won of many nights deflecting strangers advances until the money hit the hand. Muller conjured up his best friendly smile and said "Good evening, ma'am. I'm Lieutenant Muller. May I ask you a few questions?"
She sighed, boredom and nervousness quavering out through her nostrils. "Sure," clipping the word.
"What's your name?"
"Imelda...?" Muller let the question hang.
She rolled her eyes. "Just Imelda. Like Cher, she only has one name?"
Muller nodded, writing in his notebook. "What do you do, Imelda?"
She sighed again, shifting her legs. The dress fell open some, and he struggled to not notice the expanse of calf and thigh that was shining against the deep red fabric. "I keep people company."
The detective looked up from his notes. "Keep people company? What, like a professional friend?" He was being deliberately thick, and by the look of her raised eyebrows, she knew he was being thick. Her eyes narrowed a bit, and she said through slightly gritted teeth, "I'm an escort, detective."
"Escort? To where were you escorting the senator this evening, if I may ask?" he said.
Upon hearing the word 'senator', Imelda's eyes widened and she started up off the chair. She blinked rapidly at the detective, swallowing hard. Her long lashes fluttered like a trapped moth.
"S-s-senator?" she stammered. "I didn't know he was a senator!"
Muller was about to reply, but was interrupted by a knock on the door. "Come in!" he barked. Corporal Smith poked his head into the room. "Lebowski from the examiner's office is here, looking at the deceased. You want to talk to him?" the officer said.
"Not at the moment, Smitty. Let him know I'll be there in a minute or two." Smitty nodded assent and shut the door. Muller turned back to Imelda. "Yes, Senator Wellner. What were you two doing, where were you going?" he asked.
Imelda hesitated, still a little stunned by what she had heard. "I didn't know he was a senator," she began, "he never really said what he was. We were downstairs in the ballroom, some convention thing or fundraiser, I don't know. He did seem to know a lot of people. Me and the other...escorts...we were doing the usual look pretty and smile for the guys in the silk suits routine. Mark asked me..."
Muller held up a hand. "Mark? Who is Mark?" Imelda looked puzzled for an instant.
"The...senator. He told me his name was Mark," she said. The lieutenant raised an eyebrow, was about to tell her Rob's real name, then waved her on to continue.
"We had drinks, then dinner and some boring speeches. He kept looking at me the entire time, and finally he leaned over and asked me if I would watch a movie with him. I said sure, because its part of the contract to go along if it isn't something bad. So he told me he was going to go to the restroom for me, and for me to wait about five minutes, then come up to his room. He gave me a key." Imelda was talking faster, and a flush was creeping up her graceful neck. Muller could tell she was really nervous now. He remained silent in hopes of keeping her talking. Imelda gulped and started in again. "So he left. I sat there a while longer, then got up and went straight to his room. I let myself in and he was there messing with the television, and he told me to lock the door." She put her head into her hands, breathing slow.
"He asked me to sit on the bed, he was going to go to the toilet, he'd be right back..."
"You touch him in any way, give him anything?" Muller asked.
"N-n-oo, no way! I wasn't paid to do anything!" Imelda slapped a hand to her mouth, turning bright red. "I sat down, he went to the bathroom, and the next thing I hear is him yelling 'I better pull up my pants!'. It was then I heard a thump and he sounded like he was gargling or something." She was on the verge of tears. "That's when the door opened and I saw his arm on the floor. I ran over, he was on the floor, and he pissed himself, and I was shaking him, but I got nothing!" Muller scratched his head, wondering how to calm her down, when there was another knock on the door. He sighed, reached into his pocket for a tissue and handed it to Imelda. She snuffled into it as Muller went to the door.
It was Stan Lebowski, from the medical examiner's office. He looked bored as he always did, but slightly amused. He was looking past Muller, eyeballing Imelda in a way that was not quite professional. Muller cleared his throat. "Stan, good to see you. What's up, what do we know so far?" he said softly, trying not to disturb Imelda.
Stan tore his eyes off the escort, grinning at Muller. "Never a dull moment, eh, Len?" said Stan, "Man, must be the busy season for the pols. Wellner is the third one this summer to kick off!"
Muller sighed. "I know, Stan, but what can you tell me about the why and the how? She says she didn't do anything, I didn't see anything weird, so what's your take? Poison? Falling and breaking something, what?" He nodded significantly behind him, towards Imelda.
She continued to cry quietly. Stan softened his look, raised his eyebrows in an 'aha' moment, then said "Oh, man, no, nothing exotic. We'll have to get him back to the morgue to be sure, but as near as I can tell, the poor bastard had a stroke or something like it." Muller blinked slow, as if he wasn't sure he had heard the coroner correctly.
"So no evidence of needles or knife marks or any of that shit? No drugs or anything?" he asked Stan.
"Nope. None that I could see. You want to take another look before we move the sti---,er, deceased?"
Muller shook his head. "No, just make sure we got all the images we need." Stan nodded and turned down the hall. Muller leaned against the door frame, looking at the poor woman crying in the chair. If what Stan said was true, then this was probably Imelda's lucky day. He shook his head, moving over to give her the news that she was probably home free. Just another day on the job, he thought, tidying up after another chump with his pants down around his ankles.
By Irish Gumbo
For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Amanda challenged me with "His pants were down around his ankles" and I challenged jamelah with "I whispered prayers to you, on my tongue the mineral tang of salt and sea and the currents that carried you away."