Short pause. ‘Housekeeping, Hester speaking. How may we help you? '
‘There's a dead man in my bed. I don't like it. Untidy:
Another pause. ‘Caesar Augustus Escort Service, serving all tastes. Do I understand that one of our gentleman companions died in your bed? '
‘I don't know who he is; I just know that he's dead. Who takes care of such things? Room service? Garbage removal? House physician? And I want the sheets changed, too. '
This time they gave me background music while I waited. .. and waited - through the first two operas of the Ring Cyde and well into the third.
‘Accounting and bookkeeping, our Mister Munster speaking. That room was not rented for double occupancy. There will be an additional -‘
‘Look, buster, it's a corpse. I don't think a corpse counts toward "double occupancy". Blood is dripping off the bed and on to your rug. If you don't get somebody up here right away, that rug will be ruined. '
‘There will be a charge for damage to the rug. That is more than normal wear and tear. '
‘I beg your pardon? '
‘I am about to set fire to the drapes?
‘You're wasting your time; those drapes are fireproof. But your threat has been recorded. Under the Rooming House Act, section seven dee -‘
‘Get this dead man out of here! '
‘Please hold. I'll connect you with the head porter. '
‘You do and I'll shoot him as he comes through the door. I bite. I scratch. I'm foaming at the mouth. I haven't had my shots. '
‘Madam, please contain yourself. We pride ourselves on -‘
‘And then I'll come down to your office and find you, Mister monster Munster, and pull you out of your chair and sit down in it myself and turn you over my knee and take your pants down and. .. Did I mention that I am from Hercules Gamma? Two and a half gravities surface acceleration; we eat your sort for lunch. So stay where you are; don't make me have to hunt for you. '
‘Madam, I regret that I must tell you that you cannot sit in my chair. '
‘Want to bet? '
‘I do not Nave a chair; I am securely bolted to the floor. And now I must bid you good day and turn you over to our security force. You will find the additional charges on your statement of account. Enjoy your stay with us. '
They showed up too quickly; I was still eyeing those fireproof drapes, wondering if I could do as well with them as Scarlet O'Hara had with the drapes at Tara, or could I arrange a simple toga, like Eunice in The Last Days of Pompeii (or was she in Quo Vadis? ), when they arrived: a house doc, a house dick, and a house ape, the last with a cart. Several more oddments crowded in after them, until we had enough to choose sides.
I need not have worried about being naked; no one seemed to notice. .. which irked me. Gentlemen should at least leer. And a wolf whistle or other applause would not be out of place. Anything less makes a woman feel unsure of herself.
(Perhaps I am too sensitive. But since my sesquicentennial I have been disposed to check the mirror each morning, wondering. )
There was only one woman in this mob of intruders. She looked at me and sniffed, which made me feel better.
Then I recalled something. When I was twelve, my father told me that I was going to have lots of trouble with men. I said, ‘Father, you are out of your veering mind. I'm not pretty. The boys don't even throw snowballs at me. '
‘A little respect, please. No, you aren't pretty. It's the way you smell, my darling daughter. You are going to have to bathe oftener. .. or some warm night you will wind up raped and murdered. '
‘Why, I bathe every week! You know I do. '
‘In your case, that's not enough. Mark my words. '
I did mark his words and learned that Father knew what he was talking about. My body odour when I'm well and happy is much like that of a cat in heat. But today I was not happy. First that dead man scared me and then those bleeping machines made me angry. .. which adds up to a different sort of stink. A tabby cat not in heat can walk right through a caucus of toms and they will ignore her. As I was being ignored.
They stripped the top sheet off my erstwhile bedmate. The house physician looked over the cadaver without touching it, then looked more closely at that horrid red puddle - leant down, sniffed it, then made my skin crawl by dipping a finger into the slop and tasting it.
‘Try it, Adolf. See what you think. '
His colleague (I assumed that he was another physician) also tasted the bloody mess. ‘Heinz. '
‘No. Skinner's. '
‘With all due respect, Dr. Ridpath, you have ruined your palate with that cheap gin you guzzle. Heinz. Skinner's catsup has more salt. Which kills the delicate tomato flavour. Which you can't taste, because of your evil habits. '
‘Ten thousand, Dr Weisskopf? Even money. '
‘You're on. What do you place as the cause of death, sir? '
‘Don't try to trap me, Doctor. "Cause of death" is your job:
‘His heart stopped. ?'
‘Brilliant, Doctor, brilliant! But why did it stop? '
In the case of judge Hardacres, for some years the question has been: What keeps him alive? Before I express an opinion I want to place him on a slab and slice him up. I may have been hasty; he may turn out not to have had a heart. '
‘Are you going to cut him up to learn something, or to make certain he stays dead? '
‘Noisy in here, isn't it? Do you release the body? I'll have it taken downtown. '
‘Hand me a form nine-oh-four and I'll drop it. Just keep the meat out of sight of our guests. Grand Hotel Augustus does not have guests dying on its premises. '
‘Dr Ridpath, I was handling such things discreetly before you slid through that diploma mill. '
‘I'm sure you were, Adolf. Lawn ball later? '
‘Thank you, Eric. Yes. '
‘And dinner after; Zenobia will be expecting you. I'll pick you up at the morgue. '
‘Oh, I'm sorry! I'm taking my assistant to the Mayor's Orgy. '
‘No fuss. Zenobia would never miss the first big party of Fiesta; we'll all go together. So bring her with you. '
‘Him, not her. '
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