Hank Dolan exited a cab to find himself in the seedy back alleys of No Quarter. Overhead, a generator humming accompanied the buzzing of flies and stench of trash that littered the street. He stepped further in and knew the hostel was a few hundred yards ahead. Ten O’clock. Still early but you never really knew in this part of town.
Would Sadie flee here for refuge? He wondered. **************no spoilers***************** He felt unsure as to whether Sadie had even been there. The thought that she’d at least seek out help from someone she knew weighed heavily on him. Something didn’t add up.
Hank had seen much of No Quarter through the years, negotiated its shady areas and interacted with its inhabitants. It really was a different social ecosystem the further downtown one ventured. The closer one got to Hell in the south-east corner of the district, the rougher it got. At three to five am, no reasonable person would find themselves here unless stupid or desperate. When Pious McNally had built the hostel as part of a large network of retail spaces, it had been the hope that travelling tourists would inspire the city to invest in No Quarter. What actually occurred was a spike in robbery and other violent crime.
Hank paused at the doorway snuffing out a cigarette and loosened the grip on his sidearm. A decayed sign indicating the accommodations rested inert on the door. Ten dollars a night for a bunk and shared bathroom with god know’s who else.
Very unlikely. He thought.
Even on her best day, Sadie had an aversion to public bathrooms. Given her phobias, the likelihood of her sharing a bathroom here was doubtful and sleeping would be out of the question. Still, it was worth a look. He had seen what fear can do to somebody’s normal, everyday behaviors. Often, the pieces of their former self were shattered into tiny bits and left to be swept about in a breeze. If Sadie had come here it was also likely somebody would remember her or her eccentricities at the very least. No Quarter’s natives had a way of remembering the passerby who realized too late that the hostel was maybe not worth saving a few dollars in the budget.
Hank pushed open the door and stepped in. He heard loud chatter and the desk clerk admonish some poor addict. “I said no needles here!” Well this was a piss poor idea. He turned and made his way to the woman careful not to step on anything that might pierce his sneakers. He took out a photograph of Sadie and held it in front of the clerk’s spectacled eyes. Her rosy cheeks and round waist made her seem odd amongst the emaciated, drug-addled occupants that laid curled up and facing the wall on their bunks.
“You seen this girl in the last few days?”
The woman squinted. No doubt she was blind as a bat and the glasses virtually useless. “Can’t say I have.”
“She’d have maybe been here the night before last or yesterday evening.” Hank said.
“Alone?” The clerk stepped from behind the desk and crossed to Hank, her eyes focused on the photograph.
“It’s likely, yes.”
The woman picked up a clipboard and squinted some more. A heavy thumping and somebody yelling could be heard somewhere in the back. Hank stared at the kitchen, expecting someone to burst out with knives at any second.
“One moment.” The clerk said.
Turning around, the woman strode into the kitchen. “What is all this goddamn ruckus!” The violence in her outburst startled Hank, his body tensed ready to run.
“Sorry about that.” She said nonchalantly as she reentered the room. “Can’t let them walk all over you or that’s all they’ll do.” She folded a small switchblade and placed it on the desk. Hank closed his eyes and for a moment entertained the possibility of asking her where she was the night after last. In a low voice, he asked: “She didn’t stay here then?”
“Depends. You got a name?” The clerk said quickly. “We get a lot of one nighters and weekend guests.”
Guests? The woman made it sound like a resort.
“She probably would have skipped the spa and gym and just found a place to sleep.” Hank said drily.
“You are unbecoming sir.” The clerk responded.
The woman bent down until she was nearly touching the paper in front of her. Her eyes narrowed into slits. “No. Nothing under that name.”
Hank heard but his mind was elsewhere. It was likely that Sadie wouldn’t use her real name. She may have even put on one of Freya’s wigs as disguise.
“She would have been wearing gloves.”
“What sort of gloves? It ain’t snowed here ever.”
“Not the snow kind or the boxing kind. Just gloves. To cover her hands, she doesn’t like germs.”
The clerk frowned. “Well, I don’t know. We see so many…”
Hank stood throughout her whole performance resisting the urge to grab the ledger out of her hand. “She wouldn’t have ordered room service or a movie. Probably just stuck to herself.”
It was the wrong thing to say. The clerk looked up sharply and slammed the clipboard onto the desk. She quickly stood and went to the door.
“I think I’ve answered your questions.”
Hank stepped out and zipped up his jacket. “I won’t be giving this place a four star review.” He muttered.
“I should think not.” She relied curtly.