Two agents from the Discreet Detective Agency staked out the Salem Hotel. Frank and I took the Eighty-eight Street Hotel.
The Eighty-eight Street Hotel was a scene right out of a detective novel. Calling this place seedy would have been a compliment. The walls were two different shades of green. Neither one especially appealing. The upper half a nauseating yellow green and the bottom half was a dark pea soup green. And both top and bottom walls were covered over with a greasy dirty film.
The scuffed brown floor tile with white speckling only enhanced its run down look. The blinds that covered the lobby’s windows had long ago turned a parchment tan and most of them were torn at the bottom with curled up edges. Others had collected a mélange of various stains. Pushed in the corners of the lobby were piles of dust and dirt, discarded coffee cups, used condoms and waded up tissues. A shriveled up old man with stringy gray hair sat behind a caged in counter.
When Frank and I approached the window his first words were, “we don’t rent by the hour.” I looked him straight in the eyes and replied, “Neither do I.” He looked me over from head to foot, and replied, “Oh, you’re the high priced spread.” Looking a Frank he added with a smirk on his face, “You’re into the kinky stuff.” I was about to set him straight when Frank stepped in between us.
“Listen mister, we didn’t come here to rent a room. We came for some information.” He scowled even more and scratched his scraggly old head as if trying to work up a credible answer in advance. A twenty-dollar bill relaxed the scowl on his face. Frank showed him a picture of Rebecca Schuster dressed as Lester Schuster.
He was here. Gone now I suppose”
“Do you know where he went?”
“Don’t know. What he do anyway?”
“He owes us some money.”
“How much money?”
“That’s between us and him.”
“You don’t look like the type to lend money”, he said looking directly at me.
“We just want our money back,” I said.
“Is there a reward?”
Frank slipped him another twenty.
“I haven’t seen him for awhile. But he has a girlfriend staying up there.”
“Some girl named, ah let’s see here, he said looking through his registry. Yes, Elise Rivera. I caught her trying to sneak in and out a couple of weeks ago. I put her straight. I said if two people gonna stay in a room I’m gonna charge for two people. I told her they were gonna pay for two people or get the hell out. I ain’t seen Lester since.”
“Any idea where she goes when she goes out?”
“The last time I was up there, I took a little peek. I saw a JFK employee ID tag.”
“When was that, asked Frank.”
“A couple of days ago.”
“Is she upstairs in the apartment, now?”
The old man shook his head, no, and his neck creaked from the effort.
“When do you expect her back?”
Before leaving, Frank slipped the old man another twenty not to mention our visit.