THE BLACK HACKNEY CARRIAGE puttered to a stop outside of the prestigious Silver Spoon Hotel & Resort. Their pudgy driver hurried out of the cab and opened the back doors on both sides. Jordan Monte and Bellamy Peterman emerged. The driver, sweating through his black suit and cap, rushed to the trunk and withdrew two large, finely made suitcases.
Jordan inhaled deeply, breathing in the pine and aspen trees, the fresh mountain river, and the hundreds of different vibrant flowers that had been planted outside the front of the marvelous hotel. He turned and looked down on the small town of Bexley that never seemed to alter, preserving its quaint self as if it had no other choice. It’s grid layout and charming downtown still remained intact and were always pleasant sights after a long year working in the fast-paced, buzzing cities.
“It’s as if nothing has changed, eh, Bellamy?” Jordan removed his spotless bowler cap and revealed his thinning black hair.
“Hmm… besides your newly forming widow’s peak, I suppose I don’t see anything out of the ordinary, but I do feel something,” Bellamy commented, his tone quite dubious.
Jordan laughed at his childhood friend. “Bellamy, take a breather, you are always the greatest skeptic. I dare say at the rate you worry your lifetime will be cut nearly in half.”
Bellamy removed his top hat and smiled, though his teeth hid beneath his handlebar mustache like pampered animals behind a cage at the zoo.
The cab driver struggled with their heavy, over-packed suitcases up the twenty step staircase. At the top was the entrance of The Silver Spoon. Jordan and Bellamy followed behind, taking their time admiring the hotel’s immaculate design elements and intricate details. There were six massive white columns that lined the front of the hotel, all laced at their bases in a gold trim. There were flowers hanging from every balcony and from each balcony an incredible view of the alpine mountains as well as the charming town of Bexley.
At the top of the steps faces carved directly into the white walls came into view. The human cutouts never had eyes and it always reminded Jordan of the statues chiseled during the times of the Romans. These faces weren’t majestic like the Romans however. None of them held the chiselled jawlines and broad foreheads. Instead, their cheeks were sunken and their features bent in as if the skeletons beneath their layers of skin were trying to forcefully poke through.
“I hate those things,” Jordan remarked.
Bellamy tapped his cane on the ground and then waved it in front of himself, clearly annoyed. “And what is this? No doorman and our driver has apparently already vanished inside without us. I swear The Silver Spoon and all of Bexley is deteriorating more and more each and every year.”
A gravely, roach of a voice spoke from the shadows of a nearby column, “Spare some change?”
Both men were frightened as they turned to find a homeless man holding a half-broken porcelain coffee mug out towards them, a few pennies and nickels nestled into each other at the bottom.
Bellamy’s blue eyes flashed like a storm in open waters. He scowled at the homeless man, who was dressed in brown and black rags, stitched together in some places, and concerningly open in others. There was dirt on the man’s face and his charcoal beard ran down past his shoulders. His skin was dark and he looked as though he’d just crawled out of a garbage shoot. Bellamy, unable to contain his disgust, brought the brass handle of his cane down on the man’s hand. The crack in the air sounded like a hammer pounding into a block of wood.
The porcelain mug fell and exploded against the ground. The homeless man shrieked back in terror, hiding his swollen hand beneath the rags on his chest.
“You, you terrible thing!” Bellamy raised the cane to strike the man again, but Jordan stepped in and stopped him.
“Relax, Bell,” Jordan said softly.
Bellamy lowered the cane to eye level and aimed it at the man menacingly. “Remove yourself from the premises before I have you arrested.”
At this threat, the grungy toad hopped up from his sitting position and scrambled down the side of the hill, kicking up dirt behind him, surely racing back to town through the woods.
A second later the pudgy cab driver materialized through the double doors, breathing heavily. “Thought I lost you two. Right this way.” He held the doors open and the two gentlemen entered the vast lobby together.
A giant mural depicting The American Dream was painted on the dome shaped ceiling. Beyond that, there were massive paintings hung from every direction in the lobby. Marble floors ran through every inch of the main floor and a massive diamond chandelier hung above the center of the room. Below it, stood a beautiful milk chocolate skinned woman, standing in baby blue high heels and wearing a tight fitting, curve highlighting yellow cocktail dress.
“My childhood friends,” the woman addressed Jordan and Bellamy as they approached.
“Claire my dear, or should I be calling you Mayor Dawson now? How are you?” Jordan said in as preppy a voice as he could manage.
Jordan leaned in and pecked her on both cheeks. Bellamy cordially did the same. “So you’ve gone from throwing fundraisers to running the city from the government side of things?”
Claire pivoted one of her baby blue heels childishly and corrected Bellamy, “Actually, Bell, that’s where you are wrong. I work on both sides and oversee all things Bexley. I’ve found that doing both makes my agenda run much smoother. While you two and everyone else left Bexley after you graduated from Phillips Academy, I decided to stay and give back to the community.”
They all had fond memories of Phillips Academy, a prestigious private school that hid in the mountains beyond Bexley.
Bellamy scoffed at the remark. “Given back. Claire, I hate to be that person, but just from driving through town and rolling through the hills I’ve noticed a lack of… what’s the word… pride. In fact, there was a human sized leech on the front porch of the Silver Spoon just out there, luckily I’ve chased him off for you. No thanks necessary.”
“Claire, I’m sure you are doing a fine job. You’ve always cared about the social issues, someone has to if things are going to get better,” Jordan insisted.
Claire seemed to be eyeing them both with a sly smile of reserved judgement. Jordan noted that she clearly wanted to say something snippy, but held her tongue. “I think you both will enjoy your stay at The Silver Spoon, it has never been a let down in the past. Also, the gala tomorrow evening is going to be unforgettable.”
Bellamy rolled his eyes. “Ah yes, another gala for me to give my hard earned money away at. Lovely.”
Jordan unpacked his suitcase in his suite, one pair of dress socks at a time. He always enjoyed packing and unpacking. It reminded him that he was one of the lucky few in the world that got to enjoy the act as a luxury throughout his life. Laughter came from outside the door and a moment later the lock turned and a plastic doll moved in towards Jordan, planting a kiss on his cheek.
Jordan checked the mirror above the dresser and rubbed away the plum lipstick mark that his wife had left behind. “How are you dear?” he asked.
“Lovely, the ladies and I are going to indulge in some early afternoon mimosas out on the deck overlooking the golf course. We can watch you and the others tee off from there!” she exclaimed, excited as ever to be on vacation.
“Excellent! Have you set a tee time for us like I asked?” Jordan inquired as he slipped on his golf shirt and expertly tied a green and yellow bowtie underneath his neck collar.
“Of course, now where did I put my yellow push up bra? I know I brought it and I swear Sharon is wearing one. Either that or she’s had work done over the last year.” Eleanor, Jordan’s wife, checked the suitcase and the chestnut drawers. “It isn’t here,” she griped, “I swear, I told the maid to put it in here.”
“Check the closet. Gloria may have misunderstood your instrucciones,” Jordan joked. Not a second after he finished putting on his golf cap a rattle and a joining THUD came from the closet. It seemed rather peculiar and rather loud. Eleanor and Jordan exchanged a concerned look before Jordan walked over and whipped open the closet door. There was nothing there.
“What was that, Jordan?”
Jordan shrugged. “Must be something in the walls. Old plumbing or something.”
“But it sounded so close.”
“Nevermind, lovely, here is your bra after all.” It was lying on the ground, singular from the dresses that were properly hung up and the shoes that were filed neatly below. Jordan snatched it and made a mental note of something dirty on one of the straps, almost like a sponge filled with mud had been pressed into it. Before his wife could see he rubbed out the dark smudge color as quickly as he could.
“I can’t tell you boys how happy it makes me to be reunited again!” Jordan exclaimed authentically. Joining Jordan and Bellamy on the resort’s pristine and private golf course were their childhood friends Robert and Nathan. They all tipped their caps to one another, brothers forged in the fires of adolescence some decades ago. The men slightly resembled one another, all handsome, well dressed, and each with an air of bred confidence that had been within them since birth.
“Tis a shame we must rule over different cities back in the real world,” Robert remarked, “but nevertheless, let us embrace our time here together. Shall we determine who hits first?”
They all nodded and partook in their yearly tradition which one their fathers had taught them some thirty plus years ago. Each man withdrew their own custom tee from their bags and then they stood in a horizontal line. At the same time they each threw the tees as far as they could and then followed after them.
Nathan spoke in a high, nasally voice, “Shocker there, Bellamy wins again. I do say that your size and arm strength has gotten the better of us over the years.” Bellamy was in fact the tallest and the most well built. If he hadn’t naturally gone down the business path he would have made a first class prize fighter.
Bellamy crushed his first ball with a remarkably powerful swing. The other three followed and landed their balls in the fairway, but not close to the distanced that Bellamy hit his. The four men waved to their wives out on the deck before departing in the electrical golf carts. Bellamy and Nathan rode together while Jordan and Robert paired up in their own cart.
Robert navigated the cart down the designated cobblestone path on the left of the course while Jordan admired the outstanding, long-living assortment of trees that lined the apple green, sharply trimmed grass. After a moment something occurred to him. “I’ve only just noticed Robert, but there are no caddies this year.”
“Right, makes sense,” Robert replied.
“How so?” Jordan asked.
Robert eyed Jordan and reactively slowed the cart a bit. Jordan clearly didn’t know. Robert adjusted his brown and red plaid golf cap so that it loosely hung from the top of his head. “Jordan, people have been going missing at The Silver Spoon Resort this year.”
“Missing? No, no, perhaps they have just decided to move or pick up a job down in Bexley. Lord knows when it is off-season up here it must be difficult to come across tips,” Jordan tried to reason out the shrill sounding statement that Robert had made.
“No, Jordan, I’m serious.”
“Well who has gone missing? In particular I mean.”
“Us?” The thought gave Jordan the shivers. He couldn’t imagine going missing up here at The Silver Spoon, not in a hundred year. Robert had to have been playing some mind game with him, perhaps to throw his golf swing off. Robert always was mischievous.
“Not us, but people like us. Barney and his wife Charlotte, Arthur and Caroline. They stayed late last year after the yearly gala to enjoy another week but they never returned. Police came to investigate but found absolutely nothing, no clues or traces of any sort.” Robert parked the golf cart and stepped out, searching for the proper iron in his brown leather bag.
Jordan, trying to take in what Robert was telling him, absentmindedly grabbed a three iron and stepped up to his ball. During his backswing he thought about his missing childhood friends and how it wasn’t plausible that he never heard about Arthur and Barney. He topped the ball mistakenly and the little white ball plunked into the bunker in front of the green.
“You are hitting a three iron!” Nathan laughed at him and the others, even serious Bellamy chuckled along.
Ignoring them, Jordan sauntered over to Bellamy. “Bell, have you heard about Barney and Arthur?” Jordan asked.
Bellamy pulled a cigar out of his pocket and lit it with a long match. He puffed at it and watched as Richard put his ball onto the back of the green. Bellamy stared past the course and into the distance for a long moment, contemplating the question that had been asked. Eventually, he nodded and added, “Why do you think I’m here?”
“What do you mean?” Jordan asked.
“I’m here to find out what happened to our friends. This town, there’s some grime and filth spreading in it and I’m afraid Barney and Arthur may have fallen victims to its darkness.” Bellamy’s eyes were like icy lakes, impossible to read and difficult to see through.
“Why am I just now hearing about this?”
“Jordan, I tried phoning you, but your line has been dead all year, everytime I called a dead dial tone greets me. Honestly, I thought you may be missing as well.”
Jordan stroked at his chin and then snapped his fingers. “Ah, when we moved I received a new telephone number. I should have reached out. Damn, part of me just figured we were drifting away like old ships lost at sea. I was too embarrassed to call too, damn my arrogance.”
Bellamy placed a large hand on Jordan’s shoulder for a brief moment and then moved over to his ball and struck it brilliantly with his pitching wedge. The ball landed only a couple feet from the hole.
The front nine was a splendid experience, Bellamy leading the pack and the other three chasing after him as per usual. The summer breeze swayed the trees and the soft grass provided an extra cushion underneath all of their padded shoes. The back nine sloped downwards into a rocky valley where rivers and streams criss crossed through fairways. Birds spoke to each other in the trees and the sun began to dip ever so slowly behind the rugged peaks.
On hole thirteen, a heroically designed par-4 with a patch of small woods to the right, causing most players to lay up on the fairway to the left, Jordan decided to make a gutsy play. He was a handful of strokes behind the others and figured if he could pull off the long and accurate drive that he could make a run. The others dogged him before he even attempted the shot. His body was positioned directly at the thick woods on the right, just beyond the tall trees lied the green on a circular plateau. Nearly the entire green was visible through the thicket of woods as there was a clearing through the trees that led directly to the green, this path was seldom traveled as most golfers laid up on the hole.
Jordan gritted his teeth and crushed the ball with a precision and focus he was rarely able to muster during a round of golf, his mind always wandering. Nathan removed his hat and marveled at the ball that soared over the tall oaks and pines like a sparrow traveling at lightspeed. “Well I’ll be damned,” Nathan remarked, and a second later the ball bounced onto the green and rolled a few feet past the hole. They could all see it through the narrow clearing. The other men patted Jordan on the back and Jordan couldn’t help but wear a wide grin across his face, the possibility of an eagle at his fingertips.
The others took their respective turns and as they approached the green, their carts parked on the path, something extraordinary happened. Some person, hunching low the ground, hobbling speedily like a deranged lunatic, scurried near the flag poll, reached down and plucked Jordan’s golf ball from the green. He gave the four men a psychotic, twisted facial expression before bolting in the opposite direction of them into the forest that hugged the chiseled mountains.
Jordan stormed onto the green waving his club wildly, the others following in a stir of curiosity and confusion. It was evident from atop the green that it was a dirty man scampering off. He resembled the homeless man they’d run into that morning, but it was a different person. This one had burnt orange skin and a ponytail running down towards his rear. He wore a muddy grey sweatshirt and baggy black pants.
“What the hell is going on?” Jordan looked over and saw a serious coldness in Bellamy’s eyes, his mustache stiff and his eyebrows stern.
“I’ll be right back.” Bellamy, with his putter in hand, trotted down the hill and sprinted into the woods where the stranger had vanished into. The other three watched the odd spectacle unfold.
The four men trounced up the black steel spiral staircase up onto the club balcony to find their wives and past lady friends laughing loudly and sipping different colored martinis with immense pleasure. They all hushed at the presence of the men and Claire, the outspoken woman she’d always been, was the first to address them, “Bellamy, what on God’s green earth happened to you?”
Bellamy grunted and crossed his arms, refusing to speak. Robert, getting a kick out of the whole ordeal, gladly explained, “Why, Bellamy decided to chase after some lunatic into the woods. When he came out…” Robert began laughing uproariously and the others laughed along, including the women. The laughing was contagious and Robert couldn’t find a way to utter the rest of the story. Eventually, he was able to calm himself and continue, “Bellamy waltzed out of the woods covered in muck because he had fallen into a hidden swamp patch!”
Bellamy threw up his arms and stomped away angrily. The women laughed along until Nathan spoke in his nasally voice, “What have you lovely ladies been up to all this time? Gossiping I’m sure.”
Eleanor rolled and landed her eyes on the beautiful Claire Dawson. “Claire has just been trying to open up our purses for tomorrow’s gala. Claire, you’ve always been quite the sympathizer.”
Claire lifted her olive green martini and gulped down the rest of it. “Someone has to help those less fortunate than ourselves.” She smiled and winked at Jordan flirtatiously. Jordan thought perhaps that no one noticed the wink besides himself. He’d always had a small thing for Claire, for the fiery activism that she displayed, for her long smooth legs, and for her charismatic presence. Jordan shook his head, releasing the alluring thoughts.
`In the tallest tower of The Silver Spoon Hotel and Resort there is a place for gentlemen to gather and enjoy one another’s company in privacy. With grand vertical windows spread along the entirety of the room, a gorgeous, breathtaking scenic view of the high mountains and the lit up down of Bexley below could be seen. A telescope was stationed partially out of one window, providing a closer look at glowing planets and dazzling constellations. The tower pierced low hanging clouds and inside, Jordan, Bellamy, Richard, and Nathan hovered over a pile of cash and a deck of playing cards.
Nathan quickly dealt the cards in clockwise order. They were nearing the end of their game of hearts and the points were close.
“You’d better not stick me with that black bitch again,” Richard remarked, pushing back his long red hair. Of course, by the bitch, he meant the queen of spades. Whoever ended the game with that card at this late stage, virtually lost, and with the points this close and hands being played ultra conservatively, the queen of spades spelled doom.
One by one they played cards down in the center of the table, attempting to duck one another’s cards and avoid picking up hearts. Finally, with only a hand to play, everyone tossed in their cards at the same time and three of the men roared in laughter as Richard sat there glumly, inevitably stuck with the queen of spades.
“Shut up, Nathan, by my count you didn’t win, that looks to be Jordan over here, slyly edging out Bellamy for first place,” Richard stated.
“I don’t care that I didn’t win; you know the rules!”
Richard stood up testily. “Yes, yes, I know the bloody rules.” Richard dug into his loafers and pulled out a sienna colored wallet. He withdrew five crisp one-hundred dollar bills and tossed them into the pile. Jordan smiled gleefully and raked the nearly one-thousand dollars in towards his chest.
“Oh, wipe that smug look off your baby face for Christ’s sake, Jordan,” Richard snipped before pacing to the end table and pouring himself some brandy. Richard put his eye close to the glass as he squeezed the last droplet out of the vessel.
“I’m going to ring for another bottle of Remy Martin.” Richard spun the dial on the old school black telephone and a moment later someone answered.
“I’ll cheers to that.” Nathan raised his short glass which was empty save for a few ounces of melting ice.
Richard hung up the phone. “Excellent, thank you, Daniel.”
The gentlemen sat around the octagon table reminiscing about stories of their childhood. Bellamy played with the cards, amusing the others with sleight of hand tricks. He’d been rather quiet all night, clearly annoyed since the incident in the woods. There was never a dull moment between the four, recounting adolescent exploits and marveling at just how far they’d all come in the decades past.
“What’s taking Daniel so long?” Richard checked his gold watch.
“He’s here,” Bellamy noted with a slight tone of dread in his voice.
“How do you-” There was a knock at the lone door of the room and Nathan looked at Bellamy in amazement. “After all these years, Bellamy, you can still hear someone coming from a mile away. That’s why you were always the lookout during our nighttime shenanigans.”
Robert pushed back his red locks and crossed the room. When he opened the door he sprang back in alarm. A remarkably tall man stood in the frame holding a bottle of Remy Martin atop a silver tray. The man had a scar across his face, running all the way through one of his eyes. That eye was nearly white and surely didn’t work.
Robert snatched the crystal bottle from the tray apprehensively and eyed the man with suspicion. “Where is Daniel?”
The tall man spoke in a deep voice and kept his teeth hidden beneath his unusual bulbous lips, “I have taken his position for the evening.”
“Right, um, be sure to charge the bottle to my room then.”
“Of course, sir.” The freakishly tall and disfigured man who had a reasonable amount of black dirt or sludge on his undershirt bowed and flashed a smile, revealing his mouth for the first time. Robert subtly recoiled in reserved terror, baring close up witness to the man’s dental situation. The tall man’s teeth looked like a jagged shoreline with centuries of moss growing on them. A few teeth were missing and the dark red stains near the man’s gums, well it looked as if the man had just drunk a gallon of beet juice before making the climb up the spiral staircase.
Robert shut the door and returned to the table. “Did you see that?” he asked the others.
“I come to get away from the grime of the city, not to be surrounded by it,” Nathan complained.
“Devilishly interesting and most peculiar,” Bellamy said softly, more to himself than anyone else.
“What’s that, Bell?” Jordan asked, always interested in Bellamy’s take.
“Gentlemen, we find ourselves in the midst of strangers. I fear that home is not what it once was, that the apple trees no longer grow in the sunlight, but rot in the shadows of scheming mountains.”
“What are you playing at?” Nathan asked, poking fun at Bellamy’s gothic, riddling response.
“Nothing, I suppose it’s the four missing people that are stuck in a pit of mud treading in my mind. Where are they going?” he whispered the ominous question aloud and the others pondered Bellamy’s troubling words in silence.
Jordan, smelling of rich cigar smoke and decade old cognac liquor, returned to his room. There, lying in anticipation across the bed was his wife of twenty years. She was presenting Jordan with what his late hours at the office over the years bought him, a perfect woman by all accounts of the word, showing off the ruby red, intricate lace knickers and lavish brassiere. There were hooks attached to the bottom of her underwear that connected to stretched out, matching red fishnet stockings. The boudoir lessons she’d insisted on taking were on full display. Eleanor was laying on her side, her curves abound.
The room was spinning and Eleanor patted the king mattress in front of her, gesturing for Jordan to join her. As he stepped towards the bed he realized that he was in no shape to perform. At the rate they’d been passing around the cognac in the tower he would be more inclined to vomit before engaging in physical activities. Still, the opportunity was rare and he collapsed on the bed and let his wife do her bidding.
Everything was a blur, the pictures on the wall, the dark oak dresser, the single lamp on the end table, even Eleanor herself, who maneuvered drunk Jordan around like a puppet. His mind was elsewhere too, thinking on his friend’s words: We find ourselves in the midst of strangers…
The loud pair of sounds came from behind Eleanor’s back. She froze with her hands pressed into Jordan’s chest. Jordan suddenly came alive and Eleanor’s dramatic fears raised out of her like she was a teenager again, parents knocking at the door when boys were certainly not allowed over at such an hour. She hopped off Jordan at an odd angle which caused him to shriek, a surprising yank of pain coming from below.
Eleanor shuffled to the head of the bed, pulled up the green silk sheets towards her chin, and waited for Jordan to act. “Are you going to check it out or not?” she snipped at her husband, who was trying to pull his pants up around his waist.
Jordan rolled his eyes and then meandered over to the closet. When he opened it he looked around and there was nothing to be found. Nothing. That’s extremely odd, he thought. He rubbed his chin, a habit he often performed when something perplexed him. He bent down and found a small square cut out at the bottom of the closet. He would have thought nothing of it if not for the subtle oddities that the day had presented him with. There was, ever so difficult to see, but it was surely there, a series of small black fingerprints around the square. Must lead to some wiring in the wall, he figured.
Jordan stood in the closet which was now completely empty. All of Eleanor’s Chanel and Dior branded clothes were gone, every last article, including her three sets of shoes that she had packed.
“Well I’ll be damned.”
“What is it, Jordan?” Eleanor whimpered.
“Eleanor, I think it best if we spend the night with the Petermans tonight.”
“You two are going to leave us here!” Eleanor exclaimed, opposition in her voice.
Bellamy spoke, “Eleanor, you and my wife will be more than fine. Have some brandy from the cupboard if you think it’ll help you relax. Jordan and I won’t be more than twenty minutes.” With that, Bellamy closed the door and left Eleanor and Vivian in the room. Bellamy and Jordan had made sure to check every inch of the room once Jordan expressed his concerns and they found no strange hand marks, funny noises, or anything particularly out of the ordinary.
They strode down the carmine red and canary yellow carpeted hallways. Diamond patterned lines ran through the floors and crawled up the walls in thin lines like vines growing up an old cottage. The dizzying patterns called up a slight amount of nausea in Jordan. He was more than relieved when the massive staircase, opening like a whale’s mouth, appeared and they took it to the lobby, the walnut railing steadying Jordan down the steps.
Behind the front desk, where there was usually a concierge at all times of the day and night, there was nothing, only a wall full of box compartments, each with a gold label underneath correlating with their room numbers. Bellamy, clearly frustrated by the lack of customer service, pressed his palm repeatedly against the tiny silver bell that sat atop the desk next to a bowl of peppermint candies. There was a shuffling of feet from somewhere beyond and then a woman appeared in front of them.
Her shirt was slightly untucked, her teeth were somewhat crooked, and her hair should have been a much richer brown than it was for her apparent young age. She couldn’t have been more than 30 years old. Her hands were particularly dirty.
Bellamy eyed the woman, seriously questioning the professionalism of her appearance. “Miss,” he started, “Where is the hotel manager?”
“Oh,” she giggled the word, “They are not in right now. Is there something I can help you with?” The woman’s eyes were that of a child’s and she seemed to be holding back a fit of extreme laughter as she spoke, like she knew a secret they didn’t, or perhaps she just enjoyed telling people no, some people of the world were certainly that way.
“What about the owner, Mr. Banks?” Bellamy began tapping his large fingers on the countertop like horse legs beating against the ground, expecting some sort of answer.
“I’m afraid they are away.”
“When will he be back?!” Bellamy raised his voice.
“Oh, he is on an extended vacation right now. I’m afraid his return is a bit of a mystery to all of us here at The Silver Spoon, but if he happens to return in the middle of the night you’ll be the first to know.” The woman was being sarcastic now and oddly emphasizing any word relating to the owner.
Bellamy seemed to grow in stature in that moment, his muscles tensing up and his nostrils flaring like a raging bull. Jordan placed a soft palm on his back and Bellamy twitched his way, his eyebrows raised, clearly forgetting Jordan had been there all the while. Bellamy was certainly on edge.
“Let’s take a walk, friend,” Jordan suggested. Bellamy’s eyes softened and he nodded. Before turning Jordan gave the crooked looking concierge woman one final look, focusing on her nametag. Sonya. The two men shrugged off the unhelpful woman and strode out the main double doors out into a starry night.
Jordan now led Bellamy down to the rippling river towards the west end of the resort. It had always been one of Jordan’s favorite places to spend time. The water lapped over smooth stones and the moonlight glistened off the river as it had for centuries past, creating a dreamlike scene that had been untouched in recent memory, innocent in its tranquility.
“There was something odd in that woman,” Bellamy mentioned.
“Bellamy, try and relax. I am saying this to you as a friend. We only have one more night here and this is a special time for us every year. Nothing is worth getting pent up about. We’ll be traveling on trains and pushing papers in our offices soon enough.” Jordan took a deep breath and inhaled the serene nature that surrounded them. “This is heaven. This is bliss. Sure, the hotel may be diminishing in slight ways, but this beauty cannot be tarnished. It is God’s gift to us and-”
“What the hell was that?!” Jordan turned on his heels and a fright stirred within him.
“Bellamy, did you hear that?”
Bellamy shushed Jordan and stepped delicately away from the river, back onto the cobblestone path. Jordan followed embarrassingly close behind Bellamy, using him as a protective barrier as they moved in the crisp darkness.
“It came from over here,” Bellamy whispered.
Indeed, Bellamy was correct and the noises grew louder and more frequent as they neared a thick series of bushes around a few overgrown willow trees, some of their branches dangled all the way to the water.
There were heavy moans and violent grunts somewhere in the bushes. They stood only a few feet away from a couple clearly engaged in intercourse. The noises coming from the risk takers were not that of soft passion but were strictly erotic.
Bellamy turned to Jordan, who had a disgusted expression on his face. Bellamy meant to move in closer but Jordan grabbed him firmly by the arm, mouthing the words, “What the hell are you doing?”
Bellamy ignored him and stepped quietly towards the bushes. Jordan stuck to him like a leaf bug. The scene came into view and the pair of them watched in awe as the moonlight hit the duo in the small grass clearing being used as a bedroom.
All they could see from their angle was a dirty, filthy, muck covered man heaving in and out, breathing the scraggly breaths of a long time smoker and drug abuser. The woman screamed and begged for the man to work, “Faster, Harder, Harder!” she said in a deep and commanding voice.
Bellamy and Jordan pulled back from the sight and tiptoed away from the scene.
“So much for nature remaining clean,” Bellamy joked.
Sleeping on a pullout couch had not been in the initial travel plans and Eleanor was clear in expressing her distaste and satisfaction for the resort. The breakfast at the dine-in restaurant was fine, nothing special, the unique hollandaise that was once lathered atop the eggs benedict was nowhere to be found and each member at the table had at least one piece of silverware missing from atop their napkins.
“Why don’t we head into town for the day? We can get away and enjoy the quaintness of Bexley,” Jordan suggested, the ever optimist of the group.
“I’m content to remain in the room until the benefit tonight. I’m embarrassed enough having to borrow Vivian’s clothes and shoes.” Eleanor remarked glumly.
“It’s nothing, really, Eleanor,” Vivian said.
Claire sighed. “There is a change, Eleanor, I am seeing it too. When I woke up this morning both of my blue heels were missing. For the life of me I can’t imagine what may have happened to them,” Claire admitted.
That was all Eleanor needed to hear. “You see, I’m not moving a muscle today.”
“Oh, Eleanor, don’t be such a spoiled sprout, at least let us have some drinks out on the deck and I was hoping to get some sort of a tan down by the pool today. The new towel boy can lotion us up,” Vivian, Bellamy’s wife, said with a hint of intended scandal in her voice. Three of the gentlemen at the table, Jordan, Richard, and Nathan squirmed uneasily in their seats, the idea of a strapping young lad tending to their wives a bit uncomfortable.
“That’ll be just fine,” Bellamy said, not a care in the world. “The rest of us will wander down into town and see if anything has changed. I think it’s a fine idea, Jordan.” He nodded towards his long time friend.
The grand sandstone fountain in town square was still running, stores were still open, and there were still people gallivanting about. This is the way things had always been.
“The town is more alive than I suspected,” Bellamy stated, his black and gold cane in hand.
“Why don’t we meander down to the winery?” Nathan suggested.
“Save your stomach for tonight, Nathaniel, that’s where the heavy drinking will take place. Honestly, that’s the only way I can donate the extreme amounts that Claire expects from us every year. At least she’s kept the town generally clean,” Richard said.
The group rounded the corner onto Memphis Street, a strip locally famous for its upscale wardrobe, high quality furniture, and restored antiquities. There, at the center of the red brick laid street was normally a polished, white marble obelisk that had been dedicated to the founder of the town, a man of Egyptian descent. The boys used to play around the always clean monument, but there was no room for playing of any kind on this day. Huddled around the obelisk in black, slowly moving clusters, were packs and packs of homeless people. All of them were dirtied from head to toe, wearing tattered caps, torn shirts, and lugging around ripping sacks of garbage. They moved like mud around and around one another, creating the sick illusion of a long and forgotten carousel, all of its parts moving at a snail’s pace, but all together a broken piece of worthless machinery.
Jordan felt horrible for all of the mutt dogs that were on leashes, attached to the hips of their homeless owners, of course not by choice. They would have ticks, diseases, and surely must have hungry, starving days.
“I think I may throw up,” Bellamy said half-seriously.
“Yes, perhaps my wife was on to something when she insisted that the resort was better off than anything that could be in Bexley,” Jordan replied, “At this sight, I think The Silver Spoon is looking as clean as a whistle. Shall we return?”
Some of the homeless men and women began to depart the carousel they were on, becoming fully aware of the four gentlemen’s presence. The few that strayed from the core began limping and hobbling towards the men. They reminded Jordan of zombies from George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, their skin pale, yet everything else about them dirty, dark, and sinister. They were holding mugs in their hands, routinely shaking them back and forth, a sick jingle forming between the band of them. Jordan noticed that Bellamy was gripping his cane rather tightly, surely ready to strike one of them as he had the day before.
“Spare some change.”
“Please, help us, for we cannot help ourselves.”
“The night is coming and our resources are few.”
Nathan stepped in bravely and spoke, “Why don’t you all go down to the homeless shelter that we funded last year. It is around here somewhere, no?” Nathan looked to the others for confirmation.
“Surely,” Robert responded, “I believe Claire said it was on Pearl Street or was it Jake Boulevard? Either way, there are resources there that can help you all get back on your feet.”
The dirties dragged their feet towards them, deaf to their words, continuing with their practices lines, almost as if it were an art form and they were method actors, unwilling to be tampered with by any outsiders.
“Donate to a disabled vet.”
“I have a family to feed. Anything helps.”
“Money for liquor to get me through.”
The beggars were now about ten yards away. Nathan stepped back into the others. “Quizzical,” he muttered.
“Most. I don’t like it. Let’s return.” Bellamy led the way and before long they were around the corner and out of reach. Though they were now out of sight, the camp of wandering, hopeless ants still remained there in the black hole, whether they liked to think about it or not.
Richard called for a cab to take them back up to the resort. On the way up the winding road, Jordan couldn’t help but shake the image of those less fortunate souls moving towards them like molasses. Was there something, dare he say let alone think it, beautiful in the way they were? Perhaps they didn’t need or want permanent help, that they were content to live in that way, much like the roaming gypsies that for so long covered the world before industrial developments grew as unwanted weeds.
Would Monet, Van Gogh, or Picasso have painted these creatures as modern mythical legends similar to sirens or harpies of ancient Greek mythology? Jordan toyed with this abstract idea all day. They shared multiple drinks with their wives and did whatever they could to kill time until the gala taking place later that night, this included croquette in the gardens, wrestling in the pool, and watching Bellamy mesmerize everyone with coin and card tricks. Everyone’s spirits seemed to generally rise over the course of the day and by the time the sun had begun to sink, sooner even than the day before, couples were fleeing to their rooms to ready up in their most expensive dress wear. Eleanor was fortunate that Vivian had packed multiple formal dresses.
Jordan, trying to recapture the innocence that had been lost the previous night, decided to meander down to the river on his own. Out of curiosity, he cautiously approached the area that the couple had been sexually engaged in. The rough clearing was now abandoned, the bright blue flowers popping off the thorny bushes around the willow trees. There was something in one of the bushes that looked unnatural but Jordan couldn’t quite make it out. Already in his suit, he didn’t want to risk the thorns cutting into the suede, so he did his best to lean forward to steal a more advantageous view. The thing was round and made of plastic, something was jutting from it.
“You coming old feller?” Richard called from a balcony of the resort.
The town of Bexley was quiet as could be when they all arrived and sashayed down the open downtown streets together. All stores were closed and the iconic stone fountain at town’s square had evidently been drained from the time they’d been there in the early afternoon. A bent cardboard sign was leaning against the stone at the base of the fountain. The black, sloppy, barely readable sign read:
ClOsED FOr Fall
When Claire had told them that the benefit was being held at the Modern Art Museum at the end of Memphis Street, all the men had exchanged nervous glances. None of them had told their wives of the horde of homeless people that now ruled the street, but to their amazement, the street was cleaned up and deserted. No packs of grimy men and women with their heart disease stricken dogs and jingling mug cups remained. The walk to the museum at the end of the road was a pleasant one with bubbly conversations and a summer turning to fall breeze swifting through and tickling their ankles.
The museum was filled with abstract pieces, many of which had not been moved over the years. The museum had always placed the highest regard for local artists that derived from Bexley, but artists over the years declined and became far and few between. The most successful ones, those that learned and honed their skills at Phillips Academy, were scattered across the world working on a high-commision basis, far too busy to donate work back to their childhood town.
The small square rooms rolled into one another, each dedicated to a different form of art: sculptures, paintings, metalsmithing, and so on. There were about fifty guests in total, all descendents of different classes from Phillips Academy over the years. The tight knit groups of various graduated years still attending together the yearly gala together. Jordan and his group recognized a few of their younger and older classmates and they were sure to share hugs and kisses with all of them. While they spoke of their businesses and crafts back in the real world, waiters moved in between them like black brush strokes, blur like, champagne glasses being pulled from their silver trays without gratitude.
TING! TING! TING!
Claire, wearing an elegant cream lace dress, had managed to get hold of a butterknife from somewhere and stood atop a small wooden crate in the main room. “If I could have everyone’s attention. We are going to move into the ballroom now and proceed with dinner. Also, I have heard a few mumblings about where and how to donate. Have no fear, donations will be taken at the end of dinner. You’ll find your individual names on notecards at your seats.”
At that, behind Claire, two wooden doors were propped open from the inside and guests began shuffling through and finding their tables. Their group of eight perfectly filled the round table. Water glasses were already filled to the top, in fact, in many of the them the ice had melted and the water was beginning to spill onto the purple table cloth beneath it.
Each table had their own designated waiter. There’s was a man with jaded white hair, wrinkly skin, and had a severe hunchback. Jordan thought there was a brown smudge on the man’s face but it easily could have been a misfortunate birthmark. He introduced himself and took the table’s drink orders.
As he dropped the various custom drinks off to each of them, he stated that dinner would be out shortly. He wasn’t lying. Just a single minute later plates filled with long strips of rare Buffalo were distributed, each with a side of pan-fried Chives. The food was excellent, mouth-watering really, and more than the lot of them expected.
“I wish Barney and Charlotte could have made it this year,” Vivian expressed, “They would have loved this.”
“Yes, and Arthur and Caroline. It isn’t the same without them,” Eleanor acknowledged.
They spoke as if the two couples, their friends of old, were not missing or vanished, but on an extended vacation. This bothered Jordan to his core, the fact that they all were content with pretending. A thought occurred to him, a brief memory, no, even simpler than that, a single picture frame. He was standing at the desk with Bellamy the night before and he caught a glimpse of the woman’s name tag. What had been her name? Sonya, that was it, Sonya! But the girl, the one who had stood behind the desk, that hadn’t been Sonya.
No, Sonya had been working there just a year before. She’d been a sprightly young thing with short brown hair, a beautiful smile, and inviting lips. Yes, that is how Bellamy had described her after they’d slept together. They’d been chatting out on the golf course, just the two of them, and Bellamy had confessed to being with her. “Those inviting lips are irresistible,” Bellamy had said.
Something was stirring in Jordan now, his hair up on its ends. He remembered asking Bell about it and he’d admitted that he and his wife had recently agreed on having an open relationship. Something was wrong. The name Sonya was too rare for another woman named Sonya to be holding that position at The Silver Spoon. The woman who had been there had been so unsettling too, absolutely not up to the high standards that the resort held.
“May I take your plate sir?” The waiter was now only inches from his face. That was no birthmark. Jordan nodded, trying to piece the subtleties together.
Jordan tapped his finger against the table and as the others laughed and prattled with one another, his mind wandered to a frightening place. Two small portioned desserts arrived in front of each of them. One was a hot and steamy Apple strudel and the other a golden brown Creme brulee. His friends dug into the desserts, consuming them quickly. Jordan’s senses were heightened. The lips around him smacked like goats, they drank their wine like pigs from a trough, and the smell of both desserts, well they were steamy, but smelled more burnt than anything, and somehow Jordan thought there was something unnatural about them.
“You are not enjoying the dessert options?” The old man had returned in a blur. Jordan shook his head and motioned for them both to be taken away.
A microphone was being tapped somewhere and the speakers reacted violently, a loud screeching following through, many benefactors shielding their ears. It was not a tactful way to get everyone’s attention, but it got the job done. Claire stood behind an oak podium on stage. The beautiful activist held the gazes of the wealthy aristocrats, all of them who had over the years gradually abandoned Bexley, taking their tax dollars and donations elsewhere.
“Good evening friends and patrons.” Claire had changed outfits; she was now dressed in a flowy red dress and three antique necklaces hung from her long neck. Her hair had been professionally done up and host or not, her exotic beauty demanded everyone’s attention in that moment. She was truly stunning.
“Over the years you have all been gracious enough to give portions of your earnings back to this wonderful town, the one we grew up in together, and the one that has gifted us with countless memories that we hold dear to our hearts. I want everyone to raise a hand high in the air if you can agree that Bexley has been good to you.”
The hands shot in the air and people exchanged smiles and glances full of memories with one another.
“Excellent, you can put your hands down,” Claire spoke in a teacher’s tone. “I would ask you all if you have given back to Bexley what she has given to you, but I know the result that we would get.” Claire smiled elegantly and the listeners in the crowd nodded in agreement, plenty pleased with themselves.
Jordan pinched his wife on the elbow eagerly. “Eleanor, switch seats with me.”
“What?” she asked, confusion lining her face.
“I need to have a word with Bellamy.” Jordan looked at her with wide eyes and subtly, they switched places.
“Bell,” he whispered and Bellamy leaned in, his mustache extra waxy and nearly tickling Jordan’s face.
Jordan spoke with an urgency that Bellamy couldn’t ignore. “Bell, the girl last night at the front desk, her name tag read Sonya.”
At the sound of this name, Bellamy recoiled in his seat and looked around the grand ballroom nervously. Fear fell upon him.
Claire’s voice boomed and she spoke with a serious darkness in her, “Here Bexley rots. The donations over the years have declined rapidly, last year being only enough to serve the homeless for a single month. Now, who will donate tonight to the homeless with their hearts?”
Oh my God, Jordan thought, that blue piece of plastic, that was most certainly a heel!
“Jordan, we need to get out of here now,” Bellamy’s hand gripped firmly onto Jordan’s wrist. They both stood and urged the others to get up, but they only looked at the pair in bewilderment and Claire spoke louder now, with the voice of God.
“Who will give with their hands? Who will give the clothes off their backs? Who will give themselves fully to those less fortunate? You will.” That was a statement. A few murmurs ruffled through the crowd. Jordan and Bellamy struggled to get their wives to their feet.
Claire continued, unbothered by their standing. “You will finally give back to the community that raised you and Bexley will be great again!” She raised her hands triumphantly in the air and now the audience was befuddled and restless as the great reveal was upon them.
Jordan shuffled around and his heart pounded as he searched desperately for exits, but the doors, even they couldn’t be seen, for they were being obstructed by brooding waves.
There were rows of dirty, grimy, slugs inching, pushing into each other as they approached the helpless circles of the entitled upper class men and women. They were like an uncoached, untrained, hungry army, the slowness of their arrival made the moment all the worse for those who were now backing into the center of the room, the women wailing and the men doing their best to stick their chests out and appear brave.
In front of their table, Bellamy stood, his shoulders broad and his sleeves rolled up. Jordan thought that if Bellamy were to ever die, it would be in a fight to the death, that calmed him in some way.
“I will create a gap and you all will only have a few seconds to dash through,” Bellamy told their friends at the table.
They weren’t getting through the hordes. There were hundreds and the numbers were growing somehow.
Jordan turned back towards Claire. This had all been her doing. She believed she was liberating them with this mutiny. Her eyes were relaxed and fulfilled as if the end credits were about to roll on her favorite film.
Jordan’s final thoughts rolled in like the tiny waves lapping on a sandy beach, pleasantry always at the forefront of his mind. I’ll miss that mustache of yours Bellamy and the way you were. Perhaps I loved you more than the others. I wasn’t in love with you, but just your state of mind, always able to entertain us, yet remain three steps ahead. Eleanor, you were lovely. My other friends, you’ll always be dear in my heart, even if that heart is to be devoured. Jordan laughed at that final thought.
Jordan adjusted his black bowtie and through his glossy, water filled eyes, he recognized some of those coming at them like animals. The homeless man that Bellamy had cracked with his cane. The one from the golf course that ran away like a maniac. The concierge from The Silver Spoon, the outfit she’d surely stolen from the real Sonya. The man with the scar across his face that had delivered the Remy Martin. And a few from Memphis Street that moved as a unit, licking their lips hungrily.
Bellamy, admirably charged into the black, blurry row of monsters and began to throw punches and kicks with as much strength as he could muster. He knocked a handful of them back to the ground, but he wasn’t prepared for their willingness to attack the skin. They dug into him with their nails and even the athletic, physically gifted Bellamy couldn’t hold off their numbers, their sharpened, decaying teeth sinking into his flesh.
The others tried to rush forward past the group that had toppled Bellamy, but they didn’t get far. Jordan, unable to watch his friends go in that way, turned back around and sat in his chair. He gazed up at Claire who was walking down the steps. She meant to join the horde in their feast. Jordan thought about Claire last night, being the one in the bushes, if he had listened more closely, perhaps he could have made out her commanding, devilish voice.
Jordan spoke his final words, “So long Silver Spoon.”