Sunday, 8 April 2012

Little Haversham Hotel

"This can't be right," said Miss Flava as she turned the wheel and guided the police car up the gravelled driveway of the Little Haversham Hotel.  Behind them, high hedges glared over high walls, silently communicating that visitors were not welcome, and the huge, wrought-iron gates, though open, suggested that they were ready to snap shut at the first sign of impropriety.  She drove the car slowly along the gravel, listening to it crunch evenly beneath the tyres, and looked at the vast, imposing building that came into view.  It reminded her of a larger version of the Great Cumulonimbus's house.
"Did you follow my directions properly?" asked Playfair, not looking up from the paperwork he'd picked up from the back-seat and was finally reading.  Behind him, Calamity sat up and barked, staring out of the passenger-side window.
"Then it's the right place," said Playfair.  "I picked the only hotel with the word Little in its name."
"Was it called the Little Little Haversham Hotel?"
"No.  That would be a stupid name."
"Then maybe you should have looked in up online before booking it," said Miss Flava.  "Accounts are going to have a fit when they see the bill."
"I did look it up online," said Playfair, turning a page back and forth, comparing text on the two sides.  "It has rooms, a bar, a small swimming pool and a restaurant."
"Why do we need a swimming pool?"
"We don't," said Playfair.  "I'm not expecting you to go swimming, Miss Flava, we're here to solve a crime.  A murder, of a very strange man, in a very strange fashion."
Miss Flava parked the car, and sat still for a moment, staring at the enormous building there were alledged booked into.  "Look at it, Playfair," she said at last.  "It's as big as Stormy's house."
Playfair finally looked up, scanned across the hotel, and nodded.  "It'll do," he said.
"Playfair, you know there's a budget for these things, right?  Accounts will have conniptions!"
"Yes, and no," said Playfair.  "I'm the budget holder for the department, right?"  Miss Flava looked at him, startled.  She hadn't known that her boss was allowed to manage any budgets.  "And we've used absolutely none of the accommodation budget for this year, and if we don't spend it all, it gets cut next year and we have to beg for every last penny we need as a result.  So, we're spending some of the available budget now to ensure that we have it when we really need it, and since two rooms in a B&B would probably go on petty cash, I had to book a real hotel."
"Petty cash?"
"There's a petty cash tin," said Playfair, packing his papers up.  "Check with Janine when we get back.  It's good for coffee, biscuits and prescriptions I think."
"Let's go and get checked in, I can see I've got a lot of thinking to do."
Reception was the long desk with computers, printers, electronic key writers and receptionists behind it, just as Miss Flava had expected; she was slightly surprised to learn that they had executive suites on the fifth floor, with a connecting door that had its own separate key  The receptionist gave her a look that suggested that she thought that they were an executive couple preserving appearances and explained when breakfast was, where breakfast was, and seemingly eight-hundred other things about the hotel's pool and spa complex, multifarious restaurants, room service regulations and towel replacement policy.
"...and I do hope you enjoy your stay," she concluded, with a smile that made Miss Flava wonder how much she spent on dentistry.
"Lifts are this way," said Playfair, pointing.  "Bring the luggage, Miss Flava!"

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