“The best thing about alcohol is that it makes your bad judgment more socially acceptable.”
--Death Of The Party
I couldn’t have been in that hallway for more than ten minutes…probably considerably less. But it felt like an eternity. All of a sudden nothing seemed to make sense. Why did I need to know Anatoly’s room number? Was I really going to go up there and confront him in front of a woman? Perhaps a naked woman in his bed? Did I really want to have her lying there smugly listening to my hysterics?
I was acting on instinct and raw emotion, which is exactly what had brought me to Anatoly to begin with. What kind of idiot was I to trust in those things again?
The anger began to slip away and I started to feel just…empty. I shouldn’t have come to Vegas. What was the point? What was the point of doing anything?
I stepped into the lobby just as the Kinky green-eyed man stepped off the elevator. He walked over to me and his eyes were sympathetic. His sympathy made me want to cry.
“Room 608,” he said softly.
“Together?” I asked and he answered me with a nod.
“Right, well now I know, right? I mean I had to know otherwise…otherwise I wouldn’t know and that would be bad.” I knew I was babbling but if I stopped talking I’d have to think and…and feel this. “You should cash that check soon,” I continued. “Who knows, maybe you can turn that two hundred and fifty dollars into two thousand, right? I mean this is Vegas! Anything can happen in Vegas!”
I could feel the strain of the smile on my face, all big and fake. I could feel Anatoly’s arms around me, hear his laughter, feel the way he used to brush my hair from my face.
“Don’t use it on the slot machines, worst odds in the casino, you know.” Just keep talking. Talk so you don’t cry.
“Can I get you a cup of coffee?” he asked. “A little conversation over mochas? I’ve been told I’m a good listener.”
“Mochas, I don’t’ usually drink mochas.” I looked up at the overhead lights. They were too bright for the theme of the hotel and way too bright for my mood. “I don’t think I can carry on a coherent conversation right now either.”
“I didn’t say you had to be coherent,” Mr. Green eyes said…what was his real name again? Andy? No Alex. Alex Kinsky. Should be easy to remember…but there was no need to.
I kept my smile plastered across my face but looked away. “Thank you, Alex, but I I’m gonna pass. Enjoy the rest of your night and, um, thank you for…for telling me.” Thank you for confirming my worst fears, thank you for letting me know my entire love affair with Anatoly was a lie.
I relayed the brief story in its entirety, stopping only long enough to consume large gulps of alcohol. Dena and Marcus exchanged looks when I got to the part about the check but neither of them chastised me for it. Instead they just bought me another drink. Marcus placated me by noting that the busty-blonde girl looked skanky. He even took it a step further by insisting that Anatoly was an asshole who didn’t deserve me. Dena remained noticeably silent.
“If we want good seats we should probably go up to the movie theater,” Marcus said, glancing at his watch.
“I’ll meet you there,” I mumbled. “I have to go to the ladies room.”
“I’ll go with you,” Dena said as she tried to link her arm through mine.
I jerked away from her. “I don’t need your help.”
Dena narrowed her eyes. “Excuse me, but did I do something to piss you off?”
“It’s what you’re thinking right now,” I slurred. “Your thoughts are pissing me off.”
“So you’re a mind reader now?”
“You’re thinking that Anatoly didn’t do anything wrong this time. You’re thinking that I broke it off with him and he’s a free agent!” I slammed the rest of my drink before adding, “You’re thinking that anything goes in Vegas, especially if you’re newly single! Go ahead, tell me where I’m wrong.”
Dena’s eyes were now so narrow I could barely see them through her eyelashes. Marcus kept his face as blank as possible as he looked around the room, studying the light fixtures, his glass and various other inanimate objects.
“I don’t think it matters if I was thinking that or not,” Dena said, coolly, “because clearly you were.”
“I’m going to the ladies room,” I growled, “unassisted, thank you. I’ll meet you at the theater.”
Dena opened her mouth to protest but Marcus, finally bringing his eyes back to his present company, patted her reassuringly on the shoulder.
“Sophie’s a high functioning drunk. She’ll make it to the bathroom and the theater by herself.”
It was a small triumph that Marcus thought I was a high functioning anything at that moment and I spared him a small smile before spinning on my heel and walking off. My phone vibrated in my bag. A text from my friend, and Dena’s cousin, Mary Ann. I didn’t even bother to read it. I didn’t want to deal with her or anyone else right now. I didn’t even want to go to the ladies room. I had just wanted a moment to myself to catch my breath. Everything had taken on a hazy quality. The colored lights of the slot machines seemed a little softer and…well, fuzzier. And the laughter of the gamblers, the ringing of the bells…it all took on an almost meditative quality. So much noise and stimulation all designed to keep your from thinking anything through. No wonder I had acted on impulse, recklessly signing a two hundred and fifty dollar check to a stranger just so he could confirm some bad news. Reckless impulsivity was what Vegas was all about. It all made sense…particularly after five cosmos.
Abruptly I changed course and went to the elevators that would take me up to the sixth floor.
As I rode up I tried to find some level of clarity despite the intoxication. Would I really hit him? What about her? She hadn’t really done anything wrong. It was all him!
And yet it really would be fun to slap her.
I found room 608 easily. I’ll listen first, I thought. Find out if they’re…in the middle of anything. The thought made me nauseous, although the vodka was probably partially to blame for that. I leaned forward and pressed my ear against the door…
…and stumbled forward as the door opened with the slight pressure of my body.
It had of course been open the whole time. The deadbolt had been pushed out so that the door wouldn’t automatically lock. If I had been sober I probably would have noticed that before pressing my head against it.
Yet I wasn’t quite so drunk as to miss the fact that I was the only one in the room. Just me and a bed that clearly hadn’t been touched since it had been made up earlier in the day.
But it was Anatoly’s room. That was his jacket draped over the chair by the window.
If this was his room and the bed was still made then he hadn’t slept with her after all! I half skipped, half stumbled over to that jacket and took it up in my arms. He hadn’t even taken her anywhere because if he had he wouldn’t have left his jacket…
Wait a minute.
I sat down on the chair and stared at the door that was still being forced slightly open by that deadbolt. Why had he left the door open when his stuff was in here? That didn’t make sense. I squeezed the jacket closer to my body. It smelled like him and it felt…lumpy. Why did it feel lumpy?
I reached into the inside pocket and pulled out his iPhone. He left the room without his iPhone? That wasn’t like him. I sat there for a moment staring at the device. This would be a confusing situation even if I weren’t intoxicated. As it was I was completely stupefied.
“Okay, think about this,” I said aloud. “He left the room. He also purposely left the door open and he left his jacket and iPhone here. Those are the facts.”
I was quiet for a moment. Listing off the facts hadn’t been as helpful as I had anticipated. Maybe I needed to list even more facts. “I’m in Anatoly’s room and there are no bimbos in it and the bed hasn’t been slept or fucked in recently.”
These facts weren’t any more helpful but they were much more fun to say. I closed my eyes and enjoyed the mild dizziness. Things didn’t always need to make sense, right? As long as he wasn’t letting Mr. Happy go spelunking everything was okay. I opened my eyes and let my gaze lazily move around the room.
And then I saw something on the desk. I stood up and went over to it. Carefully, I touched the cool silver metal of the money clip I had given Anatoly last year, his initials clearly engraved on the front of it. Inside the clip were five ten dollar bills.
He left fifty dollars in the room.
He left the door purposely open
He was nowhere to be found.
These were not fun facts.
I was beginning to feel more sober. Now clutching both the money clip and the jacket I checked the bathroom. No one there. The towels were still perfectly folded which meant the shower hadn’t gotten any more use than the bed. There was a travel toothbrush and toothpaste set next to the sink that were still in their original packaging and...a small bottle of Aveeno Positively Radiant Daily Moisturizer cream.
Anatoly didn’t use Positively Radiant Daily Moisturizer. Of course he should use it. I loved that particular product and had tried to get Anatoly to use it as well. I was of the firm belief that everyone should have a strong skincare regiment, regardless of their sex. But Anatoly never listened to me about that kind of stuff and when you considered why I threw him out it seemed unlikely that he would try to win me back with newly radiant skin. And yet someone had to bring the Aveeno here and that someone obviously wasn’t me.
I backed out of the bathroom and then turned to examine the room again. I spotted Anatoly’s duffle bag on the floor. Hesitantly I opened it up. On top were a couple of his t-shirts, some jeans, under that a few pairs of boxer briefs and under that…
Under that were two rounds of ammunition. The ammunition Anatoly used for his snub-nose revolver.
With a new sense of urgency I started rifling through the bag and running my hands along the lining. His gun wasn’t in there. It’s fairly rare that someone packs ammunition without packing their gun. So he had left his iPhone and fifty dollars behind but taken his gun? That suggested he wasn’t out filling an ice bucket.
Why would he have brought his gun to Vegas anyway? And if he had his gun on him now it was undoubtedly loaded; Anatoly never carried an unloaded weapon. So that was at least three rounds of ammunition. For God’s sake, how many things had he planned on shooting?
My heart was beating a little faster now.
Maybe the gun was in the drawer. I opened the top drawer of the dresser. What I saw there did NOT make me happy.
Women’s underwear! Son of a bitch! He hadn’t just picked up some random, drunk, slut. He had actually checked in with her! Less than a week after we broke up! Even Dena would take issue with that! And I knew this chick was a slut because of this stupid skimpy thong…actually it wasn’t that skimpy. I had the exact same one at home.
I also had the same pair of bikini panties that were underneath those and I owned those same bras too. My head was spinning as I opened another drawer.
There was the Michael Stars t-shirt that I had left in my dresser at home along with my BCBG knit top and my scarf that I had bought with Anatoly at the North Beach street fair.
In yet another drawer were two pairs of my jeans.
I looked down at my hands. They were shaking and this time it had nothing to do with the cosmos.
That’s when instinct took over. As quickly as possible I took out every item of clothing and stuffed it all in Anatoly’s bag. I ran into the bathroom and snatched up the Aveeno and threw that in his bag as well. I didn’t know what was going on other than that it looked like someone wanted others to think that this was my room and I had a very strong feeling that if that’s what they wanted it was very important that no one ever reach that particular faulty conclusion.
I could barely feel the effects of the alcohol anymore. Adrenaline had taken over. I grabbed a washcloth from the bathroom and wiped down everything that I had touched.
“Anatoly, where are you?” I asked the empty room. I desperately wanted to leave but then what if he came back?
I glanced over at the closet. Would more of my clothes be in there? I rushed over to the closet door and threw it open.
There, underneath a few of my sundresses that were hanging from the rod, and on top of my beat-up overnight bag that I never used anymore, was the blonde bimbo.
She was just lying there…with a bullet hole in her forehead.
“No.” I said the word out loud but this time it didn’t feel like I was talking to myself. It was more like a prayer. “No!” I said again and then pressed my fist against my mouth.
She was dead! Dead and draped over my overnight bag! As if I was planning on packing her or something!
And Anatoly was nowhere to be found.
I had to do something right now! But what? I started to reach my hand towards the woman, as if to feel her pulse but quickly withdrew it. People with bullet holes in the middle of their foreheads did not have pluses!
I felt myself gag against my fist. I tore my eyes away from the woman and yanked my dresses out of the closet. I had to get the bag too. I gagged again but forced myself to pull it out from underneath her. She flopped forward and I nearly screamed before I finally resolved to shove her back in the closet with my foot and then slam the door.
Someone wanted it to look like this was my room and now a woman…a woman who was recently hitting on my boyfriend, a woman who I had paid a stranger to follow, was dead in the closet.
Calling the police was simply not an option.
I bit down harder on my fist. What were my options?
Oh yeah, I needed to get the hell out of there.
I threw my dresses and Anatoly’s jacket in my bag and with effort managed to scrunch his duffle bag in there too. Using my foot I opened the door, then thought better of it and used the washcloth to wipe down the doorknobs and undo the deadbolt so the door would actually lock behind me. Swiftly, and keeping my head down, I walked toward the elevator.
And with each step toward the elevator the same thought rang through my head.
What happened to Anatoly?