Five

The important thing is confidence.

“You can get into practically any party, however exclusive,” she’d told me gleefully, way back when. “You just have to look as though you belong. No, look as though you’re above it. Be aloof. Be bored. Just walk in.”

I yawned at the footman, who obligingly held open the door for me.

It’s a plush hotel. Must cost a bomb. Elegant antique furniture, chandeliers, guests dressed to the nines sipping champagne, pristine staff waiting eagerly to be instructed, a shiny grand piano in the corner with a suited player tinkling away…

I kept expecting someone to stop me as I traversed the marble floor, but no one batted an eyelid.

The elevator was lined with mirrors and red velvet. It arrived smoothly at the ninth floor in mere moments.

The corridor beyond was hushed and still, smothered in clean soft furnishings.

I followed gold-plated directions to 908, feeling apprehensive as I turned a corner – but there were no awaiting police, the room was not blocked off, no guests or chambermaids were in sight…

I slid the card smoothly into the slot by the handle; a green light winked solicitously and the door clicked open.

It didn’t feel like a hotel room. Not simply because it was so big – a generous sized suite – but because it was lacking that temporary, transitional feel traditionally embedded in hotels. The suite was filled with possessions; there was no sign of a suitcase waiting to be whisked away at a moment’s notice.

There were piles of books; the wardrobe was full to bursting with clothes, as were all the drawers in the bedroom; there were heaps of folders and papers in the living room; the bathroom had more lotions and potions than a branch of Boots.

Did Briar actually live here?

My eye paused at a framed photo; a standard family holiday pose, Briar with his arm around a smiling, beautiful woman with shiny brown hair; each was anchoring in place a scowling teenage child.

Wife and kids? Hadn’t seen that one coming… did they even know yet that he was dead?

I turned guiltily away from the smiles, concentrating on my allotted task, rooting hopelessly through his possessions.

“It would help if I knew what I was looking for,” I muttered to myself.

“It would help if you told me who the fuck you are.”

I whirled around, staring dumbly.

A woman in hotel uniform was standing behind me, holding something stiffly.

She was very still with controlled anger.

The thing she was holding was a gun.

She was aiming it at my chest.

“You can’t be the police,” she said calmly. “They’re all in 601. That’s the room he is officially staying in; the room all his paperwork relates to, that the payments in his official bank account are attributable to. That’s the room he has sex with random people in and takes business associates to. That’s the room he was murdered in. So. Who the fuck are you? What the fuck are you doing here?”

“My name’s Kit,” I said quickly, holding up my hands. “I was a friend.”

“He didn’t have friends,” she spat, momentarily losing her cool. She clicked the safety catch. “Did you kill him?”

“No! No! I’m not a murderer!” I tried to look her earnestly in the eye as I pleaded with her to believe me, but I kept being drawn back to the gun.

“Look at me! Do I look like a murderer?!”

She raised the gun so that it was pointing between my imploring eyes.

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