Old Memories in an Old Hotel
While seeking revenge dig two graves—one for yourself. —Doug Worton
The private car pulled up at the Warwick Hotel, and Jack and Sadie got out.
At the entrance, the doorman, Walter, offered him a gentle salute and said, "Welcome back, sir!"
"Thank you, Walter," said Jack, tipping his hat to him.
"I see Sadie's joining you again, sir. We always enjoy seeing her, you know," said Walter, as he leaned down to stroke Sadie's back.
Sadie liked Walter. He always brought her treats from the kitchen. The entire staff at the Warwick loved her. Jack had stayed here so often on business trips and vacations over the years that management had pretty much given her the run of the place.
The Warwick Hotel was located at 65 West Fifty-Fourth St, in midtown Manhattan, square in the heart of New York City. Right around the corner from the Avenue of the Americas, it was a perfect place for any visitor: close to Broadway and almost next door to the NBC studios and Radio City Music Hall.
The Warwick, commissioned by William Randolph Hearst in 1926, had hosted the most famous of the famous, including the Beatles and Elvis Presley. Cary Grant had made the hotel his home for twelve years. It was a European-style hotel with over three hundred rooms and suites that overlooked Sixth Avenue.
The Warwick was known for its impeccable service. Jack Steel, raised in the mountains of upstate New York, had been coming here since he was a small child. The Warwick was his father's hotel of choice when he came to the city. Jack had carried on that tradition and had been coming here for more than fifty years. He cherished the happy memories in this old place. Over the years he had used the hotel to host his good friends and happy occasions and had brought his wife and daughters here for many a holiday visit. Now he just brought the dog. He used it as his New York City headquarters, to prey on those who came to prey on others.
Jack and Sadie walked into the lobby of the grand old hotel and approached the front desk. The desk manager, Sonya, called out to him.
"Mr. Steel, welcome!" Sonya, like Walter at the front door, was genuinely happy to see him.
It's probably the dog, he thought.
"Hello, Sonya. Merry Christmas to you!" said Jack, taking off his hat and gloves and looking around the lobby.
It was crowded with happy people enjoying the city at Christmas time. A beautiful large Christmas tree covered with ornaments stood in the center of the lobby. Boxes wrapped with Christmas paper surrounded the bottom of the tree. A young couple pulled their two young children away from the presents.
"They're not real, you guys," he heard the father say.
The little girl, probably four or five, looked up at her father and said, "Why aren't they real, Daddy?"
Jack smiled as he observed the exchange. A thousand questions, he thought to himself. As he looked at the young kids, he thought of his own—now married young women with children of their own.
Sonya interrupted his thoughts.
"I see you have your usual suite, Mr. Steel," she said as she looked at the computer.
Jack's attention was brought back to the pretty blond desk manager. All of the staff had their country of origin on their nameplate. Sonya's was Norway. How degrading, he thought. It was bad enough to have to wear your name on your chest, let alone where you came from.
Sonya looked at him as he looked down to attend to Sadie. She liked Mr. Steel. All the staff did. They thought he was a real gentleman, and he was kind to everyone. He was obviously wealthy, but he didn't force it on you, like so many guests did. He always made everyone feel good, and he did so sincerely. He meant it, and they knew he did. He was dignified in the way he carried himself, and he never missed anything.
"This place wouldn't be the same without you, Sonya," he said, handing her his American Express card. "In fact, I wouldn't come here if you weren't here." He smiled at her.
She knew it wasn't true, but she didn't mind hearing it.
"And why would that be, Mr. Steel?" she said, smiling back at him.
He leaned forward on the granite counter and looked straight into her eyes. "Because you're the prettiest girl in New York."
He's good, she thought. She knew damn well she wasn't the prettiest girl in New York, and he damn well did too, but you wouldn't know that to hear him, she thought. He delivered that line like it was the absolute truth. She'd had a bitch of a day. After all, it was Christmas in New York. The hotel was sold out, and the staff was running at a breakneck pace. But just for a moment, she felt wonderful.
"Thank you, Mr. Steel! You've made my night." And in fact, he had.
He looked at his watch. It was nine-thirty pm. Time to hustle.
Jack and the dog went to the staff elevators behind the main ones. These were the ones he and Sadie always took. She was a big German shepherd, almost one hundred pounds. He didn't want to frighten the guests, so he had made an arrangement with the staff to use the back elevators. Sadie liked them the best because there always seemed to be room service carts with trays on them coming down from the rooms. She could smell the leftovers, and Jack always gave her unopened packs of crackers left on the trays. Sadie knew right where they were and what was in them and pulled on her leash to get to the elevators from the lobby. As the elevator rose to his suite on the twenty-eighth floor, Jack gathered the crackers and fed them to Sadie. By the time they arrived at their floor she had eaten twenty-two of them.
They exited the service elevator and entered the main hallway. Jack went to suite 2801, swiped his card, and opened the door. As he did he let Sadie off her leash.
"Get 'em, Sadie!" he said as they entered the room.
She went in quickly and began her search. She knew when he was serious, and this was not one of those times. She spent the next five minutes sniffing and poking around the suite.
Jack threw his suitcase on the stand at end of the bed and unlocked it.
He checked his watch again. Where the hell does the time go? Then he thought of Ralph Jeffries, for whom time would soon stop forever.
Jack hung up his garment bag in the closet without removing clothing from either piece of luggage. If he had to leave New York in a hurry, he wouldn't have time to pack.
Next Jack opened his briefcase and reached for his Walther PPK .380 automatic, originally invented in Germany after World War I. PPK was an acronym meaning Polizeipistole Kriminellmodel, which translated to "police pistol, detective model." They were originally carried by the police and military in Hitler's Germany, and the all-steel construction meant they were durable, dependable, and suitable for use in the harshest conditions. Jack's was an older weapon, built sometime in 1937.
He had asked the firearms examiners at the police lab to trace its origin many years ago when he first got it. Interesting history, he thought, not for the first time, as he reached for it. The weapon had been taken off a dead German officer by the American GI who had killed him. The young soldier had smuggled it home. The years passed, and the by then old veteran had taken it to a pawn shop in Miami, where he had retired, and pawned it to buy food. That's where the Walther and Jack had met. It had been in perfect shape, and Jack bought it. The gun used by monsters of the German SS to kill was to be used by him to kill monsters who preyed on the young.
The gun was clean, and the action was fine. Jack chambered the first round. There was now one in the chamber and six in the clip. He had never needed more than one. He had never used more than three. Sometimes, he knew, when killing, you used more than you needed—when anger took over.
Jack placed the firearm on the dresser.
He went to his garment bag in the closet and reached in the zippered side pocket. He removed a small camera tripod, unscrewed one of the small round cylindrical legs, and removed it.
He held it up to the light and looked through the hollow interior. Jack held it to his lips and blew through it to make sure that nothing had gotten into it during transit. It was clear. Jack took great care of the piece. It had been made by an old friend who owed him a favor, an old friend who made things that weren't supposed to be made.
He screwed the small cylinder into the end of the Walther. The cylinder had become a silencer. He placed what was left of the tripod back into the garment bag and slid the weapon into the right front pocket of his long winter coat. It was almost ten-thirty.
"Time to go, Sadie," Jack said as he placed his scarf around his neck and donned his hat.
Sadie whimpered and began to dance around. She knew they were leaving. She could tell from his demeanor this was more than a walk. They were going hunting, and she loved hunting.
Jack leaned down to hook the leash to her collar and looked directly in her eyes.
"It's time to say good-bye to Mr. Jeffries, Sadie. Are you ready?"
Sadie barked once, and they left.