Chapter 24:  Website--The Valentine Special-The Guest from Hell


      The first guests to arrive on Friday was a Reverend and Mrs. Dudley Entwiler, what was going to have a kind a second honeymoon. They was somewhere in their late fifties and both of em was kind a dried up lookin, but they were nice enough and tipped Earle a dollar for carrying their bags up to the Britsh Mystery Room. They came in their own car from Delhi, New York-and looked independent enough to find their way to restaurants and such-so we all figured the next we'd see em would be at breakfast on Saturday.
     Right on their heels was a young man with enormous gray eyes and thick black hair what put me immediately in mind of Heathcliff. The one who gave that poor girl in Emily Bronte's book so much damned trouble. And sure enough, he'd had a big fight with his girl friend and was asking straight off if he could have a rebate on the room since now he was here by himself.
      "You are booked into Playwright's Corner," Earle said. "And in any case, all our rooms are taken and we have no accomodations that are specifically for singles."
      "But the attic room is less-"
      "Yes, and it's booked."
      "Well couldn't some kind of allowance be made…"
      "I'm afraid not," Earle said….He said it nice enough, but his voice was firm. Me and Huck thought that was right-I mean we was in business-but Heathcliffe didn't take it that way.
      "You're sure?" He fumed.
     We had set up a sort a check-in station business desk kind of thing in the front hall-it even had a little lamp over it so guests wouldn't break their necks on the stairs and sue us-and it was one of Earle's finest English Pine antiques we used for the desk and it looked very official, but welcoming at the same time. Earle tapped the leather book there he used as a registry. "We're completely full as you can see."
      "Ohohhhhh, nothing goes right for me, nothing!" Heathcliff cried squeezing his thin hands into fists at his side. Then he dropped straight to the floor in front of Earle and starting rolling on the Axminster rug like you do when your shirt has burst into flames.
     A half minute later he began to babble. "First my beloved Jane refuses to come away with me, now the curse of my perpetual bad luck is upon me again."
     His eyes rolled back, then he gave a kind of bay that wasn't very loud but put me in mind of the kind of yelp what is the harbinger of death when a stray dog tunes up-me and Huck knew about that, you bet.
     A long thread of spittle dripped out of Heathcliff's mouth-and then his eyes was snappin open and shut and flutterin like a drag queen's in a camp revue.
      "No wonder he booked Playwright's Corner," Huck hissed at me. "This guy thinks he's doin Hamlet-at least that line that says all the world's a stage..cause he sure is doin one hell of a job of actin right here on the rug…."
      "If Lawrence Olivier was alive, I don't think he'd have toworry none about the competition-" I meant because he'd played both Heathcliff and Hamlet, of course.
     Our Heathcliff, meanwhile, got to his hands and knees and shook his head a time or two-his great shock of hair swung. He cleared this throat and then looked up at Earle and said, "It's passed now, I'm all right again. Yes," he nodded, "I'm all right."
     Then he levered himself upright usin the newel post-which creaked considerable considerin how skinny the guy was. He had on a huge dark grey sweater I reckoned weighed more than he did.
      "All right.." Earle echoed in a voice that was so flat it sounded computer-generated. Earle warn't happy a bit. And I could tell he was thinkin about givin old Heathcliff his money back just to get rid of him. You just knew he was thinkin about what the hell would the Reverend and Missus would make of Heathcliff-the-guest-from- hell at breakfast-if he started in on his Lost Weekend routine.
      "Perhaps-some compensation could be made-'' But that was as far as Earle got toward givin im the boot.
      "Please let me stay." Heathcliff stuck out a hand and closed it over Earle's wrist "Oh please. I'll be good. There won't be any more instances. None. Really."
     Well Heathcliff might have called it a fight with his girlfriend, but if you ask me the girlfriend warn't nothin but a legend in his own mind. Probably somebody who talked to him once, but woulda thought twice about spittin on him to put him out if he was on fire. But it looked like we was stuck with im for the weekend.
      "Please!" his eyes snapped shut again, and I do believe if Earle had said no, he woulda started in rollin on the floor again.
     Earle nodded okay.
      "Thankyouthankyou" Heathcliff said so fast and with his jaw so tight it was like they was ants marching up his chin and into his mouth.
      "Oh Ted," Earle called--when as we all knew Ted was just inside the door to the kitchen-probably with his ear against it. "Oh, Ted-ddddd!"
     Ted popped out a second later and he looked terrified behind his fake smile.
      "Would you take Mr. Linton's bags to Playwright's-''
      "No luggage," Heathcliff whispered.
     No luggage, I thought. Lord, it was the innkeeper's nightmare.
      "Will you show him up-"
      "I'll find it," Heathcliffe said through gritted teeth.
     And then he bit his lip and, leaning as heavily as a drunk who lives in a five floor walk-up, began clomping up the stairs.
      "He is haunted," Ted said, watching him totter up the stairs and then turn left.
      "Crazy," Huck said.
      "No, haunted," Ted corrected. He gave a little shiver and went back to the kitchen. I figured Ted would have more to say about Heathcliff by and by.

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