The late hour and lack of proof gives Gemma pause when she gets to the suite’s door, her hand repeatedly rising in vain to knock. She wishes she had her badge or some way to identify herself as a police officer. The temptation to steal an employee uniform and try to trick the couple into leaving is strong enough to make her go back to the elevator. Gemma returns to the door when she considers that a staff member could catch her and let Dawn know about her solving the riddle. Believing that time is short, she knocks and takes a step back to give whoever looks through the peephole a clear view. She keeps her hands in the open to prove she is not armed and turns until she hears a chain being undone.
A bald man in a monogramed robe stands in the doorway, his moustache bristling in a way that the detective thought was only possible in cartoons. The faint aroma of pizza drifts off Demarcus even though he shows signs of having recently been in the shower. He has a small gun in his hand, but keeps the weapon aimed at his unexpected guest’s knee instead of a more vital area. In contrast to her portly husband, Alicia Lang is elegant and slender with braided hair down to her waist. With only a few wrinkles on her face and no gray in her tresses, she looks much younger than Demarcus. Gemma notices that the businessman keeps himself between herself and his wife.
“I have reason to believe someone is trying to kill you,” the detective says, which causes the gun to aim for her head. Carefully holding up her hands, she nervously licks her lips and prays there are no sudden noises to startle the man. “My name is Gemma Cook and I’m a New York City detective. I don’t have my badge with me because I’m undercover. We believe a serial killer is operating out of Heaven’s Nest and you are the next target. The person told us that they are going after someone who made a kingdom out of circles, squares, and triangles. That would be pizza, which is your business. Feel free to let me inside since it’s awkward standing out here and rambling.”
“I think we’re fine like this,” Demarcus replies, flicking the safety off his gun. The man stops when his wife lowers his arm and gives him a kiss on the cheek. “Don’t tell me you believe this woman. She has no badge and I smell alcohol on her breath. I bet she’s going to ask for money to protect us.”
“Actually, I was going to politely suggest that you leave in the morning and stay at another hotel,” the anxious officer interjects. She closes her eyes when the gun is back in her face, the opening for a strike still visible in her mind. “Please believe what I’m saying. You’re in danger and I’m risking my cover by warning you.”
“She does seem determined,” Alicia whispers, sliding between her husband and the door frame. She reaches out to touch the other woman’s face, her manicured nails grazing a sweaty cheek. “I wonder if she rushed up here. Still, I do agree with Demarcus that we need more than your word. Are we being targeted for money?”
Gemma takes some comfort in the questioning because it means they are giving her a chance to save their lives. “From what we can tell, the murderer simply enjoys killing. He or she has begun playing a game with the police by leaving hints. Yes, I know it sounds like something out of a movie. This person has gotten away with a lot and is getting bolder. That means the targets are becoming more high profile.”
“We were lead to believe that a cook was responsible for the latest incident,” Demarcus interrupts while putting his weapon away. Adjusting his robe, the businessman gently guides his wife back into the room. “That massacre is all over the news. According to the police, the killer was already confirmed and apprehended.”
“Yes and no. He drugged the bridesmaid, but was killed by someone else.”
“You’re right. This does sound like a ridiculous movie plot.”
“Not too surprising if you consider that we’re dealing with an unbalanced individual.”
“This is our ten year anniversary and I will not cut the trip short.”
Before the argument can continue, the distant elevator dings and begins to open for one of the maids. Not wanting to get caught, Gemma tackles Demarcus into the room and closes the door with her foot. She gets off him immediately and remains on her knees to make sure the couple knows she is not going to attack. Reaching into her pocket, the detective takes out her wallet and opens it to her driver’s license. Alicia takes the offering to examine it closely, but quickly hands it back with a shrug. Demarcus snatches it and thumbs through all of the bills and cards before pulling out a picture of Gemma in her uniform. Politely putting everything back in order, he gives the wallet back to the detective and puts his gun on a nearby table. The man takes a seat and takes his wife by the hand, a somberness coming over the couple.
“Didn’t know I had that, but there’s the proof that I’m who I say I am,” Gemma replies while she goes to put her ear against the door. The sound of the maid’s cart can still be heard moving down the hallway, stopping only for a minute as the woman knocks on a door. “I’m really sorry about all of this. If it helps, I can leave the number of my partner. His name is Max Boros and he can put in the paperwork to reimburse you for the trouble. My point is that you really shouldn’t stay in this hotel.”
“We’re only going to be in town for one more day,” Demarcus says, reaching over to rub his wife’s arm. Unnerved by the threat, he takes a sip of lemonade that has become watered down by the melted ice. “I still don’t know what to make of this, but you appear serious enough that I don’t want to take a risk. Checking out one day early shouldn’t be suspicious. We can always tell Dawn that business has called us back home. There are some sights we wish to see, but I don’t feel comfortable telling you where we might be.”
“I completely understand,” the detective states while handing a card to Alicia. Hearing the maid go into another room, she cracks the door open and takes a peek. “Sorry if this is rude, but you don’t have to trust me as long as you believe me. My only concern is that you two are safe and away from whatever is going on in this hotel. Have a happy anniversary and enjoy your trip home.”
Feeling a little foolish for the dramatics, Gemma sneaks into the hallway and takes a step toward the elevator. She stops when a door opens and part of the maid’s cart creeps out, the woman stopping to talk to the people inside. Blocked from the easiest way out, the detective turns around to sprint for the stairwell. The sound of squeaking wheels can be heard and she looks over her shoulder to see the maid stepping into the open. Gemma realizes that there is no way for her to escape unseen, so she tries to squeeze into a doorway and wait for the woman to go into another room.
With a faint shifting of stone, a ceiling tile falls on the maid and drives her head into her chest. Horrified by the sight, Gemma is about to call for help when the corpse gets back up and grips the cart. The phantom moves ahead, banging into the walls and tripping since it cannot see through its ribcage. Squeaking wheels continue to follow the detective as she rushes for the stairwell, the sudden fear making her taste iron on her tongue. Elbowing her way through the doorway, Gemma glances over her shoulder to see that the maid is back to normal and still talking to two of the guests.
“I think I’m done drinking for a while,” the detective mutters while trying to stop herself from vomiting over the railing.