Vinnie had expected the elevator doors to open to quiet, and potentially darkness. The party was downstairs, in the Grand Ballroom, and the rest of the building was just a sleepy hotel. He thought the top floor would be the most expensive rooms connected by an empty hall and he’d be able to find the men’s room in peace.
Why he thought any of that, Vinnie was struggling to remember, as the elevator chimed and the doors opened to reveal a curvy woman in a green dress and a thin man in a blue suit leaning on her and slurring some song Vinnie had either heard once or twice on the radio or was being made up on the spot. The woman in the green dress took Vinnie’s slapped-fish look as a reaction to the man, and shook her head.
“Can’t hold his liquor worth a damn,” she said, a drawl making the words go up and down.
Vinnie tried to think of something clever to say. Then he tried to think of anything to say at all. Finally, he made a stiff wave and power walked away from the elevator. Thankfully the woman was too busy wrangling the drunk man onto the elevator to notice.
Soft jazz music and cigarette smoke wafted around him, and he turned to find where the woman and the man had come from. The Skyliner Lounge. A door opened down the other end of the hall and another smell met him, this one recognizable but just out of reach. It didn’t belong sixty stories up, and his brain didn’t want to believe it until he heard splashing. A rooftop pool. The sign he had finally discovered, affixed across the wall from the elevators, said there was a twenty-four hour gym in the same direction.
The Resident Hotel was one of the tallest in the city, and he really thought there would be nothing up here?
Vinnie swallowed hard and forced himself to take a breath. There were people, yes, which was worse than the no people situation he had expected. But there weren’t a lot. Definitely not as much as downstairs. Just find the men’s room, hand off the bag to Spirit in whatever stall she was hiding in, and walk away. Once the bag was no longer tucked into his jacket he was sure his heart rate would come down by twenty or thirty beats per minute.
The sound of a door swinging open made him pivot again, back to facing the lounge. A large man was walking back into the lounge, leaving a door to close behind him. A door with a very recognizable stick figure on it. Patting the bag through the jacket to make sure it hadn’t slipped out of reality, he made his way to the door.
The bathroom was small, black and white, and empty. Blissfully empty. Worryingly empty. There were only two stalls, and both doors hung open to reveal nothing more than a toilet and a roll. Besides a couple urinals and a sink there was nothing else. No closet, no cabinet, hell, not even a garbage can large enough for her to hide.
“Spirit?” he stage-whispered. He began contemplating places he had originally thought impossible. Checked the trash can. Looked up at the vent. Checked the stalls again, in case she had somehow hidden herself behind the doors. Nothing. “Spirit?”
A tapping began. Soft, at first, then urgent and aggressive as he spun, trying to find the source. He found it at the last place he looked, because he hadn’t even registered the window when he’d walked in.
The face of the woman called Spirit was on the other side of the window. Vinnie gaped at her, the same fish-face he had given the woman and the drunk man, frozen. She made a face and waved a hand at him, urging him to the window. As if in a dream, Vinnie crossed the bathroom and found the latch.
Despite the balmy weather below, the air that blew in was striking. Spirit was wearing a black beanie and long sleeve shirt, and looked comfortable enough. Vinnie couldn’t see anything below her bust, and with a long breath realized she was standing on an outside deck.
“Took you long enough,” Spirit said. “You got it?”
The sound of a door creaking open behind him made him whip around. A man in swim trunks, his carrot hair plastered to his head, came in and stopped when he saw Vinnie and Spirit.
“Oh!” Vinnie said, trying to think up a reasonable lie for why a woman’s face was in the window. “She’s just-”
Spirit was gone. She must have ducked just in time. All the man saw was Vinnie in a very fine suit casually hanging out in a bathroom with the window open.
But the man in the swim trunks, water dripping into small pools below, was already looking at him with a cock to his eyebrows. He knew. He knew everything. Any second he was going to run out and get security. Fist was sixty-eight stories below, and even if he was here did Vinnie want him to do what he would do? Maybe this was for the best. This was all too much, and Vinnie could plead down in court and go back to-
“Too much to drink, right?” the man said. “Needed some cold air on your face? Used to happen to me all the time. You need to just stop drinking altogether, my friend. Once I stopped going to the hotel bar and started going to the gym, my life just got better and better.”
“Oh, uh…yes…I am very drunk,” Vinnie said. He considered trying to slur something else, remembered the atrocious reviews of that time he did Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in college, and settled for putting on sleepy eyes.
The man knowingly tapped his temple before turning to use one of the urinals.
“Think about what I said. It could change your life!”
Vinnie started hyperventilating.
“Weren’t you an actor?”
Vinnie bit back a scream. He’d forgotten about Spirit, now back in the window.
“That wasn’t very good.”
“It worked, didn’t it?”
“I guess. Give me the bag before someone else comes in.”
He wasted no time, fearful of being caught red handed. Then, finally, the bag of all of their ill-gotten goods was out of his hands and in Spirit’s. He watched as she strapped the bag under her shirt, swaying a little.
“You remember the rest?” she asked.
“Go back downstairs, mingle a little more. Leave alone and meet back at the factory.”
“Bada bing,” she said humorlessly, and then she was gone, climbing up the wall.
Vinnie turned to leave and stopped.
Climbing? Up? Swaying?
Cautiously, he stuck his head out the window and looked down. There was a small edge no larger than six inches and then nothing but air until the street. Whatever deck he had assumed she was standing on was pure imagination. He looked up, and just caught the dark smudge of someone going up and onto the roof.