Part 138: Reflection in the Ring
let Tony take him to a bar owned by a friend of his, and the two of them had practically drunk the place dry.
Hyde slowly drew himself up from his bed. He was determined not to just lie there, letting the residual buzz from the alcohol still in his system rob him of all motivation.
He dragged himself over to the window and pulled on the cord that opened the blind.
*I don't even remember coming back here last night.*
The soft morning light slipped into his room through the narrow window. Looking out, Hyde could see the same familiar cityscape he enjoyed every morning. He closed his eyes for a moment and leaned against the window, feeling the light on his body as it shone through the glass.
*Shame I'll only be waking up to this scene for a few more days.*
He was surprised that he felt so emotional about leaving. His apartment wasn't exactly perfect, but he was going to miss the place.
"It sure is cold," he said aloud. He pulled back sharply from the window. The December chill had permeated the glass.
*My mom stood by the window like this once too, ignoring the cold, just looking out with her arms folded.*
That was the morning that mother and son moved away from Los Angeles following the death of Hyde's father. His mother, Jeanie, hadn't moved a muscle or spoken a single word as she'd gazed out through the glass at the city streets. That day, Hyde had wondered just what she was looking for outside that window.
be walking out of the elevator just as he was passing through the lobby on his way to the café. It appeared that the repairs on the elevator had been completed at some point without him having realised.
"This should make it more convenient for everyone when they move their things," she explained when he asked. There was some bad news to accompany the good, however: the vending machine in the lobby was to be removed the following day. "I cannot delay the matter any further, I'm afraid. I simply have too much
Hyde bought some orange juice and drank it in a single action. He just had the sudden urge to do it after hearing from Mags that the vending machine was being removed so soon -- and he felt like the Vitamin C was doing his body good already.
Hyde's pager rang. Intrigued to learn what new information Rachel might have had for him, he rushed back up the stairs to his room.
He was interrupted by an enthusiastic "Good morning!" as Tony poked his head out the door when Hyde was going past. Tony looked particularly chipper today, to the extent that Hyde wondered if he had somehow skipped the hangover altogether.
When Tony had invited Hyde to his favourite bar the previous night, he had also been generous enough to play Hyde his latest song. It was a ballad played on an acoustic guitar, and it had been rather pleasant to listen to. He could still remember how it went.
"It wasn't half bad. Your song, I mean." He didn't go as far as to mention how unexpectedly stirring he had found Tony's voice, but he nonetheless showed no hestitation in complimenting him. He really had liked that song, he realised.
"If it appealed to you, I guess that means it's not gonna make it big time!" he joked, his cheery mood apparently bolstered even further by Hyde's praise. That wasn't the only reason he seemed so pleased, however. "You've got a radio in your room, right? Tune into Rock 'n' Soul at 11 o'clock!"
According to Tony, a producer he used to know had promised to play his demo tape on the air.
"I'm heading out now to see if I can find somewhere with the radio switched on. That way I can see how the people listening react when it comes on." Tony wore such a joyful expression as he imagined his own record being played on the radio. He walked past Hyde towards the stairs.
Hyde watched Tony leave, and then returned his attention to the task at hand. He went back into his room and quickly dialled the number for Red Crown.
Rachel said that she had paged him because she had some information about Condor. "It seems that the symbol Hotel Cape West used was that of a condor," she explained. It seemed that right from when it was first built, Hotel Cape West had used a condor design as its official symbol. "And there's something else that's been on my mind for a little while now..."
Rachel brought up Hyde and Ed's conversation from the previous day, when Hyde had asked if he knew anything about former LAPD officer Frank Raver, and Ed had told him that he didn't. However, according to Rachel, after Ed put the phone down he had retrieved a notebook from a drawer and stared down at it, whispering, "Why now?"
*Does this mean Ed knows Frank after all?* If he did, Hyde couldn't even imagine why Ed would lie to him like that.
"Oh, and another thing. You'll be pleased to hear that Mila's staying at my place now." Rachel adopted a bright tone as she changed the subject. "I was wondering if you could spare some time to go for a meal with us tomorrow night. It'll be the first Christmas Eve you'll have spent time with her. I think it'd be nice to get together this year." She seemed quiet as she ended the call.
*I can't believe Mila's back.*
Rachel had mentioned before that Mila had come back to this neck of the woods for the sake of seeing him. It was odd to think that he would be having dinner with Rachel and Mila on Christmas Eve. He couldn't explain the feeling of bashfulness that overcame him, but it was certainly a feeling he could get used to.
With all of that still on his mind, he idly checked the time and realised it was 11 o'clock already, the time Tony had urged him to listen to the radio. What was that programme called again? Rock 'n' Soul? He pressed the switch tu turn the radio on, and soon Tony's voice was ringing out.
Hyde sat down on the sofa and concentrated on the vocals. He found himself entranced by the song, and wondered just how Tony had learnt to sing like that.
Once the song had finished, the radio presenter announced the date and time.
*The 23rd already, huh?*
It took him a moment to remember the significane of this date, but then he realised it was the day the winning number for the Lucky's Café prize draw was to be announced. He decided he would go down there for lunch and check it at the same time. He opened the door and headed out into the corridor.
When he got down to the lobby, Charles was standing in the doorway to the café. It
day. He checked what today's coffee was and ordered a cup. "It's a mocha from Yemen with a distinct bitterness and a strong flavour," Claire told him as she took down his order. "I'm sure you'll like it, Mr Hyde."
Then she commented that despite being so busy with the prize draw, her father had been trying to find time that morning to finalise the special Christmas menu. He'd been rushing about like a madman all day, she said. He was apparently putting in extra effort to try and make up for the fact that this was the last time they'd experience the thrill of the yearly Christmas rush that had become such a custom for them here.
Claire told Hyde about what Christmas was like for her when her mother was still around. The two of them always decided on a secret Christmas menu, their own specialty, which they wouldn't reveal to anyone until Christmas Day. There was always such a big commotion as people tried to guess what it was. Those times were some of her favourite childhood memories, she added.
While he waited for his coffee to arrive, he sped over to the far wall to check the winning number for the prize draw.
The number was 053 -- the same number that was on Hyde's entry slip.
His brow wrinkled in astonishment. He went over to the counter to show his number to Sidney, whose gaze was fixed on a menu.
Sidney, too, wore an expression of shock upon learning that Hyde had won. He shouted, "Congratulations!" and made a big show of writing out a cheque for $1000 and handing it to him. Hyde was overjoyed that he had won.
*Wow. I can't believe I won $1000. Wonder when I'll get a chance to cash it?*
There was no denying it; this was a hefty sum of money. He'd even be able to buy some pricey champagne when he was at dinner with Mila and Rachel the next day, he realised.
Though some trace of his hangover still remained, he felt like he was walking on air.
He went back to his seat and Sidney came over to him. "Hope you're looking forward to this year's special Christmas menu!" he said.
It seemed that the Christmas menu was finally confirmed.
Sidney shrugged slightly and said, "I was thinking of making Christmas pudding to go along with it, since it's Claire's favourite, but it reminds me a bit too much of my ex-wife. She loves things like that as well."
He started to lament the fact that after 12 years, this was the last Christmas he'd spend working here like this. Claire interrupted him, exclaiming, "Sorry about the wait. Here's a cup of today's coffee."
Claire put Hyde's coffee on the table and Sidney went back to his duties. In a slightly hushed tone, Claire said, "Mr Hyde, can I ask you a favour? I don't want my dad to hear, so come into the kitchen a little later and we can talk there. Make sure Dad doesn't see you trying to get in though!" She kept looking over at her father as she spoke, eager to avoid raising his suspicions. Then she silently went across the room and into the kitchen.
Hyde finished drinking his coffee, wondering all the while just what it was that Claire wanted to talk to him about.
Conveniently, Sidney made his way into the billiards room, and the moment he did so, Hyde took it upon himself to decide now was his chance. He stood up and walked into the kitchen as quickly and quietly as he could.
He had been a regular customer of Lucky's Café for many years, but this was the first time he had ever been into the kitchen. He took a quick glance around and felt it was pretty much as he'd expected.
Before explaining her real reason for inviting Hyde in there, he asked him for a quick favour. She needed him to open a jar of maple butter that had got stuck. Hyde gathered up all his might and put it into turning the lid. It opened in a single twist but, without even thinking, he made a noise as he opened it, and the force made the lid fly off and break a glass that was in the sink.
Hyde couldn't have been more embarrassed. Instead of helping Claire, he had just created more work for her.
Claire definitely hadn't expected opening a jar to be such a dramatic event, but she didn't seem to mind. "It's okay, Dad doesn't seem to have heard a thing. If he asks about the noise later on, I'll come up with a good cover story."
After thanking him, she finally moved onto her real topic of conversation. She adopted a hushed tone.
It had been seven years since
the nick of time -- the moment he was back outside, his pager started beeping. He made his way up the stairs towards his apartment.
Just as he was walking down the corridor to his room, he heard two voices coming from 203, where Betty lived. Then the door opened and Marie came out. *Unusual for Marie to be visiting Betty.* He said hello to Marie and then asked her, "What's going on?"
Her answer seemed a little hesitant. "Girls' talk, Mr Hyde! She works in an accessory shop as you know. Well, I had something I wished to discuss with her regarding that." She then pointed out that it wasn't any of his business and made a quick exit.
*Marie doesn't seem like herself today.*
Something about the whole situation gnawed at his brain. He just had to know more. In his typical style, he tried just knocking on Betty's door and asking. "I happened to notice that Marie was here just now."
She seemed reluctant to discuss the matter, and Hyde silently wondered if perhaps she had promised Marie that she wouldn't. However ,as they stood talking to one another in the doorway, she let slip that the matter related to money.
"So she came to you to discuss money?" asked Hyde.
Betty became quite flustered when she realised she had admitted this, and she insisted that she could not discuss it any further because Marie had sworn her to secrecy. She hastily retreated into her room and shut the door.
*Maybe I should speak to Marie again later.*
He reached his room at last and called Rachel. She passed him over to Ed straight away.
"Hyde!" bellowed Ed. "I've got some fresh info on the incident 13 years ago and Frank Raver." He spoke slowly as he went on. "Firstly, listen up, as this is important. It turns out that Frank Raver was not in charge of that case. When he was in his 40s, there was an internal investigation that revealed all kinds of stuff he'd done, and he got taken off the front line and put behind a desk. I still don't know what Frank's connection is to the victim."
*So he's a retired police officer who didn't lead the original investigation and has no obvious connection to the victim. Why would he be looking into this 13-year-old case?*
Then Ed went on to lay out the particulars of the case.
The murder occurred 13 years ago on the final day before Hotel Cape West was closed down. The owner held a party to commemorate the occasion, and during the party, his wife Kathy disappeared. By the time they found her, she was dead. She had drunk a glass of wine laced with cyanide.
Initially, the LAPD investigated it as a suicide. However, her fingerprints were not found on the case of cyanide, and an expensive ring that Kathy had been wearing was missing, so they began to treat it as a murder.
A large yet indefinite number of people had come and gone over the course of that night, so it wasn't practical to try and gather statements from everybody. Furthermore, the bottle that Kathy's wine came from went missing during the investigation. In the end there was never enough evidence to solve the case.
"So was her body really found in room 404, or was that just a rumour?"
"That part seems to check out," Ed replied.
"I see. Y'know, that room is still in the exact state it was back then."
From the sound of his voice as he responded, Ed was rather surprised to learn that the crime scene was still intact all these years later. But it was true, he confirmed: the body had been found in room 404.
Hyde went on. "Ed, I have to ask you something. Did you really not know Frank Raver?"
"Are you serious? I've already told you I didn't! What're you trying to say?"
Hyde refrained from mentioning what RAchel had told him. Instead, he claimed it was simply a hunch.
Ed just repeated his earlier insistence that he didn't know him and had simply heard his name before. However, he did add that the person who had blown the whistle on Frank was his own former boss, Hugh Speck. "Listen, I'll keep looking for more clues about Frank and the murder. I'll see what I can dig up on your Scarlet Star, too." He handed the phone back to Rachel.
"Hello, Kyle? About tomorrow... How does 7 o'clock at Da Leonardo sound? Spending Christmas Eve at a nice Italian place isn't bad at all if you ask me! I'll leave you to think of a present for Mila." She didn't stay on the line for much longer once she had told him everything she needed to.
*Guess I should try and find a present.* When Rachel said
moment, he resolved to walk into town and find the perfect gifts for both of them.
His plans was interrupted, however, by the door buzzer. It was Betty.
She barged into his room without a moment's hestitation. "I need to talk to you." She clarified that it was regarding Marie. Apparently, Marie had wanted Betty to buy a ring from her.
The ring in question was the same one that Tony had been accused of stealing four days earlier. Betty said that she had taken Marie up on her offer and bought it for $500.
She was starting to feel uneasy, however, because $500 seemed like an awfully low price for a three carat diamond, even if Marie really was in desperate need of the money. "I was wondering if you could take a look at it for me. Do you think it's real, Mr Hyde?"
He replied that this sort of thing really wasn't his forte, but with the concern obvious in her voice, Betty suggested that maybe they could consult Dylan, who was in possession of a magnifying glass that could be used for appraising diamonds.
She seemed somewhat reluctant for Dylan to become privy to the details of the situation, however. "Ah, why did I have to buy it..." The strain was growing clear in Betty's voice. Hyde could tell that she regretted the decision immensely.
Hyde thought back. Marie had said that she was given this ring by her deceased brother, hadn't she?
"Betty," he asked, particularly intrigued now, "would you mind if I borrowed the ring for a little while?"
Hyde decided he would at lease see if he could borrow the magnifying glass without too much of a fuss and take a closer look at the ring. He went to see Dylan.
"Hello, Mr Hyde!" said Dylan. "What can I help you with?"
Fabricating a story of a childhood interest in precious stones, Hyde managed to get himself invited into the room. Dylan just seemed pleased to have met a fellow enthusiast.
Hyde began poring over Dylan's impressive collection, and in the process he spotted the magnifying glass on the desk. Dylan picked it up and boasted that it was designed especially for examining jewels and as such had an exceptionally high level of magnification. You would get a spectacular close-up view of any crystal you looked at with it, he said to Hyde with a burst of enthusiasm. Hyde admired the level of zeal that Dylan showed when discussing this hobby of his.
The phone started ringing. "Feel free to take a closer look at some of my stuff," Dylan invited as he went to answer it.
With Dylan's attention diverted, Hyde picked up the magnifying glass and took a stab at examining Marie's ring.
Slowly, carefully, he adjusted the focus. It started to look like there was some kind of design underneath the diamond. He wanted to see it a little better so he attempted to remove the diamond from its base.
"Huh?" he exclaimed. Now that he could see the symbol more clearly, it looked like a bird of some sort. The next twist of fate was especially odd: Hyde looked up and spotted a notebook on Dylan's desk which had the same bird symbol drawn on it. Coincidence or otherwise, the two looked remarkably alike.
Hyde scrambled to put the ring away as Dylan returned.
"How did you get on with the magnifying glass?" asked Dylan. "It's great examining the tiny details on stones using this, isn't it?"
Hyde asked him about the drawing in his notebook.
His answer was a straightforward one. "You mean this picture? It's a condor."
"Do you like condors or something?" Hyde asked.
Dylan replied that he had simply copied a condor design he'd seen on the fourth floor -- specifically in room 406.
*So somewhere in room 406 there's a design just like the one engraved in Marie's ring...*
He would have to go and take a look for himself as soon as he got a chance. The word "condor" had come up too many times now for it to be a coincidence. A condor had been the official symbol of the hotel, Frank had mentioned "Condor" on his tape, and now this.
Thinking back, Frank's tape was the first place he had heard it. He recalled the words from the tape:
"The state of the fourth floor is just as it was 13 years ago. My initial sweep of room 404, where Kathy McGrath's body was found, is complete. Before vacating this building, I must find the lost items connected with Condor."
What was the connection between Hotel Cape West and Condor? The mysteries kept piling up in his mind -- and no matter how many times he went over the same questions,
realised with a jump that Dylan was standing right behind him. Dylan had said that Mags had lent him the spare keys for the building to enable him to perform maintenance work. Then he insterted the key and turned it in such a way that he appeared to have memorised just the right technique for opening the ancient lock. "There you go, it's open now," he said, waving his hand as if to invite Hyde in.
Hyde gladly accepted Dylan's help and followed him inside room 406. But after a quick scan of the entire room, he could see no sign of the condor symbol.
"I'll leave you to figure out where it is," said Dylan mischievously before going on his merry way.
With a sigh, Hyde set about exploring the room thoroughly. He still couldn't spot this elusive condor, however.
In one corner of the room there was a disorganised collection of old furniture lying unused. On a table that stood amongst all this mess, Hyde found a curious leather-bound book. Its faded cover had a scarlet-coloured star symbol on it. "Marie told me about this," he said aloud to himself. "Star... It was a secret code used between the hotel staff when talking about the party." He opened the book, but all that was inside was various photographs from the party. Evidently it was a photo album.
The next thing that caught his eye was a photograph of the hotel hanging in a frame on the wall. Hyde couldn't help but notice that it was slightly askew, and he started shifting it around in an attempt to make it straight.
And there on the wallpaper, behind where the picture frame had been, was the condor mark.
So this was the picture Dylan had been talking about. But why was this same symbol engraved underneath the diamond in Marie's ring? No matter how much he furrowed his brow, nothing resembling an answer sprang to mind.
He felt the best course of action for now was to let Betty know what he had found out about the ring. He left room 406 and headed straight to Betty's apartment.
"Oh, it's you, Mr Hyde." Betty's manner indicated that she had been expecting someone else.
Hyde was forced to give her the bad news: just as he'd thought, he lacked the experience required to properly appraise the ring.
He was curious about some related matters, however. "Did Marie tell you anything about the history of the ring?"
"No, not a thing." It was apparent that she knew nothing about the condor symbol.
"It's just that when I was staring at the ring, I remembered something." He started to tell Betty everything Marie had told him about the ring. "She got it as a present from her brother before he died 13 years ago. I imagine she was worried that, had she told you, you would have refused to buy it. This may not be what you want to hear, but I think you should return it to her."
Betty was dumbfounded. "I had no idea. She didn't breathe a word of that to me when we spoke."
Hyde commented that the ring was undoubtedly something very precious to Marie. She nodded in assent. "I would never have bought it if I'd known all the facts." Looking incredibly put out by the whole situation, she asked Hyde to return the ring to Marie for her. "In light of the circumstances, she can keep the money I paid her too."
Hyde took the ring and put it safely in his pocket.
Just then, he heard a knock at the door. Betty stepped out into the hallway to greet her visitor, and Hyde could hear the two voices from the other side of the closed door.
"You said you'd give it back to me today, right?"
"Yes, of course. Here you go."
Betty came back into the room once she'd finished her conversation. Hyde asked her who she'd been speaking to, but she told him it was nobody he'd know and showed him out. As he went back out into the corridor, he lamented how little he had been able to uncover about the condor symbol and resolved to find out more.
He bumped into Charles, who was stood right outside the door. "So it's you that was in Betty's room just now," said Charles. "For a moment I was certain it was that other person who'd paid her a visit."
*Other guy?* He could only have meant Rex Foster.
Charles told Hyde that he had come to collect the key for room 205, which he had lent to Betty.
*Room 205? Why would Charles have the key for a vacant room?*
There was a long-winded history behind this that Charles took the time to explain. A
been passing by at that exact moment, and they asked him if he'd lend them the key.
"What made Betty ask to borrow the spare key to room 205 in the first place?" said Hyde.
"I think that was because her boyfriend had asked to borrow it. He said he wanted to see inside."
"Hey, Charles, would you lend me the spare key, too?"
Hyde made up a fitting excuse that he wanted to take this last ever chance to see the view from room 205's window.
*What could Rex have needed to do in room 205?*
Hyde needed to take look for himself. He was certain that something in that room would start to clear the fog that stood in the way of his investigation at every turn.
Charles didn't look entirely convinced by the reason he had been provided, but he gave Hyde the key nonetheless. He also made a comment that there was something quite incredible in that room. "Billy won an award for screenwriting recently, and that's what led to him moving out. But the typewriter he used to write his script? He found it in room 205 when he moved in. Someone had just left this old typewriter there.
"When he used that typewriter, his writing ability improved overnight, as if by magic. He ended up writing what may be the most beautiful love story ever told, all thanks to this miracle typewriter. Isn't that amazing?"
Charles's eyes were practically sparkling, like he believed the story hook, line and sinker. Hyde wondered why Charles would be so convinced by what was essentially a good old-fashioned urban legend. It was nice in a way, however, and Hyde had certainly learnt that Charles was more of a dreamer than he had previousy thought.
He thanked Charles, and then without further ado used the spare key to unlock room 205. *I just have to see this amazing typewriter for myself.*
He looked around the room, and he found the typewriter inside the closet. While he was looking at it he remembered the order sheet.
He found some paper and tried typing something. Sure enough, the letter "t" was printed slightly higher on the page than all the others.
This peculiar characteristic was exactly like the one he had seen on the order sheet and the letter. This typewriter had definitely been used to write them -- which raised the question, who had been using this typewriter? Was it Rex?
He wasn't going to waste any time. He left room 205 and headed for Betty's apartment. She opened up almost as soon as he knocked.
"Betty, you asked Charles to lend you the key to room 205, didn't you? Does that mean you went in there?"
She was taken aback slightly by the suddenness of this, but a moment later she simply brushed the question aside as if it was nothing.
Hyde changed his tack and asked if it was actually Rex that had wanted to borrow the key. "So what if it was?" she replied with a nonchalant roll of the eyes.
"Betty, this is important. Please, you have to tell me what's going on."
Betty momentarily fell silent. After considering the matter for a moment, she had a resigned air about her. She finally relented and admitted that after borrowing the key from Charles, she gave it to Rex.
Hyde asked Betty, in all honesty, why she was going out with a guy like REx.
"We're through already, so what does it matter?" Tears were beginning to well up in her eyes. She added that he had never been serious about their relationship, and that he had just used her to get closer to Marie.
"Do you know what he was trying to find out about Marie?" Hyde asked in a calm tone, hoping that Betty might return to her usual level of composure.
She said that Rex had kept showing an interest in who Marie was friends with and what their relationships were like.
Betty had asked him once why he cared about that stuff. His answer was that he was interested in putting a stop to Marie's accomplice.
And then, as soon as he was finished with whatever he was doing in room 205, he broke off all contact. Betty hadn't heard from him since.
Rex had just been stringing her along the whole time. Once she had finished recounting her tale of woe, Betty wiped her tears away with a handkerchief.
Hyde asked if she'd ever seen Rex posting a letter to anyone who lived in the building, but Betty simply answered that she wasn't sure. Seeing her still red and tear-stained face, Hyde felt it was