Shelby Marriott strode up the street. The wind was quite cold. He was glad to be wearing his Burberry coat. It kept the cold out. His driver had dropped him several blocks from his hotel. He needed the walk and the fresh air. Eight hours cooped up in an office with back to back meetings needed some release. Especially as some had involved heated disagreements that had taken all his negotiating skills to navigate. It was getting dark, the sunset early this time of the year. He walked past a figure huddled on the steps of a closed office building. It was a man. He was dressed in shabby clothes, had no jacket, and was shivering. He stopped, turned back, pulled out his wallet, and put two fifty dollar notes in his coat pocket. He stripped off the coat and draped it around the man who looked up at him in surprise. Shelby patted him on the shoulder and said, “There’s some money in the pocket. Get yourself something to eat,” and walked on.
The Palace hotel was only a block further on. He hurried up the steps. A bus had just pulled in. Three lines of people stood at the the reception desk. The three staff members were flat out checking everyone in. Shelby walked past everyone in one of the queues and caught the receptionist’s eye. She gave him an impish grin, and turned from the woman she was serving, found a key card in a rack and handed it to him. He smiled at her and headed off.
“Hey! What the hell? I was here first!” the woman erupted. “Sorry, Ma’am, the gentleman just wanted his keycard.” “Not the point! You should have finished serving me first.” The girl looked at her quizzically, and asked, “So what do you want me to do?” “Finish booking me in, then I want to see the manager!” The woman had a distinct American accent, and was rather loud. “Are you freaking kidding me? We’ve been standing here as long as you. You’ve held us up longer than that feller did!” The man standing behind was becoming quite irate. “I don’t care!” the woman said stubbornly. “He got served ahead of me and he shouldn’t have.” “Ma’am, I think you should know, that gentleman was the owner of this hotel. If he was made aware of your behaviour, he might ask you to leave. That’s his right,” the girl said. The woman was silent. The receptionist handed her her keycard and she marched off.
The man behind her stepped up and said, “ She’s been a pain in the butt since our trip started. Can you really get her kicked out? We’d all appreciate it.” The girl smiled and shook her head, leaned forward and whispered, “He’s not really the owner, just a frequent guest.” The man burst out laughing. “The best thing I heard all trip!”
Upstairs, Shelby had a shower, then decided to go down and have something to eat. The restaurant wasn’t full. He found a corner table and ordered a glass of white wine while he perused the menu. He’d been there often and ordered the Chef’s special, which was always good. After a very satisfying meal, he went back to his room. Some emails needed to be answered, then he would have an early night. It was a little later that the phone rang. The girl at reception informed him that the police had arrived, and wished to speak to him. “Oh. They’ve finally caught up with me have they?” he remarked. Flustered, she said, “What should I tell them?” “Send them up,” he responded cheerfully. “I’m ready to turn myself in.” “Alright,” she said uncertainly.
Five minutes later, there was a discreet knock on the door. He opened it. Two people stood outside, a man and a woman. The woman introduced herself as detective sergeant Ashley Manners, the man as detective John Kopetnik. Both showed him their warrant cards. He invited them inside. Ashley Manners looked around the room appreciatively. It was a spacious suite with expensive furnishings and comfortable chairs and a sofa. They sat down. “So,” Shelby began, “ How can I help you?” The woman looked at him. He was tall, trim, with short black hair, not particularly good looking, she thought, but she felt he had something. He also had a dimple in his chin.
“We arrested a man earlier tonight. He was causing a disturbance in a restaurant just down the street. Apparently, the staff were familiar with him, they knew he was homeless, often found him scrounging food out of the dumpster. He insisted he could pay, they didn’t believe him, they tried to eject him, and he hit one of the male staff. They were about to call us, but we happened to be in the restaurant having dinner. We took him into custody, and when we searched him, he did have a hundred dollars on him, but the coat he was wearing was a very expensive Burberry, and it had a card with your name in an inside pocket.”
“I see,” Shelby said thoughtfully.
“He said you gave it to him, and he saw you go into this hotel. We just needed to verify his story.”
“Of course. Well, it’s true. I gave him the coat and the money.”
“That coat is worth over two grand!” Kopetnik exclaimed. Shelby smiled slightly.
“It’s just a coat, and he was cold.” “So you’re verifying his story?” Manners asked.
“I am,” he asserted.
She got up. “Thank you for your assistance. The restaurant may still wish to press charges.”
“Oh, will they now?”
“Yes, the owner was quite adamant. People like that scare patrons away, he said.”
“I imagine news of a restaurant prosecuting a homeless man wouldn’t do too much for their reputation either,” Shelby remarked.
“I suppose not. I might point that out to him. Thank you for your time, sir.”
“Oh, call me Shelby, please. Will you let me know whether they’re going to proceed with the charge? I might need to have a word.”
She looked at him for a moment and wondered what motivated a man to give away a two thousand dollar coat and defend a homeless man. It would have been interesting to find out.
“I will. Goodbye.” They left. As they descended in the lift, Kopetnik exclaimed, “Wow, what sort of guy does that?”
“A very interesting one,” Manners said thoughtfully.
Shelby lay back on his bed and thought about his two recent guests. Sargeant Manners was quite an attractive woman. Not pretty in the accepted sense of the word, but nicely put together, with short auburn coloured hair and curves in all the right places. She intrigued him. He hoped she would contact him about the homeless man. Of course, she could be happily partnered with no interest in him whatsoever. Hopefully, he’d find out.
There was another knock on the door. Then, it opened. The receptionist who had given him his keycard came in hesitantly.
“Are you alone?”she asked.
“Sadly, yes,” he answered. She closed the door, then walked to the bed.
He sat up and folded her into his arms.
“It’s so nice to see you, uncle Shel,” she said.
“Me too. Pumpkin” He released her. “Still enjoying the job?”
“Love it!” she exclaimed. “Thanks so much for putting in a good word for me.”
“I put in several actually. Threatened to take my custom elsewhere if they didn’t take you on.” She giggled. “I told that lady I was serving that you were the owner when she objected to me giving you your keycard.”
“Well, I’ve been here so often, I should probably have taken shares in the place. Anyway, how’s your mother?”
She pulled a face. “Same old, same old. She complains about everything! No wonder Dad left her. I’m so glad you’re not like her.”
He ruffled her hair affectionately. “Yes, I’m afraid she takes after your grandma.” “Are you going to see Grandma while you’re here, uncle Shel?”
“Probably. Apparently, she’s driving everybody in the nursing home nuts.”
“I can imagine. What about Mum?”
“Honestly? I don’t know if I want to see her. Last time, I got a long lecture about the things I’ve done wrong over my life.”
“I don’t blame you. Best thing I ever did was to move out and share with Bethany. But I know she’s a bit lonely.”
“I’ll think about it, but no promises. So, are you off duty yet?” “No, just popped out for a moment to see my favourite uncle. I’d better get going.” She reached out and hugged him again, then got up and walked to the door.
She blew him a kiss, then left the room. He lay back with a smile. What a lovely girl she’d turned into from the pigtailed little tot he used to take for walks, to the park, and the zoo, and so many other places. How fast they grow up, he thought to himself. But as for her mother, that was another story altogether. He really didn’t want to see her if he could help it, but he probably would. Most of his friends thought he was far too much of a softie, considering he was a highly regarded senior executive for a very prestigious corporation. Wouldn’t they be appalled if they knew what he’d done with his Burberry coat. But it had been a gift from a grateful client. He would never have bought one himself. Speaking of which, he wondered what had happened to the homeless man. Just as the thought occurred, his phone rang. He didn’t recognise the number.
“Hello, Shelby Marriott.”
“Mr Marriott, this is sergeant Manners.”
“Hello, sergeant, nice to hear from you. I thought I told you to call me Shelby, or Shel for short.”
There was silence for a moment, then, “Alright Shelby, I just wanted to tell you I spoke to the restaurant owner and he’s decided not to proceed with charges against Mr Watts.”
“Good to hear. Very sensible. The homeless man’s name’s not Charlie, is it?”
“As a matter of fact, it’s Charles. Why?” She sounded mystified.
Shelby laughed. “Oh sergeant, or can I call you Ashley? Haven’t you heard of Charlie Watts?”
“No, not really.” “Oh dear, there’s something sadly lacking in your musical education, Ashley. Charlie Watts has been the drummer for the Rolling Stones since 1963.”
“Oh. I’m an Eagles and Fleetwood Mac fan myself.” “Not bad. You’ve got some good musical tastes. Now, was there anything else?”
“No. I just wanted to let you know what happened.”
“Why on earth did you give him that expensive coat?” she blurted.
He laughed. “Oh Ashley, it’s just a coat, but if you want to know more, you’ll have to have dinner with me, unless there’s a Mr Manners who might object.”
She didn’t answer for a moment, then she said cautiously, “No, there’s no Mr Manners, or anyone else for that matter.”
“Great!” he said enthusiastically. “Do you want to have dinner here? I can highly recommend the food.”
“Alright,” she agreed. “I’m supposed to finish at five tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow’s fine. About 6.30?or so?”
“Yes.” “Good. Look forward to seeing you.”
“Ok. Goodbye Shelby.”
She was gone. He lay back on the bed again. He had an idiotic smile on his face. He reviewed his day in his head, It had been very interesting. Successfully resolved meetings, helping a homeless man, he’d given away his coat, met his adorable niece, and finally, secured a date with an attractive woman. All in all, a very rewarding day.