There were more than twenty two hotels considered to be in Port Angeles. Ten of them ran around or between First St. and East Front St. I started at the Day's Inn and worked my way towards the seaport. If father wasn't staying in this range, I could catch a bus from there. I could only guess what pseudonym he would be using, so calling wasn't an option. I had to go in person.
Of the eight hotels I'd stopped in thus far, five of them were clueless, two were hostile and the last buzzed a man downstairs only for him to show up in a bathrobe post-coitus. He was married. He hadn't been there with his wife, though he had been under the influence of a substance I was merciful not to mention.
My ninth stop stood ahead, masking the subtle decay of at least a decade without renovation behind an otherwise clean exterior. The windows, walls and doors were roughly intact, butt the chips in paint on the railing had been painted over without sanding and the partial discoloration of the roofing tiles from black to gray revealed the building's age. An equally faded sign, once red, now maroon, with yellow block letters deemed the beige-and-brick motel 'The Port Angeles Inn." The word 'vacancy' glowed faintly, its color barely visible in the daylight.
I opened the door to the entrance. A rusting jingle bell clanked against the cracking wood as I stepped inside.
The lobby was small, hardly bigger than a walk-in closet with slightly more decorum. Floral curtains cast over the window. A pair of saggy arm chairs, reupholstered non-professionally, sat beneath it. A faded wooden desk stood between the lobby and a glass door to the administrative office, blocking the room from pedestrian access. Just past said door, a clerk hunched over an outdated computer, transcribing data from handwritten pages onto the PC. Room keys hung along the wall above her. Twelve sets were missing.
I pressed one hand along the desk to steady myself and stared down. A jar of biscuits—stale—and a call bell rest in reach. A second computer running a default screen-saver faced opposite. I could see the default text scroll reflected off the glass door. Various files were stacked beside the monitor. The handwriting matched on every form, so, no point looking closer. I rang the bell.
The clerk jolted upright. She snapped her head towards the door, glimpsing anxiously back at me. Once she'd confirmed I wasn't dead or dying, she turned away to gather the paperwork instead. "Just a moment!" she shouted through the glass.
I pulled away from the desk and reached for my wallet. Everything I needed was as accessible as it had been the last seven times. I skimmed through the photographs regardless, putting forth an effort to look appropriately distracted.
The clerk rushed over to the front desk. Her frizzy hair scattered across her face as would a mane. She was young, early twenties, with heavy freckles and an ill-fitting sweater, which, if the stretched, sagging portion around her chest was any indication, she'd received second-hand. Her name tag deemed her Terry.
"Are you checking in?" the supposed Terry chirped with an eager smile, at least partly genuine, but overdramatic.
My eyes and stance shifted upright, as if I wasn't paying attention. I swallowed uncomfortably. "No. I'm checking people. I'm really sorry to bother you. This won't take long, I just," I trailed off, my tone weighed down with worry. I'd get more sympathy with concern.
I flipped my wallet to the sixth photo, the same one I'd been using all day. It was a clipped version of my family photo from eight years ago, cut down to only show my father's face. I exhaled heavily, my breath shaking with false anxiety. "My father disappeared yesterday. His name's Siger Holmes. My mum and I are looking for him. He has PTSD and is prone to fugue states, so he could think he has another name if he's having an episode. If you could show this picture to the staff, see if he wandered by, or maybe checked in, even, it could really help," I lied.
The further I got into my sentence, the more Terry's smile vanished. She stared at me for a moment longer than felt natural, worried, but unsure of what to say. She swallowed discreetly, attempting and failing to mask her confusion. "Fugue states?"
"Bouts of temporary amnesia. Like multiple personality disorder, but shorter and less consistent."
"Ah." Her forehead relaxed slightly. "Can't you call the cops or something?"
"We did. He's not considered a missing person 'til tomorrow. They won't help." I paused for just long enough to take a breath, set the photo on the counter and slouch pitifully before looking up to her again. "Please, Terry, just, check. If he's not here, I'll go."
A few seconds of hesitating later, Terry picked up the photo. Her eyes narrowed as she squinted at the details. A look of recognition came over her. He'd been here? "Ah, yeah. Yep. He's a lot skinnier, but, yeah. He was here. Checked out, like, an hour ago."
I let my excitement wash over my face. "Was he using his name?" I asked so suddenly, she'd barely finished speaking.
She shook her head. "Don't think so."
"What was the charge under?"
"One sec." Terry jostled the mouse, turning the screen-saver off. She clicked through the start menu to find the list of check-ins and check-outs. I did my best to appear as if I wasn't staring while doing exactly that.
Five clicks later, the information popped on screen. I watched through the reflection. A single bed room rented for two nights. Check out time slightly after noon. It had been associated with a credit card.
"Samuel Moran," Terry read in in unison. According to the document, the resident had an ID to match it, though a copy of the license wasn't recorded. If this was father, it meant this was pre-meditated. He had also paid for parking.
"What about his room? Did he have a car?" I asked.
"I'm not, uh…" Terry clicked down the page, searching for what I knew she would find. She clicked on the line. "Uh, yeah. Yeah, there's a car, here."
"What's the license plate?"
From what I could see, that information wasn't listed with the motel's primary guest information, but if they'd recorded it somewhere, I could use the license number to determine where the car was from, possibly even track it to the rental agency. I could find him.
Terry nodded again, this time more shallowly than before. "Yeah. Let me…"
Her sentence was interrupted by the click of metal soles knocking against the wooden floor. A fellow employee approached the desk. His shoulders were held high, his hairline receding and he wore the stern, disgusted look of someone confronting a child who had just dumped a bucket of slugs on the kitchen table.
"Terry," he cleared his throat, his voice scratching with a rasp brought on by serious bronchitis or, more likely, chain smoking. "A maid just walked in on a couple in their bathroom. Go call them down."
She lifted her head from the screen, startled to attention. "Just a second, sir. Finishing with a customer. I'll be right there."
Any hope that she'd stay was crushed by his cold stare. "I'll take care of it. Go," he barked.
Terry nodded submissively. "Yes, sir."
Terry stood up from her desk. Her manager loomed beside me, considerably less approachable than someone in the service industry should ever look.
"How may I help you?" he asked, unenthused. I was fairly sure he wouldn't.
I lowered my head in an effort to look pitiful, again, though considerably less so than before. It wasn't worth the energy. "My father's missing. He's sick. That girl, Terry, she thought she'd seen him check out a few hours ago, used a credit card registered to Samuel Moran," I picked up my father's photo to show it to the manager as well. "He had a car with him. She was just about to give me the license plate number so I could track him."
He squinted at me with a combination of suspicion and skepticism. "Shouldn't the police be here, then?"
"Disappeared last night. He's not considered missing for another twenty seven hours, technically," I half-admitted. His expression stayed stagnant. I pressed my hand over my mouth and looked away, pretending I was trying and failing not to look distraught. "But he goes into these fugue states, and if he's off his heart medication too long, he could have a heart attack and not even know why. I have to find him, or, I don't..."
His expression relaxed slightly, but barely. "Does your mother know his license plate number?"
I shook my head into my hand. "His car's in the driveway. He must've took someone else's…"
"I'm sorry, but, that kind of information's confidential. If you can bring back an officer, or maybe your mother, I can show her the records."
"But he, it could save his life. Please…" I looked up through widened eyes. His expression didn't budge.
"I would need a warrant or your mother. I'm sorry." No concern. This wasn't working.
My eyes shifted towards the wall, mentally recalibrating. If I couldn't get the information directly, their back office looked accessible. One fake call from a guest would force him to leave. The keys were in the back room, the maids were still cleaning and I had father's room number. If I were lucky, I could break in. All I had to do was distract him.
My thoughts were interrupted by my phone vibrating in my front left pocket. I lifted my hand from my mouth and gestured to the side. "Excuse me."
Before I could see a response, I turned my back to the desk, reached into said pocket and walked out. I stared at the lock screen to the incoming call. The number was unlisted. I picked up as I left the office. The silence on the other line was absolute—no clicks, cars, chatters or anything identifying whatsoever, which meant it was deliberately designed not to be identified. The caller wasn't speaking.
I leaned back against a pot beside the doorway, settling in for the lecture to come. The manager watched me with a wary eye through the back office window. I ignored him.
"Mycroft, why'd you redact your number?" I asked dryly.
Sure enough, his voice replied. "Because if you knew it was me and I wasn't hiding, you wouldn't have answered. Hudson's looking for you."
In other words, he'd called to track my location. Even with my GPS chip disabled, which it was, he could use the cell towers to triangulate where I was. No doubt he had the moment he'd started calling. No point in hanging up now.
"Should you really be using government resources to track mobile phone towers?" I asked back.
"Less questionable than skipping school to stalk strangers."
"Not what I'm doing."
"She implied otherwise."
"You're inferring what she's implying is correct, which it's not." I paused for a moment, considering why he would have said what he did. Mycroft couldn't know about father's letter, but I had mentioned the name he'd written. My expression lowered accordingly. "She mentioned the name, didn't she?"
"James Moriarty? Yes," he answered immediately.
I tried not to sigh and turned my head back towards the window. The manager was still staring at me. I turned away. "So, what'd you find?"
"I have a job, here. An important job. One that doesn't involve abusing government resources to indulge your hobby of playing Where's Wally? with actual people," he stated with as much authority as he could muster. He knew something—wouldn't be that defensive, otherwise.
"But it does involve stalking me. What'd you find?"
I could practically hear his exasperation through the silence. "Call me from Mrs. Hudson's phone. I'll tell you, then."
"But your number's redacted."
"You know my number." He was baiting me for a reason. Something had to be off. If everything had come back clear, it would have made more sense to tell me I was obsessing over nothing and send me home discouraged.
"So, nothing on the database, then. Interesting. You ask section six?" I guessed.
"We're not discussing this." In other words, they had nothing.
"First name's common, surname common enough, yet there's no one. Strange."
As Mycroft started to voice some retort I didn't care about, my phone chimed with a text. I pulled the phone away from my ear, selected the speaker option and flipped to the messages menu.
"I'm going to ca-" his voice crackled.
I cut him off. "Not listening."
A text message popped up on screen. The number wasn't logged in my contacts, but I recognized it from the emergency contacts list on Mrs. Hudson's fridge back home. It was one of her friends, the one who lost her cat.
I just got a call from your mother. Your aunt was in a car accident. The doctors aren't sure she'll make it through the day. Your mother sent a ticket for the next flight out. Where are you? I'll meet you. This is Mrs. Hudson, by the way. I borrowed Eleanor's phone.
Though I'd never seen her text before, the message looked consistent. She seemed the type to bother with proper grammar and spelling, presuming someone had shown her how to operate the phone. Still, she hadn't tried to call first, nor had she mentioned receiving any contact from school. Considering the lengths she'd gone to put me there, and the numerous calls the school should've sent her, that wasn't right.
"Did anything happen to Aunt Rose or Daisy, today?" I spoke above the screen.
"Nothing I've heard. Call Sherrinford." At least it wasn't 'call mother'. It seemed he'd caught on that was a bad idea. "Why?"
"Because mother talks to you. Bye." I flipped back to the call screen to disconnect the call.
I pressed end call. The line silenced. I stared down at the text, concentrating.
Whoever sent the text must have been lying. Otherwise, the message made no sense. The new question was why. It could be a trap, or possibly an excuse. In either case, it was suspicious. No one I knew who would immediately benefit from calling me away, so it was someone I didn't know, someone who still had a vested interest. Maybe it was Moriarty. Maybe it was father.
In either case, I could assume I had ten minutes before Mycroft could tell the actual Mrs. Hudson where I was. Those would have to be well applied.
I switched back to the text menu and called Eleanor Brown's mobile. The line was busy. I tried the number a second time, just in case. Another call attempted to interrupt mine. Unlisted number. Mycroft. I pressed ignore, flipped to the text screen and sent a text back to Brown's phone.
Port angeles inn on east 2nd. Outside. You?
My fingers wrapped around the phone, tensing with anticipation. Thirty seconds later, a reply appeared. I'm just leaving home now. Can you walk to the café by the ramp to the 101? It might be quicker to meet there.
I sent my response with barely a thought. Call me when you're there. I'll wait inside.
Ten more seconds. Another text. Thank you.
Thirty seconds passed with no replies. The phone rang again. Another blocked number. Still Mycroft.
I dug my fingers into the side of my phone, dislodged the SIM card, tossed it in my pocket and turned the phone off. No point in making things easier for Mycroft to track me further. I had someone to find.