Excerpt from The Extinguished Guest

     
     I was just beginning to think that hiding under Mr. Dack's bed in order to eavesdrop on his phone conversation was an ingenious decision, when I heard him fold his cell phone in half and the room phone on his nightstand ring.
     "Yeah?" I heard him say again. "No thanks, Stone. I had a late lunch, and way too many stuffed mushrooms and hot wings during happy hour. I think I'll skip supper and get a good night's rest tonight. I'll see you in the morning before I check out."
     Uh-oh. I didn't like his comments at all. I looked out from under the dust ruffle just in time to see a pair of wadded up socks hit the floor. One sock was black and one was dark blue, so I gathered Boris might be afflicted with color-blindness. I'd read most people with the condition were male.
     Next came the sound of a brass belt buckle landing on the throw rug with a dull, muffled thud. Then I heard the faint whir of a zipper being unfastened as Boris let loose a crude belch at the same time. Suddenly I felt a sick queasiness in my stomach, completely unrelated to the repugnant fart Boris cut as he sat down on the edge of the bed.
     Just as I began to fear I was in for a very long night, I felt the beginning of a sneeze. I fought it as best I could, but it was a losing battle. I managed to stifle the sneeze to a dainty little "choo," which Boris would have definitely heard, anyway, had it not been synchronized perfectly with a loud rap on the door.
     "Boris? Mr. Dack?" I heard Stone's voice outside the door. He sounded anxious, but his voice was the most welcome sound I'd heard in ages. When Boris opened his door, Stone said, "You have an incoming call on the kitchen phone. Crystal took the call but couldn't give the caller the private number to the phone in this room because she didn't know it."
     "Okay. Give me a moment then," Boris said with irritation obvious in his voice.
     "Uh, Mr. Dack, you don't need to put your shoes on to go to the kitchen, but you probably should zip your zipper. Crystal said the guy sounded really impatient."
     A few seconds later, Stone was peering under the bed, grabbing me by the ankle and sliding me out across the shiny wood floor. I felt like a human dust mop. I could tell by the angry look of frustration in his eyes that he was very upset with me.
     "We'll talk later," he said sternly, and hurried me out of Boris's room and pushed me into mine across the hall. He closed my door soundlessly, leaving me inside. I was trembling, more in anticipation of Stone's response to my eavesdropping than in reaction to my close call in Boris's room.
     A few seconds later, I heard Stone say, "Really? The caller must have been extremely impatient. Well, I'm sorry, Mr. Dack, but I'm sure he'll call back. I'll give Crystal the number for the phone in your room when I inform her that you won't be joining us for supper. Good night, Mr. Dack. I'll see you in the morning."
     A few seconds later the door to my room was flung open, and Stone stepped inside. He whispered in a forceful manner. "What in the name of hell were you thinking, Lexie? As soon as Crystal mentioned you'd borrowed her set of keys, I knew exactly what you'd done. I just knew. And frankly, it scared me half to death. There's no telling what a man like Boris Dack is capable of when he's backed into a corner. My concern about who murdered Horatio Prescott on the opening night of this inn pales in comparison to my concern about your safety and well being. I thought I'd made it clear I didn't want you to attempt anything so risky, just in an attempt to determine Horatio's killer. "
     "And I thought I'd made it clear I'm an adult and can make my own decisions," I said, knowing it was a stupid and immature thing to say. Stone was only concerned about me, and he had a good reason to be. He wasn't trying to force his will on me for his own amusement. I knew I was still trying to adjust to the novelty of having a man around to look out for me and protect me from the consequences of my impulsive actions. I'd been on my own for nearly twenty years, and I was very set in my ways. I was born under the sign of Aries, after all, and impulsiveness was a curse I was born with, according to all the astrologers. And saddled with forever, I had no doubt. Acting spontaneously was not something I could just give up the way I'd given up cigarettes.
     "I know you're an adult. I just wish you would behave like one!"
     I opened my mouth to make a crude retort and then closed it immediately. This was the first time the two of us had ever exchanged cross words. It occurred to me then that Stone wasn't upset because I'd behaved childishly or against his wishes. He was upset because I had placed myself in a precarious position, a situation that could have come to a lot more ghastly conclusion than it did. What would I have done if Boris Dack had heard me sneezing under his bed and Stone had not been there to rescue me? What would Boris have done?
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