Niles leaned close to Charley.
Charley leaned closer to Niles. “In many ways we are alike. We’re not from here. People are very nice to us, but yet there is a level of distrust that is hard to put our fingers on.”
“Can you give and example,” Niles said.
“Steve is our closest friend,” Charley said. “There isn’t anything he wouldn’t do for us and I think he really likes you too, but at times we think he is protecting us from something.”
“Once again,” Niles said, “an example.”
“We have a couple ladies who clean rooms for us,” Charley said. “They will be talking to Steve and when we approach them, Steve will change the subject or clear his throat and there is silence. It reminds me when I was a kid and I came into the room when adults were talking. They were trying to protect me from adult subjects.”
“We feel like children,” Shelly said, “and we wonder what are they talking about or what is Steve protecting us from.”
“Do you have a commonly held theory?” Niles said.
“The Sam Petit murder,” Charley said, “you know we bought this place from Mrs. Petit about six months after his death?”
“Yes, I’m aware of that,” Niles said.
“We have worried that maybe we are in some danger,” Shelley said, “and then convince ourselves we are probably paranoid and crazy.”
“I don’t think you are in danger,” Niles said. “And, indeed, I think Steve is every bit the friend you think he is. May I speak confidentially, without fear of anything we say being revealed to anyone?”
“We are hoping the same from you,” Shelly said.
“Sure,” Charley said, “If we can’t trust you, who can we trust.”
“I’m fed bits and pieces about the Sam Petit murder,” Niles said. “I’m like a dumpster. People just dump what they don’t want or can’t find a use for and hope I can make something of it. It’s like one person drops off a golf bag, another a set of irons, another woods, and before you know it there’s a complete set of clubs.”
“So what are we?” Charley said.
“Mid range irons,” Niles said.
“Meaning?” Charley said.
“It means I don’t know how to use you yet,” Niles smiled, “but when I do, I’ll be able to greatly improve my score.”
“So is there anything we can do?” Shelly said.
“Sure,” Niles said, “if you hear anything, let me know about it.”
“That’s not problem,” Charley said.
“This is the first motel you’ve owned, right?” Niles said.
“You know how you said you would sometimes approach Steve and the cleaners talking and sensed something was out of kilter,” Niles said. “Those are just instincts, they are there for a reason. You can tell when you’ve entered a middle of a conversation or if one has just started. We know when things are starting up, going at full speed, or slowing down. We just know when people are trying to pretend they’ve ended something that has no beginning or middle.”
“We know what you mean,” Shelly said.
“We’ve been living it,” Charley said, “Shelly more than me. She has more contact with the public. I’m changing gaskets on toilets, who wants to be around that?’
That brought about some light laughter to an awkward conversation.
“The point I’m getting at is that even though you are new to the business there may be things that don’t seem to add up,” Niles said. “If they don’t seem quite right, let me know. Like when changing that gasket, did you see something unexpected.”
“No,” Charley smiled, “I saw everything I expected.”
Niles stood. “This has been a fun evening. My dad said anytime you leave without being thrown out is a good evening.”
“Well,” Shelley smiled, “we were about to toss you out.”
“That’s good to know, I still have good timing,” Niles said. “Remember, if you see something or here something, say something.”
Niles walked the long way back to his place. The night began with walking in the drizzle, but now had turned to fog.