Toby and George had just settled down to bed. This was the family’s first winter vacation together and the boys were loving every minute of it. “Now go right to sleep,” Mom admonished. “Dad and I are going to the supper club in the hotel lobby. Call the desk if you need anything.”
The boys were sound asleep within minutes - a full day of skiing at Aspen will do that - and all was peaceful, until …
“What was that?” eight-year-old Toby exclaimed. “What was that noise? Are you awake, George? Did you hear it? George, wake up! I’m scared!”
George sat up groggily and looked around. Then he heard it - the unmistakable sound of rapidly approaching sirens. “Mom, Dad, wake up,” he called. “Don't you hear the sirens? What’s going on?”
There was no answer from the other side of the room. George sat up and turned on the bedside lamp. The clock read 2:00 am. His parents’ bed was empty; the blanket corners still turned down invitingly, and the hotel’s signature chocolate mints lying undisturbed on the pillows. He and Toby were alone in the room.
“I’m scared, George,” Toby said again, his lower lip trembling noticeably. “I want Mom and Dad. Where are they? Why aren’t they here?”
George thought for a moment, then picked up the receiver and dialed the front desk. “Hello? Is that the desk? My name is George. My brother and I are all alone in room 725. We’re looking for our Mom and Dad. Can you find them? I think they went to some club in the hotel. It’s real late, and Toby - that's my brother - he heard some strange noises and he’s scared.”
“Sorry. Can’t leave the desk,” was the abrupt reply from the anonymous functionary. “There’s been some trouble in the lobby and we all have to stay put. The police are here. Just stay in your room. You’ll be safe enough there.”
George hung up the phone, his complexion pale enough to do justice to a ghost. “We’re getting dressed and going downstairs,” he announced to Toby. “That desk guy was useless. We’ll find Mom and Dad ourselves.”
Minutes later, they were in the elevator. As they were about to step out into the lobby, they were stopped by a uniformed officer, who glared down at them. “And who might you be?” the officer demanded.
“We’re looking for our Mom and Dad, sir,” George stammered. “They shoulda been back in our room hours ago. We heard a noise and were scared, and that man at the desk told us that the police were here. We were too scared to stay in the room by ourselves, and we gotta know what's happened to our Mom and Dad.”
Just then, Toby ducked under the outstretched arms of the officer and ran towards a disheveled woman with a large red stain on the front of her dress. He flung himself into his mother’s arms. “Where were you?” he sobbed. “What happened to you? Are you all right? We heard strange noises and sirens and you weren’t in the room and the guy at the desk wouldn’t help and we got scared and we came to find you.”
The officer sighed. “Well, that tears it,” he said in disgust. “Next time you folks volunteer to be the victims for a murder mystery supper club, kindly leave your kids at home.”
©2013 Phyllis Entis. All rights reserved.
A Note of Explanation: The prompt for this story was a photograph of a ski lodge in the Colorado Rockies.