This was my first novel written in 2001 and is loosely based on my various jobs. It is however the story of Imogen and her bounce back after her divorce and so is a mainly a work of fiction!
Previously Imogen gets settled in to her new job at Killbilly Hotel certain that with her Aussie staff, there will be some adventures ahead..
Chapter Seventeen – The Opening Weekend Party
As predicted, the next week was extremely busy with last minute cleaning, deliveries and smoothing off my Australian staffs’ rough edges. There was no problem with their attitude, to either work or to serving guests, but sometimes their language and standard of dress left something to be desired. For example, all the girls took the hems up on their uniform skirts, leaving vast expanses of exposed, tanned thighs. I have no doubt that our male guests might have appreciated the sight, especially when said females bent over to place trays on coffee tables, but I was sure that the females guests might not be so appreciative. Luckily, they had only tacked the hems up. This was fairly obvious as the large, red cotton stitches stood out from the black material of the skirts. After some persuasion, the hems came down but I dreaded to think about what other ‘enhancements’ would be made to the rest of the uniform over the season. I would have to deal with that when it happened.
The boys said that they were most uncomfortable in their uniforms of black trousers, white shirts and black bow ties. They were more at home in surfing shorts and T-shirts. Their regulation black lace-up shoes were a major problem. They were used to wearing sandals or going barefoot, and I winced in sympathy as I watched them breaking the shoes in over the first couple of weeks. Thankfully they were all good-natured and I did not anticipate too many problems with them. There were a number of occasions during that first season when I would have quite happily locked them in the attic and thrown away the key.
I did not have long to wait for the first major incident, and in fact, it was not the staff that caused the original problem but they certainly added their own unique touch to it.
The first weekend of every season, a large insurance company took over the entire thirty bedrooms, from the Friday night to the Sunday morning. They were very easy going, wanted to show a good time to some of their major clients, and overlooked the fact that many of our staff were inexperienced, to say the least. It was an excellent opportunity to put the long hours of training into practice and with fingers crossed both Patrick and I greeted the guests who arrived by coach on Friday afternoon.
The new chef had settled in very quickly, but kept himself to himself. The kitchen was his domain, and his staff said that he seemed to be tough but fair when dealing with them. His name was Donal Flaherty and he and I were to have a meeting each week to discuss his daily menus and ordering requirements. Unlike other chefs that I have known, he did not seem temperamental, and having tasted some of his cooking in the week before we opened, I knew that the guests were going to eat extremely well during their visits. I popped my head around the kitchen door about seven to check all was well and was pleased to see that everything was busy, but calm. At least that was one department I didn’t need to worry about.
Michael was looking very smart, despite his protestations that his shoes were killing him. We had devised a system whereby he would put guests’ luggage into the service lift in the back hall, walk quickly up the stairs and collect the bags and take them to the allocated room. Nothing would persuade him to get in the lift himself, but we reasoned that as long as the luggage arrived promptly we would let him continue with this system. Of course, tonight was unusual because everyone arrived together, so we enlisted the assistance of two other lads to help him out. Thankfully that part went well and everyone retired to their rooms to dress for drinks before their special four-course dinner.
I changed into a long black dress for the evening, taking on the role of hostess and dining room manager. The tables looked wonderful, with crisp white table cloths and fine bone china. I had inspected the silverware earlier but made one last check before joining Patrick in greeting the guests in the bar. So far, things were going very smoothly and I turned and crossed the hall with my most warming smile in place, ready to be the gracious hostess. This was fun.
The evening was a resounding success, the dinner spectacular, with the staff on their best behaviour and fifty very happy guests. When they reached their brandies and speeches, I took the chance to slip out and make sure that the clearing up process, in the lounge and bar, was taking place.
I was no sooner out of the door when Michael appeared, walking backwards through the lounge door with two feet sticking out from under his armpits! For a moment I was taken aback and watched with fascination as Steven, another Australian, appeared, with his hands under the man’s shoulders. I shot across the hall and put my hand on Michael’s arm.
I looked down at the person they were carrying and recognised one of the more elderly of the insurance company’s guests. I had noticed that he had drunk quite a bit of sherry before dinner and had enjoyed several glasses of wine during the meal. I assumed that he was a little worse for wear but still could not work out why the boys were carrying him and where too.
‘What are you doing?’ I hissed at them.
Michael hefted his end up to stop the man touching the floor.
‘He’s dead.’ He whispered back.
‘We’re taking him up to his room so that he doesn’t spoil the party for the others. Nothing they can do for him now. Let the chambermaids find him in the morning.’
The two of them continued to struggle to the bottom of the stairs.
‘How do you know he’s dead and not drunk?’ I managed to splutter.
Michael looked at me as if I was some retarded child.
‘I’m a second year veterinary student I know how to tell the difference between dead and dead drunk.’ He was now slightly out of breath.
‘I gave him CPR and mouth to mouth resuscitation but he’s definitely pegged it.’
I was not sure how much experience he had with intoxicated animals, but I was prepared to take his word for it, not having any medical experience, apart from my two years of dental nursing.
‘You still have to put him back, Michael. It’s a criminal offence to move a dead body.’
I was practically sure I was right on that one. He shrugged, and the two lads turned around and lugged the body back into the lounge. I rushed off to the office and called an ambulance, asking them to come as quickly as possible just in case Michael’s diagnosis was not correct. I was dreading a post-mortem indicating that the man had died from the revival attempts, and not before.
I dashed back to the lounge and got them to show me which chair the man had been sitting in and we placed him back in approximately the same position. Satisfied that he looked undisturbed, I told the boys to stay there, so that they could answer the inevitable official questions.
I returned to the dining room and found Patrick and the organiser of the weekend party enjoying a lively conversation at one of the tables. I motioned them both to come with me and with puzzled expressions, they followed me back into the hall.
‘I am afraid that one of your guests appears to have passed away in the lounge.’ I tried to be as gentle as possible with this traumatic news.
‘Passed out more like it.’ The organiser, a cheerful red head, laughed.
I didn’t respond to his hilarity and he realised by my expression that it was perhaps more serious than he thought.
‘Who the hell is it,’ he demanded, wiping his forehead with the back of his hand.
I had no idea who it was, and suggested that we go and find out. We tiptoed for some reason, into the lounge, as if we might disturb the corpse collapsed in one of the easy chairs.
The two boys were still standing guard and were looking suitably sombre.
‘Jesus Christ! It’s old Jarvis, our Chairman.’ Now he really did look worried.
‘His wife will kill me. He has a weak heart and I promised I wouldn’t let him drink too much, or get over excited.’
He looked at me pleadingly. ‘Are you sure he’s dead and not just drunk?’
I assured him that Michael, who in fact was a trained lifeguard as well as being a partly trained vet, had administered CPR to Mr. Jarvis and that he was more than capable to determining whether the person was dead or alive.
I asked if there was a doctor with the party, but our insurance friend said there was nobody with medical training with them. I made a mental note to make sure that more of our own staff were trained in resuscitation methods over the coming weeks. Patrick put an arm around the man’s shoulders. They had known each other for several years and they were obviously friends.
‘Come on Daniel, we need to get somebody official here to sort this out. I think it will probably be an end to the party for the weekend, so we need to let everyone know. You also need to contact his wife and let her know the score.’
‘Perhaps we could move him up to his bedroom and pretend we didn’t find him until the morning, that way his wife will never know he’s been drinking again?’ Daniel appealed to us all as we stood around the body.
Michael looked over at me and gave a wink and a shrug of his shoulders. I couldn’t believe it, here was this poor man, dead in a strange hotel lounge and all everyone wanted to do was put him out of the way and let some poor chambermaid find him stone cold in bed in the morning. Men!
At least Patrick was having none of it and asked me to call an ambulance. I assured him that one was already on its way, so that put paid to any idea of putting Mr. Jarvis to bed for another night’s sleep. Sure enough, on cue, we heard a siren coming up the driveway and we all went into the hall to wait for the ambulance crew to confirm the sorry state of Mr. Jarvis’ health.
I showed them into the lounge and we looked on as they made their examination.
‘I am afraid the gentleman is dead.’ One of the attendants announced redundantly.
‘We’ll take it from here, but we will need some details from you first.’
We all sighed with relief, and handed over the responsibility for the deceased to the professionals. Daniel meanwhile knocked back a large brandy before telephoning Mrs. Jarvis with the bad news. I hope he had plenty of insurance.
The next morning the party of fifty departed a day early. Not a terrific start to the season, but a dramatic one.
I had made no mention to anyone about Michael and his assistant’s efforts to remove the body, only that they had made heroic attempts to revive him. While they publicly polished their halos, I had strong words with them about the rights and wrongs of dealing with guests, dead or alive. I wondered if this event was going to set the scene for the rest of the season but, thankfully, on the whole, the next few months passed without losing any more guests in this way.
That is not to say that we did not have the odd moment when death was too good for some guests who seemed to think that paying for a room entitled them to attention far above and beyond the call of duty.
©Sally Cronin Just an Odd Job Girl
One of the reviews for the book
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Thanks for dropping in and as always your feedback is very welcome. Sally.
I hope you will join me again tomorrow for another chapter in Imogen’s colourful work history.