“Mr Smith Sees Red” is the eleventh dark, feminist comedy tale in the “Hotel Stories” series. Like many of the stories, it is based on actual events.
Ms N, the world’s most brilliant and deadly hotelier, has been promoted to General Manager of her hotel. When her deputy Mr Smith, son of the owner of her hotel chain, launches an anti-immorality drive, Ms N’s beautiful but naive ally Tatiana fears innocent women will suffer.
At first, Ms N seems helpless to stand up to Mr Smith. But she has a plan, backed up by the country’s morally irreproachable Prime Minister and his glamorous, politically ambitious wife, to make Mr Smith see red.
Mr Smith Sees Red, like many of the Hotel Stories, is based in part on actual events at a hotel in the former Soviet Union (links in bold italics are to other posts on this site).
Read the beginning of Mr Smith Sees Red below – or click on the picture above to download the story direct from Amazon.
Mr Smith Sees Red (excerpt)
The morning sun is slanting through the windows of the hotel lobby at exactly seven-twenty when I see our security manager Nigel step in front of an attractive blonde woman wearing a black business suit, black spectacles and shiny black shoes.
Nigel takes up a position in front of the revolving door, which leads to the street. He is stopping the woman from leaving our five-star hotel.
When the giant man confronts her, the woman in business attire frowns and rolls her beautiful eyes. Nigel frowns back but does not roll his eyes, perhaps because he cannot frown and roll his eyes at the same time. If I am honest, the hotel staff say Nigel not only walks on legs like tree trunks but also does his thinking with a head made perhaps of similar material.
I make a note of the time, because an argument between a guest and our security staff is unusual and may lead to a complaint. Ms N, who has recently taken over as the General Manager of our hotel, will want to make sure we have recorded precise details of the incident. She will want to analyse what has happened in her ceaseless quest, as she explains it, to see things from the customer’s point of view and to make our hotel the best hotel on earth.
‘Let me go, please. I have a right to leave.’
The blonde woman stands with her shoulders relaxed and her legs crossed at the ankles. But her voice is loud and easy to hear. As a result, some other early-rising guests are losing interest in those elements of our spectacular, Zaha Hadid-designed lobby on which we would like them to focus. This is a pity because these elements include a thirty-metre water feature; a display screen advertising our luxury hot stone full body massages; and the menu for our sushi restaurant, granted one star by Michelin thanks to our fiery-tempered Japanese chef Kyoko and her famous collection of ultra-sharp Chroma knives.
Instead of admiring these magnificent aspects of the lobby, our guests are moving towards the entrance to see what the argument is about.
The guests are behaving logically. A gigantic but not obviously intellectual security official whose red face makes him look like a pressure cooker about to explode is preventing a beautiful blonde woman in business attire from leaving the hotel. The attractions of our lobby cannot compete with this spectacle.
‘Your room number, Madam. Your room number, please. I must insist.’ Nigel’s face becomes even redder than it is already as he struggles to make his lips move and speak at the same time and also to get the words in the right order.
Nigel is not a violent, or bad, person. But his body mass is maybe three or four times that of the blonde woman. His anxiety is expanding his muscular arms and making his chin jut forward. The customers who are gathering to watch, many filming the scene on their mobile phones, are perhaps hoping that if they wait a few moments longer, something will happen which will make their mini-movie a viral hit on the Internet.
I think: what would Ms N do, if she were here?
The answer is, she would try to solve this problem.
I am not so good at solving problems as Ms N. But Ms N says that all staff in the hotel can solve problems, so perhaps I can do something. I step forward.
‘Nigel. Why are you stopping this woman?’ I am trying to use what Ms N is calling her nothing to see here voice, as if whatever cataclysm she is seeking to solve will, as soon as she has established the facts, evaporate like a morning mist in the mountains of our beautiful but not yet economically advanced country.
‘I have to stop her leaving the hotel.’ Nigel is not only having a red face. He is also sweating, and the veins are standing out like cables on his titanic neck. ‘Mr Smith has ordered it.’
I look at Nigel and try to stop the panic I am feeling from showing on my face. Mr Smith is our newly-arrived Director of Operations, second-in-command at the hotel and the son of the Houston-based owner of our entire chain. I can do nothing that contradicts the orders of Mr Smith.
For a moment, nothing happens. I turn towards the blonde woman, who is standing as still as a statue, and try to smile as if to say she should not worry, although I am not sure that this is true. Should I call Ms N to try and solve this problem? But before I can do anything, a familiar voice rings out.
‘What is happening here?’ Mr Smith himself is striding towards us. He is wearing a dark suit with a white shirt and a blue tie, along with black shoes which are just as shiny as those the blonde woman is wearing. His black hair is slicked back and his grooming is so perfect that I am thinking he looks as if he has stepped out of a fashion magazine. ‘Nigel? Tatiana?’ he says, ‘explain to me, please.’
Mr Smith does not address his question to the blonde customer. Perhaps he is worried that Nigel or I may have made a mistake, so he wishes to inform himself of the situation before he decides whether to praise us or scold us. More guests have joined the circle of people around us who are watching our discussion, or making videos.
‘I asked this lady her room number,’ Nigel says to Mr Smith. ‘As you instructed me. She has refused to say.’
Mr Smith smiles and turns to the blonde customer. ‘I am so sorry you have been inconvenienced, madam,’ he says. ‘But unfortunately, we have had a problem with certain women who, to put it politely, are visiting our hotel to carry out a business which is a criminal offence in this country and is considered immoral by many right-thinking people. It seems that some of these women not only charge a fee to their male customers, but they also wake up and leave early in the morning.’ To underline the fact that the hour is early, Mr Smith taps his watch, which is as big as an alarm clock and has written on it the word Chopard in letters so huge I can read them from where I am standing.
‘A handful of these women,’ Mr Smith goes on, ‘steal money, or expensive watches, from their customers, who are still sleeping. They then leave our hotel, taking with them whatever it is that they have stolen.’ Mr Smith shakes his head as if in despair at the morals of such women.
‘I have therefore issued Nigel and his security team with instructions,’ Mr Smith says, ‘to intercept women of a certain profile who are exiting the hotel before seven thirty in the morning and to ask them the number of the room from which they are coming. We then contact the occupant of that room to ensure that all their possessions are safe and sound. I call this my early bird policy.’ Mr Smith smiles again. ‘It would be most helpful if you could give Nigel your room number so we can quickly clear up any misunderstanding.’
As Mr Smith is saying this, a tall, dark-haired woman wearing a black leather miniskirt and high-heeled shoes appears from the other side of the lobby and walks straight past us towards the exit. She has a tightly-fitting top under a leather jacket and her long, beautiful legs are the kind of shape which many men are liking to see. Over her shoulder she carries a bag large enough to contain several changes of clothes, or any number of wallets or watches. I brace myself for Nigel or possibly even Mr Smith himself to step in and block the new arrival’s path. But neither of the two men appear to notice her as she enters the revolving door and strolls off onto the street outside.
I struggle to make sense of what I have just seen. Mr Smith is staring straight at me and smiling, as if he is understanding and maybe even enjoying my confusion. In fact, he is looking at me as if he would like to eat me up.
I look away and find myself gazing into the calm eyes of the blonde woman in business attire who Nigel has stopped earlier. I know who she is, although I do not plan to reveal this to Nigel or Mr Smith. Her name is Ms Gentle, a regular visitor to our hotel who provides a certain specialised type of paid service which some men are liking very much but which is not necessarily gentle at all. In fact, Ms Gentle became well known amongst news organisations in our country shortly after I began my work here, when she was involved in a scandal in Suite 1618, at a time when our morally irreproachable Prime Minister Kaya was staying in our hotel.
‘Are you accusing me of being a prostitute?’ Ms Gentle says to Mr Smith.
‘If you could provide me with your room number, madam, you would be on your way at once.’ Mr Smith is speaking more loudly than before. I realise he has seen me exchange glances with Ms Gentle and is perhaps feeling more confident that she has not visited the hotel for an early breakfast. ‘Or, if you prefer, you may accompany me to my office so that we may discuss the issue in private.’
‘Thank you for that invitation.’ Ms Gentle’s beautiful jaw is set and her eyes glitter behind her black-framed spectacles. ‘What if I do not wish to go to your office?’
‘You are of course free to make any decision you want,’ Mr Smith says. ‘But if you refuse either to give a room number or to come to back of house, I shall regretfully have to summon the police.’
For the first time, I see Ms Gentle’s nostrils flare. Like any other citizen of our beautiful but not yet economically advanced country, she knows that any contact with officers of our recently rebranded, retrained and 100% corruption-free but perhaps not yet entirely world-class police force is something she must avoid at all costs. She is probably also aware that even the most sophisticated members of the force have not yet been reformed of a tendency to deploy brutality, torture and an unfortunate tendency to lose the keys of prison cells for long periods, in their eager pursuit of justice.
Ms Gentle smiles and places one perfectly manicured hand on Mr Smith’s arm.
‘I am sure she we can sort this out amicably,’ she says. ‘I will be happy to discuss a solution in your office.’
I watch Mr Smith accompany Ms Gentle towards what we call back of house, the staff-only zone of our hotel where Mr Smith’s office is located. Around me, guests are putting away their phones, perhaps disappointed that they have not seen Ms Gentle punch Nigel in the face, or leap through a plate glass window to make a dash for freedom.
Actually, I am thinking that either of these outcomes would have been better than what has happened.
I hope you enjoyed this excerpt from my story Mr Smith Sees Red. If you’ve enjoyed this, you may like to look at the full story on Amazon.
If you would like to explore my other writing, please:
(i) visit my Leigh Turner writing page on Amazon;
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Seven Hotel Stories
If you like Mr Smith Sees Red, you may enjoy the first batch of Hotel Stories published, “Seven Hotel Stories“.