Guest Post: Vivek Singh.
February 19, 2014 § 1 Comment
Johnny Walker and Chanda Chaplin
The desk bell rang. The man behind the counter took his eyes away from the television screen in front of him to look at the grandfather clock hanging beside the pin board with a few keys hanging from rusted nails that had been stuck on the board since the day the hotel started business. The clock showed 1:19. He wasn’t expecting a customer at this ungodly hour.
He turned around to meet the visitor. He stared at the man in front of him. The man was wearing a yellow top hat with curved rims. He wore a matching yellow jacket with a long tail, a black shirt and yellow pants with black boots. In his right hand he held a walnut colored wooden walking cane with a silver handle. On the left of the man stood a girl dressed in a short bright blue dress with a rose pink feather shawl wrapped around her neck. Her dress showed enough of her cleavage for any man to turn around and take a second look. But that was not what attracted the receptionist.It was the long rose pink colored feather coming out of her bouffant like a quill dipping in an inkpot which caught his eye.
The girl had a dark skin and was looking around the reception grinning from ear to ear like a Cheshire cat ready to disappear. She was twirling one end of the feather shawl with herleft hand and her right hand was wrapped around the man’s left hand, in which the man was carrying a black leather bag. The receptionist tried to see the man’s face but he had pulled the top hat low. The only thing visible was his clean shaven square jawline.
Where have I seen this guy before? The receptionist thought hard but couldn’t place the guy.
“My partner and I would like to have a room for the night.” The man in the top hat spoke in a deep voice.
He seems much younger to have such a deep voice, the receptionist thought.
“Why, certainly sir!” He replied trying to put a British accent and covering up the laminated price card with the visitor’s register which lay open in front of him. The man looked wealthy enough and in need of a room. He could easily manage to extract a few extra hundreds from him and pocket the cash himself.
“A deluxe room without AC will be one thousand rupees and an executive room with AC would be fifteen hundred rupees. Or would you like a honeymoon suite for two thousand rupees?” The receptionist smiled showing off all his paan stained teeth. He brought the fingertips of both his hands together and looked first at the man and then at the girl. The girl smiled even more broadly and looked expectantly at her companion.
The yellowed whitewashon the wall behind the man was peeling off at several places. The wood on the counter top was worn off. The lower part of most of the entrance door of the hotel was splashed red with paan stains.A single white tube light blinked every 13 seconds over a sign board written in white and blue announcing the name of the hotel, “Hotel Paradise”. The sign board looked as if it had been battered by rams during the battle of Troy.
“We will take the honeymoon suite.” The man pulled out a wad of red notes, took out two bills and slapped them on the counter. The receptionist noticed that the man was wearing a pair of yellow gloves as well.
“Why, certainly sir!” The receptionist took the notes and put them in his breast pocket. His guess had been correct. “Your name please sir, I will have to fill in the register.”
“Johnny Walker.” The man said.
“And I am Chanda Chaplin.” The girl squeaked like a teenager, giggling and swaying as if she was drunk.
The receptionist gawked at the man and then at the girl. He regained his composure in a moment and scrawled the name down on the register.
“And where are you coming from Sir?”
“Geneva, Switzerland.” The man said without any hesitation. The receptionist looked at him again and scrawled the words “JinevaSwizzerland”, in the register.
“And from here where will you be going to sir?”
“Why, certainly sir!” The receptionist beamed at Johnny Walker and with some effort scrawled “Malebun, Austrelia” on the register.
“We will need a xerox copy of your photo ID proof sir.”
“But I am not carrying any.”
“Well sir we normally don’t allow guests without a photo ID proof. You know how the police want to know everything about guests staying at hotels.”
“I told you I don’t have any identity on me.” Johnny Walker replied calmly.
“I see!You and your partner are really in need of a room, where would you two go at this time of night.” The receptionist smiled again. “Don’t you worry sir, I will manage the police, but they wouldn’t settle for anything less than five hundred rupees you know.”
Johnny Walker pulled out a five hundred rupee note from his jacket pocket and put it on the counter. The receptionist pocketed the note and rang the desk bell. He turned around selected a key from the pin board and kept it on the counter. A boy wearing a sweaty sleeveless vest and a pair of khaki shorts materialized near the counter.
“Take the sahib and Madam to room number 131313.” The boy yawned noisily, and tried to take Johnny Walker’s bag from his hand. Johnny Walker pulled it back and held on to it firmly. The boy picked up the single key from the counter turned around and started to walk drunkenly towards the staircase.
“Should I send something to eat to your room sir?”
“No. Just send some ice and glasses.” Johnny Walker replied as he turned around and followed the boy. The girl giggled and started to walk beside Johnny Walker.
“Why, certainly sir! That will be fifty rupees you can hand the money over to the boy.” The receptionist said. Johnny Walker replied by waving his hand without looking back.
“Keep some ice and two glasses in Sahib’s room.” The receptionist shouted at the boy.
Why would a man wear a hat at night? It’s not sunny. The receptionist thought looking at Johnny Walker’s swishing coat tail as the motley couple started to climb the staircase.
And why would anyone wear a coat and gloves in this stuffy weather?Johnny Walker! Where have I seen this man before? It did seem very strange, but then nothing seemed normal that night. He shrugged. He had sold a one thousand rupee room for two thousand and pocketed an extra five hundred rupees as well. A hotel like his in the city’s largest red light area could not expect any guest to pay more than two hundred rupees for a night. He chuckled at his own cunningness, patted his breast pocket and settled down to watch the television again.
The boy pushed the key in the door knob and turned it. The latch clicked and the door swung open with a creak. The boy switched on the lights and the AC in the room and disappeared down the corridor. Johnny Walker guided Chanda Chaplin inside the room by her arm. Once inside he turned around and closed the door, locking it behind him. The AC made a shuddering noise and began to hum, throwing gust of cool wind towards the bed.
It was a small room with a large twin bed covered with a white sheet which had dull grey stains at several places. The pillows had white covers on. A single bulb lit the room with a dull yellow light. A wicker chair with white cushion and a wooden table stood near the head of the bed. The curtains on the window on the other side were drawn apart. From the window came in a shaft of red light and fell on the wicker chair.
Johnny Walker walked up to the table, kept the black leather bag on top of it, opened the zip, pulled out a glass bottle and kept it on the table. Chanda Chaplin stood near the bed surveying the room. She had wanted something larger but she knew better. She had been to such hotels on literallyevery night that she had spent in the city. She had been in the business for three years now.Her clients had been myriad but she had never had a client who wore a suit and a hat, treated her well and paid the double of her night’s price. She sat down on the foot of the bed and switched the television on.
There was knock onthe door. Johnny Walker went to the door and opened it. The boy stood outside the door with a tray in his hand. A bucket of ice, two glasses and a steel jug full of water stood on the tray. Johnny Walker took out a fifty rupee note from his breast pocket and kept it on the tray. He took the tray in his hands. The boy picked up the fifty rupee note, saluted smartly, spun around on his hills and disappeared down the corridor.
Johnny Walker went inside and set the tray on the table alongside the bottle and the bag. He went back to the door and locked it. Chanda Chaplin was sitting on the bed flicking channels with a bored look on her face. Johnny Walker sat down on the wicker chair and poured some liquor from the bottle in both the glasses. He put some ice in them. Chanda Chaplin turned to look at Johnny Walker when she heard the noise that the ice cubes made in the glass.
Another drunk! She thought rolling her eyes. Then her eyes fell on the bottle of expensive imported whiskey. Johnny Walker offered one glass to Chanda Chaplin.
“Add some water no.” Chanda Chaplin said. Johnny Walker filled half the glass with water and offered it to Chanda Chaplin. This time she accepted it with a smile. She brought the glass to her lips and drank as if she had been thirsty for a long time. Johnny Walker watched her while he nursed his drink in one hand. He was still wearing his hat and the cane stood beside him leaning on the handle of the wicker chair. The red light was falling on his chest. It seemed as if his chest was full of glowing embers. He took a sip from his glass. By the time he brought the glass down on the table again Chanda Chaplin was handing over her empty glass to him. He took the glass and refilled it with the golden colored liquid, water and ice. He gave the half-filled glass back to Chanda Chaplin.
Johnny Walker picked the bag from the table and kept it on his lap. He put his hand inside and brought out a red saree. He threw it on the bed.
“Is this for me?”Chanda Chaplin shrieked spilling some of her drink in her excitement.He nodded in reply. She picked up the saree and looked closely at the golden borders and the fine thread work.
“This looks like a bride’s saree.” She said, bewildered and emptied her glass in one go. Johnny Walker put his hand inside the bag and pulled out some jewelry. He threw them on the bed. Chanda Chaplin dropped the saree and the glass on the bed and gawked at the gold jewelry thrown in front of her. She picked up the gold necklace studded with red stones and put it around her neck. Then she picked up the earrings and brought them up to her earlobes.
“Wear them.” Johnny Walker said. He took a sip from his glass.
She looked at him with unbelieving eyes. The next instant she threw the earrings and the necklace back on the bed.
“Boss, why do you want me to wear these?I am not going to do any weird fantasy stuff for you. I am not used to all this.” He kept staring at her and swirled the glass in his right hand. The ice cubes clunked. He emptied the glass of its liquid in one swig. He poured some liquor in the glass and added some more ice cubes.
“Just wear them. You don’t have to do anything weird.”
Chanda Chaplin eyed him doubtfully.
“It will cost you two thousand rupees more.” she replied. If the man was looney enough to give her a saree and jewelry for a night’s sex he would not mind paying another couple of thousand rupees. Eventually she would agree to whatever he wanted her to do but it was the principle of her business, squeeze till the last drop is gone. She knew she had nothing to lose.
Johnny Walker took out the wad of red notes and threw then on the bed. Chanda Chaplin stared at the wad for a few moments as it bounced a couple of times on the bed. She snatched the notes from the bed and shoved it inside her rose pink handbag.
“You look so sad.Make me a drink. I will do whatever it takes to make you happy.” She said and laughed hysterically. Johnny Walker took the glass from her hands. She got up on the bed and started dancing to the beats of the English song playing on the television.Her dress had slipped off her body and layon her feet. The rose pink feather shawl was still wrapped around her neck, the ends dangling on her belly. He kept looking at her and sipped from his glass.
Chanda Chaplin picked up the saree and wrapped it around her waist. Then she crossed the red fabric over her left shoulder. She picked up the necklace and wore it around her neck. Then she pulled off her plastic earrings and put on the gold earrings. She picked up the gold bangles and slid them one each in each hand.She moved her hands slowly on the necklace. She looked at the bangles in her arms they were a bit large for her but what the hell. She sat down on the bed and wore the silver anklets on her ankles. Johnny Walker gave her the glass. She took a couple of sips slowly. The excitement was too much to make her drunk and yet she knew the room around her had started swirling.
He looked at Chanda Chaplin sipping her drink dressed as a bride as she sat near the foot of the bed. Images of a woman dressed in a red saree flashed somewhere deep in his mind. A newly married couple getting their pictures clicked smiling at the camera.
“Wrap the pallu around your head like a bride.” He said, his heavy voice now beginning to slur a bit.
“Should I dance for you?” Chanda Chaplin slurred trying to stand up on the bed. Her glass tumbled and spilled whatever was left in it on the white bedsheet.
“Do as I say. Sit down and wrap the pallu of the saree around your head like aghunghat.” Johnny Walker’s voice rose. She sat back down on the bed.
What is this crazy ass fucker trying to do? She thought as she pulled the pallu over her head and covered her face up to the chin.
The image of a man lying sprawled on his back on a tiled floor flashed in front of Johnny Walker’s eyes. The man’s lifeless eyes were staring at him. He shook his head trying to get the images out of his head.His eyes felt as if the red light coming in from the window was burning them. He rubbed the cold tumbler on his eyes. Chanda Chaplin sat on the bed swaying slightly as the alcohol slowly took hold of her senses.
The room dissolved again in front of his eyes. An image of a woman wearing a bride’s saree and jewelry lying face down on the bed appeared in front of her. The bed was decorated with strands of jasmine and red roses. The bed sheet was strewn with petals of red roses. Her hands dangled from the edge of the bed. A big red bindi stared at him from between a pair of black lifeless eyes.
Johnny Walker blinked hard.The room materialized again in front of him and along with the room materialized Chanda Chaplin sitting like a newlywed bride. He threw his head back and emptied his drink in a single gulp. He put the glass on the table and made another drink for Chanda Chaplin and himself.
Chanda Chaplin raised the pallu a bit to see what Johnny Walker was up to. He was standing in front of her holding the glasses. She took her glass and began drinking. He turned around and went to the bag. He took out a small vanity case from the bag,went back and sat down in front of her.She was drinking noisily from her glass. Her head was reeling.
He raised herpalluover her head and took her face in both his hands. Chanda Chaplin felt the softness of his gloves on her cheeks. With his right hand he wiped the rose pink lipstick off her lips. The lipstick smeared over her left cheek and chin. Johnny Walker opened the vanity case and took out a stub of used lipstick. He put it on her lips and began spreading it. He put the lipstick back inside and brought out a Kajal pencil. He put it under her eyes and drew thick black lines. She kept staring at Johnny Walker with a smile on her face. She was too drunk to understand what he was doing with her.
Johnny Walker took a big red bindi from the vanity case and stuck it between Chanda Chaplin’s two black eye brows. He looked at the bindi. The bindi starred back at him. The lifeless black eyes flashed in his head again. A tear drop ran down his cheek.
“Why are you crying my darling?” Chanda Chaplin leaned forward. Johnny Walker stood up before she could take his face in her hands. Too drunk to control herself she tumbled face first on the bed. Johnny Walker went back to the table and finished his drink in a single gulp.
Chanda Chaplin struggled to sit back up. When she finally managed to upright her body she saw Johnny Walker standing with a pillow in his hand. The image of Johnny Walker standing with the pillow in his hand, the red light coming in from the window falling on his face,swam in front of her. It was the last thing that she ever saw and then everything went black.
The grandfather clock behind the reception counter of the hotel showed ten o’clock. The receptionist sat behind the counter sipping from a glass of tea. A newspaper lay open on the counter in front of him. The ceiling fan creaked and groaned overhead trying to dispel the heat.
He had changed into a crisp yellow shirt. Last night after the last guests had checked in, he had slept under the counter for a few hours.He woke up at seven when the hotel staff which comprised of a cleaner and a cook came in.
He was reading a newspaper item of three serial killings in three different cities which had happened in the last two months. The victim in all the three cases were prostitutes, choked to death by a pillow. The most interesting thing about the three murders was the names that the prostitute and her patron had used to check in to the hotels.
In the first case the name registered was Carlsberg and Rani Berry. In the second case the names were Jack Daniel and Roopa Carrey. And in the third case the names were Jim Beam and Meena Sandler. The police had said that the name of the client always resembled a very popular liquor brand.
He thought about the last guests who had checked in the hotel.What a motley couple.
What a name, Johnny Walker and Chanda Chaplin! He thought and chuckled to himself. The name reminded him of the famous comedian fromHindi cinema of the yesteryears. He sipped his tea noisily.
And why was that fucking asshole wearing a suit in this heat. Normally guests like these left in the wee hours of the morning but this pair hadn’t come out of their room yet.
His eyes suddenly fell on the register. He opened it and read the name again. Johnny Walker. He felt as if something hit the back of his head. He rang the desk bell. The boy appeared in front of him.
“Go and see if the guests in room 131313 have woken up.” He ordered the boy. The boy disappeared.
He read the news item about the serial murders again. The boy materialized again after a few minutes.
“I knocked but there was no reply.”
“Johnny Walker and Chanda Chaplin!” He mumbled under his breath. He got up from his seat and ran up the stairs. The boy followed. They came up to a wooden door marked 131313. He knocked thrice. There was no reply. He waited for a few moments and still there was no reply. He pounded on the door. No reply. He took out the master key from his pocket and shoved it into the door knob. The knob clicked and the door opened with a groan.
Chanda Chaplin lay sprawled naked on the bed. There was no sign of Johnny Walker.
About the author:
Vivek is a storyteller. It’s inbuilt in him. And you should see his sense of humor man! Bloody amazing!!
Follow his blog here, and fall in love with the man. 🙂