Chapter Thirty Four
‘Please don’t drink too much tonight, love. You’ve been late for work three times this week and it doesn’t set a good example for the staff.’
‘Stop fucking nagging me, woman. Why shouldn’t I have a drink after work? I’m here from first light, until two and three o’clock, sometimes. And let’s face it, you’re never there to warm my bed, these days.
‘Eleven o’clock is hardly first light. And you only stay until the early hours because your in the bar drinking with that maudlin brother of yours. It can’t be much fun for either of you with all that self pity floating around in your whiskey glasses.
‘You never used to be a hard woman Ros, you’ve changed.’
‘Aye well, maybe it’s all those nights spent babysitting your mother that’s turned me bitter. All I’m saying is, don’t sit up drinking all night with James and get to bed at a decent hour.’
‘He’s broken his neck Ros. He’s in a fucking wheelchair and might never walk again. I think that entitles him to be a little bit angry, don’t you?’
‘And there’s something funny there, as well. Five men just decided to jump him for fun when he was on his way home. He’s turned into a self-pitying alcoholic and he’s dragging you along for the ride.’
‘Oh go to bed, woman. Leave me alone.’
SP dropped his key card onto the floor and nearly fell over trying to pick it up. It took three attempts to fit it in the slot and get into his room. He staggered over to his bed and fell, fully clothed and still in his work suit, flat on his back on the bed. Within minutes he was snoring.
The cold water brought him around. Somebody had thrown an ice bucket of water over his head. He felt funny. Not just drunk, but really odd. He couldn’t focus, the room was spinning, but not just spinning, it was also swirling and twisting inside and outside of itself. Colours became shapes became sounds and he couldn’t differentiate one for the other.
And that’s when he saw her.
He had been chosen.
Just like Bernadette he was a lowly servant, chosen from above to receive a visitation from The Virgin Mary.
She stood at the end of his bed in modern day clothes, but it was her all right. She had a golden halo shining above her head and he could clearly see her wings. She partly extended them and golden dust shimmered in their loveliness. He wanted to get up and fall to his knees on the carpet by his bed. But he was paralysed, he couldn’t move. He couldn’t so much as swallow. He tried to ask her what the message for the world was, but he couldn’t speak.
She came over to him and he felt an odd pressure being released on his upper arm. She spoke, but it was in Hebrew. SP instinctively knew that the following morning, when his head was sorted, the message that she had given to him would be clear and he’d know what to tell the world. He was a prophet, just as his mother had always said.
The beautiful lady walked onto his balcony. It was an uncomfortably hot and muggy night. He’d left his balcony doors open to cool his room for him coming in so that he could sleep. He didn’t actually see the Mother of God spread her winds and fly away, because he couldn’t turn his head. He was still in a state of deep paralysis, but he wasn’t worried about it. He felt euphoric.
The night passed and he didn’t sleep again. He watched the beautiful light show that the beautiful Lady had left for him. He was shown the stars right there in his room and all of the planets. A huge ruler appeared in a corner of the room with a giant apple on the top of it. He watched a caterpillar crawling up the ruler to fall back down to the ground before it ever reached the apple. It did it many times before morphing into a herd of gazelle that ran across his walls and into his bathroom. His mouth had collected with saliva, but he was unable to swallow it. He worried that he would drown. He was aware of his throat, but it felt thick and closed and he had completely lost the reflex ability to swallow or cough. The spittal ran out of his mouth and down his chin. He was in the duck pond, swimming, and a little girl swam towards him. It was Vicki. He didn’t like this part of the show, it was ugly. Vicki was covered in seaweed. He began to panic and the swirling colours on this walls turned dark green and deep purple and black. He consciously calmed himself, telling himself that the beautiful lady would never do anything bad to him. Gradually some orange and yellow crept back onto the walls. And soon he was smiling beatifically and watching the traces of colour swirling from the Lampshades.
Ros found him the following morning. She’d come down early, after getting Violet organised for the day, to make sure that her husband was also up and dressed with a clear enough head to begin his work. The staff was beginning to gossip and she had to stamp down on that before it got to the point of rebellion.
SP was flat on his back on the bed. He’d pissed himself and a wet, stinking, stain spread on the quilt beneath him. The smell of urine, stale whiskey and unwashed body in the stifling hot room was overpowering. She was worried when she couldn’t rouse him and went in search of James. His brother came into the room and wheeled himself up to the bed, after trying to wake SP he said that he was fine and to leave him to sleep it off.
He appeared shame faced and sheepish, in his mother’s quarters at four in the afternoon. He was freshly showered and looked none the worse for wear. When he lifted his tea cup Ros noticed a tremor to his hand, but otherwise, he was physically normal. He was begging his mother to tell him what he should do. He told her about the visitation from the Virgin Mary the night before. Violet only fed his mania. She’d known all of her life that she was destined to be a vessel, carrying greatness. Violet rushed off to tell Clarissa Grainger about the miracle that had occurred in her very hotel. She decided, before she left, that a shrine would have to be built in an arbour on the side lawn, as a more appropriate place for The Mother of God to appear. She said that sooner or later, she’d be sure to catch Simon Peter in a state of undress and that would be most inappropriate. Violet told SP that when she materialised again, he must ask her to appear in the summer house by the lake as a temporary measure, until she had the shrine built.
Ros, couldn’t bring herself to speak to her husband and went downstairs to continue doing his job, as she had been doing all day. When SP appeared in the bar after dinner, James was of the opinion that SP had finally flipped, and poured him a large whiskey. He never for one second contemplated that his own recent brush with a beautiful lady had anything to do with his brother’s visitation.
That night she appeared again. This time, he woke as she stood by his bed. He felt a tightening on his upper arm and then a sharp prick. He was going to ask her what was happening, what she was doing to him, but a feeling of wellbeing washed over him, and shortly after that the colours came.
On the fifth night there was a thunder storm. The rain lashed down outside his window. SP hadn’t drunk nearly as much; he came to his room relatively sober. He ran to the balcony and shut the doors against the rain pelting into his room. And he sat down in his winged armchair to wait. Since the first night, and after much ribbing, he’d stopped talking about the visitations. He’d made it to work on the second morning of waking after a visit, but not the third or fourth. He was distracted, his concentration poor. He felt nauseous all day, his appetite was ruined and he had to force himself to eat anything at all. He had tremors, and towards the evening of each night he burned with a fever that he ignored with the help of whiskey.
That night he waited. She didn’t come.
As the clock turned his condition became more severe. The fever worsened until he felt delirious. He moved over to his bed and crawled beneath the sheets. Within minutes they were soaked with sweat. SP lay shivering and burning until, instead of the Virgin Mary, the sickness and diarrhoea came to him.
Ros found him the following morning. His bed was covered in excrement and vomit. He was sodden with sweat and burned with a fever. He told her that he thought he was going to die. He asked repeatedly what was wrong with him. Ros was disgusted as she helped him to the shower and turned the hose on him. Her cheeks burned with shame as she took his soiled sheets and fastened them in rubbish sacks to go in the refuse. She dealt with it, while he lay in bed feeling sorry for himself. What was happening to her husband?
She’d cleaned his bed and helped him back into it. She fed him weak broth and rang for the family doctor. He asked if SP had taken anything. He assured him that he hadn’t. Ros told him about the rising amount of whiskey that he and his brother were consuming nightly. The doctor knew addiction when he saw it and this wasn’t just an alcohol addiction. He suspected heroin, but took a blood test and kept his mouth shut, until he knew for sure.
That night she came. Ros missed her by seconds. Ros was going backwards and forwards between Violet and her husband’s room and was exhausted with looking after them both. She had settled Violet and wanted to sit with SP for a couple of hours before morning. When she went into SP, the tremors had stopped, the fever was broken. He had a smile on his face— and he was out of it.
A needle hung out of his arm, its plunger spent, and a drop of blood had settled in the carriage. The tourniquet was still fastened to his upper arm. Ros sank to her knees and cried.
When Connie had first come home from Spain she’d done her homework. Her research made her angry. Phil had remarried, four years ago, now. He had two sons one, Thomas, was three and the baby, Oliver, was just a few months old. She followed him. Watched him. Stalked him, without him ever being aware of her existence. He was happy. His wife was a mouse, pretty enough in her own way, carrying some baby weight that she fought like a drudge in the gym three nights a week. His children seemed happy, too, but then, to the outside world, so had Vicki.
Sometimes she thought about taking the two boys. She fantasised about taking them with her to Spain and keeping them for her own, but in her darkest hours, she imagined killing them, the way that her Vicki had been killed, watching them drown, and knowing that Phil would suffer for it.
But Vicki had been an innocent child, just as those two boys were. They didn’t deserve the fist of vengeance to come down on their heads. That was due only to their father They were beautiful boys. Connie felt as though she came to know them. She watched them playing, listened to Thomas’ games. One day, he pretended that he was a spaceman and walked up and down his garden as though he was walking on the moon. She could imagine Phil, the first time the little boy had shown an interest in space travel. He would have lectured the boy, forced him to look at pictures and documentaries beyond his years. But he hadn’t killed the child’s love of space, or his imagination—yet. Connie would not hurt their father through the boys.
She considered all of the things that she had done to date. Two men were dead and another one in a wheelchair. John and Andrew wouldn’t be dead if it hadn’t been for her involvement. But she hadn’t killed them, she hadn’t put James in the wheelchair, he had done that himself. His vanity put him there; all she had done was showed him an idea. He took it. He ran with it. He’d wanted it and welcomed it.
John’s greed and Andrew’s loose lifestyle had led to their deaths. She felt only a small responsibility for it. They both could have turned away from their choices and could have altered their ways. They chose not to.
It was true that she had made SP a heroin addict. She had assaulted him while he slept and forced the needled into his veins without his consent. She regretted that. She would far rather have had him accept it through choice, like the other’s had chosen their paths. But she had righted that by giving him choice on her final visit. It was only a very new addiction. He could have easily put it right. On her fifth and final visit, after injecting him with heroin, she left his next needle, filled and ready to use, on the dressing table, beside it she left an appointment card for a five day detoxification in a private clinic that she’d pre-paid for. All he had to do was turn up.
He knew when he saw the syringe that his visitations weren’t from the Virgin Mary. He thought Ros had done it to him. Somebody had. He rang the clinic, was told that a lady had booked the appointment with a credit card. The name proved false and the card led to a dead end and was untraceable. He knew what he was doing when he depressed the plunger into his vein. But he was a weak man. He craved the colours. A worker on his staff had been sacked for drug use on the premises. He went through the hotel staff records to hunt him down. The junkie became SP’s supplier.
A month later SP admitted that he was unfit for work. He could no longer hold down a job. His wealth meant that his addiction had grown fast and he spent almost all of his waking hours incapacitated. He was unwashed, dirty. He kept himself away from the public areas and avoided the guests.
Philip was called to run the hotel, but he wasn’t up to the job. It was decided quickly, that he shouldn’t give up his own job to run the hotel further into the ground.
For the first time since the Wood’s took over the Halcyon Woods Hotel, Ros had to hire in an outside hotel manager. James still oversaw the running of the kitchen from his wheelchair, but in truth, he only went in a couple of times a day and yelled at everybody for five minutes. The Woods Empire was a crumbling wreckage, and the hotel was run by outsiders.