Robert woke up too hung-over to comprehend his surroundings. He sat up groggily massaging his temples in a desperate attempt to ease the headache he had acquired.
‘What was in that wine!’ he cursed.
There was a knock on the door, which sounded like a bomb had exploded, to Robert. He hobbled to the door and opened it squinting his eyes to greet the knocker with few chosen abuses.
‘Here are the tonics for your intoxication Mr. Dawson’, the prim waiter nodded sympathetically, placing a bottle on the side table.
Robert just grunted and took a swig directly from the bottle. He felt like sleeping some more but knew that he had to eat something.
‘Whats for breakfast?’
‘Its past lunch time , sir. You might get some evening tea though.’
‘Oh…’ Robert was amused as well as surprised. He had never been this drunk since…ever.
He put on some clothes after the waiter left and went down to the dining hall. The same waiter who had served him last night greeted him with a pleasant smile.
‘What will you have sir?’
‘Whatever is available in your kitchen’ Robert said massaging his head.
‘Seems like you drank a lot sir. I just have the meal for you and he was off.
‘Right, now everyone thinks that I'm a drunk traveller,’ he mumbled.
He heard a soft laugh behind him and the girl-who-winked came to his table.
‘Blame the wine sir. It’s a lil’ too strong for first timers.
I’m Isabelle.’ She smile and gave a small bow.
‘You mind?’ She asked pointing to the empty chair beside him.
‘No.. Go ahead’ Robert said , intrigued by the girl .
‘How has been your stay?’ she smiled
‘Some kind of feedback question? ‘Cze I’m sure it’s the first time a motel owner has asked me this’ Robert laughed.
‘This isn’t just any hotel sir.’
‘Oh’ he said taken aback by her response, ‘it’s nice. As nice as mo..hotels go.’
‘Would you like to extend your stay or do you intend to check out?’
Robert gave a small smile and nodded , ‘I'll check out now. I have to be somewhere.’
‘Sure sir. I’ll call the butler.’ Isabelle smiled and left.
Robert got up after eating his late lunch, which was delicious, and trudged to his room. On his way he heard some shouts and screams and tinkling of coins. It wasn’t there yesterday he thought to himself.
He followed the noises and found himself standing in front of a huge wooden door. He gave a furtive glance around as if he was entering a prohibited zone and pushed open the door. For a minute he was dazzled and thought that he had entered a land of lights. There were bright neon lamps and huge chandeliers and candles too.
It was a casino. He looked around the room and was pleasantly surprised by the decor and the casino machines. It was something he hadn't seen before. Usually motels had moderately lighted rooms as gamble houses and maybe two or thee pay-machines and named it a casino. But this… This was something entirely different.
‘Overdone it, haven’t you sister?’ Henry said amused.
‘It will keep him for a few days.’ She said.
'And then what? We keep him in a dungeon locked and chained?’ Henry snorted.
‘Don’t be obtuse brother. He will want to stay then. He doesn’t really has a choice now does he?’ Isabelle chided.
‘Neither do we.’ Henry said sadly.
Isabelle didn’t reply and just looked at the young visitor. She knew he was a nomad. She sympathised with him but was helpless herself. Robert was gambling away whatever little money he had. Today he would win everything he gambles. Just so that he stays here tomorrow and the next day… till forever.
Robert went to his room a happier and a richer man. He couldn’t believe his luck. He had won almost four games tonight.
You can stay here for one more day Robbie. Improve your riches, win some more. It will help your business too, he thought to himself.
He was still contemplating his decision when he heard a quite conversation just outside his half open door.
‘Who's the new guy?’
‘Just someone who checked-in yesterday.’ Someone replied.
‘He’s here to stay?’
‘Aren’t we all here to stay?’ the man said.
‘Well, hope he isn’t like the one we had before. Thrashing up the place like that would make this hell-hole disappear.’
‘SHH… that’s his room right there. This time its different. We are making him stay.’
‘Best of luck, Henry.’ The man said without much conviction.
Robert was still reeling from the conversation when he heard a knock on the door.
‘May I come in sir?’
Robert opened the door and saw the same butler, the one who had brought his bags up the first day, standing there.
‘Are you Henry?’ Robert asked without thinking.
He looked a little taken aback but recovered pretty fast, ‘Yes sir.’
‘I had come to ask you about tomorrow. Would you like to spend another night here?’
Roberts instincts had started kicking in. Specially after the mysterious conversation he had heard.
‘Well maybe I would.’ He shrugged.
‘As you feel sir’, Henry gave a bow and left.
Robert was on his toes now. He was pretty sure something was going on in this hotel. A casino like that can’t be made in a day. And he was pretty sure it wasn’t there yesterday.
He packed his bags in a rush as he didn’t intend to tell anyone about his exit. He wanted it to be as discreet as possible and he wanted to leave this place now.
He sweeped the room once more and gently shut the door of his room. He was standing in the corridor of the hotel deciding which corridor to take. He saw the sign of emergency exit on a door far away. He hoisted his bag and started to walk towards the exit. He was ready to leave his jeep here and decided it was best to leave this place as soon as possible. He could collect his jeep whenever he wanted.
After a bout a minute of walking Robert suddenly realised something. He wasn’t moving at all. Or rather the exit wasn’t coming any closer. He walked a little faster trying to reach the neon red sign which was beckoning him to come. The door to his freedom. But the corridor seemed never ending. The sign wasn’t any closer than before. He started running faster desperate to break free but the corridor was growing longer and longer and the exit seemed farther. He heard a piano in the distance but couldn't concentrate, he had to break free. He had to leave.
‘You can try,
Oh lonely traveller you can try,
But leaving isn’t an option
Because you are here to stay.
And you can cry
Oh wanderer you can cry
But you are here to stay.’
Isabella looked from the adjacent corridor sadness etched into her features.
'It never gets easier sister, no matter how much you try', Henry said watching Robert try desperately to leave the hotel.
'I still had to try!', she sighed.
'I know you did.' he whispered back tears streaming down their faces.