It seems to me the only way I can find out what that book is about is by playing detective. The only other person who might know about that book and about Torres is Lionel’s friend, Ashley. Lionel was suspicious when he saw Ashley hauling Torres’ suitcases into a trunk. I get the feeling Ashley is the right person to talk to.
I wait an hour after Lionel leaves. After feeding my mother some bogus excuse about meeting up with a friend at the movies, I slip out the front door and down the street to wait for the bus. On the bus I pick a seat near the back, beside the window. I brought along the photo with the message from the book as evidence that should prove to Ashley that I’m serious.
A half hour later, I hop off the bus and walk two blocks.
Taking a deep breath, I enter the hotel, the automatic doors making a swishing sound as they open. The lobby is sort of dingy with brown tiled flooring and sad yellow walls. I look around, searching for an employee as I walk to the front desk. After a moment, I ring the little bell. “Hello?”
A guy emerges from a door behind the desk labeled Manger’s office. He has dark hair with purple that obscures a large portion of the left side of his face. He cracks a smile when he sees me.
“Welcome to the Clairvine Hotel. Can I check you in?”
“I’m not a guest. I was actually looking for someone who works here, his name is Ashley.”
“Hi, I’m Cass. I’m a friend of Lionel’s.”
Ashley looks me over, his eyes softening. “Well it appears he has good taste in friends.”
I refrain from laughing and act slightly flustered. “I, uh, I was wondering if I could ask you a couple of questions.”
“Sure,” Ashley says. “Let’s go somewhere a little more private.”
I nod and follow him to the breakfast area across the lobby. We sit at a table tucked in the far corner.
“So, how can I help you?”
“Have you known Lionel long?”
Ashley chuckles. “We go way back.”
I consider this. “Okay, well I’m just going to cut to the chase.” I glance around quickly before continuing. “You were the one who told Lionel where Torres was staying.”
“So you know what Lionel was going to do, right?”
Ashley cocks his head. “Yes and no. I knew he was going to steal something that he thought should belong to him. I don’t know what it was though.” He leans forward, crossing his arms on the table. “How do you know about that? I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t spill incriminating stuff like that to just anyone.”
“Well—“ I stammer, caught off guard.
Ashley’s eyes narrow. “You went with him, didn’t you?”
“I… that’s beside the point,” I say, my cheeks beginning to blush. This wasn’t part of the plan. “Look, he found what he was looking for but then he lost it…”
“Did you know you could be considered an accessory to murder in addition to breaking and entering?” Ashley says, his tone cool as he disregards what I just said.
“Do you like him?”
“Lionel? No!” I exclaim, my cheeks burning now. “Okay, shut up and just focus okay? And just so you know, you could be considered an accessory as well. You are the one who leaked Lionel information.”
“Touché,” Ashley says, grinning. He leans back in his chair. “What did you want to know?”
“Do you know anything about this?” I pull the photo from my pocket and slide it across the table. Ashley snatches it up and inspects it, flipping it over and reading the message. He grins.
“Good ol’ Dal Torres. Always had a sense of humour.”
“This was in the book Lionel stole. The book was a fake, it had blank pages.”
“A book?” Ashley’s eyes slide to the side.
“Do you have any idea why Torres would go to the trouble of creating a fake book?”
“Did Lionel tell you what the real book contains?”
I bite my lip, trying to come up with something that’s not as lame as the truth, but Ashley beats me to the punch.
“Ah,” he says, his face a mix of interest and dark intent. “That’s what you’re really here about, isn’t it.”
This isn’t going how I thought it would at all. I need to get out of here, before I give away too much, plus this guy is starting to creep me out with his mind reading B.S. I stand from the table. “You know what, I shouldn’t have bothered you, you clearly don’t know anything.”
Ashley grabs my wrist as I pass. “Why don’t you ask Lionel about all the sporting events he accompanied Torres to. That might answer your question.” He lets go and I walk quickly away. “See you around, Cass,” he calls after me, sending a chill up my spine.