Two things were obvious after Eric found the girl’s Facebook profile. First is that she’s big on travelling. And second, her last post was 8 days ago. 8 days ago, that’s 5 days before she checked in said George of the reception. How can she not be posting when people nowadays upload their every move? Now he may have to dig a little deeper. He doesn’t really have to but he’s just too curious to know.
When he first overheard the hostel staff discussing about a girl who missed her checkout, he dismissed it as a foreigner having too much fun and just being careless. But on the second time while sipping on his afternoon coffee in front of the laptop and was busy typing his training materials atop the common room’s computer table, he couldn’t help but get distracted with all the scrambling the staff were making. Coming in and out of room #3 then a few seconds later carrying bag after bag out of the room. Eric would normally wonder whose bags were those and if the staff were supposed to touch them in any way but today he was just watching how the whole scene was unfolding. George was occupied checking in a new guest and was carefully apologizing that the room is not ready yet while Marta the housekeeper was stuffing all the discarded clothing into the bags. What’s with those Eric said to Marta but the housekeeper barely spoke English so she just smiled to Eric then walked away. Two bags, a small backpack and a trolley. A little worn out with occasional dirt dusting the bottom parts. Before he could stop himself, Eric stood from his chair, crouched over the trolley then reached for the black plastic card dangling on the handle. The waiting guest who was now sitting on the green couch peeked up at Eric for a few seconds then returned his eyes on the magazine on his lap. Eric went back to his chair and silently whispered the name he read – Luisa.
Eric never met Luisa on the three days they shared the small corner hostel at Ford Avenue. He can’t even say if he ever saw her. Yesterday morning he had breakfast in the kitchen with Frank, a freelance artist from out of town, and was chatting about mundane things well past 10’oclock before he decided to go strolling around the city. Never did he saw room #3 open to welcome the aroma of fresh morning coffee.
Do you think something terrible happened to her? Eric was leaning over the reception table right in front of George’s vision. I don’t know, nobody knows where she is, George said. Should you like report it to the police or something? George raised his eyes again to meet Eric’s but continued typing behind the counter. The twins who were bickering at each other in the couch suddenly became quiet and Eric could feel eyes behind his head. I’m sorry I sound invading but there seems to be – he paused then switched his volume to a whisper – a missing girl here. George sighed but the slight worry in his eyes evident. Eric didn’t hear them approach but the twins are now standing beside him, not speaking a word but breathing heavily. It’s okay there’s nothing to worry about, said George, this happens a lot with the guests, they disappear for a few days, some comeback like nothing happened. If she doesn’t turn up in a few more days we’ll report it, he added. Eric turned around then walked over to his training material again. The twins followed then settled back on the couch all while exchanging looks and murmurs. A few more days, if bad happened a day can take more than a foot, Eric thought.
Later that night Eric woke with a start. He was covered in sweat and his skin felt like it was burning. He immediately looked around his room and saw nothing but darkness. Just a dream, he breathed. A scary hot dream. He closed his eyes again and willed himself to sleep but the image of burning alive kept him awake for another hour.
The morning was even quieter than most days. Eric was alone in the kitchen eating his peanut butter sandwich and fresh coffee. Besides Marta scampering about here and there, it was only him and George manning the reception. There were no guests around. Must be an epic party night, Eric called on George. Gaad I’m boring, he joked and laughed to himself causing George to raise a questioning brow at him. Did you have news about the girl? No sorry, George said. Yeah sorry, he replied. He didn’t know why he was so intrigued or affected by the situation but he decided he’s not having it anymore. He stood from the wooden high chair and walked to the front door.
He walked two blocks, made two turns, and walked another block before he found himself standing in front of the uniformed guy behind the desk. The guy was holding the morning paper with his right hand and a white cup of coffee on his left hand. Eric stood there for about two minutes without uttering a word. With this guy’s mustache and his bushy brows, one of which was raised as his eyes move intently along the newspaper, Eric thought not to bother him. Just wait, he told himself. When after several minutes the black penetrating eyes finally fell on him, Eric smiled. Morning officer! Morning, the guy hissed then dropped both the paper and cup. I would like to report a missing girl sir, Eric continued. The guy stared at him a few seconds then said, good morning huh! Officer this girl has been missing for three days. Don’t know where she is, he asked in broken English. No sir, I haven’t really met her yet but my hostel at Ford Avenue knows about her, I’m just reporting for them. What girl’s name? Luisa sir. Hostel in Ford Avenue corner? Yes sir. The officer stopped talking for twenty seconds, one minute, two minutes, and then he closed his eyes before muttering the words – that hostel burned – then he opened his eyes and gave them to Eric without a blink – two years ago. Eric’s heart skipped a beat after which he let out ragged laughs. No sir it’s not burned I just slept there last night. But the guy just breathed deeply then looked away. Eric turned around and started walking, when he realized he was walking towards Ford Avenue he turned again and never looked back.