Minutes to Midnight
Luke checks into the hotel and, as the receptionist runs his credit card, he notices the photograph displayed in the lobby. It is a black-and-white photo of the majestic Victorian building. He cannot say why, there is nothing odd about it, but it gives him the creepy-crawlies.
“That picture was taken when the hotel opened in the 1890s,” the receptionist says and hands him a key.
Luke enters his room and jolts at the sight of the black-and-white photograph hanging above the bed.
- Art Nouveau four-poster bed, nightstand, table and chair at back of room, heavy dark drapes line French doors to balcony. Sunlight gleams on bedspread.
The sleek curves of the Art Nouveau style warp the mood of the photograph and give it a bizarre, off-kilter feel.
The furniture in Luke’s room is different, modern, but the layout the same. White bedspread, blue curtains.
“It’s this very room,” he exclaims.
He startles at the knock; the bellboy enters with Luke’s luggage and leaves.
Luke steps onto the balcony and enjoys the setting sun’s milky glimmer over the cityscape.
Luke’s eyes adjust as he enters from the balcony. Long shadows play upon the walls and blue imbues the room. Luke reaches for his jacket and stares at the photograph.
- Man lies on bed, in slacks, vest and shirt, tie unfolded, legs extended on bedspread, arms behind head; resting. Face gazes towards balcony. Suit-jacket draped on chair, hat on table, shoes by bed.
Trembling, Luke grabs his wallet and hastens to the door. He leaves for dinner.
Luke opens the door and flicks on the light. The lamp on the nightstand is dim, but moonlight enters from the balcony. He places the keys on the nightstand and undoes his tie, preparing for bed. His heart skips when he glimpses the photograph.
- Man, now in striped pajamas, opens bedspread. Face blurred by bulb of light from Tiffany lamp on nightstand.
Luke gulps and wonders whether to change rooms. He phones the lobby, but no other rooms available for the night.
“Tomorrow,” the receptionist says.
Luke enters the bathroom.
Luke opens the bed and is about to climb in when he stops and stares at the photograph.
- Darkened room lit by moonlight from balcony. Table and chair in silhouette, nightstand in shadow, billowing drapes. Outline of man laying on side, face towards balcony, flat sheet and blanket pulled up to neck, bedspread rolled at feet; asleep.
Luke stands with arms hanging and mouth open, mesmerized. His heart pounds and he gapes at the photograph.
- Woman stands at foot of bed. Long dress and tight jacket, heeled boots, corset and bustle. Hair in bun, tilted cap on head. Face blurry but turned toward sleeping man.
Luke’s frenzied mind searches for an explanation and finds none. He wants to turn away, but cannot.
- Woman extends arm and points gun at sleeping man. Gun glitters in moonlight.
- Flash of light at gun barrel.
Luke hears a faded pop, as if from a gramophone. The light in his room dims, then brightens.
- Blanked out image, dark edges. Overexposed?
Luke screams as red spots appear and expand, soaking the white satin pillow on his bed.