We are thrilled to present Part I of an original short story written by BLOODLINE author Mark Billingham titled “The Walls.” We will be running the printed version of the story in two parts, as well as an audio version, read by Brad Negbaur (see below). BLOODLINE is also available as a downloadable audiobook read by Paul Thornley.
It was probably not the nicest hotel in Huntsville, but I had a good idea that it wasn’t the worst either, so I didn’t have a lot to complain about. Truth was, I’d booked the Palms over the Internet, so I didn’t know too much about anything until I checked in. Besides which, I’d stayed in places that made this one seem like the damn Ritz, so I was happy enough with a bed I could sleep in and food that didn’t come back to haunt me.
That was when I first saw her – in the restaurant at the Huntsville Palms Hotel.
It was seven o’clock or somewhere around there and the place was pretty packed and she was sitting at a big table just across from my small one. She and everyone else at the table with her were talking in hushed voices, which made a nice change from the loudmouth pair behind me who talked about the cost of bedroom furniture for an hour or more, like they were saving the planet or some shit. I turned around to stare at one point. I was hoping they’d see that they were putting me right off my chicken-fried steak, but it didn’t do any good. I really don’t know how either of them had the time to eat anything with all that jabbering, but they clearly did because they both looked like Mack trucks with heads.
I’d seen a lot of people that size since I’d arrived in Texas.
From where I was sitting I didn’t have a great view of her, but what I could see looked pretty good, so I kept glancing over and eventually she turned to try and catch the eye of the waitress. There wasn’t really a moment between us, nothing like that. But there was maybe a half-smile or something before she got the waitress’s attention and turned away. I just kept on eating and flicking through the local paper, happy enough to make up the rest of it in my head, the way men do sometimes.
She presses something into my hand when I run into her on the way out of the men’s room. Her room number scrawled on a napkin.
She says, “Let’s not bother with names,” when we get together later on, while she’s looking me straight in the eye and taking off her shirt. “Let’s just enjoy each other”, she whispers. “Get out of our heads and go crazy for one night…”