I watch him every day. He wears beautiful tailored suits and polished shoes. Eagle-featured with perfect hair, dark, slicked back. His skin is pale with not a wrinkle in sight. He is almost supernaturally flawless. Such a magnificent man. I understand why women adore him. He comes down the stairs a little after dark. He flashes me a smile as he hands me his key. I stay professional and try to stop myself from blushing. He tells me he gives me his key when he leaves and retrieves it when he comes back just to talk to me. My partner behind the counter sends me a look telling me to stop dilly-dallying. I place his key in the numbered box and watch him leave.
He comes back with a different woman every night. He winks at me when he retrieves his key and retreats to his room, wrapping his slender arm around the woman's slim waist. All the girls have something in common. They are all stunningly beautiful and wear a gold necklace that is so monstrously thick it resembles a rope. A noose around their neck. The necklace reflects the light off the crystal chandelier that hangs overhead and it bounces around the walls. All eyes watch him. But no one sees what he is.
I clean his room after every week and someone else takes my place at reception. He is immaculate. Everything is so precise it doesn't need my touch. But I stay anyway. I enjoy a little snoop. He has a jewellery box sat on the desk. I open it and see several rings. Women's rings. They are all so different. Some with lustrous stones, some cheap and tacky. The rope-like necklace is also in there. Wound round like a serpent protecting its treasure. How strange I thought it was at first. How every woman had the exact same necklace and that he also has a copy. But then I realised, there was only one necklace. The one in the jewellery box. He would give it to them at the start of the night to show that they had been chosen then he would take it back from them when he is finished.
"You know what's strange?" my partner asked when he disappeared up the stairs with another woman in his arm.
"What's that?" I looked over at her. She was an old woman. A lot older than me. Married with two kids. Crows feet round her eyes.
"I never see those women leave. I've asked around, no one has" she said, nodding up the staircase.
"Funny that" I replied, sounding disinterested but the words seemed to strangle my heart. I wasn't curious like her. I had opened Pandora's Box and I had learnt the secret.
One day, at dusk, like clockwork he sashays down the stairs and meets me at my counter. He places his elbows on the countertop and leans in to me. He is so close I can see my reflection in his dilated pupils. My breath comes out as a quiver. My heart is beating so heavy it seems to echo round the room. I should be fearful but he is still so alluring. There is a silence. The tension between us is palpable. He then tucks his hand into his breast pocket and pulls out the gold necklace. He let it dangle in the air between us. I study it in awe.
"You're next" he whispers. A chill runs up my spine. You know what they say about chills don't you? Someone had just walked over my grave.