Chapter Thirty-six

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Grant, May thought. Of course. Thank goodness.

While the host took the call—chair turned and voice nothing more than a low whisper—May stared up at Jeremy, hoping to get his attention. He ignored her with expert conviction.

"What's happening?" May hissed.

"Shh. Just wait."

May bristled. She was ready to tell him off for shushing her, but the tell-tale snap of the flip phone closing cut her off. Sighing, the host whirled his chair around and gave Jeremy a pointed and disgruntled look.

"You're one lucky son of a bitch, you know that?" he said, rising from behind the desk and nodding to the man by the safe. "Could you grab the key for unit four, Jethro? Thanks."

Without another word, the host breezed past May and Jeremy and into the hall. The pair exchanged a curious glance before following. They tramped after him up the staircase and pushed through a set of swinging doors into a bustling kitchen. The smell of fried food was as thick as a wall, and May slogged through it while simultaneously dodging the rogue shoulders and elbows of line cooks too busy to notice they were behind them.

The host didn't acknowledge either of them until they reached yet another set of swinging doors—these ones opening to the bar's dining floor. Behind them, May could hear peals of laughter and the crack of pool balls. The three of them stopped, and the host handed Jeremy back his new burner phone.

"Meet Jethro at the bar to collect your keys, then head through the door just past the washrooms. Follow the stairs to the next floor. Unit four is yours until three."

"Three what?" May asked.

The host gave her a tired look. "Three in the morning."

"What's happening at three in the morning?"

"That's when your party will be here to pick you up. Just leave the keys on the table when you go."

Jeremy gave the host another cavalier salute. "A pleasure working with you, as always."

The host rolled his eyes. "Just remember: this makes us even."

"Noted."

The pair pushed through the doors and out into the crowd. Sure enough, May could see the man from the safe already waiting for them, leaning back on the bar and chatting with the same bartender from earlier. May assumed he must have come up from the same secret entrance they had used to access the speakeasy in the first place. When he caught sight of them, he straightened up, tossing the keys to Jeremy when they were close enough. Then he went right back to his conversation.

Together, May and Jeremy followed the host's instructions, slipping through the door by the washrooms and following the stairs upward. At the next landing they found themselves spit out into a hallway that bisected the floor straight down the middle. Doors dotted the walls on either side in evenly spaced intervals.

"What is this?" May wondered aloud.

"Rooms for rent," Jeremy replied. "Come on."

They found a door marked with a hand painted black number 4. May crept in behind Jeremy, uncertain of what she might find. Inside, a double bed took up most of the floor plan's real estate. There was a small threadbare couch beneath a window that faced a brick wall across the alley, and a round table with a pair of spindly chairs tucked in the corner. Jeremy poked his head into the narrow door to the immediate right of the entrance and flicked on a light that filled the small space with an insect-like buzzing.

"Bathroom," he announced. In the moment before he turned the light back off, May caught a glimpse of faded linoleum bathed in buttery yellow light.

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