James McConaughy’s headache had grown to the size of the Stone of Scone and knocked steadily on the inside of his skull. He had spent an entire day guiding a gaggle of bloody ignorant tourists around his native Ireland. It was the second-to-last night of his ‘around the Isles in Eight days’ bus tour. As soon as he got the pushy, demanding lot of them settled into their accommodations he could retire to his own room in blissful solitude.
Only the hotel had lost the reservations. Thirty hungry, damp and disgruntled tourists waited beneath the elegant crystal-chandeliers of the lobby, no doubt wondering what the delay was and how they could blame it on him. Thanks to the glory of the internet, one bad blog post could kill his next season.
He leaned on the elegant grey marble check-in desk. “Look, we booked this tour three weeks ago.”
“Sorry, sir, but if it’s not in my computer, then it’s not booked.”
The clerk’s face was as beautiful and unmarked with emotion as a granite statue. If James suspected her to be as bright as said statue, he had enough diplomacy left in his body to avoid suggesting it. Barely.
There was no way he was going to find suitably classy accommodation elsewhere for a group of this size on a Friday night in Dublin.
He took a deep, cleansing breath, following the advice in those dealing-with-stress books his doctor recommended. His doctor didn’t spend his days making nice to rude tourists.
“Maybe I had best talk to the manager on duty,” he said.
She smiled sweetly. “I am the manager on duty.”
So much for that. “I know I made those reservations.”
“Perhaps you have the wrong hotel,” she suggested in the false-concerned customer service tone he recognized too well, having used it himself on many occasions. “People make that mistake all the time.”
Amateurs made that mistake all the time. James was a professional, and he had been using this hotel every season for more years than he cared to recall.
“Is it possible you lost the reservation?” James asked, his voice the calm of water pooling behind a dam.
“We never lose reservations.”
Hers was the confidence of a True Believer. He, himself, was an atheist.
He tried to insert the heresy of reason into the conversation. “How do you know?”
“Because they’re all in the computer.”
“But if you lost one, it wouldn’t be in the computer, would it now?”
Reason was getting him nowhere. He tried for charm.
“Be a love, just check the phone logs or something.” He gave her his most winning smile. “I booked over the phone with the receptionist.”
She stared at him as though he’d said he sent a carrier pigeon with a parchment. In ogham.
“Why would you do that?”
The Blarney Stone joined the Stone of Scone, and they both banged in unison against his skull.
“Because I didn’t trust the computer.” And what a fool I’d been.
“I understand sir. My Grandda, he’s just the same way.”
He couldn’t be more then five years her senior. Maybe seven. Ten tops. No way should the impertinent chit be comparing him to her grandfather. His hard-held patience took a runner.
“I have thirty grumpy Americans in your lobby, and I’m not afraid to use them. Get us into rooms now, or I swear I’ll tell them that your mother was French and your father was Arab and you purposely lost our reservation because you didn’t like that blue-haired old lady’s American flag earrings.”
The granite mask crumbled into an expression of almost comic terror. “I’ll see what I can do.”
Being a bully was a heady feeling. “You do that. You have five minutes.”
In four minutes, thirty-three seconds she found the lost reservations. Within twenty minutes he was in a view suite away from his pesky Americans, enjoying complimentary champagne.
He would have to be a bully more often. Or maybe it only worked if you had Americans.
Shawna Reppert is a Pennsylvania native, but she has lived in the Pacific Northwest for over a decade, first in Portland and now in the wine country of Yamhill County. Her love of Irish music and culture often shows through in her work. She has won two Honorable Mention awards from Writers of the Future and three of her previous works have appeared in 10Flash Quarterly. Her first steampunk story will be appearing in an upcoming anthology edited by Phyllis Irene Radford. Purchase The Three Tunes, a collection of three short stories about the power of music, on Amazon.
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