Here's the scene....it takes place the second day that Jackie, the main character, and "Drew Smith", her name for the celebrity she's dating, are in San Francisco. Jump in!
November 10, 2009 – 5:30pm
Now I’m sitting in the atrium, typing this on my net book. Drew will text me after he’s showered, changed, and heading down the elevator, and that’s when I’ll go up. Ships passing in the evening. Then I’ll go downstairs and eat dinner in one of the hotel restaurants, or just have it sent up. We’ll see after I’ve showered. Oh wait, I forgot about the rooftop club. I should check that out. The Bay Bridge will all be lit up.
There is a bar in the middle of the atrium; that’s where I am now. It’s so low key that I didn’t even notice there was a bar here last night, and I was sitting not 10 feet away from my current spot while waiting for Drew to check us in. The woman next to me is crying. Not a good sign, I’m thinking.
I got up to the suite about 5 minutes after Drew texted me. Walking down the hall, a lot of commotion drifted up from the lobby. Judging from the badges I’d seen on the way to the elevator, the medical convention had just ended for the day and people were meeting down below. I decided I would take a shower. No, I’d take a bath, since I’d be undisturbed for a while. I lit candles and soaked, with jazz music playing.
After I got out of the tub, I heard an alarm in the hallway and a voice over the speakers in the hall. I was afraid it was a fire and dressed quickly, then opened the door to hear the announcement over the hallway speakers:
“Attention, guests. There is police activity in the lobby. Guests are requested to remain in their rooms. Please do not enter the lobby. If there is an emergency, please contact the front desk by phone. Thank you for your cooperation.”
What the hell was going on? I looked over the hallway balcony, which looked down onto the lobby, 12 floors down. I wasn’t the only one looking. Heads ringed the balconies on all the floors, peering down. Some snapping photos or taking videos, too. On the ground floor I saw tiny uniformed people cordoning off the area around the bar that I had just left about 15 or so minutes ago. Paramedics were working on a man lying on the floor, and another sitting by the wall. Even from the height, the blood-soaked shirts were visible. And I spied Drew, laptop bag on shoulder, surrounded by cops, striding towards the front lobby desk.
Something serious had happened. I turned on the TV to a local channel for the news.
There was a banner announcing breaking news in San Francisco. The shooting of a man in a hotel lobby about 5:55pm. More news was coming.
Drew sent a text to me at 5:45pm to come up to the room. Had I just dodged a bullet? Seriously?
I then noticed that I’d received a text from Drew: “Shooting in the lobby. Will probably be on TV soon, turn on the news, Channel 2. Stay up there, please.”
I texted back: “It’s on the news now. Just got out of the shower. Can see you from balcony.”
I wasn’t going down there.
The reporter stated that Drew was there, in the lobby at the time, an “almost witness” to the shooting. One other person was wounded.
I started pacing. A man was shot in the lobby while I was in the elevator. This was scary. What if Drew had texted me 5, 10 minutes later?? What if we got back to the hotel while the shooting was going on? I might have been hit. HE might have been hit. Then what? Drew was right; my father needed to know when I was out of town.
The suspect was staying in the hotel, the reporter stated, and that Drew would be on the air soon to describe the scene. I imagined news vans fighting rush-hour traffic to get to the hotel. The hills of San Francisco didn’t make it any easier.
Then I got another text from Drew: “Shooting happened right after you left lobby. Couple in the bar, did you see a woman in red?”
I did. I guess that made me a witness, right?
The hallway announcement changed: “If any guests were in the lobby between 5:30 and 5:45pm, you are encouraged to contact the hotel operator to help the police with their enquiries. Thank you. We recommend that you continue to remain in your rooms until we report the crime scene is released.”
I did not want to call. Were the police and the press going to learn that I was staying with Drew? They already knew he was at the hotel. I didn’t register for the room I was in, Drew did. And I didn’t know if he put me on the registration; it never occurred to me to ask. This was becoming messier.
I texted Drew: ”Saw them at the bar, heard nothing. Should I call the lobby? They might find out we’re together”
Drew’s reply: “I registered under a false name. Your real name on registration. We will be fine. Stay put.”
More news was available. The victim was in critical condition, and on the way to the hospital. The suspected shooter was described as a woman in her 40s wearing a red dress. The description matched the woman whisper-arguing with the man in the bar next to me. I’d barely noticed the man.
That’d be one interesting police interview:
“Were they drinking?”
She had a water glass in front of her. Based on the glass, it wasn’t straight rum or vodka. He ordered a scotch, Johnnie Walker Red, on the rocks.
(He was no Scotch drinker, that’s for sure. Red is paint thinner and is barely passable as a mixer.)
“Do you know either person?”
Never seen either of them before.
“Did either of them talk to you?”
“Was she distraught the entire time?”
No, not at first. She seemed relieved to finally see him, but then grew visibly upset when he said he wouldn’t go to dinner with her.
“How did he act?”
Pretty insistent to get away, but he turned very solicitous when she started crying.
“Did you see either one of them assault the other?”
No. The only time I saw them touch each other was when he first arrived, and when she started crying.
“Did you hear them threaten each other?”
“Did you see a weapon?”
“Did anyone else talk to them, or did they talk to anyone else?”
No, they seemed pretty into their conversation. Except for when the man ordered that (ick) Scotch.
“For how long are you in San Francisco?”
“I’m leaving tomorrow. Will that be okay?
“The suspect confessed and there were plenty of witnesses to the shooting. I don’t think we’ll need you back for a trial, but we’ll take your information just in case. You were the only witness who noticed the victim and suspect prior to the shooting.”
I stopped worrying about all the what-ifs of the timing of the shooting, and tried to relax. It’s now after midnight, and Drew’s not back yet. He never made it to the studio…guess they’ll forgive him. According to the TV news, he had not left the scene. I finally remembered to order pizza from room service, and continued to watch the news, alternating with peeking over the balcony. The detective advised me not to talk to reporters, since I was their ace witness before the fact, but I wasn’t going back down into the lobby unless it was absolutely required. I didn’t tell any of the other guests also standing in the hallway what I had witnessed. I didn’t want anyone else to remember me being there.
Meanwhile, on TV, reporters remained outside the hotel, talking to guests. They continued to talk to Drew in intervals. They reported that the other man wounded in the shooting was registered at the hotel for the medical convention. He would be fine. Sometimes I’d go out and look down from the balcony, but it made me feel a little dizzy.
In other news of the evening, that sniper guy who shot at all those people in gas stations on the east coast a few years ago was executed today, as well. I can’t imagine having to live like that those few terrifying weeks.
Tina: Hey, you shooting people up there?
Jackie: Not it, I’m miles away.
Tina: saw your boyfriend on tv, he’s hot
Jackie: I know
Tina: go to that hotel and say hi, I bet he’d remember you!
Only if she did know, eh?