It’s 3:43AM and I’m waiting to hear the screaming, as I push a bell cart filled with today’s New York Time’s wrapped in purple disposable cloth. Now on the 17th floor, I hear nothing but silence as I leave the elevator bank parking the bell cart on the forehead of the north wing. Grabbing just was I need, I loop the newspaper bags onto my right arm and walk west. 1700, 1701, 1705; suites now with hanging presents on their silver finished door handles. Then by 1707 I hear it, a scream of a woman faintly coming from the east side of the building. I hang the my last newspaper bag onto 1710 and run towards the east wing to find nothing but silence. I turn around and realize my bell cart is missing, nothing but a runway of dim lights leading as far as my vision can allow. I look to the right of me and walk down the east corridor towards the end of the south east wing and find it right by 1717.
I double back and quietly run back north and wrap around the elevator bank turning south east to catch nobody. Behind me, nothing but the same dim lights that bathe each floor. Defeated, I walk back towards the bell cart, I grab a few more newspapers and start looping them on 1712, 1714, 1715, 1716 and then walk down the corridor again to hang my last newspaper bag onto 1717. Pushing the bell cart, now onto the the south west wing I hang the last two for 1720 and 1725, only to hear it again - screaming from the north east side of the building. I run back toward 1715, but once again nothing, no one; just silence, so I walk back to where I left the bell cart on the south west wing and thankfully it hasn’t moved. I grab it and roll it back towards the elevators and press down.
I make it down to the 14th floor before I’ve ran out of newspaper bags. Parking the bell cart in the dead center of the landing and I walk towards the housekeeping closet on the north east corridor and find its door has been left ajar. I push the door and walk towards the end of the L shaped room, grabbing an armful of used newspapers bags from a hamper as suddenly I hear the door shut close. I drop the newspaper bags on the floor and reach for the door, I push and push but I it won’t budge. Grabbing the door handle, I try turning it in all directions, but the door just won’t open. I grip it harder and twist it right, only to have it snap and fall off the base, with the silver metal handle ringing as it rolls to on the marble tiles only to be stopped by the pile of newspaper bags.
I grab my radio and tell the engineer that the housekeeping door closet is broken on the 14th floor. Knowing he will probably take a while, I grab a roll-away bed from the far end corner, unfold it, and sit on the bed. Suddenly the lights turn off and the room gets cold, I get up and wave my arms in the air hoping to catch the motion detector, but I don’t. I sigh and lean my back against the door, now facing the far wall, I watch the light leaking from the bottom of the door. I click on my radio and ask for the engineer, he responds that he’s on he’s still on his way. Suddenly I see shadows and the little hairs in the back of my neck stand up as my arms are covered in braille. A second light shines against the wall in front of me and a face glows, getting larger and larger as I close my eyes.
The door snaps and I fall into the corridor and see no one. I get up on my feet and run through the south wing towards the elevator bank, pressing up and down simultaneously as I look towards the north wing - the bell cart is gone. The elevator rings I run inside bumping into the night engineer. He steps back and apologizes for taking so long, I tell him to fix the door later and to help me find my missing bell cart. He tells me just saw it on the 17th floor, pulls the elevator stop button, and presses 17. Holding my radio I follow him as he walks into the elevator landing and leads me towards the north east wing. Staring down the hallway there it is, its face peaking around the corner by the mouth of 1715. He points and holds his hands out, then suddenly it moves. He runs down the hallway and into the corridor, pointing at me to run the other way. Meeting him from the other side we meet cornering the bell cart. He grabs the bell cart and starts pushing it down the hallway.
‘That little boy is always running around the hallways late at night.’ he says making a turn a into the elevator bank. I look at the him and press the elevator button. ‘He’s too quick, that little fucker! I haven’t caught him yet!’
‘What little boy are you talking about?’ I ask stepping into the elevator, holding it open so he can push the bell cart inside.
‘The little boy who stays in the 17th floor. You got to talk to his parents. He can’t do this every night.’ He pushes the bell cart out of the elevator and into the lobby.
I log into my computer and search for guests staying on the 17th floor. Not a single room has a registered child. I check for floors above and below it, nothing. Looking across the lobby I see the night auditor putting the morning reports together as piles of newspapers sit at her feet. I ask her if she would like to deliver the Wall Street Journal and the Post, she shakes her head and continues stacking reports in order. I grab the two bundles of Newspapers and place them on the bell cart and run into the the guest pantry to get a knife. Staring at a jar of cookies, I take three and place them on a saucer and carry it over to the the bell cart. Cutting of its packaging rope, I place the rope in my pocket, set the platter of cookies on top of the of Wall Street Journal, and push the elevator button and press 17.
Reaching the 17th floor, I push the bell cart onto the north east wing parking it in front of 1715. I take the rope of out my pocket and tie an end to the bottom of the bell cart, running the line through the corridor and towards the south wing. I plant myself on the carpet and stare towards the end of hallway to see nothing as I wait. Sure enough a few minutes pass and I hear footsteps, someone running towards the bell cart. Suddenly I hear them stop and grab a cookie, the sound of crunching echoing in silence - I pull. A few steps follows and I pull, I pull the bell cart into the end of the south western wing and jump to my feet to find a little boy eating the last cookie off the plate. Grabbing him, I ask him where his parents where and responds in Spanish, ‘Mi madre está trabajando arriba.’
I shake my head and he takes my hand and walks me to the elevator. Pressing Penthouse he puts his one finger to his lips and motions his hands to say sleep. As the elevator doors open he walks me toward the corridor and points at a Hispanic woman, her back turned as she mops the floor, ‘Me supongo que para dormir.’
I grab his hand and walk him back into the elevator bank, ‘You’re mother’s working and you’re suppose to be sleeping right?’
‘But you can’t sleep huh?’ I push the elevator button for 17.
Reaching the 17th floor, we step out into the landing and ask him to grab the bell cart. I tell him if he can deliver the rest of the newspapers he can have as much cookies as he wants. Quickly, he grabs the bell cart and starts placing copies of the Wall Street Journal into the purple hanging cloths and smiles happily as I hand him my room list. ‘Escucha, si hacen un buen trabajo y voy a pensar en contratar a usted como nuestro niño de papel ¿de acuerdo?’
He nods and presses the elevator button for me. Leaving him, I step into the elevator and press lobby. As I reach ground level I start laughing uncontrollably as the Night Auditor stops me and ask what’s funny. ‘The paper boy.’