room 17

by Susie Applegate

“Roomrestin easy seventeen of the Restin’ Easy,” Shaharazade said the other day out of the blue, as she browsed back issues of The Germaine Truth. I looked up from my laptop and gave her a curious glance.
 
    “Remember you told me that’s the same room Uncle Charlie was in,” she continued. It took a second for me to realize she was referring to The Incident. I started to say, everybody knows that, Shaherazade, but then I remembered that, of course, everybody doesn’t know that. It is an unspoken fact that some people might talk about in whispers, or others might just mention in imagined conversations, and enough folk have thought about it so that it seems like common knowledge.
 
    It is the kind of knowledge that is forgotten, because there doesn’t really seem to be any relevence, except to those who are superstitious: The Unlucky Room Seventeen, or The Notorious Room Seventeen of The Restin’ Easy, or maybe The Haunted Room Seventeen.
 
    But to a clear-eyed reporter like yours truly, it is merely a coincidence. This is what I told Shaherazade. “Yes, a coincidence. But I don’t really see how it could mean anything.”
 
    “I don’t know if I believe in coincidences,” said Shaherazade. “Mama says there is a reason for everything, if we can just figure out what it is.”
 
    “Well,” I said, “If that were true, I see no reason to think that searching for the explanation would help us find out who killed Charles Sevigny La Fontaine. Can you?”
 
    Shaherazade shook her head and buried herself back in the stacks of old newspapers. But, at the same time I started to think about what might be common to those incidents, both of which were now chiseled on the top of my mental to-do list, which reads something like this:

    Then an idea came to me ““Albert Arlington is the one person who was living at that motel at the time of both incidents. Of course, Albert was just a young child at the time Charlie went missing. But what if….”
 
    Suddenly, finding Uncle Al has moved up to numero uno.

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