An Evening’s Work by Shani Naylor

I check my camera carefully, make sure there’s enough film, spit on the corner of my handkerchief and gently wipe the lens. That’s me: proper and professional.

Tonight, I’m at the Bradford Hotel. It’s your typical seaside establishment, full of newlyweds, elderly widows. You know the type. The hotel has seen better days – purple carpet threadbare in places, gold paint rubbing off the stair rails showing dirty white underneath.

Charlie, the manager, gives me an obvious wink when I go in. I check my watch. I’m due at 9.30pm on the dot. I’m a bit early so I think about having a couple of drinks in the bar, but decide against it. I don’t want the photo to be out of focus or badly framed. Not arty farty either or any of that nonsense. Just the necessary.

I go back and wait in my car, reading The Sun and sipping from a flask of now-lukewarm sugary tea. I wipe my moustache with my handkerchief and check the time. Twenty minutes past nine. Time to get ready. I take my camera out of its leather case and hang it around my neck. I pat my overcoat pocket to make sure I’ve got a pen and notepad.

I go back in and check with Charlie. They’re in room nine, he says, second floor, third door on the left. Right-oh, I say. I’ll give him his ten quid afterwards. He’s reliable, Charlie is. No fuss. No drama.

I walk up the stairs. There’s no need to rush, they know I’m coming.

The door to room 9 is painted a garish pink. I suppose the honeymooning couples must like it. I stand there for a moment, make sure the camera is ready. Then I knock once and throw open the door. The couple are in bed together – the woman in a lacy cream number, the man bare-chested. That’s going a bit far – he could have left his vest on. They sit up, feigning surprise, and I stand at the foot of the bed clicking away. The flashbulb lights up the room, like Guy Fawkes night. Charlie comes in too – the couples often like a second witness. When I’ve got enough shots, I give them the thumbs up, then step out.

“Fancy a pint, Alf, before you drive back to London?” Charlie asks.

“Yes, why not,” I answer, then head back down the stairs.

About The Author

Shani Naylor lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She has had short fiction published in the Top of the Morning Book of Incredibly Short Stories, Flash Frontier, Toasted Cheese, The Drabble, Punt Volat and Fairlight Books, and selected for broadcast on Scotland’s Heartland FM. She was longlisted for the 2020 Michael Gifkins unpublished novel contest.

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