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Scum Hopkins was woken by the sound of two-tone police sirens at around seven thirty.

Just like home,’ he said to himself as he got up from his bed and pulled the window shut.

The city sounds stopped, or at least were muffled and lost to him. The shower in his marble bathroom was one of the best he had experienced in any hotel anywhere.

He heard the phone ringing but took the option of staying in the shower.
 When he eventually exited the shower he heard a loud, impatient knocking on the door of his room. 

“Okay, okay, I’m coming. Just put a robe around me. Hang on.” 

He threw the door open, ready to verbally lay into the impatient individual who was behind it. It was a hotel employee. 

“Mr Hopkins. There’s been an accident. Please get dressed and come downstairs right away.” 

He remembered the sounds of the police or ambulance sirens and took the request seriously. It could only be Norma, fallen down the stairs or something. 

“What’s happened?” 

“It’s your lady friend in room 736. Miss Tudor. She’s been involved in an accident outside.”  

Within two minutes Hopkins was dressed and running down the stairs of the hotel. The reception area was busy. A number of guests were milling around. He could feel the uneasiness and consternation of the people in the lobby and went straight to the desk. 

“I’m Charles Hopkins. I’ve just been told that my friend Norma Tudor has been involved in an accident. What’s happened?” 

“It’s just outside sir,” said the receptionist.  

Scum moved briskly across the lobby and through the main doors, noting the situation in front of him. ‘Several police vehicles and an ambulance with blue flashing lights. The small road from the left is blocked. A black London taxi cab is across the middle of the road in front of the hotel. Immediately behind it is a dark Range Rover SUV, which, by the look of the damage, has crashed into the back of the cab.’ 

“What happened? I’ve been told that a friend of mine has been involved in an accident,” he shouted to a policeman. 

“Who’s your friend?” the officer asked as he came towards him. 

“Norma Tudor. She’s staying at the hotel.” 

“There’s been no positive identification. The hotel porter said it was her. Do you know her well?” 

“What the hell has happened to her?” 

“It’s not good. She’s gone to hospital by ambulance. She was just getting into this taxi when it was hit from behind by the Range Rover. The driver of the taxi says that the lady had run out of the hotel and stopped him.” 

“Impossible,” said Scum. “She was meeting me for breakfast at nine. There was nowhere she would be going.” 

“The hotel has checked her room with the master key and she isn’t there and the hotel porter said it was her, so it must be.” 

“Is it serious?” 

“Yes. The Range Rover caught her just as she was sitting down in the cab and threw her forward against the compartment window.” 

“Where’s she been taken?” 

“I’ll find out now and get a car to take you there. Are you a relative?” 

“No. Very close business friend. I’m from New York. She’s from Washington DC.” 

Scum walked around and looked at the position of the cars. ‘No skid marks!’ he said to himself. ‘Looks like the SUV made no attempt to brake. It’s just one way traffic here, coming from the left.

“Oh, one more thing Mr Hopkins. The driver of the Range Rover ran off to the right there, into the main road, through the two-way traffic.”

Scum virtually froze.

“Ran off!” he shouted. 

“Probably drunk from the night before. We’ll get him.” 

Scum Hopkins was stunned. Nothing was right here. The events of the last couple of days galvanised him. 

“Ran off,” he whispered to himself. He walked back into the hotel and turned right to the reception desk. 

“Who saw Norma Tudor leaving here today?” he asked out loud, addressing the receptionists behind the desk. His attitude was dominant and the administrative activity ceased immediately. 

“Me,” said a concierge who appeared apprehensive about the agitated American.  

Scum moved in close to him. “What happened?” 

“Well, she came up and asked me to get her a taxi.” 

“To go where?” 

“She didn’t say. I told her that it would be quicker for John the doorman to stop one outside at this time of day. She just rushed off.” 

“And where is John?” asked the agitated detective. 

“He’s outside, with the police I think, the man in the top hat.” 

“What mood was she in?” 

“She was certainly in a rush. I could tell that.” 

“How was she dressed?” 

“Sir, I didn’t take that much notice. I am sorry about what happened. Were you very close?” 

The policeman had walked into reception. 

“Mr Hopkins. We have a car here to take you to the hospital.” 

“I’ll be there now,” said Scum and turned back to the concierge. “Just think for a minute. What was she wearing?” 

“I don’t really know. I can tell you though, she was very casual. Oh and she had no make-up on.” 

“Why the hell would you know that?”

There was a pause from the concierge as he thought about his answer.

“Come on man.” 

“Well sir,” he said quietly, motioning Hopkins to come closer. “I’m new at the Langham. I’ve never seen it here but there was a standing joke in my old hotel about the morning-after ladies who leave the hotel first thing in the morning.” 

“Meaning…?” said Scum getting angry. 

“Sir, some businessmen or sportsmen and the like, who stay at hotels, pick up women in the night. The ladies walk in looking posh and well turned out and then, in the morning they walk `the walk of shame’, as we used to call it.” 

“Go on,” said the detective, raising his voice. “I’d really like to know.” 

“Well, they always leave with their clothes not perhaps as smart looking as the previous night, their hair all over the place and no make up.” 

“So you’re saying that you thought Norma Tudor looked like one of them?” 

“My God, no sir. I know Miss Tudor is a resident, but you did ask me how I remembered she had no make up on and she was looking a little casual, as if she had just got up. Well that’s how.” 

Scum Hopkins nodded, turned away and walked outside and into the waiting police car. The concierge was relieved that the ordeal was over. Scum knew that the concierge was honest in his appraisal. He would always remember now in any hotel `the morning walk of shame’.

He caught a glimpse of himself reflected in the window and realised he was minus his bow tie and had not shaved in the rush to get dressed. ‘So why was Norma in a rush to leave?’ he pondered.

The police car was racing through the streets, too fast for Scum’s liking. He thought of the phone ringing while he was in the shower. Apart from worrying about Norma, he also realised the massive implications that Norma having a serious injury would have. The London based US media bureau chiefs would be sending their reporters to the hospital within hours. He also knew that his presence in London would be the source of much conjecture, especially as they were staying in the same hotel.

‘What are we going to do? Lie about it all, come clean and tell the truth about why we’re here.
 Then he was overcome by a thought which actually made him catch his breath. ‘What if Norma had been deliberately run down?’ The idea was preposterous. 

They arrived at Saint Mary’s Hospital and the police officer ushered Hopkins into an anteroom in the Accident and Emergency section and left him. Ten minutes later the policeman returned.

“Sir, I’m sorry I did not introduce myself before. I am PC O’Neill. I am afraid I have some extremely bad news for you.”

“You’re going to tell me that Norma Tudor is dead.” Hopkins had done this particular duty on numerous occasions but now it was being done to him. 

“Yes sir. I am so sorry. It would appear she was about to sit when the vehicle hit the taxi from behind. The power of the collision catapulted her forward into the strengthened glass partition causing serious injuries to her neck and spine.” 

“My God,” Scum whispered to himself as he sat down. The officer sat next to him. 

“Can I get you a tea or coffee sir?” 

“Yes thanks. I’ll have a coffee please. No sugar, just black.” 

The officer left the room. The American sat in stunned silence.

‘This has got to be a mistake. Norma’s back at the hotel.’
 Scum walked outside into the warm morning sunshine and rang Norma’s cell phone number. He waited as the signal went back and fore across the Atlantic finally ending in an answerphone message. On a whim he said, “Norma, ring me,” then pressed the off button and went back inside to the hospital waiting room. PC 0’Neill approached him. 

“Excuse me Mr Hopkins but would you come here for a minute please,” he said softly. Scum was led through hospital corridors to a small waiting room.

“Mr Hopkins, I know you may find this difficult but I want to ask you a few questions, then an even more difficult request.” 

“Yeah, I know. Identify the body,” he said in a matter of fact way. “Look, I think there’s something I ought to tell you.” He motioned the officer to sit down.

Taken from the book:

Written by John F Wake and Alan Torjussen
© John F Wake, Alan Torjussen, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-9535202-5-1

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