art by Jeffrey Redmond
The Hotel of the Suicides
by Mike Resnick & Sabina Theo
"What'll it be?" asked the man at the reception desk. "An apocalyptic death for two? Poison perhaps? Or maybe you'd prefer to have us decide? It makes no difference in the price."
"I'm not sure," said Eddie, staring at the discreet badge over the man's left pocket: Leo Verini, Psychologist.
"Not to worry, sir. Here we all have more than one role--from the chef to the chambermaids." He smiled reassuringly. "Still, I understand your restlessness."
"My restlessness?" repeated Eddie.
"A moment ago you began drumming your fingers, which could imply impatience--but it seems clear to me that you are uneasy."
"What would have happened if I'd begun biting my nails?" asked Eddie curiously.
"I'd have recommended the manicurist on the second floor," answered Verini with a laugh.
"All right, let's get down to business."
"You have read the booklet, haven't you?" replied Verini.
Eddie nodded, recalling the photos of the azure blue waters and the towering green palms that surrounded the hotel.
Are you bored with life? the booklet gently whispered. Do you seek a cessation to your problems, and a beautiful death? Then consider Caribbean Delight, the exquisite setting where elegant corpses are just another part of life!
The more Eddie thought about it, the more he concluded that Caribbean Delight served a more important purpose than anyone gave it credit for. These people had run the race, and winners or losers, they had one thing in common, something you could read in every face: they were tired.
And this place knew how to appeal to them. Its ads were tasteful, but the discerning could read between the lines. Their first client, a bestselling author, had died in his room, sexually exhausted from the efforts of two beautiful companions that had been provided by the hotel (which made sure that his blissful dead face appeared in every newspaper that was willing to run the photo).
That was the start of a stunning exodus, first from the patrons' home countries, then from the world itself.
"Have you a last will and testament?" asked Verini.
"Not a problem," said Verini. "We'll arrange it later today." He paused. "One more thing. Theoretically our visitors are here of their own will. But if even the slightest doubt exists in your mind that somebody--a relative, perhaps--has beguiled you here for mercenary motives, simply inform our Client Defense Department, and your problem will be solved immediately. I assure you that our connections are quite powerful."
"I'm here of my own free will," answered Eddie, taking the folder to a table and starting to fill it out: Edward H. Smith, musician and composer, 34, single.
It took him the better part of an hour to answer all the questions. Some were easy--height, weight, eye color--and some were more complex, and very personal. Verini took the documents, glanced at them briefly and filed them away, after which he asked: "Have you decided already?"
"Not yet," answered Eddie.
"A sudden, violent death, or something for the soul?"
"For the soul, I think."
Verini nodded his head knowingly. "I am not surprised. Artists are gifted with exceptional imagination." He lowered his voice confidentially. "Are you a masochist? Or are you perhaps enthralled with sadism? I'll read the questionnaire, of course, but I want to form an initial picture. Do you want an exquisite spiritual experience without serious consequences to your bodily essence?"
Eddie shrugged. "I haven't decided."
"Are you interested in personal relationships? Or are you rather a loner?"
"If I'm a loner, it's not by choice."
"The picture becomes clear to me," said Verini. "Don't worry. We shall provide you with the necessary conditions for creating. And when you have finished, we'll listen to your works and probably make an offer to purchase certain author's rights. We have at our disposal a team of top-notch lawyers who will guarantee you a fair deal that will of course deprive your heirs of their due… but in exchange for that, what happens to you will remain our secret." Verini handed him the key to his room. "Enjoy your stay."
Eddie turned and began following the bellhop away from the desk. He didn't see the psychologist reading the folder and then pushing a button below the counter.
Eddie stepped back as the elevator doors slid open and a very pretty girl emerged. Absorbed in a conversation on her cell phone, she stumbled over some luggage a bellhop had left on the floor and staggered right into the young musician's arms. He caught her, and was instantly captivated by the feel and smell of her.
She smiled. "I apologize for being so clumsy." She paused awkwardly. "My name's Amanda. Did you come a long way? I'm from Queensland myself. I play the clarinet. I came here because…"