Lucky number seven
Reginald Stacey Wilkingfried III strolled suavely into the Hilton’s lounge, leaned his long frame against the bar and adjusted his cravat. He calmly surveyed the dining room, his sharp eyes picking, like magpies over a rotting corpse, through the crowd for likely candidates.
Couple at table twelve? They’d never do.
Three lads, four pints in at table five. Reginald shuddered. They wore tracksuits and black shoes hastily purchased in order to gain entry and were literally counting down to eleven, when the Bottomless Brunch began.
Table three. Seven girls - Reggie’s lucky number - all heels and eyelashes and foundation enough to sink a battleship. Perfect.
Really, it was too tragic that it had come to this, thought Reggie, but his throat was parched, his pockets were empty and his credit with the charmingly provincial barman was most definitely at an end. It was this or go without his midday drink, perish the thought.
“Fifteen, fourteen, thirteen…” the lads bellowed, the girls fluttered, the waiters waited, tensing their immaculate shoulders. It was about to begin.
“Three, two one - PROSECCO!” corks popped, glasses clinked, the room filled with shrieks and sticky laughter. Reginald made himself wait a few moments then headed to the table of ladies, wombling an unattended half-glass of prosecco en route.
“Good morning ladies” he said running a trembling finger along his thin moustache and they blushed. “Might I have the pleasure of your company? I don’t often see such beauty in this old place."
“Keep moving grandad” belched the wiliest of them, but the seventh, a young redheaded girl smiled shyly. His saviour.
“Of course. Waiter? another glass for -?”
“Reggie, sweet girl. I’m most obliged”
Reggie tipped the incredulous waiter a wink and returned to his new friends.
“Darlings, I find myself temporarily embarrassed, but perhaps I can make it up to you later upstairs in my suite, if you’ll join me there for further refreshments?”
The wily one was about to speak but the seventh girl interrupted. “We’d be delighted.”
Reggie sat with them long after the Bottomless Brunch ended, sharing his charming anecdotes and getting himself nicely lubricated at their expense.
Number seven was generous. She made countless trips to the bar, returning with brandies and bottles of fizz, always with that shy smile. Reggie almost felt bad about the nasty trick he was playing. Almost.
In a flutter of cheap perfume and elasticated dresses the girls rose in a flock to use the bathroom. Reggie sensed his opportunity. When the last girl had vanished from sight he stood, unsteadily, and slipped from the lounge.
But his way was blocked by a strong, immaculate arm.
“Sir, you’ve forgotten to settle your bill.”
The voice was polite, but with an undertone of gleeful menace.
“Oh, the ladies have been so kind. I’m sure they’ll see to everything when they get back.”
“They’ve gone”. The carpet swam under Reggie’s feet.
“Yes to the bathroom, my good chap.”
“No, sir. They’ve left the hotel. That redhead girl was thrilled you’d treated them. Said they could never have afforded it without you. Most pleased, she was.”
Reggie dragged his eyes upwards and into the face of that charmingly provincial barman.
“Now sir, will that be cash, or cheque? I’m afraid we don’t accept credit - anymore.”