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Paul Nichols




The memoirs of a hotel night manager

Copyright © 2017 by Paul Nichols

Paul Nichols has asserted his right under the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.

This book is a work of fiction and except in the case of historical fact any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

Published by Mereo

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ISBN: 978-1-86151-793-7

Dedicated to all those who are doing a job they love and hate at the same time.


This story could just as well be yours. I think I am a fairly ordinary man, so how I came to be in an extraordinary situation remains to be seen. Fortunately, it is my story to tell, and I’m about to share it with you.

My name is Paul. I’m single and a shade over six feet tall, with an athletic physique and an olive complexion, and I am thirty-one years old. Some people call me handsome, which is probably part of the reason I came to be in this situation, as you will see. Also, just for reference – and in case you are interested – I am a practising heterosexual. Practice makes perfect, after all.

I’m sure that at some point in our lives we have all found ourselves in a job we have decided to do just for the money, even though we hated it and hated almost all the people we had to work with. But if you’ve ever been in this situation, I bet you carried on, if only for the money, as long as it was good enough. I bet you’d do it for the sake of paying for a skiing trip or for that sun, sea and cocktail-fuelled holiday which would fade from your memory as fast as your tan, if it wasn’t for those embarrassing pictures you posted on your social network page. Well, OK – perhaps that’s just me!

But hopefully, you didn't have to work with the sort of obnoxious people I met when I was working at a well-known five-star hotel in central London. I’ll call it the Hotel Mannequin.

From what I could see, whilst attending the numerous interview stages for a job at the Mannequin, the hotel wore two faces: a sober, sophisticated face for daytime and an untamed face of vulgarity at night. But the thing I liked about this hotel, even though it was five-star, was that it wasn't one of those stuffy hotels that are stifled by pompous ignoramuses who speak with plums in their mouths and keep themselves tight-laced, pretending that ‘sex’ is a bad word, to be used only in the confines of their bedroom. On the contrary, as I would soon discover, this hotel was thronged with people who were all too keen to explore life. The visiting and resident guests were never afraid to use experimental non-prescribed drugs at leisure and during sex, and were not afraid to do unbelievable things in the public areas.

And there were other attractions that were far too good to dismiss. I’m sure you would be as intrigued and enthusiastic as I was if, during your interview, you were told that you would be paid over £34,000 per annum for a four-day week, you would meet and greet celebrities, enjoy fine dining whilst on duty and have the added perk of a cash bonus whenever set targets were met. Wouldn't you jump at an opportunity like that? Well, I certainly did. It all sounded too good to be true. And in the end, I discovered that it was.

However, my eyes were gleaming with the possibilities. The way I interpreted the contract, if I worked according to their schedule of four days per week, followed by four days off, it technically meant that I would only be working for six months out of the year, which was absolutely fantastic!

However, there is one crucial point. I would advise you, if you ever come across such an opportunity, to scrutinise the details and always consider that there is likely to be a hidden agenda behind the contract. Yes, that might sound mysterious and confusing, but in my case it was more a matter of what wasn't said and wasn’t written in the contract that made this job the most hateful job you would love to do. I skirted over the small print. In fact, the small print didn’t cover the half of it. The real dangers and concerns were not mentioned at all. I didn’t think of the implications or look for the catch. It wasn’t my own idiosyncrasy, I’m sure. When was the last time you read, in full, the Terms & Conditions on a website? Don't we all just tick the box and hope it’s going to be OK? When we’re eager for the benefits, and keen to get to the good stuff, we all say, ‘Yes, well, whatever. Anyway, great! Let me just sign the contract and get the show on the road.’ Or in other words: ‘Never mind all that. Show me the money!’

If ever a job sounded too good to be true, my job at the Hotel Mannequin was it.


After signing my employment contract with the Hotel Mannequin, I was given a start date in two weeks’ time. However, just three days later, I received a call from the Deputy Hotel Manager, Stephanie.

“Oh, hi Paul,” she breathed. “I’m really looking forward to working with you. I can’t wait. In fact, I was wondering…”

In a highly seductive voice, she started trying to persuade me to start work ten days earlier than we’d initially agreed. She was really persuasive. As she was my manager and I wanted to show her I was keen, it was really difficult to resist her request, because Stephanie was one of those stunning blondes you usually only see on spring catwalks, except that she had enough curves to put most famous pop chicks in the shade. How could I say no?

“Tomorrow? OK, great! I’ll see you then,” I said.

I was also excited about starting sooner. Fantastic money, faster than I’d anticipated! What’s not to like?

Because I had been asked to start work so much earlier than planned, the specially-tailored uniforms they had ordered for me were not ready yet, so I was given the opportunity to wear my own suits until they arrived. I saw an advantage in this. The first day at work would be all about me making a great first and lasting impression. So I had already thought things through before I even got up the next morning, prepared to impress.

I thought I would start by choosing a shirt. From my initial impression of the hotel, I thought a light pink shirt with a dark pink tie would be perfect. It would provide a striking flourish of colour against the backdrop of my dark Ralph Lauren suit and my tan Oliver Sweeney shoes…

As I told you, I’m straight, but I’m meticulous about how I look. And I always believe you feel more confident when you know you’re wearing the right perfume and underwear. So, infused with Dior’s Fahrenheit and adorned in red, tightly-fitting Emperor Armani underwear underneath my designer suit, complemented by a nicely-branded pair of Paul Smith cashmere socks, I compiled my own catwalk creation for work. I nodded my approval to the mirror, well-satisfied with the job.

With all new jobs and experiences, there is some anxiety before you launch into them. That day, my emotions were reminiscent of my first date. I was excited and full of anticipation, but I was also wary and not quite sure what to expect. However, knowing what I did about this job, I was optimistic.

As I set off on my twenty-minute Tube journey to the hotel, I mused about Stephanie, remembering just how stunning she was and how flirtatious she had been since we’d first met at the interview. I wondered if it was all just for show, or would it be something worth pursuing? We would see.

I got off the Tube at my station, pushing through the evening crowds. With a sternly focused smile on my face, I made my way to the hotel, which took approximately ten minutes of brisk walking. This walk to work felt good. It was definitely a more vibrant area than I was used to in my previous hotel jobs, with a lot more personality than you would see on a walk in Park Lane or Knightsbridge. There was just so much to see in this area, and more to do. It was buzzing with life.

And death, as I was to discover in due course.

I could see the main entrance to the hotel, which was opposite an office complex that closed at 5:30pm. There were a lot of people around the door area, just standing in huddles. From the cameras around their necks I knew they were press photographers, either cluttering up the pavement, poised on their motor bikes or hanging out of ramshackle cars, massive lenses at the ready.

The scene brought back memories of working at another five-star hotel, where I’d had the privilege of making the acquaintance of the late Patrick Swayze when he was appearing in a production of Guys and Dolls. Patrick was always hounded by press photographer when he returned to his hotel apartment after the show, so he sought refuge with me and would sit with me in my office almost every evening. It was a very pleasant experience. I got to know him quite well and we would call each other by our first names. He told me all about his ranch in Texas and his life in general. During the six months he stayed at that hotel, in one of the private apartments, I came to admire his witty sense of humour and love his unforgettable vocal tones. He was gentle with words, and not brash in the least. If you met him, even if you didn’t initially recognise him, you would soon be reminded of who he was by his unmistakable walk, or the pose from Dirty Dancing that seemed to characterise him. Patrick wasn’t the type of celebrity who would create a scene for no reason. He would always address others respectfully, in a polite manner. But don’t get me wrong – he wasn’t a pushover and he would never take no for an answer. Nor would he settle for anything but the best. You always knew you were in the presence of a star.

I walked to the main entrance and was greeted by a smartly-dressed doorman, not overburdened by the usual outrageous top hat and gold-braided suit or greatcoat from the turn of the century that many hotels insisted upon. He was really elegantly dressed.

“Good evening, sir,” he said in a commanding yet charming voice, as he opened the door for me to pass through.

“Thank you,” I replied. “And a pleasant evening to you, too.”

As soon as the door opened, my attention was drawn to an artwork in the lobby that towered at least one metre above my head. To the left of the artwork stood a modern oak reception desk, behind which two gorgeously-dressed, good-looking female receptionists and a handsome gentleman stood. I descended the marble steps which led from the main door to the lobby and approached the desk.

The male member of staff who was standing at the delicately-labelled concierge desk stepped forward with a respectful smile, saying, “Good evening. Are you attending one of the functions in the events area?”

“Good evening,” I replied. “No, I am here to meet your Deputy Hotel Manager, Stephanie Edwards. She is expecting me. My name is Paul .”

“Ah. I will let her know you’re here.” He nodded graciously, walked back to the desk and made a call.

So far, so good. While I waited for him to complete his telephone conversation, I wandered towards his desk, taking in my surroundings. I had to suppress a slight flutter of nerves, but overall, I was excited and relishing the prospect of being part of this place.

The lobby was carefully decorated with a few architectural plants, but no flowers. That made sense to me. From the research I’d done on this hotel before I applied for the job, and from what I had seen on my interview visits, it was clear that the hotel’s client base was primarily middle-aged, and it was very busy: clients didn’t have the time to stop to appreciate nature or enjoy any of the fragrant, decorative benefits of freshly-cut flowers in the lobby.

In most hotels it’s customary to have lounge seating in the lobby, where you would frequently find inquisitive guests pretending to read newspapers or magazines whilst really spying on other guests arriving, hopeful of spotting a celebrity. This hotel had none of that, enabling discretion and straightforward business. The lobby was just an open space, with the odd solitary plant starkly placed on the wooden floor and striking artwork on the walls, against a backdrop of stunning wallpapers and wide glazed windows.

The man at the concierge desk hung up the phone handset, looked up and said, “Ms Edwards is in a meeting and will be out very soon.” I nodded my acknowledgement. He continued, “She said you can wait in the restaurant or bar in the meantime.”

“That’s fine.”

“If you’d like to follow me…” He ushered me over to the restaurant. As I followed him and we passed other staff, I sensed curious, piercing stares digging into my back.

The restaurant was very busy, which is normal for a five-star hotel located in the heart of the city. When we arrived at the waist-high desk at the restaurant entrance, my guide whispered something to a lady standing there, presumably the hostess, while I awaited further instruction. The hostess came over to me and greeted me in a curious manner, her eyes speaking volumes, except that I couldn’t interpret them.

“Good evening,” she said. “My name is Anna. Let me show you to your table.” She turned and headed into the restaurant, saying, “Please follow me,” and whisking a menu off the desk as we went past.

Not far away, just to the right of the desk, we stopped at a table set for two. She pulled out one of the chairs and gestured for me to take a seat. As soon as I sat down, the menu was placed on the table in front of me. “This menu lists both food and drink,” Anna pointed out. “Please take a look to decide what you’d like, and I’ll pop back and take your order.”

“No need,” I assured her. “It’s a straightforward decision. I’m here to work, so I’ll just have a sparkling water, please.”

“Of course. Thank you.”

As she took back the menu and walked back to her station, I started to survey the restaurant, my eyes skimming over the bar area and looking through to the lobby, which I could still see, even from where I was sitting.

As I gazed around my new environment, it was clear that it would be a fun and interesting place to work. The staff all seemed startlingly attractive, as if they had been chosen for their aesthetic appeal, and the uniforms made a very strong statement. One of my main observations was that the male staff didn’t wear ties, and the female staff didn’t wear tights under their tightly-fitting black satin dresses. Also, the backs of their dresses were cut in a deep V that plunged below their shoulder blades, giving the appearance that they were not wearing bras, and certainly exposing more skin than you would anticipate. How interesting! Their dress style was like a very subtle tease.

Less than a minute after the hostess had walked away from my table, my water was served. As the waiter poured it, a crowd of at least thirty people burst through the lobby, all chattering amongst themselves, and dispersed into the bar, where they loudly ordered rounds of drinks and bottles of wine and champagne. Where did they come from? It was clear that they had not come from outside. Some of the group, at least, were evidently staying at the hotel – I could see their room key fobs dangling from their hands or pockets. I decided that they must have been attending an event or filming within the hotel, since they had camera gear with them and other props befitting a film crew.

How splendid! With a flutter of excitement, I stared hard, trying to see if I could recognise anyone famous in the group. As I looked closer, I saw that they were a real motley crew, a melting pot of eccentric humanity. There were flamboyant drag queens and other more conservatively cross-dressed transvestites; cosmetically-enhanced women with expanded boobs, inflated lips and tight faces; granny teens, and some celebrity wannabes. As diverse and outrageous a group of personalities as you could get within one small area, with just the right balance – or rather, off-balance – of alcohol. It spelled a recipe for conflict. But this was nothing abnormal – on any given night in this part of London, it couldn’t get much more interesting.

To regain my sanity, I looked away from the outrageous crowd and focused on the other, less interesting, people in the restaurant and the now much busier bar. It was a real mixture of clientele. What kind of crazy antics were going to break out here? I had no idea.

“Hi Paul!” A familiar female voice broke into my thoughts. “Nice to see you again!”

I looked up and saw that it was Stephanie, the Deputy Hotel Manager, and another older but equally gorgeous female. You could see that this was a woman of high expectations, obviously attractive and sexually appealing without being salacious. Her dress style also showed that she had good taste, since it was a selective outfit of high-end clothing. But to be honest, and I must be, to me, what stood out most were her breasts. They were the size of grapefruits, and they were peering at me over the top of her low-cut blouse. Slightly stunned, I dragged my gaze away, got up out of my seat and returned the greeting.

“This is Paul, the new Night Duty Manager I’ve been telling you about,” said Stephanie to the newcomer. The woman gave me a stern stare and said tightly, “Nice to meet you. We have very high expectations here. I hope you will meet them.”

Before I could even reply, she had turned on her high heels and walked away, leaving Stephanie and me standing there. I had opened my mouth, about to speak to the woman in greeting and response, and it remained open in bewilderment.

“That was Dana Walsh,” Stephanie explained. “She oversees the management of this property.” She sighed. “Don’t worry. You will be fine once you’ve proved you’re as good as I know you are. And don’t get frightened by Dana. She can be a Rottweiler, but…” She stopped and closed her mouth momentarily. “Never mind.”

I raised my eyebrows and Stephanie smiled, almost apologetically. “Come on. Let me show you your desk.” She led the way out of the restaurant, through the lobby and back to the concierge and reception desk. I followed her, admiring the milky cream sweep of her neck and watching her curvaceous figure as she sashayed along on her high heels, swerved behind the desk and went through a wooden door, which led us into the back office, or staff operations room.

The back office operation was really busy. Stephanie whisked me over to the area around her desk to show me the stationery store and her workstation.

She grinned and then pointed to a second computer. “We’re sharing a desk – that’s your workstation and chair.”

She pulled out a folder from her desk drawer and gave it to me, carrying on with her instructions. “Inside, you’ll find your locker key, your PIN number to enter the building through the staff entrance, and the passwords and information you need to log onto the various computers and systems.”

Despite the flirtatious smile, she was all professionalism and efficiency. She emphasised that I should concern myself with the technical side of the operations. “As I recall from your CV and interview, you used the same systems and software at your previous hotel, so I won’t bore you with the details. I am more interested in making sure you understand the physical operation and know where everything is located in the hotel. And for that,” she said, “we will do a tour of the hotel, where you can meet all the staff while they’re working. And then, you’ll start our formal induction training.”

She handed me another folder which was labelled ‘Hotel Mannequin Bible’. And for sure, it was a bible: it contained all you needed to know about the hotel, from Standard Operating Procedures, staff procedures and company policy to the building plan, fire evacuation procedure, emergency numbers and suspension forms. It also had information about the various artworks adorning the walls. It was a really comprehensive guide, from a management perspective, and a very good reference point, if and when needed. I was impressed by the hotel’s professionalism – then.

“OK, then! Let’s go!” She smiled, and we set off on our tour.

Stephanie started off by introducing the back-of-house staff – Claire, José, Agatha, Teresa and Ewelina – who were sitting at their desks in the office where we were standing, and telling me what they did. Then we went through the door and back to the reception desk, where I was introduced to Rita, Joshua, Kim and Susanna, then to the concierge desk, where I met Les, Carl and Marcel. Next I was whisked around the hotel, where I met over fifty staff members from the various departments, including the Head Chef, Robert Noir, and the Events Manager, Manuel Hardy. I could not take it all in – certainly not everybody’s names – and it was exhausting, trying to concentrate and keep smiling and looking intelligent as I introduced myself to everyone we met and explained my experience to the more senior staff and managers. But it gave me a good insight into the hotel operations, the pace of the work and the high standards that would have to be maintained whilst I was in charge of the hotel.

As we did our walk around, Stephanie handed me a list of names. “This guest list is to be kept confidential,” she informed me.

At the top of the list, the word ‘VIP’ was underlined. Some of the names jumped out at me: Cameron Diaz, Oprah Winfrey, Daniel Craig, Hugh Grant, Denzel Washington, Kimberly Stewart, Chris Rock, Dwayne Johnson…

“Wow!” I exclaimed, as I looked through the list of twenty or so names. “I saw the press photographer as I came in. Now I can see why so many of them are outside. I guess it’s going to be a busy night for us, then?”

Stephanie smiled. “It’s always very busy. Never a dull moment!”

Time had gone by so quickly since I had arrived – a glance at my watch surprised me, for it was already 11:30pm. We had now finished our walk around and I had received sufficient on-the-job training to allow me to work on my own.

“So, that’s about everything. I think you’ll be fine from here on.” Stephanie gave me a meaningful look. “Judging from what I’ve seen!”

She was referring to my conduct and competence on our walk-around. When a guest sees a female and a male member of staff, they almost invariably make the assumption that the male is the more senior. Consequently, when Steph and I had been walking around the hotel, a couple of guests had approached me with their concerns. So I had already dealt with two minor complaints, although it had been nothing complicated or challenging, and altogether scored quite low on the scale of things that can go wrong. One of the guests claimed that her air-conditioning wasn’t working properly, and another wasn’t satisfied with the colour scheme of her room! Stephanie had held back with an amused smile on her face while I handled the issues, but I could see that she was impressed.

As we stood in the lobby, looking towards the restaurant and bar, Stephanie began, “I think you’ll be fine. So, unless you have any particular questions… ” Then her phone rang. “Oh. Excuse me.”

This particular phone was the manager on duty’s mobile pager – basically, the duty manager’s phone, carried by whichever manager was in charge of the hotel’s operations at the time. It was a phone I would be carrying myself as soon as my training was finished and signed off.

It rang three times before Stephanie could manage to get the phone out of her holster and answer it. I could hear the urgent, panting sound of the caller’s voice, but I couldn’t hear what they were saying.

“OK, then. I got you,” Stephanie said. “I’ll send Paul.” She clicked the phone off, and looked at me seriously. “It might be nothing, but it’s worth checking out. Are you OK with just going to down the events area? Go into Cinema One and have a look to see if there’s anyone inside.”

“Sure,” I said, puzzled.

She went on to say that a staff member had been walking along the corridor when she had seen a male and female going into the empty cinema. “But they haven’t come out and it’s been five minutes. The staff said she looked into the cinema, but she couldn’t see them inside, so it’s a little weird.”

“OK,” I said, brightly. “I’ll meet you back here in a couple of minutes or so.”

I left Stephanie in the lobby and descended the stairs that led to the events area and the cinemas. As I reached the events area, I met a rattled female staff member who pointed towards the cinema door and said, “They went in there.”

I raised one hand in acknowledgement. “Thanks.” The heavy, soundproofed cinema door was closed, but as I pulled on the door handle, I realised that it was not locked, so no key was required. I entered the quiet, hollow room, lined with thick blue soundproof wallpaper and fitted with soft, thick carpets. The overall design of the space was to ensure that any sounds projected from the front were amplified. I could clearly hear groaning and low muttering sounds coming from that area, as if there was a film still running very quietly behind the draped curtain that covered the screen at the front of the room, I could also see a slight movement from the curtain in front of the screen up at the front. As I got nearer, apart from a strange, rhythmic bulging in and out of the curtains, I saw that the bottom hem of the curtain was rucked up, bizarrely revealing two pairs of shoes pointing toe-outwards towards the cinema seats. I quickly pulled away the curtains to reveal who was behind it. “Aaargh!” screamed a female voice. “What are you doing?”

In surprise, I stepped backwards. There was a woman with her skirt hitched up over her waist, her underwear around her ankles and a red-faced man wedged behind her posterior.

“What am I doing?” I replied in a raised voice. “No need for me to ask you what you guys are doing! I am the Duty Manager! Who are you?”

The woman quickly pulled up her underwear, tugged down her skirt, took to her heels and ran to the door, leaving the male to explain himself. He was left to face up to the embarrassing situation of being caught having sex in the hotel’s cinema.

“Sorry,” mumbled the man, tucking himself in and making himself presentable.

“You could have booked a room,” I suggested.

He smiled apologetically and shrugged. “I would have loved to, but she couldn’t wait. She was quite fired up – fiery and wet – and she wanted us to be really quick, before she went home to her boyfriend.” “Wow!” I said, blowing out my cheeks in surprise. “I’m stunned. That’s a lot of information.” I shook my head in disbelief. “Maybe too much. But nevertheless, I hope this will be the last time we will have this kind of situation.”

“Oh, yes. Definitely.” He assured me it wouldn’t happen again, and then introduced himself as David, saying, “I’m a manager at a local film company and she works for us.” He shrugged, as if to say, ‘What can do, you do?’

As if that explained everything!

“Right,” I said, bemused.

I was fascinated by the encounter and wondered what they were thinking – doing that, there, then. Or maybe they were just not thinking at all. It seemed such a crazy thing to do.

Chatting politely about anything except what had just happened, David and I walked to the lobby, where Stephanie stood waiting. I bade David an amicable goodbye and he headed into our bar area. Well, I couldn’t blame him. Who wouldn’t need a drink after that?

I explained to Stephanie what had happened and she laughed. I joined in, a quizzical look on my face. “You don’t seem too surprised!”

“Ahem…” Her eyes twinkled with amusement. “Well, we have had similar situations in the past.”

Our conversation was broken by the ringing of the duty phone. Again, Stephanie answered. It was the switchboard, passing on information left by Kimberly Stewart’s personal assistant. Steph looked at me pointedly, phone to her ear, and repeated the message as she was being told it. “Ms Stewart’s PA wants us to know that they are on their way back to the hotel…

Right now?... Now… Within five minutes. So we need to get our security guards to push back the press photographer from the main entrance so they can enter freely.”

I nodded. As Stephanie relayed the information to me, I offered to partner one of the security guards and cover the main entrance with him. It would be my first taste of ‘action’.

“OK. Speak to Chris. Well, I have to do some work in the back office, now.” Stephanie handed the Duty Manager’s phone to me, saying, “Will you be OK?”

“Sure.” I took the phone and smiled. Our hands brushed, and I felt an involuntary thrill of electricity.

Stephanie smiled a genuine smile that lit up her beautiful face. Damn, she was hot!

“If you need any help, give me a call,” she said. “Don’t worry. I’m sure I’ll be able to handle things,” I reassured her.

“You do know the protocol, though – yeah?”

I nodded. She was perhaps afraid I might grab a photographer by the throat and swing him around my head a couple of times before flinging him into the gutter. From my understanding of the company’s policy regarding guest security, we were not allowed any physical contact with anyone on our premises, including press photographer, any unwanted guests or visitors. The only time we could use our bodies at all was as a shield or barrier to protect the guest, and we could not get into fights. It seemed like common sense, for a hotel manager, especially in these days of litigation. Lay a hand on anyone these days, and you could be accused of assault and taken to court – if not to the cleaners. So it was best not to engage at all. It wasn’t anything too different from other jobs I had been in. I was experienced, after all.

Chris, the security men and I had been standing at the main entrance for a few minutes when we saw a black S-class Mercedes Benz with tinted windows approaching the driveway. As soon as the car pulled up, right next to our feet, we opened the hotel’s main doors and waited for the passengers to alight. Before we knew it, we were overwhelmed by the photographers and blinded by the glare from camera flashes bouncing off the car’s tinted windows.

As the passenger door opened in front of me, there was an epilepsy-inducing barrage of flashing lights and camera clicks from the heaving mass of shouting, greedy bodies pressing forward. It would be pretty scary for anyone, let alone a young woman, and I felt a surge of adrenalin shooting through my veins as I stepped forward, prepared for anything.

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