I'll be honest: I'm terrified right now, before I hit publish and send this out into the wild. I'm not the best in the world at brevity, and whenever I attempt fiction, I feel incredibly self conscious.
I also made the mistake of reading Otis' story after I wrote mine, and I feel (like I often do when I read Otis' writing) like a kid who belongs at the card table, pretending to sit down in the dining room with the adults.
So now that I've managed to lower your expectations to UPN-like standards, please enjoy. . .
Farnsworth frowned as he shuffled the photos. He dropped them on his desk and looked over the top of his reading glasses.
"I can't use any of these, son. I can hardly see the men, and there's too much whitespace in here." He picked up one photo and pointed at the tin ceiling. Martin recalled how brightly it had reflected the flash, and how the younger man had flinched in the light.
"Mr. Farnsworth --"
"Look, you're a good kid, and even if your photos aren't always front page material, you rarely let me down."
"Thank you, sir."
"I know that you have a baby on the way, but I can't pay you for photos that I can't use." He leaned back in his chair and folded his hands across his chest. "Hotels don't stay in one family and celebrate their hundredth anniversary every day, though, so it's news that I need to run. So why don't you go back to the hotel, get a closer shot of the Ellisons, and I'll pay you double for it." Farnsworth smiled, and put the photos into an envelope.
"I'll see what I can do, sir. Thank you." Martin took the envelope and traded the quiet of Farnsworth's office for the chaos of the newsroom.
Martin needed the money, and it was important to keep a man like Richard Farnsworth happy. Evelyn was due in two months, and these freelance newspaper jobs were all he had.
But he wasn't going back into the Ellison, today or ever. There was something very, very wrong there, and Martin felt it in his soul when he walked up the stairs into the second floor lobby. Those men were terrified, and Martin wanted to get out of there before he found out why.
He took the number five bus home, and left the envelope on the seat when he got off. The sooner he could get way from it, the sooner he could begin the long process of wiping that feeling from his memory. He hugged his wife tightly when he walked into their apartment and felt his unborn son stir between them.
Back at the Ellison Hotel, the tenant in 302 woke and rang the front desk. Father and son looked at each other.
It was time to eat.