Tommy was interested in the job, but he was even more interested in Mr Mint! The wet paint on the picture in Mint’s room and the date of Smalling’s death meant only one thing: Smalling didn’t paint the painting, Mint did. He thought about the visit of Mint to his father’s gallery earlier that day. Why did Mint go there? Tommy asked himself. And why did Mint dress up as an old lady then an old man? Tommy had no idea, but he decided to call his father later and tell him all about Mint. For now, perhaps a job at the hotel was the best way to keep an eye on this strange person. ‘And anyway,’ he thought, ‘I could use the money.’
‘A job sounds great,’ said Tommy, ‘but my summer holidays don’t start until next week.’
‘Don’t worry,’ said Mrs Paulson, ‘we need to teach you about the job first. Let’s go to my office and have a talk about it.’ She put her hand on Tommy’s shoulder, said goodbye to Sarah and led him to the stairs. They went up the half circle staircase to the second floor and soon Tommy was in Mrs Paulson’s office, talking about the new job. When Mrs Paulson began to explain about it, he wanted to laugh.
‘Most of the time,’ said Mrs Paulson, sitting in a chair in front of a big window that looked down on the town’s busiest street, ‘your job will be to carry suitcases from all the taxis and cars that come to the hotel and bring them inside…’
‘Suitcases!’ thought Tommy. ‘More suitcases!’
‘…You’ll also need to help Sarah and the other maids sometimes. The pay is five pounds an hour and you can work Monday to Friday in the afternoon. What do you think?’
‘Great!’ Tommy said.
The phone on Mrs Paulson’s desk rang and Tommy waited while she spoke.
‘Well,’ said Mrs Paulson when the call ended, ‘I need to go downstairs because someone has lost their bags– See! We need you!’ she said, laughing.
Tommy laughed too and together they walked out of her office and down the staircase towards the ground floor.
‘Come here tomorrow after school’ said Mrs Paulson, ‘and we can teach you more about the job. Is that okay?’
Tommy was about to answer Mr Paulson when he saw the door to room 46 open and a young man with sunglasses, a dark green suit and a shirt with a black tie come out.
‘Tommy?’ said Mrs Paulson. ‘Is that okay?’
‘Yes…’ said Tommy, but he didn’t take his eyes off the young man from room 46 who was carrying something big and square in his arms. The young man turned to come to the stairs and Tommy saw that it was a painting that he was carrying: the same red and yellow painting that he saw in Mint’s room earlier. Tommy looked carefully at the young man’s face, his green clothes…‘Of course!’ he thought. ‘It’s Mint again!’
Just as he thought it, Mint looked up. Tommy turned away and tried to hide behind Mrs Paulson. Did it work? Did Mint see him? He didn’t know. The next time Tommy looked, Mint was on the ground floor, walking quickly out of the hotel. Tommy began running down the stairs.
‘I’ll be here after school,’ he called to Mrs Paulson, ‘Thanks for the job!’