new years eve was always one of mortimer's favorite nights operating the elevator of the hotel st crispian.
the flow of people that he could talk to, coming and going to parties, some of them in rooms rented just for the parties, was continuous.
mortimer's only regret was that they came and went so quickly, and there was such a constant rush, that he did not have time to properly chat up the people he was meeting for the first time.
of course he prided himself on never forgetting a face and always knowing when he was meeting someone for the first time.
but even on new years there was an occasional lull, and there was just one such around ten thirty, with all the parties in full swing, and mortimer was seated on his little stool outside the open elevator when two familiar figures - permanent tenants of the hotel - approached from the direction of the prince hal room.
fred flynn, the science fiction writer, was supporting - virtually dragging - harold p sternhagen the pulp writer down the corridor. it was obvious to mortimer that both were six sheets to the wind, and that mr sternhagen was so far gone that he was not going to make it to midnight to welcome in the new year.
"come on. mort," fred called, "help me out here!"
mortimer looked around. no one was approaching the elevator. he got up and hurried down to the pair.
just as he reached them harold went completely slack. mortimer was just able to grab him before he slipped from fred's grasp and fell to the floor. he was now dead weight and mortimer had a hard time holding him up even with fred's help.
"jeez, mister flynn, maybe you shouldn't have tried to carry him by yourself."
"that damn farmer brown was going to help me, but then he disappeared." fred looked like he was about to pass out himself.
"all right," mortimer answered. "we only have a little further to go. come on - heave!"
together they dragged harold to the elevator with the toes of his brown shoes scraping against the floor. just as they reached the door they were overtaken, by jake the bellhop carrying a large tray heaped with drinks and sandwiches and hors d'oeuvres.
carefully balancing the large tray in both hands, jake stepped around mortimer and fred and their burden, and into the elevator.
"for christ's sake, mort, what are you doing? leave that bum and get me up to the sixth floor."
with a final heave mortimer and fred got harold's limp carcass into the elevator.
"fourth floor," fred gasped. "fourth floor."
"no, mort," jake insisted. "get me to the sixth floor first. this thing weighs a ton and it's slipping and sliding. then you can take care of him."
"sure, jake." mortimer started to close the elevator door. "no problem." out of the corner of his eye he could see fred starting to slide down the wall.
"hold it!" another figure had appeared.
it was mr bernstein the hotel manager himself. he was carrying a tray with two champagne bottles in buckets of ice. he stepped around the half closed door and stood beside mortimer as jake backed up.
"tenth floor, mort," mr bernstein announced. "this is for miss wilde's party. and try to land there smoothly for once, without too many stops and starts, all right?" he glanced over at the slumped forms of harold sternhagen and fred flynn with a look of disgust.
"sure thing , mr bernstein." jeez, thought mortimer, why is everybody so grouchy? it's new years, the holiday season, a time for celebration.
"and then down to the sixth floor, mort," jake repeated.
"right, jake, i got you." mortimer gripped his lever and the elevator began its ascent.
outside, as the door had closed, farmer brown had suddenly rushed up.
he stood for a few seconds watching the overhead indicator. he straightened his tie.
"i guess they didn't need me after all, " he announced to the empty corridor. "but they can't say i didn't try."
mortimer brought the elevator to a stop at the tenth floor with a single jarring thud.
fred flynn's now unconscious body lurched toward jake, who was as far back in the corner as he could get, holding on to his tray with both hands for dear life.
gritting his teeth, mr bernstein stepped off the elevator with the two bottles of champagne. the door to hyacinth wilde's suite was open. mortimer could hear the sounds of the three piece jazz band he had carried up earlier, and also the booming - and now drunken - laughter of the playwright agnus strongbow, whom he had also carried up earlier, and the screeching laughter of the new sensation miss - "
"come on, mort, the night is not getting any younger," jake insisted. "but take your time, let me down easy. on the sixth floor."
"i heard you the first ten times." they descended to the sixth floor and mortimer opened the door for jake, who carefully stepped past fred and harold.
"you want me to wait for you?" mortimer asked jake.
jake hesitated. "yeah, why don't you? then you can me take back down and then you can do what you want with these clowns."
"maybe you can help me with these guys."
"are you kidding?. they'll be ten more orders waiting for me down in the bar."
mortimer watched as jake headed down the corridor of the sixth floor. he shook fred's shoulder, trying to get him halfway awake.
he hoped nobody would ring while he waited for jake. but it was better to wait for him, because who knew how long it would take him to get mister flynn and mister sternhagen into their rooms. and jake would be all over him if he had to wait for him here on the sixth floor.
the same kind of thing had happened last year, or maybe two years ago, except then it hadn't been mr sternhagen and mr flynn - it had been lord wolverington and miss charlton.
he guessed one new year's was just like the next.
and then it hit him...
there was no new year!
mortimer had already figured out that there was no "real world" outside of manhattan, that brooklyn and china and paris and all those places were just an illusion.
now he realized an even truer fact... that there was no "time". all that stuff they told you in school about "history" and the "past" and the "future" was just a lot of bunk and an illusion, just like england and brazil and staten island.
this was it... this was all there was or ever would be... the same things happening over and over, a little bit changed maybe, but that was just to pull the wool over people's eyes. it was really just the same thing over and over like a broken record.
and that hotel up past central park, where julius caesar and joan of arc and hitler and babe ruth and amelia earhart and all the other people who "died" or "disappeared" were staying and probably playing poker and bridge all day ... not only were they all there, they would be back.
maybe next year. maybe next year instead of helping fred flynn and harold p sternhagen off the elevator he would be helping judge crater and napoleon...
and the year after that lou gehrig and carole lombard...
and the year after that and the year after that... because they were all coming back...
later, after mortimer had gotten mr sternhagen and mr flynn to their rooms and after the long night and his shift were over, he went back up to mr flynn's room.
he could see a light under the door so he knocked and mr flynn let him in.
mr flynn gave mortimer a cup of coffee and made one for himself and listened respectfully as mortimer outlined his new theory.
"i like it, mort, i like it. i think you are really on to something there..."
fred sipped his coffee. it needs work, he thought, but i think al johnson at smashing wonder tales might take it
mortimer and jake headed down morton street toward bleecker street.
jake was not as interested in mortimer's theory as fred flynn had been. he yawned several times listening to it.
"so what you are telling me, mort, is that you can predict the future, is that right?"
"sort of. but not exactly."
"not exactly. that's not much use, is it? i mean, if you want to put a few dollars on something."
they walked along. dawn was breaking.
"let me ask you this, mort."
"are the yankees going to win the world series again this year?"
"absolutely." mortimer stared straight ahead. "i guarantee it."