The Sparkling Drop Hotel
“Jameson.” I called out into the empty room.
“Say it.” A fragmented voice responded flatly.
“I don’t want to.”
“Well, maybe I don’t want to make the walls bleed.”
“I don’t want you to make the walls bleed. The clean-up is a nightmare.”
“Then I won’t entertain the ghost hunters.”
“Don’t be so dramatic.”
“Dramatic? I’m sorry, did you get your skull cracked by a jealous John?”
“That was a hundred years ago. Wait. A hundred and seven. As of tomorrow.”
“Say it. Or I tell the governor’s mistress to keep her head on. “
“Fine. OH, GREAT LORD BRYANT OF THE TOWERS EAST. I SUMMON THEE. KNOCK THREE TIMES IF YOU ACCEPT MY HUMBLE REQUEST. Happy?”
“More enthusiasm next time. But it’ll do.” Three rapid fire knocks came from the top of my desk. A translucent figure rose from within the oak, its shimmery face staring at me with a smug look.
“Thank you. The tour starts in a few minutes. Is everyone ready?”
“The manic milkmaid is in the kitchen. The gunshot twins swapped spots with the butchered butler.”
“Is that gonna work?”
“Do you trust me?”
“Keep talking like that, and I’ll cross over to the other side. You’re lucky your uncle isn’t here. I’m surprised he didn’t stick around.”
I glanced at the tear-away calendar on the wall. Tomorrow would mark the one month anniversary of my uncle's passing. “I’m not. Uncle Jess wasn’t exactly the lingering type. And apparently not one to divulge certain kinds of information.”
“I found your uncle to be quite thorough.”
“Yeah, well. Would have been nice to know that I was inheriting a staff of specters.”
“'Staff of specters'? That’s good, Tom. You should put that in the advertisements.”
A rush of cold air swept through the managerial office of the Sparkling Drop Hotel. The glittering figure of a buxom young woman materialized in front of me.
“Master Tom! Master Jameson! We have a terribly worrisome situation in the basement!”
“What’s going on, Dahlia?”
“Some girls slipped away from the tour group. They’re toying with some sort of strange board-”
I felt Jameson’s cold eyes settle on me.
“-then one of the girls fell to the ground and began shaking violently-
I met the ethereal gaze of my specter-in-command. He grimaced– as well as a ghost can grimace, anyway.
“-speaking in some tongue I’ve never heard!”
"I see. Thank you, Dahlia."
“Everything is so dark and menacing!”
“They must have really summoned something terrible.”
“I was speaking of their attire, sir.”
“...right. I’ll call down and stop the tour. Say there’s a gas leak or something. Dahlia, warn the others.”
The comely spirit gave me a shimmery nod and slipped her translucent body back through the wall.
Jameson's lofty voice wafted through the thickening air. “Very good, Tom. I’ll gather the haunts.”
“Hey, Jameson. One thing. Before we go down.”
“Why does the milkmaid talk like that and you speak…normally?”
“Well, Tom. I’ve always been one to keep up with the trends. Now. Are you ready to descend?”
I opened the door to the lobby, diaphragm prepped to bellow falsehoods aimed to spare the living.
To Whom It May Concern,
I remember the first time I visited the Adler. It was December of 1963. The nation was still reeling from the assassination of JFK, and wondering what LBJ's "Great Society" was going to look like... and cost. My parents and I were on holiday at the bequest of Mother's only brother, Uncle Mordecai. It's a hard name to forget-- Mordecai Yarkony. To me, that arrangement of syllables, in itself, just sounded like money. The man was downright wealthy.
Uncle Mordecai was in the hotel industry, though he'd made a name for himself in Connecticut, not in New York where the Adler was located. Father was never a fan, though I don't know why. He tried not to let on, but I knew; and I was only ten. There was little chance a ten-year-old's perception had surpassed that of a multi-millionaire's, and that's probably why Uncle Mordy tried so hard to impress father with his knowledge of sports and union affairs and automobiles--the things common men talked about. However, try as he might, Uncle Mordy's grotesque wealth always seemed to eclipse any of their commonalities. The only thing that made them seem the slightest bit relatable to each other was that thick, northeastern, Jewish accent.
When common men spoke of baseball, they spoke of players' statistics and wagered bets on upcoming games. Uncle Mordy was more likely to speak of trips to Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York to watch the games in person; his experience with union matters was gained from the opposite side of the negotiating table; and the automobiles he spoke of were more likely to come from Europe than Detroit. Likewise was the case when out little family climbed the grand steps to the Adler Hotel and entered the main hall, where common folks gawked and rich people felt right at home; and someone like Mordecai Yarkony might let slip his intention to purchase those grand steps, the main hall, and everything else around us. He'd heard Bernie Weider was ready to retire, which meant the Adler would be available... to the right buyer.
It took eight and a half years to convince Mrs. Weider that she, too, was ready to retire, and in March of '72, the Adler bore the Yarkony family name, and we were invited to the be a part of the occasion.
"What's the point?" father asked. "There's only one Yarkony left in the family!"
"Mordy's still a young man, Poopy, he'll meet someone. You'll see."
"Don't call me Poopy; these walls here are probably paper thin."
"Oh, don't be so negative, Benjamin. The walls are just fine."
"Fine as a widow's web. Everything in here is at least thirty years old. They still have claw-foot tubs, for crying out loud; and look at that, there's a sink in the bedroom here--what's that about?"
"Oh, just stop it now. Did you know that Roosevelt stayed here? I don't think a U.S. President would be okay staying in a room with thin walls."
"Don't be naïve, Vi, they just say that these old presidents stayed here to make the hotel seem more important here. It's a marketing gimmick, nothing else," he concluded. "I guess I can't blame you, though. This whole town here was built on people being kinda stupid. 'Take a dip in the magnesium spring, it'll cure your glaucoma! Have a drink of the water, it'll cure your rheumatism here! Oh! It'll do wonders for your Hepatitis! Ooh, are you jivin' it yet?'"
"Yes, I'm sure Eleanor Roosevelt was just sitting in a natural mineral spring, looked over at Franklin there and asked him if he was 'jivin it.'"
That's how their conversations would expire, and recur the next visit, and the next, for years. As a kid, I always loved the long carpeted hallways. You could run until you just ran out of energy. Something about the hallways-- I used to pretend I was racing someone. The finish line was last door of each floor--whether it was 242, 342, or 442--depending on which floor was hosting the event.
On our fourth visit, age thirteen, room 324, I couldn't sleep at all on our second night, and I went out into the hall to run off some extra energy. Running at night was different--you had to be quiet--not so you didn't wake up the other guests, but because you didn't want to get in trouble for waking up the other guests. The easy solution: socks only. The hallway was just light enough I could avoid running into anything left outside of any rooms, or into any other late-night hallway dwellers. I'd start at one end, with my imaginary opponent lining up beside me, then Ready, Set, Go. We'd race as quickly and as quietly as possible, thick carpet squishing beneath eager, socked toes. Make no mistake, a slip would mean disaster. Some speed would have to be sacrificed when approaching the main staircases. We'd whip around them with the grace of gazelles. I'd cut off my opponent, forcing him behind me lest he slam into the banister. Sometimes he'd return the favor, leaving me struggling to catch up.
At the end of the hall, we'd be neck and neck, every time. Sometimes I'd pull head, sometimes I'd fall behind, but it was always a split-second's difference between us.
"Nice run," I'd huff, hands on knees, quietly catching my breath.
My breath caught in my throat, my eyes grew into saucers, but I couldn't move them--right, left, up down--nothing worked. I couldn't move--not for lack of ability--I dared not. I shuddered to consider it. Burning lungs forced me to inhale short little breaths. Reason suggested, finally, that it must not have been real. I decided to speak.
"Best two out of three?"
I breathed hard and deeply, stopping to listen at the top of each breath.
My eyes searched the darkness around me, terrified I'd see something there.
"I'm tired. I'm gonna go back to my room now."
I willed my legs to take tiny steps, which grew into a hurried walk, which grew into a run. I forced my way into room 324 and shut the door behind me, locking it.
That was the first, and only, strange occurrence I experienced at the Adler until the Summer of '72. For most of us born in McCarthy time, the 70s were spent in much of a blur. I was spared from the worst of it when Uncle Mordy offered all of us positions at the Adler. Mother was ecstatic, Father was opposed, and I was on the fence. I'd been thinking about college. In fact, the only reason I hadn't signed up for classes already was because I didn't want it to look like I was doing it to avoid the draft. This became an article of contention between my father and Uncle Mordy. Father was not big on "taking charity," but we all knew he could use the boost in salary. The arguing was just a formality.
"I'm not taking hand-outs, Mordy. I don't need 'em."
"It's not a hand-out; it's a job offer. When have I ever given anybody a hand-out? Come on, Mrs. Weider ran the place for twenty-seven years. The place practically runs itself, but I need someone there with management experience. You'd be doing me a favor."
"Yeah, what about Stephen? He's been talking about going to college. If he can't stay at home, there's no way he could afford it, and he sure as hell isn't gonna be driving back and forth everyday."
"What's college going to teach him that he doesn't already know, or that he can't learn on the job from his old man?"
"I don't know, maybe how to do some other job--a better job."
"What's wrong with the hospitality business?"
"I don't know. Nothing."
"Well, what other business is he interested in?"
"I don't know. He hasn't said."
"So, it's either going to cost him, and you, a lot of money for him to go to some college to learn about a business (which he has shown no interest in) or he can get paid a nice little salary and learn about this here business (which he has also not shown any interest in). Look, Benjamin, come work for me. In two or three years, you'll have the place running on automatic. If Stephen isn't down with it, college will still be there. This position, on the other hand, isn't going to always be there. If I hire someone else, then Stephen decides he's not down with the college thing, what am I going to do, fire my guy just to make room for you?"
"Of course not."
"Of course not. Benjamin, take the job. I'll put you up eight, ten, twelve months, in a two-room suite--the three of you. You'll work salary and Violet will work to pay for the rooms--long enough for you to save up to get a little place of your own. Stephen can save up, too, while you teach him the ropes. After a year, you'll have enough saved up to get your own place here in Sharon Springs, and if Stephen wants to go... take college classes or something, he'll have money saved up to get a place somewhere. Whad'ya say?"
With the argument ritual summed up, we packed up and moved into the Kennedy Suite, which was actually a three-room setup where we didn't have to always be in one bedroom or the other. It was a sweet deal. Nobody else at the Adler had a deal like that. Say what you will, it was a hand-out-- and we were grateful for it.
But it didn't last long. Mother passed in '75. She'd worried every day that I'd be drafted into the war. After America withdrew our troops, she worried even more. The worst fighting took place after the peace treaty was signed, and she had it in her mind that we'd start sending soldiers back in after the treaty had been breached by the Communists. Two years later, after Saigon fell, knowing I was safe from the draft, Mother's worries about the Vietnam War were behind finally her. Four days later, she left the rest of her worries behind.
Precisely one hundred weeks later, Father suffered a major heart attack and took his place alongside her. They said he'd died of a broken heart, but closer to the truth, he died of guilt. He'd been the smoker, but Mother got the cancer. He concluded he'd doomed her to a life of stale-smoke hugs and ash tray kisses, topped off with a slow, agonizing death at the end of a short life. It tore him apart.
December of '77, I turned twenty-four years of age, and Uncle Mordy left me in charge of the 150-room, five-story, luxury Adler hotel. That's when things got weird.
****************** 2 ************************
"Mrs. Teague, can you come her for a minute?"
Mrs. Teague is the hotel's Resident Manager. She's worked at the Adler since she was fifteen. Sixty-two years later, she's refused the Executive Manager position eleven times. Technically, she's only refused ten times, but it was assumed that she still would have refused, so Uncle Mordy didn't even bother asking after Father died.
"What can I do for you, Mr. Goldman?"
"Well, the first thing you can do for me is call me Stephen."
"Oh, no, Mr. Goldman. I can't do that. Rule number one is to treat everyone at the Adler with the highest respect."
"Mrs. Teague, you were born in 1900, is that correct?"
"April the eighteenth."
"You do realize I'm one-third your age?"
"Not quite yet, but close."
"Well, I want you to know that I appreciate your commitment to treating everyone with respect, and I..."
"Everyone at the Adler."
"Yes, everyone at the Adler... with respect..."
"The highest respect."
The highest respect, yes, and I want you to also know that when I treat you with the highest respect, it isn't because of Rule number one; it's because you deserve the highest respect. Seventy-seven years old and still sharp as a tack! Your loyalty to the Adler is just remarkable."
"Well, I appreciate you saying as much."
"Of course. Of course. Now, if you want to call me Mr. Goldman, I'll respect your wishes, but I would consider it an honor if you were to address me informally... at least when there are no other employees around. Would that be alright with you?"
"That would be fine with me. Now, what can I do for you, Mr. Goldman?"
Ah... you can... I have a question about an upcoming event booking-- the Kessler reunion."
Her demeanor turned visible sour as her eyes glowered at me. "Oh?"
"Yes, it seems there are carpet cleaners scheduled to shampoo the entire hotel--every hallway, every meeting room, and every guest room on the same day. I think we're going to have to reschedule the cleaners."
The pleasantness returned to her face, "Oh, that's alright. They won't be in anybody's way."
She made the statement and turned to leave the desk, as if 'that's alright' is an acceptable answer.
"But, Mrs. Teague, the Kessler Reunion is the largest event on the entire calendar. They've booked the entire hotel--every room--for two days."
"All but one room."
"Yes, I see that. That's weird. Why leave one room?"
"For Miss Weider."
"Oh, yes. I see that here. Ms. Weider-- it isn't Hilda Weider, is it?"
"Not Ms. Weider, Miss Weider. Don't worry yourself about the event. The Kessler family reunion is held at the Adler every year. The carpet cleaners will come in the morning, and will be gone well before any of the Kesslers appear. It's been a convenient arrangement for many years."
"Oh. Okay. Well, I trust you know what you're doing. It just stood out as odd to me, so I wanted to make sure it wasn't something we'd overlooked."
"I understand why you'd come to that conclusion, and if it had been a mistake, it would have been a big one, so please feel free to continue asking questions. You'll need to know how to run the registry so long as you're here."
And with that, she turned and went back to her... whatever it was she was doing. Uncle Mordy found Mrs. Teague to be priceless to the Adler's functioning. She could very well have run the whole place, and in many ways, she did. Polite and lovable, but no-nonsense when it came to keeping a tidy hall, a tidy registry, and a tidy schedule. I liked her right away. 'So long as you're here.' That seemed like a strange thing to say.
When Uncle Mordy took over, he updated the aesthetics from their 1930's decor and upgraded the kitchen, banquet furniture, and a ton of nick-knacks like silverware and flatware, mattresses, telephones, and pool equipment. He added television sets to every room. That was a huge draw. But, he kept a lot of the vintage fixtures in the rooms--the sinks and claw-foot tubs, mirrors, and even the toilet paper dispensers. He said he wanted to keep that vintage feel. I didn't think that make any sense at all. He poured a ton of money into having different wall paper in each room--about the fanciest stuff available--but he wanted the guests to remember the quaintness of having their toilet paper drag against the wall as it unrolled. I guess it all came down to where he was going to spend the money, and toilet paper dispensers were low on the list.
I wished Father had taught me something about the management side of the hotel. A lot of it was common sense, as he liked to say, but a lot of it was making sure the rest of the staff were well-motivated, well-supplied, and on task. I was used to being part of the staff, not managing it. I'm sure Father thought he had plenty of time to teach me that side of the business, and he was adamant about my learning the other aspects of the business first--starting with maintenance, then housekeeping, security, a brief stint in the mail room, and I was the hotel's first male switchboard operator. When we'd moved to the Adler five years ago, I'd thought for sure I'd be a bellhop or a doorman, but Father didn't put me in a position that worked directly with guests until just before Mother's passing two years prior, and that was in room service.
I'd learned quite a lot from Mother as well. She'd worked in staffing (HR, they'd call it now), and accounting, payroll, and scheduling. She wore a lot of hats before she passed. We were all a bit lost without her. Wife, mother, and sister were her greatest roles, and she was many things to many others as well.
******************** 3 *************************
I was wearing a different hat--that of the gardener--a few days later. Mr. Cruikshank had taken ill and the groundskeepers were running ragged trying to make up for his absence. I was digging weeds and grass from underneath rose bushes when a taxi arrived all the way from Schenectady. Melvin the doorman called for assistance with the luggage, but the woman had only brought one small bag, and insisted on carrying it herself despite young George's pleas. George was a fine bellman, and very true to his core beliefs--for a man of his age, anyway--a young man. He once turned down a fifty-dollar tip from Truman Capote. As mush as it would have benefited him, George was not a fan of Mr. Capote's "type."
The woman checked in, clearly gave in to George's will to take her bag, then made her way to the roses in the front courtyard where I'd been weeding out the... well, the weeds.
She called out to me, "Hello there! You're doing a magnificent job; the roses look just fantastic!"
I was a dirty, sweaty mess. I decided to politely disengage by simply waving a thank you with my little shovel in hand. She wasn't satisfied with that. She made her way closer to where I was working, taking the time to smell the roses along the way. She wore a full pleated long black skirt, tight cream-colored waist coat, with black gloves and a matching hat wide enough it might have passed for an umbrella if it had been raining. I never did understand high fashion, but I knew it looked sharp on her. She reminded me of Lynne Frederick, except with much darker hair--almost black.
"You're not Gregory."
"No, Gregory I am not. Mr. Cruikshank as been a bit under the weather these past few days. It's taken four of us to try to keep up with the work he does regularly."
"Well, that's no good at all! I hope it's nothing serious."
"He hasn't let on, so I couldn't tell you with any certainty."
"Are you alright? You're looking at me a bit strangely."
"Oh, I am truly sorry. It's just that, you're a bit younger than you seemed, at a distance, and you're quite um... I mean... please, forgive me."
"It's alright. You're a bit 'um' yourself.'
"I just love it here! I used to talk to Gregory for hours when I was a girl. He's so nice."
"Really? I've been coming here for... fourteen years, now, and I don't remember seeing you."
"Well, I've been coming here for nineteen years, and I don't remember seeing you."
"Nineteen years? Are you even nineteen years old?"
"Just turned twenty last week, actually."
"Oh really? Happy birthday, then--belated, I mean."
"Well, thank you, Mr..."
"Goldman, but you can call me Stephen... if you'd like."
"Okay... Stephen. Well, I'd better let you attend to the roses. I'm glad we finally met."
She strolled off and up the steps to the entrance again. I watched her the whole way. Melvin must have been in a daze. As soon as she opened the door, he jerked around, no doubt apologizing for not getting the door for her. He's got one job.
I looked forward to running into her again--after I'd cleaned up some. It was stupid of me not to at least ask for her name. I've always been terrible with names. Well, at least I learned Mr. Cruikshank's name-- Gregory. Gotta remember that.
Mrs. Teague was lecturing three of the housekeepers when I walked by the office. I gave her a silent lecture myself by reaching in and closing the door so no meandering guests could overhear the event. Making eye contact, she paused to say thank you. Something must have had her on edge. A Mrs. Teague lecture is a rare thing. There were a few pastries left after the morning guests had devoured the daily offering. I chose a cinnamon roll, split it down the middle, and returned to the office with two plates.
"I guess there's an industry standard minimum size for cinnamon rolls. Do you want half, or have you already eaten?"
"Oh, no thank you, Mr. Goldman. You're a dear for offering, though."
"I made my way to the trash bin and hovered over it, "It seems a waste, but after working out in the sun all morning..."
"Oh, well, just set it here. Maybe I'll nibble on it."
"Something with housekeeping?"
"Another report about something missing from a room--two, actually."
"Yes, earrings and a paper bag of trinkets--souvenirs for grandchildren--buttons, postcards, and the like."
"Well, I can see earrings creating a degree of temptation, but a bag of souvenirs from Sharon Springs? That's hardly a treasure to someone who already lives here."
"Nonetheless, I treated them equally. I told the girls, 'Word of mouth travels fast when it's a warning to others. If it get around that people's belongings aren't safe at the Adler, it'll reflect in our vacancies next Spring.'"
"Do you suspect anyone?"
"No, Mr. Goldman, we've the finest staff from Albany to Syracuse. No one on our staff is stealing from guests. I'll state my reputation on it. Now, what they may do, and this is what I suspect, is they may accidentally leave a door unlocked, leaving little items in reach of little hands."
"You think one of the guests' children is checking for unlocked doorknobs?"
"It seems a more likely scenario, don't you think? An unhappy guest isn't going to tip the staff, so a bag of buttons and post cards would hardly be worth the absence of gratuity, let alone the risk of being terminated."
"That's pretty smart. This is exactly why I think we need to upgrade our security by investing in punch card key systems."
"You may be right. It's a small price to pay for peace of mind."
"That's brilliant! That's exactly what I'm going to say to Uncle... I mean, Mr. Yarkony. Do you know when he's planning to come around again?"
"He said he'd be back Sunday around noon so he'll be up to date and prepared for Monday's managers' meeting."
"Well, that gives me three days to count all the doors and put together the proposal."
"Just make sure to get whatever you need today. You're not scheduled for tomorrow or Saturday."
"But we're fully booked--the Kessler reunion."
"We're working a skeleton crew to stay out of the cleaners' way on Friday, and they'll be doing the kitchen and offices Saturday, so the fewer the better."
"You're sure you don't me?"
"You're truly a Renaissance man, Mr. Goldman. To date, I don't believe we've found anything you can't do. You're a valuable addition to the Adler, that's for sure, but we've managed this long without you, I'm sure we'll make it through this time."
"So, I guess you're saying I'm an expendable asset."
"This time, yes," she said, "as a matter of fact, but if you insist, I'm sure Mr. Mericle could use an extra hand setting up the banquet hall after the cleaners are finished."
She knew damn well Tommy Mericle and I didn't get along. I shouldn't say that. We could get along just fine. We just didn't like each other. I only needed the one day to count doors. The truth is, I'd been working on a presentation to upgrade the locks for a couple of weeks, off and on, so the hard part was already done. I kept Mrs. Teague on her toes by calling her bluff.
"That would be fine. That will give me an opportunity to get his opinion on any other security upgrades we could make."
"What I'm trying to tell you is, we don't need another body in the way."
"Then give one of the bussers the night off. I'll help with set up and break down, and run water during the banquet.
"It's settled then. Have Mr. Mericle choose which crew member will have the night off, and I'll fill in for the evening. Now, unless anyone else has taken a sick day, I'll get started on my rounds."
Mrs. Teague looked down at her clipboard, marveling at the long list of employees who had called in sick. "No. Feel free to do your rounds. I'll send for you if I need you anywhere."
********************* 4 **********************
I was on the third floor mezzanine, overlooking the foyer, when I heard her.
"Stephen! Yoo-hoo! Stephen! Down here!" I stepped closer to the railing and looked down. She was waving, "Could you come down, Stephen?! Oh, never mind! I'll come up to you!"
She headed to the east wing staircase. I headed down the hall to meet her. I'd barely reached the stairs when she came bounding up. "Holy cow! You must have flown up those stairs!"
"I've had a lot of practice."
"Well, you're quite good at it. What can I do for you?"
"Um... if you're not busy later, I was actually wondering if you'd like to do something with me, not so much for me."
"Sure, what did you have in mind?"
She certainly took me by surprise. "Pedal boats? Like... down at Clausen Pond?"
"Do you want to?"
"I have to admit, I've never tried it."
"Why not? It's so much fun!"
"I've never even gone down there--I heard there was some kind of accident and they shut the whole thing down. Are you sure they're still in business?"
"That's awful. I never heard that. We have to go find out for sure!"
"Uhhh... okay! I guess so, then."
"It's going to be so much fun! Can we go now? Let's go! I mean... if you're not busy."
"Remember, I'm a guest. You can't say no to me."
"I really hadn't thought about it like that, but... I guess you're right."
"Yes, Stephen, right now. That would be perfect!"
Father's car was a '73 Oldsmobile. She (the Olds) spent her days in the parking garage off the west wing, in the rear of the hotel. On our way by the lobby, I took the opportunity to let Mrs. Teague know I'd be gone for a few hours. She wasn't happy about it, though I didn't know why.
"What if I need you for something? Where can I reach you?"
"Mrs. Teague, I don't know exactly when I'll be back, but you've managed this long without me. I'm sure you'll make it through this time."
We drove down Main Street to highway 20, then started heading east when I told her I had no idea how to get there.
"It's that way," she said confidently. And that way it was. She led us right to it. I couldn't see a thing when she tried to point it out to me, but when we came nearer, it became quite clear that the boats were still ready for action. There were no other cars in the weedy lot, so I parked close to the water, in a space that would keep her dress from dragging too many weeds. Most of it was just unkempt grass. A John Deere and a Brush Hog would have done it a world of good.
Clint Clausen was sitting at the near end of a narrow wooden dock leading out over the shallow water where the pedal boats were lined up, anxiously awaiting their captains. He was perched on a folding chair, a twisted black cane across its arms, wearing an exaggerated sea captain's hat and a pirate's patch over his right eye.
"Toe the beaches, mates! We've got a live one here! Make ready the fleet for a captain bound fer the seven seas!"
We stepped up to the dock and the folding chair as two boys came running from their fortress among the shrubs and bushes nearby.
"How may we be of service to you this fine day, good sir?"
"Well, we would like to rent one of your fine vessels this day."
"We would, would we? Well, I think we have the choice of the entire fleet this fine afternoon. Ye may take yer pick."
Looking down the dock, I saw an impressive array of, not one, but, two quaint little pedal boats.
"Old Blue has a history of mid-pond mechanical failures and daring at-sea rescues, providing a lifetime of heroic, unforgettable memories. Red Hope has the current record for speed and heroic rescues of, not just passengers, but also, captains who set sail on Old Blue."
I looked down the dock again at the selection, "So... what are the choices again?"
"Stephen, I like the red one."
"The Red Hope, please, my good man."
"An excellent choice, Sir. She's the fastest in the fleet... depending..."
"Depending on what?"
"Eh...," he winked and tapped my shins with his thin cane. "Nothing. Never mind. Boys! Ready the Red Hope!" he yelled without warning. "Stay out as long as ye please. It's forty pence every quarter-hour."
"Oh. That's uh..."
"Five bucks every fifteen minutes."
"Right! I knew that."
He winked again, "Of course, Sir. She's a real beauty, lad. Enjoy yer voyage." He watched us proceed down the dock. "She's the second on the right! Ye can't miss her!"
She walked ahead of me, anxious for the trip. It struck me again, just then--this would be a lot less awkward if I at least knew her name, and the more time that passed without knowing, the more awkward it would be when I finally asked. I was about to ask when she spun around and spoke first, "Thank you for doing this with me, Stephen. That guy was so funny!"
"I think he had something in his eye."
"I think he was sweet. Come on!" she wheeled back around and dashed toward the proud fleet. I gave chase--still not knowing her name.
We spent almost an hour tooling around on Clausen's little pond, admiring fish, turtles, and various waterfowl. The weather was about as perfect as one could ask for--a warm day, clear skies, only a little breezy for my liking, but it kept the mosquitos at bay. I took a few bites nonetheless. She didn't seem bothered by them, so I didn't complain.
"It looks like Mr. Clausen packed it in for the day. I guess I can come back around tomorrow to get him paid up."
"You're a good man, Stephen. He sees it just as I do. Even if you didn't come back around, he'd consider it a worthy contribution."
"Well, I appreciate that, but it's not the kind of practice that's going to keep him in business very long. Most folks that do business in Sharon Springs are just passing through. Coming back around isn't always an option."
"Something tells me he isn't doing it for the money. I bet he does this because it's in his heart."
We tethered the Red Hope to the dock, just as we'd found it, and I noted the time to make sure of how much I owed him. Looking back into the clever craft, I inspected to make sure we'd left nothing behind.
"Why haven't you tried to kiss me?"
I turned to her, not knowing what to expect. "Are we on a date?"
"Well, no, but should that stop you?"
"I think it should, yes. You seem a proper lady. What kind of gentleman would take advantage of lady in the middle of a pond?"
"Take advantage? Stephen, it's just a kiss."
"Yes, but it's a widely known fact that kisses on pedal boats inevitably turn into things that are not just kisses."
"Ooh... what kinds of things?"
"Things that a gentleman ought not discuss with proper ladies on a pedal boat."
"We're not on a pedal boat. We're on a dock."
"Uh, yes. Yes, we are."
She looked back along the deck to where the folding chair had been, then turned back to me with a playful grin. "So, what kinds of things happen?"
"Oh, well, then the gloves would really come off," I bantered.
"Well! They're coming off if they're coming off," she volleyed, actually taking off her silky black gloves. "So, what would happen once the gloves were off?"
"Um... well, your buttons on your waistcoat would get loosened up."
"Yeah, like undone."
Oh my. I felt my heartbeat immediately begin to launch. Every sentence required an operation to extract it from my throat, "Yes, exactly."
"Both of them?"
"Oh, yes. The other one too."
"Then... that belt buckle would open."
"Oh... like this?"
"Yes, yup, that's exactly..."
"Well, then there'd be more kissing..."
"I like kissing."
"And then that would lead to more things..."
"Like what, Stephen?"
"Okay, um... well, whatever's underneath that waistcoat would definit... ooookay, there's nothing underneath that waistcoat."
"And all these things happen just because people kiss on a pedal boat?"
"Yup. It's a well-documented..."
"A widely known fact."
She took two steps by me and stepped back onto the Red Hope, looked up at me from under that giant hat, with her coat dangling open like theater curtains drawn open to the main show.
"Hey!" a woman's voice called from the distance, "What are you doing?! You can't be here!"
"She sounds mad. You'd better come out of there."
She was already scrambling back out, "She sounds really mad! Let's get out of here!" she laughed.
We high-tailed it back up the dock and into the Oldsmobile, throwing gravel and laughing hysterically as the old woman came scurrying toward us as fast as her legs would allow. We were hollering out the windows as the Olds tore down the dirt drive, "Woo-hoo!" she screamed and laughed some more. I just looked at her and smiled.
"What? What are you looking at?"
"Because there's nothing else in the whole world I'd rather do."
"Well, you better spare a moment to look toward the road."
The tires on the Olds skidded to a halt, throwing a cloud of dust into the wind and across highway 20 as a lone eighteen-wheeler came barreling through, blaring its air horn to help imprint on my brain how close I came to being reduced to a smear that gorgeous afternoon. We looked at each other and laughed like there was something wrong with us.
"Where to, my lady?"
"I think we'd better get back to the hotel before we get lost."
"I think you're right."
As we pulled into the parking garage, I was tongue tied--terrified to say something stupid, and even more terrified of not saying anything at all.
"I think pedal boats are my new favorite thing."
She smiled coyly, "Mine too, almost."
"I always show up a day early, and I always seem to stir up trouble one way or another. I'm glad I... almost stirred up trouble with you, Stephen."
I came around to open her door. "You're a day early? What, exactly, is it that brings you to Sharon Springs?"
"Nothing much. I'm just here a couple days for my fiancé's stupid family reunion."
********************* 5 *****************
"Did you get your doors all counted, Mr. Goldman?"
"I was a little distracted, actually. Something came up."
"I see. Mr. Mericle has declined your offer to replace one of his bussers tomorrow. They all need the experience. He said to thank you, though, and that he'd be sure to enlist your help if it's needed, if you'll be on site, that is."
A part of me wanted to take the next two days off just to avoid girl until the Kessler party was over and done with and she'd be long gone, but I have to admit, there definitely a particular part of me that wanted to see her again at that very moment. In my mind, I began calculating how many reunions would bring us face-to-face before her infidelity excluded her from any further. There was no question where her moral boundary line was drawn, so that meant the extent of her infidelity, as where I was concerned, would be limited to my moral boundary line--and that was most certainly in question.
"I'll be here."
"Suit yourself. If you'll be counting again, perhaps you could bring a set of hand towels to Mrs. Wilkensen in 208?"
"I'd be happy to."
I turned to head to Laundry, but didn't get even a first step in before Mrs. Teague continued. "You know, there was a time when I would run off when something... came up, but I didn't run off every time. Sometimes it's better to just let the thing go back down."
I nodded in understanding and headed to 208. At 206, I remembered to go back down and get the towels. The mental misstep was all I needed to push myself off the fence. Once the doors were counted, I'd be heading home for the night.
***************** 6 *********************
"Good morning, George."
"Good morning, Mr. Goldman."
"Are the carpet people here?"
"Yes, Sir. All morning. It's been a challenge getting the last guests out without running into vacuum hoses and extension cords on the way down, but Kristen's been keeping track of who's going where and when, and Mrs. Teague's been keeping track of Kristen so she doesn't get overwhelmed by everything."
"Her birthday's coming up, you know."
"Mrs. Teague's. I'm thinking we'd have the bakery put a cake together, rather than sending a card around for everyone to sign again."
"I'm sure she'd appreciate a birthday cake. You know I'll be there."
"For the cake?"
"For Mrs. Teague."
"You're a good man, George."
I made my way to the foyer and, as George had suggested, there were hoses and cords and people operating them all over the place. I had to watch my step the whole way, but my eyes weren't only on the floors, they kept watch for a particular guest as well, my ears keen above the whirring vacuums, listening for the dreaded yoo-hoo.
Mrs. Teague was well in control, though it appeared nothing less than controlled chaos. The foyer, the banquet hall, the mezzanines, and the front desk were all under assault from an army of shampooers, suckers, and their helpers, helping to keep the web of cords and hoses from being tied into knots. I felt a few of my own knots loosening having seen no sign of the girl whose name I still didn't know. I walked to the registration desk to make my presence known to Mrs. Teague... and to say good morning.
"Is this normal?"
"Yes, Sir. Right on schedule."
"I can see why we take it down to a skeleton crew. This is really... over the top."
"Overkill is underrated."
"My father used to say that," I smiled.
"Yes. He did at that. She's been wandering around all night."
She nodded her head as she cast her eyes behind me. Turning to follow her gaze, my heart skipped. I knew exactly what and who she meant, but seeing her still threw me for a loop.
She hadn't seen me. I don't know where she'd come from, but I was sure she wasn't in the foyer a minute ago, though there was enough commotion I could have easily missed her if he she had been. She was every bit as radiant as the day before, even having spent the evening "wandering around." I turned away before she caught my eye.
"Who is she, anyway?" I asked.
"Part of the reunion--here early for whatever reason."
"To stir up trouble. Has anyone ordered room service, or need towels I can deliver?"
"Everyone's checking out this morning. Nothing to do but run linens."
"I'll do it."
"You know where to find Mrs. Peach. Good luck getting back through the foyer unnoticed."
I always found it particularly annoying that Mrs. Teague always knew what was going on. Sometimes I felt like she knew what was happening before it happened.
"Is she looking this way?"
"No. Off you go."
Mrs. Peach was usually at the kiosk in Laundry taking phone calls from the check out desk and notating which rooms were ready for turn over. Housekeeping would ordinarily be a bee hive thus time of day, and with 126 rooms checking out in one morning, and a skeleton crew turning over rooms for a full house that night, Mrs. Peach was likely helping out wherever she could.
The double doors slammed open as Sonja Vera burst through pushing her laundry cart through as battering ram. She wore headphones connected by a long wire to what I assumed was a tape player in her pocket. Such items were prohibited prior to Uncle Morty's ownership. He felt morale would be improved if the ladies were able to listen to music other than the elevator music which regularly filled the halls during check-out hours--and just housekeeping and maintenance--most positions required too much communication to allow them to "tune-out" while working in teams. Mrs. Teague still doesn't think they should be allowed--the guests and other staff have trouble getting someone's attention when they're too absorbed in their music. Beyond that, people are often oblivious to what's going on around them as well. Sonja Vera was giving an excellent example that aspect as she unloaded the cart without any clue I was there.
I thought to check the clipboard hanging on the wall next to me to see which room to send her to next. When I looked over at it, my periphery revealed that I'd been oblivious to my surroundings as well. She'd been standing right behind me.
"Stephen, I've been looking for you all night. I need to explain..."
"There's nothing to explain."
"No, you don't understand..."
"I understand enough to know not to till another man's garden."
"It's not like that at... that's a funny way to put it."
"You shouldn't be in here."
"I know. I shouldn't be here at all! I'm not here because I want to be here. I have to be here."
"What do you mean, you have to be here? You know what? No. I don't want to hear it. I have work to do, and you shouldn't be in here."
I checked the clipboard and headed for the linen shelves. Grabbing fresh sheets and towels, room 413 was my destination. The Adler had been retrofitted for electric wiring and hot and cold plumbing, but an elevator hadn't been in the budget, so we still used dumbwaiters to move large or heavy bundles upstairs. My bundle was neither large nor heavy, so I proceeded up the west wing stairs.
"You can't just keep avoiding me, Stephen."
"Sure I can."
"I don't love him."
"Neither do I."
"It's an arranged marriage. I have to do it."
"I know how arranged marriages work, but there are still some things you don't have to do."
"Like... like pedal boats!"
"You didn't like the pedal boats?"
"I loved the pedal boats! I'd love to go love them again! But knowing what I know now, that's really not an option, is it?"
"Because you're engaged. You're practically a married woman. We just met yesterday, and besides that, I don't even know your name!"
"Well, when you say it like that, it sounds bad."
"Well, how would you say it?"
I knocked on 413 to be sure no one was in there before opening the unlocked door, the freshly cleaned carpet still wet under my feet.
"I'd say I'm about to start serving a life sentence in a marital prison and I'd like to enjoy my last few days of freedom."
"Okay, that's definitely another way to say it." I stripped the linens from the queen bed and tossed them to the door. "But you have to understand, I am the acting General Manager of this hotel. How would it look if I were having an affair with the fiancée of one of our own guests?!"
"I guess it would look something like this."
She threw herself at me, wrapped her arms around my neck and kissed me like she was going to prison. Being the gentleman, and respecting the sacred traditions of marriage and betrothal, I kissed her as if I'd just gotten out of prison. I fell backward onto the bare mattress, toppling her along with me. My hands went on a Lewis and Clark expedition--exploring every hill and valley, mapping out points of interest, and areas demanding further exploration.
She pulled her knees onto the bed, straddling me, then rose up to repeat the unbuttoning and unbuckling that almost stirred up trouble the day before. I unbuttoned my shirt mindlessly as I watched her every move. She looked toward the door.
"I'm sorry! I thought the room was vacant! I'm so sorry!"
Sonja Vera's voice. She backed out quickly and closed the door. We looked at each other and chuckled again.
"This is exactly why we need automatic locks on these doors."
She crawled backward and stood facing me. She began pulling the waistcoat off her shoulders.
"Leave it on. I like it."
She pulled it back up over her shoulders, never breaking eye contact. She paused for a few seconds. A playful smile grew on her face, briefly biting her lower lip before the smile faded into a more serious expression. She reached into her coat exposing sublime breasts. Her fingers rode up from beneath, over top, and up to her neck and mouth as her forearms pushed together before letting them fall as her fingers reached up and ran through her hair, her eyes only glancing down for a moment before recapturing mine.
She was in full control as I was trying to remember how to breath. I watched her hands caress their way back down, down... down. She leaned forward slightly as her fingertips caught the edge of the pleated skirt which did not impede their descent. With a wiggle she was free.
"Stay right there. Don't move." I rolled off the bed and scurried to the door, locking it, sliding the bolt, and double-checking the lock again. I thought, for just a moment, Sonya saw us, we should stop this. Fortunately, it was only a fleeting thought. We were already seen, and if I was going to get fired, it wasn't going to be for nothing.
I stripped down to my socks, pausing only briefly to make sure she was watching. I crawled back onto the bed and got comfortable. "Okay... where were we?"
Many times I thanked the Heavens for what little experience I had in love-making because that girl had an insatiable appetite--as if she'd been starving--and every touch was more nourishing, more satisfying, than the last. The way she looked at me, as if I were... delicious.
*************** 7 *****************
After an hour or so of blissful debauchery, she finally allowed for rest--which came in the form of complete collapse.
"Have you ever been in the penthouse?"
"Do you want to? I have to get out of here; this wet carpet smells awful."
We made short work of getting dressed again. I don't know when or how it happened, but her hat was destroyed. I led the way to the staircase leading up to the penthouse overlooking the forest to the south. The view is impressive, to say the least.
"The Kesslers will be arriving any time now, don't you think? Maybe we should get you back downstairs. We don't want to give the wrong impression."
"I guess you're right, but... meet back here at midnight, Stephen! Say you will."
"You go down first. I'll make my way down, and I'll see you here at midnight. Don't keep me waiting."
I didn't see her come down. I only assumed she must have. I stopped by room 413 to make the bed. It really wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I still flipped the mattress. I dropped the dirty linens in the laundry shoot at the end of the hall and decided to see if Tommy Mericle needed any help. With any luck, they'd have everything set up already.
"We've only just began, Mr. G, but I've no reason to believe we won't have everything up and going well in time for the event. Mrs. Teague was lookin' for you earlier. You'd better see what she needs first, and I'll let you know if we need a hand."
"Thanks for letting me know. I don't know that she won't put me to work somewhere else, but if I'm available, I'll be in the foyer or at the registration desk. If you don't see me there, and if it'll wait, just leave a note and I'll get to you as soon as possible."
"Right then. Gut Shabbos."
It didn't take but a minute to find Mrs. Teague--more like, she found me.
"You've got a message from Mr. Yarkony. He's expecting your call."
Oh boy. I was expecting this, but not so soon. Word travels fast, I guess. I opted for the mailroom to make the call. It's a bit more secluded than most other rooms, and far less likely to result in someone barging in looking for the restroom.
Mrs. Teague was a different matter. She watched me walk until there was nothing left of me to see. To my surprise, Uncle Mordy knew nothing about the fourth floor frolicking. Instead, he wanted me to drive to Albany to pick up supplies for hotel... tonight! It's only about fifty miles to Albany, but I was definitely weirded out by the urgency of the delivery. I wasn't thrilled to have to make the trip, but I was pretty happy that I wasn't apologizing for my behavior over the past hour. I grabbed the key to the pickup truck from the main desk, traded a gut shabbos with Melvin, and got on the road all the while wearing a big goofy grin.
******************* 8 *****************
It was dusk when I got back from my jaunt to the state capitol and back. Another successful trip in the old Chevy. The maintenance crew would have to deal with whatever was in the box come Monday. It was way too heavy for me to lift, and I wasn't worried about letting it sit in the parking garage til then. I was far more concerned about the huge mistake I'd signed up to repeat at midnight. Maybe she'd come to her senses and call off the rendezvous. Right... fat chance.
I'm not sure what I expected upon entering the Adler, but it sure as heck wasn't what I saw. The foyer and banquet hall were both littered with strings of lights, there were huge paper lantern displays, strings of beads, music was playing, people were dancing--it was the best I'd ever seen the Adler look for an event--absolutely stunning!
The only thing that struck me as odd was that I didn't see a single hotel employee present. I know most of the staff had the night off, and some had called in sick, but this group seemed to me to be completely self-sufficient. I walked in just to make my presence known in case anyone needed anything. I figured I'd wait at the reception desk just to make myself available.
I jarred myself awake at 11:49. Looking quickly and thoroughly across the foyer, I saw no one who might have noticed I'd been asleep at my post. Then the mezzanine caught my eye. It was her. She'd dashed across behind the banister as if she'd been on wheels--so graceful.
11:49!!! That's almost midnight! Dammit, I'd missed my opportunity to talk some sense into her. I only stopped for a moment at the water cooler on my way up. We're just going to talk this time, Stephen. Just talk.
Talking. Right. She was remarkably discrete, so as not to arouse suspicion should anyone happen to wander up before I arrived to unlock the door. When I topped the stairs, I found her dressed in nothing but her bobby socks. I rushed to the door to open it before anyone other then me came up to see the top floor view--and what a view?!
"What happened to your clothes?"
She just smiled and shrugged. I ushered her in quickly.
"Aren't you cold? You must be cold. Hell, I'm wearing clothes and I'm cold."
"No carpet up here."
"Nope, no carpet."
I felt another goofy grin coming on.
***************** 9 *******************
"Stephen! Wake up! Stephen! Please!"
"Something's happening! Everyone's gone mad! They're fighting!"
I jumped to my feet and ran to the door. She'd left it open and I heard the yelling and screaming echoing through the hall. I ran back and grabbed the phone while I pulled on my pants. No one was operating the switchboard. The phone was useless. I laced my shoes and slung my got one arm in a shirt sleeve. She was already dressed.
"Come on, we have to get out of here."
"Stephen, listen to them! They'll kill us!
I ran to the door again and looked in the hall.
"Look, we just need to get to the stairwell..."
"They'll be in the stairwell. We can't take the stairs."
"We only need to get to the fourth floor. The stairs come out right across from the laundry chute. We can slide down to Laundry and run out the service door."
"What about a fire escape?"
"There is no fire escape. This place was built fifty years ago. Come on!"
We only paused at the door, then made a run for the stairs. We could hear fighting down below, but there was no one in the staircase. We quickly and carefully sneaked down to the fourth floor. A man was tromping around celebrating having beaten a smaller man apparently to death in the hall. He grunted like a mad gorilla as he stomped away from us to the next door. He looked at the door, huffed and flexed, then kicked it in screaming like a wild man as he rushed inside.
We jumped into the hall and across to the laundry chute. I opened the door.
"Climb in, hurry."
She looked down the chute, "Stephen, I can't. It's too far down."
"It slides diagonally starting at the third floor. I promise, it's like a playground slide, and the bottom is a huge pile of sheets and towels and pillow cases."
"I can't," she cried, slowly backing away.
"Yes, you can. You have to." We both looked down the hall when we heard the crazy man fighting again. A terrible scream came from the stairs behind us. Someone was coming up. "We have to go, now."
Still, she refused. Then I saw it. On the other side of the hall--the dumbwaiter.
"There! Come on, get inside. I'll go down the chute and lower you down once I'm at the bottom. Just get in and stay quiet."
She wasn't thrilled, but I got her tucked in and closed the panel before diving down the laundry chute, head first. Four seconds later, I was close to the bottom, but the linens had backed up into the chute. The skeleton crew hadn't been able to clear the pile before leaving for the night. I had to dig through sheets and damp towels until I finally tumbled down the massive white pile at the bottom.
The service door was thirty feet away. The dumbwaiter was thirty feet away, with a wall between us, and a hallway wrought with bloodthirsty mad men. I made my way through a maze of small hallways and offices, heading through to the switchboard room. I ducked inside to make the call to the police.
A bloodied woman screamed and charged at me with a chair held over her head. I barely dodged it as she brought it down, smashing it onto the floor and falling forward over it. She got up, bringing with her a couple of pieces of broken chair. Her eyes were wild with rage as she charged again. Paying no attention at all to the debris at her feet, she slid on a piece of wood and slammed into the tile floor, leaving her unconscious, crumpled on the floor. A man lay dead in the corner, beaten to a pulp with a switchboard cable wrapped tightly around his neck. I closed the door and locked it.
"9-1-1, what is the location of the emergency?"
"You gotta come quick! Get cops and, and, and ambulances! You gotta hurry!
"What's going on, Sir? I need you to calm down and tell me what's going on."
"The guests! They've all gone crazy! They're fighting each other! They're beating each other to death!"
"Where is this happening, Sir?"
"The Adler hotel! Please hurry!"
"The police are on their way. Are you in a safe location, Sir? Sir?"
The woman regained consciousness and growled as she rose to her feet. I readied myself for another knockout blow, but she ran past me, headlong into the wall at the other end of the room, knocking herself out.
I left the switchboard room and took a right, down the narrow hallway toward the door and the end, which led into the main hall. Across the hall was the kitchen, where the dumbwaiter was operated.
Even if someone saw me in the main hall, I could hurry back through the little maze and escape through the service door without any trouble. No one could navigate the turns as quickly as I could. It was a quick dash across the hall to the other door, and one inside, I'd have maybe a minute to lower the dumbwaiter. That was the easy part. The kitchen itself presented an entirely different challenge--a vast array of potential weapons. The main hall echoed blood-curdling screams from men and women alike, but no one was there-- no one alive anyway. I made the dash.
The kitchen had been ransacked. There were pots, pans, cooking utensils, and unidentifiable commercial cookware scattered everywhere. Two bodies and a spattering of blood completed the ensemble. I wasted no time once I was certain no one was in there waiting for their opportunity to add my body to the list. I grabbed the cable next to the dumbwaiter cabinet and started reeling. It went faster than I had imagined. Maybe twenty seconds and I was already almost there.
The kitchen doors smashed open next to me as two men crashed into a stainless steel prep table before falling to the ground. They grappled with each other, fighting and biting and clawing at each other. One found a small knife and began stabbing the man on top of him. The man on top kept bludgeoning the man with the knife, as if there were no knife at all. I kept reeling the cable downward. An impossibly large man ran into the room hefting a fire extinguisher over his head. He brought it down, crowning the man on top of the fighting twosome. The man on the floor stabbed the huge man in the leg with the knife before taking a crushing blow from the extinguisher as well. I grabbed the nearest thing--a cast iron pan--and did what anyone would in my situation. I cowered behind it as if it would somehow protect me from the gargantuan man.
He turned to me and took a step in my direction, then something caught his attention in the hall--another gladiator. He roared and launched himself into the hall. I dropped the pan and immediately reeled the dumbwaiter to the bottom, hitting hard as it reached its limit. I side-stepped to the cabinet to help her out.
It was empty.
Seconds passed like minutes as I contemplated the horrific possibilities. I heard sirens outside, breaking me from my trance. My best hope of saving her was to get to the police and help them put an end to the melee. I jumped back to the doorway to escape, but the behemoth man stood directly between me and the door to the offices. He held a lifeless man's body with a clearly broken neck, dangling in his humongous hand. He faced away from me--I had only a moment to act. I dashed past him and slipped through the door right in front of him. His mass would make it impossible for him to keep up with me through the maze, but he sure tried. He let out a roar and chased me down the narrow hall, his huge arms banging into the walls as he ran. I ducked to the right, across from the switchboard room, then left through Mrs. Teague's office which adjoined the mail room. The huge man slammed into walls and desks as he tried to catch me, but he never had a chance. Into the laundry room, I broke for the service door. I heard him make the final turn behind me as I smashed the lock bar and burst through.
I raced around the west wing to the front, where sheriff's cars were filing in and turning the court into a massive red and blue disco. Three cars had already parked and two more were just joining. They likely made up the entire police force in the village, but I was sure happy to see them. The huge man had apparently lost interest in me. He'd either gone back inside, or taken off into the woods, which was a scary thought.
Flagging down the first deputy I saw, I warned him that the man might be on the loose. I explained who I was and that the people inside were in a murderous rage, killing each other and even themselves. He escorted me to where the others had gathered. The other deputies were at the front, along with the Sheriff, standing on the steps leading up to the main entry doors, chatting and laughing with Mrs. Teague.
My escort spoke smoothly and calmly, as deputies do. "Mr. Goldman, this is going to be hard to comprehend, but just try to keep an open mind, and we'll explain everything to you. Can you do that?"
"Yeah, I guess. What's going on? Why aren't they going inside? There's a girl in there--a woman--she's not crazy like the others. She may be alive still."
"You don't know that! You guys have to..."
"Mr. Goldman, please try to stay calm. Remember what I said."
Mrs. Teague met me at the bottom of the steps, the Sheriff was at her side.
"Okay, somebody please tell me what the hell is going on!"
***************** 10 *****************
"Mrs. Teague, what's happening? There are people inside killing each other!"
"No, Mr. Goldman, the people inside are not killing each other. They're already dead. They have been for years."
"What are you talking about? They're right inside. One of them just chased me out the service entrance. He was the size of a house! I watched him kill three people and he was trying to kill me!"
"Duncan Kessler, yes."
"What do you mean, 'Yes'?! I just said he killed three people and chased me out the door, and all you have to say is 'Yes'?"
The Sheriff spoke, "Mr. Goldman, if you'll give us a chance to explain..."
Mrs. Teague went on, "Stephen, the Kessler family reunion isn't a normal event."
"Okay, sorry. Go on."
"In 1947, the Kesslers rented the Adler for their very first reunion. Almost every one of them came from Germany and Austria, having escaped the Nazis. The reunion, wasn't just for the Kessler family, though. The Weider family also came--those who survived. The Jewish Weiders were disbursed around German camps and hiding throughout Europe. The German Kesslers spread the word through the family that they were trying to locate as many Weiders as possible, and doing whatever it took to get them to America. The two families were reunited after years of separation from the beginning of the war. Most of the Weiders were killed by the Nazis. The reunion was as emotional as it was grand."
"On the day of the reunion, Louis Adler had the carpets cleaned, along with as many other cleaning services they could fit into the day. Back then, the cleaning industry wasn't well regulated, and the combination of chemicals used to clean the carpet and other surfaces created a mild type of mustard gas, along with a strong psychedelic agent which caused the entire hotel to become a crime scene. As the Kesslers and Weiders slept, their minds were bent by the gases. The staff were able to get fresh air outside as they began to complain about headaches, but the guests were exposed in their rooms, thinking the effects were from too much alcohol during the evening.
"The much weaker Weiders were no match for their counterparts. They were the first to die, though the brutality didn't end there. Every man, woman, and child--dear God, the children--became murderous... beasts."
"How is it possible I've never heard about this?"
"The village had just become a luxury resort destination with five-star hotels and celebrities visiting from all over the country. The last thing the people wanted was to have the news of the massacre getting out. It would destroy the entire town."
"But the people who died..."
"Two entire families wiped out in a single night. There was no one to file a complaint."
"Except for one," the Sheriff added.
"Yes, there was one survivor--the girl--Gretchen Weider. Gerd Kessler had sneaked her and her brothers and sister out of Germany before the war, claiming they were his children. They'd moved to Denmark, then to America."
"How do you know all this?"
"I was a hairdresser in the hotel's salon at the time. I met many of them the day of the tragedy, and Gretchen the day before. She and her sister had come a day early. No one knows why she survived. She wouldn't say where she was or who she was with that night, but when she returned, her entire family was gone--both of them."
My heart dropped.
"Gretchen's father, Bernard, was located in Austria a few years later. Gretchen arranged for him and his new wife to come to America. They ended up buying the Adler from Louis after a few years living in Miami.
"The chemical company paid her a fortune for her extraordinary loss... and to keep quiet about it. She was to be married to one of the Kesslers, and they'd already filed the paperwork. For all the lawyers knew, she was already married--the sole survivor and sole recipient of the entire Kessler fortune, which was quite substantial as Gerd had invested wholeheartedly in American steel and munitions companies to help their war effort.
"She put the bulk of the money into a bank account, and insisted, if she was to promise not to speak of the event, the hotel would promise to clear the books for two days every time the carpets were cleaned, and the staff would be handsomely compensated, when the bank paid for the rooms, for their time away from work. Louis agreed, the town agreed, the staff agreed, and no one spoke a word of it for fear of losing everything. Once the cleaning chemicals were no longer a threat, Ms. Weider insisted on booking one room for herself, and she always comes a day early."
"Are you ready to go inside, Mr. Goldman?"
"I don't know. I guess."
We entered the front doors. Nothing was out of place. There were no bodies, no blood, no decorations, no strings of lights. The banquet hall was empty--all the tables and chairs stacked on stage to make room for the cleaners--right where Tommy Mericle and his crew had stacked them. There was no music, no screaming, no rampaging guests. But the most noticeable absence was no pleated skirt, no waistcoat, no gloves or hat.
"There was a girl," I eked. She was real. I thought maybe she was the survivor.
"I'm afraid not, Stephen."
"But she showed up in a taxi..."
"Gretchen showed up in a taxi, yes."
It was then she walked into the foyer. She came slowly around the corner from the main hall. The skirt, waistcoat, and hat--just as she'd worn since she arrived. I hurried to meet her. But, it wasn't her.
"Gretchen? Is that your name?"
She was every bit as lovely, dressed the same, but easily twice the age of the girl I thought she was when she came around the corner. The look on my face told her everything.
"You saw her? My sister?"
"I think so." Tears streamed down my face.
"What was she like? Was she happy?"
"Yes, ma'am. I think she was very, very happy. We went on a pedal boat. We went on a pedal boat!" I exclaimed to the deputies and Mrs. Teague. I wiped my face as if it wasn't too late for them to see me bawling. "Clint Clausen's pond, across the highway! That was us! Mr. Clausen and his kids saw us together--he'll tell you!"
"Son, Mr. Clausen put a bullet in his eye eight years ago. He couldn't take the guilt of losing his two young sons when they drowned in his little pond while he wasn't watching--not that he could've gotten to them before they drowned anyway."
A deputy added in, "We had a call about someone messing around on Mrs. Clausen's dock yesterday. Someone had gone out on one of the boats. By the time Mrs. Clausen got out there, he was back on the dock and ran off to his car when she yelled at him."
It was like my world was falling apart.
"But you saw her in the foyer, Mrs. Teague, this morning. You said she'd been wandering around all night."
"That was Gretchen in the foyer, Mr. Goldman. I'm sorry."
"This can't be happening."
"What's your name, if I may?"
"It's Stephen, ma'am."
It might as well have been her voice.
"What was her name?"
"My sister... hmph... that sounds like her. Neglecting the simplest things and jumping head first into the next adventure. That's how she died--I know it's awful to say. The gas got to her, too. Best we could figure, when the fighting started, she tried to get out, but couldn't find a way. They think she'd been hiding somewhere, but the gas took her mind. When she came out, she just started running..."
Outside, we heard what sounded like plate glass exploding, coupled with a woman's scream. The deputies turned to look, but the scream died out and there was nothing to see.
One of the deputies had had enough. "Sheriff, if you don't need us anymore, I've got someplace to be..."
With that, the Sheriff dismissed his men, and Mrs. Teague, Ms. Weider, and I shared a long chat about the days' events... well, not all of them.
"Oh no!" I blurted.
"What is it?" Mrs. Teague asked.
"I'm going to have to have a long, serious talk with Sonya Vera."
***************** 11 ****************
After Gretchen Weider had checked out once again from the Adler, I made a trip to the Clausen place and put a twenty-dollar-bill in the mailbox.
The box in the back of the pickup truck was full of new punch card door locks, which Uncle Mordy had ordered a few weeks prior. I had maintenance get started on them right away. We had more than enough staff to get everything started up again after the weekend. Gregory Cruikshank suddenly felt better and came back to work, along with a few others who apparently chose to keep their distance on carpet-cleaning day. I thought to ask him if he'd had any strange experiences with ghosts or poltergeists during their time at the Adler, but one again, there was a part of me that didn't want to know. I spent another four years as acting GM of the Adler, and after four years of platonic rendezvous, I decided to call it quits. It was too much to weigh on a young heart. These days, they call it, baggage. I never did find someone to take my heart. She's still my "only one."
Over time, the village of Sharon Springs, New York lost its appeal to modern travelers and resort-goers. The vintage 30's fixtures, 70's carpet and wallpaper unique to every room, eight-inch baseboards, and dumbwaiter service just didn't hold up against twenty-first century luxury expectations. Uncle Mordy sold the Adler, while it still had a bit of value, after closing its doors in 2004. Gretchen Weider passed on in '92, thankfully--she didn't see its demise. The reunions stopped. Neither of the sisters have been seen ever since.
I got your letter yesterday from your law firm, and I called his firm to see if I could figure out what had happened. As you know, Mordecai Yarkony passed away a few months ago, and apparently he'd gotten the best of your clients when he sold the property. The records weren't filed properly as I understand, and since his passing, Uncle Mordy's assets and personal papers were gone through more precisely. Among them was a document that suggested the Adler wasn't actually his to sell, which I can imagine is causing quite a stir in the hearts and minds of the folks who paid him for it. It seems Uncle Mordy transferred ownership of the hotel to yours truly back in '79, but didn't bother mentioning it to anyone.
I've included a quit claim deed to the property, naming your clients as the owners of any interest I may have had. It seems fair that your clients have paid for it, and in the end, I'll get the money for it, so this should clear things up. I also thought it wouldn't be right of me to fail to mention the supernatural occurrences and brutal history of the hotel, which is why you know so much (and probably quite a bit more than necessary) now.
It's taken a lot of years to put the Adler behind me, and the memories that came with it. Sometimes I wonder, if the right person came around, if she might come back for a chat--maybe stir up some trouble. So, in case you don't hear from me again, look for me there, in Sharon Springs, NY. I'm going to take another trip out there. You never know what might come up.
P.S. Below is everything I could find on the state of the Adler as of today.
Hôtel Le Fontanelle
(a ballade supreme, in *catalectic tertiary paeonic tetrameter)
Audio Recording: https://soundcloud.com/dusty-grein/hotel
The old lawyer closed his case, and said “That’s all there is, I guess.”
“Did my uncle really die there?” He looked up and gave a sigh,
“In the lobby’s where they found him. It was probably the stress,
of the many renovations he was planning when he died.”
That was how it came to pass that it was now my turn to try
and fix up the old stone building, like it was when it was new.
So I moved to New Orleans. This city's beautiful, that's true,
but quite soon I learned more truth, about the evil that befell
many guests who chose to stay there, and the tales told by the crew
of the ghosts and apparitions at
Hôtel Le Fontanelle.
When I moved into the place, I found that it was quite a mess.
It confused me and I couldn’t understand the reasons why;
till I woke up one dark midnight, to the gentlest caress
and the faintest quiet echo, sounding like a baby’s cry.
I sat up and found my blood was running cold, my mouth was dry,
while my fists were clenched quite firmly and my lips were turning blue.
Through the pounding of my heartbeat, all that I could think to do
was to calm my labored breathing, which I did… until a bell
began ringing somewhere near, and then I found that I was glued
to my bed, here in my room within
Hôtel Le Fontanelle.
After that I knew the time had come to find a priest to bless
every room and every hall, to help those earth-bound spirits fly
off to Heaven, or to Hell, I really couldn’t care much less.
It was my place now, and I was not afraid to dig and pry
into all the secret stories there, exposing every lie.
I discovered there’d been voodoo rituals, which blasted through
the thin veil between the realms. Into this hole, the spirits flew.
The old ju-ju woman in the swamp refused to cast a spell
which would mend the rip. Instead she laughed and said that I would rue
the day I stepped o’er the threshold of
Hôtel Le Fontanelle.
The true horror of the situation only bloomed and grew
after my attempt to free them, for I really had no clue,
that this failed attempt soon meant my body too, would start to smell,
from the bed where it lay rotting. See, the cost of sin comes due,
and it must be paid with interest, to
Hôtel Le Fontanelle.
© 2023 - dustygrein
* This little used poetic meter means each line is is built of four 4-syllable feet, with the stress on syllable #3. It is catalectic (latin: no tail) because the final syllable is omitted from each line, giving it a syllable stress rhythm of:
tap, tap, THUMP, tap, tap, tap, THUMP, tap, tap, tap, THUMP, tap, tap, tap, THUMP.
The Haunting of Ravenswood Manor
In the heart of a fog-laden town, I inherited a dilapidated Victorian mansion known as Ravenswood Manor—a place long whispered about for its paranormal reputation. With trepidation and a hint of excitement, I embarked on a chilling journey as the new proprietor.
From the moment I stepped foot inside the grand foyer, a sense of unease settled upon me. The air was heavy with an otherworldly presence, and the creaking floorboards echoed with unseen footsteps. As the days passed, strange encounters became a daily occurrence, the hotel's spectral inhabitants making their presence known with mischievous intent.
Guests would awaken to find their belongings rearranged, as if playful spirits had taken delight in disrupting their sleep. Lights flickered mysteriously, casting eerie shadows along the corridors, while chilling whispers echoed through the walls during the darkest hours of the night.
Communication with the spirits was a perplexing affair. They left cryptic messages scrawled on fogged-up mirrors, their ghostly fingers etching the words of the hotel's hidden history. It became clear that the spirits yearned to have their stories heard, their unfinished business laid to rest.
The hotel staff, initially skeptical, were soon enveloped by an otherworldly ambience. Some experienced unexplained cold drafts and the sensation of being watched, while others claimed to have encountered spectral figures gliding silently through the halls. The once vibrant atmosphere of the hotel grew hushed, as whispers of the paranormal spread among the guests, both terrifying and fascinating them.
Legends and rumors, once dismissed as mere superstitions, emerged from the shadows. The tale of a tragic love affair, a forbidden romance that ended in despair, seemed to intertwine with the spirits' presence. Determined to unravel the mysteries, I delved into the hotel's forgotten past, seeking the aid of paranormal experts and delving into local historical records.
Hidden chambers and forgotten journals revealed the secrets of Ravenswood Manor. The artifacts told stories of lost souls trapped within its walls, their yearning for resolution and peace. Yet, as I dug deeper, the spirits' presence grew more volatile, their anger palpable as if disturbed from their slumber.
As the month wore on, the hotel became a battleground of emotions. Fear and curiosity waged war within me, tempting the boundaries of sanity. But instead of banishing the spirits, I yearned to coexist, to uncover their stories and grant them solace. My pursuit for truth became an obsession, driving me to the precipice of madness.
In a climactic twist, I unearthed a hidden diary—an intimate account of the forbidden love that had plagued the manor for generations. Armed with newfound understanding, I sought to communicate with the spirits, to offer them closure and guide them towards the light.
On a moonlit night, within the echoing halls of Ravenswood Manor, I performed a solemn ceremony, inviting the spirits to gather. In a flurry of ethereal presence, their tormented souls found solace, their mischievous energy transforming into tranquility.
As the last ghostly figure dissipated into the night, a sense of peace settled over Ravenswood Manor. The hotel once again breathed with life, its walls resonating with the echoes of forgotten history. Though forever marked by the paranormal, it stood as a testament to the enduring power of compassion and understanding.
And as I stood in the now serene foyer, I realized that this unforgettable month had changed me. I had not only embraced the spectral realm but had emerged from the shadows with a newfound appreciation for the ethereal forces that coexist alongside us—forever entwined with the history and mysteries of Ravenswood Manor.
( ͡°( ͡° ͜ʖ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)ʖ ͡°) ͡°)
It happened each day, the day after the grand opening that no one had attended.
We'd spent untallied hours acquainting ourselves with the original construction, the deteriorations; summarily, renovating the estate with utmost care, making the grounds and rooms ready. I myself had researched the history of the place and as lead architect had set about the most attentive historical restoration. I knew who had visited with whom, and which room they had stayed; for how long, and whether any particular event of importance had been tied to the duration (*vacation, business, or pleasure, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera).
When I say "making the grounds and rooms ready" it is to be understood that they were precisely appointed as in the circa 1802, when the hotel had been at its pinnacle of excellency and all the VIP of the region had sought the shelter of its walls, for whispers, secure dealings, and silent escapism. I even had the most illustrious fountain pen, The Original, refurbished to perfection, for sign in... though it had been encrusted by char from the fire, the pen itself was unaffected. The inferno itself had been estimated to have raged an astonishing 1060 degrees Celsius. The precious pen having been made of Gold not Silver, escaped affliction by narrowest margin, having a melting point of 1064° C. Had it been Silver, a puddle is all that would have been recovered, though I would still have taken pains to have it melded back into its likeness. Such was my conviction of its signature significance since the authentic sign-in album of leather and vellum had miraculously survived the blaze unscathed.
As proprietor, as well as supervisor of the project, I uncontestedly assumed the rôle of maître d' and stationed myself in the foyer. Fortunately, I brought a book to read... the grand opening seemed a complete and utter failure.
The hinges of the double French doors never swung open.
The morale of the modest staff plummeted understandably, as they said, " Sir...?" and I sent them about their business to "Carry on," hoping that the esteemed visitors we desired were simply waiting out the initial tide of nouveau riche curiosity seekers. Like a fortress, we had every provision, and no need to leave the premises. The hired live-music played for no one, the cooks cooked for staff, the maids made up the anterior and posterior chambers... though we ourselves were the only guests. Or so I thought.
The second night, I seated my aching feet in a lounge chair to the left of the main entrance by the gigantic palm. I was less engrossed in my novel and shifted my eyes about to see "What had I done wrong?" ...that was when I noticed it for the first time.
The fountain pen was hovering above the record album and registering something. I put down my Count de Monte Cristo and took off my Pince Nez. The pen had laid itself back down on the counter, and I shuffled towards, polishing my lenses on the tailcoat of my evening jacket. Replacing my glasses I peered down at the page, half full of signatures!! but how?!
Naturally, I did not wish to alarm the staff. I curtly informed the Valet that I was going to inspect the rooms (as I do as matter of routine since commencement of the project) and he yawned in response, reassuring me God Bless that he knew nothing. I moved stealthily from wing to wing, suite to suite, surveying the quarters. The hotel was such that it had somewhat pompatically been arranged to represent various parts of the world, and different epochs. There was the Tomb of the Pharoah (a poetic conglomerate), the Louis's from XIV to XVI Chambrés (very romantic), the Swiss Alps Chalet (very rustic like in various nonfictional stories), the Jungle Room (yes just like fantasy in Graceland), the Piazza di Campo section (on the balcony side, very Tuscan, almost Philosophical), and too many others to list or describe, the hotel having exactly 400 rooms. All empty tonight.
When I returned, the Valet was at the window outside facing the drive, and the pen was once again scribbling a sign in! I looked to the key rack. Nothing had been taken. As an interesting side note, the keys were new, we had chosen not to stick to this much accuracy of maintaining the authentic skeleton type. Perhaps this was my mistake; or my salvation! In the course of the next few days, sign in continued. I took care to prevent others from seeing. I had become a bit paranoid that I was channeling something evil or esoteric or otherwise erratic. The staff as it was, was growing weary and received the news with relief that we were obviously not ready, and a hols was needed to reassess our prospectus. I suggested arbitrarily that we would reconvene at the beginning of the next month.
And so finally, I had the place to myself. I mopped my brows, and poured a tall glass of tonic; what was to be done?! I thought about calling in assistance, but who... who would understand... then I mused that the former maître d' who had given input concerning the structure of the hotel, might also understand something of the residents. Determined, I dialed the operator, and asking for the exchange, I was connected to a nurse of Old Irish accent who told me the missus had finally succumb to dementia and pnuecoccal pnuemonia on the very day of our Grand Opening, may the poor soul rest in peace and she promptly began to wail laments into the phone...
I was on my own. Lucky or unlucky. I noticed the pen was missing. The album was now blank. I looked on the floor. I scanned the counter. I looked behind the counter. Absurdly, I patted my pockets. I pulled out my pipe, lit it, pulled in a slow drag, and proceeded with new determination down the corridor, taking the album with me as a precaution. The lights flickered with apprehension, or was it anticipation? I began to hear a giggle and whispering from the Russian Embassy Suite, where the door was now ajar... the dull thud post silencer made my blood run cold as I swung it fully open on its hinges and saw... The Pen writing on the wall... I read hurriedly:
Having betrayed the Agency of Requisitions, in the matter of ... in a conspiracy to confuse and distract... the machinations of... in the subversion of public interest... manipulation of opinion... and doctoring of numbers and figures... Guest No. 901 killed by Agent X, this day...
Suddenly the album was thrust from under my arm and opened itself before me. The pen dropped as if exhausted between the pages. The room was no longer vacant but showed all the signs of occupancy, and struggle. The rifled drawers, the blood stains upon the carpeting, scattered documents... there was no body, just the attributes of life taken. And I wrote it down. Everything. The notes upon the wall. The articles I saw. Once written, I quickly noticed each symbol disappearing... or perhaps it was disappearing even before writing, I cannot sure, I was now in a complete frenzy. Like automaton I moved from room to room. Writing. Days passed. Like I said the hotel was huge. The album was soon almost full. The cramps in my arm almost unbearable and my eyes propped open by unknown forces.
Thus exhausted, I smelled it. The unmistakable scent of something unwarranted burning. I was on the upper most floor and getting out was no small matter. I tucked the album into my cummerbund and plunged my portly self into the laundry chute. Like a child at an amusement park, I felt the thrill and the fear, with that sink in the pit of the stomach which results from rapid change of movement. I covered my face with my pocket handkerchief and was relieved that the fire was most obviously on the main floor or above, because the basement was not flooded with smoke. I could make my way to the Bilco doors by the dim light of the security cameras and industrial Exit sign. I fumbled with the latch and threw open the dual metal flaps.
Gulping in fresh night air I stumbled up the stairs and out into the rear of the hotel, now running as best I could, panting out of breath and sweating something awful. I checked that I still had the album. I did. Having made it a reasonable distance away, I slowed and turned around. The hotel was up in flames, just like it had been prior to my attempted renovation. I clutched my chest. This time it was going down for good.
I had the book.
Paranormal pen challenge @Mamba
An Ode To Sara (I hate this hotel)
My lack of joy for capitalism made me despise my deceased Grandma more than I did when she was alive. She knew I wanted nothing to do with her "haunted hotel" and left it in her will to me anyway, proving I must be her least favorite granddaughter.
I tried to get anyone else in my family to take it. They refused. I talked to lawyers, who told me selling the hunk of junk was basically impossible. So I moved into a stupid old hotel.
Luckily Grandma made sure that her staff all worked there still (although that may have also been spiteful because she knew I preferred to be alone), so all I would have to do is manage.
Of course, if the five separate murder cases in the past century, people hesitated to stay there. Grandma claimed it to be an attention attractor, but I think when it passes three murders, staff and customers alike, that's more of a sign to stay away.
The staff mostly just left me alone to wallow in my misery, only bothering me when something really needed to be taken care of.
Then I met Sara. I bumped into her as she was carrying sheets, helped her pick them up and carry them, and we started talking. Nothing she said could be considered out of the usual, but something about her just interested me.
I invited her to go over planning with me because despite just being a cleaner, Tara adored the hotel. I normally would have hated that, but her love for so horrible just made my heart flutter.
We must have been talking for months. Her being around was the only thing to make me happy, and she admitted to enjoying my presence too. I wondered if she share a similar interest in me as I did with her.
I genuinely could have fallen for her.
That changed when we got patrons. A family of four, a mom, dad, and two boys, one a young teenager while the other could have been no older than seven. I gave them their key, and just to make Grandma roll in her grave a bit, warned them of the hotel's past and offered to find somewhere else to stay.
The parents seemed tired and thanked me for informing them, but decided to still stay the night.
They called first at 10:43 pm. They said there was a smell in their room, like something was rotting.
I had them switch rooms and told the staff to clean the room and check the vents.
Another called at 12:06 am. Same problem, but slightly worse. I came to look this time myself, and it was worse than I thought. It was like someone put rotten meat under a magnifying glass in July. It was then I noticed the parents no longer had their children with them.
I feared the worst and went to my landline to call the cops after giving them another room. Of course, it didn't work. I tried to tell my staff, but they all just ignored me and kept cleaning.
By 3:28 am I had enough. I went to the staffroom, and grab a crowbar. I went to the first room they were first staying in and forced open the vent.
I almost puked when it opened and the rotted corpse of the mother dangled out. She was bloated and had a bloodstain that was almost black on her blouse. When I screamed my Sara was the only one who came running.
Even in my hysterics she could understand me and was trying to calm me down. She tried to get a few words in but failed as I ran out to the 2nd room.
I was faster than her, so by the time she ran in I was already screaming about the rotted flesh of the father, his head barely hanging on by a thread.
Sara must have been able to tell I was ready to run to the room they were currently staying in, and that's when her composure broke. She screamed, cried, and begged as she chased me to the 3rd room, yelling at me to not do it.
When I opened the door with the master key, there was no one inside. Thinking back on it, the only person I had seen since the 1st room was Sara, but did not notice it then.
She yanked my arm away as I jammed the crowbar into the vent, and went quiet as she fell onto the floor in front of us.
With the same uniform and same face, it was Sara. But her expression wasn't bright or alive, instead was pale and had red staining her forehead. I dropped my crowbar in shock, finally noticing the tint of red on the end.
I was alone in the room with a bloody crowbar. I walked out of the room, and I had to change my statement. I was alone in a hotel, surrounded by ghosts.
The Unseen Innkeepers: A Month in the Ghostly Guesthouse
As soon as the ink dried on the deed to the quaint Hawthorne Hotel, a cold shiver of swept over me. The hotel, with its Victorian charm, held more than just the promise of a profitable venture; it held a mystery that would take me to the edge of reality.
The first week passed without incident. It was during the silence hours of my eighth night that the spectral shenanigans began. A chilling wind whipped through the closed corridors, sending ancient wallpaper to a frenzied dance. Distorted whispers curled around the hotel's rafters, barely audible, but distinct enough to make my skin prickle.
Mischievous rather than malevolent, the spectral inhabitants seemed to enjoy playing with the hotel's antique elevator, sending it to floors without passengers, and dimming the crystal chandeliers to an eerie glow. They communicated through cryptic messages words etched in morning on the lobby's glass pane, recounting stories of unrequited love and tragedies long forgotten.
The staff and guests were not spared. Maids reported rooms impeccably cleaned before their arrival, while guests spoke of comforting lullabies resonating in the middle of the night. Far from scaring them away, these events seemed to bring a sense of wonderment, turning Hawthorne Hotel into a paranormal spectacle.
Driven by insatiable curiosity, I sought the help of local historians and paranormal experts. They unveiled the hotel's colorful past, from being a Civil War infirmary to a speakeasy during the Prohibition era. An antique locket, discovered within a hidden chamber, held the portrait of a young woman - a spectral figure perhaps, still in search of her long-lost lover.
The spectral encounters left me with a sense of bewilderment and awe. Far from madness, this journey instilled a relentless pursuit of truth. With the passage of each spine-chilling day, I found myself more engrossed, dedicated to understanding the spirits, to giving them a voice. That eerie month became the beginning of my lifelong journey as the caretaker of the unseen innkeepers of the Hawthorne Hotel.