Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Haunted Hotel

Chapter 1

“Claire, I need your help.”

“What’s wrong?”

“It’s Sean. He didn’t come home last night.”

“He’s twenty-one now, you’ve got to expect that.”

“I think he’s in trouble.”


“It’s that crazy story Lydia told at his birthday party.” 

“The one where guests check-in to the hotel
but never check out?”

“Yeah. Sean and some of his buddies 
challenged her but she wouldn’t back down. 
So they went out to Noglaes to prove it was a hoax 
They left  a week ago. They were supposed to be 
back yesterday.”

“Don’t you think you’re overreacting?”

“Maybe, but last night I had a horrible dream. 
I could see Sean in an abandoned building 
running from room to room. He was screaming 
for help and couldn’t find his way out.  I’ve called 
the hotel, his cell phone and his friends but 
I can’t reach anyone.”

“What do you need?”

“I need you to find him.”

Within an hour Claire Nelson was on her way to the 
Mexican border town looking for the only child of her 
older sister. She hated the fact she couldn’t say 
no to Debra, even though she hated driving through 
the desert in her little Toyota Corolla. She had 
plenty of water and air conditioning but still felt like 
all the fluids were being sucked from her body.  

After exiting the freeway she took a long drink 
of water and waited at the stoplight. She had 
to stand up to her sister soon or she 
would continue to find herself in obscure towns 
chasing bad dreams and irrational fears. 

When Clayton was killed in that awful car wreck 
Debra’s saw her as her go-to-person. Instead of 
helping Debra become independent Claire 
responded to every new crisis with the same 
urgency as the first one.

She looked at her map and then pulled on to the 
main highway. As much as Claire resented the 
intrusion she knew her job as an investigative 
reporter gave her the skills and time to respond 
to her sister’s misfortunes.  Maybe when this 
adventure was done she would at least have a 
marketable article but right now the calamity 
seemed insignificant and her response premature.

“The Phantasmic Hotel of Nogales, Arizona,” 
Claire laughed at the name of the two-story building 
she saw it from the roadway. She thought the 
owners must have left the hotel in such disrepair 
to titillate the guests who were searching for ghosts. 
She had to admit the broken shingles on the roof 
and the precariously hanging shutters added 
an eerie charm. 

She pulled into the parking lot and reached for her 
camera. She got out to take pictures of the exterior 
especially the cobwebs draped from the arches 
of the front porch and the dead crow lying sprawled 
out on the walkway. They certainly made spooky 
warnings to anyone daring to enter this ghostly inn.

She noticed a young man watching her from a 
bedroom window. She waved to him, thinking it 
might be Sean but he disappeared from view. 
She continued to take pictures then climbed the 
path and pulled opened the large wooden
door. Peering into the dark interior she called 
out, “Hello, is anyone there?”

Claire hesitated in the entryway and waited until 
her eyes adjusted to the cool darkness. Her chest 
constricted with the musty smell of bad plumbing 
and rotting wood. She looked toward one of the 
sources of light in the room and saw a large stained 
glass window in the center of the far wall. From its 
filtered light she could see an angel in green robes 
captured in the leaded glass. He seemed to scrutinize 
her with his eyes. He held a flaming red sword in his 
right hand and the scales of justice in his left. Claire 
felt the guilt of her sins being weighed in the balance 
and she broke away from the intense look of his 
illuminated eyes and called out once more, “Hello. 
Can anyone help me out here?”

Again, there was no response. She walked into the 
lobby where the guest rooms were arranged evenly 
along one side of the building with conference rooms, 
kitchen, dinning area and a small gift shop on the 
opposing side. The central area where she stood 
was spacious with high cathedral ceilings. 

She heard the swish, swish, swish of a straw broom 
on the walkway outside the large patio door. Claire 
saw an old woman, dressed in black, sweeping the 
cobblestones. Her long white hair cascaded over 
her bony shoulders. The woman stooped down to gather 
shards of broken pottery and placed them carefully 
into a worn wicker basket.

Claire took a step outside to speak to the woman 
but was distracted when she heard someone 
behind the counter. Turning around she expected 
to see the desk clerk but no one was there. 
Instead a leather-bound registry lay open on top of 
the desk. Confused Claire looked back for the old 
woman but now she was gone.

“Someone’s playing tricks in here,” she said 
glancing around the room. “If you’re trying to scare 
me it’s working.”

No one answered.

She moved to the desk and examined the registry. 
There on November 13th, was his name, Sean Taylor - 
room #13. Also listed in the same room were the names 
of his three friends, Chris Ruiz, Chuck Steiner, and 
Michael Lee. “You guys were here eight days ago,” 
she said drumming her fingers on the counter top. 
“Where are you now? “

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