~ PART SIX ~
Our experience at the hotel wasn’t what we’d imagined it to be.
Have you read Part Five? You can catch up *here*.
Joan switched her attention to the droves of framed photographs on the fireplace mantel. The faces seemed to watch us out of the black and white photos. Idly, she lifted one. Fixated her stare upon it. “The body? Oh, that’s over with – dead and gone. But, have you heard of the folklore of Black Shuck?”
“Black Shuck. The Hound of Hell.” Said another voice. It belonged to a little person, no taller than four feet. He was clothed in olive-green tartan – matching trousers, waistcoat and blazer – a cream shirt with a red bowtie and brown leather brogues.
His words were mocking; his gait, although awkward in the physical sense, sure. He was the picture of well-turned out confidence – or was it arrogance?
He held out a hand for George to shake. “Good evening, I’m Pendleton.”
My husband politely shook his hand. “I’m George; and this is my wife, Maggie.”
Pendleton then took my hand in his, cradling it like it was delicate porcelain. For a moment he gazed at it. And, in that moment, I was afraid he might take a bite out of my right hand.
Instead, he gently raised it to his lips and kissed the back of it. “It is my pleasure to be acquainted with you.”
I was grateful to be sitting right next to George because I wondered how many other odd characters were going to join us. Going by the set places at the dining table, it should be one more – unless it wasn’t true that one of the guests was now deceased. Despite the unsettling environment I was ravenous and hoping the food would arrive soon.
Pendleton was now at the other side of the table, sweetly kissing the back of Joan’s gloved hand. The looks they exchanged were ones of familiarity. They took the two chairs opposite us.
“Pendleton, where on earth is the wine?” Joan said, removing her soft leather gloves – placing them beside her plate – at last. She stared at the other end of the room as if expecting for someone to suddenly appear with it.
We followed her glance.
“There’s a door there, which I hadn’t noticed before.” I said to George.
“So there is…” George muttered. He gently squeezed my hand – though his touch gave little reassurance.
The door – the other side of the room to us, on the same wall as the fireplace – obediently opened. I must have held my breath because I heard it exhale when I saw, with relief, it was Mary. She carried a silver tray laden with three wine bottles and a cork screw.
“Splendid!” Pendleton clapped his hands as the tray was lowered onto the table.
We watched Mary uncork the first bottle of wine and then pour a little into a glass.
“Cabernet Sauvignon, a full bodied red wine…my favourite!” Joan said reaching for the glass as Mary took it from the table. She passed it to her – and again, the familiarity of an action impressed its significance upon me. I had the feeling they knew one another, not just within the boundary of a hotel staff and customer relationship, but as something deeper.
Then I caught the steely glint from Mary’s eye and I realised she didn’t care much for Joan.
“Mary, could I have a look at the bottle?” George asked. I sensed his cautiousness despite Joan now swallowing another glass of it in large unladylike gulps.
“1901.” George whispered to me.
I thought of vinegar, but this was obviously an expensive wine. And, time didn’t seem to bear relevance here.
Usually, I wouldn’t mix alcohol with the medicenes I take for my pain, but I needed a little Dutch courage amidst all the madness. I was onto my second glass when Mary reappeared with a hostess trolley of hot food.
Aromas of roast beef and potatoes wafted through the door after her. Good, satisfying smells of home. Something normal.
Mary proceeded to serve us generous quantities of roast beef and vegetables.
If I was counting correctly, Joan had already finished a bottle of the Cabernet Sauvignon by herself; and Pendleton, though still on his first glass, partaking the wine in little sips, was rather buoyant. Quite talkative.
“Oh, the legend of Black Shuck! This is one you must hear! It is said that the beach and surrounding marshland of Ternton are the popular haunts of Black Shuck. Stories passed down through the generations talk of the bad luck that follows the sighting of the Hound From Hell. Fatalities normally befall the poor victim.”
“Black Shuck? The Hound From Hell? This is just a made up story of a black dog running about, isn’t it?” I said.
“Darling, I wouldn’t jest about it if I were you.” Joan fixed her grey stare upon me.
Under the table, George squeezed my hand.
“Why not?” George said, “Will the Hound From Hell drag us back to hell with him?” He laughed.
Pendleton choked on a morsel of food and Joan turned her stare upwards to the ceiling.
Where the tableaux of hound and hell had been inscribed in the plaster of the ceiling.
“I want to know about the poor chap who died here.” George said.
I nodded in solidarity. Looking at Joan to Pendleton – and back again. Neither unveiled much through their facial expressions.
“Well?” George persisted. “Don’t you even care what happened to him?”
“It’s best to not talk of the dead.” Pendleton said, looking into his food.
“We hardly knew him. He was a guest here – like you.” Joan said.
“Like us? Aren’t you hotel guests here too?”
I could see George was trying to contain his anger. He was visibly shaking.
Joan stood up, went to the fireplace. She lit a cigarette in a long holder. Sucked on it; exhaled. “Haven’t you worked it out yet, darlings?”
“No, we haven’t, or we wouldn’t be asking you!” George raised his voice and pushed back his chair.
I watched him march up to her.
“Steady on!” Pendleton said, turning in his chair.
“Don’t worry Pendleton; it’s not like he can do anything.” Joan said, unpertubed, puffing on her cigarette, staring into the empty fireplace.
“I’ve had quite enough of this game of charades. If either of you doesn’t explain what happened to that poor bugger…you’ll, you’ll be sorry!” George said, his face only inches from Joan.
I had never known my husband to threaten anyone before. Let alone a woman.
~ To be continued! ~
Photographs and digital manipulation by me, 3rd May 2016, Great Yarmouth Row Houses.
My day out at the Great Yarmouth Row Houses.
Writing prompt: Our experience at the hotel wasn’t what we’d imagined it to be.
Writing inspiration: A strange dream. And a little Hotel California.
What’s a Short Story Series?: A short story written over several parts, around 1,000 words for each part.
Copyright Faith McCord 2016
Story and artwork belongs to Faith McCord who is the author and artist holding the copyright. This is not a public domain work. Worldwide right