~ PART SEVEN ~
Our experience at the hotel wasn’t what we’d imagined it to be.
Have you read Part Six? You can catch up *here*.
“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.
Joan met George’s hot, red face with her steady, icy stare. She blew smoke on him. “You can’t threaten me. It doesn’t work like that here.”
We hadn’t noticed Mary’s return. She’d brought a chocolate gateaux, some fresh fruit and a pot of coffee on the hostess trolley. It wasn’t until she spoke that we registered her re-appearance.
“Please, Mr Chester. I will explain. Sit down.” She said.
It was then that I heard her lilting, musical voice – like something of the Caribbean. ‘Melodic’, George had called it.
“Thank you, Mary.” George shuffled back to his seat. With his anger spent, I could see he was tired and weary of the whole situation.
“Tragically, one of our guests met his end here.” Mary began. She raised a hand to silence George’s how. “He wouldn’t listen to me; I warned him to stay off the marshland after the witching hour.”
“Black Shuck.” Joan stated, lighting a new cigarette from a silver lighter.
George let out a nervous laugh – which I didn’t like the sound of.
“You’re telling us that a fairytale dog dragged one of the guests back with him to Hell?” I said.
“No fairytale, madam.” Pendleton solemnly insisted.
Mary was nodding. “Pendleton’s right: Black Shuck is very real. And, I heed you caution too. Don’t go out after midnight.”
“Who was he? Who was the poor chap?” George asked.
“A Mr Sebastian Sedgewick,” Mary answered. “He’d booked the Logcabin room; he was passionate about nature.” She paused and her dark eyes dropped their glance from George to somewhere amidst all the fare on the dining table. “I regret to say that now his soul has been claimed by Hell. Tomorrow, we’ll notify the police about the body.”
For a moment, silence hung in the air. Heavy with unspoken words and Joan’s cigarette smoke.
A chill crawled up my spine.
I knew we had just heard the truth; although I also knew there was a lot more to be explained.
“I cannot believe you’re insisting we should look for that body.” George said.
We left the dining room a little past nine o’clock. By that time Joan was on generous sized brandys and Pendleton onto his second slice of chocolate gateaux; George and I didn’t have stomachs for the rich desert and murder. The horsewoman still seemed astonishingly sober and Pendleton was giddy from all the chocolate. We took our last sips of the bitter dark roasted coffee and bid the odd people goodnight.
Mary, after her explanation about the victim and the ghastly fate that had befallen him, had left us three-quarters of an hour earlier. I assumed she was in the kitchen helping to tidy up. However, George said you can’t assume anything around here.
And, now, we were searching for the body of Sebastian Sedgewick. First, we peeped around the partially open door of the reception room, only to be greeted by the presence of the supposedly missing dinner guest: Loud snores erupted from under a newspaper as the rotund man soundly slept on in an oversized armchair. He was dressed in curious trousers patterned in neon-yellow and grey stripes – which clashed with the red of his socks poking several inches high over hiking boots – and a black T-shirt, half exposed from under the newspaper. In the Land of Sweet Dreams. Absolutely oblivious to the drama unfolding around him.
“How can someone sleep through all this?” I whispered to George who shook his head in equal measures of puzzlement.
“And he missed the roast beef.” George added with a small smile.
Onwards we went. At the far end of the hall, were two conveniences (male and female), and where the hall began to turn a right-angle right, was a closed door.
The plaque on it read: Staff Only.
The hall also made a right-angle to the left; with closed doors left and right leading off it, as it snaked on for quite a while before terminating in another closed door.
We paused outside the Staff Only door. There seemed to be movement in the – what we guessed was the – kitchen; cupboards and drawers opening and closing, water running, barely audible, incomprehensible chatter, and other such noises.
“Mary has company.” George whispered. And, then: “Are you alright to go on?” He meant my pain levels of course.
I nodded, though I was sure he could see I was already struggling. This holiday was supposed to be about taking things easy and having fun – not about getting more stress and being half scared to death.
George squeezed my hand and down the other hallway we went. We tried a door on the left, the first we came to, and discovered a utility room of washing and drying machines, and heaps of dirty and clean laundry. The door opposite proved to be a small stock room of cleaning materials, buckets, mops, and brooms. Next on the left, a cloakroom with hanging coats and boots on the floor.
I didn’t know how much longer I would be able to continue walking.
“Maggie, this place is huge. We can’t possibly explore every room – you won’t be able to manage it.” George said.
I leant against the wall opposite, beside the next closed door. “I know.” I sighed. I tried the door handle and the door swung open onto a narrow flight of stairs that crept up into the darkness. The smooth wooden treads were worn in their centres, as they spiralled upwards.
“Not what I was expecting!” George said in a low – but excited – voice.
“Shall we get back to our room?” George suggested.
I pointed my walking stick upwards, into the stairwell. “I was thinking that you could push me up them – and if I should fall, you will cushion my landing.” I smiled.
When George and I were young – and adventurous as we were that night at the Hotel Unicus – we toured Britain, visiting old houses and castles. In those days, my health wasn’t poor and we had much energy and time on the weekends for such fun explorations. Usually, at the end of the day, we’d end up in a cosy pub in the area, eating a bar-meal, or get fish and chips to eat in the car. Along the way we picked up tales of the people from long ago – and among those tales were ghost stories; such as the headless Anne Boleyn at Blickling Hall in Norfolk. She had been one of King Henry The Eight’s unfortunate wives. He had her decapitated when he no longer wanted her – hence the spectral sightings of Boleyn without her head.
I often teased George about the ghost stories. George, so practical in most ways, was surprisingly superstitious. Whereas, I wasn’t.
So when he mentioned seeing a ghost at the top of the stairs, I laughed.
~ 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