~ PART FOURTEEN ~
Our experience at the hotel wasn’t what we’d imagined it to be.
Have you read Part Thirteen? You can catch up *here*.
The three of us walked back in mostly stunned silence. Each of us, certainly questioning within our own minds how The Tall Man could still be very much present today.
George, walking a little ahead, paused at the closed front door of the hotel Unicus. His hand hovered above the handle. “Are they all ghosts?” He said in hushed tones.
It was too late to see if Elizabeth’s ghost was about in her secreted bedroom. Mary – feeling very solid of flesh and blood – took me by the arm, and ushered us into the dining room for the dinner that had already been brought through.
Appetizing smells of the steak and ale pie reached our nostrils. It still remained in the original pie dish it was cooked in – stood next to a bowl of new potatoes glistening with butter, a bowl of peas decorated with a sprig of mint, another bowl of sliced carrots and a jug of gravy. Strangely enough, considering our anxious situation, I was hungry. I turned to compliment Mary for the feast before us, however, she had unobtrusively vanished.
Like the evening before, the dark room was lit by flickering flames emerging from tall clusters of candles and the fading daylight that was held largely back by the velvet crimson red curtains – and most certainly, something else.
We hadn’t seen Joan and Pendleton at the hotel since last night’s dinner. Again, the horsewoman hailing from the 1920s had positioned herself against the mantel of the dining room’s fireplace, the numerous framed photographs of the staring people, framing her. Like a vintage cover girl of Vogue, she stood elegantly poised, the long cigarette holder in one hand. Pendleton, on the other hand, somehow merged with the heavily food laden dining table, sitting in the same place as before; at the opposite side of the table, his chair pulled out, his body angled sideways to Joan and the fireplace. Almost obscured from sight behind a silver tray of wine bottles and three empty glasses.
I was sure they were wearing their same clothes from before. Her: jodhpurs, riding boots, open neck white shirt and the brown leather gloves. Her bright auburn hair the flames where none existed in the fireplace. Him: beautifully presented in olive-green tartan suited glory, red bowtie and brown leather brogues.
“I say! Don’t you two sweet lovebirds look like you’ve seen a ghost.” Joan said in her cut-glass tones with an undercurrent of mocking rather than surprise.
To my side, and a little ahead, I heard an audible gulp from Fred.
“I don’t believe we’ve met!” Pendleton exclaimed, disappearing momentarily as he dismounted his chair. He came towards Fred – whose body I noticed tense up – in his unusual duck-waddle of a gait, one hand already outstretched in a warm welcoming manner.
Bad ghost; friendly ghost.
I felt Joan’s eyes on us but wouldn’t give her the satisfaction of a returning glance. Pendleton shook all our hands and additionally kissed the back of mine. My husband poured us all wine and topped up the glasses of the other two then we sat on the same chairs as we had earlier.
Joan watched us intently whilst expertly, though languorously, blowing smoke-rings.
“Have the three of you had a pleasant day?” Pendleton asked, good-naturedly.
“Thank you, we did. We went for a walk on the marshland.” I replied.
Joan interjected: “I know. I spied you from the distance whilst out riding. Did you happen to see anything interesting?”
“We did, as a matter of fact.” George said in a breezy way. “Terns, Natterjacks, and the claw scratch marks from Black Shuck.”
I wasn’t expecting that. I turned to George with a horrified expression.
Why did you say that? What are you thinking?
A draught, quite chill, worked through the room. It rippled the flames of the candles and gently swayed the overhead chandelier. The people in the photographic portraits glared at us through soulless black eyes.
“Well, well. Haven’t we got spirit!” Joan said in a low voice.
George said nothing, only smiled. He seemingly, calmly, began dishing up our food; beginning with mine. I took a small mouthful of the steak and ale pie, and although as tasty as it had fragrantly promised, I swallowed it with a dry mouth. Looking at Fred, at the head of the table, not far from me, I noticed him gallantly dig into his food as if he hadn’t a care.
“More wine my dear?” George hovered the bottle over my empty wine glass. Dutch courage. Me, the Christmas and birthdays strictly-one-glass-only drinker.
Of course, our apparant brazenness incensed Joan. She angrily stubbed out her cigarette on the marble mantelpiece.
“I’m nobody’s fool!” She snarled. “You will be sorry!”
The door of the room leading to the hall, flew open then slammed shut. That made us jump in our chairs. Then, the whispering started. I’d never heard anything like it before – it was as if the scratched words were born from a hundred tormented souls. They penetrated your own soul with their utter misery.
“Mary!” Pendleton cried out.
The candles were extinguished – the quivering flames blown out, one by one, as if someone was causing it – and the room was thrown in near blackness. The door flew open again. The electric light from the hall was formed into a rectangular shape by the doorway. A tall yellow shape.
“Let’s go, let’s go!” Fred uttered. We were all seized by the fear. But whilst Fred was scrambling out of his chair, I was motionless, frozen, my heart hammering; unable to leave. I was vaguely conscious of George grabbing me by the arm.
Although, what I was most aware of, was the appearance of a dark lean figure in the doorway. Its head touching the upper doorframe. Its shape blocking the yellow light.
“Black Shuck. The Hound of Hell. You better keep off the marshes.” Said the Tall Man.
~ 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