This is the first chapter of my new novel about a Hotel that has some secrets. Uncovering these secrets reveals as much about the former owners and the investigator as it does about the hotel…enjoy!
- The Hotel
Walking through the doorway of the 100-year-old hotel brought back memories of an earlier time in his life when things were a little simpler. The feel and smell of the old building brought back memories of a hardware store in his hometown. Scattered throughout the Midwest and South are remnants of thriving towns that have mostly dried up and went the way of progress, but somehow a few majestic old relics remain. The similarities are remarkable, yet like an older person, they each have their own individual markings that make them somewhat unique.
Many of these old buildings have old placards or etchings that show their actual birthdate. The hotel proudly displayed “1912,” even though nothing else on the exterior was much worth noticing. Endless remodels and facelifts sort of blended much like an old sweater of a 90-year-old grandmother that didn’t quite have enough spare change to buy a new coat even if she cared to do so. The front porch was inviting, but uneven and slightly sagging. Just like the façade, no one had the inclination or the means to resurrect the ancient beauty. But, like all other parts of the hotel, there seemed to be a story behind every wrinkle.
Joe Forester noticed the size and girth of the front door. He remembered restoring his own front door just up the hill earlier that year. The sheer weight of these older doors was mesmerizing. Was it the awareness of harsh, Midwest winters or some other kind of fear that caused the people a century ago to erect such a barrier between them and the outside? He briefly took notice again of several layers of paint on the door as he also felt the strong contrast of the screen door that was barely even functional, much less anything that had any other purpose than to keep the flies away from customers.
To the left was what could have been a type of parlor. He imagined that it was the lobby for the hotel as there was an antique bar-like desk that probably served as the center for everything in the hotel. There was a corridor and a couple of rooms visible in the distance, but this was certainly where everyone came to “get started” at this establishment. One of the rooms behind this parlor was most likely an office, but for sure, there was probably someone at this desk that granted entry and took money for whatever you desired.
Based on other features in the room, the doorway on the right certainly led down to some sort of basement. There was an old sign on the door that long since faded into obscurity. He wanted to open the door, but something told him not to even peek behind the door. Scattered around the room were a combination of things like dusty old relics that seemed like they might have survived simply because they told part of the story of the hotel and its past owners and patrons. A faded picture, an old switchboard and display cases harboring trinkets from days gone by all intrigued the observer even though some of the stories might never be known.
To the right of the door was most certainly an old former parlor. Only one piece of furniture remained and an old mirror. The door on this side led up to rooms above. Behind the parlor was an open room where one of the locals had been teaching Karate. It showed signs of once being the old ballroom or formal dining for the hotel. There was even an old chandelier crumpled up in the corner that further confirmed his suspicions.
The hotel had a story. Some of it was obvious, some of it was mysterious, and some of it was most likely hidden in the secrets that many small towns keep. The street that Joe lived on was named after the original owner of the hotel, but much of his story was confined to the typical monologue you find in that book that smaller towns have that someone typed up in the 50’s to give the official story that that town wanted to tell. It was just about as accurate as whoever wrote the story wanted it to be. So, not only does it hide the things that were unpleasant, but it also takes creative license to paint a façade much like the front of the building portrayed. It was ornate but crumbling—it’s paint was peeling and showing signs of its age. Old stories are like that.
Joe wasn’t really interested in the stories but just wanted to find an event space for some future ideas he had about helping people heal from traumatic wounds. He had left organized religion about a year ago and, through his journey of healing, discovered some effective methods for helping people identify their past trauma and begin to heal from it. He dreamed of holding retreats for those that especially had experienced religious trauma. This old hotel seemed like the perfect place to get away, especially if the rooms were habitable.
One story about the hotel that was prevalent was that it was haunted. Joe felt like he had progressed to the point of at least minimizing the need for fearing something that might not even be real. His friend in town was utterly convinced that she once felt something like a gut punch and cold air when she was in the hotel. But, in his mind, there were lots of explanations for that happening and about the only thing he feared in a small town was gossip and retributive folks when you get on their bad side. The movies tend to exaggerate these kinds of things and over the years he was beginning to see that haunting as something that more often is inside us than contained in a building.
So, walking into the hotel, he felt somewhat assured that he had faced bigger demons and challenges than whatever the past eras had left behind here. That was until Mavis emerged from one of the back rooms. Almost immediately after an awkward introduction, she launched into stories that were a little more specific and caused his eyes to widen just a bit and his gut to rumble a little more than usual.
If you are interested in reading more, let me know….firstname.lastname@example.org
Be where you are, be who you are, be at peace,
Karl Forehand is a former pastor, podcaster, and award-winning author. His books include Apparent Faith: What Fatherhood Taught Me About the Father’s Heart and the soon-to-be released Tea Shop. He is the creator of The Desert Sanctuary and Too Many Podcasters podcasts. He is married to his wife Laura of 32 years and has one dog named Winston. His three children are grown and are beginning to multiply!