Paige Stewart ran under the 17 Hundred 90 Inn’s awning and caught a glimpse of herself in the glass door. She grimaced. Thanks to a careless trolley driver and an unexpected downpour, her hair hung like wet noodles down her back and her white shirt was plastered to her skin; nothing was left to the imagination. Perfect. I get to imitate Lady Godiva in a full lobby.
Paige opened the door then crossed her arms in front of her chest and ran up the stairs. To her relief, the hallway outside her room was deserted. She dug in her purse for the key, and then cursed as her trembling hands struggled with the lock. Finally, she heard the tumblers click. Dreaming of a hot shower, Paige turned the knob and walked straight into the door.
“Umph.” She shoved on the door and rattled the knob; it didn’t budge. “Ah, what the …”
Paige huffed and turned the key back and forth, hearing the lock roll over each time. There was no doubt it was unlocked. Why isn’t the damn thing opening? Paige shoved on the door again and kicked it for good measure.
She frowned. In an old building like the 1790, the damp day had probably caused the wood to swell. Wonderful, now she’d be forced to go back downstairs, in her soaking wet and totally transparent shirt.
She glared at the door. “Come on, give a girl a break.”
Determined to exhaust all avenues before resorting to the lobby, Paige laid her shoulder against the door and put all of her weight into one last shove. The door opened without a hitch.
“Ahh!” Paige tumbled into the room, landing face down on the carpet.
Sighing, she got to her feet and closed the door. Can my day get any better? The alarm on her phone went off, signifying there were only fifteen minutes remaining until her interview. Guess I answered that question!
She rushed to the shower. Minutes later, Paige hurried to the wardrobe and pulled a pair of black slacks and a lime green sweater out before crossing to the dresser for underwear and socks. She jerked open the drawer … and stared.
It was empty. Paige frowned. She distinctly remembered unpacking her suitcase and placing her things in the drawer. She shrugged and pulled open another drawer and then another. Nothing; they were all empty. Paige pulled her suitcase from the rack; no undies.
This is not happening. Paige drew a deep breath. The logical assumption was that someone had been in her room. But that made no sense. The 1790 was a prestigious Inn; hardly the kind of place she’d need to worry about theft. Besides, who in hell would want her underwear?
Irritated, she stomped over to the pile of wet clothes she’d left beside the bed and began to dress. The clammy silk made her skin crawl. Oh, but I’m going to give that manager an earful; after the interview.
Paige slung her camera bag over her shoulder, tucked the tape recorder into her pocket and pulled the door open. She paused as something by the window caught her eye. She had the strangest sensation that someone was watching her. A chill ran up her spine and the hair at the back of her neck stood on end.
Paige shrieked. She drew a deep breath and stared at the door. What the hell was that about? A hand fell upon her shoulder. Paige gasped and whirled to find the manager standing behind her.
“Ms. Stewart? Are you all right?”
“Huh? Yes, I, um, I’m fine Mr. Laramie, I was just coming to meet you when …“
The wizened old man glanced at the door to her room and then back at her. A smile tugged at his lips. “Won’t you tell me what’s wrong, Ms. Stewart?”
Paige shook her head. “Nothing is wrong Mr. Laramie, I’m just a bit frazzled because I’m running late—“
“My dear, your face is as white as a gho—oh! You haven’t by chance had a run-in with our Anna, have you?”
Paige frowned. “Anna? I’m not sure what you mean.”
He chuckled and patted her hand. “Why I’m referring to Anna Powers of course. She lives in room 204.”
Paige frowned and wondered if the elderly man was a bit senile. “Mr. Laramie, 204 is my room.”
A twinkle appeared in his rheumy blue eyes. “Well of course you’re staying in room 204, dear, but it’s Anna’s room.” He walked over to the door. “No one has ever been able to convince Anna to leave, though I must confess with the current popularity for paranormal oddities we haven’t tried very hard.” He laughed and gave her a wink. “Shall we go in and see if Anna is about?”
Paige’s scattered wits finally settled enough for her to comprehend what the manager was telling her. A ghost, apparently named Anna Powers, occupied room 204; at least he wanted her to think so. The problems with the door now made sense. The 17 Hundred 90 staff must have decided to give the Paranormal Post reporter a ghostly encounter to spice up her article.
Her lips pursed. The haunted room routine might have worked on the amateur ghost hunters the Inn attracted but she was a seasoned investigative journalist; of real news. A haunted hotel, verified by a respected paranormal magazine no less, was very good for business. Her annoyance turned to curiosity. How far would they go? Paige smiled and opened her door.
“So my dear, shall we sit over hear by the windows?”
Paige nodded and chose one of the wing chairs standing opposite the fireplace. She unpacked her camera and recorder, and prepared to be entertained.
“Mr. Laramie, I gathered basic information on the 1790 but, to avoid any preconceived notions I don’t read any articles on a location’s paranormal incidents. I’d appreciate your confirming the basics and then tell me about Anna.”
The old man nodded. “Certainly. Let’s see, the Inn is comprised of two houses built, of course, during the year 1790. We are Savannah’s oldest Inn and the only one with a full service restaurant and lounge. We have fourteen rooms, all with restored fireplaces, and the brick floors in the public areas are original to the houses.” Mr. Laramie paused, “Wouldn’t you like to hear about our ghost, Ms. Stewart? She’s so much more interesting …”
She laughed at his wistful look and gave in to his plea. “Alright, Mr. Laramie, you can tell me about your ghost.”
His smiled. “There are several versions of her story but we tend to think ours is most accurate. From what we can gather, Anna Powers was a servant here back in the mid 1800’s. It seems she fell in love with a sailor and, well, found herself in the ‘family way’, if you know what I mean? “
Paige nodded and fought the urge to laugh.
The humor faded from Mr. Laramie’s face. “Her sailor promised to make a respectable woman out of Anna.” He pointed to the window behind them. “On the day of the wedding, Anna, dressed in her wedding finery, stood at this window, waiting for her tardy groom. Anna’s perch presented a perfect view of the river and afforded her the opportunity to see her lover’s ship sail out of the harbor.” He shook his head and sighed. “Poor Anna was brokenhearted and, in a fit of despondency, she plunged from the window and died upon the bricks below.”
Paige’s mouth dropped open. “She killed herself? How terrible! I assume she’s an unfriendly ghost?”
Mr. Laramie’s eyes widened. “Oh my heavens no! Anna is charming, though a bit mischievous. She seems to have a fascination with our modern gadgets. Guests have reported finding their cameras, phones, even jewelry, moved or hidden. She’s also been known to flicker the lights and turn on the clock radio in the middle of the night. One couple even claimed she jerked the covers off of the bed!” He leaned closer to Paige and lowered his voice. “Anna also seems to enjoy our female guests’ unmentionables.”
Paige’s eyes narrowed. “What do you mean by, enjoys?”
The old man began to fidget under her gaze. “Um, well, she means no harm you understand, and things are always returned, er almost always, –“
“Mr. Laramie, what happens to women’s underwear in this room?”
He wrung his hands, obviously unnerved by her changed demeanor. “It doesn’t happen to all of our guests but there have been a few incidents of women’s lingerie disappearing. We think Anna must be fascinated by the um, vast differences in today’s intimate apparel. She seems to borrow the items for a short while and then returns them; though not usually to the original location. Once, we found a guest’s undergarments hanging on the Christmas tree in the lobby!”
Paige spoke through gritted teeth. “Mr. Laramie, this has gone far enough. As I think you know very well, I returned to my room this morning to find all of my underclothes missing. If you think for one minute that I’m going to buy the explanation that a ghost came into my room and removed them you are sadly mistaken. Furthermore, I am not inclined to write favorably about any establishment that wastes my time with such obvious hoaxes.” She rolled her eyes. “I come closer to believing you are employing a pervert!”
“Oh Ms. Stewart, please, please watch what you say!” He gulped and glanced around the room. “Anna is a sweet spirit most of the time but she has taken a severe dislike to several people, especially those that scoff at her!” He straightened in his chair. “And as for your missing items, I apologize, but I assure you that the 17 Hundred 90 Inn does not encourage our staff to construct paranormal encounters for our guests; there is no need. And all of our people are highly qualified professionals.”
Paige smirked. Professional pranksters anyway. She set her recorder down on the table and rose. “I’m sorry if I’ve offended you, but I think I’ve heard enough about the Inn’s so-called spirit.” She crossed the room and opened the door, motioning for him to precede her. “Perhaps we should take a tour of the Inn.”
Paige pulled the door closed and followed the manager to the stairs. “I won’t hold this against the Inn when I write my article, however I expect my clothes to be in their drawer when I return.”
He looked at Paige. She had to hand it to the man. His look of fear would fool most people; unfortunately for him she wasn’t most people.
“I can’t promise your items will be returned because no one on my staff took them.” He bit his lip. “In fact, I fear you may have angered Anna enough that she won’t give them back.”
Paige gasped. The man was still sticking with his story. She could take a joke but this … someone had gone into her room and pawed through her things! She drew a deep breath and fought the urge to shout. “Perhaps you’d better have a chat with ‘Anna’ then because my patience is wearing thin.” Paige slipped her hand into her pocket and found it empty. She sighed. “I’ll be right back Mr. Laramie, I’ve forgotten my tape recorder.”
Paige unlocked the door, wondering if it was still rigged. The door swung open without a hitch. Seems they got the message! She walked through the door and slammed into an invisible and icy barrier. Frigid cold enveloped her and unbearable pressure built around her chest. She opened her mouth to scream, but the air was forced from her lungs. The room began to spin and spots formed in front of her eyes. Everything went dark.
“Ms. Stewart, are you all right?”
Paige blinked. She was standing in front of the fireplace. “How did I … what am I doing in here?”
The old man frowned. “My dear you came back to retrieve your tape recorder. Don’t you remember?”
Paige gulped and sank down onto the chair. She stared at the tape recorder in her trembling hand. “Mr. Laramie? How did I get into this room?”
The manager sat next to her and took her hand. “Ms. Stewart, are you feeling well? Forgive me, but you don’t look good. Shall I call the –“
“No!” Paige softened her tone when the elderly man jumped. She forced a smile. “No, Mr. Laramie, I’m fine. I just … I felt dizzy a moment ago and I must have stumbled ….” She willed her legs to stop shaking and rose to her feet. “I’m probably just in need of food, no need to worry.”
He nodded. “Well … if you’re sure.” He walked to the door. “Why don’t we go downstairs and have lunch?”
Paige shook her head and retrieved her suitcase from the luggage rack. “Thank you for offering, Mr. Laramie, but I’m going to check out.”
“Today? But you have two nights reserved.”
“I know I’m booked for another night but I’m afraid my plans have changed.” Paige shuddered and began piling her things into the suitcase, trying to convince herself that what she’d felt moments ago was indeed caused by a lack of food. That has to be it. Any other explanation was ridiculous. Still, there was no way she’d spend another night in room 204, or any other room at the Inn.
“Would you see to my checkout please? I really need to leave; immediately.”
Without thought, Paige pulled the dresser drawer open. She gasped as her gaze took in the neatly folded stacks of lingerie. “When did you … how did my things get here?”
The manager looked over and shrugged. “It’s not of my doing, Ms. Stewart.”
She glared. “Mr. Laramie, I know these clothes were not here earlier.”
A gentle smile curved his lips. “I believe you, Ms. Stewart. As I said, Anna often takes—“
“Stop.” Paige shook her head. “Please just stop. I don’t believe—I’m going to finish packing. Please have my bill ready, I’ll be down in a few minutes.”
“As you wish, Ms. Stewart.” He started to pull the door closed.
“Leave it open!” She took a deep breath and lowered her voice. “Please leave the door open, Mr. Laramie.”
He smiled and Paige cringed at the knowing look in his eyes. “It’s gloomy in here, I need the extra light.” It sounded weak, even to her, but the old man merely nodded.
Paige waved her hand in response to the manager’s good-bye and then ran around the room, gathering her things; everything but her underclothes. She stared at the bras and panties, willing herself to touch them. A rustling from across the room propelled her into action. Hands shaking, she threw the clothes into the case, and zipped it closed.
Shoving her luggage into the hall, Paige scanned the room for anything she’d missed. Her heart sank as she spotted her camera lying on the floor beside the fireplace. There was no hope for it; she couldn’t leave the magazine’s camera. Common sense said nothing was going to harm her and nothing had tried, but she wasn’t interested in what common sense had to say at the moment. Focusing on the camera, Paige willed her legs to take one step, and then another. It was a lack of food! Bolstered, she took two more steps and reached the end of the bed.
The camera lay a few feet away. She took a deep breath, rushed over to the fireplace, and grabbed it. She hugged the camera to her chest and laughed at her nonsensical fears.
“There is no such thing as a ghost!
Paige crossed to the door and leaned over to secure the camera. As she zipped the bag closed, a cold wind ruffled her hair. She straightened and slowly turned around.
The door slammed in her face.
“Welcome to the Kehoe House, Ms. Stewart, we hope you enjoy your stay with us!”
“I’m sure I will.” Paige laughed and jingled her room key. “As long as this isn’t Anna’s room!”
Maeve, thank you so much for allowing me, er Paige, to visit your blog! Intrepid reporter Paige Stewart may be fictitious but the legends and lore of Savannah’s 17 Hundred 90 Inn are all true … to one degree or another. Paige should learn to do her research. I’ve heard the Kehoe House is a lively place!
You can find me, and my books, at my website http://www.rachellynneauthor.com/
If you want to see what happens to Paige at the Kehoe House, visit my Blog; the link and date of the next adventure will be posted in the News column. http://wwwrachellynneauthor.blogspot.com/
And, if you can’t wait for another suspenseful tale set amidst the beautiful and historic city of Savannah, may I suggest my romantic suspense novel Ring of Lies? http://www.thewildrosepress.com/ring-of-lies-p-4350.html
Secrets, Lies, and Murder surround Ivy Michaels amidst the backdrop of Savannah’s annual St. Patrick’s Day festivities!
Book Trailer for Ring of Lies (http://www.youtube.com/user/rachellynne1?feature=mhum )
A café owner and an ex-cop must solve the mystery of a hot blue diamond in order to catch a stone cold killer!
Excerpt (http://www.rachellynneauthor.com/ringoflies.html#excerpt )
One lucky commenter will win a pdf of Ring of Lies. Want to increase your odds of winning? You’ll get an extra entry in the prize drawing if you indicate in your comment that you’ve joined my newsletter, (link to newsletter subscription http://groups.yahoo.com/subscribe/RachelLynneAuthor?user=enter+email+address&Click+to+join+RachelLynneAuthor.x=56&Click+to+join+RachelLynneAuthor.y=27
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(No worries about email overload, I’ve yet to send out an issue! What can I say, I live a boring life? But Paige might be persuaded to give my newsletter readers the inside scoop on some of her wilder assignments!)