The Washwater Hotel: Chapter 16
Sarah Seer had come down from her room just before noon. On her way from the second floor, she had passed Marianne and Anna on the stairs, who, despite their best attempts, had barely gotten a second look from the woman. Upon her arrival in the lobby, she came up before the front desk and waited patiently. There seemed to be nobody else about the public area, nor was there a sign of anyone beyond the closed-tight door behind the counter.
Obidiah stepped out from the dining room, double checking his shirt button at his collar. He stiffed up and held his breath as he caught sight of the puffy grey hair of the woman awaiting him in his usual spot.
“Oh?” Sarah called out as Obidiah appeared in the corner of her vision. “Mr. Wash. Another new outfit I see, it is quite pleasing.”
“This?” The owner pursed his lips and tugged on his collar. “I was simply about the town today, pardon my disheveled state.”
You should see the man when he attempts his own laundry.
“I can imagine.” Sarah responded.
“Excuse me?” Obidiah asked, taken aback.
Sarah pushed herself up off the counter and wandered toward Obidiah, her finger pointed out toward him. Mr. Wash looked down at his shirt for any particular spot she may have been pointing out. “Mr. Wash, tell me about Venicia.”
“How do you know that name?” Obidiah cocked his head.
Sarah pointed at the library to the right of the front desk and stairs. “It was in one of the old guidebooks. About how you two opened the hotel. That is your name, is it not?”
“To who are you referring to, Mrs. Seer?”
Obi, I told you. It’s time to give up the ghost.
Sarah clapped her hands together. “Oh, what a wonderfully peculiar sense of humor she has, too.”
Obidiah shook his head back and forth. “I have no idea what you’re talking about. If you’ll excuse me…” He sighed, turning back toward the gate and heading through.
Sarah pushed past after him as he moved about the ‘employees only’ door. “Mr. Wash, you must know this is as peculiar as just about anyone.”
“Mrs. Seer.” Obidiah stood just beyond the doorway, his back to the clairvoyant woman.
“I must ask that you not continue past that door.”
“Then stop me yourself, Mr. Wash.” Sarah insisted, closing the door after her.
Obidiah rubbed at his creased forehead while making his way about behind his desk. “Fine. Have a seat.” He said, pointing to the smaller, velvet embroidered chair to his front.
Sarah excitedly shifted about and planted herself in the seat. “Mr. Wash, Venicia, you as well, never in my life, even once, have I had the chance to… convene with such a… vocal spirit.”
And I, not with such an insistent guest.
“Venicia…” Obidiah grumbled.
“Tell me, either of you.” Sarah began, pulling out a notepad and pen from her pants pocket. “When was it that you, Venicia, arrived in the spirit world and found yourself able to communicate with… the other side?”
The other side? It was if… I never left.
“Indeed. I learned of her… passing… before I ever found her body.”
That’s right, you did.
“Of course, when the initial shock of hearing my wife’s voice not attached to her body, she led me right to it.”
“How many years now have you been in this situation?” Sarah asked, scribbling down more notes. “She- you, Venicia- have been bodily separated for two years now?”
Two and a bit.
“And it seems you are bound to the hotel? Or your husband himself?”
“Hard to tell, actually.” Obidiah hummed. “Though, often times when I am out, I am unable to hear her voice.”
“So the hotel is what is housing her spirit…” Sarah hummed.
Is that the case, really? I’d have loved to play pranks on some of those more unruly guests that tear up our rooms, but I’m no poltergeist, if that term is applicable.
Obidiah grumbled. “Venicia, you can’t do that…”
“Ethereal… being…” Sarah repeated as she took down the words. “I see. Mr. Wash, Venicia. I am of the understanding that business has been suffering here, if not just a bit?”
“I pray you are not suggesting what I am thinking of.” Obidiah leaned in across his desk, his hands folded.
“Having a little bit of supernatural influence is a draw for many an otherwise uninteresting hotel, Mr. Wash.”
“Uninteresting…” Obidiah repeated, gnawing on the tip of his tongue. A loud ding rang out from the front desk just beyond the door. Obidiah stood. “Duty calls, Mrs. Seer. Please stay put for a moment. Perhaps… converse with my wife a bit longer, if that suits the both of you?”
Out in the lobby, the spectacled gentleman stroked his short, shaggy beard while looking about the fine woodwork of the area’s fixtures. He tugged on the front of his wrinkled sport coat as Obidiah stepped out from the back office.
“Greetings, how may I be of service to you today?” Mr. Wash asked, presenting himself properly behind the desk.
“Good-day to ya’.” Dr. Harris said back. “I’m lookin’ for a Steven Narrows, my pupil who said he was stayin’ here.”
Obidiah nodded. “Ah, yes, I know Mr. Narrows. A good student, by the looks of it. Unfortunately, for privacy’s sake, I can’t tell you his room number unless he requests it himself.”
“Well, can’t be helped.” Harris shrugged. “What a quaint hotel you have here, Mr… uh…”
“Mr. Wash. Obidiah Wash.” He said, extending his hand across the counter. “Proprietor, Manager.”
Harris reciprocated the handshake, looking about the lobby. “Well, the big man himself. The name’s Daniel Harris.”
“Good to have you.” Obidiah remarked. “Are you expecting a stay here at the hotel? Or perhaps will you find accommodations with Mr. Narrows?”
“Well, ” Harris paused to ponder with a stroking of his whiskers, “I was told to come and pick up a specimen of his.”
At that very same time, Steven Narrows was riding his bike furiously up the hill from the port and back to the hotel. In the orderly little parking lot of gravel beside the hotel was the professor’s old, orange camper van. Steven hurriedly stowed his bike and fixed his hair before running up the steps and inside the lobby.
Harris was happily talking to the owner, seemingly sharing something of interest. “Yeah, there are quite the interesting species out there, but the fishermen don’t know any better.”
“I see.” Mr. Wash responded, glancing to the hurriedly opening doors. “Ah, there he is now.”
Harris turned around and offered a waive at Steven. “Good day, my boy. Down at the docks, were ya’?”
Steven let out a sigh and grabbed out at the professor’s sleeve. “Nice to see you.” He said curtly. “Let’s not occupy Mr. Wash any more than we need, shall we?”
Harris nodded and tipped an invisible hat at Obidiah. “Be seeing you, then?”
Obidiah nodded, only remembering the other guest as the professor and his student made their way up the stairs. “My goodness, Mrs. Seer, my sincerest apologizes.”
Steven had finally unleashed Dr. Harris as they passed the first flight of stairs. “You got here early.”
“Best ta’ start out when it’s still cool, eh?” Harris responded. He glanced about the halls as they rounded to the next stairwell. “The owner is quite a fellow, isn’t he?”
“You didn’t tell him about the fish, did you?” Steven called back with a worried tone.
“And what would be wrong wit’ that?”
“Listen, Dr. Harris…” Steven huffed, his breath short from his previous ride and the stairs. “I need to get it out of the room as soon as possible. There’s been… an issue.”
“An’ what kinda one?”
“You’ll see.” Steven grumbled. “I’ll not even mention yet how much I’m out for the room.”
Dr. Harris continued to follow as they climbed yet another flight of stairs. “What floor ya’ on, boy? They put you up in the penthouse suite?”
Steven paused to take a short breath as they reached the final few steps up to the top floor. He fiddled about in his pocket for the key as they approach the door. “Don’t act so surprised.”
Harris let out a long whistle as he entered into the room. His stride finally faltered when he laid eyes upon the tub. “Hoo boy, this is that issue, I assume.”
Steven slumped his shoulders and shoved his hands into his pockets. “I had to get the room with a big old tub for the little one. Course, it all went to hell. Well, another guy staying here said it wasn’t up to code.”
“Code, shmode.” Harris huffed. “I’ll have to take back a bit of what I said about the hotel, ey?”
“I can tell Mr. Wash that it broke under normal use. He can’t hold me accountable for the whole thing, then. Just tell me you have a tank to get the fish out of here.”
“Afraid not.” Harris reiterated. “Couldn’t get one on short notice from the university. But there has to be a pet shop or something around here, right?”
Joel returned some time later to the hotel. He had hidden away his camera and the photos from the beach below in his bag in the case of meeting anyone in the lobby. His trek up to the room, luckily, was free of any interaction. As he stepped into his room, he caught sight of the ocean through the partially open window. The view to the coastline far below made him dizzy, after knowing what was holding the hotel up in place. He pulled the phone off the side table and sat on the bed with it, dragging himself as far away from the far edge of the hotel as he could.
Rather than awaiting for a call as he usually did, he dialed directly to the council’s hall and it’s well-used extension. “Hello, Henry Tucket speaking.” The voice on the other end answered.
“Henry,” Joel spoke into the headset, “I’ve got good news and bad news.”
“Joel? You sound exhausted.”
Joel wiped his forehead. “I would like to say its just the heat, but its more than that. I have definitive proof of the hotel’s instability. Pictures, reports, everything you need.”
“Oh, bad, is it?”
“Pretty bad.” Joel replied, clicking his tongue.
“As in we should have these people out as soon as possible.”
“Hmm.” Henry sighed with an air of doubt. “I’ll have to make the calls tomorrow. We’ll have to have the police out, I bet, as some people aren’t going to take nicely to it. I can get a few delivery trucks so we can have people packing up and moving out what they need too, least we can do. So, this Saturday afternoon, we’ll call it.”
“Thanks Henry.” Joel replied. “I’ll have my report ready that morning for when you come by.”
“I’ll be expecting it. See you then. Stay safe.”