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Woodstone part III

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       [Note: this is a horror story. The subject matter may upset some more sensitive readers. The Woodstone Hotel does not exist in the city of Indianapolis, however, other city features do exit or are presumed. No resemblance to actual persons is intended.]

       I got out of the elevator in the lobby. Still shaken by the experience. It was only ten o'clock in the morning. She had said 'good evening'. Rosalie. Somewhere around the late forties or so. It was a start.
       I walked to the manager's office and got a cup of coffee from the carafe filled every morning by the coffee shop. It was hot and strong. Exactly what I needed. I sat at the desk and wrote the experience out in as much detail as I could. Then I put down a paragraph or two about every other encounter I had had with the 'night staff'. Even though most of them had been during the day, I still thought of them that way.
       Suddenly I had the urge to call Dr. Filburn. One of my old parapsychology professors. It was a wild idea, but I had to call him. He had said all during the classes that he had never seen anything that could not be otherwise explained.
       "Yes, sir. I just have." I told him.
       "You are sure that these occurrences are real. I have seen documentation that the Woodstone has been investigated but they always come up empty handed." Dr. Filburn said.
       "Yes, sir."
       "I like you Friend. Tell you what. I'm going to come up there, and I want to stay up there where you say you've seen your young lady cloakroom ghost."
       "The room will be on the house sir."
       "No. No special treatment. That will invalidate the test. I will pay full price for one of those suites. As will my assistant in a regular room. There is a new piece of investigative instrumentation I wish to field test."
       "Very good sir."
       "We'll be up in a week or so."

       Lori knocked on my door after I hung up. "Lunch? I went to the grocery store and bought food!" She smiled.
       "Wonderful idea."
       She cooked hamburgers for us and told me about her morning.
       "I thought you were just going to go exploring." I said to her as I watched her cook, something I loved to do.
       "I did, but they had the sign up. So I talked to the lady."
       "And now you are a retail manager again."
       She smiled. "And making more than I did in Richmond, with better hours. No Nights!" She said. "They close at eight every night."
       "When do you start?"
       "In about an hour." She gestured to the clock.
       "Well, congratulations."
       I listened to her talk excitedly about the store. It seemed they carried everything that could even be loosely called art without being an 'artsy' store.
       "She said the stock turns over almost completely every two weeks. Several of the artists rotate their own stuff between several different stores."
       "So they also have stuff on consignment?"
       She nodded, "Some. But they also order things from art houses and suppliers. It's going to be a fascinating place to work."
       "Put some in the lobby."
       "That's a good idea." Lori said.
       "What is?"
       "You said I should put some in the lobby."
       I blinked. "I thought you were asking me if you could."
       Lori got still. "Don't do that to me. Not in here."
       "Maybe I was thinking out loud. Anyway, it's a great idea, we have other displays from local stores around, I'll check with Ms. Karol and see what we have to do. I'm sure a couple of displays would be fine. Like back in that corner next to the elevators."
       She nodded. I thought I smelled a bit of cigar smoke in the room, but it might have been from the hamburgers.

       Ms. Karol thought it was an excellent idea and walked down to the shop with Lori after lunch.
       In two hours we had two very tasteful displays in the lobby and one next to the gift shop. Since neither of our on site shops sold oil paintings or faux marble statues of Norman gods, there was no conflict of interest. Near each display was a stack of brochures from the store with directions to the shop.
       Shipping is free on purchases over $150 within the Continental US.
       I looked at the impressionist painting of a seashore and lighthouse. I guess it was art.
       "See, he's making changes already." One of the housekeepers said as they walked past after their break.
       I smiled at the ladies. "You don't like it?"
       They stopped and looked at the painting, and the flower arrangement basket setting on the floor under the easel.
       "It's nice. I guess. They've done this kind of thing before for some businesses. But after awhile nobody notices it any more."
       "The artist that painted this is going to bring us a new one in two weeks."
       The other lady looked at it. "The guy that painted it put this here?"
       I nodded. "He just left. This is his display, he lives in town. He loved the opportunity to show his work off."
       "That's so exciting. Let me know when he comes back. I'd love to meet a real artist."
       "I sure will. I'll find out when he's coming and maybe we can have a coffee with him to unveil his new picture."
       "Painting, Mr. Friend. That is a painting." The first lady corrected me.

       The funeral dinner for the Phelps family was an unusual affair.
       His youngest brother stood up during the dinner and told story after story about Larry that had people laughing until they had to excuse themselves to the bathrooms.
       Then his daughter sang his favorite song and everybody cried for a few minutes.
       Ms. Karol spoke for the hotel and thanked the family for allowing us to show our love and friendship to him in this way.
       I sat next to Lori and nodded when I was supposed to.
       At the end of the dinner Frank stood up and announced that anybody that wanted to could come down to the bar with him, the first round was on him.
       A few of the family took him up on it.

       "That was nice. You did a good thing." Lori said as we got out of our formalwear.
       "What else could I do? I never even met the man."
       That night the hotel seemed strangely quiet. At one point I got up and went into the small office in the apartment and looked at the monitors. Once in awhile I could see somebody walking by doing whatever they were doing, fetching ice from a machine, or straggling in late from a convention or something. It was normal activity, but the hotel just felt quiet.
       In the morning I felt like I hadn't slept at all. But Lori cooked me breakfast and I got dressed and went downstairs to work.
       "Are you going to keep office hours?" Cindy asked me as I walked up to the desk.
       "At least for awhile. Until I get used to the routine around here."
       "Oh, yeah. Mr. Clements wants to see you in the rec-center."
       "That's one place I haven't been yet." I said. "I'll go look him up."
       I took my coffee and went off down the hallway past the gift shop and down the slight incline that led to the recreation center.
       I'm not sure what I had in mind from the small pictures I had seen in the brochure. But this place wasn't it.
       An attendant told me Mr. Clements was downstairs in the bowling ally.
       "Bowling ally?" I asked.
       "Yeah, just take the stairs over there." He pointed.
       And there was a bowling ally downstairs. Four lanes, no waiting.
       A well-built man was just rolling his ball down the third lane. He got five pins.
       "Hello!" He stuck his hand out. "Bob Clements. My game's a little off this morning. I stayed too late in the bar with Larry's brother and Frank."
       "James Friend." I shook his hand and looked down the lanes. "I didn't even know this was here."
       "We're here. And on weekends when there is a convention in town, you'd think this was a stop on the Pro Bowlers Tour."
       "That's good I guess."
       "Real good. We'll sell as much beer in here as they do in the bar those weekends." He pointed to a small bar in the corner. "I've seen them pour out two kegs an hour." He smiled, "And we charge more than they do for it."
       I laughed. "I guess that is good."
       He told me to get a ball and help him test the lanes. "Just had them waxed, need to make sure the ball rolls true."
       We rolled a few balls. I proved that I am nobody's idea of a bowling shark.
       "Is this what you wanted to see me about?" I said rubbing my elbow.
       "Oh. No sir. I needed to ask you about the contract to cover the pool this fall."
       "Don't we have a pool cover?"
       He shook his head. "No, not that kind of cover. Every fall we close the pool for a couple three days and a contractor comes in and puts a dome thing over it. And then we heat it and use it all winter."
       "I thought we have an indoor pool."
       "You ever see it?"
       I shook my head.
       "Come on. You're in for a treat."
       He went to a door next to the bar and we walked down the service tunnel back to the main building. Then through part of the basement maze and came out... well.
       "This is the pool?" I said.
       "We bill it as a lap pool. It still gets used quite a bit. I come down here a couple times a week and spin out a few laps. But for the guests we turn during football season and stuff. No way."
       I nodded. It was marked out in lanes. Three lanes to be exact, and I thought they were cheating a little on the width then. The advertised depth along the wall was three to seven feet. I could tell that once upon a time there had been a diving board at the deep end. But given the low ceiling I didn't see how anybody ever used it.
       "Hey Bob!" A young man said. "You going for a swim?" He was carrying a length of hose.
       "No, not now, just showing...."
       "James around. He's the new manager."
       "Oh. Hi!"
       "This is Chris, he's one of our lifeguards and pool maintenance guys."
       I nodded to the young man. He nodded back and hooked up his equipment.
       "When is this open?" I asked Bob.
       "We got rotating hours, and if a guest wants to burn a few laps off, we can get somebody down here almost anytime."
       "It has been hotel policy to have somebody that is a certified lifeguard on duty from like six AM to midnight."
       "Good policy." I nodded. "I used to be certified, my CPR card is still good."
       Bob smiled. "You've just been drafted. We have a refresher course every so often, for the insurance company's benefit. I'll sign you up for the next one."
       "Where did you life guard?" Chris asked me.
       "At our apartment complex for the last few years."
       "Good deal." Bob said.

       I left Bob and Chris to their discussion of pool chemicals and went back upstairs.
       My finger pushed the '10' on the elevator panel almost by itself.
       The cloakroom was empty. I heard no whispering, I said Rosalie's name a few times and got no reply.
       Then I walked out and down the halls for a few minutes. I unlocked the patio and walked out there. The sun was nearly at noon. The place had a ghost-town air about it. The plants were all dead in their concrete holders, a spider had woven an amazingly complicated web between two deck chairs, then abandoned it.
       Nobody and nothing interrupted my walk across the patio. I held onto the rail and looked down at the street corner far below. Even though the skyscraper across the other street dwarfed the hotel, I still felt that I was a long way from the street. I turned back to my building. This was a nice place to hold an event or something. The view off the side away from the bank building showed several smaller buildings, then the newer taller buildings a few blocks away took over the horizon. I could imagine a reception out here, or just a cocktail party.
       "I wonder if our night shift would allow it." I said out loud.
       There was no answer.
       I walked back to the doors and locked them behind me. Then with one last look into the cloakroom I got on the elevator and went downstairs.

       Among the memo's and notes on my desk in the main office on the mezzanine was an update to the Indiana Hotel Laws. It would be incorporated into the standard bill posted on the inside of every guestroom in the building and on similar doors all over the state. This one simply refined the wording of the definition of defrauding a hostelry to include 'those electronically originated'. The new cards would be available in about a month.
       I read through the entire thing. The language was archaic in places, probably unchanged since the hotel business first came under the gaze of those that wrote laws. But I had never read it before. I'd seen the card on the back of every room door in every motel and hotel I had ever stayed in from Hilo to Bangor, but I had never read it before. And now I knew why.
       Another note was from an employee requesting a letter from the hotel saying that yes she did work here and had worked here since August of 1997. I brought up my employee management screen and typed in her name. No, she hadn't worked here since August of '97. She had worked here since July 26 of '97. I typed out a short letter saying that and printed it on hotel letterhead.
       I waded into some of the stuff for impending union negotiations and lost track of time.
       "Will you make parole before lunch?"
       I looked up. Lori was smiling at me. "What time is it?"
       "Lunchtime. Then I got to get to work."
       I looked at the clock. It was just after eleven thirty. "Sure."
       She walked in with my old lunchbox. "I do room service too." She set the container on a clear spot on my desk. "It didn't look like this last time I saw it."
       "Been busy." I showed her the contract. "Some interesting stuff in here."
       "I doubt it."
       She set out the sandwiches and drinks, then she opened a bag of chips. "So is this all you've done today?"
       "No. I got volunteered to be a part time lifeguard by Mr. Clements, of course that was after I bowled for a little bit."
       "You went bowling?"
       I nodded. "In the basement of the recreation center there is a four lane bowling ally." I took a bite of my sandwich.
       "Oh. I hadn't been down there." She poured some root beer for me. "So you do more than shuffle paper all day."
       "Unfortunately, that seems to be a big part of this job."
       Just before noon she left to get to the art shop, leaving me to clean up the mess.
       I decided I had had enough paperwork for awhile and walked out to 'make my rounds.'

       The stage of the ballroom seemed lonely.
       I had seen the pictures in the scrapbook. This stage had hosted everybody from thirties and forties big bands to seventies longhair rock groups. But since the late seventies, it had been used less and less. Now, other than the Hoosiers, it was almost forgotten about.
       "Please don't take this personally, but I would love to see something up here. A concert, a dance, something. This room needs to be used." I said to the empty room.
       I expected something. Maybe a whiff of cigar smoke. But nothing happened. I looked around the stage. Overhead, the stage lights were outdated, but looked to be functional. I walked to the panel next to the side door and turned them on. Red, blue, and yellow light flooded the stage. Several of them were burned out. I made a note to have somebody come up here and check them out.
       Going through the stuff I thought anybody would need to put on a show up here I checked the changing room at the end of the hallway. There were all sorts of momentos of past shows. Placards announcing the coming of acts both great and, well, not so great. A few props and boxes of supplies crowded the room. This place had seen literally everything. A ventriloquist had been here with a Vaudeville revival in the sixties. Several rock bands that hadn't quite made the cut to arena shows left their marks on the room, signing the walls with markers and some things that defied identification.
       "I'll get some of this stuff moved downstairs. They'll need room to get ready to do their show." I turned the lights off and walked down the hallway. The side rooms were just as empty with tables covered with tarps or plastic, a lectern laid on its side, chairs stacked up or piled in a disordered heap. I walked to the windows in the last room, the gleaming side of the bank building filled the entire view. In the reflection of the window in front of me I detected movement behind me. I didn't turn around. "So what do you think? Maybe a nostalgia show or an up and coming group of some description."
       There was no answer.
       "I'll call around and see what's available in the next couple of weeks. We'll need that long to get this place in shape."
       I turned around. The room was still empty, but I heard paper rustle in the hallway.
       In the hallway was a page out of a newspaper. The date was last weekend. I know I didn't step over a newspaper walking into the room. I picked it up. It was a section out of the want ads. One ad caught my attention.
       "Talent available. Groups for hire. Actors and models. Local and national acts. Immediate bookings in most categories." I read out loud. "Thanks." I said to whoever had left the paper there for my benefit.
       There was no answer.
       I walked around to the elevators still looking at the paper. I glanced into the cloakroom and smiled. "I'll see you later Rosalie." I said while pushing the button.
       The elevator arrived and I walked into it, there was no response from the cloakroom.

       Two of the guys from maintenance had no problem going upstairs and cleaning out the storeroom and checking the lights and plugs on the stage.
       "They've never bothered me." Sam said. "I think they know I'm just doing my job. Although there are times they watch me do it." He grinned.
       "So who you going to get to play up there?" Ernie asked me.
       "I don't know yet. I've got to call a couple of promoters and see who's available."
       "Who's available and willing to play in a room that's known far and wide as a haunted house." Sam said.
       "Just find somebody desperate and very hungry." Ernie added.
       "Sound advice." I said grinning at the pun.

       Three days later I had found three groups and had decided to put on a good old fashioned rock and roll festival to celebrate the re-opening of the Woodstone Ballroom. I got them all committed to the same evening and agreed that they could wind up the night with a massive jam session, battle of the bands type thing. Before the agency was finished with me, I had agreed to have a trophy made up and this to be a semi-annual event. Where we crowned a champion with all the publicity we could muster.
       I called the local media and announced a press conference.
       The next day, in the ballroom, I announced the event and the manager from the talent agency hyped the bands all he could. Then I took the podium for questions.
       "Aren't you afraid the spirits in here will disrupt the concert the way they did the Crawfordsville High School prom four years ago?" A bearded guy from a radio station asked before I pointed at anybody.
       It was the first question. And I was ready for it.
       "Our non-paying guests seem behind this effort to bring the ballroom back to the center of the Indianapolis social scene. This was once the glitter capitol of the state capitol. I think it can be again."
       The TV lady smiled with her perfect teeth and asked the next question as I nodded to her. "So you are not denying the hotel has a ghost in it?"
       "A ghost?" I looked at her. "Ma'am, you haven't done your homework. Of just the ghosts and spirits and entities that I have encountered, I can identify nine different presences. Most of them are either harmless or even helpful."
       The newspaper guy spoke when I paused. "You really got this job because you're a ghost-buster?"
       "No. I am not a ghost buster. I studied parapsychology in college. Am still studying it in fact. This place is a fascinating case. For years, the hotel management was at odds with the night shift." I smiled. "That's our name for them, even though they don't keep traditional ghost hours. I walked in here accepting them. My bargain with them is if they let us run the hotel, they're welcome here. Otherwise, if this property does not pay its way, the owners will demolish it and sell it as over an acre of prime real estate smack dab downtown in one of the best markets in the country."
       I hadn't said that out loud before in the building. There was an immediate reaction. The huge windows between the patio and the ballroom began to crack and break. We heard doors slamming everywhere. The three chandeliers swung wildly. I smelled cigar smoke. I swallowed and continued as the reporters acted either like they were going to run from the room in screaming panic, or that they were witnessing an elaborate hoax for publicity.
       "I am here to make the hotel earn its keep. You can all help me do this by not showing off." I said sternly.
       The windows stopped breaking but you could hear loud whispering coming from everywhere.
       "I don't want them to tear it down."
       I looked across the room.
       "Rosalie. Good to see you." I smiled to her.
       "SHE'S A GHOST!" Somebody screamed.
       Rosalie looked at them and her face went from young and upset to older and sad in a split second. Her image became fuzzy.
       "Rosalie. Please." I put out my hands to the people. "Please calm down, she's just another employee here as far as I am concerned. She watches my cloakroom for me." I smiled at her.
       "Did you find your rain coat sir?" She asked me, her image was young again, but still hazy.
       Slowly, one of the TV cameras swung here way as the wide-eyed cameraman worked with shaking hands.
       "No, I'm still looking for it. Why don't you want them to tear down the hotel?"
       "I live here."
       "With who?"
       Her face got sad again, her eyes filled with tears. Then she was gone.
       The room was silent for a long minute. Then the whispering was back.
       "Was that really a ghost?" Somebody asked me.
       I grinned at them. "If I say yes, you'll think I'm perpetrating a hoax on you for publicity. If I say no, you'll say I'm trying to cover it up for the same reason. I'll let you draw your own conclusions."
       "My camera's dead." The TV guy said. "It was working! It's dead!" He was fiddling with wires and buttons furiously. "The battery is dead." He said in a second. Then he looked at his reporter and me. "They were fully charged when we left the station, they should last for about four hours before they even read low."
       Somewhere, somebody, was giggling.
       "I'm getting out of here." The radio guy said. Several others joined him in moving quickly toward the exit.
       The giggling was coming from everywhere.
       "Do you smell smoke?" Somebody else said.
       "That's cigar smoke." The newspaper guy said. He looked around.
       "Given what's happened. Perhaps we should postpone the concert." The promoter said to me.
       "No. No way. The concert goes off as scheduled. If anybody doesn't want it to happen, they'll have to consider the options."
       The giggling stopped. The cigar smoke got stronger. I could see a cloud of it drifting across the room toward the windows.
       "I believe the former owner, Mr. Woodford, would be delighted to have his ballroom in use again. He was well known for bringing in the big bands back during the war. And this will be right up his ally. Dancing, finger foods, music, and all."
       A huge cloud of smoke billowed across the room. The whispering stopped. The chandeliers slowed their swinging.
       "Am I right Mr. Woodford?" I asked the room.
       I didn't see him. But I heard him. "... yes ..." seemed to come from everywhere, with another large cloud of cigar smoke.
       "That does it. I'm outta here." The radio guy said. He headed for the elevators. Several others followed.
       But the room was quite again, except for the reporters packing up.
       "I'll get those windows fixed before next weekend." I said.
       Downstairs the radio guy was waiting on me.
       "I listened to my tape in the car. I got you, Mr. Walker, even the others, but when that girl spoke, it's just a mumbling hiss like noise." His eyes were streaming tears. "It really was a ghost, wasn't it?"
       I nodded. "Her name is Rosalie, she worked upstairs sometime after World War Two."
       His face was colorless and expressionless. He stared at his tape recorder.
       "Did it get the windows breaking?"
       "Yeah. It sounds like breaking glass. Was that really done by a ghost too?"
       I nodded. "They broke outward. Which means something from inside had to have hit them. You would have seen somebody with a slingshot or something in the room shooting out the windows."
       "Yeah, I guess." He took a deep uneasy breath. "I just hope I'm not assigned to come back and cover the concert."
       "Why? It's going to be great."
       He nodded. "I've heard 'Tobo's Surgery.' They're not bad. I really like 'The Leaders'."
       "Mr. Walker said they were his personal favorite too." Now that we were talking about the bands, he was a lot calmer. "What do you know about 'Unlovable'."
       "They're pretty new. I haven't seen them yet. But the rumor mill has it they are pretty good."
       "Well, then it should be some show."
       "You said free food too?"
       I nodded, "I want to make this a show to remember. For the cover charge you'll get all three bands, free food, and happy hour prices at the bar all evening." I added the part about the bar as I talked, but it made sense.
       "Cool!" He said with feeling.
       "So we can count on the station for support?" I looked at him with a smile.
       "Do we get some tickets to give away?"
       "You can even do a live broadcast from the patio during the show. And I'll buy your beer all night."
       He stuck out his hand. "Mr. Friend. You got yourself a radio station."
       As he walked away a couple of the reporters walked up to me and asked, "Who does your special effects?"
       I just laughed at them and walked into the downstairs offices.
       "There is no way I'm turning in a story about how your press conference was disrupted by a ghost." One of them called back to me. "I've walked out of better done publicity stunts!"

       The rest of the week was rather dull by comparison.
       Saturday morning I sat in a long meeting with the corporate union specialist and three union reps. My position was to try to continue the current contract pretty much as it was for two more years. The union was more or less agreeable to that, with certain modifications. Mr. Horess was asking for, no, he was demanding major concessions from the union. Given that, the union regional vice-president said he would push for a five percent raise, an increase in the hotel's contribution to the retirement fund, an extra personal day per year, and a lowering of the deductible for eyeglasses and dental care. Mr. Horess pounded on the table and said that was outrageous.
       "Then it would appear, the Woodstone will be the target of a job action, of course I will request all other locals and chapters to participate in sympathy and information picketing at their workplaces." The VP said coldly.
       "That would nearly close the city down." I said.
       "Especially with the convention season coming into full gear."
       "I do not negotiate in the face of threats." Mr. Horess said.
       The discussion degenerated from there. Finally I broke into the denials and name calling and called for a break.
       We walked into the hall and I took a deep breath. Not wanting to talk to any of the others I walked to the stairway and simply walked to clear my ears. I found myself pushing the door open to the ballroom, I had walked up sixteen flights of stairs without realizing it.
       The glaziers had been in Friday. The new windows had several features the others didn't, namely, the lower half of these would slid up and allow fresh air in, and sound out. So we could use the balcony as overflow seating for a concert. I walked around and checked the changing room. It was almost empty. The spotlights over the stage had been lowered to the floor. Several of them had been disassembled and were awaiting parts. The lighting control panel hung from the wall on its wires. The bar had been worked on so it was now a meaningful and serviceable bar. With about two weeks to go, things were looking great.
       I nodded approvingly and started to walk out.
       "You're not afraid like the others."
       I don't know who said it. The voice seemed to come from the floor. I looked around, then answered. "No, I'm not."
       "Well, today, I just spent all morning listening to an argument between a corporate pencil-neck and a union hard-head."
       There was a rumble in the room, like the building was clearing its throat.
       "That's how I feel, it didn't go well. The main office won't let me negotiate."
       A cold breeze blew through the hallway. I looked for an open window or something. There wasn't.
       I smelled a cigar. "Mr. Woodford?"
       I turned around. He was there.
       "The union could be trouble." He said slowly.
       "They wanted to cooperate with me. They understand what's at stake. I've gotten the impression the corporate office wants to unload the hotel. If they force a strike, they could use that as an excuse to close the place."
       The ghost took his cigar out of his mouth and looked at me with an intense stare. "That is what they are planning isn't it?"
       "What can I do? The corporate office is in charge of the negotiations."
       "What room is the negotiator staying in?" The former owner said.

       The three union officials sat across from me in the meeting room. We made small talk about the Indianapolis sports scene for a few minutes.
       "Where is he?" I asked. I had a good idea, but I wasn't saying a word.
       "I saw him in the restaurant, he was eating lunch." Ms. Rae said.
       "I'll call down and see if he's still there."
       The maitre de said he had given Mr. Horess a message that he had a package that had been delivered to his room. "He never came back to finish his lunch."
       I hung up and turned to the others. "He went up to his room. I'll call up there." I dialed the room number.
       There was a whirring noise instead of either a ring or a busy signal. The others could hear it as well.
       "Let's go up there." Ms. Rae said.

       I used my master key to open the door. Not sure of what to expect.
       Mr. Horess was still alive. But he was not all right.
       He was naked in the bathtub, with water all over the floor and the faucet still on, scrubbing furiously with a handful of two or three washcloths.
       I reached over and turned off the water.
       "IT WON'T COME OFF!!!" He said pointing to his arm and chest. "The ashes. They won't come off."
       I nodded to him and closed the bathroom door. I looked over at Ms. Rae, "Call an ambulance for him."

       "What did that damned spook-house you're running do to Mr. Horess?"
       "Nothing that I know of Mrs. Danbaugh." I told her about how he got a call from the desk that a package had been delivered for him to his room. "He had mentioned he was waiting on something from the main office."
       "The notes and memo's from the last negotiation. But I don't think it's been mailed out yet."
       I decided to ask her flat out. "Are they looking to close this place?"
       There was silence from the other end.
       "Mrs. Danbaugh?"
       "Yes. There has been some talk about building a new hotel on that site. But nothing has been decided yet."
       "If this property becomes a real showplace, turns a profit, makes a new name for itself. Will that talk go away?"
       "I can't promise anything."
       "Would it make it easier to make a case for it staying open as is?"
       "Of course."
       "If I get the union to accept some minor concessions in return for some things they want if they will pledge to help me take this place back to where it should be, can I run the negotiations?"
       "We will have to approve the final contract."
       "Of course."
       "Very well. See what you can do." She sighed, "So how is he?"
       "Mr. Horess? The doctor said he just had a bad reaction to stress. He's resting, he might be out tomorrow."
       "It was a tough morning in the negotiating room."
       "Evidently. Then why was he screaming about cigar ashes?"
       "I don't know, ma'am."
       "Send him some flowers from me."
       She hung up. I looked at Ms. Rae and the others who had heard the whole conversation on the speaker phone in the other office. "Well?" I asked them.
       "That's what he was pushing for. No doubt." The VP said.
       "So, about those concessions. From both sides." I asked.
       Miss Rae nodded. "I think we can handle this in house now. The only thing I won't agree to for the good of the hotel is disbanding the union all together."
       "Agreed. You work it out, I'll approve it for vote by the E-board, it should be able go to the membership without more than a cursory review. The VP nodded sharply and walked out.

       It was late Thursday night. I had no idea why I came up here after dinner when I had been sitting in the apartment watching TV with Lori.
       But I found myself wandering through the ballroom anyway.
       The room still smelled like fresh paint. Buffet tables lined the hallway in front of the luxury rooms. I realized I still hadn't gotten around to doing anything with them. I nodded at the closed doors. "Next."
       The side rooms had all been spoken for. Lori's art store had begun setting up displays in one. A T-shirt shop would move into another one. Several local businesses were going to set up recruiting tables for new employees in the third, even the Indiana National Guard was going to have a couple of booths up here. Our first rock festival was turning into a major event. Tickets were almost sold out, the radio station was pushing it hard, and Saturday was looking like it was going to be a night to remember. One way or the other.
       I half expected to smell cigar smoke, but I didn't.
       The night shift's activity hadn't changed at all. Except for one respect, now there was much less disruption of normal activity. In fact, there had been rumors that they had been helping the paid staff to get their jobs done.
       If this was indeed the case, I was not going to complain at all.
       I left the dark floor and went back downstairs.

Concluded in Woodstone 4

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