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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.]
Dr. Filburn and two graduate assistants picked Friday to come into town.
Even with the festival, the hotel wasn't completely full.
I walked them around and showed them the preparations for the concert. Dr. Filburn was intrigued by the suites on the floor.
"Those are next on my plans, to get them up and running as rentable suites." I said. "They're almost ready, everything works, but I want to get them painted and spruced up a bit."
He looked out the window. "So this room is not rented for your concert?"
"No sir. The bands are all staying on the fifth floor. We have several soundproof suites down there."
"So I can rent this one?"
"I had booked you into another room." I said. "But if you want the Churchill. It's yours."
One of his students had stayed out in the ballroom, near the people setting up the bar, and refused to go anywhere near the stage, the cloakroom, or the luxury suites. When we went out, she was nowhere to be found.
"Oh, Kelly? She said she would wait for ya'll in the bar." Angelo said, "I got the beer tap working just fine sir."
"Test it." I said picking up a glass out of the rack. "You?" I said to the professor. He declined but Mitch, his other assistant nodded vigorously.
"I haven't seen any paranormal activity here. This all seems rather mundane." Dr. Filburn said.
"And for this weekend, I hope it stays this way." I said handing Mitch his beer.
"You should have been up here earlier. Somebody decided to reorganize the bar and ripped all the labels off the pre-mix bottles."
"A prank by another employee." The professor said.
"They were locked in the cabinet, there's only two keys." He pointed at the padlocked door.
"Evidently, there are three."
I took my beer and we walked around to the cloakroom. It was ready for guests to check anything from hats to laptop computers. But it was otherwise quiet.
"Dinner is on me. I'll meet you in the lobby at five."
"Very well." The doctor said. "Does the phone in here work? I need to make a call."
"Then, until five." He walked to his room and shut the door behind him.
Mitch and I went to the bar and caught up with Kelly. She was still visibly shaken.
"They don't like him."
"Who?" Mitch said.
"They don't like Dr. Filburn. I could feel it. They were watching him the whole time. And when he was in that room, he made something angry."
I shivered involuntarily. I flagged down the bartender. "Sal, call up to the Churchill, see if Dr. Filburn would like me to send up a drink before dinner."
He walked to the other end of the bar and looked up the number. Then he talked for a minute. "Yes sir, he asked me if we had single malt Scotch and dark beer."
"Sir. We've got the best selection of top shelf Scotch in the city."
"Good. Send him a good one, and his beer, on my tab."
I sighed. It might be all right after all.
Mitch went to play video games in the recreation center for awhile. Kelly went up to her room to change for dinner.
I ended up on the phone with one of the vendors for the concert wanting to know where some supplies were.
Lori knocked on my door about ten minutes to five.
"Dinner?" She said.
"Oh, yeah." I hung up the phone and straightened my tie.
Dr. Filburn was more talkative now than he had been. Kelly and Lori were dressed to the nines. Mitch had been beaten stupid on one of the video games and was vowing revenge.
Dinner was excellent.
Dr. Filburn declined an after dinner drink and said he'd just go up to his room and read.
Mitch and Kelly wanted to go to the bar and listen to an impromptu (but very well planned and carefully coordinated) pre-concert concert by a last minute addition to the bill for tomorrow, so Lori accepted for us. A three-piece band called 'Grandma's Rocker'. I half expected at least one elderly lady in the group, but there wasn't.
The lead singer was wearing an Air Force duty jacket and playing a rather funny looking guitar. But on his first song, I knew tomorrow was going to be as good as it could be.
"I've haven't seen you so happy in a long time." Lori said to me as we danced to one of the songs.
"It's been awhile since I've actually been happy."
Later, in the manager's apartment were snuggling together on the couch when the phone rang. Lori reached for it and listened. Her face got serious. "Is he all right?" She listened for a second. "We'll be right down."
"What?" I said jumping to my feet and putting my clothes back together.
"Dr. Filburn saw something. He's a little upset."
In a couple of minutes we were in the coffee shop with them. Dr. Filburn was wearing pajamas and drinking coffee.
"Well. I believe you." He said extending his hand for me to shake.
"You saw something, what?"
"Better than that. I might have been dreaming, or hallucinating or something. The machine recorded it. Unfortunately, I didn't have the camera set to automatic." He pointed to his laptop. "The sensors recorded a fluctuation along several different fields. Latent electromagnetic charge, air displacement, low-end audio, light spectrum differentiation. Almost as theorized. I watched the units the whole time, there was no tampering." He stopped talking and took a big sip of his coffee. "Then." Deep breath. "Then I watched it happen."
"What happened? Did you see a ghost?"
"No no no." He shook his head. "When I got back upstairs, I looked through the other rooms again. And set up another set of sensors in the room furthest from me. Then I noticed that that room had a footstool. My room didn't, so I borrowed it to use as I read my papers." He smiled at some private joke.
We waited for him to continue.
He did. "Well, about, well..." He looked at his watch. "Fifteen minutes ago, I noticed the sensors in the other room registering a small disturbance. Then in about two minutes, they stopped. But then, in just seconds, the sensors in my room registered that something had entered my room." The hand holding the coffee cup trembled. "It got stronger by the second. Then it stopped." He swallowed and blinked. "Then almost every reading went off the scale, I mean, one of the sensors overloaded and reported an error. Then." He laughed nervously. "Then the footstool went through the wall."
He looked at us with wide eyes.
"It did. No hole, no noise, it just slid across like somebody was pushing it and went through the wall."
"What did you do?" Mitch asked him before I could.
"I ran out and checked the next suite. There was nobody in there, and no hole in the wall or anything, and no footstool. It was back in the Presidential suite on the end. I checked for stuff like trapped doors too." He grinned for a second then he shook his head. "They wanted it back." He said laughing at himself. "I found I had locked myself out of my room and I couldn't figure out how to use the phone at the bar up there, so I came down here. In my pajamas."
"I'll see if we can send you up another footstool."
He nodded. "I love it. Thirty years of research, nothing. And what happens? I find it by swiping a footstool." His laughter was real now, not nervous.
"You want another room?" I asked him.
"Are you kidding? As soon as I finish my coffee I'm going back up there!"
The first band began setting up about three in the afternoon for a sound check.
Dr. Filburn had rigged the cloakroom and the patio with his sensors as inconspicuously as possible. Since his experience he couldn't wait for another occurrence and had swept the entire hotel twice looking for odd readings on his sensors. Whether or not he found anything, he never said.
The entire hotel was excited about the event. Ms. Karol was everywhere at once. The guys from the radio station had a great spot on the patio for their base camp. Then they wandered around doing live spots everywhere from the kitchen as the food was being prepared to the bar as the first kegs were pulled out of the cooler and carried up on the freight elevator.
Then the people started to arrive.
Most of them had bought special tickets that entitled them to dinner in the restaurant and the show. Others came early just to get a head start on the bar and to look through the 'show' part of the festival.
By the time the MC from the radio station began playing music at seven, the place was already packed and jumping. By eight-thirty when 'Grandma's Rockers' took the stage to warm the place up, the crowd didn't need much encouragement to have a good time. Every seat inside was full, every table on the patio was crowded, the whole place was standing room only.
"What's our count?" I asked Harry the hotel security manager who was supervising his own people and several special security hired for the night.
"Just over three hundred fifty. We're maxed out at fire capacity."
"That was the number of tickets we had. Good deal."
He nodded and listened to his earpiece for a minute. "The first band is on their way to the ready room up the back stairs." He said to me.
"I'll go babysit." I said.
On the way there I peeked in on Lori. "How's it going?" I asked her as she finished up with a customer who had just bought, yes, bought, a painting signed by one of the artists in attendance.
"Great. Elmo went back to the shop for more stuff. We didn't bring enough."
"It might slow down a little, the first competition band will be going on in a few minutes."
"Is it 'Unlovable'?" A lady asked me.
"No ma'am. 'The Leaders' are first."
She shook her head. "I'm just here to see 'Unlovable.'" She looked at Lori. "Do you have a larger version of this?" She pointed to a pot.
I looked over at a guy selling hand painted hats, his partner was airbrushing them to order in a few simple designs he customized to each individual.
Then I went to meet the band and escort them to the 'ready room'. The changing room had been renamed now that it had joined the modern era with its own Internet hook-up so the performers could send any last minute emails out over the hotel's server before they went on.
For a band that was billed as one of the hardest driving rock bands in the Midwest, 'The Leaders' were remarkably clean cut and respectably dressed. One of them was wearing a suit that I would have liked to have.
"Yes, sir, Mr. Friend. We're ready to do it." Their spokesman said.
"Very well. I'll let Cutter know." I said referring to the MC that looked like he had spent the last two days in the drunk tank.
"As soon as Spellsinger finishes up this set I'll begin the introduction."
One group followed another.
Hours of solid rock music. At one point the guy from the radio station stuck a microphone in my face and asked me how it was going. I think that's what he asked me. 'Tobo's Surgery' was on the stage and really pounding it out. I screamed into the microphone that everybody listening to the radio was missing one of the best music festivals Indianapolis had ever seen.
Each band did a good long set. Then there was a break. And some voting on the best band while 'Grandma's Rockers' did a set. Then the other bands came back on in reverse order for another long set.
Finally 'Grandma' was back up on the stage and Cutter said they would now collect the final votes.
I got drafted as a judge, I drafted Dr. Filburn as a guest judge. Cutter joined us in the Viceroy suite to count the votes.
"Here's three more for 'Grandma's Rockers'" Dr. Filburn said putting the slips on the table.
"I think he had the vote stacked." Cutter said.
I just laughed and put another slip of paper in 'Unlovable's pile.
"You know James. You really learned something in college." Dr. Filburn said as he sorted more votes.
"Oh?" Cutter said looking at me.
"He learned how to throw one hell of a party."
"That he did." Cutter agreed. I laughed.
We tallied up the votes and checked the results a couple of times. Then we went out to the stage. I rounded up the three bands. That wasn't hard, they were either chowing down on the last of the food, or at the bar getting refreshments. The booths and displays were closed and the side rooms were locked. Lori joined me off to one side listening to the band.
"OK, here it is!" Cutter said taking the microphone from Spellsinger as he finished up his song and the applause and cheers died down. "First off, a couple of announcements. This is the LAST CALL FOR ALCOHOL!"
The crowd booed, but they had been warned ahead of time.
"When the winner starts their final set, the bar is CLOSED!"
The three bands joined us on stage. This is where the prior planning kicked in. All three bands just happened to have their instruments with them, and 'Grandma' was still playing as background music. As Cutter talked about what all the contestants would get, the 'Grandma's drummer began a beat. The other drums joined in. Then the guitars came up, and, well, who could talk when they were being blasted off the stage by the combined firepower of four rock and roll bands?
The massive band played a very long set of the old favorites from the last several decades. And to say they really kicked out the jams would be an understatement by several orders of magnitude. Three drum sets going and one set of hand percussion, a six guitar attack, three basses going, two keyboardist, and one saxophone. It was probably the biggest Big Band the ballroom had seen since the Korean War.
I caught a glimpse of the newspaper photographer getting a good shot of the stage from one side.
It was well after midnight when Cutter managed to get back to the stage to announce the winner. He had actually tried once just before midnight, but the band wouldn't let him, they were having too much fun. But then fatigue began to take a toll and they took a well-earned break. As soon as they had their drinks, the bar closed up.
"Well. What'dya think of that?" Cutter asked the crowd.
The response was almost as loud as the bands had been.
"OK, do you want to know who won?"
Again, cheers and applause.
"First. We need to thank our host. Mr. Friend and the employees... especially the bartenders and cooks... of the Hotel Woodstone!"
More cheers and applause. I had to go up and take a bow and thank everyone for coming out. Then I retreated.
"All right. Here it is. The final results!" He seemed to never tire of applause and whistles. But he announced the winner and the response showed that they were the crowd favorite.
The Unlovable came out and did a set that they claimed was going to be part of their next album.
I began plotting logistics to get the people downstairs and out of the hotel with minimal disruption to guests who had not come to the concert.
And the last time I had called the desk, there had only been two complaints about the noise. Both of them solved by having the guests close their windows and turning their air conditioners on low. Which says something about the way the hotel had been built at the turn of the last century.
We had a security guard in the freight elevator to operate it. And two hotel employees in the others. And the stairs were open as well.
After the last song, Cutter thanked everybody and wished them safe travel home. Then the two keyboardist played some soft music to keep things up, but moving out.
It didn't take as long as I thought it would. Very soon the place was empty and I realized I was exhausted.
The cloakroom was dark, but I thought I saw a few things still hanging on the racks.
I smelled cigar smoke in the hallway.
I didn't see him, but I knew Mr. Woodford was there. "We did it. And we did it good."
Somehow I knew he approved.
"Well?" Lori said in our apartment. "What's the final verdict?"
"It was a great party. Like I said, nobody's going to forget it soon."
We both took a quick shower and crashed into the bed and fell asleep almost immediately.
It was about noon Sunday before I could drag myself out of bed. I got a cup of coffee and dressed, but then I found myself on the elevator going up to the ballroom. 'To check on the cleanup.' I told myself.
Several crews were up there doing just that. For the most part, you would never have known that the place had been solid people from one end of the ballroom to the other end of the patio for about seven hours the night before.
There was no management decisions lying around to be made, and Dr. Filburn was down in the restaurant having brunch. So I went back to the apartment to see if I could get Lori out of bed.
She was out of bed, and just coming out to see where I was. Together we went to breakfast.
"It was most extraordinary." Dr. Filburn said.
"Damned straight." Mitch said. "You missed a great concert." He said to Kelly.
"I heard most of it from the stairway."
I looked at her. "You haven't been back up there? Not even for the concert."
She shook her head. "I'm never going back up there."
"I wasn't talking about the concert. I'm talking about the activity as soon as the last guest left and I closed my door." He opened his laptop. "Within five minutes of the last security man going downstairs. I recorded continuous activity in every sector until this morning when the cleaning crew came up."
"So when our party ended. Theirs began." Mitch said looking at the lines on the graph.
"So what does it mean?" Lori asked the professor.
"It means, my dear. You live in one of the most heavily active paranormal centers ever reported and the single most active center ever documented by instrumentation of any kind."
"What would happen if you took your sensors downstairs to the spice pantry?" I asked him.
"I did." He said closing the laptop.
"And, two of the sensors overloaded and suffered actual physical damage."
"Which two?" Mitch asked.
"Latent electromagnetic charge, and atmospheric displacement." He picked up his coffee cup. "The electric sensor nearly melted, the air pressure sensor was damaged by negative pressure inside the unit."
It took a second for that to sink in. "That means that there was a vacuum INSIDE, the storeroom." I said.
He nodded. "And I only left them in there for about an hour. The room had not been disturbed in that hour."
"How about the other sensors?" Mitch said.
"Inconclusive readings. But they did not show a significant temperature fluctuation. Nobody entered the room during that hour. A human body gives off a distinct signature."
I took a deep breath and blew it out. "So, what was it?"
Dr. Filburn shook his head. "I've never even heard a rumor of anything like that."
"You have now." Lori said.
"Do you want me to name it for you or the hotel?" Dr. Filburn asked me.
"Neither. Name it for the street it's under or something."
"I'll think of something appropriate."
Kelly had been very silent. "Name it for that band from last night. 'the Unlovable'."
We laughed for a second. Then decided that that was very appropriate.
They left that afternoon for the campus again.
Monday morning I sat in my office and read a review of the festival.
"The Woodstone has made a major statement. After years of being off the radar scope of the Indianapolis entertainment and social scene. The old master, the Woodstone Hotel Ballroom, is back. According to inside sources, Saturday night was just the first of many events from all across the spectrum. Planned is a similar festival of new and not so new jazz acts for the Jazz Festival. A country music reunion is already on the calendar. For the classical crowd, several chamber groups and orchestras are also being booked. If they are even a small fraction of the success of the first Battle of the Bands, the hotel has served notice, the bar has been raised in the competition for your weekend entertainment dollar. Take this writer's advice. Call the Woodstone and make table reservations on the patio now for everything they put on the stage." I read out loud to the room.
At the final tally, the event had made a substantial profit. I had begun by telling everybody that for the first one, break even was acceptable. We had passed the break even point with just the ticket sales. The restaurant, gift shop sales at their table upstairs and in the shop itself which stayed open late, the bar upstairs and main as well had all done a land office business. We even had several last minute room bookings which paid full weekend rates.
"I've seen the headlines, and the spot on the news." Mrs. Danbaugh said.
"I didn't know we made the TV."
"You did. It was a hit. So you have things booked in there now?"
"Since it went over like it did. I OK'd everything for the next three months. We had sketched out a few things, I didn't sign anything because I wasn't convinced it would work."
"Your room is still waiting, I'm pretty sure I can get you a good patio table for whatever you want to see."
She was silent for a minute. "Don't hold your breath, but I might come up for the country music thing."
Today I took Lori out to lunch before she went to work.
But then, again that afternoon I found myself wandering up to the ballroom.
"Rosalie?" I said to the cloakroom.
She wasn't there. For a second I was afraid that the concert had scared her off. Then I walked into the Presidential suite and looked at the footstool. On a whim I pushed it over by the window and left it. I shut the door and walked out to the stage. It seemed too quite. After looking out at patio for a minute I walked back to the suite and peeked in.
The footstool was back in front of the chair where it had started.
Laughing, I went back to the elevator and pushed the button.
"Sir. I found a raincoat in here this morning. Is it yours?"
Rosalie was there, holding a raincoat.
"Let me see it." I said to her, actually happy to see her.
I had never owned a raincoat, but I wanted to talk to her. "No, I don't think so. I thought I had left something in one of the pockets."
"A lot of raincoats look alike. Maybe somebody picked up yours by mistake, and when they realize it they'll bring yours back for this one." She said in her 'move her lips then you hear the words' style.
"That could be. You hang onto this one just in case."
She took the coat and hung it up on the rack. "Come back and check again."
"I will, thank you." I reached into my pocket and left her another tip.
"Sir. Did you mean to leave me a whole dollar for a tip?" She said as I walked toward the elevator.
"Yes ma'am. You have gone to a lot of trouble to find my coat."
"Thank you sir, but it is no trouble."
"It's OK. You just keep doing a good job."
She nodded, but then her face got sad again, then she was gone.
I pushed the elevator button again. Then I noticed that the dollar wasn't on the counter. She had taken her tip.
In a couple of weeks I had a new union contract in hand. The ballroom booked at least once a month for some sort of show or concert. And one of the luxury suites rented on a long term contract to a major local company for use of visiting dignitaries ranging from well-heeled stockholders to the Prime Minister of a country they did business in.
I had been assured by a man with a cigar on the tenth floor that as long as all three rooms were not occupied at once, there would be no problems.
There was now a standing order, the Viceroy was not to be rented under any circumstances, it was soon converted to a private reception room for those visiting whoever was renting one of the other rooms. Soon, the Presidential or the Churchill were in almost daily use. The cost of holding the third suite open was added as a surcharge to the other rooms.
The restaurant got their half star back, and the reviewer mentioned that anybody wanting to eat here had better do it now because if we kept improving, we'd have our fourth star soon, and then, the reviewer said, the prices would probably go up.
"You going up to the ballroom?" Lori asked me one night as I got up and walked toward the door.
I stopped. "Yeah, I guess I was."
"Say hi to Rosalie and Mr. Woodford for me."
I looked at her.
"You go up there to see them at least twice a day. I've almost got reason to be jealous." She smiled, "You're seeing an older woman."
"Older by at least fifty years."
"Why do you keep going up there?"
I hadn't thought about it. I said that.
"Are they calling to you?"
"I don't think so. I just feel drawn up there."
Her eyes were full of concern.
"Don't worry, I'll come back down to you."
"That's not what I'm worried about." She got up and walked to me. "I'm worried that when your time does come, you'll join them up there."
Copyright, 2000, Levite 2001 The Media Desk
All rights reserved, including rights to publication. All persons and events are fictitious. This story is not endorsed nor is it to be seen as the conditions in the City of Indianapolis No harm of the City of Indianapolis is intended. No ghosts or spirits were harmed in the writing of this story. Email- email@example.com