The Servant & the Sailor

 
I ran under the 17 Hundred 90 Inn’s awning, caught a glimpse of myself in the glass door, and grimaced.  Thanks to a careless trolley driver and an unexpected downpour, my hair hung like wet noodles down my back and my white shirt was plastered to my skin; nothing was left to the imagination.  Perfect. I got to imitate Lady Godiva in a full lobby. 


I opened the door then crossed my arms in front of my chest and ran up the stairs.  To my relief, the hallway outside the room was deserted.  I dug into my purse for the key, and then cursed; my trembling hands struggled with the lock. Finally, the tumblers clicked. Dreaming of a hot shower, I turned the knob and walked straight into the door.


“Umph.” I shoved on the door and rattled the knob; it didn’t budge. “Ah, what the …”  


  I huffed and turned the key back and forth, hearing the lock roll over each time.  There was no doubt it was unlocked so why wasn’t it opening? I shoved on the door again and kicked it for good measure. 


Of course, all that did was make my foot sore. I stood back and glared at the stubborn door as I contemplated my options.  In an old building like the 1790, the damp day had probably caused the wood to swell so it was not likely to budge under just my strength. 


Wonderful, now I’d be forced to go back downstairs, in a soaking wet and totally transparent shirt. Determined to exhaust all avenues before resorting to the lobby, I laid my shoulder against the door and put all of my weight into one last shove. 


“Come on, give a girl a break.”  


“Ahh!” I tumbled into the room, landing face down on the carpet as the door opened without a hitch.

Sighing, I got to my feet and closed the door. Could my day have went any better? As was more often than not the case these days, I mentally cursed my editor at the Paranormal Press, although, to be fair, it wasn’t Clayton’s fault I was bumming around Savannah hunting ghosts and dictating their stories for an eager fringe of paranormal obsessives. 


The alarm on my phone went off, signifying there were only fifteen minutes remaining until my interview.  I rushed to the shower. The running water did nothing to soothe the diatribe from my conscious, which was completely right. I had no one to blame for my situation but myself, and didn’t that just suck to admit?


My conscious also saw fit to remind me that there was nothing stopping me from returning to my rightful profession as an investigative reporter of actual news. That my byline was still waiting on me. That my employers were anxious for my return. 


I rinsed conditioner from my hair and cut off the tap, still listening to the scold from my personal peanut gallery. I really didn’t need the lecture. If I could have went back to what I saw as proper journalism, I would have but, I was haunted by my last assignment. It had begun to feel like I was hunted by it, too. 


Since my last ghost hunting investigation at Colonial Park Cemetery, I’d been unable to shake the feeling that I was being watched. At first I dismissed it as imagination, but the feeling just kept growing until earlier today, when I’d been paying for my latte. 


It was spring in the coastal south. The days were gloriously warm without the oppressive humidity that arrived with summer, and I was indoors; no reason for me to suddenly start shaking from bone deep cold nor for the skin crawling sensation that was so intense I’d had to abandon my cup to scratch.


I ran a comb through my hair and then secured it into a bun; there wasn’t time for much else. I flipped off the bathroom light and hurried to the wardrobe as my mind continued to replay what had sent me running into a pouring rain a half hour ago.


The sudden attack of chills had me assuming I was coming down with something. I debated calling to cancel my appointment when the hair on the back of my neck rose and my skin felt like it was covered in tiny bugs. My mouth had went dry and every instinct said I was being watched and that I was in danger. 


I dropped my coffee and whipped around, scanning the crowded coffee house but no one was paying me any attention. I shook my head and told myself to get a grip but, as I turned back to the counter I caught movement in my peripheral view. 
It was a blip, a quick shift of dark to light where a window meets the wall.

 

On its own, I’d have dismissed it as a trick of the light, but I knew, on an instinctive level, that the shadow I’d seen was causing my other reactions. My heart skipped a beat and with no thought other than to get away, I went running out into the rain before my logical brain could catch up and stop me, which had led me to my current state. 


The feeling of being watched hadn’t left me. I felt it the whole headlong flight back to the Inn and even now, though fainter, it was still there. I gazed around the room but saw nothing except a clock reminding me I didn’t have time for any of it. I shook away my mounting paranoia and selected a pair of black slacks and a lime green sweater from the wardrobe and then rushed across the room to the dresser to grab underwear and socks. 


I jerked open the drawer and … what in the world? It was empty! A week’s worth of underclothes should have been in the drawer and yet ... I distinctly remembered unpacking and placing my things in that drawer. 


Still I’d been distracted for weeks. I shrugged and pulled open another drawer and then another. Nothing; they were all empty.  I pulled my suitcase from the rack, no undies.


Oh, no way. I drew a deep breath. The logical assumption was that someone had been in my room. But that made no sense. The 1790 was a prestigious Inn; hardly the kind of place I’d need to worry about theft. Besides, who would want my underwear? 


Irritated, I stomped over to the pile of wet clothes I’d left beside the bed and began to dress.  The clammy silk made my skin crawl.  I was going to give that manager an earful, after I interviewed him! 


I slung my camera bag over my shoulder, tucked my phone into my pocket and pulled the door open. Movement by the window made me pause. The feeling was back with a vengeance; someone was watching me!  A chill ran up my spine that had nothing to do with wearing damp underclothes.  


I shook it off and stepped into the hall, I didn’t have time for this!  I reached for the knob but before I could pull it closed, the door slammed in my face! 


I shrieked and stared at it. What was going on? A draft? But I hadn’t left a window open … I gasped and whirled around when a hand fell upon my shoulder. 


“Ms. Stewart? Are you all right?”


I let out the breath I’d been holding as my overactive imagination caught up to my brain and acknowledged it was just Mr. Laramie, the Inn’s manager, and not a hound of hell. 


“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 my room and then back at me. A smile tugged at his lips.  “Won’t you tell me what’s wrong, Ms. Stewart?”


I shook my 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?” 


I frowned. “Anna? I’m not sure what you mean.”


He chuckled and patted my hand. “Why I’m referring to Anna Powers of course. She lives in room 204.”


I 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 me a wink. “Shall we go in and see if Anna is about?”


My scattered wits finally settled enough for me to comprehend what the manager was saying. A ghost, apparently named Anna Powers, occupied room 204; at least he wanted me 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 my article. 


My lips pursed. The haunted room routine might have worked on the amateur ghost hunters the Inn attracted but I was a seasoned investigative journalist, of real news.  A haunted hotel, verified by a respected paranormal magazine no less, was very good for business.  My annoyance turned to curiosity. How far would they go? I smiled and opened the door. 


“So my dear, shall we sit over here by the windows?”


I nodded and chose one of the wing chairs standing opposite the fireplace. I unpacked the camera, set my phone to record, 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. 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 …” 


I 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?” 


I 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.”


   My 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 me and lowered his voice. “Anna also seems to enjoy our female guests’ unmentionables.”


   I stiffened and my eyes narrowed. “What do you mean by, enjoys?”


   The old man began to fidget under my 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 my 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!”


I gritted my 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.” I rose from my seat. “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.” 


I paced a few steps in the small room before rounding on the old man.

“Furthermore, I am not inclined to write favorably about any establishment that wastes my time with such obvious hoaxes.”  I rolled my 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.”


I smirked. Professional pranksters anyway.  I set my phone down on the mantle and walked across the room. “I’m sorry if I’ve offended you, but I think I’ve heard enough about the Inn’s so-called spirit.” I opened the door, motioning for him to precede me. “Perhaps we should take a tour of the Inn.”


I 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 me.  I had to hand it to the man. His look of fear would fool most people; unfortunately for him I 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.”


I gasped. The man was still sticking with his story.  I could take a joke but this … someone had gone into my room and pawed through my things!  I 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.”

 

I slipped my hand into my pocket and found it empty. I sighed. “I’ll be right back Mr. Laramie, I’ve forgotten my phone.”


I unlocked the door, wondering if it was still rigged. It swung open without a hitch.  Seemed they’d gotten the message!  


I walked through the door and slammed into an invisible and icy barrier. Frigid cold enveloped me, and unbearable pressure built around my chest. I opened my mouth to scream, but the air was forced from my lungs.  The room began to spin, and spots formed in front of my eyes.  Everything went dark.


“Ms. Stewart, are you all right?”


I blinked.  I 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 phone. Don’t you remember?”


I gulped and sank down onto a chair. I stared at the phone in my trembling hand. “Mr. Laramie? How did I get into this room?”


The manager sat next to me and took my hand. “Ms. Stewart, are you feeling well? Forgive me, but you don’t look good. Shall I call the – “


“No!” I softened my tone when the elderly man jumped. I forced a smile. “No, Mr. Laramie, I’m fine. I just … I felt dizzy a moment ago and I must have stumbled ….” I willed my legs to stop shaking and rose to my 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?”
I shook my head and retrieved my 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.” I shuddered and began piling my things into the suitcase, trying to convince myself that what I’d felt moments ago was indeed caused by a lack of food. 


That had to be it!  Any other explanation was ridiculous. Still, there was no way I’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, I pulled the dresser drawer open.  I gasped as my 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.”


I 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.” I shook my 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!” I took a deep breath and lowered my voice. “Please leave the door open, Mr. Laramie.”  


He smiled and I cringed at the knowing look in his eyes. “It’s gloomy in here, I need the extra light.”

It sounded weak, even to me, but the old man merely nodded.


I waved my hand in response to the manager’s good-bye and then ran around the room, gathering my things; everything but my underclothes. I stared at the bras and panties, willing myself to touch them.  A rustling from across the room propelled me into action. Hands shaking, I threw the clothes into the case, and zipped it closed. 


Shoving my luggage into the hall, I scanned the room for anything I’d missed. My heart sank as I spotted my camera lying on the floor beside the fireplace.  There was no hope for it; I couldn’t leave the magazine’s camera.  

 

Common sense said nothing was going to harm me and nothing had tried, but I wasn’t interested in what common sense had to say at the moment. 


Focusing on the camera, I willed my legs to take one step, and then another.  It was a lack of food, just a lack of food, Paige! I kept telling myself everything that had happened had a logical explanation.  Bolstered, I took two more steps and reached the end of the bed.  


The camera lay a few feet away. I took a deep breath, rushed over to the fireplace, and grabbed it.  I hugged the camera to my chest and laughed at my nonsensical fears.  


“There is no such thing as a ghost!” I looked around the room and repeated myself for good measure before I crossed to the door and leaned over to secure the camera in its bag. As I zipped the bag closed, a cold wind ruffled my hair. I straightened and slowly turned around.  


The door slammed in my face!
                                                             *****
“Welcome to the Kehoe House, Ms. Stewart, we hope you enjoy your stay with us!”
“I’m sure I will.”  I laughed and jingled the room key. “As long as this isn’t Anna’s room!”

The End

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! 
                                                                                               Rachel Lynne
Next … 
Paige Stewart and the Ghost Cat of Columbia Square