Don't Look Now by Christine King
I wasn’t sure how to say it and in the end I just kind of blurted it out.
Paula looked at me with her eyebrows raised.
I shrugged and tried to think of another way to say it, but Paula spoke again.
“You're telling me there is an actual, real, honest to goodness ghost in this hotel?”
I nodded and saw her smile cynically.
“This is a wind-up right? Some sort of initiation for the new manager?”
I shook my head.
“I’m afraid it’s true and you will know it is true soon enough, but I wanted to warn you.”
Paula looked at me with suspicious eyes and her mouth pursed.
“So, what does this ghost do? Is this place like that hotel… you know? In that film, should we rename it The Shining?”
I suppressed the urge to correct her and explain that The Shining was a title of a book, and the hotel in the book was called the Overlook. People didn’t appreciate my attention to detail unless I was turning down a bed.
“Not really”, I replied, “mostly it just does stupid stuff, like a teenager with a grudge.”
I thought about some of the scarier things and decided to start with the more mundane.
“Well, we had a wedding reception here last month, we asked it to be nice, but it poured washing detergent onto the dance floor and the bridal suite had all its sheets and pillowcases covered in treacle, twice. Silly stuff, like that.”
“This happens a lot?”
I nodded and shrugged my shoulders.
“And you have no control over this... entity?”
“No”, I said, “But we can sometimes keep it occupied.”
“Movies, slapstick works best. Or sometimes ones that are really weird. Like Monty python or Airplane. We put one on in an empty room and it seems to keep him contained.”
Paula shook her head.
“Him? Why a him? Really though are you sure it’s not just a member of staff messing around?”
I wasn’t sure how to answer and was glad that at that moment a dish floated past slowly at eye level, and then smashed on to the floor.
“Probably not.” I said looking at the broken crockery.
Paula seemed a little shaken, but she rallied.
“We have to get rid of this ghost.”
I agreed but how?
We had a priest come out to bless the rooms, but all that holy water just made the carpets damp, an old lady walked around with bundles of burning herbs, that set off the fire alarms. Paula called in a medium, but she left after five minutes when something emptied a vase full of water over her head.
The Ghost was staying, it seemed.
We all called the ghost Toby, I have no idea who picked the name, but Paula started to use it too when she was annoyed at another one of his spectral antic.
“Toby has put, what I can only hope is ‘dog’ poo all over the corridor by the staff room, its on the bloody ceiling!”
“Toby has pulled up the skirt of the laundry woman again and she is threatening to leave!”
Almost every day was a new, juvenile thing.
Some days we even saw Toby.
Guests would say “Don’t look now but there is a young man in black trousers climbing up your hedges in the garden.”
And we would know it was Toby.
Complaints came in regularly about a young man running up and down the corridor, knocking over furniture or banging about on the fire escape and although we continually went to have a look, it was almost always Toby.
Staff would mutter. “Don’t look now but Toby has just appeared behind you with some sort of drink in his hand, I think we should go before he throws it.”
He would sometimes sit on a seat in the restaurant. Dark hair, deep set eyes and a high necked buttoned up shirt with black trousers. Usually a waiter would go over to explain the restaurant was closed and get a fright when Toby disappeared, or a guest would be annoyed that someone was at their favourite table and we would have to do our best to offer them a better table or try to shoo him away.
Days were never dull with Toby, but my blood pressure could do with a break.
The worse times were when he got angry, things got smashed, beds were over-turned, and staff members often ran screaming from flying bottles or chairs flung at them from across the room.
It was the down season and Paula had been with us for a few months, she was settling in well.
Flying crockery didn’t worry her any more, she still got frustrated, but the movie trick worked most of the time, and we had not had too many nasty incidents.
During these quiet months, the owners would rent to anyone who had some cash to splash and unfortunately a local university wanted to rent out most of the place for a big shin dig. We all knew what to expect, this particular university had a reputation for being full of spoilt idiots who spent daddy’s money doing whatever they pleased.
No one was looking forward to this event. The place was made spotless although it was unlikely to stay that way and a world class chef was brought in to make sure the food was to these snobs liking.
They arrived, most of them in a school bus painted red and purple, some came in limos and some in Bentleys.
These were the worst of the breed. Drunken, snotty rich kids who would threaten to tell their fathers on you for anything they didn't like.
We took a substantial damage deposit from them, it was insurance against these inbred twits and their uncaring attitude to everything.
By 11am both Jacuzzis were half empty of water and had semi naked lads leaping in them and dunking each other while laughing loudly, the “No Glass By The Pool” sign had a large pile of champagne bottles piled up underneath it and the rest of the pool area was covered with bathing suits, discarded clothes, damp towels, sunglasses, lotion, half empty plates, and anything else they had ferried down with them.
By 5pm, all the students had gone to get ready for the evenings events and I was left to tidy up the mess.
I thought I saw Toby a few times, watching the festivities or following groups of privileged tyrants as they ran down the corridors whooping and shouting orders to the staff. Maids hid, and porters locked themselves in the broom closet, no one wanted to serve them, they had wandering hands and quick tempers.
The banquet itself was a drunken affair, food fights broke out, a strip tease was hastily halted, and many plates and glasses were smashed or knocked over. Most of the young men were dragged back to their rooms in the early hours covered in their own vomit.
We had made no effort to confine the ghost, feeling that his antics would not be noticed. What fun is there in putting a dirty sock or a fake turd in the punch bowl when one of the guests had probably already done it?
Even dirtying the sheets lost its charm, when many of the guests fell asleep in drunken piles on the floor.
After checkout, the damage was tallied up and the itemised bill handed over,
The university rep didn’t even glance at it, he just signed it and said, “Keep the change.”
We watched them all leaving with sighs of gladness and then Paula gave a small squeal and pointed out the window.
Sitting on the red and purple bus was a young man we all recognised. Black hair, deep eyes and a high neck shirt.
“Goodbye Toby.” Paula laughed waving at the bus.
“He must have thought they were more fun.” I said smiling.
Paula put her arm around my shoulder. “Right, let’s get this place clean.”
The air felt warm around me and I thought. ‘It already is.’
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About the Author:
S. K. Gregory is an author, editor and blogger. She currently resides in Northern Ireland.
“Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.”