(This is a true incident, happened to one of my friends)
At the first glance, the Inn looked like another one of the myriads of cheap Inns that spread all over the city of London. A marked entrance from a quite alleyway, the cracked paint, the dirty windows, wilted plants in the pot, a sad attempt at decorating which had ended up different walls sporting yellow, orange and a hue of cream, a few prints and the latest addition of a big Plasma TV crowding the already cramped seating area.
Jeremy, however, had other considerations than being concerned about the theme of interior decor. It was the middle of winter, and the city was brimming with harassed residents scurrying about to finish the Christmas shopping. And so far Jeremy could not find a place to put down his equipment and spend the night, let alone take a shower in preparation for his impending interview with the aging actor in two hour’s time.
That was a ‘down’ day for Jeremy – not that he was not used to it. The days in the life as a freelance investigative journalist had its ups and downs – Ups when a piece is finally accepted by the Editors and when the cheque arrives, ‘down’s when he has to travel far and wild looking for a needle in the hay sack, with nothing but toast and canned beans to sustain with and an option of plain tap water or cheap wine.
But that is what he likes about the job – the uncertainties and the plain adrenalin rush of meeting strange people. Of unknown smells and sounds. Of decayed bodies and dilapidated houses. The ethereal feeling of achievement when a piece was finally emailed to the editor after being written, rewritten, read, reread and edited the hundredth time. And the almost unbearable tension between the email and the rejection slip. Or the much awaited acceptance letter.
‘Do you have a room’?
Jeremy was not in a mood to the ‘Good afternoon sir’ crap the adolescent youth was belching out, in between his preoccupation with the Plasma screen and the computer game he was playing.
‘Well, it depends..’ The youth was kind of playing coquettish.
‘Depends on..?’ A headache was coming. Jeremy wanted a drink. On the rocks.
‘Depends on your requirement. We have a basement room, but I am afraid it has not been used for sometime’ , announced the youth with a name tag Kevin attached to his greasy shirt.
Jeremy was ready to take the reception floor, if they would allow. Climbing down the rickety steps and walking haphazardly through the dingy basement, past the broken furniture, moldy curtains and broken hotel equipment, Jeremy opened the room expecting the worse.
‘whhoosh’ the whistle came out unexpectedly out of the lips, the room was not at all what he expected.
It was well lit though with an overpowering smell of room de-odorants competing with antiseptic lotion. Surprisingly, the radiator was working and the mattress and the duet seemed new.
After a hasty shower, Jeremy decided to take a deep breath and relax , to ‘unclutter’ the mind and to concentrate on the task in hand, to actually pump out something a bit original from the actor, who has had his life shredded to pieces, sub pieces and then to atoms by journalists before him.
Five minutes on the chair, the fatigue of the past seven days began to set in. Requesting the reception for a wake up call in one hour’s time, Jeremy hit the bed, expecting the long ignored sleep to jump into bed with him.
But sleep was reluctant, and Jeremy gazed directly at the fan working lazily overhead. There was something wrong with the fan, he mused, why did the fan blades look like it has been tampered with, as it was bent downwards with force, then made straight? Has something happened here?
Jeremy tried to shake off the silly feeling of uneasiness creeping on to him and tried to look at other things around – like the door knob. The door knob which looked gleaming new and not matching with the old door. Why did the management put in the new door knob? What was wrong with the old one? Now the tinkling sensation started crying out loud in his brain.
And suddenly there came a sound from the corner near the cupboard. Trying to laugh at himself for acting silly, Jeremy moved to the cupboard in the corner and opened the door. It was empty save for some hangers on the rail.
‘What did I expect’? Jeremy chuckled, in relief.
While closing the door, the fresh newspaper sitting on top of the cupboard drawer caught his attention. Mentally lauding the management for the sheer insight of providing the guests with newspapers in room, he brought it to the bed and opened it.
The news staring back at him all looked almost 6 months old, though still had the smell of fresh newsprint. As if somebody left the newspaper over there, but never bothered to open it. Ditto those people who occupied the room for the past 6 months.
Scanning through the aged news, Jeremy suddenly felt a bolt of lightning passing through his body. Almost hidden beneath a big smiling photo of Gordon Brown, a small 4 column news caught his attention.
‘Youth found murdered in hotel room’
London: The body 18 year old girl is found in the basement of an Inn in the capital city yesterday. The Police suspects homicide as the body was badly mutilated. The hotel declined comments’.
Jeremys’s throat suddenly felt dry. He could sense a presence in the room. The rotting smell suddenly became very intense and Jeremy could feel a sharp chill.
Sweat began tricking on Jeremy’s body. With shaking hands, he picked up his cell phone and dialed Cain, the reporter for local page and a friend.
‘Cain, chap, I want an information’
‘Shoot , but with a price tag attached’ joked Cain.
‘Do you remember a girl being murdered in a hotel room in the Kings Cross area six months back?’
‘Which hotel was it?’
Before Cain could complete uttering the hotel’s name, the bulbs flashed with a crack. The chill closed on him like a blanket, suffocating.
Jeremy, with his bag and phone leaped out of the room.
‘Can I have another room, please’? Praying that the receptionist could not detect the scratchy notes in his voice, Jeremy inquired.
All of a sudden, the supervisor who had his back on him on the pretext of checking something, turned to face Jeremy.
‘Is there any problem?’ Kevin the receptionist and the supervisor asked in unison.
‘No, but I would like to have another room , please’
‘I am sorry sir, no rooms are available, but if you wish, we can keep your luggage in the luggage room and wait to see if there are any last minute cancellations’.
Still wondering why the receptionist and the supervisor were suddenly being very devoted to his comforts, Jeremy left the luggage to embrace the darkness and chill of the winter nights and the unearthly ego of the actor.
Later on, while nursing a drink in the late night bar closer to the Inn, Jeremy spotted Kevin coming in.
Kevin came hesitantly to Jeremy.
‘Mind if I sit down’?
‘No’ Jeremy was not in the mood for pleasantries.
‘Why did you want to change the room earlier’? Kevin was not taking the put off.
‘Well, I suddenly decided that I don’t like basement rooms that much’ Jeremy countered, willing him to go away.
‘Oh, well, I thought something would have happened….’ Kevin got up to leave in mid sentence, causing Jeremy’s curiosity antennas to perk up.
‘What would have happen there’? Jeremy decided to take the bite, and ordered a drink for Kevin.
‘Well, it was six months back...’ started Kevin.
‘And a girl got killed in the basement room’ completed Jeremy.
Giving an odd look, Kevin continued, ‘Now that you know, I had better finish the whole story’.
‘After the murder, the room was roped off for a long time, pending Police investigation. When the Police gave us a clearance two months back, the housekeeping stripped down the entire room including the carpets and cleaned it. We put in new bedding as the old bed was soaked with blood. Also the room was pretty damaged, and there was a rope dangling from the fan, as if someone was trying to hang a body by the rope attached to the fan. After cleaning, we had plans to rent out the room as usual. The first guest in the room was a middle aged tourist from Paris, who came to London that morning.
Around 2 at night, house keeping crew heard a blood curdling shriek from that room and went running to check. They could hear strange noises, as if a man was struggling to breathe hard’
Kevin stopped for a moment as if recounting the happenings on that spooky night.
‘Suddenly the door opened and the guest tumbled out. He was looking all spooked, and had turned pink. The veins on his neck were throbbing , and his eyes were twitching. He was palpitating and fell into the hands of the head housekeeper.
Later on, after the ambulance crew departed, the tourist came to the reception, refusing to go back to the room.’
‘There is a girl in that room’ he said and we all felt goose bumps breaking out.
‘I but there are no girls there. Even the housekeeping crew today does not have girls in the team’ The supervisor said.
‘No, there is a girl, I have seen her quite clearly’ the man insisted.
‘I was sleeping soundly and suddenly I felt someone near the bed. I opened my eyes to see a girl with hands reaching out to my neck . I tried to get up , but she pinned me down. She had her fingers around my throat and she was trying to strangle me’ The man shuddered at the thought.
‘We were ready to write it off as a night-mare until,’ continued Kevin ‘ Until the man described the girl to us. The girl exactly matched with the descriptions of the other girl who got killed’
Now Jeremy was fully awake in spite of the exhaustion.
Kevin polished off the drink and got to up to leave and paused, ‘He said the girl was wearing a green top with cream jeans. Exactly what the dead girl was wearing. Now how would you explain it?’
Jeremy didn’t have an answer. On second thoughts he didn’t have answer as to how a six month’s old newspaper came about in the cupboard, after all the clean-up in the room.
However, Jeremy never returned to that Inn for another night.