“Bonjour, Mademoiselle Du Bont,” Ahmed greeted the wine-haired woman warmly. She bowed slightly in return, flashing that bright smile of hers. “Good day, monsieur,” she responded. “Shall you be needing a car today? Kennick is available,” he recommended. “Ah, perhaps some other time. The weather’s great for a walk today,” Rochelle Du Bont grinned. Ahmed hummed an agreement. “But do be careful of your person, mademoiselle; I have heard of unscrupulous activity targeting pretty young ladies in the area,” he warned. Rochelle tittered. “Thank you, monsieur but I don’t think I fit the category,” she gave a crooked smile. Ahmed was about to differ, but a couple approaching the lobby looking very VERY flustered called his attention. “Pardon me, mademoiselle,” he excused himself and stepped over. “Good morning, Mr and Mrs Gregion! Is everything alright?” he tried to start as pleasantly as possible, but was drowned out by Mrs Gregion’s ranting.

“My God, ‘is everything alright?’ What is wrong with you?! The room you gave us is freaking haunted! Argh! It was a mistake to ignore TripAdvisor®!!!,” she raved. Her husband, a demure-looking man in comparison to his wife, nodded frantically. Standing in view at an angle, Rochelle noticed Ahmed’s clasped gloved hands tighten around each other. “Haunted? May I ask as to why you would draw such a conclusion?” he attempted to ask, but Mrs Gregion cut him short again. “YES HAUNTED! The scratching noises ARE NOT from a faulty air con, but the walls! And the hand prints appearing on the window! This hotel is a nightmare!” she practically screamed.

Ahmed’s shoulders stiffened. Already a few other patrons were glancing over. He had to deal with this fast, or at least quietly. “If we may, madame, monsieur, adjourn to the room to verify these complaints?” he tried to pacify the atmosphere. “Oh NO! No! We’re not going back to that room! Nuh uh! You bring our bags to us here now!” the woman bellowed. Ahmed sucked in a breath, straightening as he did so. A wave of his white glove brought a bellboy running up to the couple. “If you would?” Ahmed led to the reception desk. The woman began grumbling under her breath and her husband silently followed.

“Room 420,” Rochelle caught the receptionist whispering. Hmm, maybe she should pay a visit, she thought to herself. Leaving the commotion behind, Rochelle silently made her way up to the room.

She knew what she would find, what she would see. As the lift reached the floor, Rochelle tried to steady her breathing. It won’t be any good if she charged headfirst into a situation like that already short of breath. “Are you ok?” the elevator attendant asked. She shook her head and smiled. “The sinus problem’s acting up again,” she shrugged. “Ah well ginger helps,” the boy smiled. “I’ll keep that in mind. Thanks!” Rochelle chirped as she exited the lift. The boy sent her off with a friendly wave.

She found Jane, a housekeeping maid she had managed to make friends with in front of the room. “Morning!”Rochelle greeted, but Jane only looked at her with wary eyes. Rochelle’s smile faded and matched Jane’s wariness. “Like the cleaning closet on floor 8?” Rochelle confirmed. Jane sighed and nodded. “This room, not many people stayed in it for more than two nights. Leave with complaints about hand prints and scratching noises at the wall next to the window,” she explained. “What about the history of the room?” Rochelle inquired.

Jane thought for a while. “Hmm, an old man did have a heart attack and died for a few minutes. But the paramedics revived him and as far as I know, he’s still alive?” she recalled.

“Should I still take a look then?” Rochelle said quietly, more to herself than to Jane. “I think you’d better. You really helped with the closet case, maybe this would be the same,” Jane gestured to the door. “You won’t get in trouble?” Rochelle made sure. Jane waved her worry away. “It’s ok. I can give you about 20 minutes,” she assured.

Giving her a slight bow, Rochelle left Jane in the hall and entered the room. Almost immediately a musky scent, reminiscent of some rubbing oil used by the elderly to aid joint paint wafted to her nose. Undeterred, Rochelle shuffled further into the room, stopping when she finally saw the whole bedroom.

A black figure was sitting on the bed, facing the window. Rochelle stiffened. After what seemed like a little too long looking at it, it finally moved, turning its featureless head to look right at her. Rochelle bit her lip and clasped her trembling hands behind her back, giving it the polite bow she used to greet everyone else with. When she looked up again the figure rose. At full height she guessed it could resemble an old man. She tried to quell her shaking as it slowly glided towards her, stopping just a few inches from her lowered head. At first she felt confused, panicked; but then a new emotion washed over. Sadness. Missing someone. The heartbeat of someone waiting for a phone call to be answered. Disappointment.

She felt the air shift, the figure was moving away. Looking up, she saw that it had glided over to the dresser beside the window. A thick black tendril fused out from its body and rested on the table top. Rochelle nodded, understanding. With a sigh, the figure faded away. The atmosphere of the room became empty, and the scent disappeared. Rochelle approached the dresser and pulled it away from the wall. It took some effort, as it was made of solid wood and the carpeted floor made the flat bottom of the dresser even harder to move. When it had moved a sufficient distance away from the wall, Rochelle heard something rustle and fall to the ground. Leaning over the dresser, she reached down and pulled out a fairly dusty picture of an old man with a younger male, presumably his son. Heaving the dresser back to its original position, Rochelle promptly exited the room.

“What was it?” Jane asked. “Probably the man’s sadness at his relative not coming to meet him,” she responded and handed the picture to Jane. Jane studied the picture. “That’s the old man! I think the younger man came by to ask about him shortly after he checked out,” she stated. Rochelle smiled. “Good to know,” she said softly, looking back at the room.

A ding of the elevator chimed out and Mrs Gregion’s voice resounded throughout the hallway. Rochelle took it as her cue to leave and quickly bid Jane farewell. “I think the room is safe to stay in now, for more than two nights,” she grinned.

If Ahmed wasn’t so focused on trying to hush Mrs Gregion, he would have noticed the swish of wine-red hair retreating behind the stairwell door.