The late night October rain splattered against the car’s windshield, and the wipers running at full speed were beginning to irritate Henry just as the turning for his hotel loomed into view. He hung a right and slowly drove up the hotel’s driveway and stopped in front of the main entrance. A smartly dressed man appeared at the doorway, and with a glance skyward he opened an umbrella and quick-stepped to Henry’s waiting car. Just as Henry opened his window a loud crack of thunder boomed overhead somewhere off in the distance. The man reached the car and bent down to greet Henry through the small aperture of the open window.
“Mr Chase. . .Mr Henry Chase?” Enquired the doorman, having to raise his voice to be heard.
“Yes.” Replied Henry, matching the doorman’s volume.
The doorman gave him a nod.
“Mr Chase. I’ll walk you to the entrance, then take care of your car,” shouted the doorman while peering up at the stormy sky again.
Henry grabbed his briefcase, wound up the window, then flung his door open and got out. The doorman held the umbrella over Henry’s head in a protective manner and pushed the car door shut. Together they made their way to the hotel entrance and from there into the lobby. Once inside Henry heaved a huge sigh of relief at the fact that his six hour drive was finally over and the constant, incessant pounding of heavy rain on his car roof was no longer the only thing he could hear.
“Is there any luggage, Mr Chase?” Enquired the doorman.
“Yes, I have one case in the boot,” said Henry while running a combing hand over his hair.
“Very good Mr Chase. I will park your car and return with your case which will be brought up to your room with your car keys. And I’m Walter. . .pleased to meet you Mr Chase.”
Walter held out his hand which Henry shook warmly.
“Thanks Walter,” said Henry, smiling. You don’t know how good it feels to be out of the rain.” He reached into his jacket pocket, pulled out his wallet and plucked a five pound note which he gave to the pleased looking doorman.
The doorman went back out into the rain with a renewed spring in his step and Henry made his way to reception. On his way he glanced at his watch: 22:17. Portsmouth to Colwyn Bay in just over six hours, he thought. Not bad going.
The young receptionist looked up when Chase reached the counter and gave him a friendly smile.
“Good evening sir. May I help?” She enquired, genuinely.
“Yes. My name is Chase. Henry Chase. I have a reservation booked with you.” He placed his briefcase on the floor.
The young girl nodded then turned round to face the key compartments then turned back around to check the register, after a brief perusal she spun the registry book and handed Chase a pen.
“Hello and welcome Mr Chase. Yes we have your reservation as per your booking last week. If you would please sign the register for me.” She turned back around and grabbed a set of keys which she placed next to the registry book.
“Yes of course,” said Chase, looking down at the open page. He quickly scrawled his signiture then spun the book back around to face the receptionist.
“Thank you Mr Chase. I see that your reservation is an open ended request. That’s fine, just be sure to remember to check in with me or one of my colleagues after seven days to refresh your stay here and update us on your circumstances. Other than that, may I welcome you to the Stone Castle Hotel. My name is Ingrid.”
“Thank you Ingrid,” offered Chase, picking up the keys and realising just how pretty a girl she was. He was momentarily captured in her gaze until he felt himself redden. The awkwardness of the moment was broken when Chase looked down to pick up his briefcase.
Ingrid smiled doing her best to suppress a chuckle which had begun to well up inside her.
“Oh!” She said, suddenly remembering. “Mr Chase. You have a message.” She went over to mail inbox and sorted through the various envelopes gathered there and pulled out the relevant one.
“It’s from Mrs Petherton Chase up at Granley Lodge,” she revealed with a knowing glint in her eye. She handed him the envelope hiding her naturally felt curiosity.
Chase took the envelope with a serious look on his face and read the writing on it. Time seemed to freeze as Chase studied the fluid penmanship, the scrolling italic style was unmistakable – it was definitely his aunt’s hand writing. A million thoughts raced through his mind as to why his aunt should want to write to him here knowing full well that he would see her very soon.
“Mr Chase? . . .Mr Chase? Are you all right?” Asked Ingrid, looking concerned.
Chase looked up without really seeing her, then came back in the moment.
“Oh yes. . .yes I’m fine,” he replied half heartedly. “I just didn’t expect her to write to me. . ?” His voice trailed off.
The receptionist was about to speak when the desk phone rang. She pulled herself away to answer it. At that moment Walter came in from the rain and summoned a young Bellboy who had been waiting patiently in the wings. He gave him the suitcase and car keys then pointed upstairs. The Bellboy obeyed and shoot up the stairs with case in tow then waited at the landing. Walter then quick-paced over to where Chase was standing.
“Mr Chase! Please follow the Bellboy, he will show you to your room,” said Walter.
Chase nodded but said nothing; many thoughts still occupied his mind. He followed the Bellboy upstairs, and with a quick glance back at the receptionist desk he saw that Ingrid had finished talking on the phone and was watching him. Chase continued up the stairs with a curiosity that matched hers. A few corridors later the Bellboy stopped at room 28. Chase nodded and produced the key Ingrid had gave him and handed it to the boy.
“Mr Chase, I am Thomas,” said the Bellboy as he inserted the key in the door then flung it open and turned the light switch on. “If there is anything you need don’t hesitate to ask.” He offered his outstretched arm to invite Chase in the room then came in behind him placing the suitcase on the floor, and placed the car keys on a table.
“Thanks Thomas,” said Chase tossing him a pound coin. “Could I have a pot of coffee sent up?”
“Of course, Mr Chase. I will fetch it immediately.” Responded Thomas. And with that he went off to tend to his errand closing the door after him.
Once the Bellboy had gone Chase took in the surroundings of his premium suite. At £130 a night he expected the very best in luxury and he wasn’t disappointed. It had a huge double bed with side tables adorned with matching lamps, en suite bathroom, a well stocked bar, fitted wardrobes, velvet curtains drapped across the windows, a writing desk and bureau, plus a table with two luxury chairs, a widescreen TV, a landline phone, and Wi-Fi connectivity.
Chase removed his jacket and placed it neatly on the bed. The suit case was still wet from the rain so he laid it flat on the floor and released the locks. Inside he grabbed all his clothing and put them in the wardrode and side draws. His laptop was also put on the bed, he found a plug socket and plugged it in to charge. He pulled out the envelope and cellphone from his jacket pockets and put them down on the table. A knock on the door sounded. Chase opened the door and directed Thomas to put the coffee on the table, he did so then left.
With the smell of freshly made coffee filling the room Chase sat down at the table and prepared the coffee to his taste. After taking a few welcome gulps he then turned his attention to the letter from his aunt Celine. He slipped his finger under the sealed flap and tore a neat tear across it. Inside was a single folded note paper. He opened it up and read.
My dearest Henry.
If you are reading this note then you have safely arrived at Stone Castle and I suspect you are now drinking coffee. There is no time for any more written niceties on my part so I will keep this note succinct as possible. There have been three more sightings this week alone and I am feeling vulnerable and scared. I urgently need your presence at the Lodge, but both you and I know it is not a good idea right now. There is a small coffee shop in the village, you know the one I mean. Can we meet there tomorrow at 11 O’Clock in the morning?
Fondest and forever love,
ps. . .there is a receptionist at the hotel called Ingrid. She knows our business so you can trust her as if she was me.
Chase re-read the letter while he finished his coffee. A new sense of urgency now filled him but there was nothing he could do about that right now. And what about Ingrid? He had an uncanny feeling about her, and what exactly was her involvement in Celine’s business?
Chase decided to turn in for the night and blow the shower. An early start was required in the morning and the wisest option now was to sleep.