At the paranormal hotel: echoes of ‘Fatal Attraction’ in room 454.


master key by Renae Rude

In order for you to understand the story I’m about to tell, it is important for you to know I MUST wear this lanyard around my neck while I’m at work. When I was hired, my boss impressed on me the importance of wearing – never carrying – these keys. He showed me that bending at the waist would allow me to use them without ever taking them off, which guarantees they will never fall into inappropriate hands. You see, the brass keys open various cupboards and closets around the hotel, and the plastic card with a picture of pie on it opens everything else, including all the guest rooms.

It’s Saturday afternoon on a warm, spring-like day. I’ve just arrived at work. It looks like it’s going to be a quiet shift. The phone rings. I answer like I always do, “Thank you for calling the [paranormal hotel.] This is Renae. How can I help you?”

A smooth, masculine voice responds, “Hello. How are you tonight, Renae?”

“I’m great. And you?”

“Fine, fine. I have a few questions. I’m in room 454. Can you tell me when my checkout date is?”

“Let me look that up for you, sir.”  I pull up the appropriate guest screen and verify the identity of the caller by asking a him to recite his registration information. When he provides all the right answers, I say, “You are scheduled to check out tomorrow morning by 11:00.”

“Okay, so now I have another question: Can you tell me when the last time a new card was made for my room?”

Shit. No, I can’t. I imagine such information can be extracted from the key coding machine, but no one has ever taught me how. I press some buttons, but come up with nothing. “I’m sorry, Sir. I don’t know how to obtain the information,” I admit.

“Well, I believe – no, I know – someone has been in my room.”

I assure him that only the housekeepers and the front desk staff can enter his room, then describe the measures we take to prevent unauthorized access. Then, thinking that something has gone missing,  I ask if perhaps one of the housekeepers moved an item.

“No. You don’t understand. This woman called me from inside my room. Someone there at the hotel must have made a card for her. Or she stole one. She described perfectly where all my things are. “

Oh. “Are you not in the hotel right now, sir?”

“No. I know she’s been in my room. In fact, she might still be in there. Can you check?”

I figure there’s a 90% chance that this is just paranoia. (I’ve seen a lot of paranoia since I started working here.) I tell the guest I’ll check his room and call him back when I’m done. Then I head up to 4th floor with my cell phone in hand. In the elevator, I dial The Ogre (my husband) so he can keep an ear on whatever is about to happen.

I knock at the door and wait. Everything is quiet beyond the peephole. I knock again. Silence. Finally, I bend, insert the key card into the lock, the the door is abruptly yanked open from the inside.

Off-balance, with the key still slotted into the lock, I stumble forward into the room. As I attempt to free myself, I look up into the blood-shot, raccoon-ringed, eyes of a pale woman. Her long, oatmeal-colored hair is straggling around her face, some of it sticking to the skin of her cheek and jaw. She’s wearing jeans, and some neutral-toned sweatshirt, but it’s the beer bottle she’s holding like a club that really catches my eye.

I scramble upright and step back into the hall. “Front desk!” I exclaim as officiously as possible. The words have proven to be a protective incantation for me before. They work again, and she lowers the bottle. She deflates from threatening to nervous. Fresh tears drag more mascara onto her cheeks.

My own cheeks, and my ears, are burning. My initial fear is subsiding but it’s being replaced by another, equally awful emotion – pity. I tug the armor that is a hotel desk clerk’s persona tighter around me and grit my teeth into a smile. “I’m sorry to ask you, ma’m,” I say, “but are you the registered guest for this room?”

“Ah. Um. No. But it’s my boyfriend’s room. We stay here all the time together. You’ve probably seen us together here before. I mean, we are–“

“I’m sorry to tell you, ma’m, that the registered guest has informed me that no one is supposed to be in his room. I’m afraid you’ll have to leave.”

She didn’t fight me. (Though she did continue to reassure me that this was all a big misunderstanding.) I asked her how she had accessed the room and she pulled a key card from her pocket. “He gave me the key this morning.” After she retrieved her bag and her smokes, she allowed me to escort her out of the building.

Of course I had to call the registered guest back. He admitted that this was “a crazy-X thing,” but insisted he had never given her a key and that she must have worked some kind of magic to gain access to his room.

As far as I know, no one will be staying in that room tonight, even though it has been paid for. He said he expected to stop and gather his possessions in the morning.

Such is life at:


Triggering hypomania in search of the muse.

A couple of weeks ago, I signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo in April. I didn’t even know there was such a thing, until I got an email invitation to participate. The atmosphere for camp events appears more relaxed than November’s nano. You can set your own word count goals.You can continue an existing manuscript.  You can revise and/or edit, as long as you can come up with a fair equation for comparing such work to raw prose generation.

2013-nanowrimo camp fb cover

At the time, I was thinking, “Hey. My work schedule has mostly settled down to 3 nights a week. The boy seems to have a handle on school. Ogre likes his new job. The days are getting longer … yep, it’s time to settle down and do this.” I carefully examined my available time and set an ambitious but manageable goal: to spend the month of April editing the complete Lizzy novel. I figured the pass I intended to make would require between 80 – 90 hours. (This goal, btw, required me to actually finish writing the ending to Lizzy’s novel in March.) I set to work with a will.

In the last year, I’ve been counting on one of the two effective strategies for generating content: slow, steady, consistant work. I managed to get 50,000 words down in Novemeber 2012 by carving slots of time from my schedule so that I could put my butt in the chair every day for a set period of time. I planned to schedule my way through editing the Lizzy novel too.

Then my boss called to tell me he’s going out of town … three times in March and April. Consequently, I will be back to working more than full-time for three of the next six weeks. And a lot of it is bad: Seven days in a row. Nine days in a row. Working until midnight, then back at the desk by 9:00a the next day. My available time was obliterated.

Then I had a melt down, which I didn’t post.

Then I made a decision to suck it up, which I did post.

Then – the good news – my daughter (of recent button-making fame) called to tell me she is coming home from North Carolina for her friend’s wedding. And she’ll be staying with us for 16 days. I was ecstatic until I remembered the insanity of my work schedule in April. I checked the calendar and discovered that most of her visit does not overlap with my boss’s trips.

Then I called my boss. I explained the situation and told him I would abide by the schedule he’d made for the weeks he was going to be gone, BUT that I wanted a total of four days off on the other weeks. He balked at first, but I held my ground. It’s complicated, but I will only have to work five of the sixteen days she’ll be here. (He’s still pestering me about one Saturday, but I will not yield. What’s he gonna do? Fire me?)

Then I sat down with the calendar again, and recalculated the month. This time, instead of looking for available writing slots, I assessed the big picture.

Spring is coming. My family will be together. My mood is likely to be positive. I figure, maybe it’s time to return to my old ways … to the OTHER effective strategy for making prose happen … getting caught up in the story and succumbing to the muse. (Am I the only one who thinks “the muse” is just a romantic way to describe the hypomanic state?) In my schedule, I blocked out additional space for sunshine, exercise, flirtations, adventures, nutritious and delectable foods, and copious amounts of caffeine, chocolate and liquor. 

So now, I have decided not to drop out of Camp NaNoWriMo, but I have revised my goal so I won’t go insane. I will not likely finish a complete editing pass in April, but I can make a big dent.

I’m heading out for the gym. Then I’m going to have a date with my husband. Then I’m going to stay up late and write.

Let’s see if this works.

For the love of crows – part one.

“If people wore feathers and wings, very few of them would be clever enough to be crows.”
— Henry Ward Beecher, 19th century preacher/writer

A while back, The Ogre and I went looking for a murder of crows. I wrote a post about it. In the comments, my friend Mark (from Mark My Words) told me he hates crows. Mystified, I challenged him to write a post about why and – in exchange – promised to clarify why I love them. The time has come for those posts to go up. His is here: When Jerry Met Harry (but about half-way down.)

Random reasons behind my love of these birds –

1) Crows are smartmischievous, GORGEOUS, sociable and, yes, a bit creepy.

2) Edgar Allen Poe. The Raven is still the only poem that I have (at least partially) memorized. (I know crows and ravens are not the same thing, but this post is about what ignited my passion, right? Besides, I do not live in the Great North Woods of Minnesota, and there are few if any raven in the central part of the state. Love the one you’re with, I say.)

3) Back in the day, when Tripod pages were everywhere and there was no such thing as a “blog”, I created a sprawling *website  called Lizzy Crowe – A Witch Takes Flight.

Aside: I’ll be honest – I’m sort of a religion-dabbler. I started life as a baptized Lutheran, but we never practiced while I was growing up. In my late teens, I became involved in my friends’ youth group and eventually formally converted to Catholicism. In my 20’s, after a brief marriage and subsequent divorce, I became a witch. Now I’m a Lutheran-Catholic-Wiccan-Unitarian-Universalist, but I guess you could say I’m just spiritually inclined.

So, anyway, back on topic. When I chose the web as a receptacle for my personal grimoire, it seemed wisest to not use my real name on the great big, scary internet AND it was common practice for a new-age witch to take a magickal name. I chose ‘Lizzy’ because of the song Lizzy and the Rainmaker and ‘Crowe’ for no other reason than it felt and sounded right.

This was one of the icons on my site.

This was one of the icons on my site.

4) Several months into my obsessive study of the craft, and after I had named myself and my website, I was driving around in the middle of the night. (I did that a lot back then.) I came across a young crow hopping about in the puddle of light from a street lamp. I knew it was weird, and was at first concerned that he was sick or injured. I pulled over and cautiously approached him. He fluttered his wings a little and tilted his head at me … until I got too near. Then he hopped just out of my reach. I sat quietly, to see if he’d come close to me. He did, but never quite close enough for me to touch.

He was a beautiful bird – glossy, well-plumed, sturdy-looking and large. His eyes were sapphire blue. (I later learned that crows are hatched with blue eyes which eventually turn black.) We spent the better part of an hour on that deserted street, flirting with each other. I was able to see there was nothing wrong with him, and decided he was merely newly fledged and confused. I assume he came to the same conclusions about me.

As if I haven’t confessed enough in this post already, I will admit that I still regret not trying harder to catch him and bring him home. If I had carried back then what I carry now – leather gloves and a big towel – I might still have a crow companion now. (They can live more than 15 years in captivity.) 

But that would have been definitely illegal, and probably wrong, so it’s a good thing this happened before I trained as a raptor / wildlife rescuer.

As it was, I lost my nerve whenever I thought about the quick and potentially damaging lunge I would have to make in order to grab him. (The impressive length of his beak as it glinted in the dim light was a little off-putting too.) Eventually, I bid him a frustrated and reluctant farewell and drove away.

I went back, about an hour later – determined to try again, but he was gone.

I have at least one more crow story to tell,  but it’s 2:00 in the morning, I’m tired, and I have to work later today. So let’s pretend I was planning a two-parter all along, ‘kay?

*Dark Touchstones was created as an off-shoot of Lizzy Crowe. I brought that content here, and it can be found among my tabs. If you’re bored one day, and in a paranormal mood, have a look.  There are lots of fun links to follow.