If I get killed working the night shift at the hotel, I’ll likely be trying to live-tweet about it.

When I’m working an interesting shift at the #paranormalhotel, I try to tweet a full and true account of events, but it’s hard to catch all the details while I’m in the midst of them unfolding. Fortunately, such nights make a deep impression on me so I remember even the things I don’t have time to type. Plus – you know – I’m a fiction writer, so I don’t have an ethical problem with tweaking any fuzzy recollections to smooth out the plot line.

The following is how my twitter should have read on Wednesday night. (The colored entries actually made it to my feed.) While writing it up for the blog, I stayed within the parameters of tweeting – it’s good practice and it distances me from the events a little.

4:00 at the #paranormalhotel: Arrive 1 hr early, as requested. Boss-wife is arguing with guests who say they were quoted a lower price.

4:03 at the #paranormalhotel: Boss-wife stands firm. Guests are stuck; they walked here and are tired. (And drunk?) Girl registers and pays.

4:30 at the #paranormalhotel: I’ve settled. Laundry not bad. Maid still working – 4 rms still dirty. No reservations. Likely a quiet night.

5:35 at the #paranormalhotel: Smoking. Young player I recognize as a regular visitor arrives in cab. Pays from an obscene wad of cash.

5:46 at the #paranormalhotel: Unregistered guy wants to pick up a package. No wallet. Shows me his name tattooed on his chest in lieu of ID.

5:52 at the #paranormalhotel: Guest called to say girl running and screaming in hallway. On my way up in elevator now.

5:55 at the #paranormalhotel: (pt2) Found girl crying in the stairwell. Scraped knee & missing sock. Gave standard “do you need help” spiel.

6:15 at the #paranormalhotel: (pt3) LSS – all just drama. Couple reunited in room. Warned against any further disturbance. 

6:20 at the #paranormalhotel: Maid leaves. On her report, a room that was to be cleaned is instead marked it as a do-not-disturb, stay-over.

6:21 at the #paranormalhotel: Well that ain’t right. I’ll have to find out why this stay-over in room 340 isn’t reflected by the register.

6:22 at the #paranormalhotel: Getting laundry started, I transfer at least 4 calls, and provide hotel info to another 3-4 potential guests.

7:00 at the #paranormalhotel: Phone really busy. Reservations for upcoming summer concerts: Marilyn Manson, ICP, ZZ Top, etc.

7:03 at the #paranormalhotel: I check my schedule. I’ll be working most of those concerts. (Yay.)

7:15 at the #paranormalhotel: Mom of long-term guest sets up a monthly rent payment for him from her account. He’s disrespectful. Also 37.

7:25 at the #paranormalhotel: Autistic 4yo & her father are hanging out in lobby. He reminds me she’ll scream if he makes her go upstairs.

7:26 at the #paranormalhotel: Father of autistic child wants to chat. Tells me he knows the couple that Boss-wife was arguing with.

7:30 at the #paranormalhotel: Long-term, old-lady guest returns from outing. Asks for messages. None, as usual. Tells me she loves me again.

7:40 at the #paranormalhotel: Phone REALLY busy tonight, + lots of check-ins. Can’t stay in laundry room long enough to get anything done.

7:42 at the #paranormalhotel: Boss-mom interrupts a check-in. She needs me in the laundry room NOW. I apologize to guest and follow.

7:43 at the #paranormalhotel: Boss-mom has added a mountain of new shower curtains. Language barrier requires miming of wash instructions.

7:50 at the #paranormalhotel: ASAP, I return to waiting and irritated guest. A short line has formed while I was playing charades.

7:59 at the #paranormalhotel: (pt4) Girl from earlier storms through lobby, out into the rain. Guy chases, barefoot. 

8p at the #paranormalhotel: (pt4.5) Girl crosses busy street, flipping guy off over shoulder. He yells, follows. They disappear into woods.

8:10 at the #paranormalhotel: (pt5) They return. She’s covered in mud. She’s still calling him sweetheart. I tell them they must leave.

8:13 at the #paranormal hotel: (pt6) I escort them to clean out room. He’s MAD. I’m waiting. Must take a call & relate rates and amenities.

8:18 at the #paranormalhotel: (pt7): Still waiting. Transfer 5-6th call of the evening to rm 340. Pretty sure caller hears guy yelling at me.

8:20 at the #paranormalhotel: (pt8) 4 cops arrive. They push guy against the hall wall. Tell him to turn face left, rather than look at me.

8:22 at the #paranormalhotel: (pt8.5) Girl washing off mud. Phone ripped out. 2 discarded, empty vodka pints. Clothes, garbage everywhere.

8:25 at the #paranormalhotel: (pt9) Cops question me briefly, then dismiss me. Don’t say who called them. I return to desk to wait.

8:40 at the #paranormalhotel: Waiting for cops; transfer ANOTHER call to 340. Hold up … that’s the unpaid stay-over, right?

8:42 at the #paranormalhotel: Confirmed – no record of payment for 340. I call. Guest says he thought girlfriend paid before leaving in a.m.

8:43 at the #paranormalhotel: I tell 340 he must pay or leave. He says he doesn’t have any $. Needs to arrange a ride. I give him until 9p.

8:55 at the #paranormalhotel: Checking register, I stumble on (censored to protect guest identity) this | ow.ly/x/xxxxx  

offender id  by Renae Rude

8:56 at the #paranormalhotel: Hmm. Turns out this guest has been staying in in one of our rooms for weeks. Never seen him. Nice to know.

8:59 at the #paranormalhotel: 340 appears, reeks of pot. Ride will arrive in 2 1/2 hours. Wants to wait in his room. Lobby will have to do.

9p at the #paranormalhotel: (pt10) Cops take in guy AND girl. They don’t talk to me. As usual, will never know the whole story.

9:05 at the #paranormalhotel: (pt10.5) I check evicted girl out of her room, flag her as a bad guest.

9:10 at the #paranormalhotel: Long-term, old-lady guest calls  – needs a plunger: she ate ice cream. (Eww.) New check-in enters. (Damn.) BRB

9:15 at the #paranormalhotel: Hunted up a plunger. delivered it to guest. She doesn’t know how to use it. (Argg.) BRB

9:17 at the #paranormalhotel: Run down stairs (It’s faster.) Check-in guest.

9:22 at the #paranormalhotel: Run back up. Father of autistic child is plunging toilet. (?!?) Child is leaping from bed to chair & back.

9:23 at the #paranormalhotel: (pt11) Plunging, he asks about couple & cops. I demur. He shakes head. Says, “They were just in the paper.”

9:30 at the #paranormalhotel: Back at desk. More calls. More arrivals. Assorted guests need assorted things. 340 is hanging out in lobby.

9:45 at the #paranormalhotel: 340’s girlfriend appears. Laughs at him. Reminds him she left $ in the car to pay for room. They pay. (Phew.)

10:05 at the #paranormalhotel: Player from earlier comes to desk. Left key in room, needs one. I call & quiz registered guest to confirm.

10:05 at the #paranormalhotel: Due diligence done, I make key – then ask if I can photo his roll of $ for blog. He laughs. | ow.ly/i/24vxj 

cash by Renae Rude

10:07 at the #paranormalhotel: This kid is maybe 20. I have never held that much cash at one time. I am 45.

10:10 at the #paranormalhotel: Smoking. Find this on top of trash can. Any idea what it is? ow.ly/x/xxxxx

what's this? by Renae Rude

10:30 at the #paranormalhotel: I write summary of night’s events for my boss. I have to tape multiple sticky notes together.

11p at the #paranormalhotel: I tackle the laundry, now that it’s quiet. Going to be leaving a lot for the overnight guy, I’m afraid.

11:30 at the #paranormalhotel: (pt12) On laundry room monitor, I see cop enter lobby. I go to desk. He says, “Good, you’re still here.”

11:50 at the #paranormalhotel: (pt13) Cop interviewed me, took my contact info. He’s not sure If I’ll need to do an official statement.

midnight at the #paranormalhotel: My replacement arrives. I apologize for laundry. He scans my note to boss and says, “Not a problem.”

12:15 at home: (pt14) Internet investigation turns up newspaper stories, mug shots and this |  ow.ly/x/xxxxx

a certain couple

12:16 at home: (pt15) Both are on parole for severe child neglect. Both have multiple DUIs. He also has multiple assaults.

12:30 at home: I am haunted by how many times I stepped between them to protect her. Either one could have turned on me.

12:50 at home: I call the night guy to tell him to enter and flag the guy-half of this train-wreak couple.

1a at home: I crawl into bed with my husband.

Because, sometimes, it’s exhausting to work at:


A Tuesday afternoon domestic at the paranormal hotel.

Today – Friday – was a good day. I’m feeling refreshed and upbeat again. I’d kinda like to write about the awesome asteroid that exploded over Russia today, BUT a couple of days ago, I committed to telling the tale that sent me into a tailspin for most of the week, and inspired me to kickstart my daughter’s business. (If you missed that post, feel free to catch up via this link.) More importantly,  go “like” the Pooka Creations facebook page.

pooka creations logo


Tuesday was a terrible day.

On Monday afternoon, my boss asked me to work Tuesday from 10a to 9p,  instead of my regular 5p – 1a shift. I said, “sure, no problem.” Then I stayed up until nearly four in the morning. Of course, I slept through the alarm. I slept through at least two phone calls from my increasingly irritated boss. I woke in a panic at 10:38a, called my boss, threw on some clothes, and grabbed the few cans of soda I had in the fridge and my nearly empty pack of smokes. There was no time to eat. I made it to work just before 11a.

Everything went okay for a while – as could be expected on a Tuesday in the off season. By 11:15, all the regular pay-by-the-day guests had taken care of their bills. By 11:30, I knew that the cash drawer was exactly where it were supposed to be. By 11:45, the laundry was well underway.

I turned my attention to confirming that all the guests who were supposed to be checked out had actually vacated their rooms. The first stage of that task is to call the rooms. One guest picked up, and told me she’d be out by noon. Another guest told me he had decided to extend his stay. All my other calls went unanswered. I folded a load of sheets, then embarked on stage two of the clearing process – physically checking the rooms against the checkout list. As usual, the first floor rooms were not only empty, but already turned. (Our housekeepers are efficient.) As I ascended the building, I came next to rooms that had been stripped, but not yet cleaned. By the time I hit the third floor, I was finding rooms that no one but me had yet looked in on. At that point, I’m always careful to knock, WAIT, knock again, then let myself into the room. (It’s amazing how many folks can sleep through a ringing phone.)

Imagine my surprise when I unlocked room 339, pushed, then came up hard against an engaged security latch. Before the door bounced back at me, I saw that the room was dark. I pulled the house phone from my back pocket and dialed the room number. Though the call went through and I could hear a phone ringing through the receiver, no corresponding sound came from beyond the door. I knocked some more. After a minute or two, someone finally came to the door and cracked it open without releasing the security latch. A deep voice mumbled at me, but I couldn’t make out the words.

I said, “I’m afraid it is after noon. Check out time is eleven. Are you planning to extend your stay?”

From the room’s interior, a woman’s voice called out. “We’re sorry. Can you give us a minute? We need to decide what we’re gonna do.”

I finished my rounds, returned to the front desk and called 339. Again, there was no answer.

Fast forward to 3p. I have repeatedly called the room. I have gone up and knocked several times. Twice, the door has been opened, apologies have been proffered, promises have been made. By this time I’ve seen both guests. They are young. In their 20s. He is well over six feet tall. He has long hair, done in small, tight braids that lie close to his head. He is thin but the muscles in his arms are defined cords. He’s wearing low-slung running pants and a sleeveless white tee so tight that I can see the ridges of his six-pack. She is blond and naked except for the bedspread she has wrapped around herself. I don’t know how tall she is, because she has been on the bed, at the far side of the room, every time I’ve seen her.  I have the impression that she’s slim and pretty. She’s the one who has been making excuses to me.

At 3:00, I am in the laundry room folding some sheets. I have two flats left to do before the load is done, then I intend to take a bathroom break and have a smoke. I’m keeping a close eye on the monitor that shows the front desk to see if the stubborn young couple appears. From somewhere upstairs, the housekeeper sends a bundle of linens down the chute. It whomps into the waiting bin. She calls down, “Renae?” Her voice is distorted by distance; I figure she must be on the top floor.

“Yes. I’m here.”

“Those people in that room …”

“Are they still in there?”


“Ok. I’ll be right up.”

The time has come to actually escort them out of the building. If they refuse to cooperate, I’ll have to call the police.

As soon as the elevator door opens on the third floor, I hear shouting. I hustle down the hallway. Standing outside room 339, I can hear the girl crying. I start pounding on the door and I don’t stop until the man opens it. I look past him toward the girl who is now standing close enough that I can see her face. It is tear-streaked, scratched and bruised. In a heartbeat, I know everything I need to know.

The Way of the Exploding Fist by Feans


I insist that the man come out into the hall. Right. Now. He complies, but is agitated. He sidles a few steps away from me, toward the stairwell exit. He’s asking how much the late-checkout fee will be. I tell him there will be no charge if he just leaves now. He visibly considers. I slip into the room, shut the door, and flip all the locks. I turn to look down into the eyes of the girl who is still wearing nothing but a cheap-looking, gold and brown bedspread. She’s maybe 5’1″.

“Do you want me to call the police to give you a safe escort out of the building?”

She nods.

In that moment, I realize I don’t know the non-emergency number for the police department. It does not occur to me to call 911.

“Okay. Get dressed-”

“He put my clothes – my shoes – in the bathtub. He wants to take my money.” She’s stretches her hand toward me and uncurls her fingers to reveal a crumple of bills.

“Okay. I’m going to make sure he leaves. I want you to lock the door behind me and don’t open it until I come back, unless it’s the police. Ok? Will you do that?”

“He cut the phone cord.”

“Okay. I’m going to go downstairs to call the police. Try to find something to wear.”

I open the door onto an empty hall. Outside, I wait until I hear she’s locked the door. I go downstairs, call the police, and explain the situation; the dispatcher says she’ll send a unit right away. It seems very important that I find the housekeeper, to let her know what’s going on. I find her on the 5th floor. Before I leave her, I tell her to be watchful. I head back down to the lobby, to meet the police, but I punch the button for the 3rd floor as well, just so I can make sure that door is still closed.

When I stick my head out to check, I see an entirely different young man – this one shorter and beefier – standing outside room 339. He’s slouching toward the door, with his hands pressed flat against the wood and his head cocked to the side. It looks like he’s trying to talk the girl into opening up for him. I step off the elevator, walk over and tell him there’s been an incident, the police are on the way to respond, and he needs to leave. He accompanies me to the elevator and rides down with me. On the way, he wants me to explain what’s going on. I tell him I don’t know.

When the door slides open I see my boss’s wife – with her two children – coming in from the side entrance. My boss’s wife tells me there’s a police car pulling into the parking lot. I avoid using any scary words as I relate what’s happening. She herds the kids back out of the building. My elevator companion has melted away.

By the time I get to the lobby, the bruised girl from upstairs is standing in front of the desk talking to a solid-looking, middle-aged cop. (I do not understand how that can be. I finally puzzle out that she must have taken the stairs.) I assume my post behind the desk, trying to be available but non-obtrusive. The cop takes pictures of her face and looks at her arms, which are unmarked. She asks me to use the hotel phone because she wants to call her sister. He questions her about what happened and the man’s identity. She provides what sounds like complete information. In a lull, I offer her the phone. The cop asks if the room has been trashed. I don’t know if he’s talking to me or to her.

“He ripped the phone out last night, and he threw a lamp at me,” she says.

“So the room is trashed then?”

“No, the lamp was at his mother’s house-”

“Where is his mother’s house?”

She tells him. He shrugs and says that location isn’t in his jurisdiction. He only wants to know what happened here, at the hotel. That seems to throw her. I think she is confused about what happened where.

“What about drugs?” The cop asks.

“No drugs.”

The cop has his neck bent, looking down at a small IPad-like device. He raises only his eyes and looks at her through his eyebrows.

She sputters, “I mean, I smoke a little pot, once in a while but nothing like meth-”

“I meant is he on drugs.” he says. “He’s on meth then?”

“Oh, yeah. Meth and lots of other drugs too.”

The cop nods and keys more information into his device. He wants her to fill out a form and suggests that she do it in the room upstairs. She hasn’t yet contacted her sister, though she’s made several calls and left messages. She hesitates, shows him the receiver she’s holding. I offer to bring a working phone up to the room. She is placated. They leave.

I can’t find a spare phone, so I have to steal one from another room. When I get to 339, the cop and the girl are waiting for me in the hallway. Her key doesn’t work. Oh yeah, I deactivated that hours ago. I let them in. I connect the phone. I look around and tell the cop the room looks fine. He dismisses me.

Not knowing what else to do, I decide to go outside and have a cigarette. On the way, I realize I still need to pee. I duck into the public restroom in the lobby. A minute later, I step outside and suck in a lungful of cold, fresh air as I squint against the bright glare of the winter sun. Everything around me – the snow, the cement, the building itself – is white. I feel dazzled and unsteady. I light up and  pace in my customary circles as I smoke. The next thing I know, the cop is coming out of the building. I ask how the girl is doing.

“She’s gone.”


“She took off. She looked up. Saw a woman in the hall. Then she ran.”


He shrugs. “I think it was the sister.” His tone is matter-of-fact but also somehow insinuates that the girl’s flight was something he’d expected all along. He pulls out his tablet. “Are you the one that called this in?”

“Yes. I’m the desk clerk.”

“And your name is?”

He collected all my contact information. We returned to the front desk because he wanted the data from the couple’s check-in. He hefted a case up onto the counter … it looked like an extremely rugged laptop. While he set up his machine, he shared his opinion that the girl was a professional, and informed me that there were several hotels in the area – including mine – that are hotbeds of drugs and prostitution.  He pulled up a digital photograph  and asked me if it was the man I’d seen in the room. It was. He tapped a few more keys and summoned a picture of the girl. He said, “Ummhmm. I see.” He turned the screen so I could see it better. “Here’s what’s going on-”

At that moment a woman burst into the lobby. She came immediately to the desk and spoke directly to me, ignoring the cop. “My sister thinks she left her wallet in her room. Can we go check for it?”

The cop stepped in front of the woman. “Where is your sister now?”

The woman blinked several times. “I, ah, took her to the hospital.”

The cop snapped his computer shut. “Ill head over there then.” Then he was gone.

I went with the woman up to 339. We did not find a wallet, but the girl’s coat was in the bottom of the tub, soaked through. As the woman retraced the path her sister had taken when she fled the hotel, the coat released a steady stream of water onto the stairs and the carpet. Before she gave up and left, I found a plastic bag for her to carry it in.

By 4:45p it was over.

It’s unlikely that there will ever be any remotely satisfying ending to this story I’ve written. But now, maybe, I can put it behind me and get back to thinking about the kind of horror that doesn’t leave me sick to my stomach – the kind where the bad guy gets vanquished and the survivors are wiser and stronger for what they’ve been through.

Because fiction is better than life at:


photo credit: Feans Licensed CC BY 2.0 (Attribution 2.0 Generic)
It has been cropped to square.
NOTE: This post may have been re-titled and edited from its original form,
for inclusion on The Paranormal Hotel homepage.