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It was a dark and stormy night

The hotel was more populated than the proprietor, a tall and thin man, had ever seen it.

He said as much to Abigail as he led her to her room. 'The usual ghosthunters?' she asked. The proprietor paused on the landing. Beside him was a small Gothic window looking out on the forest that ran parallel to the hotel.

Opposite the hotel was a bluff that plummeted a hundred feet down to wind and seaswept rocks. 'I don't like to talk about them' he said, referring to the ghosthunters. Abigail left the matter there and followed him to her room.

It was old-fashioned, clean and tidy but still rough-looking. It had two single beds with scratchy green coverlets, and a TV in a walnut case. Abigail was surprised to see it play in colour.

With the evening news for company, she sat on one of the beds and opened her satchel, sliding out a scrapbook. One of the scraps in it was a newspaper article: MANIAC LEADS LOCAL POLICE TO HOTEL OF HORROR. The by-line belonged to Laura Dempsey. Abigail's sister.

She took a bottle of wine from her belongings and poured herself a glass as she read the article for perhaps the hundredth time. 'Shock and horror struck the coastal town of Arrowfield Upper today, as the lead suspect in the tote bag murders led detectives to the Hotel Bellwether, which has stood in this region for almost 200 years. Essex legend describes it as the roaming place of various ghostly highwaymen. Now a more modern and brutal legend seems primed to take its place.'

The grainy picture was of detectives stood about a cellar door, down the steps behind which could be glimpsed one end of a tote bag. The killer had worked as a groundskeeper for the hotel and stored his trophies there. They were mostly young women, though a few men had also been taken as he preyed on courting couples, in cars.

And then there was Laura Dempsey. The unrecorded victim of the tote bag murderer, in Abigail's view, even if the same paper that once printed her by-line went on to host articles about how she was clearly unstable, an alcoholic, and so forth. Assumptions that only came about after her disappearance.

Abigail walked to the window and looked out through the wind and the rain at the forest. It was in this that Laura, during a mental breakdown, had supposedly stripped down to nothing, wandered about until her legs and arms were scratched raw, and then tumbled off the bluff and onto the rocks below. Her broken body was found days later. It had been a year since the tote bag murderer had been caught, and if she had had a mental breakdown, it was likely due to the strain she experienced while "getting to know" the killer. As the woman who'd broken the story of his capture, the paper had assigned her to interview him, and to hear as well as see things that most people would really rather not.

'But you don't really believe that, do you?' The voice came from behind Abigail. It was the hotelier. She spun around. There was no-one there. Something in the corner of her eye caught her attention and suddenly she was looking at the television. The newscaster on it was staring directly at her, and when he spoke it was in the hotelier's voice. 'You believe in ghosts, don't you, Abigail? Just like the people who come here now and then to see if the legend of the haunted hotel is true. If the basement really does play host to the spirits of those murdered girls, and a few unfortunate boyfriends.'

The newscaster's hair began to grey, and he seemed to grow taller and thinner until the man seated behind the glass desk was the hotelier himself. By now Abigail was seated on the bed, utterly mesmerised by what she was seeing, too much so to react. Perhaps more alarming was the transformation of the female newscaster beside him, whose beige jacket flattened as the breasts disappeared. The trouser suit was stuffed by a thirty-something man with a three-day stubble and piercing green eyes, and a perverted grin. The tote bag murderer. The square to the top left of the screen, which had been filled with an image of parliament in session, now displayed a picture of Laura. From back when she was young and carefree.

'We were in it together, you know,' said the murderer. 'Only he got to live and I got to carry on... elsewhere. We're still very much a team, though.'

'What do you want?' Abigail managed to choke out.

'To fulfil our promise to your sister,' said the murderer. 'Don't you know what she said, before she fell off the bluff? She asked us to leave you alone, and we promised we would. So long as you stayed away from The Bellwether.'
Casted_Runes
Written by Casted_Runes (Turpin)
Published
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