Chapter~Two

The Touch

 

Later, Sandy found herself in the small lobby of the inn, where an older white-haired man did duty behind a tall service-desk. He looked up over his rimless specs when her shadow felled across the newspaper that he was reading. His scowl revealed his annoyance at the interruption. He was a sinewy slight man with agray bushy mustache. His lips were thin with deep parenthesis around his mouth. His eyes were a faded blue with flat lids and hardly any lashes but having thick white brows.

He growled in a cockney draw, “Good noon, what can I do for you?”

Sandy drew a deep breath and almost started to depart after receiving such an unwelcome salute from the attendant. She quickly changed her mind and replied, “I wish to rent a flat for the week, perhaps longer.”

Without a word, he shoved the ledger towards her. Evidently, this business had not upgraded to the newer computer system of registering guests. Sandy took the pen he offered and signed her real name, Sandra Gaspar and in parenthesis her nickname, Sandy.

“I prefer Sandy,” she explained.

“Sure,” he stated, “Have you any luggage?”

“Yes, in the boot of the car. Is there someone who can retrieve it? There're only two pieces.”

In reply, he looked over his shoulder toward a door that was ajar and bellowed, “Albert!”

When no one answered his summons, the attendant shouted again. This time a sleepy-eyed young teen of about sixteen or seventeen emerged from the backroom.

“Yes sir, Mister Jordan.”

“Help this young woman with her luggage. Take them to room One-C.”

Sandy was relieved that the flat was on the first floor. She saw a winding staircase leading upwards but no lift to the upper floors.

As Albert retrieved her luggage, Mister Jordan took her payment for a week and then ignored her as he turned back to his paper. Sandy followed Albert down a darkened hall off to the right of the service desk. The hall was about twenty feet in length and then turned left into the corridor of her room. The young porter proceeded to unlock the plain door with just the room’s number of, “1-C” tacked to the upper-most center. The hinges squeaked slightly as he shoved the feeble door open.

Sandy thought, ‘Not much of a door. Anyone could just kick this in.” And she made a mental note to use more security against the door at night.

“Here you are, Ma’am,” said Albert, as he reached inside and switched on an overhead light, which was a naked bulb screwed into a socket. This very feature aged the Inn. As the dimmed yellowed light flooded the room, Sandy took a quit assessment of its contents.

She looked at Albert and asked, “Bathroom? Lavatory?”

The young porter indicated down the hall, “They are at the end of the hall, Ma’am.”

“I see,” Sandy remarked as she saw that the two doors had the unisex emblem on them. Well, she would have to make the best of it. “Thank you, Albert,” she smiled as she handed him a tip, “I can handle it from here.”

The young porter bowed slightly, turned on his heels, and departed.

Sandy entered the small flat and took note of its content; to her left was one slightly opened window with mini-blinds, but no curtains. There was a little table with a chair and a green goose-necked lamp. There was a single bed, with a low headboard and no footboard. The bed was made with just a simple floral coverlet and two stacked pillows. The coverlet was turned down, it looked clean, and a brief sniff did not reveal any lingering scents of bygone guests. There was a doubled sized bureau, with a large mirror on which set a twenty-inch analog television. A small door revealed the closet with a few wire hangers and an extra blanket on the shelf. A bedside table was on the right side of the bed facing the interior. A small rug was next to the right of the bed and a larger scatter rug centered in the room. That was it, just the bare necessaries.

Sandy wanted to get back to the castle for more evaluations but decided this afternoon she would unpacked and arranged the flat to suit her needs. She decided to use the table as a desk, here she stored her laptop, camera, voice recorder, a writing tablet, pens, and a calculator. Then she unpacked, hanging some garments, placing others in drawers and her toiletries went on top of the bureau.

Sandy decided to go through her notes later that afternoon. She focused her attention on her digital voice recorder and as she listened to her verbal transcripts, she typed them into a document on the laptop. Absorbed in her notes, she was stunned when a voice, not her own spoke. She had forgotten about it.

“Who art thou? Why art thou here?” she had heard this voice while at the castle.

Sandy quickly stood, knocking her chair backward as she looked around. She was alone, just as she had been in the castle when she first heard this question.

‘There had to have been someone… there!’ thought Sandy. Her heartbeat quickened with anxiety that someone had been watching her.

“Get a grip, girl,” Sandy consoled herself. “There’s a logical explanation. You know you were alone,” she spoke aloud and of herself in the second person, a habit of hers. “There must have been something recorded on the machine already.”

As she spoke, Sandy took her hands and made a wiping motion as though she was erasing the ‘mistake.’ She drew a deep calming breath and sat again at the small desk.

Sandy re-started the recorder and continued transcribing her notes, which she completed without further incident. Her next step was to examine the photos; she attached the USB port of the digital camera and chose the ‘transfer all images’ option. As these transmitted, she took a lavatory break down the hall, returning, she was pleased to see the transfer complete. Sitting again, she picked up where she had left off. She enlarged each picture so she could examine each one independently.

Photographs of the outside of the castle showed it blanketed in the dark clouds that had begun the day. The images were at best, dismal. The first few pictures of the castle’s interior were unclear, some had ‘ghosts’ images of the furniture. As if there had been a double exposure of the ‘film’ which did not occur with digital photographs. These photos she rejected. As she had remained on the lower floor of the castle, she had pictures of the Great Hall. There were about a dozen or so of these types of photographs. She had a few clear images, but a few had translucent ‘clouds’, which concealed the intended target.

“It wasn’t bright enough,” Sandy reasoned. “You should use the professional camera with film instead of the digital, maybe flash as well. These are a do-over.”

Sandy’s sleep was surprisingly restful; after all, she was in a strange place. She showered in the unisex lavatory without incident from other patrons. She wore her toweling robe to the restroom and completed dressing in her flat. She speculated at the lack of other guests, for she had not seen another soul since registering the afternoon before, not even the porter. Maybe this was an off-season, no matter; she appreciated the privacy it afforded her.

Sandy dressed appropriately for this cool day in May and from her luggage retrieved her professional film camera. It was larger than her digital camera and although it had no video, it did have manual adjustments, which increased the clarity of the photographs. She also took the digital voice recorder. By eight am, she was on the road once again for WinShire Castle but without the gloom and the rain of the day before. In fact, the sky was clear and the air fragrant with the scent of plowed fields and meadows of yellow daisies. In less than ten minutes, she was pulling up to the entry gate. The soil was soft and damp with the occasional puddle from the previous day, but they did not hamper her as she made her way to the unlocked gate and into the Keep.

Sandy paused once in the entryway, which would take her to the vast Great Hall of the Keep. Once again, she felt fearful for no apparent reason. Then she recalled the voice on the recorder. Would it happen again? She shook her head and walked into the Great Hall. Looking about, she saw nothing out of place. Exhaling, she took the camera, made the necessary adjustments and took several rapid-fire shots of the Great Hall changing her perspective with each one.

“You have enough of the Great Hall,” Sandy said to herself. “You need more of the Dais as those were the worse.” She snapped several pictures of the Dais.

With that task completed, Sandy added, “You need to see what’s behind those tapestries.”

Keeping the camera but leaving her tote on the trestle table, Sandy approach the three drapes.

“It doesn’t matter which one you choose,” she said aloud. “You must photograph them all.”

Sandy took the first one on the left; she shoved aside the thick material and promptly sneezed as she released the trapped dust. Waving the swirling dust from her face, she stepped through the entrance. Here was a stone spiral stairwell, which was narrow, darker, and cooler; she waited a moment for her eyes to adjust to the dimmer light. The stone steps were covered with a fine layer of dust. Sandy looked up but was unable to see the top. Drawing a deep breath, she began her climb.

Slowly at first, as she overcame her fear of closed in spaces, she said, “If you hurry, the sooner you will be out of here.”

Quickening her steps, she made two complete circles before pausing on a narrow landing. The castle tower wall was two feet thick with an incline, which led to a narrow slit of a window that allowed in some light and gave her a short reprieved from her claustrophobia. She peered out of the dulled glass of the window that overlooked the rear of the castle, a section she had not been able to see before now. This stairwell led onto the roof. The entrance to the tower was a wooden oak door, unadorned and rough-hewed, bound together with rusting iron rods. She pushed it open and stepped out onto the roof where her claustrophobia vanished. This section was the rampart that consisted of a high wall with gaps, crenellations and used for the firing of arrows.

It resembled a stone courtyard and was open to the elements. Although a pleasant May day, a stiff, cold breeze had Sandy’s hair waving erratically. She scanned the landscape, which consisted of grass-covered hills, a few distance trees, and a few farming facilities. In Medieval times, the peasants kept the forest at bay to prevent giving the enemy cover, making a surprise attack on the castle nearly impossible. There was the highway that was a newer addition to the terrain, which led to Rockwell.

Taking her camera, Sandy again took rapid-fire shots as she pivoted, her target was mostly the construction of the castle, but she also took a few of the castle’s grounds. This completed, she leaned over to set down the camera, as she did there was a firm pressure on her buttocks. The touch was so real that an image formed in her mind of a person’s hand!

Sandy jumped, spun around, and saw a glowing bluish vapor surrounding her. She felt cold! Her arms were covered with Goosebumps! Then the mist formed into a human shape just before dispersing!

Alarmed, Sandy tried to calm her rapidly beating heart. She hugged her arms about her to ward off the sudden cold as she nervously looked around.

“You need to go,” she ordered herself.

Clutching her camera, Sandy entered the stone landing and closed the aged wooden door. Shivers came over her as if it was winter and not late spring. The darkened stairwell closed in on her, shadows crisscrossed her descent creating cold patches that increased the chill.

“This is crazy,” Sandy whispered. “You’re allowing your imagination to get the best of you!”

None too soon, Sandy reached the tapestry barrier and thrust it to one side; she hurried through with a sigh of relief. Standing again in the Great Hall, she surveyed the large space. It seemed calm, rays of sunlight streamed through the tall windows, displaying sparkling dust particles. The shivers subsided and warmth returned. Eyeing her tote, she hastily retrieved it and ran for the exit.

Sandy did not slow her pace until she was sitting safely behind the steering wheel of her car. Only then did she take the time to evaluate what had happened. Usually, she does not over react to anything, much less to shadows and mists but Sandy could not forget the hand that all but caressed her rear. Had she imagined the human shaped vapor? Disturbing possibilities crossed her mind. She noted the time; it was two in the afternoon! She had been at the castle for six hours! That was impossible! Sandy tried to account for the lost time, but it did not add up.

Starting the vehicle, Sandy drove to the Rockwell. She left the film at the chemists, requesting the twenty-four hour rush. That was the main drawback to film cameras, having to wait for the film to be developed.