tagErotic HorrorOscar's Place

Oscar's Place

byNotWise©

The bus squealed to a stop at the curb and sent dried leaves skittering across the sidewalk. Nick looked up from his phone to see a young woman step out of the bus and wave to the driver. She glanced at Nick then pulled the hood of her cape over her head.

The day started as one of those beautiful fall days; crisp in the morning then calm, and bright, and not too cool. Now dark clouds in the west hid the sunset. A chill breeze caught the leaves that the bus kicked up and sent them swirling around the woman's high-heeled shoes.

Nick watched and guessed that she was waiting for a connecting bus, and then he nodded over his phone again. He leaned in the doorway of the old hotel and studied what little information he'd already gathered about it. A prospective investor wanted an engineer to look at the building. The project had a small budget. So it fell to the junior staff member; that was Nick.

"Are you waiting for the east-side bus, too?" she asked, and jolted Nick out of his thoughts. She had closed about half the distance between them and stood cautiously eying him. From his blue canvas shoes, up his long frame to his dark, neatly trimmed and parted hair—now a little mussed by the breeze—Nick was the image of a young professional.

"No, I'm waiting for someone to show me around in there," Nick answered, and gestured toward the hotel doors. He guessed that she was a little younger than he was, but not a lot. Her features were refined and perfectly symmetrical, and her eyes were bright. Nick straightened his posture—unconsciously signaling that he found her attractive—and asked, "Do you take this route often?"

"Five days a week, morning and evening," she said. "I clerk at an attorney's office downtown." She glanced down at the sidewalk, suddenly self conscious. "I'm sorry I bothered you, but I've found that it's good to greet strangers here instead of waiting for them to sneak up on me. This isn't a very good neighborhood."

"No problem," he said. "I'm Nick Benedict. I have a client who wants to put this place back in business as an all-suites hotel. Maybe that would improve the neighborhood."

"What a great idea!" she said. "This is the crumbling fringe and it's been this way as long as I can remember." She stepped past Nick and pulled her hood back while she peered through a large window into what was once a diner. She turned back to Nick, extended her hand, and said, "I'm Emily. Emily Wright."

Nick's hand was wide and strong compared to Emily's; her touch was warm and feminine. She drew back and went on. "I've looked at this place every work day for a couple years now and I'd love to see it change. There is something charming about the building. The old stone and the arched windows are pretty cool."

Emily intrigued Nick, but then the sound of footsteps reminded him why he was there. A voice from behind them asked, "Are you from Sayer and Sutton?" The voice belonged to a white-haired man, shorter than Nick. He wore a gray business suit that stretched to cover his round belly and he twirled a key ring on his finger.

"I'm Nick Benedict, from Sayer and Sutton," Nick said. He produced a business card from inside his jacket.

"I'm George Mills," the older man said. He traded cards with Nick and shook his hand. "I'm the owner's representative."

George turned to Emily with an expectant expression, and she laughed. "Oh gosh," she said. "I have no business here. I'm just a bus rider." She looked at George and extended her hand again, "I'm Emily." She pointed at the hotel's big double doors and said, "If you're going in there then I'd love to tag along and look around."

"You can come along," George said, as he squeezed her hand. "You'll do more to improve the scenery in there than all the work we've done so far."

Nick glanced at Emily to catch her response. George's reply was the kind of shallow flattery that some women might not like. Emily's eyes flashed when she returned Nick's glance. She was annoyed.

George led them into a lobby lit only by skylight that filtered down through the atrium. He hurried straight ahead to the hotel desk while Nick and Emily followed more slowly. Both of them gawked up at the second floor where it opened to the lobby over the front desk, and at the wide stairways that curved up on both sides. There were signs everywhere of lost splendor; marble, and mahogany, and brass—now scarred with use and neglect.

"We disconnect the power when the workers knock off," George explained. He said, "I'll turn the power on so we can see where we're going," then he disappeared around the desk.

Emily dragged her fingertips through the dust on the desk. Nick noticed how her honey-colored hair gathered in a barrette at the back of her neck and disappeared under her cape, and he reminded himself again that he was there for work.

Nick jogged to catch up with George, and left Emily alone. She occupied herself while they were gone by circling the lobby. She found the open doors to the diner and the elevator that did not work. When Nick and George came back they found her tugging at a pair of locked doors opposite from the diner. The sign over the door said "Tony's Tavern."

Emily gave up on the door when the men came back and heard George say, "There are lots of updates that haven't been made. We're suspicious of the wiring—that's why we shut the power off at night—but all the utilities work. We're remodeling upstairs, so the gas and water are on for the guys."

George stepped behind the desk and opened a cabinet that hid rows of switches. He threw one switch and lights over the desk came on, then another and light poured down from where the second story opened over the lobby. He threw two more, then turned to Nick and said,"We have hallway lights on all four floors. That should do."

Nick and George talked about the roof and the basement and the crawl spaces that extended under the tavern and diner, so Emily climbed the worn marble stairway. She leaned over the rail from the second floor, and her voice resonated in the empty space when she asked, "This looks like it was a nice place once. What happened?"

George talked a little louder to make sure she could hear. "The hotel has a history, and at least the early part of it is interesting. It was built in 1917, and when it was new it was one of the nicest places in town. Then came Prohibition, and then the depression. It was a double whammy for the business."

He motioned to the tavern door and said, "The bar was shut down in 1920, but then they used a door off the side street to operate as a speakeasy. It reopened legally after Prohibition but by then it had a bad reputation. Their business didn't come back the way it was before.

"Girls from the speakeasy probably took their clients upstairs, but I've never found a record of that. The depression changed things; regular business dropped off and the top floor was used as a brothel. The brothel was shut down after the war but the whole neighborhood was going down by then. After that the hotel was closed more often than not, and it was never more than a flophouse."

Nick listened from behind the desk until sawdust settled on his shoulder, and a small scrap of wood landed on the floor next to him. "Hey!" he said, and stepped back to look up at Emily. "Watch what you're kicking off the edge up there."

"Oopsy!" Emily said. She stepped back to look at the construction litter around her feet, then smiled down at Nick. "I didn't mean to do that."

George laughed then motioned up and said, "Let me show you upstairs." Nick climbed the stairs behind George, and then Emily stopped him on the landing to brush at the sawdust on his shoulders. "I'm sorry about that," she said. "I was just shuffling around I guess."

"Don't worry about it." Nick said. He was watching the expression on Emily's face when she looked up at him.

Emily blushed and jerked her hand back from his shoulder. "I'm totally not flirting with you," she said. She backed away and ran up the stairs. Nick was confused, but he laughed and trailed after her.

They started their tour on the partially renovated top floor where the old, stained plaster seemed to testify to its past. Emily pulled her cape tight around her shoulders and peered into the rooms while George explained, "The guys don't like working up here. That's why it isn't done yet—they think it's haunted. They hear giggling girls and sometimes they're touched when there's no one there."

Nick watched Emily shudder and step back from a doorway. He asked, "Did you see a ghost?" and laughed as if it were a joke.

"No, I just felt chilled." Emily answered. The frown she gave Nick made him regret his question.

George took them down through the construction zones on the lower floors, and then to the diner and the banquet halls on the first floor. Emily had little to say until they returned to the lobby, and then she pointed to the tavern door and asked, "Can we see in there?"

"We haven't started work on the tavern," George said, and bent to unlock the door. "This place has the guys even more spooked than the top floor. They say that after sundown there's sometimes light around the door and sounds from inside."

The door opened onto a dark space. A mirror behind the bar far across the room reflected their silhouettes; the tables carried a thick coat of dust and cobwebs festooned the corners.

"I don't need to go in there," Emily said, shaking her head. She stepped back from the door then jumped and squealed when she bumped into Nick. He reacted by touching her arms to steady her, and Emily spun around with a wide-eyed expression on her face.

"I'm sorry!" Nick said, and held his hands up. "I didn't mean to startle you."

George's phone rang and he turned his back to take the call. He was clearly in a hurry when he finished his call. "That was my wife," he said. "Dinner's almost ready and she's wondering where I am." He closed the tavern door then turned off the lights over the desk and in the hallways. George followed Emily and Nick across the darkened lobby and through the front doors. He locked up and left them at the front of the hotel.

The night was black and the street lights did little to help. The clouds that earlier hid the sunset loomed low over the city. Emily stepped to the bus stop sign and pulled her cape close around her while she read the schedule by the light of cars on the street.

"I missed my connection. The next bus won't be here for another half hour," she said, and as she spoke a cold rain began to fall. Nick tugged on Emily's elbow and pulled her to shelter by the hotel doorway. Traffic on the street splashed through growing puddles, and the light from passing cars reflected off the wet asphalt—bright red and white against the inky black.

"I'll give you a ride," Nick said. "My car is in the garage behind the hotel. You can wait here and I'll bring it around to pick you up, or you can walk with me."

Emily studied Nick by the ever-changing light. Taking a ride from a man she just met seemed like a bad idea—even under these conditions and even if he seemed interesting. "No, I'll wait here for the bus," she said.

Nick gave a frustrated sigh and said, "At least let me have your phone number. Maybe we can do dinner or something."

"What's your number?" Emily asked. She pulled her own phone from under her cape and typed his number in as he recited it. She sent, then smiled in the darkness. "There," she said. "We have each other's numbers."

Nick wanted to wait with Emily, but she insisted, "I'm used to this. You go." The prospect of waiting there alone had Emily's heart racing a little, but she didn't want to admit that to Nick. He had misgivings, but he pulled his collar up around his neck and hunched his shoulders against the rain. He was about to turn the corner when he heard Emily behind him. "Call me!" she said.

Nick stopped to wave back at Emily then walked on, smiling to himself. He passed a small alcove that protected a side door then stopped at the alley between the hotel and the parking garage. An old pickup sat beside a power pole in the dark alley. Its headlights caught the light from a car that passed on the street, and it glared at Nick like some great beast lurking in the night.

Hurried steps clattered on the sidewalk. Nick turned to find Emily behind him with the hood of her cape pulled over her head. She was a dark, small figure in the night.

"I changed my mind," Emily said, "I don't want to wait there alone." Her voice carried an edge from the fear that grew in her after Nick left. They ducked into the alcove on the side of the building where they were out of the rain, and he shielded her from the cars on the side street.

Water dripped down from Nick's wet hair, and the raindrops on Emily's cheeks caught the street light. Her eyes searched his face, but his expression was lost in the shadows. "There's something Gothic and romantic about tonight," she whispered.

"It's the rain, the haunted hotel, and the beautiful mystery girl," Nick said.

Emily corrected him with a laugh, "Hansom mystery man," she said and relaxed back against the door. It creaked open and they both jumped away in surprise. Nick wrapped one arm around Emily and reached with his other hand to push on the door. It opened a little more—enough to let the light from inside spill onto the dark sidewalk.

"This must be the side door that George talked about—the door that the speakeasy used," Emily said. She leaned forward to look in then stepped inside with Nick close behind her.

"Close that door, will you honey?" the waitress asked. Nick and Emily both jumped in surprise. She flipped the blond curls that rested on her shoulders and set her tray on the bar where the bartender stood drying a glass. He was a bald bull of a man; his biceps bulged as he turned the glass in his hand and his belly hung low over his apron. He acknowledged them with only a glance.

Nick responded without thinking and pushed on the door. It shut with a decisive click.

The corners of the waitress' red lips curled up in a smile. She said, "Get those wet things off and I'll see to you in a sec," then she turned to talk with the bartender.

There was a booth beside them and coat hooks on the wall. Nick helped Emily out of her cape and swept his eyes down over the prim blouse that she wore for work. She smoothed her tight skirt and slid into the booth. Nick hung her cape on the hook and hung his jacket next to it, and then he took the seat across from her.

The room was clean and warm, and dimly lit in a golden glow from the neon beer signs behind the bar. There was one other customer in the place. He hunched over a shot and a glass of beer in a booth at the back, near the closed double doors that should open to the lobby.

The waitress pushed back from the bar. She had a sultry sway and her skirt swirled around her knees as she walked. "I'm Trish," she said when she stopped beside them, "What can I get for you?"

Trish bent over to wipe their table with a bar rag while she talked. Nick found it hard to look up from her open blouse and her deep cleavage, but when he did he found her smiling back with an amused twinkle in her eyes.

Nick felt his face redden. He said, "I'll have a draft," then looked at Emily. "I'll pick up the tab."

Trish laughed and said, "Honey, you don't need to worry about the tab. You're our last customers. It's on the house."

"Tom Collins?" Emily asked.

Nick and Emily leaned over the table once Trish was gone and whispered questions to each other that neither of them could answer. They quieted while Trish served their drinks and stepped back to ask, "Can I get anything else for you right now?"

"Can you answer a question?" Emily asked.

"I've never been the one with all the answers dear, but I'll give it a shot," Trish said.

"We looked through those doors not more than a half-hour ago," Nick said and pointed to the back of the room. "None of this was here. It was dark and abandoned."

"Oh, that was Tony's place you saw," Trish said. "Tony's has been closed for years now. This is Oscar's." She pointed to the bartender, "And that's Oscar."

Trish glanced from Nick's confused expression to Emily's then put her hands on their shoulders and said, "I don't know how to put this, but you're in Oscar's now because you have business here. That guy you were with before? He didn't have any business here."

Emily shifted uncomfortably and looked from Nick to Trish. "Business?" she asked. "And why are we your last customers?"

"Come here, girl," Trish said, and tugged on Emily's arm. "You're getting upset. Sit with your guy and I'll tell you a story." Trish guided Emily into the seat next to Nick while she protested that Nick wasn't her guy.

Trish laughed, "Don't give me that! Of course he's your guy." She said, "You two want each other like peanut butter wants jelly."

She slipped into the seat where Emily had been, pushed her glass across the table, and motioned to the customer at the back of the room. "That's Tommy Nash," she said. "Him and me and Oscar have been here a long time now.

"I came here in 1932, before they ended Prohibition. My mom passed on when I was twelve. Her old man couldn't stand me, so he moved to Florida when I was fourteen and left me behind. I was fifteen when I made it here. I waited tables for Oscar while this place was still a speakeasy."

Trish pointed up and said, "For extra cash I'd take guys upstairs and make their day. Sex paid better than waiting tables, but Oscar didn't want me doing that, so he took me in.

"After the bar was legal again we went down to the courthouse and got married. There's 20 years between us, so people thought that was odd, but I needed him and he needed me. We held this place together through the depression and through the war. Business wasn't great, but life was good."

Nick studied the lines on Trish's face; they were just starting to show a little age. He did the math and said, "That story make you almost 100 years old."

"Oh, honey," Trish said. She leaned over the table and touched Nick's hand, "I didn't get past 32."

She looked to where Tommy sat then folded her hands on the table and leaned forward to speak more quietly, "Tommy started coming by here after the war. He was one of those shell-shocked GI's that couldn't keep it together. He was young, and alone, and lonely, and I took pity on him. I took him to bed.

"To me it was no big deal. Tommy was a friend who needed help, so I helped.

"To Tommy it was a big deal. He fell in love—or in lust. It's kinda hard to tell the difference sometimes. He wanted to take me away," Trish rolled her eyes. "I don't know where he thought we would go or what he would do—he just wanted to take me away.

"I told Tommy that I'd never leave Oscar and he went off his rocker. He disappeared for a week, and then one night he came in here while we were closing. He was furious, and he had his service revolver with him. He shot me twice," Trish said. She pointed to her chest and to her throat, "Here and here."

Nick glanced at Emily and found her with her elbows on the table and her hands over her mouth. Her eyes were huge and wet, and fixed on Trish.

"It's alright, dear," Trish said. She reached across the table and squeezed Emily's wrist, "That's all past now."

Emily composed herself; she folded her hands in her lap and leaned against Nick's shoulder.

Trish went on, "Oscar had a big shotgun behind the bar. It was always loaded and always ready. He was too late with it to save me, but he splattered bits of Tommy all over the back of the room. Then he sat down next to me and cried.

"The hotel was closed and empty right then, so there was no-one around to bother Oscar. It took him hours to figure out what he wanted to do. He closed the bar and cleaned up all the blood and the bits. He put 'Gone Fishin' signs on the doors. He mailed cash to our handyman with a note. The note said there was a loose floorboard in front of the bar that needed to be nailed down before we got back."

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byNotWise© 7 comments/ 5215 views/ 3 favorites

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