Love can be Hell…especially in Hell Indiana!
Edric Honeybun is in Hell, Indiana on Halloween, doing research for his latest book in a haunted hotel. His brothers and their honeys decide to join him and make an adventure out of it. During this holiday in Hell, Edric fully expects to do some research, enjoy a few laughs over non-existent "ghosts", and debunk local superstitions about the Le Diablo hotel. What he doesn't expect is to bump up against a flesh and blood killer, fall in love with a beautiful witch, and come face to plasma with a surprise in the local cemetery.
Edric Honeybun stood in the street, staring up at the El Diablo Hotel. The famous, haunted hotel had multiple turrets that were cut from black granite and topped in aged copper. Shadows clung to the building’s dark surface, creating a cold, unfriendly aspect that seemed to warn visitors away rather than pull them in. Warped windows looked dark and empty from the street, with only the occasional wisp of movement behind their streaked surfaces to imply habitation.
The hotel was typecast perfectly for a town called Hell, Indiana. In fact, the entire, front façade reminded Edric of Dracula’s famed castle. All it needed was a few vultures shrieking in circles overhead and a bolt of lightning or two to liven things up.
He peered up at the overcast, charcoal gray sky and thought he just might get his wish on the lightning. A thunderstorm would be unusual at that time of year, just a few days away from Halloween, but not unheard of in Indiana.
Edric eyed the highest turret of the hotel, which rose into a roiling sky from the back of the structure, and realized a narrow, rickety looking cat walk clung to its entire, visible circumference. The rail of the catwalk had a slightly crooked aspect that made it look like it would crumple away from its moorings at the slightest touch.
“Good place for a murder,” he murmured, jotting down a few thoughts, some observations, and possibilities. A cold, damp draft slid over him and he shivered, yanking the zipper on his sweatshirt higher and pulling it close around his throat. He should have worn a coat after all. October in Hell, Indiana was usually fairly mild, but, in Indiana, the weather was a constant and not always pleasant surprise.
“Have you checked out the cemetery yet?”
Edric turned to the hotel’s manager and shook his head. “That’s next on the agenda.”
With the gray, somber attitude of a funeral director, William Plaithe nodded, his slicked back, brown hair plastered, immobile, over the top of his head. Like it was made of plastic. Edric barely repressed a grin at the idea of Plaithe slipping it over his head in the mornings, sideburns and all.
The manager started walking toward the side of the hotel. Edric quickly jotted down a few more notes and followed. They stopped at a gate in the short iron fencing that bordered the sidewalk and Plaithe unlatched it, pulling it open with a horror movie creak. “This isn’t the original cemetery of course. The bodies were moved when the hotel was built.”
Edric stopped. “Wait a minute. Are you telling me El Diablo was built on top of a burial ground?”
Plaithe nodded and kept walking. “Yes. Of course many of our guests are of the spiritual variety. They’ve taken exception to having been moved from their final resting spots and regularly haunt El Diablo’s halls.” Plaithe slanted a look toward Edric, his small, brown eyes looking like river rocks under dark, bushy eyebrows. It was obvious he was assessing the effect of his words on the ‘city feller’.
Edric glanced away to hide his smile. “How fascinating.”
Plaithe inclined his head in agreement. The cracked, vegetation-strewn sidewalk was so broken up in spots the two men had to walk carefully to avoid tripping over uprooted chunks of concrete and aggressive tree roots. Away from the street, the hotel walls were a dark, aged brick that was more black than red, and had large windows at equidistant intervals along their considerable length. “So…do you have a lot of ghosts at El Diablo,” Edric asked in the way of polite conversation.
Plaithe nodded. “We reserve the entire third floor for our uninvited guests. It minimizes unplanned interaction between the specters and the flesh and blood guests.”
Edric lifted a dark red eyebrow. “Unplanned?”
They rounded the back corner of the old hotel and a small, neatly-kept cemetery unfolded before them. Plaithe turned to him and smiled. Edric had to repress a shiver at the sight. The man was truly spooky. “Around Halloween every year, we have nightly tours of the third floor for interested guests, Mr. Honeybun. It’s far and away our most popular offering at El Diablo.”
“I’m sure it is, Mr. Plaithe. I’d definitely be interested in doing that myself. Will you sign me and the rest of my family up for that event please? Let’s say tomorrow night?”
Plaithe rubbed his hands together as if trying to warm them. He probably was. Edric suddenly wondered if he was in the midst of one of Plaithe’s unplanned interactions. The man looked like he’d been dead for weeks. Undoubtedly his extremities were icy with lack of blood. “I’ll see to that immediately, Mr. Honeybun.”
Edric watched Plaithe scurry off and then turned back to the cemetery. He smiled. It was absolutely perfect. Creepy…but perfect. He could make great use of it in his book. The cemetery appeared to be about a half-acre square and was completely bounded by shoulder high, black, iron fencing with skulls serving as finials for its many posts.
He entered the cemetery beneath an ivy covered archway and looked around. The grass under his sneakers was thick and well-tended and the faint smell of lemons wafted toward him from somewhere. He peered around looking for the source.
And he spotted her.
She sat in the center of an ornate concrete bench, her feet stretched out in front of her and her hands resting on either side of her hips. She wore an oversized, cream colored sweater and jeans. Matching leather boots climbed her legs to mid-calf and were scrunched softly over her jeans. Her hair fell past her shoulders and was a rich auburn color. It was carelessly bunched at the back of her head, captured in some kind of plastic clip, like she’d shoved it there just to get it out of her face.
She sat perfectly still, as if she were focusing hard on something. Or listening carefully.
Edric started toward her, feeling as if a line extended from her to him, reeling him inexorably in.
She turned when he was only a few steps away, fixing gorgeous, dark green eyes on him. When she smiled, it was if the dense cloud cover had parted and the sun shined only on them. “Well hello there.” In just those three words Edric could tell she was a Southern Indiana girl. But she’d put her own special brand on the distinctive accent. It was husky and warm, like honey drizzled over warm biscuits, and it made him want to keep her talking.