The meal ended and the various tour directors began shepherding their groups out of the dining room. Alison informed us that yes, there would be country dancing for anyone brave enough to give it a whirl, and I decided to put those old lessons to good use and went upstairs to change my boots for running shoes.
For a hotel full of guests, the halls seemed eerily quiet as I jogged up the flights of stairs leading to the second level and then down the shadowy corridor to my room. An old hotel definitely smelled different from a new hotel. It wasn’t musty exactly, but the scent of decades’ worth of pets and pipes and flowers and furniture polish had permeated the paneling and floorboards. In some strange way the odor reminded me of old books. Maybe because it was the fragrance of hundreds of lives, hundreds of stories.
As I reached the door I realized it stood slightly ajar. Someone was moving around inside my room. The hair rose on the back of my neck. I halted.
Not the maid. The hotel did not offer turndown service. Probably no one who wasn’t a paying guest wanted to stay past sundown.
Not John. I’d just seen him downstairs, on his way toward the ballroom with most of our group.
Commonsense reasserted itself. I relaxed. Of course! The handyman had finally arrived to fix the radiator. And not a minute too soon. The drafty hallway was cold enough to hang meat.
I reached for the doorknob. The next instant the door flew open and someone charged out, knocking me down the short flight of stairs.
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