[from a few years ago]
An Excerpt for Halloween
By Jeff Salter
“Aren’t you the new teacher who lives in the spooky old downtown hotel?” asked the female voice behind Levi Muir. Lurching into the flimsy cart against the faculty lounge wall almost caused him to spill his freshly poured coffee.
Turning, Muir realized the speaker was his attractive young colleague with lovely tanned legs. “I’ll be at the Whitecliff Apartments. Don’t know anything about a hotel.”
She moved closer and extended her sun-bronzed hand. “I’m Lucy Tierney, science department. Starting my sixth year.”
Nice to know there were some five year survivors at Magnolia High. “Levi Muir, English department. Rookie.”
“I know, Levi. We can all spot a newbie. Have you been assigned a mentor yet?”
“Uh, don’t think so. Don’t recall it coming up.” His eyebrows lifted. “Are you…?”
“Oh, heavens no. Not me. I won’t serve as a mentor until my seventh year, at the earliest.” Then she lowered her voice. “So what do you think of your apartment in the legendary old Majestic Hotel?”
It was the final day of orientation and professional development training; Monday would be D-Day… when the students began classes. “Haven’t really stayed there yet, Miss Tierney. Tonight’s my first night.”
“Lucy. You’ve been here every day this whole week. Where have you been staying?”
“An aunt lives in Magnolia. My apartment wasn’t ready yet. In fact, all I got was a nickel tour from a shrimpy manager who kept looking over his shoulder.”
Lucy nodded like she knew the man. Her nicely-toned arm tensed as she reached for an empty cup, but she frowned and put it back down. “The coffee’s awful here.”
“Have you seen those old hotel furnishings?”
“Didn’t really notice, except to be sure I had a bed and a chair.”
“What about table and stove for cooking your meals? Plus couch and extra chair… for all your visitors?” Her warm smile suggested she’d be willing to be among them.
And attractive company she’d be. “Don’t really cook, at least not worth mentioning. And not expecting many visitors, since I really don’t know anybody here except Aunt Martha.”
“Well, now you know me.” Lucy’s lovely smile hinted that she probably expected a particular reply, but Levi couldn’t guess what, so he just eyed the half-full cup in his hand.
“Not a big talker, are you?”
“Guess not.” It sounded terse. “Sorry. Must be the rookie jitters.”
Lucy nodded thoughtfully. “So tonight is your first night in the old Majestic…”
“The Whitecliff Apartments.”
“Well, everybody here knows it as the old hotel, so you might as well get used to it.” Her tone was lighter than the words she’d selected. “And you probably already know that everybody says it’s…”
Swooshing suddenly into the lounge, Principal Gull interrupted as she jostled directly between them. “Now hush, Miss Tierney. We don’t want to scare away any more of our first year teachers.” Mrs. Gull squinted as though she were adjusting to contact lenses. “It’s difficult enough to recruit good people to small towns like ours, so don’t run them off before classes even start.”
Lucy appeared mildly embarrassed. “I thought he already knew.”
“Knew what?” Muir faced the principal again.
Mrs. Gull took an elbow of each and steered both teachers out of the lounge. “All in good time. For now, let’s head into the cafeteria for final briefings and to review our battle plans for Monday.”
Lucy said no more but took a seat next to Muir at an otherwise empty table.
Over the next ten minutes, he paid considerably less attention to the briefings than to his intriguing tablemate. Though Muir and a few other rookies had received orientation on Monday and Tuesday, the veterans didn’t appear until Wednesday for the professional development training aimed at all instructors. He’d immediately noticed Lucy and had observed her frequently… without actually communicating. Leaning closely, he whispered, “What was Gull talking about?”
No immediate reply. But after a new speaker took the microphone, Lucy tapped his thigh, sending electricity all over his body. Only her business card, however. On the back was a hastily scribbled note, “Tell you later.”
The principal was staring when Muir raised his head and he felt like a kid caught passing notes in study hall. Which was pretty much the situation.
As the session finally ended, Muir tried to catch up to Lucy — already exiting the cafeteria — but was called back by the principal’s authoritative voice. “Mr. Muir, could I see you for a moment, please?”
“Of course, Mrs. Gull.” He watched for a clue whether this would be some sort of reproach or merely a final word.
Gull’s expression offered no hint, but it seemed she mulled over her words before speaking. “I wouldn’t be worried about whatever Miss Tierney told you concerning the hotel.”
“She hasn’t told me anything.” Yet.
Gull continued anyway. “Seasoned Alabama buildings develop reputations and in an older small town like Magnolia, legends die hard, especially…” She made a show of checking her watch. “Well, anyway, like I say, don’t fret over what you hear.”
“Okay, Mrs. Gull, I won’t.” He nodded deferentially. “Thanks.”
The principal seemed satisfied they’d held their little chat, although Muir still had no clue what they’d been talking about. So far, all he knew was the structure was old, had once been a hotel, and presently featured offices on first floor and apartments on second. Plus, whenever people mentioned the place, they usually had an odd expression and lowered their voices.
# # # # #
And since it’s Halloween in a couple of days, I thought I’d remind you of my 2011 blog about a Halloween event long ago… in which I played the Frankenstein monster and nearly scared some teens to death.
[JLS # 512]