The Hawthorne Inn: Hector
The manager of the Hawthorne Inn was a scrawny, delicate, old man who had become a master at keeping secrets. It was a beautiful day in Southern California; the mountains hadn’t been this visible since the last rainstorm in June. The manager just finished cleaning out Room 6 when he heard Hector calling out for him.
“Mr. Hinton,” Hector said as he paced throughout the lobby.
Mr. Hinton left the bed sheets crumpled over the mattress. He cautiously walked into the hallway, clutching onto a rosary in his palm. “Yes, Hector,” he said. “I’ve been cleaning Room 6. What is it?”
“I don’t know, sir. Last night was just too much to watch. I—”
“Shh. It can hear you,” Mr. Hinton said and pointed toward the large, wooden doors that led to a field behind the Hawthorne Inn.
As they stepped onto the lawn, Hector began to feel lighter, as if his shoulders were no longer forced to bare the weight of his heavy trench coat.
Mr. Hinton stopped at the edge of the lawn and turn toward Hector. He lifted a frail, boney finger at him and said, “You must not let these images get to you. I’ve told you this before.”
“You just have no choice. You are stuck here just like me. You think I wanted to spend my life cleaning up after—” Just then, a great gust of wind blew through the inn. The back doors slammed open and shut; the sound echoed through the hills behind the two men. Mr. Hinton shook his head at Hector, giving him a final warning: “Just keep quiet or you might be next.”
Hector decided to stay outside for a while. He didn’t understand his position there. Was he a bodyguard? A janitor? He discovered the opportunity (or rather, it discovered him) about six months back. He was walking through the town and sat down for a bite to eat at Vern’s Drive-In. When he picked up his food from the counter, a small note was in place of his fries. Assuming that the young waitress had grown fond of him, he read the note secretly under the table:
Your presence has been requested at the Hawthorne Inn. You may arrive at 6:00 pm this evening. You will find the Inn on the south side of Mabel Lane. If you do not attend, there will be serious consequences.
“Serious Consequences” Hector joked with himself. This girl must really like me.
That evening around 5:45 pm, Hector drove his car down Mabel Lane, looking South for the inn. He saw the road coming to an end and thought he had past it. As he prepared to turn around, his headlights illuminated a tall gate with a wooden sign: The Hawthorne Inn.
He made his way up the long, dirt road to an old lodge. The building looked as if it survived a fire. As Hector parked his car on the front lawn, a slow chill crawled up his spine, making his eyes water.
He grabbed the trench coat from the trunk of his car and put it over his collared shirt and slacks. He walked toward the inn with caution. No other cars were parked in front and he wondered if anyone was there. He felt a strong breeze pulling him up the front steps, where Mr. Hinton waited for him. Hector approached the boney, old man and introduced himself.
“I know who you are. My name is Jacob Hinton. I am the manager of the Hawthorne Inn.” He then offered him a shaky hand.
“Nice to meet you,” Hector said and shook the old man’s hand.
“Shall we go inside? I have tea. We can discuss the opportunity in front of the fireplace.”
Hector nodded and followed Mr. Hinton into the lobby. A crystal chandelier hung over the center of the room, casting a sickly yellow light over the antique furniture and wallpaper. Mr. Hinton led him to the sofas facing the brick fireplace and motioned him to sit.
Mr. Hinton poured Hector a cup of tea as Hector took a seat. “Mr. Hinton,” he said. “I apologize, but I am not quite sure what this is all ab—”
“Uh, sure. Just one, though.”
“I assume you don’t want cream. Here you are, Hector.”
“Thank you, sir. May I just ask why I’m here? Did you send that note to me? I thought it was—”
“Mr. Villa, please. We will get to all of that. For now, tell me about yourself.”
“Like what? I apologize for asking again, but—”
“You’ve done that twice now.”
“Sorry.” Hector took a long sip of his tea like a child whose mother just asked an accusatory question. “I am laborer at a construction company. I like to read. Sometimes I sing in the shower. I don’t know.”
“Where are you from, Hector?”
“Um, here. I was raised just a few miles North actually. I’ve never seen this place before, though.” The sound of a loud crash came from a room upstairs. Hector flinched.
“Don’t mind the noises,” Mr. Hinton said. “We asked you to come here because we think you would be a great doorman. We need someone strong around here to take of some things I just cannot do anymore. We’ll take care of you. You’ll have food, a place to sleep, money in case you need anything extra. Anything you require, really.”
“That’s an interesting offer, sir. You said, ‘we’?” Hector looked around. “Who else are you talking about?”
“Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I need to know whether you are interested in this position before I can answer all of your questions. The construction work—is that something you want to do long-term?”
“Well, not really. In fact, they have to start laying off people pretty soon and I was worrying about getting a new job.”
“So, I take it you’re interested?”
“I guess I am,” Hector said and help Mr. Hinton refill his teacup.
“So you are accepting this position, yes?”
“Yes,” Hector said hastily. He didn’t know why, but he felt this was his only option.
Six months later, stood on the lawn wondering why he accepted such a vague offer. He could hear the usual moans coming from inside of the inn. He knew that tonight he would have to watch another victim enter this house and never leave.
Hector went into the inn and noticed Mr. Hinton on one of the couches, looking through some old photo albums.
“Just some old photos,” he said and motioned Hector to sit. “I know you have some questions. I’ve been keeping some things from you and I understand how that feels. I’m sorry. Please sit.”
Hector took his place next to Mr. Hinton on the orange sofa. Mr. Hinton’s ancient fingers flipped through the brittle pages that were now stained yellow from years of sitting in boxes.
“This is my father, George Hinton. You can see that this was right after he bought the land for the inn.”
“He looks just like you,” Hector said.
Mr. Hinton flipped the page over to another photo of the inn during construction. “My father said this was his way of showing his family he loved us. He swore that we’d live in this house for generations. If he could only see it now—” Mr. Hinton cut himself off and began flipping through the album. He landed on a photo of a young boy hanging the photos in the hallway. “This is about the time when my father’s business went bankrupt. The loan officers suggested we convert our home into an inn.” He flipped through the pages as he spoke. “We hung up the room numbers and opened to the public in 1932. I was thirteen then and helped to run the front desk with my mother.”
“She’s so beautiful,” Hector said.
“Yes. She was the kindest person that ever existed. It was her fault that my father’s business failed. She hardly charged people for the work my father did.” Mr. Hinton skipped through some pages to a photo of his entire family standing in front of a red ribbon tied to the posts on the porch. His father held a pair of giant scissors ready to cut the ribbon.
“This is the day we opened the inn. Back then, it was just known as ‘The Inn.’ It wasn’t ‘til 1938 that we renamed it.” Hector was curious and felt like someone was watching him with a sharp eye.
“I came home one day from my first real job delivering milk earlier that year. The inn was empty. The guests, my family—everyone was gone. I went into the room I used to live in and there was a tall man there. He was wearing a suit and glasses. He asked me what my name was and took me into the kitchen. He told me that my family had left town because they couldn’t afford to pay the bills anymore. At first I didn’t believe him, but after weeks passed, then months. And they never came back for me…” Mr. Hinton placed a firm hand on the album and slowly turned the page. He began to shake a little. Hector led a glass of water to Mr. Hinton’s lips. “Thank you.”
“Do you still think your parents left you? I mean, why would they do that?”
“No,” he said quietly. He pointed at the page. “This is Mr. Hawthorne. He was the man who told me that. He also helped me manage the inn. We changed the name and built that sign out front in 1938.”
“That’s Mr. Hawthorne?”
“I know. You’ve seen him before.”
“Yes. Every night.”
“Well, in 1942, while the country was at war, Mr. Hawthorne asked me if I had ever killed a man. I said, ‘of course not,’ and he called me weak. He was the father I never wanted. I felt him growing more and more sinister as the years went by until one day, when I went to check on a guest staying in Room 6.” Mr. Hinton cleared his throat while Hector was distracted by the footsteps he could hear marching up and down the spiral staircase. The hair on his neck began to stick up and he reached for the glass of water.
“It’s okay,” Mr. Hinton said. “Don’t mind it. So, when I went to check Room 6, I knocked on the door and no one answered. I could hear sounds coming from inside and I worried that the other guests may be bothered. So, I unlocked the door to make sure they were okay. But what I found inside—Mr. Hawthorne was standing in the middle of the room with his arms in the air. He was surrounded by red candles and was chanting something in a language I couldn’t identify. He continued as I walked closer to him. It was like he didn’t know I was there until I spoke. I saw the guest’s body lying on the floor face down. Mr. Hawthorne hissed at me, like a cat and I ran out of the room, down Mabel.
“When I returned to the inn with the authorities, Mr. Hawthorne was dead also. A suicide they said. Ever since that day, any guest that enters this inn doesn’t leave alive.”
“Oh my God. So Mr. Hawthorne is behind this?”
“Hector, I believe that whatever this is, it’s much more powerful than Mr. Hawthorne. We’re lucky to he on its side.”
“Lucky? I live every minute of my life in fear. I never sleep unless by accident. Lucky? How could you—”
“Shush, Hector. I told you all of this in confidence. That you would feel better knowing. The same rules that have always applied still do. You cannot do anything out of the ordinary if you want to stay alive.”
“And live like this? We’ll be here our entire lives.”
“This is the job you accepted. Don’t you see what we’re up against? It’s not worth the fight.”
“So, we’re just supposed to sit here while people pay you to die?”
“Do what you want, Hector. Just—just be careful.” Mr. Hinton was tired and went to lay down in the study. Hector stayed in the lobby and looked through the albums for anything Mr. Hinton left out of his story. After no luck, he grabbed the smallest album and went on the porch to enjoy a cigarette.
He made himself comfortable on the bench swing and lit his hand-rolled cigarette. As Hector watched the sun set to his left, he thought of the years that Mr. Hinton spent in the inn. I’m complaining about this hell after six months? He’s been here for 70 years.
Hector picked up the album and examined the cover. It was a small album that could hold only 4x6 photos. The cover was worn, brown leather with an inscription: RJH. He opened the cover revealing the first photo: a beautiful woman with long, chestnut-colored hair. She was sitting on a white, wicker chair and holding a bouquet of white lilies. The photo looked old,from the 50s, Hector guessed. And he flipped the page to the next photograph: A man in his twenties, wearing a suit. Hector flipped again. Another man from the same time. He flipped through portrait after portrait of people from the 50s, 60s, 70s. Hector kept going through people who wore neon headbands to the 90s, early 2000’s. Finally, he stopped on a familiar face. This woman, he thought. How do I know her? He flipped the page. And this woman? She was here just a few weeks ago. Stayed in Room 3. He turned each page realizing that this was an album of the dead.
The second to last photo was of last night’s victim, a strong-looking man. He stayed in Room 6. Hector saw that this wasn’t the final photo in the book. There was one more: A large, burly man with thick facial hair and a missing front tooth.
Frightened and overwhelmed, Hector slammed the album shut and tossed it on the bench. Just then, a loud truck made its way up the hill. When it parked, a large man hopped out of the driver’s seat. He had a scraggly, but thick beard and he turned to Hector. “You got any open rooms, buddy?” The man revealed his teeth, with one missing in the front.
Hector was speechless for a minute, but then jumped out of his seat. “Leave! Go! No, we don’t have room. Get out of here,” he yelled and pushed the man back toward his truck.
“Okay, okay. Take it easy. Geez.” The man climbed back into his truck and began to drive down the hill.
Hector smiled knowing he had just saved this man’s life. As he turned back toward the inn, darkness set in and he heard a terrible sound like thunder or a lion’s roar. But it was neither. He looked down the road and watched as the truck tumbled on its side. Hector began to cry. He couldn’t save anyone.
“Hector! What have you done?” Mr. Hinton ran toward him, screaming and shaking.
Hector’s instinct told him to help Mr. Hinton sit down, but he was feeling strange. A great feeling of despair and hatred ran through him like morphine. He grabbed the axe out of the wood-chopping stump and swung it over his head. He didn’t understand the feeling he had and as he swung the axe, he sobbed. Despite his desire to stop, he swung the axe once more into his temple while Mr. Hinton fell to the ground in shock.
After catching his breath, Mr. Hinton ran into the lobby and dialed 911. “Sir, there’s been a terrible accident here at the Hawthorne Inn.” He heard a large thump over his head. “There’s been a murder and a suicide.”
This Story was Part 3 of a Series
- Part 1: The Hawthorne Inn: Elle
Elle is driving home late at night when her car breaks down infront of a spooky inn.
- Part 2: The Hawthorne Inn: Shawn
Shawn was fed up. He placed the small envelope on the end table next to their queen-sized bed and grabbed a few things for the night. Toothbrush, deodorant, shirt, socks, pants. He shoved the items into the plastic bag that held their dinner earlier
- Part 4: The Hawthorne Inn: Riley
Riley hated flying. She had a terrible experience on a plane once. She was on her way home from her mother's funeral when the plane dropped ten feet without warning. Riley was glad it didn't happen on the way there, but swore she would never get on a
- Part 5: The Hawthorne Inn: Paul and Sally
Paul lived everyday like it was his last...