The Hawthorne Inn: Paul and Sally
Paul lived everyday like it was his last.
He woke up each morning with an agenda he had written the night before on a scrap of paper—usually an old bill or social security envelope. The tasks on his agenda were often general notes to visit friends, of which he had many. It was rare that he would write general to-dos like “deposit checks” or “do laundry.” Those were the types of things he didn’t feel like seeing in the morning or doing very often. Since he retired from the force, these agendas were the only things keeping him going each day.
Being a police officer was very stressful for Paul. He knew that some of the kids he cuffed didn’t deserve their sentences, and some of these kids still haunted his dreams. After his resignation and the loss of his wife to lung cancer, he felt like he needed to change the way he was living. He cleaned up his house and packed his wife’s things, got a gym membership and lost five pounds.
Everyday, he would pick up the small framed photo of his wife and kiss it saying, “This day’s for you.”
After he completed most of the tasks on his agenda, he found himself at Griffith Park with Sally, his old partner. They were having a picnic at Amir’s Garden, surrounded by tropical ferns and flowers. Sally wiped the mustard off of her chin with a paper napkin and asked, “So, what have you been up to these days? It’s been a little while.”
“Not too much,” he said.
“What? I believe it was just a few months ago that you wanted to learn how to surf, so you went to Santa Monica and asked a guy if you could borrow his board.”
“You mean Randy? Yeah, that was disaster. You know, lately I’ve realized that I can’t do certain things at this age even if I wanted to.”
“Like what? You’ve done so much. Isn’t it nice to take a break? Relax?”
“I get bored.”
“Yeah, I guess I do too. I just finished watching the entire Seinfeld series.”
Paul lifted his eyebrows.
“What? It’s a good show. But now I have nothing to watch.” Sally took a bite of her sandwich.
“You know what? Let’s do something fun. Tomorrow. Let’s go camping or something.”
“Camping? With our backs? Please.”
“No, really. Let’s do it. I hear Joshua Tree is great. You gotta get off that couch. How ‘bout it?”
“Fine. I’ll bring my air mattress. Next you’ll be trying to get me to go skydiving.”
“Sounds fun, but we’re too old. I checked.”
“Of course you did,” Sally said and giggled.
After they left Amir’s Garden, he told her about his plans that night to visit is sister in East LA. He asked her to join him and she stroked her blonde hair in the passengers seat. “Sure,” she said. “You sure she won’t mind?”
He shook his head.
“Fine,” she said. Sally liked Paul in a way that she felt she could never show. They had been partners for twelve years—ever since Sally lost her old partner, who was also her fiancé, in a high-speed chase gone wrong. Sally felt that she could never find anyone else like him, but now she was beginning to feel that way about Paul.
As they exited the 134 freeway, Paul mentioned stopping for wine before they got to his sister’s house. They pulled into a small market on the corner of an empty intersection. The neon light above the doorway made a horrible buzzing sound. Sally was complaining about it as they walked into the store, but Paul cut her off to say, “Good evening,” to the cashier. The young worker nodded and returned to reading his comic book.
“So, what kind of wine does your sister like?” Sally asked.
“I don’t know. The wine’s for us. What kind do you like?”
Sally was puzzled. She didn’t drink wine and couldn’t name a single type. “Um, I guess a simple white is good?”
“White? I would’ve guessed red.” He smiled, knowing her drink of choice.
“I guess I’m not really a wine drinker,” Sally said.
“Yeah, me neither. Heineken then?”
Paul reached for his wallet as he pushed the box onto the counter.
“$13.75,” the cashier said.
“Hey, you’re not gonna ask for my ID? I could be fifteen,” Paul teased.
The cashier opened his mouth, but didn’t know what to say. Paul and Sally chuckled.
“I’m just joking, kid. I know I’m old.”
When they left the store Sally asked what part of town they were in. “It’s so empty,” she said.
“I don’t know. You’ll have to ask my sister. Caren’s her name, by the way.”
“Good to know.”
The clouds had covered the area and as it was late November, the sun had already set. Sally and Paul drove down the road, joking about the “bozos” (as Sally called them) on the talk radio. “This guy’s the worst. Not only is his voice excruciating to listen to, but what the hell is he saying?” She looked over at Paul who was squinting to see the road signs. “Paul, are we lost?”
“Nah, no. I know where I’m going. That’s Mabel? Yeah, that’s the street, I think.”
They drove onto the dusty road straight ahead of them. The line of streetlights ended on this road, so Paul hunched over the steering wheel to make sure he didn’t hit anything in the fog.
“You need me to call her?” Sally asked.
“No, no. It just looks different in the dark.”
As they drove down Mabel Lane, they caught a glimpse of two, young children waving their arms on the side of the road.
“Paul, Paul, pull over. Do you see those kids?”
“What are they doing out here?”
“They look like five or six years old. We have to stop.”
Paul pulled the car over on the gravel and put the car in park. Two, small children, a boy and a girl, stood to the right of them in white linen clothing.
“Does Caren live in an Amish town? I didn’t know they had those here,” Sally said.
Paul felt strange, so he didn’t respond. He slowly climbed out of the car and made his way to the passenger’s side. He felt nauseous and heavy, like he had a fever. His vision got blurry when he asked the children, “Are you kids okay?”
“No! Please help us. You have to, please!” the boy said. He was anxious and jumpy, tugging at Paul’s pant leg.
“Where are your parents? What’s going on?” Paul said.
“We need help! Come with us,” the boy said.
“Please, Mister?” the girl said and kept her head down toward the ground.
Paul couldn’t seem to shake this strange feeling. Sally got out of the car a little dizzy herself and asked, “What’s going on here?”
“You need to help! Please, come with us,” the girl said and held Sally’s hand.
“Okay, where do we go?” Sally asked.
“Up there,” the boy said and pointed at a large house on the top of a steep hill.
“Okay, get in the car,” Paul said. He pushed the beer over on the back seat.
The children climbed in as Sally took her place in the front. “What’s going on, kids?” She said. The children giggled from the back seat.
Sally was beginning to feel worse and worse. There was an invisible lump in her throat—a bad feeling that she couldn’t seem to swallow.
“Kids,” Paul said as he parked, “Why do you need our help? You have to tell us what’s in there.” When there was no response, he looked back at them. They had their heads down and were whispering things to each other like a football team’s huddle.
“Children!” Paul shouted. “Look at me! I’m—” He closed his mouth as both of their heads snapped toward him, showing him their eyes. Paul started to shake as he saw them, with no irises, no color in their eyes at all, just black nothingless—but not like empty spaces—like shiny, black pearls that were so beautiful by themselves, but in those faces were the most terrifying things Paul had ever seen.
“Paul, are you okay?” Sally asked and glanced back at the black-eyed children. She screamed and ran out of the car, but Paul was still in there, hypnotized by the eyes. Sally popped open his door and pulled him out of the car. They ran onto the porch of the house and latched onto each other.
Sally checked Paul’s heart rate and make sure he felt okay. “Paul, what were those?”
“I don’t know. Are they still in there?”
“I can’t look,” Sally said and tucked her face under Paul’s underarm.
Paul held her and struggled to look, but he didn’t want to see them again, those eyes. The gained the strength and turned his head around, but they weren’t there and neither was the car. “Sally. Sally, the car’s gone.”
“What?” They both stood up and looked around, but the car wasn’t even on the dirt road below and they didn’t hear it leave. “Paul, we need to report this.”
“Who’s gonna believe our story? That two kindergarteners with black eyes stole our car?” Paul fell to his knees. He was weak. “God, those eyes.”
“Paul, forget it. The car has to be somewhere. Where’s your phone? My purse was in he car.”
“Uh, here,” Paul said as he handed her his cell phone.
“Ugh, I can’t get service. Great. What is this place?”
Paul stared down at the road. “This wasn’t the right street. I’m sorry.”
“Sorry? No, you couldn’t have seen this coming. Let’s try to go in this place and use their phone. Come on,” Sally said and lifted Paul off of the porch.
He stood, looking curiously at the wide-open, wooden doors of the house. They walked into a large, main room with a fireplace. There we couches and antique furniture that seemed to be discolored by the yellow walls—the kind of yellow that water stains leave on white ceilings. Sally noticed gold numbers on the doors and the tiny, metal bell on a desk.
“It must be an inn of some kind.”
“The Hawthorne Inn, actually,” a crackly voice said from behind the desk. An old man rose up, as if walking up stairs. “Welcome. I’m Mr. Hinton, the manager. How can I help you?”
“Yes, we uh, can we borrow your phone?”
Paul looked around the lobby, enticed by something he couldn’t see.
“Sorry, madam. Our phone lines are down right now. Can I offer you a room?”
“Paul, what do you think?”
Paul snapped his head toward them. “Um, yes. Sounds great, but my wallet was in the car.”
“Don’t worry. You can pay me in the morning,” Mr. Hinton said.
“Well, our car was stolen, so it might be a few days after that,” Paul said.
“You know what I’ll do? I’ll just give you a room on the house. You must be having a bad day if you got your car stolen out here.”
“Yes,” Sally said, “Thank you so much. We will pay you when we can.”
“It’s no problem, madam. Now, which room would you and your husband like to stay in? Room 6 is very nice.”
“Oh, we aren’t married,” Sally said.
“Room 6 is fine,” Paul said.
Sally looked over at him, confused as to why he didn’t ask how many beds were in the room before accepting it. Paul was too busy staring at the chandelier above them to notice.
“Alright, well here are the keys. Room 6 is just down the hall, that way. I will be in Room 2 if you need me. I hope you don’t mind me not showing you to your room; I have some business to attend to. Excuse me.”
“Thank you, Mr. Hinton,” Sally said.
Paul and Sally walked down the hall and looked at the strange paintings on the wall. They both stared to feel a heavy weight on their shoulders as Paul turned the key to Room 6.
When they entered the room, a cloud of smoke blew out and disappeared, like the kind of thing an illusionist would use to escape a scene unnoticed, only to pop up somewhere else. Sally held onto Paul’s sleeve. She wasn’t one to get scared often, but after seeing those eyes, she felt overcome with fear.
“Sally, let’s calm down. Maybe what we saw wasn’t real, you know?” Paul knew what he saw, but seemed like Sally needed the assurance.
“Maybe,” she said. “Well, at least we’re safe now. I wonder if this TV works.” She turned the old knob and nothing but static played on every channel. “So, I guess this is kind of like the camping trip we were going to take tomorrow.”
“Kind of,” Paul said. “Do you mind if I take a shower?”
“No problem. I’ll figure out something to do.”
Paul smiled and went into the bathroom. Meanwhile, Sally sat down on the bed and looked around the room. There were a couple of books propped up alongside the phone on the desk. Sally read the titles on the sides, Demonologie, The Revelation of St. John the Divine, The History of the Hinton Inn. She picked up the last title and flipped over the front cover. The book was hand-written with photographs of the inn. She wondered if the author was the same Mr. Hinton that she had just met. She read the beginning that documented the buildings change from being the Hinton’s home to an inn. She skipped the parts about the profitability and came to the last page that described a strange man named Mr. Hawthorne taking over the inn and renaming it after the death of the Hinton family.
On the inside of the back cover, there was a chilling statement that made Sally shiver. She shut the book and began to cry. She didn’t know why, but the tears came pouring out of her eyes and fell on the back cover of the book.
All of a sudden, a large crash came from inside the bathroom followed by Paul’s howls. “Paul!” Sally shouted and ran toward the bathroom. “Are you okay?”
It sounded like there was some kind of struggle and Sally knew what she had to do. “Stand back,” she said and kicked-in the door.
Paul was lying on his back wrapped in the shower curtain. Sally checked the bathroom for anyone else, but he was alone. “Paul, what happened?” She lifted the shower curtain off of his face, exposing a large, bloody gash on his forehead. “Paul! You’re hurt. Paul?” The blood seeped onto the floor in a round puddle. She knew that she was too late.
Sally fell onto the linoleum tiles and held Paul. “No. No,” she muttered, rocking him back and forth. Finally, she stood up and investigated the bathroom. The shower curtain had been yanked from the outside as she could tell by the angle of the marks on the walls. She found a small, ceramic vase on the floor, stained with blood. He was hit, she thought. The sickly feeling that overtook her earlier returned and she vomited into the small trash bin in the bathroom.
She thought of talking to Mr. Hinton, but because of the last line in the book, she knew she couldn’t do that. She had to leave and leave Paul there on the floor. When she walked out of the bathroom and into the room, a gust of wind took her by surprise. The sliding glass doors that led to outside were wide open unlike before. Sally grabbed the book and ran out of the doors and into the field behind the house.
She looked around and only saw a single sheep in the middle of the entire landscape.
She began to run. She didn’t care of he direction; she just knew she had to get away. A buzzing in her pocket interrupted her strides. She picked Paul’s phone out of her pocket and answered the call. She assumed it was Caren, but the number was unlisted.
“Come back for me, Sally.” A scared, hoarse and crumbly voice begged her from the other end of the phone.
“Sally, please come back for me. Don’t leave me here.”
“Paul, I’m coming. Keep breathing.” She shut the phone and ran back toward the inn. As she got close, running became harder, like she was piling weight onto herself, more and more the closer she got to the inn.
She burst through the doors and slammed into the chest of a dark man. “Give me that,” he said and yanked the book from her hand.
“Please, don’t hurt me,” Sally begged.
The man put the book back on the desk and motioned to someone, Come. Sally sobbed on the floor as the figure of a woman came closer.
“Riley, now is the time,” the man said.
The woman knelt next to Sally and a tear fell from her dead eyes. “I’m sorry,” she whispered, and lunged the knife into Sally’s heart.
This Story Is Part 5 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...
- Part 3: 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...
- 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...