Ashley instantly hated their quiet, picturesque hotel in heart of downtown Chicago. From the first step into the lobby, the hair on the back of her neck stood on end. The hotel was very old, but surprisingly well maintained, although the marble on the floor, her mother lectured her, was warped from time and the passage of so many feet.
Mom had agreed to meet a suspected supplier of red-list Abnormals; and even Helen Magnus could use backup if something went pear shaped. Or as Ashley preferred, FUBAR. Her mom hated acronyms with a passion, so Ashley kept her thoughts to herself on the subject.
They checked in at the front desk, got their room keys and were almost to their rooms on the ninth floor when Ashley got that feeling of being watched, again. This time stronger and more chilling.
Her mom gave her a raised eyebrow when she stopped and looked behind her for the second time since leaving the elevator. Ashley rolled her eyes and shrugged before continuing on to her room.
This place was just plain creepy. The rooms were clean and neat, despite the age. The furnishings were antiques and immediately caught her mom's attention.
The second room was slightly larger than the first and had a fantastic view of the water, so Ashley claimed it by dumping her suitcase and carry-on onto the bed. Her mom gave her the eyeroll this time and went to deposit her bags in the other room. There was no door joining the rooms, because her mom's room was on the other side of the hallway. The side with the crappy view.
Ashley felt very smug about it.
It was a cold, wintery day in Chicago and the waves had white caps. The view from the large window was mesmerizing, and Ashley didn't know exactly how long she sat in the wing-chair and just stared out the window at the waves on the water.
A hand on her shoulder made her jump out of her skin, and her mom stumbled back to avoid the knife Ashley instinctively pulled from her boot. A shadow passed over her mother's face, before it became carefully blank. That had been happening more and more lately when Ashley did something either more quickly than a normal person could, or more quietly. Sometimes, Ashley would see pain in her mother's eyes as well.
She knew better than to ask, though. Helen Magnus didn't give up information to anyone, even her daughter, unless there as a need for her to know it. Her mom's brain was one giant classified information database. Ashley often wondered if keeping so many secrets didn't give her mother a full time ice cream headache.
To Ashley's mind, people should just be told everything, no secrets, no evasions. Full disclosure. If they couldn't deal with the truth, that was their problem.
They ate a quiet dinner in the hotel's restaurant, took a long walk around downtown Chicago to get a feel for the place, and then retired to their beds for the night.
Ashley put on a pair of pink silky thermal underwear to keep warm in the drafty room and settled down to sleep. The room made unsettling noises. And once she could swear the chair by the window moved. Just as her eyelids gave in, the tv in the corner of the room switched on. Ashley got up to turn it off, but when she got within a foot of the possessed television, it switched itself off.
Not one to take chances, Ashley unplugged the tv from the wall outlet with a smirk of triumph. Crazy Poltergiest tv would not be turning on again tonight.
Ashley was awakened from a sound sleep a very few hours later with the overwhelming feeling someone was standing beside her bed. The room was black as pitch; and as cold as their walk-in freezer back home. She could see her breath coming in little puffs. The light switch on the lamp had no effect at all. She padded across the room and tried every switch on the wall, but none of the lights would turn on.
She pulled back the curtains on the window and was relieved to have a glow of city light through the inside of a very fogged up window. Ashley yawned and crawled back into her bed, comforted by the glow that allowed her to at least see a little bit.
An hour later, at about 3am, the bedside lamp turned on, blinding her, but for a second she could swear she saw a dark shape in the far corner of the room. That was the final straw. Ashley had had enough of her room and walked across the hall and knocked on Helen's door.
As usual, her mom was still wide awake and fully dressed, working at a laptop she had open on the hotel's antique desk. Her mom didn't even blink when Ashley muttered something about her sleeping in the damn ghost room and crashed for the night in Helen's bed.
In the morning, they switched rooms. Ashley got a small huff from her mom when she refused to even enter the other room to get her own bags.