Bienvenue Press is pleased to announce the first place winner in our annual Halloween Flash Fiction contest. This story is by Chelsi Arnold and J D Boudreaux. Bienvenue Press would like to thank everyone who entered this year’s contest. The entries were outstanding and our judges had a very hard time deciding.
“Dew Drop Inn”
Underneath the white glow of the half-moon, a cool breeze raised the small hairs on the back of Nick’s neck.
“I can’t believe we’re doing this,” he grumbled.
Oblivious to Nick’s sullen tone, Jacqueline gave him a wide smile. “You’re the one who suggested our weekly date nights.” Tapping his chest with two tickets, her grin morphed into a mischievous smirk. “And since it was my turn to choose… I. Chose. This.”
“The Ghastly & Ghostly Gatlinburg Tour isn’t exactly what I had in mind.”
“It’s Halloween week. It’s perfect.” Jacqueline placed a hand on one of Nick’s broad shoulders. “Don’t tell me you’re scared…”
Before Nick could respond, an elderly man hobbled forward.
“If you’ll follow me, we’ll begin the tour.”
Nick and Jacqueline glanced around the vacant area.
“Sir, did no one else sign up for the tour?” Jacqueline asked.
Ignoring her question, the man began shuffling toward an abandoned hotel at the end of the street.
Just as Jacqueline started to follow behind the man, Nick grabbed her arm.
“I don’t know about this Jacqueline. The guy’s a little too Addams Family if you ask me.”
Rolling her eyes, Jacqueline laughed. “Come on. You’re a tough Cajun Navy guy. Don’t tell me you’re scared of a little old man.” Looping her arm through Nick’s, she tugged him toward the hotel. “This will be fun.”
The man stopped just outside the arch of the hotel’s entrance. “The Dew Drop Inn. It was once one of the most sought-after hotels in the country. Presidents, actors, authors, and artists all graced these halls.” The man glanced behind him at the chipped front door. “Begun in 1933, its first guest checked in during the same week as the Great Smoky Mountain National Park was established in June of 1934. In 1938, the first death happened at this inn. The promising author, Evan Jensen, who was staying here to complete his latest novel, tragically died when he stumbled down the stairs one morning. Following his death, every year hence, a fatal accident would claim at least one guest. In 1988, after a group of motorcyclists passed away in a horrific elevator malfunction, the Dew Drop Inn was finally closed down.”
Nick leaned in and spoke softly into Jacqueline’s ear. “Fifty years and fifty-plus deaths. About time, don’t you think?”
Jacqueline elbowed Nick in his ribs.
The elderly man reached into his pocket and pulled out a small leather journal with the letters EJ burned into it. His fingers traced over the letters as he whispered, “It became known as the place you can check in any time you like, but a place you can never leave.”
Nick wanted to laugh, but he put his face closer to Jacqueline’s once more.
“No, I’m pretty sure that’s the Hotel California.”
She was about to send Nick a more severe message with her elbow, but a cold blast of air whipped Jacqueline’s hair in her face at the same time the hotel’s front doors burst open. Screaming, Jacqueline grabbed Nick’s hand and ran as fast as she could down the street and away from the hotel.
Safely under a streetlamp, Jacqueline started to laugh. “Man… that guy deserves an Oscar.”
Nick chuckled. “He was pretty creepy, but yes, you have to give him credit for staying in character the whole time.”
As Nick and Jacqueline recovered, a group of people wandered over. Hearing their breathless chuckles, a young woman approached them.
“Are you two, Nick and Jacqueline?” At their nod, the woman continued. “We waited to start the tour, but after twenty minutes, we figured you weren’t coming.”
Nick and Jacqueline shared a confused look.
“I’m sorry, I don’t understand. I thought we were on the tour?” Jacqueline questioned.
The woman shook her head. “You missed the beginning. We start the tour at the old post office on the other end of town. This is the end, but don’t worry… we save the best for last. The Dew Drop Inn.”
The woman pulled out two brochures and handed one to each of them. Jacqueline gasped.
“Who is that?” Her finger shook as she pointed at a black and white picture of the old man who had taken her and Nick to the hotel.
“That is Evan Jensen. The author. In 1938, he was the first death ever recorded at the Dew Drop Inn.”