Read Night Journey Online

Authors: Goldie Browning

Night Journey

Table of Contents

by Goldie Browning

Copyright © 2011 by Goldie Browning

Editor, Jonny Haydn
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form, by any electronic or mechanical means, including photocopying, recording, or information storage and retrieval, without permission in writing from the author.
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NIGHT JOURNEY is a work of fantasy and historical fiction. Apart from the well-known actual people, events and locales that figure in the narative, all names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to current events or locales, or to living persons, is entirely coincidental.
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Email: [email protected]


Giving thanks to everyone that helped in the writing of a book is a difficult task, but here goes:

First and foremost, I want to thank my wonderful husband Alan, for putting up with all the general craziness involved in the writing and rewriting and rewriting again of Night Journey. It was a long and difficult process and I truly appreciate your cheerfulness every time I needed you to drive me across three states to do research, for taking care of me when I was sick, as well as being nice about late or missed meals while I was in writing mode. You are the love of my life.

I also want to thank my daughter Kari, for her keen eye in detecting typos and her other valuable input. Thanks also to my mother Juanita, my stepfather Ralph McHan, my sweet mother-in-law Joyce Browning, my sister-in-law Glenda Margerum, my aunt Norma Farmer, my aunts-in-law Naomi Burris and Elizabeth Edwards and my cousin-in-law Colleen Gunter, for reading an early manuscript and telling me it was wonderful, even if it wasn’t. Thanks for the same reason to my BFF’s Kellie Hurst, Liz Woodruff, Bob Barnes, Debbie Brown, Mozelle Palmer, Tiara Roberts, and Jean Wood. And thanks so very much to my brother, Stephen Ray Roberts, who has been my biggest fan.

Thanks soooooo much for all the wonderful people who helped with critiques: Mary Gruhlke (aka Mary Tyler), Caroline Smith (aka Caroline Clemmons), Ashley Kath-Bilsky, Fran Fletcher, Clyde Powell, and Stephen Sullivan. You all taught me a lot about the writing process.

A special thanks to Jonny Haydn, my friend and editor. While working as a tour guide for the Crescent Hotel ghost tours, you took the time to read my chapters and helped make them sparkle. As the son of Hiram Haydn, who was once Editor-in-Chief of Random House and other major publishers, you seem to have inherited his editorial abilities. Thank you.

I’d also like to thank the management of the Crescent Hotel for their help in the publication and marketing of Night Journey. Thanks to Elise Roenigk, owner of the Crescent Hotel, for allowing me to base my story on her wonderful old hotel. Thanks also to Jack Moyer, General Manager, and Bill Ott, Director of Marketing, for so graciously working with me. Thanks so much to Linda Clark, Concierge at the Crescent Hotel, for her support. Thanks also to all the Crescent Hotel ghosts, named and unnamed, for your fascinating stories.


Please sign up with your drivers’ license office to be an organ donor. It’s easy and it’s free. If everybody does it, we won’t have any more long lists or shortages.
Do it for the ones you love. Do it for the human race.




If anyone had asked Emma Fuller to choose between spending the weekend at a luxurious haunted hotel or a low-budget motel, she probably would have opted for the latter.

It wasn’t that she was afraid of ghosts, exactly—she didn’t even believe they existed. Yet for as long as she could remember, she had always felt uncomfortable in old buildings. Creaky floors, shadowy hallways, and musty smells would invariably trigger something in her imagination and she would end up scaring herself silly, sometimes to the point of panic. She didn’t know why she reacted the way she did, she just knew she couldn’t help herself.

Now here she was, four hundred miles from home, learning via text message that the Ozark Mountain resort her brother-in-law had booked for his wedding party was supposedly infested with spirits—and she might even have to sleep with one. She didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry.

ChAng of plans. Rehearsal dinr muvD 2 6. Ghost 2R @ 8. Haunted r%m reserved az U requestD. Mega kewl hotel. Full 2 overflowing w spooks.

“What the heck is your moron of a brother talking about?” Emma frowned and thrust the BlackBerry toward her husband. “Did you ask for a haunted room?”

Zan hesitated as he negotiated the Lexus up a steep mountain switchback before he glanced at Emma’s phone. “Nope. It was Allen’s idea.” He downshifted when the road began to descend. “Ghost hunting is his and Phoebe’s newest passion. I think it’ll be fun. Don’t you?”

“Not really.” Emma cracked her neck back and forth and
then stared out the window. She had an uneasy feeling, but what could she do about it now? She should have researched the hotel before they left. “I suppose it’ll be okay. Just wish you’d told me about it earlier.”

Emma wasn’t sure how long she’d been sleeping, but it must have been quite a while because they were almost to their destination. A sign reading
Eureka Springs City Limits
whizzed by.

“Sorry, Miss Cranky Pants. You’ve been snoozing since we passed Little Rock and that’s about the time I first learned about my brother’s kooky plans. Didn’t want to wake you for something like that.”

“In five hundred feet, turn left,”
said a nasally feminine voice.

“I wish you had woken me. I had another scary dream.”

“The one where you’re being chased by a slasher down a long dark hallway?”

“I don’t know who’s chasing me. It was the same as always, except this time I think I saw a number on a door. Then Allen’s text alert woke me.”

“In three hundred feet, turn left.”

“What was the number?”

“Can’t remember. Too scary.” She shivered and rubbed her arms.

Zan reached across to squeeze her hand and then he zapped her with one of his irresistible, puppy dog smiles. “We don’t have to stay at the hotel. We can get a room somewhere else, if you want.”

“In one hundred feet, turn left.”

“No, no. Its okay, honey. Sorry I’ve been so grumpy. I promise I’ll behave. The reservations are already made and we need to stay with the group.” She remembered passing a Best Western earlier and made a mental note—for future reference, in case their hotel was too, too scary.

Ding…Ding…Ding...“Off route. Recalculating.”

“Shut up.” Zan punched the GPS off. They drove a little farther through winding residential streets before he pulled into a parking lot. “Ready to get out and stretch your legs?”

“More than ready.” She shivered as she emerged from the warm cocoon of the car. Hunching her shoulders against the wind, she zipped her nylon jacket and followed Zan to a roadside gazebo. “How much farther to the hotel?”

“We’re almost there, but Allen specifically said we should stop here first and take a look.” He leaned against the railing and gazed at the mist-enshrouded scenery. “Man, oh man. Would ya just look at that view.”

“I don’t see anything but fog.” Emma shifted from one foot to the other and gazed across the tree-covered valley. Jeez, but this trip was gonna be rushed. One night before and one night after the wedding, then they’d have to hurry back home in time for her to check into the hospital bright and early Monday morning for day surgery. Seemed to her it would have made a lot more sense for them to hold the wedding in Dallas than for them to drag everybody all the way to Podunk, Arkansas. “What are we supposed to be looking at?”

Zan inhaled deeply and pointed toward the vista. “You’ll see. That’s West Mountain over there. Mmm…don’t the woods smell great?”

“Um hm, it’s nice…but cold.” She shivered as a brisk wind danced in from the north, puffed up her dark brown curls, and snatched playfully at the swirling mist that hovered over the emerald Ozarks. As the veil parted, bright blotches of orange and gold set the woods ablaze and the dwindling light of the late-afternoon sun crept closer to the horizon, casting shadows across the wilderness.

When Zan’s arm slid around her shoulders, Emma closed her eyes and leaned against him. Too much tension from the long ride in the cramped car and the unsettling dream had her nerves on edge. She took a deep breath and willed herself to relax. The scent of the pines filled her lungs and the music of the songbirds generated a feeling of peace within her. Maybe this weekend get-away was what they needed after all.

“Honey.” Zan gently shook her. “Look over there.”

Emma opened her eyes and stared in the direction he pointed. A fairytale castle floated in the clouds. “Oh, my gosh. What is that?”

The stately turrets of the building rose high and proud above the tree line, and then disappeared as the mist enveloped it once more. It looked eerie with the fog drifting in and out, like a brooding old mansion in a Penny Dreadful. The beautiful vision seemed like a dream and her heart beat faster. It captured her imagination and reminded her of something—but she couldn’t quite grasp it. Had she been there before? No, she knew she hadn’t.

“It’s the Crescent Hotel. The Grand Old Lady of the Ozarks.”

where we’re going?” Emma gazed at the hotel with wonder. “It looks so familiar. Like I’ve been there before.”

“Maybe in a former life. There’s some kind of family connection, I understand. Something about my grandparents being here when they were young. Will it bother you?”

“Will what bother me?”

“The ghosts.”

Emma shrugged and stared at the exquisite vision on the mountainside as it drifted in and out from behind the clouds. She didn’t believe in ghosts, but if they did exist, this is certainly where they would be. Deciding not to let her silly fears get the better of her, she smiled and replied, “I don’t care. As long as the spirits don’t keep me awake, they can spook you all they want.”

Tires crunching on gravel interrupted their laughter. She glanced to her left and saw a young woman step from the passenger door of a white mini-van. A man walked around from the driver’s side, pulled open the sliding door, and unfastened a child’s car seat. He lifted a rosy-cheeked toddler dressed in a bright red hooded jacket from the backseat and set him on the ground. Emma melted at the sight of the happy family. Tears pooled in her eyes. She fished in her pocket for a tissue.

“Are you okay?”

“Uh-huh.” She dabbed at her eyes and gazed lovingly at Zan. “I’m so glad we’re being proactive. If the doctor is right, we could be like those people in another year or so.”

“I’m glad too. I just wish you didn’t have to go through such a hassle. I think it’s the fertility drugs that’re giving you those headaches and nightmares.”

Emma patted him on the arm. “I know I’ve been a basket case with raging hormones lately, but if it works it’ll all be worth it. Then the real fun will start. Morning sickness, stretch marks, swollen ankles, labor pains…” she ticked off a list of ailments. “Then it’ll be your turn, with the two a.m. feedings and diaper changing. I can’t wait!”

“We’ll suffer together.” He kissed her on the top of her head and asked, “Ready to go?”

Emma nodded and followed him to the car. They’d been trying to have a baby for such a long time. Five years of marriage and she still hadn’t conceived. Now they had renewed hope and she was looking forward to the outpatient procedure her doctor had scheduled for early Monday morning. Following right on the heels of her brother-in-law’s wedding they’d be in a rush, but she’d been lucky to get the procedure scheduled so quickly. Thank goodness she’d already taken care of the paperwork. There’d been so many forms to sign—consent for this and that. Authorizations. Releases. Whatever. Just sign on the hi-lighted blank lines. All she had to do now was show up and get it over with.

Emma stared at the passing countryside while her husband zigzagged the car through the narrow, winding streets of Eureka Springs. She marveled at the shops and the lovely Victorian homes built into the side of the mountain, which seemed to defy the laws of gravity. Two slender does ambled down from the steep hillside, crossed the road, and nonchalantly flicked their white tails. Despite the annoying GPS’s instructions she was certain they must be lost, but to her surprise, they rounded a bend and the massive structure suddenly loomed into view.

She caught her breath when she saw the building up close. It was a beautiful, erratic jumble of architectural styles. The exquisite gothic arches and purple brick chimney spires seemed out of place with the concrete verandas that dominated the first three floors. Her impression of familiarity grew stronger. A sense of foreboding washed over her as she stared at its towering limestone walls; the hotel seemed as if it were alive and waiting to swallow her up.

“What do you think?”

“Very impressive,” Emma replied, dismissing her initial feeling of dread. She stepped out of the car and followed him up the entrance steps, mesmerized as she entered the elegant lobby. A prickly sensation of déjà vu enveloped her when she saw the Victorian-era front desk and antique furnishings. “What time is it?”

“Four-thirty. We’ve got just enough time to check into our room and relax a little before the rehearsal dinner.”

While Zan turned his attention to checking into their room, Emma wandered around the lobby. In one corner near a small sitting area a battered old sign propped up on an easel read
Cancer Curable Baker Hospital – Eureka Springs, Arkansas
. An odd feeling of recognition washed over her.

Something didn’t seem right; the colors were all wrong. The walls should have been purple and the window blinds lavender. She looked at the huge columns and beamed ceilings. The beautiful varnished wood seemed oddly out of place. In her mind she saw them painted bright orange, red, black, and yellow.

A uniformed bellman appeared and Zan showed him to the car parked in the circular driveway. He placed their bags on a rolling cart and waited with Emma in the lobby while Zan moved the car. The bellman led the way to the ancient elevator. The door creaked and groaned as it slid open.

“Welcome to the Crescent. My name is Jimmy,” said the bellman. “What’s your room number?”

“419,” Zan replied, glancing at the key tag.

“Ah. Theodora’s room.” Jimmy punched the button marked four.

Emma’s body prickled and her heart raced. She stared at her husband, who was happily chatting with the bellman.
That was the number—the one in her dream.

“Who’s Theodora?” asked Zan.

“She’s the resident ghost in room 419.”

The elevator gave a little jerk and they began to rise. Emma grabbed for the wooden railing to steady herself.
Breathe. Don’t think about the dream. Just breathe.

“So, is she the only ghost you’ve got here?” asked Zan.

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