by Bruce Thines
[This is an excerpt from the author’s forthcoming story collection, ‘Stories From the Elk Hotel’. The entries deal with the strange incidences and shifty characters in and around a fictionalized Rochester boarding house.]
The Elk Hotel is very old, it was built during the 1920s. Back then the Elk had a bowling alley and a swimming pool in the basement and what they called then a Tap Room on the first floor where beer and liquor were served. When first built the hotel was designed to accommodate people that were just passing through. But those days are long gone, new owners have done away with the swimming pool which had so many cracks that it was beyond repair. Gone also are the bowling alley and the first floor Tap Room. The only thing that remains from the old days are the ghosts that roam the halls…The hotel was managed by Mr. Ed Carr and his secretary Sally Salt. The hotel had its own in-house security staff which was recruited by Mr. Carr himself. There were three of us. My name is Lance Boille, and I’m the head of Security…
It was Tuesday morning and Sally said that Ed Carr wanted to see me in his office. His door was open so I walked in. He looked up from his desk and told me in his Darth Vader voice to come in and close the door. He said, “Lance, I think we have a problem.” I replied, “What’s that boss?” Ed said, “Three of our residents are missing, they haven’t been seen in days.” I told Ed I would investigate it and get back to him.
The three residents missing were Claude Balls, a schizoid with nine different personalities; Harry Ends who was a chronic masturbator, especially in the TV room when those Progressive Insurance ads were on with that lady Flo; also missing was Brad Foreskin who suffered from dementia, who wore one red shoe and one blue shoe and a tinfoil hat.
My investigation led me to the basement, the entrance secured by a locked gate. The only people who had a key were management and security. I unlocked the gate and started down the stairs. The basement was basically a dumping ground for spare stuff and some power tools, such as a table saw and a drill press. There were many secured rooms that nobody knew what lied behind them. When I reached the back of the basement I noticed that someone had built a shack out of plywood with a padlocked door. There was a very peculiar smell that came from the shack, it smelled like vinegar. I called Peter our maintenance man and asked him if he knew anything about the room, he said he didn’t. I called Ed Carr the manager and asked him if he knew anything about this room. He said no, but he was on his way down.
Ed had some bolt cutters and we snapped the lock off the door. When I opened the door the smell of vinegar and disinfectant overcame us. Inside the room we found the three missing residents. They were strapped to chairs, duct tape secured their heads to make-shift headrests. There was a lot of blood running down their heads because of the holes drilled through their skulls. Tubing ran from a pump into their heads from a bucket containing vinegar, another tube came out the other side and carried brown fluid into a tub.
We called 911, the police and the EMTs arrived. The EMTs very carefully removed the three men from the chairs and got them to the hospital. Ed and I gave the police a full report of what we knew and found.
I had told the police of a resident on the second floor that I was suspicious of. His name was Charles Bump, a.k.a. Dr. Charles Bump. I had learned that Dr. Bump could no longer practice medicine in New York due to unethical procedures he was engaged in. He was a strange man. His skin hung in folds from his face as if he was melting and his nose was a reddish purple with sores all over it. He dressed in forest green with a large green and brown hat adorned with a feather. To top off his attire he wore a huge green and brown great coat, that which a Prussian General would wear. He resembled an aged tree. He would hang around the office a lot talking to Ed and Sally about his medical experience and his general opinions on cures, especially for the mentally ill.
A few days passed and I kept a close eye on Dr. Bump. I finally caught him one morning about 4 a.m. unlocking the gate to the basement. I asked him where he got the key to the gate. He told me Ed gave it to him. I told Dr. Bump to give me the key and that I would check his story out with Mr. Carr in the morning but he refused my request. I told him if he did not give me the key that I would call the police and charge him with trespassing. He handed me the key reluctantly and fled out the door to the alleyway.
When Ed woke I told him what had happened early in the morning. He was upset about Dr. Bump having a key to the basement and said he didn’t give Bump a key. We questioned everyone else who had access to the office and they all said that no way did they give Bump a key. I had wondered if he may have taken someone’s key and had a duplicate made, there was that possibility. We checked Bump’s room, we wanted to question him. He was not in his room when we arrived but we did find a gallon of apple cider vinegar, some used aquarium hoses, hypodermic needles and couple bottles of Thorazine. I told Sally Salt to keep a look out for him and call me as soon as she saw him come in.
The next day we got a call from Sergeant Fuller of the RPD to meet him at the hospital. He said that one of our tenants had fully recovered and was talking. We met Sergeant Fuller at Strong Hospital and we followed him up to Harry Ends’ room. We found Harry sitting up in his bed, his head was bandaged and his eyes were surprisingly clear, he looked good. He said he remembered being in a kind of dimly lit room and he said he remembered Dr. Bump would give him an injection and he would drift off into a deep sleep. Harry thought the whole thing was a dream until he woke up in the hospital with his head bandaged and one hell of a headache. Everything came together after the police talked to him and told him where they found him. We learned from Sergeant Fuller that Claude Balls and Brad Foreskin didn’t survive.
Harry fully recovered. He was like a new man, all his old habits just vanished. Flo no longer fascinated him. He totally, miraculously cleaned-up his act. When I last talked to him he was taking classes through a County program to make him eligible for a job. Dr. Bump was later picked-up on the streets of Rochester and charged with two counts of murder.
Bruce Thines is a 73-year-old retired person. His collection, Stories from the Elk Hotel, is awaiting publication.