“Oh! Shut up! I’m working!”
“Ok, ok, I know it may be important. Who ever invented the telephone should be shot! Tomorrow I am definitely buying an answering machine! Hello!”
“Thank heavens you’re home Evangelic, I only have a minute, but listen, this is important.”
“Excus . . . “
“The diagnosis was wrong Evangelic; you don’t have cancer! It’s true! Some technician messed up the samples. Don’t give all your possessions away! Hahaha I’m so happy. But I have to run, they are about to call for the plane and I have to be in St. Louis by 3. Benson and Hardwick don’t like tardiness. Evie if this job interview is successful, we will never have to worry about money again.”
“Listen I’m not . . .”
“It’s ok, my love, everything is ok. You can reach me at the Mayfair and I’ll be home in three days. We can start to make plans now. Love ya babe! Bye.”
Lilly held the receiver in her hand for a moment and listened to the single tone that indicated the party on the other end had hung up. She shook her head and then replaced her handset.
“Well, as wrong numbers go, that was a beaut.” She chuckled and return to her computer. After all she had responsibilities too: the next four chapters of her latest book were due in her publisher’s hands by the end of the week. Except, something was nagging at her: she couldn’t stop thinking about the strange phone call. Obviously, the call was from a man who had misdialed. What’s interesting is he didn’t check to make sure he was speaking to the right person before he imparted his information. Who did that? He was certainly excited; except he was telling someone he loved that she didn’t have cancer. Which means the party he thought he was talking to didn’t know she didn’t have cancer. And now she wouldn’t know for at least a couple of days. He seemed concerned that she find out right away. Well there was nothing Lilly could do about it. She didn’t know his name and while she knew the woman’s name, it didn’t help her find her.
Lilly couldn’t stop thinking. It’s what writers did, they thought. And Lilly thought that maybe she could figure out who the man was. She knew he was calling from the Toronto Airport, she knew the phone number, and she knew where he was going to be later on that day so maybe the people at the hotel could help her find him. This is going to be fun! The writing wasn’t going very well anyway.
So, Lilly made herself a cup of her favourite tea and sat down in front of her computer. She had a string to unravel and it started in St. Louis. Stalking was way too easy in the modern age.
With a flick of a few keys Lilly expected all the information she required to be boldly displayed in front of her, it was not. There was no Mayfair in St Louis. Not deterred she kept at it, something was not right, something didn’t make sense. Lilly was sure he said Mayfair and St Louis. She had good hearing and . . . Then she read: “Built in 1924 . . . The hotel was sold in 2003 to . . .” The mystery deepened. Lilly kept reading. “ . . . reopened it in 2014 as the Magnolia Hotel St. Louis.” That explained one part of the puzzle.
Lilly had a thought. She looked up how long it would take to get to St. Louis . . . anywhere from 4 hours and a bit to almost seven hours. Plus time to collect luggage and book into the hotel. She didn’t have to rush. But her mind couldn’t get over the urgency in his voice. She had to do something. Maybe the Mayfair/Magnolia manager could help. It wouldn’t hurt to ask. So, she looked up the phone number and placed her call.
Now when someone takes the time to make a phone call there are certain expectations. A pleasant voice picks up the phone and an answer to your question is nearly instantaneous, on a good day. This wasn’t one of those.
“The Magnolia Hotel, how may I assist you?”
“um, may I speak to your manager? I am calling from Toronto, Canada and I think, there is a matter that concerns one of your guests.” Lilly could hear the confusion in her voice. She could only imagine what the young man on the other side of the phone was thinking.
Evidently they train their staff well. There was no hesitation. “If you will hold the line for just a moment, I will connect you with Mr. Gordon.”
Lilly barely had time to sip her now cold tea when a very cultured voice spoke on the line.
“Vincent Gordon speaking, how may I be of assistance.”
Lilly took a deep breath and explained to a complete stranger how her morning was going. The call, the anxiety in his voice, the concern that someone needed to know that she didn’t have cancer. Lilly spoke at breakneck speed afraid she was going to be dismissed and, and, and . . .
“Miss Lilly, are you sitting down?
Not the question she expected.
“Yes. Um, do you think I’m crazy?”
“You are not crazy, just a few years late.” There was a quiet sigh on the line and a chair squeaked as if someone had settled back into it. “This may be a bit difficult to understand but we get this call, or one like it, every few years.”
Lilly shook her head, “It was a prank call?!” The quiet inflection in her voice mirrored her feelings. Lilly was confused.
“It wasn’t a prank. It was . . . It is said that some hotels have ghosts, spirits, leftover energy. I don’t know. I only know about Elward Harrison and his wife Evangelic.
And then Mr. Vincent Gordon told Lilly a story. It was about a man whose love for a woman survived his death. ‘April 17, 1972 a man suffered a major heart attack and died while a guest at the Mayfair Hotel in St. Louis. He is survived by his wife Evangelic.’
Mr. Gordon went on to explain that Mrs. Harrison had received incorrect medical information but the doctor had called and assured her, she was fine. Mr. Harrison had called the office and acquired the information but did not stay on the line long enough to know that his wife had also been informed. Evangelic died in 2002.
“I don’t know why he calls. I don’t know how he calls. But the staff all expect a call on this day.
Lilly’s eyes grew wide. “The date today?”
Lilly exchanged her cold tea for something stronger. She shivered. Who knows what lives just beyond our ability to understand . . .