The Dutch Hotel, Part One

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Dutch Hotel, LondonThe Dutch Hotel
A new spooky series
Read by Jana
Written by Bertie
Dedicated to Sophia in Montana

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The Joneses lived in central London in a muse house. You can find muse houses down little side streets that run behind the big houses.

Once upon a time, they were stables or garages with living quarters for the servants on the upper floor. Nowadays, they are expensive and fashionable homes. Smallish, but pretty. You might even find a film star living in a muse house.

The Joneses were not rich. Dad, whose name was Alan, was a chauffeur. His boss, Harry Harrington, was a very wealthy man. He had made tons of money in property - houses and hotels and the like. His name appeared in the Rich Lists in the Sunday newspapers. Dad had worked for Harry Harrington for years. In the early days, he had been a messenger boy, but Dad loved cars and was good with mechanics. So Harry made him his Chauffeur. Any time, night or day, he was ready to take Harry and his latest and ever younger wife to wherever they wanted to go, near or far. On normal days they rode in the Mercedez. On Sundays and special occasions, they took the Rolls Royce.

But when Harry Harrington died, aged 91, his children did not want a chauffeur. They prefered to race around in their sports cars, revving up the engines down little streets, and making pedestrians jump out of their way. But they did want the muse house because it was valuable. And so it seemed that Dad was out of a job, and the Joneses were going to be homeless. Alan’s wife, Angeliki worked as an administrator in a hotel but did not make nearly enough money to pay for a house in central London. At first, the children weren’t too worried. They had a natural optimism that everything would work out one way or another.

“Don’t worry Dad,” said Yogi, who was 11 years old. “We are good people and nothing bad will happen to us.”

But the more they saw their parents looking anxious and tired, the more the kids caught the worry bug.
It turned out that the kids' first instinct was the correct one. Although Harry Harrington’s numerous sons and daughters seemed indifferent to their fate, there had been one other important person in his life. Zelda, his sixth and final wife, had inherited a good part of his fortune. She had always liked Alan and invited him to come and see her to discuss his future.
“Alan, my husband really loved you,” she said as he sunk into the deep sofa. She sat across from him holding a bone china teacup. “He always said that he trusted you with his life. I think it is terrible that his children are throwing you on the scrap heap like a used car.”
Alan knew there was a bad feeling between Zelda and Harry’s children. Their differences were about money. Differences usually are.
Alan nodded and said, “Well it does seem a bit harsh, especially for my own kids.”
“Do not worry,” said Zelda. “I have very special job for you. Do you know The Dutch Hotel?”
“I know most of the hotels in London, but I don’t believe I’ve seen that one,” said Alan.
“Well, it is very beautiful building in Lancaster Gate. Maybe it has seen better times, but the location is perfect, don’t you think?”
Alan of course knew where Lancaster Gate was. It was near where he lived. It wasn’t exactly Mayfair where the best-known hotels were, but it was close to Hyde Park and convenient for the sights of London. He nodded.
“So, I would like you to be the manager of this hotel. And of course, you can live there with your family.”
Alan was really taken aback. He had never done anything like manage a hotel, but at least his wife, Angeliki, worked in one.
“Well Angeliki knows more about hotels than I do,” he admitted. “And I suppose we could work together. It can’t be rocket science.”
“You are right. It is not rocket science,” said Zelda. “The most important thing is that I can trust you. That is what matters to me in this world right now. But there is one special feature about this hotel which I must tell you about. I could let you find out for yourself, but that wouldn’t be fair.”
“Special feature? I can hear Harry talking when you say that. I know that what you really mean is that there’s a problem and not a small one.”
“You are right,” said Zelda. “I have picked up Harry’s way of talking. Yes, there is a problem you need to know about.”
“Which is…”
“The Dutch Hotel is haunted.”
“What do you mean, haunted?”
“Well, there are ghosts there.”
“Yes, Really. Perhaps you don’t believe in ghosts, but I
promise you that you will soon. I have stayed in that hotel. That is why I believe in them. But don’t worry too much. They are mostly friendly. So, now I have told you the good, the bad and the ugly - what will be your decision? Will you take the job?”
“I’ll have to speak to Angeliki,” said Alan. “But I don’t think we have many choices right now. So I expect the answer will be yes.”

So what do you think, will the Alan and take the job, and will the Jonses move into the Dutch Hotel that might be haunted?

Well, you won't have to wait long to find out, because I'm going to continue the story in about a minute’s time. So don’t go away! But first here's some news about a great new musical podcast you should check out. It comes from our sponsor, Wondery.

Angeliki was from a Greek Cypriot family. She was strong willed, efficient, and no-nonsense, but she had a big heart.
“You mean I must give up my job?” she exclaimed when Alan told her the plan.
“Yes, but we can live in the Dutch Hotel and have a share of the profits on top of our salaries. It solves all our problems. Oh, there’s just one thing. The hotel’s haunted.”
“Pah!” said Angeliki. “Don’t worry about that. All hotels are haunted. But you won’t see any ghosts. What’s it like, this building?”
“Let’s go and take a look,” said Alan. “It’s only a few streets away.”
Although it wasn’t far, they decided to put on their best clothes and take the Rolls Royce. There was nothing like creating a good first impression, and besides, Alan wouldn’t have many more opportunities to drive his beloved car.
“Can’t you ask Zelda if you can keep it? asked Nafsi his daughter.
“Well perhaps,” said Alan, “But it does use a lot of petrol and I’ll have to pay for it now.”
“Who cares?” said Yogi. “We’re going to own a hotel. We’re going to be rich.”
“Not quite,” said Alan. “We’re going to manage a hotel. It will still belong to Zelda.
“Same Difference,” said Yogi.
They pulled up outside The Dutch Hotel. It was a tall impressive building on a corner. The windows were large and ornate and the doors were inviting. But there was no attendant, and nobody to greet the car.
“It doesn’t look open,” said Angeliki.
“Let’s go and see,” urged Nafsi.
They all got out of the Rolls and went to peer through the glass front door. “Those are builders inside,” said Angeliki. The hallway was grand enough, with plenty of marble, tiles, and pillars, but there were sheets on the floor and some men were putting up wallpaper.
“Let’s go inside,” said Kostas.
Allan was in a bolder than usual mood. He pushed the door and it opened.
“Er hello,” said Angeliki to one of the men. “Zelda Harrington said we could come and take a look at the building. She wants us to run the hotel.”
“I don’t know about that,” said the builder in an East European accent. “You can talk to Marek.”
Marek was in charge of the builders. He gave the family yellow hard hats and took them on a tour of the first couple of floors.
“It’s nearly ready,” he said, “We’ve been working on it for the best part of the year.”
It was true, most of what was happening now was finishing touches, like painting and laying carpets. The hard hats hardly seemed necessary.
“It’s looking great,” said Alan admiring the high ornate ceilings, the bronze stair rails, and the little statues. They went into a suite of rooms. It was twice as expansive as their house..
“Can this be our bedroom?” asked Yogi
Angeliki explained, “We’re probably going to live here.”
“Well good luck,” said Marek. “It’s a grand old building, but you couldn’t pay me enough to live here.”
“Why’s that?” asked Angeliki
“Because it’s well and truly haunted.”
“Grrrreat!” chimed the kids “We’ll have the best Halloween parties!”
“You might say great, but you’ll be lucky if you have any restful nights. You should hear the stories the night watchmen come up with. In fact Big Stu, the night watchman will be on duty soon. You can hear it from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.”
They didn’t have to wait long, Big Stu the night watchmen turned up about ten minutes later clutching his flask of tea. Big Stu was actually quite small. His nickname was clearly a joke. But he did look wiry and tough and certainly not the type to be easily frightened, by some tall spooky story.
“Stu!” said Marek, “These nice people are thinking of living and working here when we’re done with the refurbishment. Can you scare some sense into them with your best ghost stories ?”
“Aye,” said Stu, “I don’t mind sharing stories, so long as they are ready to be scared out of their wits.”
“We like scary stories,” said Yogi.
“Well you’ve come to the right place,” said Stu. “It’s like this. I have here in front of me, a bank of video monitors. They show me the corridors and stairs, the nooks and crannies of the hotel. Now it is closed. There is not supposed to be anyone wandering around in the wee hours of the morning, do you agree?”
“Yes,” said Ageliki. “It should be empty.”
“True, true. But hmidnightere’s the thing. When the clock touches the cusp of , the monitors fill up with shades of people going about their business.”
“What do you mean by shades of people?” asked Nafsi.
“I mean that they look like people but they can’t be, because nobody is supposed to be there.”
“What sort of people?”
“I would say for the most part they are servants, maids and waiters, fetching and carrying and sweeping and cleaning and the like. But there are guests too, ladies and gentlemen dressed up to the nines in the fashions of years gone by.”
“Oooh, that’s spooky, can we see some videos of them?’ asked Yogi.
“So that’s the thing,” said Stu with a shrug. “Every night I watch the shades as I call them. They are as real as you are right now. But when I playback the video recordings, there’s not a soul, nor a mouse, living or dead to be seen. Now, are you frightened?”
One look at Mum’s face showed that she wasn’t scared a little bit. There was a tiny little smile at the end of her lips which revealed that she was slightly amused by the ghostly tale and did not believe it. But Dad looked more concerned.

“Thank you for sharing your stories,” he said, “We’ll have to hope the ghosts are harmless.”

“As far as I know, they’ve not murdered anyone in their beds, not yet at any rate,” said Stu.

When the family were gathered safely in the Rolls Royce Nafsi asked, “Dad, are you sure you want us to live in that creepy hotel?”

“Well,” said Dad, “Where else are we going to live?”