Lauren finished applying a fresh coat of mascara, and then reached for a tube of lipstick. She turned from the mirror as another flash of lightning streaked across the sky. “The storm’s getting closer,” she said.
“Huh?” Hannah asked. She sat cross-legged on the bed nearest the window with her laptop balanced on her knees.
“The storm. Haven’t you heard the thunder?”
Hannah glanced out the window. “Oh, yeah, right.”
“It’s a good thing for you this place has internet. I’d hate for you to go through social media withdrawals.”
“I’m not addicted.”
“Yeah right. You haven’t put your laptop down since we got here.”
“For your information, I’m not on social media, but doing research. This place has a fascinating history.”
Lauren rolled her eyes. “You’re not going to start with that ghost stuff again.”
“The original owner, Hans Schneider, disappeared under mysterious circumstances. He told his wife he was going into town for supplies and no one ever saw him again. His horse and wagon were found behind the Presbyterian Church.”
“Behind the church? Was he trying to hide from someone?”
“No one knows. Some speculated he planned to meet someone there. Another person claimed they saw boarding the train, but there isn’t a record of him purchasing a ticket. He vanished without a trace. Most people thought he left because he owed a great deal of money and couldn’t repay. They think he started a new life somewhere else.”
“Interesting.” Lauren turned back to the mirror. She picked up a brush and ran it through her shoulder-length hair. “Are you going to freshen up before dinner?”
“I’m okay,” Hannah said. She took her fingers off the keyboard to run them through her short, blond curls.
“We’d better get downstairs. We don’t want to be late for dinner. And I’m sure we’ll hear more of the story.”
Dinnertime at the Sleepy Hollow Inn was a highlight of the day. Guests gathered in the dining room around a long hand crafted pine table and for a home-style meal. Tonight’s fare consisted of fried chicken, new potatoes, fresh green beans, homemade rolls, iced tea, and strawberry shortcake for dessert.
Millie’s sister Agnes Moore, co-owner of the inn, prepared the meals. The sisters lived in one of two smaller houses that stood behind the inn but always joined guests for the evening meal.
Tonight, as a precaution against the impending storm, Millie sat candles on the table and the sideboard. The electricity flickered a few times, but the storm remained in the distance.
In addition to Lauren and Hannah, other guests included a middle-aged couple, Mike and Lacy Strange, Chris and Diane Smith their three children, Janis Armstrong, who was an annual visitor, and John Gregory, a local historian. John came to the inn each evening to tell stories about the inn’s history as well as local folklore.
The conversation was light and amiable. The Smith children, in spite of their young age, were well behaved.
Even Hannah seemed to have relaxed. “Dinner was delicious,” she said. “I had almost forgotten what it’s like to eat a home style meal.”
“Why thank you, dear,” Agnes said. “We try to use locally grown fruits and vegetables—some of them we grow here. Ivan loves to keep busy in the garden.”
“Where is he?” Lauren asked.
“Ivan prefers to have his meals in the kitchen. He isn’t comfortable being around a lot of people.”
“Oh, I assumed…” Lauren glanced toward the vacant spot at the table.
“We are expecting another guest, a Mr. Snider, but he called to say he’d been delayed by the storm. Speaking of which,” Millie directed her words to John, “We understand if you want to get back to town before the storm breaks. According to Snider, this storm is a bad one. Lots of heavy rain, wind, and lightning.”
“I’ll be okay,” John replied. “The storm surely won’t last forever.”
“We do have an extra room if you’d like to stay,” Agnes said.”
“Thanks for the offer, Agnes. We’ll wait and see what happens.”
“Well,” Millie stood up. “Shall we all gather in the parlor?”
The others stood and followed her, but Hannah pulled Lauren aside.
“Did you notice how many were seated at the table?” She whispered. “Thirteen. Thirteen at dinner. That’s not good.”
“Reading Agatha Christie again? I hope that’s the reason. Please don’t tell me it’s because you’re superstitious.”
“Well, I… A person can’t be too careful.”
“You are superstitious. Hannah, this is the twenty-first century. I admit a good old-fashioned ghost story is fun, but I don’t believe walking under a ladder or having a black cat cross my path will bring me bad luck. And I’m not the least bit concerned over the number of people at the dinner table. Come along. Let’s listen to Mr. Gregory.”
Rain pelted the windshield of the car. It fell at a rapid rate and the wipers could hardly keep up. Alex Snider drove as fast as he safely could. He wanted to get to the inn before night. He’d hoped to arrive before dinner, but the weather made it impossible.
The water was rising fast in the drainage ditches. Much more rain and the roads would flood.
If he were smart, he’d stop somewhere for the night and wait out the storm, but his quest for the truth kept him pushing forward. Too many years had passed. It was time. No going back now.
This is the second installment of the Summer Adventure series. In the first post, we met Lauren and Hannah, two friends who embark on a summer long road trip. Their first stop is an old farmhouse that was converted to an inn. Click here to read the first part.