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“Handsome?” Dex asks, flashing her a smile and stroking his chin scruff.

She blushes and giggles. “Well, yeah I guess you are.”

I roll my eyes. Dex doesn’t need any more encouragement.

“But,” she continues, “you’re both just so…lucky!”

We look at each other again, even more confused.

“Lucky?” I ask.

“How about I explain as we walk? I don’t have much time to show you around before I start my shift.”

We get up, Dex giving the backpack of equipment to me, and we follow Pam through the lobby. For a larger woman she walks like a sprite, moving quickly between people and showering her big smile on all of them. The guests eye Dex and I curiously, intrigued by the camera he has placed up on his shoulder.

We stop before a grand staircase leading up to the second floor. I eye myself quickly in the mirror on the landing. My floral dress is sticking to my leggings in static cling, and my black hair is a mess from my motorbike helmet (and Dex’s hand). I don’t look camera worthy at all. I shrug helplessly at my reflection and look to Pam who is pointing up at the stairs.

“There’s been many sightings of one of ghostly guests walking up and down this very staircase,” she says, sounding like a chipper tour guide talking about museum pieces and not dead people.

I look at Dex beside me and see the camera is going, picking up everything Pam is saying. Sensing I’m staring at him, he reaches out and pushes me toward Pam, into the frame. I know he wants me to start acting like the host I am.

I smooth down my hair and clear my throat, stepping into the shot. “Have you seen any ghosts, Pam?”

She shakes her head quickly and looks wistful. “No, I haven’t. Come on, let’s go to the next floor.”

Not exactly the answer I was hoping for.

She scurries up the stairs and we follow, my short legs straining to keep up with her quick busybody motion.

We walk toward the elevators and as we are waiting she says, “I think you two are lucky because I’ve always wanted to see a ghost. I believe in them. So badly. But I’ve never seen one. Weird, right, considering that I run The Benson. At night.”

The elevator dings and the doors open. There’s a couple inside who eye the camera with trepidation, but we step inside with them anyway. Pam makes small talk with them as she pushes the button for the 8th floor and doesn’t mention ghosts again until the couple get out at the 5th floor.

She tilts her head at us. “I don’t like to discuss the ghosts around the guests though. People can be pretty strange about things like that.”

“I don’t blame them,” I find myself saying.

“I guess you’d know,” Pam says as the elevator stops at the floor, and she leads us out into the hallway, past a rotary phone resting on top of an antique table.

She notices me eyeing it and gives it a quick wave with her hand. Her bracelets jingle with the motion.

“We try to keep all the original furnishings from the hotel. Adds to the class and elegance of the place, don’t you think?”

I nod, not really needing to be sold on the hotel as a whole.

Pam takes us to the right, and we walk past the rooms down to the very end of the hall. Dex keeps filming, even though he takes his head away from the camera.

“So, if we show The Benson in a good way,” Dex says to Pam, “any chance we can score a free hotel room for the night? I’m staying at a roach motel outside of the city, and I’m getting itchy just thinking about it.”

Pam turns around briefly and smiles at him but then spins around and keeps walking without missing a beat.

“We’ll see. Would you two be sharing the room?”

Dex automatically grins and looks down at me as we walk. I shake my head, not amused.

“No, Perry snores and kicks in her sleep,” he says.

I smack him on the shoulder and the camera shakes.

“I do not!” I protest.

“Oh, and drools,” he adds quickly.

“So you two are a couple?” Pam asks, not looking at us this time but slowing down as she nears the end of the hall.

“Only in certain situations,” I mutter under my breath.

“No, we are not. Perry is far too good for me and I am forced to make do with my Wine Babe girlfriend.”

Finally Pam stops walking and looks at him. “Wine Babe? You’re with someone from that show?”

“You’ve seen it?” Dex asks, his eyes wide and hopeful.

“Yes,” she says slowly, and for once her chipper look is gone. Her cheeks sag a bit. “My ex boyfriend used to drool all over that skinny, exotic one.”

“Yeah, that’s his girlfriend. Jennifer Rodriguez,” I inform her. She eyes me and sees that I’m none too thrilled about it either. Nothing like a hot woman to make two chubby girls feel like they’re having a bonding moment.

“Well, I’m just glad some women watch it,” Dex says, turning his attention the camera, perhaps feeling the animosity and low self-esteem just reeking from our pores.

Pam laughs and the cheery façade returns. “Don’t be silly. I don’t watch that dreadful show. They pair shiraz with Kraft Dinner. Only an idiot would watch that. Like my ex-boyfriend.”

Dex opens his mouth to say something, but I know he completely agrees. That’s the reason he quit doing camera work on Wine Babes and started up Experiment in Terror with me instead.

“Anyway,” she continues, “here we are.”

I look at the door we’ve stopped in front of: Room 818.

“Where are we?” I ask.

“This was Parker’s room,” she says ominously.

“Who is Parker?” Dex asks. I’m surprised that he doesn’t know something for once.

“Parker…” Pam starts and then trails off. She takes her keys out from her pocket; the noise of them rattling fills the hallway. It suddenly seems very empty and hollow and a weird, familiar feeling washes over me, causing the hairs on the back of my neck to stand up.

The lock turns, and the door slowly creaks open. Only blackness and dust come billowing out of the room.

“After you,” Pam says.

Dex shrugs and then nudges me in front of the camera, indicating that I am to go first. Of course. I always have to be the first to walk into everything when I’m on camera. And sometimes when I’m not on camera. It depends on how sadistic Dex is feeling.

I take in a deep breath and push the door aside. It slowly swings open with a low groan, and I walk blindly into the swirling dark.

“Should I be putting on the night vision?” Dex asks no one in particular. I hear him fiddle with the camera settings but before anything happens, I am blind. Pam has walked in beside me and switched on the lights.

“No sense in scaring ourselves yet,” she chirps, and I can barely make out her round face.

Dex comes in and Pam shuts the door behind him. Once my eyes adjust to the light, I see that we are in a hotel room that probably looks the same as any other hotel room, albeit a large and very pricey one. Aside from a heavy chill that seems to hang in the air, there’s nothing too off-putting about the place. The bed is made, there seems to be a separate room with a living area, divided only by a Japanese-type paper partition, and I can just see a rather opulent looking bathroom jutting out to the right.

“As I said, this is Parker’s room,” she says. “Well, it was his room. I say this because some guests who stay in here say they still see him. But it happens very rarely.”

“And once again,” Dex repeats, sounding bored, “who is Parker?”

Pam walks over to the king-sized bed and sits down on it. It sags a little from her weight; the mattress is not as springy as it was back in the day.

“We have a lot of ghosts in this hotel. Parker isn’t the most well known of them, but he is the most real. Because he was a real person and his story is terribly tragic. Tragic, but all too common.”

I go over to the bed and sit down beside Pam. Suddenly, that slightly see-through partition between the bedroom and the living area is giving me the creeps, like I can sense someone standing behind it.

Dex looks like he picks up on the vibe too. Although he is standing in front of Pam and I, with the camera in our faces, his eyes keep flitting over there and his head is cocked slightly as if he is listening. I stifle the urge to shiver—I don’t want to look like an amateur—and keep my attention on Pam.

“What happened?” I ask, trying to keep my voice light, trying to ignore the goosebumps I can feel rising underneath my jacket.

“Parker, Parker Hayden, was a ship owner in the ‘30s. Back then, Portland was a very different city. The ships were its lively hood. There was a lot of money, a lot of crime, a lot of… well, scandals, I guess. Think Vegas, but on a river. Anyway, Parker was just one of the many wealthy ship owners. He spent half his time here, half somewhere on the east coast. He rented a room, this room, spending an obscene amount of money every night. He was a ladies man too, no surprise there! He was also a bit nuts. But because he was rich, you called him eccentric. There were rumors he was having an affair with a maid or two; sometimes he’d be caught stealing tons of toiletries and hording them in his closet. In this day and age we’d call him a weirdo but back then, he was just rich and powerful and you let him do what he wanted.”

“Doesn’t sound too much different from nowadays,” Dex says softly, keeping the camera focused on Pam. He’s paying less attention now to the other room, which makes me feel a smidge better.

Pam laughs. “You’re right about that. And it was the same kind of outcome. Back in 1934, Portland was hit hard—really hard—with this strike. I think it was called the West Coast Waterfront Strike? Anyway, there was the strike, his ship was basically inoperable, and he lost a lot of money. Really fast. According to the records, he was kicked out of the hotel because he couldn’t pay his bills. Not for this room, not for any room here.”

“And what happened?” I push.

She sighs and rubs her face quickly, looking uneasy for the first time tonight. Lines appear on her youthful face.

“He wouldn’t leave. He was kicked out several times, out on the street even. Publicly humiliated. All unshaven and messy, like a vagrant. He said people were after him, wanting money and that he was afraid for his life. Then the hotel staff found him. Dead. Hanging in the maid’s laundry room, from a noose made out of towels. The strike ended two days later. How is that for irony?”

She smiles at me, but it is forced and I can’t be bothered to return it. The story stirs something in my gut.

I look up at Dex and see that his attention is back on the other room again.

“What is it?” I ask him. I can’t help myself.

Pam’s attention goes to him, and we all look over but see nothing.

“The guests who have seen him,” she puts in, her voice low, her eyes on the partition, “they say they see a man pacing anxiously in the other room there, muttering to himself. Once he notices you, he tries to say something or write something down. But no words come out and as the guests get more scared and confused, the ghost gets frustrated. Sometimes he disappears, sometimes he rushes at the guests and then… poof.”


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