The stairs of the great wide white porch of the grand old hotel beckoned me forward. Renowned world wide for its excellent service and Grecian Revival architecture as much as for its ghosts, the hotel had been my home for more years than I cared to remember.
I strode through the lobby, nodded to Gertrude whose wooden needles clacked as she knit by the fireplace. She began and ended her day there, working on endless garments for grandchildren none of us ever met.
Joe poured lemon oil onto a soft cloth to work it into the banister at the base of the stairs. I tipped my hat towards him then climbed to the first landing, his cheerful whistle tugging a smile from my usual scowl.
I peered out the window. Violet raced across the back lawn to her position beneath the aspen that stood tall at the gate to the garden. I waited and watched. Less than a minute later, Jack followed at a discreet distance to stroll away from the hotel towards the stables where he rarely toiled. I erased my smile, the couple fooled no one, and rearranged my face into its customary look of impatience.
Joe winked at me. As the clock began its customary spellbinding charm, we froze in our positions and waited.
A flash from the digital camera in the in the lobby caught Joe in its flare. His smile beamed bright as a ray from the dying sun then he disappeared - released from his penance as tourist attraction.