Welcome to my hotel. Welcome to the castle. I trust you’ll find your stay a comfortable one.
My name? It is Holmes. With an L. I am the proprietor. It is only my latest such venture; I am a stranger here, as I perceive you yourself are. My last was in Chicago, but was sadly shuttered after some unpleasantness with former employees. It did not seem worth the pain to stay and suffer them, especially as they insisted on wasting the police’s time with spurious accusations. Inferences were drawn to slander my character, and thus my livelihood, and so I relocated here.
No, it is not a welcoming country, I agree. My neighbors are few, and those that exist are as suspicious of each other as they are of strangers. They do not like me here, but I do not employ them, and my business is not beholden to them. Oh, they do their best to discourage passerby, with their ruined homes and flat, lightless faces, but the wearied traveler has no choice when they’ve gotten this far. They have no expectations of comfort, let alone welcome. To see them happen upon my hotel, in the middle of this desperate land, is worth any amount of local unfriendliness I may have to endure.
Not to worry. That is not how we do things here. I will show you to your room, and if in the morning you wish to tell me of anything you find to be at fault, then you may leave or stay as you see fit, for however long you wish, without charge. I do not ask questions. Your business is yours.
My hat? Why, thank you. A past tenant left it on his bedside table when I went to wake him. I asked for nothing, but I do not turn away willing gifts. This cane, as well, was a gift from a widower who stayed here a fortnight before moving on. I have also a box of fine cigars given to me by a visiting constable, in exchange for allowing him room here while investigated certain cases of missing persons. Oh, I’ve no idea if they were found. He left rather suddenly. I can only presume in quick pursuit of some lead or other.
The bag? Oh, an affectation, from my days in surgery…are you a doctor, by any chance? I ask because a good acquaintance of mine owns a respectable medical equipment supplier’s in town. All secondhand but good quality. His specialty is skeletons and other anatomical curios.
Now I will show you to your room. There are, alas, one or two small things I must bring to your attention should you choose to stay here. Firstly, there is no staff. You may keep your room in any state you see fit. There are three floors, each with baths and common areas. I ask that you leave these rooms as you find them.
Secondly, you may from time to time see other guests about the place. Please do not disturb them unless invited. As I said, I do not see fit to pry into the affairs of those who grant me their custom, and though you are under no such obligation, you may consider your own journey, and the conditions that brought you here. You may find your neighbors to be of similar disposition, and their reasons for being here not too far off from your own. What is more, you might consider that in so openly indulging your curiosity, you open yourself to similar inquiries. I’m sure you understand.
Lastly, and most regretfully, you may from time to time be woken in the night, or otherwise alarmed by some sound or other. This is a building of some size, and I have spared no expense to allow for every modern comfort. The architect is an old firm by the name of Bender & Family, and I have allowed them some leniency in regards to aesthetics and even function. This can, alas, lead to some confusion.
If you go wandering without direction, you may find doors that open to empty rooms, or to brick walls, or doors that do not open at all. You may find windows overlooking unlit rooms, in which odd shapes move straining against unseen bonds or writhing in apparent agony. You might also see the glint of metal hung from racks, or other, less easily discerned things.
The noises I mentioned? Well, most often they will sound like hissing in the rooms next to you, as of air quickly escaping a valve or whistled between teeth. Merely the central heating. It’s a revolutionary network of pipes that runs all through the building, but regretfully prone to leaking. Not to worry.
You are also likely to hear some of your neighbors cough, quite painfully, in the early hours. I suspect it is a result of our policy of no smoking in the common areas or public rooms. I have informed several of them of the hazards of fire before now, but it never seems to take.
Speaking of smells, I have been told that occasional odors of a highly chemical nature have been known to waft through the halls, similar to lime and bleach. I cannot say I’ve happened upon this phenomenon myself, much less discovered its source. I apologize.
Here is the door to your room—ah, doors! I’d nearly forgotten. You’re likely to hear doors opening and closing at odd times as well. The cause of this I have not, as yet, been able to determine. It could only be my missing tenants on their way out, though the strange dragging sound that accompanies the opening of doors is inexplicable, as my guests rarely carry much luggage. And I never see them leave.
Well, anyway. Your room. The bed is small, but comfortably sprung. The walls are thick wooden panels, and the window is likewise small and barred, so you may be assured of privacy. You will find the wardrobe is stocked with clothes of all sizes and occasions. Do speak with me if you cannot find something suitable, and I will check the laundry.
You’re certain you aren’t a medical man? My friend in town also takes custom orders for skeletons of particular sizes or peculiarities. I have his card. I’ll leave it on the table in case you change your mind.
Thank you for staying with us. I hope the night passes peacefully. I hope your sleep goes undisturbed by hissing steam or hacking lungs. I hope you will still be here when you wake on the morrow. If you are not, then I can only hope that it was not my hotel that drove you away. Good evening to you.