Snowbound
  
Snowbound
Book Four in the West Baden Murders Series
Published:
6/15/2012
ISBN:
978-1-46890-662-2
What began as a simple tour with an overnight stay, soon becomes a fight for survival. Two years after the horrific murders at the historic West Baden Springs Hotel, an investment group seeks to buy the property, not entirely aware of the danger. Trapped in a nearby mansion by a fierce blizzard, members of the group begin disappearing one by one. Everyone is a suspect, but no one can leave, and their only means of communication is sabotaged. A lost hunter and a mysterious deputy sheriff enter the mix as the past returns to haunt the visitors. The group members must trust one another and formulate a plan to survive until morning, or risk falling prey to the
Chapter 1 Jana Privett’s life read like a harlequin novel with bittersweet twists and turns, but no happy romantic ending. Over the course of the past year, she had ended a sham of a marriage, lost her job at a tax firm, and redefined herself as an independent woman. Despite losing custody of her only child to her unfaithful husband before he moved to Georgia, Jana refused to lie down and die. She found new work with an understanding boss soon after the settlement. She literally had to blow the dust off her real estate license after being hired by a firm that dealt almost exclusively with upscale properties. Working in a more private sector, Jana loved the absence of squabbling over commission, and the competition conventional real estate sales brought. She had quickly gained confidence about selling upscale property, including the grounds she currently stood upon. Jana felt more than a little strange standing in the parking lot outside the West Baden Springs Hotel grounds in Southern Indiana. After all, the hotel a short walk up a red brick drive had a sordid past. Though rich in history, its floors had seen their share of spilled blood. By all rights, she had permission to enter the grounds at her leisure from the man who owned them, but it seemed prudent to learn something about the hotel’s history. When Paul Clouse asked her firm to sell the grounds she jumped at the chance to make a big sale for a major client. Of course, the hotel had a checkered history, but mostly from rumors that circulated after Clouse survived several attempts on his life. She recalled his trouble occurring around the Halloween season several years in a row. Ironically, today was October 30th, but she felt safe considering the hotel and Clouse had led quiet lives the past several years. Around her, people either sat on several benches, or paced along the brick lot beside the ticket booth. After buying a ticket, Jana was given a white bordered sticker with a “12” printed on it in black marker. The numeral indicated she was part of the noon tour, meant to keep her from trying to take the tour twice. Taking a moment to observe the dozen or so people taking the tour with her, Jana noticed most of them appeared to be older couples. A glance at their license plates indicated most of them visited from other parts of Indiana. One Illinois plate caught her eye, but she focused more on the tour, wondering how her new boss convinced Clouse to let their firm find the hotel new ownership. Jana’s position didn’t allow her to ask too many questions of her boss because she was still his newest hire. Being a former resident of Orange County gave her an edge over her colleagues when Bryan Bell made his decision about who would show the property. Some of the agents wanted no part of the assignment, considering the hotel’s reported history. Especially the murders. She had one month to prepare herself for the first investment firms and casino companies wanting to make their bids on the property, so Jana simply focused on the task at hand. Working with Bell, she formulated several ideas how to do more than simply show the hotel like a realtor might run prospective buyers through a regular home. “We’re ready to go,” she heard a man’s voice say, causing everyone to look up like dogs being called inside for dinner. Following her fellow tourists toward a man wearing a green shirt and tan baseball cap with West Baden Springs emblems on them, Jana stole a look at his nametag. She learned her tour guide’s name was Max as the older man motioned to the group to walk behind him. Most of the tour guides at the hotel were retired, or worked jobs allowing them to dedicate time to giving tours. Jana guessed Max to be a retired man from the gray hair protruding from the ball cap. His skin looked somewhat weathered from years of outdoor activity, but Jana figured him to be in his mid-sixties. He carried a large binder of some sort, which appeared to contain photos and documents in protective plastic sleeves. Thunder rolled in the distance as gray clouds overtook the sunny sky several miles away, ominously rolling in their direction. Jana couldn’t recall the last time Southern Indiana had a rainy Halloween, but the forecast called for wet weather into early November. “We should probably get started,” Max said in his deep voice. “We should be inside by the time the rain hits.” Everyone huddled close together as they passed under the arch at the front of the grand hotel. Once through the opening they spread out along one of the brick paths leading up to the building. The two paths once served as drives up to the hotel, their red coloration unblemished by years of sunlight. “Today we’re going to take a trip back in time. Imagine if you will that visitors a hundred years ago visited these grounds for simple pleasures. The West Baden Springs Hotel was a pleasure resort known as far away as Europe. As many as fourteen trains per day might have stopped in the valley, bringing visitors to any number of pleasure resorts in the area.” Between the two drives a thick column containing a variety of garden plants and Victorian-style lamps led up to the hotel. Jana noticed the lamps all had small dedication plaques attached about eye-level on their green posts. Keeping his back to the hotel and his eyes on the tourists, Max began speaking about halfway up the path, continuing to walk backwards as he did so. “Back in 1887, when the railroad came to West Baden and French Lick, Lee Wiley Sinclair, a textile mill owner and banker, stepped off the train finding opportunity abound. He saw the future of big business, and knew there was money to be made through tourism. He wanted to make significant changes to the hotel as a new shareholder, but the other investors bucked the idea.” Max drew a crooked smile, pausing for effect. His eyes grazed over each member of the tour, drawing each of them into his story. “He showed them by buying enough stocks to gain controlling interest of the hotel, and eventually changed the name to the West Baden Springs Hotel.” Stopping just short of the hotel itself, Max pointed to his left, still facing the guests on his tour. “On your right is the old golf course,” he began, prompting everyone to look to a mammoth yard beside them. “Guests could tee off from the hotel’s veranda if they so chose.” A few trees and some sort of small gazebo were the only objects blocking their view to the highway in the distance. “Boxer Joe Lewis often came to the valley to train for his fights,” Max commented, leading them a bit further down the path, glancing toward the ominous sky in the distance before continuing. “To your left, we have the footbridge that led to the Number 7 Spring, also known as Sprudel.” Max paused for everyone to look as he pointed toward the bridge before leading them down some brick steps into the sunken garden. Jana looked around the garden, still colorful from the summer season, undisturbed by any fall frosts. A sudden breeze beat down some of the taller plants, bringing a cool chill along with it. She folded her arms, returning her attention to Max’s presentation. “Across the garden we have Hygeia, otherwise known as the Number 1 Spring in the day,” Max said, pointing across the grounds to a beige structure about the size of a residential garage. “Why did they have names and numbers?” one of the tourists inquired. “It’s believed the springs were all given odd numbers here because the French Lick Springs Hotel had springs with even numbers. The two hotels were rivals in the early 1900's with businessman Thomas Taggart owning the resort down the road. They were originally numbered, but with the 1917 renovation, Lillian Sinclair wanted a more personal touch, so she named each of the springs instead. The original wooden structures were replaced with new brick exteriors, only two of which remain today.”
Patrick O’Brian lives in northeastern Indiana, working full-time as a firefighter. He enjoys photography, theme parks, and travel. Born in upstate New York, Patrick returns to his home area once a year to visit family and conduct research for his future manuscripts. His other fiction books are: The Fallen Reaper: Book One of the West Baden Murders Trilogy The Brotherhood Retribution: Book Two of the West Baden Murders Trilogy Stolen Time Sins of the Father: Book Three of the West Baden Murders Trilogy Six Days Dysfunction The Sleeping Phoenix Snowbound: Book Four of the West Baden Murders Series Sawmill Road Ghosts of West Baden: Book Five of the West Baden Murders Series Non-fiction: Risen from the Ashes: The History of the West Baden Springs Hotel
 
 


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