There’s no missing this wedding. All these years, we watched Amy grow, alongside our own daughter Mindy. Amy’s parents graduated with Spouser from the same MBA college. And now, a generation later, Amy has graduated and is working as an architect at a prominent Austin firm.
“The wedding’s at the Driskill Hotel?” my friend Adriana gasps. “That’s the most haunted building in Austin, maybe even in all the U.S.!”
Adriana should know. She has lived in Austin and is familiar with its history. Printing out a few pages about the hotel, Adriana hands them to me and says, “Investigate and take loads of photos.”
Spouser finds out the Driskill is completely booked, so we reserve a room several blocks away at a nearby Hilton.
The day before the wedding, I stick thick fake eyelashes above my eyelids and wear them to work. “I’m getting used to these,” I explain to gawking coworkers, batting the heavy lashes as if playing a part in a Marilyn Monroe film. “I have to make sure they’ll stick before I wear them to the actual event.”
That evening, I’m impressed that 80 percent humidity and 45-mile-per-hour winds have not caused the eyelashes to fall off. I don’t know why I’m surprised, however, when I can’t get them off at bedtime.
“Hot water, soap, baby oil,” I cry to Spouser. “I’ve tried it all. They’re stuck!”
“Rip them off,” Spouser suggests.
“No!” I groan. My eyes are itchy and beginning to look infected. Ultimately, it’s the only way. The fake lashes come off with force and so do most of my natural lashes, leaving bloody speckled dots across my eyelids.
The following day, Amy’s wedding is set to begin at 7 p.m., so we embark on our journey from the Valley early that morning. “Shouldn’t we take all of this tile out of here?” I suggest. The back of Spouser’s Expedition contains various building supplies, none of which we need for the wedding.
“We’re already running an hour late,” he replies. “Just throw the bags on top, and let’s go.”
On the road with time to kill, I review the Driskill Hotel facts, reading them aloud. “No expense was spared,” I say, plunking my sock-clad feet atop the dashboard and placing a pillow behind my back, “when the hotel was built in 1886 by a cattle baron named Colonel Jesse Lincoln Driskill. It was after the Civil war, and famine was spreading across America.”
“Is that why it’s haunted?” Mindy asks, leaning from the back seat to peek at the paper.
“I’m coming to that,” I reply. “It’s a national historic landmark, known as the crown jewel of Austin and is extremely lavish.”
“Give me the papers,” Mindy says impatiently, jerking them from my hand. “I want to know why it’s haunted.”
“How did Amy and Joe meet?” Spouser inquires.
“At a concert,” I reply. “From what I hear, Amy was alone. Joe was alone, too. Amy noticed Joe standing there, and Joe noticed Amy, too. Both were shy, so their glances went back and forth like a ping pong tournament until finally…
“Wow! Colonel Driskill himself is said to wander the hotel,” Mindy interrupts, reading from the notes. “His ghost smells like cigar smoke.”
“So how did they finally start talking?” Spouser asks.
“Amy told Joe she liked his T-shirt,” I continue. “I think the shirt had a picture of a flower rising from a pot on the front and read ‘peace,’ but I’m not sure.”
“Listen to this! A senator’s daughter fell to her death down the hotel’s grand staircase in 1887,” Mindy reads. “Her death and her ghost were the first to be reported, but now there are more.”
“So Joe’s shirt led to their marriage?” Spouser asks, irritated by Mindy’s imposed intermission.
“Amy liked Joe’s shirt, but it was just a way to talk to him,” I explain. “Joe asked Amy out for coffee, and they met every day after that. From what I understand, it was love at first sight.”
The hours pass slowly as we shift in our seats, trying to stay comfortable. By the time we finally arrive in Austin, the work Personal Trainer Odin has done to fix my bad back has vaporized. I’m bent over like the witch in the movie Snow White. The Hilton Hotel traffic is thick this Saturday evening, and everyone seems to be in a rush. “Get out while I park,” Spouser says.
“Just let me get my bag,” I say, jumping from my seat and hurrying to the rear storage compartment. As soon as the knob turns, heavy bags tumble out and down my shin. I can feel the sting of skin being torn on my leg, leaving bloody skid marks in its wake. While I’m watching the bags do their damage, I look up and am horrified to see that the tile pieces are following suit.
I stop the avalanche with my hand but am left with a gash on my finger and blood dripping from both places.
“We made it,” Spouser announces, not realizing my plight.
“Can you step aside, Ma’am?” the hotel porter asks. “You’re dripping blood on our carpet.”
I stand in pain and partial shock. Looking into the distance, the majestic Driskill Hotel looms within view, seemingly staring back at me like a mighty gargoyle.
Stay tuned for Part TWO next week.