Buy In Bulk

She lowered her eyes when H. H. Holmes proudly opened his hotel door and let her inside. Something in the way he kissed her hand and gallantly took her bags made her blush.

                The hotel was booked solid thanks to the World’s Fair, and he told her that she was very lucky to get a room. She murmured yes, and followed him up the stairs.

                For some reason, the hotel rooms weren’t next to each other. A space of three to four doors separated each room with a number hanging on its front. She asked him why this was.

                “Storage, my dear, for my drug emporium on the first floor,” he said with a wide and charming smile under his handlebar mustache. Putting down her bags, he reached out and opened a door. It was stacked floor to ceiling with cans of paint, leaving not a single area for even a child to enter the room. “I find it cheaper to buy in bulk.”

                She asked if all the extra rooms were filled like this and he told her almost all of them.

                She asked what was in those rooms.

                H. H. Holmes put a finger to his lips and winked at her. It was his little secret.

                She felt a shiver of excitement low and thrilling.

                They arrived at her room and he placed the bags on the floor near the door. The room was furnished plainly but elegantly, and she ran to the window that looked out on a bustling Chicago street.

                “My dear,” said H. H. Holmes, “You’ve had a long trip. Perhaps you would be interested in going to bed for a nap before dinner.”

                She started for a moment, but he made no movement to come closer to the bed. Disappointment suddenly flooded her, making her heart pound in her ears. 

 He told her, “Make sure the window is closed so you don’t get a chill for the fair.”

                                She didn’t know the windows were welded shut.

                H. H. Holmes smiled at her and tipped his smart felt hat. He closed the door.

                                He locked it from the outside and waited.

                He waited until he didn’t hear her turning pages of a book or the scratch of the pen as it wrote in a journal. And then he waited a little more.

                Perhaps he imagined he thought he heard her breathing slow, or perhaps he imagined her stripping of her traveling clothes and dreaming in the bed like an angel. But whatever he imagined, it was time.

                H. H. Holmes reached up to one of the lamps that lined the hotel’s hallways. It flipped up to reveal a valve. The brass was tarnished almost black from his hands turning it so many times.  He rotated it, and a hiss of gas could be heard pouring into the room.

                He waited.

                The woman started coughing. She couldn’t breathe, she couldn’t breathe.

                He heard her go for the window, but knew she couldn’t open it.

                He heard her run for the door, and listened inches away as the doorknob rattled and twisted but wouldn’t open.

                He listened as she coughed and begged and scratched at the door. Those scratches, he thought, all that paint to buy and apply.

                That was the only part he regretted as her voice got fainter and the coughing stopped.

                                All those scratches on the door cost him a fortune.  



I finished reading Devil in the White City and decided to write a short story based on HH Holmes for class. I'm a theology/anthropology student, don't ask how I convinced my professors to put this in my portfolio. I have no idea.

epiphanyfusion epiphanyfusion
18-21, F
2 Responses Mar 11, 2009

Great story, much enjoyed!

Excellent story! I loved "Devil & The White City" -- great read. Shocking story.