I had booked my AirBnb in Salt Lake City a day or two prior to my arrival. It had been a few days of hours-long driving and stopping at some incredible sights: Arches National Park in Utah, and in Colorado, Royal Gorge Bridge & Park and driving up Pike’s Peak.
The host, Sue*, texted me saying that her friend Courtney* would meet me to let me in since she would be out of town. She gave me Courtney’s phone number and we connected.
I arrived in the apartment building in downtown Salt Lake City at around 8 or 9 p.m. It had been a long day; I was dirty and exhausted. I texted Courtney when I parked outside the building and let her know I was there. She texted back and said she’d come down to get me.
As I waited in the lobby, I immediately realized I was in a whole new world. Girls in groups were coming and going in their knee-length skirts and cardigans, calling each other “Sister So-and-so.” I was clearly not one of them in my jean shorts and tank top.
Feeling out of place, I looked down at my watch…10 minutes had passed. That was strange. Was I in the right building? I texted again…no answer. Another 10 minutes passed after rechecking that my blue dot in Google Maps was at the right address. I called her…no answer.
Now I was starting to get frustrated. All I wanted was a hot shower and a bed. Where was this girl? Why hadn’t she come to get me and why isn’t she answering me now? After a few more minutes, I texted Sue.
“I let Courtney know I was here. She said she was coming down to get me and then she just…disappeared.”
Sue thought that was strange too and asked if I could go up to the apartment and knock, and see if the door was open. I found it and knocked…no answer. My heart started racing. What was going on? This was getting weird. Another knock…”Courtney, are you in there?”…no answer.
Finally, I tried the doorknob and the door was unlocked. An empty apartment. On the far side of the room was a sliding glass door. Wide open. There is an eerie sense that comes from a silent, still space. It has a certain feel to it, and in this case it was highly unsettling. My body was in full fight or flight mode, and I was getting the hell out of there.
There was no way I was stepping into that apartment. I’ve seen enough episodes of Law & Order: SVU. I wasn’t going to leave my DNA all over the place. I was the last known person to be in contact with Courtney. I didn’t need the police coming to question me on her whereabouts.
At this point, I let Sue know that I was very uncomfortable with this whole situation and I’d make alternate plans for my stay in Salt Lake. She tried to get me to stay and to make myself comfortable — as if that were at all possible considering I had a missing person to deal with. I thanked her but insisted on a full refund.
I found a hotel and spent the next 12 hours worried about this girl I had never met. What happened to her? Was she ok? Should I feel bad for leaving? The next day, as I took in the sights of Temple Square, I heard from Sue again. The mystery had been solved.
As Courtney got in the elevator to come get me, at the precise moment when the door was sliding shut, she dropped her phone in the narrow slot between the elevator and the floor landing. The elevator then proceeded to get stuck, trapping her inside with no way of communicating out to me. Talk about bad luck.
Salt Lake City was nice, definitely unlike any place I’ve ever been. But what I’ll remember the most is the mysterious disappearance of the missing host.
*It’s been a year; I think these are their names.