He was tired. You didn’t have to be a master of human study to realize that. The Cowboy Killer hung loosely from lips etched with Grand Canyon wrinkles. I didn’t point to the hypocritical “No Smoking” sign, yellowed and curling from my own secretive smoke breaks when Karl, my manger, bangs his Waffle House mistress in vacant rooms. Besides, hell, it’s not like it’s the Ritz. It’s the Flovilla Super 8.
You can get away with anything here. Truckers pay 10 bucks for an hour with the truck stop whores. High school kids scrounge up change for “pot” dens. I mean, hell, I haven’t even changed the sheets in most of the rooms.
Like I said, you can get away with anything.
“Can I help you?” I said. I used to say “Can I help you sir?” but apparently that sounded too porn-ish to some of our lonelier customers, and I got tired of being asked if I came included in the room.
“I needer room.” His mouth barely moved, but it still disturbed the cigarette enough to send an eraser sized tab of ash onto the carpet.
“Single or double?”
He paused, involuntary sucking in, and then coughed it back out. “Yeah . . . I’ll take one.”
“No, I mean, do you have a . . .” He started to shift in his shoes, natty pieces of leather held together by the laces. He wasn’t wired like the speed-driven truckers, and the drunks didn’t bother coming to the desk; they just tried the handles on the doors. Prostitutes . . . well, that took entirely different skills to spot the varied genres. But he wasn’t one. Which means he probably was just a guy traveling through who needed a place to crash. Novel ideal.
“That’s how much it is . . . with ‘The Discount,’ I mean.”
He some thin strands of graying hair aside to scratch his scalp.
His cigarette was still burning, the ash still clinging. I watched it, wondering if he were a ghost, wandering enternally to frustrate and annoy frustrated and annoyed young woman working the desks of bumfuck motels. It kept burning, but never flickered out, the fire line inching slowly up the column, leaving destruction in it’s wake but never quite going –
“Ok, I’ll take it.”
“What?” I jumped, the chair creaking dangerously under my ass.
Now it was his turn to look down on me. He removed the butt, chain lit another that appeared from, seemingly, thin air, and tossed the old one onto the floor. I forced myself not to let my eyes follow it, to admit that I was captivated by a fucking filterless Marlbaro, but he knew.
He kept my eyes and half smiled, rather oddly with the new replacement firmly taking up residence, the new golden child while the old red-headed step child smoldered and burned yet another hole in the carpet. I swear, hell, our ugly red checked monstrosity was pockmarked like a warren of millions of miniture prarie dogs lived underneath it.
“All right, that’s 5 . . . 15 . . . and 25.”
“Uh, thank you. You’re in room 13A. It’s-“
“I know where it is miss. Thank you.”
He took the key, smiled at the mini swaying hula girl attached, and then smothered her in his big palm. If possible, he tipped his cigarette at me, and then disappeared out the push double doors.
“So, so, basically, wait,” Officer Stephens looked on the close side to a heart attack. Why do cops get fat? Stephens was such a stereotype it was like found a cop movie from the 50’s, masturbated to is daily, and hoped to emulate it exactly. You could just tell that he wanted to be the idealistic cop so much that he still held a grudge against his parents for being Mr. And Mrs. Stephens, as opposed to O’Leary or some shit like that.
Stephens was the bad cop. Which was why his eyebrows were dancing and the veins bulging on his think red neck.
Carter, however, was the good cop, although it was a misnomer in this case. He wasn’t good so much as apathetic, and he wasn’t so much apathetic as he was high. But I’m not suggesting he was a drug addict. I honestly think he just busted a whole group of teenagers with their “Nothing to do in this fucking town but smoke up nightly until we’ve lost enough brain cells to not feel hopeless and trapped” pot and, not knowing better, burnt it to dispose of it. Either that or he was just retarded and had two glass eyes. Plus he was gay. I think.
Stephens did the universal “I’m stressed” rubbing between his eyebrows as he squinched his eyes. “So, miss . . . . miss . . . “
“Ok, so Miss Blake,”
“Huh, that sounds like mistake” Carter chimed in, a smile on his face.
“Carter!!” Stephens yelled with the same pitch and tone of Fred Flinstone yelling “Wilma!!” “All right then, we’ll use last names. Miss Blake-“ he stopped as Carter giggled, “What is your last name?”
“Just call me Blake.”
“I would Prefer to use your last name.” The teeth were gritted, the words barely squeaking their way out.
“Well, unless you want Chong . . . I mean Carter, to piss himself, just call me by my first name.”
“We will eventually need your last name. You’re making some very serious allegations. You’re charging someone with murder.”
“Hey, hey, hey, I don’t know. I just found the body.”
He flips through a notepad. Bullshit. Even from here I can tell it’s only got a the number to Dunkin Doughnuts on it, which, come to think of it, I’m not sure if it’s because he likes doughnuts, or he’s gone to such paranoid little extremes at perfecting his “Cop.”
“But yet, Mi . . . Blake, we have not found the body.”
I lean back in the chair. Should be cushioned. Maybe there is a direct link between your ass falling asleep and confession to triple homicide. “Well, it took me a while to get to the station, and then you sent Carter out there. Maybe he missed it.”
Carter, is, honest to god, twirling his gun right now, three seconds from looking down the barrel. I think I should take it away from him before the poor dear hurts himself. Stephens and I have a moment of bonding as we both stare at him and then exchange exasperated glances.
“Blake, clear something up for me, that might make things a bit easier if we do, as you say, have a murderer on our hands. Why didn’t you take his name?”
“The Malbaro man?”
“Yes. He didn’t have to sign a register or anything like that. I appreciate that he paid in cash, but still, there should be a way of noting who is in what room . . . for emergencies such as these.”
Bonus points for Stephens. Maybe he is a decent cop.
“We do, normally, keep their names somewhere. But I only know his first name.”
A mad flipping of pages. Oh yes, the answers to the mystery lie on the same page you scrawled www.hotcopbabes.com. “When did he tell you his first name?”
“But he paid in cash. No credit card, no driver’s licsense, right?”
“So Blake, what IS his name then?”
“And how do you know that?”
“It was on his belt buckle.”
Stephens turned a shade so red I was sure the gates of Hell were prepared to bring him home. “And WHAT makes you THINK that is REALLY his NAME?”
Carter glanced up caressing the thread on his uniform. “Because belt buckles never lie.”
After a suitable pause, I reached for my pack on the table, lit another one, and leaned back.
“Can I continue with the story please? It’s starts to get interesting now.”