I pulled into the forty-dollar-a-night motel parking lot around seven p.m. It was that time of year when rain fell through the air like wax in a lava lamp, big round drops that were almost
I pulled into the forty-dollar-a-night motel parking lot around seven p.m. It was that time of year when rain fell through the air like wax in a lava lamp, big round drops that were almost hot when they hit you. In the next hour, the clouds faded black and the air became even hotter, the humidity extra sticky. The ground clutched the heat like a bum’s last cigarette, making it last as long as possible.
I’d left my battered Explorer unlocked and climbed the concrete steps to my second floor room and began to watch the parking lot through the window. The air conditioner in what passed for clean accommodations in these parts rattled and wheezed in a failed attempt to cool the room. September nights in Carolina—y’all come back now, hear?
The room was small and bleak, but the upside was the motel had spared every expense on furnishings. There was a faux-Formica Granite desk, a black, 1950s look-a-like phone that hadn’t been used since the early nineties when cellphones took off, and a T.V. secured with bolts. The walls had once been a shade of taupe and a bed of sorts cowered between two scarred nightstands afraid of what the night might bring. A dirty bedspread covered whatever the last guests left on the mattress. I wasn’t going to be here long and didn’t want to think about it. On the desk were my keys and a shoebox-sized container. I didn’t want to think about that, either. I wanted to get rid of it. For a price. I lit a smoke and found an ashtray in one of the nightstand drawers, next to a Bible that looked brand new. Probably not a lot of readers stayed here.
About an hour later, I heard a car pull in. I got up and checked through the faded, cigarette stained curtains. The rain drizzled over the one orange security light in the parking lot. Parked underneath it a big sedan had just pulled in; its motor still running. Every few seconds its wipers moved in an arc and returned. The driver had parked several spaces away from a beater with a donut tire. The car looked like it had given up as it leaned into the wet night.
My room window only opened a couple of inches because the motel had installed a security bar to prevent anyone but Tinker Bell from breaking in. A stream of cool air passed my nose carrying a whiff of fried noodles from the Chinese joint across the street reminding me I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. I imagined a mouthful of Lo Mein when the back door of the sedan opened and a man in a long overcoat got out. He adjusted his hat then walked up the concrete steps that led to the second floor landing, my landing. I narrowed the space between the curtains as his shoes echoed down the walkway and stopped two doors down from my room. My cellphone rang and I moved away from the window to answer it.
“It’s Joey. Did they show up?” Joey was my partner since time began, if time began when we’d both returned from the war in Iraq.
“I’m good. Thanks for asking,” I said.
“Come on, Mac,” he said. “Did they show up?” Joey liked to repeat himself.
“Yes,” I said. “One of them is on his way to the second room. I’ll let him get inside then I’ll slip out and meet him. When will you get here?”
“I dunno, I’m stuck in traffic. Maybe an hour?”
I looked at the shoebox on the nightstand. “That’s too long. I need to meet him now.”
“It’s too dangerous. Wait for me.”
“No. We have the goods and I want to get paid.”
“Did you have any trouble getting it?”
“A little. The guy who had it did not want to let it go. I had to take it away from him.”
“But you got it?”
“Yes. I got it.”
“And the guy?”
“He got it, too, for the last time. Here’s where it went down.” I told him the address.
“I’ll pass it along to Marge, for the report. There’s nothing else to do in this traffic. Be careful. I’ll get there as soon as I can.”
I moved back to the curtains and peered down the dimly lit walk way. The overcoat still stood in front of the room a couple doors down to the right. His rough voice shouted while his knuckles pounded on the metal door, “Come on and open up. I don’t like standing in the rain.”
He looked around and I saw him try the handle. That was good. He was supposed to. He was also supposed to see the sheet of paper I had put on the bed addressed to his boss. I’d know in a minute if he was smart enough to read. When my cell phone rang, I smiled. Overcoat was smart enough to read.
I connected and held my phone to my ear. “You made it,” I said.
“Yeah, I’m here,” he said. “We didn’t agree to any funny business. Where’s the package?”
“Just shut up and listen,” I said. “You’re gonna cool your jets for a bit then someone will be along. Capeesh?”
“Long enough. Did you bring our payment?”
“Yeah. It’s in the car. Come down and get it and don’t forget to bring the Urn.”
“So your boss told you what it was, did he? You must be one of the smarter ones on the payroll.”
“Watch your mouth or I’ll bust it for you.”
“That ain’t going to work,” I said, “or me coming down to your car. Have the driver bring up the dough then tell him to go back down and get in the car. Someone will be watching. When I get word you’re in the room alone with the dough, I’ll bring the urn.”
“What are you worried about? We gotta deal, don’t we?”
“I’m just a worrisome sort, that’s all. I want to finish this up. I know for a fact your boss does, too.”
I disconnected and watched the big sedan. The rain was really coming down, pouring off the black painted curves and angles of one of Detroit’s finest gas guzzlers. The driver got out a minute later and carried a briefcase up to the room where overcoat waited. I watched as he disappeared inside and a minute later he made a dash for it back through the rain to the car. He’d almost made it when four shots rang out that put him to sleep on the pavement permanently. It was too dark to see the blood, but I imagined the pavement looked darker as the water washed his sins into the gutter.
Overcoat burst out of his room and leaned over the rail. He gripped the handle of the briefcase with his left hand and held an automatic in his right, a nine mil from the looks of it. He swept the walkway left and right while making his way downstairs. He sprinted to the other side of the sedan, away from the driver’s body and slipped in the passenger door. A volley of shots rang out and the sedan’s back windows shattered as Overcoat slid behind the wheel and cranked the big engine.
The shots had come from behind a van on the other side of the lot. As the sedan slung its back wheels against the curb, bounced then gripped the tarmac on the main road, the van started up and its headlights came on. It spun its tires and leapt after the sedan, but not before I sprinted out of the motel room with the Urn in the shoe box under my arm. Overcoat had our money and these clowns in the van weren’t going to take it from me. They probably thought the deal had gone down and the driver had the urn when they let him have it.
I jumped into my Explorer jamming the key in the ignition before I’d hit the seat, cranked it and stomped the pedal. The Explorer fish tailed across the pavement after the van…
To Be Continued…
Right here in The Urn Part 2.