There's nothing like an open road. This is particularly true when you have plenty of time to reach your destination. And to take care of a little business on the way.
We were on our way to Seattle when the storm hit, and we had to slow way down. We weren't too worried, though. We still had next to no traffic ahead, and we'd made good time up until that point, so we were positioned to make it up there in plenty of time, even if we stopped off someplace to sleep for a couple of hours. If we could drive straight through, we'd be in even better shape.
I drove the first two hours, then my sister took over for the next two while I slept in the back seat. We did it that way until about midnight. I pulled over for my next shift in back while my sister drove, but when I woke her up she blinked her eyes a few times and said “I don't think I can drive for another two hours, is there a motel anywhere near here?”
So I pulled out my phone and opened the app for motels. There was a motel a couple of miles down the road, so she called it to find out if they had rooms available (she usually gets better service than I do – not sure why, maybe she just has a nicer voice somehow). And I drove there.
The motel had one light in the office and one light on a pole near the road with a lit sign saying “Vacancy”, so I parked the car and went into the office. The one clerk behind the desk didn't even look up until I said “Excuse me?” Then he shook his head like he was trying to wake himself up and said “Yeah?” Then he recollected himself, gave me a quick try at a smile, and said “Sorry, can I help you?”
“I'd like a room for a few hours please,” I said. I found his attitude kind of annoying, frankly, but I could tell he was trying to be civil. Besides, I was pretty tired myself. I get grumpy when I'm tired too.
“A few hours? That's all?” He rubbed his eyes. The more awake he got, the more polite he seemed. “You sure? It's twenty-five bucks an hour. You could probably save some money if you just slept in your car in the parking lot, if it's comfortable enough.” He gave a twisted little grin.
I returned the twisted little grin – sleeping in the car would never do. “I'd rather have the room, thanks. I've been driving for a lot of hours and I'd rather sleep indoors, you know?”
He nodded. “Yeah, I do. There's nothing like an open road.” He opened his register for me to sign and chuckled. “Takes it right out of you, an open road.”
“Sure does.” I signed the register as he took a key off his shelf and handed him my credit card.
He gave me the key. “Room 17, five doors down on the ground floor. Ice machine's right next to it.”
I got back in the car and drove to the parking spot outside of room 17. I didn't want the clerk to know that I had my sister with me. Don't ask me why.
We went into the room and she plopped onto the bed. Within a few seconds she was asleep. I sat in the chair at the ricky-tick desk with a magazine and flipped it open.
Just when I nodded off I can't remember, but my eyes opened and my head jerked up. My heart was practically whirring, I was so startled. I got a look out the window. Whew – still dark. I looked at my watch; two and a half hours had passed, almost to the minute. Still, careless of me to nod off with no alarm set. When I looked over at the bed, my sister was gone.
Again, my heart flipped over, but then I heard the shower running. I settled down. A couple hours of sleep, sister right close by, still on schedule for Seattle. All good.
I started to wonder how we would get our job done before we got to Seattle. If we didn't manage it, we probably shouldn't go at all. My sister had suggested to me, several times, that we get the thing accomplished before we set out, and as usual she'd been right, I could now see. I'd been ignoring her advice since we were kids. I wondered, as my stomach tensed in that crappy motel room, if I'd ever learn.
The shower turned off. After a minute, she came out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around her, drying her hair with another. “I feel better now,” she chirped. Then she got a better look at me. “Are you alright?”
“Oh, yeah, sure,” I muttered.
She stared at me with her mouth twisted in a sarcastic knot. “Bullshit. You're worried.”
I turned to face her. “Well of course I'm worried. You know what's going to happen if we show up with the job undone.” She opened her mouth, but I jumped in with “Don't say it, I should have listened to you, is that what you want to hear?”
“No,” she said, without a hint of the rage I'd expected. “Me being right isn't going to help us.” She scooped up her clothes and headed back into the bathroom to dress. “Besides, there's a perfectly good solution staring us right in the face.”
The door shut. What a dope I was. She was right again. I had to laugh at myself.
Half an hour later we were back on the road. My sister drove and I kept a look behind us in the rear view mirrors. The last thing we needed was to be pulled over for any damn reason whatsoever.
“How we doing?” she said.
I turned and looked at her. “Clear as a bell,” I answered. We smiled at each other.
The clerk's corpse bumped a little in the trunk of the car – a trifle annoying, but better than not having one. At least this way the assassin's jury in Seattle could see that we could do a professional job. We'd been preparing for this for a very long time.
My grin grew so wide it made my cheeks ache..“Clear as a bell,” I repeated.
Nope – there's nothing like an open road.