-discussion of domestic abuse--
As it was his first trip to Las Vegas, he wished he wasn't here to kill a man. Guy eased out of the taxi in front of the tall hotel and casino, and looked nervously at the commotion around him. He questioned again if this was a good way to achieve his goal. But what other option did he have? He was alone in his mission, he had been working on it all year, and this was his best chance. His old faded khakis were clean, his dress shirt tucked in around his potbelly. The circular driveway was full of people getting in and out of cars, in black suits and gowns, in shorts and flip flops. He caught himself on the taxi’s hood after he was bumped by a man in a business suit holding a phone to his ear.
Looking both ways he made it two steps before he stopped again. In front of him a man in a tuxedo tailored to his lean physique dragged a glamorous woman in large sunglasses and long dress under a jacket behind him. Pulled by her upper arm, she walked with her head down, shuffling in high heeled shoes to keep up.
“Damn bastard,” He muttered under his breath. “He should not treat that woman like that- ” Guy had to step back as a family rolling luggage pushed in front of him.
He looked at his black plastic calculator watch, 3 PM. He had 9 hours. His small backpack was loose, carrying only a jacket, and the object. He did not want to name it, or think about it. But how could he not? Guy felt its weight, pulling, dragging him. He stopped in front of the wide open doors of the hotel, sweat dripping down his back. 9 hours before his appointment, his assignment. The hours of waiting stretched out before him like a long endless hallway. He saw a passing bellhop and reached out, “Is there a store inside where I could get a bottle?”
The Bellhop shook his head and then pointed down a cross street. “Two blocks.”
Guy turned away from the hotel and began to walk, his left foot slow to keep up. His body was failing him in his old age and he did not like it.
“Only a few more steps I ask of you, come on.” The man said to his foot. He pulled the crumpled paper out of his pocket. He had memorized the poorly scrawled note, but read it again. Flamingo hotel, room 1113. NYE, Midnight.
The gray dog ran away from him into an alley first, before it came back, its eyes red, its thin tongue loose in its open mouth. The dog barked sharp and loud. Its eyes were wary as it followed the man, confused by someone walking in this town of metal beasts.
“Get lost dog, I got nothing for you.” Guy said, and went into the store and up to the counter.
“I'll have a bottle of your best whisky.” He looked at the items for sale near the cash register rows of candy and cigarettes. “And this jerky.”
On the walk back he bit down on the jerky wrapper with his teeth and pulled the plastic back. He broke off several pieces and tossed them to the dog. “Happy New Year.”
Guy held the brown bag in his hand loosely as he walked back toward the hotel. He looked back to see the gray dog following him. He turned and waved his free hand.
“Go away dog! You do not want anything to do with me!” The dog stopped and sat down, but when he turned the dog followed. No one noticed the old man nor the gray dog who slipped in behind them in the mad rush of the crowded hotel entryway. The dog followed him onto the elevator and then sat down, waiting.
"Someone trained you. Well you made it this far." Guy gave the dog the last of the dried meat. "I'll call you Jerky."
“You can’t have a dog here!” Short and solid, she wore an all black uniform, with her gray hair pulled back in a tight bun. Her hands were on her hips next to a cart full of cleaning supplies, listing to one side.
“It is not my dog-” The old man said, holding his card key outside his hotel room door, number 1115. He looked down at the dog. It moved closer and sat down at his feet.
“The dog thinks it belongs to you.” A look of disgust was on the woman’s tired face.
“What is wrong with your cart?” He pointed to change the subject.
“Ay Caramba!” She threw her hands up in the air. “It broke, they said they fixed it but it keeps falling! I can barely push it along."
The old man put the bottle and his bag down near his hotel room door, and looked down at the cart.
“If I fix it, will you ignore the dog?”
“You can fix it?”
Guy nodded. He could fix anything. Except his daughter. She was broken and Guy did not know what to do.
“Let me see.” She folded her arms.
He leaned the cart against the wall to expose the wheels. He kneeled down, slowly, with a grunt.
“It is a simple fix -if I had my tools…” His head was under the cart.
“So you can’t do it?” Her heavy black shoe tapped impatiently.
“No, I can.” He stood up and looked at the items in the cart. He picked up a shower cap, a disposable toothbrush and a small container of tooth floss. He paused, then grabbed a small bottle of hairspray, before he got to work.
She looked over at the man working, and then her whole body released, She leaned against his hotel door.
“My name is Lourdes. I am so tired. I have been working for 7 days straight and no one helps me! You are the first person to even acknowledge me, and now you are fixing my cart.” Lourdes’ shoulders shook as she put her face in her hands.
He tilted the cart down onto its wheels and it rolled smoothly. He leaned on it to stand up.
“You are my hero!” Lourdes picked up his bag and bottle to hand it to him.
“I am no-”
“-What do you have in here, it is so heavy?” She began feeling the bottom of the bag, the heavy object.
“-No!” He grabbed it back and hugged it to his thick stomach.
“-I am no hero.”
The Casino strip vibrated noiselessly below, colors echoing into the hotel room. The light from the neon signs flickered and glowed through the window reflecting off the half empty bottle of whisky and the plastic cup with a swallow left. The dull metal object next to him did not reflect the light but he could not look at it so instead he pushed the ice bucket, hoping to hear the knock of ice, but all he heard was the sloshing sound of melted water. He put it on the floor and the dog lapped at it. He coughed, and then unable to stop, kept coughing for a few minutes until he sipped the plastic cup of whisky, now warm.
He looked away from the whisky bottle and plastic cup and the thing he could not look at toward the TV projecting into the room. Vaguely familiar celebrities in warm jackets laughed and pointed on a stage above a crowd in winter gear. He had 55 minutes left.
After the trial he was so angry. Bugsy was released, not guilty. After the prosecutor dragged his daughter through her entire assault again and again and again. The damn prosecutor even made it seem like it was Margaret’s fault! Guy did not know what else to do but to get even, get vengeance. His first attempt to kill Bugsy with poison killed Bugsy’s dog instead. He could never forgive himself for that, he loved dogs. And it put Bugsy on his guard. Guy followed him every day to catch him in a crime, like assaulting another innocent woman, or running a stoplight, anything! But there was nothing, he even stopped at every red light. That gave Guy his next idea. The torn brake cable would have been great, except Bugsy almost killed a woman crossing the street. Guy could not get over his anger, but did not see a resolution. He was running out of ideas until he met Bruno Antony.
He looked over at the phone by the bed. He was supposed to get a call from Bruno about his handling of Bugsy. Guy still had 55 minutes. How he was going to make 55 minutes without ice? He glanced at the TV countdown. Now it was 53 minutes and no ice. Bruno told him he had the same problem with his hated father.
In Bruno, Guy found someone to relate his story too, someone who understood about his frustration and anger. It was so good to talk to Bruno, and then Bruno had suggested a solution. At first of course it was ridiculous. Then Bruno had explained how it was was the perfect murder. Neither would have a motive, he just had to do his part. Bruno sent the location today and Guy took the morning bus. He paid all cash. No one would even know he was here. Guy looked at the adjoining suite, the door between the two rooms. All he has to do is go next door at midnight, but it is not midnight and he needs ice.
He grabbed the now empty ice bucket. Walking down the well lit hallway, his steps leaned left. The carpet was thick and muffled the sound of his shuffling. Returning, he had to use both hands with the full ice bucket. At his room door he put it down and tapped his right front pocket for the hotel card key. It was not there. He paused and tapped his left front pocket. It was when he tapped his empty breast pocket when he remembered. He saw the hotel key card in his mind's eye, on the dresser in front of the TV. Damn. He looked down at the bucket full of ice and then back at the locked door. He turned toward the bank of elevators at the far end of the hall and took a step, but then stopped. He imagined the time it would take to go down to the hotel front desk, wait for someone to walk him back, and then to confirm his identity they would ask to go in the room and see… that thing.
He turned back to the neighbors door and tilted his head. He was too early, and he did not have what he needed, but maybe it was time.
After a few moments the man opened the door and looked at him, and then leaned out to look down the hall. He nodded his head, “Hey.”
Guy recognized the man in the tuxedo from earlier. He was confused- this could not be Bruno’s father. Something was wrong, but he could not let that get in the way.
“Hello, I am next door-” Guy pointed at his own door.
“Yah, hey.” The man said.
“I left my key inside, and I don’t want to go down to the front desk. Our rooms connect, could I go through your door to my suite?”
The man stepped into the hall, holding the hotel door mostly closed behind him. He was still wearing the tuxedo pants and a white wing collared shirt, tight against his lean body.
“You lost your key.”
“Our connecting door would only work if your connecting door is open too...?” The man said.
“-It is open.”
The well dressed man stared at the old man at his door. He breathed out. “OK, give me a minute.”
He closed the door, and then moments later it opened, he waved Guy inside.
He walked into a room opposite from his own. Several bags were open, items strewn about, though the bed was still made. The bathroom door was closed. Guy walked in the room and waited for the man to unlock the connecting door. At the slip of the lock the bathroom door opened and he saw the woman look out, her left eye blackened. The bathroom door closed quickly.
He recognized the look in her eyes. Margaret had that scared, whipped look too.
A bolt of fire shot through Guy. All the frustration and anger he had moved from Bugsy to direct toward this man. Guy’s hands shook with emotion.
Back in his room he finally looked at the heavy metal object, then picked it up, liking the weight in his hand. In a red fog of outrage he pounded on the adjoining door.
When the man answered it, Guy already had the gun up.
“You don’t deserve to live” Guy said through trembling lips.
“Ma’am- you will be safe soon.” He shouted into the other room.
“Who the -”
The dog suddenly appeared at Guy's side, it growled low and deep, its yellow teeth bared.
“Hey, I don’t know what you think is going on-” The man's eyes darted from the gun down to the dog and then back.
“-You hit that woman….” Guy's voice dripped anger.
“No you do not understand- I am protecting her from her husband- she is my sister-" The man's hand were up, shaking.
"You beat her!" Guy yelled, his vision was narrowing. Tears were streaming down his face. “You hit Margaret! You raped Margaret! You don’t deserve to live!” Guy’s finger slowly tightened on the trigger.
“Wait!” The woman was suddenly there. “What Bob said is true! I am escaping from my husband. Bob lives here and works at a restaurant in the casino. We thought we would be safe here from my husband. Bruno is so terrible!"
“Did you say Bruno?” At that name a plug was pulled on Guy’s rage. He was not protecting Margaret, this was not Bugsy in front of him. He was being set up.
“Bruno Antony?” Guy lowered the gun, he already knew the answer.
“How do you know that name?” Bob asked, his eyes wide.
"Bruno wanted me to kill you- he said you were someone else…”
“I should go-” Guy said.
There was a knock at Guy’s door.
“Shit that is him!” The woman cried out.
The old man looked through his peep hole and saw Lourdes.
He opened the door and Lourdes came in holding a brown paper bag.
“I wanted to thank you so I brought you a-”
Lourdes saw the open door of the adjoining room. “Is everything OK?”
Lourdes’ face changed when she saw the gun.
“What is going on!”
Bob and his sister walked into Guy's room.
"Yes, what is going on?" Bob asked.
Guy looked around, and sat down heavily on the bed. He was stuck in his room with a couple he didn't know, a woman, a gun and a dog. His life was tilting to the side. What was he doing? All his energy left him and he knew he had to come to terms with his daughter’s assault. He did not have the right tools to fix it, but he could make do with what he had. He tossed the gun into the trash bin.
He stood up, slowly, with a grunt and moved over to the desk. "Let me explain."
He picked up 4 plastic cups and the bottle Lourdes brought him. He paused, then filled each cup with ice before he got to work. He handed out the drinks as the New Years Eve countdown on the TV began. He sat down next to Jerky, how to begin?
"This is my first time in Las Vegas, I wish I didn’t come here to kill a man." As Guy began, hot tears fell down his cheeks. As the calendar turned to begin again the dog leaned over and licked his face.
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Yup. New year, but the opening lines still kick butt :) I like the confrontation and switch, where we learn it's a setup. The story was already pretty tense, but that pushed it in a great direction, and I wasn't sure if Guy was about to screw his own life over. The ending turns out to be a bit of a relief, where there's some hope for the future. Guy's not a bad guy. He takes time out of his day to help a stray, and to help Lourdes. He can be forgiven for wanting to avenge his daughter - that's normal. But he was blinded by it too, and he...
Emotion is getting the better of Guy as he has never had anything this far out of his control. Hopefully in the next chapter or two Lourdes and Jerky will talk some sense into him. Thanks!
I enjoyed the crossover of the plots here. Guy tries to reconcile his daughter's assault and then is interjected into Bruno's life of a lie to get rid of Bob. The bringing in of Lourdes and Jerky was great as they advanced the plot. Although I thought Lourdes would kiss Guy, not Jerky, your fitting the prompt so well is awesome. Well done as always, Marty B. Top-notch. LF6
Dogs kisses are the best!
I agree! LF6
Loved the opening line "As it was his first trip to Las Vegas, he wished he wasn't here to kill a man." I mean who can put this book down with that kind of hook? The rest of the story did not disappoint. You crafted a great one here. Love reading your stories. You have a knack for capturing something important about the human condition.
Thanks for the good words!
Funny how this totally fits the prompts for last week and this upcoming week. What are the odds of that? The opening sentence for this one is right up there with your winning story, Marty. Great sense of mystery and intrigue. The recipe for a good hook, if you ask me. And this definitely lived up to its Thriller tag (the double crossing, the mysterious object in Guy's bag, the Margaret revenge backstory). Lots of moving pieces here that ultimately culminate in the title: Strangers in a Hotel Room. I've read a piece of advice from an author...
Thanks for the note- I tightened up the editing. ‘ Strangers on a Train’ influenced this one (A Macgyver themed story would be good though!) .
I love modern noir, and this is an excellent, driving, emotional example. I can almost see it playing out on the screen. I understand this is one installment of an ongoing story. I look forward to reading more. Thanks!
Great first line, Marty! Winner for the week. This was a nicely dark tale that ended with some hope for redemption for the would-be killer. It is my fond hope that Bruno has some justice meted out to him in the future. I really liked all of the characters in this tale. They worked so well for a "brief encounters" situation. That was marvelously done. Nice work, Marty!
Thanks- Bruno deserves al that is coming to him!