by Stephen Westbrook
John was flying down the dark, empty highway at a good twenty miles per hour over the speed limit. He was exhausted from the 300 mile drive, and his limbs, especially his right foot, were gaining weight by the minute. What kept him awake more than anything was the indicator light meant to let him know that his brights were on, but which was bright enough to distract him and keep him annoyed.
His phone rang, the ringtone resembling the sort of musical horn you hear from a Texas stretch limo sporting giant bull-horns on its hood. His wife did it. He fumbled for his phone under some notebooks on the passenger seat, checked the caller ID and took the call without pulling over.
"Hey Rick, how's it going?" He greeted.
"Eh, I'm alright. How does a company this big not spring for a plane ticket for you? Ready for this BS conference?" Rick answered, with an undertone of frustration.
"Its all good man. You sure you're alright? You sound pretty pissed." John questioned.
"Well, I'm fucking fantastic except for I'm pretty sure my wife is sleeping around on me." Rick fired off.
There was a moment of silence, then John responded, "Damn, I'm sorry man."
"I just wish I could catch them in the act." He said in a darkly flat way.
"Don't know what I would do in that situation." John said, rotating his wedding ring around his finger with his thumb. "I would probably kill the fucker."
Strange silence filled the phone until John decided to interject the awkwardness, "Well man, I'm coming up on the city limits. Hopefully, I can find a room on a late saturday night. We're going to have to get some drinks after the conference, and you're finally going to meet the man that keeps you working after hours with those AQL reports." He joked, trying to lighten the mood.
"Yeah," Rick responded. "Take it easy." Before hanging up abruptly.
John tossed the phone back to the passenger seat and said to himself in aggravation, "I hope he's in a better mood Monday."
Finally reaching Huntston, he was stopped by a red light, and guessed that it was probably the only stop-light in town. He knew the light stopped him just for the fun of it, because there was no other traffic. Looking down the way ahead, he could make out a neon sign that read "Caddilac Motel" with "NO VACANCY" in glowing red underneath. He sighed. The stop-light turned green, and simultaneously, the "NO" flickered off in the sign ahead.
"Convenient." He muttered in an irritated relief, and headed to the motel. As he approached, a small blue car peeled out of the parking lot and sped off.
Check-in went normal, with the exception of the manager telling him three times, "NO refunds, even if you don't stay the whole night."
John got to his room, kicked off his shoes, set the alarm and laid down, still seeing the ghosts of yellow dashed lines behind his closed eyes.
Five hours later, the alarm went off with a horrible buzzing, and John awoke in a groggy state. After remembering where he was and why he was there, he got out of bed, turned on the hot water in the shower and started some complimentary coffee while he waited. When he came back to the bathroom, he was amused by a note the steam revealed on the mirror.
"Lick ya in the morning." He read to himself with a smile. He was thinking about that thought as he took off his shirt when he heard a knock on the door. He froze for a moment, looking at the message. "Nah.. Maid probably." He explained, and headed to the door.
He opened it to find a quite attractive looking woman looking very confused at him. He could tell a smile just fell off her face. She looked at the room number on the door then back at John. "Is Mason here?" She asked.
"I don't know who that is, sorry." He responded.
She looked rejected and replied, "No, I'm sorry." She turned around and left without saying another word.
John went back to the bathroom and while getting undressed, thought about the fun someone decided to miss out on this morning. He had just rinsed the shampoo out of his hair when he heard someone banging on the room door.
"What the hell." He complained as he got out of the shower and wrapped a towel around himself. "The hot water better last."
There was more banging and he hurried to the door, dripping wet. He opened it and was met immediately by a small, black pistol being shoved in his face by an obviously very angry man.
"Oh shit.." John shouted as the man shoved him back with his free hand and slammed the door shut. John lost his balance while trying to keep his towel up and fell back on the bed.
"Where the fuck is she?!" The man screamed. He looked around the room and noticed the running shower. "I hope it was worth it." Tears began to well up under his eyes.
"Wait! Who? No-ones here. I don't know what you're talking about!" John pleaded as the man cocked the gun and tensed his arm.
The man hesitated. John could tell he didn't believe him, but he still hesitated. He didn't want to shoot him, but he was torn by a jealous rage.
"Just relax man, you don't want to do this." John said, trying to calm him. The man just stared him down. Feeling desperate and confused, the man closed his eyes, took a deep breath and opened them again. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a cell phone.
"Thank God," John thought to himself as the man dialed a number into the phone "he's calling someone to get talked out of it." He could barely hear himself think over the sound of his heart pounding.
The man dialed a number with his violently shaking hand and put the phone to his ear. A quivering silence filled the room for a moment, drowning out the sound of the shower. Suddenly, John's phone burst to life with that crazy, practical joke of a ring tone, and Rick's eyes widened with anger.
Rick released the bullet.