A murder mystery that takes place at an extended stay motel.
|In sharp contrast to the slate grey gloom that clung to the last few hours left in the first day of December, the cream-colored, three-story motel with its bright blue sign that matched the signature blue doors, was a welcome sight. Landscaped with palm trees and crisp white trim gave the motel a luxury resort ambiance.
"Two nights here won't be such a bad deal," Tracy said as her husband followed the gently curved, sloped driveway to the sheltered entrance. Large, square flower pots flanked the office door with late-blooming yellow marigolds and rust-colored mums. She watched her husband dart into the office to get the key to their pre-booked room. From where she sat, Tracy noted the bright yellow Denny's sign directly in front of the motel. Across the drive, there was an entryway that led around the side to the front of a strip mall. Tomorrow, it would be fun to go exploring, she decided.
Frank emerged from the office and came round to her side of the truck. He popped her door open letting the cold suck all the warmth from the vehicle.
"You have to come and sign a few papers since you made the reservation and it's your credit card dear," He explained even as he left the door wide open and he started to unload the motorized power chair from the mini lift bolted to the back of their truck. With a sigh, Tracy buttoned up her coat, pulled her scarf tighter around her neck, and pulled her cap lower to cover her ears. It only took minutes for Frank to have his wife securely positioned on her rolling thrown, having perfected their routine over the last few years.
As they approached the office doors, shouting could be heard through the closed door. A paper sign asked that only one customer enter the small office space, and if there was someone in the office, to please wait outside for the next turn. Tracy turned her attention to the decidedly neglected flower beds and her husband sank down on a wooden bench.
"I'm not paying ten bucks for a key I did not lose!" Shouted the angry man in the office. "It was stolen, plain, and simple. I did not lose it!"
"Sir, I understand your insistence that the key was stolen, however, the papers you signed upon registration clearly states a ten dollar fee shall be applied to replace any and all room keys, regardless if they were lost, stolen or damaged." A calmer voice said, clearly trying to sound understanding and convey patience the person was obviously not feeling.
"I don't care what those papers say! It's an obvious scam to milk my wallet dry! You can't make me pay that fee!" Yelled the man. "I'm leaving this dump right now!"
"Sir, I'll be glad to get your paperwork ready for you, however, allow me to point out you will need to pay the ten dollar fee to get back into your room to have access to your personal belongings." The calmer voice explained and was cut off by a loud, scathing curse moments before the office door swooshed open the force and the furious man stormed out, slamming the door with a bang. He glared at Tracy and Frank as if it was by their choice they were stuck listening to the awkward show of temper.
"Think twice before you decide to stay in this dump! Nothing but a freaking scam rip off!" He groused as he made his way down the cobbled walkway. Frank and Tracy exchanged a silent look before Frank opened the door to allow his wife to roll into the warm office decorated in various shades of grey and silver.
The clerk behind the counter was named Kenny and he greeted his new customers with a forced smile. "Welcome, thank you for coming in to sign the registration papers," He said as he looked down at Tracy. He came around the counter and handed the papers and a clipboard to her.
"No problem, our pleasure," Tracy assured the man. Poor guy, he'd obviously had a challenging shift. In moments, Kenny had them registered and was handing them each a key card for their room.
"If you need anything, please let me know. You can always come to the office, but we are encouraging all our guests to use the phone in their rooms to contact the front desk, to cut down on the traffic and contact. Just dial "0" then 99 for the front desk." Kenny explained. "Have a great night."
Five minutes later, Tracy and Frank were settling into their suite complete with a kitchenette that had a two-burner stove, sink, and a full-size fridge. A large, flat-screen television was mounted to the wall, and a queen-sized plush bed manteled with a thick, soft comforter in sage green. The bathroom had a large, step-in shower big enough to accommodate a wheelchair if needed.
"You can take your shower first," Frank offered as he kicked off his work boots and sank on the edge of the bed already pointing the remote control towards the tv. "Want me to order some food?"
"I saw a Denny's across the parking lot. Why don't we go over and get some all you can eat pancakes?" Tracy suggested as she used her walker to make her way into the bathroom. She smiled at her husband's quick agreement. In all the years they had been married, her hubby had never once turned down a pancake.
In short order, they had both been refreshed by a shower and dressed in comfy, nearly matching sweats. Back in her power chair, they bundled up and made their way to Denny's. Night had fully fallen and temperatures dropped as gusty winds swept the parking lots.
Denny's was lit brightly and enveloped them in warmth as they entered. The hostess, a petite, young woman with raven black hair, ivory complexion, and bright red lips greeted them with a smile.
"Sit anywhere," she offered. "Your server will be with you momentarily." Tracy rolled ahead of Frank and stopped at the four-seater table by one of the picture windows that overlooked the freeway.
"This alright with you dear?" She asked. Frank nodded and moved one of the chairs and placed it against the wall out of the way, to allow his wife to roll her chair up close to the table.
"Evening folks," The server, dressed in Denny's uniform and a Santa hat perched on her blonde hair. "Coffee?" She asked as she flipped the upside-down mugs over. Both Tracy and Frank nodded enthusiastically and the scent of freshly brewed coffee scented the air. Dark, rich liquid filled the mugs. "Are you ready to order or do you need a few minutes to decide?"
"Oh, no, we'll both have the all you can eat pancakes," Frank responded. "Can we have lots of extra butter on mine?" Tracy noted the server's name on her tag was Madeline.
"Sure thing," Madeline said as she jotted on her notepad and spun around to greet another, older couple. Frank was just pouring the third packet of sugar into his coffee when flashing red, white, and blue lights lit up the night with screaming sirens at full volume. In quick order, several police SUVs sped past on the feeder road that ran in front of the Denny's. Shortly after several more police vehicles sped past. The flashing lights did not diminish and it was soon apparent that whatever was going on, was going on somewhere very close by.
Tracy sipped her coffee as her husband craned his neck trying to get a glimpse of what was going on. Madeline returned with two platters stacked with half a dozen pancakes on each plate. The stack topped with not one but three generous scoops of butter was set before Frank.
"What's going on out there?" Frank asked as he unrolled his silverware.
"Not sure," the waitress said. "But they all seem to be surrounding the Well's Fargo down two lots."
"That's the bank right across the lot from our room!" Tracy said in a hushed whisper. She carefully cut a wedge of pancake and dunked it in the pecan syrup she'd poured into a small condiment bowl. She was what her husband fondly called a dunker. While, he, was what he called a soaker. He prefered to dump an overly generous amount of syrup directly over the top of his cakes until they were well soaked in the sticky sweet stuff. He noticed that his wife only dunked every third or fourth bite in syrup, preferring to eat the plain, buttered cakes without the added sweetness. By unspoken agreement, they ate quickly and with limited talking. He wolfed down three plate fulls in the time it took her to finish off her first stack.
Frank quickly paid the bill and left a nice tip for Madeline as they took their leave. The night was still alive with blue and white flashing lights, but the sirens had been silenced. An impressive number of police vehicles were indeed haphazardly scattered near the bank building. There was not much to see, considering it was dark and the flashing lights did little to illuminate what was going on. Had someone attempted to rob the bank? Tracy wondered as they entered their room.
Curiosity got the better of her, and she slid the drape to the side so she could sit on the side of the bed and look outside. Her husband had already dismissed the commotion and had gotten comfy on the bed and was watching the tv. A few hours later, police vehicles started leaving and Tracy could hardly keep her eyes open.
With a sigh, she settled in bed and let her cola brown eyes close and her mind drift off.