Garcia is late and accompanied. First place in Only Short Stories, July 2021.
I passed two motels on the way into the town. There wasn’t too much to the place, just a main street and a traffic light in the center, and then I was heading out again. The Sunshine Motel was the last building on the far edge of town. I pulled in and stopped by the office.
It was fairly typical of the family run, second tier businesses that struggle to survive in competition with the big chains. Not exactly falling apart, but it would benefit from a lick of paint in places. A large, red dog lay asleep outside the office but, otherwise, no life could be seen. Which was not surprising, given the heat and Garcia’s penchant for quiet, unobtrusive meeting points.
Swinging the car door open, I stepped out into the still afternoon. The atmosphere was stifling and oppressive after the cool of the air conditioning. I glanced at the sky but there was no more than a hint of dark cloud on the western horizon.
The office consisted of a tiny room dominated by a chipped and scratched desk holding a visitor’s book, a bell and a ballpoint pen on a chain. The other end of the chain wasn’t connected to anything. Behind the desk, a middle-aged man dozed in a chair, his fingers crossed over his belly. An ancient air conditioning unit rumbled in a window.
I hit the bell and the man opened one eye. “Thirty-five bucks a night and breakfast in the morning.” I knew what he meant by breakfast but produced my wallet and counted out the necessary. He stood up and unhooked a key from behind the desk.
“Room 12, four doors down on the right,” he said. I accepted the key.
Without counting the money, he picked it up and said, “One night then?”
“Yup,” I answered and stepped outside. The sweltering afternoon clapped its fingers around my throat again. I drove the short distance to Number 12 and parked outside the door. Before I entered the room, I glanced round at the sky again. The dark cloud in the west seemed to have grown. With a bit of luck, it might rain this evening, it seemed.
The room was typical of its species. A bed, a couple of chairs, a bedside table, a fridge and a closet. A television that didn’t work. And a tiny bathroom tucked into a corner. I managed to wake the air conditioner. Shoving a hand to the slot where air was supposed to emerge, I established that it was working after a fashion. It was better than nothing, I supposed.
But there was no sign of Garcia. I had been quite open in my arrival and deliberately took my time in getting into the room. If he was here, he must surely have seen me. Presumably, he would arrive later. I settled in for a long wait, annoyed at myself for not insisting on a specific time for the meeting.
The printed rules of the motel proved insufficient to hold my attention for long and I found myself slipping into sleep as I lay on the bed. I forced myself awake and stood up. There was a jug on a ledge next to the fridge. I grabbed it and headed outside. A little trip to the ice machine should keep me awake and let me have another look round.
Outside, there was a wind blowing the dust in little puffs along the ground. It gave no relief, however, being as hot as a blast from an opened oven door. The dark cloud was expanding across the sky and there was an eerie green tinge to the sunlight. I knew what that meant. and hurried towards the ice machine. It rattled some cubes into my jug.
As it finished, I heard the sound of the office door closing. Looking up, I saw a man and an attractive young woman emerging and walking to a car parked nearby. The man was tall, dark and bearded, the lady clinging to him and obviously delighted at his company. As he stepped inside the car, the man’s eyes met mine. It was Garcia.
I could see that he recognised me immediately but he gave no sign, just got into the car and drove off. He parked next to mine and they both got out. As I watched, they entered the room next to mine, number fourteen.
What the hell was he playing at? Never before had either of us brought someone else to these meetings. Was he making some weird attempt to combine business with pleasure? Or maybe he was eloping with her and felt he needed to say goodbye to me before disappearing?
Surely even Garcia would not dream of such a ridiculous thing. I walked back to my room, only vaguely conscious that the wind had strengthened and was now pushing me along urgently. I felt the first few drops of rain stinging through my shirt as I unlocked the door.
Once inside, I went to the window and watched as the storm hit. The rain thickened and became a torrent, hurtling past as though the room were speeding uncontrollably in its route to disaster. I knew better than to try to contact Garcia in this.
And then the dread sound arrived, a growing roar as of a steam train approaching at full speed. I was left with only one option. In the bathroom, I hunkered down into the bath and pulled the shower curtain down and over me. The tornado hit with deafening power, the ceiling fell in and I thought my last moment had come.
Later, when the chaos had subsided, I crawled out and confirmed that somehow I had survived. The next door room had disappeared, however. It had gone, with everything in it, to be dropped haphazardly around the state.
I never did find out what Garcia had intended that day.
Word count: 996
For Only Short Stories, deadline July 15, 2021
Prompt: Write a short story from the point of view of the person in the motel room next door from the couple in the illustration.