Dropped back at the motel by the officers, it was dark, mist to the air made it seem it’d snow, orange tint to the sky. Some kind of impromptu parking lot get together was going on, rooms on the lower floor had their doors open, televisions on in each room barking out and people wandering in and out, room to room.
I went right into the office, supposing I’d ought to show myself in case something’d been done to the room, needed to sign something—also still thought I might ask for my refund of one day since I wasn’t staying the full week, definitely.
Skinny older guy was rubbing his eye, hard, three fingers, don’t even know he registered the electric bell of the door opening, though he didn’t seemed startled at my being there. I kind of shrugged, told him I’m Trevor English, there was a thing I had to go with the police earlier, just want to be sure everything’s alright the room.
He nodded, concentrating on something, made a gesture of both hands like he was shaking something, then said, bit of an exclamation English, yeah somebody called for you. Trevor English?
-Yes. My stomach felt bloated and ready to sink. They leave a message?
-That you should call him.
He handed me a card, I took it, not even giving it a glance.
-Room should be fine. Have your key? What was it happened, the police?
I doddered my head, excused myself I was beat, he didn’t seem to care.
Entered my room tentatively, but straight away got the impression not anyone’d been in. Checked under the bed though, checked the windows were locked, found it didn’t seem they even could open.
Remembering about the letter in my pocket, spent awhile at the sink burning it, tearing it into little squares to minimize smoke, doused each bit quick in a trickle I kept from the tap. I was done five pages, three cigarettes smoked, when the room phone rang. I let it ring out, hollow aftertone of it seemed to fill the room two minutes.
I knew there was a chance it’d been the guy who’d paid me to deliver the original letter to Herman’d been the one hadn’t identified me down the station lot, stood a better chance it was Norman Court, though. Meant I needed to think up something clever to do about that, just didn’t feel up to thinking about anything at all. He’d obviously some reason in particular to not serve me up, especially he’d spent the time’d come all the way out a moment’s notice the police’d gotten the tip I was in the area. Not likely he was driving back to Virginia—and to punctuate this, the room phone went off again, rang until it went out, I was just through the ninth of the photocopied pages, fifth cigarette, pack just about spent.
Best thing wait until morning, call a cab, have it waiting—even have it wait the other side of the motel so it didn’t give anyone away the idea it was me getting into it. Cab drivers didn’t care about sneaky things like that, I’d ask for the car to park other side the motel ten minutes, pay the meter for that on top of the fare, leave the room like I was off for a walk, someplace for a drink, make the quick break around, cab’d have me up onto the freeway one minute.
I smiled at my reflection, but the smile looked patronizing back toward me, so I narrowed my eyes at myself, muttered something about I’d like to see you come up something clever, then.
Same time, it struck me if it was Norman calling, why’d he do that not just come up the room?
Police might be watching me, maybe, meant they see him coming around they’d get to wondering why didn’t he put the finger to me he had the chance, officially—the detective knew no problem I’d something to do with everything, served to reason he’s just as iffy about Norman, every reason to be.
I waited for the phone to ring, but it didn’t another hour, another hour.
To put myself in better spirits, I considered that Norman getting me off the hook more or less freed me up a good bit, the final analysis. Definitively, a man who’d been blackmailed’d said no question I’m not the person’d did it, while meanwhile I actually was—since no one else with any authority existed’d be brought into things I didn’t much have to fret being stopped or tracked down, at least not by authorities.
Get on a bus, get a ticket I’m sure no one’s getting on the same bus with me to be bothered about, then lose myself again the first stop someplace, weave back around to the storage locker my money—locker at least I’d got under a made believe name, storage unit rentals are good that way.
Soon enough it got to be next morning, I’d not slept five minutes solid. Put a call into a taxi could they send a driver out, wait out in back I’d throw twenty dollars on top the fare—dispatcher had no problem about it, said driver’d head out, wait around until middle next hour.
-Tell him leave the motor idling.
Commonplace request, it seemed. I hung up feeling almost normal with everything until there was knock on the door. Looked out the peephole it was Norman—he wasn’t at the ready, looking for some change the bulb of the peephole his side of the door, was just leaning on the railing, kind of his back halfway to me.
I was through my last cigarette he knocked again. Sat to the bed, wondered was the cab in back yet. Norman out there didn’t seem it changed anything really, just I’d have to literally make a fast break, hope he wasn’t just gun in his pocket set on cutting me down broad daylight, lost to caring about anything.
Another knock went on comically long, like he was tapping a song but I couldn’t pick up any tune if he was.
-What do you want, Norman? I said, mouth to the door, then moved a little to the side in case he really did have a gun.
-I didn’t know your name was Trevor, I wouldn’t have thought it was, he said, not even raising his voice to be sure it’d get through the door plank.
-That’s interesting, yeah? Guess I’ve never really thought it’d be my name either, just’s been my name. What do you want?
Sound of his voice changed, like now his mouth close up the door, maybe side of his cheek to it, he was more audible but at the same time seemed he was keeping more hushed, maybe hands cupped to contain the direction of the words.
-I want to know who gave you that letter.
I stared at myself leaning against the wall by the door in the mirror, just looked at myself. Finally sighed big, watching me move, said It was Herman’s brother, alright? So can you get lost?
-Which brother? he said, the words awkward, like drips to the floor of something melting.
-The non-descript one, didn’t know there was more’n just him. One doesn’t look like he’s anybody
-Herman doesn’t have any brother.
I watched myself in the mirror close my eyes, really felt like I saw myself do it.
-Who gave you that letter?
Opened my eyes, looked straight across at myself was like I’d been watching back the whole time.
-Please, Trevor, could you open the door?
I walked to the sink, scrubbed my face with wetted palms, dried it a damp towel smelled off even though I’d only ever used it just once, earlier.
Norman’d moved a pace or so off as he heard me getting the latch open. I told him there was a taxi out the back, go down give the driver thirty dollars then we’d walk someplace for a drink.
Pablo D’Stair is a writer of novels, shorts stories, and essays. Founder of Brown Paper Publishing (which is closing its doors in 2012) and co-founder of KUBOA (an independent press launching July 2011) he also conducts the book-length dialogue series Predicate. His four existential noir novellas (Kaspar Traulhaine, approximate; i poisoned you; twelve ELEVEN thirteen; man standing behind) will be re-issued through KUBOA as individual novella and in the collection they say the owl was a baker’s daughter: four existential noirs.