The traveller awoke before dawn; he put his hat on and walked out of his room. He had been running from the law for a while now and had grown into being cautious in every thing he did. He had developed habits that were destined to keep him safe. The question was not if he was the culprit or not behind this sordid affair. Whatever the truth was, nobody cared. They had pictures of him at the scene. The only thing he could do now was run; get a safe passage into Mexico and stay off the authorities’ radar until then.
As every morning there would be no breakfast, just a fizzy drink from one of the vending machines you could find in motels’ parking lots. This morning it would be a diet one. One needed to stay light if he wanted to travel far and quickly. With his bag over his shoulder, he came down the flight of stairs that brought him directly from his motel room to his parked car below. There were two vending machines against the wall. One was out of order but the other shone bright in the violet light you got from the passage of night into day. It had been the same kind of luminosity when he had arrived last evening just before twilight.
He stood in front of the vending machine, analysing the different proposed drinks. Cokes and lemonades of course, but also juices with Spanish names that confirmed to him that he was not far from the Mexican border now. He fished a quarter out of his pocket and was going to insert into the slot when he noticed it: a growing blue light reflecting on the darkened windows of the ground floor rooms in front of him. He didn’t have to turn around to know that these were police car lights. So they had found him after all… How did they do it? He’d been so careful…
He dropped the coins to the ground and looked around quickly. On his right, underneath the flight of stairs he had climbed down just a minute ago, he saw a door. He rushed to it and thanked God or who ever was watching over him up there when it opened under his push. It gave way to a flight of stairs that went straight down into darkness. He looked back over his shoulder and saw that the police car was now parked. Two officers got out of it, the closer one holding a gun in his right hand. His piercing look crossed the traveller’s eyes. His moustache and police cap made him look like Stalin the traveller thought for a second. Funny how your brain makes random associations when you’ve got bigger fish to fry he told himself. He turned his back to him and plunged into the darkness, running down the staircase only to reach a closed wooden door. With the torch from his phone he shone some light onto it to discover the word “Cueva” which, he remembered, meant “cave” in Spanish. He tried to open it but this one was locked. Already the footsteps of the policemen outside were getting closer. He reached into his bag and took out a pocket knife. The lock didn’t resist long. Once it was picked, the door swung lightly on its hinges, revealing a wide and humid room where trolleys full of linen were disposed alongside the walls. An imposing washing machine lay in its centre. He was trapped; there were no other doors in the room.
The traveller frantically looked for a place to hide. The linen trolleys were of a good size so he could maybe hide under a heap of sheets. The voices of the policemen were now very clear. They were probably at the top of the staircase, getting ready to come down. The traveller panicked. He needed to hide and fast.
- “Home station this is agent Brody. We’re on site at the Roadside Motel. We have a situation 42. I repeat: we have a 42.”
- “Agent Brody this is home station, do not enter the room. I repeat: do not enter room. If you have a 42 he could hurt her.”
- “Roger that. I confirm that the husband is with her in the room. We wait for further instructions.”
- “We are sending back-up. Over and out.”
The traveller couldn’t believe what he was hearing. They were not here for him. There was another on-going situation up there, one he had nothing to do with it. There was no way out down here anyway so he might as well go back up. It was a gamble but he didn’t really have a choice.
When he reached the parking lot again, he noticed that the policemen had gone back to their vehicle and were sitting it out. As calmly as possible, the traveller headed towards his car without looking back when one of the policemen called him from his open car window.
- “Sir, don’t stay out here, we have a hostage situation in one of the rooms!”
Plucking up courage and self-control, the traveller tried to come across full of deft as he answered: “Ok Officer, thank you for letting me know, I’m leaving now.”
He walked over to his car and noticed in the rising sun that he had parked under an old billboard with an advertisement for an airline company. It read “Fly to Europe, discover France or Italy.“ Then below, someone had spray-painted “Kill Kenny”.
The traveller got into his car. He put the contact on and drove off into the morning light. From the parking lot behind him he heard some gun shoots. He didn’t look back. Attached to his review mirror, a cardboard air freshener in the shape of a parrot rocked violently.