This motel safe house was bleak, on a bleak side of town. The weather was bleak. The next twelve hours I would be here looked bleak. Bleak, bleak, bleak. Bleak like my attitude. This shift found me baby sitting some sod hiding from someone, I couldn’t remember from whom. It wasn’t important to me. This little safe house-motel was the kind of place that didn’t invite unwanted attention, and, even if it did, I was pretty quick at identifying suspects and eliminating threats. My little P290, not standard issue, but my own personal back-up piece, was never far away from my hand, being strapped to my body in my concealed carry holster.
Dull. Dull was another word to describe this motel-safe house. The room was on the top floor, the last one at the end of the hall with the stairs going right past the windows of the room directly below them, which was their base of operation, housing a few other officers, a lot of equipment, and a small arsenal; so while I wasn’t too worried about our location being compromised, our chief was.
I sat on the end of the queen bed closest to the door, exchanging awkward looks with this “poor sod”. In my mind I reasoned with myself that I had better start referring to him as “Simon” in case the situation required me to call him by name. It would not have been the first time that I referred to one of our charges as “hey, asshole” in the heat of the moment. Something told me that it wouldn’t fly with this one.
“So, Simon, would you like a soda or a sandwich or” I paused looking for some kind of helpful input from him, tall and lean standing in the kitchenette of the room, but continued when he gave me a very unhelpful empty look back, “or anything?” His eyes were grey. Boring grey. Not dull though, or bleak. Don’t do it, I told myself. Don’t start coming up with nicknames based on his eyes or his stature for this one too. That had not gone over well. Calling one of our previous keeps “No-Good-Nancy” repeatedly over a series of 5 days last summer had landed me in some hot water, partly because of his political and social standing and partly because he was a He, and did not appreciate being referred to as a woman. Typical. Whiner. It probably helped, too, that I had risen part way through the ranks with our captain. Maybe a little.
His eyes brightened a little as he finally opened his mouth to speak.
Speak, damn it, I thought. Followed by, “Impatient much?”
“How about playing a game?” he queried?
My mood was sour. My face was, no doubt a bit sour. Messing with our keep had always been a part time of mine. “Listen sweetheart, I don’t want to take part in any cop fantasy you have. I’m not even an attractive cop.” I paused to straighten my jack, pulling tight the facing on my button down blouse that had a tendency to get tight and pull apart just a bit. “There may be some sick bastards out there who have fat girl fantasies but I don’t even fall into the category of the plump, bursting at the seams type that those kind go after. Look, I’m more like the ripe plum hitting the sidewalk and lying there until it starts to deflate a little, kind of fat, and nobody has a fantasy about that.” I stared at him. He stared back at me, a little hesitantly he reached into his bag, a messenger bag type that he had been told to stuff just a few of the necessary items he needed into, producing a deck of cards and one of those fold-up cribbage boards.
“Do you play?” he asked, tilting his head slightly as he offered up the cards and board, no doubt wondering what type of middle-aged, psychotic cop with a weight-chip he had been placed in this room with, and probably wondering for how long.
Unapologetically I replied: “Ah, yes, I do. Hand over the cards so I can shuffle, and to make sure you aren’t playing with a fixed deck or something.”
“Is there even such a thing with cribbage” he asked?
“Listen, fella” (there I go again calling one of them pet names) “You are the one here being protected for something nefarious, not me. I reserve the right to assume anything I like.” I like the English language. I may not be a master of it, but I eagerly add new and interesting words to my vocabulary whenever I can. Nefarious is one of those words, fun to say and, in my line of work, often appropriate.
“No doubt that kind of attitude has served you well in life?” he asked dryly.
I split the deck flashing a 7 at him without answering his question while raising my right eyebrow just a bit to show that his attitude was not going over well with me. My left ear was suddenly filled with the sound of firecrackers, through my earpiece, followed by a muffled “sorry” from Dan and then “Nice one, there Jan, nice one.” He snorted a little laugh out before asking how it was going up here. I sat the cards down on the edge of the bed, having shuffled and inspected them a few times already anyhow, taking myself to the window to take a quick glance around. It wasn’t even sunny out there, just overcast and gloomy. That’s all right. My day off was predicted to be a real peach of a day, sunny, hot, and away from these tards.
Nothing. Nothing was happening, just as I expected.
I turned around to see what I had heard happening behind me. He, Simon, had pulled the little table to the center of the room, next to the bed I had been sitting on, from over by the hallway to the bathroom, and had set up our game, having cut his own card from the deck, an 8, while my back was turned and determining that he dealt first.
“Let’s pull that table back just over to the other bed,” I said, wanting more room between me and the front door should anyone unwanted choose to enter. It would be a miracle, considering who all was downstairs. Pedro (not his real name but what I called him since he reminded me of a character from Napoleon Dynamite) was trigger happy and accurate as hell.
Looking across the table at Simon, whom I had sat on the bed, myself on the chair, turned slightly towards the door and with plenty of room for me to get up without the table hindering me. “So, we told you to grab just what you needed in 5 minutes and you chose to throw in a pack of cards and a cribbage board?”
I thought maybe they had been in the bag when it was grabbed but I knew our standard operating procedure would have started with the bag being checked and emptied, so he had to have grabbed it on the way out. I looked at the board, trying to not seem too interested, to see if there was anything that might make this board special. Nothing. Just one of those cribbage boards that folds up and that I find to be frustrating to remember where I’m at and which direction the game is moving.
Simon was tall, taller than my 5′ 5″, probably nearer 6 foot or greater. His hair was a dirty blonde, with specks of grey around the temple. He had a strong chin, not one of those guys who needs a goatee or beard to look like he has a chin. He was clean shaven, his hair trimmed tight, not quite like a military cut, but not too long by any means.
Twelve hours is enough time to study someone without really staring, especially when playing a card game like cribbage. We had a dinner of fresh cut french fries and drippy cheese burgers from a diner we liked to use when we were out this way, one of those kinds that make their food from scratch. The restaurant was out on the edge of town so the burger and fries were half cold by the time we got them. I didn’t know why Pedro was laughing when he delivered our food til I finally got a chance to pick up my soda after the guys had retreated back down stairs, finding it empty of everything but ice.
“I know where you live,” I said over my com. All I got in response were some guffaws and static. “Since you have so much time down there, why don’t you figure out why there is so much noise on our line?”
Mr. Tall and Clean Shaven was more interested in picking his crib cards then his cold fries and I was more interested in his un-drank soda, sitting inches away from my left hand. I wonder if he will notice if take a drink of it? Better not chance it. I still don’t know why we have him or if he has any communicable diseases, though I doubted he did, since he seemed so clean and, well, uptight.
“Sam, I could use a stretch. Want to relieve me for a few, let me walk around, take a glance up the street and such?”
“Yeah, be right up.” He paused. “You looking for a mini mart to get something to drink? Want to grab me something too?” Laughter. They forget I know where their lockers are.
* * *
The wee hours of the morning was still at the Motel off 6th. The view from the front of the motel was of a lot of abandoned buildings and open streets. The road going past the side of the motel where our room is, goes up a hill, about 50 feet before it rolls gently down on the other side. Behind the motel is an embankment, the other side of which is a mismatch of a few old houses and bigger buildings mostly empty now, but at one time they were full of business and people. I like this side of town for these kinds of operations. There aren’t a lot of people to worry about so it’s easier to figure out who everyone is and whether or not they are a threat. Right now, there isn’t an everyone or even an anyone, it’s just me walking around. Also, there isn’t a mini-mart so there wont be any sodas. I did find a bottle in the ditch with a yellow liquid inside that I debated picking up for the boys back at the motel, the boys and Cece. I knew that she wasn’t part of soda-drinking. She and I were two of the only females in our department so we tried to stick together. Not in the buddy-buddy way, we never hung out together without the rest of the crew, but in a practical, we have to share a bathroom and locker room kind of way. Cece was built like a tiny supermodel, fit, pretty and short. Oh, and she was sensible. She knew better than to date anyone at work. Not like me, I had made my mistakes, endured a few awkward years looking across the desk at a guy I had made the mistake of sleeping with after a late night Christmas party and a lot of drinking. Never was I happier than the day he transferred out of our department, actually out of our city. Thankfully he wasn’t the braggadocios type, so very few of our fellow officers knew anything about it, but still, it happened and I was still a little ashamed of it.
Pedro, actually named Michael by his loving parents, had asked me out a few times, well, for beers with the guys but I also didn’t drink much more than soda with them very much, the occasional beer but never more. I didn’t want to repeat Frank. I wouldn’t be so lucky a second time and it would be me who would have to transfer out. I liked my job and didn’t want to move.
When I got back to the motel from my stroll, I checked in with Dan, a man slightly taller than me