The ice machine spluttered noisily as he scooped the melting chunks into the bucket between his feet.
Once the bucket was full he stood and made his way back to the room under the cracked glow of the Vacancy sign. Ice machine and a vacancy sign, what more did a cheap motel need? When it’s the only option for miles around, everything else is gravy.
He pushed open the door of the room furthest from the manager’s office, heard a metallic click and saw the barrel of a shotgun pointed towards him. The barrel wavered.
“Cool hand, Luke.” Jimmy set the bucket down at his feet. “Put that thing away, you’re liable to do some damage. Your nerves are getting to me, watch TV or something.”
Luke tossed the gun on the bed.
“Careful. Do you want that thing to go off?”
Luke scoffed and looked over to the TV set with a cable box screwed in place on top. “I’d watch some TV, Discovery channel, something educational.”
“Yeah, right. They don’t show porn on the Discovery Channel.” Jimmy said.
Jimmy shook his head. “You’re a pervert, you know that?”
“Anyway the TV don’t even work, the screen’s all cracked. That red light is all that seems to work on that cable box. It‘s creepy. It won’t turn on or off or nothing.”
“You’re getting too worked up about this. Try and relax.”
“A man needs his entertainment, Jimmy. And I could really go for a good outlaw flick.” Luke laughed as he ran a hand through his greasy hair.
“What’s so funny?”
“Well, you see it done in the movies all the time, but no one ever shows how much work it is filling a bath tub with ice.”
“Shut up, lunkhead.”
“Don’t call me that. I hate it when you call me that, and I hated Dad for it, too. The name’s Luke.”
“Right, that’s what I said, Lunk.”
Luke punched him in the arm. Hard.
Jimmy felt his arm spasm. His grip tightened but the bucket still fell to the floor, while the handle remained in his hand.
“Not so tough now, are we nursey boy?”
Jimmy tossed the handle on the bed. “I got him here, you’d be the one in the tub, if I hadn’t stepped in.” He gripped his brother’s shoulder and waved a finger in his face. “Just you remember that.”
To Luke, it had been a sure thing. He couldn’t lose, not tonight. He had a system. No siree, Bob. Just couldn’t happen to Lucky Luke.
He’d played tight, but alcohol flowed and, in combination with the free weed, had seriously affected his composure. In the last hand he’d gone down in flames with a pair of threes.
Now he realised why he never saw Bob drinking at these things.
“Double or nothing?”
A nod of the head from the others. The sharks had begun to circle, they could smell blood.
Aces and eights. Dead man’s hand.
Now he was seven thousand eight hundred fifty seven dollars and twelve cents in the hole.
“I’m a little short at the moment.” Luke said.
“You’re not going to get any taller.” Bob said, and lit his cigar.
“Perhaps we can trade?” Luke had offered. “I have a car. It must be worth at least a couple of thousand.”
Bob laughed. “You’re aware that I’ve seen your car in daylight?”
“I can get you other stuff, I have excellent contacts.”
Bob drummed his fingers on the card table.
Luke gave a nervous chuckle. “What are you in the market for?”
Luke had heard the rumours. They all had, but no one believed any of it. And no one would dare come out and ask Bob to his face.
Box exhaled. ”Anything and everything. For the right price. But I think I can find you some work.”
“As I say, the car’s low mileage.”
“Not the car, Lucky.”
Luke ran a hand through his hair. He was sobering, but still felt a little fuzzy. “Then what?”
“I’m always looking for people that are in good shape and won’t ask too many questions. There’s a growth market for items that people don’t need. Do you know anyone like that?”
“No,” Luke said.
Bob shook his head and stood.
Bob ignored him and began to walk away. He nodded once to a figure in the shadows.
Luke stumbled out of the chair to follow. “What I meant to say is I don’t personally, but I know a man that does.” Luke said. “Let me talk to my brother, he’s a nurse...”
“Do you hear that?”
“It’s the highway, lunkhead, It’s only a few hundred yards away.”
“No.” Luke put his finger to his lips. “Don’t you hear that?”
Luke shook his head.
“Well, this is me. And we’re the only two conscious.” Jimmy thumbed towards the bathroom. “I don’t think he’s capable of going anywhere, let alone driving a car, especially a stick shift.”
The flash of headlights drew across the motel window, penetrating the flimsy curtains.
“Believe me now?”
“Keep your mouth shut.” He laid a hand on his brother’s shoulder and could feel the muscles trembling. “We have nothing to worry about.”
“Yeah. I gave the manager an extra twenty so that we wouldn’t be disturbed. He said he knew exactly what I meant, and winked. I think he thought we’re gay.”
Luke looked disgusted.
“Are you saying that you think you can do better than me?” Jimmy turned from his brother in mock indignation. “And after I dressed nice for you and everything.”
Luke shook his head, in disbelief.
“So what did you want me to say, Luke, huh?” Jimmy turned to face his brother, the humour gone from his eyes. “Sorry, Mister Motel Manager, my brother and I aren’t gay, we’re just using one of the bath tubs in your fine establishment to harvest organs from an unclaimed vegetable we stole from the nursing home that I work at, to pay off my idiot brother’s gambling debts?”
“Not just my debt. You owe me, remember, big brother? Seven years.”
“That was ten years ago.”
“And I’ve only been out for three.”
Jimmy studied his brother. “So you’re going to march right up to the manager and say what, exactly?”
“I got brains, Jimmy. I’d make something up. At least he’d know that I wasn’t gay. I have a reputation to pro-” Luke moved the curtains slightly to see out in the parking lot. “Oh sh-”
“What is it?” Jimmy looked out into the night, but couldn’t see anything but the dazzle of headlights.
“Can’t you see?”
The headlights died.
Four of them.
“What the hell are we going to do?” Luke stared at his older brother. Jimmy was steadfast. Luke glanced nervously at the shotgun. He was about to say something else when Jimmy placed his hand over Luke’s mouth.
“Quiet.” Jimmy mouthed. A bead of sweat dripped of his chin.
Luke could smell hotdogs on Jimmy’s breath, and realised that he hadn’t eaten since a fast food breakfast twelve hours earlier.
Luke looked over to the bathroom and saw a hand flopped over the side of the tub, right where they had left him.
Luke turned and realised that his brother’s mouth was moving, but he wasn’t focusing on what he was being told.
The voices outside the motel room grew louder.
“So are you ready for this, Teddy? Something different for your bachelor party, anyway. It’ll be fun. Come on you can’t say that you’ve never been curious about what happens?”
There was cheer outside and from where Jimmy was fixed in fear, it sounded like the other three were quite revved up.
The sound of the cops entering the room next door made the bed shake. The shotgun fell to the floor.
The clatter spooked them both.
Jimmy listened carefully, but didn’t think the cops had heard it.
Jimmy looked at the Casio on his wrist as he swiftly picked up the fallen gun. The surgeon would be here in thirty minutes. They couldn’t just cut him open now, not with the walls as thin as they were. They’d just have to forget the whole thing. Run and hope that the body was only discovered when they were miles away.
A TV turned on next door, and beer cans popped open. Laughter echoed around their room.
Good, Jimmy thought, that’ll mask the sound while we escape. He motioned to his brother to get ready to make a break for it.
The gun gripped firmly in his hands.
Through the wall, Jimmy heard a full beer can drop.
The cops sat in anticipation and stared as the TV blinkered into life. Teddy, as befitting a man on his bachelor party, took pride of place in the centre.
The image was dark and a little fuzzy through the fisheye lens. They were used to this, though it had never been two guys before.
Soon their eyes would adjust and the show would begin.
Teddy was about to take a pull on the beer in his hand and, as he realised what he was seeing, the can fell from his grasp, spilling on the floor.
This wasn’t a sex show at all, it was something else.
Two men, both were looking decidedly twitchy.
Teddy put his hand on his service weapon as he bolted to his feet. “They’ve got a shotgun.”