Winston Powel sat on the edge of the bed in the dark motel room, staring out through the grimy window at the low moon. The window was slightly open and a cold night breeze stirred the thin curtains and cooled his skin.
He refocused his vision and assessed his reflection. Black skin, white eyes, black suit, white shirt, and black tie. He smiled. White teeth too.
The night was not quiet; police sirens blared far off in the city, a dog barked and its owner cursed down in the parking lot, and the phone in the next room rang and rang. His smile faded.
He felt a vibration next to his chest and reached into his jacket pocket. Pulling out the phone, he pressed a key and read the words on the screen.
"INTERVIEW CONFIRMED. 2AM."
Putting away the phone, he stood up. Turning on one heel, he snatched up the car keys and overnight bag from the bed and headed for the door. Taking a quick look back into the room, he nodded in satisfaction, opened the door and walked out into the narrow corridor beyond, letting the door swing shut behind him.
The Motel owner's wife, Marilyn, sat behind the reception desk, her full figure held precariously in check beneath the flowery dress. Her horn-rimmed spectacles were pushed up high on her head, snared in the mass of lacquered hair.
She glanced up from her magazine as she heard a door open and her lips formed a wide smile as Winston entered the lobby. He returned the smile and approached her desk.
"Hello, Mister Powel. Is everything all right?" Marilyn asked in her sweetest voice as she smoothed down her dress.
"Uh yes... Thanks Missus Clayton... I'm checking out. How much do I owe?" Winston asked as he pulled out his wallet.
Her smile broadened if that was possible. She just loved his British accent–'East End', he'd called it. But he was checking out. Her smile slipped a little and she slid over the plain black register book. "Oh, okay. Well, let me see..."
She flipped over a page of the register, tapped a few numbers on a calculator, and quickly wrote out a receipt - all the while talking to herself. Then she looked up at him again and smiled. She found herself smiling a lot when Mister Powel was nearby. "Um, that will be... seventy five dollars all together please, Mister Powel."
Winston dug out the necessary bills handed them to her and took the proffered receipt in return. "Thanks."
"Will you be coming back this way?" Marilyn asked hopefully.
"Maybe… I'm not sure yet."
"Well, we can always find you a room at short notice if you do. I hope your business deal goes well."
"Me too," he smiled, tucking the paper into his inside pocket. He picked his bag up, nodded at Marilyn and turned to leave the reception.
He had only taken two steps when the plate glass door suddenly opened and Davey Clayton backed in, dragging his Doberman with him. The dog pulled on its restraint, barking repeatedly at something outside.
"Shut it, Jim, you god-dammed idiot!" Davey yelled and tugged hard on the leash. The dog cleared the doorway and the door slammed shut.
Cursing under his breath, Davey turned to see Winston and his wife looking at him. Jim stopped his barking when he saw Winston and sat down at his master's side, staring up at the black-suited Englishman.
"Oh, sorry about that, Mister Powel, Jim ain't too friendly with the locals," Davey shrugged and his whole flabby body shook in sympathy. "There was a guy with a guitar case hanging around in the car lot. Jim scared him off."
Davey dragged Jim aside. Winston nodded and reached for the door handle. In seconds he was out in the parking lot.
Jim began his barking again, so Davey slapped him hard with the loose end of the leash. ""Shut Up. You stupid mutt!" The dog yelped and went silent.
Marilyn regarded them both from the safety of her desk. "You ought to get a muzzle for the damn thing. Better still, get rid of it; it's scaring the customers away."
Flustered, Davey span around and shouted back. "You can stop your yapping too.". As soon as the words left his lips, he cringed inside.
She glared at him for a moment.
"Right well in that case, you can do your own god-damned reception work."
She closed the reception register, picked up her magazine and stomped towards a side door.
Never one to know when he'd gone too far, Davey dug a little deeper, "Yeah? Well, there's plenty people could do that. Might even set Matt on; give the lay-about son-of-a-bitch something to do"
Marilyn paused in the doorway and slowly turned to look at Davey. "Oh, so I'm a bitch now? You've blown it this time Davey!"
She barged through the door and slammed it shut behind her.
Realizing his predicament, Davey rushed towards the door, dragging Jim with him. "Aw hell, Marilyn! I'm sorry, I didn't mean nothing, I was just... Marilyn, honey, please..."
Winston opened the rear door of his Buick and swung his bag onto the seat. He closed the door, opened the driver's side door and slid in behind the wheel, pulling it closed behind him.
He looked around the car lot. Most of the spaces were occupied, but it was empty of pedestrians.
He fumbled around in the glove box for a few seconds, and found the pack of cigarettes. There was one left in it, so he tapped it out, popped it between his lips and lit it up with his Zippo. He wound down the window and breathed a plume of smoke into the night.
He started the engine, reversed out and drove around the lot towards the exit.
A dark blue car sped down the street, took the motel entrance with a squeal of tires, nearly sideswiping him in the process, and pulled up in the place Winston’s car had previously occupied.
"Wanker," Winston observed, the cigarette bobbing between his lips as he spoke.
A group of teenage lads jumped out and headed for the entrance doors. Winston recognized one of them as Matt, Marilyn's son.
Shaking his head, Winston pulled out into the night traffic.