Dad jolted awake.
His brain remained blank for a few seconds, as if he suffered from a momentary blackout. Then his eyes noticed a head that was resting on his shoulder.
As he regretted coming out of the sleep—a momentary escape from an awful reality—he breathed a deep sigh of remorse.
Looking toward the bedroom, he caught sight of the body, the pulpy head covered in blood, if one could still call it a head. He squeezed his eyes shut and reopened them. The bloodied cadaver was still there. Of course.
He stared down at the face on his shoulder. Misty was sound asleep, looking like a virtuous angel.
What have I done…? He lamented. Again. Unfortunately, no amount of lamenting could change or take back what was already done.
Suddenly recalling his appointment with the hacker’s associate, he checked the time on his phone. It was already nine-forty.
“Crap,” he slipped out, placing Misty’s head on the couch. She moved a little but didn’t wake up.
He hurried into the bedroom and put a sheet over the body.
A knock came at the door.
His heart stopped—well almost.
It wasn’t time yet. Who could it be? Could the hacker’s associate be arriving here twenty minutes early? Sure, he could.
Dad rushed to close the sliding doors to the bedroom, and hurried over to the door.
He peeked through the peephole—it was the maid.
He’d forgotten to hang up the Do Not Disturb sign.
“Mr. Marcus? Housekeeping.”
The maid knows my name? How? Oh, okay, she must have gotten it from the front desk. Why would they do that?
As the thoughts maniacally ricocheted in his head, he cracked the door just a bit. “Hi, sorry, I forgot to put out the sign—”
“Mr. Marcus. Are you okay, sir?”
“Are you bleeding, sir?”
He’d totally forgotten about that. He remembered losing a tooth, so there must have been bloodstains still on his lips. He hadn’t looked at himself in the mirror yet.
“Oh, yeah, yes. It’s fine. Stupid me, I tripped and fell on my face last night and broke a tooth. A bit too much to drink,” he pretended as well as he could. “Uh… my… wife is still sleeping, so…”
The maid made a Sorry face and whispered, “Okay, I’ll just put this here,” as she hung the sign up on the door handle.
“I’ll be extending my stay. I’ll go downstairs and pay in a minute,” he said, realizing the checkout was at eleven. He didn’t want to risk anyone coming back for more money since he hadn’t used his credit card.
“No problem, sir. Have a nice day, Mr. Marcus.” The maid smiled politely and moved onto the next room.
He closed the door and stood there for a moment. It was very disturbing to learn that the maid knew his name.
Why didn’t I fake my name when I checked in? He condemned his recklessness. However, it was hard for him to think that way since he’d never faked anything before in his life.
He flinched and turned around.
Misty smiled, standing right behind him. He didn’t even hear her approaching. She took both of his hands in hers, and pressed her lips on his. “Good morning. Did you sleep well, my husband?” Smiling like a purring feline, she turned around and walked off. “I like the sound of that. A lot.” Glancing over her shoulder seductively, she walked to the bathroom.
Dad hurried to change into his clothes. Oh, wait. He needed to wash his face.
He knocked on the bathroom door.
“What, honey? Do you want to watch me pee? Is that it?”
“No. I need to wash my face before he comes here.”
“You don’t want to use the other one?”
Other one? Okay, so this place has two bathrooms. All the hotels he’d ever stayed in had only one bathroom per room.
“No, I’ll use the other one.” He slid open the doors, passing the covered corpse, entering the other bathroom.
He saw himself in the mirror and almost jumped with alarm. He looked like a different person—his face was swollen with one tooth missing… And yes, bloodstains covered his chin. No wonder the maid asked if he was okay.
Suddenly he heard a voice.
Oh, crap! Is he here already? The bedroom doors are wide open! He screamed in his head.
He stayed in the bathroom, holding his breath, with a cold sweat streaming down his face.
Suddenly, the bathroom door burst open.
Misty stood there with one hand on her hip, and the other hand holding an envelope. “It’s done.”
“What? He came and left already?”
“What, did you want to sit down and have coffee with him or something?”
“So, do we have the money?”
“Yes, it’s all here,” she handed the envelope to him.
He opened the envelope. Hundred dollar bills were bundled neatly and jammed inside it. It was quite overwhelming—he’d never seen that much cash in his whole life. And it was all his. Well, technically speaking, Mom’s.
“How much did you inherit?” Misty asked, lifting one eyebrow.
“I need to go downstairs and pay for an extra night,” he said, ignoring her question. He pulled eight hundred dollars from the envelope. Knowing extra cash might come in handy, they’d arranged to withdraw more than they needed to pay the cleaners and the hacker. He also planned to give her some money to buy her continued silence.
He put the envelope on the table and paused.
What if she ran away with the money?
Then the cleaners would probably kill him, and two dead bodies would have been found by the maid the following day.
He needed to keep her on a very short leash.
“Would you come downstairs with me?” He asked.
“Why do you need me downstairs?” She asked.
“I just… feel a bit shaken up… I want you by my side,” he lied. Not bad.
“Oh, honey…” She touched his face. “Of course.”
She looked down at her robe. “I don’t think I should go like this though. Something tells me it’s better to keep a low profile. Can’t stand out too much.” She took off her robe.
Who would go to the lobby dressed in a robe? But Dad knew it was wise to keep her happy until all the cleanup was done. Once the body was taken care of, he’d give her some money to keep her happy, then he could finally say goodbye and get back on the road. And back to his life. “You’ll stand out no matter what. Look at you,” saying that, his throat hurt, as if he just spat out something terribly nasty.
“Why thank you, mister.” She stuck out her naked butt as she danced over to her dress before sliding into it.
Maybe she wasn’t planning to run away with the money. But it was better to be safe than sorry.
Dad and Misty stood at the front desk and waited while the clerk counted the cash. They had told the clerk the same story about Dad’s drunk accident up front, so she wouldn’t wonder or question him any further.
Dad looked up, checking out the surveillance camera. Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to come to the front desk with Misty. Now the two of them had been caught on tape together. But why worry? According to Misty, they’d never find Frank’s body or any traces of a murder in the room. So why did he even think the police would review the tape? Unless Frank’s guys reported him missing inside the hotel. But did mobsters ever contact the police? The chances were pretty slim. Instead, they’d probably try to find the killer themselves.
“I’m glad you’re enjoying your stay here, Mr. Marcus. Aside from your unfortunate accident, of course.” The front desk clerk smiled, looking from one to the other.
“Yes. My husband and I just adore this hotel,” Misty chirped as she smiled back at the clerk.
“Happy to hear that, Mrs. Marcus,” said the clerk before turning to Dad and adding, “You have a beautiful wife.”
“Thanks…” Saying that, Dad felt extremely uncomfortable.
Misty seemed to enjoy pretending to be his wife. He was one of her usual one-night-stands after all, wasn’t he? She was just having fun, playing house for the day, wasn’t she?
Absolutely. Otherwise, why would a sexy, bubbly, young woman bother with a boring forty-three-year-old father and husband? Unless he was ultra rich and she was hunting for one…
“Okay, Mr. and Mrs. Marcus. You’re good for another night. Is there anything we can bring up to your room?”
“No! No, no,” as soon as he said it, he worried that it came out too nervous. He tried his best to compose himself and rephrased it, “We’re good for now. Thank you.”
“Enjoy your stay,” the clerk said with another polite smile.
“Should we run away?” said Misty as soon as they re-entered the room.
He looked at her, feeling dumbfounded. “Huh…?”
“We just ditch the cleaners and go somewhere.”
“What are you talking about?”
“We take the money and fly somewhere where nobody can find us. How about buying a little island somewhere? Oh! How about Greece? There’re thousands of islands in Greece.” Her eyes lit up in a state of reverie.
“Why… why are you saying this all of a sudden? I thought we had a perfect plan.”
“Because this sounds like a better idea. Doesn’t it? I mean, think about it. Instead of wasting a hundred grand on these guys, we can use it for ourselves. We can call that hacker guy again once we are settled somewhere, and get the rest of the money.”
The rest of the money…?
Dad just stared at Misty, paralyzed. His worst nightmare had just come true.
“Honey, it’ll be perfect!” She put her arms around his neck, dangling there with a smile.
“What… what are you exactly talking about? They saw me. They have me on tape. You and me both now. They know we stayed in this room. A-a-a-and…” He stammered uncontrollably like he had a real speech impediment.
“Didn’t you hear me, silly? We disappear into somewhere where nobody can find us.”
“You know I have a family and a wife. Right?” he retorted, utterly exasperated.
“Don’t you love me?” Misty looked up with her Come on, Daddy, puppy eyes.
His jaw dropped and hung open.
His gut instinct warned him it was not a good idea to flat-out say No right to her face. Not while he still had the dead body in his room…
“I can’t do that to my family. You know that.” He tried to sound neutral. “Let’s just go with the original plan. Okay? The guys are coming here any minute. We have to get through this.” She didn’t say anything, so he touched her cheek, acting more gentle. “Okay, sweetie?”
“Okay,” she answered.
Soon afterwards, the cleaners showed up.
Dad sat in a chair, his back facing the door. It felt safer that he didn’t see their faces or wasn’t seen by them, but he couldn’t leave them unattended, either. After experiencing how crazy things had been going for the last twelve hours, he couldn’t trust anyone or anything.
Misty let them in. He didn’t hear any of their voices. They probably just nodded hello.
He could hear noises but they were amazingly muffled considering the job they had to do—i.e., cutting a human body into small pieces. Didn’t they need a chainsaw to slice up bodies? The one he used at home was certainly very loud. They must have had a special tool, one that was specifically dedicated to one purpose, just like a silencer on a weapon.
Misty came back and said, “It’s gonna take a while. Should we go downstairs for a drink?”
Ironically, he realized he did need a drink. The alcohol might have been the only thing that kept him sane. Somewhat.
“I gave them half the money up front. We can take the other half with us, so they don’t steal it and run away.” It was amazing how swiftly this woman switched back and forth between sounding clueless and handling business, as fast as a chameleon changed its color.
“Come on, let’s go! I’m starving, too. So starving, I could even eat human flesh.”
Dad froze in the chair. It wasn’t that much of a stretch for him to think she actually might.
After Dad and Misty ate a generous champagne brunch, she wanted to swim in the pool. The two purchased bathing suits from the gift shop like any other tourists, and headed out to the pool. Dad sat in a cabana and held the cash, while watching Misty swim. She emerged from the water, like she was on a shoot for a music video. Dad noticed other men’s eyes fastened on her, which she also seemed to be very much aware of.
Hours later, the two of them returned to their room.
There were some shadows moving inside the closed bedroom. Dad noticed the fresh scent of the room—especially after the body had begun to emit an odor of decomposition. He’d been concerned that anyone might have noticed. The body must have been cut up and taken out already, and they must have been finishing up the smaller details.
He waited on the balcony until the cleaning was completed. Misty told him to close his eyes as she led him inside. She opened the sliding doors and said with unbridled excitement, “Now open your eyes!”
Dad’s jaw dropped. He couldn’t believe what he saw. He wondered if he were in The Twilight Zone.
The body was gone. The bloodstains were gone. The odor was gone. It was as if he time-travelled back before it ever happened. Just as Misty had promised him.
“Wow…” A slow breath escaped his mouth.
“I know, right?” She smiled, looking as exhilarated as a teenager who just impressed her daddy with her cheerleading stunts.
“Do you trust me now?” She asked with a mischievous smile, throwing her arms around his neck.
He couldn’t say yes or no. There was no way he could trust her. However, she was right about their cleaning skills. Everything in the suite seemed forensically, scientifically, and evidentially, spotless. The whole thing did not feel real at all.
Misty’s arms came down to his waist, and she pulled him toward the bed. “Now you can relax, can’t you?” Her sweet-talk continued, “I know you were stressed. And I don’t blame you. But now I want you to just have a good time with me.” Saying that, she stripped off her new dress, which they’d purchased at one of the boutiques downstairs.
“Uh… I really have to get going now.”
“But we paid for tonight already. Come on. Where’s the fire?” Her hands reached into his jeans, and she tactically unzipped them.
“Misty. I have to get back to work,” he said, stopping her hands.
He needed to rush back to his truck and get on the road again, now that the corpse had been dispatched. He was already ten hours behind schedule, but if he drove a bit faster, he might have been able to make it to California without arriving too late. He just needed to come up with some clever excuses. Then maybe he could manage to avoid getting fired.
Right now, he just had to get rid of Misty.
“Just five minutes. Trust me, this will release your stress.” She kissed his private part, massaging it with her hot, wet tongue.
He gasped momentarily before peeling himself off her, his pea-sized brain overcoming his pea-brained desire.
“Don’t be like that,” she stood up, her face turning red from her anger. “Remember, you fucked me.”
“I just lay next to you. You started it. You fucked me,” she repeated, sounding blackmailish.
That was not good at all. They were supposed to say goodbye and finally part ways. A horrifying thought crept into his mind. What if he couldn’t get rid of her? At any rate, something warned him not to upset her. She was the type to do the inexplicable and unpredictable when she was mad.
He proceeded with caution like he was walking through a land mine area where unexploded bombs were half-buried. “Misty,” Dad said with the sweetest voice he could produce. “I had such a great time with you.” Which was the most obvious lie. No normal human being would say that after spending a night with a stinking corpse.
Misty’s face loosened into a smile. “Aww, me too.”
She wasn’t a normal human being. Obviously.
“I wanted to give you this as a way of thanking you,” he pulled out some hundred dollar bills and handed them to her.
“Thanks, honey,” she said, planting a kiss on his lips.
“Now let me take you to your car,” he said as he stroked her hair gently. “Please, beautiful. I can’t lose my job.”
She nodded, “Okay. Let’s go.”
Thank, God. Finally.