I parked my car three blocks away on Fern under a street light. My OCD kicked in and I rechecked the glove box and under the center armrest. Both were still empty because I cleared them out two hours ago. Sometimes you have to proof even your own work. I felt under the rear wheel well and the tracker was nice and secure.
I double-timed it towards the Crown Motel, a place best described as a shitbag. The only other people out at that hour were a sleeping homeless guy in front of the closed Vietnamese cafe and a tweeker wearing a fur coat and nothing else on a beach cruiser. He was across the street riding against traffic and didn’t notice me. It’s the small blessings sometimes.
The lighted sign for the Crown Motel (one guess what it was shaped like) had been tagged up and claimed by no less than gangs. I lowered my head as I walked past the front desk toward the inner parking lot. Not that it mattered. The front desk guy was asleep with his head sliding down across his hand propping it up. Vacancies abound, it seemed.
Once you got past the front office, it got dark fast. The lights inside the parking lot were all busted which was fine by me. I could see the black jumbo-sized SUV that had no business at this dump parked to the rear of the property, which was a trio of four story rectangular buildings lined up next to each other in a narrow row. I wasn’t expecting the place to be so quiet. It was unsettling. I’d kill to have heard an argument, some glass breaking, a rambling transient or something that didn’t make me think I was in over my head here and everyone was watching me.
I’d never answered an online ad like this before. I’d heard about them all over the place on message boards. The girls in the ads were gorgeous, but when I saw Destiny’s ad there was something about her eyes. A helplessness. I knew she was the one I was going to see tonight. The other girls were confident and seductive, probably just pictures of strippers used to dupe people. You read stories about that online all the time – guys getting tricked by the picture.
But Destiny was different. There was a pain and a fear in her eyes that I could see. Almost as if the photographer was taking the picture with his cell phone in one hand and had a gun in the other. She was the one for tonight. If I was going to be the man I felt compelled to be… well, I felt a karmic connection with her name being Destiny. She was too perfect to pass up.
I texted that I wanted to meet Destiny tonight and heard back immediately wanting to know who it was who was asking. I said I was Brent. They instructed me to be at room #314 at 2:30 am for a twenty minute appointment. Come up the back stairs. Cash only. Up front. Tip expected inside too. Expected meant mandatory, I was sure. Come alone.
I couldn’t see inside the tinted windows of the SUV as I walked by the first floor of the motel rooms. I assumed it was occupied by at least two who I assumed were armed. I’ll worry about them on the way out. As I got to the far end staircase, I stopped to focus. I patted myself down to make sure I didn’t forget anything.
I turned the corner at the top of the stairs on the third floor and there was a very large man with a cigar in his mouth and twiddling with his cell phone, sitting in front of room #314 on a metal folding chair.
“Hello?” I said. The man stood up and put his phone down on the chair.
“The fuck you want?”
“I was supposed to be here at two-thirty.”
“You got that money?” I nodded. He closed the distance between us in four paces and was right in front of me. “Turn around, motherfucka.” He didn’t wait and spun me around and lifted my arms up. “Keep ‘em up, playboy.” He felt around my waist and pockets and came up empty. “Where’s your phone at? You can’t bring it inside.”
“I didn’t bring one.”
“Oh, you a veteran of this, huh? Think you know what’s up? Pay up, bitch. Let’s get the paperwork out the way.” I grabbed two hundred dollars from my front pocket and gave it to him. “You ain’t bring no wallet either?”
“How do I know you’re not the cops?”
He coughed on his cigar smoke as he laughed. “Oh shit, you’re funny. This motherfucker right here. The cops? Shit. This look like department issue to you?” He lifted his shirt and showed just enough silver to know that was literally out gunned here. He walked back to the door to the room and pounded on it with his big paws. Another man, more or less of the same size came out to size me up. “He asked if we were cops.”
“Who? Us?” the other guy said.
“I didn’t ask-” I said.
“Shut the fuck up,” the first guy said, any sense of humor in the situation having vanished. “Get in the room, Poindexter, with that fucking trench coat. It ain’t even that cold out. Fifteen minutes. Handle your business.”
“I thought it was twenty.”
“It’s fifteen. Take it or don’t. I don’t give a fuck. No refunds.”
“Okay, fine,” I said, walking up to the door, trying to get a make of the room but the front curtains were closed up. “I’m not making trouble.
He looked past me and hollered into the room. “Bitch, you got fifteen minutes with this motherfucker.” I don’t know which one did, but one of them pushed me in the room. I stumbled over the doorstop and the door was pulled shut behind me. I heard a voice in the room laughing at me. At least it was female. It was Destiny. The girl from the picture. And not even an older picture either. It was probably taken tonight and probably even in that same room. I didn’t look at her directly and told her to go into the bathroom.
“What?” she said.
“Trust me,” I said, quietly. “I’m not going to hurt you.”
“Oh, I know that, sweetheart. By the looks of you, I could fuck you up, and I know that Willie and Sam out there can.”
“Go into the bathroom, please.” She went and I followed as she explained that she doesn’t do any weird shit. I turned on the sink and told her to turn around and face the shower. She refused. “Fine. I’ll turn around.” I faced out from the bathroom and could see one silhouette pacing in front of the window. Surely, that was Willie or Sam or whoever. The other was back sitting on that chair. “What do I look like?”
“What kind of question is that? Look, time’s running out for you.”
“Is this some joke?”
“Pretend someone, your roommate, those assholes out front, a cop, pretend anyone is asking you to tell them what I look like. It’s very important.”
“I don’t know. A white boy.”
“And what? I don’t know. You got that ugly ass coat-”
“What do I look like?”
“I told you. A fucking white boy.”
“That’s it, you weirdo. You some psycho or something?”
“Yeah, probably,” I said, reaching into a modified pocket that the goon out front missed. I leaned forward and put the mask on over my face and slid on my gloves. I turned back around and faced my Destiny. And yes, I know how ridiculous that sounds.
“Oh shit,” she said as the realization washed over her face. “Are you for real?”
“Which one are you? I never seen that mask before. You in that Justice Brotherhood thing?”
“Oh. Well, what powers you got? Fly, laser eyes, or some shit?”
“I’m tough,” I said.
“You gonna kill Willie and Sam?”
“No. But I am going to hurt them.”
“Oh.” The disappointment was palpable. “I mean, I wasn’t lying. If anyone asks, all I saw was some white boy.”
“I know, Destiny.”
“Okay. Listen, do you have a safe word or something? A code word for you to yell and they come rushing in?”
“I’ll I gotta do is scream.”
“Do me favor,” I said, quickly scanning the room over for weapon, “you have a weapon on you?”
“They don’t let me have nothing.”
“That’s okay,” I said, seeing that the chair leg will work. “Do me a favor please. Lay down in the bathtub and cover you head. When I say scream, you scream, got it?”
She nodded and took position in the tub. I shut off the sink and tucked the end of mask down into my shirt under the collar. I checked myself in the mirror and straightened it out. Seriously? I just did that? For what? To impress the pimps who I’m about to concuss into oblivion. So they can say, “Man, he whupped that ass, but his mask game was on point.” Note for next time: stop caring so much about appearances. Also, work on the mask design. Dark green with crudely cut eye openings and an oblong shaped mouth opening all sandwiched between matching lightning bolts on either side. I don’t even like running, let alone have speed powers. I have to come up with something better than this.
I flipped the desk chair over and ignored all the gum and crud under the seat and snapped off two of the legs and held them jagged-ends out. I took a spot right inside the small closest area of the room next to the door.
“You ready?” I asked Destiny.
“Shouldn’t I be asking you that?” she said.
“Just stay down until I say it’s okay.”
“They’ll kill you if you-”
“Would you just scream, please?”
She did and the door flew open behind grunts about damaging the merchandise. The non-cigar smoker was in first. I’ll bet he’s Willie. I don’t care if I’m wrong. He ran in toward the empty bed and stopped frozen like the moron he is. I stepped out from the closet and cracked him at the base of his skull with the chair leg. He fell forward and his prone body bounced off the corner of the awful mattress. His head slapped the corner of the steel AC floor unit, temple side first. One down. I should have made an out cold joke.
Sam followed into the room reaching for his gun. I threw a side kick and caught him in the gut as his fingers got around the handle. His wrist crunched where my heel made contact and the gun slipped down his oversized pants. He nearly choked on his cigar and I flung the other chair leg at his face. The leg ripped a hole in his cheek. What was left of the cigar was coughed out and the smoke exhaled from the new hole I made.
He crawled toward the open door. I reached over him, closed it, and leaned over him. “My fifteen minutes aren’t up. I haven’t finished yet.” I grabbed the cheap flat screen TV sitting above the dresser and yanked it off the wall, surprised, though I shouldn’t have been, at how poorly it was mounted. I stood over Sam, or Willie, and held the TV up and decided that this guy wasn’t going to abuse anyone ever again. He was going to learn what it was like to be powerless and to depend on others for his well-being. I waited a second to see if he had one last bitch, motherfucker, or some other tough guy line. Nope. Too bad.
I drove the TV down like a guillotine across his neck. I only pulled back a little. I flung the mashed TV onto the bed and turned back towards the bathroom. Destiny was standing in the doorway. “I told you to say in tub until it was safe.”
“It looks safe to me,” she said. “Did you-”
“He won’t remember a thing,” I said, “And this guy is going to be in a chair for the rest of his life. Was there anyone else down in that SUV?”
“Just them,” she said.
I reached into their pockets and took all the money. I pocketed what I gave them and handed the rest to her. I didn’t count it, but it was rolled up tight, about the size of a couple of baseballs. “Here. This is yours.” I tossed her my car key. “Take this too. The blue car parked three blocks away on Fern. Just go. Go home. Wherever that it is. Anywhere. Just don’t get pulled over. In a week I’ll come get the car, so just leave it parked somewhere and I’ll find it.”
“Okay,” she said, and put the money in her tiny purse. She went to the door and looked back at me. “So, you never told me your name.”
“I don’t have one yet.”
“You should really have a name if you’re going to keep doing this.”
“Me? No. Well, I guess Destiny is up for grabs now.”
I laughed. “Sounds kinda like a girl’s name, don’t you think?”
“Not if you’re Destiny Man.”
“Sounds too spacey for me. I can’t fly or nothing.”
“Well, shit, I don’t know then, Mister Destiny. I don’t know much about that whole thing, I know you can’t go around calling yourself The White-Boy, because that’s the only other thing I can think about you.” She smiled and I smiled back. I reached out and shook her hand.
“Good luck, Amanda,” I said.
She opened the door and split. I stayed around the room for just enough time to make sure that there was no evidence that me or Amanda had been there. The two pimps were still breathing. Anything beyond that and I didn’t care.
I lowered my head, pulled up the collar on my trench coat, and left the room. By the time I was at the bottom of the side staircase, the mask was off. I laid the coat over a guy sleeping behind the dumpster and headed back out toward the front.
I passed the front office. The clerk was still sleeping. I knocked on the window and kept going. I heard the clerk yell out at whoever the hell woke him up and tried to make out the names on that graffiti on the lighted gold crown. Three blocks away, I watched my car pull out from Fern Street and speed off into the distance.
Mister Destiny. That’s actually not too bad.
Bio: Bobby D. Lux has a Master of Professional Writing degree from USC. His fiction, non-fiction, and poetry have appeared here and there online and in print. He co-wrote the screenplay for “Up the Valley and Beyond,” which played at the Cannes Film Festival in 2012. His first novel, Dog Duty, a canine noir, is available on Amazon.com.