The clerk behind the registration desk looked old enough to be well past retirement age, but he obviously didn’t have a good pension plan. Graham—according to his name tag—looked up and quickly stubbed out a cigarette when Susan and Carl pushed through the door. The motel was so low-tech that an old-fashioned bell jangled when the door opened. Graham coughed as he tried to urge the smoke cloud away with a wave of his hand.
Carl peered over the counter at a half-finished crossword puzzle.
After his bout of coughing subsided, Graham looked at the two and said, “Ninety-five dollars for the night. I can let you have it by the hour if you wish. There are clean sheets on the bed—”
Carl slapped a hundred-dollar bill on the counter to cut off any further explanation. “Keep the change,” he said, with a sharp tone. “A guy named Kyle will be here soon and will ask what room Susie is in. Give him our room number. If anyone else asks,” he said, leaning forward and flashing a fifty-dollar bill, “you haven’t seen a thing.”
“At my age, I don’t see much of anything,” the clerk said. His hand made the money vanish like a magician. He pushed a registration card toward Carl, who wrote two fake names on the register.
Carl picked up the key and looked quizzically at the clerk. “What room?”
“Room 231,” Graham said. “At the back, ground floor. Do you need a wake-up call?” He looked at the registration and added, “Mr. Churchill…Winston?” The question precipitated a rheumy laugh that followed them out the door.
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