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Morning Rounds

What goes around comes around.

Yeah, I know. Not the most original intro. But you know what? You never worked the check-in desk at a slum hotel. Talk to Booth or Kurtz. It is a drain on your resources.

Morning Rounds by Andrew Jetarski




Hattie Lovett fingered the safety on the .22 she kept under the check-in desk when she saw the man approaching in the gray pre-dawn light outside the glass doors of the Topeka EEZ-On Inn. Unruly blondish hair sticking out of a ball cap, sweatpants and T-shirt, slight paunch. Something about him put her on edge. He was juggling a grande coffee in each hand, trying to elbow the lobby doors open. The electric eye triggered and they slid apart.

“Good morning!” she chirped. He didn’t answer because he had a hotel key card clamped in his lips. “How can I help?”

He set the cups down. “You can give me a new goddam room key,” he said. His eyes were red-rimmed, face unshaven. “I couldn’t get in the back door.”

“I’m so sorry, sir. What name?”

“Williams.”

She peered at her computer. “Williams, Mister and Missus, in two thirty-six?”

He raised his eyebrows, expecting her to know.

“I mean, three twenty-six, silly me.”

“You can’t remember where you put us?”

She reached out. “Let me take that old key card, and I’ll strike a new one.”

If she didn’t need this job, she’d tell this man to get lost. She’d had a lifetime of being bullied.

“I do apologize for the back door, sir. Corporate has been promising to upgrade our whole security system, but we’re still waiting. I’m sure we’ll have it for your next stay with us.”

He gathered up his coffee. “Fat chance I’ll ever be here again.”

Hattie stroked the pistol in her lap and told herself if she got one more complaint before she got off shift, she was going to use it.

*

Balancing his coffee, Luco fingered the button for the third floor and willed the elevator door to shut.

Glad the clerk bought it, but too much aggravation, not enough rest. Delayed late flight out of Chicago, then extra legwork down here all night to set up the hit. If he didn’t owe Stebbins, he would have bagged the job by now: estranged older sister and dickhead husband, down for their mom’s funeral, decided to stick around to help sort out the estate. Stebbins wanted them removed from contention. Too much info, Luco told him, just give me their movements. Luco had missed the planned set-up in the mall parking lot, so he cased the hotel. Pickpocketed a drunk at 3 a.m. to snag the card, came up with the workable scenario to con the desk clerk. Rigged new glasses and hair color to throw off surveillance eyeballs.

Room 326 was at the far end, by the fire stairs. Room key in his mouth, he set the coffee down on the hall carpeting. Pulled his fanny pack around to unzip and remove the Beretta M9. The suppressor was modified with a three-lug adapter so it snapped onto the barrel with a single twist. First round already in the chamber. He eased the safety off, and with his left hand slid the key card in the door slot.

*
Inside Room 326 the snick of the electric door latch made Robert Gump cut his urine off mid-stream. In one motion he put his hand on the revolver on the edge of the sink and swiped the bathroom light switch off.

Gump never allowed more than an arm’s reach from any of his weapons. It’s how you get to turn fifty-eight-years-old in a lifetime of dodging Mafia, Mexes and Muslims.

Someone coming into the darkened room, a glimpse as he moved past the bathroom door frame. The unmistakable profile of the Raptor-9 suppressor and the two-handed grip of the man behind it. Gump stepped out of the bathroom naked, inches behind the intruder, dropping his right knee to the carpet. He heard two metallic snaps, like a BB gun going off, the man firing into the pillows Gump had bunched under the blankets.

Gump raised up his four-inch Colt Python, squeezed the trigger and put a fat round through the chump’s neck. The second shot hit just below the shoulder blade toppling him onto the crumpled bedspread. The noise of the shots drowned the wheezing whir of the window unit at the far end of the room. The cheap artwork on the far wall showed fresh red streaks.

*

Sandra Stebbins Williams marched out the door of her second-floor room into the hallway.

“What in tarnation goes on in this place?” she shrieked.

She was almost through her morning rosary when two horrible booms rattled the windows. The second-floor corridor was empty, but she heard the clatter of latches in other rooms along the length of the hall. At a movement in the exit stairwell two doors down, she turned to see a naked man carrying an enormous black duffel bag flying down the stairs.

The ruckus awakened her husband too. He was bellowing at her from inside the room. Sandra moved to the window at the end of the hall overlooking the parking lot. Her husband swung the door open.

“Get the hell back in here!”

Sandra watched the naked man down below throw his duffel into a wide-cab Ford pickup. Then she heard their room door click shut. She was wearing a robe, but George looked quite ridiculous in a pair of ratty boxers and a torn T-shirt.

“Goddammit,” George said, “now I’ll have to go down to the front desk for another key.”

He hollered louder as he went down the stairs. “This is the worst hotel. I’ll rip ’em a new one. Someone’s gonna get it!”

As he charged through the front lobby, the last thing George saw was a frantic desk clerk reaching for something under the counter.


Andrew Jetarski began writing a few years ago to complement his work as a motion picture editor. His story “One Decent Shot” appeared in the Sisters in Crime/LA Chapter’s 2015 anthology LAdies Night. His story “Dance Man,” in LAst Exit to Murder, was a 2014 Derringer Award Finalist. He is working on a novel and numerous short stories, re-imagining some bad stuff that happened back in the 1930s.