Tamara slapped the call bell on the dusty motel desk with her freshly manicured hand. She had on thigh-high boots, a blood-red sarong, and a black throw draped across her shoulders.
Her nine-month-old son bounced on her hips. His tired eyes surveyed the dingy lobby — his fat feet kicked at the stale air.
It was 12:35 am and their family had turned off I-95 onto the ramp for Exit 164 and pulled into the first parking lot they spotted.
Dale, Tamara’s bald, bold, and barky husband, stumbled in behind her and the baby, carrying their four-year-old lopsidedly across his chest. He barked at Tamara to hit the call bell again.
She slapped the bell this time with a salty vengeance that had been pulled from the depths of her exhausted body. She slapped it again and then again, and then finally . . . a chubby, Oompa Loompa’d man appeared from the shadows. He yawned, scratched his scruffy beard, and acknowledged them begrudgingly.
“How many beds and how many nights?”
Tamara looked at Dale, then back at the man, and said whisperingly, “Two beds, one night.”
The man whisked a key from the panel on the wall beside him, scanned it under the reader, and typed the request on the computer. He blurted out the fee.
“72.99. We only take cash. ATM’s on the side of the building next to the vending machines if you need it. $3.99 fee, though.”
Tamara looked at Dale, who looked at her and the two of them scraped cash from their purse and wallet, respectively. They paid the fee and took the key from the man.
Once in front of the door to their room, they swiped the key over the reader and opened the door. The room, to their surprise, was spotless and smelled of lemon-scented Pine-Sol and lavender-scented bleach. But something felt off.
They piled their things on the table near the window, turned on the lights and television, and laid the children down on the bed nearest the bathroom.
Tamara pulled back the covers to the bed she and Dale would share, and a trapped scream escaped her throaty lungs. Before her, was the head of what must have been the motel’s maid. Dale found the rest of her body in the tub.
Tamara bolted out of the door to the lobby while Dale called the cops. She slapped the call bell and yelled for the attendant. He came stumbling out from his previous stupor, annoyed by yet another interruption.
“Room need cleaning? Or empty fridge?”
She stared at the man, fumbling for the words to tell him what they’d just found, and before she could get the first word out, he said, “Lemme guess, you found Magda? We’ve been looking for her for hours.”
Hearing this, Tamara fainted. Her feathered-like body splayed itself on the floor. There she lay until the cops arrived.