Checking In After Hours Part III

Flash Fiction: What lingers behind the shadow?

Photo by Rafael Leão on Unsplash

Noting the information given by the motel clerk, the officers gathered their things and headed for Magda’s room. Tamara insisted on following along — she wouldn’t be able to sleep. Not tonight, and definitely not at this motel. On her way out, she noticed the fire extinguisher was on the opposite side of the door.

“Wasn’t that fire extinguisher on the other side when we came in?”

“No, ma’am. Been there the whole time.”

But had it?

Tamara looked at the strange man and rolled her eyes. She followed closely behind Officers Dibbs and Bends as they trotted down the concrete path to Magda’s unit. She left her husband, Dale, alone with the children. He loaded them up in the car’s backseat while they waited for the last of the fiasco to run its course.

The plan was to drive up the road another ten to fifteen miles to where the next motel was, check in, set up for the night, and try to get some much-needed rest.

Tamara didn’t want to say anything — didn’t want to bring any attention to an already peculiar night, but she had noticed one more shadow accompanying hers, the officers, and the strange old man’s. As they got closer to Magda’s unit, the strange Oompa Loompa’d man slithered closer to the front of their line, jingled out his set of keys, and opened the door.

“Here, you go. This is Magda’s unit. Spick and span, just as I’d believe it to be. Magda was serious about these rooms and even more serious about how clean her unit was. She made it such a top priority that Daphne and Tess had been trained under her directly, so they would know exactly how to clean each room, just as she had for years. Go on — give the place a look-see.”

The officers filed in one after the other, Tamara snaking in closely behind them. The shadow was still trailing them — still in place. She looked all around the room — in the closet, in the bathroom, and in the small kitchenette. Nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary, at least not to her.

“Bends, get over here! I think I may have found us a little clue.”

Officer Dibbs slipped on some gloves, pulled a set of tweezers from his pocket, and snipped up what looked like a letter — drenched in what smelled like maple syrup.

“Well, what the hell do you make of this, Dibbs? What’s it say?” Officer Dibbs slid his glasses on with his free hand and began reading.

To whom it may concern:

Magda wanted this. I was simply a willing hand in the process — doing her the favor she requested of me so many years ago. I have no name of importance to you. I have no fingerprints. By the time you find this letter, I will be so far away it’d be useless to search for me. There is no trace — no trail. The deceased cunningly calculated this. If you want to know more, ask the shadow.


“What in the blue haze?! Ask the shadow? What the hell kinda message is this, Dibbs?”

“Your guess is as good as mine, Bends. I’m puzzled by this one. Just puzzled. ‘Ask the shadow.’ What shadow and why would we talk to something that’s not really there?! We’re going to have to call in the calvary for this one, Bends. This is some serious shit.”

Tamara looked at the strange man. He looked curiously at her. The two of them shifted their eyes over to where the “shadow” was and said nothing.

Originally published in via Medium.

Part I and Part II