Corinne was certain. Beside her, frowning as he jiggled the key in the lock, Phil didn't look so sure.
"I don't know. Maybe I forgot to lock it."
The door swung inward, and they stepped into the motel room.
A grim set to her mouth, a raised eyebrow, a single nod.
"Hmph," Corinne said.
Phil snapped his own gaping mouth shut.
He shut the door, as they took in the scene.
On the mussed up bed were two naked dolls: one male, one female, arranged in 69 position.
Scrawled on the wall above in red was "69/2".
Corinne wrinkled her nose.
"Is that blood?"
Phil shook his head.
"Interior latex. Burnt umber. It's Mendes."
Corinne stared at him, wide-eyed and skeptical.
Phil shrugged, and said,"Used to be a decorator."
"Who? You, or-- " She threw up her hands. "I don't wanna know."
"Mendes," nodded Phil. "Some kinda warning. Bastard's cryptic as hell.
Thinks it makes him look smart."
He began pacing, agitated.
Corinne pointed at the little dolly tableau on the bed.
"What's this supposed to mean?"
A wry smile twitched across Phil's mouth.
"You fuck with us, take our money? And we'll screw you upside down, inside out, and sideways, for eternity. Like that."
"Trouble is, though, we don't have their money."
She glared at Phil.
"'Cause you went and lost it all."
"I did not--"
"Gambling, in New Jersey. God, that is so cliche."
"--lose the money."
Phil smirked. All of last night at the tables, Corinne pawing at his
shoulder, both of them getting progressively more wasted, as $3 million of the outfit's money seemed to just disappear.
"Owen Deeds, at the casino? Friend of mine. Used to work for the Santoro organization. The Houdini of Accounting."
"Houdini was a--" Corinne shook her head. "Never mind."
Phil's smirk, now a full out, shit-eating grin.
"Point is, that money is sitting out there, right now, waiting for us.
Should be in the Caymans, by now."
"So. What?" Corinne looked doubtful. "You were being smart?"
"Hmph. That's... rare."
Phil smiled. Got a look at the mess in the room again, and sobered quickly.
"We should get outta here."
Bright daylight streamed in as Phil opened the door. His jaw dropped, for a second time.
Half the cops in the continental United States were ringed outside the motel room, weapons drawn and pointed at the unhappy couple. The other half were probably out back, blocking off the exits.
Corinne nodded. And raised her hands. Vee-rrry slowly.
"What he said."
A trio of Crime Scene Investigators descended on the room. Patrolmen in the doorway, covering, as other uniforms slapped the cuffs on Phil and Corinne.
One of the CSI officers peeled back the rumpled bedsheets.
On the floor was a pool of dark red. At its center, two human ears: one male, one female. Arranged top to bottom and facing, in a Yin-Yang, 69 position.
"Burnt umber." Corinne's tone was scathing.
The CSI Lieutenant barked orders at the patrolmen.
"Outside. And watch them."
From a bluff overlooking the motel, a man was also watching, through high-powered binoculars, as the two youngsters were cuffed and bundled into the backs of separate cruisers.
A trim man in his forties, wearing surgical gloves and a smug expression.
More than a whiff of government agent, about him.
He lowered the binoculars, and stepped into the cab of an anonymous van.
From the glove compartment he took out a clipboard, wrapped in cellophane. Peeling back the plastic, to reveal a sheet with numbers on it. He put a check mark beside the second: 69/2.
Long list. 69/1, all the way to 69/96. And balance.
He'd have time. To finish. Probably.
His old buddies at the Bureau would waste days or weeks doing background checks. Chasing false leads on the poor slobs they'd arrested at the first venue, and now this one.
Time enough for him to do the next job. And the next.
Things were going really rather well.
BIO: Desmond (Des) Nnochiri spent his early years traveling with his parents, and was educated in England, the USA, and the Republic of Ireland (Eire). He writes freelance now, in both fiction and non-fiction genres. He has contributed stories to A Twist of Noir, The Flash Fiction Offensive, and Powder Burn Flash. He blogs, at Des Nnochiri's Write to Speak (http://desnnochiri.wordpress.com)