Hans straightened the lapels of his jacket as he climbed out of his sleek sedan, slanting dispassionate eyes over the garishly-lit sign beckoning out to weary travelers on the interstate. The heels of his designer shoes clacked softly over the pavement as he made his way across the parking lot and towards the lobby.
A portly man in an ill-fitting dress shirt sat at the scarred wooden reception desk, absently thumbing through a wrinkled copy of Sports Illustrated with a buxom woman on the cover. Hans glanced around the room, to the faded pastel stripes on the worn armchairs, the ugly floral wallpaper.
Mentally, he sneered.
Outwardly, his face was a perfect mask of frightened concern.
He strode quietly to the desk, placing one hand upon its surface.
The man glanced over his magazine, raising his eyebrows. “Can I help you?” he asked.
Hans exhaled deeply, glancing down, brow creased in worry, before meeting the man’s eyes with his own, openly exhausted. “I dearly hope so,” he said. “I’ve been all over Fairbanks. I must have been to half a dozen hotels by now. It’s my girlfriend — we had a fight, and she ran out before I could apologize properly. I’ve been worried sick about her all night.”
The man behind the desk set his magazine down, nodding in understanding. “Women, man,” he said, offering Hans a crooked smile. “You know how they are.”
Oh, indeed I do. “I saw her car in the parking lot. I can’t tell you how relieved I was to know she’s somewhere safe.” Hans offered the man an open, pleading smile, raising up his other hand to show him the beautifully-wrapped roses held within it. “Is there any chance you could point me to her room so I could talk to her? Small thing, 20 years old, red hair, about…” He gestured with his free hand. “…yea-high. Sweet as anything.”
The man nodded, sliding his computer keyboard over and typing quickly. “Yeah, I remember her. Cute girl. Want me to give her room a ring for you?”
Hans exhaled, scrubbing his free hand over his face, through his hair. “No,” he sighed wearily. “She’s so stubborn, she’ll probably refuse to talk to me.” He leaned against the desk, motioning the man forward. “Look… just man-to-man, is there any chance you could just give me a spare key to her room? She’s a spitfire, this one. Probably won’t even deign to talk to me until I show up on her doorstep.”
The man turned from his computer screen, eyeing Hans carefully. “I…” he started, frowning slightly. “I mean… I’m sympathetic — my girlfriend and I have had some real drag-em-outs over the past few years, but… I mean… company policy…”
"Please," Hans said, leaning just a fraction harder against the desk, and he felt his gorge rise at the word.
The man hesitated, glancing back at his computer screen.
Hans heaved a weary, dramatic sigh, reaching with his free hand into his coat pocket to retrieve his billfold.
"Sir," the man started uneasily, "I don’t think I can…"
Without a word, Hans slid two crisp hundreds across the desk, raising an eyebrow.
The man glanced around the empty lobby before quickly slipping the bills from the desk. “You were never here,” he said quietly, nodding to Hans and extracting a blank key card from a tidy stack by his computer, tapping a few keys and sliding it through a small contraption. He leaned up in his chair and handed it to Hans. “Room 63.”
"63," Hans repeated, slipping the card into his pocket.
"Down the hall and up the stairs. Should be on your right."
Hans took a deep breath, nodding. “Thank you,” he said.
The man smiled at him, genuinely. “You take care of your girl, now.”
Hans offered him a grateful nod before making his way to the nearby corridor.
His heels clacked purposefully over the stairs. He stopped long enough to roughly deposit the roses in a nearby wastebin without a backward glance.
A nondescript door, just a flat white panel with a peephole of smudged glass.
Just in case someone knocked.
Had to knock.
Hans smirked to himself as he extracted the keycard from his pocket.
'Take care of your girl'.
That wouldn’t be a problem.
Not a problem at all.
He slotted the card to the lock and pulled the door open with a resounding slam.