I jammed the key in and twisted it to turn on ignition, my other hand reaching around to grab the seat belt. Clicking the belt into its place, I focused my eyes on the rear mirror and slowly reversed out of the car park. I liked to call myself a good driver, but there was one skill that I never managed to get down pat, and that was driving in reverse. Finally making my way out of the parking space, I stepped on acceleration and sped out of World Domination.
Boston was about five hundred kilometres south from World Domination, and according to Google Earth Gothel’s Inn was somewhere on the fringe of Boston. I made a turn for Highway No.1 and cruised along for three hours at eighty kilometres per hour. It was seven by the time I got off the highway, and so I decided to drop by the nearest motel to crash for the night before continuing on my journey to find Riley. The flashing neon sign of the motel screamed “BLUE COVE – VACANCIES” in bright pink capitals as I parked my truck in the semi-empty car park, almost blinding me. I walked up to reception and asked for a room. The girl behind the reception desk took her time to find the key to my room and check me in, her eyes constantly flickering to me. Usually I liked it when girls checked me out, but today something about being hungry and tired after a long drive made me grumpy. I snatched the key out of her hand, grumbled a gruff “thanks” and headed up the stairs.
“It’s up the stairs, first door on the left. Want me to bring dinner up?” she asked after me.
“Sure, whatever,” I replied, already halfway up the stairs.
I dropped my canvas bag onto the sofa and plopped into bed as soon as I reached room 32. I wasn’t physically drained; spy training had made sure that virtually nothing’s draining for me. But I wasn’t used to driving for so long; after all I had just gotten my license six months ago. The need to focus for the entire four hours drive had given me a massive headache. I was massaging my temples when the familiar Eminem ringtone rang from inside my bag. Scrambling out of bed, I picked up the phone to see the caller’s ID. 0427 482 485,the screen flashed at me. I didn’t recognise the number at all. I pressed the phone to my ear.
“Hello, is this Jackson Barker?” a low female voice asked. I didn’t recognise the voice.
“Jackson’s speaking. Who’s calling?” I replied tentatively.
“I’m Polly, Riley’s friend. She called me a while ago asking me to pass on a message,” she said.
“Wait, you are definitely not from World Domination. How do I know I can trust your identity?” I said.
“I can’t prove anything, so your choice if you don’t want to hear the messages,” she replied.
“No! I want the message!” I said quickly.
“Ok, she told me to tell you that if I don’t hear from her for a while, she’s dead,” Polly said, “And also that she loves you. Biggest mistake of her life, in my opinion. Falling for the enemy indeed.”
“Wait, what do you mean falling for the enemy?” I asked, but the phone was already disconnected.
A knock came on the door, and the reception girl poked her head in with my dinner on a tray. I took it from her hands and slammed the door in her face, not caring about my rudeness. I need to leave early tomorrow. I also needed to figure out what this Polly meant by “falling for the enemy”. There were a lot of things on my to do list.
I left Blue Cove Motel at 6:30 the next morning, heading straight for Boston. It was going to take me another five hours to get to Gothel’s Inn and find out whether Riley was there. The journey was a blur, the drab grey scenery of the highway sides a boring distraction. I cranked up the radio for the entire trip, blasting my ears with rock and pop. Finally the sign for “Gothel’s Inn” came into my sight, and I headed straight for the car park. Unfolding myself wearily after driving for five hours straight, I walked into reception and rang the bell. A little old lady came out, her greying hair tied neatly in a bun.
“Hello, welcome to Gothel’s Inn! How can I help you?’’ she said.
“Hi, I’m looking for Riley Jones. I know she’s here, so don’t say she isn’t,” I said, getting straight to the point.
“Well, sir. There is no Riley Jones, but there is a Riley Barker. Poor thing lost her husband,” she replied.
I stared at her in shock for a few seconds. Riley Barker? She took my surname! And what was with the widow thing? Silence stretched between us. Finally I spoke.
“Yeah, poor thing. What is her room number?” I said, my tone slightly annoyed and angry. How dare she makes up all these lies!
“Room 303,” the woman replied.
“Well, can you tell her she got a guest waiting?” I said, settling down on the couch across from the counter to wait for Riley. She better explain everything.