The first thing he noticed when he walked into the motel room was the wallpaper. It was like a bad acid trip and he squinted against the intensity. It was only then that he saw her, clad in a white lace slip propped up on the bed with the red velvet duvet. Only then, of course, was it too late.
“Who are…” he blinked back. Her eyes flew open, two big round dinner plates that took in his every inch.
“Does it really matter, sweetheart?” She said with a sly smile.
“I think I have the wrong room, I mean, the lady in there, she told me it was this one, but…” he stammered. She laughed, a child’s laugh and sat up, cross legged, letting one of the straps on her shoulder fall down.
“You didn’t know your room came with a girl did you?” She laughed.
“Well, uh…I…” he continued to stammer, “I guess so. I mean, I didn’t know you’d be in here…I’m not really sure how this whole system works…”
“First time?” She asked inquisitively.
“Yes. I mean, no. I mean, well you know…”
“Well, what are you waiting for?” she said almost robotically as she lay back, propping herself up by her arms behind her.
“No, no…I’m not here for that,” he stammered, looking at her. As he drew closer he could see her fully, blinking behind two large eyes and a peaches and cream complexion and a waterfall of dark hair. She was like a living breathing doll. He stopped breathing for a moment. He didn’t know that these girls were so pretty. He had expected a much older woman, bleached hair and smudged lipstick with a cigarette dangling from her mouth that coughed out raspy words from wrinkled lips.
She gave him a worried glance, and edged back a little.
“You aren’t going to kill me are you? They always warn me about this, I mean, this is dangerous country out here in the middle of nowhere desert, you know.” He could see she was inching her hand slowly to the bedside table. He hoped that she didn’t have a bowie knife stashed out somewhere.
“No, please,” he began. “Really, I’m not even going to touch you.”
“What’s the matter?” She said, “don’t like what you see?” He shook his head.
“No, it’s not that. You’re…wow, uh.” He started to sweat.
“Really,” she said, inching herself over to him, “What are you doing here?”
“I’d like to ask you the same thing,” he replied. She laughed again, it was soft and musky like a rich perfume.
“You first,” she said, sitting up as if ready for an epic tale of disaster.
“Fine, fine. God, I feel so stupid…You see, I’ve been driving for days really…and well, I needed a place to stop. But all I see is desert for miles around and out of nowhere in the darkness there’s this place. I just didn’t really know the room had a catch or anything.” He explained.
“Oh, so I’m the catch, I get it. So, how am I supposed to believe that line?” She said with a raised eyebrow. He gave her a look that implied how tired he was and she immediately understood.
“You don’t have to stay here with me, it’s okay,” he said, motioning to the door.
“Sweetheart, I can’t leave. Its policy. I’m like a bird in a cage here,” she said.
“You’re kidding me, right?” He said.
“It’s like Hotel California,” she explained, “you can check out anytime, but you can never leave.” She sat there for a moment, looking thoughtful and sad. Immediately his brain broke out into song, pumping out the Eagle in full throttle.
“You mean they lock you up in here?” He said, finally coming to a realization.
“How else do you think they keep this place staffed?” She said, “Do you see a lock on the inside of the door? No.”
“What kind of creeps do that to people?” He said with a scared expression.
“Sweetheart, we’re in the middle of the desert somewhere on Route 66. The only people that know we are here are the pervs that stop here…and you don’t see them complaining,” she explained.
“So why are you here?” He asked.
“You really want to know?” She said. He nodded.
“Well, before we go sharing stories, we should probably introduce ourselves,” she said, “what’s your name, darling?”
“Nice to meet you Paul,” she said, sticking out her hand, “I’m Velvet.”
He pressed his hand into hers. It was warm and soft, yet she had a surprisingly strong handshake.
“Alright,” she said getting comfortable, “It’s not like this is my profession or anything you know…It just happens.”
“Naturally,” he said thoughtfully.
“Anyway,” she continued, “I’m actually an actress. Or…was anyway until I got tied up in this joint.”
“What happened?” He asked.
“Well, I was on my way back to California, you see…from a gig in New York. I had this job lined up back home and I hate flying, so I decided to drive. So, I drove…a lot. About the time I got far into the desert enough, the car starts acting funny. I have no idea about cars…Anyway, about nightfall the car dies, I mean really dies. I thought I was done for. But then this car comes, says they’ll take me to a motel, pick my car up in the morning. Of course, I was dumb enough to believe them.”
“They…as in?” He questioned.
“That, I haven’t figured out yet. I think they’re some kind of mafia based out of Las Vegas. They keep guys posted around the perimeter so we can’t escape…believe me, I’ve tried.”
“Jesus!” Paul said, “How long have you been here?”
“About two months I think. Seems like forever,” she said, narrowing her gaze to the floor, “I almost got out once. This one guy, a real sleaze ball if you ask me…well, he really wanted me all to himself. He was going to bust me out, take me to Vegas and go to one of those cheesy wedding chapels…I pretended to go along with it, just so I could get out of here. I wasn’t actually going to go along with his stupid plan. I was just going to steal his car or something…”
“What happened?” Paul asked.
“Bella, the woman in charge here, caught him dragging me outside…what an idiot. The jerk had a gun, he could have used it. But Bella called the boys in and they took him away. He was kicking as they dragged him out across the highway into the desert. I only heard one gunshot. You see that pink caddy outside? It’s been there for weeks.” Paul started to sweat and a nervous glance flew over his eyes.
“You don’t know what you’ve gotten into sweetheart,” she smiled sweetly.
Paul was silent for a moment. “How am I supposed to believe a story like that?” He questioned her with a glare.
“How can’t you?” She said excitedly.
“Well, you did say you’re an actress. How am I supposed to know that this isn’t a scam?” He continued.
“This is always the hard part,” she groaned, “getting them to believe you.” She looked hopeful for a moment and crossed over to the window and drew back the pink shades.
“Look here,” she pointed, “There are bars on the window, and here? The door only locks from the outside. And do you see a phone anywhere? I didn’t think so.” Paul followed her with his gaze as she pointed out each thing.
“That does really seem suspicious,” he said, standing up to investigate for himself. He paused by the door, and pointed to the intercom. “What’s this?”
“That’s how you get out,” Velvet said with a scowl, “I page Bella whenever a guy is done doing his business or if there is a problem.”
“This is creepy,” Paul said, scanning the room.
“So why don’t you just slip out whenever a guy leaves?” Paul asked.
“They patrol the doors. Make sure that only paying customers are the ones leaving. If they catch you leaving, you’re toast,” she said.
“Haven’t the authorities ever come?” He questioned. Velvet gave out another sugar laugh.
“Sweetheart, they are our best customers.” Velvet crossed back to the bed and resumed her original position, propped up against the satin headboard.
“So tell me, Paul, what’s a nice guy like you doing out here?”
He paused for a moment, and sat back down on the bed opposite of her. “I guess I’m just running away,” he said.
“From what?” She asked.
“Life, responsibility…all that stuff. I just got sick of it all. Got in my car one day and just drove away. I was in the army, you know.”
“Ooh, and army man,” Velvet purred, “You look old enough to have fought in the last war.”
“I did,” he said blankly to the wall, “And what did it get me? Nothing. Sure, there’s pride in fighting for your country, but it seems so meaningless when you have nothing or nobody to come home to.”
“That’s deep,” Velvet said sympathetically.
“I don’t even know why I’m telling you this,” Paul said embarrassed, “But I think that’s why I stopped here in the first place. I needed to lay out my soul to someone. Its sounded like a good idea at the time, I guess.”
“You needed to confess your soul to a prostitute?” Velvet said bewildered.
“Like I said, it sounded like a good plan at the time,” Paul defended.
“Fair enough,” Velvet sighed, closing her eyes, “I’m listening.”
“Really?” Paul asked.
“Does it look like I’m going anywhere?” She said, opening her eyes and raising her eyebrows at him.
“Look, I feel kind of like a creep here,” he said, “You know, you’re locked up here and I’m just telling you my pathetic life story.”
“And your point is?” She asked.
“I’m getting you out of here,” he said matter-of-factly.
“And how do you propose to do that?” Velvet asked.
Ignoring her, Paul got up and crossed over to the window, peeking out behind curtains and bars, mumbling off a mental checklist.
“Gun, we’ll need a gun. Two guns. No…three guns. One for you, two for me…”
“Paul!” Velvet snapped, “Get ahold of yourself! How are we going to get three guns? Do you even know how to shoot a gun?”
“You don’t fight in a war without guns,” he said, still ignoring her, “Look, I didn’t mention this earlier, but I have a pistol in the glove box of my car. I can find a way to sneak out and get it.”
“How do I know you’re coming back?” She asked, her eyes showing her fear.
“I will, Velvet, I promise you,” Paul said softly. Velvet leapt up from the bed and ran to him, wrapping her arms around his waist and hugging him tightly.
“You can’t leave me here, you just can’t,” she wailed, now turning from seductive to desperate. Paul stood there, letting her hold him, feeling her tears wet through his shirt. He stopped for a moment, letting the tug in his heart pull him down deeper and deeper, and he hugged her back.
“Paul, this is stupid,” Velvet continued to plea, “We have to do this another way. It will look too suspicious.”
“Tell me how,” Paul said, “Just how are we going to do this?” Velvet paced around the room, thinking to herself, but looking frustrated.
“I’ve got it,” she said, “I’ve been thinking about doing this for some time.”
“What?” Paul asked.
“Okay, so I’ll call Bella, right? I’ll say we have a problem with you. She’ll send in one of the boys, but he won’t see us coming, we’ll attack him, you see. And we’ll steal his keys and his gun and stuff. Its genius,” she said with a grin.
“You’re insane,” Paul said, looking at her menacing eyes.
“It’s the only way,” she said matter-of-factly, going over to the bedside table and taking off the lamp, “Here, I’ll hit him with this, but you have to tackle him first.”
Paul was hesitant for a moment, but he couldn’t resist the determined, sad look on her face.
“Fine,” he said, almost defeated.
She ran over to the intercom on the wall and pushed the red button.