Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Room at the Star ~ by Ian Rochford of Harbinger*33

A Room at the Star 
~ By Ian Rochford

The faded neon sign announced ‘Welcome to the Star Hotel’, but a much brighter ‘No’ appeared in front of the ‘Rooms Vacant’ sign beneath it. Joey Cortez shook a Camel from the soft pack and tucked it back in the sleeve of his t-shirt. When he lit up, the smoke hung in the cold night air like it was waiting for a purpose. Joey knew the feeling. Just for the moment, he felt he was at the edge of something vast and unknown, as if fate had left him and Maria standing at the place where the future ran out. He pulled his jacket on, reassured by the familiar bulk of the Glock in the inner pocket.
From the corner of the car park, he looked back at his father’s old Buick. Steam was still wafting out through the grille. He heard the tick of cooling metal, smelled the overheated oil and cooked rubber and wondered how much longer it would hold out. Maria waved and threw him a tired smile from the passenger seat. He had to find a room; they couldn’t go any further tonight and it would soon be freezing. He walked past the windows of the bar, gauging the nature of the crowd inside by the noise they made. The place was crammed full with a Friday night bunch, wage slaves and salesmen all packing as many into their free hours before they went home to their families. He went straight in and shouldered his way to the register.
“I need a room,” Joey announced to the middle-aged woman at the bar.
“You need reading lessons.” She turned away to serve a biker.
“I’ll take anything you got. Anything. I can pay.”
She looked him in the eyes. “Just you?”
“Wife and baby…” he dropped his eyes slightly, figuring by her wedding band she might be a mother. “We’ve come a long way.”
“Baby, huh?” She went back into the office and talked briefly to a man in a singlet. The man came to the doorway, looked him up and down and nodded, without changing expression. It reminded him of how the border guard had looked at their papers, shown them to his Captain while pointing out the car. He’d watched the senior officer make a call on his mobile, listening and nodding, and then they were waved through. Joey couldn’t imagine who he’d called, but it had been enough to get them across with a smile and a nod from the Captain.
The woman came out and motioned Joey over to a staircase bedside the bar. He followed her upstairs.
She opened a door at the end of a short, dark hall. “It’s not much, only one bed. Thirty bucks. You use the hotel toilets, there’s a shower out back you can use in the morning. Cash up front.”
It was bigger than he’d expected. A single bed, a sofa, a side table, single bar radiator and a rusty clothes rack. The sheets looked clean and there was a pile of thick blankets.
“No problem,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot worse,” he added, winking.
“Yeah, well, it’s right over the bar. You won’t get much sleep until we close at midnight.”
“No problem, it’ll do. Thanks, appreciate it.”
He paid her at the bar and went back to the car. They parked around the back and the woman let them in through the back door. Maria carried the baby and Joey carried the bags with all their possessions.
There was a slight lull in the bar roar as he led Maria through to the staircase. He knew there’d be a string of Mexican jokes in their wake, but her beauty and shy smile disarmed them, as did the sleeping baby. There were some winks, nods and “Nice kid” comments.
Despite the noise from the bar, Maria and the baby went straight to sleep. Joey lay across the end of the bed, half wrapped around them, watching them in the glow from the neon sign outside. Its powdery, pure reds and blues, filtered through the dirty window, made them look like painted statues; a breathing, pastel-hued pieta.
He jolted awake. Three men were sitting on the battered sofa across the room, bathed in the soft orange glow of the radiator. It was quiet below and outside. Joey’s hand moved towards his gun, but he thought better of it.
“Don’t worry, Joey,” said the smallest guy. “We’re not from Diaz. We brought youse some things you might need.” He indicated a pile of plastic shopping bags on the floor. From them spilled cans of beans, baby food, diapers, bottles of juice and a six pack of beer.
The biggest of the three, a black guy in a three-piece suit, tossed a roll of bills onto the table. “That should keep you going for a while. Old Luis’ car looks like it might not make it.”
“You know my father? Who sent you?” asked Joey. It seemed like a reasonable question. The little guy smiled.
“Let us just say, someone who has your best interests at heart, and wants to see youse safely out of harm’s way. All three of youse.”
“You followed us from the border?”
The third man, a pearly scar running from above his left ear, down around his face and across his mouth, put on his hat and snapped the brim down. “Diaz has guys everywhere, looking for you. He wants his baby back.”
Joey almost choked keeping his voice down. “He raped her! I wanted to kill him! We only ran because she begged me not too.”
“Smart girl. You did the right thing, but you better not stay in one place too long. We got your back, Joey. Just remember, you have friends. See you in Chicago.” They made their way to the door.
The trio stood quietly, watching the baby like favourite uncles. “See you, Joey,” said the little guy, closing the door behind him. “Merry Christmas.”
Joey sat back, shaking his head. He could imagine how the three had convinced the landlords to let them into the room and to wait quietly below without calling the cops. They would be more than glad to see their guests gone in the morning.
He stood, putting his blanket over Maria, opened the window and sitting on the sill, lit a cigarette. He couldn’t trust anyone. Ultimately the three visitors were enforcers and they wanted him in Chicago. If he tried to head west, they’d be right there, on his tail. Still, for the time being these guys were the closest thing to friends they could afford to have. And assassins certainly wouldn’t be bothered bringing bags of diapers. He flicked his cigarette into the street. For the moment, they were safe.

(c) Ian Rochford, 2009 ~ of Harbinger*33 . . . where, when fortunate, you shall read MORE!  
* * * * * *
Ahhhh, there was room at the Star . . . and room for possibilities for any characters our Ian puts out there . . . they're gonna scramble sure -- but they'll always be some sense of deeper etched memorable action figures . . . as with these ones, so poignantly fitting in this Christmas week upon the world.
Ian had the story, and I had the desire for the good folks who come 'round AT THE BIJOU to take in, on the hark of their heralding holiday visit, a special sense of the rough, the real, the sacred, the divine. All of that is as screen gems as it gets, when Mr Rochford writes for stage, screen and script of mind. 

A man of just the right amount of words, aboard the Harbinger*33, Ian is all awareness, where such is sought to be. He sees into and beyond what his characters and those which cross our decks are bringing to truth by their greater actions. I've watched him embrace his leading lady, Gene Tierney and felt his heroics rise to occasion. Tis a noble man, our Sir Ian of an underlying piratical nature . . . and OH, he knows his music well. Eric Clapton and I both share high regards for Ian's middle name ~ Repertoire. (not to be confused with Rumplestiltskin, though possibly a 3rd cousin?) 

Topsail thanks to you Ian . . . Laughter is e'er the gustier . . . Perceptions on characterizations more the refined, when you're at the rail alongside us.  Honoured we all are that your robust take on life billows in all the winds aboard Harbinger*33, sailing to its publishing journey of manifesting destinies.

~ Delights of all Holidays; FairWinds, Favourable Seas
~ Absolutely*Kate and readers desiring eons of Ian


Crybbe666 said...

Ian, an absolute belter!! Thanks for a truly terrific read.

Harry said...

We three kings of orient noir...very cool take on the very old tale. Nice job Ian, Merry christmas!

Laurita said...

So clever. A really fantastic write. Gritty yet comfortable in its familiarity. Well done!

Michael Solender said...

very nicely told..cool take..ian

Kate Pilarcik ~ absolutely said...

I'll be back to comment on Joey and Maria and the three wise guys later after Christmas to-do list gets yet more hit . . . but had to come in to give 33-points to Har for "Orient Noir" ...

Jodi MacArthur said...

Your writing just glides across my mind like nimble skates on ice. I love the edginess to this. A take on Bethlehem with a kind of noir feel to it. Very cool.

Your work always leaves me impressed. I'm so glad to know you. Have a wonderful holiday!

Jodi MacArthur said...

BTW- Ian do you have a blog? I've been wondering for the longest time. I'd love to add you to my blog roll and google reader.

Linda said...

Witty, clever stuff, Ian. And yes, what Jodu asked. Happy holydays... Peace, Linda

Tuonela said...

Thanks, Kate, for hosting and posting, and to you readers for reading.

“Orient-noir”, eh Harry? Could start a whole new genre…

Hi Jodi and Linda! I have a slow-moving somewhat confused blog at http://ionplayer.blogspot.com, which I will try to make more appealing next year. D’oh! Another resolution…

Now, I must catch up and read Angel’s story.

Love and Peace to you and yours.

Anonymous said...

Ian, this sucked me in. I loved the take on the age old story. Vivid and succinct tale.

Tuonela said...

Thanks Jeanette

Have a Happy Christmas!

Madam Z said...

Three cheers for Joey, Maria and the baby, another three cheers for the three wise men, three more cheers for Harry and his "three kings of Orient noir," and one hundred cheers for Ian, for cooking up this divine tale.

Tuonela said...

Thanks Madam Z, and a few more x 3 cheers for A*K too. I had to borrow Harry's pun for a blog title...