-What are you doing, Oliver? she asked nervously.
-Oliver, this is not funny! Where are you?
Cindy was scared. She had just married Oliver after a short relationship, and they were on a strange honeymoon, crossing the Country in an old convertible chevy and stopping wherever they found a place to rest. The previous night it was a motel in the middle of the desert, elegant, clean, and with a parking lot full of cars.
A skinny man welcomed them at the door. He was smoking a cigar, sitting in a cattail chair, making circles of smoke when they spotted him. Like a child caught in mischief, he stood up abruptly, tossed the cigar, and stepped on it. Then smiled, showing yellow, almost brown teeth tinted with years of nicotine.
-Jack Smith to your service, What do you need?
-A room for two and, if possible, directions for a place nearby to have dinner. We are starving
-I can serve you a nice dinner if you want. My wife just has fixed roasted chicken with mashed potatoes and veggies. And we have ice cream
-Ok, then, said Oliver. We’ll stay here. We are also tired.
He gave them the key to room 24 and told them to go to reception at 6.30 PM for dinner.
Jack ushered them to a dining room with 24 tables set but without customers. He showed them table 24 at the opposite end of the kitchen door. He went from the kitchen to the table with the dishes, and they had to admit the dinner was delicious.
-Are we alone in the Motel? asked Oliver
-Of course not, but it seems everybody is late for dinner. You were lucky we had room 24 ready.
-What fixation has this man had with the number 24? Whispered Cindy to Oliver when Jack returned to the kitchen.
-Relax, my love. It’s sure a mere coincidence.
-Today is my 24th birthday
-And we make 24 days of marriage.
-Do you think he knows?
-How could he?
-I don’t know. I wouldn’t say I like so many coincidences.
-Shhh! Here he comes!
He was bringing the ice cream in two cups with candles in the form of the number 24.
-Happy birthday to the beautiful lady, and happy anniversary to you both! He said with his dark smile.
-Cindy and Oliver stayed still, looking at him bewildered.
-How did you know? Mumbled Oliver.
-I have to know my customers. And you, be careful. I don’t have room 25, and tomorrow you won’t belong to the 24 anymore. Am I right? He said with a mysterious expression.
He turned back to go to the kitchen, this time laughing hysterically.
Cindy and Oliver left the ice cream at the table untouched and ran to their room to pick up their things and flee, but the car refused to start. And there he was again: Jack laughing in front of them, with black clothes and a rifle in his hands.
-Where are you two going? You already paid for this night. Back to your room! He ordered.
They did as he commanded. Cindy got blocked by fear, and Oliver began to thought too fast to build a plausible escape plan. Jack was like a sentinel standing at their door. There was no phone in the room, no coverture for their cell phones: No way to communicate with the external world. They were trapped.
At sunrise, they cautiously looked through the curtains and saw that Jack had disappeared for the first time since last night, so Oliver ventured out to see if he could fix the car. He began to work on it while Cindy was watching the path just in case Jack showed up.
Oliver managed to start the motor, and Cindy boarded the car. He went for a moment to toss some dirty rags to the trash and reappeared with their suitcases.
Cindy looked at him, puzzled.
-Didn’t we put all that in the trunk yesterday night?
-Yeah, but they were by the trash containers with many more travelbags.
Suddenly, the trunk opened, and there he was: Jack with his rifle and his sinister smile.
-Run, Cindy, run! Yelled Oliver.
She didn’t have time to put her feet on the ground when she heard the first shot. She knew what would happen to her when she heard the second shot.
Jack buried de bodies under the room 24, cleaned every trace, parked the car and smiled satisfied.
-Now -he said to himself- I only have left one empty room.