“The Baker Street Motel”
By D.V. Bennett
Buddy Cross scrolled his phone
while he played with the stout letter-opener on the counter. He didn’t need to
look at it when he gave it a flick. A good spin lasted for twenty-five seconds.
A great spin, forty. Sanity maintenance.
Working at the motel could be a
butt-number, but for Buddy the positives outweighed the negatives. He worked
alone and Baker Street was far enough away from his demanding, soon-to-be-ex-wife,
She insisted he quit smoking.
His favorite thing. He quit smoking. After he gave it up, he started eating a
little more. She complained because he was gaining weight. He lost the extra
When she became pregnant, she
informed him he would be quitting his job on the line to take care of the baby
while she worked. She loved hairdressing. He gave notice at the mill and the spot
he worked for eight years was immediately filled.
Their baby died in birth and the
marriage died with her.
Buddy was thankful the commute
was too long for Sandra to harass him in person about finalizing the divorce.
He didn’t get too much shit from customers, either. They were regulars, and
most of them were cool.
Above all, the motel was a quiet
place to work.
When a woman’s screams met his
ears, he slapped his palm across the letter opener to stop it mid-spin and left
it in its place next to the call bell. From the sound of it, the woman was
fighting for her life.
When the glass panel moved aside,
he stepped through the automatic door to scan the complex, parking lot first. Rain
soaked his hair as his eyes searched in the dusky light. There were cars, but
no people. The sound was coming from several doors to his right.
Several guests poked heads out
from their doorways along the walkway to the door of 8-D as the plaintive cries
for help assumed a higher pitch.
A big man in jeans and a black
leather vest was bouncing his bare, tattoo-covered shoulder off the metal door.
Plenty of druggies tried to break them in before. The motel chain didn’t skimp
on materials, and the man wasn’t likely to get through.
Buddy trotted toward him dialing
911 at the same time. Intimidation didn’t come naturally to him, but he gave it
his best attempt, “I’m calling the cops right now, man. Back off.”
The man jerked his head toward Buddy
for an instant and did something unexpected. He took two steps back, spun
around on one leg and slammed a spinning rear kick against the door. The first
one bounced the man backward, but he wound up and lashed out again. Buddy never
saw anyone move so fast, and he couldn’t believe it when the door gave way.
Buddy sprinted for the room as
the man disappeared inside, but bursts of light coupled with the sound of
gunshots fastened an icy grip around Buddy’s legs. He lurched ahead, forcing himself
to put one foot in front of the other.
room was silent when he tilted his head to
see inside. To his left, a pair of legs were splayed on the red shag carpet,
the rest of the big man’s body remaining in shadow. A small desk lamp knocked
from a table lay beside the body.
Across from the door on the
other side of the king size bed, a woman in a pink silk nightgown sat on the
floor in the darkness. With her knees drawn to her breasts and her back against
the built-in faux mahogany chest of drawers, her hands were death-gripped
around the butt of a .357 Magnum revolver aimed at his chest.
Buddy was mesmerized, not by the
gun surprisingly, but by how beautiful the woman was. Her black hair managed to
find enough light to shine like the feathers of a raven, even in a dark room.
He didn’t realize he was staring.
As if waking from a dream, he
could hear another woman’s voice and realized it was the police dispatcher, “Nine-one-one…what
is the nature of your
emergency?” Buddy raised a hand toward the young woman to reassure her as
he put the phone to his ear.
Tears welled in her eyes and
spilled down her cheeks, “Why can’t I find a nice man?”
“It’s going to be okay, miss. I
As her abdomen convulsed and she
dropped the gun to the floor. While she
cried, Buddy sat next to her, put an arm around her and held her tightly as he spoke
quietly into his phone, “My name is Buddy Cross. I work at the Baker Street
Motel, corner of Southeast 234th and Baker. There’s been a
In the office, giving his
account of the incident to the third police officer in an hour, it was as
though someone else was speaking now, as if he hadn’t seen a dead man face-down
in a dark pool of blood, as if fingers other than his own pressed the man’s
neck and wrist in a vain search for a pulse. Flashes of his reflection in the
mirror, registering shock and fear returned to him. He blinked the images away.
A hand on his arm startled him,
“Are you alright, Mr. Cross?”
“Yes Detective, thank you.” Buddy
blew out some air, “Kind of an unsettling thing to see, you know? This isn’t
how I expected my night to go.”
The corners of the detective’s
mouth drooped, “Mine either.”
Blue and white lights strobed
through the blinds of the office windows. A few of the motel’s guests milled
together or talked with officers. Official vehicles and crime scene technicians
were all over the place. It was the most chaotic night Buddy ever witnessed
working at the motel, but through all the commotion he couldn’t take his eyes
away from the beautiful woman with the glossy black hair.
“Sandra’s hair never shined.”
“Excuse me, Mr. Cross?” the
detective stared at him, eyebrows raised. “What did you say?”
“Nothing officer. Just thinking
The Detective gathered what
information Buddy could provide about her, a copy of her driver’s license, her
room agreement, a copy of her credit card receipt. He pointed out her car to
He watched her and he cringed as
the handcuffs were placed around her wrists before she stepped gracefully into the
back of a patrol car.
In the nights which followed, internet
ghouls pulled into the parking lot to take selfies in front of the “Infamous
8-D,” but the amateur paparazzi dwindled as Gabriella’s story drifted from front
page to fourth page in the daily papers.
Buddy was often mentioned as a witness or the night clerk, but never by name, and he read every
report he came
across. Some of them got things wrong. Some of them got it right in his view. Gabriella
Sanchez was an abused and tortured woman whose life was threatened by an
At the end of the week the
police announced the closure of their investigation, declaring the shooting to
be a justifiable act of self-defense. A woman alone used deadly force to stop a
much larger, powerful and dangerous person from killing her.
The authorities hadn’t called the
motel about the crime scene, so he gave the letter opener a spin and called their
number. After getting passed around a couple of times he was given permission
to open the room for cleaning. It was too late in the evening to call their
service, but he was curious enough to grab a flashlight and walk over to open
the room himself.
Buddy scrolled through his
memory as he approached 8-D. He remembered the man slamming his shoulder against
the door and turning to him briefly. He saw Gabriella Sanchez staring at him along
the barrel of her gun and shivered involuntarily.
He shined the flashlight on the
door. The sagging barricade tape was ready to go, and he enjoyed ripping it
There was a good dent in the
metal where the guy kicked it and the spring latch was toast. Only the deadbolt
was functional, but he needed to pull outward on the doorknob while turning the
key to get it to slide free.
Inside, the lamp was still on
the floor a couple of feet from the reddish-brown stain. Amazed there were
flies buzzing around the room in forty-five-degree weather, he left the door
open, set the lamp on a small table and switched it on.
Coming from the direction of the
office, he heard the gentle tap of hard soled shoes on the concrete walkway
outside, moving closer with each step.
“Are you here to view the grisly
In the doorway, a young woman stood
wearing a black hoodie and dark sunglasses. She removed the shades and pulled
back the hoodie. Her long shiny black hair ran over her shoulders like water.
Buddy gaped at her for a moment
before turning off his flashlight, “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize anyone would be
“It isn’t enough for you that my
name and picture are spread all over the news and across the internet? You need
to come here and take pictures of where he died? Where I…where I…”
“Ms. Sanchez,” Buddy moved
around the bed and she took a step back, “I’m the night clerk here at the
“You’re the man who was here
that night, with me. You’re…Benny?”
“Buddy. I’m Buddy Cross. I’m
a reporter. I only came in here to check the room out before the cleaning
She covered her face with her
hands and leaned back against the open door, which moved a few inches before
thumping against the wall with her weight.
Buddy hesitated before placing a
hand on her shoulder, “Ms. Sanchez, I’m so sorry. Is there something I can help
you with? Would you like me to leave?”
“No, no…please don’t leave me
alone.” A hesitant foot shot out before she thrust herself forward and put her
arms around him, nestling her face beneath his chin, “I never thanked you for
your kindness to me.”
The soft warmth of her chest
heaved against him as she sobbed quietly. Slowly at first, he put his arms
around her, and she tightened her hold upon him.
Gabriella’s gentle hands explored
the contours of his back. She clung to him and leaned into his body and they
sat together on the edge of the big bed. She pressed herself against him until
he could no longer hold her up. He laid back until they reclined together.
They remained, embracing one
another for thirty minutes until she stood from the bed to lean over him. Her
hair caressed his skin as his eyes took her face in, the soft light falling
across her olive skin. He knew he would never meet a more beautiful woman than
She walked to the door and
paused with her back to him, leaning against the door until she could fasten
the deadbolt. Turning, she walked to the other side of the bed and stretched
out in front of him, extending an arm to him. He scooted next to her and they
Buddy couldn’t remember if he
ever truly shared a moment of contentment like this with Sharon. It seemed from
the beginning of their relationship she was full of…expectations. Was this what
genuine contentment felt like?
A few minutes passed and her lips
found his, and he returned her passion until she pushed him onto his back and swung
a leg over his body. She sat up to straddle him, and something pricked his
stomach, again and again.
Gabriella rose from him and
stepped off the bed as Buddy tilted his head until he could see the hilt of his
letter opener protruding from his abdomen. He tried to sit up, but she shoved him
back down. He saw the thin black gloves on her hands. Nitrile gloves. The kind
the maids at the motel wore to clean the rooms.
“I stopped by the front desk to
speak with you. I rang the bell. You weren’t there, but your letter opener
Buddy flashed back to the night
of the shooting again, the big man bashing himself repeatedly against the door.
Blood pumped from his multiple stab
wounds. He shivered, but he wasn’t cold and he couldn’t move his arms.
“You weren’t in danger.” She
shook her head as he spoke. “That guy wasn’t trying to hurt you.” Buddy coughed
and a coppery taste filled his mouth, “You didn’t fasten the deadbolt,
otherwise he wouldn’t have been able to kick the door in. You…you let him know
you were here, and when he arrived you made him think you were being killed.
You let him break in so it would look as though you were defending yourself.
You…you murdered him.”
“Men are so predictable. They come
at you like dogs sniffing after a conquest.”
“He…he was trying to help you,
that big guy.”
“I’m sorry, Buddy, but you just
don’t understand.” Gabriella moved to his side and gently placed his hands around
the handle of the letter opener, “He was just like the coyotes my mother warned
me about—only interested in one thing.”
“I wasn’t trying to... I was
being…you’re so beautiful.” The warmth of his tears ran over the sides of his
face, cooling as the salty liquid trailed into his ears, and Buddy closed his
eyes for the last time.
“I saw your face when you
entered this room, Buddy. You were so frightened. There’s no fear now. It’s
better this way.”
Gabriella Sanchez slipped the
gloves off, put her shades on and pulled her hood over her head before using the
inverted gloves to open the door. She stashed them in her pocket and stepped
outside to draw in the night air. She smiled to herself, happy in the knowledge
that in Buddy Cross, she finally found herself a genuinely nice man.
D.V. Bennett lives in
southern Washington State, enjoys spending time with his family and training in
martial arts. He has a day job, but writing is what keeps him up nights. You
can find out more about him and what he writes at https://www.dvbennett.com/