Author’s note: This story was written for a writing contest with a motel theme, limited to 3,000 words. This story was inspired by the following picture.
An old Indian tale
Darby Corday wasn’t sure what it was that attracted her to the place. Maybe it was the huge sign with the large Indian head and the woman’s name. Most likely it was the sign indicating they had a swimming pool. After a long drive, a refreshing dip sounded great.
She pulled in and parked in a diagonal spot near the office. Then she went inside. A woman in her fifties wearing a faded motel vest got up from her chair and smiled at her.
“Do you need a room miss?”
“Is your pool working? I’ve been on the road for hours.”
“Yes, miss. Dan cleaned it out this morning.”
“Our maintenance man.”
“I see. Is there a restaurant close by?”
“Take a right turn five blocks down the street, miss. There’ll be five places in a ten block stretch. Personally I’d try Gil’s café down on the right as their food is pretty good. You can’t miss it.”
Darby paid for the room in cash, accepting the key from the kindly woman with a smile. As she went back outside she saw what looked like an old man opening the door to the last unit on the far end. He seemed to stare at her.
There was something about him that made her nervous. He had grey hair and a face that looked weather-beaten. He wore a grey plaid shirt and faded jeans. Around his waist was some sort of equipment belt. Was that the maintenance man the desk clerk had mentioned?
She got into her car and drove to her room. She pulled into the diagonal spot in front of her door. Then she gathered up her suitcase and toiletries.
She froze when she saw that old fart was still staring at her. What was his problem? It made her quickly lock her vehicle before hustling herself into her room.
At least she was in for the night. No more sitting behind the wheel getting stuck behind slow moving vehicles. Now she was going to use that pool.
She changed into a modest flower print, one-piece she was rather fond of. It still fit, although she needed to lose a few pounds around the middle, an ongoing battle between her and cookies. And her best feature – her breasts – needed a little support now that they were wanting to sag as she approached middle age.
She went into the bathroom and grabbed the extra towel hanging from the towel rack. She saw the weariness in her eyes from the many miles. Then she opened the door to the hallway, looking forward to a cool, relaxing swim.
She only had a short walk to the corner exit with the word POOL and an arrow pointing the way. It led out to the backside of the motel. When she stepped out she saw more parking spots, indicating this place used to be full in its heyday.
She discovered she was the only one out using the wire mesh fenced-in pool. The water was still, showing no evidence it had been used recently. Darby didn’t mind having it all to herself.
She dropped the towel and room key onto a patio chair before walking to the deep end. Thankfully she could enjoy her swim without any creeps ogling her. And she didn’t want that maintenance man watching her in the water as he had acted a little creepy.
She dove in head first, enjoying the sensation of cool water washing the miles off her back. She surfaced and then slowly swam to the shallow end. She reached the end of the pool, turned around and swam back.
She stopped her swim in the deep end when she heard a door to the end of the motel open. She saw him walk out in the direction of an old, beat-up Ford pickup sitting alone in the back parking lot. He turned in her direction, giving her a long, lingering look.
Darby shivered as she stared back at him. Instinctively she submerged, skulling to keep herself under. She held her breath as she slowly released bubbles, trying to stay under long enough for him to go back inside.
When she surfaced she saw him standing there over near the pickup looking right at her. He turned and opened the door, pulling out a piece of equipment she didn’t recognize. Then he walked back to the door to the motel he’d come out of, his eyes on her the entire time.
She felt a shiver run down her spine as he looked at her. That old dude really spooked her out. She felt strangely vulnerable alone in the water.
She watched him go back inside the building. But for some reason she didn’t feel like swimming anymore. She was hungry, so maybe now would be a good time to go eat.
She got out of the pool and quickly dried herself off. Then she wrapped the towel around her head to help dry her shoulder length brunette hair. She made her way back inside the motel, happy to be away from prying eyes while she was swimming… in case that creepy old man came back out to fetch another piece of equipment and stare at her again.
She was in the hallway approaching her door when she saw him down the hall looking right at her. There was something about the way he stared that made her skin crawl. She quickly unlocked her door, slipped inside, and then hastily locked it behind her, making sure to use the extra chain latch for double security.
She got dressed and then went out to her car. She looked all around to make sure that old man was nowhere in sight. Then she pulled out of the motel and drove down the street.
The instructions she’d been given proved accurate. She drove right to that café the desk clerk had suggested. She went in and sat down, feeling a sense of relief she was no longer in that motel.
She ordered a salad, but she picked at it as though she wasn’t very hungry. For some reason she wasn’t in a hurry to get back. Hopefully that old fart would be gone for the day when she returned.
She finished her meal and paid the check. Then she drove back. There were only three additional vehicles in the lot, indicating the motel wasn’t going to have many guests for the night.
She pulled into her spot and warily looked all around. Then she got out, hastily unlocked her room and then rushed inside. This time locking the door behind her did not seem to give her the sense of security she sought.
She turned on the TV, but nothing appealed to her. Darby felt restless. And now she was getting the munchies. That salad hadn’t fully satisfied her.
She went to the door to the hall and looked out the peephole, trying to look both ways. No one seemed to be out there. She unlatched and unlocked the door before carefully stepping outside.
The place was quiet except for the sound of a TV down the hall. Knowing others were staying here gave her a small sense of comfort. Then she followed the hall back to the main desk.
She found some vending machines, but she didn’t have any change. So she went to the front desk. A young man in his twenties in a similar motel vest stood up from his chair and smiled at her, wanting to assist an attractive woman any way he could.
“Can I help you, miss?”
“I need some change for the vending machines.” Then she pulled out a couple of ones.
He happily converted them into quarters for her. “Long drive, miss?”
“Yes, it was very long and hot. I’m very tired. At least I got to swim in your pool. That felt nice.”
“Oh yes, miss.” There was a faint flicker of disappointment in his eyes. Did he wish he’d been here earlier to witness her swim?
For some reason she felt reassured being around him. He seemed protective, if not a bit eager. Still, his presence was welcome.
She went to the vending machines and bought cookies and a coke. Then she returned to the foyer. He smiled to see she’d returned.
She wanted some excuse to engage him in conversation so she could remain in his presence a while longer. But she couldn’t think of anything. As she bit into her cookie she motioned toward the large sign in the grass outside.
“That Indian head on your sign… and that female name. Is there a story behind that?”
The young man smiled as though happy to keep her around a bit longer. “Old Dan told me there’s a story to it. But I don’t know if I believe him. It’s probably just an old Indian tale.”
“Old Dan? Your maintenance man?” She didn’t want to offend the lad by telling him the old goat gave her the creeps.
“His name is Dan Running Moon. He’s from the Omaha tribe that used to live in this area in the 1800’s before the white man pushed them out.”
“Oh?” She’d seen Native Americans before, which now explained why some of the old guy’s facial features seemed familiar.
Is that why he seemed so creepy to her… because he was Native American? She didn’t think so. There was something else about him… the way he looked at her… like he was sizing her up for something.
“It’s a crazy tale, so I’m not sure how much stock to place in it, miss. He says many years ago the Omaha tribe lived on this land until some guy bought it and wanted to put up houses and build a town. They tried to reason with him, although I don’t know what Dan meant by the word “reason”. Maybe their ‘discussion’ involved a lot of bows and arrows.”
“Maybe so,” Darby smiled wryly.
“Anyway the army came in and drove ‘em off their land. The Indians said the spirits had been angered and had to be satisfied. So they snuck into that guy’s home in the middle of the night and kidnapped his 19 year old daughter.”
The young man shook his head and chuckled. “Dan always comes up with a good yarn. So I don’t know how much of this is true and how much of this is exaggerated. Hell, the whole story sounds iffy to me.”
“Anyway, they took this girl out the very next morning. Dan says they staked her out right on these very grounds. But I don’t know how true that is.”
“They stripped her naked and staked her spread-eagled on the ground like you see in some of those westerns, you know? The Indians gathered and danced around her while chanting. Then the medicine man took this dagger out.”
The young man brought his hand up as though to emphasize the act, much to Darby’s growing discomfort. “Dan says the guy brought the dagger down…” and the desk clerk stabbed downward at this part of the story “…right into the poor girl’s stomach. He cut her open before reaching in to remove her heart. Dan says it was still beating in his hand as he held it up before her dying eyes. I guess that appeased the spirits. But Dan says sometimes they get restless and need to be appeased again. He says the woman’s name was Samantha. But I heard the motel was named after the first owner’s six year old daughter. Oh that Dan.” The young man shook his head with an amused smile.
Darby shuddered, uncomfortable he had told her the story. It made her think back to the way that maintenance man kept looking at her… sizing her up. Then she heard a familiar voice call out from the room beyond the front desk.
“Dooley? Are you telling another one of those crazy Dan stories to one of our guests again?”
“Mom, she was asking about it!”
“Well cut it out! We don’t need to be scaring off the guests!”
“Sorry, mom.” Then he shook his head as he turned to Darby.
“I’m sorry, miss. I hope I didn’t scare you. Like I said, it’s just an old Indian tale.” It was obvious he liked her and was hoping he hadn’t made her want to pack up and leave.
“No, of course not,” she said with a dismissive wave. “Thank you for the coins. I should get back to my room.” She winced inwardly that she hadn’t stopped herself from eating cookies again.
“Good night, miss. Sleep well.”
‘Yeah sure,’ she thought to herself as she got up from her chair and headed off. ‘I’ll sleep REAL well with that story running through my head!’
The hall was deserted, so she safely made it back to her room. She made sure both doors were locked and chained. Then she undressed before crawling into bed in her sheer nightgown.
She tried to watch some television. But it bored her. It had the effect of making her sleepy, and she dozed off……
Darby was naked, tied spread-eagled to the ground! They were all around her, chanting some sort of mournful song. Then that maintenance man came over to her with a dagger in his hand.
He knelt over her as she tried to scream. But she couldn’t make any sound come out of her throat. Then the dagger came down into her………………
Darby shot upright in bed, panting like crazy. On the TV there was some stupid western. The natives were chanting and doing some sort of dance.
“Damn movie!” she gasped as she turned it off. It plunged her into total darkness other than the outside light trying to penetrate the curtains. That’s when Darby thought she heard that same chanting.
Where was it coming from? Was someone else in the motel watching that same western?
She got up and crept to the front door. She pulled the curtain to the nearby window and prepared to peek out, ready to scream at anything. But there was nothing happening outside; no movement of any kind.
She went to the other door and looked out the peephole into the hallway. It was deserted. So where was that chanting coming from?? It didn’t sound like it was coming from another TV set.
Her heart beat fast as she looked all around. She turned the TV back on and changed the channel to drown it out. But somehow she could still hear the chanting.
She walked over to a vent and listened intently. Was the sound coming from the vent… from the room next door or farther down the hall? She didn’t think so, but she couldn’t be sure.
Her heart hammered in her chest. She sensed danger all around her. Then she thought she heard something out in the hallway.
She looked at the doorknob, her eyes widening with fright as it started to turn. The chanting got louder as someone on the other side tried to force it open. “No…. go away…. go away…. leave me alone…..” Then it burst open as three braves in loincloths and painted faces rushed in.
Darby screamed as they grabbed her. They threw her down onto the bed, stripped her of her nightie and underwear, and then tied her spread-eagled using lengths of rope they had brought with her. Then they began to chant.
Darby screamed and screamed, shaking her head as they moved and chanted around her. Then Dan walked in. He was in the same clothes she’d seen earlier… and he had a dagger in his hand.
Somehow her screams got even louder as he approached. Why the hell wasn’t someone inside the motel coming to help her?? Then he brought the dagger down into her stomach. Darby let out an “aaauuuuggghhhhhhhh” as her back arched from the penetration.
She felt him reach inside; she could actually feel him reaching around in her chest cavity! Her heart was hammering a mile a minute. Then she felt a sharp jolt of extreme pain and agony.
She stared in abject horror as he pulled her beating heart out of her chest and held it up before her terrified gaze. It beat less and less until it stopped. Darby stared in vacant horror as the life slowly faded from her eyes…
“So what’s the deal with this one, Sam?”
“Well, Pete. At first glance I’d have to say it was a heart attack. When her vehicle was still there the next morning, they sent their maintenance man to go down to check on her. He used the master key, but the door was chained from the inside. He had to break in… said her found her that way with her eyes open wide.
“Geezus, Sam! You didn’t close her eyes or anything?”
“I was going to, Pete, and maybe I should have. I didn’t want to disturb anything until after I made my finding.”
“And what did you find?”
“That’s why I called you in, Pete. The broad’s got no heart.” Then he motioned at the naked body lying on the slab, a line cut into her chest.
“Is that supposed to be a joke, Sam?”
“No, Pete. When I got to her there were no signs of forced trauma. No needle marks… no signs of pill bottles, liquor or a struggle. My first thought was a heart attack. But a woman like that so young? So I opened her up. And that’s when I found she had no heart.”
“Are you playing a practical joke on me, Sam?”
“I wish I was Pete. That’s why I called you. Craziest thing I’ve ever come across.”
“Who was she?”
The coroner picked up the driver’s license and read off it. “Name’s Darby Samantha Corday.”
2018 (Feb 17 ’18)