The two had left Cincinnati in their car early that morning and had passed through Wichita about an hour and a half ago, heading west. They were exhausted, needed a place to stay, and were not too choosy about where.
“We’d like a room for two with a king bed, please,” he asked the clerk at the little rundown motel in the middle of nowhere. His wife stood next to him thinking about nothing but a hot shower and a bed.
“Sorry, we’re booked up, sir,” the clerk responded dryly. “But there’s a place about an hour down the road that you might get into tonight if you get going right now.”
He put his hands on the counter and said, “Look, there are no cars parked next to your rooms and you’re telling me you have no vacancy. We’ve been on the damn road all day and we’re tired and need a room. So don’t tell me you can’t put us up for the night. You must have something!”
“No, sir, got nothing at all. We deal in a special clientele here and are booked up months in advance. Our clients don’t come to us in cars. So, you best just get going on down the road, you two,” the clerk explained, a tone to his voice.
The wife moved close to her husband, gripped his arm and whispered, “C’mon, honey, let’s just forget it. This place gives me the creeps, anyway. We can hold out for another hour.”
Her husband turned to her and in a loud voice said, “No, we’re getting a room here tonight and that’s it. This guy can’t tell me that this little dump of a motel out in the middle of nowhere is booked up for months in advance.”
Then, turning to the clerk, he asked, “So, what’s the rent for a room with a king bed for one night?”
“You did see our sign outside, sir? Didn’t that kind of give you a clue as to what’s going on here?” the clerk said. “This isn’t just your run-of-the-mill motel, sir.” He gave them a sly little wink as he finished.
She tugged at his arm again, this time more aggressively. “Honey, let’s go, now!”
Shaking his head, he held his ground. “Look, honey, I don’t care what these fundamentalists out here in the sticks want to name their motels. That’s their business. Doesn’t mean anything to me, and it shouldn’t mean anything to you, either.” Then, turning back to the clerk, he pounded his fist on the desk, thrust his driver’s license and credit card at the clerk, and demanded a room.
“Okay, sir, okay. If that’s the way you want it, I’ll rent you folks a room. Just sign the register, if you will,” the clerk explained as he typed some information from the license and credit card into the computer.
“Dear, will you sign the register while I sign the credit card receipt?” he asked his wife as he retrieved his license and credit card from the clerk and was handed a room key.
She nodded and as she signed their names to the book, she took a moment to read some of the other names recently entered into the register. She was stunned.
“Walt,” she said, her voice shaky, “Walt, take a look at the names in the register.”
Her husband finished signing for the credit card and peered over at the register as his wife moved aside a bit. “Oh, Jesus!” he exclaimed as his eyes went down the list of recent residents.
He looked back at the clerk who was standing with his arms folded across his chest behind the counter. “Still want that room, mister?” the clerk asked mockingly.
His wife grabbed the room key from her husband’s fingers and headed for the office door. “I don’t care what’s going on next to us tonight, Walt! I’m going to down two shots of Jack Daniels, take a hot shower, and jump into bed . . . with you or without you!” she announced over her shoulder. “You coming or not?”
Walt watched her for a moment as she left the office, got in the car and drove over to their room. He turned to the clerk and asked, “Can I ask who’s in the rooms next to us tonight?”
“Sure, sir,” the clerk answered, pointing to two names in the register. “They’ll be transitioning during the night and will be gone when you awake. Will that be a problem?”
“No, no problem. I’m just amazed that people would come from all over the world to this little motel just to . . . well, you know,” Walt admitted.
The clerk smiled and said, “Well, I’ve been here a long time, Walt. Before it was a motel, it was a cattle ranch with just some bunk houses for the visitors. And before the white men, it was a sacred place for any number of native tribes going back as far as anyone can remember.”
“And there was always somebody like you keeping records?” Walt asked.
“Not someone like me, Walt. Just me.”
Walt hesitated before he asked the next question. He took a deep breath and then said, “Have I ever been here before?”
The clerk smiled knowingly and replied, “Like I said, Walt, we cater to a very special clientele. You’re one of them. You’re just a little early this time around.”