The Vista Inn

by | Apr 7, 2020 | Fiction, Issue Fourteen

A black-and-white blowup of the Vista Inn hangs off the Jury Room wall. Few jurors notice this rural hotel offering adventurers rooms and meals. Eucalyptus accent a two-story with chimney and porch. Axes have swung. Stumps flank a cement walkway up to the double doors. A man with derby hat sits in the driver’s seat of a Model T on the gravel driveway. Big hands clutch the black wheel. His face holds secrets, things he knows about this country hotel. A scar runs the length of his cheek. The man smiles without showing teeth. Bootlegger? Shell-shocked vet? Bouncer? A wire loop heavy with keys rests on the roadster’s hood. One’s a skeleton—bet that’s the master. I’m guessing this man’s the innkeeper. The door to his honeymoon suite keeps the newlyweds safe inside a room boasting rustic charm: kerosene lamps, silk sheets, duck-feather pillows. He imagines them making love like wild animals. The man’s eyes burn. He exits the Model T, snatches the loop of keys, and bounds up the walkway. He shoves open the twilight doors and flops on a rocking chair beside the crackling fireplace. The man’s alone, having given Stella the night off. He chugs rye from a bottle. “Just the three of us,” he whispers. The innkeeper grins evil, one turning his scar a reddish-pink. He fingers the skeleton key watching the flames die.

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