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= Syndicate Motel =

a DarkSF short story by

by John Argo


title by John ArgoKorinta kept the car window open so fresh desert air could drive away Sparto’s sour cigarette smoke. She kept the radio twanging, and almost forgot about the gun under the seat. The big car cruised smoothly along spacious New Mexico landscapes in subtle earth colors within the strongly inked lines of distant mountain ranges.

Korinta did not fear the scent of danger in exotic locales and the whisper of sudden death on the night wind, parts of the NBI mystique, but she dreamed of their retiring to a tropical place of soft sand and curling ocean water and safety. When Sparto drove, he kept a cold beer between his thighs, remembered the gun under the seat, and smiled whenever he spotted a shapely woman walking slowly on some Route 66 byway. Korinta noticed the same young men and women but sipped at her bottle of Evian and worried more about her own figure and wondered how they, passing strangers gone in a heartbeat behind the hurtling 1998 Ford, kept theirs so nicely slim under those tight jeans. Maybe it was the country music and the cow punching and the rodeos, she thought, not to mention the rich air. At the gas station convenience store she noticed they all seemed to have dirty knuckles and black fingernails. Once, when she asked for cigarettes for Sparto, she got a whiff of the blackish blue gunk in the clerk’s nails: old motor oil. Yew.

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