Night closing in fast; Kurt and I had been on the road since daybreak and hoped to get more miles toward home. Today marked our eighth day riding, and we needed to get back. 160 east stretched out smooth ahead with little traffic. Unfortunately, it tempted speeding and we had a delay when Kurt succumbed to the temptation. Luckily, he got off with a warning and we gained some information from the officer. No campgrounds for at least 100 miles.
Well, Granny can’t drive in the dark anymore—the night blindness makes it downright scary—so we decided to go ahead and look for some kind of overnight. We pulled into a smallish town that bragged two motels and a bar/grill. Only one room available because of a car show, bike rally, and I had almost forgotten Labor Day weekend. A no-nonsense Czechoslovakian woman who owned the place advised that two mountain lions and a bear had been spotted in town recently (That made me glad I was sleeping indoors).
We settled in like hillbillies in a penthouse suite, dragging all our dusty saddlebags and dirty laundry inside. Kurt got some beer and we turned on the TV, planning to chill for a bit and then go grab some food. All the other rooms were supposedly full. But not a peep came from any of them. It seemed odd but we didn’t give it a second thought.
About nine, we decided food was in order and walked across the street to the bar/grill. The streets were empty; a quiet night with no stars and no moon. As we approached the bar, the Open sign blinked off. “You’ve gotta be kidding!” I said.
“It’s Saturday night. Looks like they shut the whole damn town down,” Kurt growled.
“Hey there’s some guys leaving out the back door. Let’s ask if they have any leftovers.” My belly was growling to beat hell.
Two dark lanky youths were throwing garbage in the dumpster; an older man, cadaverous and grim, was locking up. As we approached, they eyed us suspiciously.
“Guess we’re too late. We heard this place was the best in town. You wouldn’t happen to have any leftover food we could buy, would you?” I decided to try compliments and pleas.
At that, they broke into smiles. We told them where we were headed and where we had been. The old man said he used to do some riding when he was younger; he once had a Norton and loved that bike. When he smiled, I noticed his teeth were tiny and almost pointed. The two boys could have been his sons or grandsons; they had a family resemblance in their quick brown eyes. “Wait here a minute,” the old man said. “We can fix you right up.”
He went inside and returned a few minutes later with two foil-wrapped packages that he handed to us. “Lasagna,” he said. “Extra garlic bread.” He refused to take any money, citing the “We’re all brothers on the road” clause.
We didn’t even wait to go back in the room. We sat on the picnic table outside the motel and tore into that scrumptious meal. The lights in the little town shut down. The sole gas station was closed. It wasn’t even 10:00.
“Do you hear something?” Kurt said through a mouthful of bread.
“Don’t be getting me all worked up about bears and stuff. We should go inside.”
“Well I wish that guy would have taken some money for this food. It’s great,” Kurt said.
A quick little scurrying sound and a sudden chill down my spine.
A bony hand squeezed my shoulder and hot breath hissed in my ear. “You can pay me now,” came the bar owner’s voice.
And there were others. All around us.