Through Thom Tinted Lenses

August 9, 2011


I’ve just returned from the Chicago area after attending a family reunion for my wife’s clan. (It truly is a clan both in size and spirit.) I won’t talk about the event itself – I’ll keep their secrets if they’ll keep mine – but there were a couple of travel-related events that I find quite entertaining or at least a little  intriguing.

Let’s start with the motel:

Arriving at Midway Airport late into the wee hours of the morning, our rental car would not be available till eight o’clock AM. As such, my wife had used an online travel site to book us into a nearby motel, the idea being that without our rental we would be required to take a taxi both to and from our lodgings. We wanted something close so that we could simply zip back to the airport, get our car, and be off to fun and frivolity.

Something we should have considered: Midway is not in the best of neighborhoods.

The cabbie dropped us off, gazed at me, my wife, my teenage daughter, and warned us not to wander the streets – day or night. He then sped off, wide eyed and trembling. Upon entering the – shall we use the term motel? – we were confronted with our first clue as to the nature of the establishment, a sign declaring, “ABSOLUTELY NO REFUNDS AFTER 5 MINUTES IN THE ROOM.”

We would soon learn why such a sign was required.

The desk clerk, a young woman, offered us a knowing smile and welcomed us. My wife joked about the sign. The woman simply shrugged. There was no elevator and so we lugged our luggage up one flight of stairs and turned left at the top. We were immediately assaulted with several odors, including, but not limited to: mildew, dead animal, and marijuana.

Now, at this point one might wonder why we didn’t flee. Was it a sense of adventure, a death wish, perhaps a dash of insanity? No. It was simply a combination of exhaustion and circumstance. It was after two AM. To leave, we would need to call a cab, find another – hopefully better and thus further distant from the airport – motel, and likely spend another hour or so in our present semi-conscience state. And so, with bleary eyes and sleep-deprived brains, we decided, “How bad can it be?” and continued down the hallway.

Locating our room, we found the door slightly ajar. Not open. It was locked. But it could slide a good inch or so forward or back. I pushed on it, jiggled it, gave it a thump or two. Yes, it was locked. Someone couldn’t break in without quite an effort or at least an average set of muscles.

The odor was stronger in the room. We’re quite certain that some rodent or another had met its end within the walls. The curtains, which covered the entire back wall, were attached with only four hooks, causing them to droop and billow. Everything had a sticky not-quite-clean quality about it. There were only two towels. One had what appeared to be a small bloodstain on it. We were fairly certain that, no, this was not The Four Seasons.

But, the decision had been made. We weren’t cowards. Or, at least, we were too exhausted to behave in any cowardly and/or rational manner. We were staying. That was that.

Feeling uncomfortable about the quality of the door lock, we piled our luggage in front of the door, and then, not liking the disposition of the sheets, all three of us slept atop the bedcovers, covering the pillows with clothing as to not have direct contact with the fabric. None of us so much as took off our socks.

Nor did we sleep, but rather laid awake for those few hours, alert to every sound, wondering when the door would be pushed open by some evil motel goblin in search of our money, our socks, and maybe even our lives.

A few hours later, as I descended the stairs, I overheard the two desk clerks chatting. One said to the other, “So, did that white family stay?”

Two days later we realized that the place had double charged us for the room.


Fast forward four days to the return flight.

My flight was delayed due to weather. I sat in the terminal alone as my wife and daughter were staying in the Midwest for a few more days than I. No one in the terminal was in a good mood. There were sighs and complaints, a few curses. It was a redeye flight that was now over an hour past our stated departure time.

When finally we boarded, I took my seat relatively close to the front of the plane, pulled out the book I’m currently reading (George R. R. Martin’s A DANCE WITH DRAGONS), and settled in. A few minutes later, just when I was thinking that we might actually be nearing departure, two police officers boarded the craft, marching down the aisle toward the back of the plane. From my vantage, I really couldn’t see what was going on, but there was obviously some rather pointed dialogue, a bit of shuffling, and more than a dollop of commotion. Soon a middle-aged woman, obviously not in the best of moods, was led up the way and through the hatch.

Okay. Interesting. But, assuming the drama was at an end, I went back to my reading. But only for a minute. Now, three EMTs marched through the hatch and down the way. Again, I couldn’t see what was going on, but there was significant commotion, quite a bit of dialogue on walky-talkies, a couple of trips off the plane by medical personnel to fetch equipment, and a general hubbub.

This all went on for about fifteen minutes. Now, mind you, never once was there any announcement official or otherwise from the crew. We passengers were left to our own fertile imaginings to fill in the missing pieces: Was this a terrorist plot foiled? Had the person ejected from the craft been a stowaway? If so, how had she made it past security? Was someone dying back there? And, I think most prominent in everyone’s mind, was an alien abduction somehow involved?

Finally, two passengers were led – on foot, not on stretchers – from the plane. Two minutes later a perky young flight attendant announced that, “It seems some seats have opened up and so we’ll be boarding some standbys.”

No mention was ever made as to what had occurred, but I’m sticking with my initial theory of a failed alien abduction.


Just a couple of quick notes on what’s coming up. DEAD MAN’S FIRE, the first novel in my Marc Huntington series, is due out later this month from Speaking Volumes. Here’s the back cover blurb:

The Amazon Rainforest.

A paleontological expedition, every scientist murdered or missing.

A vast cavern peopled with comatose bodies from all over the world.

A human skull, fossilized, with ancient writing carved on its interior.

A young scientist, missing, and at the heart of it all.

Recovery specialists Marc and Dana Huntington make their living recovering missing persons, stolen items, and rare treasures.  Now they are thrust into chaos and intrigue as they search for a missing paleontologist, the son of Marc’s former Delta Force commander. Arriving at the expedition site deep within the Amazon Rainforest they find the jungle ablaze and dozens of bodies littering the area. Soon they learn that a fossilized skull is at the heart of the deadly mystery. Multiple factions seek the skull. Local superstition surrounds the relic, Deadly attacks, explosions, cave ins, a chamber filled with peculiar, unnaturally preserved bodies: every discovery leads to another mystery and the Huntingtons must locate the missing scientist and uncover the secret of the Amazon skull or dozens more will die.


Thom Reese is the author of THE DEMON BAQASH and 13 BODIES: SEVEN TALES OF MURDER AND MADNESS. Upcoming releases include the novels, DEAD MAN’S FIRE, CHASING KELVIN, and THE EMPTY. Thom was the sole writer and co-producer of the weekly audio drama radio program, 21ST CENTURY AUDIO THEATER. Fourteen of these dramas have since been published in four collections. A native of the Chicago area, Thom currently makes his home in Las Vegas.



Copyright 2011 Thom Reese All Rights Reserved.


  1. Traveling isn’t easy, but more and more people cherish the opportunity. Hope your next trip is better!

    Comment by Jacqueline Seewald — August 10, 2011 @ 3:31 am | Reply

  2. That is so frustrating! But traveling is still so much fun…

    Comment by Elizabeth — August 10, 2011 @ 7:07 am | Reply

  3. I like that flight attendant — what wonderful sense of savoir faire! Very possibly, if it involved anything to do with homeland security the crew were instructed not to say what was going on. I know I would have been looking up Chicago newspapers, etc., the next few days though to see if there was any report on it. My guess,though, given the medics, was that it involved passengers who had been drinking or on drugs (a similar thing happened in a public library here where a patron was drunk and not causing any real commotion but not really able to function either, but they brought in a couple of EMTs, with stretcher which they didn’t have to use, as well as a cop to “escort” him out). (If not homeland security, the feds at least could be involved on a flight that would cross state lines, but probably anything involving airplanes nowadays would have homeland security interested too)

    Comment by jamesdorrwriter — August 11, 2011 @ 9:41 am | Reply

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