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The Motor Court
About the Author: Jennifer Collins Moore is the founder of Meez Meals, the Midwest’s favorite do-it-yourself meal kit delivery service. She is working on her first novel.

Betty wasn’t supposed to find the body. The housekeeper was usually the first to bring trash to the dumpster in the morning. But someone had left an empty champagne bottle on the picnic table where Betty was about to eat breakfast, and she hated a mess.

She lifted the lid on the dumpster and there he was. Feet up. Head buried in the bottles and cans. Wearing the same khaki pants and pink golf shirt from the day before.

The man from the zoning board.

An hour later, Betty was waiting to give her official statement to the police. Everyone from the Motor Court seemed to have gathered on the lawn to see what the sweet old granny in room six had found.

Eleanor, tall and blond, stomped toward Betty. She kicked the housekeeping wagon, left haphazardly on the edge of the lawn. A bucket fell, spilling a toilet bowl brush, glass cleaner and some cloths. A roll of toilet paper bounced a few feet away.

“I hoped the ambulance was here for you, Betty. I guess it’s not my lucky day.” These were Eleanor’s first words to Betty in two weeks.

Eleanor stood, hands on hips, long hair mussed from the night and dark circles under her eyes. She was in her late thirties, but she looked older, with the early morning sun casting heavy shadows over her thin face. The gathered crowd inched away from them. A little boy asked if he was ever going to eat breakfast.

“So what’s going on?” Eleanor said. “You’d think the police would have the courtesy to find me before making themselves comfortable.”

Betty opened her mouth, but Eleanor marched off toward the police tape before she had a chance to speak.

Eleanor owned the Harborside Motor Court. Six guest rooms and five cottages, all occupied this August weekend. She had inherited it from her grandfather in June and immediately announced plans to tear it down and put a luxury hotel in its place.

Betty was adamantly opposed, of course. She’d started a petition. She’d written letters. And she’d tried to persuade the members of zoning committee to block the plans.

Including Mr. Ronnie Murphy, the man in the dumpster.

He was the swing vote on the committee, and he was voting for the development. He was Eleanor’s ace in the hole. Or he had been, until this morning.

The Motor Court was the one remaining hotel where rooms went for less than $300 a night. And Eleanor’s grandfather gave Betty a good price to stay for the entire summer. Good thing she’d paid in advance. Otherwise Eleanor would certainly have kicked her out as soon as she started the petition. Instead all she could do was give Betty the silent treatment.

Betty sat, watching Eleanor with Officer Brown, too far away to hear. Eleanor gestured at the police car, pointed at the body on the sheet, jabbed her finger in his chest. She was giving him hell.

Officer Brown ran his hands through his cropped brown hair. It was thick. How old was he? Twenty-five? Twenty-six? He had a new baby, a boy. Betty made it her business to know all the police here in Banbury, a Rhode Island beach town right on the Connecticut border. She asked about their children and grandchildren. Their hobbies. She even brought cookies to the officers working the Tuesday night concerts by the harbor.

Not fresh-baked, of course. She didn’t have an oven, just a small microwave she brought when she checked into the Motor Court each May and took home to New Canaan each September. The guest rooms didn’t have kitchens, but that was fine with her. She’d never been much of a cook.

As she watched, Officer Brown said something that stopped Eleanor in her tracks.

He’d told her Ronnie was dead.

Eleanor walked slowly to Betty and slumped in the plastic chair next to her.

The Motor Court’s big lawn overlooking the harbor was scattered with tables and chairs. Families played horseshoes here, grilled steaks on the communal barbecue, and watched the sun set over the harbor. They were all clustered around the police tape now.

Betty crossed her feet, then uncrossed them under the round glass table. She wore the bright white running shoes her niece had sent last month. Not pretty, but stable. That mattered.

“Would you like some tea, dear?” she said to Eleanor. “Officer Brown got me a cup. Said I might be suffering from shock. He’s a good boy.”

This story appears in our JUN 2018 Issue
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Reader Discussion

I like the little details in the writing. A good investigation also. Thank you for the entertainment.
By Susan Rickard

The Motor Court was the best mystery short story I've read in a long time. I'm sure she'll have success with her novel.
By Korina Moss

Great story. Fascinating characters and a nicely solved mystery. Good job.
By Robert Petyo

I like a good mystery, and this one is so very well developed! Interesting characters, clever twist and turns, well done indeed!
By Nina Ritter

I thoroughly enjoyed this story. Great characters, nice wrap-up.
By Linda Leszczuk/LD Masterson

Great story. Well timed and a good finish.
By Fred Krampe

I loved this story! Great characterizations.
By Mary Monnin

Terrific story! Great plot and plot twist. Well-developed characters. Wonderful setting details that put a reader right there. One of the best I've read in this magazine, and I've liked quite a few!
By Elizabeth Varadan

Good story, would like to see more like it.
By L Benoit

A fun read. Enjoyed the twist at the end. Nicely developed characters. I'd definitely read more by this author.
By Kate Romansky

A good read. Nice job. Congrats!
By George Garnet

I enjoyed this. Full stop. But something was nagging at me. It occurred to me later: would Betty have ratted out someone who had done exactly what she had for exactly the same reason? She seemed more compassionate than that. Also; did I read correctly that the college girl got knocked up on purpose? That seemed wildly implausible. Accidentally, sure, but on purpose harkens back to the 1950s.
By Todd W

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