The Surprise in Room 203: Mystery Short Story

Jun 18, 2016 | 2016 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze, Terrific Tales

by Jan Christensen

Enjoy this never before published mystery short story.

When Marge entered the hotel room, she sighed. She’d been cleaning rooms for eight years and often saw big messes, but rarely did she smell such a strong odor. Windows wouldn’t open, so she turned the thermostat down as low as it would go and propped open the door to the hall. Then she began to gather up and sort clothing, papers, old newspapers, McDonald’s wrappers, greasy French fries and other items. The occupant hadn’t checked out, so she couldn’t just trash everything. She finally reached the closed bathroom door and opened it. cleaning

Marge screamed when she saw the body crumpled there in a corner, blood everywhere. She fled the room and ran down the hall snuffling and crying until she bumped into Edmund, her boss. He grabbed her by the arms and shook her. “What’s wrong with you?”

“There’s…there’s a body in Room, in Room 203.”


“Let go of me! I said there’s a body in room 203. In the bathroom.”

“Let’s go see.”

“No! I’m not going back there.” She shuddered. “I’ll be in the break room.”

The police arrived within minutes and two found Marge drinking coffee and having a cigarette. “You Marge Spenser?” the good-looking one asked. He was around thirty, a bit young for her, with green eyes, hair bleached blond at the tips, a rugged face and strong physique. “I’m Officer Martin and this is Detective Rogers.”coffee

Rogers nodded and sat down. He looked at least sixty, but was probably younger. Because he was rumpled like Colombo, Marge became wary. Officer Martin leaned against the refrigerator and took a notebook and pen out of his breast pocket. Detective Rogers rumbled, “Tell us how you found the deceased.”

Marge lit another cigarette, thankful there was one break room in the hotel where they allowed smoking. “I went in to clean. I started in the bedroom, like I always do, then went into the bathroom to see what was needed for towels and soap and stuff. That’s when I found him.”

Detective Rogers nodded. “About how long would you say you were in the bedroom before going into the bathroom?”

“Well, it was a mess, so took longer than usual to clean up. About twenty minutes.”

“Okay.” The Detective shifted in his chair. “Did you know the deceased?”

Marge shook her head. “I…I didn’t really look at him carefully in the bathroom. You know.” She swallowed hard and took a deep puff on her cigarette.

Detective Rogers let the silence build. “That’s rather surprising. Your supervisor tells us that you knew the deceased rather well.”

Marge started and punched out her cigarette in the overflowing ashtray. “Well, who is he, then?”

“Your ex-husband, Martin Spenser.”

Marge stared at the Detective a moment, then dropped her eyes to her hands which were folded in her lap. “Really,” she whispered.

“Yes. Are you telling us you didn’t recognize him when you found him dead in the bathroom?”

“I really didn’t. The man was fat, I noticed, but that was all. Martin wasn’t fat.”

“When you knew him, perhaps, but his driver’s license identifies him as Martin Spenser, and your supervisor told us that was your husband’s name.”

“I see,” said Marge.

“And you’re telling us you didn’t know your ex-husband was in Room 203, that you never saw him there?”

Marge looked up at the Detective. “That’s right. I had no idea.”

“He didn’t contact you?”

“He wouldn’t. He owed me back child support and had dropped out of my and Alica’s life about four years ago. He probably didn’t even know I worked here.”

“So, you haven’t seen him in four years?”

“No. I haven’t seen him in about seven years, and I haven’t heard from him in four. He moved to the east coast seven years ago.”

“Okay.” Detective Rogers stood up, and Officer Martin snapped his notebook closed and “unslouched” himself from the refrigerator.notebook

“We’ll be in touch,” Detective Rogers said and they left the room. Marge lit another cigarette. When Edmund came in and told her to get back to work, she told him to go to hell, grabbed all her belongings from her locker and drove home.

Alica, good girl that she was, sat at the kitchen table doing her homework. Marge kissed her neck next to her glossy brown ponytail and dumped her stuff on the kitchen counter. Alica looked up and sighed. “You lose another job, Mom?”

Marge sat down across from her daughter and lit a cigarette, ignoring Alica’s frown. “I have some bad news for you, Baby,” she said. Alica’s scowl deepened. At eleven, she hated being called “Baby,” but Marge kept forgetting. “Your daddy’s no longer with us.”

“What do you mean?” Alica set her pencil down and stared at her mother.

Marge covered Alica’s hand with her own. “I mean he passed away.”

“He’s dead?”

“I’m afraid so, Baby.”

“Oh,” Alica whispered. “How’d you find out?”

Marge hesitated. How much should she tell her daughter? Better to tell her everything than for her to see it on TV or hear it from one of their nosy neighbors.

“It happened at the hotel. I…I found him in a room.” She took a deep drag on her cigarette. “He was murdered, Baby.”

“What?” Alica’s blue eyes grew huge.”Why?”

“I don’t know. I don’t really know anything more.” She turned away from her daughter’s gaze and looked out the window. She didn’t want Alica to see the sense of satisfaction which she felt must show in her eyes. The creep was dead; she would never have to think about him again.

Two days later the cops showed up at her house. Marge was thankful Alica was at school. She invited them in, offered coffee, and got them seated in the living room. “There have been some new developments in the case,” Detective Rogers said as Office Martin pulled his notebook out of his shirt pocket

Marge said nothing.

“First, your husband’s mother identified the, um, body.”

That bitch, Marge thought. She’s still alive. Well, only the good die young. Still, she said nothing.

“And among the deceased possessions, we found a lottery ticket. For the jackpot. One hundred twenty-seven million dollars.”

Marge gasped, then put her hand over her mouth. Her eyes widened. “How much?” she asked.

Detective Rogers repeated the amount. “Furthermore,” he continued, “according to his will, your daughter, Alica, and Henry Spenser’s mother share equally in his estate.”

“I…I can’t believe it,” Marge said.

“You left work the day of the murder and have not returned. Why?”

“I couldn’t go back! I found him there. I just couldn’t.”

“Have you looked for another job?” Detective Rogers glanced around the shabby room, and Marge’s heart beat harder with indignation.

“Not yet. I’m still rather shaky.”

“Or you knew you would soon not need to work ever again, isn’t that right, Mrs. Spenser?”

“How would I know that?” Marge asked, her tone defiant.

Detective Rogers stood up and Officer Martin straightened in his chair. “I believe your husband contacted you when he arrived in town. Too much of a coincidence his staying in the same hotel where you work.” He paced the small room, but kept his eye on her. “He had the lottery ticket in his possession before he checked in. He was killed about twelve hours before you found him. You had access to his room. No one would think it odd if you where seen in the hotel, so, you had opportunity and motive.” He stopped pacing and glared at her.

Marge glared back. “Do I need a lawyer?” she asked.

Rogers glanced at Martin and sighed. “Not yet. We’re not charging you with anything. Where were you last night between six and midnight?”

“I was here. With Alica.”

“She can verify that?”

“Well, she goes to bed at nine.”

“I see.”

Marge wondered if they had anything linking her to the murder. She didn’t want to ask any questions, but curiosity burned in her mind and a tremor of fear went down her back.

“Okay, Mrs. Spenser. That’s all for now.” Detective Rogers looked at Officer Martin who got up from his chair, put away his notebook and nodded at Marge.

She walked them to the door. After she watched them drive away, she called a lawyer she knew. His secretary said he was busy but would call her back. It was Marge’s turn to pace the living room. She walked back and forth, chain smoking, until the ringing phone made her jump. Quickly she put out her latest cigarette and jerked the receiver to her ear.

“Marge? This is Leonard. How are you?”

“Leonard! I’m so glad you called me back. I have a situation here. You remember my telling you about my charming ex-husband?”

“Yes,” Leonard said with a slight chuckle.

“Well, he managed to get himself murdered the other day. In the hotel where I work. It gets worse. I found him. And worse. They found a winning lottery ticket in his room worth over one hundred million dollars, and a will leaving half of everything to Alica. Can you believe?”money

There was a long silence on the line.

“Leonard? You there?”

“Yeah. Wow! I’m surprised the lottery ticket didn’t end up in some police officer’s pocket. The detective in charge must have found it, or a very honest cop.”

“Well, it didn’t,” Marge said impatiently. “The police wanted to know where I was Saturday night.”

“I see. Where were you?”

“At home, of course. With Alica.”

“Of course. Okay, they didn’t take you downtown, so they only have suspicions at this time, which is logical because of the money. Wow.”

“Leonard, forget the money. I’m worried about being a suspect.”

“Husbands, wives and exes are always at the top of cops’ suspicious minds when a murder occurs. Just stay calm, answer their questions unless they arrest you and read you your rights, then call me right away and don’t say another word. Never, ever volunteer any information. I doubt they will arrest you. They’d have to have a witness or physical evidence to do that.”

“Well, there’s one thing. I quit my job right after it happened. I found him, you know and got rattled. I don’t ever want to step into that hotel again.”

“That’s understandable. I suggest you look for another job, though. The inheritance for Alica could be held up in court for a long, long time.”

“How long?”

“Oh, a couple of years. Maybe longer, depending on if any other relatives contest the will.”

Marge sank onto a bar stool and put her head in her hand. “Oh, no. I’m so sick of working. I hoped I could just wait it out until Alica got the money.”

“Afraid not, unless you have substantial savings.”

“No. No, of course not. Well, thanks, Leonard, for all your free advice.”

“Not a problem. Call me again if you have any questions. Or if you need me to help with the inheritance.”

“Sure. Thanks again.” She hung up and sagged against the wall. She should have taken the lottery ticket with her. She just thought it would be less suspicious if the police found it there, and what if Henry had told anyone about having it? After he’d come to town, gloating about winning and telling her he was going to try to get custody of Alica, what else could she have done? Henry had always been a royal pain to her. It seemed that even dead, he would continue to cause her problems.

Marge grabbed the newspaper, lit another cigarette and started looking through the classifieds for a job.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section.


Jan Christensen has had over sixty short stories appear in various places over the last twenty years. She also writes a series of short stories published by Untreed Reads about Artie, a NYC burglar who gets into some strange situations while on the job. Current president of the Short Mystery Fiction Society, she also belongs to Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime. This is her second appearance in Kings River Life. Oh, and she writes mystery novels, too. More info at


  1. Jan,

    A very engrossing story. I wasn’t certain how it was going to end. Well-written!

  2. Oh, poor Marge. I hope she gets off and is able to enjoy the money eventually! Very nice story.

  3. Good story, Jan. I think Marge did the right thing. The bum deserved what he got.

  4. Interesting story. Thanks for sharing.

  5. The most entertaining stories to me are about thwarted greed-I loved this.

  6. Thahks to all who have commented. As writers, you know how much those positive vibes mean. Hope everyone is writing up a storm! And huge thanks to Lorie for publishing it!

  7. What fun–enjoyed!

  8. Terrific writing. You kept the story moving, developing and engaging. Such realistic characters and dialogue. Great story.


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