|Posted on March 9, 2014 at 1:22 PM|
Here's the RAW, UNEDITED first draft copy of Chapter I from my new book, coming out in December.
The GOD KEY, BOOK II: TRIBULATIONS
THE SACRED SINKHOLE
At Chichen Itza, so it's said,
Lies a treasure well of old;
Sagrado swallows still its dead,
But never spits up its gold.
- Yucatan proverb
Saturday, 21 Sep., 2019
As the third bullet whizzed passed his ear, Dave Connors's only thought was: God, get me outta this . . .
Thick, wet jungle leaves slapped him in the face as he ran. Guns and hounds barked in the darkness behind him. He couldn't see a thing ahead—then: Zzrip! Zrip! as another pair of lead hornets zipped by his ear, spattering the fat, lush leaves ahead.
OK, gotcha—run faster . . .
He was sprinting through a dense, tropical jungle somewhere in Mexico, late at night, chased by a dozen Federales armed with rifles and dogs—very big dogs. And he had no idea where he was going.
Helluva honeymoon! raced through his mind before all racing ceased and he came to a shuddering stop. Panic gripped him as he sensed, then saw, the gaping crater before him, his arms pin-wheeling for balance. He was teetering over the brink of a gigantic sinkhole, or cenote, in the jungle floor.
But not just any sinkhole, he remembered; it was the sinkhole, the sacred one. The Maya Holy Well of Sacrifices, Cenote Sagrado.
And an 89-foot drop to the rocks below.
* * *
But if he died here, in this steaming Mexican jungle, no one would know what really happened; no one would know the truth. He'd be just another dead gringo. A murderer, at that.
He stepped back from the mouth of the cenote and turned to face his pursuers, hands raised overhead. At least in prison his story might get out. A fusillade of bullets greeted him, spattering the leaves above him like hail. He ducked as low as he could, and that was when he saw them: a rapid, bobbing motion, waist-high, bounding toward him through the undergrowth—the dogs.
No matter which way he turned, he was dead. He’d never see his fiancée or Cyndi Malach or anyone else ever again. He turned to face the cenote again, trying to remember what the tour guide had said about its depth, water levels and . . .
. . . and then a bullet clipped his shoulder, scoring his skin and kicking in his reflexes: he sprang like a scalded cat.
And fell 89 feet straight down.
Strangely enough, Dave and Leila’s honeymoon had begun in a perfectly normal, mundane fashion with a sightseeing trip to Cozumel and the Maya ruins at Chichen Itza (or “Chicken-Eatsya,” as Leila called it).
Beautiful, she was. Leila, his fiancée. With her tawny, always-tan skin, raven-black hair and flashing, green eyes, she could have been a Maya princess. Why such a looker would be in love with him, Connors honestly didn’t know. Probably his cologne.
He’d met her a year earlier, at the newspaper where they worked, the Richmond Times-Dispatch. She was the paper’s literary reviewer and lifestyles editor; David was its resident science writer/freelance-knight errant.
Since his return from Israel, and the events of seven years ago, he had become the unofficial staff writer of all things Weird and Wacky (UFO sightings, ghosts, Near Death Experience, etc. and etc., ad infinitum). But it was also where he’d met Leila last autumn, so . . . quidam boni, quidam mali.
By Christmas, they were an item.
By Easter, they were deeply in love. Crazy, starry-eyed, stupid in love.
Still nominally a “freelance” journalist, David began coming to work more frequently at the paper’s Richmond offices, where he could see Leila every day—despite the 2-hour commute from Old Town. Eventually, this meant moving to Richmond from his beloved Alexandria, which was a huge mistake: it allowed Wiley Caruthers, the paper’s manic, bipolar Editor, to get at him whenever he wanted. And assign him things . . . like stories. Weird and Wacky ones.
Which was why he and Leila were on their way to Sao Paulo, Brazil: to investigate the alleged alien mutilation of—not cattle this time, but—a human being, supposedly, back in 1988. Dave had already interviewed the surviving principals: the witnesses, the cop who’d smuggled the crime scene photos out, and their contact person—Dr. Alejandro Wasserzug of Sao Paulo, Brazil, a professor of Theoretical Physics who also dabbled in paranormal fiction. He promised a more thorough interview, but only if he could meet Connors in person. Altogether, a thorough job, Dave thought.
Not so Caruthers. He wanted his science writer on the scene and digging for more. Which seemed crazy, as the case was over 25 years old. Clearly, his editor was nuttier than a squirrel turd. But it would be a free vacation, and Dr. Wasserzug had insisted on meeting him. Since Leila was due some time off, it would be a free “pre-honeymoon/ vacation,” as Leila termed it. Whatever one termed it, they were champing at the bit for it.
For a girl of 29, this falling in love business was as Nature had intended things. Hearts, flowers and whatnot. For a man of 36, though, it seemed a tad juvenile. He’d only had two loves in his life before, and they’d both died on him: his parents when he was 10, and his dog, who his aunt had dispatched to the pound and the old green needle when she took Dave in to live with her.
He’d had many girlfriends in high school and after (including the long and unrequited affair with the intangible Cyndi Malach), but none like Leila. He’d fought his feelings at first, but . . . he couldn’t help it. Something in the way she moves, as George Harrison said. And it was so true of Leila; the way she moved was spellbinding. She had him—hook, line, sinker, rod, reel and tackle box. They would be married in April.
For now, a brief stopover at Cozumel Island and a ferry boat trip to the Yucatan, before the journey to deepest, darkest Brazil. The ferry took 45 minutes to cross the Caribbean, followed by a 2 ½-hour drive to Chicken-Eatsya. Once there, they crawled all over the 1,500-year-old ruins, went “ooh” and “ahh” in all the right places, saw the sites, snapped the pics—in short, got paid for having fun. Yes, sometimes Life-its-own-badass-self was good. Very good.
The tour began at El Castillo, or the Temple of Kukulkan, built in honor of the Maya feathered serpent god. Since the temple was a step-pyramid, similar to those in Egypt, it afforded the builders four separate staircases, each 79 feet tall. Down the entire length of the northern balustrade, they’d carved Kukulkan’s likeness, creating a zigzagged, serpent-headed monster. On the spring and autumn equinoxes, the sun hit the long, jagged carving, casting shadows that seemed to ripple, as if the serpent were wriggling down the staircase.
It was an eerie effect for the first three minutes, but by then Leila was bored. She promptly bailed from the tour and went exploring on her own. Dave ran to keep up with her, snapping photos on his cell phone all the while. He couldn't get mad at her; that was just Leila. It was one of the many reasons he loved her.
Leila Raintree was the daughter of wealthy Mexican landowners on her father’s side and Virginia blue-bloods on her mother’s, and she was most definitely not a follower. But while she might be wild for the place, “Chicken-Eatsya” gave Dave the creeps. Something about the long-dead Maya city, its carvings, tombs and pyramids, reminded him of ancient sites in the Holy Land . . . of the Fallen Ones—the Nephilim—and the nightmarish events of seven years ago. He couldn't wait to get out of there.
Leila obliged by shaking one perfectly sculpted, blue-jeaned buttock at him, then sprinting into the jungle. Once more, Dave gave chase. It was the thickest, wettest, steamiest piece of overgrown real estate he’d ever tried to navigate. He sounded like a bull elephant crashing through some small, native village.
They finally stumbled into their tour group, and found them paused at the end of a long path in the jungle, behind El Castillo. The guide was regaling them with a Maya legend about cave-dwelling creatures he called “The Others,” when Leila and Dave came crashing into their midst, nearly killing them all.
Because there, to Leila and Dave’s horror, they saw the edge of a giant cenote, or sinkhole, in the jungle floor. But this wasn’t just any sinkhole: this was the sinkhole, the sacred one, Cenote Sagrado, where Maya priests once sacrificed young men, women, children and captives to the rain god, Chaac. The plunge was one of almost certain death: although there was a shallow pool of water at the bottom, that was 27 meters below, and lined with sharp, jagged rocks only 25 feet beneath the surface. On the rare occasions that someone survived the drop, they were said to be rewarded with the gift of prophecy.
The surrounding landscape was pocked with such sinkholes, most of them only a meter or two in circumference, the result of erosion from ancient, underground streams. Sagrado here was the great-granddaddy of them all—a huge, circular crater 60 meters wide, with sheer cliffs all around, all yawning to the death awaiting them 89 feet below.
The guide was furious—raging and cursing in a wild, sputtering Spanglish. Not only was he enraged at the two for nearly spilling them over the lip of the cenote, he was frothing at the mouth over their unsanctioned picture-taking. He even wanted to confiscate Dave's cell phone for having “unauthorized photographs”—at a tourist site, yet. Which was imbecilic, and David told him so. When the guide demanded the phone, Dave stood to his full height and suggested the guide try to take it from him.
That did it. The guide, a big, stocky Mexican (who had an even bigger brother who worked at Cozumel Palace), went eyeball-to-eyeball, mano-a-mano with Connors for half a beat. But something in Dave's gaze made the tour guide blink: a furious sort of focused intensity, not unlike a madman’s. But, then, Connors was a former SEAL—and half Irish. Members of both groups often looked that way. And, as big and tough as the guide might be, crazy trumped “tough” any day.
Then “crazy” took a hike as an even greater terror appeared: a furious Latina.
“Estúpido, desgracia grasa!” Leila spat, in rapid-fire Spanish. “Lo único quería era algunas fotos de su dios serpiente. Tocar esta cámara, y la grapa en el recto. ¿Entender?”
Which, loosely translated, meant: “You stupid, fat disgrace! All I wanted was some photos of your snake-god. Touch this camera, and I will staple it to your rectum. Understand?”
The big, tough tour guide blinked but said nothing. To David’s amazement, tears began welling in the man’s eyes, nearly spilling down his cheek. He turned away and didn’t speak another word the whole way back to Cozumel.
Oh, yeah: Leila was a keeper.
* * *
An hour later, the happy couple had returned to their hotel for cocktails by the pool, along with what appeared to be the advance guard of an American Cougar Convention. The pool was suddenly bubbling with toned, tanned femmes fatale in their 30s, 40s—even a few in their 50s—still lusty, languid and lewd (and more than slightly lubricated).
They certainly looked ready for the old “horizontal bop,” as Bobby Seger used to call it. Now, Leila was the sexiest, most beautiful woman Dave had ever known, but a few of these women were just ravishing, and remarkably well-preserved: leggy, trim, yet busty and clearly on the prowl. Good thing he was wearing cargo shorts, the pockets stuffed (as usual) with his wallet, keys, cell phone and various other items. Otherwise, he would've betrayed an enormous reaction.
Leila, noticing the attention her fiancé was paying the Cougars, took him by the hand, poked fun at his always-packed cargo shorts (also as usual), and led him upstairs to their suite.
Where they did a horizontal bop-bam-boom all their own.
* * *
Later, as they basked in the afterglow of cooling sweat and the setting sun, with a soft bossa nova wafting up from the pool deck, Leila began stroking his face, from his strong, angular jaw line, to his thick neck, then his even thicker traps and delts. She grinned, shaking her head.
“And you never lifted weights, huh?”
Dave arched an eyebrow.
“A little in high school, for football. But that was about it.”
“But you look like a weightlifter.”
“God, not that,” he groaned. “Weightlifters are huge, fat, lumpy creatures. Power-lifter, maybe, they’re not so blubbery.”
“So you did lift weights,” she countered.
“A little,” he admitted. “But I grew mostly by accident.”
“What, you drank radium or something? You’re the Hulk?”
“Radium? Hadn’t thought of that. Have to give it try someday.”
“So? . . . How did you get like this ‘by accident?’”
“Through my own stupidity, or naiveté, one. When I joined the Navy, some of the older swabs conned me into lifting anchor chain for them. They said it was a one-man job, not four-man, as I’d been led to believe. If I couldn’t lift it, I was a pussy. So . . . I did.”
“You mean those ginormous, iron chains? Like on World’s Strongest Steroid?”
“The same. At first, of course, I couldn’t budge the damn things an inch. But the older guys kept hectoring me, so I kept trying every day—without success. I didn’t know it then, but they were just shirking work and having a laugh at my expense, the bastards. After a few months, though . . .”
Dave shrugged. “I began to move them. Hoist them up and drag them. It became a weird kind of contest, whenever the Ensign wasn’t around. The older guys would bet to see how big a chain I could hoist. After a year of this, I learned that it was, indeed, a four-man job, but I guess I liked the challenge or something. Helluva workout, anchor chain.”
“No duh. I’m pooped just thinking about it. And thirsty.”
“Want some champagne? We’ve got a magnum in the fridge.”
“No, no. No more booze, something sweet,” she said. Then she threw him a line from one of their favorite bad horror films: “Gimme some sugar, Baby.”
“Already? We just—”
“Hey, you’re the SEAL here,” she said. “You should be up for anything. So . . . gimme some sugar,” she repeated. “With your Boomstick.”
“You are insatiable. OK, one SEAL flipper comin’ up.”
“First, would you go SEAL me something to drink? And some fresh ice? Put those trapeze things to use. Then the sugar. Baby.”
“Trapezius,” Dave said, and glanced at the ice bucket he’d filled that morning; it was a puddle. Even here, in the swankiest resort in Cozumel, they couldn’t keep ice.
Cozumel was a tropical island, with all the hot, sticky, steamy luxuriance that implied. Despite the finest, most up-to-date commercial refrigeration and air conditioning, even Cozumel Palace couldn't keep ice handy for hours on end.
He grinned and chuckled at her. “Some hot date you are. I might have to lasso me a maid or something.”
“You mean, someone.”
“Yuppie.” He pinched her on the ass and got out of bed.
“Oh, where’s your cell phone?” she asked.
“In my swim trunks.”
“What was I thinking? Of course it is. Along with all your other junk.”
“Hey, you never know . . .”
“Well, Sugar, when you get back, let’s look at the photos you took.”
“They’re probably all blurred,” he admitted.
“Then we might have to take some more,” she replied, in a faux-Cockney accent. “You know . . . candid shots, nudge-nudge?”
“A nod’s as good as a wink to a blind bat in the dark.”
“You’re wicked. Wicked!”
“Enough. Go, Caveman. Get woman fresh ice. Then photos, then—”
“A bit of the old in-out, in-out,” he said in a passable Alex DeLarge. He threw on his cargo trunks, the pockets packed and bulging, stuffing the room key in with the rest of his stuff. After some more ribbing about all the “junk” he carried around in his pockets—“On swim trunks, yet!”— a slightly indignant David Connors turned to take his leave.
Leila could tell she’d stung him—a little. She changed gears with: “Silly paleface. Don’t you know I love you?”
He turned and saw her gazing up at him from their honeymoon bed, where they’d just made love not five minutes ago, and couldn’t help but smile. “I love you, too. Bloody savage.”
“I’ll savage you,” she replied, tossing a pillow at him. “Now take your junky trunks and go get me some ice.”
Still smiling, and with a rush of heat in his chest, Dave headed down the corridor to the vending, ice and call girl stand.
* * *
At least, that was what it looked like.
Everywhere he turned, he saw yet another gaggle of sun-bronzed, silicone-toned, jiggling hotties—young ones, these, no cougars here—wearing the skimpiest of bikinis, or bending over (and over) at the vending machines, or “accidentally” bumping into older, sugar-daddy types. Even the maids looked like pin-up models. The hot, humid air was fairly dripping with the scents of suntan lotion, coconut oil and sex.
That was when he saw her.
To his left, just two doors down from the main corridor—the maid. Yet another stunner: tall, dark, curvy and foreign. Her legs were lush, supple and oh so sexy in that tight black skirt and heels (for cleaning rooms?) And no one else had those eyes; cat's eyes; the eyes of Isis.
It was Cyndi Malach.
Had to be.
But that was impossible. She'd vanished on him in that cave beneath Golgotha seven years ago, and he hadn't seen or heard from her since. Time had passed, he'd made a tidy sum from MSNBC for his “Asteroid Strike” story, then he’d settled down to the job at the Times.
And, yet, he'd never gotten over her. Over time, he became lonely . . . then lonelier, then, frankly miserable. And it wasn’t merely the horrors of what had happened in Israel with the Fallen; it was the simple need for human companionship.
That was when he'd met Leila. The rest, as they say, was Fate. Karma. Kismet. Even (gawd help him) “Love,” for only the third time in his life.
And yet, he never could get Cyndi Malach out of his mind.
And, now, here she was. In Cozumel.
He'd caught her eye—too late to look away—and she smiled back.
And Dave saw in an instant he was mistaken: this wasn’t Cyndi, after all; this was someone else. Someone almost as exotic, beautiful, and curvy—very curvy. Muy caliente.
The queue for the ice machine moved up a notch, and he was now second in line. When he glanced at the maid again, he was stunned to see her making a bee-line for him. Oh great . . . he thought, here we go: Temptation #369.
“Disculpe, señor, ¿puedo hablar con usted?” she said, her voice like a coconut milk and honey massage.
“H-huh?” said David, always ready with the clever riposte.
“Oh, pardon me,” she revised, “umm . . . may I speak with chew?” Her perfume was maddeningly sultry, sexy and spicy.
“Sh-sure.” Idiot! Tongue-tied by a maid . . .
“May we step over here?” She took his elbow and indicated a quiet corner of the lobby, behind a potted palm.
“What's it about?”
“Un momento,” she said, pulling his forearm against her side. “Please.”
She led him out of line and over to the corner. There, the potted palm tree (a real one, he noted) partially shielded them from view.
Great, he wondered. Now what? Lust in the lobby? A hallway hummer?
The maid, whose lush, sexy perfume hugged his face like a lover’s embrace, glanced about the lobby, to make sure they had privacy. Dave couldn’t help noticing her ripe cleavage, lean torso tapering into a slender waist and those spectacular curves below—to say nothing of her legs. In black stockings, yet! Gawd-hep-us . . .
“I beg your pardon, señor, but I have to tell chew somesing.”
“Yes?” Here it comes; the pitch for money—sex!—right here, in the lobby. What the hell sort of resort was this?
“Please know, this is in . . . eh . . . strict confidence, sí?”
Aha! Here it is—the pitch: the wind-up, the stretch -- and throw!
As hot as she was, Dave would not fall for her charms; he was taken, and happily so. Maybe it would be best just to cut her off now.
“Look, it’s . . . a very kind offer,” he tried. “And I appreciate your . . . uh . . . thoughtfulness, but I just—”
“¿Qué?” She looked confused.
“'Kay,” he returned, nailing the thing shut. “Thank you, but no. 'Kay?”
He nodded. “Yes, 'kay.” Then, more loudly, careful to mouth the words, “OH-KAY. No harm, no foul.”
“What the hell are chew talkin' about?”
Her sudden change startled him. Was this the usual response of a spurned call-girl in Mexico? Even a high-class hottie like this one?
“Look, all I meant was,” he tried, “I mean, what I'm trying to say is...”
“Now, hold on a minute, lady, you've got no call to—”
“Urrr! We have no time for thees. Chust listen, HO-KAY?”
She seemed to be mocking him now. She looked more like Cyndi Malach than ever, when she was angry. All David could do was blink at her.
“Chew and your esposita are in terrible danger, entiende?”
“Danger?” he asked. “From what?”
She looked him dead in the eye and said: “Muerto, señor. Here. Now.”
“Chew must leave—vamoose! Immediately. Both of chew.”
“Wait a sec . . .” He tried to stay cool but the maid was freaking him out. “You collar me here in the lobby to tell me that my wife and I are in danger of death? That’s what muerto means, right?”
“Ssssh, señor, please.”
“It's a joke, right? Leila put you up to this?” It would be just like her, he knew; always full of fun.
One last time, the maid glanced around to see if anyone was eavesdropping. Suddenly, Dave saw a look of horror—not fear or concern, but real horror—come into her eyes as a smaller man with dark features and slick, black hair approached.
“Very good, señor,” she said, brushing Dave's shoulder. “Chew look fine now, sí? OK, chew have a good day.”
But nothing—she was gone. Vamoosed.
And the dark man had arrived.
* * *
He was an odd, intense little fellow—but one Dave sensed he shouldn’t underestimate. He had a certain gliding, predatory quality about his small, lithe physique, like a panther. Possibly into martial arts? Dave wondered. Or ballet? Who knew?
To add to the mystery, Dave noted a brown, rectangular name tag on the breast pocket of the man's jacket, which read, insanely, “Your Concierge Sucks? CallUs!”
On closer inspection, Dave saw it was actually “Your Concierge, Suka Kollus.” Which was still kind of weird, if not actually insane. One thing was certain: this guy was pissed. And not merely “pissed,” but furious. His dark eyes flashed like sparks from an old Zippo lighter, his jaws clenched, and his entire physiognamy tensed, as if ready to pounce.
“Excuse me, señor,” he said, in a smooth, measured tone, “but I must speak with you.”
(Not another one. What was this, the male version?)
“Yeah?” Dave replied, with caution.
The man nodded in the direction of the vanished maid and said, “You must pay no attention to her, señor. She is . . . confused.”
“That makes two of us,” Dave said. “But there’s no problemo. She’s OK.”
“No, señor, she is not. It is most unfortunate, but I fear we will have to terminate her services today. It is not your fault.”
“She didn’t do anything, just brushed some lint off my shoulder. See, I came down to get some ice and—”
“I quite understand. Now, would you please accompany me and the porter back to your room? There is an important matter I wish to discuss with you.” He nodded now at the employee who loomed behind him. It had to be the tour guide’s twin––but an even larger version. This one had a forehead like the bumper on a '58 Buick, and teeth like rotting tombstones.
The porter had already lost interest in the conversation, and was glancing idly about, trying no doubt to see the recently departed maid.
“What is it now?” Dave asked. “My credit card? Something wrong with the room?”
“Mmm . . . in a manner of speaking, yes. Certain items the previous guests left in your room. Now, please, if you will just come with—oof! Careful, you idiot!” he spat at the porter. The giant had been craning his neck to see down the hallway and had leaned too far, bumping into Kollus’s back. The diminuitive concierge shoved him so hard in return the man nearly fell ass backwards.
“Eh, where was I?” Kollus continued. “Oh, yes, Señor Connors, if you will just come with us, perhaps we can find the missing items . . .”
Dave glanced at the empty ice bucket in his hand.
“I still haven't got my ice,” he said. "My girlf—I mean—my wife's going to be pissed."
“No, she will not, señor. The ice can wait. Now, please . . .”
Suddenly, Dave got a decidedly creepy, snakey vibe from the man, as if his dark, greasy little head had just oozed under his skin. “Suka Kollus” didn't really look Mexican, or Hispanic, but more Mediterranean or Middle Eastern. Whatever his nationality—and Dave honestly couldn't have cared less what the guy was—he was pissing him off now.
“I don't think so, Mr. . . . Kollus, is it?”
“Sí. It is very important, señor. Your wife is waiting. Please come with us.”
“Not today, Mr. Kollus. I'm going to get my ice, though now I'll have to go to the end of the line. And I'm keeping my wife even longer. So, if you and your pet gorilla would please just . . . bugger off?”
David put on a pleasant smile, leaned closer to him and said: “Leave me . . . the fuck . . . alone.” He glanced up at the porter, then back at the conceirge. “Now, por favor.”
The little man said nothing more, merely vibrated with repressed rage. He then turned and nodded for the porter to follow him. Which the giant did, but only after leering at Dave for half a beat.
“Pendejo,” Dave muttered. He wasn't sure what it meant, but he’d overheard a waiter say it to a rich gringo earlier, and thought it sounded insulting. He chuckled and tried to forget the strange encounters, plural, but with little success.
Once he'd refilled his bucket with ice, then copped a fruit juice from the vending area, he turned and paced back up the hall, around the corner and down another long, fragrant corridor to their suite. Maybe a third round of jungle sex with Leila would cheer him up. He was, he reflected, an incredibly lucky man. Leila was so beautiful, so sexy, yet so smart, thoughtful, and fun he sometimes thought he was too lucky to have met her, let alone be engaged to her.
He often caught himself waiting for the other existential shoe to drop, he was so happy. Surely, the cosmos couldn’t allow that, would make some redress in the balance—and in the most exquisitely cruel, vindictive way that only the cosmos could. But . . . no. Not today, at least. Today was Jungle Love #3 Day, and it would be just what the cosmos ordered.
It was with that happy thought that he continued back to the Love Nest.
* * *
So, naturally, when he got back to their room with the long-awaited ice and fruit drink, Leila wasn't there. Gone. Poof . . .
Back to the pool, no doubt. She'd probably grown tired of waiting for him and the ice bucket and gone looking elsewhere. He felt the tiniest twinge of jealousy mixed with concern: why would she leave without a room key? He had the only one.
Also, they were strangers here. Yes, it was an island resort, but it was still Mehico, land of banditos, drug cartels, and outlaws of all sorts. True, Leila was an intelligent, sophisticated woman, but still . . . the world was a weird and wacky place—Mexico especially. Or so it seemed, after his encounters with the maid and the concierge.
“Leila?” he called “I finally got the ice . . .”
No response. She must have gone to the pool, or perhaps the cantina. In a hurry, too, from the look of the place: clothing, hotel brochures, newspapers, the TV guide and other items were scattered everywhere.
(This isn’t like her, he thought. What was the big hurry? Maybe she's just pissed and refusing to answer.)
“Sugar, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to take so long. I got bushwacked by some maid, then a concierge with a giant, drooling porter, and the ice machine was . . .”
That was when it hit him, full-force. In the nose.
That horribly familiar, never-to-be-forgotten, rotten, reeking stink of blood, feces, garbage and death.
Coming from the bedroom.
Even before he dropped the bucket and drink and raced to the rear of the suite, he was already dreading what he knew he would find.
But find it, he did.