Sandy is a Spider is a novelette of eight chapters, posted over eight week days -- by me, your tired but inspired host, Cheeseburger Brown.
If you have a television, you may have noticed recent advertisements for a horror movie about creepy little blue children who frighten people. The other evening my wife said, "I always turn away so I don't get horror movie images in my head right before bed."
"Oh yeah?" I said with friendly indifference, watching the little blue people. I didn't think much of them.
Until I woke up the middle of the night, possessed of a chilling certainty that something or someone had just brushed past by foot dangling over the end of the bed. Unbidden, the scary blue children popped into my head. I tried to chase the thought away but it was sticky.
Then something brushed my foot again.
I heard no cats and smelled no dog. I decided that in order to get back to sleep I would be obliged to sit up and peer over the foot of the bed in order to reassure my miscreant imagination that there were no unholy blue children crouching there.
So I did. I sat up. In the darkness I pushed my head close to the foot of the bed, straining my eyes against the dark.
And a little face was there.
I screamed like a schoolgirl. It was, of course, my daughter. "I got only all by myself so I decided to come sleep on Mama and Papa's floor so I wouldn't be only anymore," she explained, fluffing her pillow. My heart-rate eventually returned to normal.
So, chalk one more up for my wife: no watching horror movie trailers before bed.
And now, today's chapter:
Sandy's name wasn't Sandy. Sandy had been her sister. But Sandy would not utter her own name until her mission was complete, so she did not bother to correct Lorenzo as they ordered drinks in the Ensenada de Arcos Iris' main pavilion lounge. They sat on tall stools beside the wide, rain spattered windows. "This one is on the house, Sandy, hokay?" said Lorenzo, motioning her hand away from signing for the tab.
"You don't need to butter me up, Lo," said Sandy. "You've already done your part. I don't have any complaints."
"So let me buy jou a drink anyway. Maybe yust because I'm impressed. Maybe yust because I wish I had the cohones to even think about doing something crazy like that."
"You think I'm crazy?"
Lorenzo preened his mustache craftily. "Anyone who does anything out of the ordinary is crazy. I'm fugging crazy, jou're fugging crazy. Those guys you got, they're fugging crazy, too. Otherwise they'd make a living like regular peoples. So let me buy jou a drink, lady -- one crazy to another, jou know?"
"Very well," said Sandy.
Lorenzo held out his glass and Sandy tinked hers against it. "Here's to being fugging crazy," he said, and drained his drink.
Sandy emptied her glass as well and slammed it down on the bar dramatically. For the first time in weeks she felt like herself, safe to regain her confident posture and to wear her comfortably careless clothes -- faded khaki slacks and a well-worn sweater. She pressed out her cigarette in a glass ashtray. "Well, that's it. I'm going home. The federales are on their way?"
"I can call Inspector Herrera again, if jou want."
"No, that's fine. I'm sure they'll be here soon enough. And I should get moving before my flight gets cancelled by the hurricane." She slipped off her stool, put a canvas bag over her shoulder, and picked up the lead of a single wheeled suitcase with a typewriter case strapped to its top.
Lorenzo brushed the arms of his white suit meticulously, then looked up at Sandy and regarded her significantly. He opened his mouth but said nothing.
Sandy smiled. Lorenzo smiled back.
She reached into her canvas bag and pulled out a manilla envelope. Lorenzo took it courteously, blew open the end with a suave cough and peered inside without removing the contents.
"The negatives are in there, too," said Sandy.
"Very well," agreed Lorenzo, closing the envelope. He walked over to the lounge's fireplace and placed the envelope gingerly in the hearth. Then he straightened, put his hands behind his back, and rocked back and forth on his heels as he watched it burn.
"Thank you for your cooperation in this matter," said Sandy gravely.
"Right back at jou," said Lorenzo with a sly wink. "...Sandy."
Sandy's taxi to Cancun was waiting for her under the portico beyond the lobby, a lime-green Volkswagen Beetle with checkered doors. The driver put her suitcase under the hood and Sandy tossed her canvas bag into the backseat. He gunned the cheerfully popping engine and the car emerged into an opaque grey deluge of rain.
Crawling along Arcos Iris' curving driveway they passed four police cruisers and two black cars. Sandy craned her head to watch them proceed to the hotel. "Thank you, Inspector Herrera," she whispered.
"Que?" said the driver, leaning in close to the windshield in hope of a better view.
Fifteen minutes later they came to a screeching halt just shy of a tangle of twisted vehicles on the coastal highway -- a pickup truck, a microbus, and two Beetles. The truck had been full of people standing in the tailgate and now they were spread across the road. The top of one of the Beetles appeared to have been torn off, along with pieces of its occupants. The fierce rain diluted red pools of blood into pink puddles.
Sandy screamed, and so did the driver.
A tall palm ripped from its roots and crashed down into the middle of the scene, leaves shredding off into the wind. Clots of dirt spattered against Sandy's taxicab, and the driver screamed again. "Hesus Dolce! I'm sorry senorita, but I'm going back to the hotel, hokay hokay?"
They turned around, passing an ambulance on their way back west. They buzzed back to the driveway of Arcos Iris and entered a maelstrom of rain, mud and small objects buffeting the car from all direction, disorienting the driver and causing him to rear-end one of the police cruisers parked in front of the main pavilion. "Hesus Dolce!"
Smashed pieces of plastic flew into the air and were instantly torn away laterally by a gust. A chair with a floral print cushion tumbled through the portico next, knocking over a soaking federale.
Sandy jumped out of the Beetle. The hood was crushed -- her luggage jammed within.
"Get the fug inside!" bellowed Lorenzo, grabbing her arm.
"There are people hurt out there!" she yelled, stumbling into the lobby. There was crowd of frightened guests gathered there and they collectively screeched as one of the tall windows overlooking the interior of the resort was shattered by a flying fibreglass statue of Yum Caax.
"Welcome to Mexico," grumbled Lorenzo darkly, hauling Sandy to her feet.
At the tail of another influx of terrified guests came a cadre of federales marching tightly around Ryan, Wendell and Juan, who were sopping and handcuffed. A rotund, red-faced man in a brown suit strode over to Lorenzo. "What's the most structurally sound building in the complex?"
"Jou're in it, Inspector," said Lorenzo.
Just then the eastern edge of the ceiling crumbled with a grating, ripping sound, exposing racing clouds and a sky filled with flying objects. A bale of thatched grass burst apart, raining down into the lobby. People fled toward the outer walls, falling over one another on the suddenly rainslick floor.
Sandy spotted Jules kneeling on the floor next to Kate. "What happened?" she yelled over the din.
"I think I broke my leg," said Kate, wincing.
Sandy helped Jules pick his young wife up and then ushered them both into the shelter of an alcove by the front desk. She was about to run back toward Lorenzo when the roof above her peeled open with a roar, a trunk of two old crossed palms looming over her as they tumbled.
"Sandy!" yelled Lorenzo.
She was suddenly propelled sideways by a harsh force on her right side, then knocked roughly to the floor to slide up against a wall. A display of day-trip brochures broke loose and fell on her, releasing a flurry of glossy full-colour spreads through the lobby.
The trees struck the floor with a bone-shaking double thud.
Sandy looked up. Ryan was on the ground beside her, breathing hard. He had pushed her clear. He had saved her life.
They exchanged a long look a split second before the federales caught up with the action, jumping over the broken, fallen palms in the middle of the lobby and clustering around Ryan. They jerked him roughly to his feet and dragged him away. One of the officers dropped down one knee and tossed the brochure display box off Sandy. "Senorita?"
"I'm okay," she said, staring after Ryan.
The guests remained huddled there in the much abused lobby of Ensenada de Arcos Iris Villas & Resort for another half hour as the winds gradually diminished and the rain ceased to fall like sheets of bullets. The storm was moving up the coast, carrying on its ball of destruction in more westerly locales. The federales radioed for an ambulance for Kate Cuthbertson, then loaded the shackled prisoners into the cruisers and sped away, lights flashing. After that the only sound was dripping water and the panicked breathing of a woman with an anxiety disorder whose puffer was empty.
"Well," said Lorenzo sadly, surveying the lobby as he played with his mustache. "I'm totally fugged."
Sandy patted him on the shoulder of his stained and frayed white suit. "Take heart, Lo. You're crazy. You'll figure something out."
"Yeah, jou're right," he sighed. "Crazy to build a resort where fugging hurricanes come. Hey, Senor Coriander, where's your club at, mang?"
The old man with shoots of white hair in his ears was sitting with a small group of seniors drying themselves off with little sauna towels. "Eh? Toronto, Lo."
"Do jou get any hurricanes hup there?"
"Never," said the old man.
"Thas it," declared Lorenzo, raising his chin. "I'm moving to Toronto on fugging Monday, mang."