One of the men detached himself from the group and said, “Let me show you lovely ladies to your rooms.”
“Why all this cloak and dagger stuff,” I asked Annabel quietly as we were led to our accommodation.
“These are very secretive people,” she replied.
Annabell and I followed as our guide chaperoned us through the house, and down a tiled corridor, the atmosphere within feeling cool and comfortable after the heat outside. We followed, and when he opened a door and motioned me to enter a beautifully decorated bedroom I did so.
“You’ll find a few things in the closet here. A dress or two, a swim suit and a selection of shoes and things. Feel free to make use of anything you may find.” He smiled with courteous respect and as I sat on the bed the door closed as he left.
The room was ornately decorated with artistic good taste. A large window looked out onto a well manicured lawn. The bright walls, a subtle white lemon color gave a sense of spacious warmth, and small details made the room feel spacious and comfortable. There was a little alcove in the wall with a sculpture in it. Fresh flowers stood in a crystal vase on a coffee table, and against one was was an extensive dressing table. Photographic prints adorned the walls, a mixture of black and white desert landscapes and figure shots with a mildly erotic theme.
I found the bathroom and had a quick shower to remove the dust of the journey. It felt wonderful after the long spell travelling.
Toweling myself down I was about to go and find Annabel when there was a knock at the door and it gingerly opened a little.
“Hello, miss?” came a voice.
“Oh, come in,” I said holding the towel up against myself.
“It’s me, Manuel. I’ve brought your bag.”
The door entered and a short swarthy man entered. He looked almost like a cartoon version of a Mexican character, with an enormous moustache, tight pants and a white shirt flamboyantly open to the waist. He carried my bag and I could see he’d left Annabel’s in the corridor.
“Come on in,” I said wrapping the towel tightly around myself. “Just leave it on the bed.”
I turned and walked to the dressing table. I was about to sit down to brush my hair when I felt his hands on my shoulders.
“You are a pretty thing,” he said, his breath on my neck.
I felt myself being pushed forward and leaned against the dressing table, seeing his face reflected in the mirror over my shoulder. I did my best to keep calm. This wasn’t the kind of attention I wanted just at the moment.
“Goodness, Manuel,” I said forcing a laugh. “You’re a little forward.”
“Oh, don’t pretend you don’t like it,” he said gyrating against my body.
“Why, I think you should wait a moment. I’ve barely got myself showered,” I said trying to stall his attention.
“Oh, but you look ready to me,” he replied, pressing himself against me, his knee forcing itself between my legs. I parted them a little and pushed slightly back against him.
“Is that a gun in your pocket, Manuel, or..” I was about to say ‘are you pleased to see me,’ but checked myself. “Oh,” I said a little distracted. “That is a gun in your pocket, isn’t it?”
He took an intake of breath and was about to say something when a voice called from down the corridor.
“Manuel? Manuel! You lazy bastard where are you?” came the voice. I recognized it as one of the men from the porch.
Immediately Manuel pulled back and hurriedly straightened his clothes. “Later, little one,” he said, which I felt was a little rich considering I was a good six inched taller than he.
I turned and as he hurried toward the door I said, “I can hardly wait.”
I flashed him a teasing smile as he hurried out into the corridor. As the door closed quietly behind him I wondered what on earth was expected of me here. I decided I should find Annabel and figure out exactly what the ground rules were.
We’d bought a couple of changes of underwear and some plain tee shirts and jeans while in Dallas. It’s always wise to keep things simple and travel light, I’d decided. Before putting on the new clothes I had a quick look in the closet. There I found a one piece swim suit, a few gowns and some sandals. Clearly these were people who knew what they liked.
I decided the one piece swimsuit and a dressing gown would be a good choice. Perhaps I could find the pool. After toweling myself dry I brushed my hair thoroughly, enjoying the sensations as I sat quietly in my room. There was a tranquility to this place. A haven in a desert. Perhaps I’d do a little yoga later.
After putting on a little make up, and a bright red lipstick, the scarlet seeming to jump out among all the gentle hues with which I was surrounded I slipped on some sandals and then, with a towel over my arm, I stepped out into the corridor and walked down to the door beside mine. I knocked gently and hearing no reply pressed it open quietly, hoping to find Annabel within.
That was a mistake.
In front of me, my entry having gone unheard, was a man with his back to me, and another on his knees, his hands tied behind his back.
“This is your last chance,” said the man with his back to me. “I’m not kidding, Gino.”
I heard the sound of a 44 being cocked.
The man on his knees, evidently named Gino, struggled to say something, but I could tell from where I stood he must have had something in his mouth. In other circumstances it could almost have been funny, but I realized the poor man had a 44 pushed into his open mouth and was staring at his interrogator.
Or at least he was for a moment. I watched as he caught sight of me, and an expression of puzzlement crossed his face. Well, it would. After all, here he was about to have his head blown off, and in walks a girl wearing a swimsuit about to ask if anyone knows the way to the pool.
For a brief moment time stood still. In that lapse of timing I reached across to the ornate table beside me, picked up a sculpture that stood about 24 inches high, then swung it handily at the back of the man’s head. It just seemed the right thing to do in the circumstances.
Recognizing the look on his victims face and seeing the puzzled expression, the man before me turned just as the sculpture made contact squarely and forcefully with the bridge of his nose. He turned, blood erupting from his wound and spraying across the spotless wall and white carpet. That was going to be hell to get out, I thought. He collapsed to the floor as soundly as if I’d nailed him with a sledge hammer, blood streaming from his massively broken nose and spreading in a growing bloom across the floor.
He remained there, dead to the world.
I stared at the man on his knees who stared back at me, apparently as surprised as I was myself. I suppose it seems a little odd, what happened next.
“Hello,” I said replacing the statue neatly on the table.
“Jesus!” he replied breathlessly.
“No,” I said. “Andrea.”
“God almighty, you people cut it a bit bloody fine! Is Annabel with you?”
I was confused by this, but thought it best to do as my mother always told me and tell the truth.
“Yes,” I replied.
“How did you… Wait. Get me untied. We need to get out of here.”
With that I slipped around behind him and undid the rope that bound his hands. He wrung them and shook them before stooping to pick up the 44 that had so recently been about to rearrange his face.
“We’d better get Annabel. This place is going to go to shit in about an hour and we don’t need to be here,” said the man.
“I think she’s in one of these rooms,” I replied motioning toward the other rooms down the corridor.
He hurried out into the corridor and started opening doors checking rooms. The second one he opened proved correct and he closed it behind me as I entered. Annabel stood before us, pulling up her jeans.
“Oh,” said Annabel, caught by surprise. “You might have knocked.”
“You girls left it a bit close, didn’t you?” said Gino.
“We just got here. How come you and Andrea…” asked Annabel.
“I just sort of stumbled into him,” I said. “Can you tell me what the hell is going on?”
Gino cut in, “We better hurry, Andrea brained one of the boys with a statue. He’s out cold for now, but he’s not likely to stay that way for long.”
Annabel looked at me with what I recognized was new respect.
“Way to go, Andrea,” she said. “And nice swimsuit!”
I tried one more time. “Can someone tell me what the hell is going on?”