As I anticipated, she was nowhere to be seen when I greeted the new day. Greeted? Now there’s a punch-line for a new joke. Shortly after my shower, I found myself sitting on the balcony. Room service came in handy, bringing me a continental breakfast. I was taking a few days off, seeing how we finally caught our gal. Yeah, right, as if, as the young people would say.
I spent this time of consolation reflecting to everything that has occurred since the inception of my arrival. No place had ever lured me in with its inscrutability as this one has, the people, the history, the eloquence of its nature, the ocean and of course, the tourists, both alive and dead. There was still something gnawing at me. I carried extreme doubts about Celeste being a murderer, much less, a serial killer. She didn’t have the eyes for it. I knew what was going on. Knowing and proving are two different things. My longing to talk to her loomed large. Every town hides its past from the eyes of a stranger. I am that stranger. What is this town hiding from me?
I couldn’t help but recall the words Gomez spoke to me. Lie and live. The truth is death. And why did he agree with Hernando when he said that Emilio chose death? And the warning that Irene issued to me was not extracurricular. She meant it. She was serious. Why she said it and what she meant remained a conundrum. There seems to be, in my estimation, more than just a serial killer on the loose. I have now concluded that surreptitiousness surrounds San Felipe and its people. If I may be so bold, I don’t think I want to know what those underhanded shadows are. I may not have any say in the matter. I’m beginning to think that everything in San Felipe is tied together, like one big knot. Wouldn’t that be a kick in the ass?
And then there she is, living in the depths of my unrest. Jude, Isabella, Elsa and Iris. A multitude of scientific research studies rolled up into one person. How many psychologists would love to get their hands on her? And not just for her screwed up mental state either. There would be many men lined up to take the beating she hands out with just a passing, flirtatious smile. A vixen of absolute trouble to the highest level of ominous one can possibly reach. Even her innocence is menacing. And yet, all are willing to sacrifice themselves on her alter of benevolence. Just as I have.
A knock coming from the door brought me back to relevance. It was Gomez. He helped himself inside, spotting me relaxing. “Oh, there you are, señor Parks.” He carried something in his hand, an envelope, the big yellow kind. “Hernando wanted me to give this to you.”
I took it from him as I remained sitting. “What is it?” I asked.
“I don’t know señor, I didn’t open it.”
I could tell he was giving the remains of my morning feast some serious attention. “Help yourself.” I said, opening up the package and pulling out some papers. I shook my head in aggravation. “What the hell is he doing?” Gomez looked up, but said nothing while he placed a strawberry into his mouth. “He knows I can’t read Spanish, damn it. What is he up to?”
“Want me to translate?” He offered. I handed it over to him. What other option did I have? I gave him a few moments to digest it. “Well, what does it say?”
“Oh, sorry señor.” He apologized. “It just says that they searched Celeste’s home and found more evidence connecting her to the murders of the American gringos.”
“Gringo’s?” I interrupted. “He actually used that word?”
Gomez leaned over to show me, pointing it out. “Right here, señor.”
“Isn’t gringo an offensive word for an English speaking foreigner?”
“It was the last time I checked, señor Parks.”
I sighed somewhat comically. “I guess I had it coming. I did call him a taco son of a bitch.” I motioned for his continuance. “Go on, Gomez, what else does it say?”
“Well, they are going to file the official charges tomorrow after their interrogation, and the next day or the day after you can interview her.”
“That’s it?” I was seeking for finalization. I leaned over and pointed at some more chicken scratches. “What’s all this shit right here?”
“That’s just Celeste’s address, señor.”
“Really? Where does she live?” As this was somewhat prudent for my hunch that she was not the one I was after. Her living arrangements could help tip the scale for me. Gomez dizzied my perceptions with a bombshell of sorts.
“You should know, señor Parks. You were there.”
“Weren’t you with Hernando the night Irene went bezerk again?”
“Yes.” I was drawn deeper into his ensuing sentence.
“She used to live with Irene when they both worked at the hospital together. When Irene lost her job, Celeste moved a few houses down on the same street.”
“You don’t say?” I murmured, getting to my feet and walking to the railing.
“I do say, señor Parks. Celeste couldn’t stand living with her anymore because of the gun show Irene puts on every time she starts drinking. I told you, tequila is one bad mother.”
I nodded in satisfaction. My suspicions were now sprouting. My inquisitive gut was calling out to me once again. Oh, how I now wanted to talk to Celeste more than anything. I had a feeling she held the key to unlock that gate guarding all the secrets lurking within cold stones and wilted flowers. I snapped out of my trance to gather up my itinerary for the day. I headed for the door, reaching down and giving my friend a congratulatory pat on the back along the way. “Thanks, Gomez.”
“You’re welcome. Where you going, señor Parks?”
“To the market district.”
“You need me to drive you?”
“Not this time buddy, I am giving you a day off. I’ll take a taxi.”
I got to the door and opened it to make my exit when he called out. “You sure do a lot of shopping, señor Parks.”
“That I do, my friend. That I do.”
Gomez stared down at the table of food and began picking through it. “Even though I never see you with any packages.”
The cab came to a halt. I handed over from the back seat, payment for the ride. “Thanks.” I went to get out.
“Yeah, and a gracias to you too.” I replied, closing the door and making my leave. I didn’t get halfway to my destination when in the middle of the human congestion she locked her arms up to mine from behind, just as merrily as could be. “Allow me to introduce myself, I am Catalina, and I will be your guide for the day and your lover for when the night falls.”
I couldn’t refrain from laughing. “Hello Catalina, nice to meet you. What’s on the agenda for this afternoon?”
She tossed her head back and gave out a shout of glee. “Gazpacho with shrimp for lunch, followed by sex on the beach under the sun, capped with Plantain Empanadas with Chipotle-peanut sauce for dinner, dancing and endless love making under the moon and stars, where I reveal all of my treasures to you.”
I liked the sound of that. “Catalina,” I whistled. “I think I love you.”
She stopped suddenly and latched around me. “And I simply adore you, Lancaster Parks. So much so, I love you more than the weight of all the stars in the sky.” And my heart died on the spot. Did she just say? … Yes! She did! I pulled her into me, bringing my lips to hers. When we came back up for air, I smiled. “You are a treasure all by yourself.”
“My universe is yours to explore.” She whispered. “Land on the right planet, and sovereignty will know you.”
How could I argue with that? She held true to her word. It was lunch at a café where we sat outside, admiring the view of the sea. Then we were off, walking all the way to an isolated spot on the beach where every touch sent me to places I have never before ventured. Dinner and dancing followed. The smell of her skin tickled my senses. Her hair, soft as feathers, her caresses soothing the inner beast of my intentness, and as the last song came to an end, she whispered into my ear. “Touch once, touch twice.” That was my cue to pay the bill and vamoose, holding her hand all the while as we scampered down the street to our dark hideaway.
She lit the candles ritually. I watched from the bed. Her body glistened from the flicker of each flame. No girl should look so beautiful naked. She did. She exceeded every mans dreams. She exceeded mine. She turned around to face me. Her perky little breasts watching my every move. “La puerta a de mi panteón está abierta.” She softly announced, walking closer to me, and sliding like a serpent onto the bed. She knew I didn’t understand what she said. She did not leave me wanting. She brought me closer to her and repeated it in English, just as seductively as she always does. “The gate to my graveyard is open.” A razor sharp dagger cascaded through her laughter, her voice echoed through the breeze. Like a museum of fear and a portrait of pain, she scours atop of my trees. Her voice echoes.
Our movements were in sync. Her moans traveled lightly in the semi-darkness. Our shadows cast on the walls what our bodies were immolating under the sheets. The smell of her womanhood penetrated my nostrils like a variety of spices in a gourmet dish. Two bodies merging together, melting into one. “Dame gloria.” She passionately cried. While I don’t understand a word of Spanish, for some unknown reason, I understood this remark as if she had spoken it in English. She said, give me glory.
Hours later, I cradled her in my arms, stroking her hair gently while she slept. The release of endorphins was just too much for me to consume. In some kind of hypnotic trance, I uttered a sacred vow of enlightenment to myself, beyond reach of her acceptance. “I am yours … forever.” I leaned slightly to kiss her on the forehead.
Glory is given to only the fools.
The following morning, I awoke. The same results as times before. She was gone. I slowly lifted myself out of the bed and gathered up my clothes. One candle remained lit. I have grown accustomed to seeing in the dark, just like her. Just like a cat. I walked outside, the light was hurting my eyes. It took a few moments for them to adjust. When they did, he was there. “The American vampire has surfaced, I see.” It was the painter.
“You get around, don’t you?”
He sat before his easel and canvas, applying the oils in quest of completing my commissioned piece. “What is it you seek this fine morning, wisdom or absolution?” He responded.
“Both.” I mumbled, moving to get a better view of his work. “That’s turning out nicely.” I complimented.
“The seeker of both is a greedy whale. Be careful of the harpoons from the fishermen of Haiti’s.”
His vocabulary is as strange as this whole God-fearing town. My comfort ability with all of this twaddle was eerie. “Where is she?” I asked him, having that feeling he would know who, and what I was referring to.
He let out a chilling laugh. “She left to go play with her timidity.”
“How did I know you were going to say that?” I joked.
He smiled, keeping his eyes on the canvas before him. “You are wise within your years, my friend, very wise. May the fate of Saturn be your reward.”
I should have figured as much, more mumbo jumbo. I shook my head and grinned. “Swell.” I turned around to walk down the street of vendors and customers. I didn’t get twenty feet when I had this feeling. Acting on it, I turned to look back at him. He was nowhere to be seen. “They have to be related.” I garbled.
I took it upon myself to take a cab down to the station. I was going to try my luck at finding out more about my dead witness, but the place was empty. Not a soul. I found this to be quite peculiar. Looking towards Hernandez’s office, the door was slightly ajar. I slipped my head inside and took a look around. He was nowhere to be seen. I looked to the far corner and saw a file cabinet. Out of sheer curiosity, I walked to it carefully. I knew if I was spotted that I would have a lot of explaining to do. I opened the cabinet drawer and began fumbling through the files. They had names on them. I fingered my way to the name that stood out the most, Emilio Santana. I lifted the folder out and opened it. It was his rap sheet. There were many pages to it. I couldn’t translate the language, but I knew just from glancing it over, he had a history with breaking the law. “So,” I uttered softly to my lonesome, “you were a career criminal, Emilio, nice to know.” I concluded, placing the file back inside the drawer and closing it. I carefully made my way out of the building.
The rest of the day was spent taking a shower back in my room. I toiled sparingly with thoughts of her. Even shaving my face took what seemed like hours. I was functioning in slow-motion, drifting from one menial cosmetic task to the other. I nibbled on my dinner, having skipped lunch. I was beside myself in seclusion. Nothing was registering in my brain. I couldn’t climb this mountain that is her ambience. Where is she always running off to? Should I confront her with it or let sleeping dogs lay?
Not knowing why, and really, not caring at the same time, I walked out of the hotel and to the street where I summoned a waiting taxi. Since I had no idea what the road or place was called, I merely directed from the back seat. When I arrived, I handed him his money and got out. “You sure you want to be here, señor?” The driver questioned.
I leaned into the passenger window. “I’m sure. Thanks.”
He shrugged his shoulders and took off. I turned around to look out at the rocks. This was where we went on our first date. Not that it was a date, but close enough to a date for me. I walked to our rock and sat down.
The sun was beginning to fade. I didn’t care. I just wanted answers to so many questions that I was afraid to ask. It was the most peaceful I have ever felt. I just wanted to give myself an opportunity to collect my scatter.
“You know me better than you think.” Her voice sounding as musical as it always does. I didn’t even turn to look at her. I just sat there waiting, waiting for her to wrap me up like a quilt during a winter storm. She didn’t disappoint. “The sea is the land of the forgotten.” She whispered in my ear before planting a kiss on it.
“You are a pirate.” I whispered back.
She flung herself around and let out a giggle while clinging to my neck. “Arrr matey, your valuables or your life?” She mused.
“I have neither to give anymore.” I crackled.
“Poor Lancaster Parks.” She pandered. “Always seeking fortitude in a jungle of ideas and restitution. When will he ever learn?”
I swallowed her with my arms. “And who might we be today?” I asked.
“The day has passed like a rainbow.” She stipulated, “It is time for knights to shine their armor. And I am Lucinda, Sir Yankee.”
“Well then, Lucinda, have I told you today that I love you?”
She gave the impression of discerning herself on the topic. “No, as a matter of fact, you haven’t.”
“Well, I do.” I assured her convincingly with a light peck on her nose. “I love you more than those knights love to battle.”
“I have another gift for you, my darling.” Her whimsical attitude persisted. “You have to come inside to find it.”
I looked all around us. “Inside where? I don’t see any shelter.”
She maneuvered herself onto my lap, reaching her hands down to my zipper, she began to undo them. “Inside of me.” She clearly spelled out.
My invasion of her body was made less complex by the fact that along with her never wearing shoes, she never wore panties beneath those silk dresses of hers. And invade I did. My regrets would have to wait for later. I have a more important job at hand, freeing her of the dragon king. I quelled relentlessly for her approval and deliverance.
The night never lasts as long as the day.
I could feel a shadow presence laboring over top of me. When I opened my eyes, I was quite surprised to say the least. “Gomez?”
“Good morning, señor. I hope I didn’t wake you. You looked so serene. How can you sleep on such a hard surface?”
I lifted up. “What are you … How did you know I was here?”
“A buddy of mine is a taxi driver. He was talking about a fare who asked to be brought out here to the middle of nowhere. I took a guess and figured it was you.”
“Am I that transparent?”
“Not really.” He answered, offering a helping hand, “but you are loco.”
I got to my feet. And just as I was surprised to see him, I wasn’t too shocked to see that she was nowhere to be seen. “I am loco, aren’t I?”
We began heading to his car, the rust bucket on wheels. “It’s okay. I have a cousin who isn’t in control of his faculties either. I can deal with it.”
“You’re a good man, Gomez, a good man.”
“That’s what my mother keeps telling me.”
As we got into the car, I extended my friendship to him even further. “Want to go get something to eat? I’m buying.”
He turned the key to start the engine. “I don’t have to put out, do I?”
I laughed. “What?”
“Just curious. I don’t look good in dresses.”
“Drive.” I chuckled at his humorous disposition.