As The Sun Sets

By Andy Betz

“He is unconscious. You weren’t supposed to hit him that hard. We needed him awake!”

I had no intention of knocking out Felix, but I was not going to look at that conniving smirk for one more second without him paying for his deeds. The television sets in this motel room have a homemade receiver that is wired with explosives. We all believed Felix when he told us because he wanted all of us to know. In doing so, the three TVs receive a beach scene of a person staked to the sand, struggling to get free. Felix told us that they were chained to a piece of cast iron in excess of 400 pounds in weight. They could not free themselves if they wanted.

“Henry, listen to me. How are we going to find them? Felix may not recover in time, thanks to you, without telling us where on the beach they are. Hell, we don’t even know if they are on the same beach or even on the same island. How are we going to find them?”

I sit on the edge of the bed watching three random people, laying on their backs, feet closest to the shore, head closest to the surf, chained at both hands and feet. The tide is coming in. The water is getting closer to their heads and they will drown today. I can see the mother screaming for help to no avail. The young man of twenty or so struggles so much the shackles are tearing into his skin. The young girl of ten whimpers and cries.

“Phil, get Felix to the paramedic and authorize any injection that will wake him up. I give the OK.” Phil follows orders to the letter. He always has.

I turn to watch the TVs. The bomb squad suggested I leave, but I can’t. They are working on the box and checking the sets for secondary explosives. It is painstakingly slow work. These three do not have the time for caution today. Neither do I.

“Techs, it is time to go. Leave your tools and close the door behind you. No one is allowed to enter this room. That is an order.”

Demolition guys have a funny way of looking at each other once someone says something unusual as if the other guys could either overrule my command or confirm my sanity. I gave them their second to consult before I yelled, “NOW!”

Room 134 now has one man (me) who can rescue three people. I can see the C4 packed in the first TV. It is more than enough to blow the entire wing of rooms. Why bother checking for more?

The water now reaches the mother’s head. We found Felix with her purse so the ID was easy. Her situation is not. Her only daughter is Emily. A pretty name, Emily. Three syllables. I can lip read her speaking this one word (previously, she was shouting it).

Mother is now battling the waves to breathe.

The young man is in the best shape of the three. The surf is close, but not close enough to get him wet. He is still yelling so his voice can carry. If I had to prioritize the search, he would be last.

The young girl is a different story. Her long hair moves effortlessly back and forth with the incoming surf. She is scared and crying. The camera on her casts a shadow across her head so she doesn’t have to squint in the sunlight.

That is her only salvation.

Another few minutes pass by. I leave the TVs alone and re-search the room for any clues, something missed, something overlooked. If I turn to check their progress, I will become mesmerized. I cannot afford this luxury.

They cannot afford this luxury.

I tossed the mattresses and peeled the loose wallpaper with no success.

It has cost me time.

I have to turn and look, for it may be the last time I do so.

Mother’s breathing is troubled. Her eyes are closed. The water rushes in above her head. It is only when the water rushes back that she can take a breath.

Mother knows where the camera is and that it is watching her.

She doesn’t use her last breath to beg or shout. Mother uses her last breath to open her eyes, look at the camera, and give in.

I saw her inhale while underwater. Three more waves hit the beach before her head followed suit, bobbing as drift wood with the current.

Her camera films nothing else.

The young man fights. He arches his back to create buoyancy where there is none. He must not know the full extent of his demise. His must have always been a struggle. It is his way.  His chest has the scars of gunfire and knife wounds. No tattoos on his bare chest. My guess, a boy scout or an athlete from a rough neighborhood. Someone trained in fighting. Someone who had someone to fight for.

His death is a death only delayed by his struggle.

The young girl lays peacefully, almost asleep, almost in a trance. I cannot tell if she is still alive or not. She doesn’t move. She offers nothing to the intended viewing audience of this production. This defiance is rare in most individuals, exceptional in one as young as she. Even as the water covers her face, permanently, she offers no victory to Felix, keeping absolutely stoic, no victory to the select others intended to find a perverse pleasure in the suffering of the weak.

The problem is, she wasn’t weak.

All three died as planned. Their deaths, designed as entertainment, now become evidence, then the contents of a box in an evidence locker for all eternity.

I leave the TVs and receivers on for the bomb tech guys.

My partner, Phil, has Felix in a wheelchair, handcuffed, and chained across his chest. The press cannot record what happens next because we never notified them of the case.

Felix and his hobby was hush-hush from the get-go.

“So Detective Henry, did you say your goodbyes to them?”

That smirk, albeit bloodied and bruised, would encounter an equally perverse response soon.

Very soon.

“No Felix, who said it was goodbye? I found the broadcast source and radioed into command. They have been searching all night and located all three in time. In time, each will recover.”

“Hey Detective Henry, I wore a mask and gloves, what makes you so sure they can testify against me at trial?

“Hey Felix, what makes you so sure there will be a trial?”

My partner is an avid fan of surfing. He can always find an out-of-the-way beach for some fun and games and I am a big fan of sunsets.

Correction, make that a fan of just one more sunset.

Bio: Andy Betz has tutored and taught in excess of 40 years. He lives in 1974, and has been married for 29 years. His works are found everywhere a search engine operates. Andy has written many great things that have been posted to The Yard: Crime Blog. He has written “If I Ask Your Opinion”,  “Oleander“, “Senny” in collaboration with Dounia Saunders, “Et tu”, “The Less You Have, The More It Hurts To Lose It“, “How My New Life Began“, “I Knew Her as Tigist“, and  “Water“, which was written by Jaysa Brown, in collaboration with Andy. “In Loving Memory of Sherry Lewis” is a collaboration in which Andy Betz edited and Dennette Bender (Russell) wrote.

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Publishing Editor for The Yard: Crime Blog.

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