The Calm After the Storm: part 1
Never trust the calm...
“More trouble for Patrick Owens today. Despite the recent collapse of his company Midas Motors, the embattled millionaire was in high spirits as he boarded a yacht to a private island resort this morning…”
“Turn that off!”
Spencer sighed, muting his phone. How did he end up in this mess? He never wanted to be a businessman. He wanted to study art, but art school wasn’t in the cards for him. Stupid waste of time and money, his father called it. Not only did the old man refuse to fund Spencer’s tuition, he threatened to cut him off if he went down that path on his own. So he begrudgingly followed the old man to Midas Motors.
He wasn’t cut out for the job, but he still tried to turn the company around. He wanted to modernize the company… create more sustainable products, improve factory conditions, and give the employees better wages. But he met resistance at every turn. The old man thought that money was better spent on vanity projects, flashy marketing campaigns, and kickbacks for his wealthy buddies. Nobody ever got anywhere with the board of directors either. Every decision ended in a hopeless stalemate; half of them sided with Spencer, the other half with Patrick.
Unable to reach an agreement, father and son each spent the money on his own priorities until the funds dried up. Now it was all gone… the company bankrupt, factories and dealerships shuttered, thousands of people without jobs. The fallout uncovered OSHA violations going back years, and there were rumors of possible criminal charges against Patrick. Embezzlement, insider trading… The old man was going away for a long time when all was said and done, and Spencer was probably going down with him.
That was why the old man insisted on this little vacation. Whatever money they didn’t lose to bankruptcy and fines would be gone when the inevitable lawsuits came. “The more we spend now, the less they can take from us later,” he had said.
An ominous rumble distracted Spencer from his thoughts, and he glanced at the quickly darkening sky just as a raindrop landed on his face. A coming storm… how appropriate, he thought.
“Can’t this tub go any faster? I’d like to get there sometime today!” Patrick shouted at the captain.
The engine roared as the boat sped forward, and Spencer had to grab hold of the rail to keep from falling. Craggy rocks jutted out of the water, peppering the way ahead. One of them loomed dangerously close, but the boat swerved at the last second.
“What are you, blind? Watch the rocks, you idiot!” Patrick yelled, holding on to Spencer’s arm for balance.
“This is why they should never let a woman be captain,” he mumbled.
Spencer scoffed, leading the old man away. “Come on, Dad. We can ride out the storm below decks.”
The walk from the dock to the hotel was an ordeal, but not for the reason Spencer thought it would be. Surprisingly, the island showed no signs of damage from the storm, not so much as a downed palm leaf or scrap of driftwood littering the beach. Sunlight glinted off the sea, bathing the white sandy beach in a warm golden glow. If only the company were as pleasant as the scenery, Spencer thought.
He adjusted his grip on a suitcase that threatened to slip out of his hand, allowing the old man’s complaints to go in one ear and out the other.
“I can’t believe they didn’t have someone waiting for us! I requested an escort weeks ago. Mark my words, somebody’s getting fired over this! How the hell do they expect us to carry all this stuff ourselves?”
“Maybe it wouldn’t be such a problem if you’d packed lighter.”
Spencer shivered against the blast of cold air that hit him as he stepped into the hotel, a stark contrast to the tropical weather outside. The lobby was deserted except for an elderly woman sitting behind the front desk. She was pale and wrinkled with white hair tied up in a bun and dull, unmoving eyes. The woman sat so still that Spencer would’ve thought she was dead until she spoke. “May I help you?”
Patrick strode up to the desk while Spencer fumbled with the luggage. “We’re checking in. I trust you know who I am.”
The woman stared blankly. “Eh?”
“CHECKING IN! Are you so old you’ve forgotten how to speak English?!”
Spencer had had enough! “Don’t talk to her like that!”
He approached the desk, squinting to read the woman’s name tag. “Hello, Ms… Elsa. We’d like a room, please. Reservation under the name Owens.”
There was a slow pitter patter of typing keys as Elsa entered the information. Several minutes later, she wordlessly slid a key across the counter. “Took you long enough!” Patrick snapped, snatching it up. “And while you’re at it, turn down that air conditioner! It’s like an igloo in here!”
“Air conditioner?” Elsa repeated confusedly. “It’s broken.”
“Then call someone to fix it! I shouldn’t have to tell you that, you shriveled old-”
Spencer ushered Patrick away before he could finish that sentence, but he kept complaining all the way to their room. “Room 314… Idiot didn’t even give us directions. Probably doesn’t remember where it is. Honestly, people like that shouldn't be working!”
“605? That’s all the way at the end of the hall.”
Spencer hurried after his father, craning his neck to see over the piles of suitcases in his arms. He rounded a corner, dropping the luggage as he bumped into the owner of the unfamiliar voice that had just spoken… a young red-haired woman.
“Here, let me help you with that,” she said, reaching for a suitcase at the exact moment Spencer did. Her hand felt like ice as it brushed against his, and he saw a hauntingly familiar lifeless look in her eyes as they met his. It was the same as Elsa the desk clerk, except this woman’s eyes were green instead of gray. She would’ve been almost pretty, were it not for those eyes.
She smiled as she led the way down the hall, a smile that did not extend to her cold eyes. “You must be new here. I’m Kelly.”
“Spencer Owens. And this is my father, Patrick.” The old man provided only a grunt as a greeting.
Kelly’s hand trembled as she offered a handshake. Spencer eyed her with concern, “Are you okay?”
“Sorry, nervous twitch,” Kelly said, sheepishly tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. “Never mind, we’re here.”
Kelly set down the suitcase she carried, and Spencer dropped the rest with a thud. No sooner than he had, Patrick jostled his way to the door, nearly knocking Kelly down in the process. He grumbled as the key jammed in the lock.
“That lock always sticks,” said Kelly. “You have to jiggle the key.”
Patrick harrumphed, and Spencer took the key. “Here, I’ll do it.”
As he jiggled the key, the lock clicked. “Thanks,” he said, looking back at Kelly with a smile. “So… I guess I’ll see you around then.”
“I guess so.”
Spencer watched as Kelly left, unable to take his eyes off her retreating form until a loud grunt startled him. He blinked, reacting just in time to avoid being hit in the stomach by the bag Patrick threw at him.
“Stop gawking and start walking!”
Spencer sighed, picking up the bags. He followed his father into the room, grazing the light switch with his elbow. The overhead fixture flickered on then died.
“Lousy piece of crap!” Patrick complained. He poked his head into the bathroom and flipped the light switch. Nothing happened. Grumbling, he made his way to the nightstand and turned on the lamp. It glowed bright for a moment… until the lightbulb exploded, sending glass flying across the room. The only light in the room came from the alarm clock on the nightstand, blinking 6:05 in bright red. “Is every light in this dump out?”
“Clean that up while I watch tv, will you?” Patrick sprawled on the bed, pointing the remote at the flatscreen in the corner. The tv emitted a high-pitched whine as a grainy blue screen displayed. “Oh, don’t tell me the tv’s broken too! I’m going to call the front desk and give that old broad a piece of my mind!”
“Dad, don’t-” Spencer began, reaching for the phone, but Patrick grabbed it first.
“What the hell do you think you’re trying to pull, sticking me in a defective room?! Get someone up here to fix the lights and tv if you know what’s good for you! Hello? Hello-” He slammed the receiver down.
“Phone’s out too. What kind of cheap racket are they running here anyway?”
Spencer pulled out his phone. Random apps opened and closed as the screen blinked erratically. He had to tap the phone app several times to get it to open, but when he tried to dial the resort number, nothing happened. No dial tone, no robotic voice saying, Your call cannot be completed as dialed… nothing. “Looks like the cell service is down too.”
“Of all the…” That was all Spencer could make out before Patrick devolved into a tirade of incoherent obscenities.
“Dad, calm down!” Spencer shouted above the rant. “I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation for this.”
Exactly what that explanation was, he had no idea! First he thought the storm might’ve knocked out the power, but if that was the case, the lights and tv wouldn’t have turned on at all. And then wouldn’t the whole resort be dark? The lights in the hallways worked. The elevator worked. The computer at the front desk worked. The only things that didn’t work were the electronics in the room… and his phone. His phone that worked fine until he set foot in the room.
Realization dawned on him. What if it wasn’t an electrical problem causing the malfunctions, but something about the room itself? Whatever was going on, Spencer knew one thing. There was something strange about this place and its people!
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