When Murphy was a boy, he killed a man.
Now, it’s time to atone.
It won’t be pleasant.
Murphy reclined into the worn club chair. Cool leather a temporary balm to overheated skin. He traced the scuffed, cracked hide with trembling fingers. Though the tremors were imperceptible to the casual observer, he stilled his hand nevertheless.
He needed a drink.
He allowed his gaze to roam the smoky interior of the hotel lobby. Overhead, an ancient, creaking fan tried in vain to bring some relief. Instead of circulating fresh air to the patrons of the Grande’ Hotel, it merely caused ripples and eddies in the layers of stale cigarette smoke hanging above their heads. Murphy idly pondered the effects of passive smoking, mentally pulling the trigger on the fools inhaling lung-full’s as they opened gaping maws, to screech and bawl their demands at the harassed desk clerk.
The lobby was full, which was hardly surprising, given the circumstances. The announcement to evacuate all non-nationals had naturally caused panic among hotel residents, now intent on senseless scrambling for attention, no matter what subsequent chaos ensued. Murphy observed with clinical detachment as regular law-abiding citizens abandon manners and fair-play and bulldozed each other out of the way enroute to the desk. He’d seen far worse, was faintly amused by the feral behaviour and had no doubt, that another hour or so of fighting over the few remaining tickets to freedom, would transform the disorderly expats into something even more disturbing. Already, outside in the stifling heat, the mass evacuation of an entire community was beginning to crumble into disarray, to edge beyond the bounds of reasonable and acceptable behaviour. Exacerbated by the ineptitude of officials who were just as keen, to be first, on the last plane out. Money was changing hands, deals being made and those with nothing to trade were realising to their horror, the true meaning of haves and have-nots.
He checked the time - thirty six hours since he'd slept. Since the call that dragged him up off the bar-room floor and sent him back where he’d no business being. He leant back in the chair and allowed his eyelids to drift shut. Dusty lashes filtering the nicotine neon, instant insulation from the flickering hotel lights and irritating smoke. He zoned out the noise and tricked his body into energy-save mode. He needed a full eight hours, to recover from debauchery and excess, but if a catnap was the best he could do, he could make it work.
He'd been flying for best part of the night, and spent the early hours circling the godforsaken place trying to get permission to land. The airport was in chaos, worse than the hotel lobby, worse than the streets; too many frantic people, trying to get out while there was still time. Runways blocked, ground crew gone to ground someplace else. He recalled the nightmare of landing without assistance from the tower. It was fortunate that Stick had decided to hitch a ride on the flight down from New Mexico. At least Murphy could relax in the knowledge that no one - no matter how desperate - could commandeer the plane in his absence. Not while a guy one step away from the psych-ward was holed up in the cockpit. Stick had a certain skill with a machete that more than made up for his other failings.
Murphy shrugged himself awake, stilled the tremors and fixed his gaze on the man stood before him. A crumpled linen suit, stained with sweat, adhered to his bloated frame. Perspiration ran freely from his brow and he mopped at it ineffectually with an oversized handkerchief. Body odour; barely cloaked by cloying layers of stale alcohol, exuded from his skin, repressed by the humidity.
“Do you...have...the package?” His voice, like his appearance, was disorganised. It spilled out untidily, an ill-formed mixture of reluctant sounds.
Murphy narrowed his eyes and allowed the silence between them to extend beyond acceptable, and the man’s discomfort to fester.
“Do you have the money?” he asked eventually.
The words were quietly spoken and laced with menace. When it appeared the man had either failed to hear or lost the ability to reply, Murphy leant forward to repeat them and the man took a hesitant step back.
Jostled to one side by the crush of the frantic crowd, he struggled to regain his balance. His composure slipped further as he cast an anxious glance through the encroaching melee.
Murphy followed the focus of the man’s apparent paranoia, to the stairs at the rear of the lobby and a retreating figure. He cocked his head and allowed a sly smile.
“Forget it,” he muttered as he pulled himself out of the chair and sidestepped the man. “Go take a pill, take a shower; take a walk. I’m done wasting my time. Let’s hope for all our sakes, that your boss is ready to keep up his end of the bargain.”