Night Wind Rising - Part 2
By Reinaldo E. Grandal
The muffled, distant sound of breaking glass came from
upstairs. I stubbed out a half-smoked cigarette and quickly rose, instinctively
grabbing a thirty-five millimeter camera loaded with infrared film from my bag
and flinging the door open.
As I approached the stairs, Vaughn came out of his room, cut
me off and rushed up the steps, his potent-looking nickel-plated Magnum in his
I followed him as quickly as I could. When I reached the
unlit upper hallway, I saw him, Lombardi, Clayton and Martinez standing in the
light that came from Martinez' bedroom. Martinez stood transfixed, her glass
now by her feet, a pool of liquid and shattered crystal on the carpeted floor.
Clayton held his own pistol absently in his right hand. His left was held over
his nose and mouth. As I approached, the odor assaulted my senses as well, that
same sick odor I had noticed earlier in the "cold spot" in my room. I ordered
myself to hold my stomach contents down, looked at the others and then went
into the bedroom.
Above the dresser, where there had previously been a blank
space of lightly colored wallpaper, blood had been smeared. I looked more
closely and wondered if I only imagined the chunks of gelatinous flesh,
intermingled in the crimson, hanging loosely, sliding snail-like down the wall,
pushing rivulets of blood before them. The stench of death was bludgeoning.
The gore had been scrawled in insane brush strokes to form
three words: No me traiciones.
Don't betray me.
"Vaughn. First floor and basement," Lombardi snapped.
"Clayton. Outside, front and back."
Vaughn composed himself. "Right," he shot back as he turned
to the stairs. Clayton followed wordlessly.
I snapped several shots of the wall and then studied
Martinez. The rigid self-control was still evident. "Whom would you betray?" I
Her eyes reverted from the hellish graffiti and drilled
"Goodnight," I said, and returned to my room.
I lay in bed awake a good portion of the night, hearing the
wind outside and the others' footsteps as Clayton and Vaughn returned from
their fruitless search for flesh-and-bone adversaries and helped Lombardi and
Martinez clean the mess from Martinez' bedroom wall. How many had she betrayed,
I asked myself, how many souls had she trampled to attain her former rank? How
many had done the same, how many of them had, after all, deserved it?
All of them, I thought, save one.
Constantino Martinez Lopez.
The next morning's rain pelted the kitchen windows as
Lombardi sipped coffee and I read the Times.
Martinez strode into the kitchen. Clayton and Vaughn
"Good morning," I said amiably.
She silently grabbed her jacket from the back of a kitchen
chair and marched toward the front door, with Clayton directly behind her.
"I'm going, too," Vaughn told Lombardi. He turned to me.
"You need smokes?"
I shook my head.
The three exited.
"Lombardi," I said, not taking my eyes from the paper.
"You've told me that this safe house has no history of
things going bump in the night."
"Yet we know something more than natural is occurring here
"Yes." She looked out at the rain.
"You people have other safe houses, yet you insist on
keeping Martinez here. It just occurs to me that you might be taking advantage
of the situation, using the haunting to sweat something out of her."
She looked at me incredulously. "She came to us, remember?
Besides, if we wanted to sweat something out of her," she responded coldly, "we
wouldn't need to use ghosts."
I set down the paper and finally looked at her. "All I'm
saying is that it seems too coincidental that a house with no history of
haunting suddenly becomes haunted when she arrives. If there's a connection
between the phenomena in this house and her defection, I'm in a position to
help you if you tell me what to look for."
"She defected because her boss was losing it. Fidel realizes
that Communism's days are numbered in Cuba, yet he's been going on about the
Revolution 'rising like wind in the night.' She was dyed-in-the-wool, but she
wasn't insanely fanatical. She got out before Fidel did something crazy."
"What could he do?"
"Cuban naval activity has increased drastically, especially
around the Cienfuegos area on the southern coast. We have no idea what he's up
to. Martinez claims to have gotten out before he confided in her."
"And you believe her?"
"What are you getting at?"
I scratched my beard. "I don't know. Something about her
eyes, about the way she carries herself. I can tell she's used to playing her
cards close to the chest, to getting her way through intimidation. She's a cool
customer. Last night, though, she should have been more shocked, taken by
surprise at least, less..."
She drained her cup, set it on the table and said, "I'll
tell you what."
"About some connection between her and the haunting?"
"You may be right."
"Thanks for the vote of confidence, Lombardi."
I was lighting a cigarette when I thought I heard several
light squeaks. Thinking it was my chair, I folded the Times and, cigarette in
mouth, went to my room and retrieved the camera from my bag. I looked around
the downstairs part of the house,searching for "cold spots," finding none and
returning to the kitchen. Lombardi was pouring herself another cup of
I heard several more squeaks. Curiosity forced me to put out
my cigarette, stand still and listen. I turned to Lombardi. It was obvious that
she had also heard. She calmly set her cup by the sink and retrieved a Walther
from her purse.
Again, the sounds, but now they were not squeaks. They were
Thinking that perhaps the others had returned, I walked into
the living room and found no one.
"Clayton," I said aloud.
Again, the laughter. It was definitely male, yet the pitch
suggested giddiness, or madness. It seemed to come from upstairs.
"King," Lombardi whispered, apprehension in her eyes.
I put my finger to my lips and motioned her to follow. We
walked around to the foot of the stairs, and I called Vaughn's name. There was
silence and I mounted the first step.
A klaxon sounded, and we froze. Again I felt goose bumps and
the acidic sensation at the back of my tongue. The klaxon had only sounded
once, but the echo lingered for long seconds, an other-worldly sound.
We got halfway up the stairs when we heard male voices
creating an incomprehensible background hum. One clear, commanding voice
counted down in Russian. I reached the top of the stairs, with Lombardi close
behind, and approached the doorway to Martinez' bedroom by the time the voice
had counted down from deciat to piache. A shadow of the tortured spectral
message that had been left the night before was still on the wall, a brown
stain of memory.
"Chetere," the voice intoned.
Another single word had been scrawled over it, also in
blood, written in desperation.
I snapped a shot of the wall.
Lombardi and I started to back out of the room.
The roar of missiles being launched filled the room and
would have deafened us had it not been muffled, as if it came from underwater.
It gradually faded to nothing, and then a single haggard word was whispered,
and I felt dampness in my crotch, and then the blast came.
We were sent flying. Lombardi's back was pounded against the
far wall of the hallway, her pistol dropping impotently to the carpet. My
shoulder hit the wall and I went down.
Before us was no longer Martinez' bedroom, but a panorama of
earth, sea and sky. In its center was a blinding ball of light from which had
sprouted a mushroom-shaped cloud.
The image slowly disappeared and we could once again see
into Martinez' bedroom. I looked at the wall. The shadow of the message
persisted. I somehow knew that however many times one might try to scrub that
wallpaper, or tear it off, or smash the plaster to the bare foundation, a trace
of the petition would always remain.
With it remained one other word, printed by the ghostly hand
of the same tormented spirit who had gasped it before the world had ended
before our eyes: Nena.