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Something’s different, Carla thinks. She doesn’t quite know what it is, but the room suddenly has a different quality than it had just an instant ago. She debates whether she needs to rise to a higher level of alertness to try to figure it out...
“Turn the fucking music back on,” someone demands.
Oh yeah, it’s the music. No reason to wake up just for that...
“You people have no business being in this pool!” yells an agitated voice with an Indian accent. “The pool is closed! You must leave at once! All of you.”
The ultimatum is greeted with a puzzled silence.
“Who the fuck is that?” someone finally asks, more incredulous than irritated.
“It’s the night manager,” Jillian says, and Carla is so impressed by Jillian’s knowledge that she actually opens her eyes. And sees that, even more impressively, Jillian hasn’t bothered to open hers. “The pool’s closed,” Jillian adds, without cracking an eyelid. “It opens again at six.”
“Doesn’t look closed to me, Mahatma,” says a voice that Carla knows belongs to Scott Marcus. “You must have the wrong pool. Here, have a brewski, join the party.” A can of beer from his seemingly inexhaustible supply appears in his hand, he flips it toward the night manager, who steps aside and lets it float past. The beer can sails into the pool with a splash that seems unnaturally loud and echoes around the room.
“I am warning you for the very last time.” The night manager’s voice is growing increasingly shrill as he becomes increasingly upset. “You have no right to be in here. You are disturbing the other guests.” His voice has risen to a comical squeal. “I will call the police if I have to!”
“Hey, c’mon my man, lighten up.” With great effort, Carla stands and begins to languidly thread her way through the crowd in the spa. She walks up the steps unsteadily, leaning carefully on the rail; then, she climbs out of the spa and begins to weave her way over to where the night manager stands, suddenly silent.
Carla is dripping wet, distressingly unsteady, and stark naked.
The night manager’s eyes grow wide with dismay and apprehension as Carla approaches. His eyes travel up and down her body. He licks his lips nervously. “Go get him, Carla!” someone shouts, and the crowd comes to life, roaring its drunken approval.
The night manager seems to be frozen. Carla gets the feeling that he wants to flee, but he can’t, it’s like he’s bolted to the floor. He tries to speak, his mouth moves, but only a soft groan escapes his lips.
And then it’s too late. She’s upon him.
“Hey, you’re cute, my man,” she says, too loudly. “Come give Carla a big hug.”
The night manager shakes his head and holds his hands up weakly, as if to fend her off. But Carla brushes his hands aside and grabs him in a bear hug, pressing her body against his dark suit, squeezing her breasts against his chest. Wrapping one of her legs around his, she begins to rub her groin against him, like a dog in heat.
The noise level in the room increases dramatically as the triathletes fall over each other, convulsing with laughter. Someone lets out a whoop; someone else yells, “You go, girl!”
But the laughter stops when the night manager pushes Carla away, and she stumbles and falls to the hard tile floor. Which just doesn’t seem right to her. She’s naked, she hugs him, and he pushes her away? And knocks her down?
It’s just not right. An apology is in order.
But not only doesn’t the night manager acknowledge that he’s done anything wrong, he doesn’t even seem to notice that he’s done anything at all. “Look at my suit!” he shrieks, to no one in particular. “You have ruined it! I am soaking wet!”
“Not yet you’re not, you son of a bitch!” Carla screams. She struggles to her feet and takes an unsteady step toward the night manager – and for the first time, she notices how close he’s standing to the edge of the pool. An opportunity not to be missed. She lowers her head as she picks up speed, and she knows that she won’t be able to change direction quickly enough if he steps out of her way, which is okay, because then she’ll just leap into the pool as if that’s what she meant to do all along...
But the night manager doesn’t move, he just lets out a plaintive wail of impending doom and covers his eyes with his hands. And so she hits him dead-on at a full gallop, her head spears into his chest with a satisfying thud, she actually hears the air whoosh out of his lungs. And then it’s like they’re flying through the air, it seems to take much longer than it should, like they’ve fallen into some kind of abyss.
She doesn’t really remember hitting the water, but now she’s swimming, and she’s not holding on to the night manager any more, so she must have landed in the pool at some point. It feels good to swim, she can feel her head start to clear, like the fog from her brain is draining away into the water. She swims to the far side of the pool, where she executes a decent racing turn and starts to head back.
I wonder if everyone knows I’m okay, she thinks, as her brain starts to function. And what about the night manager? How deep is the water? Can he swim? With all of his clothes on?
She reaches the side of the pool, grabs the edge, props herself up on her elbows, and looks around.
The night manager is standing just a few feet from the pool, his back to her. Water drips from his hair, runs off his clothes, puddles in his shoes. He’s holding his arms out from his sides, as if he doesn’t want to get them even wetter by letting them touch his body. He looks over his shoulder at Carla, she’s expecting him to be angry, but he just looks stunned. She smiles at him. No hard feelings.
“You...you...” he sputters. And then he turns away. “You are all in big trouble, all of you!” he shouts. “I am calling the police! You are all going to jail!”
As far as Carla can tell, she’s the only one who’s heard him. Or maybe everyone else has just lost interest. Over by the spa, she can see Scott Marcus holding up two handsful of beer cans, he’s obviously checking to see if anyone needs a refill. “Turn the fucking music back on,” someone suggests – but as far as Carla can tell, no one seems inclined to make that much of an effort.
In fact, no one but Carla is paying any attention at all as the night manager storms away. So no one but Carla sees the big man who enters the room, his white cowboy hat barely clearing the door frame, the heels of his big boots clicking on the hard tile. Only Carla sees the big man bump into the night manager, who is making a headlong dash for the exit. Only Carla sees the night manager apologize profusely to the big man; she giggles as she watches him try to regain his composure even as water continues to drip from his pockets.
Although she catches only snatches of the conversation, Carla has a fairly good idea of what’s going between the two men. The big man, unfazed by the collision, surveys the scene and sizes up the situation. He says a few words to the disheveled night manager who is again attempting to make his exit. The night manager gesticulates wildly, obviously giving the big man a capsule summary of the events that have just transpired. The night manager keeps trying to leave, but the big man keeps restraining him, gently but firmly, probing further into the situation.
Finally, the big man reaches into his pocket and pulls out a fat billfold. He counts off a few – maybe three? – of what Carla thinks are hundred-dollar bills. The night manager seems confused, maybe even stunned, he keeps looking back and forth from the money to the big man’s face. The big man peels off another bill, then another; and finally, the night manager’s hand begins to move in the direction of the money, tentatively, then it’s withdrawn, reluctantly. They stand there and talk for a few more seconds, and the big man rolls off one last bill and puts the billfold back in his pocket – take it or leave it, he seems to be saying. The night manager reluctantly accepts the money and stuffs the bills into his pocket with some difficulty, as the wet fabric clings stubbornly together.
“They’ll be gone real soon,” the big man says, Carla reading his lips as much as actually hearing him. “They’re just lettin’ off a little steam, is all.” He winks at the night manager, puts a big arm around a wet shoulder, and holds the glass door open to expedite the other man’s departure.
As the night manager walks down the hall, shaking his head and muttering, the big man turns back into the room. His eyes briefly catch Carla’s; she smiles semi-flirtatiously and raises an eyebrow at him, but he ignores her. He strolls over to a counter where freshly-laundered blue towels are stacked in neat piles. Grabbing a towel from the top of the stack, he calmly but purposefully strides over to the spa, where he assumes a position directly behind Jillian, staring down at her.
Except for Carla, nobody seems to have noticed him at all.
He looks down at Jillian for a few seconds, a curious expression on his face, part concern, part anger. He unfolds the towel, preparing it for use.
“Jillian,” he barks, the name exploding from his lips like a burst of artillery fire. His voice has so much authority, so much command, that the conversation in the room stops abruptly, as everyone turns to look at him. “Jillian,” he repeats, not as loud, but with every bit as much power. “Time to go.”
The effect on Jillian is immediate and dramatic. Although she is already slouched way down in the water, she shrinks down even further, as if she wants to slip beneath the surface and disappear. In the space of a few seconds, Carla watches as Jillian’s expression changes from one of peace and contentment to one of stunned disbelief and absolute horror. Her eyes open wide in shock, and then close again in dismay.
“Oh, my God,” she moans, her voice a pained, despairing whimper.
“Oh, my God,” she repeats. “It’s Daddy.”
Transition: The OnLine Triathlon Adventure Novel