Copyrighted photos and excerpt from Book #3 of the Isla Mujeres Mystery:
A battered, grey pickup truck trundled toward the southern end of the rarely used airport runway. The paint was patchy, sun-faded and interspersed with areas of rust. Rough usage by the owner had deeply dented the roof of the cab. This was his work vehicle and he frequently carted heavy tree trunks destined to be the main supports of palapas, the large grass-roofed structures commonly used as shelters for restaurants, bars, and swimming pools. Both brake lights on the truck had stopped functioning years ago, but no one cared, not the owner, not his passenger, and certainly not the local police. The headlights worked, intermittently, but on this night, they were purposely switched off.
The main road that circumnavigated the low, narrow island ran on either side of the airfield. Even on a moonless night, the radiance from nearby street lamps allowed the driver to see his way without using the vehicle’s headlights. He kept to the edge of the pavement, hoping the overgrown jungle on either side of the landing strip would hide his pickup from curious eyes.
Sunrise was still two hours away, but the island was seldom ever entirely static. There were always either locals returning to their homes after a late night-out, or fitness fanatics hitting the pavement for a run around the island in the cooler pre-dawn temperatures.
To the right of the runway, illuminated by the bright lights of the parking lot, the car ferries waited impassively for the workday to begin. The employees usually started to arrive by four-thirty in the morning. He glanced at the two older Maritima boats. They looked weather-beaten and shabby. Three new yellow and blue Ultracarga ships sat waiting for government permits to commence operation in competition with the existing company.
The driver stopped the vehicle at the far southern end of the pavement, put it in first gear, and switched off the ignition. The wild vegetation pushed ever northward in an effort to reclaim this piece of land belonging to the Municipality of Isla Mujeres. The airport had been operated and maintained for many years by the Quinta Regional Marinas, the 5th Navy detachment, until the agreement was cancelled and the responsibility for the property was returned to the city. Rumours abounded about the future of the land; a housing development planned by a now-disgraced former state governor, condos, even a larger aerodrome to service international jets in conjunction with a cruise ship terminal. Small town gossips created rumours as quickly as two rabbits could produce more bunnies.
He turned to his passenger, “This should work.”
“You sure about this?” the other man asked.
“Sure, the Navy guys used to keep this area cleared out, but no one comes here now.” The driver pointed at the thick tangle of trees and bushes facing them. “Good thing you wore boots,” he said, with a light chuckle. “There could be snakes in there.”
“Snakes? Hell, I’m not going in there.”
“They are probably not poisonous.” He had to take the chance to get rid of his cargo. The vile smell was rapidly becoming noticeable.
The passenger shuddered, and then looked into the bed of the truck. “Alright, let’s get this over with.”
“Wait,” the driver reached up and switched off the interior dome light. “Okay, let’s go.”
The two men quietly opened the doors and pushed them closed but not completely latched. Noises carried across the open expanse of the airport. A soft click and the driver unlatched the tailgate, and then boosted himself into the bed of the truck. He tugged on a large bundle wrapped in plastic sheeting and wound around with several strips of thick grey tape. He dragged it closer to the other man. “Grab the end,” he whispered.
Grunting with the weight, the two men crab-walked to the edge of the jungle.
“Stop.” The driver set his end of the roll on the ground. He reached into a pocket and pulled out a finger-sized flashlight, putting his hand over the lens to shield the light but still give him enough to see where he was going. His heavy lion-headed signet ring glinted briefly in the light. “There,” he said, pointing a finger at a faint pathway, “it leads to the salina, about ten more feet.”
“What’s a salina?” the other guy whispered.
“Salt-water pond,” the driver grunted a response. They half-carried, half-dragged the heavy load past rusting metal drums containing who-knew-what and a collection of small derelict boats. Fast-growing, thick-stemmed vines with white bell-shaped flowers, a brawny version of the gentler Morning Glory, were beginning to camouflage the mess.
“Don’t think so,” the driver said, amused at his helper’s nervousness. The man was from the City of Puebla and obviously not comfortable around wild creatures. He had no problem dealing with dodgy humans but seemed afraid of all critters.
“There damn well better not be,” the passenger whispered nervously as they started again. “There sure as hell better not be any crocs.”
“Let’s go.” Keeping the small flashlight trapped between his palm and the rolled plastic, the driver smiled to himself. There could be a croc living here but probably not. Not much food available for a big reptile except a stray cat or dog, or maybe a wading bird or two. Although, one of those nasty critters would be a big help with disposing of their parcel. They could have taken the package to the lake at the Hacienda Mundaca where there sure as hell were crocodiles, a whole family of them. But that area was too visible and it would have been too hard to manhandle a heavy weight from the road, across the park and into the water. This location would have to do.
Fighting their way along the narrow pathway, the men pushed deeper into the thick undergrowth, until the helper stepped backwards and his boot sunk up to his ankle. “Christ. That stinks,” he bitched.
“Okay, set it down,” the older man said. He then cautiously swept the nearby shoreline with the beam from the flashlight. “Roll it until the water covers the plastic.”
Both men were calf deep in the odoriferous ooze before they were satisfied with the placement of their parcel. “That’s not going anywhere,” the driver said. “Okay. Let’s get out of here just in case there are crocs,” he added with a smirk.
Available as an e-book on Amazon, iTunes, Kobo, or Nook. Paperback copies are available from Amazon. If you are on the island buy a copy at Jenny Penny Beach Boutique or Casa Sirena Hotel. It’s the perfect beach-read for your next vacation.