The Sunset Hotel
By: Clive Martyn | Other books by Clive Martyn
Published By: Etopia Press
ISBN # 9781937976699
Word Count: 51846
Available in: Epub, HTML, Mobipocket (.mobi), Adobe Acrobat
About the bookAfter Sunset, nothing will be the same…
Recovering from the emotional trauma of their youngest daughter's cancer, John and Cathy Hamilton take their young family to a beautiful 5-star hotel on an idyllic Caribbean island, expecting the holiday of a lifetime.
But at the heart of the Sunset Hotel lies an ancient evil—a foul undeath greedy for eternal life, that threatens to consume the family and anyone foolish enough to reside within the hotel’s walls…
An excerpt from the bookChapter OneThe turquoise sea and distant white beaches of the island seemed too bright to be real. I turned away from the plane window to look at Cathy. She looked lost in thought. “You OK?”She nodded and gave me a half smile. “Looks amazing.”“It’s going to be great.” I squeezed her hand. “Time to relax…to talk. For us.”She sighed sadly. “Things don’t change just because we’re thousands of miles away from home, John.” With a quick look at the girls behind us she moved her hand away from mine. The girls mesmerized by the TV screens didn’t notice anything.I stared at the space her hand had been.A deep Caribbean voice came over the loud speakers, “This is your captain speaking. If you look over to your left, you should be able to see Isle de Carmen. It looks like we’re going to land in perfect conditions. Air traffic control has told me that it’s a hot ninety degrees, but the sea breeze is keeping them cool. Local time is 10:37.”Cathy turned around in her seat and leaned over the headrests. She stroked Nancy’s head. “How you feeling?”Nancy pulled her earphones out. “Fine.” She rolled her eyes. “Are you going to ask me every five minutes?”“Yes.”“Dad, tell mum to lay off.”“I’m staying out of it,” I laughed. I turned around and smiled at her, trying to hide the worry that I shared with Cathy. Nancy still looked so pale, especially under the little florescent cabin lights.“Katie? How about you?” Cathy asked.“Fine, mum.” She didn’t look up, entranced by the screen. “I’ll just be glad to get off this plane.”Cathy wriggled back into her seat. “Won’t we all?”The plane began to turn and descend on its approach. Within minutes the island blurred past the windows, glimpses of its beaches and the rainforest sped past, and we landed smoothly.Katie was the first up, stretching, when the seatbelt sign blinked off. “Can we go straight down to the beach?”Cathy laughed, and we both shook our heads.“Let’s check into the hotel first, OK? We’re here for two weeks.”Both the girls grumbled, but as we all walked down the steps they were made momentarily speechless by the view over the jungle. Every color green sat under a blazing sun and cloudless sky. Ancient trees strewn with creepers pressed in on all sides, only restrained by chain link fence. The warm air was scented with a thousand competing smells.We walked stiffly to the terminal. Our bags were already on the carousel, and a bored-looking security officer waved us through to the arrivals lounge with just a glance at our passports.Several hotel reps with clipboards and a gaggle of taxi drivers waited on the other side. One of them, a pale, thin man with long, lank blond hair, leaned against the metal barrier, his eyes half closed. He loosely held a sign with “Hamilton” written on it in black marker. Cathy waved at him, and we pushed our bags over.“Hamilton?” He yawned. “Follow me, please.” Without offering to take the bags, he stumbled away.We followed as he weaved through the crowds back outside into the sunlight again. A dented black jeep with its top down was parked badly alongside a few other hotel minibuses and cabs. The words The Sunset Hotel were painted on the side of the door beneath a golden sunburst logo.“Not a great first impression,” Cathy said as we squeezed our luggage into the back.“No. Hopefully the rest of the hotel won’t be so tired.”I took the passenger seat, and once we had all clambered into the jeep, we took off. Everything seemed new; each hotel we passed, the shining commercial center, even the matt black road looked as if it had been constructed within the last few years.As we topped a small hill, a tall white building came into view in the distance. Its windows glinted gold in the sunlight. It stood alone at the end of a spit of land almost in the sea, surrounded by white capped waves and thick jungle at its back.“Is that our hotel?” Katie asked.The driver nodded and rubbed his bloodshot eyes. “Should be there in two minutes.”On the other side of the hill, the road became narrower, and the trees either side grew thicker and darker. This part of the island seemed older, less developed. I started to shiver with the sudden drop in temperature. I smiled at the girls and Cathy as they huddled together.After driving under almost darkness beneath a thick canopy of leaves, we pulled into a small car park by the side of the hotel and skidded back into the sunlight.The driver climbed out of the jeep with a sigh. “I’ll get the bags, Mr. Hamilton, if you like.”“Please.”Cathy gave me a look which I interpreted as don’t you dare give a big tip.The tropical sun made the white paint of the buildings glaringly bright. I looked up at the hotel, relieved at least that it lived up to its brochure pictures. A decorated lobby full of polished rosewood and flowers stood on the other side of large glass windows. The girls ran in, dragging Cathy along. I stood for a moment, listening to the bird song from the jungle and the sounds of the sea nearby.An old woman with dark, sun-weathered skin walked hurriedly past the parking lot entrance. She crossed herself and spat venomously on the ground before disappearing from view. I felt the wide smile on my face freeze.The driver shook his head sadly. “The old locals are a bit frosty to the tourists, Mr. Hamilton. Pay no attention.”I nodded and tried immediately to get the image of the woman out of my head. Nothing was going to spoil this holiday.I followed everyone into the lobby, where the receptionist was looking slowly down a list of names and dates.“Mr. Hamilton and family? Welcome to the Sunset Hotel.” She smiled and passed us two keys from a selection hanging on hooks behind her. “You and Mrs. Hamilton are in Room 14 and your daughters are in Room 12.”“Thanks.” I passed the girls their key, which Nancy grabbed eagerly.The receptionist placed a form in front of me. “If you could just sign here, sir.”While I scribbled my name, she picked up two letters from a slot behind her, and slid them towards the girls. Katie’s name was spelled out across the top one in gold lettering.Katie ripped open the envelope. “What’s this?”“Invites to the Sunset Revelers Dance.” The receptionist smiled broadly. “All the hotel’s young people are invited.”Katie pulled out a cream-colored card and a grin slowly crept up to her cheeks.Cathy read the invite over Katie’s shoulder. “Tonight?”“Tonight, ma’am.”Nancy ripped open her envelope too and raised an eyebrow. “Who are the Philipses?”“They’re the hotel owners. They’re amazing.” A red glow appeared on the receptionist’s pale cheeks, then she shook her head slightly, as if she suddenly realized how unprofessional she sounded. She pointed toward the elevator. “Your rooms are on the third floor. I do hope you enjoy your stay.”Katie led the way over to the elevator. “Dad, can we go tonight?”“It’s our first night here, Katie.”“So?”“I was hoping to see you girls for some of this holiday.”“We have two weeks! You said it yourself.”“I can’t believe you have the energy.” Cathy yawned. “I’m exhausted.”Nancy looped her arms through ours. “Please, Dad? Mom?”I sighed and took the invite from Katie’s hand. It was beautifully embossed with gold edging.Samuel and Amelia Philips request the pleasure of the company of Katie Hamilton at tonight’s Sunset Revelers Dance aboard their yacht, Dawn. A launch will be sent to collect you from the beach at 8:00 p.m.In smaller writing there was a little note:Please wear sensible shoes.Reading it made me nervous. “On their boat?”The girls shrugged as if they were invited to a dance on a yacht every day.“We’ve had a long flight, girls. Nancy, you need your rest.”“I’ve spent enough time resting, Dad. How many parties have I missed out on?”I looked at Cathy.“And the doctors said I was fine. In the clear,” Nancy added.Cathy shrugged. “They’re on holiday too, John.”“Come on girls, I expected to have at least one meal together.”“We’ll have lunch.” Katie grinned impishly at me. “It’s only eleven o’clock.”I sighed, feeling outnumbered. “Okay, OK.”The girls clapped their hands wearing matching pinball smiles.The doors to the elevator opened. An elderly gentleman in worn trunks and a faded T-shirt stood at the back with a rolled up towel under his arm. He smiled at us. “Going up?”“Please.” I moved the luggage forward while everyone piled in, the girls already discussing what to wear.The doors opened onto the first floor, and the old man moved carefully around our bags. “What a beautiful family you have.” He patted me on the back. “Quite beautiful.”“Er…thank you.”Cathy looked at me, bemused and a little surprised, while the girls stifled laughter behind their hands.“You should see them all in the morning,” I said as the doors shut, receiving a painful dig in the ribs from Nancy.The elevator continued on and opened up on the third floor. The corridor was brightly lit by large windows overlooking the jungle-covered hills towards the center of the island. The girls dragged their cases to their room and ran in, slamming their door shut behind them.Our door, marked with a little, polished 14, took several attempts to open, but when it did it revealed a huge room.“Wow, John.”I stood speechless for a moment on the threshold. “Jesus Christ.”A four-poster bed, a large table with four chairs, and two sofas sat around the edges of the room. The far wall consisted of floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors that opened onto a balcony. A bottle of champagne sat in a bucket of ice on the table in the lounge area with a welcome card.I walked onto the balcony through one of the sliding doors. “What a view.”Our room overlooked the beach, but I could also see a lot of the island and the jungle. Cathy collapsed onto the bed, and I came inside and jumped next to her.She sighed, staring up at the ceiling. “This is beautiful, John. Thank you.”“And all ours for two weeks.”She touched my cheek briefly, looking sad, but then sat up, laughing. “Listen.” She cocked her head to the side.Loud squeals of delight were coming from next door. I heard Nancy calling us from outside. We walked onto our balcony. Nancy stood on theirs, grinning.“Like it?” I asked.“Oh my God, it’s amazing. Thank you so much, Dad.”Katie appeared and looked out across the golden white beach that stretched around the hotel and into the distance, around the bay. “Wow.”Dozens of surfers were in the waves while clusters of couples and families lounged by the edge of the water.“Can we go down to the beach now?” Katie asked.“Would be nice to have a dip, John,” Cathy agreed. She fanned herself with a hand, “I’m boiling already.”Nancy and Katie dove back into their room giggling. I heard one of them shout, “Surfers.”I smiled at Cathy. “They’re going to be a nightmare.”“Even they will get bored with the beach eventually, surely?”“Knowing our luck, no.”We changed into bathing suits, grabbed our towels, and leaving our suitcases where they were on the floor, wandered back down the hall to the elevator. When it arrived it was half full of people, several a similar pale color as us, others heavily tanned.At the controls, a tired looking woman in her late fifties stabbed the button for the ground floor with a small sigh of frustration, as if the elevator stopping for us was the last straw. We shuffled into a space behind her, and the elevator traveled down another floor before stopping. The woman let out a little sigh of annoyance.A family of four, all with beach towels under their arms, looked at the nearly full elevator, and then debated whether they would fit. Slightly embarrassed and apologetic, they squeezed in, the children’s inflatable pool float squeaking as they tried to take up as little space as possible. The woman stabbed the button for the ground floor again. Cathy looked at me and rolled her eyes.The doors opened on the ground floor, and the elderly woman pushed her way out past everyone, hurrying on little legs towards a pair of large open salon doors, from where the strong smell of cooking food wafted.“Some people.” one of the guests commented.“The old bag must be hungry,” someone else said.A short flight of stairs led down from the lobby to a wide, manicured lawn that gently sloped down to a line of tall trees. A path had been cut through the thick undergrowth and palm trees. As we walked down, the sound of waves grew ever louder. Fine white sands hugged the coastline for miles in each direction, curving around the contours of the island. Deck chairs with umbrellas dotted the beach, giving their temporary owners a break from the sun. The gentle slap of the waves on the beach and the sound of a million crushed seashells being dragged back and forth made me smile like a big kid.We walked over the hot sand and found a cluster of lounge chairs. Katie and Nancy immediately began smothering themselves with sun lotion, digging in their bags for their latest books and plugging in their iPods.A large yacht sailed slowly around the corner of the bay. Mirrored windows reflected the sun, making it hard to look at for too long. A crew of men on board, all wearing the same white uniform, lowered the numerous sails, and when the yacht was nearly parallel with the hotel, it dropped two anchors. It sported a simple sunset logo on the side. I could make out the word Dawn on the transom.Cathy was staring at it with her mouth open. “Is that where the girls are going tonight?”I nodded. “I’m jealous.”“It’s got to be worth a couple of million.”The afternoon passed in a happy haze. Everything—the restaurants, beach and hotel—were beyond my expectations, and for the first time in ages, I felt happy—and relaxed. When we returned to our room, I saw the yacht just visible from our balcony, rocking slowly on the waves. I watched it for a while, nerves beginning to surface. Was it a safe place for a party?I heard the girls next door primping and giggling. Cathy and I sat on the balcony listening, looking at the changing sky as it turned many different colors of blue and the first stars began to appear.Cathy leaned back on her chair, her feet resting up on the balcony edge, her long, shapely legs pinkish from the sun. “This is so beautiful.”I smiled at her. “As the girls are going to be off partying…what shall we do?”“Don’t know. Have you looked at the welcome pack?”I grabbed the black leather folder containing pamphlets from local tourist attractions as well as details on the hotel’s facilities.“Well, we have a bit of choice. We have the Beachcomber Bar, Jazz Café, the Sunset Wine Cellar. Or it says there is a beach bar called Romance.” I caught her shuddering at the word romance.She looked at me and shrugged. “What do you fancy—a bit of life or somewhere quiet?”I wanted to talk to her, convince her that things were going to get better, but I could tell she wasn’t in the mood. Far from it. “A bit of life, I think. It’s not very often we get the chance to enjoy ourselves.”“Bit of life it is then, but not for long. That bed is calling me.”Feeling bold, I leaned close to her ear. “We could just stay here?”She pushed me away. “John. The bed isn’t calling me for that—trust me.”I sighed and hid my annoyance by studying the welcome pack while we sat in silence.When the girls were ready, they came in to show off their outfits, tiny metallic looking dresses barely covering the tops of their thighs. Both were slightly red from the sun with white strap lines where their bikinis had been tied around their neck. Nancy looked so healthy. From a bundle of bones and skin in the hospital to now. Although still thin, she glowed. What a difference.“Gorgeous, right?” Nancy giggled. “Not too short?”“Not a question to ask your Dad.” Cathy laughed. “He’s always going to say yes.”I gave Nancy a kiss on the side of the head. “You look beautiful.”Katie flicked her hair in the mirror. “Can we go?”“Now you girls are going to be sensible, right? Katie, you’re going to look after Nancy, right? Come back if she gets tired.”“Jesus, Dad. I know the drill. Cotton wool.”“Dad. I’m getting a bit old for a babysitter.”“Just be careful,” Cathy added.We walked to the elevator together, but when it arrived it was already packed full of teenagers; several boys smiled and made room for the girls, quickly eyeing up their legs and chests. As there was only room enough for Katie and Nancy, with a quick kiss on both our cheeks, they leapt in. I saw Katie breathe a sigh of relief as the elevator doors shut.I grinned down at Cathy. “Are we that much of an embarrassment?”Cathy didn’t answer and just stared at the closed doors. I felt slightly uncomfortable with her silence and stopped smiling.“I could really do with a drink,” Cathy said, turning on her heel.I watched her stride toward the stairs, feeling very alone. “Me too.”I tried not to blame it on Nancy and her illness, but the horrible truth was that as Nancy’s cancer had grown, and we had gone through months of treatment, another cancer had grown in our marriage. One that chemo couldn’t fix.