1. “Are you serious?” Lenny rhetorically asks as he, Linda, and Chuck stare at the exterior of their reserved hotel. Chuck sighs with disappointment and takes off his sunglasses. He looks around at their new surroundings, intensifying his aggravation. “It’s gotta be at least 105 degrees,” Lenny continues. “Fuckin’ Mexico, man.” Chuck pulls his hotel brochure out of his back pocket and unfolds it, staring at the colorful pictures of an expensive condo and then up to the run-down little hotel that resembles nothing they had paid for. “Fuh-kin’ Mexico,” Lenny says for good measure. The hot sun gives the dusty hotel parking lot a desert ghost town appeal. Two cars sit in the lot that is no bigger than a convenience store’s. The bus that picked up the three spring breakers from the airport this morning and dropped them off here three hours later rumbles out of the lot and onto the dusty path that passes for a road around here. “You two sure you don’t wanna go flag it down and beg for forgiveness?” Linda asks with a slight grin on her face. Her tan skin and long dark brown hair makes her look right at home during beach vacations. Chuck looks up at her and smiles a bit at her attempt to brighten the situation; he has always admired her for that character trait. Lenny, a tall skinny kid with curly hair that you would immediately assume knows something about surfing, is absorbing the heat and waiting on Chuck to make his move. Slightly shorter then Lenny, Chuck is still tall and has short, dark hair. He fidgets a little bit, the way he always does while pondering the next course of action for himself and two best friends, picks up his suitcase and starts walking toward the hotel office. “Supposedly we’re only nine miles from the coast of Cancun,” Chuck begins “unless they lied about that too.” Linda and Lenny follow him inside. “Hola,” the old Mexican man who sits comfortably behind the counter says. “Speaka any English?” Lenny disrespectfully asks without an attempt at the native language. “Si, se’nor,” the deskman starts, “that means ‘yes, sir’” he teases. Lenny nods his head with satisfaction. He reads the deskman’s faded nametag that was obviously written with a black magic marker. It says ‘Jorge’… (pronounced ‘Hor-Hey’). “It’s good that humor translates down here, George,” he spars, always wanting to get the last word in on any verbal showdown. Linda smiles and shakes her head, while Chuck impatiently sighs again, knowing this could go on for a few minutes. “Si, that’s true. It’s good your mommy’s money translates down here, too. You’ll probably need it to buy some sun block for that pretty American skin of yours.” Jorge taunts while pointing to Lenny’s pale complexion. Chuck has had enough. “You see this?” he says holding up his debit card. “I used this little plastic motherfucker two months ago online to secure a room for my friends and I and I’ve been regretting it ever since we stepped off that bus. Now I’m normally not an asshole, but this (he looks around the office) is not what I paid for.” Chuck throws the “Cancun Royal Reservations” brochure down on the desk and says “that is what I paid for” pointing to one of the pictures. “And don’t give me any Mexican haggle talk, I don’t speak Spanish.” Jorge picks up the brochure and looks at in detail as if he’s never seen it before. “This looks way nice, my friend,” he says. “If I was you, I would kill that pun’ta travel agent who showed this to you.” Chuck stares at Jorge for a second and then starts laughing. Lenny and Linda chime in contagiously. Jorge stands up and grabs a key, with a plastic number “4” on the key ring, off the wall behind him and turns around to address the guests. “I tell you what…I’ve ran this hotel for all of my professional life and I’ve never had an unsatisfied guest. To tell the truth, I’ve only had about four guests (they all laugh), but I take care of them. I respect a man who knows what he wants so I’m going to offer you a full refund, if, at the end of your trip, you are not satisfied.” He picks up a box of ‘Hot Tamales’ candy and gestures them to Chuck, “I’ll even throw in some authentic Mexican cuisine.” 2. Lenny opens their room door and a stale stench pours out. “Dear God,” Linda says holding her nose. Annoyed as it is, Chuck just walks into the room without hesitation. “It’ll clear out if we just leave the door open for a while,” he says and then turns on the light switch. The other two follow in his trail. Their room resembles any hotel room found in America, except this one is in Mexico and smells to prove it. There’s two twin beds separated by a nightstand with a lamp on it, and an antique looking television set that probably doesn’t work. Also, there’s a bathroom with a toilet and shower that’s covered in brown stains, and somewhat of a kitchen in the back corner of the room. “Well I guess I’ll be alternating who I sleep with,” Linda says, “depending on who grabs my ass the most in my sleep.” “Ah, then you definitely won’t be sleeping with me,” Lenny laughs. Chuck finally laughs out loud. “You’ll probably be better off with Lenny, I kick when I sleep,” Chuck admits. “I snore…at least that’s what people tell me,” Lenny says. “So I’m the only one who sleeps like a normal person? Great. I’ve known you guys since middle school and I’m just now figuring this out,” Linda kids as she walks around the room. “Well if we would’ve gotten the three bed room condo we paid for and reserved, everything would be OK,” Chuck says, getting frustrated. Linda laughs a little bit. “Everything is OK. Let’s not let this ruin our vacation. I didn’t bust my ass all semester to let this ruin my trip.” “That’s the spirit,” Lenny chimes in as he lays down on his bed. “Well let’s get everything unpacked and then we can catch a bus to the strip,” Chuck tells them. “I think I’m going to leave all my clothes in my suitcase. I forgot to bring my mothballs to keep snakes and insects off my shit,” Lenny says as he slides his suitcase under his bed. “We need to get some groceries before we go out. What time is it?” Chuck thinks out loud as he pulls his cell phone out of his pocket and checks the time. “2:35. I figure we can catch a bus to go into Cancun in about an hour and go get some food and alcohol- “Alcohol! Definitely alcohol,” Lenny interrupts doing a Dustin Hoffman Rain Man impression. “Beer, tequila, rum, and we need a lot of fruity mixers,” Linda excitedly says. “We came all the way to Mexico from Ohio and you want to make your own fruity mixed drinks? Fuck that. Do what you want, but I’m letting Enrique’ the full time bartender whip me up something that’ll make me explode the next day!” Chuck laughs as he walks into the bathroom and shuts the door behind him. “I’m getting ready,” he yells through the door as he turns on the shower water. “I’m probably going to come running out of here covered in brown water in about thirty seconds.” 3. After taking showers, dressing up, and getting the bus schedule from Jorge in the office, the three students get groceries and drop them off back at the hotel, and are now riding on the local “bus” that makes a Greyhound look first class. The hot sun has gone away and is replaced by a bright white full moon. Humidity in the air isn’t nearly as thick as it was earlier, and there’s a cool wind that blows through the open windows of the small bus that brings a relaxing ocean smell with it. “I told you everything was going to be OK,” Chuck says with a smile. “Ha ha, what bullshit. You’re always freaking out about something,” Linda starts, “I swear, when I’m not around you I don’t know who saves you from gunning down the university Virginia Tech style.” “Oh that’s my job, the trusty roommate. Linda you’re cold-blooded by the way,” Lenny says talking over the seat cushion. Chuck and Linda are sharing a seat about halfway back in the bus and Lenny is sitting in the one in front of them. Two locals are chilling out in the back of the bus. Males. Probably about thirty five years old but you couldn’t tell judging by their dirty, unshaven faces. One of them wears a grey sleeveless shirt, has curly greasy hair down to his shoulders, and is holding a cigarette out the window. The man sitting beside him on the aisle seat is wearing a Green Bay Packers hat and sporting a pair of cheap sunglasses (even though it’s dark) and a thick black mustache. Both of them with grisly hair in patches along their cheeks. Linda smells the cigarette smoke. She turns around and glances at the two locals; the one with the cigarette is looking out the window and the one with the sunglasses notices her and smiles. “Excuse me,” she sort of yells at the men. The guy smoking and looking out the window turns around and faces her. “Que?” he says. “Do you have a cigarette I could bum off you?” she asks flirtatiously. She holds up her hands, “I’m all out.” The two men turn to each other and mumble something and then laugh to themselves. “What the fuck are you doing, Linda?” Chuck mutters carefully. “Those guys probably wouldn’t think twice about raping the shit out of you!” Linda gives Chuck a disgusted look. “Quit acting like an American,” she scolds. Chuck scoffs and turns his gaze to the window. The Mexicans say something but Linda doesn’t hear it. “What?” she asks. The guy smoking holds up a pack of local brand cigarettes for her to see. He shakes them at her. “You want one? Come get it,” he says and the two guys laugh to each other. “I’ll buy you a pack when we get off the bus, Linda,” Lenny pleads, turned around once again. “I’ll buy you a fuckin’ carton,” Chuck emphasizes. “I’ll hold you both to it,” Linda says as she stands up from her seat and walks to the back of the bus. “Goddamn it,” Chuck shakes his head. Lenny sits up backwards in his seat and cautiously watches Linda while Chuck sits and stares out the window, pissed off. “Well, she got a cigarette,” Lenny announces. “I don’t give a shit,” Chuck states, still staring out the window. “What the… she’s sitting down with them!” Lenny commentates. Chuck hears the three of them laughing from the back of the bus. Lenny looks at her and gestures his hands up in the hair, as if saying ‘what the hell?’. Linda gestures the ‘just a minute’ index finger. A few miles down the road, condos, bars, and gift shops start to surround them. Linda walks back up to her seat, recognizing the strip from earlier in the day. She sits back down with Chuck. “Have a nice smoke?” Lenny asks. “Yes I did. Those guys are really interesting…and funny,” she retaliates. “I thought you quit, anyways?” Chuck questions. “Hey, now guys, I’m on vacation. Will you give me a break? This could very well be the last time we have to cut loose before we have to make examples of ourselves in the real world.” “Live it up, I guess,” Chuck says, obviously still frustrated. Linda shakes her head in frustration and looks at Lenny to get a sense of his feelings. He just smiles. “You’re the one who said you wanted to ‘mix it up with some locals to get the whole Cancun experience’,” she quotes sarcastically. Chuck turns toward her and says, “I meant mix it up with some nice young Mexican girls! You know…senoritas! I didn’t mean go flirt with the first fifty year old spic pot farmer you meet on the bus!” He immediately realizes he may have said that too loud and looks back at the guys to make sure they didn’t hear him. Lenny and Linda do the same. The guys didn’t hear him and the three kids laugh, just because they were tired of being mad. The bus pulls off to the side of the road and parks beside the bus stop in Downtown Cancun. Lenny hops up and Chuck follows. The three of them walk down the aisle to the front of the bus and wait for the driver to open the hydraulic door. When it opens Chuck and Lenny eagerly walk out and Linda follows, but at the last second turns her head back toward the guys at the back of the bus and mouths the words “don’t forget.” 4. For the last hour the three of them had just walked the strip, frequenting various bars to take shots and order drinks to get a quick buzz. Feeling nice and mellow and pretty drunk, they are in no mood to wait in quarter-mile long lines to get into the bigger, more expensive clubs. Stumbling down the bright and crowded strip, Linda and Lenny are holding hands and swinging their arms gleefully back and forth, while Chuck trails behind (on the verge of throwing up) unsuccessfully trying his best to dodge the oncoming traffic of other drunk partiers walking the sidewalk. Each one of them is drinking something different. Chuck hears Lenny say something enthusiastically and walks quickly to catch up to his two pals. “What’d you say?” Chuck slurs. “I said,” Lenny begins while arbitrarily gesturing with his hands, “we should walk on the beach.” “Bingo!” Chuck agrees and they all three veer a right and cut through an alley in between some low rent diner and an empty gift shop. The concrete beneath their feet fades to sand and they all take off their shoes/sandals and run out towards the water, all of them laughing and having the time of their lives. Chuck downs his margarita and throws the bright pink plastic cup out into the ocean. “That’s an all-thin-tick mothafuckin’ Mexican margarita!” he screams in approval. “WOOO!!!” Lenny shrieks as he takes his shirt off and runs in zigzags through the sand. “I fucking…LOVE your alliteration Chuck!” he yells in between burps. Linda checks her watch and sees that it’s 12:35 a.m. She needs to be back at the hotel at 1:30, unbeknownst to Chuck and Lenny. She looks up from her wrist and sees Chuck curiously eyeballing her. “You got somewhere to be, sugar baby?” he drunkenly asks. “Well I suppose I should tell you now rather than when you’re a little more sober and you switch back into asshole mode,” she begins. A little bit stunned, Chuck raises his eyebrows and cocks his head and asks, “Tell me…(burps)…what?” “You know those guys from the bus? The older ‘spic pot farmrs’?” she starts. “Yeah?” he cautiously responds, sobering up by the second. “Well, they know where to get pot and they’re bringing me some at the hotel.” “WHAT?!?” “They’re meeting us in the parking lot at 1:30 and they’re gonna hook us up with a little bit.” “You told them where we’re staying?!? Holy shit you’re stupid. You really are Linda! This is bullshit.” Lenny, a good fifty yards down the beach, continues frolicking around in a gleeful stupor. Linda has had enough of Chuck’s parenting. “No, you trying to protect me like I’m your little sister is what’s bullshit! If I wanna smoke some pot while I’m on vacation in Mexico, then I will!” she screams as they continue walking and arguing. During all their yelling, they don’t notice that Lenny is in the middle of a fist fight with someone up ahead. “Fine! If you want to get fuckin’ murdered, or raped, or, at best robbed, then be my guest. I’m going back to the hotel and getting a couple hours of sleep before the goddamn federali’s show up and bust up your all’s little deal,” he meanly states and makes a quick right turn back towards the strip without once looking back. Linda stops and watches him storm back towards the strip. She feels bad and her eyes water up a bit; she knows Chuck loves her and has since they were fourteen. “Fine, I’ll see you there,” she says without him hearing, and then “I’m sorry.” She looks down the beach and sees a person lying on the ground getting kicked in the stomach by someone else. “HEY!” she yells so loud that it scratches her throat. Linda takes off running at full speed. “HEY! Stop it!” she continues screaming as she runs, not knowing if her friend is getting beat up or doing the beating. It quickly becomes clear that Lenny is on the ground, obviously unconscious, repeatedly getting kicked. Some white kid, an American partier about their age with a slightly bigger build then Lenny, is relentlessly hurting him. It’s obvious this guy is drunk out of his mind by the way he’s nearly falling to the ground every time he pounds Lenny’s midsection. For some reason he switches up his tactics and stomps on Lenny’s face, making a sickening crunch sound as the nose cracks. “Hey!...fucking stop it!” Linda pleads as she runs right into the stranger, shoving his chest causing him to fall backwards and land on his ass. “You fuckin’ dumb bitch,” the kid drunkenly slurs as he slowly climbs back to his feet. Linda crouches down beside Lenny and cradles his head in her lap, but she doesn’t feel a pulse. “Why’d you do this!?” she cries in between sobs. “What the fuck did he do to you?” she screams as she looks up at the kid who stands right in front of her pointing some small pistol in her face. BLAM! Linda lets go of Lenny and falls back into the sand, leaving a flooding hole in her forehead from the point blank gun shot. “BITCH!” the guy yells, then laughs, then pukes. “I brought this down here to scare off any wetbacks that fuck with me…but then this faggot had to cock block me when I was just tryin’ to do my thing,” he says while pointing to a motionless, half naked Mexican girl lying in the shadows under a lifeguard stand. He laughs with his eyes closed, almost nodding off into sleep. Out of nowhere Chuck tackles the kid from the side, taking them both to the ground. With very little resistance he is able to apprehend the gun and shoot the kid in the chest. Chuck starts to hyperventilate and his eyes widen up as he surveys the situation. The kid on the ground cries and gurgles and cries and then shuts up. Chuck looks around and sees no one, so he puts the gun in his pocket and takes off sprinting back towards the strip, forced to save his grief for later. ONE YEAR LATER In San Jose, Costa Rica a former college student with dark tanned skin and unshaven beard stubble sits at a bar, watching the crummy television. Its picture is fading in and out and squiggly lines keep running across the screen, but he is intently focused on the news story. The broadcaster is speaking in Spanish, albeit a different dialect then Cancun, but the bar patron fluently understands every word the anchorman is saying. The man at the bar signals the bartender for another shot of tequila. He slams down the liquor and places the shot glass on the bar in front of him alongside eleven other empty shooters. On the television, the announcer talks about a story that happened just last year. Something about how three American college students were murdered and a local fourteen year old girl was raped and nearly murdered on a beach in Cancun late one night. Something about how later that night the suspect even tried to score some drugs at his hotel before fleeing town and the deal went sour and two local marijuana dealers were shot to death. Something about how the suspect was still at large and is believed to not have made any attempts to reenter the United States. Something about a physical description of the suspect, a high school photograph, and what he might look like today. Something about why this had happened. The man at the bar didn’t know, but something about the news made him pay his bar tab, put on his sunglasses, pull his hat down a little lower on his forehead, and walk out the door.