"Captain? ... Yes, it's me. ... Passed the border into California half an hour ago. If I don't ever get to see another desert after this assignment, it will not be too soon. ... No, I am thinking of driving on for a while longer. Too far from any decent city for the motels to be anything other than trashy hellholes anyway. ... Yes, I know you won't pay me if I am dead, but I might as well catch my shut eye at a place where I don't have to worry about bed bugs. Don't worry, I will stop if I get too tired before I reach a decent city after all. ... Yeah, ok. I'll call again tomorrow night, or if there is any new development before that. Oh, and remember when we meet in Napa, you owe me a bottle of wine for this one. 'Night."

Half an hour later I opened the windows to feel the cool wind in my hair. Now, why couldn't the desert be as cool during the day as during the night? Freaking weird climate. Alas, it was becoming clear that I was not going to make it to the closest city. As my head grew heavy and I had to fight to keep my eyelids open, I almost missed the motel. Its sign was shimmering as if it was about to give out its ghost, but beggars can't be choosers, and I was tired enough not to care too much any more.

As I exited my car, turned around, I saw her in the doorway of the office. At that moment a church bell rang, and maybe it was that combined my Roman Catholic upbringing that made me want to ask whether she was an angel or a fallen angel. But I managed to resist the temptation, and asked instead whether she had any vacancies. She laughed as if I had made a joke "Si, seņor, we do. That's about all we got though." At that moment the power went out. She swore, using language a lady shouldn't know (made me think that maybe she wasn't a lady). Being polite, I pretended not to understand enough Spanish. "Do you still want a room?Half price?" she asked. I thought of asking what the odds were that they had not paid the electric bill, but I was too beat to care. "Too tired to keep on driving," I said, "You got a flashlight to help me find my room?" She said "No, but I got a candle." A few moments longer, she found and lit it. Her pretty face in the dancing candlelight made me wonder yet again what such a pretty thing was doing running a motel that occasionally rented rooms for a night, and whether they ever rented them by the hour to pretty, pretty boys, she might call friends. And was that sweet cloying smell marijuana? Well, I decided that if I wanted a place to stay the night in, I better not mention any of that, nor my being an undercover cop, but just keep quiet, follow my pretty hostess down the long corridor, and get under a different kind of cover to help me forget this shitty assignment.

From somewhere off the distance I thought I heard voices and some music, like there was a fiesta going on, which seemed odd given the abandoned feeling of the place. I decided that I must be hearing voices in my overtired state.

"So, where are you from?" the only other voice (that I knew was real) asked me. "New York City" I replied. "I've always wanted to go to New York," she sighed "ever since I saw Breakfast at Tiffany's as a little girl. If I win the lottery, I am going to buy myself a Mercedes Benz, and drive it all the way to New York." "Good luck" I said. That's when the lights came back on. I decided to push my luck and ask whether they had any ice, but wasn't too surprised to find out that the ice maker was broken, "oh, well, I guess I'll have to drink my pink champagne cold tonight for a change," I joked. The seņorita gave me a polite chuckle along with my room keys, "Is there anything else I can do for you, seņor?" The tone of the question made me wonder whether I would find a mirror on the ceiling of the room, but I decided not to take the bait, and replied "No, thanks." As she was about to leave, I tossed her the question, "What time is checkout?" She shrugged, "You can checkout any time you like." In the back of my mind a warning bell went off, expecting this statement to be followed by "but you can never leave." I was too tired to even chuckle at my own mental associations, let alone take them seriously. "Buenas noches, seņorita," I said. "Buenas noches seņor," she replied.

After all this, I was not surprised to toss and turn and dream of brothels and wild parties and ritual slayings. What I did not expect though was that I actually would not survive the night.

Newspaper article: Officer found stabbed in the back at the Motel California, in the desert 100 miles from the California-Nevada border. An anonymous source informs us that he appeared to be running toward the door when he was stabbed.