I liked Urban Spaceman’s flash from last week so much, I decided to continue it.

The man behind the mask.

El Ardillo Voladora sat patiently at the foot of his well-made bed. He wasn’t certain when Isabella would come to his room, or even if she would show up, but he would be ready. When he closed his eyes, he saw her green eyes. When she spoke with him by the pool they gleamed like freshly polished emeralds. He couldn’t place the feeling he went through as he sat there, but the steady hum of the air conditioner did not object to his stark silence.

He looked to a mirror adorning the dresser and saw a man in distress. Perfectly still the man sat dressed in black windowpane slacks, a collarless button-down shirt and a luchador mask. He fingered the material of his mask, recalling lifting it earlier that day to drink his tequila sunrise. In the many years as a wrestling star, he couldn’t recall ever feeling this nervous. He had faced men with physiques much larger and menacing than his own, but the thought of encountering a tiny brunette tonight caused him to stare not into the past of three weeks ago, but the past only several hours old.

“Señor?” A feminine voice permeated the large wooden door, followed by a light rapping.

Ardillo stared at the door, not trusting himself to speak.

“Señor Ardillo? It’s me, Isabella. The woman from the pool.”

The large man rose to his feet. “Isabella.” He called to the door, but making no move towards it. “Are you certain you wish to come in?”

“Against the advice of my friends, I have come as promised.” She placed a hand on the door. “Will you let me in?”

“A moment, please.” Ardillo cleared the distance to the door in three strides. He lowered the door handle, disengaging the latch, but did not open the door.

In the silence of the room, only inches away, but separated by reinforced wood, he heard Isabella whisper. “Are you frightened?”

He lowered his voice and felt the baritone against the door as he replied a single word: “Yes.”

The giggle emanating from the hallway reminded him of events poolside only hours ago.

Ardillo felt his cheeks flush, his grip on the door handle tightened, his knuckles as white as the shirt he wore. “You mock me?”

“Were this merely a game or some sort of conquest, I assure you I have better things to do.” Here voice rose, “Shall I push my way through, or will you hold the door open like a proper gentleman?”

Ardillo recalled briefly her green eyes. Eyes that showed no fear when he confided in her the reason for his visit to Cancun. “¿Cómo no?” He whispered before swinging the door wide. He stood stoically his large hand gripping the top of the door. Isabella stepped in and placed her hand on his bulging bicep.

He looked down and saw his reflection in the trendy sunglasses she wore. “My girlfriends would never forgive me if I couldn’t tell them what your arm feels like through a cotton shirt.”

Ardillo flexed, straining his shirtsleeve. Isabella smiled and ducked under his arm. She sat at the foot of the bed and motioned for him to close the door. The door latched quietly and he sized up the curvaceous woman sitting on the bed in the spot he just vacated. Other than the sunglasses, she was dressed as she had earlier that day. Ardillo was about to comment on their opposing clothing, but Isabella lowered her sunglasses and declared, “As I said earlier, I’ve killed a man.”

Ardillo crossed his arms and leaned against the door. “Continue.”

“I’m a nurse at a hospital. A man was dying of a painful cancer. He had a few weeks to live, but he asked me for help to end his pain.”

“And you did?”

“Not at first. It took me three days to work up the courage to do what I knew in my heart was the right thing to do.”

“Was your deed discovered?”

“No. The hospital attributed his death to cancer complications.” Isabella gripped her shoulders and rocked forward.

“A drink before we continue?”

She stopped rocking and nodded her acquiescence.

Ardillo strode to the phone beside the bed. When the line connected he spoke softly, “Viñas de Garza por favor… Si… Gracias.”

Isabella stared at the mirror. Ardillo recognized the look and spoke up. “How did you find yourself in Cancun?”

“I moped around for a week or two and my girlfriends dragged me down here. I thought this trip a waste… Until I met you.”

Ardillo opened his mouth to respond, but was interrupted by a sharp rap on the door. He opened the door and a bellman entered clutching a bottle to his chest with both hands.

“Señor,” nodding first to Ardillo, then to Isabella, “Señorita. I have a bottle of ’92 Viñas de Garza for you.” The bellman made no motion to relinquish his bottle and no one moved to take it. The three stared at each other in silence until Isabella rose to her feet. “Camarero? What is the matter?”

“I um…” The bellman’s voice trailed off and he stared at the floor. Isabella walked to him and placed her hand on his shoulder. “What is the matter?” She repeated.

“Siento. I am sorry.” He thrust the bottle out as if relinquishing the bottle somehow absolved him of his error.

Isabella rested her free hand on his and spoke softly. “Today is a day of revelations. My companion and I are sharing our deepest secrets. Surely, whatever is troubling you cannot be worse that what I’ve heard already.”

The bellman lowered the bottle to his side in defeat. “The Señorita is kind, but my troubles are mine alone.”

Isabella gripped the bellman’s shoulders. “I just confessed to killing a man.”

The bellman struggled out of her grip. “¡Dios Mío!” He declared, eyes welling with tears. “I too have ended a life only three weeks ago!” And dropped the bottle of wine.

About Mark Gardner

Mark Gardner lives in northern Arizona with his wife, three children and a pair of spoiled dogs. Mark holds a degrees in Computer Systems and Applications and Applied Human Behavior. View all posts by Mark Gardner

7 responses to “Masks

  • Mr Urban Spaceman

    Ooh, nicely done. Who else is going to crawl out of the woodwork and confess to killing someone?! It would be neat if this could be a game of pass the parcel-story, with someone adding a death to it each week.

    Neat in a very macabre way, of course.

    Must admit, your Isabella’s confession was much milder than the one I had envisaged, but her reasoning (compassion) made for a fine counterpoint to El Ardillo’s heat-of-the-moment vigilante killing. I really liked the tension you created in building up to her confession, and Voladora’s nerves, which are completely understandable because it’s not every day somebody bares their soul to you and tells you of their darkest secrets.

    Really well done. I love how much you’ve developed these characters, both physically and emotionally—you managed to make them both your own. Excellent work, I say.

  • Mark Gardner

    I think yours is better than mine and I worried the quality difference would ruin it.

    I actually have a loose outline for this story with a twist at the end… I think we need at least two more confessions before the twist is revealed.

    • Mr Urban Spaceman

      Nah man, your continuation simply makes it MORE BETTER! On account of you’ve obviously given it a lot of thought. More thought than I did. So take it from the first writer of the characters; your addition is great.

      Can’t wait to see where you take these characters next time (if you do indeed continue it). I was on the edge of my seat for parts of your story.

  • Time and Time Again – A Flash Fiction Piece | Observations of The Urban Spaceman

    […] note, an alternative ending to The Man Behind the Mask can be found at Mark Gardner’s site, Article 94, and he really does justice to the […]

  • Rebecca Douglass

    Okay, I like both of your continuations. And now you both have to keep going, or I will die of curiosity and haunt you forever.

  • Happenings | Article 94

    […] projects, My Son with Robert Sadler and Masks with the Urban Spaceman are still in […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: