The Shady Palms Motel sat on the eastern edge of San Diego, just a block from Interstate 8, in the suburb of El Cajon. The motor lodge once offered tourists free local calls and color television, or so the faded signboard advertised in the lobby window.
For the past several decades, the businesses surrounding the motel had suffered from the dwindling economic effects of double-dip recessions. The abandoned industrial park across the street, which had once supplied the motel with a steady diet of consultants with plush travel allowances, had become a ghost town overrun by weeds and vagrants. The strip mall down the street had suffered the same fate.
The towering motel sign, which easily caught the eyes of motoring tourists, now served as a beacon for criminal surplus. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, a person could score drugs or take their pick from the hookers lined up around the block. Panel vans offered stolen goods for sale and dark alleys served as the perfect place to negotiate murders for hire. Wild stories about the area flourished to the point where police officers refused patrolling its streets at night.
For the unfortunate tourist who booked a room in the crumbling establishment, awakening to a crack of gunfire or tripping over a corpse the next morning were as routine as the paper strip wrapped around the grungy toilet that read Sanitized for your PROTECTION.
All of the lights were turned off inside Room 110. The warm glow from several scattered votives provided just enough light to reveal the shape of a young Muslim kneeling on his prayer rug and bowing in the general direction of Mecca. A passport resting on the chipped bedside table contained the name Mandhur Luqman. Federal authorities would never be able to determine the actual identity of the al-Qaeda operative. Intel from overseas indicated they most likely recruited him from Pakistan, but nobody would ever know for sure.
Mandhur finished his prayers and rose to his feet. He carefully surveyed the equipment spread over the gaudy palm tree comforter on the stiff, double bed. Numerous people had slept, fucked, and died beneath its dingy yellow and green pattern. Everything he needed appeared to be there: a variety of tools for cutting, prying, and drilling as well as a stolen uniform and a fake transit pass one of his many contacts had supplied for him. He picked up each tool and ensured it was in perfect working order before slipping it away inside his black backpack.
He’d been one of the brightest and deadliest graduates from the training camps in Afghanistan. There was no doubt in his mind that he could infiltrate the target, obtain the desired materials, and sneak back to the motel without raising any alarm. He slapped a fresh clip into his automatic pistol before tucking it into his rear waistband. Two extra clips were stashed inside his jacket pocket. This was his insurance policy in case shit went bad.
Mandhur peeked through the narrow gap between the tattered curtains and observed the parking lot for several minutes. A bright half moon rose in the clear night sky. Across the street, a tubby black hooker wearing a tight miniskirt hobbled around on tall stiletto heels. A tweeker with balding hair and piss-stained clothes staggered from his rusting Chevy truck and collapsed against the door to Room 114. However, there wasn’t a cop in sight.
He hoisted his backpack onto his shoulder, slipped his room key with its oversized orange key tag into his pocket, and slipped out the door. A quick double-check of the doorknob made certain he locked it. It didn’t really matter anyway if somebody broke into his room. Other than his prayer rug and a copy of the Qur’an, there was nothing of value or incrimination inside. He spun around to dash away when he slammed into a small woman who grunted like a clubbed seal as she collapsed backwards. She struck the ground hard, her pink high heels flew off as her legs spread wide.
Mandhur stared down at her in disgust. She had defiled her skin with a lollipop tattoo and he could see straight up her tiny plastic skirt. The sight of her shaved pussy made him sick. In his country, those flowery bits were carved off at birth and sewn shut, only to be torn open by a man on his wedding night. But he wasn’t in his country; he was within enemy territory, deep within the sinful, festering heart of the infidels.
“Whore.” He sneered before forcing his way past her and a nerdy-looking guy who was trying to help her up.
The guy stared back and forth through his thick glasses at Mandhur and the woman. His lips parted as if he was about to speak. Mandhur glared at him and he quickly shut his mouth.
The woman quickly sprang back to her feet. She stuck her arms out straight and extended both her middle fingers. “Fuck you, you mother fucking towel-head son of a bitch!”
Mandhur never looked back; instead, he glanced at his watch. The time was 7:38 PM. He quickened his pace through the parking lot.
Soon my mission will be complete, he thought with grim satisfaction. And infidels for ten city blocks will be dying in agony as their gums bleed and their hair falls out. Praise Allah!
A sleazy motel, burrowed on the edge of town, is haunted by rumors of dead hookers found between mattresses and peep holes drilled through walls. When Special Agent Daniels targets the motel during an investigation, the nefarious owner, Sanjay, must scramble to conceal evidence of his own dark deeds. Just when he believes things can’t get any worse, motel guests begin to vanish without a trace.
Can Sanjay discover the truth behind the phenomena threatening his motel before the Feds get suspicious, or does he risk exposing his own sordid enterprises to seek help from the outside?