Seroje was glad for the sun because her sunglasses hid her eyes, allowing her to keep watch over the area without looking like she was. She’d positioned herself in order that she could watch the seating area instead of facing the water. There were a number of people waiting for tables. However, she was surprised to see the OSLO guy appear with a waiter who took him to a table a short distance away from them. She wondered how he’d managed this.
This was a different guy, making her wonder what happened to the other one, the third shooter. Did they have to switch guys because she’d now recognize him? Or did the third shooter not appreciate getting wet?
As she thought about what she needed to do, Seroje entertained a macabre thought that the third shooter might still be in the water. She raised her sunglasses, setting them on her head as she raised her glass, keeping it between the guy and her lips. She needed to have Craig see her eyes.
“Do you know that people can read lips?” she said to him in a whisper, looking him straight in the eyes.
Seroje knew her eyes were focused and steady. She wanted to know how much Craig knew about his tail.
He nodded, returning her gaze. His posture changed, and she knew he was paying attention.
“You were followed here,” she said. She put her glass down and picked up her napkin to mask her speaking.
“Yes, this weather has been especially nice,” he said to her. “Where would you like to go this weekend?” He put just a slight emphasis on “where”.
“Two tables to your right. Guy with sunglasses on his head. Light jacket hiding a gun holster,” she said in a quiet voice. “Do you know him?”
His eyes shifted to look.
“He works for my company,” she said.
Craig seemed startled into silence as he stared at her. She felt this wasn’t a silence for her, but a silence because he didn’t know how to respond. Didn’t know what to say. She’d call it a “caught off guard” silence.
He dropped his eyes as he picked up his tea to sip, making Seroje think he was giving himself time to think.
“Your company?” he said after a long time, holding his glass up to mask his lips and returning his gaze to hers.
“Yes,” she said, still managing to keep her eyes focused and steady.
“You recognize him?”
“I can recognize every single employee,” she said, covering her mouth with her hand.
He dropped his eyes again, staring at the table, almost behaving like she did.
The waiter arrived with the food, giving Craig something to do. Seroje wondered why this shook him up so much—the fact that this was someone from her company, not the fact that he was being followed.
“Nice purse,” he said as if they’d never had the previous conversation.
“Thank you,” she said, not saying why she’d purchased it or what was inside.
Craig only ate about half the fish and chips, while Seroje ate her entire meal. Her only meals of late were with Craig. However, this meal was eaten in total silence.
“Excuse me a moment,” he said. He stood and left.
She wondered where he was going. Restroom? To make a phone call?
The OLSO guy watched him go but didn’t leave. Seroje pretended to ignore him, which she was good at, while she drank the last of her tea. She tracked the time. Craig was gone eleven and a half minutes before he returned and sat. He raised his glass of tea.
“You free to go to the airport now? Early start to the weekend?” he said in a low voice, masking his lips.
“Yes,” she said, covering her mouth with her hand. “Want a lesson on losing a tail?”
“No,” he said, rising. She followed suit. “I’ll pay while you use the restroom,” he said in a normal voice while they moved inside, but he led her out of the restaurant and straight into his car. His car was parked right outside by the restaurant entrance with the doors already open.
Seroje watched the mirror on her side of the car. The OSLO employee hadn’t caught the deceit. They’d lost him.
“Very good,” she said.
Craig said nothing, biting one of his nails while he drove.
He made a phone call once they reached the airport.
“Celia, this is Craig. I’ve been called out of town on a family matter. Can you please cancel everything for this afternoon and tomorrow? I’ll be back on Monday. Yes, I mean Tuesday. Yes, thank you for your concern. Bye,” he said.
Seroje felt strange seeing her car parked there as Craig parked beside it. He led her through the building to his jet. There was a different man standing by the airstairs.
“Hola, José. A la isla,” Craig said in Spanish.
“Si, Señor Craig,” José said.
Seroje remembered that José was one of his pilots.
“Hola,” she said as he waved her aboard.
José looked to be in his fifties with a lot of gray in his hair and deep brown eyes. He was a few inches shorter than she. He smelled of garlic, but he was clean and as tidy as Pete.
“What island?” she said to Craig.
“Private,” Craig said as he settled in his seat. He seemed distracted, staring into space and not at her for once.
Seroje settled in her seat, fastening her seat belt. She stared at the wall.
“Prepare for departure. Please fasten seat belts,” José’s voice announced overhead. He sounded different than Pete, making Seroje feel as if she was on someone else’s jet.
The jet took off and as soon as it leveled, Craig left, going to the back. She knew he was making phone calls, but she couldn’t make out any of his conversations due to the sounds of the jet. He didn’t seem to be making the connections he wanted.
He looked irritated as he sat back down.
She rose to look through the small refrigerator onboard. There were sodas, beer and water. She picked out a soda and a beer.
“Here,” she said, popping open the beer. “It’s five o’clock somewhere.”
He took it, but it was a few minutes before he responded, staring at the can.
“Thank you,” he said in a quiet voice.
Seroje sipped her soda and stared at the wall.
He tipped the beer back. She counted four swallows. Probably half the can was gone.
“The flight is about four hours long,” he said, staring at the can.
“Okay,” she said, wondering if she should ask why he was so upset, but while she thought about it, she didn’t really want to hear the answer. She wanted to watch the wall, which was soothing. Craig wasn’t soothing to watch because he was feeling irritated. She didn’t want to feel irritated.
He finished the beer and went to the back again to make more phone calls, but didn’t seem to have been any more successful than the first time.
“Stupid holidays,” he muttered as he sat back in his seat.
Seroje didn’t understand what he meant, having to look on her phone calendar. Today was the Thursday before the Labor Day weekend. So that was why he wasn’t getting anyone. Everyone was heading out early for the weekend, making it a four-day weekend or better yet, as she recalled overhearing someone at her office mention, taking the whole week off. People were making it into a ten-day holiday.
Damn, she thought. She could have done that and only need to take five days off of work. But it was too late now. She didn’t have a job any more. Then why did she feel like she was still working?
Craig sighed, putting his feet up. She was glad he wasn’t going to drink beer the whole way and that the one beer did the trick, although she didn’t understand what beer did for people. Beer tasted nasty to her.
She watched the wall for an hour, then closed her eyes, counting Craig’s breaths and then his snores. She could smell the beer and his cologne. Her body wanted him and she wondered if he’d be up for the pleasure. She laughed at her unintended pun, deciding not to push the issue if he was still irritated.
She amused herself with puns and staring at the wall until the jet dropped and Craig woke.
“Sorry, sir. We are hitting a little turbulence,” José announced overhead. “Please fasten seat belts.”
They both were already fastened in. She kept hold of her empty soda can and he held the beer can so they’d not go flying around the cabin.
That made her think of one last pun, or was it more of a joke. She laughed to herself.
“You like turbulence?” Craig said. “I thought you didn’t like things that moved around.”
“I hate turbulence. I was thinking of puns to distract myself,” she said as the jet bounced again.
“Such as,” he said.
“If your jet lands in the woods, will we then be in a cabin in the woods?” she said.
He smiled and laughed.
“That’s a good one.”
“Prepare for arrival. Please fasten seat belts,” José announced overhead.
The jet dropped and the turbulence worsened.
“It’s because we’re over the water,” Craig said as the cabin bounced.
“Craig, sir. There is a helicopter on the landing strip,” José announced overhead.
The jet rose and banked.
Craig pulled out his phone and made a call.
“Hola,” he said, then he spoke in rapid Spanish. The call was short, telling someone that they were circling and to have the helicopter moved as soon as possible. That the people were just to drop off supplies and nothing else.
Craig looked impatient while the jet circled and bounced for thirteen more minutes before his phone rang.
“Hola? Si. Gracias,” he said and he ended the call, then pressed a button.
“Yes, sir,” José’s voice said.
“Five more minutes and they will be out of there,” Craig said.
Seroje counted the time.
“Chopper in the air, sir,” José’s voice said and the jet began its descent again.
The jet touched down, and the engines roared as it braked hard.
Seroje must have had a startled look on her face.
“Short runway,” Craig said.
“Glad I didn’t know.”
The jet taxied only a short way, then performed a turn with one engine roaring before the engines cut. The jet now faced the direction it had just come.
“We have arrived,” José announced overhead. “Welcome to paradise.”
Craig smiled at the comment as he unbuckled his seat belt.
Fresh sea air, salt, floral scents, and jet exhaust greeted Seroje’s nose when she stepped off the jet. The sun was low on the horizon already, yet she could feel the heat as she stepped off the plane. She calculated they were close to the equator.
There was a helicopter pad with a small helicopter.
“Caribbean?” she said, guessing.
Craig nodded, looking as if he was waiting for José while he watched the jet.
“What is the helicopter for?” she said.
“If we want to go to the big island for dinner or something,” he said. “I fly.”
She nodded while she stared at the machine.
“You fly,” she said, repeating the fact, not sure if she understood what he meant.
“Hey, José,” Craig said when José stepped away from the jet. “I don’t know what they did with the supplies, so if you don’t have anything down at the cottage, come up to the house.”
“Yes, sir,” José said with a nod as the door to the jet closed. He walked off across the airstrip carrying an overnight bag.
Craig led her in the opposite direction, toward a low wall. There was a path choked with vegetation that was trying to reclaim the stone walkway. Craig broke back the leaves, opening the way for them. The vegetation opened up as they reached a patio. The doors to the house were open and so were the windows, to allow the house to air. There was still the faint odor of stale air.
“No one’s been here in awhile,” Craig said as he checked the grocery bags sitting on the kitchen island. “Had to order in some supplies, otherwise we’d be foraging or fishing for dinner.”
“That’s who was here?” she said, turning in a full circle to see the room.
“Yes. Delivery service from the big island via helicopter,” he said. “Do you know how to cook?”
She was silent a moment as a tiny tinge of apprehension crept up her spine.
“You mean like, food?” she said.
“Yes, like food.”
“No,” she said. “I can cook noodles.”
“That’s okay. I can cook,” he said with a smile and her apprehension dissipated.
Craig emptied out the bags, putting things on the counter and in cabinets. He opened the fridge, putting in a carton of eggs. The fridge was already stocked with soda and bottles of water.
José stepped in.
“I’m all good, sir,” he said. “Probably why they took so long.” He put a six-pack of beer on the counter. “But they put this in the wrong fridge.”
He chuckled and left.
Craig put the beer into the fridge.
“He’s not allowed to drink any alcohol while on duty,” Craig said. “He’s on duty twenty-four seven until we get back to Annapolis. The rules of having a pilot’s license and the rules to flying my jet.”
“This is your place?” she said, looking at the house. The floors were tile. There were no pictures on the walls. The only furniture she’d seen so far was the four stools at the kitchen island, chairs on the patio and one love seat in what could have been a living room.
“Bought it for the second wife. She had to have a private island. Owned it only a day or so before she left me. She never stepped foot here. This is only my third time here, and that’s counting when I looked at it before buying. An expensive hunk of land just sitting here,” he said, watching her.
There were no lights on, and the sun was setting.
“Is there a bed?” she said.
He raised his hand and beckoned her with a finger to follow as he moved toward the other end of the house. A breeze was billowing through the windows at this end. He stopped in a huge master suite. There was a king size bed and one simulated wicker dresser. White sheets lay stacked on the mattress. Double glass doors opened out onto another patio, but the patio chairs and table were stacked and covered. The view was the beach.
The walls were a light golden peach. The en suite bathroom had a package of toilet paper sitting on the counter with soap still in the packaging. There were new toothbrushes, toothpaste and a pack of razors. The walls were cream as were the toilet, tiled walk-in shower, and the jacuzzi tub.
Seroje finished her tour of the room, stepping over by him. They now stood in twilight in the middle of the bedroom facing each other.
“If we married,” he said in a soft quiet voice, “what would you want?”
“You already have everything,” she said as she put her arms around his neck and he put his arms around her.
She felt as if she was in a surreal dream, but the character she played was herself. The sound of the surf and the breeze felt like the sound track to a movie, but the heat of Craig’s body and the beating of his heart were real and the only thing she wanted.
Seroje kissed him. A long and passionate kiss.
The sheets and their clothes ended up on the floor as they merged their bodies together on the bed.