A torrid sun; a tropical paradise; a frustrated writer; a cheating wife; a mysterious sultry woman... the ingredients for a forbidden affair? Or the recipe for murder and the perfect crime?
I felt like a cornered wild animal. This couldn't be happening. I was innocent! My head began throbbing from the bump on my head. The room began to spin. Then everything went dark ...
She was hovering over me. Her scent, a bouquet of lust, assaulted my olfactory senses. She leaned forward and placing her hand beneath it she maneuvered a breast to my quivering lips. I greedily accepted her offering. Ever so gently I nipped the hardened tip between my teeth.
"Ouch!" the woman cried! "The son of a bitch bit me!"
I opened my eyes and through the glare of a bright light I saw an unfamiliar face looking down at me. It only took a few moments before I realized that I was on the floor. The woman kneeling beside me was sucking on the end of her index finger. I managed to get myself upright into a sitting position and looked about me. 'Ollie' and 'Stan' stood nearby, their arms crossed at their chests.
"What happened?" I queried. I winced as I spoke and reached up for the source of pain on the crown of my head. A bandage had been applied to the spot.
The woman looked at her finger and then at me and said, "I'm the hotel nurse, Mr. Earle. You passed out and the officers here called me. You must have bumped your head on the side of the dresser when you fell. There was some minor bleeding, but nothing serious enough to be concerned about. I was trying to check to see if your air passage was clear ... when you bit me!"
She grabbed her bag and stood up. After telling the officers that I'd be okay, she left the suite. I tried to get up but didn't seem to have the strength. I slid back until I was sitting upright against the dresser.
'Stan' spoke first, "I'm sorry. You looked like you were falling and I tried to catch you from behind. I didn't get to you in time."
Then 'Ollie' broke his silence, "Let me put you at ease. You are not a suspect, Mr. Earle." He watched me as I relaxed before continuing, "Your wife's death is no longer considered to be a homicide. We are ruling it a suicide!"
I can only surmise that I must have blacked out again. I awoke and found myself lying atop the sheets on the bed. The police officers were gone. I was alone in the darkened room. I sat up slowly and remained motionless for several minutes to make sure there was no sudden blood rush.
A small sheet of paper resting on the dresser caught my eye. Judging from its size, I was correct in guessing that it was probably a page from the notebook of one of the Island's finest. I unfolded it and read the scribbled contents:
Mr. Earle,Funny, I thought, that during this whole nightmare I'd never learned either 'Stan's' or 'Ollie's' real names until that moment. I studied their names for a moment and raised one eyebrow. What was it with the names of the people who lived in this so-called island paradise?
I'm sorry if the findings of our investigation came as a shock to you. I understand that it was wasn't the best time to have laid that news on you so bluntly. When you are feeling better and ready to discuss the case, please come down to the station at your convenience.
Sgt. Stuart D. Baker and Officer James Locke
"Studebaker? ... And James - Jimmy Locke?" I mused aloud. The parents of those two must have been comedians. Then, of course, there was one Nova - Nova Caine! Suddenly, I remembered the envelope and fell to my knees to retrieve it from beneath the dresser. Then there was the matter of the blue bra! I noted this as it slid into view with the envelope.
The two objects clasped in my fingertips, I sat down on the edge of the bed. I felt as if I had been laboring over a jigsaw puzzle with several missing pieces for the last two days and nights. The bra and the envelope were but two of the gaps in the picture depicted on the box. There was one problem, however. The puzzle had been disassembled, scooped back into the box, and had been thrown away. Yet, for some reason I had a feeling that the pieces in my hand would reveal far more of the bigger picture than the rest.
Beads of perspiration began to form on my forehead as I removed the contents from the unsealed envelope. I glanced only for a moment at my wife's name on its face. In stunned silence as I read the brief note several times, I realized that instead of providing me with me answers I was left with but another enigmatic piece of the puzzle.
Eve,Nova and my wife knew each other? What arrangements? Were those arrangements a tryst for the two of them to meet the two men who had been questioned and released by the police? I cringed at the suggestions of the note that were ricocheting about in my skull. What did she mean 'if things got out of hand they could always change'? What, partners? Perhaps the most perplexing were the words: 'When I am done.' Had she meant when she was done screwing me?
The arrangements have been made. When I am done we will meet you in the lounge. We will have a wonderful time. Don't worry, if things get out of hand we can always change.
In the elevator to the lobby I paced back and forth. I wasn't going to learn anything in my suite. I had returned both the bra and the envelope to the hiding place under the dresser. At that time, I'd had a premonition that I should remain the only person to know of their existence or whereabouts, and that included the law.
I was tired of trying to solve ambiguous clues. In and of themselves, they meant little, too insignificant to help me understand what had been happening. Though I wouldn't have admitted it to a living soul, there was the matter of the siege that was being waged against my male pride. On that night I had been in the company of two voluptuous and gorgeous women, both of whom who had walked away through my door to be with another man!
One thing was certain, I needed to confront the bartender again. He'd lied to the police and to me. Who was he protecting? Me? But why? Himself? From whom? Nova? Nova, the mysterious thread that could surely tie everything together. The note to Eve had mentioned a meeting in the lounge. It wasn't unreasonable to think that a bartender with a 'sharp eye for detail' would have seen Nova, my wife and the two men when they entered the lounge.
As was the case of my previous visits to his bar, a drink was awaiting me as I settled onto a bar stool. He nodded to my raised glass and stood before me, anticipating my questions. I drained the glass in one long drink. I took a deep breath and let the warm concoction course through my body.
"Yes, Mr. Earle," he said as I placed the glass onto the bar. "I saw your wife in here last night after you had left. She met two rather large men in three-piece suits. They exchanged a few words and then she left with them." He crossed his arms across his chest as if to signal that he had nothing further to say. He remained in that pose and eyed me.
If for no other reason than to study his reaction I asked, "She was alone? There wasn't another woman with her?"
He tilted his head and rolled his eyes in the direction of the far end of bar near the entrance. He said softly, "Why not ask them?" I turned in time to see two men in suits rising from their stools. They glanced in our direction, nodded and turned to walk out of the lounge. "Those are the two men who left with your wife, Mr. Earle."
In a hurried pace I followed their perceived path out of the hotel foyer and onto the canopied sidewalk. I caught a glimpse of a figure rounding the corner to my left and followed. Suddenly from behind two strong hands grabbed my arms by the biceps and pulled them tight. Another figured appeared before me and without hesitation thrust a clinched fist into my gut.
Winded, I was then forcibly dragged to a car parked nearby. "Get in the car, Mr. Earle," one of the men ordered. I tried to speak as I looked up unto the face of one of the men. When he patted his chest to suggest that a gun was hidden inside his jacket, I complied. It was not the time to be a hero, especially in my weakened state.
To be continued .... HERE.