Wednesday, June 20, 2012

F3 Cycle 83 "A Small Price for Paradise"

F3 Cue: Write a story of gripping suspense, with a “ticking bomb” of some sort.
Genre: Suspense (may be mixed with fantasy, western, SF, horror… any)
Word Count: 1500

For some unknown reason Camilla Island was never discovered by the mega-real estate developers that plagued the Caribbean like rampaging locusts all through the second half of the twentieth-century. Sitting just a few miles off the southern coast of Jamaica and being about the same size as the American Virgin Island of St. Thomas it boasted an Eden-like serenity of beautiful tropical foliage, pristine sandy beaches and peaceful fishing villages. Because Camilla missed out on the huge all inclusive resorts, championship golf courses, and duty-free shopping areas the mass migration of tourist hordes seeking escape from their mundane existence never materialized. 

Those very few Americans and Europeans lucky enough to discover its existence and wanting something off the beaten path quickly found out that accommodations never rose above old-fashioned boarding houses and small, locally owned cottages. Despite lacking modern amenities, Camilla nonetheless had an intoxicating allure for many who stepped off the seaplane and onto the concrete pier, which acts as the official gateway to this isolated paradise. That was what happened to me, I came here in June of 2001 for a vacation wanting to run away from a failed marriage along with a stalled career as a cop for a couple of weeks but I ended up staying.

Becoming a member of the expatriate community, I traded my Atlanta apartment for a two-room shack and a worn out laptop to pursue my dream of being a full-time writer. My expat dream was far from perfect with food being an issue, groceries imported from the mainland were very expensive. So, I had to adjust to local environment by learning to fish and throw a cast net along with devoting myself to my writing. It took some time but I adapted and became at least moderately successful writer selling crappy boilerplate novels and short stories. While the name Roger Harper would never grace the literary bestseller list, I at least made enough money to import a few items and buy my favorite beer on a regular basis. For eight years, Camilla Island was paradise everyone dreams of finding, but as the cliché says, everything good must eventually end.

It began in 2009 with the construction of the small resort on the west end of the island called Blue Oasis. Both the local officials and developers said it was only thirty rooms complete with two pools and small eight-hole golf course but for the expats like me, we could smell the blood in the water. With the discovery of our hidden Eden, everyone figured it was only a matter of time before other developers came and turned Camilla into another theme park.

The one advantage I found to the deteriorating situation was the small tiki bar Blue Oasis setup on the beach in front of their main buildings. I quickly became something of a regular because it was quaint, served cheap cold beer, and allowed a fifty-one year old man to scope out the hot young babes that believed they were doing something slightly dangerous by visiting an island away from normal tourist sites.

The little tiki bar quickly ran through seven or eight bartenders before Scott Norris showed up. He was a mystery to me right from the beginning but despite that, we became friends. Scott was a good looking kid in his mid-twenties and clearly very intelligent although he did his best to hide it from everyone. I eventually learned not to push the subject of his past despite my writer’s and ex-cop curiosity wanting to learn more. For two years, Scott and I settled into such an easy rhythm I began to believe my paradise had received something of a reprieve. However, when the woman in white appeared all that changed.

She appeared late one night walking the beach like some ghost searching for her lost love. Scott was putting things away preparing for the cleanup crew to pick up the trash when we both saw her. She was walking in the ocean up to her ankles dressed in a flowing white gown that along with her blond hair were both caught in the wind blowing freely adding to the ghost-like affect. She seemed oblivious to us both up until the last second when she turned her head our way and smiled. Her beauty entranced me but incredibly, my young friend was not and I followed her until she once gain disappeared into the night.

“Oh, my God, Scott,” I exclaimed feeling the lust rage all the way to my bones, “just who was that? I think I am in love.”

Scott always liked my overactive reactions to the women showing up at the Blue Oasis. “Slow down old man,” he said, “she’s way out of both our leagues. According to the grapevine, she’s the wife of the resort owner and has moved into one of the three beach houses the resort built last year for the elites. Word from the property manager Patrick is to leave her alone unless she speaks to you, then move heaven and earth to get whatever she wants.”

“Ah damn,” I said, “another sign of the impending apocalypse. They’ll turn this island into one huge amalgamation of a golf course, parking lot, and gated neighborhoods if it kills them.”

Scott barely said anything but we had talked plenty of times worried Camilla would be turned into something fake and so exclusive it became another corrupted copy of any number of other islands that were once something close to paradise. When the cleanup crew arrived, Scott closed the bar and we parted ways. He drifted back to his small bungalow provided by the resort and I slowly walked the path back to my small shack promptly forgetting about the woman in white.


The next morning I rode my trusty scooter down to Logantown, the only real town on Camilla, heading to the only place with internet access so I could email my latest trash adventure novel to my publisher. Sitting in the cramped internet café waiting for my email to go through I nursed a warm beer and a bad attitude about all the daytrippers riding the ferry over from the Jamaica to jam the streets and business of Logantown making it look like tropical version of Tokyo or New York. I realized that the business brought more money to the people of Logantown but I could already see the stress on the local infrastructure and pollution brought on by wealthy Americans and Europeans wanting the exotic but their usual conveniences as well.

Despite the fact that I had a fat American couple in front of me arguing with one of the locals who sold woodcarvings to tourists like them, I spotted Scott sitting across the street at one of the new fancy restaurants talking with the beautiful blond who we had both saw the night before. My old cop senses were registering some massive strangeness because it was clear these two were old acquaintances. Besides the fact they were holding each other’s hands from the looks on their faces they were talking about something very important. Maybe it was the pseudo-father and son relationship I developed with Scott but I had always figured the kid to be popular with the ladies so seeing him with a beautiful women made me proud. The two problems with that idea was the fact I had never really saw Scott making the moves on anyone and primarily, in this case, the woman he was with was the resort owner’s wife.

Realizing it might cause stress in my friendship with Scott I actually planned to walk over and introduce myself to the beautiful mystery lady but my email finally went through and as I should have expected my agent wanted to chat over my next novel. My need for money to feed myself taking priority, I spent the next fifteen minutes looking at his ugly face on my laptop screen. By the time I was done both Scott and the woman were gone.  

Later that night at the bar, I asked Scott several roundabout questions if he had seen the lady in white anymore since the previous night. He said no on all counts and restated his advice to avoid her at costs. I almost believed him about staying away from the woman until a little man appeared at the bar wearing an expensive suit and carrying a very bad attitude.

“Mr. Norris,” he said through his nostrils, “I’ve watched you all night and I strongly feel you are not providing enough in the way of a friendly customer service to our guests. Please realize I do not care who recommended you for this job, I will fire you if I believe it is best for the resort. I have big plans for this place that no one will disrupt.” He then turned on his heels and disappeared into the night. It did not take a rocket scientist to realize we had just seen the resort owner.

“Yes, Mr. Banks,” Scott said, “I will do better.” The look of utter hatred on Scott’s face spoke volumes, you did not develop something like that working for an asshole for just a couple of years.


The next morning I hung around a gas station that made ice for the locals as well talking with a few other expats who use it as a gathering place to shoot the shit and drink beer. It had the advantage of being close to Scott’s bungalow so I could see him ride off on his motorcycle obviously heading back towards Logantown. It was easy to sneak away from the small group of nearly drunk Americans and even easier to break inside Scott’s place. At first, it appeared like any other bachelor pad, dirty clothes and trash all around but after a few minutes of experienced searching, I found other things quite disturbing.

Turns out Scott had quite the collection of books on organic chemistry and poisons along with notebooks filled with information on the usual dietary choices of a Mr. Thomas Banks clearly written by a female. The most telling were the pictures of Scott and the beautiful woman together. The pictures were taken in public and somewhat formal making the two look like close siblings or even lovers but it was hard to tell. What had my ex-cop senses buzzing was that Mr. Banks appears to be the target of a murder. I quickly left Scott’s small house and returned to my own shack to think things over. A better person might confront Scott and the woman but with the island I love clearly threatened, the death of one asshole in a world full of them is microscopic in the greater scheme of things. So if it works out like experience suggests it will be a small price to pay to protect paradise.


Akelamalu said...

Intriguing. Is there going to be another instalment to this Beach? I hope so!

Randal Graves said...

You are providing aid and comfort to the enemy, you terrorist, you! Wait, golf you said? Carry on, poison pen.

Windsmoke. said...

Typical, chuck a beautiful woman with murder on her mind into the mix and everything in paradise turns upside down, maybe for the better or for the worse :-).

Life As I Know It Now said...

Where ever there are people, especially white western people, there goes paradise down the drain.

Beach Bum said...

Akelamalu: Thanks! There could be another segment, was trying to get that suspense thing going so I sort of through everything into the air.

Randal: Yeah, golf is an abomination to commonsense and Mother Nature. I can't wait to hear about one of those Florida pythons eating some middle-aged white golfer.

Windsmoke: In a way I was going for one of those old Mickey Spillane thrillers.

Life As We Know It: I do tend to rap all the faults of modern Western Civilization into small packages with one unlucky character holding all the blame. Poor Thomas Banks, if I do write another episode he will die a cruel and painful death.

Thomas Pluck said...

Please do write that episode!

Mike Williams said...

To me it read more like John D MacDonald. I expect Travis McGee to show up in the chapter. Good writing.

Teresa said...

Good one!

goatman said...

Hey, I just threw out a book on organic chemistry -- what a coincidence . . .
Nicely written.

Anonymous said...

You had me right there on Camilla. Great voice!

Pixel Peeper said...

What's not to say that after Thomas Banks dies a cruel and painful death, the true faces of Scott Norris and his lover come to the surface, along with their plans to build an even bigger mega resort.

Then Roger Harper would have to do away with both of them...

You better write that next episode.

Anonymous said...

Nicely written. Eases you into the story, then adds the intrigue and suspense slowly. Would like more set here.

Joyce said...

This is grand. Terrific build-up to quite the tense situation. Little by little, bit by bit, a picture begins to take form, but how will it be completed? It's already driving me up the wall trying to figure out whether he should tell, initiate some covert investigation--both dangerous paths to follow. Please provide us with another installment. SOON!