Authors: Mary Monroe
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.
NIGHTMARE IN PARADISE
BAD LUCK SHADOW
had been on hold for five minutes when the jailhouse operator came back on and thanked me for my patience. She turned me over to the international operator, who put me back on hold for another five minutes before she connected me to my home telephone number in the States.
I was afraid that I was going to faint again and end up back in the same roach-infested detention infirmary where I'd spent last night. I had fainted during my arrest. I'd never been in jail before in my life until now. And it was all because my “innocent” one-night stand with a local man constituted prostitution by the island's standards. I was surprised that I hadn't suffered a nervous breakdown last night, too.
“Leon, please answer the phone,” I begged, whispering to myself in a voice that was getting weaker by the second. My wrists were still throbbing from the handcuffs I'd had on earlier.
The officer who had removed the cuffs stood next to me. He flicked a crude lighter and lit a long cigar that was dangling from his thick lips and started blowing smoke in my face. Despite the fact that he was doing it on purpose, I managed to smile at the officer, anyway. He just glared at me, the same way they had all been glaring at me since my arrest.
My head was spinning, pounding, aching, and ringing. I was silently praying that if I did faint again, it would be after I'd communicated with my husband in Ohio. Ohio was my home, but I'd always complained about its dullness. All of my life I had cursed the severely cold winters and fantasized about jaunts to tropical locations. Well, I had finally made it to a sun-kissed, palm tree-lined beach paradise. But never in my wildest imagination did I think that my fantasy would turn into the vacation from hell. And I was not in one of the many crime-ridden foreign hot spots where careless Americans were always getting into one mess or another. Like the war-torn Middle East or one of the Asian countries where some Americans had paid for their illegal indiscretions with their lives. I was in a little, Mickey Mouse country that I had never even heard of until a few weeks ago!
It was an island in the Caribbean called ParaÃso, which was Spanish for paradise. Up until last night, it had been the vacation paradise that I'd been dreaming about all my life. It had beautiful weather, beautiful people, fantastic drinks, all-night parties, and beaches lined with palm trees that went on for miles. I couldn't believe that I was still on the same island. It was now the last place on the planet that I wanted to be. I was going to kiss the ground as soon as I made it back to Ohio.
“Hello,” my husband Leon's eager voice on the other end of the line finally greeted.
“Baby, it's me,” I started. I was sniffing, itching, and trembling all at the same time.
“Renee? Hey, girl! I am so glad to hear from you, honey. Forget all of that shit I said before you left. I really do want you to have a good time.”
Leon paused, and I jumped in before he could continue.
“Baby, I need to tell you something,” I began, struggling to keep my voice level.
The three officers in the room with me were getting impatient. I could tell by the way each one kept glancing at the large clock on the wall and his watch, clearing his throat, and giving me more dirty looks. I ignored them all. There was nothing more that they could do to me to make me feel any worse.
The international telephone connection was bad. There were spurts of static and a faint whistling sound coming through the line. “Leon, can you hear me?”
“Uh-huh, but hold on, honey. Let me get my coffee.” Leon was back on the phone in less than a minute. “How's the weather down there, honey?” he asked, making a slurping noise.
“Leon, let me talk. Please don't say anything else until I finish.” I took a breath so deep, my chest ached. “Honey, I am in trouble. I am in real trouble.”
“What? Are you sick?” my husband asked in a worried voice.
“Uhâ¦well, kind of. I spent last night in an infirmary,” I stammered.
“Shit, baby! Was it something you ate? Are you all right now? I want you to come on home now. I don't trust those third-world doctors.” Leon grunted, and then he let out a sharp laugh. “I hope you didn't drink too much of that exotic island joy juice.” It was good to hear him laugh. Especially since it would probably be a while before I heard him laugh again after he heard everything that I had to tell him.
“Leon, it wasn't something I ate, and it wasn't too many margaritas. I fainted last night because of something that happened. Something stupid,” I moaned and rubbed my stomach.
I didn't know how to interpret the brief silence on Leon's end. “Renee, will you get to the point?”
“I'mâ¦I'm calling you from j-j-jail,” I stuttered, speaking so low, I could barely hear myself.
“Baby, you need to speak up. This is an overseas call, and I can hardly hear you as it is. It sounded like you said you were in jail.” Leon laughed again.
“Buhhhâ¦buhhhâ¦ummmmâ¦Iâ¦I,” I mumbled. Gibberish was all that I could manage.
“Shit! Renee, take a deep breath!” There was a lot of concern in Leon's voice now. “Take your time, honey, and tell me what's going on.”
I held my breath and looked up at the ceiling. “Leon, I've been arrested.”
enee, I don't have time for games. If this is your idea of a joke, you need to do better than this. This is not funny,” Leon said in a steely voice.
“Baby, this is no joke. I got arrested last night,” I whimpered.
“Wait a minute, wait a minute. What do you mean, you got arrested?”
“I'm at the police headquarters now. They brought me out of myâ¦cell so I could call you.” The words felt like bullets shooting out of my mouth.
“What in the hell have you gotten yourself into, woman? I told you that women shouldn't be running around loose on a vacation without a man along to keep an eye on them! I told you not to go off down there with that wild-ass Inez. Now, what kind of a mess did she drag you into?”
“This has nothing to do with Inez. Well, in a way it doesâ”
“Stop beating around the fucking bush, and tell me what the hell happened down there! What in the hell did
do that got you arrested? I've never even known you to jaywalk, or break any other law!”
I took another very deep breath and then forced the words out of my mouth like vomit. “Leon, they've arrested me forâ¦prostitution.” The silence that followed for the next ten seconds was excruciating. I could not imagine what was going through my husband's mind. He was an auditor for the IRS, and he often shared some lovely job-related stories with me. Some involved a group of sophisticated call girls who serviced some of Cleveland's most powerful officials. When they did their taxes each year, each woman listed her job as self-employed “public relations coordinator.” Leon had audited some of these women and was appalled at how they always managed to slink out of identifying mysterious “business-related” expenses with the help of their powerful friends. I knew that prostitutes were a patch of major thorns in my husband's side. Now here I was confessing to him that I was one.
Leon drawled in a slow, tentative tone of voice. Five more seconds of silence followed. “What the hell is going on down there? Where's Inez?”
“I don't know where Inez is. We had a fight the day before yesterday. She got mad and moved to another hotel. I was so pissed off and confused, I needed to do something to get my mind off what had happened with Inez.” I sniffed so hard that the inside of my nose burned. I had to rub and hold it for a few moments. “So I went to this club by myself last night. This guy, one of the locals, was there. I'd seen him around the beach and at a few other places. He seemed real friendly and safe. He joined me, and I told him why I was so upset. Well, one thing led to another. I went to his room with him to, uh, calm down. Next thing I know, uh, I am in bed with him.” I paused because I was losing my breath. I thought I was having a panic attack. I couldn't even hear Leon breathing. “Honey, are you still there?” I asked in a meek voice.
“I'm listening!” he roared.
“This man, he was setting me up. He works for the police.”
“This man you fucked?”
“This friendly and safe man you hopped into bed with willingly?”
“How was he setting you up if you went to bed with him without being forced?”
“After we finishedâ¦after I got back into my clothes.” I had to pause again. This was the part that was the hardest for me to deal with. “He offered me some money. I only took it becauseâ¦because he was so bad in bed. That's the
reason I took the money. Well, I did ask him for cab fare, but that was all I asked for. Anyway, he handed me two hundred dollarsâ¦andâ¦and I took it. I didn't even realize what I was doing until it was too late.”
“But you did it, anyway?” Leon's voice was so detached and cold, it made me shiver in the hundred-degree heat. The bad connection made it seem even worse. In addition to the static and whistling noises, now there was an echo each time one of us spoke.
“Well, yeah. This is a crazy place, baby. Down here, my taking that money made it prostitution by the laws on this island.”
“Renee, I am sitting here listening to you, but I don't believe my ears! Are you telling me that youâa married woman with a child and a job teaching little kidsâdidn't know any better? What in the world were you thinking? Is this the way you women behave when you go on vacation?” Leon sounded ominously calm, and that frightened me even more.
My body was so tense and rigid, I didn't think that I could even bend myself enough to sit down, even if I had wanted to. “Leon, this is the only vacation I've been on without you since we got married. This is not what you think.”
“Then what is it? You go halfway around the world to sell your pussy, and you end up in jail. What am I missing here?”
“Leon, I can't talk too much longer. You can say and do whatever you want to me when I get home. But we can't go into all this over the phone. You need to get down here as soon as you can and pay my fine. They said that if I pay a ten-thousand-dollar fine, they will release me. I will get deported immediately, and I can never visit this island again, but I don't want to come back down here again, anyway. If I don't pay the fine, I could go to jail for three months,” I sobbed.
“Is there anything else about you that I don't know?” Leon sneered.
“What? Like what?” I sniffed, holding back more tears.
“You tell me. I've known you all these years, and I'm just now finding out that you're a prostitute. I'd like to know what else you are keeping from me.”
“Leon, we are wasting valuable time. I have never done anything like this before in my life. There is nothing else that I am keeping from you. You need to get off the telephone, get the money, and then get on a plane to come down here. But I think you can wire the money if you can't get a flight right away,” I said hopefully.
“You no-good bitch, you! You goddamned, black-ass, slutty-ass, cocksucking heifer! Why should I come get your whoring ass?” Leon's words stung like a whip.
My eyes were burning; I felt like I was going to collapse. I had never been called such vile names before in my life. I wasted ten more precious seconds composing myself.
“Leon, you have to come get me out of this mess because I am your wife. Look, school starts next month. I can't stay down here for another three months!” I wailed. My heart was about to thump right through my chest. At least, that was the way it felt to me.
“You knew all of that before you made a fool of yourself! It didn't stop you. So why should I bail you out?”
“I just told you! Because I'm your wife! You are supposed to take care of me!”
“Sister, you better come up with a better reason than that!”
“What do you mean by that, Leon?”
“What the fuck do you think I mean? Goddammit!”
The officer standing closest to me tapped the desk where the telephone was located with a baton. I glanced up at him, and he pointed to his watch. I ignored him. My legs were so wobbly, I had to hold on to the top of the desk to keep from falling.
“Leon,” I whimpered, sweat pouring down my face and back. “If you don't come get me, who will? You know Mama is as broke as a haint, and nobody else in my family has any money. If you don't, I will be down here
for threeâ¦three months. I don't know how to deal with that.”
“Well, you'd better figure out a way to deal with it!”
“What are you saying, baby?” My mouth dropped open; I gripped the edge of the desk, still ignoring the impatient officer.
“Don't you baby me, you heifer! You got yourself into this mess. You get yourself out! A few months in an island jail might do you some good!”
I gasped so hard, my eyes crossed.
“Leon, are you telling me that you are not coming down here to bail me out and take me home?” I hollered so loud, I almost lost my voice.
“You got that right! Three months is enough time for you to think about what you did and why.”
“If it wasn't for you, I wouldn't be in this mess!”
“What? What the hell? How the hell can you blame this shit on me, woman?”
“Because the fight that I had with Inez was about you. Hello?” All I could hear now was a loud and hollow dial tone. Without thinking, or asking permission from the officers, I dialed the operator again. Miraculously, she was able to get a connection immediately. Leon answered on the second ring. “Baby, we gotâ¦cut off,” I started, the words tiptoeing across my trembling lips.
“We didn't get cut off! I hung up!” Leon screeched. His voice was so loud and angry, it sounded like he was in the same room with me.
“Leon, please don't do this to me. You have to help me,” I said desperately.
to do anything except pay taxes and die. Being my wife didn't mean that much to you when you jumped into a strange man's bed!”
“You are not going to help me?” I wailed. Leon didn't bother answering my question. He hung up on me again.
I blinked at the telephone in my hand for a few moments before I placed it back in its cradle. I was in a scary place. A hot, musty, dimly lit room with no windows and with metal furniture. There was a huge, noisy fan hanging from the low ceiling, but it didn't seem to be doing much good. It was hotter in the room than it was outside, where the deadly sun was toasting the rest of the island.
The two male officers stood by the door, with their arms folded, like they were daring me to give them a reason to brutalize me. And the same hostile, hairy-chinned, husky female officer who'd been breathing down my neck like a rapist from the minute I'd been brought to the police headquarters was standing a few feet away from me now.
“My husband is not coming to get me,” I announced, directing my attention toward the female. I don't know how I managed to form a smile on my face. I had nothing to be smiling about. But I thought that if I tried to be nice and friendly to these people, they would be nice and friendly with me. I was wrong.
“Brrrrr! I don't blame him much, m'dear. Muck should be left among the muckers,” the grim-looking female officer said, folding her thick arms across her lumpy bosom. Like a lot of the women on the island, she was a combination of Spanish and African. She had jet-black hair that was bone straight, and her skin was almost as black as the telephone that I'd just held in my hands. She looked like so many of the sisters I knew back home in Ohio.
“Sister, you don't have to talk to me like that. You don't know me,” I wailed.
“Ow!” she yelled, screwing up her face and rubbing her arm like I'd pinched her. “And I don't want to know you,” she continued, wagging a thick, gnarled finger in my face.
I couldn't remember the last time somebody had looked at me with such contempt. In addition to everything else that I had to worry about, now I was concerned about this woman, or one of the other guards, getting violent with me. I promptly removed the smile from my face and replaced it with a look of fear.
The big woman cleared her throat, reared back on her ashy legs, and then slapped her hands on her hips. She moved closer to me, her nose almost touching mine. Her sour breath almost made me choke on my own breath. I flinched as the words spewed out of her mouth like bile. “You American women think too highly of yourselves, anyway! Always did and always will.
How dare you call me sister! You are no sister of mine. I wouldn't claim you if you came gift wrapped,” she yelled, waving her arms. With a grunt that sounded like it came from her bowels, the woman snatched a pair of handcuffs from a wide leather belt hanging from her massive waistline. “Hands back behind your back. Now!”
After she'd cuffed me and spun me around by my shoulders to face her, she smiled for the first time.