Penelope Hoffstra here. Coming to you from an un-named resort on the Caribbean island of St. John. Nice to meet you. Pen, is fine, thanks.
I’m about to take my regular afternoon siesta on the balcony outside my office. It’s a tough job, managing this place. I’m joking, of course. Why don’t you join me? I’ll just grab this stack of papers from my inbox, and we’ll head through the sliding glass doors. After you.
There, now that’s better. It’s nice and cool here in the shade. Please, take a seat on one of these lawn chairs I borrowed from the pool area a few years back. Make yourself comfortable. I’ll pour you a drink in just a second.
You’ll want to meet my iguana friend Fred. You may have seen videos of him on the Internet, bodysurfing the waves off our beach. He’s quite popular.
It’ll take me a minute to locate him. I’m sure he’s somewhere in this dense foliage that backs up to the balcony. His favorite limb is in this area, right about…
(A young iguana sits on a branch about two feet away, patiently chewing a leaf as he waits for the woman leaning over the railing to see him.)
Fred? Hey, Fred? Where are you?
Well, let me take a seat while I look for him. A little sip of rum usually helps to draw him out. There’s a pair of shot glasses on this plastic side table left over from my last chat with Fred.
(Setting the papers on the table, Pen reaches beneath her chair and pulls out a glass bottle. Holding it up to eye level, she squints at the liquid inside.)
I’d guess we’ve got, oh, three or four ounces of Cruzan left in here. I’ll just…whoo, whoo…blow out the cobwebs in these glasses, and we’re good to go.
(Pen pours rum into each glass, offers one to her guest, and takes a swig from the other. Her eyes soon widen as the lizard’s large body emerges from the greenery. The iguana blinks a welcome.)
Ah yes, there he is. Fred, you’re looking fabulous, as always.
(She nods to her guest.)
Look at those intelligent eyes and delicate cheekbones. I think he’s kind of handsome, don’t you? Well – for a giant scaly lizard.
(The iguana shifts his weight, gripping his branch bashfully. Pen waves her half-empty glass in his direction.)
Oh, Fred. Don’t be so modest.
(Draining the glass, Pen smacks her lips and lies back in the lawn chair.)
I suppose I should sign these invoices. You don’t mind? It’ll only take a minute.
(Pen begins flipping through the sheath of papers, absentmindedly scrawling her signature across each red-flagged line.)
Did you, uh, hear about the incident last night with the water taxi? The news is all over the island. The boat went down out in the Pillsbury Sound and sank before the Coast Guard could reach it. All but one of the passengers managed to survive by clinging to an inflatable raft.
(Pausing, she drops the papers to her lap. Then she reaches for the bottle and refills her glass.)
It’s a shame about the girl they lost – Hannah Sheridan was her name. They don’t think they’ll ever find her body. The currents must have taken it.
(Pen takes a long sip as Fred reaches for a red berry near his branch. Plucking it off with his sharp teeth, he rolls the fruit into his mouth and squishes the juice out onto his tongue.)
Of course, not everyone on St. John was all that sad to see the girl go. Hannah was stirring up a lot of trouble down here, running around pretending to be the ghost of the Amina Slave Princess from the island’s sugar plantation days.
The locals say it was the real Amina Princess who pulled Hannah from the sinking water taxi and dragged her into the ocean – as retribution for assuming her identity or some such superstitious nonsense.
(Pen plunks her now empty glass on the end table and shakes her head.)
Well, I can tell you, it wasn’t the Slave Princess that took Hannah from the water taxi. Of that, I am absolutely certain.
(The iguana turns his pointed gaze toward the woman on the balcony, causing her to clear her throat uncomfortably.)
Fred, you’re being awfully persistent this afternoon.
(The iguana leans forward on his branch and stares meaningfully at the resort manager. She reaches for the second glass, which remains untouched. Tilting it to her mouth, she drains the entire contents down her throat. Then, with a choking cough, she confides to the empty chair beside her.)
What Fred is not so subtly implying is that I am the one responsible for Hannah’s disappearance.
** Thanks to the publisher, I have one (1) copy of ADRIFT ON ST. JOHN to give away. Contest open to residents of the US only. Contest ends March 9. Leave a valid-email address with your comment. The book will be shipped directly from the publisher. **
Meet the author
Rebecca M. Hale is the NY Times bestselling author of HOW TO WASH A CAT and the Cats and Curios mystery series. Starring Rebecca’s cats Rupert and Isabella, the series takes place at an antique shop in San Francisco’s historic Jackson Square. The cats and their owner explore several aspects of Northern California history while hunting for hidden treasure. The fourth book in the lineup, HOW TO TAIL A CAT, is due out September 2012.
ADRIFT ON ST. JOHN is the first in Rebecca’s new Mystery in the Islands series, set in the US Virgin Islands. The second installment, AFOOT ON ST. CROIX is scheduled for release in 2013. Visit Rebecca at http://www.mysteryintheislands.com/
Books are available at retail and online booksellers.