I could barely contain myself when I stepped onto the sidewalk in Bermuda. This was so much fun! Maybe being a cruise-ship nurse wasn’t such a bad gig after all.
Wait, what was I thinking?
Any nursing job was out of the question, and when I got back to the States-that sounded so cool in my head-I was going to tell Fabio not to give me any more nursing cases. I’d burned out of that career and couldn’t take the stress of the job any longer. Apparently, thirteen years of nursing was my lucky number. One day, when I found myself being attacked by a flying throat swab shot from a five-year-old’s mouth, I decided I’d had it. No more staffing problems. No more almost exclusively working with females, who could be catty and gossip until hoarse, and no more watching patients suffer and not being able to help.
I really wanted to help people.
I was putting my foot down.
Learning more and more about how to investigate, I was sure I could do other fraud cases and not have to take these damn jobs.
Let Goldie do the medical.
When I looked at the bustling traffic, on the wrong side of the street, the men in Bermuda shorts with suit jackets and ties, and the obvious tourists with arms loaded with shopping bags, I decided to forget my problems and just shop.
No one ever had to tell me twice to enjoy myself shopping.
“Ha!” I said as I passed a litter can. Even those were classy on this island. They were painted in delft blue and decorated with some emblems that looked very royal. As colorful as the buildings were, I noticed that many of the vehicles, like little versions of our vans, were mostly white. How Bermudan was that?
It seemed a bit confusing, crossing the street with the cars on the opposite side from what I was used to, but I made it to the “land side,” where all the shops were located in a long row along Front Street.
In the distance, I noticed a guy with short blond hair in a suit.
I weaved in and out on the crowded sidewalk until I got close enough to see the guy’s legs. No way would Tim be the type to wear Bermuda shorts with a suit. Just didn’t seem like Bureau attire to have your legs showing-no matter how good they looked.
I laughed out loud and a few people turned to stare at me. Much like a kid in a candy shop, I bustled along, going in and out of different shops and wishing that I had a bigger budget to spend on myself.
My stomach was telling me it was getting close to lunchtime, if I hadn’t already missed it. Tempted to go back to the ship for a free crew’s meal, I started down the street toward the boat.
I stopped dead in front of Roxzy’s Fashions & Novelty Boutique-and started to laugh.
“Suga! Come see this smashing outfit,” Goldie called through the open door.
I shook my head. “I heard you all the way down the street, Gold.”
He stood there in his Marilyn Monroe short curly wig, a sparkly black-and-white top-the black in a spider-web sort of pattern-and a long black skirt.
Looked as if he should be accepting an Oscar.
“Gold, that is you.” I walked closer and looked at the price tag of a few items. A handbag was way out of my league and so was a silver necklace that I wouldn’t even put on my Christmas list, since no one in my family could afford it.
“This shop is you, Goldie. It really is. Where’s Miles?”
He chuckled. “We split up awhile back. We’re meeting for lunch at the Harborfront Restaurant down the street. Want to join us?”
I thought about how that crewmember Judy had said it was a good place to eat, but she hadn’t mentioned price. Really, I thought, I should treat myself.
Goldie leaned near and kissed me on the cheek. “You’ve been working way too much lately doing both jobs, Suga. Come to a nice lunch with us. My treat.”
I gave him a peck on the cheek. Two of the sales clerks glared at us. It was so easy for me to look past the exterior where Goldie was concerned and to see the real person inside. It hadn’t dawned on me that I looked as if I had just kissed Marilyn. “I’m there,” I said and laughed.
He said he’d only be a minute, paying for his purchase. I told him I would meet him there, since I needed to get some more sunblock. The bottle I had was expired and I’d read that it might not be as effective. After another quick peck, I went out and left Goldie fawning over a hat that he’d just discovered.
Laughing, I looked in various store windows to find a place with suntan lotion. Many of the shops were boutiques and clothing seemed the most popular item around here. I passed a shop called Wadson’s and thought it looked the most likely place to find sunblock.
There was a crowd inside, which made me conclude it was also one of the less expensive places to buy souvenirs. Some tie-dyed tee shirts caught my attention. They’d look great on my nieces and nephews, but I really couldn’t afford to buy something for everyone. I settled for a colorful mug for Adele. She was the best receptionist I’d ever known, and since we often had coffee together with Goldie, I thought it an appropriate gift.
I went to pay for it and ask the clerk where they might have sun block. The line nearly snaked out to the door. I only hoped Goldie and Miles wouldn’t get worried about my being a bit late. How I wished our cell phones worked over here. Man, how we really relied on them.
I kept looking around the shop while the clerk worked as fast as she could. The Bermudans’ British accents made me smile and think of Betty. Too bad she wasn’t able to come shopping with me. Finally a young man, pierced from head to toe and sporting blue hair, hurried to the other cash register and asked us to form two lines.
I kept looking at my watch. I hated to be late. It wasn’t in my nature. But I’m sure my roomies would understand, and thought maybe Goldie found more things to buy.
“Next,” the female clerk said.
I hurried forward and put my purchase on the counter. As I was about to ask for the sunblock, a man’s arm reached in front of me to get something off the counter. Apparently he’d forgotten one of his bags.
“Cash or charge?” the girl asked me.
“Oh-” I looked down to see the guy’s wrist. Suddenly I couldn’t speak.
The exact rope bracelet as Jackie’s!
Before I knew it, I was shouting for the clerk to call the police, while Remy-and now that I’d gotten a look at his face I had confirmed who he really was-hightailed it out the door.
I grabbed my shopping bag, knocked Adele’s mug to the floor in my haste and amid the crashing clatter of ceramic heard the clerk yell that I’d still have to pay for it. “I’ll be right back to pay!” I shouted.
“Yeah, right,” the pierced guy said and two customers tried to grab me.
I shrugged them away, yelled something about a murderer and then ran through the crowd. This time Remy had on a navy tee shirt and tan shorts. He had to have some connections on this island where he stayed and where he could change his clothes.
“Stop him!” I shouted, but no one paid me much attention. I looked around for a police officer who might be directing traffic, but there weren’t any in sight. “Damn it. Someone help me!”
I ran as fast as I could with my bag slung over my shoulder. I’d been tempted to throw it down to get more speed, but then thought I might need it to smack Remy.
Running down an alleyway, I could still see him in the distance. Something made me think of Jagger-and I reached down and fingered my necklace.
My shopping bag went flying, I formed fists with my hands and used them to help me sprint down the alley. It really did pay to exercise and jog.
The walls were decorated in island graffiti with palm trees chipping off the stuccoed buildings, but it all became a blur with my speed. I guessed the doors were the backs of shops, but kept concentrating on my suspect and my breathing.
“You don’t understand, Fed!” he shouted.
I spun around to see if Tim was behind me and then realized that Remy thought I was an FBI agent. I smiled and sucked in a breath. What didn’t I understand? “Then stop and explain!”
“Ha!” he shouted and sped up.
He had a point. If I was FBI I’m sure I wouldn’t believe anything he said without some proof. Maybe he was trying to lure me into some scheme where he’d kill me.
I didn’t see any point in telling him that I wasn’t FBI.
Despite the pain in my lungs, I was keeping up pretty well. I shouted a few more times as if he’d stop, make a confession and turn himself in to me. Right! Instead, he led me on a long chase, and before I knew it, we were back on Front Street, weaving through traffic while horns beeped at us and drivers yelled. Soon I found myself on the water side, which was filled with people.
Another cruise ship must have recently docked.
“Excuse me,” I repeated over and over as I fought through the crowd while people gave me dirty looks. A few times I thought I saw someone that I recognized and was about to ask for some help, but then I’d get closer and even in a blur, I could see they were all strangers.
I weaved to the left and nearly knocked over a woman wearing a pink muumuu. The man next to her had on a palm-and-floral shirt. Tourists, no doubt. The lady turned so fast, she started to topple forward.
I slowed and grabbed her arm. “I’m so sor-” I let go real fast.
“Pauline Sokol! You should be ashamed of yourself, running on a crowded sidewalk like this. You nearly killed your parents.”
I stood on tiptoes to see Remy still running away. “Sorry, Mom. I didn’t nearly kill you.”
She grabbed my arm this time. “We taught you better manners than that, Pauline.”
“Yes…you did.” Remy was nearly out of sight. “Let go, Mother. I’m working!” I brushed her hand away and made sure she didn’t fall before I sprinted away. “Love you both!” I shouted over my shoulder.
“You too, Paczki,” Daddy said.
I looked up ahead. Now it seemed like a wall of people were covering the sidewalk. Damn.
“Make way!” I yelled and jumped down to the curb. Before some little car ran my feet over though, I was back on the sidewalk. “Pregnant lady coming through!” I shouted, thinking that was a great line for getting ahead of this mass of tourists.
The crowd parted like in some biblical movie and there sat Remy-atop a bright red moped. He gave me a wink, another salute and most likely in the fastest gear, sped past me. I reached out with my necklace and gave him a spray.
“Aye!” he shouted, spun the bike and fumbled to gain control.
“Stop him, someone!” I reached out to grab Remy’s arm, but he managed to overpower me.
I landed on my back, with the crowd gathering around, a few police shouting and Remy zooming off.
And my mother standing above me.
“Don’t give me that look, Harwinton. It really was Remy,” I said as Doc Pete put a few stitches in the back of my head.
I hoped I had a concussion, because each time I closed my eyes, all I could see was my mother staring down at me and wagging her finger.
Tim touched my arm and winced a few times as the doc sewed me up. “I know. We were on him.”
Surely he wasn’t going to tell me that I blew a federal case, a murder case? Yikes.
“Oh, my head hurts so badly,” I lied, hoping Tim would find it in his FBI heart to ignore the fact that I might have ruined his case. “Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.”
He leaned near. “I’ve got seven stitches on you. So I think I win the prize for pain.”
What an agent this guy was. Even knew fake pain, or at least when a girl was trying to change the subject. Still, my head did hurt a bit. The cut was numb from the Novocain, so it wasn’t from that. I sat up with the aid of Tim, and Peter pronounced me fine.
“But you really should rest the remainder of the day, Pauline. Make sure someone wakes you up…well, you know the drill,” Doc said.
I nodded. “Ouch.”
Tim smiled. “A wise woman once told me not to shake my head after just getting a head injury.”
“Ha. Ha.” I have to go back and find my shopping bag. I threw it somewhere along the chase.
Tim leaned near, “Tell me, Pauline, what exactly were you going to do with Remy if you caught him?”
“I don’t like the way you said ‘if.’ Makes it sound as if you think it was impossible that I could catch him. You know, he thought I was a Fed.”
He chuckled. “Come on. I’ll walk you to your cabin.”
He rolled his eyes. “I’ll go find it. Tell me what it looked like and where you saw it last.”
I explained on the way to the elevator and persisted with the fact that I was in top physical condition.
Tim grinned and leaned forward. His lips touched mine ever so gently as the bell rang and the door opened.
“Saved by the bell,” I teased.
He took me by the arm and led me inside. “You know, you really could have been hurt out there.”
“High school basketball. The nun coach used to drum into our brains how we should keep our heads up when we fell. Worked. I only bumped my head on the sidewalk once and not too hard.”
“I’m glad.” This time his lips remained longer. Felt better. Hotter. Or maybe it was me. Feverish already?
“Hey,” I eased back a bit. “How did you turn up on the street after I was pushed anyway?”
The damn door opened. Tim moved aside so I could pass. Then he put his hand on my lower back, and I felt safe. Despite the fact that Remy could be running loose in Bermuda, I felt safe with my Fed near me.
Was I nuts? The guy merely kissed me, and here I was referring to him as mine. Maybe my head was injured more than I thought.
And had he been tailing Remy-or me?
Tim and I reached my cabin in a few minutes. I knew Betty was on duty so I dug around in my pocket for my key. “Oh, shoot. My key was in my shopping bag.”
“Maybe your roommate is in?” He leaned forward and touched the doorknob.
“No, she isn’t.”
The handle turned in his hand. The door opened enough so I could see the chair by my bed…occupied.