by B Lee Draper
Linda hunched over her drink as she sat at the end of the bar. The resort restaurant next door was overflowing with businessmen and their mistresses, downing steaming plates of Gado Gado and spicy Satays. Flowered shirts stretched over hairy protruding bellies and fake tan left orange streaks on the women’s rattan lounges when they rose to tango to the live band.
She sighed, fingers playing with the pink umbrella poking out of her Pina Colada.
“Mrs Grant, we meet again.” Sliding on to the empty stool next to her, the tall weather-beaten man wore his customary dark suit with its wide lapels and flared bottoms.
“Mister Slade, this is getting old. Haven’t you harassed me enough?” Linda’s emerald eyes flashed with tears – from annoyance or grief it was hard to tell.
The private detective had been shadowing her ever since the funeral, first appearing at her home, then the airport just before she cleared customs and now here, at her resort bar in Bali.
Slade peered around the bar and signalled for the barman. “Scotch”. The barman placed his glass on a coaster and his eyes finally met hers, as the amber liquid swirled onto the ice cubes. “Mrs Grant I’m not harassing you, I’m doing my job. I know you killed him. You know you killed him. Sooner or later our stories are going to collide. And when they do….” He picked up the drink and clinked it against her almost-empty cocktail glass. “…you’re going to gaol.”
Tears sprang to Linda’s eyes and she wiped them away angrily with the back of one manicured hand. “I loved my husband Mister Slade. I loved him and I regret him not being here more each day than the one before. The police let me go, it didn’t even go to trial they were so sure! I don’t understand why you’re doing this.”
Slade shook his head and smiled. “Nice act, and you certainly convinced the police.” He leant forward until she smelt the whiskey on his breath. “But you don’t fool me lady. I know you did it. I’m not sure how, but you did it.” He sat back and signalled the barman for a refill. As he waited, his fingers picked up the cardboard drinks coaster and slowly started tearing it into strips.
Shaking her head Linda downed the last dregs of her cocktail. “You’re so wrong. But since you’re here you might as well buy me another drink.” She waved her glass at the barman then fished out a milky ice cube and sucked on it.
The two of them sat in silence a while longer, each sipping their drink and staring at each other in the long mirror behind the bar. Slade’s fingers worked at another coaster until a small pile of papery strips sat in front of him. Abruptly he stood and his hand swept the mess off the table and on to the floor, narrowly missing her lap.
“Well, I guess I’ll be heading off now. You have yourself a wonderful holiday Mrs Grant, a real knees-up. Very soon resorts and overseas trips will be a distant memory for you. Enjoy it while it lasts.”
Linda’s eyes watched the private detective’s back in the mirror as he started down the wooden boardwalk that snaked through the resort grounds towards the beach. After a few steps he stumbled, righting himself he carried on. A couple more steps later he almost fell, reaching out to grab one of the large cotton flags that lined the path and swayed in the tropical breeze. After a few long seconds his body crumpled to the path, pulling the flag over his body like a shroud.
Swallowing the last of her cocktail she took out her mirror and reapplied her lipstick. No, Slade didn’t know how she’d done it. The poison she’d used on her husband was tasteless and odourless, discovered during her time in the lab. It was also absorbed through the skin so she hadn’t even had to spike her husband’s food. Being a chemist had some perks it would seem.
Of course all that was behind her now. She had her husband’s life insurance money to spend and she was going to enjoy it as much as possible. No more long hours mixing concoctions for warts or making up subscriptions to ease old women’s aching feet while her husband entertained his latest mistress.
It was too bad about Slade, if only he’d been less persistent; but he was really becoming a bore. She’d seen his little habit with the coasters before, when they’d sat together in the airport bar. Ex-smokers always needed something to do with their hands. Seeing his approach in the mirror behind the bar it had been easy to place a few drops of poison on to the pile of coasters she’d pulled over. She always had a vial on her these days, it came in very handy.
Without a glance towards the wooden pathway, now filling up with tourists and resort-staff yelling at each other in alarm, Linda slid on her sunglasses and headed towards the restaurant. Surely there would be at least one lonely businessman who’d be glad of some company. And if not, she had just the solution to get rid of his mistress.
It was definitely time for another Pina Colada.
B Lee Draper is a primary school teacher who has spent the past few years specialising as a Sustainability Teacher. Her spare time is spent growing vegetables, concocting herbal pesticides, reading books and procrastinating about writing fiction. She is currently undertaking a Master of Sustainability Education and is finding that academic writing is a whole different kettle of fish to fiction writing. She calls northern Australia home but you can find her online at http://bleedraper.blogspot.com.au