They were in the wrong part of town at night. In a wood, a dingy confined
space of a place well away from the bright lights, the security of the tourist
strip, the hawkers and touts, bars, and a policeman. A low beat of perpetual
reggae throbbed dimly through the fragrant miasma that clung to the low ceiling.
The only lighting came from a triple series of ancient disco lights which
suffused the smoky haze with alternate blushes of colour.
Red Stripe and rum bottles littered the scarred and stained plank that served
as a bar counter, while a scarred and stained man wearing a ratty sleeveless
vest served up replacement beverages from a fridge that seen neither cloth nor
disinfectant for a decade or more. The girl sat on a plastic chair, knees
together, head bowed, hands folded in her lap as though at prayer. A sweating
bottle of Red Stripe sat in a saucer-sized pool of water, almost untouched in
front of her.
Dutch blonde and pretty she kept her blue eyes focused on the bottle's
peeling label while her husband of two days surveyed the bar with an outward
show of calm confidence he didn't feel. The girl's eyes flicked sideways, which
had been her only physical movement for a full three minutes. Out of the corner
of her mouth she muttered: 'I didn't expect this. When he said a bar, I thought
he meant one on the strip. Not this ...' Her head jerked, the meaning clear:
Where are we? How are we going to get out of here? ...
Alive. Everything about her, her posture, her gaze locked on the bottle on
the plastic picnic table, immobility -- if she just stayed still, didn't move,
ignored everything around her then it would all just go away -- screamed fear.
She added: 'It all seemed like a good idea at the pool. Now look at us.'
Anxiety squeezed the man's chest. What was she complaining about? It was her
idea. The guy had approached them as they lay next to the pool, secure inside
the hotel complex. Gold-toothed charm, a woollen tea-cosy hat bulging with
dreads, and a typically laid-back air, he'd convinced the honeymooners to come
out to a local joint he knew. 'Away from the expensive places,' he'd drawled,
toning down the patois for their unaccustomed ears. 'The tourist places ...' He
sucked air through his teeth and shook his head.
'Sky high prices.' The gold eye tooth glinted in the sun as he smiled. They
arranged a time, and here they were after a giddying, circuitous, and
disorientating jalopy ride, afraid and confused in some local she been. Their
guide, following a brief discourse with a group of locals at the bar, explained
he'd be away for a few minutes and left.
'A couple of beers,' her husband assured her, his voice low, beneath the bass
thump from the speakers. 'Then, if Linus doesn't come back we'll just ask for a
lift back to the strip.' He shrugged and offered a tentative, nervous smile. 'Or
maybe they'll call us a cab,' he added hopefully. The girl's head swivelled
slowly. She regarded her husband, face pinched with concern. 'They look like
Criminals,' she hissed.
'I'm sure they're not gangsters,' the man replied.
'They look fucking dangerous, Daniel.' His wife's terse response surprised
him. She wasn't given to profanity. He wondered how badly she'd been upset by
Three men dressed in faded jeans and vests of various colours stood at the
bar, elbows on the counter, backs to the nervous couple. Two of them held
burning cigarettes that gave off a pungent, suspect odour, the smoke rising to
the low ceiling, thickening the blanket of fugue overhead. The three were all
youngish, mid-twenties, athletically muscular, two of whom sported the
ubiquitous dreadlocks while the other wore his hair short.
One of them, the close-shorn one, turned to regard the pair briefly. A
conspiratorial chuckle came from the other two after some mumbled comment. The
man detached himself from what was obviously his habitual position, biceps
bulging, triceps tensing as he pushed his angled torso away from the bar.
'Evening,' he grinned, eyes all over the girl's body after sauntering
slide-footed and insouciant to the table.
The woman tensed, sensing his appraisal rather than seeing. She kept her eyes
on the bottle in front of her. Her husband returned a timid hello, his eyes
sliding over the other man's grinning face, seeing the challenge there but
powerless to react. He ignored the blatant assessment of his wife's décolletage.
Now wasn't the time to play the knight in shining armour.
The man loomed over the couple, dark-skinned and rangy, unsettling the
pale-skinned visitors, his smile sinister despite its breadth. 'We don't get
many tourists in here,' he offered ambiguously in what could be either comment
or threat. The girl said nothing while her husband, equally silent, blinked
quickly several times at this opening gambit. 'Uh ...' he began. 'It was
recommended by Linus.' He used the name in the hope of a positive response. This
didn't feel good at all. If he could engender some favour by dropping a familiar
name all to the good.
The man's response remained ambiguous. 'Yeah,' he said, his gaze fixed on the
woman. Then, suddenly, he turned his attention to the nervous man seated. 'We
don't get many white people in here at all ... ever ...' He smirked, adding:
'And we never get pretty white girls payin' us no visits.'
'We just got married,' the husband blurted. 'Two days ago.'
The man's smile widened. He turned to his companions at the bar, both of whom
were leaning on one elbow, watching the scene unfold. 'Got a pair of
honeymooners,' he called. The barman slopped a desultory cloth over the counter
and made no comment. One of his customers spoke, the one in the green vest.
'Calls for a celebration,' he said, 'bottle of rum.' This last was offered to
the man behind the bar, who ceased his slovenly ministrations and bent forward
to lift a bottle from under the counter.
'Oh, no, that isn't necessary,' the husband began. 'Linus should be back
soon,' he suggested, more than a little hopefully. 'And we really don't drink
'Just a little drink to celebrate,' Green Vest said. 'Linus said he'd be a
half hour ... maybe a little more. He's on an errand for me.' He grabbed the
bottle by its neck and ambled to the table. 'Just a drop,' he finished. The
third man brought five more bottles of beer, while the barman delivered glasses,
carrying his cargo one-handed on a tray.
Chairs scraped through the dust on the wooden floor, bottles slammed onto the
table top. Daniel suddenly found himself positioned on the periphery of the
group, with his wife, as the focal point, flanked either side by the two
long-haired locals, the man with short hair interposed between Daniel and the
'You're a mighty lucky man,' the short-haired one said, leering sideways at
Daniel. 'That's a very pretty young woman you got yourself.' He nodded
appreciatively. 'sweet,' he added.
The woman stared at her husband, her eyes beseeching. She could feel the heat
coming from the two men positioned so closely at her sides, could smell their
bodies. Inwardly cursing her trembling hand she picked up the bottle which had
held her attention for so long. She swigged deeply, chugging half the contents
in one go. 'Cuh ... could you call a taxi,' she stammered. 'Please. I'd like to
leave now. Daniel, could you ask for a phone to call a cab?'
The man to her left spoke, the one in the green vest, the one who'd suggested
the rum. 'Hey,' he said softly, shaking his head, lips pursed. 'No need to run
away,' he purred, voice like silk, smile like a tiger's. 'We just wanna
celebrate with you. Toast your good fortune.' His eyes slithered across the
woman's chest. 'Toast your husband's luck.' He leered at the young woman. 'Lucky
fellah,' he said. 'What you say, Danny? You gonna take a little drink with us?
Your new friends here.'
Daniel vacillated, sensing that to refuse might invite an angry response.
'Uh,' he said, 'I don't suppose ...' He looked at his wife, willed her to
understand. 'Just one drink?' he suggested, his smile tepid. Rum was poured and
glasses chinked. 'Cheers,' Green Vest said, grinning his huge grin, obviously
the leader of the group. The girl demurred. 'No, thank you,' she said, seething
inside and silently cursing her husband. 'I don't like rum.' She tilted the beer
bottle against her lips and drained it. Then, the empty bottle banging the table
like a gavel, she lifted her second. 'Cheers,' she toasted through clenched
teeth, her eyes flashing fire towards Daniel.
'Rum,' the short-haired man suggested, pouring generous measures into four
glasses without waiting for any motion of acceptance from Daniel.
Watching her husband, the new Mrs wife felt humiliation and anger corrode her
guts. He should have refused, she thought. He should have acted when I told him
to call a cab. These men are taking the piss and he's just going along with it.
She burned with indignation. I should've insisted, she reasoned. Stood my
ground, made my point and demanded to leave. Clara chided herself: I should have
stood up and just left. This is getting stupid now. Look at him sucking up to
these black fuckers.
She began to question her husband's courage. From his sidelined position on
the left wing, Daniel considered the options. Clara was obviously fuming, but
she didn't understand, if this went wrong it would be he who would get the
kicking. Maybe worse, these boys could have knives or guns ... Who knew where
this could go if he showed a lack of respect. No, he reasoned, best to ride it
out. Have a few drinks, act all friendly, leave with all his teeth intact. Who
cared about dignity?
He then made the fatal error of leaving his wife alone with the men. 'Where's
the toilet?' he asked. Clara, mouth hanging in surprise, with Bob Marley wailing
about no woman no cry in the background, predators all around, watched her
husband leave the bar. What was he thinking leaving her alone with ... them?
'Are you afraid of us?' Green Vest asked.
Clara considered the question. The blaze of anger had cooled to a ball of
fear in the pit of her stomach. 'A little,' she admitted, nodding, her eyes
lifting to regard the man face-to-face.
'We's just messin' with you,' Green Vest relented. 'Just a little joke.'
'It isn't funny,' Clara returned.
'We do it from time to time. Get Linus to trawl the hotels an' pick out some
likely prospects. We gets a bottle of rum or two outta tourists, they leave some
cash, fifty dollars or whatever for a cab ride back to the lights.' The man
grinned at Clara. 'Linus picked you guys 'cos he thought you wuz hot stuff.'
Through gritted teeth - the gall of the man - Clara said: 'I'm so fucking
'That husband of yours ...' Green Vest's dreadlocks swayed with the jerk of
his head '... he don't seem to be paying you much respect.' Clara noticed the
man's eyes fill with scorn. 'He knows you wanna leave, but he's too scared to
act.' He nodded again, sucking air through his teeth, a signal of contempt.
'You don't show much respect either,' Clara retorted, eyes flashing. She
swigged her beer, staring a challenge into Green Vest's face over the bottle.
'But I'd look after you like a man should.'
To her immense surprise Clara experienced a pulse of interest at that
ambiguous statement. Her clitoris throbbed lightly, just enough to make the
blonde aware of her sexual arousal. She looked from Green Vest's face to the
faces of his friends, both of whom had sat there, silent, perhaps sensing a
glimmer of where this to-and-fro could lead. Could those men feel the tension
brewing between the arrogant, muscular black man and herself? She looked across
to the barman behind his counter. That man too had paused, standing silent and
immobile. Clara caught his look, the barman wanted her too, they all wanted her.
'Oh, God,' Clara muttered, confused by her body's reaction to the scene.
I don't fancy any of them ... This is so sleazy, really disgusting ... The
thought of the four of them looking at me ... Four of them ... Four ... Her
attention returned to the man in the green vest. I just bet you'd look after me.
You'd protect me in this kind of situation. Physically shield me from this kind
of shit. He'd look after me in other ways too.
Clara's pulse quickened at the thought of this man making love to her. Her
nipples tightened, her sex, of its own accord, began to oil. She felt the heat
between her legs suffuse upwards to brush her cleavage and throat with a rosy
glow. Thank God for the crap lighting, Clara thought as the blush coloured her
'I think you would,' the girl mumbled. 'I'm sure you'd look after me.'
Green Vest made his move immediately. 'Honeymoon, huh?' He shifted closer.
'You should be in bed.' His gaze swept Clara's body. She felt naked, exposed and
vulnerable beneath his look. Her body responded to his burning proximity, the
scent of him - earthy, virile, sexy. Clara shifted her rump against the plastic
chair as her insides clenched and her nipples began to ache. She revised her
earlier estimate of not finding any of the men attractive.
Anger flared again. What was she thinking of? Damn her traitorous body. She
blamed her husband for this, blamed his timidity and lack of balls. She blamed
the local men, was appalled by their arrogance and surety. She hated Green Vest
for his assurance, resented his proximity and the effect his virility had upon
her. He was so cocky and arrogant ... but at the same time Clara found him sexy.
Why couldn't her husband move like that? Why couldn't Daniel act with such
'In bed?' Clara mocked. 'Why should I be in bed? You think a honeymoon is
'It's all about sex ...'
His hand fell on her bare thigh, eased higher along her leg beneath her
Clara started, flinching and gasping at the audacity.
And then her husband returned.
For reasons she would never quite understand, Clara left the black man's hand
on her leg, his fingers branding her skin.
Daniel blinked, sensing some shift in the atmosphere; he just wasn't sure
what it was. From the waist down his wife's body was masked by the table, Daniel
couldn't see the arm snaking under Clara's dress.
'Uhm ...' Daniel began, remaining standing while five pairs of eyes regarded
him. There was something in his wife's expression he couldn't read, while the
three seated men looked up at him with varying degrees of disdain. He looked
across to the barman. Oddly, Daniel thought he recognised pity in the older
man's look. 'I think it's time we left, Clara,' he offered, with as much dignity
and force his quavering voice could muster.
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