The next installment of The Expensive Universal Instrument is finally here! It’s slightly shorter than I’d hoped, but I liked the mild cliffhanger I decided not to fight it.
I hope you enjoy!
I’m on the beach?
What the hell? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? In the parlance of our times.
I spit sand out of my mouth. Thankfully, it was clean and white. I scrambled to pick up The Expensive Universal Instrument. It wouldn’t do to lose my treasure after receiving it, whatever weirdness was going on.
Eye on the prize.
The screen was matte now. I thumped it lightly and it buzzed sadly and displayed:
“Recalibrating. Please stand by.”
I thumped it again and it repeated the sad buzz.
The heat was getting to me and the sun was bright. Too bright.
I am on the beach.
The thought still wasn’t sinking in. I tried it again.
I am on the beach.
Still no response.
I am on a beach.
That resonated somewhere. My brain slipped into gear. There is sand, I was still chewing some. There is light, it was hurting my eyes. It was hot, thank god I’m wearing shorts and a t-shirt.
My mind caught up to recent events and came to the conclusion that I was indeed, standing on a beach.
Which beach? Where was I? How did I get here? What’s going on?
I started feeling dizzy again and stopped thinking for a moment. I smiled at the annoyed volleyball players who were patiently waiting for me to remove myself from the play area. I stumbled over to the side and sat in a relatively empty patch of white sand. My head decided to stop spinning and I tried again.
Where was I? That seemed to be the most salient question. I looked around. White sand, check. Blue water, check. Hot.
I stared at a discarded napkin on the sand. Breezes.
I’m in the freakin’ BAHAMAS?
The world went dark.
“Sir? Sir? Can you hear me?”
Whatever I was lying on, it was cold and hard. I wasn’t sure I wanted to open my eyes. My eyes hadn’t been very helpful thus far.
“Oh good sir, you are awake. Are you ok?”
Maybe I’ll just take a little peek. Maybe I passed out on the bus and had a delirious dream over the last few days and I’m in the hospital safe and sound near home.
I opened my eyes. A dignified older black gentleman stood next to me, behind him, a large logo reading “Breezes”. I was on a metal table inside a room that reminded me strongly of the nurse’s office in my old grade school.
Nope. Not home. I closed my eyes again.
“Sir, please, sit if you can. I have water here for you.”
Gentle hands pulled me up. I groaned again but my heart wasn’t into it. I gave up and opened my eyes and let the man ease me into a comfortable chair. I could see I was in a darkened conference room. I could see my shirt piled on another chair.
Where was The Expensive Universal Instrument? Oh GOD did it get stolen?
“Where am I? Where are my things?”
“I do not understand sir. Other than your clothes, we found nothing.”
Oh god. Oh god oh god oh god. What do I do know? StuffWeCanSell Inc. was going to have my hide! They’ll ban me from ever buying an iProduct again! Oh man!
My heart skipped a beat, snapping my mind in another direction.
How do I get home?
I started hyperventilating. The older gentleman pushed a paper bag on my mouth. It helped.
“Please sir. Calm yourself. If your wallet was stolen, perhaps I can assist you in recovering your travelers’ cheques?”
“Who are you?”, I croaked.
“I am Mr St-John. I am the daytime registration desk manager. Please, give me your room number and I will provide you with a replacement key and will guide you through the process of filing a claim.”
My lungs were getting back under control but my heart rate was now increasing. I could feel my mind weaken again.
“Uh-uh I had a device. Like a glass tablet, black. It is very important. Where is it?”
Mr St-John shook his head sadly.
“I apologize sir. I see no electronic devices among your things. ”
Mr St-John looked up behind me.
“Antoine! Did you see sir’s computer somewhere? Did you bring it in?”
I was startled to realize someone else was standing a short distance behind me. Antoine wore the livery of the resort and looked like a smart, strapping young man a few years younger than myself. His tan spoke to his time spent on the beach either for his work or his leisure. He took a second of hesitation before answering.
“No sir. I apologize, I was only concerned with bringing this gentleman inside. I thought perhaps he had suffered a heat stroke, but I could see no tan or sunburn.”
I wailed in panic. Antoine was visibly shaken by my distress.
Mr St-John patted my arm, clearly uncomfortable.
“There there sir. We can call the police. I’m sure they can take a report and maybe find it. I’m sure it will turn up in some pawn broker establishment or some sort of place the police know about.”
No. Who would SELL such a device as the Expensive Universal Instrument! No one that’s who! Oh god! Panic gripped me. The loss of the wondrous device was almost too much to bear.
The thought that I was missing something, something important, was itching at the edge of my thoughts.
Mr St-John cleared his throat diffidently.
“Sir. If you could but tell me your room number, I could start the process to perhaps replace your lost documents and I could retrieve your passport from the safe so that we could contact the appropriate authorities.”
My passport! Everything clicked like a ton of bricks falling into a brick wall. I had no passport! I hadn’t flown in, I had not entered the Bahamas legally. There was no record of my ever having left the United States! The Expensive Universal Instrument had somehow brought me here!
The same Expensive Universal Instrument that was now lost, in the hands of some scalawag low life!
I looked around the room to give my eyes something to do while I processed this. I couldn’t tell Mr St-John that I wasn’t a guest. What would happen if I did? Would I be thrown out? Arrested? Antoine shuffled nervously and avoided my eyes. He seemed very very nervous. I had a hunch and I leaped up and grabbed the bright shirt of his uniform. He gasped and tried to back away but my panic gave me the strength of many men. Well, panic gave me the strength of many geeks, which is like a few men I suppose.
“You know something! You KNOW! Tell me! Where is it! Tell me now!”
Antoine cried out as I pushed him into the wall like I had seen in many police dramas. Mr St-John vainly tried to hold me back as I screamed “Tell me!” at the top of my lungs while shaking Antoine enough to make his tan pale. He finally ripped free of my hands and fell to the ground, cowering.
“No please! I’ll tell you what I know!”
“Tell me! Now! Where is my Expensive Universal Instrument! Uh…the tablet! Where is it!”
Mr St-John frowned and crossed his arms, not amused and clearly not happy, “Antoine? You know something and did not say? Speak now and you may avoid being fired.”
Antoine sighed and deflated on the floor.
“I know the device, the tablet computer sir had on the beach. When he passed out I gave it to a friend of mine who knows where to sell it. We would split 50/50. I swear that’s all!”
Mr St-John squatted down and looked Antoine in the eye.
“And where is this place? Who is this friend?”
“His name is Raoul. The shop is called The Buccaneer’s Treasure. They sell stolen items behind the counter and t-shirts and trinkets for the tourists. It’s not far from the Straw Market in an alley just west of it off Bay street! It’s a small shop but you can’t miss the sign, everyone at the market knows it!”
Mr St-John stood grimly.
“Antoine you disappoint me. You are fired, but do not leave yet. The police will be here soon enough to speak with you.”, Mr St-John turned to me, “I’m so sorry sir. I apologize for all this. Consider your stay with us free of charge. I will call the authorities and we will deal with this matter swiftly. Let us get you back to your room.”
I blushed, “I don’t have a room.”
“What? How did you get in? Are you a guest of a guest? ”
“No. I was…uh…lost and I must have wandered onto the resort by mistake.”
Mr St-John shook his head sadly, “this complicates matters I’m afraid. Please, we will wait for the police and we will sort this out with them. In the meantime, please make yourself comfortable.”
I stood, “I don’t think I can wait. I need to recover my..uh..device!”
“I’m afraid this is not your choice sir, please sit and wait for the police.”
“No!” I said rather forcefully.
Now I admit it was a bit rash and I didn’t mean to knock the nice gentleman down, but down he went. Mr St-John cried out as he fell over Antoine in a tangle of arms and legs. It gave me the opportunity to run out the door and down the hall to the lobby. I sprinted out into the sunlight and around the corner. I only stopped minutes later when I realized no one was chasing me.
I looked around and from the endless episodes of Bahamas PD I could tell I was already on Bay street! Now all I had to do is find the Straw Market and The Buccaneer’s Treasure.
I had a chance!
To be continued.