Chapter 34

9 3 11

Art viewed the pink sand beaches from his seat on the helicopter, and the Bahamian waters so blue they defied description. He and Natalya had flown from Harrisburg to Atlanta to Nassau and were now on the final leg of their flight to New Bight Airport on the southern end of Cat Island.

The chopper rotor was so loud, they had to wear headsets equipped with mikes to communicate.

"How much longer?" Art asked. He needed to pee.

The pilot pointed to the ground. "The airport is coming up. A few minutes at most."

What airport? Art wondered. All he could see were a few scattered buildings and lots of dense foliage.

As the chopper descended, he was able to make out a pockmarked runway, its surface consisting of sand. He was grateful they had taken a helicopter. Landing a plane on that strip would be a real kidney rattler.

The pilot set the aircraft down with such expert finesse, he felt no bump. The rotor powered down. The pilot helped them disembark, thanked them, and pointed in the direction of a small shack that looked to be no bigger than Art's garage.

"That's the terminal?" Natalya asked.

Art squirmed. "Where's the bathroom?"

They walked into the low ceiling building and approached the one person working there and showed them their passports. After Art took care of his needs, he met Natalya out front who was talking with a skinny island man.

"This is Bobby," Natalya said. "He drives a taxi."

Bobby extended a hand to Art and smiled. He looked to be around thirty and had a gold tooth for an incisor. "Pleased to meet you, Mon."

Art shook. "Can you take us to our hotel?"

"Sure, Mon, that's what I'm here for! Where are you staying?"

Since Natalya made the arrangements, he deferred to her. She said, "We have reservations at the Pufferfish Inn."

Bobby laughed, "Ah, I know that place." He pointed to his vehicle, a late model Toyota Four Runner. "Climb in."

After they settled into Bobby's ride, he started driving and asked, "Why are you staying at the Pufferfish?"

"I found it on the Internet," Natalya told him. "They rent cars at that inn, so I arranged for a package deal."

"How much are they charging you?"

Art exchanged a glance with Natalya and wondered if there was some cultural difference to explain why Bobby was being so nosy.

Natalya told him.

"Oh, Mon, you don't want to stay there. They charge too much for that package deal. Their cars are old and always breaking down. Besides, that place has bedbugs."

Art exchanged another glance with Natalya and asked, "Where would you recommend?"

Bobby removed one of his hands from the steering wheel and pointed to his chest. "I will make you a deal."

Art scoffed. "You own a hotel that also rents cars and is free of bedbugs?"

"No, Mon. My cousin, Louie, he owns the Gangplank Inn. Not far from here. No bedbugs. Guaranteed."

"What about the car rental?" Natalya asked.

"You pay me the same amount as the Pufferfish, and I'll get you into my cousin's hotel, and I'll be your driver for a day. No rental car needed."

Natalya turned to Art and said, "It would be a huge advantage having a local person drive us around since we're complete strangers and don't know where we're going."

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