“Sure I can take you there, but as your husband’s dead you’re not going to have much of a conversation with him,” said Jack.
Blake looked at the drunken expat boat bum with steely eyes. She could read people well and she got his number pretty fast. Jack was another piece of Vanuatu white trash, afternoons spent drinking it up in the Waterfront Bar and Grill, clicking fingers at the locals, Ni-Van girl to treat like a slave, moved there as a tax dodge to squander ill gotten gains, the islands were crawling with them.
Blake took a breath before replying. She wanted to keep her composure. She’d lost it earlier that day in the police station, the garbled talk from the sympathetic officer mixing with the balmy heat of the Vanuatu climate, fogging her brain, blurring her focus. She didn’t like the feeling.
She’d even let Maddie try some of the market food, she’d been reeling so much. It didn’t take long to right herself, regain her clarity of vision again. When she focused everything fitted into place, the world followed her lead as it always had. Even the young Ni-Van girl popping up to say she not only knew the island Toby was last seen, it was her home, and her boyfriend could take her there, it was all affirmation of the power of positive thinking.
They’d followed Neri up the road to see her beau, the young woman happily chatting in the garbled Bislamic speech that Blake only half understood, swinging her shopping bag brimming with market delicacies, waving to friends they passed. She was like a child, thought Blake, like so many of the Ni-Vans, free from the stresses and strains of money worries and narcissism that belittled much of the outside world.
They lived a free and happy existence, families bonded together in shanty villages sharing expenses of water, growing their own food, status often prescribed by the number of pigs they owned, possessions and homes necessarily temporary so they could easily be replaced and rebuilt when the next cyclone ran through the islands. Madison seemed more attuned to Neri’s wavelength than Blake, they were innocents together, finding joy in the simple pleasures of a bright colour, a noisy car stereo and a funny T-shirt.
Blake just knew that her husband was still alive. She had to believe that, the thought gave her a purpose, and focusing on that kept her head high and her back straight. He’d always been a con artist, she’d known that from the start, in many ways it was what had originally bonded them together when she had originally been poor little rich boy Leo’s arm candy. Her only mistake was thinking he would change, that Maddie would ground his feet as her birth had done hers.
Being clear headed, his disappearance was inevitable. She just hadn’t realised he’d be quite such a prick as to fake his own death, leaving a grieving widow and an orphan behind, just to get away from them. She didn’t realise it would happen so soon.
Looking at Neri, Blake thought it a shame she’d gone with another white expat rather than one of her decent own. She was disappointed when their destination turned out to be the bloody Waterfront Bar. Jack’s cronies visibly shirked away when she’d entered, noses upturned to the supposedly lower class local, but she was thankful the girl was there to take Maddie aside to look at the boats when it was necessary for Blake to barter with Jack.
Yeah, she knew who he was alright. Another man trying to confuse the issue and sway her course. She smiled at him when she replied.
“Then you’ll need to pack plenty of ice in your boat when we bring him back,” said Blake.