In Sight of the Century
When Nate Tyree turned from the captain’s chair on the rented sport boat to see his new bride, he saw the sexiest scene he thought he’d ever beheld in his life.
Jennifer leaned forward over the back of the boat and shook her head.
Her black hair was especially curly as it danced in the wind of their ten knots on the ocean.
Nate followed her body from bottom to top.
She stood with her shapely bronze legs slightly apart.
The one-inch gap between her knees tapered slightly to reach a half-inch where her legs came together at the bottom of her bikini – a minimal white piece of fabric with only a large orange star on the right cheek to add a bit of color.
That suit hugs each side tight and nice, Nate thought with a wry smile. She has the most beautiful ass in the world.
Jennifer was oblivious to Nate’s admiring eyes.
As she ran her fingers through each side of her hair to ensure they were drying equally, Nate could almost feel his hands on her body again – as they had been an hour before…and for so many times before that since arriving in Grand Turk.
The first three days of their honeymoon, a weak, slow-moving tropical storm allowed for several enthusiastic episodes in their hotel room. Sex was definitely different since the commitment had been made. There was no hesitation, guilt, or false flattery to get her into his bed now; just a knowing look or glance and they were in the sack, exploring each other further. Slow and compassionate, or hot and passionate, it was more satisfying now.
At least it seemed that way to Nate.
His eyes feasted on Jennifer’s sexy body. He briefly turned ahead to ensure the smaller group of cays around the Turks were still a safe distance away, then looked back again to linger on her a few moments longer. She pulled her jet-black hair back between her shoulders. Still damp, it fell in coils of ringlets below her shoulder blades in feminine perfection.
“Paradise,” Nate said to himself, the sound of the sea wind passing so loud that it dimmed the words so that only he heard them in his head. “Damn, this is paradise.”
As he sat at the wraparound captain’s chair, Nate’s knees still ached from their lovemaking on Cotton Cay that morning.
The two had explored the island the day before with a group of tourists. It was the first break in the weather, clearing to blue skies so they could resume their itinerary.
After breakfast in bed in their oceanfront room at the Osprey Hotel, they pulled on their swimsuits, hailed a cab on Duke Street and traveled south from Cockburn Town (Nate loved the name). They drove for about ten minutes, passing the Grand Turk Cruise Terminal along the way. The driver explained that Carnival Cruises had recently completed a major restoration there; in a short time, they arrived at Governor’s Beach. The driver directed them out to a section of the beach where a private tour company awaited. The tour operator had already boarded the other passengers.
The couple climbed into the wide diving boat and sat down on the last open spot on the bench seat near one of the two outboard motors.
Marjoe, a twentyish island native, introduced his mate, Ian, who gave a brief and entertaining ‘rules of the boat’ presentation. Ian explained how to use the ‘head’ below deck, pointed out the plastic barrel filled with ice and bottled water, and went over the planned activities for the morning excursion. After a few comments from the guests and some jokes from Marjoe, he turned up the volume on the reggae music. Marjoe bent over the rear of the boat and the two motors coughed to life as Ian retrieved the anchor.
The other guests included two other couples, in their early twenties like Nate and Jennifer, and a family of four. The air was still cool, and with the added wind speed and the constant sea spray as the boat slapped down after each wave, the beleaguered father had to deal with his wife and two girls, about ten and twelve years old, as they complained of the cold and shivered under their beach towels.
Despite the chill, the water was beautifully blue and the air was crisp and clean.
They had barely lost sight of Grand Turk when Cotton Cay appeared ahead. Marjoe throttled down in the approach to a secluded, pristine beach. The crew dropped anchor in about four feet of water and cut the engine. Each guest slipped on a facemask and stepped into the cool sea. Once they were all off the boat, the group snorkeled for about thirty minutes.
When their time was over, Ian stayed aboard while Marjoe waded ashore to gather up the fins and facemasks. He dumped the gear into plastic pails filled with saltwater, hauled them back to the boat, then led the entire group on a short walking tour of the area.
They followed a well-worn path from the beach, trying to stay close enough to hear Marjoe’s oft-repeated history of the islands.
“The tourist guides and textbooks say the Turks and Caicos consist of forty islands, but Ian and I can tell you there are many more than that, some uncharted, that make up the island chain. As you snorkeled, you probably noticed how clear the water is and how easy it is to see the beautiful fish and coral. Snorkeling is one of the favorite activities here, along with sunbathing. Oh, and feel free to ask questions along the way. I’ll try my best to answer them.”
The wide swath of sand turned into a rocky dirt path and narrowed to a width that allowed only two people to walk side-by-side comfortably.
“The island is named for one of the cactus varieties that grow here called a ‘turk’s-cap’ and a Lucayan term, ‘caya hico,’ which means ‘string of islands’,” Marjoe said. “Even though many of you probably consider us to be a Caribbean island, we’re technically in the Atlantic Ocean. Explorer Ponce de León was the first to discover the islands before he went on to explore around St. Augustine in Florida. There were natives here before the Spanish arrived in the early 1500s, but they were enslaved to work in Hispaniola in the West Indies, which is the second-largest island in the Caribbean behind Cuba. So, these islands were virtually uninhabited until the 1600s. After that, the islands passed among the Spanish, the French, and the British. We’re now a British Overseas Territory.”
The group reached the height of the path where it straightened to parallel the beachfront. There were a series of dilapidated, abandoned wooden structures in the distance surrounded by thirty or more dark green plants soaring high into the sky, with others scattered haphazardly over the entire landscape, as if they’d been left behind by a giant playing pick-up sticks.
“What are those things?” Nate asked, pointing at the tops of the plants. “I’ve never seen anything like them.”
“The scientific name is Agave americana, but they’re commonly referred to as century plants,” Marjoe replied. “However, even that’s an exaggeration. They live about ten to twenty years, but the plant is interesting because it blooms only once in its lifetime. As you can see, some shoots can reach as high as forty or fifty feet. Then the plant dies. However, this species produces new sprouts that will take over and grow to maturity, repeating the cycle. The old buildings you see there were once used to process the plants.”
“What were the plants used for?” Nate asked.
“The islanders processed them into threads to make clothes and rugs, which were their major products traded hundreds of years ago,” Marjoe said. “Nearly every part of the plant had a purpose. Its stem was used like a joist inside primitive houses, and its spikes are very sharp, so they were used or sold as sewing needles. The juice in it, its residue, called ‘chuff,’ was made into adobe to build homes. They even processed the juice to create wine and mezcal, too, which is like tequila.”
As Marjoe continued responding to the various questions about the islands, Nate slowed his step and Jennifer, who was holding his hand along the walk, stopped and looked at him. He smiled, squeezed her hand, and kissed her on the cheek.
“I think we should come back here tomorrow and explore the place some more,” Nate said. “But not with the tourists,” he added with a sly grin.
“Just what do you have in mind?” she asked, with a knowing laugh.
“You’ll find out tomorrow.”
After the tour, Marjoe ushered the group back to the boat, making sure he and Ian kept to the schedule to maximize their profits. To keep in sync with the cruise schedule, they offered three such excursions each day big ships arrived. They had to allot enough time to arrive on Grand Turk one hour before the last tenders shuttled passengers back to board the last ship to leave port.
Once they landed at Governor’s Beach, the rest of the group left for other destinations. Nate and Jennifer rented a couple of lounge chairs, bought some Cokes at the snack bar, and found a spot on the more secluded side of the beach.
The couple smoothed sunscreen in places where the sun was most punishing, and spent the early afternoon sharing fresh memories about their wedding, held less than a week before, the new house they were about to rent in Silver Springs, and Nate’s impending promotion at the Transportation Security Administration – interspersed between long sighs and observations about the beauty of the islands.
More than once, after looking out over the light blue waters, Jennifer sank back in her lounge chair and mused, “We picked the perfect place for a honeymoon.”
It was about three-thirty and both were getting hungry. Although it had been a sexually satisfying cloistering, having been trapped inside for the two previous days, the last thing they wanted to do now was go back to the Osprey Hotel to eat.
Beating the cruise ship tourists off the beach before all the cabs were grabbed in the rush back to board, Jennifer put on a see-through white wrap over her one-piece swimsuit. Nate picked up her beach bag, and the two nabbed a waiting cab to the Sand Bar – a place nearer to their hotel that had been recommended by the concierge.
The Sand Bar was all they had hoped for: the quintessential beach restaurant and bar, built with rustic wood and featuring a patio area overlooking the water and a simple bar that opened to the beach. It was ideal for swim-ups and walk-ups. They ate burgers and homefries and, their hunger at bay, ordered two rum punches and spread out towels on the sand. They swam, reapplied more sunscreen, and talk of their future. The couple stayed until the sun dipped below the ocean’s horizon and the turquoise water turned to black, before they surrendered to the combination of sun and alcohol. They staggered up to Duke Street, cabbed back to the hotel, had another drink at the hotel, and climbed into bed for giggly, drunken lovemaking.
The first thing the next morning, after Nate came to, he let Jennifer sleep while he took it upon himself to make new plans for the day.
The tourist excursions are okay, he thought. But I want to do something where it’s just me and her exploring the island…among other things. She’d like it.
Their love of traveling and adventure was one of the things they had in common, and what had brought them together in the beginning when they were part of a group hiking the Appalachian Trail while college juniors. Since then, they had learned to snow ski in Vermont, parasailed in Nuevo Vallarta in Mexico, and roughed it with some primitive camping on Cumberland Island off the Georgia coast.
Neither was afraid to try anything new.
Nate had piloted boats, from pontoons to Sea Rays, and part of him wanted to get out and explore Grand Turk and a few of the surrounding islands.
And one thing he visualized was going back to some of the abandoned shacks on Cotton Cay, blanket in hand, and make love to Jennifer, as the century plants burst into the sky around them. It was a sexual fantasy, for sure, but one he couldn’t get out of his mind.
He was also glad that he’d kept his boating license in his wallet, and not left it at home.
Nate inquired at the front desk and was put in touch with Sea Doo Sea Rental and, after a bit of negotiation on the types of vessels available, he secured their boat for the day. The shop carried Sportsters and Challengers, but Nate selected a 2006 Islandia Sea Doo with twin Rotax motors, snap-on cover, two drop-down swim ladders and a Bimini top – complete with a head, CD player with four speakers and a depth-finder.
He stopped by the hotel restaurant, got two to-go breakfasts and talked the kitchen manager into making some sandwiches for their lunch. He took the bag of goodies back to the hotel room and sat on the patio until eight-thirty, when he couldn’t wait any longer. Nate gently poked Jennifer’s exposed elbow and shared his ideas with her when she awoke…initially groggy, but then wide awake, excited by the plans and impressed with his ingenuity.
She was even more excited when they arrived at the Cockburn Town Dock an hour later to see the Islandia waiting for them, a sporty vessel with red racing lines and bright red Bimini top. When they boarded and she noticed he had stashed a blanket from the hotel room in his backpack, along with wine and beer that he’d smuggled from their large ice chest in the room, Jennifer smiled at his craftiness.
Once they idled past the buoys and began motoring south, she recognized the scenery. Cotton Cay was in the distance, the century plants now familiar to her from their excursion the previous day. Upon approach, she could see white petals from atop the ones in bloom gently drift down, like a tropical snow, with every morning breeze.
Nate took the craft past the spot off the island where they had stopped before, finding a small cove that looked to be closer to the plantation. He smiled mischievously at Jennifer as he dropped anchor and secured the aluminum ladder on the side of the boat.
“Are we going to go exploring again?” she asked.
“In a way.”
Nate put on a tank top, wrestled the knapsack on his back, and climbed out first, helping Jennifer navigate the water. He looked around once more to ensure there were no other boats nearby. They put on swim booties and went ashore. Nate held her hand as they followed a break in the dunes to the footpath where their guide had ended the tour the day before, this time continuing further down the path toward the old plantation homes.
The wooden buildings were deteriorated to the point where the ceilings were long gone, with only small sections of some walls remaining. There was one building that had been partially constructed with stones. Its three walls, about six feet in height and width, made an enclosure that offered the discreet location Nate wanted. From the shadows cast inside, Nate guessed the wall on the eastern side would shield them from the sunshine for about another hour – plenty of time for his fantasy to become a reality.
Nate pulled off the backpack and took out the blanket. He spread it out in the corner. He pulled Jennifer close to him and gave her a long probing kiss, his hands moving down to her bikini bottom. He could feel the passion well up inside him as she responded in kind, pushing her breasts into his chest. His hardness aroused her.
“I’m so hot for you,” she whispered breathlessly.
Nate held her hands and Jennifer lay down on the blanket. He knelt beside her and gave her another long kiss. His right hand squeezed her breast, his fingers tightening slightly on her nipple before moving down to tug at her bikini bottom. Jennifer’s hands went to her sides, and she slipped off the small garment, spreading her legs slightly as Nate explored. She moaned. Nate’s hands braced above her head. He shifted atop her. Jennifer’s fingernails scraped his muscular back as he plunged inside her, panting into her black hair. He closed his eyes, nearly unaware of the surroundings – feeling her body and greedily pounding her into the blanket and the cold hard sand beneath them.
When it was over, the exhausted lovers rested on the blanket for a while until the sun began to peek over the stone wall. Nate leaned over and opened the bottle of wine. He poured a single cupful, and the two took long, leisurely sips until it was gone.
Upon wobbly knees, the couple left their discreet love-making spot and strolled slowly back to the boat.
The lust had subsided.
But now, as Nate looked at her again, the memory of the hot passion – now fueled with the cabernet that sloshed in the pit of his stomach – made him wonder if she was willing for one more go of it while they still had the boat.
Perhaps at the end of the day, he thought.
The Islandia sped easily through the small swells as Nate piloted the boat due east, first toward a larger island several miles in the distance. But as the land mass got closer, Nate noticed a very small island barely visible on the horizon to the south. With still nearly three-quarters of a tank showing on the dial, there was plenty of fuel to make it.
As they approached, they thought it was deserted. There were no structures of any kind on the sliver of land in the middle of the ocean.
The perfect place for a picnic, he thought.
As he drew the boat closer, he could see that most of the beach was rocky, covered with driftwood and scattered with old root systems that jutted out and upward in contortions shaped by the salt water and the tides. Instead of the smooth ascending beach areas they were used to seeing, most of the edge of the coastline was made of short tapers of sand, which abruptly became a steep bank of about three feet that had to be traversed before stepping upon the island.
It was the most unappealing shoreline they’d seen since arriving in Grand Turk.
Jennifer remained in her appealing pose, staring off the back of the boat, enjoying the wide ocean view in the wake. Nate noted a couple of ‘No Trespassing’ signs as he circled the island to check out the southern approach.
It did look secluded. There were breaks in the dense tree line a few yards beyond the shoreline. Other than the warning signs, the island seemed virtually untouched by civilization. A spit in the ocean.
Certainly, a quick stop for lunch wouldn’t be an issue, he thought. Probably some company had put the signs up to make sure people knew someone owned it and to keep squatters from laying a claim.
As they rounded east to the southern side, he spotted a small patch of sand nestled in a cove that would be the ideal place to stop.
“Here we are,” Nate announced. “Ready for lunch?”
“Love it. So, what do we have to eat?”
“Only sandwiches and chips. But we do have some wine left and a couple of beers, though they’re probably a little warm by now.”
Nate drew down the throttle, maneuvered near a contorted tree stump sticking up from the sand, and cut the engine. He dropped the ladder once more, climbed into the shallow water, and tied the boat to the exposed root with double slipknots to ensure the boat was secure and nearly immobile.
The backpack was retrieved, and the two were on the shore. He unfurled the blanket again, the wrinkled blue fabric reminding them both of their passionate interlude earlier within the plantation walls. The sun was high in the sky. He smoothed it out on a relatively flat area in the shade.
They ate and talked about what they wanted to do when they returned to the marina. Dancing sounded like fun, so they agreed to see the concierge as soon as they returned to find out where they could have dinner and then boogie on the island.
When they finished, Nate left the bread scraps for the gulls and tossed the paper wrapping in the backpack.
“Let’s check out our private honeymoon island, and then we’ll head on back,” he said. “Shouldn’t take long to walk this cay.”
The landmass was quite small, only about a half-mile wide. They walked along the natural paths. Other than trees, underbrush and a few rocks, there was nothing to see. They encountered an increasingly rocky terrain, which forced them to follow a path cut between the rocks and the beach line. Jennifer occasionally picked up a piece of interestingly sea-formed driftwood or noted a plant they’d hadn’t seen before, but beyond the usual insects and a few birds, it looked like most every other island.
They were about halfway around the island when Nate noticed the glint of light, like a mirror, coming from the foliage deep in the brush.
“Wonder what that is?” he mused.
Nate released Jennifer’s hand and pushed aside the bushes and tree limbs ahead, squinting until he reached the source of the reflection. He bent to his knees and shifted some of the leaves around. His fingers touched something metallic behind the plants.
Some twigs snapped to his right.
The sunshine glinted on the steel blade of a machete that shot out from the trees with the speed of a striking snake.
The blade severed Jennifer’s neck cleanly and with precision.
Her eyes froze. Blood erupted from the base of her neck as her body collapsed on one of the large boulders, and her head rolled toward Nate’s feet with eyes open, blank and distant, then came to a stop.
An anguished scream burst from Nate’s mouth as he witnessed his love, his future, die before his eyes. He didn’t move, in a state of shock at the sight.
Nate saw the eyes of the killer, his head and mouth shrouded by a red-and-white Bedouin headdress.
The killer’s squat, hard body took three fast steps forward, crouched low, his dark arms went back, and the machete cut through the cool island air.
The end of the blade sliced across Nate’s face, making a diagonal slash down the right side of his jaw. The violent stroke crossed his lips, slicing his left nostril and mangling his left eye. As the edge of the blade continued its movement downward into the large palm fronds that hung from above, a thin line of blood was thrown along the bright green fanned leaves.
The second sound that came from Nate’s throat was the wail of a wounded animal. His hands immediately went to cover his injured eye as the blow turned his body away from the attacker.
Nate had struggled to his knees to start to run when the machete blade struck a fatal swipe to the nape of his neck, slicing his spinal cord.
His young hard body fell into the coarse sand with a sickening thud.
His head lay on the ground, his body unable to move as he heard a rustling in the surrounding brush and two voices talking in a language he didn’t understand.
Nate’s left eye was open and blinking wildly, tortured with the view of Jennifer’s long black hair now stained in scarlet red and barely visible in his fading periphery.
Then, there was the odd appearance of a deck shoe and fatigue-green pants leg before him as the machete blade fully severed his head from his body and the world exploded away.