HONEYMOON BAY, ANDI & NORTH BOOK 3
© Joan Mettauer
To celebrate their last day in La Paz, the group decided to go into the city for dinner at a popular restaurant in the Hotel Perla. They parked on a side street near the wide harbour boulevard Calle Passo Álvaro Obregón. The hotel was only a couple blocks away, and the eight tourists strolled up the wide paved Malecón, enjoying the early evening breeze and sights and sounds of marina activity.
“So what’s everyone having to eat tonight?” Chris asked. They had been served a large bowl of warm tortilla chips with fresh salsa as soon as they’d been seated. Their drinks arrived within minutes – cervezas for the men and enormous tequila margaritas served in heavy, green fishbowl stemware for the women. Andi, as usual, opted for a ‘virgin’ version of the restaurant’s signature lime margarita. The restaurant was modern and its open-air concept took advantage of a stunning view of the harbour and Malecón. From Mexican tiles on the floor to colourful local décor and sturdy wooden tables and chairs painted in vibrant shades of blue, aqua, orange, yellow and green, the entire restaurant was a feast for the eyes. Against the back wall, a Mariachi band dressed in brightly coloured, tasseled and bejeweled costumes topped with wide sombreros, entertained the diners with lively music and haunting melodies, setting a festive tone for the evening.
With the exception of Roxanne, who was untrusting of anything remotely resembling seafood, salads or Mexican fare and had opted for a grilled cheese and fries, they all ordered fresh grilled chili-rubbed Mahi-mahi. Chris, being more familiar with Mexican food than the rest of the group, also convinced them to order a popular ceviche appetizer. Fresh raw shrimp, scallops and bite-sized pieces of fish, ‘cooked’ in freshly squeezed lime juice, then mixed with minced tomatoes, onion, celery, jalapeno peppers, and red sauce, didn’t sound too appetizing but turned out to be delicious and light.
They had just finished their appetizers when the sun began to sink below the watery horizon, bathing the entire harbour in an extraordinary orange-red fiery glow. Andi grabbed her camera and ran out to the street to snap several shots of the stunning display of colour before the red orb sank completely below the horizon. She captured two small sailboats skimming over the water, their fluttering sails stained a gorgeous shade of peach, taking care to frame her shots between the black silhouettes of a row of stately coconut palms marching up the Malecón.
After dinner they decided to go for more drinks at an outside patio bar they had spotted on their stroll down the Malecón. The bar had already been packed with a youngish crowd, and looked like a good choice for some late-evening entertainment. They searched for an open table on the lively patio, but finding none they wandered inside and squeezed into padded banquette-style seats around a rectangular wooden table. The music, which had been loud on the patio, was thunderous inside. When a harried waitress swept up to their table to take their drink orders, they had to raise their voices to scream level.
“It’s impossible to talk in here!” Andi shouted into Lisa’s ear.
“I know! It’s crazy,” her friend agreed, shaking her head vigorously enough to make her long blonde tresses fly. “I’m going to ask Marco to go outside again and see if he can find us a table on the patio,” she shouted.
“Good idea,” Andi agreed.
Lisa directed her husband out the door while the rest of them waited for their drinks in forced silence. Despite the fact that the place was hopping, their beer and margaritas arrived pronto. Marco came back and slipped back into the banquette, shaking his head. “It’s hopeless,” he yelled. “There’s standing room only out there now.”
“Well let’s drink up and take off,” North suggested, and everyone agreed.
They were working on the dregs of their drinks when Andi happened to look up just as a tall man walked through the door. He stopped inside the threshold and scanned the room, his features not quite distinguishable in the smoky dimness of the bar. Andi had already looked away when something about the man’s stance, which somehow managed to appear simultaneously cavalier and cautious, triggered a memory. Her eyes snapped back to his figure. He was tall by local standards, and his shaggy, dark hair was badly in need of a trim. He was casually dressed in blue jeans and a loose, flowery shirt, and was decidedly Caucasian. She studied his face, her eyes squinting and straining in the dim light.
The lone stranger continued to inspect the room, peering at tables and milling bodies and closely scrutinizing everyone seated at the long bar. Andi’s ears . . . those quirky ears that sometimes forewarned her of trouble . . . began to burn and tingle. Something just didn’t feel quite right.
For some inexplicable reason, when the stranger turned his eyes to their table Andi slouched down and turned her head away. She’d worn her long hair loose, and its thick curtain shielded her face from his prying eyes. North sat on a corner of the banquette, his back to the door, totally oblivious of her growing discomfort. Andi squeezed her eyes closed and concentrated on her mind’s image of the man’s physique and tilt of his head, hoping to twig a memory. She was sure she recognized him, but couldn’t put a name to him. If only she had seen his features more clearly.
The image of his face sharpened in her mind. That was it! She sat up and shoved her hair away from her eyes, turning to the doorway. The stranger was gone. “Let me out!” she yelled, batting at Lisa with a shaking hand. “Hurry, let me out right now!”
Lisa took one look at the panic in Andi’s eyes and started a chain reaction, shoving a startled Brenda toward the end of the bench seat, who in turn pushed John off its end. “Let Andi out,” Lisa shouted. “I think she’s going to be sick!”
Free at last, Andi stumbled through the crowded room, the short skirt of her bright red sundress flying up to reveal much too much bronzed thigh.
“What the hell? Andi, where are you going?” North shouted, jumping up in pursuit of his fleeing wife. “Wait!”
Andi cast a quick glance back, her eyes two round, huge orbs in a pale face. She kept forging her way through the packed bar and reached the entrance just as a group of young Mexican men were trying to enter the building. She plowed right through the startled group, holding her arms out to shield her body, shouting apologies without slowing. North had gained a few steps on her, and reached the affronted men in time to see and hear the rude gestures they directed at his wife’s back.
“Perdoname,” North muttered politely just before he, too, crashed through the group, startling them for a second time.
“Hey! Watch it gringo,” one of the men shouted, grabbing at North’s sleeve. He was shorter than North, and dressed entirely in black. His finely tooled black leather boots were adorned with bright silver tips.
North stopped and slapped the man’s hand away. He drew himself up to his full height and glowering at the younger, shorter man. “I’m in a hurry so I suggest you back off,” he growled.
“Hey, no problem, man,” another one of the group said consolingly before directing a Spanish tirade to his moody friend.
With one last burning look, the man in black turned away and slunk into the bar behind his friends. North stepped onto the patio and scanned the surging revellers for a glimpse of his wife. Finding none, he quickly walked through the sidewalk patio and out to the street beyond. He was standing on the edge of the sidewalk frantically looking first one way, then the other, when Marco, John, Chris, Lisa, Roxanne and Brenda caught up to him.
“What’s happening, North?” Brenda panted. “Where’s Andi?”
“I wish to hell I knew! She just took off like a bat out of hell.”
“There she is,” Chris barked, pointing across the wide Calle Passo Álvaro Obregón. Traffic streamed steadily up and down the four-lane street. Small delivery trucks sped by and loud, booming bass-heavy music emanated from low-slung coupes with black windows. “She’s standing on the beach, by the water.”
“Wait here,” North barked. “I’ll go get her myself.” Without waiting for a break in traffic, he darted into the busy street to a chorus of screeching tires and blaring horns. He stopped in the middle of the street only long enough to let a delivery truck rumble by, then ran across the last two lanes, traversed the Malecón and flew down a short concrete stairway accessing the seashore. Then he was on the beach, calling his wife’s name as he ran to her side across a wide swatch of loose, dry sand.
“Andi! Are you all right?” he gasped, sucking in a deep breath of air. “Are you okay, Babe?”
She stood at the water’s edge gazing out to sea, white foam lapped at the toes of her black sandals. Her tousled, windblown hair and the full skirt of her bright red dress rose gently in the freshening breeze. The weather had changed dramatically since they had finished dinner; a brisk, cool wind had brought low clouds that held an imminent threat of rain. Andi wrapped her bare arms around her shivering body.
“Yes, of course,” she murmured, and turned to North slowly, her face a mask of sorrow.