Tropical Fever – Part 1
When Frank stumbled off the plane, he was drunk.
Drunk enough that he’d almost forgotten about the woman that’d left him at the alter less than a day ago.
No refunds. That’s what everyone had told him this morning, before he boarded the plane. A phrase that quickly went from frustrating to oddly refreshing. Though he’d expected to be on his honeymoon with his new bride in Hawaii, Frank hadn’t seen the sense in wasting a completely paid for vacation. Gift from the almost in-laws.
Couldn’t let an ocean-front suite at the Hilton sit empty on account of technicalities.
And Maggie, well she’d run away to the cabin in the mountains.
His bags were already packed, and they’d been booked on a first class trip. So Frank had boarded the plan and indulged in the extra leg room and free booze.
Hawaii wasn’t quite what he’d expected. For one, it was dark. But nighttime could do that he supposed. Frank sauntered down the open breezeways between the gate and baggage claim. He navigated his way by following the other excited passengers. The ones pointing at the swaying palm trees and chattering about the tropical breeze. Some special agent he was, finding his way half lit following the crowd.
Luckily, for the next two weeks, Frank didn’t have to worry about being any type of agent. Not even a directionally challenged one.
It’d been years since he’d taken a real vacation. Something that Maggie had been quick to remind him often. Sure, there’d been the occasional weekend away. Usually to the cabin. But Frank couldn’t stand to be without cell reception. One never knew when the world might need saving.
He’d ended up by baggage claim, unsure how it’d happened. But when he found his suitcase and drug it outside, he discovered a shuttle from the Hilton waiting on him. One with a nice, big, fat Just Married sign taped up on the rear window.
“This should be awkward,” mumbled Frank, scratching the back of his head.
“Aloha!” The driver, maybe old enough to order a drink in a bar, maybe young enough to still be in high school, was craning his neck around for the misses. Like she might be hiding behind Frank, waiting to jump out and surprise him.
“Just one, pal.” Frank dropped his bag on the pavement.
The driver glanced down at the leis in his hands, but Frank waved that away immediately. “I don’t do flowers.” Stepping into the shuttle, Frank tossed over his shoulder, “Please tell me this little party van includes drinks.”
As the kid shut the door, Frank felt his pocket vibrate. No time to worry about pleas for forgiveness, angry in-laws, or saving the world. Without checking the caller ID, Frank switched off his phone, not caring to remember when he’d turned it on to begin with.
The sun assaulted Frank. He rolled over in the spacious king bed, realizing at some point last night he’d lost all his clothes. They were draped all over the room. A sock on the lamp, a pair of cargo shorts hanging from the curtain rod, a Rolling Stones t-shirt draped over the ceiling fan.
Frank couldn’t remember much after arriving at the hotel. He had vague recollections of sitting at one of the bars and ordering the most expensive mixed drinks on the menu. Charging them all to the room of course.
The almost in-laws had never liked him much. They’d made that clear with their scrutinizing looks across dinner tables and politely disguised slashing comments about his line of work. “Wouldn’t you be happier working in an office?” asked Maggie’s mom, gingerly cutting a pork chop. “Where it’s not so dangerous?”
Frank even suspected they’d played a part in convincing their daughter to run. But they were richer than Bill Gates and could afford a forty dollar drink or ten. So Frank had ordered drinks he couldn’t pronounce until he’d blacked out.
Stumbling through a shower, Frank warded off any creeping thoughts of Maggie. Why she’d run. Why she’d given no warning.
While drying off, he discovered his phone perched on the edge of the Jacuzzi tub in the corner of his room. His ridiculously large room. He was certain the first floor of his apartment could fit into this one room. An apartment that now sat empty. He’d terminated his lease and packed up all his belongings, anticipating moving into their new house after the honeymoon.
Do storage facilities charge extra for residence? he wondered.
Staring at the smart phone in his palm, Frank vaguely remembered it ringing yesterday. When he jumped into the shuttle.
As tempted as Frank felt to turn on his phone and check his messages, he couldn’t bear the thought of Maggie calling and asking him how he was doing. She’d feel guilty enough to do it too. It was just Maggie.
And if work was calling him, well they weren’t supposed to.
Frank tossed the phone onto the bed and flipped on the TV. News.
Now he just needed coffee.
The little suite included a kitchenette in the corner, separated from the bedroom area by a breakfast bar with granite countertops. Frank prepped the fancy espresso machine while watching the TV screen absentmindedly. He didn’t want to think about the world problems today. Or for the next two weeks. But the noise was comforting.
Frank stared guiltily at his phone, knowing he should probably call his parents. Let them know he’d made it okay. But it was refreshing not having anyone able to reach him. Nice knowing that if he had one too many mai tais, he’d not give himself away to anyone that truly cared.
When the words “Breaking News Story” flashed across the screen, Frank tried to ignore them. Had his coffee been ready, he’d have taken the cup outside on the balcony and sucked in the ocean view. Contemplated snorkeling or paddle boarding.
But Frank was drawn in by the headline, forgetting all about the coffee. He sat on the edge of the bed and cranked up the volume.
“…airport has grounded all outbound flights. We go to Catherine Morrow on location for more.”
The screen split in half. The news anchor and his crisp hair and pressed suite on the left. And Catherine Morrow with her poofy hair on the right, standing outside the departure drop-off zone of the Honolulu International Airport. “It’s madness here, Tony. The airport has cancelled all outbound flights today.”
“That’s quite concerning, Catherine.”
“Very concerning.” Catherine looked over her shoulder, like she’d been preying on someone. The wind lifted her hair in one stiff bounce. “I’ve been trying to contact an airport official for the past hour, but they’re not talking to the media.”
“Is there any word on the cancelled flights?”
“Only rumors, Tony.” Catherine shifted her attention back toward the camera, her poof of hair holding together despite the windy rush of people around her. “Some think their flights are rescheduled for tomorrow. Others say their flights have been cancelled indefinitely.”
“Are they still allowing people inbound?”
“Yes, Tony, it seems they are. But the flights are considerably few in number. Most from the other islands or military.”
Frank looked at his phone, deciding he’d better see what world problem needed solving before he drank away all his own problems.
Frank had a mai tai halfway to his lips when his chest pocket vibrated. He locked eyes with the rolling waves of the Pacific ocean as he let the glass drop onto the bar.
“You don’t have to answer it, you know,” said the cute bartender, sending him a wink.
Frank smiled at her, wishing what she said were true. But he’d not been able to reach anyone at the home office all morning. He’d finally given up and settled for a drink to calm his nerves. One to taper the headache from yesterday’s binge.
“It’s about damned time, Dalavanna.” Walsh wasn’t happy. Frank decided not to point out the obvious about being dumped at the alter and skipped right to the heart of the problem.
“What’s going on?” He handed the bartender his room number, mouthing “charge it” as he hopped up from his stool.
“You’re to meet Agent Davis. She’s waiting for you in your room now.”
Frank suppressed a grumble. Of all the agents that should be in Hawaii when he was, why did it have to be her? Anyone else would do. Even Agent Prinkle. Or as everyone like to call him, Agent Prick. Frank would rather listen to him brag about his five thousand square foot house with a pool than have to deal with the most arrogant agent the CIA had. “Couldn’t have sent anyone else, Boss?”
“You should feel fortunate that she’s there. She’s the best agent we have for this assignment.”
Frank didn’t like where this was going. “And what assignment would that be?” He gave up on the idea of snorkeling and headed back to the elevator.
“She’ll brief you.” Walsh cleared his throat. “You best get moving. She’s got the vaccine.”
To be continued….