by Mary Vettel
Jamaica Moon maneuvered her 16 year-old yellow Jeep to the rise of Camel Back Hill on the way to the island’s private airfield. A quick glance in the rear view mirror told her there was no sign of the battered red pickup truck that had been tailing her all morning. She blew out her cheeks, then allowed herself a small smile as she swung around the tarmac onto the dirt of the car park.
A Ray Ban blond in a purple peasant skirt and pink linen blazer reclined on the bonnet of Looto’s vintage Aston Martin as if posing for a calendar. One long leg draped down the bonnet, the other knee bent with the sole of her platform sandal flat on the metal. The bias cut of her skirt draped itself expertly, exposing just enough leg to be attractive but not provocative.
Jamaica got out of the Jeep and, behind her aviators, scanned the area for the photographer. She hated to think what Looto would say if he came out of the hangar and found this woman lounging on his beloved classic like she was at some dingy Kingston club bored, listening to an amateur DJ.
Jamaica dipped the fleshy pad of her index finger into a tiny tin of lip gloss and dabbed it across her lips. She took in a long, slow inhale to calm herself. Knowing she’d be flying award-winning actor Sebastian Banderas in her plane in a few minutes gave her a bellyful of butterflies. With a quick shake and snap, Jamaica stepped into her olive coverall and zipped it up.
The woman slid smoothly off the car in a graceful, well-rehearsed way. She must have asbestos knickers, Jamaica thought, knowing how hot to the touch a car could get sitting, baking in the Caribbean sunshine and thought if she tried that she was certain the back of her thighs would stick and skid, making that high-pitched squeal like a tennis shoe on a highly polished gymnasium floor.
Jamaica shook off the painful image and reached for the khaki knapsack she referred to as her life bag, covered in peace signs and a myriad of metal pins and badges of her favorite bands. As she felt for her cell phone her fingertips touched the now dented box of stale Players cigarettes that she’d been carrying for four years. She slipped the phone into one of her cargo pockets and zipped it shut.
The woman strode to the yellow Jeep in wide, languid steps as though her platform sandals were ballet flats. “Hi! You Jamaica Moon?”
“I am.” Her wad of bubble gum and ‘I yam’ New York accent erased her fashion model image. “The guy inside said you were for hire.” She blew out a spiral of blue smoke and leaned on the passenger window ledge.
“I do charters,” Jamaica said and cast an eye toward the hangar doorway, wondering if it was Cheney or Looto who spoke for her.
“Cool bag,” Daisy said. “I had something like that back in the day. Oh, my God! Klaus Kinski from Nosferatu. I mad looked all over for that.”
Jamaica leaned across the driver’s seat and grabbed up her bag. She slipped off the Kinski badge. “Here.”
“You shitting me?”
Jamaica shook her head. “It gives me the creeps.” She glanced over and saw the orange wind sock drooping listlessly in the anemic flutter of air.
Daisy laughed. “Thanks.” She put the pin on her lapel. “Sweet.” She gave it a welcoming pat. “So, uh, yeah. I want to hire you – or charter you? – to fly me around some of the islands.”
Jamaica studied the woman as she pulled her hair back into a knot and tied a salmon-colored bandanna around her head. She didn’t like to ask too many questions. Most people had reasons for the things they did and most of them would share their reasons if they wanted you to know. “Any in particular?” Jamaica asked casually and adjusted her aviator shades. “There are quite a few islands, you know.”
Daisy shrugged. “It varies.” She flicked her cigarette butt aside and lit another one.
“You’re going to have to pick that up,” Jamaica said and indicated the large NO SMOKING sign on the exterior wall of the hangar.
“But it’s out,” Daisy said.
Jamaica chewed the inside of her cheek. “Out doesn’t always really mean out. Know what I mean? And we’ve got all kinds of flammables here. Besides, it’s littering and littering’s an ugly ting.”
“OK, my bad.” Daisy picked up the butt and slipped it into her jacket pocket.
She doesn’t look like a writer out to get research for her next book, Jamaica thought. Maybe she’s scouting locations for a movie. Jamaica had flown a number of film people around, but this woman had more of a bohemian aura about her than they had. Maybe she’s looking for smugglers routes. “I’d need a bit more information than that to file a flight plan.” She gathered up her things and walked toward her yellow Cessna. “My license is pristine. I don’t have trouble with any of the authorities.”
Daisy skipped along sideways beside Jamaica. “Authorities? You mean cops?”
“Not just cops. Customs inspectors as well. These islands are comprised of various nations’ commonwealths and territories; different countries, different laws.”
Daisy nodded. “Do you know Little Halls Pond Cay in the Bahamas?”
“I’ve heard of it.”
“Right,” Daisy chuckled and lowered her voice. “You’re being cagey. I get it.”
“What? I’m not being cagey.” She unclipped the left tie-down chain. “I just said, ‘I’ve heard of it’.”
“Wink, wink.” Daisy grinned.
Jamaica furrowed her brow at Daisy and continued the exterior preflight check with Daisy following her every step along the way. The propeller, spinner, and recessed areas on either side of the nose were fine. She paused and cocked her head at the woman. “Is that where you want to go? ‘Cause it’s a private island and there’s no landing strip there you know.”
“I know.” She bobbed her head and smiled. “How long would that take? From here to there?”
Jamaica shrugged as she unhooked the right side tie-down, then checked the wheel. “About an hour and a half each way.”
“That’s all? Cool.” Daisy nodded and chewed her thumb nail.
“You got a parachute in there?” Jamaica indicated Daisy’s black quilted satchel she carried over her shoulder.
Daisy laughed. “Good one. Uh, no, that’s my camera and gear. I’m a photographer.”
“Uh huh.” Jamaica checked the tail rudder, ailerons, flaps, and elevator. “The flora and fauna kind?”
“How do you mean?”
“You a nature photographer?”
Daisy laughed and wiggled her eyebrows in a shared secret sort of way. “Sometimes. No, but seriously, I’m more of a portrait artist. I do people. Mainly musicians. You know, celebrities.”
“Uh huh. They hire you?”
“Sure. Sometimes. Sometimes I do it on spec and sell ‘em to the magazines.”
“Oh, like Vibe, Billboard, NME, Rolling Stone?”
Daisy nodded. “Wow, you know your music rags.”
Jamaica’s eye gave an involuntary tic; a silent reminder of her ex, Gordon, and his pursuit of fame and fortune in the music world.
“So, I’m figuring Little Halls Pond Cay is nice, right?”
“The island itself, or the surrounding area?”
“The whole shebang,” Daisy said.
Jamaica nodded. “It’s beautiful. The water is crystal clear, the beaches are white sand. You know, picture postcard Caribbean style.”
Daisy’s head bobbed and she revised the thumb nail chewing. “He’s got a 156 foot yacht that flies the Jolly Roger,” Daisy said in a conspiratorial whisper.
“Who does?” Jamaica unlocked the door to the left seat and climbed in to begin her interior preflight check.
Daisy laughed. “Good one. Yeah, right. So, uh, how much?”
“How much what?” Jamaica tapped the face of a gauge and made a notation on her clipboard.
“How much do you charge to fly over Little Halls Pond Cay?”
Jamaica did a quick calculation based on the giant rock on Daisy’s ring finger. “Sixteen hundred US.”
“What?! Are you serious?”
“Look, I’m a private charter operation. Maybe you should take a commercial flight.”
Daisy shook her head. “They fly at a much higher altitude,” she mumbled. “I’d need a Hubble telescope to get a shot from up there.”
“I’ll take you for $1,600 US and have you back here in three hours.”
“Cash. Take your time to mull it over. Here comes my charter and we’re leaving in five minutes.” A jerk of Jamaica’s chin indicated the tall, well-built man in distressed jeans and a snug-over-pecks black T-shirt, exiting the black stretch limo.
“Oh, my God, that’s Sebastian Banderas.”
Jamaica agreed but kept her opinion to herself. The butterflies in her stomach morphed into leaping frogs.
“And he’d be cool with me sharing the plane with him?” Daisy asked as she clambered into a rear passenger seat.
“Hold up,” Jamaica said. “I didn’t mean I’d take you now.”
Daisy dug in her bag. “I’ll give you two grand if you let me come for the ride.” She pulled out a choking wad of money, quickly counted it out and shoved it at Jamaica as the actor opened the passenger door and climbed up onto the seat.
“Hello, Miss Moon.” His gravelly voice made the little hairs on the back of Jamaica’s neck quiver. She tilted away as he leaned in for a kiss. A nervous giggle escaped her lips when her hand came into contact with his black T-shirt.
“Good day to you, sir. Oh,” she held up a restraining hand and he took it in his. “Would you mind another passenger on board?”
He hesitated, glanced back at Daisy and gave a weak smile. Disappointment plainly visible on his face, he released Jamaica’s hand and studied her.
“She’s going further so she’s paying for the flight.” Jamaica knew money was not an issue with Sebastian Banderas; the film production company was paying his transportation costs.
“That’s not necessary,” he said.
Jamaica wondered if he was going to be grumpy.
“I insist,” Daisy chimed in and beamed at him. “Daisy Horowitz,” she said and extended her hand to him. He shook it, then returned his attention to the pilot.
“Strap yourselves in,” Jamaica said.
“You didn’t turn up on Exuma,” his voice rumbled seductively now that the doors were shut, referring to Great Exuma Island. “I waited.” He leaned in close, his lips touching her ear.
Jamaica squelched a giggle. “Naughty me,” she flirted playfully, and hoped he wouldn’t say anything incriminating in front of Daisy. She wanted to say it wasn’t him she was avoiding, but Great Exuma Island itself because that’s where Terrence, the owner of the box of Players cigarettes, had retreated when he broke up with her and went back to his wife.
“Now, please, if you’ll forgive me, I do need to communicate with the tower and concentrate or we’re a sound bite on this evening’s news.” She flashed a grin at them both and focused on taxiing to her assigned runway. I’m a capable woman, she reminded herself and struggled to ignore the heady, musky scent of Sebastian Banderas.
With a hurried cuddle that contained a gentle kiss on the lips, quick hand clasp, and whispered, “Call me,” Sebastian Banderas exited the plane. Jamaica licked her lips, relishing his taste, and dabbed her cheeks with the backs of her hands feeling the warmth of her blush.
As soon as the passenger door shut behind him, Daisy snapped off a number of photographs as he was met by his handler on the next leg of his journey.
“Hey! No pictures!” Jamaica swung her arm back to block Daisy’s view.
“Are you kidding me?” Daisy dodged Jamaica’s block and kept the shutter snapping. “You know how much I could get for these?”
“Twice what I paid you. C’mon, turn around and wave or something,” she softly coaxed him and continued taking pictures until he disappeared into another stretch limo.
“OK, that’s enough. Sit back and put your seat belt on.”
“I wanna sit up front.” Daisy squeezed between the pilot and co-pilot seats and strapped herself in. “So, you two looked kinda cozy. What’s going on there? Casual hookup or something meaningful?”
Jamaica could not suppress a repeat blush to her cheeks. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. He’s a client. Now don’t distract me.” After getting the green light from the tower they were once again in the air.
“I bet he’s really pissed that I was along for the ride. I definitely cramped his style.”
Jamaica wondered that herself and was almost glad Daisy was along for the ride. Last time she was alone in the plane with him, Sebastian had gotten a little too frisky for her liking. She’d resorted to scolding him in Jamaican patois, but that only seemed to egg on his ardor.
“You make it look so easy,” Daisy said softly. Her gesture took in the controls.
“In good weather it’s a dream.”
“How much longer?”
“We’re coming up on Little Hall’s Pond Cay right now, with the winds a light 10 knots. It’s a beautiful ting, no?” She tipped her port wing and pointed for Daisy to see. A number of primary-colored kayaks dotted the white sand. Inflatable rafts sat stacked in a hasty pile beside a giant sand castle. A handful of people could be seen snorkeling through the breakers, approaching the shallow water, and a lone guitarist sat strumming in a hammock by the fire pit.
“This is amazing,” Daisy said in awe, clicking away.
“Paradise, eh? One love.”
“It sure is.”
“Look at the gardens bursting with bougainvillea, hibiscus, breadfruit trees, silver buttonwood, and those mangrove thickets. The coconut trees couldn’t be no bigger. Tiki torches all along the path from the beach up to the house and cottages. Must be lovely at the last yawn of twilight.”
“That’s a nice way of putting it,” Daisy said, then gasped. “Oh, my God,” she mumbled and screwed a larger lens to her camera. “He’s here,” Daisy said under her breath.
“The yacht. See the Jolly Roger?”
“It’s a pretty good sign the owner’s in residence. It’s Johnny Depp. Can you go a little lower?”
“Johnny Depp? Really? Hey, you can’t invade his privacy like this.” She banked the plane to starboard, unsettling Daisy and her prying camera.
“Dude, it’s how I make my living.” Daisy continued photographing the film icon as he stood on the stern of his yacht with a beer in his hand.
“First off, don’t call me ‘dude’. Second, it’s got to be illegal.”
“It’s not. I assure you. He’s a celebrity. He’s up for grabs. Public domain and all that.”
“No. Not on his private time with family and friends. At a movie premiere, that’s different."
"Look," Daisy said. "He’s waving to us.”
“Yeah, but he’s using one finger to do it.” Jamaica banked to the east, then headed south for home.