fiction by Van ©2005
art by Dea ©2005

Chapter 1

To see the actresses I would cast in an ISLA PARAÍSO motion picture, follow the link below, and use your browser's "Back" feature to return.  Please ignore any characters that have not yet appeared in the story.  ☺

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Our Story Begins

Chrissy, I don't want to seem ungrateful, but THANKS A FREAKIN' BUNCH for steering me to this job!  I'm never speaking to you again, which is why I'm writing.  (Just kidding.)  About the job, I know the salary's three times what I make on most of my consulting gigs, and I know I'm getting to travel, and I'm working on a bona fide Island Paradise.  (That's even the name of the place.)  But...

About the journal thing: I don't know when you're going to read this.  Rosa tells me the mail boat is unreliable and I should wait 'til "La Marquesa" arrives and ask her to send my personal mail with her business correspondence.  That way it'll get "special handling".  So... rather than a stack of letters that might get separated and lost, I'm keeping this journal... which you're reading... or not reading... depending.  ☺  Anyway, I guess I should start at the beginning. (Duh!)
Chapter 1
So... there I was, Lorelai Meriwether, freelance Info Tech systems engineer, three years out of UC Riverside, single girl-about-town, passport and boarding pass in hand, getting on a flight at LAX, and bound for Mexico.  To make a long, sad, and bumpy story short... the flight sucked.   Waiting for the connection at Mexico City International sucked.  The eventual flight to Chetumal sucked.  The even more eventual floatplane ride to Paradise Island really sucked.  (I can't call it a flight.  It was a ride on a very tall invisible roller coaster.)  The plane was one of those weirdo Cessnas with the long nose and stubby wings.  I was the only passenger; however, it was crammed full of cargo.  No cages of live chickens and/or pigs, thank god, but it was bad enough.  It was also LOUD (despite the earplugs the copilot gave me).  Yes, it sucked... except for the view.

The tropical water far from land is... blue.  There's really no word for it.  You can actually see shafts of sunlight stabbing into the depths.  Sharks and other big fish are suspended against the indigo, royal, ultramarine... blue depths.  And directly below, there's this shimmering black zone, sort of an anti-glare spot.

When it gets shallow, the water's turquoise, and the light shimmers and ripples over the sandy bottom, and so does the shadow of the plane!  It's very cool.

Anyway, except for that, the flight sucked; but the arrival at the island did not suck... at first.

The pilot made a wide circle over the island as he descended.  There's a tiny, secret, incredibly exclusive resort on the far side, supposedly for celebrities tired of paparazzi snapping fuzzy telephotos of them bathing in the nude.  It's owned by the Marquesa (like everything else on the island), so maybe the rumors are true.  God knows she likes her privacy.  We were too high for me to see anything, other than a few tasteful buildings, a nice beach, and some boats.

Next, we passed over the Marquesa's castle.  It's perched on the edge of a jagged cliff next to the Gulf.  The required breakers were crashing on the required jagged boulders far below.  Towers, turrets, flying buttresses... very gothic, in a tropical sort of way.  At first I thought it was ruins.  Half the place is covered with vines, but by this time we were low enough for me to see glass in all the windows, intact tile roofs, banks of tastefully concealed solar panels, and a cluster of satellite dishes (at least one of which was a satellite up-link).

Then we were over the harbor.  Boats bobbed at moorings or were hauled up on the beach.  All were painted in bright, pretty, tropical colors.  Most were good-sized open boats.  "Whaleboats" I think they call them?  But a few were cabin cruisers, rigged for sport fishing.  Beyond the beach was a small village, but I couldn't see much of it through the palms.

We landed and taxied to a small pier near a ramshackle warehouse.  There was a crowd of islanders waiting to greet us.  More properly, they were waiting to greet the pilot, copilot, and cargo.  As for myself, hands helped me out of the plane and onto the pier, I was led to a place out of everyone's way, and then was more or less ignored.

I suppose I should describe the Paradise Islanders at this point.  They're a mixed group, some rather African, some Indian (Mayan), some European, but most are all-of-the-above.  They wear a minimum of clothing, mostly shorts and T-shirts or no shirts for the men, and loose skirts and low-cut blouses (in some really stunning prints!) for the women.  The children wear even less, and the youngest wear nothing at all.

I was in the new (now somewhat rumpled and sweat-stained) linen suit I'd bought for the special occasion of showing up at a new job on a tropical island.  Also, heels, and a sleeveless top.  I had the jacket off, and was still sweating like the proverbial horse.  I looked about as out of place as a penguin on a chicken ranch.  (Did I mention the chickens?  They were everywhere.)

Anyway, the islanders, male and female, young and old, were milling around me on all sides, watching or participating in the unloading, and no one seemed anxious to get me to wherever I was supposed to be going.  They were speaking something that might have been a dialect of español, but it sounded nothing like the Spanish I failed to absorb in a year of high school classes.

I was about to tap someone on the shoulder and ask ¿Dónde está el castillo de la Marquesa? (which probably would have gotten me a blank stare, but was worth a try) when someone tapped me on the shoulder.

I turned to find a woman in a crisp, clean, khaki-tan uniform.  Her blouse had epaulets with blue flashes and three narrow gold bars, her pocket flaps were a matching blue, and her cargo shorts had blue stripes down the outside seams.  She was wearing a wide, brown, leather belt with a holstered automatic pistol and pouches for spare clips, radio, flashlight, handcuffs, etc.  Sports sandals were on her otherwise bare feet.

Her hair was straight, black, and neatly rolled into a tight bun at the nape of her neck.  She was beautiful, a Latina with brown eyes, full lips, high cheekbones, and smooth brown skin.  She carried herself with athletic grace and an air of polite authority.

"Your passport, please?" she asked in perfect English.

I fumbled for my passport and handed it over.  "I'm going to be working at the castle," I explained, or tried to, anyway.  She was totally involved in reading the passport and other papers I'd tucked inside (letter of employment, invitation to the castle, work permit, etc.).  She read for several seconds, then her smile faded, she neatly folded the papers, and returned them to the passport.  I extended my hand to take it back, but she put it in the right pocket of her shorts.

"Come with me," she ordered, spun on her heel, and started towards the town.  The crowd parted to let her through.

"Wait!" I called.  "My luggage!"

Without turning, she said something to the nearest islanders.  I couldn't understand what she was telling them, but did recognize the word delegación... I think.  The islanders laughed, and the orders, instructions, requests, or whatever, were relayed in my direction.  This time I recognized delegación and Comandante.  My bags and tool case were lifted and a caravan started into the village.

"Hey!" I protested, but again, was ignored.  An old woman patted my arm, mumbled something (again, I recognized Comandante) and she shooed me towards the village, where the Latina with my passport was waiting, a impatient frown on her face.  "Sorry!" I shouted at the Latina, who was (apparently) the local police Comandant , said "excúseme, señora," to the old lady, and hurried after my luggage.

In several quick steps I was once again close to the Comandante.  She looked me up and down (coldly).  "Stay close," she growled, and stepped away.  Stumbling in my heels on the sandy street, I struggled to follow.
Chapter 1
The appearance of the village was shabby by urban standards, what you'd call "picturesque".  But on closer inspection, the street was clean and the buildings were all solid and well-framed.  All the roofs were in good repair, and most, if not all, sported solar panels.  Also (surprisingly), there were buried utilities.  (No hanging wires, and I passed more than one concrete caisson with a steel hatch that I recognized as access to buried conduits.)

Finally, we came to a concrete building painted a bright blue with a sign reading "SEGURIDAD PÚBLICA" above the door.  Protruding from its roof was a steel tower with siren horns, whip antennas, and a microwave relay dish pointing towards the mountains.

The interior was dark, cool (Thank god!), and institutional, but in a surprisingly tasteful sort of way.  There were two more policemen present, both male.  One was (to be polite) rather average.  The other looked like Antonio Banderas' more handsome little brother!  I smiled, and they smiled back.  Their uniforms were similar to the Latina's, but without her Comandante bars.

The Comandante turned to face me.  I was in the center of the room with her subordinates to either side, between me and the door.  "What is your real name?" she demanded, her eyes flashing.

"W-what?" I stammered.  "I'm Lori, uh, Lorelai Meriwether."
          Comandante and Lorelai

 Her lips curled in a superior smile.  "The papers you gave me are for someone with brown hair.'

"My hair is—"

"Do you take me for an idiot?" she interrupted.  "I know red from brown."

You know my hair.  It's chestnut, maybe dark auburn, maybe even russet, but it's not red.   Julianne Moore has red hair.  Alicia Witt has red hair.   My hair is brown... for bureaucratic purposes, anyway, or so I'd always believed.

The Comandante barked several orders, and her subordinates pounced.  I was so surprised I didn't even begin to struggle until it was way too late.  (Not that it would have mattered if they'd given me five minutes advance warning.)  In seconds, my wrists were cuffed behind my back!  They snaked a belly chain around my waist, snugged it tight, and padlocked it to the cuffs!  I sputtered something about the American consulate, but before I could complete a coherent sentence, a ball-gag was popped in my mouth, buckled, and padlocked at the nape of my neck!  Finally, I was forced to my knees, and leg irons separated by about a foot of chain were snapped around my ankles!

Chrissy, take a breath, sit back, and CONSIDER THE FREAKIN' DISTRESS I was feeling at this point!  We've both played with scarves and cuffs and rope, but that was play!  I was an honest-to-god prisoner!

I pulled on my cuffs, squirmed, twisted my shoulders, and forced several decidedly inarticulate pleas and protests past my gag.  The Comandante stepped forward, cupped and lifted my chin (already wet with drool), and straightened the "red" strands that had fallen across my face during my capture.  A rather devilish smirk was on her angelic face.  "We'll sort things out up at the castle," she announced, then gestured to her subordinates.  I was hauled to my hobbled feet, and hustled through the door and back out onto the street.
Chapter 1
Two things were waiting:  

One—a small crowd of islanders, mostly children, all highly amused to see a gagged, chained, hobbled, dramatically overdressed "redhead", blushing, embarrassed, whining and complaining, stumbling on high heels, and trying not to drool on her already sweat-stained blouse.  

Two—a rather curious open-topped vehicle.  It was, well...  Imagine a cross between a jeep, one of those all-terrain quad-runner things, and a small pickup; or if a Hummer had mated with a Mini-Cooper.  Its lines were vaguely military, but it was... little.  (It's probably some obscure European or Asian brand.)  Anyway, there were four seats, two in front and two in back.  They were protected by a combination roll-cage/canopy-frame, but the canopy was rolled back and secured with straps.  My luggage and tool case were stowed under a cargo net in a steel basket on the rear.

The Comandante climbed behind the wheel, and I was belted into the right back.  Both of the back seats had hollows sculpted into the back cushions for the comfort of cuffed prisoners (like they have in a lot of police cars in the states (or so I'm told)), and when I say "belted", it wasn't your usual shoulder/lap belt.  I'm talking test pilot or astronaut straps here, one strap over each shoulder, one from either side of my waist, and they met over my belly button in a quick-release buckle... not that I could reach the thing and do any releasing, slow or quick. The belts were under spring-tension, and I wasn't going anywhere, except wherever the Comandante was taking me.

The engine purred to life, and was surprisingly quiet.  The Comandante gave me a cool, superior smile over her shoulder, and we were off.  The children gave us a giggling, running escort to the edge of town.  Several smiling adults waved at the Comandante as we passed, and she waved back.

Soon we were bouncing past fields and orchards.  My hair was flapping like a flag, with stray strands whipping my face.  The road was sandy and unpaved, and palms and huge, broad-leafed trees provided dappled shade.  Over the engine noise I could hear parrots squawking, and watched several flap from one side of the road to the other.

The road branched at regular intervals into vehicle tracks and foot trails.  Near the fields we passed a few pedestrians (and some goats), but eventually we were on our own.  There were no markers or signs, and although I tried to pay close attention to exactly where we were going, when you've seen one pair of sandy ruts, you've seen them all.

The fields began giving way to honest-to-god green jungle, and we were climbing up the foothills and into the central mountains.

The road switchbacked repeatedly, and now and them I could see the ocean or a jungle valley through gaps in the trees.  At one point (and much to my distress) the floatplane I had arrived in passed overhead, returning to Chetumal... and leaving me behind!  (Okay, stop laughing.   Of course it was supposed to return to Chetumal, and leave me behind, but I was feeling seriously sorry for myself at that point.)

Apparently the Comandante was supremely confident that I required zero supervision, because after we left the village and fields behind, I was completely ignored.  She never even bothered to gloat.  The total trip felt like something more than an hour.

Eventually, we came to a small clearing in the jungle, surrounded by a field of mossy, house-sized boulders intermixed with stunted trees.  The road ran straight into a vine-draped grotto.  As we approached, I could see it was actually an arched tunnel of giant stone blocks protecting a gate of iron bars.

The gate was no polite reminder that visitors should announce themselves.  It was comprised of closely spaced vertical, horizontal, and curved iron bars varying in diameter from two to about six inches, and was bristling with iron spikes.  The design was a grid entangled with large and small thorned vines, but it looked solid enough to give anything but a bulldozer pause.  The spikes (thorns) prevented anything larger than a songbird or bat from passing between the bars.

The Comandante (and the vehicle, and myself) paused at a tastefully rustic pedestal beside the gate.  She reached out, lifted a weather-tight cover, and punched an entry code into a keypad.  The gate slowly rolled to the side, as did a gate in a less substantial but no less secure wall of iron bars across the far side of the tunnel.

Beyond the tunnel was a wide moat of still water covered with water lilies, an honest-to-god drawbridge, and... The Castle.
Chapter 1
The towers of the main keep loomed above us, and we were surrounded by curtain walls topped by parapets.  We rolled across the bridge, through a gatehouse (sally port?) and into a paved courtyard.

Allow me to digress and describe the castle, as seen from the ground.  It's incredible!  The floor tiles are glazed with these rich, deep colors; lapis lazuli, jade, topaz, umber, sienna, etc., etc., and every floor and courtyard is laid out in a different combination and pattern.  The walls are granite, marble, and basalt.  There's statuary and bas-relief carving everywhere; monumental Mayan, European gargoyles and grotesques, classical Greek and Roman figures, etc.  Everything is exquisite in proportion and form.  There are fountains and water gardens in almost every venue.  Flowering plants and shrubs fill raised planting beds and vines drape the walls.  Moss and ferns cling to the exposed walls, making a sort of tension between formalism and natural chaos.  The interior is spotlessly clean and lavishly furnished.  The Marquesa's castle has to be one of most beautiful places on the planet.

But it is a castle.  The walls are high and intact.  Stairs and parapets leading to sections covered with vines are barred or walled off.  The sections not covered are sheer and precipitous, suitable for swan diving to one's death, but not climbing down to escape.  Every door is either thick iron bars, or heavy timber bound with ornate iron bands.  This includes entryways leading from court to court as well as all corridors and stairways.  Everything locks, of course.

Back to the action.  The Comandante turned the vehicle in a tight circle until it was facing the way we had come.  Leaving the motor running, she jumped from the driver's seat, unsnapped the net over my luggage, and arranged it all in a tight cluster in the center of the courtyard.  I was next.  She released my lap and shoulder belts, and helped me out of the vehicle.  She then led me to my luggage, knelt, unlocked one of my leg irons, and snapped it through the handle of my tool case.  My gagged inquiries and protests were ignored.

The Comandante was climbing back into the vehicle, when there was a shout from a balcony overlooking the courtyard.


It was another Latina.  She was wearing a tropical print sundress, and even from the distance of several dozen yards, I could tell she was beautiful, very beautiful.  "Lucia" (I assumed it was the Comandante's name) was followed by a stream of rapid Spanish in the local dialect.  I understood none of it (except the words "perra" and "puta").  Her displeasure was very clear, as was the Comandante's (Lucia's) vast amusement.

The newcomer hurried down a staircase, continuing to shout angry insults, but before she was close, the Comandante lifted a small set of keys, gave them a mocking jingle, and tossed them towards a large ornamental pool off to the side.  The keys flew through the air in a graceful arc, and landed with a splash.  The newcomer shrieked in outrage and continued her descent.

Lucia gave me a gloating smile, laughed and waved at the rapidly approaching newcomer, then gunned the engine and sped away.  As she cleared the drawbridge, a portcullis of iron bars dropped, and the bridge began to raise.

The beautiful newcomer ran past my rather confused and helpless self, and sprinted to the portcullis on bare feet.  Literally hopping mad, she ranted and shook her fist until the drawbridge finished closing.  She then spun on her heel and stomped in my direction, muttering under her breath.

I watched her approach with what must have been wide-eyed apprehension, because as she came close, her anger evaporated and was replaced with sisterly concern.  "Oh, you poor thing," she cooed, straightened my tousled hair, patted my shoulders, gave my arms a gentle squeeze, then slowly turned me around to inspect my bonds.  "Lucia has a wicked sense of humor," she said.  "The next time we see her, I hold her and you can slap her face.  I am Rosa, and you are Lorelai Meriwether, of course."

I mumbled something in response (drooling in the process), then sighed.

Rosa smiled, then suppressed a giggle.  "Forgive me," she said.  "Lucia and I have been friends since we were little girls, and we play tricks on one another.  We laugh about this later, but now I get you free.  Wait here."

"Wait here?"  Was she kidding?  (Damn!  I'd been planning on wandering off to take a casual, unguided tour of the castle, handcuffed, belly chained, ball-gagged, and dragging my tool case by one ankle.  But what the heck.  If Rosa says wait...)

Meanwhile, Rosa headed for the pool, reaching behind her back and unzipping her sundress as she walked.  She paused, shrugged out of its spaghetti straps, and let it slide down her body.  She then peeled off her panties, and was now totally nude!  (Duh!)  "I be right back," she said with a friendly smile, sprinted the remaining five steps to the pool's edge, and executed a graceful free dive into its dark depths.  (Obviously the pool had dark depths, or she would have broken her neck.)

Chrissy, about Rosa... I've already told you she was beautiful, but to clarify, she's Sharon Stone, Halle Berry, Nicole Kidman BEAUTIFUL!  She's a goddess!  Kinda short (we both have a few inches on her), but her face is classic and cute at the same time.  Her eyes are intelligent and sexy.  Cute button nose.  Quirky smile.  Her hair is long, black, and wavy.  Her skin is smooth and brown.  Her physique athletic and perfect.  I think I fell in love with her right there (in a sisterly sort of way, of course).

I waited for Rosa to surface, and waited... and waited...   I was beginning to get alarmed, then her head broke the surface.  She took a deep breath, and ducked back under.  Her feet appeared and stretched on pointe, then slid under the water.  Several long seconds passed... then she surfaced again.

Rosa and
          Lorelai (and the key) "Eureka!" Rosa shouted, waving her right hand.  Something silver flashed in the sun.  She swam to the edge of the pool and hauled herself out.  Dripping wet, a happy grin on her beautiful face, she walked towards me, jingling the keys.  (Did I mention she's beautiful?)  ☺

I grinned back, or tried to, anyway.  It was probably some sort of hideous grimace, with drool on both sides.   You try grinning with a ball-gag in your mouth.

Rosa stepped behind me, parted my hair, unlocked the padlock securing the strap, then unbuckled the gag.

"Thank you," I gasped as the ball came free.  It bounced once and the buckle rattled when Rosa dropped it to the ground.

"You're welcome," Rosa answered.  She was busy unlocking my belly chain and handcuffs.  "I am so sorry about this."

"It's okay," I said, "I understand... I think.  But I need my passport back."

"Lucia has it?  Don't worry."  Rosa knelt and unlocked my leg irons, both from my ankle and tool case.  "Lucia will keep it safe.  You have to go back to the delegación to make travel arrangements when your work is finished anyway."

(Huh?)  "I have to go to the police when I want to go home?"

Rosa laughed, grabbing my garment bag and large suitcase.  "Lucia is more than our Comandante.   She's also the island's travel agent."

"Oh," I said (blushing with chagrin).

Rosa laughed again.  (She has a beautiful laugh.  Did I mention she was wet... and naked?)  "Come," she said, starting up the stairs with the two bags.  "I show you your room."  Water was still dripping and beaded on her flawless brown skin, and she was leaving wet footprints on the tiles in her wake.

I grabbed my remaining suitcase and my tool case.  I left the cuffs, leg irons, belly chain, and ball-gag where they lay.

"Oh," Rosa called over her shoulder as she climbed the stairs.  "Please remove your shoes, Ms. Meriwether.  Is a castle rule, to protect the antique tiles."

"Uh, no problem," I responded, "and call me Lori, please."  No shoes?  No problem.  I'd already realized the castle had a casual dress code.  ☺  I removed my heels, picked up my remaining bags, and hurried after Rosa.
Chapter 1
The room Rosa led me to, my room, is huge, as in has-its-own-mail-code HUGE.  She explained it's actually one of the suites reserved for the Marquesa's personal guests, but I could use it unless and until the Marquesa arrived, at which point I'd have to move to "other accommodations".  Anyway, a wall of French doors open on a balcony overlooking the Gulf.  It's long and narrow and has no exterior access.  There's a separate sitting room with a wet bar, a bedroom with a four-poster bed the size of a one-car garage, and an attached bath with a sauna and what's either a very small swimming pool or a very large bathtub.  On a scale of one to five stars, this place is a small galaxy!

"Uh, I think I can be comfortable here," I muttered.

Rosa laughed.  "Are you hungry, Lorelai?"  She walked to the bar and opened a wooden cabinet.  It was a refrigerator (full-size, of course), and was stocked with bottles of soda, juice, beer, wine, as well as cheese, sausages, etc.  She opened another cabinet and I could see crackers, snack foods, and bread.  A big bowl of fruit was on a nearby counter.

"I can wait 'til dinner," I answered.  "Can you show me the technical summaries and schematics I'll need to—"

"No, no, no!" Rosa interrupted, smiling, shaking her head, and clucking her tongue.  "You start work tomorrow.  Today you rest from your journey.  She walked to a set of double doors off the bedroom and opened them wide.  Beyond was a walk-in closet.  It was roughly the size of the bedroom of my LA apartment!  Its walls were lined with built-in wardrobes and chest of drawers.  Rosa opened the first wardrobe, and I could see several long gowns hanging within.   "La Marquesa insists all her guests and employees dress for dinner, even when she is away."

Rosa leaned close and gave me a quick (and unexpected) kiss on the cheek.  "I apologize again for the trick Lucia played on you.  You take a nice bath and unpack, then maybe a nap?"

Blushing like an idiot, smiling at my naked, damp, and beautiful hostess, all I could do was nod.

Rosa walked to the suite's large, heavy, solid, ornately carved door.  "Welcome to the castle, Lorelai," she said.  "Dinner is at sundown.  A bell will ring when all is ready."  Smiling warmly, she exited the suite, pulling the door closed.

"Lori!" I called after her, my hand on my cheek (where Rosa had kissed me).  "Call me Lori!"  But she was already gone.

I was standing next to my neat row of pitifully cheap luggage (with my jacket draped across the top and my casually dropped heels nearby), in my rumpled skirt and stained top, feeling very sweaty, dirty, and frazzled, surveying the sumptuous, tasteful, tropical luxury surrounding me on all sides.  

Suddenly, it occurred to me I had no idea how to find the Dining Room or Great Hall or wherever I was supposed to report when the dinner bell rang.

I rushed to the door, hoping Rosa would still be in sight.  I turned the doorknob and pulled—and the door didn't budge!  I twisted the knob carefully, thinking maybe it needed a double turn to pull the bolt.  Nothing.  I tried again.   Still nothing.

I was locked in!
Chapter 1

Chapter 2