The woman’s hips moved, enticing and encouraging. Brad was mesmerised. It was as if her dance was meant for him. An invitation. For all of her, in all the moments that lie ahead.
‘Did you hear me?’ Scarlett asked, her tinny voice snapping him back to reality. Her eyes were wide, accusing. She sighed, an exasperated huff, and rustled through her handbag for a tissue. Was she crying?
He’d stopped listening minutes ago, when the dancing woman first caught his eye. She’d moved past him, her rhythm unbroken as she lightly touched his cheek with her bejewelled hand and fingers. He took in her cleavage, her narrow waist and let his mind do the rest.
‘This holiday was supposed to be restorative, Brad,’ Scarlett mumbled, wiping her eyes. ‘Yet here we are, on the other side of the world, and nothing has changed.’
Brad drew breath. Truth was, he’d planned to dump Scarlett before she sold the virtues of an overseas escape. He knew it was a bastard move, but he played along for the trip and would break up once they got back home. Give or take a month.
‘Come on, Scarlett. Be reasonable,’ Brad said. On the periphery of his vision, he saw a beetle buzz around and land on the rafters. His gaze landed on it; he stared as its wings flapped about then closed. He looked back at Scarlett. Her bag was on her lap. Her indicator that she was pulling out, heading home. Ready to go.
‘Let’s not leave yet,’ he said, holding her arm. The dancer was still moving around the patrons and he hoped she’d linger near him again. ‘If we really want to be restorative…’ his voice cracked. He despised that word. She’d picked it up from her counsellor and threw it into every conversation like salt over hot chips. He continued, ‘…we shouldn’t just fall into our usual practices. Right?’
Scarlett nodded, sniffed.
Brad went on, he almost felt like a therapist, ‘Normally, I piss you off, you run away. But we’re here, so I’ll try not to annoy you, and you hold your ground. Stay. Yeah?’
‘OK, Brad,’ she giggled, high and girly. Christ, that laugh could send a man on a massacre.
Brad looked up. The beetle had moved. His eyes darted around the ceiling to locate it. He didn’t know why, but it seemed important that he knew where it was. There! Above the stage, the band.
Something was off. He felt it.
‘Do you wanna dance?’ he asked.
He led Scarlett near the front of the dance floor, by the stage. The keyboard player stirred a hazy recognition, but Brad couldn’t place him. His eyes traced the keyboard’s cords to the power board beneath it, then the power board’s cord to the power point.
‘Scarlett, I think we need to get out of here.’ His voice was tight, his tongue thick, dry like sandpaper.
‘Yep, come on!’ As he dragged her from the nightclub, he glanced over his shoulder. The beetle was still above the stage. A nano drone, he was sure of it now.
‘Don’t worry about your bag,’ he yelled at Scarlett as she pulled him back towards the bar.
‘But it’s got my phone and purse,’ she whined, bottom lip quivering. ‘What’s happening Brad?’
‘I don’t think we’re safe in here. That keyboard player is not part of the band.’
‘Then who is he?’
‘I don’t know. His face is familiar.’
‘My bag, Brad.’ Scarlett held firm against Brad’s arm. ‘It’s got my passport in it, too.’
‘For fuck’s sake, Scarlett. You’re supposed to keep it in the safe in our hotel room.’
‘But the cleaning service might steal it.’
Brad ran his hands through his hair. ‘Get it. Quickly.’ He watched as she ran to the bar, grabbed her handbag and hurried back to him.
Warm, damp air wrapped around Brad as they rushed outdoors. ‘Christ it’s humid here. This city must be the arse crack of the world,’ he murmured thoughtlessly. ‘Let’s head to the beach. That should be far enough.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘The keyboard player. I worked out who he is. He’s the 2IC for a terrorist cell.’
‘So? Why did we have to hurry out?’
An explosion boomed. It shook the ground and its force threw Brad backwards in the air. He landed hard on his back. Thoughts of the dancer filled his mind before everything went black.