Knight & Day
Knight – 3
"The weather in Ibiza is currently a very pleasant twenty-five degrees and it's forecast to be a beautiful day. On behalf of your captain and all of the crew, we'd like to thank you for flying with us today and wish you a safe onward journey."
The overhead seatbelt lights winked off as the air hostess made her final announcement, and all around him passengers jostled to retrieve over-stuffed bags, over-excited children and general detritus in the tight space of the cramped cabin.
He waited in silence as a stag party in various states of inebriation and hastily scrawled-on t-shirts filed haphazardly along the central aisle, not prepared to enter the testosterone scrum of men desperate to get to their next beer.
Last off the plane, he briefly met the heavily made up eyes of the stewardess at the doorway, averting his gaze from the flare of interest he saw spark there. Time was, he'd have appreciated that, but time also did other things to a man. Jaded him.
He may have been the last passenger to leave the jet, but he was the first to leave the airport. He walked right past the luggage carousel with his holdall slung over his shoulder, all of his worldly possessions in that one old kit bag.
Ducking into the nearest cab, he flung the holdall onto the rear seat next to him and leaned forward to the driver.
The dark-eyed taxi driver's brows pulled together and he studied his passenger’s face for a few seconds, sizing him up. Male, alone, no wedding ring, no baggage.
How wrong first impressions can be.
"San Antonio?" he suggested, his English heavily accented. "Party?"
His passenger shook his head. The last things he needed right now were the brash lights and pulsating party heart of the island’s famed dance capital.
He noticed the driver’s brows flicker down again as he regarded him for a few more long moments before he turned away and started the engine, his mind made up. He threw the car into the erratic traffic around the airport without further enquiry.
Glad of the silence, the passenger leaned his head back against the sun-warmed seat and watched the Ibizan landscape unfold as they moved onto quieter winding roads. Lush, brilliantly green pine trees against vivid blue skies. Late spring. New beginnings.
As they rounded a bend and started to descend to the coast, the curve of an impossibly perfect bay appeared below them. Dazzling turquoise water fringed by sugar-white sands – it was a picture postcard, the kind of image used to lure tourists to part with their money for an annual week of sun-soaked bliss.
They dropped down to sea level, and the driver tracked along the sandy road that backed the beach.
"Vadella," the driver said, catching his passenger's eye in the rear view mirror. "Quiet."
His passenger nodded, grateful. A handful of restaurants and a couple of bars dotted the beach, set back from the shore, and a smattering of sun-worshippers and football-playing kids occupied the sands. Out in the bay, a few boats lazed in the Mediterranean sun, the sea barely showing a ripple. It was as good a place as any.
The waitress behind the bar had that casual European sophistication; lithe limbed and olive skinned, her knotted, wide necked T-shirt revealing a tattoo on her exposed shoulder. She looked up and greeted him with an easy smile, offering him what he must look as if he needed. She placed a large, frosted glass down in front of him when he nodded, and he sat on the wicker bar stool and drank deeply, closing his eyes with satisfaction as the cold, fortifying liquid slipped down his throat. She was still watching him when he opened them again, her head on one side, the smile still playing around her mouth.
Polite conversation that he had no polite reply for.
"Maybe." He half nodded, half shrugged. "I might stay a while. See how it goes."
"American?" she asked, more of a statement than a question.
He nodded again. "Guilty as charged, ma'am." He touched his fingers to his forehead and gave her a small salute. She laughed softly as she wiped the uneven wooden bar top down, and for the second time that day he recognised the flare of interest in a woman's eyes. He dropped his own eyes to his beer rather than meet hers.
"So, where's decent to stay around here?"
"Depends," she said. "How long were you thinking of?"
How long was he thinking of? He had no idea.
"A month maybe? Two?"
She nodded thoughtfully. "There's a hotel along the bay, but it's more of a week or two family holiday place than a home. Lots of kids in the pool, that kind of thing."
She immediately registered the discomfort on his face at the prospect of making his base amongst a bunch of families. "Or we have a couple of rooms here, upstairs." Her gaze slid under the bar as she reached for a battered black leather book.
He watched her flick it open and run her unpainted fingertips down the page, tapping it slowly as she checked it. A seasoned tourism worker, her English was excellent, and she was clearly used to being asked about places to stay. The twist in her mouth told him that she didn’t have good news.
"No. Sorry. We have people booked in over the next couple of days, and again on and off. You might struggle to find something free for that length of time. Unless…" Her gaze slipped past him to the beach, and she drew her bottom lip in between her teeth. "The owner of this place has a boat he sometimes lets out, but it's, umm…" she shrugged apologetically and smiled again. "I don't know the right word in English." She screwed her nose up. "It's not… very trendy, let me say it that way."
She flipped to the back of the book and checked it briefly. "It's available," she said, lifting her shoulders speculatively and raising an enquiring eyebrow for his response.
A boat. It wasn't what he'd imagined, but at least it would be solitary, no families to trip over and work around.
"Where is it?"
She nodded out towards the bay. "It's moored over there, the last boat at the far end of the rocks."
He followed her gaze, and even though he couldn't see it, he made a snap decision.
"I'll take it."
She looked surprised. "You don't want to see it first?"
He shook his head. "If it has a bed and a bathroom, it'll do me."
Something about her expression told him that she thought he ought to check it out before committing himself, but she didn’t challenge him. Instead she sighed, perhaps with resigned amusement, and reached a key down from a hook behind the bar before picking up her pen.
"I better take some details, in that case." She looked up with the pen poised over the page. "Name?"
He lifted his beer, stalling. He should have thought this through more carefully. The mellow sounds of Bob Dylan floated out of the bar’s sound system, the lyrics of "Like a Rolling Stone" striking eerily close to home.
"It's Dylan," he said, mentally trying the name on for size as he watched her begin to form it hesitantly on the paper. “D-Y-L-A-N.”
She glanced up again, her brown eyes round and expectant. "Surname?"
His eyes slipped from hers for a second, to the neon sign bearing the name of the bar behind her. The Happy Days Beach Bar.