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(page 2, continued)

And though convinced she was making a fool of herself, she’d done as the frantic monk had begged, redeyeing to Miami, island-hopping here.   

Her cab exited the airport down a narrow peninsula, crossing a causeway to the main island. White sand beaches lined with palmettos, scent of salt off the breakers, puffy clouds in a bright, balmy, sapphire sky.

How she would have loved a vacation here. Never been much of anywhere outside California. No money when she was younger, putting herself through school after Dad took off. No time lately. She swore under her breath. 

They passed through a seaside tourist trap into the island’s interior, reggae playing low on the radio. Hilly, scrub brush, sedge grass, small trees, cacti, sheep, goats, the occasional shack. As Angela recalled from a brochure on the plane, St. Maarten was a tiny place. Forty square miles divided in two, France controlling north, Holland south. And not a single running river.

Topping a hill, she saw below a picturesque town of pastel-colored clapboard houses and stores squeezed onto a bridge of land between ocean and large lagoon. Phillipsburg, a sign read. Her driver threaded its narrow streets and they headed back inland.

What was Ian up to that could be so dangerous? Had he sneaked away here to avoid her? Or to chase some new spiritual phenomenon? Probably both. She swore again.

Shacks began to appear along the roadside, cobbled together of rusted, corrugated metal and warped plywood. The inhabitants, all black, milled about barefoot in ragged clothes. Worse by far than anything East L.A. had to offer. Angela’s heart went out to them. She could just imagine how upsetting this must have been for the sensitive Ian.

The cab slowed and the driver switched off the radio, turning nervous eyes to her.

“Bad place, M’um. You sure you wan be doin’ dis?”

She hadn’t come all this way to turn back.

(continued . . .)