Welcome back to our Wednesday and Saturday serial installments! We are happy to continue to share The Glass Bottom Boat by Laura Thomas.
Chapter 1 / Chapter 2 / Chapter 3 / Chapter 4 / Chapter 5 / Chapter 6 / Chapter 7 / Chapter 8 / Chapter 9/ Chapter 10 / Chapter 11 / Chapter 12 / Chapter 13 / Chapter 14 / Chapter 15
“HI THERE, COULD YOU TELL me if you have any glass bottom boats available today, please?” Luke smiled at the receptionist behind the lobby counter. This would be the easiest way to determine whether the one they had seen was legitimate without raising suspicion.
He perched on a stool and leaned against the counter. Cool, calm, and collected. He realized his fingers were rapping on the desk like a woodpecker when the receptionist raised her perfectly groomed eyebrows. He stopped.
“I think our boat’s out of action at the moment, sir, but let me check for you.”
She typed on a keyboard for several seconds and adjusted her sleek glasses while she waited for some response. “I’m afraid I was correct. Our regular boat’s being repaired, but it should be back with us on Wednesday.” She smiled an apology. “Is there anything else I can help you with?”
Something was not adding up. “Too bad. We wanted to go out on it when we saw it tied up yesterday. It was on the second dock.”
She pursed her bright red lips. “Sir, you must be mistaken. Our boat was taken away the middle of last week. The note here says we were supposed to have it back by Sunday, but there was an unforeseen problem with the motor, and they needed a couple more days.”
“Really?” Luke frowned. “That’s strange. Would anyone else have brought another glass bottom boat to any of your docks? Maybe from another company or something? I’m sure we spotted one.” He shrugged. “Not a big deal, but now I’m curious.”
The receptionist shifted in her swivel chair, causing her wrist full of bracelets to jangle. She leaned closer and dropped her voice. “It’s possible. Sometimes other local water sports or boating companies try to entice our guests, but they are not officially allowed on our property. If we hear about it, they get into trouble. In saying that, some of the staff will turn a blind eye, if you know what I mean. ”
“I see.” Could be the reason for the Friday night scuffle. “Out of interest, are there many glass bottom boats nearby?”
“Some of the resorts along this part of the island have one. I don’t know how many. Why do you ask, sir? I’m sure ours will be back in a couple of days.”
Luke let out a casual laugh. “My girl took an interest, and I wanted to check it out. That’s all.” He stood to leave. “I guess we’ll have to wait until Wednesday, then. Hey, one last thing. If I wanted to rent a speedboat for a few hours instead, do I go straight to the water-sports hut by the main dock?”
She smiled. He hit on a subject she could help him with. “Yes, they will be happy to assist you. Have a great day.”
“Thanks. You’ve been helpful.” And now I know we’re not looking at a boat owned by the resort.
Luke picked up a map of the island on his way past the information booth and marched outside in the direction of the water-sports shack.
The heat hit him when he left the airy lobby and stepped onto the beach. It was a scorcher today. Was Madison suffering somewhere under the harsh sun? Thoughts of her tied up or hidden away were too much for him to process. Don’t go there, dude.
Happy people surrounded him on the beach, all of them enjoying their relaxing vacation on this beautiful tropical island, without a care in the world. Ugly jealousy rose within. If only he could go back to yesterday—before this nightmare began. Swallowing the self-pity as quickly as possible, Luke hurried to the shack and focused on his mission. He had to find Madison, apologize for thinking she would stand him up, and explore the possibilities of a future together. Would Mexico be an option? Was she even that interested in him? Focus. First things first—he had find her. Fast.
A grinning face popped up from behind the water-sports counter.
“Hey, mon, what can I do for you today?”
The young guy had served Luke several times already the past weekend with snorkeling gear and the inflatable ring and was always more than helpful. His entire body moved rhythmically to the music blaring from his earbuds.
“Um, I was wondering if I could rent a speedboat.” He pointed to the main dock. “Looks like you have a couple available.”
The sports guy pulled one earbud loose. “Depends what you mean, mon. You want me to take you out for a cruise? We can do thirty minutes or an hour if you like.”
Luke shook his head. “I want to take one out on my own. Can we work something out?”
“Sorry, mon. We can’t do that for you. We can give you a private cruise, but we have to drive the boat ourselves. Insurance and everything. You understand?”
Luke’s shoulders slumped. He hadn’t anticipated an issue with the boat. “Are you sure? I’ve got tons of boating experience, and I can leave you with my credit card or whatever. It’s important.”
“I understand, but those are the rules for the resort. I’d get into major trouble, and I need this job.”
Luke tapped his shorts pocket. He had some cash in his wallet, but bribing? No, that wasn’t right. God, what do I do here?
The attendant leaned across the counter and looked straight into Luke’s eyes. “Listen, mon. I’m not supposed to tell you this, but I know you are cool in the water. And I want to help you out here.”
“Yes?” Luke tore off his shades and held his breath.
“My cousin, Jamal, he has a boat place five minutes from here. He will let you use one of his boats and he’ll give you a fair price.”
“Yeah? Do you think Jamal would let me use it for a few hours if necessary? I’m not sure how long I’m going to need it for. I’m good for it—I promise you. It’s kind of urgent.”
“He’ll charge you more but he’ll be cool with several hours. What’s up, mon? You in some kind of trouble?”
“No, not me. I need to check on a friend. But I would appreciate your help here for sure. Could you write down the address of your cousin? I can get a cab right away.”
“No problem. I’ll phone and tell him to treat you well, okay?”
“Thanks so much.” Luke exchanged a few dollar bills for a scribbled address from his new friend. The lead on a boat was worth every cent.
“Anytime, mon, anytime.”
The guy removed the remaining earbud and picked up a cell phone to call his cousin. Luke looked down at the black iPod on the desk, and a thought hit him. The iPod. Surely Madison took hers on her run this morning? She was using it on Saturday when they collided in the lobby, because she was intently programming it instead of watching where she was walking. Could she have dropped it at some point during the kidnapping? It was worth checking into for sure. Thanks, Lord.
“Hey, excuse me. I don’t mean to be a pain, but do I need to call a taxi from the lobby?”
“I can phone ahead for you and have one waiting at the entrance in five minutes. You want me to do that for you, mon?” He wrinkled his forehead.
Luke hesitated. Would five minutes give him time to check out the iPod situation? “Umm, sure. I have to check on something real quick, and then I’ll run to the resort gate, okay?”
“No problem. You got five minutes.”
“Thanks again.” Luke waved and jogged across the section of beach.
He tucked the address in his pocket, raced back into the cool lobby, and found an available receptionist—the same young lady as before.
“I’m sorry. It’s me again.” He gasped between breaths and collapsed onto the stool.
“Did you get your boat tour arranged?” Her warm smile and raised brow were bordering on flirty. No, thank you. Game face on.
“It’s in process. But I have another quick question.”
“Fire away.” She huffed and picked up her pen in anticipation.
“Do you have a lost-and-found area anywhere? You know, for when people leave things on the beach, that sort of thing.”
“Yes, we find all kinds of treasure, sir. What are you looking for?”
“What color?” She tilted her head.
“Umm, I don’t know.”
“You don’t know, sir? Is it yours?”
“No, it’s my friend’s. She may have lost it this morning on the beach. Do you need to know the color?” He glanced at his watch.
“Believe it or not, we have several iPods handed in. Most are collected, but some are never claimed. I can check to see if any came in already today if you like?”
“Yes. Yes, that would be fantastic. I’ll quickly phone my friend and check the color.”
The receptionist disappeared into a back office, and Luke dialed Nathan’s phone.
“Hey, yeah. Listen. Can you ask Chloe what color Madison’s iPod is?”
“Her iPod? Sure, she’s right here.” He handed the phone over.
“Hi, Luke.” Chloe’s small voice came onto the line. “We’re in her room right now. Did you find her iPod? It’s silver.”
“I don’t know yet. I’m in the lobby getting them to check in case one was handed in today. I didn’t think of it earlier, but she could have dropped it on the beach, right?”
“Of course, she always runs with it at home. Although with something like that, anyone may have found it and kept it for themselves. I think she listens to worship music and podcast sermons, so they’d be in for a possible conversion.”
Luke grinned at the thought of Madison and her worship songs. Perhaps he could give Chloe something encouraging to listen to, to make her feel close to her sister and even to God. “Wait a moment. She has a couple to choose from here.”
He nodded at the receptionist, and she placed four iPods with attached earbuds on the desk in front of her.
“Sir, we have two black, one pink, and one silver.”
“Okay, great. One moment, please.” He walked a few paces so he couldn’t be overheard and then whispered into his phone. “Chloe, there’s one silver iPod here. Are you able to come down and claim it? They might ask you what’s on there or something to prove it’s yours.”
“Really? It could be Madi’s? I’ll come right down. We’re finished in her room, and Nathan was about to head back up to ours to cover the phone. What made you think of looking for her iPod?”
“I don’t know. For some reason, it seemed important at the time, but I know it’s not going to help us find Madison. Maybe it’ll help you feel closer to her.”
Chloe sniffed. “Thanks. That’s sweet. I think you’re right. By the way, I found her journal. I’ll let you know later if there’s anything you need to know. Here’s Nathan.”
“Luke, did you find out about the glass bottom boat?”
“Did I ever. I’ll explain everything later. Just so you know, the resort couldn’t help me with renting a speedboat, but it’s okay because I’m on my way to a guy’s cousin’s place.”
Nathan groaned. “This does not sound cool. Please be careful, bro. “
“Always. I’ll call you soon. Okay?”
“Sounds good. Bye.”
Luke rushed back to the patient receptionist. “I’m so sorry to keep you waiting. My friend Chloe thinks the silver one could be the one she’s looking for, so she’s coming down right now because I have to catch a taxi. Is that okay?”
“No problem.” She settled back onto her stool.
“I was hoping you would say that.” He waved and sprinted away to the main entrance.
So far, so good, God. Would You pave the way for a speedboat and lead me where I need to go next? And please, please give Madison a sense of hope in all this.
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