The evening started out innocently enough.
“I’ll have another Lagavulin, Scott,” Raphael Vargas said, nodding at the bartender. He was sitting at the main bar at the Costa Turquesa resort, escaping the Caribbean heat.
The bartender nodded, picked up a bottle and poured a generous portion of golden liquid into Raphael’s stubby glass.
Raphael threw back the drink in a single gulp. Hot and smooth, the whisky warmed his throat. He was just about to ask for another when a woman sat down beside him.
She wore a long, billowy peach dress, and had long blonde hair styled in waves and adorned with a peach-colored flower.
A bridesmaid, Raphael was willing to bet.
Safiya heard their voices before she saw them. A group of raucous men, speaking Arabic, laughing and joking. She sighed as she rounded the winding path toward them, a path lined with crowds of trees and shrubs – acacia, walnut, baobab, palm, and olive – all surrounded by succulents, their odour pervading the dry, hot air.
Safiya almost always chose to walk to her office using the outdoor paths. She both lived and worked in the palace, and could easily spend her entire life indoors, if she chose. But she liked to get at least a little bit of fresh air every day, so she took the outdoor path from her private suite of rooms to her office in the palace’s political hub.
Safiya listened as she walked, and couldn’t help but notice that one voice was more prominent than the rest – one voice that was shouting instructions and encouragement. Safiya would know that voice anywhere.