A Romantic-Comedy Short Story
© Laura Resnick 2001 & 2011
As soon as she woke up next to the corpse, she knew it was going to be a bad day.
Her first words were, "Blagh! Argh! Murrrrgh!"
She followed this with a more articulate arsenal of curses: "Jesus H. Fucking Christ! Holy shit! What the hell! Ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod!"
She only realized she had leapt out of the sagging double bed and staggered backwards across the room when she stepped on something which made her yelp in surprise. Cold and hard, it slid out from under her foot, causing her to fly up in the air, flail briefly, and then land heavily on the hard tile floor. She lay there winded and dazed, her head throbbing, her heart pounding.
"Ohmigod," she murmured weakly when she could speak again. "Ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod..."
Stop panicking! Think this through.
She was utterly bewildered. Rational thoughts were hard to seize, never mind formulate and examine.
Maybe he's not really dead. Maybe he just looks dead.
After all, all that blood would make anyone look dead.
"Ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod..."
She opened her eyes and stared at the ceiling. High overhead, a tropical fan whirled lazily. She rolled her head sideways, looking for the object she had slipped on. The big white tiles of the floor were old and worn, but relatively clean.
Where the hell am I?
She saw the object she'd stepped upon. It lay a few feet away, its smoothly cold surface gleaming a dull metallic gray.
He'd been shot. The dead man in the bed had been shot.
All right. Get up and look. Then call the cops. And....
"Oh, my God!"
And get dressed!
She was naked. And alone in a strange room with a corpse and a gun.
I was naked in bed with a dead man.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I beg you, don't let my mother ever find out about this.
The thought came as a reflexive response to the scene... but once she examined it, she realized she couldn't form an image of her mother. Some unconscious instinct suggested this was probably a blessing, but it nonetheless worried her. Particularly when she realized, a moment later, she couldn't even remember her mother's name. Or... her own name.
"Oh, my God."
She sat bolt upright, stark naked in the humid warmth of the shabby room as the realization hit her with full force.
My name? What's my name?
Nothing came to her.
What's my goddamn name? Who am I?
She stood up, looked around, and shivered despite the heat.
Where was she? What was she doing here? Who was the guy—oh, Jesus, the dead naked guy—in the bed?
The room possessed few amenities. No TV, no phone, no refrigerator with overpriced beverages and fattening snacks. Just the sagging double bed (complete with bloody male corpse), a nightstand, a smashed lamp lying on the floor next to the dead man's crumpled clothes, an armoire that had seen better days, a sink, a mirror, and a few towels.
She walked over to the mirror and looked into it. She was brown-haired, brown-eyed, slim, perhaps thirty. Not a knockout, but attractive enough that, were there not a corpse in her bed, she wouldn't even consider flinging herself off the balcony in hopeless despair now.
She looked around for her clothes. Not seeing them—good grief, did I come here naked?—she reached for the sheet on the bed and gave it a tug. The sight of its red-stained folds slithering down the dead man's body brought her to her senses.
"Not a good idea."
She turned in the direction of the sink again. The sudden movement made her head ache painfully. The room swam in and out of focus. That wasn't just from waking up in a panic or falling on the floor, she realized suddenly. She reached up to gingerly examine her scalp and discovered a big lump beneath her hair.
She developed a theory.
Someone hit me over the head and killed him....
But who? And why? And what should she do now?
Trying to ignore her aching head, she wrapped a threadbare towel around herself, turned, and went out onto the balcony. Her room, she discovered, was on the second floor of a grubby pale building in a run-down semi-urban street.
She looked around, starting to feel as if she might throw up soon. There were a few street signs, mostly garish and hand-painted. She couldn't read them.
Am I illiterate?
Two young men were walking down the opposite side of the street, partially hidden in the shadows. The sun was low in the sky, and she didn't know if it was dawn or sunset.
"Excuse me," she called. "Hello? Excuse me. Could I ask you a few questions? Hello! Excuse me!"
They finally paused, looked up, and saw her. After a moment of immobile surprise, they both grinned broadly and started across the street towards her building. It suddenly occurred to her that a woman wearing only a towel who summoned two strange men to her bedroom balcony could conceivably create entirely the wrong impression.
She took immediate steps to correct any misapprehension on their part. "I've just got one or two questions about—"
"No hablo inglés."
The young man who had spoken repeated himself and, it seemed, added an apology. The other simply shook his head and kept grinning at her.
"Um... is that Spanish?" she ventured.
"Sí, señorita. Español."
"Now that's just lovely," she muttered. She was pretty sure she didn't speak Spanish, whoever she was. Was everyone here Hispanic, or just these two guys? Unfortunately, there didn't seem to be anyone else on the street whom she could ask.
The young man who had spoken now said something else. She didn't understand the words, but the suggestive tone was unmistakable. The silently grinning one looked like he was trying to find a way to climb up to her balcony.
"No!" she said, backing up a step. "Thanks. I mean, sorry. I mean.... Everything's fine up here, thanks." She gestured vaguely behind her. "I've just got a... There's a man who... No!" she uttered when she realized they seemed to regard her gesturing at the bedroom as an invitation. "No!" she repeated forcefully, holding her hands out to ward them off. Fortunately, no was a word which they seemed to understand. Looking disgruntled and perplexed, they started muttering comments which she was certain weren't complimentary. However, the moment her gaze was caught by a glimmering reflection on her outstretched left hand, she stopped listening.
A wedding ring?
Good grief, a wedding ring? She was married? She had forgotten an entire husband?
"Oh, no!" She forgot about her two young swains as she raced back into the room and, forbidding herself to be sick, examined the dead man's left hand. Yes, there it was: a wedding ring. One which matched her own.
"Oh, my God..."
Her head was pounding. Her stomach churned. Panic raced through her veins.
Or were married? I guess I'm a widow now.
She forced herself to study the dead man.
Evidently she wasn't shallow, since she certainly hadn't chosen this man for his dashing good looks. He had been ten or fifteen years older than her, a little jowly, with a small mouth and a bland face. His thin, mousy hair was long enough in front that she guessed he usually tried to comb it over that big bald patch now so carelessly exposed. He clearly didn't work out or get much sun, and it looked like he had enjoyed fatty foods too much.
He was also wearing a diamond-studded pinkie ring on his right hand—a particularly cheesy-looking one, even by the standards of pinkie rings.
"Good God," she muttered. This was her husband?
She wondered if she had loved him very much. It seemed that if she had, surely there ought to be at least some quiver of recognition in her heart when she gazed at him, but she felt nothing. Well, nothing except panic, revulsion, fear, and bewilderment—which was really quite enough for now.
She wondered what she should do. One thing she was certain that she shouldn't do was pick up the gun. Her memory might be gone, but she was nonetheless pretty sure she had seen any number of movies wherein the heroine, suffering from shock and a lack of common sense, picked up the murder weapon in confusion, only to be immediately pounced upon by some cop who jumped to the inaccurate (but, frankly, understandable) conclusion that she was the murderer.
She went to the sink and splashed cold water over her face. Her head throbbed. Her stomach contracted threateningly.
Try to remember. There must be at least one thing you can remember.
She closed her eyes and concentrated on breathing in a slow, soothing rhythm.
Relax, relax... Think...
The image of a man penetrated her thoughts. He was tall, dark, and handsome.
His image grew stronger, though. Clearer. Coming fully into focus. He had dark piercing eyes, lush brown hair, a sexy smile, broad shoulders...
Was I cheating on my husband?
She was an adulteress married to a balding, jowly man who wore a pinkie ring. An adulteress without any clothing, it seemed.
Perhaps losing her memory had been an unconscious choice, an escape from reality, rather than a result of this bump on her head.
"Ohhhhh..." Trying not to weep in frustration and despair, she buried her face in her hands and wondered who had murdered her husband. Wondered who the handsome man in her memory was.
She gasped as she realized that the most likely person for her to remember, at this particular moment, was... her husband's murderer!
She needed to get the cops. Whoever she was, wherever she was, she needed to report her husband's death. She also needed to seek police protection until the murderer was caught. What if she had seen the killer? What if the killer knew she had seen him?
She didn't even think, just reacted. She gave in to her panic and ran for the door. She had to get out of this room! She had to find a phone, a police station, a safe place! Preferably a place at some distance from the corpse of her forgotten husband—at least until she could compose herself. She reached for the doorknob, and then—
And then leapt backwards in startled fear when it rattled slightly. She stared stupidly at it, watching it turn slowly. The door latch gave a soft click. Her heart pounded with blind terror. She stood frozen on the spot, incapable of motion, as the door swung open.
The tall, dark, handsome man whom she remembered now stood in the doorway, his familiar eyes blazing with some powerful emotion.
Her mouth worked silently in mindless, breathless terror.
He stepped into the room and swiftly closed the door behind him. "You're here," he said with almost violent intensity.
He reached for her. Unable to scream, she finally gave in and fainted.
Someone was sluicing bitterly cold water over her. It was inhumane! It was outrageous.
She sat up shivering, sputtering, and waving her arms around.
"Come on," he said. "Get it together. We have to talk."
She opened her eyes, saw him, and—feeling much better now—screamed her head off.
"Stop that," he snapped. "Do you want to bring everyone in the whole hotel crashing through that door?"
He put his hand over her mouth. In that same instant, she realized she was stark naked again. Her towel lay beneath her in a lumpy heap. Renewed terror gave her strength to act. She bit him. Hard. He gasped and snatched his hand away, giving her a wounded look. She screamed again, more forcefully this time.
"What's the matter with you?" he demanded.
"Arrrrgh!" She snatched the towel up, jumped to her feet, covered herself, and staggered away from him.
Still cradling his hand, he stared at her as if she had gone mad. "What is it?" he demanded.
"Stay away from me!" she ordered.
His increasingly bewildered gaze raked her from head to toe.
"Don't look at me!" she shrieked.
"O...kay..." he said slowly. "Want to tell me why not?"
"Because I'm not dressed, you idiot!" she raged, momentarily forgetting that modesty should really be the least of her concerns at this particular moment.
He frowned. "Huh?"
"Clothes! Clothes!" she cried. "I don't have any clothes on!"
"Yes, I noticed that." He sounded testy again. "And, believe me, it's among my questions."
"Turn around!" she shrieked, beside herself now. Bad enough that he should murder her, but ogling her, too, was really beyond the limit.
"Will you stop?" he snapped, going over to the bed to examine the corpse. "It's not as if I've never seen you naked before."
That stopped her. "It's not?"
"Christ," he muttered, studying the body, "what happened here?"
"You... you've seen me naked before?"
"Did you kill him?"
"Are you sure?"
He glanced back up at her. "Sure about what?"
"That you've seen me naked before?"
He squinted at her. "What are you talking about?"
"I don't..." She spread her hands helplessly for a moment, then scrabbled at the towel as it started to slip. "I don't know who you are."
"I don't know who he is." She shook her head, then winced as it throbbed again. "I don't know who I am."
"What are you talking about?" he repeated.
"And I don't remember what happened here."
His jaw dropped. "You're kidding."
"Oh, good grief, do you think I would kid about a thing like that?" she snapped.
"At least you're starting to sound more like yourself." He eyed her uncertainly. "So all this screaming and this, um, modesty.... It's because you..." He tried out the phrase with obvious difficulty: "You don't recognize me?"
"No. I thought you might be... you know."
"No, I don't know."
"Jesus." He looked down at the corpse again. "We're in even more trouble than I thought."
She ventured, "Who exactly are you?"
Something about the corpse made him suddenly exclaim, "Hey!" He seized the dead man's left hand and stared at it with an expression of outrage. "I'm the guy who normally wears this ring."
She staggered towards the bed and stared at it, too. "It, um, matches mine." She held up her own left hand, careful not to touch the corpse.
"I know," he snapped.
Still staring at the dead man, he murmured, "We got married six days ago."
He looked up at her, then suddenly dropped the dead man's hand and said, "You and me, I mean."
"You're my husband?"
"You don't really think you'd have married a guy who wears a pinkie ring, do you?"
She sat down on the edge of the bed. "Oh, this is a big relief."
"I think I'm flattered," he said dryly.
"Really, you have no idea." She sighed and felt some of her panic dissolving. "I'm not married to him. I'm not a widow. And I'm not an adulteress."
"Well, it's only been six days." When she gave him an irritated look, he said, "Kidding, kidding."
"And I haven't killed my husband." She paused and added, "Of course, it's only been six days."
He ignored that. "You're sure you didn't kill him?"
"I'm not sure of anything," she admitted.
There was a sudden pounding on the door and a lot of comments or questions shouted in Spanish. She looked at him in mingled fear and confusion.
"I asked you not to scream like that," he muttered. "Get rid of them."
"I'm not dressed," she argued.
"They're more likely to go away if you tell them to than if I tell them to," he pointed out. "You're the one who screamed for help."
She experienced another moment of doubt as she looked at him. He was tall and well-built, and she obviously wouldn't have a chance against him if he was lying to her.
He caught her dubious expression and said, with the exasperation only a spouse could muster, "Will you stop?"
She nodded. "I'll get rid of them."
She went to the door, opened it slightly, and found two men and a very fat woman in the hallway. The two men looked concerned. The woman looked annoyed. It took some effort, but she bridged the language barrier with enough tenacity to assure them there wasn't a problem, after all. She might have been more convincing, she thought, if she were wearing more than a towel.
After closing the door, she turned to find him searching the room. "What are you looking for?"
"Where are your clothes?" he demanded.
"I don't know." She studied him and said slowly, "If you're my husband, then you should remember what I was wearing when I disappeared."
"You were wearing..." His dark eyes went wide and he said, "Oh."
"What?" she pounced.
"You were naked the last time I saw you."
"In our room," he added. "We were, uh, consummating the marriage. Again."
"Then we had some wine... And that's all I remember until I woke up alone." He plucked the dead man's shirt and trousers off the floor. "You're going to have to wear his things."
"Don't worry, he wasn't wearing them when he was shot." He glanced at the naked corpse and added, "Obviously." He sniffed the clothing briefly and made a face. "But I'm afraid they reek of after-shave."
"Figures," she muttered. She took the clothes from him, started to lower the towel, then paused and made a gesture asking him to turn his back.
He looked insulted. "But I look at you naked all the time! You like me to look at you naked."
"You like me to do a lot more than look."
"Just before you disappeared, you tore off all my clothes and we—"
"I don't want to hear this right now!" She took a steadying breath and said more calmly, "Right now, I don't really know who you are, and I'd appreciate it if you'd turn your back. Surely I wouldn't have married a man who would refuse me that much?"
He sighed. "Fine. Whatever." He turned his back and, while she got dressed, spoke over his shoulder. "Tell me what you do remember."
"Nothing. Well, no," she amended, "I remember you."
"But you just said—"
"I mean, I remembered your face."
"Yeah?" He sounded pleased.
"Yeah, but nothing else. I woke up a few minutes ago. Here. No memory. No clothes. With a dead man."
He was silent for a long moment before asking, "Woke up where?"
"Here," she repeated, pulling the dead man's trousers up over her hips. "Gosh, he was chubby. Give me your belt."
"Here, where?" he demanded, unbuckling his belt.
"In bed. With him," she admitted reluctantly.
He went still for a moment. His voice was strained as he said, "His name was O'Mallory."
"You didn't like him."
"What a surprise. Did you?"
He finished taking off his belt and held it out to her, still keeping his face averted. Instinct told her that he probably was indeed her husband, because she didn't need to see his face to know exactly what expression was on it right now.
While she put on his belt, he lowered his head and studied the floor with intense concentration. Still standing behind him, she realized she recognized that posture, too.
After a moment, he said, "Did he, uh... Do you remember if... I mean, if he... Oh, Jesus."
She looked at the dead man. "If anything happened, then I sincerely, truly, profoundly hope that I never ever remember it as long as I live."
"Do you... feel okay?" he asked.
"Somebody hit me on the head," she complained.
"Hit you?" He turned around and looked at her, his brown eyes soft and concerned in his handsome face.
Now this is more like it.
She had evidently married well, after all.
"I think that's why I can't remember anything," she said.
"Let me see," he murmured.
She stood still while he came to her and examined the bump on her head, a dark frown on his face. His fingers were gentle, and his touch stirred a memory.
"You like sailing," she murmured.
His frown lifted. "Yeah."
"And you cook."
"That's right," he encouraged.
"I like to watch your hands..." She took one of his hands between hers and tried to remember more. "And you're so good at unbuttoning things that the first time..." A wave of heat washed through her. "Oh."
"I think I remember the first time," she whispered.
"That's good," he murmured. "I worked hard, after all. I'd hate to think—"
"We're... on our honeymoon," she ventured.
He nodded. "We flew here the day after we got married."
"Wait." It was coming back to her. "The honeymoon suite at the Hilton?"
He nodded again. "The night we got married." He grinned and added, "Some complaints about the noise."
"We knocked over furniture," she said suddenly.
"Ahhhhh, you're remembering."
"And then we came here... wherever this is."
"Costa Rica. Because you like wildlife. Especially—"
"Birds," she interrupted, pleased she was recalling more details now.
"Birds," he repeated with a notable lack of enthusiasm. "I wanted to go to the Virgin Islands, but nooo. You said if there was one place you'd alw—"
"Do you have to bring that up now?" she snapped. Her eyes flew wide as she realized, "Wow, I really am married to you, aren't I?"
"Is that a problem?"
"No, no, I'm sure I'll get used to it—"
"But how did I wind up here? And who the hell is O'Mallory? And how did you find us?"
"O'Mallory is a creep who turned up at the hotel—"
"Please tell me this isn't our hotel."
"No, no," he assured her. "We're staying at a nice place on the coast."
"That's a relief."
"Yesterday morning, I came to. It was late, I felt really hung over—"
"You were drunk?"
He shook his head. "The bottle of wine in our suite must have been drugged. I woke up face down on the floor, naked and alone. You were gone." He glanced at the bed and added between his teeth, "So was my wedding ring."
"O'Mallory called and said if I ever wanted to see you alive again, I had to get one million in US dollars, in cash, and have it ready."
"Ready for what?"
"His next call."
Her eyes widened. "You've got a million dollars on you?"
"No." He shook his head. "I couldn't get my hands on that much money in one day, especially not in Costa Rica."
"But if we were at home—"
"If we were at home and I had a week or two, then I could do it."
"Wow, I really married well, didn't I?"
"Mind you," he added, "then we'd have to live in a tent and clip lots of coupons for a while."
"But I'm worth it?" she prodded.
"Usually," he agreed with a smile. "Anyhow, when O'Mallory called again last night, he told me to meet him in the lobby of this hotel. After I got here, I waited downstairs for thirty minutes. When he didn't show up, I thought he might have you hidden in one of the rooms, and so I started searching for you."
He shrugged. "He sounded really scared during that second call. He didn't even seem to care that I didn't have the money yet, just wanted me to come anyhow."
"You didn't call the cops?"
"He said you would die for sure if I did." He shook his head. "All I could think of was getting to you. So I got a car and drove all night to get here."
She looked out the window. The sky was brighter. "So it's morning."
"You didn't know that?"
"I don't know anything," she reminded him.
"Not even how he wound up dead?"
"No. Or whose gun that is."
His gaze followed hers to the weapon lying on the floor. "Or what he was scared of, I guess?"
"Well, I think we can safely deduce he was scared of winding up like this."
He nodded. "Good point."
"What do we do now?" she wondered.
"Go to the cops." He went back to the bed and grabbed O'Mallory's left hand.
"What are you doing?" she demanded.
"I want my wedding ring back."
"Oh, yuck! No! Eeeuuuw! Leave it."
"But it's my wedding ring!"
"You can afford another," she said with forced patience.
"But this is the one you put on my hand when we got married. This one has sentimental value. It's—"
"It on a dead man's hand!" she snapped. "Leave it there!"
"If you put it back on now," she said through gritted teeth, "you will never again touch me with your left hand."
He dropped the corpse's hand. "I see amnesia hasn't affected your stubborn streak at all."
"Why did he take your wedding ring, for God's sake?"
"To pass himself off as your husband, of course."
She shuddered. "But why?"
"He had to haul your naked unconscious body from our suite to his car, and later from his car into this hotel." He shrugged. "With matching rings, all he had to say was that you were his wife and you'd had too much to drink."
"If I were his wife," she said with feeling, "I would indeed drink too much."
He glanced down at the big tangle of blood-soaked bedsheets and said, "I suppose he stole one of these from our room and wrapped you up in it."
"That means he saw me—even touched me—naked." She felt faint again. "Oh, God."
Someone pounded at the door again. There was more shouting in Spanish. Deep male voices this time, and what sounded like a stern warning.
Her husband sighed. "Get rid of them."
She nodded and turned to do so. Before she reached the door, though, it flew open with a loud crack of splintering wood and snapping metal. Four uniformed policemen stampeded into the room, all of them armed and clearly ready to shoot.
She raised her hands. They stared at her. She stared back. When she could finally make a sound, it came out as, "G... ga... gahhh..."
A short, stout, smirking man walked in slowly behind the four cops. He seemed to be their superior officer.
She gasped. "Oh, my God! Wait minute!" She stared. "Yes! I remember you! You ambushed us! O'Mallory was afraid of you! You're the one who hit me on the head, you jerk!" Her eyes flew wide as she realized, "You killed him!"
"Ah, Mrs. Smith," he said. "A pleasure to see you again."
She glanced at the bed. "Smith? He checked us in under the name Smith? Of all the unoriginal, clichéd, hack—"
"Uh, honey," her husband interjected. "That's our name."
She squinted at him. His hands were raised, too. "I'm really Mrs. Smith?" she asked.
She shrugged. "Oh, well. At least it's easy to spell."
The stout man cleared his throat. When he had their full attention, he introduced himself. "I am Captain Benitez."
"I'm not at all happy to see you," she replied.
Her husband said to the other cops, "Listen to me. My wife has been kidnapped and—"
"Your wife, señor," Benitez interrupted, "is a murderess."
She gasped. Her husband argued. The cops, in response to a command from Benitez, handcuffed both of them, then went around the room gathering evidence. When they collected the gun, her husband swore.
"Her fingerprints are on it," he guessed, "aren't they?"
"A very astute prediction," Benitez replied.
"I didn't shoot him!" she snapped at her loving spouse.
"I know," her husband said, his gaze still fixed on Benitez. "But he means to prove otherwise."
"He can hardly prove otherwise," she argued, "since I never touched the gun...." She choked and whirled to stare at Benitez. "You planted my prints on it while I was unconscious!"
"I'm afraid it was necessary."
"No wonder O'Mallory said I would die for sure if... if what's-his-name-here went to the cops!"
"Scott," her husband supplied. "It's Scott."
"The cops are in on it!" she continued.
"No, no," Benitez said. "Just me."
She looked at the four cops busily tearing apart the room in search of damning evidence against her. "What about them?"
"They don't speak a word of English," Benitez advised her. "They just follow orders."
"So O'Mallory prowled the resorts in search of wealthy victims," Scott guessed, "and you gave him police protection in exchange for a cut of the take."
"Sadly," Benitez said, "he was inept at his duties, so there hasn't been much 'take' so far. I've been obliged to find a replacement."
"O'Mallory found out," Scott surmised. "He realized you'd try to get rid of him."
"Of course!" she said, understanding now. "You couldn't just fire him and count on him to go away quietly."
"So you're framing his final kidnap victim for his murder," Scott concluded.
"Especially since," Benitez said with a noticeable quiver of outrage, "his final victim is not the surgically-enhanced young trophy wife of Alan Scott Smith, the fifty-six year old heir to a mining fortune worth four hundred million dollars. Noooo!" Warming to his theme, Benitez went on, "Instead, that incompetent moron O'Mallory zeroes in on Scott Alan Smith, a newlywed from Seattle with a wife who—may I be excused for saying?—has the temper of an angry cobra and a head as hard as granite!"
"You may be excused," Scott said.
"Hey!" she said.
"Love isn't blind," Scott told her, "it's just incredibly tolerant."
"If we could return to the subject of my upcoming murder trial," she prodded.
"I'm open to bribery," Benitez said with the air of a man trying to demonstrate goodwill and a desire to cooperate. "But I fear that you can't meet my price."
"Which is?" she prodded.
"One million, US, cash."
Scott sighed. "Well, as you've remarked, I'm not the mining fortune heir with the trophy wife, so I'd need time to get that much money together."
"We're not giving a penny to this slimy worm!" she snapped.
Scott glared at her. "There goes my whole 'give me time' ploy."
"It wouldn't have worked anyhow," Benitez assured him.
"You can't convict me of a murder I didn't commit!" she insisted.
"Of course I can," Benitez said. "I am an expert at manufacturing evidence."
"Oh." She thought she was going to throw up.
"Yes, I'm afraid things do look really bad for you," Benitez said with a touch of sympathy. "And on your honeymoon, too. Such a shame, but it can't be helped."
"Look, why don't you arrest me for his murder?" Scott suggested desperately. "Say I found them here together, and in a jealous rage I—"
"Sorry," Benitez said. "Your gallantry is admirable, but the gun is covered with her fingerprints, not yours... However, we'll be happy to arrest you, too."
"On what charge?"
"I'm sure I'll think of something."
"You won't get away with this!"
"What that warning lacks in originality it makes up for in sincerity," Benitez replied. "However, sincerity is unlikely to prevent your conviction or—"
There was a sudden shout behind her, so loud it made her jump. More men came pouring through the door, and there was a great deal of yelling, confusion, and shuffling around. When a gun went off, Scott knocked her to the floor and landed on top of her. She gasped for air and struggled to see what was going on. She saw scuffling feet coming towards her. She tried to roll away, but Scott's weight pinned her down. One of the feet kicked her in the head.
"What? What's wrong?" Scott demanded.
"Someone kicked me! Get off of me!"
"Stay down!" he ordered.
"What's going on?"
When Scott finally let her up, Benitez was face down on the floor with his hands cuffed behind him. The four cops who had come here with him were spread-eagled against a wall and submitting to a search, all the while protesting (it seemed) their innocence. And a dozen heavily-armed men in combat fatigues were in charge of the scene.
"What's going on?" she said again as someone helped her and her husband to their feet.
"O'Mallory must have betrayed Benitez," Scott said.
She looked around. "You mean... he realized you might not get here in time to save him—"
"To save you," he corrected.
"—and so he blew the whistle on Benitez!"
"Does anyone here speak English?" Scott asked.
"No, señor." An earnest-faced uniformed man apologized for this, then spoke at great length in Spanish.
They tried to understand, but their efforts at communication were frustrating.
"Oh, mother of God!" Benitez exclaimed from his undignified position on the floor. "He's saying you have to accompany him to the station and give your statements to an interpreter! Really, if you people can't even learn a few words of Spanish, why not honeymoon in a place like the Virgin Islands?"
"You see?" Scott said to her.
"Oh, will you drop it?" she replied.
"Didn't I tell you—"
"Saying 'I told you so,'" she warned him, "would be a bad way to start off our marriage."
He seemed ready to argue for a moment, but then all the fight went out of him. He leaned down and kissed her. "I'm just glad you're safe now," he whispered.
She tried to put her arms around him, then winced when the handcuffs bit into her wrists. "Hey, Benitez, we need the key to these cuffs."
Benitez grumbled, then gave some instructions to one of his captors. A few moments later, someone removed the handcuffs, and she sank into her husband's arms—an embrace which now felt wonderfully familiar.
"You stink of O'Mallory's after-shave," he murmured.
"Nothing happened," she muttered in relief.
"You remember now?"
"It's coming back to me."
He tightened his arms around her for a moment, then said, "I don't think we should tell your mother about any of this."
She froze for a moment, and then groaned, "My mother."
"Oh... I had just mercifully forgotten her for a little while there."
She felt him shake with laughter, and then he kissed her hair. He ran a hand down her back and over her bottom, snuggling her hips against his. A bunch of other memories started returning, and she felt her skin flush.
"Come on," she whispered. "Let's go give our statements and get this over with. We have a honeymoon to get back to."
She flinched and pulled away. "Harry?"
He nodded. When she continued to stare blankly, he said, "Harriet. Harriet Bryniarski Smith. You didn't know?"
"Harriet Bryniarski." She put a shaky hand to her brow. "No wonder I forgot."
"What else have I forgotten?" she demanded.
"I don't know."
"You're not a bigamist?"
"Or a serial killer? Or the leader of some kind of perverted cult? Or—"
"No! Will you stop?"
"Just give me the bad news now. I can take it."
He sighed. "There is no bad news."
She studied him hard. "We'll see."
"The bad news," Benitez insisted, as his captors hauled him off the floor and out of the room, "is that he is not the heir to a mining fortune worth four hundred million dollars!"
"On the other hand," Scott pointed out to Harriet, "that Smith is a notorious bisexual philanderer. Whereas I'm straight and entirely monogamous."
"Well, it's only been six days," she pointed out.
He kissed her hand, a courtly gesture which she now remembered was typical of him. "In fifty years," he promised, "I'll still be able to say it to you."
She smiled. "I think today has sort of spoiled Costa Rica for me. So if you still really want to go to the Virgin Islands..."
"That's a good idea." He looked around and grinned. "But I swear to you, I don't normally go this far to win our fights."