RING OF TRUTH • by Nancy Brewka-Clark

“Are you serious?” Amanda hoped the scorn in her voice would disguise her excitement. “I’ve never heard of La Rana.”

David laughed. “The Suedos family isn’t exactly into tourism. The last time anybody dropped in on them it was probably Magellan.”

“If a gorgeous Venezuelan heiress invited you to spend the long weekend lolling in the sun with her, why are you inviting me?”

“Philomena invited the entire bankruptcy law seminar,” he said, “and everyone can bring a guest.”

Going anywhere to escape the wintry grime of Cambridge would be heaven. But a privately owned island in the Caribbean? Mingling with the super-rich until she became one herself was why she’d come to Harvard on full scholarship in the first place. She’d just have to grin and bear David’s clumsy attempts at lovemaking until someone better came along.

“What does rana mean,” Amanda asked, already imagining her first screenplay financed by Philomena Suedos, “flyspeck?”

“Has anyone ever told you that you’re even more beautiful when you’re being snide?” David kissed her on the tip of her nose. “Actually, it means frog. Philomena says the Spanish royal cartographer thought the main island looked like a mama frog spewing eggs.”

Wondering if any of the Cambridge thrift shops had their summer clothes out yet, Amanda finally rewarded him with a smile. “I’ll clear my calendar.”

***

Amanda had an even better time than she expected, thanks to an endless supply of tequila, rum, wine, pot, and two perfect sunlit days.  At eight Sunday evening, Amanda was dining on tournedos of Venezuelan beef raised on the Suedos ranch. At midnight she was dancing outside beneath the stars. At three in the morning she and David were making love on a chaise, not much caring that all around them other couples were doing the same. At dawn, she pulled on her tube top and shorts. Unable to wait a second longer, she ducked into a downstairs bathroom.

The heavily bejeweled ring was lying on the rim of the marble sink. When she picked it up, the gems flashed with such fiery intensity she knew they had to be real. It looked like something Ferdinand might have slipped onto Isabella’s finger. There wasn’t a maker’s mark, but there were three capital letters engraved in script, “JNS” and then the numerals “2.14.48.”

Up in the bedroom, she went straight to David’s open suitcase. He’d never wear those black silk socks. They were meant to be worn with the tux in the garment bag he’d never even unzipped.  He came from money, but the Hacienda del Mar was obviously out of his league or he would’ve known shorts and tee-shirts were as formal as it got.

Amanda dropped the ring into the toe of one sock, rolled it back up with its mate, and put the roll back in the suitcase just where she’d found it. Before they got on the Suedos private jet tomorrow, she’d put the ring in her purse. There were plenty of places to pawn good jewelry in Boston, no questions asked.

***

Amanda awoke from her nap to see David staring down at her. “Better shake a leg, sweetie. Dinner’s in half an hour.”  He turned to the mirror and began to adjust his black tie. “Last night on Flyspeck Island calls for our best bib and tucker.”

She stared at his feet in their black patent pumps and black silk socks, waiting for the accusation that she’d deny with all her acting talent. When he began to whistle under his breath, she willed herself to think things through calmly. Maybe he’d brought a second pair. Or, no, much better scenario: when he unrolled them the ring fell out. At the moment she couldn’t really look for it. But after dinner she’d come back upstairs and search the room.

“Good.” She stretched luxuriously. “I’m starving.”

***

Just as the servants were removing the dessert plates, Philomena stood. “I have an announcement.” The beautiful dark eyes gazed from face to face. “I have lost a very valuable piece of jewelry, a ring. It was my grandmother’s. The staff has been searching discreetly for it all day. I do not wish to inconvenience anybody, but we cannot leave the island until the ring is found.”

The double doors banged open. Six men uniformly dressed in short-sleeved white shirts and navy blue pants and caps with gold braid stepped into the room and stood with arms folded above their loaded gun belts.

“I am very sorry to do this,” Philomena said evenly into the frozen silence, “but one of our agentes de policia will accompany each of you to your rooms so that your luggage may be inspected in your presence. I assure you that if we do find the ring, this matter will be resolved here in the way that justice has been served since the first Suedos set foot on La Rana.”

Amanda imagined David blindfolded, a cigarette between his lips, propped up against the patio wall while Philomena’s goons fired their guns. Oh, well.

As if he’d read her mind, David kicked her ankle. When he kicked her again, she realized he was pointing at something beneath the table.

“Philomena,” she called brightly, holding the ring high. “Look!”

***

When she woke up alone in the middle of the night, Amanda went over David’s treachery one more time. Instead of telling her he’d found the ring, he’d cooked up a punishment for her to entertain his law school buddies. During the standing ovation led by Philomena the mockery sank in. “You like theatrics,” he’d whispered. “So, take a bow.”

Sprawled in the middle of the bed, Amanda vowed her first full-length film would be about an impotent jerk who stole from the poor to give to the rich.

And this time he’d get shot, too.


Nancy Brewka-Clark’s poems, short stories, drama and nonfiction have been published by Adams Media, Three Rivers Press, Smith and Kraus, YouthPLAYS of Los Angeles, and the University of Iowa Press, among others. She’s a member of Sisters in Crime, and loves a ‘good’ villain.


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