His name was Robert Jannes. He was nicknamed the trouble master by his friends and called worse things by his enemies.
His grandfather’s building rose so high into the sky one could almost touch the clouds. Robert Jannes was well polished, ageless in appearance though he was in his mid-20’s. He stared out a plate glass window in the box-like reception area before grandfather’s office and looked at the clouds, smooth and white, floating like cotton balls.
Grandfather Isaac Jannes had founded Neutron Industries many years ago. He was going on his 70th birthday. Robert had studied at the old man’s side since he was 15, and learned a lot a bout business, and influencing change.
Robert had earned the nickname of the Trouble Master, he loved troubleshooting. Both problem making and problem solving; what trouble did grandfather have for him now? He wondered while pondering the clouds.
The receptionist was a woman in her forties; a bird-beaked woman with curly hair, black tinted with grey. She spoke up in a monotone voice, “Your grandfather is ready to see you Mr. Jannes.”
Robert turned to her, a buttery smile on his face, “Thank you.”
She had already returned to her deskwork. Robert went into his grandfather’s office. It was a large square-shaped room, with a window directly behind his plush swivel chair.
Grandfather sat behind a large Oak desk, a wide-screen TV hung on the wall to one side. Robert noted an image on the TV screen, a small island nation in the Ocean off Central America called Ishtana.
“Good morning,” Grandfather greeted in a gravel voice.
“Grandfather,” Robert replied as he sat down across from the old man.
He figured the old man had an assignment for him. Maybe for once it was be an easy job someplace nice.
Isaac picked up a remote control and gestured to the TV screen. Robert turned to the screen. Obviously this assignment had something to do with the destination on the screen.
“You are familiar with Ishtana?” Isaac swiveled around in his chair. He always seemed to be moving.
Quite, thought Robert. “Jonathan and Teri live there.” They were his older brother and sister. Jon was the eldest just past 30; Teri was 28. “Part of the ruling elite,” distaste sounded in Robert’s voice.
That was what they called themselves, “The Elite,” a small group of wealthy people who controlled the government. They used the country as though it were a private resort.
“A haven for the rich,” Isaac said with bitter distaste. “They call it a pleasure paradise.” He sat the remote down onto the desk, clasped his hands together and looked to Robert.
“That countries’ president has determined to keep their natural resources secret, he forbids any kind of development with full support from the Elite,” Isaac said. “They wish to prevent progress at the expense to the countries people.” He shook his head, “However, there will come a time when the fact of their oil reserves will be exposed and I want our company to secure our rights.”
“I see,” Robert said. No doubt grandfather’s spies had learned of the oil. “You wish for me to encourage the government to become more agreeable?”
Isaac nodded his head. “Yes, through whatever methods you find best as always.”
Robert pursed his lips as he considered his grandfather’s assignment. “Considering them, the government may need replaced. Isaac gave his shoulders an uncaring shrug.
“I shall assess the situation and decide on the best course of action,” Robert said. He rose, “I had better get started.”
“Very good,” Isaac said. “I want our firm in there as soon as possible.” He picked up a folder and handed it to Robert, “Your flight is book for tomorrow at 7 a.m. Then you will be on your way to Ishtana.”
“I’ve also given you the number of Benjamin Bathurst, our company representative in Ishtana, he can help you.”
“Any messages for Jonathon or Theresa?”
The old man shook his head. Disappointment was in his eyes. “I wish they would do something useful.’
Robert nodded his head and took the folder. It had been several years since he’d last seen Jon and Teri. It had been their parent’s funeral; they had died when their small plane went down in the mountains.
She hated airports, but here Teri Jannes sat, waiting for her youngest brother to arrive. She looked around at the people who plodded about like cattle, checking in, checking out, looking for the right gate, cursing, crying, and laughing at the Ishtana Area Airport. For some reason the place smelled of a clash or perfumes of a colognes, and onions. Where was the onion smell coming from? Teri wondered.
Jon paced about. He’d just wanted to send the chauffer in a car to pick up Robbie, but Teri had felt it was their duty as family to greet him.
“I wonder what he’s up to,” Jon mused. His pencil thin mustache twitched.
With them was Natalie Cummins, a curly haired blonde who liked bright clothes. She sat next to Teri, a coke in her hands and looked about. Nat’s lips were ruby red; her green eyes always brightly open.
Nat was a Flashy type, not like Teri. The two had been friends for about 10 years. Teri shook her head and looked around; she’d always been told she as an attractive woman with nutmeg hair and brown eyes, her hair trembled about her shoulders.
“I haven’t met Robert before, why is that?” Natalie asked. “Your family doesn’t like to get together very much?”
“Robbie and Jon live in two separate worlds in more ways than one,” Teri said. “Robbie helps grandfather run the family business.” She felt a heavy sigh escape her.
“Gee,” Natalie said. “That’s sad.”
“I can hardly wait for him to get here,” Teri said. Some of the sadness she felt inside came out in her voice.
“You don’t sound happy,” Natalie observed.
“He’s a trouble maker,” Jon said, his voice snapped like a whip. He glared at the smile on Natalie’s face. “What are you grinning at?”
“That little mustache under your nose,” Natalie replied impish. “Looks like you made it with mascara.”
Teri looked at Jon and smiled. She surprised a laugh. Jon was tall, thin, and always wore a new business suit.
“I just hope Robert’s more interesting than Johnny,” Natalie said.
“Don’t call me that,” Jon said in a low tone of warning.
“Of course I am,” Robert’s voice carried over to them.
Teri smiled and rose. She smoothed out her blue dress. Robert was tall, like all the men in her family, with a full head of coal black hair. His eyes were also like little pieces of coal, he wore a black casual suit. Robert carried a briefcase in one hand, and a shoulder bag on the other arm.
Natalie stood, her eyes roving over Robert. “Nice.”
Teri sprang from her seat and went to give her younger brother a hug, “Robbie, how was your flight?”
“Not bad,” He answered. “Got some business done, arranged for a car, I’ll need to pick up in awhile.”
“Car?” Jon snorted. “Just use the Mercedes when you want to tour, me or Teri will escort your around our island.”
“Probably me,” Teri said. She grabbed Natalie’s arm and pulled her over to them. “Robbie, this is my best friend, Natalie Cummins,” Teri gestured with her hands. “Nat, Robbie.”
She noted what little he carried. “Is that all you brought?”
“Yup,” Robert answered
“I usually go by Robert, by you can call me Robbie if you like,” he said looking at Natalie.
“Got a girlfriend?” Natalie asked.
“No. Too busy with work,” Robert replied.
Natalie turned to Teri with a curious look. “No one in your family has an attachment with a significant other?” Her eyebrow arched.
Teri smiled. Maybe there was a reason for that. “Hard to find the right person.” She looked away from them uneasily, to the swarming crowds. A couple of young looking men were watching her and Natalie, she looked away from them.
Jon drew himself together. He shoved his hands into his front pockets and turned, “Let’s get out of here. It smells like a chicken barn.”
Robert looked around, “I don’t see any chickens.”
“So, what brings you here?” Jon asked as he strode towards the double-glass door exit. “I hope you’re not going to cause any problems.”
Robert laughed. “So how have you two been?” He looked to Teri, “Still seeing that ball player?”
Teri shook her head, “Struck out.”
“He wasn’t family material anyway,” Jon said.
Teri watched Jon push the door open and strut out, his head turned as he expounded on the island’s great qualities. She also saw another man coming, not paying anymore attention, he looked younger, though she wasn’t sure how young, brown skinned, a grey muscle-T that showed off his strong arms, and old jeans.
Jon and the other man collided with a great smack. Jon staggered back and angrily turned, “Are you trying to rob me?” Then he yelled, “Officer.”
The younger man pulled back, “Not trying to rob you, man you hit me,” He had an accent, his eyes went to Teri, then back to Jon who drew himself up.
“Jon, it was just an accident,” Robert said, forcing some laughter in his voice.
The muttering boy stormed off. An officer approached and talked to Jon. The officer’s uniform was a dirty brown, it looked like he’d used it as a ketchup remover napkin. The officer’s face was like a watermelon, fronted by a frizzle-mustache.
“I’ll teach that brat a lesson,” Jon said. “Nobody hits me and just leaves.”
Teri drew a breath and slowly released. “Let it go Jon.”
But her brother was too self-righteously angry. His features were crimson and his fists curled. Frustrated, she looked into the clear sky, illuminated by the brilliant sun.
A man in a chauffer’s uniform approached, he looked of French descent, with a French accent. He wore a uniform and black-gloved hands. “May I take your bags Mr. Robert?”
“Hey, Edmund,” Robert said greeted the man. “Nice to see you again,” he looked at the graying edged of the man’s head. “Driving Jon and Teri around giving you grey hairs?”
Edmund laughed, “No, I’m afraid it’s just old age, getting near 60.”
Teri watched the young man strut off, swaying his arms and hips. She felt herself smile, then turned away when Natalie gave her a light punch in the shoulder.
“Something catch your eye?” Natalie asked.
“Youth,” Teri said in a half-sigh voice.
“Let’s get out of here,” Jon barked.
Edmund placed Robert’s belongings in the trunk of a black Mercedes Benz. He then opened doors for the others. Jon would sit up front; Robert in back sandwiched between Natalie and Teri.
“So,” Natalie started in a low cool voice. “That boy had some nice muscles, didn’t he Teri? I bet he could crack pecans o those biceps.”
“Maybe it’s time he put them to use,” Jon snapped from front.
“You like men with muscles?” Robert asked. He looked at her.
He smiled as she slowly gave her head a “yes” shake.”
Then Natalie felt Robert’s arm, “Some nice muscle there. Do you work out?”
“Some Karate, Tai Kwando, and Aikido,” Robert answered. “I’m fascinated with the martial arts.”
Natalie smiled and wrapped her arm around his. She moved close to Robert.
Robert was feeling uncomfortable. He figured Teri had planned to set him up with Teri. “You two have so much in common,” Teri insisted as the car headed through the city.
“Like what?” Robert asked.
“You’re both troublemakers,” Jon said. big brother always had such a “crack-a-whip” way of talking. It set Robert’s nerves on edge. His sister was more on the reserved side, a stiller voice except when angry then she stung like a hornet.
The car stopped at a signal. Smoke filtered through the air from some buildings. the area they were in now was lined with restaurants. Robert noticed a sign forbidding street vendors.
Ragged looking people ambled down the sidewalk as if they were all in their own little worlds. Their faces were blank, they paid little attention to the Mercedes. The buildings weren’t much, trash blew around them.
The car started again, and passed an abandoned and half-collapsed grocery store.
“Slip shod,” Jon snapped. “Have to talk to the council about getting rid of these wreck.” He jutted a thumb at the ruined grocery store. “Give our lovely island a bad image.”
The car slowly moved through the city to the countryside. Princess Celia was the capitol of Ishtana, named for the beloved wife of a long dead ruler. During the flight over, Robert had made plans to meet with Mr. Bathurst, and another colleague, regarding plans for the place.
“Too bad you didn’t get a beach view,” Robert commented as they neared the house. It was a three-story brick made building surrounded by a wrought-iron fence, decorated by floral weeds growing around it. A flower garden was spread in front of the house.
“Would you believe Jon planted those flower, not Teri?” Natalie said.
“Yes,” Robert said. His sister did not have a green thumb.
“Actually it was our yardman,” Jon said.
The car entered a garage, another door lead from the garage to the house. Natalie popped out of the car without waiting for Edmund to open the door. Robert got out and went to get his things from the trunk.
“Let me get those for you, Mr. Jannes,” Edmund said, moving to help Robert.
“I got it Edmund, it’s not that much.” Robert said. He could carrying his own luggage.
He followed the others into the house.
“Kai,” Jon called. He turned to Robert, “Our maid can show you to your room.”
“Then we can go tour the town,” Natalie said. “I’ll give you the grand tour.”
“Thanks,” Robert said. “But, I think I would like to rest a bit first.”
The maid entered the room. Robert’s eyes widened and his jaw dropped as he looked into the brilliant brown eyes of Kai Summers. Her cocoa-colored hair fell down her back in curls. She had a petite figure in an hourglass shape. How long had it been since he’d last seen her? This was the last place he’d ever expected to run into his old girlfriend, the only one he’d ever gotten very close to.
Kai was quiet as Robert followed her upstairs to his second floor room, and closed the door behind him. The room was small, though comfortably prepared. even a welcoming bottle of wine on the stand by the bed.
What had brought Kai here? Robert wondered. He’d been unable to find words to say to her while walking behind the woman. Just old memories flowed.