A lifetime later, the truck slowed to a stop. I heard the gears shift
and the engine shut down. With the caution of a snake handler, I lifted
my head and dared to look out the window. Much to my relief and
surprise, we were not dangling over a cliff. We were in a parking lot
edging a harbor and all four of the truck’s wheels were touching the
Relief washed through me as I recognized the area. In front of me, the
port city of Charlotte Amalie spread in a half-circle around Long Bay.
Just beyond the sea wall was a busy strait separating St. Thomas from
Hassell Island. Off to its right was Water Island. The tiny, emerald
green, palm-tree dotted isles created a postcard backdrop for the cruise
ships and luxury yachts sailing in the dark blue water around them.
The boats glowed ethereal white in the early evening sun, like
transporters from heaven anchored in the harbor for a Caribbean holiday.
The smoothness of their languid dance as they glided past each other
soothed me. My breath slowed. The pounding heartbeat in my ears faded.
The adrenaline oozed out of my system.
“We here,” Charlie announced after a few minutes of me not moving. I
heard his door squeak when he opened it to step out of the truck.
I exited my side. Grateful to be in contact with the earth again, I
stretched, arching my back until it cracked. The Rasta’s eyes zeroed
in on my chest.
“So, uh, where’s Chance?” I shrugged into a slump.
“Probly up dere, in de restaurant.” Charlie tilted his head toward a
set of stone steps climbing a hill. “Yeah, Chancey be here. Dere’s
his Jeep.” He pointed to the end of the lot where a newer, dark green,
Jeep Grand Cherokee was parked.
It was the closest to love at first sight I’d ever experienced. As
part of the deal for me to move to the island, Chance had promised I
could drive his car until I bought one of my own or found a place to
live within walking distance of the restaurant. I’d been dreading his
old Jeep, an abused, ancient, rag-top Wrangler. But this beauty had
potential. It looked capable, rugged, reliable, tough, almost safe.
Charlie pulled my carry-on from the truck. “Eh, why you no go w’ me
to Duffy’s?” he asked. “I go dere now, you know. Maybe you could
ha’ a drink an’ relax some ‘fore you meet up w’Chancey.” His
eyes returned to hover below my neck.
“No, thank you.” I took my bag, amazed yet again, by the power of
boobs. Nothing rivals their ability to make a man overlook truly
pathetic qualities, even bizarre phobias, in a woman. “I need to find
Chance. I’m sure you’re right and he’s just inside.”
“Okay. But I be dere if you change yo mind.” Charlie returned to his
I headed over to the stairs and glanced back at the Grand Cherokee. Now
that the initial rosy glow of my crush had passed, the Jeep bothered me.
It looked lonely there in the lot. And I found it odd that Chance
hadn’t mentioned buying it. Its shiny and obvious newness suggested
he’d only had it a short while. It would have been smarter of him to
buy it after I was done using it. Cars don’t stay shiny and new very
long for me. I wondered how long I’d be able to keep it pretty and
whether or not Chance would renege his offer after the first scratch.
With a sigh, I climbed the stairs, letting my carry-on bang against each
step behind me.
At the top I found a walkway flanked by a series of small potted palm
trees and covered by a crimson awning. It led to a pristine, white
stucco building whose roof matched the awning, as if both were equally
burned by the tropical sun. Pink bougainvillea climbed the walls on blue
trellises, and carved into the hill on one side of the walkway was a
limestone patio area, complete with an empty fire pit and unlit tiki
I headed down the walkway and stopped before a set of closed, oversized,
frosted-glass doors. Etched palm trees ran the full height, providing
swaths of clear glass that were not quite wide enough to see anything
recognizable within. Above the doors hung a lacquered wooden sign:
Welcome to the Revenge Café.
“Wow.” I paused for a couple heartbeats, my hand resting on a door
handle. Adrenaline re-emerged and sparked throughout my body. This time
from anticipation, not from fear. Here it was, framed in a tropical
island setting, our, my, dream-come-true.
I was on the cusp of an exotic new beginning. One I’d been fantasizing
about for far too long. No longer would I be a TV investigative reporter
wearing straight skirts and high heels working in a tough city. Instead,
I’d be a restaurateur, working my dream job in breezy tops and flip
flops, living in paradise.
I could feel the smile spreading across my face. I was almost tingling
with excitement, almost giddy. Only almost, because my reporter’s
hackles were raised. The place was stunning and ideally located. I’d
been expecting a tiny hole-in-the-wall that was more bar than
restaurant. One where Chance and I would probably be the only two people
working, maybe the only two dining as well. I wasn’t aware Chance had
the means to buy a property of this caliber.
Ignoring the doubt trying to settle on my shoulders, I pulled open a
door. No one greeted me.
“Chance?” I hollered. No answer. I walked toward the host’s
pedestal. “Yo! Chance!”
Still, no reply.
“Yeah. You should be scared,” I said as I entered the dining room.
“After that ride you just put me through. You know I’ll get even.”
I walked on tiptoes, expecting him to yell “Surprise!” at any
second. But no one greeted me. The place was empty. Perhaps he was
giving me the opportunity to savor the sight. He did, after all, manage
to create our ideal restaurant, just as we’d always envisioned. Dark
rattan furniture was balanced out with crisp white linens. Brass accents
shone as if freshly polished. Ceiling fans rotated in languid circles
and live palm trees framed the doors and windows. There was even a
gleaming white piano on a tiny stage in one corner. The restaurant was
the perfect dining tableau.
Except near the back. Something was wrong. It looked like someone had
ripped the cloth off a table, not caring that a candle had toppled over
and a crystal vase went flying. Letting go of my carry-on, I walked
toward it. Broken glass crunched beneath my sandals.
“Chance?” I stopped. “Is everything okay?” I kicked the shards
from my shoe and gingerly made my way to the other side of the table.
“Chance?” I tried one more time. I was at the rear of the room and
not sure what to do. To my right was what looked like a dark office
area; to my left appeared to be the kitchen, where the lights were on. I
chose the lighted route and pushed open a swinging door.
Again, perfection greeted me. Red tiled backsplashes gleamed along the
walls. Obviously new pots and pans were lined up according to size and
hung from hooks extended from the ceiling. Shiny stainless steel sinks
and appliances stood next to each other at the ready for service like
soldiers at boot camp graduation.
Something smelled delicious—a lobster or crab something. My nose led
to me to a slow cooker pot, the kind you’d find in a home kitchen, not
in a restaurant. I thought I knew what was inside and unlocked the lid
to discover I was right: lobster stew, one of Chance’s favorite
recipes. Inhaling deeply, I completely forgave Chance for Charlie and
the rickety truck. The stew was good enough to be his penance for just
On the counter opposite the slow cooker was a large wooden salad bowl
surrounded by an assortment of greens and vegetables. Next to that
counter was an open door to a refrigerated pantry. By the looks of
things, Chance had been frantic to find something and had tossed about
fresh produce in a desperate search. Had he realized he was missing
something important for our meal and gone out on foot to get it?
“Chance?” I slammed the pantry shut. “C’mon! Where are you?”
I spun around. My sandal slid on something squishy and I lost balance.
Reaching out to grab hold of anything to keep from falling, I
unintentionally pushed down on a different door handle. That door opened
and I discovered Chance hadn’t gone in search of a key ingredient. He
was still in the restaurant, in the walk-in freezer to be precise.
And he was dead.
Excerpted from "Revenge Cafe" by Lisa Shiroff. Copyright © 2014 by Lisa Shiroff. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.