Gazeta da Ilha has confirmed reports that Linda DuPont, daughter of simoleonaire businessman Jacques DuPont, has died. She was thirty-five. Isla Paradiso officials are describing the incident as a scuba diving accident. The official cause of death has been listed as “drowning”. The DuPont family has not yet released an official statement, but undisclosed sources close to the family report that Deborah Dupont, Linda’s sister and heiress to the DuPont estate, required medical attention after learning about Linda’s passing. These same sources share that Ms. DuPont is in good health but understandably “devastated”.
Linda DuPont was a certified and experienced scuba diver and had logged more than forty excursions over the past several years. Corinth Resnick of Sim City was with DuPont at the time of her death. Resnick remains in the hospital following the accident and has not been available for comment. Van Stacpoole, a local lifeguard, and resident of Isla Paradiso was sailing recreational wildcraft with his girlfriend, Skyler Gilscarbo of Pleasantview, at the time of the incident. Stacpoole reportedly pulled Resnick to safety after identifying him as a distressed swimmer. Gilscarbo credits the rescue to Stacpoole’s “selfless act of bravery”. Gilscarbo also told Gazeta da Ilha that only Resnick had surfaced. In her account of the tragic event, Gilscarbo states neither she or Stacpoole knew about DuPont until after Resnick had regained consciousness while en route to the hospital. Stacpoole suffered unknown injuries during the incident, for which he was treated and later released. Underwater recovery teams continue working to locate Ms. DuPont’s remains.
Benita sets the tablet down and stares out the window of her high-rise office. She should feel completely blessed. Her life’s ambitions are easily within reach and the career path ahead of her is clear. There is literally nothing obstructing her way toward earning the status and security she deserves. What’s more impressive, Alfonzo believes she possesses the right chemistry needed to become a powerful and influential woman in politics. But all she can feel right now is numbness. Her eyes scan over the news article again and find the words she had read a hundred times this morning, “…Stacpoole …with his girlfriend”. Benita frowns. This job was supposed to be the opportunity she had prayed for. But all she is able to feel now is numbness.
Joan Mosely, Governor Taxmoore’s top advisor, has made a very bad habit of entering Benita’s office without being invited. Other members of the Governor’s staff have explained that she does it to everyone. It’s Mosely’s way of asserting her dominance. She’s Taxmoore’s most trusted ally and a relentless guard dog. Mosely is a tall and handsome woman with strong features and a ruthless, commanding tone. In truth, Benita finds her to be unnerving and intimidating if not outright frightening. The woman simply never smiles. Benita clears her throat and begins to remind her to knock before entering. Joan interrupts with a dismissive, brutish tone, stating that she will go wherever she wants; whenever she wants.
Eyeing the tablet on Benita’s desk, Joan walks over and looks at the news article she had been reading. She nods, stating it is fortunate she has seen the news. Governor Taxmoore has an interest in this story. He wants to know more about the lifeguard. He is a resident on the island where Benita was born. Joan grimaces before speaking again. To insinuate that an amateur masseuse could provide information that she, herself could not – is insulting.
Joan moves uncomfortably close to Benita, whispering a very provocative warning. She cautions Benita to remember where she came from. She is Alfonzo’s favorite new toy. If she steps out of line, the new toy may turn up broken. Mosely produces a digital recorder and places it on the desk. She then instructs Benita to provide every detail she knows about Mr. Stacpoole.
Benita’s eyes reveal her apprehension. Joan catches on immediately and drills into her with a penetrating, medusan gaze. Benita stutters slightly but cannot find any words. Unable to look into Joan’s formidable eyes, she gracefully turns away to look out over the sprawling cityscape. Right now, she wishes it were the ocean.
The thought invokes a memory of when she and Van were children. He had found a perfectly intact oyster shell inlaid with beautiful mother-of-pearl. He took the top part and gave her the bottom. Sometimes, when things got tough, he would bring his half of the shell to her and they would fit them together. Even after she had lost hers, he would still bring his half of the shell. It was symbolic of their mutual, unspoken belief that they were made to be together. A sick and empty feeling of privation seizes her, “…dear God, what have I done? “
She does not trust Joan. For that matter, she does not trust Governor Taxmoore. Something about her being here simply does not feel right. Who is she kidding? Everything about this whole situation is wrong. She has already sacrificed that which was closest and dearest to her heart. How much more must she forsake to earn her thirty pieces of silver? Benita stands a bit straighter then lifts her chin to meet Joan’s menacing stare. She will not endanger what few scraps of friendship remain between her and Van.
Benita confirms what Mosely already knows, He is a lifeguard. It is spoken with an inflection of finality indicating she has nothing more to say.
It has been a good week. Van’s shoulder and leg injuries have both continued healing very well and he is finally able to resume light exercise. Skyler’s income has provided enough money to pay off the most threatening debts. For the first time weeks, Van’s mind is not occupied with thoughts of homelessness. Although he is relieved that the immediate future is secure, there is no cause to celebrate. The mountain of debt is still growing and Skyler has better things to do with her money than pay his bills. It doesn’t seem to be a point of contention at present, but Van is very motivated to make sure it does not turn into one.
For now, the commotion being generated in the aftermath of the rescue/death is providing ample distraction. Curiously, the tragedy has had far-reaching repercussions. The woman who died had evidently belonged to a prominent and wealthy European family. Everybody seems to be talking about it. The story has generated enough viewership interest to draw out the paparazzi. As a result, he and Skyler have been very busy fielding interviews. The media frenzy was thrilling at first but grew tiresome quickly. Thankfully, it has slowed down significantly over the past couple of days as social media trends/advertizing simoleons show waning interest.
Van and Skyler’s friendship had not degenerated into pandemonium, as one might expect. To the contrary, the ordeal has galvanized their relationship. Van has witnessed a subtle but unmistakable sense of quiet calm about her. The rescue, which helped bring her anger to light, also formed a mutual and unconditional trust. It seems to have become the prime mover for something bigger. The constant edge of anger and angst she carries around is not nearly as sharp. The confidence and candor that makes her such a unique and compelling sim has remained very much intact.
Van suspects this newfound kindness and genuine disposition have always been present; and that they have always shone brightly, albeit obscured beneath layers of pornographic sludge. Those traits may have never become exposed in the absence of complete trust. He and Skyler both contributed equally to it. Van invited Skyler into his home despite her admitted flaws. Any wavering on his part and she would have likely left Isla Paradiso altogether and ended up, who knows where? Hers was a more difficult sacrifice, however. She completely lowered her guard and shared her most intimate secrets with him. She may be the same Skyler Gilscarbo as before, but Van now sees a different woman.
If He and Skyler both somehow managed to find steady work, who knows where this could lead? Honestly, he has started to feel that spending more time with her wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Most everybody on the island already believes they are a couple after a news report misrepresented her as his girlfriend. He’s reassured Benita’s family that Skyler is only his roommate. It’s understandably a tough sell, considering there is only one bed in his house. Despite this, they’ve continued to afford him the same love and encouragement they reserve for their own son. Benita has been incommunicado for weeks and they have come to accept that she has moved on to the next chapter of her life. They want Van to move on as well.
With this in mind, finding work has obviously become his highest priority. The warehouse has potential, but he must proceed with caution. A number of companies doing business in the warehouse have earned dubious reputations. Even so, he’s asked Skyler to put a good word in for him. Isla Paradiso produces very few of its own resources. As a result, goods are moved into and out of the port at a frantic pace. Van has applied for work at the warehouse in the past. But he always gets the same response; he’s underqualified for the kind of work they need doing. Considering the volume of merchandise and resources that move through that building, Van can’t help but wonder what qualifications he is lacking.
Van wakes up early with Skyler sleeping soundly next to him. As usual, she’s not wearing clothes. He’s made slow progress toward explaining why the situation is inappropriate. All the same, he’s grown more-or-less accustomed to the odd trait and has developed sleeping strategies to avoid awkward physical contact. He showers after breakfast and puts together a decent set of interview clothes. The corporate tower has a mail room position open. He will likely be one of a hundred bodies trying for it.
A soft knocking sound interrupts Van brushing his teeth. He checks on Skyler first, but she’s still deep in her comatose sleep. After hearing it a second time, he makes the connection that there is somebody at his front door. It’s extremely unusual for anybody to come across mountainous terrain to this end of the island so early in the morning. Then a terrifying thought crosses his mind. What if it’s Benita and she discovers Skyler sleeping in his bed …naked? Van limps down the stairs, racing to think of some viable explanation, but finally reaches the conclusion that there actually isn’t one. He holds his breath while opening the door, unaware of the frown drawn across his face.
Van recognizes the middle-aged man standing at his doorstep almost immediately. His name is Corinth Resnick, the man he saved a couple weeks back. Van exhales loudly and smiles, relaxing the tension his shoulders and arms. Corinth is understandably confused by Van’s unusual greeting. Van apologizes then offers a more appropriate welcome. He nods soberly and tells the Cornith he’s glad to see him back on his feet. Corinth shrugs in acknowledgment, likely too embarrassed to smile or respond.
Van invites Corinth inside, quietly explaining his roommate is asleep upstairs after working the night shift. Corinth nods his understanding. He wanders around inside the small but open “great room”. Van has collected all manner of trinkets and junk from his own diving excursions. Something has piqued Conrnth’s interest. He turns to Van explaining that he really just came to thank him personally for saving his life. The turns back toward a particular item placed haphazardly on an old, beat-up shelf, then asks where he had acquired the piece; describing it as “amazing”.
Van shrugs. He doesn’t remember. He collects so much junk during his dive expeditions it’s tough to keep track. Tourists are really only interested in fancy shells and shark’s teeth. He’d found a few old coins once, and sold them for a very nice profit. Corinth rubs the back of his neck, then turns to Van. He apologizes beforehand for being so forward but asks nonetheless whether Van considers himself to be a skilled scuba diver. Some of these pieces clearly come from sites that are inaccessible or too dangerous for intermediate divers. Advanced divers are too cautious to try.
Van had never really considered whether he was skilled or not. He simply takes the proper precautions and does his best to prepare for the worst. Sure, he’s dived dangerous sites and has had a few close calls. But he never really thought too much about it. Corinth continues, stating that workers have not yet located Linda’s remains. He has tried to describe where she was likely to be found, but they are either unable or unwilling to reach it. Corinth waits for Van to respond, adding that the family has offered to pay anybody who can bring her back.
Van’s eyes narrow reflexively as he measures Corinth’s demeanor. Van explains that he may be willing to consider it in a few days after he has healed completely. Corinth offers a sympathetic expression, then apologizes profusely. Van chuckles and waves it off. The scuba gear did most of the damage. It beat him up pretty good. Judging by the look in Corinth’s eyes, Van can see there is something else bothering him. He invites Corinth to sit and offers a cup of coffee, which Corinth accepts with thanks. It had taken a moment, but Van finally makes the connection. Van speaks before thinking what effect it might have on his visitor, asking whether Corinth and Linda had been close.
Corinth stares down into the depths of his coffee and confirms the observation, adding they were engaged to be married. Van apologizes for being boorish. Corinth nods his appreciation then continues. He explains that Linda was a very driven woman. She was a thrill-seeker who loved both art and science. He and Linda are archeologists by profession. His field of expertise is language, history, and religion. Hers was anthropology and geography. Together, they were quite a team. Her death is not only a loss for him, personally. It is also a loss to the entire scientific community. Linda had worked for years locating an ancient wreck. She finally found it during the dive. She had become obsessed with one particular artifact she believed had been moved into a nearby cave system. He told her it was impossible, but she went in regardless. The only reason he is alive today is cowardice. Their tanks were running out of air and she refused to leave. He panicked and left her and found his way out in time. She did not.
Van sits back in his chair, reaching both arms above his head to flex his shoulder. It feels pretty good. His expression is serious and resolute. He instructs Corinth to draw out as much of the cave system as he can remember, and where the thinks Linda might be found. After a moment, Van cautiously asks how much money the family is offering. Corinth pauses to cast a careful glance toward Van, asking if he’s still a lifeguard. The short answer is yes.
One corner of Corinth’s mouth lifts into a quirky half-smile as he informs Van it is likely more money than he has earned over his entire career.