**If you’ve missed the first part of the ‘A Glimpse of Paradise’ – read it here.
Polly’s bitter assessment held true. When the doctor showed up, his diagnosis was as vague as frustrating.
“We’re managing a host of symptoms. Re-hydration took care of blood pressure, seizing, and vomiting. The kidneys look bad. The underlying cause is unclear. Allergies, infections, drugs—”
“We’ve been through this!” Polly hissed. “Sera’s no junkie!”
The doctor ignored her. “We have nothing concrete yet, Mr. Roth, and need more information for precision testing. For now, it’s wide-ranging standard tests until something crops up that limits the parameters.”
Nathaniel pinched the bridge of his nose. As a brother, he’d dropped the ball. Whatever had happened to Sera was just another forensic puzzle. He knew how to solve those: intuition as to which details might prove relevant, straightforward logic, and the common investigation principles: identify, record, assess. If the doctors needed more information, he’d get them some.
When the doctor had gone, he turned to Polly. “We need to retrace Sera’s steps. Last month to six weeks. Who she met. What she did, ate, drank. Where she was.”
Polly perked up at once. “It’s all on the social. Look it up.”
“Why don’t you tell me?”
“Wait, you don’t follow her?”
Nathaniel ignored Polly’s horrified expression. He would not discuss his social media habits with an influencer. “No. I don’t that stuff anymore. So…?” he prompted.
“She was at The Glimpse. A last-minute opportunity with this new jewelry brand, Body Armour. Impossible to pass up. I would’ve gone too, but I had that gig in Gibraltar.”
“What’s The Glimpse?”
“Just the hottest location in the world. A secret Caribbean Island.”
“Right. Then that’s where I’m going.” He pulled out his phone. If an answer was out there, he would find it. “Caribbean, you said. Which airport? San Juan? Havana?”
Polly rolled her eyes. “Nassau. But that will be the closest you get. The Glimpse picks up all their guests.”
Nathaniel shrugged. “A stack of bills will solve that issue—”
“No!” Polly threw up her hands. “You don’t get it, do you? The island’s location is the best-kept secret since…the Coca Cola’s original formula, maybe? It’s not a second FYRE Festival where everyone with a couple thousand bucks can buy themselves popularity by proxy.”
“Sat-nav geolocation says no place is secret once you’ve been there. I don’t see them taking influencers’ phones. So…”
“Sera’s phone is locked,” Polly deadpanned him. “And no, I can’t unlock it.”
“Alright. Who else has been there?”
Polly snorted. “No influencer would risk blabbing. The Glimpse is exclusive. Invite-only. You need a sponsor, a model, and a photographer to qualify.”
Nathaniel paused, then smiled. “You’re a model, and I am a photographer. Sort of. So… who’s going to be our sponsor?”
Thirty-eight hours later, Nathaniel and Polly sat at a diner outside Nassau Airport. They had both called in favors: Nathaniel with his fellow investigators, Polly with Rhingo Glasses, their new sponsor.
They huddled over Polly’s phone, swiping through Sera’s profile. Promos and staged product placements alternated with more private pictures. Nathaniel focused on the latter category.
Click: Sera and Polly in dirndl dresses at Munich’s Oktoberfest, drinking, singing, laughing.
Click: Arm in arm at the Eiffel Tower.
Click: Atop Grande Dune du Pilat, their mingled hair dancing in the wind.
“Trekking up was hard,” Polly said, smiling. “Thousands of years’ worth of sand pulling at our feet, a free face exfoliation from the sand in the air. The view was worth it, though.”
Ding! A notification interrupted her reminiscence.
She checked it. “It’s from JC, Sera’s photographer,” she said. “Listen. ‘Hey, I can’t get ahold of Sera. BA is asking why she’s not posting/boosting. Get her on it ASAP! Hope it’s not the a pinkeye like mine that has her out. Talk soon. xo’ Man, I wish we just had to deal with a fucking pinkeye,” she huffed. Looking up, she added: “I haven’t told anyone about Sera’s condition.”
“Nobody’s business anyway, “Nathaniel said and drummed his fingers to the tabletop.” So, this JC guy uploaded pictures of Sera?”
Polly’s eyes went wide. “Damn, I should have checked their tag before. Of course JC and the sponsor posted something, even if Sera didn’t.”
She opened JC’s profile, and Nathaniel took it all in.
Click: Sera in a wide shot, body wrapped in too little fabric and too much jewelry, her hair streaming behind her in the wind.
Click: Sera stretched out near the surf, sand clinging to skin and metal alike.
Click: Sera’s face in a close-up, eyes closed, lips sandy, tongue playing with a delicate silver chain.
Nathaniel caught Polly’s eyes, his throat thick and dry. What if JC’s pictures were the last? What if the worst came to pass?
Up until four years ago, Nathaniel had enjoyed Sera’s profiles, had kept in touch with her. Before bed, he’d scrolled through the social media sites, smiling at pictures of her day’s activities. Then, Sera’s influencer career had gathered momentum, and the experience soured.
Her feed became too good to be true, a picturesque mirage that—once one looked past the oversaturated color, the pushed contrasts, and the carefully cropped view—faded to what it really had been: a woman as genuine as a Barbie, hawking useless gadget to her followers.
Nothing real. Nothing that could last.
Soon, he couldn’t bear looking at her over-processed images and sun-flared selfies anymore. He had felt sad for her. In retrospect, it seemed silly. Stupid even.
Ding! Another notification made them both jump.
“It’s Rhingo Glasses. The props delivery is five minutes out. After that, we have another hour until the guys from The Glimpse are due.”