"Soothing"

As early afternoon settles over the Quartz Lake Inn, Joe Tiszo, the owner and master chef of the establishment, tends to the vineyards just south of the property. He gazes towards the lake and notices a small, private plane flying low, curving behind the mountains and disappearing from view.

Joe: (Glancing at his watch) As usual

He suddenly grabs his head in anguish and spins around.

Joe: AAAAHH - I WILL NOT LISTEN TO YOU ANYMORE - GO BACK, BACK I SAY

The old man drops his tools and takes off running towards the Inn. Playing a few tunes inside the deserted piano bar is Erika von Meer. Joe arrives moments later and quietly observes her from the other end of the room. He now ambles over to the statuesque blonde as she finishes playing.

Erika: (Slumping on top of the black baby grand) Ow

Joe: (Softly applauding) Brava, Vihar

Erika: (Looking up) Joe... I didn't hear you come in

Joe: It is hard to listen a million miles away - I recognize Monteverdi's "Vespo della Beata Vergine" but I am unaware of the last piece

Erika: "The Stone"

Joe looks at her quizzically.

Erika: Dave Matthews Band

Joe: Ah, very pretty - tell me, are you feeling any better?

Erika: (Plinking a D flat note with her pinky) Not really - the headache still persists

Joe: Did you take something for it?

Erika: (Half smile) It is beyond the power of ibuprofen, I'm afraid

Joe: Then, I have just the thing... COME

The old man motions for her to follow him and she reluctantly does. Erika takes a seat at a lone table in the corner of the Inn's kitchen as Joe brings her a steaming bowl of soup and a few garlic rolls.

Joe: This will drive the nastiness out of you

Erika: (Picking at the garlic roll) Not to mention drive away everything else

Joe: Enough talking... EAT

Erika sighs, stirs the bowl a few times and takes in a spoonful of the broth.

Erika: (Coughing) That's pretty powerful chicken soup!

Joe: You can thank my special paprika and mushrooms!

Erika: (Raising an eyebrow) We'll see... I do appreciate you letting me stay here, the motion on my boat was not helping

Joe: Not a problem - but I am curious as to why you did not choose to stay at your family's house?

Erika: (Now eating heartily) I needed some peace and quite

Joe: Surely you could have found it in on one of the three floors?

Erika: Heh, you don't know my family

Joe: (Bringing her a glass of iced tea) I think I know them better than you do

Erika: (Covering her ears) Not now, Joe, please not now

Joe: Very well... finish your soup

Erika: I shall - I have a scenario for you...

Joe: Chess, fencing, or something else?

Erika: Maybe all three

Joe: Go ahead

Erika: Hypothetically, I am about to bring over a reluctant ally to my side but this ally is also a key player to the entire game, yet she does not realize it - by bringing her to my side, I am able to better protect her but then I leave myself more vulnerable and thus her as well... is this a wise move?

Joe: (Pondering) No... but it is an essential one - correct?

Erika: I'll find out, one way or the other

Joe: (Watching her) You won't be in a position to find anything out as long as you continue to feel this way

Erika: (Finishing her soup) You're right - I think I need to lie down now

The von Meer daughter slowly gets up and heads for her room.

Erika: If I don't wake up myself, please pound on my door before this evening - I have a faculty meeting at the university... and thanks for the soup

Joe: My pleasure, Vihar - get some rest!

The old man watches her leave and then goes over to a phone on the wall. He dials it and then speaks in a foreign language.

Joe: She is here and she is not well

Inside one of the well-appointed suites of the Quartz Lake Inn, Erika takes off her glasses, strips down to her underwear, and lies with a cloth full of ice on her forehead. She quickly nods off and starts to dream. Flashing back to six years ago, the blonde now sees herself arriving at the Indian Ocean Marine Institute with a couple of colleagues in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Colleague #1: Would you look at this place? - my dorm building is bigger than all of it combined!

Erika: (Lugging an olive duffle bag) Just remember, we're here for one semester and then we get the hell home

Colleague #2: I'm counting the days

Erika: (Shaking her head) I could've had Australia or New Zealand but NOOO - my asshole adviser sticks me out here

Colleague #1: Probably because you didn't give him a blow job

Erika: You gave him one and it didn't help you

Colleague #2: SLAM DUNK

Colleague #1: (Taking a seat on a stone bench in the courtyard) He probably resents you for being rich and beautiful

Erika: I resent me for being rich and beautiful but you can't argue with my grades... in fact, that's really the reason I'm here - apparently, one of the IOMI staff members was impressed with my thesis and specifically asked for me on this assignment

Colleague #2: (Making kissing noises) Oooh

Colleague #1: I'm guessing he saw your picture in the department roster and thought "YAH, I GET ME SOME OF THAT, YAH YAH"

Erika: NAH NAH, aint gonna happen - if he's lucky, I might let him carry my scuba gear

Colleague #1: SO GENEROUS OF YOU, RIK

Colleague #2: Not to mention, Griffin won't be too thrilled with this guy's "special request"

Erika: Rif is in Europe, not much he can do about it either way - I, on the other hand...

The blonde pulls a large diving knife out of her pack and wiggles the blade.

Colleague #2: (Reading a guide book) Hey, do you two remember the difference between the Sinhalese and the Tamils?

Erika: No, and quite frankly I could care less - I just want to know where the discos and the bars are!

Colleague #1 (High-fiving her) AMEN, SISTER

A man clearing his throat startles the trio. They turn around to find an older man of small stature but with overly large, round glasses staring down at them from the top step of one of the building's entrances.

Da Silva: There will be no drinking tonight for we will be diving the Maldives first thing tomorrow

Colleague #1: Oh, right

Colleague #2: Sorry

Erika: (Checking the name on her notes) Are you Dr. Ranasinghe?

Da Silva: No, I am Dr. Arjuna Da Silva and I assume you three to be the American students from Scripps?

Erika: Correct

Da Silva: Excellent, please follow me - I'll show you where to get settled... which one of you is Ms. von Meer?

Erika: (Waving her hand once) That would be me

Da Silva: If you don't mind, Sam is very anxious to meet you

Colleague #1 (Slapping Erika on the rear) I bet he is

Colleague #2: (Aside) Get that knife ready

Da Silva: Please proceed to the blue building in the corner - don't worry, we'll take care of your belongings

Erika: (Hesitant) Alright...

She turns to her colleagues and pinches their ears.

Erika: If I find out either one of you dipped into my stash while I'm gone, you're going to get smacked something nasty!

Colleague #1: I'm counting on it!

The older man scowls through his glasses.

Colleague #2: I apologize, Dr. Da Silva, we're a little giddy from our flight, we'll be more professional tomorrow, promise!

Erika: (Laughing and heading off towards the blue building) SPEAK FOR YOURSELF

Skipping inside the main hall of the building, Erika checks out the empty labs.

Erika: OH SAM, SAMMY, SAMBO, SAMSONITE, SAM-I-AM - WHERE ARE YOU? - YOUR NEW STUDENT HAS COME TO LEARN

A lack of response causes Erika to walk towards the only room with a light on at the end of the hall. Upon entering, she finds a private office filled with books, files, and several dramatically lit fish tanks containing odd rock formations among the creatures.

Erika: (Looking around) Hmm

She spots a plate of fruit on the desk.

Erika: MMM, I'm starving

Looking over her shoulder and then back to the plate, she quickly snatches a papaya and bites into it.

Sam: You should try the Rambutan, it is much sweeter

Erika is startled at the sight before her in the doorway. A woman, only slightly older with long, dark hair and equally dark eyes, smiles and points to the plate.

Sam: The one with the red hairy skin

Erika: Uh... I think I'll stick with the papaya

Sam: (Taking the Rambutan and peeling it) You don't know what you're missing, Ms. von Meer

Erika: You're Sam? - sorry, I mean Dr. Ranasinghe?

Sam: (Extending her hand) Samadara Ranasinghe

Erika: (Shaking it) Of course, it is a pleasure to meet you

Enjoying her piece of the Rambutan, Sam now gently offers the rest of it to her hesitant pupil. Erika finally gives in and is shocked by the delicious flavor.

Sam: (Laughing) Indeed, the pleasure is all mine

The tall blonde notices the beautiful shell bracelet on the right wrist of the mocha-skinned woman.

Erika: That's gorgeous

Sam: Thank you, it's a family heirloom

Erika: Damn, I was hoping they had them in a little shop around here - my mother's birthday is coming up

Sam: (Taking a seat behind her desk with an amused expression) We have plenty of other interesting things around here, I can assure you

Erika: (Also taking a seat) Great

Sam is silent for a brief moment as she regards an increasingly nervous Erika.

Erika: Um, I understand you specifically asked for me... why?

Sam: (Eating another piece of fruit) I was impressed with your work

Erika: So I've been told - but you must also be aware that my main area of focus is transgenic ichthyology... yours is marine geology and metallurgy

Sam: It never hurts to broaden your scope

Erika: (Raising an eyebrow) If you say so

Sam: (Now rising) I do... please follow me, I'll give you a quick tour of the facilities you'll be working in

Erika: Won't I be working with the others?

Sam: Occasionally... but most of your time will be spent with me

Erika: Oh

Sam: Do you foresee a problem with that?

Erika thinks for a moment as she gently brushes past Dr. Ranasinghe on her way out of the room.

Erika: Not yet

Just off the Quartz Lake Inn's tennis courts, Pauline von Meer relaxes on the patio with a glass of orange juice. Joe Tiszo makes his way over to her.

Pauline: Joe, darling - would it be too much to ask for a slice of your wonderful poppyseed cake?

Joe: (Taking a seat next to her) It's cooling as we speak, I'll bring you a fresh slice in a few minutes

Pauline: (Brushing her face with her towel) Wonderful

Joe: I see you were giving lessons to Ben & Claudia's children?

Pauline: Yes, the oldest one has the raw talent but is much too lazy - the younger one will most likely make the juniors, the ambition is definitely there

Joe: So young to be so driven

Pauline: It's a good thing - I wish my own children were that driven to succeed

Joe: You have a son that's a lawyer and a daughter with a PhD. - that's pretty successful in my book

Pauline: (Patting Joe on the back) Well, that's your book, Padre

Joe: Speaking of your daughter... she's here

Pauline: You mean she's not at the lab? - will wonders ever cease!

Joe: I think you should go to her

Pauline: Why, so she can pretend I don't exist?

Joe: You're being too hard on her, Pauline - she knows you exist... everyone knows you exist

The two share a quick chuckle.

Pauline: Unfortunately, Joe, she's always off in her own world and she has made it abundantly clear that I am not a part of it

Joe: Try being a part of it

Pauline: Sorry, the only fish I want to know about are broiled in a light dill sauce

Joe: No one is talking about fish - just LISTEN to her

Pauline: (Fake shock) She speaks more than one phrase at a time?

Joe: She does with me and she will for you... if you give her a chance - think of it as a match, bring your opponent into the net more often

Pauline: (Kissing his bald head) Well, since you put it that way and because you're an adorable man who makes the best poppyseed cake, I shall

Joe: (Holding his hand over his heart) You are a true champion, on and off the court!

Pauline: And don't forget to mention stunningly attractive... so, where is my firstborn, playing chess or hiding in the piano bar?

Joe: Erika is lying down in a suite... she's not feeling very well

Pauline: (Jumping up) Take me to her!

Now tossing and turning violently on her bed, Erika continues to dream as her mother enters the room alone.

Erika: (Perspiring) Sam... no... NO - HELP ME - SAM, SAAAAAAM

Mrs. von Meer approaches her daughter's bedside as Erika wakes up with a start.

Pauline: Honey, relax... it was just a nightmare

Erika: (Dazed) Mother?

Pauline: Yes, Sweetie, I'm right here

Erika: What are you doing?

Pauline: Joe told me where to find you

Erika: Did he now?

Erika sighs and slumps down on the bed.

Pauline: (Rubbing her daughter's forehead) He's worried about you and so am I

Erika: There's no need to worry, I'm fine

Pauline: Maybe we should have Stephanie take a look at you?

Erika: Really, mother, I'm fine... I just have a little cold

Pauline: (Covering her daughter up with her jacket) Who wouldn't sleeping in this freezing room half dressed - come on, we're going back to the house

Erika: I can't... I have a faculty meeting tonight

Pauline: (Gathering Erika's things) Tough, cancel it!

Erika: But...

Pauline: No "buts" - you are coming home and resting with your family where you belong

Erika tries to sit up but the headache is still overpowering.

Pauline: (Helping her daughter get dressed) No arguments, Erika

Erika: Fine, I'm too weak to argue with you anyway

Pauline: And, once you're feeling better, we're getting you out of your hiding holes and back to socializing

Erika: (Pulling on her clothes) Please, I already have a headache

Pauline: You haven't been out since the Museum Ball

Erika: (Putting on her glasses) And we all know how well that went

Pauline: We'll start off slow - your father ran into your brother's new dalliance on the beach the other night...

Erika: Morrigan

Pauline: Whatever her name is - he wants to have a family dinner at the house and insists on inviting her

Erika: I suppose I could handle that

Pauline: (Helping fix Erika's hair) Good

Erika: Mom... could you rub my neck?

Pauline: (Doing so) Good Lord, are you tense! - I'm going to get the name of Ursula's new chiropractor for you

Erika: I don't need a chiropractor, I just need...

Pauline: (Pausing) What?

Erika: (Looking down) I don't know

Now wrapping her arms around Erika's shoulders, Pauline brings her daughter back against her into a hug. The two share a warm, silent embrace for a moment.

Pauline: Rikki... are you ever going to tell me about Sam?

Erika: (Breaking away and heading for the door) I'll meet you at the car... I need to thank Joe for the soup

Pauline: (Sighing) Yeah... thanks, Joe

.

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