“After you called, I immediately hired a man to find Ramona,” Tim said. “She lives with Tiki in Auckland.”
“So far not complicated,” Rich said.
“She is almost 18,” Tim said. “Tiki has sold her to a man from the Netherlands.”
“Sold!” Rich said.
“An investor from Amsterdam who visits here frequently,” Tim said. “He has a fascination with young beautiful Maori women and he wants Ramona to be his concubine when he is here on business and likely she will be used for the pleasure of those who come with him.”
“I don’t think that’s what Jean had in mind for his daughter,” Rich said. He reached into his pant’s pocket and pulled out the bag of pearls. He placed them in front of Tim.
“What is this?” Tim said.
“A gift for Ramona and Tiki,” Rich said. “The night I left Reao, Turua, Jean’s wife, gave these to me. She said to give them to Ramona and her mother. I can’t do it.”
“And neither can I,” Tim said.
Rich looked out the window of the restaurant. He looked north, but he did not see the bay—just beyond, but what he saw was Jean, Turua, and the island of Reao. He pressed his lips and his chin quivered. He grabbed the bag. “Tell me where I can find her and I’ll deliver them.”
“You must deliver it by tonight,” Tim said. “The Dutchman will pick up Ramona at Tiki’s home tonight.”
“Give me the location,” Rich said.
Tim’s chest filled with a deep breath. “Jean is my friend and Ramona is my niece. And Tiki is my sister; she may never realize this, but this is for her. I will go with you.”
“What will you do?” Rich said.
“I will try to persuade her to do otherwise,” Tim said.
“What do you know of Ramona?” Rich said. “Do you think she will want to go along with this arrangement?”
“No,” Tim said. “I’m sure she must feel trapped or obligated to Tiki.”
“A mother’s love,” Rich said sarcastically.
“By the way,” Tim said, “what is in the bag.”
“Pearls, the very best.” Rich said, “Turua saved them.”
“Somehow I think Ramona would have been better off if Jean would have taken her with him,” Tim said.