The Butterfly Connection

(The L & L Mysteries #4)

by Wendy Lohr

Leyla and Lucien are vacationing on an island with their families. Instead of lying in the sun, playing in the waves, and relaxing at the resort, the friends inadvertently find themselves in the middle of a dangerous smuggling operation. It will take their combined sleuthing efforts to discover who is running this smuggling ring and help the authorities apprehend the culprits.


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Chapter 1

“Leyla Richards, if you don’t hurry up, the Vinteras are going to leave us and we’ll be stuck here the entire vacation!” Julia Richards shouted up the stairs, her British accent sounding slightly agitated.

Leyla rolled her eyes at her mother’s melodramatic prediction, knowing the Vinteras really wouldn’t do that. Grabbing the backpack that contained her laptop, some computer games, and books, she slipped on her sandals and headed downstairs. Her mother was impatiently tapping her foot by the front door and Jamison Briggs, casually standing next to several suitcases, was watching her in amusement. Briggs, as he liked to be called, was a lieutenant in the Royal Guard of Ansalucia and had been dating Leyla’s mother for almost a year. He had invited her mother and Leyla to join him for a week at an island resort.

He and the Vinteras had gone to the same resort for the last several years. Ramón Vintera, who was the Captain of the Royal Guard, along with his wife and twin sons, was picking them up soon for the ride to the train station. Leyla was looking forward to hanging out with the twins, Lucien and Romi.

“Finally,” Leyla’s mother muttered in mock exasperation as Leyla joined them.

“Oh, Julia, I’m sure we’ve got plenty of time. The Captain called and said they would be here in a few minutes, so there’s no need to worry,” Briggs said soothingly, putting his arm around her.

“I know, you’re right, Briggs. I just like being ready,” Julia confessed sheepishly.

Turning to Leyla, she asked in her typical motherly tone, “Do you have everything, Leyla?”

“Yes, Mum. I checked everything again this morning, just to make sure,” Leyla responded in exasperation. Then she asked curiously, “Do you think Captain Vintera would be willing to let me drive us to the train station?”

Leyla had just spent two weeks of her summer break in a driver’s education course and had passed her driving test with flying colors. Being seventeen and finally in possession of a drivers’ license, she was biting at the bit to drive anything with wheels and a motor. Her mother shook her head adamantly and declared, “Absolutely not, young lady! You are not to even ask him if you can. I would like to actually make it to the train station in one piece.”

“Mum!” Leyla exclaimed. “I totally aced that course and am an excellent driver!”

“Yes, but I’m your mother and you will not be driving a car load of people around until I’m certain you’re ready, Leyla,” her mother stated firmly. Leyla sighed and thought to herself damn, but didn’t argue anymore.

As they waited for their ride, Briggs and her mother talked quietly while Leyla thought some more about the eighteen-year-old twins. They were identical with tall, lean builds, long black hair, and unusual violet colored eyes. Leyla had become friends with them last year when they had transferred to her high school. They were very popular with the girls in school and, between the two of them, had probably dated most of them. Although she found them to be attractive and a lot of fun, she had always preferred friendship over dating.

Lucien and Leyla had become good friends after they had worked together to solve an assassination attempt on the President of Spain. They had solved several mysteries together since then and had developed a much stronger friendship. Sometimes people actually mistook them for a couple, which she found utterly ridiculous.

As for Romi, he was her Mystica partner. Mystica was an internet game that she played often where she would team up with Romi online to take on quests and such. They weren’t quite as close as she and Lucien, but she still considered him to be a really good friend.

A honking car horn interrupted her thoughts and Briggs picked up the two largest suitcases while Leyla and her mother grabbed the others. Stepping out of the house and locking it up, her mother and Leyla followed Briggs out to a large SUV that was waiting in the driveway. Stowing the luggage in the back of the SUV, they got in and Leyla sat between Lucien and Romi in the very back seat while Briggs and her mother took the seat in front of them. The twins turned their iPods off and Lucien put away his sketchbook as he gave her his trademark lazy grin and asked, “You ready for an island adventure, Leyla?”

“Absolutely!” she exclaimed excitedly as she put her seatbelt on. One of the differences in the twins was that Lucien was an incredible artist and was always sketching and painting. It didn’t surprise her any to see that he’d brought his sketchbook with him.

Digging around in her backpack, which she had kept with her, she found her wallet and pulled out her new drivers’ license. Grinning proudly, she held it out for them to see. Taking the license from her and looking at it more closely, Lucien exclaimed, “Sweet! Congratulations, Leyla! Of course, you look really goofy with that silly grin on your mug!”

She stuck her tongue out at him as he laughed at her and passed the license to Romi. Romi peered at it and returned it to her without saying anything. Putting it away, she asked, “So, what all is there to do on this island resort?”

“What?! The queen of internet research didn’t look up the island to see what was there?” Romi teased, clutching his hand to his chest in exaggerated shock.

“Hey, now, I’ve been up to my ears in driver’s ed stuff for the last two weeks, smarty-butt!” she retorted. “Besides, I didn’t think I needed to do any research since you two have been to this place several times already.”

“True. Romi could tell you where to get a good hot dog,” Lucien joked, grinning at his brother.

“That’s not funny, Lucien,” Romi shot back at him.

Confused as to what they were talking about, Leyla questioned, “What? Does Romi like hotdogs or something?”

“You could say that. It’s more that he likes who’s selling the hotdogs,” Lucien replied cryptically. “As for myself, I may hook up with my dream girl. Then you’ll be stuck not knowing what to do because neither one of us will be around. You’ll have to hang out with the parents the rest of the trip and, trust me, that would not be fun.”

“You mean to tell me that you would completely abandon your best friend for some chick who you’ll only see for one short week?” Leyla asked, pretending to be affronted.

“Heck yeah!” Lucien exclaimed, grinning wickedly at her.

Shaking her head with a smile, Leyla stated mischievously, “Well, just remember this conversation when my dream guy comes along and I abandon your hides for the rest of the week!”

Continuing to banter good-naturedly with one another, they finally arrived at the train station and everyone climbed out and began removing luggage. Once they’d dropped off their luggage with a porter, they found the private train cabin the Vintera’s had reserved. Leyla wondered if they were going to have to spend the entire time with the parents in the cramped cabin when Lucien said, “Hey, Mum, Romi and I are going to get something to drink in the dining car.”

Mrs. Vintera replied, “Okay, Sweetheart, that’s fine. Just remember that the train ride is only an hour. Make sure you’re back here before we pull into the station so we can all stay together.”

“No problem, Mum,” Lucien assured her and invited Leyla to join them.

Leaving the cabin, Leyla followed them to a different part of the train, stepping through a couple of connecting doors before entering the dining car. There were tables with white linen set up and some passengers were eating breakfast.

After sitting down at one of the tables, a waiter came by and Leyla watched in amusement as the twins argued about what to order. They finally decided on a large order of cheese fries and sodas. She looked at them in astonishment and asked in disbelief, “You guys are going to eat cheese fries for breakfast?!”

“Well, it’s really not breakfast. We ate that about an hour and a half ago. Besides, even if this was breakfast, what’s wrong with having cheese fries? You can’t eat non-breakfast food for breakfast?” Lucien teased.

“That sounds gross,” Leyla responded, crinkling her nose and ordering a diet soda from the waiter who looked a little annoyed at them for taking so long to order.

The waiter returned a few minutes later, sat the large platter of cheese fries in the center of the table, and served them their sodas. Once he departed, Leyla watched for a moment as the twins dug into the messy looking food before tentatively taking one of the fries and popping it into her mouth. Liking the flavor, she began digging in as well and Romi teased, “Have you decided it’s safe to eat this now?”

Looking sheepishly at them, she shared, “I guess I wasn’t sure about it because I know Mum would never let me have something like this for breakfast.”

“Wow, Leyla, you need to get out more and live a little!” Lucien joked before shoving a few more fries in his mouth.

“So, what were you two talking about earlier? You know, about Romi eating hotdogs or liking some vendor or whatever,” she inquired curiously as she continued to munch on the gooey concoction.

Romi, who was sitting across from her, actually blushed as Lucien explained in amusement, “Oh, Romeo here has a thing for a cute little hot dog vendor. I think he might have gained five pounds last summer from all the hot dogs he ate!”

“Very funny, Lucien,” Romi muttered in embarrassment. “I just don’t get it, Leyla. I mean, normally I don’t have any trouble with girls. But I’ve tried for three summers now to ascertain whether she likes me or not and I haven’t had any luck! I don’t know; maybe she’s into girls or something.”

Leyla stared incredulously at Romi and stated in a strong British accent, “Just because a girl isn’t interested in you doesn’t mean she’s into girls, you moron! I’m not interested in you and I’m certainly not into girls!”

Lucien was laughing really hard at that point and Romi was looking pretty sheepish as he argued defensively, “Geez, Leyla! I didn’t mean for the comment to come out like that. I guess I’m just really intrigued by her because she hasn’t shown an interest in me like most girls seem to.”

“Ugh, Romi, you sound so conceited! You think that because you’re this six-foot-five hunk with unusual colored eyes that every woman on the planet will swoon at your feet?!” Leyla exclaimed in mock disbelief.

“She has a point, bro. Maybe you just need to come down a notch or two,” Lucien added in amusement.

“I am not conceited,” Romi stated adamantly, “and I don’t think that every woman should swoon at my feet! I’m just really interested in asking this girl out and haven’t made any headway. Maybe I’ll have better luck this year.”

“Well, you two are definitely going to have to point her out to me. I may decide to go get a hot dog and congratulate her for having resisted you this long, Romi,” Leyla teased, causing Lucien to chuckle and Romi to flick his straw wrapper at her.

The three friends finished off the cheese fries and sodas as they discussed different options for things to do at the resort. Romi suggested that they hit the beach when they got there and, after teasing him some more about the hot dog vendor, she and Lucien agreed. After the waiter delivered the check, Leyla fished out a couple of bucks for her drink and offered to pay for part of the cheese fries. The twins told her not to worry about it and they paid the bill. Getting up, they all returned to the private cabin to meet up with their parents and Briggs.

When the train finally pulled into the station, Leyla was practically bouncing off the walls from excitement. She had never been to an island resort before and she couldn’t wait to see what it looked like. Grabbing her backpack, she stepped off the train and followed her mother and Briggs over to where the luggage was being placed. Locating her small black suitcase along with the larger matching one, she rolled them behind her to the dock where the ferry was waiting to shuttle them out to the island.

Her mother and Briggs boarded the ferry ahead of her and he pointed out where they could store their luggage during the journey. The luggage room had a long windowed wall and numbered cubicles built into it so people could remember where they put their suitcases. That was helpful since Leyla noticed that there were several black suitcases similar to hers. Noticing that the lower deck of the ferry had the typical, round portal windows, she curiously asked, “Briggs, why is there such a large window looking into the luggage room?”

“This is an unsecured room, so being able to see into it keeps people from rifling around in other peoples’ luggage,” he explained matter-of-factly.

“That makes sense,” Leyla responded in understanding as she followed them to the upper deck of the ferry.

Leaning against the railing, the breeze gently ruffling her honey blond hair, Leyla shielded her eyes from the bright, late morning sunshine and exclaimed in aggravation, “Man, I forgot my sunglasses! Mum, when we get to the island, I need to go to one of the shops and pick up a pair for me. It’s really bright out.”

Her mother and Briggs both looked at her in amusement and she asked defensively, “What’s so funny?”

“Do you mean those sunglasses on top of your head?” Briggs asked, his brown eyes twinkling.

Confused, Leyla felt on top of her head and blushed from embarrassment as she pulled the sunglasses down to shield her eyes. She had completely forgotten she’d put them there earlier that morning and now felt like an idiot as she mumbled, “Yeah, um, thanks!”

They laughed and her mother said, “Oh, Leyla, you are too much sometimes. I’m glad you’re excited about this vacation, Sweetie, but you need to try and pay a little more attention to what’s going on around you!”

“I know, I know,” Leyla agreed, feeling a little exasperated with herself. “Sometimes I think I’d forget my head if it wasn’t attached! Oh, well, at least I won’t have to buy a new pair now!”

Her mother shook her head with a smile as Leyla turned her attention back to the glistening water and the bustling activity on the dock. She really wanted to get this ferry ride out of the way so she could begin her vacation and wondered what was taking so long.

“Hey, Briggs, how long does it take to get to this island?” Leyla inquired impatiently a few moments later.

“About thirty minutes. You could try swimming there, but I think the ferry would get there way before you would,” he teased.

She giggled and conceded, “Yeah, you’re probably right. I guess I’ll just have to be patient!”

After what seemed an eternity, the ferry finally left the dock and Leyla headed towards the bow with Romi and Lucien, anxiously scanning the horizon for her first glimpse of the island. Chatting with the twins, she admired the sparkling blue water. Wondering what was beneath the inviting waves, she asked, “Hey, do either of you know how to snorkel?”

“Yeah, it’s pretty easy. A few summers ago, Mum and Dad took me and Romi on a snorkeling excursion. It was pretty cool, especially since we could just rent the equipment at the resort instead of having to buy it. Have you never snorkeled?” Lucien asked curiously.

“No, but I’ve heard it’s a lot of fun. Would you teach me if we get a chance while we’re there?” she requested hopefully.

“Sure, there are a lot of good spots for snorkeling near the resort. We can do it either tomorrow or the next day, if you want,” Lucien suggested.

Romi nudged her and said, “Check it out, Leyla,” pointing out in front of them.

Looking in the direction he indicated, she caught a glimpse of a tiny dot in the distance and asked, “Is that where we’re going?”

Romi nodded and she was quiet for a few moments as the dot grew into an island. It wasn’t huge, but Briggs had told her it was large enough to have a small fishing village on one side and the resort on the other. There was supposed to be a large hotel, several restaurants and night clubs, as well as a shopping district with little boutiques and such.

A jungle separated the two sides of the island with a few roads through it connecting the fishing village to the resort. There was supposedly a touring agency that set up day excursions for people interested in seeing the jungle wildlife. One of the planned group outings while they were there that week was to take that excursion.

The ferry’s horn interrupted her musings and she turned as her mother called out to her. Seeing her heading downstairs, Leyla walked with the twins down to the luggage room. In the chaos of the passengers getting their luggage, it took a few moments for Leyla to locate the cubicles she’d put her suitcases in. Confused, she found her large suitcase, but could have sworn she’d put the smaller one right next to it. Seeing it in the cubicle next to the one she thought she’d stored it in, she shrugged and collected it.

After getting off the ferry, Captain Vintera motioned for them to follow him and led them over to a horse and buggy stand where several horse-drawn buggies waiting in a line. Confused, Leyla asked, “Where’s the hotel shuttle van?”

“Leyla, you weren’t paying any attention to Briggs when he told us about the resort, were you?” her mother gently chided with a grin. “Sweetie, there are no vehicles on the island. In order for us to get to the hotel, we either have to walk or take these horse and buggy taxis. Once we check in at the hotel, we’ll be given passes to show at the bicycle rental shop. Those passes will allow us to check out a bicycle anytime we want so we can ride to different parts of the island.”

“What?! No vehicles?” she exclaimed incredulously as she eyed the horse and buggy taxis warily.

“What’s the matter, Leyla? Afraid the horse might bolt with you in the buggy?” Lucien teased. “Although I doubt he’d be able to move that fast, judging by the ton of bricks you’re rolling around!”

“Very funny, goofball!” she retorted.

Leyla helped Briggs and her mother load their suitcases onto one of the buggies before climbing up into it. The buggy was painted bright white and had two red, plush velvet bench seats facing each other. Leyla sat facing the rear so she could see everything behind them. As the buggy jerked into motion, Briggs put his arm around her mother and whispered something to her, causing her to smile shyly. Leyla liked the fact that they seemed to enjoy each other’s company and that Briggs was so good to her mother.

It wasn’t long before they were pulling up in front of the hotel and the driver unloaded the luggage. Briggs paid for the ride and they all went inside to check in. A bellhop took their luggage while Leyla waited for her mother and Briggs to get their room keys. Dropping Briggs’ luggage off at his room first, they continued on to the two bedroom suite that Leyla and her mother would be staying in. Once the bellhop left, Leyla immediately rolled her suitcases into the smaller of the two bedrooms and began unpacking the large one first.

She heard her mother talking with Briggs in the sitting room as she stuffed the large, empty suitcase into the closet. Once she had that taken care of, she was about to open the smaller one when she received a text message on her phone. Seeing it was from Lucien, she read, ‘Hey, we’ve got to stop by a store for some sunscreen before we go down to the beach.’

She texted back, ‘Yeah, good idea. I need some, too. Probably SPF 10,000 if they have it!’

A few seconds later he responded, ‘LOL!! See you in a few.’

Grinning, she unzipped the smaller suitcase and lifted the lid, gasping in shock at the contents inside. Instead of her underclothes and brand new bikini, she found men’s socks, underwear, and some very loud Hawaiian dress shirts. Yelling out in agitation “Mum!” she closed the lid to see if there was a name on the suitcase.

“What is it, Leyla?” her mother asked worriedly as she appeared in the doorway of the bedroom.

“Oh, Mum, I’ve got a problem! All of my underclothes and my brand new bikini are gone! My suitcase is full of men’s clothes,” Leyla stated in confusion.

“What?!” her mother exclaimed, coming over to look in the suitcase as Briggs appeared in the doorway asking anxiously, “What’s the matter? Are you alright, Leyla?”

“It appears Leyla’s suitcase got mixed up with someone else’s,” her mother explained and then asked, “Leyla, is there a name on the suitcase?”

“I’ve looked but I haven’t found one yet,” Leyla informed her as she began looking through the clothes for some kind of identification.

“Hey, what’s everyone doing in here?” Lucien asked curiously from the doorway, startling them.

“How did you get in, Lucien?” her mother asked curiously.

“The door was open, Mrs. Richards. I just came over to see if Leyla was ready to go to the beach with me and Romi,” Lucien explained defensively.

“Oh, I can’t go now, Lucien! I’ve got a major problem here,” Leyla explained, telling him about not having the right luggage as she continued to dig through the stuff, trying to find the identity of the owner.

Seeing a small brass latch at the bottom of the suitcase, she curiously twisted and released it. What she thought was the bottom of the suitcase was actually a lid that lifted to reveal three thin, expensive looking display cases. Each case held two really large, beautifully preserved butterflies. The butterflies’ wings had a shiny, metallic blue coloring with an unusual white pattern that Leyla had never seen before. Thoroughly intrigued, she asked, “Why would someone carry around a collection of butterflies?”

“Butterflies?” Lucien asked from the doorway, where he was standing behind Briggs.

Briggs came over to look at what she was staring at and inhaled sharply. “Um, Leyla, those aren’t just ordinary butterflies,” he stated, actually sounding a little uneasy.

Lucien had also come over to look and he remarked, “Wow, I’ve never seen butterflies like that before.”

“They’re not native to Ansalucia. In fact, they’re not native to this part of the world. If I’m not mistaken, these butterflies are really rare and may be on an endangered species list,” Briggs explained and Leyla looked at him in surprise.

Seeing the look on her daughter’s face, Leyla’s mother shares proudly, “You probably didn’t know that Briggs had an interest in entomology and is an amateur collector.”

“Oh, that’s kind of cool. Sports cars and bugs, huh Briggs?” Leyla teased.

Briggs chuckled, giving a sheepish shrug of his broad shoulders, and asked, “Lucien, could you get your father, please? He’s going to want to see this.”

As Lucien left the room, Leyla asked, “If these are an endangered species, then wouldn’t they be protected, Briggs?”

Nodding solemnly, he replied, “Yes, but just like anything else, there’s a black market for these. People will pay huge sums of money for specimens like this.”

“Black market butterflies?” Leyla responded in disbelief.

“Yes. If someone told you that you could no longer have an iPod because it was a priceless and rare artifact, the very next day, you could go to a black market dealer and buy an iPod. But you’d better be prepared to pay handsomely for it,” Briggs explained as Lucien returned to the room with his father, Romi, and Mrs. Vintera.

Briggs explained to Captain Vintera what had been discovered and then they both closely examined the collection inside the suitcase. Frowning, Captain Vintera immediately took charge and stated, “Briggs, see if you can figure out who the law enforcement is on this island and get them up here. We’ll need to coordinate with them to see if they know anything about this.”

“Yes, Captain,” Briggs responded, leaving the room to make the phone call.

“Leyla, you said you couldn’t find a name in or on the suitcase?” Captain Vintera questioned.

“No, sir, there was no name. But then there probably wouldn’t be if they’re carrying around something illegal, right?” she observed matter-of-factly and he nodded in agreement.

“Leyla, only you would get stuck with a suitcase full of illegal butterflies,” Lucien teased and she gave him a rueful grin as she shrugged.

A few moments later, Briggs returned and informed them that the island constable was on his way along with someone from the mainland. Closing the lid and picking up the suitcase, Captain Vintera suggested, “How about we all move out into the sitting room and wait for them to get here.”

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