Once back in my room, I undressed, stuck on my pj’s and tucked my exhausted body into bed all the while telling myself how wrong my dear Goldie really had been.
The problem was, each time I shut my eyes, damn Tim Harwinton appeared like a video on the insides of my eyelids. Probably the FBI had some kind of mind-altering system that allowed them to do that. Yeah. That was it. An FBI trick.
“Shit,” I mumbled as Betty walked in the door.
“Sorry, luv. Did I wake you?” she asked.
I sat up and pulled the covers tighter as if they were some kind of security blanket. “No. I wasn’t asleep yet. Betty, have you seen outside? The fog?”
She waved her hand. “Don’t worry.” With that she headed into the loo and left me hanging.
Don’t worry, because the ship is going to sink, and we are all going to die very soon anyway? Or, don’t worry, because the fog is nothing, and certainly the captain can handle it and the instruments are all working peachy. Or, don’t worry, because…I had nothing for that one.
I had duty tomorrow, so I really needed to get some sleep. I needed to forget about the night, the fog, seeing Remy, the fact that Tim thought I was nuts and that I nearly fell overboard.
This time when I shut my eyes, Jagger appeared.
And I had one of the best night’s sleep onboard.
Since I was so thankful to wake up and see the ship had not sunk overnight, I sat up to look out the window. Clear in a million as they say. Perfect.
I jumped out of bed as quietly as I could, so as not to wake Betty. Hurriedly I got ready for my duty and went to eat in the crew’s dining quarters.
I sat with Topaz. “Morning. How are you?”
She took a sip of her black coffee. “Ah. Much better now. I may make it after my caffeine fix.” She laughed.
I smiled. “Tea drinker.” I held up my mug. Then I wondered if she would ask why I didn’t tell Doc Peter not to get me coffee the other day. Thank goodness Topaz seemed too wrapped up in her cup of coffee to notice. “I understand one of my friends had to go to the infirmary last night. Migraine?”
Topaz set her mug down. “Oh, yeah. The gay couple. Sweeties. I loved the way the…well, the one in sparkly clothing was so worried about his friend.”
“They are wonderful. Both of them.” I forced a laugh to keep the conversation headed in the direction I chose and didn’t want to get in to her putting the moves on the “male” Goldie. “I’m glad they didn’t give you a hard time. Miles is a nurse, and sometimes medical people like to tell others how to treat them.”
She lifted a slice of toast and bit off a very tiny piece for such a tall woman. For some reason I would have expected a healthier bite. “Perfect gentlemen. Both of them.”
I laughed. “Even when you gave them the bill?”
Topaz dropped her toast. It splashed into her coffee. “Damn it! Now I’ll have to wait for another cup to cool to the perfect temperature.” She got up and wiped coffee off her black top.
“I’m so sorry!” I tried to help wipe but she pushed my hand away.
“It wasn’t your fault, Sokol.” With that she turned.
Damn it, she was getting away. “Topaz, sorry about upsetting you with the bill question.”
She stopped and turned. “Who said that was what upset me?”
I looked at her. “Oh. Sorry. No one.”
The Amazon had just lied to my face.
After two bloody noses from a collision in the swimming pool, I had to spend more time convincing the twentysomething females that neither would need a nose job, nor would their collision have any other effect on their beauty.
I rolled my eyes after that one.
The rest of the morning was quiet enough except for a chest pain that turned out to be indigestion. I made sure I was nearby when Topaz handed the bills to the patients.
Both girls flipped out and said their parents would be looking into this. The chest pain wasn’t upset. Odd. Then I looked at his bill when Topaz went to put the guy’s Visa card through.
It was considerably less.
Hmm. Did she have a tiered system in place depending on the patient’s complaint? Although it was good that she didn’t upset the guy with chest pains even if they were from too many spicy Buffalo chicken wings last night (according to his wife), it did seem odd.
And whose idea was it anyway?
Who actually made up the rules for the scam? Was Topaz part of it, or just an obedient employee who did what she was told?
Damn. So many questions.
I looked to see Topaz busy on the computer and wondered if she was working on fraudulent bills. Doc Peter had nothing to do after finishing his notes about the chest pain, so he headed out to the pool with his family. Since he was always on call, he could do what he wanted most days and didn’t have to sit in the infirmary as the nurses did. I got up and went to the kitchenette.
When I looked at my cabinet, a chill raced up my spine. Remy really was somewhere on this ship, despite what Tim said. I think he was just miffed that the mighty Feds had not found the killer yet. I poured what little coffee was in the pot down the sink and stuck on the fixings for a new, fresh pot. Topaz must have a perfect-coffee fetish, so I decided I’d use that in my favor.
After the gurgling and spitting of the steamy liquid, the scent filling the entire room, I poured out the first mug for her. If I brought it to her now, apparently it’d be too hot. So I set it on the counter and decided to wait a few minutes.
No sense in wasting time, I thought, so I poked around in everyone’s cabinet but found nothing more interesting than Betty’s English scones. Blueberry. Yum. If I was a dishonest person, I would have pilfered one. But instead I walked to the back of the room, where the door led to the elevator.
Thank goodness we didn’t have to airlift the chest pain out today. I said a quick prayer of thanks that chicken wings and spice were the cause and not something more serious. When I turned to go get the coffee, I heard a noise. A thud. Sounded like someone being pushed. Then there was talking. Also sounded like it had come from the elevator.
No one used that elevator unless it was an emergency.
I leaned forward and tried to listen through the crack in the door.
“You can’t…get…with that.” The voice was probably male, but I hadn’t heard every word.
The answer was clearly unintelligible, but I think female. Too quiet and muffled to tell.
I stuck my finger out to press the elevator button.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” came from behind me.
I swung around.
“Oh, Peter. You startled me.”
“What are you doing? Lost?” His hair was wet, probably from the pool.
I looked around. “Damn. I think you are right. Isn’t this the elevator to the lower level?” Duh.
He looked at me. “Lower level of what?”
I wanted to say the ship, dummy, but bit my tongue. I knew what he meant, and he must have assumed that I was confused. “I was trying to get to the little caf'e that has goodies. Like croissants and cookies. I thought I’d treat Topaz.” Her coffee was probably cold by now.
Peter eyed me for a good few moments then straightened me out on my directions. I thanked him and stood for a few seconds, trying to hear more talking. Nothing. Peter started to turn.
“Whereabouts does this elevator go?”
“Only up to the top deck. It’s the emergency elevator.” He pointed to the sign above.
EMERGENCY USE ONLY.
If the lettering were any bigger, folks could read it from land. Speaking of land, I changed the subject. “How’s the weather out there now?”
He wrinkled his forehead. “Excuse me?”
“The pool? Is the sun out now? I understand it was foggy before.”
“It’s fine.” He turned toward the kitchenette with me close behind.
I picked up Topaz’s coffee.
Peter opened his cabinet and took out several snacks of chips and cookies. Most likely for his kids. He poked around in the cabinet and cursed.
I didn’t think Peter ever cursed. He looked too geeky to even know half the words that I knew.
“I’m sick and tired of this. Someone keeps eating my Melba toast.”
I wonder why sat on the tip of my tongue, but I said, “Really? Maybe they don’t know it belongs to you.”
He glared at me. “We all have our private cabinets, Pauline. No one steals from a coworker.” With that he was gone with his loot.
I leaned against the wall to let him by and then remained there in thought.
No one steals from coworkers-unless he is hungry and can’t come out in the open to find food.
I set the coffee down in front of Topaz. “I thought you might like a pick-me-up.”
At first she looked confused as if no one ever did nice stuff like that for her. Then she smiled. “Thanks.”
“No patients right now?”
“Uh-uh.” She took a sip of the coffee and said, “Perfect. Thanks.”
“No problem. Hey, how about a nice sweet treat with that? I’ll run down to get it.”
“I have stuff in my cabinet.”
Maybe not, I thought, and waved my hand. “No problem. My treat. Nothing like a fresh-baked cookie. How’s that sound?”
“Umm.” She sipped her coffee.
When the door opened to the elevator, Hunter got out. I made it seem as if I was in a hurry to get in, but he managed to ask me to meet him in the lounge tonight. If I yelled that I wouldn’t be caught dead with him since he fired my Jagger, it might ruin my case. So I stepped inside, agreed and when he was out of sight, pressed the UP button and made a face at him through the closed door.
I needed to see who was on the upper deck where the helicopters landed.
Just whose voices had I heard?
After only two wrong turns, I walked up a set of stairs to find the highest point on this end of the ship. There before me sat a pool (which I was told had to be drained for emergencies), a few lounge chairs, and the elevator door with another gigantic “Emergency Use Only” sign.
No one was in the pool. Since it was exclusively for the crew, only those on a day off would use it. Not very large, the water was clear blue and deep enough to dive into. I hurried around the side to see if anyone was at the far end. The rays of the sun glistened on the water and soft music played from the speakers attached to poles near the pool.
Near a bar was a small group of people-all in white-staff.
Maybe whoever was talking in the elevator had mingled into the group. I walked closer and hoped that Topaz would not page me with a nasty “My coffee is almost done. Where the hell is my cookie?”
Rico swung around. “Hey, Pauline. How’s duty?” He sat with a nice-looking guy, mid-thirties, and maybe gay. Maybe bi. I still couldn’t believe that about Rico, but didn’t doubt Goldie’s instincts.
“It’s fine. Not busy at all. I’m on my break,” I said, as if to justify why the hell I’d be on this deck, in the sun and heat. At least that eerie fog wasn’t engulfing me now. I glanced at the radar and other equipment on the top of the ship.
All were moving now. At least the ones that were supposed to move.
Phew. One less thing to worry about.
Claude Bernard was sitting on a lounge chair near Kristina and Betty. All laughing and drinking. I couldn’t tell who was with whom but guessed they were all off duty. Even Edie and the safety officer, William Benoit, were there.
I sensed I just wasted time and a trip up there.
When I smiled and turned to go, I noticed a brown woven beach bag near Rico-with a salmon-colored shirt spilling out.