“Er…no. Nope. My roomie. She’s…um…at-” I looked in my room again.
Maybe I was hallucinating.
Maybe my brain was permanently damaged.
Or, maybe what I saw in my room was real.
“Oh. Well, I guess…let’s see.” I looked in the crack of the door again to be make sure.
My “guest” waved at me.
I was pretty sure hallucinations didn’t wave.
I swallowed and turned to Tim.
“You all right? Maybe I should make sure you get some rest and come wake you-”
He glared at me.
I forced a smile, stood on my tiptoes and kissed his lips. “Thanks so much. I’ll be…I’ll be…er…fine! That’s it. I’ll be fine. Please go look for my…Wait! No. No. Don’t worry about that silly bag. I don’t need it.” I gave him a gentle push toward the elevator. “Shopping bags are a dime a dozen. I’ll get another room key from the purser too. Don’t you worry about that stupid bag.”
He leaned over and kissed me back. “I’m getting worried about you.”
“Ha! It would take more than a little fall to break my noggin. I’m as hard-headed as any Polack comes.” I forced a laugh, sounding more as if I were being strangled. “Okay. I’ll see you later. No!”
“Pauline, really. Let me-”
“Oh no, you don’t, buddy. My hard-earned tax dollars are paying your salary, and I want my money’s worth.” I chuckled. “Go find that killer so the world will be a safer place. I’ll see you later.” I turned and swung back, watching the hallway spin around me. Yikes. “By ‘I’ll see you later’ I mean call me. Call me first. Okay?”
The elevator door opened. Tim stepped in. As the doors started to move, he said, “Whatever you say-if I can figure out what the hell that is.”
“Ha! Funny! You’re a real card. Funny FBI agent. Isn’t that an oxymoron?”
The elevator door closed. For a second I leaned against the wall and let out a breath. Then I pushed my door all the way open and stood there for several seconds. “What on earth are you doing here?”
Jagger merely smiled. Oh so very Jagger-like.
I finished filling Jagger in on the details of my case, leaving out that Remy pushed me down, but leaving in how I managed to pepper-spray his butt-well, half of it anyway.
“Atta girl, Sherlock.”
As proud as the proverbial peacock, I sat on the edge of the bed and felt as if I would collapse at any moment. But I told myself that I couldn’t. This case was moving fairly quickly, and as soon as Tim brought Remy in, I’d be able to question him as to who else worked with him on the fraud.
Jagger made me rest for a while since he claimed I looked pale. I had to do some maneuvering so he never got a look at the back of my head. Thank goodness Doc didn’t have to cut any of my hair to sew me back up.
Even though I felt a bit “punk” as my grandma-Babci, we called her-would say, I wasn’t able to sleep a wink. Jagger did, however, remain by my bedside, so I felt pretty darn relaxed.
“Oh, shoot,” I mumbled as someone knocked on the door-and I heard my name screeched out.
“I forgot I was supposed to meet Goldie and Miles for lunch.”
“Suga? You in there?”
“Pauline! We are frantic. Are you all right?” Miles asked. “We hear talking. Are you…oh, God. Someone is not in there harming you!”
Bam! Bam! Bam!
I looked at Jagger. “Open the door before they hurt themselves.”
When he opened it, Goldie and Miles rushed in, grabbed both my hands then turned and shouted, “Jagger! Thank goodness it’s you. We were worried about our girl.”
Miles leaned forward. “You’re pale. What happened?” He touched my hair to push it back and must have felt the bandage beneath my locks. “Oh! Oh! What really happened?”
I rolled my eyes and figured it was a losing battle. With Miles being a nurse, Jagger a topnotch PI and, well, Goldie being darling Goldie, I never could make up a lie good enough to fool all of them.
So I spilled my guts, including how I ran into my parents and finished with, “Hey, I never had lunch. I’m starving. Oh, and Miles, please call and let them know I’m fine.”
Jagger stood up. “I’ll go get us something to eat.” He looked at Miles and Goldie. “You two stay here with her.”
Great. Now he’d frightened them with his guilt order and they’d never leave.
They nodded in unison and plopped down like obedient children, one in each white chair.
As soon as the door closed behind Jagger, I said, “You guys go. I’ll be fine.”
Miles merely looked at me.
Goldie mumbled. “Jagger said-”
I waved my hand. No use in getting them into trouble with Jagger-but I had to get out of there soon and find out if Remy had been caught. Something told me Tim would not give me a buzz and nonchalantly say they had the guy. I know his loyalty to his job had to come first.
So, how to get out of here before Jagger arrived?
Goldie sat very still, barely taking his eyes off of me. How sweet. Every once in a while I’d smile at him.
Miles, being an OR nurse and less worried, yet definitely concerned, dozed in Betty’s chair. Hmm.
I motioned with my index finger for Goldie to come near.
He looked at Miles and tiptoed over. “What is it, Suga? Need something?” he whispered.
“Actually, I do. Jagger is taking way too long. I’m dying for a Coke. I think the caffeine would be good for me right now.” Good thing Goldie wasn’t up on medical stuff. “I’m feeling a bit nauseous.”
“Shh!” I looked at Miles. “Please just go to the machines near the infirmary, out to the right, and get me a can of Coke. Would you be a dear and do that?” How I hated lying to my precious friend.
Goldie put his finger to his lips, motioned toward Miles and winked at me. “Done.”
When I heard the door click and noticed Miles hadn’t stirred, I made my move. In slow motion, which I was hoping would cause less ruffling of sheets or any other kind of noise, I got up, grabbed my shoes, and was out the door, guiding it very slowly so it wouldn’t shut with a bang.
I said a short prayer that Jagger would not take my escape out on my friends as I hurried down the hallway to the left. At the end, I leaned against the wall to put on my shoes. With one foot in the air, I bent to slip one on. The elevator door opened.
Out walked Jagger!
I flung myself around a corner as fast as I could before he saw me. Remaining like a statue, I waited. Nothing. No footsteps on the carpeted floor but also no Jagger peeking at me from around the corner. Phew. I made it.
Soon I was in the elevator, all alone, thank you very much, and on my way down to who knew where.
I had to find out more about my case, since I knew Remy was no longer on the ship. And I knew Jagger, Miles and Goldie would be out looking for me any second. Where would they go first?
The main lobby, thinking I was leaving the ship.
I looked across the room to the north elevator and…bingo! The three of them were on the elevator going down!
Quickly I swung to the side and leaned against the wall so they wouldn’t see me. Knowing Jagger, I had to be really careful, so I slunk down below the glass, nearly sitting on the floor. I couldn’t even peek out to see if they saw me. Too dangerous. So I remained there until the elevator stopped and the door opened.
“What the hell are you doing, Pauline?” Betty asked before I could jump up.
Thank goodness it was my roomie. “Oh, I fell today and felt a bit woozy.” I got up. “I’m fine now.”
“I heard about your fall.” She still gave me an odd look. “You all right?”
“Peachy,” I said and laughed. “Who told you about my…accident?”
“I stopped by the infirmary to get my jumper.” She held out her white sweater. “Rico and Peter told me. I’ll check on you throughout the night if you’d like.”
“I wouldn’t like to get woken up, but a few times may be necessary. Thanks.”
She nodded. “Where you off to?”
Yikes. I had no idea. Maybe I could feign confusion. Then again, they’d take my job away from me. “Actually, with my accident, I missed lunch. I guess I’ll go for an early meal.”
“I’ll join you. Just in case you get a bit loony.” She chuckled.
I smiled and was actually glad for the company. When we got our trays of food, Betty and I sat near the window. The place was practically empty, since it was around three and so early for dinner, but the food was warm and good. We talked about our pasts and Betty wanted to know all about what it was like to grow up in America and about my nursing jobs.
I had to pretend I still worked at St. Greg’s, the last hospital that I did management in OB/GYN. She seemed to buy it and told me about the jobs that she’d had. I really got the sense that Betty came from money.
“I love the way the British have their royal family, Betty. It’s so interesting and historical at the same time.”
She looked across the room. “My grandfather was an earl.”
Wouldn’t that mean his children would be royals also? I thought, but Betty didn’t look open to questions. How interesting. Europeans had such wonderful histories behind their lineage.
“Wow. An earl. That is neat.” We finished our meal and each had two cups of tea. Mine was decaf. Betty crinkled her nose at that and teased me that I didn’t drink real tea. I’d never spent this much time with my roommate, since our shifts often kept us apart. After she asked me a bit more about my current job, we cleaned up our trays and headed out of the place.
“Pauline, I’ve always wondered how they found you so fast to replace…Remy. How was that?” she asked as we walked toward the elevator.
Oops. First I shivered at the thought of Remy, and then I fumbled for a lie and wondered why Betty would care. How’d she come up with the question? “That’s an interesting question. I believe that my boss had connections with someone that had something to do with the ship. The Golden Dolphin line, that is.” Oh, damn. Even I wouldn’t believe that.
“Well, I’m off.” She got into the elevator and really didn’t look as if she expected me to join her.
I stood and watched the door close, then got another chill up my spine.
But this time it didn’t have to do with Remy.
I needed to find Jagger, so I made myself obvious by going out on the deck where the passengers were embarking from their tour of Bermuda. Saddened to see the island for the last time, I had to concentrate on work, and wondered if Tim would be sailing back or staying on the island to find Remy.
“You should be ashamed of yourself.”
I swung around at the sound of Jagger’s voice and smiled to myself. Did I know the guy or what? “What are you talking about?”
“Involving those two in your trick. They’re just about in pieces over your escape.”
“You didn’t holler at them or make them feel worse did you?”
He shook his head.
I’d have to call Goldie and Miles’s room and apologize. But first I had to talk to Jagger. “Come with me.”
He didn’t hesitate or ask any questions, which made me feel as if he again trusted my instincts and thought I was capable of investigating on my own. We walked up the stairs to the upper deck, where the top of the dolphin tank sat.
Jake, Johnny and Gilbert were gracefully swimming in circles. I think they all stopped and smiled at me-or my head was injured worse than I thought. I told Jagger to sit on the edge of the tank and I stood near him, looking around.
Several passengers were on the far side enjoying fancy drinks with tiny umbrellas in them and some were in the pool, splashing about. No one was close enough to hear us, so I kept looking at the dolphins and told Jagger about Betty, the monarchy, whatever I could think about Remy and my thoughts.
He told me how he’d gotten a flight to Bermuda and “poked” around there before the ship docked, but didn’t find anything of interest.
I wondered if he really flew there to “protect” me. Neat.
“I think there is some tie that we are missing. Some connection between whomever killed Jackie and whomever is involved with the medical-insurance fraud.”
My mouth dropped down to my chin.
And Jagger smiled.
It felt wonderful. While basking in my glory, I waved to Gilbert, who waved his flipper at me! “How cute!” I started to laugh and tell Jagger about my aquatic friends.
Suddenly my laughter stopped.
In the darkened corner of the deck where the bar ended stood a shadowed figure-within earshot.
The sun blinded my vision so I couldn’t see clearly enough to identify who was watching and listening to Jagger and me. If it was Remy, I was glad to have Jagger nearby and wondered if he was “packing.”
“Well, maybe we should take a walk?” I said and motioned for him to follow.
Jagger got up and leaned near me. Before I could move, his arms were around me and his lips on mine!
For a second, it didn’t matter who was lurking in the shadows, I had other things on my mind. But that crazy thought only lasted a second.
Besides, Jagger whispered in my ear, “Don’t look toward the shadow. Someone is-”
I should have been disappointed, but, well, this was Jagger. Workaholic extraordinaire. He must have seen the figure in the reflection of the window directly across from him. I had been busy looking at the dolphins, but that seemed to work out as a good cover.
Before he could finish his sentence, something flew forward and nearly missed our heads and the tank.
A fire extinguisher landed smack at our feet.
And the shadow disappeared.
“Stay here!” Jagger shouted and ran toward the other side of the deck.
I really couldn’t just stand there, so I hurried to the stairwell where Jagger had gone, clasping my necklace with one hand and grabbing the doorknob with the other.
When I stepped through the doorway, I paused. Silence. No one was running on the stairs. I cautiously made my way down and tried to see if the door to the lower deck was still closing. No such luck. Maybe Jagger was doing better than I. I wondered if Remy did come back onboard to finish some job he had started.
Who else was on his list of victims?
After several hours of searching, I went back to my cabin to see if Jagger had returned there. Betty hadn’t gotten back yet, but there was a note on my pillow-in Jagger’s handwriting.
Oh, yeah. I noticed the small things when it came to Jagger.
For a few seconds, I thought of Tim. Tim. Jagger. Tim. Jagger.
What a conundrum.
Jagger had said he would be searching in the background, as he’d put it, and that I should stay in the open. Go to the Bottlenose Lounge and stay there, since it was always crowded.
I looked down at my outfit and decided I had to change. My first thought was to put on something comfortable with good shoes for running if need be.
Then I realized Jagger was onboard and grabbed my slinky black dress and heels, telling myself if I had to save my life, I’d fling off the shoes and run like hell in my bare feet. I did, however, leave off nylons since they would be too slippery for running. Before I was done, I hooked my pink necklace back on.
Once ready, I went out the door, looked both ways-since I didn’t know if I was a target or not-and hurried to the elevator.
That same gang of giggly girls was on it and I was never so glad to see the annoying bunch. I stood silently and listened to them. One said she saw a passenger that looked like the “host” that was thrown off the ship in Miami, but the others said they saw him too and he was much better-looking.
I laughed out loud.
They all glared at me, and I said, “You had to be there,” while the door opened and I scooted out.
Jagger had been correct. The lounge was packed, and I figured everyone had their fill of Bermuda and since the ship was going to set sail very soon, they all decided to party and forget the island.
I swung around to see Hunter. Yikes. I hoped he didn’t recognize Jagger. Then I shook my head, and thank goodness my headache was gone. I was talking Jagger here. The guru of disguise wouldn’t let anyone recognize him if he didn’t want them to.
Hunter insisted I have a drink with him since it’d been some time since we’d seen each other. I wanted to say it was no great loss, but had to keep my mouth shut or risk blowing my cover.
Edie poured me a nice cold draft beer while Hunter had his usual Scotch. I leaned over to Edie and said, “I’m on the wagon tonight. Coke will do.”
Like a perfect bartender, she didn’t question me, but Hunter looked surprised.
“Migraine earlier. Too much pain med to mix with alcohol.”
It looked as if he bought that, but before I knew it, he had yanked me up and we were headed to the dance floor.
Music blared way too loudly for my head injury, but I sucked it up and moved farther away from Hunter. He kept trying to pull me closer. The dance floor became so crowded, we could barely move. Starting to feel claustrophobic, I said to Hunter, “My migraine seems to be coming back. I’ll have to sit this one out.”
I think he groaned in annoyance, but wasn’t sure over the blaring music, the yelling and laughter, and flickering strobe lights.
At this rate I might suffer a seizure.
When I got to a “clearing,” I looked up-and saw Tim standing in the doorway.
Remy must be back onboard!
I had to make my way over to him without being obvious and causing a scene with Hunter. All of a sudden, someone screamed.
I turned around and looked to where a woman in a skimpy silver dress pointed.
Jagger, eyes closed, was sinking lower and lower into the dolphin tank-with a stream of scarlet floating from behind his head.