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Eight

Topaz busied herself with the forms while the girl whod passed out was given an IV for a few hours. It seemed as if there were hundreds of pages the poor sister had to sign. Occasionally Id hear Topaz explain, very briefly and in a hurried voice, that this form was for the insurance company and this one was so they wouldnt sue. She said the patient had to sign that one.

Sounded as if the forms for the insurance could be signed by the sister, but not the ones about suing.

Id been in the medical field for many years and never had to ask someone to sign something so they wouldnt sue. Patient care came first. The lawsuit stuff was left up to the hospital attorneys. I always gave my best when it came to care, so I really didnt worry.

The sister begrudgingly signed so many forms she finally said, I dont give a damn what they are for, wrote away and insisted she be let in to sit with her sister, whose color was now returning to her face.

I heard Rico say something about not eating all day and the sun. I concluded that a bit of alcohol had added to the problem. Guess she wanted her bikini to fit, hed said then laughed.

While Topaz had her head down, reading, I winked at Rico, who grinned back, and then walked to the back of the next room and to the desk near the crews files. It was the same place Jagger and I had been before. Since Rico didnt come by to throw me out, I parked myself in the chair. Suddenly, I remembered the file cabinet was locked. Jagger had magically produced the key, so I sat there trying to think like Jagger.

Ha!

Okay, thinking like Jagger proved to be a monumental task, so I tried to think like an investigator. Where would the staff keep the keys? They wouldnt want to take too long to find a chart of a staff member who was injured, so

I started opening desk drawers. I searched the desktop. Normal stuff like pens, paper, notepads and a stapler. Then I leaned back and looked up. I spied a hook beneath the desktop.

Bingo, I whispered.

In moments, I had opened the file cabinet and started to look through the crews files. Only a few names were familiar, so I began with them. Betty, of course, was the perfect example of good health, right down to all updated inoculations. However, there was a note about losing a few pounds. Yikes. I wasnt going to pass that information along to her.

I read through the captains file, and then Hunters, which had me blushing a few times when it came to the more personal health issues. Thank goodness he had no problems or communicable diseases. I tucked all the information into the part of my brain labeled hunks-it was already nearly full, and had been from the first time Id met Jagger.

I looked much more closely through quiet and gentlemanly Claude Bernards file. I had liked him from the first time Id met him. I figured since hed only been dating Jackie a few weeks, he might not know much about her death. Since he was still on the job, I supposed Claude must have had a very tight alibi. Thats right: He really had been working at the time Jackie would have been killed.

At first Id wondered if he might have killed her because he was jealous of Remy. Maybe hed killed Remy too? It would makes sense that a jealous lover would do something like that if he were crazy.

Claude didnt seem crazy.

According to his chart, Claude was in darn good shape: perfect blood pressure, perfect cholesterol levels, and textbook lab results for all his other blood work. The guy had to work out, to look so good and be in such good physical health. I read through the rest of the pages, noting he was allergic to shellfish. Poor guy couldnt enjoy some of the extravagant buffets around here.

Topaz yelled something.

I looked up to see Rico hurrying to help with another patient, who was holding his arm. A possible fracture. Peter was examining him, so I returned to my snooping. Thank goodness I had the time to orient myself to this place.

On the inside cover of Claudes chart, I noticed a scribble in longhand. Tricheur. The handwriting looked distinctly female. Maybe Bettys, but shed write in English. Then again, she could know several languages. Id have to find that out. Maybe Claude was involved in the fraud scam too. Damn, there were so many suspects on a cruise ship. Folks came and went way too frequently.

I jotted down tricheur on my notepad to find out the meaning. Id had Spanish in high school and didnt think the world looked Spanish. Hmm. MaybeFrench.

Probably Jackie had written it.


After sticking Claudes chart back and thumbing through a few more, I leaned back, bored. Id been there for over two hours, and Topaz hadnt come to throw me out yet. Wow. The exam room was empty. Guess the arm wasnt broken after all. Good. I didnt hear any arguments, so maybe the price seemed right for that guy-or he had no clue as to standard charges for the medical care hed received.

I was going with that.

I leaned farther back and shoved my arms behind my head, shutting my eyes for a few seconds. If Hunter did call me, Id be too damn tired to go out tonight.

I was getting old. Thirty-five on my last birthday. Yikes.

My eyes flew open. I couldnt go down that age-road right now, so I sat forward and, in the process, knocked the desk with my knee. Ouch! I bit back any more words as best I could while the side panel of the desk popped open a bit. Great. Now theyd deduct the cost of repairs from my salary. As I tried to shove it back into place, I told myself it didnt matter, since Fabio would owe me big time when I solved this case. Something kept the panel from catching. I stuck my fingers in the space and touched something. When I wiggled them, it fell out.

A manila folder.

Just like all the other crews files. Oh well, I thought, it must have fallen through by mistake. I picked it up to stick it in the file cabinet-then I saw the name on top.

Remy Girard.

OhmyGod.

Within seconds, I had the file stuffed inside my shirt. I wiggled and jiggled until I was certain no one would notice. I stuck the key back on the hook, stood, made sure I looked normal and started to walk out. Topaz had her head in a magazine-thank goodness. I wasnt about to bother her. Rico sat at the reception area, typing something on a computer keyboard. He looked up.

My mouth went dry. I forced a smile accompanied by as friendly a wink as I could manage and hightailed it out of the reception area before anyone could say boo.

I was scared enough!

On the short distance to my cabin, I prayed to Saint Theresa that Betty would be out somewhere, and I added that I really wasnt stealing the chart. I had the full intention of returning it very soon, so any punishment for my sin should be put on hold to give me a chance.

What I would have loved to find out was, did it fall into the space between the panel and the desktop, or had someone hidden it there?

Maybe the contents of the file would answer that question.


Afternoon, Pauline, Bettys cheerful voice said as I stumbled into the room. Everything all right? She chuckled. Looks as if someone is chasing you!

Damn. Oh, hey. The folder poked into my chest, but I managed a laugh. Probably a slew of good-looking single guys.

Right-oh, she said.

Thank goodness Betty looked dressed to go out. She was off duty now, and I hoped and prayed she had a date or a meeting or something outside this damn tiny cabin. I couldnt even go into the loo to hide, since Id surely have an attack of claustrophobia in the tiny space.

I sat on my bed and leaned forward, despite cardboard sticking into my skin, so that the chart wouldnt show. Hunter told me all about those cute little dolphins.

Betty gave me an odd look. Well, her look wasnt really odd, more like she thought I was. And why shouldnt she? I was being weird, but better to look weird than guilty.

Yes, they are darling fellows. They bathe so gracefully, she said.

I pictured the buffeo dolphin with little sponges and soap on a rope around what should be their necks, but then realized Betty meant swim. They swam gracefully. Jackie would have scoffed at her British expressions.

Jackie. I shut my eyes and said a quick prayer for her. The way shed treated Betty made me guess that Jackie didnt make friends very easily, and more than likely made enemies in seconds with a lash of her oh-so-very-glamorous accent.

I noticed Betty looking at me as if waiting for me to say something. Oh, yeah. They are cuties, but that tank is so deep. Great. I sounded like a fool.

Betty must have agreed. She went to her closet and said, Im off for the afternoon. Some of the rooms can get so cold I need my jumper.

Jumper? Now I pictured Betty in a navy pinafore-type jumper, looking very schoolgirlish. She pulled a navy sweater from a hanger. Well, at least I had the color correct.

As soon as she closed the closet, I hurried to the bathroom and only partially closed the door because of my small-space anxiety. Didnt want to get caught if she came back. At least I could take the folder out without a problem. Id bent it in half when I leaned forward, but I couldnt worry about that; since the contents were more important.

I listened for any noise and then went out. Betty must have gone off to wherever. There certainly were plenty of places onboard to spend your time off. I tucked my shirt back in and sat on the edge of my bed. Pulling the pillow close, I got ready to shove the file underneath if Betty came back suddenly.

Knock. Knock.

Damn! I shoved the file under the pillow. Wait a minute. Betty wouldnt knock. I stood up, made sure the file was covered and looked out the peephole. It was Jagger.

I opened the door yanked him in and said, Geez. What timing.

He gave me an odd look.

Sit down and look. I pulled the manila folder out from under the pillow and told him how Id found it. So, what do you think?

He stared at it for a few seconds. I wont know until we see what is inside.

My heart sank. I wanted praise for finding it! Then again, this was a job and I worked for pay, not Jaggers compliments. Still, they didnt hurt.

I opened the folder, feeling a bit as if I were violating Remys privacy. Maybe because it wasnt for a medical reason-other than finding something out about my fraud case or why he went missing.

Jagger leaned forward. Damn. I had to take a deep breath and tell myself that Jagger pheromones did nothing to me. Ha! I swallowed, blew out a breath and looked at the folder.

Hmm, I said after reading for a few minutes.

Hmm what? Jagger took out his standard toothpick, unwrapped it then stuck it into his mouth. He didnt smoke, that I knew of, but used the toothpick to help him think-I assumed. He certainly didnt seem like someone who would have a nervous habit.

Well, sounds as if Remy might not have been too healthy.

Oh? Jagger tilted the folder so he could see it. Blood pressure elevated. Hurt his ankle, bent his arm, cut his finger-all in a months time. Maybe the guy was just accident prone.

I looked up. You think so?

Do you?

You sound like a psychiatrist, parroting everything your patient says. I chuckled.

Jagger leaned closer. Well?

Wellwell, what?

Are you cured?

Not from pheromone overdose.

Before I could ease away, Jagger moved forward even more. Soon his face was right next to mine and his lipsyep, were aiming for mine.

Emotionally and physically I wanted him to proceed. But my logical mind interfered, so I leaned back and said, You think you canyou know-

Kiss you, he breathed.

OhmyGod.

Yeah. Yes. Randomly kiss me then go back to work as usual. Calling me Sherlock and pretending it never happened?

For the first time since meeting Jagger, he actually looked confused, and he even had me wondering what the hell I was doing.

Sorry, he said.

Oh, damn. Now what could I say so I wouldnt sound like a fool? More of a fool, that is. Erwe really should get this file back soon. And Betty may just pop back in any second.

File? What file? I thought. What is a file? We shouldnt be talking file.

Jagger looked at the folder on my lap. Yeah.

If I could have fit through the porthole, Id have been shark bait right then. No, being shark food would be too good of a way for me to die. I had wanted to kiss him, but something inside me said it wasnt right. Kissing could lead tothings. Things that would change our relationship forever. I mentally shook my head and said, Let me see what kinds of workups and treatments Remy received.

Jagger pushed the folder toward me, brushing my knee, which I chose to ignore, and said, Have at it, Sherlock.

I thumbed through the pages for several minutes. Hmm. Oh. I turned the pages to see Remy had received four X-rays in the month of February. Yikes. Wow. I noted that hed been seen several more times and all kinds of blood work was done-all coming back normal.

Yet all being charged to the insurance company.

My, my.

Jagger yanked the file from my lap.

What? What is wrong? I said, startled.

Yikes? Wow? My, my? What the hell are you reading to cause such orgasmic sounds?

My mouth turned to Jell-O. No way could I respond to that question coming from Jagger.

Well? Could he have been scamming the insurance company?

I managed a nod.

Perfect. All we have to do now is find out who he worked with-

Andand where he is, I squeaked out.

Now I knew why office romances are frowned upon.

Good thing Id held my ground.


We went to the same caf'e-style restaurant wed eaten in earlier, and Jagger went to the counter to order. I sat myself down in a booth in the back. Several female singles had accosted us on the elevator, in the lobby and along the hallway. Host Jay seemed to be very popular.

I smiled to myself with pride, thinking of how Id managed to get past Topaz to return Remys file to its hiding place. Jagger had said hed take care of reporting everything to the authorities (and made sure to take pictures of the file with his photo glasses). It was best to return it. I didnt even ask what authorities he meant or what hed tell them about how Id found the file.

I trusted Jagger with my life. I could trust him with a lie about me too.

I sat there watching the passengers come and go, getting latt'es, herbal teas and bagels or muffins. Suddenly I realized I was hungry and wondered if Hunter had called me and left a message about dinner plans. I looked at my watch. Another hour to go before the crews dining room opened.

Thought you might want this.

Jagger set a hot tea down in front of me followed by a dish with half a bagel on it. Toasted. Cream cheese-and no lox.

His had the lox. I was embarrassed that hed noticed how Id hid them that morning, but what a guy.

Thanks. Im really not a fish person. I only like Boston scrod. White. Flaky. Not fishy-tasting. Plenty of bread crumbs and butter. I took a sip of tea and noticed Jagger shaking his head at me. That was his sign of exasperation. If he shook twice, I was in trouble.

No need to go trawling for an excuse, Sherlock. You dont like lox. Fine. Next time tell me.

My face burned hotter than my tea.

Trawling. As in fishing. Oh, I get it. Cute, I lied, and stuffed the bagel into my mouth.

Okay, so far we have Remy disappearing and now a connection to the fraud. What next?

I choked on my bagel.

Jagger jumped up and slammed me a good one on the back. You all right?

I nodded.

Can you say something, to be sure? I could see he was actually worried.

Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country. Hows that? My voice came out a bit scratchy, but that was because there had been a gigantic piece of bagel stuck in my throat. Im fine.

He nodded, took a sip of his black coffee and bit down on his bagel.

Then he shook his head again, but this time in a good way.


Seven | Deep Sea Dead | c