Cruising for murder
With a cocktail in one hand and a trashy novel in the other, Detective Sergeant Abby Sweet sank into the sun lounger on the private balcony of her cabin.
Seagulls squawked overhead, waves lapped gently against the side of the boat and the sun was beginning its descent.
Abby was on board the luxurious Mystery of the Seas cruise liner for a week-long voyage. A break from police work was just what she needed.
Just then she heard a commotion coming from the upper deck, directly above her.
“Get your hands off me!” a man’s voice said, gruffly. “I don’t owe you anything!”
There was click-clack sound on the floor up above, a strange jangling, then heavy breathing.
“No!” the man’s voice cried again.
Abby leapt up from her sun lounger just in time to see the body plummet past her balcony, plunging into the depths of the ocean below.
The almighty splash was followed by screams and gasps. “Man overboard!” someone yelled, as a life raft was thrown into the water.
Abby immediately left her cabin and raced up the stairs to the upper deck, finding the spot above her balcony – the cruise ship bar.
Presently, sunset cocktails were being served on the sundeck, which was on the other end of the boat, so there were only three people in the bar itself – all staff members who Abby had come to know.
Candy Kelly, the cocktail waitress who’d mixed Abby’s drink earlier, Vincent Low, the brooding bar manager, and Rita Von Chic, the middle-aged cabaret singer in her red sequinned dress and stiletto heels.
“What happened?” Abby demanded of the trio. “Who was that man?”
“That was Charlie Chung, the cruise ship director,” Candy choked.
Just then, the deckhand entered the bar.
“He’s dead,” he announced solemnly, before retreating. All three faces looked stricken.
“Charlie didn’t jump or fall – he was pushed,” Abby said.
She pulled her police ID from her pocket and showed it to them. “I’d like to talk to all three of you.”
“I thought you were an office manager!” Vincent gasped.
“I’m on holidays,” Abby shrugged. “At least, I was.”
No rest for the wicked, she thought.
First she turned to Candy, dressed in her uniform black shorts and a white polo emblazoned with the cruise ship logo. She was staring down at her sneakers.“Talk me through your movements,” Abby asked.
“After I served your cocktail, I went on my break,” she sniffed. “When I came back the place was pretty much empty because everyone’s on the sundeck.”
“Where was Charlie?” Abby asked.
“Talking to Rita over by the piano,” she said.
“He usually comes by Friday evenings to give us the next week’s roster – he had a special assignment for me this week. I waved hello then went out the back to get some ice. Not long after I heard the splash.”
Next Abby chatted with Rita, who’d sat down at the piano and was absent-mindedly tinkling the keys, her heavy gold bracelets glinting in the light from the chandelier overhead.
“I’ll miss him,” she said, tears running down her cheeks. “We’d worked together for almost a decade. I was just a warm up act when we met but Charlie made me a star.”
“Talk me through your movements,” Abby said.
“I was here getting ready for my show,” she said. “Charlie came to talk to me about my schedule. He’d given me a few days off next week, bless him.”
“Did you see him go overboard?” Abby asked.
“No, I’d popped over to get some sheet music from of my bag, which is just behind the bar there,” she said. “I heard him yell, looked up and he was gone.”
Abby went over to Vincent, who was dressed in the same standard uniform as Candy.
“I hated Charlie,” he said. “No point denying it. The hours he made us bar staff work were ridiculous. We never get days off. But I’m sorry he’s dead.”
“When did you last see him?” Abby asked.
“When he first came up here with the roster,” he said. “I told him my schedule was laughable and went out on the deck for a cigarette. Later, I heard yelling, then a splash.”
Abby nodded. She’d heard enough. If she made the arrest fast enough, she might have time to finish her cocktail while it was still cold.
Who killed Charlie?