Stand by bar, hat at rakish angle. Check.
Undress a hundred women with my bedroom eyes. Check.
Watch the subject like a hawk. Ummm…check.
Follow the subject into the night. Check? Check?
I don’t remember anything after walking through the doorway – just this enormous explosion of light in my head. Did I walk into a door…again? Did an astroidette come down from outer space and smack me? Was it one of those damn undead bloodsucking orchids? I thought they were an urban myth.
Something cool is pressed to my forehead. It feels good and it seems to draw the pain out of my head. I try to open my eyes, but they won’t cooperate, so the end result is me wiggling my eyebrows like Groucho Marx.
“Are you awake then?” It is a businesslike female voice.
“Unnnngh,” I respond. It’s the best I can do. My words get lost somewhere inside the fog in my brain.
“You took a nasty blow to the head,” says the voice. Is it English? Irish? I did very poorly at accent identification at the Ray Hunker Correspondence School of Detection, incorrectly identifying a female German prison guard as a rich Italian heiress.
I try to open my eyes, but wind up only wiggling my eyebrows. Again.
“That looks ridiculous,” she says.
“Unnnngh,” I say again.
“You just watch your tongue, mister Diamond.”
I feel fingers picking at my eyes and my instinct is to bat them away. But my hands still haven’t quite caught up with my brain and they simply flap around like birds on a strange street drug.
She, for I am now reasonably certain it is a she, slaps my hands away and pries my eyelids open. Something crusty that you don’t need to know anything more about, falls to the ground and I am looking into soft green eyes, framed in a purely female face direct from some heavenly cloud. My heart does a happy double beat.
“We may not have much time,” she says. “You are on board the Grand Princess cruise liner.”
“Unnnngh?” I ask.
“Oh. Good question. I brought you here. As for as anyone else is concerned, we are lovers, sharing stateroom C327. Stop leering like that. It’s disgusting.”
“Unnnngh?” I ask
“Me? I am Jennifer Jonas. Your…client hired me to follow you in case something like this happened. I told them you have a sleeping disorder – that you can conk at any second. Now that I think of it, you’ll have to remember to do drop to the ground in a dead sleep at least once or twice…preferably in the buffet line or a crowded theater.”
“No. I didn’t see who hit you. When I came upon, you were already down, lying in a pool of your own vomit.”
“Oh for heaven’s sake. It’s just an expression. ‘Came upon’ simply means ‘saw.’”
“I am a private dick. Like you. Only much better.”
“I worked in a dentist office for three years. I understand you perfectly. Now go to sleep. You’ve had a concussion. Rest.”
There’s a matter of fact nurse vibe happening here that I am finding very sort of…never mind. I close my eyes and drift off.
The next morning my girlfriend and I (a thing which excites me tremendously because I have never had an actual girlfriend, although I once held hands with Nancy Antel in a darkened theater for three full minutes because she thought I was someone else) go up to the Horizon buffet for breakfast because our subject does.
We watch him and he has no idea. We’re pros. We are the wind. Breaking.
We are sitting beside another couple. They have the cabin next to ours. He is a dazzlingly handsome man who is looking with patient tired eyes at a drop dead gorgeous woman. Her attention is fixed on a laptop screen.
“It’s still fifty freaking cents a minute,” he says.
“I know,” she responds. “But this is flickr.”
The man spreads his hands wide in a “so what” gesture.
Interested as I am in this discussion, I have to leave. Our subject moves outside to the deck chairs.
I nod once to Jennifer and follow him, taking the chair just a few down from him. I make a show of stretching and laying my towel out…looking around me as I slip off my shirt and suck in my stomach. Once seated, I nonchalantly snap a shot of my feet with my camera – so I look like any other tourist. It’s touches like that that make me a pro.
I have no idea that in five minutes, someone is going to die.