Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Danger is Not My Middle Name #13

The six days at sea between Bermuda and Glasgow passed uneventfully. I learned three things. First: never EVER adjust the water temperature while you are still in the shower. Second: when on a cruise eat ONLY cooked or frozen foods. (These treatments kill all the calories.) Third: we are not alone. There have been three murders as we cross the Atlantic.

In all three cases, the corpses weren’t discovered for at least two days, since most old people look corpse-like when they are sleeping and there are a LOT of old people on this ship.

The medical officer, a man with suspiciously large ears, believes they all died of natural causes. I was half-hoping for a burial at sea in shark infested waters – but apparently they send the bodies home.

I drifted by the medical office on the fourth floor and casually brought up the topic of the deaths.

“Why do you want to know?” he asked coldly.

I laughed in my most disarming manner. “Curious. Call it curious.”

“None of your business,” he said finally.

“Okay,” I said. I was thinking with lightning speed now. “I am a travel writer. Yeah. That’s it. I’m a travel writer. I am working on a series about why people should avoid cruising because contagious diseases can spread like wildfire, killing all the old people first. I’m calling the series ‘Death Ships of the Princess Fleet.’”

Have you ever seen ALL the color fade from someone’s face? It goes from a healthy pink to a pasty looking white. So when I say that the ‘doctor visibly blanched’ you know what I mean.

He looked at me for a moment and I tried to keep my eyes off those enormous ears. Since he is probably sensitive about it, I avoided all discussions having to do with Dumbo or Prince Charles. That’s why I’m a pro.

Finally he shrugged. “Well, I suppose there’s no reason for you not to know. Their hearts all stopped. But they were old and that is to be expected. Why aren’t you writing this down?”

I tapped at my temple. “I memorize everything as soon as I hear it. It’s a gift. Were there any marks on the bodies?”

“They were old. There were lots of marks.”

“Any…ummm…marks like the ones on that guy who died in the deck chair a while ago?”

The doctor looked away and got intensely interested in a file on his desk.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about Mr….?”

“Smith,” I said. “I am John Smith. Travel writer.”

“Your cruise card says you are “Sam D. Diamond.”

“Pen name,” I responded with a sly wink.

He paused a moment longer, as though deciding whether or not to make a big deal out of this. In the end he just shrugged again.

“If there’s nothing else, Mr. Diamond, I have a lot of paperwork to do.”

“It’s Smith.”

“Of course it is.”

“So no marks?” I said. I was a terrier. A BULL terrier, never letting go.

“Nope. No marks.”

I tipped the brim of an imaginary hat to him. The door slammed almost instantly behind me.

We arrived in Scotland on a foggy morning. I’d taken an internet plan out that had cost me HUGE dollars…sixty cents a MINUTE! Who in their right mind would blow that kind of cash on the Internet? You’d have to be cracked or loaded to spend that kind of dough.

But I used my time at thirty seconds per session, to research the location of the chapel at Glasgow University. I had a vague idea of where I was going.

I was among the first to get off the ship, having used my elbows on several old people in walkers.

I stepped off the ship and saw a terrier thin man in a badly wrinkled suit standing before a tiny car with the words McGee Realty stenciled on the window. He held a clipboard with the name “DIAMOND” scrawled on it. He was looking hopefully at each person with a slight head bob and waggling eyebrows as he asked his silent question.

“I’m Diamond,” I said.

He looked me up and down, moustache twitching like a whiskered rodent.


I held up my cruise card, which he scrutinized.

“We’ve been expecting you, Mr. Diamond. I understand you need to see some angels?”

“Who are ‘we?’”

He smiled, showing really bad teeth. “All in good time, Sir. Step into the car, if you please.”

I needed to fold myself into it, since it looked like one of those cars at the circus that six hundred clowns get out of. But in a few minutes we were off to Glasgow University to meet an angel.

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