Story 103 Oct25


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Story 103


After rewriting Story101 into Story102, I wondered what it would be like to get back on that same Cruise ship, STORMY KNIGHT, and look at those same characters from a different point of view.  So this might well be called, Here We Go Again.

Haven’t you ever wondered what would have happened if only you had done one thing differently? Turned right instead of left at particularly confusing split in the road?  Hindsight says if you change one thing, you change everything.  Is that really true?  Let’s try it and see.

STORY 103 

Chapter One

The boy stood at the dock and looked wearily from the little boat with the name on the side freshly painted to read CAMP HOPEFUL and then to the big one just beyond that was so large that it didn’t half fit the dock.  It had the challenging name of STORMY KNIGHT.

Now that name rang a bell with Wes.  It sounded like the story of his life.  He got out of the line of boys, all about his same age of 17, and walked across to watch who boarded the other boat which was really a Ship, as he wondered… what kind of people were getting onto that one?

The Captain stood at the top of the ramp and greeted each person as they arrived.  He looked like a movie star Captain all dressed in white with gold on everything gleaming in the morning sunlight.  To Wes he looked proud and pompous,  like the Principal at his boring High School.

He looked back at the line of boys still kicking each other and impatiently smoking their last cigarettes before they were led onto the Boat and delivered safely to Camp Hopeful, where smoking would be forbidden, along with everything else he enjoyed in life, like cute fun girls and beer.

His parents had wasted their savings to buy him a place at that Camp rather than allow him to be sent to jail, just because he was caught borrowing, okay swiping, some money from the stupid boss at the Jack in the Box, where he worked on weekends, until he was caught.

That Camp Hopeful was supposed to help him get straightened out… whatever that  meant. In another year he would be 18 and off as an adult doing whatever he pleased, with no one telling him what he could and could not do.  He was straight enough for himself and left to be his own boss, he would be just fine.

A limousine was arriving at the Ship dock and Wes could see himself getting out of it and boarding the STORMY KNIGHT  for a jolly cruise.

Two oldish ladies got out of this one followed by a man who was at least 70.  He had white hair and was dressed in a classy suit that must have cost a petty penny.  He gave each woman an envelope which they opened and seemed to count the contents before they simply walked away from him, toward the lamp post, where they stopped to talk.

“Well, here we go again off to see the world.  Free food, free entertainment and a free life of leisure.”

“And getting paid to do it too.”  The other lady added. “I wish we could go First Class, though, I think they get better food. “

“They say it is all the same.  We just have further to go to get to it and maybe the best stuff is gone by the time we get up there.”  Then they spotted Wes.  The taller blondish lady looked pleased to see him.

“Are you going on this Cruise?”  She asked.

“I wish I could, but no I have to go on that one.”  He halfheartedly pointed to the boat behind him.  The ladies whispered to each other for a minute, then they came closer.

“If you could carry our luggage up and all the way down, by elevator of course, to the sixth level, we could help you hide out and stay on until they are out at sea.  Then if you are clever you can pretend to be a worker and just get lost in the crowd.”

Then the short dark haired lady added, “‘ Course you have to be able to find yourself a good hiding place to sleep.  We’ve seen kids like you sleeping in the Life Boats.  We can help you with a blanket and a pillow.  Anything else you can just help yourself to from the supply rooms.”

“You mean be a Stowaway?”  He asked and made the lady laugh.

“Is that what they are called?  Well maybe you had better not.  We wouldn’t want to get you into trouble.  All we can do is pay you to do little errands for us now and then, like  for instance, carrying our suit cases for us.”

They each opened their envelopes and showed him a twenty dollar bill.

Wes reached out to take them, but they were pulled back as the tall lady pointed at the two suit cases.

“These have to be toted to our room first.”  Wes looked back at the line of guys boarding the Camp Hopeful boat.  It was moving fast now.  He would need to run to catch the end.  Torn between the two choices, he just stood there staring at the Camp boat.  He looked back at the ladies with the envelopes full of money, and then at the line of well dressed men and women, some holding the hands of children, passing the Snooty Captain as he sometime saluted and sometimes shook hands with the arriving passengers.

Which should he choose?

The Camp Hopeful line was gone now.  If he ran maybe he could get on before the gangplank went up.  He watched it begin to leave.  Once the Camp Hopeful was gaining speed on its way, he turned and picked up the suit cases, one in each hand, and smiled at the ladies.

“Let’s go.”  He thought, this is going to be just like suddenly being 18, on my own and making my own decisions.

He decided that as soon as he could he would phone home and explain that he had missed the Camp Hopeful Boat, so had taken the Stormy Knight Ship instead.  He didn’t know when it was due to return.  But he would tell them next time he could phone.

He was looking at the floor when the Captain greeted the Ladies like they were old friends.  One of them even had the nerve to hug the man. Wes began to think this was going to work after all.  No one ever even looked at him.  And these two women were nothing special to look at, like the red headed lady who came on after them.  He took a peek at her as she shook hands and smiled sweetly at the Captain as he took her hand. Now that lady was something to look at!  Wes could barely hear the Captain say something about her being a First Time Passenger.  Wes slowed to listen.

“So you are alone.” the Captain said politely, “And this is your First Time on a Cruise.  We shall certainly, do our best to see that it is enjoyable.”   She had no luggage and the boy wondered why.  But then he noticed that few people had any and those that did have porters like him carrying it.  Toward the back of the huge Ship he saw another ramp with workers being very busy quickly taking on crates and boxes along with suit cases and trunks.  So that was it.

As they paused to wait for an empty elevator, he asked.

“Why didn’t you let your luggage go in from the back?”

“That is just a special service for First Class or if you pay a fee.”

“You are paying me aren’t you?”  He suddenly wondered.

“Oh yes, like we said, we will give you a twenty every time you do a service for us, a twenty for bringing our cases to our room and another when we tell you what we want you to do next.  Did you happen to notice that Red haired lady behind us?”

Boy did he!  But he answered, “Sort of yes.”

“  Okay, first we’ll hand you a blanket and you find a place to hide. Then, as soon as you get settled, no hurry, but when you can,  find out that lady’s name and room number and anything else interesting about her and report it to us… and presto another twenty.”  She smiled and began to walk.

That sounded easy and between times he could prowl around and get to understand this huge Ship, the snooty Captain and maybe some of the guys close to his own age.




Artist, Nancy Carroll didn’t even need a hat today though she had dressed a bit too warm in black slacks and a matching sweater for that early morning start standing out on the almost windless deck of the ship and let what was beyond the rails command her to use the brush to bring the paint to meet the water on the paper and watch it reflect what she saw.

She didn’t need to try to paint the misty air.  It would appear like magic when the colors she blended presented the completed Ocean scene.

Everyone who saw it framed and hanging would almost shiver with the cool water that seemed to spray up to surround the viewer.

In fact when it did come to the sun, her views of it were best when presented just as the yellow gold light was arriving early in the morning from behind a shadowy mountain, or leaving us after the day ends as an intense deep red glowing color behind another already dark mountain.

The Captain of the Cruise Ship, Peer Alden Swan, son of a line of Ship’s Captains, whose job, beyond that of making sure his Ship went to and returned from where he wanted it to, also tried to see that all passengers were enjoying the Cruise they had chosen and paid big bucks to take.

He especially liked to make the acquaintance of good looking ladies, like this new passenger who came so often to paint at the top rails near his Bridge. She seemed to always be alone. It would not do for them to return to the Home Dock and tell others that it was a fun trip but rather lonely.    But Captain Swan was finding it difficult to be friendly with this single red haired lady.  He sent invitations for her to dine at his table, but so far she had never even attended a meal in the main dining room.  He inquired if she had food delivered to her suite, but she did not.  When did she eat? All that was left were the small Coffee Shops. He forgot about other peoples rooms.

However he didn’t get the time it would take to give her his attention. As usually happens, he was soon caught up in a swirl of women of all ages who sought his attention, because he was not only the Captain, but he was a very good looking Captain.

The red headed Lady behind the camera and the easel was not one of those either.

This Cruise would take the Ship from its base in San Diego, out into the vast Pacific Ocean and go from one Hawaiian Island town to another with brief stops in Kauai, Oahu and Maui before heading back home by following the Equator East to those famous, mostly uninhabited, Islands of the Galapagos known as the Archipelago de Colon, property of Equator.  From there they would turn north, hugging the Coast, to Mexico’s cities of Acapulco and Mazatlan before returning to San Diego.

The way she was working, Nancy would probably have about a million photographs and if the paint and paper held out a million paintings to show for the round trip.

That did not look like an interesting trip to Captain Swan, whose cabins and suites were filled with partying passengers.  So in case it was his duty to give this lady more fun than she seemed to want, he kept an eye out for her.

Nancy did not seem to notice, but the time was coming when she would welcome his attention.

The very experienced Captain knew better than anyone that the Ocean was full of surprises and not all of them good… not even most of them.  He spent a lot of time going over the weather charts as they are constantly changing.  It was almost useless to print them out as the computer presented them for the ships at sea to keep updated, because the weather could change them in a  wink.

A very good book about Extreme Waves by Craig Smith talks about the large number of those ships that are out there constantly carrying passengers or freight over all bodies of Earth’s waters, which then disappear completely for unknown reasons.  Many reasons are this side of being understood, but are still unpredictable.  There are no clues to add to the weather report for something as unbelievable as say a Rogue Wave.

Everyone knows the Weather is important.  And one minute the Captain may change course to avoid bad weather, only to find that the weather had also changed course to meet him where he went.  It happens to them all at one time or another as documented in this book about Extreme Waves.

Even worse, are those merging storms that can trap a ship between two sets  of raging waters and winds, as they slam together to beat the ship to pieces.

That giant Rogue Wave, of fiction used to be looked upon as a Tall Tale. But now enough survivors have come back with matching stories that they have begun to be taken seriously.  Some photographs are in that same book.

The problem was even the largest ships, oil tankers and cargo carriers went under never to be seen again, without any time to so much as send an SOS.  The ones that limped to a Port with a half missing bridge or the entire cargo swept clean from the once loaded flat deck, reporting a single wave from fifty to a hundred feet high coming up without warning and crashing tons… yes tons, of green water down on them, ripping hatches open to fill the hull with more weight than any boat can stay afloat under.  Many times every year hundreds of crews and passengers disappeared without a sign of where or when it happened.  The Rogue Wave has that name for a reason.

They have yet to explain exactly what causes them.  If they could they would be in the Craig B Smith book.

In one reported story a single survivor found floating on a hatch door alive from a ship that had gone down under such a wave with several hundred passengers, carried the memory with him, when a couple of years later he found himself the victim of another rogue,  Leaving one to wonder where he found the nerve to ever go to sea again.

However the ship and most of the passengers were lucky that he was there.  When the Rogue Wave came crashing down unexpectedly while he was below, he realized what had happened and organized the others to quickly begin to replace the broken hatches with anything that would hold back the rushing water. The others, not even aware of the happening, followed his orders and helped as fast as they could.

He decided to go above and quickly inform the Captain what they were doing down below, and when he reached the top, he discovered that the entire Bridge, Captain and crew had been blown overboard.  There was no one and nothing left on the top.

He returned and reported that to the men and passengers working to save the ship, He took charge and thanks to his knowledge, the ship and hundreds of passengers limped to a Port alive.  The report didn’t say, but I can imagine that he might have become a land lover after that second Rogue Wave.  They are, after all, considered very rare… so two?

When he is not looking after the passengers, he pours over the weather again and again, just as a good well trained Captain should.

In a spare moment, Captain Swan stopped and stood behind the pretty painter at the West rail for several seconds watching the plain white paper change into one of his most familiar sights.

Actually he thought he would like to have that one to hang in his cabin to look at when the angry sea was challenging him and his ship, with howling winds and waves, tossing them about like a toy boat.

“Where do I go to buy something like that painting?”  He asked quietly.

But deep in the process of blending colors for creating this painting, the sound of a voice behind her was startling and Nancy jumped, pushing the brush across the sky and somehow creating a storm cloud above the peaceful sea.

Nancy turned toward the voice and let out a relieved laugh.

“Oh good morning, Captain.”  She said still smiling. “I guess I get lost in what I am doing and begin to feel that I am the only person aboard this Ship.  I do need to be brought back to reality now and then.”

“But look what I have done.”  He said, looking distressed at the cloud.  “I made you put a storm cloud above the most peaceful ocean I can remember.”  Nancy looked back at the easel surprised.

“Will you look at that?  That sky needed that subtle reminder that peace can be broken.  So I thank you.”  She took a tiny brush and signed the corner with a date, then walked across to an empty deck chair and sat looking at it from a distance.

Captain Swan took the next chair and he too looked at the painting.  Finally he spoke again, this time without causing the painter to jump in surprise.

“I came by to invite you to dinner later tonight, but if you are hungry now I can take time for…”  He looked at his watch.  “An early lunch.”  He finished.

“As a matter of fact I am very hungry right now.  I hate to admit how many meals I miss when I am behind that easel. Food just slips my mind.”

“Your work is very good.  I loved that painting you were doing when I came up, but now that one dark cloud has special meaning to me. I helped paint it!  So, I would like to hang it in my cabin here on the Ship as a reminder of the good days and a warning about what could come if I am not vigilant.”

“Wow!”  Nancy laughed, “You are a deep thinker.”  She now noticed his very light, sky blue, eyes and his dark blonde hair with a few grays below his hat brim.  “Then you may have it. But first, after it is dry, I must frame it, then I will send it to you.”

“I can get it framed.”  The Captain began to insist.”  But Nancy interrupted,

“Sorry but I prefer to frame my work myself.  I don’t always like the way someone else matts them.  It annoys me to come across something with my signature on it and the wrong frame job.”

“That is your privilege.  I guess.”  But he really did not understand what difference one frame or another would make.  “Then, tell me the price, so I may buy it.”

I’ll just put your address, where I am to send it on the back,” Nancy said, getting up to go do that.  Captain Swan followed and stood by to tell her the San Diego Dock Office address for his Ship.

Nancy closed her paint box and folded up the easel to return them to her room.

“Shall I meet you in the main dining room… or where?”  She asked.

“How about my cabin, up next door to the Bridge, you know, also called the Wheel House.”   At her surprised look he explained,  “I never get to eat anything, for people coming up to talk to me in the dining room.  I am just too obvious.  It must be the hat!”  He tapped the white Captain’s cap with the heavy gold braid and some stars on it.  Of course the White suit with gold trim and brass buttons were pretty outstanding too, Nancy noticed.

Her cabin was on the second floor but she still took the elevator up to the bridge level and looked around for the Captain’s cabin.

“CAPTAIN”  was printed in black against a gold brass plaque in the center of the door.  That was easy.  She tapped lightly on the wooden door and waited.  No one came so she knocked a little heavier.  When there was still no reply, she went into the Wheel Room  through the wide open door where two sailors were busy keeping the ship on course.

“Have you seen the Captain?”  She asked the one who looked up.

“Not for an hour.  I think he is in his cabin next door.”

“I knocked there.  But no one answered.”  Nancy explained.  The Sailor just shrugged then replied,

“In any case he should be here starting… “  He looked at the big clock high on the wall.  “…starting a new weather check right now.  It has been an hour since he checked the Weather report.  He does that every hour on the hour… exactly. I can set my watch by it.”

“Obviously he will need to do that right away.”  Nancy answered, “So tell him I will be out on the deck taking pictures.”

“Wait a jif.  He might need to be reminded.  I have a key.  Let me see if he has fallen asleep.”

“I’d hate to bother him.”  Nancy protested.  “I know he is Captain 24 and 7 and needs to rest sometime.”

“Who do I say you are?’  The sailor asked.

“Nancy, but I’m in no hurry.  The weather report is more important.”   She held her very small, but high quality,  camera up for him to see and walked back out to the  West rail.

Nancy is easily lost in her hobby of seeking good photo shots for use in her water color paintings.  Several small children were hanging on the rails looking out at the fast flowing ocean water.  Some adults, clearly in charge of the youngsters stood watching them.  Their poses were very relaxed and natural so she asked if they would mind if she took a couple of pictures of them.

Too bad she had to ask, for they immediately stopped looking natural and lined up in a row and smiled at the camera.  She failed again to get the nerve to tell them to go back as they were, that really never worked anyway, so she didn’t get that group leaning and relaxed watching the kids at play she wanted for use in her paintings where people never line up and smiled at the artist.

At first she was surprised when a customer of the gallery would stop in front of a water color and say wistfully,

“That Beach looks just like where our family used to vacation when the kids were little.  All it needs is a boy and a girl with parents,  to be a painting of us.  Then Nancy would offer to paint them in and they were thrilled.

The back or side view of a child with long or short hair in the color she was given or a type of hat, maybe a little mutt at their side as they dug in the sand or climbed a rock and Nancy had a new satisfied fan.

That got her started photographing the public just being themselves.  This Cruise was her one chance to collect people on a Ship.

When she had some new interesting shots she stopped suddenly and looked at her watch.  She had just lost another hour.  Feeling guilty she hurried to the Captain’s door and knocked.  She had missed him again.  A quick peek into the Bridge did not turn up the Captain either.

One of the sailors looked like the one she had left the message with.

“Excuse me sir!  Has the Captain been looking for me?”

“Yes, but he went back to his cabin to get something.  Just walk in.  The door is open.  He might still have two visitors.  Two ladies from the sixth floor, 620, I think.  They seemed to think he needed to know something important.  Maybe they are still talking, they looked pretty gabby to me.”

“Okay,” Nancy said softly to herself, not accustomed to just walking in, she knocked lightly.  No answer.  She turned the knob and the door slid open.  The room looked empty then she saw himhe was face down on the floor.

Nancy was not the screaming type and that was the only reason why she did not scream loudly as she walked in to quietly hope he was alive, one of his hands opened and he let out a low moan. That much was a big relief.  He was alive.  She helped him to roll over onto his back and he groaned some more and tried but failed to sit up.

She reached for the telephone and reported to Security that the Captain had been found unconscious on the floor of his room.  He’s waking up but hurry.

A woman replied that the Doctor was on his way.  Not being a medical person  Nancy as wondering what she should do now.  What would she do if it was a kid?  She went to the washroom and came back with a cold wet wash cloth and put it on the Captain’s forehead as he laid there, like they do in the movies.  His gold trimmed hat was halfway across the room.  She sat there on the floor holding the cloth to his head and looked around wondering what had happened.

The hat rolled off when he fell.  But did he fall or was he pushed, or even worse, hit from behind.


The Doctor and two male helpers, with a female nurse all arrived together.

Nancy got up and out of the way, happy to let those who knew what to do to take over.  The Doctor found signs of a concussion on the back of Captain Swan’s head and did what he could, then asked the two men to put him on the stretcher to be carried up to the Ship’s well equipped Hospital, where he would get proper care.  As soon as they were out the door Doctor Brown turned to Nancy and stated flatly,

“Now you tell me exactly what happened.  Did he get fresh or something and you fought back?”

“ Oh no! Nothing like that! I really don’t know. I wasn’t even here.  I just walked in and there he was!  I picked up the phone and called Security.  I didn’t know you had a hospital.”

“And you say that, there the Captain was face down on the floor?”

“Yes.  He was.”

“And you’re telling me that you were not here when the Captain was struck.”

“I was not!  I have no idea who hit him or why.  Are you sure he is going to be okay?  For a minute it sure scared me.  I was afraid he was dead, like maybe a heart attack..”

The Doctor picked up the Captain’s Hat and set it on the table.  Stay handy until we get to talk to him and hear his side of your story.”

“Are you saying you think I knocked him out?  I wasn’t here when it happened.”

“Stay handy?”  Nancy repeated sarcastically.  “We’re on Ship.  There is no place to go.  Oh I’ll be handy all right, Doctor  who ever you are.”

‘I’m Bert, short for Albert, Brown.  The very serious Doctor Brown smiled for the first time.  Nancy smiled back with relief hoping it meant he believed her story.  Except it wasn’t a story.  It was the truth.

Poor Captain Swan.  Why had he been attacked? She was about to leave when, Two middle-age ladies shoved their way in and quickly pushed the door shut behind them, as if not wanting to be seen entering.

“Oh good you’re here.”  The tall blonde lady said and the brunette woman continued her words…

“We’re so glad we caught you in.  We heard that the Captain got fresh with you and so you clocked him.  Is that really true?  He does have a reputation for that sort of behavior, you must have heard.”

“It is not true!  I just met the Captain a couple of hours ago”  Nancy began.  “How the heck did you get that misinformation so quickly?  Are you the two women who were here before I came?”  The blonde lady answered with a question.

“What’s not true? He didn’t get fresh? or you didn’t hit him?”

“Wait a minute, wait a minute.” Nancy stopped them.  “Who are you? and why do you want to know? And even more important, who fed you that garbage in the first place?”

“Sorry.”  The first lady began again.  “I could easily believe it, anyway, knowing the man so well.  He’s careful with us because we are always together.  Women are much safer in pairs.  By the way,  I’m Virginia Carlyle and this is my cousin Margo Carlyle.”  Margo gave a sort of half bow as she concurred,

“Have you no other lady you can go about with for your protection?”

“We recommend it.  When the kid said you hit him and knocked him cold, he was probably afraid he’d get the blame, because you were a rich top floor passenger and he was a lowly stowaway.”

“What kid stowaway? Was a stowaway here when you were here?”

“Oh we’ve seen him around.  He just goes where no one is and picks up food left on the trays outside of the doors and keys left in doors. But seeing the Captain on the floor scared him off pretty fast.”

“I know just how he felt.  I had the urge to run also.”  Nancy admitted. “But you say he came here after you and before me?  She wondered, had he hit and knocked out the Captain?”

“We are regulars.”  Margo explained in a rather proud tone.  “We take this Cruise every year and the Captain knows us, which is nice ‘cause he has us to his Private table at least once each trip.  So if we backed the stray boy up, he would be safe.  We kind of feel sorry for that kid and so we help him hide and he brings us stuff from up top.  Like special tickets to shows and dropped poker chips.  He finds lots of those,  people are so careless with the chips they stuff in their pockets.  But he can’t cash them in, because you must give your room number.  And since we have the cheap rooms on the sixth row, he offers to split them with us. We spend them in the gift shop.  Margo the brunette explained.

“Let’s sit down.”  And Virginia did.  “We heard that you were a rich famous Artist from in First class.”

Nancy told her very sharply, “You are getting a lot of bad information from someone. Is that stowaway kid the gossip?”

“Yes and no.”  Margo replied.  “Down in the little cheap, bargain basement rooms where we are everyone is.”

“People hear stuff up in the dining rooms and waiting in line for the shows and love to talk about what they learned about you, Upper crusts.”

“Upper crusts?”  Nancy repeated she had not heard that before.

“Oh excuse me.  Nothing personal. And sorry we were kind of pushy coming here to see what the lady looked like, who clocked… uh knocked out the Captain.  But you don’t look like you would do that, so I believe you, dear, but who else was here?”  Virginia asked Nancy.

Margo hesitantly sat down next to her cousin.  Nancy wanted to leave so she told them.

“Well I’m going to phone over and see how our Captain is doing, then order some food sent to my suite, number 220.  And politely asked, “Can I get you anything”

Virginia straightened up with a smile.  “How about a piece of that good cheese cake and maybe a cup of tea.?”

“Can you make that two?”  Margo, who was about to say, “ Nothing, Thank you,”  said more timidly.

Nancy spoke softly into the phone to ask about the Captain’s condition.

All she got back was a curt …”As well as can be expected.”  Which more or less said he was at least still alive.   Then she ordered the tea and cheese cake for her guests and tea and Eggs Benedict for herself sent to suie 220 and left the Captain’s room followed by her new, somewhat odd, friends.

“The Captain is doing as well as can be expected.” she told the ladies.  “I wonder who is running the Ship now?” she said almost to herself.

“Oh don’t worry about that.”  Virginia explained, “This big ship can run by itself.  We see it every year.  The computer knows the course.”

“Yes,” Margo answered also.  “We think the sailors just stand there at the Wheel to make a good impression on the passengers as they stroll by.”

Nancy looked serious for a moment as she spoke her thoughts.

“You two ladies seem to know everything about what goes on in this Ship except… who knocked out the Captain.

Nancy unlocked her suite and the three went in;  They took turns washing up to be ready for the food delivery.  Soon they were sitting with the two guests side by side on the two arm chairs and Nancy on the love seat facing the coffee table.

Nancy had questions to ask about what they knew, being so experienced on this Ship, while the guests sat looking around the nice quarters and being very impressed.

Then Margo squinted at something she thought she saw shine out from under the big mahogany dresser across the room from her.  She stood to go get it, but she suddenly recoiled back as if it had turned out to be a rattle snake.  She looked at Nancy who already forgot her questions by the woman’s odd reaction. Then she heard her ask almost in a  whisper,

“Do you know there’s a little gun under your dresser?” Margo pointed a finger at the floor, as if guns were not her thing.

“You must be kidding. I don’t have a gun of any kind.”  Nancy stood up to go see just exactly what her lovely mahogany dresser was hiding.  Margo told her,

“It’s very shiny it must be new.” They both watched as Nancy bent to scoop this tiny new gun out, holding it wrapped in a silk scarf from the top drawer of the dresser.

They  sat staring at it. It could have been mistaken for a toy, all shined and with a carved ivory inset on the handle. And some elegant initials carved cleverly into the design.  They all took turns trying to make them out.

Finally they agreed on a fancy N with a very elegant either a K or an H wrapped around it. It could be an A too Virginia added.

Margo spoke up.  “I found it so I will take it to the Captain for you.”

Just then the food arrived and Nancy placed the gun on the top of the dresser with that scarf over it, thanking Margo,  but saying it was her problem, so she would call Security to come after it.  Then she hurried to opened the door.  The man rolled the tray in and Nancy asked him to please just leave it by the door. So he did and left.

“What shall we do first?” Nancy asked the two women.  “Call Security to come take the gun out, or eat.”

Virginia had an answer, “If we don’t eat first, by the time Security is through quizzing us about the gun, probably one at a time, the food will be cold.  I say eat while it is hot.”

So they did, but it made a strange new type of lady tea talk, because as Nancy seemed to know no more than the other two ladies trying to figure out what the gun being there meant and what Security would believe, they were not even good at making wild, off the wall, guesses.

No one admitted to knowing whether it was loaded or not.  Margo commented that it looked like toy to her.  Maybe she could let one of the neighborhood kids have it to play cops and robbers with.

As soon as the uninvited but not too unwelcome guests had finished with their tea and cheese cake they stood to excuse themselves.  Virginia told Nancy how much she enjoyed the cheese cake.  It was not often put out when the Bargain folks ate and they really fancied it.“

Nancy told them that she enjoyed their company, without admitting that they were a little more pushy than she liked. However she had very few guests as she spent most of her time painting.

Since water color paintings of water filled scenes, had become her favorite subject with her favorite medium, she traveled alone often, just to do what she called work and some might call a hobby.

“But this trip has just begun, so she encouraged the two of them to return again sometime.  Maybe next time you fancy some Cheese cake, find me out there by a rail, painting, and we can go in for tea and cake again. But you had better hurry away now and save yourself from trying to answer questions that we all know you have no answers for.  I’m going to call Security now and get rid of this silly looking little gun. It could be a toy at that.  If Security says it is, I’ll give it to you.”  She told Margo.  “Like finders Keepers.”

“It could be a fake for say movies, a playhouse or T.V.”  Virginia decided.

“Possibly, yes.”  Margo was an actress in her youth and had held many prop guns in the past.  I think you are right, Virginia, it is a Prop Gun.  Maybe I should take it to the Ship Playhouse to see if they lost it.”

“I’ll mention that to Security.”  Nancy left to push the cart into the hallway as she ushered the two ladies out.

She was quickly on the phone to ask Security to send someone down to answer some of her questions.

Last time they had sent a doctor and a nurse plus two helpers.

This time she explained that she’s the one looking for answers.  So please send someone who might know what is going on here.

A man arrived ten minutes later,  a Mr. Art Crane, who had been with Ship Security, he said , for a long time.  They had been assigned a new man by the name of Evan Carlson.

But you asked for the one person who was most knowledgeable about this Ship, which is me.”  He smiled proudly, with a willingness to try to make her feel comfortable with what had happened, which would not be easy, especially for a woman traveling alone.

She explained how she had met the Captain for the first time up on the deck and he had suggested lunch.  She left to change clothes then went to meet him.  However she did not find him where he said he would be, so had returned to her photographing of the passengers at play.   Then went back.  As soon as they opened the door there was the Captain on the floor.  This presented many questions.

Starting with why was Captain Swan attacked in his room? And by whom.  And second, who on this Ship… because how could it anyone else, but someone on this Ship… was either already in his room or followed the lady visitors in that short time before I arrived.

Maybe the Captain actually came with this person, who then knocked him unconscious and left him there. But that didn’t seem logical either.

There has to be an answer to these questions.  How can I continue to enjoy this trip not knowing who might enter my room at will?   Any way why would someone want to harm our Ship’s Captain?  And Why?  Am I in danger walking around the Ship by myself?

“I wish I could answer all of your questions.” Mr. Art Crane explained, “But I have no answers to any of them I’m afraid.  Much like a City Police Department, who must find answers to those same kinds of questions for its citizens, my Ship is also a city of  many people and finding answers to unexpected happenings is very difficult.”

He tried to sound sincere.  “I am looking though, you may be sure.”

Remembering to show him the gun, she said

“Then maybe you can tell me this.  There is something here in my room that was not here yesterday.  I found it a few moments ago.  Tell me if you can.  Is it gift from someone who wants me to be able to protect myself or a warning to prove someone else may get to me anytime they wish to.   She reached over and lifted the scarf from the cute little gun.

The Security man looked at it without touching it, just as she did.  Nancy forced a smile as she asked,  “Is this real or fake and from a friend or a foe?”

“Let me take it away in either case, Ms. Carroll”  Art Crane, The Security man for the Ship, suggested.  Tests might tell us something. In all of my time here I have never seen one of these. But it can shoot to kill.  I know that. I can try to find out how it came aboard this Ship.”  He watched Nancy look at it and hesitated.  ‘Do you feel safer keeping it?  Do you know how to use a gun?”

“No, no. nothing like that.  In fact it gives me the creeps. I don’t even know if it is loaded or not or where there is some ammunition.  I was far off thinking about the Captain.  If he had a gun it would most likely not look like this, unless it is a souvenir or had belonged to someone important to him.  Have you noticed the initials?”

Art Crane opened the scarf to take a better look at the handle.

“Yes I see an N and maybe a…  I don’t know what else.”

Did you  know him before he was Captain of this ship?  Was he Military?”

“Now that you ask, I heard that Captain Swan was a Helicopter Pilot in the Army in his youth. “  Then he smiled and told her, “ Incidentally, He is okay now, you might like to know.  But he only recalls being knocked out without warning, by some unknown person.”

“If it is his gun, I can tell him I have it. I’ve never seen him with something like it before.  If it is not his, we may as well begin to try to learn who it belongs to.  The initials may mean nothing on something like this that may have gone through many different owners.  My mother bought a nice antique umbrella that says,  Oscar Anderson, faintly on the silver handle. Antiques sell like that.”   He stood as if to go, which for a second distressed Nancy.  She was enjoying his company more than anyone she had met here so far.  She was about to offer to make him a drink of something to keep him here. But then she liked his idea better.

He explained at once… “meanwhile I will take you to a different room.  There is a guest room next door to the Captain’s cabin.  It is unmarked and you might feel more secure up there.  Just take a few things… so we don’t make it obvious that you are moving.”

“I’ll put my paints and some paper in a pillow case with some undies and a little handful of things from the bathroom under my jacket The rest can stay here for now.  I really will feel safer somewhere else. Even though I don’t understand why I should.”  Then she looked at the Gun.  “ Will you get that thing out of sight?” Art Crane wrapped the gun in her scarf and put it in his suit coat.  It didn’t even make a bulge.


The guest room was lovely.  Art explained that it was reserved for Royal type guests,

“You know movie stars and foreign leaders.  I heard you were a famous Artist, so you qualify.”

“I’m qualifying way ahead of my time, but thank you just the same.  You will let me know when I may visit the Captain, won’t you?  Don’t forget.”

“I know you were to meet the Captain for lunch.  Have you had that lunch?”

“I had it sent to my room.”  Nancy decided to leave the lady guests out of the conversation.  Though wondering if she was making a mistake.  He was Security after all.

“What time would you like me to take you to dinner?”

“Oh you don’t have to do that.”  Nancy smiled, wishing he would.

“But I do.  It’s my job.”  Art returned the smile, making Nancy wonder if he was ordered to stay by her or just wanted to.  But with a sigh she decided that…  oh well, time will tell and so she told him seven P.M.

Time sure was going to be very busy telling her all of that stuff she still didn’t know about everything going on with this strange vacation Cruise.

Art didn’t have Captain Swan’s problem of being interrupted all through dinner in the big dining room, so that was where they went to dinner at seven.  As one of the Ship’s Security Agents, Art was always under cover and anonymous, and Nancy was eating there for the first time since boarding the Cruise Ship.

“By the way you can completely erase that picture in your mind of the Captain owning that gun. He has never seen it before.”  A few bites later he added,

“He said, It appeared to be a woman’s gun.  Most men like something heavier… and not quite so fancy.”


“I can tell you that almost everything is passed through the Explosive materials Detector on the way on.  Once someone brought this gun on during that busy time, they must have hidden it in your suite before you arrived. Even a trace of ever having a bullet in it would show in the Detector as something to take a look at.  It was loaded by the way. So if you find ammo let us know.”  Art went on to explain the way things were these days after 9-11-01

We have a sheet of new rules to follow ever since the Terrorist War began.  For example we must be on the lookout for stowaways now more than before.  Just like every City and Town is beginning to discover.”

“Have you found any stowaways?” Nancy asked, now that she realized she had heard about one from the two ladies.  She should mention him.  But he was busy explaining how he was handling those new rules, so she listened.  Later she will mention that fellow the women are hiding  Suddenly the gun was, in her mind, his. She would tell Art about that, too.

Then Art began to talk about the job of being a plain clothes-man and she forgot about the stowaway by the time they were on to a great tasty desert, something she didn’t often allow herself to enjoy.  During the second cup of coffee, Art said let’s walk it off on the top deck.  Great idea so off they went.

The moon was high so the ripples of white gleamed on the black water. This was not the sort of beauty Nancy sought for her painting and yet as she looked out over the water she began to wonder, why not?

It would be unusual to paint a water so dark.  But she could see the greens and blues behind the purple black sea and the sky was different with that bright gray shadowed yellow moon.  She simply must try it.

“Excuse me Art but I would like to go after my easel and paints now before that terrific moon fades away.”

“But your easel did not make the cut.”  Art reminded her.  Nancy looked distressed for a moment then handed Art the guest room key.

“Then you go bring me the paint box and three sheets of the water color paper and I will run down and collect the easel.

Something about the arrangement bothered Art as the Security Man, but he took the key as asked and went quickly to the guest room knowing just where she had stored the paint box on the pad of paper.

The guest room was close by and he hurried.  Nancy wanted, well, needed, her easel and only she knew where it was in her old suite and off she dashed.

Nancy opened the door and stopped dead in her tracks surprised as the door opened to her old second floor room and found Captain Swan sitting there behind the tray table, laden with cups and saucers and everything for a tea. She almost expected to see the two bargain floor ladies..  He was holding a mug of coffee in his hand looking as if he was expecting those guests.

She let out a little squeal at the unexpected sight and her eyes went around the room searching for the reason for his being there but found none. And obviously no guests.

Captain Swan stood up fast and dropped the mug with a splash of black coffee to the carpet from the nearly empty cup.

“You are supposed to be moved.”  He told her crossly, as if she were a naughty child going where she was not wanted.

“You are supposed to be in the hospital!”  she shouted back. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m waiting and watching for someone to return to the scene of the crime, you might say.  A gun was planted here and I want to know by whom and why.  You are lucky that you dashed in so quickly that I didn’t even hear you.  If I hadn’t put my gun down to drink the coffee, I might have shot you.”

“Well you are not very good at this then are you?  Can’t you keep your gun at the ready and drink coffee at the same time.  I certainly would if I had to.”  Nancy was giving him what he gave her, which was a put down for being there at all.

“Where were you is what I want to know.  You had me looking all over the place for you while you in your suite getting attacked!”

“I’ll admit I’m out of practice at this stalking business, but this is my Ship and I have to attend to certain new things that have not been needed for many years.  Back in Nam I was a helicopter Pilot.  That kept me busy enough and others carried the guns and looked for the enemy… not me.”  Captain Swan sat back down. He continued to explain this new found fight to her and let her know that he wasn’t at all happy about it.

“ This Terror War is a new and different kind.  I got notified that all Cruise Ships would be responsible to watch for unknown and unexpected dangers from a cagey enemy who wears no defining uniform, like in past Wars, but is just as determined to cause damage or even kill.”

‘They have assigned me an added Security man, But after that the Captain’s are responsible.  That’s me! Ready or not!”

“I’m sorry.”  Nancy said softly.  “I’m like you. I was expecting a relaxing vacation Cruise not to be a pawn in the War on Terror.  Somehow I thought it was being fought in the Middle East or something.”

At that the door burst open and Art entered quickly with his gun drawn ready to shoot.  Seeing the two of them deep in conversation he dropped the gun into his pocket.

“I thought Evan Carlson was going to be watching this room from across the hall?” He told the Captain confused by seeing him there.

“He was.  But a rumor of a stowaway down in six changed his orders, and I was well enough to take this one again.  I wish whoever was in charge, would get into this Terror War for real and WIN it!  Let’s get it over with.  This being in a war half way is not working.”  The Captain complained. “I’d far rather come right out and fight these guys to an end, than spent the rest of my life just dodging them.”

“I agree with you Cap, but unfortunately I am not the one in charge either.”  Art told him.  “So for now we both have no choice but to play dodge ball.”

Nancy had now gotten the picture.  Some people were standing around in foreign Counties just keeping an eye on things.  Others are reading the internet to keep an eye on things, while the rest of the world was forced to go about the business of looking out for themselves.

She took the easel out of the coat closet and asked Art where her paints were.

“I left them out in the hall.” He replied.  “I’ll take over this duty and wait for whoever put the gun in here to return for it, while the Captain takes you up to the deck to paint.”

“Paint!  In the dark?”  the Captain asked in surprise.

“I thought I might like to try it.” she admitted. “But first I want to tell you something. Two ladies came up see you.  But the hospital had you by then. I invited them to come to my suite and stay for tea while I ordered lunch.  They were very nice.  Virginia and Margo are their names.”

“Yes I know them well, he admitted with a disgusted look, but they were just going out when someone stepped behind me and put me out. I’d like to know who they saw come in.”

“That’s what I wanted to tell you.  They told me that the stowaway they were helping to hide was on board and was sleeping in a Life Boat.  I actually promised to not tell on the boy.  Now I wonder if he put the gun in my room, before I was checked in. Shall I be worried?”

“No, don’t worry. You will not be here again, until we know those things for sure. So enjoy your Cruise and forget this stuff that Security and I must deal with… just like the weather.  We will all work to keep the trip smooth and comfortable for everyone from the weather and everything else.”

Meanwhile, Carlson, our new Security man is down keeping an eye on all suspects. But one must want something from your room, so I’m baby-sitting this suite until Carlson returns.”

Art now knew why Evan Carlson was down below.  He couldn’t believe anyone he knew was a problem. But everyone would be a suspect until they were safely back in San Diego.

Nancy then looked at the window and seeing that the moon had disappeared put the easel back into the closet with a long sigh.  Seeing the little portable, folding easel still on the entry table she picked it up to put it away also.  As she carried it to the supply box the Captain stood up and went to her side.

“Did you ever get to eat?”

“Yes and so starting right now,”  Nancy told them firmly,  “I think I’ll join the War on Terror and help you two until it is over.  What do you want me to do?”

She picked up the coffee pot and finding it full and hot she picked up the Captain’s cup from the floor and then poured three cups full and sat down with a smile saying,

“It’s a good thing the two ladies from 602 can’t see me now.  They would be so envious.  They have already called me the privileged “Uppercrust!”  Imagine me with the two most desirable single men on the Ship in my room… You are both single are you not?”

“I am.”  They both said in unison.

Maybe I can round up a stowaway for you. Better yet, I will simply go down to 602 and ask my friends Virginia and Margo where I can find that stowaway of theirs, so you can look him up yourselves…”  then she frowned, “If you are very careful.  He may be just a boy.  But as Captain Swan just explained, the enemy has changed and we are the ones who need to dodge them.”

“You be careful!”  the Captain warned.  Just see if they are willing to point him out don’t try to bring him up or anything.

“Of course not.  I won’t even talk to him.  Just learn where you can find him.“  Nancy promised as she left the room.

Still, at The Captain’s signal, Art began to follow her from carefully out of her sight.

Down on the 6th floor, the two women Nancy was looking for were not in. A third woman answered the door with some directions for finding them.

“They went to the Coffee Shop on the third floor.  That is their favorite.” The third lady told her.  If you find them tell them Alma is on her way.  Nancy lowered her voice as if being secretive.  “You don’t know where I might find the Boy they were helping hide do you?  I have something for him.”  “I’ll give it to him. “  Alma kindly offered.

“No, but thanks,  I owe him for finding my room key and I would like to thank him in person.”   Nancy explained.  The lady whispered back. “He spends most of his time in the Engine room talking to the Engineers.  He’s a bright kid and might become an Engineer someday.”

“Well thank you, Alma, but I have no idea how to find the Engine room.” Nancy looked disappointed. “It’s just two more decks below us.”  The woman replied promptly adding some inside information. “and don’t ever book a room on that floor below this one, because those big engines will keep you awake all night.  No wonder those rooms are so much cheaper.”  Nancy turned with a smile and went to the elevator. She stood for several minutes trying to decide between the clearly marked Engine Room button to see if the boy was really there, and the second floor, back to her old room to give that information to the waiting men.  “Oh what the heck.  I always wanted to see an Engine room.”  Nancy said softly aloud to herself.


Wes had been following the two ladies who had paid him well every time he brought them something… usable, a word that meant nothing to him.  He passed on whatever he saw or heard just in case. He was doing what he thought of as practicing the ability to follow someone without being discovered.  Maybe he thought he could be a detective someday.  They followed people in the movies.

He noticed that within five minutes of learning the Artist lady’s room number and telling them she was an Artist, they had gone to her suite immediately. When she was not in,  they went to the Captain’s Suite and found him there so visited for several minutes after they left,  he peek in  the window and didn’t see anyone so he entered the room himself.  Oh my God! Captain Swan was flat on the floor face down.  He dashed over and felt for a pulse.  He was alive and starting to moan.  There nothing he could do to help and a heap of trouble to fall into if he was standing here when the man opened his eyes.  He glanced around and no one else was here, so he left at once.

He felt bad about just leaving the man on the floor, but as a stowaway there was nothing he could do, and anyway the knew the guy had a strong heart beat and would soon come to. First Aide with the Boy Scouts had taught him that.  As he left stealthily slipping around the corner and into the busy flow of strolling passengers, he saw the Artist lady arrive at the door he had just exited.

“Oh boy,”  He thought, “Is she in for a surprise, if she stays she may be blamed. But as he watched she went in.  Now he found a better place to watch from, among a stack of pad for the deck chaises.  He squeezed in and began to think about what had happened to him.  He watched his old ladies go in and then saw him on the floor. What had happened?  Could or would one of them actually be who had hit the Captain? Or was someone in there when they arrived? Maybe they did what he did and just got out!

Anyway he knew the Artist lady didn’t do it and no one else came out before she arrived. Now as she was still in the room she must have stayed to help the Captain like he should have done.  He hoped she was not accused of that, because he would have to give himself up to save her.  He had no idea what happens to Stowaways.  Do they go to jail or just made to pay for a ticket?

Now he decided to follow her. Maybe she suspected his Ladies like he did.  Where was she going now?  She stood at the elevator   Then he heard her say she always wanted to see an engine  room so he stepped close and pushed the button.

She turned startled as she realized that the kid she was looking for was right behind her speaking in her ear.

“So you are curious about the Engine Room.  Let’s go see it!”

Nancy was now trying to decide her next move.  So much for just telling Security how to find him, too late for that plan. I’ll just have to go along until I can get away nicely.

The boy spoke softly as he said,

“Come on, let’s go down and I’ll give you the tour.  I know all about it now.”

“That sounds good.”  She replied,  “I don’t know anything about Engines.”

The boy smiled as he told her,

“ I know who you are.”  He bragged, “I see you all the time. You are that famous Artist Lady and you know my friends, Virginia and Margo.”

“Yes… I do know them.” She looked him over. The kid could use a good bath but she guessed that was part of being a stowaway and living nowhere.  “Are you their latest Stowaway?”  she asked.

“That’s me.”  He said proudly.

“And your name is… “  before he could answer, the elevator door opened and they both stepped in.  She stopped and stood next to the door, while he was right behind her standing as close as he dared.  He thought she smelled like his Mother’s favorite lilacs, not a bit like that awful perfume in Virginia’s big purse. And her pretty red hair was so shiny and clean.  He suddenly felt dusty and grimy like he had not noticed before.  He was still in the same clothes he came in, but her slacks were pressed with sharp creases and her shirt smelled like fresh air.  Her took in as much of her as he could and his hands itched to touch her, but he didn’t want to lose her.  Someday, he decided, he would marry a girl just like this.

They got out together and the noise told Nancy that it was indeed the Engine room. It was so loud that she missed what he told her his name.

She was led her around a corner away from the Engines.

“Right here.”  he said,  “ First stop for first time tourists,  follow me.”  He waved her around the corner and into a much quieter, smaller room.  Then the boy closed the door to shut out even more of the engine noise.  The rather messy, area with four single beds and a bathroom was strewn with clothes and magazines.

Nancy had the urge to tell him to go on in and take a shower.  At least he would be cleaner, even if he still had no other clothes to wear.   He sat on the edge of a bed and she sat across on another one looking at him.  She couldn’t help wondering about his kind amiable manner.  He was certainly not threatening in any way.

“Now  we can hear ourselves think in this quieter room. So please, what can you tell me about how the Captain is doing?”  he asked, then explained, “I found him first, but there was nothing I could do and I had to scoot out before I was nailed for hitting the guy, which I hadn’t..   Then I saw you go in. At least you could get help.

“The Captain is up and doing fine.  Tell me, what does a Stowaway do all day?”

“I’ve walked every inch of this Ship.”

“For any particular reason?”  For a Terrorist he was certainly open.  Nancy decided.

“Just that it is really a very interesting place.  When I am inside of a movie or looking at the long halls full of rooms, I forget I am on a Ship far out on the Pacific Ocean, the same one I go to nearly every day at home.”

“Where do you live at home?”

“San Diego. I just finished High school there and I’m not sure I know what to do next.  But we haven’t gone to look at the Engines yet.  They are awesome!  Maybe I’ll get a job running those big Engines on a Ship.  The trouble is you need more schooling first and I am tired of going to school.”  A wistful look came on his face,  “I’ve been thinking maybe when we get to a Port I will get off, and then I’ll come right back and apply for any job I can get working on this terrific Ship.  Then I would be here to work, but I would get to go anywhere without worrying about getting caught, you see?”  He looked at Nancy and asked, “What do you think of that idea?”

“I think… I know, that it would be much better than the one you made to sneak on as a stowaway, which is by the way, against the law.  You are too young to be a soldier.  So working at something like this would be good.  Then you should go to College,  which you will find out by working for low pay eight hours a day.”  She once believed him to be a silly kid, but he had good potential.  All he needs is a shower, clean clothes and a break.

Nancy now wanted to help him get it.

“ My nice ladies even know the Captain and I have asked them to tell him about me and get me a job doing anything.”  He looked excited by the thought.  “ I can do anything I see those other guys do.  They always say they will, but nothing has happened.”  His disappointment showed, but Nancy was suddenly interested in what he said next.

That guy with the white hair seems to be the boss of them.  I follow them to see him every night late.  But he doesn’t have any say about Ship jobs.  Only the Captain can do that. So I brought you here, so I can ask you to tell him about me and how willing I am to do the hardest job he needs me to do. “

“Do your Mom and Dad know you are here?”

“I’ ve been trying to make a phone call to tell them, but since Cell phones were invented those other kinds are never around when I need them.”  Nancy was about to tell him that she had a Cell phone he could use, when suddenly she heard a soft noise at the door and looked up.  That was when she saw the door crack open a tiny bit and Art peek in.  Nancy turned back quickly and put the flat of her hand up to stop Art.

“Wait!” She shouted, but Art thought she was being held captive and acted accordingly.  He swooped in took the boy into handcuffs, without hearing a protest word Nancy said, Art led the kid off cuffed arms hidden to preserve his under-cover identity.

Nancy didn’t even know where.  She had run behind them trying to get Art’s attention, but the engines drowned her out completely.  She followed them to the Jail, close by on this floor, where the boy was locked by the awaiting jailer.

It took her several minutes to explain that yes he was the Stowaway but… after that no one was willing to hear the rest.  This is where all Stowaways must stay until they dock in Hawaii.

Nancy got close enough to the cell to mouth the words,

“I’ll go talk to the Captain.”  Also, even though she couldn’t tell him, she intended to bring her Cell phone, so he could call home.

She passed by Art who was in a little room filling out paper work and took the elevator to the very top and her elegant guest room. From there she would find the Captain and get things straightened out for the boy.   Then perhaps it would be time to relax and have that peaceful Cruise.  But maybe not.

There was a knock on her door and she forced herself to go open it.  For a passenger with no family or friends onboard, she was sure kept busy.

The Captain entered.  Nancy smiled. Now, he was the only one she was happy to see even though he was clearly in a serious mood.  She could understand that.  He must have been still suffering from the attack.  She would approach him about the kid’s problem later.  So she asked cheerfully,

“Can I get you a cold or hot drink?”

“No just a soft chair.”  Nancy stood back and with a graceful wave told him,

“They’re all yours.  Take your pick!”  Captain Swan sank into an over-stuffed leather arm chair.”

Nancy took the one next to it for easy conversing to ask,

“Have you had dinner?  Would you like me to order something soothing like chicken soup or scrambled eggs?”

“Chicken soup would be good, with toast and butter.  Will you have some too.?’

“I will, and hot tea with lemon.”  She went to the phone and returned with the hot tea on a tray.   As Cap poured sugar and squeezed some lemon into his tea he explained,

“Art left the questioning of the boy to Evan Carlson.  The kid is convinced that Art is your new jealous boy friend and does not understand that he is an Official with the Line.  So to stay undercover, he warned the kid to stay away from his girl friend, you, or else, and left.

“Do you suppose the boy will admit to anything serious?”

“Being a Stowaway is serious enough for now.  He won’t be going anyplace.

It’s hard to believe he’s alone.  Nor can I assume it’s another kid.  We have 2500 passengers and half again that many workers to take care of them.  Another enemy could be any one of those.  I have gone over the lists of each, drawing lines through the regulars both on the passenger list and the employee credentials.  So I have narrowed it down to unknowns, and I must assume that the regulars are not Terrorists until I learn differently.

Thus I only need to find the bad apples among the 1500 new passengers and 900 first time employees.  Sound easy? “

“Here I was hoping we were free to enjoy a relaxing vacation.”

“I hope you still will, but I must tell you that Art had a lot to tell me about picking up the boy.

“Me?   I just did as I was told to do by that kid.”  He caught me unexpectedly at the elevator and the rest was only what he said to do, as he led me into that little room because the Engine room is too loud for a conversation..

Art said he stood outside of the door the boy locked you behind and listened to try to decide if he could get in, in with his master key in time to protect you.  He said you treated that dangerous kid as if he was just trying to act like a big shot.  You talked down to him like a parent or a teacher scolding a wayward child.  You actually raised your hand to slap him, but he took a quick hold, so you let him take over.

The Captain wanted to suggest something and explained,

“Art called and told me that he just talked to the boy and he still thinks you are in the dark.  He let him keep believing that,  so if you are willing to let him go on thinking what he wants to, that you and Art are a couple and you are a dumb bunny, we three can work to find out if there is anyone else still on the Ship, or possibly ready to join him from one of the upcoming Ports in Hawaii.  He had a lot more to say about the ladies who talked him into being s stowaway.

Humm Nancy thought, I just went from Upper Crust to Dumb Bunny.  What a  strange trip.  Then she smiled and answered,

“Of course I will.  May I keep my cover as an Artist?”  Nancy wondered.  The Captain had to laugh,

“At least until you finish framing the painting you have promised me”

All the next morning, the Captain sat at the weather report desk on the Bridge and looked over the names of the newer workers.  Among the strong young men hired to carry on the Ship’s supplies and all of the food and kitchen supplies ordered by the Chefs then followed on by working at boarding time by toting the luggage to the rooms. So far he was not alarmed by any.

Captain Swan put the list down and picked up the latest weather report instead.

Oh oh, the calm seas that had been predicted so far, were changing. All the rest of the way to the closest of the Hawaiian Islands was iffy. Not so good. He didn’t want to have a weather problem to deal with while he was looking for a possible Terrorist.  Speaking of Terrorists the Captain thought bad weather was the worst terrorist of them all when it turned against you.

One of the Officials from the rarely used Ship Jail came in.  Captain Swan turned from the weather chart to hear the man who wore a Badge with the name, Van Eggers.

“ The young man incarcerated in our Jail wishes to speak to the lady who was with him.  “Is that permitted?  Do you know who he is asking for?”

“Indeed I do.  Tell him I will see if she is willing to see him.”  He stood to go find Nancy, but paused.  “Have you any idea why?”

“He seems to think she may be able to help him.”

“In what way.”

“He says he has not been truthful and she can vouch for him in something…if she will.”

“I will phone down to you Van, if I am bringing her.  But warn him that I do not plan to leave her alone with him.”

“I will. Thanks.”  The man was about to return to his jail duty, when the Captain stopped him with an question.

“How many men do you have available for watching the jail with you?”

“It hasn’t been a problem, as we almost never have anyone locked up.  Drunks are usually put into their own rooms.  But we do have that stowaway kid right now, so I am staying on duty full time to watch out for him. Art Crane said to let him know at once if a partner or friend came to see him. And watch that no one tries to break him out.  We don’t usually have this sort of thing happening down there. So I am doubling up on the watch.”

“Who relieves you?”

“We have several repair men I can call on.  They seem to like the duty.  It’s so quiet and half again better than fixing stopped up toilets!”  He joked seriously.

“Who did you give the keys to yesterday?”

“ Yesterday?  Let me think.  A Repair Man by the name of George Adams a reliable chap who doubles for me often.

“Thanks, Van.”  The Captain would give Evan Carlson the job of seeing what that Adams fellow did all day yesterday and every day if necessary.  He wanted to see that all leads were scrutinized.

Now back to the weather.  If we go a bit further south before we turn west toward the Island we can hope to get past that edge of the rough water and spend less time being tossed about as we reach Port.

If the storm eye was over Kauai we would have to miss that stop altogether.  So far that center was still out west. But the winds were sending the waves east so the waves will reach us before the wind if they are building.

He looked at the chart for the ocean depth.  The deeper the water the lower the wave build up would be. And of course just the opposite, in shallow water the taller waves would be deeper thus more dangerous for this tall Cruise Ship.

Although most people got on in San Diego and stayed for the return, there were the few who got off or on at each Port.  It was not a good idea to bypass a Port unless absolutely necessary.   He sat staring at the map as it was being up dated by the Bureau.  “Come on”, he urged the storm, “ Turn East.”  Bad for the ships on that side, but when it comes to bad weather a Captain had to look out for his own Ship.  Actually, that new map only had it right on the same track.  It didn’t go either way.  So Port it will be just a little more South first and a bumpy ride getting the small boats from the Ship to the shore.  The Super size Ships needed to hang out at sea and send passengers between the land and the Ship on a smaller boat.  It was not good to bring a huge Ship into Port unless they have a very adequate dock and quiet water.

He gave the new orders to the Crew and put it in writing for further reference with the date and time. The Captain made the choices and took the responsibility.

Now he would look into the recent request from the boy in his jail to speak to a Passenger.

Captain Swan knew just where to look for Nancy.  She liked the light on the West rail of the Ship for her Painting.  Nancy was just finishing with a very different painting of the same Ocean scene.  This time the sea was higher and the waves were breaking low.  Maybe he should have looked at Nancy’s paintings for the weather change.

She turned to fold the easel and saw the Captain approaching. Her heart beat faster, but she forced herself into control.  It wouldn’t do to let him think she as one of the myriad of women after him… even if she was.

She wondered briefly how the Brad Pitts of movie fame felt the way they had to handle so much of that sort of thing.  Did the Captain identify with Brad Pitt?  Probably not.

He began at once to explain the visit to the jail and she listened politely as she cleaned her brushes.  She was hoping that would happen and she would carry her Cell phone in case it was needed.

“I will insist on staying with you while you do… if you choose to visit the jail.”  Nancy was not hesitant, which surprised the Captain.  In fact she looked pleased.  How had that change come about.  She had been so eager to help us get him.

“You can put your things in the room; while I phone down that we are coming.”

The elevator took them down to the floor above the Engine room.  Nancy remembered what the lady had said about trying to sleep on that floor as they walked above the deep rumble.  She remarked to the Captain,

“Poor kid.  He had to put up without sleep down here over those big engines.  I hope he is all right.

“We’ll soon know.”   Captain Swan replied.

The boy wore a big smile at her arrival and nodded politely to the Captain.

“I ‘m sorry to see you in here. Are you all right?”  Nancy asked him.

“Yes.  I know now what happens to Stowaways so from now on I’ll pay my way or stay home.”  The Captain listened with amused interest. What was the kid up to now?

From the first I have been lying to everybody.  And now they think I am a Terrorist!  I am not a Terrorist and you may be the only one who might believe me.  Even when I tried to talk tough,  you saw…   Nancy interrupted,

“Let’s go sit at that table and then you should start at the beginning.  Van Eggers let the two visitors enter the jail room and sit facing the prisoner across the table.  He stood against the wall observing.

“Now that is better.  Let’s get at the truth here.  What is your real name?

“My name is Wes Langley I’m 17 and my parents think I am on a camping trip with friends. “

Nancy moved on to the next question.

“Have you been able to call home and tell them you are not at Camp Hopeful?”

“Yes the guard handed me his Cell phone and I phoned from this Cell!”  He smiled as he made the pun.

Nancy ignored it.  She wanted to know what the Parents had to say, but before he could answer the Captain broke in..

“Why did you stowaway on this Cruise ship?”  The Captain asked.

“Well I got to the dock too late to take the boat going to the Camp I was expected at.  So I was hanging around on the dock and looking at this beautiful, huge, impressive Cruise Ship getting ready to go and I was looking at it when my boat pulled out.”

Two old ladies were just standing there waiting to get on.  They told me it was a lot of fun to travel on a Cruise like this.  It was a floating city with good food, movie theaters and even live shows with an orchestra.  Then they told me that if I would carry their suitcases on, they would hide me down on the sixth floor where no one would ever bother me.  I could go around and pretend to be one of the young workers.  “They all look alike… those young boys do,” one said.  They even said they could get me a name tag to hang around my neck like the workers wore, but they never did.”  They paid me for news about stuff they wanted to know, so maybe I thought I wouldn’t need to work after all.

“See if you call my parents and explain that I accidently got on this ship and if my Dad will just give the office a Credit card to pay for a ticket, then I can have my own cheap little room and eat in the dining room and most important, get out of this jail.  But I won’t be 18 until the boat docks back in San Diego, so I need someone…an adult, to well… you know, be my sort of an acting parent.  And you are so… well, respectable, that they might let you do it.  If you are willing.”  He leaned back in relief having asked.  Now he had to await her reply.

Captain Swan was already shaking his head…No.

“Good try kid, but we’re not buying it.  You will have to be a much better actor than that to convince real grownups that you are just a duped little kid. You can’t ask a stranger to take a chance on sponsoring a possible Terrorist!”  The boy jumped up shouting, “But I am not a Terrorist!”

“You have displayed all of the written descriptions of one, as sent to us by the FBI.  Now you say we should believe you over the Government?”

“Call my parents.  I gave their number to him over there.”  He pointed to Van Eggers and sat down looking and feeling defeated.

“Parents have no idea what their wayward children are up to these days.”  The Captain informed him.  “Yours will say you are away at Camp… well won’t they?”  Wes nodded  yes then added, “Not anymore!”   They are flying out here to help me get through the court stuff.”

Nancy reached across the table to take the boy’s hand and tell him,

“Good! Now you won’t need a substitute.  I am very flattered, but the Captain has rules to follow. Everyone has rules to follow.  You didn’t get on this Ship by accident.  You walked on with your own two feet. If you saw your boat leave,  you were there in plenty of time to get on it.  So you must begin to take responsibility for your decisions “.

The Captain was torn between thinking the kid was on board for no good and was simply self centered and inconsiderate..  He was trying to decide what he could safely do about it.  Then he told the kid to get serious and become helpful,  a list of the names of others like him both on this Ship and off would go a long way toward helping him get straight with the law in Hawaii, who would soon be asking him those same things all over again.  The boy tried to look repentant.  But the Captain didn’t think he was. Nancy did.

The Captain asked the boy, Wes, to give him a list of two things.  One:  Who paid him for information and two what did he tell them that they thought was worth paying for.  Then he added a third.  If he has a guess as to who carried the gun aboard and why they put it in Nancy’s room.  But say if you are guessing.

That evening he would get Art Crane and Evan Carlson’s read on the Wes Langley matter.  The Captain was looking forward to a relaxing evening with Nancy, but it had to be in her guest room to protect the public view that her boyfriend was Art.


Nancy was sitting in her old room going over some of the photos she had collected in her camera since arriving.  They decided that since there didn’t seem to be a danger lurking she would move back to the second floor suite..

As she paused over one of the earliest pictures, taken when she had been taking shots of the different kinds of people who were arriving to Cruise on this Ship, when a big black limo pulled up.  She quickly readied her camera to photograph a movie or TV star, or whatever type took a limo instead of being dropped off by a relative or came by Taxi or one of the small vans hired by the Shipping Lines.

But the two women who stepped out to stand by the luggage which the driver had removed from the trunk surprised her.  Before she even clicked the camera she remembered the driver handing each woman an envelope and they had looked in and appeared to be counting the contents.  Not a scene she had given any thought to at the

time, but it became important as she looked at it now.  The women were Virginia and Margo from the cheap rooms, as they mentioned so often.  The same women who carried the gossip to her and said they were regulars Cruising on this Ship often.  She decided that something was not as it appeared to be and decided to talk to Art about it.

There in a later snapshot was young Wes in the back ground, leaning against a lamp post watching it all.  He was not alone.  Another fellow was in the picture with his back to the camera, neither appeared in any others.  She had returned to photographing the kids chasing up and down the dock.

She was anxious to show them to both Cap Swan and Art.  Wes seemed to be just as he had said, unless the other guy was with him. But he did not look familiar by what little you could see of him.

That day as she ate in the dining room with Art, she saw a man across the room that looked familiar after going over the pictures.  He was the white haired driver of the Limo the ladies had arrived in, and her surprise was he was here on the Ship as a passenger.

So that was the man Wes said the women went to see late each night.

It was quickly the morning before anchoring at the Port of Kauai in Hawaii. A good many of the tourists were ready to put their feet on solid ground again and were making plans to leave the Ship for the day, if the newly arrived rough sea didn’t make them change their minds.  The sailors laughed at how fast the general public reacted to a change in the weather.  This was nothing compared to what they would consider a problem sea.  This much rolling was just a day of fun.

When Nancy answered the knock at the door, she was not totally surprised to see Virginia and Margo standing there wearing giant smiles. Although she found that she enjoyed the reprieve the guest room gave her from their daily gossip.

“Well at last!”  Virginia said “We have tried several times to catch you, but you are one very busy lady and never in your suite.”   They didn’t know she was in another guest room and Nancy didn’t want them or anyone to know. Margo completed the statement to explain,

“We both had our hearts set on a nice tea with cheese cake once more before we arrived in the first Port, and this afternoon we arrive there!”

“Do you plan to go ashore?”  Nancy asked casually, as she lifted the phone to put in the order.  The sooner the tea arrived the quicker the visit would end.  Even so she was wondering if this visit would reveal anything about the two of them.  At least she could toss some off hand questions at them.

“Hearing the kitchen order, they both smiled and sat down to began the conversation with their own off hand comments.  As usual Virginia began and Margo finished each thought.

“We imagine that big new boy friend is who is probably taking up so much of your time away from this grand suite.  Do you go to his suite?”

“I would if he were mine.” Margo rolled her eyes. “What a fine looking hunk that one is.”  Margo smiled.

“Oh we won’t talk about that to other people,”  Virginia interrupted Margo to tell her.” “We know you wouldn’t want the Captain get upset about the competition.”

“The Captain?  He is nothing to me.”  Nancy told them firmly.  Both ladies laughed, and Virginia let Nancy know that they were not fooled.

“It’s alright, we are women too, so we understand.  That little argument was obviously staged to pacify the big new guy… after he caught you with the kid.”  Margo shook her head.  “You do get around don’t you?  Of course that boy is much too young for you.  But my goodness he was smitten and went after you with a childish pass.  Don’t worry we don’t believe you encouraged him.  The big boy friend sure moved that kid out fast.  The Engineers said the big man looked furious as he almost carried the scared witless kid out of your little meeting nest.. uh,  room.”

Nancy sat wondering how to handle this gossip.  Finally she put the Captain back into the picture by complimenting him.

“I really like the Captain a lot as a casual friend.  He is a very intelligent man.”  But Virginia had a ready answer to that.

“When you get to know him as well as we do, after years of traveling on his Ship, you will understand what we mean.  Just watch out and see how he is with the other pretty ladies.  He is very fond of the cute young ones.  Another Cruise and you will be wiser.“

Nancy smiled sadly and explained,

“I can’t afford to take more Cruises.  Artists don’t make much money until after they die.  That is how it has always been.  We do our painting for the love of it and let fate give the money to others.”   Virginia was wide eyed looking around the room.

“But this top of the line suite?”

“Well, I was given a small inheritance from my Uncle and decided if I was going to take but one Cruise, I should live it up good.  I don’t have any more Uncles, so this is it for me.   But this one has been…  what can I say… more than I expected.”

Nancy saw that they were buying her story by the pity in their faces as she walked to the door and let in the food cart.  Both of their attentions went immediately to the cart and the cheese cake.  It didn’t take them long to forget that ‘poor little me’ was paying for it.She watched as Virginia took over and began to pour the tea without noticing that there were only two cheese cakes.  ‘Poor me’ was not having any sweet.

The greedy pair ate without ever noticing.  They had so much to say about the Ship’s short comings, like not having the expensive foods, like cheese cake, available to the later diners just to save money.

Nancy sipped her tea deep in thought, as they did all of the talking.  They slipped in good remarks about her great looking new boy friend and were so sorry that the boy they brought on board had given her so much trouble. Maybe he would leave the Ship today at Port.  Or he might stay, if he could.  They looked up full of hope.

“Maybe you can make-up with the Captain and get our boy to stay on. He is such a nice kid and if he could stay on maybe he would.”

“I would hate to make up with that bastard just to help the boy.  They are all somewhat of a nuisance, the Captain, the boy and Mr. Crane too.”   Oh dear she just contradicted herself.  She waited a second, but they didn’t even seem to notice.

So Nancy smiled that hopeful look and suggested that the Law might go easy on Wes as he is so young.  She really did not want to give any information about him to the women.  Even they were somewhat under suspicion for something or another foul.

Did those women already have other kids going about doing the Boy’s jobs?

Certainly the Engineers were on their dole… and why?  That was the curious part. Not that some people passed the gossip for the ready cash, but that the women had a use for it.

And now there was an unknown man to be considered.  The man who drove them to the Ship in the Limousine and handed the envelopes out and then sneaked on board as a low key overseer to the women’s not so subtle business.  Wasn’t it also odd that the truth seemed the least important factor?

Even after watching the smaller boats arrive from over rough water to take passengers ashore one group after the other with much pushing and pulling just to get determined folks from Ship to transport boat, Nancy bit the bullet and decided to go ashore anyway.

The Shore Boats arrived standing away from the Ship, as the swells lifted them up too high to meet the Ship’s landing, then quickly dropped too low, as the various and

unpredictable swells kept coming..

The Passenger waiting to go from Ship to a Shore Boat was held on standby and wearing a life jacket, to be grabbed by the Boat Sailor as the Ship Sailor almost seemed to toss them over, while the two landing platforms were even with each other.  Then one flew high while the other dropped low and when even happened again another passenger was sent.  Some squealed with laughter! Others shook their heads no and walked away.

Nancy had mixed emotions about wandering about alone on an Island town where she didn’t need to buy a souvenir or anything else for that matter.

But when Art appeared by her side and suggested they go hunt for a water fall for her to paint, she was sold.  She took her box of equipment and Art volunteered to carry her easel, but she had that small one that would hold the paper for her if she located a nearby rock to set it on… so off they went.  They would trust the weather to be variable and take what they were given.  Nancy was sure a windy water fall would be spectacular.

The sixth floor ladies had squeezed up front and into the very first boat and thank goodness they didn’t see Art and herself going together.  She didn’t mind passing false information to them, but she simply hated to hear her actual activities being reported.

A golf cart was rented for following directions from the natives about where to look for special waterfalls. Since food was always last on her mind when she was off to paint,  Nancy had not planned for it.  But Art was not the same, he had picked up a picnic along with the golf cart, so they would dine on Hawaiian food when they eventually got hungry.

In the distance she spotted the two women on another rental cart kind of blowing in the opposite direction and silently gave thanks for that.

Nancy wanted to stop and paint every water fall she passed, but Art was bent on finding the recommended falls.  So Nancy settled for snapping a photo of the lesser falls as Art drove the cart.

Between picture taking she listened to Art tell her about a conversation that had taken place at lunch yesterday.  Since it was gossip from the same two women she was not particularly interested until what she was hearing began to sink in.

“They were unusually quiet at first, but acted like they were very dear friends of Captain Swan’s and wanted him to know something for his own good and I may as well be aware too, although it was up to me to look out for myself.  They could care less if I got hood winked by someone ruthless.

“Okay what did they tell him?”  Nancy asked,  “I can’t even guess after all of the talk I had to listen to yesterday”

“They simply wanted to warn him about a woman on this trip who was here to hunt for a man with lots of money to take care of her.  This very ruthless lady was posing as rich, staying in an expensive suite, with expensive clothes and stuff, even though she is penniless, flat broke and rich husband hunting.  The Captain should check that she is not charging up a large bill in the shops that he might get stuck with.”  Nancy was now attentive.  This sounded familiar.

“Did they mention a name?”

“No.  They seemed to think we could put two and two together and figure it out. They mentioned that she stands around outside and pretends to be taking pictures of people as an excuse to get to know them and find out if they are wealthy enough for her.  Art paused for her reaction then decided to tell her what theirs was.

“The Captain and I …“  he began…

“Wait a minute don’t tell me.”  Nancy stopped him.  “let me guess.  You two think they were warning you about me!  Right!”

“Well it certainly sounded like it.”  Art admitted as Nancy laughed and stopped to put her camera in the bag before replying.  The wind had stopped but a light drizzle began to fall.  They looked up and saw the clouds were moving by so, they took seats in the cart under the slight canvas roof.  Then Nancy looked at Art and told him,

“I’m very happy that at least you are able to take care of yourself, Art.  But poor Cappy, if they didn’t warn him, I might have taken him for a bundle.”

“They are full of hog wash.”  He laughed,

“Not totally their fault, you see, I told those women I was flat broke.   What they made out of that I never expected.  They were suggesting that I should pay for a Cruise ticket for the boy, so he won’t leave the Ship for good today.  But I know if I really was his mother, I would want him to come home, go back to school and get some goals.  Instead of being taken advantage of by some dishonest women like those two.”

“He must be turned over to the Law in Hawaii and let them do what is right. Don’t you agree?”  Art asked.

“I really don’t know.  I decided that whatever the Captain does was fine with me.”  Nancy replied. “But now I have some doubts.  Maybe I am the gullible one.”

“I agree except I don’t want our Cappy to get taken by you… you cute little fraud.”

“Tell me the truth.  Is that what you really believe?”  Art laughed at her version of what he really meant to say. He was thinking he wanted her to turn her charms on him… not the Captain. So he reminded her,

“Don’t you know?  Haven’t you heard the gossip?  People are saying that I am your new boy friend?”

“I’m honored, but don’t you worry… since when have those two women spread a rumor that is the truth?”  Nancy said then sat thinking it over and finally decided she owed it to Art to tell him the facts so she began with a question.

“It really is sort of a confession.  Are you sure you want to hear this?”

“I’ve been out there helping to spread the rumor.”  Art joked. Nancy scoffed.

“You have not.  You haven’t been out of my sight for how long?  Now I remember… ever since the gun turned up in my room.”

“That is how I started it.”  Art smiled and Nancy studied that smile trying to decide if he was one of guys always kidding.  So she asked him,

“Can I trust you with my secret?  It is rather personal.”

“I’d rather hear your secret than anything.  But remember if you tell another person a secret, it is not a secret anymore… it’s shared information.”

“Very well, I am going to share this information with my only friend, Art.”

“I’m listening.”

“Those crazy women are right about one thing. I am conniving… just not as they would have you, and everybody in the dinning room believe. I’m not penniless for one thing.   My paintings actually sell, but don’t make me rich.  I invest the money in Real Estate.  That is doing very well for me.  So I am far from flat broke. I told them a lie to get them off of my back.”  Nancy tried to look coy, as she was about to tell her real secret.

“It’s this way, this the secret part,  before was information.  Here goes… when I get home, I am going to buy a nice little house with the most wonderful ocean view I can find.   Maybe up on a hill with a wide open ocean scene from a very big picture window.

Then I will invite the Captain to dinner and when he comes he will stand at that window looking out, then he’ll  go out and sit on the deck chair to breathe it in and he will say,

“If I lived here I would never get anything done. I would just sit here all day.”  Nancy stopped the dream to explain, “ That is what everyone says who visits my parent’s ocean view house.”  She spoke softer in almost a whisper, “Then I will try to get up the nerve to let him know that my house and I will be waiting for when he gives up the Ship and the Sea to take a land job.”   She sighed… it was out.  But Art was negative.

“He will never give up the Ship or the sea, Nancy.  He loves sailing too much.”  Art said with authority.

“Why not?”  she rationalized.  “He long ago flew a plane in the Army and he loved that too, but he gave it up for this ocean going job.  If he can run that Ship he can run any kind of a Company he gets interested in.”  Her serious look left and she smiled again. “So I will mention to him that as a land owner, he can buy a little sail boat for weekends and we can book Cruises to faraway places like Greece, Alaska or even Hawaii.  He can see them as a tourist instead of needing to worry about weather and terrorists.”

Art looked serious as he tried to tell her where she might be asking too much.

“Well Nancy, good luck with your pipe dream.  I can only hope the Captain sees it your way…  But sorry, I just don’t believe that will happen as you dream it.  The Captain simply will not do it.”  There were a few long seconds of empty silence for that to settle in before Art shocked her by adding,

“So I will be happy to do it, if he doesn’t.”  Nancy looked at him surprised and felt a pang of sympathy.

“Oh, Art, you are wonderful!  I had no idea you felt that way.  But I was already a goner from the very first time the Captain came up to me and made me slop a brush full of paint into my clear sky.  I turned to see the unexpected voice that had startled me and looked into those sky blue eyes.  I have never seen eyes that color of blue before and I was mesmerized.  I am a sucker for colors, you know.  If he could sing, we would all be swooning… But the gossip ladies are right you see.  I have set my cap for Captain Swan… but not until he quits being a Sea Captain.”   Nancy felt she had to explain and let Art understand.

“In my, what you call pipe dream, Cappy and I live in a house, have a couple of kids a boy and a girl and spend our retirement traveling the world on other people’s Ships.  If I can’t get that dream… it won’t be because I didn’t try.”  Art noticed that the rain stopped and stretched out of the cart to simply repeat,

“If you don’t get your wish…  look me up.”  But Nancy didn’t want the conversation to end with that so she asked him,   “Now you tell me your dream.  What have you been aiming for while you do this difficult Government work?”  He stood and looked up at the bluing sky and began

“ For your private information, I already have a house, but the view is very different from what you seek.  My view goes off for miles, well it looks like miles, but it’s only a couple of thousand acres with fields, woods, a river and a pond for swimming and fishing.  Horses running free.  Cattle grazing lazily and kids…  someday, to ride and fish with me.

This Government job has me helping with that damned Terrorist War, but nothing lasts forever.  One of us will win eventually and I sure hope it is Freedom.  My house is there waiting for that to happen.”

“Where is that house? And who is watching it for you?”  Nancy had grown interested.

“ North Texas up near the Mississippi River and the Colorado border, my brother is there with a lovely wife and a child, a little boy, the lucky guy.  He is designing a house on a hill not far away.  We will share the land when I come home to stay. There is certainly enough, if I ever get this job done and… “  Art looked at Nancy to finish the thought,  “bring home a wife.”  Nancy smiled and began to put away the paints.  She told him honestly,

“Some woman will be very lucky to share that dream with you.  I might even look you up in north Texas if mine fails to come true.  But you deserve better than second.”

He chuckled… “Then it would be second for both of us. But yours won’t.  I just know it. I know you and Captain Swan, so now I had better get to looking around.”  He laughed as he joked,  “I know… I’ll tell those old gossips to find me someone else.”

The sun was out, so they rode around on the cart for the lovely views, then went to turn it in.  Nancy saw that the two women were turning their cart in also and she nearly suggested to Art that  they look around some more, but the same man who drove them to the Ship in the limo was standing right there.  Here in Kauai at the cart office.

She took her camera out and snapped his picture then explained softly to Art why.

“We’ve got to find out who that man is and why he pays for those women to take that Cruise with Captain Swan and make trouble.  And now I see he is along also, just usually out of sight except when he goes to a Ship Dining Room.

The women say they have been on this Cruise several times.  Does that make sense?  If they were spending their own money wouldn’t they go on different Ships to other places?  Someone must buy them the Cruise, then give them cash in twenty dollar bills to buy information from staff to knock the Ship.  Also to spread unflattering rumors about the Ship’s Captain.  Why?”

That’s easy.”  Art told her.  “It happens all the time. I’ve had to catch a few. It’s called, Industrial Sabotage or Fraud, where a competing Company plants someone into a competitor’s business and causes problems they can use to undermine the competition’s reputation for their own gain.

If it’s another Cruise Line wanting the business this Ship is attracting and they can undermine the reputation of the Captain, Crew, food, rooms, or anything about the one, to sell more tickets for the other.  Who is this line’s competitor?”

“I have no idea.”  Nancy tried to remember what her choices had been.

“Even the fuss about a possible Terrorist could cut down on their business.  Sometimes a disease is discovered and people cancel by the dozens.  Even if it is just a rumor or a real sick person planted on purpose.  They usually have a Doctor conveniently on board to verify the terrible sounding, but not serious, problem.”

“What a lot of work to go through for a few more passengers.”  Nancy could scarcely believe it was that simple.”

“It sounds like a lot of work but it really is simple and the simpler the more effective.  I still have to find out who knocked out our Captain. I’ll look into that guy.”

Nancy had begun to think it was another Kid, on the pay roll, and when he saw a chance he went in and  took advantage.  He probably got two twenty’s for that one. ”

Art walked over to the counter to hear what Company paid for the two women’s Cart rental.”

“There you are!”  He said when he returned, “They charged their rental cart to the Acme Cruise Lines.  Captain Swan works for the Classic Cruise Line.  So the lovely ladies with the Twenties to pay for gossip and mischief, are working for Acme.”

“They get to travel free, if they bring back or send ahead, lots of bad news about Captain Swan’s Company.”  Nancy thought and added.

“I’d demand First Class, where the cheese cake is.”  She declared adamantly.

“Where the what is? “  Art questioned.

“I’ll explain later,  Its an inside joke.  Let’s get back and talk to the Captain.”  They were almost there when Nancy thought to ask Art.

“Can the Captain deny those ladies’ boarding rights?”

“He could, but they could use it against him.  It would be better to just talk to the known informers.  You can convince the kid to go through with the Hawaiian’s Court then go home and face the music.  Nancy was thinking sadly about the boy’s troubles.

“Isn’t it a shame that a boy with so much potential gets off just a little bit in the wrong direction. But now he’ll have to pay the penalty.  Those women owe a debt too that only a Court can inflict”

“ I’ll see that it will happen.!”  Art told her.  “I’ll check on the limo, too, if we can read a license plate from one of your photographs, it will add to the proof.”

“If it is the Acme Company, what will Captain Swan do?”

“File a complaint.  His Company must have Lawyers.  It would be unbelievable to have 3000 passengers and 1500 employees and not have a large staff of lawyers.”

“Maybe when it is all over my Captain will be ready for a land job.” Nancy smiled.

“I’ll probably be working on a Train or a Subway looking for you know what and who!”  Art told her as they found their way to the dock and caught a Boat back to the Cruise Ship, Stormy Knight.

“I feel much safer with good guys like you doing that difficult and dangerous job for the rest of us.”  Nancy answered, then brightened to tell him a new dream a double dream.  “When you finally win for Freedom, we will bring our kids to visit your kids on the Texas Ranch to learn to ride horses and you can bring your kids to visit us on the California Beach so they can become surfers.”

“You got it!”  Art smiled.  As they cheerfully boarded the Ship happily smiling at all of those great preplanned futures, Captain Swan was standing at the top of the steps wondering what made those two so happy.

“How did it go on shore?”  He asked, as they stopped next to him.

“Great!”  Art told him.  “Between the two of us we have made perfect plans for everyone.  All of our lives will be wonderful, as soon as Freedom wins the war.”

“Really?”  Captain Swan looked puzzled.

“Don’t worry about a thing, Cap, you will love it!” Art reported with absolute certainty.

“Oh Nancy,”  The Captain remembered to call her back.  “I have to go see the Jailer and help him see the boy off to the Authorities.  You said you wanted to say goodbye to him.  I don’t recommend it.  But as you asked?”

“Yes I do.  Art tells me that the kid believes in me and I might get in a good word for his future plans also.  You know, recommend College and let him know that if he actually gets any jail time he may get started with College right from where ever he is, especially if he is in a Juvenile facility.  When are you going?”

“Right now.”   Nancy handed her paint supplies to Art.  He took them matter-of-factly, as if he expected them.

Captain Swan wondered what the pair of them had figured out that they were so merry about?  Captain Swan knew Art said he would approve, but he was not so sure.

He quickly checked the weather one more time then stopped for Nancy before going to the 7th floor jail to get it over with and send the young man on his way.  If this was what Nancy wanted he would take the time, otherwise it would be a job for Evan.

The Authorities were not yet on the scene, so Nancy could have her quiet little talk with the Boy and they would leave when the Hawaiians arrived.

The Jailer Van Eggers, let them in and stood by the wall not expecting this to take much time.  None of them did, but they were wrong!  The boy stood nearby the jailer and said again how sorry he was the way things turned out.  He held up the papers he had written for Captain Swan.  They were folded into an envelope with Captain Swan & Nancy Carroll written on the front.

The Captain removed the pages and began at once to read what Wes had carefully printed with a pen. On the first page he had listed as many of the things he had been paid to do for the two women and what the few others he knew about first hand had been paid to do, like daily gossip and spying for most of the page,  no damage or attacks.  It ended with the dead fly Virginia had paid a cook to put into a bowl of soup headed for a first class room.  Nancy felt helpless with curiosity.  What can have taken so much paper?

What was the point in merely talking with the boy if he had written all of the answers to her questions on the two pages?

As soon as Captain Swan read page one, he passed it to her as he began page two.  It began with… The little gun is the property of Margo.  She always carried it in her purse until she accidently dropped it one day as she was taking something else out of that big over stuffed purse and she didn’t know where to look until she spotted it under the dresser in Nancy’s room.  She had to point it out as she could not reach it herself.  Then she lost it for good, she thought, when Nancy let Art take it away.

That was how I knew it was hers, because I had seen it in the purse before, so I agreed to steal it back as soon as I could learn where it was stored.  It is now back in her purse.

Virginia carries a weapon in her huge purse, too.  Hers is something I don’t know the name of.  It is heavy metal like a Black Jack that fits her hand with a little pop-out extension.  I’m sorry to say she used it on the back of the Captain’s head that day.  When she opens that purse a strong gardenia perfume wafts out, that she hopes will hide the odor of the maize capsule. If the Captain recalls the attack, he would recognize that strong Gardenia smell.

I had been following them to try to understand what they were up to and I entered his room as they came out after the Cap was knocked out.  I saw at once that he was down but not out and would soon be up.   I could not take a chance on being there when he came to.  The reason they gave when I challenged them, was that it was so they could find Margo’s gun and they thought he might have it in his room.  They didn’t find it on that very fast search.

I learned that it was in the possession of the Top Security man, Art Crane.  I searched his room when he was out and returned it to Margo.  Since he wasn’t doing anything with it, he probably still doesn’t know it’s gone.  Search the purses of two ladies you know and you will learn what I know.

I got pretty good at stealing when I was a kid and probably owe my Mom about fifty bucks I took a dollar at a time for candy from her purse over the years.  I took ten dollars from the Register at Jack in the Box when I worked there and was sentenced to a week at Camp Hopeful by the judge, plus the money back to my Boss.  I owe my Dad for that missed Camp payment now.

The man the Ladies went to see every night for more money, is hired by Acme Lines to discredit Classic Lines, where Captain Swan commands a prime Ship.  That man comes aboard as a single passenger and eats in every dining room with different ladies and gentlemen to point out the short coming of the service.  His name is Edward Small.

Since I have collected a pile of twenty dollar bills from those illegal jobs and have been here with nowhere to spend them, I am sending them to the Captain for whatever I owe him for the Cruise.  I know Nancy would not approve my keeping them under these circumstances.  If I missed anything, I’m sorry, but this is everything I can remember for the last seven years.  I was pretty good up until I was ten.  I think my Mom will agree to that.  They are actually on their way to Hawaii to help me get a fresh start.  Even if I don’t deserve it yet.  It was signed… Wesley Langley.  And had a fat, rubber banded, stack of twenty dollar bills in the envelope.

This sheet took the Captain longer to read and Nancy had come to read over his shoulder.  Then she stood back and asked,

“Now What?  Cappy. Now what?  It’s still your call, at least until a Hawaiian Judge is involved.”   The Captain stood thinking about that paper full of names and facts he had requested.  This was far more than he intended.   He didn’t know whether to smile or cry for the kid.  It seems that Van Eggers had already read the pages and was waiting for a word also.

“This decision calls for a jury.”  Captain Swan told them.  “I’m phoning up to get Crane, Carlson and Doc Brown and George Adams down here.  With Eggers, Nancy, and me that makes seven so it can’t be a tie for sure .

Wesley you go up and eat lunch in the main Dining Room, have a good one on us.  When you get back we will tell you the results.”

Van Eggers opened the door and Wes walked slowly out, much more interested in what was going to happen behind him.  He looked back once, but could not read the faces.  He saw his confession and tell-all papers, intended for the Captain and Nancy, being read by the others and felt embarrassed.

Once everyone was assembled and had read the pages they both laughed and grimaced at the kid’s complete recollections. Then Captain Swan asked for a paper vote. “YES”  He walks out of here free with his parents.  “NO” He goes with the Court Authorities.

The Captain opened and read the slips one at a time. The agreement was six to one “YES”  Wesley Langley should go free straight from the Ship with his Parents.

The Hawaiian Authorities would still have work to do, as there were three people on board at this Port who had broken some laws and would be arrested immediately for a long list of those crimes.

Wesley Langley could not be called a stowaway as he had paid for the short Cruise to Kauai. The Jury agreed.  The one voter who did not agree and voted “NO” was not identified in the secret ballot.

The Authorities arrived for a kid and ended up with three felons instead.  The Parents arrived and were pleased and grateful for the nearly unanimous decision.

Young Wesley was mostly humbled by it and vowed to do well in College.  When he graduated four years later, Wes got a job helping to run that very highly recommended facility called, “Camp Hopeful For Wayward Young Boys”.   Oh and now “Girls” too!.

As an adviser Wes was well armed with firsthand knowledge of their problems and even had learned some useful answers.  Years passed and shared dreams had begun to come true for Nancy and Art.  Nancy often thought about that time, then one day she asked,  “I wonder who had not agreed on the six to one decision that long ago day.” Nancy  asked her husband, as they stood at their picture window and looked out at the beautiful Pacific Ocean. “Do you happen to know or remember?”

“Yes I do, because I was that one NO vote..”  He admitted smugly.  Nancy was surprised and shocked.

“But I know you agreed with all of us that he should go with his Parents.  So then why would you vote “NO?”

“Two reasons.  If everyone had voted NO, it would unanimous, which would leave no doubt.  That would be good.  But If only one voted NO, the boy would be on notice that there was still some doubt, so he had better work to prove that one person wrong.”

Nancy understood that, but had to laugh as she reminded him,

“On the day we first met, remember?  I did say that you were a, Deep Thinker.”

THE END AGAIN… Vote, Story 1, 2, or 3.    BEVERLY MOSIER NOVEMBER 2014