Kelly had killed a man. It was in self-defense, which provided some comfort, but the fact remained she had shot a man to death. For the moment her story and alibi were implausible so she had a huge incentive to stay hidden. She needed time to prepare for the difficult questions the authorities would be asking.
“Get away,” her mind screamed but as she was perched on a ship that was most definitely a finite space, her options were limited. Intuitively she believed she needed to keep moving through the ship’s interior to avoid discovery but each move invited discovery by an observer. Right or wrong, she pressed on. While constantly changing location, she furiously thought through the questions she would soon be answering.
“Damn, damn, damn, this was supposed to be a relaxing vacation, away from home and rules,” she thought.
All she had wanted was to leave her sedate, conservative life and have a little fun, but she had allowed it to get out of control. She now found herself wandering an ocean liner in fear of loosing her freedom, her mind, and possibly, her life.
Rounding a corner she stumbled upon a flight of steps and raced down. As she descended the cramped stairs, each section coiled in every nine steps. It seemed like ages until she arrived at the bottom of the stairwell where the stairs opened up into a corridor. She hunched quietly in the stairwell corner just short of the well-lit, very utilitarian corridor that was intended for ship’s staff, not passengers.
She relaxed slightly as the lights in the corridor dimmed automatically. They were on a motion sensor that triggered the lights down and with no motion they remained dimmed. Lying in the darkened stairwell she managed to relax for the first time in hours. Wedged against her right hip, in her pocket, lay the small pistol. It was a snub-nosed .38. It felt curiously comfortable considering that prior to this voyage she had never even held a gun. Now it seemed like her best friend. Remarkably easy and surprisingly intuitive to operate, just like on TV, she had popped off the safety, aimed, pulled the trigger, and the weapon had fired. Its short barrel and lack of range and accuracy were irrelevant. The cabins on the Ocean Queen were not as spacious as the marketing materials would have you believe and the little weapon had been remarkably effective. She had indeed killed a man.
She thought back over the last three days. When she had arrived on board, the experience had been as wonderful as advertised, a dream come true.
Three days earlier, to board the ship, she had been in a line moving through security to board the Ocean Queen. She had never sailed on an ocean liner before so her first experience on this huge vessel was disorienting, although that paled with how she felt now.
She wondered if her experience was consistent with those of her fellow passengers. Certainly some of her experiences were a bit different as she was a single woman and there didn’t seem to be a lot of folks standing alone in the lines waiting to board but rather families, couples, and assorted traveling groups. The Sarasota First Baptist Church, Young Adults Group, stood out as they were wearing brightly colored t-shirts. She assumed they would be a quiet group, church group and all. Either way, on a ship this size, their small group of twenty-four might not even be seen after they sailed. Yes, she counted them; it was a very long, very boring line.
Several steps ahead of her in the line was a youngish couple, clearly on their honeymoon. His arm was wrapped around her waist and she leaned into him resting her head on his shoulder as the line slowly trudged forward. Even without the just married stickers on their carry-ons, there was the curious forced intimacy of a newly-married couple, anxious to see where this new adventure was going to take them, hopefully joining the fifty percent of couples who make it rather than the fifty percent who did not.
Her head on his shoulder was an awkward pose as she was noticeably taller than he was. She watched them make their way through the line and she thought of the various lovers she had enjoyed and noted they had all been, as is typical, taller than her. She wondered if sex for a woman was better if your partner was shorter. Does that liberate her to be more aggressive, more demanding, and subsequently, more satisfied, or is the whole sex-thing just an expectation that relationships of certain duration include and, if you decline, you are leveling a negative expectation on the relationship’s viability?
Declining had frequently ended her relationships but, in her experience, sex, at its best, was equivalent to a nice meal, never near as enjoyable as an excellent meal, and at its worst, an absolute nuisance. She decided her height, or lack thereof, probably did not really impact the quality of her sexual experience but this particular couple appeared awfully happy. The new bride seemed quite taken with her man and he seemed awfully happy, even though he was gazing up at her every time she lifted her head up off his shoulder.
He must make a ton of money, she thought, you know, reacher and settler and all. From a distance, it appeared that neither of them suffered from a lack of confidence. She was intrigued by this young couple and made a mental note to chat with them if the opportunity presented itself.
Out of the corner of her eye she saw a brightly colored beach ball popping through the air. The line was trudging through a roped off winding area and, as boredom had set in, someone had launched a beach ball through the air and the crowd played as they kept the ball in the air. It reminded her of a concert she had attended in which a similar ball had been tossed about. Of course, she was alone at the concert so had stayed to the side and watched the crowd launching the ball and enjoying the fun. Always observing, never participating.
Here in the line she considered reaching up and participating but the rest of the group seemed quite capable of keeping the ball in play without her so she held back. She did not want to draw attention to herself. Later she wondered if that had marked her to the less-savory passengers with whom she ultimately found herself embroiled.
The security system for getting through to the ship was a three-step process. First passengers passed through a set of metal detectors, after which the line trudged, no other word does justice, to the second stage, a screening line where their tickets and passports were inspected. Finally, the third and last section where they made their way up an enclosed gangway that ran parallel up along the side of the ship. At the top of the stairs, the gangway angled across the water and into a door in the side of the ship.
The doorway led into a modest lobby, actually a very small space, that passengers passed through fairly quickly. That lobby was deceptive, because it opened into a grand reception foyer. The ceiling in the foyer was, based on a count of the balconies facing into the ship, more than six floors high.
There was a grand piano in the center. A guest counter was situated toward the left. On the near right wall was a small bar serving complimentary Champagne, sparkling wines, and cider; quite the celebratory atmosphere. In the center of the space a glass elevator rose to the upper decks, connecting at each level with a glass-enclosed walkway. To the left and the right of the main level, hallways led away from the reception hall. These halls led to elevators that were, if compared to the glass elevator in the foyer, fairly utilitarian. All throughout the space was a small army of the liner’s staff helping customers make their way to their rooms. To the right of the reception hall the passage led aft towards the stern and to the left the passage led forward toward the bow, both more than 450 feet away from the reception. The Ocean Queen was a big gal.
Kelly made her way through the reception hall and headed for the hallway on the left where the elevators were located. Her cabin was on the C-deck or the third deck. The decks were lettered from the top down meaning the A-deck was the first passenger deck. There was a line to use the elevators that was assisted by staff members that organized the passengers as they entered.
Kelly patiently waited for her turn with her carry on, a roller bag, and a garment bag. In the elevator she noticed a man on the far side of the packed elevator. He seemed to be studying her but after a moment his gaze drifted off to a distant spot in the cab of the elevator and Kelly figure she had been mistaken; he was just bored and taking in his surroundings.
She studied him briefly, unsure if she was disappointed that she had not held his interest. He was not good looking in a conventional sense but he had a solid, dependable look to him. His face never cracked a smile and she sensed unrest, and a bit of danger, which she chalked up to a byproduct of her reading detective novels.
He was just another passenger who happened to be riding the same elevator. She pulled herself back before she had created an entire fictional daydream scenario, a typical activity for her. This trip was fantasy enough; she didn’t need any distracting daydreams.
The elevator stopped on C-deck and the elevators opened into a small alcove. The alcove turned to the right and merged quickly into a small hallway that connected, at each end, with the two long corridors where the cabins were located. These two long corridors ran the length of the ship. The small hallway, that connected the two long corridors also held stairs that were an alternative to the elevators. On older liners these would have been the grand staircase but on contemporary ships the stairs had been minimized and the elevators were more pervasive. In all fairness, the ships are larger and porters far fewer. The irony in all this is that the gym was much more extensive than those on earlier ships so rather than getting exercise by carrying your luggage and walking, you did it on machines that went nowhere.
Exiting the elevator, Kelly turned right, and then right again, which led to the starboard side. At the main corridor on the starboard side, she turned to the left, towards the bow, and made her way forward to Cabin C-112, an outside cabin and her home for the next seven days.
She slipped her key-card into the door lock and let herself in the room. The room, while not huge, was comfortable. Immediately to the left when you entered the room was a small restroom. To the right a closet with cubbyholes and a bar for hanging her garment bags. Moving forward into the cabin there was a large double bed; an anachronism for a single women traveling alone but it did breed a little bit of hope, at least at the beginning of this trip. Huddled in the crew spaces, hiding after having defended herself, she mused that she had certainly gotten lucky but not in the way she had hoped.
The bed was to the left side of the narrow room and across from the bed was a bureau and a television set. The far wall was the outside of the ship and contained a large sliding door that led onto a balcony. There was a small lounge chair on the balcony. The balcony was metal and quite industrial but it was a balcony on a cruise ship and was a delightful place to rest and relax. Here at dockside she could look over the side and watch small boats surrounding the Queen as she prepared to leave. Further away were numerous larger recreational vessels, spectators anxious to watch the Queen leave her berth.
Kelly slid into something comfortable and festive and made her way up two flights to the Promenade deck. The Promenade was a continuous wooden deck that encircled the ship and allowed guests to be outside. The wood was a rich dark brown, heavily lacquered and, even though the Queen was relatively new, already showing the weathering that would give it a unique character for the rest of her sailing career. Fore and aft were lifeboat davits and scattered along the deck were beautiful lounge chairs where folks could read and relax as they enjoyed the ocean air. There were lanes on the deck for runners who took advantage of the ships open air space to run.
The Queen had one, quite tall smoke stack that led the fumes from the engines away from the ship so the air on board was remained clean, salty, and wonderful.
Kelly was sure some passengers on this voyage had never smelled air that clean and nice, particularly those from larger cities; it was such a treat. She had contrasted the air on the deck, so clean and salty, with the air back home in West Virginia (huddled in the stairwell she wondered when she would next smell that fresh deck air again or even, the delightful fresh pine scented air back home).
On the Promenade she had heard music wafting forward from the stern. Wandering aft towards the music, she saw the ship’s band playing atop the highest accessible deck on the ship. Each deck down extended a little further aft so that everyone could look up and watch the band play. It was easy for all to dance as the ship prepared to leave.
She picked up a margarita from the bar and headed to the furthest aft part of the ship where the ship’s flag of registry flew. This flag not one she recognized, was Liberian. Looking over the stern of the ship she watched the dockworkers remove the huge ropes from the bollards on the dock. One by one the ropes were pulled into the ship. There were two on the stern and two on the bow. Ships left the harbor in an orderly sequence; the Ocean Queen was the next to last to leave. As the ship was nudged from the dock by large tugs the bassoon profondo tones of the ship’s horns echoed across the harbor. Looking over the stern Kelly watched the water churn under the stern of the ship as the ship pulled away from the dock accompanied by the cheers of the people on the numerous pleasure craft around the ship. When the Queen was roughly a hundred feet from the dock the tugs pulled back and thick black smoke poured from her single stack and rose far above the vessel. Kelly could feel the deck below her feet tremble as the massive engines revved up and moved 90,000 tons of ship away from the land. The water passage leading out of the port was behind the Queen and there was not enough space, not nearly enough, for her to make a U turn so she backed towards the far side of the bay so that her bow could swing towards the passage leading to the open ocean.
The engines shifted ahead as the bow came abreast of the passage to the sea and as her center line lined up with the center of the passage, she increased her speed made her way into the ocean. Along the shore revelers watched as the Queen cleared the opening. Several hundred yards from the shores there was a break wall, the last barrier between the port and the open ocean. The Queen slipped past the break wall and was free of the port. Her crew rang up the engines and she roared into the warm waters of the south Atlantic.
Even though she weighed 90,000 tons and was as long as three football fields, she was dwarfed by the ocean and her hull noticeably rose and fell with the waves. Kelly hung back by the railing as the ship moved and Kelly was astonished at how quickly the shore dropped away. In almost no time the houses were indistinguishable from each other or from the shore line, now a long brownish/green line in the distance. Beyond the shore the sun was setting as the Queen steamed east into the vast ocean and the peaceful evening.
Once the shore ceased to be visible Kelly turned and gazed forward. The lights on the ship were lit and the wooden deck gleamed. On the aft deck where she was standing was a small pool and a Jacuzzi. Other passengers were milling about and enjoying their time as the warm breeze from the movement of the ship through the ocean swept over the deck. The hum of the engines settled into a steady distant rumble that blended with the cacophony of sounds from the ship. Kelly studied the various groups that lingered here on the aft deck.
The ships impromptu band had left to play elsewhere and music drifted from speakers arranged discretely about the deck. Alone aft at the furthermost point on the ship; she smiled as she considered that this situation, her alone and watching others, was quite the constant in her life. Fortunately, as the various groups drifted off to the assorted bars on board or to get ready for dinner, her being alone did not see to be as obvious. It was then she noticed the one other solitary person on the deck.
A man stood by the railing on the port side of the ship, he seemed to be staring off into the distance but then she realized he was looking at her. He seemed familiar but she couldn’t place him. He was just shy of six feet, reasonably slender and military bearing, with the exception of a slight salt and pepper goatee. There eyes met and locked briefly Then she glanced away towards the Tiki bar on the starboard side of the ship and decided now would be a good time to get another drink. She walked to the bar and ordered another margarita.
As the bartender placed the drink in front of her he asked, “Where would you like this billed.” “Bill it to D-113,” said a commanding voice.
She stepped back from the bar quickly and bumped into the man she had seen on the far side of the deck just moments ago. He had moved across the deck while she was ordering her drink and was now, apparently, buying her a drink.
“Oh, excuse me,” she said as she moved to the side. “Thanks, to what do I owe this generosity.”
“I noticed you standing alone, and, since I was alone, I thought I would introduce myself, I’m Scott Gray.
“Well hello,” she responded, “and thank you very much. I’m Kelly Holmes.” She noticed he was a fairly good looking man. His goatee was neatly trimmed and his blue eyes were bright but with an odd intensity.
“Are you traveling alone?” she asked, kicking herself for being so forward so quickly.
“Nope, this trip was scheduled with a number of friends but at the last minute they were unable to come. I decided, since I had the time scheduled and the trip was already paid, to make the trip alone. I wasn’t sure I would be able to meet someone to socialize with but I knew the ocean air and the relaxation would do me good. Are you traveling alone or will there be someone along asking me why I am buying you a drink?” His eyes smiled at this comment and Kelly suspected, he might actually be flirting.
“Oh I am definitely traveling alone but, like you felt this would be a fun and healthy retreat and not something I have ever done,” she replied. “Plus this is so different from my home in West Virginia, I just couldn’t resist the opportunity. Living in the mountains, as I have my whole life, the opportunity to spend time on a ship was too enticing. I hadn’t taken into account how breathtaking the ocean would be; this is really something,” she said through a smile. “How about you; where are you from?”
“I am from a small Texas town west of Houston. I decided to do this trip before I was too far into middle age and, this was a good deal. Like you, I am used to being on dry land, but unlike you, where I live we are flat, hot, and humid. You’re right, there is something special and different about the ocean.”
The conversation drifted away and Kelly noticed it did not seem awkward standing there in silence. Scott gazed off towards the front of the ship and she thought she rather liked this gentleman.
“Well Scott, thank you for my drink, I am sure I will see you around,” she said as she turned to walk away.
“I’m sure you will Kelly,” he murmured and for just a moment she thought she saw a hint of danger in his eyes but quickly they returned to their bright blue. “Enjoy dinner this evening.”
Kelly headed back forward on the Promenade and entered the ship at the first set of double doors. These led into one of the long corridors that ran the length of the ship and she moved forward towards the elevators next to the staircase. She slipped down two flights on the stairs and over to her cabin. Once inside her cabin she threw open the curtains flooding the room with moonlight and fresh air. Looking over the edge of her balcony, she noticed that it appeared the ocean was slipping quickly past the hull, when in fact the hull was pushing its way through the warm ocean waters. She breathed in and tried to relax for a moment before heading to dinner. It was peaceful and quiet here in her cabin, at last, exactly what she had hoped for on this adventure.
Scott watched as Kelly walked back up the Promenade deck. He was intrigued by her. Kelly had caught his eye in the elevator several hours ago and when the opportunity to meet her had presented itself he had taken advantage. She appeared to be a nice, young Midwest American lady and Scott was looking for some companionship on this cruise.
Most of what he had shared with her on the Promenade was true. He had booked the cruise to get some quiet time and to experience something different from his native Texas home but there had never been a group of friends in on the deal. Creating a back story was preferable to explaining the truth that he was here alone and had planned it that way. No reason to create the impression right out the gate that he was a a loner who booked this trip, and like to travel, alone. Plus, he wasn’t sure she was alone herself when he had started to chat with her and there was no reason to raise the concerns of an attentive husband. Now that that possibility was eliminated he had a green light to approach her again on this trip.
Scott was a long way from Houston, Texas. The wide open spaces of Texas did a poor job of preparing him for the relatively cramped spaces on the Queen. Despite the luxury, he still missed the western culture and vast spaces of home. Nevertheless, he reminded himself this was supposed to be a new experience and he had to give it a chance. After Kelly disappeared back into the ship he made his way to the bar and ordered a beer. To his delight they had Shiner, an Texas-brewed beer. Even if it had not been good beer, and it was, it would have been great to taste something familiar. Declining the use of a glass he took his bottle and strolled to the back part of the deck and gazed at the wake the massive ship left as she continued to speed into the night. The silence, which was so prevalent in Texas, and generally such a calming influence, was lost on the immense ship with her engines, lights, bands, and bustling passengers.
Here at the stern he expected to feel her engines but surprising it was quite smooth. Unbeknownst to Scott, newer ships suspended the engines beneath the hull in pods and one of the benefits this design afforded was the lack of vibration that was so common in years past.
Scott finished his beer and made his way back into the ship. Even in the Caribbean, once the sun went down there was a chill, particularly on board a ship where the breeze is accentuated by the ship’s motion. He strode down the hallway and made his way down the same steps as Kelly to the deck just below hers and to his cabin. His cabin was on the inside of the corridor. He popped on the light, stretched out across the bed, and dozed off as the ship rocked ever so slightly, pushing through the ocean.
He awoke with a start. Something was different. His cabin had no windows and the lights were off; he could not recall, had he turned them off? In the dark he couldn’t see anything different; the sway of the ship was the same. The distant sound of the engines had not changed so he was unsure what had changed but he clearly perceived something was different. He pulled on his loafers and opened the door to his cabin. Everything appeared normal and the corridor was empty. He checked his watch and noticed it was almost nine, and he had slept through dinner. He made his way up to the promenade and found a small sports pub that was still open. He would need to pay for his meal but since this was his first night, in a new place, in a new time zone, he felt OK with that and happily paid $15.00 for a burger, fries, and a beer.
Sitting in the dim pub he watched the people go by and wondered what adventures this voyage held.
“Don’t turn around; don’t look,” said a voice. It came from a table to Scott’s right, in the shadows. The voice was low, lacking completely in subtly and unmistakably dangerous. Scott started to turn but a sharp blow to his side convinced him his best bet was to obey and relax for just a moment and see what this was about.
“You appear to be traveling alone,” said the voice.
“Yes I am and why is that any concern of yours,” Scott replied. He felt himself getting angry but with no visual cues or other information to evaluate his opponent, he held himself still for the moment.
Scott was not an athlete in any contemporary sense but he kept in shape, worked out consistently and generally felt formidable enough to defend himself but by the same token, he knew there were others more formidable than he and he was not anxious to mix it up with no sense of who he was fighting, and worse, no clue as to the reason.
“My new friend, why that is of concern to me is my business and not yours and rest assured, at this juncture you want to cooperate with me. I have some business to which I need to attend and I need someone like you to assist me, which you will. If all goes well, you will end your vacation safe and sound back in the United States, if not, a lone figure disappearing over the side at night will not be missed until it is far too late and you are far too dead.”
Scott, considering the obvious and unexpected situation in which he found himself, marveled at how easily this strange man delivered such an ominous threat with barely any effort; as natural as any conversation.
“OK fine,” Scott replied, you’re screwing up my dinner just now and I don’t like feeling threatened so let’s conclude this cryptic conversation so I can get back to my meal. What do you want?”
“Well, let’s be clear; we know where your cabin is located, we know your name and we know you are traveling alone. We are going to be moving some merchandise to America aboard this ship and you will be helping us.”
“And if I don’t?”
“Then you will die, and we will move to the next candidate; you are not the only passenger traveling alone on this ship; just the lucky first pick.”
Scott’s heart was racing as it dawned on him that this was for real. His simple neat little vacation had taken a remarkable and dangerous turn. “Now what?”
“Head back to your cabin; relax; enjoy the cruise, we will be in touch; oh, and keep your mouth shut, don’t test us on this.”
“And..,” Scott waited.
Quiet… Scott waited… Quiet
After a moment he turned and the table was empty. Scott studied the table for some sign of who had been there; nothing. The room seemed very empty and Scott’s head was swimming. He pushed the meal, long since cold, away, the beer was still cold enough and he sipped it slowly and wondered what the hell had just happened. After a few minutes he finished his beer and got up from his table and headed for the door. He glanced about the pub, to see who was here but it was for the most part deserted. Out on the promenade the wind was whipping along the deck even stronger, the ship was picking up speed as it headed south; the stars were brilliant.
Kelly slid into an evening gown, very formal. She was not going to waste her first dining experience in the beautiful formal dining room on the Queen. She dressed in an ivory gown, cut lower in the front though nothing scandalous, with long sleeves and a pearl necklace that had been her grandmothers. Her grandfather had given it to his grandmother when he returned from the war in Europe where he had been in the American Army. He had stormed the beaches at Normandy, moved through France and ultimately was part of the force liberating Germany. In all likelihood the necklace held very little monetary value but it was lovely to the untrained eye and its meaning within the family very significant.
Flats, since they would not be visible beneath floor length gown and were far more comfortable than heels and, she was ready for dinner. Her purse was small and elegant, large enough for her glasses, the key to her room, identification, and a small wallet.
The corridor was fairly full with folks headed to the dining hall. The ship had three dining halls, each hosting two seatings over the course of the evening. Kelly was in the dining room on the D deck situated towards the stern of the ship.
The first seating was at 5:45 in the evening. She arrived at the doors just before they opened. She stood towards the back of the vestibule just outside two large doors and watched the line of folks who had already gathered for dinner. Travelers were seated according to their cabin number. After the doors opened she waited for the line to thin and then made her way into the main hall.
The dining room extended across the ship so that both sides had windows that allowed the evening light to fill the elegant dining space. As the sun sank in the west and the light diminished, it was replaced by the stars and their light glittering off the ocean.
The table for C-112’s sole occupant was to the right, where a small tier of tables was grouped. The dining hall consisted of a main floor, complete with grand piano and a small orchestra. Then the first tier where Kelly’s table was situated and a third tier above that which had the luxury of port holes through which the moonlight streamed. The main floor and outer tier were clearly the nicer tables as opposed to the intermediate tier which was minus the moonlight and piano.
Kelly’s table had six seats. There were two other couples already seated and one open seat, with no setting. The last seat was Kelly’s. Kelly sat down and immediately a server came over, filled her water glass, and welcomed her. The other two couples were speaking quietly and for a moment ignored Kelly as she got situated. The server returned with a wine list and the menu. In contrast to a restaurant the menu had fewer items but the meals were clearly over-the-top good. There were three entrees from which to choose, prime rib with potato, tilapia in a lemon sauce and capers with rice, and a vegetarian pasta. Each meal was accompanied by a salad and dessert of either Tiramisu, with ice cream or Strawberry Cheesecake. The meals were included in the price of the trip meaning guests could splurge during the cruise.
The rest of the folks at the table were still chatting amongst themselves and already had drinks, Kelly went ahead and ordered a glass of Pinot Grigio. The server came back quickly with her wine and then introduced himself to the table. English was clearly not his first language.
“Hello all, my name is Carlos and I will be your server for this trip. I look forward to tending to you well during this trip. There will be three of us at your table. I will be your server. We will also have a Wine Captain and an Assistant.”
Kelly’s mind wandered, social niceties were frequently lost on her and she was fascinated by the dining room and the folks about her, this was a long way from the mountains of West Virginia.
Carlos began taking orders, starting with the women across the table from Kelly and one to the right; the seat across from Kelly was the empty seat. When Carlos got to her she splurged and selected the prime rib. Her normally frugal self would have been inclined to order the vegetarian pasta but this was a special occasion and the meal looked fabulous.
After Kelly ordered her dinner she looked at the rest of the folks at the table. The two seats on the far side held an older couple. They were relaxed and chatting amiably with the other couple at the table, seated right next to Kelly. Kelly glanced about the dining room and her eyes returned to the seat next to her. Instinctively she knew that was where her traveling companion should have been. The couple across the table from her interrupted her thoughts.
“Good evening Dear, my name is Marie Stanford; this is my husband Dan,” said the woman. “Welcome to our table.” Kelly wondered if it was just her imagination or was Marie telling her this really was their table; she assumed it was a well-intentioned greeting.
“These are Kathy and Stan Clifford,” she said gesturing to the other couple.
They all shook hands and she relaxed. The two couples appeared to be in their early sixties, though at that age appearances can be deceptive.
“Thanks, it’s great to meet you, my name is Kelly. This is my first cruise; you folks look quite at home, have you done this before?”
Marie laughed and said, “Yes, in fact my husband and I have sailed on this vessel a number of times. Kathy and Stan are old friends and this is their first cruise so we are their guides; since this is your first we will guide you as well.”
Kelly relaxed a bit, though the last thing she wanted was an uninvited, no matter how well-intentioned, chaperone.
“We are retired and get to do this fairly frequently,” Marie continued. Kathy and Stan are friends from back home and after years of cajoling we talked them into trying a cruise.”
“Where is home,” Kathy asked.
“We are from Pennsylvania,” replied Marie. “Where are you from Kelly.”
“I’m from West Virginia. This is actually one of my first times out of West Virginia, replied Kelly. “Sure is different from the mountains back home.”
Carlos brought the salads and the group settled into a comfortable conversation.
Stan and Dan had retired after 20 years in a company that manufactured heavy lift containers. Kathy had worked as a school teacher and Marie had been a stay at home mom.
Kelly enjoyed the conversation over the evening, the food was incredible and, even though they were not on the first level of the dining room, they could hear the piano music and just a perfect volume. This trip had certainly gotten off to a great start. She was aboard, her room was perfect, she had met some great traveling companions, including one intriguing gentleman.
Dinner lasted about two hours at which point the servers gently reminded folks there was an 8:30 seating. With that gentle nudge, the group made their way back out to the foyer and headed off to enjoy the evening.
Kelly walked up onto the Promenade and strode forward towards the bow. This meant she was walking into the wind, the ocean to her right. The lights cascaded out of the windows on the left and she noticed she was walking past what appeared to be a small sports-themed restaurant. Seated at a table inside she noticed Scott was eating his dinner, nothing as lovely as what she had just enjoyed.
The waves crashed on the beach in La Libertad, El Salvador. At 6:00 in the morning it was largely deserted away from the pier situated near the center of the town. The pier extended out into the Pacific with small fishing boats hanging from “davits” lining each side. The fishermen were gathered at the pier getting ready to start the days work. One by one they would lower each boat into the water and the day fishing would begin. By the end of the day the fish market located on the pier and back onto the beach would be full of fresh fish from the day’s catch.
Down the way from the pier the surfers were making their way onto the beach. It was already warm and …