Alistair and I enjoyed dinner in Shinsen Sushi, a plush Japanese restaurant on the eighteenth deck. It opened in the period between my stays onboard the Aurelia, replacing a Mexican restaurant so tonight was my first visit. Alistair was off duty and dressed in a jacket and tie for once instead of his captain’s white uniform. I loved the way he looked in his uniform, but this was good too.
The sushi was freshly prepared by a chef at a horseshoe shaped table that surrounded him. It was completely different from the intimate, just the two of us, experience we usually enjoyed as the table seated twelve. Different turned out to be fun though, conversation ranging from one topic to the next as the people seated around us brought lots of new things to discuss.
After dinner, we took a walk around the ship, strolling arm in arm like a couple in love for that is what we are. Accepting that I was in love with Alistair created a new problem which I was yet to overcome or even put much thought to – I live in England, and he lives on a ship which perpetually navigates the globe. We were both skirting the subject for the time being because there was a greater problem yet to overcome.
It was during our stroll, as we approached the stairwell to take us up to the top deck and my suite that we happened upon what was clearly an incident of some kind. I felt Alistair’s body tense as he saw two of his security detail talking to a distressed couple.
I took my arm from his, saying, ‘Go.’
He hurried forward, jogging to get there which brought attention his way. Seeing who it was, the guards snapped out crisp salutes. The nearer of the two addressed him, ‘Good evening, sir.’
‘Good evening,’ he replied, focussing his attention of the couple after a brief nod to his crewmen. ‘How can I be of service?’ he asked the passengers.
‘There was a robbery, sir,’ announced the guard who was yet to speak. ‘We discovered Mr and Mrs Bisset moments after the event. They both seem quite … confused,’ the man explained, searching for the right word. I judged it might not be the word he would have used if the couple were not standing next to him.
‘Very good, Lieutenant Zaki. Let’s get them back to their cabin and deal with it there.’ As always, Alistair took control. It was his gift, and the reason he was captain of an enormous vessel with thousands of crew and passengers under his protection.
Mr and Mrs Bisset, a French couple clearly when Alistair launched into fluent French to determine where he could find their cabin and then learn what had befallen them. My French is terrible to say the least, so I didn’t even try to keep up with what was being said. I tagged along behind the party though, expecting that this would prove to be no more than a brief hiatus to our plans.
What the lieutenants said about the couple seeming confused was instantly obvious as they didn’t seem to know where their cabin was.
‘This is how we found them, sir,’ explained Lieutenant Zaki. ‘They hadn’t called for help but were clearly distressed when we chanced upon them. The only piece of information they are both sure of is that they have been robbed.’
‘That would suggest the thief was aggressive and threatening,’ I pointed out, being a little pedantic but also trying to establish if the thief had been armed, and if so, what with?
With a thoughtful glance in my direction, Alistair addressed the Bissets again, asking them for more detail about the robbery, I guessed. They didn’t have answers to those questions either.
Alistair kept his attention on the passengers when he handed out his instructions. ‘Hamond, get their accommodation assignment from central registry and have Dr Davis meet me there, please.’
‘They are staying in a cabin on deck twelve, sir,’ advised Hamond about two seconds later, proving he already had the presence of mind to find their cabin for himself. We were going to deck twelve it seemed, the two lieutenants doing their best to guide the addled couple in the right direction.
Alistair dropped back a few feet to speak with me. ‘Do you want to go back to your suite? I’ll try not to take too long.’
‘I think I’ll tag along if that’s okay. You make me feel safe,’ I was toying with him, of course, since I had an armed bodyguard shadowing me no more than five yards away. Agent Garrett of Scotland Yard was with me for my protection because of the bigger issue I mentioned earlier. As part of our date night, there was an agreed clause where neither of us was allowed to bring up the subject of the shadow hanging over me, so I did my part and pushed the uninvited thoughts back out of my head lest they make it to my tongue.
Alistair smiled at me teasing him anyway. ‘I thought you might. Did you know this isn’t the first incident like this?’
I did not. ‘How many have there been?’
‘Two previous to this one, if this turns out to be the same thing. The passengers in the previous incidents had each lost several hours of their evening and had been robbed. Your right about the robbery versus theft thing though because there was no suggestion of violence. In both the previous cases, the thefts were conducted without violence. It’s strange,’ he said, searching for the right word. ‘The passengers handed over their valuables – money and jewellery mostly – as if unable to resist doing so but had no clear memory of the event or of their thief.’
I thought about the case, wondering what the victims might have in common. Their confused state was puzzling. Why didn’t they remember the thief?
It would not help the captain that some of his best people were seconded in secret to me because of the bigger problem we were not talking about tonight. At the Bissets’ cabin, Hamond used his universal card to open the door before helping them inside. Commander Ochi, the deputy captain and head of ship security, arrived moments later.
At that point, I was pleased to hear Alistair pass the incident over to his deputy. I wasn’t sure how involved he would get. As captain, he acted as if everyone on board were his personal guest and took great interest in everything that happened to them, most especially when it was a negative experience. However, with Commander Ochi in attendance, there was no reason for him to remain behind. He made his excuses, and behind me Agent Wayne Garrett opened the Bissets’ cabin door to let us out.
Showing me that he was in a playful mood, and catching me completely by surprise, Alistair pinched my bum as I went out the door. I squeaked in surprise, making Agent Garrett spin around to check on me as my cheeks coloured.
Alistair, earning himself a punishment I was yet to devise, played the innocent, giving me a genuine expression when he asked, ‘Is everything all right, dear?’
The Godmother will be published on November 27th. Get your copy on pre-order with $1.00 off today.