Saturday, May 28, 2011

Story a Week 21 - Murder Cruise

Hello everybody! Here's the three week late Story a Week. I've learned a bit about my writing in the last three weeks that I've been trying to write today's story. One, I don't like planning my writing. I much prefer to write from the hip, so to speak. Two, I am a fantasy/sci fi writer. While I feel like I can write in other genres, I much prefer sci fi and fantasy. It flows out of me so much smoother. That doesn't sound good. :) Three, if I don't like the genre that I've chosen to write in, I just won't do it. This is the main reason that it's taken me three weeks to write this story. I like the story and I think that I'm bringing it off well, but it has taken quite a bit of planning and story development, which I don't enjoy as much as just winging it.

Anyway, I've been also thinking a lot about the Story a Week project. While in the depths of writers block of this story, I was considering quitting it and just posting stories as I wrote them, not on a schedule. My wife talked me out of it. She told me that I should write what I want, and that I didn't have to hop around the different genres, if I didn't feel like it. She's right, too. I felt like you all, my readers, wanted something different than my normal stories. I'm not quite sure why I felt that way since no one has told me that. So, I'm going to continue the project, post what stories I want to and if you read it and like it, that's great! If no one reads it, oh well, this is more for me than you all anyway.

Enjoy the story. It's a two-parter.


Donald Caruso shot up out of bed. "Did you hear that?" he asked his wife, Erica.

She rolled over and mumbled, "Go back to sleep, Don. You were dreaming, I'm sure."

Donald turned to the door and said, "I swear that I heard gunshots just now."

When his wife didn't respond, Donald looked over his shoulder and saw that she was back to sleep. He went to the closet of the little cabin to get dressed, but stopped short.

'How could there be gunshots when we're on a boat in the middle of the ocean?' he thought. Shaking his head and smiling to himself, he moved back to the bed. As he lay down, he thought, 'Being a cop makes me jumpy sometimes. I really needed this vacation.'

A couple hours later, Donald was startled out of sleep again by a knock on the cabin door. "See who that is and send them away," his wife said, "it's too early."

Donald nodded and got up. He made sure to put a robe on before he opened the door. When he did open the door, he was surprised to see the form of the housekeeper, Michael Banks, standing in the hallway. "Michael, it's 6:30...," Donald started saying when he saw the gash on the man's head. "My God, man! What happened to you?"

The housekeeper stammered out, "I...I don't really remember... A...all...the rest of the crew is dead!"

Donald stared at the man for a moment, dumbfounded. "Come in, Michael," Donald said as he gently ushered Michael into the room.

"I'm sorry to bother you, Mr. Caruso," Michael said. "I figured, though, that since you're a detective..."

Donald cut him off, "Do not worry about it. If what you say is true, you've done the right thing. Give me a moment to think." Thoughts of an action plan started flooding into his brain. Eventually they started to form into a cohesive set of steps, so he continued, "Have you seen anyone else up? Did you speak to anyone else about this?"

Michael shook his head. "No, I woke up in the hallway outside of the bridge with a splitting headache. I touched my head and found the blood there." He showed the detective his hands. "I stumbled onto the bridge and found the rest of the crew on the floor."

Donald nodded. "Did you touch anything?" he asked.

Shaking his head, Michael said, "No, sir. I just checked each of them to see if any of them were alive and came straight here."

Donald looked back to his wife, still sleeping in bed. 'That woman could sleep through a tornado,' he thought to himself. "Please wait for me in the hall, Michael. I need to get dressed."

The housekeeper nodded and left the room and Donald pulled clothes out of the dresser and closet and put them on. As he was about to leave the room, he stopped short and grabbed the small notepad on the table in the room and a pen.

Michael was outside the room waiting for him. Donald said, "Take me to the bridge."

The two of them walked to the bridge together. Michael dug a key chain out of his pocked when they arrived and unlocked the door.

"Good thinking on locking that door," Donald said. "Do you mind if I take those keys?"

Michael shrugged and handed Donald the keys. Donald stepped through the door and glanced around. The scene before him was gruesome. From his experience as a detective, Donald could tell that the four crewmembers were shot, probably from someone standing near the door. At that point, a new thought came to Donald.

"Michael, please go fetch Dr. Rozhenko," Donald asked the housekeeper. "I need him to try and determine a time of death," he told him. 'Though I think I already know it,' he thought to himself.

Michael ran off down the hall and Donald examined the room as best he could from the doorway. He cursed himself for touching the door with his bare hands, though there was nothing he could do about that right now. He'd have to have Michael run to the little sick bay that was on the ship and get him some gloves.

Donald turned when he heard voices coming down the hall. He saw the older doctor verbally brow beating the housekeeper as they came forward. The doctor saw Donald in the doorway and said, "Donald! Can you tell me what's going on here? This buffoon comes banging on my door not long after sunrise and insists on me coming up here..." He must have seen the look on Donald's face when he got closer because he stopped talking. "What's wrong?"

Donald sighed and said, "I know that we're all on vacation, Alex, but it looks like at least you and I will be working today." He gestured for Alex Rozhenko to enter the bridge.

As soon as the doctor saw the carnage awaiting him, he spat out some quick words in Russian. "I am sorry for cursing, gentlemen, but I felt like the situation warranted it," he said. He then let out a dry chuckle, "Though I would bet that neither of you understood my words."

The doctor turned to Donald and said, "What do you want me to do, Donald? They're beyond my help now."

"I need you to determine a time of death, Alex," Donald responded.

Alex nodded and said to Michael, "Please go to the sick bay and retrieve some gloves, a thermometer, a scalpel, and a hazardous materials bag. Thank you."

Donald watched the housekeeper run down the hall. When he figured that the man was out of earshot, he said, "Did you look at that gash on his head?"

The doctor nodded and said, "It's not as bad as it looks. Frankly, I'm surprised that he was knocked out at all from it, but..." He shrugged.

Donald turned back to look into the bridge. He checked his watch when he heard Michael returning from the sickbay. "It's almost 7:30. I'd like to assemble the guests in the dining hall at 8:00. Michael, will you make that happen?"

Donald turned and saw Michael nod as a response. Donald continued, "Good. Be polite, but firm. Also, don't tell anyone about what's happened here."

Michael ran off and Donald turned to the doctor and said, "Alex, can you determine the time of death for me, then meet us in the dining room?" He waited for the doctor's nod, and then said, "Good. Lock the door behind you, if you would."

Without waiting for a response, Donald started down the hall. A few moments later, he arrived at a door labeled 'Captain's Quarters'. He took the keys out of his pocket and opened the door. Donald gazed into the room, but nothing out of the ordinary leapt out at him.

Shrugging to himself, Donald strode into the room straight to the safe behind the desk. Pulling the keys out again, he opened the safe and withdrew the pistol that was inside. He stared down at the gun, checking to make sure it was loaded and checked if it was missing any bullets. Satisfied that it was not the murder weapon, or at least was still fully loaded, he grabbed the holster from the safe and put it on under his jacket and placed the gun in the holster.

Donald closed the safe and locked it before heading out of the room. He made sure that the cabin door was also locked before heading towards the dining room. He saw Alex walking a couple feet in front of him, so he hurried to catch up with the doctor.

The doctor spoke first. "They were all killed around 4:30 this morning," he said solemnly.

Donald nodded. "That's about what I thought," he said.

Alex looked puzzled, "How could you have known that?"

Donald stopped short and it took Alex a step or two to stop as well. Alex turned to Donald as the detective sighed. "I woke up early this morning to what I thought was gunshots." He paused, looking up at the ceiling. "I knew that I should have checked it out, but I figured that I had been dreaming."

Alex studied Donald's face. Finally, he said, "Don't let it bother you, man. Even if you had rushed to the bridge, the killer would have been gone... or, you would have been his fifth victim."

Donald looked back at Alex and the two men stared at each other in silence for a few moments. Finally, Donald said, "Thanks, Alex. You're right, of course. I would have rushed there, unarmed, just to find nothing or to be shot myself."

Alex put his arm on Donald's shoulder and gently started him walking again. The two men continued on to the dining hall in silence. The rest of the guests were already waiting there, along with Michael.

Donald looked around the room as he took his place next to his wife. Alex moved to stand by his own wife, Yvette. Donald's eyes were drawn to Frank Trunk, a rich playboy notorious for his quick temper and bad attitude, who was fuming as he stared at Michael. The rest of the guests just looked puzzled at being summoned to the dining hall when there was not a formal event planned.

Donald glanced at Michael, but quickly determined that he needed to take control of the situation and that the housekeeper, even though he was the only surviving member of the crew, couldn't handle it. He stepped forward and cleared his throat. "Hello, everyone," he said. "I'm sure you're all wondering why Michael has brought you all here." He paused to make eye contact with each of the twelve people in the room. "I have dire news to share with you all. Most of the crew of this ship have been murdered this morning."

That's when all hell broke loose.