By Cindy and Walt
I was at least five years older than either of them. I most likely had more experience in the field as the two of them together. They might just be a simple reception team, but I didn’t think so. It was 10:30 on Friday night after all.
Once we were in the van I removed the headscarf and large dark glasses I wore for the CCTV cameras. “Who else is on the team?” I asked.
“The team leader is code named Shemp,” the woman said.
“So I guess that makes you Moe,” I said to the man driving the van.
“I guess so,” he replied. I didn’t bother continuing with the Curly part of the gag. I just hoped that the three of them were more than a running joke.
I had asked a dozen questions, but could never get any information about the team. I could understand, if it was for security reasons, but these clowns didn’t have any idea about security. I had a feeling they didn’t give me the information because they put the team together from leftovers at the last minute.
We stopped at a drive thru pizza take out before going to the hotel. I carried a medium cheese pizza and two canned cokes up to the two-room suite in a Trail’s End Suites only motel. It was most likely a three star motel with all the personality of a damp sponge.
“Boss will be here soon, make yourself at home,” the girl said.
I was on my second piece of the less than great pizza when the boss walked in. “I know we are in trouble now,” I said when I saw the boss. “If you are the best they could come up with.”
“Now, now don’t be nasty. It’s been almost a year since you saw me last. I was always competent and I worked with the best,” Jeremy said.
“Well I know you are a good planner, the leadership is where I have my doubts,” I said with a laugh. “We will find out when the blood flows I guess.”
“We are here to save lives not take them,” he said as if I would believe it. It must have been for the kid’s ears.
“So what’s the big deal?” I asked.
“The big deal is Dovecheck,” he said. “Arnold thinks he is being targeted.”
“Since I have no idea who Arnold Dovecheck is, I can’t give you an assessment,” I said.
“Arnold Dovecheck is ranked second on the richest men in the world list. God ranks only a little higher,” Jeremy AKA Shemp informed me. “He also believes people are out to get him.”
“Does he always feel that way, or is there something special at the moment?” I asked. The two younger members of the team appeared interested, but a little lost.
“Arnold very publicly financed a movie that was less than favorable to the Worldwide Muslim agenda. There is a kill on sight order out for him,” Shemp said.
“Well Shrimpy, do we know who issued the order?” The two kids giggled. I had no idea why. They were worse than Jeremy.
“The Head Mullah in Iran, who else,” he said.
“Who else indeed. No wonder Arnold is paranoid,” I said.
“It gets worse. He is traveling with his daughter and grand daughter,” Jeremy said. “The Mullah would be just as happy with their heads in the sack.”
“He needs to be traveling with the Third Marine Division,” I suggested.
“Word,” the young man aka Moe said.
“He thinks low profile will help him avoid detection. He feels that it has worked in the past, and will work now. He has a full team. He hired Executive Protective Services to keep an eye on the security team and the staff in case of an inside attack. An organized terrorist team, he claims will not be our problem,” Jeremy said.
“When this is over I want a pound of whatever he is smoking,” I said. “If we are within two rooms of a terrorist hit, we are all going to die.
“Word,” Moe said again.
“Don’t ever say that again. Also never say ‘whatever’ in my presence,” I said angrily to Moe.
“Word,” Jeremy said to him.
“Okay I get it,” he replied.
“Now if the skateboard generation has nothing to add to the conversation, I’m sure we are all ready for bed,” Jeremy said.
“Not yet, you haven’t told me what staff we are keeping eyes on,” I said.
“The staff of the ‘South Winds Dutches’,” he said. “We are going cruising.”
I turned my head and glared at the kids daring them to say anything, then said. “There must be hundreds of people on a cruise ship staff. How the hell do the four of us watch them all.”
“You do what do you do best Daisy,” he said with a smile.
“How long do I have?” I asked.
“You join the staff on Sunday around noon. Need I say again, Arnold owns the majority share of Dutches lines. You are going in as an efficiency analyst. They are going to be told that you are there to recommend cuts in crew size, so they should all be nervous around you. Take a look for those who don’t seem nervous at all. The too cool ones shouldn’t be worried about their jobs. They will believe that they have a big payday coming.”
“Gee you make is sound so easy,” I said. “I would like to know what these two are going to do, and who his body guards are.”
“They are going to be in the kitchen and housekeeping services. Assigned to the floor where Arnold’s Suite is located,” Jeremy said.
“Deck,” I said. “Not floor.”
“Yeah deck, the body guards are these guys.” Picture flashed on the small screen TV.
“I recognized some of them but said nothing. Jeremy knew who they were I was sure. They had been on the bad Reverend’s clean up team. So this is where strike teams went to retire. I wanted to call Sylvia and ask what the fuck was going on, but I didn’t dare. She might actually tell me and I was sure I wouldn’t like the answer.
“Well I guess I need to go shopping before I play undercover boss,” I said. “It’s time for bed. So where do I sleep?”
Shemp pointed to the second room. It had two double beds inside. I assumed the two sofas, in what passed as a sitting room, could be used by the boys. The young woman followed me into the bedroom. “So which one is mine?” I asked her.
“John and I used that one last night,” she said sheepishly.
“I’ll take the other one then,” I said. Since I had removed my coat when I entered the room, I pulled off the sweatshirt revealing my thermal tee shirt. Then I pushed down the running suit pants and slipped into bed wearing only the thermal tee and panties.
As I ran over the operational details through my mind, those I knew at the time anyway, my heart pounded and I could hear the woman’s breathing. I could hear better and think clearer than I could in Mossberg. I couldn’t help but think of the country song. I don’t have to be me till Monday. I was really two people. I had always known it well. We would soon see if I could still use it. At that point I drifted off into a deep sleep. It was probably the best sleep I had had since leaving Farmer’s Grove.
Jeremy woke me at 5 AM. “Come on Daisy, it time to run,” he said.
“I haven’t had to run in almost a year. I fucking hate to run,” I said but I pulled on the running pants. “Do you have an ace bandage?” I asked.
Jeremy pulled a long elastic bandage from his pocket and threw it at me. To reward him, I let him watch while I wound it around my breasts. With them secured I walked into the sitting room thing. I found the other two dressed for a run as well.
The four of us ran a half hour out and a half hour back ending in the restaurant down the street from our motel. It was fast food and it really wasn’t all that good, but it was a chance to talk about normal things. The young woman, Curly, I found was Chloe and Moe was actually John. It was more than I really wanted to know, but I took it in like a sponge. She was from a small town in Maine and he was from Texas.
“Have you told them how it works?” I asked Jeremy.
“No, I figured you would,” he said.
I nodded. “We go to whatever department store is available here. We buy all new clothes and luggage. Nothing from our old lives goes with us to this job. I hope you don’t have any family heirlooms, because everything goes to the dump. They may trace us back to the motel, but the trail ends here. Put your real ID into an envelope. Then mail it to someone, or somewhere you can pick it up, if you make it back. Everything else goes in the dumpster.” I turned to Jeremy. “I assume that is how it will work here?”
“Yes,” he said simply. He then handed each of us a prepaid credit card. “It was issued in your new names and has five hundred dollars on each of them.”
Mine would activate to the Daisy Evans identity and the security code 1666. The others I did not know or want to know. “Shemp is going to buy breakfast since his card will have the most money. Oh by the way, you can keep whatever cash you have on you,” I said.
First on my list of items was a burner cell phone, second was three business suits and five white blouses, then came a knock out bikini. I also bought a strong bra and a half dozen pairs of cute little bikini panties. A few other things like shoes, and a new running suit made it into my shopping cart as well. My bill at the checkout was almost the full five hundred. The kids were a bit more modest in their purchases.
When we got back to the motel, off came the running pants and my used underwear. The bandage was in my pocket, since I removed it while going to the store. The shower I took was long and hot. I washed my tacky blond hair using hotel shampoo, since I seldom bought real shampoo.
I carried the pile of old clothes to the sofa bed in the sitting room. “I’ll dump all the stuff if you come pile it on the bed. I’m going to the hair dresser to have my hair done before the IDs are made,” I said.
“Good that you want a new picture for the IDs. Curly why don’t you go with her,” Jeremy suggested. “Remember you want to look like a maid.”
“Give me a hundred dollars,” I demanded of Jeremy.
“I still have more then a hundred on my card I’ll pay,” Curly said. She also drove the car. We found a walk in shop and had our hair done. I had a new cut and picked a new color. I had never been a redhead, so I went for it.”
When we left the shop I asked, “How much you got left on the card?”
“Just over twenty five dollars,” Curly replied.
“Well then it’s Dollar Store for us,” I said. “Stop at one on the way back to the motel.”
I ran inside to buy two black head scarves. “No one has the balls to ask a woman to remove a head scarf these days.” I also bought new large black sunglasses for us both.
We spent the rest of Saturday studying faces and files. I saw several pictures of Arnold Dovecheck and his family. Some were as recent as a few months and some went back a few years. He wasn’t as reclusive as Howard Hughes, but he was camera shy and avoided the press. Still there were several candid pictures of him and the girls, as he called his daughter and grand daughter. His daughter’s husband’s boat just disappeared while he was sailing in the Atlantic Ocean. It was presumed that he had been killed in a sailing accident. The press made some insinuations about his drinking and possible abuse after pictures of his wife Sandy turned up showing her with a bruised face. The picture was taken outside a hospital emergency room a few months before her husband’s accident. His daughter Cindy was ten at the time of her father’s disappearance.
The cruise was to celebrate her fourteenth birthday. She asked, and it seemed like any good grandfather would, was making it happen. The teenager wanted the cruise experience, not a trip on the yacht. Those she had taken since birth. She wanted the parties and the drinking with teenage strangers, the same as any other ‘real’ girl. It was the undercover princess’ dream, Arnold had explained to the head of Executive Security, whoever he might be. Shemp explained it all to us.
“Her grandfather is paying a small fortune, so that his grand daughter can get laid,” I said. “I know fourteen sounds young, but girls were doing a lot more, a lot sooner these days.”
“Well, I made it clear we were not going to judge her behavior, or rat her out,” Shemp said.
“I wonder if the old man had all the passengers vetted just in case?” Curly asked.
“Probably,” I suggested.
We went to sleep early since there wasn’t a lot that four people could do unless they were kinky. Being kinky is fine with me ordinarily, but when your life might depend on the person you are sleeping with, there is just too much performance anxiety. Not to mention the inevitable question, would he come save you, if you laughed at him the night before?
Sunday we were up in the middle of the night to run again. The four of us ran together in new jogging suits and shoes. I for one looked for any excuse not to run so I hobbled along in running shoes. I swore my shoes were not fitted well at all. I managed to keep up since they slowed down for me.
We had fast food for breakfast and from the same restaurant. I have always been a creature of habit. That morning it was no different. I usually fought habit when in the field but we were not technically in the field yet.
When we got back to the room, I was last into the shower. Unlike me and Shemp, the young woman and her partner seemed shy. I watched her go into the bathroom completely dressed and come out fully clothed and ready for the day. I on the other hand went into the bathroom in my panties and came out in a clean pair and with my new red hair dripping wet.
Since the passengers couldn’t pass through the check in gate on the pier till 3 PM, there was no hurry. We just had to present ourselves before they started allowing the passengers through.
Once I was dressed it was almost noon. I signed up for the phone service and activated my burner phone. The other three did the same. We entered each other’s phones into the memory. We also waited a half hour to make sure they worked. Modern cruise ships were all hot spots, so we were cool.
We packed our clean and dirty clothes in the same bags. Nothing would be left behind now until we returned at which time it all would all be destroyed. The ship would actually set sail at 10 PM. Okay I suppose the correct term was depart since there were no sails to set.
Shemp dropped me on the pier with my bag at 1 PM. I went through to the Captain and presented myself. The others came on at 2:30 as you would expect the grunt workers to do.
The thing the Captain said after the pleasantries were over was, “I really don’t think much of efficiency experts. Since it isn’t my call, I’ll arrange a tour of the ship for you. This is the last time I expect to see you on my bridge.”
“Then you and all your junior officers must be very efficient,” I said playing my part to the hilt.
I was shown to my cabin as the last stop on the tour. The tour lasted till after dark. My bag awaited me in the cabin. I went on deck at ten to watch the ship pull away from the dock. I did not contact Jeremy or the other two EPS operatives. I hoped that nothing would happen on board the ship, but I was pretty sure the owners of the business would like us to save the clients just for the publicity.
I had no idea what the others wanted, but as far as I knew only Jeremy had been around when the bullets were flying. They might not be the best people to have around, but I had to assume Jeremy was satisfied with them. I should have asked where Alice was. I remembered it only after we left the dock. I would not be seeing Jeremy again unless there was trouble. If there was trouble we would all be a little busy to be trading pleasantries, I thought.
I went back to my small employee’s cabin and then to sleep. I should have done more but I didn’t have a computer of my own. I was carrying the computer Jeremy gave me before I left the car. It had the information I would need to do quick background checks on the people I came into contact with. So I figured I better leave it alone. Having it full of porno at the end of the job wouldn’t look good, especially if the cops took it away from me.
I stripped down to the black tee shirt and white panties before I worked my way onto the narrow bed. I lay in bed a few minutes before I fell asleep. The next morning at 5 AM I worked my ass into my new but slightly smelly running suit. I took a second tour of the boat, but this one was while I ran. The pool area was hardly big enough, so I ran on the decks around the pool as well. I went back to the cabin to shower and change.
I opened the shower curtain and observed the sign, ‘Please limit your shower to five minutes or less to conserve fresh water.’ I doubted there was any such signs in the passenger’s cabins. I took what for me was a short shower, but it was longer than the showers I took in Farmer’s Grove, but shorter than ones I took in Mossberg Alabama. When I finished, I put on a navy blue severely cut suit with a white button down collared blouse. The only thing I lacked was a man’s tie. I wore a blue scarf around my neck instead.
I found my way to the Human Resource Office. They had no idea who I really was, but they knew I had Carte Blanche from the Executive Headquarters to go anywhere and interview anyone. Those who refused were to be put off at the next port and flown home. Everyone had to pass his or her interview to keep his or her job. That was all there was to it.
I started with the only ones with legal access to weapons, the boat Security Officers. There were three who worked one eight-hour shift each. Most of their job was to control drunk passengers and the like. Since there was no where to go and nothing to do, they were all on call as backup should that become an issue.
“So you were a Police Officer in Dallas Texas,” I asked the security man who was working day shift.
“Yes Ma’am I was,” the older man replied. Well he was older than me by about ten years.
“So what do you think of the job here,” I asked.
“Do you want the truth, or the company line?” he asked.
“Which ever you feel the most comfortable with,” I said.
“Well nobody screens the passengers for weapons. Nobody does a Psych Evaluation on them, or the crew for that matter. It’s just a matter of time before we need a weapon, but we don’t have one on us because it would upset the passengers. The company feels that to see armed men walking around would create a bad image. It is a pure catch 22. When we figure out we need a weapon, it takes too long to go get it. The passengers are in as much danger as we are,” he said. “So we don’t let anyone know we are security. The other staff has our number to call if they need us. At which time it is also too late.”
“Doesn’t sound all that promising, if there is trouble,” I said. I realized I wasn’t looking at it as a passenger, but as a security person. I didn’t feel bad about it because that was my job.
From what I learned about the security response capabilities I really needed to find any potential bad guys on the crew. Passengers would be just as likely to be bad guys, but the crew could go places passengers couldn’t.
I spoke with several members of the crew especially those who looked Middle Eastern. I couldn’t tell for sure but I tried to go through them first. I knew it was profiling and I didn’t give a big damn. Monday came to a close. I was in my cabin when I got the message. Everything was quiet, according to Jeremy.
I sent him a text. ‘The security guard told me his job is to herd drunks around. Anything more than that he will require an hour’s notice to be prepared to handle it. So don’t count on them for help. How does it look up there?’
The reply came. ‘It’s going pretty good. The grand daughter is fighting the rules we put in place, but it isn’t a real issue yet. We have to catch them before they get up here for the metal detector screening. I’m worried about the food. It could be poisoned anywhere along the line.”
I replied, ‘The food would be my last concern. It lacks the flair of a terrorist hit. It would take care of the death threats, so I’ll check out the kitchen staff next.
“Hello, are you the head Chef?” I asked the overweight man who obviously was gay.
“I am,” he said.
“It says here you have been with the cruise lines nine years?” I asked.
“I have and I resent all these questions. The thugs in the penthouse have been here asking questions as well. They insisted that their Chef prepare all the meals for the penthouse,” he informed me. They use ingredients they brought with them or they choose randomly from our proteins. Mostly they are underfoot. I can tell this trip is going to be a nightmare,” he said. “It’s like we had the president in there. Nobody even knows who those people are.”
The people in charge of Arnold’s security were good. My expectations were that they were at least Swamp Dog trained, if not a direct employee.
Even though I was more relaxed about the kitchen staff. I spoke to them all as part of the efficiency cover.