By Cindy and Walt
While I vetted everyone on the crew that I felt needed it, the security wheels were grinding. The security team had Arnold pretty much disguised as he had the breakfast buffet with ‘The Girls’. Since they had a Chef making meals no one expected or knew about the buffet. The armed guards couldn’t hover about him so they tried to fit in. Hiding their weapons was next to impossible so a lot of the security fell to me and the comedy team of Moe and Curly. The Dovecheck family and the people seated near them got a little extra service. It was a buffet so we couldn’t do much for them.
The gun thugs were depending on no one having time to plan an operation. I found Jeremy in the buffet line. I cornered him as he walked to a table close to the Dovecheck family. “Jeremy, how far in advance did they plan this trip?” I asked.
“It was done a week in advance. Until that time Arnold and his Head of Security were the only ones who knew. They brought us in at the same time. Unless you find someone who signed on with the crew last week he should be okay.”
“Except Arnold would also be a target of opportunity, as well as the target of a terrorist plot,” I said.
“True, that’s why you are here. You can adapt and overcome,” Jeremy said with a smile. I had a feeling he was kissing ass not just complimenting me.
“Enough ass kissing, tell me you have a man on the bridge,” I demanded.
“To do what,” Jeremy asked.
“To keep an eye on the radar among other things. The only terrorist operation they could mount in this amount of time is a pirate type operation in a small boat,” I suggested. “The need to know anything happening on the bridge was it could all be important to keeping the Dovechecks alive and well.
“Yeah, I’ll mention it but I’m sure the Commander thought of that,” Jeremy said. It was at that time that I saw the man in the terrible Island shirt walking with a cane. “Don’t tell me I’m back in the employ of that dog shit company?”
“Okay, I won’t tell you. You aren’t working for them. You are working for Executive Protection Services. Andrew is the owner. We knew you would find out eventually, so he decided to have this meeting.”
“Why didn’t you just tell me?” I asked.
“We didn’t want you to do it out of some sense of loyalty. We wanted you to do it because it was right for you,” Jeremy said.
“So Executive Protection is in bed with Swamp Dog?” I asked.
“Was Andrew working for the Dog when I called about the missing girls?” I asked.
“He had already gone out on his own. He asked Sylvia for your location. They go back farther than you do,” Jeremy explained.
“Okay now that we have all that explained. Is he running the armed detail as well?” I asked.
“No, the men with the guns belong to Sylvia. You don’t need to worry, we are all on the same page here,” Jeremy said.
“Well he uprooted my life once, this is the end of it for me. I will see this through, then no more,” I said. “He lied to me to get me on board.”
“I had nothing to do with that,” Jeremy said. “I knew nothing about it. They hid it under the label need to know. You need to know something else.”
“Oh what other good news do you have for me?” I asked.
“Dovecheck is a national treasure. After that death sentence shit by the mukluk of Iran, Homeland Security has a detail here as well,” Jeremy said.
“So if the shooting starts, there will be cops shooting at the boat’s security officers, who will be shooting at the Swamp Dog crew, who will be shooting at me. What a cluster fuck that will be,” I suggested.
“Look on the bright side. With all that shooting someone is bound to hit the bad guys by accident,” Jeremy said with a grin.
“This is the only one ever. Jeremy, tell your new master that for me,” I said. “By the way where is Alice?”
“You won’t believe it,” Jeremy said.
“Sure I will,” I replied.
“She went to work for MI5,” Jeremy said.
“You are right, I don’t believe it,” I said.
“It’s a long story,” he replied obviously trying to duck the explanation.
“Run, now,” the voice in my head with the British accent said.
“How the fuck do I do that,” I answered out loud. “I would need a fucking boat.”
“You are doing that shit again that scares us all,” Jeremy said.
“My dead friend is just giving me some good advice,” I replied.
“Then ask him who is coming for Arnold,” Jeremy said with his skeptical smile.
“He told me you were and the only way to save him was to kill you now,” I replied with a smile.
“That isn’t funny. We all think you are psychotic,” Jeremy said.
“Take it easy. I know he isn’t real. He’s a ghost,” I informed him.
“Oh that makes me feel so much better,” Jeremy said.
I ignored him as I kept my eyes on the crowd. I knew there were several people watching the crowd with better threat assessment skills than me, but I watched them anyway. I didn’t concentrate on the other diners as much as the waiters and cooks.
The ‘Girls’ ate from the breakfast buffet, but Arnold Dovecheck had his breakfast brought to him by a waiter. I assumed that the waiter had been vetted so I ignored him more or less. I was interested in the staff who put food onto the buffet. Unlike the others I expected the attack, if it came, to be something meant to be spectacular. I couldn’t see a terrorist group missing the opportunity to make a larger statement.
However if it was the lone gunman bounty hunter, it would be more likely a targeted hit but could also take out anyone standing near him as well. I expected it to be if not a suicide bomber, at least a suicide gunman. I couldn’t see how he hoped to escape after the hit attempt. Like I said earlier in my talk with Liam there was no where to go. I knew that Liam would have given me the answer, if there was one at that time.
I had to stop thinking that the assassin would be an irrational man. He might not even be zealot either. He might be someone deranged or someone just desperately in need of money for his family. He might know he wouldn’t live to spend it himself.
“Where have you been?” Jeremy asked as a comment on my drifting off in thought.
“Thinking. Have Wilson run every crew member’s Facebook type sites for crew members. Check for anything that sounds like severe financial problem, as well as religious nut cases. The guy, if there is one, is not planning to escape. He is planning to go out in a huge act of sacrifice for his family or his god. He will target Dovecheck alone or all those close to him at the time. A knife to gut for him or a suicide vest for them all,” I said.
“And your dead friend told you this I suppose?” Jeremy asked.
“Sort of,” I replied. “Just do it. If you don’t and I’m right, you get to explain it to your new friends. Speaking of which Andrew went to sit with a gun thug and not us.”
“He is trying to keep a distance so as not to blow our cover,” Jeremy said.
After breakfast I spent the morning talking to more people. It was a big boat with lots of people to make it run, so there were plenty of people for me to talk with. I was going to be limited with the number of interviews I could do before some kind of shit happened, so I needed Wilson’s input. If I was correct in my assessment, there might be a way to trim the list. I continued to interview people randomly just to keep my cover intact.
Since the Swamp Dog gun thugs were watching for the terrorist attack, I was free to pursue the fanatic, or lone gunman loser avenues. My two other Exec Protection people were keeping watch on the crew with access to the penthouse cabin. Jeremy was the final checkpoint before people attempting entry to the area were allowed to proceed. Jeremy was running the metal detector at the hallway outside the suite. A standard practice when dealing with rich or famous people. He wouldn’t draw too much unwanted attention.
We still had a major problem even in my theory. “I know you are thinking how in hell is the assassin going to get into the suite?” Liam asked in my head.
“Of course I am,” I said to him between interviews with the crew.
“First of all the suite isn’t going to be the kill sight. It’s too difficult to gain access,” he said.
“I agree,” I said.
“Of course you do, I know what I’m talking about,” he said.
“Okay, I’m waiting. How would you do it?” I asked.
“I personally would want a way off the boat. I mean I would know in my heart that it wasn’t going to happen, but I would want a shot at it,” he said.
“Okay hope springs eternal kind of thing?” I asked.
“Exactly,” the voice said. “Mull that over. I leave you with a clue, Lets Make A Deal.” After that the voice was gone.
“Jeremy have you considered they don’t have to have Arnold. If they have ‘The Girls’ he will walk into their arms willingly,” I suggested.
“Yes, they have assigned people to accompany them where ever they go. Your two friends are going to be going along in case they need to get close without anyone questioning them. Just like you, nobody would mistake them for commandos,” he said.
“Just in case nobody told you, we are not commandos. I have no idea what the backgrounds of the two younger people are, but I don’t see them at Church Camp. We have both worked with the Camp’s operatives, these just don’t fit the mold,” I said.
“The are washed out cops. Moe went undercover and got too involved with the drug business. He cleaned up, but the cops didn’t really want him. Curly was a Rural Patrolman up near where we were living. She shot a man, who the courts decided didn’t need to be shot. Hindsight and all that,” Jeremy said.
“What a crew,” I said with a grin. “Misfits each and everyone of us.”
“True. Andrew is hoping the other two come up to your standard,” he said.
“What bullshit,” I replied.
“Too much,” he laughed. “Trying to keep us all happily working together, that’s all.”
“Okay, but listen the odds are good that someone is going to grab ‘The Girls’. Arnold may stay in the cabin, as Silvia wants, but the Girls are going to move around the boat. I don’t think you can keep a fourteen year old under wraps long. Especially if she is horny,” I said.
“Speaking of which, they are planning to go to the pool after breakfast,” he said.
“Now you tell me, I need to go interview the pool boy and the waiters,” I said.
While the two of them swam and lay in the sun, I spotted Silvia’s two gun thugs. I interviewed the employees assigned to the pool, if any of them had anything to hide, they did it well.
From the pool the four of them went back to the penthouse cabin, as I had come to think of it. While they were in a secure place, I checked my email and there was a list of six names from Wilson. The background sketches had a couple from a Muslim country. The husband had a history of militant activity. Neither was happy with their exile in the USA. Instead of driving a cab, the husband had landed a job as a Chef on the cruise ship. His wife was a Customer Service Representative and Interpreter.
What do you think of the Pakistani couple?” Jeremy asked. He had come looking for me after the list came down. “She does wear the hijab.”
“It’s for show. It lets the passengers know they have a token Muslim. It tells the Muslim passengers that she is approachable to be questioned. There are a bunch of languages in the many Muslim countries, so she isn’t able to converse with them all. She is the token Muslim. Her husband is more interesting. He has a job as Chef in the kitchen. His contact with Arnold is zero, but he could catch ‘The Girls’ unattended. He is worth putting Moe on the lookout for him. Also I will get a picture to the Gun Thugs.” I know it was meant to make fun of them but I had to call them something. It was all in good fun.
“Yeah the picture would be a good idea. Get a picture of all six of those on Wilson’s list. Using my cellphone and the information from the files of both the HR dept and the Wilson files, I ran them all down during the afternoon. There was a Russian couple on the list as well. They were known to the Russians as possible militants, mostly because their families were involved in domestic terrorism against the Russians.
With the Pakistani and the Russian couples on the list it seemed obvious that the cruise line liked to hire both parts of a couple whenever possible. It probably cuts down on turnover. The Russians were in housekeeping and maintenance. The woman I had to catch on her route of cabins. She seemed very open and truthful about her job and her life before in Russia. She would not be on my radar, if it weren’t for the list. Her husband was a little more secretive. I took their picture anyway and made a note to accompany his photo. I wouldn’t hire this man to work alone on my house. I knew that it might be just his condescending attitude toward me. Being a female above him on the job ladder didn’t sit well with him I was sure. He was possibly someone who should get a serious look.
The two men who were also on the list were unrelated. One of them had a Facebook account and the other was mentioned on it by the first. They were very opinionated and also very vocal it seemed. Just a couple of those not so closet socialist. They felt like the Captain of the boat should be paid only slightly more than the staff running it. Somehow they learned he made over a hundred thousand dollars, while they made less than forty after the food and lodging was deducted from their salaries. Their title was Able Bodied Seaman, even though there was little traditional work to be done by them. I met and talked to them. The Facebook member was the most vocal but his friend gave off an equally disconcerting vibe.
It was over an early dinner with ‘The Girls’ that I gave Jeremy the photos and my assessment of the six. “Anyone, passenger or crew member, could pull this off if they didn’t plan to get away with it. These just stand out more than the others. If they show up around ‘The Girls’ they warrant a close look,” I suggested. “Other than those six, I have met two other people who seem to have an attitude. None of these people would have any reason to know that Dovecheck is on board.
The Pakistani couple would come the closest to knowing who they are. The wife had the run of the ship, and likely has seen Arnold and ‘The Girls’. She would know they occupied the penthouse cabin and probably has seen pictures of Arnold. It would be a half baked theory at best. She would have to be in contract with others off the ship to be a danger. She could be an operative, but why would they plant a spy on board a cruise ship. Not likely in my opinion.
In my opinion what was possible was that the Paki wife would see Arnold and his entourage come aboard since she would be in the greeting line to help Muslims along. She recognizes Arnold and also recognizes he is guarded by several gun thugs. So she dismisses any idea of collecting the million dollars on his head, or whatever he was worth. She would know that she was more likely to get an instant ticket to heaven, if she did anything.
But she would of course mention it to her husband. At this point they could put something on line, if they were still in contact with the homeland. They might get an answer. There was indeed the possibility of a conspiracy. I decided that instead of buying into the conspiracy theory, I would work a local on board conspiracy first. For instance were the Paki couple connected to anyone else of similar bend on the ship?
I began asking a few discrete questions. I found out that all the couples were suspect of being in collusion. At least they were in the minds of the non paired couples. No one seemed to know of any close friends the Paki couple had on board. The consensus was they kept to themselves. It was the same with the other couples.
That line of questioning was going nowhere. I saw Curly meet my eyes going through one of the passageways. I turned and followed her to the maid’s closet.
“Hello Curly,” I said.
“Hello Daisy,” she replied.
“So what do you have for me?” I asked.
“The one you called the Marxist in your alert hit on me. Then he tried to pump me for information about the Dovechecks. If he had just asked me to walk on deck, I might not have paid any attention. However I received your picture of him and then he asked me about Arnold Dovecheck,” Curly said.
“Did the Marxist use his name, or just refer to him as the guy in the penthouse?” I asked. It made a lot of difference. The ship’s manifest was not made available to the crew. Someone who knew would have to have been the one to tell him, if he already knew.
“He knew the name. I don’t know how, but he already knew,” she said.
“So are you going to walk around the deck?” I asked.
“I thought it would be a good idea,” she said.
“Oh it would be an excellent idea. It would also be a good idea to fuck him,” I said.
“Are you telling me to screw him for information,” she said.
“I’m tell you not to screw him unless he gives up information that will help us,” I said seriously. She might as well learn how the world of domestic spies worked right up front.
She looked at me and said, “I’m not sure I can do that.”
“Well, tell me this. How are you going to feel if you say no and piss him off? Then it turns out he is the one who kills the Dovechecks. Are you going to think your virtue is worth a life?” I asked it knowing I had screwed thugs for more questionable reasons. I also knew that the first time was the hardest. It was the same with sucking cock. After the first time, there was never a good reason to say no. Well, not unless he smelled bad or something.
“I suppose not,” she said. “It’s kind of like being a whore though.”
“No, it’s exactly like being a whore,” I said seriously. “But it will get you into his cabin, where you can check for anything out of place.”
“I suppose so,” she said.
“I can’t go with you to force you, so it’s totally up to you how you handle him. Just try to find out what he knows and what he plans. You decide how you can best do that,” I said. “Nobody is going to blame you no matter what you chose.”
After I left her I sent a message to Jeremy, since he was coordinating the information with the gun thugs. All I could say was the Marxist might know more than he should. It might be of interest that he was trying to find out more. I would bet Curly was going to get more than a penis pumping, if she went with the Marxist on a date.
He went to the head of my list of possibilities. There was still the question, how did he find out the Dovechecks were the ones on board? I asked myself that over and over for the next couple of hours. Could he have been told in advance of their coming aboard? If he had been told, there was a good chance he was our man. The hit attempt could be very sophisticated.
The next day the boat was going to dock in some island tourist town. The story on the town was that cruise ships stopped there often. ‘The Girls’ no doubt would be headed into town to shop and sightsee, which was a minor problem. For one thing the gun thugs were going to be spread thin. Arnold would insist that they put the majority of their manpower on ‘The Girls’. No one could blame him of course.
I was expecting a report from Curly. A girl to girl kind of report with details. The passengers had departed the ship when I got the word from Curly.
“I think the Marxist is harmless. He just wants to carry a picket sign. He knows he will get canned, but he is sick of his job,” Curly said.
“Well that’s his story. Did you get inside his cabin?” I asked.
“Yeah I got in but I didn’t get a chance to look around. He didn’t leave me alone in there at all,” she said. “And he kept me busy.”
I didn’t ask her what happened I just let that go. “Did he say how he knew Dovecheck was on the boat?” I asked.
“No I asked but he got real hinky when I asked. I think the only reason he went out with me was to find out when he could get the best TV coverage. He asked me if there were any TV cameramen with the entourage. When I told him there was no press traveling with Dovechecks, he lost all interest in me,” Curly said.
“I know you believed him but I’m still keeping him on my short list,” I said. Truth is I hadn’t found anyone else on the crew that looked as good for it. Maybe the Paki couple or the Russians could be counted as likely but I didn’t think so.
“While ‘The Girls’ were on their short shopping trip, I kept an eye on the female member of the Paki couple. Her husband was not to be found. He might have gone ashore, he might be hiding on board. There were so many bad things he could be up to that I was more than a little worried.