Pat Ruger: Caribbean Shuffle

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Chapter 16

Jimmy and I dragged Daniels through the dungeon of a lower level until we got to the security office where the detention rooms were, with Fosse clearing the way and opening doors. There were four detention rooms, one of which was occupied by Junior. The room farthest from him seemed prudent for Daniels. We sat him on the cot and strapped his ankles to the legs of the cot, then zip-tied his wrists together.

“You seem to be going to a lot of trouble,” Fosse said. “He’s not going to get away.”

“Not if I have anything to say about it,” I answered. “I know these guys. Never relax around them and take all precautions.”

Jimmy nodded. “He’s right.”

“What now?”

“Well, we’ve got about 3 hours before he wakes up. It’s getting close to the early dinner seating and I didn’t have lunch.”

Jimmy added, “That’s right. I haven’t even called Erin.”

“You better do that. Have her meet us in the dining room in a half hour and we can wash up here.”

He grabbed his phone and stepped out of the office.

I turned to Fosse. “Can you get someone to watch the room?”

“I’ll do it. I’ll get room service to bring me something.”

“Good man. Better get Junior some dinner, too. Don’t do it alone, though. Have backup so he stays put.”

I used the bathroom and washed up, then left the security office — in good hands, I hoped. I was learning the maze of the lower decks and easily found my way to the dining room. Erin was waiting but Jimmy was still missing. I leaned over and kissed her hair, like always, and she touched my hand gently.

“Where’s my bum?”

“Jimmy left to call you and I haven’t seen him since. Did he call?”

“Yeah, he said he’d be here in a few minutes. That was 20 minutes ago.”

“Maybe he’s lost in the bowels of the ship …”

“Or in the casino …” she smirked.

“Give him a call.”

Erin dialed him up and waited. “Voice mail.”

“I’ll go find him.” I started to get up but she stopped me.

“No, he’s a big boy. You stay here and rest a while. Sounds like you’ve had a hell of a day.”

“So far,” I agreed. “We’ll give him a few minutes.”

Marcial and Leta seemed very pleased we made it for dinner. I enjoyed the view provided by the female half of the team while she served water and the rum and Coke I ordered. I had to smile when Erin’s suggestion came to mind — pheromones. She reached over my shoulder, boobs rubbing the whole way, to set down a plate of freshly baked bread next to my water.

Erin chuckled when Leta left for the kitchen.

“Don’t even say it.”

She kept the comment to herself.

I looked around. Everything was nonchalant, almost slow motion. So this is how vacation looks, I thought. Maybe I’d get to enjoy it, especially with our case nearly solved.

I reached for my phone and looked for a message from Jimmy. Radio silence was not the plan.

Erin saw my distress and tried to keep me calm. “He’s fine, Patty. I’ll bet …”

“Ladies and gentleman!” A voice boomed from the atrium. “May I have your attention, please?” It sounded like Jimmy. Sure enough, there he was, at the top of the stairs leading up from the open seating dining room, speaking into a microphone. He began walking towards us and behind him was a mariachi band, also climbing the stairs from the lower level and following Jimmy. “I wanted to announce that my beautiful wife, Erin, has agreed to re-up our marriage contract for another 25 years. Today is our anniversary!”

With applause erupting, Jimmy and the band reached our table and from behind his back a beautiful bouquet of white and yellow daisies appeared. Erin stood up and hugged him excitedly.

The band started playing while Jimmy stepped back and got on one knee. Erin sat back down in front of him. I sat back in awe as he began singing a Garth Brooks song, “The Dance.” As oddly as that sounded with the Latin accompaniment, the crowd eagerly joined in and by the last “Better left to chance,” you could hardly hear Jimmy any more.

At the end of the song, he dropped the mic on the tabletop, tipped the mariachis, and swept a gleeful Erin in his arms. “You’re on your own tonight, Patty-boy,” he said as he winked and kissed his wife, carrying her out of the dining room to a standing ovation.

I’ve never seen him do that before, I said to myself. About time.

The clapping and buzz died down and I gave Marcial my order, a porterhouse steak, baked potato and dark rye rolls. I was splurging in the absence of my good friends, who were making a night of it. I was jealous.

The meal was served by the lovely Leta, who seemed happy to give me her sole attention. She practically sat at the table waiting to be needed for something or another. I might have been imagining things, but it seemed her blouse was unbuttoned lower each time she returned to the table.

I must have been hungry because my plate was clean when I finished. Leta brought me an Amaretto shot after dinner and one for herself, and we downed them together. Marcial cleared the plates and said goodnight, explaining that he and Leta were off for the rest of the night. Both of them left and I was alone in a crowded dining room.

I drank some dark-roast coffee and contemplated my evening. I could go to my cabin and watch the limited channel selection available, or I could relieve Fosse and spend the night looking after two lifelong criminals. Neither was tripping my trigger.

I wandered out and up to the aft swimming pool and hot tub, entirely indoors, where only adults were allowed. Instead of squealing babes ogling over a talented and good-looking male bartender doing tricks, there was a pleasant female barkeep and a half-dozen quietly relaxing patrons — much more to my liking.

The server came over to my end of the bar. “Hi, I’m Sandra. Having a good day?” Sandra was cute for a middle-aged woman, brunette by choice, I imagined, with her hair cut shorter, encircling her face. Her features seemed Bavarian, but she had almost no accent. Her dark blue blouse showed no cleavage, I noticed.

“Hi, Sandra. Pat. It’s been a productive day.”

“Productive? That’s no good. You’re supposed to be having fun.”

“I know, but that doesn’t seem to be in the cards for me.”

“What would you like? We have some fantastic tequila.”

A soft Latin woman’s voice came from behind me. “He’ll have a ‘mojito y mas.’ Make it two.”

I was surprised when Leta snuggled up next to me at the bar. “Joy!” I said. She smiled and I looked her over. The Dominican girl was looking young and sporty in a red peasant blouse she wore off of her shoulders, bright white capris and some designer sandals. A white hairband could be partially seen holding back her dark brown hair.

“I’m not sure about that one,” Sandra said. “What’s in it?”

“Tequila, berries, mint and cava instead of soda water,” Leta replied. She looked at me and added, “You’re gonna like this.”

The bartender turned around to make the mojitos. I looked at Leta’s striking features and tan complexion and marveled. “What are you doing here?”

“I was lookin’ around to find some dancing and saw you over here. Wanna join me?”

“Where’s Marcial?”

“Marcial? He’s a pelmazo!” She practically spit on the floor when she said it.

“Pelmazo?”

“‘Boring’ … He goes to bed at eight and wakes up at 4, even on the weekends. C’mon and dance with me!”

“I’m not much on dancing. Besides, you don’t want to be hanging around an old guy … What are you, about 17?”

“I’m 26.” She leaned over and whispered, “We’re not going to do it tonight if you keep talking like that.”

I was speechless. I figured she said it for shock value, and it worked. Fortunately, Sandra brought the drinks over. “I made one for me, too. It looked too good to pass up.”

Leta and I took hold of the cocktail glasses and sipped. I held mine up to the light. The semi-transparent, golden elixir glowed. The strawberries and blueberries added the perfect color, and the green mint leaves floating on top added a great taste. I took another drink. “You’re right, this is really good.”

“I know, it’s always good. But mojitos depend on who you’re with. That’s why these are even better.” She finished hers off and lifted my glass, urging me to do the same. I managed to down it and she took my arm, dragging me away from the bar.

“Where’re we going?”

“I told you, I wanna dance.”

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