The basement was guarded by two smaller brutes. We knew the routine like we had run it yesterday. Jimmy walked a couple of steps ahead of me, looking up at the ceiling while he passed the guards. As always, one gunman said to stop and Jimmy acted like he didn’t hear him, still watching the ceiling. Sure enough, he reached for Jimmy’s arm and wham, Jimmy decked him, out cold, while I grabbed the other guy and did the same.
“No walkie-talkies,” I said, with relief. “They won’t be missed.”
We each grabbed our guy and dragged them down the hallway. We got to the laundry room and tied their hands behind them with apron strings and tied towels together form makeshift gags.
In the distance we heard a faint “pop-pop,” certainly gunfire.
“Wait here,” Jimmy cautioned and snuck up the stairway to see what he could. Coming back a few minutes later, he answered my questioning look. “Couldn’t see much, but it sounds like a passenger got shot. Stupid people …”
“We need a plan.” I tried to formulate one but was unsure where to start.
“We need information,” Jimmy said. “In the security room we can see what cameras are working.”
“Good idea,” I replied. “We should use the lowest deck to move across the ship, fore and aft. Then go up the stairs to the bottom deck. We should be okay, but if we get snagged, it’s over.”
I led the way down to the lowest deck and we carefully moved aft in the dank and dimly lit corridor. When we got far enough we took the nearest stairs up to the bottom deck and managed to get to the security office without being seen. Like we thought, they were ignoring the crew’s decks, but I was surprised to find no one guarding our detainees. Jimmy had the key and got us inside. Once inside, he immediately brought up the computer managing the few cameras the cruise line had installed, while I tried to barricade the door.
“C’mon, say it. You know you want to …”
“What?” Jimmy asked, smiling. “I don’t know what you mean.”
“Yes, you do … Pirates. We were boarded by pirates.”
“I’ll gloat after we get out of this mess.”
“Fair enough. Whatcha got on video?”
Jimmy fiddled with the mouse and one of the joystick controllers. “We have a view of the bridge. That’s where the captain and Fosse are, along with some thugs.”
I leaned over and looked for myself. “Only a couple of them have automatics, most are single-shot rifles. No communications … not very organized. I don’t think this is an experienced bunch.”
“I think you’re right. Maybe this is their first go.”
“They must be small-time that decided on a big payday.”
Jimmy was flipping through the views from camera to camera. “Maybe that’s why we haven’t heard anything about them before now. Wait …” He pointed to the screen. “Isn’t that the guy who won the poker game?” The guy he was pointing to was wearing a Fedora and had both a rifle and handgun. He was pointing his pistol at a group of passengers.
“Damn.” I tried to think of his name.
“T.J. It was his suite we played in.”
“That’s right, the computer geek,” I recalled. “What’s he doing?”
“Still gambling, looks like. It must be a big payday for him.”
“An inside job … who woulda thought?”
“That’s not an ‘inside job,’” Jimmy correctly pointed out. “T.J. doesn’t work for the cruise line, as far as we know. I guess he could be working for someone on the crew, but that doesn’t strike me as likely.”
“You’re right …” I sat down in the uncomfortable office chair. “They used to rob trains,” I thought out loud. “This is the same concept, really. Let’s see, if you rob 4,000 passengers of $2,000 each, that’s only $8 million. That’s not enough to take this risk.”
“Plus, that’s a lot of stuff to carry — 4,000 wallets, purses, cell phones …” Jimmy replied. “There must be something else. They’ll be sharing a good chunk with T.J., too … Diamonds?”
“Gotta be. Also, why aren’t they here? This is where the guns are, the security system … shouldn’t they be at least guarding them?”
Jimmy nodded, then vocalized what I was thinking. “We need to talk to Fosse.”
A loud knock-knock-knock came from the locked room on our left. “Anyone out there?” It was Junior.
“Hold on.” I grabbed the security key and punched in the code. While the door was opening, I held up my pistol so he would stay inside. “It’s safer for you in there … Did anyone feed you this morning?”
“Yeah,” Junior replied. “We got sumpthin’ a while ago.”
That reminded me to check on our other guest. “You have to use the bathroom?”
“I guess I better.”
Jimmy took him to the office’s head and waited outside the door while I checked on Daniels.
I readied my gun, unlocked and opened the far detention room door and found Daniels asleep, and snoring. I waited a minute or two to see if he was faking; I could usually tell. I leaned over and shook him a bit and he groggily sat up while I stepped back. This was bad enough without me taking chances with a killer.
“You need to use the head?”
“No,” he answered, not quite awake. “I’m good. What’s going on?”
“You didn’t hear?”
“I’m a pretty sound sleeper. Always have been.”
“Let’s just say you’ll be better off locked in this room than being outside.” I stepped out of the room and looked back. “I’ll check on you in a while.” He laid back down and I thought he might have been snoring before I got the door closed.
Just about then, Jimmy escorted Junior back to his room and launched the ‘close door’ sequence without protest.
“How do we get to Fosse?” I asked Jimmy when we got everyone settled.
“They don’t know us, right? And there’s crew all over the ship.”
“Right …” I considered that implication. “Laundry.”
“Yup. There’s uniforms in there.”