Pat Ruger: Caribbean Shuffle

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Chapter 19

It may seem obvious, but there’s a trick to blending in that all spies know, and of which most cops are also aware. Never wear sparkling clean maintenance or mechanic’s uniforms when you are undercover. Faded, dirty, partially wrinkled duds will usually fail to draw any attention, while freshly washed or new clothing will immediately look out of place, even if just for a moment. You might not make it past that moment, so you never want it to happen.

Jimmy and I found the dirty laundry from the crew and went through the bundles of navy-blue, heavy-duty jumpsuits, looking for the right sizes. With so many of the crew diminutive in size from being younger or foreign (thinner than Americans), it took a while to find an adult large and extra-large. Fortunately, there were no names or nametags sewn on. We threw them on and looked for some tool bags or other paraphernalia to make us inconspicuous, and which would also hold our handguns. The closet off the laundry room had two such bags, one was made of faded, orange-brown leather and the other tan canvas, both with tools and ready to use.

By now we both knew the ship’s layout pretty well, having been throughout the vessel several times in the last two days. Tool bags in hand, we went up the stairs to the 11th deck and looked around from the landing. It seemed clear of passengers and “visitors.” We entered the corridor and moved forward, all the way to the front-most elevator.

“What now?” Jimmy asked.

“I’m thinking,” I replied.

Just then, one of the elevator doors clanged and doors opened. Jimmy and I jumped to the windows to our left and pretended to be fixing something, while Fosse was being escorted at gunpoint. They walked towards the corridor from the elevator landing and I decided to take a chance.

“Mister Fosse! Mister Fosse! Can I ask you something about the laundry room repairs?”

They both stopped and Fosse saw who I was. He paused, then said, “What do you need, Fred?”

I started towards him animated as I could be, and Jimmy stepped to the other side of the two gentlemen. “It’s just that the peristaltic pumps on machine three can’t be …” I stumbled, pistol in hand, and tools went flying all around.

Fosse immediately stooped down to help me and Jimmy took the distraction to hit the escort with his piece, knocking him out cold. “You’d think they’d learn to use more than one escort … Get his legs,” Jimmy told Fosse, who smiled nervously.

I picked up the tools and followed them aft down the corridor, down the stairway and eventually into the security office. While they held him, I started the door sequence of an empty detainment room and they poured the fellow onto the cot inside. I closed the door.

“Well, quite a day,” I said as I shook Fosse’s hand.

“You could say that …” he replied. “What’s the plan?”

“Don’t have one yet.”

“I got a question,” Jimmy sat on the office chair in front of the monitors. “Why aren’t there pirates here in security? You’d think that’d be the first place they’d want to take over.”

Fosse smiled. “That’s sort of my fault. I told them our auxiliary detention room up front was the main security office.”

“You have another security office besides this one?” I asked. “What about camera access? Can they use them?”

“No, that PC is busted, so they are blind there.”

“We’re not dealing with the smartest pirates in the world, are we?” Jimmy cracked. “I can’t believe it.”

“Well, they knew enough to hit us at night before going to port,” I replied. “They knew to knock out communications and cell phone service, and Internet access. They have enough weapons to do the job. They’re doing something right.”

“Point taken, Patty. I’m just glad they have holes in their plan.”

“Me, too.” I thought for a moment. “Where’s our poker buddy right now?”

“I’ll see if he’s in view anywhere …” Jimmy flicked the joystick controller and the monitors came alive. The views changed as he flipped through the cameras. “Nope, not seeing him.”

“T.J. has got to know what’s going on. We need to drag him here.”

“Wait, here he is!” Jimmy pointed to an image on the main screen. “He’s just gone into the dining room.”

“Is he alone?” I asked.

“No, he’s got 6 guys with him.”

“Damn.”

Fosse piped up. “Hey, why don’t we wait for them in the men’s room? They always go to the bathroom when they eat.”

“Might work,” Jimmy replied. “It’s not ideal. There’s no guarantee any of them will want to take a piss.”

“True,” I thought about our options. “Do we have any of that tranquilizer left?”

“I’ll check,” said Fosse, who left, presumably for the infirmary. He returned a few minutes later with vials in hand. “We only have 4 full doses left. We would’ve refilled meds in Jamaica.”

“That’s not enough for the 7 of them,” I said. “I was thinking of making a killer dessert.”

“You know …” Fosse began, deep in thought.

“What is it?”

“They don’t have to be knocked out. Tipsy should cover it for you guys.”

“He’s right,” Jimmy said. “But the problem with dessert is that it’s eaten slowly. As soon as one of them feels it, he’ll alert the others to stop.”

“So, it’s gotta be something they eat fast …” I sat down to think. “Or, something they drink fast. What do you drink fast?”

“Shots, of course,” Jimmy replied without hesitation. “Tequila?”

“What’ll tequila do mixed with sedatives?”

“Don’t worry,” Fosse replied. “I don’t think it’ll kill any of them …”

“Just in case, let’s just give T.J. straight tequila, no drugs.”

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