Pat Ruger: Caribbean Shuffle

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Chapter 26

The last time we were in T.J.’s cabin, we were losing our shirts in a card game that pretty much summed up our trip. Jimmy banged on the door and listened close to it for signs of life. I repeated the exercise, to no avail.

“T.J.! Open up!” I yelled and Jimmy pounded again.

“He’s not here,” Jimmy decided. “What do you want to do?”

“Let’s break it down.”

I reared back to get a good jump at the door, but Jimmy stopped me.

“Wait, don’t you have your master keycard?”

Embarrassed, I went looking for the card and found it in my back pocket. “I forgot all about that …”

I swiped the card in the slot and the door popped open. I went into the dim suite first and Jimmy followed. Jimmy found a light switch and flipped them on, making the room much brighter. There wasn’t any card table set up, nor a stocked bar. I guessed that they were rented just for our game.

“Diamonds, right?” Jimmy asked. He motioned with his hands about a one-foot square. “A case about this big?”

“Maybe … not sure. It depends on the quality of the stones.”

We both went searching, Jimmy in the main living area and me in the bedroom. No drawer or cupboard was left untouched.

I saw in one dresser drawer something I wasn’t expecting. “Crap!”

“What?” Jimmy asked, having scurried to the bedroom.

“Look,” I replied, standing aside to let Jimmy see the laptop I had found, obviously taken apart.

“This is the laptop I saw in the James’ room. T.J. said the chip they were smuggling was in there.”

“And now here it is, in pieces. You know what that means.”

“Yeah. The son of a bitch lied to us. They’ve already made the swap.”

We quickly left and locked the suite to head to Bill and Leslie’s cabin. I was angry and Jimmy had trouble keeping up with me. By the time I reached cabin 1077, I had recovered some of my composure.

I banged on the door and called out, “Mr. James! Bill! It’s Pat Ruger!” I banged it again.

The door opened abruptly and a smiling Leslie James greeted us. “And who is this young man?”

“I’m Detective Stewart, ma’am. Can we come in?”

“Certainly, come right in.” She stepped aside yelling back in the room, “Pam, get decent …”

“Is Bill here?” I asked.

“He’s not. He’s down in the dining room right now. What do you need?”

“You can save the ship from this Mexican stand-off, Misses James,” Jimmy answered. “We need to pay a ransom.”

Leslie looked at me with a questioning look. “I don’t know how I can help with that …”

“Leslie, I know about the diamonds and the laptop,” I said. “We need the diamonds. I know you made the swap with T.J. We don’t care about the espionage, but we need the diamonds.”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“Give it to them, Les.” It was Pamela from the bed. “We can get out of this death trap.”

“Pam, you don’t know what you’re saying …”

“Yes, she does,” I interrupted. “If we don’t pay the ransom, this isn’t going to go well. They might just sink us.”

“I assure you,” Jimmy added. “There will be no repercussions from us regarding the deal. You would actually be rewarded.”

“Rewarded? How much?”

“About a hundred-thousand in cash, no strings, all legal.”

She looked over at Pamela, who nodded.

“Two-hundred-thousand and we’ll give you the diamonds.”

“Deal,” I said without a second thought.

Pamela went to the balcony and dragged in a set of golf clubs. She leaned the case over on its side and unsnapped about four hidden buttons on a lower section and tugged hard. The bottom fell off and a large terry cloth bag rolled out. “The pirates went out on the balcony and were going to look over the clubs. I had to do something so I showed ’em my tits.” She stood tall and flashed us with the forty-fours. “That seemed to do the trick.” She winked at Jimmy and was smiling proudly. I had seen them and wasn’t fazed, but I think Jimmy wasn’t quite prepared.

“I’ll bet,” he said, gulping.

“Gorgeous and smart,” Leslie added.

I took the bag of diamonds from Pamela, much heavier than I thought. “How is this bag worth fifty million? It doesn’t seem possible.”

Leslie answered, “These are Canary Island stones, the best. It only takes about two-hundred-and-fifty carats to be worth that amount.”

“They don’t seem so special,” Jimmy commented. “Not pink or blue, or what’s new, chocolate?”

“Some of the most expensive diamonds in the world are colorless,” Pam answered. “These are perfect.”

“Okay, I guess they’ll do …” I said and started to leave.

Leslie stepped in our way and asked, “When will we see the two hundred grand?”

“As soon as we get back to port, I promise.” Jimmy said and reached past her, grabbed the door knob. Leslie relented and stepped aside.

“Wait,” I paused to think. “You said these rocks are worth about a hundred grand each?”

“Yeah, I think that’s about right.”

I reached in the bag and took two out. “Will this cover it?”

“I’ll need to fence them … make it four and we’ll call it good.”

I grabbed a third stone and handed her all three. “Split the difference.” She seemed very pleased. Once in the hallway, we started aft.

“Where to now?” Jimmy asked.

“The shoppers’ mall. I need to stop at the duty-free jewelry store.”

“Okay … whatcha got in mind?”

“I’m gonna buy some diamonds.”

“You have a boatload of diamonds already …”

I didn’t answer, but let him follow me to the mall. But, the jewelry store was closed, with piles of busted glass scattered all around. “Damn.” I stepped in the broken-out door and say the glass counter was also smashed and empty of what was most likely watches, earrings and other fast-moving jewelry.

“What do you want to do?” Jimmy asked after he had followed me into the store.

“Let’s find a ship phone and call Fosse.” I looked around, then up and down the corridor without seeing a phone. A bit further toward the elevators was a sitting area and a white ship phone was sitting on a side table. I picked it up and asked for Security, and soon Fosse answered. “Can you open up the jewelry store for us? It’s extremely important.”

“Okay, but it’s a private store, so if you don’t mind, I’ll bring the operator over, too.”

“That works for me. They’ll want to see the damage, if they haven’t already.”

We waited for about 10 minutes and Fosse and a cute blonde arrived, keys in hand, wearing a short, lipstick-red dress and matching high heels. Her clothes were expensive, that much I could tell.

“Gentlemen, this is Miss Carlson. She and her parents own this store.”

Miss Carlson struggled to unlock the door but eventually got it open. I guessed she didn’t want to catch her clothing on the broken edges of the door.

She looked around and sighed. “What do you need?”

I handed my bag of diamonds to Jimmy. “Cubic zirconia, large stones, about two hundred or so. You make jewelry, don’t you?”

”Certainly.”

“Then you probably have the stones … if the pirates didn’t get them first.”

“No, they’re here in the safe.” She knelt down to open it up.

When she came back up with the cubics, I pulled out my wallet and removed my VISA card. “You can put it on this.”

“That’s a lot of rocks,” Jimmy quipped. “You have that kind of money? I shoulda got you to pay for our card game.”

“The agency is doing okay … Besides, it’s not more than a couple grand or so.”

“Thirty-two-hundred, to be exact,” the blonde shopkeeper stated matter-of-factly.

When Carlson bent over to choose the right size cloth bag for the order, I definitely noticed her shapely derrière, especially in her tight-fitting dress. I didn’t want to, but I did. Unfortunately, she looked back and saw me notice, flashing me a sly smile and not seeming a bit morose.

She bagged the stones and pushed the wired credit card kiosk toward me across the wooden portion of the countertop. I swiped my card and put it away, pushing the kiosk back from the counter’s edge.

“I’m glad we got Internet back …” she said and she pushed the receipt towards me to sign. After I did so, she grabbed my pen, wrote on the slip and handed them both to me. “This is my private number. Please call me if you need … anything. Of course, you’ll have to wait until I get a replacement phone. You on Skype?”

“Occasionally, why?”

“In the meantime, Skype me at this address …” She pulled the pen and receipt back from my hand and wrote on it, then handed them back.

“I’ll do that,” I replied and saw Jimmy shaking his head to himself with a partially hidden smirk.

“Wait, you’ll need this …” she said and reached under the counter. She brought up a pad of forms and managed to find her own pen. After filling out several spaces, she tore the form off the pad and folded it neatly. “This is for Customs, for duty …” She handed me the paper. “It’ll save you about five hundred dollars.”

“Thanks, Miss Carlson, I appreciate it.” I took the cloth jewelry bag. “There is one other thing, do you mind?” I took out one of the expensive diamonds out and handed it to her. “Can you tell me what this is worth?”

“I can do that unofficially, unless you want a written estimate.”

“Nothing in writing, just your best guess …”

She brought out a gray plastic bin from under the counter that had several gadgets in it, then took out a notepad. She took out an electronic scale and placed the stone on it. After a moment, she wrote down a number on the pad. Then she took out a measuring tool that looked like tweezers and took readings in several directions, writing each one down.

“Don’t you need to look at it through a jeweler’s scope, or whatever you call it?” I asked, definitely interested in the process.

“It’s called a ‘loupe’ … I’ll get to that,” Carlson answered, putting away the tweezers and getting out what appeared to be a small, handheld blacklight. Shining the light over the stone, she peered closely and wrote something else on her list. She put away the light and got out a device that looked like an electronic pen with a digital readout on the top. She applied the tip on the pen to the stone and after a few seconds, she pressed a button on it and looked at the reading.

“There it is,” I said when she finally pulled out the loupe.

She smiled and peered at the diamond for several minutes through the eyepiece.

“Anything wrong?” I was starting to get worried.

“No, nothing … In fact, this is the finest diamond I’ve ever examined. It’s not a Blood Diamond … Is it from the Caymans or Madagascar?”

“From the Canary Islands, I’m told …”

“Ah.” She picked up the pad and looked over her scribbling.

“What’s the word?” Jimmy asked.

“Well, I’d put the value of this stone at between ninety thousand and a hundred-and-fifteen-thousand, probably closer to the higher number.”

“Well, I’m impressed,” I said. “Definitely what I wanted to hear.”

“If you’ve got some of these, what do you need with cee-zee’s?”

“It’s a long story … Thanks for the appraisal.” I put the loose Canary Island diamond back with the others and made double sure I had the bag of cubics.

She nodded and we left the shop, carefully stepping over the shards, Fosse promising to catch up with us. I told him we’d be in my cabin.

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