Pat Ruger: Caribbean Shuffle

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Chapter 5

“What do you mean I can’t take my handgun on the cruise?” Jimmy was upset.

“Now, dear,” his darling wife, Erin, said, gently pulling him back into the booth. We had been enjoying a pre-cruise dinner in the French Quarter. “Pat looked it up.”

Erin had auburn hair this trip. One didn’t know from week to week what color she would sport. The reddish tint on her small Irish frame reminded me of Maureen O’Hara, and Erin was just as beautiful. She looked cute in her white culottes and green top with gold foil scrollwork.

By contrast, Jimmy was a large brute with the expected Irish-red hair, and he used his heritage to his advantage when he could. He could feign ignorance and could sell it with his Gaelic accent.

Jimmy Stewart — he hated for people to ask about the actor’s name — was my first partner after making senior detective in Colorado Springs. He had just made detective and was attentive, loud and physically very strong. As with many partners, after we saved each other a couple of times, we were best friends. When I retired, he eventually gave up trying to get me to return to the force. Sometime later, he transferred to the Denver PD.

Jimmy was still angry. “But I can take it on an airplane, why not a cruise ship?”

“You can only take it on a plane …” I explained, “… if you take it apart and pack the pieces in your checked luggage in separate boxes. But once you’re on a ship, you have all your luggage with you.”

“That’s the point, Patty. I feel naked in public without my gun. I don’t want to leave it behind!”

“Jimmy … Jimmy …” I looked him in the eyes to help calm him down. “How would you like to be the captain knowing that a third of the passengers had guns on them? Sometimes they have to make decisions that passengers don’t like.”

“I know …”

I pulled out my tablet. “Let me show you what I found …” I brought up the cruise company’s website and searched for “items not permitted.” “Here, listen to this … ‘Items not permitted on board: firearms and ammunition ...’”

“Yeah, you told me that.” Jimmy had slipped into his Irish brogue, obviously irritated.

Erin took Jimmy’s hand. “Calm down, will you?” She looked back at me. “What else does it say?”

I continued. “’Firearms and ammunition, including realistic replicas, sharp objects, including all knives and scissors, illegal drugs and substances, candles, incense, coffee makers, clothes irons … ’ Even baseball bats and … ” I read down the list. “Ham radios.”

“Wow, shall we go naked?”

“Listen to this: ‘Matches and normal lighters are allowed onboard. However, novelty lighters that look like guns are not allowed onboard.’ Oh, and they don’t allow handcuffs or pepper spray, either.”

“I’m a cop. I should be able to take those things.”

“You’re not a cop on the ship.”

Jimmy still wasn’t convinced. “What if we get attacked by pirates?”

“Pirates?” Erin was incredulous. “You’ve been watching too many Johnny Depp movies.”

I answered the question. “There haven’t been any pirate attacks in the Caribbean in years. They’ve all been in the Indian Ocean, not here.”

“I don’t like it.”

Erin changed the subject. “Pat, dear, are you taking anyone along?”

“No, I’m flying solo on this trip.”

“That’s a shame …” She tugged on Jimmy’s shoulder. “Why don’t we ask Judy to come?”

“Babe,” he answered. “Pat doesn’t want to take a stranger with him on a trip.”

I was a bit shocked at the suggestion. First the girls and now Erin wanted to fix me up. “You are correct, sir.” I said in my best Ed McMahon impersonation. They probably didn’t even know who Ed McMahon was. “Thanks, anyway, but,” I put my hand up in the ‘stop’ position, facing Erin. “I’ll pass.”

“You shouldn’t be alone. Judy is great. She’s beautiful, too.”

Jimmy chimed in, seemingly over the previous argument. “Actually, Erin’s right. She was Miss Colorado 10 years ago … she’s gorgeous.”

I shook my head. “I did meet someone yesterday …”

“Really?” Erin eagerly inquired. “Who is it?”

“… but it’s casual,” I continued. “Everyone wants me to forget Amanda as soon as possible … I’m just not ready to cut and run.”

“I can’t understand why she chose her job over you.” Erin consciously lowered her voice. “You guys were terrific together.”

I took her hand and covered it with both hands. “I’ll be okay. Really.” I decided to steer the conversation away from my love life, and pointed to Jimmy’s arm. “That’s the ugliest watch I ever saw.”

He unconsciously grabbed the timepiece. “This came with my new cell phone.” He touched it to wake it up and turned it around to face me. “See? I can see who is calling and can receive texts. I can even reply, but the damn keyboard is too small to do it very good, at least for me …”

“Well, you won’t have to worry about a pickpocket, that’s for sure.”

“Very funny.”

“You’d love Judy …” Erin was relentless. “How about when we get back? We could have you guys over for dinner …”

“Okay, okay, we’ll see.” Just like the girls, I said under my breath. You can’t fight city hall. “When we get back.”

Erin made a smug smile, knowing she had won this small battle. Jimmy shook his head silently.

The waiter brought our steaks, which looked superb. “Three minutes sooner would have been perfect timing,” I said, and the waiter looked confused.

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