A Ship of Death [Mature]

A Ship of Death [Mature]

A Story by hvysmker
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A Ship Of Death. Adult. A serial killer on a cruise ship. The captain hires a detective firm to investigate. 15pages

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A Ship Of Death. Adult. A serial killer on a cruise ship.

A serial killer on a cruise ship. The captain hires a detective firm to investigate.

“I’m tired, Mama.  Okay if I go now?” eighteen-year-old Nora asked her mother. The family was on vacation from New York City to Bermuda.  Her mother had won a free cruise on the "Milton Sharps", a medium-sized cruise ship.  They were currently sitting on canvas chairs on the Promenade Deck, looking out over the ocean.  “I’ll be in our cabin if you want me.”

“Go ahead, dear.  You know the way. We’ll see you in a little while,” her mother told her, “or tomorrow, if you’re already asleep.”

They didn’t know it then, but it would be the last time they saw the little girl alive. When they returned to their cabin, she would be found raped and dead, the door to the cabin unlocked. Nora was only the first victim. There would be many more over the years.

***

A short slim man flitted, head down, along empty corridors toward the rear of the ship. He was dressed in a crew uniform, blue and white with one red stripe on each sleeve. It was the uniform of a common seaman. A low ranking person who could be used in any department when needed.

Using a key, the little man unlocked and entered a storeroom. Locking the door behind himself, he pulled off the grill to a ventilator.  Stepping onto a stack of boxes, he rapidly disappeared inside, pausing only long enough to replace the screen from inside.

If anyone had seen him closely they might have recoiled in horror at his hideous features. The man’s face was a dull red, with pale gray and white scars criss-crossing over most of its area, dominated by large, deep-set, dead-black eyes without a bit of hair on face or head.

***

“Mr. Masters, my company would like to hire you.”  A well-dressed man sat across the desk from the private investigator. “I’ve heard about your reputation as a homicide detective.”

“I take it someone you know is deceased?” Jake Masters answered, turning from a typewriter where he’d been working on a report. “Tell me your problem and I’ll tell you if we can handle it or not?  Normally the police take care of that sort of thing.  I’m retired now and don’t want to step on my old department's toes.”  Jake shook his head, giving the man a sorrowful gaze.

“Oh, they’re handling it the best they can, sir. The problem is that we’re a cruise ship, normally to and from South America … and occasionally Europe.  They do what they can here in New York City.

“What we think we need is someone to go with us on a cruise or two and work from there.” The man nervously scratched under his collar. “We have some kind of serial killer aboard, and are being sued by a couple of the victims.  Under Federal Statutes, if it’s a crew member we can be held responsible.

"If it's a passenger, we're only required to use reasonable care. A lot depends on the outcome, as well as not wanting any more killings, of course.  We’ve hired a security company, but it hasn’t seemed to help. There’s already been one murder since they came aboard.”

“I take it you’ve checked the passenger lists for repeat customers?”

“Oh yes, of course.  But with no passports required on most of our trips, people could use other names. We sometimes have around 900 passengers, too many to keep track of 24 hours a day, plus a crew of over 1,200.”

“So I would have to do a lot of traveling, is that it?”

“Yessir.  That’s up to you, but we would like to have you or someone aboard to assist on security.”  Visibly spying a half-full ashtray on the desk, the visitor paused to light a Salem before continuing, “It might help on those ongoing investigations and, frankly, make me feel just a little safer.”

“And what kind of murders are these.  I read of a young girl being killed about a month ago, was that it?”

“Probably. They’ve all been young girls, 12 to 20, small, dark-haired, raped and sometimes killed.”

“I’d need to bring a couple of others with me.  And who knows for how long?” Jake was thinking to himself.  “It could become expensive?”

“We’d give you all the help we could, sir.  If you can’t solve it, we might have to dock the ship, and fire the entire crew.  Either that or losing these, and any new, lawsuits could break us.”

“Leave your card and I’ll get back to you by this time tomorrow. I’d have to tie up some loose ends and get my own people together.” Jake sighed. “Oh, and I’d like two other things. If we take the job, I’ll need to put a couple of people into your crew, probably as common seamen. I have a couple in mind, ex-navy.  And, don’t tell anybody but the captain about us. Can you arrange that?  Probably two of us will go undercover as passengers, so we’ll need a couple of cabins.”

***

“That’s the picture, Mr. Masters,” Captain Adams finished. “It doesn’t happen every trip, or even every year.  At first, we could kid ourselves that we were simply unlucky.  Now, though, there have been four in the last year and a half.  

“My company bought the ship from Acme Shipping seven years ago, and it took us another six months to outfit and crew it after that. The first killing was on our maiden voyage to Bermuda.”

“And did you keep the old crew, from Acme?” Masters asked, sipping on a glass of wine. The last time he had been aboard a ship was as a young man during WWII, thirty-some years before. And he sure as hell hadn’t had wine with the skipper. He had been a seaman in the engineering section of a troopship.

“No, we started fresh. Mostly people from a vessel we retired about the same time. We simply hired a few more, since this ship is larger than the other, but had to get them used to working with the vessel first.  We prefer that system, since they were already used to working as a team.”

“I have an assistant who will need to go over all your records, including personnel and pay records. Do you have any problem with that, sir?” Masters asked. “As far as anyone knows, she'll be the only one of us on board.  I’ll have two others on as seamen and, with myself acting like a passenger, that should cover everything.”

“I just hope to hell it’s not one of the crew. We have a small on-board security force and right now a private guard company augmenting it.”

"Do they work separately, or mixed together as one security department?"

"Separately. I thought that better, especially since the private ones weren't familiar with shipboard routine.  Plus, though I hate the thought, the killer might be in our security department.  So far, there haven't been any problems, except for the last killing of course.  By now,  the private guards are pretty much up to par. For most of them, it's their fourth trip with us."

The two shook hands and Jake Masters left to go back to his cabin. There, he met with his assistant, Jane Compton.  Jane was also an ex-police detective. She had specialized in white collar crimes and had accumulated a great deal of experience at examining paperwork.

Jane had also worked the street for five years before making detective. She, like all his people aboard, was single. He didn’t know how many trips would have to be made, making that detail necessary.

***

Jerry Smith, as his name implied, was average in most ways. Or at least had been before the accident that had scarred him both physically and mentally. He had been small and weak as a child and picked on by his classmates.  In high school, he had never been popular with the girls �" or boys, for that matter.

Working at low-level jobs, he had eventually drifted into the navy where his school-boy harassment continued.  Being small and shy, Jerry was the butt of constant joking. Bullies flocked to him like flies to honey.

After his enlistment, Jerry used his navy experience to obtain a job with Acme Shipping, on the death ship.  For the first time in his life, he'd felt at home. With nobody picking on him, he did his job but kept to himself, making no real friends.

One day, while tightening a manual valve to shut off an eight-inch steam pipe for maintenance, the bearing inside gave way.  A thin jet of live steam hit him, instantly boiling the flesh on his lower face. Jerry had been wearing thick goggles at the time, which saved his eyesight, but the rest of his features were instantly converted to boiled meat.

“We’ll take care of the bills, Smith,” Captain Peterson had told him, “and you’ll always have a job on my ship, as long as you live.”

But, a year later, the vessel was sold and the captain retired.  So much for the promise.

“The b*****d had to know it at the time,”  Jerry told himself.  He was out on his a*s, with a face no mother could love.

Instead, Jerry himself kept to the letter of the promise. While the ship was being outfitted for the new shipping company, Jerry did his own outfitting.

Among other things, the new owners re-paneled some of the lower corridors. One of the few crewmen still temporarily employed at odd jobs, Jerry took advantage of that refinishing by secretly moving furniture and other equipment into an isolated storage room on one of the lower decks.  Then, he personally installed paneling over the door, hiding it from sight. After repainting, the room was sealed from sight and forgotten.  The new owners never missed that room, at least as far as Jerry knew.

Jerry then, using chaos born of reconstruction and cleaning, stole a copy of the ship’s blueprints, simply by breaking into an office at night and using the copy machine.  By studying them from inside his hidden space, he soon knew more about the ventilation system than even the ship’s new set of engineers.  Being so small, he used that method of secretly moving around the vessel.

He stole anything he needed, such as food from the pantries. There was always pilferage on a ship that size and his wasn’t particularly noticeable. The ship had been his first happy home, and still was.  Unnoticed by Jerry, however, without human companionship he was slowly going crazy.

Jerry would spend time watching the passengers from ventilation shafts and walking the ship at night when nobody was awake to notice him or his face. When he became too lonely, he would find a girl and have his way with her.  After all, Captain Peterson had promised him and, as with any other cargo, passengers were of no concern to Jerry.

Usually the rapes weren’t reported.  If they were, word never got to the police, being hushed up by the ship’s company as bad publicity.  Sometimes, if the girls fought back too hard, he killed them.  It was that simple.

***

Jake Masters mixed with the passengers. There were only 866 on that trip, according to the captain.  It was still too many for Jake to interview.  He was clued in to one passenger, an elderly lady who held a more or less permanent cabin. Mrs. Osborne was wealthy and liked the atmosphere on the ship.  She was in her nineties at the time and made every trip she could, only missing a few for health reasons.

He simply knocked on her door, and introduced himself.

“So that’s why I’m here right now, Mrs. Osb ... Mabel.” He sipped the tea brought by her nurse, a Ms. Edwards. “I wanted to know if you ladies have noticed the same people on different trips, especially on these trips?” Jake passed them a list of rape and murder dates.

“Don’t need the dates or times, Jake. We don’t pay much attention to them. That’s what I like about this life. Time means nothing to me, not reminding me of my age.”  She leaned back in her chair, looking out a window at the ocean. “I can tell you though, I haven’t seen anything like that. I’ve noticed a few people a few times, but not all that many.  And certainly not that often, like you want me to say.  I listen to all the scuttlebutt about murders, and have given it some thought. The last dozen cruises, I've kept an eye on the passengers.” She looked over at Ms. Edwards, who also nodded.

Jake went back to his cabin to think, and wait for calls. The first was from one of his other two operatives, the ones on the crew. They had nothing to report, at least yet.  The two had been kept busy scrubbing decks and working in the kitchen, with little time to look around.

One of them, Peter Sylvester, reported that one of the cooks had complained about so much food missing so early in the voyage. There was a lot of pilferage.  Mostly, the cooks forgot to mark items off when taken out of storage.  

Also, a lot of people had keys to the food lockers.  Every section chief, for instance, and came down at night to fix themselves snacks. Missing food was normal, but not usually so much on the very first day at sea. The food storage rooms had been locked when Peter went in to help the cook bring out supplies for the first dinner at sea.

A few hours later, Jane called to report her progress. She had three meetings of the crew scheduled for the next day. She would explain her mission and ask them if they had any suspicions and to keep an eye out for anything unusual.

The detective had spent the rest of the first day going over personnel files, matching them with pay records. She first eliminated all the women on the crew, since they could hardly be rapists.  A few others had not been aboard, according to pay records, at the time of many of the rapes.  They had been on vacation or serving on other ships at the time. She next eliminated all the newer male crew members. It would have to be one of the people hired before the first few rapes were reported.  After all, some could even be by other men, crewmen or passengers.  A lot of horny men took cruises. All the rapes couldn’t automatically be attributed to that one rapist.

The crew members left still numbered about 80 men. Jake had Jane call the police back in NYC to pass those names to the FBI for processing.  Jane would continue working with the ship’s staff until the results were back.

They would have to wait.  Meanwhile, Jake found copies of the ship’s deck plans, as available to all passengers and left in every passenger cabin. He wanted to become familiar with the craft by walking decks and corridors, especially late at night.

***

Jerry spent the first day of the voyage in his hidden storeroom. He had filled his refrigerator and freezer with food the night before.  He had also refreshed his bookshelves with a new selection of reading material from the ship’s library.  It was best to do it before sailing, as passengers using the library made it harder to steal books during a voyage. Jerry spent the day reading and drinking purloined wine from the ship’s stores.

He also checked out a new toy, acquired from an electronic shop on shore. It was a tiny video camera he could connect to his television set. The thing came with a large spool of electrical cord.  Now he could plant it at the entrance to ventilator grills and sit at home watching. He was getting lazy in his old age, he thought.  Not much chance of it being found and traced in the miles of ventilator shafts.

***

Detective Jane Compton used a computer program to check passenger signatures for repeats. It took her all day to use a scanner on papers from past trips, then separate them for further attention. Another five minutes on her laptop computer for the actual comparison. The few repeats were verified with records, or found to be false readings when compared by hand.  Another day wasted, she figured.

Unless she could think of another test, it looked like the passengers were eliminated. It was down to the remains of the crew and awaiting word from the FBI.  The days went by as she and Jake tried out anything they could think of.  The other two detectives were equally fruitless. One did pick up rumors of a strange crew member being sighted occasionally, walking the corridors in the dead of night with his face in shadow.  He figured it was one of those ghost stories common to sailing vessels.

***

Janice Simpson, age twenty, returned to her cabin. The boy she was dating had never showed up at the ship’s game arcade. She'd waited for almost an hour, then gotten angry and left. The girl was still angry as she unlocked her cabin door and flicked on the light switch. She headed directly for the small bathroom.

“Might as well take a bath and go to bed early,” she told herself, undressing and entering the shower. She didn’t hear a ventilator screen in the bedroom being eased to the floor, or see Jerry crawling out. The first thing Janice knew was the sound of her shower curtain being pulled back.

She turned, to see a horribly burned face a few inches from her own. The girl backed up, deathly frightened, bumping her head against a low shower-head. Dead-black eyes held her gaze as strong arms grabbed her.

“What you want, get out of he--”  

A hand covered her mouth as the other arm circled her wet torso. The girl was pulled from the shower and held tightly as Jerry carried her, struggling, out of the bathroom and threw her on her parents' bed.

When he was finished the first time, he turned her onto her stomach, sat on her back and throttled her until she stopped moving. He then forced himself on her nude body.  In a daze and barely breathing, she pretended to be unconscious as he violated her in ways she’d only read about.  Then, all was quiet until she heard a series of metallic, hollow-sounding noises. A few seconds later, she passed out completely.

“Wake up, honey.” Her mother was shaking her.  “Why aren’t you in your own bed?”  The woman must have seen her daughter's bruises. “And what the hell happened to you?  Did that boy beat you? Come over here, Harry, and look at your daughter.”

Janice didn’t want to report it, but her father called the emergency number.

***

Jake received a call at 11:17 pm.  He was watching the closed circuit television at the time. The ship furnished taped movies and television shows for its passengers.

“Hello? Jake Masters,” he answered.

“Jake, this is Jane.”  She sounded out of breath. “We have another rape, and probably attempted murder. Cabin C-143.  You coming?” Jake gave it some thought, there was still six days to go on the cruise.

“I might as well. No need to stay undercover.”  He got up. “See you there in a few minutes.”

Getting dressed, he hurried down to "C" deck. When he arrived, he found the room crowded with security personnel, along with the victim and her parents.  Jane was sitting on a bed with the girl, holding her hand.

“We’re handling it, sir.” A ship’s officer tried to steer him back out the door.

“I’m one of you,” Jake showed his credentials. “Why don’t we all get out of here and let my assistant talk to her?” He nodded at Jane and got a smile in return.

“You’re right," the officer said, looking around the room.  "Probably better that way.”  The officer, Second Mate Smithers, according to his name tag, called out to the others to leave.  They all went out to the hall to wait for Jane.  Smithers even talked the parents into leaving the room.

There were a few chairs and a table in the corridor at which Smithers asked the parents fill out various forms and statements while they waited.

“We have a few days to get our paperwork finished,” the second mate told the private security people and his own head of security before dismissing them.  Smithers and Jake remained with the parents. A few minutes later, after reassuring them of their daughter's safety, Smithers also left to hurry the ship’s doctor for a physical examination of the girl, including rape kit.

Jake stood and watched the parents fill out forms. The mother was crying and the father looked angry, now that the initial shock was over.

After Smithers came back with the doctor, Jake looked for and found the security office.

“What have you done, sir?” he asked a man inside, after identifying himself.

“Both my people and the private security company have called out our off-duty people and are patrolling the passageways. We’ve checked the barracks and found everyone accounted for. We have people up all night to keep a fire watch, and there are ship’s personnel working in the passenger areas, kitchens, and engine room. Nobody was found out of place.

“We’re interviewing anyone who was working alone to see if they can account for their time.” The head of security seemed to have things under control. A lot of paperwork would be generated that night.

Returning to the raped girl's cabin, Jake found Jane in the corridor, smoking and talking to the parents. She had gotten them another cabin, larger and nearer the security office, for which they were grateful.

They had been told that they could go in after the doctor left and pick up only enough of their possessions as needed for the night. The cabin would have to be gone over as a crime scene, left in its present condition as much as possible. Their property would be brought to them as soon as it was processed. He motioned Jane to him, away from the parents.

“What did you find out?” Jake asked her.

“She went in, the door was locked and she is certain she locked it behind herself. She was taking a shower when he grabbed her. He dragged her to the bed and made her perform oral sex before raping her repeatedly.  She passed out during sex, said he choked her while he screwed her. I believe lack of blood to the brain combined with shock caused her to faint after the act.”

“You were talking to her folks. Did they unlock the door when they got there?”

They said they did. It could have been locked from either side, or just locked itself when he left. She described him as a small ugly man with a red scarred face.”

Jake went over what security was doing about the matter with Jane and advised her, “You should get a cup of coffee.  It’s going to be a long night.  I’ll hang around here.  Oh, and you better bring your evidence kit when you return.  We’ll need it.

A little while after she left, the doctor came out and told the parents what he had found and done.

“She was raped all right, and has bruises galore. He wasn't a gentle man.  It was probably lucky for her that she passed out or he might have finished killing her. The bruises on her throat are severe but they could have been a lot worse if she hadn’t fainted. She’s also received bruises on face and chest where he must have struck her,” the doctor told them. “You can take her with you. She's strong enough to walk by herself.  I’ll come over to your new cabin tomorrow about eight o’clock to check on her.

“Oh, and I wouldn’t leave her alone. At least for a few days. She needs companionship and love.”

They thanked the doctor and went in for their daughter and night-time supplies.

“One thing, sir,” he whispered to Jake, “I did a vaginal swab. It looks like he tried to clean her off but was in a hurry.  His prints are probably on the paper towel he used.”

“Did you get a good semen sample, Doc?” Jake asked.

“Right here. You want it now?  I should put it in the refrigerator in my office.”

“No, you better save it for the NYC police when we get back. They’ll want to run it for a DNA test. Seal it right now if you can and we’ll both initial it.”

After everyone had left, Jake went into the room. There was only so much he could do. He had to leave the scene pure for the police when they returned to port.  Standing in the center of the room, Jake looked around, carefully turning in a full circle. Walking over to one wall, he noticed a scattering of dust on the floor.  It was under the ventilator screen.  Carefully using his handkerchief and penknife, he pulled on the screen. It came away easily and noiselessly. Looking inside, he saw scuff marks in the dust. The rim around the screen had fresh grease on it.

When Jane came back, they used her kit for a few simple tests. They dusted for fingerprints, figuring it wouldn’t hurt the scene any. A good many were found, which they left for the police, only taping over and photographing with a high resolution camera. There were two on the inside of the screen, positioned as though pushing outwards at the lower corners. If the rapist used gloves and entered through the ventilator he didn’t put gloves on until later.  A cursory look, with a magnifying glass, at the other prints in the room already marked and dusted by ship’s security didn’t show a match to theirs, at least to their simple equipment.

Jane used the ship's office equipment to fax photos of the prints to the New York City police, along with the details of the case. Detectives would be waiting when they arrived.  Jake was ordered to seal the door to the cabin.

Going back to his room, Jake first tried his own ventilator screen. It gave a loud squeak as it came off, and took a good tug to loosen it.  He noticed that the screen wasn't screwed on, simply pressed into place. Jake imagined that all the screens were the same.

“Probably hasn’t been removed in years,” he thought. An answering machine contained messages from the other two detectives. They said they would call back later, so he lay on his bed, thinking, as he waited.  

There was quite a lot of evidence. The doctor could probably at least type the semen. It would eliminate more of the crew. The fingerprints on the inside of the ventilator could be a maintenance man, but were possibly the rapist.

At that time, it would take months to get results from the DNA, but that could be a big help. Of course, not very many people had even been tested to begin with.  If it was a crewman, he probably wouldn’t run, since he had been there for years and done multiple rapes in the past.

They had time for an investigation. It was up to the police if they wanted to hold the crew or passengers, not him.  If not crew or passengers, then who could it be?  At least they now knew a possible method of entry and exit from the crime scene. As he was studying the ship’s plans again, to kill time, the phone rang.

“One hell of a lot of rooms in this thing.” He shook his head and answered the phone.

“I heard from the NYC police, Jake. They sent me that data from the FBI.  None of the crew have a violent history. Since it was a maritime crime, and Federal, the fingerprints I sent in were pushed up in priority.  They found a match.

"His name is Jerry Smith, of all things, and he’s not a member of the crew, or on the passenger list.  He IS ex-navy, which is why they had his prints on file. No criminal record at all, not even a traffic ticket. He does fit the description by our victim, except for the red face and scars. His profile is of a short thin man in his forties.  We dock tomorrow and I don’t know what else to do today.”

“I was thinking last night, Jane. If the killer knows a lot about the ship. He would have to know the ventilation system. You question the captain.  See if he knows the guy, and check over your records again.  He might well have been a crewman at some time in the past and overlooked in the records.  Hell, he could have been an outside contractor assigned to clean ventilator screens, for all we know.

“I’ll talk to the head of security or that second mate. Maybe they can give me some help?  I’ll also get Peter and Jimmy to help and we’ll search every unoccupied room and cabin on the ship. The rapist has to live somewhere. There’s no way he can spend all his time in those skinny shafts.”

The head of security directed him back to Mr. Smithers, who gave him a dozen volunteer off-duty seamen to help. Copies of Ship’s Plans were distributed among them and they started the search.  Hundreds of rooms, large and small, had to be searched. There were also spaces like chain lockers and bilges to go through, more than enough for one day.

About four pm, Jake received a call from Jane.

“I found something, boss. The captain vaguely remembered his description, not his name. The man never worked for this shipping company but was referred to Captain Adams by his predecessor, a Captain Peterson of Acme Shipping.  It seems the guy was injured while on duty by live steam and Peterson promised him a job for life.  He had it set up with Adams to hire him, but the guy never showed up to apply.  At the time, Captain Adams was shown a photo of the man’s face, horrible enough to remember.

"I found the personnel file Adams sent over but, since he didn’t have a pay file, eliminated him my first time through. So far, the FBI or NYC police have nothing on him. It's as though he simply disappeared. The Feds even checked Social Security records. Do you think he’s been hiding here all this time?  Would it even be possible?”

“Stranger things have happened.  But it would explain a lot, like the missing food and a strange little guy wandering the ship at night.  Listen, Jane, you keep doing your thing while we do ours. Give me a call on this phone if you find anything else.  They’ll send someone to get me.”  Jake hung up and continued the search.

***

Jane, sitting at a small desk in her cabin, wondered what she could do to help?  She could interview the girl again, but felt Janice had been bothered enough lately. Her eye fell on the ventilator grill.  

Kicking off her shoes and scrounging for her pistol and a flashlight, Jane knelt down and pulled the screen loose. She faced a long square and shiny tunnel. It wasn’t very large, but neither was Jane.  Shaking her head at a coating of dust, she changed into jeans and a t-shirt before pulling herself inside. Gun in one hand, flashlight in the other, she began crawling.

The detective found she rarely needed the flashlight. There was enough light to see by from the many grills filtering through the shiny-metal space.  Her biggest problems were the down-slopes. She had to hug the walls with shoulders and elbows to keep from sliding.

The cramped conditions caused her to tire quickly.  She rested often and was forced to lie down and stretch out frequently to get kinks out of sore muscles. There was a steady breeze from unseen fans. She just hoped she didn’t fall into one. She had seen a movie once where the hero almost got chopped up that way.  “Well, guess I’m committed, or at least should be,” she muttered to herself.

After what seemed hours, but was only about forty minutes, she found an electrical wire. It was lying across a split in her path.  Choosing a direction at random, she followed the wire, eventually coming to a ventilator grill. Looking out, she saw she was high up in one of the main passageways of the office section of the ship.  She had been down it often. The wire ended in a small device. Picking it up she noticed a lens and found it to be some sort of camera or spying device.

Jane replaced it and, backing up to laboriously turn around at the next juncture, crawled in the other direction, following the wire.

***

Jerry was, at the time, reading a book on lion hunting in Africa. He sat in his hidden room, on an easy-chair.  Having had time, he'd moved in only the best furniture when he set the room up. He kept his new remote camera working, enjoying a little motion on the monitor as people walked along that far away passageway. The place didn’t seem as lonely that way. His camera was set to spy on the office section.  A movement in the corner of his eye caused him to look over at the monitor.

At first the camera angle moved around, finally settling on a blue eye and half a nose.  Jerry perked up. Someone had found his camera.  He had to get it out of there. The easiest way was just to pull on the cord and wind it back in, before someone followed it back to him.

Jerry grabbed his end of the wire and started pulling as fast as he could, which was fine for a few moments, then it seemed to stick. When he jerked, it jerked back. He knew someone was on the other end.  Jerry wished he had thought to buy or steal a gun, but it had never seemed important before.

After a few seconds of reflection, he grabbed a boning knife from his sink and wiggled his way into the air shaft.

***

For one thing, Jane still wasn’t sure the camera was the rapist’s. It might be there from maintenance, or even one of the security people, for all she knew.  Besides, she needed one hand for her flashlight and the other to keep on the cord, since someone seemed to be pulling it in. If it left her hand it would soon be out of sight, down some split in the tunnel.

After looping it around her left wrist, she followed the cord, turning often as she progressed. Most of the time, it lay still, so she chanced using both hands to crawl with, which made the going easier and faster. The journey seemed endless and her legs began quivering from the exertion, but she didn’t want to stop to stretch. She was too anxious to find the end, and maybe the rapist.

Turning a corner, she didn’t notice how it branched out to her left.  Her eyes were on a square lighted hole at the end, the cord going inside.  Jane stopped to change the flashlight out of her hand and tighten a grip on the pistol.

That was when Jerry caught her off balance.  Both hands on her butt, he shoved her into his room. Jane landed on her shoulder, the gun clattering across the deck.  Before she could get to her knees,  Jerry landed on her back, bouncing her head off the metal floor.

By the time she regained her senses, he had scuttled across her and grabbed her weapon off the deck.  Head still spinning, she found herself his prisoner.

Jerry forced her to her knees and handcuffed her right hand to a drain pipe underneath a sink.

“Well, what are you doing here, lady?  You a tunnel rat like me?” Jerry giggled nervously, a shaking hand holding the pistol on her.  Although frightened, he was more at ease now that she was secured. “What the hell you doing crawling through those pipes?”

Jane said nothing. Why satisfy him?  At least she still had one arm free and both legs.  Having police training in unarmed combat, she wasn’t completely defenseless.

“Don’t wanna talk, uh? Makes no never mind.”  He grinned an evil grin. “I think I’ll keep you awhile. Have steady company for a change.”

“In your dreams, a*****e,” she muttered, trying to stare him down from her awkward position.

“So you can talk.” He came closer, leaving the gun on a stuffed chair but keeping the knife. “We, or at least I’m, going to enjoy having you here.” Edging the tip of the knife across her bare left leg, he started to snake his other hand across her crotch.

A quick kick, and Jerry skidded across the deck, his knife ending up in Jane’s hand. Again, she said nothing. With effort, she managed to get to a half-standing position. Being next to the sink, she looked up and over at its surface, to see a pile of dirty silverware, among them several steak and other kitchen knives. Jane hurriedly reached up to grab a handful of them.

Jerry simply grinned his evil smile again and got up, starting for the chair and gun.  He stopped when, with a "thunk," a steak knife quivered into a strip of wood on the arm of the chair.

“Get your a*s back across the room, or the next one finds your heart,”  she told him, holding another dirty knife ready to throw.  It looked like a standoff.  He didn’t know she had been, in most part, simply lucky.

***

“Jake. One of the crew found something. It might be important or not, but one of the storerooms seems to be missing,” Jimmy Campbell, one of his detectives, told Jake over a phone.

“How the hell did they lose a room?  Are you sure, Jimmy?”

“According to the xeroxed plans, it's missing.  Not here. Nada.  And there’s a long space between it and the next one, like maybe one should be there?”

“Is it on an outside or inside wall, Jimmy?  We don’t want to punch a hole in the hull.”

“Inside.  No sweat.  Want me to chop it in?  There’s a fire station axe right here on the wall.”

“Wait for me.  Tell you what.  Put your ear against it and see if you can hear anything, will you?” Jake told him.  “I’m on my way there. You still on ‘E’ deck?”  

“Yeah.  Got'cha, boss.”

***

Jake got there, to see Jimmy holding a fire axe, an alarm clanging in the distance from where he had broken the emergency enclosure.  Jimmy held one ear against the corridor wall.

“Can’t hear anything, boss. Too much noise out here, but I think I heard talking a few minutes ago.”

“The crew must be coming.  I think we sho....”  He wanted to say wait, but Jimmy was already swinging. A few quick chops through a thin plywood panel and an equally thin wooden door behind it, and they could see inside.

“What the hell’s she doing in there?” Jimmy asked while hefting the axe for another swing. Jake also saw inside and fumbled his pistol out.

Inside, Jerry looked at the two partial faces showing through a hole in his wall, then back at Jane.

“The hell with those knives.” He lunged for her pistol. At his movement, Jane began throwing knives at him, hoping to be lucky again. All of them hit him flat or with the handle end. They did slow him down enough, though.

By the time Jerry turned, with the gun in hand, it was just in time to receive three shots from Jake’s 9mm.

Jake had fired through the small hole, into the room. As it turned out, all of them had been lucky. Jane in being rescued, Jake in hitting through the small hole, and Jerry in not being killed. He lived to stand trial and be convicted.

The End.  Charlie = hvysmker

© 2021 hvysmker


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Added on July 5, 2021
Last Updated on July 5, 2021
Tags: ship, murder, crime

Author

hvysmker
hvysmker

Fremont, OH



About
I'm retired, 83 yrs old. My best friend is a virtual rat named Oscar, who is, himself, a fiction writer. I write prose in almost any genre but don't do poetry. Oscar writes only rodent oriented st.. more..

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