Friday, January 14, 2011

Death on the Aisle {Chapter Five}

Chapter Five

“Wow.” Even though Kate wore sunglasses she still shielded her eyes as she looked up at the massive ship that was to hold the wedding.  We stood on the dock in front of the ship waiting to be let on board.
“I told you it was big.” I held my hair back with one hand as the breeze blew it into my face and cursed myself for forgetting to bring a hair band. We'd parked near the open air fish market and walked over to the docks but I could still smell fish when the wind blew. I hoped the wind would change on the wedding day.  Nothing like being downwind of a fish market to set a romantic mood.
I looked up at the ship and tried not to openly gape myself. The ship was technically a super-yacht and spanned over 160 feet from end to tip, dwarfing every other boat in the harbor. It rose three stories above us with each level getting progressively smaller, much like a tiered wedding cake. I assumed the helicopter pad, which would be our dance floor, and the hot tub, which we were covering to use for the ceremony, were on the top.
The sides of the ship gleamed white with only the boat’s name, Diamonds Are Forever, in black script  with a faceted diamond next to it in metallic silver marring the pristine surface. What wasn’t white on the boat was shining chrome.  I could only imagine how much effort it took to keep all of it polished and I was glad that wasn’t my job, although as a wedding planner I’d had to do far worse tasks before.
Kate looked at the boat's name. "Guess they like diamonds."
"Try James Bond movies," I said. "The bride told me her father is crazy about Bond flicks.  The main tender is GoldenEye." I motioned to the smaller boat that was at attached to the far end of the yacht.
Kate raised an eyebrow. "Better than naming boats after Bond girls, I guess."
“Welcome aboard,” a voice with what sounded like an Australian accent called to us from above. “You must be the wedding planners.”
“Yes,” I called back even though I couldn’t see where the voice came from. “Annabelle and Kate.”
“I’m Mandy, the Chief Stew.” A tall, leggy woman with straight brown hair appeared at the top of the gangplank that led onto the ship. “Leave your shoes in the basket, put on some slippers and come on up.”
Kate and I both exchanged our shoes for black leather slide-on slippers with the name of the ship and a diamond embossed on the top.
“Maybe I should get the name of my apartment building put on my slippers,” Kate said under her breath. “It’s a nice touch.”
I elbowed her in the side. “Oh, be quiet.”
We walked up the wooden bridge that linked the ship to the dock and met Mandy at the walkway that ran along the outside of the main deck.  I noticed that she wore a black uniform with the ship's name and a silver diamond embroidered on the left side just like the slippers. 
“I’ve been looking forward to meeting you,” Mandy said, giving us each a quick handshake. “Mrs. Barbery wanted me to get you settled before she joined you.”
Ah, the stepmother.
“So what exactly is a Chief Stew?” Kate asked. Sometimes I was glad Kate was so direct because it saved me from asking so many questions.
“I’m in charge of overseeing what goes on inside the boat, from making sure the owners get their breakfast on time to ordering new uniforms to overseeing the inside staff. That kind of thing.” Mandy waved for us to follow her. “I've been working on boats for years but just joined this crew when the boat was in Australia. Ever since I came on all the staff has talked about it this wedding.”
So I'd been right about the accent. I liked Mandy and the fact that she liked to talk so much. It would be much easier to figure out what was really happening on the ship with her on our side. “How many are on staff?” I asked. 
“Fourteen including the captain.”
“Fourteen?” Kate’s mouth gaped. “Where do you all sleep?”
“The crew quarters are downstairs.  The ship also can sleep up to fourteen additional guests but we rarely have that many people stay on board.” Mandy led us into a casual dining room that held a tufted beige banquette curved around the wall and a polished wood table. Papers were spread across the table.
Kate whistled. “This is some boat.”
“Well, the bride is expecting one hundred and fifty wedding guests,” I said.  “It has to be a big boat.”
“And this is some wedding,” Mandy said. “I don’t know how you do this for a living.”
Kate and I both shrugged.  We’d heard this a lot before.
“We were hoping to talk to the bride this morning,” I said. “Is she around?”
Mandy motioned for us to take a seat at the table and started stacking the papers into piles. “She’s doing yoga downstairs in the gym. We’re not supposed to disturb her until she’s done. Imbalances her energy or something. But she should be finished pretty soon.”
Kate’s eyebrows popped up. “There’s a gym on board?”
“Oh, it’s small,” Mandy said. “Like a big closet attached to the steam room.”
Kate looked at me. “Steam room?”
Mandy gave a half smile. “Helps Mrs. Barbery with her stress.  And after all the things that have been happening, that’s a good thing, believe me.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.  “The TV crew? I thought she wanted the wedding filmed.”
“Oh, no. Not that.” Mandy moved a silver tray with glasses and a pitcher of water from the sideboard to the table. “Mrs. Barbery loves publicity.  What she doesn’t love are accidents.  Mr. Barbery is crazy about this boat and if anything happens to it he goes nuts. And when Mr. Barbery goes nuts, Mrs. Barbery practically lives in her steam room.”
“So what’s been going on?” I said.
Mandy shrugged as she poured out four glasses of ice water. “Nothing major. Just some little things. A rail on the stairs from the transom came loose, we lost lights for a while yesterday and the doorknob to the pantry jammed locking one of our staff inside for a couple of hours.”
“That doesn’t sound so bad.” Kate took her water from Mandy and inspected the glass that was etched with the name of the ship and the ubiquitous diamond. She nudged me. "Impressive branding."
Mandy lowered her voice. “The bride thinks the boat has bad energy and all these things are a sign she shouldn’t get married here.”
“What does Mrs. Barbery think?” I asked.
“She’s not happy about all the glitches but she’s also been planning on having a wedding on this ship for months. We had the entire thing recarpeted in pale blue to go with the bride's colors. The invitations went out weeks ago and her friends are starting to fly in from all over the world.” Mandy took a long drink from one of the glasses. “There's no way she’s canceling this wedding. I think she’d have it even if the bride didn’t show up.”
“That would be different,” Kate said. “I wouldn’t mind a bride-free wedding.”
I shot Kate a look then turned back to Mandy. “So then it’s not the TV crew that the bride’s upset about?”
“Well, it didn’t make her happy, that’s for sure.” Mandy’s voice got even lower, like she expected the bride to be crouching outside the door. “But I think it was just the icing on the cake.  She’d been getting worked up for the past few days.  Every time something would happen, she’d become more convinced that the boat has bad energy.  When the TV crew came aboard, she just lost it and started yelling about moving the wedding.”
I knew that the bride was very attuned to energy vibrations, as she put it.  We’d even chosen the wedding colors, pale blue and silver, based on their positive vibrations.
I leaned close to Mandy. “Do you think the bride is serious about not getting married on the ship?”
“Well, she seemed to calm down after talking to her father,” Mandy said. “Between you and me, I think he’s trying to keep his wife and his daughter happy at the same time but owes it to his wife to keep her more happy.”
“What do you mean?” Kate asked.
“Well, Mrs. Barbery loves entertaining on the ship but she won’t be doing that for the next three months because her husband gave the bride and groom the ship for a round-the-world honeymoon cruise.”
Kate’s eyes widened and she looked at me. “Did you know about this?”
I shook my head. “No idea.”
Kate wagged a finger at me. “You never find out where couples are going for their honeymoon.”
Now it made sense. “So he’s making it up to his wife by letting “Diamond Weddings” film her hosting a big, society wedding on board.”
“That’s what we all think,” Mandy said.  “The crew was told to do anything we could to make sure the bride got lots of peace and quiet.”
Kate looked around. “The ship does seem quiet.”
The door to the dining room swung open and a tall man burst in. His blond hair swept back from his face in a perfect wave and he stared down as us over his slightly upturned nose. He wore a navy suit with a pink shirt and a pink tie of exactly the same shade widely knotted at his throat.  He  dumped the pile of blue cloths that were draped over his arm onto the table in front of us.
“Someone had better start explaining this mess or I am out of here.” He folded his arms and glared at all of us.
Mandy gave me an apologetic look. “Meet Jeremy Johns. Mrs. Barbery’s designer from New York.”
So much for peace and quiet.