Friday, January 28, 2011

Death on the Aisle {Chapter Seven}

Chapter Seven

            “I’d say that went well,” Kate said as we listened to Jeremy Johns storm off to find the bride’s stepmother.
            “Do you want me to go after him?” Richard didn't make a move toward the door.
            “And do what?” I asked. “Catch him and stuff him in a closet?”
            Richard’s face brightened. “Now you’re talking. Sometimes I feel like we share the same brain, Annabelle.”
            I groaned.
            “I hope he doesn’t agitate Mrs. Barbery.” Mandy wrung her hands in front of her. “She’s much easier to work with when she’s not upset.  The last time she got worked up she decided to change the staff uniform design and made me redo the menus for a week.  The chef wanted to kill me.”
            Kate looked at Mandy’s worried expression and touched her arm. “Have you ever considered a different line of work?  Because your job is starting to make our job look like a party.”
            Mandy gave a weak laugh but still looked worried.
            I clapped my hands together to rally my troops. “Okay, I think we should find where the bride ran off to and try to talk her off the ledge and then worry about Jeremy.  I’m sure he’s more bark than bite, anyway.” I turned to Mandy. “Can you help us find the bride?”
            “Follow me.” Mandy led everyone from the casual dining room into a huge main salon. “I’ll give you a tour of the ship. We’re bound to run into her along the way.”
The main salon was decorated in almost all white with accents of black and silver: pristine white carpet (which explained the mandatory slippers), curved white couches, metal and glass coffee tables and what looked like James Bond memorabilia displayed in glass cases along one wall.  It didn’t look like South of France meets South Beach yet so I figured this must be more the father-of-the-bride’s style. This boat was his baby, after all. I wondered how Jeremy Johns planned to work his mash-up theme around this look.
Mandy walked us through the room to a set of glass doors that led outside. “This is the way to the transom and the main staircase. It’s how Mrs. Barbery wants guests to enter. Has the biggest ‘Wow’ factor.”
“So we’re putting the tent up here?” I looked out and saw the large wooden floor of the extended transom at the base of the wide staircase. Even though the ship was huge, we’d need all the extra space we could get for a hundred and fifty guests plus the staff to wait on them.
Two blond boys in white shorts and black shirts identical to Mandy’s were polishing the metal stair railings.  They looked like they were barely out of their teens but I assumed they were part of the staff.
“Who are they?” Kate asked, watching the tanned boys work.
“Deck hands,” Mandy said. “They have a lot to do before next weekend.”
“Too bad,” Kate said so only I could hear her. “They’re cute.”
“They’re children,” I hissed back.  “Hands off.”
Kate made a pouty face, which I ignored.
“Let’s go upstairs so you can see where Mrs. Barbery thought we’d put the ice table for the raw bar.” Mandy walked outside and around to a set of stairs.
We all followed her and came out on an upper deck with a covered lounge area that held a large round table and white padded benches curved around it.
“We thought the raw bar could go against this wall,” Mandy said motioning to a wall with another set of glass double doors in the center. "To one side, of course."
I looked around. “That should work but I don’t know how we’ll get it up here. A huge block of ice will never make it up that narrow staircase.”
“You can use my crane.” A deep voice came from behind us and we all turned around. A husky man with dark brown hair and a deeply tanned face came up the stairs in a white uniform that was as spotless as everything else on the ship. He smiled and extended his hand. “Captain Frank Hammer at your service.”
“Annabelle Archer.” I shook his hand first and everyone else followed suit. “It’s nice to meet you. You have a lovely ship.”  I didn’t know if this was what you were supposed to say to a captain but he seemed pleased.
“She’s a beauty, isn’t she?” he said.
“We were just taking a look at where Mrs. Barbery wants everything for the wedding,” Mandy said, her voice jumpy.  “Are we in your way?”
The captain gave a dismissive wave of his hand. “Of course not. I’m at your disposal. If there’s any way I can help, let me know.”
“You mentioned a crane?” Richard said. I know he was as worried as I was about getting the giant ice block on board.
“Of course. We have a crane to get large things onto the ship. I’m sure we can use it for your ice block.”
“That would be perfect. Thank you.” I breathed a sigh of relief. One more thing checked off my “to-worry-about” list.
“We’ll get out of your way, Captain.” Mandy waved us all back to the stairs. Was it my imagination or was Mandy unusually nervous around the Captain? 
Before I could figure out why such a friendly man as Captain Hammer made the Chief Stew so jumpy, a piercing scream came from below. We all hurried down to the lower deck and saw one of the deck hands lying on the floor of the transom clutching his ankle.  The other boy knelt over him.
Mandy rushed over to them. “What happened?”
“One of the steps gave way,” the uninjured boy said.
Captain Hammer pushed past us and knelt over the boy, prodding his puffy ankle. “Probably just a sprain. Let’s get him inside.”
“I don’t understand how this happened.” Mandy looked on the verge of tears.  “I can’t tell Mrs. Barbery there’s been another accident.”
“I don’t think you’ll have to,” Richard motioned for us to look above where a woman with long, unnaturally red hair stood glowering down at us wearing a black fur-trimmed silk robe.
“Unless I’m mistaken . . .” Richard began.
Mandy lost all color in her face. “That’s Mrs. Barbery.”
I cringed.  This was not good.