Friday, December 2, 2011

Death on the Aisle {Chapter Seventeen}

Chapter Seventeen

            We could hear the shrieks before we reached the end of the dock, and I swallowed hard and shifted from a walk into a run.  I tried not to feel irritated that I’d had to leave Ian to run back to the boat, and I told myself that I was lucky to have such a patient boyfriend, although I still wasn’t sure if I could call him that.
            Ian had been understanding when Kate and I had run off after getting the text from Fern telling us there was more trouble on the boat and he’d promised to come over later and pick up where we left off.  My heart beat a little faster when I thought of Ian coming over but I reminded myself that I was running pretty hard. Another voice joined the shrieking.
            “That doesn’t sound good,” Kate said, running behind me to keep up.
            Even though both voices was high-pitched and verging on hysterical, it didn’t narrow down the list of possible shriekers. I ran though options in my head: Richard, Fern, the bride, Jeremy Johns, Mrs. Barbery, the unnamed space healer I still imagined wearing dramatic robes. I just hoped it wasn’t Richard or Fern.
            We reached the enormous boat, technically a ship, and I ran up the nearest gangplank, not stopping to take off my shoes until I reached the top and remembered the hard-and-fast rule about not wearing shoes on board.
            I smacked my forehead. “Shoes,” I said, hopping on one foot to take them off as Kate nearly ran into me from behind. She muttered something but took hers off, as well, and we carried them with us as we followed the sounds of chaos.
            It sounded like the voices were coming from one of the top decks so we ran up a narrow flight of steps on the back of the boat.  As we rounded the corner to the rear outdoor lounge, I stopped short.
            Two women stood nose-to-nose screaming, and I didn’t recognize either of them. One wore a white T-shirt and black cargo pants and had her pale hair pulled back in a messy ponytail while the other had lots of dark, wavy hair that spilled loose down her back and across the straps of her white tank dress.           
            Kate looked around her.  “Who are these people? Are we on the right boat?”
            Before either of us could check the side of the boat for the name, Fern appeared around the corner. He looked impeccable in a slim, dark suit and powder blue button-down with a matching pocket square folded perfectly into the breast pocket. I took a moment to admire his folding skills since I’d had more than one battle with groomsmen pocket squares in the past.
            “Annabelle!  Kate!”  He beamed as he ignored the cat fight in front of him and rushed to us for air kisses.
            “What’s going on?” I asked after Fern stepped back from our pseudo embraces.
            Fern raised an eyebrow and then started twisting the gargantuan amethyst ring on his finger. “Oh, yes.” He darted a glance at the women, who had stopped screaming and were glaring at each other and breathing heavily. “This is Sonia Romanov-Feinstein, the space healer.” He gestured to the woman in the cargo pants and dropped his voice. “She may be descended from the last Russian tsar but we don’t know for sure.”
            “Oh, boy,” Kate said.
            “And I’m Janet Evans.” The other woman turned from the spiritualist-come-Russian-Tsarina and held out her hand. “The producer for Diamond Weddings.”
            “Nice to meet you,” I said, shaking her hand. This explained a lot.  “So you’re on board to film the wedding already?  I thought you already scoped it out the other day.”  I couldn’t help but remember the bride’s first reaction to the film crew coming aboard and had hoped they wouldn’t be making regular appearances before the wedding day.
            Janet took a breath and seemed to be picking her words carefully.  “We were requested to come on board.”
            “As was I,” Sonia said, her fists planted on her hips. “Kristie brought me on for the sole purpose of ridding her wedding venue of negative energy. And all these cameras are throwing the energy out of balance.” She pushed a loose strand of hair off her face. For a space-healer, she was giving off some pretty hostile vibes.
            I held up my hands. “Okay, okay.” I turned to Janet. “Who asked you to come back?”  I tried to sound sympathetic but firm. “You know the bride has an issue with all this media coverage.”
            Janet rolled her eyes. “Believe me, I didn’t drag my guys down to the docks for fun. Mrs. Barbery requested we film her first session with her stylist.”
            “Jeremy Johns?” Kate asked. “But he’s been here for days.”
            Janet shook her head. “No, her personal hair and makeup stylist. He just flew in from Paris.”
            “You’re kidding me,” I said. “She has a hairstylist from Paris?”  Why was I surprised? I glanced at Fern to see how he was taking the news that he had competition. “Have you met him?”
            Fern bobbed his head up and down. “Damian. He’s divine. He’s been giving me all the scoop Babs and her friends and their jewelry.”
            There wasn’t much Fern loved more than enormous jewelry and juicy gossip. Combining them was like throwing gasoline on a flame.
            “So if you’re with Damian, where is the bride?” I asked Fern
            He gave me a blank look. “I thought she was with Sonia. The last I knew, they were clearing the negative energy from the main foyer when Damain came in with the film crew headed up to Mrs. Barbery’s suite.  Damian admired my ring and we started talking about jewels and the time just flew by and the nest thing I knew, I heard screaming.” Fern giggled and blushed. I tried hard not to let out a sigh of exasperation.
            “I can’t wait to meet this Damian guy,” Kate whispered to me. “Since when have you seen Fern like this?”
            I had to agree.  It was unusual to see Fern impressed by anyone but it made me a bit nervous.
            “They ruined our ritual so Kristie went to talk to her step-mother,” Sonia said. Her voice had become much calmer now and she seemed to be returning to her spiritualist persona. “I insisted that this woman remove her invasive technology from the ship but she refused.”
            Janet shrugged. “I have to get the shots. This is a big wedding.”
            “Can you shoot up in Mrs. Barbery’s suite and avoid the rest of the boat while Ms. Feinstein performs her rituals?” I asked.
            “That’s Romanov-Feinsten,” the spiritualist corrected me.
            I ignored Kate’s snort of laughter as I turned to Sonia. “Does that work for you? You can clear the rest of the boat but just don’t touch Mrs. Barbery’s room.”
            Sonia sniffed and gave the smallest nod of her head. “Space healing wouldn’t work in there, anyway. Not with just one healer, anyway.”
            I tended to agree with her. It would take a team of space healers to tackle Babs Barbery and more time than we had until the wedding.
            “Well, I’d better get back to Damian,” Fern said, bouncing on the balls of his feet. He motioned to Janet. “I’ll take you to the suite.”
            As Fern led Janet away and Sonia disappeared inside the boat ringing her finger cymbals as she went, I let out a sigh or relief.  “Problems solved.”
            “Not exactly.” The woman’s voice from behind made me jump.
            Mandy, the ship’s Chief Stew who had been so helpful to us so far, was coming down the stairs from above and a tall, broad man I’d never seen before followed closely behind her. Neither was smiling.
            “We need to have a word,” the mystery man said, his expression stony.
            “This doesn’t look good,” Kate said.
            I gulped. When Kate was right, she was right.