Upon making my enquiry about Edward Holland, the Chief of Security, Frank Levick, told me they weren’t in the habit of just ‘loaning out’ the passenger manifest to any old Tom, Dick and Harry who just happened to ‘pop by’. That, he said, would be a terrible infringement of passenger security, but then – as if he hadn’t even heard his own words – he smoothly went on to offer me Edward’s current location for a few measly bucks. It was such a chilling proposal, from the dour little man in his blue uniform (a uniform that is supposed to mean something, after all), it rather made my thinking stumble.
While I was standing in the office, mouth agape, considering this rather grubby development (mainly what if someone bought my location ‘for a few bucks’?) a fat man suddenly burst into the room and lunged at me with the arm of a corpse(!)
There was a scream – later attributed to me – and the O’Sullivan ‘reflexes’ kicked in, as I promptly fell over an upholstered chair and landed flat on my back on the floor. At the same time, the fat man swung his weapon and the arm crashed onto the desk behind me, throwing papers everywhere. I thought I was going to die, but then the strangest thing happened: the Chief intervened.
‘What the Hell is this? Amateur hour?’
It all happened so fast. One second I was being attacked by a maniac with horrible – almost desperate – hope in his eyes, the next, my would-be-Hunter was being rough-armed off to a holding-cell by Security.
Thus bereft of a vicious assault, I struggled out from behind the desk and sagged against the wall, fluttering a hand at my brow. I tried to get a hold on my gulps of air, wheezing like an asthmatic old lady. I felt sick.
My attacker’s weapon lay smashed on the table top – it wasn’t a corpse arm, it was in fact a mannequin arm.
When I finally found a few words of thanks for my knight in blue, well-starched, armour – thinking Security had finally decided to take an altruistic interest in my wellbeing – the Chief dispassionately waved me away: ‘there are rules.’
Well, that brought me back to sea-level.
Then he told me to ‘pony up’ or get out – he had papers to clear up, and other such important duties. I didn’t argue. In return for my ‘kind donation’, the Chief wheeled his chair over to a bank of screens, pressed a few buttons, scribbled on a piece of paper, and gave me the information I’d asked for – it seems there are many more security cameras than the ones we can see…
I thanked him and left the office.
With a little respite from being hunted – now my Hunter was in the brig – I lurched off towards Edward’s now precise location in the Mall, just one deck above.
At first, there was no sign of Edward, or anyone else for that matter, but as I walked past the various shops, I discovered a slightly tall, gangly fellow, coming out of the bank. He was a bit of a librarian-type, with a flick of hair, and a look that immediately ran to alert suspicion when he saw me standing there. Particularly, I suppose, because I was staring at him.
Was this Edward? I didn’t know – I’d never met him. Trying not to be alarmist, I advanced on him anyway. This soon revealed him to be a jangling bag of nerves – unfortunately, I had quite forgotten the umbrella in my hand, and how that might look with it being such a sunny day, up deck.
Well done, Lucy…
Spying the extraneous umbrella, ‘Possible Edward’ immediately raised the bloodstained baseball bat he was carrying, and ‘worried it’ in my general direction (the bat appeared alarmingly weak in his grasp, and his pose was as impressive as that of a young child playing ‘stick and ball’ on a street corner).
‘Get back!’ He hissed.
‘Wait, Edward! It is Edward, isn’t it?’
Despite the wild look in his eyes, that name definitely triggered a start of acknowledgement.
I held both hands high, one with umbrella, and – somewhat awkwardly – crouched, to slowly place the silly thing on the carpet, doing everything one might expect of a sheriff in a corn-ball western as they try to talk down a trigger-happy rancher with a big ‘ol gun.
Then there was a lot of fraught negotiation. In short, I was able to calm him down – but believe me, it took a while.
Desperate to get out of the corridor, but not wanting to go somewhere out of public view, Edward reluctantly agreed to sit in the bank foyer with me, watched by several cameras and the teller. Even then, he was twitchy, and when I said Security would immediately step in, anyway, should there be any funny business from either of us (given my recent altercation), he said, ‘That can change – money rules everything.’
He was reluctant to talk about his situation, about the game, or even what he was doing to survive (he thought ‘they’ were listening), but eventually he told me that he had killed a man two days ago. That came out as the most awkward confession – an honest man brought, in extremis, to doing something he could never have imagined himself capable of. It had clearly broken him, and Edward was desperate for me to understand: his cruise invite was accompanied with details of his sister and her family, as well as his beloved Pomeranian, and that the implications were that bad things would happen to all of them, beloved pet included, if he didn’t comply.
‘Who would kill a l… a lovely, little dog?’
I had a pretty good idea who. Oh, sure, Edward admitted he had done some bad things – some confused accident, or somebody getting hurt at his work, or some such thing (by this point he was sobbing in a rather messy way), but he had come aboard for the good of his family and, despite his best intentions, had struck and killed a man. Gods it was awful. Now he assumed all passengers were in the same position – coerced, so they must fight – and seemed wary of me because of it.
‘But I’m not like that,’ I said, trying to reason with him.
‘You are! You are! I’m not like you, I’ve done nothing to deserve this!’ he cried. Though I caught a flash of doubt in his eyes, and wondered if parts of his bad-luck story were fabricated. My suspicions must have registered on my face, as he shot to his feet like a rocket, and said he was going, right now – he had to get some air.
‘But Edward,’ I stammered, ‘perhaps we can work together?’ It seemed such a broken man would be no good bet, but still…
‘I shall think about what Mr. Pickles would want me to do.’
‘Well… anyway, if I decide everything is okay, you can meet me at the restaurant tomorrow, at ten am. It’s safe there.’ Then he scurried away, muttering about his money.
Oh Maud, it’s so frustrating – why did my Quarry have to be a crazy, weakling, fool?