My dear friend, The Chief, was where he always is – dedicated as ever, still dutifully manning his security station. I knocked on the glass and he waved me round with a curt nod hello, and what passes for a smile, no teeth showing – I am, after all, one of his best customers.
I do worry for him: he really never leaves that worn, red-leather chair of his (I have checked for signs of a colostomy bag, but if it is there, it’s well concealed beneath the fallout of a regular series of his wife’s Sunday dinners, and a rather pinchy pair of trousers.)
Enjoying this brief moment of companionship, we shot the breeze a little (what he had for lunch, what I had for lunch, and what the current highest-rated weapon was in the murder game – a dreary old wrench). We nodded over the iniquity of it all. Sigh – here’s me with a li’ll ol’ carving knife.
Well, pleasantries conducted, I handed over the bribe, tipped him an extra $10 just because – y’know, gent’s just doing his job – and he slipped me Albert Pugh’s location.
It’s a bargain – the few bucks this information costs me barely scratches my sizable bankroll. I am now, I have been informed via the passenger noticeboard, a series contender, what with looting the corpses, and my continuing stream of eliminations. Indeed, should I avoid a short, sharp, stabbing down a dark corridor – an ever-present risk – the whole experience will have left me with a small fortune. If we get to keep it, I’ll be a self-made woman. Thoughts of all the pretty things the money could buy me offer a little distraction, but I tend to also consider the heft of luxuries and how easy they are to throw. So I guess I’m not really in it for the money. Not anymore.
I want to be first.
I want somebody to pin a prize on me.
In fact, I’m counting on it.
The Chief’s information suggested a jolly little jaunt down to the museum, so that’s where I headed next.
The museum on Deck D was surprisingly intact considering the number of murderers that were allowed to roam this ship. The cases were full of the strange and unusual. I imagine I didn’t see the actual Crown Jewels, but they did look so deliciously realistic. I’m sure I could make a reasonable sovereign – a noble Queen of Hearts. I’ve certainly mastered ‘off with his head’.
Who knows what he was doing here. Perhaps Albert was thinking about his own position in things, staring at the coprolite, but he saw me coming and drew his weapon. This told me two things: one, the solitary security camera was ill-equipped to cover the entire room. And two, he had Bat.
‘I’m going to kill you dead, Mr. Albert Pugh.’
Using my knife, I made a valiant attempt to stab Pugh right through the eye, only just missing my mark (Bat would have hit…), and a tuft of curly hair tumbled to the ground.
Pugh gave a womanly cry. How had he survived so long? He picked up his ‘skirts’ and retreated, bursting through the double doors at the end of the room, only just concealing Bat before he almost ran into one of the guards.
He knew he was safe there. So there he remained.
The little… I knew I had to move quickly. I ran past Pugh and the uninterested guard – Pugh’s eyes, bulging, as if I’d try anything, right there, under the nose of the law – and dashed up the nearby stairs, keeping an eye on Pugh from above. I soon reached the balcony overlooking the emerald statue of X posing like Atlas (ugh – such a pretentious little troll).
Weapon, weapon, weapon. Something with range…
I ignored the corpse in the closet (wrapped in a rug, hung haphazardly on a peg – a rather unnecessary attempt to hide a crime. Besides, though corpses generally work for me, I knew this one had already been relieved of its wallet and weapons.)
The nearby cabin was much more useful. There in a suitcase, the Winchester – I remembered it. Indeed, I had placed it there, just as I had secreted various other, ugly weapons around the ship, in case of emergency.
This was the very gun my big game hunter had almost taken my head off with, before it jammed. That little snicket had been sorted, I hoped, after a little research in the ‘Shooting and Fishing’ section of the library – still mercifully intact – and the liberal use of a screwdriver and oiled rags.
Only one round, but nonetheless…
Poised on the balcony, I lined up a shot on Pugh’s treacherous little face, conscious that it left my back exposed to anyone who chose to sneak up behind me. I needed to shake that off. I hadn’t even raised a gun before this cruise, but it fitted to my shoulder snuggly enough, although a little painfully – it still ached like a bugger from my battle with Bailey. Squinting down the sights, in what I hoped was the proper way – go Annie Oakley – I realised how difficult firing was going to be, and that I was certainly no fan of the thing.
I was ready to pull the trigger and rescue Bat, but could only see a fraction of his kidnapper. Pugh was nervous. Jittery.
I’m not surprised – after all, I was around…
Pugh’s awkward dancing around the guard tempted me with a snaggily shot here or a snaggily shot there. And I still didn’t know how the guard would react when I killed my Quarry in this way – out of sight, but right in front of him.
But a kill’s a kill, right?
Just don’t pop the guard, Lucy…
If Albert got spooked, I’d lose the shot – look at him down there, hopping about. Besides, he might have run away, this time, but he must be a threat if cornered – nobody makes it this far without some kind of killer instinct.
Must stay still. Ignore the itch dancing on my nose. Stay focused. Barely breathing.
The recoil of the shot almost jerked my head off – almost shattered my teeth. It wasn’t something I was prepared for at all (Pugh’s bits n’ bobs splashed up a wall, yes. An elephant-charge to the shoulder, definitely not…). Later, I discovered the force of firing that gun had torn my wound open again, but Pugh went down and Bat rolled free.
Dropping the gun – now only junk-metal and stick – I made my way down past the guard and reclaimed Bat. From our man of the law, no recrimination, no arrest – perhaps because he’d somehow managed to avoid getting in the way of Albert’s squishy insides, now decorating the nearby exhibits.
I looked down at the sorry remains of my quarry, and wondered what series of events had led to this unlikely man being part of this murderous cruise. Prey for the other hunters, perhaps?
Back in my cabin, there was more money waiting.
I studied Bat’s blood stains. Albert’s blood didn’t belong there – technically, this wasn’t Bat’s kill. But any attempt to remove some of the blood, may remove it all.
Bat earned those kills, long before he found his way back to me.