I ankled down the MS Queen Victoria’s magnificent sweeping staircase, past the purser’s office and blew the dust off the glass-porthole in my cabin door which bore the legend, “James Marlowe, Cruise Detective.”
Then I let myself in, kicked open the bottom drawer of my desk, trickled two inches of The Wild Geese Single Malt Irish whiskey down my craw, and set fire to a Montecristo Petit Corona.
The High Porthole
A few minutes’ later there was a tentative knock on the door.
‘Enter at your own risk,’ I growled, my feet up and planted on the desk while I carried on dropping additive-free ash into a used espresso coffee cup. ‘This is a pro-smoking zone.’
The door slowly opened to display the dainty knuckles behind the knock. They were at the end of a woman’s long slim perfectly manicured fingers – whose nails had been painted red for danger.
I held my breath while the rest of her elegantly-dressed body shimmered into view.
Then I raised my eyes to her beautiful face, stopping once or twice on the way.
‘What beautiful ears,’ I purred. ‘I just love the way they’re attached to your head.’
Trouble Is By Business
She stared back, licked her lush red mouth and, in a sultrous murmur that would raise the interest of a life-long eunuch, said, ‘Are you Mr Marlowe?’
I stared back, sipped some more whiskey, and said, ‘Who wants to know?’
She stared at me, I stared at her, she licked her lips – I tried not to imagine licking them for her…
It was like the beach volleyball finals at the London 2012 Olympics, only a lot more interesting.
‘OK, you got me,’ I said. ‘I’m Marlowe; shamus for short. I’m also known as a peeper, private dick, Intercontinental Op, and somebody who should keep his nose out of other people’s business. Not that I ever let it stop me.’
‘I need your help, Mr Marlowe…I’m searching the ship for a vegan.’
‘Really?’ I replied. ‘You don’t look like a fan of Mr Spock.’
Her ever-so-reluctant smile lit up my cabin and warmed the cockles of my soul.
‘I’m a non-meat eating vegan who avoids using animal products. And looking for the right someone to share this cruise with.’
‘Have you tried the health and fitness suite, non-smoking areas, or salad bar?’
‘Yes,’ she said, with a slight frown that turned her forehead into a delightful tapestry I would love to read, ‘but they all seem to be half-hearted…vegetarians. And very uninteresting.’
‘So what’s the difference between you and a standard veggie?’
‘Not only do I not eat meat, I also avoid fish.’
‘On a cruise? That must be difficult…’
‘Not really. I simply don’t take fish for lunch, or any other meal.’
I was trying not to study her long sensuous legs. Or imagine what they would be like encased in a mermaid’s tail wrapped around my neck.
‘And you are…? I asked.
‘Miss, Ms, or Mrs?’
She looked me in the eye, saw through me in an instant, seemed to like what she saw, smiled and said, ‘Very much amiss.’
‘And there’s me, all alone and fancy free, still waiting for the right woman,’ I said. ‘But I’m neither a vegan or a veggie and am unlikely to change. Also I enjoy hand-rolled additive free premium cigars, and fine whisky, cognac and wine. On the negative side, I am a nice clean licensed private eye who wouldn’t dream of dropping ash on a non-smoker’s floor. And I never carry more than one gun at a time, and only then when it’s absolutely necessary.’
Anne Vivian frowned slightly while she considered her options.
Then she leaned down and planted a long lingering kiss on my lips that seemed to turn on a switch in both of our love-starved brains.
‘Ah well, Marlowe,’ she whispered, ‘nobody’s perfect.’