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The Triangle of the St. Anne Marie

by Griffen Helm 9 months ago in investigation

Murder on the open water

Foggy ship on the harbor - Griffen Helm

1964, Boston Harbor, Alexander Hayes.

The St. Anne Marie is an antiquated beast; I approached the ship in dock, the presence it layed over the surrounding area was palpable. Although the smokestacks ended a fair few feet before the other ships, it imposed itself on the surrounding vessels and seemed to ride higher atop the water. The hull of the ship bristled with dents and scratches, which shone through the dull black protective coating. Strangely the damage made it shine in an almost divine way. The accommodating cabins and bridge seemed ripped straight from ancient Greece, or the southern equivalent; Wide pillars and soft white marble encapsulating a hewn wooden building. A veritable plantation house on the sea.

A turbulent wind began to tear in from the bay, whipping my coattails away from my body. It threatened to rip my briefcase out of my hand and spill my various documents. The St. Anne Marie bobbed in the water, rhythmically swaying, the ropes that kept it moored bulging to stop the behemoth from crashing against the docks. Standing next to the gangway was a gigantic berth of a man in a waleskin jacket, clasping a pristine bright white captain’s hat in wide baseball mitt hands, the way a child might hold a toy.

His wire Brushed hair tousled in the wind. And from a maw of bristly beard, erupted a bellowing southern drawl “Ahoy Ishmael!”

Ishmael? This barrel-chested man seemed to be the visual stamp of a ship’s captain. But if I were to be Ishmael, then he was certainly not Ahab. Grim grisly amputee? No. For one, a cheery smile escaped from the veritable abyss that was his facial hair; And for two, he seemed to betray a greenhorn’s nervous energy. Most captains grimly await me, a death row inmate awaiting his priest. No one is surprised if their ship is condemned, only if they don’t know the state it is in.

In any case, I approached the man, wary of his queer and eccentric greeting, countering it with a dry and pointed salutation of my own. “Good morning, I’m Alexander Hayes, I’m looking for the captain of this vessel, Captain Samuel Belvedere; I work with the department of Maritime administration.”

“Ah yes, Hayes. Fine name that you have there, lad. You’ve got your mark right here. Captain Belvedere at your service.” He bowed with a flair and placed the hat atop his head. I couldn’t help but wonder if he had rehearsed this display beforehand.

“Well met, Captain.” I extended my hand.

“Well met, well met indeed.” The giant of the man grasped my hand in both of his and nearly wrenched me off my feet with the vigour of the shake.

“Indeed, indeed.” I pulled away, hand aching and pride wounded.

“Welcome aboard, my good sir, your room has been prepared; where are your bags?”

“Just what I’ve got here; my overseers would like to thank you once again for agreeing to a survey in transit.”

“Absolutely, now come, you must be direly tiredly” He paused for some sort of effect before giving out a soft chortle.

“Yes, of course. Lead the way.” The man bounded upstairs with a youthful gait that betrayed his large body. I was drawn back to his odd greeting. Ishmael? Perhaps, but this wants to be Ahab reeked more of the white whale. Breed fat on a family name, prancing about at a working man’s job. Another fool in control of a broken vessel.

We set off soon after my arrival; the voyage was to last two weeks. My cabin was lavishly decorated and strangely spacious—a holdover from the St Anne Marie's days as a passenger liner. I stretched out over a double bed, lusciously stuffed with goose feathers. Captains had often attempted to coerce me by giving them their own private rooms during my inspections, but the musty smell the sheets carried told me otherwise.

I cracked my neck and sat up. There was still work to be done before I could enjoy this undue luxury. My briefcase contained a dossier on the ship's recorded history, as well as personal documents on the ship's crew. I was to perform a thorough exploration of the ship's architecture, see if it was capable of continuing service in the shipping industry; as well as interview the crewmembers to see if they were qualified for the job. In the worst-case scenario, I was authorized to charge members with negligence if the ship was operating under duress, and they were at all aware of its condition.

Originally a passenger liner owned by the Belvedere family of south Louisiana. The St Anne Marie was converted into a cargo ship when planes began to dominate the greater portion of domestic travel. Of course, the nature of these modifications have always been suspect to the U.S Maritime administration; thus, the investigation. Their reported renovations stated that the majority of the luxurious amenities had been removed, but outward appearances suggested a more haphazard retrofit. My superiors had even considered that entire portions of the ballroom and larger estates still existed in between the new storage structures and the hull. A veritable haunted mansion of twisted pathways and miss repaired ironwork.

Personally, the only thing twisted about the St Anne Marie that I was expecting would be the personal. Most ships tried to be refuges for the criminal-minded, but in my experience, the only debauchery they would get up to is in the port towns of far off countries. However, the crew I'd have the misfortune to be with seemed downright reputable. They all had clean criminal records; businessmen, soldiers, the like. Men like that were typically forced to sea.

Samuel Belvidere, 43. Current freeloader of the Belvedere fortune. Graduated from union college, new york, with a degree in philosophy of all things.

Louis Piaf, 32, an African from France. He seemed to have done personal work for the Belvedere family long before disembarking. Immigrated twelve years ago.

Rajesh Varma, 19 Canadian born, joined the crew last year after it docked in Halifax. Seems young to throw his life to the sea.

Gregorii Zhukov, 24 A veteran of the war, served in Europe during the invasion of Italy. Honourably discharged after sustaining an injury.

Abraham Salvador, 56, first mate; The only sailor stereotype in the bunch. Carrier seaman, the only one with sailing experience other than the saint Anne Marie.

I wasn't looking forward to the interview processes; if this bunch proved to be as flamboyant as the captain, then I'd likely be in for a rather arduous process. Professionalism has always been a struggle to maintain on longer voyages, but most sailors understand a withdrawn, quiet personality. This bunch is far more likely to demand some form of comradery, a tiresome prospect.

After double-checking my documentation, I stowed my bag underneath my bunk and hung my coat. There would be enough time to spare for a brief nap before undertaking my surveys. From my coat pocket, I drew out my pocket watch;. I set the alarm on it and closed my eyes; my shoes and clothes still on.

It was probably too much to ask that my alarm would be the thing to wake me. Instead, the next morning my door seemed to be taking cannon fire, booming and bending. So loud that I could hardly hear the southern drawl of Captain Belvedere seeping out from in between the knocks.

“Hayes! Wakey wakey, there’s work to be done.” He spoke in a gleeful tone, unaware of the complete ass that he was being.

I rose and shuffled to the door, wiping the half-hour of sleep out of my eyes. Before I could reach it, the lock of the door shuddered open, and the Captain pushed the door open. A shiny keyring hung in the keyhole. The sheer audacity of his intrusion falling off of me as I noticed a diminutive figure almost cowering behind Belvidere.

“Samuel,” he whispered, “We talked about this; you cannot go about breaking into rooms.” The man spoke in a soft French accent. Where Belvidere accentuated boisterous outward energy, this new small man radiated cool shy energy.

“Ah where are my manners?” Belvedere murmured, perhaps an apology threatened to escape his lips. “This here is my partner in business, Charles Tusk.”

“Dr. Tusk, if you wouldn’t mind.”

“Ah yes, good to meet you.”

“Pardon my colleagues’ intrusion; he is merely excited about the inspection.”

“Really?” I couldn’t contain my surprise; an inspection could spell death for a ship that doesn’t meet the standards.

“Positively bristling with excitement” Belvedere’s smile beamed.

“He has a rather romantic notion about the ship, you see; I, however, wish to assure you that there is nothing lurking between the boards, so to say.”

“I’ll be sure to take that into consideration, Dr. Tusk.”

Captain Belvedere’s smile disappeared, replaced with an air of frustration and boredom. “Well, let’s get to it, ain’t no one made a pretty penny picking at their belly buttons.” With that, he pivoted and began stomping down the hallway.

“Please indulge him. I’m sure he is just anxious to get this over with.” Tusk motioned for me to follow, then gingerly made down the hallway after Belvedere.

I stood flabbergasted at this strange peacocking that the duo had performed in front of me. The existence of Tusk had thrown me through a loop as well; my documentation had mentioned nothing about a business partner and nothing about other passengers. I took a moment to compose myself, then grabbed my jacket. Inside was a small portable camera, a tape measure and a notebook for documentation.

With a brief Jog, I caught up to the pair. Less than a day on the water and my patience had already been severely tested.

My nose is pleasantly caressed by the salt sea spray coming up over the bow of the ship. A reminder of the few perks this job entailed. Belvidere and Tusk stood by as I took pictures of the various fixtures around the boat, the one seeming genuinely proud and the other sweating nervously. Above deck, everything seemed to be at specifications. Although it unnerved me to have such an attentive audience. Aside from the rude bed rousers, the crew of the St. Anne Marie seemed to enjoy my presence. I spotted who I assumed to be Louis, taking a smoke break against a cargo container, announcing his presence by rhythmically tapping against the steel. When I'd look away, the rhythm would change, and I could catch a sideways glance being thrown my way.

The other crew members did nothing to hide their intrigue. Rajesh, I presumed, I caught veritably dangling off of the wheelhouse balcony to gawk at me doing my work. Even Belvidere noticed and had to stop his own voyeuristic tendencies to stare daggers at him. Until with some attitude, the Indian man sauntered away.

Gregorii, as he introduced himself, walked right up to me and attempted brief small talk about the weather before the captain barked at him to get back to work. I felt some pang of pity for Belvidere as Gregorii smiled before joining Louis for a smoke.

I only caught a glimpse of Salvador as I passed by the stairwell into the cargo hold, beady eyes glinting softly in the dim-lit halls. Of course, that was the only interaction that hadn't brought me undue stress.

But I completed my due diligence all the same; the cargo was large stocks of grain and salt fish, destined for Europe's middlings harbours. The cargo boom, which helped load and stores the crates, seemed to be in fine condition, although I couldn't be sure how well it was fixated to the frame of the ship until I made it down to the lower decks.

"How's it looking, my friend?" Belvidere spoke as I changed the film roll on my camera.

"I'm not allowed to discuss my report, I'm afraid," I said.

"Oh, now, how's that fair?"

Before I could reply, Tusk interjected, "I'm sure it's nothing but policy, Samuel. Keep the inspectors safe from irate sailors, I'm sure."

"Oh!? Oh, oh, I get it." Belvidere let out a booming laugh. "Ol' big wigs don't want no one to kill the messenger, huh?" The gravity of his words didn't seem to hit him, especially as he clasped me on the shoulder. I couldn't tell if it was some lowbrow threat to my life or a genuinely clueless attempt at comedy.

"Ahem," I cleared my throat. "I'll be heading below deck now."

Belvidere seemed confused, perhaps expecting me to laugh. Maybe he had a look of apologetic realization cross his face, but I wouldn't know; I had already turned away. I only knew the big lug was following me due to the loud clomping of boots that seemed to follow me.

Below the deck, my investigation began to get interesting. In the immediate area surrounding the cargo hold, stress marks seemed to line the steel support structures. Wordlessly I took pictures and notes. Although the damage was evident, I couldn't determine the exact cause of the. Belvidere wordlessly followed me, and although I noticed the absence of Dr.Tusk, I hadn't the faintest care as to where he had gone. Assumedly he had known about the damage beforehand and didn't have the stomach to hang around as I discovered it. Fair enough, as it seemed the best time to begin my interviews, starting with the unfortunate Captain.

"Captain Belvidere," I said, pulling out my notebook.

"Yes?"

"How long have you been in command of this vessel?"

"Oh, some, three years now, I believe, four in October."

"I see, now; how many times during those years have you had to undergo repairs or modifications to your ship?"

"Pbtt" The Captain scratched his head. "Now that's a tough one; I usually just leave that to Mr. Salvador."

“Abraham Salador correct?”

"That is correct, my good sir."

"And I take it he is in place as the first mate on board?"

"He prefers the first mate, but I'd just as well call him my co-captain."

"Co-captain?"

"Well, as I'm sure you're aware, Abraham has been with the ship for some ten years now, despite that he refuses to take on the official captain's title."

"Is that so?"

"Why yes, I-"

"So Mr. Abraham Salador would be able to identify severe structural damage to the ship's support structures?"

"What?"

"Mr. Belvidere, are you aware that the sides of your ship are bowing inwards?"

"My shi- that's just preposterous."

"I assure you it isn't." With that, I revealed my notes to Mr. Belvedere, detailing the discrepancy between the ship's blueprints and its current state.

"I see"

"Mr. Belvedere -"

"Captain... please, Captain."

I groaned internally, "Captain. Belvidere It's immediately suspect that your crew has been lying to you about the condition of your ship. You may be capable of severe financial penalties. And either a complete retrofit of the vessel or its disassembly."

"Oh." Belvidere's face grew pale. "I'll let you know I was entirely unaware of these mishaps. And I plan to give full cooperation with" your investigation."

"Good, now firstly, I require that you turn this vessel around and return to dock. I'll need to do a much more thorough inspection to see if St Anne Marie is indeed seaworthy."

"I- I see. I'll have the ship notified immediately."

"Thank you... captain" With that. Belvidere sulked away, clearly flabbergasted by this sudden turn of events that I had dropped on him.

It wasn’t my intention to tell the captain about the state of his vessel so soon. But the damage was visceral evident, and I no longer felt comfortable riding across the ocean in a deathtrap. For what it was worth, I did do the rest of my due diligence. Measuring the hold end to end. Where I made another startling discovery, the blueprints for the hold suggested that it should have been 60 feet wide, 40 feet long, and about 30 feet tall, but each of the dimensions seemed to have had a full two feet shaved off of them. Meaning the cargo hold was almost free-floating in a space on the ship. Before I could find some sort of access panel to peer into the walls to confirm my suspicions, I was interrupted by Louis, who was breathlessly descending the stairs.

“Mr. Hayes!” He gasped out.

Startled, I took a step back.“ What is it?”

“The boss wants you at the wheelhouse.” He stood up straight, and in all goodness, he snapped a salute.

“For what reason, I’m in the middle of m-”

“Fire, Mr.Hayes! Fire on the bridge!”

Louis and I rushed up the staircase, and I was immediately accosted by the sharp acrid smell of burning wood. The helm of the ship had somehow burst aflame, and the fire threatened to spill out onto the deck.

I snapped into action along with the crew, pulling fire suppression hoses out from the deck of the ship. A thick gloopy foam erupted, dousing affected areas and coating everything else in a thin layer of suds. I saw Saladar, Zhukov, and of course, Louis, but I wasn’t able to see Dr.Tusk, Rajesh or Captain Belvidere. Although a similar spray of foam coming from the opposite side of the wheelhouse betrayed, someone else was fighting this fire alongside us.

All in all, the blaze lasted a mere five minutes, but the undue stress and heat had forced a sweat upon me.

After a few minutes, Zhukov and Louis had retrieved the other members of the crew. Rajesh had been manning a hose on the other end of the ship. And Dr.Tusk, who had apparently been sleeping peacefully in his cabin for the entire ordeal.

The crew searched for the obvious missing party, but after a half-hour without his booming voice, they all came to the conclusion that I had reached within the first two minutes. A distinct lack of southern vernacular deadening the air.

Despite protests, I made sure I was the first one in the cabin. Whereupon, I was greeted with a terrible display. The Captain had been burned beyond recognition; The distinct wiry hair along his face had burnt away to reveal the only intact skin on his body. For the sake of weaker stomachs, I will refrain from anything further. But the worst revelation I made was at his wrist, where the jovial man had been handcuffed to the controls of the ship.

Rajesh entered behind me, announced by the trumpeting sound of vomit hitting the floor. Zhukov next, who stood motionless next to me. Tusk never entered the cabin, instead of remaining on the deck of the ship with Louis. Salvador just looked on from the doorway.

Not one of us had heard Captain Belvedere’s screams, at least, none who had cared for his survival. A growing pit in my stomach darkened as I surveyed the helm; steering, comms, it was all burnt to a crisp. The ship was blind and mute. I was stuck on a boat with five men who I knew nothing about.

And one of them had just committed murder.

I realized that I had to immediately take charge of the situation. I had no weapon, but I had authority. A saboteur and murder were running around the ship; with no immediate way of contacting other vessels, we were at the mercy of this mysterious killer.

Within moments I had Gregorii and Salvador headed back to Dr.Tusk. It was easy to keep a cool air of authority while addressing them, But my resolve was immediately tested when confronted with the bawling Rajesh, who had disgustingly begun to caress the remaining skin of his burnt Captain. Stepping around his pooling puddle of vomit, I gripped his wrist with one hand and guided him away from the body with firm pressure on his collar bone. Luckily he didn’t resist and let me lead him away from the body and towards the deck. But as I did so, I noticed that the Captain’s gleaming keyring was not hanging by his side.

I saw Salvador frantically talking to Dr. Tusk, hopefully just filling him in on the Captain’s fate. For the first time, I addressed the entire crew.

“Attention, everyone! I know what just transpired must have you all reeling, but we must act quickly. I’m agent Alexander Hayes of the United States Maritime Administration, and I’m afraid under that authority I must take command of this vessel for the foreseeable future.” I felt the weight of those words land on top of the crew. The air was silent, except the soft wisps of wind and the metered sobs from Rajesh.

Surprisingly Salvador spoke first, “You mean to commandeer my vessel? You stiff-legged bastard!” He took a step forward, and I made ready to defend myself, but he was stopped by Dr. Tusk, who gripped his upper arm with the strength of a steel clamp.

“Of course, we will cooperate, but I must ask Mr. Hayes, under what reasoning do you do such a thing?” Said Tusk, his eyes staring dead into my own eyes.

“I believe that the captain’s death right now was the work of a saboteur, and until proven otherwise through facts, I’m afraid all of you are suspects.” With that, Rajesh stopped crying, barely managing to compose himself.

“What? No, you don’t understand, it was an accident?”

“Excuse me?”

“It was my mistake, the fire, it was my fault.” Rajesh seemed to understand the grave mistake he had just made as the entire crew turned to him.

I spoke my next words carefully, “The captain was handcuffed to the equipment; this wasn’t just an accident, it was murder.”

Rajesh only said, “Oh.”

Rajesh was detained in a storage hold; I left Louis to guard him along with Dr. Tusk and told Salvador and Zhukov to survey the damages to the ship and keep a lookout for other vessels we could signal for assistance. I needed them to stay paired up, and I gave each group the express instruction to return to the hold should they lose their partner. Which unfortunately left me with the task of roaming the ship on my own. Time was of the essence; until I knew the ship was stable and uncompromised, I had to assume the saboteur had plans to sink the St. Anne Marie and any evidence along with it. I could interview the crew at my leisure but perhaps had a finite amount of time to discover physical evidence. Rajesh vehemently denied handcuffing Belvedere, and so the search was on. I couldn't tell if he was lying poorly or being beyond distraught.

My first stop was to my own room to collect my documentation along with a flare gun that I had stashed away in my bag alongside a few extra rounds. What I found immediately was that my room had been ransacked. I cursed, remembering the door I had left unlocked after the Captain's dramatic awakening. The documentation was no loss, but the flare gun proposed a dangerous problem; someone on the ship was armed.

A brief exchange with Louis earlier gave me a route to the late Captain's quarters, a veritable penthouse situated at the stern of the ship; disturbingly located above the propellers, where one would feel every bump and vibration of the engine and ocean. The door was locked, the Captain apparently giving himself the undue courtesy that he had denied me. Fortunately, the bolt on the door frame was curiously loose, and several sharp kicks made the fitting give way.

What assaulted my nose this time was neither the salty spray of the sea nor the acrid smell of chemicals and smoke; instead, the smell resided somewhere in the middle of it all. A smell familiar to my younger days along with my sweetheart Chealsea; but undercut with an athletic aroma. My suspicions were confirmed when I saw a sailor's rubber laid onto the softly carpeted floor. Unfortunately, I could immediately tell that it had been recently used. Inside was discarded seed; I could only presume it was Belvidere's. Unless a woman was hiding in the walls, it seemed that some of the men aboard the ship were seeking male companionship. I snapped a photo of the evidence and moved on.

A number of things caught my eye besides this revelation; for one, Belvedere's desk drawer seemed to be ajar. And for two, despite a ventilation grate in the corner of the room, the smell remained. Within the desk was a small worn diary; I pocketed it for further study and after quickly checking the other drawers.

I moved onto the ventilation. By placing my hand next to the grate, I couldn't feel any airflow, despite the soft hum of the engine still providing it to the rest of the room. What's more, the screws affixing it in place seemed loose enough to undo with my bare hand.

What I found was simple enough; the ventilation shaft was wider than need is and was wiped clear of dust in two shoulder-length paths. Someone had been using the air vents to move around, and from the distinct lack of airflow, it seemed to be specially made for that purpose. Instead of taking the pathway itself, I measured the opening; if someone's shoulders could fit through it comfortably, then they could presumably navigate it with some ease.

Instead, I thought I would pay a visit to Dr. Tusk's quarters, hoping to find more information that might betray motivation. Considering that Tusk was supposedly Belvedere's business partner. Although I was kicking myself that I hadn't asked if he was a medical doctor.

Fortunately, Tusk's room was open. His bed was methodically made, tucked in with military precision. Likewise, his work bag was at a perfect 90% angle. I tore across the room and delved into his paperwork. Dossiers on various patients came up; towards the back were a fair few familiar faces; each of the crew onboard the St.Anne Marie had their own file, including the Captain. Before I could open it up, I heard a cough from behind me. Rajesh stood there, his face bloodied to one side, gripping a flare gun, my flare gun, in both hands.

"Now, Agent Hayes, we really didn't get a chance to talk before you ruined my life." Rajesh rasped out in a voice that seemed to go against his youthful appearance. Like an old general on his third cigar of the day. "Now, if you wouldn't mind, I need some answers."

"Rajesh, I need you to put down that flare gun before you do something you cannot take back."

"The fire was an accident; I was just covering for Samuel. He wanted to come along on your investigation. And then the next thing that happens, the communications array is sparking, and the whole cabin is up in smoke."

"Why did you say you caused it then?"

"My - my friend was a torched brisket in front of me; I didn't start the fires, but he sure as hell rushed in thinking I was still in there. But you, on the other hand, you're the unknown."

"Listen, I don't know what you're implying, but I was down in the storage hold when the fire started."

"Then why did I find this tucked away under Samuel." Rajesh lifted the flare gun suggestively.

I decided to bluff, hoping to avoid feeding into the poor boy's delusion. "What does that prove?"

"You must really take me for a dumb fucking child Hayes!" Rajesh took a step forward, hands visibly trembling with the sheer force he gripped the gun with. "I learned this first day, right from the Captain. The goddamn bastard loved these things; he kept them pristine, shining; your dingy piece of shit isn't even the right goddam colour of the flares we have on the ship."

A mixture of fear gripped my soul. But through the existential terror of my impending phosphorus demise, I noticed a tear streaming down Rajesh's face. Squeezed out when the young emotional lad had mentioned his Captain. I needed a way to stall him, to calm him down; I couldn't bluff. I just had to come at him straight and hope my instincts were correct.

"You loved him, didn't you?"

"What?"

"Samuel, you loved him."

"Like a... Like a father." Rajesh's lip trembled.

"Not like a father, Rajesh, I've been to the captain's quarters."

"The hell are you im-"

"It's ok! I understand what was going on, and it's ok."

Rajesh just stared at me, piercing daggers at me with his eyes. It struck me that the boy might kill me just to keep his secret.

"Secret ventilation shafts, rubbers on a womanless ship? An eighteen-year-old boy being swept away on some adventure by some older gentleman."

"Shut up, Hayes..." Rajesh's grip on my gun had loosened, and his hands no longer shook.

"I bet there's an entrance in the cargo hold, isn't there? Some holdover from the eccentric southerners that built this place. No doubt why he was so proud to show it to me, so confident that I wouldn't find out."

Rajesh stayed silent.

"It's ok, Rajesh; I swear, I know about you and Samuel. I don't think that you did it, but I need you to cooperate with me here. Someone did kill him, but it wasn't you, and it wasn't me."

Rajesh closed his eyes tightly for a moment. Every bone in my body screamed at me to rush forward and rip the gun out of his hands. But I held back. Eventually, he released his grip himself. The gun clattered to the floor, and his eyes fluttered open.

"What's next, then Hayes?"

"I need information."

I’m not sure how I felt about Rajesh as he led me back towards the wheelhouse. Women often were enticed by men too old for them; why couldn’t this boy have fallen for the same fate. All I knew was that if I were to escape from this ship, I would keep his and the captain’s secret, if not just for the fact that he had chosen not to melt my brain.

We walked mostly in silence. I had the Tusk’s bag tucked against my arm, Belvedere’s diary inside of my pocket. Against the hum of the ship, we heard a soft stampede of steps heading towards us. Rajesh tensed up, but I raised a hand and motioned him to stay as I rounded the corner ahead of him.

Louis, Salvador and Gregorii were running towards me but stopped just a few feet away.

Gregorii spoke first, “Hayes, Rajesh escaped! He popped the doctor and just disappeared. But we spotted a ship in the distance.”

“I already know about Rajesh, I’ve placed him under my care for now, but I need you to return to the deck and wait for those ships.”

Zhukov made to protest, but Salvador stepped in front of him, veritably dripping with venom. “Of course, Sir.”

The trio turned to leave, but before they could, I spoke, “Where is Tusk?”

Louis spoke as they walked away” In the wheelhouse, Mr. Hayes, he wanted to inspect the captain.”

As they left, Rajesh rushed past me. “Hayes hurry, we’ve got to get to there now?”

“Wait up, why?”

He stopped briefly, “He has no business looking over the body. Tusk isn’t a real doctor, he’s just a therapist, he’s covering for something. With that, he took off once more, but with a start, I noticed a rage building on his brow. I rushed to follow him, hoping to avoid another impassioned murder.

I came up to the wheelhouse, disturbingly quiet for the hot bundle of anger that had just rushed into it. Slowly I crossed the threshold, the latent smell of burning flesh and smoke still hanging heavy in the air. To my surprise, I found Rajesh held up with his hands in the air; By Dr. Tusk, who held another flare gun to him, this time embossed with silky white text that read "ANNE MARIE." Tusk was sporting an almost matching mark across his face, evident of the scuffle that had allowed Rajesh to escape in the first place.

"Dr. Tusk, put down the flare gun," I said softly, hoping not to startle the man.

Without taking his gaze off of Rajesh, Dr. Tusk spoke calmly. "Ah Hayes, I wondered when you'd come crawling out. I figured you had something to do with the Captain's tragic death, but to drag poor confused Rajesh into the mess as well?"

"Excuse me?" I said, beginning to concoct a theory in my head.

"Military handcuffs on the poor Captain, your own personal flair gun lodged under his back. Surely you must be deranged to have committed such a crime."

"Dr. Tusk, I am placing you under arrest for-"

"Oh, of course, you are agent Hayes, of course, you are. You see, I have friends in the Maritime Association, hard bought friends. And I begged them, dared them really, not to send me a veteran of all things."

"How did you?-"

"Northern Africa, if I remember from your file. You see, I'm somewhat of an expert on the shell shocked soldier. Zhukov is a patient of mine, you see."

"This is a frame job?"

"Delusional too, I see; in my personal opinion, a lobotomy should shore that up fine. I'll have you given the best care, I promise." Dr.Tusk pulled out his pocket watch." And five four three-" a boom erupted from below deck. "Ah, a little early I'm afraid."

"You're a mad man."

"That would be you, Agent Hayes. And you Rajesh, bedding down with a man the first night, tsk tsk tsk, your homoerotic tendencies are just getting worse, I'm afraid."

Rajesh bit his tongue, his face shifting to resemble more of a demon than a man.

"So that's it, huh, we go away to have our brain's snipped, and you get what out of this."

"Insurance mostly, the St.Anne Marie has been a costly endeavour, and the belvedere fortune is not what it once was. Although I am looking forward to summers alone at that beautiful plantation house."

I paused for a moment, "what about the rest of the crew?"

"What about them? Ones on payroll, one needs me, and the other is just some old butler prancing about on the ocean with his flamboyant master."

"And Rajesh?"

"*Sigh, costly indulgence, Samuel would often drop on port and coerce the local deviants into his bed. Although for some ungodly reason, he decided to keep this one. But no matter, the scuttling will take care of that too."

I remembered the Captain's cabin, directly over top of the turbine and engine room. Surely engulfed in the flame by now. Surely I wasn't this lucky. "Why would that be? Surely you weren't hoping to get rid of this." I drew the diary out of my pocket; Tusk's eyes flitted over, and a brief moment of panic, before returning to his stoic gaze.

"I'm sure what you have there is nothing but cheap erotica Hayes. You make it far too easy to build a case against you."

Just as Rajesh had seen through me. The Doctor's bluff was telling. I opened the diary

and thumbed from the most recent entry until I found what I was looking for.

"Rajesh and I didn't even make love last night. I was too entranced by the soft timbre of his voice, and we ended up spending the night talking it through. Curse this old blubbery body; I wish he could spend the rest of his life with me, but I shall remain content with merely the rest of mine. I plan to leave him as the heir to my meagre remaining fortune so that once I have drifted off some years from now, I might sleep peacefully knowing that he remains with some comfort." I snapped the book shut and tossed it into Tusk's work bag. Rajesh's demon gaze softened at my words; I feared that he would start crying again, but he managed to retain his composure. "This secretive partnership he had with you, the well-worn tunnels... Samuel found someone younger than you didn't he?"

Tusk was fully flustered and was breathing heavily. "That fat bastard of a whale promised me everything at union college; I gave him the best years of my life, I gave him my talents, and I even gave him my own damn kidney!" Tusk turned suddenly, levelling the flare gun level to my chest and, by extension, the evidence that I had acquired.

But Rajesh sprung into action, taking the Doctor by the wrist. I tried to move in to assist, but I could do nothing as Tusk discharged the flare gun, sticking Rajesh right in the head. He screamed for a moment when with a sudden and final burst of strength, shoved the Doctor through the burnt-out remains of the wheelhouse and onto the awaiting deck below. He collapsed soon after, right on top of the former Captain Belvidere.

I stood there, gasping at the violent pair of deaths that had played out in front of me. When the creaking of the ship reminded me of the larger danger, I was in. I descended from the wheelhouse and onto the deck, where the trio of remaining crewmembers was attempting to dislodge an emergency life vessel from the prow of the ship. I passed by the broken body of Dr. Tusk, neck twisted in an ungodly way. Somehow the four of us managed to bring it down into the water. As we furiously paddled towards an approaching rescue ship, The St.Anne Marie dipped slowly into the water. Sucking in like a large whirlpool.

In a moment of clarity, I realized I still had the Doctor's bag, with Belvidere's diary, my camera roll and the most likely fake medical dossiers. I exhaled momentarily before throwing it at the sinking ship. To rest along with this strange and violent love triangle that had come to a head along with the vessel. As I looked at the other three rowers in the lifeboat, I realized I still had no idea who had set the charges, who had helped the diminutive Dr.Tusk handcuff the gargantuan Captain. But I didn't care; I was tired, I had been woken up too early this morning to care anymore.

The End

investigation

Griffen Helm

Non professional: Writer, comedian and so on.

Professional line cook at the local eatery.

Hypothetical Student.

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