Jane’s terrifying ordeal grows more mysterious. The shadow that haunts the halls of the ship stalks her, as well, and she finds herself torn in her trust of Max Archer. Accusations swirl around him and the captain is forced to take action, but against all the evidence Jane believes him to be innocent. Through all the doubt the book is a lighthouse of happiness for her, granting her delicious delights in the night even as her life in the day becomes more confusing.
I tossed my robe over me and I flew to the front door. I opened the door and found Stuart on the other side. He was out of breath, and behind him I could see Lana’s door was open. Several crewmen, including Captain John, stood inside with Lana and Alicia.
“There’s been another attack, Miss Johnson, and your presence is requested in Miss Galas’ room,” he told me.
“It’s Jane, and I’ll be right out,” I promised as I grasped the edge of the door. I needed to find that book.
“He’d rather have you out now, Jane,” Stuart insisted.
I pursed my lips, but grudgingly followed Stuart across the hall and into the room. My eyes widened as I saw that the space was nearly as wrecked as Alicia’s room had been the night before. The furniture was disemboweled and upside-down, but it was only part of the living room and the dining set that was effected.
Stuart left me and hurried out.
Lana and Alicia were in the middle of their retelling of the events, though the captain acknowledged my coming with a bow of his head.
“That. . .that thing threw the furniture around and disappeared from the room under the door,” Lana told us.
“No, through it!” Alicia argued.
“It went under, you dunderhead!” Lana insisted.
“Ladies, please remain calm and continue with your story,” the captain requested.
“That’s it. Then we called the 9-1-1 number and you guys came,” Lana finished.
“And what did this intruder look like?” Captain John asked them.
The women glanced at each other. Alicia bit her lip and shuddered. Lana straightened and pursed her lips.
“It looked like Max,” she revealed.
I started back, and Captain John frowned.
“Are you sure?” he questioned them.
Alicia lowered her head and nodded. “Yes. It looked just like him from the night before. All dressed in black.”
Captain John shook his head. “It’s not possible. He’s locked away.”
Lana scowled at him. “How do we know you locked him up? You’re friends with him, maybe you hid him somewhere and he got out.”
The captain stood tall and towered over the women. “Miss Galas, I will admit Mr. Archer is a friendly acquaintance of mine, but I do not endanger my passengers through preferential treatment. If you doubt me, I can provide ample evidence of his being in his cell the entire night that would be admissible in any court.”
His words cowed the frightened Alicia, but Lana scowled at him. “Then I expect to see that evidence of that.”
“I will be glad to oblige,” he agreed. He looked to me. “Miss Johnson, I’m sorry to have to wake you at this hour, but I wondered if you heard or saw anything?”
I shook my head. “No. I didn’t hear anything until just before Stuart knocked on my door.”
The captain pursed his lips. “I see. Well, thank you for your statement, and for coming in-”
“What in the world happened here?” a voice spoke up. We turned to see Renee in the doorway with Stuart behind her. Her mouth was dropped open as she stepped into the suite. “Was there another attack?”
“It seems so, Miss Roster,” the captain confirmed.
“Seems so?” Lana snapped as she swept an arm over the area. “Do you think we did this ourselves?”
“I can’t be sure of anything until the investigators comb through the rooms. Until then, I’ll have to ask you ladies to take only the essentials and move to another suite,” the captain requested.
“Again?” Alicia cried out. Tears sprang into her eyes and she shook like a leaf in a tornado. “How many times is this going to happen? When are you going to start protecting us?”
Lana wrapped her arms around her friend’s shaking shoulders and squeezed her. “We’ll get off this horrible ship as soon as the next port.” She turned to the captain. “When do we get there?”
“Midday two days from this day,” he replied.
“Then schedule us for getting off. We’ll take a plane back home,” Lana informed him.
“We can arrange with our company for a full refund, and the plane,” he offered.
“We’ll expect that,” she demanded.
“If you ladies would follow me then we’ll get your statements and reinstate you in different suites,” the captain requested.
“They can stay in mine,” Renee spoke up as she stepped up to them. “Three should be plenty to keep whoever it is away.”
Lana pulled Alicia closer to herself and glared at Renee. “We’re not staying with someone who still thinks that man is innocent.”
Renee frowned and folded her arms across her chest. “If I’m wrong then how do you explain him doing this if he’s locked up?”
“I don’t know, and I don’t care,” Lana snapped. “I just know we’re not staying with you. I don’t even want to stay on this floor.” She glanced at the captain. “Now let’s get going. I don’t want to talk to this person anymore.”
The captain bowed his head and led the pair past the stunned Renee. Stuart stepped up to us. “Ladies, I think you should return to your rooms,” he advised. “The investigators will be here shortly.”
Renee and I stepped out into the hall along with Stuart, and he locked the door behind us. He stood at attention in front of the entrance, and I made to walk across the hall to my own room, but was interrupted by a venomous voice.
“This is all your fault.” I turned to find it was Renee who had spoken. Her eyes were narrowed and shone with a fierce light.
I frowned at her. “How is it my fault?”
“This whole mess started when you met Max, and stole his book,” she pointed out.
“Shut up. We all know you did it.” She marched up to me and studied me with those cold eyes. “I wouldn’t be surprised if you were the one behind these attacks.”
I stood tall and glared back at her. “Why would I want to attack people I hardly know?”
“You’re not as stupid as you look. You know enough to see a threats to Max’s affections,” she argued. She crossed her arms over her chest and scowled. “I wouldn’t be surprised if you planned this from the beginning. You put yourself in that suite just to get close to Max and then you’d get us out of the way.”
“That’s ridiculous! I didn’t know anybody on this ship before I boarded!” I argued.
“Miss Roster, Jane, if you would please return to your rooms. The others in the hall are still asleep,” Stuart whispered to us.
Renee sneered at both the steward and me. She spun on her heels and marched to her door, but paused with her hand on the knob and looked over her shoulder at me. “I’m not done with you yet, girl, and if you think you’re going to scare me into turning against Max then you’ve got a lot to learn.” She stepped into her room and slammed the door behind her.
Stuart and I winced at the loud noise. “I’m glad I don’t manage her room,” he whispered.
“Yeah. She’d be a handful,” I agreed as I turned to him. “But you’re not going to stand there all night, are you?”
He smiled and shook his head. “No. I’m just waiting for the investigators-” We heard a noise down the hall and looked to see a couple of the crewmen walk down the stairs and towards us. “That should be them now.” He glanced back at me. “Were you wanting a wake-up call in the morning?”
You mean later today?” I teased.
His smile widened. “It is pretty late, isn’t it?”
“Pretty late, but I think I’d rather have a Do-Not-Disturb sign put on my doorknob,” I requested.
He nodded. “I’ll do that.”
“Just don’t stay up too late on my account,” I told him as I returned to me room.
I shut the door and leaned against the entrance. My room was thankfully just as I’d left it. I ran a hand through my hair and sighed.
“What’s going on here?” I whispered.
I was startled when I heard a noise from the bedroom. I pushed off from the door and tiptoed across the suite and to the bedroom door. The entrance was ajar, and I peeked inside.
A man stood beside my bed.
My heart quickened. The man was entirely covered in black, filmy clothes that gave off a sheen. I stepped back to run away, but the man turned towards me. It was Max, or rather, someone who looked like him. The rough features were his, but the lines weren’t exact. It was as though an inexperienced carver had tried to carve from life and only partially succeeded. Whoever it was also didn’t move like him. They swayed from side to side like a snake reared up for attack.
However, the most horrible part of the intruder was his eyes. In the dim light they glowed like hot coals. I gasped and stumbled back. The intruder rushed towards me. I raised my hands and a deafening scream escaped my lips. I tripped over my feet and fell to the floor. The intruder blanketed my sight with his black body.
In the midst of my terror I fainted.