Currents Deep and Deadly

When we finally arrived at deck 2 we’d lost the giddy folks to the upper levels. Just outside the elevator Doc consulted a three-dimensional Plexiglas floor plan shaped like the hull of the ship then motioned for me to follow. Isn’t deck 2 barely above the waterline and the crew’s quarters? Is this steerage or third class or something?

My sense of direction has never been that sharp, but my sinking feeling matched the level of our deck as we negotiated the maze of narrow passageways lined on both sides with stateroom doors all looking disconcertingly alike. The passages were subtly lit by soft fans of light rising from stone wall sconces spaced at about twenty-foot intervals. The atmosphere was quite elegant, so why did the word dungeon keep looping through my mind? More unusual artwork adorned most of the walls in the spaces between doors, but how could anyone appreciate it in the close quarters and poor lighting? As I trailed along behind Doc, my ill feeling morphed into something much worse. I’m afraid I’ll never find my own way back to the light and the pleasant central area with my already-favorite bartender.

Looking up, I saw with relief that cruise pro Jason had found stateroom 2021, and as usual I was bringing up the rear pulling my wheeled carry-on bag. Suddenly movement from the right caught my eye. I was passing what appeared to be a workroom for the crew. The door was propped open, and at a glance I could see a stainless steel sink and counter with shelves above and an ice machine to one side. Toward the back of the small space two men dressed in black—crew uniforms I assumed—stood facing away from the door conversing with their heads close together. They did not appear to notice us.

My well-honed inquisitiveness automatically slowed my step, and I almost came to a stop as I fiddled with my bag, catching a sentence or two as I edged past the doorway. One man was saying in slightly accented English, “I don’t know how I let myself get talked into this. It is crazy dangerous.”

The other quickly answered with a thicker Spanish accent, “Just remember we are in it all the way. Think about the money. You know it can be done easily.”

I had moved along the passageway out of hearing range. The short exchange was odd, and although what I heard was completely out of context, it was very disturbing. Looking back on it I’m not sure why I didn’t mention this to Jason. Instead, I proceeded to our cabin on the right side of the passageway where he was holding the door open for me having used his ID card/door key to gain entry.