Tag: #cruise

The Chameleons

 

©The Chameleons

 By

 Billy Ray Chitwood

Beware, the chameleons!

They’re everywhere…

Classified as ‘highly specialized clade of Old World’ lizards’ adept at changing colors to blend into different environments, but I’m writing here about the human ‘chameleons’, that deceptive and manipulative breed of seemingly common folks who can play and often prey on our good, honest, and innocent Homo sapiens.

Take the case of Jeffrey Bullock and Catherine Santos…

Now, it is true that Jeffrey is a handsome man with a Grecian face punctured and set with blue eyes and an automatic upper and lower lip that can be in turn persuaded to change with the course of a conversation. Those blue eyes and remarkable lips can turn a conversation into a thing of academic beauty, with his alternating simulations of eyebrows, eye intensity – or, lack, thereof – in sync and on pitch with every word conveyed by and to him. He is without question a master in the art of listening and speaking. Jeffrey is also a pleasingly muscular six-feet height, his smooth ‘copper-tone’ complexion virtually glows in any light, and his body-fat repellence completes his ridiculously excellent physique.

It is likewise true that Catherine is a beautiful lady, her long auburn tresses with a lovely flow below her shoulders, her eyes as green as the verdant rolling hills of ‘The Emerald Isle’. Her body is a molding befitting a Goddess, and she too has that copper-tone skin so devastatingly delicate that surely makes her apparitional and beyond any earthly description. Her voice is like a box of music that issues forth a softness of melodious and mellifluous sounds to hold captive any male suitor or enviable and doting female. Catherine stands tall and glorious at her five feet, eight inches, making all shorter men want to kill themselves, the taller men, salivating and ignominiously servile.

These two would-be Mythical-like Grecian Deities ostensibly meet on the first afternoon of their ten-day luxury cruise in the Caribbean Islands, she, apparently finishing a ‘jog’, coming to the pool deck bar for a thirst quencher of vodka-tonic, accidentally stumbling, spilling her newly acquired libation in front of our aforementioned Adonis who is enjoined in conversation with another pretty young lady much too young and naïve for any kind of Adonis bonding.

In a believable, gallant display of nonchalance and brevity with the young lady, Jeffrey stands from his kneeling position and apologizes vigorously to the modestly attentive Catherine who turns and returns to the bar for another vodka-tonic. Following, insisting on his buying her drink for his knee-bending chatter with the young lady, Catherine shakes her head negatively, and speaks with a near timorous response. “No, I can pay for my own drinks. It was a simple accident. No harm done. Thank you for offering.”

Her drink order fulfilled, she brushes past Jeffrey and finds a seat in the middle of chatty sunbathers.

The sunbathers are a steady hum of noise and many eyes are following Catherine’s moves, either, openly without deception, or, with. In truth, no one can reasonably fault the onlookers. Catherine Santos is a rare beauty among so many who could be counted among the simply, beautiful. She sits alone for some moments, staring at the enormous cobalt sea that stretches as far as the eyes can see. Only the most daring of handsome men would seek an entrée to Catherine Santos…only Catherine would know the loneliness that came with her incredible loveliness.

Then, there is one qualifier that makes a fool of many men, perhaps, in more ways than one. That Qualifier is alcohol – drinking alcohol, that is. A most reasonable sequitur from that conclusion is an imbiber with too much juice running through his veins will find enough courage from a ‘high’ on booze to enter that world of beauty and glamour. Three such inebriates approached Catherine Santos there by the pool, the last of the three causing quite a stir and an embarrassing security escort back to his cabin and his sober wife. The first two sobered fast, left Catherine’s presence meekly and was soon gone from the pool area – either, losing a buddy bet, or, embarrassed by all the snickers in the crowded pool area.

Though her drink was only half-finished, Jeffrey brought another drink to her table and requested a brief chat. To the crowd, Catherine showed a nod of ‘no’ and a solemn but pleasant enough dismissal. Yet, he lingered briefly with something said that made her smile. Then, he left.

Later, sumptuous dinners were served in a cozy, softly lit gourmet restaurant that only served those passengers who had purchased that cruise option. The wealthier cruisers preferred the more intimate personal service given at The Golden Interval in lieu of the big dining rooms with hundreds of people vying for service. Romantic violin music played slow, delicately even strokes just beneath the conversations in the lovely adorned Crimson and Gold room.

Among the diners was Catherine Santos. She sat alone at a small table, conspicuous in her attempt not to be so, dressed in a lovely rose-colored sarong, her beauty accentuated even further by the simple hint of roses. Also, there seated some few tables away was an attractive couple in their forties, smiling, being amused by none other than the charming Jeffrey Bullock. The couple had been poolside earlier in the day to witness the farcical Jesters in their sophomoric attempt to woo Catherine.

Jeffrey finally noticed Catherine and stopped abruptly in his monologue. “Please excuse me, Reggie and Deb, would you mind my inviting a lone soul to join us – that is, unless she would prefer being alone?” The couple smiled and nodded an approval.

Jeffrey rose and went to Catherine’s table, but was back in very short order and announced to his two recently met friends, “The lady prefers to dine alone and I’m reluctant to admit my embarrassment.”

“Don’t be embarrassed, Jeffrey,” was the quick and cheery reply from Deborah Weeden, wife of Reginald, aka, Reggie.

“It’s her misfortune, my boy. We enjoy your company. In fact, after dinner, we hope you can attend with us the ‘Special Art Auction’ on Deck Seven’. There are to be some recent original oils by Evan Sloan Glasgow in various nouveau and original ‘scene-sets’ and some Landscapes, Seascapes by Luther Blankenship. We would really enjoy having you with us at the auction…”

“Unfortunately, I was not invited. I understand the auction is by ‘Invitation Only’, though I thank you so much for the thought.”

“Bosh! Jeffrey, we’re inviting you. We can bring anyone we wish. You will come with us. I shall pull ‘age-rank’ on you, young man and treat you as we might our own son… Now, one more Gibson before dinner. The food is quite marvelous here, Jeffrey, as you might already know, and the Cabernet will add to the overall enjoyment of our meal.”

Deborah added to Reggie’s command, “We are so glad we met you, Jeffrey, in the gaming room earlier. By the stack of chips in front of you, it appeared you did quite well for yourself. For some inscrutable reason, I love gambling on these cruises…something about the sea, I suppose. But, then, that’s part of the fun of ‘Cruising’, gambling, meeting new people. I know Reggie and I have continued friendships with those we’ve met on our many cruises…”

So, the three talked through their dinner, nodded to Catherine as she had to pass their table in exiting the Golden Interval. She smiled sweetly to Deborah and Reginald but barely acknowledged Jeffrey.

One hour later, the trio exited the glass elevator on Deck Seven and entered the ‘Private Invitation Only Art Auction’. Seating was arranged by name of attendees and the comfortable chairs were given numbers to match the guest roster. Some thirty-one people were in attendance for the auction and these were without doubt the wealthiest of all passengers on board.

The big surprise for the dinner trio was the presence of Catherine Santos at the auction. She was seated just behind the three new friends. With a quick phone call, Jeffrey’s name was added to the attendance list and seating next to his two new friends was arranged.

There was a buzz of anticipation in the small crowd, and the noise outside the auction room was audible but not disconcerting. Deck Seven was given to Art Auctions, a Library, Fast Foods of various sorts, and, for the runners, a jogging oval set apart from the strollers.

As a result of the ‘Art Auction’, the Weeden couple winning bids bought them a rare and beautiful Luther Blankenship Seascape extraordinaire, a Glasgow ‘Still-life’, and a magnificent Glasgow ‘Lake House’ oil painting, leaving the attendees agog with the colors represented in the painting. Jeffrey Bullock was impressed with the artist-minded couple with whom he had spent the evening. Jeffrey bid a few times but dropped out when the bidding became too formidable.

As fate would have it, the same was true of Catherine Santos. She seemed to desperately want the Glasgow ‘Lake House’ oil but was outbid by an elderly lady in the back row of seats, who was herself, ultimately outbid by Deborah Weeden.

At the end of the auction, Reggie turned to Catherine Santos and asked her to join them in their huge and high-end expensive suite. Catherine surprised the group with an affirmative response.

The opulent suite had a garden area along with its four plush rooms and a large outer deck for night-time sea-gazing. Both Catherine Santos and Jeffrey Bullock commented on the suite’s beauty without too many lavish-laced phrases. It was not lost on the hosts the carefully worded praise of their suite. It was indeed a formidable penthouse of the Sea, and the group enjoyed their time together. Before the consumption levels reached near the foolish folly level, Catherine was the first to leave with gracious utterings and sleepy eyes. Ten minutes later, Jeffrey left the suite, with a ‘glow’ and gratitude for a fine evening.

Before the partings from the suite, the group promised to meet next evening for dinner at the Golden Interval.

 *

“So, what do you think? Is it a ‘Go’ or a ‘No Go’?”

“Of course, it’s a ‘Go’. Why else are we here?”

“Just asking…there are times when you feel uncomfortable. Just making sure you’re good with the ‘mark’.”

“I’m good with the ‘mark’. Did you see something I didn’t see?”

“No, not really, just that I can smell a ‘con’ a mile off, just…”

“Just, ‘what’?”

“Well, the guy is talking some ‘investment scheme’ which is a ‘scam’ but he thinks I’m a big hitter with millions. I’ve got him thinking the investment scheme sounds good and something I might be interested in. I’m playing along like it’s a possibility, plus I told him I was in a winning zone at the casino tables. He thinks I’m going for the investment scheme, if not during the cruise, then, at a later date.”

“So, what’s the problem?”

“You are my problem. I love you, and I don’t want you getting hurt in all of this. Do I think the guy is dangerous, like, a killer? No, but I need to feel that out just a bit more before committing to the scam. I’ll sleep on it, but Im 90% sure at this point. She’s making a big hit in the casino, and I mean BIG. I stood behind her, and, in just those few minutes, she pulled in more than three hundred grand plus. Those winnings will be wired from the ship into an already huge account. She loves gambling on Cruise ships. Don’t ask me, why, because I don’t have a clue. People are funny in their gambling habits. I do know she wins on the sea and she keeps coming back. We get paid off when the ship wires the money to her bank.”

“We can’t do it if you’ve got the ‘feeling’. We agreed at the beginning – if we are not 100% sure about a ‘mark’ or something seems weird, we don’t go on.”

“Yeah, I know. Let me sleep on it. If the feeling is still there in the morning, we pull it off the table. And, yeah, I know, this might be the biggest ‘hit’ we’ve ever made…and, the last. We’ve got to get serious about our future.”

“Why won’t you tell me how you got the wiring transaction numbers on this mark, and, how does it work?”

“Because my source knows nothing about you, and I intend to keep it that way. You don’t need to know the operation. It would make you much more vulnerable. I can tell you it’s a simple system that cannot be traced back. We get the money wired into our proxy account and no one knows us and how we did it. It’s a new untraceable electronic wiring program. I couldn’t tell you even if I knew how it works… By the way, I believe our new-buddy thinks I’m either gay or a misogynist.”

“And?”

“And, what?”

“Are you one of those things?”

“What…! I’m going to give you a good spanking, lady! Stop giggling and tell me you don’t harbor thoughts like that.”

“Well, I’ve been told…” There was playful chase in the limited space. “Stop tickling me, you brute! You know I’m kidding… Stop tickling…”

“Gonna behave?”

“Yes, master!” There was one more tickle and the playful activity was finished. “Seriously, Sweetheart, make me a promise: can this be our last gig?”

“Yes, most definitely. It’s time we began enjoying the fruits of our labors…”

More playful activity came, but this time it was sensitive, soft, beautiful.

*

Four ports of call and ten lazy, lovely sunny days on the briny, the cruise ended in Miami, Florida. In that time Jeffrey and Catherine had become seemingly very close. In the eyes of new friends, Reginald and Deborah Weeden, the sparkle and spontaneity that their Cruise play pals gave off indicated as much

The Cruise Ship’s speakers announced disembarking instructions while both Jeffrey and Reggie left the ladies and luggage in The Garden Suite to visit the Chief Purser for the settling of their bills.

On the pier, there were hugs and jolly goodbyes with promises to get again together for another cruise, or, simply to visit each other. There seemed a most sincere bonding of the group, and each couple looked back in their strides to wave.

“Nice couple, really. It seems…”“Yes, very nice…don’t go there. ‘Sorry’ is a miserable place to visit. Just remember, they were after what we have. We just beat them to the punch.”

The door slammed making her jump with fright. He called her name and she relaxed.

When he walked into the living-room she knew there had to be bad news.

“What’s wrong?”

“We have no money, that’s what’s wrong!“What! Don’t do this…it’s not funny!”

“You’re telling me, ‘it’s not funny’? Jeez, you don’t see me laughing, do you? WE HAVE NO MONEY! Zilch! Zero! Account empty!”

“But you wired the money aboard ship. How can that be?”

“How the hell do I know? So? ‘How can that be’, you ask? There is no money in our account! That’s how it can be! There is no money, period. No ship casino money…no millions we had in the account. NO MONEY!

“Maybe, it’s just not in yet! Oh, you mean, the money we had in the account is gone, too? Oh, my God!”

“Jeez, you’re dense! Wired money is NOW-money? Yes, the account money and the casino winnings, all gone! Why…”

There was an insistent ringing of the front doorbell.

“I’ll get it,” he said.

She followed him to the door.

He yanked the door open!

“Nice place you have here, Mr. and Mrs. Weeden. You two are under arrest! Put your hands behind your back. You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to an attorney…You…” 

*

“You’re serious? You want to get married?” Catherine – real name, Sherrie Malcomb, asked in disbelief.

“Yeah, I’m serious,” answered Jeffrey, real name, Gibson ‘Gibby’ Tierney, “Why would you think I’m not serious? You know how I feel about you, and you say you love me, so let’s do it. We have a major chunk of money now for a huge honeymoon – not too gaudy and/or too showy to call attention to us…”

“Wait, no one knows it was us, do they? You said. ‘anonymous’ made it known to the police.”

“That’s right! Someone ‘Deborah’ and ‘Reggie’ fleeced on their previous cruise. Not to worry, it’s our pay for getting the job done. Don’t you just love a ‘double-con’?!” The two lovable ‘con artists’ enjoy a chuckle and embrace. “So, do I go to my knees to propose, or, are you gonna save me from bruising my knees?”

“You’re not much of a Candlelight and Wine guy, are you?” Sherrie smiled, as they embraced – sealing the deal.

“I’m saving that for our first night in The Garden Suite, my love…”

TaleEnd!

Billy Ray Chitwood – July 11, 2019

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©The Chameleons

©The Chameleons

By

 Billy Ray Chitwood

 

Beware, the chameleons!

 

They’re everywhere…

 

Classified as ‘highly specialized clade of Old World’ lizards’ adept at changing colors to blend into different environments, but I’m writing here about the human ‘chameleons’, that deceptive and manipulative breed of seemingly common folks who can play and often prey on our good, honest, and innocent Homo sapiens.

 

Take the case of Jeffrey Bullock and Catherine Santos…

 

Now, it is true that Jeffrey is a handsome man with a Grecian face punctured and set with blue eyes and an automatic upper and lower lip that can be in turn persuaded to change with the course of a conversation. Those blue eyes and remarkable lips can turn a conversation into a thing of academic beauty, with his alternating simulations of eyebrows, eye intensity – or, lack, thereof – in sync and on pitch with every word conveyed by and to him. He is without question a master in the art of listening and speaking. Jeffrey is also a pleasingly muscular six-feet height, his smooth ‘copper-tone’ complexion virtually glows in any light, and his body-fat repellence completes his ridiculously excellent physique.

 

It is likewise true that Catherine is a beautiful lady, her long auburn tresses with a lovely flow below her shoulders, her eyes as green as the verdant rolling hills of ‘The Emerald Isle’. Her body is a molding befitting a Goddess, and she too has that copper-tone skin so devastatingly delicate that surely makes her apparitional and beyond any earthly description. Her voice is like a box of music that issues forth a softness of melodious and mellifluous sounds to hold captive any male suitor or enviable and doting female. Catherine stands tall and glorious at her five feet, eight inches, making all shorter men want to kill themselves, the taller men, salivating and ignominiously servile.

 

These two would-be Mythical-like Grecian Deities ostensibly meet on the first afternoon of their ten-day luxury cruise in the Caribbean Islands, she, apparently finishing a ‘jog’, coming to the pool deck bar for a thirst quencher of vodka-tonic, accidentally stumbling, spilling her newly acquired libation in front of our aforementioned Adonis who is enjoined in conversation with another pretty young lady much too young and naïve for any kind of Adonis bonding.

 

In a believable, gallant display of nonchalance and brevity with the young lady, Jeffrey stands from his kneeling position and apologizes vigorously to the modestly attentive Catherine who turns and returns to the bar for another vodka-tonic. Following, insisting on his buying her drink for his knee-bending chatter with the young lady, Catherine shakes her head negatively, and speaks with a near timorous response. “No, I can pay for my own drinks. It was a simple accident. No harm done. Thank you for offering.”

 

Her drink order fulfilled, she brushes past Jeffrey and finds a seat in the middle of chatty sunbathers.

 

The sunbathers are a steady hum of noise and many eyes are following Catherine’s moves, either, openly without deception, or, with. In truth, no one can reasonably fault the onlookers. Catherine Santos is a rare beauty among so many who could be counted among the simply, beautiful. She sits alone for some moments, staring at the enormous cobalt sea that stretches as far as the eyes can see. Only the most daring of handsome men would seek an entrée to Catherine Santos…only Catherine would know the loneliness that came with her incredible loveliness.

 

Then, there is one qualifier that makes a fool of many men, perhaps, in more ways than one. That Qualifier is alcohol – drinking alcohol, that is. A most reasonable sequitur from that conclusion is an imbiber with too much juice running through his veins will find enough courage from a ‘high’ on booze to enter that world of beauty and glamour. Three such inebriates approached Catherine Santos there by the pool, the last of the three causing quite a stir and an embarrassing security escort back to his cabin and his sober wife. The first two sobered fast, left Catherine’s presence meekly and was soon gone from the pool area – either, losing a buddy bet, or, embarrassed by all the snickers in the crowded pool area.

 

Though her drink was only half-finished, Jeffrey brought another drink to her table and requested a brief chat. To the crowd, Catherine showed a nod of ‘no’ and a solemn but pleasant enough dismissal. Yet, he lingered briefly with something said that made her smile. Then, he left.

 

Later, sumptuous dinners were served in a cozy, softly lit gourmet restaurant that only served those passengers who had purchased that cruise option. The wealthier cruisers preferred the more intimate personal service given at The Golden Interval in lieu of the big dining rooms with hundreds of people vying for service. Romantic violin music played slow, delicately even strokes just beneath the conversations in the lovely adorned Crimson and Gold room.

 

Among the diners was Catherine Santos. She sat alone at a small table, conspicuous in her attempt not to be so, dressed in a lovely rose-colored sarong, her beauty accentuated even further by the simple hint of roses. Also, there seated some few tables away was an attractive couple in their forties, smiling, being amused by none other than the charming Jeffrey Bullock. The couple had been poolside earlier in the day to witness the farcical Jesters in their sophomoric attempt to woo Catherine.

 

Jeffrey finally noticed Catherine and stopped abruptly in his monologue. “Please excuse me, Reggie and Deb, would you mind my inviting a lone soul to join us – that is, unless she would prefer being alone?” The couple smiled and nodded an approval.

 

Jeffrey rose and went to Catherine’s table, but was back in very short order and announced to his two recently met friends, “The lady prefers to dine alone and I’m reluctant to admit my embarrassment.”

 

“Don’t be embarrassed, Jeffrey,” was the quick and cheery reply from Deborah Weeden, wife of Reginald, aka, Reggie.

 

“It’s her misfortune, my boy. We enjoy your company. In fact, after dinner, we hope you can attend with us the ‘Special Art Auction’ on Deck Seven’. There are to be some recent original oils by Evan Sloan Glasgow in various nouveau and original ‘scene-sets’ and some Landscapes, Seascapes by Luther Blankenship. We would really enjoy having you with us at the auction…”

 

“Unfortunately, I was not invited. I understand the auction is by ‘Invitation Only’, though I thank you so much for the thought.”

 

“Bosh! Jeffrey, we’re inviting you. We can bring anyone we wish. You will come with us. I shall pull ‘age-rank’ on you, young man and treat you as we might our own son… Now, one more Gibson before dinner. The food is quite marvelous here, Jeffrey, as you might already know, and the Cabernet will add to the overall enjoyment of our meal.”

 

Deborah added to Reggie’s command, “We are so glad we met you, Jeffrey, in the gaming room earlier. By the stack of chips in front of you, it appeared you did quite well for yourself. For some inscrutable reason, I love gambling on these cruises…something about the sea, I suppose. But, then, that’s part of the fun of ‘Cruising’, gambling, meeting new people. I know Reggie and I have continued friendships with those we’ve met on our many cruises…”

 

So, the three talked through their dinner, nodded to Catherine as she had to pass their table in exiting the Golden Interval. She smiled sweetly to Deborah and Reginald but barely acknowledged Jeffrey.

 

One hour later, the trio exited the glass elevator on Deck Seven and entered the ‘Private Invitation Only Art Auction’. Seating was arranged by name of attendees and the comfortable chairs were given numbers to match the guest roster. Some thirty-one people were in attendance for the auction and these were without doubt the wealthiest of all passengers on board.

 

The big surprise for the dinner trio was the presence of Catherine Santos at the auction. She was seated just behind the three new friends. With a quick phone call, Jeffrey’s name was added to the attendance list and seating next to his two new friends was arranged.

 

There was a buzz of anticipation in the small crowd, and the noise outside the auction room was audible but not disconcerting. Deck Seven was given to Art Auctions, a Library, Fast Foods of various sorts, and, for the runners, a jogging oval set apart from the strollers.

 

As a result of the ‘Art Auction’, the Weeden couple winning bids bought them a rare and beautiful Luther Blankenship Seascape extraordinaire, a Glasgow ‘Still-life’, and a magnificent Glasgow ‘Lake House’ oil painting, leaving the attendees agog with the colors represented in the painting. Jeffrey Bullock was impressed with the artist-minded couple with whom he had spent the evening. Jeffrey bid a few times but dropped out when the bidding became too formidable.

 

As fate would have it, the same was true of Catherine Santos. She seemed to desperately want the Glasgow ‘Lake House’ oil but was outbid by an elderly lady in the back row of seats, who was herself, ultimately outbid by Deborah Weeden.

 

At the end of the auction, Reggie turned to Catherine Santos and asked her to join them in their huge and high-end expensive suite. Catherine surprised the group with an affirmative response.

 

The opulent suite had a garden area along with its four plush rooms and a large outer deck for night-time sea-gazing. Both Catherine Santos and Jeffrey Bullock commented on the suite’s beauty without too many lavish-laced phrases. It was not lost on the hosts the carefully worded praise of their suite. It was indeed a formidable penthouse of the Sea, and the group enjoyed their time together. Before the consumption levels reached near the foolish folly level, Catherine was the first to leave with gracious utterings and sleepy eyes. Ten minutes later, Jeffrey left the suite, with a ‘glow’ and gratitude for a fine evening.

 

Before the partings from the suite, the group promised to meet next evening for dinner at the Golden Interval.

 

*

 

“So, what do you think? Is it a ‘Go’ or a ‘No Go’?”

 

“Of course, it’s a ‘Go’. Why else are we here?”

 

“Just asking…there are times when you feel uncomfortable. Just making sure you’re good with the ‘mark’.”

 

“I’m good with the ‘mark’. Did you see something I didn’t see?”

 

“No, not really, just that I can smell a ‘con’ a mile off, just…”

 

“Just, ‘what’?”

 

“Well, the guy is talking some ‘investment scheme’ which is a ‘scam’ but he thinks I’m a big hitter with millions. I’ve got him thinking the investment scheme sounds good and something I might be interested in. I’m playing along like it’s a possibility, plus I told him I was in a winning zone at the casino tables. He thinks I’m going for the investment scheme, if not during the cruise, then, at a later date.”

 

“So, what’s the problem?”

 

“You are my problem. I love you, and I don’t want you getting hurt in all of this. Do I think the guy is dangerous, like, a killer? No, but I need to feel that out just a bit more before committing to the scam. I’ll sleep on it, but Im 90% sure at this point. She’s making a big hit in the casino, and I mean BIG. I stood behind her, and, in just those few minutes, she pulled in more than three hundred grand plus. Those winnings will be wired from the ship into an already huge account. She loves gambling on Cruise ships. Don’t ask me, why, because I don’t have a clue. People are funny in their gambling habits. I do know she wins on the sea and she keeps coming back. We get paid off when the ship wires the money to her bank.”

 

“We can’t do it if you’ve got the ‘feeling’. We agreed at the beginning – if we are not 100% sure about a ‘mark’ or something seems weird, we don’t go on.”

 

“Yeah, I know. Let me sleep on it. If the feeling is still there in the morning, we pull it off the table. And, yeah, I know, this might be the biggest ‘hit’ we’ve ever made…and, the last. We’ve got to get serious about our future.”

 

“Why won’t you tell me how you got the wiring transaction numbers on this mark, and, how does it work?”

 

“Because my source knows nothing about you, and I intend to keep it that way. You don’t need to know the operation. It would make you much more vulnerable. I can tell you it’s a simple system that cannot be traced back. We get the money wired into our proxy account and no one knows us and how we did it. It’s a new untraceable electronic wiring program. I couldn’t tell you even if I knew how it works… By the way, I believe our new-buddy thinks I’m either gay or a misogynist.”

 

“And?”

 

“And, what?”

 

“Are you one of those things?”

 

“What…! I’m going to give you a good spanking, lady! Stop giggling and tell me you don’t harbor thoughts like that.”

 

“Well, I’ve been told…” There was playful chase in the limited space. “Stop tickling me, you brute! You know I’m kidding… Stop tickling…”

 

“Gonna behave?”

 

“Yes, master!” There was one more tickle and the playful activity was finished. “Seriously, Sweetheart, make me a promise: can this be our last gig?”

 

“Yes, most definitely. It’s time we began enjoying the fruits of our labors…”

 

More playful activity came, but this time it was sensitive, soft, beautiful.

 

*

 

Four ports of call and ten lazy, lovely sunny days on the briny, the cruise ended in Miami, Florida. In that time Jeffrey and Catherine had become seemingly very close. In the eyes of new friends, Reginald and Deborah Weeden, the sparkle and spontaneity that their Cruise play pals gave off indicated as much

 

The Cruise Ship’s speakers announced disembarking instructions while both Jeffrey and Reggie left the ladies and luggage in The Garden Suite to visit the Chief Purser for the settling of their bills.

 

On the pier, there were hugs and jolly goodbyes with promises to get again together for another cruise, or, simply to visit each other. There seemed a most sincere bonding of the group, and each couple looked back in their strides to wave.

 

“Nice couple, really. It seems…”

 

“Yes, very nice…don’t go there. ‘Sorry’ is a miserable place to visit. Just remember, they were after what we have. We just beat them to the punch.”

 

*

 

The door slammed making her jump with fright. He called her name and she relaxed.

 

When he walked into the living-room she knew there had to be bad news.

 

“What’s wrong?”

 

“We have no money, that’s what’s wrong!”

 

“What! Don’t do this…it’s not funny!”

 

“You’re telling me, ‘it’s not funny’? Jeez, you don’t see me laughing, do you? WE HAVE NO MONEY! Zilch! Zero! Account empty!”

 

“But you wired the money aboard ship. How can that be?”

 

“How the hell do I know? So? ‘How can that be’, you ask? There is no money in our account! That’s how it can be! There is no money, period. No ship casino money…no millions we had in the account. NO MONEY!

 

“Maybe, it’s just not in yet! Oh, you mean, the money we had in the account is gone, too? Oh, my God!”

 

“Jeez, you’re dense! Wired money is NOW-money? Yes, the account money and the casino winnings, all gone! Why…”

 

There was an insistent ringing of the front doorbell.

 

“I’ll get it,” he said.

 

She followed him to the door.

 

He yanked the door open!

 

“Nice place you have here, Mr. and Mrs. Weeden. You two are under arrest! Put your hands behind your back. You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to an attorney…You…”

 

*

 

“You’re serious? You want to get married?” Catherine – real name, Sherrie Malcomb, asked in disbelief.

 

“Yeah, I’m serious,” answered Jeffrey, real name, Gibson ‘Gibby’ Tierney, “Why would you think I’m not serious? You know how I feel about you, and you say you love me, so let’s do it. We have a major chunk of money now for a huge honeymoon – not too gaudy and/or too showy to call attention to us…”

 

“Wait, no one knows it was us, do they? You said. ‘anonymous’ made it known to the police.”

 

“That’s right! Someone ‘Deborah’ and ‘Reggie’ fleeced on their previous cruise. Not to worry, it’s our pay for getting the job done. Don’t you just love a ‘double-con’?!” The two lovable ‘con artists’ enjoy a chuckle and embrace. “So, do I go to my knees to propose, or, are you gonna save me from bruising my knees?”

 

“You’re not much of a Candlelight and Wine guy, are you?” Sherrie smiled, as they embraced – sealing the deal.

 

“I’m saving that for our first night in The Garden Suite, my love…”

 

TaleEnd!

 

Billy Ray Chitwood – July 11, 2019

 

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Save That Dream

Save That Dream

 The colors were devastating, people sharply defined, the music from the band magically soothing, and my boldness stronger with each sip of the Manhattan on the rocks. It was my third and I was entering that stage of liquid laxity that was both delightful and dangerous, a moment that needs little elaboration for the lotus-eater that controls my moments of merriment, and, good golly, the big band was playing a slow tune. The song was ‘Theme from a Summer Place’, an all-time favorite of mine, one of those marvelous tunes that makes dancing with a lovely lady so very special…so, where was the lovely lady?

It was a special ‘Spring Dance’ in honor of the city’s sesquicentennial, and I was a resident author invited because of my philanthropy, that is, spending so much money in the pubs throughout the city, many donations to various civic causes, and in serious search for a wife replacement. Now, that’s rather blunt, but it’s the truth. A successful author in his prime, having divorced one trophy wife for taking her flirting activities too far, searching all anew for another trophy wife… I’m a bit like Brigham Young, you know, I don’t care how you Bring’em, just bring’em young. One other thing, about the resident author, successful author, let’s keep that between us. I wouldn’t want that to become public knowledge. You likely get my ‘drift’, people bugging me all the time for autographs and free books…I’m sure you know what I mean.

Sitting at the bar looking over the crowd, there were a few possibilities that I could see among the bodies standing at those temporary tables that are used for events such as this. My bartender buddy was an old drinking pal by the name of Paulski – at least, that’s what I had always called him, even though his name was, Paul. The noise in the big room was a constant mix of laughter, talking, music, and Paulski had to nudge me to get my attention. He leaned over the bar and spoke, “Don’t look now, but you’re getting the eye of one hellava looker, brunette, starboard.” Then, he moved away to serve a drink.

I dutifully obeyed Paulski and casually raised my highball glass to my lips and ‘took a look’. Good Lord, how did I miss that beauty. Damn, she was right off the cover of a women’s magazine, hell, make that a ‘Playboy’ magazine. All of a sudden, I’m smitten and bitten by an impatient lust…I’m sorry, folks, I’ve got to call it what it is. It is not something new with me. It’s been a life-long struggle for me, some warped genetic-thing that eats me up when I see a lady so confounded beautiful.

Then, she looked at me and smiled. The bar was horseshoe-shaped, and I felt like leaping over all the booze and mirrors and landing on that empty seat next to the lady. I gentlemanly snapped my fingers to get Paulski’s attention, then yelled at him finally because of the roar in the place. He saw me, finished the order he was working on and came to me.

“You saw her?” he asked with a wide grin.

“Saw her? Hell, Son, I’ve already had her twice while attempting to get your attention. Please, go ask her if she is unencumbered and, if so, may I join her for a drink.”

“I’m on it, Gerard. You owe me, son.” Yeah, we were in Texas, where all the Texas gents call a buddy, ‘son’. It just becomes habit after a time. Paulski was heading back my way with his eyes flicking and a grin a Texas mile long.

“She knows you, son, at least that’s what she says, and she’s read all your books. Get on over there. I’m fixing her a drink and another for you. Go, man, go.”

Her name was Terri, and I did not know her but was doggone happy she knew me and had given me the eye. Man, you don’t know what a ‘headwind’ that gives a feller seeking treasures in femininity. Sure enough, she read all my books, and loved them all, she said. She teasingly told me, “You know, I fell in love with your picture that appears on all your books.” Terri was just about to burn me up with all her lovely chatter.

Okay, I’m going to deny you the scenes that are better left to the imagination. After all, an author has his reputation to maintain. I will only tell you that Terri and Gerard spent the weekend together, then booked a cruise on that Norwegian Cruise Line, got themselves the ‘Van Gogh Suite’, and pretty much kept their butler busy with food and wine orders. We stayed in that lovely suite the whole cruise, except when we were out on our big private deck. Funny how food tastes so good on those cruises. Ahem.

Here’s the shocker… The Captain married us while we were docked in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Terri became my fourth and last wife. Remarkable how you can go traipsing through life being ruled by the writing gods and looking for love in so many places. Then, you find the magical one in your own backyard.

People are fond of saying, ‘don’t be looking for love in bars’, but I’ve got news for those folks: I’ll match my statistics with any man looking elsewhere.

We’re in our thirty-fifth year of marriage as I write this. We never tire of each other. Our big nights out are short and uneventful.

We see Paulski at his own bar every anniversary.

Terri still reads every book I write. I’m hoping one of these days, some other people will join her…

Billy Ray Chitwood – May 28, 2019

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