All Hands on Deck!

Ahoy, mateys!  I’m taking part in another group-writing roleplay game thing on Young Writers Society.  This time, my character is one of many unlikely passengers on a cruise ship, where we’ve been assembled to solve a mystery and everyone has a dark secret.

The story is called All Hands on Deck – if you want to read the rest, it can be found here on YWS.  (Content warning: Based on what my co-writers are contributing, I’d potentially rate the story on a whole PG-16 for mildly suggestive dialogue, strong language, and violence a’la And Then There Was None by Agatha Christie.)  Here’s my first from my character, Jane‘s, perspective:

A hot, salty breeze whips her brown, almost black hair around, pulling tangled strands out of a halfheartedly fastened clip as she surveys the dockyard. There are clusters of brightly-colored tents, smiling locals hawking expensive but pointless souvenirs, and several sunburned tourists hover around the scene in skimpy attire and flip-flops.

Everything looks so happy … fake-happy. It hasn’t taken long for Jane to realize – re-realize? – that there’s no such thing as happiness in this world. Not even on vacation.

Jane West hasn’t slept a wink during the flight to the Bahamas. Lack of sleep = increased paranoia, she reasons as she walks towards the immaculately white cruise ship that’s docked a few blocks away. (You’re not in the city anymore, she chides herself irritably. Stop thinking in its block-headed terms!)

When she arrives, no one else is around. Jane wonders if she’s at the right ship, even if it’s the only one for miles that looks remotely cruise-ship-y. She consults the papers Pritchett gave her the week before – yup, this is the right one.

Drawing in a breath to steel herself, Jane hefts her worn, blue duffel bag – containing everything she owns – over one shoulder and makes her way up the gangplank.

Already, just by agreeing to come here, she’s earned three million dollars … and a promise that’s unlikely to be kept. But honestly, the three million will do just fine.


One week ago….

“Jane.” There’s something vaguely familiar about the way her name’s been spoken, although – to the speaker – the name itself is wholly unfamiliar. “Is that what you’re calling yourself now?”

Daring to sneak a glance at the customer she’s serving, Jane locks eyes with a tall, thin man in a suit whose tailoring made the worn, red bench he was sitting on seem tackier than usual. For someone so extravagant in appearance, he’s ordered a simple coffee, black and sugarless, and one soft-boiled egg.

Wordlessly, Jane sets the food down, being careful to not spill the mug’s murky contents. This wasn’t the first time a male customer had attempted to start a conversation with her today, and it hadn’t ended well the last time. Five bucks an hour is barely enough to get by as it is, but even Jane has her limits on how far she’ll go to earn a generous tip.

This one is persistent, though. “You need not be so aloof, my dear.” His beady, coal-like eyes dart across the diner’s faded interior. “Look around you. Although you may not remember, I may be the only friend you have left in this world.”

“Would you like anything else from the menu, sir?” Jane asks coolly, still skeptical and plenty suspicious. To herself, she’s wondering, How could he know?

The man gestures to the opposite bench in the booth. “Please, Jane, sit down and allow me to explain.”

Casting a glance at the boss (who’s busy putting out a fire from the newest excuse for a short-order cook), Jane slips hurriedly into the proffered seat and mutters, “You’d better make this quick, capisci?”

“I’ll make this brief,” the man affirms. “My name is Nathaniel Pritchett and I believe that we each have skills and resources to help each other.”

Jane rests her arms, crossed, on the table’s scratched, graffitied surface, and laughs harshly. “Who says I need anyone’s help?”

Pritchett smiles serenely, knowingly. “Jane West, I’ve watched you for longer than you can remember. And it is evident to me now, from your lack of recognition, that you cannot remember much.”

Bruce, “The Boss” of this two-bit Rock ‘n’ Roll Diner, tells her to get back to work soon, or there won’t be any for her to get back to.

“I have to go.” Jane slips out of the booth and dusts off the hem of her ill-fitting waitress’s uniform.

Pritchett slides a small envelope across the tabletop. “This will explain the rest. If you help me, I will help you to rediscover your past.” Jane takes it quickly – not out of eagerness or enthusiasm – and shoves it into the pocket of her apron. “I’ve included my contact information. Call me when you’ve decided. You have forty-eight hours.”

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