Azure

Azure. Turquoise. Dark teal. Jagged edges ran from one mottled puddle to the next. A jigsaw puzzle with hues dependent on the passing cottony puffs against the robin’s egg sky, or what lay on the ocean floor. The Moiré pattern shimmered as spotted sea turtles flew through the water, over the dark or sandy stretches. They disappeared over the blackened areas where their speckled shells blended with the dense, chiseled rocks below.

From a deck four stories above, I was a voyeur.

I rolled down the shoulder straps of my tummy-controlling suit thus avoiding tan lines. Between slathering on thick sunscreen with an SPF that diminished my tanning possibilities, and soaking in any bit of Caribbean sea life within my view, I sat or walked the railed deck. When I stood, the snug bathing suit held itself up. Boats, ski-doos, and catamarans, came close to the shore, and cruise ships appeared along the horizon.

My Books ‘n Cooks group of twenty years, seven women who cooked meals based upon the books we read, had just completed A Caribbean Mystery, by Agatha Christie. A meal of Souse and Sweet Potato Pie inspired us to vacate our northern climate, trading crystalline, road salt for grainy, white sand. We all loved a good mystery, and Agatha-style murders, for a group of squeamish middle-aged women, were always free of gore, carried out and deduced in logical and ingenious fashion. Had Ms. Christie’s fictitious island of St. Honore existed, we would have gone there without hesitation. We chose Barbados; a real island with a low murder rate. A direct flight from JFK meant we would be sun-drenched by mid-afternoon. Miss Marple aside, island distilled rum and Barbadian Macaroni Pie would be at the Oistins' Fish Fry the night after we arrived.

Over the years, we had spent long girl’s weekends together, but after three winter blizzards, we planned a two-week escape. All, but one husband understood, and we enlisted the other six to keep him occupied.

We rented a spacious waterfront bungalow, although bungalow did not do the new-built, four-story edifice justice. Floor to ceiling windows gave entrée to a conversation about how non-child friendly this house was, how we suffered from empty-nest syndrome, yet yearned for our years as flat-tummy 30-year-olds. We were eager to exfoliate our feet with warm sand, and not wear Thinsulate lined boots while dodging melting piles of dog poop on Central Park’s trails.

The upper deck spanned the entire house, and each floor had a balcony, the biggest on the communal level. The lowest one was a stone patio where the sea brushed over when the waves broke against the retaining wall. Raw sugar-colored sand coated the beach chairs after the water flushed back.

It was from the uppermost deck, with its stainless-steel wire railing, that I saw the ship. Oversized double, yellow hulls held the catamaran afloat. Two large outboard motors powered the boat along with the mainsail and jib. It must have moved at a clip, having appeared without detection. It dropped anchor around 1:00 p.m. and the first day I paid little attention. Lots of boats dropped anchor in the spot.

As the first week passed, I held my post on the upper deck, becoming more intrigued with the boat each passing day. It seemed the catamaran appeared around the same time every afternoon. Lots of other vessels came by daily, but I spotted most of them somewhere along the way and long before they threw in their anchors. Or I heard them approach—loud music, loud people. The sun, drink, and seawater encouraged boisterous energy. But the catamaran arrived unannounced.

Other catamarans had small outboard motors, but made use of the mainsail and jibs to ease into their spots where they lowered ladders or allowed passengers to plunge off the side. Motorboats sped into place and cut their engines abruptly, sending huge ripples, adding to the number of waves topping the seawall and moistening the lower deck. My tanning preference was the beach, but the tide, even when low, touched the base of the house’s wall. A gated stairwell made the water accessible for cooling off.

Only after my curiosity piqued, and I realized the boat came every day, did I pay undistracted attention. There was no warning. It was a glance, a scan, and voilà. There it was. This boat did not make surfer-worthy waves. The wind did not stir up. The more attentive my observations, the more I heeded that a calming of the elements came a minute beforehand, and no matter how hard I focused or refrained from blinking, I never learned the boat’s directional approach.

Not there. There.

Revelers engaged in collegiate spring-break behavior.

With the number of rumbling water-based vehicles, most of which I ignored, it took a few minutes to disrupt myself from tanning to concentrate on the catamaran. My skin glistened from the floral-scented suntan oil. I had tired of the sensible suit and my abs ached from sucking in my saggy gut. I retied my bikini top, stood up, and rotated the lounge chair to align with the sun and nestled back in. A sun vacation was a salubrious treat. Tanning took intense dedication. It nourished my soul, and I daydreamt about the possibility of living somewhere without deciduous trees, a steady temperature, and endless days of blue.

Knowing that the catamaran would show momentarily, I disrupted my trance. It was an event worth rising from my prone position. I reviewed my blinking process, concluding that I never held my eyes closed long enough for a boat to materialize out of thin air. As farfetched as it seemed, I found no other viable explanation. Flatlanders aside, cruise ships crept to the edge of the horizon and disappeared morning, noon, and night. This vessel eluded me. It really appeared from nowhere.

The ship positioned itself about a hundred feet from some orange-red bobbers, marking a channel between our house and Batts Rock Public Beach. It hovered over a patch of light golden, shimmering sand.

The other six in my group were birdwatchers and plant enthusiasts, wore 50 SPF, and wide-brimmed hats. I would see my dermatologist in March. When we regrouped at cocktail hour, I reported my boat and botany sightings of the day, and they recited Latin names for Barbadian botanical species, and the island’s birds. After several local rum-laced drinks, on the kitchen level deck, we conversed about the logical reason for the bobber-lined channel. As animal lovers, we decided it was a nesting site for the turtles. In Barbados, they are both endangered and revered. Plausible.

Boaters quashed the theory at high noon the next day when a two-engine deep sea fishing vessel pulled in between the markers. Turbo engines maneuvered by a private captain. He wore a hat. Once the anchor tumbled over the bow, a fair-haired family climbed into an inflatable dingy and motored ashore for lunch. Turtles were a side benefit, but not the reason for the stop.

Deflated that it was not a turtle sanctuary, and was a reserved parking space for the beach restaurant, I observed other boats anchored farther out, floating above light blue ocean patches. I presumed swimmers enjoyed the clearer water and the ability to see what they swam over. Light sand meant easier shark-spotting. Quint’s devouring in Jaws by the mechanical shark lived on. In my over active daydream, an imaginary bloody puddle spread out over the serene turquoise Caribbean Sea.

With my breadth of view, I would yell if I saw a shark coming. Noisy or otherwise, I bore no ill will against the rowdy vacationers. At least not to the point of sanguine demise. Our land neighbors harbored a rooster who crowed from before daybreak until post-sunset. He had a greater chance of a short life than the rowdy youth. Shark thoughts ebbed and flowed, but a craving for fricassee grew from endless rounds of cock-a-doodle-doos.

After forty-five minutes of glancing at the captained vessel, the grey dingy returned with the family. They were all too perfect looking, and had the captain not had fluid, lifelike movements, I would have mistaken him for a Ken doll in his creased white shorts and navy shirt. The captain handed the family members something as they came on board, after which they settled into sun chairs; the boat backed out of the channel. Silence shattered as the captained vessel’s gargantuan turbo engines roared and reared, with the boat’s bow lifting off the water on a quick turn. The wake hit our seawall, and the water fizzed like exploding champagne. I held my vigil at the deck’s railing on the top balcony, listening to the crashing waves but not looking down a second time. I would not miss the catamaran today.

It was 12:45 p.m. Plenty of time to prepare for the catamaran. I ran down to the kitchen for more water and Pringles. At 12:55 p.m., I picked up the binoculars from the side table, scanned a 180° arc, and reversed. In Agatha Christie novels, the lights go out, a thunderstorm darken the room, or everyone is elsewhere when the murder occurs. The murder being the high point of the story. This took place in broad daylight, and without a cataclysmic event to indicate something ominous was about to occur. I neither resembled Miss Marple nor Hercule Poirot, but I’d read enough to understand the intricacies of British mystery sleuthing, or so I pretended. I restricted my blinking and lowered the binoculars. There was nothing on the horizon and nothing in view with my bare eyes. I held my forearm up at eye level to note the time, but did not block my view of where the ship would appear. 12:59:43 p.m. Quick binocular glance. 12:59:50 p.m., nothing. My eye muscles ached. Scotch Tape. Anything to not blink. 12:59:59 p.m.

My heart lodged between my ears, and the gushing echoed outwards. Caught between anticipation and deflation, I looked directly at the watch, and in the nano-second it took to examine the numbers on my iWatch as they squared off to 01:00:00, and then focus on the water, an anchor line stretched off the bow of the yellow-bottomed, double-hulled catamaran. Absorb the details crooned Miss Marple with her hat askew. Three heads bobbed on the ocean’s surface with wiggling appendages, viewable through the sunlit sea, and a booming speaker blared while several young men in knee-length flowered Jams bathing suits played air guitar to Billy Idol’s ‘White Wedding.’ It seemed like antiquated music for college-aged kids, but retro music has resurgences. This would be an almost thirty-year gap since the shirtless musician dyed his hair platinum and spiked it into stiff peaks.

Others screamed and passed brown bottles to one another. Guesstimating the number of revelers at thirty, it was a lot of action for a small ship. A few girls at the bow lay on towels and undid their tops once on their stomachs. Near the stern, two strapping young men grabbed a girl in a florescent pink bikini under the arms and by the ankles. Her shrieks of repetitive NO-NO-NO did nothing to avail the boys from hoisting her over the side. She hovered over the water for a second before her bottom broke the water’s tension, followed by waving arms and legs. I held my breath. I assumed she held hers. I imagined the sting of salt washing through our nasal passages. The bubbly froth flew upwards in a V as she descended from view.

I doubt her pink bathing suit was not the only pink thing on her body after she hit. She resurfaced and unlike Venus rising on the half shell in awe and splendor, this young woman’s calamitous shrieks resounded off of the houses lining the beach. It looked like she never stopped yelling from when the boys hurled her overboard until the reemergence. ‘NO’ was not amongst words she yelled at them.

All this transpired within about one and a half minutes. How had I missed its arrival? The boat’s landing spot would have still been within my line of vision when I glanced at my watch. When I drive, I check the dashboard and can still see the road. I realized most boats when they came in, disturbed the sand below and it took a few minutes to re-clarify and settle. The sand below the catamaran was not stirring. Only the girl treading water, yelling at the boys, who roared and held their sides, along with a few others who jumped in, broke the waters placidity and the calm’s silence.

I thought about the tranquility of the moment before the boat’s arrival. I was an amateur in this mystery sleuthing and had little idea about how to keep on top of potential clues in real-time. If something whisked the catamaran here, shouldn’t’t a gale force wind whip up a whirlpool and make leaves fly off of trees? That’s what happened in the movies. And like a shocked starlet, I would have resembled Billy Idol, but with dark hair and spikes over a foot long. Loose strands of hair sat limp on my neck.

In the moments before and after the catamaran’s arrival/departure, not another ship set anchor or ventured into the otherwise popular area.

One toss-er disappeared from view and the remaining moved to the ladder, perhaps to aid the young toss-ee.

The youngsters were of curiosity to me, but the boat intrigued me more as to how it maneuvered undetected. Miss Marple never left the Cotswold or wherever she was investigating until she’d completed her due diligence. I’d only just begun the quest. I stood my ground, controlled spaced out sips from the gargantuan water bottle at my side, lest I require a bathroom break and have to leave my perch. Standing aided my concentration. I shifted my weight to prevent my legs from going numb. The sun beat down strong in the mid-day heat.

I’d missed their arrival, but I would not miss their departure. I planted myself at the rail, 15-SPF ultra-action, waterproof lotion rubbed in, hat, sunglasses, and on the table next to me, the binoculars, and a full water bottle. Curiosity dug deep, and I wanted to know if they left as they arrived. Miss Marple and Poirot would have approved. The waterlogged, hurled girl continued her yelling and thrashing. The boy who left, had returned, and the swingers reverted to varying positions of bent over knee-grabbing-to-ribcage-clutching in their gregarious laughing fit. The words from the young, wet woman indicated that she failed to see the humor in their antics as she swam towards the ladder. One young man extended a hand to help her up. But instead of taking his hand, once on board, took her ponytail and ran her hand down, wringing the water out and spraying the chivalric young man whom she, moments earlier had called a ‘prick.’ If I were still of college age, I would have done likewise. The dripping damsel sauntered to the far side of the boat. I was envious of their frivolous nature, thinking about the hours of researching, discussion, and frozen dinners for husbands that my friends and I had gone through to make this trip happen. What happened to carefree living? Other than the hangovers that resulted from youthful exuberance, I’d kill to not have crêpe paper skin at my joints.

A few boys cannon balled off the bow, splashing four or five young women who lay on the spread-out towels. Each one of the young ladies was less clad than the next. The boat drifted, and the bow faced head-on in my direction. The sun arched higher and moved further to the right. I took a few necessary sips of water, pressed my legs together, and held my gaze. With my arm resting on the railing, my watch in clear view, the numbers crept closer to 02:00:00 p.m., and a group, mid-deck danced to Irene Cara belting out “What A Feeling.” Leg warmers excluded.

Tethered to its anchor, the boat rocked and twisted, pivoting and revealing tanners, dancers, swimmers, and those hanging out. Brown bottles looked plentiful, and a young man mixed drinks by pouring from a fifth sized bottle into cups that were held on outstretched arms as he passed by. Dark rum most likely. We were in Barbados.

02:29:00 flipped to 02:30:00 p.m. and the partying showed no signs of ending.

I eyed the water bottle out of desperation as the afternoon sun hit its highest point and focused all of its heat on the rooftop deck. Small dribbles moistened my palate. I risked bursting and having it trickle out of me if I slogged down more. From four floors up, a golden shower to the balcony below, would not be appreciated. I adjusted my stance, watch, and watchful eye.

The boat and revelers mesmerized me, and if my housemates had returned, I had no way of knowing; the house dulled sounds and the steady breeze prevented hearing anything from inside or on the lower decks. Our group had followers, leaders, and a sun-worshiper, hence our routines separated out during daytime hours. I sunned on the upper deck and the housemates explored the island and established a ritual upon returning from their jaunts, which was to plant on the Adirondack chairs on the deck below. Each one would most likely have a rum punch highball resting on the chair’s sidearm, and if it was close to 5:00 p.m., I joined in. But only after I put in a full day’s work in the tanning department.

That day, a waft of fried chicken meandered up my way. At first, I thought our neighbors might have tired of their roosters shenanigans, but it seemed to come from the deck below me. I’d been so ensconced in figuring out where the boat came from and how it departed, that lunch escaped me. I slipped my finger under the plastic watchband. A bead of sweat dripped out onto the metal railing. 02:59:00 formed against the black background. Someone must have reheated the chicken. I made a mental note to grab a drumstick on my way to the shower later.

At the ready for their departure, I reached for the binoculars. In reaching around without taking my eyes from the boat or crouching, I waved my hand in the general direction and level of the table, or so I thought. I missed the binoculars, but toppled the water bottle. Startled by the loud thud as it hit the rubberized decking, I flinched. Humans blink when they flinch. And always turn towards a loud sound. And in that involuntary flinch of the body/blink of an eye, that water bottle plummeted to the surf below, and the catamaran quieted down and evaporated. A body convulsion to watch a plastic water bottle become a piece of arbitrary flotsam in Long John Silver’s graveyard is when the ship vaporized or exploded into zillions of invisible particles.

Water bottle be damned. I took care this time reaching for the binoculars. After adjusting the vision, I scanned, doing a repeat performance of the arrival, but hoping to see the boat’s retreat toward the horizon or Bridgetown or Holetown. I didn’t’t care which direction it took, as long as it was a tangible, visible one. Similar to its arrival, the scan with the naked eye or the enlarged view returned lovely glistening water, a sun-drenched sandy strip of beach, some sailboats, a cruise ship, and a few other skimming-the-surface catamarans.

Clue one, arrival was calm.

Clue two, departure was turbulent. My hair lifted in wisps from my neck, and the Bougainvillea swayed. Waves lapped up over the lower deck.

I did a happy dance upon the discovery and decided even though I missed the actual coming and going of the catamaran; I learned what signs to look for the next day.

They came. They partied. They swam. They left. Windy happened either before or after. I took a quick trip down to the loo, grabbed a new water bottle, returned to the deck, and adjusted my beach towel on the chair behind me, settling in to work on my tan. My stomach rumbled. I thought about the chicken, but I’d missed so much time in the chaise already. I shoved three Pringles into my mouth. Pieces sputtered to the ground and a couple of tawny colored birds came to roost on the railing.

By late afternoon, the waves softened their crashes against the retaining wall and withdrew into themselves revealing a wider beach. The tiny black hummingbirds hovered at the calmed Bougainvillea tree, sipping nectar from the fuchsia flowers. Flowers that matched the girl’s bikini from the catamaran. Birds consumed drops of nectar and flew to a tree next door. Diminutive as they might be, they were visible to the naked eye. Unlike the ship.

Furious that I had allowed the water bottle to plunge and watch it instead of the boat, I’d wasted my entire afternoon gleaning nothing more than climactic alterations. I was no Miss Marple. I’d failed the most rudimentary aspects of clue discovering. I’d spent the entire afternoon glued to the upper deck like a whaling widow pacing her peak, awaiting the return of her sea captain with oil and blubber to sustain them through the winter. It was that or lizard-looking with the housemates in the Barbadian Botanical Garden. But unlike the widow in her black crocheted shawl, I knew when my vessel would return.

I collected my belongings, and draped the towel, toga-style, across my shoulder. My friends had returned and were a solid drink in. We shared our day’s events; theirs in detailed precision, mine as a vague requiem for our youth about the viewing of the catamaran and its youngsters. I mentioned nothing about the oddities of its appearance.

Away from the constant breeze on the upper deck, I caught a whiff of the sweaty-fruity suntan lotion blend, and excused myself for a shower. We agreed to go out for dinner, settled on a restaurant, and set aside time for a pre-dinner nap. I was too excited to sleep, ignored my growling stomach, having forgotten about the chicken, plopped on the bed with a towel wrapped around my head, and propped myself against the headboard to Google about boat schedules, docking times, and pleasure boat cruises.

Showered and smelling of coconut shampoo, I googled every catamaran rental company for 1:00 p.m. boat trips and in particular, ones that dropped anchor at Batts Rock Beach.

Not a single one listed a boat in their schedule for that place and time.

I plotted a different approach and decided the next tactical maneuver would be me at beach level.

The next day, at 12:00 p.m., I walked down the path to the public beach to the seaside grill where the captained boat people had eaten the previous day. The waiter fulfilled my request and seated me at an oceanfront table where I could view the catamaran’s anchoring site.

As the young man handed me the menu, I inquired about the boat. What boat? Not at all the reply I expected, or wanted. Really, you’re unaware of the yellow-hulled catamaran, I asked, hoping the specifics would jog his memory. He launched into an explanation that he could pay attention to his tables, or the water, but what kind of waiter would he be, if he forgot a fish taco?

How was it I saw the boat out there and the waiter did not? If it was a daily occurrence or had an ominous rendering, such as being a ghost ship, he must have heard something of it. Island lore. But the more I pressed, the more the young man reiterated that he’d never noticed the boat. He did not offer any further information about it and asked what I wanted to drink . Whether I struck on a topic which he deemed unpleasant, or had little information about, I’ll never know. What I knew, was that it was a rather large object to miss and his lack of answers added to my frustration. I would have seen it from the beach restaurant. I hoped it would float into its place while I was having lunch. I’d been here a week and saw it every day from the house deck. This would be my first eye-level sighting.

To not dismiss the young man’s opinion, since he could have been right, I allowed myself to venture into his line of thinking. It was an illusion. Illusion. A quick vacillation between definitions of daft and disturbed flitted through my mind, about me, not him, and then wondered if sharing my visionary observations was not the way to go. I had not just seen the ship; I had heard the joyous cacophony of college-aged bliss.

The breeze died down at 12:59:00 p.m. My fish tacos arrived thirty seconds later, and when I looked up from the waiter’s very tanned hand, contrasting against the white paper plate he had placed in front of me, the boat was there.

Look! I pointed at the boat. Where? There, I said, poking at the air. The young man shrugged his shoulders and shook his head. I swallowed hard and wondered if I lost a few marbles on the walk to the restaurant. Are the two overstuffed tacos real? He smirked and asked if I needed anything else. I’m sure he engaged in activities that might have altered his vision. That boat was there. I didn’t need to rub my eyes. I lifted the fish taco, and the warm juice ran into the crook of my hand. I bit into the soft taco. Real and good. And with a mouth of Barbadian spiced fish, I cocked my head a little to the right, clenching my teeth around the thick taco, and watched the boat bob. Up. Down.

I polished off my lunch. Every few seconds I checked the ship. Same people, same noise, same music, same girl hurling off the side. The oddity of what I observed held me spellbound. It was a replay of the day before. I ate my taco in silence, dripped fish juice on my new white tee-shirt, paid, and walked back up the path. There were no stray marbles along the way.

There must be a story about the catamaran. There was a story. But who was going to tell me what the story was, if I was the only one who saw the boat?

After willing myself to take a break from the sun, I skipped the rooftop deck. Hours of googling ghost ships, ships with ghosts, invisible and visible catamarans, and a plethora of long-tail keywords all followed by ‘Barbados or Batts Rock Beach,’ brought little. Until I scrolled quite far down on the page, discovering The Barbados National Library link. I found archives of the two most prominent newspapers. The Barbados Advocate dated from 1895 and The Barbados Nation started in 1973. Out of curiosity, I first looked at what news they reported back in 1895. The General Mercantile ran out of beans, Harbor Fish Market offered a special on King Fish, and Nanny Flannigan’s goat had run off. Again.

I switched to The Barbados Nation. The catamaran partiers had been listening to early 80s music, which was, I hoped, an indicator of when the boat had sailed. Swimsuits are hard to pin down as fashion era markers. Although nothing that skimpy would have appeared before the 60s. A quick search for Madonna and Michael Jackson brought up lists of their music, and I searched for titles I heard scratching from the catamaran’s speakers.

Since the music was all after 1982, I hoped it would help to narrow my forage to a five-year period.

Microfiche. Photos of microfiche. So much for online, blog-style articles.

A group text for a drink on the deck dinged. It was an hour of unsuccessful searching, and I graciously accepted a lime topped rum punch. Tall glass. Lots of ice. Little punch. Lots of punch from the rum. They pressed me further about my ship and what I’d been doing other than sunning while they were off exploring the lush, tropical aisle. I shared that I’d been living out one of our mysteries without referencing Miss Marple and Poirot. I was ready to share the details, and as I did, four of them sat forward in their seats, one said, ‘yeah right,’ and the sixth one chugged her rum punch, looking over the rim of her glass with her eyes bulging like a National Graphic cover jungle frog. Until I finished about the catamaran, the pink bikini, the pothead waiter, and the inexplicable appearance and disappearance of the boat, not a one said a word. When I concluded, they gave off a round of nervous laughter. The conversation launched into what Marple and Poirot would do and how they would handle it, realizing they both existed and investigated pre-Google; we all agreed their methodologies would have differed from what I had access to. And we were mystery readers, not bona fide detectives. We only came in after they named the culprit. I was still at the beginning and the book’s spine had yet to crack. And I was on the fence about what was real, surreal, or not real.

The subject changed. We chose our next book, not a mystery, and after more drinks and dinner, I returned to my room to read the back lit, fuzzy bits of sideways scanned microfiche slides.

Three hours of tilting my head at different angles to read the headlines on the askew slides, and on November 26th, 1983, there it was. A headline in bold letters, Fall Squall—Catamaran Disappearance. A photo of a catamaran filled with faces too small to make out in the black and white fuzz of dots. The photo must have been a different boat, or a picture of another crew, taken earlier. But it looked the same as what I’d seen.

Word by word, I read the article. A boat full of college-aged students, had chosen a vacation in Barbados instead of their respective homes, to savor Barbadian Maccaroni Pie and King Fish for the Thanksgiving break. These young tourists left on a chartered sail only to be caught off guard by a late Fall Squall with gale force winds. It was a school break from which they would not only never return, but from which no one would ever find them. Thirty people. None. Not a body bobbed in the ocean near where the squall hit and not a waterlogged corpse washed up on the Barbadian shore. Or any other nearby island. Not that there is anything that close. My stomach tightened.

Forty years hence, I swear from that upper rooftop deck; those fun-loving youngsters looked as solid as my hand. But there it was, scribbled on microfiche. These people were dead, how did they make the water splash if they could pass through solid structures? What limited bits I understood about ghosts came from cartoons and movies. They were translucent and walked through walls. These people stood on a solid boat deck. They were opaque and displaced the ocean water when they jumped or someone hurled them in. I had seen the surface tension break, white foam splashing upwards.

I’d read plenty of ghost stories. I loved a good campfire story scare, but never questioned the reality of the tale. Goosebumps formed and involuntary spasms twitched through my core. These ghosts were real. These were real ghosts. It was 01:23 a.m. when I closed the computer. I lay on the bed, clothed, looking out at the ocean. The rooster crowed for the umpteenth time and the light cracked. I awoke with my forearm over my eyes, and drool running down my cheek. Now that I was aware I was looking at or for a ghost ship, I could be more strategic in rationalizing how to understand why someone delegated me, chose me, to see this ship and the young dead people. Dead. No wonder the waiter looked at me askance before he took my taco order.

A housemate yelled that breakfast was ready. It was 11:00 a.m.; I did not have long to prepare. I went up, already dressed, and we ate on the deck. As they discussed the day’s plan, I stared at the boat anchoring spot and informed my friends, I would not join them again that afternoon. Boat watching, they chimed. Yes. I held the details to myself this time or they might have summoned the men in little white coats to retrieve me. I still wasn’t sure what I believed about the boat, but I was about to find out.

I donned a yellow bikini, not as skimpy as the pink-bikini hurled one wore, but enough that it was not a one-piece. Instead of going to the rooftop deck to sun, I took my towel and walked down the path to Batts Rock Beach. At the beach, I veered right before the entrance to the restaurant and planted myself on the sand, in line with where the catamaran would appear.

I removed my cover-up, lay out my towel, and took off my flip-flops.

At 12:55 p.m. I would wade out and, as the boat appeared, would swim to meet it. I’d blend in by going on board, circling the deck, jumping in and at 02:59:59 when they were about to depart, I would climb back up the ladder and discover where they disappeared to the other twenty-two hours of the day. There were enough of them for me to get lost in the crowd. I needed an answer. The apparent differences were stark from my detective mentors, as I was younger than Miss Marple, yet fitter than Hercule Poirot, but like both, I developed a penchant for having to solve the mystery. I wanted to solve this. It would eat at me if I did not uncover where that catamaran evaporated to. I was pretty confident, I’d appear with it the next day. Confident is too strong a word. Giddy and frivolous, but I was on a mission. Plenty could go wrong, but when was the last time I’d taken a risk? I was alive. My internal drum pounded. Maybe my aging skin would no longer hold like a stiff peaked egg white when pinched. After all, the boaters maintained their youth. Would I recapture mine?

The time neared. I waded, holding my feet firm in the shifting sand. The wind died down, and I pushed toward the deeper, darker water, where the shelf dropped off. An underwater tug pulled me further out than I was ready to go, and while swirling into the cool clarity of the azure sea, I realized I had forgotten to leave a note for my housemates that I might not be back in time for dinner.

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