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Deep Sea DeadA Pauline Sokol Mystery
By Lori Avocato
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Lori Avocato
All right reserved.
"What? A boat? I mean a ship? I could fall overboard and drown! It could sink! Look at what happened to the Titanic!"
My skuzzy boss, Fabio Scarpello, glared at me with -- well, one could never really know what Fabio thought, so I decided not to even guess.
It was more than likely X-rated anyway.
He puffed on a relit cigar. "The ship sails from New York to Miami to Bermuda and back. Who the hell ever heard of an iceberg in those waters?"
I wanted to argue that there might be pockets of cold water out in the Atlantic that could form into an iceberg, but I knew my imagination was just trying to come up with some wild excuse not to go. I wasn't going to mention my being prone to seasickness though. Fabio would turn that into something embarrassing.
After a few more puffs, he said, "Look, doll -- "
"Don't call me doll. Ever." I sat straighter in my seat across from his mold-covered desk. Okay, maybe mold-covered was a bit strong, but I was guessing there had to be something growing beneath the used paper plates, coffee cups, piles of ashes and files. He had my folder in his hand.
"Okay, newbie -- "
"Pauline, Ms. Sokol or Investigator Sokolwill do fine," I started to sip on my decaf cafe latte that my coworker, friend and roommate Goldie had made me earlier, then decided it more than likely had been contaminated when I'd walked into Fabio's office.
He cursed under his breath. "Investigator Sokol is a stretch, but if you want to keep your freaking job, you better take this freaking case. High seas or not."
A nurse on a cruise ship.
I should have been excited about the assignment. I mean, come on. Salty sea air, wind in my hair, sun, bronzed males, coral sand of Bermuda and . . . waves. My stomach lurched.
And back into the old nursing career. That same career that I kept vowing I would never go back to. Damn.
He shoved the file toward me. "Want it or not?"
Not would have been my first choice. Pauline Sokol was not one for change. Pauline Sokol was not one for water transportation. And Pauline Sokol was not one to be stuck out in some nautical God-knows-where, investigating medical-insurance fraud . . . alone.
Admittedly, I've never been out of New England for a vacation or any other reason, and that probably had something to do with my reluctance to try new things. Hope Valley, a very "ethnic" community, had been my home for thirty-five years -- and I kinda liked my feet on Mother Earth.
But there were those nasty things called bills that had invaded my life. And they required being paid. And that required money. Sigh. I looked up to see Fabio tapping his cigar into the dirty ashtray.
Amid the flying ashes, he asked, "Well?"
I snatched the folder. "When do I leave?"
"Friday? It's already Wednesday."
"One of the staff nurses onboard got, er . . . sick. It's perfect. Just perfect. Bon voyage, doll."
I decided to ignore Fabio calling me doll again since my mind got stuck on the word Friday. April 13. Perfect. My new assignment would start on an unlucky day. I hurried out of his office and paused in the hallway for a breath of fresh air.
I spun around to see my tied-for-best friend in the world, Goldie, rushing down the hall. My other roommate and other tied-for-best friend in the world and Goldie's "honey" was Miles Scarpello. Fabio's nephew. Adopted. His saving grace.
There is a God.
Goldie dressed in Gucci, Prada and Armani. Sometimes from the ladies' department, sometimes from the men's. But I still loved him, and he always looked like a movie star. Today he ushered in spring with a pink, black, white and orange spiral-patterned sweater over black slacks and a pink camisole top. He wore a Sandra-Dee-blonde ponytail wig that looked more real than my natural blonde hair. Looked very sixties. And very beachy. How fitting.
Maybe I could borrow the outfit for my cruise.
"So, Suga" -- he yanked me into his office, which looked like a cross between New Orleans (Goldie's hometown) and the jungle. Gotta love his unusual taste -- "what's your new assignment?"
I held the folder out toward him as if it were a snake. "Here, you look. I don't have the stomach for it so early in the morning."
Goldie patted my head in a very Goldie-like sort of way. "Let's take a look-see." He ripped a pink-printed nail through the end of the envelope, and amid the tearing sound mumbled, "Shit."
"Shit? What does shit mean?" I slumped down on the zebra couch, feeling a bit faint. I think the color drained from my cheeks upon hearing Goldie's tone alone.
He looked at me for a few seconds. I had the sudden thought that he was making up some kind of lie. That hurt, but if Goldie lied to me, it would have been for my own good.
"I . . . well, what I meant was . . . Shit, you get to go on a cruise to some warm, sunny island, and I'll be stuck in stupid Hope Valley, Connecticut, with temperatures in the fifties all month." He took a gigantic swig of his coffee. Goldie never swigged.
I could only stare. Was Goldie really concerned with the temperature? Or had he seen something in the folder that I should be worried about? After several minutes of silence and then him offering me another latte over and over, I finally asked, "Gold, are you lying to me?"
"Yes!" flew out of his mouth on a breeze. He flopped onto his leopard chair and looked at me with a pitiable glare. "I'm sorry, Suga. But, Bermuda. Bermuda! Ber . . . mu . . . da!"
Excerpted from Deep Sea Dead by Lori Avocato Copyright © 2006 by Lori Avocato. Excerpted by permission.
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