CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE BY COMMITTEE (14)

You pull the high school class ring out of your pocket and palm it in your hand. You look at it briefly and try to commits all of its features to memory: the large blue stone, the embossed book and jungle cat and what you assume is the diagram of some kind of atom, the flattened football and the 57. You hold your hand out to Bob and spread your fingers wide.

‘I found this earlier,’ you say. You watch his eyes. His eyes are grey. ‘I was trying to figure out whose it was.’

Bob stands still for a moment. He seems slightly out of step, despite the fact that he isn’t moving. Then he snatches the ring off of the flat of your hand. ‘That’s mine,’ he says.

Gavin is watching all of this eagerly. He bounces forward off of the bulwark and spins around to form the third side of a triangle, the other two legs of which are yourself and Bob. ‘You say you found that?’ he says. ‘Found it where?’ There is a glimmer in his eye.

‘Up here,’ you say. ‘Right where Marjorie—’ you glance at Bob—‘was the last time I saw her.’

‘Marjorie,’ Gavin says.

‘Mrs. Shorter,’ you say. ‘Keep up.’

Bob jams the ring onto his right hand. You watch the tan skin bunch around a knuckle. ‘Thanks, I guess,’ he mutters.

‘Well now,’ says Gavin. ‘I imagine my client has some questions about that.’

You lock eyes with Joan, still standing over near the door to the Captain’s Lounge, flanked by the one member of the boat’s crew. Out in the Pacific sunlight, here on the open-air deck, their white uniforms seem to glow. Joan’s blondish-white hair luminesces. Her gaze is solidified. ‘I don’t,’ you say, still looking at Joan. ‘And you don’t have any clients, because you aren’t an attorney.’

Bob regards Gavin and then looks down at the ring newly on his hand, and then back up at you. There is a small whirl of seagulls still circulating above the boat, uncertain about its stability so soon after its recent and sudden movement. The sea continues to lap at the back of the boat and push it forward ever slightly toward Long Beach. At this point you aren’t sure whether Long Beach—and land, and off of this insane boat—would be worth the relief of standing up Eric and Lavinia. By now you are certainly late. You should have been at Two Harbors by now, Joan and her crew and her boat and its passengers forgotten and dispersed across that stupid tiny island. Instead, here you are.

‘Alright,’ you say, ‘Well.’ You walk away from Gavin’s triangle, past Joan and her crewman, observe the four teenage boys still standing like awkward witnesses, and head down the ladder to the bow. Gavin comes trotting after you and at the bottom of the ladder you turn around and stop him mid-step.

‘Don’t follow me,’ you say. The words come out harsher than you expected but you are not unhappy about it.

He raises both hands in symbolic defense. ‘Hey,’ he says, ‘that was pretty cool with the ring. You cracking this thing? You on the case?’

‘Look,’ you say, ‘I don’t know why you think this is so funny. That man up there thinks I killed his high school sweetheart or something. The captain thinks so too and now you’re not so hot with her either. I’d appreciate you not following me.’

Gavin sits down abruptly on the ladder and cradles his head in his hands. ‘Come on, friend,’ he says, ‘I’m bored otherwise.’ He sits quietly for a time. He looks up at you. ‘What’s your next move? You onto the captain yet?’

‘What do you mean,’ you say.

‘Why d’you think she’s so eager to pin it on you? You don’t think it’s weird she won’t call the Coast Guard?’

You look at Gavin. ‘You just tried to steal a boat with a hundred passengers on it,’ you say.

He smiles.

‘Stay here,’ you say. ‘Or don’t stay here, I don’t care. But leave me alone.’ You turn and head into the passenger cabin.

After so long out in the sunlight, the tinted glass darkness of the cabin seems murky and underwater when you enter it. The sunken spotlights in the ceiling seem, instead of bright, to barely be functioning. You blink and feel the strain on your eyes from squinting into the brilliant white of the boat outside in the sun.

You locate the woman with the small child where she is sitting toward the back of the cabin. She hasn’t moved from where she was earlier, from what you can remember. You start walking down the aisle between the rows of padded blue seats and check once briefly to be sure that Gavin isn’t right behind you. He is in the cabin, now, but is standing by the fore door. The other crewmember is near him holding a clipboard tucked up high under one arm—which looks uncomfortable—and Gavin is eyeing him suspiciously.

You see Rick Chavez, the Earth sciences teacher, and he gives you a silent nod as you pass. You look at the woman with the boy and she sees you and her eyes widen slightly and she sits up straighter.

‘Oh,’ she says.

You decide not to ask if you can sit down. You hold your notepad and Bic prominently and try to look as much like a reporter or investigator of some kind as is humanly possible. ‘Hi,’ you say.

The boy is on her lap and is wearing small little-boy plaid shorts and a blue teeshirt with some kind of cartoon animal on it which you don’t recognize. He looks up at you and his face bears an uncanny resemblance to his mother’s. The woman has her hair up in a patterned scarf and is wearing what looks like an African skirt. She wraps her arms tightly around the boy. ‘How can I help you,’ she says in a measured tone.

WHAT DO YOU DO:
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