CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE BY COMMITTEE (3)

You make a motion to the young man and woman behind you. ‘I think she’s looking for her mom,’ you say.

The crewman who is kneeling beside the dead woman’s body puts his head up and says, loudly and clearly, ‘Is anyone here a doctor?’ The standing crewman kneels down and his back is to you and after a moment he says, ‘I think her neck is broken.’

You walk outside onto the V-shaped bow. The young woman and man walk past you through the door and inside and you see the man’s hand placed on the small of the woman’s back and her face is contorted in a particular way. The door closes behind them and you are glad for that although it is glass and you can see in. You turn away and walk over to look out at the water.

The Islander Express is still immobile, the engines off. You wonder what the captain is doing, if he or she will come down into the lounge cabin. What is the procedure for this sort of thing? The boat is still turned to face Long Beach. The only movement is caused by the waves of the ocean bobbing the boat in a sort of uneven shimmy. Somewhere behind you is Catalina Island, are Eric and Lavinia, is their scattershot honeymoon.

The minutes ticking by out here on the ocean, the quiet lapping of the waves, the shrieking of the gulls above, are reducing the time before the boat home later today, back from Catalina, away from Two Harbors. It is maybe something of a relief. You’ve never been to Two Harbors but you can’t imagine that there’s anything to do there besides watch your fellow tourists shuffle through yellow sand and scraps of driftwood on the beach, or drink watered-down margaritas with crushed ice, or reminisce awkwardly with two people whose lives have grown beyond their memories of you. Your relationship with Lavinia has aged to the point that your every conversation is merely a recounting of previous experiences, and with each conversation those experiences trail further into the past. You imagine a great and growing Y shape of your diverging lives. You imagine her in a just-purchased sunhat, Eric with a glob of zinc oxide on his nose and too-expensive sunglasses, chiming in too frequently on the retelling of stories for which he was not present.

Are you terrible? This old woman is dead. Her daughter, maybe, is here. The sun beats down and is hot and the cool salty breeze clings dryly to your skin.

‘You were up with her, right?’ someone says.

You turn. There is a man in his thirties leaning forward against the bulwark, not looking at you. He is wearing thick-rimmed eyeglasses and a dark blue polo shirt. His eyes are squinted against the sunlight. You do not reply.

‘Yeah,’ he says. ‘The little boy saw you.’ He reaches one hand into the pocket of his pants and then appears to reconsider and takes the hand out and rests his weight on both elbows again. ‘Do you know them?’

‘Who,’ you say.

‘The Shorters.’

You feel confused. ‘I’m going to guess I don’t know them because I have no idea who you’re talking about,’ you say.

The man turns and looks at you for the first time and points a long arm toward the windows of the cabin through which you can see all of the boat’s passengers gathered. Several of them are looking at you levelly. ‘Mama Shorter. Her daughter. Her daughter’s boyfriend. Do you know them?’

You look through the tinted glass of the window at the young woman. She is crying, although you cannot hear her. You try to focus on her face, to force it to trigger some sort of memory, some sense of recollection. Through the tinted glass her skin is a dark ashy grey. ‘No,’ you say.

‘Uh huh,’ the man says. ‘Well.’

You don’t understand. ‘What,’ you say.

‘Well, it’s weird. You were talking to the mother, you were talking to the daughter, you knew who she was, but you don’t know them.’

A seagull alights by on the antenna cluster up above you. It works its wings and then folds them silently.

‘I didn’t talk to them,’ you say. ‘Who are you?’

The man pushes the glasses up his nose a little. ‘They all think you did it,’ he says.

‘Who?’ you say. ‘Did what?’

He makes a sweeping gesture with one palm up. It is possibly an intentionally studied and dramatic gesture. ‘They all. Think you did it.’

You shake your head. ‘What?’

‘Mama Shorter’s dead,’ he says. ‘Did you know her?’

You realize suddenly what he’s saying. You can barely remember what the old woman’s face looked like. You remember the dark grey hair, the leathery too-tanned skin on her chest. This is ridiculous. ‘This is ridiculous,’ you say. ‘It doesn’t make any sense. Who the hell are you?’

He holds one hand out in a mock handshaking pose. ‘Call me Gavin,’ he says. ‘I’ll be your attorney.’

‘You’re an attorney?’ you ask him. You ignore his hand.

‘No, but we’re on a boat.’

‘You think I killed that old woman that I didn’t even know.’

Gavin shrugs. The sun catches one lens of his glasses and is blinding white for a moment an you close your eyes.

You reconsider Two Harbors. Overpriced margaritas sound fantastic right now. What happens now? Can you be arrested at sea? Can a boat’s captain perform arrests? Is there a brig? Will they take you back to Long Beach or is there a prison on Catalina? There must be a prison on Catalina. Your mind is beginning to race. For an instant you think that you are being framed, but that doesn’t make any sense either. Why do they even think the old woman was killed by someone? Couldn’t you break your neck falling out of a boat?

DO YOU:

A. Demand to see the captain.
B. Go up to the open-air deck to look around.
C. Ask to talk to Mrs. Short’s daughter and her boyfriend.
D. Try to explain things to Gavin.
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