Too busy to take a Caribbean cruise? Join Carolyn Cook, aboard the SEA MONARCH. A 40-year-old widow, she thought she
was simply substituting for a colleague as hostess on an alumni cruise. She unwittingly carries on board some kind of message,
without knowing who receives it. Uneasy, she confides in a retired army colonel, who takes her to the very stern and businesslike
captain. Suspecting smuggling on his ship, he asks Carolyn to help find the person who switched sacks with her.
characters have their special concerns: The colonel is trying to understand the restlessness his wife has felt since his retirement.
The piano player makes a play for Carolyn and warns her that the captain has a scandal in his past. The assistant cruise director
is jealous of his pretty wife's flirting with his randy boss, while the cruise director is being harassed by his wife
in Miami because he gambles and is low on funds—all leading to suspicious behavior by members of the cruise staff.
finds the photographer's assistant who received the message, and then is the target of a kidnap attempt in Tobago. The
captain convinces Carolyn of his integrity; they spend a heart-stopping afternoon alone together in St. Lucia. But
her ordeal is not over yet.
"Miz Cook," the purser hailed her as she made her way across the wide
expanse of navy blue carpet in the entry foyer. "You leave behind your camera."
Carolyn detoured from her
path toward the elevators, shaking her head. "I have my camera here in my sack."
The tall Italian, resplendent
in white uniform with stiff black-and-gold shoulder boards, picked up the Canon lying on the counter in front of him. "Your
name appears here, on the side. And the folding knife? You are having a knife?"
Carolyn rummaged in the straw bag
she carried, surprise showing plainly on her face as she found nothing but her purse and the scarf she had pulled away from
her neck as she sat talking to the stamp vendor. "But I was taking pictures out by the careenage just a few minutes ago."
She stared at the items on the counter. She hadn't noticed that anything was missing when she thrust the scarf into her
sack. The camera was certainly hers. And the Swiss army knife. Tom had given it to her on their first camping tripCa talisman she always carried in her bag as a connecting thread to her lost husband. How did it
get to the purser's counter?
"Also your cabin key." The liquid black eyes mapped her face as he dangled
"Those things were all in my sack," Carolyn protested.
"Perhaps you are losing them? Someone
brings them here for you?"
"Who brought them?"
"They are just here. I see them only these
few minutes. I not know who puts them there."
Carolyn was silent for a moment, her mind running swiftly over the
short interval that had passed since she had strolled around the little harbor. "She switched the sacks," she murmured
"Pardon?" The black eyebrows shot up almost to the fringe of black curls.
was sitting on a ledge by the wharf, buying stamps from a vendor. A young woman stopped to talk. She had a straw bag exactly
Although his eyes gleamed with Latin warmth, the purser smiled apologetically at the other people gathered
around the counter, waiting their turn to ask for information or cash travelers checks.
"No one saw who left my
things here?" Carolyn insisted. She heard the sharp note in her voice and immediately felt guilty. Just because she was
still mad at her boss for railroading her into making this trip was no reason to take it out on the hired help.
young man stepped back into the open doorway of the office behind him and asked a question in Italian. A female voice gave
a clearly negative answer, and he returned to the counter shaking his head.
"Strange . . .. " But Carolyn
could see that the purser was eager to turn his attention to the other passengers clustered behind her. "Thank you very
much." She collected the camera and the knife and the key and turned again toward the shiny chrome elevators across the
lobby, a little knot of puzzlement wrinkling her forehead. She had been as cool as possible to the young woman on the dock
because something about herCthe way she pushed in too close, rattling on about the
matching sacks, almost breathing in the face of a complete strangerChad made Carolyn
As she remembered her distaste, Carolyn gritted her teeth. She really hadn't wanted to come on this
cruiseCnot with only twenty-four hours to get ready. But George Chandler had swept
all her protests aside, as he always did when he was intent on achieving his own objectives.
She sighed as she stepped
finally into the elevator. It was her own faultCshe should have stood her ground
and said she simply couldn't go on such short notice. Carolyn pushed her floor button, then tucked her hands under her
arms to warm them. Was she ever going to stiffen her spine and stand up to her supervisor's unreasonable demands?