Hello, Fifi. Goodbye, Fifi
“Miss LaChance. Miss LaChance.” The knocking on the door and accompanying voice confirmed to Bond that he was not having a bad dream. Dazed, he stumbled to the door and opened it to view the room steward, immaculately dressed in white. Upon noticing the occupant’s indisposed condition. He excused himself and uttered in broken English, “So sorry, sir. Did not know you were busy. Will come back later.” Were it not for the blood on Bond’s hands, the steward would have done just that. However, on seeing this, he asked if something was amiss.
“Better fetch the ship’s captain, my good man. There’s been a terrible accident.” He closed the door as the smallish man went running down the narrow corridor of the vessel. Bond turned the light on and, finding his clothes neatly stacked on a royal blue faux leather chair, he slowly dressed. His first thoughts were of the decapitated young lovely on the blood-soaked bed. Could he have departed from his own cabin more hastily to answer her plea for help? Why him? He had never seen her before in his life. But that name – LaChance, LaChance. Could she have been socialite Fifi LaChance, millionaire owner of last year’s Kentucky Derby winner, King Fleet? He recalled reading how this beautiful woman was an orphan who was later found to be the only living heiress to the fabulous LaChance fortune. Everything she touched had turned to gold until now.
Captain Haverford reminded Bond of his own mentor, the impeccable M. Cold, penetrating eyes and gray, almost-white hair gave him a distinguished, fatherly appearance. When the captain sighted the headless body, he lost his composure as M never would have been human enough to do. “My God, what has happened here?”
“Well, she certainly did not cut herself shaving.” Bonds words cut deeply into the morose atmosphere and were looked upon scornfully. Why he said something in such poor taste was beyond even his own comprehension, probably to relax the tension which so obviously permeated the cabin. James walked over to the bed, placed one last kiss on the beautiful face, and covered the body with a sheet.
“How long have you known Miss LaChance?” asked the ship’s chief officer.
“We spoke for the first time shortly after the ship’s departure from New York.”
“Come now, Mr. Bond. Surely, you do not expect me to believe that bundle of utter hogwash. How, then, could you be found stark naked with a stranger just a few hours after sailing? That involves an incredulous stretching of the imagination. Have you no reverence for the poor girl? Must you defame her character after she is no longer among the living?”
“Look, Captain, I am in no mood for your heinous accusations. Miss LaChance rang me at approximately 5:10 P.M. and said she desperately needed my assistance. How she knew me, Heaven only knows. Shortly thereafter, I reached her cabin and was knocked unconscious as the lump on my head clearly attests.”
“How can you explain the fact that Wong found you unclothed?”
“That, I cannot answer. Someone must have a morbid sense of humor. When I regained consciousness, I found this beautiful creature lying next to me in her bed.”
“And, when she resisted your atrocious advances, you killed her!”
“That is a lie!” Bond said angrily, feeling cheapened by the atmosphere the captain had created. “She was dead when I kissed her.”
“You certainly do not expect any reasonable person to believe you were making love to a dead woman, without a head, no less.”
“You may believe whatever you bloody well please. I’m returning to my cabin.”
With that flurry of words, James weaved his way through the crowd that had gathered and headed for the peaceful serenity of his cabin.
“All right, ladies and gentlemen, let’s disperse. There is nothing more to be seen. Closing the door behind him, the captain ordered Wong, “Clean up this mess and seal off this cabin so no one tries to enter.”
Used to more menial tasks, Wong beamed with pride at having been given such an important responsibility.
“Aye, aye, Captain. Wong will guard this room with his life.”
Having returned to his cabin, James fell across his bed, trying to blot out the ghastly memory of Fifi LaChance. He wondered what kind of madman would do such a deplorable thing. Surely, whoever did it is mentally deranged. He then thought how neatly the lovely head had been severed from her carcass, as though a razor-sharp guillotine had been employed. The shrill ring of the telephone on the nightstand brought Bond back to reality.
“Mr. Bond, if you want to know who killed Fifi LaChance, meet me at the swimming pool on La Playa Deck.”
Whoever it was quickly hung up, providing no clue to the identity of the indistinguishable male voice. Bond opened the dresser drawer and lifted his .25 caliber Smith & Wesson pistol, which had been peacefully encased in the soft, tan leather shoulder holster. He removed his blue serge jacket and placed the gun in the uncomfortable, yet familiar, underarm position. This time he would not be caught with his defenses down. Although he never had the pleasure of meeting Miss LaChance, while alive anyway, Bond still wanted to avenge her death. She had much too much to live for to have met such a wicked end.
The elevator stopped on La Playa Deck, and Bond exited. The night air was bracingly cool, and a bright full moon shone brilliantly on the calm Atlantic. As he sauntered over towards the deserted swimming pool, his flaring nostrils detected a familiar, pungent odor. It was unmistakably the stench of burning flesh.
“Over here, Mr. Bond,” came a voice from the shadows obscuring the 16’ by 32’ swimming pool.
007 ducked behind a wooden chaise lounge, listening for any strange sounds in the night. He heard nothing, so slowly crept towards a small puff of smoke smoldering about ten yards forward of his secured position. As he approached, the putrid odor intensified. On reaching the origin of the smoke, Bond recoiled and had to fight off a strong urge to vomit. There, lying in the middle of the oversized barbeque pit was the charred body of a very dead young woman.
Swiftly, catching Bond completely unaware, a life preserver crashed into his skull and knocked him headlong into the swimming pool. There was no movement from the water save soft waves created by the gentle swaying of the pleasure cruiser.
To Be Continued on the All Star Press Authors Blogs