Death by Smartphone – Chapter 2: Sundown at sea


In chapter one Marlene Martinez, a former Cuban detective, and her niece Sarita go on a Caribbean cruise. One of the passengers is an aspiring actor who acts in a suspicious manner.

The ship was traveling at around 20 knots (23 miles) per hour, the cruise channel informed passengers. The Miami coastline wasn't visible anymore. The casino and the two boutiques, that had been closed while in port, opened their doors.

Marlene and Sarita's cabin was on deck 14, midship. The girl let out a happy cry when she saw the balcony.

"Aw, tía, I didn't expect it to be so big!"

They went out and spent the next 15 minutes deciding where to eat. It shouldn't have been a difficult choice, considering that the three main dining rooms served exactly the same menu. There was also a buffet-style café, but, as Sarita put it, it was less "pipiris nice."

Marlene suggested Delicious, on deck seven that had a waiting time of five minutes, according to the electronic board. But when Sarita spotted Carloaberto outside The Brasserie, on deck nine, she insisted on eating there, though the waiting time was around half an hour. The fact that it was close to the casino accounted for its popularity. Marlene shrugged and agreed.

In truth, she was still intrigued by the exchange between the aspiring actor and the blond guy in the Hawaiian shirt. Once they were at their table, Sarita whipped out her cell phone and announced that she was going to ask Carloalberto, who was sitting by himself, for a picture together.

"I can't wait to post it on Instagram for all my friends to see!" she said. "They'll be so jealous!"

But Marlene wouldn't hear of it. They were still arguing when a tall woman joined Carloalberto and that was the end of the discussion. The woman was a leggy, exotic-looking brunette with green eyes.

"That's his wife, Emma," Sarita said in a reverent tone. "She is a model, a real one, half Venezuelan and half Italian. Ah, I wish I looked like her!"

The girl sulked and Marlene thought about lecturing her on self-esteem and body image issues, but changed her mind. They ate quietly while Sarita kept watching the couple and sighing. Carloalberto and his wife didn't talk much either. The model, as Sarita pointed out, looked annoyed.

When the dessert arrived, another woman showed up at the couple's table. Sarita jumped on her chair.

"This ship is chock-full of celebrities!" she exclaimed. "Do you know who she is?"

Marlene glanced at the newcomer. She was thirty-something, slightly chubby, with brown hair and a mousy expression.

"No idea," she answered, turning her attention to the fried ice cream.

"Helen, his partner! She is the screenwriter for the show. I think she has a crush on Carloalberto... Like, who doesn't? Look, now she is kissing him!"

It wasn't the usual cheek-to-cheek-with-a-kiss-in-the-air style. Hers was a lingering kiss, longer than what the Latino social-kissing protocol dictated. The model didn't say a word while Carloalberto and Helen chatted away.

"Ese huevo quiere sal," Marlene whispered. "Something is brewing."

Her niece nodded with a knowing smile.

"But she doesn't have a chance, does she?" Sarita said after a while. "She is an average-looking lady while Carloalberto's wife is… awesomesauce."

"Awesomesauce? What does that mean, mijita?"

"It means she's super cool."

After dinner Sarita stayed in the casino even though she was too young to play. Marlene was convinced that the main attraction of the place was that Carloalberto and his wife had ended up there too and were now absorbed in their games.

"What a silly thing, to go on a cruise and park your butt in front of a computer," Marlene said. "Can't they do that at home?"

She left Sarita circling around the couple --there were three other teenage girls doing the same thing-- and went to the ship boutique. There she bought a straw hat (she had forgotten to pack one) and suntan lotion. Then she took the elevator to leave her purchases in the cabin before picking Sarita up. They already had tickets for the Blue Man Group show that night.

When the elevator door opened Carloalberto was already inside. At close distance he didn't look that handsome, Marlene thought. His eyes were small and too close together, and his forehead looked unnaturally smooth and shiny, revealing a few encounters with Botox. He got off the elevator on deck twelve.

Marlene entered the stateroom and was surprised by a glorious sundown that ignited the horizon in red and orange hues. She opened the balcony to take a better look. Other passengers were also outside enjoying the sunset.

But not all of them were interested in the beauty of nature. There was a couple making out two decks below. The man was Carloalberto, and the woman was the mousy looking-screenwriter who had smooched him early on.

"I have to tell Sarita," Marlene said to herself. "Sometimes being 'awesomesauce' isn't enough."

She kept an eye on them. Suddenly, Carloalberto left his partner behind and hurried inside the cabin. Marlene wondered if his wife had just come in.

The Spanish version of this story is here.