Murder by Smartphone – Chapter Five: The drowned phone


Review: Marlene Martinez, a former Cuban detective who now lives in Miami, takes a Caribbean cruise with her niece Sarita. With them travel Carloalberto, an aspiring actor who behaves suspiciously, his wife Emma, and Helen, a screenwriter who is Carloalberto's partner in a TV contest. In the second chapter, Marlene discovers Carloalberto kissing Helen in his cabin balcony while Emma is in the casino.

A day later, while visiting a shamana during a shore excursion in Belize, the woman, who claims to read the future, tells Marlene that she will soon follow a blood trail again. Afterwards, Carloalberto and Helen are voted out of the contest. Sarita tells her aunt that, according to online gossip, he has gambling debts and some unsavory types may be after him.

They were getting close to Costa Maya. The North Star would dock in port sometime before midnight. At five o'clock, on deck 15, tanned and slightly drunk passengers danced to a Caribbean band that played "La Bamba." Others sipped mojitos or soaked in the whirlpools.

The breeze was soft and balmy, and the sun shone between the clouds. The deep blue sky stretched in a perfect circle above the ship.

"It's selfie time!" Sarita announced as she positioned herself in front of her cell phone.

Other passengers had exactly the same idea. Carloalberto, in the company of "his women" as Marlene privately called them, was snapping pictures of himself and his companions next to the mojito bar. Emma was her usual bored, indifferent self. Helen seemed to have recovered nicely from the "tragedy" of being knocked out of the contest, laughing and posing next to her friends.

Carloalberto was a bit nervous, however, and it wasn't difficult for Marlene to figure out why: a few feet away from them was the blond guy who had threatened him in that very same spot the first day of the trip. He kept an eye on the aspiring actor, who had a forced smile plastered on his face.

Marlene found it amusing to watch the watcher. She wondered if the stories that Sarita had read about Carloalberto's gambling debts and the "bad guys" who were after him were true. Now that she thought of it, he spent a lot of time in the casino. But so did other passengers when there was nothing more constructive to do on board.

Her musings were cut short. Her niece had stumbled on the wet floor and lost her balance trying to hold herself and her phone at the same time.

"Let me take the picture for you," Marlene said, annoyed. "You are going to end up breaking your cabeza with all this silliness."

"It would be worst if I were to break the phone," the girl replied.

Now it was Helen's turn to take pictures of their group. The three of them put their heads together. Marlene was busy snapping photos of her niece and didn't get to see what happened, but she did hear, like everybody else on the deck, Helen's desperate cry, "My phone!"

In the middle of the selfie session, her smartphone had slipped off her hand and fell into the ocean.

A small crowd congregated around the screenwriter, who, visibly upset, pointed to the waters where her beloved device had disappeared.

"See what happens when you go around taking pictures all the time?" Marlene told her niece by way of warning.

Her words fell on deaf ears. Sarita recovered her phone and started taking pictures of Helen, Carloalberto and the commiserating crowd. Emma had vanished and the blond guy wasn't around either.

"I am sorry about poor Helen," Sarita said. "This trip hasn't turned out to be too fun for her. First, she lost the contest. Now, she lost her phone. Nothing worse than life without your Smartphone. She should have requested a limpia with the Belize curandera."

"Maybe she can get one in Costa Maya tomorrow," Marlene replied.

Once the ruckus was over, Marlene convinced her niece to accompany her to the library, the only place in the ship that the girl hadn't visited yet. Sarita leafed through a couple of books, but they didn't hold her attention.

"This place is as dull as ditch water," she said.

A raffle had started in one of the boutiques, and Sarita wanted to attend. The raffle was a disguised sale of all the overpriced items that had been languishing on the shelves since the beginning of the trip. Whenever something was going on on board, Marlene had noticed, it was set up with the intention of separating the passengers from their hard-earned money.

No free lunches, no matter what the cruise company claimed.

Suddenly Sarita, who had been checking her text messages, exclaimed, "This is fantafabulous, tía! Lookie that."

She showed Marlene a message with a link to a story in the Miami Herald.

"Despite being voted out of The Terrific Two, the young Cuban actor is eyed for the lead role in new film," Sarita read, emotion choking her words. "Dubbed the next William Levy, his agent says they are in talks with several producers about future roles."

"But what about Helen?" Marlene asked. "It doesn't seem like anything has been offered to her."

Sarita sighed.

"You are right," she said. "On the show, they often say that screenwriters have a harder time finding jobs than actors. I think she is out of luck. But hopefully we are not, so let's go buy tickets for the raffle. And don't forget that we have the Dangerous Dazzling Party tonight. We can't miss that!"

The girl ran toward the elevators.

"Wait a minute!" Marlene shouted after her. "What kind of party are you talking about?"

Read the Spanish version of this story here.