The breeze ruffled my hair like the teasing fingers of a seductress as the ship cut the smooth waters of the Atlantic. Even at 3 a.m., the air felt warm.
“Oh Tom,” said my wife Helen, already at the boat deck rail. “Isn’t it beautiful?”
She was right. Most of the ship’s lights were out. The stars shone hard and bright in the ebony sky. The ship’s wake glowed a phosphor trail stretching back to New York.
Add to the sights the afterglow of sex. The third time this trip. The third time in probably the last 5 years. And the third time Helen had suggested sex in our 20-plus years of marriage. Helen seemed to be taking this “second honeymoon” idea to heart.
“Coming,” I said and wobbled the short distance between the door and the rail. We’d drunk champagne after our coupling, again her idea. I drank most of the bottle waiting for Helen to primp and preen for our middle of the night jaunt to the deck. Sex, champagne, and a rocking ship did not make for a steady Tom. I reached the rail and hung on. Helen slipped her arm through mine, her warmth and scent filled the air.
It was almost a pity that Helen wouldn’t survive the trip. The past twenty years had been a long haul, starting the business in 1927, trying to keep it afloat in the 30s, and then making a fortune from government contracts during the war. It would have been wonderful if I could say Helen was by my side the whole way, but she wasn’t. No, she was shopping or complaining she needed more money for shopping.
“Don’t you love this?” she said and laid her head against my shoulder.
“Um,” I murmured. I would have loved it if Anne, my secretary for the last five years and lover for the last two, were by my side. Perhaps next year.
The instrument of my deliverance was aboard ship. Below, in third class, Mr. Timothy O’Shannon — ruthless but trustworthy, I was assured — was traveling to Dublin to be with his dying mother. For the consideration of $1,000 and a round-trip ticket, he would suppress his grief until he’d murdered Helen in London.
I couldn’t help smiling at the thought. I hoped that Helen didn’t know the reason for the smile.
“Hello fo – folks.” A drunken male voice interrupted my reverie. A man, dressed in formal evening clothes, shuffled towards us. Helen looked around me to see him and giggled nervously. She tightened her grip on my arm. His tux seemed to fit poorly as clothes often appear to do on a drunk. His bow tie was loose and hanging from his open collar. He carried a champagne bottle in his right hand and a half-filled flute in the left.
He shuffled until he was standing next to me. “Luffy night,” he said, and drained the flute. “I’d offer you some but I’m all out.” He turned the bottle over and a couple of drops of liquid dripped out. Then, with a flick of his wrist, he tossed the flute over the rail.
My eye followed the champagne glass for a second. I turned just in time to see him swing the bottle at my head. Bright lights flashed. I heard Helen giggle some more. Hands, two pairs of hands, gripped my legs and rolled me over the rail. My world turned upside down and then I was flying, falling. The last thing I remember thinking before I hit the water was, She’s killed me.
My Hell mate was formerly a Professor of Physics at Moscow Polytechnic in the late 1800s. An anarchist who liked to set off bombs in a crowd, he became his own victim when one of his bombs went off prematurely.
He tells me the height of the boat deck on the Queen Mary is 113 feet above the water. By his calculation, I fell for 2.65 seconds, attaining a speed of 85.31 feet per second — almost 60 miles per hour — before I hit the water. At that speed, water is as hard as concrete.
I know. I was there.
There are, I fear, worse fates then spending eternity with a physicist. Mr. Timothy O’Shannon was true to his word. Just now, I heard that Helen is being processed and will arrive soon to be with me. For eternity.
Jim Malcolm is a retired Electrical Engineer and Computer Scientist. He had a forty-two year career in project management, software development, and software engineering. Since he retired, he has wondered if his talent of writing for machines would translate into writing for people. Jim has edited The Civil War Journal of Private Heyward Emmell, published by Fairleigh Dickinson University Press.