Can you solve this mini-mystery?


By Ryan P. Casey

Detective Lila Reece reached for the handrail as another wave suddenly rocked The Queen Mary II. "Are these choppy waters going to last all day tomorrow, too? I'm going to be sick, and I haven't even seen the body yet."

"I certainly hope not," said Captain Robert Blanford, opening the door to room 4B.

Three expectant faces looked up as they entered the small cabin. One of them, a tall girl in a flamenco dress, quickly came forward.

"Oh, you must be the detective," she said to Reece. "I'm Anna. I'm the Dance Captain here." She looked back at Blanford. "I've been keeping an eye on them, just like you asked. They haven't moved."

"Doesn't look like she's been moving, either," Reece said dryly, nodding at the bed.

A figure in a frilly green ruffled costume was lying on the bed. Except for the marks on her neck, she looked like she was sleeping.

"Her name's Jillian Carlson," Anna said. "She was our newest dancer. She was good onstage, but not so great for our cast. Since day one, she's been causing a lot of animosity among the cast and making rehearsals very unpleasant.

"I came to return some make-up she had let me borrow. I knocked a few times, but she didn't answer. I got worried, so I had the Captain get the master key so we could come in and make sure she was okay. I found her just like this."

"You didn't touch anything?" Reece asked.

Both Anna and the Captain shook their heads.

"And who are these two here?"

"These are two of our dancers," said Blanford. "Since this room was locked from the inside, the only way in or out was through the rooms on either side — their rooms."

As he and Anna stood by anxiously, Reece approached the two glaring, costumed figures and asked what they knew about what had happened.

"I was sleeping," said the first dancer, Anthony Hawkins, a wiry man in a tuxedo and tap shoes. "We have shows every night, and by the end of the week, I'm pretty worn out, so I usually head back to my room and take a sleeping pill and get knocked right out. I rarely go to any cast parties, which was convenient for Jillian, since she would always trash me there," he sneered. "She kept telling everybody I should retire, that I couldn't dance anymore and was never any good in the first place. Give me a break!

"Anyway, like I said, I went to my room right after the show, and I would have slept straight through until morning if it weren't for all the noise from the cast party. I had trouble falling back asleep — but I never left my room."

"And I was never in mine," said the other dancer, Sarah Monaco, clad in a tight blue sparkly jumpsuit. "I hung out downstairs at the bar after the show, just mingling and drinking with the cast and some of the passengers. I usually do that on Fridays. When I got tired of the noise and the chit-chat, I took my drink upstairs and found a quiet place to lean against the railing and record some of the choreography I did today."

She held up a small journal that was filled with pages of perfectly neat, precise diagrams, and said, "I only just got back to my room a half hour ago."

"Are your adjoining doors always unlocked?" Reece asked.

"Yes," Anthony replied. "We all trust each other. Or, at least, we did."

Evidently this was true, for when Reece looked around she noticed the victim's money and valuables were visible atop her bedside table. Little else in the room indicated its occupant's presence.

"It's a little tight in here," the Captain said. "Might we step outside for a minute, Detective Reece?"

"Sure," she said. "And I'll tell you who the killer is."


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