The 747 banked sharply, giving passengers sat in its left side a panoramic view of Los Angeles. The smog LA was renowned for, cast its dirty wisps on the windows, as the plane lined up to land at the airport and another ten seconds later, with barely a bump touched down with its mighty engines roaring into reverse.
Chucks, along with others, began gathering their things when the plane halted. The previous two years had been intensely busy at work for Chucks Obi bringing him to the edge of exhaustion and near breakdown. Having seen a music website advertising his favourite musicians performing on this eight day smooth jazz cruise, he quickly booked on it. As a result of the strength of the pound against the dollar exchange rate, he had upgraded from a basic package to a five star stateroom with a balcony on the cruise ship SS Flower Of the Sea. It would be six concerts daily, eating and hanging out with performers like Gregory Porter, Gerald Albright, Marcus Miller, Brian Culbertson, Jeff Lorber and Kirk Whalum.
Lalah Hathaway and Chaka Khan would be singing too. Chucks had all their CDs and had been to individual shows over the last thirty years but for them all to be on the same ship over eight days, was a dream come true. Hey, who knows, he might even have a shot at sex with Chaka Khan whose picture had adorned his bedroom wall when he was 15 years old.
As he cleared customs and immigration, he saw a woman holding up a placard with his name on it. He headed to the woman who looked the perennial blonde failed actress type, and was a chauffeur for the ship organisation.
‘Hi there, I’m Chucks Obi’ he said pointing to the placard.
‘Well there, welcome to LA’ she said ‘I’m Millie and on behalf of the SS Flower Of The Sea, hoping that you have a great cruise. I’m going to take you to the docks where the ship awaits’ making it sound as if Chucks would be the sole passenger.
Outside the airport was a black stretch limousine and she opened the back door for him. He lowered himself in, looking like he did this every day of his life with a bored expression on his face. Millie put his bags in the trunk space, got into the driver’s seat and pulled away. As she did, she lowered the partition window and started to make conversation with him.
‘You’re from England, aren’t you? I just love English accents and hope when I make it big in the movies, I’ll come over and see Big Ben.’
‘Ah, a future movie star are you, Millie? Could I have seen you in any TV or films so far?’ Chucks inquired.
‘I was the person who walked past Harrison Ford in a University Canteen in the third Indiana Jones movie. I didn’t have any speaking part in that one but I’m hoping other roles turn up’
Doing some rapid maths Chucks said ‘That was fifteen years ago! Anything else since?’
Millie replied ‘None but I had a lot of auditions and this driving work is just temporary until I get the big call. I had some surgery to make me stand out some years ago. I had my bust enlarged to a 36 DD and my ass has been padded too. Really good surgery too and you can hardly tell.’
Chucks thought ‘I can and have as well’ but refrained from saying anything. He looked out of the windows as they drove onto the Harbour Freeway the twenty miles or so to the San Pedro docks. America’s freeway vastness of ten lane organised mayhem never ceased to amaze him as he enjoyed the air-conditioned limo, whilst outside it was sweltering 35 degree weather.
As they drove the last two miles, he craned his neck to look at the Flower Of the Sea which looked huge. Chucks had been on one of those Scandinavian cruises with his ex wife which had been about looking at glaciers and whales. Another time, another life he sighed as he stepped out of the car and onto a gangway. Millie handed his bags to a baggage handler and Chucks tipped her a ten dollar bill saying ‘Best of luck Millie. I hope to see you in the movies’
Millie said ‘Gee, thanks. Here’s my card with my cell phone number, so if you are ever in town, call me and you can tell me all about England and the Queen’.
Gazing fleetingly at Millie’s surgically augmented breasts, Chucks said ‘Trust me; I will call you when I’m in town and free. Bye’ as he made his way up the gangway.
At the top of the gangway, boarding passengers made their way to the purser’s desk to check in.
When it was Chuck’s turn, he handed over his tickets and passport which were taken away from him, scanned and was then issued with a laminated card bearing his picture. This would be used when disembarking in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico where they were going to be in port for some days.
The Cruise Director greeted them and showed a video presentation on health and safety warning them of periodic drills during the cruise.
Cruise director Tanya had told Chucks ‘Travelling alone, I see. Well don’t worry about that, you’ll have a great time and we will look after you’
Finally armed with a swipe card and directions, Chucks took an elevator to the upper decks to his cabin. As he entered, his breath was taken away by the splendour of his cabin with it’s full wall of glass and a balcony. The view off the balcony was stunning and a gentle breeze fanned his face. With the sun high in the sky, he thought jokingly ‘I’ll have a chance to work on my tan’ as he looked at his dark skin. He felt the strain of the various projects he had successfully completed over the last 24 months. Even the ever present headaches had lessened.
He started to unpack his bags which were now in his room, carefully putting away contents of one of the cases which looked like a musician’s bag. These were his tools of trade, which he placed under the bed where hopefully, snooping stewards would not find it. Quickly changing as it was now noon, it was time to explore this vast vessel and all it had to offer. In baggy shorts and a ‘Coolest Cat from Nija via England’ T Shirt, he sauntered down the huge spiral staircase in his expensive looking sunglasses, which he had actually bought off eBay for a fiver.
As he approached the bottom of the stairs, he could hear a soprano saxophone playing somewhere and he saw the musician. ‘Holy shit! It’s Kirk Whalum’ he thought and indeed it was. Chuck’s favourite saxophone player was strolling about the main deck playing Through The Fire, followed by a crowd of people and the MC for the cruise, Jonathan Butler. Chucks had a daiquiri drink thrust into his hands as he moved in rhythm to the music and the party was on.
Refreshed with a little map, he went through the various ballrooms and theatres where the concerts were to be held. None had stages, so there were no barriers between the artistes and audience. Two fellow travellers who were Americans introduced themselves to him. Alan and Christian were smooth jazz aficionados like him and this was their second music cruise. Alan said ‘ Chucks, what you need to watch out for are the women who come on these cruises to hunt for husbands’ Christian chimed in ‘..and we really mean hunt’.
Chucks laughed ‘Ha, ha, you guys are yanking my chain.’
His new friends looked at each other, shook their heads as if in pity. ‘Guess, we’ll have to let you find out for yourself’.
Before long, the trio were joined by other fans. It became raucous with introductions which turned into a mighty roar, as a man carrying a guitar came by to say hello. In his trademark pork pie hat, was master bass player Marcus Miller.
‘How y’all doing?’ he said in that distinctive New York drawl of his. He was playing in the Lido Deck in three hours and hoped to see everyone there he said.
‘Now, that’s what I’m what I’m talking about’ Chucks thought.
The Flower Of the Sea cast off an hour later with everyone crowded on the rails to wave good bye to whom ever was standing on the docks. Pushed out of the harbour and turned southwards, the cruise began.
Chucks had noticed that females seemed to outnumber males by roughly three to one. As he and his new friends approached the 24 hour dining room, a gaggle of women came by to introduce themselves. In the mass of first names exchanges, Chucks couldn’t make out who was who, but the ladies seemed to range from their mid forties to sixties although with the prevalence of plastic surgery, this could have stretched into the seventies. Smiles, with no skin twitching or moving were give aways. Handshakes with glances at wedding ring fingers were the order of the afternoon. Sheila, a blond forty/fifty/sixty something latched onto Chucks staring into his eyes and asking him where he was from. ‘Birmingham, England but grew up in Nigeria’ Chucks answered. ‘I’ve been to Birmingham’ she said ‘with my fifth husband when we toured Europe. Poor thing, that’s Harry, my husband. He had a heart attack on the flight back to Austin, Texas and died.’
‘Sorry to hear’ Chucks answered. ‘It’s alright’ Sheila replied ‘After that, I married two more husbands but now no more marriages. I’m going to enjoy the single life and if you let me, we can enjoy this cruise together’.
Starting to panic by now, he very gently manoeuvred her hands off his saying ‘I’ve got to go see Marcus Miller perform’. ‘Who?’ Sheila said. ‘Marcus Miller, jazz musician’ Chucks said. ‘Oh, one of those. I don’t really care about the music but this cruise is a great place to meet some men who still have their own teeth and hair’. Over her head, Christian and Alan were smirking as they enjoyed Chuck’s discomfiture.
The first three days were a seemingly endless array of great concerts and shows, autograph sessions and having breakfast in the mornings with Brian Culbertson, Gerald Albright and Najee.
First night, Sheila came knocking at his cabin door about 2 am and he let her in. That had a glorious end, he reflected. He now realised why he didn’t see many of the men in the gym or recreational areas when there were no concerts on. It was simple, they were hiding in their cabins from the ravenous packs of women. The men’s Do Not Disturb cards were permanent fixtures on their doors.
By the time the ship got into the Sea of Cortez, past the Rocks of Los Arcos and docked in Cabo San Lucas, Chucks had entertained five females in his cabin. He regaled them with stories of his fictional working life as a software developer. Three days later, it was anchors up again and the ship headed back to Los Angeles. Najee was in fine form with his saxophone playing and Gerald Albright tore the roof off with his version of My, My, My during his set. Chucks had a great time in his cabin with the cruise director as she seemed to have had plastic work. By the time the Flower of the Sea docked again in LA, she had arranged a fifty percent discount for him off his next trip. It was a tired and grinning Chucks who came down the gangway to be met by his chauffeur driver Millie. ‘Hello again, Millie’ Chucks said.
‘Hi, did you have a great cruise?’
‘Yea it was nice but even better to see you’ Chucks replied. Millie raised an eyebrow and said ‘Your flight isn’t for six hours so why don’t I show you my apartment?’
‘That would be nice and I can get to see your enhanced boobs close up’ Chucks avowed.
Millie’s apartment was in the down scale area of Pomona as she parked the limo and they stepped out. Chucks looked worried as his bags were in the boot of the vehicle. Seeing his glance, Millie said ‘Don’t worry. The car’s alarmed and in spite of the way this area looks, it’s quite safe.’
‘I’m sure it is but could I just take out one of my cases and bring it in with me? Chucks said
‘Sure’ Millie answered as she opened up the back and Chucks grabbed his musical instrument case bringing it into her apartment.
Without much ado and obviously proud of her breasts, Millie had her chauffeur’s uniform off, standing in her panties showing off the curve of chest and derriere. Chucks had opened his case whilst she was undressing and they began to kiss as she pressed her chest onto his. As she raised her face for him to kiss her, he reached from behind him a serrated edge knife and slashed her throat from left to right, stepping back as her blood gushed out.
She died two minutes later and as her body lay on the floor, he took out the other tools from the case. He was done quickly as he had a flight to catch back to England. He cut open her chest and with an evil look, removed the silicone bags which some surgeon had inserted into Millie some years ago. Chucks suffered from frontal lobe disorder, caused when a so called lingerie model with enhanced breasts had crashed her car into him headlong. The bitch had been texting and not paying attention to traffic. Chuck’s recovery had been slow and the head trauma turned into a full blown mental illness, with hatred and a need for vengeance against all women with plastic boobs.
Locating her bathroom, he washed the blood off the silicone bags and added it to those of Sheila, the cruise director and five other women he had murdered on the cruise. After killing each female, chosen because of their breast augmentation, he weighed them down and threw them off the balcony of his cabin. Millie however, he would have to dump somewhere. He took the car keys and backed it up the drive and having rolled her body into a rug, placed it in the trunk. Chucks drove the limo back to LAX and leaving it in long term parking boarded his flight. His thoughts as he settled into his seat were ‘The music on the cruise was superb. Well worth the money I paid for it’.