Diamonds Are Forever by Rita Cheminais
Max and Camilla Partridge had finally sold their jeweller’s business. They were both looking forward to enjoying a Mediterranean cruise to celebrate the start of their retirement. As they boarded the Queen Elizabeth liner at Southampton they were feeling rather apprehensive, after hearing stormy weather was forecast around the Bay of Biscay. A bellboy directed Max and Camilla to their stateroom, which was located midship
(port side) on the high deck.
Max and Camilla began to unpack their suitcases and place their valuables in the stateroom safe. There was a knock at the door, which Max answered. To his utter amazement, standing before him was Gloria Blair – a former assistant, who used to work in their jeweller’s store. She was wearing an elegant black cocktail dress and a diamond necklace. In her hand she clutched a diamond-encrusted evening bag.
Max was as white as a sheet, and remained speechless.
This can’t possibly be real, Max thought to himself, because Gloria Blair disappeared five years ago, presumed dead, following a diamond theft at our Partridge’s jeweller’s store.
Newspaper reports at the time speculated that Miss Gloria Blair had been kidnapped and subsequently killed by a ruthless diamond thief.
“Well, hello Max,” said Gloria. “Fancy seeing you here after all this time. I bet you never imagined I would reappear again after having gone missing, presumed dead.”
On hearing Gloria’s voice Camilla rushed over to join Max at the stateroom door.
“Hello, Gloria. Max and I, like the police and the press, thought you had been murdered. The stolen diamonds were never recovered, you know. I notice you still have a passion for wearing diamonds, Gloria.”
“Well, sorry to disappoint you, Camilla. Here I am. Perhaps you and Max would like to join me after dinner this evening at ten for a drink in the Commodore Club bar… Look forward to catching up.”
“OK. S-s-s-see you later,” stammered Max, closing the stateroom door quickly.
“Can you believe the coolness of that woman, Max? What a nerve she has got… turning up like this, out of the blue. I sincerely hope she isn’t going to ruin our cruise of a lifetime.”
Max returned to finish his unpacking. He found it difficult to concentrate on what he was doing. Camilla suggested they open the complimentary bottle of champagne in their room, enjoy their chocolates and watch a film on the television.
“How about watching the James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever, or The Return of the Pink Panther?” said Camilla.
“I don’t think either film would be appropriate to watch, Camilla,” remarked Max abruptly.
“I was only joking, my love. Relax, unwind and focus on having a really good time on board ship.”
“Do you honestly think it is possible to relax, Camilla, with the return of Gloria Blair? It is almost as if she knew we were going to be on board this ship.”
“You’re becoming obsessed with the woman, Max. She’s only an ex-employee who disappeared five years ago, at the time of the shop break-in and theft. We got most of the money back for the lost diamonds on our business insurance anyway.”
“You are probably right, Camilla. As usual. I’m overreacting. I promise I won’t give Gloria Blair a second thought from now on. Let’s finish the champagne, take an afternoon nap and enjoy a shower together before we dress for dinner,” suggested Max.
“Sounds good to me, Max. Let’s go for it.”
Max and Camilla dressed for dinner. The beautiful diamond necklace Camilla wore glistened and glittered like a million stars lighting up the night sky.
“You look wonderful, darling,” whispered Max, as he gently kissed Camilla’s neck.
Their table in the Queen’s Grill restaurant by the window was perfect, as they could see the white crests of the waves striking the side of the ship as it sailed across the sea. After enjoying a delicious meal and an excellent bottle of Malbec wine they made their way to the Commodore Club bar at the front of the ship.
It was dark outside. Max and Camilla could feel the ship rolling from side to side. Gloria waved to them as they entered the bar. She beckoned them over to join her for a drink. Max ordered three double amarettos with ice. Gloria opened the conversation after an initial pause of silence.
“Well, isn’t this nice? The three of us all together again. How long, Max, did you think you could get away with the theft of the diamonds from your store?”
Max nearly choked on his drink and remarked,
“I don’t know what on earth you are talking about, Gloria.”
“Oh, come on, Max. Don’t act the innocent with me. You’ve had five good years free from me and the law. Now it’s time for you to pay the price for involving me in your little game of fraud and deception. I bet Camilla would love to know what you’ve really been doing over the last five years. I suggest we all leave the bar now and we continue this discussion outside on deck. I’ve got a gun in my bag – so don’t try any funny business, either of you.”
Max and Camilla walked out of the bar ahead of Gloria, who followed close behind them. The ship was really rolling from side to side. They all struggled to walk in a straight line. It was absolute madness to go outside on deck in such stormy weather.
As Max opened the deck door the wind howled and the spray from the sea hit the deck. A ship’s officer passed them and suggested it would be unwise to remain on deck in the current weather conditions. Gloria told him they only wanted a quick smoke, and that they
would shelter by the deck door. The ship’s officer said he would return in ten minutes to check that they had returned to their rooms safely.
Perfect, thought Gloria to herself. Ten minutes is all I need.
Camilla clung to Max, not knowing exactly what Gloria was going to do next.
Gloria told them both to move over to the ship’s side rail, out of view of the door.
“Don’t try to call for help,” said Gloria, “otherwise you are both going to pay the price. Give me your necklace, Camilla.”
Camilla undid her diamond necklace and passed it over to Gloria. Max made a sudden run to grab Gloria’s bag as she was taking the necklace from Camilla’s hand. Gloria, however, was too quick for Max, and she fired the gun through her bag.
Max fell to the deck with a thud. Blood began to ooze out on to the front of his shirt where she had shot him in the chest. Camilla screamed.
“Shut up,” yelled Gloria.” You are going to have to help me push Max over the side of the ship.”
Camilla and Gloria pushed Max’s body over the side of the ship. Gloria threw her bag into the sea. Gloria turned round and looked at Camilla, and Camilla stared at Gloria. Neither spoke to each other. Just then the deck door opened and the same ship’s officer they had met before asked them to return inside.
“Where is the gentleman who was with you before?” enquired the ship’s officer.
“Oh, he finished his cigarette earlier than us and he has already returned to his stateroom. We were just about to go back to our rooms too, officer… weren’t we, Camilla?”
Camilla didn’t reply. The officer said, “Goodnight, ladies,” and locked the deck door behind them as they made their way back to their staterooms.
“Well, Camilla, our little plan worked beautifully. Max hadn’t got a clue what was going to happen to him. Let’s get a good night’s sleep, and in the morning you report your husband missing to the ship’s purser. Here, you had better take your diamond necklace back. Diamonds are forever ours. Goodnight, Camilla. Sleep well.”
From the upcoming short story collection
Twelve Thrilling Tales by Rita Cheminais (Troubadour Publishing)
Courtesy of Rita Cheminais and Troubadour Publishing)