As the eighth book in the Charlotte Diamond Mystery series opens, former FBI senior agent Charlotte and her movie star significant other, Brenda Boynton/Brandon, are taking quick advantage of a recent change in Maryland’s same-sex marriage laws to tie the knot. Unfortunately, from the very beginning of the ceremony, the naturally tumultuous life of the two becomes overshadowed by a wedding full of disasters in the form of a freak March snowstorm, the theft of the wedding limousine, and a murder and moves on to the honeymoon from hell.
The honeymoon continues to unravel as the two, accompanied by their wedding party of Charlotte’s doctor brother, Chance, and his minister wife, Marilyn, and Brenda’s movie star son, Tony, and his professional tennis star girlfriend, Michelle, plow through the snow to make their Bahamas honeymoon cruise connection in Baltimore harbor. Once on board, Charlotte becomes steeped in more of the mysteries that seem to attach to her like magnets and Brenda again is wooed back into her movie star mode.
As the shipboard disasters and dramas escalate around them Charlotte and Brenda must fight to preserve the true meaning of their brave decision to marry.
As people were escaping from the theater, crew members, carrying fire-fighting equipment, were moving as they could and as efficiently as possible toward the theater. Seeing their diminutive room attendant, Eleni Hernandez, and another small woman room attendant failing to make headway in the onslaught of people, Charlotte threw herself into the crowd, pulling the two behind her and acting as a formidable wedge into the fray. They parted at the entrance to the main level of the theater, as the crowd thinned and Charlotte almost ran into Chance and Marilyn.
“Charlotte, you’re safe,” Chance called out as the two room attendants, tossing their thanks at Charlotte over their shoulders, scooted around Brenda’s brother and ran into the theater. There was smoke, but it wasn’t too bad.
“Brenda?” Charlotte cried out.
“I don’t know. We didn’t see her,” Chance answered, the concern on his face visibly deepening as, until now his concern had totally been for his wife.
“The fire’s not that bad,” Marilyn said, and although she coughed, she added. “There isn’t much smoke, so Chance said we should wait to try to get out because getting trampled in the crowd was more of a danger than a fire that hadn’t gotten beyond the stage curtains yet.”
At that moment, the signal for the public address system came on and the voice of the captain could be heard saying, “There is no reason for alarm. There’s been a fire on the stage of the Neptune Theater, but it’s under control now. No station drill is being called, but all passengers, as well as all crew not attending the fire, are asked to go immediately to their cabins so that we can account for everyone. Again, the fire is contained and under control.”
“We can go back and look for her,” Chance said when the speaker went off.
“No, I’ll go. You get Marilyn back to your cabin as instructed.”
“And I’m afraid it’s the same for you, madam,” a rather determined senior-looking ship’s officer said, barring the way, as best he could, into the theater, as Chance and Marilyn scurried off.
Trying to look around him, Charlotte said, “My wife was on stage. She may have been—”
The ship’s officer looked at Charlotte like she might be in shock and delusional, but he said, “Beyond a couple of the dancers getting a little singed, there are no injuries that we have found yet. Look for yourself. The fire didn’t get into the audience area.”
“I am looking for Brenda Brandon, the movie star. She’s my wife. She wasn’t in the audience. She was singing on stage.”
“As far as I know the only ones who received any injuries at all were a couple of the dancers. Everything is under control. It was only a minor fire.”
“It looks like the flames opened the whole back of the ship open,” Charlotte said. “That’s hardly minor damage.” And indeed, she was staring at rolling waves now beyond the back of what had been the stage area. “And, and as I said, Brenda Boynton—I mean Brandon,” Charlotte corrected herself, using Brenda’s stage name, “was on stage, singing. That’s who I’m looking for. She could have fallen off the back of the ship.”
This time the ship’s officer seemed to actually listen to what Charlotte was saying. . . .
A muffled explosion from deep under the stern that knocked Charlotte and the officer against each other and nearly off their feet cut short the man’s assuring explanation. With effort, he helped Charlotte right herself, and he was now looking anything but assured. “Please return to your cabin now. I need to go check on something.”
A second explosion knocked both against the wall as the officer moved away from Charlotte at nearly a dead run.