Cover Image
Philip James
Danny DiMarzio

"So, who's worked with this Danny DiMarzio, then?" asked Sarah.

     "Tony says he's some kind of Sinatra act."

     "Not another one," said Frankie, between expletives. "They're ten-a-penny these days."

     "Yes, thank you, Michael Bublé," I said.

     "Easy night, then," said Sarah, with a smile. "Except Pete will probably get that trombone solo in Under My Skin."

     "Live at the Sands." Pete raised his pint glass. "I can play it in my sleep."

     "Aye, you always do," said Frankie.

     "The horns are really on point, now," said Mason. "I hope this guy's got good charts, not written by some cruise ship muso who thinks he's an arranger."

     "Like me, you mean," said Tom.

     "Well," laughed Mason. "You said it, man."

     Mason had a point. Tom had 'cleaned up' the beautifully handwritten but aged charts of some of the company's most beloved cabaret artists, and somehow everything that was good about the originals seeped out of their professional-looking replacements.

     "There's more to arranging than writing notes on a staff with a computer," said Frankie. "You have to know harmony, what notes to give to what instrument."

     "I do know!"

     "Yeah, right," said Pete. "About as much as you know your way around that agony stick of a clarinet you sometimes play."

     Tom's face fell to the tune of widespread laughter. "Yeah, well, I'm a sax player."

     "Exactly," said Frankie. "A sax player is a sax player. And an arranger. . ."

     "It was different back in the day," I ventured. "If an act gave you a chart ten years ago, you could tell if it was good by the penmanship. It was obvious. Now they have these computer programs; all the notes look the same. They look the dog's bollocks. Then you play them, and it turns out they're just bollocks."

<  2  >

     "Yes," said Sarah. "Everyone's an arranger these days."

     Tom was sulking, but nobody cared.

     "The quiz is starting," said Pete, and we all looked towards the table that had been set up on the small stage. Two of our glamorous Entertainments Officers took their seats: Sammy and Elizabeth. Sammy had been around, and she had her eyes on the Cruise Director job one day. Bright, beautiful, and ambitious. Elizabeth was new, very young, and still had that awestruck look they all have at first. I had a soft spot for her because she was from my hometown.

     "Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen," said Sammy, "and welcome to the Television Theme Tune Quiz in the Seascape Lounge." The guests stirred in their beery somnambulism and staggered forth to collect answer sheets and pencils from the stage. "My name is Sammy, this is Elizabeth, and playing the theme songs for us this afternoon is a man I'm sure you'll recognise from the nightclub. It's our ship's DJ, Clarence."

     Clarence gave a wave from the DJ booth.

     "Okay, now you've all written your team names. Round One. Our first track."

     Pete had gotten an answer sheet from the front. He loved to play these things. The fact that we were never allowed to actually compete with the guests didn't deter him from hopping up and down in his seat in anticipation of the first question.

     "Look at him," said Frankie. "Like he's being sodomised with his own trombone."


     The first track played, and Pete started scribbling.

     "Anyone fancy going ashore tomorrow?" Sarah always got excited about Barcelona. Her favourite lunch spot was in the Old Town, tempting in the passersby with rotisserie chickens in the windows.

     Everyone murmured their assent.

     I'd zoned out of the quiz, but Elizabeth was speaking, and it caught my ear. She was growing in confidence. Her first quizzes had been lacklustre, and she'd sounded uptight. Now the patter with Sammy was flowing quite naturally, and her gentle Lancashire accent beguiled the guests.

<  3  >

     "Yes, it is funny how terms of affection are different throughout the U.K.'" she said.

     "Like, where I come from, we say 'moi lover,'" said Sammy. "It's really warm. They say 'love' a lot up your way, don't they?"

     "Yes," said Elizabeth. "They say it a lot in Yorkshire, too. And men say it to other men in Yorkshire, which seems strange to me."

     "What's your favourite term of affection, then?"

     "Well," said Elizabeth, looking thoughtful as she flipped through her mental lexicon. "It's very typical of Lancashire, I don't think I've heard people use it anywhere else, but I quite like 'cock'."

     Frankie and I spat out our pints.


     Danny DiMarzio was late for the rehearsal and full of apologies as he wheeled a small suitcase across the stage to Tony at the grand piano.

     "Yeah, they told me it was half-five, I'm sorry," he said, fishing stacks of sheet music out of the case and handing them to Tony. Tony passed them to us, and we started putting the set up on our music stands.

     "No worries," said Tony. "This lot know these tunes inside out, so we can probably get out of here early."

     "Yeah, well, these arrangements are a bit — "said Danny.

     "Shit," said Mason, looking unbelievingly at an unfurled manuscript. "Joel, can I see your parts?" He looked at the second trumpet parts and then over at Tony.


     The whole horn section was murmuring in consternation now. I looked at my parts, and my enthusiasm for the expected easy night leaked out of me. The printed setlist itemised the tunes, but I only had decent charts for half of them. The others were merely pencilled chord sheets on low-grade A4 paper, apparently written in a hurry.

<  4  >

     "My parts say either Trumpet 3 or 4 at the top," complained Joel.

     "My parts are like the Dead Sea Scrolls," said Tom.

     "Yes, I was gonna say, guys," said Danny. "This is my first ever ship. These arrangements are from my show on land. They're written for an 18-piece big band."

     "We're a 9-piece, as you can see," said Mason. "You can't just grab random charts out of a big-band book, throw them all together, and hope it works out."

     "They're all good arrangements," said Danny.

     "For a full-scale big band, I'm sure they are," said Tony. "But for a 9-piece, they're going to be arrangements with great big holes in them."



     "Sorry, Tony," said Sammy from the front row. "We have to open the doors in five minutes."

     "Yeah, we're just finishing," said Tony. "Take the coda one last time, guys."

     We played through the last section of the last chart, and that was it. A rehearsal that should have taken forty minutes had lasted two hours and required us all to edit, amend and write obscenities on the music Danny had given us. We had half an hour before the first show, enough time to go back to the cabins, get showered and changed, and back to the theatre. Danny stood by the piano, looking like a man who'd just endured waterboarding.

     "Thanks, guys," he called out to us as we exited the stage door in grumbling dribs and drabs. "I'll make it up to you."


     It was small consolation that the show was a hit with the guests.

     In his introduction, the Cruise Director talked of Danny's work with The BBC Big Band, his tour of Scandinavia as Sinatra in The Rat Packers, television appearances in the U.S., and lots of other highlights.

<  5  >

     "If he's so big-time, how come he can't afford to get his arrangements written properly?" asked Sarah, tuning her bass as we waited for the show to begin.

     "Ladies and gentleman," said the CD, and Frankie began a drum roll. "Please put your hands together for the one, the only. . . Danny DiMarzio!"

     Tony counted off, and we came in with The Lady Is A Tramp, faster than it should be played, but that was how Danny wanted it.

     In spite of the festering resentment of the orchestra, Danny dripped with charisma. There were parts where he was clearly winging it, but somehow it endeared him to the audience. His voice was faithful to the Chairman of the Board, and the band sounded strong despite the dreadful rehearsal. We'd patched up the holes in those arrangements as best we could, and Danny crooned and bounced along to Frankie's effortless swing. In the break, we ate in the crew mess, grabbed a quick drink in the bar, and then came back for the second show.

     Danny addressed us from the front of the stage. "Guys, I really appreciate what you did with the rehearsal and the first show. I'm new to all this cruise ship stuff, so please forgive me. I'm buying in the crew bar after this. Let's make the second show even better."


     True to his word, Danny ensured that the drink flowed, and the drinkers of the orchestra ensured that remuneration for our blood, sweat, and tears was commensurate.

     "I tell you what, guys," said Danny. "You swing like nobody's business. I'm used to a full big band, but you lot were cooking."

     "Appreciate it," said Tony, rolling his eyes at me when Danny looked away. "But I think we're going to have to book an earlier rehearsal for your second night, so we don't have the debacle we had this afternoon." Danny once more looked sheepish. "If you want to carry on doing ships, you're going to have to get all those arrangements written for a 9-piece. You're lucky you came here first. This band can handle it. You try and give those arrangements to half the bands in the fleet. They'll be swinging like a statue's dick."

<  6  >

     "I can rewrite your charts for a 9-piece," piped up Tom, who rarely hung out with the older musicians in Bullshit Corner.

     "Oh, here he goes," said Frankie. "Give him the pitch, then."

     "Well," said Tom, undeterred as Danny turned to him. "I've written arrangements for a lot of the acts that come on here. Sarah Manetti, Dougie Woodruff, Tim McLellan."

     "What's the rate?" asked Danny.

     "Musician's Union rate? That's about fifty quid an hour."

     "Forget it," said Danny. "I can get a guy at home to do it for half of that."

     "Well," said Tony. "You could use some new arrangements for the next show."

     "Okay," said Danny. "I'll give you the Show Two charts to work from, and if you agree to drop your price to my mate's rate, you've got a deal."

     "You'll never do it in time," said Mason.

     "He only has to worry about the horns," said Sarah. "The rhythm parts can stay as they are."

     "Yeah," said Tom. "I'll use the bass and piano parts as a guide, and I'll rewrite the horns to make sure they sound right. They're missing a lot of the pretty notes at the moment. When's the next night?"

     "Four days."


     "Can't we go somewhere a bit more lively?"

     Danny was still high on his performance, although Bullshit Corner was flagging.

     "What about the nightclub?" suggested Pete.

     "I'm not going up there," said Frankie. "Too much freight knocking around, I'd just as soon stay here."

     "Come on, guys," said Danny. "Should be a laugh."

     Normally I was with Frankie on this. Musicians had the run of the ship, but my days of hanging out above decks under the prying eyes of the guests were long gone. I preferred the crew bar and the company of my compadres. But there was something about Danny - he'd made life difficult for us, but you couldn't help liking him.

<  7  >

     "I'm gonna call it a night," said Sarah. "Want to be bright-eyed and bushy-arsed for Barcelona tomorrow. G'night, guys."

     She walked out, and Danny watched her go with catlike attention.

     "She swings in every way, doesn't she?" he mused.

     "Yeah, but not your way, you old pervert," I said. "Come on, let's go."

     Danny, Pete, and I got the elevator up to the top deck and walked into the nightclub. It was busy. Clarence was spinning tunes. Through the strobe lights and bodies, I spied some of the Entertainments Officers sitting in a booth. There was an empty one next to it. We ordered our drinks and sat down.

     Danny had raised the antennae and was homing in on potential conquests. I started to regret coming when Elizabeth appeared and sat down next to me.

     "Hiya," she said. She appeared a bit squiffy. Too squiffy.

     "How are you doing, Elizabeth?"

     "Oh, fine, you know," she said. "Looking forward to Barcelona tomorrow."

     Danny had turned on his smile and was aiming it right at her. It took her a while to notice. "Good show tonight, by the way," she said when she spotted him.

     "Yeah, wasn't bad," he said, blithely. "You want to dance?"

     "No, you're alright."

     Danny shrugged and left the booth, heading to the dance floor where he found Sammy. Pete was close behind, exhibiting all the grace of a newborn giraffe.

     "Is everything alright there, Elizabeth?" She was staring straight ahead, and her eyes were losing focus. She snapped out of it and looked at me. "Yes, I'm just a bit drunk. I was having cocktails with the team, and. . ."

     A glass suddenly appeared in front of her on the table, and I looked up the arm that bore it to a familiar face. It was one of the new Entertainments Officers. Not new, new. He'd been around the fleet a few times, a little more battle-worn than his colleagues on this ship. Johnny Royd. He'd arrived onboard a couple of turnarounds before.

<  8  >

     "You forgot your drink, Elizabeth," he said, sitting in the booth opposite us.

     I smiled and nodded at him, but he looked right through me.

     "Thanks," she said, picking it up with all the enthusiasm normally reserved for dirty nappies.

     "You know, there's no law that says you have to drink that," I said.

     There was a clinking of glass as Johnny reached over and tapped his cocktail to hers. "Cheers," he said, glaring at me. She smiled at him and drank. "Anyway, why are you drinking with this sad old man?" I couldn't believe my ears. At a glance, Johnny was the same age as me.

     "This is my mate, Mick," she said, wagging a finger at him. "He's from Blackburn, like me."

     Johnny looked away. Elizabeth went to put her empty glass on the table, but she didn't quite make it. I caught the glass as it fell and placed it out of reach.

     "Whoa!" Pete was back, and Sammy was next to him. "Nearly."

     "Are you alright, Elizabeth?" Sammy squeezed into the booth next to her, and I was forced to move around closer to Johnny. "I think those last couple were a bit on the strong side. You and your cocktails, Johnny."

     "Work hard, play hard," said Johnny, with a shrug.

     Danny was still on the dance floor, clearly enjoying his courtship ritual as he strutted around some of the guests. I looked over at Elizabeth: her head was down, now, and Sammy had draped her arm around her shoulders.

     "I think it's time you got her back to her cabin, don't you?" I said.

     "Why don't you mind your own business?" Johnny's wrinkled nose and direct stare were starting to make my blood boil. "She's part of our team. We'll look after her."

<  9  >

     "Is that what you're doing? Great job!"

     "You're a big man in here, aren't you? There's a crew area out there. If you've got something to say to me, why don't you come out there and say it?"

     "After you."

     We left the disco through a fire door that led to a crew staircase. I followed him down a couple of flights, and we stood facing each other. I was drunk, alright. How did I get here? Johnny clearly worked out, and I could not hope to match him in a fight. All of that was obvious in the honest glow of the fluorescent lights. Maybe I could get in a lucky punch. His nostrils flared as he looked at me, and then he started speaking.

     "Who do you think you are?" The tone was low and menacing. "Do you really think you've got a chance with that girl? Trying to steam in there when she's drunk. You're disgusting."

     "What are you talking about?"

     "I've been watching you," he went on. "I used to be in the Paras. I could snap your neck like a toothpick." He approached me, and I stood my ground. He was very close. "I could break your spine, you — "

     "Johnny!" There was another Entertainments Officer on the stairs now. I didn't know him, just a face from the ship.

     Johnny leered at me.

     "You're not worth it," he said and left with his colleague.


     "You seem to be having a hard time with that gazpacho, Mick."

     "It's not as if it's going to get cold, is it?" I quipped.

     Sarah was right. I had no appetite whatsoever. Shame, really. Our regular lunch spot in the Old Town was one of my favourites. I had one last spoonful and then pushed my bowl away.

<  10  >

     "He's still thinking about Johnny Royd," said Pete. "Forget him. He's a psycho."

     Only the three of us had gone for lunch. Frankie had disappeared, Tom had stayed in his cabin feverishly writing arrangements, and the rest of the orchestra had gone off on various excursions.

     "Yeah, but is that what they all think?" I was troubled. "That I'm chasing after Elizabeth. Trying to sleep with her."

     "She's attractive," said Pete.

     "Who cares?" Sarah couldn't understand my unease.

     "I'm not," I said. "I was doing my first gigs when she was in primary school. I was just looking out for her."

     "Yeah, she was hammered," laughed Pete.

     "Elizabeth's a grown woman. She can look out for herself." Sarah popped an olive in her mouth and looked around for the waiter. "La cuenta, por favor."



     I turned around. Elizabeth and Sammy were standing in the main corridor behind me.

     "Where have you been, stranger?"

     "Hiya," I said. "I've been around, you know. How's it going?"

     "Not bad," said Elizabeth. "Sammy and I went ashore. You coming tonight? The shoppies are having a corridor party later on."

     "Yeah, I heard," I said. "Well, we've got Danny DiMarzio, so I might pop down after that."

     They walked with me towards the Entertainment section. They lived further along than the musicians: Entertainments Officers got their own cabins with portholes in recognition of the long hours they worked. I fished out my key as I got to my cabin.

     "Well, I'll see you two later, then," I said.

     "Yeah, you better be there," cried out Sammy from the end of the corridor. "Or we'll come and find you."

<  11  >

     The door next to her opened. It was the cabin Tom shared with Mason.

     "Will you shut up!" he roared. "Some of us are trying to sleep!"

     "Sorry," said Elizabeth.

     "Excuse me," Sammy said. "It is three o'clock in the afternoon!"

     "Just keep the bloody noise down," hissed Tom and closed the door.

     "Wanker," said Sammy, and they disappeared around the corner, laughing.


     Tom gave out the parts in rehearsal. The situation was vastly improved. He'd worked solidly since the first show, distilling the essence of fifteen horns into five and then getting everything printed off in the Cruise Director's Office. Danny was happy, and the rehearsal was finished in forty-five minutes.

     "Good work, Tom," said Tony.

     "I've got to hand it to you," said Mason. "Those are good charts. Shame you're selling yourself short. You should've held out for Union rate."

     "I had to pull an all-nighter to finish them," said Tom. "I was still printing them off at ten this morning."

     "Is that why you went ballistic at Sammy and Elizabeth earlier on?" I asked. "A little bit out of order, I'd say."

     "Well, I didn't appreciate an Airheads' Convention outside my cabin when I was trying to sleep," sneered Tom.

     The show was a success. Danny got two standing ovations, and the new arrangements could be played without having to be deciphered.

     "You guys fancy the crew bar?"

     "Actually, there's a crew party tonight, down the shoppies' corridor," I said. "Open invitation."

     "Right," said Danny. "I'd better go and get a shower first. Sweating under those lights like Louis Armstrong without a handkerchief."

<  12  >


     In the end, it was only Tom, Pete, Sarah and me who deigned to attend. We entered the shoppies' quarter through a heavy fire door off the main crew corridor, bypassing a staircase and then another heavy fire door. The double barrier effectively barred the sound of revelry from security staff or uninvited guests. The horseshoe of a corridor was packed with shoppies and their friends, cabin doors were wedged open, and the bulkheads bounced to techno.

     "Gig spanner?" offered Sarah, pulling a keyring bottle opener from her belt. Seconds later, four beers were opened, and we were toasting a successful show.

     I saw Sammy and Elizabeth further down the corridor with Johnny Royd and some of the others. Johnny was looking in our direction with all the charm of rabies.

     "Good job again on those charts, Tom," said Pete. "I take back everything I ever said. I think you might have a future as an arranger, after all."

     We all clinked bottles again, and Tom graced us with a weary smile. The gig had given us all a thirst, and the beers we brought quickly dwindled.

     "We should go to the bar and get some more," said Sarah.

     Just then, the bonhomie seemed to evacuate the corridor, and there was Johnny, puffed up and menacing, standing next to me. Except he wasn't looking at me. His soulless eyes were trained on Tom.

     "I heard about you today," he said. "Big man, aren't you? Threatening women."

     "I didn't threaten anyone," said Tom.

     "Getting all aggressive with Sammy. Make you feel big, does it?"

     "I just told her to be quiet, I was trying to get some sleep."

     "There's telling someone to be quiet, and then there's the way you say it," said Johnny. His jaw jutted forward, presumably with the aid of bespoke neanderthal hydraulics.

<  13  >

     "Steady on, Johnny," said Sarah. "It's a party."

     The words must have registered, though he didn't look at Sarah. His eyes bore into Tom for a few more moments. "I'm watching you," he said and lumbered away.

     "I bet he passes his eye test with flying colours," I said. "He's been watching me, as well."

     The blood had drained from Tom's face, and Sarah put an arm around him.

     The fire door opened, and there was Danny, carrying six bottles in a cardboard tray. "Sorry I'm late, guys," he said with a smile. "There was a queue at the bar." He passed beers around but hesitated when he saw Tom's terrified look. "What happened?"

     "Oh, nothing," said Tom.

     "Here, look," said Danny. "You did such a good job with those charts. Do you fancy a bit more work? I need to get the Show One charts written, as well. Spoke to my agent earlier, and she says there's some more cruise work on the horizon."

     "I think I can fit you in," said Tom. "When do you need them by?"

     "I'd better get to the bar," I said. "Those beers won't last long with the five of us."

     I started to squeeze past Danny, but Tom grabbed my arm.

     "What about Johnny?"

     "It's a party. Loads of people. He's not going to do anything here, is he? Just, whatever you do, don't end up on your own or go anywhere near him. The man's a psychopath." I gave Tom a breezy smile and left.


     It had taken an age to get served in the crew bar, but I returned bearing more beers and a sneaky bottle of vodka in a plastic bag. It was a celebration, after all, and we just had one more night before Southampton. The last night was always easy: a quick Farewell Show, which never required much concentration.

<  14  >

     As I neared the party, I saw groups of people standing around outside in the main corridor. Elizabeth and Sammy were talking in hushed voices.

     "What's happened?"

     "Danny DiMarzio fell down the stairs," said Sammy. "Must be pissed."

     "What? Is he alright?"

     Sammy nodded. "Yes, he's gone back in there."

     I went through the fire doors and found Danny and the musos standing where I'd left them. Danny was staring into the middle distance, and my colleagues looked distinctly uncomfortable.

     "It was Johnny," said Tom.

     Sarah sidled up to me and pulled me closer. "That maniac came over and started hassling Tom again. Danny stuck up for him, told him to leave him alone. Johnny said he wanted to talk somewhere private; they went through that door, and, the next thing you know, Danny's at the bottom of the stairwell."

     "Did you see it?"

     She shook her head.

     "Where's Johnny now?"

     "He's in a cabin down there," she said, nodding further down the corridor. Only one of the cabin doors was closed.

     The fire door opened. Sammy and Elizabeth came in with the Assistant Cruise Director, a man who was a living fondue of smugness.

     "Danny," he said, "Are you okay?"

     Danny came out of his reverie and looked at the ACD. He was trembling a little.

     "Sammy here says you fell down the stairs. Are you hurt at all? Do you need to go to the medical centre?"

     Danny shook his head, an abrupt twitch to save time while he tried to process what had happened.

     "You know, it's a party, and maybe you've had too much to drink. Perhaps it's a good idea to go back to your cabin." He smiled and nodded his head as though he was talking to a toddler.

<  15  >

     "Johnny said he lost his footing on the top step just outside," said Sammy, sounding official. "He tried to grab him before he fell, but it was too fast."

     Danny's eye started twitching.

     "Where's Johnny?" asked the ACD.

     Sammy led him to the cabin door. He knocked, and they went inside.

     "That bastard," said Danny, at last.

     "Let's not hang around here, Danny," said Sarah.

     "Oh, it's just the musicians causing trouble again," I heard a voice say behind me as I prepared to leave. I turned around to see one of the Entertainments Officers, the one who'd interrupted Johnny outside the disco during my own date with 'density'. The way he paused before he said 'musicians' signalled it as a euphemism, and I had a pretty good idea for what.

     I walked over to him and his little friends, Pete by my side and grabbing my arm.

     "Musicians causing trouble, eh?" A wave of heat was shooting up my abdomen en route to my brain. "Yeah, very sorry about that. It must be hard for you lot, having to open the doors to the theatre, and smile at the guests, play shuffleboard and deck quoits, and dance the foxtrot with the merry widows in the Lounge on Ballroom Night. Then you have to deal with us musicians. I feel for you. Maybe I should think about changing careers. Maybe I could do what you do." I gave him a sarcastic smile, and he shuffled on his feet. "On second thoughts, I could never do what you do. I've never been able to fake sincerity like that. I wish I could do what you do, but I'm just not enough of a phoney."

     I finally succumbed to Pete's gentle pulling on my arm, and we left the party.



     Danny had brought a new digital camera onboard to take snaps of the ports on his first cruise, and I was using it to take pictures of the bruising and abrasions on his back from where he'd bounced down the stairs.

<  16  >

     "He could have killed you!" Tom's face was as white as the captain's shirt.

     "I know," said Danny. "I didn't even have time to turn around. I got through the door, I felt him grab the back of my shirt, and he just threw me down the stairs backwards."

     "Backwards!" Pete took a swig of his beer. "You could have broken your neck."

     "Well, I'll have him!" Danny pulled his shirt back down, and I handed him the camera.

     "You have to report it to the Chief Security Officer," I said. "Sooner is better. It looks like the Entertainments Officers are closing ranks on this. How much have you had to drink?"

     "I don't drink before shows," he said. "I was still on my first beer."

     "Perfect," said Sarah. "They'll breathalyse you and Johnny both if you report it tonight. And I've a pretty good feeling Johnny will be over."

     "Breathalyse us?"

     "You're only allowed to have two units, like driving."

     "It's for safety."

     "You know, in case we hit an iceberg or something."


     Danny waited an hour before going to see the Chief Security Officer. As Sarah predicted, he was breathalysed and well under the limit. Johnny was escorted to the office and found to be five times over. Zero-tolerance. Even if Johnny hadn't thrown anyone down the stairs, he would have been history with a result like that. The next day, Tom and I had to give statements about the events leading up to the assault, as did Sammy and Elizabeth.

     There was a sombre atmosphere on the ship afterwards. Johnny wasn't allowed to leave his cabin, and security staff was posted outside right up until we docked in Southampton. Danny was given the option of pressing charges, which he declined. There were no witnesses to the actual incident, anyway. The Entertainments Officers were subdued, as were the crew who'd formed the opinion that Johnny was just a fun guy. There was a lot of them.

<  17  >

     "How does someone that deranged have so many friends?" Tom asked me as we ate lunch together. He'd been the recipient of dirty looks all day from people who had formed the impression that it was somehow his fault.

     "Search me," I said. "Like I said last night, these guys wear a mask for a living. You're bound to get the occasional psycho underneath."

     The Farewell Show came and went. Danny joined us to croon a couple of songs, back by popular demand. He'd scored a hit with the guests, but the Cruise Director spoke to him dismissively in the wings after the show. The mask had slipped.

     I watched Johnny get escorted down the gangway by security the next day. His face showed no emotion, not even when I gave him a little wave and a smile on the quayside. As he disappeared into a shuttle bus, I was met by Elizabeth.

     "I heard what you said at the party," she said. "Actually, I reckon you sold yourself short, there. You fake sincerity better than you think. I could never be friends with someone I thought was a phoney, and there I was thinking we were friends."

     She turned abruptly and went to join Sammy, who was waiting in the distance.

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