Cruise to Terror
As JC, or Joanne Carol as her parents insisted on calling her, stepped onto the cruiser she knew that she had made the right choice. It had taken months for her to persuade her father to take this holiday with her friends before college, and even longer for them to persuade their parents, but now here they were, boarding a private yacht for a seven day cruise around the Philippines. Ahead of all six of them lay college, with graduation hopefully in ’81, but for now they could relax and enjoy themselves. The Santa Maria was everything she had dreamed of, and then some.
Elaine, her older sister by two years, set her bag down and looked round. “Very nice, very nice indeed sis,” she said as she looked at JC. Unlike her, she took after their mother, with her shoulder length blonde hair cut in a Farah Fawcett style around her shoulders. JC was like her father – five eight, with short reddish hair cut in a bob.
“Come on girls,” she said as the other four climbed on board, “The captain wants to set off in a few minutes. Annie and Cassie were next, the twins that JC had known since kindergarten, giggling nervously as they climbed up the gangway. They were followed by Brenda as they disappeared into the ship, carrying their rucksacks between them.
Unlike the dark haired twins, Brenda was plumper, with mousey brown hair and wearing glasses. She had endured the nickname of Velma for more years than she cared to remember, with JC the only one who used her real name.
Last to board was Katie, who placed her hand over her eyes as she looked round. “I’m going to be ducking a lot, aren’t I?” she said as she looked at the doorway. JC giggled slightly – at six foot four if you count the afro hairdo she sported, Katie was the tallest of the group, but she took that in good stead as well.
She turned to see Captain Spalding approaching, his white uniform almost gleaming in the sunlight.
“If you are ready, we will cast off,” he said as he saluted her. “Dinner will be served in the cabin at seven tonight.”
“Thank you, Captain,” JC said as she hugged Elaine. “This is going to be a holiday to remember,” she laughed as she picked up her bag and followed the others towards the cabins.
As JC walked out onto the deck, she looked over at the quiet island that the boat had dropped anchor nearby. It was idyllic, peaceful, and serene – exactly what she had hoped for.
Walking over to a lounger she lay down and made herself comfortable, adjusting the straps on her red bikini before closing her eyes. She heard some footsteps, but on opening them saw only two of the crew walking past, casting their eyes over her before they hurried on.
“They seem to like you,” she heard Brenda say as she sat down next to her. She was wearing a white cotton blouse with cap sleeves, which had the front panels tied together under her breasts, and a pair of pale blue bellbottom pants. Opening the book she was carrying, she started to look through the pages.
“Have you seen any of the others?”
“The twins are getting changed - /I think they plan to play a game of cards later. Katie was adjusting her make up. Elaine?”
“Having a lie in – she didn’t get to bed until two this morning. If she’s the same as at home, we won’t see her before two.”
“Fair enough,” Brenda said. She returned to her book as JC closed her eyes and allowed the warm rays of the sun to envelop her.
In the lounge, Annie and Cassie were sitting on opposite sides of the table, looking at the cards in their hands as the captain walked past.
“Not enjoying the sun, ladies?” he said as he stopped and touched his cap.
“Bit hot for us at the moment,” Annie said as she looked up. The white halter neck top that she was wearing barely covered her breasts, the material stretched tightly over them, while much the same could be said about the matching hot pants she was wearing.
“Perhaps later,” Cassie said as she smiled back in return. She was slightly more modestly dressed, in a red and white striped t-shirt and denim mini skirt. Both had flip flops over their feet.
“I quite understand,” the captain said with a smile. “Perhaps I can have the stewards bring you some drinks in a little while?”
“That would be wonderful, thanks,” Annie said as she smiled. The captain touched his cap again and returned to the bridge.
“Cable for you, sir,” the mate said as he walked in. Looking at the paper, he smiled and folded it neatly.
“Rendezvous at eight tonight,” he said to the mate. “Have the steward take the young ladies in the lounge a drink in an hour – they can be first.”
“Elaine – have you surfaced yet?”
Katie stood back as the door opened and Ellie allowed her in. Ducking to avoid hitting her hair on the door frame, she sat down on the bed and watched as Elaine pulled the shelves of her Chemosang over her arms.
“Very nice,” she said approvingly as the older girl fastened the buttons on the diagonal at the front. The dress was made of green silk, with a gold pattern in the form of a dragon running up one side. A pair of golden sandals was already on her feet.
“I thought it met the times,” Elaine said as she looked over at Katie. “Planning to work on your shoulder tan?”
“Of course, girl,” Katie laughed. She was wearing what was known colloquially as a “play suit” – made from golden cotton, with a red floral pattern over it, it consisted of a strapless bodice that was held up by a tie above her breasts, and tightened around her waist, before flowing into a pair of flared trousers that covered her feet.
“We’re on holiday,” she continued as she stood up, “So flaunt it. When’s lunch?”
Elaine looked at her watch. “An hour or so to go – let’s go and find the others.”
“Thanks,” Annie said as the steward laced a pitcher, filled with ice and lemonade, and two glasses on the table. Pouring a glass for her and Cassie, the two girls clinked their glasses and took a long drink before turning back to their cards.
“Got any sevens?” Annie said as she looked up at her sister. To her surprise, she noticed her vision was starting to blur.
“Ssseves – no,” Cassie said as she slowly blinked. “Haf u gt ne fvs?”
“Whts hpng,” Annie said as she slid slowly down the seat, her eyes closing as her body fell onto the cabin floor. Cassie fell forward onto her arms, the cards scattering from her hand as it dropped limply to the side.
The steward looked on impassively as the mate walked in. “They look unwell,” he said quietly, “Better get them to their cabin.”
“Ay ay sir,” he said as he picked Annie up in his arms and walked to the doorway, the mate following with Cassie on his shoulder.
As JC sat down, she looked at the two empty seats.
“Where are the twins,” she asked as the steward served the salad onto the plates. “Annie and Cassie – they were in here earlier.”
“I am afraid they felt unwell,” the young man said as he walked round, “Possibly something they had for breakfast. They have retired to their cabin for a rest, and hopefully will join us for dinner later.”
“Oh well,” Katie said as she started eating, “All the more for us.”
Behind their cabin door, neither Annie or Cassie was in a position to answer, as they both lay on their bunks. The mate finished smoothing the plaster over Cassie’s lisp and double checked the ropes around her wrists and ankles, which were lashed to the top and bottom of the bunk respectively.
Annie was snoring as she lay on her side, the tape covering her mouth forcing her to breath in and out through her nose. Her legs were pulled behind her as her ankle and wrists were held together with more rope.
Smiling, the mate left and locked the cabin door behind them. “Now for the next one,” he said as he walked down the corridor, whistling as he did so.
“Funny them falling ill like that,” Brenda said as she and JC sat on the deck after lunch. “They have the best sea legs out of all of us.”
“Yeah, it is a bit funny,” JC said as she lay with her eyes shut. “Well, we can only hope they feel better later.” As the two girls lay there, Elaine and Katie were talking at a table at the bow of the boat.
“You know what,” Katie said as she stood up, “I think I’m going to do a bit of sunbathing. You still be here when I get back?”
Elaine looked at her watch. “I may go and have a lie down in the cabin for a while. See you at dinner?”
“As you wish, girl,” Katie said as she pulled her sunglasses down over her eyes and walked slowly towards the door that led to her cabin. Ducking again, she made her way down the corridor, stopping outside the twins’ cabin and knocking.
“You all right in there girls?” she called out, but when she got no reply she kept walking on, assuming they were asleep. She didn’t even hear the slightest grunt from Cassie as she tried to call out for help.
Katie opened her cabin door and sat on the edge of the bed, taking off her sandals form her feet before she stretched her legs out. As she placed them on the floor, she saw a piece of paper folded on her dressing table. Curious, she picked it up and read it.
“Don’t look in the mirror.”
Naturally, she did so, and caught a glimpse of the mate before a wet, sweet smelling cloth was clamped over her nose and mouth. Katie started to struggle, reaching up to try and pull the arm holding the cloth in place away from her face, but eventually she closed her eyes as her body succumbed to the chloroform.
Laying her face down on the bunk, the mate pulled her arms behind her back and lashed them together with a length of thin cord, passing the rope around and between her crossed wrists until they were held firmly together. A second length was wrapped around her ankles, before he turned her over and gently prised her mouth open.
“Give me a hand her – she’s a big one,” he said as the door opened and the steward walked in. Pushing a wad of cloth between her teeth, the mate took Katie by the shoulders and waited for the steward to hold her legs.
“I moved the other two,” he said as they walked slowly down the corridor, “they were starting to make a little too much noise. We’d better take her there as well.”
Annie screamed through the cloth and tape in and over her mouth as she saw the two men carrying Katie in and laying her against a pillar in the storeroom.
“Ah, ah, my pretty – no more form you,” the steward said as the mate started to lash Katie to the pillar. He approached Annie, the wet cloth in his hand as she tried to roll out of the way...
“Nah – I guess she fell asleep in her cabin. I’ll knock on the door as I go past.”
JC looked at her sister as she fastened the front of her blouse up. She had showered and changed into the silk blouse, with a blue silk skirt embossed with gold wrapped around her waist and covering her legs to just below her knees.
“All right then,” she said as she walked to the door, “I’ll see you in the lounge in ten minutes. I promised Brenda I’d talk to her first.”
“Is Brenda all right? She seemed to have her nose in that book all day.”
“That’s Brenda – why let sun and warm weather spoil a good read. Ten minutes?”
“All right,” Elaine said as she slipped a pair of gold slipper onto her feet. She paused for a minute to look into the mirror, before picking up her handbag and closing the cabin door behind her. Walking a short way down, she stopped and knocked on Katie’s door.
“Katie? You in there?” she said as she opened the door, but on entering she saw no-one round – just Katie’s glasses on the floor. Picking them up, she glanced under the bunk and saw something shining in the dim light.
Reaching under, she drew out a silver charm bracelet, and looked at it for a moment. “That’s weird,” Elaine said to herself, “Katie never takes that offffffff.”
The wind was knocked out of her as she was forced forward onto the bunk. Before she had a chance to react, she felt her arms been pulled behind her back and something sticky been wrapped roudn them, even as some sort of cloth was pulled over her eyes. She tried to scream, but before she could do so her head was pulled back and something that tasted of dirty water was pushed into her mouth.
“Take her down below,” she heard a voice say, and as she realised who it was she started to struggle frantically, even as she was forced to stand up and frog marched along the boat...
“This is getting a bit strange,” Brenda said as she looked out of the window at the setting sun. “You haven’t seen Katie either?”
“No,” JC said as she looked at her watch, “And now Elaine is late. Can you wait here while I go and see if I can rouse the twins?”
“Sure,” Brenda said as she watched her friend walk out of the door. As she sat back down, the steward walked over with a tall glass on a tray.
“Your martini,” he said as he handed Brenda the glass, watching as she took a sip.
“This is a bit bitter,” she said as she put the glass down on the table. “Tell me, how did Annie and Cassie seem when you left them.”
“The young twins? They were asleep when I left them,” he replied as he watched Brenda. “Is everything all right miss?”
“No – I feel a bit strange,” Brenda said as she tried to stand up. “What... What was in that drink?”
“Nothing for you to concern yourself with, miss,” the young man said as he held onto Brenda, hoisting her over his shoulder, “Nothing to concern yourself about at all.”
“What’s happening – what are you doing,” Brenda said, but she found herself unable to stop the young man carrying her out of the lounge and into the boat, descending several steps until he came to a large door. As he opened it, Brenda could hear muffled calls. Raising her head, she looked at the room as the steward closed the door, and mouthed “Shit” before her eyes closed.
“Brenda? Brenda, where are you?”
JC could not believe her eyes. She had left Brenda in the lounge while she went to look for the others, and now she had disappeared? The sleeves of her white blouse billowed in the sea breeze as she stepped onto the wooden walkway and looked round. The cabins had been empty, and it was almost as if...
"Good evening, Miss Harper?"
She turned to see the captain walking towards her.
"Do you have any idea where all the others have gone, Captain? They all seem to have disappeared or taken ill."
"Indeed, I do, Miss Harper," he said as he produced a pistol from behind his back and pointed it at her. “Indeed I do. Please, do not be alarmed – I wish to take you to them, but we have some preliminaries to see too first.”
“Captain Spalding, what is going on here?”
“All in good time, Miss Harper,” the captain said as he walked quietly forward. “Mister Mate, secure our guest.”
JC looked over her shoulder to see the mate standing behind her, a length of cord in her hands. Turning back to the captain, she said quietly “Oh God,” as she felt her wrist been drawn behind her and the cord pass around them.
“I know you were looking forward to a promising career,” Captain Spalding said as JC felt the cords digging into her wrists, “but you may be following a slightly different career path. Silence her and take her down – our rendezvous is in thirty minutes.”
“What the hell – you can’t get aweswwetwehthwethfhsda,” JC tried to say, but as a thick length of cloth was pulled between her lips it choked out any intelligible sound she was making. The cloth bit into the sides of her mouth as they were pulled back, before she was roughly turned roudn and forced back into the lounge, where the steward was waiting with Annie and Cassie.
The two were sat side by side, ropes around their legs and upper bodies as they stared at JC. “HLPS,” they tried to call out, but as they watched her been forced to sit on a chair and the rope going around her arms, chest and the chair back, they started crying again. JC could see the tear stains on their cheeks as she watched the mate lash her ankles to the front legs of the chairs.
“In here, ladies,” she heard the captain say, and her eyes widened as both Katie and Elaine were walked in. They had been blindfolded, and their lips covered with strips of brown sticking plaster. Their wrists were behind their backs, and their legs tied tightly together just below their knees, with their ankles secured by a length of rope that kept them about a foot apart, allowing them to half walk, half shuffle in before they were made to sit down. Finally, the steward appeared with Brenda over her shoulder.
Ropes were clearly visible around her upper body, and as she was set on the floor JC could see the way they went above, below and between her breasts, forcing them up and out so that the material of her blouse was stretched over them. Her ankles were tied tightly together, the ropes around her feet as well as her legs, while it crisscrossed up to above her knees. A cloth was also pulled between her lips.
The sound of a boat approaching drifted through the open doorway, and as Captain Spalding walked out JC tried frantically to call to her sister. Elaine turned her head at the sound, but before she could say anything a tall, dark skinned man walked into the lounge.
“Excellent work, men,” he said in a cultured English accent, much to the surprise of JC. “I think Objects of Beauty can make use of all of them.” All six started to scream out as he walked round and looked at each of them.
“The usual recompense?”
“That would be most acceptable, George” Captain Spalding said. JC watched the two men shake hands a four others, clad in black, walked in.
“Transfer them,” the man called George said as two of them picked up Annie, and the other two Cassie, and carried their struggling bodies out of the lounge.
The Maria Santa was found drifting off the coast of Barbados three days later, with no sign of the crew or their passengers. There was an investigation, but eventually the police concluded the crew had killed the girls and then fled.
No-one was ever caught or convicted, and the girls were never seen again.
Fifteen years later
The four young women looked at the tall, well dressed African man as he examined the ropes around them.
“My compliments again, Spalding,” he said in a refined English accent. The four were forced to their feet and frogmarched to a waiting speed boat, their eyes red with tears and their throats sore with the futility of trying to call out.
The boat took them from the yacht to a secluded spot on the coast, where they were taken into a large log cabin and left. As they tried to free themselves from the ropes that held their wrists, the door opened and a woman in her late thirties walked in. She had red hair that encircled her face, and eyes that were both sad and kind at the same time.
“Good evening, Ladies,” she said as she stood there in a white blouse and linen skirt. “I know you are scared, and you have no idea what is happening. All I can say is this – you are starting a new life, and for your own sake you need to try and forget all that has happened to you so far.
Believe me, I know how you feel. My name is Joanne – but you can call me JC.”