Motherhood Is Murder - By Diana Orgain


At Sea

To Do:

1. Buy diapers.

2. Make Laurie’s two-month check.

3. Find good “how to” book for PI business.

4. ?

5. ?

6. Exercise.

I stared into the bathroom mirror and wondered how I’d failed to bring a hairbrush along on the San Francisco Bay dinner cruise. I ran my hands down the length of my mop, trying to tame the frizzies. If I put a little water on the problem, would it help or make it worse?

The door to the restroom flew open. Sara, one of the moms from my new mommy group, appeared. She looked worse than I did. Her lipstick was smudged and her hair had the volume of a lion’s mane.

“Oh my God! Kate! I didn’t know you were here.” She took a step back toward the door, then hesitated, looking like she’d been caught with her hand in the cookie jar.

She was so prim and proper at dinner. Probably doesn’t like to be seen looking so rumpled, but hey, if you can’t look bad in the ladies’ room, then there’s no safe haven.

Sara ran her hands along the front of her black cocktail dress, which was wrinkled and wet, then squinted at her reflection. She jumped into action, grabbing a paper towel and fixing the smeared lipstick. “Your husband’s been looking everywhere for you. The captain’s called an ‘all hands on deck.’ ”

“My hands, too?” I asked, wiggling my fingers under the faucet to activate the automatic water flow.

Sara scrunched her mouth in disapproval.

“I guess I’m not up on ship rules,” I said to her reflection.

“Everyone has to go back to their tables, now!” She grabbed another paper towel and frantically scrubbed at the wet section of her dress.

I stopped fussing with my hair and shifted my gaze from Sara’s reflection to Sara.

If everyone was supposed to be back to their tables, what was she doing here?

“Why?” I asked.

“There’s been an accident.”

Goose bumps rose on my arms. “What kind of accident?”

“Helene fell down the back staircase.” Sara motioned me toward the door. “Come on, come on.”

We made our way through a dimly lit corridor toward the main dining hall. The cruise ship held roughly seventy-five passengers although tonight it was only about half full.

The change in atmosphere was immediately noticeable. Not to mention eerie. The dance floor was empty and the music was off. We crossed the bar area, which moments ago had been packed, and hurried to our dining table.

Most of the passengers were seated at their tables. The chatter that had animated the room was subdued.

I spotted Jim standing alone at our table, gripping the back of his chair. He surveyed the room. When he saw me, his expression relaxed a notch, going from grim to serious.

I hurried to him and reached for his hand.

He embraced me. “Kate! I was worried.”

“I need to find my husband,” Sara said as she rushed past us and headed for the main stairwell.

“What’s happened? Sara said Helene fell down some steps. Is it serious?”

“I’m not sure. The captain asked everyone to return to their dining tables. Didn’t you hear him on the microphone? Where’ve you been?”

Before I could answer, my elbow was jogged by Evelyn, another mommy from our group. She was eight months pregnant with her second child. Her blond hair was pinned neatly back, and her green eyes flashed, enhanced by the lime scarf she wore. The scarf was arranged to draw the eye toward her protruding belly, which she proudly stroked.

“Kate! How awful! Did you hear about Helene?” Her lips curled a bit, almost as if she were suppressing a smile.

Why was she smiling? Almost gloating.

“Sort of. Is she all right?”

“Ladies and gentlemen,” the captain’s voice boomed over the microphone. “Please take your seats. We will be a bit delayed in docking in San Francisco due to an unfortunate accident aboard. The U.S. Coast Guard will be joining us shortly. Thank you in advance for your full cooperation.”

Evelyn squeezed my elbow and flitted off to gather her husband. Jim pulled my chair out for me.

“Coast Guard? What’s going on?” I asked.

Jim’s lips formed a line. “I was at the bar getting a Bud, when the brunette—”

“Sara, Miss No-Nonsense?”

“No. The other one, the one with the . . . with the . . .” Jim waved his hands around. “Fluffy dress.”

I nodded. “Margaret.”

Margaret was wearing a ballet tutu. I wish I could say it looked as ridiculous as it sounded, but the truth was it looked fabulous. Margaret was supertall, pencil thin, and had shapely legs. She looked as if