Chapter One

The Murder of a CEO

It was the early morning of the beginning of the weekday. The sun shone brightly, illuminating the clear, ocean blue sky, but the air was still cool. Birds chirped as they flapped their feathery wings, flying high in the crystal clear sky. The streets were packed and congested, filled with many types of cars and trucks of all shapes, sizes and colors, trying to get to work. A few pedestrians strolled down the sidewalks on feet or by bicycle, getting to where they needed to go in the best way they could, since they couldn't afford a vehicle or they had one that didn't work. Tired students walked into Summerville High, groggily and un-energized, while others socialized with their peers after being dropped off by their parent, the school bus or after driving themselves to school. They had all spent their weekend staying up late and hanging out with friends, but now it was there time to learn and prepare for their future.

A medium heighted teacher walked down the halls of the school, her black heels clomping on the solid, waxed floor, her long, dark brown hair swaying with her every movement. She carried a stack of detective novels in her hand as she had a bag filled with teaching supplies, slung around her shoulder. Using her free hand, she opened the door to classroom two-hundred and fourteen. The door swung open, slamming against the wall, alarming the students in the classroom. The students ceased their chattering; stopping immediately once they heard the door slam against the wall and slammed back shut. The students were of multiple ethnicities, rough around the edges and all wore scowl on their faces. The group of students was the troublemakers that no one in the school wanted to deal with. They had no respect for their elders, no desire to learn and made the lives of their teachers Hell. The teacher slammed her books down on her desk, piercing her students with a glare with her dark brown eyes.

"Shut up and sit your asses in your chair. This week, before the vacation next week, today through Friday, from eight in the morning to three in the afternoon, your asses are mine. If you don't like me, then drop out of high school. Then you'll live the rest of your life working minimum wage jobs and trying to provide for a family, living in poverty. If you don't want a life like that, then shut the hell up and learn something. Get an education for yourself. That's my job. It's to educate you. I don't want your brains to rot because you refuse to use it."

"I'm taking roll call, so no talking or else you'll get a firm physical punishment."

"Yes, ma'am," The class said in unison as they sat down in their assigned seats.

When they were in her class, their attitudes changed drastically, Fear and respect were always expressed in their eyes as they listened to her lectures, actually learning what they needed to know to graduate that they did not from their previous teachers. The teacher wrote her name across the board in large letters, after brushing away strands of her dark brown hair from her cocoa colored skin. Every day she would write her name on the board, so that her students would never forget it.

"You guys know my name, so address me with Miss Johnson, not ma'am. I am not a drill sergeant."

"Yes, Miss Johnson." They all said in unison again.

There were only a handful of students at the most. The classroom was not grand sized either. There were only two windows, which were both on the right side of the teacher's desk. The chairs and desks were filled and covered the room completely. The walls were white and the lights weren't all that bright. One flickered on and off, so that sunlight was the only source of light that filled the entire classroom.

"Yo, Teach, why aren't you married yet?" Asked Nyla, a young African-American woman.

Her question made the class start chuckling.

"Johnson, Miss Johnson." She corrected Nyla.

"Does that mean you're still a virgin?" asked Jenifer, a young Caucasian woman.

"Though, there's nothing wrong with that." Cindy, a young Korean woman said.

"If you want, I'll be your husband," Said, Jamal, a young African-American man.

Johnson threw a small paperback book at Jamal's head.

"All of ya'll shut up and get to work. My love life has nothing to do with you."

"Yes, Miss Johnson."

Jamal picked up the book she threw at his head and rubbed the sore bump on his head as he focused on his mathematical work.

Johnson's lips curved upwards into a soft smile as she turned her back towards her class. She shook her head slightly and chuckled softly to herself.

"Those damn kids….", she mumbles.

The last bell of the day rang, signaling that school was over.

"Don't forget to study for the chapter test tomorrow and work on your Literature essay. It's due Friday at three in the afternoon. The moment that bell rings and before you leave the class, you better hand me your essays. Otherwise, you will have to suffer the consequences. You all know what that means." Johnson says as she sits at her desk, grading their math assignment.

Jamal walked up to Johnson and sets her book back down on her desk.

"You like detective novels?" He asked his teacher, making her look up at him from her work.

"Yeah, I read them all the time. My friend calls me a mystery geek."

"She does?"

"Yeah, I guess I am. I collect all kinds of mystery and crime movies and novels. I also watch it all the time on the television."

"Anyways, go and home do your work and study." She demanded him.

"Yes, ma'am," He says, turning his back to her and leaving her class.

Once all of her students left, Johnson sighed out in relief. She dropped her red pen down on her desk and leaned back in her chair. Both of her arms embraced the back of her head. She rested her feet crossed together on top of the desk. She closed her eyes slowly, finally relaxing to the silence, until a thought crossed her mind.

"Why aren't you married?"

"Does that mean you're still a virgin?"

Johnson clenched her eyes tightly as she groaned out in irritation.

"Those damn brats…"

"Aaliyah-chan, are you here?" asked Johnson's good Japanese friend Emily.

When Johnson heard her voice, she groaned more.

"Hey Emily", she mumbled as she was forced to sit normally in her chair.

"Are you done for the day?" She asked, sitting down on Johnson's desk.

"Yeah, I'll grade these papers at home." She answers her friend, while packing up her teacher supplies in her bag.

"Great, then how about I take you for dinner?" She asked Johnson, cheerfully.

Johnson looks at her best friend as she slung her bag over her shoulder.

"Why are you doing that?" She asked Emily, suspiciously eyeing her.

"You're my friend." She says, pursing her lips into a pout.

Johnson raised her right brow in curiosity, making Emily let out a sigh.

"Alright, I happened to walk by your door and heard what those students said to you." She admitted.

"I don't need your pity dinner. I may be single now, but I have had plenty of relationships in the past. I'm fine with my current love life. I don't need a man in my life."

Emily stares at Johnson with a sorrowful expression.

"Don't give me that look. I'm seriously fine. I'm in no hurry to get into another relationship. If I happen to find someone, then good, but I'm not desperate, so I don't need comforting from men. I have you and my students. That's all I need." Johnson explains as she smiles softly at her friend.

"Aaliyah-chan you're such a great friend," Says Emily as she embraced Johnson tightly.

Johnson groaned in irritation again to her embrace, not liking the physical contact as she dropped both of her arms to her side and cocked her head the other way.

"Yeah, thanks. You can let go of me now." She told Emily, trying to push her away, making her let go and part from her.

"Anyways, I got to go visit Mr. Williams today."

"You mean that perverted old man you told me about? What could he possibly want with you? You go visit him every weekend." Emily said, furrowing her eyebrows in disgust.

Johnson shrugged her shoulder saying "I don't know, but he's a friend of my family".

"I'll come with you; just don't let him anywhere near me." She said, making Johnson chuckle at her and say "come on".

Johnson's friend Emily followed her out of the school building and out into the parking lot. Johnson took out her keys to her navy blue Mustang GT.

"I always pictured a hardcore teacher like yourself to drive a cool car." Emily said opening her side's door and got into the passenger's seat and buckled up, after slamming the car door closed.

Johnson got into the driver's seat and slammed the car door closed. She buckled up, after throwing her stuff in the back seat. She put the key in the ignition and turned it on.

"Where does Mr. Williams live again?" Emily asked Johnson as she drove out of the school parking lot and away from the building.

"In this rich, suburban neighborhood filled with mansions."

"Why do you go there every weekend?"

"Emily, he's very old. He can barely take care of himself. He has maids and butlers, but sometimes they aren't enough. Plus, he helped out my family when I was younger and deep trouble."

From the corner of Johnson's eyes, she could see Emily staring at her suspiciously.

"What?"

"How much is he paying you?" Her friend asked, making Johnson sigh.

"I don't know what you're talking about. I can't take care of an old family friend without benefitting from it?"

"No because it's not like. You're not the type of person to care for a perverted old man, unless money is involved. It must be a lot." She said, making Johnson sigh again.

"You know me all too well, Emily"

After forty-five minutes of driving, Johnson and Emily arrived to the Williams Estate. In front of the mansion were two tall, black, marble gate doors with the initials of C.W. engraved in pure gold letters on it. Johnson drove up to the gate and let down her window. She pressed the button on the intercom that was hooked up to the brick wall that surrounded the mansion.

"Hey Mr. Williams, it's Aaliyah." She said into the intercom.

She placed her right eye against the camera lens, letting it scan her oculus, proving it was her.

"Ah, Aaliyah, it's always a pleasure seeing your beautiful face."

"The same to you, sir."

"You can call Chad. Come, come on in." After he said that, the gate doors swung open.

Johnson let window back up and drove passed the gates and up the curvy and narrow driveway. The right garage door opened, allowing Johnson to drive her Mustang inside. Once she was fully parked, the garage door closed immediately, enveloping both Johnson and Emily in darkness. Johnson turned off her car, took out her keys, grabbed her purse and stuffed her keys inside it as Emily immediately got out of her car. Johnson stepped out of the car, her black heels making a "clomp" sound as they made contact to the hard, concrete ground. The side door in the garage opened, shedding a bit of light for Johnson and Emily, making Emily sigh in relief and calm down. Johnson slammed her car door and locked it. The Mustang made a beep sound as the headlights flashed yellow, signaling that it was locked. Emily followed Johnson, walking up the steps that led to the side door. Emily was shocked as she entered the mansion, after Johnson. Her mouth was gaped open as she stared around in awe. They were in the kitchen. It was very spacious and grand. The countertops were made of red velvet colored marble, which matched the red velvet colored floor. The cabinets and doors were made of Mahogany wood. The chairs and the tables were made from Cherry wood. On the ceiling were hanging laps.

The two were greeted by two twin maids with British accents. They offered to take their coats and purses as they were led to the larger room, the living room, by a butler with a European accent.

The living room had a huge marble fireplace sitting in front of four long and large, black leather couches and a crystal glass table that was huge and round and that sat in the middle of the couches. The walls were painted a reddish-brown color. There was a huge, flat screen television that sat on top of the fireplace. The living room was beautifully embellished with expensive decorations. To their right, Emily and Johnson could see that the main entry way had a huge, crystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling and two spiral staircases leading up to two different, separate hallways.

Johnson and Emily sat gently on the leather couch. Johnson had her legs closed and tilted to the right, since she wore a blue skirt. Both of her hands were entwined together and rested on her lap. Emily wore slacks, so she sat comfortably, glancing around the room. The same butler from before came back, pushing in a cart filled with tea and desserts.

"I made you a cup of Earl Grey, Madame's." He said as he poured the tea into two fine, china cups.

He poured a bit of milk and honey into their cups, along with dropping two sugar cubes in each. He stirred it thoroughly, before handing it to them, first Johnson, then Emily.

"Thank you, Sebastian." Johnson said, sipping her tea carefully, trying not to burn her sensitive tongue.

"I also bought some desserts for you snack on. I know how much you like sweets Madame Johnson. May I serve you anything else?"

"Thank you, Sebastian. You are free to leave," Said Johnson, smiling softly at him.

"Yes, Madame Johnson." Said Sebastian, bowing his head and before pushing the cart away.

"Wow, I never had a butler serve me before! This tea tastes great!" Emily exclaims cheerfully.

"Plus, he was really hot. What was his name, Sebastian?" Emily asked, making Johnson stifle a chuckle at her as she took another small sip of her tea. She flinched a bit when some tea burnt her tongue.

"Yeah and he was handsome. I always thought so." She actually admitted to her friend.

"I think I just found my husband." Emily said, looking back to where Sebastian disappeared to. Her lips curved into a smirk.

"Poor Sebastian, I gotta warn the poor thing." Johnson mumbled jokingly.

"I heard that!" Emily yelled at her friend, punching her in the shoulder playfully, causing Johnson to laugh.

"Ah, Aaliyah, darling, it's good to see you again my dear," rang a deep male voice, coming from the main entryway.

Johnson set her cup of tea down on the table in front of her, after finishing it, since it cooled down. Emily did the same as her and Johnson stood up.

"Chad, sir, it's a pleasure as always." Johnson faked a friendly smile at the old man that walked into the living room and up to her.

The old man had a gray mustache and beard, along with a protruding stomach and pale skin. He wore expensive jewelry; golden rings and necklaces and an expensive suit and shoes. He looked like he could be a Mafia boss. He came up to Johnson and grabbed both of her hands, shaking them excitedly. He then pulled her into a tight embrace and rubbed her back up and down slowly, before kissing both of her cheeks. Johnson balled up both of her hands into tight fists. They were trembling slightly as she resisted the temptation to smack Williams in the face. She held both of her hands together behind her back as Williams parted from her, grinning widely. He placed his left hand on the back of her waist and held out his other hand, escorting her back to the couch she sat on before. Williams sat on the couch across from both Johnson and Emily.

"I seem to have another beautiful guest. Who is this lovely young lady?" He asked Johnson, causing Emily to shiver with disgust.

"This is my friend Emily Mune." Johnson introduced her, making Emily force a fake smile.

She bowed her head politely, saying "It's a pleasure to meet you", though she was lying through her teeth.

"It's always a pleasure to be in the presence of two, young and beautiful women." Williams said, making John's right eyebrow twitch slightly.

"Yes, well, you wanted to see me today immediately for something, sir?" Johnson asked, trying to get straight to the point, so she could leave as soon as possible.

"Oh yes, of course, I wanted to invite you to a luxury one month cruise around the Mediterranean with me."

Johnson had just coughed up a piece of cake she had placed in her mouth as she listened to his request. She was so shocked that she had to gasp for air as Emily patted her back gently. Johnson wiped her mouth with a cloth napkin and looked back up at Williams,

"E-excuse me, sir, isn't it a bit inappropriate to do such a thing together?" she asked, still gasping a bit, causing Williams to laugh wholeheartedly.

"Why of course not, my dear, it's a brand new ship my company built. A lot of bourgeois and wealthy families are attending and I wanted you to go. You helped me out so much; I just wanted to repay you. Your friend is invited as well."

"I don't fit in well with wealthy families, sir, you know that. I'm just a commoner. Plus you pay me well enough." Johnson tried to refuse politely.

"Please, don't decline my offer, Miss Johnson. You can say you were invited by me. You'll have you own rooms and everything."

Johnson massaged her temples and let out a huge sigh.

"I appreciate your offer Mr. Williams. Emily and I would love to attend your cruise ship." Johnson replied, the side of her mouth twitching unnoticeably.

"Great, it's this weekend and I hope you enjoy yourself!" Williams said delighted by Johnson's answer. He handed Johnson a pass and a ticket, saying "Each pass and ticket is reserved for two people".

"Thank you, sir. It was a pleasure meeting you." Emily said, quickly standing up and nudging her friend in the shoulder.

"Yes sir, thank you so much for this gift." Johnson said, also standing up quickly.

Williams stood up with them and shook both of their hands. The two British maids walked in and handed them their coats and purses back.

"Thank you for stopping by and do it again soon." One of the twins said, smiling and bowing down, her short maid skirt, rising up a bit.

Johnson caught Williams staring at her underwear, making her glare at him. She patted the woman on her shoulder, making her stop bowing.

"I promise to come by again." She told her smiling softly. She leaned into her ear and whispered "Keep an eye on him", causing the maid to nod her head slightly.

Sebastian, the butler, led both Johnson and Emily out of the living room, through the kitchen and back to the garage. Johnson bowed to him, before stepping into the garage and walking down the stairs, over to her car. Emily smiled flirtatiously at Sebastian as she gave him a slip of paper and winked at him. She mouthed "call me", before stepping out to the garage also. Sebastian kept a straight face as a tint of scarlet flushed his cheeks. He stuck the slip of paper in his inside coat pocket and shut the door quietly, locking it. Johnson and Emily got in the navy blue Mustang, shut their door and buckled up. Johnson started the ignition and backed out of the garage, once the door opened. She drove down the curved driveway, reversed, backing out pass the black, marble gate doors. She put on her sunglasses and rolled her window down. She stuck her arm out of it and waved goodbye to Williams, before driving off.

"I can't believe he invited you to a luxury cruise. He must really like you." Emily teased her friend, nudging her shoulder, playfully.

"If that's the best I can get, then no thank you. I rather stay single." Johnson said shivering with disgust.

"I'm glad though. We have our spring vacation next week, so this is perfect. What a coincidence, huh? I have never been on a cruise ship before. I sure hope Sebastian will be there." Emily said, causing Johnson to smile softly to herself.

"Yeah, this is going to be exciting and please tell me you didn't give poor Sebastian your phone number."

"Don't judge me, Aaliyah-chan. I'm a single twenty-four year old woman." She told her, causing Johnson to shake her head.

"You are predictable….."

"Shut up and whatever…."

"Anyways, how about staying with me for the week, so we can get ready for the cruise together?"

"And so that you won't have to waste gas picking me up at my house?" Emily continued Johnson's sentence.

"That too."

"Geez, fine, just come by house, so I could get my stuff," She said, pouting her bottom lip, making Johnson chuckle a bit.

"Sure", she answered her.

It was Friday night, the night of the luxury cruise around the Mediterranean. A black, stretch limo picked up both Johnson and Emily at Johnson's average apartment to drop them off at the port. Johnson walked out of her apartment in a blue faux leather mini dress. The dress wrapped tightly around the curves of her body and stopped at her thigh, showing her long dark legs and revealed some of her cleavage. The two straps were placed on both of her shoulders. Around her neck was a turquoise necklace and on her ears were matching earrings. She wore black strapless heels with a small bow on the front. Her long dark brown hair had a curled up do that went well with her oval shaped face. She wore red lipstick on her plumped lips, black eyeliner and lightly red blush on her cheeks. To look more sophisticated, she wore black, rectangular glasses on the bridge of her nose. Emily came out in a short, tight, blue French connection, ribbon knits, color block dress. The dress also came up to her thigh, showing her long legs and had two straps. She wore black strapped heels, a blue pendant, earrings and only red lipstick and black eyeliner. She was a bit shorter than Johnson in height, even in the heels. Both of them carried suede purses with compliments by Williams. Sebastian carried their luggage to the trunk, where he placed them inside, before it shut.

"You two look so lovely this evening." Sebastian complimented both Johnson and Emily.

"Will you be joining us on this lovely cruise, Sebastian?" asked Emily as she walked up to him smiling.

Sebastian smiled softly at Emily as he stared down at her, adjusting his driver cap, while nodding his head towards her. Emily's smile curved more she wrapped her arms around his neck, leaning towards his face and was about to kiss him, when Johnson intervened by grabbing her wrists tightly and pulling her away.

"Thank you, Sebastian. Come on lover girl." She told him and Emily as Johnson pulled her into the limo and shutting the door.

"What you do that for?" Emily angrily asked her best friend.

"We're gonna be late, if you keep flirting with your boyfriend." Johnson said, teasing Emily.

"Shut up, don't be jealous just because I have one and you don't." Emily retorted, sticking her tongue out at Johnson.

Johnson scoffed at her friend replying back with "Please, in order for me to be jealous, you gotta have what I want and you don't", she said flicking Emily's nose, making her face scrunch up.

Johnson looked up at Sebastian as he drove the limo and smiled at him saying, "Sebastian, you make sure you take good care of her. She'll need it". Emily frowned and playfully smacked her friend on the shoulder, yelling "hey", at her. Johnson shrugged her shoulders, smiling as she looked outside the window. It was a beautiful night outside. The vast sky was clear and caliginous as the auroral and pellucid sun vanished behind the horizon. The use to be effulgent sky is now crepuscular. A few scattered stars across the vast sky scintillated and glimmered. The moon was in full view and colossal, illuminating the whole sky. Streetlamps passed by as the limo drove by it and cars passed by quickly as they drove on the other side of the road. Johnson always enjoyed gazing at the nightly scene. It relaxed her and took her mind off realizing she would be around wealthy families, which she was never used to, but she was excited about taking the cruise. She has never been on a cruise before because she could never afford one, so she had hoped she get to have plenty of adventures.

The limo came to a halt when it arrived to the port where the luxury cruise ship Serenity was docked at. Emily was wide awake, since she was conversing with Sebastian through the whole ride there, but Johnson ended up sleeping soundly against the window. Both of her arms were crossed over each other as her head rested on them. Sebastian stepped out of the limo opened Emily's side of the door first. He held out his hand to her, allowing her to grab it and get put up and out of the limo. He brought her hand up to his thin lip and kissed the back of it, making Emily blush scarlet a bit. He gently set her hand down and walked over to Johnson's side of the limo and opened it, letting Johnson fall against his chest, still sleeping. Sebastian chuckled softly as one of his arms held her waist, pulling her up.

"Miss Johnson, we're here, please wake up." He said to her in his deep, yet soft voice.

Johnson's face flinched as she slowly opened her eyes to gaze into Sebastian's blue ones. She yawned slightly and pushed herself off his chest and rubbed her eyes.

"Sorry Sebastian. I didn't know I dozed off." She apologized.

"It's alright Miss." He says, adjusting her clothes and hair, so that it looked perfect like before.

"How long have you known me? Call me Aaliyah. We're family man." Johnson says, nudging his stomach.

Sebastian held his stomach as he replied with "My apologies Aaliyah", making her smile.

"That's more like it. Thanks for the ride." She tells him, patting his back, before saying "I'll grab my stuff and leave you and Emily alone. You two have fun on the cruise". She kissed his cheek and walked over to the trunk and opened it, grabbing her luggage. She left it open for her friend as she walked over to Emily and patted her back.

"I'm leaving you and Sebastian alone, so I'll see you back in the room, unless you want to stay with Sebastian." She whispers in her ear, teasingly, causing her face to flush slightly.

"W-what are you talking about?"

"As a grown woman, you have needs too, so I understand." Johnson laughs as she smacked her friend in her back playfully and walked away.

Johnson gazed at the cruise ship as she approached closer to it. At first glance, it looked like floating skyscraper. It was fifteen passenger decks high above the water. Johnson had to shake her head, so she could snap out of her trance. She showed the guard her ticket and told him that there is another passenger for her ticket, before entering upon the ship, carrying her luggage. She glanced at her ticket again for her room number, before pushing pass people to get to the stairs. Upon approaching the stairs, someone ran down those stairs, knocking her down to the floor. Johnson cried, "Ow, crap", as she clenched her brown eyes shut tightly and landed on the ground. She groaned as she rubbed her head. She shot open her eyes angrily, about to snap at the person who ran into her, except when a caramel colored hand reached out to her. She checked out the hand oddly, before taking it, being pulled up roughly. One of her heels slipped, so she was forced to lean into a broad, yet soft chest.

"I'm sorry Miss. I wasn't watching where I was going." He apologized to Johnson.

"Damn right you're sorry. I could have broken something." She mumbled quietly as she pushed herself off his chest and looked up at him to meet dark brown sugar eyes.

"It's alright. It was just an accident." She told him, adjusting her dress and hair.

"My name is Adrian Chou. It is nice to meet you Miss…" He paused as he waited for Johnson to introduce herself.

"Oh, mine is Aaliyah Johnson. It's a pleasure."

Chou held out his hand to Johnson, smiling warmly at her, allowing her to shake it, her also giving him a polite smile.

"Well, I gotta go get settled down in my room. I'll see ya later." She says, trying to leave as quickly as possible, since she wasn't good with confronting with the opposite sex. She turned her back towards him and took one step towards the stairs, before he grabbed her wrist, making her turn back around to him. She sent him a glare as she snatched her hand away from his tight grasp.

"Oh, will you be at the masquerade party tonight?"

"The what?" Johnson asks, her glare softening.

"You didn't know? They're hosting a masquerade party tonight, once the ship has left the dock to celebrate its success." Chou explained to her.

"Oh yeah, I read that information on the ticket. I even bought a costume being prepared for that evening, so yeah I'll be going."

"Great, then you'll see me there. Let's hope we'll find each other." Chou says, smiling at her.

Johnson nodded her head and smiled back.

"Then I'll actually see ya later then." Johnson waves goodbye and searches for room on the seventh floor.

"Room number 7106…." She mumbles searching for her sleeping quarters, but running into another person, being pushed back.

"Crap, not again…." She mumbles angrily to herself.

A young woman about her age was pushed on her back. Her long blonde hair covered her milky face as she groaned in pain. She stood up and adjusted her clothes. Johnson looked up at her, saying "My bad", trying to apologize to her. The woman smiled at her and shook her head, saying "It's alright. I'm Ashley by the way". Johnson held out her hand to her replying with "I'm Aaliyah". Ashley shook her hand and said "It's a pleasure to meet you, but I gotta go", as she waved goodbye to her and quickly walked away. Johnson waved goodbye back and noticed something on the floor next to her foot. She knelt down, grabbed it, lifted it up and glanced at it to realize it was a small pink lighter with the initials "A.M.", on it. She looked back up and was about to call out to her, but she already disappeared. Johnson sighed and shrugged her shoulders, continuing her search for her room. When she found it, she got out her key, stuck it in the hole, turned the key to the right, swinging the door open, stepping inside, slamming her door closed behind her, locking the door, stepping out of her shoes, threw her stuff beside her bed and jumped into it. She laid her head down on the pillow, her body outstretched out on the bed and stares at the ceiling, slowly relaxing and closing her dark brown eyes.

It was time for the masquerade party. The party was going to be held in the cruise's grand ballroom. Johnson had woken up and quickly getting ready for the party. Her costume consisted of scarlet Marie Antoinette gown with detachable sleeves. The skirt has a waistband and hooks at the back waistline. The full skirt was made from beautiful silk Dupioni fabric. The skirt was made from a dark ruby red shot with black silk. A large, dramatic black sequined and beaded trim was all around the bottom of the skirt and train. This is a full skirt with a pretty long train in back. A ribbon and some loops inside the skirt were there, so it can be bustled up.

The bodice goes on like a jacket. Lined in black satin, there are black hooks down the front, and bodice has boning. Floral venise trim with beading was down in front bodice and around middle arm with smaller scalloped trim around neckline. There is a gorgeous scalloped beaded trim around the sleeves, along with black hanging beaded fringe and there is a soft black lace under sleeve. The same scalloped trim goes all the way around the overskirt, which goes longer in back. Ribbons and loops are inside, so it can pull up the sides of the skirt for a bustled effect. She wore a matching necklace and earrings and her hair was curled up in a fancy hairstyle with curly bangs covering her face. Her masquerade mask was handcrafted, black and with black and silver jewels sewn onto the bottom. It covered the whole part of just above her nose. She had black eye liner around her eyes and wore hazel contacts to make her eyes look brighter. Her plumped lips were glossed with bright red lipstick and her fingernails were painted the same color as the dress. She wore strapped, black heels and carried a small wallet purse that was strapped around her right wrist. She grabbed the pink lighter she found and stuck it in her brassier for safe keeping. She wanted to return it to Ashley, so she wouldn't be worried looking everywhere for it.

Upon entering the grand ballroom, Johnson noticed it was filled with dimmed lights and a crowd of people wearing elegant masks and costumes like hers. She could barely see a thing as she ambulated through the crowd of conversing and dancing bourgeois. She made her way to the bar, where she sat down on the stool. She let out a heavy sigh as she smiled sweetly at the bartender and ordered a Bahama Mama. The young bartender smiled back and nodded his head, walking away to make her drink. Johnson crossed her right leg over her left as she twirled around on the stool, her back towards the bartender as he came back and passed her, her drink. Johnson grabbed the drink with her right hand and sipped it as she watched everyone dance in sync to the music. Her right foot tapped along to the beat of the music as she looked around. A small smile graced her red lips as she spotted her friend Emily and Sebastian dancing together. She shook her head, smiling to herself. She was glad that her friend was happy. Now she could finally relax that her friend would be more occupied with Sebastian. She finished her drink and decided not to order another one, since she didn't want to start getting tipsy. She eructed through her mouth as she eructated. She covered her mouth as she excused herself and continued watching everyone from the bar. She then spotted someone with a capacious grin on his face as he ambulated through the crowd towards her. Johnson eyed him suspiciously as her right brow raised in curiosity. She couldn't help it, but a commodious grin graced her red lips as she watched him make his way up to her slowly. She already figured out who it was, but she kept a straight face, except with the grin as she stared into his now dark brown eyes. The man knelt down on his right knee as he grabbed her right hand and brought the back of it to his lips, kissing it lightly.

"Mhm, such a charmer, aren't you?" Johnson told him, the same smile still gracing her lips.

The man lifted his head up and looked into her hazel eyes.

"Not as much as you. I couldn't help, but realize how much you stood out because of the angelic glow that inundated your entire, beautiful body." He replied to her, checking her out up and down.

"Such sweet words you have, though they are just words. You could have looked them up somewhere on the internet. Now and days you can find anything on there."

"I assure you those words came straight from my heart. From the moment I saw you, I could tell you were going to be a difficult challenge to get through." He says to Johnson, still knelt down in front of her.'

"So, what? Are you going to give up and find someone who is an easier challenge to get through?" She says, her lips smirking.

"Of course not, I'm a man who loves a challenge. This makes me want you even more."

"You have such a way with words and you don't even know me. Plus, can you handle all of these curves?" Johnson asked tracing the curves of her body with her other hand, making the man watch her closely, his eyes flickering with lust.

"I would like to get to know you more and….." He pauses, following her curves with his eyes and continuing his sentence with "I've never handled those curves before, but I would love to try. Would you give me a chance and teach me?"

"Maybe I can..."~ Johnson says in a seductive voice.

"How about you dance with me?" He asks, standing up, still holding onto her hand.

Johnson checked him out up and down, saying "You did good so far, so I guess I can spare you a dance", while standing up. The man led Johnson out into the dance floor, their gaze never left each other's eyes as she embraced her petite arms around his neck and as he hugged her diminutive waist with his left hand. His right hand held hers as he lifted it up and entwined his fingers with hers. He pulled her slender body closer to his, so that there was very little space between them. Their bodies moved in sync as their feet danced from side to side in a slow pace. Their eyes gazed intently at one another as they danced around the ballroom. The man twirled Johnson out of his arms and spun her around, before pulling her back into his chest and dipping her. He pulled her back up slowly, her dark hair falling to her face as she stood back up. He embraced her waist again and waltzed around the ballroom again.

"You're a good dancer…" She pants as he twirled her around again.

"You're light on your feet." He compliments her, dipping her again, before pulling her back up.

"Only because you're such a great dancer. I'm not usually this light on my feet." Johnson pants again.

The man smiles and stifles a chuckle and asks, "What do you do for a living?", before pulling Johnson closer to his chest. Johnson embraced his neck with her arms again and answered with "I'm a teacher at Summerville High. I also do a side job by being Mr. Chad William's personal assistant".

"Then we have a similar position. I work for Mr. Williams too."

"What a coincidence..."

Their bodies inevitably stopped by themselves when the faint music dancing in their ears no longer played, until a slow song came on. Johnson parted from the man, her chest rising up and down quickly as she panted heavily. She brushed her hair out of her face as she gazed at him. Her cheeks were flushed with scarlet from the heat and the alcohol she had just consumed before.

"How about a slow dance?"

"I agreed to one dance, sir." Johnson grins.

"Then how about sparing me a slow dance. You did say I was a good dancer."

"You're right, so I guess I wouldn't mind."

The man embraced Johnson's waist with both of his hands as she embraced his neck with both of her arms. Their bodies swayed from side to side slowly in sync as their gazes never left each other.

"What are your hobbies?" The stranger asks Johnson.

"Don't judge me, but I'm a mystery freak. I collect all kinds of detective novels and movies. I am even writing my own mystery fiction."

"Oh really? What's the title?"

"I called it Deadly Passion. It's a cruise ship murder mystery."

"Why is it called Deadly Passion?"

"The detective ends up falling for the murderer stained with red hands."

"It sounds sexy. I hope to read it in the future, once it's published."

"Don't get your hopes up."

"I have a challenge for you, Miss Detective. Have you figured out who I am?"

"Of course, I figured it out the moment you walked up to me, Adrian Chou." Johnson grinned at him.

"Congratulations, you figured it out correctly. Nothing gets passed you Miss Aaliyah Johnson."

A blonde haired woman walked up to Johnson and Adrian, a lustful smirk placed on her lips as she checked out Adrian from head to foot.

"Mind if I take him off your hands?" She asked Johnson, making her look at her up and down. The woman's dress was extremely short and revealing.

Johnson shrugged her shoulders and parted from Adrian. She then noticed the letter "A.M." tattooed on her left breast. Adrian watched as Johnson dug out a pink lighter from her cleavage and handed it to the blonde woman.

"You dropped this when we met earlier, Ashley."

The woman named Ashley blinked a couple of times, before taking the lighter from Johnson, staring at her shocked.

"How did you know it was me?"

"You have your initials tattooed on your left breast. The ones matched the ones on the back of the lighter."

"The initials on my breast are small. You have a good eye, Miss Aaliyah. Anyways, thank you. I have been looking for that all day."

"Have fun with Adrian." Johnson says winking her right eye at both of them.

"Oh I will, I have been eying him all day." Ashley says pulling him away from Johnson.

"You can't get rid of me that easily. I'll be back with you after a dance with Miss Ashley."

Johnson shook her head as she chuckled at Adrian's comment. She waved at him as she turned her back towards him and walked back to the bar, sitting down in the same stool as before. Johnson was always a creature of habit. She ordered another Bahama Mama and watched Adrian and Ashley dance intimately. She traced circles in her drink with her straw as she watched them closely, before taking a sip. She averted her eyes away from them as she caught Adrian looking back at her, pretending to watch some other couple dance.

"This is a good drink Jose'. Keep them coming." Johnson says to the bartender, sweetly.

"Thank you and coming right up Miss." He replies to her in a strong Mexican accent, before leaving.

Before he left, Johnson noticed he wore a silver ring with a red ruby attached to it. It also had tiny inscriptions on the band of the ring in Spanish that says "Más vale solo que mal acompañado", which Johnson figured it read as "Being alone is preferable to being in bad company". Johnson chuckled to herself as she smiled slightly, saying to herself "That's right". She crossed her right leg over her left again and watched the dance floor. About time her other drink came to her, Ashley and Adrian finished dancing. Ashley greeted Mr. Williams, smiling flirtatiously as she followed him out of the ballroom and back to his room on the fifth floor. Johnson sighed as she shook her head, disappointed by Ashley's actions. Adrian walked back over to Johnson and took a seat in the stool next to hers. Johnson twirled around, facing him.

"Did you have fun with Ashley?" She asks him, taking a sip of her third drink tonight.

"Sure, she was a….interesting dancer…" He clears his throat.

"I bet she was. She was dancing awfully close."

"Did we make you jealous?"

"You wish bro. Only in your dreams would I be jealous of anything." Johnson told him, making Adrian chuckle.

"You're fun to talk to."

"Right back at ya", Johnson told him punching his shoulder, making Adrian rub his shoulder as he told her "Heh, for a woman, you pack a punch."

"Don't underestimate me just because I'm a woman."

"I won't next time", he chuckles.

Johnson smiled and looked away from Adrian and watched the dance floor again. The moment she turned away from him, Adrian slipped a drug in her drink. He watched it dissolve, making him stir it up, before turning his attention away as Johnson turned back towards him. She grabbed her glass and placed the glass up to her lips, chugging down the drink. She eructed through her mouth again, but ripped out one bigger than before. Adrian chuckled and sipped his drink.

"I didn't know you were a heavy drinker." He told her.

"You never asked…." Johnson said eructing again. She excused herself and set her glass down on the counter.

After a while and a few more glasses of Bahama Mammas, Johnson's vision started getting hazier as the room around her spun. Johnson held her head tightly, trying to stop the spinning, which didn't work at all. A low groan escaped her lips as she also held her stomach, trying to soothe the aching.

"I think I had too much to drink." Johnson moaned, feeling nauseas.

"Yeah you did. I was gonna stop you, but I figured you would stop soon." Adrian said to her, chuckling a bit.

"Come on, I'll take you to your room." Adrian suggested as he stood up from his stool.

Johnson groaned and whined like a kid as she was forced to stand up by Adrian. She leaned on his shoulder, for support. Adrian wrapped her arms around his shoulder as he embraced her waist to hold her up.

"Where's your key and what is your room number?" He asks her.

Johnson's right hand dug in her cleavage again and took out her room key. She handed it to Adrian, saying "Room number 7106" in a mumble.

"Really? Wow, such a long way up. We better get going now." He says dragging her through the dance floor, heading towards the exit and entrance of the ballroom.

Emily stopped dancing with Sebastian and noticed her friend being dragged out of the ballroom by a guy. A small smirk curved onto her lips as she figured she must have gotten drunk again.

"Good luck mystery man", she whispers to herself, before going back to dancing with Sebastian.

Once Adrian and Johnson stumbled to the steps, Adrian let out a huge sigh, before looking back at Johnson.

"Do you mind if I carry you to your room?" He asks her, wanting to get her permission first.

"Like how a husband carries his wife over the threshold? Sure, sexy man." She laughs drunkly.

Adrian sighs and lifts her up and holds her body in his arms. One of his arms held the back of her legs, while the other held her back, making her body curve a bit at the position of being held. Johnson wrapped her arms around his neck and leaned her face close to his, making Adrian nervous.

"Why are you so nice to me, huh? We just met today." she asks him drunkly as she squinted both of her eyes, staring at him suspiciously.

"I always thought you were an interesting woman, so I wanted to get to know you more and I have gotten to know you a bit more."

"So?"

"From what I know, I kind of like you."

"Don't think just because you said that I will fall for you. I still don't know you and we have only been on one date. You got plenty more dates, before I can decide if I like you or not." She says to him drunkly.

"Trust me, I know. Remember I told you I knew you were a tough challenge."

"Good thing you love hard challenges." Johnson chuckled drunkly again.

Adrian smiled and carried her all the up to her room. Johnson rested her head against his chest for comfort. Holding her with one arm, Adrian unlocked her door and kicked it open all the way with his foot. He stumbled into her room and kicked her door shut. He gently laid her down on her bed and searched for a bottle of water in her fridge. Johnson groggily kicked off both of her heels and pulled off her stockings. She let her hair down, so that all of it fell to her face, covering it. She rolled onto her stomach and unzipped her dress from the back. She groaned as she tried to unzip it all the way down. Adrian kicked her refrigerator shut and turned back towards Johnson to see she was about to slip off her dress. His eyes widened as he set her bottled of water down on her bedside table and quickly grabbed her hands stopping her.

"What?" She groaned drunkly.

"You can't undress when there's a man present in the room, especially one you just met."

Johnson smacked his hands away and stood up, her balance still a bit wobbly. She frowned at him as she mumbled "Shut up", before dropping her dress to her ankles, revealing her black lacy underwear set. Adrian quickly turned around, so that he wouldn't be tempted to stare at her body.

"Man, you're such a strange woman, but you're drunk, so this is normal, I guess." He says nervously, trying to get his mind off of taking a peek at her.

Johnson stays silent as she threw her dress on her luggage and took off her jewelry that she could get off, throwing them on her dress. She drunkly rummaged through her suitcase for something to wear. She pulled one out randomly and slipped it on. It was a thin strapped, black night gown that came up to her inner thigh and some of her cleavage was shown. She stumbled passed Adrian and grabbed the water bottle, opening it and chugging down the water. She collapsed down on her bed as the drugs finally kicked in.

"Man, why are they two of you?" Johnson asked as she pointed to Adrian.

"You must be drunk than I thought. You should rest." Adrian suggested, pushing Johnson on her back as he sat on the edge of her bed.

"I have another idea." Johnson says, wrapping her arms around Adrian's neck again, leaning her face towards his and pressing her lips on his roughly and passionately.

Adrian blinked a few times, shocked to her sudden kiss, but closed his eyes and kissed her back. Johnson pulled him on top of her, taking off his mask, throwing it on the floor and started with his clothes. Adrian slides his tongue in her mouth in a heated French kiss as he slid off her mask and slid down her gown. Adrian parted from the kiss and sent butterfly kisses up and down her neck and on both of her cleavage. The both of them worked one another's clothes, until all of it was off.

Later through the night, a loud gunshot was heard from the fifth floor. The echo of the gunshot awoken Johnson from her silent slumber, but her vision was still blurry and hazy, so she couldn't see straight. All she could feel was a cold breeze coming from her window, which she thought was closed and the softness of the satin sheets. Her nose was hinted with the scent of lavender that came from the bed. When her vision cleared up, she immediately looked to her side to see a sleeping, half naked Adrian. She slowly sat up, holding her head, which ached and throbbed. She groaned silently as she rubbed her temples. She glanced around her surroundings to notice she was in her room. She looked back over at the half naked Adrian and widened her eyes. She immediately lifted up her sheets to see she was naked underneath the covers, which made her mumble "Shit", before quickly standing up and walking over to the trash can beside Adrian. She knelt down in front of and searched for something important. She smiled and sighed in relief when the item she searched for was found. She was able to relax as she grabbed her black night gown from the floor and slipped it on, after she slipped on her brassier and underwear. She walked over to her suitcase and rummaged through it, before getting out her black hoodie and slipping it on. She stepped into her black tennis shoes, grabbed her keys on the bedside table, opened the door and quietly shut and locked it behind her. She decided to search for that sound that awoken her. She couldn't really decipher what it was, since her head was spinning and she felt too groggy, but she thought it sounded too similar to a gunshot. She just hoped she was dead wrong. She ran down the two stories stairs to the fifth floor. She cautiously searched down the hall, until she spotted a crowd surrounding room number 5679.

"Isn't that Mr. William's room?" She thought as she walked up to the doorway.

She pushed through the huge crowd, until she stood in the door frame. She opened her eyes to see Mr. Williams sprawled out across the red carpet floor. Both of his eyes wide and struck with fear and shock and his mouth gaped open. His back laid on the carpet as both of his hands and feet were outstretched in a position like before you start making snow angels in the winter. In his right hand, the arm towards the door frame was a Mamba 9x19mm Parabellum automatic pistol. His index finger rested on the trigger as the rest of his fingers held onto the handle. A wound to the right side of his head, dripped with blood and blended in with the color of the carpet.

"Somebody call for help!" screamed Emily as she covered her mouth and nose with her hand. Tears were trickling down her face quickly as she was forced to stare at the dead man. Sebastian grabbed her and pulled her into his chest, turning her away from the dead Mr. Williams as he stared at his dead boss with disappointment and grief in his eyes. He soon pushed Emily through the crowd, trying to get her away from the horrific scene.

Johnson held her mouth tightly as her stomach felt nauseas. She closed her eyes and gulped down whatever was about to come up. With her hand still covering her mouth and nose, Johnson walked up to Mr. Williams's corpse and knelt down beside him. She checked his pulse carefully to sigh and shake her head when she found nothing.

"He is dead." She told the crowd of people quietly as she stood back up.

"I can't call anyone," Said a tourist as he held up his cellphone.

"We're out in the middle of the sea, so our cellphones won't work. Alright, nobody come in this room. This is a crime scene. If you come in and take anything from this scene, you will be charged with evidence tampering and arrested." Johnson says, turning to the crowd of people, expressing a straight face, though she always wanted to say that in real life.

"What are we gonna do if the police can't arrive here?" asked another tourist.

"Anyone have a camera on their person right now?" asked Johnson.

"I do", yelled a teenage girl as she held out her camera to Johnson.

Johnson took it, mumbling "thanks. I'll give it back to you", before turning her back to the crowd again and took multiple pictures of the corpse and the ransacked room.

"I want these photos printed out." She said to the girl as she handed back her camera, making the young girl nod and run away.

"Can someone give me a white blanket to put over the corpse?" Johnson asked, making a maid nod her head and quickly run away.

Johnson stared at the dead Mr. Williams and shook her head in disappointment.

"It looks like he committed suicide by pumping his head with lead. What a way to go." Johnson said, talking to herself.

"Yeah, I agree. It's shame that he killed himself." Said a familiar voice behind Johnson, making her turn her head to see Adrian.

Johnson sighed as turned back around, looking at the corpse as Adrian stood close beside her on her left.

"I never thought he was the one do something like this. He seemed so happy and cheerful." Johnson sighed again.

"Yeah, but those are the ones that always hide their true feelings from the world."

"Yeah, but still," Johnson paused as she placed her right hand on her chin and rubbed it gently as she kept staring at the corpse, getting every detail in her head.

"What?" Adrian asks her.

"Something doesn't sit right with me." She said quietly, making Adrian chuckle.

"What exactly is the problem, Miss Detective?" He asked her, crossing his arms against his chest.

"I don't know, but to me it feels like this was a murder disguised as a suicide." Johnson mumbled quietly again.

"What do you mean? How can you be so sure?" Adrian asked her, trying to hide his nervousness.

"I'm not sure. Oh well, what do I know? I'm just a high school teacher." Johnson sighs as she shrugged her shoulders, making Adrian calm down and sigh with her.

The maid came back and handed Johnson a long, white blanket. Johnson smiled at the maid as she thanked her and walked back over the corpse, laying the blanket over his body neatly. The crowd dispersed slowly, leaving Johnson and Adrian alone. Adrian leaned his back on the door frame, his arms still crossed together against his chest as he stared and waited for Johnson, who knelt down beside the corpse again, praying over him with her crucifix necklace in her right hand. She stood back up and turned her back towards him, making Adrian notice dried up tears on her cheeks. Johnson looked up at him, but looked away as she walked passed him, trying to avoid his gaze, since she felt that her eyes were red. She didn't want him knowing she was crying. Johnson was never the one to cry in front of people. Adrian embraced her shoulders and rubbed her back up and down in a soothing way, leading her back to her room.

Made by: Aisha Craig