Chapter Eight

April 12, 1912

The horrible reminder of her failed attempt last night was constantly reminded the rest of the early hours, from the crusty cut on the back of her head to the fading remains of a pounding headache. However, that didn't stop Marianne from socializing, which was exactly what she did that afternoon after a hectic morning which started with an illuminating epiphany.

After many tries to open the dead actress's locket in the ship's infirmary, and despite the few strange looks from the doctor, the trio came to the conclusion that whoever had left it there had jammed it tightly shut. Right as they said that, Ryan took a closer look and pointed out the tiniest hint of a clear, dried on substance—which Marianne immediately stated was glue.

That's when Henry nearly jumped out of his shoes. "Marianne, about Ivan last night," he spoke rapidly. "He dropped a bit of sour information about Elena. I think we have the next thing on our list for this case!"

Even though Marianne had so carefully come up with a list last night, she decided not to mention it.

"Official business, he called it, to settle a disagreement. Then he went on to explain how he was keeping track of it by keeping in touch with his partner through the wireless. You know what this means?"

"The wireless room!" she gasped in exhilaration at their new find. "Why didn't we think of that sooner? He could be sending something of value across the transatlantic cable as we speak!"

So, in an adrenaline-coursing moment, they had crossed the decks and stepped onto forbidden territory: the officers' promenade. It was only a section of the boat deck that wasn't even cut off for intruders, containing the collapsible lifeboats and housing some crew quarters. Marianne could make out the looming bridge and the officer manning the wheel, staring out at the clear ocean. To her, it was as though the whole fate of the ship was in his hands—which it was, in a way, for it directed it away from any harm in sight.

However, she had heard that morning that the men in the crow's nest had no binoculars to look out for the icebergs; and this had, momentarily, sent Marianne into a panic. She reminsiced lucidly what Madame Francine had told her, of the ship not feeling right. A woman she had seen relaxing in one of the deck chairs preciously held a plush pig, and she heard later on that she refused to let it from her sight. That's when Marianne was informed of the wreck of the Titan.

Fourteen years prior to the Titanic, as story goes, a writer and supposed psychic by the name of Morgan Robertson published a novel about a ship eerily similar to the Titanic,bearing a new name and a facing its first voyage. But then it strikes and iceberg and sinks prior to reaching New York, its destination, and along with it more than half its passengers perish.

Marianne had heard of Futility, but never what it was about. After the extremely fascinated female passenger finished recounting the tale, Marianne was dumbfounded. After all, what was to be said after hearing such a tragic story as that? Besides, it was a mysterious incident that led to bouts of equally strange debates.

Now here she was, solving a mystery of her own. With the amount of change needed to sell a telegram clinking in her coat pocket, she motioned with her eyes to Henry if he was ready to put their ploy into action. When he had nodded his head affirmative, she opened the door to the wireless room and was welcomed by the irritating sound of the telegram merrily at work.

Dit dit dit di-dit.

Long, short, long. STOP.

The Marconi officers—Jack Phillips and his assistant, Harold Bride—were diligently tapping up the sincere messages briefly describing a pleasant voyage or a chilly walk on the deck. Just as Marianne and Henry had entered, Phillips pulled off his chunky headset and put it aside, eyeing the couple suspiciously.

Taking a deep breath, Marianne thought, This is it, and it's your only chance at getting it right. "I have a message to send to my family back in England," she blurted out, praying that it was sophisticated enough to be convincing.

With a grumble of annoyance, he still plastered a fake smile as he took it from her. "Your message will be sent shortly, Miss, but—"

"Oh God!" Marianne exclaimed in horror, pointing at something in the distance. "Is he all right?" She squinted her eyes and put her hand up to block out the sun. "My goodness, I think he's limping!"

After her ghastly scream, Phillips called for Bride, who immediately obeyed his commands to see what was going on. "I think he's hurt!" Marianne continued, loathing her innocence charade inside. "He must have slipped on the deck or something!"

But Phillips wouldn't budge to help the faking Henry. "Your partner is calling for you," she thought of last minute and on the spot. "He needs help aiding the poor man to the infirmary. I'll just be on my way…"

Grudgingly, Phillips followed her out of the wireless room, sending her a wary look as he passed by. Smiling worriedly, she started walking to the stairs that led to the private promenade deck, but turned around last minute and slipped inside the Marconi room. It was highly unlikely for the White Star Line crew to abandon their posts like that, but for the sake of a murder mystery, Marianne was desperate to jolt them out of their spots, even if it meant their job and pay.

They could be thanked later. But for now, she needed to shuffle through the stacks of messages written in elegant, curly handwriting—"Gertrude, darling, I should be home by Harold's birthday!" and "The voyage has been so smooth and calm, it's hard to believe I'm on a ship at all! Tell Peter I say hello!"—but none resembled that of a male hiding a big secret.

That's when she saw it. With tenuous hands, she dropped all the other cards and scanned it quickly:

The bird is being followed. Fox is on its tail.

Stuffing it hastily into her pocket, she stacked the notes back into their proper position next to the whirring telegraph system and bolted out of the room, forcing herself not to look back and just focusing on the clacking of her heels against the deck, the pounding of her heart in her chest, and her rapid breaths that she didn't know she was holding in until she was far away from the wireless.

After coming to a relieving halt, she glanced over her shoulder—no one had followed her. She only hoped they would believe Henry had a limp, twisted ankle, and with any luck they wouldn't notice a missing telegram from the ever growing pile.

As she started off to the infirmary at a slow pace, she pulled the message out of her pocket and immediately noted the initials in dark, masculine writing: I. A.

Finally, they had accomplished something! Maybe Ivan was the source all along, and they barely had to search for much of anything. But there was a dreadful twinge in her stomach that just told her that that wasn't the case.

Yet, she had to go with it anyway. Physical evidence never lied—but it could, her mind kept telling her, be deceptive. And she hoped that wasn't the case and she could just continue with her life.

What Marianne had been doing that was so social, despite her appalling headache, was dining then conversing with some of the most influential women on the ship. There was Madeline Astor, who was indeed pregnant with J.J.'s son; Lucille Duff Gordon, a fashion designer for all the royals; the Countess of Rothes, who was very empathetic and read books to the steerage children in her spare time; and Margaret Brown, who Marianne called Maggie, and who was also considered "new" to the whole rich world, hence her western accent.

And they were all chatting and gossiping about the atrocious stuff Marianne grew to hate. From the peaceful voyage so far, to who was having what scandal, and back to the grand ship, it was a cycle of repetition and irritancy.

For example, Madeline said, "The weather has been quite good for this trip."

And Lucille replied, "Yes, indeed. Did you hear about Brenda? I heard the most horrific details about her affair with the duke!"

And the Countess would pipe up, "Oh, you mean that dreadful man from Norway? Poor Brenda, she never saw the imperfections in him."

And finally Maggie did not do her newspaper research, and casually brought up, "Can you believe the delicacies on this ship?" And they all agreed, murmuring and nodding appropriately before speaking up about how delicious the French pastries they had munched on earlier were.

As much as Marianne wanted to believe they were as static and unrounded as they were, that was just not the case. Every single one of them was an amazing woman, Marianne learned after each brief, airy conversation; just the ability for them to have their own sphere of influence made Marianne shut her opinionated mouth in disbelief. Though she disapproved of their waste of life, they still participate in huge events that were left in the newspapers to be added on to and revised for months in the vicious cycle of journalism.

Journalism, Marianne recounted on. It was such a strange thing to make money off of stories that may be made-up or exaggerated; certainly the people knew that to an extent. Would they believe her when she publishes her findings? Or would they think it was all a hoax?

"Marianne, darling, how have you been?" the Countess of Rothes spoke up, knocking Marianne out of her reverie.

"Yes, it must have been horrible after what happened between you and Mr. Marlowe," Lucille chimed in, taking a prim sip of her tea.

Suddenly, Marianne's mouth was dry. As every pair of eyes was on her at that moment, she stammered before croaking out, "Yes, it's been a rough journey, but I've gotten over it."

"Oh, I remember when I was your age," Lucille sighed, putting a hand to her heart. "There was this man, and his name was George…"

"Hush now, Lucy, this is no time for backstories," Maggie interrupted, mentally rolling her eyes. "The girl was saying something." Madeline just sat quietly at her spot playing with the wedding band on her finger, her eyes never meeting Marianne's—and Marianne couldn't help but think that Madeline was her age, but already married and pregnant.

"It's fine, Maggie." Marianne managed to smile, keeping her eyes on Madeline's cool posture, wondering if she was hurting inside for committing herself to a man at such a young age. "You know, I haven't talked to you in a while." And Marianne got the whole spiel about how Mr. Brown comes home drunk as a swine some nights, and how worried she was about her son back in Colorado.

That's when she spotted him: the man in bowler hat and waistcoat. Alerted, Marianne stood up faster than she had meant to, shaking the table and making a surprised gasp escape Lucille's mouth. The Countess gazed up at her anxiously, Margaret looked like she had been slapped on the face, and Madeline kept to her lap. "Excuse me," Marianne spluttered, not realizing she was holding her breath. "But I just remembered there's something I have to do." Voicing her gratitude for spending lunch with them, she sped out of the reception.

But by the time she had reached her destination, he was nowhere in sight. Instead her vision was met by the people of an influential society dressed in the newest and most exorbitant garb imaginable; sometimes, Marianne felt like she was floating in a dream, and the ocean was merely clouds.

Pulling her jacket tighter around her lean body, she started her search for Henry, mumbling to herself as the biting cold nipped at her red cheeks. When she found him, he was on the private promenade having a delightful discussion with Jack Thayer, whose father was the renowned businessman of the Pennsylvanian railroad. "Good afternoon, Henry," Marianne said nonchalantly, smiling pleasantly at Jack. "How is your leg?"

And she went on to recount in her head how flustered and awkward it was to convince the doctor, who had let Marianne out and about a couple of hours before, that Henry really had fallen and sprained his ankle. After Marianne had helped him out, meanwhile limping on one foot, she stopped him excitedly and showed him the evidence they had found.

"I think we've found our prime suspect!" she had exclaimed triumphantly, connecting the pieces of the puzzle. "This disagreement Alexandrov mentioned to you, it was supposed to be solved on this ship, but he knew a dead body would attract too much attention and decided to murder her sooner! Jealousy, my friend, could be quite the killer." She smiled up at him, dimples as wide as saucers from her exhilaration. "No pun intended."

"Fine, Marianne, thank you," Henry said, his voice slightly strained in the back of his throat. He then turned his attention back to Jack. "It was nice talking to you, Jack."

"You too, good fellow," Jack chortled, patting him on the back. "How about a game of cards later in the smoking room? You can have a taste at the world's finest cigar! My father's treat."

"All right then, just send me a telegram and I'll hop on the next train to the middle of nowhere!" he joked, waving farewell. When he evidently gave Marianne his attention, she looked irritated. "What? Aren't they made in some exotic place?"

"We have no time for this discussion!" she hissed, pulling him aside. "This man we've been seeing around… He has the same build as Alexandrov. But I've been having this strange sensation in the pit of my stomach that says we're wrong, that the killer is someone else."

Cheery smile drooping, Henry seemed disappointed. "Why would you assume that?"

"Because it doesn't all add up," she enunciated, staring deeply into his eyes so she could fully get her point across. "When you told me about what Alexandrov said to you at the party a few weeks ago, you said they were going to settle a disagreement. But the look on his face when I spoke to him those couple of minutes were anything but victorious. In fact, he looked more insulted and angry than glad about achieving his plan of a psychotic mastermind." She sighed and took a breath. "It just doesn't make sense."

"Are you saying we have to abandon all our evidence now?" Henry was appalled.

"No!" Marianne cried, then lowered her voice. "No, he's definitely up to something, but it might be completely unrelated to our situation." Paranoid, she looked around her before continuing. "Listen, I have my own suspicions. That man I met yesterday, Sergei Petrov? Now he reacted as though he was guilty of something."

"Your point is?" It looked as though Henry didn't want to admit the facts to himself, probably already nervous about his new suit.

Marianne grinned, an adventurous twinkle in her eyes. "Henry, have you ever been slumming?"

Into the bowels of the ship they roamed, and no other person did they run into but Madame Francine. "Deary," she croaked, showing her missing teeth. "Still figuring out the mystery, are you?" Then she caught sight of Henry out of her eye that wasn't blind, and smiled wider. "Who is your friend?"

Groaning, Marianne was able to pull herself together and act as though she was glad to see the witchlike woman. "To answer your first question, yes, we are still on the search. In fact, that's what we're doing right now. And as for your second question, this is my friend, Henry Marlowe."

Henry gave Madame his hand, as repulsive and veiny as it was. "Nice to meet you," he said courteously. But instead of shaking his hand, she flipped it over and moved her long, yellowed fingernail over the lines in his palm, making Henry shy away a bit.

"Hmm," she murmured. "More than friends, I see. You two have a past, I assume?"

Flustered and neck reddening vastly, Marianne stuttered, "Y-yes, but things ended up quite complicated and that has since come to an end." Behind her back, she crossed her fingers and prayed that the Lord would just help them squeeze out of this mess and continue on their way.

Madame studied his hand again, but this time more thoroughly, squinting at it with her one good eye. "Ended?" she scoffed. "My dear, it has only begun." By that point, Henry had pulled away his hand and put it on Marianne's arm, not knowing how much the sparks flew when he did so. "Come on, Mari," he said sternly, glaring down at the stout woman. "We should be moving along."

"Wait!" Madame cried just as they started picking up their pace again. The couple stopped to listen, as much as they wanted to leave right away. "I would recommend paying Miss King a visit." And with that, she disappeared around the corner and out of their sight.

"Phew," Marianne released the breath she had been holding until she had traveled a long way down the hallway. "I'm sorry about that, Henry."

"No, it's fine," he assured her. "Really, it was no problem."

Chewing over what Madame had said, Marianne reluctantly agreed. "She hasn't been wrong yet." She sounded uncertain. "I say we follow her suggestion."

And Henry just went along with what she had to say. "You're the lead in this investigation," he stated, gesturing in front of him. "So follow your gut."

Cabin E-22 wasn't far away, and they achieved the distance with a few twists and turns through the second-class hallways. "Miss King?" Marianne said, knocking on her door with a soft fist. "It's me, Marianne Harris. May I speak with you?"

"Come in," came a voice that didn't seem happy to see her. Opening the door, Marianne was met by a pair of ice-blue daggers, or the eyes of Elizabeth King. She was curling her hair for the evening. "What do you want?" she hissed, fluttering her eyelashes in the mirror as she expertly applied her makeup before rolling up another lock of hair.

"Elizabeth, we're wondering if you could tell us any more information," Marianne spoke quietly, as though she was soothing a frightened horse. Elizabeth's face blanched and went as pale as a sheet, which made her freshly applied red lipstick pop.

Her Adam's apple bobbed from a swallow, and she suddenly looked very skinny and small. "You want me to tell you more?" she stammered. "Why, I think I've told you enough." Her eyes flashed from the door to Marianne and back.

"Is something wrong?" Marianne inquired, suspiciously following Elizabeth's hasty stares.

"No, no! It's just—" And with that, she burst into a fit of tears, her eye makeup running dark streaks down her cheeks. "He's threatened my life."

Henry and Marianne's heads snapped back and stared at each other, worry deepening the frowns on their faces. "Who?" she exhorted, but Elizabeth refused. "This is important, Elizabeth. We promise we won't let him hurt you."

When she was finally able to calm herself down, she dabbed at her dark stains and looked between Marianne and Henry. "All right," she moaned, sniffling. "I trust you." With that, she spun around on her chair and wiped her face. "But that's how this whole mess started," she muttered.

Once she had mostly pulled herself together, she explained to the investigators that someone had been waiting in her cabin after she had come back from a swim that morning, in the shadows near the door. It was the scariest moment of her life, and she recognized the voice when he spoke. He handed her the note and showed her the gun and the knife properly placed "as though they were toys" in his coat pockets. Then, he had stormed out of the room, leaving Elizabeth in a dumbfounded fright, heart racing terribly hard.

Unfolding the correspondence, she saw this exact message: You leak another piece of information to that journalist, and I'll murder you too, bathtub and all.

Afterwards, Marianne asked concernedly, "Do you remember what he looked like?"

"Yes," Elizabeth groaned, her blue eyes flitting up to meet Marianne's before wiping a repeatedly used tissue across her red nose. "It was the same person who I told Elena's location to." She gulped audibly, her f ace crumbling. "The person with the scar across his cheek."

Marianne, shocked—so it hadn't been Alexandrov!—witnessed Henry ask the next question. "Are you sure this person is a male?"

Elizabeth shook her head. "No, I'm not. He's too covered in shadows, and that's all I could make out because it's so puffy and bright. But, now that I think about it, he's pretty pale, too, and has the same accent as Elena."

Glancing at Henry, Marianne smiled weakly. "Thank you, Elizabeth. You've truly been a big help." They promised her they'd find the blackmailer right away, specifically before night falls (if possible). Then they returned to their expedition to steerage, both set of minds in deep thought.

"What do we do now?" Henry mumbled, rubbing the back of his head. "We have so many clues, I don't know where to start."

"How about what we should have done in the first place?" Marianne said firmly, most of her suspicions confirmed at last. "And that's investigate steerage."