Mercedes Masterson sat down behind her desk, and sipped on the coffee she'd just brewed herself. It was bitter, and she spit most of it back. She never did learn how to make a good cup of coffee. She was going to miss Misty's presence in her office, because her ability to brew a cup of coffee was unsurpassed. Mercedes would just have to remember to pick up coffee on her way to the office while Misty was on vacation. She figured things were going to get downright disorganized while Misty was away, and she was not looking forward to that. Mercedes liked for things to be just so, but lacked the obsessive compulsiveness to keep it that way. That was where Misty came into play beautifully, because she had both equally furnished. All Mercedes had to do was keep up.
There was a knock at the door, and Mercedes instinctively invited the guest in. It was Agent Dean Ekron of the Bureau, a state agency akin to the Federal Bureau of Investigations. The Bureau was the brain child of a wealth Babylon citizen who was also very Republican. As things began to go more and more socialistic, and the threat a new law enforcement agency that would be federal run, he spent millions of dollars creating his own agency for the state. His hope was that if the state could prove they were being proactive about the degradation of law enforcement in the United States, that they would get a pass when it came to a federal law interfering. To date, his work had paid off.
Ekron was a good agent, with a very promising career ahead of himself, when in his first year at the Bureau he suffered a gunshot wound to his right shoulder. The wound had long-lasting effects, and the Bureau demoted him to a desk jockey. That is, until he helped setup a relationship with the then disgraced Mercedes Masterson, at an opportune time, giving them leverage to infiltrate both the corrupt sectors of the Babylon police force and organized crime. Mercedes and Ekron had played such a pivotal role in that dissemination of the mafia, that they had both been offered field work for the Bureau. Ekron accepted the offer, and Mercedes retired to the private sector. She had had enough politics and corruption to last her a lifetime, and was eager to see her way out of it all. That hadn't put a damper on their relationship, and they often borrowed each other for cases when a certain expertise was needed.
"Good morning," Ekron said, peeking in through the door, "I brought you coffee." He had two large cups of coffee in his hands. "Figured you'd be needing that this morning."
She smiled, "Thanks a lot. I just butchered several coffee grounds." She took the cup and opened up the slit in the top, took a sip and was instantly in heaven. Wasn't as good as Misty Coffee, but it was close enough. "That's the spot."
Ekron sat down in the client chair and looked around her office. The walls had a faded, green wallpaper from the 1960s, at least. Some of the wallpaper was starting to peel, and he noticed some spots of mold as well. "So... you busy?"
"Not really," she replied, "We tried to arrange it so things would be easygoing while she was away. So I'm just working on some older cases I've had filed away, ones that had amounted to nothing. Feel like going back and seeing if I can't find a lead or two." She took another sip of coffee, and then called him out, "What did you have in mind?"
His eyes wondered back to hers, and he grinned as if caught. "Yeah, I'm pretty easy to read. I got this bizarre case, and it involves travel, and I'm thinking of asking you to come along with me."
"How bizarre?" She asked.
"Bizarre in that a cruise ship went missing seven months ago and recently turned up in the Pacific, near Florida." Ekron sipped some of his latte.
"That's not bizarre, either it sank or it was adrift at sea."
"Yeah, except it's empty," he explained, "Not a single soul on the ship."
"A ghost ship?" She asked, now intrigued.
"A ghost ship."
They sat silently for a few moments and drank some coffee. Mercedes was playing the option through her head, trying to decide if it was worth it or not. When she was hired on this way at the Bureau, contracted, it was all benefits paid and they paid her handsomely for her services as well. It was a good way to save up some money. But with Misty gone, she wasn't sure closing up shop was such a good idea, even if she was running it slow already. "How long?" She asked.
"Long enough to go up and down the ship, try and determine what happened and where everyone went," he replied, "I'm guessing two weeks tops. And Misty is gone for the whole month, right? So, it's no biggie. She won't even know you were gone."
Mercedes bit her lip, it was sounding pretty good the more she thought about it. It was September, almost October, and it was going to start raining a lot in Babylon and getting cold. A trip to the Florida coast for a few weeks sounded refreshing. She sat up and set her terms, "I'm two weeks only. Once my time is up, I'm gone. You can stay, if there's more work to be done, but I can't stay more than two weeks. Sound good?"
"Yep." He was grinning ear to ear.
"And my usual salary."
"Alright," she said, sitting back in her chair, "When do we leave? I'm freezing."