Being somewhat familiar with seizures, I recognized the signs and shook Danny by the arm, “Call the medics!”
As I raced down the elegant glass staircase toward the stricken violinist, the other second violinist stuttered to a halt in his playing and turned to stare at the empty chair beside him. The cellist hadn’t looked up from her music and still vigorously sawed away keeping the tempo. The first violin stumbled in her playing, glared at the only upright second violinist, caught the tempo and continued to play, occasionally casting glances at her fallen companion. The watching crowd still seemed to think this byplay was a comic addition to the performance and tittered.
I dropped to my knees beside the young woman and pushed her disheveled collar aside to search for a pulse. I felt myself shudder when I found a small needle firmly imbedded in the woman’s neck. I tried to find a pulse without touching the thing I took to be a dart of some sort.
An elderly woman knelt on the other side of our fallen musician. She gasped and moaned as she reached toward the dart.
“No.” I shook my head as I positioned myself and made the first compression to begin CPR.
My new assistant nodded then gently positioned the head and prepared to begin forcing her breath into the unconscious woman. Before we had time to administer more than a few compressions and breaths, the medics arrived with their machines and IV’s.
The old woman and I were not needed. I wanted to find Danny, but the old woman clung to me. Her claw-like fingers dug into my clothing. “Please, you saw. Please listen to me.”
I looked around me. The musicians had put away their instruments and prepared to follow their colleague. The crowd stretched their necks, straining to see the medics and woman on the gurney with her tubes and wires. I nodded and stepped close to a pillar where a potted palm hid us from view. Nobody would look at us with the interesting activity on the gurney to distract them.
The old woman whispered, “Someone else must know. That dart was meant for me.”
I looked down, surprised at the tiny woman clutching my arm.
She whispered in a heavy accent, “I am specialist in international relations. I make my way to Israel. My security find sabotage on my plane. I try to travel in secret, hidden among the crowd. Someone followed me. Perhaps I have traitor among my staff.”
“Why would they try to kill you?”
“They do not want peace. They profit from war.”
I nodded. “Did you see who did this thing?”
“No, I saw people in the right place. The crowds that protect and hide me also hide a killer.”
Before I could learn more, the ship’s marshals surrounded us. An officer in a white jacket almost whispered, “Say nothing. Come with us.”
As the marshals led us away, I noted that they deftly separated me from the older woman.
We took an elevator that only staff could unlock down into the bowels of the ship. Once we left the elevator, the officer beside me directed me to watch my step. I looked down at the vinyl flooring. When I looked up again, the party with the little old woman had disappeared.
I spent the next hour explaining that I’d been standing to listen to the music on deck seven by the stairs. I did not see anybody fire anything, but heard a sound. We went over several times why I thought the musician was having a seizure, and why I thought the thing in her neck was a dart. Privately, I seriously questioned whether I’d heard the old woman correctly, so I didn’t mention what she told me.
Danny was waiting for me when I returned to my room. He wanted to hear the whole story of the dart, and the marshals, and being questioned.
Danny held me in his arms and updated me on what he heard. “The rumor among the passengers is that she had a seizure and was airlifted to a hospital on the mainland.
“I wonder if they can keep her heart beating long enough for her to get help. You know, that dart must have been poisoned to act so fast. I saw only a tiny drop of blood.”
“Hush my love, it is probably safest to not talk about it if you think it was some sort of assault. However, it is more likely that the girl has a history of seizures and has a medication she injects if she thinks she might have one. This time she probably didn’t get her meds quick enough and ended up stabbing herself in the neck.”
I raised my eyebrows, “That didn’t look like a hypodermic to me.”
“They have all sorts of new ways of administering meds now-days.”
I asked, “What do you think? Is that old woman some important negotiator?”
Danny shook his head. “I don’t see why she would be on a cruise ship. She’s probably senile and made up a story for something tragic that happened near her.”
Two marshals questioned me briefly the following morning. Again, I didn’t mention what the old woman told me because I couldn’t believe an important negotiator would end up on a cruise ship.
When I met Danny in the coffee bar, I told him about the interview, “What do you think? Was I right to not mention what the woman said? Even if she was telling the truth, she should be the one to inform the marshals if she is in danger.”
Danny kissed my ear. “Of course darling. I still don’t think such a person would be in a place like this, but if she was telling the truth, she should inform them herself. I still believe she was making it up.”
I bit my lip. “I don’t know, but she sounded so earnest.”
“She probably believed it herself.”
Danny seemed so certain, I decided I was being fanciful to even consider that the woman was telling me the truth.
I didn’t see the marshals or the old woman again until we were one day out of Istanbul. A female marshal, Cheree called me at five-ten in the morning and asked me to meet her near the central elevators.
By the time I hung up the phone, Danny had started pulling on his pants. “I’m going with you. This is our vacation. You’ve told them what you know. They should leave you alone.”
“Do you think it’s possible the old woman was telling me the truth or was she simply paranoid.”
“Why would anybody choose a cruise ship to get to an important meeting, and what can you do about it if she is?”
I shrugged and headed toward the central elevators.
Cheree looked at Danny and asked if we were together. I nodded, and Danny put his hand in the middle of my back.
“Good. Will both of you come with me then.”
This time, I followed Cheree to the doctor’s office. Once seated in a small office, an older marshal came in, sat at the desk and asked me, “How well did you know the woman you were with at the time of the incident?”
I blinked my surprise at this question. “I didn’t know her at all. I thought the violinist’s heart was not beating. I began chest compressions. I hardly noticed the woman who started the breathing. She stood by me while the patient was taken away.”
Cheree asked, “Would you recognize the woman who helped you if you saw her again?”
I nodded, “I haven’t seen her in the halls or at dinner though.”
Cheree began to stand up. “Would you come with me?”
The older man led Cheree, Danny, and me down a plain corridor and opened the door to a chilly interior room. When he turned on the lights, I saw a figure covered in a sheet on a gurney.
The marshal walked briskly to the side of the gurney and pulled back the sheet. “Is this the woman who tried to help you resuscitate the violinist?”
I looked at the tiny old woman on the gurney and nodded. I saw something that I took to be a bone protruding under the skin in her broken neck. At that moment, I felt too much shock to respond to anything other than violent the death of someone I’d talked to. Finally, as Danny led me back to my room, I began to believe she had told me the truth. I thought, “Someone does not want peace in the middle east, because they profit from war.”
For days after we returned home, I wondered how I could tell others what I knew. Finally, I just decided that all I could do was tell the truth to the best of my ability, and so I have.