“The Floating Palace”

Jenn Gross

All rights reserved by the author


She stood tall and magnificent. She is fifty feet long with three stories tall.  Her outside was white with the name Hokulea christened on the side.  Hokuela swayed with essence in the harbor and was a giant compared to the other boats.  The Hokulea was owned by a husband and wife who were both plastic surgeons, Dr. Ted Balance and Dr. Kate Balance. 

Kate was busy putting together the final preparations for the two week-long charity cruise her and her husband were throwing.  The Balances plan on traveling to Africa and perform plastic surgeries on those who have deformations from land mines and such.  Four other prominent couples who had enlisted interest in the trip are going to be joining the Balances on their excursion.  Ted had hired Captain Mike Moore to drive the boat for the five couples.  The ship will set sail from Miami, Florida, to the island of St. Maarten, and back to Miami for a total trip length of two weeks. 

As Kate was finishing up, her cell phone rang, “Hello Dr. Balance, I was just wondering if there was anything you needed before we leave next week.”  It was Isabella Spring, who was also coming along.  Her husband is Justin Spring, a very successful business contractor.  Isabella, or Bella as her husband calls her, inherited a vast amount of wealth from her father so she doesn’t work; she is a stay at home wife.  “Thank you for the offer, but we have everything under control.  I received your money transfer yesterday and I have to thank you and your husband for being so generous.  The people in Africa are going to greatly benefit from your donation”  “It’s the least we can do, to help those people in Africa.  What you and you husband are doing is such a great thing” Bella said.  Kate replied “I hope we have as big of an impact as we are expecting”.  “I’m sure you will.  Let me know if you need anything before we leave, but if not I’ll see you in a week” Bella said to Kate.  “Ok, I’ll let you know.  Thanks again, see you next week.”


*     *     *     *


            As the Balances waited for the Captain to arrive at the docks the next Saturday, they grew nervous.  Ted was hoping the trip would go as expected and the outcome would be as anticipated.  Minutes later, the Captain arrived and began prepping the boat.  The balances began loading their luggage for the two week trip into their room so they could help their guests as they arrived.  A total of four couples will be joining the Balances on the excursion, Justin and Bella Spring, Ken and Sue Coffee, Jon and Carolyn Chase and Cheryl and Gene Malley.  None of the couples have ever met, but have heard of each other.  Each, including the Balances have focused on their careers, therefore have no children. 

            Early afternoon is when the first couple, the Coffee’s, had arrived.  Soon after, the three remaining couples had also arrived, excited and ready for the upcoming vacation.  The couples began to introduce themselves and an hour later, the ship set sail.  Ken and Sue were the first ones in their bathing suites soaking up the summer sun.  It was the middle of June, and both were excited to be off work for two full weeks.   Ken is the CEO of a multi-national conglomerate, and his wife Sue is his secretary.  “Honey, I’m so glad you coerced me into taking this cruise, I’m already feeling relaxed and we just set sail.” Ken’s wife replied “I knew you needed it, you are always working and it’s for a good cause”.  The Coffee’s were later joined by Carolyn and Cheryl and each bragged about both their and their husbands accomplishments.  “I attained my Undergraduate Degree at Harvard, and went to medical school in Africa.  After spending seven years in Africa, I came back to the states and currently and employed at John Hopkins Research Hospital in Ohio.  I met my husband there, who is in charge of the surgery department.” Carolyn said.  Cheryl replied “I received my Undergraduate Degree at Cornell, but I don’t work.  I attend a lot of fundraisers and try to help promote music and physical activities at poorer schools in the Miami area.  My husband, Gene on the other hand owns his own Pharmaceutical business and distributes medication to Hospitals in the southeast.”  Ken and Sue went on to explain their achievement and current occupations.  After each had exusted their chatting topics about an hour later, Kate and Bella came strolling to the stock, towels in hand.  Their husbands had been talking about work since the ship set sail so both decided to soak up some sun with the others.


*     *     *     *

Both Ted and Kate were plastic surgeons who specialized in face transplants.  This kind of surgery entailed taking the face of a person who was severly disfigured due to being burned, or any other horrible circumstance, and replace it with the face of a willing cadaver.  This radical surgery has had many ethical issues attached to it both before the first surgery was performed by the Balances three years ago and still to the present day.  It’s not so much that the patient looks like the donor as was previously thought before the first surgery, but more so it would be easy to steal someone’s face and no one would ever notice.


*     *     *     *


            The Captain had expected the route he planned from Miami to St. Maarten to take about three days and the rest of the time would be spent in the resort that had been donated for the eight days the passengers would be on the Island.  He couldn’t stop thinking about the beautiful beaches he would be able to enjoy along with the large paycheck he was receiving for his duties. 

            As the evening had come to an end, dinner was served.  The meal was prepared by Kate and everyone enjoyed it very much.  The passengers were glad the long day was finally over and were looking forward to getting a good night’s sleep.  The Balances were the last couple to go to bed in order to see their guests were accommodated.  After their guests were tucked in bed, the Balance’s began chatting about their mission.  “I hope everything we planned turns out as expected.  We have already received a huge amount of money from donations.  Planning the trip was the hard part, the rest will be cake.” Kate said with a yawn.  Then too, the Balances headed off to bed.


*     *     *     *


            The next morning, the boat was filled with dismay as the Captain wasn’t feeling well.  He set the yacht on course and informed Kate and Ted on which way to travel.  It was odd that the Captain was sick, he never got seasick in the many years he had been captaining ships so he figured it was just something he ate.  The boat has followed the intended course that day, so no time was lost.  Strangely, the next day the Captain was found dead on his bed and not a person had a hint what had been wrong with him the day before.  Kim and Ted decided to throw his body in the freezer in order to preserve it till land was arrived.  Luckily for Kate and Tim, the Captain had left very detailed directions to and from St. Maarten. 

            The other passengers on the ship were a little creped out when they learned of the death on the ship, but Kate and Ted were able to calm everyone down.  The rest of the day went on as if nothing had happened, everyone figured the Captain must had eaten something bad before he got on the ship and had died of food poisoning.  It wasn’t till later that night when the passengers knew something was seriously wrong.

            Cheryl walked down to the lower dock to refill her glass of brandy and found Ken lying on the floor.  She rushed to his side to see what the matter was but he was dead.  Shaken, Cheryl ran up the stairs and told the others what she had found.  The passengers now started to contemplate what could have killed both Ken and the Captain in less than twenty-four hours.  Carolyn and Jon were full of suggestions and offered to perform an autopsy but not all of the necessary equipment was available.  Ken was then placed in the freezer next to the Captain.  All one could hear most of the night was the sobbing of Sue, Ken’s wife, until suddenly a violent explosion had occurred.  The travelers had rushed up to the top deck to see what the commotion was about.  Gene ran into the Captain’s den only to see Gene with his head in his hands.  “I don’t know what happened, all of a sudden I heard this loud explosion and then the instruments went crazy on me.”  Gene looked at the instruments used to direct to boat, the radar and compass was no longer working.  A woman’s scream was then heard throughout the eerie silence.  It was Sue, she had been shot.

            The passengers of the Hokulea began to wonder where they were and had realized their boat had gone off course and they were near Cuba.  Gene quick changed the direction of the boat because he thought they were getting shot at by Cubans.  The rest of the crew was startled as Carolyn took aid to Sue.  She was shot right in the heart and died instantaneously.  “The synper that shot her was either very lucky to have hit her, or has practiced shooting from a long range for many years” Carolyn said.  As was the Captain and her husband, Sue was put in the freezer next to the other corpses. 

            Kate and Ted were busy apologizing to the other rattled vacationers.  “This just doesn’t make sense.  How can three people die of totally unrelated actions in less than three days?”  Kate had said to the remaining survivors.  She had asked the remaining couples if they wanted to turn the boat around and go back to Miami and everyone simultaneously agreed to do just that.  Ted and Gene were trying to figure out which direction was back to Miami.  The instruments still weren’t up and running and the radio was also busted.


*     *     *     *


            Two days after the boat was suppose to dock on St. Maarten, the resort owners got worried that the boat had not arrived yet.  Reports had been heard that there was an explosion in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean a few days earlier but there were no traces of bodies or debris from what would have been the Hokulea.  A search party was sent out to try and find the missing ship, but after a week when there were no sightings, the searches had stopped.  It was strange; the yacht had just seemed to disappear.  There was just one trace of the ship, a life raft found floating on the water near Cuba.  It had been assumed that they had gotten caught in the Bermuda Triangle and had just disappeared, as many other ships of its size had done.

            Funeral services were held for all five couples by their relatives.  It was very fortunate that none had bared any children, for they would have been left orphans. The Country had also been sad that something that had such a good purpose had so mysteriously been ruined.


*     *     *     *


            “Can I help whose next?” the bank teller said to the line.  “I’d like to make a withdrawal.” The next man in line said.  “Do you have a withdrawal slip Sir, and you license also.” the pretty teller replied.  “Ken Coffee – Oh I heard you had umm been in a boating accident.  You have been missing for the past three weeks.” the teller said.  The man replied “Our radio signal and radar had gone out due to an explosion, but we finally found out way home.”  “I’m glad to hear that.  Do you mind me asking why you are taking such a huge sum of money out today?  You know we need advanced notice for such a huge transaction, the bank doesn’t keep ten million dollars on the premise.” the teller responded.  Ken replied “I’m donating it to charity, after such a close call with death; I decided to donate more to charity.”  The CEO responded.  “Isn’t that nice…we can have the cash in two days if you would like to come back.” The teller replied happily.  “That sounds fine. Thank you for your help.” Mr. Coffee replied. 

            Two days later, Mr. Coffee arrived at the bank and picked up his sum of money.  The money was donated to the Ted and Kate Balance fund doctors that go to Africa to perform surgeries on individuals who can’t afford it.  The next day, neither Ken nor Sue could be found.  The couple seemed to have disappeared for the second time.  Neither had been seen again.

            A month later, a similar incident occurred with the Malley couple.  Cheryl Malley arrived at her bank and asked for a wire transfer.  The teller hadn’t realized Mrs. Malley had been missing for almost two months, so didn’t ask any questions, until Mrs. Malley stated the amount to be transferred.  “Fifteen million dollars?  You want a wire transfer to fifteen million dollars?” the teller asked.  “Yes that’s what I said, from our joint checking account.” replied Cheryl.  “May I ask to what address you would like me to send the transfer?” the teller asked.  “Ted Balance 48 Woodcrest Ave Elma, NY 14217.” The customer stated.  “Thank you Mrs. Balance, here’s your receipt.  Have a great day.”  Mrs. Balance walked away from the teller with a huge grin on her face, and was never seen again.


*     *     *     *


            “I don’t think anyone could have thought of a more brilliant idea than we had” Kate Balance said to her husband.  “I feel bad for lying about the whole charity event thing, but we swindled over forty-five million dollars from those rich people.  What else can you ask for?”  Ted Balance replied.  His wife said “It was almost too easy.  Everything worked out just as planned.  We poisoned the Captain, and Ken.  During the explosion, you cut the radar systems and the communication devices.  We left the single life-raft in the vicinity of the Bermuda Triangle so everyone would think our radio signals and instruments went haywire, and our ship sunk in the Triangle.”  “You recovered from receiving Ken’s face transplant sooner than expected so we were able to get rid of the evidence sooner.  I took a little longer to recover from receiving Cheryl Malley’s face, but we still got her money!”  “No one would have expected us to do this, it’s unbelievable.” Ted said.  “Who knew performing face transplants on each other could be so fun?” his wife replied.  “I know, and now we have our old faces back again so no one would expect anything.  We could just say we were picked up by a fishing boat and were so upset that the charity had failed, we decided to stay here, in Jamica” Ted said.  “I’m so glad you such a good plastic surgeon Ted”.  “You too Kate, now we’re set for life.”


© Copyright 2005 by the author

All rights reserved