Authors: Sarah Lotz
is a screenwriter and novelist who pens novels under the name S.L Grey with author Louis Greenberg; YA novels with her daughter, as Lily Herne; and is one third of pseudonymous author Helena S. Paige. Lauren Beukes calls her ‘a natural-born storyteller. Like the hand reaching up from the dark well, she’ll drag you into her thrall. You’ll come up gasping.’ Sarah lives in Cape Town with her family and other animals.
Also by Sarah Lotz
First published in Great Britain in 2015 by
Hodder & Stoughton
An Hachette UK company
Copyright © Sarah Lotz 2015
The right of Sarah Lotz to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.
ISBN 978 1 444 77540 2
Hodder & Stoughton Ltd
50 Victoria Embankment
London EC4Y 0DZ
For my dad, Alan Walters
(aka The Doc)
Welcome on Board
The Beautiful Dreamer!
Congratulations on choosing a Foveros Cruise,
your one-way ticket to Relaxation and Fun! Fun! Fun!
Start your Holiday of a Lifetime by treating yourself to a cocktail at one of our many sun-drenched bars while our musicians delight with their signature sounds. Then cool down in the pool and take a spin on Foveros’s WaterWonder™ slides. Hungry? No problem! Our dining room and buffets will provide feasts galore, from five-star fare to yummy comfort food like momma used to make! And hey, don’t forget to pamper yourself at our superb spa – you deserve it! Our cabaret performances will delight, so settle into your seats and prepare to be entertained like never before! Soak up the sun during one of our many exciting excursions, where you can shop till you drop at our many concessions, snorkel in turquoise seas, horse-ride along beautiful beaches, and enjoy al fresco dining on our fabulous private island. And why not take a spin in the Delectable Dreamer Casino? Who knows? It could be your lucky day!
DAYS 1, 2, 3
Cruise is relatively uneventful.
The Witch’s Assistant
Maddie waited until Celine was midway into her opening monologue, then threaded her way through the capsule chairs, making for the empty area at the back of the Starlight Dreamer Lounge. She’d almost made it when the cruise director’s voice boomed over the PA system, drowning out Celine’s patter with his reminder that the New Year’s festivities would kick off in ‘T minus two hours’.
‘Voices from above,’ Celine quipped, but Maddie wasn’t fooled by this show of good humour. Celine had been like a Rottweiler with a sore tooth all day, sniping at the backstage tech after he’d snagged her dress attaching the microphone’s transmitter to her wheelchair, and complaining that the spotlight wasn’t in the correct position to halo her hair.
‘Know this,’ Celine continued once the announcement had petered away. ‘When you all return home, rested and suntanned and maybe a few pounds heavier,’ – she waited for a ripple of laughter to die down – ‘you won’t be alone. Friends, in all my years of helping people connect with those who’ve crossed over, there are two things I can tell you for sure. One: there is no death; and two: the souls of those who’ve left the physical world are always with us . . .’
With Celine back on track, Maddie allowed herself to relax. She leaned against a pillar and massaged her neck, trying and failing to dissolve the headache that had dogged her since day one of the cruise. It was probably just a side effect of the anti-nausea medication she was taking, but the garish environment wasn’t helping. Whoever had designed the ship’s decor had a hard-on for Vegas-inspired neon and naked male angels; you couldn’t go anywhere without being blinded by an illuminated palm tree or leered at by a cherub. Still – just one more night to get through and she’d be free of this floating hellhole. The first thing she was going to do when she got back to her apartment was run a bath and scrub the ship off her skin. Then she’d treat herself to a takeout from Jujubee’s – splurge on the crab special with glass noodles and extra garlic. She could afford the calories; she must have lost at least five pounds this week.
‘Hey, baby,’ a voice stage-whispered in her ear. She turned to see Ray, his eyes fixed to her breasts. He’d jettisoned his usual shorts and navy T-shirt combo in favour of Levis and a flimsy cream shirt, which gave him the appearance of a seedy lounge singer.
‘Shouldn’t you be on the door, Ray?’ Tonight’s event was strictly for ‘Friends of Celine’ only – the select group who’d paid through the nose to cruise with ‘America’s Number One Psychic Medium’ – and Ray knew as well as she did that Celine would flip if a non-paying passenger wandered in.
He shrugged. ‘Yeah, yeah. So listen – you know when we stopped at Cozumel yesterday?’
‘So I got one of the waiters to smuggle me in a bottle of high-end tequila. The good stuff.’
A Friend sitting on the outskirts of the group scrunched around in her chair and shushed them. Maddie shot her an apologetic smile, and hissed at Ray to keep his voice down.
‘Whatever. So, hey – party later, my cabin. You in?’
More heads were turning in their direction. ‘Seriously, Ray, shut the—’
‘Think about it,’ he smirked. ‘Going to grab a frosty while the boss does her
.’ Maddie watched him saunter off towards the bar, checking out a waitress en route.
The atmosphere grew taut as Celine moved on to the highlight of the evening. She licked her lips, touched her chest and said: ‘I’m getting . . . Who’s Caroline? No, wait . . . Katherine? Someone with . . . it’s a C or a K. Nope . . . it’s definitely Katherine. Kathy, maybe.’
Maddie smothered a jab of guilt as Jacob, one of the older Friends, wobbled to his feet. She had a soft spot for Jacob. She admired his sense of style (he tended to dress as if he was a guest at a gay wedding), and he wasn’t as pushy as some of the others. Celine had feigned illness for much of the cruise, barely showing her face at the various meet ’n’ greets and cocktail events, so Maddie had been left to pick up the slack. Part of her job was schmoozing with Celine’s fan base, but there was a world of difference between trading messages with the lonely and desperate online, and contending with their neediness face to face. Listening to the Friends’ hopes that Celine would connect with their loved ones, missing relatives, and in some cases, deceased pets, had worn her ragged. ‘Kathy’s my sister!’ Jacob called.