Hula Done It - By Maddy Hunter
Aboard the cruise ship, Aloha Princess En route to Kauai, Hawaii -- October 28
"The Hawaiian islanders weren't as predictable as the English, and it was this unpredictability that Captain Cook and his crew found so confounding. There was no rhyme or reason behind the natives' gift giving one day and their hostility the next. History places blame for Cook's death and dismemberment on the shoulders of the islanders, but I prefer to blame the era. Cook needed the assistance of a behavioral psychologist, and unfortunately, psychology was hardly even a fledgling science in 1779."
Professor Dorian Smoker glanced toward the back of the lecture room for the umpteenth time, his pale blue eyes flickering with an uneasiness that seemed unwarranted for a man recognized as the world's leading authority on Captain James Cook. What in the heck was back there that he found so disturbing?
I glanced subtly over my shoulder to find people packed into the room like proverbial sardines. I wasn't surprised to find standing room only. Professor Smoker was the academic headliner for our cruise, which advertised excursions to the sites visited by Captain Cook on his fateful third sea voyage, so the audience was filled with bespectacled, erudite types with name tags that identified them as members of organizations I'd never of: the Sandwich Island Society, the World Navigators Club, Haute Cuisine International.
I wasn't sure why the Haute Cuisine people were here, but intuition told me they'd probably confused Captain Cook with Mr. Food and were expecting a guy in an apron and chef's hat to wow them with food preparation and tasty free samples. Instead, a man in a navy cardigan and baggy Dockers had mesmerized them with tales of an eighteenth-century English explorer.
And I do mean "mesmerized." Even the guests who were obviously sitting in on the wrong lecture made no attempt to leave. As physically unremarkable as Professor Smoker was, once he started speaking, he oozed such magnetism that he held all of us spellbound. His knowledge gave him an intellectual swagger and confidence that elevated him from dowdy to dazzling, from Mr. Rogers to Buck Rogers. Without having to rely on artificial creams, costly implants, or media hype, Professor Dorian Smoker suddenly became the sexiest man on the planet -- not bad for a fiftysomething academic with a slight paunch, bad posture, scruffy beard, and thinning gray hair.
But I still wondered about the odd glint in his eyes. Was it alarm or a piece of fuzz caught behind a contact lens?
I'm Emily Andrew, full-time coordinator of global excursions for a senior travel club and person most likely to misinterpret a lot of things related to life, death, romance, and spastic eye movements. I'm aboard the Aloha Princess as the official escort for a group of eleven Iowans who've lived in my hometown most of their lives. I'm a longtime resident, too, except for a few years when I worked the New York City theater scene and was married to Jack Potter. I refer to that phase in my life as my "preannulment period." I was hoping my "postannulment period" would show marked improvement, but I keep running into glitches, most especially with a certain Swiss police inspector by the name of Etienne Miceli.
Professor Smoker cleared his throat. "Five days after the Captain was slain in the surf of Kealakekua Bay, one of King Terreeoboo's chiefs returned a jumble of bones to the crew of the Resolution -- Cook's hands, skull, legs, lower jaw, and feet. His thigh bones and arms were never recovered."
My grandmother -- whose name tag was crammed with microscopic text that read Marion Sippel -- Windsor City Bank Travel Club, Windsor City, Iowa, Birthplace of America's First Pork Fritter Fingers -- looked up from the ragged sheet of paper she was studying and leaned over to whisper in my ear. "If they'd waked him at Heavenly Host, there wouldn't a been no public viewin'. It's one a them rules a thumb. You gotta have a body to be eligible for the open casket option."
A man with a high-tech camera around his neck slipped through the door at the front of the room. He snapped a few shots of the professor and the audience, then disappeared unobtrusively out the door again. Ship's photographer. The same man who'd snapped individual and group photos of us as we'd boarded and showed up to take candid shots during the lifeboat drill. I had a sneaking suspicion this guy's camera was going to be in our