Murder by Smartphone – Chapter 14: Adios, Carloalberto

By Teresa Dovalpage
The Taos News
Posted 4/25/18

Marlene Martinez, a former Cuban detective who now lives in Miami, takes a Caribbean cruise with her niece Sarita. With them travel Carloalberto, an aspiring actor who behaves …

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Murder by Smartphone – Chapter 14: Adios, Carloalberto

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Marlene Martinez, a former Cuban detective who now lives in Miami, takes a Caribbean cruise with her niece Sarita. With them travel Carloalberto, an aspiring actor who behaves suspiciously, his wife Emma, and Helen, a screenwriter who is Carloalberto's partner in a TV contest. In the second chapter, Marlene discovers Carloalberto kissing Helen in his cabin balcony while Emma is in the casino.

A day later, while visiting a shamana during a shore excursion in Belize, the woman, who claims to read the future, tells Marlene that she will soon follow a blood trail again. Afterwards, Carloalberto and Helen are voted out of the contest. Sarita tells her aunt that, according to online gossip, he has gambling debts and some unsavory types may be after him.

As the ship approaches Costa Maya, Helen's Smartphone falls into the ocean during a selfie session with Emma and Carloalberto. A few hours later, Sarita finds out that Carloalberto is being considered for the lead role in a new movie. That night, while Sarita attends a party, Marlene hears a splash as if something, or someone, had been thrown overboard. When she goes back to the party, Sarita has disappeared.

Marlene finally finds Sarita and scolds her. The next morning, they go together to a "swimming with dolphins" excursion. Carloalberto is supposed to be there too, but he doesn't show up. That evening, the ship's departure is delayed because of a missing passenger.

That night, the captain acknowledges Carloalberto's disappearance. The next morning, as Marlene and Sarita get ready to go to Chichen Itza, Emma says in an interview that she believes her husband is fine and will probably be found soon. However, while Marlene and Sarita visit the ruins, Carloalberto's body is recovered from the ocean off the Costa Maya waters. Sarita sees the news and starts crying. The group goes back to the boat. During the return trip, they find out that Carloalberto has left a video on his own phone saying that he is going to commit suicide. Back on the ship, Marlene and Sarita watch the video. Marlene realizes Carloalberto looks strangely unemotional. While she is wondering where and when the video was taken, the Mexican police comes onboard.

The police arrests Fernando, accused by Emma of blackmailing her husband. After he is taken away, Marlene watches the video again and decides to find out if it was shot in Helen's cabin. She waits for the cleaning crew to open the screenwriter's room and sneaks inside. She finds a script written by Helen with the same lines that Carloalberto said in his farewell video. When the screenwriter comes in, Marlene confronts her.

It took Helen a few seconds to answer, but when she spoke again, her voice was firm and confident.

"Carloalberto and I were together for many years," she said. "We met when he had just arrived from Cuba, fresh off the boat. I found jobs for him and helped him in so many ways...but he met Emma and left me. Then he came back, begging for forgiveness. Begging for money, too. And, like a fool, I kept falling for him."

Marlene listened quietly. She had once been involved in a relationship like that. In fact, the main reason why she had left Cuba was to distance herself from the man who had cheated on her so many times.

"When we teamed up for the contest he made me change the whole story," Helen went on. "He pretended we had just met and that was the beginning of our collaboration. He married Emma right away…just to get free publicity with the wedding, he swore."

The ship moved suddenly. Some high waves, uncommon in the Caribbean, began to rock it back and forth.

"What I don't understand," Marlene said, "is why you took this trip knowing, as you probably did, that he would be here with his wife. It looks as if you were stalking him."

Helen blinked.

"I wasn't stalking him," she said. "In fact, by the time we decided to take the cruise, I wanted to go on with my life and forget him. But he was convinced that we would win the contest and insisted we come together. If we were onboard when the winning team was announced, the cruise company might offer him a contract to appear in their ads. He was always thinking along these lines. I should have known better, though. He wasn't such a good actor. We had been kept on the show only because of his good looks."

Marlene nodded.

"His farewell speech didn't sound too well-rehearsed," she said.

Helen threw her hands in the air.

"Tell me about it! It was the crappiest acting I've seen in a long time! Of course, he was drunk by then. Mad, too, because he had been cleaned out at the casino as usual."

They both lost their balance. The waters were choppy and the wind had increased.

"When he finished recording, I tried to talk about us," Helen continued. "I still…had feelings for him. He kissed me, but his mind was somewhere else. He asked me if I could help him pay his debts one more time. 'La Eme is after me,' he admitted."

"Getting involved with the mafia sounds like dangerous business," Marlene said. "Were you going to help him again?"

"I didn't have any more money," Helen shrugged. "I simply asked him if our relationship had a chance after all. He turned to me and answered, 'Our relationship? What are you talking about, woman? The only relationship we've ever had is a professional one. You are just my screenwriter and you caused us to be kicked out of the contest with that silly, pathetic script. Couldn't you have done better?'"

Helen was crying.

"He was putting the blame on me! After all I had done for him! I got so mad that, when he turned around to leave the cabin, I grabbed a jar and hit him in the head with it."

Marlene visualized an enraged Helen going after her lover with the stainless-steel carafe. The image made her smile.

"But that couldn't have killed him," she said.

"No, it only stunned him. But he was already drunk and unsteady. He fell to the floor and banged his head on the door. He didn't move for a long time. Was he dead? I don't know. But I thought, what would happen if he was found dead in my cabin, all the explaining I would have to do?…I remembered how poorly he had treated me and…I dragged his body to the balcony and threw it overboard. 'Adios, Carloalberto,' I whispered as it sank."

"Was it then when you decided to make it look like a suicide?" Marlene asked.

"Not immediately. It wasn't until the next day that I started thinking of the consequences. What if our affair was discovered and I became a suspect? But I had kept his phone and there was the recording. It was like a godsend…or a devil-send. The fact that we had lost the contest would make the suicide hypothesis more credible. The next day, after the dolphin excursion, when Emma was looking for Carloalberto, I sneaked in their cabin and left the phone there. Then I waited for her to find it and notice the video."

Helen fell silent. Marlene watched the screenwriter who seemed sad, but not particularly remorseful. She thought of her own life and the men who had cheated her, then looked at mousy, timid Helen with new eyes.

As a police officer Marlene couldn't have covered up a murder, but she wasn't one anymore. She had left her career behind, back on the island. Now she was just the owner of La Bakería Cubana, and she couldn't wait to return to it.

She walked to the balcony and threw Helen's journal into the choppy ocean.

"Adios, Carloalberto," they both said at the same time.

- The End

The Spanish version of this story is here.

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