|Excerpt-The Falcon Takes a Gamble
Rudolph Valentino stared down at the body on the floor of the salon. Moments before, John Floyd had been seated at the table dealing a hand of poker. In the next instant, he started violently from his chair and collapsed to the floor with convulsions—blood pouring from his nose and mouth.
Even as he knew it was hopeless, Rudy had tried to help the stricken man by loosening the tie of his evening attire. Shouts of panic―so out of place in such rich surroundings―reached Rudy’s ears as though from the far end of a deep tunnel.
Several minutes passed. Rudy slowly steadied the trembling of his hands and his breathing which came in ragged gasps. The initial shock subsided enough for him to notice that his hands were covered in the dead man’s blood.
Rudy knew with pulse-pounding certainty that John Floyd’s demise was not a natural death. He knew that in an elegant room full of sophisticated people, John Floyd had been brutally murdered. But how and why?
While Rudy slumped back into a chair, his bloody hands resting on his knees, other passengers in the glittering salon clustered in a corner, as far from the body as they could get. They spoke in whispers and stole furtive glances at Rudy and the body lying on the floor at his feet, as if at some grotesque tableau. Even though Rudy shared their unease and distress, he felt strangely rooted to the chair, compelled to stay by the body until the arrival of the ship’s doctor.
Only three days into their transatlantic crossing, Rudy had sensed that there was something oddly off onboard, some sinister undercurrent―something he could not quite put his finger on.
He planned to tell the doctor of his suspicions, but he wondered if the man would believe him or even have the sense to listen. Would he instead prefer to protect the reputation of the shipping line, at the cost of letting a murderer go free?