I Once Found a Dead Body in My Bunk 🛌

Hi, all— 
I thought a lot about the Navy while writing Book 3 in the Deception Point military detective series & for good reason. The first half of BACKBLAST is set aboard a warship in the middle of the Arabian Sea. As I sat down each day to write, I would deliberately draw on my own memories to flesh out scenes for BACKBLAST, using them to create the sights, sounds, smells & reality of shipboard life. 
If there's one word that encapsulates this life, it's hard. Sailors work hard, play hard—and they tease each other even harder. This was especially true aboard one of my ships. At the time, I wore two hats: Repair division officer & Damage Control Assistant. Basically, my guys were the cutters, welders & firefighters—aka: the Flying Squad.
If you've read my alter ego's military romantic suspense novel, FOR HIS EYES ONLY, you know that the Flying Squad is the initial line of defense during a shipboard casualty. If those guys can't contain it, General Quarters is sounded & the Flying Squad then forms the backbone for the ship-wide damage control teams that lead a massive, coordinated effort to subdue whatever the conflagration that's currently threatening the ship, be it fire, flooding, exploding ordinance, etc. (Note: Murphy's Law is particularly true at sea. If something can go wrong, it will—and in some frighteningly creative ways.) 
Needless to say, my guys worked hard. And when they played and teased...well, they had access to the truly fun stuff. I discovered this firsthand when the ship got underway to prep for deployment. At the time, my stateroom was next door to the ship's executive officer's. The XO was also a bit of a...tool. He had this charming habit of freely using his master key to spot check an officer's quarters to make sure it was in line with his idea of shipshape. Needless to say, I kept my quarters clean & made sure the lights were off when I left—as I did that first night underway, before I headed topside to the bridge to stand conning officer for the midnight watch. 
When I came off watch just after 0400, I noticed something unusual at the base of my door: a light strip. On alert, I unlocked & carefully entered my stateroom...to find a male body filling my bed. I immediately began laughing. My guys had slipped our full-sized damage control dummy into my rack & tucked the blankets in around him. As I stared at the radiation burns that blackened & blistered half his face, as well as the dislocated eye that dangled from the bloody socket on the other side, two things went through my brain. 1) Our training dude was gnarly. And 2) I must be doing okay as a division officer if my guys were already pulling pranks. 
Since I'd gotten zero sleep before watch, I lugged all 200 lbs of the mutilated dummy out of my rack, wedged him into the chair in the far corner of my stateroom & went to sleep. A woeful 3 hours later, I crawled out of my rack, stumbled into the common head for a 30-second shower, then sprinted aft down the port side of the ship to the flight deck where the chief engineer was about to pass the ship's Word for the coming day. There, I found my two chiefs waiting for my reaction...and a bit wary.
I promptly laughed & told them about the light. At that point, one of my chiefs turned to smack our leading petty officer upside the head & yelled at him for leaving the light on &, thus, ruining the gag. I assured my chiefs & LPO that I didn't get mad...but, fair warning, I also tended to get even. My revenge—and it was sweet—came in the form of two separate pranks which I'll detail in subsequent newsletters. 
But here's something I didn't confess to my chiefs: remember when I told you that I lugged the gnarly dude across my stateroom to wedge him into my chair so I could take his place in my rack? Well, I was so exhausted when I woke that I forgot all about the guy...until I stumbled back into my stateroom, still bleary-eyed, after my shower. I caught one glimpse of that shadowy form looming in the corner of my stateroom & freaked. But that's between us. 😉
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