CHAPTER ONE - Here
CHAPTER TWO - Here
CHAPTER THREE - Here
They were coming, but not simply to take a quick look-see and then sail on by. An inflatable motor boat was deployed and it was headed straight for the yacht. Whoever was in it would board and find me with drugs galore, a dead body, and a shotgun in my hands. Snooping around in here probably wasn’t the wisest decision I’ve ever made, but it did make me realize just how big this show is and also just how dangerous its puppeteers are. Since whoever’s coming will be armed and won’t hesitate to use ‘he-pulled-his-gun-on-us-first’ as their official line of defense, I decided against donning a cloak of nobility and chose instead to hide. Somebody once said that he who cowers and runs away, lives to fight another day, and that’s good enough for me.
I figured the cabin with Danny’s body would most likely be the safest for me since there would be no reason for them to check on his status. They’re either here to retrieve some, or all, of the coke, or to make sure nobody’s messed with it. Funny thing is, those are the only two possible reasons that crossed my mind. It never occurred to me that, as the Coast Guard, they’re simply running a legitimate check on what appears to be an abandoned boat. Well, somebody else said that just because you’re paranoid, that doesn’t mean nobody’s out to get you. That one’s good enough for me too.
I made my way back to the aft cabin and almost felt I had to apologize for disturbing Danny’s final resting place. They’d taken him down hard and he’d seen it coming--guaranteed. I do a lot of jobs for local law enforcement and I’m Mr. Hard-as-Nails when I’m escorting a you’ll-never-take-me-alive bail jumper to the county lockup or snapping photos of a cheating wife lying naked on the backseat of her lover’s car while her paramour swings at me with a baseball bat. But, this one, I can’t take on with my Polaroid or with Mr. .38 strapped to my ankle. This thing, whatever it is, is way bigger than me, or anything I’ve ever run up against, and I’m going to have to bring in a friend to help me. I’m going to have to enlist the aid of my long-time associate, The Butcher.
The Butcher’s real name is Teddy Cornmow. Really. He tells me whenever we hook up on a case that if I ever reveal his given name to anyone, he’ll jazz up my books so good that they’ll re-open a wing on Alcatraz just for me. That’s what he does, Teddy. He’s a numbers guy--a genuine Certified Public Accountant. He’s got a Master’s Degree too, I think. I'm not sure who christened him The Butcher, but if you ever saw what that fellow can do to a ledger, you'd applaud the moniker. Odd thing about it though is that he does his 'butchering' in reverse. You screw up your books to make yourself look kosher, and Teddy will go through them like a buzzsaw and undo each and every trick you think you pulled. If you were ever alone with him in an elevator however, I doubt you’d be afraid to turn your back on him. He’s 5 foot 3 when he’s stretching, wears glasses as thick as thermal-panes, and can barely bench press his two-year old nephew. But Teddy’s still one deadly dude.
Teddy can find out anything about anybody and actually find anybody too, just based on their finances. The phrase ‘follow the money’ wasn’t just made up for the movies. Following the money is how Teddy makes his living. A steady income flows his way via some covert governmental agency. He volunteers nothing and I’ve learned not to ask. All I know is he’s well protected and is on the side of apple pie and mom, so I have no quarrel with The Ted. Besides, his resources are limitless. In my line of work, a better friend I could not have.
Helping me out here and there doesn’t add more than a few bucks to his pockets, but he likes me, so he gives me a hand when I need it. According to The Butcher, anyone who does whatever they have to do to get the job done is alright by him. I don’t break the law--exactly, but if I ever need to bend it a bit for the greater good, then so be it. However, I don’t smuggle coke, execute business partners, or bank a mil at my local branch. I’m not sure how Teddy’s going to react when I ask him to follow the money where my own brother is concerned, but it’s got to be done. Teddy’s never met George, but I’ve always talked him up whenever he was awarded some certificate or honor, and Teddy knows I’ve always been proud of my brother--personally and professionally.
Now, all I can think is who is George, really? Is he part of some international drug smuggling operation? Is he a Coast Guard Ops Specialist by day and a Cartel assassin by night? George was nervous over breakfast and did I detect a bit of fear? Was that an act for my benefit when in reality, he’s nothing more than a cold-blooded murderer? Or has he gotten himself more deeply involved in a situation than he ever intended, and now believes there’s no way out? He was so insistent that I remain at his cabin. Does his only way out involve throwing me to his wolves?
I’m getting another headache and I left my liquid aspirin back at the cabin. Of course, a headache will be the least of my worries soon because within the next few minutes, I’ll be doing the dead man’s float for real. I can hear them coming alongside. Soon they’ll be on deck. I pulled the cabin door open and hung on to the knob with my right hand, stood the shotgun up and hung into the barrel with my left, pressed myself against the wall, and closed my eyes. Well, Danny, here’s hoping they’re the bad guys.
I could hear a couple of different voices, but George’s wasn’t one of them. Damn. If they’re legit Coast Guard, they’ll stick their official noses into every nook and cranny, find me, find Danny, find my shotgun…
“…hasn’t been here that long. He might be running late, but as long as the package is intact, there won’t be any problems. At least, not from me.”
Whoever the man was, he obviously found his own conversation quite amusing because he started laughing. Apparently, his associate also appreciated his comedic timing, because soon, they were both doubled over. The punch line escaped me.
“The other one must be pretty ripe by now, but we’ll let George tuck him in for the night, after he takes care of our other problem. He told Sonny that he‘s got everything all set up”
A different voice. Another player. Who‘s Sonny? And George has been awarded the honor of disposing of Danny’s remains, but what other problem does George have? Me? What has George got ‘all set up’? My elimination?
They were moving around the yacht, opening this and slamming that shut, walking heavy and loud. They obviously believed that they wouldn’t be disturbing whoever else was on board.
“You do a count and make sure the package is intact and I’m going to make a call and report this as secure. Then, we’ll head back.”
The footsteps moved away from my cocoon between the door and the cabin wall. So, their job was just to make sure nobody touched their stash and keep the Coast Guard away by reporting it as a secured vessel, like maybe the owner just stepped off to enjoy a quick five mile hike into town for a burger and a beer. Come to think of it, who is the owner of this yacht? Was he the head of this drug ring, or just an unsuspecting dupe--like me? What had brought Danny here and why was it necessary to take him out of the picture? And, where‘s Janine in all this? She and George and Danny used to be like The Three Musketeers. Now that Danny’s no longer part of their ménage a trios, will it be just the two of them from now on or is Sonny the third spoke on their wheel? If I never get out of this, I’m going to start carrying a flask.
“The package is in one piece.’ The second voice. The underling, it would seem, since he got assigned the thrill of the count.
“We’re all good. None of our crews will board her. George should be back soon to clean up his mess, and arrange for the pickup. He said it should all go down nice and easy. I like nice and easy. The pay‘s better.”
The first guy again dissolved into raucous laughter. His sidekick offered up a slight tee-hee, as I’m sure he was duty-bound to do, and they both made their way up to the deck. I could hear them start the motor and quickly move out towards their cutter. I decided to try to think this through up on deck where I could breathe in some fresher air since Danny had started to become quite pungent.
I made sure the two visitors were far enough away before I went up and out. I decided it would be better to exit the yacht and return to solid ground where I felt markedly safer. Keeping an eye on the motorboat, and the cutter just in case, I went around to the back of the boathouse. I took another quick peek through the window, and thankfully, it was as dusty and deserted as before. Time to appraise my situation.
The guys on the yacht were Coast Guard Officers, and obviously, corrupt ones who are in on the drug deal. They both know George, who may have had a hand in Danny’s murder. George insisted I remain at his cabin alone, knowing I was without any transportation in case of an emergency. He was jumpy--pissed off really, that I had been wandering about in the woods. With all the drugs on the yacht, why hide one pack in the cabin? Was George stupid enough to try to skim some off the top? He had to have taken it with him when he left, but why? Was he cutting a side deal? Was Sonny the big dog? The Coast Guard was George’s and Danny’s cover. Was Janine’s the RCMP?
Too many questions that I can’t answer. I’ve got to find a way back to the city and get in touch with The Butcher. He’s my best bet to begin to get this nightmare unraveled. The ringtone on my cell going off just now has caused a rather embarrassing stain down the left leg of my jeans. I had never shut it down because I thought being waterlogged had brought about its permanent demise.
The name in the caller ID brought my nightmare to new heights. It was George. Okay. George is calling me to find out if my cell’s got service. He believes I’m at the cabin and he’s checking on me. Come on, Frank, you don’t really buy that load of crap now, do you? George is calling my cell to see if it works, but only for two reasons. One, if I don’t answer, then he and his cohorts are free and clear because I’m taking a dirt nap on one of the trails around the cabin. Two, if by some slim chance I should answer, then there’s been some kind of glitch with the hired help and he’s going to have to finish me off himself. I’m not sure how to…
No need for me to worry about it any more because George’s call went to voicemail. Thank God I’ve got The Butcher on speed dial…