We had a beer but only one. I would have stayed and drank myself unconscious, just to see what kind of men I was dealing with. Every person, about to go into harms way, handles it differently. Some get roaring drunk and some have a good meal and go to bed early. It looked as though Alex planned that everyone go to bed early.
“So when do we leave skipper?” I asked Alex. while I looked up at the very small coastal freighter.
“Tomorrow before noon is the plan, but I’m not the skipper. I have the ship’s real captain coming in the morning.” he answered simply.
“I know I probably shouldn’t ask this, but is this thing safe?” I did smile.
“Yes it is. It was the mail boat for years. It went from island to island with mail and supplies ordered through the ships mail service. Anything, right down to a live chicken, can be ordered through the mail service for the islands. I never did understand, if it was a government or a private service. All I am sure of is they call it the island mail boat. At least they did before they bought a new one. This one is now leased to people who want to carry things themselves. Sometimes a tramp steamer vacation, maybe even a little gun running to opposition groups, only the good guys of course,” he said.
“Of course,” I agreed. “So all this fits right into out cover story just fine.”
“If the pirates come out to play, I hope it is in international waters,” Alex said. “If we get picked up by a legitimate navy or some other kind of neutral ship in international waters, we have a good chance of walking away from this as heros. If we get picked up in Somalian waters, we are probably fucked no matter how good our story.”Alex said.
“Well that’s what makes it interesting. But I assume we are going to play em where they lay?” I asked.
“We are not going to walk away from anything,” He said. If we have to take on their piece of shit Navy’s gunboats, we will do that to. This time the paper tiger has teeth,” he said to me.
“This time,” I agreed.
“Who is the least effective, when it comes to crunch time?” I asked.
“These guys were all damn good soldiers.” he said. “What you called super soldiers.” Alex said.
“That was forty years ago. Some of them have had the good life since. I don’t think all of your men are equal, so which do we put guarding the crew, if it happens at all.”
“Guarding the crew?” Alex asked.
“The three men you hired could easily be working with the pirates to help setup ships. This is a small ship, but like you said they use this boat for gun running, so it could be a target just for that reason. So we don’t really want the locals wandering around during a fire fight.” I said seriously.
The name belonged to the one I called Alkie. I nodded my agreement. “So I hope we aren’t having plumpynut for lunch.” I suggested.
“I have no idea, but it should be pretty good. One of the wives signed on to cook for us. It was the only way I would take her along. There are no passengers on this train.”
“You said there were two women, so what does the other one do?” I asked.
“She is the assistant chef,” He informed me. Unpaid but still she is here on vacation, more or less. Both of them go below if we spot anyone.”
“So how long are we going to be on the water?” I asked.
“You signed on for 2 weeks and we are going to use every hour of it sailing around trying to stir up some interest.”
“Riding shotgun on a ship full of plumpynut is a job I never imagined, but I will do my best to get‘er through.”
“Let’s catch up with the TV crew,” I suggested.
“They are already on board waiting to film us going up the gang plank I expect.” Alex said.
“I see you have already figured out their purpose in life,” I said.
“It’s as good as any other,” Alex said.
“Better than some, I would thing,” I said in agreement. Sure enough Morris was leaning over the side of the ship shooting video of me walking up the gang plank. I was tempted to wave and make it obvious that I knew the camera was watching .
“Come on, I’ll introduce you to the ladies.” Alex suggested.
While Gwen and Morris shot video, I followed Alex to the Galley, where I found a fifty hear old blond , from a bottle, and a thirty year old sandy haired chick.”The older lady could be Whitey or the teacher’s wife. I had my money on the car dealer for the younger chick.
I was half right. The younger chick was with the car dealer/sleaze bag. The older woman belonged to Alkie. She must be giving him another chance, I thought.
“So what’s for lunch Alice,” Alex asked.
“Potato soup and grill cheese sandwiches,” the older lady said.
“Sounds good,” I admitted.
“You must be Maxine Stone, I have been seeing promos for the show they are filming. Do I get to be on it.”
“Only if you want to, you can refuse to have yourself recognizable. If you do Mike back in the states will just fuzz you out.
Lunch was very good in a mom’s kitchen kind of way. I enjoyed it a lot more than the others, I expect. Men tend to like much heavier meals. It was a nice change from restaurant food for me.
After lunch Ales said to me, “Come on I’ll show you to your cabin, such as it is.”
I followed him to a battle ship gray room about the size of a decent walk in closet. “Hope this doesn’t become a long voyage,” I admitted when I saw how small it was.
“It used to be one of the officer’s cabins. We don’t really have much of a crew. The real captain, three guys to help with the real work, then whatever the friends can do to help. I don’t expect a lot of work from them.”
An hour or so later, Gwen and Morris came to my cabin. There was one small chair, so I sat in it, allowing them to perch on the narrow bed. “So Maxine, how do you see this going down?” Marris asked.
“No matter what they say, this is about the cargo. This will keep kids alive who might otherwise die. This whole thing has become about that.” I said. I tried to put a better face on the gig, than it deserved. Well maybe it did deserve an honorable twist, even if it took a lie to get it.
“So what do we need to expect next?” Morris asked.
“We are going to set sail before noon tomorrow. We will be headed across the Mediterranean Sea. Our first milestone will be the Suez Canal. From there it’s the Red Sea, then the Sea of Arabia. If all goes well. the supplies for the camps will be delivered in about ten days.
I knew that the ten days would also gave us time to do some cruising for our vacation. Up and down the coast of Somalia. Since we were flying the Greek flag, we were in fact subject to their laws, unless we got picked up in Somalian waters. If we were grabbed on the high seas, we should be able to get a trail in a Greek court.
Alex knew it too, so except for the actual delivery of the Plumpynut, we planned to stay in international waters. Still we had to cut it close since the pirates were usually in small boats. Those boars were not capable of going out very far. I did not want to get arrested in Somalian waters period.
“If we have pirate trouble and have to fight them off, turn this ship toward the international waters and don’t stop for anything. That is my first concern.” I said to Alex the next morning.
“I agree absolutely, our version of position will be the most believable.” he said.
“So lets hold a meeting of our crack security crew.” I demanded.
We met in the mess, since it was the only room designed for larger numbers. Larger numbers being ten to twelve at a time. In my case that morning it was Gwen, Morris, Whitie, the Used Car Salesman, the Teacher, Alkie, Alex, and me.
“So lets run through the drill in case of pirate attack. Since you guys had a friend beheaded by these guys, I doubt that you want to be grabbed by them. In my case it’s my job to defend the ship and the cargo. I am counting on your help. If you aren’t willing to do what it takes, then you better think about how your family and friends will react to your headless corpse. I say that because, if we are attacked, we are not going to surrender as long as I am alive. I have to warn you guys, if in the heat of battle you think it’s time to give up. The only way that is going to happen is if I’m dead. I have to also warn you, I’m fucking hard to kill.” I turned to Alex, “Do you have anything to say?”
“Guys what she just said goes double for me. We are going to do this and we are going to do it right. Listen to this lady just like it is me talking.” When he finished, he sat back down.
“Just like any other battle, our best defense is going to be intelligence. About the only thing we have is radar. We will be tracking the ship’s radar carefully. We will get visual sightings before we do anything. If we are threatened and we have visual confirmation that the men are armed, then and only then do we go hot.”
I stopped to let that sink in. “If any of you starts to kill indiscriminately, I will shoot you myself. This is going to be a clean mission. I do not plan to be grabbed in Somalian waters and be tried here. If we get grabbed it has to be in international waters and by a real navy. then the Greeks have to deal with us. Truth is I prefer not to go on trial anywhere, which is why we are allowing the film crew to shoot and record everything, so be professional and follow the rules of engagement. The are:
1. The man has to be armed.
2. He has to be threatening you or the ship.
3.We do not shoot men in the water
4. We do not shoot prisoners.
5. We do not shoot men in the back.
They have to be a direct threat. If it’s questionable that’s one thing, but a blatant disregard for the rules and I’m gonna throw your ass to the wolves. The film crew is recording this, so you aren’t going to get away with, I was just following orders, if you disregard them.
We will all be verifying radar hits. You are to call me, if you see any armed men. If you can’t find me, then get Alex. Only the two of us can give the order to engage a boat. If, God forbid, they get to the ship, then do what you have to do to stay alive. I want to tell you again, we are not going to surrender period. You signed on and Alex should have told you the risks.”
“If any of you want out, now is the time before we leave Crete. After we sail you are in for the whole meal, so chew it carefully.”
Nobody seemed to want to leave, so maybe I was wrong about their desire to see it through.
“Remember guys this trip is to honor our comrade in arms. Jeff deserved better, this is the least we can do. He wanted to make a difference, this cargo of aid, to save starving kids will honor his memory, better than anything else we could do.” Alex said it then turned to me and winked when the camera couldn’t see it. He knew how to go along with the bullshit and I was glad.