By Cindy and Walt
I figured the message meant I wasn’t coming back anytime soon. Since the temperature often reached 10F or colder, I drained all the water. Carlos’s brother had added an in ground valve for me to use to drain the system. I even drained the giant coffee maker looking thing which sat on the wood stove and made hot water for my shower.
Unlike the wood stove at Church Camp my new wood burning stove was a wonder. I didn’t build a fire near as big as I could have in the stove. With it I heated only the office, bathroom, and sleeping loft. I had moved to the loft to sleep, since I had some heat in it.
Carlos had built an unpainted handrail and stairs for the loft. Then one of the emigrant ladies made me a curtain as big as a stage curtain. It was made from two matching bedspreads and it fit the opening perfectly. I promised she could make curtains when I had windows installed.
I left a key with Carlos since there was nothing to find or steal in the Country store. I explained that I had very little money, but I would pay him a few dollars since I was going off to work, if he wanted to come in and finish some of the raw wood. I also told him not to let it go over $500 as I wouldn’t be able to pay it. I added that he could come and go as he wished. But suggested he refrained from having a party in the country store.
“Carlos if you decide to get a little on the side, have her wash the sheets,” I demanded with a smile.
“I’m going to wait for you to come home, so we can do a threesome,” he said equally amused.
With the house in pretty good shape, all things considered, I drove the truck into Roaring Gap. I parked in the parking lot of the Central Park Coffee Shop, then went inside to order a cup of coffee. It wasn’t nearly as good as Cell Block Six even though it was three times the price.
I was about halfway through the cup, when a woman much younger than Mission walked into the restaurant. She walked right up to me then she sat down without an invitation.
“I’ll have a double cappuccino,” she said to the waitress without being asked. “So Rose how is the house coming?”
“I’m not ready for home and garden’s yet, but I’m getting there. So who the hell are you?” I asked.
“I’m your new best friend,” then she gave me the ever changing password.
She then handed me a cheap paperback copy of the book ‘East of Eden’. The password was supposed to be the 16th word on the 3rd page. I looked and it was there. “So what’s up,” I asked.
“This one is new. You will be working with another under cover asset. You haven’t done that before, so I caution you to play nice,” she said. “He is pretty much doing the same deal you are.”
“I always play nice,” I said.
Liam who had been gone during the renovation was suddenly standing behind her. “Rose, watch this one. Her name is Morris and she is a first class bitch. Also she likes to use people to climb the success ladder. So far we at the Camp have had no interaction with her. I think when the boss finds out she is here, she will be gone.”
I had learned how to handle Liam. I nodded so slightly that Morris wouldn’t notice but Liam got it.
“So what is the deal?” I asked.
“Your identity papers are in this envelope. Destroy the information inside when you have it memorized. Leave your cell phone and laptop here. We will get them back to your new place, but with new memories.
You leave from here and drive down to the coast. You won’t need to rent a place, just contact our agent there. He is expecting you, and he has a place for you to stay. And Rose, I hope you don’t get sea sick.” Morris smiled, then stood to leave. “Now give me your car keys, your new ride is in the parking lot. It is small and red. Have a nice trip. Wait ten more minutes then start your drive.”
“Not a sports car I bet,” I whispered under my breath.
“Back stabbing bitch,” Liam said as she walked away.
“I don’t know about that, but I didn’t like her,” I whispered. “No idea why, I just don’t trust her.”
“You have good instincts. We all know that,” he said.
In the parking lot ten minutes later I found my large backpack leaning against an eight or nine year old Hyundai. The state obviously had gone all out again, I thought sarcastically. I opened the trunk and swung my bag inside. Inside the trunk was a spare tire, and a plastic box. Along with jumper cables, some other car type stuff. Also there was a cell phone and laptop. I removed the cell phone. It was a disposable, of course. There was also a little box with two new model Porter daggers.
I opened the bag containing the laptop. Needless to say I was familiar with that type tiny laptop. It was a cheap Chinese knockoff of an HP laptop. The built in screen was no more than seven by nine inches. It had been modified to be one of those hacker proof models.
They weren’t at all hacker proof, if the owner was careless. However it had no hard drive. Instead it had several USB ports and flash drives. The operating system was on one flash drive and the memory was another. Even the ram ran from a third flash drive. It was a hacker’s nightmare. That is if the owner could just remember to remove the operating system at night. Without that in place, the hacker could not access the computer. Well he could if he physically got his hands on the thumb drives, but if you knew enough to buy one of those you should know enough not to let that happen.
I left the laptop when I closed the trunk. Once I was behind the wheel I pulled out of the parking lot and headed for the coast. As I checked the gauges I noted that the car was full of gas. That was good of the law dogs, I thought. It meant I should have to stop only once to fill the ten gallon tank. Well that was if the car did as well on gas as advertised. If it got less than twenty five miles per gallon I might have to stop twice.
That fucking Hyundai barely made it to the coast. It spewed clouds of smoke from the rear even though it ran well enough. The gasoline mileage was also abysmal. It barely got twenty miles to the gallon. When I stopped outside Capitol City for gas, I also checked the oil. It was down only half a quart. There was a lot of smoke for half a quart of oil, I thought.
I stopped again about a hundred miles from Port Charles for a refrigerated sandwich, a tank of gas, and a quart of oil. Port Charles, I found from Google and my laptop connected to the trucker’s WIFI at the Mega Truck Stop, was almost a coastal town. It was a port city but not located on the coast. About a mile inland from the ocean, Port Charles sat on the bank of one of the State’s largest rivers. It was a popular place to park sport fishing boats, since it was usually secure from tidal surges, even during the many summer storms. Since the seasick crack from Morris, I had to assume the charter boat business was what I would be looking into. Though I had no idea why the State cared about charter boats. I also had no idea why they had a boat.
Port Charles had a population of just under 20,000 full time residents. The summer residents might swell that number but just a little. There were plenty of motel owners and charter boats crews who came just for the summer, I supposed. I dialed the cell phone number from memory.
“Jack Slade, I’m Natalie Ripkin,” I said to the man who answered. “I think you are expecting me.”
“Yeah, where are you?” he asked in a gruff voice.
“On the outskirts of town,” I said. “So where are you?”
“Come to the city’s marina. The Ruby Anne is in slip number eight,” he informed me.
“Right,” I said. “Am I going to be sleeping on board?”
“You can, if you trust me,” he said.
“I don’t know you, but I know and trust me,” I said. “I’ll be there in ten minutes.”
Finding the marina was easy. Finding the Ruby Anne wasn’t. The marina was typical of anything run by a government bureaucracy, it was a nightmare of poor planning. The marina had been added to many time over it’s hundred plus years of existence. No grand plan existed, so it was a rambling monster. Worse of all the slip numbering made no sense at all. The small slips were number 1-100 starting at the office and going west. There were more slips for larger boats starting with -1 and going to 50. Those went east from the office. Small boat slip eight was on the dock just outside the rear door of the office. Large boat slip eight was two floating docks south from the office. It was still within walking distance so I did.
The Ruby Anne looked like a tugboat. It was kind of short and most of the topside was an enclosed wheelhouse. It seemed to be well maintained. Judging from my Country Store, the damn thing had been restored after it had been mothballed a while.
“Ahoy on the Ruby Anne,” I shouted from the dock. “Permission to come aboard.
“Come on up damn it you don’t need permission, you are crew for god’s sake,” the older man’s voice replied.
The old man was at least sixty. His hair was longish, not fashionably long, just unkempt. He had a beard of course, which seemed to have been self groomed with garden sheers. He was also built like two fifty gallon drums one atop the other. The man had no shape at all.
“Aye Aye skipper.” That’s when I realized he looked like the Captain from the Television show ‘Gilligan’s Island’. I am afraid I laughed at my own silent joke.
“What so fuckin’ funny,” he asked with his face turning red.
“Nothing at all skipper. I sure hope I have better luck than your last first mate,” I said.
“What the fuck you talkin’ about?” he asked.
“Didn’t anyone tell you that you looked like the Skipper on Gilligan’s Island?” I asked.
“No, cause I don’t look like that fat bozo,” he said.
“Well if I were you I would have a picture made with me and you in costume and post it on your website,” I said with giggle. “If we do it I want to be Ginger.”
“We are not doing anything like that. First of all we don’t want any business. We want to look like we are struggling, which we will be,” he said.
“Okay so fill me in on what we are doing here,” I said.
“Come on below I don’t want to talk on deck,” he said.
I followed him below with my hand in the pocket of my jeans. In the truck pocket was a small leather like envelope with an updated version of the Porter Dagger. It was a knockoff which was one of those cheap Bic pens. The kind that doesn’t retract. On the blunt end was a small scull. It was like an inch in diameter. It made for a cute little decoration, or one fine handle for pulling the pen out of the wound, so it could be used a second time. The pen also had a point, which was never made to use for writing. It looked as though it was stainless steel or maybe titanium. The metal rod, which ran the length of the plastic body, was painted to resemble ink.
I held onto it to be sure Captain Jack didn’t get any amorous ideas. Like I said, unless it is part of the job, I fuck who I want, when I want. Fat ass Jack was not one of the who I wanted to fuck.
“What we have here is an experiment to close down a major drug cartel. It’s about as close to suicide as I ever want to get,” Captain Jack said. “These Mexican cartels have no problem killing anyone just to prove a point. You better hope they get here quick with the new life they promised us.”
“You still haven’t explained what we are going to do,” I explained.
“We are going to run a struggling charter boat service. I’m a convicted drug smuggler,” he said. “I really am and they are going to know that,” he said.
“I see you are a convicted drug dealer as well. You did five years in Central Prison for women up in Capitol City. Model prisoner got an early release due to over crowding, right?” he asked.
“Five and a half years of ten to twenty sentence,” I corrected him. “So you are not suggesting, we run that on the website are you?” I asked.
“Of course not, word will get around that we are looking for work and they will find us. At least that is the plan,” he explained. “However we are making a website for sure. The man will be here tomorrow. Before you do anything stupid, he is on the up and up, so don’t drop any hints.”
“Not a one I promise, but it will be hard not to tell him I’m a convicted felon and a drug dealer,” I said. My cover story was very close to the truth.
“Yeah, I’m sure. He will be here at 10 AM, so get a good night sleep,” Jack said.
“Skipper, I’m going to dinner, you just show me where I’m going to bunk when I come back,” I demanded.
“You can sleep in one of the bunks below deck. It’s hot, but I’ll be in the wheelhouse with my AR-15 and my 9mm,” he said.
“Oh, that’s supposed to make me feel better?” I asked with a scowl.
I went to Mcdonald’s because they had free WIFI. I put the following message into the new Email account. “Lindberg has landed in Paris. Crowds are not going wild.” We were using ‘The Flight of the Century’ as the book code. At least I hoped Morris was smart enough to get it. I had three books from which to choose, and I chose that one. I felt that it was pretty obscure.
When I got back to the boat I went directly to the sleeping quarters below deck. The ocean going tug Ruby Anne had a crew of four, while the Ruby Anne fishing boat had a crew of two. I had the small area to myself. Even so, it was tiny. There was just enough room for the bunk beds. No room to turn around so one needed to be sure he or she was headed the right direction at all times. Well it was almost that bad.
I chose the upper bunk still keeping in mind that Jack Slade was a criminal, just like me. A convict is capable of anything. So I didn’t plan to make it easy for the fat man should he decide that he was lonely.
Instead of the sound of grunts from a fat man, I awoke to the smell of bacon frying. I followed the smell up to the wheelhouse, where Fat Jack was cooking breakfast. “Hey Nat, you want a bacon and egg bagel?” he asked.
“Sure why not?” I replied.
“When I was just a kid I sailed on tugs up and down the Great Lakes. First job I had was cook on a tug. I helped secure lines and all the rest, but I was the designated cook. It was my first time cooking anything. Never even made a grill cheese sandwich at home. So anyway the point is, I been cooking on tugs a long time.” He said that as he pushed his bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich in front of me.
Not only was the sandwich good, but the coffee was very good as well. I considered the coffee almost a big a feat as the bagel.
After breakfast I began cleaning until the Web man arrived. I had managed to clean most of the small galley before he arrived. Jack didn’t bother to introduce him, so I didn’t bother with his name.
He and jack consulted while I cleaned. Finally Fat Jack called me over. “I need for you to let Phil make some pictures of you for the web page,” he said.
“What kind of pictures?” I asked.
“In your bikini, think of it as more bait. This dudes like blondes with big boobs,” Fat Jack admitted.
“I think that is true of all men, Jack.”
“Yeah, you are probably right. So how about it,” he asked.
Phil the web man had me pose in three outfits, my bikini, short shorts, and skinny jeans with heels. Those we had to go buy, since I had none. I almost froze my ass off. Otherwise the layout the boss chose seemed to be pretty harmless. Not that anyone cared what I thought.
I cleaned on the boat all the rest of that day. We did go out to dinner at a local cafe in Port Charles. The food was good. Since I was pretty tired, as well as starved anything would have been.
I slept good again that night. And the next morning at 6 AM I awoke to the smell of bacon cooking again. I went up to the galley part of the wheelhouse to confront Jack. “It’s a good thing you can cook because I suck at it,” I admitted.
“Well it’s a good breakfast, then grab what you can for lunch, for dinner we eat on shore. That is the plan. I’ll cook if you will clean up after me,” Jack said.
“That sounds reasonable. I almost froze yesterday in that bikini, when do you think the season will start?” I asked.
“My guess is two more months. You can scrape and paint the Ruby Anne like a good deck hand would. I’ll make some calls just to let some old friends know I’m still in the business. In my case the cover is they threw the case out of court,” he stated.
So for the next month I scrapped and painted the Ruby Anne while Jack went to meet with people I didn’t want to know. His deal with the powers that be was strictly his deal. I was playing the part of second banana. I didn’t mind at all. I put the phone on broadcast whenever I was at one of the meetings. Otherwise there was very little work for the powers that controlled me.
After about six weeks a black Cadillac Escalade showed up on the pier. It was a no parking spot, but the driver boldly parked the vehicle. “I’m going to go tell him to move that piece of crap before he brings the cops to our door,” I said.
“Hold on Nat, that may be someone you don’t want to fuck with. I’ve been putting out feelers all over the place,” Fat Jack said.
“Okay,” I replied.
Just at that moment the back door opened and an obviously armed man appeared. He looked all around like a bodyguard, but he somehow seemed less like a pro than cannon fodder. I had no experience with either, just my impression of him. The man who climbed out of the car was very black, and obviously the one being protected.
“I thought we were after Mexicans,” I said.
“We take what we can get, to earn our way into the business,” Fat Jack said.
I wished I had time to check with the controller, but I could get an okay after the deal was made, if there was a deal.
“You interested in a charter fishing excursion?” Fat Jack asked the obvious drug dealer.
“I want to charter your boat alright, but not to do no fucking fishing. Let’s go inside I don’t like to talk on the outside,” he said. “She stays here with Edwardo.”
So maybe there is a Mexican connection, I thought. I watched the Caddy drive over to the parking lot. Edwardo sat staring at my boobs the whole time his boss was inside the wheelhouse with Fat Jack. The big drug meeting lasted about twenty minutes then Edwardo and the Black man were gone.
Fat Jack stayed behind a few more minutes then came out. “This is not good,” he said.
“What is wrong?” I asked.
“There is no way the cops can provide us with cover. It they try to intercept us and fail, you and I are going to die.” he said.
“That is not something I look forward to doing. So tell me the plan and maybe we can figure something out,” I suggested as I secretly turned on the phone to broadcast the conversation and hoped the controller’s people would record it.
“The black man’s name is Rod, what that is short for I have no idea. Anyway Rod will show up one night out of the blue and tell us the plan. That is all I know. We do what he says, collect our twenty grand, and forget we ever left the dock. That’s as much as I know. I figured it was best to ask no questions. We can make one run and then next time we will have some idea what is going on,” he said.
“I don’t fucking like it,” I said.
“You know what, I have no idea what we are going to do and I don’t like that either. I also don’t like going to prison for ten to twenty. But I like being killed and thrown overboard even less,” Fat Jack assured me.