Monday, August 13, 2012

Breaking Anchor - Part 21 of 44

© 2012 by Henry Melton

Chapter 21 -- Raising Sail
They needn’t have worried. The weekend crew at a yard specializing in pleasure yachts was well staffed, according to the man who told them where to tie up.
“But you’re a little early. Most of ‘em haven’t shown up for work yet. The store’ll open in thirty minutes.”
Tommy nodded. “Good. Who do I talk to about help getting our mast up and rigged? And where’s an ATM machine?”
The worker gave him a look that he’d seen many times before. But he told him the information he needed.
Tommy went back on board and collared Marvin down in the cabin. “I need you to be rich and bored.”
“Because they’re not going to pay attention to a high school kid, unless he’s crew to an adult who’s just paying for results.”
Marvin shrugged. “Okay, but I’m not sure how to play the role. I’m just an engineer, and I wouldn’t know how to look rich.”
Marilu chuckled. “I think I can help. Come on, Honey. Let me fix you up.”
Bree had a gleam in her eye. “Hey, so we’re the rich family, and you’re the guy we hired to run the boat? Is that right?”
Tommy frowned, but nodded. “Yes. Why?”
“Great!” Beaming, she dashed to the bedroom and closed the door.
Dek just shook his head. “Don’t mind me. I’ll just stay out of sight ‘til this is over.”
He found an ATM next to the store. Crossing his fingers, he pulled out the credit card and looked it over. It was embossed with the name TOM JOHNSON. So, Nick hadn’t pulled ‘Johnson’ out of a hat last night. 
Curious, he fed the card into the machine.
Uh, oh! What would he use as a PIN number? It hadn’t been on the note, so it’d have to be a number Nick knew he’d figure out on his own.
“Pop quiz: What makes a good PIN number -- the four digit personal identification number used for credit cards?” Nick grinned, holding his own card just out of reach.
Tommy had asked for cash to go into the Mall with Kati. He’d offered to run it through the ATM for him.
Kati was watching the antics, so he knew he’d have to perform. No use in just pleading, or going around him to get the cash from Mom.
“Hmm. Okay, four digits.” He knew an easy answer wouldn’t work with Nick. “It has to be something easy to remember, but something hard for a thief to guess.
“Dates are easy to remember. Just choose a birthday or something like that. But, a thief might know who you are and know your birthdays, and important days for you or your friends and family.
“You could also take a name or something and convert it to numbers. But that would make for a weak number, since letters only go from 1 to 26. Your PIN would be less than 2627, and not take advantage of the whole range of numbers.”
He was watching Nick’s face the whole time, searching for subtle clues that he was on the right track. But Nick had a good poker face. A smiling, encouraging poker face, but nearly unreadable for all of that. He knew he hadn’t guessed right yet.
He glanced at Kati, a bemused look on her face.
Tommy firmed his resolve and looked back at Nick. “I have to guess your PIN, don’t I? You aren’t going to tell me, are you?”
“That’s right.”
“Okay.” He closed his eyes for a moment, then watched Nick’s face again. “If I knew you, I’d know that you’re a science guy, and so I wouldn’t guess famous math constants like 3141 or 2718. It’d really have to be something totally random.”
There was a flicker. Tommy stared at him long enough to detect a slight increase in Nick’s smile.
“Okay, hand it over.”
“Remember, you only get a limited number of guesses before the machine locks you out.”
Tommy took the card. Kati started to follow. He said, “No. Wait here.”
It took three tries, but he got it, and Nick was out $200.
Tommy wished he had the notepad he’d used the other time to calculate Nick’s PIN, but his father hadn’t changed it to one of the other variations.
PIN: 1386
From the menu, he first checked the available balance.
I know that number. When Marissa Dorie died, she left a few stocks to him. Nick and he had talked about it, and they’d marked that money for his college expenses. Nick had moved it to a mutual fund, to earn a little interest. And it had, but it was still clearly the same money.
Nick doesn’t think I’ll need college money. He wouldn’t have touched it otherwise. It was sobering, but just another sign that this wasn’t an aberration that would be over in a few days. His old life -- the life he’d planned -- was all gone.
What had it taken to create a false identity and move the money from one place to another, untraceably? Could it be done, in this day and age?
Probably not through legal channels.
But one way or another, he was committed. If the company was more capable than Nick had thought, then they were already on notice that he’d touched his account.
At best, this’ll only help me for a while. It’s not enough to live on.
This ATM had a $500 daily maximum withdrawal. He pulled the max. Traceable or not, he would need to keep transactions to a minimum.
He stashed the cash in his wallet and headed back to the boat. The voices could be heard fifty feet away.
From down below, there was an argument between Bree and her mother.
“You’re not going out like that!”
“I have to. I’m playing a part.”
Tommy looked around, but no one appeared to be in range. He came down the steps in a hurry.
“Stop!” He whispered as loudly as he could. “People can hear.”
But it was immediately obvious what the problem was. Bree had dressed down to the part. She was wearing a tiny white bikini, with a matching net cover-up that really didn’t conceal anything. It was the perfect outfit a rich girl would use to tease the boys.
Marilu turned to him, her face red with anger. “Tommy, could you go back up on top.”
He nodded and turned his back. As he left he said over his shoulder, “For what it’s worth. This is a work yard, not a resort.”
His heart was pounding and he couldn’t hide the grin. Bree looked great in that outfit, and he’d tell her so, later.
When Marvin came up a couple of minutes later, in a polo shirt and looking distinguished, Tommy made sure his grin was gone. Bree’s father looked distracted and upset.
“Are you ready?”
Marvin sighed, “I guess. You’ll have to do the talking.”
“Right. I’ll probably look to you to authorize the expense, and you can just nod or something. What name do you want to go by?”
The idea caught him by surprise. “Hmm. Marilu’s maiden name was Northrup.”
“No, it has to be something unrelated to you or your family. I’ll be Jim Roberts.”
“Okay. Wilson I guess.”
“Good. I don’t need to know your first name. You might tell your wife -- keep the stories straight when she goes to the store.”
Marvin hesitantly raised a hand. “What do you think this’ll cost? I’ve been pulling cash for a week, but it’s not much, and it’s all I’ve got for my family.”
Tommy nodded. “I’ve been thinking about that as well. Nick left me a little cash, and I’m sure I can get the rigging done. If you could handle the groceries, it’d be great.”
Marvin was perfect. He really didn’t know anything about rigging the ship, and the shipyard workers were familiar with rich yacht owners who relied totally on their crew for the expertise.
‘Jim Roberts’ haggled over the time it would take to get the rigging done, and for extra pay, they were bumped to the first of the line.
Mrs. Valente and Bree were ready to go shopping when he got back to the ship. Bree had added white shorts to her outfit and looked like an angry spoiled child.
Which she may be, come to think of it.
They left and Tommy motored the Marissa over to the crane. On the paperwork, she was Lake Breeze out of Waukegan. It was so innocuous a name that there were probably one or more of the same name to muddle the search.
A back-story grew in his head -- new boat and new owners, they’d wanted to get out on the water and hadn’t thought things through. But the workers were professional and much more concerned with getting the mast up and rigged correctly than asking questions. Tommy had all the diagrams and spec sheets in hand, which helped. He’d been there when they’d taken the mast down and knew where everything was.
“There doesn’t appear to be anything that connects to this cable.” Tommy followed the crew chief over and took a look himself. The mast was hollow, in a ‘C’ cross-section, and both electrical lines and sail rigging used that protected inside area. 
“Oh. That’s the control line for a radar antenna. We don’t have it yet. Just leave a weather cap on it.”
More changes that Nick had made. 
Radar! I’d love to have that in place. To be able to see seventy miles or so out in the distance, even in bad weather -- that would be heaven. He’d even be able to sleep longer catnaps.
“Mr. Wilson,” he whispered.
“They’re almost done, and it looks like a good job. Could you keep a watch on them while I go get the anchor?”
“Okay.” But he looked hesitant.
Tommy headed over to the store and a good selection got the best of him. By the time he approached the cashier’s desk, he’d collected two anchors and three sets of anchor rode, with the chain and abrasion resistant 1/2-inch nylon line, factory connected. I don’t want to get caught without an anchor again. He would have gone with chain for the whole length, except the winch wasn’t rigged for it. He added an additional spool of line as well, just for good measure. 
“Can I add this to the work I’m having done? It’s the Wilson boat.”
She radioed the workmen. The rigging was almost complete. She tallied up the final charges. It was dismaying. He sighed and handed her the card.
“Credit or debit.”
And entering the PIN on her entry pad, he was done.
No one noticed that the card was on one name, and the work order had another. Just type the anonymous digits and no one cared.
Too many names. I should have thought about that.
He wheeled his cart out to the Marissa just about the same time as the ladies appeared with two carts worth of groceries.
He stopped in his tracks.
The mainsail was running up the mast. The crew chief was testing out the electric furlers. Tommy paused to savor the sight as the mainsail went to the top and luffed in the light breeze. Then the jib sheet began unwinding from its spool.
The Marissa in full sail -- it was a beautiful sight, and it brought tears to his eyes. It touched a hunger he’d been feeling, but hadn’t expressed. The ugly duckling shed her awkward powerboat guise and became a swan, serene in the water.
But just as quickly as they came out, the sails began retreating, as the motors pulled them back into their protective spools.
Okay, he was no purist, raising all the sails by hand, but Nick was a gadgeteer, and Tommy was happy with it. All the more likely I’ll sail the ocean by myself someday, free of all this hiding and deception.
Bert jumped free of the boat and ran towards him.
Happy to see me? 
But Bert grabbed his hand in his teeth and bit.

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