Monday, August 27, 2012

Breaking Anchor - Part 27 of 44

© 2012 by Henry Melton

Chapter 27 -- South Haven
Bree tugged at her coat, and the flashlight’s beam danced over the rigging.
I wish she wouldn’t do that! The coat ain’t gonna grow any longer, and it just makes her look guilty. He kept his face straight.
“Keep a hand on the railing!” he urged, as she shifted her footing.
“Marilu. There’s nothing going on here. Bree is just helping me.”
“I can see. Bree, go below.”
She handed him the flashlight and did as she was told. Tommy kept the light on the mast so she could see where to put her feet.
“Mrs.... Marilu. Really, there was nothing going on.” He kept the flashlight out of the lady’s eyes once Bree had left. Pointing the beam at the anchor, he showed her. “See. I had to hook up the rode -- the line to the anchor.
“Bree was really a help, I wouldn’t have been able to get this done without her.” 
“Well, couldn’t it wait until morning?” 
“Ah, no, not really. We can’t really head north until morning -- we’ll be sailing too close to shore to navigate safely in the dark. And we couldn’t anchor until I got the new line installed.”
She hesitated. “Well, Marvin should be the one to help you.” 
He risked her anger by saying, “No. He’s just come off a long watch at the wheel. I really am captain of this boat, and I have to make these kinds of decisions. Bree was awakened by the boat noise and was certainly capable of holding a flashlight. I’d call Marvin in an emergency, but this didn’t qualify.”
She shifted her hold to the railing, stepping cautiously across the deck in her house-slippers.
“You seem to be a nice boy, but Bree has just gotten out of a situation with... someone, and I don’t want her to get hurt again.” 
“Okay. Fine. But really, she was just holding the flashlight.”
Bree had been involved with someone? He remembered how she reacted when he told her the last cell phone was destroyed. Was she over this ‘situation’? Did her parents think so?
She finally nodded. “Can I hold the flashlight for you then?” 
He handed it to her. She lit up the anchor while he went over the shackle again, re-tightening everything. Finally, he stripped out the old anchor line from the electric winch and connected the new line. 
“Done. Now we can anchor here until morning. You can go back to sleep.”
He took the flashlight and guided her safely back to the hatchway.
“Do you have any rubber-soled shoes? The deck can be slippery.”
She shook her head. “No. I never planned for any of this.” From her tone, he could tell she meant much more than just the boat trip.
Once she was safely below, he deployed the anchor, and nodded once he felt it bite into the bottom. They were settled for the night.
He checked the navigation lights, just to confirm everything was as it should be. They were too close to the harbor to take any chances.
Although there’s not likely to be any big ships here. South Haven was a tiny harbor compared to Chicago. 
In any case, he set the radio to monitor any possible ship traffic and pulled out his timer.
After that little scene with Bree’s mom, there’s no way I’m gonna go below and sleep close to little miss in her cute bunny pajamas.
He stretched out on the bench. Bert licked his hand.
“I suppose you heard all that, didn’t you? Guys gotta watch themselves around pretty girls. Especially when Mommy and Daddy are close.”
He sighed. It was never easy. You start to get closer to someone, and that ruffles the feathers of someone else. I get the ship sort of under control, and the passengers get wonky. There’s no way to win.
He turned the timer and started it ticking. The stars in the distance faded out as a patch of clouds moved in.
“Breakfast, Sleepyhead!” Bree called to him. He sat up from his latest doze, his head clearing quickly. Living on catnaps seemed to be working, at least for now. 
The night had gone quietly; he needn’t have worried. Around dawn, he’d seen three boats leave out of the harbor entrance, but their path headed far from where he was anchored.
Bree waved from the hatchway, and then went back below. The promise of food pulled him to his feet.
“Bert. Would you watch for boats while I go below?”
The dog pulled himself out from below the bench and found a comfortable spot where he could prop his muzzle on the gunwale.
Marilu served hot oatmeal with sliced strawberries. As he dug in, she asked, “Are we going into the town?” 
“Do you want to? I’d thought I’d plot our course and get an early start north.” 
She glanced at the shelves in the galley. “Well... there are a few things, like spices, butter, and other things I didn’t remember before. And if we could get the stove working....”
“Marvin? What do you think?”
He frowned. “Okay, I guess. If you think it’s safe.”
Tommy shrugged. “We’re not in a race. No matter where we go, they can always get there before we can... if they know our destination. We can take our time, as long as the money holds out. I do not want to make any use of credit cards.
“And I don’t want to take the Marissa into the harbor. Just the dinghy.”
“Can we get propane that way?”
“Yeah. The tank is removable -- just one of those portables like you use with gas grills.”
“Can I go?” asked Bree.
After a little debate, they decided Marvin would stay with the Marissa, and the rest of them would go ashore.
And that insures that Bree and I won’t get any time alone. He was amused as her parents fumbled around the issue.
He took Bert a strip of nuked bacon for a treat, and explained what was happening to the dog. Marvin came up a little later and helped him unstow the dinghy.
“Marvin,” he waved him up to the bow, right before they left. “Just in case, here’s how to raise the anchor.”
South Haven grew up where the Black River entered the lake. The river was a dredged and protected channel cut through the beach and lined with a seawall. It made for a nice little community, with marinas lining the riverside, and the seawalls only increasing the beaches.
Tommy ran the noisy little outboard up the channel, looking for a place to tie up. It felt like he was motoring into a city park, not at all like the heavily industrial Chicago River. Trees and sidewalks marked the entrance.
“There!” Bree pointed. He turned the tiller and pulled into the pleasant, tree-lined private harbor. There was a “Welcome” sign, and he took them at their word.
“Don’t get scattered,” he warned. “If we have to make a run for it, Marvin would be upset with me if I left one of you behind.”
Bree cheerfully ignored him and scrambled up on the dock. He tossed her a line and she wrapped it around the cleat. She did it wrong, but he said nothing. He just added another checkmark on his mental training schedule for when they got back on board.
Marilu had a real checklist in hand. He helped her up and then hauled out the propane tank last.
“I’ll meet you over there in a few minutes.” He pointed to the store, and they headed off. 
He went the other way and found the cylinder exchange after asking a few of the locals. Luckily, it was in easy walking distance. The filled tank was quite a bit heavier than the empty. Stowing it back on the dinghy, he went to check on them.
Marilu was deep into the spice shelf, peering at the fine print on the labels. Bree was at the sportswear aisle, rummaging through T-shirts. “The Sunset Coast” proclaimed one, with a spectacular sunset over water graphic.
Maybe I should get one. Other than his jacket and storm gear, he was wearing all the clothes he owned.
Something caught his eye on the next aisle over. He picked up the little shoes and chuckled.
Marilu waved him over. He joined her at the checkout.
“Add these.” She looked at the package and then the price tag.
“I’ve got the money for them,” he assured her.
Bree came bearing her finds and mother and daughter dropped into a whispered argument. He moved back out of range.
Logbooks, paper, pens, and envelopes -- he grabbed up a few, and as the argument was still going on, plucked his other package from Marilu’s collection and went through the checkout alone.
He sat down at a table just outside with his purchases and pulled out several envelopes.
The SIM card went into one, and folded, went into another, and that went into a third. The third went into the fourth. Each was labeled.
The outer one, he addressed to Kati. He put the school as the return address. He knew those addresses, but the rest of the way it would have to be hand delivered.
Inside that was the instructions, “Give this to Slab.”
On Slab’s envelope it said, “Give this to George.”
George’s envelope said, “Give this to Glasses.”
And to Glasses, he said, “Give this to someone you don’t like.”
The nested envelopes should protect the SIM card, and if it made it all the way to some cell phone in Chicago, then that was one more false trail for the Cleaners to follow.
He handed the envelope to the store clerk to mail, and called out. “Hey Mom. It’s time to go.”
They had both drifted over to the clothing aisle. Bree ended up with a sun hat and Marilu added a pair of deck shoes to her own wardrobe.
They put-putted back out to the Marissa with no traces left, he was sure. They’d paid cash for everything and used no names, false or otherwise.
Marvin was waiting at the stern, relieved to have them back. He helped upload the goodies.
“I’ll go install this,” he said when Tommy handed him the propane tank.
As he went below, he tried to put aside the unease at having anyone else work on the Marissa.
Nonsense. He’s an engineer. He can certainly handle the propane fittings.
Bert was happy to see them too. Bark. Bark.
Tommy pulled out his package. “And I have something for you too.”
Marilu stopped what she was doing and watched.
He opened the package and set out the four little shoes.
“Bert. These are deck shoes for dogs.”
The brown eyes looked up at him, not understanding.
“With these on your feet, you should have much better traction on the deck. Let me put them on you.”
Hesitantly, Bert lifted a paw. Tommy took the appropriate two-toned tiny shoe and slipped it on, fastening it with the Velcro strap. Quickly, he added the others.
Bree and Marvin joined the silent audience as Bert took a few steps on the deck. Then, he jumped up on the upper deck and walked around on the curved and uneven surface.
Ruff! He turned and dashed at full speed back from the bow and jumped down to the lower deck, stopping easily.
“Good dog!” Tommy rubbed his head.
And then he took off again, running around the upper deck, circling the mast and stopping to look out over the lake from the bow, wagging his tail non-stop.

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