Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Breaking Anchor - Part 43 of 44

© 2012 by Henry Melton

Chapter 43 -- Going Ashore
It was warm below. Marilu was on the floor, and from the smell, he knew what she was wiping up.
“Are you okay?” asked her husband.
“A little shaken up. Is it over?”
He helped her up, but she waved him off. “I’m able to take care of myself. You take care of your business.”
They sat at the table. Marvin said, “Well.”
Tommy nodded.
Marvin looked at his wife again. She was trying to straighten her hair. 
“Nick made his tech demonstrator.”
“It seems so. I found some documents, when I....”
Marvin held up his hand, and shook his head. “I don’t want to know.”
Tommy was surprised. “Oh?”
“This changes everything. I thought the company was chasing me, because I knew some of their secrets. My family was at risk because they’d use them to get to me.
“But it was never me. They want Nick, and they want this ship. It’s a storehouse of all their new tech. If it falls into the hands of competitors, they could lose it all.
“I want to get my family as far away from the ship as I can, as quickly as possible.”
Tommy nodded. “I understand.”
Marvin reached across the table and put his hand on his shoulder. “You should come with us. Get close to shore. We’ll take the dinghy, and set the ship adrift.
“Nick wouldn’t want you to be caught up in the grinder. Let the company find their prize. We’re all little fish. If we’re no threat to them, they’ll let us vanish.”
“I can’t.”
“It may be your only way out.”
He shook his head. “Delivering you to safety was just part of it. I... know more stuff now. It’s my ship. I have to keep it safe as well.”
Marvin looked at him sadly. “I hope you know what you’re doing.”
“So do I.” He reached for a book of charts. “We have to make plans for the next leg. What do you want to do? We’re in Lake Huron now. I still don’t like the locks, but I could get you to...” he opened the pages, pointed to places on the Canadian shore, “...Blind River, or South Baymouth.”
“No. Get us to shore here. It’s much closer.” He tapped a place on the US side, Upper Peninsula Michigan, not too far away. He didn’t meet Tommy’s eyes.
“We never planned to go to Thunder Bay, anyway.”
Tommy was surprised, but relieved. “We keep secrets.”
“Yes. And it paid off, I guess, with Dek. But I would have told you sooner or later. It’s just that now is the time.”
“Okay.” He folded the charts. “I’d better go up and take over from Bree, then.”
Marvin just nodded, uncomfortable.
At the foot of the steps, he said, “You’ve been a great cook, Marilu. It’s the best I’ve eaten since my mother died.”
She bit her lip. For an instant, she looked exactly like her daughter. She could only nod.
Up on top, he looked over the sails. Bree had chosen to go to port. They appeared to be heading for a strait between the islands.
“Any sign of circling airplanes or helicopters?”
Her eyes were wide, frightened. “No.”
“I’ll take over now. You’re wanted below.”
She let him take the wheel, but grabbed his arm. “What did we do?”
“The Marissa has secrets. I used one of them to get us out of a trap.”
“Your father doesn’t want to know the details. He probably doesn’t want you to know either. If the company catches me and drugs me, I can honestly say that you know nothing. If you don’t know anything that can hurt them, they’ll leave you alone.”
It might be wishful thinking, but it was important that she believed it.
She stared at him for a moment. “You’re leaving us.”
He moved the wheel, altering their course to follow another sailing ship already moving through the strait.
“That’s the plan. It was always the plan.” He didn’t meet her eye. “You need to go below to pack. You’ve got a couple of hours.”
He didn’t look her way, staring around her to check the GPS as if she weren’t there.
She turned and hurried down the hatchway.
Bert waddled up the stairs. The orange lifejacket wrapped around him made him move like a fat pig.
“Come here, boy, and I’ll get that off of you.”
Working with one eye on the water, he undid the straps. Bert shook free of the hindrance and walked around on the deck. He looked at the other boats and wagged his tail. They were passing close to Mackinaw Island, a resort with ports and an airstrip and a golf course, but no cars. Tommy tried to fake a smile. I’m just another tourist. But it didn’t take.
“Bert. You know what’s going on?”
He nodded.
“You’ve got to make your choice. It’ll be a lot safer if you go with them. If the company catches you, they’ll think they own you, and they might kill you.
“At least on land, you’ll be able to run away.”
There was ice in the edges of the bay. It was a residential area, summer homes with private docks. Tommy watched the depth gauge carefully. The complex maze of bays and inlets behind Marquette Island required careful navigating. He dropped the sails and went in under power.
Normal power. Regular hull-speed limited power. It would be a long time before he got up the nerve to try high-speed travel again.
But I’ll need to keep everything neat and secured, all the time. No telling when I might need to outrun someone.
Marvin hopped off onto the closest dock, jacket on and cash in his pocket. Tommy turned the wheel and moved the ship back away from the dock.
Bree dropped her luggage on the deck. “You ruined my backpack.”
“Sorry.” It looked like she’d made repairs, but it was lopsided and showed crude stitches.
She moved up close, and he resisted the urge to shy away. She wasn’t going to bite. Probably.
In a low voice she said, “You won’t believe what Momma told me to do.”
“What?” He looked at her closely. It almost sounded like the old Bree.
“I’m supposed to ‘sweet-talk’ you into coming away with us.” There was a hint of mischief on her face.
“How sweet?”
“Don’t push it. You know what I’d do, but it’s hardly what she meant.”
He looked at the shore again. “I’m staying with the Marissa.”
She put her hand on the wheel, close to his. “What will you do?”
“Assuming they don’t catch me? I don’t know. I’ll have to get out of the Great Lakes before the ice season sets in, one way or another. Everything I do will take money, which I don’t have anymore.” He shrugged. “Head for the Caribbean, I suppose. It’s been hard to plan more than a day or so into the future.”
His face went dark. “At worst, I’ll sink her. Take Bert with me and hitch-hike. The company wants the Marissa, and that’s good enough reason to make sure they don’t get her.”
She leaned in close, feeling what that would mean to him.
He straightened up, and put on a practiced smile.
“But you’ll be okay. Go off to find a new home, under a new name -- practice your southern accent.”
She laughed, softly.
“But a word of advice. Stash a suitcase at a friend’s house, get a new boyfriend with a motorcycle, and make some secret signals with your family. If the company shows up, you need to be able to hit the road without looking back.
“I want to believe that you’ll always be safe.”
She looked at him wide-eyed and nodded. “I understand.”
Marilu came up to watch with them, and Bree moved to the side, talking in low tones to Bert.
“There he is.” A pickup pulled up to the dock, and Marvin got out. He waved with both hands, the signal they’d agreed on.
Tommy docked smoothly, but only tied off with one rope. Quickly, they unloaded the luggage. Marvin had found them accommodations for the night and someone to drive them to their destination tomorrow. Tommy wasn’t told their new address, but it had to be within a few hours’ drive. Unless the company had managed an extraordinary set of roadblocks, they should be okay.
Bree ruffled Bert’s head and then grabbed Tommy in a short, hard hug. She pushed away and dashed towards the pickup before he had a chance to give her a goodbye kiss.
Marvin and Marilu made their goodbyes with more tears and longer hugs.
“One last chance. Come with us.”
He shook his head. “I’ve got my own way to go.”
Bert waited until the last minute, getting a petted a few more times before making a dash to jump back on board as Tommy slipped the line free.
“I guess it’s just you and me, ‘eh?”
He eased the throttle and pulled out into the bay. It was hard to leave them. When they honked the horn as he pulled out, he just waved back over his shoulder, without turning around. It was already hard to see. He blinked hard to clear his eyes.
A half-mile out into the open water, Bert dashed over and grabbed his hand in his teeth. He tugged.
“What is it, Boy?”

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