Death of a Money Man — Chapter 3, Scene 1
Like Granny says, I had all my ducks in a row. Clean the boat and get her ready for the owners to take out for the weekend. Arrange to stay at Kaye’s for two nights. Even agree to help Kaye out tonight in exchange for the spot on her sofa. What could go wrong?
At least, that had been my thought just an hour ago.
I sat on the dock box, my back to the empty slip. Sure, Inklings was their boat, they could do what they wanted with her. But change a weekender into a two-week vacation without notice? I could not afford two weeks at the motel and Kaye would not appreciate a permanent tenant. I certainly didn’t want to sleep on her living room sofa for two weeks. Especially not if I was going to start having nightmares again.
The one last night was a doozy. Some big old ship was chasing me, in the water, in the sky—crazy. The roar woke me up with my heart pounding, but awake, the only sound I heard was the soft lapping of water against the hull. I had to make other plans.
But not this minute.
I headed over to F Dock and my new job.
He looked at me in surprise. “Oh, yes, that’s right. Almost forgot you were coming. But, maybe you can figure it out.”
Okay, not irritated at me. “I can try. What is it?”
“Not that I know of. Ah… What happened?”
“Oh, probably nothing. I just don’t remember anyone… Here, I’ll show you how I like to handle lines.”
He untied the offending line, retied it, and said, “There. That’s the way to do it. I’ll expect them to be tied that way.”
“Yes, sir. That’s definitely the best way.” Which was true, but was Mr. Vikellis some kind of kook? I followed him as he boarded Nighthawk.
He gave me the grand tour. Well, not so grand. We skirted the great room, charged through the pilot house that seemed strangely cold, and headed straight for the lowest deck where the galley, the crew quarters, and the engine roomwwere.
“You won’t be expected to handle anything in the galley,” he said. “The engine room is your area.”
I nodded like I managed big yachts every day. Actually, my past was a bit more checkered. I’d just recently been recertified after four years of living with my louse of a husband who wanted his sweet wife to spend her time catering to his needs. Which was all a smoke screen. But handle it all? Sure. I’d even had a turn at being head gal in charge of a separate maintenance crew. Once, a few years ago.
He showed me everything, we discussed my duties, and then he checked his gauges.
“Huh!” he said. “Fuel leakage. Too much. Or else they shorted me. Get somebody on that immediately.” He opened a notebook he’d been carrying and showed me a page. “Contact them.”
The company was top of the line. “Yes, sir. Do you want any other maintenance work done?”
“They know what to do.”
And I knew what to do when he showed me the captain’s quarters. Bed with a slim mattress, plotting desk with chair, built in locker plus drawers under the bed. This could be my alternative housing. “I’ll be able to live aboard.”
“Not necessary. Of course, you’ll need to stay aboard when you take her south, but she’s not set up as a permanent residence.”
“I’ll be glad to bring any bedding that I’d need.”
He headed for the door. “Nope, sorry. That isn’t covered by my insurance.”
As we walked back through the pilot house, the chill I’d felt returned. I shivered, more from the sudden bolt of something… anguish, terror, or anger? Evil, for sure. Something, I didn’t know what, made my steps slow and labored. Bad karma? Whatever karma was? Certainly nightmares.
But when I stepped out the door… Nothing.
However, I still needed housing plan B.
Between calls for maintenance, hosing down the deck, and waiting around for a workman, my sister Kaye called. She updated our plans for my evening. Supper and full evening’s work at her “stop whatever” project of the moment site. Trade off for my weekend on the sofa. What would she want for two weeks? I had to find something else. But I didn’t mention it when we met later at T For U, one of her favorite luncheon shops.
“It’s been a long day,” I said. “Good idea, this supper date.” It was nearly six, a bit late for the usual crowd at the tea room.
Kaye favored me with her prissy school-teacher look and I knew what she’d say. And she did. “Couldn’t you have worn something a little less causal? Besides, you’re fifteen minutes late.”
“Five minutes. And I’ve been working. You know, physical labor, sweating, all that.” I picked up the menu. “Um, maybe grilled cheese, and—”
“I’ve already ordered. Chicken Caesar salads with iced tea and hot rolls.”
“Have you ever heard me order chicken Caesar salad?”
“It’s quick and healthy. If a person is going to be fifteen minutes late—”
“Fifteen minutes late, and they stop taking orders at six,” Kay said. “Here come our salads right now.”
“You’ve been here half an hour, right?”
Kaye didn’t admit or deny it. She picked up her fork and said, “With my workload at the college, I really don’t have the time I’d like to devote to it.”
I knew there’d be a price to pay. I grabbed one of the hot rolls, buttered it, then asked, “Exactly what do you want me to do tonight?”
“All you heard was, ‘free meal,’ and nothing else, right?”
“Something like that.”
“Man the trenches. Do whatever you’re called on. It could be anything from licking stamps to answering the phone to fighting off an irate picketer.”
“Which one of your causes is this?”
“I told you already. What was that whole scene about last night? The debate… listening to one side of the story as outlined by Senator Jakobsen.”
I poured a bit of dressing on my salad and nodded. “Okay, I remember. Impeach the senator, right?”
Kaye actually did the eye roll thing. “Right. I have the seven to nine shift, but I really need to read student manuscripts. You can take over for me for a while.”
“Happy to, actually.”
She looked a bit disbelieving, which I could understand. I admitted, “You know, with Inklings on vacation…”
When the waitress came by with the dessert tray, Kaye said, “Thank you, none for us. Just bring the check, please,” and added to me, “We’re running late. We have to stop for someone on the way.”
When Kaye pulled to a stop before a restored historic home, she said, “Will you sit in the back? Meg Byrum is one of our most important volunteers. And, she’s just a bit eccentric.”
“Sure.” One had to take care of those important volunteers. As Kaye walked through what had to be a heritage garden of flowers along a stone walkway to a huge front door surrounded by thick brick walls, I wondered what made this Meg so important. Meg? Wasn’t that the name she mentioned? The moderator, I called him the gray man. She’s his wife?
Aha, the plot thickens. The moderator seemed to be in cahoots with the senator, but his wife is working to oust the senator? Yep, that would make her important.
And eccentric? From my back seat spot I listened to Meg complain about that husband. “He usually calls with some excuse, but he didn’t even do that last night. Just gone. I can’t wait to hear what he says about that.”
“I’m sure it must have been important,” Kaye said. “The senator is so demanding of his time.”
“Hah. Senator Jakobsen is no better than Ken. They’re probably off playing some game, or partying, or, god knows what. Two of a kind, if you ask me.”
If this was the Meg Kaye had mentioned, then I led the guy to Nighthawk last night Should I mention that? Umm, definitely not, especially if he didn’t come home.
As Kaye pulled into a parking space a couple of blocks away from her petition site, she muttered some soothing words. About Meg’s husband. About Ken.
Ken? The moderator, Meg’s husband, and now Ken? Wasn’t that the man the reporter gal was going to meet? Leisel. She was headed out to meet Kenny Boy. And he was going to a meeting on Nighthawk. One and the same? Maybe. And he never came home. Of course, Nighthawk was at her berth this morning. Which didn’t mean there wasn’t a meeting on board last night.
I wondered, did Leisel get her story?