Death of a Money Man — new chapter

Death of a Money Man — Chapter 3, Scene 1

Chap­ter 3

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.

Mr. Vikel­lis stood by the side of his boat, almost tap­ping his foot in seem­ing irritation.
Not good. I past­ed on a smile and said, “Good morn­ing, sir. I’m eager to learn my new duties.”

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?”

“I’ve nev­er seen it before. But… do mari­na staff ever retie lines to boats? Is there some pre­ferred method?”

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.”

I real­ly want­ed to sug­gest he update his insur­ance. After the morn­ing I’d had with Inklings, I real­ly… Some­thing told me I’d bet­ter not push it. And it wasn’t only his obvi­ous dis­dain of the whole idea.

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.

An unsea­son­ably warm day. Mr. Vikel­lis ges­tur­ing, chat­ting. What had I been think­ing? I zoned in on my new boss’s words. All about the weath­er. Look­ing for the best win­dow of oppor­tu­ni­ty for the trip south next month.

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—”

Five min­utes.”

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?

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