A salty tale of treasure, travel, pirates, Island life and love. From the Chilean hillsides across the Andes into Argentina and a crazy path north to the Texas gulf coast. Follow as we take the journey filled with friendly villains and true and not so true accounts of the people on Galveston Island Texas.
Written by: Gary P. Flood
CHAPTER 1: Flash back to 76’
CHAPTER 2: Goldie Girl
CHAPTER 3: Thunder and Tail Lights
CHAPTER 4: Wharf Rat Lounge
CHAPTER 5: Proud Mary
CHAPTER 6: Chilean Blood Beef
CHAPTER 7: Peanut Butter Cups and Smoke
CHAPTER 8: Mearl the Pearl
CHAPTER 9: Chilean Love
CHAPTER 10: Sparks Fly
CHAPTER 11: Deceit Under Water
CHAPTER 12: DUCK N DANG (Roll back the clock 24hrs and keep reading)
CHAPTER 13: On the Half Shell
CHAPTER 14: Loose Lips, Sinks Ships
CHAPTER 15: Can Hear You Loud and Clear
CHAPTER 16: Got Damn It Garcon!!
CHAPTER 17: CALLING HOME
CHAPTER 18: Wheels off the Ground
CHAPTER 19: Calling Home 2
CHAPTER 20: FISH ON!
CHAPTER 21: Deceit Under Water 2
CHAPTER 22: Viva La Texas
CHAPTER 23: RED FISH AND SUBMARINES
CHAPTER 24: Sea Castle Cannon Bunkers
CHAPTER 25: THE CHASE
CHAPTER 26: RED FISH AND SUBMARINES
CHAPTER 27: Baseball and that’s
CHAPTER 28: The Tiki Bar is Open
CHAPTER 29: Corn Meal and Cast Iron
CHAPTER 30: Which way is up
CHAPTER 31: Welcome to Texas
CHAPTER 32: The Plan
CHAPTER 33: Operation Drag Net
CHAPTER 34: Drift Wood Castles and Kisses
CHAPTER 35: “What’s Shakin”
CHAPTER 36: Going Down
CHAPTER 37: Phil, er, Up
[CHAPTER 38: Gold is good, Diamonds are better*]
As any refined beachcomber knows, just about every stroll down the shoreline, where ocean meets land, are all sorts shapes and sizes of treasure to be found. Whether it be the skeletal remains of a gaftop catfish, which holds the image of the crucifix don’t tell the Mexicans, for then all beaches along the Gulf of Mexico may become religious sanctuaries for the world’s Latin Catholic community and another sighting of the holy stigmata. Or maybe its whole sand dollars, or bits and pieces. Maybe shells, shark’s teeth or sand tumbled pieces of broken glass (my personal favorite). For the sandpapery little jewel of many colors, depending on its origin, has been broken from its former shape, carried through the tide, tumbled in the motion of the ocean, found its way to shore and tumbled some more in the beach break, rounding all sharp edges and applying a dull finish, and then found by some seeking passerby.
This little treasure of glass is known in my house as “sea glass” and is the #1 collectible for me and my brood. Its gleam and shine is only but its physical beauty. The source of its origin is where the real dream and mystery makes me gaze at each piece with uncertainty and wonder, the real treasure.
So maybe this is where the story begins? The beach. Not just any beach, but one particular beach. Galveston Island, Texas at the far west end.
CHAPTER 1: Flash back to 76’
It was at the end of another record breaking summer day, 110 degrees in the shade, and I had just topped the crest of the San Louis Pass bridge from Freeport, TX, in what I thought was a real find, an old 4 speed ’79 ½ ton ford pick-up that was gonna be a fixer upper. I’d picked it up for nothing, trading out some electric work for the old junker. The only crap I was gonna hear was gonna be from my girlfriend when she got home tomorrow morning from her night shift job.
So, making my way down onto Galveston Island and Passing the toll booth atop the bridge in total disregard, or rather in total praise and thanks that it had been closed for repair for the last three months due to some jackass mainlander wrapping his 2000 model GMC and 21’ shoulwater skiff around it early in the summer. The local gossip column enjoyed bad mouthing a drunk, rich tourist plowing into the damn thing, taking attention off 90 percent of the locals behaving the same way. Everyone enjoyed the temporary free rite of passage.
After all, the toll booth, placed there in the 60s, had paid for that bridge time and time again, one buck at a time. No one could be as grateful and happy as I because at this moment in time some sticky change from a cup holder, that was wedged up between the roll up glass on the driver’s door, and a couple of coins mixed with sand, dried French fries and beer caps from the floor board, might equal 45 cents and is all I had on me, leaving my wallet on the counter at the hangar this morning, and that was not even half the toll needed to cross the bridge on a regular business day.
The best part of this ride was jumping the pass and staring to the south across the Gulf of Mexico and knowing that even though the Island would change its appearance over the years, the view of the gulf would always stay the same, as it has from the beginning of time.
Next, I guess is with no surprise, for a gas engine can only run so far on fumes, desperation and just flat ass will power, just as the downhill run of the bridge came into play under the four tires of my new find, the tank ran dry and we started our semi downhill glide into Galveston’s west beach territory. With just a single cursed thought of running out of gas, having no money on me and a good slap on the oven baked dash, all discouragement blew away with the warm south breeze that carved its way through the cab of the truck. I guess I was just thankful that it was leaning towards the cooler part of the day, and being raised here from birth was nearly certain to know the occupants of the next vehicle to pass, though none lay insight yet. Just me, the gulf, Louis Pass and this broken down ’79 Ford pickup, almost half of my wordily possessions.
As the evening sun baked, the already dry rotted dashboard to a burnt well done, it reminded me of my existence on the west end of Galveston Island. Not only did the summer bring heat that was normally found inside an oven on broil, but things that were exposed to the elements down here all had premature expiration dates. Things that is, excluding well-made maritime vessels and the hardy souls of the people and plants that inhabited this temperate zone. If not for the prominent south wind off the Gulf of Mexico, the mosquitos and rattlesnakes would be the only things at ease. And as did heat penetrate only still or slow moving objects, old man winter was surely destined to blow from the north and send a wet chill to the bone, through and through, to every Islander. And though summer and winter alike held their share of hardness, the rewards that this, time battered, old Island hid from the eye of most, outweighed any of its temporary discomforts.
So! Where were we? Oh ya!
Broke down, end of the day, staring out across the Gulf in hopes of catching a ride to town for some gas. Not patient enough to wait for someone to rescue me, I sucked in a deep breath of salty air, held it and let the spirit and blood sort between the inspiration and oxygen it needs to begin my downhill walk to the bottom of the bridge, were certainly enough time will have elapsed to be saved. As I put rhythm to my stride along the guardrail, my mind digs through a collection of walking songs. And as if an invisible hand came out of the sky and pressed play somewhere deep in the grey matter between my ears, I time my steps to Otis Redding “Sittin on the dock of the bay”.
With one hand dragging across the top of the old galvanized guardrail, with just enough down pressure to avoid any sharp spots or nicks to the hand, and the distance growing between me and my broken down possessions, that refuse to run on inspiration, my eyes focus downward over the edge of the handrail and into the emerald green waters that reveal themselves from time to time in this part of the Gulf, despite the muddy antagonizer to the East, the Mississippi River making vast amounts of mud and sand deposits out of New Orleans and into the Gulf of Mexico, and then due west and straight across the front of Galveston Island. It just so happens that now is not one of those times and the deep blue waters of offshore have cut a happy little trail straight to the shores of the Island, bringing the best of fishing and an occasional swell worth calling surf. As my trance with the sea below is now in perfect time with my step and the song in my head, everything is in balance, thrust equals drag and lift equals gravity. I am in straight and level unexcellirated flight with my focus on a school of mullet clustered around one of the many huge concrete pillars that protrude from the depths below and support the very bridge I’m walking on.
The mullet and other creatures of the marine world below gather around or near these columns of life or just about any other structure in the water, for this is where the buffet line begins. The tiny protoplasm and microorganisms that cling to the concrete pillars below supply food to the smaller fish, the smaller fish bring in the bigger fish and the bigger fish bring in the bigger fish and the bigger fish bring in the toothy fish and so on, understand? So, as I walk and ponder below “I’ll be setting when the evening comes” my mind begins to recall the summer of 1976.
Summer 1976, my uncle and I had wandered out to the 3rd sand bar, about 100 yards from the shore and a territory for only the hardy of souls. Me, 6 years old, in a rubber dingy and him on foot, my personal tug boat. As I set my anchor in the 4 ½ foot of water, my uncle rares back and gives his best cast into the rolling surf ahead, sending the wait, line, hook and bait, a piece of dead shrimp if I recall, well off the end of the 3rd sand bar and into 8 plus foot of clean summer tide, much like today. As he retrieves the slack from his line and secures the weight to the sea floor, allowing any signs of disturbance to indicate a tug at the end of his rod, I am captured by the in-line formation of mullet lined up side by side in the oncoming swells of clean water. In formation like WWII fighter planes riding the swells effortlessly side by side, ready to pitch, dodge and roll any oncoming obstacle or predator alike.
Uncle Don, my dad’s younger and only brother, not a native to the salt but an aviation instructor from Enid, Oklahoma and one hell of a pilot, teaching young Vietnam bound fighter pilots the basics before they shipped out to uncertain fate on the other side of the world, and eventually after the war settled in as chief aviation instructor at a junior college north of Fort Worth, Texas, has tuned out all around him and is in complete focus with the mission at hand. For this is his once a year trip to the coast and yet another stab at trying to catch a fish of self-recognition, having been out done by all the women in the family for years prior. To only catch a fish from the ocean, single handed, and of enough quantity to feed the skeptic beach party waiting ashore 100 yards behind us, would be mission accomplished and remove this horrid curse that haunted his every attempt at doing so year after year after year. And with me in tow, floating behind in a rubber dingy, keeper of all sunblock, tackle and survival drinks, shall be his only witeness to the events that follow.
Startled and shaken from my focus of the fine-tuned wave gliders, the mullet, my attention is immediately aimed at a major disturbance in the water off the end of the 3rd sand bar, just about exactly where my determined uncle has made his cast for greatness. Something has sent the schools of mullet into a panic for survival and has grabbed the attention of both me and my uncle. An offshore swell has brought in a clearer patch of water, and with it taller swells and bigger fish. The water has come alive with a scattered dance of survival by all inhabitants of the immediate area. Anything that is normally at home below the surface of the water now wants out! Something big and hungry is having a smorgasbord of seafood and it’s heading directly for us.
Feeling secure and out of harm’s way in my life boat I stare at uncle Don, who’s now leaping like the astronaut on the moon, in perfect time with each swell to keep his head and pole above water. The schools of panicked mullet have changed form, from docile vegetarians of the sea, gliding peacefully in the waters, to slimy scaled torpedoes skimming across the top of the water at god’s speed, touching down just long enough to jump again, all sensors alive and as if jolted with electricity, on a collision course with any obstacle in their aimless path, with only one desperation not to be eaten! As if choreographed by a well-schooled director of an action movie, a simultaneous motion occurred so fast that to recall which happened first would take a rewind and replay of tape. Whatever it was that lurked beneath the waves, with an appetite for the frantic mullet, maybe a small school of bull reds, black tip shark or Russian submarine, has inhaled hook, line and sinker of the opposite end of Uncle Dons Zebco 202 push button rod and reel, his choice of gear, just another notch in the belt of bad decisions for trying to stake any claim to greatness for angler of the year. And with his disbelief of every inch of line being torn from his reel, he is awakened from grand thought of being the old man in Ernest Hemingway’s “Old Man in the Sea” with a direct hit between the eyes from one of the fishy torpedoes.
A mullet had scored a bullseye direct hit in the face knocking off sunglasses and hat that would never be seen again as the ocean swallowed them into its lost and found section. Maybe they would be found as treasure for a beachcomber 100 miles down the shore. If they could only be dawned and worn as former articles from the man who couldn’t catch a fish.
With all protective equipment lost and 20 lb test being ripped from the reel at a frantic rate, I watched my uncle reel in desperation trying to retrieve any line possible to gain on his opponent, to no avail. This was not a game of tug of war between man and fish, but rather a display of complete domination by something far more superior than the push button bait cast reel and my uncle’s sinking optimism. As we watched the inevitable end of line breaks free from inside the reel and make its way through eye, past eye and out the end of the rod. We now realized we were no longer connected to what we both agreed on in later years was a submarine.
Having been thrown into a state of uncontrollable laughter, just shortly after the head-on collision with my uncle’s face and the desperate fleeing of a fish, I was having the time of my life being sole witeness to all the action, and as my uncle stood just outside the grasp of greatness, a large swell ripped me and my dingy free from the ocean floor, plummeting us towards shore like a bullet or those Samoans from Hawaii Five O. Etched in my mind forever is the look on my uncle’s face as he stood chest deep in water, 100 yards from land, with a useless fishing pole in hand, maybe his only weapon of defense should the tyrant beneath the surface return for another round. (For man is top of the food chain until he sets foot in the ocean). As I think back now, probably my uncle’s only thought at the time was not that his ride to shore had just floated away with his nephew aboard, laughing himself into hysteria, for what he couldn’t understand, or that there was something with teeth and an appetite somewhere within his vicinity, but yet the irony of another story about him and the fish he didn’t catch, that would be told at Thanksgiving, Christmas and every other family get together for years to come.
(Laugh at the ones you love, but only if you can laugh at yourself). And whistling with Otis, I walk on down the bridge letting my memories give way to the present.
CHAPTER 2: Goldie Girl
Nicotine stained the corners of the old man’s mouth as he made a wind block with his hands to light another swisher sweet cigar. The heat of the day was behind him and his attention was focused on the tide. With the exhale of smoke leaving his mouth and nostrils, its sweet fragrance wisped around his backside with the head on south breeze and carried itself into the sand dune only to be smelled by coyote, cactus, sand crabs and rattle snake that inhabit the area.
Whipping his wet hands off with a blood-stained towel and stuffing the cigar pack and zippo back in the breast pocket of his khaki coveralls, Bill Davis took a seat on the ice chest that held his first catch of the evening, a 24” red drum, “early for the evening” he thought but just a taste of what’s to come. The thought of an ice-cold Pearl beer, that just lies an arm’s length away, plays battle in his mind with the peanut butter and jelly sandwich that his wife had packed him in his lunch pail setting in the front seat of the old GMC pickup. Either one, he decides, would go well with the after taste that the cigar has left in his mouth. And with the snubbing out of the freshly lite stogy in the sand beneath him, he settles on both, a bite of sweetness and the beer.
His posture, perched there on the ice chest enjoying God’s gift to mankind, resembled that of something very rigid. Had the khaki coveralls splattered with weld burn not camouflaged his physic, a passer byer would whiteness an elderly soul carved out of stone. Years of muscling around heavy objects as a ship builder in the Port of Galveston during WWII and a youth spent playing semi pro ball had established the ground work for the herculean built frame. A living testament that hard work never hurt anyone. Washing down the last bite of PB&J and sucking the remnants of red plum jelly from his thumb, the salty old fisherman rinsed his mouth with the remainder of cool beer from the can. Never once losing sight of the tide that inched its way onto the beach in front of him.
Bill gave a high-pitched whistle. Quick and distinct, with his tongue pressed tight to the back of his teeth. Sending a wet crumb of the sandwich that had been hanging on to his bottom lip soaring to the sand below. “Goldie” “come here girl”. He said in a soothing tone. As a distant squall flickered a sign of lightning beyond the earth’s curve out in the Gulf, a part golden Retriever part heinze 57 poked her head from the camper shell covered GMC truck. With dog years being 7 to 1 her and the old man were damn near the same age. The dog’s gold coat had given away to grey and the seagulls that use to not stand a chance against her lightning speed weren’t in as much danger these days. Still without hesitation or concern with the distance between the tailgate and the soft sand below, as many other canines her age would, Goldie sprang to the surface below in an always eager attempt to be with the old man. Damn near human like, Goldie stared at Bill with an unmistakable look of: yes? What can I do for you? And with another flicker of light, this time followed with a deep rumble out on the deep water, Bill put a knowing grin across his face, the same grin that had attracted his bride over 52 years earlier, and said “it’s getting closer girl”. The two settle in together to keep an eye on what was heading their way.
CHAPTER 3: Thunder and Tail Lights
The familiar rumble of thunder out on the gulf stream pulled me from my reflection of youth, the thoughts of my uncle and his damn luck with fish. The bottom of the bridge was just a stone’s throw away and with no one to the rescue yet it was still another 10 mile hike to the nearest bait camp that had any gas. Still high enough on the bridge to feel the Gulf breeze, which I always felt was God’s way of cooling me off, I scan over the tops of the dunes to the beach. The Islands west end revealed not a silhouette but a distinct figure of an old truck with camper shell and what looked like an old man explaining things to his dog. They were definitely set up for an evening of surf fishing.
Everything was starting to take on the color of burnt orange with the sun setting in the west, making it nearly impossible to distinguish the horizon where the sky meets the water. The Gulf sky had become filled with cumulus clouds all giving way to each other as if they were hot air balloons in a race to different altitudes, all showing their different colors with their internal light shows. And though a breeze demanded its path across the water, the Gulf had become slick as the surface of a gigantic mirror. And mirror like it was, reflecting every image above as far as the eye could see to total perfection.
Reaching the bottom of the bridge and losing superior sight of the beach, I could sense a slight change in direction of the wind. The day’s uniform southern breeze was fading and giving way to a random and nonspecific order. The small squall that was making its way closer to shore, without disguise, was causing this shift in the wind. Unlike the lonesome truck of mine, that now sets a half mile behind me, needing gasoline to fire on all eight cylinders, a thunderstorm only requires 2 elements to burn and turn, heat and moisture. This part of the world held both and plenty of it. Also, causing some of the most unstable air the wings of a small aircraft can stand, which my uncle preached like the gospel to me when he heard I was learning to fly. Taking to the sky must run in the blood for the men in my family as does a pinch of Kawakawa Indian and European Irish settler.
With the wind firing in the order of some old radial engine, I knew an inevitable steady change was soon due. As a storm reaches closer to land fall a steady north wind would be predominate and then it would turn and dump all its energy back to the south and in a downward direction in the form of rain, just like a wave at the beach break. As a wave grows closer and gains height the shallow water from the beach is sucked out to meet it, helping it grow taller as it steadily heads for shore. Then just as it can consume and rise no more it crashes onto the shore with all its strength and foamy white brilliance, then repeat itself. One of the most eventful and dangerous spots of the ocean, “Beach Break” don’t ask me how I know…
With the last image of the lone fisherman and his faithful companion still fresh in my mind and the meteorological events trying to make land fall, I know they are of no threat but just flare signaling the end of another southeast Texas summer day by the coast. And some old angler taking advantage in the barometric drop in pressure feels the same way. The sound of rubber humming down the hot asphalt behind me turns my head 180 degrees and puts the feeling of rescue across my face in a smile. “Yes sir, Philip Allen has caught a ride”!
CHAPTER 4: Wharf Rat Lounge
A red neon light, on the brink of failure, flickers on and off, as if some juvenile prankster is in control of some imaginary switch that feeds the 120-volt weathered transformer. Gaining a steady glow, that’s guaranteed to last the next 5-10 seconds, the bent glass spells out the words “Wharf Rat Lounge” in cursive across the backdrop of an old trawl door off a shrimp boat. As is the shape of the light so is the treated wood that holds it. The lounge is more than the local watering hole, it’s the vomit pit of nautical shrimp boat nostalgia slash oyster bar slash local talent band stand. Once inside you’re never the same. The hot pink paint job that covers the outside of the bar can be seen from 20 miles offshore and only embodies the gaudiness of its interior.
Inside the lounge and just beyond the reach of glow from the faithful neon light burning outside, sets Capt’ Terry Fintch, previous owner of Port Bolivar’s very own “Proud Mary” and a permanent fixture to the confines of this fine establishment, as locals just call the lounge. A profile of the captain would be the first view of most patrons as their eyes adjusted after entering the front door, due to his permanent and full time position at the right-hand corner of the bar. This spot not only let the captain be observed as nautical décor and decoration, but allowed him a strategic view of all who entered through the peripheral vison of his left eye, his only eye. His forearms, face and neck were that of dried leather carved with lines that resembled a dried piece of old fruit or crumpled up piece of paper. His wordrobe consisted of a white Fruit of the Loom T-shirt, always starch white and spotless and tucked into a pair of pressed, seem in front, khaki slacks. Pants held fast with a shark skin belt and boots to match. Every sun-bleached white hair on his 70-year-old head was pulled back into a perfect pony tail that hung heavy and 8 inches below his shoulders. This was all topped off with a worn-out Astros baseball cap, not the new blue and grey Astros but the old burnt orange one from the Jose Cruz days, and hanging down on a thick gold rope chain setting dead center of his chest, a beautiful Spanish galleon.
His appearance nostalgic, his kindness and gentle nature grand. Not that of a typical sea captain, shrimper. His stories, though exciting and filled with detail that left the average tourist who drifted in on daily basis hanging tooth and nail with baited breath, were handled by locals with the all due respect of a broken record. With the capt’ never meeting a stranger, all respected his presence here and returned the favor by listening or at least pretending to listen to every word, just as you do your grandparents depending on your age. With the passing of every tale through the captain’s Bloody Mary tainted breath, each fish got bigger and every storm got worse.
One thing that did interest most locals about the captain was that when he sold the Proud Mary, to a local Vietnamese shrimper, the old girl was barely afloat. The old trawler was so beat down and eaten up with rust that the only thing she could do was barely float, and only with a full-time bilge pump doing its best. Her winches had seized, lines and nets had rotted and every electronic had succumbed to corrosion. The boat had seen better times and being tied off inside the confines of the barnacle infested Bolivar Peninsula on the far east end, she was sold for bottom dollar. So, the thing pondering in the back of most local islander’s minds was how did selling the Proud Mary, barely afloat, keep Captain Terry Fintch afloat all these years later. For 20 years now he’d been a daily piece of furniture inside the lounge. Not at work out in the Gulf, but setting here in a beat up old bar that was held together with a rusty tin roof, dry flaking exterior paint that resembled a cross between boiled shrimp and the pink panther, weathered windows that wouldn’t open or see through and an interior that came straight from a pirate’s nightmare. As if the Gulf of Mexico had conjured up all its treasures that had been sunk, snagged, tossed or lost in its belly and vomited them right on to the floor of the wharf rat lounge. Shrimp nets strung across the ceiling from corner to corner, filed with star fish, conch’s shells, puffer fish and every shell imaginable. Ships wheels of every size hung by rusty nails along the walls, the granddaddy of them all was mounted as center piece in the backside of the bar with all the liquors stacked in front of it. The furniture consisted of dark little booths strung out up and down the walls, big enough for parties of 4. All the stools that bellied up to the bar were cut from old rum barrels and mounted to swivels, including the one that capt’ Terry resided in. The man that hasn’t cashed a pay check in front of the public eye in over twenty years seems to have ample amount of green to provide his existence at the lounge on a daily basis. And what few here know is that the old captain resided each night at the top floor of the Sand Castle Resort which is perched above the old cannon bunkers of Galveston’s prominent end, overlooking the Gulf. It just didn’t add up.
Darkness stretched across the oyster shell parking lot of the lounge as the local night life began rolling through the door.
CHAPTER 5: Proud Mary
Anchored up 30 miles off the shore of High Island Texas the Proud Mary floated in the morning sun. The calmness of the summer swells lapping at her sides. The outriggers fully extended on each side of her keep her steady like a tight rope walker holding his balance pole in the circus as he walks across the wire. The trawl doors and cleaned nets hang in rest waiting for the sun to set and be lowered to the sea floor again. Shrimping in the Gulf of Mexico is shrimp all night and sleep all day, unless the big whites are found floating outside the 3rd sand bar on the beach front, then its shrimp all day shrimp all night. The Proud Mary was doing neither after what she had pulled from the sea floor last night. The long anchor chain that stretched tight from her bow to the ocean’s depths and disappeared into the dark blue water didn’t just hold a shrimp boat fast in the gulf stream anymore, it held a floating fortune.
Cap’t Duck Pham set speechless in the cabin, a man of few words anyways, as he stared in disbelief at what lay on the rusted old deck of the trawler. Shrimping year after year single handed or with little help from his son during the summer had been feast and famine, mostly the latter. He had purchased the vessel, nearly off the bottom of the dock, in Port Bolivar from local captain Terry Fintch 20 years ago and had sunk every dime he had getting her going again. The old captain had filled his head with stories of treasure and its location, all dismissed as cheap sales tactics.
The nets of the Proud Mary had pulled all sorts of creation from the salty waters and landed them on her decks. Shrimp, crabs, flounder, snapper, turtles, seahorses, sea urchins, anchors, spare tires. Hell, one time it snagged something so big on the bottom that it had her floating in circles for hours trying to tear the captured net loose from what bound it. This type of snag usually pulls the boats gunnels damn near underwater when under way and where well marked on the Lawrence screen to avoid in the future. Yes, sir the belly of the gulf is full of surprises, a real smorgasbord of sea life. It brings to life the words “a pirate looks a forty” “in your belly you hold the treasures that few have ever seen, most of them dreams”. So, when the nets are pulled in and swung over the deck, and slip ropes pulled, it’s a sight you never get tired of watching as the pregnant nets give birth to the life bound inside them and the cache comes plummeting out and spilling across the deck from gunnel to gunnel. Fish flopping, shrimp popping, blue crabs with their pinchers up for a dual, little hard head catfish by the thousand begging for a novice hand to step instead of sliding their boots across the wet deck almost guaranteeing a sunk catfish bard through the boot and into the bottom of the foot. This can be the most beautiful and dangerous time when working on the back deck of a shrimp boat. All this medley is then sorted and pushed over board except the “pink gold” the shrimp as it was called in the 40s. Sorting through and hand picking the shrimp occupies both hands and even donned with thick rubber gloves, they are no match for the horn of a shrimp, pinch of a crab or fin of a hard head catfish. Usually a good poke or pinch will last a deck hand his whole 2 week stay at sea, when shrimping the season, because cuts just don’t heal fast out on the water. There’s probably nothing that came up from the bottom of the gulf in these nets that Duck hadn’t seen in his 20 years at sea. Last night on the last pull before daybreak, that all changed.
CHAPTER 6: Chilean Blood Beef
The first signs of the day peaked across the tops of the Andes Mountains in the form of the sun. Warm rays of light kissing the frosty ground of the higher altitude villages across the Chilean Countryside. Even during summer, elevations from Macho Picchu peru and up, can be a frosty awakening. Augusto Pinochet’s pours a strong dark cup of java and embraces a multitude of blessings. The warmth in his hands, the aroma of the hot drink, the majestic panorama of the countryside he calls home, the thought of his child who still lay asleep, his beautiful wife and the news reported to him by a member of his crew late last night. The news of a fortune snagged from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.
47-year-old Augusto is not related to the namesake dictator that ruled from 1973-1990 but has acquired the posterity and same rule of an iron fist with simply an open hand as the dictator himself. Known to his crew of henchmen, runners and informants, simply as Augie. He may not have been handed the Chilean country by a U.S. assisted coup d’ etat as was his name sake, but his masterminding of profitable transportation deals and kind reputation for making things, mostly pesky judges and anti-drug politicians disappear, has earned him the same respect within his inner circles.
Each cartel has their way of trafficking and their own special or preferred routes from south to north. These chosen paths not only determine the successful delivery of whatever the cache is but typically guarantee the runner’s family to live another day. Should a runner get caught, lost, robbed or lose their precious cargo it would typically mean the slaying or torch of their immediate family, men, women and children alike. Not in Augie’s case.
The path of the “Ternera Sangre” (blood beef) Cartel, owned and dictated by Augie, runs a path from high in the Chilean hillside across the Andes mountains into the beef rich country of Argentina and down to the salty shores of Bahia Blanca. It is the opposing gangs and non-tolerant beef ranchers that have given this cartel their name, for in the beginning of this route much blood was spilled once crossing the mountain peaks and descending through beef country. The trail was carved by Augie’s uncle years ago and was one of marijuana, cocaine and blood. With the uncle long gone and Augusto at the helm, the path and cargo has not changed but the way of business has.
From the Argentinian coast of Bahia Blanca, the loot is loaded aboard several small but very fast sea worthy speed boats. This brigade, of hardy at soul salty pirates, will run day and night making stops for only refueling at sea. The fuel will be shot out, along with food and water only, from ports that stretch from departing Bahi Argentina all the way to Cayenne French Guiana. Within the Ternera Sangre it is known as “The Hot Run”. From Cayenne FG, all the booty will be inventoried, reloaded aboard the submarine, compliments of the Panamanian government in 1985, a gift from Noriega to General Pinochet’s and stolen by Augie’s uncle during the dictators collapse, and continue the underwater journey “del Norte” making passage to the north side of the Dominican Republic, squeezing between the Bahamas and Cuba then straight into port of call, High Island Texas. The cargo is then accepted at sea by shrimp boats, captained by the saltiest weather beaten souls that the Texas coast has to offer and then disappears into the East Texas big thicket. Along with this proven, profitable and sometimes bloody, route that was established by the Ternera Sangre, the success is owed to the lines of communications that were established within it. Between short wave, VHF and cell phone any signs of trouble or to relay the success of each mission can be relayed from the Texas gulf coast to the Chilean hillside within minutes.
The lightning fast telegraph that has been intercepted by Augie’s boys last night and relayed 4600 miles south gives small detail of the treasure chest pulled aboard the shrimp boat “Proud Mary” but is enough to gain the attention of Augie and his crew. And since the Ternera Sangre just happen to be in the neighborhood, why not swing by.
CHAPTER 7: Peanut butter cups and Smoke
(Addiction-The fact or condition of being addicted to a “particular” substance, thing, or activity OR WOMAN )
Every man has his weakness, some lay within the realms of desire, such as a pretty women, or maybe the power of money. Some, for the taste of the drink or the thrill of adventure. Some men become addicted to the saltwater life of fishing or bagging a large big 5 trophy animal on the plains of the Tanzania. The evidence of weakness for this next character lay scattered on the floor of the Crystal Beach police dispatch office in the form of empty Reeses Peanut Butter Cup wrappers. Not just an occasional wrapper here and there that hasn’t made it to the trash can yet but, as if a ticker tape parade has fallen solely made of these burnt orange, brown and yellow wrappers. The only discrepancy in the above statement is that in this case the weakness does not belong to man, this time it is woman.
Theresa Denee’ is night time police dispatch for Crystal Beach, TX substation located 20 miles west of High Island, TX and 200 yards north of the sand dunes off Crystal Beach on the Gulf of Mexico. The 29-year-old brunette stands five foot four and a half and despite the uncanny nature of what would appear to be a solitary diet of chocolate covered peanut butter cups, has 130 pounds of female body built just right… Ms. Denee’ hails from Crowley, La and graduated first in her class from the Lafayette, Louisiana police academy class of 2010. With Sabine Pass, just 30 nautical miles to the east of the substation, this puts radio signal right on the Texas Louisiana state line. And since the first 40 miles from the Sabine River back to the west into Texas should be considered Louisiana anyways, due to the people and culture that occupy it, the strong coon ass accent that Officer Denee’ speaks, as primary language, carries across the radio like the words to Jimmy Buffet’s L’air de la louisiane. Not only is she the respected, highly guarded object of all her male counterparts within the ranks of the department and the envy of the females but the love of Phillip’s life.
Working dispatch in a beach town can have its interesting moments, especially in the midst of summer. For some reason mainlanders + cold beer + sun + sand = I’m an idiot and I need to set in the poky for the night!! This being the end of summer, things have wound down and the only thing needing attention in officer Theresa’s immediate future are the mess of candy wrappers accumulating around her feet. Taking notice of the mess and not wanting to hear any shit from anyone, as usual, about “how are you not 500 lbs? or “Damn girl what else do you eat?” which is typically replied with a single silent finger stating that your number 1 or a mild fuck you! She heads for the broom closet for a fresh trash bag, broom and dust pan.
Digging in the closet for the cleaning supplies has startled a resident mouse that thought he was well hidden from the world. Making the mad dash for survival and to the next dark corner in the police station the harmless mouse carves a path directly between the feet of Ms. Denee’ and coaxing a loud “HOLY SHIT BALLS!!” scream from the young dispatcher and an almost epileptic mad change in demeanor from calm, cool, collected to a backward scramble for life, as if Jason from Friday the 13th has just appeared from nowhere and has come out of the closet with hockey mask, machete and all.
Now with the tiny harmless rodent, who knows where, Theresa stares at the mess that someone else can clean up. The wrappers, the broom closet, the whole damn Island for all she cares. It’s 5 minutes until shift change and this life threatening close encounter of the 3rd kind, or so in the mind of Ms. “I’m here with the oath to protect and serve” feels about the situation; officer Denee’ heads out the back door of the station with early morning mumbles of fuck you, fuck this and fuck, fuck, fuck…. Peace bitches!! Shooting deuces over her shoulder and not looking back, she heads to her lifted gray Jeep Wrangler in the parking lot to make her short drive to the ferry landing and wait on the first boat crossing of the morning. This will take her to Galveston Island then down the seawall and up Stewart road to the grass airstrip, where she and Phillip share a makeshift apartment built inside his airplane hangar. It’s not much but its home, and paradise for the young lovers.
Maybe acting out is her weakness at times but the commitment to detail and service in the community, noticed by all, for the last 3 years in the department has earned Officer Denee’ multiple awards and the respect of the locals and her higher ups at work. The Friday the 13th mouse episode would be forgotten and just left for razzing on a daily basis, for the next lifetime or so by the Sarge.
The Jeep Wrangler is her baby and not anyone else’s. Equipped with police scanner (always on), VHF marine time radio and one bad ass stereo system, the two are one and they make their way to the house in the early morning, windows down. Headed west towards the ferry landing the VHF goes off with some fast rattling Cajun voice. Quickly turning the volume down just a little Theresa dismisses any of the words as just another coon ass running off at the mouth. “yeah, yeah, yeah, had a little to drink already huh buddy”? she says out loud turning the volume down even more. Staring out of the jeep’s window to the left she catches glimpses of the beach front with every access road she passes on her way to the ferry dock. Something about a sandy trail to the beach relaxes her mind, “a girl could get used to this place” she smiles and keeps driving west.
Ferry boat Dwight D. Eisenhower blows her horn long and loud, scrambling 100 seagulls with caws of the coast and signaling all that she is awake and ready to give the right of passage for the next 12 hours, back and forth, from Port Bolivar to Galveston Island, to all that wish a ride. All vessels are women, ladies if you will, and even though she dons the male presidents name, she is a lady indeed.
With the gray Wrangler parked and secured on the deck of the Eisenhower, Theresa takes a stroll to the port side of the vessel for the 20-minute journey from dock to dock. She feels the morning breeze on her skin as the boat pulls away from her slip and stares back at the Bolivar light house watching it stand fast tall and black as it has since its reconstruction after the Civil War. She pulls the salty air in, with a deep breath. With her hands on the steal gunnel walls of the ship she can feel the vibration of the diesel motors that rumble below her deck and lets out a long breath. Seagulls swarming the churned-up water behind the ferries path, pecking, swooping and diving for all crustaceans and sea life that’s stunned, spun and washed to the surface from the Eisenhower’s massive propulsion. Two more deep breaths like this, with eyes shut, she has let go of the 12-hour night shift and the mouse, Jason and his machete. All have transcended from body and mind, over the edge of the ferry and into the depths of the salty water, never to be seen again. She smiles to herself with the image of the small rodent descending to Davey Jones’s locker, “little bastard”. Being the fan of scary movies she allows Jason to stalk the deck of the ferry swinging his machete at deck hands that stare at her with perverted thoughts and seagulls that swoop too close.
Finding herself at peace and halfway through the ride she feels the urge to light a smoke but can’t until off the vessel, that’s the law. 20-min ferry rides and 2-3-hour car rides are no problem without a smoke “but it’s just something I enjoy” she would say. Wanting to quit the habit has been a task and she knows Philip hates it. The attempts have been short lived and brought on moments of fangs protruding from her mouth and horns poking from her skull. “When I’m ready I will, or pregnant, and that’s that” she thinks out loud.
Looking left and right through her Costa sunglasses, she looks to see if anyone noticed her “self-proclamation” of smokers anonymous. With the 45-car ferry only loaded with 3 early morning patrons, and an imaginary serial killer, she can clearly see she has gone undetected except for a few straggler free loading seagulls perched an arm’s length away, waiting on a French-fry or some other hand out that would surely start a manic attack of the seagulls. Shwoop! Jason’s machete slices the birds in half and they fall to the water below, “no witnesses to thinking out loud”, she snickers to herself at the thought of the crazy imagination, “I need some sleep”.
Broken from her trance of the morning by the VHF marine band radio in the jeep going off, with a language she didn’t recognize, she stares back at her baby. Then back to the mouth of the Gulf. The ride is getting close to over. The Bolivar light house is out of sight as the Dwight passes Sea Wolf Park with its treasures of war time and aims for the dock of Galveston Island.
The VHF goes off again with some Latin dialect that’s not from here. Her attention is pulled to the radio again and then to the approaching dock. Theresa jumps up in the lifted jeep and shakes a Marlboro smooth from the box as the dock hands get the ropes ready for making the ship secure for the vehicle’s departure. The fast Spanish broadcasting across the VHF in the jeep is unfamiliar and not that of local shrimpers or port authorities. Still more interested in getting off this boat to light a smoke than the chatter on the radio, she grabs her lighter as the conductor signals cars to exit the ride. The familiar faces of the deck hands wave Theresa a friendly good bye as she drives off the Eisenhower. With a lit smoke between her fingers she gives them a pleasant nod in return. Just couldn’t wait.
Taking the same route to work day after day on a small Island you get to know the familiar salty faces that surround you. You also get to know the voices on the radio. The ones coming through the VHF in this dispatcher’s jeep wrangler were not from here. As the jeep cruises down the seawall Theresa stares out across the Gulf of Mexico to her left and turns off the VHF and turns up the song on the radio, Eric Church “Wrecking Ball”. The song makes her lose attention to the unfamiliar language that didn’t set well with her and focus on Philip who was still probably butt neckid asleep in bed and only another 2 miles in her future. The jeep turns right on 61st headed for home and just below the surface waters of the gulf, and 20 miles offshore, a Chilean submarine sets idle waiting its commands.
(The difference between Naked and Neckid is that when your naked you don’t have clothes on, but when your Neckid you don’t have any clothes on but you’re up to something. Larry Flood)
CHAPTER 8: Mearl the Pearl
Big daddy, Mearl the pearl, is at the counter ordering breakfast burritos at the salty biscuit just 1/2 mile down the road from his dockside bay house at San Luis Pass. Most locals drive to the nostalgic old rusty breakfast-only dinner, for a taste of the island’s best breakfast, famous for the shrimp and egg burrito “spicy only” and menudo on Saturday and Sunday. But with water access from the bay side of west beach, big daddy can be a back-door man and float his flats cat skiff right up to the back door. This morning he’s on a mission and a little put out. He’s been trying all morning to get the diner manager to answer the phone so he could place his order and have some poor bus boy or preferably a young waitress meet him dockside. This would guarantee three things: one, Mearl wouldn’t have to lift a finger or pull his fat ass out of the boat to walk inside. Two: He could sexually harass some poor young waitress while she stared in complete disgust at the amazing “Mearl the Pearl” in his customary overalls and ball cap drooling at her like breakfast herself as she handed over his order, eww. Three: he was trying to make it of the pass and down east a few miles before the morning bite was off and he didn’t have time to dock and walk in.
Despite the less than appealing description of Big Daddy, he was no doubt the walking fishing report and backed it up with single handed daily slaughters of trout, reds and flounder. The local conservationist hated him, the fish fry parties loved him, all the locals knew him and the young girls ran from him. All in all, Mearl is loved and harmless.
With no connection via cell phone to the diner inside, he is forced to tie up the skiff and tote himself inside and get in line to order some food. “Well damn” he mumbles as he throws the dock line around the pelican shit covered pylon. Only thinking of the inconvenience, Mearl ties off the skiff and grabs the edge of the dock to steady himself and steps out on to the planks. Absentmindedly placing his hand on top of the shit covered pylon, Mearl grabs an unwanted smear of digested fish in the palm of his hand. “God damnn it!” With the first beads of sweat accumulating on his forehead, he looks at the tied-off boat then the crap on his hand and then the backdoor of the Salty Biscuit. Wiping his hand off on the back side of the tattered overalls, he makes a B line for the back door.
“Hey baby, can you put an extra egg on that for me and roll it up on the ends so nothing falls out” Mearl throws orders back to the cook, with details and looking for extras for no extra charge. This is Big Daddy and this is how he rolls. He knows it, we know it and all in the Salty Biscuit know it. Hell, the whole Island KNOWS IT!! And soon the world.
After jewing down the cashier for the price of 3 jumbo shrimp and egg burritos and a small cup of menudo, which is clearly marked with the price on the board, and annoying the line building behind him, Mearl has completed his mission and heads for the back door and to the old barnacle pylons that make up the dock his boat’s tied to. “Thank ya baby” and he’s out the door.
Stowing away the food in the ice chest, “The Pearl” unleashed the dock line with a half-eaten Burrito in one hand and a flick of the wrist with the other, he moved with meaning, every motion. Putting the boat in gear and idling out of the no wake zone Mearl feels the Burrito putting his guts in gear and with nowhere to run Big Daddy drops his overalls and hangs his ass overboard to relieve his liquefied guts into the gulf bay waters. Splattering the water’s surface, he hangs onto the hand rail on the center console to keep from falling in. Mearl can feel the relief over take him and pays no attention to the horrified bank fishers and live aboards having coffee on their back decks. Reaching back with one hand to splash some water on his asshole, he cleans up with a sigh of relief and throws his overall straps back over his shoulders and waves a goodbye to the stunned audience. As a blue crab nibbles a piece of corn from somewhere unknown on the muddy bottom of west bay, Mearl the Pearl aims for the gulf side of San Luis Pass.
Mearl Jones has made this journey for the last 40 years and knows the ins and outs of cutting through the pass. He knows the hazards and the loss of life that have been taken here year after year by rip tides, currents and plain inexperience. The water is to be respected, the second it’s not it takes you. Mearl had respect. So Mearl, his respect and his empty guts headed for his honey hole to the East. Visions of the coolers full of fish he would return with started to fill is mind. The welcoming party back home, dockside, cheering his name as world’s greatest angler started to fill his mind. The other two burritos and warm cup of menudo in the cooler started to fill his mind. With the boat on a full plane, outside the pass and aimed in the right direction, the Pearl reaches forward into the ice chest and grabs a cold beer to wash down the ruminants of flour tortilla stuck in his teeth and soaks in all the blessings that skimming across a flat Gulf of Mexico, alone, have to offer.
CHAPTER 9: Chilean Love
Finishing off a semi-traditional Chilean breakfast with sweet tea, toast and farm fresh eggs, Augusto leans over and kisses his 5-year-old son Christo on the forehead and applies a small love pat to his cheeks. The 5 year old is completely focused on a bowl of Captain Crunch and the cartoons world on the back of the box it came in. A cartoon world of pirates and treasures. A world so close to the boy that he doesn’t realize the very box of American cereal he eats came to his very kitchen table by way of piracy… Interrupted by the ring tone of one of 15 cell phones lying on the counter in the living room, Augusto casually leaves the kitchen and seeks out the correct phone to answer.
“Jefe, what is the plan”?
“Did they find it”?
“Bring me the treasure”. Click, conversation complete.
“Augie”? A soft voice calls from the back room in the house. “Yes baby”? “Come here please”. with the same soft baited voice. Tossing the cheap plastic cell phone on the counter, Augie glances over at the boy, still in a Captain Crunch trance, and heads for the voice in the back of the house in a trance of his own.
Though a dictator and leader of a band of pirates and traffickers, Augusto Pinochet’s is truly a servant to his people of the hills of Chile. The millions and millions of dollars gained through his plotting did not stop at his hands but merely filtered through them and into the hills of his people. This was apparent through the visible humble house that he and his family maintained. A 2500 sq. ft.’ casa on the hillside with a magnificent view of the Pacific Ocean. No guards, no gates, no fences. The community surrounding the cartel owner’s house was filled with houses of the same features, some even a bit more extravagant than his own. Augie was a man of the people and knew no enemy except the State. The only mistake one could make is mistaking his kindness for weakness. And then you just disappear.
Rounding the corner into his master bedroom, Augusto found his wife Carmel slowly sinking into an amazing bubble bath. The Jacuzzi tub was perched one step up and inset into a box window that hung out from the house and gave an unobstructed panoramic view of the entire countryside all the way down to the Pacific Ocean. Santiago was only a blur on the horizon to the north along the coast and only barely visible on crystal clear days. Her body was 15 years younger than her mate’s and the 32 year old Chilean mother of one child had taken care of herself. Her skin was mildly tan and her thick long black hair, though tied up atop her head, a long strand draping down from the back of her neck and running over her shoulders to her firm natural breast. Her stomach naturally toned and the lines continue all the way to her feet. Augie freezes at the site of his wife and leans against the door jamb of the bedroom doorway and, just like she soaks in the warm water of the bath he is soaking up the love and beauty he admires from afar. “Yes dear”, he breaks the silence. “Shut the door and come here Amor, please”. Without a word the 47-year-old pirate moved quietly and smoothly as the wind to join her in the bath. In the kitchen, Christo pours another bowl of Captain Crunch.
Augie and Carmel had known each other their entire lives and were raised in the same small village just north in the steeper regions of the Andes. The two loved where they had come from and did not desire any type of life close to the city. Days were spent together, Augie, Carmel and Christo. The three were inseparable unless on occasion Augie suggested they return upland to the village where Carmel’s parents and grandparents still lived. This notice was only given on the rare occasion when Augusto felt imminent danger. Despite the peaceful nature, the life of a pirate comes with its moments.
CHAPTER 10: Sparks Fly
Philip laid “neckid” under the cool sheets of the queen size bed. The bedroom is built on a balcony overhanging the interior of the plane hangar and if not for the free-standing bamboo partitions it would have no privacy at all. Philip didn’t care about the privacy; the whole interior of the hangar was home to him. But the boss had a different opinion. This may be Philip’s hangar but Theresa was in charge of decorating, and a good thing. Until she moved in 3 years ago the plane hangar was a cold, hollow place and now it was a cozy home. The entire upstairs was built suspended inside the hangar, allowing enough room for the Cessna 172 to squeeze in below and just enough room for a workbench and fishing gear along the back wall. Downstairs, man cave. Upstairs, home.
With the box fan buzzing in the corner of the room it put a soothing rhythm in the air, killing the ring of silence and drowning out any annoying outside noise. The fan casted a cool breeze across the room and towards the bed. Tangled in the sheets like a fly in a silk spider web, Philip lay suspended between the dream world and consciousness. The sound of the jeep door jarred his senses enough to take note of the time on the clock, 7:35 am. The one eye that took note of time slowly closed back into lala land where the dreams live.
Philp had met Theresa 3 and a half years ago on a service call to the Crystal Beach Police Station. He’d been the regular guy to call for several years, handling any burnt-out light, service upgrades or general electric work needed to the Station. On this particular call, it happened to be the arriving day of rookie officer Theresa Denee’, the new Crystal Beach dispatcher. Fresh from Crowley, LA, she walked in the front door of the station and announced her arrival in a soft Cajun accent to the front desk clerk, “Hi, I’m Theresa Denee”. Philip was occupied at the top rung of a 6’ step ladder inside the station’s drop ceiling. He couldn’t visually see what was taking place just below him at the front desk, but he liked what he heard. Finding a reason to come down off the ladders, to get a closer look, Philip took an absent-minded step down, missing the next rung below completely, and took a fast ride to the bottom of the ladder. Stumbling backwards to catch himself, he gained the attention of the front desk clerk and one Ms. Theresa Denee’.
Being secure in his own skin, on his feet and confident with introduction Phil felt the urge to quickly introduce himself, as if that’s the way you’re supposed to get off ladders. The suppressed smirk of Ms. Denee’ and chuckles from behind the counter quickly exposed that it was a poor dismount but awesome save. “Hello” was all he could get out before the, to be, introduction was cut short with “Ms. Denee’!” “Welcome to crystal beach TX, we’ve been waiting for you!” Sargent Thomas loudly projected from the back office as he stepped out into the hall behind Philip. “Come on back” and with barely a glance, and nothing but business written all over her face, the 26 year old bombshell from “who gives a shit Louisiana” walked on by to meet her new boss without even a hello. But not before Phillip caught a glimpse of the most gorgeous eyes he’d ever seen in his life. The only way to describe them is to say they are big like a full moon, trancingly green as emeralds and covered with little drops of gold honey. Whatever you call it, it was beautiful and has completely got one young Island electrician off balance. Not only were her eyes the most beautiful thing Phil had ever seen, the breeze that drafted behind her as she walked by, close enough to brush shoulders, was filled with fragrances of seduction like he’d never smelled.
Another familiar sound of the sticky side door, and main entrance to the hangar, being opened with a soft kick to the bottom shook Philip from his morning dream state again.
Typically, on a Saturday morning he’d be up before the sun getting the bird ready for takeoff, fiddling in the shop or if the bite was on rigging some trout rods to catch some dinner for later that evening. This morning was one of rest due to jacking with that damn truck on the pass and working till 1 am and working on a large scale commercial project he had landed weeks prior in the new business district on the east end of the island. The only chores he had planned this morning was Theresa and after that a quick flight out around Sabine Pass to spot some schools of fish for the LA, commercial boats. Working hard was something that didn’t bother Phil. It’s what he did his whole life till this point and what kept him excited about the dreams he had in front of him and Theresa. Working long hours was the norm but the last three weeks had required solid 12 hour days and he needed some rest. The newest gig he had picked up was spotting the schools of red fish for the Louisiana commercial fisherman. It was easy money and involved the other thing he loved, flying. All he had to do was spot the schools, radio the boats below and collect the check.
Not needing to glance at the clock again, Phil kept eyes shut. He was awake enough to realize that it was morning, he wasn’t going anywhere soon and the favorite thing in his life was making her way upstairs to his exact location. The direction of the box fan blew a just faint enough scent in the direction of the bed that he could judge her distance without looking. Remaining dead still and maintaining the breathing pattern of one sleepy boy, Phil lured in his prey. Thinking of the shock he loved to give her with sudden hog grunts and lightning fast attack mode was all cut short when he felt the pressure of Theresa’s hands push down on the mattress around him with an arm on each side and the ends of her hair tickling his skin as she leaned down applying soft kisses to the exposed part of his bare back. The chills it sent from head to toe caused a long and intense stretch and yawn that lasted a good 15 seconds. The stretch turned into a roll over onto the back and the squinting open of both eyes. This gained Philip the viewpoint of staring his lover straight into her hypnotic eyes that he fell in love with three and a half years ago. “Hey sweet girl” was barely off the edge of his lips when the words were cut with a soft good morning kiss, and another and another. “Hi love”
This affection didn’t only send chills of large proportion through his body but sent automatic and instant signals of sex between the two that was good enough to be illegal in some small countries. Pulling Theresa tight into his arms and rolling them both onto their side the sheets entangled both bodies. One Neckid and one not. “baby, how was your night?”. “It was fine…..OMG”! “this fucking mouse!” Theresa started in with the events of the early morning.
This was one of his favorite things, to sut and smile and listen to the dramatic unveiling of any story from the lips of his Cajun Queen. The facial expressions, the hand gestures and the sweet tone of her voice set him in a daze and could turn any bad day around. Sometimes if she got to excited it sounded kind of like Adam Sandler in “The Water Boy”. But all Phil would say is “Baby tell me in English” and Theresa would give a sweet “fuck you” and then repeat.
Stealing kisses from her neck as she carried on about the mouse, the ferry ride and some strange Latin voices on the VHF Phil was getting more and more aroused as she talked. At this point he was standing at complete attention under the sheets and catching every other word. Planting his lips firmly onto hers and rolling all the way on top he gained complete control of her. Pinning both hands above her head with one hand and softly gripping a hand full of long dark hair, close to the scalp, in the other Philip grinded himself into her waist and pushed her legs gently apart. The two lovers knew each other’s body language and flowed together as one in the sheets. Starting to reach down and undo the buttons on her pants was met with a lightning fast palm to the chest and a shove to the left putting him damn near on the floor. “Hold that thought” she grinned “I need a shower” … Jumping off the end of the bed, she shed every stitch of clothes. As she walked to the bathroom, Philip could only stare.
Once again alone in the bed, Phil’s heart now racing he could feel each beat of blood pulsing through his excited body. Hearing the shower start, he waited just long enough for the water to get hot and then did a sneak attack of his own to finish what had just started. The shower was a well visited place for the two, along with just about every other nook and cranny in the hangar.
CHAPTER 11: Deceit under water
20’ below the surface of the glass calm summer waters of the Texas gulf coast and just 20 miles off shore hovered the 80’ long Panamanian submarine known as “Los Tiburon Negros” or The Black Shark. Captained by what should have been the strongest link in Augie’s chain.
Captain Selso Delossantos Martinez, the oldest member of the Ternera Sangre held the highest level of status within the organization. Not only was he the Captain of the Black Shark but he had come up through the ranks under Augie’s uncle as a runner and had helped establish the successful route that’s still used today. He had seen the days of bloodshed, his hands were covered in it, that gained the group their name. He had obeyed the orders. He had made the sacrifices, that may have taken his salvation. He was even the “Padrino” to Christo, the God Father. The 75 year old Chilean mariner stood clinging to the helm of the Black Shark with his weathered, nicotine stained hands and hollow eyes awaiting orders from the man he secretly despised, Augusto Pinochet’s.
Selso felt his commitment to Augie’s uncle would be rewarded in the keys to the kingdom one day. Instead they were merely passed down the bloodline, without even a second of recognition or thought of him being successor, when the uncle had “disappeared”. For this, Selso maintained his loyalty in hopes that things would change. But as the years went by Augie’s uncanny way of winning the people’s hearts, through his generous nature, only secured the truths that Selso would never see the top. Sometimes our strongest piece of the chain can be our weakest link.
Excellent in his navigation and king on instinct, Selso did hold value but for how long? The fact that he was less than a mile away from what could be a fortune in treasure, and the 5,000 miles of separation from the man that wanted it, had a strong lure of easy appeal. With sweat dripping from his sagging grey brow, in the increasingly rising temperature of the sub, Selso lost himself in a dream of being the king. The king of his own world, where he gave the orders and reaped the rewards of wrath, a world where people knew his name and respected him through fear, a world of complete control. He draws a long slow drag from the hand rolled cigarette between his fingers. These dreams of illusion were suddenly cut short from the sound of a boat approaching on the sonar.
The Black Shark, though old, was equipped with the finest maritime technology to date. Highly sensitive radar/sonar, GPS and modern weaponry filled the cockpit. A functional periscope allowed a visual tour of topside when at the depths the crew hovered at now. The crew consisting of only Selso and 2 deck hands set silent in the confines of the vessel. With engines off and maintaining complete silence, the air quickly became stale and dank within the tight quarters. Weeks of undetected, sea travel below the surface of the ocean, only allowed for the occasional rise to surface and catch a shower in the rain on deck. The smell of body oder and cigarettes clung to the walls of the sub and the men inside. Sitting there and waiting for orders to come across the radio was not only risky but just as trying on the patience as the two-week journey from Cayenne French Guiana to the Texas coast itself.
The sound of the small boat approaching, increasingly getting louder on the sonar triggered the instinct of crew to have weapons ready. Staring at each other, the 3 men maintained silence in anticipation of their next move. The answer was given to the 2 deck hands with the look on their captain’s face. “We do nothing”
The noise from the sonar identified the approaching vessel as a small single engine aluminum boat. Probably a small fishing boat. With the boat approaching closer by the second, it happened upon the very location of the sub and just as quick as it came it went. The sonar could relay the noise of the small craft’s prop slowly fading away. This allowed the 3 pirates to lower their guard and put their attention back to the silent radio that they so desperately wanted to hear words of “attack” or “return”. The passing of the small fishing boat was actually a nice break in the monotony for the crew of the Black Shark and intrigued enough curiosity for Selso to give a small order, “periscope up”.
Raising the sub’s periscope to just break the surface of the water would allow the crew to take a look at what had just passed right over their heads. This was also a form of entertainment as once the Captain had seen what he wanted, the two deck hands could take turns looking as well. Looking above surface, though entertaining, could be risky on exposing the sub’s location and after being submerged for days, trigger the inner urge to bust free from the stench confined space and breath fresh air. Soon enough, the crew would have their chance for fresh air.
Looking through the periscope, Captain Selso Martinez quickly found his target. And as he suspected, merely a small fishing boat. Giving a play by play in mumbled Spanish, he watched the fisherman gain distance from their position he was able to zoom in on the angler with the powerful lens of the periscope and take in great detail.
Observing the man at the helm to be of large per portion wearing simply a pair of overalls and a ball cap on backwards. He also noticed the fishing rods in their holders along the center console. Watching the unsuspecting angler reminded the captain of simpler times and made the Chilean seaman homesick. As a younger man, Selso himself had loved days to himself fishing in his home waters of the Pacific, though he would never show these feelings on the surface in fear of a sign of weakness. Continuing to watch with his face pressed tight to the viewfinder of the periscope, Selso could see the fisherman slowing down as his boat approached an oil rig platform that only lay 300 yards off the starboard side of the sub. Zooming into max power, it was also clear that the local fisherman was chomping down something wrapped in a well-recognized flour tortilla and enjoying a cold Cervesa for breakfast. This made the stomach growl inside of the ornery pirate he pushed away from the periscope and headed to the galley inside the sub to make some breakfast of his own. Snubbing out the stogy in an overflowing ashtray, the captain signaled the two deck hands to the view finder of the periscope to have a look. Impatiently trying to be the next in line for the periscope the two bumped heads and whispered curse words to each other. Receiving a glare of disapproval, from Captain Martinez, the two hands settled to take a peek one at a time.
With the 75 year old smuggler of the Black Shark making a breakfast of stale bread and peanut butter, and imaging hot fresh flour tortillas with chicharons and frijoles’, a faint and well recognized voice came across the radio. “Tiburon negro, llevar a casa el Tesoro” Black Shark, bring home the treasure. Waving a single finger at the deck hands to not touch the radio, the captain stared into space and slowly chewed what in his mind would be his last stale breakfast.
CHAPTER 12: DUCK N DANG
(Roll back the clock 24 hrs and keep reading)
The night before, on the surface, looked like any other Texas summer on Galveston Island. “Squalls out on the gulf stream, big storms coming soon, passed in my hammock, God I slept till way pass noon” (J. Buffett). Yes sir, while that storm was working its way down the coast, Philip was trying to get his free truck back to the hangar and get to work, old Bill Davis and Goldie were hammering the reds in the surf, Capt Terry was monitoring the front door of the lounge, Theresa was chomping on a Reeses cup, a Chilean smuggler caught wind of some treasure he wanted, pirates in a submarine just off the coast dropping a payload and Mearl the Pearl was anxiously awaiting a dozen raw oysters on the half shell in a corner booth at the lounge, by the band stand. You know? Your typical summer night on an island. Oh, and the Proud Mary seems to have her nets tangled up really good on something 60’ below the surface.
Throwing the wench into gear, Duck Pham’s 1st mate, Dang, moved to the back of the 40’ trawler. The captain came out of the wheelhouse as soon as he felt the outrigger break free and allow the girl to level herself in the water. Together the captain and his crew, of one, watched as the nets came up from the bottom.
Duck and Dang, both children of Vietnamese immigrants, weren’t born here but had come across by water with their parents during the 1976 pull out of Saigon. The Vietnam war was over and North Vietnamese were flushing their countryside with vengeance. If you were south of the HO Chi Minh trail and couldn’t make it on a US plane, battleship or carrier you were likely to be imprisoned or executed in the street. The Men, woman and children not supporting the North during the war were running for their lives. And little did we know then, but they would become part of our Gulf Coast lives forever. Duck, Dang and all the kids from this migration came into our coastal communities with work ethic and discipline like we’d never seen. Their parents were subjected to racism and rejection all along the Gulf coast. The kids were intermingled in the schools and called names like gook, slant eye and such. Thousands of miles away from their homes and families and this was their welcome to the USA. What may have seemed like small minded behavior and cruelty was only spawned by fear, change, insecurity and the unknown for local coastal communities behaving this way. KKK has been the most ignorant ass group of white trash in any case. Shrimp boats were set fire and camps destroyed trying to run the immigrants away, to no avail. They stayed and became part of the community and took the shrimping industry to new heights. The Vietnamese people are a blessing to the community and the children that witnessed their parents persevere in the 70s became hard workers as well and run successful fish industries all along the Gulf coast to this day. Duck and Dang were part of that and about to discover a blessing of their own.
Watching the nets break the surface brought the concerned look across each man’s face for how much catch was probably lost through the hole in the tear and how long would it take to stitch it up. Both of these questions were thrown overboard when the two were able to focus on what hung in some sort of a death grip within the dark green nets of the Proud Mary.
It appears whatever had the old trawler hung up on the bottom decided to catch a ride to the surface and come aboard. The mystery cargo was unlike any other foreign object pulled to the surface by the boat. Mixed in with the twitching fish and shrimp of the net, protruded what was unmistakably a cannon and hanging just on the verge of falling out of the tear in the net, a coral incrusted chest. As the tangled net and its mystery prize cleared the surface of the water, Dang swiftly disengaged the pull line with a lever on the rusty old wench in one hand and released the brake, which held tension on the starboard outrigger, with the other. This allowed an already engaged second pulley to raise the towering arm and swing the payload over the back deck. The two men, with complete tunnel vision, secured the lines and approached the swinging catch as it hung suspended just a foot off the deck. With a couple sharp tugs on the wet ropes, the nets opened and spilled the contents on the deck. Still trapped in the death grip of the net, the metal objects hung waiting to be lowered. Duck and Dang, knowing the objects were not going anywhere made short order of the shrimp catch on deck by sorting and cleaning and making room to lower their newly found prize to a clean surface.
Taking the tension off the line, Dang lowered the suspended catch all the way to the deck and once he gained enough slack in the line he reached up with a razor-sharp fillet knife and cut the rig loose allowing the net to be free from the works. The two men approached the items in silence, tugging and pulling at the net to free the articles. This slow start to freeing the cannon and chest soon evolved into both men sawing furiously with their knives, cutting away layer after tangled layer of green shrimp net. Oblivious to any thoughts of ever reusing the net, they completely freed the booty. Once the two items were completely exposed, the cannon was, though nostalgic, soon dismissed as the boring of the two objects and rolled aside to be secured to the gunnel wall. Now completely focused on the sea incrusted chest, the two shrimpers knelt to their knees for a closer inspection.
The chest was heavy, real heavy. The attempts to slide it across the wet steel deck took the full strain of both Duck and Dang, sending it to a more secure location by the wheelhouse. Two feet long by eighteen inches wide and one foot deep the chest was bound together with long strips of hammered steel and bulky metal corners. A massive skeleton key lock secured the flat lid shut to its body and kept all its contents safely inside. The preservation of the deep saltwater had kept the chest intack. Completely covered in crusty sea organisms it was still, obviously, a chest.
The weight of it indicated there were contents inside, but what?
Fetching a couple pry bars and hammers from the engine room, Duck returned to the deck. Time seemed to have stopped and everything had gone into slow motion. The world around the two Vietnamese shrimpers did not exist as they began prying and hammering at the lock on the chest. Outside of the wheelhouse and unable to hear any calls from the radio the two were completely focused on the task at hand. With their heads, down below the sides of the boat they felt like the only vessel on the ocean but that wasn’t the case. Just a mile away approached another boat of equal size and shape. Straight out of Sabine Pass approached the Crazy Cajun with her outriggers up and under full power and making way straight towards the Proud Mary.
CHAPTER 13: On the Half Shell
Back at the Wharf Rat Lounge the Pearl is stuffed into his booth by the bandstand, he single handedly occupies seating for four. His upper torso managed to mold perfectly into the booth and was blocked from view by the towering empty trays that had once held a dozen raw oysters each. Friday night was dollar a dozen at the lounge. In the beginning, it was thought by the owners as a good idea to sell more beer but what it had turned into was a nightmare for the kitchen staff trying to keep up with the orders of “3 dozen raw oysters and a glass of tea, please”. Mearl had shown up earlier in the evening to secure his regular booth next to the stage, where some say it must be the vibration from the amplifiers that helps digest the massive quantities of raw oysters, crackers and any freebies he’s able to talk the waitress out of.
Despite the towering empty oyster trays resembling some capitol records building leaning Tower of Pisa and blocking full view of the bottomless pit, Big Daddy is able to catch the attention of the floor waitress with the beckoning of his stubby index finger motioning her to come his way. Within just three seconds of listening to whatever it was that Mearl was sharing, in a secret manner, the waitress jerked back and retreated to the bar with an utter look of disgust on her face shouting “NO MEARL, HELL NO, JESUS!”
As the hefty jolly sole slid another dozen in front of his face to be devoured, he chuckled out loud “come on baby, I was just kiddin”. Slapping a healthy dose of cocktail sauce on the doomed oysters that lay in front of him he downs two back to back. With a mouth fool of food and red sauce in the corners of his mouth, he chuckles and shakes his head “come on baby, I was just kiddin” “Big Daddy loves ya baby”. And with the heavenly thought of dollar a dozen night hours from being over, big daddy gets back to business.
Blazing a trail past the corner of the bar where Captain Terry set, the offended waitress juggled empty trays and glasses and mumbled words of complete disgust as she disappeared into the kitchen.
“what the hell crawled up her skirt” Terry mumbled out loud to the barkeep. “Probably Mearl the Pearl captain” “probably so”. With the band getting set up to start playing, Captain Terry knocked back his last drink of the night and tossed a hundred-dollar bill on the bar. “Keep the change” he said with a wink and headed for the door. If a one-eyed man blinks, is that considered a wink also? The band is always Terry’s que to leave because he can’t stand the crap they book at the lounge.
Headed for the door the captain catches a glimpse of the Pearl still wreaking havoc on the oysters with his left eye and watching the band getting tuned. Unlike the captain, Big Daddy loves the local talent. With a fiendish grin, he shakes head and walks out the door.
Walking down the two flights of stairs to the shell parking lot, Terry clicks his keys and a chirping sound unlocks the doors on his black 69’ convertible Cadillac. Making his way to the car he grabs in a fresh breath of night air blowing in off the sea and admires the lightning storm over the water. Opening the door on the caddy, Terry looks across the top of the car to watch a ’79-ford whip into the parking lot of the lounge. Squinting to identify the driver through the cracked glass of the truck the driver pulls right up to the captain with elbow out the window. “Hey hey hey captain Terry” “How ya like my new ride”?
“Philip, you little turd, where did you find this heap of shit”?
Captain Terry had known Phil since the day he was born, watched him grow up on the island. Hell, Phil had worked a summer or two as a kid on the decks of the Proud Mary when Terry still ran her. The Captain had watched Philip survive his adolescence as youth running wild on the island. He’d seen his rough beginnings getting in trouble with the law growing up and at times wondered how his poor grandparents did it raising him. Shit one time he remembers the crazy kid stealing his grandmother’s car and driving it all the way to California at 14 years old to be a rock star or something. Either way he had saw him grow out of it and learn how to work. He’d watched the boy turn into a man, build a small electric company on the Island and not only fall in love with chasing schools of red fish from the sky in an old beat up plane but he seen him fall in love too. The captain loved and trusted the wild spirit he saw in Philip. Maybe he reminded him of himself in many ways. The old captain trusted Philip, trusted him so much he had shared small stories with him from time to time about things he had pulled up from the bottom of the Gulf, things that shined like gold.
The sound of the band cranking up vibrated right through the windows of the lounge and down into the parking lot outside. Distracting the two from their conversation Philip ask, “Where in the hell does Mickey find these acts”? Mickey owned the lounge. No one had ever seen Mickey or met him, it was just a known fact that he owned the old joint, always had. “Hell if I know kid” as the two agreed without speaking for their dislike of the sound coming from inside the bar with identical shakes of the head.
“Anyways Capt’ I picked up this baby for nothing over on the Freeport side of the pass. Traded out some electric work for her. Seen you here so I thought I’d whip in and show ya. I ran the damn thing out of gas coming over the pass and almost had to walk to town, finally caught a ride and got some fuel on credit at the bait camp and a ride back. I still gotta get to the hangar and grab my service truck and go to that job we landed last week on the east end. Anyways Capt’ looks like that storm’s missing us and some old man and his dog have the whole pass to themselves, their gonna killem tonight, I gotta roll!
Terry just stood with a half grin listening as Philip rambled all that crap out with a single breath. “well kid good luck making it home in that piece, and come see me Sunday, wanna talk with ya about something”. “Will do Captain Terry! be safe”. And with that Philip popped the clutch on the old truck and slung a few shells from the worn-out tires as he pulled out on the main drag and headed east. The captain, shaking his head at the energy that poured from that boy, laughed out loud “Theresa is gonna whip his ass” ha!
Captain Terry fired up his black Cadillac and sits idle with a distant look in his face and reaches up to rub the gold hanging from his neck.
CHAPTER 14: Loose Lips, Sinks Ships
“Crazy Cajun to Proud Mary” … Crazy Cajun to Proud Mary” … “Come in Proud Mary”. Why da heck dey not anseron they dad gum radio? Captain Hanks had the Proud Mary in his sight just an hour after coming out of the Sabine Pass. He and his, motor mouth, deck hand had run in last night to dump their catch and get a refill of ice for another two-week run in the shrimp rich Gulf waters. One thing about some of them Cajuns is, THEY CAN’T SHUT UP! Not true with all of them but every now and then you get one that you just wanna choke. Poor Capt’ Hanks had one on the deck of the Crazy Cajun. His wife’s sister’s son Maurice Thibodaux III who he referred to as “Garcon”, boy in French. Technically it was his nephew but Captain Hanks was not claiming it, it was just Garcon. The captain of the Crazy Cajun needed the help during the season but mainly he was afraid of his wife and didn’t dare tell her no. So, when she told him that her sweet nephew was going to be working the summer with him he simply said, “yes dear”. And with that young motor mouth “Garcon” Maurice Thibodaux III became deck hand of the Crazy Cajun. Capt’ Hanks may have been fearful of the wife, but on the boat he was the captain and a daily “chut da hell up boy” and a slap to the back of the head to his nephew was becoming ritual. I don’t think the boy could help it, it was bred deep into his blood. After all, he was the III. Once his mouth started going everyone had to hear, he would see something that excited him and bla bla bla, real diarrhea of the mouth, it just poured out and loud. This summer a tender spot on the back of his head was beginning to develop and he couldn’t figure out why. If the boy didn’t learn by the end of the season he may have brain damage.
“What’s da madder Uncle Hank” “Why day not on da radio”?
“Shut up boy” “and don’t cal me dat” “I aint yo uncle” “im da Captain”
Maurice, frowning, put his head set on and plugged it in his phone. Pressing play, he got lost to Jerry Reed’s “Amos Moses”. He felt like the song spoke to him. Ba dunk ba dunk ba dunk ba dunk “Yeah, here comes Amos” he says aloud as he walks away to the back deck….
Just because the Crazy Cajun came from Louisiana didn’t mean she didn’t know the Proud Mary. All these shrimpers knew each other and like society, some worked well together some didn’t. Some were hard working honest men and some weren’t. Some were out there shrimping with their boats, some weren’t. Captain Hanks knew Duck and Dang well. The three men had fished the same waters together the last twenty years, they had helped each other at sea in times of need and knew stories of each other’s loved ones on land. Even though competition did brew between the fleets in Gulf, there was none between the Crazy Cajun and Proud Mary. These independent shrimpers knew there was plenty to go around. The greedy shrimpers battled for location on the sea like those jackasses suffering under the 61st pier, how do you own a wave?
As the Cajun closed the gap between the two vessels the captain could tell something was out of whack with the Proud Mary. She had one outrigger up and one down and was at a complete stop in the water. One net was swung in and cut loose from the rigging and one was still in the water. Getting closer he could see why his calls had fallen on deaf ears, both Duck and Dang were on the back deck and busy sawing away at something in the tangled net with their knives. Whatever they were trying to cut loose from that net must have been more important than the one still in the water, that no doubt was letting its catch loose and possibly tangling as well, or the one that they were destroying with the fillet knives. Maybe they found Jimmy Hoffa?
“Garcon” “git da bow line ready” “Garcon”!? The captain, anxious to get up close to the Proud Mary, was needing to prep a bow line being tossed from the front of the Cajun’s starboard gunnel to the stern port side of the Proud Mary. With no response to his order the Captain looked back through the wheelhouse to find his summer help lost in his own world listening to who knows what? The headset plug into the phone was obviously drowning out any commands given from the captain. Watching, as Garcon stared out across the open water in the opposite direction of where the Captain’s orders were needing attention, and dancing with only a rhythm that Garcon himself could understand, the captains temper skyrocketed.
“GARCON”!!!! “GOT DAM IT BOY”!!!! with this scream penetrating the deckhands head phones he quickly spun around to receive his orders. “Git da Got Damn Bow Line”!!! Scrambling to the bow of the Crazy Cajun Maurice had an elevated view down onto the back deck of the Proud Mary and could see Duck and Dang were completely focused on what looked like a chest, a treasure chest?
The captain’s scream for order hadn’t only snapped motor mouth from his Jerry Reed jam session but also caught the attention of the boys from the Proud Mary. Surprised by their sudden company, the two tossed what chopped up net they could over the chest and went to catch the bow line from the Cajun.
Giving his best attempt at tossing the heavy saturated rope from bow to stern Maurice started in “Hey Duck wat dat you got dere”? “What dat in da net”? Ignoring him completely, Dang leaned way out to catch the novice throw of the rope and pulled it into tie off to the cleat, just inside the port gunnel wall. “Dat look like some kinda chest or sumthin” “Is dat a treasure chest”? Letting out just a little more slack than usual, Dang distanced the boats as much as he could without looking suspicious. Completely ignoring Garcon, the two men from the Proud Mary walked to her stern and addressed Captain Hanks.
“You fellas ok”? Capt’ Hanks started in, loudly casting his voice from boat to boat to override the diesel motors still turning on each vessel. “I bin tryin ta radio ya for da last 20 minutes” “I say who dat wit one rig up and one down?” “dat da Proud Mary”. “so, we come to check on ya”.
Looking non-suspicious as he spoke, Captain Hanks could clearly see the two Vietnamese shrimpers he had known for years, were nervous and not themselves at the moment. He could also see behind them on the deck was a tattered mess of a net, a “cannon” tied off to the starboard gunnel and what looked like a chest under a not so well hidden cut up net. The cool Cajuns mild approach to the situation was suddenly destroyed with the blurting out of “Uncle Hank! Day got a chest over dere, look like a treasure Uncle Hank! Rite dere under da net, see”!
“Garcon!” “Shut yo damn mouth boy”! “Go set yo ass in da cabin” “Jesus”! The captain’s cool cover was blown.
Walking towards the cabin Maurice’s mouth didn’t stop. “Day got a treasure Uncle Hank, day got da treasure and da cannon, I see dat dere on da Proud Mary” “I see dat dere”!!!
“SHUT YO GOT DAM MOUTH BOY”!!!! “GET YO ASS IN DA CABIN”!!!!!! “JESUS CHRIST”!!
“Duck, what da hell I gonna do wit dat boy”? Actually breaking into a grin Duck replied “ I don’t know Captain Hanks, he your problem”. Taking his cap off and running his hand through his weathered grey hair, Captain Hanks wipes away the stress from his forehead and puts his cap back on. “So, Duck what you have dere my old friend”? “Well captain, looks like we… well I think maybe it’s a …. Uh… well it looks like… uh… shit Hanks just get over here and help us”!
Pulling the boats together just long enough for Hanks to crawl over the gunnel to gunnel wall and step aboard the Proud Mary, they let the boats loose again to drift apart putting Duck, Dang and Hanks on the Proud Mary and leaving the mouth that won’t stop by himself in the wheelhouse of the Crazy Cajun. The wheelhouse with a radio, a radio the has a 50-mile broadcasting range.
CHATER 15: Can Hear You Loud and Clear
Completing the two-week run from French Guiana, and dropping an average pay load, the ternera sangre’s very own Black Shark is floating just above the surface of the calm Gulf waters off High Island Texas. Hidden in the darkness of the night, the three-man crew quickly shuffles off the last of tightly wrapped packages, trying to beat daybreak, from the submarine and on to the back deck of a 40’ trawler named the Foxy Lady. The crew aboard the Foxy Lady are a few of the remaining Caucasian shrimpers left from east Texas. The leader of the boat is a hollow eyed middle age guy with long blonde hair pulled to a pony tail known as Willie. He stands 6 foot 4 with rotted teeth hidden by an untrimmed mustache a runny nose and a forever burning cigarette hanging from his mouth. A red bandana keeps his hair pinned behind his thin ears and long sleeve flannel shirt rolled up to the boney elbows on each arm revealing the sleeves of tattoos that cover his skin beyond the wrist. His heavy east Texas accent tosses out his best Spanish with “Gracias Amigo” as he hands over a black brief case to the captain of the Black Shark. All are familiar with this rendezvous and the routine. The packages are transported without a word spoken between the two crews. As the deck hands for each crew work in bucket brigade fashion first transferring the packages in one direction and then fuel in the other, the captains of each vessel stand in authorative positons, never setting foot on each other’s ship and never losing eye of what’s transpiring or of one another. With all hands separated to the safety of their own boat the Foxy lady puts her props in gear and heads straight for the beach. Disappearing into the early hours of the morning the crew aboard the Black Shark can hear the gringos chattering on the Foxy Lady as they fade away. Voices seam to travel forever across the water. Soon as the know their company is well out of sight, the hatches drop on the submarine and it and its crew disappear below the surface of the water.
Cruising at idle speed to deeper and safer water, Selso is making his way due south and making calculations for his next refueling stop. The crew is pumping with adrenaline and anxious for the return trip home with what they think is mission accomplished when a sudden blurting of fast, unmistakably coon ass, words come across the radio. “Hello out dere, come in some body”, dis is da Crazy Cajun, an we got treasure over here” “da Proud Mary got a gold treasure chest” “hello” “who dat” …….
CHAPTER 16: Got Damn It Garcon!!
Back on the deck of the Proud Mary, Duck, Dang, and Hanks gathered around what they could not fathom. Each man stood in silence staring at the chest as the trawler floated softly in the early morning. The sun had not broken the surface of the horizon but daytime was on the rise. Losing all concern of secrecy, Duck confided in Hanks to assist him in opening his find. The three men, still not talking, began to pry and beat at the skeleton key. All this while trying to bust the lock open and not damage the relic they had found, they worked with eager concern. Finally, after less than a few minutes the lock gave, tearing loose from the wood base and damaging a small part of the face of the chest. All this prying and beating had broken loose the crustation to the exterior of the box, revealing stones of red, green and blue. Even large clear ones glistened in the deck lights of the trawler. With every second the men disturbed the box, another 100 years of settlement broke loose. Finally, as the lock broke and fell on the floor, all time stopped and silence took over. Hanks and Duck looked at each other as they pried the lid open.
Put away to “time out” in the wheelhouse of the Crazy Cajun, Maurice the III is pacing the floor and peeking through the window and down on to the back deck of the Proud Mary, straining to see between the shoulders of the three men who hover over the chest. His incontrollable ranting is climaxing to new boundaries. If he doesn’t expel the excitement building inside he feels he will explode! With no sense of self-control he reaches for the radio on the dash above the ship’s wheel, and explodes into the hand-held mic. Everything he has witnessed and or assumed, that lay on the decks of the Proud Mary just 30’ away, flowing from his mouth across the marine band radio channel for any ears in a 50-mile radius to hear.
The cracking sound that comes from the hinges on the chest, as it opened, screams like an old man who has been comfortable for centuries setting in front of a fire in his favorite chair, blanket in lap and fire burning perfectly. Then, out of nowhere yanked from his position and thrown to the cold. With the lid open, it was obvious of how tightly sealed it had been. For everything sealed within the gem studded chest, gleamed of brilliance. Not just Spanish gold coins but novelties of handmade jewelry, loose stones and pearls of all shapes and colors, small daggers with gem studded handles, rings fit for a king and artistic trinkets made of solid gold. The initial opening of the chest spilled coins to the steel deck of the boat adding sound to confirm that this was truly treasure. Each man’s heart was filled with excitement of the beauty and left with no words, only gasp “oh, ah, an oh my” and of course “Holy Shit” filled the gathered area. And like a light switch turning on in Hanks’ mind he broke from his spell and said “Garcon”!. Scrambling to his feet he raced to the stern of the boat to grab the bow line and pull himself back to the Crazy Cajun. Leaving Duck and Dang to their hypnotic situation, Hanks’ somehow knew he had to get a sock in that damn boy’s mouth, he’d seen too much.
…. Hurdling himself across the gunnels of the boat’s, Hanks raced to the cockpit and burst through the door. Just as suspected, there at the wheel stood the Cajun motor mouth, spilling his guts so uncontrollably that not even the Captain could comprehend the words. All he heard was chest, treasure and… If words could take on some physical form the boats mic would have been covered in a Cajun gumbo vomit of every detail… Slapping the mic from the boy’s hand, captain Hanks, removed his cap flogging the boy to the ground with every word screaming from his mouth, in French, words of ill discontent. “Damn it Garcon” “What da hell u do”? “What’s wrong wit you boy”? The boy’s phone flew from his shirt pocket and lay scattered across the wheelhouse floor in pieces, the headphones pulled loose from his neck and slid in the corner. Somewhere deep inside the poor brain of Maurice Thibodaux III a faint light began to gleam, for the first time, for the very first time in his life a light went off that maybe, just maybe, he had finally said too much.
Shutting off the radio, Captain Hanks breathed heavy. Gazing at the boy on the floor and heart pounding from the exerted energy Hanks said three words “don’t you move” and then three more “you sum bitch” and left the cabin to head back aboard the Proud Mary.
Climbing back on deck of the fortune ship, Hanks found Duck and Dang right where he’d left them. With the sun breaking the horizon to the East the boys spoke not a word and began to clean up the business left unattended such as setting anchor and retrieving the slack net that still lay off one side of the boat. Right now, was no time to attract anymore unwanted company or attention.
CHAPTER 17: CALLING HOME
“Up Periscope” is the only command given from Captain Selso. He can tell the message coming across the radio is of strong frequency and close to their hidden location beneath the surface. Had the words coming across the radio said anything else but “treasure and gold” the blackshark would have continued on its way down south. The words” treasure and gold” don’t go unnoticed or without curiosity in the ears of a pirate. Maybe curiosity is the wrong word. It’s more like putting a bloody rare piece of meat in front of a puppy dog and saying “sit” “don’t eat that” or better yet a cold beer and piece of fried fish in front of Mearl the Pearl and saying “sit” “don’t eat that”. Either way, the words captured across the radio by the crew of the blackshark had the ship headed back to periscope depth for a closer look.
Breaking the surface of the water with the high-powered lens of the scope the captain scans the horizon for any signs of life on the calm water. With the sun now above the horizon it doesn’t take long for the veteran captain to spot a few possible targets. Half a mile to the west he sees several oil rig platforms with no visible activity, to the south the back side of a large sport fishing vessel headed offshore under full power, and just out of range for detail. To the east the captain can see what looks like two Gulf trawlers tied off to each other. A quick process of elimination triggers the next command “90 degrees east, idle speed, periscope down”.
Watching the reaction of his captain, second mate of the Black Shark is, I guess the equivalent, of the Crazy Cajuns very own Garcon. The young Chilean is eager to use his cell phone to relay the possible find back home in hopes of gaining some form of notability in the ranks. Acting alone without direct permission of Captain Selso could be a death sentence and in this case, turn the search for notability into a self-inflicted act of feeding himself to the sharks. Just reaching periscope depth the young smuggler acquires good signal and hurries off a random text that transmits itself straight to the hillsides of Chile in seconds. “We have made the drop” “Headed home” “May have found something else to bring with us” “Mucho Oro” “Gold”.
CHAPTER 18: Wheels Off the Ground
Walking back from the kitchen with fresh cup of hot coffee in one hand and white bath towel in the other, Philip gives his damp hair one more dry with the towel and drapes it across his shoulder. Wearing just a pair of jeans he feels the cool floor on his bare feet and the air feels good on his skin. Walking back towards the bed where his love is getting settled in for a nap Phil runs through the things in his head he wants to tell her before she falls fast asleep. “explain the truck setting outside” (skip that) “gonna fly out and spot fish, be right back” “clean up shop” “make amazing dinner on the pit” “repeat of this morning”, that should do it.
Setting on the side of the bed putting his running shoes on, these are good for feeling the peddles in the old 172, he starts in with the mental list. Taking a break between each item on the list to lean down and plant soft kisses to Theresa’s forehead he can fell the moistness of her skin on his lips from the hot shower still. Each item on the list is responded with “mmm” and a smile with her eyes remaining closed, unspoken approval of the items on the list. With the list and kisses complete, minus the talk about the truck, Phil eases off the side of the bed and throws on a white T-shirt letting his girl fall into dreamland and charge her batteries from working all night. Heading for the staircase leading down to the plane, he walks away. Looking back, he hears the sweet Cajun accent of his girl say, “hey babe”
“yes love”? “Uh, what’s the deal with that piece of shit truck parked in my spot outside”. Facing her one open eye with a smile that ask for forgiveness Phil simply replies “its uh? “you see babe it was uh”? “well I was gonna be an uh” simple wasn’t the word. But the reply was good enough to close her eye and put her to sleep. He would have to face it later for trading out the work that could have been cash instead of a project as he knew she would see it. With Theresa mumbling dreamy sounds of “uh huh” he walked on down the stairs to the waiting plane as she fell fast asleep.
Between the well-greased hinges and the noise of the fan upstairs Philip can open the hangar door, roll out the plane and shut it without making much noise at all, leaving Theresa to undisturbed dream land upstairs.
Once outside, the morning is still new. And the coolness hasn’t succumbed to the heat of the day that was surely coming. The change in temp from hangar to outside was just enough to put a small layer of moisture on the exterior of the 172. Taking a towel from the back compartment of the plane Phil walked her down, giving her a prefight and a bath, if you will, at the same time. The plane was 1976 172 Skyhawk. A project plane that his Uncle Don had helped him with a few summers ago. With his uncle long retired he was always eager to help with a project. In fact, he was the one who found the plane for Philip, on a steal, from the same aviation school where he had retired. Sometimes what the school called a throw away plane wasn’t a throw away at all and if you knew the right people and had the cash on hand you could pick up a real deal. Philip happened to know the right person and was still making payments to his uncle on the cash part. They were both the same person so it made it easy.
The plane was more than a plane to Philip, it was a floating time machine spaceship. He took care of her and maintained every inch. The second something was broken, it got fixed. The second something looked worn out, it got replaced. The reason she felt like a time machine was because she came from 1976 and every time he jumped in the pilot’s seat he thought about that damn fish his uncle couldn’t reel in and it made him laugh.
Preflight complete, he pushed the time machine away from the hangar far enough to fire it up and not let the prop wash blow over Theresa’s plants over that set just outside the door. He was already in a little trouble, maybe, and didn’t wanna add the insult to injury. Ignoring the old truck setting in the wrong parking spot, like ignoring an elephant, Phil thought “you damn truck” and pushed the plane on past. Stepping on the pontoon and jumping up in the pilot seat and grinning, about 1976, Phil took a glance down at his chart, marking all the areas of interest outside of Sabine Pass where he was headed and listened to the radio for wind speed and direction, pressure, weather and local traffic, “plan your flight, fly your plan” he thought. With mixture and throttle set, he turned the ignition. The plane fired up immediately. Checking the instrument panel and running through a written check list that hung to his left, Philip was ready to taxi down to the end of the hard grass strip. This runway was only used by him and a couple of weekenders that hangered across from him and Theresa. With the sun now well in the morning sky Phil taxied down to the far end of the airstrip feeling the peddles under his feet and working the rudder back and for like a dog wagging his tail. Pulling the yoke in and out and turning it left to right and right to left as he taxied too fast to his starting point, he felt like the kid he was inside. Turning his head left and right looking over his shoulder to see the elevators and ailerons all following his command as he reached the end of the runway. With zero hesitation Philip spun the 172 around on a dime and pushed full throttle. These bad habits he had acquired on his own and not from his uncle, who after learning the basics, taught him how to really fly. Giving a departing call while under full power, “good morning Galveston, TX Whiskey Golf Tango 397, departing 18 zero” he put out the call as his wheeled pontoons left the ground. Nothing like having the cart in front of the horse.
Philip, though cool on the inside, appeared wound up and full of energy on the outside. Sometimes when he spoke it was a run-on sentence with a single breath and when excited about getting something done at work he scrambled with fast motions and focus. When the 180 horsepower Lycoming fired up and spun the prop on that plane it got him excited and in a hurry. It was a bad habit with the plane but productive at work. The only thing that calmed him was fast asleep in his bed upstairs in the hanger. A single word from Theresa or a touch from her hand could settle him down instantly. And with that Philip Allen and his time machine were in the air and headed due south straight over the Gulf of Mexico.
“Galveston TX Whisky Golf Tango 397” “will be at 500’ ten to fifteen miles’ offshore to Sabine Pass”
CHAPTER 19: Calling Home 2
In full stealth mode, the Black Shark raises its periscope to breach the water line one more time. This time Captain Selso Martinez is pleased with himself and his selection of choice he made. Exposing a grin that only his two crewmen can see, with his face pressed to the view finder of the scope, he says the words in English as he reads from the portside of the trawler with his heavy Latin accent “Proud Mary”. Panning the scope across the two shrimp boats tied together the captain can see three men busy tending to something with great focus on the back deck of the boat. His view blocked by the sides of the boat doesn’t give his curiosity time to even ponder when he sees one of the three men stand with his hands cupped together and something pouring over the sides of his hands. Zooming in the scope to full power on the man’s hands Captain Selso can clearly see large quantities of gold coins spilling out of a young Vietnamese shrimper’s hands and falling to the deck below. “Oro” “ORO” “ORO”!!!! They have gold!! The tan skin of the Chilean sea captain almost turns instantly green with envy as he continues to watch. His mind goes crazy with the thought of the fortune the treasure must possess and immediately the wheels that have traveled him countless of thousands of miles beneath the sea and across bloody country sides to gain fortune for everyone but him, start turning in a way to make the treasure his own. Pulling away from the periscope, he eyes the two mates in the cabin with him, one staring straight back at the captain with baited breath and the other typing on his cell phone. “What are you doing”? he demands from the youngest of the two Chilean helpers. “Who are you texting”? Putting the phone back in his pocket the young smuggler can see that the captain is not pleased. “You will say nothing of this” “Nothing” “Do you understand”? But this was all too late. The boy had already given a play by play via cell phone from the depths of the Gulf all the way to the Chilean hillside with every word he heard from the captain.
“I’m sorry Capitan” “I thought you would want to send word of this immediately”. Knowing then that Selso was not pleased he shrunk in the corner as the captain approached him with blood in his eyes and wickedness on his face. “You did what”? “What did you tell” “Who did you tell”? With his hand out beckoning the cell phone the nervous sailor handed it over and watched as the captain read and confirmed his worst fears. The punishment that would follow would be much worse than the one Garcon had received from Captain Hanks.
“You fool” the captain calmly said. Returning to his post at the helm, the captain worked the controls of the sub alone not speaking a word. Turning the sub to the west he increased the throttle and dove to deeper depth. Thinking of a way to cover up the leaking of the message of treasure to Augie in Chile the captain could not think. His mind was overcome and filled with which way to torture and kill his deckhand. Would he simply cut his throat? Would he surface the sub and tie the man to the outer deck and dive to deepest of depths cruising and imploding his body? The rage that filled Selso’s mind was blinding his decisions as a submarine captain. The treasure had to be his, he could not just hand this fortune over to the man he already felt slave to. All this pandemonium was cut short with when a familiar voice coming through the sub’s radio “Blood Beef to Black Shark, Blood Beef to Black Shark, come in Black Shark” It was a voice well recognized by Selso. It was the voice of Augie’s right hand man, or woman I should say, and the boss of the operation, Valentina Contreras. She was female and she was deadly, this Selso knew. And to not answer her call could come with its own set of displeasures. Selso knew that she knew of the gold and he also knew he had to answer her call. Shaking the thoughts of torture from his mind he grabbed the mic from the radio. Staring straight at his doomed sailor with squinting eyes he replied, “Yes Valentina, this is the Black Shark” …
Knowing Selso better than he thought, Valentina gave calm smooth orders without asking any questions of the gold. “Selso, you are to find a safe place to sit still and wait for my call back, do you understand”? Waiting only a second to reply, Selso knew himself that he needed time to sit and think out his plan and with just a calm reply “Si jefa” yes boss. Hanging up the radio Captain Selso Martinez Delossantos made his way west to sit close to the oil platforms that he had earlier seen, not saying a word.
CHAPTER 20: FISH ON!
Pulling up close to the oil rig platform in his skiff, Mearl the Pearl was twirling a dock line in the form of a lasso above his head. On a rougher day, he would have used a rig hook to anchor himself to the honey hole structure in 60’ of water. Hell, on a rough day he wouldn’t be out here in the skiff, he had other options. Today was dead calm and there was no danger in getting close to the rig legs that came out of the ocean. With a bull’s eye throw Big Daddy slung his loop thirty feet across the blue water and hooked a cleat on the lower catwalk of the platform. Giving out a “yeah baby”! he Let the rope out just far enough to position himself, in what he felt was a straight down drop to where the rig leg met the sea floor. He dogged off the rope to the side of the skiff and turned to his fishing rod. Mearl owned the day. In fact, he owned everything he had. The world was his oyster and he was the pearl. A man is rich in his soul and that’s all.
Panning the view of his surroundings, he went through a mental check list. Two tacos, menudo, water, 4 beers, half box frozen squid, 2 rods rigged out and spike buck pipe. Reaching into the front right pocket of his overalls and a relaxing sigh of relief, Big Daddy pulled out a handmade pipe that had been carved from an antler of a white tail spike buck deer. The old antler was well worn down and already packed with what he was smoking. Grabbing a lighter off the center console, he held the pipe to his lips and lite the end. Closing his eyes and holding in the heavy pull from the pipe, Mearl let the medicine sink in. Getting lost in his mind with feeling sorry for the rest of the world, Mearl let out the long trail of smoke from his lungs followed with what sounded like the beginning of Black Sabbath’s “Sweet Leaf”. Recovering his self and tuning into his new surroundings, the day just took on a whole new view. “Now it’s time to fish”! Getting into the ice chest in front of the console, he fetches the frozen squid and chunks it into an empty five-gallon bucket back by the outboard motor. Easing the bucket over the side, he fills it with some warm seawater to quickly thaw the bait. Spinning back around to shut the lid of the ice chest, Mearl catches a glimpse of the Luke warm menudo staring him in the face. Without hesitation he swoops up the styrofoam container, ripping the plastic top off with his teeth, and takes a few long gulps of the red brothy tripe. Chomping all its goodness and with it dripping down his chin, he sets the container on the console and throws the lid of the chest down. Now with the world in his perfect harmony, Mearl grabs a rod from the holder and screws up the word to a Joe Cocker tune “You Feeling Alright, I’m Feeling That Good Myself” bouncing to the rhythm in his head he puts a fresh piece of squid on his hook. Sending the hook, line and sinker straight to the bottom over the side of the boat. Mearl keeps a loose thumb on the spool of the reel as it unwinds to the bottom. As soon as he feels the bait hit the bottom he puts a stop to the loose reel and locks it in position. Giving it a few cranks to get the bait off the bottom, the rod is nearly yanked from his hands “Ew Ew Ew Fish On”!! he says out loud. Cranking the drag down on the reel and pulling back, he sets the hook. Mearl giggles all over and laughs “come to daddy baby” “come to daddy” “ha ha ha” as he cranks the lever of the reel retrieving his catch from the bottom.
Typically, Jones was a bay fisherman going after the speckled trout and redfish that populated the salt grass flats of the inner bay system along with running dozens of crab traps. Today was not that. Taking advantage of the slick calm offshore waters, Mearl has left his trout rods at home and rigged up with heavier gear like the Shimanno TDL 25 that he holds in his hands now. This reel mounted to a stiff tuna stick was capable of battling what he was hooked up with now, maybe a nice snapper, amber jack or ling. No stranger to this territory either, the Pearl braces himself and grips the rod tightly in his hands. Pulling back on the rod, then quickly leaning forward and reeling at the same time, Mearl pumps the rod, gaining on the fish. Then it’s the fish’s turn, running the opposite direction ripping line from the spool in an attempt to tangle itself in the barnacle clustered legs of the rig, which would surely cut the line and free the fish. Mearl is quite aware of the game at hand and doesn’t give his opponent a second to rest. With the rod completely doubled over, and letting the fish have his turn, Big Daddy pulls back hard and cranks the handle. “Oh baby, fish on, fish on”! Pumped with adrenaline, he plays tug a war with the fish and is excited to see it surface. Taking a step back from the edge of the boat to gain leverage with the rod, his elbow hits the open container of menudo setting on the console and sends the red greasy broth plummeting to the deck of the aluminum boat. “Son of a bitch”! he blurts, still juggling the rod in his hands. All this commotion has the 16’ aluminum skiff rocking side to side and the spilled menudo with its chunky pieces of tripe, homony and red greasy broth spreading itself everywhere. Planting his foot dead center of the spilled mess, and pulling back on the rod, Mearl the Pearl has just become airborn. Both legs flying out from under him on the slick deck of the boat and landing flat on his back Mearl hits the deck with the sound of a wet sack of potatoes. Letting out a “Uhg” and losing grip of the rod, it slips from his hand. Lying flat on his back trying to comprehend what is happening, thinking “oh my God, my world is falling apart” Jones quickly catches his snap and scrambles for the loose rod on the deck that’s quickly making its way overboard. Numb from shock, but knowing something must hurt, he reaches in desperation just as the rod goes over the side of the boat. Thrusting his hand beneath the surface of clear blue water he grabs hold of the very end of the rod. Putting the handle of the stubby tuna stick in a death grip, Mearl lay flat on his belly, with one arm submerged to his shoulder holding on to the rod that still has his fish attached.
Catching his breath and still feeling the pull at the end of his rod, he gets to his feet and steps to the opposite side of the transom and away from the slick death trap on the deck of the boat. The disappointment he feels of the whole situation is equal to the irony of not getting to finish the remainder of the warm gut soup that now lay smeared across the deck of the boat. Shaking his head, he gains focus on the fish again “you fucking fish”! “come here” Mearl the Pearl is done playing and within a minute can see color coming up from the bottom. The red color of the snapper matches the beet red colors of the Pearl’s face. A few more pulls and the snapper is done for. When the fish floats to the top, the exhausted fisherman leans over with his gaff and pulls the sow snapper over the side of the gunnel. Plopping down in the back corner of the skiff, still panting heavily and a little shook up, Jones stares at his catch shaking his head “Son of a bitch, baby” “Damn”.
Feeling confused, between the shame of his clumsiness and the thrill of his victory, Mearl straightens out his ball cap and reaches into his pocket for the spike buck. Taking a long puff off the pipe he scans the horizon around him to see if anyone has witnessed this rare moment in his life. Looking back at the rigs behind him and then back to himself he quickly looks back again, catching the sight of what looks some sort of pipe sticking up from the water. Shaking his head and wiping his eyes he looks again just in time to see this pipe disappear below the surface. Taking another long pull from the pipe “Gad damn Big Daddy, you’re seeing submarines”.
Looking down to the surface of the deck, Mearl spots several pieces of tripe from the soup within arm’s length. Reaching over to gather them up, he pops them in his mouth,”5 second rule baby, 5 seconds”
With the smoke relaxing his mind and chewing on the tripe, Jones stares at the fish, “let’s get you in the ice chest, girl” and picking himself up he grabs the monster snapper and shoves her in the ice. Putting the images of submarines and spilled soup out of his mind he regains his composure, sloshes a five-gallon bucket of saltwater across the deck and baits another hook.
CHAPTER 21: Deceit Under Water 2
Like a fly on the wall, the two deckhands of the Black Shark take turns watching the disaster take place aboard the fisherman’s boat just 300 yards away. Their laughs are cut short with evil stares from the captain. “Periscope down” is the first words the caption has spoken since he was given the order to sit and wait. Selso Martinez is in a scramble for thought. The gold spilling from the Vietnamese shrimper’s hands and spilling to the deck is rewound and replayed in his mind. Everything he witnessed through the periscope is a burnt image and can’t be shook from his blank stare. He can hear the gold coins as they hit the deck echoing in his ears. His plate is full of greed, rage and deceit and it’s blinded his ability to think clearly. He knows the radio is giving orders to fetch the treasure and return home. The captain of the Black Shark is on the brink of a melt down and shows no signs of being the calm, cool leader of the Blood Beef Cartel that he once was.
“Black Shark bring home the gold” the command is given from the black widow again herself. “Do you copy”? “I repeat, do you copy”? Selso completely blind and lost in his trance ignores the radio. Sitting in the captain’s chair just a few feet from the radio, beads of sweat roll down the side of his pitted face. The cigarette that he holds burns into the stained fingers that hold it. “SELSO MARTINEZ”! “DO YOU…….” Ripping the radio from its mount, tearing the communication lines loose, he slams the radio against the wall between the heads of the two petrified mates. With this single act, the radio is silenced and the fate of the crew sealed. Not being able to think of what to say was answered with saying nothing at all.
Selso knows the decision he has just made is permanent. There is no looking back or asking for forgiveness with this type of betrayal. Not responding to the call of Valentina has only bought the captain a matter of maybe three days before the search party would be on his trail.
Now committed to his cause, he is able to think. The decision has been made. This also has allowed him to temporarily let go of the rage toward the second mate, for the task ahead would require all the help he could get. So, the young Chilean, oblivious to chain of command, has been given a stay of execution. For now at least. All that was left to do with is get the treasure. Getting a chest of gold from a couple shrimpers, he grinned to himself, should be like taking candy from a baby, or so he thinks.
CHAPTER 22: Viva la Texas
Hanging up the phone with Valentina, Augusto Pinochet’s’ is feeling confirmation and sadness for the task that lies in front of him. The man he once loved has now mistaken his kindness for weakness and will need to disappear. Augie will help him with this gladly. Scrambling through a pile of passports in the top drawer of his dresser, the leader of the Blood Beef picks out three US passports; one for him, one for Carmel and one for Christo. Augusto Pinochet’s and his beloved family are headed to Galveston, TX. The difference between Augie and his gang is that he and his family won’t be making a treacherous hike across the top of the Andes into Argentina. They won’t be making a rigorous boat ride along the coast of South America and they won’t be stuck under water on a two-week sub voyage to the Gulf of Mexico. No sir, they will be leaving shortly to Santiago, Chile to board the first-class section of a 747 jetliner and traveling nonstop to Houston, Texas. The 7-hour plane ride will provide not only comfort and luxury but will allow Augie time to make his plans. He is smart enough to know that neither getting rid of Selso or obtaining the treasure on his own would be an easy feat. He would need help.
Taking the time to patiently explain to Carmel, Augie lays out what has happened, what they have found and what he must do. Without any hesitation, Carmel gets up from where they sit on the back patio, takes a slow look at the country side, and walks towards the bedroom to pack their things. Putting her hand on her husband’s shoulder before she walks inside she asks, “Is there anything you need me to do Amor”? “Yes, book us the next flight out and please find us a nice place to stay on Galveston Island, something overlooking the ocean”. “Yes, my love”.
Scrolling through the search engine Carmel quickly finds the flight she is looking for and books it (SCL) to (HOU) departing at 6:30 am tomorrow morning. That was the easy part, “now a nice place to stay”. Scrolling through the five star resorts Carmel, knowing Augie had the business end under control, envisions her and Christo playing on the beach in a faraway land while daddy handled things. This was a vacation. Scrolling down she has found what she is looking for. “Built above the old cannon bunkers of World War II on Galveston island, come enjoy are full ocean view, all five star amenities, pool, spa and luxurious restaurants at the Sand Castle Inn and Resort”. “Done, now let’s pack”.
On the back porch still sitting in his chair, Augie’s wheels are in motion. Picking up his cell and calls Valentina back. “Ola Jefe” a raspy female voice answers on the other end. “Yes Valentina, I have a job for you. Be ready to leave in the morning, you will be coming with us to Galveston, TX”.
“Si Augusto, I will be ready”. Augie hangs up the phone and calls out loud into the house without breaking his gaze from the back porch. “Carmel, Valentina will be coming along. Please book her a ticket”. “Yes love”.
Carmel understood the arrangement of the members of the Blood Beef and considered Valentina Augie’s working wife. She had no problem with him doing business with her and her handling business for him. She was the only one allowed this kitchen pass. But even with the respectful understanding, she grinned as she booked Valentina’s airfare coach and her room on the ground floor rather than the penthouse as theirs was at the Sand Castle.
CHAPTER 23: RED FISH AND SUBMARINES
Easing back off the yoke and leveling out at 500’ above the sparkling salt waters that Philip called home, the sun was up and so was he. Throttled back to 2000rpm put him at about 85mph and with the cool morning air everything was smooth. Working his view from left to right, he could see the whole world, his world. Just 10 miles off the shoreline, Phil banked the plane 30 degrees left and locked in a heading of 90 degrees, eastbound. Looking to the left, his view was unobstructed and pulled in sights well beyond the Island all the way to Houston, Texas. Straight ahead he could see his target of Sabine Pass in the distance and to the right, the Gulf of Mexico as far as the eye could see. In the next few miles he would radio down to signal the commercial boats at the pass advising he was in the air and headed their way. In the meantime, he did what he loved the best when flying over the Gulf, take the bird down to sea level, push full throttle and put the water just a few feet below his pontoons. This was a thrill and gave real account of the speed of the aircraft.
Spooked schools of fish jumped left and right scrambling from the shadow of the low aircraft skimming just above the water. Looking over his left shoulder, Phil could see the water zooming by at a blur. Looking at his instruments, he was cruising at 130mph above the water, rising slightly up and down with the flat swells, and loving it. Looking straight again the water was looking congested with offshore boats, trawlers and some shallow platforms ahead, because he was not supposed to be at this altitude anyway he pulled back on the controls nice and firm, pulling the attitude of the craft a little beyond its designed range and making a nice steep climb back up to 500’. “Whoo Hoo”! “Ok back to business” Scanning the horizon again and assured he was all alone up there, Phil pulled the throttle back to cruise range again. Still several miles out from radioing the fishing boats, he looks out far on the water to the south and sees the first line of rigs where the water drops to 60’ deep and some of the good fishing starts for offshore. With the water slick, this summer morning, he’s surprised the Gulf isn’t packed with recreational fishers at each rig leg. All Phil can see is one small skiff tied up to the corner of a rig with a single angler aboard.
As he took off just minutes ago and broke across the dunes to the surf, still making his climb, he had made a quick pass down to San Luis Pass and he got a good look at that old man and his dog that he’d seen from the bridge last night. The old man was loading up the camper shell truck and packing, what was surely an ice chest full of fish, he just got a glimpse of the dog jumping into the front seat of the truck, to accompany the old fella home, before the old angler pulled the door shut. Making a lazy circle in the sky as he climbed, watched as the old man and his dog gained speed in the truck. He could see this old timer was not aiming to get stuck in the thick sand that made the access road off the beach. As the camper shelled GMC made a hard-left turn to aim at the road leading from the beach Phil could see the truck damn near get on two wheels with tires slinging the thick sand behind the truck. From his vantage point in the sky Philip Allen could catch the profile of the old man in the cab smiling ear to ear as he slung sand at some campers in a pop up tent. It was no doubt him and that dog were having fun and “not getting stuck” he thought.
Now getting closer to Sabine pass reaching for the radio he dials in 123.3 and triggers the mic. and calls in, “Sky patrol to Jodi Blonde” “Sky patrol to the Jodi Blonde” “come in Jodi Blonde”…… A rough Cajun voice comes back “Yes dis her da Jodi blon, sky pa troll, Good afternoon” “come back”… “Hey skipper, you got your eyes in the sky, give me a few minutes and I’ll let you know what I see”, knowing the comment of good afternoon meant Phil was running a little behind, he goes into work mode……. “Roga dat sky pa troll, you remeba what dose red fish look like from up dare”? …..”10-4 skipper”….. “Din go find us some pleez” ?
Lowering his altitude to 100’ off the surface of the waters, Phil buzzes the top of the Jodi Blonde for good measure and making the deck hands flinch. “dat crazy ass boy”.
The Gulf’s slickness was starting to fade to a slight wrinkle on top of the water. Still easy to see, Phil pulled the throttle back a little slowing to 70mph. At this speed, he could maneuver around and not worry about stalling out at the low altitude. From this high in the sky he’s able to make out several distinct shapes in the water below. Schools of mullet cluster in large groups by the thousands. All shoulder to shoulder, or fin to fin I should say, pecking at the top of the water as they work their way along the coast. Surrounding several of the schools of mullet are the larger shadows of shark as they make their way into sneak attack the oblivious schools of fish. Like torpedos the large dark shadows dart randomly into the large mass of mullet thrashing and aimlessly chomping at whatever will fill their mouth. The scattered cluster of fish opens up their tight circle of safety and the surface of the water is alive. Within a few seconds the circle tightens back up and the larger shadows continue patrol on the outside where the cycle will repeat itself again and again. Seeing this from the sky never gets old Philip thinks as he turns his attention to what he’s looking for. Immediately he spots the distinct nervous water and the tails of a thousand colors just a mile in front of the Jodi Blonde by a small chain of Islands that pop up from the deep. These islands, mainly consisting of oyster reef are not only the harvest grounds for the finest of oysters but a heaven for large schools of slot redfish, the harvestable size. “Yeah skipper this is your eye in the sky and we got you a group of what you are looking for, maintain your course for one more mile, and just east of Goat Island.” ……. “Roga dat eye in da sky” “roger dat, AHEE!!” … “should be enough there to keep yall busy all morning” … “You my boy up dere Philip Allen, you my boy” “Ahee”!!! And with that Phil could look down and see the Jodi Blonde increasing her speed, pushing white water off her bow.
Having made it look to easy, Phil thought a good idea to hang around for a bit and appease the skipper of the Jodi Blonde. After all keeping that boat happy was a paycheck. With the morning bite still on, he looks for a good place to make a water landing and do a little fishing of his own. Bringing home a few nice trout to fry up always put a smile on that girl from south Louisiana’s face. And he could use some brownie points with whole truck situation. With the skipper after redfish Philip knew these parts of the Gulf also held a few nice trout and an occasional flounder. With the Islands popping up from the deep gulf waters almost twenty miles offshore, you never knew what you might hook. Lining up with the west side of Goat Island, and the opposite side of where he had just sent the boats, Phil throttles back and aims for a slick strip of protected water.
Slowing the air speed down on the pontooned 172 Phil trims back the tab and makes the approach. Working the controls is second nature as any field landing he ponders a thought “I wonder why they named it Goat Island”? “maybe some storm blew a goat out there a long time ago and some pirates found it and ate it or something”? “maybe it used to look like a goat”? dismissing the useless thoughts Phil reaches down and pulls back all throttle, and with nose up, he lets his floating time machine stall out just as she touches the wet runway. Skiing across the water he is exhilarated, “this never gets old”, as he aims the flying boat towards shore.
Beaching the pontoons just on the edge of sand shell shore he pulls back the mixture and kills the engine of the plane. Pulling off the headset and tossing it to the passenger seat, where one Theresa Denee’ refuses to sit unless the bird is grounded in the hanger, Phil can feel the coolness of the air on his ears. Theresa Denee’ was tough, she was brave, she was passionate for life and her ass wasn’t getting in no small airplane piloted by some crazy ass Island electrician. She had made the point loud and clear to Philip for the last three years. He figured “maybe one of these days”. Shaking the thought off with a smirk Phil opened the door of the plane and stepped out onto the pontoon. With the engine off and the fishing boats still a mile out it was dead quiet. Stopping in this moment in time he closes his eyes and listens. The water rippling and echoing inside the hollow aluminum pontoons and the weight of the plane nudged into the small shells of the beach is all he can hear. The radio starts to blurt some Cajun gibberish by the excited crew of the approaching boat and Phil quickly reaches to turn it off, not disturbing his moment. Taking in some deep breaths, and smelling the distinct smells of salt water and shell, the air is fragrantly mixed with what some would call the smell of watermelon. “Ah, where yall at”? Phil knew this smell was the spotted fish that he and his buddies chased in these parts. Reaching in the back of the plane he felt for a two-piece trout rod that he quickly snapped together. Setting on the floor behind the pilot’s seat, a small plastic box full of various artificial lures of magnificent colors and a small looped up stringer. With gear in hand, Phil steps oh so softly from the plane not to disturb his surroundings and stands in 10 inches of cool clear water. Taking a dock line and tying it off to the plane he steps up onto the shore and he attaches the other end to a large drift wood tree that has found its self a home on the island.
Goat Island was long and narrow, deep on one side and shallow on the other. All the way down the curvy mile stretch it was littered with gifts from the sea. All mainly collected on the shallow side that faced south and received things from afar with every storm that pushed its way into the Gulf. Like a mother, standing on the front porch, with her arms wide open ready for a running child to jump in them, the Island welcomed all that drifted onto its shores. Drift wood of all shapes and sizes making the voyage from who knows where, carcasses of dead fish drying in the sun, glass bottles and occasional trash and debris all decorated the shoreline and made for great treasure hunting.
Noting that the plane wasn’t going to be swept away with a sudden breeze, Philip turns his focus to the spotted watermelon patch that lay just under the surface close by. Popping open the lure box he makes his first choice fast, a gray one nock spook top water, he ties on the bait in seconds. Easing back into the morning tide, rod in hand, the sun has stolen away the last bit of coolness of the day. Taking one last look behind him to see the approaching boats he tunes out any responsibilities of the day and makes a cast.
Sending the top water lure sailing through the air, Phil feels the line leaving the reel under his thumb and watches as the lure touches down in the undisturbed water 100 feet ahead. This is the most exciting cast for an angler of the coast. Breaking the virgin area with enticements of something that looks like food to a hungry speckled trout. What is it about fooling a predator to take the bait? Letting the plug float a few seconds on its own, Phil starts to give the bait a twitch or two and then slowly retrieve the line with a steady popping of the rod. Fish talk may refer to this as walking the dog. Walking the lure back his direction is just another part of the hydrotherapy session taking place this morning.
Philip ran with a small group of guys he grew up with on the island. All had grown up in years and found their trade in life. But when it was time to go on group fishing expeditions, the small group of clowns reverted to childhood instantly. This was known among the boys as hydrotherapy. A way to shake off the stress that daily life can bring with any given set of circumstances. Yeah, something about the saltwater just shakes the blues right from your soul.
Retrieving the bait, he makes another cast just to the right of his first. This time the line under his thumb is wet and sends a tiny mist of water on his hand that holds the rod while it spins out off the spool. The lure touches down and before it can be given a twitch, the water explodes underneath it sending the top water plug and its assassin three feet in the air. Whipping back the rod, a natural jerking motion, to set the hook Phil brings tension to the line. “YES”! Focused now 100 feet in front of him, Phil neither tries to reel or relax but maintain and watch the hooked trout thrash and dance on the surface of the water. The salty angler knows the fish has soft lips and to be too aggressive can rip the lure free instantly and sends the damaged fish on its way. Being patient and enjoying the moment, he thumbs back the drag just a touch careful not to put too much strain on the line and starts to reel his catch in.
Getting the fish in is only half the battle. Not using a dip net and trying to get a grip on the back of the slick trout’s head is the other. Gaining and watching the line dart left and right in the water he can feel the sow trout thrashing her head underwater desperately trying to let go of the lure. Keeping steady tension on the line and gently retrieving the fish, he has her within arm’s reach in a short time. Putting his rod in his left hand, he holds it high above his head and reaches down gently with the other to pin the 6lb spotted fish between his hand and thigh and grip the back of its neck. Picking the fish out of the water, Philip looks at the brilliant yellows and reds that make the colors inside the mouth of the toothy game fish. “Nice” he says out loud reaching for his back-belt loop to undo a small stringer and slip through the catche’s mouth. Throwing the fish down to the water and attaching the stringer to his hip he rinses his hand, Gives them a smell, and makes another cast in the same spot.
CHAPTER 24: Sea Castle Cannon Bunkers
Leaning against the balcony, at the top floor, of the Sand Castle Resort, Capt’ Terry takes in the morning of “his” Gulf of Mexico. Wearing nothing but a pair of white fuzzy bath slippers and the gold chain around his neck the double glass doors behind him reflect the naked image of a dried prune. Blocked from view of the outside world, unless you’re a beach comber with binoculars not minding your business or a ship at sea, nothing could invade the privacy of his penthouse suite that faced the ocean. A regular piece of furniture at the Wharf Rat Lounge, the capt’ did enjoy the finer things in life, but nothing here is like where he came from and hanging at the lounge Monday thru Friday helped him stay grounded to that, plus he lived for nautical nostalgia. Today was Saturday and his day off from telling his salty tales of years on the sea to patrons and strangers alike at the lounge. Yes sir, Saturday and Sunday were for days of luxury at the resort and the putting of good money to use. Keeping one of the glass doors slid open allowing the cold air of the apartment to flow out to the patio, captain Terry enjoyed a cup of hot green tea. He’d swapped out the coffee for tea years ago on a trip to Asia and found it more his speed. Leaning back from the handrail, Terry laughed to himself with the thoughts of his favorite Island boy driving up in that piece of shit truck last night and the thoughts of Theresa chewing his ass for getting it. Sipping his tea, he found a seat on a nice lush piece of outdoor furniture and sat down to relax. The captain enjoyed his life here at the resort and truly embraced his morning time. Having to call down each morning for room service of hot green tea and a giant-sized gourmet cinnamon roll had ended years ago. The staff brought it in now like clockwork. Anything for the captain. They just wished he’d put some clothes on.
Just because the doorbell rang at his suite was no reason in his mind to change a thing he was doing inside, not even getting dressed to answer the door. The captain’s wordrobe outside the doors of his paradise was the same white shirt, khaki pants grab that he wore at the lounge, but once inside he preferred to go nude. Not just sometimes, but all the time. The long grey pony tail, the fuzzy white house slippers, the gold medallion and a smile was all he was wearing inside. On rare occasions when inviting a guest over, which were few, the charismatic sailor would slip into a bathrobe.
Taking an oversized bite of the sticky pastry, captain Terry packed the whole bite to one side of his mouth so he could chew and read out loud to himself at the same time. Looking like a chipmonk on one side of his mouth, he sips some tea to clear his throat and begins reading the morning paper. Mumbling the words aloud to only the breeze on the balcony, he takes an occasional glance to the sea catching small glimpses of the day coming to life. The words on the paper fell to the floor as he read, not caring what they said. Reading with one eye can be a bore. His thoughts were on his weekend, sushi at Yomatos with a few young ladies in town, a massage after lunch followed by a nap back at the house. After that a few laps across the pool and then a cocktail or four at the swim up Tiki bar. Sometimes things got fun downstairs at the pool with the capitan in the mix. On more than one occasion he’s woke up in the hot tub and needed help back to his room.
After creating the perfect day in his head, he grabbed another mouthful of the warm bun and put some focus to matters of business. He knew he was having a sit down with Philip soon about “things” that set well below the penthouse, and he was good with that. He’d recently made up his mind that Philip was getting the whole enchilada.
Settling his thoughts on all agendas the captain pops the last bite of breakfast in his mouth, washing it down with the tea and gets up for a stretch. Noticing his full length naked body in the glass door he gives himself a wink “you stud” and heads inside for a shower. Walking through the lushly furnished living room, the naked seventy-year-old looks at the fish in his full wall 1200-gallon saltwater aquarium. Passing it by he wonders “what goes through the mind of a tropical fish living in captivity 40 stories high in the air of a penthouse suite? Smirking at the fish “I bet you guys wish I’d put some clothes on huh”? Tapping on the glass, he heads on to the shower whistling a random version of “Sittin on the Dock of the Bay”. “Remember, naked just means a man with no clothes on”.
The shower steams of hot water the instant its turned on. Quickly rising to the air, it fogs the mirror that reflects images from the bedroom. On the dresser lay a small handmade jewelry box with its lid open and the captain stands in front of it raking his hands across the top making the sound of coin clattering together. The hot water runs down the drain of the high-rise shower, down, down, down it goes through the pipes to the bottom floor of the Sand Castle. The drainage pipes continue down into the basement and below that to the old cannon bunkers on which the resort was built. From there into the city’s drainage system. A pipe leading through the old WWII bunker drips a small leak and gathers a wet spot in the sand. And with Captain Terry four thousand feet above the bunker the warm water from his shower slowly saturates the sand around his fortune.
CHAPTER 25: THE CHASE
Within striking range of the two shrimp boats, Selso has the Proud Mary in his sights. With the Black Shark well equipped with two loaded and working torpedo tubes, he knows these are not the right tool for the job. In broad daylight just surfacing is a risk. The Coast Guard station was not far away, much less exploding two shrimp boats just 15 miles from shore would make recovery of the treasure impossible. This act of piracy was going to have to be up close and personal, just like the good old days he thought. Signaling the deck hands to lock and load their assault rifles he begins rattling off his plan in Spanish. Taking another look through the view finder of the scope, he can tell the boats were still tied together but making preparation for making way. Not ready for any added conflict to the situation Selso increases the speed of the sub to full throttle, actually creating a wake on the surface just over ten feet above. Sitting still or not he has no intention of the shrimpers getting away.
Closing the gap between the Proud Mary and the Black Shark, Selso continues to bark orders at the wide eyed Chilean hands. The two scramble in frantic directions trying to appease the captain’s every word knowing that he has sealed their fate and they were as good as dead anyways. The only chance they had was with some sort of mutiny which neither had the courage to do alone at this point.
Having gathered what senses they could Duck, Dang and Hanks begin straightening up their mess. First by getting the slack net off the sea floor and sorting the catch. Shrimp in the ice hole and everything else overboard. Clean up the disastrous net and Replace it with a fresh net from atop the wheelhouse. Getting the deck cleaned off and rigging the nets was gonna take the better part of the morning, so with each man focused on a task they began to make short order of getting the Proud Mary back into normal operation. With the muscle of all three men they were able to get the treasure tightly collected and well covered with a few burlap oyster sacks. All working together, they shoved the chest against the back side of the cabin and secured it.
Still aboard the Crazy Cajun and in time out, Garcon stretched out on the bottom bunk of his rack in the wheelhouse and stared at his broken phone. Rethinking his situation and how he got there. “maybe I need to say sorry to Uncle Hanks”? “maybe I need to stay in here like he told me”? “maybe I need to shut up”? The poor boy was still a little confused but knew he had done wrong by grabbing the radio and spilling his guts. He just couldn’t help it he thought. When he got excited it just went from ears to guts to mouth, completely bypassing the brain. Picking at the mattress of the top bunk, he made up his mind and sprung up from the bed, “im gonna say sorry to Uncle Hanks” and headed for the back deck of the boat.
Shoving the last of the trash fish overboard of the Proud Mary, and having iced down the shrimp, the dead seafood filtered in the water around the boats as it sank down in the deep blue water. The now high in the sky sun shown rays of light down as far as 40 feet deep allowing one to see what lurked below. The trash fish always creates an amazing chum line for hungry predators of the deep. The sinking buffet of food is conquered by one of two things when cleaning the decks, porpoise or sharks. If the docile intelligent dolphin where around, there was never a shark to be seen. If porpoise were off on other missions, the sharks were sure to dominate and devour anything that was pushed over the edge of the boat. This morning there were no flippers and now was no time to be falling overboard.
Stepping out on the back deck and keeping his mouth shut, Garcon headed towards the gunnel of the boat that was tied to the Proud Mary. Looking across to see all three men hard at work and focused on their task, Maurice found the courage to keep his mouth shut. Not to interrupt and just stare at the trash fish sinking slowly around both boats. Staring down deep in the clear water it didn’t take long for him to spot serval large bull sharks having a heyday with the dead fish. He watched as hundreds of small black tip darted in between the dominate bull sharks getting their share of the food as well.
Looking up from the depths to glance back at the men working aboard the Proud Mary, Garcon saw something he couldn’t comprehend coming their way. The water 100 yards to the east of them was swelled and raised in a straight line. Like a scene from jaws where the megalodon shark is just breaching the water chasing some unsuspecting slalom skier in a yellow bikini. (This particular scene in 1975 kept me out of the deep end of the swimming pool for an entire summer. I still think of it from time to time. Holy shit that was scary!)
With his mind made up not to speak out of line, this situation has taken away his ability to speak even more. The coon ass motor mouth who once held the ability to blurt out uncontrollable blunders of emotion was for the first time at a loss for words, what timing! Watching as the straight swell got closer by the second, the boy was also able to make out the dark shadow below the surface that was creating the swell. Long and black, Garcon knew he was witnessing the largest shark attack anyone had ever witnessed in the history of the world. With all he had deep within his poor little soul, the words found their way to his lips. Pointing straight at the object “SSHH, SHH, SHH SHARK!!!!!!!!!!” SHARK”!!!!!!!
The men looked up from their completed task with aggravation more than surprise. For all the men, knew the waters were probably full of sharks feeding on the trash thrown overboard. They stared at Garcon with his finger Point well away from the boats towards the east. Simultaneously restearing their direction, and focusing on the approaching shadow, all three on the Proud Mary knew something big was headed their way and it wasn’t a shark, well kinda.
Pulling back on the controls, and within striking range, Selso surfaces the sub and maintains full speed head. He knows the sides of the trawlers are no match for the nose of the submarine and by ramming the boats hard enough he can disorient the crew and gain the element of surprise. He then plans to spring his henchmen from the vessel’s hatch, attack the crew, grab the treasure and be on his merry way. Simple as 1,2,3. Not!
Bracing themselves for impact, and ready at the hatch, the two Chilean pirates look at each other with discontent. The younger of the two knows he is dead either way. After they get the treasure Selso is going to kill him. If they turn on Selso and mutiny, the sub Augie and Valentina will track him down for being associated with Selso’s evil plan and kill him. Tightening his grip, he succumbs to his fate. The older of the two is still in the good grace of the captain and feels his chances 60/40. 60 being not good. All three inside the submarine lose there since of rank as they prepare for the impact and the attack to follow.
Watching the submarine come full surface right before their eyes, Duck and Hanks know it’s on a mission. Somehow this gold has already cursed them. They say all treasure comes with its curses, some good, some not so good. Springing to action, both captains know they need to get out of the way of this bullet that’s headed towards them. Duck runs to the helm of the Proud Mary starting her motor as Dang unleashes the Crazy Cajun from her stern. Making a leaping dive across the gunnel from boat, to boat Captain Hanks scrambles to his controls and throws the already idle motor into full forward. With the two trawlers parting ways under full thrust they separate just as the sub skims between them. Not quite missing the Crazy Cajun completely, the Black Shark takes a small bite from her stern sending Garcon to the deck and knocking himself cold on the pulley of the wench. Both captains realizing the bullet they’ve dodged, they both turn north and race for the safety of the harbor at Port Bolivar peninsula.
“Raise the hatch and man the deck”!! Selso screams with the panic of missing his first attempted attack. Turning the sub in a large ark he is easily able to gain position in front of the trawlers again. Blocking the path of the fully displaced hulls of the trawlers is easy and no match to the aerodynamics and speed of the sub. Scrambling to the deck with the fully automatic weapons the Chilean pirates take aim at the oncoming shrimp boats. Screaming orders from the helm straight above his head to the open hatch, the captain of the Black Shark is in full pirate mode. He feels oblivious to failure and numb to death. Selso Martinez is finally in control again.
Relaying the distance to impact from the deck, the captain pulls hard to right, and like a midget racer sliding into a parallel parking spot he turns the sub sideways making an eighty-foot roadblock for the oncoming trawlers. With the deckhands dead aimed at the cockpits of both shrimp boats their bows lower and the white water cresting from both boats subsides indicating them coming to a stop on the water. Just less than ten yards apart the chase has come to an end. Poking up through the hatch to the deck to join his henchmen, Captain Selso Delossantos Martinez steps on to the deck of his ship. And with hands held high, both captains and crew appear from their wheelhouses, all conscious crew that is.
CHAPTER 26: RED FISH AND SUBMARINES 2
It’s hard to leave’em biting, and had his hydrotherapy crew been along they wouldn’t have, but the sun was getting high and it was time to get home. Philip pulled his stringer of 6 equally nice trout, a red and 2 flounder, to the plane and loaded up his gear. Leaning into check on the Jodi Blonde he turned on the radio. “How bout you skipper”? ‘come back” “sky patrol to Jodi blonde, you copy” …….” Yeah boy, you got da Jodi blonde” …. “how’s it look skipper? You boys ok”?…….. “Yeah man, we good, we real good” “You go fly home now Philip Allen” ……” Yes, sir skipper, we see ya next weekend, yall be safe, out” …. “roger dat, out”
Stowing away the fish and gear, he unties the bow and gives the plane a shove around, aiming her in the opposite direction. Springing up into the pilot seat, the heat of the day has taken over and the cockpit is warm. Leaving both doors open and cracking all the windows, he fires up the engine. Just the idle prop speed pulls the 172 across the water with ease distancing them from the Island and putting the plane in deeper water. The slick water has turned to light chop in the last few hours. Phil lines up his imaginary runway, clear of all obstacles, and pushes full throttle. Parting the water with the pontoons they are quickly on a full plane and skimming across the water and gaining speed. 60, 65, 70 mph he pulls back gently on the yoke and feels the skies pull loose from the water. Drops of salty rain fall down from the plane like a wet dog as she climbs into the sky.
Banking to the left and climbing to 500’ ASL the boats below shrink to toy-size figures on the water. Phil can see he’s done his job for the day. The Jodi Blonde and crew have their hands full with the large schools of redfish below and the assuring smile of a call back for next weekend stretches across his face. Maintaining the distance from shore, he sets heading of 270 degrees, pulls back the throttle to cruise speed, and reaches down to turn off the radio and transponder. Flying back with the transponder and radio off makes him feel invisible in the sky and any problems of the day can belong to someone else. Thumbing through a collection of music the selection is made “Jimmy Buffett’s, Banana wind”. Patching the head set into the instrumental melody, Phil kicks back to enjoy the short 20-minute ride home and gets lost in the view from 500’.
Getting lost in the music the track rolls to “King of somewhere hot”. Knowing Theresa is still in lala land at the hangar, and a few hours from awakening, he toys with the thought of taking his time in the sky seeing a few sights on his way in. After all, he is the king of somewhere hot as well. Maintaining altitude and no thoughts of low altitude thrill rides, Phil pans the surface with all its identifiable features. Oil rig platforms, small white caps breaking the surface of the water into little white spots, offshore fishing yachts coming and going, shrimp boat on the hook catching a nap and waiting for dark, long black submarines cruising the surface of the……” What the hell”?!! Phil does a double take of the surface below and drops the nose for a closer look.
His whole life on the Island has provided spectacles of many different things on and off the water. The only submarine he’s ever seen is the WWII deco USS Cavalla that’s a permanent fixture to the sea floor at seawolf Park just off the port. Taking a quick look left and right he banks the plane hard left and down. Bringing the surface of the water closer by the second the long dark shadow that was clear as day just a few minutes ago is becoming a blur under the water and making Phil rethink what he just saw. Continuing the steep dive, and aimed directly at the object, Philip maintains his course, slowly watching the obstacle disappear to the depths.
“maybe that was a whale shark”? dismissing the whole thing he banks the plane back hard left to 270 degrees and watches a shrimp boat racing for the peninsula “them boys must running in for more ice” he thinks. As they did seem out of place with every other shrimp boat on the hook catching a nap. Climbing back up to desired altitude, the flying time machine continues its course.
Not sure of what they had gotten themselves into or how so quick, the crew of the Proud Mary and Crazy Cajun knew this had to do with the treasure and they stood dead still with hands up on the bows of their boats. Staring at the young Latin gunmen, and waiting to surely meet their demise, the only sound was the slapping of the water on the boats and the rumble of all three vessels at idle. Appearing from the hatch of the submarine and barking his first order “Kill your motors”!!! stood a 5 foot 5-inch-tall man with dark complexion. Wearing dark blue wool pants, stained long sleeve button up shirt and general’s hat, that came from somewhere not from here, he joined his two gunmen on the deck of the sub.” KILL YOUR MOTORS NOW”!!! he barked again as all three vessels floated closer together.
Regaining consciousness on the back deck, and missing all that has transpired, Garcon awakes “is da shark still here”? “did you see da shark”? Stumbling to his feet on the back deck, and out of view completely from all on the front of the boats, Maurice holds his hand to his head feeling a goose egg knot. Still off balance he falls his way into the cockpit looking for his uncle Hanks. “Uncle Hanks, did you see da shark”? Losing balance completely Garcon falls hands first to the controls of the Crazy Cajun turning the wheel and shoving the throttle full forward. Lunging the boat forward he is thrown back off his feet and knocked cold again slamming his head against the cabinet in the galley.
The Crazy Cajun somehow is under full power lurching forward and to the right throws Captain Hanks from his feet and to the hard steel deck of the boat. This sudden act of fleeing is answered by the gunners with rattling gunfire. Bouncing off the side of the steel hauled trawler and shooting out the glass and instrument panel, the boat veers to the right missing the back of the floating submarine and makes away from the scene. Continuing to scream “SHOOT THEM”!! the obvious leader of the sub crew, points at the Crazy Cajun as she makes her getaway. The bullets pepper the water around the trawler as she gets out of range.
Shocked and feeling left behind Duck and Dang stare face to face with the captain of the submarine and his crew. The short leader steps in front of his gunmen and straightening his attire speaks “I am Captain Selso Delossantos Martinez” “I am the Captain of the Black Shark” “I am the senior member of the Blood Beef Cartel from Chile” “And I am here for your treasure” “NOW KILL YOUR MOTOR”!!!!!! Leaning into the cabin Dang kills the ignition of the Proud Mary and all is quiet.
Stepping onto the deck of the Proud Mary Selso orders the two shrimpers held gunpoint while he makes his way around the vessel. The smell of dead shrimp is heavy in the air on the back deck. The sun is straight above and has heated the steel deck and its catch below. Running out of ice was not part of the plan today and the spoiling shrimp below are letting themselves be known. Quick survey of the area reveals what the wicked captain of the Black Shark has risked all for, the treasure. Giving the order for one gunmen to watch the crew and one to destroy the radio and assist him with the treasure, Selso falls to his knees in front of the chest.
The younger of the two Chilean deckhands maintains his stance on the deck of the sub aiming his rifle at the two Vietnamese shrimpers. Somehow feeling redeemed in the captain’s eyes with their new found glory, he occasionally glances at the water below. The freedom of being on the deck of the sub in the daytime sun is refreshing and rinses his soul of the stench below in the submarine. Taking in deep breaths of the fresh air feels like freedom and the thought of returning below deck and running, for who knows how long, doesn’t set well with the young pirate. His mind now begins to drift and fantacize of shooting everyone, jumping in the shrimp boat and taking the treasure for his own.
Staring down to the water he can see the chum line that the shrimp boats had put out not so long ago and notices large schools of sharks feeding 10 feet below. Glancing back to the hostage shrimper to assure them he is on guard his attention is quickly pulled to the feeding frenzy below the boats.
Running his fingers through the fortune in treasure, Captain of the Black Shark begins to laugh with a strong tone of insanity in his voice. His eyes fixated at what lie before him but seems a million miles away in his face. Beckoning the deck hand aboard the trawler to his side he utters “Get this on the sub, now”. as the two make their first attempt at lifting the chest. Realizing the weight of the treasure only sends Selso into a deeper dream state of insanity. Looking at the piled-up burlap bags that once covered the hidden chest, he grabs them and frantically begins to fill each sack with enough weight for one man to barely carry. Carrying the separated loot and chest requires the help all hands-on deck and with the persuasion of being executed, the two shrimpers gladly give a hand.
Having drifted back into the heavy part of the shrimp boat’s morning chum line the boats float above the heart of the feeding frenzy below. Several large Bull sharks have gathered and joined a host of other meat-eating predators for a complete display of blind gorging under the water. Maintaining his guard, as the others load the pirated gold on the decks of the sub, the young Chilean pirate knows now would be no time to fall in. Gaining focus back to his duties, he watches as the last of the bags and chest are set aboard the Black Shark.
Admiring the cannon strapped to the gunnel, Selso envisions the relic completely restored hanging on the wall of his lushly furnished cabana somewhere on the coast of Cuba. Leaning back in his leather chair blowing smoke rings from a fine cigar telling the story of his successful acts of piracy on the high seas to his great grandchildren. Knowing its bulkiness and weight is no task worth wasting time for, he turns and heads for the sub.
With the crew separated to their given vessels and all treasure aboard the submarine Selso has no ill will towards the Gulf shrimpers and simply turns his back and shouts “Garcias Amigos”. Glancing down over the edge of the sub and catching first sight of the thousands of sharks below he turns with a reminded vengeance to the young pirate and his big mouth. Allowing the senior deck hand and himself to gain first entry of the submarine, Selso quickly slams the hatch shut and locks it from the inside, stranding the doomed boy on deck. With the two boats drifting apart at a rapid rate the ill-fated pirate begins beating at the hatch with the but of his rifle and then squeezes several rounds at the hatch. All bullets deflecting and ricocheting in all directions, the two shrimpers hit the deck for cover. Two rounds bounce back directly through the legs of the Chilean pirate sending blood pouring to the deck of the sub and rolling down the side to the shark-infested water below. As he frantically creams and beats at the hatch the sub begins to move and submerge. Knowing there is no hope for entry of the submarine, what he once despised as home, he would now give all to just return to the stench infested hell hole. Looking back at the distance growing between him and the shrimp boat he plummets himself to the water, bleeding profusely from his legs, and begins to swim for survival towards the trawler. Only a few feet into his desperate splashing on top of the water, the sea becomes an erupted volcano of red seafoam and screams. The young man is shredded alive and devoured by the feeding frenzy below like being thrown feet first into a wood chipper.
Inside at the helm of the Black Shark Captain Selso pushes the throttles full forward and continues his descent. Noting that the beating has stopped on the hatch above he feels the rage for the young sailor leave his body and smiles with a look of justice on his face. Looking at the sacks of treasure and gold, scattered across the floor of??? the stench confined space, he barks an order to clean up the mess. His now, and only, first mate scrambles to obey the order in shock of what his evil leader has just done. Running in an aimless direction or depth the captain of the once blood beefs Black Shark composes himself and sets course in his newly acquired fortune and submarine. “South by South East” he can smell the Cuban cigar in his mind as they slip beneath the surface.
Vomiting on the deck of the Proud Mary from witnessing the shark attack just 20 feet away Dang empties his guts. Both men grateful for their lives sit in shock. The last 48 hours have gone from normal to fortune to piracy to murder. It was too much to grasp and the two exhausted friends helped each other into the cabin of the Proud Mary to regroup and head for shore. Looking at bullet ridden console of the boat the radio is useless. Pushing the throttles forward the twin screw trawler start its flee home to Bolivar Peninsula and in hopes to find Hanks, Maurice and the Crazy Cajun.
CHAPTER 27: Baseball and That’s All
Theresa Denee’ sees the batter standing at the plate. Leaning forward from the mound she positions the softball in her hand from behind her back, “Why am I wearing shorts and a t-shirt”? She shakes off the call from behind the plate from the catcher’s, “And why don’t I have a brae ON”!!! “OMG”. Nodding in agreement at the next signal she starts her wind up. Something doesn’t feel right under her feet “why am I barefooted”? Looking down she is stuck in a mound of peanut butter all squished between her toes. Not wanting a balk called, she releases the ball with a fast pitch to the plate, planting it tight in the catchers mit. Looking down at her hand its covered in melted chocolate. The chocolate and peanut butter is everywhere. Looking at home plate for answers to this mess, the catcher takes off her mask. It’s her grandmother that raised her in south Louisiana. She’s yelling across the field at her telling her not to get any of that chocolate on her uniform. “Maw”? “what are you doing here”? Distracted by a plane flying over head with a sign floating behind it saying, “WILL YOU MARRY ME” she gets in position for another pitch. This time the ground feels solid and the balls clean, taking the signal for another fastball she plants a smoker dead center of the mitt,” “strike 2”! the ump calls out. Staring at the crowd they all seem to be eating Reeses cups. The buzz from the airplane is loud overhead and she can feel the wind from the propeller blowing on her face. One more pitch and that’s the game. Shaking off the weird directions, she sees a wet mouse running behind home plate with some psycho in a hockey mask swatting at it with a machete. Taking aim at the mouse she throws a fastball making a bullseye on the rodent. The hockey masked killer stops his pursuit and looks at her out on the mound and gives a thumbs up. Theresa Denee’ gives duce’s back to the killer and the crowd goes wild. That damn airplane with the banner keeps getting closer and louder finally making a landing on the field. The noise from the propeller is deafening the cheers from the crowd and blowing her hair back.
Waking from her nightmare, Theresa has found herself tangled in the sheets in the opposite direction in which she had fallen asleep that morning. Putting her face at the foot of the bed and directly in front of the box fan. Outside she can hear the familiar sound of the 172, she refuses to fly in, pulling up to the hangar. Repositioning herself in the bed to her starting position she adjusts the covers and pulls them back over her head to try and forget everything she’d just dreamt. “What the hell” she says outload while wiggling herself back to a comfortable position. “gosh, no more chocolate” “shit balls” ….
Settling back into the comforts of the late afternoon, she can tell she’s had good sleep but not quite ready to spring out of bed. Laying there still sedate, she listens to Phil bring the plane to a stop and kill the engine. Thinking back of her youth in Louisiana she thinks of her grandmother that raised her from birth and taught her everything about baseball. Growing into her teens and early twenties, if you didn’t play ball you didn’t exist. That’s the way it was and it paid off. Going to Louisiana state on a full ride girls’ softball scholarship she’d made her grandmother proud and developed a killer fastball. Thrown with such accuracy it had the 2009 Las Vegas national finals down to a no hitter. But like all good things can end, a bad turn to third base took out the knee and that was the end of softball.
Laying in the cool sheets thinking of home, made her think maybe it was time for a visit. Besides a daily phone call to her grandmother, who she referred to as Maw, she hadn’t seen the lady in several months now and was missing her. Reaching down and rubbing the damaged knee under the sheets “it only hurts from the dream” she thinks. Taking inventory, she gets up to go pee and try and wake up.
Elbows on the knees and chin rested in the palms of her hands Theresa feels the relief of pressure from her bladder and lets the relaxing feeling rush over her body. Setting in the typical position of every human on earth, doing their thing, her hair hangs down across her forearms to her knees. Leaning over to the vanity she digs a scrunchy out of the drawer and whips her long dark hair up into a quick pony tail that sets high on her head. Glancing down at her toes she wiggles them making a mental note “paint toe nails”. She can hear Philip banging around on something and makes a corporate split second decision. Dashing from the restroom she dives back into the nest of the cool soft bed and pulls the sheets over her face for more sleep.
Outside of the hangar Philip has secured the plane and thrown the fish on ice in an old beat up cooler his grandpa made, before he was born. The thick welded aluminum cooler was lined with Styrofoam on the inside and kept things cold for days. Phil hung on to it not only because it worked but his Nana had told him stories of his Grandpa having to float in from offshore on it when him and his buddy rolled a plane in the water spotting fish outside the 3rd sand bar.
Banking their plane to steep looking down at a school of trout, they stalled the wing and fell right in the drink. Gramps kicked out the glass and took his unconscious pilot buddy under his arm. Looking around in the wreckage the only thing floating was the ice chest he made. Swimming to it with friend under tow, he floated the two into the beach and waited for help.
Buried waste deep under the hood of the new find, “the piece of crap” “why does everyone keep saying that”? he digs around getting his first look at this baby. “you look good girl, im gonna fix you right up” “and don’t listen to all that talk about being a piece of junk”. Jumping down from the hood he realizes the late afternoon has turned his fresh clean body of the earlier morning into a mixture of sweat, fish and grease. No chance in hell Theresa was gonna let that sneak in the sack with her. Knowing she was probably still upstairs asleep he jumped around to the outdoor shower on the side of the hangar and stripped down.
The side of the hangar was their private outdoor area. It faced the south and from the upper deck you could see the back side of the sand dunes and out to the far part of the Gulf. Below the upper deck, connected by a spiral staircase, was the outdoor kitchen and shower. Set up for entertainment or lazy private evenings, two stretched hammocks, a barbque pit, some lawn furniture and sink for cleaning fish made it Philip and Theresa’s outdoor paradise. The shower was just a bonus. Built from drift wood he and his girl had combed from the beach on long walks, they had collected and constructed an, almost woven, semi-circle about 5 feet tall, leaving a 3-foot-wide entrance in front to gain access. Bringing the hot and cold controls from inside the hangar and down, the shower was semi private. Plus, there’s just something about being naked outside during the day. During the summer months it was put to good use.
Getting lathered up Philip stepped under the hot water coming down. Letting the spicket above his head wash the saltwater and debris of the day from his skin and down the drain. The makeshift pvc pipe drain lead over to a small salsa garden of tomatoes, jalapenos, cilantro and onion and kept it well watered in the hot summer sun. The garden made for a nice landscape and privacy barrier as it grew taller.
Reaching over with eyes shut he grabbed the shampoo from the shelf and sudds’d up his hair. Leaning his head back in the water he squinted with his eyes tight to let the soap run down his face and maintained the position for an extra-long time. Enjoying the hot water pounding down on his neck he thought back on what he saw over the water “damn that looked like a submarine”. Not feeling alone all sudden Philip Opened eyes and saw that he had company. “Hello love” said a sweet little Cajun voice, and with that the submarine washed right down the drain. Responding with only a smile Phil grabbed Theresa’s already “Neckid” body and pulled her into the water with him. With both arms wrapped around her looking slightly down into her eyes and in-between soft kisses Phil said, “I was saving this for last on the list today babe” “but now is perfectly fine”.
Bill Davis sets back on the couch in the living room of his house in Seabrook, TX. Just 30 miles from where he and Goldie had filled an ice chest of fish last night. The woman in the kitchen had been his bride for the last 52 years and was the only thing that was allowed to whoop the old man. She stood at the cook top with her back to the living room and fried up the catch of the night. Fried fish “on the bone” hot water corn bread, creamed potatoes and collard greens. Bill did not waste a piece of the fish when he cleaned it. It was gutted, scaled, one side filleted skin on and the other with bone, cut into three equal pieces and tossed in a bowl. Including any roe sacks found in the fish, it was simply salt and peppered, shaken in corn meal and fried in a cast iron skillet with peanut oil.
Turning on an evening Astros game on the TV Bill could see Goldie looking through the back sliding glass door across the way, with the look of “are you gonna just set there? Or get up and let me in”? The main access to where Bill sat was by coming through the garage and just to his left. Giving the dog a gesture to go around, Goldie took off and came around through the garage. Tapping on the door with her wagging tail, as if to knock, the old man reaches around with his left arm and opened the door, never losing sight of the game on TV. Most the time Bill would find the game on the AM. radio and listen to the radio while watching it on the TV, “its better this way”. While the sun brings the end to another day outside, the aroma of the meal being mastered in the kitchen rises to the ceiling and fills the house. Along its rise to the ceiling the steam from the open lidded greens passes up a sign that reads “Lillian’s home cooking”.
CHAPTER 28: The Tiki Bar is Open
Barely able to see the pony tail hanging from the back of his head, capt’ Terry has himself surrounded at the swim up Tiki bar downstairs at the Sand Castle. Being cheered on by the mostly female crowd, the shot of Patron being poured down his chest gets lost in the deep wrinkles and never makes it to the open recipient’s mouth waiting just below his bellybutton. The Eagles “The Long Run” comes across the outdoor speakers surrounding the pool beckoning a sing along of the intro “I used to hurry a lot, I used to worry a lot. I used to stay out till the break of day.” Leading the choir Capt’ Terry is in rare form away from the lounge showing his sophisticated side. In fact, the crowd that surrounds him now couldn’t even find their way to the lounge nor would they. The man lived a double life. Monday thru Friday it was salty one eyed sea captain at the lounge and Saturday and Sunday it was salty one eyed sea captain at the Sand Castle, lol. The location and crowd changed but not the captain. He was who he was and loved in both worlds. He just knew how to work a crowd.
Wreaking of wealth among the Sand Castle crew, yet the captain never paid for a drink. The young ladies took care of all of that. His non-threating presence and charm appealed heavier than any words that could be spoken. Yes, the captain was a real chick magnet, a renaissance man. At 70 years old there was no doubt he could have his pick of the litter. But each night, like every night, he went home alone by choice. Terry loved the people in the circles he ran, but he was a loner at heart. No matter how well you thought you knew him there was always a mystery locked inside.
“Conga line to the hot tub”!! he shouts out. And like the pied piper leading the children from the village, the Tiki bar is emptied. Even the bartender has jumped ship to join in on the captain’s irresistible behavior. Finding a place for everyone to sit comfortably, the captain slides 25 bodies into a hot tub designed for 10 and the party continues.
Looking down from the second floor of the Sand Castle Resort, behind smoked glass, the weekend manager watches the activities below at the pool, “how does he do that”? “the man can literally squeeze 10 gallons of shit into a 5-gallon bucket”. Continuing to watch in amazement he continues speaking to his assistant “tomorrow afternoon we have some very important guest arriving, the Pinochet’s from Chile. I don’t know “who” they are but they will be occupying the other suite on 40”. “Except the nanny, she will be downstairs with us on the second floor.” “They have already paid in advance for one week and we need to make sure they’re stay is comfortable”.
The 40th floor at the Sand Castle was the penthouse and only held two suites. One was owned out right by the captain, the other was an as equally luxurious, fully furnished, rental. The four thousand dollar a night price tag kept it empty most of the year around. It was typically leased out once or twice a year and that was by the captain for his yearly Christmas party.
Tilting his head to a 90-degree angle and pressing his face against the glass “how the hell does he do that”? Chiming in the assistant inquiries about Captain Terry’s roaming in the boiler room of the Sand Castle down in the basement “you know occasionally he has been seen coming from the boiler room downstairs late at night” …. Turning away from the glass so as to not incriminate himself for being witness to what’s going on in the hot tub, the manager rushes off to tend to his other guests and duties of the night. “He’s the captain sonny, he can go were ever he wants” Snapping his fingers at his assistant to follow “chop, chop, let’s go” they leave the events below to the captain.
CHAPTER 29: Corn Neal and Cast Iron
“Mmmm, you did good babe” giving confirmation to her cook, Theresa takes another bite of the hot, freshly fried, trout. Not giving it a chance to fully cool, she juggles the bite in her mouth and watches Philip drop another piece into the hot cast iron skillet. If the damn mosquitoes hadn’t moved in on them they could’ve been doing this downstairs outside he thought. The air-conditioned indoor kitchen did feel good with the days end though. Taking a swig of a cold IPA, Phil sets it down to shake up a few more pieces of fish in the cornmeal breading. Multi-tasking in the kitchen is his specialty, especially in the company of his lady. Multi-tasking, you know. Fry the fish, drink the beer, listen to the music, steal the kisses, fry the fish, multitasking. Phil also knew that some fresh fried fish or shrimp could settle any beef that he was having or about to have with that coonass pistol sitting at the counter just behind him. “A few more bites of that fish and she will forget all about that truck setting outside” he thought. “So, babe, what’s up with that piece of shit truck setting outside”? “please don’t tell me you paid for that thing”.
“Ah! I didn’t!” he replies with a moment of optimism. “I traded out electric work for it” feeling victorious, he flips the trout in the skillet showing its golden-brown side cooked to perfection.
“Same thing” Theresa throws back with an un impressed stare of his decision or fine cooking skills. “How’s that fish baby”? “Babe, we are trying to “Save” money. How much it gonna cost you to fix that truck like you want it”? Giving the fish just a few more minutes to take effect, he leaves his duties at the frying pan and pours her a glass of red wine. She wasn’t a drinker but she would sip one glass of wine in the evening. Bringing it to her and setting it by her side on the counter he leans around from behind and steals a kiss on the side of her neck. Feeling her body stop every motion to embrace his gesture he wrapped his arms around her from behind. Giving a gentle squeeze and a few more kisses on the same spot “I love you babe” “I love you too”. And with that he knew the fried fish had done its job. Heading back to the frying pan, to multi task, Phil grabs another pull of the tasty IPA and pulls three golden brown pieces of fried trout from the skillet.
Not wearing anything but a loose pair of shorts hot grease pops from the skillet onto his stomach. Dismissing the shock as typical kitchen duty it reminded him that cooking with a shirt on was just out of the question. Besides it would cover up the ass crack hanging from the top of his shorts, and what if the sink was leaking and he had to go into plumber mode? Who would fix it? “Babe, your ass crack is hanging out” … responding with the fresh hot fish being tossed on a pallet of paper towels at the counter where she sat, Phil joined her for dinner. Him, her the fish the beer the wine the music. A perfect Saturday night at the hangar.
With the conversation about the truck settled they made small talk about the day. Phil giving a play by play of the sizable catch he put the Jodi Blonde on, the perfection of the morning that put the dinner on the table, that they were enjoying, and the dark shadow he saw in the water flying home. “Babe, I swear to God. It looked like a damn submarine!” “just like the one over at Seawolf Park” “by the time I turned around and dropped down it was disappearing too deep to make out”. “Maybe babe” she replies, “It is the ocean, that is where submarines live” wanting her to be as skeptical as he was he takes another swig and gives her the grin chewing his food.
“I don’t know, could have been a whale shark” “So, captain Terry wants me to come visit him in the morning at the Sand Castle”. Changing the topic “Says he wants to talk about something, wanna come with me?” “We can take the new truck” ……” Haha”, no you go, I’m sleeping in” “and besides I saw his balls last time we went, eww” “tellem hi”
The night shift job Theresa held Monday through Friday on Crystal Beach usually took a Saturday morning nap and a sleep in on Sunday to charge her batteries to get ready for Monday night duties again. Philip was used to the routine and it made their catching each other in passing only more pleasurable. It was a good system.
Done with dinner and getting into the relaxed part of their Saturday night Phil catches Eric Church “Wrecking Ball” coming through the speakers and turns it up. Something about that song.
He found Theresa standing at the sink cleaning dishes. That was their unspoken routine, Phil cooked and she cleaned always helping each other in the mix. No expectations just routine. Pulling her from her task and into the small area they called a living room, he grabs her quick for a slow dance. Lipping the words in her ear as they sway back and forth “I, I been gone, I been gone to long, singing my songs on the road, another town…… Melting to the rhythm, nothing else existed in this space and time. Sending familiar signals up and down each other’s body they flowed with the beat. Interrupted with a surprising loud banging on the door of the hanger, the echo shattered the serenity of the evening and sent shocked looks across both their faces. “Who the hell is that”!! Theresa said.
The hangar set back in a no man’s land of sorts and visitors didn’t just show up. They were either invited or expected or lost. Responding with an aggravated look of concern Phil slipped on a pair of leather sandals and flew down the stairs to see who was there. The Banging was nonstop on the door. Theresa leaned over the balcony staring down into the hangar as Phil cautiously opened the door. Only able to see Philip’s back she watched as he pulled open the door and stepped back to let the unexpected guest in.
“Duck”? “What the hell is wrong man”? “Settle down” … Catching every other word from his childhood friend, Philip pulled Duck Pham into the hangar and shut the door behind him. “We found gold” “The treasure” “They took it in the submarine and sharks ate the guy and… “
Seeing his friend in a state of shock and scrambled words of emotion pouring from his mouth, Phil knew one thing. That was a submarine he saw today and the stories he’d heard from Captain Terry his whole life were starting to ring in his ears.
The music still echoing through the hangar from upstairs, Theresa headed over to turn down the volume while Phil continued to gather what Duck was saying. With the two still downstairs she scrambled to throw on a bra so she could join the conversation feeling appropriate.
Coming back into the living room the two were making their way upstairs to sit at the counter in the kitchen. As Phil still listened to Duck tell his panicked story, it was obvious to everyone that something had gone wrong on the Gulf today. With Duck doing all the talking Phil and Theresa set and listened. Twenty minutes into the second round of Duck repeating himself Theresa excused herself from the conversation. Heading for the door that led to the upstairs back porch “I’m going to smoke, holy shit balls” she said grabbing the cigarettes from the counter and walked out the door.
Still listening to Duck, now repeating himself, Philip is seeing the displeasures of his perfect evening gone to shit being filled with a whole new level of intoxication. Offering his friend, a cold beer, to settle him down, Phil turns his back to take a glance through the window to the back porch. He can see Theresa pacing back and forth with the burning smoke in her hand. This whole thing has definitely got her wound up. Not so much as to what has happened, but he knows that she knows that he is going to get pulled into it somehow. An empty bottle tapping on the counter behind him pulls his attention back to Duck. Holding one finger in the air and swallowing down the last mouth full of cold beer, he signals Phil for another round.
CHAPTER 30: Which way is up
Well under way and the cover of darkness, Captain Selso Martinez headed for his next refueling stop. He was well aware that the fuel stop could have already been tipped off to his mutiny but gambling on the side of Valentina excusing his silence as possible radio failure he maintained his course. This course kept him hugged close to the coast and in the direction of Gulf Port Mississippi. Where a routine fuel supply would meet him 30 miles offshore at the chandelier Islands. This was another small chain of Islands that popped up from the deep and had made a safe harbor for sailors and pirates alike for the last 300 years.
Staring at the chart, with an occasional glance at his first mate, he figured this being his last stop between here and Cuba would be a good place to get rid of him as well. Selso had no intention of splitting this treasure with anyone but himself. Tapping on the glitching screen in the console of the Sub, the sonar and GPS had not been seeming to work right since leaving the scene of the crime hours ago. Tapping on them one more time, in an attempt to somehow fix the screen, everything went blank. The sub was running blind. With a few more, now panicked bangs on the dash, the equipment responded with nothing. Looking up at the next doomed deckhand as if this was all his fault, Selso screamed “what’s wrong with this fucking thing”! Knowing he could not continue his course blind he was forced to surface and inventory the transponder that was mounted on the exterior of the ship, just behind the hatch.
Breaching the water like a blue whale coming up for air the Black Shark surfaces just off the coast of Cameron, Louisiana in the darkness of the night. Throwing the hatch open, Selso steps on to the wet deck with flash light in hand to inspect the transponder. Aiming the beam of light around in the lonely sea around him he finds himself alone and away from any intrusions. Flashing the light back to his area of concern, the transponder, he finds it. Upon close inspection, he can see the young Chilean pirate that he fed to the sharks was laughing from the grave. The transponder was riddled with bullet holes and has left the equipment aboard the sub completely useless. The path forward would be done under line of sight all the way to Cuba. Screaming to the ears of nothing but the dark ocean, the captain curses the dead sailor and feeds him to the sharks again and again in his mind. He knows he will have to cruise just under the surface using his periscope for eyes and break surface more than he desires along the way, risking his chances of being captured by his pursuers, the Blood Beef Cartel.
Returning below deck and slamming the hatch to the submarine the captain glares at the first mate who is frozen in his position. Back to a displeased state of silence Selso puts the Black Shark in gear and continues his path for fuel. Only this time at a third of the speed and just at periscope depth. Anything could catch up with him at this speed he thinks, even the slowness of a trawler. A thousand trawlers would have been more appropriate.
CHAPTER 31: Welcome to Texas
Sunday morning just before noon the wheels of a 747 touch down on the runway of Houston intercontinental Airport in Houston Texas. The flight was a non-stop from the country of Chile and held passengers of all nationalities. Leaving the first-class section first Augie and his family depart the plane and head for the customs line. Looking back to the coach section Carmel gives Valentina a smile as she follows her husband and Christo off the plane. Returning the smile with respectful formality Valentina bites down on her teeth. So hard that the business man traveling next to her stares at the 6 foot 3 Latin women with a shocked look at the grinding noise coming from her mouth. As if she could break a tooth at any minute. With a snapping look back into the eyes of the occupant next to her he quickly looks forward again minding his business.
Standing up crouched under the overhead luggage rack, Valentina presses her way past the man and makes her way from the plane before coach is called to exit. Walking past the correcting stewardess with complaints of “ma’am please take your seat we are not ready for coach to….” A quick stare of something not good shuts the flight attendant up as the towering Chilean hit woman exits the plane just a few steps behind first class.
Valentina’s aggression came not from pure evil or the fact she could dominate 90 percent of men physically with her deadly hands or that she possessed the marksmanship of a navy seal. No, here anger came not from these things. Her anger came from love, not having any. She dreamed of finding the perfect man for her and as the years came and went she found herself lonely and longing for attention. Her bitterness for Carmel was for the love she saw between her and Augie. This is what she wanted. A man of her own. One of large per portions. One with an appetite for food and life. A man with a perverted mindset that could only fulfill her wildest sexual fantasies. And on top of all that she had always dreamed, from childhood of being a professional volleyball player, not a ruthless hit woman for the Blood Beef Cartel. Finding her boss and his family in the customs line she joined them preparing her documents for entry into the United States. Not saying a word of the thoughts in her head and not knowing that true love may be closer than she thinks.
Making their way through customs, with ease, with their false documentation the crew of bandits make their way to baggage claim collecting their items and on through the process of entry.
Waiting curbside just outside the doors for arrivals waits a luxurious leather seated suburban with the insignia “Sand Castle Inn and Resort” along the side. Quickly relieving Augie and his family of their items, a young black driver loads their luggage welcoming them to Texas and closes their doors. Gripping the bag from the hand of Valentina he feels the item is not being let go of. Looking up into her eyes he can tell she’d rather handle it herself. Crouching down to get into the passenger seat of the Suburban, she shuts her own door with bag in lap. Making his way around to the driver’s seat the friendly chauffeur whistles out “Whoo they don’t makem like that around here, no sir” and hops in for the one hour ride to Galveston, Texas.
Realizing the conversation is not going to be had with the towering amazon unibrowed Latin beside him the driver looks in the rearview mirror showing his pearly whites, and ask if “everyone is comfortable back there”. Just arriving from a seven-hour plane ride the replies are answered with nods of approval. Noting the family would like a quiet ride to the Island the driver gets the hint and maintaining his smile finds his way on to I-45 south.
CHAPTER 32: The Plan
“Captain”! “Captain Terry”! “Wake up”! “Captain what the hell did….” Staring down into the hot tub of the Sand Castle Resort Philip and Duck stood in humored yet knowing disbelief at the spectacle before them. Butt ass neckid setting propped up by a floating blow up doll Captain Terry sits asleep in the very spot that the party ended last night. With his fake eye, wide open and the other shut he lay sound asleep snoring with a permanent grin across his face. “Captain Terry get your ass up before someone see you”!! Opening his one blood shot eye he focuses in on the blurred double visions. “Duck and Dong, Philip and Philip” hey fellas” He always referred to Duck and Dang as Duck n Dong ever since he sold Duck the Proud Mary 20 years ago. He thought it was funny in his own mind for some reason “hey where’d everyone go”? Duck and Philip standing alone found some quick towels poolside and helped the old naked prune out of the cold water. If things were shriveled up before they definitely were now. Some parts weren’t even worthy of covering up. Taking the residence entrance around the side, avoiding the main lobby and sparing tourist and children alike a life scaring moment, Phil and Duck snuck the captain to the elevators inside.
Waiting on the, one of six, elevators to report to the bottom floor Philip desperately pressed the button repeatedly, trying to avoid an embarrassing moment. Just as a nice couple and their twin daughters rounded the corner, the light went off above an arriving elevator. The doors opened on the elevator unloading two bikini beach bound girls in their early twenties and a local priest, all three thanking the captain for another memorable night at the Tiki bar as they passed by.
Loading Captain Terry up away from his fan base the doors to the elevator shut. Philip punched in the passcode to the penthouse sending the elevator on a nonstop ride to the top floor where they would be safe and sound. On the ride up the captain went into story mode telling tails of last night in the hot tub. Both Duck and Philip staring in disbelief knowing the stories were true. The stories were always true. “Jesus captain, how do you do that”?
Still giving the old salty dog a hand, the three make their way into to the cool luxury of first class living as they step inside the penthouse. Knowing they have they a ton to spill on the captain’s plate this morning they tend to business first. Duck takes the displeasure of helping Terry to the shower while Philip heads to the kitchen to make a Pot of tea and a Bloody Mary for Terry’s recovery.
Getting the shower started Duck listens to cheap shots of “So where’s your Dong at”? from the captain. Turning to make room for the old prune to gain access to the cold shower, Duck finds the captain standing immediately behind him in his natural inside attire, Naked. “Jesus Captain I can’t unsee that”!! Laughing at himself as he steps into the sobering water, the captain follows up with “that’s what your mom said” as Duck heads to meet Phil in the kitchen.
In the kitchen, Phil laughs at his friend knowing the disgusting abuse he may have experienced helping the captain in the shower. “Never again Philip, never” “What’s wrong with that old man”? Not even bothering with a reply Phil continues with making the tea just like the captain likes it. A ring at the doorbell pulls the twos attention and Duck heads to the door. “Room service” Duck opens the door to find an adorable blonde standing with a tray of already prepared green tea and colossal cinnamon role for delivery. Stepping around the rarely wide eyed Vietnamese man she carries the tray in and sets it in its usual spot by the kitchen. “Tell the captain thanks for a great time last night” not paying much attention to the boys and walks out the door. Abandoning the making of the tea Phil pours the hot water down the sink and makes some coffee for him and Duck.
“Bring me that roll and tea on your way out if you don’t mind boys” a voice call from the out-door patio. “How the hell”? Phil and Duck looking in confused gestures. “How in the hell does he do that”? Duck say as he follows Phil to the patio. Shaking his head with a sigh “I quit trying a long time ago man” …… Stepping out on the porch the two find the captain in a white bath robe “thank God” Duck says. “Leave that door open boys I like the cool air blowing while I have my tea” “reminds me of my time in the Himalayas”. Somehow within minutes’ Captain Terry has showered, robed and found his way to the patio outside completely undetected and transformed into a sight of soberness.
“So, Phil, how’s that piece of shit truck of yours”? he says with a laugh sipping his tea. Ignoring the question Phil starts in “look captain we got something to talk about” …. “I Know that, im the one who asked you to come over this morning “the captain says. Completely forgetting that Terry had matters of his own to discuss, Phil shook off the remarks and started in again but was cut short by captain Terry. “I didn’t intend for you to brings Dong’s brother long with you, what I had to discuss is private and……” “CAPTAIN, that’s not why where here, forget about that. We need help”! Noting the sudden and unusual character in the boy that he had known for the last 47 years the captain changed his focus and tuned in. “What is it son”? Duck weighing between the Dong comments and wanting the captain’s help remained quiet and let Phil do all the talking.
Phil started in from the beginning with every detail he’d gathered from Duck through the night. He even told him about what he had seen from the sky on his way in yesterday. The captain set staring over the banister and out to the ocean as he listened. When Philip finished with every detail, mostly in single breathed run on sentences, the three sat in silence with all eyes on the captain. After a minute or two of silence that seemed forever the Captain looked at Duck “So you finally found it” “the Proud Mary just couldn’t stay away”. The two looked at each other and somewhere between the sales pitch stories Duck had dismissed 20 years earlier as utter bullshit and the drunken tales Phil had been fed his whole life the light simultaneously went off in their minds. And in harmony “Its true” … “Yes boys, it’s true”.
Terry then went on to explain how he had snagged the old wreck over 30 years ago reaping its rewards and explaining how his deckhand at the time had radioed into the ice house about the find and by the time they returned to shore every federal agent in the country was waiting on them. “They seized the treasure that we had found and gave me a single gold coin, this one” grabbing and holding up the large Spanish galleon that hung from his neck. “I then went single handed from that day on. Wearing out every piece of rigging the Proud Mary had trying to find that wreck and snag more treasure. That explained to Duck why the old trawler was in the shape she was when he got her. “I searched until I did” the comment bringing a new depth of silence to the group. “Enough about that, we can finish that story some other time” ignoring the looks of baited breath on the boys faces, the captain changed the subject. “let me tell you what where gonna do about your problem”
Recently Checked into the penthouse suite at the top floor of the Sand Castle Resort. The leader of the Blood Beef Cartel, his family and assassin sat in the living room discussing the business at hand of how to intercept Selso at his next fuel stop, if he truly has fled with the treasure. Not wanting to get into the nasty part of the business in front of 5 year old Christo, Augie askes for Carmel to walk him down to the pool. Helping her to the door with the heir of his kingdom, Augusto walks Carmel and Christo to the elevators.
Knowing Augie was never in a hurry when it came to Carmel or Christo Who she??? Valentina???? knew the journey to the elevator and back could take several minutes. Giving her time for a breath of fresh salt air on the outside patio and a view of the ocean. Always stealth in her movements she eased out to the extravagantly furnished patio. The view of the Gulf of Mexico was stunning. Stepping up to the hand rail she looked down to the pool below as the small figures played and splashed like ants. Looking out along the beach she could see the fisherman planting surf rods in the sand in hopes to catch something. She could also see Lovers holding hands strolling up and down the beach without a care in the world. This sent rage through her and made her jerk away from the railing. Finding a soft piece of furniture to set down on she got off her feet. Trying to push the thought of what love must feel like from her mind she meditates on the silence of the patio. The cool breeze and seagulls is about all she can hear. All except for a conversation taking place just on the other side of the partition that separates her and the only other occupants of the top floor at the Sand Castle.
The voice of what sounded like a younger, excited man rambling a story of shrimp boats and treasure and gold. And then continuing with submarines and shark attacks and Latin pirates. Valentina could not believe her ears. She could not believe the luck of timing. She could not believe how Carmel was going to take every ounce of credit for the whole thing by booking the most expensive room on the entire island. Valentina, dismissing the thought of how small the world really is tuned into every word, locking every detail in her mind like a steel trap. The fortune of happening upon the very thing they were looking for only doubled when she continued to listen to an older more seasoned voice tell of how they were going to get the treasure back. Interrupted from her trance by the sound of the patio door Sliding open, she quickly silenced Augie’s return with a single finger to her lips as she beckoned him to join in on the invaluable eavesdropping. Both sat in dead silence listening to the voice of a man they had never met lay out a plan better than anything they could have possibly imagined on their own. Not only was their work completely being done for them, they could have just heard the voice of the most interesting man in the world.
CHAPTER 33: Operation Drag Net
Duck and Dang had not gone to the authorities, growing up the way they did the cops were the last one you went to for help. When you had a problem, even when a pirate has stolen your treasure, you handle it among friends and family. The Vietnamese shrimper like I said before had persevered the agony of war, prejudice and persecution that most will never know. Getting some treasure back from some greed driven maniac in a submarine shouldn’t be a problem. And with Captain Terry Fintch at the helm things should be entertaining as well. As far as Capt’ Hanks, Garcon and the Crazy Cajun, well we will just see. Anyways back to the story.
Sitting on the back patio, what they thought was the most private place in the world, Captain Terry finished laying out his plan to the boys. Pulling a cellphone from his bathrobe he began dialing numbers as he sent them on their way to get started. Walking through the apartment to the front door they could hear Captain Terry making contact to his first call. Rattling off some dialect of Vietnamese on his cellphone, Duck and Phil looked back at the captain with that look of never ceasing amazement. Duck, fully understanding what the captain was saying, continued out the door with Phil to follow their orders. “He speaks Vietnamese”?
As the boys continued to exit the resort and go about their mission the captain continued with his calls. Reaching out to every shrimp boat captain he knew from Kemah, Texas all the way to Key West Florida. Using his best tongue of Vietnamese, East Texan and Cajun French the plan was in action.
As they entered the elevator on the 40th floor they began to discuss what the captain had asked them to do “ok, so Duck you go talk to your people and get the ball rolling. Im gonna head to the hangar and try and explain things to Theresa and then go find Big Daddy”. Their conversation cut short by a large female hand stopping the door from completely closing, the elevator doors retracted back open. A very tall and unfriendly looking Latin woman stepped in the elevator and the doors shut. Both surprised to see anyone at all on the top floor they stand in silence. “Going down” Duck says, not thinking of that being the only direction to go, being on the top floor and all. Valentina trying to turn on the charm, and not seeming obvious of her following pursuit, returned the gesture with “Yes please”. Together the three took the, penthouse only, direct flight to the 1st floor. On the ride down Phil and Duck remained quiet in their conversation as both took turns giving peculiar glances at each other. Once off the elevator Philip and Duck continue their conversation leaving the stranger behind.
Jumping into his, now insecurity blanket truck, Phil cranks the motor with all thoughts on heading to the hangar and the task at hand. Backing out of the parking spot he can’t help but notice the same strange lady from the elevator getting into the back seat of the Bentley, reserved for penthouse guests only, under the valet area by the front door of the resort. A rapid rapping on his window startles him from his backing up. Jerking his head to the left, its Duck. Cranking down the sticky window to “where did you get this piece of….” “yeah, yeah, yeah Duck, what’s up”? “What time are we meeting at the Hangar”?… “7pm sharp” with it being 2pm that gave Duck 5 hours to complete his task and get to the hangar.
Exiting the parking lot of the Sand Castle, Phil heads for the hangar to explain things to Theresa. Looking at his watch he knows she likes to sleep in on Sunday, but not till two. He was going to have some explaining to do when he got home.
Phil and Theresa lived with a simple code called the language of love. Words of affirmation, physical touch, receiving gifts, acts of service and quality time. BINGO! “quality time” just so happen to be hers and the rest could all take second place. With their opposite schedules, she cherished their quality time and right now some jackass in a submarine full of gold was messing it up.
Headed for the hangar Phil noticed the Bentley from the resort not too far behind him. It wasn’t hard to recognize, it was a Bentley and it was the only one on the island. Turning right off the seawall and headed towards the hangar the Island had just taken on a whole new look. The submarine, the pirates, the strange woman in the elevator, Captain Terry speaks Vietnamese? The whole world had changed in just a few hours. Looking back again not seeing anyone in his rearview Phil whips into the sand road leading back to the hangar.
The road leading back to the hangar was nearly a mile long leading through mostly cow pasture on each side. The barbed wire fences separating each side of the road were tangled with salt grass and cactus. In the spring wild flowers, mainly blue bonnets and Indian paints dominate the fence line. Right now, was a combination of all. With the hangar in sight he could see Theresa’s jeep parked in front next to his service truck and the two hangars across from theirs showed no sign of the typical weekenders. Being so off the main road, back on the private property, gave a nice vantage point for seeing any approaching vehicles from the highway when looking back from the hangar.
Pulling up and parking next to the jeep Phil could see Theresa on the side of the hangar by the outdoor shower and garden watering the plants. Jumping out and shutting the door on the old truck he could see she had that look as he approached. “Hey hunnie” testing the waters. Dressed for the day in a pair of coral colored shorts, yellow tennis shoes a jersey shirt saying, “Voodoo magic” and a red ball cap with a chili pepper on the front she replied, “hey babe”. Phil could see she had her game clothes on. Dressed like that meant she was either looking for a game of catch or ready for mmm? Pretty much any outside chore. With her old bat bag and glove setting by the lawn chair he knew what she had in mind. Getting out in front of the hangar and throwing the softball was not only a stress reliever for her, it was a Sunday ritual for the two. Phil liked throwing the ball with her. It let him into her past before he ever met her. And besides she didn’t throw like a girl. She could really smoke one into the glove, keeping him on his toes every time she threw. Knowing he was short on time with having to explain everything the Captain had laid out, much less having to round up Mearl the Pearl, he started in with Theresa.
After listening to what Phil laid out, Theresa set back with a look of disbelief on her face and lite a cigarette. Waiting for her response Phil set watching her smoke and think. He couldn’t stand the smell of the bad habit, even though it was just a few a day, but had acquired it right along with her hoping she’d quit soon. The words of her saying “I’ll quite when I’m ready or if I ever get pregnant” rang in his ears as he waited for her reply. Putting out the smoke in the small, sea shell, makesshift ash tray on the table next to her, Theresa took a swig of water from a plastic bottle and said “ok, I’m in. Just one thing, I’m driving”.
Grabbing her bat Bag, she and Phil headed for the gray Jeep Wrangler in front of the hangar and hopped in. Throwing the bag in the backseat they headed out the sand road from the hanger towards the highway. Pulling up onto the pavement and turning right the jeep was headed towards San Luis Pass to hunt down the one and only Mearl the Pearl. Gaining speed, Phil noticed the Bentley from the resort on the side of the road just down from their entrance. Keeping an eye on it as they passed he could see a colored man sitting in the driver’s seat and that lady from the elevator in the back. Watching behind them in his side mirror he saw the rolls Royce pull up onto the pavement and start in their direction, almost as if they were following them. Giving Theresa a play by play of the lady in the elevator, and now in the car that followed them, she shifted into cop mode and kept a steady on the road and their possible pursuer.
Winding their way down Stewart Road behind the sand dunes of the beach the Bentley was getting closer to them by the mile. Making a sharp left and gaining access to the highway that leads to the broken toll both at the San Luis Bridge Phil looks back one more time to check on the car, that’s surely following them. And just like that it was gone, “where and the hell did they go”? Phil asking to himself out loud. “Maybe it’s just coincidence babe” focusing now on the entrance of the bridge coming in view Theresa gains her focus on the road.
Passing the very spot Phil had ran out of gas Friday night he avoids pointing it out to his driver not wanting to hear any more talk about the truck. “So, babe, this where you run out of gas in that piece of crap truck”? Theresa somehow could read the boy’s mind. It happened on a regular basis between them with anything they were doing. If he was thinking it she would say it and vice versa. Responding with a look of boredom Phil points out the fact that tollbooth coming up is still out of commission and for her not to slow down. Blazing past the booth and with water on both sides they are crossing over San Luis Pass bridge to the community of Treasure Island in Freeport, Texas, and the residence of The Pearl Big Daddy. Just out of sight, behind the two, the Rolls Royce Bentley approaches the Pass.
CHAPTER 34: Drift Wood Castles and Fishy Kisses
The east end of Galveston island, and most prominent, with no doubt held the old money of the island. It had been the wealth since the late 1800s. With its mansions that survived the storm of 1900 and high rises of modern day, mainly the Sand Castle Resort, it spoke of wealth. It spoke of wealth of the show boat folk that liked the way they felt when they knew you knew they had it. The opposite end of that spectrum lay at the far west end just across the pass in the canaled subdivision of Treasure Island. These folks had money too but it was the kind where rather than teeing off at the country club in your pressed slacks and dinner shirt, you mowed your own grass with a cold beer in the cup holder of your riding lawn mower and let your balls hang out of your shorts and didn’t care who saw.
Yes, Treasure Island real state was bay front and off the charts. The canals were filled with bay skiffs and monster offshore yachts. The neighbors all knew each other and each other’s business. Monday through Sunday a Mardi Gras could break out for no reason. Local’s main means of transportation in the neighborhood was by golf cart, dressed for carnival year-round, the golf cart got ya around. Each house set on a canal that gained access to the bay and the pass, which was the short cut to offshore.
With no homeowner’s association or building code, Treasure Island set apart from the restriction coded world of Galveston Island. Nothing was less than classy in its own way because of the money that lived there. Each resident took pride in their property in its own unique way, especially the proprietor that occupied the large end canal lot that had the best view of the entire bay.
Setting on 3 acres apart from the rest of the community set the finest drift wood castle you ever saw. Constructed completely of large sections of drift wood inner twined with sea buoy’s and crab traps for walls. Each window was different in nature as if all found at different times during its construction. The oyster shell drive way to the house was lined with palm trees, small palm frond cabanas and large scale characters from Alice in Wonderland, all complements of the miniature golf course that shut down years ago on the island. The owners had posted a sign saying “come and get it”. The house was right out of Swiss Family Robinson on the sea. It was obvious that each scrap that constructed the entire premises was scavenged, found, donated or acquired for nothing. Somehow it was classy in its own Jewish way.
Poking his head up from the cleaning station by the dock, and chewing on something, stood its proud owner, Mearl the Pearl. Pulling the jeep all the way up to the dock where Mearl stood, Phil and Theresa stared through the windshield at the confused look of “oh shit, I have company” on Big Daddy’s face.
Mearl wasn’t used to seeing the jeep, he was more familiar to Phil’s service truck pulling in the drive, and that’s only when he needed a hand with something or some free electric work done. Free is not exactly true, Mearl was always glad to pay for services with sacks of crabs or fish he’d harvested for free from behind his house. The spiked buck pipe, that called his front pocket home, could have assisted in the confused look on his face.
Stepping out of the jeep, Phil and Theresa headed back to the dock. With each step, closer to The Pearl they could see the smile of recognition spread across his face. “Hey baby, what’s shaken” “I didn’t recognize the jeep man” Mearl breaks out with his customary welcome. Holding up a fillet knife and both hands slick with fish slime he motioned them to come on back.
Knocking the sides off one of several large red snappers, Mearl started in on his fishing stories of yesterday. “look at these fish baby, it was crazy baby, crazy” … Admiring the nice catch Philip couldn’t help but chime in “Damn bud, where’d those come from” … “The water baby, the water, haha” Mearl wasn’t giving up any info on a honey hole. Standing tight lipped, still nervous about the task ahead, Theresa stood simply nodding in agreement of the nice fish.
“Big baby, they were all big” he continued “the last one I hooked baby pulled like a submarine” “I couldn’t turn it baby, it just kept on going” “It just kept going away from the rig and towards Sabine pass” “It spooled me baby, it spooled me” Getting so worked up telling the story Mearl reached into his pocket for the spiked buck and said, “excuse me baby” looking at Theresa, knowing his vices conflicted a little with her employment. But also, knowing work was work and play was play in her eyes he took a big hit to settle himself down.
Letting out a large cloud of exhaled smoke Mearl looks around to see if the neighbor’s are watching. Reminding himself he’s at the very end of 3 acres facing the bay and that he has no immediate “neighbor’s” he settles back into the company of Philip and Theresa. Letting him have a minute to gather his thoughts, Phil realized Mearl’s comment about hooking a submarine was gonna help his plan make sense to The Pearl. Just as Phil’s about to start in with the nature of the visit, he can see that confused look back across Big Daddy’s face. Telling something has his attention in the drive, they look up and straight past the jeep in the drive. All three watch as a Bentley Rolls Royce pulls in the driveway.
Mearl, oblivious to any of the conversation Philip is wanting to have with him, stands with that look on his face as the driver gets out and walks back to open the door on the Rolls. Just a bit more apprehensive Phil and Theresa stand watching as well. Stepping out from the back seat of the car the Latin assassin steps out. Towering over the driver, his height only gives good measure to the size she possesses. Leaving the driver behind, Valentina makes a slow casual walk straight at the wondering trio on the dock. Getting within a few feet of the three, Mearl breaks the ice “What’s shaken baby”?.
Valentina knowing, she could easily kill the three were they stand, she assesses the situation. She has already seen the fillet knife which she could take away from the fat slimy handed man in the overalls with the love handles hanging out. Stopped in her thoughts like hitting a freight train she replays her thought again “the fat slimy handed fisherman with the big red snapper and the heavenly rolls of manliness rolling from the sides of his manly overalls holding all that great goodness inside”. Dropping her sunglasses to the end of her nose her heart begins to beat heavy pulsing the blood all over her 6 foot 4-inch body. Turning her face red her jaw drops exposing her two chipped front teeth. Phil and Theresa notice that something is definitely wrong with her, they just don’t know what.
Locked in with eyes on Mearl everything else in Valentina’s world disappears. All she can see in front of her is the love she has waited for her entire life. The man of her dreams is less than six feet away and she is without words. Hearing Mearl drop the knife and fish on the floor behind them, Phil and Theresa both turn to the Pearl to see him in equal of a trance staring at the gargantuan Latina. “What the hell is going on” Phil whispers from the side of his mouth to Theresa. “They in love stupid” the first words from her mouth since they pulled in. “Oh my God, not now” “no,no,no, not right now”!! “This can’t happen right now” Phil panics.
Putting a hand on both Philip and Theresa’s chest Valentina pushes them apart to walk between them and stand face to face with the man she has waited for her whole life. “I, am Valentina”…she says with most important introductory seduction voice she can muster “I’m Big Daddy baby”… “Ah you are the big daddy I hear the captain speak of”…”I guess so baby, I guess so”. Right then Phil knows not only has he been followed by the woman in the elevator but she has at least heard part of their plan to recover the treasure. It all starts to come together in his mind. They must have heard from the balcony next door this morning. “They” yes there must be more than one. Phil starts to look back at the driver still waiting by the car. The submarine, the captains plan, the gold. The whole thing is bouncing around in his mind.
Losing 25 years of loyalty to Augusto Pinochet’s and the Blood Beef Cartel that she has eaten, slept and killed for, in the split second of true love. Valentina Maria Contreras turns to Philip and Theresa and speaks. “I know your plan and I know where the submarine is headed” “I am here to help you”. Handing her sunglasses to Theresa to hold she turns to Mearl the Pearl, who still stands with drool running down from the corner of his mouth., She grabs him by the waist material of his overall and pulls him in with great force for a lover’s kiss. Towering over the 5 foot 10 man with his backwards ball cap, greasy hair and overalls with no shirt Valentina presses her thick red lips tightly against the whiskery face of the mesmerized fisherman. Not breaking for air Mearl puts his slimy fish hands on each side of his new dreamboat’s face and succumbs to the kiss of true love.
Breaking loose from the longest, fishiest red lipstick smeared kiss the world has ever known Mearl says “I don’t know what the plan is baby, but I’m in, I’m in!”
Without even having to explain a word of the plan to Mearl, Phil realizes that love has concord all and given him plenty of time to meet Duck back at the hangar.
Beside the, waiting, Bentley in the driveway, the short, black driver shows his pearly whites “they don’t makem around her like that, uh, uh they show don’t”.
Pounding through the night Selso Martinez is exhausted. The chore of captaining the submarine, with zero avionics, to the next fuel stop has been of great effort. Constantly climbing to the upper deck of the sub to look out, diving below the surface, rising again, looking through the periscope. Its everything the old pirate can do to keep his course. Now that the sun has fallen hours ago, he is forced to steer with the hatch open and keep look out from above.
Sitting back in his captain’s chair at the helm of the crippled ship, he relieves his mind by looking at the neatly proportioned oyster sacks of gold rolled up in a straight line against the wall. Each weighing about 150lbs each. The sight of the bags transports his mind to the comforts of his dream cabana on the shores of Cuba where he will live out his days like a king.
Completely exhausted as well is the last of his crew. As he fights falling asleep on the deck of the sub where he has been sent to keep watch. He knows to disappoint the captain in anyway could send him to the sharks. Slapping himself in the face he finds things to look for to keep him awake. In the furthest squints of the distance he strains his eyes to see little specks of light. The more he tries the more he sees. Moving at the slow pace, trying to navigate the night, the specs of light barley twinkle in the distance, but it’s something to look at and they seem to be in every direction. Dismissing it as only something to keep him awake he says nothing to the captain below. Under the complete darkness of night, the captain figures their location to be about 30 miles offshore, just off the coast of Dulac, Louisiana. Daylight still several hours away, Selso feels this will assure some safety as they make their way to the chandeliers. So close to escape, he continues to count his fortune that lay before him.
CHAPTER 35: “What’s Shakin”
Wiping the fish slime from her cheeks and grabbing another few smooches from her man Valentina returns to the driver of the Bentley and gives him a note. Shaking his head in compliance he gets in the car and drives off, leaving the newest member of the Big Daddy gang at the driftwood castle. Taking Mearl by the hand, and relieving Philip from having to explain a thing, Valentina walks the two towards a large boathouse at the end of the dock. Following close behind, Phil can hear Mearl’s new catch giving him a play by play of the plan. She lays out, the plan with such detail it even reminds Philip of things he had left out when telling Theresa at the hangar. Catching an occasional glimpse from her on the parts he left out Phil mumbles “she’s got a mind like a steel trap babe”.
Stopping just a few feet of the boathouse Mearl interrupts his Latin lover with “hang on just a minute baby” turning to look at Philip “hey man you think you can run back up to the house and finish cleaning them fish”? “And don’t fuckem up baby, take that knife I got and start at the tail and keep it tight to the bone and….” Going on and on with every detail of exactly how he wants it done Mearl The Pearl does what he does best, boss the free help around. Getting a tug of assistance by the arm Theresa pulls Philip back towards the house to give him a hand, leaving the two love birds alone at the boathouse.
Opening the doors to the boathouse at the end of the dock reveals a 70’ Buddy Davis sport fisher setting ready to go. Long and sleek with light seafoam green paint, white decks, tinted glass, perfect teak and the name across the back “What’s Shakin Baby” the Buddy Davis is loaded with all upgrade electronics. The interior salon is furnished with wrap around leather sofa and a galley of all stainless appliances. A big screen TV sets inset to custom cabinetry along the starboard wall in the main salon makes the living room a place of comfort. Down below, four fully furnished state rooms, all with private shower and head make this boat a luxurious ride.
Continuing her spill of the Plan, Valentina steps on to the deck of the boat, where she floats in the slip. Making her way around the vessel like a veteran mariner, The Pearl watches as Valentina turns on the navigation system and works her way through it effortlessly while continuing to talk. Not even dreaming of giving an order or asking for any advantageous thing, for the first time in his life, Mearl The Pearl has met his match.
The boat is the single nicest item that Mearl owns. It sets apart from the driftwood castle and the skiff and the bad eating habits and all the crap piled up around the house that found its way home because it was free or someone gave it to him. It Is not part of the hoarders dream that lay neatly stacked in some functional fashion around his house. No, the Buddy Davis is NICE! It reflects the true amount of wealth that Big Daddy’s made of. And tucked away in the Boathouse at the end of a canal lot in the subdivision of treasure Island its only for few to see.
(every truly wealthy person I ever met you’d never know they had a dime)
Turning to check on Phil cleaning his fish the way he wants, Mearl looks back towards the house. Straining his eyes to see every detail, he gives up. Turning back around to continue with his new everything, he finds Valentina setting on the couch in the Salon setting legs crossed, and ladylike, she pats the empty spot on the couch next to her “Come sit with me Big Daddy”. (Discontinuing the following details on behalf of the reader, the world and everything that is disgustingly sacred we leave the two alone on the boat.)
“What the hell is that noise”? Phil looks towards the boathouse. “Oh my God that is some kind of disgusting”. Finishing up the fish detail him and Theresa take the bagged fish to the chest freezer under the house. Raising the lid to the freezer they witness enough fish, beef steak, duck, alligator, pig, deer, elk, and crap they don’t recognize to feed Galveston Island. Shaking his head at the stockpile Phil adds the snapper to the rest and shuts the lid.
“Is the what’s Shakin done Shakin yet babe”? “We have things to do”! Phil ask out loud. “How’s this for quality time babe”? he adds as Theresa walks back to the jeep and grabs a cigarette. “Hey, you wanna throw the ball a bit while Mr. and Ms. gorgantchua finish whatever gross thing they’re doing out there”? Laughing at Phil’s continuous pokes at the new love birds she takes a drag from her smoke “I think it’s cute babe, sure”.
Pulling two gloves and a ball from the bat bag in the back seat of the jeep, Phil and Theresa have a therapy session of catch on the oyster shell drive. With all the craziness the day has brought, with the unbelievable task laid out before them and with all the unimaginable things that you could never unsee if you were a fly on the wall inside the Buddy Davis “What’s Shakin Baby” Phil could see a relaxed smile across Theresa’s face and knew this was the quality time she was looking for. “love you babe”,,,, “Love you too”…
“HEY”! a voice yells from the boathouse, “Let’s get this show on the road”!! Giving each other a kiss Philip and Theresa part ways. And as a grey jeep heads back across the San Luis Pass bridge a 70’ Buddy Davis named “What’s Shakin Baby” cuts a path headed offshore in the setting sun.
CHAPTER 36: Going Down
Setting on the leather sofa in his penthouse suite, Augie reads the note just dropped off by the Bentley Chauffer. Seeing the look of bewilderment on his face, Carmel asks, “what is wrong my love”? Looking up from the piece of paper in his hand, Augie calmly states “Valentina will not be returning to Chile with us”. Wadding up the delivered message in his hands, he gets up to head for the bedroom “I have to get ready, it’s almost time to leave”. Always 100 percent confident in her husband’s leadership she turns to Christo at the kitchen table and admires him not having a care in the world eating a bowl of Captain Crunch. Knowing one day he will walk in his father’s shoes she puts a soft hand on the back of his head.
Standing in the large dress mirror of the master Suite, Augie adjusts the collar on his low buttoned silk button up shirt. The color of the silk is blood red, only worn when dismissing a member of the Blood Beef Cartel. Straightening the watch on his wrist he checks the time and speaks aloud to himself in the mirror, “see you shortly Selso” and heads for the door of the penthouse.
Standing next to the elevator, waiting for the light above the door to indicate its arrival, Augie looks to his right to see he has company. Standing just three feet away, with his hands held together formally in front of him, is an elderly man with long solid grey hair pulled back to a pony tail and donned with a ball cap. Augie admires his dress to be a solid white T-shirt, khaki pants, a shark skin belt and boots to match. Hanging from the old man’s neck is a gleaming Spanish galleon dangling from a thick gold chain. The two men recognizing each other’s presence with a silent nod, the elevator arrives. Both gesture one to politely go before the other. The captain’s charm dominates Augie’s resistance to enter first and respectfully he steps in the elevator as directed from the one-eyed man. As the two men stand side by side, obviously dressed for the evening they stand looking straight forward not saying a word as the doors of the elevator shut.
On the bottom floor, and the lobby of the Sand Castle Inn and Resort in Galveston, Texas, the doors to the private penthouse suite elevator opens. Laughter and talk of two old friends fills the corridor of the lobby coming from the elevator. Stepping out arm in arm, Captain Terry Fintch and Augusto Pinochet’s walk through the lobby with smiles and laughter as if they had known each other a Lifetime. Calling out to the valet, captain Terry beckons the driver to bring the Bentley around.
In the 35 seconds, it takes to get from the penthouse 40 stories high to the bottom floor of the Sand Castle lobby, Captain Terry Fintch has befriended a complete stranger and the leader of the Blood Beef Cartel. The two, walking side by side, strut through the elegant lobby of the resort headed for the main door. Walking out into the night air the Rolls Royce waits with driver at the back door, “Where to gentlemen”? Both getting into the back seat, Captain Terry says, “to the flagship James” …. “Yes sir, Captain Terry, to the flag ship it is” … shutting the door and making his way to the driver’s seat the short black driver who has seen his fair share of firsts today says “I don’t know what it is, but it’s about to go down, yes sir it’s about to go down”.
When those elevator doors had shut on the top floor of the Sand Castle just a few minutes ago Captain Terry, with his one mystical eye, had confronted Augie immediately. Calling him by his complete name he spelled out the facts of what Duck and Philip had given him, the fact that he knew that Augie knew every detail, “because no one just rents out the other penthouse for a week”. He even gave Augie a complete detail of the history of the Blood Beef Cartel back to when Augie’s uncle had run the show, “I dealt with the Blood Beef in these waters when you were still in diapers lad”. Yes, the 35 seconds it took Captain Terry to lay it out to Augie exposed that they were all after the same thing. Imprisoned by his charm and wisdom, Augie succumbed to the captain and could only respond in gut busting blast of laughter as the door opened on the bottom floor.
Pulling up to the flagship hotel “To the pier James” Terry answered the white eyes he could see needing direction from the rearview. “Yes sir”. The Rolls continued down the concrete drive of the flagship to the fishing pier/boat dock that was located 300 yards out into the Gulf of Mexico. The Flagship was a tall standing hotel over the water that had seen its glory days come and go. The honeymoon destination of the 60s and 70s was now closed and on the list to be condemned and turned into some type of pleasure pier boardwalk by some asshole with too much money.
Reaching the end of the Drive, the Bentley stopped. Letting themselves out from the back seats Augie stood admiring his new surroundings as Terry dismissed the driver. James drives the Rolls back towards the resort shaking his head “Its about to go down”!
Standing in the dark of night at the end of the drive 300 yards out on the Gulf of Mexico stood Captain Terry Fintch and Augusto Pinochet’s, two great leaders in their own right. “Shall we”? the captain addresses Augie. After you sir, this time the captain leading the way the two walk to the edge of the pier to a stairwell leading down to the boat dock. As they both look down over the edge, setting idle with both diesel motors purring like a kitten and backed up to the dock set the “What’s Shakin baby”. On the back deck looking up at Augie and the captain stood its crew Mearl the Pearl, Valentina and Theresa Denee”. “Come on baby” “Let’s go” Big Daddy calls out “time is wasting”.
Making their way down the stairs and onto the dock, Captain Terry and Augie board the “What’s Shakin baby”. Theresa unleashes the dock line the two 1825 HP caterpillars open up blowing a large cloud of black smoke on the dock as they lung forward turning the water under full power into the dark of the night.
Congregating in the salon of the Buddy Davis well under way Captain Terry finds a comfortable spot on the couch to give commands “South by South East, make a straight line to the Chandeliers and maintain under full power” Mearl knowing who was now in charge of his boat replies with a more than happy “Eye, eye Baby, south by south east” and pushes the throttles full forward.
Augie pulls Valentina to the side. “Valentina, I got your note. You know there is only one way out of the Blood Beef” “si, jefe” “you see the color of this shirt”? “si, jefe” “You know what it means” “si, jefe” “This will also be the color of your wedding dress and I will give you a way to this Big Daddy” “I am so happy for you”. And with the first tears either one had ever seen in the other’s eyes they embraced with a big hug. Sitting across the salon in silence on the sofa with the captain, Theresa Denee’ wiped a witnessing tear away from her face as she watched from afar.
Leaving Augie so she could rejoin the captain, Valentina found her hunk of burning love at the helm and stood fast at his side gripping the abundance of love handle for support as they pushed into the sea ahead. Feeling a Sense of companionship like he had never felt, Mearl felt a familiar feeling come across his body. He was hungry. “Hey baby go look down in the fridge and make me a sandwich would ya baby”? “Put a little bit of everything on there would ya” “In fact put a lot of everything please baby” “And grab a couple sodas too” this delighted Valentina to no end to feed her hungry man. Yes, this was a match made in heaven.
CHAPTER 37: Phil, er, Up
Back at the hangar Phil and Duck work feverishly. Stripping everything from the fuselage of the 172. “Everything’s gotta go bud, front seats, back seat, supplies everything” “The only thing we can leave is the radio if we’re gonna get this girl off the ground”. Cutting a hole in the top of each pontoon, Philip installs transfer pumps and fuel lines leading to the wings main fuel storage above. Sealing the tops off with silicone caps, he says, “that aught a do it”. Together the two push the plane over to the 300-gallon gravity fed fuel tank outside. Topping off each pontoon and the wings, Phil puts two 5-gallon buckets in the front of the aircraft for seats. “Ok, get in”! Phil says, to a not so eager to go along for the ride friend of his. “Its ok man, if we run out of fuel we just land on the water and radio for help”. Still not looking any more eager Philip adds “hey bud, it’s your treasure not mine, now let’s go”!
Turning off all navigation lights and transponder, Philip and Duck taxi down the runway to its furthest end. Running the engine up to 1700 RPM he goes through his check list. Phil could tell the bird was heavy with the extra fuel when he was taxing and working through his usual. With no time to waste he looks at Duck “hold on to your Dong Duck, here we go” He couldn’t resist the humor of the captain at a time like this. With both feet on the brakes and full flaps down he pushes full throttle and goes through the motions of a short field take off knowing its gonna take every inch of runway. Gaining speed as they go, Phil can feel the controls steadying in his hands as they increase speed. Keeping forward pressure on the yoke, he focuses on the street light he knows lays just at the end of the runway. With only darkness in front of them he glances at the dim light speedometer on the dash. Just 100 feet from the street lamp he pulls back gently on the yoke and feels the 172 come off the ground. Just nicking the top strand of barbed wire with the back of the pontoons, they are on their way into the night sky.
Looking over at Duck with a red hunters lamp strapped to his Forehead, he throws him the chart to unfold. “Fold this out bud and give me numbers from here and here” he asks tapping his fingers on the chart in Ducks lap. Dialing in the points on the VOR in the dash of the plane, Phil makes his first heading. “The sun should be up soon, we’re gonna be alright” settling Duck’s nerves with some words of affirmation. Phil laughs at his thoughts “holy crap that’s my love language to Duck” not even opening his mouth of that thought the two friends maintain their course.
Shaking himself from startled dreams of sharks ripping his friend to shreds, the 1st mate of the Back Shark jerks awake to realize he is still safely out of the water on the deck of the submarine. Rubbing his eyes and wondering how long he has been asleep he takes inventory of his surroundings. First looking down in the hatch he can see the captain sound asleep at the controls. Looking back up he can see the first signs of light on the distance. Not only can he see first of dawn but the tiny specs of light that seemed to be in every direction of the night have gotten extremely closer and taken on definite shape. The lights appear to be deck lights on boats. The boats are still dark objects on the dim horizon but they are definitely boats, shrimp boats. Standing up and shaking off the bad dream and gaining his senses, the deckhand looks around in 360 degrees to see what is now obviously shrimp boats completely surrounding the sub. The deck lights from each trawler have lightened or lit but I could not find lit in the dictionary up the early morning like a million stars on the water completely encircling the Black Shark’s location on the water. Now fully awake but not comprehending what he is seeing, he knows this is worthy of waking the captain.
Swinging in a hammock stretched between two palm trees Captain Selso Delossantos rests peacefully in the salty breeze of the Cuban coast. Dressed in solid white loose Island clothes he naps with large palm frond hat rested on his face. He can hear the waves crashing against the shore while servants scramble around his premises doing their daily chores. Everything is in its place. Dangling one arm down from the swinging hammock he runs his hand into an open-ended oyster sack full of gold coins. Dredging his hand through the coins the hat is lifted from his face to the company of his beautiful young Cuban wife. Leaning down pressing her soft lips against his face, she begins to nudge his chest “wake up honey, wake up” not understanding her request he continues to reach with his lips for another kiss. Still the tapping and shaking on his chest. Getting annoyed, the captain pushes his beautiful Island girl away to see her dressed in a long white dress and wearing the face of his first mate. The thought of his deckhand dressed like that disgusts him and more so infuriates him for kissing on him in the hammock. Scrambling from the hammock to his feet the Captain falls from his chair at the helm of the Black Shark to the floor below.
Helping the captain slowly off the floor with care, the deckhand is jerked away with looks of uncertainty from Captain Selso. Shaking of the dream and the embarrassment of somehow thinking the first mate could see inside his mind, he gains his composure “What do you want”!… he demands. “Capitan” “Please come see”
Together both Chilean pirates climb the gangway to the deck above and stare at the spectacle that now surrounds them. Completely surrounded in a closing circle, a thousand shrimp boats side by side all encroaching on the sub’s position. Tightly uniformed with outrigger still up the trawlers maintain a slow and steady direction towards the sub. Circling above the trawlers, as if herding cattle from the sky, flies a small pontooned aircraft viewing everything from above. Just on the outside of the circle of trawlers runs a large sport fishing yacht, like the plane above it is keeping the herd in tight formation from the water. Selso instantly knows he has not beaten the Blood Beef to the Chandelier Islands for fuel. With the circle closing by the minute he knows this is war. There is no surrender. There is no turning back.
His heart in his stomach Selso and his innocent help return below deck. Slamming the hatch on the sub the captain works the controls sending the sub in a blind dive to the bottom in attempt to get out of this circle of death. Only 30 miles from shore they are only in 60 feet of water as the sub submerges from sight.
“There they go Captain Terry, they are going down” Phil gives call from the sky to the “What Shakin baby” calm and cool Captain Terry stands at the radio inside the Buddy Davis with an early morning Bloody Mary in one hand and mic in the other. It is Monday morning and just because he can’t be at his regular seat at the Wharf Rat Lounge doesn’t mean he can’t have his usual breakfast. “Attention all ships, attention all ships ”Goodmorning” “It’s time to start operation drag net” “All outriggers down” “I repeat, all outriggers down” “maintain course and speed and close the gap” “It’s time to go fishin” Taking a nice long pull from his drink, he takes a bite from the green stalk of celery sprouting from the glass and says “let’s go get our gold”.
Hanging on every word the captain says, Mearl the pearl gets a familiar feeling across his body, he’s hungry and wants one of them Bloody Mary’s. The power of suggestions a real bitch ain’t it? Turning to his Valentina he doesn’t have to say word, she’s already headed to the kitchen to fix her Big Daddy what he wants. “This is gonna work out baby, this is gonna work out” with a pleased smile of bliss Mearl maintains readiness at the controls of the “What’s Shakin Baby”.
Missing from the rest of the crew is Theresa Denee’ who has found what she was looking for in their ride through the night, a bed. Laying sound asleep in the one of four state rooms Theresa Denee’ lay in her favorite prone position. Not caring much for the motion of the ocean or the thought of missing any regular sleep, she lay quiet as a mouse charging her batteries for the Monday night shift, that she fully intends on making. One thing about the Cajun girl from Crowley, Louisiana, she didn’t miss work.
Looking from the sky down on the closing circle Phil and Duck can see all the shrimp boats lowering their outrigger and dropping their nets to the water below. Forming some tight design of a locked grid. “Holy shit, we are fishing for submarines” Duck says aloud. “Yes we are Duck, Yes we are”.
Diving as fast as the sub will go, the captain presses hard forward on the throttles giving the sub all she has in attempts to escape the closing drag nets. Down Down she dives and sooner than expecting slams her nose into the muddy bottom of the Gulf. Disabling the torpedo tubes and throwing the captain and hand forward violently. The vessel levels out scraping every inch of her bottom side along the jagged belly of the Gulf. Scrambling back to the controls, Selso levels her out and regains his speed. Frantically shooting blind across the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, Selso can hear the trawl doors of the net above bouncing off the sides of the sub.
Thicker and louder the sounds drape every inch of the blind vessel. Finally entangling the sub in a thick mass of trawl doors and nets Selso feels his forward progress come to lunging complete stop. He can feel the sub now beginning to roll on its side and being drug backwards in the opposite direction. All the sacks of gold sliding heavily to one side of the ship and then the other, all maintained in the tightly bound oyster sacks. As the ship has been taken completely out of his control so are his thoughts of capture. He knows his fate has been sealed through his greed. Being tossed and rolled in the dark stench filled confines of the sub under 60’ of water, Selso grabs tightly to an assault rifle and patiently awaits his doom.
From the sky, Philip sees a section of the circle below breaking from form, being pulled out as if to create a point on top of a perfectly round circle. “Hey captain we got ourselves a submarine I believe” giving coordinates on which part of the circle he sees out of whack, he sees the Buddy Davis heading in that direction. Throttling back and running a little low on fuel Phil drops altitude to get a closer look.
I don’t know that you mean one of the lucky shrimpers to have a strangle hold on the tail of the Black Shark is the Proud Mary herself. Having left port with Dang at the helm shortly after receiving call from the captain the morning before, she had made it to the party right on time. “Good morning Dong” “Dang glad you could make it” a familiar voice chimes across the Proud Mary’s radio. Captain Terry just can’t help himself. And with all the shrimp boats, the Buddy Davis and the plane working the same frequency everyone starts in on the joke. Ding Duck Dang Dong and on and on…
Stepping on the back deck and pulling the arm down to engage the wench, the Proud Mary starts reeling in her treasure for the second time. This time she is not alone. At least a dozen shrimp boats have become entangled in the biggest mess of nets that will never be used again.
Speeding around to be front and center the “What’s Shakin Baby” pulls up aside the Proud Mary, and her help, as the sub begins to surface. The Proud Mary isn’t the only one from Saturday morning that isn’t missing the party. A loud and obnoxious familiar voice spreads across the water. “I got it Uncle Hanks, I got it”. Turning all heads in the immediate area as all hands on deck watch Maurice Thibodaux III Garcon throws a cable lasso from the back deck of the Crazy Cajun onto the hatch of the Black Shark. “Go Uncle Hanks Go”!! Hollering back complaints of “dam et bot im not yo uncle, im da captain”! Captain Hanks puts full throttles to the Crazy Cajun ripping the hatch from the captured submarine.
Lining up with a semi chop runway of water and running on fumes Philip pulls back the throttle and stalls the plane out as she touches down just outside of the clueless what this is supposed to be area of boats. Idling over with caution he kills the motor to join the dead silence of the party. All parties of the Buddy Davis are on her back deck up close and personal excluding sleeping beauty. The hunting party of shrimpers stand a watch. As the floating time machine inches closer to the sub with the tide a set of hands appear from the hole that no longer has a hatch. Stepping all the way out of the sub is the scared 1st mate who can’t believe the gathering of the masses before his eyes.
A strong Latin voice chiming from the back deck of the Buddy Davis “I will take this one” Valentina demands the young sailor to dive in the water and swim to the sport fisher immediately. Without hesitation, the scared Chilean sub hand that has been through hell scrambles to his fate. Opening the back-gunnel door of the stern, made for dragging large fish through, she assists the Chilean boy with a firm hand to the back of the neck, lifting him from his feet from the deck. Smacking him on the back of the head. And with her free hand she carries him, dripping wet, away to uncertainty inside the cabin.
The boy only mumbling words of “the captain is dead; the captain is dead”
Pulling on the entangled lines that hold the sub, Augie and Captain Terry work the back end of the sport fisher right up to the side of the sub. “Hey baby, watch the paint” The Pearl calls down from the helm. Both Augie and Terry sending him in retreat with a simultaneous glare.
Jumping onto the deck of the Black Shark Augie feels a since of owner ship come over him having regained his damaged possession. With Terry beside him they both look down into the haul of the Shark. Laying on the floor, not dead but unconscious, lay the battered body of Selso Delossantos Martinez, previous high ranking officer of the Blood Beef Cartel. “Mmmm mm mm what a pity” Augie mumbles to himself. “Whata ya say we get this gold and get out of here”? the Captain says putting the tail end of his plan in action. “Si” and with that they begin the unloading of the gold from the sub to the “What’s Shakin baby”.
Standing on the back deck of the Sport fisher, holding each end of the last burlap tote sack of coins, Captain Terry and Augie hear Philip scream “Look out”! Wheeling around they see the pitiful, decrepit Chilean pirate Selso standing out of the hatch of the sub holding an assault rifle. Aiming the gun at Augie and the captain, Selso sways back and forth on his weak legs, his face runs of blood through one swollen eye and his other eye is hollow with rage. “That is my gold” “Give it to me” he spits in Spanish to Augie. Like a flash of lightning, a white ball flies fast as a bullet knocking the gun from Selso’s hands. Looking in the direction it came from, off the back deck of the Buddy Davis, stands Theresa Denee’ with glove in hand and cap on backwards. Slapping the inside of her glove and Spitting on the deck at her feet, she says “You’re out Bitch”.
Looking at each other in the pattern of thought, Augie says “Selso here’s your gold, catch” Heave hoeing the sack of gold back to the open hatch of the sub they hit Selso directly in the chest, sending him to the deck below inside the Black Shark. The sack of coins landing on his chest and pinning his exhausted body to the ground. “Cut the lines” Augie demands. All decks on hand wielding razor sharp fillet knives begin freeing themselves from the tangled mess. With the last line popping loose releasing all tension, the Black Shark begins to sink below the surface. The water quickly racing into the open hatch and muffling the gargled screams from Selso inside screaming “Noooooooo”! As the Black Shark fills with water, it falls below the surface and plummets to the bottom for the very last time.
“Nice throw babe” Philip proudly shouts standing on the pontoon of the floating plane. “Yeah, I know” Theresa replies and turns to walk back in the yacht. Returning to the comforts of her cool sheets of the air-conditioned state room below, she heads inside. Passing through the galley on her way back she has located The Pearl’s stash of Reeses Peanut Butter Cups and snags one for her victory walk back to bed.
“well let’s get the hell out of here” Terry says heading for the radio of the sport fisher, “Attention all hands, attention all hands” “thank you for your participation in the events of the day, please return to your ports safely and quietly, that means you Garcon” “Uncle Terry will be in touch before Christmas”. And with that each shrimp boat pulled a long tug on their air horns, sending a deep groan of successful confirmation across the water. Raising their outriggers and headed for their home ports, from Kemah, Texas to Key West Florida, the once congested scene on the Gulf dissipated leaving no trace of captain Selso or the Black Shark.
Getting refueled from supplies off the “Whats Shakin Baby” Philip unloaded Duck on the Proud Mary, with direction for him and Dong to meet at Captain Terry’s tomorrow night. Lining up an increasing choppy sea of runway the 172 left the water for the skies headed west raining down little beads of water to the deck of the Buddy Davis as she climbed.
CHAPTER 38: Gold Is Good Diamonds Are Better
Seated at the long dinner table of captain Terry’s seaside suite on the penthouse floor of the Sand Castle Inn and Resort, sat his dinner party. At the head of the table the host Captain Terry. Down each side sat his guests Philip and Theresa, yes this was actually an occasion worth missing work for, Duck and Dang, Augie and his beautiful wife Carmel, their son Christo, Mearl the Pearl and Valentina. The dinner table held platters of fresh rare beef steaks flown directly from the grass fields of Argentina, jumbo boiled shrimp and oyster harvested by the Proud Mary on her trip in. Monster blue crabs from one of Mearl’s, several honey holes, topped of the spread.
Standing and “dressed” for the occasion Captain Terry chimed a sparkling champagne glass in his finest white bath robe. “I’d like to say a, very, few words” the captain starts in. “I’ve seen a lot of things out on that Gulf of Mexico in my time, but nothing like I’ve seen this weekend”. “I wanna wish Augie and his beautiful family a safe journey home and for them to know they are always welcome here on the shores of Galveston, TX.” “All arrangements have been made for your cut of the treasure to be transported into your inner circles”.. Receiving a nod of gratitude from Augie and Carmel the captain continues but not before Duck speaks up “but captain the proud Mary found the…” Silenced by looks from the Captain and Valentina, Duck bites his tongue “hold your dong Duck” the captain lightens the atmosphere again, making all at the table chuckle, excluding Duck and Dong.
Continuing “Mearl and Valentina my blessings upon you in your journey of love, just keep it to yourselves for Christ sake” and last but not least “beautiful Theresa Denee’, that is one awesome fastball my girl. Where did you learn that”?. Responding in her casual usual self, “my Maw”… “well my dear, please give her my deepest gratitude” the captain knows without the fast pitch to that assault rifle the day could have taken a different turn. Sitting next to Theresa, Philip was feeling proud for his girl but a bit unrecognized. Finishing his toast the Captain held his glass high “To Blood Beef, Dead shrimp and Gold”.
Everyone settling down into the 5-course meal and rolling conversation the Captain spoke one more time, “If you would all excuse me I’d like to steal Philip for a moment” Excusing themselves from the table, Philip followed the captain as they walked to the front door. Looking back at Theresa Phil shrugged his shoulders as he followed the captain into the corridor and to the elevator. “What’s up Captain Terry”? “well son I wanna talk to you about that piece of shit truck of yours” rolling into a small laugh and a pat on Phil’s shoulder the captain quickly dismisses the joke as the elevator doors opened. Remaining silent until the two had entered and the doors had shut, he started in again “Philip my boy, I need to talk with you son.” Seeing for the first time the Captain getting shaky in his voice Phil got quiet and listened.
“You’ve heard me go on for years about my time on the Gulf and the stories of the gold I snagged with the Proud Mary. Getting his normal voice back Phil relaxed to hear more. “You know when I got back to the dock with that catch the feds were there waiting on me and took the whole chest I had found, much like the one Duck and Dong found this weekend”, both smiling at the Dong comment. “And you see what they gave me for what I found”, brandishing the medallion that never left his neck. With the elevator reaching the bottom floor the two stepped out of the elevator as Terry continued building up his talk with Phil.
The late hour of the evening had the lobby empty except for a lone piano player up playing by the entrance of the resort. Some Limey they drug in from the Cayman Islands to set and play for tourist as they walked in. Continuing their walk in the opposite direction of the entrance Philip took a turn “yeah captain I’ve heard that story, you found the gold and the feds took all of it from you and you got that piece around your neck and you spent forever looking for it again”…. “you did give it all to them didn’t you captain”? Looking at the captain’s face hold the look as if he was asked if he ate the family canary and shaking his head no with feathers hanging from his mouth he said, “Not exactly” and stopped at the door leading to the boiler room.
Opening the door, allowing Philip to enter first the captain looked back up and down the hall to cover their tracks. Slipping inside behind Philip he led them to the back of the room to a rusty iron hinged door that led to a stairwell. Motioning him inside he started again as they walked down the stairs. You see Philip when I went back out in the Gulf and searched until I found what I was looking for and I brought it to the safest place I knew. No one would ever look, here. Stopping at the bottom of the stairs Philip knew where they were. The WWII cannon bunkers that the Sand Castle was built on. “ I hid what I found here my boy. You see in the early 80s when you was just a kid running around here playing with your dick out in the water with all your buddies, these cannon bunkers was the only thing that was here. There wasn’t no God damn resort built on top of it! I figured with all the damn rattle snakes that lived down here wouldn’t nobody ever bother digging around. So, I buried it, buried it right here”! Stomping his foot down on a hollow sounding piece of ground under a dripping water pipe. Wanting to drop to his knees and start digging Philip stood patiently as he could with the most baited breath you ever saw. “So I leave, I’d exhausted myself looking for the damn thing, so I buried it and I left. Took a long vacation to Asia, learned to appreciate a good cup of hot green tea. Hell, I even fell in love, found the love of my life, but it didn’t work out. I’d been gone so long I figured I’d take my broken heart home and drowned it at the lounge. So I did. I came home and found this God damn building setting on top of my treasure. So, finding my way down here one night, I dug around and there she was right where I left her. I figured if she had stayed safe and sound all this time why move her and I bought the penthouse upstairs to keep watch over her all these years, just dippin in when I needed to”. All the world made sense to Philip in that very second. Every story every question he’d ever held inside about the captain. “Philip” shaky voiced again. “It’s yours son, I want you to have the whole thing. You can have a taste now and when im gone it’s all yours.” Not believing what he was hearing Phil’s heart was overcome with an equal amount of excitement and emotion from, not just the captain’s words of the gift, but the love he felt from the old man. He had no idea. Kneeling to his knees to sweep away a thin layer of sand Philip dropped down next to the captain. Letting the captain do all of it on his own, Philip held back to watch him work. Digging out of the sand around, what looked much smaller than the chest the Proud Mary had found, the captain pulled up a simple looking wooden box wrapped in the similar craftsmanship of black smith that had constructed the one Duck and Dang found, but only a third of the size. This box was lifted with ease from the sand by the Captain and set on the ground before them. “Philip Allen, let me tell you something. There’s other things in this world that are much more valuable than any chest full of gold coins”. “Number one son is love”. Looking with a complete trance of life’s mystery fixing to be exposed Phil ask, “what’s number two Captain”? “well that’s when ya gotta take a crap my dear boy everyone knows that” Half hardily laughing with tears in his eyes Philip watched the captain smile and say “Diamonds” …
Lifting the lid on the small chest the reflection from the boiler room stairwell shown down and reflected the shimmering light of a million broken pieces of glass in the faces of the men. “Diamonds”
I would like to dedicate this book to the memory of my father
Vincent Lawrence Flood 1935-2016
Whose alter ego inspired the character of Captain Terry Fintch
My dad always had a book in his hand and an inspirational comment on his lips.
“always leave them laughing” (Larry Flood)
For the Captain Terry that lives in all of us!
Great inspiration for life style and a passion to fly go to My uncle Don and Aunt Carolyn
She encouraged me one chapter at a time.
The other character’s worth mentioning are Mearl the Pearl. So, true to character that the character wrote himself in the pages of the book, I almost couldn’t keep up.
Trendy Denee’ A dear friend and inspiring the character Theresa Denee’
Again, so true to Character. “I love You Trendy girl”
My editing team
Aunt Carolyn Flood
And anyone else I could beg.
AFTER THE PARTY
Still having to twist wire nuts for a living, Philip and Theresa maintained their paradise at the hangar. Him running a small electric service and spotting fish from the sky. Theresa working dispatch from the Crystal Beach police station. There were some changes around the hangar though. Those plywood counter tops got swapped out for granite, a hot tub got added to the outdoor kitchen and that old piece of crap truck, well it’s still and old piece of crap. Phil will get to it one day. One more small change around the hangar was Phil and Theresa were adding on another room upstairs because she quit smoking. Not because she was ready to………..
Down on the far west end just over San Louis Pass, Mearl and Valentina are living the life running crab traps and fishing all of Mearl’s honey hole every day not to mention living out all his fantasies of….. Well? we will not mention on second thought. “It’s disgusting” . Mearl finally found some free labor that didn’t complain. That young deck hand from the Black Shark that got carried aboard by the back of his next neck was Mearl and Valentina’s new personal pool boy, lawn boy, and all around protégée for Big Daddy to whip in shape. Valentina had received him as a wedding gift from Augie sparing the young boys life.
Augie, Carmel and Christo finished out their vacation and returned to the beautiful hillsides of Chile spreading the wealth of their new-found fortune through people of their land and with a new sub named Proud Mary II continue the path that was laid long ago.
Bill Davis and Goldie still keep an eye on the tide and the sweet woman in the kitchen.
Captain Terry still resides Monday through Friday at the corner seat of the Warf rat Lounge on West beach. Keeping an eye on the front door and telling his tales.
So next time you’re in some salty little place by the sea that doesn’t look like much and ya see an old timer wanting to share his soul with ya, may be a good idea to sit down, shut up and listen. Stay tuned for upcoming adventures of what we may call Phillip Allen and the Wharf Rats…..
From the author
This book was fun to write, growing up in Seabrook Texas in my grandmother’s house by the bay allowed me to have freedoms some will never know. I moved into my “nanas” house shortly after the passing of my grandfather Philip Allen portrayed as Bill Davis in the book. Him and Goldie were true to character along with the beautiful Lilian Allen my “Nana”. The meals cooked in that kitchen are reminded to me daily when I look at the sign from her kitchen that my mother gave me after her passing. It sets high and proud in my kitchen “Lillian’s Home Cooking”. I was my grandmothers only grandson and everyone knew it especially my sisters. That may be why she didn’t mind playing such a strong roll in raising me and forgave easy even when I stole her car at the age of 14 in pursuit of California stardom.
My mother and sister still reside in that house today and it’s never been a warmer place to visit with mom continuing the tradition of one great loving meal after another.
Waking in the summer and running barefoot in nothing but a torn-up pair of jeans all day. Up and down the bay front fishing and burning my bare feet on the hot planks of any pier I could find. Running through the woods that fronted the salty water was my home. In the summer. As I got older I would occasionally deckhand on a shrimp boat out of Port Bolivar named the Proud Mary. The story always went that she snagged a real treasure one time and authorities took it all away from the captain that snagged it. True? Not true? I’ll leave that up to you. I like to think it is.
The fish houses that cover the point by the Seabrook Kemah bridge are still run today with the hard-working Vietnamese families that carved their stronghold in the 70s.
Growing up and raising a family around the salty shores between Seabrook, Texas and Galveston Island has given me the blessing of knowing some of the most interesting characters. Some so far out they could only be true, you can’t make stuff like that up. The numbers of friends and family that still reside in these areas will always be what I call home.
& PINE SAP WINE]
Philip Allen and the salty Warf rat characters of Galveston Island find themselves solving problems in East Texas when a mutual friend gets tied in with the wrong cut throat crowd, deep in the big thicket.
CHAPTER 1 Buck Fever
Staring at the canvas ceiling, Jeb knew he was in the make shift tent he had made a week ago. Under his left arm, he could feel the lump of the tick getting fatter. He had missed it the first 3 days it was there, and now it was too late. It was safer to leave it alone and let it feed than to chance pulling it off and losing the head deep under the skin where it lay now. If he pulled on it now, the head would rip lose from its body, die and fester under the skin, and cause infection. With another 3 days ahead of him in these woods, he couldn’t chance that. Either way he was gonna have to dig it out with a needle or knife and that could wait till he was at the house. Feeling its plumpness made it itch and sent the urge to scratch it and yank it off shooting through his body. Just as strong was the urge to take a morning piss and get off this East Texas tick infested ground.
Jeb Winters watched the steam rise from the puddle forming on the dirt at his feet. Squeezing off a long-wet fart, to help eject the remainder of liquid in his bladder, he was ready for the day. “Dang near spelt my name” he thought. Zipping up he gathered his satchel and compound bow from the tent and headed for the bank of the lake. The morning was still and daylight only silhouetted the pine trees on the other side of the water where he was headed. Setting the items softly in the aluminum boat not to disturb the morning he fired up the outboard motor and pushed off the bank. Keeping the boat at idle speed he slipped into the surface fog that hovered on the lake and disappeared from the shoreline.
Staring through the fog, that matched the cobwebs in his mind, Jeb maintained his heading to the other side of the lake. He could tell he’d been camping for the last week. His muscles were sore and the campfire had helped him pour his drinks a little heavy every night. Passing out drunk for the last five nights straight had dismissed any thought of brushing his teeth and he could feel the buildup on them now “Im gonna brush my damn teeth today I swear”. Leaning his arm over the side of the boat he grabs a hand full of lake water to swoosh in his mouth. Spitting out the parasite mouth rinse he knew he had bigger problems in his life than ticks, dirty teeth or diarrhea. His small boot leg operation he’d been running, simply called pine sap wine, had gotten a little too popular for its own good. Sometimes when you’re too good at something it grabs the attention of folks you’d rather not know. And right now, Jeb’s pine sap wine was wettin the whistles of some east Texas cut throats.
The boat lunges to a stop against the bank it’s been aimed for. Tying off the john boat, to a fallen pine tree close to the bank, Jeb unloads the satchel and bow and heads for a small game trail in the big thicket. Making his way to a predetermined destination, the woods are dark and alive. What is typically seen as just a branch or bush in the day time takes on different image in the dark. Digging a head lamp out of the bag he puts it on his head and clicks on the LED lamp to aluminate his path. Trying to walk quietly as possible each step is a challenge and sends cracks of broken twigs under his feet echoing into the darkness of the woods. The sounds of grunts and scrambling animals let him know he’s not alone. Following the trail, that’s occasionally flagged with small pieces of florescent orange survey tape, dangling from yaupon branches, it leads him deep in the thicket and to the base of the large pine tree he’s been setting in, all day, for the last five days. Shinning his head lamp up the tree he can see the pegs screwed in each side of the heavy bark that leads to a small, chain strapped, tree stand big enough for one person to occupy. Tying the satchel and bow off to a rope that hangs down to the ground from the chair he heads up the tree peg ladder, free of any articles in his hands to get seated.
Setting still, thirty feet off the ground with the bow and satchel secure Jeb can feel his breathing and his heart beating in his chest. Each beat of his pumping heart sending a pulsing sensation deep in his ears. The tick dug in under his left arm must be in vampire heaven getting gorged on the flow of blood. The woods are now quiet around him and the only thing he can hear is himself. Closing his eyes, he calms himself and slows his breathing. The only thing that can get him out of these woods 3 days early is for the white tail buck he’s been waiting on to show up and get stuck with an arrow from his bow, and besides that he’s waiting on the arrival of an old friend and has the time to kill anyways.
Feeling his heart calm and getting settled into a stealth position atop the tree Jeb opens his eyes to let them focus in the dark woods below. As day makes its self-present the eyes stop playing tricks on themselves, with the branches and bushes that make up this big thicket, and allow the ability to see true movement. This also allows a man to be alone with his thoughts.
Life is a sequence of memories. And if your memories are mostly good ones then being alone with yourself is not that bad. If your Jeb Winters then being alone with yourself can be a nightmare. Camped out in these East Texas woods, this time of year, wasn’t only where he would normally be, trying to stick a nice buck with an arrow and brewing a batch of pine sap wine, but it was the safest place for him at the time being considering who was looking for him.
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