Time for a Decision
They cruised for a little more than two hours when Salty spotted off the port bow someone in a fishing boat frantically waving. It was a man who appeared stranded.
“He must have engine trouble,” Patrick said.
Salty steered toward the boat.
“It is George!” Rich said. “What is he doing out here?”
They pulled alongside. George did not appear relieved to be rescued, but rather frightened.
“What is it, George?” Patrick said.
“You must go to Coco Point,” George said.
Rich helped him climb aboard.
“What’s going on?” Patrick said.
“A plane flew in four hours ago,” George said. “There were two men besides the pilot. They said they were police and looking for Rich. They will be waiting at the pier.”
“Well, they know we didn’t sail to Europe,” Rich said out loud to himself.
Rich said to Salty, “You and Patrick take the The Rumrunner to the dock where they are waiting. George and I will take his boat to Coco Point. Tell those two guys you left me in Antigua for a couple of days. Get word to me as soon as they leave. Maybe they’ll fly to Antigua or who knows, they may wait for me in Barbuda. I thinking they head back to airport and fly to Antigua. Nevertheless, while they are gone, we climb aboard the Odyssey and sail out of town.”
“The Odyssey is already at Coco Point,” George said. “Frederick sailed it there to get it out of their sight.”
“If it is Smithson, he thinks like a detective,” Rich said. “He will instinctively be suspicious and anticipate another docking, especially when he doesn’t see The Odyssey.”
“George,” Patrick said. “Is your son at the house?”
“Of course,” George said.
“I will call him,” Patrick said. “I will speak in heavy patois so if the men are with him they will not understand. I will tell him that me, Rich and Salty will be at the pier in an hour. Do they have a car?”
“Yes,” George said. “They rented one from the hotel.”
“I will tell your son that when the men go to the pier to wait for us, that would be a good time to give them a flat tire,” Patrick said.
“My son will do that,” George said. “He is aware of the situation.”
“Where do they think The Odyssey is?” Rich said.
“I told them that The Jacktar was now your boat,” George said, “you traded for it and they smiled and said you were smart for making a trade.”
“It seems like you have put things together pretty well and know about my problems,” Rich said.
“We hear and see things and put them together,” George said.
“When our ancestors were slaves we knew our masters better than they did,” Patrick said. “Bits and pieces put together make a whole picture.”
“I have a better idea,” George said calmly. “Let’s all go to Coco Point. Everybody gets off but me. I take the Rumrunner back out to sea and come into the pier as if from Antigua. Rich and Abernathy will be able to sail the Odyssey from there.”
“I did not expect my departure to be like this,” Salty said.
“Perhaps it is best this way,” Patrick said.
“I think you are right,” Salty said.
George tied his boat to The Rumrunner and towed along. Patrick made the call to George’s son and he completed his assigned task of puncturing a tire. Twenty minutes later The Rumrunner docked at Coco Point.
At Coco Point the Odyssey waited, secure, tied to the dock. Fredrick, Thomas, and Kiara stood and waited for the Rumrunner to pull alongside.
Salty steered alongside the pier.
“I have to give some last minute instructions to Patrick,” Salty said.
“I’ll make sure the Odyssey is ready,” Rich said. He leaped down the steps and climbed from The Rumrunner.
“Thomas, Kiara,” Rich said, “Come below with me.”
They immediately leaped aboard The Odyssey and climbed below. A moment later Rich, Thomas, and Kiara came from below with Salty’s gear and tossed it off The Odyssey and onto the dock. They made one more trip piling all of Salty’s gear in a heap.
“Thomas,” Rich said. “I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned from you and how much I enjoyed knowing you. You’ve become a friend.”
“You too,” Thomas said. “Where are you going next?”
“I don’t know, but maybe some day you’ll see me walking down the to road to Cordington,” Rich said.
“There will always be a place under our roof,” Thomas said.
Rich’s face tightened to hold back his emotions. “Kiara, I don’t know what to say beyond what I already have. What I feel for you will never pass and it is good.”
“Is this the one degree you told me about?” Kiara said.
“Yes,” Rich said. “My regret is that you will never know how pure my heart really is. There is nothing in it to be ashamed. Good bye and find someone who appreciates beautiful flowers.” Rich softly kissed her on the cheek and she did to him also.
“What are you doing?” Salty said stepping from The Rumrunner and looking at his pile of gear.
“I’m relieving you of your post,” Rich said. “You know and I know if you go with me you will wish you stayed. I saw it in you for at least a month. This is your home. You weren’t ever meant to go any further than Barbuda.”
“Sometimes a man’s best decisions are the ones forced upon him by others,” Salty said. He embraced Rich. “Take care, mate.”
Rich smiled. “You didn’t even put up a fight.”
The Rumrunner and The Odyssey sailed away from the dock at the same time. They stayed alongside each other until clearing the tip of Coco Point. Rich and Salty waved doleful goodbyes. Salty steered The Rumrunner northwest to its new home port and Rich sailed The Odyssey southwest to the open sea.