The Harbormaster’s Visit
Zeke watched the cleaning of the cabinet where the money was stowed. Rich turned to him. “Zeke, I forgot all about this. I’m a rich man. Not that I could retire on this, but in South American I could have a substantial existence.” He paused as if Zeke was speaking. “Retire, that’s what you do all the time. Have you ever heard the expression, it’s a dog’s life? That’s retirement. I don’t think you’ll ever understand the concept.”
“If Tommy would have known about this…” Rich said. “Never mind it’s hardly worth speculating.”
In spite of the decision to remain the winter Rich constantly gave thoughtful attention that he might have to leave at a moment’s notice. That seemed to be his life at present. Thus, the Beyond stood always well-stocked and ready to sail.
Rich came to know the clerk at the hardware as Martin. The waiter’s name was Jorge and his brother, Pedro. All three men were just a few years older than Rich.
Rich made several visits to the hardware for needed items. And he ate at the restaurant every Monday, Wednesday night, and Saturday lunch.
It was during the second week a uniformed harbormaster along with two men armed with rifles ordered Rich to dock the Beyond for an inspection. The two men had well-worn uniforms. The harbormaster was round and his uniform only slightly better that the other two.
“Two armed men?” Rich thought. “Is that normal?”
Although Rich’s weapons and ammunition were well-hidden and it would take someone with real experience and luck to find them, it appeared prudent not to take chances. Besides, the sack of money was easy to find and that might arose suspicion for a more thorough search.
“I have to go below to make sure my dog remains calm,” Rich said. While below he placed five $20 bills in his log book on the chart table.
Rich walked up the companionway. Without a word the harbormaster climbed aboard. Zeke sniffed his pant leg.
Rich nervously looked at the two armed men who remained on the pier. “This is strange,” Rich thought. “If they are trying to intimidate me, they are doing a fine job.”
“How many life jackets do you have?” the harbormaster said.
“Six,” Rich said.
“Where are you from?” he said.
“The United States,” Rich said. “Rockland, Maine.”
“Where are you sailing?” he said.
“Around the world,” Rich said.
“May I see your passport,” he said.
Rich pulled it from his back pant’s pocket and handed it to him.
He examined it, looked at Rich, and handed it back.
“Would you like to see my log?” Rich said.
“Is it up to date?” he said.
“I think so,” Rich said.
“Where is it?” he said.
“It’s below, on my chart table,” Rich said and extended his hand to enter the cabin.
The harbormaster climbed down the companionway into the cabin and sat at the chart table. He opened the log. “Is this yours?” he said pointing to the money in the log.
“It is not mine,” Rich said.
The harbormaster hesitated. “If it is not yours than it should be reported.”
“Yes,” Rich said, “I want nothing that doesn’t belong to me.”
He folded the bills and stuffed them in his inside coat pocket.
“You have a clean boat,” he said. “Everything is in order. If there is anything I can help you with, allow me to help.”
“Thank you, sir,” Rich said.
He climbed the companionway and lifted himself to the pier. He walked away as if he never boarded.
“Perhaps that will buy me some protection,” Rich thought.
“There is something about the way he looked at me,” Rich thought. “It was a look of suspicion. It is his business to be suspicious. At one time it was my business to be suspicious and inquisitive. This man is looking for something. He knows something is there. If he takes the money he is corrupt, his thinking and reason can be altered. If he takes the money he will want more. He will bleed me until it’s all gone and then he will become incorruptible.”
Rich heard the harbormaster say to the men, “He will be with us for a time. The seas are too unpredictable this time of year.”
Rich thought about his words. “The only way he could be certain of that is by asking questions. The only people I’ve shared that information with was Martin, Jorge, Pedro, and Zeke. Zeke is the only one who wouldn’t tell anyone else.”
“Zeke,” Rich said, “Do you know how to operate the radio? I didn’t think so.”