Nate Nevwas, a disabled writer, who’s also an amateur detective, helps two women in trouble only to have his life threatened, to be attacked by hired killers, to be beaten to within an inch of his life and then foil a multimillion dollar theft of sunken treasure. Nate’s adventure takes him from the Everglades to Key West to the high seas and back again, while leaving a trail of dead bodies and ending at a large cache of gold.
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In his never ending personal quest to help damsels in distress, physically challenged crime fighter, Nate Nevwas, finds himself drawn into a plot to steal an underwater treasure trove and a murder for hire scheme, directed at someone near and dear to him, himself.
After foiling a purse snatching by a mobster’s young nephew, Nate’s life is once again threatened by an inept criminal. Only this time the criminal has the wherewithal to carry out his threats.
Then as if he needed more drama in his life, Nate comes to the rescue of a woman who he believes has been carjacked at gun point, though after being rescued, she and her husband refuse to involve the Sheriff. This leaves Nate with nagging suspicions that he must find the answers to.
His search for answers takes Nate from the Everglades to Key West to the high seas. With the help of his friend, ex-NFL Hall of Famer, Anthony Mason, now a Monroe County Sheriff’s Detective, Nate repels boarders at his house boat, survives receiving a message to remember, dodges a rocket attack at sea and discovers far more questions than answers. With new each inquiry, Nate is inexorably drawn closer to a cutthroat band of modern day pirates and their plan to steal hundreds of millions in sunken treasure.
A Nate Nevwas Adventure
Nate Nevwas was twenty years past his prime, ten years ago and he’d be the first to admit it. He’d started out in life just fine, but it had gone downhill from there. As a kid he had broken numerous bones and had the distinction of having a file cabinet drawer at the local hospital dedicated to him alone. Then at eighteen, he’d become intimate with an industrial sized lawn mower which nearly severed his left foot, crippling him for life. The little kiss from the whirling metal blade had ended what was at best, was a suspect college football career and left Nate deeply depressed and confused.
To his credit, he taught himself to walk, and even to run again. He amazed the doctors, who had written him off before they had even finished assessing him. Their lack of faith in him and his determination to survive had proven to be good training that served him well throughout life. It kept him moving forward through the roller coaster of a life that fate had predestined for him. Now, thirty five years down the tracks, he’d managed to rack up a less than impressive record of one failure in life after another. While old class mates and friends were now doctors, lawyers and Indian chiefs, he was a disabled hack of a paperback novelist. He’d worked a whole gaggle of jobs from trash collector, to ditch digger, to politician, to business owner, but none seemed to be the right fit. Along the way, he’d managed to sire one child, a daughter and stumble through two bad marriages, with twin bankruptcies to match.
Along with the emotional scars he gathered throughout his life, he’d acquired a whole host of physical scars to impress the ladies with, or at least baffle the doctors. He’d earned eight concussions, four from playing football and three from work related accidents, and one from a big sister who mistook his head for a soft ball when he seven. Oh that ole sibling rivalry, you gotta love it. Going through life, if there was a way to fall down and hurt himself while performing the menial tasks of a job, Nate managed to do it. Or, as he had come to believe, bad luck had found him. He didn’t have gray skies and clouds following him everywhere he went. He just believed if anyone was going to get struck by lightning, it would be him. So, he stayed away from windows and trees when it stormed, because he wasn’t taking any chances.
As the years had slipped past, they began to take a heavy toll on Nate. Although he did his best to battle the effects of aging and the diseases that were slowly consuming him, he felt more like a spectator than a participant in his life, and slowly, over time, he lost the easy use of most of his body parts. Oh, it all still worked sort of, but it always hurt to move, and sometimes it even hurt to breathe. If he had been a bit braver of a soul, he might have just chucked it all and took a dirt nap a long time ago.
He was now over fifty years old and disabled. He has arthritis, both kinds; which affected his spine, joints and sanity; he suffers with fibro myalgia, allergies, blood clots, an immune disorder, plus some sort of neurological disorder, which the doctors can’t quite put a name on, and of course, the ever popular, closed head injury syndrome. To look at him, it was hard to tell he was disabled. The only telltale sign was the fact that he limped, but otherwise, he just looked fat. Judging him by his outward appearance, most people wouldn’t suspect that Nate was also a super hero, but he was.
Now Nate isn’t your typical super hero. He doesn’t have the ability to fly, he isn’t super fast and he isn’t super strong. What he is; is deceptively lucky. Yep, despite having to keep his feet up as much as possible and popping pain meds as if they were breath mints, he managed to get himself involved in some of the strangest situations. He kept finding himself under investigation for his role in murders, armed robberies, assaults or some such thing. While at the same time, he was collecting good citizenship awards for his crime fighting, as if he needed them to wall paper the bathroom.
He’d collected twelve awards in eight years. Five in his late teens and early twenties, starting right after the lawn mower incident while regaining his mobility, but then his talent went dormant for many years until he was declared disabled. Then fate, not Nate, without rhythm or reason, decided that he should become a crime stopper once again and proceeded to deal him a royal flush in life’s game of cards.
Nate had been to his doctor’s in his hometown of Traverse City, Michigan, which was next door to a bank, The Cherry County Savings Bank. He was returning to his old SUV, after his appointment and had just rounded the corner of the bank building when he was run over by fate.
Fate came in the form of two masked men, who had just robbed the Cherry County Savings Bank and were in the process of making their escape. The two men were laden down with eight canvas bags loaded with money. They had timed the robbery to take advantage of the normal Friday delivery of cash to cover the payday rush.
The crooks must have miscalculated the weight of the bags, because they were struggling under the weight of the money forcing them to shuffle along rather than run, under the heavy load. They found it impossible to move forward without leaning forward, which meant they had to keep their heads down and were unable to adequately watch where they were going.
Blindly they rounded the corner of the bank and ran headlong on into Nate. They never saw what hit them or rather what they hit. How is it possible that two men can run into one disabled man and find themselves on the receiving end of the brunt of the punishment? One look at Nate is all the explanation anyone needs. Nate is six foot five, three hundred and sixty pounds. His chest, arms and thighs are still as strong as when he was working out daily trying to get in shape to play football, or when he did construction seven days a week, for years on end. So, even though climbing stairs is a real bitch on his legs and lower back, to run head long into him is tantamount to running into a brick wall.
Once Nate realized what was happening, he strongly encouraged the men to remain in a heap on the ground, by smashing one robber with a right hook, knocking him cold and body slamming the other one to the pavement. Of course, Nate didn’t weather the collision unscathed. He had to be helped up off the ground by the Sheriff’s Deputies that responded to bank’s silent alarm and he then spent the next three days sitting on ice in his recliner, doing as little as possible, while popping pain pills. To his credit, the robbers had been caught in the act and Nate became a local hero, but that isn’t where it ended.
It turned out these very same criminals had been robbing banks all over the Midwest and the Great Lakes Region. The Great Lakes Banking Association, as well as the FDIC had placed bounties on their heads in the amount of one hundred thousand dollars each. In addition, the Great Lakes Small Cities Consortium or GLSCC, had posted a twenty five thousand dollar bounty per man, for a combined total of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Fates intervention had changed Nate’s life forever once again.
After his second divorce Nate had taken what little money he had and purchased an old trailer which had been remodeled down along the Boardman River, at the end of Laura Dr. He had a great little spot there, with good fishing and easy access to the cool clear water of the river plus it was only a short drive to town. The place had the added benefit of being hidden in the woods, making it hard to fine useless you knew where to look. It was a fantastic place to spend the summer. When the winter winds began to blow and the lake effect snow off Lake Michigan began to fall, Nate packed up his old SUV and headed south to Florida.
A short time later, while on an extended vacation in the Florida Keys, Nate received a second financial reward for his crime fighting. He had stopped a car theft ring totally by accident, which earned him a second quarter million dollar reward. He used that reward to buy himself a house boat in Marathon, Florida; the heart of the Florida Keys. It was a great change of pace in life styles, as far he was concerned. He got to spend hours just relaxing in the shade of his huge red, white and blue umbrella on the aft deck of the houseboat, as he sat quietly drinking beer and writing his stories.
When most people retire, they’ve had years to plan things out. They develop hobbies beforehand. Things like golf, tennis, bowling, fishing, or maybe even woodworking. But when suddenly, you find yourself unable to work, well it’s pretty rare that you have done any planning at all. No one every thinks it will happen to them. When you’re a blue collar kind of guy and working, basically living paycheck to paycheck, you don’t have any hobbies; because you are far too busy working and making a living to worry about it. So, when you’re suddenly retired, you quickly run through the TV offerings. Then the movie rentals and the adventure novels you have already read at the local library. Then you watch the entire list of free classic movies offered by the local library, covering the last fifty years of film, until finally, you find yourself staring at the walls, needing something to occupy your mind, besides reading a book you’ve already read three times.
Writing fit that bill for Nate. It wasn’t too taxing for the old neuro system or the blood clots, and it allowed him to do the things he no longer could, or never had the chance to do, even if it was just in his mind. That was six years and five books ago. He’d been rejected and rejected, by one publisher after another and so finally, he did what a great number of writers are doing today, he self published. It has been a wild ride ever since.
He has been surprisingly successful with his books, each of which has dealt with one of his crime fighting adventures. Which of course, he’s taken a little literary license with them, in order to make the stories more compelling. He’s has four best sellers, nothing in the top ten but all four made the top one hundred. He has even been reviewed by the New York Times, which heaped praise upon him by calling his books, “the best, poorly written books ever.” He also does book signings five or six times a year, along the I-75 corridor and always packs the house.
Each of Nate’s homes he designed himself to make writing an easier. He had included all the normal things, like sofas, coffee tables, kitchen tables and chairs, bedroom sets and Lazy Boy recliners, and one, unique and special custom piece of furniture. Nate designed and then had built a computer writing station couch that is similar in design to a Psychologists’ couch, only the foot of the couch has been elevated as well as the head. Above it sets a large plasma screen monitor suspended from the ceiling over top of the couch and his computer keyboard is attached to a mechanical arm that hangs over the couch, bringing it within easy reach of the couch’s occupant. The whole thing looks a bit like the cockpit out of one of the early NASA space capsules, which stands to reason, because it was also one of the inspirational pieces for the idea.
Both the trailer and the houseboat suited Nate. They were large, open spaces with wide walk ways, designed around his toys. Each home contained a computer; a big screen TV; four Lazy Boy Recliners, complete with heat and massage, a movie library consisting of the same movies, a book library, that had different books at each home, a kitchen with a huge built in freezer, (he didn’t exactly cook so he had plenty of TV dinners, frozen pizzas and ice cream), a big sub zero refrigerator; and a small apartment sized refrigerator by his computer station, so he didn’t have to get up each time he wanted a drink. All in all, they were very comfortable spaces in which to live and write.
The day had started like every other day in Marathon. The fishing fleet and the sport fishermen crawled out of their beds at five a.m., packed up their boats and shipped out for the day or longer by seven a.m. Each of them dreaming of a that record catch that would get their picture in the local papers and provide bragging rights until someone else came along with a bigger catch.
Inside his houseboat, Nate’s man cave, a retro fitted cargo barge, Nate was oblivious to the fishing crowd. Despite the marina being awash with noisy activity, he heard little if anything thanks to heavy-duty hurricane windows, sound abatement efforts.
Most mornings, Nate is up by nine, on deck, sitting in the shade of his huge umbrella, eating a salt bagel with crème cheese. He washes it down with an orange juice, or a Coke, which he drinks from a large coffee mug because he’s tired of people wondering why he doesn’t drinking coffee. He’s one in a million people, who are allergic to the coffee bean itself.
This morning as with most mornings in Southern Florida, the sun had already begun making its presence known by driving the temperature above eighty before nine a.m. The onshore flow of the sea breeze provided just enough of a cooling effect to make sitting on the rear deck of his houseboat for breakfast, a pleasant experience, but it wouldn’t last much longer.
The marina was its usual busy self, with people cleaning and prepping their boats, loading or unloading their cars or fueling up for the day at sea. Despite the early hour several sexy ladies were already sunbathing on the poop decks, while their men did the manly things, like loading the boat.
After taking in the sights and sounds of the morning, Nate retreated into his man cave and began writing about his latest adventure. It wasn’t much of an adventure. He’d apprehended a pick pocket at the Marina’s Bar and Grill.
It was a friendly place, where locals and tourists mingled. It was well lit with bright and colorful neon signs, which hung on every wall, advertising beer and hard liquor. Despite the neon, it managed to have a quaint feel to it, due to the dark oak waines coting throughout that matched the huge oak bar. Besides being dark oak, the bar was covered in ornately carved moldings, and a dark granite top, with brass hand and foot rails that ran its full length. The bartender and owner, Randy, bought it from a demolition company in Boston. It was scheduled to be destroyed along with the century old building it was in, when Randy stepped in and had it moved to South Florida.
In addition to the bar, Randy had rescued the huge mirror that had hung on the wall behind the bar which came complete with two glass shelves that ran the length of the mirror and held the extra bottles of liquor that wouldn’t fit in the well.
As usual, Nate watched the crowd in the mirror, which was his favorite pastime. To his surprise he spotted a young guy in his early twenties, with black hair, of average height, and skinny as hell, eyeing a woman’s purse that was hung on the back of a stool. Upon closer examination, he could see the woman’s wallet was poking half way out of the purse. Nate played it cool and continued to watch the guy in the bar’s huge mirror, as he built up his courage to act.
Nate could tell the guy thought he was cool, in his wife beater T-shirt and gold chains. He double checked the crowd one last time and then made his move. He got up from his table and casually strolled right past the purse. As he did so, he brazenly grabbed the wallet and stashed it under his shirt at the small of his back then strode toward the door. He kept his head down as he wove his way through the crowd and the look on his face told Nate, he thought he had gotten away with it. Unfortunately for him, in order to leave, he had to pass by Nate. Nate was sitting at the far end of the bar nearest the door and he was prepared to take this guy down as he approached.
As the guy drew even with the bar patron two stools over, still doing his best to act all innocent, Nate stepped away from his barstool, bumped into the guy and blocked his path. Acting as though he were drunk, Nate was in his element and relishing the chance confrontation.
“Hey buddy, sorry about that, I didn’t see you there,” Nate slurred loudly, causing most of the other patrons, including the woman whose wallet the guy had stolen, to turn and look at the fat guy at the end of the bar bellowing.
“It ain’t no big deal,” the young guy mumbled, as he nervously looked around and tried to slip past Nate.
“No, No. I apologize. It was my fault,” Nate continued with his ruse and wrapped an arm around the guy’s shoulder.
“Like I said, it’s no big deal,” the guy choked out a little louder, as he tried to push Nate away. “I got to go.”
“Let me buy you a drink,” Nate offered, as he tightened his grip on the guy’s shoulder.
“No, it’s ok. I’ve got to run. I’m late,” the guy blurted out. Nate just continued pulling him towards the bar, causing the guy to squirm around in an effort to get away.
“Get off me, man!” the guy shouted, as he did his best to shove Nate out of the way with little success. That was when he made the big mistake and threw a wild punch at Nate.
Nate is surprisingly fast for his size, deceptively so. He shifted his bulk and redirected the smaller man’s momentum, causing him to stumble forward. As he went, Nate grabbed the guy by his shirt collar and twisted him around. To most of the onlookers it appeared Nate was trying to stop him from falling head first into the bar. In reality though, Nate had set the guy up to stumble backwards into it.
Nate slipped his foot behind the guy’s foot, turning the stumble into a trip, helped along by a small shove. The younger man fell hard, ass first into the bar, banging the back of his head on the hand rail with a loud thud. Dazed, he sat stunned on the floor in front of the bar for several seconds. This allowed Randy, the bartender/owner, to rush around the bar and grab the guy in a hammer lock as he started to get up. Randy angrily demanded to know just what he thought he was doing, picking fights with his regular customers.
In response, the guy began to struggle with Randy, while shouting swear words and calling Nate every name imaginable, ending with “fat sloth”. Nate just smiled and took a big swig of his Foster’s Lager, then reached out and pulled the wallet from the small of the guy’s back. He held it up, and the woman who owned it squealed, having recognized it immediately.
“That’s my wallet!” she screamed and bolted from her stool, stomping across the bar to where Nate was standing. The woman looked to be in her early to mid-forties, dressed to try to look thirty and on the large side. She grabbed the wallet from Nate, looked menacingly at the thief, still being held tightly by Randy and snarled, “You son of a bitch!”
She then cold cocked the guy breaking his nose and knocking him cold. It may have been her alcohol level or maybe she was just one of those women, but she followed the guy down to the floor, where she proceeded to beat the living crap out of him. Randy and the two men she was with struggled with her for a good five minutes, before they finally were able to pull her off the guy.
The woman was still piping hot when they finally managed to pull her off of him. “Damn it, I broke a nail,” she yelled as she glanced at her hand then back at the youthful thug. “You asshole, I hope you go to hell and rot!”
Nate wasn’t sure if she was damning him because she broke a nail while she was beating the crap out him, or if she was damning him for trying to steal her wallet. Maybe it was both. Either way, it seemed to signal the end to her rampage and with some friendly coaxing, she walked away leaving the guy on the floor, a bloody mess.
Randy handcuffed the punk to the foot rail of the bar and gave him a damp bar towel to clean-up with. The towel was fine for a quick clean up but it wasn’t going to fix his broken nose or the numerous cuts and bruises on his face anytime soon. The back of his head where it had met the bar now sported a lump half the size of a grapefruit, as well.
Randy called the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department which he had on speed dial and reported the incident. He then went back to tending bar, leaving Nate to keep an eye on the trouble maker. Nate slid his stool back, just out reach of the thief’s legs, for he was trying his damnedest to kick him. This went on for several minutes until the guy grew tired and gave up. He then proceeded to attack Nate verbally.
“You’re a dead man, fat man! You hear me, you’re dead. I will feed your fat ass to the sharks, old man.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ve heard it all before.” Nate stated as he did his best to ignore him and watch the football game on TV. Nate usually didn’t watch the games at the bar, too noise, but he had felt a bit isolated tonight so he decided to get out of the house and take in the ambiance of the local bar scene. He had to admit the entertainment was above average tonight.
“You know who you’ve messed with. I’m the nephew of the biggest crime boss in Miami, and he isn’t going to like you interfering with me.”
“Oh sure, he’s going to be real concerned about the nephew who gets busted by an old fat guy for stealing a wallet and then gets the crap beat out him by the woman he stole it from. If he’s anything like my uncles, he’s going to kick your ass into next week for being so stupid.” Nate informed the less than capable criminal.
“You don’t know nothin’ old man,” the kid snarled. Then he changed tactics and yelled, “My uncle will give anyone here five grand cash to get me out these fricking handcuffs and help me get out of here before the cops show up. That’s five grand people.” The young man smiled smugly at Nate, as if everyone in the place had jumped up to rescue him, but no one even looked his way.
“Does that include me?” Nate asked seeing the look of disappointment on the young thug’s face.
“Fuck you, fat man. You’re a dead man!” he snarled.
“Yeah, you said that. But if I could get you out of here, would you pay me the five grand?” Nate inquired, a sardonic smile plastered on his face. Yanking at his handcuffs, and growling, the thief thrashed about on the floor, until Randy leaned over the bar and poured a pitcher of cold water over him. Which didn’t have the cooling effect, one might expect, it only seemed to make him hotter.
Ten minutes later a plain clothed detective from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department arrived and waited outside for backup. Detective Anthony Mason is an imposing figure of a man, he stands six foot six and weighs in at two hundred and forty pounds, all of it solid muscle. He is also a black man which only heightens the effect of his size. The two uniformed deputies arrived two minutes after Detective Mason and together the trio went inside. Detective Mason stopped a few steps inside the door, looked around and then, upon spotting Nate, went directly to him. He stood behind Nate’s stool a few steps, looking at the young man on the floor for several moments before saying anything.
“So, is this your handy work?” Mason finally asked, as he looked at Nate in the mirror.
“Yeah, the son of a bitch framed me,” the thief whined.
“Shut up!” Mason barked, as he kicked the guy in the thigh, reinforcing his command.
“Nate, did you do this?” Mason barked. In reply, Nate pointed down the bar. Mason turned and looked, but didn’t see anyone that he thought capable of inflicting this much damage on someone.
Turning back to Nate, Mason roared, “Nate, turn around and look at me. I need to know who did this.” Everyone in the bar turned and looked in Mason’s direction, except Nate. He just stared at Mason in the mirror. The woman whose wallet the thief had tried to steal, leaped off her stool and came running down the bar, her broken nail not slowing her down at all.
“That son of a bitch,” she shouted as she pointed at the guy on the floor, “stole my wallet and I beat the crap of him for it. I don’t need some man to fight my battles for me. That guy only kept him from getting away.” She informed Mason, as she pointed at Nate, enlightening Detective Mason as to what had happened.
“You did this?” Mason asked, as he pointed his thumb at the young man handcuffed to the foot rail, seeking to confirm what she had just said.
“That’s what I just told you. That rat bastard tried to steal all my vacation money, but that guy stopped him from getting away and that’s when I beat the crap out of him.” The woman proudly boasted.
“These people are fucking crazy, I didn’t do anything. They planted that damn wallet on me.” The thief interjected, trying lamely to defend himself.
“What did I tell you? If I have to tell you again, you‘ll beg to have her beat you some more, just so I’ll stop.” Detective Mason kicked him again, a lot harder than before.
“Ok, ok!” the guy whined as he squirmed away from Mason as far as he could. Once he thought he was safe, he yelled, “My civil rights are being violated. You all saw that.”
“Shut Up!” the whole bar yelled in unison.
Mason started to grin, but caught himself before turning back towards Nate, “You wait right here. I’m gonna need a statement,” he growled at Nate.
“I’ve got nowhere to go,” Nate remarked offhandedly.
“You two,” Mason addressed the two officers, “wait here with these two.” he ordered, before turning to the woman saying,
“Now Miss, let’s go over here and you can tell me the whole story.” Detective Mason stated as he led the woman away. As he walked past where Randy was cleaning the bar top, Mason looked over and asked Randy a question with his eyes. Knowing the look, Randy shook his head sideways, signaling that Nate hadn’t done anything wrong. Mason in reply raised his eye brows and Randy shook his head again, signaling he wasn’t changing his story, which seemed to placate Detective Mason for the moment.
While Mason and the woman discussed what had happened, Nate, ordered another beer and a plate of steamed clams to help pass the time, while the thief continued to verbally attack him.
“My uncle has five hundred men working for him. Their job it is to mess people up and their coming after you next, asshole.” The thief snarled at Nate.
“What happened to feeding me to the sharks? It was so much more frightening.” Nate egged the guy on, as the two uniformed officers, who normally would have been taking statements, simply stood there, watching the suspect as though he were a circus freak or something strange that washed up on the beach.
Despite the bar being full and there being the potential for dozens of witnesses, Mason and the uniformed deputies knew it was highly unlikely any of the locals would admit to seeing anything. So instead of wasting time taking statements from people who would be claiming to have seen nothing, Mason would interview just the woman, Randy and Nate.
When Detective Mason responded to a call that had a minimum number of witnesses, he liked to do all the paper work himself. Mason liked having his name appear as the arresting officer and as the sole interviewer, it played well at promotion time and he equated it to making solo tackles, which during his playing days, he’d been rather good at.
“You will beg for them to kill you, and when you’re begging to die, that’s when they will just keep on hurtin’ you.” The little pissant thief kept threatening Nate, and Nate just kept on egging him on.
“Those friends of your uncles, they aren’t with the AMA, are they? Now those guys know how to hurt someone. I know I’m in for it, when they say, you’ll feel a small burning sensation. Shit, talk about an understatement. You ever have a colonoscopy? Damn! That’s a whole new kind of hurt.”
“Go to hell, Fat man. I’m going to kill you and burn this damn bar to the ground. You’re a dead man,” the thief yelled again.
From across the bar the cry of, “Shut the hell up, asshole!” rang out.
“Your fan club,” Nate smiled at the thief and took another swig of his Fosters.
One of the uniformed officers stepped up and glared at the inept criminal, stifling any response. Nate however, couldn’t resist the opportunity and he verbally poked him again. “These old boys are going to rain all over your parade, if you don’t shut up.”
“Go to hell, fat man. You’re a dead man walkin’. You’re a dead man,” The young thug repeated for the umpteenth time. With such a limited vocabulary, the young thief wasn’t much of conversationalist, Nate thought and was about to say something, when Mason walked back over.
He gave the two uniformed officers a nod and they quickly unhooked the young thug from the foot rail, and slipped a pair of flexi cuffs on him. They then escorted the guy kicking and screaming from the bar.
“You’re dead, fat man. You are dead. My Uncle will have your ass fed to the alligators. You messed with the wrong guy this time. You’re a dead old man.” The diatribe went on all the way to the door.
As they reached the door, the young thief began struggling in earnest. The two officers lost control of him for a split second and the thief in his effort to escape managed to smack his head on the door jamb, with just a little help.
“Oops, sorry, but you shouldn’t resist arrest so much.” One of the officers called out, as they dragged the now dazed miscreant outside. After the door closed, Nate went back to watching the football game. While Mason spoke with Randy at the opposite end of the bar. When he had finished talking with Randy he walked back over to Nate, pulled up a stool and sat down next to him.
Mason a ten year veteran of the Monroe County’s Sheriff’s Department, had been a professional football player before that. He had played for the Miami Dolphins of the NFL. He’d had a stellar career playing twelve years at middle linebacker and leading the team to four super bowl victories.
During his years on the gridiron he’d been smart both on and off the field. He was student of the game and used that knowledge to earn all pro honors for a record setting twelve straight years. Off the field, he put his money to work, making more money and had retired a wealthy man. Mason didn’t have to work but if he didn’t, he’d have gone crazy from boredom. What set Mason apart from lesser men, besides his inner drive, brains and being one of the few men who made six foot five, three hundred fifty pound Nate look little, was his hands. The man’s hands were the size of manhole covers and when he grabbed hold of you, you weren’t getting free until he let you go or he died.
The man had a whole NFL highlight reel dedicated to his one handed take downs of the opposing team’s runners and quarterbacks. The only player who can claim that he escaped Mason’s grip is, Barry Sanders, of the Detroit Lions. Mason had grabbed Barry by the jersey one Sunday afternoon and was about to fling him down, when a chunk of his jersey ripped right off in Mason’s hand. Barry managed to keep his balance and go the distance, seventy-five yards, on the play and it was the only example of anyone escaping Anthony Mason’s grip.
“Now tell me, just what the hell happened?” Mason always had a way of taking his time warming up to the subject.
“There’s not much to tell.” Nate played with Detective Mason a bit.
“Don’t play with me tonight, Nate. I am not in the mood for it. Just tell me straight up and let’s get it done,” Detective Mason strongly recommended.
“Like I said, there isn’t much to tell. The guy grabbed the woman’s wallet and I blocked his exit. That’s all that happened.” Nate gave Mason the ultra short version.
“That’s not what she said.” Mason started in with his clarifying statements, designed to make most people nervous. Nate took it all in stride and waved Randy down, ordering another Foster’s Lager and offering to buy Mason a coffee, since he was on duty. Mason passed on the coffee, and sat staring at Nate in the mirror.
“Wow! The work you’ve been doing on your intimidating look is starting to payoff.” Nate liked to encourage Mason in his efforts to get his facial expressions just right for interrogating criminals or scaring opposing quarterbacks. “That’s the same look they always showed on television just before the game started. You know, when they were hyping the matchups.” Nate looked at Mason who was still staring at him. “Oh yeah, of course you don’t remember that,” Nate shared while suppressing a chuckle. You were playing the game, not watching it on TV. I have to admit, I’d be intimidated, if I cared at all about my life anymore. In fact, I might have even been a little intimidated, if you were on the other side of the line of scrimmage from me,” Nate backtracked.
“Shut the hell up, and tell me everything, not just the condensed version. Let’s have it.” Mason growled.
“You sure I can’t buy you juice or something? I mean, I hate the way we’re always meeting like this. You being the only NFL Hall of Famer, I know.”
“Nate, I haven’t got the time tonight. Answer the damn question.” Mason roared, and the whole bar snickered, knowing it was just how Nate was. He could piss off Mother Teresa just by talking about the weather, but he’d also have been the one man she’d have turned to, if she needed help. Nate was ‘that’ kind of friend, if he picked you to be friends with, he would help you bury the body and swear he saw the guy across town, ten minutes ago and everyone would believe him.
“Well, why didn’t you say so? Jezz, I don’t want to hold up the counties finest. I was sitting here watching the football game.” Nate noticed Mason was just staring at the note pad in front of him on the bar. “What, you’re not going to write it down?” Nate asked.
“I was just waiting to see if you were really going to say something, or get off on another tangent.” Mason tendered.
“You said you didn’t have time to waste right now, and yet you’re not even going to write it down. How am I supposed to take you seriously?” Nate gripped.
Mason leaned over and put his huge right hand on Nate’s shoulder and quietly stated, “I’m listening now, Nate. Care to tell me what happened or do I need to demonstrate just how much pressure this old mitt of mine can still exert?” Nate turned and looked into Mason’s big brown face with those cold as steel blue eyes of his, and tried to gauge, if he really would, start squeezing. Mason must have read Nate’s mind, because he squeezed his shoulder gently, for Mason, and Nate’s eyes grew just a little bit wider. He immediately started talking slowly.
“I was just sitting here, watching the football game, when I noticed, out the corner of my eye, someone moving down the bar. I glanced over and watched him as he worked up the courage to make his move. After a couple of minutes the guy walks past where the woman is sitting and grabs the wallet out of her open purse. The purse was hanging on the back of the stool, it wasn’t secure. The guy was good, but not that good. He thought he was real slick, slipping it into his waistband at the small of his back in one smooth move, which no one caught but me.”
“You saw him do it.” Mason stated for clarification.
“The average person would have missed it, but not me.” Nate replied, bragging just a little bit.
“Oh no, not you.” Mason added which drew a sideways glance from Nate but he continued without commenting.
“Anyway, he grabs the wallet and heads for the door which happens to bring him right past me. I slipped off my stool and did my usual harassment act. You know, I acted as if I were drunk.”
“Yeah, I know. Get on with it.” Mason snarled.
“Ok. The guy went directly into panic mode and starts trying to get around me. Finally he shoves me and takes a swing at me. I didn’t swing back at him, though. I just let his momentum carry him into the bar bumper where he banged his head and slid to the floor. Randy ran around the bar about then and put him in a hammer lock before the guy realized what was happening. Once the guy came to his senses, he started running his mouth, blaming me for the altercation. Claiming he was just trying to leave. So I took the wallet out of the back of his pants and his mouth went into overtime. He said all the usual stuff like, he was innocent, that I framed him and that I attacked him.
He got real quite when I held the wallet up for less than two seconds and the woman he stole it from came unglued. She charged down the bar, claimed her wallet and then without warning, starts beatin’ the crap out the guy. It was funny, actually. It took Randy and the two guys with her a good five minutes to pull her off of him.” Nate stopped talking and looked up in the mirror at Mason and smiled. Mason just shook his head and continued to write Nate’s story down.
When Mason finally stopped writing, he looked at Nate and asked, “When the suspect took a swing at you and missed, you didn’t by any chance help him collide with the bar’s bumper did you?”
“What? No way! I’m handicapped. I was lucky to have gotten out of the way. I had to move fast and being handicapped, I tend to lose my balance easily, especially when I have to make sudden movements. I must have moved too quickly, because I did lose my balance. When that happened, I might have used him to steady myself, otherwise I would have fell on him and who knows what damage that might have done. Any contact between him and I, was entirely by accident and totally on purpo….achoooo, sorry I had to sneeze.” Nate sat there grinning, as Mason gave him that look again; the “intimidator” look.
“Nate, tell me I’m not going to get a call from the jail’s doctor, telling me the suspect has some broken bones or broken ribs...”
Nate interjected, “Ribs aren’t bones?”
Giving Nate a look that would have killed most men, Mason ignored his comment and continued. “No crushed vertebra, no internal injuries, like a torn aorta, lacerated spleen, closed head injuries, ruptured kidney, punctured lungs, perforated intestines or a broken jaw?” Mason rattled off the list of injuries that Nate had inflected on people in self defense in the past.
“Not from me.” Nate then looked down the bar at the woman.
“Okay. That’ll do. We may need you to testify against this punk, so please make yourself available. Otherwise, this guy will walk. I doubt it’ll get to court anyway. It’s considered, a petty theit and the assault, well you say didn’t happen so that’ll get swept under the rug. The DA, will most likely plea bargain it down, to a fine and probation, but be prepared. If this guy walks, he’ll more than likely try to sue you for assault or something. So, even if the court date isn’t until late spring, you need to be here. A conviction puts an end to his possibly of coming back on you.” Mason counseled Nate.
“Yeah, I’ve been there before. I can handle it. It’s hard to look at a cripple and believe he’s capable of assaulting anyone. Know what I mean? Besides, what assault? The guy stumbled into the bar. I never touched him.” Nate lifted his hands to show they were clean.
“Just show up when we need you, okay?” Mason pressed for Nate’s commitment.
“I’ll be there. Just let me know when.”
Just then one of the two uniformed deputies came back into the bar and walked up to Mason. He whispered something in his ear.
“Yeah, I understand.” Mason replied. Then as the officer turned to leave, Mason ordered. “Hey on your way out, get some pictures of the woman and her wallet. Be sure to spread the money out on the table so we can see just how much money was involved.” Mason instructed. The officer nodded and head off in the woman’s direction.
Turning back towards Nate, Mason stated quietly, “We have a positive ID on the guy. He’s Ronny Deloore, ring any bells?” Nate shook his head no.
“His uncle is the head of the Miami underworld, and he just might have the clout to get his Uncle to send some goons down to see you. So stay alert for any strangers taking an undue interest in you. How’s the alarm working on the barge?” Mason asked.
“Just fine, I tested it just a few weeks ago, and I’ll make sure that all my guns are loaded too.”
“Don’t go acting all John Wayne. I don’t want any shootouts in the marina. You hear me?” Mason sternly warned Nate.
“I promise, if they don’t, I won’t. But if they do, I can’t promise I won’t finish it.”
“That’s what the alarm is for. Hit the panic button and hide. You got that?” Mason pressed Nate to promise.
“No, I won’t promise to hide. I’ll hit the alarm, but I won’t hide. They come after me, I’ll defend myself.” Nate stated resolutely.
“Okay, I tried. Are you coming over for chicken after church, Sunday?” Mason asked.
“You bet I am. Cyndi makes the best fried chicken I’ve ever had.” Nate replied without hesitation.
“Yeah, Cyndi and the kids like it when you come over for dinner. You’re so deprived of home cooking, you’ll eat anything. It’s always a bet as to what they can get you to eat.” Mason mumbled as he stood. “If you think Cyndi can cook, you should have been around when my Momma was alive, that woman could cook . Oh yeah...be sure to bring your fishing pole, we may go out on the boat afterwards and do some flats fishing.”
“How long you gonna let Cyndi think you like her cooking?” Nate asked.
“I’ll be taking that secret to my grave,” Mason stated. “And you’re taking it to your grave, as well.”
“I am?” Nate questioned sarcastically.
“Only, if you want to live past Sunday.”
“I’ll let you know Sunday morning, how I feel about ending it all.” Nate quipped.
“You do that.”
“I’m not going out fishing, if it’s too choppy.” Nate reminded Mason.
“If it’s too rough, we’ll sit out back on the patio drinking beers and swapping lies.” Mason stated, as he walked away.
That was how Nate’s new book started. It had been about two weeks, since the incident occurred and Nate hadn’t seen hide nor hair, of the loud mouthed want-to-be mobster, with the petty larceny itch that he just wasn’t smart enough to scratch.
It’d been two weeks since the wallet snatching incident and so far, it had been the dullest two weeks in Nate’s life. Despite the bluster, no one had made any threatening calls nor had there been any nighttime intruders. There hadn’t even been any strangers hanging out in the marina’s parking lot, giving Nate the evil eye. So much for the Miami mob taking him for a ride and making him sleep with the fishes. Ronny Deloore was just another smart mouthed, snot nosed kid, who was trying to cash in on a famous, or in his case, infamous, relative who barely knew him.
Nate had spent the last few days working on the first draft of his new book. So far, the story line was all about his main character, Brody Bains, and little else. It was slow going at the moment, so much so, he hadn’t even settled on a title yet. The story opened with a spiced up version of the pick pocket incident in the Marina Bar which, after two revisions, was in good shape.
Then came the second chapter and it had him completely stumped. It dealt with a mundane shopping trip to a medical supply store in Miami, where Brody, while walking back to his car after shopping, overhears loud voices in the alley next to the store. So, he peeks around the corner and discovers a young man yelling at a young woman. Of course, the young woman is beautiful, and of course, Brody entertains some rather impure thoughts for a moment or two, but he is quickly drawn back to reality when the guy suddenly slaps her in the face, knocking her down.
Being the man Brody is, he can’t let this go unchallenged. He immediately jumps around the corner of the building into the alley and begins loudly singing an old Beatle’s tune, “I want to hold your hand,” while acting as though he were drunk. The ruse has the desired effect, drawing the man’s attention away from the woman and focusing it on Brody. As Brody stumbles closer, the guy thinks he’s just with some drunken old fart and decides to take out his wrath on him. Only Brody, as usual, manages to fend the guy off, while beating the crap out of him, saving the young woman from further abuse.
As he helps her out of the alley, she explains who he has just beaten up. It turns out the abuser is the son of the most powerful drug lord in the Southeastern United States and the chase is on from there.
Fast forwarding to the last few chapters of the book, since he hadn’t written the middle chapters yet, the nephew of the Miami crime syndicate joins forces with the son of the drug lord and together they both come after Brody.
It was Nate’s typical plot line. The good guy accidentally gets involved with stopping a somewhat minor crime, only to be drawn into major intrigue, where his life is on the line. The hero struggles through a couple of near death experiences and in the end, defeats the bad guys. It isn’t fancy, but it was a tried and true winner.
Nate had tried to write the second chapter from every possible angle he could, but so far he just wasn’t happy with any of it, except the first chapter.
As he sat thinking about the story and what he might do to salvage two week’s worth of writing, he noticed through the windows, several people hurrying past his barge. His first thought was that someone’s having a party. Then a second group of people raced past and he became curious enough to lean into the window well to try and see more. That proved to be a waste time, they’d moved well beyond his barge by then and even if they hadn’t, he wouldn’t have been able to hear them due to his custom made six inch thick, carbon fiber, bullet resistant, sound deadening, and hurricane proof windows. So he went back to work on his story.
Within a few minutes a third group, consisting of three couples, raced by the window and he just had to know what was going on. Nate quickly hobbled to his door and was about to open it when the doorbell rang, startling him.
Quite a coincidence, Nate thought. Too much of one, his instincts told him. As a precaution, he turned out the lights both inside and out, before opening the door. In addition, he placed his hand upon the Sig-Sauer .40 caliber hand gun he kept in a hidden cubby hole behind the trim board at the top of the door. The gun itself was just one in a large arsenal that he had spread throughout the barge. It was his way of being prepared in case someone from his past stopped by with bad intent. He’d been especially careful not to share the locations of the secret shelves and cubby holes with anyone, not even Mason. He was sure that Mason would throw a fit, if he knew just how many guns he owned.
Opening the door, he was surprised to see Mason squatted down next to the door, with his gun drawn.
“Is this some new county policy?” Nate inquired. “Knock on someone’s door at night with your gun drawn, but squat down, so you don’t look quite so intimidating?” Nate immediately began harassing Detective Mason.
“Shut up, Nate.” Mason snarled. “I came to warn you, in person, since you never answer your phone.”
“I shut it off when I’m writing,” Nate informed him.
“You haven’t heard of leaving the damn thing on just in case of emergencies?” Mason snarled.
“Unfortunately, the non-emergency callers can’t tell when it’s been left on for emergencies only so they just keep calling. Why just this past week, I’ve won over two million dollars from sweepstakes, I didn’t enter,” he informed Mason. Mason bit his tongue and forced himself to refocus on the reason, he’d stopped by.
“Anyway, we’ve received a tip a few hours ago that the Ronny Deloore, your friend from the wallet snatching incident, has sent a couple of hitters after you. One is supposed to be coming by car, and the other is supposed to be sitting just outside the marina in a boat, with a rifle fitted with a night scope. The one on land is supposed to draw you out of the barge so the one in the boat, can take you out. By the way, it was a good call, turning out the lights,” Mason offered.
“So are you going to grouch by my door all night until they show themselves?” Nate asked sarcastically which drew a sideways look from Mason, though he remained in his professional mode.
“We got a second call, a little over a half hour ago, stating there was someone acting suspicious in the area of the marina’s storage barn. Right now, I’ve got a dozen officers searching the marina,” Mason explained. “Plus, SWAT is waiting by the front gate, should he put up a fight when we find him.”
“Doesn’t it seem a little strange that you’d get a tip about a mob hit?”
“No, we get tips all the time.”
“Yeah, those are tips from Betty Bob, about her drunken husband, Billy Bob, who’s driving over to his best friend’s Jimmy Bob’s house in Key West, to shoot Jimmy Bob because he looked down Betty Bob’s blouse at the party earlier. Not from members of the mob, about another mob member making a hit.” Nate tried to explain his thoughts to Mason, but it didn’t seem to get through.
“It does happen,” Mason countered. “Anyway, I got the Coast Guard to loan us a chopper to help our department chopper sweep the coastline for the boat. So we’ll find both of these guys. Just stay inside and don’t try any heroics, okay?” Mason continued to play the man in charge, while ignoring what Nate had to say.
“Mason, I’m telling you these two guys, if they exist, are decoys. They’re meant to be found, so the real killer or killers can be left in peace to make their move. If you’re intending to protect me, you had better get ready for a long night. I’m willing to bet your money, that you’ll catch the decoys in the next half hour. Then, sometime after one a.m. the real killer or killers will make their move. Wanta bet me?” Nate was doing his best to be serious, but he could tell by the look on Mason’s face that he wasn’t convincing him.
“This isn’t one of your books. Criminals don’t think that far ahead, and they certainly don’t invest that kind of money for a guy like you. Frankly, I’m surprised they sent two guys. You’re just not that important.”
“I don’t know. He was pretty insistent that I was a dead man.”
“Hold on,” Mason held his hand to his ear and made a face while concentrating. After a moment he whispered, “Roger”. Then turned to Nate and shared what he’d been told. “The choppers are five minutes out and the storage barn has been cleared. They’re working their way towards the bar through the dry docked boats now. Get back inside and keep your lights off.” Mason ordered as he started to leave, but then he suddenly remembered something.
“Oh, yeah, here’s a radio,” Mason pulled a small portable radio from his pocket and handed it to Nate.
“You can use it to contact me if anything should happen here at the barge. Be sure to leave it on and on channel two, in case I need to get in touch with you, ok?”
“Do I get a secret decoder ring, too?” Nate asked, just being his usual smart ass self.
“Shut up, and get inside.” Mason snapped, he then slipped over the deck railing and jumped down to the dock with a loud thud.
“I bet no one heard that,” Nate called after Mason, who ignored him.
Nate slipped back inside, sat down in one of his four recliners which sat in a row in front of his large screen plasma TV and put his legs up. He left the lights out, so he could look out the window and see all the way to the storage barn. He spent the next twenty minutes listening to the police chatter on the radio, before he turned it down to a whisper. He’d finally had enough of the constant situation reports, where the officers said “Clear, Roger” over and over. Then just as he was about to nod off, the radio squawked with a report from the choppers. They had begun chasing a power boat along the coast heading north towards Miami. He took a quick look at the wall clock and saw it was just after eleven. Within another two minutes, the SWAT team had reported they had stopped and questioned a guy, who claimed he had just come by to visit a friend. Who as it turned out, wasn’t home, and he couldn’t remember the name of his friend or exactly where he lived. They arrested him for carrying a concealed weapon without a permit.
Ten minutes after that, the Coast Guard had stopped the power boat. The man onboard claimed that he had run from them, because he was afraid they might think he was a drug smuggler. After all he was out at night in a power boat.
A search of the boat didn’t turn up any drugs, but it did turn up a high powered hunting rifle, complete with a night scope, plus they found ten, full, ten gallon gas cans. The boater was detained and his boat impounded, based on the tip about the hit.
The capture of the two suspects was cause for celebration for Detective Mason, even though Mason knew he didn’t have enough to hold either man for long. Of course, that was their plan all along.
A good crime is like a game of Chess. You have to sacrifice a few pawns to gain control of the battle field and that was exactly what the mob boy had done. He’d suckered the police in, giving them a perceived victory and now, they were moving out, leaving only a token presence behind. If Nate were the mob guy, now is when the real attack would take place.
Mason though still wasn’t convinced and he made a big deal in front of the uniform deputies of telling Nate to keep the radio overnight. “You know, for when the other bad guys arrive.” Mason and the deputies had a good chuckle, as they packed up their gear and left the marina.
Mason though, did do one thing to placate Nate. He ordered a pair of uniformed deputies to sit at the main entrance of the marina and question every car or pedestrian that attempted to enter the marina. They would only leave the marina entrance if something happened that the regular night patrol couldn’t handle. They were the department’s backup team for the night shift, as well as Nate’s guardians. The night shift patrol consisted of eight single officer squad cars that covered the Keys from just south of Homestead all the way to Key West.
Nate got comfortable in his overstuffed computer chair and settled in for the long night to come. The chair, custom made and designed by Nate, was similar to the couch used by psychologists. It is over stuffed and able to recline from a slight tilt to completely flat. It has a computer station that swings over it allowing the person in the chair to work on the computer while reclining with their feet up, a medical requirement for Nate. He placed the radio on the shelf next to the chair and turned it down to its lowest setting, where it was just barely audible. He then double checked the chairs armrest pocket, making sure the silenced .40 caliber Sig Sauer, was neatly tucked inside and he dozed off. Around two a.m., he was awakened by a strange sound.
Remaining still, he sat listening for the sound to repeat and a few moments later, he heard it again. At first, he didn’t recognize the sound, but as it continued, on and off over the next few minutes, he realized what it was. It was the sound of a knife on a sharpening rasp. It was not a good sound to be hearing inside the barge, especially since it meant someone other than him was sharpening a knife.
The more he thought about it, the more pissed off he became. Not that the guy was making noise but because the sound meant that someone had managed to break into his supposedly secure barge. He’d spent an awful lot of money to make the barge impenetrable and the first clown to come along, got right in.
Nate kept a rasp in the barge’s galley which was off the main entry hall that led to the aft deck. In the galley, he also kept two large carving knives for cutting up the larger portions of meat he purchased, now and then. He used the rasp to sharpen the knives before each use. Anyone who has ever cut meat knows how difficult it can be with a dull knife.
As the sound continued, Nate pulled the handgun out of the chair’s pocket, cocking it as quietly as he could. He then sat silently waiting, bathed in shadows, his gun at the ready. He was relaxed, and completely aware of every movement and sound within the barge. His body tensed when the sound of the rasp stopped and he heard the sound of soft footsteps coming towards him. It was quite dark inside the barge and he wondered how much the guy could actually see and if the intruder had night vision goggles.
Keeping his breathing as low and quiet as he could, Nate sat waiting for the intruder to show himself. As he impatiently waited, there was new sound accompanying the intruder’s footsteps, a steady continuous scraping sound. He knew right away, what the sound was. The intruder was dragging a knife along the wall in the hallway. His first thought was that replacing the paneling was going to be expensive. He started to say something, but his survival instincts got the better of him and he bit his tongue.
The intruder appeared in the hallway opening, a vague dark form. Then slowly he stepped into the salon. After a few tentative steps the intruder stopped and slowly looked about the room.
At first, Nate thought the guy had missed him. After all, he was covered by a dark blanket and was reclining in a deep shadow. What little light that penetrated the barges interior provided barely enough illumination to avoid walking into the furniture and left deep shadows in the corners and alcove where Nate’s computer couch was located.
Nate watched the intruder slowly walk across the room and then stop in front one of the windows. This was a major mistake by the intruder. What little light that leaked in through the window, silhouetted the intruder, making him an easy target. Slowly the intruder adjusted his grip on the knife’s handle he held in his right hand. Then suddenly, he spun around and brought his right hand up in a throwing motion, but was never able to follow through.
Nate fired once, and the intruder stopped mid-spin and flopped over onto the deck, the knife falling harmlessly beside him. Nate swung himself up to a sitting position, turned to face the entry hall with his gun aimed into the darkness, ready to fire, but there was no one there. He strained his ears listening for any sound, but it was completely silent.
After waiting several minutes in silence, Nate grabbed the radio and tried to contact Mason. There was no reply, so he grabbed his cell phone and called Mason’s home number. It still took over a dozen rings before a sleepy Mason finally answered.
“Hello?” Mason mumbled, clearly groggy with sleep.
“Mason its Nate, where the hell are you?”
“What do you want, Nate?” Mason groused. “What time is it?”
“What I want is, for you to come and get the dead body out of my main salon. Plus, it’s a quarter to three. A half hour too late for me to say, I told you, so. But I told you there would be more than those two patsies.” Nate snarled softly, unsure if there was anyone else onboard.
“What? You got a body on the barge?” Mason asked not fully comprehending the conversation as he struggled to get a wake.
“No, I have a body inside the barge, somehow he got inside. Now get your police ass over here and help me out.” Nate raised his voice for emphasis.
“Okay, I’m on my way. I’ll call the guys at the gate and have them get back there right away. Hold tight, helps on the way.” Mason finally sounded awake and in charge of his faculties as he hung up the phone. After a minute or two, Mason came back over the radio.
“Nate, I can’t reach the two officers at the gate. So, I’m sending a patrol car A.S.A.P. and I’m headed your way as well.” Mason relayed what was bad news.
“Roger that, I’m going into stealth mode now. See you when you get here.” Nate mumbled in reply then set the radio back on the shelf and pulled himself out of his computer chair.
He stood there for several long seconds allowing his body to get used to the idea of standing before he tried walking across the room. As he crossed the room, he stopped just long enough to retrieve the knife from the deck, grabbing it gingerly by the blade’s top edge to avoid placing his prints over the intruders and set it behind a picture of himself at his first book signing that was on the end table next to the row of recliners. He hoped by placing it there, it would go unnoticed and no one would be grabbing it to use it as a weapon against him.
The two rookie officers guarding the front gate had been talking college football. One, was a Miami Hurricane fan and the other, was a Florida Gator fan. They were in a heat discussion regarding the Hurricane’s loss the year before to the Gator’s due to what the Miami fans viewed as a suspect call by the officials in dealing with a fumble recovery that allowed Florida to kick the game winning field goal with just seconds left in the game. The argument had reached such intensity that the two officers never saw the car pulling in driveway until it was right on top of them and at the last second, they did manage to wave it down. It pulled up and stopped right next to them.
The two officers failed to focus on the car, continuing to argue as the driver lowered his window. The officer finally turned and acknowledged the driver, by smiling at him as he rolled down his own window. But before he could say anything to the driver, who was cloaked in shadow, he abruptly turned back to his partner to address a comment he had just made.
It was a perfect opportunity and driver in the car took full advantage. He lifted his silenced gun above the window sill and fired twice. The first shot, plowed into the back of the head of the officer in the driver’s seat. The second shot struck the officer in the passenger seat in the left eye and traveled into his brain, before exiting the back of his head. Both officers die instantly and the car pulled into the marina and found a parking space as close to the water as possible.
Nate crossed the main salon as quickly and quietly as he could to a spot at the edge of the wet bar. Behind the bar was tall stool on which he placed a plastic bucket that kept under the bar, upside down. He then placed one of his numerous ball caps which were scattered about the barge on top of the bucket. He hoped that from a distance, in the dim light of the barge, it would appear as though it were the top of his head since there was only an inch or two showing above the bar top. With his decoy in place, he did his best to slip down to the deck without groaning too loudly.
Just as he settled on the floor, Mason called over the radio for him, but Nate made no effort to get off the deck and reply, he was in stealth mode. Plus, he believed it would be fool hearty to expose himself like that. The squawking radio was a death trap for anyone dumb enough to use it in a situation like this. The sound easily gave away the position of the person holding it. As if to confirm Nate’s belief, a small red dot from a laser sighted gun, played across the lump of blanket in his computer chair. The light was coming from outside, through one of the windows and after a moment it winked out.
Mason must have missed that part of the conversation where Nate told him he was going into stealth mode, because he quickly became frustrated with the lack of response and began swearing up a storm. Nate flattened himself against the side of the bar and sat listening to the sounds of the barge once more, in between Mason’s verbal tirades, which he repeated several times a couple of minutes apart.
After a half hour off nerve racking silence, Nate heard footsteps crossing the roof of the barge from the aft deck to the hatchway in the bow of barge, where they went silent. Nate then heard what he believed was the creaking of the hinges on the aft entry door as it opened and closed. Alerting Nate to the fact, there were at least two more intruders, one, trying to break in through the bow hatch and a second one who had just come inside through the aft entry door. Nate wondered if they had night vision goggles to go along with their laser sighted guns? God he hoped not.
Nate quietly slid down from his sitting position until he was lying on the deck. He felt lying on the deck gave him a tactical advantage in the darken barge. It helped him to hide in plain sight and kept him out of the line of fire should his attackers decide to spray the room with bullets and pray they hit something. It was also his most vulnerable position, because he’s unable to move around easily or to get up quickly. He also failed to consider the fact that the two assailants would be entering the salon from two different directions and how immobile he was on the floor. So he could be easily trapped in a crossfire situation.
Nate didn’t have to wait long for the intruders to arrive at the salon. From the sounds of their footsteps, Nate could tell they entered the barge from opposite ends and stopped in the opposite doorways to the main salon. He assumed their hesitation was so they could scan the room for their target, him. While he waited for the intruders to make their move, it occurred him they had no trouble getting past his door and hatch locks. He knew he’d have to get that corrected, should he live through the night and mentally added it to the list of repairs he’d have to make after tonight.
The intruder coming in through the main entry hall off the aft deck, stopped at the edge of the salon. He hung back just inside the shadows waiting. The only way Nate was able to confirm he was there, were the toes of his shoes. They stuck out just beyond the edge of the door frame.
The other intruder was bolder than his cohort. He stepped into the salon a few steps and then quickly darted behind the row of recliners in front of Nate’s big flat screen TV, which was built into the salons forward wall. The move was both a blessing and curse to Nate.
It was a curse because it helped to hide the intruder from him and was a blessing because it hid Nate from the intruder. Nate knew instinctively that he’d only get three shots at these guys and to get those shots, he’d have to time it perfectly.
For several minutes, the three of them remained silent, waiting and listening for the tell tale sound that betrays one’s location. Each of them knew that the slightest of sounds, could bring death instantly to their door and so they sat silently waiting.
Nate’s nerves were as taut as a rubber band on child’s windup toy. It took every ounce of his strength to keep his legs from twitching and giving his position away. Just when he thought he’d lose it, the radio suddenly squawked and Mason loudly announced that he was eight minutes out. His announcement hastened the intruder’s actions.
The intruder behind the row of recliners jumped out from his hiding spot and fired three rounds from his silenced gun into the bar area, blowing the hat and bucket off the stool, sending the bucket crashing into the cabinets and then onto the floor. The noise the bucket made covered Nate’s movements and he was able to finally shift his weight, relieving the pressure on his nerve endings. He then rolled to his right using the echoing sound of breaking glass and the falling pots and pans to cover the sound of his movement. As soon as he cleared the corner of the bar, he fired at the intruder by the recliners. He missed, and the intruder returned fire wildly, stitching the galley wall above him, with six rounds. Pots, pans and glassware, exploded as the rounds impacted them and punched into the wall.
The intruder in the entry hall then made his move and stepped into the salon. Not knowing where Nate was and not having seen where his cohort had directed his fire, he chose to fire at Nate’s computer chair and the waded up blanket, mistakenly believing Nate was there. After rapidly firing three silenced rounds into the blanket he stood motionless for a moment, as if waiting to see if the blanket would move. His hesitation gave Nate the opportunity for a clean shot. Nate fired, there was another phiff and the man crumpled to the deck.
Unfortunately, by shooting the intruder, who had just killed his computer couch, Nate gave away his own position and the other intruder took full advantage of the mistake. As soon as his cohort fired, he had begun circling around the opposite end of the row of recliners searching for a new hiding spot. When Nate fired his gun, it gave away his position and the intruder pounced. Nate never saw the second intruder coming he was too focused on his cohort. As soon as Nate fired, the second intruder was there, standing over him, his foot on Nate’s gun hand, with his gun aimed at Nate’s face.
Mason had arrived at the marina in record time and discovered the two officers at the front gate had been killed. After hesitating a moment, he raced back to Nate’s barge. Upon climbing onto the aft deck he discovered the rear main cabin door was open and not a single light was on inside.
Slipping through the open door, being careful not to touch anything for fear it might creak; Mason slowly made his way down the gently sloping entry hall, while listening for any sound. Suddenly the air was filled with multiple phiffs from silenced weapons, followed by the banging and crashing of kitchen wares being destroyed.
The smell of cordite filled the air heightening Mason’s sense of urgency. He charged to the end of the hallway then burst around the corner blindly into the salon. The two bodies, really just dark shapes on the deck, caught his attention first, neither was moving, so he looked up to find a third intruder standing over a man on the deck pointing a gun at him. Mason assumed it was Nate on the deck and acted without giving it any further thought.
The hired killer was standing over Nate, his gun pointing at his face and his left foot firmly planted on Nate’s right wrist and hand, his gun hand, pinning any hopes he’d had of survival to the deck. The man smiled wickedly at him and stated, “Ronny Deloore says to tell you, fuck you, fat man.” Nate turned his face to the deck and cringed.
Bam! The sound of a gun being fired echoed through the barge. Nate winced in anticipation of the pain, but after a moment he realized he hadn’t been shot. He was stunned when his assailant dropped to the deck next to him and he cranked his head up in astonishment to see who he had to thank for his salvation.
Mason stepped into view and asked, “Are you hurt?”
Nate answered him with a question of his own. “Not that I mind, but how in the hell did you get here so fast?”
Mason didn’t answer but instead slowly surveyed the room. “Are there any others?” He asked.
“Not that I know of,” Nate replied.
Mason checked all three bodies making sure they were dead. When he was sure, he holstered his gun and policed the other guns placing them on Nate’s galley counter before asking, “What weapon did the other guy have?”
“Oh, that would be one of my big kitchen knives. I picked it up and put it behind the picture of me on the end table. I hid it there in case anyone might want to try and use it against me.”
“Okay,” Mason stated absently as he retrieved the knife and placed it with the guns. He then turned and helped Nate get up off the deck. Nate had a strange feeling when Mason yanked him up, without having to strain himself at all. It made Nate feel as if he was a small child. He suddenly had a whole new appreciation of the man and his strength.
“Isn’t that against procedure?” Nate asked alluding to the guns and knife, Mason had moved.
“Don’t worry about it. Now your question about how I got here so fast. It’s standard department procedure. If you believe the radios to be compromised you lie about arrival times and force numbers. I was at the front gate when I last radioed you.” Mason stated. “The two officers I left to watch over you unfortunately are dead. They were both shot in the head.”
Nate started to say something, but thought better of it and instead asked. “So everything I hear on the scanner is a lie?”
“That’s a public frequency. The radio is an encrypted frequency. You won’t be scanning them. Are you hurt?” Mason changed the subject.
“What? No. Thanks to you. What about backup?”
“There isn’t any, there were a couple of bad DUI accidents on the Overseas Highway, so I’m it.”
“I need to pay more taxes. You aren’t paid anywhere near enough to deal with this crap. Did the men at the gate have families?” Nate asked.
“I’m not sure, I didn’t know them. They were rookies with the department, though they both had been in law enforcement for a few years, I think. They were part of our stimulus hiring’s.” Mason responded a little sheepishly.
“So you gonna call the meat wagon for these pieces of shit?” Nate asked, as he looked at the three dead men, while leaning over the back of one of his dining chairs, trying to get his back and legs ready to walk.
Mason switched on the salons overhead lights, illuminating the scene. In the harsh light of the overhead florescence, the scene was even more horrific then when it was bathed shadows. There were three dead bodies. All killed by gunshot wounds to the torso. Two lay on their backs and one was face down, the guy Mason had shot. Nate stood staring down at the three dead men while thinking he’d have to replace the whole deck to get rid of the blood stains.
Forcing himself to turn away from the macabre scene, Nate hobbled into the galley where he got himself a Foster’s Lager and a Coke for Mason. He eyed the rasp which was lying on the counter where the intruder had left it, wondering if he should start hiding it and his big knives. When he went to hand Mason the Coke, he looked at him sideways. So he handed Mason the Foster’s and went back to the galley for another Foster’s for himself. Mason greedily gulped his down, then sat down in one of the overstuffed recliners, and called in the shooting.
After finishing the call Mason began explaining to Nate what would be happening next. “In half an hour or so,” Mason began, “there will be thirty people running around here. They’ll be asking you lots of questions, dusting for prints, carrying out the bodies and doing other forensic stuff. Plus, there will be another thirty people out at the patrol car, doing the exact same thing. When they finally feel they have found all the answers here, they’ll head back to the Sheriff’s Office with us in tow, where we’ll be interviewed again. You’ll be interviewed by homicide investigators and I’ll have to explain it all to Internal Affairs. I suggest you be on your best behavior and answer their questions without any embellishments.”
“When have you ever known me to embellish anything?” Nate queried sarcastically. Mason rolled his eyes then leaned back in the recliner to wait for investigators to arrive.
Great! Nate thought. He knew once they had taken his initial statement, he’d be forced to sit in a room for at least two hours before they someone new in to ask him to repeat it all again. They’d be waiting with baited breath, hoping he made some substantial error in the retelling. If he was lucky, he’d get kicked loose around mid-morning, but it’d be days before they allowed him to return to his beloved barge.
While waiting for the investigators to arrive, Mason called Randy, the bartender and marina manager/owner and made sure that he hooked Nate up with a room until he could move back aboard his barge.
As soon as the investigators arrived, Mason and Nate were separated. Nate took a seat in one of his recliners, where he held court. The two officers charged with collecting his initial statement were fans and they knew the back story of the mob kid’s arrest at the Marina Bar which led to tonight’s attack, so their approach was polite and respectful. Mason had been moved outside onto the aft deck, where he sat at the table under the huge red, white and blue umbrella and wrote out his statement, per the Captain’s orders. When he had finished, he moved over onto one of Nate’s comfortably cushioned benches and tried to nap until the Captain to release him, to Internal Affairs. The Captain told Mason when he was interviewed by IA not to answer any of their questions directly; just hand them the written version of what happened and not say anything more. He explained IA wouldn’t like it but it was within the union guidelines and would keep IA from twisting Mason’s account of the incident.
The Captain worked the scene by the book, which included searching the entire barge, under the guise of looking for more evidence. Nate wasn’t one of his favorite people, so he was intent on making sure all the T’s were crossed and I’s dotted, just in case they found something with which to harass Nate.
Despite the invasion of Nate’s privacy, nothing was found that could be made into an issue to harass Nate with. Despite the special treatment, the forensic techs didn’t find a single additional gun, which surprised Nate. What he was unaware of, was the fact that most of the forensic techs were fans of his and the Captain’s dislike of him was public knowledge. It didn’t take a genius to see the Captain was on a witch hunt and the techs wanted no part of it. Nate knew the Captain’s feeling towards him, but he never expected nor would he ask the forensic techs to skip over any evidence. He simply thought the forensic techs never figured out how to access the numerous cubby holes, and specially designed refrigerators and closets.
The only weapon they found and Nate admitted to owning was the Sig-Sauer .40 caliber hand gun, which Mason had removed the silencer from before anyone else arrived. Silenced handguns are illegal in the State of Florida and he didn’t see any reason to provide the Captain with any evidence that might be used to muddy the waters of the investigation. Per Florida’s, ‘Stand Your Ground’, law the Captain had Nate’s gun confiscated it as evidence. Nate could expect it back in about two years, provided no one came forward to sue him over killing the intruders. Knowing this, seemed to make the Captain’s day.
When it was all said and done, Nate had been questioned for eight hours and Mason for twelve. By the time Mason was done, Nate had already been given a ride back to the marina, where he had been allowed to gather some clothes and his laptop from the barge. Randy had set Nate up with one of his first class rooms on the first floor right next to the bar. It had a lovely view of the marina’s fueling station.
The motel room wasn’t very comfortable since it wasn’t designed with Nate’s needs in mind or to his standards. He had to admit though there was at least one advantage to being at the motel. He only had to walk a few dozen feet to get what he considered to be the world’s finest cheese burger and an ice cold Foster’s Lager. So, since he had no choice, he did his best to settle in at the motel, but it wasn’t going to be easy.
Nate liked his privacy and the quiet solitude of being inside his barge. He could see people, but he didn’t have to deal with them, unless he chose too. Here at the motel, it was noisy, with lots of people wandering about at all hours of the day and night. He could hear, although not by choice, every conversation that took place within a hundred feet of the room, making it difficult to sleep at night or to take an afternoon nap. Later in that afternoon, Mason dropped by the marina motel and woke him from a fitful nap.
“Nate, you awake?” Mason called through the door, after pounding on it a few times. Each blow was a deep reverberating thud that shook the walls and caused the room’s flimsy door to bow inward and rattle in its frame.
“Hold on. I’m coming,” Nate bellowed as he sat up on the bed, pulled his ear plugs out and stumbled to the door. Nate had been napping fully dressed as he usually did during the day.
“Hey there, what’s up?” Nate mumbled when he finally opened the door. He didn’t bother to invite Mason in; he just turned around and stepped over to the room’s small table where he sat down in one of the two high back chairs. Mason stepped inside and followed him to the table, but didn’t sit down.
“You always sleep in your clothes?” Mason asked then quickly asked another question without waiting for a response. “You do know it’s after five, right?” Mason asked as he looked around the small but comfortably furnished room.
“I have a hard time sleeping here, with all the road noise and people yelling. So I pop in my ear plugs and take naps whenever I can. Have they released my barge yet?” Nate asked hopefully.
“Maybe tomorrow or the next day,” Mason stated absently, as he stared at his shoes. “Say, let’s go over to the bar, I’ll buy you a beer,” Mason then offered.
“Yeah, I’ll buy the first round.”
“If that’s the case, I guess I’m ready for dinner. Just give me a minute to get my shoes on.”
“I didn’t say anything about dinner,” Mason clarified his offer.
“Yeah, I know, but that doesn’t mean I can’t buy my own does it?” Nate replied.
“Just hurry up, I’m thirsty,” Mason growled as he started for the door.