Susan Wolf Johnson

Gasparilla King Blog

A Boy Named Cuda

The morning Victor met with Chief Salazar to discuss the disappearance of Daniel Westcott, Captain Mortenson, the town's old salt, was already in the chief's office when Victor arrived. Mortenson was talking about the boy Daniel had taken with him on the Sea Booty to fish the day before Daniel disappeared...
A Boy Named Cuda

The morning Victor met with Chief Salazar to discuss the disappearance of Daniel Westcott, Captain Mortenson, the town's old salt, was already in the chief's office when Victor arrived. Mortenson was talking about the boy Daniel had taken with him on the Sea Booty to fish the day before Daniel disappeared. This scene is from the novel. "I've seen the kid," Mortenson said. "Hanging around the Conch Shell on Pass-A-Grille." He flicked his cigarette ash into the tray. "One thing for sure—it ain't tarpon that he's after." Victor felt the tension rise in the room. Salazar pressed his fingertips together as Mortenson spouted off about the mutton-chopped twenty-year-old that everyone called Cuda—short for barracuda. He and a couple of his long-haired buddies scraped barnacles off boat bottoms or polished teakwood for beer money. Mortenson said last summer, after Cuda took off for a while, he came back sporting a gold chain around his neck. In the bar, he bought a round of drinks for everyone and bragged about his ship coming in—literally. He'd just paid cash for a twenty-eight-foot Trojan Sea Breeze. "He's smuggling," Mortenson said. "Running ganja from Jamaica into Pass-A-Grille." The next question hovered silently in the cigarette smoke between them. Then Mortenson bellowed, "I couldn't tell you why Daniel was fishing with him though. It don't make sense."

The three of them stared at one another. Then Victor peered down at his shoes that were nervously tapping the floor. He knew Salazar and Captain Mortenson were connecting the dots. Somehow Daniel was involved with this punk smuggler.

Salazar sat at his desk and scribbled out Cuda's name on a legal pad. For the next few minutes, he picked Mortenson's brain about the boy's pals, the kind of car he drove, the last time he'd seen him; that sort of thing. Then he asked the old salt if he'd be willing to lead a search to find Daniel Westcott. "I'd be much obliged," he answered.

After Captain Mortenson left, the chief asked Victor to go with him to the Conch Shell that afternoon to ferret out information on Cuda. Victor agreed, but somehow he felt he was diving too deep into this mystery. He longed to see Becca again. He wanted to take her out for coffee or dinner, but he didn't want to get involved with Daniel's search. What did he know about smugglers, or searching for missing Gasparilla kings? And yet, this was Becca's grandfather. Read the next blog to find out what happened next.

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