Working on a Big Catch
Victor leaned over the map that was spread out across the bait wells. A fishy odor, mixed with the scent of gasoline and strong coffee, rose up near the three men. Victor accepted a Styrofoam cup filled with the black brew. The coffee tasted thick and bitter on his tongue. As Captain Mortenson explained the chart, Victor marveled how the pieces of the search had shifted into place as if by some divine plan. Mortenson ran a bony finger along the chart from St. Ann's Bay, around the southwest tip of Cuba to Inagua Island. A cigarette flopped between his lips. "My guess is Cuda will refuel here first, then he'll head up to Andros." He tapped his finger on the Bahamian island. "She's nearly secluded." The captain plucked the cigarette from his mouth and held it between his thumb and forefinger. "It's easy to top off the tanks here and move out fast."
Victor cocked his head to dodge the smoke that Mortenson exhaled through his nose like a dragon.
"Then what?" Salazar asked.
The captain shrugged. "Cuda will want to land after midnight. Want the early hours to unload the weed." Mortenson's gravelly voice vibrated through the fog. "No one's running then except pirates and smugglers."
Ripples slapped up against the boat in a rhythmic swish that kept Victor slightly off balance. He noticed the sweat starting to bead on the chief's forehead.
They continued to plan how they would head off Cuda and his pot smuggling gang until the three of them heard a boat horn wailing through the fog. Victor leaned over starboard and squinted toward the bay. A Sea Craft motored into the marina. Victor could see a man at the helm, but he couldn't make out his face; the center console had been enclosed by an aluminum frame lined with heavy plastic. The rig looked like a makeshift tent. When the boat glided within fifty feet of the main dock, Victor's uncle pulled back the plastic and waved his hand in the air.
Victor and the chief climbed off the Lady Luck and hurried down the dock to meet the boat.
"What's this?" Salazar asked, pointing to the Sea Craft. He caught the line Carlos had thrown him and tied it around the mooring.
Carlos grinned. "My very fast boat." He wore a Tilley hat with nymphs, streamers, and wet flies attached to it. The lures glinted like ornaments in the sun. "See these?" Carlos pointed to the twin Johnson outboards. "Fifty miles an hour at full throttle."
"But this isn't a cabin," Salazar said, referring to the plastic tent. "Good for rain, but that's it." Victor knew the chief was thinking about bullets. Salazar shook his head and crossed his arms over his chest. "We can't take this boat," he said. "We'd be sitting ducks in this dinghy."
Captain Salazar knew more about this mission to find Daniel Westcott than he wanted to share with Victor and Captain Mortenson. What was he so worried about? The sea pirates? Cuda and his band of smugglers? What do you think Salazar's biggest fear was?