Authors: Tymber Dalton
The body, out of the water, emitted a rancid, putrefying odor. Everyone was more than glad when, an hour before dark, the Coast Guard cutter arrived. Two crewmen gingerly felt around the man’s pockets for a wallet. They found one, filled mostly with hundreds and fifties, and a few smaller bills. There were also three separate driver’s licenses, two for Florida under different names—Juan Gomez of Cutler Ridge, and Julio Dominquez of Homestead—and a Caymanian driver’s license under the name of Roberto Henrique. They put the items in an evidence bag and set them aside.
Mitch and Ed endured an hour of questioning. In that time, the Coast Guard divers brought up a total of eighty kilos of cocaine from inside the boat.
Two hours later, the captain of the cutter finally released them. Rather than cut the weekend short, the four of them decided to make the best of the time they had left. They pulled anchor and motored away from the wreck. Mitch cooked some fish for dinner, and the conversation naturally turned to the day’s events.
Jack shook his head in disbelief. “I’ve got to hand it to you, Ed. If that’d been me, I would’ve crapped my pants. I can’t believe you didn’t let go of that dead guy.”
Ed took a swallow of his beer. “I couldn’t believe it either. To tell you the truth, when I first brought him out, I was more worried about a barracuda taking a bite out of him than the sharks. I never imagined something like that happening.”
Mitch, sitting next to Ed, reached over and patted his hand. “The important thing is that you’re all right.”
Their eyes locked. For a brief moment, Mitch felt the overwhelming urge to lean in and kiss him. She let go of his hand and stood up to clear the table. “Dessert, anyone?”
* * * *
Later that evening, Ron flipped Jack for the aft berth. He lost and headed up to the cockpit.
“See you all in the morning.”
Mitch finally called it a day. She took a quick shower and retired to the forward cabin, Pete at her heels. Ed checked the anchor, set the drift alarm, turned on the anchor lights, then stretched out in the salon.
Mitch and Pete curled up in the bow’s V-berth cabin. She left the door open. With her light out and her door open, she watched Ed stretched out in one of the chairs, reading the instruction book for the new GPS, his legs propped up on the sofa bed. He was handsome in a subdued sort of way, with his dark blond hair and beard peppered with grey, his lithe body tanned from his hours on the water, and light freckles dotting the backs of his shoulders. Built long and lanky, from his legs to his piano-player fingers, he moved like a cat, fluid and smooth, every action natural. And then he had those killer sky blue eyes, friendly, engaging, not cold like John’s. Old memories came back to her from childhood about staring at his eyes and loving them. His slight Florida cracker accent sounded warm and friendly.
As Mitch drifted off to sleep, the feeling that she had heard of the
before this weekend nagged her again. She shrugged it off, attributing it to the fact that she had an overactive imagination, and finally put it out of her thoughts.
Ed’s voice reached through her presleep fog. “Good night, Mitch.”
She smiled. “Good night, Ed.”
“Good night, John-boy,” Ron hollered from his makeshift bunk in the cockpit.
* * * *
Ed couldn’t keep his mind on the instruction manual and realized he’d been trying to read the same damn page for nearly five minutes. Despite the events of the day, all his mind focused on was how Mitch looked after returning to the boat, the clinging sweatshirt emphasizing every agonizingly beautiful inch of her body. Not that he hadn’t ever noticed her body before, but it’d never had such an acute effect upon his own. Taken in context with what Ron and Jack had said earlier, it was almost a form of self-torture.
beautiful, but she’d never shown any interest in him other than friendship. Now, with the blinders removed so to speak, he couldn’t think about anything
Mitch. What if she met someone else and he lost his chance to be with her because he was too chickenshit to do anything about it?
He finally tossed the manual aside and risked a glance toward the front cabin. She’d left the door open, and he saw her long legs disappear into the darkness. She’d worn a baggy T-shirt over a pair of loose cotton shorts to bed. That outfit was almost as torturous to him as the wet sweatshirt had been.
He finally bunked down and shut the lights off, but despite the hectic day, it was several frustrating hours before he finally slept.
Mitch woke first the next morning. She passed Ed in the salon. His right arm was thrown around a spare pillow. For a brief moment, she wondered how it’d feel to have him holding her like that. With Pete padding along behind her, she went outside and stretched, enjoying the fresh salt air. The sky still looked grey, the sun not quite high enough yet to pierce through the morning haze.
She helped Pete over the stern and waited while he did his doggy business on the dive platform. When he finished, she hoisted him back inside the boat and used a bucket to rinse off the platform. Finally able to get her morning started, she returned to the cabin.
A cup of coffee later, she started breakfast. The smell of eggs and bacon aroused the men, and Mitch kicked everyone out on deck so she could finish cooking.
Breakfast conversation naturally gravitated to the prior day’s events.
“Ed, I still can’t believe you didn’t lose it when that hammerhead nailed you,” Jack said. “Extremely impressive.”
“I impressed the hell out of myself, let me tell you.”
Mitch sat back and ate, paying little attention to the men. Her thoughts returned to the
. Something still nagged her, the thought that she’d heard of the yacht before. Or perhaps seen it.
“You still with us, Mitch?”
She looked up at the men. “What?”
“I said, are you still with us?” Ed repeated.
She smiled. “Sorry. I just keep thinking back to the
. I still say I’ve seen it somewhere before.”
“Probably just because you heard it on the radio,” Ron suggested.
She shook her head. “No, it’s more than that, I think. It’s driving me crazy that I can’t come up with it.”
* * * *
That thought stayed with her for the rest of the return trip. They reached Aripeka shortly after noon. As they approached their slip, something resembling a small army swarmed the dock. Mitch groaned when she spotted two news vans in the parking lot.
“Wonderful. We’ve got a box full of fish to clean, and the freakin’ media turns out.”
Ed stood next to her as she guided the boat in. “Just keep it simple and they’ll go away.”
She looked up at him.
His gaze returned to the dock. “I hope.”
Mitch picked a black-and-grey uniform out of the crowd. Relieved, she noted it was their friend, Rick Singer, from the Florida Marine Patrol. Maybe he could help get rid of this circus. She also noticed Bob Keith strutting around, getting full mileage out of his fifteen minutes of fame, knowing that once Mitch and Ed arrived, he would be ignored.
Rick stepped forward and helped them tie up. Ron and Jack prepared to clean fish. The two lawyers did a successful job of looking inconspicuous, and the reporters ignored them for the most part.
The reporters bombarded Mitch and Ed with questions the second they stepped out onto the dock. Pete ran past them to the parking lot to keep a date with his favorite tree and mark a few tires. Mitch helplessly looked at Rick, who lounged smiling against a post.
Ed spoke up. “Look, I really don’t think we should be talking to you all about this unless the Coast Guard says it’s okay. We’re not trying to dodge you, but we’ve got a lot of work to do and we’re really exhausted. So if you’ll excuse us.”
Mitch tried to head for her Bronco, but reporters hemmed her in. “Guys, we were out there fishing, we saw an oil slick, we investigated, and found the body. Ed went down and brought him up while we waited for the Coast Guard. I really don’t go in for publicity. I think you ought to be talking to the Coast Guard about this.”
Rick finally stepped in and helped her out. “Okay, guys, they don’t want to talk. Why don’t you all clear on out of here so they can get some work done?” The reporters reluctantly returned to their vehicles when they realized they weren’t getting a story.
Rick followed her to the Bronco and helped her retrieve a large cooler from the rear cargo area. “Don’t
get to have all the fun?” He laughed.
“Not funny,” she said as she hauled the cooler out of the back hatch. “And to make matters worse, people will get the numbers for our spots out there.”
Rick laughed even harder. “That’s the least of your worries. The local news was pretty boring until your trip. You’re probably good for a week’s worth of mileage, at least. I can see the headlines now. ‘Charter Captain Hits Dope Mother Lode.’”
They toted the empty cooler back to the boat where Ed tried to fend off one last pesky reporter from the St. Pete paper. Mitch grabbed a fillet knife and helped Jack and Ron, trying to ignore the guy. The reporter finally took a hint when Rick ordered the guy to leave.
Rick perched on the dock box to watch them clean fish. “Well, at least you didn’t come back empty-handed.”
Ed nodded, throwing another carcass out into the water where a flock of voracious pelicans waited. “Do you honestly think we would? Hell, I’d stop at the artificial reef on the way back in before I’d come back skunked.” Ed bagged the fillets and labeled them with the type of meat and the date. He put a few aside for Ron and Jack, and the rest he loaded in the cooler to take back to Mitch’s freezer.
It was after four when they finished cleaning fish and hosing down the boat. Ron and Jack, clearly worn out, said their good-byes and took off. Mitch fixed Cuban sandwiches for Ed and herself. They ate on the stern in companionable silence with Pete curled at their feet. A sea breeze blew up, just enough to cool them down and keep the no-see-ums away, and she listened to the sound of crickets in the nearby saw grass. They finished their sandwiches and did a few odds and ends before Mitch called it quits for the day.
Ed helped her tote the cooler to the Bronco. “Whew. What a weekend, huh?” He glanced at the cooler. “You going to need help unloading that?”
She shook her head. “I’ll just back into the carport and unload the bags right into the freezer.”
He nodded. “All right. Well, I’ll see you in the morning.” He smiled, patting Pete on the head. “We need to get those injectors handled. ’Night.” He got into his truck and headed north on 595. She watched him go and then stared down at Pete.
“So, what do you think, boy? Is Ron right?” Pete sat up and woofed, wagging his tail. She smiled. “Oh, what do you know. Let’s go home.”
It didn’t take her long to unload the cooler into the large freezer in the downstairs utility room. Mitch picked up the Sunday paper and carried it upstairs. When the door opened, Margarita, her five-year-old scarlet macaw, started bouncing up and down in her cage, wanting to be let out. Pete kept his distance from the bird when Mitch opened the cage door. Margarita climbed out onto the top of it. When three-year-old Pete was still a puppy, he’d made the mistake of trying to play with the large bird. Pete still wore a small scar on his nose from the bite.
Before doing anything else, Mitch changed her food and water and cleaned her cage. She always put extra food and water dishes in her cage when going out for a weekend trip, but Dan stopped by to check on her as well.
That chore finished, Mitch took a well-deserved, long, hot shower before scooping herself some ice cream and collapsing on the sofa in front of the TV. The six o’clock news started. She groaned when she saw Ed and herself on the screen, the lead story. Mitch surfed back and forth between the local affiliates. The phone rang, and she answered it without thinking. “Hello?”
“Mitch, you watching the news?” To her immense relief, it was Ed.
“Uh-huh. We’re the lead story.”
He chuckled. “Well, at least it’s free publicity.”
“This I can live without.” She ate another spoonful of ice cream while watching the Tampa ABC affiliate.
“What are you eating?”
“Ice cream.” She took another bite. “Geez, I look horrible. I’m glad I didn’t do an interview.”
“Nah, you look fine, hon. Listen, I’m going to call it a day. We’ve got a lot of work to do tomorrow. Do you want to ride with me to St. Pete to get the parts?”
She thought back to her conversation with Ron on Saturday. “No, I need to run some errands in the morning. I’ll be back around noon or so.”
“Okay. See you tomorrow.”
“Good night, Ed.”
“G’night.” She hung up the phone as the news went into a story about the city of Tampa’s negotiations with the local NFL team to keep them from moving. Mitch stared at the phone for a moment.
I guess it
be nice to fall asleep in his arms.