Global warming. Sea level rise. Floating Community. Attempted Robbery at a pearl farm.
10 / Not Exactly Lost
Under the hot and heavy sun, the sloop Nightingale lay at anchor inside a small channel, surrounded by mangroves, far from any floating or anchored structures. Its sails were furled against the mast. Quin and Xavier sat in the rear deck. Each held a fishing rod, with a line tossed into the water. Quin's line was tossed over the stern, while Xavier had tossed his over the port side.
Quin said, "They're just not biting today."
"Why should they?" Xavier asked, "With what we're using for bait? All this spoiled oyster meat would repel anybody."
"That's anyone human. I don't know about fish."
"Well I am one human who's had enough of the stench! It's been four days since the break-in, and now that the fridge has broken down, this whole boat stinks from the rotting meat of cracked open oysters! Why don't we just toss them all overboard, and take this boat someplace where we can get it all cleaned up?"
"What place?" Quin asked him, "Do you know of any place that's close by?"
"Not exactly. There's a place, about a two hour sail from here." He pointed, "I think it's in that direction."
"You 'think' it's in that direction? What are we lost?"
Xavier groaned and shook his head. "If Andalib was here, she'd know what to do."
"Well she's not. We'll just have to rely on each other."
"That is 'not exactly' a comforting thought!"
"Don't worry. I'll check the charts. The problem is, that as of right now the wind isn't strong enough for us to raise sail, and the fuel we have left couldn't get us to any nearby marina."
"The fuel we have left? You mean that in all the time we were sitting in Shellfish Shoals, you didn't take the time to fill up the tank?"
"Sorry." Quin told him, "It all just slipped my mind."
"And you complain about the people living out here, as being benighted? Whatever you and your powerful elitist friends think about the people out here, they at least have enough sense, to always make sure that their tanks are filled!"
Quin looked up. He saw a low flying aircraft off in the distance. The roar of its engine was growing distinctly louder, as the slow moving airborne vessel approached.
He got to his feet. "I think it's the same 'copter. Now it's coming straight for us."
Xavier said, "And we don't have time to raise sail, or start the engine."
"Even if we could, it wouldn't do any good."
Xavier got to his feet and sneered. "And I suppose there also isn't enough time to send another e-mail to one of your 'powerful connections'."
"That won't be necessary. What I sent was enough. They're ready to give us all the help we'll need, when the time comes."
"The time is now."
"Let's get busy. All the rotting oyster meat might be used as evidence. Let's dump it all overboard."
"At last." Xavier continued to sneer, "And all the fish around here will bless your name."
The two of them ran down into the cabin, went over to the large, broken down refrigerator, and pulled out several large plastic containers, all filled to the top with putrefying oyster meat and shell fragments.
Xavier said, "No. The fish'll be cursing at both of us."
They both carried the stinking containers up the steps, and out onto the open deck. Then they began tossing the contents out into the brackish water, making thunderous splashes that sent the loudly squawking birds around them up into the air.
Now the helicopter was much closer, gliding just above the thick, marshland foliage that surrounded them.
A loudspeaker on the aircraft blared out a male voice. "Ahoy Nightingale! You are about to be boarded! You are hereby ordered to surrender!"
Xavier groaned and raised his hands high for the pilot to see; so did Quin.
Quin told Xavier, "Remember. You have the right to remain silent."
"Hey! I know the rules."
"Good. Let me do all the talking."
Now the 'copter hovered low above the Nightingale. The blast from its whirling propeller blades stirred up the foliage around them, and the water beneath the hull, causing the sloop to rock back and forth and side to side.
Xavier had to shout to be heard above the aircraft's motor.
"What is he gonna drop a rope ladder down, so we'll have to climb up? I'm afraid I'd fall off!"
"Don't worry!" Quin pointed in a different direction, out along the channel ahead of the bow.
"We'll be going with him!"
A speedboat had come around a bend in the channel, and headed straight for the Nightingale, plowing out a wide, heavy wake behind itself. As it came closer, the boat slowed down, and continued slowing until it came to a stop alongside the sloop.
One man was seated inside the speedboat behind the controls, armed with a shotgun, and had a cigar in his mouth. He wore no uniform. He also didn't have any badge pinned to his shirt. Quin and Xavier kept their hands raised.
"Good afternoon fellas!" The man with the cigar called out in a mock cheerful tone. "Glad that we could meet again, after so long! Have you heard that law enforcement officers are looking for you?"
Quin called out, "I can ask you the same question Mann!"
"That's 'Deputy Mann' to you Mr. Quin."
Xavier shook his head. With his raised right hand he pointed toward the hovering helicopter, directly over head.
He shouted, "Can't hear a word!"
Eric Mann nodded. He unclipped the cellphone from his belt, turned it on and brought it to his ear. Then he shouted into the device.
"It's okay! You can back off! I can handle it from here!"
The helicopter quickly rose up, and pulled back, about a half mile, where it stopped again, continuing to hover above the mangroves. The boats had stopped rocking.
Eric Mann clicked off his cellphone and clipped it back on his belt.
Now he spoke without shouting. "As I was saying, you're both wanted for questioning about the robbery of a pearl farm in Shellfish Shoals the other night."
Quin told him, "You know the rules Mann. We're both exercising our right to remain silent."
The guy in the speedboat repeated, "That's 'Deputy Mann' to you Mr. Quin."
Quin and Xavier both exchanged a puzzled look.
Quin asked, "You're a Deputy? Who the hell, who knows anything about you, would deputize you?"
"Someone who doesn't know anything about me; or at least all he knows is that I'm a guy who traps alligators. He also knows that I'm willing to collect the 25 thousand dollar reward that he's posted for the arrest and conviction of both of you."
Quin asked, "A reward?"
Xavier added, "Then you're not really a deputy? You're a bounty hunter?"
"That's right. Hired by a civilian. He's the owner of the oyster farm, that you're suspected of robbing; or at least the son of the owner. He's the one who was knocked out cold and went into the water, and would have been eaten by their watch-gator, if your girlfriend Andalib Elkart hadn't pulled him out."
"Andalib?" Xavier spoke sharply. "What's going on with her?
Eric Mann chuckled. "A lot better believe me, than what's gonna be going on with either of you.
"Believe it or not," he went on, "the same guy who got knocked out cold, actually paid her bail, and she's now out on her own recognizance. He said it was 'cause she saved his life. You see gentlemen, sometimes it does pay to help out a person in need of assistance."
"He bailed her out?"
"That's right Xavier. Not only that, but you're girlfriend's now staying in a boatel room, that he's also paying for. That's another thing gentlemen. Sometimes, it pays for a fella's girlfriend, not to be entirely faithful."
Quin spoke to the angry looking Xavier. "In this business, a gal's got to do, what a gal's got to do. You know that."
"Yeah I know that! I understand that, but it doesn't mean I have to like it!"
Quin returned his attention to Eric Mann. "So what happens now?"
"Same thing that always happens, with slight variations." Mann pointed to the hovering helicopter. "He could be flying you back to Shellfish Shoals, or we might arrange to bail you out right here."
"'Bail us out'? Oh, is that what you call it? I figured that. We pay the 'bail' to you the bounty hunter, and the bounty hunter lets us go 'on our own recognizance'?"
"That's right. I figure that the cost of the bail would come to the equivalent, of the value of every pearl that was robbed from that facility in Shellfish Shoals."
Xavier said, "You want us to hand over the entire take to you?"
"If you'd like to make a deal, the equivalent in pearls, of the 25 thousand dollar reward for your arrests and convictions, might be enough for me and my partner up there in the 'copter, to say that we have no idea where you're hiding."
"Forget it Mann!" Xavier spoke with disgust. "You might as well arrest us now. We have no pearls."
The 'deputy' was startled. "None?"
Xavier shook his head, as did Quin.
Quin told him, "There were five burlap bags filled with oysters. When they were opened, not one single pearl was inside."
"You're kidding?" Now Eric Mann laughed loudly. "'The Great Shellfish Shoals Pearl Robbery', didn't net the culprits a single pearl?"
"We've been wondering." Xavier asked, "Since not one pearl was stolen, could any charges against us be reduced?"
The Deputy continued to laugh. "That's something your lawyer'll have to ask the Judge."
Xavier turned to Quin. "Lawyer?"
"It's like I said. The e-mail's been sent."