Contest Entry - Short Shots for March
We backed down the ramp until the boat was floating off the trailer. Jim hopped out of the cab of the big truck, unlatched the winch hook, and boarded. He started the motor and backed out into deeper water. Once he was clear, I pulled the truck and trailer up the ramp into the empty parking area. People talk about living abroad, but most never take the plunge. Jim and I had had long discussions on moving one day when we retired, and we'd researched countries, but it always seemed far away. One day, almost as a joke, Jim said we ought to just go. The more we talked, the more the plans came together. We worked construction for the same company, made good money, and had a slow season. But we were surprised when the owner of the company agreed with our proposal. Instead of us drawing unemployment for four months, we'd take off for six. They didn't want us out that long, but it saved them good money. That's how it went for a few years, and we loved it. We ended up loving it so much, we opened up a little company of our own abroad, and we made it work. With a solid crew, we had plenty of leisure time, and we both enjoyed being on the water, especially the clear aqua colored water of our favorite lake.
I waded out, caught the side of the 22' craft, and hauled myself in. "Where we going, Cap'n?"
The six-two, dark curly haired man chuckled. "Oh, how about we run over to the waterfall, Mate?"
I was shorter by an inch with sandy hair, but we were both tanned by the sun. "If there's water to fall."
It had been very dry. "Never seen the lake this low!"
"As clear is it is, you could probably see the bottom anywhere."
"Well, I doubt that." Jim replied, "Maybe we can see the fish, though."
I laughed, "Like you could catch one if you could see it! Planning to charm it into the well?"
"I pull more out of here than you pull in town!" Their laughter was drown out by the roar of the Evinrude as Jim opened it up.
It only took a few minutes, just enough time to strip down to shorts and get fishing gear out. Jim throttled it back and turned into a channel that was normally about forty feet wide. With the low water, it had narrowed by perhaps a third, and my partner watched the depth gauge and the water ahead for hazards. There was one long bend and a sharp corner along the hundred feet leading to the deep pool with a nice thirty foot waterfall. Usually. It was more like a sad trickle, and there would be no diving into the lagoon today. Jim said the depth was only twelve to fifteen feet. Dry summers were great for business, but not for our favorite spot in the world.
"Well, maybe the fishing will be good in here for a change." Jim said as he set up his pole.
I was tying on an odd spinner I'd gotten locally. "Jim, you must get one of these, they really bring 'em in!"
"Yeah, dick. You could tell me where you got it."
I was just about to cast when the depth finder beeped twice. Apparently it had been left on, but we weren't close to shallow water. Jim looked at me, I shrugged, and he headed over to the unit. He studied it for a minute and saw nothing, then waited until the watercraft swung back in the opposite direction. The beeping began again.
"What the hell?" Jim exclaimed. "Eric, check this out."
I stepped over to the little monitor. "Looks like a boat, maybe... Why didn't we see it before? Think it's recent?"
"Maybe, but I don't remember using the finder in here before, so who knows."
"Looks to be about fifteen feet." Jim replied.
I looked over the port side. "You can barely make it out, but something's down there."
"Yeah, with deeper water we'd never see it, either. Could have been there for years."
"Curious?" I asked.
"Oh, yeah. Very."
We enjoyed many outdoor activities, including scuba and snorkeling. Without tanks, we'd actually be doing neither, just donning masks and flippers, and going down to explore. Jim ran up the diver flag while I got the gear from one of the storage areas. We spit in our masks, rinsed them out, and geared up. It wasn't much gear, and in moments we both dropped into the warm water of the lake. Usually it was much cooler here with the waterfall, and made for a refreshing swim, but today it was nice for diving. We both bobbed there for a moment on the slight motion of the lake. I took in the smell of the water along with the lush smell of the surrounding plants and trees. We both smiled.
"Man I love this place." Jim said.
I was thinking the same thing, "Ready to have some fun?"
He grinned, then dropped down in the water, flipped, and kicked for the bottom. I was right behind him, and it was only a couple strokes to make the wreck. It was a little bigger than our craft, plus it had a below deck cabin. Jim headed right for it. That kind of left me to check out the storage compartments to see what kind of salvage might be on board. When I saw it, I almost sucked in water, and my heart skipped a couple beats. My lungs were out of air, and I got Jim's attention and thumbed up to the surface and kicked upward. He'd always had more lung capacity than I did, but he broke the surface a half minute later, although it felt like longer.
"What's wrong with you, Eric? You look like you've seen a ghost."
"Ghosts I can handle." I responded. "Did you not see the back of the boat?"
"I was focused on the cabin door. What'd I miss?"
"That didn't sink... it was scuttled!" I said. "That boat look old to you? It isn't. Who does that?"
"I have no idea. But I want into that cabin." Before I could object, he had his mask down and was back under.
Instead of diving again, I climbed back aboard our boat. I stowed my gear, grabbed a beer from the cooler, and sat back to wait. A couple minutes later, Jim surfaced, gave a thumbs up, and dove again. The next time he came up, he had a square package wrapped in black plastic and secured very well with duct tape. He swam over to the boat, pushing the floating package ahead of him. When he got close, I grabbed it and hauled it in, and then he was aboard as well.
"You were right!" He said as he kicked off his foot gear and tossed his mask. "Someone sunk that thing on purpose."
"And that doesn't concern you at all?" I asked incredulously.
"Some, but we never see anyone here." He shrugged.
"Yeah, man, but how long has it been there?" I sighed, "So what is it?"
"No idea. But a guess? Some kind of drugs headed to the US. I wonder..." I held up my hand.
It was a low growl that sounded like twin outboards. Whoever it was had just entered the channel that led to the lagoon. They were between us and the exit, and we had nowhere to go, and nowhere to hide. I jumped up and headed to the flag mast. I had to get the red flag with the diagonal white stripe down. If they rounded the corner and had bad intentions, it would be the first thing anyone would notice. Diver down.
"Jim!" I yelled. "Stow your dive gear and grab your pole!"
"Do it!" I was still yelling. "Someone's coming!"
He heard the engines, "Oh shit..."
"Stay calm, man." I grabbed my pole and cast.
"What do we do?"
"No idea yet, but as soon as they pull into view, cast starboard." I took a couple deep breaths, "Wait! Beer! Get a beer!"
"Great timing..." Jim snorted.
"Who fishes without beer?" It's tough to stay cool when you're terrified.
The military style raft with twin engines came around the corner. I was glad we had worked fast, because with such a shallow draft, they didn't have to worry as much about depth and snags. There were four men in the boat, and even from one-hundred feet away, I already knew it was going to be ugly. They were the kind of hard men we had learned to avoid and never cross. Our little spot of paradise could very well be the last place we'd ever see. I gave a wave, then held up both hands. They throttled back and waited while I picked up my pole and reeled in my line before giving an all clear signal.
"Hola!" I said to them.
"Hey... you have some luck?" The obvious leader of the four asked.
"Nah, just an empty well. Pretty spot, no fish." He nodded. "We were moving on, so you can have it to yourselves."
"Then you all have good luck later!" He waved.
We puttered out of the mouth to the lagoon, and I told Jim to turn hard, and keep close to the shore as possible. He asked me if I had a plan. I explained to Jim how I saw it. The covered cargo was obviously dive gear. If they took five minutes to suit up, a couple to dive the wreck, and maybe five more when they figure out it was us. Then, their twin eighty horsepower would be after our single fifty at three times our speed.
"All of this, of course, is if they didn't notice the fishermen had wet hair." I finished.
"What's the good news?"
"Lots of curves in the lake, so they have to get close. They might not know if we went north or south, plenty of small ramps. And I ain't heard 'em."
"That's it?!" Jim yelled over the outboard noise.
"Well, you get to play daredevil!" I howled. "Pull straight up on the gravel by the ramp. I'll pull the motor up!"
The hull left us tilted a bit, but the impact wasn't bad. I jumped out and headed for the truck. I knew it was important to leave the trailer behind, and I unhitched it. Jim jumped in, and he was still holding that big wrapped block. I shook my head and took off as quick as possible without kicking up too much dust. I explained we needed to turn in the boat as stolen. It might buy us some time. It didn't, and as I pulled near the police station, our lagoon mates had already arrived. I was lucky enough to see them first, and backed up slowly. We decided on a local road instead of the main route, hoping it wouldn't be guarded. It was. We soon had two trucks firing at us from a distance.
"And look," Jim finally had the package open. It was bundles of $100s. "We could have been rich."
"Ought to throw it to the locals."
"Yeah..." Jim grinned. He did, people flooded the streets, and it tied up the little road long enough to lose them and hide. I told Jim the plan. We finally had a decent head start, and instead of the first fair sized city, we'd go to the second. Then charter a flight, and go anywhere with that money.
"Is this going to work?"
"I have no idea."
"I wouldn't bet on us."
"Me either. But we can never go home again."
"Yeah, neither of them."