Sunday, October 01, 2006

Dead Mann Installment #6


Exactly to his word he was enjoying it. He honestly had never seen a Ribeye this large in girth even as he cut into it and ate bites of it he was looking for the telltale signs of there being another cut of beef somehow added to the sides of it. One very large steer had given this monster up and he was surely going to try and eat as much of it as he could and not make himself sick, but he knew this was a meal fit for a king of larger size than he.

Miss Rogers was a fine hostess and had treated him not like the beach bum he looked but as a true guest of the house. He thought a silent prayer of thanks. After all even if this was going to be his last meal it would making a fitting one, one for at least the next several months as well. He paused to consider. Would he take Harold up on the offer, he did after all have no place else to stay and as he had told Miss Rogers no method to get another place to stay anytime soon. Though he could get money in a roundabout way after he made his second contact with Uncle Carlos he had no idea when that would happen. Over the years whenever such a going to ground happened Uncle Carlos had always been left in a fairly stable position wherever he was at the time of the crisis, now this time everything changed. Though this had been planned out over the years of dad’s and Uncle Carlos’s association until now they did not have to use it. Three days would pass and no word passed back and forth till the whole operation was rerouted set up with knowledge that something fatal had transpired and the world was never going to be the same again for any of them. Richard decided to take his new patrons up on their offers of hospitality. His mind set to what to do next and having let his first hungry bites settle a bit he went on to eat more of the beef.

Still eating and amazing himself on the growing amount of plate he was seeing uncovered by his forkfuls he was glad to see Miss Rogers walking toward him again.

“Dear Lady I must ask you, where in the world did you find such a monster steer? I have never ever seen a Ribeye this big.” He said before she had even got that close to the table.

She smiled and laughed as she walked closer to stop very near the table edge but far enough away to look at him all as he sat there.

“Texas. They grow ‘em that big in Texas. Actually My father has a ranch there that his brother runs and several of his sisters handle the shipping of the ‘Biggest Steaks In Texas’ as they call the company’s second name. Its really called ‘Texas Grand Isle Ranch’. It is one of the bigger spreads in that part of Texas.

I can see that you must have been hungry you did better than I thought you would do.” She said with an honest and thoroughly pleasing smile.

Richard was going to have to watch this one she enjoyed being at the top of her game and surprising people.

“It is going to have to be given to a small army to finish off. I do hate wasting food.” Richard was amazed that there was really so much food still left in front of him but then again he did not even take a bite of the potato.
“We can get you a large doggy bag to put your leftovers into. Will you be taking Harold up on his offer of a place to stay?” She asked as she watched his face intently.

“As I have nothing but a beach towel and the boats life-ring for shelter I am forced to accept the kind offer. Though I dislike putting anyone out for me, I’d surely return the favor if I could. A drafty old carriage house in the middle of the southern bogs is not the place to offer a traveler much respite but it is a bit cozy and quiet.” Richard layered his Irish feeling engrossed in the subject of his little cottage so far away. A note in the back of his mind, wondering if the cottage was a safe place to go and hide if the devils did start hunting him for real.

“That’s good, Harold was a little worried about you being out in the weather all night. I can’t say I was to fond of that prospect either.” She said with a warm smile on her face.

“I thank you for that. After all I am just a stranger who picked your restaurant at pretty much random, seeking a phone to call my broker. I could not expect anything more than bread and water as a meal tonight. And you gave me a feast, I am overwhelmed with gratitude.” Richard said with every bit of feeling of thanks he could offer.

“My father taught me to take charge. To access the truth of someone’s claims, and make a decision based on my beliefs as fast as possible. You could after all this turn out to be a liar, but it’s just a meal and a place to stay, at least I can be kind to you while you are here.” She said giving him a smile that touched her eyes but also showed she had meant the part about hoping he was not lying to her. Something moved in the back of her eyes. She blinked and turned back toward the way she had came, and said as she turned back to him.

“I best go get you that doggy bag.”

“Thank You Dear Lady.”

She turned and walked off, leaving the room in a steady pace. Richard felt he was seeing a lonely woman leave wanting more than she said, yet not knowing how to say it all. He was almost glad that she had not figured it all out yet. He still had need of private time to mourn his parents, and was keeping that part of his heart shut down that included any romantic feelings.

The lost feeling was swelling and his breath was becoming short and heavy when he heard someone walking into the room. He looked up and was glad it was not Miss Rogers. Harold had a stack of leftover containers in his left hand and a smile on his face.

“Miss Rogers told me you had accepted my offer.” Harold said as he set the trays off to the side of the table and sat across from Richard.

“What is a man to do, all his possessions at the bottom and just the cloths on his back left to him. I must thank you for the offer. I’d do the same if you found yourself stranded in the southern bogs of Ireland near my home. I have a lot of places I need to call in the morning, to see about getting funds available to continue my stay. I had wanted to do a little shopping in the Antique Districts of Palm Bay after my turn at sailing. Now I am not sure what I will do.” Richard frowned and started putting food in the trays.

“What sort of items were you looking for over in Palm Bay?”

“I have spots on a shelf for Early American food bottles and tins. A mate and his wife have been raving about the rows and rows of stores in this section of Florida. I was heading south along the coast down from Norfolk Virginia, with my final port of call going to be in Key West. When the fire broke out on board and I was forced to swim to shore.” Richard hoped his recent emotions were hidden when he finished his story. True only in that they had been heading to Key West.

“What caused the fire do you know?” Harold asked.

“It was in the galley and had spread to the radio alcove by the time I woke up to the rising smoke and flames. I think it’s my fault I must not have turned everything off on the stove or something. I can’t go back and look at the boat and tell you. Lucky for me the forward berth where I had been sleeping had another exit topside. The whole of the salon was in flames and the overhead was crisping too. I had heard that fires on board boats were the bane of the seas now I know why. Nowhere to run to, and not much you can do when they get out of hand. Lucky for me I was at rest and not on an outgoing tact. I am not sure I could have swam 15 miles to shore.” Richard hoped the story was convincing. He did know how to sail and had been on more than one boat that was in flames. Usually though it was him coming to save someone else.

“That’s some story I will say that. Well my shift is not over till the restaurant closes, so you’ll have to wait till 10 pm for me to come gather you up and head home, only forty-five minutes to wait.” Harold said as he got back up.

“I’ll take these and set them in a refrigerator to keep cool.” He took the leftover steak and potato, each in their own box.

“I will keep the salad, might even go get more in a bit.” Richard said.

“I’ll be back as soon as I can.” With that, Harold was off and Richard was left alone again.

The day’s events were creeping back into his mind. How had the blast been set? He knew everything was otherwise safe when he had been in the engine room just an hour before at the beginning of his watch. Dad and Mom had had the first watch after they had all had a nice breakfast together. They had been at anchor during the night, lights on and not in the regular shipping lanes. No one knew where they were. No other boats had been on radar since the day before when a lone merchant ship was passing to the north of them. It could have been anything, an accident, a bomb someone planted in the engine room or on the hull. Who was the next question? Richard needed to tell Uncle Carlos everything and needed to have his help getting back home. Home had been for so long the Maid Marian, where would home be now? His little cottage in Ireland was a private place off the beaten track totally out of the way and just a calm peaceful place to spend a week, not a place for a base of operations.

Operations! He had been working with his parents so long how could he continue to do what they had all done for all of his life. Help the people who had lost things to the crooks of the world. When no police could help them get it back, and it was worth it to get back. The Mann’s had been the team of Robinhoods to get it back for them. Many times the thieves never knew what happened, but often they did, and the Mann’s had gained a reputation among some groups and cartels of criminals. They had enemies and they were cautious about that fact and knew they were living with a risk factor build into their daily lives.

Richard could think of several methods to get a bomb on board, more though about placing one along the hull. The upper decks had gone up in flames and he could not have been in the water that long. It must have been a multi-tiered attack. One near or in the engine room and one or more to engulf the upper decks killing as fast and sure as possible. He would have been killed if he had been inside when it had gone off. He was sure of that. That is the reason it is likely not an accident Richard reminded himself of the thought he had had earlier. One explosion could be an accident. Two or more makes it likely to have been a well concealed plan to kill them. So Richard Mann had died today.


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