Ben Thomas was never a person to imagine things. All his life he had been a person of logic, capable of making decisions based on facts, not feelings.
Ben had felt uneasy that entire trip. He had several things nagging at his mind.
Monday, before leaving for his twenty or better day sales trip down the Atlantic seaboard, he had gone to the bank.
He and his wife banked at the Metro Bank at Elizabeth New Jersey. Ben had made a deposit and then gone to his safe deposit box. On his last few trips he had picked up nearly a dozen silver dollars.
They were not rare coins, he just collected real silver dollars. He had near two hundred in his box.
Ben had placed his new dollars in a half full bag and was about to close the box. On impulse he took the folders containing the two insurance policies the company was paying for him out.
Soon after he had married Pat (Patricia) her father had taken out a two hundred fifty thousand dollar policy on him. Pat was the beneficiary. A year later he had taken another one out.
He called it an employee perk. He said that it was tax deductible.
Ben knew that it was not a deductible business expense unless the company was the beneficiary. He had kept his mouth shut and thanked her father warmly.
Antonio Costello was Pat's father and the owner of Costello Marine Hardware the business Ben worked for.
Those policies now were for a face value of two million each, with double indemnity for accidental death.
BEN WAS WORTH EIGHT MILLION DEAD !
Of course that was if he was killed by an accident.
Ben looked further and found that the proceeds would go to Costello Marine Hardware now.
The date the policies were issued was nearly a year before.
Ben wondered why the polices had been increased so much without any one telling him.
Pat and he were the only persons with keys to that box. She must have surrendered the old policies and put the new ones in their box.
Ben and Pat had been married six long years. He had been married to her only four months when he began to doubt her faithfulness to him. There had been too many signs that she was seeing other lovers. Ben had ignored them, thinking Pat was a good Catholic woman and would never cheat because of that.
He had been given a fast sales course by the salesman that Ben was succeeding. He was retiring.
His father in law had put Ben on the road taking orders two months after the honeymoon was over.
That was not all bad ! Ben enjoyed sales and It was nice being away from Pat and her domineering ways. His route kept him from home at least three weeks each month.
He would come home for about a week and leave with his balls and prostate empty. Pat was insatiable !
Ben had been born and raised in Mobile Alabama.
He had met Pat Costello at school at Auburn. They had several classes together.
They were in their Senior year.
She was a beautiful, warm, loving person. She had attracted Ben with her charm and hot pussy.
Pat had latched on to Ben when he was recovering from a broken relationship.
She was Catholic and after Ben proposed she made him join her church. Ben had never been a very religious person so that had not become a problem.
The wedding had been a gaudy affair. The Costello family made it an expensive show of their wealth. It had turned out to be a demonstration of bad taste.
Ben was still doing what he had done that first few months after he married into the Costello family.
He would leave on a Monday morning and begin seeing his accounts down the Atlantic seaboard. He picked up a new account nearly every trip. He was selling to ship's chandlers and ship yards. Most of Ben's customers placed their orders directly to the main office. Ben was more customer relations than a sales person.
Each of his accounts had a catalog to order from.
The Monday Ben found those insurance policies he changed his usual route. Ben drove non stop to Atlanta. Ben checked into a motel and got a good sleep. The next day he drove to Mobile.
Ben had only a few living relatives. He had an Uncle in Mobile, Ben found him in a nursing home. He stayed only a few hours and drove to Bayou La Batre, a small town on the gulf.
Ben's Uncle Richard owned a small ship yard there.
Ben got there after dark and checked into a motel. Ben had his fill of shrimp at a restaurant near by, Bayou La Batre is a Shrimper's port.
The next morning Ben went to his Uncle's ship yard and repair service.
Richard Thomas was glad to see Ben, it had been eleven years since they had been together except at the funeral of Richard's wife, Ben's aunt Alice. They had only spoken a few moments and Ben had a plane to catch.
When Ben had been growing up he had spent a lot of his summers with Richard and his Aunt Alice there. He had worked at the ship yard as a summer job.
There was not much going on in the ship yard that morning.
Richard said he was trying to sell out and retire to Florida.
They talked for a while.
Ben asked Richard what he was asking for his business.
Richard told him he had cut the price down to two hundred thousand dollars. Richard said the ship yard should be worth more than that and he was including the hundred forty foot ship he was living on in the deal.
The ship alone would be worth over two hundred thousand if it had engines.
Ben asked Richard to show him around.
Ben told Richard he might be interested in buying him out.
The yard was in good shape. If Richard had wanted to it could be busy with repairs.
The large vessel Richard was living on was a floating palace. It had recently been sand blasted and the hull painted with green epoxy paint. The topsides were an off white epoxy.
The ship was built strong and looked as if she could stand the worst of storms at sea.
Richard took Ben aboard.
Every thing was clean and in order there.
The bridge was complete and fully equipped for an extended voyage. There was Radar and all the modern instruments needed for a sea going ship.
Below the bridge was a large galley and lounge. There was a small after deck behind that. Down a ship's ladder were crews quarters. Richard was using a state room large enough to have a sitting area with a couch and several lounge chairs. He had a large screen TV and a complete entertainment center there.
It was a hot day but the ship was air-conditioned and comfortably cool.
There were six other state rooms. Richard showed Ben them.
One was larger than the others and showed signs of being lived in by a woman.
At the end of the passage way between the state rooms was a water tight bulkhead with a sealed door. Through the glass in the door a cargo hold could be seen.
Below the living quarters was the engine room. It was squeaky clean. The two engines were gone but a diesel generator was still in it's place. There was a complete machine shop there. The heavy bulkhead between the engine room and the hold had been un-bolted and the old engines had been slid into the hold on steel rails. A big hydraulic crane on the bow of the ship had hoisted them out and set them on trucks.
New engines could be installed the same way.
Richard said that the ship had become his when the shipping company that had owned her went bankrupt. Richard had been authorized to sand blast her and paint her.
The owner was going to buy new engines of much larger horse power. Richard was to install them.
Richard had removed the small engines and the owner had sent for them.
The new engines were paid for with a bad check and they never came.
Richard was awarded the ship by the bankruptcy court as payment for what work he had done to her.
Richard said that after his wife Alice had passed away ten years ago he had continued to live in the house up the bayou. Two years ago when the ship became his, he had sold the house and moved aboard.
Richard said one of Alice's nieces was living aboard. She kept house for him and cooked their meals for her room and board.
Richard said she worked at the bank.
She had been married to a Shrimper for about a year.
He had began to drink heavily.
After he came home drunk one night and beat hell out of her and broke several of her ribs, she had filed a complaint and had him arrested. She needed a place to stay and Richard had let her move in with him.
She had gotten a divorce.
Back on shore and in the yard offices Ben asked how much engines would cost for the ship.
Richard told him that two years ago he had priced two fifteen hundred HP Cat diesels at forty eight thousand each. It would cost him about three thousand to install them.
Ben asked if a hundred thousand would make her seaworthy. Richard said it would if those engines could still be bought for the same price.
Richard told Ben that the fuel tanks were empty. They had been pumped out and blast cleaned and then lined with a glass epoxy. The fuel tanks could hold twenty four thousand gallons. Diesel fuel was selling for nearly a dollar a gallon here.
Ben spent a few more hours with his Uncle and then left.
Ben drove to Savannah Georgia and made a few calls on his customers there. He called in several orders and talked to one of his brother in laws. Benito told Ben they had been trying to raise him on his cell phone for several days.
Ben told Benito the dam thing had quit working.
Benito asked Ben to call in every day then so the office could keep in touch with him.
Ben promised he would.
.... There is more of this story ...