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.
If Ben had not seen those insurance polices Benito's request would not have seemed to be unusual.
Ben spent one night in Charleston South Carolina and drove straight through to New Jersey.
Ben parked at the Newark International Airport and rented a car.
He checked into a Ramada Inn Motel and zonked out.
The next morning he had breakfast there and then drove by his house.
There was a strange car parked in the drive way.
Ben made a U turn at the next intersection and parked in sight of his house.
Ben sat in his car watching the front of the house for a while. He had suspected that Pat was not faithful to him for years but had never wanted to know for sure. Ben had resigned himself to enjoying sex with Pat when he was home and then being celibate when away.
The first time after he married her that he thought she had been with another man he had thought that there was enough pussy there to share it.
Ben had realized that he was not in love with Pat before the wedding. He had gone through with it thinking she might be a perfect mother for a lot of children. Ben had wanted a lot of kids. He thought Pat would be like most Catholic women and want a big family.
Soon after they were married she had let him know that she was not going to ruin her figure and get tied down by having kids.
Antonio Costello gave Pat a home and had a decorator furnish it as a wedding gift. Pat made it clear that it was her's and was a gift to her from her father.
Once while they were at the Costello home Ben had been alone in the library.
Ben had thumbed through an album of pictures at the Costello home.
Pat had been UGLY as a teenager.
Ben had found out that those perfect tits were surgically altered.
Pat had a nose job done when she was eighteen and a receding chin was built out by a plastic surgeon. Ears that protruded were corrected.
Ben would not have known he was looking at pictures of his wife if the pictures had not been labeled.
Ben had graduated with honors at Auburn in the school of architecture.
He had felt out of place taking a job in sales from his father in law. He could have become employed by any one of a dozen designers.
Ben had enjoyed his job in sales though and certainly could never make the kind of money he was paid by the Marine Supply at any other job.
Pat could have spent twice or three times his salary if she had it. Her father was constantly bailing her out with his money.
Ben was paid a commission and a salary check every month. The salary check went into his and Pat's joint checking account.
The commission check was cashed and Ben squirreled it away in a hiding place in his basement work shop.
He had accumulated nearly four hundred thousand dollars no one knew he had.
Ben saw Pat open the front door to their house and step out on the stoop.
She looked around and spoke to someone inside. She was wearing only a thin robe, the breeze blew the robe open and showed she was nude under it.
A guy came out and clutched one of her tits as he kissed her goodbye.
Pat went back inside as the guy drove off.
Another guy arrived in a taxi.
Pat greeted him at the door still dressed in her flimsy robe.
That one was only there an hour.
After he left there was nothing happening for two hours.
A taxi pulled up in front of the house and blew the horn.
Pat came out that time. She was dressed in her best. She looked good.
Ben followed the cab to the Country Club she had bought them a membership in. Pat played Bridge there several times a week.
After Pat had gone inside Ben drove back to "HER" house. He drove into the alley and parked behind the house.
He went in through the basement door.
Ben's work room was walled off from the main basement. His hidden cash was stuffed into his brief case and he was out of there in minutes.
Ben returned his rental car and drove back to his room at the Motel.
When Ben and Pat returned from their honeymoon three years before he had become employed immediately.
Ben had been told to spend the time while waiting for the salesman he was to replace, getting an idea of what he was going to be selling. Ben was told to nose around the four warehouses and learn as much as he could about what was in inventory.
Ben was to travel with the retiring salesman two trips.
Those trips took three weeks and then he would spent a week at home.
Ben was hanging around the warehouses for three weeks.
There were two giant Cat engines, on pallets, in the back of one warehouse.
The data on them indicated that they were fifteen hundred hp turbo charged diesels. They had been manufactured for marine use several years before.
The engines were ordered for a customer. The order was canceled when the ship they were to be used in sank.
Ben had seen them still there several weeks before.
Ben used his cell phone to call the office.
The switchboard operator connected him to accounting. He gave accounting the name of a large ship repair service in Jacksonville Florida and asked that it be checked out and listed as one of his new accounts.
Ben hung up and called the office again.
Ben asked to be switched to sales. Ben identified himself as purchasing agent for the ship yards in Jacksonville. He ordered the Two Cat engines listed in the catalog.
Ben directed that the two Cat diesels be shipped that day to a freight terminal in Jacksonville Florida to be picked up by the buyer's representative.
Ben gave the freight facilities address and name to the shipping clerk.
Ben hung up and called the office again.
Ben asked to be transferred to Mr. Antonio Costello. Mr. Costello's secretary told Ben he was out for the rest of the day. Ben asked her to tell him he had called from Jacksonville Florida. Ben asked to be transferred to Benito Costello, he was out. Ben left him the same message.
Ben checked out of the motel and parked at the airport. He bought a ticket to Jacksonville Florida.
The next day he drove a rental car to the Marine repair service. He had been there the year before.
Visitors had to check through a guard at the gates. A visitor would receive a lapel badge with the yard's logo and "visitor" in large letters. The employees wore similar badges with a picture and their name.
While Ben was checking in a load of steel appeared at the gate. The guard excused himself and went out to examine the bill of lading. Ben picked a badge out of the box and dropped it in his coat pocket.
Later after his sales visit he turned in his visitor's badge and went to a shopping mall.
He got six color photos for a dollar.
At Radio Shack he used a demo computer to type a fictitious name and Employee and print it.
He had the credentials of a representative of the marine repair service after a few minutes when he was back in his motel room.
Ben went to the freight terminal and made arraignments to have those engines unloaded and stored until they were needed. Ben told the person at the terminal he would probably be the one sent to get those engines. Ben was wearing his badge.
One more stop before leaving Jacksonville Florida, Tim bought a tandem axle truck and a low boy trailer at a junky used truck dealer. He paid eight thousand cash.
Both were old and worn out but Ben thought they would make the two trips to Bayou Le Batre.
Ben flew to Mobile and rented a car.
He drove to Bayou Le Batre. He had been gone only eight days.
Ben found Richard in the Ship Yard office. They greeted each other. It was after hours, Richard offered Ben a beer from a water cooler with a cold drink chest.
Ben asked his uncle if he still wanted to sell out.
Richard said he did but he was going to miss the place.
When Richard's father had opened the place, good ship wrights could be found.
Ben's grand father had opened the yard during the depression in 1931.
Business had been slow for those first years.
The yard had built PT boats during WW ll. It had turned out good boats. As the war went on it was building forty foot life boats for Liberty Ships also.
When it was all over the yard was forced to get by on building steel hulled shrimp boats.
Large ship yards were building them cheaper.
The day for a small ship yard to try to build vessels was past.
Thomas Ship Building Company had adjusted to doing repair and paint work, engine overhauls and replacing engines.
After he graduated from high school, Ben's father had gone to work for a big ship yard in Mobile.
Richard had stayed on with his father in Bayou Le Batre.
When Ben's grand father died in 1973, Richard had bought Ben's father and the other brother's share of the yard.
Richard said the yard had made him a good living for years now.
Richard said he really did not want to go to Florida and live with a bunch of old bastards waiting to die.
Richard said he was getting to old to work like he had all his life though.
He said he had to sell it. He was not able to operate it by himself anymore.
Ben asked Richard if he would sell it to him and then work as many hours as he could, or wanted as a part time manager of the yard.
Ben promised to work out a salary arrangement. Ben said he would like it if Richard could pretend to still own the yard.
Ben said he had married a woman whose father was involved with the Cosa Nostra near New York City. He wanted to leave her but was afraid that her father and three brothers would make her a widow. She was Catholic and could never have a divorce.
Ben said those people would kill for a family member.
Ben said he wanted to disappear and start a new life.
He could do that here.
Richard and Ben talked for hours.
They agreed to a plan. Ben would change his name and act as if he were a new manager working for Richard at the yard.
Ben would buy the yard and ship for two hundred thousand. Ben would get two new engines and they would make the ship seaworthy. Ben would fill a small tank in her hold and they would try her at sea. Richard would continue to live on the ship.
Richard asked if the arraignment with his niece could continue.
Ben told him he wanted to live aboard the ship.
If the girl wanted to stay with an additional man aboard she would be welcome.
Richard thought she would. She was afraid of her ex-husband and felt safe here.
Richard said that he turned four big Rotwiller dogs loose in the yard at dark. They were alright with him and Nancy but might kill a stranger.
Nancy thought her ex-husband was smart enough to never come here. One of the dogs followed her around every where she went when they were loose. They loved her.
Ben suggested that they not tell Nancy any thing other than that he was a new employee and a relative.
They left the office around nine. Richard let the dogs out and let them get aquatinted with Ben. Ben petted them and Richard said they would know he belonged here now.
At about seven thirty Nancy had called from the ship and told Richard she would fix something to eat if he liked. Richard had told her to eat and he would see her at breakfast in the morning.
They went aboard and Ben picked a cabin to sleep in. He told his uncle he was leaving before day break the next morning and gave him two hundred thousand in cash.
Ben told Richard that he would be back in two days with one engine for the ship.
He would go back for the other one as soon as the first engine was unloaded. Richard assured Ben that a deed to the yard and a bill of sale for the ship would be waiting for him when he got back.
Ben drove his rental car back to Mobile, flew to Jacksonville, got some sleep and picked up his rattletrap truck. Ben had magnetic signs made for the truck doors when he was there before.
Ben drove to the freight dock and had an engine loaded. The trip to his ship yards was on flat interstate I -10 nearly all the way.
Ben had called Richard from a truck stop in Mobile.
When Ben drove up next to the ship men were waiting to hook the ship's crane to his load.
Ben was unloaded in ten minutes.
He waved to Richard and pulled out for his return to get the other engine. He got a few hours sleep near Mariana Florida and went on to Jacksonville. Three blocks away from the freight terminal he pulled into a truck stop and put those magnetic signs on the truck doors.
The freight agent had expected him right back after receiving the first engine. Ben told him the ship yard had only wanted the second engine after the first was installed.
Ben told the depot agent those engines were for a foreign ship and that they were on a c.o.d. basis. Ben wanted to pay cash for the freight charges and wanted a bill marked paid in full.
The foreign ship was "Out of here" as soon as the last engine was running.
Ben paid the freight terminal thirty eight hundred for their services.
It was a hell of a long trip to the ship yard with that last engine. It was dark when Ben got to Mobile. He called his uncle and told him where he was. Ben told Richard he would be there by eight the next morning.
He was there a few minutes early.
Ben got out of that truck cab and told his uncle he was going to bed where he had slept before. He fell on that bed and slept for twelve hours. He got up and went up to the galley and lounge. The TV was playing and Ben's uncle Richard and a woman were watching a VCR movie in the near dark.
Richard cut it off and asked Ben if he was hungry.
Ben told him he was.
The woman told him she would fix him something.
She got up and turned on the lights.
SHE WAS DROP DEAD GORGEOUS !
Richard introduced Ben to Nancy Parnell.
Nancy told him she was glad to meet him.
Nancy offered ham and cheese sandwiches.
Ben told her that would do fine.
Nancy invited Ben to sit at the table.
Ben sat so he could watch Nancy in the galley and talk to his uncle Richard.
Nancy was bare foot. She was wearing white shorts and a white tee shirt. Her long brown hair was in a braid. Her tanned legs were curvaceous but slender. She had big tits with no sag. She moved as graceful as a cat.
Ben talked to his uncle. He asked how the work was going installing the new engines. Richard told him both were mounted and coupled to their drive units to the propellers.
He said the last thing remaining to do was to install the controls to the bridge.
The ship would be ready for sea trials by noon the next day.
The next day was a Friday, Nancy wanted to go to sea with them. She said she would go to work the next morning and become ill before noon.
She would have the weekend free.
The next morning Richard and his men had the ship ready. Those engines had been running for several hours and the yard help was ready to cast off when Nancy got there.
Ben asked if they had enough crew.
Richard said three was enough. Nancy was a Shrimpers daughter and could easily run a ship as modern as this one was. She had run her fathers boat a lot and it did not have auto-pilot and radar.
Shore power, water sewer and phone lines were disconnected. The ship electrical was switched to the generator.
At noon the lines were cast off and a small tug dragged the ship to the harbor mouth.
They were in the Mississippi Sound and on their own. Richard engaged the engines and gave her half throttle. He headed south west. When the ship was between Dauphin Island and Petit Bois island Richard turned her due south. They were in the Gulf Of Mexico. He set the auto-pilot and sat back in the helmsman's chair. The ship was doing twenty knots.
Ben and Nancy had been on the bridge since they had cast off.
Richard suggested they get some rest. He told Nancy she would relieve him at four and Ben was to take the wheel at midnight.
Ben and Nancy went below to the galley and lounge.
It was quiet enough there to hear a jazz station from New Orleans over the speakers scattered around in the ceiling. Nancy poured them a glass of tea. She sat on the couch. Ben sat facing her in a recliner chair.
Nancy asked Ben if he had ever operated a large vessel before.
Ben told her he had a masters license from the Coast Guard.
He had gotten it so he could operate a yacht for a company he had worked for.
His license was for a vessel larger than this one.
( The Costello family had owned a huge yacht until it was sold the year before )
Ben and Nancy talked until four and she took the ships wheel.
Ben found that she was bright as well as pretty. She had gone to college at The University Of South Alabama and graduated with a degree in Business.
She had married after graduating. Her marriage had lasted less than a year.
Her parents had been killed in an auto wreck while she was in college. She like Ben had few relatives.
Nancy admitted that she was afraid of her ex-husband. He had seen her several times around town and threatened her.
He had promised to get even for her swearing out the complaint that had cost him thirty days in jail and his job as Captain.
Nancy said Tom ( her ex ) was drinking a lot now since he had lost his job as Captain of a shrimp boat.
After Nancy took the bridge Ben and Richard talked.
Ben told Richard he was certain that his life was in danger.
He told about finding insurance polices amounting to eight million dollars on his accidental death. Ben told Richard that he had noticed several indications of financial troubles in the Costello business.
Ben told Richard that, if he was right, it was planned that he was to be killed in a way that would appear to be an accident
Ben knew if he just disappeared, he would be hunted for the rest of his life.
Ben wanted the Costellos to think he was dead. Ben had decided to fake his own death.
He planned to choose a place on the Atlantic coast and drive his car off a viaduct.
When his wife had bought a membership to a country club he had told her he could not swim to avoid having to go to the pool with her.
One other time while out on the family yacht, he had made a point of not going in the water because he could not swim.
Since they thought he was not able to swim it would be assumed that he had drowned in the accident.
If no body was found the insurance company would wait seven years to pay off.
If he made it appear like a real fatal accident he would be safe for the rest of his life.
If Ben could pull it off he would be happy to spend the rest of his life on the gulf coast.
He told Richard he was going to get another I.D. and an Alabama driver's license.
Richard had a friend in New Orleans that made his living doing fake I.D.s. He promised to call him when they were ashore.
Richard had a sandwich and went to bed.
Ben went up to the bridge. It was still daylight, there was hardly any swell. the water was turning dark.
Nancy had propped her bare feet up on the steering pedestal. There were two other ships in sight. Both were west of their course and heading west.
Nancy was in a mood to talk.
She said she had been thinking of what a mess she had made of her life when she had married.
Nancy said she had thought she knew Tom, they had gone to school together from the first grade until graduating from high school.
Tom and she had never dated while in school. In a small village like here a person knew all there was to know about every one.
After she had finished college she had dated him. She had thought he was nice.
She had been lonely, her parents were dead and her brother was in the service in Germany.
She had been living in a rented room. Her parent's house had been sold after they died. The money was divided between her brother and herself.
She had spent her share on finishing college.
She had taken a job at the bank. It only paid the minim wage.
Tom had proposed to her.
She knew now that what she had thought was love was really appreciation for some one relieving the lonely feeling.
She had agreed to marry Tom.
He was making good money as a captain of a shrimp boat.
She had her head filled with dreams of a house and a lot of children. A good man to father them and a good life.
Tom had rented a small house near town.
There had been no honeymoon. They only had three days before Tom had to go to sea.
Tom had gotten drunk after the wedding.
He had passed out on the couch their wedding night. He had a hangover the next morning and had some of "The Hair Of The Dog That Bit Him" for breakfast. They had not consummated their marriage until late that afternoon.
The rented house did not have air-conditioning. It was a hot sweaty union. Tom had taken forever, he was half drunk.
Nancy said Tom had sobered up that night and they had a miserable night in that heat. Tom had been rough on her and hurt her breasts.
The next day Tom bought a window air conditioner and installed it in their bed room.
Tom had sprained his back while putting that window unit in. That night Tom was in then out of bed all night long. If he was in bed he was constantly trying to find a more comfortable position.
The next morning Nancy had driven Tom to the docks at daybreak. He was gone for three weeks.
He had called several times on the ship to shore. He was off the Florida Coast the first time. They had talked for a minute and Tom told her to keep her pussy ready for when he returned. Nancy said she heard several of the crew laughing at that before he hung up the phone.
Nancy said that she knew right then she had made a bad decision when she decided to marry Tom.
The next morning she made an appointment with her doctor.
She had gotten a prescription for birth control pills. She had doubts that her marriage to Tom would last.
Nancy said that when Tom was home the next time, he had gotten drunk before coming to the house. He had called her when the docks were in sight. Tom had to stay until his catch was unloaded. Nancy had waited until dark to start supper. When Tom was not there she had driven down to the docks. His boat was in it's berth and dark.
Tom had gone. She drove by his favorite bar and parked and peeped through a window. He was there buying drinks for the house and roaring drunk.
She had gone home.
When Tom came home he was brought in by some of his drinking buddies.
Nancy had them lay him on the couch.
Tom was still drunk the next morning when she went to work.
He sobered up that day. He was in a lousy temper when she came home.
Nancy had asked Tom for money to pay bills with. Tom told her he was broke. Nancy asked where his pay was. Tom told her he had spent it and to get the hell out of his face. Nancy did. She called a girl she worked with at the bank and asked if she could spend a few nights on the couch in her apartment. She packed a bag and as she was leaving Tom had asked where the hell she thought she was going. Nancy told him she was getting the hell out of his face.
The next afternoon as she was going to her car Tom apologized and asked her to come home.
Tom was sober and she had gone home.
Two days later Tom was at sea again.
He was gone nearly a month that time.
Nancy had a tough time making ends meet on her small salary.
The next time Tom had docked she was there to meet him. Tom drew his pay and she asked for nearly all of it to pay the rent and other bills.
Tom grudgingly gave her most of his pay.
She had driven them home and asked Tom if he would like her to cook supper.
Tom told her he wanted to skip supper, he was going to a seaman's meeting.
He left in her car.
The town is so small a person can walk from side to side of it.
Nancy had walked to Tom's favorite bar.
He was there drunk again.
Near dawn he had staggered in as far as the couch in the living room. She got out of bed and cried.
The next morning she left him as he was and started to go to work. Tom had missed the drive way and parked in the yard.
Her car was wrecked down the passenger side. He had hit something.
She went on to work scared that her car had been involved in a hit and run accident.
At work that day she made arraignments with the girl she had spent the night with before to share her apartment.
She had left the money she had gotten from Tom the day before in a cookie jar on the kitchen counter. When she got home after work Tom was gone and so was the money.
She packed every thing she owned and moved out. She made three trips to a rental storage place. She left Tom with no sheets, no pots and pans, or groceries. She took her TV and CD player, her clothes, her books and left only Tom's belongings and the furniture. They had rented a furnished house.
Nancy had packed the things she would need in her shared apartment in two suit cases and some card board boxes.
Tom called her at the bank the next morning, he was still drunk. He begged her to come back home to him.
Nancy had told him they were through. She had told him she could not stay married to a drunk.
She hung up on him.
Tom was waiting at her car when she left from work. He pleaded for another chance. He promised to quit drinking.
Nancy told him if he did quit for two months she would come back.
Tom promised that he would.
Nancy asked him what he had hit with her car the night before.
Tom told her he had run off the road and scraped a Live Oak. He promised to pay for the damage.
(She said she was still driving a wreck.)
Tom did stay sober for the next three times he was in port.
He would be waiting at her car after work every day he was ashore.
He would beg her to spend some time with him that evening.
After over two months had gone by Tom made port and asked her to come back to him then.
She had kept her word and Tom rented that same furnished house again.
She had wanted it to work with Tom that time. She went back to him for the same reason she had married him, she was lonely and felt that life was passing her by.
Tom stayed sober for the next two times he was in port. Nancy stayed on the pill, Tom was still on trial.
They were beginning to get a little in the bank and Nancy was made a loan officer. Her salary was a lot larger.
Shrimping is a good times, bad times thing. The shrimp went on vacation. Tom was returning to port with nearly bare holds.
He was on a salary plus a bonus for good catches. He was not making much.
It happened again. Tom stopped by that bar and got drunk. When he came home the next morning Nancy was loading the last of her things in her car. Tom told her she was not leaving him again. He told her she was his and he would kill her before he would let her go.
Nancy had continued putting her things in a box. Tom had kicked the box into the wall.
She had started to leave.
That was when Tom had hit her hard enough to break three ribs. He blacked both her eyes and put a big bruise on her belly.
Nancy had blacked out.
When she regained her senses Tom was in the kitchen making himself another drink.
Nancy had slipped out the front door and made it to a neighbors house. She had called the police from there.
Tom had been arrested, Nancy was taken to a hospital and kept two days.
Tom was tried and given thirty days in jail. Nancy had a divorce and was living aboard ship with Richard before Tom had served his sentence. She had seen Tom several times since. He had been bitter about her calling the police. He had lost his job as a captain and was getting only a few jobs as a deck hand now. Nancy said he was still drinking and she was scared of him.
Ben told her he was sorry her life had turned out that way.
He kissed her teary cheek and told her he would be back at twelve to relieve her.
At midnight Ben appeared on the bridge.
An alert Nancy was still watching for other traffic at sea. She had a Boom Box playing jazz from New Orleans and was walking around the bridge bare foot.
Ben said "Time for you to go to bed honey".
Nancy said she was not sleepy yet.
She said she would keep him company for a while. Nancy said that now that she had bared her soul to him she wanted to know more about him. What made him tick she asked.
Ben thought seriously about giving her a flippant answer.
He decided to tell her the whole story.
Ben started off by giving her a brief history of his childhood. He told her of coming to stay summers with his uncle Richard when he was old enough. They had no children and had made him feel welcome and loved.