Three weeks of flurried activity had passed. Captain Mike and Jeff stood together outside the hotel restaurant while they waited for the rest of their party to finish breakfast. "You and Alice have a lot on your plates. We need a full crew as soon as we can get one signed on and ready to sail."
"Mister Cotton, I need to get together with Meredith concerning security. It would be best if my two deck hands are also a part of her security team. Two of the stewards as well."
Jeff looked at the man in surprise. "I never thought of going that route. Tomorrow, I want the two of you to get together and coordinate this thing. I have a hunch Meredith has an idea or two about where we can find qualified personnel."
Jeff smiled when he saw Susana approach. "This is a new beginning for all of us. Hire up to ten people, including the chef and an assistant cook. Make doubly certain the crew you hire is discreet. Get busy."
Jeff left with his security team. Meredith and Jason prepared to escort Jeff to his office. "Mister Cotton, I'm concerned about what you told me about Claudio. I never knew about the drugs."
Jeff shook his head, "You had no way to know the man was anything other than the political reformer he claimed to be. His people work hard to maintain that image. As you know, the Feds
have arrested him and that should be the end of it. He has even been denied bail."
"We'll see," Meredith answered. She was unconvinced the Mexican gangster was as powerless as Jeff thought. She and Jason remained on high alert. They reminded Jeff of two prowling jungle cats.
"When we get to my office I'll check things out. I'm more concerned with what could happen here and now. Homegrown security problems worry me more than some maybe thing by a Mexican gangster. Also, was Brenda working alone?"
"I've begun to wonder the same thing myself," Jason said and leaned back in his seat. He tensed up and asked, "Where did she get that explosive? Someone approached her. She was greedy, selfish and self-centered. Yet, my wife did not have the drive to take the initiative and plan something as complicated as it took to blow up a boat."
Jason put into words what his mother had begun to consider. "I wonder if her explosives came from Mexico?"
When the four entered the office Rachel Greeted Jeff and stared hard at Meredith and Jason. "Is everything okay?"
Jeff laughed, "Take your foot off the button, Rachel. I'd like to introduce you to Meredith and Jason Blake, my new personal security."
Rachel relaxed and nodded. "Some strangers have been nosing around for the past week. Two were idiots from some law enforcement agency posing as potential investors."
She made a face. "They smelled federal. My guess is they are SEC. Then there was a Mexicany looking individual who demanded I call you."
"Uh oh," Jason exclaimed.
Meredith asked, "Can you describe him?"
"Here are his pictures. We have everything in this suite under camera." Rachel fished in a desk drawer and handed two eight by tens to Meredith.
"Damn!" Meredith stared hard at the two offending pictures. "That's Rasmos Reyes. He's Claudio's number one bodyguard."
"He's a snake," Jason added. "I tangled with him once and put some hurt on him."
"Jason broke his wrist when he tried to grope one of Consuela's maids.
Jeff nodded to Rachel, "Get Meredith set up with a phone and phone books plus whatever else she requires." He added, "Jason, if I have to go out, you stick with me."
Jason turned his attention to Meredith. "I want four ... no make that six additional female bodyguards and two males. I want smart and tough. If you think you need more, tell me. My daughter must be safe above all else, no matter the cost."
Meredith held up a warning hand. "Mister Cotton, you're talking nearly a half million a year for ten of us. Are you certain you want to spend that much money?"
Jeff thought a moment and asked, "How many would you consider the optimum number for protection of Susana and the rest of us, including the boat?"
"It's not the number of bodies on the protection security detail, but rather the cost." She added, "I can have a team put together in the next day or two." She repeated her question, "Are you willing to spend that kind of money?"
"Meredith, if I'm dead, I won't begrudge anything. If Susana were to die, I don't want to live. What's the problem?"
Meredith looked close at Jeff's face, "I hear you. Show me to a phone and a directory.
They heard a scream outside the office door.
Susana had partnered with Robin and Rene for the shopping spree to outfit the My Susana. The bedding, towels and other supplies had been left until this, the last week before departure.
Susana loved the idea of silk sheets. She weighed the cost versus value and decided. "Sex on silk would be wonderful but..." She let her voice trail off.
Robin and Rene both grinned at her. "Sex on silk sounds so ... sexy," Rene laughed.
"Maybe the three of us could check out the bedding?" Robin gave Susana a mock hopeful grin. "You know, a test drive around the cabin maybe?"
She laughed and told him, "Okay, but my dad gets to hold a loaded revolver in his hot little hand and watch us."
"Oh god no, he might get jealous of me. Let's check out the absorbent synthetic weaves for the crew's quarters." Robin looked at his sister, "I guess I'm stuck with just you, Sis."
Rene poked her brother in the stomach. "Dude, you just got cut off for a while." They looked at Susana's surprised expression and laughed.
Susana brought the conversation back to the here and now, "Okay, Rene will do the count and order three bedding changes for each bed in the master and the guest staterooms. The crew's quarters will all have the good quality, high count weave cotton mix." Susana nodded in agreement to herself.
"What material for filler and what density of weave on the silk?" Rene asked. What cost range? "We're talking a lot of money here."
Susana realized she was out of her depth and decided to fake it, rather than display her ignorance. "Silk bedding for the staterooms, just like I already told you. Four fifty weave for the silk, no filler. Get three changes of sheets for each bed. We want pastel patterned sheets and pillowcases, as well as solids, will be nice. Then we can mix and match and not look like a hotel."
Robin looked at Susana and shook his head. "Miss Cotton..."
"Susana," she corrected him.
"Ah well, Susana, do you realize you could spend in excess of thirty-thousand dollars just on bedding for the staterooms?"
"Jeff is going to kill me," she whispered to herself and told Robin, "Do it." Susana loved the mental image she had of Jeff as he made love to her on silk. Robin was right, sex on silk sounds damned sexy.
She handed him one of her credit cards. Then she remembered, "I have to go along and authorize payment because my personal ID must accompany the card for it to validate any purchase over five thousand. Let's go."
"What about Towels and bath mats?" Rene asked.
"You know what has worked on the other yachts you worked on, so I'm not needed to pick out the bathroom linens. Order top quality and order plenty." Susana looked at her seeming out of place Timex diver's watch and added, "I have to meet Dad at the office. Lets pay for the silk and I'll let you use my American Express for the towels and robes. It has a five thousand dollar max."
Susana signed for the purchases they had made so far and left. Rene looked at Susana's retreating back. "Well, you heard the lady, brother dear. Let's go spend money and return to the hotel. Spending a lot of money makes me horny." Robin squeezed her butt once and followed his sister as they finished shopping.
Susana got off the elevator and walked toward the Cotton Enterprises elevator. Two men, both were strangers to her, stood in her way outside the office door. One turned and headed toward Susana. She screamed as loud as she could.
Meredith jerked the door open, saw one man reach for Susana and jumped toward him. Jason grabbed the other man as he tried to reach for the gun stuck in the waistband of his pants. The gun went off. The man screamed and Jason smashed him in the face with an elbow.
Meredith spun the other man around and snap kicked his crotch. She bent over and jerked his revolver free from his waistband and stood. Jason's adversary lay curled up on the floor in a whimpering heap.
"What happened?" Jeff shouted as he came out of the office.
"Don't call the police!" Meredith yelled to them. "Not yet, anyway."
Jason grabbed his victim and dragged him into the office. "Mister Cotton, would you bring that man by your daughter inside where we might interrogate both of them in a more private setting?"
"Sure," Jeff answered in a dazed voice. He saw Meredith continue to look around as if she expected more trouble.
Rachel hurried ahead and opened a door into a bare storage room. "There's only tile in here to get blood on," she told Meredith.
"I want to watch," Susana demanded. "I want to see them suffer," Jeff nodded. He understood her rage and sense of violation.
Meredith said in a conversational tone of voice, "Jason, undress yours. He's already hurt. Let's see how much. Her face showed no emotion.
Jason was not gentle when he undid the belt and unzipped the man's trousers. The man's underwear was a bloody, sodden mess. "Any rubber gloves around here?" he asked. "There's no way I'll go any further without rubber on my hands.
"Let's see what this one has to say," Meredith pointed toward the one who tried to grab Susana.
Jeff hid his anger as he addressed the man. "It looks like your friend got his cock shot off. My daughter here will volunteer to slice yours off. Right now she's a very angry young lady and I don't blame her a bit."
"I'll get a box cutter out of the supply room," Susana told them.
"I don' speak English," the man said.
"Kick his balls," Susana yelled as she returned with the knife.
Jeff drew back his right foot. "No!" the man yelled. "I ain't going to talk."
"Works better than language lessons by Berlitz," Susana told them. She squatted down beside her victim and said, "Now let's make you more agreeable. She slashed across his crotch with the box cutter.
Blood seeped through the cloth. He made a grab toward Susana and failed when Jason kicked him in the face. Susana sliced again.