An Ill Wind

by Howard Faxon

Caution: This Fantasy Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa, Slow, Violent, .

Desc: Fantasy Story: A young punk finds the yacht of a drug lord abandoned off the coast of Florida--with said drug lord dead aboard her! I asked myself, "How could a drug cartel actually do good?" This story is my answer.

"It's an ill wind that blows no good."

I'm Manfred Ito. An uglier crossbreed I dare you to find. I'm scrawny, have lanky straight dark-red hair that I wear to my collar and bright blue eyes. I've got a nose that looks like the business end of a two pound ball-peen hammer, and if I could control my ears I wouldn't need canvas to sail a skiff--all I'd have to do would be to stand up straight and move the tiller with a foot. I'm a quarter Japanese, a quarter Caddo Indian, a quarter Norwegian and a quarter Red-Irish. When all this started I was nineteen, amoral and shiftless.

Up until that ungodly strong storm came aground and tore the hell out of the east side of south Florida, I lived with my mom in Port St. Lucie and worked cleaning rooms, same as mom, at the Hutchinson Island Marriott. I spent my nights going to school to be a medic on an ambulance--a paramedic.

Everybody got warned to leave the area. It was pretty much a blanket 'leave or else' issued by the feds and the state boys. The guys and I figured to hell with it and had a beer bash during the storm, protected by a big, solidly-built manual car wash. The state police still didn't want anyone in the area so I had a few days off work. I was beach combing that morning, looking for anything to salvage for a few bucks.

I spotted a capsized boat in the surf. It had to have been Peavey's. I didn't know anyone else with 29 foot tender painted a bright purple. I kept my sneakers on because of the beach trash, and managed to swim out to the boat. Yep, it was 'Knicker Bait'. The outboard was still hanging onto the transom rail and there were two tanks of gas floating in the water, tied to the stern by some poly line.

It took me a while to figure out how to get her right-side-up. I cut off the anchor, leaving some twenty feet of line attached to it. I reached up under one of the bench seats and grabbed a life preserver. I tied that to the anchor's line and dropped it. I'd recover it later if this worked. Next I tied off the free end of the anchor line to an oarlock amidships. I got my feet up against the bottom across from that oar lock and got ready to pull like hell. A seventh wave lifted me. I kicked down and pulled up for all I was worth. She flipped over just as pretty as you like. I crawled in over the bow and caught my breath. Then I had to get busy before she grounded herself in all the sharp rip-rap that made up the storm wall. I got the tanks aboard and used one of the (thank God, tied down!) oars to bring that life preserver aside. I re-tied the anchor line, snubbed it short and dumped the anchor back over the side to give myself some time. I tied on the life preserver to keep any asshole coastie with a pair of binoculars from busting my ass, then I set about clearing Peavey's forty-five horse Johnson. He always did say he had the biggest Johnson around. <snort.> I wasted a few ounces of gas clearing the lines, then got her goin'. The battery was shot from the salt water both shorting it out and leaking into the cells. I had to use that goddamned pull rope. I finally had time to bail the damned boat out.

The tanks were almost full, which gave me over five hours to play around with if I didn't goose it too much. I now had a lot more flexible way to scavenge.

The sea was quiet out past the surf, with just a gentle ripple. The storm seemed to have pounded all the anger out of the sea--for a while. I kept an eye on the horizon. I spotted a big yacht laying adrift in the water. It was a bit further south than I wanted to go and still have some reserve gas but I couldn't resist...

She was a rich man's toy--a catamaran over fifty feet long. The davits at the stern no longer held a lifeboat. She was the Hermosa Chica, flying a Panamanian flag. I tied off and climbed aboard. I called out but nobody answered. My nose wrinkled as smelled something rotting. I 'followed my nose' to find a guy dead, handcuffed to and lying on the master berth. Someone had tied some surgical tubing around his arm and shot him up with something that really didn't agree with him, from the way he struggled before losing it.

There was a stuffed wallet, some change, a ring of keys and a passport lying on the floor. I stripped the wallet of cash and left the papers. The passport looked as much like him as was possible, considering. The name on it was Juaquin Guzman.

I started looking around for things to take. There were electronics everywhere, a full bar, a closet full of automatic rifles (Hey, I would have been some kind of stupid not to be able to recognize a goddamned AK-47 after growing up in Florida!) and a shit-pot full of drugs. White, powdery drugs. Cabins and lockers packed full. Damn, so close and yet so far. I'd never be able to sell any of it without getting my throat cut.

I tried to make at least a fast pass through the whole ship before I decided on an action plan. That's when I found fourteen inches of water in the engine compartments. Jesus! I didn't know if it was storm spray that made its way inside or if the hulls were leaking. I tried to get the bilge pumps running, but no deal. I figured that they'd drained the batteries, the generators drained the fuel tanks to recharge the batteries and that was it. There were two battery farms and two generator/chargers, one set of each per hull. I traced the fuel lines, hoping that my guess was correct--that they'd run out of juice. That guy had been laying there for a while which would have given the gensets plenty of time to drain their tanks. I found a reserve tank valve on the engineering consoles in each catamaran hull. I threw them over and tried the little diesel motors again. After an unreasonably long time I got them started. It was but minutes later that the bilge pumps started doing their jobs.

I took Guzman's keys up to the helm to try and get the electronics up and running. The system was designed for an idiot to run. Within five minutes it was showing a radar plot and a GPS coordinate marked on a color chart, showing the coast and depth strata. The diesel tanks showed about 410 gallons. I decided that I'd better get ready to cut and run.

Once the Coasties and the ATF got hold of the ship I'd better be history, or I'd soon be history. I needed bags and such to stuff with loot. I found a gym bag under the captain's berth. It was stuffed full of straps of hundreds. Damn! I liked the way these people lived! Why pack crap that I'd have to pawn to get cash when the cash was already there waiting for me? I'd just stepped out of the bracket of petty theft.

I brought all the packages of drugs that I could find to the aft deck. I wanted to slice them open and throw them over the side, but the job was too big for me. I settled with slicing open all the wrappings with a razor knife so the sea water would later do the job for me. I initially had a ballsy fantasy of making off with the ship and claiming it as salvage, but I was too small to swim in those waters. I'd have my throat slit and be bobbing face-down in the flotsam left by the storm in no time. Besides, I'd have no way of knowing if I'd found all the drug caches. Just one kilo left behind and a glassy-eyed Doberman would put me away for the rest of my short, short life.

While pawing through the drugs I found more cash. I just shook my head as I stuffed it all into a big dry bag that I found and tossed it into 'Knicker Bait', then tied the packages under the bench seats. I took a laptop and charger, a couple of cell phones, an Icom marine hand-held radio with its charger, a stainless steel pump shotgun with some shells and a whole bunch of jewelry that did NOT look fake. It all went into a suitcase. I padded it with some towels and a nice terrycloth robe. Once I'd emptied the jewelry chest it still felt way too heavy. I shrugged and launched it at the deck. Why Juaquin, you dirty, dirty boy. I found sixty bars that looked suspiciously like solid gold, each one marked "Ten Troy Oz 24K Pure".

I went into hard core looting mode and tore that bedroom apart. Sorry, Guzman. I dumped his dead ass on the deck when I took apart the bed. Good thing I did. There was a hidden box cabinet under the owner's bunk. This must have been his "run away from trouble" boat. Scanning all those bills, I didn't think that I could count that high. I made sure to take the largest denomination bills first. The kitchen provided buss pans, roasting pans and stock pots that I filled full of banded packs. Then I wrapped them all tight in cling-wrap and stowed them in 'knicker bait'. I was sweating pretty badly by then, worried at being caught. I covered my 'salvage' with a canvas tarp and laced it down, then used the catamaran's engines to slowly travel up the coast to give me a shortest path back to my home port. Before I cast off I searched through the armory for anything that looked sweet. Pistols. He had a couple nice Glock 10mms in there and several boxes of shells. I searched through the closets for some nice clothing. While tossing the ship I found couple of sturdy briefcases. Should I take the grenades? Fuck, why not? They were free. I left them in their cardboard shipping tubes. Two rows of five U.S. baseball grenades filled the lower half of one briefcase when wrapped in another fuzzy towel. The pistols and boxes of ammo filled the top half. They were heavy! Well, they should have been. The forty pounds of gold went in the first case as well as eighty straps of hundreds in the second. Those two briefcases weren't going to leave my sight. If everything else went to shit, I'd still have a bankroll if I hung onto them.

I was as close to Port St. Lucie as I was going to get. I cut the engines, ran below to pull the hull drain plugs on both hulls, ran back up to the helm to cut the master breakers so the bilge pumps wouldn't kick in and hustled back to the stern. I cast off and puttered my way into port in the quickly gathering darkness. It was eerily quiet. I don't think that I was even noticed. Most of the lights were still out from storm damage. almost all of the city was dark. I quietly pulled into a dock owned by a charter fishing service I'd worked for. I slept on board, not willing to be separated from my haul. Before morning I regretted not having filched a rug or a pad, a blanket and a pillow.

Mark started to get all indignant and shit before he recognized me. Hell, I'd worked enough for him to have earned some credit, dammit! I blew him a line of shit saying that I had nothing to stick around for anymore. Mom had moved up to Biloxi to be with her sister when she learned about the twin hurricanes driving up the coast, just egging each other on to fuck up more people and more property. I asked him if he had a line on a sprinter van, since they got pretty good mileage and had room for my shit. Besides, everybody had parts for 'em. Fed-Ex shifted part of their delivery fleet to them. He found me one, a short-bed, brand new with some paint damage and a replaced door for eighteen thou. I passed him twenty thou in new hundreds, wrapped in Central American bank straps which almost made his heart stop. Then he nearly worked himself into a stroke trying to worm out of me how I just happened to have that kind of cash. I didn't say a goddamned word. Mark had a big mouth.

Once I got the title I had an auto shop give it their blessing. A lot of little businessmen stayed despite the hurricane to protect their property. I called around all my friends to see if anyone had seen Peavey. I let 'em all know where his boat was. That night I crammed all my ill-gotten gains into the van, covered it all with my tarp and grabbed a duffel bag full of stuff from my apartment. The only place the suitcases and briefcases would fit was the passenger seat and foot well. I loaded some music in the CD player and slowly headed north and west. I wanted to get a long distance between me and South Florida.

I stopped in Tampa and rented a quiet little hotel room for a couple of days. I dug out the cell phones that I'd found onboard and called my way through the speed-dials. I told the guys that answered that I thought it was only right that I let everyone know that Juaquin was gone. One guy was real insistent on knowing all the details. I offered to send him the passport I'd found. I also gave him the GPS coordinates where she went down. His last question was, "Why do you do this? Do you gloat over giving us bad news? Do you think to get some sort of reward?"

"No. I just thought that you'd want to know. Sometimes it helps to be able to say, 'yes, it's over'. That's all."

I trashed all the cell phones after that. A lot of people were a lot smarter than me when it came to electronics. I didn't want to carry a locator for whoever could pay for the talent. I'd figured out who Juaquin Guzman was. I didn't need to be doing any business with the cartels.

Let me tell you, it was a damned long drive down to Port Lavaca, Texas. Why Port Lavaca of all places? It's where I was born and spent my first five years. I rented a place with two bedrooms and an attached garage. I found a guy willing to put me on his payroll and add fourteen hundred bucks into my checking account every two weeks for sixteen hundred, cash in hand. I paid the landlord in cash too. With an electric bill as proof of residence I got a new driver's license then applied for a passport. Nobody knew me, nobody wanted me, nobody cared jack shit about me and that's the way I liked it.

Oh, yeah. I sent mom ten thousand bucks every Christmas after that. I used a different blind drop every time in case anybody intercepted the package.

When I counted my ill-gotten gains I got quite a shock. The packs of U.S. hundreds came out to about twenty-six million. Nice! That would keep me solvent for the rest of my life if I stayed away from gambling or anything else stupid. Then the Euros really gave me a surprise. Even though the high-denomination bills were larger in size, the total came out to four hundred and eighty-seven million. They packed more bang per cubic foot than U.S. hundreds. I had grabbed straps of 500-Euro bills until I ran out, then took 100-Euro bills. I never even got down to the 50s before I ran out of storage. That skiff was riding pretty close to the water-line when I got her into dock. With any chop at all I would have been swamped. I sat in a hotel-room chair looking out at the dark. I did my best to wrap my head around what all that cash meant to me. My life was about to change any way that I wanted it to. However, it was all illegal gains and would be seized (i.e. stolen from me) at the first hint of government notice. Oh, goddamn. Oh, god. Now what?

I needed a change in lifestyle and a change of scene. I needed a break from my old life into my new. That meant no credit cards, no bank accounts, no nothing. I'd get a cell phone but definitely not under my own name. Manfred Ito was about to disappear until it was safe to play again.

I'd gotten but barely a taste of living on a big-time yacht. I really wanted to get comfortable with that sort of lifestyle. The trouble was I was pig-ignorant. I didn't know item one about operating or maintaining a boat at sea. I owned up to being very new to all of it and tried to find out how to get an education. One old guy said that I should first take all the Coast Guard captaincy courses, get their certificates, then pick and choose between the Merchant Marine courses. After all that I should apprentice aboard ship as a second mate to learn how everybody worked with everybody else or got their shit kicked off the ship.

I cut my hair into a crew cut and dyed it black. Then I asked about buying a clean ID at some of the quieter dive bars. I became Sam Tanaka. It's kind of like Sam Jones in English. Then I signed up for the "Captain's Six-Pack" certification training.

I learned how to traverse a busy port and seaway. I learned to unplug a clogged macerator pump and fix a cranky diesel engine. I learned how to feed a crew of five for a week after the cooler crapped out and how to fix that damned cooler when we came into port for spares. I learned how to work on a 3-phase 220 circuit when I was up to my knees in salt water. I learned how to do a hot transfusion. I learned when I should and shouldn't back down from the captain. I learned the patience and mercy to baby sit an old alcoholic sailor with the D.T.s and how to set a broken arm on an infant. I learned how to do an emergency palate resection on a newborn that was aspirating all her milk. I learned how to give last rights without breaking down.

It ages a man early, it does. I got my captain's ticket. I was twenty one years old.

I found a lot of pretty, pretty boats designed for hosting wine and cheese parties while docked out of Tampa or Los Angeles or Seattle. They weren't in the least what I wanted.

AluMarine was willing to work with me. We designed a 88 foot bi-hull with two Cat engines that were built to take superchargers. She was designed to be a long-distance cruiser that had enough legs to get out of the way of a hurricane or a berserk container ship. The fly deck was removed from the plans and the masts reinforced. All the decking was built of synthetic teak that needed damned near zero maintenance. So many things that sounded good in principal when I suggested them didn't work worth a damn in reality. I was glad to take their advice because they'd already paid to learn through the school of hard knocks. At least they explained why NOT to do some of the things I asked about.

The hulls were to be filled with tanks, pumps and supply lines. Rather than inspection decks I had rails mounted for creepers in each hull. All the living area was on one level even with the salon, galley, staterooms and the dumper. The mechanical rooms were full-height. The bridge was mounted just six feet higher than the salon to aid in visibility and to keep the salt spray down. Half the bridge was built over the salon and half overhung the fore deck. She was a robust ship, with services built in for three times the load in the air handler and the water maker. The plans called for eight identical staterooms with the same sized berths. She was designed for comfort, my comfort. She was not built to impress the neighbors, any investors or third world governments.

I'd seen pictures of a ship finished in cherry and liked it. I had thirty-two-inch portholes planned for everywhere that made sense. I had cherry paneling installed from their mid-lines to the roof line and again covering all the overheads.

They tried to talk me into adding a day-head. I refused. Instead I had a galley locker installed. The boom crane was reinforced to safely cope with a four ton load. It was rigged to deploy and retrieve the ship's tender and a narrow little Mercedes diesel delivery van. (I kept my sprinter van, you see.) I had room for all that and was still had room to--barely--drop three full pallets on the deck to tear down stores at my leisure, or move engines in and out in case of their catastrophic failure.

Their design team had a list of subsystems that they offered, and I ticked off on most of them for inclusion because this wasn't a factory work boat; this was going to be my home. They were things such as LED light fixtures everywhere, a gimbal-mounted three-burner propane stove with a proper oven, a top-of-the-line side-by-side refrigerator and freezer, a big battery farm with a charger to take advantage of shore power, a top-of-the-line power inverter to run equipment that demanded AC, demand water heaters, a genset, a water-maker, an entertainment center, a clothes washer/dryer and a wet bar with an ice maker. To shoe-horn all this onto one deck we designed in a utility compartment for ship's stores and the laundry, then reduced the stateroom count to seven. Besides, I'd need someplace to keep all the garbage--and someplace for a chest freezer!

We fixed the overhead at seven feet. I was six feet one inch tall. Seven feet didn't feel claustrophobic to me, even with all that wood overhead. A slightly shortened (six foot) hatch led out forward onto the stunted bow deck. Bow thrusters became part of the design. I went a little bit nuts on the galley because I could.

I couldn't resist their idea of mounting a small hot tub amid-ships. Instead of five heads, one per stateroom, I had one large facility installed with said hot tub laid in beneath a nice big sun-roof and a big port-side window that I could open. Boy, was I going to have to stock gallons of vinegar and a squeegee/mop to keep the mineralization down on the walls and windows! Keeping the hot tub in a separate air space in the head allowed for a separate air handling control zone. It wouldn't screw up the humidity aboard the entire ship, thus heading off a condensation problem.

I told them to stuff their Corian and Granite counter tops. I thought that their designer was going to get physically ill when I suggested stainless steel work surfaces and counters. He countered with inch thick butcher-block surfaces everywhere. I agreed, knowing that it would need bleaching and the application of hot mineral oil at least monthly. Hell, the cherry wall and ceiling panels would need oiling too, so I'd just have to expand that maintenance task.

I slept on the plans for a couple of months. The designers didn't care. I paid them for their work, and they realized that a considered review of the composite design would make for a happier owner down the 'road'. After checking the anchors one more time, minimizing the water tanks to maximize the fuel tanks and increasing the engine room stores I pulled the trigger. They'd lay the keels within the month. In the mean time, I spent some time on the Internet and on the phone with a couple big ship's instrumentation dealers. There were a lot of choices out there, but I liked the way that Juaquin's electronics stack had come up from a cold start without a hitch. I ordered an integrated Furuno radar/depth measurement/GPS/auto pilot system installed with their top-of-the-line charting. Hell, it was only thirty thousand with every chart that I could justify, a very good radio-telephone and several Icom radios as well. The CAD wire-frame model of the helm made me immediately think 'Star Trek'. I wondered if I could hire a pretty black comms officer that would wear a mini-dress...

It was time to think about the ship's tender, what computer I'd want aboard and what to do about long distance communications. I'd been trained on ship's management, operations and procedures. I had been given some spreadsheet templates to use for various tasks. Considering the prices I'd paid for that education I was glad they hadn't left me hanging out to dry as far as the business side of the operation. Yes, running a ship is a business. There's certifications to comply with regularly, insurance to keep up, standard maintenance rotations and checks to be performed like clockwork. I needed to get computerized. I thought about Juaquin's laptop. I hadn't opened that suitcase since I stole it.

The system had a BIOS-level password. I didn't have half the patience I'd need to crack it. I put it in a box along with his passport and sent it of to Juaquin's last reported residence according to his passport. Fuck it. I didn't need any more trouble, and handing it over to the state department wouldn't buy me anything but trouble. Hell, if it closed a security hole some poor schlub was sweating over then good for him.

I bought a good HP laptop with a big screen. I insisted on staying away from HP inkjets because I didn't like their thieving ink cartridge culture. Yes, culture. They found it acceptable to short circuit their ink supplies with copy counters so you'd never be able to get all the ink that you paid for. In a word, Fuck 'em. I went with Canon.

Eight months later I stood there at the company graving dock, watching "Ill Wind" take to the sea for her first proving test. I couldn't keep the silly-assed grin off my face. I'd purchased a twenty-eight foot bright red fast response craft for my ship's boat. It had a pair of 80 horse inboard diesels, two water jets and the hull was one giant fuel bladder. The thing would scratch and claw its way up onto plane and howl down the harbor at over sixty knots with a full load of fuel. I was afraid to crank it up. Honestly. One good quartering wave and that's all she wrote. There WAS no roll cage. She had a covered helm, a spot light, radar and bench seating for twelve--with plenty of seatbelts. What a way to bring back the groceries!

It took them about a day and a half to finish their testing. She came back low on fuel but boasting high marks for sea-worthiness. There was none of this sixteen to twenty knot top speed shit that their brochures advertised for their luxury catamarans. During the trials they measured an honest thirty-six knots plus top speed, and it looked like her economical cruising speed would come out to be somewhere between twenty-four and twenty-six knots. Well, she had legs, that was for damned sure. I'd have to spend some time aboard to see how she rode to tell if she was 'comfortable' at sea, both in chop and big rollers. I spent most of three days going through the pick lists to clear out any snarky little issues, and the lead contractor read through the performance reports with me. The Coast Guard signed off on her seaworthiness

(without that, you'll never, ever get insured. Never.)

Then the business manager dropped the keys in my hand.

"What? Don't I owe you something like 2.2 million bucks for labor and materials?"

He violently shook his head. "Don't ask. It's all taken care of." He pushed the ship's title across to me which I signed and a guy in a suit notarized it. Various copies were made, signed and notarized of various documents in sufficient volume to assume investiture of a royal fief. Then it was all over. I owned my own yacht, free and clear. I made arrangements to tie up to their dock for a week while I got my shit together.

I hit a "Bed, Bath and Beyond" for sheets, blankets, pillows and stuff. I filled a couple carts with a giant Calphalon 'newlywed' set of pots & pans, all sorts of kitchen weaponry, a four-place Corning ware plate and bowl set, a few small rugs and a pot load of cleaning crap. I went 'home' to set up housekeeping. I immediately had to go back out to pick up dinner, paper towels, toilet paper, 409 spray cleaner, shampoo, towels, garbage bags, a couple gallons of drinking water, some pens and a tablet of paper. I had a lot to think about getting before I was ready to ship out.

Gawd, it was just as bad as getting your first apartment. Remember that? Remember the month-long cluster-fuck?

I lay there under clean sheets aboard my ship that first night watching the shore lights dancing over the wood paneling over my head. Crap. Curtains. I grinned, though. I took a deep breath and went to sleep.

Before I did anything else I transferred the contents of my apartment to the ship. That got me somewhere above living in a Yurt in Yemen. I did my best to get everything in its place, or a place close enough to find it. I broke the lease on the apartment. Then I got the ship tied up to shore services so that I'd have drinking and washing water, not to mention shore power. I borrowed a digital ammeter from the construction company. We'd never figured out the "hotel load", or idle power requirement for the ship. Crap. They'd mis-figured it. I paid to have a larger inverter, charger and battery farm installed. I wanted a certain minimum number of hours available via battery without the charger. The genset and its replacement had to be traded out for more robust units. So was the inverter. I bought the best inverter and spare that I could find because cheaper models were vastly less efficient. Then we were set for the loading of the refrigerator, freezers, water heaters, various pumps and utilities. While I had the meter I carefully labelled each circuit and its nominal load at the breaker panel. When you need that information, you need it quickly.

I tried to get my van on board. The engine powering the crane was low-balled. I complained and under fitness-of-use I got it replaced with a motor boasting twice the horsepower of the original. This was THEIR fault. They paid the bill, willingly. Well, I didn't hear the complaints. The upgrade didn't mess with the idle power load--its 220 Volt three-phase power requirement so outstripped everything else on board that it got its own diesel Generac.

I wrote out lists for each area, each function and each major task. I got a good grade desk and chair installed in the salon so that I could look outside after spending too many hours doing paperwork. I went shopping every day for a solid week ... Damn, was I tired of shopping.

The needed their dock space back. I was getting kicked out of the nest. Fuckers.

Okay, okay. I'd been expecting it. It wasn't as if it were a bolt out of the blue. I loaded everything aboard and headed out. I found a decrepit old dock with no services off of East Austin street. After getting my black water tank pumped and my fuel tanks topped up I set about arbitratin' for a power line and a water hose. For the right money the owner was willing to run me a 220 line if I leased the dock for six months. Hell, I had no problem with that. I paid him some more money to pound in some pilings and build a real dock instead of providing a gravel spit. He knew damned good and well that he'd come out the winner in the long run. He just didn't have the capital or the get-up-and-go to do it before I asked him.

He was an older guy. He didn't have much to do any more since he retired. With bad knees and hips he'd about had it. He had that blank look that I'd seen on so many retired folk in Florida. Just waitin' for the end and tryin' to make do until God called your number and it was Bingo...

I invited him out on the boat to go fishing on Matagorda bay most weekends. Whatever we caught, we'd grill and eat with a few beers back on shore. He seemed pretty pleased with the way things were going and it kept me out of trouble. It only cost me a few rods, reels, a gaff hook and a bit of gear. "So, how you gettin' on? You mind me troublin' you for a fishin' partner?"

"Aww, hell no. Gives me a reason to get out of bed in the fuckin' mornin'. It's good for my ass." He laughed and hoisted a beer. After wiping his upper lip he continued in a more serious tone. "I've been a workin' man all my life. Some years been good, some bad. I can't complain as other folks have had the same problems as me. Now, though, it's like it all drifted away from me." He looked around at the wreckage of what must have been a going concern some twenty years before. "This place was busier 'n hell a while back, then it all went to shit. No reason, no excuse."

I sat there suckin' on a tooth thinking about what I'd seen in Florida. It seemed that one little investment could blow into one hell of a market if (1) the city was willing to cooperate, and (2) there was that little bit of opportunity there just waiting to be fertilized and grow. I had an idea and had balls enough to try it.

"You own all this?" I circled my finger, indicating the two bays that had been developed and allowed to decay.

"Yep. Lock, stock and liquor cabinet. The next twenty acres, too. It's all I can do to pay the fucking taxes on it all."

I got us both fresh beers. "Hold onto your ass. I've got an idea."

I wanted to loan him the money as an off-shore investor to rebuild the two bays for the high-end trade. There were plenty of fish in the bay, as we'd proved the past few weeks. With a 24 hour watchman and gated access there was no reason for it not to grow. The climate was one hell of a lot better than that of the Galveston-Houston area It didn't get nearly as muggy. If prefab buildings were allowed by the city then we were in. Prefabs had a short erection time, a uniform quality control and built to better-than-core construction code. If thirty or so new houses went up, the electrical company and phone company would upgrade services. With the promise of some new revenue the streets would be paved, the water and sewer services expanded. It wasn't a big jump. A couple million for the docks, a prefab for Oscar to live in and provide 24 hour security, some lights, fencing, a dog or two and some advertising should give us a viable little engine that would keep turning over profits. It would cost maybe forty thousand per prefab house, plus ten thousand per house for city services. Figure on taking it up to forty houses, two hundred thousand. Add seventy thousand for bribes, parks, street build-out and the municipal education fund. It just might work.

"Y' all got a Moose chapter or some such?"

"We got Odd fellows, Chamber of Commerce and the Elks, god help us. Why?"

"The benevolent service organizations are always looking for new projects. They're like young pups runnin' around lookin' for tires to piss on. Ya know, if we get a weekend thing goin' on out here, with some porta-potties and running water, some pig roasts and a New England fish boil running regular, we'll get attention. Get the docks built, get the service organizations involved, it should promote itself. Think about it--weekend barbecues. The smell of roast meat drifting on the breeze..."

He looked at me like I was diseased. "Why the hell should I put out all that effort? It ain't gonna benefit me or mine."

I was gob smacked. What the hell could I do to convince this old fart to get up off his ass and do something?

"Girls. Chicas. Fillies. Eye candy. Young stuff. Get the idea? Hell, I'll directly under-write a pool and hot tub. The high-school girls around here must be dying for something to do once school lets out for the summer. Get them selling tickets and delivering plates for the service groups, then get them hanging around the pool all summer long. All that young, lithe, lean, oiled and tanned sweaty flesh. You wanna die with a hardon and a grin on your face?"

He chewed on his lip a minute and grinned. "Best goddamned argument that I've heard in years. Count me in, dammit."

"Good. I can get the dock construction started with your sign off. Then we need a young buck to take care of the details so you don't get nickeled and dimed to death. It'll be your job to teach him, or her at this point, how not to get screwed over in a start-up business. You still game?"

He was grinning now. "Yep. That I can do."

"Now, where do you live? You wanna brand new prefab home built out here so you can watch all the shenanigans? We can advertise 24-hour security that way."

He shrugged, still grinning. "Sure. I live in a goddamned dump, even though it's mostly my fault. We'll have to talk to the zoning idiots to get some houses put up out here. I own the property but they'll have to put in the services, and they're cheap as Scrooge's underwear."

"Cash on the barrel head usually solves that. State and federal grants can help with infrastructure improvements. It's all in getting people off their asses, eh?"

He had the grace to blush. "Ah, yup. It do."

I was twenty-three years old, almost twenty-four, and about to become an investor. I needed a cut-out to get some of my paper money into circulation. I contacted Banco de Mexico in Cancun. They were willing to act as a corporate cover for three percent. I had a bonded courier make a run with a steamer trunk full of Euros. I dropped one hundred million on them. If it disappeared then I'd let the Guzmans know that their son's legacy had been stolen by a bank. I smiled at the thought of the fallout from that one.

My Mexican investment company signed a deal with Oscar at ten percent over ten years. the dredge and ram barges came in, the pole lights went in, the fence went up and Oscar's house went in with a variance from the zoning commission. Four months later it was landscaped and beautiful. I advertised all up and down the Mexican coast and up into Houston. With three hundred new slips, the power company went ape-shit digging, wiring and metering the service points. By comparison the water lines were easy to run. the city licensed a new taxi service, two grocery stores introduced shop-at-home internet-based services and four new pizza parlors opened. With delivery. Then the cable TV people wanted in.

Barbara-Anne Samuelson was an MBA in a good-old-boy county. She'd about beat herself bloody against the glass ceiling. She was making ends meet doing income taxes for rice farmers. I convinced her to come on board as our chief operations officer and lead accountant. Oscar became our chief technical officer while I became the chief financial officer. Didn't I mention? We incorporated as a limited liability corporation I loaned Barbara-Anne her stake at a better rate than she could have gotten elsewhere. Oscar arranged a short term lien on his land and I flat out had cash. We all put up a million in working capital. It gave us enough float to cover the taxes and insurance until the slip fees started coming in.

Two big, beautiful in-ground swimming pools got the okay, along with four changing houses, a big electrified picnic shelter and three sheltered hot tubs, all inside the fence. The stories about late night naked hot tub parties--salted by me, of course, made a lot of folk jealous. A water park with late-night facilities went up just outside the fence. We had to increase the size of the parking lot five times. Even ugly-assed me got laid almost as much as I wanted to. It was hard to keep the smile off my face for a while, there.

I had my ship moved to a slip not far from the swimming pools and the hot tubs. Certain security lights got either removed or had their reflectors tuned to give the area an 'adult friendly' feeling after dark. We got away with one hell of a lot after we started calling it a club. We called it "Lavaca on the Bay".

Slowly, slowly the money came back into my accounts, but it came in. I liked high-butterfat ice-cream but I couldn't find anywhere around that sold anything but aerated chemical crap. I smiled. I had the answers to all the wizard's problems. It was called money. A local dairy went into business with just four flavors of very high butterfat ice-cream. After eight months they were sending out Fed-Ex overnight shipments to France, Italy and England. People that weren't afraid to spend a half million on a boat were willing to pay for their ice-cream that they couldn't get anywhere else. I owned over half the company. I ALWAYS got my share.

I needed something to test me--to piss me off. At twenty-five I took up the guitar. I realized early on that it was me, not the guitar, or there would have been several flaming pyres to the lutier's art floating out to sea. How the hell could any sounds that bad come out of ... Sigh. Me.

Some of the houses had their own slips. That's where the real money was. We put nice houses on half-acre lots. We drew a lot of folks that were just rich enough to afford a second home. We started that operation when I became twenty-seven years old.

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