Author's Note: I leave it to the reader to find the glaring error written into the beginning of this story.
I'd been out of the town I grew up in for years but things kept pulling me back in to the maelstrom. This time it was news that my "uncle" Jack Frasier had passed away. He wasn't really my uncle--he was best buds with my dad. Jack was a roly-poly guy with a ready smile and spoke in a deep basso profundo; the kind of voice you'd expect to hear coming out of Andre the Giant, but calming. His voice was almost hypnotic. Jack sold real estate for a living. As the years went on he learned to despise his family. His kid threatened to start doing drugs unless dad paid him off. Rather than submit to blackmail dad packed junior off to a rather strict military boarding school. That was the end of that. His wife considered it the straw that broke the camel's back when her precious little darling got sent off for an attitude adjustment. She unleashed her inner "Super Shrew". The poor guy's home life degraded into a death spiral.
I suppose that's why he bought into a forty-eight-foot steel-hulled custom cabin cruiser that he had docked in Jacksonville Florida. Six months after Jack died his estate executor sent me the title, the slip contract and the keys along with a short letter explaining the legacy. Needless to say you could have knocked me over with a soda straw when I read it.
Soon I had my car packed up and arranged to take my year's vacation in one big slug. I dreamed about the possibilities waiting for me as I made my way south in the middle of October. Just avoiding the onset of winter in northern Illinois would be a real treat.
When I pulled up to the dock I immediately saw that something was wrong. The boat was listing to one side. The rather expensive contract with the yacht club stated that the boat was to be kept ready for immediate occupation at any time. I made my way aboard and unlocked the stern hatch. When I pulled it open I gagged from the stench of the mold and mildew. It covered everything. The boat's AC must have been left un-powered for months during a Florida summer for it to get that bad. I followed the power umbilical ashore to a service box. The T-breaker was missing!
I walked up to the office. A younger guy was behind the counter, chain-smoking cigarettes like a chimney and reading the sports pages. I dropped my contract on the counter on top of his newspaper. "What the fuck happened?"
He gingerly spun it around with one finger to read it, then picked it up and tore it in two. "New management, pal."
By that time I was past angry and to hell with the consequences. I roared out, "Wrong Answer!", reached over the counter, grabbed his shirt collar with both hands and proceeded to give him a thorough Glasgow kiss. Then I began banging his face against the counter, leaving wet red marks all over the dog track page. When he stopped fighting me I let him loose. He slid the to the floor where his head bounced off the concrete like a melon. I stared at him for a bit while I reigned in my temper, then I walked around the end of the counter to find his phone and the local yellow pages. I found a listing for a corporate investigative attorney whom I put on retainer with my credit card, then called a marine clean-up company to get a quote on sterilizing the boat. Only then did I call for an ambulance to come get the idiot. I made sure to take all of his newspaper out to the dumpster to camoflage his face's impact sites before the ambulance got there. By the time they had their gurney on the ground I was back down at the slip taking pictures. Many, many pictures.
Fred, my lawyer found that the previous owner of the club, Al, had died almost at the same time that Jack died. They were both walking back to their car when they were cut down by a car full of MS-13 gang members that were out indiscriminately killing pedestrians. The property devolved to Frank, the little snot that I'd used to take out my frustration. He'd promptly fired the property manager, taken possession of the corporate checkbook, voided every contract that he could find and vaccuumed clean the corporation's working capital account. Since this broke several covenants built into the corporate structure the corporation was legally defunct while all assets--and debts--devolved directly to Frank's person.
Junior was in deep shit and didn't know it yet.
With the full knowledge and approval of Fred I signed the contract to clean the ship with a goal of getting it into habitable condition. It would cost me some eight thousand dollars for the first phase.
The county clerk and the state's attorney were notified of the case against the party responsible for intentionally voiding my ship's maintenance contract and it was put on the docket. Frank was served with papers.
When the cleaning team hit the dock I discovered their plan of attack. All fabrics would be removed and disposed of, including the carpets. The wall panels would come out. Everything would be sprayed with an industrial fungicide, wiped down and sprayed again. Part of their job was to replace all the wall panels with two inch thick Thermax heavy-duty wall panels. I measured all the drapes and cushions then sent out to an upholsterer for replacements. Then I used TSP (Tri Sodium Phosphate), bleach and hot water to scrub every remaining surface, inside the frames, all sides of the drawers inside and out, the bed frames, the chairs, tables, walls and floors. Once clean I sealed the wood. After a thorough drying I liberally coated all wood surfaces with lemon oil and left it to soak in. Only after a wet trap left on the kitchen counter showed no mold over four days I brought in the new curtains, cushions and mattresses.
Cleaning the engine compartment and inside the wheelhouse console took the longest time because each individual wire and control line had to be wiped down with an anti-fungal compound. The carpets were ripped up and the surfaces ground free of the adhesive applied to hold it down. Then the floors got two coats of epoxy paint. All the ductwork and the plenum was cleaned by an industrial service with a TSP solution and rinsed, then a long-term fungicide was sprayed into them. The air filters and fans were replaced too, of course.
The cavity beneath the bridge console was the best sealed space on board. I was very happy to find no mold within it. I just gave it and its contents a thorough wiping down with fungicide. I made sure to not miss a nook, cranny or joint before sealing it back up.
While swabbing down the inside of the cabinet with fungicide I found a three foot long plastic tube with screwed-on endcaps glued into one corner. Realizing that it had nothing to do with any ship's function I carefully used a razor knife to free it of the rubber cement before screwing the facing panel back on. What was it? Some sort of marine Lo-Jack? I un-screwed one end to find a curled-up piece of drafting mylar with what appeared to be random words and sections of a chart on it. There were standard printer's cross-and-circle registration marks at all four corners. Jack, just what the hell did you get me into?
I couldn't get the stink out of the refrigerator no matter what I did. I replaced it with a $1,400.00 unit that would work off of either propane or 110 volts. The stove/oven combination unit was in the same condition. That cost me $1,200.00 to replace. The 42 inch flatscreen and stereo were infected as well. There was no way in the world to clean the electronics without destroying the unit. The insides of the ice maker was a horrible mess. Likewise it all got replaced. I found another tube mounted next to the bolts holding down the galley sink.
What little of the zincs that I could see from above told me that they needed replacing.
I bought a little gas engine hooked up to an air pump and a hose. I tied a couple wrenches to my belt and secured an over-the-shoulder canvas bag with new zincs inside, then slid on a face mask and bailed over the side with a rope and the air line. It took a bit of trial and error to get coordinated, but using the bright sun overhead for illumination I replaced the zincs in two lines down the hull and two on the rudder. It worked so well that I bought a spare set and stowed everything in the engine room. It saved me the price of a haul-out as the bottom paint was still in acceptible condition.
This was neither a quick nor an inexpensive project. Two weeks into it I sent a letter to my boss saying that it would take longer than expected to resolve, and sent along a small packet of photographs to prove why. At four weeks and four days after my vacation started I recieved a certified letter from them. I was let go. My first words on reading it were, "Fucking bitch!".
I'd started this venture with $47,000.00 in the bank and a clear credit card. As the bills mounted up I kept eying my bank account with trepidation. My lawyer, however, was of the opinion that being reimbursed should have been the least of my worries. He was marshalling his arguments for a multi-million dollar penalty settlement, of which he had contracted with me to get forty percent. Of course I agreed to it! A sixty percent return on anything was better than one hundred percent of nothing!
I gave him certified copies of all my bills and receipts, including the bills for my jaw-droppingly expensive apartment. After all, if the boat had been in the shape which I had expected it to be in when this circus began, I'd have been living onboard.
Now that I had the boat in a condition to support human life I called "Two Guys and a Truck" to clear out my Illinois apartment. I sent them a list of what I wanted from the place and left it up to their judgement as how to dispose of the rest. I paid off my utility bills and arranged for the account to devolve back to the landlord. I got a new drivers license and changed my residence to Florida. Lord, what a mess. Upon having the boat re-certified in preparation for having her re-licensed I had her christened "Jack's Gift". She was 48 feet long and 16 feet across. She was a pig, but she was MY pig!
It was over a week later that a truck rolled up to the dock with my apartment skimmings. It took me three days to find a place for everything, but by the time I released the truck I was finally and irrevocably moved in.
I got the engine oil replaced and the filters, then the fuel filters. There was no facility for 'washing' or conditioning the diesel fuel. Since it had been sitting for at least eight months it needed filtering for accumulated condensates and residues. I contracted with a guy who came up with a pumping/filtering system built onto a trailer along with a couple long hoses. Nine hours later I had trustworthy fuel. I flushed out the drinking water tank with 30 percent bleach and replaced all the watermaker filters, then flushed the tank with clean water. It was no big deal to get the black water tank pumped out.
I found another tube hidden among the elements of the watermaker. I put all three mylar sheets together to see what I had. There was still a layer missing, dammit!
I checked all the electronics on the bridge. The radar worked. The chart display worked. The depth sounder worked. The GPS worked. The satellite compass worked. The tank gauges seemed to work. The fuel flow meter worked. Upon powering up the engine it smoothly shifted and provided thrust while docked. It all looked good to go.
Our court case came up. I was told that I didn't even have to be there, but I decided that where money was concerned it was wiser not to leave a lawyer unaccompanied.
I had a sheaf of dated pictures with me showing the final condition of the boat and a typed, sworn and certified list of what had been accomplished aboard her since I took possession. I submitted all that to the court bailiff.
When junior's lawyer started prattling on about 'minimal damage' and 'inflated claims placed by an irate owner' the judge shut him down in a heartbeat. I found junior's new coloration quite entertaining when the judge ruled that he would be held accountable for all damages. He about convulsed when the penalties were set at three million dollars. I really wondered at how the judge did it with a straight face. I couldn't help but twist the knife. On leaving the court room after the judge dismissed the proceedings I asked him, "What are you gonna do for cash when the NEXT person you screwed over talks to a lawyer? Hmm? I'll be by your office with my lawyer in two days to pick up my check. You do know that the judge put a forty-eight hour cutoff on the payments, don't you?"
I sauntered off to have a wonderful lunch on what seemed to be the best day of my life.
It was coming up on Christmas. I'd moved to a more hospitable yacht club to get away from any possible petty retribution from the likes of junior. I was relaxing in my recliner with a gin and tonic while quietly listening to an album of classical guitar pieces. The weather was wonderful, with a cooling breeze blowing off the ocean. I was contemplating John's puzzle map, wondering where he could have hidden any further overlays. I'd carefully torn down all the bunks, the furniture, the various lockers, then head and the pilot's duty bunk with no luck. My eyes idly roved about the salon while I swilled my gin and tonic. There it was! He'd hidden the bloody thing in plain sight! It was glued in as a shelf support for the television. I was lucky that the cleaning crew hadn't disposed of it while stripping out the walls.
Without disturbing the glue I gingerly removed an end cap and removed the expected mylar sheet within. Once I had the registration marks lined up the location was obvious ... The legend even said "Norman's Cay" as pretty as you please. I recalled watching a clip that I'd downloaded from the web. According to everything I'd read and heard, Carlos Lehder's home base was still there, slowly decaying in the tropical climate.
The document gave explicit dimensions of the fresh water cisterns, including drawings of a hidden tunnel leading to an underground concrete room, only accessible from the center cistern. Good God. It was a treasure map. It was both the best and the worst thing I could possibly find.
Carlos created and ran a huge business moving drugs into the states. He was in a high security prison for life but his legacy lived on. His houses still stood, alone and uncared for. The DEA greedily seized his assets--what they could find of them. All that remained was a well-made dock, a crashed turboprop plane decaying in the bay and the ruins of several houses in an overgrown compound. At least that's what they thought.
The map described twenty-two sealed trunks, each one weighing at least eight hundred pounds. The engineering involved in recovering them was mind boggling. Performing the recovery without drawing any attention only magnified the difficulties. I spent several months working on plans.
I spent quite a bit of money installing a cable winch and crane aboard my ship. This provided for the launching and recovery of a speed boat which I mounted aft of the pilot house. It also gave me the wherewithal to transport a generator, electric ATV platform and an air compressor aboard the stern. The poles, headpiece, electric winch and air hose that I'd also bought were as nothing in comparison.
I waited for a spring storm to come through. Meanwhile I practiced my underwater swimming and snorkel work. I bought high quality maps of Carlos' pier on Norman's Cay. I thought my way though the exercise time after time, adding a thirty foot swimming ladder and a long-life underwater flashlight. I made sure that if my illumination failed that a cord tied off to the top of the ladder would guide me out of the underwater labyrinth. I planned my assault as carefully as any international jewel thief ever planned an operation.
The day finally arrived. A category three hurricane was slowly making its way up the outer banks. All pleasure craft fled and most of the occupants of the islands fled for safety. I quietly motored out of the harbor despite the repeated entreaties by the coast guard to take cover.
After a violent trip I docked at Carlos' harborage. Despite the wind and storm-tossed waves I off-loaded the ATV runabout, the generator and the compressor. All was transported to the site of the cisterns. I off-loaded all from the runabout and went back for the supports, head-end, hose and winch, which was loaded with quarter-inch steel cable. The cold, wind-driven rain hit my flesh like blunt bullets. I found it nearly impossible to breathe without sheltering my mouth and nose.
The twenty-foot supports went up in a pyramid over the cistern, a three foot by three foot square hole in the sand with a two foot high stone rim around it. I started the generator and air pump, dropped the cable and dropped into the hole with the end of my air hose and a small but hefty cargo net. The water in the cistern was actually warmer than the rain coming down.
It was a struggle but I dragged the hose through the twists and turns making up the confusing route to the inner chamber. The map was right! There were some twenty-odd chests stacked within, none of which I could lift. They were huge Pelican chests, each the size of a tall coffin for a five-year-old. However, I could drag them! Without that air hose I would have died there. I had to rest frequently. Soon I had half the chests moved to beneath the cistern hole. The water was but twenty-odd feet deep so a quick ascent didn't harm me. I dove and rose over and over again, rolling the chests into my cargo net. Once I climbed out over the stone lip I winched them up. I positioned my cart close enough to the hole to swing the cable and drop the chests onto the runabout's flat bed.
After I had the first batch above water and on the runabout I scooted for the ship, where I lifted aboard the chests with a much larger cargo net and quite a bit of sweat. The rain was still coming down in sheets so hard that I found it quite difficult to make out the path back to the pier. I thought about stopping there but by that time I'd talked myself into an 'all or none' philosophy. I stopped to eat a couple gooey breakfast bars and suck down a nice, sweet hot chocolate. Then I checked the time and drove back to the cisterns to do it all again.
The last chest finally rested on my runabout. I cut the generator then pulled down the poles supporting my winch and pulley system which I half-heartedly hid in the underbrush. I left the rest behind for someone else's use. The island had other residents that perhaps could use the generator or the runabout.
I secured a tarp over the stack of white cases and stowed the crane. The wind and waves were pulling me away from the dock so it was simple to cast off, pull in the bumpers and motor out of the harbor under the cover of the pre-dawn storm winds.
By mid-afternoon I was safely anchored in a large natural bay on the western coast of Little Iguana Island near the other end of the Caymans. The ship swung about to ride bow into the chop, easing the deck's motion. I wrapped up in a light cover and fell asleep on the pilot's berth in the wheel house, exhausted.
I woke to a glorious morning; clear, cool and still breezy from the recently passed storm. I had two eggs and toast for breakfast, peed over the side and cleaned up a bit in the head's sink.
I dressed in sneakers and a coverall before going out on deck. I pulled on a light pair of canvas gloves before attempting to open the first of the chests that I came upon. There's a secret to opening the twist locks on a Pelican case when they get stubborn--you give it one good whack with a rubber mallet to get its attention followed by twisting the turnbuckle open with the shaft of a screwdriver run through the holes in the 'wings'. After all eight clasps released I tapped the seam about the circumference with said rubber mallet, then popped the top. Some joker had packed the thing with at least one huge duffle bag. I pulled it out and dropped it to the deck. I noted in passing that the bag was still dry. Good seals! The bottom of the case was covered in regular rows of platinum bars. Each one was stamped with a foundry mark giving its purity, weight and where it was poured. Each bar weighed 10 Kilograms, or roughly 22 pounds. It was no wonder that the chest weighed over eight hundred pounds. Good Lord!
I closed up the chest, marked one end with a "1" with a grease pencil and dragged it back to the pile. I took the duffle bag inside to see what it held. I laid it on the kitchen counter as it was my only available work space.
Rather than blindly reach in to the bag I used a pair of heavy shears to slit open the bag from top to bottom. Upon opening it up I first thought that somebody had robbed the place that made Monpoly money. Then I gave the contents a closer look.
Euros. Big, fat rainbow-colored Euros. Roughly forty pounds of them. I didn't see a single one smaller than a twenty in the lot of them, and over half of the bands were filled with big, fat purple 500 Eu bills. I could get to LIKE the color purple! I grinned to myself. One chest down, twenty-one to go!
For the mean time I taped up the duffle bag with hundred-mile-an-hour tape (err, duct tape with an attitude. Ask any airplane mechanic.) and put it on the unused bunk.
'Well, shall we try this again?' Another case came out of the pile. I performed the ceremony upon it, including marking its sequence number, then threw back the lid. Another duffle bag confronted me. This one I treated a bit more gently. The ingots at the bottom of THIS case were definitely gold. Nothing else has that buttery, lambent yellow-red glow that a mass of gold possesses. You couldn't have peeled the grin off my face with a belt sander.
I kept covering up the pile of cases with a disreputable tarp in case of a chance fly-over. The second duffle bag's contents mirrored that of the first. Okay, I'd done a ten percent sampling of the lot. This sort of wealth forced its own attention and brought with it a new class of issues. I believed anonymity to be my primary concern. You can't hit a target if you can't find it. It would be better if nobody knew the target was there to hit, but I didn't believe that was even possible.
I couldn't leave the chests on deck.
I couldn't move them to a secure storage facility because people are curious and people talk--it's a fact of life.
I couldn't bank any of it in the states as the U.S.Government persists in this "What's yours is mine and what's mine is mine" policy. Arrogance breeds contempt, which is just what I had for its agencies. I was cautious in my planning as the red white and blue bully had a long arm.
I finally came upon a plan to distribute the bullion aboard the ship, then anonymously leave the Pelican cases on a beach (once I'd used ammonia and acetone to eliminate traces of my handling).
I would still ride low in the water, which a false load line and a false railing could help to disguise if I cared to go so far. No matter what I did, it would be more difficult to distinguish how she rode while docked, as well. I had the solvents and cleaners aboard to clean up the cases so I began my labors.
Within a week I was quite exhausted from shifting several tons of specie about the boat. I cleaned up each case, inside and out, before tying it to a length of used nylon line and shoving it over the side. When I completed my work on the cases I launched my little speedboat, tied off the rope to the stern and dragged the mess to the breaker line that foamed the beach. I untied the line and backed away, watching as the action of the tide and waves drove the cases on shore. Satisfied, I returned to the ship, retrieved the ship's boat, hoisted anchor(s) and headed for San Juan, Puerto Rico.
I'd managed to replace most of the lead blocks making up the keel ballast with bricks of the various bullion. (I'd found one case loaded with Rhodium ingots and two filled with Palladium. The rest were roughly split between Platinum and Gold.)
The gold was so soft that I did my best to cover it with the canvas duffle bags, which I cut in two and sewed (with my near-infinitely clumsy talents) into rough tubes. The other metals were probably tougher than the steel around them.
The ship passed inspection, leaving me free and clear to stay in PuertoRico as long as I wished, being a United States citizen.
I bought a motor scooter with which to get around, then spent some money buying into a series of classes in the Spanish language.
Summer passed, as did fall, then winter. All I had done was study Spanish. By then I could walk into a local bar, order a beer and sit there, listening--and understanding--the conversations. I wasn't quite to the point where I could follow a soccer game broadcast, but those guys must have been specially bred to talk that fast! I told that to another guy I was drinking with and he about spit his beer across the table. Once he recovered he told the guys behind him. They all yelled out "SCORE!" and laughed like hell. I'd made my first Spanish joke.
I spent roughly a month's worth of evenings looking over an atlas of central and south America, looking for a place to light and set out some roots. Some south American governments were worse than the U.S.A. in their exchange rates and taxes so I found my choices becoming more and more limited.
After investigating through all the baseline resources which I had access to (CIA Factbook on line, Wikipedia, WikiTravel and exploration through Google) I came to the conclusion that Argentina was the best of a bad lot.
I motored into the south harbor, where I had seen pictures on-line of rows of sailboats in storage. I spent an interesting time contacting the local port authority to get me assigned a full-service slip. A government runabout soon pulled alongside. I dropped my bumpers and motioned for the deck mate to heave me a line, which I made fast. I un-clipped a railing segment and offered a hand to the officer who came aboard. The day was getting warm so I suggested that we go inside where it was cooler and I had my documentation.
He gave the ship a quick once-over for contraband after allowing me to read the sheet of proscribed items and products. He never saw the Euros as they were hidden beneath the bow berth, back behind and between the drawer spaces and tightly stacked beneath the helm console. I showed him the ship's medical locker. He recognized it for what it was, grunted and gave it a pass. I had a few fruits that were on the list, which I bagged up and handed to him for disposal, then showed him the ship's armory. It was pretty anemic, I had to admit. He snorted and closed the cabinet. Lastly, I told him that I would be bringing in a large number of Euros into the country. I intended on seeking citizenship in Argentina after speaking to a lawyer to protect myself and my investments. He tapped his forehead twice. "Smart. Even I who work for the government admit that they take more than they should." He shook his head. "They try too much, too fast. They burn their hopes and leave nothing for tomorrow."
I shook my head along with him. "Such behavior is everywhere. Los Estados Unitas is getting very bad, so I moved."
I paid for my visa, got my passport stamped and that was that.
I realized that Buenos Aires was a city with a large population of the very poor. I bargained with the facility manager to secure 24-hour security for my ship, then borrowed a city telephone book and retreated to my floating home to do a bit of research.
My outer doors and hatches were made of a wood core covered by an aluminum sheath. This would not do! I wrote down the number for a marine contractor, then covered my bets by recording three more numbers. Next I investigated the larger banks in town. I was dissapointed not to find Credit Suisse as they were my first choice. The only international bank listed that I knew was Deutsche Banks AR SA. I also needed a personal cell phone, and internet aboard ship would be quite useful. The marine contractor I finally ended up with could no doubt send me in the right direction for that.
After making an appointment to speak with an agent at Deutsche Bank I stuffed a large briefcase with 500 Euro notes and my papers, then called a cab. I made sure to pocket a fist-full of 20 Euro notes as well. Nobody but a bank would touch the larger bills.
I met with Peter, my banker. He was very 'ho-hum' about speaking to me. I decided to get a rise out of him. I placed my brief case on the table between us, unlatched it, spun it around to face him and slowly raised the lid. I found it quite comical that his eyebrows kept pace with my opening the lid. I quietly said, "I have foot-lockers of them, plus over a ton of commodity metals. I need a lawyer, an investment team and a tax team. I need to find out how to minimize government 'theft', so I am considering changing my citizenship to Argentina then surrendering my U.S. passport and citizenship before I do anything with my funds."
He closed the case and returned it to me. "First, you need some capital in the bank to pay for services. If we keep your account base in Euros then you will not be penalized with the Argentinian peso conversion issues. We normally do not deal with individual investors as a rule, but your idea of incorporation to buffer yourself and your investments is sound and opens many doors. If you would please wait here I shall notify the 'big guns' that I am out of my depth."
I was pleased that he was honest. It only took less than a half-hour before I was on the fourth floor in a MUCH nicer room, being offered pastry and coffee. I gratefully accepted as I expected our meeting to go on for a while. What a difference, eh? I met with over a dozen people. Firstly, I agreed to open an account with the contents of my briefcase. Then I had a list which I wanted addressed.
A law firm on retainer.
Access to a coincerge service.
Access to a trust department which would keep my bills up to date and launch an investigation if I turned up missing or odd purchases showed up on my accounting.
A high-value secured credit card.
Access to a secured employment agency so that I might hire some personal guards that I could trust.
Aid in changing my citizenship. I would prefer a diplomatic passport and would be willing to give up a half metric ton of palladium and a half metric ton of rhodium for the privelege. Their electronics industries would suck it up like a man in the desert would suck up cold spring water.
They suggested that I would greatly benefit from having a personal manager.
"I am the captain and owner of a forty-eight-foot cabin cruiser which I live aboard. I hope the person you suggest is amenable to such an environment."
A tall white-blonde woman in an impeccable gray skirted suit smiled fit to beat the band. "I am Danish and love the sea. Perhaps we shall get along well."
She was devastatingly beautiful. "I hope that I can ignore your beauty long enough to listen to your words. I need advice more than I need affection, though both are in short supply. Welcome aboard, miss?"
"Calvin Anderson. Call me Cal. Please pack a bag. I will be constantly on board as a guard until my contractor finishes my security upgrades--steel hatches and frames, reinforced portholes and windows, and replacing the sliding doors from the salon to the rear deck with reinforced steel French doors with bulletproof glass. I'm also having the upper deck reinforced with steel so that nobody can use a machine gun to play fish-in-a-barrel. I'll need you to be my runner for a week or two, I'm afraid. Here's my slip location." I slid her a note card with the information. "I need a cell phone and would like to have internet service along with an HDMI handset installed aboard. Is this something you can do or hand off to the proper people?"
She gave me a quick nod. "I'm on it."
I replied, "Good woman. I've got three bunks aboard besides the pilot's duty bunk. You'll have a budget to decorate your stateroom and find a mattress you're happy with. If you're Danish you probably would like to take sauna in colder weather. We can make that happen." I turned to the other people in the room. "I'm certain that you would like to see some sort of, um, proof of commitment. Please send a security team back with us, and, um, Peter. I trust his honesty." Several men in tailored suits looked over at Peter with a speculative eye. He couldn't help but blush. I chided him. "Peter, Peter. Bankers don't blush. They grunt!"
A contract was drawn up specifying what services would be performed and a yearly fee of thirty thousand Euros per year was agreed upon. All concerned parties signed copies, they were all notarized and I recieved my own copy for reference and proof.
Robin, Peter, the team and I rode back to the ship in style. We had two Mercedes limousines. I sent Peter back with four ingots--one of gold, one of platinum, one of rhodium and one of palladium--along with another briefcase full of 500 Euro bills. "Peter, you are MY banker. I expect a full and proper accounting for this to be presented to me within forty-eight hours. Verstehen sie?"
"Ja, mein Chef." With that he dissapeared like the road-runner in the Disney cartoons. I talked to myself. "Damn. I could get to like that boy. I like his enthusiasm." Robin said, "You should hire him away before he gets burned out and corrupted. Banking culture is bad for the employees."
"May I borrow your cell phone? I need to get a contractor busy doing my security upgrades. I have almost nine metric tons of specie aboard and would hate to be robbed."
She sat down fast and stared at me. "Since when did one ton become nine? A magic trick?"
"Nope. If the bank is in bed with the government I needed to set their expectations low. Oh, by the way. Please stay there." I took her cell phone with me on purpose while I headed aft to the engine room. I pried open a ballast hatch with a screwdriver blade and recovered a platinum ingot. Then I closed it up and smeared crud into the seam. I handed her the ingot and her cell phone. "If you accept this, you work for me, not the bank. I don't need any of my dirty laundry aired, understand?"
She grinned and nodded. "Perfectly." I handed her both. "Here's your phone back. Please get busy. I need a marine contractor. There's a short list on the table. I need a cell phone. I want Internet. Shoo!"
I headed back to a previously-unused stateroom to catch a few hours of sleep, primarily to stay out of the way and let her work without distraction.
Gawd, but she was attractive. Tall, staturesque, blonde with high cheekbones and sloe eyes. Grey eyes, the color of winter skies. She had two little round titties set high and separate on her chest, like a weight lifter. She had broad shoulders, too. Simply gorgeous. I have to admit, though, she had the ass off a pre-teen. She had two little round cheeks perched way up high. It made her look like her legs went on forever in a skirt. It did wonders for her in a pair of blue jeans. I fell asleep fantasizing about putting my hand between her cheeks as she used a stair stepper. So sue me. I'm a guy and I've been deprived lately!
I was shocked awake by a hand shaking my shoulder. "Cal, wake up. The contractor is here." I had slept hard! I let the contractor know that I was after security--solid steel doors, reinforced frames, steel cladding on the superstructure and all external decks, spotlights, cameras and higher security locks--deadbolts for the doors. I specified swinging rather than sliding doors between the salon and rear deck as well. All that external fiberglass had to go. He called his crew and got busy...
I knew that it was going to be very noisy and dirty on board for a while, but everything I had was tied up in that ship. I couldn't leave it unprotected and I had nobody to really trust at that time. I was simply going to have to grin and bear it.
Before anyone else came aboard I walked to the bow stateroom, closed the door and pulled a couple handfulls of mixed denomination Euros out of the cabinetry. One was for me and one was for Robin. I handed her a couple bundles of fifties and twenties. "Here. Please get me a cell phone first, then do a bit of food shopping. I need bread and lunch meat, instant breakfasts, maybe bring back a pizza with bacon and mushrooms on it for me and whatever you want on yours. I have to stay here and guard the place." She vamoosed while I pulled a .40 caliber Glock out of the armory along with a shoulder holster and three filled clips. I put it on, then dug out a canvas jacket to cover it. I settled back into a chair in the salon with a couple magazines to read as the crew started stripping the sheathing from the ship's superstructure. I was right. They were incredibly noisy.
They drilled and screwed the decking down, then welded the seams together. Measurements were taken, then curved angle pieces were fabricated off site to weld in at the junction of the decks and the walls. Part of the metalwork had to be done in titanium to both keep up the strength for security and keep down the weight to keep the vessel from capsizing under adverse conditions. I was glad these guys were professionals--I certainly wouldn't want to attempt welding stainless steel to titanium!
I noticed that the replacement ports and windows had a greenish tinge to them. They were 3/4 inch multi-layer glass! After the French doors went in I examined them. They were quite heavy. I decided then and there that we needed a positive lock on them in both the open and closed positions. Those things swinging around under heavy weather would do some damage. He installed cross-bar locks on them for me and seated spring-loaded stops in the deck that had to be stepped on to drop the bar before the door could swing closed. The last thing that the contractor's crew did was install spot lights and CCD cameras with a display at the helm, then they painted the ship to match its old color scheme with two coats of marine grade epoxy paint. The final figures came out to an extra eleven hundred pounds added to the ship, with the weight furthest from the center of mass minimized. I paid the man, took receipt of the keys and finally got a good night's sleep.
Robin was a treasure throughout the process. She kept me in food and did her best to keep me distracted. (while remaining clothed!) Once the circus left town she decorated a stateroom to her taste and moved in. Since I had another person to feed I created a computerized inventory for the larder and printed out a copy. Then we sat down over coffee and talked over what we both liked to eat. Then we covered the important stuff like medical records, payroll, insurance coverage and retirement benefits.