Dire Straits, Chapter 12
October 18, 2011
Her name was Sally Kendall and she was out of Miami, heading to Galveston to see if she could sell her boat, The Taste of Honey. “You’d think Miami would be a good market,” he said when she told him that.
It was a long time before he’d been able to have that conversation, though. He’d barely been able to climb up the ladder. On board, he staggered, dropped to his knees. The world swirled around him.
Then all was black.
He woke up an unknown number of hours later on a soft bed. Next to the bed was a glass of water. He vaguely remembered drinking some water. But he was still thirsty. He gripped the glass and forced himself to drink slowly.
When the water was gone he slowly sat up. His arms were red with sunburn. His hands were blistered.
He felt pretty lousy. And hungry.
Derek found the head, relieved himself and looked in the mirror. A couple day’s growth of beard, a tangle of wavy hair matted with salt, deep-sunk eyes. The boat rocked a little. He decided to use the shower without asking.
A half hour later, feeling significantly better, he realized he couldn’t find his clothes. Next to the glass of water was his utility tool and a warped and water-soaked wallet. He wrapped a large red towel around his waist and went looking for the mistress of The Taste of Honey. She was sprawled out in the sun on the boat’s bow, sipping what Derek thought might be a screwdriver, although maybe it was just orange juice. She wore a filmy top over a black bikini bottom, but had not added anything else. She was, he thought, drop-dead gorgeous.
“So, the merman wakes.”
“Thanks for rescuing me. Um, I don’t really remember how I got to the cabin.”
She patted the lounge chair next to him. He sat next to her.
She held out her hand. “I’m Sally Kendall.”
He shook. “Derek Stillwater. Um, where are my clothes?”
She eyed him. “Washer. They were a mess. So were you. She pointed to one shoulder. “Not really a scratch. Looks like you got shot.”
“Just a graze.”
“You know, Derek. When we find people like you floating around in the Gulf, we tend to think drugs might be involved. But I don’t know what moron of a drug dealer would try to smuggle drugs in a kayak.”
“No, no drugs.”
“But there’s a story, I guess.”
“I’m really hungry,” he said.
“And thirsty, I would guess.”
“Help yourself to anything you find in the galley. It’ll give you time to come up with a good story.”
He found orange juice and coffee and bread that he made toast out of. He took an uninvited mini-tour of the boat. He liked the boat a lot. Joining Sally at the bow, he said, “I’m not sure how this would work, actually, but I’d like to use your radio to connect somehow to a telephone.”
“We should be able to do that, find somebody to patch you in. Come up with your story yet?”
He smiled. “I’m working on it.”
“I bet you are.”
“So if I told you I escaped from Cuba?”
“Why would I escape from Cuba? They didn’t like me much over there.”
“They arrest you for stealing kayaks?”
“Something like that.”
“Are you in the military?”
He raised an eyebrow. “Why would you say that?”
She pointed. “Your tattoo.”
“Ah.” The CIA had been very concerned about the tattoo on his right shoulder. It was a sword pointing upward and crossed by two arrows. It was one of several insignias of Special Forces. “Yes. I was in the Army for a while.”
She looked him up and down. “Got some scar tissue, but you look fit.”
He grinned. “So do you.”“I didn’t think you’d notice.”
“Well good. Maybe we should make that phone call?”
* * *
It took some time, but he eventually got through to a special phone number. It was answered simply with, “Hello.”
He recited a number. The voice on the phone, a neutral male voice, paused for a moment, then said, “I need to confirm. Give me a callback.”
Derek explained that would be difficult and why. The man paused, said, “Do you have the alternate number?”
He did. A different voice answered, a woman this time, with an odd accent, maybe east coast, New Jersey maybe. “Where exactly are you?”
He looked at Sally. “Where are we?”
“Middle of the Gulf of Mexico.”
He relayed that information. The voice wanted more specifics. He told the voice he was heading toward Galveston. The voice wanted to know how long it would take for him to get there.
He looked at Sally, who waggled her eyebrows at him. “Depends on if you want to go fast or go slow. I vote slow.”
Derek studied her for a moment. Into the phone he said, “At least two days.”
Sally smiled. It was a smile filled with a fair amount of promise. Derek reflected that there probably wasn’t much point of being a spy if you couldn’t occasionally act like James Bond. Into the phone he said, “Maybe three.”