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Paddling Articles In the Same Boat

Trip of a Lifetime

On a Wing and a Prayer

By Tamia Nelson and Farwell Forrest

A Note to the Reader

Jack Van Dorn is worried about Ed and Brenna. There's been no news from northern Ontario, and he's beginning to think that their "trip of a lifetime" might be turning out to be just that. Then he decides to stop worrying and DO something—but has he left it too late?

A REMINDER This is a work of fiction. All the characters are figments of the authors' imaginations. It's NOT a paddling guide. If you're planning a trip on the Albany River, consult the most recent edition of a good guide-book and be sure you're thoroughly familiar with all applicable regulations. While maps of Ontario show some of the waterways mentioned here, the places depicted in our story exist only in the authors' minds—and in yours.

A new chapter in Trip of a Lifetime, our paddlesport novel-in-progress, will appear on the first Tuesday of each month. If you've missed a chapter, or if you're joining us for the first time and you want to catch up, just use the hot-linked title to go to the In the Same Boat Archives. It's all there.

Our story continues….

October 1, 2002

Chapter Twenty-Seven

"Now what! For Chrissake…." Jack's booming voice filled the Subaru Forester, his words slamming back and forth like water sloshing in a basin. Molly winced, while Jack braked hard and skidded to a stop. The old man drummed his thumbs against the wheel and grumbled. It was the sort of sound an aging lion might make. The sun beat down on the long line of idling cars. The day was still and hot. The stink of exhaust was overpowering.

"A roadblock," Molly said unnecessarily. "And you don't even have a driver's license!" There was a hint of panic in her voice. "Better slide over and let me get behind the wheel."

"Why'n hell they put a roadblock here, g'dammit?" Jack asked, not really expecting an answer. But he made no effort to change places with Molly.

The first car in line was turning around now. Soon it was headed back the way they'd just come. The second car followed, and then the third. Their drivers didn't look happy. The fourth vehicle was a rusty red pickup. It was waved through.

Each time the line moved up, Jack crept forward, grinding the unfamiliar gearbox.

Molly was having second thoughts. "Maybe we should just turn around now," she suggested. Jack gave no sign he'd heard.

"I really should be driving," Molly added, determined to carry at least one point.

Jack still said nothing. More cars were turned back. Jack let up too fast on the clutch, stalled out, and swore reflexively. He restarted the engine. They crept forward. An Army National Guard Humvee was parked on the shoulder of the road just ahead. The driver's door was open, but the vehicle's interior was in shadow. Molly tried to see if anyone was inside. She had no luck.

A single guardsman stood on the double yellow centerline across from the Humvee. He stooped down to peer into a low-slung, classic Impala. It was painted a glossy black—as glossy and black as the long hair on the heads of the five young men seated inside. A large, barred feather hung from the rear-view mirror. The soldier straightened up and waved the Impala through. It accelerated away from the checkpoint, tires squealing. A pall of hot rubber and raw gas remained behind.

Jack turned toward Molly, winked, and patted her knee. Then he jerked the Subaru forward and stopped beside the guardsman. Jack rolled down the window. The heat hit him like a hammer. He looked up. The guardsman's name tag said COLLAMER. He started to speak, but Jack beat him to it: "Hell and damnation, soldier! You ain't gonna hold us up any longer, are ya? You do that, and Mother's gonna have her baby right here!"

Private Collamer squinted into the Subaru. His head was swimming with the heat and the fumes, but the lady in the car didn't look very pregnant to him. And anyway, she looked way too old to be having anybody's baby. "Sir…," he began, but Jack didn't let him get any further. "Listen up!" he roared, "You got hearin' trouble, maybe? I tole ya Mother's having a baby. It's comin' early, and I gotta get her into hospital! NOW! You gonna take your hand off my door and wave us on, or …." Just then, Molly let out a long groan.

The guardsman couldn't believe that such an old fart could yell so loud. His ears were ringing. His head ached. His feet hurt. And the line of cars was getting longer. Then a horn sounded. Private Collamer looked over at the Humvee. He thought he saw it rock on its springs. "Sweet Jesus!" he muttered. Was Sergeant Burke awake? "Christ!" he thought, "That's all I need!"

He looked back down at the old man. His face was contorted in anger. He was breathing hard, too. He looked like he might have a heart attack right there. The woman beside him arched her back and moaned, louder than the first time. Then she rolled her eyes and screamed, "Jack! Jack honey, my water's broken! Ohhhh! It's COMING!"

"You hear that, boy?" Jack yelled. "I'm gettin' Mother to the hospital right now! You want to shoot an old man and a pregnant lady, you just go right ahead!" And then he popped the clutch. The Subaru lurched down the road, almost dragging Private Collamer's left hand along with it.

The guardsman took an involuntary half-step back. He looked over at the Humvee. There was no sign that Sergeant Burke had wakened. He sighed with relief. The next car crept forward. The driver was a little man with thick glasses and beads of sweat on his forehead. Private Collamer smiled. He bent down and made eye contact. "Entry to the National Defense Area is restricted, sir," he said, in what he hoped were commanding tones. "And just what is the nature of your business?"

His voice only cracked once. The little man didn't notice.

*   *   *

Molly and Jack didn't stop laughing for quite some time, and when Molly started singing "I'm havin' his baby," it got them both going again. Then Molly turned on the radio. The announcer was finishing up the top-of-the-hour news summary.

Jacob Ransom, environmental officer with the Mohawk Nation of Handsome Lake, now says that flood damage in the aftermath of the Independence Day Attack was substantially less than originally feared. "We were lucky," Ransom said during today's press briefing.

Handsome Lake Village is on high ground, and it was spared much of the destruction experienced elsewhere in the Raquette River floodplain.

In a related story, staff at the St. Lawrence County Emergency Management Office confirm that communities further upriver are still assessing their losses. The entire disaster scene has been designated a National Defense Area, and access continues to be restricted. Troops from Fort Drum, including National Guard units and elements of the 10th Mountain Division, are conducting regular security patrols and providing technical assistance to local police and fire departments.

Meanwhile, American military teams are stepping up the hunt on both sides of the Canadian-American border for members of the Innisfree Separatist Movement. Relations between the United States and Canada are now the worst they've been since the Fenian raids of 1866….

Molly had heard enough. She switched off the radio and turned to Jack. "Just how do you think you're going to find this man you're looking for?" she asked.

Jack chewed on his mustache. "How 'em I gonna find Joe? Not sure myself"—he paused, and his face was split by a wide grin—"Mother."

Molly hit him in the shoulder. Jack was surprised at the force behind the blow.

"But we'll both know soon enough," he added. "The Rez is just ahead." And he nodded at a brown sign bearing the legend, "Mohawk Nation of Handsome Lake."

"You're gonna like Joe," he continued. "His grandfather helped make Old Man Kennedy rich durin' Prohibition, and I hear he don't do so bad now himself, even if he is gettin' on in years."

"You're old friend is a…a smuggler?!" Molly asked, trying unsuccessfully to keep the alarm out of her voice.

"Sure 'nuff," replied Jack. "Who better to help us get a couple of pieces of human contraband across the border, eh?" And he squeezed Molly's knee again. "If there ever was a job for a pro, this is it. And it's a job that need's doin'. Can't leave those two kids to be picked up by a Canadian patrol and interned, can we?"

"Ed and Brenna aren't kids," Molly noted primly.

Jack chuckled. "By the time you get to be as old as I am, almost everybody looks like a kid—even you, Mother."

"Jack, really, you're just incorrigible."

"Incorrigible!" Jack exclaimed. "I've been called a good many things in my day, Molly. But that's a first."

Molly only nodded. She was worried. She'd been trying for days to learn what had happened to Ed and Brenna, but so far her efforts had come to nothing. No one had seen them on the river, and her e-mails to Sarah Jock at the Fort Hope Community Center had done little more than raise new questions.

They drove past the new casino. Then the offices of the tribal government came into view. Jack turned into the parking lot and shut off the engine. The engine ticked quietly as it cooled. Heat shimmered off the hood. "Let's go, girl," Jack said, and he leaned across Molly to push open her door.

Together they entered the air-conditioned office building. Mohawk art decorated the walls. Molly stopped by a glass case displaying hand-thrown pottery and intricate basket-work. Jack left her there while he walked over to the receptionist, seated behind a modern desk. "Afternoon," he said. "I'm lookin' for a man named Joe Hunter. Any idea where I might find him?"

The receptionist glanced up from her computer screen. Brown eyes met blue, and she smiled thinly at the tall old man. "I might have," she replied after several seconds. "And who is it that's asking?" Her rich contralto voice took some of the sting out of the question.

Now the old man's blue eyes were lost to view for a moment as a grin creased his face. "Jack, Miss. Jack Van Dorn. He oughta remember me. But if he don't, well, you just tell him you've seen an old Sea Eagle come all the way from the Labrador. That'll jog his memory, I'm bettin'."

Molly stared at her husband's back. "This is certainly a day for surprises!" she thought. But she didn't say anything.

The receptionist swung round in her chair, got up,and disappeared through a windowless door behind her. Several minutes later she returned, only to tell Jack he'd have to wait. Impatient, Jack strode restlessly around the lobby. Ten minutes passed, then fifteen. Jack chewed on his untidy moustache and continued to pace. On his hundredth circuit, he stopped in front of the picture window looking out over the parking lot. A black Nissan Xterra was pulling in. It stopped next to the Subaru. A tall, thin man in his thirties jackknifed out of the truck, looked at the car, and walked slowly toward the building.

A damp curtain of hot, humid air sagged across the air-conditioned lobby as the door opened. The young man walked up to Jack, removing a pair of wrap-around sunglasses as he came. He blinked in the glare of the harsh fluorescent lights and looked at Jack in silence. Then he stuck out his hand and said, "Jack Van Dorn, I presume. I'm Joe Hunter's son, Matthew. Heard a lot about you over the years."

"Ya don't say," replied Jack. He grinned. "Pleased to meet you, I'm sure." He shook the offered hand.

Matthew smiled slightly. "If you'd like to come with me…."

Jack stretched out his arm to draw Molly toward him. "My wife, Molly. You won't mind if she comes along, will ya?"

Matthew nodded politely but said nothing. He didn't offer to shake hands. Jack and Molly followed him out into the inferno.

They got into Matthew's Xterra. No one spoke as they drove away. Jack and Molly noticed vast new mud flats on either side of the Raquette River. There was debris, too, and the smell was indescribable. Soon they'd crossed the river on the highway bridge. The river was now running low, but there was a dead cow caught in the bridge side-rails. Two crows sat on its head and pecked savagely at the lolling tongue. Matthew turned onto a tree-lined secondary road, and then turned again onto a poorly-graded gravel road. The only sign said "Dead End." Jack was ready to believe it.

The road wound through the welcome shade of a maple forest, broken by occasional grassy meadows. It ended at a double garage and a modest two-story house. Both were sheathed in unpainted clapboard. Matthew braked to a stop and shut off the ignition. "This is my father's home," he said. "He's waiting for you now. If you'll just follow me…."

Molly and Jack walked down a flagstone path behind Matthew. A gentle breeze made the leaves in the maples rattle.

Joe Hunter was standing on the rear deck. Somewhere between fifty and seventy years old, shorter than Jack and broader, he seemed like something that had been thrust up from the forest floor—an ancient tree or weathered corner of bedrock granite. He beamed. "Hullo, Jack, you old bastard! How ya been? You ever see so many fat crows before?" Then, noticing Molly for the first time, he looked down at his feet and mumbled, "Pardon my French, ma'am. I'm very sorry if I offended you. Yes, indeed, I am. I'm afraid that everything they say about us old sailors is true." Then he glanced up shyly, like a schoolboy waiting to be forgiven for carrying a sling-shot.

Jack grinned and took the steps up to the deck two at a time. He seized the other man's hand in both of his and pumped it vigorously. Then he dropped it and stepped back, only to step lunge forward again and wrap his arms around Joe. It was a real bear hug. Molly thought she could hear bones cracking.

"How the hell are ya, kid?" Jack exploded as he released Joe. The "kid" still grinned liked a school-boy. Molly stepped forward. Jack said, "Meet the Missus, Joe. Molly's the name."

Molly smiled. She said, "Good to meet you, Joe—and don't worry. I was a nurse once, and now I work in a library. I know all sorts of bad words."

Joe's smooth skin wrinkled in laughter over his high cheekbones. His short platinum hair flashed in the sun as his head rocked back and forth. "Looks like old Sea Eagle's found a match at last, Molly. So it does." He turned back to Jack. "So, now that you've met my youngest son, whaddaya think of him? He's gone a lot farther than we did, ya know. He's a lawyer now. Has an office in Albany. Even wears a suit to work."

"Matthew's a boy to be proud of, Joe," Jack replied. "Looks like life's been good to you."

"Can't complain, Jack," Joe said. "Can't complain. But I'm forgettin' my manners. Come on inside and have somethin' cold to drink. Get outta this heat. Meet the wife." Joe lumbered heavily toward the sliding glass doors, feet spread wide. He looked like he was expecting the deck to heave beneath him.

The house was as cool as the deck had been hot. Matthew vanished wordlessly up the stairs as his plump, smiling mother greeted the guests. Joe made the introductions: "This here piece of flotsam's my old friend, Jack—and that's his wife, Molly. It's been…how long, Jack?…something over thirty years since we last saw each other."

Jack shook his head. "Forty, more like. Port of Albany. You come down to visit your brother when he was workin' on that damn-fool state mall. Knocking down good people's homes and buildin' concrete rabbit hutches to put god…." Molly caught his eye. "God-forsaken civil servants in. 'Course I don't blame your brother for taking the job. The money was good. Gotta take what comes your way."

"Sure ya do," Joe replied, "and jobs like that one don't come round every day. Paid for my brother's trailer and a new truck, it did." He gestured toward a table overlooking the open woodland behind the house. Jack and Molly sat down. A yellow-rumped warbler prospected for insects along the branches, while two hummingbirds jousted for possession of a clump of cardinal flowers growing next to a small pond.

Mary Hunter placed a pitcher of iced tea in the center of the table. Joe filled the glasses and passed them round. Then Mary cut slices from a chocolate layer cake. "I thought you all might like a snack," she explained as she sat down between Joe and Molly. Talk ebbed back and forth across the table.

"Tell me," said Molly suddenly, turning toward Joe when an opening appeared in the conversation, "just how did my husband get to be known as Sea Eagle." She threw a glance at Jack. "It would seem I married a man of mystery."

Joe looked questioningly at Jack. He nodded. Joe began: "Ya see, Molly, I was only a boy when I first went at sea. Thirteen years old. During the War, ya know."

"That's the Second World War…" Jack interrupted.

"Shush!" Molly said. "You didn't marry a stupid woman, Jack Van Dorn. And you had your chance to tell your story. Now let Joe get on with it!"

"Well," Joe began again, "I didn't have proper papers, like, but that didn't matter too much if you bribed the right people in the union, and the money was good, especially for an Indian kid. And times were mighty hard here, then. So the money came in right handy.

"Of course my parents weren't happy, but I saved 'em the trouble of sayin' no. I just took off one day, and I didn't write to 'em till after I got a place. It didn't take long. The U-boats were still doin' more or less what they wanted to. There were lots of new ships comin' out of the yards. And lots of empty billets. I ended up on the North Atlantic run. And the money was real good.

"First couple of trips, we was lucky. Third trip out, though, we hit a winter storm. Waves like Niagara Falls moving across the ocean, breakin' hard over the decks. Snow like sand out of a sand-blaster tearin' at your face. And the ice…Jesus, the ice. We were beatin' at it with baseball bats and mauls, but it was buildin' up on the decks and riggin' despite all that we were doin', and the waves were gettin' bigger.

"Anyway, I was makin' my way forward on a line, when the mother of all the waves in the North Atlantic broke green right over the ship. My feet went our from under me right away—there was ice on the deck plates, y'unnerstan'—and then the dam' lanyard snapped, and before I can do anything I'm being sluiced over the side, grabbin' at everythin' I pass. But it's no use. There's certain death waitin' for me, and I was just hopin' I'd knock my head on the way so I wouldn't be conscious while I drowned. And then…"

Joe stopped, unable to continue. He sat still, shaking his head. After several seconds of silence, Jack took up the story, his voice uncharacteristically quiet. "I was off-watch and I'd jes' come on deck to clear my head of the engine room fug when the wave broke over us. So I'm hanging on to the Number 5 lifeboat davit for dear life and then somethin' slams into me, and damn if it isn't this Indian kid I seen around the ship. And I don't have time to think, I just grab aholt of him and hold on and pray that we ain't torn loose—and somehow we ain't, though the water's pullin' on us like nothin' I ever felt before and we're both bein' slammed by pieces of ice as big as sea-bags. Then the old tub rolls way over and for a long time I think she's just gonna keep goin', but she spills the wave at last and starts comin' back up, and we can both breathe again. And the kid, well, the kid looks like he's just gone a round with Joe Lewis, but he's alive."

"And that's how come I'm here today," interjected Joe, "and why my name's not on the memorial plaque outside the tribal offices."

Mary was the first to break the ensuing silence. She patted her husband's arm and said, "More tea, anyone?"

"And 'Sea Eagle'?" asked Molly. "Where does 'Sea Eagle' come into it?"

"Well," said Joe, "it seemed the right thing. Jack was about as salty as they come, and he hung on to me like an eagle hangs on to a flappin' fish, so I thought I'd give him a second 'Indian' name…for luck, sort of, and by way of sayin' thank you. And so I did."

"And you never told me," Molly exclaimed, looking wonderingly at her husband.

"Didn't see the need, is all," Jack said. "It was a long time ago. And anyway, you know now, don't you?"

Mary chuckled. She winked at Jack's wife. "Men like having secrets," she said. "They think it makes them more interesting." Then she asked Molly if she'd like to see the garden. Molly looked at Jack. He nodded, and the two women went out, leaving their husbands alone with their memories of the North Atlantic.

Joe got up and grabbed two bottles of beer from the refrigerator. He handed one to Jack. They twisted off the caps and drank deep. Then Joe asked, "So, you old bastard, jes' what brings you to Indian country? 'Sea Eagle' or not, it ain't likely that you're itchin' to go native."

Jack took another pull on his beer and leaned back in his chair. In a few minutes, he'd told Joe the story of how he'd met Ed and Brenna and married Molly. Then he described Ed and Brenna's "trip of a lifetime" to the Albany River. "Trouble is," he concluded, "we ain't heard from 'em since they started out, and with Canada interning foreigners now, we're both gettin' worried. Nobody seems to know what's happened to 'em. Thought you might be able to help us find 'em—and help us bring 'em back, come to that."

Joe stared out the window. Finally, he said, "I'm a retired smuggler now, you know what I mean? It's a young man's game. Still…."

"Figured you'd find it hard to say no," Jack said, grinning. "Always were one for beatin' the odds. But I don't want you to risk your skin. I just want your help gettin' me up to the Albany. It's time I got closer to my Indian roots, ya see." Jack's blue eyes twinkled.

Joe guffawed. "OK, Sea Eagle. You're on. I can't wait to see you at the next Green Corn festival. But I'm warnin' ya. It won't be easy. It's a big country up there, and like old Chuck Heston says, there's a war on. Not a real war, maybe. Not our sort of war. But bad enough. People get killed in pissant wars, too."

"Well, you know, old friend," said Jack, "I been thinkin' about jes' that fact. At my age, I'm lucky to be able to walk and talk. Ed and Brenna aren't kids, I know, but they've got more of a future than I have. And I owe 'em. Besides, I've always wanted to be a smuggler. Never too old to make a career change, eh?"

When Joe said nothing, Jack pressed the point. "So," he continued, deadly serious now, "you'll put me in touch with your people, right? An' maybe they can ask around, find out what happened to Ed and Brenna. And then I can take it from there."

The two men drank the last of their beer. Joe got up from his chair. "You damned old fart! You may have one foot in the grave, but your grip sure hasn't gotten any weaker. Once you get your hooks around something…. OK. Come on. You think you wanna be a real smuggler? Let's see how you like it."

Joe led the way to the cellar stairway, opened the door, and flipped a switch to turn on the light at the foot of the stairs. "Ready, Kemosabe?" he asked. And then he laughed.

Despite the heat of the day, the cellar was cool, dark, and damp. Joe walked through the half-light and stopped next to a large footlocker. Then he pushed it to one side, exposing a trap door set into the concrete floor. He bent down and lifted the hatch. A ladder made up of metal rungs led down into the earth. "You haven't forgotten how to climb a ladder, have you, Jack?" he asked. Without waiting for a reply, he disappeared underground. Jack followed, wide-eyed. He thought he might enjoy being a smuggler.

When he reached the bottom of the short vertical shaft, Joe flipped another switch. In seconds, Jack was standing beside him. A recessed bulb revealed a steel door on the left. Ahead of them was a short hallway with concrete walls and another steel door at the end. Joe pulled a key case out of his pocket and unlocked the door on his left. It swung open soundlessly, pivoting on well-oiled hinges.

Whatever Jack had been expecting, it was nothing like what he saw: a sparely-furnished office. It might have belonged to the manager of a Wal-Mart. Gray steel file-cabinets, a black metal desk, two black-and-chrome chairs, and a flat-panel computer display were the most remarkable things in view, along with a shelf of monochrome video monitors. Jack realized that there must be remote cameras set up all around Joe's property. On one monitor, their two wives walked slowly along a floral border, talking in the easy, confidential way of newly-acquainted women everywhere. Another monitor looked down the empty gravel road which had brought them to the house.

Joe gestured for Jack to sit down, and the old man did. Joe then began typing rapidly on his computer keyboard, pausing only to question Jack about Ed and Brenna's itinerary. In a few minutes, he got up. "Now we wait," he said.

Jack's attention was on a video monitor, where Molly and Mary were walking toward him, each carrying a basket of flowers and vegetables. Then they disappeared from view.

"Enjoying the show?" Joe asked.

"Jesus!" Jack replied. "You have come a long way!"

"Can't be too careful, eh? This is Indian country, after all!" Once again, Joe laughed. The noise was almost deafening in the little concrete-walled office.

"Come on," said Joe. "No point in hanging around in here. Let's go for a walk down to the river."

"Good idea" replied Jack. I'd like to see the sun again." He followed Joe out of the office.

Joe didn't head back up the ladder, though. Instead, he headed off down the hallway. When he reached the end, he unlocked the steel door and waited for Jack to catch up. Once both men had stepped through, Joe closed and locked the door behind them. A tunnel with corrugated steel walls and a packed-earth floor sloped down to a T-intersection. The passage was just wide enough for the two men to walk side-by-side, though Jack had to stoop to avoid hitting his head. The air smelled of mold. Water dripped down the walls, collecting in two small gutters. Bare bulbs provided the only illumination.

Joe turned to the right at the junction. Jack followed. Their footsteps echoed eerily, mingling with the endless plop, plop of dripping water. The passage described a gentle curve, straightened, and continued its descent, ending abruptly in a large room. A single wooden door led out of the room. There was a peep-hole with fisheye lens in its center. Joe flipped back the cover, glanced through the lens, and then opened the door.

The hot, humid summer air hit both men in the face. They stepped out into a small, wood-frame boathouse. Mud was plastered thick on the gangways. Fat, lazy flies droned ceaselessly. A mallard hen quacked, and somewhere in the distance a raven croaked. Joe shut the door behind them. Jack looked back. The door had vanished as if it had never existed.

"Now you see it. Now you don't," said Joe, tracing the barely-perceptible outline of the door on the weathered cedar of the boathouse wall.

A sleek, black inboard floated in the nearest slip. There was no mud on it, Jack noticed, and it looked fast—very fast. The second slip was empty. Sunlight streamed in through windows in the side walls and the big overhead door. Clouds of gnats rose through the shafts of sunlight.

"Guess I'm gonna have to clean the place up," said Joe, scuffing at the mud beneath his feet. "Still, we got off easy compared to some. Potsdam must look like a war zone."

"That the St. Lawrence out there?" Jack pointed toward the overhead door.

"Hell, no," replied Joe, "that's the Raquette. But the St. Lawrence ain't far. Come on, let's climb up." He pointed to a ladder on the wall. "Get you oriented quick enough."

Looking out of the windows in the loft, Jack saw the Raquette's steep, wooded embankment stretching away toward its confluence with the St. Lawrence. There were no other buildings in sight.

"Marked channeled leads in close to the boathouse," Joe commented. "Flood swept away mosta the buoys, though. Not that I ever needed 'em. I grew up on this river. Know every bar, cove, and hole."

They stepped out through French windows onto a deck above the wide boathouse door. Jack studied the river's wooded banks. A bathtub ring of mud and debris marked the flood's passage. "Back at the T-junction in the tunnel, we turned right," he said. "What happens if you go the other way?"

"Call it the tradesman's entrance, like," said Joe, grinning. "You want to learn the business? Then you gotta start thinkin' like a smuggler. Most folks—most cops, even—they don't wanta see. So you make it easy for 'em. You make sure everybody comes and goes where he can't be seen. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Leave Customs and the INS to shake down the tourists and make their doughnut runs undisturbed. Let 'em do their twenty in peace and get out. Don't stir 'em up. Besides, who wants a lot of Indians gettin' mud on the carpets up at the house?" He winked. "Mary'd kill me! So I make 'em use the tradesman's entrance." Then he looked at his watch. "Better be gettin' back. Might learn somethin' useful."

They returned to the office the way they'd come. Joe sat down at his computer. "Well, whaddaya know!" he exclaimed. "You're in luck. No hard news yet, but you might say that the bush telegraph is workin'. Why don't you and Molly plan on spendin' the night? Give me your keys, and Matthew'll pick up your car. Good for him to do some real work for a change. Sittin' on his ass in Albany, flirtin' with the secretaries, cuttin' deals, takin' other suits out to lunch…that ain't real work for a man, is it?"

Jack nodded absent-mindedly in agreement and fumbled in his pockets for the car keys. Then he and Joe headed back into the house, where they found their wives in the middle of preparing the evening meal.

"So," said Molly when she saw the two men return, "I'm married to a smuggler now." Her expression hovered between amusement and dismay. "Whatever next?"

It was Joe who answered. "You know how it is with Sea Eagles, Molly. Once they grab hold of somethin' they don't let go easy. Take it from a guy who learned it at first hand, like. It'll all be OK."

To be continued…

Snowstorm at Sea

Copyright 2002 by Verloren Hoop Productions. All rights reserved.

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