Greenbag Canteen Part 4

Lex and Ufoko sat on the edge of the wharf, steaming lightly in the warm, early morning sun and cradled mismatched mugs while the Artist poured grainy coffee from a big enamel pot. They'd all believed the story. Those two tourists were agog over the tale of drug smugglers boarding rich Mr. Yamada's yacht and locking him and his loyal crew of two in the cable locker, the escape in the dark, stealing the smugglers' own hydroplane while they boozed in the luxurious cabin. Even the Artist seemed convinced, if not so impressed with the melodrama. And none of them knew enough about sailing to catch Lex, who didnt know a gaff rig from a galleon, in a blatantly stupid remark.

And Yamada really did own a yacht. Two of them. If they could just avoid any close scrutiny till they could get away from this rural area where they were so conspicuous, from the locals who must have heard them arrive so very loudly, especially from that incriminating cuddy stuffed with the finest uncut snow so beautifully but tenuously hidden right below their feet -- if they could just get to an airport before anyone started to ask hard questions, Yamada could go off to Washington or wherever his machinations took him and they could quietly vanish in -- well, not New York, but Philly, maybe and then New Orleans.

Ufoko sipped and nodded. "You are very kind, Mr. Dutcham. But it is most important that we get to a telephone."

"Well, it's a couple of miles to the nearest house with a phone. Best place is further, up in the village. But if you go right now, you'll have to walk. There's a car stuck in the middle of the road. I've got to clean up. Come get me when they get the car moved and I'll row you over and take you up to the village." Leaving the coffee pot, he stepped into the shadows of the fish shed. They heard his steps crossing the catwalk to the cabin.

"If complaints have been made to the police, they will come soon and we will have to play it by the ear. If not, we will telephone my captain in Naussau so that he will know how to reply to inquiries. In so small a village there will be someone who will drive, even a long distance, for a fee. When we have reached Halifax all will be well."

"Looks good." Lex refilled his mug. "I've been in worse spots. Jail in Canada should be a picnic compared to Turkey and you don't get free coffee while you worry are they gonna get you." He was silent for a moment. "God, you know, I think I envy that weenie. I think I'm full up with 'are they gonna get me'. What the hell's a 'media analyst' anyhow? I wonder how many asses he has to kiss? But nobody in Iraq wants to take him into a cellar and pull pieces off his pecker because he analysed his media to the wrong dude. Nobody in New York maybe wants to do him a sixpack cause his pizza don't have no anchovies."

Yamada leaned forward. "Mr. Andiak. I will make you a speech. Please attend." He set his mug down on the rough planks without looking.

"You are very talented. You persuaded the Bulgarians to sell you arms. Perhaps not so difficult, but also you conveyed those arms through Turkey to Kurdistan. Clever, requiring much courage. You are unscrupulous, even ruthless, but not vicious. When the need arose, you managed to commandeer my little aeroplane, but you did not kill me in Spain. You are perceptive. You comprehended my veracity when I said my pilot would do as I said. Thus he is still alive and, I am sure, waiting for my instructions. You are capable of quick decision and honor a commitment. When the difficulty with the Bolivian arose and the Spanish police incarcerated your crew, you took the ship on the hour. It was a gamble which has failed, but it was the only option that mighr have fulfilled your commitment to the man in New York." He pressed his glasses with a finger and collected his mug.

"I, we, need such persons as you are. I will offer you employment. There will be no, as you say, 'bureaucratic bullshit'. You are a superior negotiator. You will negotiate with others who have no time for such 'bullshit'. The only sin is stupidity. The remuneration will not be so large as the value of that..." He pointed to the water where wrecked hydroplane lay. "...but ancillary opportunities will eventually arise. The man in New York will be dissuated from troubling you. I shall make only three requirements for your acceptance." The sun glinted on his glasses. "You will wear a respectable suit from my own tailor. You will display much diligence. And you may no longer say 'fuck'. 'Fuck' is an international word." He smiled and sipped tepid coffee.

Ed Frawley stopped on the narrow plank between the cabin and the fish shed. Barn really. So only 40 years ago that had been a thriving and important business with a dozen hands, supporting who knows how many fishermen. Now it was a peaceful ruin. He looked between his feet at the glittering, surging water. So Jenny's little fantasy was vindicated. There were smugglers out there somwhere, pirates too. But they wouldn't come here with an oceangoing ship and a stolen sailboat. And she was so excited, she'd started off along the little path to find the lodge, taking that strange blond woman with her. Negro? Jewish? He couldn't quite figure her out. Anyhow.... He moved toward the open doorway. He was going to get the insect repellent and the camcorder and put on his L.L. Bean boots. They'd cost enough. He padded quietly across the rough, hand-poured concrete floor to the pile of their belongings and began to rummage. He could hear the wealthy Japanese and his crewman talking on the other side of the decaying wall. He didn't really mean to eavesdrop but as he fumbled in the gloom he began to listen.

Jenny puttered happily through the woods. There were smugglers. afer all. And pirates. And Tina was going to tell her alll about it. She'd see to it. She couldn't believe how good she felt after only three hours of sleep. It was probably Marc's coffee, holding that little buzz of fatigue down and twisting its arm in the back of her head. A nap in the afternoon, but now, find Lenny's Uncle's lodge. And avoid the swampy puddles, duck that branch and wasn't that some kind of orchid?

It was Tina that said "Whup!" as Jenny walked into a pair of arms. She jerked up her head ready to scream. The smugglers after all. The arms released her. Their owner, a smiling, dark man -- boy, really -- wearing faded khakis and a yarmulke, bowed slightly and said, "Sorry lady. Narrow sidewalk" , in a thick Bronx accent. A slightly older man, similar in appearance and attire appeared along the path and stopped.

"Jeez, Ufoko. I don't know. What would I be getting into? What about Tina?" Lex paused. "What I mean, is, this is August. What're you doing up on my roof with all those reindeer?" He smiled weakly.

"Dr. Cannes is also very exceptional person. If you wish to remain close to each other, I think she may also find employment with the Institute. Her thesis was data compression hardware, yes? We have very complex equipments which need improvement and, I regret, the NSA takes too many of the so qualified persons. Yes. She is not an obstacle."

"I dunno. Seems a shame to leave ten million, maybe twelve, worth of nose candy just sitting right there in six feet of water and walk away. I dunno."

On the other side of the wall, Ed's ears began to ring like telephones. He stared, unseeing, at a rusty nail and dusty boards and waited for the ringing to stop. Somewhere, far down on the lowest deck of his mind, behind a a watertight door, in a long ignored compartment, somthing he'd forgotton about answered the phone. It giggled.

Freshly shaved and flossed, feeling grotty anyway and a little irritated over the interruption of his solitude, the Artist descended the steps to the catwalk and started across. Before he was half way to the open door of the shed, Ed emerged at a trot, dangling his camcorder and clutching a small bottle.

"The ticks have pretty well died down and the mosquitos won't be back before six or so."

Ed brushed by so quickly that The Artist nearly tumbled into the water. "Right, Marc, right. Did Jenny get back yet?", pausing and looking over his shoulder. No apology.

"Nope." Peckerhead. The Artist turned and crossed into the shed, passed through and stepped out on to the wharf.

"Coffee all gone? They move the car yet?" He felt the pot, shrugged and looked around for a mug. "That's probably them now."

The foundered limosine wasn't visible from their side of the cove, but mechanical sounds of engines and metal on metal had been emanating from the stand of stunted firs that obscured it. The Artist poured himself some coffee, grimaced and gulped. They watched and shortly the nose of the white Cadillac inched into view. It emerged and emerged and emerged, like toothpaste with a grill. It was followed by the business end of an industrial strength wrecker, the sort of tow truck one calls to rescue jacknifed trailer rigs and toppled dump trucks. The tail of the car was still on the hook, being lowered as the limosine came onto more level ground.

Lex winced as somthing tied an ornate knot in this stomach, then relaxed again. "Pretty high-rent car for a place like this." He eyed the decaying sheds on the other side of the cove and the two shacks that looked lived in. "Summer people?"

"No. Got stuck there last night. Belongs to sombody named Earl. Didn't get the last name. You didn't meet..."

Lex sprang into the air, dousing Yamada with cold coffee and would have fallen into the cove if the Artist hadn't grabbed a handfull of shirtfront and wrenched him back.

"Damn! The notion for a swim comes on you sudden, don't it?"

"How the fuck did...when did he...Did you talk to him? What did he say? How's...he's suppose' to be...if he's...Who'd he have with him? "Is he there now? Who...what's..." Without moving a step, Lex gave the impression of running around in tight little circles. His mouth made an "Ohhh" but emitted no sufficient expletive. He panted slightly. On the opposite shore, the driver of the Cadillac, in what might have been a black uniform, was gesturing animatedly at the burly truck driver.

The Artist stepped back hastily. "Who he who? Huh?" He glanced at Yamada but Yamada was no longer there. "Who's he? He's a she. That's Earl there. The lady in the leathers and chains."

Lex stared at him, then across the cove.. He sagged loosely against a mooring post, then slid gradually down to sit on the wharf, peered into his empty mug. "Can I have some more coffee?" He was sure he was no longer constipated. He leaned for the pot but Yamada appeared from the shadowy interior of the fish shed, knelt and poured Lex's mug full, then his own. He looked up at the Artist. "The lady is someone's chauffeur? Or it is, rather, her automobile?"

"Hers I think. Want me to row you over now?"

"Oh, yes. I think just now, please. Promptly, thank you, Mr.Dutcham." He carefully folded his jacket, drying on the wharf and picked up his attache case, the only one of their posessions that hadn't sunk with the hydroplane.

Lex stood up. "Ufoko, umm, Mr. Yamada. Is that job still open?" The Artist looked at him quizzically and turned to fetch the oars.

Go on to Part 5...

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