Chapter 11 – Exploring the Restricted Area – Modern Day
As Jason passed through the gap in the wall, he noticed that to the left of him was just a continuation of the same concrete edifice that he had seen from the river. To his right was what Jason could only assume was once a marina, so he turned the boat to that direction. There were masts sticking out of the water indicating the presence of sunken boats, so he decided against navigating the entire marina to avoid the possibility of colliding with a submerged structure. To his immediate left was an empty slip, it was situated between two docks that were in a decrepit condition. The docks were built around wooden piles that allowed the platforms to rise and fall with the height of the water. The piles themselves looked rotten but Jason couldn’t see any that appeared to be missing. Gingerly, Jason idled into the empty slip, constantly looking from one side to the other for any obstructions underneath the boat. He had pulled in with the dock on his port side and he discovered that what cleats were there on the dock did not look too secure, so he decided to hitch first a stern line to one of the piles, then a bowline on the pile at the other end of the dock. With the boat secure, he turned off the engine and began to look around.
The wall that he saw from the river appeared to encompass the entire marina and for the life of him, with the exception of the gap he had just come through, he could not see another entrance. There appeared to be no gate, door or entrance of any kind. Furthermore, there didn’t appear to be anything nefarious that had occurred within the wall, it was just an old, neglected marina, so, his immediate thought was, why were there ‘Restricted’ signs plastered all over the outside? Jason decided to investigate.
As a safety precaution, Jason decided to keep his life preserver on as he sat on the gunwale of his boat and tested the dock, first with his left foot and then his right. Although parts of the dock looked rotten, most of it appeared to be stable. He put his full weight on the dock, while still hanging on to the gunwale of his boat as a precaution, thankfully, he didn’t go crashing through. His mindset was to try and find an entrance to the marina from the land-side, so he began to walk, albeit with some trepidation, along the walkway between the docks towards the wall furthest away from the river. If there was going to be an entrance, that’s where it would be. He had a good look around, everywhere was strewn with weeds and it didn’t look as if any living creature had been here for many a year.
There were old, fancy wrought iron lamp posts on almost every slip, some still had their light bulbs intact and at the head of each of the slips was a tarnished, brass plaque indicating its number. Most of the docks were empty but what few boats were there had obviously not been used for some considerable time. They were all green with algae, rotten and forgotten and although, some of the boats were still afloat, many had succumbed to the elements and were either partially or fully underwater. Some had listed, others had turned turtle and there were also those whose lines, still intact, had prevented them from being totally submerged. There were even a few boats that had not sunk and had broken away from their lines and were beached in one corner of the marina where the winds and what little current had taken them. Most of the boats he could see were motor boats of various sizes ranging from small recreational fishing boats to grandiose cabin-cruisers, but all were in the same terrible condition. Littered among the motor-boats was the odd sail-boat, the canvas around their booms and headstays in tatters.
Walking cautiously along the walkway, Jason finally arrived on terra firma at what appeared to be a boat ramp. Leading from the boat ramp was pavement, badly deteriorated and pitted by weeds, but a road nonetheless. Jason walked onto the pavement and followed it up a slight gradient only to be confronted by the wall. So, he had found what was once the entrance to the marina, but for some inexplicable reason, it had now been completely blocked off. As he returned to the ramp he noticed a building that was also on a floating dock with four piles, one on each corner. It looked as if the building was once a small marine store and just above the doorway, was a sign. Jason went to read what it said, chiseled on the sign, in large letters were the words ‘State Marina of Missouri’. So, this was truly the marina Chuck had told him about.
Many of the windows in the wooden, slat, building had been broken and part of the roof had blown away. Jason walked to the door and tried the handle, it was locked but one of the panes of glass was no longer there, so it was no effort to reach through and unlock the door. He opened the door and continuing to test his every step before he put his full weight down, he gingerly walked in. The floor in the building had been sheltered from the elements to a certain extent so it appeared to be much stronger than the exposed docks. As he looked around the inside, there were shelves of marine supplies, confectionary, drinks and packets of food which were certainly well past their best buy date, even if they ever had one when these packets were manufactured. Jason saw charts, travel books for the area including routes along the Mississippi.
On one side of the store was a counter and placed at one end of it was an old-fashioned cash-register, Jason hadn’t seen one of those since he was a kid. He walked around the counter, not being able to resist the urge to press a couple of the keys to see if the till would slide out with that familiar springing sound. Surprisingly, it still worked but what was even more amazing was that inside was a large amount of cash. Now that he was on the working side of the counter he could also see a desk and hanging above it was a sign that read ‘Dockmaster’. On the desk were what obviously were the scraps of a sandwich that had once been wrapped in grease-proof paper that was now unwrapped and badly deteriorated. Beside the sandwich remnants, was a cup from a Thermos flask that was standing on a corner of the paper. There was also a dried-up apple core, it looked as though the dockmaster had been irreverently called away from his snack and had never returned. It reminded Jason of another maritime riddle, the Mary Celeste, an American merchant ship which was found bobbing around in the Atlantic Ocean. On board the abandoned vessel was found a table laid with food and in the hold, the cargo, still intact, but no sign of any passengers or crew.
Jason then saw a large book which appeared to be a log of some kind and beside it was a cash box. Jason opened the cash box to reveal a reasonable sum of money in paper dollars, he assumed these were docking fees that were kept separate from the proceeds of the store that were retained in the till. He closed the box and turned his attention to the log, which was of a very old type, leather-bound, thick cover which had certainly helped it to survive the ravages of time fairly well. Jason gently opened the book and began to read the contents on the first page. The writing appeared to indicate the comings and goings of transient boats and the fees they paid for the duration of their stay. Jason carefully turned the thick paper pages until he came to the last entries in the log. Using his finger, he scanned down the list of boats written on the page until he reached the final two entries. His heart skipped a beat as he read the details of the two boats written in the log:
05/20/44 16:45 Slip 360 St. Louis Streamer 1 night 5.00 Occupants: 32
05/20/44 16:46 Slip 361 Cabin-cruiser Uninvited – asked to leave Occupants: 2
Jason was almost certain he had docked in slip 362.