Ghost Marina on the Mississippi

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Chapter 14 – Visit of the Mystery Men – May 1944

“Oh, so sorry, we have to leave,” Ray said, and he pulled his hand away in a desperate attempt to escape the wanton clutches of Lady Ashdene, much to her indignation. Ray tapped Tony on the shoulder and when he turned to see who it was, Ray pointed to the scepter-like person that could be seen through the rain-drenched window walking towards their boat. Ray tapped on the captain’s door and waited for the captain to open it.

“Really sorry but we must leave, our man has turned up,” Ray said as he grabbed his coat that was hanging from a hook beside the door they had just entered through.

“Why that was quick,” was all the captain could say as Ray opened the door to leave.

“Thank you for your hospitality, maybe our paths will cross again someday,” Ray said. Ray then put his coat across his head and made a beeline for his boat, closely followed by Tony.

They reached the boat at the same time as the mystery man who turned as he heard the footsteps of the two men running towards him. He was wearing a full-length, black, oil-skin coat and a black ranger’s hat with the rain pouring from the brim onto the back of his coat, it made him look even more mysterious. He looked first at the two men then at the boat which they had obviously just come from, although he never offered any comment.

“Hi, as you can see, the boat is a little low in the water but what I don’t understand is why there is no water coming in through the boat,” Ray explained to the mystery man. The man ignored Ray’s explanation but did go to the side of the boat, he went down on his knees and shone a high-powered flashlight at the bottom of the boat, towards the front. After a few seconds, he stood up and thought for a while.

“Did you talk to anyone on that boat?” The mystery man asked, nodding in the direction of the ‘St. Louis Streamer’.

“Yes, we confronted the captain, it was his fault we hit the wing dam. Then he introduced us to a few of the passengers.” Ray responded humbly.

“Get on the boat and stay there until I return. Don’t leave the boat. I’m sending some people to you for the next phase.” The mystery man said somewhat solemnly, which Ray thought surprising.

“What about the dockmaster, he wanted us to leave immediately,” Ray added just before the mystery man turned to leave.

“I’ve spoken to him already,” the mystery man replied and immediately walked away.

Before settling down to wait, Ray wanted to see if there was anything he could see from the side of the boat that could make the mystery man’s decision-making finalize so quickly. He grabbed a flashlight and imitated the actions of the mystery man, looking towards the front of the boat. He pointed the beam of light down towards the bottom of the boat and at first, he saw nothing. Then, as he directed the beam in a certain way he could see, just below the waterline a pencil-thin stream of black liquid emanating from underneath the hull. Ray assumed it was oil and that was proof enough that there was serious structural damage to the boat and they could no longer continue with their trip. Ray turned off the flashlight, stood up and climbed into the shelter of the boat.

Ray dried himself off and prepared to make an entry into the ship’s log-book, but he was interrupted by Tony, who had a question.

“The captain had a point. How did mystery man manage to arrive here so quickly?” Tony looked quizzical. “It’s almost as though he knew exactly where we were before we told him.”

“Remember almost every day we saw a small plane overhead, what twice a day at least?” Ray asked Tony. “They looked as though they were following us or at least keeping an eye on us.”

“Mmm,” mused Tony, “you really think that’s what they were doing?”

“That would explain how he knew we were so close,” Ray said and then began to write something in the log. When he had finished he placed the log in the safe, alongside their valuables. He didn’t believe he was going to have to write another entry and if they had to leave quickly he would only have one place to retrieve all their personal belongings.

Ray was about to sit back and relax while they waited for their next visitors but fortunately, they didn’t have to wait long. It was the belligerent protestations of the dockmaster they heard first as he climbed on board the boat and uninvited, climbed down into the cabin area.

“What’s going on?” Ray asked as the dockmaster came down the steps. Feeling quite indignant at the dockmaster’s presumptuousness to just come aboard uninvited like that. Surprisingly, the dockmaster was being closely followed by two men dressed in the same garb as the mystery man.

“You tell me. These two guys c…” But they were his dying words as Ray and Tony heard a dull, phut, sound, then the dockmaster fell headlong into the cabin with the tell-tale, crimson, blush of a bullet-hole in the back of his head.

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