Chapter 16 – Mystery Men’s Task – May 1944
Ray and Tony just stood there dumbfounded as the old dockmaster fell at their feet. They then looked at their two new visitors and saw they were both holding guns with silencers attached. Unfortunately, they didn’t have time to dwell on the matter as the mystery men each fired another shot, one at Ray the other at Tony. Both were killed instantly, and they fell on top of the dead dockmaster. The two mystery men went back into the rain, walking purposely towards the paddle steamer, leaving a third man applying explosive charges to the sides of first the cabin-cruiser, then the Streamer.
Like Ray and Tony had done earlier that evening, one of the mystery men went to the door of the bridge, unlike Ray and Tony, he barged through the door and ordered the captain into the area where the passengers were now being herded together by the other mystery man who had entered from the stern of the boat.
“Down below, now,” shouted the mystery man who had entered with the captain, and he opened the door to show everyone the way. Amidst great protestations by some of the men they all went down the stairs, some of the women were crying and one of the caterers tried to make a break for it. The escapee made it through the captain’s door and onto the bridge but as he opened the door to the gangplank, the third mystery man on the dock shot him expertly through the head. More screams were made by some of the women at the sound of the shot, some became hysterical as the dead man fell back through the captain’s door and his torso hung in the doorway clearly revealing the hole in his forehead. Lady Ashdene was one of the more defiant ones who refused to go below but the mystery man first gave her an unceremonious shove towards the door which she countered. Then the man dragged her by the arm and as he did, her glove came away together with the bracelet she was wearing, and it went flying underneath one of the catering tables.
Once all the passengers and crew were down below they were forced into a storage room and the door was locked behind them. The room was already half-full with boxes and supplies and certainly didn’t appear to have enough space for the influx of the entire ship’s company, less the one dead caterer. Some men climbed on top of the boxes to make room for the others, but it was still extremely congested and some of the women were beginning to faint with the lack of air. Suddenly, there was a loud bang, then another which brought the onset of additional panic, but worse was still to come. Water began to seep in from underneath the door, gradually it rose to the ankles of the trapped men and women. It didn’t take long before the water had passed their knees and the people nearest to the entrance began to pull, push and bang on the door with all their might, but to no avail.
On the dock, the one mystery man had waited for his compatriots to disembark the Streamer. The man had untied all the lines of the cabin-cruiser and all but one of the Streamer’s. As the men reached the dock, they removed the gangplank and tossed it into the water, the third man untied the remaining line. The three men left the dock together and watched at a safe distance as the explosives were detonated.
The mystery men stood and watched impassively as the muffled screams of the boat’s passengers gradually subsided as the once stately St. Louis Streamer sank beneath the waters of the marina. The other bang that the passengers had heard was the explosive charge that was set on the cabin-cruiser. The explosion should have sent the small craft to the bottom of the marina almost instantly but for some reason, it merely listed and refused to sink. One of the mystery men went to the dock and reached for the boat’s bowline. He hauled the boat in close enough to place a foot weightily on the starboard gunwale. The pressure was enough for the cold black water of the marina to begin seeping over the side. As the water began to pour down into the cabin the mystery man stepped back, threw the bow line onto the boat and gave the bow a mighty kick to push the now sinking boat away from the dock. It only took a few seconds to sink to the bottom to join the St. Louis Streamer.
At the road leading into the marina was the mystery man that had once been Ray and Tony’s taxi driver, he was guarding the entrance to ensure nobody else entered or left the marina. That included the three other mystery men who were making sure none of the passengers and crew escaped the watery grave of the St. Louis Streamer.