Chapter 19 – Explanations and Investigations – Modern Day
Jason couldn’t help thinking about all the bodies he had come across in the twenty-four hours he had been searching for answers to his grandfather’s disappearance, so much so that he almost motored past Chuck’s marina. It was about 3:00 PM when he finished securing his boat and he was approached by Charlie, Chuck’s grandson.
“Hi Mr. Clifford, back so soon?” Charlie said. “You’ve solved the mystery, have you?” Charlie said sarcastically, smiling at Jason.
“You will be surprised by what I have found out Charlie. Where’s your grandfather?” Jason asked.
“Usual spot, I don’t suppose he’s left yet, so you should be able to catch him,” Charlie responded. The usual spot was the pub, aptly named ‘The Lost Mariner’, the place where Jason had lunch with Chuck the first day he had arrived. Jason brought out his mattress one more time to see if it would finish drying out, he gave his hair a quick brush, put a few items into a backpack and proceeded to the pub.
Jason entered the pub, there were only a few lunchtime stragglers around the tables and there was Chuck, sitting at the bar with a couple of his cronies. They all turned to see who was entering the bar and Chuck was the first to react.
“Heeey, Jason, my, I wasn’t expecting you back so quickly,” Chuck said, seemingly, genuinely pleased to see Jason, and he patted the stool next to him to indicate that’s where he should sit. “What’ll you have?” Chuck asked.
“Double whiskey!” Jason replied without hesitation. He was not normally a spirit drinker, although, he did have a bottle of Jack Daniels on board the boat, for medicinal purposes, but his nerves were still a little jittery from the last incident he had experienced before leaving the State Marina of Missouri. Chuck and his two friends looked at each other, smiled, nodded their heads as if some conspiracy was taking place but it wasn’t, it was just that man thing.
Jason didn’t say another word until the whiskey arrived, he said ‘thanks’, then downed the amber liquid in one swig. Then he ordered an 18-ounce beer. Jason now had the full attention of the three men and the barman.
“Tell me, what can you remember of the State Marina of Missouri?” Jason asked.
“Well, it opened up just before the war, as I mentioned to you before, the clientele was a little hoity-toity if you know what I mean. Then suddenly, for some reason, the army took it over as a top-secret installation.” Chuck explained
“Do you know what it was used for?” Jason asked.
“Nope, no one I know ever worked inside there,” Chuck said, shaking his head.
“In them days, I lived just a few miles away,” the crony to Chuck’s immediate right said, “I used to ride my bike there in the summers, but you couldn’t get anywhere near the old marina. The army had a barracks built, they had armed guards all around the place. God knows what they were doing in there.”
“When did the army abandon the place?” Jason asked as he took a hearty sip of his beer that the barman had now delivered. Chuck and his cronies looked at each other as though they needed to confer to answer that one.
“I should imagine it would be about 1950, around there I think,” Crony #1 suggested.
“Must have been, that would be about when they blocked off the road to the marina and they tore down the barracks and abandoned the place,” Crony #2 offered, he was the one sitting the furthest away.
“Didn’t anyone ever go down there to investigate?” Jason asked. “Curious kids, teenagers?”
“Nah, they still put those signs up, all sorts of rumors went around. Kids wouldn’t go near the place.” Crony #2 said.
“What types of rumors,” Jason asked.
“It was said that the government was manufacturing dangerous chemicals in there, gases for the war effort. The whole area was contaminated, your skin would fall off if you went in there without protective clothing.” Crony #1 said.
“Yep, that’s right, that’s what they used to say.” Crony #2 added.
Jason thought about that for a while, from what he had seen, there was no evidence of anybody manufacturing anything in the deserted marina.
“Did you see or know of anyone who actually worked in the facility?” Jason suddenly asked them. That appeared to require another conference between them until finally, they all shook their heads.
“What if I told you that the wall you can see from the river totally encircles the marina.” Jason began to tell the men, even the barman was now listening in, “there is no entrance to the place, neither from the road nor from the river. Nobody has set foot in that place since they built the wall, they built the wall with all those boats still in there. The army was brought in solely to make sure nobody ever set foot in there.” While the four men looked at each other askance, Jason took another swig of beer, which happened to be a local craft brew, it was very good.
“Nah, that can’t be, the owners of all those boats would have said something.” Crony #1 said.
“Sorry, I don’t know your names, you are?” Jason said, reaching out his hand to Crony #1 who’s name was Archie.
“Bill.” Crony #2 offered.
“Dexter,” the barman said. Jason later learned that Bill and Chuck had both grown up in the area and had known each other since kindergarten. Archie had come along a few years later and Dexter and his wife had moved into the pub relatively recently. The elderly trio were now widowers and spent their time mostly in the Blue Moon Café in the mornings and during the afternoons, the pub.
“When I went up the river the day before yesterday, you had told me about the marina’s existence, but I didn’t know exactly where the marina was,” Jason began to explain, “but then I saw a wall and there was a small gap where it had corroded. So, I went through it. I found the State Marina of Missouri and I can tell you, the marina was abandoned.” Jason reached into his backpack and pulled out his camera, he waited for the screen to show the first of his photos and he began to show them shots of the site. Before he got to his underwater photographs he paused.
The four men couldn’t believe what they were seeing, for years they had been told the marina had been converted into a military installation.
“It gets worse.” Jason said, and now he had their full attention, so he continued, “I know where you can find the St. Louis Streamer, the dockmaster, and my late grandfather’s boat.”
“According to records, The Streamer sunk on the river,” Archie explained, although the disappearance of the dockmaster always was a mystery. Old Zachariah Grimshaw was his name, he was an ornery old fart, liked a tipple. Because of the storm, it was a slow night and it was rumored that he’d had a little too much to drink, slipped on the wet docks and fell into the water. At least, that was the official verdict.”
“Well, I carried out a couple of dives in the marina. The Streamer and my grandfather’s boat are at the bottom of the marina in the slips that they were assigned, or at least docked in.” Jason told them, “you know what else?” There was silence as the men looked at Jason, what else could possibly have happened?
“The bodies of all the passengers and crew of those boats, as well as the dockmaster, are still on those boats,” Jason said, then he began to scroll through the remaining photographs on his camera. Finally, he reached into his backpack to pull out the clear, plastic, Ziploc bag he had used to store the remains of the dockmaster’s cap. He gently placed it on the bar, like evidence in a judicious exhibit. “A major cover-up has occurred here, and I am determined to find out what it’s all about.”