Ghost Marina on the Mississippi

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Chapter 29 – Testing for Plutonium Poisoning – Modern Day

After a little more brainstorming and swapping of ideas they believed that between the five of them, they had cracked the case, assuming of course that Jason’s theory regarding the plutonium was accurate. To celebrate, they each had one more beer and then they parted company, each going their separate ways. Just as Jason reached his boat and was about to climb aboard he heard young Charlie call out and he was running towards him.

“My grandfather told me to tell you he has received a call from an Armanda Patel who works at the EPA in Lenexa, Kansas. She is scheduled to arrive on Monday at 2:00 to carry out tests on you.” Charlie said all official.

“Wow, they don’t mess around, do they? Great, thanks, Charlie.” Jason replied and then climbed onto his boat. The first thing he felt he should do was to send an email to his daughters, but he certainly didn’t want to tell them about the possibility of plutonium poisoning they’d be worried sick. It was bad enough having to be concerned about it himself, let alone have his daughters worry as well. But he could put a positive spin on the topic and tell them that they were to have meetings during the next couple of days to discuss the raising of their great-grandfather’s boat.

Once Jason had read through his emails and reported into his daughters he decided that as he would be having a visitor he needed to clean up the boat somewhat. He spent the rest of the evening tidying up and putting things back in their place. He decided that in the morning, after breakfast, he would give the outside of the boat a clean and polish.

So it was, that the following Monday, Armanda drove into the marina in her SUV, complete with the EPA logo emblazoned on the door, both Jason and his boat were ready for inspection. Jason walked slowly towards the vehicle as Armanda exited with the mandatory clipboard government officials always seem to have when out on site. In addition, she was carrying a small machine that Jason assumed was a Geiger counter.

“Armanda?” Jason said and held out his hand.

“Yes, Mr. Clifford?” She replied and accepted Jason’s outstretched hand.

“Obviously you can’t think I am too badly infected if you are prepared to shake my hand.” Jason said jokingly as he eyed the young lady. She was obviously of Asian Indian descent, her tall, slim body was dressed in jeans and an EPA golf shirt that accentuated her beautiful figure. She had long jet-black hair that framed a beautiful face highlighted by stunning dark brown eyes.

“I didn’t think for a moment you would be Mr. Clifford,” Armanda smiled as she replied, revealing her perfect pearly whites, “Captain Cartwright briefed me on your situation and I did some research on Oak Ridge. I very much doubt whether there would have been much more than 85 grams of plutonium being transported and after being in the water this long it would have dissolved and dispersed by now anyway.” Her accent was totally American with no hint of an Indian accent, so, Jason thought she had either been born in the States or arrived at a very young age.

“Well, that’s a relief,” Jason replied, genuinely relieved and forgetting for a moment that he was in the presence of a beautiful woman.

“But, let’s check you out anyway, I want to have justification for driving here for five hours,” Armanda said laughing. “First I would like to test your boat.” She walked over to the boat, placed her clipboard on the seat next to the wheel and began to use her machine to test along the hull. As she bent down she revealed the tightness of her jeans over her athletic body, Jason began to have stirrings he hadn’t experienced since his wife had died. He was thinking about how this trip had turned his life around, in more ways than one.

“Doesn’t look as though you have encountered any exposure above the norm, Mr. Clifford,” Armanda said as she looked at some readings on her machine. That’s not what Jason was currently thinking.

“What do you mean, ‘above the norm’?” Jason inquired.

“Well, you would be surprised how much radioactive waste you can be exposed to during your daily life. In fact, on this river, you may be exposed to more radioactive products than you were in the marina. So yes, there are some traces but way below safe levels.”

“What is that machine?” Jason asked.

“It’s a FIDLER Detector, designed to find levels of plutonium.” Armanda replied, “now it’s your turn, are we going onboard?”

“Sure,” Jason replied. He climbed onto the boat first and then assisted Armanda. “Welcome aboard.”

“Thank you,” Armanda replied. Jason then led the way down to the cabin area.

“Can I get you anything? Coke, coffee, water?” Jason asked.

“No thanks, this won’t take long, I would like to get back on the road to get home at a reasonable hour,” Armanda responded.

“Sure,” Jason said.

“O.K., I have a questionnaire to quickly go through and then a couple of physical tests and we’re done,” Armanda said as she gripped a pen in her hand and began to ask him her questions.

“Sounds good,” Jason said.

“What makes you think that you have been exposed to plutonium?” Armanda asked. Jason gave a quick explanation of his suspicions, without the gory details, and the reason why he was doing it.

“Any nausea? Headaches feeling ill since you dove down to the boat?” Armanda asked.

“No,” Jason replied, shaking his head sideways.

“No loss of hair by the looks of things,” Armanda said, looking at Jason’s thick thatch of hair.

“Any open sores or cuts when you went diving?” Armanda asked.

“No,” Jason replied, checking over his body as he did so. “Would that have been a problem?”

“Potentially. However, inhalation is the worst thing that can happen when it comes to plutonium but since you were diving and breathing from an underwater apparatus that’s not applicable in your case.” Armanda explained. “Interestingly, plutonium is far more poisonous than the cyanide used in the German gas chambers, yet people work safely with it every day, as long as it doesn’t get into your bloodstream or it is inhaled. The only risk you would have had is taking in plutonium orally, but as it is absorbed poorly through the stomach and bowels it is expelled from your body before it can do any harm. So, you would still be reasonably safe, unless of course, the volumes were unusually high.”

“Good to know,” Jason said absently.

After a few more questions, it was time for blood and urine tests. The blood test was quick and painless, and Armanda vacated the boat for the urine test, even though the toilet on the boat was private with a door. Jason did his thing then climbed off the boat and gave Armanda his deposit, with just a little embarrassment but she accepted it as though this was a regular occurrence.

“Well, thank you, Mr. Clifford, I am sure the tests will prove negative and if they don’t we will be in touch,” Armanda said as she held out her hand.

“Thank you, are you sure I can’t tempt you in a beverage of some kind over at the pub?” Jason asked shaking her hand and holding it maybe a little longer than necessary.

“Lovely offer but I’m already paying my babysitter overtime, I’m afraid I need to get back,” Armanda replied with that beautiful smile of hers but simultaneously crushing Jason as he learned that she was a mother and probably happily married in Kansas.

“But hey, good luck with your project, I’ll be following the results closely,” Armanda said as she waved goodbye, got into her vehicle, quickly stowed her results and was soon driving away.

Jason absently watched as her SUV disappeared into the distance and was suddenly brought out of his reverie by a leery Charlie.

“What were you getting up to on your boat with that young lady Mr. Clifford?” Charlie asked lasciviously.

“Ha, it’s not what you think Charlie, not what you think at all,” Jason replied.

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