Chapter 30 – Meeting the Captain – Modern Day
After Armanda’s departure, Jason walked up the hill to join the others in the bar. For once, they didn’t talk about Jason’s quest but just shot the breeze talking about sports, politics and righting the world. Although, they did briefly discuss the pending visit of the Captain the following day and the others also persuaded Jason to have a quick trip in the morning to view the State Marina of Missouri for themselves. Although Jason was still reluctant to return to the marina he conceded to the others’ wishes but remained adamant about not attempting another negotiation of that entrance until it was cleared and deemed safe to do so. Any viewing would have to be from the river, the others agreed.
Jason didn’t stay in the pub that long, he decided to return to his truck and have a quick drive around the area. He found some shops and had a look around then decided to buy a Chinese take-out for dinner. After dinner, he went through his usual routine of checking his emails and phoning his daughters. They were both pleased about his findings and also that he sounded more enthusiastic about life. Shirley even resumed her attempts to get him involved in online dating and was pleasantly surprised to hear him consider it instead of dismissing it out-of-hand.
The next morning the others turned up to take the brief excursion to the State marina. Everyone was surprised to find Dexter had turned up too and ribbed him about the fact his wife would even let him out.
“Well, there were no deliveries scheduled for today, so Helen can handle it by herself for a couple of hours,” Dexter explained.
“Well, everybody, climb aboard,” Jason said and turned on the engine. It was a beautiful, clear day with very little chop on the water, so Jason was able to gun the engine a little and within forty minutes they were approaching the entrance to the State Marina of Missouri. Both Bill and Chuck had brought their own binoculars while Dexter and Archie shared Jason’s. Jason cleared the channel markers and while regularly checking his depth sounder he slowly motored as close to the entrance as he was prepared to risk.
The concrete and lead structure were clearly visible as they neared the entrance and Jason pointed out where he had stored the head that he had unwittingly unearthed, although, not wishing to see it again. From the south-westernmost point they could just see inside a small section of the marina and could make out a few of the masts and piles that still remained and of course the wall that completely encircled the marina. They could also clearly see the broken pieces of concrete penetrating the surface of the water at the entrance making entry completely out of the question. Jason turned the boat around and headed upriver to inspect the wall from the outside, something he didn’t do on his last trip. But there was nothing to glean, the wall was solid everywhere else, which made it even stranger to Jason that the wall was still impenetrable after all these years, yet at the precise moment he went by on his boat, just a few days ago, the piece of the structure at the entrance had collapsed. Perhaps it was the interminable current of the Mississippi that had finally weakened the foundations because the rest of the wall appeared solid, or maybe something else caused it, something not of this world.
The return trip was uneventful and by the time they arrived at the marina, it was time for their meeting. Captain Jeremiah Cartwright had obviously visited Chuck’s watering-hole many times before and they greeted each other like long lost friends, which indeed they were. Chuck introduced everyone, ordered drinks, and appetizers and they sat down in their usual little round-table in the corner of the bar. Jeremiah was not in uniform, so he wasn’t conspicuous in that regard in a bar full of tourists. But what did attract attention was his deep jovial laugh that seemed to erupt from the pit of his stomach at anything that was even remotely funny. His clear blue eyes would begin to well-up and tears would fall down his red-faced cheeks in a fit of laughter as his whole rotund body would shake with the sheer mirth of it all. Yes, you could say, Jeremiah was a man who loved life.
“So, do you miss not going out on the boats Jeremiah?” Chuck asked.
“Not really, Chuck,” Jeremiah replied, “it’s a young man’s game now and I can still get out there occasionally if I choose to, but Elena is pleased I finally have a regular 9-5 job.”
“How is Elena?” Chuck asked, referring to Jeremiah’s long-time wife.
“She’s great and now that I have a job with normal hours she flies away to visit the grandkids in California,” Jeremiah said and burst out laughing with a thigh-slapping gesture. It was an infectious laugh and the others were all laughing helplessly with the man.
The drinks arrived, brought by a smiling Helen, who was now in on the plot and supported her husband’s participation in the proceedings, much to the relief of Dexter. Then it was Jason’s turn to be center stage and provide an account and theory to what had been discovered to date. Jason backed up his statements with the photographs, his findings and all the evidence to date. Jeremiah sat stolidly throughout the explanation and did not utter a word or ask a single question. When Jason had finished, even though Jeremiah had arranged for Jason to be tested by the EPA, it didn’t look as though the man had bought one iota of the story. In fact, for a full minute, nobody said a word, it was almost as if the excellent presentation of the facts and theories Jason had just provided was so incredible, it was difficult for the others to believe as well. Just then, Helen brought another couple of plates containing appetizers that included nachos, bruschetta, and calamari.
“That is just too unbelievable!” Jeremiah whispered as he shook his head in disbelief. Jason had been pinning all his hopes on Jeremiah for a path forward and his shoulders slumped in disillusionment.