Ghost Marina on the Mississippi

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Chapter 51 – Huge Test – Modern Day

Jason didn’t return to the marina until the day of the lunch, he had anticipated this eventuality and had brought sufficient clothing for a long stay at Caroline’s. He had been in contact with Dexter to ensure all was on schedule and on their arrival, he was pleased to see not only David in attendance for lunch but also Helen, Dexter’s wife. Dexter explained that he thought it would be nice to have an additional female at the table to keep Caroline company. Jason never did find out who was cooking the food that day but nevertheless, it was still as good as on the previous occasion.

It appeared that the size of the quest’s group had grown, and a good time was had by all. David handed over an envelope to Jason, it contained the money for the currency transaction. David also insisted on paying for a couple of rounds of drinks, claiming that he hadn’t had as much fun in a long time. David also took the opportunity to take Caroline to one side to present her with an offer for the jewelry, which she readily accepted. David promised her that a banker’s draft would be available for pick-up at his store the following week. Caroline returned to her seat at the table and with a huge smile on her face she whispered to Jason the price she had received. Then she tapped a fork on her wine glass a few times to get everyone’s attention.

“Everyone, I have great news,” Caroline began, “I have accepted an offer for the jewelry and you, Chuck, Bill, Archie, and Dexter will each be receiving $20,00.00 for helping us with the recovery of these items.” There was a large cheer that caught the attention of everyone in the pub but only for a few seconds, then they all turned back to mind their own business.

The only blight on the occasion was Bill. Whatever the poor man was stricken with, he wouldn’t tell anyone, was obviously eating away at him. His appetite was gone, he looked deathly pale and had lost an awful lot of weight, even during the couple of weeks since Jason had last seen him. After lunch, which extended to well into the afternoon, Archie helped Bill to his car and was actually allowed to drive Bill home.

Caroline and Jason retired to the boat and after they both checked emails on their corresponding devices they sat top-deck sharing a bottle of wine between them as they watched the boats go by on the river. Jason cracked out some cheese and crackers and they stayed there until the sun finally went down.

Early the next morning, after a quick visit to the Blue Moon, again sans Bill, Caroline and Jason were on the road to Cleveland and arrived there late that evening. Once more, Jeanette had been in to ensure the fridge was well-stocked, only this time, she had gone to town. There were all sorts of extra treats, wine, beer, assorted meats and cheeses. On the kitchen table were two envelopes, one contained a couple of tickets to the Rock and Roll Hall of fame, the other, three tickets to the Saturday afternoon Indians vs Red Sox game. There was also a handwritten note attached:

Hi dad, you’re taking granddad to the game, he’s expecting you to pick him up at noon and granny is expecting you over there at 1:00 on Sunday. We’ll all be over later for dinner.

See u then

Love you J.

“Well, it seems our weekend is all planned out for us. And you thought it would be boring!” Jason said and then did an exaggerated “hmph”.

“Well, at least we get the mornings to relax,” Caroline replied with a wink.

“Assuming one of the girls can’t wait until Sunday and decide to turn up here to check you out tomorrow,” Jason said.

“They won’t,” Caroline replied with some certainty, and she was correct, they didn’t.

Just before lunch the next day, they arrived at Jason’s parent’s house to pick his dad up to go to the game. Jason’s mother and father were briefly introduced to Caroline, but the ensuing chit-chat was cut short by Jason’s demand to get moving to proceed to the game. William Clifford was resplendent in his Indians t-shirt and berated Jason for not wearing his. They enjoyed the usual stadium fare for lunch and enjoyed a good game of baseball, albeit a defeat for the good guys. Jason drove his dad back home after the game, then, he drove to a restaurant on the lake where he and Caroline had dinner before visiting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The next morning, on arrival at Jason’s parents’ house his mother was fussing around, as usual, as though royalty had just walked into her home. Jason’s father merely offered them a beer and continued to lament on the defeat his beloved Indians had suffered at the hands of the hated Red Sox. Jason’s mother was interested to know what Caroline thought of the visit to the Hall and what her favorite exhibit was.

“Well, I’m a huge Beatles fan so I just loved what they had done for them,” Caroline responded.

“I suppose Jason had to go and visit the Bob Dylan exhibit?” Jason’s mother asked.

“Yes, we did, it was quite good,” Caroline said.

“Good? It was fantastic.” Jason said.

“Can’t see what you see in him, can’t sing to save his life and how he got a Nobel prize I’ll never know!” Jason’s mother ranted.

“It was his writing, his way with words, just listen to the songs.” Jason countered while the others laughed.

A few more pleasantries were exchanged with Caroline before Jason took control of the conversation.

“Mum, dad, as you know, Caroline has been helping me find out about granddad. She also lost her grandmother in the accident.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that my dear.” Jason’s mother said and laid a hand on Caroline’s arm to console her.

“Well,” Jason said continuing, “Caroline has located a niece of the man who was on the boat with granddad, she is the same age as you dad, and his only immediate descendant. You see there is some good news coming out of this. I found a safe on the boat granddad was on and I managed to salvage it. With the help of a locksmith, one of the members of the group at the pub, we found money in the safe. The notes and change were in pristine condition and it turns out that they were worth something. So, we found a buyer and, after deducting a small amount for expenses,” Jason smiled and looked at Caroline who reciprocated, “we have split the proceeds in half and your cut is $10,000.00.” At that point, Jason handed an envelope containing the money over to his father. Jason’s mother walked over to her husband and put a hand on his shoulder, the other went to her mouth suppressing a sound of total surprise. Jason’s father looked at it for a moment before responding.

“We can’t accept this,” William said abruptly and held it out to return to Jason.

“Why not dad, it belongs to you!” Jason replied, “if not you then who should get it?”

“I don’t like it, it’s probably dirty money. If it was all above board why couldn’t you just give me a cheque instead of carrying around this much money?” William asked, “why cash?”

“Perhaps I can answer that one, Mr. Clifford,” Caroline interceded, “you’re absolutely correct, although dirty money may be a bit strong. First of all, apart from us and a small group of people who helped in the salvaging of the safe, no one is aware of the money. There is absolutely no paper trail back to this cash. Secondly, even if there was, the contents of the safe were the belongings of the two men on board, your father and the other seaman, Tony. If the government’s case is that they are denying all knowledge of your father’s trip and any reason for it, then by default they can make no claim to anything that was on board the vessel at the time of its sinking. Furthermore, the salvager, in this case Jason, is entitled to retain anything he has salvaged. So, yes Mr. Clifford, as the direct descendent of Ray Clifford you are his sole heir. The reason for the cash is simple. Any cheque transactions may draw the attention of some government agency and it may have to go into escrow until it is settled, but that settlement would most certainly be in your favor. This way the government is none the wiser.”

William retracted his arm and the envelope rested on his lap for a few seconds while he gave Caroline’s eloquent speech some serious thought.

“We could finally go on that cruise we keep talking about, William!” Jason’s mother said softly.

“Damn it, the bastards owe me at least that much. Why not?” William said, “who wants another beer, I think we should celebrate!”

By the time the rest of the family arrived, Caroline was in the kitchen assisting in the dinner preparations and Jason was in the den with his father watching the next installment of the Cleveland vs Red Sox series. The two girls and their respective companions arrived together, Jason didn’t know if that was planned or pure coincidence but for him, it meant there would only be one moment of truth.

“Hi, I’m Jeannette and this is my fiancée, Allan,” Jeanette said enthusiastically and reached out a hand.

“Hi, Caroline Ashdene.” Caroline accepted the hand from Jeannette and then did the same with Alan with a quick ‘Hi’. Next was Shirley, Jason figured that if there were to be any fireworks, this was the time the touch paper would be lit. But before Shirley had an opportunity to even introduce herself, her partner, Allison, pointed at Caroline with one hand and put her finger to her mouth as though she was considering something.

“Are you the Caroline Ashdene who worked on that LGBT case in New York against that big transport union?” Allison asked.

“Yes, guilty as charged!” Caroline replied.

“And you won, didn’t you?” Allison said almost in awe.

“Well, it was a slam dunk really,” Caroline replied modestly but it was enough to break the ice and the rest of the afternoon was spent as though Caroline had been a member of the family for years.

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