Ghost Marina on the Mississippi

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Chapter 55 – Compensation – Modern Day

At the end of Redmond’s account of the events leading up to the deaths of all those people on that fateful night, Caroline and Jason were silent.

“There would be no advantage to running this story through the courts. All the evidence has gone, there is no written account that Major General Groves or any other member of the U.S. government ever authorized any of this, let alone have any knowledge of it. Furthermore, all parties are long deceased, there are no witnesses to bring forward,” Redmond explained.

“If there is no evidence, how do you know all this?” Jason countered.

“Look, I’ll be honest with you, we found a couple of memos originating from Lieutenant General Groves’ office that were written shortly after the first bomb was dropped on Japan. They were inquiring on the whereabouts of your grandfather, Lawless, and Beardsley, he wanted to thank them for their involvement. He had no idea of what went down here or even about this place.” Redmond said opening his arms and looking around at what was once a proud marina. “Unfortunately, after years of covert operations, Beardsley’s definition of containment and that of Groves were poles apart. Beardsley went to work and did an effective job of containing the situation, unbeknown to Groves, were the methods that were used. The unscrupulous Beardsley had carried out his task to the letter and the cover-up was complete. We found scraps of evidence that substantiated your findings, but what little, written, documentation that existed appears to have, well, disappeared. So, much like your account, it is all summation, conjecture, and hearsay. It would be difficult to prove.” Redmond replied casually.

“I still have the photographs, including the ones of the logbook that proved the boats had docked here that night,” Jason said confidently. “And the photographs of where the two boats were submerged.”

“The photos are indistinct and could have been taken of anything, anywhere. There is no evidence to support the fact that the boats sank here. The photos of a logbook could be of any documentation, you don’t have the original documentation, consequently, it is all circumstantial.” Redmond said confidently.

“What about all the skeletons?” Jason asked.

“Again, could be of any skeletons. Our salvage crew, based on a tip, found the two boats at the bottom of the Mississippi with no bodies on board.” Redmond explained.

“Isn’t that convenient?” Jason said sarcastically.

“The current on this river could disperse bodies anywhere very quickly, never to be seen again,” Redmond said.

“What about the bodies encased in the wall over there?” Jason asked, pointing to what was once the entrance to the marina.

“What bodies?” Redmond succinctly replied.

“I have the photographs!” Jason said.

“Of what?” Redmond asked.

“You may seem to believe you have this all covered up Agent Redmond,” Caroline interceded, and she continued, quietly and confidently, “but we maintain a piece of evidence that would not only blow your retorts to smithereens but would also provide credibility to the photos that we have in our possession.” Redmond looked at Caroline who was standing there with the full arrogance of an experienced libel lawyer. Jason had no idea what the piece of evidence was that Caroline had mentioned but he acted as though he did. At first, Jason thought that Redmond looked unsure how to proceed, he stood with his arms crossed then suddenly burst out laughing.

“You’re bluffing of course, you have nada!” Redmond said through his laughter, “but look, let’s not get hung up on this. You know, and I know the real truth, I think I have a solution to settle this. Do you want to hear it?” Caroline and Jason looked at each other then they turned back to face Redmond and nodded their heads in assent.

“After the events of that fateful night, the government purchased this land right up to the road which you turned down to get here. The area stretches for half a mile on both sides of what was once the wall. Quite a large swath of land.” Redmond paused as his audience looked around, trying to assess the extent of the property and the reason for the explanation. “Here’s the deal, you can purchase this property for one cent.”

Caroline and Jason looked at him, mouths agape, totally astonished.

“That offer is only good for here and now and right now only.” Redmond said ominously, pointing to the ground accentuating the point, “if you want to pursue a legal approach I can assure you it will be dragged through the courts and you will not see a conclusion in your lifetime. Alternatively, take this opportunity to buy a nice piece of lake-front property. We can’t give the land to you, that would be an admission of guilt. Take the deal.”

“What about the descendants of all the other people who have died,” Jason asked, almost pleading.

“Look,” Redmond replied, solemnly, almost acting human with emotion, “it was wartime, things happened. Except for yourself and now, of course, Miss Ashdene, nobody else needs to know about this. If word got out that a court case was pending, there would be all sorts of relatives, genuine and fake, climbing out of the woodwork wanting a piece of the compensation. People claiming their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles were on board the Streamer that night, not to mention the band members and catering staff. Think about it, it would be a dog’s breakfast.”

“It just doesn’t seem fair that we alone should benefit from this when so many people lost their lives,” Jason said.

“Life isn’t fair, Jason,” Redmond replied. “You have been the only person in over 70 years to have questioned the events of that night. You have gone to the trouble of finding out the truth, you have discovered facts that even the government was not aware of. Take the deal, with the proceeds from the jewelry you will be able to build a beautiful house here.” Caroline and Jason looked at the agent in total surprise.

“Yeah yeah, we know about the artifacts you salvaged and the money.” Redmond admitted, “that definitely would not look good if you wanted to drag this through the courts. As I mentioned to you before, entering a government, restricted property and removing valuable assets, tut, tut, tut. By the way, don’t blame the jewelry store owner, he didn’t tell us, we have been investigating you since our first meeting. That too will come to an end if you take this deal, I promise you. But if you don’t…..”

“Do you mind if we have a quick conversation about this Agent Redmond?” Caroline asked as she began to usher Jason out of earshot. Redmond held out his arms and nodded his agreement.

“It’s a good deal,” Caroline said once they were a few yards away from their protagonist, “I think you should take it and put all this behind you.”

“I don’t know Caroline, it just doesn’t feel right!” Jason replied shaking his head.

“Jason, he’s right, they could drag this out for years and you would still end up getting nothing,” Caroline replied.

“By the way, what was that piece of evidence you have?” Jason asked.

“He’s right, it’s a bluff.” Caroline said, “if you want to do the right thing, take the deal and we could try and locate some of the descendants of the working people on the boat and maybe do something for them with the proceeds from the necklace. Trust me, none of the passengers’ heirs are hurting.” Caroline explained, “I think you should take it.”

Jason looked at her, letting her rationale sink in, weighing up the alternatives.

We should take it, Caroline,” Jason finally replied. “I could sell my house, we could build a beautiful mansion here and we could live in it for the rest of our lives.” Jason stared at the beautiful lady before him wondering what her reaction would be to such a profound, spontaneous statement.

“We take it!” Caroline said, smiled and linked her arm through Jason’s to return to Redmond to give him their decision. He had pretty much guessed the outcome, so he was not surprised.

“Good decision, I will get the paperwork rolling,” Redmond said and shook both their hands on the successful termination of the deal. “Oh, there’s just one more thing.”

Jason thought, now what? A caveat in the deal that prevents them from ever visiting the property or something equally as restrictive? Redmond was walking to the other side of the command center where a black tarpaulin was covering something that was on wheels, as that was all that was not hidden. As they came close to whatever it was, Agent Jordan appeared and took hold of one corner of the covering and with Redmond on another they slid the tarpaulin off to reveal the salvaged Chris-Craft Double Stateroom cabin cruiser that Jason’s grandfather had sailed into the marina.

“Now, I don’t pretend to know anything about boats,” Redmond began, “but I am led to believe that, surprisingly, the wood on this vessel is still in excellent condition. This is where the plutonium receptacle was housed,” Redmond said, stooping down and pointing to an area on the bottom of the hull. “It was encased in fiberglass, needless to say, we had to remove all evidence of that. But if you’re interested, the boat is yours. The engine is diesel, it could probably be started up with a few tweaks, if you knew what you were doing.”

“I don’t, but I know someone who does,” Jason replied, now probably more elated with this offering than the promise of the land.

Conclusion

Caroline and Jason took some time surveying their new property before returning to the marina. When they arrived at the pub they explained what had unfolded to the others and asked Chuck to return with them that afternoon to the site of their new home. Their ruse was that they needed his advice on the building of a boat dock, which they did, but it wouldn’t be given that day.

They arrived at the marina in Jason’s truck, Dexter and Archie accompanied Chuck on the trip, none of them knowing the real purpose of the drive. Chuck walked down to the shore to survey the lie of the land while Jason directed everyone else to the parked boat, concealed once more by the tarpaulin.

“Over here Chuck. I want to show you something.” Jason shouted out. Caroline and Jason then imitated the F.B.I.’s earlier positions and as Chuck approached they walked off the tarpaulin.

For a moment, time went backward, and Jason felt as though he was looking through the eyes of his grandfather while he watched the amazement of a seven-year-old boy gaping at the object of his dreams. Chuck slowly walked up to the boat and in silence lovingly ran his hand along the hull of the boat. The only blight on the boat’s appearance was where Redmond’s people had removed all evidence of the fiberglass and the plutonium receptacle, a few scrapes and holes had been made, but it didn’t seem to phase Chuck.

“It’s not in bad shape.” Archie remarked. “do you think you could restore it?”

“I can restore it.” Chuck replied as though he was in a trance. “I can restore it.”

Chuck insisted that they tow the boat back to his workshop right there and then, Jason had expected that, but nevertheless, he teased him, trying to think of objections to delay the delivery. It wasn’t until Caroline told Jason to stop that he reversed the truck up to the trailer to hook it up.

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A couple of years later, Caroline and Jason had married and moved into their custom-built house overlooking the Mississippi. They did indeed pursue descendants of the occupants of the Streamer. The band members’ heirs were easy to locate, and funds were provided where Caroline and Jason felt they would be of the most benefit. Finding the catering staff turned out to be impossible, there was no record of their names, they were transit workers being paid under the table and subsequently, nothing could be found.

Now, because of their new luxurious setting Caroline and Jason were regularly visited by Jason’s daughters and his parents; and of course, the pub crew. Chuck, Archie, Helen and Dexter would arrive either by Archie’s Chevy or Chuck’s beautifully restored Chris Craft. During one of those visits, Jason’s parents were also in residence. Chuck and Jason’s dad sat for a quiet moment talking of that encounter a young Chuck had with Jason’s grandfather, all those years ago. A degree of separation from the distant past, it was a poignant moment.

There was another reason to celebrate, Caroline gave birth to a boy that they named Reginald, in honor of her father. Caroline had suggested naming the baby, Sebastian but Jason declined saying his son Seb. had taken that name and was now at peace, this was a new life.

One beautiful, peaceful evening, the three of them, Caroline, Jason and Reggie were sitting on their swing at the edge of the water enjoying the serenity until Caroline decided it was Reggie’s bedtime. As they rose, Caroline took hold of Reggie’s little wrist to wave it at the paddling of ducks that were swimming idly across from where they were sitting.

“Night, night duckies,” Caroline whispered, they rose and began to head back to the house. Just at that second there was a splash right above where Jason had first seen the St. Louis Streamer. Jason glanced round and stepped back towards the waterline. Later, Jason said he could have sworn he had seen a ghostly arm, almost transparent, making a throwing motion towards them. Caroline suggested it was just a trick of the light, it was dusk, and daylight was fading. But there at their feet, glinting in the water, like phosphorescence on the sandy shoreline was a pair of ruby earrings. A few yards away, drifting to and fro with the gentle waves was a diamond-encrusted cigarette-holder.

AVAILABLE SOON:

Murder of a Late-Night TV Host

Genesis Déjà vu – The Early Years (third book in the series)

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