With half of the armed men behind us and half in front, we were disarmed and marched to the lowest outside deck, where a mixed group of naval and civilian men were waiting. They lined us up along the external wall facing the walkway and rail — me, Jimmy, Junior, Fosse, T.J. and Cesaro — and I wondered what was about to happen.
“Junior, your uncle sent us to retrieve you.” The man speaking wore a quasi-military uniform and was holding a large revolver, waving it at one person, then another. He definitely was not Venezuelan navy. In fact, his English sounded more like Jersey Puerto Rican.
Junior didn’t seem relieved. “It wasn’t my fault, I swear.”
“A tragedy. I remember Stephanie when she was …” He held his hand out below his belt to signify about two feet tall. “I gave her a Barbie doll when she was four.”
“I know, Pepe. She didn’t deserve this.”
“Who did this cowardly thing?”
Junior walked to Cesaro and pointed him out. “This man, he killed Stephanie.”
“Excuse me, let me explain,” I tried to calm the situation. “Interpol is aware of our investigation and will be coming to question this man. He …”
Shots rang out, piercing our eardrums. When I looked up, wisps of smoke were coming from the outstretched barrel of Pepe’s revolver and Cesaro was down, blood pouring out on the deck from his body. The realization hit that we could be next.
“Sir,” Jimmy spoke up. “With Junior’s help we were able to find this man for your family. We were hoping to take him to the authorities so he would stand trial, but you’ve made that unnecessary.”
Pepe waved to his men to take care of Cesaro and 3 of them picked him up and threw his body overboard.
“Can I ask,” Jimmy continued, “what you’ll be doing with the pirates?”
“They are gone. They fled when our three warships arrived.” He dropped the gun barrel down and seemed to relax. “We’ll be leaving now, too. Junior, you’re coming with us.” He again waved to his armed men, who quickly grabbed Junior and escorted him off, presumably to board their ship.
A loud boom came from a distance. Then another. The Venezuelans scrambled, leaving the room and Pepe in a hurry. Pepe leaned over the rail and looked aft. “Putos!”
“What’s going on?” I asked.
Pepe didn’t answer. Instead he followed the sailors off the deck.
Jimmy ran over and looked for himself. “It’s the U.S. Navy,” he announced, sounding relieved. “Maybe we can get on with our lives now.”
“Go check on Erin; I’ll go to the bridge.”
“See you in a bit,” Jimmy replied and he disappeared.
I looked back over the rail and could no longer see the Venezuelan ships. That was quick, I said to myself. Looking around, I summed up my surroundings. Junior was gone, Jimmy was gone, Pepe and his people were gone, Cesaro was dead and gone. It was just me, Fosse and T.J. and not a gun among us. T.J. obviously realized this because he scurried away without a sound.
“What now?” Fosse asked.
“The bridge,” I answered. “We have to get some answers.” I thought for a moment. “Can you restore the cell signal?”
“Depends on what they did to take it down.”
“You go try. I’ve got a cabin to visit and then I’ll meet you at the bridge.”
Fosse nodded and he left quickly. I started my way to my cabin and Leta.
When I finally arrived, I furiously knocked on my cabin door. “Leta, open up! It’s Pat!”
A moment later the door opened and Leta lunged into my arms. Letting me loose slightly, she asked, “Are you okay?”
“Pretty much,” I said as I unwound her from me and hurried in. “How about you? Did they take everything?” I stepped through and opened the door to the balcony.
“Yes, everything important, but …”
“… But not the hidden cell phone …” I said as I pulled the sparkling apparatus out of the flower pot. I had to look again but found the battery, blew the moss and dirt off of it and installed it in the back of the phone. I turned it on and waited the eternity it takes to boot up, but found no signal available yet when it was up and running.
“What’s going on? Are they gone?”
“Well, the pirates are gone, the Venezuelans are gone, and the crime family, but the U.S. Navy is coming close.”
“Is that a bad thing?”
“I hope not.”