The Hispanic accent really threw me. “Yes, this is Pat Ruger. Who am I speaking to?”
“This is Andres Rafael Blanco, Capitan de Navio of the Bolivarian Navy of Venezuela. Mister Ruger, what is it you want?”
I sat down on my sofa and thought for a moment. I never even considered that the Venezuelan Navy would be calling.
“Captain Blanco, we seem to be at an impasse. There are several hundred passengers here who have been terrorized by pirates and now by you. What must we do to be able to leave?”
“I do understand your predicament, Mister Ruger, but we also have a predicament. We were promised a substantial reward by a certain party and we must pay a portion to … another certain party.”
“Your English is excellent, sir.”
“Thank you, I attended U.C.L.A. for three years and learned the language during that time.”
“How can I help resolve this situation? We’ve got a lot of scared people on board.”
“We need to collect a substantial amount. We can’t let you leave until we do.”
“Who are you dealing with here? This is the first I’ve heard it.”
“Your captain. We’ve been waiting for his return call.”
“How much did you ask him for?”
“Yes, 25 million U.S. dollars.”
“With all due respect, what about the U.S. Navy? Won’t they have something to say about it?”
There was a pause and Captain Blanco sounded a bit more defensive when he answered. “As long as we have our guns pointed at your ship, the Americans will do nothing.”
“Twenty-five million … I might be able to swing that.” My mind was racing but I had an idea.
“Excellent. How much time do you need?”
That was something you didn’t often hear from a perp. “I’m not sure, but I do have to let the U.S. know what’s going on. They’re on radio silence, so we’ll have to take a lifeboat over. Otherwise, they might not let us make the payment to you.”
“Understood,” Blanco replied. “Two people only, in the next two hours. Then I’ll call and you will need to be ready.”
“Thank you, Captain Blanco. I’ll talk to you in a couple of hours, then.”
I hung up the phone and noticed Leta was now naked and sitting back, leaning on her arms. “I’ve got to go,” I said.
She frowned and flopped back down with a sigh.
I had to find Jimmy, then the Captain, our captain. He had some explaining to do.
I went to Jimmy’s cabin and knocked. “Yo, partner! You in there?” I knocked again.
I heard the door unlock and it opened up. Jimmy was dressed and looking refreshed.
“What is this, your second honeymoon?” It was good to see him happy.
“Sort of, I guess. What’s happening? We haven’t moved yet.”
“Well, there’s a snag. I’ll fill you in on the way to find the Captain.”
“Maybe you should change clothes. You look like you slept in those …”
“You’re right; I wasn’t thinking. I’ll go change and meet you on the bridge in ten minutes.
I decided I could use a quick shower and was thankful to find my cabin empty. No time for fooling around, I told myself. I disrobed, spent two minutes in the shower, dried off and got dressed in a fresh pair of blue jeans and a gray Polo shirt.
Jimmy was waiting for me outside the bridge and we went in together.
“Captain Haagensen, may we have a word?” I asked, making him look up from his video controls.
“Certainly,” he relied. “What can I do for you?”
“You’ve been speaking with the Venezuelans,” Jimmy asserted. “Where are we with negotiations?”
“Nowhere, for the moment. They’re asking for $20 million and the cruise line won’t pay it.”
“Twenty million?” I wasn’t too surprised. “Captain Blanco told me 25.”
“So you’ve been talking to them?”
“Yes,” I replied. “I was able to get him to call me. Captain, I may have a way to get that ransom paid. Do you have any objections?”
“I should say not. I’ve been quietly working with many groups to try to come up with it. How will you get it?”
“Never mind that. We need to talk to the American Navy. The only way to do that is if we take a lifeboat over. Blanco gave us two hours to get there.”
“I’ll have a boat readied. Give us about 25 minutes.”
“Aye-aye,” Jimmy retorted and we left the bridge.
“What now?” Jimmy asked me.
“Well, it’s time to find T.J.”