Chapter 65 of Silent Vector

Chapter 65, in which Nick does a bit of impulse shopping

CHAPTER 65

SHOPPING SPREE

The 36-foot Chris-Craft Constellation Nick chartered for the earlier shoreline search sits tied up once again in Frenchtown. Nick and the charter company’s representative are engaged in an unexpected round of negotiations as Cristobal and Dalila get the team’s duffel bags out of the Jeep and onto the boat.

“That’s bullshit. We had a deal. Three days at the hourly rate.”

“There’s nothing I can do about it. I have my orders.”

“And I have mine. Are the provisions on board?”

“Well, yes.”

“Then this is nothing more than a stick up.”

“Depends on your point of view, I suppose.”

“Point of view my ass. Wait here.”

Nick returns to the Jeep. He pulls a pen and a small check register out of the glove compartment. He puts the register on the car’s roof, writes a check, tears it out of the register and returns the register and pen to the glove compartment.

Nick walks back to the rep and hands him a check from the U.S. Treasury.

“What the hell is this?”

“I just bought your boat.”

“It isn’t for sale.”

“You’re right. Uncle Sam owns it and he’s not selling it. Or would you prefer I requisition it with a promise to pay up later? We can go that route. Either way, the boat’s mine. I’m just trying to be fair.”

“What?”

“Look. I haven’t got time for this. Take the check to Government House. They’ll authenticate it for you. You’ve already got the cash for the three days. If the draft doesn’t clear you can call the cops when three days are up, but I’m going to warn you that doing anything other than cashing that check, which is for a helluva lot more than your fucking boat’s worth, would be a very bad idea. Got it?”

Nick leaves the stunned rep staring at the check.

“Everything set?” Cristobal asks.

“The cruise is a little more expensive than our earlier estimates.”

“He squeeze you for more dough?”

“Lots more, but the boat’s ours. Consider it the latest addition to the U.S. Navy. Let’s get under way. Dalila, I’ll get the lines; you get us out of here.”

Dalila heads for the helm. Anyone seeing her dressed in white sneakers, navy blue Capri pants, and a light yellow sleeveless blouse could not be blamed for thinking she is simply a beautiful woman about to spend the day relaxing on a luxury yacht cruising the Caribbean. But her appearance belies her focus and dedication to the mission which, a focus that is every bit as intense as that of her teammates. Nick can’t help thinking how perfectly suited she is to this work, and how lucky he is to have her on board.

She starts the Constellation’s twin diesel engines. Cristobal takes the bow line from Nick and stows it on the forward deck in a Flemish coil. Nick releases the stern line from a cleat on the pier and jumps on board with the line in his hand.

“Okay, Dalila. Take us out.”

Dalila engages the twin screws and, mindful to synchronize the RPMs for the two engines, opens the throttles and slowly guides the boat away from the pier and into the bay. The lessons Nick gave her on their first cruise stuck, and now she works the helm with confidence and skill.