An Excerpt from...
"A Friend of the Devil"
Jimmy Buffett played on the juke box as Perry Garrett came in off the sidewalk. JB moved into the second verse of Margaritavillewhile Garrett surveyed the densely populated establishment. Wide, but not very deep, the bar was directly in front of him. It ran the entire width of the room, sweeping gently around the inside corner at each end and creating a wide horseshoe that encompassed the three sides opposite the street. Four tenders worked diligently, moving efficiently up and down the aisle between the back wall with its long, high mirrors and shelves of various whiskies, vodkas, gins, and rums, and the elaborately crafted, yet well worn bar in front of them, a remnant of
era long since passed. There were other tables and chairs scattered about, several of them filled by hard looking men with tanned, weathered faces. Real old salts, Garrett thought to himself.
Perry grabbed an empty barstool and waited for a server to take his drink order.
“What’ll it be?” one of the barmen queried.
“Amstel Light if you have it,” Garrett replied.
“Coming right up.”
The bartender returned, placed the bottle and a glass down, and took the twenty dollar bill that Garrett had put on the bar. When the man came back with the change, Perry told him what the motel owner had said regarding a referral to a charter captain.
“We’re a little busy right now. Wait till the things slow down and I’ll see who’s here.”
“I’m looking for someone who has a big enough boat to cruise around a little. I may want to do some sightseeing and visit some of the islands,” Perry said.
“Which islands are we talking about?” the bartender asked.
“The lower Keys, maybe Jamaica or the Caymans,” Garrett replied.
“That’s more than just a little offshore jaunt. You know that, don’t you?”
“I was told that Captain Milt’swas the place to come,” Garrett said. “So here I am.”
The bartender glared at Garrett for a moment.
“We’re not talking about smuggling or drug-running here?” the bartender asked.
“Not at all,” Garrett replied. “I’m just looking for a long boat ride to see some sights and do a little fishing. I’ve got the time, and most importantly, I’ve got the resources, shall we say.”
The barman nodded his head while continuing to study Garrett’s face.
“Like I said, hang out for a while. I’ll ask around.”
Perry watched the crowd and listened to the music for two hours. He nursed his way through four beers before the bartender directed him to a gentleman sitting alone at one of the tables in the center of the room by the entrance. Garrett placed a fifty dollar bill on the bar and thanked the barkeep.
“My name is Tony St. Vincent,”Garrett said as he stood before the charter captain. “May I sit?”
The other man made an almost imperceptible gesture for Perry to take the chair opposite him.
“O’Connor,”the other man stated. “Jack O’Connor. Terry says that you’re looking to hire a boat.”
“I would assume that Terry is the bartender?” Garrett asked.
“A good assumption,” O’Connor replied.
The two men sat across from one another and said nothing. Jack O’Connor was a man in his late fifties, Perry guessed. He appeared to be of average height and build, and his hair was on the longer side, graying, and thinning slightly at the top. His face was tanned and his eyes were a deep blue. O’Connor’s hands rested on the table by his drink. They were large and roughened by demands of his trade. The charter captain’s expression was neutral and revealed no emotion.
“You don’t say very much, Mr. O’Connor,” Perry commented.
“Thus my nickname,” O’Connor replied.
“And what would that be?”
Garrett nodded his head and nothing was said for another few moments.
“Did you earn that designation because you are a man who knows how to keep his mouth shut about the affairs of his clients?” Perry asked.
O’Connor never broke eye contact with Garrett.
“Depends,”the seaman responded.
“What I’m being asked to keep quiet about,” O’Connor said. “And on how much I am compensated for that silence.”
There was a flurry of activity around them, but these two men spoke as if they were completely alone, oblivious to the crowd and the noise.
“May I place my cards on the table then, sir, and trust that you are a professional?” Perry asked.
“Mr.St. Vincent, we’re just two guys sharing a drink and a little conversation. If I don’t like what you have to say, I can get up and walk away. You’ll be forgotten by the time my head hits the pillow.”
“Fair enough then,” Garrett said. “I’m looking to engage a charter. My final destination is George Town on the island of Grand Cayman. From there, you’re on your own and we never met. Should I continue?”
O’Connor nodded his head.
“I’m not a drug smuggler or anything of that sort. I simply need a discreet method of getting from point A to point B. How much would such a ride cost me if you were to provide the transportation?”
For the first time since Garrett sat down, Quiet Johnbroke eye contact and stared at his drink. He picked up the tumbler, sampled its contents, then returned the glass to its
original place on the table.
“Ten-thousand and you buy the fuel. That’ll run you another two.”
Garrett crunched the numbers in his head. He would have about eighteen thousand remaining in cash. He’d also have access to three million dollars once he opened his account and deposited the bearer bonds.
“That’s fair,” Garrett responded. “Can we leave tomorrow?”
“I need to check the weather forecast for the Gulf over the next few days. But if everything looks reasonable, we could leave at midday,”O’Connor replied. “And there are a few ground rules.”
“Such as?” Garrett asked.
“You don’t tell anyone where we’re going. I get the money before we leave the dock. No guns. Absolutely no drugs, not even a joint. And I get you there as I see fit. Once onboard, I’m the one in charge. No discussion.”
“All I care about Captain O’Connor is getting there safely,” Garrett said.
“Well then, Mr. St Vincent, you have yourself a charter.”
Perry hesitated for a second.
“I have to ask, and please don’t be offended, but how do I know I can trust you?” Perry asked.
Each man had his eyes locked on the other.