Into the Darkness By C.S. Michaels

Jake Bryant lay in bed looking at the first rays of sunlight coming through the dirty, dingy window that was ten feet above the ground. He was lying on his side, facing the window thinking it was going to be another sunny and beautiful day in Mexico. He tried to tell himself that he was in paradise and that he was going to enjoy a great day. Unfortunately, he wasn’t going to get the chance to enjoy the beautiful day because Jake was going to spend this day like he’d spent so many others because he was sitting in a cell in a Mexican prison.
Into the Darkness
Into the Darkness By C.S. Michaels

Jake looked around the prison cell that he had called home for the last three months. There was one window in the cell which Jake was staring at. It was too small for a man to fit through and had bars on it so there would be no chance of anyone getting out even if they tried.

The walls were made of concrete that was about sixty years old, if not older. The concrete was breaking off in places and the color of the walls was a dark gray and black which was the result of decades of not being cleaned. The floor was also made of concrete and it was cracked and dirty from thousands of inmates over the years.

Although the cell was fifty feet long and forty feet wide, Jake was in the cell with nine other inmates, which made it seem smaller than it actually was. From what Jake had gathered, all the prisoners in this wing of the prison were the worst of the worst. They were all convicted of murder.

The government housed them together because the authorities didn’t care if they beat or killed one another. If someone died, the guards would haul them out of the cell as if it were nothing more than a dead rat. Jake always assumed the authorities didn’t care if a prisoner died because it was just one less mouth to feed.

The first thing that struck Jake when he was thrown in the cell was the smell. It was the worst smell he had ever experienced. Jake soon learned the smell was the result of a couple of factors.

The prisoners weren’t allowed to shower very often and there was one toilet that they all shared. Sometimes the toilet worked and sometimes it didn’t. When it didn’t work, the guards were in no hurry to have it fixed and it just continued to fill up and often ran out onto the floor.

Jake thought he would have been used to the smell by now, but that wasn’t the case. It smelled as bad, if not worse, than the day he arrived. He had come to realize that he wouldn’t ever get used to the smell and would just have to learn to live with it.

Jake sat up and swung his legs over the side of his cot, putting his feet on the ground. Jake’s normally short brown hair was now past his shoulders and was curling up at the ends. It hadn’t been cut since before he was sentenced to this horrendous place. They didn’t have a mirror in the prison cell, but Jake suspected it didn’t look very good.

He hadn’t shaved in three months so his beard was starting to get long which gave him a scraggly, homeless man look. He had emerald green eyes and over his left eye was a two inch scar that was due to a rifle butt that had been slammed against his head three months ago. The doctors in the hospital stitched him up, but the stitching was crude and they weren’t worried about how it healed.

He was wearing white pants with gray stripes. The bottom of the pants barely went past his shins and was frayed at the ends. When he was first issued the pants, they were two sizes too small around the waist. The guards just shoved the clothes at Jake and they had to accept what they were given. The pants may have been small when he arrived in the prison, but after three months of eating the slop they called food, the pants fit him well now – at least around the waist.

His shirt had the same white with gray strips as the pants. It was a long-sleeve shirt, although Jake couldn’t understand why they would issue long sleeve shirts in a hot, humid place like this. The shirt was in the same ratty condition as the pants and the sleeves ended two inches before his wrists.

Clearly they just passed down uniforms from inmate to inmate so they could save money. Jake suspected they passed down the uniforms when someone died. From his understanding, that was the only option since no one was ever allowed to leave the prison.

The guards were very strict about wearing the uniform the way it was meant to be. Jake had once rolled up the sleeves because he was hot and it was bothering him that the sleeves were so short. He quickly wished he had left the sleeves alone because this action earned him a beating from the guards.

Apparently, they weren’t allowed to alter their precious uniforms. He learned right away not to do anything or say anything that would draw attention. From that day forward, he kept his head down and his mouth shut, trying desperately to stay out of trouble. At least that’s what his plan was. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way for him. It seemed like everyone else was looking to cause trouble for Jake.

Sure enough, it looked like trouble was about ready to find Jake again. Jake looked across the cell, watching a man walking towards him. The person Jake was watching was a big man called Pedro. He was an overweight, loud man that had just been convicted and thrown into this cell the night before. Apparently, he was well known because a couple of the other inmates knew him. It seemed this wasn’t his first stint in prison, although this would be his last. Everyone in this cell was sentenced to life.

Unlike the United States, there were no appeals, at least not for the inmates in this prison and there certainly wasn’t any chance of parole. They were just thrown in prison and forgotten. From what Jake was told, this prison had their own set of rules and didn’t follow the laws that other prisons followed. He didn’t know if that was true or not but either way, it appeared to be a very bleak future for Jake.

Jake continued watching Pedro make his way towards him, knowing trouble was about to start. Two of the other inmates stopped Pedro. They both whispered something to him, pointing at Jake. Jake guessed they were telling him not to mess with him. He had already kicked most of the guy’s asses that were in this cell, so they now had a certain amount of respect for him. Generally speaking, they just left him alone. Not many of the other prisoners talked to him, which suited Jake just fine. However, it looked to Jake like that was about to change.

When Jake was first thrown into the cell, he spent the first couple of days fighting each and every one of them. One by one he took it to them. Sometimes it was a fair fight, other times they ganged up on him and had two or three of them fight Jake. In a fair fight he gave more than he had gotten, but when he was out numbered he often times got more than he gave. Eventually, the inmates started referring to him as El Diablo.

Jake had once asked one of the inmates why they called him by that name. Apparently there was a famous bull at one time named El Diablo. Jake guessed that they gave him that nickname because of the way he fought. He thought of it as a compliment, knowing they could have given him far worse nicknames.

Pedro pushed the other two away from him and continued walking over to Jake. Jake slowly stood up and looked at Pedro. Unlike all the others in the cell, Pedro’s uniform actually fit, which seemed unusual to Jake considering Pedro was pushing three hundred and fifty pounds. Jake figured that Pedro must have some influence if he was able to get a new uniform. Either that or they just didn’t have any used uniforms that were big enough to fit him.

Pedro stopped a couple of feet away from Jake. The big Mexican was about the same height as Jake, but he outweighed Jake by a good one hundred and forty pounds. Jake was normally a hundred and eighty-five pounds, which still made him lean for his six foot one frame. After three months in prison he was lucky if he weighed a hundred and seventy pounds.

Pedro stood there staring at Jake, waiting for him to avert his eyes. Obviously, Pedro didn’t know who he was dealing with. Jake never averted his eyes when someone was trying to intimidate him because he absolutely refused to be intimidated. Jake had spent his whole life around people that wanted to intimidate him and they all learned quickly that he would not be intimidated.

Pedro said something to Jake in Spanish. After three months in prison, Jake had started to understand quite a bit of Spanish. However, he didn’t let on to anyone that he could understand the language because it was a good way to listen to conversations without them knowing he knew what they were talking about. Jake stood there and didn’t say anything. This got the big Mexican mad. He repeated what he had said the first time. Jake stood there, returning Pedro’s stare.

Jake said, “I don’t speak Spanish.”

Pedro looked at Jake for a second and then said in English, “What is a stupid gringo like you doing here?”

Jake gestured towards everyone in the cell then said, “The same thing as everyone else. I was wrongly convicted.”

This got applause from all the inmates in the cell, which pissed Pedro off. His irritation showed as Jake knew exactly where this was going. Jake had established himself as king of the cell and this guy wanted to show how tough he was so he would be the king.

“So they call you El Diablo?” Pedro said.

“I guess,” Jake replied as he shrugged his shoulders.

“Well, you look like shit to me. I don’t like gringos and I hate all Americans. They think they own everything and can do whatever they want.”

“I haven’t been an American since I got here. We’re all the same in here.”

“Don’t ever say we’re the same,” roared the big Mexican.

Jake wanted to calm the situation down. Even though he was a good fighter, he actually didn’t like fighting. He usually tried to avoid it when possible but there were always people like Pedro that just couldn’t help themselves. They felt like they had to impose their will on everyone else.

Jake didn’t know if they just liked to intimidate people or if they liked the way it made them feel. Either way, Jake couldn’t stand people like that so he was always ready to fight when he had to.

Although Jake had boxed at a gym for a couple of years, he was more of a brawler than he was a boxer. It usually worked to his advantage, but against a man that weighed over three hundred pounds, Jake knew he would have a difficult fight on his hands.

“I’m with you,” Jake said. “I don’t like gringos either. We should go find one and kick his ass.”

Everyone laughed, which further infuriated the big man. He turned his head and spit, but in his fury, some of the spit didn’t make it past his face and it was running down his unshaven chin. Jake laughed as he saw the spit running down the big man’s face, further upsetting him.

“What are you laughing at gringo?” Pedro snarled.

“I’m not laughing at anything,” Jake answered then decided to reason with the man. “Listen big man, I don’t want any trouble. I just want to mind my own business and do my time.”

Pedro shook his head. “It doesn’t matter what you want,” Pedro responded. “This is my cell and you will do what I want.”

“What is it that you want?”

“I want you to be my bitch.”

Jake laughed again because he didn’t know how to reply to that. He certainly wasn’t going to be anyone’s bitch in this prison or any other prison. They would have to kill him first and Jake wasn’t going to go down easy. He would make it as difficult as possible for anyone that tried to fight him.

Pedro looked confused because he was surprised that someone would laugh at him. “What’s so funny gringo?”

“I thought I heard you say that you wanted me to be your bitch.”

“That’s what I said.”

“Well, I’ve got some news for you. That’s not going to happen.”

“Then you will die.”

Jake stared at Pedro, suddenly getting angry. Jake always had a mean look to him even when he wasn’t mad. The nasty scar above his eye now added to the hard look. He usually tried to diffuse the situation, but when things went too far and his switch was flipped, the fury in his eyes usually made others back down.

Pedro wasn’t used to backing down, so Jake knew this wouldn’t be over until one of them was lying on the ground. Jake watched Pedro’s eyes and braced himself for the attack that was about to begin, knowing he wasn’t going to have to wait very long.

In an instant, Pedro swung a big right roundhouse at Jake, hoping to catch him off guard. Jake had noticed something in Pedro’s facial expression that tipped him off to the upcoming punch. He easily leaned his upper body six inches back and the swing missed by an inch.

Now that Pedro was slightly off balance, Jake struck quickly with a right cross aimed directly at Pedro’s nose. The nose was always the first place Jake tried to hit. It was easy to inflict a lot of damage on someone without injuring your own hand. Once someone gets hit in the nose, their eyes water and they usually have blood all over themselves. It makes them a little less ready to fight. This time was no different. Jake hit Pedro’s nose with all his might, breaking it instantly.

Blood started running down Pedro’s face and onto his shirt. His hands shot up to his nose and his eyes were watering fiercely. Jake stepped a little closer and hit Pedro with two quick left jabs and a solid right hook to his left cheek. Amazingly, Pedro remained standing, leaving Jake shocked.

Jake had to give the guy credit, he had hit him four times and that included two of his best punches. Yet Pedro was still standing. That never happened when Jake was in a fight because he was usually able to flatten a guy after the second or third punch.

As Pedro held his nose, he was trying to look through his watering eyes at Jake. Before Pedro had a chance to make a move or throw a punch, Jake lifted his right leg up high and then used it like he was stepping on a bug. Only he wasn’t stepping on a bug, he was stomping directly at Pedro’s left knee.

With Pedro’s eyes still watering he wasn’t able to see what was coming. In a fluid stomping motion, the heel of Jake’s foot slammed into the side of Pedro’s knee. There was a sickening noise as the onlookers all gasped at the sound. Jake knew that he probably dislocated Pedro’s knee and most likely tore all the ligaments.

This time Pedro went down in a heap, screaming in pain, holding his knee. Jake looked at the other prisoners and they were stunned to see Jake take Pedro down in less than thirty seconds. As Jake looked at them, they all ran to their cots, not wanting to be associated with anything that was happening.

Jake bent down to Pedro and said, “My name is not gringo. It’s El Diablo, you piece of shit. If you mess with me again, I will kill you.”

With Pedro howling so loud, Jake wasn’t sure if he heard him or not. Jake really didn’t care so he walked back to his cot and lay down. Everyone else just lay on their cots as well, acting like nothing had happened. With Pedro screaming as loud as he could, it only took a few minutes before the guards came running into the cell. They saw Pedro rolling back and forth holding his knee, with blood all over the front of his shirt. They looked at Pedro then looked around the room, trying to assess what had happened.

The head guard looked around the room, eyeing each of the inmates. “What happened here?” he asked.

All of the inmates looked at each other, lifted their hands in the air and said they didn’t see anything. Although they asked the inmates what had happened, the guards already knew who did this to Pedro. They had been called to this cell because of fighting many times over the course of the last three months, so they figured it was Jake that put this guy down. There was nobody else that was capable of doing this kind of damage to Pedro.

The head guard walked over to Jake and asked in English, “Did you do that to him?”

Jake did his best to look offended and confused. “No, I didn’t do anything to that guy.”

Don’t lie to me. Tell me what happened.”

“He was just walking over here to say hello to me and he fell down,” Jake replied after he had sat up. “His leg must have given out and he fell down onto the floor. His face hit the floor and he must have broken his nose.”

“I don’t believe you gringo.”

Jake pointed to all the other prisoners and said “you can ask any of them. I’m sure they’ll tell you the same thing.”

The guard looked around the room and they were all nodding their heads, confirming what Jake had said was true. Jake knew that all of the prisoners would agree with him because they wouldn’t want Jake to do to them what he did to Pedro. The guard didn’t believe Jake or any of the other inmates.

Pointing at Pedro, the guard said in Spanish, “Get him to the infirmary and have him checked by a doctor.”

The other guards nodded their heads and ran over to Pedro. Two of the guards tried to help Pedro up, but he was still rolling around on the ground in pain. They were finally able to get him to stay still. They tried to pick him up, but he was so big and heavy that they were unable to do that. They told him he was going to have to stand. He shook his head no, but they helped him stand on his good leg. At that point they were able to help him out of the room.

After the head guard watched them take Pedro out of the cell, he looked back at Jake. “I know you did this.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Jake replied, raising his hands in an innocent manner.

“You know what the punishment will be.”

Unfortunately, Jake did know what his punishment was going to be. It was going to be the same punishment as all the other times. The guard turned his back and walked out the door and into the hallway. Another guard shut the door and locked it behind him. Jake sighed and knew that it was going to be another week in solitary. He had already spent a lot of time in there for fighting. It looked like he was going to spend more time in there now.

Jake looked around the cell and thought to himself that he had to find a way out of the prison. He couldn’t take any more of this life. If he didn’t find a way out of there soon, he would end up dead within three years. He had no doubts about that.

He lay his head back down on the cot and thought that this was a horrible way for his twenty-sixth birthday to begin.





Chapter 2


(3 Months Earlier)

Jake stepped out of the cab of the semi-truck, turned and waved thanks to the driver. Jake was in Miami, where he intended on spending the winter. He had spent many winters up north in his lifetime and had come to realize that it was best to spend winters in warm weather areas. It was just too damn cold for him in the northern part of the country during the winter. So this winter he figured he would go as far south as he could which led him to Miami.

Jake had hitchhiked across most of the United States to get to Miami. He had been in Los Angeles and decided to go east, wanting to go somewhere he had never been. Knowing he didn’t want to go north, he had decided to head south and check out Miami.

The only way Jake traveled was by hitchhiking because it was the cheapest way to travel. Using that method of travel, he hitchhiked across the United States, staying in various cities for various amounts of time, depending on how much he liked the city.

As Jake started walking down the street, the first thing that hit him was the humidity. He grew up in Chicago and there were times when it was humid. However, it never felt like what he was feeling now. The sun was beating down on him and he was already starting to sweat from just a few minutes of walking in the heat. He needed to find some shade soon or else he was going to be soaked with sweat in the next twenty minutes. He slung his backpack over his shoulder and started walking towards the beach.

The trucker had said that the beach was about two miles away, but he didn’t have time to drop Jake any closer because he had to go drop off his load. Jake had told him it was no problem, that he didn’t mind walking, especially after sitting all day in the cab of the truck. As sweat was soaking his shirt, he was regretting making that comment.

Jake ran his fingers through his hair and determined that he needed to get a haircut soon. His thick, brown hair was getting rather long and Jake always liked to keep it short, almost a military haircut. He then rubbed his face and could feel the beard from a couple of weeks without shaving. He would need to shave too. As his stomach rumbled, Jake knew getting a haircut and shaving would have to wait because his first order of business was to get something to eat.

He reached into his pocket and pulled the remaining cash out. The bills were wadded up in a ball, so he straightened them out. Counting the bills, he sighed at what was left. He was down to his last seventy dollars and change so he was going to have to find some work soon. Not that it was a big deal because that had been Jake’s life for the last several years, working odd jobs to make enough money to get by.

He did have a couple of other methods to make money. He was a great arm wrestler. Most people looked at Jake and thought he was too skinny to be good at arm wrestling, but Jake had learned long ago that it was about technique more than strength.

With bigger guys constantly underestimating him, he won more than he lost. It was a good way to make money, but he didn’t make enough to survive. Most people weren’t going to bet much money on arm wrestling so he did it more for the fun of it than anything else.

Jake also started hustling pool. He had worked in a bar in Seattle and he would spend a lot of his days practicing pool. As he bounced around the country, he kept practicing and was pretty good at it now. The key to hustling pool was not to take too much from people. Too many bars had people that all knew each other so if Jake took too much money from someone he risked getting jumped by several people. So he just always made enough to buy some food or drinks for himself. It wasn’t going to make him rich, but it kept him fed.

If he couldn’t find a job, he knew he could rely on those methods to make enough to allow him to eat. He would just have to find a bar, which was never a problem. Before he did that, he would try to find a job. He hadn’t worked for a while so he was itching to work a little.

Jake traveled lightly so he didn’t have to carry too much gear, and he always bought his clothes at Goodwill stores to keep the price down. That way when his clothes needed replacing, he could do it cheaply. However, he tried to wear his clothes for as long as possible before he bought new items, allowing him to save his money.

Everything Jake owned was in his backpack. His thinking was that if he couldn’t fit it in his backpack then he didn’t need it. The contents of his backpack consisted of a blanket, a pair of pants, long sleeve shirt, sweatshirt, a toothbrush and toothpaste and a razor. Jake didn’t think there was really anything else he needed.

Jake lived his life entirely off the grid. He didn’t want anyone knowing where he lived or what he did. He felt that the government wanted to control everyone and everything, so he distrusted everyone in the government. Whether they were Republicans or Democrats it didn’t matter to Jake. He felt like it was nobody’s business where or how he lived.

He wanted to make it as difficult as possible for anyone to know where he was or what he was doing. As a result, he didn’t have a driver’s license, credit cards or anything else that could be tracked by the government. He didn’t even think he had a social security number; however he wasn’t entirely sure about that. It was possible that his parents had gotten him one when he was born, but he had no clue if they did or not.

Jake’s father ran off when he was five years old and his mother was heavily into drugs. He didn’t know if that’s why his father had left or if he was just a rotten human being. It didn’t really matter. Shortly after his father took off, Jake's mother abandoned him, leaving him in front of a police station.

He would never forget that day. She had bent down beside him and said that he should tell the police inside that he needed help. He did that and when the police went outside to find his mom, she was long gone. Where she went, Jake had no clue.

Jake ended up getting bounced from one foster home to another until he was eighteen. After that, he was kicked out of the system and he’d been on his own ever since. He knew that his parents were now either dead or in prison. Either way, he didn’t care because he never wanted to see them again.

Growing up in Chicago, he had always dreamed of seeing more of the country. He worked odd jobs in Chicago until he saved enough money to travel. When he was twenty-two he finally had enough saved up so he started moving from state to state. He’d usually stay in a location for three or four months and then move on. Initially, he took the bus wherever he traveled, but then he found that hitching rides with truckers was much cheaper.

Jake figured out that if a person has low standards then they can live very cheaply. Wherever he went, Jake would find odd jobs here and there and do whatever needed doing. As long as he took jobs that others didn’t want, the employers usually didn’t ask too many questions.

Sure they would want him to fill out an application with his name and social security number, but he always used a name and number of someone he made up. They usually didn’t even run the name or number, but if they did then he would just disappear if they confronted him. Most of the time, he found people that were willing to pay him under the table. That way they don’t have to fill out any paperwork and he stayed under the radar.

As Jake continued walking along the sidewalk, he could smell the salt water from the ocean in the air, so he knew he was getting close. He saw a Denny’s restaurant on his left and decided he would eat there. It was going to be a little more expensive than what Jake would like to spend but he loved Denny’s and had eaten at a lot of them over the years so he knew exactly what he was going to have.

Salivating at the thought of food, he made his way towards the restaurant. As he walked up to the door, he saw a newspaper stand. Since this was a Sunday, the price of the paper was going to be two dollars. He fished two dollar's worth of coins out of his shorts and fed them into the machine.

After he grabbed his paper, he walked into the restaurant and waited to be seated. There were tables and booths everywhere and a bar that could seat fifteen people. He received a lot of looks from the staff and the customers, mainly because of how he looked.

He was wearing brown cargo shorts that were tattered and a red t-shirt that had several different stains on it. Neither of them had been washed in quite a while. In addition to the scruffy look, he probably didn’t smell the greatest either. He hadn’t had a shower since he was at the truck stop in Atlanta and that had been a few days ago. He didn’t notice any kind of smell, but he figured he was probably used to it.

A short, red-headed waitress came walking over to him. She was in a hurry because of the crowd so she quickly made her way over to Jake but stopped a couple of feet away from him, looking at how he was dressed. Finally deciding he still met the dress code, she stepped a little closer to him.

“Can I help you?” she asked while snapping her gum.

“I would like a table for one,” Jake answered.

She looked him over, clearly trying to determine if he could even pay for a meal. Not only that, but Jake assumed she wasn’t eager to seat him because of the smell. Jake was acutely aware that he must smell a little ripe and clearly she was aware of it too.

“Follow me,” she instructed.

As he followed the waitress, he decided his priority list was to eat then get a haircut, shave, and shower then wash his clothes, in that order. While thinking about that, the waitress mercifully sat him in a corner booth far away from the other patrons. Most of them were going about their business, but a few of them were still staring at Jake.

The woman that seated him left and a different waitress came over to his table to take his order. Jake ordered a cup of coffee, black, an omelet with everything which also included a side of hash browns and a side of gravy for the hash browns. He ordered biscuits and gravy and topped it off with an order of bacon. He hadn’t eaten much in the last several days because he was trying to make his money last until he got to Miami. Now that he was here, he was going to eat until his heart was content.

The waitress looked at him like he was crazy for ordering so much food then wrote down what he ordered and scurried away. Jake assumed she didn’t like the way he smelled so she wanted to get away from him as quickly as possible. He didn’t blame her. He would find a store, buy some detergent and then use a laundry mat to wash his clothes. After that, he would find a place that he could take a quick shower to clean up.

Jake looked around, taking in the aroma, sights and sounds of the place. He was glad he decided to come to Miami, but now he had to find a job or this was going to be his last meal for awhile.

Relaxing in the air conditioned building he waited patiently for the food. A short twenty minutes later, the waitress brought his food, topped off his coffee and asked, “Is there anything else I can get for you?”

Jake looked at all the food that surrounded him and couldn’t think what else he could possibly need. “No thanks,” he replied. “I think I’m good.”

She laid the bill on the table and quickly walked away. Jake opened the newspaper to the classifieds and started reading it while he was shoveling food into his mouth. He was hoping to find a job in the classifieds, but most companies didn’t advertise in the paper anymore.

As he was looking through the paper, he was thinking about where he was going to sleep tonight. Luckily for him, he could just sleep on the beach so he didn’t have to worry about paying for a motel room. The beach would be nice and soft and the weather wouldn’t be cold at all.

Finding the section that had the weather forecast, he read the forecast and it said they were expecting a low of sixty-five. That would be perfect. However, they were also forecasting thunderstorms. If that happened, he would have to try to find some kind of overhang to sleep under. He didn’t want to try to sleep in the rain.

The waitress didn’t come around while he was eating, not even to ask if he wanted more coffee. However, as soon as he was done with his breakfast, she hurried over his table, ready for him to leave.

“Are you done?” she asked.

“No, I’m still reading the paper.”

“I’m sorry to rush you, but we need this table. If you’re not going to order anything else, we will need to ask you to pay your bill and leave.”

“I understand.”

“Thank you.”

“I think I’ll order something.”

She took out her pad and paper then rolled her eyes. “What else would you like?” she asked.

“I would like another cup of coffee.”

Frustrated, she put the pad and paper away and walked away to get his coffee. Jake wasn’t about to let someone run him out of a restaurant because of the way he dressed or smelled. They would just have to wait until he was ready to leave.

After she brought him his coffee, he thanked her and continued reading the paper.





Chapter 3


After eating, Jake walked down the street looking for a store so he could buy the necessities to clean himself up. He found a drugstore, walked in and looked around, trying to find some cheap soap and shampoo. He would use that to not only wash himself but also to wash his clothes, deciding not to find a laundry mat. Also needing some shaving cream, he grabbed a small can and walked to the register.

After paying for all of the items, he continued on his way to the beach. He walked by a small store that had clothes displayed in the window. Since he was going to try to find a job, he decided he should buy some new clothes as well. He walked in and bought another pair of shorts and a collared shirt so he had something to wear that was respectable. That took care of all his money, so now he thought to himself that he definitely needed to find a job quickly.

As Jake crossed the last street, he could finally see the beach. He walked onto the boardwalk, stopped and looked in both directions. It looked like the boardwalk went on for miles as he saw people walking, riding bikes and still others on their roller blades. Looking at the beach, Jake saw there were beach goers everywhere, laughing, playing and lounging around enjoying the sun. The sand looked inviting, but Jake wanted to get cleaned up so he started walking down the boardwalk taking in the scenery.

He found a restroom that also had showers that were supposed to be used to clean off sand, but he used it to clean himself up. He showered, shaved and put on his new clothes. Once he was done with that, he washed his other clothes in the sink with some soap and water. He went outside and found a railing that he was able to use to lay his clothes on and allow the sun to dry them. As sunny and hot as it was outside, it didn’t take long for them to dry.

After his clothes were dry, he looked around and saw a marina in the distance. He walked along the boardwalk towards the marina, wondering if he might find something there.

Jake hadn’t had any luck finding a job in the paper. In fact, he hadn’t been too optimistic because he never found any of his odd jobs in the paper. He still tried, but he knew it was unlikely. Mostly he looked in the paper just to give himself something to do, knowing people had to look online to find open positions nowadays. That was fine with Jake because the positions that were posted online weren’t the kind of jobs he was looking for anyway. He wanted something that was going to be a little more informal. That’s why he always went to rundown areas of town where people were less likely to want him to fill out paperwork.

Heading towards the marina, he figured he would see if they needed help cleaning boats or anything else. Surely, he thought, there had to be some jobs there that people didn’t want.

He kept on walking along the beach until he got to the marina. At first he just stared out over the ocean. He had visited the ocean when he lived in Seattle and he had worked on a crab boat off the coast of Alaska, however this view was much different. The water was a clear blue color that was nothing like what he had ever seen before. It was truly amazing. Jake just stared at it for several minutes, taking in the beauty.

Finally pulling himself away from the view, he continued walking towards the marina, Jake saw a building that had a sign on it saying it was the marina office. Jake walked into the office and the bell on the door rattled, letting the person behind the desk know that someone had entered the building.

The office was painted in light blue to simulate the ocean, Jake guessed. There was drift wood hanging from a wall closest to Jake and other ocean themed paintings hanging on the other walls. There was a counter that stretched from one wall to the wall across from it with a swinging door on the far right side for employees to enter.

The man behind the desk was probably in his late thirties with gray hair starting to show on the sides. He was clean cut and dressed in a collared shirt with tan shorts and boat shoes. He looked up from the paperwork and saw Jake entering the office.

“Hello,” the man said in a pleasant voice. “What can I do for you?”

Jake walked over to the man and stuck his hand out. “Hi, my name is Jake Bryant.”

The man shook Jake’s hand and said, “I’m Trent Miller. It’s nice to meet you.”

“After shaking hands, Jake said, “I was wondering if you needed any help around here. I can do any grunt work or odd jobs that you might have. You name it and I’ll do it.”

“Sorry, I don’t have any openings right now. I just hired a couple of temporary workers to clean the boats and do other odd jobs.”

“No problem. Do you have any suggestions of anyone that’s looking for help?”

Trent thought about it for a second. “Actually, I think I do,” Trent said.

“That’s great. What is it?”

“See that big yacht over there?” Trent asked as he pointed out the window.

Looking through the window, Jake could see a large white yacht several hundred yards away. Even though they were a long ways from the yacht, Jake could see it clearly. The yacht was huge and Jake knew it must have cost the owner millions of dollars.

“Yeah, I see it,” Jake answered.

“The boson came in yesterday and asked if I knew if anyone would be willing to hire on with them. Apparently, something happened to one of their deckhands and they need someone to replace him.”

“What’s a boson?”

“That’s like the number two man on a yacht, right behind the captain.”

“Do you know what they need done?”

“No, he mentioned that one of his crew left and asked if I knew of anyone that needed work.”

“Have they found anyone yet?”

“You can go down there and ask them,” Trent said, shrugging his shoulders.

Jake stuck out his hand and shook Trent’s hand. “Thanks Trent, I appreciate your help.”

“You’re welcome buddy. Good luck.”

Jake turned around, walked out the door and headed towards the large, white yacht. It didn’t take long for Jake to cover the three hundred yards to the yacht. As he got closer and closer, the yacht got bigger and bigger. Jake had been on a fishing boat before, but he had never been on a yacht.

As Jake approached the yacht, he looked up and was amazed at the site of the yacht. It had to be a hundred and twenty feet long and fifty feet wide. It was painted all white, but Jake could see the brass on the deck was shiny and polished. The name on the side said “La Consuela Bonita,” which Jake thought translated into “The Beautiful Consuela,” in Spanish.

Jake stood there and looked at it for a few minutes. It looked like they were loading supplies onto the ship. “Do you need something?” a voice asked from behind him.

“My name is Jake Bryant,” Jake said after he turned around, extending his hand. “Trent over at the marina office said you were looking for help. I’m willing to do whatever work you need done.”

The man looked at Jake for a minute. Jake could tell he was of Mexican descent. He was small in stature, both in height and weight and had short, dark hair that was combed to one side. He was wearing a uniform that consisted of white shorts and a white shirt. The shirt had some kind of rank on the shoulders, but Jake had no idea what that meant. The man eyed Jake for a few seconds, unsure of him.

“My name is Miguel Perez. I’m the boson on the Consuela. Come this way.”

Jake was happy that he had immediately found the boson and determined that it was someone with authority so he followed Miguel up the ramp and onto the yacht. They went to the top floor which opened up into a massive room that was easily six hundred square feet in size.

On one side of the room sat a couch, love seat and two chairs surrounding a coffee table. Jake didn’t know much about furniture, but he was sure this was high class furniture, probably from somewhere in Europe. It certainly looked expensive to him. It would take Jake many years of working to be able to even buy one piece of the furniture.

On the other side of the room was a mahogany desk. It was dark brown and it was angled in the corner of the room so it faced the entry way, yet it still had views out the enormous windows that surrounded the room. The walls had several paintings on them and the floor was a lush tan carpet.

Jake instinctively looked at his shoes to make sure he wasn’t tracking in dirt. He had bought new shorts and a shirt, but didn’t think to buy any shoes and now wondered if he was tracking in dirt and debris. Luckily, he didn’t see any dirt from his shoes on the carpet so he continued looking around the room.

Jake was amazed at how nicely the room was decorated. This was probably the nicest room he had ever been in. He had never seen anything like it so he stood there, just staring at it all.

Getting up from behind the desk was a well-dressed man that looked to be about fifty. He was impeccably dressed in a black suit with a dark blue shirt and striped tie. He had olive skin and feminine features. He was a small man with boyish looks so he looked at least ten years younger than his actual age.

Jake guessed that the man was pushing sixty, but his boyish looks made him look around fifty. On the opposite side of the desk was another man who also stood up. He was dressed in a uniform that matched Miguel’s except his rank was something different. He was a tall white man with gray hair and a white beard. He was an older man, at least mid-sixties and was cleanly groomed.

As the men approached, Jake could tell that the man with the suit wasn’t happy about being disturbed. It was evident that he and the other man were deep in conversation and he didn’t want any interruptions. They walked closer, suspiciously looking at Jake.

“Miguel, what’s this about?” the man wearing the suit asked.

“I’m sorry to disturb you Mr. Rivera,” Miguel said. “This man is looking for work. As you know we had one of the deckhands disappear this week. We need someone to take his place.”

Mr. Rivera looked over Jake. “Yes, it is an unfortunate situation,” he answered. “Have there been any updates on his whereabouts?”

“No sir.”

“This is the captain,” Mr. Rivera said to Jake as he motioned to the man that he had been talking to. “He will determine if we hire you. Gentleman, I have business to take care of. You may continue using this room for the interview.”

“I’m Captain Williams,” the man said as he stuck out his hand. The Captain and Jake shook hands then the Captain continued, “Have you ever worked on a yacht?”

Jake shook his head no. “I haven’t worked on a yacht, but I have worked as part of a crew on a boat.”

“What kind of boat?”

“It was a crab boat.”

“Do you mean like the show on TV?”

“Yes sir,” Jake answered.

The Captain replied “well this is a lot different than setting pots into the ocean.”

“Yes sir, I’m sure it is.”

“So do you know your way around a boat? For example, do you know how to set and raise an anchor?”

“No sir,” Jake answered, seeing no reason to lie to the Captain. “All I did was set bait, pull pots and stack pots. But I’m a hard worker and am willing to do whatever needs to be done.”

“Did you ever get sick at sea?”

“No sir.”

“That’s good. Because if anyone gets sick we’re not going to have time to bring you back here.”

“I won’t get sick. You can count on that,” Jake assured the Captain.

The Captain looked at him then turned to Miguel and said in Spanish, “Miguel, you need to find me someone that knows a little more about boats.”

“I know Captain but there isn’t anyone else available and we’re getting ready to leave tonight,” Miguel responded, also in Spanish. “He’s the only one we can get.”

Jake thought it was very disrespectful they were speaking Spanish in front of him. They were acting like he wasn’t even there. They were assuming Jake didn’t understand Spanish, which was correct, so it rubbed Jake the wrong way. Unfortunately, there was nothing he could do about it. He needed a job and he needed money, so he tried to be patient.

“Well Mr. Bryant, it appears we would like to hire you,” the Captain said. “We have been taking trips throughout the Caribbean. We stopped here in Miami to stock up on supplies and one of our deck hands has gone missing. So, we’re short staffed right now.”

“How long will you need me?”

“We’re going to spend the next several days continuing with the trip and then dock in Mexico. We will stay in Mexico for a couple of days and then we will come back here. The entire trip will be about fifteen or sixteen days.”

“That sounds good to me,” Jake said.

“Your job will be to do whatever Miguel tells you to do. Are you willing to join the crew?”

“Yes, this sounds fine to me,” Jake replied. “How much does it pay?”

The Captain smiled. “I see that you get right to the point,” he said. “I like that. I’ll pay you four thousand dollars, U.S. We’ll pay you half now and half when we leave Mexico. If you do a good job, there might be more work to follow.”

He paused for a second then added, “Since we technically work out of Mexico, we don’t follow all the United States guidelines. For example, I’m not much interested in all your information. I’ll pay you in cash and it’s up to you to claim it for tax purposes. Whether you do or not, is no concern of mine. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

“Yes,” Jake answered. “I understand exactly what you’re talking about.” Jake liked that arrangement very much.

“Is that an issue with you?”

“No sir, it’s the way I prefer it.”

“Good. Do you have a passport?”

“No, I don’t.”

“Well, that does make things a little more difficult,” the Captain said.

“I can go get one,” Jake replied, not knowing the process for getting a passport.

“There isn’t enough time,” said the Captain.

“Does this mean I don’t get the job?” Jake asked, dejected.

“Don’t worry about the passport. You won’t need it when we get to Mexico. Just make sure you stay on the boat. If you go into town and the local police catch you without a passport, it could be big trouble for you.”

He turned to Miguel and said, “Miguel, show our new employee to the crew’s state rooms, get him a couple of uniforms and pay him two thousand dollars.”

“Yes sir,” Miguel replied.

Jake was amazed at how formal they all were to each other. He didn’t know if that’s the way every crew was on yachts or if it was just the way Mr. Rivera, or the Captain liked it. That was something he was going to have to keep in mind when addressing and answering them.

The Captain then looked back at Jake. “I have other duties to attend to. Miguel will show you around and get you familiar with the ship. Don’t let us down.”

Before Jake had a chance to say anything, the Captain turned and walked away, leaving Jake and Miguel there. Jake was extremely happy with the thought of working on the yacht for the next two weeks. It was going to be much different than working in the cold weather that he endured on the crab boat.

“Wait here for a moment,” Miguel instructed.

Miguel walked to the far corner, where a huge, black safe with a large keypad on the front of it stood. The safe was five feet tall, three feet wide and looked to be three feet deep. Miguel punched in the code and opened the door. Jake could see Miguel reach into the safe, towards the upper right hand corner.

There was a shelf with several stacks of money sitting there. Miguel grabbed one stack and pulled it out. He licked his thumb and counted out twenty bills and then put the remainder of the stack back onto the shelf. Jake had never seen so much cash before. He couldn’t believe it. He thought to himself, who in their right mind would have that kind of money in a safe on a boat. Obviously, it was someone very rich who wouldn’t think twice about it.

After shutting the door to the safe, Miguel walked back to Jake. Miguel saw Jake staring at the safe so he said, “We travel to various ports in Mexico, the United States and the Caribbean. One thing is the same everywhere around here. They all take American dollars so it’s best to have a lot of it on hand. We never know when we’ll need it.”

Jake shrugged. “It’s none of my business. As long as I get paid, that’s all I care about.”

“That’s a good attitude to have on this ship,” Miguel replied, nodding. “Mind your own business and don’t worry about anything else.”

Miguel counted out twenty-one hundred dollar bills and gave them to Jake. “As the Captain said you’ll get two thousand dollars now and two thousand dollars when we leave Mexico.”

“That sounds good to me,” Jake responded as Miguel handed him the money.

“If things work out and we decide to keep you then there will be more money to follow,” Miguel stated.

Jake looked at the wad of cash then stuck it in his shorts. “Thanks.”

“Follow me and I’ll show you to your stateroom,” Miguel instructed.





Chapter 4


Following Miguel to the circular staircase, Jake noticed the nice wood railings with brass handrails running the length of the stairs. Jake fought the urge to whistle at the extravagance, thinking it wouldn’t go well on the yacht. Instead, he kept his mouth shut and followed Miguel down two levels of the yacht, ending in a hallway.

“This is the lowest level of the yacht,” Miguel stated as they stepped into the hallway.

“What’s down here?” Jake asked as he looked at everything.

“The engine room is down here along with the crew’s state rooms.”

“The yacht is very nice. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen in my life.”

“Yes, Mr. Rivera has spared no expense,” Miguel explained. “When he travels the ocean, he wants to make sure he travels in comfort.”

As they began walking down the hallway, Jake had noticed a doorway behind the stairs. “What room is behind the stairs?” Jake asked.

“That’s the engine room. That is off limits to you.”

Jake said nothing as he continued to follow Miguel through the hallway. “This is the laundry room,” Miguel said as he pointed to his left.

Jake couldn’t believe they had a laundry room on the yacht. However, as he thought about it, having someplace to do the laundry on a boat made sense. They had to have a way to clean the clothes of Mr. Rivera as well as the crew. Jake typically wore his clothes several days before washing them, but he made a mental note to clean them more often while on the yacht.

Miguel opened the door to the laundry room, causing Jake to wonder why they were in there. Immediately, Jake thought that his clothes stunk, even though they were new and Miguel was going to instruct him to wash them. Jake said nothing as he waited for Miguel to speak.

They stepped in and Jake could see a washer and dryer as well as several built in cabinets. Miguel rummaged through the cabinets, grabbing two white collared shirts, two black collared shirts, two pair of white shorts and two pair of tan shorts. He also grabbed two pair of navy blue shorts along with two navy blue shirts.

“Normal business attire is the white shirts and shorts,” Miguel said. “If we have an event or some other special occasion, you wear the black shirt and tan shorts. When you’re performing other duties like painting or other labor that might get messy, you wear the blue shirt and shorts. Do you understand?”

“Did I join the military and not realize it?” Jake said in a joking manner.

“We take what we do very seriously and we must look professional at all times.”

Jake could tell that Miguel was not amused at his little joke. Apparently, Miguel didn’t like to joke around so Jake would be more careful about making jokes in his presence. He just hoped everyone on the boat wasn’t as serious as Miguel or else this was going to be a long sixteen days.

“What if I’m just hanging out?” Jake asked.

“If you’re off duty, you can only be in your quarters or the crew mess. You aren’t allowed anywhere else unless it’s required for work. Is that clear?”

“Yes.”

They left the laundry room with Jake’s arms loaded and walked out into the hallway. They stopped at the end of the hallway and Miguel took a key out of his pocket. After unlocking the door, they both entered the small room.

“This will be your room,” Miguel announced.

Nodding, Jake followed Miguel inside the cramped quarters. “It looks cozy,” Jake said.

Jake stepped inside the room and looked around. The floor had light blue carpeting that went right up to the baseboards of the wall. The carpeting wasn’t the lush carpet that you would typically see in an expensive yacht. It looked significantly cheaper.

The walls were white and there were various nautical pieces hanging on the wall, like an old life preserver, an oar and other items. It was clear that the crew’s quarters were not decorated as impressively as the rest of the boat. Apparently, Mr. Rivera figured the crew could live much simpler, which Jake completely understood.

As Jake looked around the room, he could see that there wasn’t much space in the room. The furniture took up what little space there was. The room was maybe eight feet by eight feet and that was being generous. There was a bunk bed next to the wall across from the door. The bed took up almost all of the room. To the right was a small desk with pens, paper and other items lying on top of it. To the left were two lockers that were about four feet high.

Jake looked around, thought it was perfect and was happy with it. It was going to be a real treat for him to have a room like this. Jake was used to sleeping on the ground outside or in crappy motel rooms. The motel rooms that Jake could afford usually didn’t believe in daily housekeeping so they tended to be a little dirty. He was very happy with the thought of living in this room for the foreseeable future and had no problem with the small size of the room.

“This room looks great.”

Miguel thought Jake was being sarcastic so he said defensively, “We don’t spend a lot of time in our rooms. Usually we’re working which is why the pay is so good. This is a fine room.”

“I agree. That’s why I said it looks great. It’s much better than what I’m used to sleeping in.”

Miguel looked at Jake, not sure what to think. “Good. I’m glad you approve.”

“I assume I’m sharing the room with someone?” Jake asked.

“Yes, you are sharing it with another deckhand. I’ll introduce you to him shortly.”

“That sounds good.”

“Are there any other questions?” Miguel asked.

“How many crew members are on board?”

“There are nine total. The maid and the chef are the two women crew members. Then there’s the captain, the engineer, the butler, two security guards, two deckhands and me.”

“What exactly do you do?”

“As I said to you earlier, I’m the boson. Basically I’m the manager of everyone. The Captain is who we all report to, but I’m the second in command I guess you could say.”

“That’s a lot of people.”

“Actually, it’s not really that many for the size of this ship. However, everyone has their primary duties but they also have secondary duties so they can fill in for others if needed.”

“I understand. It still seems like a lot of people.”

“It’s a big ship.”

“Why are there guards on the boat?” Jake asked, thinking it was strange they would have guards on a yacht.

“Mr. Rivera has a lot of money and other expensive items on this yacht so he likes to have security guards.”

“I take it I’m the grunt,” Jake said as a comment, not a question.

“We don’t use that term on this ship. You are called a deckhand.”

“That’s a big word for a grunt.”

“You do whatever is needed around the boat.”

“In other words, I will do grunt work.”

“Let’s get back to the room,” Miguel replied, not wanting to engage in small talk with Jake. “As you can see there are two beds. There are built-in drawers on the bottom bunk with four drawers, so you get two of them. There are also two lockers, one for each of you.”

“Which locker is mine?”

“Yours is the one on the left.”

Miguel walked him over to the locker, punching in a four- digit code. “It has one of those programmable locks on it, so you can set it to whatever you want,” Miguel said as he opened the door. “I’ll stand back here and you can program your combination.”

Jake walked over to the locker then took off his backpack, setting it on the floor. He pulled all the money out of his pockets, which consisted of the two thousand dollars that he just got from Miguel, along with the five dollars he had left of his own money. Inside the door were the directions to re-program the keypad. He read the directions, then pressed enter, typed in his four-digit code and pressed enter again. He wasn’t sure if it worked or not, so he closed the door. He entered his four-digit code and the door opened. Satisfied, Jake shut the door.

“Now you’re the only one that can get in the locker,” Miguel said.

“Well, I’m the only one that can get in the locker with the exception of you.”

Miguel smiled for the first time. “That’s true. I have a master code that works on all lockers. It’s just a safety precaution in case you forgot your key or you left us. We have to have another way to open the locker.”

Jake shrugged, walked out of the room and into the hallway with Miguel. “What now?” Jake asked.

“You need to get changed into the blue uniform,” Miguel instructed as he handed Jake the room key. “I’ll wait in the hallway for you.”

Jake changed into the blue shorts and shirt then put the rest of his clothes in the built in drawers under the bed. He walked out of the room and saw Miguel standing there with his arms folded. Jake didn’t think he took very long to change, but by the looks of Miguel’s body language maybe he did.

“We have a lot of work to do to prepare for the trip,” Miguel said. “There will be a truck arriving soon with supplies. They’ll drop the supplies off and you’ll need to bring all the supplies on board. I’ll show you where they go.”

“I can handle that.”

“Follow me,” said Miguel.

Miguel turned and walked towards the stairs so Jake followed him. They started climbing the stairs and Jake tried to pay attention what was on each level. As they were climbing the stairs, Miguel said, “There is one thing to keep in mind. The level we were on when I introduced you to Mr. Rivera is off limits to you unless otherwise instructed.”

“What’s so special about that level?”

“That’s where his office, the dining room and the master suite are located so he doesn’t want any of the crew there except for when he summons us.”

“Okay.”

“Let’s get on with the tour.”

Miguel took Jake on a tour throughout the boat, except for the third level where Jake wasn’t allowed to go. Now that he was walking through the boat, Jake was truly amazed at the size of the yacht. It just seemed to go on forever. He didn’t know people could buy boats this big. However, he guessed for enough money, they could make any kind of yacht a person wanted.

As they made their way through the yacht, Miguel introduced Jake to the rest of the crew. The first person Miguel introduced to Jake was Anita Hernandez, the maid. She had light brown skin with long dark hair which framed her round face. She had brown eyes that mesmerized Jake. She was shapely, but wouldn’t be considered voluptuous. He shook her hand and held it for a moment longer than he should have. However, Jake noticed she made no movement to pull her hand back.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“It’s nice to meet you,” she replied as she smiled at him with beautiful, white teeth.

“I’m Jake.”

“I’m Anita.”

She seemed to blush which Jake took as a good sign. Looking forward to getting to know Anita, he wondered if there would be any time on the trip to talk to her privately. He would definitely need to find time.

“Anita, don’t you have work to do?” Miguel said.

“Yes sir,” she replied.

Jake watched as Anita turned and walked away from them, thinking he couldn’t wait to talk to her some more. Figuring he would have plenty of time and opportunity, given the fact that they were going to be on a yacht together, he was happy.

“Don’t even think about it,” Miguel said.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Jake responded, trying to sound innocent.

“Mr. Rivera has a strict policy aboard this vessel,” Miguel said as he signaled for Jake to follow him. “There is to be no fraternizing between the crew members while on the yacht.”

“What about off the boat.”

“He doesn’t care what anyone does off the yacht. He just doesn’t want anything to take people’s minds off what they’re getting paid to do while they’re on the yacht.”

“I understand,” Jake said, although he knew he wasn’t going to follow that policy. He wasn’t about to let anyone tell him what he could and could not do.”

“Make sure you do.”

Jake was never very good at following rules and he figured this would be no exception. One of the reasons Jake lived the way he did was because he hated to be told how to live by anyone. He would certainly do his best to follow the rules, but he knew it was going to be difficult. Anita was beautiful and Jake wanted to get to know her and if he ended up breaking the rules, so be it.

“Let’s continue the tour,” Miguel stated.

Jake continued to follow Miguel until they got to the galley. It was a big professional style galley with all stainless steel appliances, including a huge six burner gas stove. To Jake’s surprise, there wasn’t even a refrigerator. It had a walk-in cooler and a walk-in freezer. The countertops were granite and dark gray in color. After Miguel showed Jake where the cooler and freezer was located, he walked him over to the storeroom.

“All the supplies they bring will need to go in the storeroom, freezer or cooler,” Miguel instructed. “You should be able to figure out where everything goes. If not, call me. I’ll be on the bridge with the captain.”

“How do I call you?”

Miguel walked him over to the intercom that was on the other side of the kitchen. “Just press 1 for the bridge.”

“That sounds easy enough.”

Miguel motioned for Jake to follow him and they walked through another door. There was a big table with bench seats along two walls. There were three other chairs on a third side of the table.

“This is the crew’s mess so you can eat here. You’re not allowed to eat in the dining room.”

“Okay. Is there anything else?”

“Don’t go to the bow of the boat. Employees aren’t allowed there unless instructed.”

“What’s the bow?”

“I thought you worked on a crab boat?” Miguel said.

“I did, but it was only for a short time so I never learned all the terminology.”

“The bow is the front of the boat and the stern is the rear of the boat.”

“That’s good to know.”

“Now go back to the dock and wait for the truck with the supplies,” Miguel said sharply as he spun on his heels and left abruptly.

Jake figured the tour and the conversation was now over so he tried to figure out how to get out of the boat and back to the dock.





Chapter 5


Jake stood on the dock in the hot, humid air, waiting for the truck with the supplies. He found a place in the shade, but it didn’t matter. It was still sticky so he was already sweating by the time the truck arrived. After the delivery truck backed up, two big, burly guys got out of the truck. One had medium length black curly hair with a black goatee. The other had long blond hair that was tied in a ponytail. The black-haired guy had a clipboard with a pen and handed it to Jake.

“What am I supposed to do with this?” Jake asked.

“You’re supposed to sign for all the supplies,” the black haired guy answered.

Looking at the list on the paper, Jake said, “I’m not signing anything until I see all the supplies.”

The black-haired guy seemed irritated, but he didn’t say anything as he watched Jake flip through the paperwork, looking at all the items on the list. “Let’s unload all the boxes then I can go one by one and check them off,” Jake said.

“That’s not the way we normally do it.”

“Well too bad because that’s the way we’re going to do it,” Jake replied, not really caring whether the guy agreed or not. Jake wasn’t about to sign for supplies without making sure they were accounted for.

The black-haired guy stood there staring at Jake for a minute then turned to the blond-haired guy. “Let’s unload everything Willie.”

“Okay, Hank.”

“Are you two country music stars?” Jake asked.

Hank looked at Jake with a confused stare, not sure what Jake meant. “What the hell are you talking about?” Hank asked.

“Haven’t you ever heard of Hank Williams and Willie Nelson? They’re country music singers.”

“No,” both of them answered in unison.

Shrugging, Jake said, “You should listen to their music sometime. They’re really good.”

Ignoring Jake, Hank and Willie started unloading all the boxes. As they were unloading them, Jake went box by box and compared it to the shipping list on the clipboard. He put a check mark next to each item as he saw it unloaded. An hour later, Jake was satisfied that everything was present and accounted for. Jake signed the paperwork and handed it to Hank.

“How about you two help me load all of this on the boat?” Jake asked.

“Screw you,” Hank said, clearly not wanting to do any additional work.

Jake laughed and turned towards the boxes. He thought to himself that this was going to be a lot of work in this weather. The pay was good, so Jake couldn’t complain and he actually liked manual labor. It put his mind at ease as he went through the tasks at hand. He never understood how anyone would want to sit at a desk for eight hours a day looking at a computer screen. He assumed he would go crazy if he ever had to do that.

Jake figured he might as well get started. He read the first box which said, “Keep Frozen.” Bending down, Jake picked it up and walked up the wooden ramp to the top level of the yacht, over to the stairs, down the stairs to the galley and set the box inside the freezer. After he walked back to the dock to start on the other boxes, he decided he should start with the boxes that said, “Keep Refrigerated.” He felt like the food in those boxes could go bad faster in this heat than the frozen food.

He moved those boxes to the walk-in cooler first, then moved on to the frozen food and finally to the boxes that could go into the storeroom. It must have taken Jake thirty trips and he was sweating profusely from walking back and forth with the heavy boxes. By the time he was through, his shirt was soaked with sweat.

Jake guessed he must have stunk something awful, which was confirmed when he walked by the chef. At least he assumed she was the chef considering she was wearing a white outfit that he had always seen chefs wear. Either she was the chef or she liked to pretend she was.

“Hi, how are you?” Jake asked in a friendly voice.

She made a face and quickly walked away from him. Apparently, she wasn’t much of a talker Jake thought to himself. It didn’t look like Jake and the chef were going to be friends any time soon. He seemed to think most of the people on the yacht were rude, except for Anita. Hopefully, the others were nice or it could be a long couple of weeks. Oh well, Jake thought, he wouldn’t lose any sleep over it. He went over to the freezer and walked in, shutting the door behind him. He stayed in there for several minutes trying to cool down. It felt great after working in the sweltering heat.

Now that he had all the supplies on the boat, he had to go through each box and put the supplies away. He started with the perishables first. It wasn’t difficult to figure out where things went since everything was labeled. Once he was through with that, he walked over to the cooler and started putting those items away.

When he finally finished with everything, he walked around the kitchen looking for a glass. He had to go through several cupboards before he found one. Finally finding a glass, Jake turned on the water from the sink and filled his glass. He was thirsty from all the hard work, so he drank the entire glass of water quickly. After drinking the first glass, he poured and drank another glass of water.

After he poured his third glass of water, he walked to the door that led to a little walkway on the outside of the yacht. He leaned on the rail and looked out over the ocean. The sun was starting to set so it would be getting dark soon. As he looked out over the ocean, he was very excited to get on the open water. As a kid, he had always dreamed about being on the ocean. In fact, he briefly thought about joining the Navy when he was eighteen. However, the thought of being crammed on a ship for six months at a time with a thousand other sailors didn’t really appeal to him.

Not only that, but he didn’t even have a high school diploma. He was kicked out of so many schools for causing problems and fighting that he never graduated. He knew the Navy only took high school graduates, so it didn’t matter if he wanted to join or not, he wouldn’t be able to.

Granted, he could have gotten his GED, but Jake didn’t feel the need to do that. He was actually very smart and had been tested repeatedly. Many schools had tried to put him in gifted programs, but he had no desire to work at school. He was sure that if his teachers could see him now, they would think he had wasted all his potential, but this was how he liked to live and didn’t want it any other way.

That’s why the Navy wouldn’t have worked out for Jake. More than likely, he would have gotten kicked out for disobeying orders or fighting. That was fine by Jake because he really didn’t want someone telling him what to do, when to do it, what to wear and where he had to live.

It worked out for the best anyway. Now he could go wherever he wanted and do whatever he wanted and nobody could stand in his way. He had already seen most of the country in the eight years since he quit high school. He had traveled to the west coast, the east coast and all parts in between. He had been in Seattle in the fall, Minneapolis in the winter and Omaha in the spring not to mention the other cities he had been to. He was getting a different kind of education that most people could only dream about. As a result, Jake felt like everything worked out for the best.

Jake leaned both arms on the railing and looked out over the ocean and soaked in the view. He could really get used to this. It was going to be a nice two-week trip, even if he did have to do all the grunt work. He liked the fact that they were paying him under the table and that they didn’t take any kind of information from him, like a social security number. He always avoided places that were going to run background checks because he liked to stay under the radar.

Right about then, as Jake was lost in his thoughts, the chef came out the door. “What are you doing out here?” she asked in a shrill voice. “Shouldn’t you be doing something?”

“Relax. I’m just taking a break. I worked my butt off so I’m resting for a second.”

“Well don’t rest here,” she replied with her arms folded. “Get out of my kitchen.”

“That’s fine. Let me call Miguel and see what he wants me to do next.”

Jake walked back into the galley and drank the last of his water. He was about to wash the glass when the Chef said, “You can just leave the glass.”

Shrugging, he set the glass down in the sink. As the Chef watched Jake, he walked over to the intercom. He pressed one and waited. Miguel’s voice came over the intercom. “This is Miguel.”

“It’s Jake,” he said as he pressed the talk button. “I finished loading all the supplies. If you don’t need anything immediately, I would like to go take a shower. Is that okay with you?”

“Yes, that’s fine. When you’re done with your shower, buzz me here and I’ll let you know if we need you to do anything else.

“Okay.”

“Do you need any help? I can always stay and help you,” Jake said, knowing it would irritate her.

Sure enough, she rolled her eyes. “No I just want you to get out of my kitchen.”

Jake laughed and walked out of the galley much to the delight of the Chef.





Chapter 6


Jake had gone back to his room and took out his white shorts and shirt. Since he didn’t know what Miguel had planned for him, he thought he better be prepared. He walked down to the staff bathroom and knocked on the door. Not hearing anything or anyone, he let himself in. His first impression was that it was the smallest bathroom he’d ever seen.

There was a small shower stall, a toilet and a sink with a mirror. On one wall was a port hole. Jake walked over to the port hole and looked out. He was barely above the water line so he couldn’t see very far. It didn’t matter anyway because there was another boat docked about forty feet away and that was all he could see.

Jake finished taking his shower, dried off, wrapped the towel around his waist and walked over to the sink so he could comb his hair. He used a hand towel to wipe off the mirror from all the steam. Jake was thinking about the money in his locker and thought to himself that it was a lot of money to be holding on to. However, he really didn’t have a choice. There wasn’t anywhere else to hide the money.

He grabbed his other white pair of shorts, a clean pair of underwear and his other short sleeve shirt. Looking at his clothes, he was happy they had given him six outfits because that meant he didn’t have to go buy any new clothes. He would be able to wear his work clothes all the time and if he did go off the boat, he had a couple of his own outfits for that.

As he began dressing, he could tell the boat was leaving the dock to begin their ocean cruise. The yacht rolled with the waves, but it wasn’t too bad. They were still in the harbor so Jake assumed the waves would get bigger once they were on the ocean. He figured it would be calm out on the open seas unless they hit a storm and Jake’s guess was that they would make sure to avoid any storms that might arise.

No matter how bad the waves were out here, he knew they wouldn’t be near as bad as some of the waves he had experienced when he worked on the crab boat. They had gone through multiple storms and he had to work outside on the deck during those storms. There was no way they would experience anything like that out here, Jake knew, unless they went through a hurricane and he figured that was not likely to happen.

After he finished getting dressed, Jake walked out into the hallway and saw a light brown-skinned man staring at him. The man had a long scar from the bottom of his eye that went down to his jawbone. He had big ears sticking out from under a blue baseball cap. He was an inch taller than Jake with an extra twenty pounds on his frame.

Jake stood there and returned the man’s stare. Jake had a mean face that often intimidated people, even when he wasn’t trying to. He looked like he was always mad when in reality he wasn’t a very angry person. He was generally happy, but his face didn’t show that. Jake was used to people trying to intimidate him, so he kept his eyes locked on the other man’s brown doe-like eyes, determined not to look away first.

“You must be the new guy,” the man said.

Jake didn’t say anything.

“Can you speak?” the man said, not happy Jake wasn’t saying anything. “What’s your name jackass?”

Jake normally tried to stay calm, even in the face of someone trying to push his buttons, but something about this man rubbed him the wrong way. Most likely, it was the fact that the man referred to Jake as a jackass. That didn’t set well with Jake. It was just another person on the yacht with a bad attitude. If this was going to be an indication of what the rest of the trip was going to be like then Jake was going to have a long trip. Since it was clear this man wasn’t going to be cordial, Jake decided he wouldn’t either.

“My name is Jake and if you call me jackass one more time I’m going to throw your ass overboard.”

The man stepped forward, clinching his fists, ready to fight. “I would like to see you try. They’ll have to fish you out of the ocean.”

Jake and the other man were both getting ready to come to blows when Jake heard a voice coming from the stairs. “That’s enough!”

They both turned towards the voice and saw Miguel as he entered the hallway from the stairs. “Ryan, that’s enough,” Miguel said to the other man. “You know the rules.”

Miguel walked over to the two men. “Jake, this is Ryan Reyes. He’s one of the security guards on the boat. Ryan doesn’t like anyone new and he thinks every new person that boards the boat is after the money in the safe. As a result he’s very cautious of anyone new.”

Jake looked at Ryan and wondered about his name. He had an American first name, but a Mexican last name. He had light brown skin so Jake made the assumption that he had an American parent and a Mexican parent. The other possibility is that he could be a hundred percent American and have a parent of Mexican descent.

“Well, I’m not after anything,” Jake responded. “I just want to do my job and earn my money.”

“We’ll see about that,” Ryan remarked.

“Enough!” Miguel roared.

Miguel turned back to Jake. “There is one rule on this boat. If there’s any fighting you will be left at the nearest port where you can fend for yourself. Understand?”

“I thought the one rule was no fraternization between the help,” Jake said sarcastically. “Now you’re telling me I can’t fight either. What am I supposed to do with my time off?”

Once again, Miguel wasn’t amused at Jake’s attempt at humor. “This is no joke. Do you understand the rules?”

Jake shook his head yes. “I understand.”

Miguel turned back to Ryan. “Jake is okay so you don’t have to worry about him. Leave him alone.”

“There’s something about him that I don’t trust,” Ryan replied then he turned to Jake. “I’ll be watching you.”

“Well, I’m glad I have a fan.”

Mad, Ryan turned and walked out the door. Jake had noticed that he had a gun in his waistband at the small of his back. The bulge in the jacket gave it away, which told Jake he was going to have to watch himself around Ryan. It seemed to Jake that Ryan was someone that would have no problem finding a reason to shoot him.

“Jake, Ryan is not someone you want on your bad side,” Miguel said after Ryan had left.

“I think it’s too late for that.”

“Don’t worry about it. He’s very protective of this yacht and he does tend to overreact sometimes.”

“I can take care of myself.”

“Just watch your back.”

“Changing the subject back to the money, isn’t that an awful lot to have on a boat?”

“We’re at sea for weeks, sometimes months at a time. Mr. Rivera likes to make sure he has enough to last wherever he goes.”

“It looks like he has enough to last him if he sailed around the earth several times.”

“It’s not your concern.”

Jake just shrugged. Miguel was right; it didn’t affect Jake one way or the other so he didn’t really care. “Hopefully there aren’t any pirates out here like there are around Africa,” Jake said. “I’ve read about them.”

“There’s no risk of pirates, but if any bandits try to stop us, we’ll be well armed.”

“Is there anything else you need me to do tonight?” asked Jake.

“No, you can go up to the galley to eat dinner. You can just make some dinner for yourself. Afterwards, you can do whatever you want. Just make sure you stay in the designated areas that we talked about. You’re off until tomorrow morning.”

“That sounds good. What do you want me to do tomorrow?”

“Mr. Rivera wants the dining room re-painted. You can work on that tomorrow.”

“No problem. What time?”

“Get some breakfast from the galley and then be in the dining room at eight o’clock. All of the supplies are already there. Paint the entire room.”

Jake nodded as Miguel turned and walked away. Walking back to his room, Jake checked himself in the mirror and decided it was as good as it was going to get. He thought about Ryan for a second, knowing that there was going to be some trouble in his future. He wasn’t worried about a fist fight with Ryan, but he was concerned that Ryan would do something underhanded. He would have to keep an eye out for him.

Now that the excitement of his run in with Ryan was over, Jake went back to thinking about dinner. Although he had a sandwich at lunch time, he was still hungry so he was looking forward to getting something to eat.

He put the towel, rag and his clothes into the basket next to the door, knowing he would have to do his own laundry soon. Placing his comb down, he walked out of the room then took the stairs to the galley. As he entered the kitchen he saw the chef. He was trying to remember her name then remembered she never gave it to him.

He walked over to her, determined to soften her demeanor. “My name is Jake Bryant.”

She ignored him, trying to concentrate on the food she was preparing. “Listen, we’re going to be on this ship for quite a while together,” Jake pressed. “Would it really hurt to tell me your name?”

She hesitated then sighed and said, “My name is Jessica Cooper.”

Jessica was medium height, slightly overweight with short brown hair. She had a long pointed nose with eyes that looked like they were too close together for her face. Her body language clearly showed that she was someone who was not approachable. She stood there with her arms crossed, looking up at Jake.

“It’s nice to meet you Jessica.”

She stared at him for a second, turned and continued getting the meal ready. He assumed it was dinner for Mr. Rivera. She may not be approachable, but she must be a great chef because it smelled fantastic. He noticed there wasn’t much there so he figured it was only for Mr. Rivera. Miguel had said there wasn’t a Mrs. Rivera, although it sounded like there was at one time. Jake wondered if the boat’s name, La Bonita Consuela, was named after her.

Jake rummaged around the galley, found the bread, ham and cheese and made himself a sandwich. Jake wasn’t too picky, so a ham and cheese sandwich suited him just fine. He used Swiss cheese and topped it with mayo and mustard, diced onions, black olives, lettuce and salt and pepper. After that, he got himself a glass of water then took the sandwich and water out to the balcony so he could enjoy dinner overlooking the ocean. As he walked outside, he was pleasantly surprised when he saw Anita sitting in a chair, so he walked over to her.

There was an empty chair next to her, so he pointed to the empty chair and asked, “Do you mind if I join you?”

“Not at all,” she said as she looked at him and smiled. “I would be happy if you joined me.”

He caught himself staring, so he quickly sat down and looked out into the darkness. The moon was out which gave a brilliant view of the ocean. Billions of stars were in the sky above and he could see clearly now that they were out on the ocean and away from the city lights.

“I’ve been on the ocean before, but it was in a much colder environment,” Jake said. “I like it out here much better. It sure is beautiful.”

“Yes, it really is. I never get tired of coming out here and enjoying the scenery.”

“How long have you worked for Mr. Rivera?”

“I’ve worked for him for about a year now.”

“Does he just go back and forth between Mexico and Miami?”

“Yes. We go to different parts of Mexico and the U.S. Sometimes we go to Houston or New Orleans. It just depends on where he wants to go.”

Jake thought about that for a second. “It sure is nice to be able to cruise across the Caribbean all the time. It must be expensive. What does he do for a living?”

“I understand that he owns several businesses. He’s able to conduct business from the yacht I guess.”

“Is there a Mrs. Rivera?”

“No, I heard she died a couple of years ago. He named the yacht after her.”

They said nothing for a few minutes as they both stared out over the ocean. Jake wasn’t one to talk a lot and was perfectly content just sitting there. He didn’t mind talking, but he also enjoyed silence, which he was doing right now. He ate the rest of his sandwich, drank his water and enjoyed the view. This is something he could get used to, he thought to himself.

“Where did you grow up?” Jake asked.

“I grew up in a small village in Mexico, along the Caribbean coast. It’s actually not too far from where we’re going to dock in Mexico on this trip.”

“Where will we be docking?”

“It’s located just outside of San Pueblo,” Anita replied. “Do you know where that is?”





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