Chapter 34

Escape

[JUMPING TO CHAPTER 34 AND OMITTING ITS FIRST SEVERAL PAGES . . .]

     Immediately after leaving Dr. Taylor, I put a note in his pigeon hole, reiterating what I had just told him. For my own protection, I made a photocopy. In my own pigeon hole, I taped a note requesting that all my mail and notices be forwarded to my post office box.

     Balancing on my handlebars a big garbage bag full of my academic possessions, I must have looked like a homeless person. My first stop was the drugstore. The photos proved well worth the $14. Despite my jittery hands and the blood on my eyelashes, Iíd taken the best telephotographs of my life. There were enough photos of Klouskiís face to make a holographic 3-D picture. The Florida registration number came out clearly, and you could even make out one of the oars from the sunken dinghy floating near the Whalerís bow. I bought some envelopes and stamps, and hastily drafted a letter to the Florida Marine Patrol Officer Carter, enclosing one set of photos. I mailed the second set to myself at my post office box and kept the third in my backpack.

     Next, I quickly pedaled a mile down the road to the Coconut Grove Bank. They were just closing the lobby, but I pleaded my way in and deposited the negatives in my safe-deposit box. Outside, I made a hefty withdrawal from the automated teller machine. Then I rode my bike to the tree and reclaimed the planted diskette. Then there was some heavy-duty shopping to do at the Super Check, up where the Grove meets U.S. 1. Then, after a quarter of an hour outside the supermarket, I found the right guy to help me ó a construction worker carrying a cold six-pack back to his pickup truck.

     "Hey buddy, Iím in a jam. Let me give you twenty dollars for the use of your truck and fifteen minutes of your time."

     "What-shu got that needs hauliní?"

     "This," I said gesturing to twelve bags of groceries, my garbage bag and my bicycle. "Just need to getím down to the Coconut Grove waterfront."

     "Shouldnída bought all that stuff if you donít got no car."

     "I lost her last week. She threw a rod. Hard times. We live on a boat, and weíve gotta get out of town quick."

     "Iíll back my truck in right here," he said, pointing to a 10-foot open space along the fire lane.

     Minutes later, my dinghy was packed solid with groceries and garbage bag. I laid my bike over the top. It took a little argument to make the guy take even $10 ó and then he gave me one of his beers. So we tossed one down together. After we wished each other luck and he drove off, I phoned Rebecca. Iíd have to make my move right away. If she couldnít leave tomorrow afternoon, maybe she could take Chalkís Airline and meet me in Bimini.

     "Hello."

     "Rebecca, Iíve been tied up with provisioning the Diogenes."

     There was a long silence, and I knew there was trouble before she said her next word.

     "Ben, I canít go. . . Mother called me this afternoon, right after my exam. Itís about Dad. His diagnosis. Itís pancreatic cancer. He doesnít have six months to . . . to . . . " she broke into a deep sob, "to live . . ."

     "Oh, darling. Iím so sorry. I ó "

     "You see, Ben, I have to be with him," she whimpered.

     "Yes, darling. Of course." My brain was whirling. Maybe I could get Frenchie to watch after the Diogenes and Iíd go up with her to New York. "Go up there right away. Take your books along and study for the Boards. Maybe I could come up for a while."

     "Oh, I donít know, Ben. I canít think now. It might be hard for me. Mother and Father havenít accepted the idea . . . And now that Fatherís going to ó " she cried convulsively and then was abruptly silent. She must have put her hand over the transmitter.

     "Rebecca, I understand. I just meant that I could get a room in one of those tourist hotels. Or maybe I could stay with Dad and his girlfriend in Newark."

     "I just donít know, Ben. Wait. Thereís someone at the door."

     I could hear the knocking getting louder as she walked with the phone to the door. I heard a metallic clank of the security latch and pictured the door partially opened.

     "Process server, Dade County. Are you Miss Rebecca Levis?"

     "Yes."

     "Weíre informed that Mr. Ben Candidi is living here. I am directed to serve this summons for him to appear in the matter of the State of Florida versus John Ledbetter, as a witness for the Defense. In the name of the Law, I direct you to open your door so that he may be duly served."

     "Rebecca!" I pleaded. "Stall, and listen to me."

     "Just a minute, please. Iím on the phone." I heard the clank of the security latch.

     "Rebecca, listen carefully. Iíve got to disappear for a couple of months. Youíve got to trust me. Youíll hear a lot of bad things about me. Donít believe them. I canít tell you now. Donít ask why. Just trust me."

     "But B ó " She caught herself before pronouncing my name. "But, darl ó " She caught herself again, with a desperate sob.

     "Miss, youíd better give me the phone now."

     "Just trust me!" I pleaded, then hung up in a split second.

     It was already dark. I pulled out another quarter and called up Western Union. Pacing back and forth, I worked my way through their touch tone routing menu. Finally I was answered by the voice of an elderly Southern lady. I gave her my American Express number and dictated a telegram.

"Dear Rebecca: I love you. I want to spend my life with you. I want to marry you. But I cannot see you for two months. I have done nothing wrong but canít explain. Forever yours, B."

     The lady asked, "Can we phone this telegram to your party? A copy will arrive in the mail."

     "No! I want it to go to her hands and to no one elseís hands."

     "We do offer personal delivery service, although it may take a extra day if the party is not home."

     "Do it. I donít care what it costs. God bless you and your company."

     "And may God bless you too, young man. And always remember ó Jesus loves you."

     Fifty yards out from shore, I remembered the ladyís words. My overloaded dinghyís rail was little more than one-half inch above water level. Twice I came within a hairís breadth of sending the whole mess to the Deep Six. Thirty minutes later, I put one hand on the Diogenes stern and took my first deep breath. I tied the painter to the aft cleat and manhandled the bike and bags into the cockpit. I stowed the dinghy on board, lashing it down over the forward hatch.

     I fired up the engine, and furiously hauled in the two anchors, leaving them in a muddy heap on the forward deck, resting on a bed of coiled anchor line. Time to make things ship-shape later. I flipped on the navigation lights, pulled out the spotlight and signaled Mon Roi. Frenchie appeared on deck just as I passed by his stern.

     "Iím going down to the Keys for a few days, Frenchie."

     "Ben, switch on Channel Thirty-two. We need to talk."

     "Sorry. Canít talk."

     "But Ben!"

     I motored out at full speed towards the southern tip of Key Biscayne. For 30 seconds at a time, I left the helm to stow the grocery bags, bike and anchors. Should have bought that autopilot. Thirty minutes later I was half way to the Stiltsville Channel. I put on a life jacket, pointed into the wind, and hauled up the main. Had to run back from the mast to the helm several times to correct the steering. Really should have bought that autopilot. Repeated the routine to raise the jib. Better to hoist canvas here than risk falling off the boat in the middle of the Gulf Stream.

     With a 12-knot south wind filling two sails, the Diogenes fell into pace, holding course with no help from me. Allowing myself a breather, I looked back at Coconut Grove, wondering if I could ever return. Then I made out a Cigarette boat roaring up to my anchorage. As it came off plane, its spotlight flicked on and began illuminating the boats. Probably the Florida Marine Patrol looking for the Diogenes. So I didnít haul up the mizzen sail, hoping theyíd take us for a sloop. And I kept the diesel engine running to make full speed.

     Ten minutes later, the Marine Patrol boat moved into the Dinner Key harbor and out of sight. I was just making my way through the Stiltsville Channel and out to the Atlantic when he reemerged and headed south with his blue lights flashing. Theyíd be looking for me down in the Keys like I told Dr. Taylor and Frenchie.

     An hour later I was rolling in three-foot waves of the Atlantic Ocean, hoisting my mizzen sail. I killed the engine. The boat held steady while I went below to turn on the VHF and get my spotlight and flare gun. You need them all when a freighter comes bearing down on you in the night. It didnít take much listening on Channel 16 before I heard the Diogenes being hailed. I tied a rope around my waist and tied it to the helm. Within two hours the Miami skyline was little more than a glow off my stern. Let the process servers search the Florida Keys all they wanted. I had just passed the 12-mile limit, which put me outside U.S. jurisdiction. They probably couldnít subpoena me in Bahamas.

     It was a lonely run, running away from the trial, from the Ph.D. Program and from Rebecca ó thinking that all three were probably lost. Rays from the half moon danced on the three sails of my rocking boat like they had danced on the palm tree, that night on Miami Beach with Rebecca. The red glow of the binnacle light brought back memories of the enchanted evening when we consummated our love. Now, love would be a memory. My one constant friend would be my compass.

     I sailed on through the night without being run down by a freighter, without dozing at the helm, and without getting knocked out by a flying fish. Landfall at Bimini came shortly after sunrise. I had to keep slapping myself in the face to stay awake while pulling down the sails, maneuvering in behind the winding sandbar, and motoring through the narrow channel to the Bimini harbor. I tossed out the anchor, raised the yellow quarantine flag and then sank into my berth with a sigh of relief which quickly resolved into slumber.

     An hour later, I was awakened by a loud roar. Drunk with sleep, I scrambled topside just in time to catch a shower of propwash from an amphibious twin-engined Gruman "Mallard" of Chalkís Airline, as it "taxied" past me. The horizontal spray washed all of the African dust from the port side of the boat. I had to laugh as the old bird literally waddled its way up the ramp, with its rudder flapping back and forth like a duckís tail, until it stood on solid ground. "The Mallard quacks across the cove." But it wasnít bringing Rebecca.

     After a bite to eat, I motored to the Alice Town "customs dock" and filled out a declaration. Then I reclaimed my mooring. I slept deeply through a sultry day, and fitfully through a balmy night.

     The next morning, computer in hand, I went topside to meet the first rays of the sun. I inserted the planted diskette and read it. It contained the same two files they planted in my hard drive at the library. Hands trembling, I removed the foreign diskette. As soon as I reached open water, Iíd deep six the fucker. Half an hour later, a small wooden runabout pulled away from the dock at the Big Game Fishing Club, and motored directly towards me. A young black man sat in back, steering with the outboard motor. He was shirtless and shoeless, but wore long black pants. I waved to him and he smiled. He throttled down and drifted towards me, until his bow was ten yards off my stern.

     "I know I see right from de observation deck of de Club. This is the Diog .. gen .. es," he said, referring to a piece of paper. "So you must be Mr. Benjamin Can .. di .. di. I have a message for you from Mr. Jason Diamond."

     "Sorry, youíve got the wrong boat. This is the Dionysian and I am Marcus Lucifer," I said emphatically.

     "But he tell me on the telephone to look for a two-masted Choi Lee and here be just such a boat, man."

     "The Dionysian is a Grampian sloop, retrofitted as a ketch. How do you like my wooden planking? I installed it myself."

     "Hey man, Mr. Diamond is goiní to take it real bad if I do not deliver his message."

     "Do you know him?"

     "Yeah man, he come to de Club with his deep V all de time. He take me out to fish and I bait his line and show him de good places and he pay me good. Hey man, you give me break and take de message so I get what Mr. Diamond promise me! I know you de boat he looking for. If I call him back and say you donít take de message, maybe he donít give me de money."

     "How much money did he promise you?"

     "He say he give me twenty dollar. Say, man! You know of Mr. Diamond?"

     "Just by reputation. They say heís a very rich man who is very stingy with his money. Wait just a minute."

     I went to the wet locker, pulled out a $50 bill, came back topside and flashed it. It was like waving a steak in front of a hungry dog.

     "Look. What did you say your name is?"

     "Malcolm, Malcolm Williams."

     "And do you remember my name?"

     "You say you be Marcus Lucy."

     "Right, Malcolm! Now Iím interested in seeing that Mr. Diamond gets his message to the right place, since heís such a big, important man. Now listen carefully. I saw a two-masted Choi Lee named the Diogenes heading north, yesterday afternoon. So if I give you this fifty dollars, do you think you could set out right now, without stopping back at the Club, and motor a ways north, looking for that boat."

     Malcolm stared at me with curiosity. I simply waited until the look of understanding came slowly to his face. I smiled and continued my instructions.

     "You could take most of the day looking for him. And then you could come back at four-thirty and call Mr. Diamond. Tell his secretary that the man told you wrong and that thereís no Diogenes here. And that would be all you would say! Think you could do that?"

     "Yeah, man! I give him a good search," Malcolm said with a grin.

     "Good, hereís the fifty dollars. I want Mr. Diamond to get what he deserves. Be sure to call him collect."

     "No problem." Malcolm started to motor away, but then throttled down and called back. "Hey man. How good you know Mr. Diamond?"

     "Well enough that I will find out if you donít do right by me, man! Well enough to call him up and let him know! When Mr. Diamond comes back to visit next time, I hope you have some more good fishing trips with him."

     "No problem." Malcolm throttled up and headed north.



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