“Can I offer you a glass of wine? I think I have beer if you prefer.”
“You’re so kind, but thank you, no. Sadly, my drinking days are over since my last heart attack.” he looked down and slowly shook his head. “Sucks the fun out of everything.”
“Some water then? I have plenty. Maybe something for your friend outside. She’s so quiet. What’s her name?”
“Layla,” he said. “Layla come here sweetheart. Would you like something to drink?”
Layla entered the dark mahogany salon and plopped onto the sofa.
“Well, I’ll take that as a yes.” The middle-aged woman rose and stepped down the companionway stairs into the compact galley and opened the fridge. “Nice and cold. This heat will be the death of us all,” she said as she turned to face her guests. Those prophetic words would be her last. The bullet tore through her nasal cavity and exploded out the back of her head.
“Mind if I turn down the AC? I’m chilled.” Detective Gerry Sharpe sat in the passenger seat of the dark SUV. She buttoned up her jacket and turned up the collar.
“Nope,” her partner Pete Jansen said. He felt Gerry’s eyes on him.
“Yeah,” she sighed and turned to stare blankly at the scenery scrolling by her window.
“What’s going on? You sure you’re alright? You’re awful quiet.”
“Oh I’m okay,” she said, paused a moment. “It’s just that sometimes…” Gerry paused again, organizing her thoughts. “It just feels like it’s not enough.”
“Not enough? What’s not enough?”
“My life. I mean, look at me. I’ve got nothing except this job. There’s nothing going on in my life except work.” She shifted in her seat to face Pete. “In college I had hobbies. I was interested in everything. I had dates, a love life. What the hell happened? My marriage didn’t work. I’m too old to have children. I get up, get in the car, and go to work. I dunno, there’s got to be more. I’m a little envious of these boaters just cruising around, having this grand adventure. Well, where’s my adventure?”
Pete let the moment hang for a bit.
“Gerry, everybody has those feelings once in a while.”
“Of course me. I have the same job as you.” Pete started to say something more but stopped. He didn’t want to make the conversation about himself, but Gerry pushed.
“What were you going to say? Go ahead.” Her dark eyes softened.
“There is honor in getting up and going to work every day. We’re lucky to have jobs.” He stared blankly into the oncoming traffic for a moment, then sighed. “But you’re right. This job does get old.”
“Or we are.”
“I used to do all sorts of stuff too. Boating, kayaking, scuba diving. I loved working on cars, always had a hot rod to tinker with. Did you know I was in a rock band?”
“No freakin’ way! You?”
“Oh yeah. Had hair down to the middle of my back. The girls were all over me!” Pete stopped to reflect and involuntarily rubbed his buzz cut, thinning grey hair. “Sure do miss my hair,” he said.
“Guys always think their hair is important to woman.” Gerry reached over and patted his chest. “It’s what’s inside that really matters.”
“So why can’t I have heart and hair?” His remark made Gerry laugh a little.
“Do you really want children?” Pete asked.
“Nah. I never caught the baby rabies. Hey, I like kids, but having one of my own meant giving up a big chunk of my life for a very long time. I just wasn’t willing to do that. I was having too much fun.” Gerry paused and took a deep breath. “And there it is right there. My point exactly. I have nothing going on except this damn job…and menopause.” She reached over and cranked up the air conditioner.
“So shake it up. Do something else with your life. You got your twenty years in.”
“It’s just…not that easy Pete.”
“Ya it kinda is, Gerry.”
Pete’s phone vibrated in his pocket.
“Jansen,” he clipped. “Uh huh. Uh huh. Where?” He fished out his notebook and handed it to Gerry. She wrote down the address as fast as he spit it out. “Got it. I’ll let you know,” he said into his phone. The call ended.
“The Caruso’s boat went missing from its mooring in Waretucket,” he said. “The Coasties found it In Yonkers on some kind of free municipal dock along the Hudson River.”
“Someone killed June Caruso, stole the boat, and dumped her body along the way.” Gerry oversimplified, but Pete got the idea and nodded.
“Okay, so we talked to her in the morning, and they found her body in the afternoon. She must have been murdered on the boat. June mentioned she was showing it to someone. ”
“Which means the killer could still be with the boat.”
“We should check it out. We’re like an hour away,” Pete said.
“Yonkers, New York? An hour? Maybe in a helicopter!”
“Okay. You’re right. It’ll make for a long day, and nobody’s making us go, but we are halfway there.”
“Alright Pete. Let’s go. What the hell, I’ve got nothing else to do.”
It was a pleasantly warm and slightly humid evening. The sun hung low, barely touching the tree tops on the opposite shore. Long shadows crossed the street and ran halfway up the brick three storey buildings that inhabited the upscale West Yonkers neighborhood. A large restaurant dominated the waterfront and overlooked the Hudson River and the municipal dock. The smell of aftershave and expensive perfume emanated from the well dressed patrons filing in for dinner. Pete and Gerry stood outside the imposing iron grate fence that completely surrounded the busy eatery.
“There she is,” Gerry said, nodding towards the green and white Great Harbor GH 37 which sat proudly at the end of the battered dock. The name Andiamo was written across the transom in large green and black drop-shadow cursive lettering.
“That’s our girl all right,” Pete said.
“What’s that other boat in front of it. They both have the same little flag up front.”
“It’s called a burgee. Lemme Google that.” Pete took out his phone and typed in AGLCA. “Huh,” he said and read aloud. “Americas Great Loop Cruisers Association is an organization of people who share a sense of adventure and a curiosity about the boating adventure known as America’s Great Loop.” He read on. “The Great Loop is the circumnavigation of Eastern North America, a continuous waterway connecting inland lakes and rivers with the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway and the Great Lakes.”
“The Hudson is part of this Great Loop thing?” Gerry asked.
“Apparently. Looks like it goes north past Troy then takes a left at the Erie Canal.”
Pete pocketed his phone and pulled the gate on the side of the restaurant. It didn’t open.
“One way locks,” he said. “You can get out but not back in. Can’t reach around.” On either side the shoreline sloped steeply down from the street.
“This is our only way to the dock.”
“Look,” Gerry pointed. A tugboat was making its way to a group of large wooden pilings behind the restaurant. Deck hands scrambled and quickly secured the vessel. When its captain emerged from the wheelhouse, Pete stuck two fingers into his mouth and let out a shrieking whistle. The Captain looked up.
“Can you let us in?” Pete shouted. The Captain nodded and dispatched a wiry deck hand who nimbly jumped over the gunwale and scrambled up a stone wall. He made his way to the gate and unlocked it from the inside.
“Thank you,” Gerry said.
“It’s always locked,” the man said. “We have to stick something in the gate so we can get back to the boat.”
“It’s supposed to be a free dock,” Pete said.
“Yes, I know, but it’s always locked.”
The detectives walked to the top of an aluminum gangway that angled downward to the dock floating ten feet below them. A tall chain-link gate blocked their entry.
“It’s padlocked! No way around unless we swim,” Pete said. “So you can dock for free but you can’t leave the dock to enjoy all these cool shops and restaurants. On what planet does that make any sense at all? This is ridiculous.”
“Welcome to New York,” Gerry cracked. “Hey. Check this out.” A section of chain link on the lower corner of the gate had been cut from its poles and could be peeled back enough to crawl under.
“There’s no way I can fit under that,” Pete said. “You go ahead. I’ll call the local cops and see if we can’t get this gate open.” Pete held back the chain link for Gerry. She slid under on her back. “And be careful,” he added.
“Betcha ass,” she answered.
Gerry slowly approached the shiny trawler. There was no movement visible inside or out.
“Hello the boat,” she called out. Nothing. She rapped on the hull.
“Hello. Ahoy. Anybody home?” she called out again. Again there was nothing. “Crap! I hate this,” she muttered and cautiously stepped onto the aft-deck. The boat rocked and recoiled slightly against the white fenders that protected it from rough edges of the dock. In one smooth controlled movement she drew out her Glock 21 and held it against her thigh.
“Is anybody here?” she called once more. She tried the door. It opened an inch. She took a knee and slowly muzzled the door open several more inches. With a two-handed grip on her gun, ready for anything, she peeked inside.
“Hey. Where are you”?
Gerry nearly jumped out of her skin.
“Christ, Pete! You scared the bejesus out of me.” Gerry sat back against the gunwale, hand over her heart, breathing hard.
“Sorry. Didn’t see you there. Couldn’t find anyone with a key,” Pete said. In his hands was a large bolt cutter. “So I got ol’ Betsy out of the trunk.” He smiled broadly. “Don’t leave home without it!”
Pete stepped onto the swim platform and joined Gerry on the aft-deck.
“Door’s open. Looks like nobody’s home,” he said. He drew his snubbie. “Ready?” he asked somberly. Gerry nodded. He pulled the door open wide and Gerry entered.
“Clear,” she said.
“Check below. I’ll go up.”
“Clear below,” she shouted. “You okay?”
“Looks like we’re alone,” he said and holstered his piece.
“Looks like,” Gerry answered. She relaxed and put her Glock away as well.
The interior of the cruiser was starkly beautiful and deceptively large. To the right, a sectional sofa wrapped around a table, to the left, an entertainment center between comfy chairs. Two steps down led to a large galley with full size appliances and even a washer and dryer. There was a guest cabin with its own shower and head. The master berth featured a queen sized bed and another huge bathroom. Everything had its place and at first glance nothing seemed unusual.
“This boat is amazing,” Gerry said to no one. Pete was upstairs.
“Hey, Gerry. Check out this pilothouse. It’s got everything!” he gushed. When she didn’t come up, Pete went down the stairs to find Gerry outside on the aft-deck talking on her phone. After a while she hung up, took a deep breath, and entered the salon.
“I could get used to this,” he said.
“Me too. In fact, I will get used to this.”
“What the heck does that mean Gerry.”
“I mean, I will get used to this. I just bought this boat!”