When A Plan Comes Together – Jay’s Story – A Vignette
Jay Jones always hated leaving his family when he had to go on a business trip. But this one was a career maker, if he could pull it off. The company had even agreed to his request for how the anticipated bonus he would receive should be paid to him. He smiled at the thought.
But he quit smiling when the cab dropped him off at the airport. With the airline industry in distress, and the Department of Homeland Security upping security restrictions back to what they were shortly after the 9/11 terror attacks, after having eased them over the years, flying was a real pain.
He felt naked without even a pen knife on him. And Japan had as many restrictions as the UK did about people carrying effective weapons, even if they weren’t guns. It was doubtful if he could get anything effective at all when he landed in Tokyo.
“Nothing to do, but play it by ear,” he murmured, buckling the seatbelt around him. At least the company had sprung for a first class seat for the long flight. Settled in, Jay turned his thoughts to the job.
The company had come up with an effective algae to use in an algae to biodiesel fuel conversion process. His job was to convince the Japanese oil industry leaders that it was a viable way to reduce their imports of oil.
He had all his ducks in a row, with a detailed plan on how to go about the process of convincing those needed to get a contract signed. So he took out his flight pillow and wrapped it around his neck. Sleep came slowly, as he worried about his family, but sleep did come.
Met at the airport by the company’s regular rep in Japan, Max Shepard, Jay was taken to the hotel that would be his base of operations for the trip. Max would act as his assistant, translator, and protocol advisor. Jay had a feeling the Japanese he would be dealing with would be able to speak and understand English, and understand any minor faux pas he might commit, but Jay understood the need to play by the rules.
He took a day to acclimate the time change, and then got busy with the plan. A parallel plan included contacting his wife, Kath, on a regular basis. For a country filled with state of the art electronics, it was frustrating to have so much trouble making a telephone call to the US. There were murmurs that it wasn’t accidental. It certainly wasn’t typical.
The couple of times he managed to get her on the phone didn’t reassure him much. She sounded strained. Like she was keeping something from him. And that wasn’t typical, either. And then the bad news came. Though the Japanese were enthusiastic about the plan, they wanted some more hands on help in setting up the first algae ponds for a pilot project. Jay would need to stay in Japan for an unspecified length of time.
Not happy with his inability to talk to Kath on a regular basis, he finally had Max locate an English speaking Amateur Radio Operator through his contacts. Jay got the message off to Kath of the requirement to stay longer and received notice back that she got the message.
Jay, being the prepper he was, had been keeping up on the news. And it wasn’t good in Southeast Asia and the western Pacific. More and more satellite based systems were going off-line, without any governmental information coming out as to why.
Then the North and South Korean situation was heating up, but Jay didn’t think North Korea could be behind the electronics problems. China quite probably could, and they were beginning to beat the war drums, too.
When China made the official announcement that the country was going to war with Australia, Jay talked to Max. Through the American Embassy, they were able to contact the offices in the states. There was no question about it. Jay and Max had the full resources of the company behind them to get Jay home to America in the most expeditious manner possible. Max was opting to stay in Japan with his Japanese wife and family.
Jay packed a bag at the hotel and Max took him home with him. Try as they might, they couldn’t get Jay a flight out. The company didn’t have all that much pull. Max and Jay even less. Except for one thing. Jay’s bonus, a foregone conclusion, had been prepared to his specification.
The fifty-thousand dollars riding on the deal, as a bonus for Jay, was in Max’s small safe at his home. Max opened the safe and gave Jay thirty one-ounce Gold Eagles. They were minted as fifty-dollar face value gold pieces. Max added twenty one-half-ounce twenty-five-dollar Gold Eagles, twenty one-quarter-ounce ten-dollar Gold Eagles, and fifty one-tenth-ounce five-dollar Gold Eagles.
At the time of purchase by the company, the gold spot price was still below a thousand dollars an ounce. Even with the slight premium, the company used somewhat less than fifty-thousand-dollars to provide Jay’s request of fifty ounces of gold in lieu of fifty-thousand-dollars cash. Paid as $2,450.00 face value, Jay would be able to save some on his taxes. He hoped. Taxes were the last thing on his mind at the moment, though.
He’d wanted the gold as part of his prep plans in the States. “This may be the difference in getting home and not getting home,” Jay told Max. “But what about you, Max? Are you sure you don’t want to bring your family and come with me?”
“No, my friend. My wife would never agree. Her ties to her family here are too great. And my ties to her and the children are just as tight. I wish I could have helped more. I’ve done all I know. We’re leaving for Mariko’s family’s compound up in the mountains in a few minutes. We’ll ride out whatever comes there.”
Max went to the book shelf at one side of the safe and took down a book. “English-Japanese dictionary. Good luck.”
Max and Jay shook hands and Max let Jay out, amidst the hustle and bustle of the family getting ready to leave. The weight of the gold rode lightly, almost a cushion, as Jay hailed a cab and headed for one of the private marinas on Tokyo Bay. The news had shown many people taking to sea in whatever craft they could beg, buy, borrow, or steal.
Even in these times, Jay wasn’t about to try to steal a boat. If the locals didn’t kill him, he’d probably be locked up for the duration if caught. No. But gold still held plenty of meaning and value in this part of the world. He’d buy passage to the US on a ship.
He tried the offices of the cruise ship lines. Either a berth wasn’t available, or the ship was going the wrong direction for Jay. One of those ships was an option in Jay’s mind, but it would make the trip a lot longer and more expensive.
With the few basic words of Japanese he knew, and the dictionary, Jay was able to continue his inquiries. He actually found several ships that would take him on. But Jay simply didn’t trust the owners or operators of most of them. Jay was sure they’d just slit his throat and take everything he had. He moved on past the commercial fishing ships, leaving angry stares behind.
Finally, just before dark, he came upon a group of Americans and Europeans cooperating in getting ready to leave together as a flotilla. Jay’s hopes picked up at the sight. He lifted his hands when a highly illegal shotgun was pointed at him from one of the boats.
“Move on!” said one of the men loading supplies on one of large sail boats the group had.
“Look,” Jay said. “I need to get home to my family in the states. I have a bit of gold. I’ll pay for passage.”
Half a dozen men and women conferred as the shotgun wielding kept the shotgun pointed at Jay. A woman tossed a towel over the gun to hide it from easy visibility, but Jay knew it was still pointed at his belly.
“We’re too full up,” said one of the men after the small group broke up. “However, there is another boat… There…” The man pointed to long single-mast sail boat seven boats down from the group. “A couple of elderly folks. German. They want to travel with us, but have neither the manpower to handle the boat, or wherewithal to stock up for the trip to Hawaii.”
“If there are more here than needed, can’t some of you sail with them to help?”
“A couple of us would, but without enough supplies… Better to be a bit crowded and be able to eat than starve two weeks out.” That was from one of the men still loading supplies on a trimaran.
“If I can supply them, and myself, can we join your group?”
Again there was a short conference. The same spokesman looked at Jay for a couple of seconds and said. “Okay. But you’re responsible for them. They can travel with us for as long as they keep up. We won’t slow down for them or supply any food, water, or help.”
Jay frowned, but nodded. He went past the other boats and stopped at the beautiful white motorsailer. He saw the name on the stern. Fraulein Betta. “Hello the boat!” he called out.
Again he was met with a shotgun. This one a double barrel where the other had been a shiny nickel plated pump action. Hands up slightly he looked at the young man holding the shotgun. He didn’t look old or German. And when he spoke his accent was European. Spain, Jay guessed.
“Herr Hoffer,” the young man called into the cabin of the boat.
“Ja?” asked the elderly German man that came out of the cabin.
“Someone I think wants to talk to you.” His eyes had stayed on Jay as he spoke to Hoffer. Now his words were directed to Jay. “Isn’t that right?”
“Yes,” Jay said. “Can I take my hands down?”
“Ja! Ja! Of course. What is it you want?”
“Passage to America, by way of Hawaii,” Jay said. “The group down the way said you want to travel with them, but had neither the manpower or supplies to travel with them.”
“Ja. They demand much supplies. But is right. Will be bad trip. And Antonio and I cannot manage alone. My wife, Betta, can’t help with sailing. Only cooking. I am afraid what you could offer will not be enough. Money is almost worthless. I wait too long to try and get supplies.”
Antonio was studying Jay, as Jay was studying Hoffer. “I know where there are plenty of supplies. Food. Fuel. Equipment. Will take a lot of money.”
“How about in gold?” Jay asked, knowingly taking a chance. But the looks of the two on the boat encouraged trust. Even with Antonio holding the shotgun on him.
Antonio’s eyes lit up. “For gold, it will be easy.” He lowered the shotgun. “Herr Hoffer. I think it is worthwhile to do this, if he has the gold.” He looked back at Jay. “Do you sail?”
Jay shook his head. “No. But I am a very fast learner.”
“I think we should do it, Herr Hoffer. It is a chance. I don’t think we have much chance here.”
“Betta!” Hoffer said, speaking into the cabin.
“Ja. We do it.”
“Betta says Ja,” Hoffer said, turning back around. “Antonio. Go with this man. You know what is needed.”
Antonio handed the shotgun to Hoffer and clambered up onto the dock and nodded toward the shore. “Let me do the talking,” Antonio said. “And do not show any money or gold until I ask for it. Okay?”
“I’m in your hands,” Jay said.
Jay was glad Antonio was guiding him, as they met with merchant after merchant. Antonio spoke adequate Japanese. Jay couldn’t follow completely, but as each deal was set, Antonio would whisper the amount of gold being asked. Each time Jay was able to nod, indicating he had the amount requested.
After one transaction, Antonio asked Jay, “You have more?”
Antonio shook his head. “Good thing I’m an honest person. We can get a few more things that will make things easier and more secure.”
Five more stops and Antonio led the way back to the Fraulein Betta. “You think all of them are going to show up with the things you’ve ordered?” Jay asked.
“They will. They want the gold. Some may try to short us, but I allowed for that. You’d better go get it. The first load should show up shortly.”
“I have it.”
“On you?” exclaimed Antonio
“You’re crazy man! I could have killed you and taken it all.”
“No you couldn’t. You said it yourself. You’re an honest person.” Jay didn’t add that the purchases had added up to only a third of the gold he was carrying in various places on his body, which was only half of the total. The rest was in the bag he’d left on the boat.
Antonio gave Jay a quick tour of the boat, indicating where he wanted everything put away. Hermann introduced Jay to Betta. She took the shotgun from Hermann when the boat was hailed. Jay watched as she placed herself by the cabin hatch and carefully looked out.
“K, Hermann,” she said. “I will guard.”
Antonio, Jay, and Hermann went out into the cockpit. Antonio confirmed the contents of the delivery and the amount of gold agreed upon. He nodded at Jay. Jay stepped into the cabin and took off the money belt he was wearing under his shirt and jacket. He counted out the correct amount of coins and went back to the cockpit. He handed the gold to Antonio, and Antonio handed it to the merchant.
Working quickly, Jay, Hermann, and Antonio moved the goods from the dock to their storage points inside the boat. They made sure that at least one of them was in the cockpit at all times.
They repeated the task time after time, until almost dark. “Last one, except for fuel and water,” Antonio said. “We need to motor over to the fuel dock. We’re paying a premium, so we should get in and out quickly.”
Jay nodded, and then followed Antonio’s instructions to get the boat untied from the dock. Hermann started the engine and they motored slowly out of the slip and headed for the fuel dock.
Antonio was on the bow of the boat and waved at someone loading fuel. There were some harsh words exchanged, in about seven different languages, the best Jay could tell, as Fraulein Betta was fuelled before the line of boats waiting.
Antonio and Hermann had their own argument when several drums were rolled out and the dock hands started to load them onto the foredeck of the boat. Hermann didn’t like the idea, and let Antonio know it. But whatever argument Antonio used was effective. Hermann finally said, “Ja, Ja! Load. Secure as if lives depended on it.”
Antonio looked at Jay and Jay jumped to help get the barrels placed just so. Antonio secured each one with multiple lashings. Jay didn’t think they’d come undone in a hurricane. Jay looked over the side of the boat. They were sitting deep in the water. But as they motored over near the group that was already setting sail, Jay saw that all the boats were. “Guess it’s worth the risk,” Jay said to himself.
As soon as they were clear of the bay, all the boats lifted sail and cut their engines. Jay jumped to obey every command Hermann or Antonio gave him, making sure to note each thing he did, under what circumstances, so he’d know what to do in the future, without being told.
With a lot of shouting back and forth, and constant radio exchanges, the flotilla was finally arranged to suit each of the captains. Speed was adjusted to match that of the slowest boat. It wasn’t the Fraulein Betta.
As he learned more about the boat during the trip, he found out that Fraulein Betta was a sixty-five foot MacGregor, one of about one hundred built that were some of the fastest small motorsailer yachts in the world, under sail or under power.
Life on Fraulein Betta fell into an easy, simple routine. Though the boat wasn’t equipped as a one-handed sailor, the way some of her sister ships, she was still easy to work and handle. Jay quickly learned to handle the helm, during the day, and took that watch most of the time. Betta could work the helm when the sailing was smooth. Antonio and Hermann shared the night time watches. Betta cooked, keeping everyone fed.
Things went very well, initially. Several of the boats, including Fraulein Betta, had state-of-the-art electronics and were able to get satellite navigation information. But that suddenly stopped.
The flotilla of boats closed ranks somewhat, with no one wanting to get out of sight of at least two other boats, even with the radios still working just fine. At least locally. The HF marine band radios weren’t picking up anything. Two days after the failure of the satellites, the clear blue sky slowly dimmed slightly, behind a thin layer of dust, that Jay, and the others, all assumed was fallout.
There was little falling, and all the boat crews were careful to wash down the decks and themselves regularly, to avoid any accumulation. But it seemed to panic several of the boat owners. The carefully orchestrated flotilla began to stretch out, the faster boats pulling ahead, leaving the slower behind, despite the agreement to stay together.
Jay supported Hermann’s decision to stay with the slower boats. “We agreed. Hermann Hoffer honors his agreements,” Hermann said. The five slowest boats, plus Fraulein Betta, closed ranks. One of those five was the big trimaran. With lots of space, and lots of sail, very luxurious, it simply wasn’t very fast.
Without the satellite weather information, the six boats ran into a very bad storm. It wasn’t big, but it was severe. Normally the group of boats could have avoided it, but not without outside weather information.
Two of the boats had serious trouble during the storm. One lost its main sail, and the other lost her rudder. The storm passed and the sea calmed. The four boats still maneuverable sailed up to the other two and the captains had a conference. An attempt would be made to repair the rudder on the one damaged boat. If it couldn’t be repaired, the boat would be abandoned, and all the supplies left and the passengers and crew would move to the other five boats. The one without a mast would be towed by the Fraulein Betta, the boat most capable of doing so.
Unfortunately they had to go to that plan. There was just no way to fix the rudder. The boat would be uncontrollable. The changes made, the group was ready to sail away when the captain of the Mercury Express decided to try and transfer the fuel from the boat being left to his own tanks.
The other captains tried to talk him out of it, but he was determined to get the fuel. It was a major error in judgment. As the other boats circled nearby, the Mercury Express was maneuvered up to and secured to the damaged boat again. A pump was rigged, and the fuel transfer was started. It didn’t go well. The swells weren’t particularly high, but they were enough to make keeping the boats together difficult. Impossible actually.
A deck cleat pulled loose and the boats started to pivot around the other point of attachment. The fuel line pulled loose from the fuel intake on the receiving boat, but the pump on the disabled boat continued to work, dumping gallon after gallon of diesel fuel into the water, after showering the Mercury Express with fuel.
Diesel isn’t particularly explosive, but it will burn, given a suitable ignition source. It wasn’t clear what set it off, but the diesel ignited, enveloping both boats in flames. The passengers and crew of the Mercury Express began jumping into the water, trying to get away from the flames on the boat. Several dove right into the flaming diesel.
Jay didn’t think when he saw one of the children struggling in the water. He dove in and swam toward the girl. By the time he got close, the floating, burning diesel had drifted around her, trapping her inside a ring of fire.
Though he tried to dodge a floating pool of the diesel that hadn’t caught fire yet, Jay wasn’t quick enough and the left sleeve of his shirt picked up some of the diesel. Ignoring it, Jay dove under the flaming ring of fire around the girl and came up beside her.
She was hysterical, and grabbed Jay, trying to climb up out of the water on top of him. He managed to get her in a control hold, the way he’d been trained at the pool during rescue training he’d taken. He put his hand over the girl’s mouth and nose, and dove down again, to get outside the ring of fire.
But the girl was amazingly strong from the adrenaline coursing through her body and she kicked free of Jay and surfaced. The wind knocked from his lungs, Jay had to surface, too. The girl was just outside the circle of fire and Antonio was there to get her to Fraulein Betta. Jay wasn’t as lucky. Just a few inches more and he would have been clear, but his left arm, the shirt sleeve soaked with diesel, came up in the flames.
He jerked his arm down as soon as he felt the heat on his arm, and drowned out the fire. He swam over to Fraulein Betta and helped Antonio get the girl aboard. There were three other people in the water and Jay swam back.
The boats were separating in the wind, the last line holding them together having burned in two. There were flaming spots of diesel everywhere. Jay got another of the survivors to the Fraulein Betta and helped her aboard. He saw Antonio swimming toward the other two survivors. He headed the same direction, but the fire encircled the three.
Jay scrambled aboard Fraulein Betta. He pointed at Antonio. Hermann didn’t hesitate. He steered the boat toward the flames. When the boat broke through the ring of fire, Jay reached down and helped first a woman, and then a man aboard.
“Hurry! Hurry!” Hermann said. The fire ring was closing.
Jay reached down one last time and dragged Antonio aboard through the flames. His left sleeve ignited again and Jay struggled to get the shirt off. He couldn’t dive into the water. The fire was everywhere. Hermann had the engine going and they were motoring out of the danger area, but it was long seconds before they left the fire behind.
Jay, the flaming shirt thrown overboard, held his left arm tightly against his body. It hurt like the dickens.
The last man they’d pulled aboard worked his way over to Jay. “Let me see. I’m a doctor.”
With a groan Jay held out his left arm. “I’m Dr. Marcus Tanner.” He inspected Jay’s arm. He looked up at Jay’s face. “This isn’t good.” He looked at Antonio. “Is there a first-aid kit aboard?”
Antonio, nursing a few scorch marks himself, nodded and started to go into the cabin, but Betta brought the first-aid kit out. The woman that had been pulled aboard before the doctor took the large backpack from Betta. “I’m Sue. His wife. I’m a nurse. Thank you.”
Betta nodded and retreated to the cabin to care for the young girl that had been pulled aboard.
Sue opened the first-aid kit and began to hand Dr. Tanner the things he asked for. Though it was a very good first-aid kit, it only had a few items needed to treat serious burns. And the burns on Jay’s arm were serious.
Well away from the fire now, Hermann brought Fraulein Betta up to the other three boats. The girl and woman Jay had rescued were transferred to the trimaran. Those aboard had picked up the girl’s parents after they abandoned the Mercury Express. The other woman was the girl’s Aunt.
His arm bandaged, Dr. Tanner took Jay down into the cabin of the boat and helped him into his bunk. “You’re going to need a lot of rest and fluids.”
Jay nodded. “You’re the doc.”
“Yes. And thank you. You saved both my wife and me.”
Jay shrugged. “Just doing what needed doing.”
Dr. Tanner left Jay to allow him to rest. But Antonio came down a few minutes later, sporting several bandages himself, from minor burns.
“Thanks, man,” he told a groggy Jay. “You saved my life back there.”
Jay repeated what he’d told Dr. Tanner. “Just doing what needed doing.”
“Thanks for doing it. Anything you need, just let me know.”
Jay nodded and then closed his eyes. The painkiller that the doctor had given him was putting him to sleep.
It was several hours before Jay’s bladder woke him. He hurried to the forward head and did his business, and then joined the others sitting around the cockpit. He was holding his arm tightly against his chest.
“Let me get you a sling for that arm,” Sue said, moving to the first-aid kit backpack that was sitting nearby.
Antonio told Jay, “Doctor and missus Tanner are staying aboard to keep an eye on you.”
“I think that might be a good idea. I don’t feel very well.”
Sue was arranging the triangle bandage to support Jay’s arm. “The least we can do.”
“Ja,” Hermann said. “Both good sailors, they tell me. Can help with the boat while you’re sick.”
Jay looked around. The other three boats were cruising under sail again, as was Fraulein Betta. Jay could see their running lights. They were rather spread out, he thought, but said nothing.
“Thank you, Sue,” Jay told her when she stepped back, the sling finished.
Five days later, Dr. Tanner was checking Jay’s arm, in preparation for Sue to re-bandage it again. He sighed and Jay looked at the doctor’s face carefully. “Infection?” Jay asked.
“Of the worst kind,” Dr. Tanner said. “I’m sorry. Gangrene. I don’t have anything strong enough to fight it.”
Jay bit his lip. “If I remember my history, about the only cure for Gangrene is to remove it completely from the body.”
“Yes. It will mean taking your left arm from near the shoulder.”
Jay hung his head, his eyes closed. “It’s that or die, isn’t it?”
“Yes. Jay, we’re getting close to Hawaii. It would be better if we could wait and do the procedure there. But I don’t think you have the time.”
“Do you have what you need to do the operation?” Jay asked, looking up again.
“Makeshift. But I think I can manage, tool wise. But anesthetic… we don’t have any. The pain killers in the first-aid kit will help after the operation, but not during.”
Jay groaned at the thought. “I guess it’s the old whiskey till I’m drunk scenario.”
“I’m afraid so.”
“Going to be tough doing it here on the boat…”
“We’ll transfer to the trimaran. It’s far more stable and has more room.”
“Set it up while I go lay down and feel sorry for myself.”
Dr. Tanner nodded and left Jay to his misery. “Lousy, stinking plan, this one is,” Jay muttered. He turned his face to the outer hull and tried not to cry.
Jay discovered that getting drunk wasn’t as good an anesthetic as it was cracked up to be. It hurt when Dr. Tanner made that first cut. Jay knew he screamed, and then nature did its work, and he passed out from the pain.
He came to, feeling groggy and definitely hung over. Jay was wondering why the doctor hadn’t taken the arm, since he could feel it laying right there at his side. But he looked and there was no arm. “Phantom feeling…” Jay mused, staring at where the rest of his left arm should be.
“How are you feeling?” came a voice beside him.
It was Sue. “Weird. Phantom feeling in the arm. I’m looking right at the space where the arm isn’t, but I can still feel it.”
“That sensation will lessen with time,” Dr. Tanner said, coming over to the bed Jay was in. It was one of the settees in the trimaran that made into a queen size bed.
“When can I get up?” Jay asked.
“To go to the bathroom, any time. The rest of the time, at least until we get to Hawaii, I want you off your feet, resting.”
“I don’t think I could do anything else, the way I feel right now.”
“That will fade, too,” Dr. Tanner said. “You already seem to have a good attitude about this.”
Jay shrugged and winced. “That hurt. What else is there to do? I have a family I have to get back to. Even with one arm, I can be of use to them.”
“Of course you can,” Dr. Tanner said. “That is a very good attitude. I think you will be just fine.”
Jay didn’t consider it fine, but he managed over the next few days to learn to do things one handed. It was strange, and many things were difficult, but he wasn’t going to give up. He needed to be in the best shape possible when he got to California. No telling what the situation was there, now.
They’d finally managed to make a few contacts on the Amateur Bands. What information they had was that it was bad all over.
They finally made it to Hawaii, with supplies and fuel to spare. It was a good thing. They avoided Pearl Harbor and went to the big island. It took some more of Antonio’s negotiating skills to get more supplies for the trip to California. It also took another third of Jay’s gold. It would have been more, but those in the other three boats decided to stay on the island.
Dr. Tanner and Sue opted to join Jay back on Fraulein Betta. The Doctor made some connections at one of the hospitals and rebuilt the medical bag he’d lost to the fire at sea. There weren’t many medications left, but he bought, with Jay’s gold, everything he could. Fraulein Betta’s first-aid kit was replenished, too.
With the boat low in the water again, Hermann set sail for the coast of California.
They saw not another boat or ship, until they were within a few miles of the coast. Cautiously they hailed the first boat they saw. Hermann’s shotgun at the ready, the two boats came together and exchanged information.
It was a fishing boat out looking for a catch. Thankfully, they were helpful and not aggressive. They were out of Monterey, and told those on Fraulein Betta that the small town on the Bay was holding things together pretty well.
Captain Sugarman was eyeing the Fraulein Betta. “Sweet boat like this could make a man a good living, with the fuel situation being what it is now. By next fall there’ll be a decent supply of biodiesel, but still not enough to go around for everyone that wants it.”
Turning his gaze from the boat to Hermann, he added, “You could get a good price for her. Or lease her out to the highest bidder. There’s several of us pooling resources. If you aim to stay, and might be interested in a deal, contact me first.”
“Ja,” Hermann replied. “Maybe so. Will see when we get there.”
“What are things like toward Reno?” Jay asked. He waited anxiously for the answer. It was a disappointing one.
“Heard the airport in Reno took one, and Carson City got hit. Fallon got hammered, it’s said. At least three small nukes at the Naval Air Station.”
Antonio, Hermann, and Betta looked at Jay. “They could still be alive. We’re northwest of the airport. The Carson City nuke wouldn’t affect us, except maybe ground shock and weak blast wave. Fallon not at all. I have to believe they are alive and well.”
“Better watch your step going that way. Sacramento got it. And there’s been problems in the mountains. City survivors with nothing but guns going after those that were prepared in the country.”
“Thanks,” Jay said. “We’ll be careful, believe me. I’ve come too far and lost too much to give up now when I’m this close.”
“Keep me in mind about your boat, mister!” called Captain Sugarman as the two boats separated, Sugarman heading further out to sea for fish, and Fraulein Betta pointed to Monterey Bay.
When they got close to the city, the sails were brought down and secured, and Hermann motored them in the rest of the way. Jay, using his single hand and arm had learned how to help where he could, and stay out of the way when he couldn’t.
Betta had the shotgun ready, but out of sight as Hermann found an empty slip and eased the motorsailer into it. Antonio and Marcus got the lines secured and Hermann stopped the engine. Everyone stood waiting anxiously as a tall, skinny man came down the gangways toward the boat.
“You new here, aren’t you? Can’t stay here. That slip is taken. We have several open, more suited to that boat anyway, the other side of the marina.”
“But it is okay to stop here in the marina until we decide what we’re going to do?” Jay asked.
“Sure. What we’re here for, you know. But it will cost you. Just like in the old days. But no cash money. Silver, gold, food, fuel, ammo. You got two days to pony up or we’ll run you out of here.”
Jay looked around at Hermann. “Ja,” he said softly.
“Okay,” Jay said, looking back at the man. “What’s your name, Harbormaster?”
“Can you show us where the open slips are, Mr. Smithson?” Jay asked.
“Just Nigel, as long as things stay peaceful. Sure.” Nigel pointed through the forest of sail boat masts. “Over there. I’ll go around and meet you and we can discuss prices.”
Jay and Antonio untied the boat and Hermann guided it back out into travel way. Antonio kept an eye on the Harbormaster. He’d retrieved a bicycle on shore and was pedaling along the pavement above the bay that paralleled the shore.
When they got close to where Nigel had pointed, the openings that had not been visible were noticeable. Nigel was standing on the walkway when Hermann brought Fraulein Betta to a gentle stop and Marcus and Antonio jumped to fasten her securely.
“You want to come aboard and arrange things?” Jay asked.
“No thanks. No offense, but I don’t know you. Come on up to the office when you get settled. We’re not unreasonable here, but we do insist the rules are followed. You can’t keep those drums on board like that. I assume they’re fuel.”
“Were,” Antonio said. “Only one is still full. We’ll transfer it to the tank and find someone to take the drums off our hands.”
Nigel nodded. “Ask about for Old Man Jenkins. He’ll try to get you to pay for him to take them, like in the old days. Don’t take less than a Silver Eagle for each one. He can, and will, pay it. They’re almost as valuable as the fuel they contain.”
“Will do,” Jay said. “Thanks.”
“Okay. See you in a little while.”
The six went into the cabin of the boat and sat down around the dining table to discuss their respective futures. “Well, as all of you are aware, I’m headed to Reno to find my family. Captain Sugarman implied that it could be a dangerous trip.”
“Betta and me…” Hermann said, “We stay here. Right Mama?”
“Ja, Hermann. We can be fisherman like my Papa’s Papa.”
“Okay,” Jay said. “I think that’s a good decision for you.” He looked at Antonio. “You’ll be wanting to stay and help…”
“Nein,” Hermann said. “Antonio only wanted to get to America. He no need to stay and help. Will find Captain Sugarman and make deal.”
“Herr Hoffer, you have been very good to me. I will stay and work for you.”
“Nein, nein,” Hermann said with a wave of his meaty hand. “You are young man. Have your own life. Good sailor, Ja, but not the life you want.”
“Are you sure, Herr Hoffer?” Antonio asked.
Betta added her own “Ja.”
That settled it for Antonio. He turned to Jay and said, “I’d kind of like to tag along. Find some place I can make my home. The Hoffers’ are right. I don’t really want a life at sea.”
“I’ll be glad to have you along, Antonio. Thanks.”
It was Dr. Tanner’s and Sue’s turn to look at one another.
“I’ve had enough of the sea, too,” Sue told Marcus. “It was fun for a while, but this last trip is all I want. I’m ready for some dry ground and a clinic to take care of.”
“That’s about the way I feel, too. Don’t know if it will be in Reno, Jay, but we’d like to tag along until you get there. We may stay or we may continue, like Antonio. We make a good team.”
“If you are really sure and aren’t just offering because of my arm, I’d pleased to travel with you to Reno. But that is where I’ll be stopping. As long as my family is there. And I think they will be. We have this plan, you see…”
Everyone was nodding. The decisions made, Antonio went about transferring the last of the diesel from the drum to the fuel tank in the boat. He went looking for Jenkins.
Jay and Hermann went to talk to Harbormaster Smithson and make arrangements for a permanent slip for Fraulein Betta. Marcus and Sue stayed aboard to keep Betta company and keep an eye on things while the other men were gone.
When Jay and Hermann returned, Antonio was helping a very old looking, but quite spry man, loading an empty drum on a dolly. It was the last of the drums. With a rather grouchy, “Anymore and I’ll pay the same. No more than that, though. And keep it to yourself.”
Antonio was grinning when he joined Jay and Hermann at the stern of Fraulein Betta. He handed Jay a handful of shiny silver coins. “Got a one ounce round, plus a quarter and a dime for each one of the drums.”
“You’re the regular little haggler there, aren’t you?” Jay said as the others laughed.
Antonio laughed, too. “Sure. I guess that’s what I’d do if I could. Horse trader, I think the term is here. Buy and sell, barter, and trade for things to make a living.” His grin faded. “Not sure how I can get started, though.”
Jay smiled, but said nothing. They boarded the boat again, and Jay pulled out several gold coins. “Hermann, Betta, these are for you. For letting me come with you, and delivering me safe to shore.”
“Nein! Nein!” Hermann and Betta both shouted.
“You pay for food and fuel. Worked hard. Lost your arm. You keep gold for family!” Hermann was insistent.
But so was Jay. When he felt he owed a debt, he paid it. He put half the gold he’d offered back in his pocket. The rest he put on the dining table. “It is yours. You will need a cushion until you start getting an income from fishing.”
Hermann and Betta whispered to each other in German, and then Hermann said, “Ja. But you come back sometime and you have place with the Hoffers.”
Jay shook Hermann’s hand firmly. Betta took the gold and it disappeared somewhere in her clothing.
“And while we’re settling debts…” Jay said, he pulled out the gold again and made two similar stacks. “Doc, one for you and Sue, for saving my life, and Antonio, for the same thing. You were a big part of getting me here, just like the Hoffers.”
Another set of minor arguments ensued, but finally everyone took the gold Jay had offered. “Let’s go see what we can find for transportation, travel gear, and supplies for the trip to Reno.”
With more handshakes, a few tears shed, and hugs all around, Hermann and Betta finally waved goodbye to Jay, Antonio, Marcus, and Sue.
It took three days to put together what was needed for the journey to Reno. At Jay’s lament that he wished they had at least a gun or two, Antonio disappeared for most of the third day. He returned with a long, heavy bundle wrapped in an old blanket over one shoulder, and a large leather bag slung from the other.
He made sure they weren’t in sight of anyone when he showed the others what he’d found. Jay smiled. He reached for a well worn Colt .45 semiautomatic, but hesitated. It would be most difficult for him to reload the magazines. There was a large double action revolver in the bag next to the .45. Jay hefted it instead.
It took him a few tries to learn how to hold the gun between his knees and open the cylinder to reload, but he decided he was better of with it than a semi-auto. He was rather thankful that Antonio had found plenty of .44 Special rounds for the gun, though it was chambered for .44 Magnums. He’d shot both before, and the .44 Magnum was more than he wanted to handle.
The .44 Magnums he let Dr. Tanner have for the Marlin lever action carbine Antonio had picked up for him. There was a Bersa .380 semiauto pistol for Sue. Antonio took the .45 semiauto and the Mini-14 .223 carbine for himself. He only had three magazines for the Bersa, but had managed to get eight 20-round Ruger Factory Mini-14 magazines, despite the pre-war restriction on them in California. There was enough ammunition, they all hoped, to get them safely to Reno.
With decent camp gear they got for very little, an expensive heavy duty four wheel yard cart, and provisions that cost more than all the rest of the gear put together, the four set off on foot, with the three men taking turns pulling the wagon. Jay insisted on taking a turn. Taking the warnings they received from others besides Captain Sugarman, they traveled cautiously.
The wagon kept them on roads or good trails, but they traveled mostly at night and camped during the day. They saw people moving on the main routes during the day, but the night was theirs alone.
They settled into an easy routine, traveling eight to ten miles a night on the roads. They swung south and west around Sacramento, and then cut north to pick up Interstate 80. There was traffic moving on the interstate, mostly horses and horse drawn wagons, about equal amounts going each way. There were also many people afoot.
The group attached itself, after being invited, to a group of Mormons headed for Salt Lake City from their various homes in California. Being with a group, Jay and the others didn’t mind switching to daytime travel and nighttime sleep. Plus they only had to pull a watch every few days rather than every other day.
Still, traveling by foot was a slow process, especially after they got into the mountains. But finally Interstate 80 cut across McCarran Boulevard, on the west side of Reno, and Jay, Antonio, Marcus, and Sue turned north. The Mormons decided to follow that route, as well, since it kept them further from the demolished airport. McCarran crossed I-80 again on the east side of town, and the Mormons would pick it up again.
Jay, walking as fast as he could without running, turned north on one of the local roads. It led to the subdivision where he lived. The others kept pace, understanding Jay’s eagerness to get home to see about his family. From what they’d heard, there were survivors all around the west and northern sections of the city.
When the sound of a shot was heard, and then two more, Jay drew up short. Then he began to run. He turned onto his street and heard a voice screaming at someone. He heard what he was sure was his son and wife yelling at who had to be the shooter. Jay stopped again, changed directions, and went behind the row houses on the side of the street opposite of his, before getting up to a run again. He came past one more house and there was a man with a rifle pointed toward his son, Rex, who was lying on the ground. His dear wife, Kathy, stood on the porch of their house with a carbine pointed toward the man with the rifle.
She yelled “Put down the gun, Dave!” Jay realized it was one of their nearby neighbors, Dave Monroe, that had shot his son and was threatening his family with violence.
“No! You put yours down!” Dave screamed back. “I’ve got the boy’s head right in my sights. I’ll pop it like a watermelon if you don’t lay down your guns and come out into the street.”
“Don’t do it, Mom!” Rex said through clenched teeth. “You know what it means. I don’t think he can shoot fast enough to get me. Shoot him.”
“Shut up, boy!” screamed Dave. “I’ll put a shot in your guts first, if they don’t lay down their guns and come out into the street.
Jay didn’t hesitate any longer. The big revolver came up, Jay got a quick sight picture and pulled the trigger. The .44 Special was less powerful than the .44 Magnum, but was more than enough to stop Dave.
Dave stood there, the barrel of his twenty-two rifle slowly lowering. He felt a sting in his chest, minor compared to the pain in his rear left shoulder. He dropped the rifle, slowly turned around, and saw a one-armed Jay Jones holding a revolver pointed at him. There was a sudden flash from the barrel of the revolver and Dave fell to the ground, the .44 Special bullet lodged in a rib after passing through his heart.
Jay raised the revolver up over his head and stepped around the corner of the house, past Dave. “Don’t shoot!” he yelled to Kathy.
And now you know the rest of the story.
Jerry D. Young