Ms. The Boat
The table talk among the three hotties without wordly cares was starting to run out of room. Aphra was getting a little testy, having exposed herself by swiping her credit card–yet end up without a boat to show for it. And this in a tiny, tacky little place that had more boat biz than tortillas. Understandable, she assumed, out here in the middle of the damned ocean. But if there were all these boats, and this such an underprivileged country–half of ’em slipping into the States to be gardeners and shit–why didn’t they want to rent her one? And she said as much: “What the hell’s wrong with these losers? I’m paying triple-list and nobody taking it?”
“They’ll rent you a boat.” Even the perky Curtsy was dispirited. “Just not without a crew. Makes sense, you gotta admit. The boat is their whole gig, their livelihood.”
Most un-lively ‘hood I ever checked out, Aphra thought, but said only. “I gotta agree. If we couldn’t cut a deal with that Tony cat, we’re probably stuck.”
“Wasn’t he a little sweetheart, though?” MeiMei had been the last to give up on Captain Tony. And he’d be a great guy for blitzing around the ocean with. Aphra was right about not being crewed, though: it wouldn’t do to have anybody witnessing this little teaparty. But Tony had really caught her eye. “I just wanted to scratch him behind the ears and pet his tummy.”
“Honest, open, charming,” Curtsy nodded. “A real cutie pie.”
“How do people like that survive?” Aphra tossed in. “Perfect height, though. His mouth would hit me right around the nipples.”
One of Aphra’s two drawbacks as a spy was her innate, undisguisable flamboyance. Deep black six-footers with her look and athleticism don’t do surreptitious. She’d compensated of course. Sometimes the best disguise is prancing around in the spotlight. But meanwhile she was striking out playing her strongest card. Namely the crypto-Fed VISA. “It ain’t like money’s the problem,” she fumed. “That card is beyond the Valley Of Gold And Platinum. It’s like titanium, baby. Strutonium. Kryptonite Kard. I offered to post the price of a new boat as deposit for shizzle sake.”
Curtsy just shrugged. The black rug-muncher had been ballistic after SeaHawk had charged back her three thousand dollar rent when they found out she didn’t want any of their guys on board. She’d talked her into keeping the tanks and camera and other gear, though.
The digital camera in its waterproof housing was an interesting addition to the pile of gear the triciclo had trundled over to the Maria del Mar–especially since it wasn’t normally rented and Aphra had paid bonus for it. Curtsy had inspected it and nodded, MeiMei wondered out loud why it would be necessary. “This thing you hunting up,” Aphra had responded, “It’s not like you want it for itself, am I right? It’s like the information on it.”
MeiMei frowned. “Well, it should be returned to the…”
“Yeah, but maybe that ain’t gonna happen,” Aphra broke in. “Maybe it’s in some sort of Tom Cruise-proof case but you can get a shot of hieroglyphics or whatever?”
MeiMei paused but had to agree. “Yes. Push comes to shove, I want to see those glyphs.”
You and me both, sweet thing, had been Aphra’s main thought. “And if it start getting shovey out there, the one thing we’re hanging onto is that camera, right?”
So they had their tanks and gear, they had their camera, they had some Mystery Blackberry with a definitely-not-off-the-rack app that would update the longitude and latitude of the yacht. What they conspicuously didn’t have was a boat.
“Well, there’s always the sindicato,” Curtsy said, as much to raise her own mood as to mollify Aphra. “We’ll talk to them tomorrow and if they don’t spring for it, we’ll figure out something else. Hotwire a ferry or something.”
Honey, anybody could hotwire a fairy, it’s be you, Aphra mused. But said, “Dealing with the Syndicate. Just like back home.”
“It’s like a union,” Curtsy explained. “A collective actually. Fishing and selling co-operative.”
“What do they call it again?” MeiMei asked.
Aphra hooted. “Well, I wish ’em luck on that.”
“Man, talk about your vulgar boatmen,” MeiMei bitched bitterly. She almost didn’t want to finish her shrimp cocktail after finding out what a bunch of greedy, grasping, sexist dickheads the collective guys turned out to be. Almost. She glared out from under the restaurant canopy at the aqua stretch of bay between the co-op dock and Cancun and munched another shrimp, but under protest.
“Glaring contrast to Cap Tony, all right.” Aphra muttered darkly. “Evil power politics badges just hanging off them and can’t wait to get some sweet innocents like us out on the water and bait our chum for us. Gotta figure anybody paints ‘Social Justice’ on their wall is about a week from getting measured for brown shirts and jackboots.”
“So what now?” Curtsy asked plaintively. She could see this miracle gig going up in smoke over one small detail. Okay, a major detail. Not fair, dammit. She waved off the leering waiter and stared south along the palm-lined stretch of waterfront, trying to coax a plan out of a brain that had never been good at coming up with Plan A’s, much less more advanced letters. “I’m stoked for this play. And don’t forget my recip.”
“Tit for tat, Blondie.” Aphra said in a way that made it unnecessary to add the, “So to speak” part.
Curtsy glared back and MeiMei quickly broke in to track things away from discord. “What would you call that architecture?” She pointed at the new headquarters of the Fifth District of the Armada Mexicana. “I can’t decide if it’s inverted early Miami Cokelord or something by Marvin the Martian.”
Curtsy glanced across at the weird upside-down buildings and said, “One of the cabbies told me it’s called ‘Militarized Mayan’. Sounds about right.”
“Militarized Mayan?” Aphra exclaimed. “Shit, that’s all we need, militarized the damned Mayans. Most people say they out to win your hearts and minds, they more interested in your mind. These cats tear your hearts out and eat ’em or something.”
“That’s not actually…” MeiMei’s lecture ground to a halt as Aphra leaned forward over the table, getting both their attentions, then arched an expensive fingernail towards the other dock. “Correct me if I’m wrong now, girlfriends. But am I not sitting her looking at a big crowd of boats? Big, fast-looking suckers with two or three motors apiece?”
And sure enough. Several dozen big, lean bluewater speedboats: NorthSeas, Bayliners, Maxums, Invaders mounted with double and triple doses of Evinrude 200’s and Johnson 115’s. Lined up in rows off the Navy dock and gently rocking right under their noses the whole time they’d been sipping Sol’s, noshing on seafood and trying to deal with the sindicato.
“Oh, yeah,” Curtsy said defensively. “But they aren’t rentals. They’re like seized.”
“You mean confiscated?” Aphra was all focus now, talking in clipped tones nothing like her affected ghetto locution. “Grabbed ’em for running drugs? Wait, running drugs in Mexico?”
Curtsy laughed and shook her gold hair, throbbing the hearts of three lurking waiters. “Funnier than that. They smuggle illegals in from Cuba. Bring ’em to Isla, dress ’em up like tourists and send them to the mainland on excursion boats.”
“Okay, now I know you’re jiving my ass. Smuggling wetbacks into Mexico?”
“Wetbacks?” MeiMei chuckled, catching the rising mood. “Why, that’s… racist.”
“Sis, I’m too racial not to be racist.” Aphra scanned the fleet of locked-down aquatic hotrods again, pondering. “So, who’s in charge of them? The DEA or the Mexican Migra or something?”
Curtsy gestured at the Military Martian headquarters and guarded dock. “The Navy, I guess.”
Aphra leaned back and tipped her Aviators back down over her eyes. “Sailors, you say?”
Petty Officer Teofilo Agradez–or rather Segundo Maestre Teofilo Agradez–couldn’t believe his eyes. After midnight on a Tuesday, boring pinche watch, standing there in spiffy whites when nobody would come by and see him, stainless steel Colt .45 automatic holstered like somebody might trespass on this dippy dock… and out of nowhere comes this bombazo in a skintight red sheath, wearing sunglasses at night and swinging her trasero like she meant business. She had to be a Cubana. Not just because she was black, either. Get a load of the ass and attitude on her. And the look she was slapping across his kisser; like, Go to hell, handsome. Not to mention, Come and get it.
So his interests swung in areas different from security as he stepped over to accost her at the gate to the dock.
Where she lowered the moviestar shades, gave him the scorching eye, and said, “Hey, there, sailor.”