Sunday, 27 October 2013

The River Boat Chapter 4 Continued

Chapter 4 Continued

The judge's chamber door opened. Clare and George came out, heads

lowered. Sandy's heart sank. Ray picked up Natty and held her tightly, maybe for the last time. He felt like bolting out the door with Natty and running to the riverboat and casting off but he knew that he probably wouldn't even make it past the door. Clare put her hands on both Ray's and Sandy's shoulder.

"Well kids, I'm sorry to tell you this but you are as of now in the custody of George Stewart and Clare Lacomb, address, the Miss Misty."

Sandy jumped up and put her arms around Clare's neck, expelling squeals of joy and excitement, then turned smiling to look at Natty in Ray's arms. Natty continued to smile and sway while singing gayly, “Ya, ya, ya,” in Ray's arms.

"She had known all along, her little mind had somehow known," Sandy said to Ray, smiling.

"Who are you talking about, Honey?," Clare asked, brushing Sandy's hair back with her hand.

“Natty, she's been bubbling over with gaiety from the time she got up this morning." Sandy told her.

"Come to think of it she has been a mite beaming hasn't she? Is she always like this?," Clare asked.

"Most times when things are stable, but today she's been more bubbly than usual, if that's possible with Natty. She's acting more like when she's alone with her best friends Doc and Tim or when she senses something good is about to happen," Sandy explained.

"You've just answered your own puzzle, she senses things. The night you two went to the carnival she was very quiet and subdued. That was around the same time the dog and cat disappeared,” said Clare, thoughtfully.

"Come to think of it I haven't seen Doc and Tim since that night either," Ray added. I wonder what happened to them. Did they jump ship in Helena?

"Dac, Tm, Nat no!," Natty babbled brightly, waving her hands as she tried to speak.

"Does she know something we don't?," Clare asked Ray and Sandy.


"Any thing is possible with Sprite, isn't it?" Ray asked

looking at Natty in his arms. Natty gave him a gushy kiss on the

cheek in response. Ray wiped at his cheek with his shirt sleeve.

"I suggest we get out of here before the judge changes his mind," George said, putting his arm around Clare's waist.

Back at the river boat Natty ran into the living room then into Ray and Sandy's room to find her friends. They were still under Ray's bed

where they had been for the last several days, too frightened to come out.

That night before Dan came Natty had climbed out of her crib while Clare slept in the bed. Making her way into the kitchen she had taken Doc's and Tim's water and food dish from under the table into Ray's and Sandy's bedroom. Setting them on the floor she returned to the kitchen to get more water with a cup, spilling most of it on her trip back to the bedroom.

Thinking that wasn't enough she had taken some more dishes from

the sink while making more trips back and forth for more food and water. Satisfied, she then pushed the overflowing dishes under Ray's bed.

Back at the door, she had turned and said, “Lav Dac, Tm,” and then had closed the bedroom door behind her.

Natty had felt the same uneasy anticipation as Doc and Tim had all that afternoon. They had not wanted to come out from under the bed all day and she had wanted to stay there with them. She had climbed into the bed along side of Clare. A feeling of dread had made her draw up close to Clare for solace. Clare had thought her to be fast asleep, unaware she could climb in and out of the crib by herself, until the night when she had awakened to find Natty all snuggled up at her tummy, shivering as though from cold. It was warm in the room but never the less Clare covered her with the comforter.

Natty came tearing out of the living room shrilling in delight, pursued by Doc and Tim.

"I think it's time to do away with the crib and get this girl a bed of her own,” Clare announced.

Ray and Sandy laughed and said, "Yeah, and her own bedroom, too."

That day Clare had swung the double doors opened to what use to be the gaming room of the river boat. This room had been once used


during better times by the Everetts as a dinning and rec room combination. It had remained unused since the children's mother dis- appeared. With the combined effort of the entire family, a family is what they were now, Ray reflected, they had it cleaned and ready by mid afternoon. Clare did the final touch cleaning and polishing the

big marble dinning table and set it for the meal they were going

to have on this special occasion.

This special meal was to commemorate George's and Clair's upcoming wedding day. Ray cleaned and put new candle sticks in the big chandelier above the table, and Sandy cleaned and dusted all the cabinets and their contents. When they were done the gaming room had the appearance of an elegant foyer.

One morning Clare came into the living room to find Natty sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor eating pudding out of a container with a spoon.

"How long has it been since this kid learned to climb out of that crib anyway?," Clare asked Sandy who was preparing the coffee

at the kitchen counter. Sandy laughed.

"What's so funny?" Clare asked.

"She's been climbing out of that old crib ever since she was just a little over one year old,” Sandy declared. “We've just been going along with it pretending we weren't aware of it. We would sometimes hide and watch what she does when she thought she was alone. She learned to potty train her self, to feed her self from the refrigerator, and, to some degree, dress her self while playing,

without any ones help.” “Just like a girl, she empties all her

dresser drawers onto the floor before she finds some thing she


“Her ability of learning to fend for herself came in handy after mom disappeared, especially when we were in school. I know that wasn't a smart thing to do but we couldn't go to baby sitters if we wanted people to think mom was still with us. We wouldn't have been able to afford it out of the mothers allowance check anyway.”

Sandy continued: “She also knows pretty well what is dangerous and she stays away from those things. Like I've told you, Natty is very intelligent and ahead of her self for a two year old.”

Just then Doc ran out from under the table yapping and whining,

running around in circles trying to catch his tail. At the end of

his tail was a clothes pin. Natty giggled gleefully under the


table. George laughed till tears ran down his cheeks. “I somehow

don't think I made a mistake undertaking this family thing,” he

thought. "I think this is going to prove to be a very interesting and

fulfilling experience. My river friends and my soon to be wife,

what more can a man ask?"

Clare put her arm around George and kissed him. Ray and Sandy whistled and clapped hands while Natty held Clare by her right leg.

“This man must really love me and his river friends to have followed us half way up the Mississippi, to put his life at risk and now to be willing to commit to all this,” she thought.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Natty stretched for the shining red apple that was just out of reach on the shelf above her. There was a loud pop when the rivets in the frame work of the shelves let go. Natty found herself sitting in the aisle surrounded with shiny red apples among other interesting fruit.

"So there's our little thief," a voice came from above her. The attendant bent down smiling to pick her up. Natty struck him in the right eye with the half eaten apple she held then toddled away to the other side of the aisle. The attendant, rubbing his eye, got up from his stooped position and started again towards her, talking calmly to her all the while.

"Come on honey I won't hurt you, let's go see if we can find your mommy and daddy." Natty threw the other apple she held in her other hand at him, hitting him in the groin, The attendant let out a plaintive groan and sank to the floor on his knees, both hands clutched at his crotch.

Natty toddled off for the next aisle. She was having a good time building a castle out of spaghetti boxes until a lady came around the corner with her cart and knocked it down.

"You shouldn't be here by yourself playing in the aisle, sweety, you could get hurt," the lady said bending over to pick her up. Natty whacked her on the left foot with a spaghetti box. The lady let out a cry worthy of a first-class opera singer.

"Here we go again! Never mind I'll just follow the line of

screaming voices,” Ray said to the clerk.

Ray and Sandy closed in on her at the frozen produce section where there issued a muffled scream. A woman's legs pumping up and down stuck out from one of the freezers. On top of the lady was a pile of frozen goods on which Natty stamped up and down singing, “Ya, ya, ya!”


"How much did that set us back," Ray asked George?

"Almost a hundred dollars worth of fruit." George responded.

That will go well with all the left over vegetables we got two weeks ago." Clare disclosed.

"Is this child capable of such damage very often?," George asked.

"Nah! this was Natty's off day," Sandy deadpanned.

George looked at Sandy and asked, "Are you serious?"

Once out in the parking lot Sandy couldn't hold it any longer and burst out laughing. Everyone else followed suit. George looked from one to the other confused then threw his arms up and joined in the laughter as well. Ray danced around the parking lot with Natty up on his shoulders.

"Did you see that lady beating the clerk over the head with a bag of onions, threatening to sue him for her broken bunion toe?," Ray asked Sandy.

"Yes but why was she buying onions when she already had a bunion?," Sandy asked then burst out in new laughter.

"Don't pay any attention to those two, that'll go on until their tummies hurt too much to laugh any more," Clare told George.

They cast off and said farewell to New Lenox, Illinois. Soon they would be entering Lake Michigan. George felt elated and

anxious. Here he could really give the Missy a run for her money.

He had always wanted to give her a go on the Gulf but had never

found the time to sail down to the Gulf from Morgansa. Now he was

going to sail her on a legendary lake on which supposedly you

couldn't see the distant shore. Ray had been pestering George to

go with him on the lake sailing since they had left Columbus,

Kentucky. He had never seen any waterways bigger than the

Mississippi before. If this lake proves to be as big as they claim, he feared that George may change his mind.

"A river rat may not take to such open waters," George had teased Ray.

"Oh yeah! Wait and see!," Ray shot back.


It was a beautiful sunny day with a light westerly wind. Ray

stood at the bow holding onto the new railing George had erected.

His hair fluttered in the wind as he reveled in the freedom and

the sight of the open water. His heart soared every time a gentle

swell lifted the Missy on its crest then let her down gently

again in the valleys between swells.

"It's like a fresh water ocean!" Ray shouted back to George

in excitement.

"Yes it is, son, at that. It's hard to believe it's a body of

fresh water. It's so beautiful and it's clear like the ocean. If

We find a bay some where to anchor for the night we can go

swimming in it." Ray looked at George doubtfully,

"You mean you can actually swim in this water?" Ray asked in amazement.

"Yes, if it isn't too cold," George responded. His long thick

hair whipped in the wind. With the beard George reminded Ray of

a hairy koala. “A school teacher that wore his hair long like a

hippy and looked like a koala,” Ray thought and burst out

laughing. It was a free and joyous laugh.

Sandy came up from below one of the hulls with sandwiches and soft drinks.

"What might my brother be laughing about now?" Sandy asked George. George shrugged his shoulders saying, "Maybe it's the freedom you feel out here, it can be kind of intoxicating." Sandy stood beside him smiling. Yes, she couldn't remember the last time she had felt so happy.

"It's so wonderful to just be a kid again, and it's wonderful to have you and Clare as our custodians, I have so much to be grateful for,” Sandy reminded him. “I also want to thank you for caring for us for the past two years, even if it was from a distance."

"Sweet heart, every time I went by the river boat I use to fantasize you three as being my family, My heart would ache for you when ever I would hear the screaming and crying. I wished with all my heart that I could have taken you away from all the misery and pain.”

“I would some times anchor out a short distance and watch you and Ray play with Natty along the river bank. You reminded me of a family of river rats, free and fun-loving. I used to call you my little river rats. I also watched you many times singing to Natty. You have a very beautiful and profound voice."


Sandy put her arm around him and leaned her head against his

shoulder and said, "These last few days have been the happiest in my life. I hope with all my heart that nothing will ever change that."

It had begun to cloud over and the wind had picked up coming in

strong gusts.

"I think we should go back to the river boat, It feels like there might be a storm brewing," George informed them. By the time they had reached the river boat the water had become so rough that it was difficult to board the river boat with the surging and swaying decks.

"Take her into shore as fast as you can,” George ordered Clare. “I

think were in for a big one. I'm not familiar with open waters like this but I don't think either of these vessels are designed for the kind of storms they get out here." The swells had begun to whitecap before they had even turned toward shore.

"Shut off the engine and just go with the stern to the swells. If we try to fight this we'll capsize,” George advised her. “I have to go back out and help Ray lash down anything that's loose on deck."

There was a crash and Natty cried. George turned to look. The cupboard doors over the sink had flown open and all the china had spewed out missing Natty by inches. Ray nailed every one of those cupboard doors shut.

"Sandy!” he shouted, “Anything that's lying around loose that could fall and hurt someone, throw it down the hatch below deck or tie it down." A swell nearly capsized the river boat and the wheel jerked out of Clare's hands and spun out of control.

The deck tilted at an unbelievable angle, knocking her off her feet.

She fell off the helm platform and slid most of the way across the cabin floor toward the bedroom. The floor tilted the other way and she began to slide back toward the cabin door when another swell had heaved the river boat in the opposite direction.

George let go of the forward railing and reeled drunkenly toward the helm. Ray screamed, pointing to the starboard side. George looked to the star board side to see what Ray was pointing at. A wall of water approximately twenty feet high was coming straight for them. George shouted over the freight train rumbling, "Everyone secure yourself to any thing you can grab that is stationary."

Arriving at the helm seconds before the wave hit he started the engine and turned the river boat stern side to the wave. Luckily, the


huge wave had become a comber just before it hit them. It surged under the river boat instead of over it, lifting it up to the clouds, then crashed down again in a huge white spray. "Shore!," George bellowed, after the spray had cleared and he could see ahead.

"To be close to shore in this kind of storm could spell disaster!," he yelled to them. “Within seconds we could be reduced to splinters on those rocky crags!,” he pointed to the rocky shoreline. They could now make out the individual jagged rocks that made up the shore line.

Try as he did to steer away, the waves drove him ever closer. Turning the river boat port side or bow side with the engine pushing forward away from shore would swamp them under the next breaker. He could only go port side for short periods of time between swells, otherwise there was no way to go except with the swells which took them

relentlessly closer to shore.

George soon discovered that he had another concern. Whenever a comber lifted them up from the stern, the Missy would get struck broad side then sucked under the surface. He did not worry so much about whether the Missy would sink but rather of where it would turn up when she popped-up to the surface like a cork. As long as the two hatches were

fastened down tightly the Missy was close to unsinkable. What he

feared mostly was of her coming up under them. He had debated cutting her loose, but it would be much to hazardous for any one

to venture out on deck under these conditions.

It appeared that there was no escaping inevitable disaster. The next wave would smash them against the rocks. George shouted for every one to brace themselves. A huge swell inexorably picked up the river boat on its crest and carried them away from the shore line towards the mouth of a small bay.

George slammed the Misty into full throttle towards the opening.

The swells once again tried to draw him back but he fought against the pull of the swells then discovered that the undertow of the breakers on the port side shore balanced out the pull of the huge combers.

On entering the mouth of the bay, he found that the water was much calmer and was able to maneuver the river boat to the inner shore where they would be sheltered from the brunt of the storm. With relief, George let out his breath that he had been holding, for how long he had no idea.

Turning off the engine George sat at the edge of the platform and said,


"Ray, would you get the anchor please? This is as far as we go today." He continued to sit on the edge of the control platform holding his head in his hands.

Clare went to his side. “Why so down? It's time to be thankful, especially for your quick thinking back there," Clare pointed out.

"I didn't do it, I didn't do anything,” he revealed. “That wave... I don't know,” he shook his head, “But that last wave turned us away from certain, imminent death, like it had a mind of its own. If it wouldn't have been for that wave the next surge would have, by all rights, smashed us against those rocks but what ever it was out there, it chose to spare us."

Clare was silent and held a man who shivered like a frightened child that had just come through a terrible nightmare.

"Natty stepped away from her crib and made her way to the kitchen where she was greeted by an overeager Doc who proceeded to give her a face washing. Natty giggling, fell on her bottom with a plop. “Lav dac ta,” she said, then proceeded on hands and knees to the refrigerator. At the bottom of the refrigerator sat the storm-scrambled pieces of a strawberry pie, her favorite. Sitting on the floor she dug in with both hands.

Tim, who had come to investigate, got Natty to wondering what a red cat would look like. Natty proceeded to pet the cat with hands full of strawberries while Doc licked the strawberries on her face and arms.

Clare, feigning sleep, had watched Natty climb out of her crib. Thinking that Natty had taken her fill and by now had gone on to awaken Sandy and Ray, got up to prepare for the day.

"Oh my God!,” Clare exclaimed. Going back to the bedroom she

shook George urging him to get up. “You just have to see this!” George turned towards her groaning. “Natty found our little present alright, but wait till you see the present she has for us!” Ray and Sandy, overhearing this, ran out to see what the surprise was also.

Laughter could be heard from shore to shore. After cleaning up the cat and Natty, Clare decided they would have breakfast on deck. While awaiting breakfast Sandy sat on the deck with Natty who seemed a little upset at having a grown up butting in on her usually undisturbed forays. She sang to her, putting into the song all her emotions and feelings which fitted right in with the mood of the surrounding environment.


George stood by the door way listening. The mood of her song was

not unlike the way he felt when he was free under the sails.

"George, when can we go sailing again?," Ray asked enthusiastically.

George, who had closed his eyes and was lost in the mood of Sandy's singing, jumped at Ray's voice.

"Well, sailor boy, it goes like this. Come out here and sit

for a minute.” George sat beside Sandy and put his arm around her

then Ray; Natty sat on his lap.

"My river rats, a few weeks ago I would never have believed that I would be sitting here doing things with you. I think I'm about the happiest man in the world. You can sail with me any time and as often as you want to. Out there with the water and the wind you are truly free. The Missy is going to need a few repairs and some cleaning up first, though.," George finished.

"I'll help you," both Sandy and Ray responded eagerly.

"Can you sing?" Sandy asked.

"Sure can, sweetheart," George responded, and started to sing. Sandy and Ray covered their ears while Natty tried to keep the beat but soon gave up and went and sat with Doc. Doc covered his head with his paws.

"That's it! I'm never singing again! There are just too many

critics!,” George exclaimed. laughing. “But what the hell, who hasn't

started a career without a few critics?," George resumed to sing


Clare rushed out, spatula in hand, thinking some one had gotten hurt. Every one laughed except Clare who stood dumbfounded looking from one to the other. Doc stood behind her, looking around her legs at George.

The clouds had begun to break up promising a nice day. All were seated. Natty sat on Clare's lap, happily feeding Doc her scraps under the table. Natty looked up behind Ray and Sandy, suddenly she pointed to the sky shouting ecstatically, “Fie! fie!”

Ray and Sandy turned to see where the fire was. The sun had come

out of the clouds illuminating the biggest and most brilliant

rainbow that anybody on board the Missy had ever seen in their

lives. From where they sat the rainbow appeared to end at the

stern of the Missy.


"This is indeed the end of the rainbow," Sandy said to the people that sat at the table. She turned to look at them; they appeared to reflect the brilliance of the rainbow. Natty danced on the table and sang, “Fie, fie ,fie.”

The birds in the near by woods sang gaily as though awakened from a long sleep. Sandy leaned on the railing and began to sing. Her angelic voice mingled with that of the singing birds. The resulting echo from the shore was like the multifarious sounds of heavenly hosts.

As for the uncle, they never found him. All they had found was an abandoned cottage that may or may not have been the home of Sal Everett. It appeared that it hadn't been inhabited for many years. A family of raccoons now inhabited the cabin and they were not too impressed with the intrusion.

In a back room Sandy found an old, decaying pair of deerskin moccasins. This could very well be the last memoir of our Uncle Sal, may he rest in peace, she thought returning the moccasins where she had found them.

Leaving the room quietly she rejoined the others who were in the

front parlor trying to seduce the raccoons with pieces of

sandwiches they had brought with them.

Outside Natty chased after a bright yellow monarch butterfly saying in a sing song fashion, "Pety bird, pety bird." Doc yapped and jumped up and down gayly behind her.

It was indeed the end of the rainbow.

The End

Thursday, 24 October 2013

The River Boat chapter 5


The End Of The Rainbow
Dan walked the deck to the back of the river boat. The Misty was still tied to the back railing. Dan's first impulse was to cut it loose but upon further deliberation he had decided to hang on to it for the time being. If the Misty proved to be stuck fast, then the other vessel might be his only other avenue of escape.

Aboard the other vessel there would not be enough room for all of the hostages he presently held. He would have to dispose of some of them. He would have liked to get rid of the woman and the man below deck but the man below he may need to pilot of the catamaran, if that was his last resort. The kids, especially Ray, he would need to nurse the man below deck back to some functional use.

A police cruiser up river was coming full clip in his direction. Dan ran back into the cabin, and pulled the chest away that barred the door to the bedroom.

Swinging the door open, he waved the gun for Sandy to come out. At the door way Dan's hand shot out and seized her by the front of her top. He lifted her up until she stood on her toes facing him. Blowing booze-reeking breath in her face, he barked an order: "Listen and listen well, get rid of them cops. Try something funny and I'll plug everybody in this room before the cops even step through the door. Tell them that you ran aground last night and your mother and father are out getting help. I'll be listening to every word you say."

A short time later the police knocked at the door. They showed her a picture of Dan and asked her if she had seen him. Sandy shook her head not looking directly at the officer who questioned her.

"Is there a problem here?," Officer Brooks asked her.

"No sir, my parents went out to get someone to help us get off this sand bar. We ran aground late last night."
"The Catamaran at the back, is that yours, too?," Officer Brooks

"Yes it is, my dad likes to sail when ever he gets a chance," Sandy responded with a quivering voice that was near breaking up with fear.

"How far up river are you and your folks going?," the other officer asked.
"All the way up to Canada," Sandy informed him, whipping at a tear.
"OK, I hope you and your folks have a good trip," Brooks tipped his hat then turned and walked back to the cruiser with his partner. They talked for a couple of minutes then made a hundred and eighty degree turn back in the same direction they had come.

"I think we better report this one in," Brooks said to his partner.
"What is there to report,” Jeff asked, “A nervous kid on ancient river boat stuck on a sand bar?"

"No there is more to it then that. Some thing was not right back there. For one thing, why didn't her parents use the catamaran to go get help? Number two, the skiff was still on the back deck. How did they get to shore, swim?"
"Anyway I could tell that the girl wasn't just nervous she was terri- fied about some thing. While we make a report on this, run a check on the registry numbers for both the catamaran and the river boat. I have a feeling we're going to come up with some very interesting results."

Dan listened to the fading drone of the motor. When it was gone he shouted, "Are the pigs gone?"
"Yes, I think they believed me,” Sandy answered in a faltering voice. She did not know how much more she could take of his unpredictable rages. She sat in a corner holding her knees to her chest wishing she could melt into the woodwork around her. She now knew how her mother had felt. She feared that she herself was on the thin edge of insanity. She continued to sit holding her knees with her head down, rocking back and forth, bracing her self for his next outburst.

"Every body out of the bed room!,” Dan ordered. “Sandy, you get at the helm." Sandy jumped like she had been kicked, at the mention of her name. “You!,” he said to Ray, “Go to the catamaran and see if you can fire up the motor. The rest of us find some poles and help by pushing away from shore.”

As Dan turned to go out, he spotted George at the below-deck hatch, where he stood swaying like a drunken sailor. Dan brought the gun up.

"I'll handle my own vessel," he informed Dan.
"Look mister, I give the orders around here. I'm the one with the gun in case you haven't noticed!" he screamed at the top of his lungs.
He held the gun so tightly his hand shook. George spread out his arms and said, "Go ahead, but you won't have any one to pilot the catama- ran if this vessel is stuck fast to this sand bar."
"How did you know my next plan?," Dan shouted.
"Common sense," George responded.
"Are you trying to be a smart ass or something? Dan screamed, as the gun in his hand shook more violently.
"No! only trying to save my own ass is all." George responded
Dan took a deep breath and forced himself into a semblance of control and the shaking in his gun hand subsided. In a more composed voice he spoke: "If I let you go to your boat what's to stop you from taking
off with your own vessel once on board?"
"The rope, your gun and the hostages,” George said resignedly.

Ray poled the starboard side. Clare and Dan poled port side. Dan
chose a position nearest to the stern of the riverboat to keep watch on George. On Dan's order both George and Sandy gunned the motors simultaneously and the Misty groaned then lifted free of the sandbar.

Dan shouted at George, "Mister, shut her off and climb up here on board, very careful-like. I don't really have any use for you or your boat any more. You're just excess baggage to me now. I could just shoot you and the bitch and be rid of you."

“You can do any thing you want, this is a free country. You can kill, rape, rob, pillage, You can sabotage the space shuttle or blow up an entire city if you have a mind to do so but some day we all have to pay the piper," was George's solemn warning to Dan.

Dan swung his fist into George's abdomen. George went down on one knee, holding his stomach.
"In a free country I am also at liberty to give a philosopher a tummy ache,” Dan laughed boisterously. “Don't they know how to make a man any more?," Dan asked, mimicking a pleading look towards heaven, hands outstretched. Then more seriously, "Now get your smart ass into the cabin.”

Dan pushed George into a chair and turned to Ray: “Tie him up. he barked. I guess all I have around here is four women and a baby, or should I say four hens and a baby." Dan flapped his arms and clucked
like a chicken, all the time looking straight at Ray. His peals of
laughter could be heard on both sides of the river.

Stopping abruptly he took another swig from his bottle. Every one sat around silently not daring to move for fear they be noticed. George sat in a chair tied up. Clare was in the bed room with Natty, Ray and Sandy sat on either side of the table. Dan was in his own world at the helm. “I have to get off this river soon,” he thought. “They will know by now that I'm not in the Helena area and they'll start searching every vessel on the Mississippi.”
"Ray! Take over the helm for a while, I have other things to do. You! get in the bed room with the others," he barked, motioning to Sandy with the gun. Sandy jumped, knocked the chair over and timidly made her way along the wall farthest from him.

Dan let out a roar, and watched Sandy bolt into the room slamming the door, as his insane laughter once again filled the room. Sandy sat hunched in a corner covering her head with both arms as she cried uncontrollably. Clare went to her side. When her hand came in contact with Sandy's arm, she jumped screaming and flailing her arms like some horrible creature had touched her.

"Sandy, please don't be afraid, it's just me, Clare." Clare put her arm around Sandy and encouraged her put her to put her head on
her shoulder. Clare was without words; she just held her and let her cry. When the crying subsided she said, "I can't comfort you by saying that this insanity will soon be over, I don't know that for sure. All I can tell you is we've still got each other to take strength from for the time being. Come on, Sprite missed you." Clare helped her to her feet.

"San! San! Lav San!" Natty stood on the bed with her arms outstretched in anticipation. Sandy picked her up and tears once again rolled down her cheeks."Oh Sprite, I love you too. If it weren't for you I would have given up long ago. You are the only reason I've hung onto my sanity. I want to see you get safely out of this. I want to see
you grow up into the beautiful, intelligent and loving woman I know you are going to be."

"Now that's what I want to hear, that is the thoughts of a survivor. If we keep thinking like that we will pull through this,” Clare said reassuringly, embracing both Natty and Sandy. “My greatest wish is to see you all grow up to become the success I know you can be."
"Oh Clare! For the short time I've known you I have grown to trust and love you for the caring person you are. If we make it through this and we can't find our uncle I would be honoured to have you for our mother." Clare closed her eyes and prayed.

"Who the hell are you looking at?," Dan roared at George, stopping his pacing to and fro. George kept silent. “Speak when you're spoken to!,” Ray yelled. A loud slap resounded across the room. The momentum of the slap was so hard that both George and his chair fell backwards with a crash. Dan bent down and righted George and the chair he was still tied to.

“If you must know what I was thinking, then you shall know. You are like the trapped rat that would eat its own mother and siblings to save its own hide.”
"Very good, Mr. Philosopher! Very good!" Dan feigned surprise at his wit.
"Son! What do you say I should reward this would-be hero/philosopher with, for his philosophical enlightenment. Come on son, this is your chance to prove to me your self worth and that your a man. Tell me what this man's reward should be?,” Dan cajoled.
Ray remained silent, his terror stricken eyes riveted on Dan as he approached him in deliberation. Dan seized the hair at the back of Ray's head and yanked his head back so that Ray's bulging eyes stared straight up at Dan's enraged red face. He asked him once more, in a low, sinister growl, not unlike a cornered wild animal giving warning.
"What should this man's reward be?" Alright then if that's the way it's going to be, you piece of useless, quivering slime, this is the way it's done.”
Something cracked, followed by a sudden bright light. A sharp pain developed over Ray's right eye, then he found himself on the floor. His right eye had swollen shut and blood ran down the front of his shirt. Dan kicked him in the right flank and ordered him in a sickening growl to get back on the helm if he wanted to keep the fingers of his right hand.
Dan held the gun over his right hand. Painfully Ray gritted his teeth
and managed to pull himself upright by grabbing unto the edge of the railing along the side of the helm. Looking down he saw the glass over the compass was cracked and smudged with blood. Dan walked over to George and with his foot pushed the chair he was tied to over on its side.
"Count your self lucky, pimp, that I lost the mood," Dan said turning away.
Dan stood by the railing on the deck looking absently at the opposite shore sliding past him. “I must leave tonight. This is the end of the road for me on this river. I must secure a vehicle and travel west to the nearest airport as soon as we enter the State of Missouri, which will be some time tonight.”
“It takes time for them to issue warrants from one state to the other, with some luck they may not have one on me yet in Missouri. As long as they think I'm on the river they will concentrate on the states of Mississippi, Tennessee, and Arkansas.”
“My most urgent problem is what do I do with this boat and it's
occupants? All those containers of gasoline below deck! That's it,
Danny boy, there is going to be an explosion. Tragic ending for
vacationing family that perished in river boat explosion,” Dan
mimicked a news report and grinned.
Ray pulled out the rusty spike from his pocket and held it tightly in his right hand. It wasn't just a desire to lash out anymore, it was self preservation. He knew that some action would have to be taken
soon or they may not make it to another day. He also sensed that
it was just a matter of time when he would kill some one and once
he started he may not stop at one.
"Pimp! Would the cops be looking for your boat for any reason? Because this boat is about to have a tragic accident." Ray's fears were confirmed.
Dan stooped down and put his finger over the bullet hole. "Do you remember how that feels?,” he asked grinning. If you do, then answer my question. I'll repeat, is any one looking for your boat?"
"No," George replied with misgiving.
Dan removed his finger from the wound and kicked him in the side. Don't worry, pimp, you won't be feeling pain much longer.
Ray, watching Dan's every move, saw his chance. It was now or never. Dan stood facing George absently holding the gun to his side. Ray launched himself off the helm platform straight at Dan's back. Like slow motion, Dan had begun to turn in his direction but was too late; both Dan and Ray crashed to the floor, knocking the gun out of Dan's hand. It slid across the room out of reach. Ray pressed the spike to the back of Dan's neck just below the skull.
"If you try anything I'll drive this spike home to the back of your brain!" Ray screamed, filled with red hot hatred.
"Don't do it son, Don't be like him, full of hatred and perversion. He's not worth it, he's the one that is the slime not you," George pleaded with Ray.

"You don't have the guts to do it, you're too yellow to do it!,”
Dan goaded. “Have you ever killed anything, Ray? It's a messy job, blood and guts all over the place, sometimes even brains oozing out of a smashed skull"

Ray faltered and almost retched, then reinforced his effort by pressing harder with the spike. A small stream of blood trickled out. With rage he screamed back, "I know what your ploy is, but it won't work. Know why, my dearest father? Because, unfortunately for me, the same blood that flows through your veins flows in my veins, too. Not by choice. If I had a choice I would spill this vile blood on the ground and burn it. There isn't anything more I wish than if you would give me a reason to spill yours."

"Go ahead son, you might actually enjoy it. Have you ever held anything living in your hands and felt the power?,” Dan went on. “The power to be God-like, to have a life at the mercy of your hands. Life and death is yours to decide."

Ray faltered again and Dan's hand shot up to seize Ray's hand that held the spike. Ray pushed down on the spike and blood ran out freely from the wound. Dan's arm dropped.

"Don't underestimate me. You're right, I may not have not have what it takes to kill anything that lives, animal or human, but you are lower than that. Maggots and parasites I can kill," Ray informed him. “Sandy, come out here, we have a very large, annoying insect here that needs tending to."

Sandy opened the door a crack not knowing what to expect, then she saw Ray sitting on top of Dan holding something to the back of his head. Sandy stepped out of the room hesitantly.
"Do you really have him? He wont hurt anyone?," she asked with uncertainly.
"Don't worry about him, get the gun over there by the refrigerator."
Sandy made her way timidly to the refrigerator and picked up the gun. Turning, she pointed it at Dan and fired. The recoil made her drop
the gun. The bullet had made a furrow in the floor right up to Dan's nose. Picking up the gun again she walked up to Dan and pointed the gun in his face.

"I hate snakes and If you as much as twitch this gun will go off again and this time I won't miss." Sandy warned him.
Ray released the spike and went to George, then turned back to Dan.

“My sister is very nervous and she's filed with fear and hate, the
same hatred you yourself have put inside her. One word of advice: Sandy is a good shot. She proved that at the carnival. As nervous as she is though, if you as much as sneeze, she may take it as a threatening move and kill you. On the other hand she may miss what she's aiming at and you may end up losing some part of your anatomy that you may not care to part with."

Ray stooped down to untie George.
"Forget me! where's the other gun?," George asked just when there was another shot fired. Ray turned to see smoke drifting lazily up from Sandy's gun. Dan lay still with his right arm outstretched. A gun fell out of his right hand.

"Where did you shoot him?," Ray asked.
Sandy shook her head and responded in a tremulous voice, "I don't know, I saw a movement, I didn't have time to point, I just fired." She dropped the gun and began shaking, she wanted to cry but the tears wouldn't come.
Ray walked over to her and held her in his arms to comfort her. 
"Please don't be upset Sandy, It's over now, you made the right decision."
Once she had regained composure he asked her calmly, "Would you untie him, I'll get the other gun and check him out.” Ray pointed to Dan who still lay prone on the floor, a stream of blood coming from somewhere under his right side.It was not a mortal wound but it was too close to the heart for Ray to attempt removing the bullet. He cleaned the wound as best he could and bound him up with gauze. He was surprised that the boat hadn't run aground after this length of time unattended. It turned out that it had just kept going around and around in
circles. A helicopter flew over them, went to the opposite shore then turned and flew back over them in the opposite direction.
"I think that it's the police,” Ray told Sandy. “Would you go out and show them the welcome mat? We have some garbage here to give them."

Sandy smiled for the first time in three days and left with a bounce in her step.
After the police had left with their goods the river boat fell silent. Sandy turned from watching the police helicopter disappear over the tree line, and with a big silly grin she said, "Turn on some tunes brother, every one looks like they just got back from a funeral!"
Ray turned to Clare who sat at the kitchen table playing with Natty. “What's got into her?,” he asked.
"Oh, just some thing that us girls have knocked around, while
we were locked up in the bedroom, you'll find out soon enough,"
Clare injected.
The police sent an ambulance to take George and Clare for observation at a near by hospital. Clare came back to the river boat after three days. She was diagnosed as having a bruised diaphragm. With rest she was told she would recover fairly quickly. For the time being she would have to refrain from doing anything that was strenuous or required lifting. George was sent back after a week of recovery from four broken ribs and multiple contusions.
A representative from the sheriff's office showed up at the door with a court summons. George accepted the court summons for them to appear in court the next day for Dan's indictment in Columbus, Kentucky.

For the first time in many years the shackles of fear melted away and there could be heard once more the sound of true happy voices on board the river boat. It was time to tell Ray about her and Clare's plans, Sandy decided excitedly. When all in question were seated at the kitchen table she cleared her throat and spoke.

"This is the way it goes,” Sandy said to Ray. “I've accepted Clare's offer to be our custodian. She's wonderful with Natty and Natty loves her like she was her mother. That man over there, do you know who he is? He was our distant guardian for the last two years. Remember the snoopy fisherman?" Ray looked at George and smiled,
"So you're the one that called the cops when things got too hot and you're also the one that would pretend not to be watching us when you
would troll your way up river ever so slowly past the river boat. So it's come to this, huh, a plot to over throw my authority. I surrender!" Ray got down on one knee from his chair and spread his arms out. “A man has no voice in a woman's world."

“Right after Dan's indictment hearing we were thinking of going to the judge for a custody hearing. George has offered to sit in on it with us,” Sandy informed Ray.
"Sounds like all the bases are covered and you didn't even
need me. What other conspiracy went on behind that bedroom door?,"
Ray asked Natty. Natty sang, “Ya! Ya! Ya!”, stamping up and down on the table, then jumped into Clare's arms. 

George stood next to Clare with his right hand on her shoulder.
"After the hearing if every thing goes well, as I promised you, we're still taking that trip to Canada to look up your uncle. Besides, we all need a holiday and I'd like to see if it's true that the Great Lakes are as big as what they say."
"What about school?," Ray asked.
"Oh that! That's a minor detail for a former high school literature teacher from Woodville high in Woodville, Mississippi, said George.
"You were once a high school teacher, why did you quit?," Ray
asked excitedly.

"I couldn't handle the stress and I had to resign. Then I decided to start my own business in sales and service by phone which turned out to be even more stressful then the teaching job. Retiring from that job as well I decided to open a small service station and auto body shop. I thought it would be more of a hobby then work. Well I made good money at all these enterprises but the stress was all the same. To put it simply let's say I'm going to come out of retirement as a private tutor."

"OK teach! give me five and welcome aboard," Ray stuck out
his hand for George to slap.
"How much longer are they going to be in there?," Ray asked Sandy.
"As long as it takes," Sandy responded sedately, whilst sitting on crossed fingers. Music from a radio drifted in from somewhere down the hall. Natty stamped her feet on the bench and swayed, singing “Ya! Ya! Ya!” Sandy wished she felt like Natty did.