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   Chapter 26 No.26

My Sister's Keeper By Bill Benners Characters: 6784

Updated: 2018-05-28 11:04


PRESSING THE THROTTLE FORWARD, I steered the open boat into the choppy waters of the Intracoastal Waterway and turned southward into the wind. The boat bounced hard across each wave and a light spray moistened my face making it feel as if the temperature had suddenly dropped another twenty degrees. I reached for the ski mask and pulled it over my head.

The channel was no more than a hundred feet wide, but the waterway itself varied from a few hundred yards wide in places to a mile wide in other places. In the wider stretches, there were strings of islands and shallow grounds on either side of the marked channel. A mid-sized yacht with a dinghy dragging behind it approached from the south and cruised past me twenty yards to my left with a rolling wall of water streaming outward behind it. Cutting toward the wave, I slammed through it, slipped into the smooth draft behind the yacht, and resumed my southward trek.

A fisherman in a workboat much like mine pulled at a net and eyed me suspiciously as I cruised by. Pelicans nestled around him and fought over the fish he didn't keep. Occasionally, I'd spot a boat like the one I sought and would slow down, get a closer look at it, and then move on. Farther and farther I traveled southward crossing back and forth across the waterway eliminating one boat after another. As the waterway grew wider, I decided I'd check the right side going south and the other side coming back.

The hours and the miles rolled past and by 9 a.m. I'd approached the intersection where the waterway and the Cape Fear River merged. Waterway traffic going both north and south had increased to a steady stream and was especially heavy going in and out of the Cape Fear. In spite of all the layers of clothing, my legs and feet had gone numb. My hands cramped and my back ached. I was cold, wet, and hungry and decided to rest a bit before crossing the rough mouth of the river. I steered into calmer waters to the right of the channel and cut the engine.

Standing, I stretched my back a

en used in years.

I wheeled the boat around, docked at Captain Barnaby's Seafood Restaurant, covered my boxes as best I could, and huddled over a hot bowl of the best Downeast clam chowder I'd ever eaten. By the time I'd finished, a "nor'easter" had blown in and the rain was coming down sideways. Boats along the waterfront bounced about like bathtub toys and the sea had turned into vicious rolling whitecaps. The sky had become so dark that the automatic lights in the parking lot had turned on. Visibility on the river was down to less than fifty feet and I hated the idea that I had to go back out there to get home in time for an afternoon rehearsal. Sitting alone in that restaurant, listening to the thrashing rain driven by a howling wind, I wallowed in my depression.

The waitress was kind and kept bringing the coffee. "I don't believe I've seen you around here before, " she noted, refilling my cup for the fifth time.

"I haven't been through here since I was a teenager."

"Picked a rough day for it."

"Well, I'm looking for someone."

She smacked her gum. "Oh yeah? Who?"

"A blond girl in her early twenties. Might have had six or seven strings of beads in her hair." I pulled out the newspaper clipping. "She would have been through here Monday."

She picked up the newspaper and popped her gum. "Yeah, she was here."

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