tagNovels and NovellasSailing To Survive

Sailing To Survive

byTexasFarmBoy©

This is a work of fiction and is entirely a product of my mind. Any failures of omission or commission are entirely my responsibility.

*****

I don't know why the Kenny Rogers song ran through my mind at that moment, but they did. "You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em; know when to walk away and know when to run; you never count your money when you're sittin' at the table..."I couldn't remember the next line but it didn't matter really. I had folded and walked away and had never bothered to count my money; it had never mattered before. But here I was on a Tennessee Interstate waiting for the patrol officer to come back and shoot me, arrest me, or yell at me and I didn't really care which one he chose. I was done and done and I barely cared where I was going or what I was going to do.

I heard him walk back to my open driver's side window as he was talking on a phone. "Yes, sir; I got that. I am sure that this is the guy. Yes, sir. He has his driver's license, federal ID, and his car has the White House parking sticker on it. If it ain't him, he stole the damn car and I'll arrest his ass. Here talk to him." He stuck the phone in front of me.

"Who is it? Local or a fed?"

"He's my fucking boss and if you don't cooperate, both of our asses are barbeque."

"Don't worry about it. Those pricks can't do anything but scare you." I took the phone and said, "Why are you picking on this poor guy? All he is doing is his job just like you told him to do. If your ass is on the chopping block, grow balls and do what you should have done in the first place. Now what the fuck do you want?"

"Listen here, mother fucker; you have half the country looking for your ass because the President wants to talk to you. So don't get in my shit or you will be worm food before morning."

"Fuck you, asshole. Send your best guy out here and put me away. I don't care. Then you can explain to his Royal Highness why I am worm food."

"Look prick, when the Feds call, I listen. I know which side of my toast the butter is on."

"Make your own butter and bread, then you won't have to worry about kissing their asses."

"Shut the fuck up. I'm sending someone out to meet you and you are going to talk on the phone whether you want to or not."

"Fine. Take Officer Jenkins off duty for awhile. We are going down the road to the truck stop so I can get something to eat. Tell your toady that I will be there."

"Do that, prick. Tell Jenkins to stay with you until he is replaced."

"Have a nice night, jerk off."

I pushed the off button and handed it back to Jenkins. "You heard me, lead me to the best truck stop on the highway and you are on break until your replacement shows up."

"Yes sir." He seemed to be relieved that the pressure was off of him. I followed him down the highway to a smaller truck stop across the highway from a bigger one. As we got out, he said, "The food is better here than over there."

"Thanks." Always trust a cop or a truck driver about food on the highway. They know.

We sat down and placed our order. I ordered a full breakfast and he had their special. The nice thing about truck stops is that they make everything at all times of the day; trucker's stomachs never read an etiquette book or paid attention to the clock. I wanted breakfast even if it was nine o'clock at night.

We sat and ate our meal and just shared small talk. He was a local boy who wanted to help the community. I empathized with him and didn't discourage him even if I was burned out. We were drinking coffee when we were approached by another uniform who told Jenkins that he should finish his shift. Jenkins thanked me for the dinner and left. The other uniform acted a little more civilly and asked me to come with him. I took a deep breath and let it out and followed him out after leaving the waitress a handsome tip. She had been nice and deserved it. He led me outside to a black limousine and stood quietly outside as the back door opened. Reluctantly, I got in.

When my eyes got accustomed to the low light level I sat back and said, "Hi Sylvia. I'm surprised that they sent you."

"Hi Stuart. They didn't send me; I was just closest. You made quite a stir up there today."

"Well, I have been going downhill for some time now and I guess I just hit rock bottom."

"That's what I thought. Do you want a drink before we make the phone call?"

"Sure, a Scotch would be nice." She pulled out a bottle of decent but not great Scotch and poured me a drink.

"Where are you going to go, Stuart?"

"Hell, your guess is as good as mine. Washington is East Coast; how far can I go to the maximize the distance from there?"

"Alaska or Hawaii but I can't see you fitting into either place. Try Washington or Oregon. If you want to be alone, try Montana."

"I'm not high on being alone but being where there are no phones or internet seems like heaven."

She grinned. "You left suddenly; do you have anything you want taken care of?"

"There is a bar bill at the pub across the street from my apartment. It is probably less than an hundred bucks. Nothing else matters."

"I'll take care of it for you."

"Sylvia; why are you still in the game? I know that you were close to being burned out."

"I was but the transfer to the Department of the Interior has helped me heal. All I have to do is make sure that the national parks in the region don't spend too much money. Basically, they have forgotten I exist."

"I hope that they have short memories about me too."

"They won't; you are too close to the truth."

"Don't remind me. The truth doesn't set you free; it just puts chains around your neck. So what is the plan?"

"Leave my name out of it but you need to call and you need to tell them what they want to hear."

"I told them what they needed to hear; they rejected it and got greedy. I don't know what else I can tell them. That's why I left."

"I don't know what to tell you then. I hate to say it but you are on your own."

"How much of a head start can I get?"

"I don't know for sure. I can stay out of it for a day or so but I don't know after that. I can give you a couple of names and addresses if you need them."

"I'll take them. So let's get this over with; I want to be back on the road in an hour."

"Gotcha." She picked up the phone that I recognized it as a secure satellite one and pushed a couple of buttons. Then she handed it to me.

"You are on your own and I wasn't here."

I nodded and took the phone. I knew the routine and waited for the first operator.

"Name and Access Code?" I gave her the information and waited. "Please wait." The line went dead. A moment later, an anonymous voice asked, "Who do you wish to speak to?"

"Mother." I replied. "One moment," was the reply.

Another human asked, "Please confirm your Name and Access Code." I repeated my information and now the fun or lack thereof would begin.

There was a click on the line and the world famous voice came on the line. I knew what to expect and I wasn't disappointed. He was cool, measured and in control. His voice never expressed emotions only power. There was no doubt that he was charismatic but I was one few who really understood that this was just a plastic façade that hid a clueless man.

"Hello Stuart. I hear that we might be having a problem."

"You don't have a problem; I do. So don't break out in a cold sweat about it."

"That's good. Get over it; I want you back here in seventy two hours. I need you to prepare me for the appearance in Congress."

"You have Mandy to do your makeup and Chet to get your hair right and I am sure that Felicity has a suit and tie to do exactly what you want and need. What do you need me for?"

"Stuart, you know as well as I do that you are the best strategist and writer up here. I need you to write me a winning speech."

"Sorry Mitchell, I am fresh out of lies and double talk. Why don't you try to tell the truth for once?"

"Stuart, you know that I can't do that; certain people would not be pleased."

"Mitchell, you need to ask Santa Claus for some balls for Christmas. You lost yours four years ago. Call me when you find some."

"Stuart, that wasn't nice. I am a realist and do what I must to save this country from itself."

"You do what you can to insure that the certain people never lose their money or their power. You are the ultimate sycophant or maybe puppet would be a better description."

"Listen Stuart, I will forgive you that indiscreet remark but others might not. I suggest that you return to the fold and do what you do best and perhaps they will forgive you. People are...concerned."

"Tell them to stuff it up their patrician asses. I no longer give a fuck about their concerns just like they don't care about my ass."

"This sudden outburst of idealistic morality doesn't become you, Stuart. You were much better when you were practical."

"And you were much better when you pretended to have balls. Now you can't even fuck your own wife. She is the head slut for one of your certain people and fucks whoever he tells her to. Once, even your wife respected you and you respected yourself."

"That's enough Stuart. Jennifer has become a practical person now; so stop throwing stones at her. I am hanging up. You have forty eight hours to get over your snit and be back here." The line went dead.

I handed the cumbersome phone back to Sylvia. She smiled and said, "That was quite a performance. I hope that you live long enough to do an encore."

"I don't want an encore, Sylvia; I just want out."

"Don't we all? I made a little stupid and survived it. You did a big stupid and I'm not sure that you will survive. So you aren't going back?"

"Hell no."

"Where are you going?"

"Maybe Washington or Oregon or Montana. I'll figure it out when I get there."

"You know that you are now a persona non grata in all official circles."

"I know the routine. So I better get going. I need a drink, a place to sleep, and a good meal before I become their target."

"Good luck, Stuart. I'll be thinking about you." As I opened the limo door, she took an envelope out of her purse and put it in my hand. I knew better than to say anything or acknowledge it. I simply folded it and put it in my back pocket. I would read it when I was alone and then destroy it to protect Sylvia. Even if everything else was a sham, those of us on the inside did try to protect each other because no one else would. We were pawns in a game that we had no control over.

I stepped out and without even looking at the stiff uniform standing guard; I went to my truck and drove back onto the Interstate. It only took me ten minutes to work out a timeline. He said forty eight hours; that meant I needed to be pretty well lost in twenty four to be safe. It would take them a couple of hours to gather the troops they needed; so basically, I had until dawn to begin my disappearance. I estimated that I could do that unless something got in my way. The first stop was fifty miles down the road and that is where I was heading.

At the next road side park, I pulled through long enough to toss my cell phone in the trash bin. I had no doubts that my signal could be traced wherever I was. I had made sure to leave all of the other traceable electronics behind. Everything else was on a series of flash drives and I had an anonymous laptop waiting for me at my destination. Unlike those overly optimistic people like Mitchell who think the train ride will never end, I had realized that I needed to be prepared for a partial or total derailment. Therefore, I had slowly put together an escape plan that I hoped would work. In two weeks, Stuart Michaels would be a memory and Roger Fender would make his appearance on the planet.

An hour later, I turned off onto a Farm to Market road and drove fifteen miles before I turned into a dirt road leading to what appeared to be an empty barn. Once there, I parked my recognizable truck in the woods and walked back the hundred yards to the barn. The barn appeared to be abandoned and vacant and it appeared to be as I had left it a month ago. I opened the hidden door on the side and walked down the ramp to what used to be the manure dump for the dairy farm a long time ago. Inside was my very non-descript 90's model Ford pickup with door dings and a dent in the tail gate. In any road or city west of the Mississippi, it would look like a dozen other vehicles on the road and attract no attention at all.

It was registered to a man who did not exist, paid for with cash, and parked along with a few important things I would need on my journey. The truck itself only needed to run for a few thousandmiles and I had made sure that the mechanic would take care of that. I gave it about a week before it was discovered. That was the first week I needed to get on my way to my disappearance.

I quickly changed out of my suit and left it in a pile of junk in the corner except for the envelope from Sylvia and put on a pair of jeans and western shirt that I had bought at a thrift store in Missouri on my last trip there. The other bags appeared to be intact as I expected them to be. Then I fired up the engine and drove the truck up the ramp before stopping to lock the door behind me. As I drove back down the dirt road, I now had nothing on or with me that could be bugged or traced to Stuart Michaels. Roger Fender would begin to appear in person in shortly. Until then, I was nobody.

Sylvia had said Washington, Oregon and Montana. That told me that I needed to stay away from there. It was sort of an insider's code to tell someone where they should stay away from. It didn't matter because I already knew where I was going for the next couple of weeks. I didn't get back on the Interstate but stayed on the Farm to Market road for thirty miles and picked up a State Highway that went into Mississippi. So far, I was on schedule and should make it to my next stop for breakfast.

As dawn was breaking over my shoulder, I pulled into the small river town that was my destination. I drove around and looked for any signs of people looking for me but found only early morning people walking or heading for work. Satisfied that I was safe so far, I parked in the diner parking lot and put on my thrift store cowboy hat and entered. A cheerful waitress greeted me and offered me my choice of tables. I chose a table next to the window to keep my eyes on the road.

I ordered my second breakfast in eight hours and enjoyed this one more than I had the previous one. When I left, I was full and ready to go on to stage two of my disappearance. I drove to the marina shop and saw my forty foot boat sitting by the dock. The boat was registered to Roger Fender and had been overhauled and refitted inside. The outside showed the usual signs of a river work boat. The external appearance was of little concern to me as long as the inside was comfortable. I had bought this boat six month ago very cheaply as it had been hit hard by one of the vicious storms that hit the area periodically and it ended up partially swamped on a sand bar. It cost quite a bit to put a new diesel engine and drive train in it but between that and the modifications I had specified, I had paid about as much as a new thirty foot boat would cost but I had a more solid and roomier boat than I would have had otherwise. Since I planned to live on it for at least six months, I wanted the room and comfort. The fact that it was a common design on the rivers and would hardly raise any eyebrows was what I wanted. I had paid the shop in cash in several installments. The biggest payment was for the engine and transmission and for that, I got a cashier's check from a small bank in Virginia that I had set up for Roger Fender. After the check was drawn, I closed the account.

I smiled as I walked in to greet the owner of the shop, a good natured man named Marquet. He remembered me and proudly walked me out to the boat to show off his work. He had indeed done a really good job and I was satisfied. He had run the boat himself up and down the river several times and found it solid and ready for me to go off shore which was the story I had given him about what I was looking for. As he handed me the keys, I told him that I was going to shop for provisions and would load things that night and shove off at first light the next morning. He thought that was a good plan. The gate would be unlocked until eight at night and would open at six in the morning. I shook his hand and drove to the local ship store and bought a few things that I had not already purchased.

After that, I went to the storage yard and hooked up the covered trailed I had rented and towed it to the grocery store. An hour later, I put eight bags of groceries in the bed of the truck along with three cases of beer, a case of wine and a case of scotch. Then I parked at the dock and began unloading the trailer and truck. The shore power made sure that the refrigerator was cold and the freezer ready for the meat I had bought. Everything else stowed as I had planned. When I finished, I returned the trailer to the place I had rented it from and paid the outstanding balance in cash. They appreciated my business.

Then I drove the truck back to the storage yard and parked it in back. Ten minutes later, I had the Tennessee plates removed and the new Louisiana plates were screwed on. I disconnected the battery and locked it up before covering it with a tarp and tied it down. With luck, it would be ready for me in three months when I came back to get it. I walked the mile and a half back to the marina after stopping at the diner again for a late lunch. As I went inside the cabin of my new home, I reflected on everything I had done. I realized that there would be unlimited resources available to look for me. Hopefully, I had covered my tracks well enough for people's memories to fade. I wasn't that important as an individual but I did know a lot that could embarrass or stop a career in its tracks. That scares people regardless of what my intentions were. My intentions were simply to disappear.

I poured myself a scotch and went to sit on the deck of my boat and turned on the satellite radio to a good music station. I was about to pour my second scotch when Marquet walked up to the boat and said, "Roger, can I bother you for a moment." I almost didn't respond since this was the first time anyone had called me Roger.

'OH hi, sure; come on aboard. I was day dreaming a little, I guess."

He stepped down into the deck and stood by the steps. It was then that I noticed a young woman wearing a pair of shorts and a crop top standing where he had been. She looked nervous. He looked back at her and said, "Come on Miss; this is the guy I told you about. Roger, this is Emily and she has a problem that maybe you can help her with."

"Come on down, Emily; I don't bite." She stepped down the step and into the cockpit.

"Roger, Emily here is kind of stuck. She was taking a trip down the Waterway with her boy friend and some others and he got pissed and dumped her off here. Her bag and purse and everything are still on his boat. They were going down to Mobile so she is stuck here. Since you were going that way, I wondered if she could catch a lift. She thinks that she can get her things back when she catches up to them. If not, she can call her father from there and he can send her some money to get back to St. Louis. Are you up for a passenger for a couple of days?"

My mind went into overdrive as I ran several scenarios through my head. On one hand, people would be looking for me alone, not with a girl who was at least ten years younger than I was. But I actually intended to go north in the morning to St. Louis and come back down the Mississippi rather than go to Mobile. My other concern was if I could maintain my new identity for that long without screwing up. But it would also be good practice. On the whole, I felt that it was a low risk opportunity.

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byTexasFarmBoy© 41 comments/ 70841 views/ 93 favorites

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