The Return Ch. 06bymuirmadra©
"I'd like to take this opportunity to offer my deepest sympathies for the loss of an outstanding editor and human being, Techsan. He will be missed."
"I appreciate all the e-mail, comments and critiques regarding 'The Return.' Thank you. Note: For those asking for Chapter 4, both 4 and the final chapter will be in the non-erotic category."
Chapter Six: Retribution
Sheriff Reilly held the phone to his ear and listened as his investigator, Mat Baleman, relayed the latest on the three goons in town.
"Uh huh, the McKenzie's? Okay...I'll check with Geoff and Julie and find out what they wanted. You keep the guys on them. Something's going on Mat and I want to be there when the shit comes down. Okay, take care. And Mat...be careful."
What's Armestead up to, Billy Reilly wondered. He has these three goons driving around obviously looking for someone and they stopped off at the McKenzie's. They're looking for Geoff, he thought, and Geoff's vanished. "Shit, I don't need this crap now! I think I'll make a call on Robert."
Deputy Bernie Phife drove through the massive wrought iron gates of the Armestead estate. Next to her sat the sheriff staring at the looming structure of Armestead mansion. As they approached, she couldn't help but shudder. The building looked like something out of a horror flick, either Hitchcock's Psycho or the Adams Family.
"Pull up in front of the steps, Bernie," said Sheriff Reilly.
"Yes sir," she quickly replied grimacing. She hated the name Bernie. Her dad must have thought he was a real comedian when he talked her mother in giving their new born daughter the name, Bernadette. Her mother had never watched any of the old TV shows and Bernadette never had a clue why people would chuckle whenever she would give her nick name as Bernie. When she was just a toddler she would laugh with them but after she turned eleven, one of her friends happened to watch an old TV program called The Andy Griffith Show. The next day, her rather excited friend finally clued her into the mystery, Deputy Barney Fife played by a rather unique looking actor, Don Knotts. Deputy Barney Fife who carried only one bullet...in his shirt pocket.
Bernadette never forgave her father for that one.
"Bernie, remain here with the car," commanded her boss.
"Yes sir," she said dejectedly.
"Come on now, Bernadette. Don't be upset. I'm doing you a favor." Sheriff Reilly stared at her and grinned. "This guys a real piece of work and he'd treat you like dog shit. Okay?"
Deputy Bernadette Phife looked up into the Sheriff's eyes and frowned. "Sheriff, I've been on the force nearly two years now. I made probation and have already dealt with drunks, assholes and shitbags. I can handle Mr. Armestead."
Billy Reilly grinned. He liked Bernadette's spirit. She was a tiny thing but he knew she could kick ass if needed. Besides, most of the unfortunate souls to come across the feisty little deputy turned into sniveling milksops. Bernadette was an extremely attractive young woman, albeit a dangerous woman with a black belt in kenpo and aikido with a 300 plus score on the range.
"I know you can, Bernie...but, let me deal with him this time. Remember, I am the Sheriff!" he exclaimed good naturedly.
She gave a short laugh and said, "Yes sir!"
As the sheriff approached the huge twin doors, they opened and a small balding individual dressed in black coattails, a white shirt with a black tie, a gray vest, and dark gray pinstriped slacks stood just behind the doors. He beckoned the sheriff to enter. Sheriff Reilly smiled with the servant said in a gravelly deep voice, spoken with a British accent, "Follow me please."
Sheriff Reilly followed the butler across the vast concourse toward the west wing of the building. Soon, he stood before another set of beautifully carved wooden doors. The butler knocked twice and a voice called from within, "Come in."
As soon as the manservant entered, he announced, "Sheriff Reilly, Mr. Armestead."
"Thank you, Stephen...you may go."
"Very good, sir," said Stephen who turned and left the room, quietly closing the door behind him.
"Welcome to my humble abode, Sheriff Reilly. I don't believe you've had the opportunity to visit the estate, have you?"
Billy Reilly gazed at his old nemesis and answered, "No, never have."
Robert Armestead glared at Billy for a few seconds before gesturing to a chair in front of the huge antique desk. "Please sit down. Now, what can I do for you?" Reilly noted Armestead made no move to shake the sheriff's hand.
Reilly glared back at Robert and said, "You can start by telling me if you've heard from your two men, Franko Manelli and Victor Silverman."
The sheriff noted a quick look of concern cross Armestead's face before he answered, "I have not heard from or have seen my former employees since they were sacked for dereliction of duty."
"Then you have seen them?"
"Um...no, not personally. My attorney had met with them and provided them with their severance package and sent them on their way. I believe they are probably back in their beloved city, Detroit, by now."
"Uh huh, any way I can get in touch with them?"
"I'm sorry, Sheriff. You will have to speak with my attorney, Wilson Goodman, for that information. I'm sure you know Wilson."
Reilly snorted and replied, "Yes, I know Wilson."
Robert smiled with perfect white teeth, reminding Reilly of a great white shark. "Good, then I'll notify him of your interest in my former employees. Anything else?"
"Why yes, there is Bobby. Who are the three new goons working for you?"
Armestead bristled at the use of that hated nickname. Holding his temper, he said, "I'm sorry, what three men are you referring to?"
Laughing, Sheriff Reilly said, "Come on Bobby, stop the charade. Three new thugs out of Detroit arrived within the past two days and have spent the better part of yesterday and this morning searching the valley for something or someone, maybe like Geoff McKenzie. I'm talking about one rather large individual known as Rafael Menscanti and two other wise guy look alikes. They have been seen here and later, at the McKenzie's."
He saw the surprised look on Robert's face.
"I...I don't know what the three men are doing. Again, you will have to speak with Wilson Goodman. I'm sure he can give you the necessary information regarding any new personnel in my employment. Now, if there is nothing else...I have a meeting to attend."
Robert picked up a sheet of paper and turned away in his chair, dismissing Sheriff Reilly.
Reilly looked at Robert trying to ignore him and laughed. Standing, he said, "Bobby, please have your attorney call me with that information. I can find my own way out. Oh, and it's good to see you again. It's been awhile, since the...oh yes, since the trial."
Reilly chuckled as he stepped out, purposely leaving the twin doors open. He didn't see Robert spin around and angrily glare at him. He didn't hear Robert swear under his breath, "You son of a bitch...you are done!"
"Uh...Sheriff Reilly? That black Seville you were asking about passed about five minutes ago. That big guy you described was driving and a little weasel of a man was sitting in the passenger side. I couldn't see if there was anyone else in the car as it went around the east wing." Deputy Phife looked up expectantly at Reilly while he shuffled onto the passenger seat of the unit.
"Drive over there. Let's see if they're around."
She shifted into drive and the marked unit began to creep around the east wing toward what appeared to be a fully functional garage and repair shop. True enough; the black Cadillac Seville was parked over on the far side of the complex with three men dressed in dark suits talking to a grease monkey.
"Stop behind the Caddy, said Reilly.
The three men immediately spotted the Sheriff's unit and watched as it approached and stop next to them.
"Okay Bernie, this time you can back me up," said the Sheriff and Deputy Phife smiled.
The three men stared as the two of them got out of the car. When they started toward the men, one of them broke away and approached.
"Can I help you Sheriff?"
Reilly stared at the individual. He didn't look the wise guy type. In fact, he appeared as if he could easily fit in with the Wall Street type. Well groomed, his dark hair slicked back, the man wore an expensive tailored charcoal gray suit, a white shirt with a conservative maroon tie. His shoes also appeared high priced and new. Clean shaven, his face wasn't overly handsome or unpleasant to look at. Other than his eyes, he was remarkably ordinary. However, his eyes reflected a pale blue, cold-like appearance. It reminded Reilly of those Alaskan glaciers he saw on the Discovery Channel.
"Yes, as a matter of fact you can. You and your two compadres are new to the valley. I always make it a matter of interest to meet anyone new in town. I'm Sheriff Billy Reilly and this is Deputy Phife." A slight smile crept across the strangers face at the mention of the deputy's name.
"I don't carry a bullet in my pocket," she growled.
The stranger laughed and apologized. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to embarrass you but there is absolutely no resemblance to Don Knotts. You are much more attractive than the original Deputy Fife and I'm sure you are much more capable than he ever was."
Reilly was surprised to see his, ready to eat some bear deputy, blush at the compliment given by this guy.
"Uh...right, may I ask whom I am conversing with?" asked Reilly.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I am Carmine Scoccio. The rather large brute over there is Rafael, or Raf, Menscanti and the smaller one is Pauli Befatchi. We're here from Detroit, on business with Mr. Robert Armestead."
Reilly asked, "May I ask what kind of business you're in?"
"Of course...security. We specialize in providing protection for our clients. And, yes...we are registered with the state and carry firearm permits with the county. They are on file with your office."
Reilly was nonplused by Mr. Scoccio's frankness. "May I see your permits?"
"Of course, Raf...Pauli come over here and bring your I.D. and weapon permits."
Bernadette studied the two men as they ambled over to the one called Carmine. She found herself liking him. He wasn't like the others; he came across as passive non-aggressive though she knew he was anything but. But, she found him amusing and even stranger, she found him appealing.
"Here ya go," said the little man called Pauli. Raf didn't say anything as he gave Carmine his driver's license and gun permit. Carmine took the papers from both and, along with his, handed them to her.
"Deputy Phife, run them and check their permits," said Reilly, his eyes locked on Carmine's.
"Yes sir," she replied and returned to the unit. While she checked their identification and permits, Sheriff Reilly said, "So you're here to protect Robert from...?"
"Whatever he believes he needs protection from, Sheriff," said Carmine watching Bernadette.
"How long is this protection to take," said Reilly.
Carmine smiled and answered, "As long as it takes, Sheriff Reilly."
"Hmm, okay...so who do you work for in Detroit?"
Carmine's smile vanished as he said, "Michael Provinzano. You've heard of him?"
Carmine noticed the sheriff wasn't surprised by his answer as Reilly replied, "Yes I have."
"Sheriff, they check out and their permits are valid." Bernadette frowned as she handed her boss the I.D. and gun permits.
"Mr. Scoccio, here's your I.D. and gun permits. Listen well; your permits may be valid but only in the protection of your benefactor. Don't give me any reason to change your status in my county."
"Of course Sheriff, I guarantee there will be no incidents initiated by us."
Sheriff Reilly studied the three men, his eyes focused on theirs. While Carmine Scoccio stared back, the one called Pauli looked down at the ground while the big one appeared bored with the conversation.
"Have a nice day, gentlemen." Sheriff Reilly shrugged his shoulders toward his deputy and Bernadette made for the unit. Once back in the unit, she backed around until she could drive forward and out of the complex. Not once did the Sheriff take his eyes off the three and she could see Carmine watching them as they left.
"We have problems," she said.
Sheriff Reilly muttered, "Yes we do, three of them."
Raf and Pauli looked at Carmine. "Not much to worry about," said Pauli.
"We won't have any problems with a couple of hick cops in this burg," laughed Raf.
Carmine looked at the two idiots handpicked by Provinzano. Shaking his head, he walked into the mansion.
"Jenny, go ahead and drop her over the side!" shouted Geoff from the bridge. This was the third dip in the last six hours at three different locations.
"Over she goes," he cried out and let the side-scan sonar slip gently slip over the side and drag away from the yacht. Jenny watched as the device slid just below the waves as he allowed further slack on the tether.
Once the sonar was far enough away from The Palatka, Geoff called out, "Okay, that's far enough...we've got an image coming in."
Sarah and Terry watched from the aft deck as Jenny secured the tether line and checked the equipment.
"I'm more afraid Geoff will find the Annabella than if he didn't," whispered Sarah.
"Sarah, if the Annabella is down there, he'll find it," said Terry.
As The Palatka cut through the water, Sarah stared out over the grayish blue and green ocean. It had been four days since they returned from Coos Bay, Oregon. Jack had been good to his word. He brought The Palatka down to Moon Key Bay and moored at the dock next to Jenny's Bait and Tackle Shop. Jenny was able to acquire the side-scan sonar from the Monterey Institute for a few days and after setting up the equipment aboard the seventy-two foot Hatteras, they motored up the coast following the route Geoff's father would have taken.
"Hey Mommy, this is neat!" yelled Becky as the wind turned her hair into a gorgon's nest.
Sarah looked down and with a sad smile realized Becky didn't understand what they were doing, that they were searching for her lost grandparents.
"Yes, honey...this is pretty neat."
"Can I go up to the bridge and see Daddy?"
"I don't see why not, why don't both of us go?" Together, they climbed the ladder and stepped into the bridge. Behind the pilot's wheel stood Jack Davenport with Geoff staring forward leaning against a secured deck chair. At the sound of opening and closing of the hatchway, Geoff turned and saw Sarah and Rebecca enter the bridge.
"Hey, how are my two favorite ladies?" he asked.
Becky ran and hugged her father as Sarah said, "Your two favorite ladies are doing just fine. I think your youngest has found her calling, she wants to be a sailor."
Geoff laughed, reached down and picked Becky up into his arms. "Your grandfather would be proud."
Becky looked into his eyes and said, "I wish Grandpa and Grandma were here. I miss them."
"I'm sure they miss you too, baby," he said as his eyes misted. Geoff carried her to the forward console and, together, gazed out at the bow of the Palatka cutting through the seas. A beep sounded causing Geoff to turn and stare at a digital graph.
Sarah turned to see what he was staring at.
"What's the matter, Geoff?"
"Don't know, give me a moment." He put Becky down and quickly strode over to the machine. "Jack, back her off one third."
Geoff grabbed his radio and spoke, "Jenny, we may have something!"
"Heard that, Geoff," answered the red headed giant.
Sarah turned to the sound of someone else entering the bridge and saw Terry walk over to Geoff.
"This should be the area where they were when the storm hit," she whispered watching the graph.
Geoff pointed to a long line resembling the shape of a writing pen. "That could be her."
"Only one way to find out," he sighed. "Whatever it is, it's close to 125 feet deep. Time to get wet. Jack we need to center over these coordinates."
"Will do Geoff, hope this is the right one this time."
"So do I...so do I."
Thirty minutes later with the weighted guide line dropped over the pend shaped object, Geoff stood on the swimmers platform. He was decked out in his Kettenhoffen ¾ inch custom fit farmer john wet suit. An aluminum 80 was strapped to his buoyancy compensator, a US Divers Legend LX regulator attached to the yoke. Jenny stood above, holding Geoff's mask and fins.
"A single 80?"
"Yeah, doing just a bounce dive to check and see if it's the right one."
"Our funeral." Geoff turned and saw Jack step down onto the platform wearing a navy blue wetsuit.
"Jack, what the hell you doing? I'm only doing a bounce dive."
"Well...guess I am too. You really think you're going without backup?"
Jenny handed Jack his buoyancy compensator and tank and watched as Geoff helped Jack gear up. Once they were ready, both checked each other's equipment before Jenny gave them their masks and fins.
Geoff took the dive mask and spit into it. Spreading his saliva over the glass, Geoff leaned down and filled the mask with sea water rinsing out his spit. Settling the mask over his face, he pulled up his attached hood he had scrunched down. Taking his fins, he slid them on and shuffled to the port side edge of the platform. Looking back at Jack, he held the mask to his face and placed the regulator in his mouth before taking a giant stride off the deck.
Instantly, the biting cold of the Northern California water seeped into his wetsuit as he plunged below the surface. Moving away from the stern, he bobbed back to the surface and waited as Jack mimicked his entry. Soon, they were both bobbing around in the swells as the current carried them away from the Palatka. Geoff swam toward the guide line, Jack following him.
Grabbing the line, Geoff twisted around and held out his gloved hand to Jack. Pulling Jack to the guide line, Geoff stared into Jack's eyes and formed a circle with his forefinger and thumb, the diver's signal for I'm okay. Jack returned the sign and gave him the thumbs down indicating it was time to descend. Jack nodded and they both vented their compensators quickly sinking below the surface.
Geoff smiled as the bright colors of the surface disappeared and became a bluish green as he descended along the guide line. His body heat warmed the thin film of water within his suit and the ambient 62 degree water warmed to near body temperature. He knew it wouldn't last. The deeper he went, the cooler the surrounding water thus lowering the warmth within the suit.
As they continued down the line, the heavy current played them out like two pennants caught in a strong wind. Geoff could see the sea floor slowly materialize. The object should be here he thought but so far, nothing. Checking his wrist console, the pressure gauge read 85 feet.
Suddenly, he felt a jab against his thigh. Turning, he saw Jack gesturing to the right. A faint outline began to take shape. His heart lurched, a bow sprit. He nodded at Jack and pulled himself along the guide line until they reached the ocean floor. The current dwindling, they kicked toward the shape. When they were thirty feet away, the sharp profile of a sailing vessel formed. He could see the hull was painted black, the same as his Dad's sloop, and was resting on it starboard side, the masts tilted at a forty-five degree angle. Geoff turned and gave the thumbs up to his diving partner, Jack returning the gesture.
They silently swam over the wreck and spotted a large almost three foot jagged hole near the bow. Geoff inspected the damage noting the devastation was pushed outward confirming an explosion from within. As he ran his glove over the splintered planking, a massive green face with rows of spiked teeth emerged. Bubbles streamed as Geoff, taken by surprise screamed and pushed away from the moray. Jack's eyes grew as the huge green eel oozed out of the hole and swam down, its body undulating like a snake. Once the moray eel vanished, they looked at one another and shook their head, Geoff running his gloved hand across his forehead as if wiping away his sweat.