The story so far:
The last thing Alex did before going under was to check his submersible instrument console attached to a port above his scuba tank by another hose. On the console were two gauges; a digital readout for measuring depth and temperature of the water, and an analog PSI air gauge below it. The air gauge showed the tank to be at its max-rated 4,000-psi working pressure, with the standard ten percent safety overfill.
Glancing towards topside, he saw Jack lean forward over the side, still grinning.
Alex kicked away from the side of the boat and submerged.
Jack’s smile lasted only as long as it took Alex’s outline to disappear from the surface. At first, there remained a grim grin; then it, too, vanished.
His eyes narrowed, his mouth became a thin line of tension. He stood at the side of the boat watching the bubbles from Alex’s exhalations reach the surface. The words they had exchanged that morning still echoed in his mind. “Yes, Alex, I’m ready to have some fun”, he said as his face relaxed and a smile overcame him. “We both will have some fun, now. You’ll see!”
Well, Jack thought, maybe the crabs didn’t have brains bigger than speck of sand in their heads, didn’t even have heads that Jack could see, but he had smarts enough to do some figuring of his own.
Not that God had made Jack a genius - and even if that were the case, he wouldn’t have to be haggling over crabs at the local markets. But he knew for sure that Alex would be thinking about what had happened with Carrone and Walker - and getting’ to wonder about him being in on the shakedown too. Maybe he was holding onto some suspicions about that now, seeing how he was unusually quiet this morning- not that he was a chatterbox during his cheeriest of moods.
Still, Jack couldn’t afford to wait for Alex to go the distance from him being suspicious; to him coming to any of the right conclusions, short a hop as that was.
Maybe Alex didn’t run off at the mouth as most city folk do. Telling you everything about their lives from A to Z in the first five minutes of meeting you. But once in a while Alex would mention something about when he was a police detective over in Mardi Gras town. Furthermore, Jack’s buddy Gary Hinds, whose girlfriend’s sister Amanda worked at the real estate office in town, said she heard from her boyfriend who worked at the bank that Alex used to be in some hotshit military outfit, like the Rangers or Navy Seals or maybe the boy commandos- whatever the ****- before his cops and robbers days.
That particular bit of scuttlebutt hadn’t surprised Jack a bit; ‘cause there were times you could look into Oliver’s eyes and see he could be one dangerous son of a bitch to anybody who got on his wrong side.
Jack shook a cigarette loose from the pack in his breast pocket, shoved it between his lips, and cupped a hand over its tip as he fired his lighter. He stood there smoking at the side of the boat, his eyes following Alex’s stream of bubbles.
The truth of the matter was he’d gotten along okay with Alex, who always had given him an even shake as far as business went. And he never treated anybody like he was their better, the way a lot of folks who were from the city did. Especially those summer people with their sailboats and deck shoes, and mountain bikes on the roof racks of their whale sized, showroom-new 4x4’s.
No, Jack hadn’t held any ill feeling for Alex, not earlier in the day when he’d taken off on him with that **** story about the kids; not even now, after having done his bit of tinkering with Alex’s air gauge last night, preparing to leave him for a goner. But what choice did he have? He had been offered a lot, his needs and wants would be had in an instant and, if he played this well, for life.
The way Jack reckoned, it was a little like going to war and being forced to shoot someone you bore no grudge against; somebody you might even think was an okay guy if you got to know him over a frosty glass of suds. All because of circumstances that you could not control any more than you could stop the world’s spin.
Having been in the military, Alex would probably understand that.
What Alex could never understand though, not having come from here, was the kind of pressure Jack had been under to cut a separate deal with Carrone, behind his back. How could he have refused that prick without causing himself more trouble than he needed?
Carrone had connections with the law. Yesterday’s shakedown had been a preordained effort, put forth by a guy high up in government. Now today the money came from another direction and he was being paid well to be here.
Alex, on the other hand, didn’t have any such worries. He’d come to town with enough money to buy that nice house on the water, and likely had himself a hefty pension from the Police Department, not to mention military benefits that covered his meds and checkups at the local VA Hospital, plus who knows what other kinda cookies the government might be tossing at him with his investigator’s license.
No, Alex was a loner with no wife and kids; it was a sure thing that sooner or later he would be moving on to greener pastures.
Jack frowned, his brow creased in thought. What the **** was he supposed to do anyway? He had to make a living here day in and day out, or see his family starve to death from hunger. Had to be able to walk down the street without looking over his shoulder for Walker or some other **** deputy ready to bust his balls for any lame excuse that could be concocted on the spur of the moment.
He took a drag of his cigarette and puffed a swirl of smoke and steam from his breath into the air, his comments to Alex as they’d left the harbor recurring to him. “Regular as you are bout’ where and when you dive, buggers should’ve had you figured out by now”
And regular as clockwork, he was. Lining up his dive gear the same way every time he went down, putting it on in the same order, diving in his regular spots, taking a half hour to fill his totes with what he found on the underwater ledges. Alex would go down to the thickest sections of the sea grass and drift with the current instead of against it like all of the other divers, so they’d be swept back to the boat rather than away from and lose their bearings.
Drift divin’, as it was called, was risky business, but by letting the current carry him along, Alex could cover the most lake bottom with the least amount of effort, and it was at the bottom that the fattest and largest soft shells were found.
Jack glanced at his wristwatch. Just a few minutes to go ‘fore Alex was down too far to make it back without air, and right now is when his air supply should be running out.
Jack would wait a little longer then fire up the motor an’ haul **** away from there as fast as he could, knowing Alex was drowning to death somewhere far below, his lungs swelling in his chest till they burst like balloons you stuck with a pin.
Yeah, Jack thought; he’d sold Alex out, no puttin’ it any different. Sold him out, and now as good as killed him. But what was there to say?
He’d had no choice, he thought; no choice at all. Things were as they were, an’ there was really nothin’ more to say about that.