the cops that night to have him removed. I thought that would be the end of it but I bet he's the one that came back to get the mother and I doubt she went willingly," George said aloud to the voice in his head.
"Listen to me now, I'm starting to talk to myself." He
slammed the map down that he had been looking at and climbed back above deck. Turning on the transistor radio, George busied himself pulling up anchor and setting sail northward. “Too much idle time can addle a person's mind”, he muttered under his breath.
That evening he relaxed and enjoyed the cool wind on his cheeks and the lights on the shore line that had begun to come on twinkled on the wavelets of the river. That night the stars were in competition with the lights on shore. The water was like a sheet of glass that reflected sky and earth so that from a distance, with the ground mist, one couldn't make the distinction from land, sky, and water. This is what he had longed for all these years. The wind, the water, and the sky. This one was a windless night and he had to use the motor to cruise up river.
It was a calm, peaceful night with hardly any other traffic
on the waterway. He felt lifted as though entering a new world of existence in time and space.
A loud bang brought George out of his fantasy with a start. His foot stepped on some thing round. With arms flailing at empty air he fell over board backwards, into the water. Swimming as hard as he might, the boat continued to draw away from him farther and farther. George screamed and
yelled half choking on the none-too-clean Mississippi water.
He heard a crunching sound and saw his boat cant at an odd angle and stop. For a brief moment the motor whined then went silent. He swam the two dozen feet to his boat. It was lodged on a sand bar. With relief he found that there was no damage to the starboard hull where it had struck the sand bar. He tried to push it off but it would not budge. Trying to lever it off the sand bar with a pole proved futile also. He would need a pull to get off this sand bar.
All he could think about was the time that would be wasted trying to find someone to help him on the almost deserted river. As if in answer to his mental plea some one
shouted, "Aye, ya need some halp thare, baye!" That was all he needed, help from a drunken Irishman, George thought despairingly, sitting on the sand bar.
He waved resignedly to the drunken Irishman to come forth.
"I just hope he doesn't pull the stern end right off of
her," George mumbled to himself, waving for the Irishman to go ahead. The sudden jerk almost sent George into the river for a second time.
"That's it, I'm erecting some railing around the helm area
after this," he determined.
"Yas sea wothy agan lad? Want a little nip of ye old Irish,
lad? Wam ya bones bafow ya go out ta sea."
"No thanks but I really do appreciate your helping me. how
much do you want for your services?"
"Nah, keep yo monay lad, yal need it fow mo than me."
George gave the Irishman a description of the river boat and
"I'll keep an eye out fow ha," he said, and winked with his
right eye then turned and departed with a roar trailing white foam behind him.
"Ya'll hafe ta bye mow alert din dat, baye!," he mimicked
the Irishman, if you intend to go another mile up this river, let alone seventy. You can day dream all you want when you're at anchor." George chastised himself. The rest of the night went without further mishap.
The sun came up in the east red and hazy-looking. If the old sailor sayings held any truth, a red sun in the morning supposedly meant sailor's warning.
George turned the transistor on to discover that the old sailor saying held true. They called for heavy rain in the afternoon and the temperature to drop to thirty-eight degrees, twenty degrees below seasonal.
He pulled into port in Chatham, Mississippi just before nightfall, weary and chilled. He had three cups of hot strong coffee in the marina's snack bar called The Galley, then ordered a side order that consisted of a quarter pounder stake, mashed potatoes, a salad, chicken broth soup and apple pie with ice cream, all for a king's ransom of $6.50. He figured he needed the energy and you don't get energy food at a Mc Donald's.
He was back standing on the sand bar and the Missy was no
where in sight. He was alone, nothing moved on the water around him. With visibility of about twenty feet all he could see was thick fog and inky black water. A light snow fell adding to his misery. He had already yelled for help until his throat hurt but there was no sign of any life on the river. His shouts sounded hollow like yelling inside a vault.
He saw something move In the distance, barely visible at first, then it slowly began to take shape as it drew closer. Someone has finally heard my pleas and are coming to my rescue, he thought hopefully at first. The closer it got he began to make out more clearly the details of
His heart sank when he realised that this ship had no lights and didn't appear to have any signs of activity on board. It looked like it was abandoned and drifting. It drifted very slowly towards him. Finally coming out of the fog bank he recognised the structure of the vessel. It had once been an old paddle wheeler. He thought he knew this vessel, but how could he? It had the appearance of having just been dredged out of the bottom of the river where it had rested for a very long time. Still there was something familiar about this vessel.
It continued to drift towards him until it came to rest on the sand bar. Slime, algae and mud hung from the bow in frays and tatters.
George approached the vessel warily. There was something here that was not right. His mind screamed at him to go back, to turn and run as fast and as far away from this place as he possibly could. Even though his mind screamed for him to retreat he found himself unable to do so, like his body was a separate entity from his mind.
George walked to the bow and began scraping off the name plate with his hands. An ominous feeling went through him
like an electrified wind. It read "Misty." George backed up a few feet, nearly stumbling to the ground. Of course! He had known all along what this vessel was. He had just been hoping he was wrong.
"It's the children's river boat, what had happened to it?
What happened to the children and Clare?" He found it
Dragging a piece of drift wood from the edge of the sand
bar he propped it up against the side of the river boat and
climbed up the piece of driftwood unto the deck. The deck also was covered with the same slippery slime making it hard to keep footing.
The door to the cabin would not open. It was water-swelled.
Picking up a piece of slime covered drift wood that lay on the deck, he battered the door with it until it swung inward. The dark interior smelled of decay and some thing else he could not quite identify.
George tripped over something and fell on top of a slime covered mound. Looking down he discovered that the mound
had a human form. He reached up and wiped the sludge from the face. It was the horror stricken face of Clare.
George scrambled crab-like back against the wall. Something thumped against the wall behind him. Looking up he saw two more slime covered forms hanging there on meat hooks. Next to them, written on the wall in blood, were the words, YOU'RE NEXT.
George back pedaled and once again his back struck a wall. Something heavy fell in his lap. It was the algae covered mangled body of a baby. He screamed and once again tried to scramble away on all fours then slid and fell face first on the slime covered floor, breathless from the struggle.
There was a rasping coming from the next room, like that of a file on metal. This solitary sound grew ominously closer with every passing second. He had to get out, he did not
care to see who the maker of the sound was.
He tried desperately to move but his body refused to respond to his panicked mind that continued to scream for him to flee from this place. The longer he sat motionless the deeper the slime thickened.
When motion finally came his feet felt like they were mired in the slime that had by now risen to his knees. It seemed to be oozing in from the outside like the river boat was slowly sinking in the stuff.
A dark shapeless form appeared in the doorway to the next room. It held a butcher's file in one hand and a meat hook in the other. The hook's curved end was sharpened to a shiny needle point.
The door! it had begun to close. George knew that if he didn't get out before the door closed he would never leave this cursed vessel.
In a last bid for escape he threw himself at the door. He fell through the door into a bottomless black pit, his body flipping end over end.
He woke up thrashing on the floor next to the cot in his own vessel. Hugging himself with his arms, he sat up trembling uncontrollably. Taking the blanket off the cot he wrapped it around himself. He was not sure from which he shivered the most, the cold or fear.
It was indeed cold in the sleeping compartment as he could see his exhaled breath. He looked out through the porthole to see fat wet flakes of snow falling. Putting on a sweater and a rain slicker he went above deck and cast off. No sleep would come to him on this night. Too many ghosts afoot.
The morning brought a light wind and he set sail. The temperature was still low but not as cold as it had been
during the night. He realised the air would get cooler the further north he went at this time of year but this was unusually cold for the middle of April even for this area. He enjoyed the wind, the sails and the lapping of water on the hull. He was a little tired but he felt good, He felt like he was one with the elements.
Some thing new awaited around every bend in the river. When he saw an old tug with the name Irish Rover he wondered if it was his friend from the night before.
The sun came out mid-afternoon bringing with it some warmth. The warmer temperature made him drowsy and he feared the same thing as the night before would repeat
itself, or worse, like hitting one of the rocky banks that lined the shore line dead on or get run over by a barge.
He put into port in a little cove at a place called Colten, near Winterville, and went below for some shut-eye.
A banging on the hatch brought him out of his sleep. Opening the hatch George was confronted by two burly police officers standing above deck.
"Yes, my name is Officer McKinley, we are looking for a
fugitive from justice, a possible murderer. We are checking all out-of-state vessels. The burly cop handed him a picture. “Have you seen this man on your journey up-river?"
"Can't say I did officer, What's his name?" George asked on
"Dan Everett," The officer informed him. George's stomach
"Do you know this man?," McKinley asked him.
"Indirectly," George responded.
"How indirectly?" the other officer asked.
"I know of him through a sergeant in Morganza, that is where
"Are you following this person?" McKinley asked.
"No sir, I'm on vacation." George responded.
"Kind of early for a vacation isn't it? Especially if you're
heading north," the other Officer asked.
"This is the only opportunity I had to go on this cruise.
Besides it'll warm up by the time I get to where I'm going."
"Oh I see, it's a long trip and a long holiday, huh? Wish I
could do that, preferably during warmer weather of course,"
Officer McKinley responded. "Well take care, I hope you have a good holiday. Remember! if you see this man, stay away from him, he is armed and dangerous. Contact us immediately if you see him."
"Just one more question, Officer McKinley: Why hasn't there
been anything on the news and whom is he suspected of killing?
"He's a suspect in the murder of his wife and it has been
kept from the media with the hope of keeping him from going on the run and making the hunt more difficult," McKinley responded.
"Was the murder recent?" George asked.
George knew he had over stepped his bounds and had to back
"None, Officer except that Morganza is not that big of a
community and something this big usually circulates fairly quick. Since I didn't hear anything I gather it didn't happen in the community, that the murder happened else- where. what I am trying to say is I heard some thing about this man but nothing of this scope.
"Just what kind of something have you heard?," The other
"Only that... what the hell, I may as well lay it on the
line. If I don't tell you the whole story you'll find out from the sergeant in Morganza any way. I'm looking for his three children and my girl friend, They left Morganza on a river boat. You didn't happen to see one on your travels have you?"
"Afraid not, we don't have any reports of missing children
or a river boat. But we will certainly look in to it. Do you
happen to know this sergeants name in Morganza?"
"Sergeant Duffy," George responded.
"We already have your credentials from your registry plate,
if some thing doesn't add up, we'll be looking for you, and one last word of warning, if you see this man, don't try to be a hero. Stay away from him, he's dangerous. Call the proper authorities to handle it." Officer McKinley advised.
"Yes sir," George responded.
He knew now that Dan may be somewhere on this section of the river, he had to find the children and Clare before Dan did.
George went above deck and set sail again northward. If there were no other delays he hoped he would rendezvous with the river boat before dusk of the next day.
Memories of the previous night's nightmare came back to him. George shivered. No amount of sweaters would rid him of this chill. "Was it a premonition?," he asked himself. It seemed so real.
Now all this could be lost by the hand of one ruthless man. From a distance he had seen this man in action, heard the screams and the crying, felt the pain and fear he inflicted on those around him. He had been tempted to take action on several occasions but knew that if he did he was the one that would probably end up getting charged for trespassing and or assault.
There was nothing he could do unless someone's life was in danger. There were a couple of times where he thought there was a life-threatening situation but when he had drawn closer to the river boat things had quieted down. The night of the crashing sounds and screaming he had called the police on his cell phone that he carried with him wherever
They had removed Dan Everett and he had hoped that this would end the tyranny, but it hadn't. He had come back once and had stayed for nearly a month. Things had been rela-
tively quiet. Probably going through a dry stretch, George had thought.
Then there was a fresh outbreak of his uncontrollable rages. George had feared that this time someone may end up dead. He worried especially for the baby. The row had ended with a crash and something being thrown overboard. The mother of the children screamed and had jumped on his back pounding him with her fists. He had thrown her to the side like she were a rag doll and had left the river boat.
George had feared that he may have thrown the baby overboard
in his blind rage. He had begun rowing his fishing dinghy toward the river boat. At this point he didn't care if he got charged for trespassing it was his duty as a citizen to investigate the possible drowning of a child.
Before he had rowed ten feet towards the river boat he heard a babble of voices, then the baby cried. George let the oars drop in the water and let out a breath of relief. He had come back once after that, the night he thought the mother had disappeared. He now feared that he may yet come back again for one last time, to complete unfinished