NOTE: Disruption contains adult language and is intended for readers 18 and older.
With the normal night noises in the warm bayous north of New Orleans, you could barely hear the low rumble of the huge boat as it drifted its way up the Mississippi River. A light appeared up high as the door to the pilothouse opened. The dark shadow of a man moved down the stairs.
“If somebody is screwin’ around down there, I’m throwing the son of a bitch in the river.”
As he walked down the gangway, he could see the ski boat tied alongside the tow. It happened a lot. People wanted to see what a real towboat was like. These dry landers had read too much goddamn Mark Twain and believed that working on a towboat was all romantic and exciting stuff. He thought how he would like to set them straight. He’d like to tell them just what a hellhole life this really was; away from home for months at a time, living with a crew that always included two or three assholes and at least one very nice but completely useless drunk.
The first time it had happened was back when he was still a new Captain. He had walked into the small galley to meet the visitors, and what he found was a bit more than he had anticipated. A brunette was sitting at the table, holding hands with the engineer, over-giggling at whatever it was that he had just said. There was another brunette stepping in through the galley doorway with one of the deckhands as a tall blonde walked past them leading another deckhand out to his bunk. And in the corner, some slicked-haired guy in sunglasses was counting a wad of bills he held in his hand.
As Captain, it had been one of those decision times.
The proper thing would have been to throw the pimp and his girls back into their ski boat and write up the crew for what was clearly a violation of company policy.
Instead, he had stepped back into the hallway, returned to the pilothouse, and drove the boat on up the river.
The Captain of a towboat isn’t always the most popular guy. The good ones try to be fair, but there are times you just have to kick some ass to get things done. The Captain might spend an entire trip with no one talking to him, and a few crew members always watching for some way to get even with him. In this Captain’s defense, he knew of others who had stopped a shipboard party, only to end up with a crew very creative in getting even. So, the Captain had let it go, hoping the little bit of fun might help morale.
What he hadn’t counted on was that one crew member – the one with the religious bent; the one who always carried his bible with him, who took personal offense at the mini-Sodom and Gomorrah taking place in the galley, who wrote a letter to the head office describing the behavior of the crew and their Captain. It was the second closest the Captain ever came to actually losing his job. The letter the bible thumper had sent to the Captain’s wife caused a bit of a stir as well.
That afternoon long ago was one of the reasons he was ready to get off these damn boats. He was tired. The magic that pulled him to the river instead of attending his high school graduation had faded. Too many lazy crewmen. Too many days and nights away from home. And now all of those pain in the ass, politically correct rules and regulations from the home office. It just wasn’t the same anymore, and he was counting the days until he was done with it all.
So tonight, as Captain Charlie Graff moved down the gangway to meet the visitors from yet another ski boat, the one thing he was certain of was that he was not going to let these disloyal bastards risk his job again. Not this close to retirement. He had his Captain’s voice ready as he pushed his way into the room.
Fortunately, there were no brunettes or blondes providing entertainment, and no slick-haired pimp in the corner counting the bills in his hand.
There was, however, a big guy standing in the middle of the room, another in the doorway, and the third sitting on the bench. He then noticed that the big guy in the middle was holding an automatic rifle. The crewmembers in the room looked less relieved than the ones that last time.
As he took it all in, the man on the bench spoke up like an old, long-lost friend.
“Captain, welcome. I want to thank you for your hospitality for inviting us to join you on your boat.”
“What the hell is going on here?”
“Captain, please. We mean you no harm. We simply want to borrow your boat for a little while; oh, and your crew, and you.”
“Borrow my…? Look you son of a bitch, I don’t know who the hell you think you are but you’d better…”
The Captain stepped forward, and the guy with the gun turned to face him, targeting the Captain’s more than ample belly.
“Captain, please. I strongly advise you to stop and listen to what I have to say. I’m afraid that my men are a bit more tense than I am, and having something happen to you would create problems for our plans.”
“I don’t give a goddamn about your plans…this is my boat, and this is my crew.”
“Not for a while Captain, no. As I said, I am borrowing you for a while, until we complete our mission here. Once we are finished, I will return your boat to you, and your crew.”
“Mission…what mission? Nobody comes onto my boat and tells me what they are going to…”
The leader slowly got up from the bench. He was tall and thin, and had a smile on his face, but not in his eyes.
“Captain. I am sorry you are so upset. But I must tell you that I don’t have the time to discuss this with you right now. We have taken control of your boat, we will be with you for a few days, and then we will give your boat back to you. You have my word. But just to show you that I am sincere in what I say, it may be necessary for me to give you a little demonstration of that sincerity.”
The leader motioned to one of his men, who grabbed Danny, the youngest crew member, walked him toward the door of the galley, pulled out a small revolver with a silencer, and pointed it toward the back of Danny’s head. It occurred to the Captain that the shot sounded a lot like pulling the tab on a can of beer, except for the little puff of pink smoke and Danny’s clothing collapsing into a heap on the floor like it was ready for the laundry if it wasn’t for Danny still being in them.
“Such a waste.” the leader sighed. “I do hope you won’t ask me to give you another demonstration Captain. Fortunately, young Danny had no family, had no real friends who might miss him. The river was his life, and today you made the decision that his life was over.”
The rest of the crew stared at their Captain, whose eyes slowly regained focus.
“Now Captain, why don’t you and I go up to our pilothouse and I will explain what we are going to do. The rest of my men will be aboard shortly to help prepare the crew for their part in the mission. Ah, here they come now.”
Before he could speak or move, the Captain heard another small boat pull alongside. The leader motioned him toward the door, and after a brief glance at his crew to tell them not to do anything stupid, Captain Charlie Graff stepped from the galley with his fists and teeth clenched.