Chapter 3: Good Hard Cash

Water is splashing at the sides of the houseboat. Finegan and Joey are securing some gear as the wind has picked up. As Finegan heaves the fishing net up over the line reserved for drying the net, he catches sight of a pair of men in a rowboat.

The rowboat is in the distance. One of the pair is standing and looking down into the water. The other, a diver, pops up, gasping for breath and holding onto the edge of the rowboat for a minute, then diving again. Finegan mutters under his breath.

Hello, what's this?

Finegan's curiosity finally gets the better of him. He waves his arms and shouts at the pair.

Hello, need some help?

The man standing in the boat glances up briefly and gives a weak wave back but is fixated on the spot where the diver disappeared.

Seeing he is being ignored, Finegan unties the houseboat from the tree where it has been moored, and maneuvers the houseboat closer to the rowboat. Letting the houseboat drift, he leaves his seat at the paddle wheel and comes forward to engage the pair in the rowboat.

What's the problem?

The man in the boat only glances up briefly, then back at the spot where the diver comes up for air periodically.

There's an outboard down there, and gasoline.

Finegan points to the sky.

You've got something better right at hand!

Finegan disappears into the house, emerging with a tattered book on sailing. He is flipping pages, then holds the book up in the air, opened by his splayed fingers, pointing the illustrations at the pair in the rowboat. The diver has come up for air again and is clinging to the side of the rowboat. Finegan explains,

You could rig a sail! There's always a breeze out here. Look, I can help you. I've got the supplies right here.

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The rowboat has been outfitted with a single sail, the supports nailed to the side of the rowboat with bracing at the bottom of the rowboat. The sail can swing from side to side to catch the breeze.

As Finegan and Joey stand on the deck of the houseboat, waving goodby, the new sail has billowed out in the evening breeze, and the rowboat is picking up speed as it moves toward the shoreline.

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Later that evening there are several popping noises on the shore, with lights that look like firecrackers briefly going off. These are not firecrackers, but gunshots. Finegan comes out to stand next to Joey and Barney, who have been sleeping on the deck. Finegan places his hand on Joey's shoulder, shaking it gently, to waken him.

Grab Barney and hold his mutt shut. There's trouble.

Joey wraps both legs around Barney, holding his mouth shut with one hand, while Barney looks up at Joey, his eyes big but trusting.

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When Finegan has put some distance between the houseboat and the shoreline, he steps through the clutter, coming forward to see about breakfast. Joey is still seated with Barney, but no longer holding him so he can't bark, the danger being past. But just as they are about to relax, Finegan freezes, looking off into the open water.

Finegan points to a small yacht, seemingly adrift, not anchored. The houseboat is slowly drifting toward the yacht, due to momentum from the trip into open water. Finegan steps back and ducks into the house. He pulls a pistol out of a drawer and stuffs it into the back of his pants at the waistline.

Stepping back onto the deck to stand behind Joey and Barney, Finegan places his hand on Joey's shoulder.

Somethin' doesn't smell right about this.

As the houseboat drifts up to almost touch the side of the yacht, a man stumbles out of the cabin, whiskey bottle in hand, staggering slightly. He is wearing a sweaty white t-shirt and blue casual pants. Two women emerge behind him, still in nightgowns. Finegan introduces himself.

Ahoy! Finegan Fine here, trader.

The yachtsman says,

We're looking for food, fresh food. Sent a man over to the mainland last night to look for some and ain't seen him since.

Finegan asks,

At night?

Aggravated at having been challenged, as it is obvious they didn't intend any but theft of someone else's food cache, the yachtsman replies,

Aaaaahhh. We didn't want any trouble, ya know?

The yachtsman loses his balance and falls against the cabin, bouncing back out onto the railing, which he grabs to right himself.

You got any food?

Finegan is playing along.

Plenty. Potatoes, onions, some cabbage, and fish fresh from last night.

Finegan glances at the rear of the yacht, which doesn't seem to have any fishing apparatus. It's a pleasure craft, not for fishing.

You don't fish?

The yachtsman is surly.

We had supplies.

Where he bends over backwards for good folk, Finegan has a distinct dislike of those who think the world owes them a living.

What have you got in exchange?

The yachtsman digs in his pocket and pulls out a roll, waving it in the air.

Good hard cash.

The yachtsman's wife, the older of the two women, looks horrified that he is drunk and waving money around in front of a stranger. She puts her hand on his arm, attempting to pull it down out of sight. He shakes off her hand, annoyed. Finegans says,

Can't use that.

The yachtsman gets belligerent.

It's good hard cash!

Finegan shakes his head and points to the half-empty whiskey bottle the yachtsman has been waving around.

I'll take one of those, a full one, and some antibiotics if you have any. I'll toss in some applies for the pills.

The yachtsman ponders the deal for a moment, then turns to the women standing to the side in their nightdresses. They look at him expectantly, obviously wanting the deal to go through. The yachtsman waves his arm toward the deck between he and the women.

Bring the stuff on up here then.

Finegan is not putting himself in that position.

You have one of them come down here to pick it up.

Finegan leans to the side, murmuring to Joey that he should get some used plastic grocery store bags from the house. He is motioning to the vegetable bins and the fish box on the deck, giving instructions.

The daughter of the yachtsman, the younger of the pair, slips into the cabin and returns dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, barefoot. She has a bottle of whiskey and a small bottle of pills in her hands. She tosses the whiskey to Finegan and climbs down the metal ladder at the side of the yacht to hand him the bottle of pills. Finegan examines the bottle and nods to Joey. Finegan has not turned his back on the yacht the whole time.

Joey is stuffing vegetables into the bags. He pulls out a large cabbage from one bin, the outer leaves curling and turning brown on the edges. He pulls out a few apples, wrinkled from dehydration. He bags several potatoes and another bag of a half dozen onions. The fish likewise are bagged, though some are set aside for the crew's breakfast. The daughter is handing the bags up to her mother, then climbs up herself.

Finegan walks backwards to the bike rig at the rear of the houseboat, never turning his back to the yacht but trying not to look too obvious about this, and easing into the seat starts a reverse paddle until there is some distance between the boats. Finegan shouts his goodbye.

Your man got himself shot last night.

The daughter, who has been standing at the rail watching the houseboat pull away, looks shocked and anguished. The man making the night raid was obviously her husband.