Captain Walters led Titus to his quarters. A splendid meal was placed on the dining table. Walters sat at the head of the table and gestured for Titus to sit at the end.
“When will we arrive in Havana, Captain Walters?”
Walters smiled and cut into the tender meat. He shoved a forkful of it into his mouth and chewed slowly. Titus didn’t like being ignored.
“We’ve got to make a quick stop in Pinar del Rio.”
Titus shook his head and stared at Walters. He took a sip of his wine and cleared his throat.
“Why? What’s in Pinar del Rio?”
“It’s a quick pick-up, and then we will finish our journey to Havana.”
“Eat, my friend.”
Walters and Titus finished their meal and wine, and then had dessert. Titus put his hand on his head suddenly woozy. He tried to stand but the strength in his legs had waned. Titus looked at Captain Walter’s face, but it danced in his eyesight.
“Relax, my friend. Don’t struggle. Soon, your new life will begin.”
Two crewmen came in and half-dragged, half-carried Titus back to the hidden compartment. They shackled him in chains, and then exited the room. Captain Walters waited for them on deck of the ship.
“We arrive at Pinar del Rio in half an hour. Our guest will start his new life as property of Rakeem Mulholland.”
“Who is that?”
“Mulholland is a trafficker. He trades in human beings.”
“So, he’s like us?”
“Wealthier. We will drop anchor and take the ‘priest’ ashore in a raft. We hand him off, get paid, and then it’s to Havana for good food, beautiful women, and great cigars.”
The men chuckled and went back to their duties. Captain Walters went back to his quarters until time to go ashore. Jackson Titus struggled against the drugs that polluted his system.
Minutes passed by as he tried to ward off the effects of the drugs. The engine speed decreased as the ship began to slow.
Jackson Titus’s time had come.
The two crew members who’d carried him to his quarters returned and dragged him onto the deck. A group of sailors dropped the raft to the water, a ladder lowered to the watercraft. The driver climbed down into the raft and started the engines, one of the two men carried Titus down to the craft, Walters and another crew man joined them in the boat.
“My friend,” Walters said smiling at Titus, “soon your new life begins anew.”
Titus said nothing but kept his eyes on the shore, looking for any escape route he might use to avoid slavery. A fleet of cars were pulled onto the shore. A gaggle of people stood to receive the boat.
Dread filled the heart of Jackson Titus.
As the craft approached the shoreline, the line was cast out and a man gripped it and pulled them to shore.
“Captain Walters, this is the man who came to you for help.”
“Yes, Mr. Mulholland. He claims to be a man of God.”
“Hmm. What do you want for him?”
“The usual fare, if it please you.”
Mulholland gestured to a man who brought a suitcase. Walters opened it and checked the money. He nodded and secured it in his right hand.
“Thank you, Mr. Mulholland.”
Captain Walters and his crew returned to The Silent Song. Mulholland turned to Titus and gave him a small smile. Titus’s heart raced with fear.
“Mr. Titus,” Mulholland said in a cultured voice, “it’s a pleasure to meet you. I’ve need of someone with your specific skill set. You have a choice. Work with me and get well-compensated for your work or die here. You have two minutes to decide.”
Weapons swiveled toward Jackson Titus; the barrels lined up at his chest. He sighed and nodded.
“Yes. I accept your offer.”
“Good choice. It’d be a shame to waste such talent.”
Two men escorted Titus to the back of a truck and shoved him into the back of it. Titus leaned against the cab. God only knew what they would want him to do, but it didn’t matter. His new life would soon begin.
Manson and Rankin returned home after not finding any clue of Jackson Titus. A month later, any leads Thermopolis and Lilly had generated dried up.
“We’re not going to find him are we Thermopolis?”
“No. Jackson Titus is gone.”
“He, Bronowski, and Elsa all killed Bradley Freeman, but Bronowski is the only one that will pay for it. This doesn’t feel like justice.”
I turned and faced Lilly and gave her a smile. God bless her. She still believed in justice for the victims, in the concept of balance in the universe and in the power of righteousness.
Her faith in the system was nothing short of awe-inspiring. It’s too bad I couldn’t say the same thing about myself. It seemed the more we fought against the forces of darkness, the worse things became.
And things would only get worse.
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