He finished with his glasses and put them back on. "I'm trying to think what else I can tell you about being a defrocked drug agent in a state penitentiary. I caught up on my knitting?"
"I'm going to order a drink," I said, and I did. I thought about the bottle of Advil in my desk drawer at work. My hand ached, worse than it had in weeks.
"One hell of a current in there at the change of tide," Fontana was saying. "Especially an autumn tide. Mix it up with a new moon, you got a doozy. That's why that tug's straining like it is."
I looked, and he was right.
"The way to do it is wait till the freighter's right between the jetties, the narrowest point. You do it with some dynamite in the bow, say fifteen pounds. Nothing fancy. Dynamite and sandbags, a directed charge. You blow a hole in the port bow; it swings the whole ship around. Kid stuff."
"You need a hobby."
He laughed. "What I hear is you like to drink a fifth of Maker's Mark a day and hang out in titty bars. Is that a hobby?"
I shrugged. "It's a free country."
"Yeah? You should turn on CNN sometime. You got survivalist militias, you got whacked-out religious cults, you got kids with purple hair running around calling themselves antiglobalists. They don't think it's a free country. The whole thing makes me glad I'm out of law enforcement. Maybe you should get out too."
He couldn't leave the binoculars alone. He had picked them up again, taking off his glasses to squint through them. He said, "You could get some serious action in this town, come to think of it. Your old buddies at the Bureau are scared shitless these Cubans are going to get serious someday, actually do something instead of screaming at each other on AM radio and shaking their fists at Castro."
"I wouldn't know."
"I thought you out-to-pasture FBI guys all stayed in touch, had cocktail parties."
I let it slide. It was a nice afternoon, cool for October and a little windy. Fishing boats were scattered all over the channel, a regular traffic jam. I felt sorry for the harbor pilot. Not too sorry, of course; those guys have a hell of a union. I could see the stern of the freighter now. In a few minutes the ship would be heading out to sea. The waitress brought my drink.
"I been playing with this thing," Fontana said. He had slipped on a pair of calfskin gloves. I looked down, and there was a little black gizmo on the table. "Try it out. You'll get addicted. A friend of mine, his sister's kid turned me on to it."
There was a screen, like on a pager. The thing was the size of a cigarette pack, with a dull metal casing, and when I picked it up, it was heavier than I had thought it would be. I wasn't big on games.
"You push the button on the side to start it up," he said.
I did. Nothing happened. Then the screen lit up and displayed little green letters. The little green letters said, Bang!
Right then I knew what was going to happen next but I didn't even have time to breathe.
The explosion ripped through the patio like a gust of wind. Someone in one of the fishing boats was yelling, "¡Coño! ¡Coño! ¡Coño!" Everyone was screaming. On the wooden deck, on my stomach, I looked out from between two balusters and saw the freighter in flames. It had swung sideways in the channel, nose down and sinking fast. A guy on the tugboat was going nuts, trying to get the lines loose. He gave up and dove overboard, and the tug capsized.
Copyright © 2005 by Sean Rowe.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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