The beach Javier led me across was crawling with cargo clad grunts. Humvees and jeeps roared across the sand while Spanish shouts and curses darted around.
The crew had constructed a make-shift dock out to the sub by roping large black drums to one another and sealing them together with fiberglass. They covered the dock with a rough carpet so it wasn’t slippery. They used hundreds of ties and ropes to secure the dock to the beach and to keep it from swaying in the tide.
“Mobility is key,” Javier said as we stepped on the dock. “We never have to hit a port, never have to go to the same place twice. This is my ghost ship.”
“What’s her name?” I asked.
“Queen Anne’s Return,” he said cracking a sly smile.
By the time we stepped onto the deck of the submarine Angela had moved below. The crew that was milling around all wore the same matching cargo uniform as Javier and Angela. It was a militant operation. No one spoke except in orders and salutes. A few managers shouted commands but most healed beside the corporals.
Once below deck Javier wrenched my neck with a chummy hug. He mushed our cheeks together, forcing a shared vision of all the trappings he had adorned the vessel with. We passed dozens of drone like workers buzzing through the steel hive. A heavy stench of sweat soaked the air.
After stepping over the missing floor panels, guiding past the raw electrical wires and half welded steel, we reached a door with a steel wheel airlock.
“This is your room,” Javier said to me, twisting the metal wheel. The door swung open. It was heavy on the latches. It screeched a yearning squall as the foot thick door bared its contents.
Javier flicked a switch and four fluorescent tubes fluttered until they dumped streams of light into the vault. It was an empty munitions hold– about six feet across, twelve feet long, and six feet high.
“How much?” I asked.
“As much as you can get me my friend. This fucker’s nuclear—we don’t have to stop for anything or anyone.” He answered.
“How’d you get your hands on one of these?”
“Three words, Cold War surplus.”
“The crew? Can you trust them?”
“Yes, yes. They are either being paid well or have been provided other means of loyalty.”
I looked around for one of them, but it was only the two of us in the vault. The crackle of a welding torch echoed in from the corridor.
“And the uranium?”
He laughed and patted my cheek. “Come now Israel. Can’t tell you everything. If I did, what would you need me for.” Then he slapped my shoulder and let out another chuckle.
“Now,” he said, throwing his arm around me again. “Let’s talk business.”
When he spoke, his other hand rose and waved over the cargo bay as if to frame a tandem vision. “How much crystal can you put in here per week?”
“We were never talking about crystal,” I answered.
“I know, I know. But you’re the man. I’m sure you can manage.”
“It’s too much liability. There’s no straight cooks for that shit.”
“Israel, you disappoint me, you’re not thinking with your head my friend. The liberals are putting my green guys out of business. Coke’s nothing like it was. It’s only for yuppies with small dicks and fat wives now. Molly is cappin’ kids left and right—there’s your god damned liability. Meth heads are customers for life. And they keep quiet. Even when they’re dieing, they keep their mouth’s shut. Plus, the shit spreads like fire and don’t kill em’ as quick as Judy. Ya’hearin what I’m sayin’ or am I pissin’ into the wind?”
I paused for a moment. “I’ll need time.”
He laughed. “Now that’s why I came to you my friend. I knew you were not a man to disappoint.”
His face sank to black. “I need 150 pounds a week starting in a month.”
“Ok,” I said.
He erupted with laughter.
“You got balls my friend, I’ll give you that. Serious fucking balls.” He laughed again. “Come, this is a time for drinking.”
As we walked back through the sub, Javier screamed at the dutiful peasantry in garbled Spanish. By the time we were on shore they had set up a small plastic table beneath an umbrella, with a bottle of rum, three glasses, three chairs, and one emerald eyed vixen. Her gorillas stood watch a few yards behind her.
Angela had exchanged her combat wear for a flowing yellow sun dress that painted her bronze skin. She wore a floral shawl over her shoulders that melded with the dress when the breeze swept across the beach. She was wearing her hair up and under a wide brimmed hat decorated with fresh flowers. When she saw us walking down the dock, she poured the rum into each of the glasses.
Her eyes burnt into mine while Javier greeted her with a kiss and a few whispers. She tilted her head, accepting what Javier had said, and then pointed to one of the vacant chairs. “Join us.”
I sat down in the only seat still in the sun, grabbed the glass she had poured for me, and leaned back into my chair. Javier stayed behind her silken breeze.
“150 pounds is quite a lot,” she said.
“I can do it.”
“No one can do that. There’s not a cook for five hundred miles that can produce at half that rate.”
“Then I’ll get more than one.”
Javier laughed, Angela turned her head but didn’t meet his eyes. He obediently went silent.
“And, if I may ask, how many do you have now? I’ve heard your name quite a lot, but never in those circles.”
“Look, you called me.”
“We called many people.”
“Did you show everyone your shiny new toys?”
“Perhaps we did.”
I roasted for a moment. She had me flat footed.