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A Girl and Her Bank: Munich Merchants

A Girl and Her Bank: Munich Merchants

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A Girl and Her Bank: Munich Merchants

418 pages
6 heures
Jun 13, 2012


‘A Girl and Her Bank: The Munich Merchants’
The year is 1970 and Rhys Cairneddyn, Master of the Games has been killed. Rhys’ four European banks and shipping company are inherited by Althea, an art student peace protestor daughter grown up in California. A careful détente broken after this betrayal and execution of Althea’s father, as Swiss and German bankers, drug lords and arms dealers line up to destroy the girl before she puts them out of business.
The girl has been wounded and forced to rely on Special Forces Col. Lev Baranov and John Preston’s mercenary Silver Company. An unlikely coalition formed to retake her Munich Merchants Bank and put a stop to the bank’s laundering of drugs and armaments monies. The book opens in a desperate attempt made to rescue Althea’s mother and two brothers before they’re taken hostage. A family Althea has never met and powerful new friends, who may be foes, in her brave voyage of discovery and a new attempt to change the world of banking.
One college student takes a stand against Nixon’s bankrupt Federal reserve and the German bankers funding the Pentagon’s military machine in the Vietnam conflict. As Swiss and German creditors line up to demand the return of their gold, the people of the world stumble under the burdens of devalued currency, weak housing and no jobs. It is the stark awakening of ‘Nixon Shock” when the governments of the world abandon gold standard currency. Overnight one dollar is devalued to less than 13 cents.

Jun 13, 2012

À propos de l'auteur

author 1994 –Present(18 years) Published: A Girl and Her Bank: Munich Merchants Sr. Digital Hardware Engineer Qualcomm 1997 –2001(4 years) Principal Engineer Advanced Tissue Sciences 1994 –1997(3 years) Principal Engineer Created controlled rate freezing profiles for human tissue. Created freezing equipment, transfer mechanisms and packaging for shipments of tissue.

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A Girl and Her Bank - CJ King

A Girl and Her Bank:

The Munich Merchants

By CJ King

Smashwords Edition

© 2012, Cynthia J. Guenther


Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author, C. J. King otherwise known as Cynthia J. Guenther.

This book ‘A Girl and Her Bank: Munich Merchants’ and all other volumes in this series of work or in any way connected with this series of work are fiction. The characters, incidents and locations and all names herein are fictitious, and any similarity to or identification with the names, locations, characters or history of any person, product or entity is entirely coincidental and unintentional and not meant to cast aspersions on any country, government or institution.

I’d like to give a special note to thank the brilliant artist Sean Sullivan for the use of her painting and my son Theo for his graphics on the cover artwork. Special thanks offered to Laurie Briggs for her kindness, and my good friends and artists for their wisdom and loving support.

Chapter 1


Gabrielle Elliene Montsienne – de Bretagne had a hangover. Last night had been good, celebrating Kristin’s thirtieth birthday but she was paying a heavy price. As well, it was almost noontime before she’d made it into work, having stayed the night on her friend’s couch. This year of 1970 an awful one, Rhys killed less than a month ago and that awful war raging in Vietnam. Kristin and friends reaching out, her two handsome sons calling to chat most every day, lifelines and reason to continue.

She sipped on her cup of coffee, as always entranced with her office view overlooking the front street of Krom Boomssloot and the corner of Korte Keizersstraat, with its busy little vine covered cafe. Gabby’s eyes drifting along the curve of the cobbled street, the green canal waters along its side and the arched bridge. The colorful lines of long canal boats moored against the red grey brick walls of the waterway, always bobbing slightly in the receding tides. Happy little boats, that’s how she thought of them. Her office was her favorite place in the world. She was very lucky she thought as she took one last sip and lowered her cup so that she could get some work done.

No sooner had she settled the cup in its bone china saucer than she heard the buzz and lifted the black phone with her cheerful ‘Tiger, how can I help you?’ As Gabby waited for the order or request, she rubbed her eyes to wake up. The low careful voice that came over the phone was not one she had ever heard before, but the word it stated was.

Jericho. You must immediately go to station Jericho.

Gabby’s feet dropped from their usual perch on her desk to slam down on the floor, she stammered. Why, who…you can’t…

The voice was relentless. No. This is serious Gabrielle. Your daughter Althea and solicitor Albert command you, immediately GO. To Jericho. I will be at Jericho to help you. My name is John.

When Gabby argued again, protesting that this must be some kind of horrible mistake, John Preston commanded her silence.

"Stop! No more time wasted. Your daughter was attacked last evening and has suffered brain damage. Thea needs you. As do the others. You will please listen to me and comprehend! You will listen and you will do all that Rhys has instructed you to do."

Gabby made an inarticulate cry and John continued relentlessly. Albert and I have been trying to reach you all morning. The boys are…safe. You remain. John exhaled in anger as the woman again tried to deny what he was saying. He didn’t enjoy being cruel.

You have to know what will happen if the German gets his hands on you. You know, so please! Believe what I am saying and ..GO..TO..JERICHO. Now!

The lovely little redhead touched her face, mouth not working as she gasped. All right. I’ll go.

Gaby hung up the phone knowing her time at peace had ended, that she might never see this enchanting view in her office again. Her simple life was finished and done. She’d known some day it would happen, Rhys had always said it would. Blinking, she readied herself for what was to come.

The yearly routine Rhys had insisted they perform when he visited her in secret. ‘The Drill’, they had laughingly called it. Strong beautiful Rhys, before they destroyed him. The walls of Jericho, that fell down on the enemy. She hoped they would. Gaby pressed the garage door opener, knowing her two motorcycles would be gone in minutes. She pressed the transmitter button to Alfredo, knowing he would be the one to take them.

She turned and went over to the back door and opened it, leaving it open as a feint to whoever would come searching for her. Then she opened the closet and picked up the black backpack, and added another one of the plastic water jugs Rhys insisted she keep on hand. She slipped into her leather jacket and knit cap, and put on her heavy leather gloves. Not the long motorcycle gloves, but she needed to take them with her. To agree with the story that she’d ridden off.

Gabby took the pack over to her desk. Picked up her filofax and tossed in all the cards that held the Tiger network together. Her purse stuffed and was crammed down the side of the pack and she was done. She was still wearing her motorcycle boots, so that was done too.

Gabby could hear Rhys speaking to her. His deep clear voice with its precise vowels. Take your time dear. Don’t be scared, this will keep you safe my darling. Be strong, remember the sequence…count it off with me now.

One…pack in hand. Two…door open. Three…open the panel. Gabby grabbed the aluminum pole and telescoped it out, pulling the small wire loop on the ceiling panel. Pulling down the ladder. Her foot on the bottom tread she slung the backpack on her shoulders and started the climb, the aluminum steps resonating as she rose. Four…climb the ladder. Done.

Once in the ceiling compartment, she pulled the ladder up. Five…close the door and light the light. Gabby turned on the little light hanging in a hook from the side of the backpack. Then she locked the panel shut and collapsed the pole, using it as a backup measure to brace the panel down.

Six…walk the walk. She began her crabwise walk along the short brick passage, over to the sidewall and through.

Seven…lock the walk. Gabby closed the iron door and bolted it shut. She used the crosscut two by fours to brace it. Rhys had been obsessive with his procedures.

They will come after you my dear. Once they find you gone they will tear the building apart, possibly they’ll burn it. Then they will find the passages. You must, must do exactly as we’ve planned.

He would lean down and lift her up in his arms and kiss her so sweetly. You are the queen my love. If someone takes you or the baby, then they have my heart. We can’t let them do that. He would nuzzle her. No my sweet hen, safe in your pen. He would kiss and…no, no…can’t dream now.

They hadn’t planned on someone taking Gabby’s heart and how she would survive when Rhys was taken away forever. And now the baby, please not her baby, that horrible man saying Thea had brain damage from some attack. Gabby stopped to pound the brick walls in despair. Why couldn’t she have asked him what he meant? How could she have said nothing?

Tears and snot running, wiping her face with the back of her hand, she remembered her number. Eight…go the distance through the gate.

A two-foot wide space created in the attic room, at an angle in the back. Gabby pushing her self and the pack along the sidewall to the back, where the hard part started. She had to lean forward into the dust and rough wood. Lean and scoot along, quietly while wiping the spider webs out of her face. Hand over hand; go forward under this roof cutout passage. It seemed like and hour, but it was only minutes and she was across the space to the wall and the next door. This last part and she hated it. Her voice dropping as she said the fateful words.

Nine…time to go down the line. She remembered last time, each year it got harder. You’ll be all right baby, just one more year of fun for us. Promise we’ll celebrate when we’re done…

There was another door up ahead that would lead to another cutout room and then it would end. A time waster, one of Rhys’ false passages in the maze, it would lead them nowhere. Hopefully they would think it simply a Jew’s hideout from the last war, unused and waiting for the next one, and give up.

Gabby backed up nine heel-to-toe spaces from the door and stopped. Bent down on her knees with the little light. She found the crack, and then the place where the pry bar was. Where Rhys had hidden it inside the wall. It was time to take off her glove and get the bar out. She had to pull the thin wedge of plywood cover piece away with her fingernails.

The thin metal piece came free. Rhys had made it him self out at castle Alswick. It was almost a half-inch wide, a knifepoint chisel, and a foot long. It was the only thing that would correctly engage and leverage open the lower passage. Gabby replaced the plywood, smoothing it into place so it was unnoticeable, hoping it was. Putting her gloves back on, she prepared for the next part of her journey. She hated this part.

Take a drink of water my dear. Slow down. Remember my hen. You are safe… His hand would pet her hair, smoothing away the spider webs and her worries. He would always hug her. Always give her the sweetest kiss at this point. Reward her bravery. Gabby remembered that last time, the additional methods Rhys had used to encourage her. Her chortling and the nasty giggling that threatened to reveal them through the walls.

She replaced her water jug and then picked up the wedged tool. Pried up the wooden cover piece that was actually on a piano hinge. Then down with the tool in the slanted hold to hit the release. It snapped free, as it had every year she’d done the exercise. Done the Drill.

The scuffed floor panel began to slowly, silently rise on its spring-loaded hinge. Revealing the thin steps of the wooden staircase leading down to nothingness beyond. Nine…still nine and going on down the line... Gabby repeated to herself as she wriggled around to put her toes on the slippery wooden steps. Her backpack in place with its little miner’s light shining. It had been harder for Rhys to do. So tall that he’d slipped and banged his chin, and she had giggled at his discomfort. Watched the long body try to fit into such a small space and still keep his footing, harder every year.

Down she went, using the handholds on the back of each step to keep her from falling. Pulling the rope to reset the lock and bring the floor boards flush. Hearing it snap shut. The tool went with her. It would never be used again. This was the last time the passage would ever be used. Gabby ruefully figured the fate of the fool that would try to follow her. They’d be sorry!

Down and down…all the way baby…down you go…down the line the words singing in her ears in Rhys calm deep assuring voice.

The walls of Jericho my baby, they will keep you safe. Stop if you need to. Never, ever hurry.

So Gabby stopped, her arms aching and feet trembling on the steps. Twice she had stumbled so far. Banged her chin, but not let go of the leather holds. Her arms were trembling from the effort. Still so long to go. Horrible long ways still to go. Rhys whispering below her Hold on my honey…don’t ever let go…

When she complained and told him he was such a bully, she always did. Softly promising her I’ll catch you baby. I’ll catch you…

Only he wouldn’t, couldn’t. Finally she heard the water lapping below. She’d gone almost four levels deep. Time to look. The small light on the right side of the pack was worn so that she would be able to see the wall. Everything thought out in Rhys’ careful way, everything a game for him to play.

Oh Rhys, why did you have to leave me? she asked him for the thousandth time. With no answer except for the water’s murmur of disquiet, warning her that she would fall into the deep unless she found her side port.

Ten…into the pen and set the fate of men… But where is the pen door? Sweat covered her face, cold sweat and tears. Or snot, she didn’t know anymore. The long slide of stairs was the worst and the most dangerous. Rhys never made her climb back up and she wasn’t sure she could.

You have to go on my dear…find the door…into the pen with you my hen…

He would tease her, always being below her to stop her fall if her hands failed. No longer there, no one would catch her. Who was this John? That deep horrible voice that said he was coming. Said that he would be there. She hated him, this anonymous John that had ended her world.

It wasn’t there, her gloved hand scraping away at nothing. Crying in sobs that shook her chest, she dropped and slid down another eight steps. She wanted to let go, to slide all the way and drown. Give up and let the black water of the canal win. She was too old, too weak and stupid to do this anymore.

Her gloved hand scraped at the wall and the loose plaster piece fell away and clattered down the steps, to crash into the water. She’d found it. Must have broken during the last winter. Didn’t matter anymore, if they found her then they just would. She wanted to get off the stairs, the horrible stairs and into the pen.

Her stiff arm reached up and found the latch handle. Rhys always brought oil and greases with him in his pack. Each year when they did the Drill, he would repair and ready the mechanisms for the next year. Each year he would study his run of puzzles to see what had worn or needed a better solution. Only Pieter and the boys knew about them, would help sometimes. Use ropes to lower the tools and supplies.

The handle had rusted during the winter. The same high tides that had worked the plaster piece loose had frozen the door lock. Gabby was beyond sobs or tears. She wanted to live.

A hard fury began to burn in her. Damned thing! Damned damned damned thing! She dug out the wedge bar and banged on the handle. The hell with what anyone listening might think. It was still stuck, so she worked the thin piece in between the door handle and lock and pried with everything she had, only to have it fly out and slither down the stairs into the water. Gabby following, losing four treads with her breasts hitting the steps, her chin hitting them too.

Please, oh please she begged it. Drawing back into position. Please pen door, open she begged it. Let in your hen. She reached up for the handle, both hands this time. Not caring if she lost her balance. Not caring but one thing, to make it home, into the pen.

Her weight on it, with both hands she braced her boots against the wall and silently screamed and pulled with everything she had. The rust must have been knocked loose by the bar, because it turned. Gabby losing her balance and hanging onto the handle with one hand and scrabbling to find a hand hold on the steps with the other.

Bruised and bleeding, she used her dirty leather sleeve to wipe her eyes. Then back at the tiny door. Gabby took her motorcycle boot and kicked the door open with everything she had left. Put her boots through and wiggled her butt in to follow. Pulled the backpack behind her and fell onto the wood platform that Rhys had built over the water and bricks. Stayed there and thanked God, whoever God was, she thanked and thanked God. Fell on her side thanking God.

Finally there was enough energy returned for her to sit up. Gabby opened her pack. Took out the water jug and the energy bar. Forced the granola crumbs into her mouth, washed them down with water. Too tired to chew or think, hearing his deep good voice.

Replenish baby…take time…you’re safe now.

Her gloves were off so she could find the hand wipes and clean her face. There was time to take a deep breath and think. Gabby was in the pen and it was time for her to set the fate of men. Jericho. Only not the walls, it would be the men who fell, the ones that came after her if they dared to. Fools, they would regret it. Gaby felt better, thinking what they would experience. Evil men, you deserve this.

Gabby felt for the rope, the knotted strong rope that could only be pulled once. The rope that would open the mantrap at the third landing, if anyone made it down the stairs that far. Then their weight would hit the last tread and collapse the entire board run into a slide.

Into hell Rhys had laughed. If they come after you my darling, we will send them on a water ride they won’t forget. Into hell! He would laugh evilly, his long arm shooting downward.

Fools that chase my hen will regret it for a long, long time.

She found the rope and pulled herself to her feet by it. Then she wound the rope around her waist and used her full weight with her boots on the sidewall to pull back and bring the lever free. A bell ringer of retribution, hearing the mechanism so far above, fall down along the wall rattling into its last place it would ever go. Knowing that no one would be able to follow her unless they used climbing ropes and were very, very brave.

It was done. The hen was safely in her pen. To hell with hens, never again, she wouldn’t even eat an egg. Or chicken. No, not even a duck, or a seagull. No more damned hens.

So tired. Gabby kicked the little door shut and locked it. Then picked up the wooden bars and double, then triple locked it. She was done. No more numbers to deal with. Now all she had to do was to go out to the edge and wait for the signal to come. Pieter and then John, the awful John. She wanted to hurt John, to kick John in the knee with her boots, her baby with a hole in her brains, horrible man.

She picked up her backpack and shook her head. What if it had been for nothing? She could have just trotted down her stairway like every other day. Hopped on her Honda 450 and ripped it up with a blast. Taken a ride along the canals, maybe go for lunch over at the new Indian place over on Sint Jansstraat. Oh yeah! A five course rice feast with hot, blazing hot curry and endless glasses of iced beer to wash it down.

Gabby was trudging along the wooden plank walk, wondering if Alfredo had hidden her Hondas close by. Hoping he had. Wondering if someone had stolen her helmet that she’d just hung on the right handlebar an hour ago. Was it only one or four hours? It seemed an eternity as Gabby checked her wristwatch, moving the lamp to better see it. No, it was only twenty minutes. Twenty hard, life changing horrible minutes she reflected.

Then she heard it, the bleep/bleep/bleep of the emergency vehicles and the chimes of the police cars. Could her motorcycle theft have caused that, she wondered? Gabby stood in the dark, wondering what chaos was occurring above her on the streets. Then she remembered the back door she’d left open. Oh dear, they’d really be fools if they went that way. Oh boy. Ow. That would really hurt.

Giggling out loud like a bad schoolgirl, Gabby’s spirits picked up as she made her way out under the bridgework. Her little voice echoing merrily back as she spotted the box left next to the locked grating. Waiting for her to come open it up.

And right outside, at the grating’s opening was the dark shape of Pieter’s barge. The line of bright colored laundry drying on top, with the orange quilt spread out at the center of the line. Hold and wait it said. Wait for the green to come out.

So Gabby opened the padlocked box and pulled the picnic lunch box out. The fine red wine that Rhys preferred and the bottles of pale ale that she liked best. The yearly feast, celebrated only at completion of The Drill. Gaby shook out the dark red tablecloth and placed the wine glass for Rhys and then the tall bier glass for her. Rhys would share the lunch she decided.

A can of the finest Dutch ham was peeled slowly open. An aged cheese buried in its deep rind of yellow and red wax, cracked apart, fragrant and smoky golden Gouda. Fine oat crackers and glass jars of stuffed olives joined the platter. Dried cherries and fat golden currents for dessert, a great feast.

Gabby opened the wine, deciding that today she would drink for Rhys. Humm, she smelled. A very nice little saucy Bordeaux, smooth with faint overtones of cherry and walnut she decided. Not a wine expert, she still appreciated his fine selections, tried to do it the justice that he would have.

His long nose stuck into a glass, eyes rolling comically to make her giggle, determining the quality before he would deign to taste it. To you my dear, she lifted her goblet of red, the faint light making it seem like blood, for you my darling sweet Rhys, forever. She drank a lovely deep gulp that burned its way down, awakening her.

Nibbling on her feast, Gabby listened to the pandemonium building. A commotion. Occurring at the corner of Krom Boomssloot and the corner of Korte Keizersstraat. The bleepity bleep arrival of an ambulance and responding bong chimes of police cars arriving. My goodness she thought, whatever have those men done to themselves? Oh, Owwie!

Pieter had brought out his sun chair and a pair of binoculars. With his chest of iced beer, the tall gray haired boatman settled in for a good show with his little black Schipperke Beansie sitting right at his side. Knowing that Gabby was sitting less than ten feet away, Pieter decided to detail the canal side activities for his alert little dog’s benefit. The very dog that Gabby brought treats at lunchtime and trusted his kind to master, chewed on the mint flavored milk bones she’d brought him yesterday.

Beansie’s ears were perked as his master Pieter began explaining to him. Oh Beansie my lad. Why oh why, we ask ourselves have such silly men gone and jumped into the drainage vent over the Bracken Brother’s Café lavatories? Nasty, nasty men, they’ll be brown and blue, stink for weeks I’d imagine.

Pieter stopped his commentary to refresh with Flemish ale. Broken something I’d imagine. That flooring was so awfully thin… Took another sip and looked again through the binoculars. Oh yes, here come the recovery sleds.

Too red for me Gabby thought, watching him. Too sour by far, those Flemish ales. She opened her light golden Pilsner in commiseration, sipping its lovely mellow flow as Pieter resumed his story.

Ah yes Beansie my boy. How awful. Just as I predicted, the Hazmat people are becoming involved now. A crane too I’d expect. Traffic will be snarled for hours. Silly, silly boys, drunk on their butts to have done such a thing. Shaking his grey head and beard, in dismay at rapt little Beansie, still working on his milk bone treat.

My goodness me Beansie, more black Mercedes on the street than I’ve seen in a long while. And lots more of those silly men in bad suits, crawling house-to-house and pounding on doors. Whatever could they be looking for?

Oh dearie, dearie me! Here comes the fire brigade with axes. What has been going on we wonder? Pieter looked around him at the canal, where several boatmen were starting their engines.

You know what Beans old boy? I think its time for us to go for a trip. While all those people are having such a good time over there.

Pieter’s tone changed from silly and endearing to low pitched and grim. Time to clean up and get the hell out. Pieter looked briefly at Gabby, who was repacking the lunch box and then away as he closed his chest and collapsed the sun chair.

He came closer and began fussing with the laundry hanging on the line. Pulling off his socks and underwear, folding and placing them in a careful pile. Quickly Gabby locked the box and carried it over to the grating. She couldn’t leave it there, it would implicate Pieter and then they would be after the barge.

It was becoming frantic out there now, all hell breaking loose. At least five Mercedes and endless men, police cars and ambulances parked every which way. Filling up the bridge and side streets.

Men carrying tools, axes, picks and shovels poured into her office. Big firemen’s round bladed, portable Saws-alls. My God. What kind of hell had Besman or the other banker loosed upon her. Gabby thanked the anonymous John for his call, asking his forgiveness for her doubts. This was war.

Opening the iron grate with one quick movement, Pieter reached over to take down his laundry. The clever Flemish bargeman was an expert smuggler and wrapped the box in the orange quilt, leaving it on deck in plain sight. Then he opened the forward sun port and held up a green quilt, wrapping Gabby in it as he folded, making her disappear down the hole. Kicking the port shut with his boot he continued to fold his clothes, whistling his careless off tune, show tunes.

The grating to the bridge was padlocked in the wink of an eye and Pieter was off with his armloads of laundry, down the main hatch. The Lazy Suzanna coughed to life in a black cloud of diesel smoke. Pieter emerging to throw off her lines, waving at his friends who were doing the same.

The fire trucks had begun worrying them all and everything else outright terrifying them now. Anyway, the Fireboats had precedence over any other in the canals. It was standard protocol to push off if there was smoke. Although no one had seen any smoke, not yet, it didn’t matter anymore.

Pieter was at the wheel, moving Suzy girl out to join the colorful line of boats heading down the line of the canal. To follow the curve down and around and head out to the bay, if they couldn’t find mooring along the way. The long boats indistinguishable from each other as they floated away in a long line of smoke and chugging diesel noise. The Captains jabbering at each other on ham radios, wild speculations of the dockside activities.

More of those German Weather students I’d expect… Sam Franken ventured from his long dark ‘Positronic Thundermaker’ …always blowing things up...

Morely Vanderstaat offering his take …No, no, it’s the Jews. Always, someone is after the Jews. Those Palestinians are after ‘em now. Always somebody... He complained bitterly from blue ‘Wanderlust’.

His wife Elena contradicted him. No Morely, it’s the Germans. Didn’t anyone see all the Mercedes flying around? Who else could afford all those expensive cars?

Shirley Timkin with her own view from red ‘Bargeworth The Conquerer’ longboat. Naw. You’re all wrong. It’s those IRA freaks. After some English’er or t’other…blowing things up. You wait a bit…ker boom! Mark my word, gonna happen…

Pieter remained silent and listening, guiding his Suzy down the line. This is what Rhys had said was coming. He hadn’t wanted to believe him. Year after year they had prepared. Pieter always on his barge or his best friend Robert filling in for a day, the only other one who knew the drill.

It had been free money. Lift a can of ale to Rhys and say thanks they had agreed. Man loves the woman, loves her silly. Likes games. They would play, they laughed. He always paid.

And ole Piet always waited there by the bridge, to help the pretty lady in her getaway. Rhys paying him extra to keep the maze working, clever little repairs and additions over the years. Pieter enjoyed the life, added to it with his own small operations.

Being a little shady had only made him more believable to the others. It was a good easy life being on the barge. When he got sick of it he would spend the night on shore. Only demanding him to be there during the day, only while Gabby was working in her office. When she went off somewhere, he’d take a vacation too, if he felt like it.

Gabby poked her red head up the ladder. She had used the WC and the pipes were still rattling as the cistern refilled. I was careful Pieter. I cleaned up, I promise. By habit Rhys forcing her to clear her steps on the sand and pick up every piece of litter. It was second nature after all these years. The grate was locked with the old heavy lock, weathered with canal salt air exposure. All anyone could do was to look and see the space was empty, only speculate that something had ever been there.

The Lazy Susanna had no painted title. Only a metal plate screwed on her backside that could be switched to any number of other titles, usually done in the dark. Pieter Jones fancied himself a player, enjoyed the game and missed the master, brother Rhys. With all of his planes and trucks and that monster dog Odin that he was always bragging over. Many a time Pieter or Robert had brought Rhys in by boat, to secretly visit Gabby, at her little apartment two links over.

That was all done now, done and gone. The grey haired boatman scratched under his little dog’s chin affectionately. Rhys had given him the Beans.

Man needs a dog, and this one’s bred for the boat life he’d told him.

Pieter needing that second chance Rhys had offered him. His wife Maureen running off with some young boy, leaving Pieter to his drink and him losing his job and then his health. Rhys had brought him back, and given him purpose.

Only where would he go now Pieter wondered to himself. Sell the barge? Didn’t know, maybe Gabby or the boys needed him. That John person had called him on the ham radio before all hell broke loose, telling him to get his ass in gear. That deep commanding voice reminded him of Rhys and maybe he’d find him a spot.

You’re safe now Gabby he assured the anxious face staring up at him.

That John fella. He called me on my ham. He sounds on the up and up. Pieter laughed his deep reassuring chuckle.

We got us a plan. We’ll go down and around the turn and then back up to Oosterdok. He’s going to meet us there. We’ll go wait for the boy. You me and Beansie, we’ll see what this John is about before we let you go. He gave Gabby a big wink.

Chapter 2

John Preston rented a BMW at Schiphol and started down the A-4 and then the A-10, the fastest roads out to the harbor. At this point he had no ham radio contact with the bargeman and no idea what his status was. The best thing about the open access roads was the speed.

John leaned on the BMW’s pedal, determined not to waste any time. He had the news radio on and was listening to a report of fire and possible explosions down in the old section of town. The location was consistent with the Gabrielle woman’s office and it worried him.

Soon he was tearing along the S100, through the Eastern Docklands. Then he turned left on the S116, down along the open moorings. This morning it was crowded with houseboats. The fire seemed to have disrupted a dozen or more canal boats that were looking for somewhere else to tie up to, or just somewhere to wait it out and then go back.

John pulled the grey BMW into the Oosterdok parking area and found a spot at the end. He was wearing black as he always did. A black wind jacket and jeans, military boots. He knew it marked him, but that was helpful. His tan bill cap and dark glasses turned as he scanned the harbor, looking for the Lazy Suzanna or whatever it was called. The orange quilt

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