"Rush, a steam Coast Guard ship, at sea, n.d." by IMLS DCC is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Cropped and recolored.

in Fiction

Port of Call

Image Credit: “Rush, a steam Coast Guard ship, at sea, n.d.” by IMLS DCC is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Cropped and recolored.

“Lock the door,” said Alvin, “and have a seat over there on the couch.” The boy said nothing but complied with the request. “On second thought, draw the blinds closed, too. One can never be too careful.”

The wooden desk chair let out a painful groan when Alvin pressed his rotund body between the armrests.

Alvin opened a small burl wood humidor on his desk to retrieve a cigar. The faint scent of Spanish cedar swirled around him and the boy when the box’s lid snapped shut. Smells a little bit like cinnamon, the boy thought to himself of the cedar aroma.

The boy appeared motionless on the couch, yet his eyes darted throughout the cluttered office as Alvin proceeded to clip, then light his cigar. A smattering of light splashed across part of the mahogany desk and oriental carpet from between the window casing and the blinds.

The desk chair moaned again, this time as Alvin lounged back, puffed several times on his cigar, then floated a single delicate smoke ring across the room toward the boy. The farther Alvin leaned back in his chair, the more pronounced six shirt buttons protruded from beneath his navy blue sweater from his portly chest.

“You read a lot?” inquired the boy. “You must,” he said gesturing to the bookcase that encompassed the entire east wall of the room. Alvin exhaled a mouthful of smoke.

“One must,” said Alvin, “do his research. Why don’t you let me get started. In the meantime, make yourself comfortable.”

The boy stood up from the couch, stepped to the front of the desk, and removed his tan corduroy cap. He began to carefully pry back the cap’s lining.

“Jesus!” shouted the boy as he leapt back looking down at his left ankle. “What the hell was that?”

Alvin managed a smile with the cigar poking from between his lips, then leaned down and pulled a medium-sized black and white house cat from beneath his desk. “Murray. That dangling shoelace of yours caught his attention.” Alvin placed Murray on the top of the desk, however the cat quickly hopped off and slipped back beneath.

The boy, visibly shaken, continued to pry the lining from the cap, this time about three feet away from the desk. He pulled out a neatly-folded canvas satchel before tossing his cap to the couch. He handed it to Alvin, who then began to carefully unwrap the satchel on the center of the desk.

Alvin unfolded the satchel to reveal an intricate silver trinket. He looked up at the boy. “Where did you get this?” he demanded. Immediately Alvin picked up the magnifying glass from his desktop and peered through it at the trinket.

“I… I… stole it,” stammered the boy. “Pick-pocketed it from a gentleman boarding a steamer ship.”

Alvin looked up at the boy. “When? Today?”

“No sir. Two days ago.”

“What ship,” quipped Alvin.

“The… Re… Regalia,” stuttered the boy, slightly alarmed from Alvin’s excited reaction.

“And the man? What can you tell me about him?”

“He was… well dre… dre… dressed, had a woman with hi… him. I was on the pier when he reached into his po… pocket to pu… pull out some coins to give to a mission priest standing nearby. That’s when I bumped him and snagged it.”

Alvin stretched across his desk and reached for a small pamphlet. He skimmed the schedule momentarily. “Regalia, captained by Beuford, headed toward South America.”

Alvin set his cigar in a clay ashtray on his desk, then struggled to pry himself from his chair.

“Worth anything?” said the boy, now gaining his composure from Alvin’s abrupt questioning.

“My boy,” said Alvin, “ever been on a steamer?”