The bridge door swung open letting in the sounds and smells of Pozzallo. As well as the salt and the surf of the sea. Pleasantries to old Jerko’s big nose and ears. Large facial features for any man. And with his fat lips, wrinkled cheeks and eyes like the sea, he seemed suited to be captain.
Then Ilija stomped inside ushering in the acrid and musty scent of Marlboro. A permanent feature to the man, much like his bulging chest and biceps. The captain could just picture the cigarettes poking out of his shirt pocket, with another one about to be lit, clenched in between his blackened teeth. And a smoker like him, despite being ten years younger, looked as ripe as Jerko. He loved Ilija, but he hated Marlboro.
The cigarette smoke smelled even worse when the Croat flapped his tongue, “Sir? All the passengers are aboard.”
“Good. Are we ready to cast off?”
“Aye,” replied Ilija, but he was waiting to say more, if only the old man would turn around.
The captain was focused. His gaze was steady on the rhythm of the waves and the horizon. And he had a steaming espresso in hand, waiting to be drunk.
“Captain, I…” Ilija faltered. He didn’t want to interrupt, especially since he knew Jerko was meditating, but there was something he had to share. Something that couldn’t wait.
He pulled something from his back pocket, ready to show the captain, until he remembered his cap which he quickly whipped off his head out of respect. Then he cleared his tar-clogged throat, and rebegan with a stride.
“Captain, I let on an extra passenger. She was quite insistent.”
Jerko turned to face his first mate, somewhat shocked by his actions.
Ilija smirked, “I wasn’t about to refuse her passage when she was offering me all this.” He then produced a wad of cash for the captain to inspect.
Eyes turning wide, Jerko put down his coffee and accepted the stack of money, and started to count out the bills.
“That’s 10,000 Euros right there!” said Ilija excitedly, having already counted it himself.
“She gave you this?”
“I swear it. And there’s way more where that came from. She’s loaded!”
“Why though? Who is this woman?”
“Here,” and Ilija handed over a British passport, “this is hers.”
Taking the travel document from his fellow Croat, he turned the burgundy cover to the information page, and read her name aloud, “Harriet Celia Goulding.” Jerko looked up puzzled, “and she knows where she’s going? She knows this isn’t a ferry to Malta? That her name isn’t on the manifest?”
“She knows. She’s certain. She told me exactly where she wanted to go and who she wanted to see.”
“She’s seventeen years old. And she’s wandering around with this kind of money?”
“Do you think it’s stolen? Do you think she might be an illegal.”
“I don’t know. Is the picture a good likeness?”
“Well I don’t know then. It’s suspicious. It could be stolen… but I don’t think she’s an illegal; her passport looks genuine and you say that she’s the girl in the picture so… Have you told Señor Blanxart yet?”
“No. He’s still in his cabin.”
The captain sighed, and opened the ship's safe. “Okay, cast us off. I’ll radio ahead and inform them of our extra passenger. I’ll let them deal with her.”
Inside were a number of passports, a stack of cash, and a revolver. But the captain wasn’t planning on taking anyone or anything out. Without looking, he placed Miss Goulding’s money and her passport into the safe, and immediately sealed it shut.
“Right away, sir,” grinned Ilija. He stepped back out and hurried off to do as his superior commanded.