CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE BY COMMITTEE (13)

The boat is picking up some speed, now, and the briny air is breezing across the baking skin of your arms. It is a delicious feeling. For a moment you forget about the man in front of you in the coral Hawaiian shirt, the people who have accused you of murdering an old woman, that woman’s daughter sitting still on a padded seat, your friends losing patience with you outside of their ‘authentic’ lodge in Two Harbors. For a moment you are conscious only of the salt breeze, the steady solid rumble of the boat’s engines, the sound of the wake spreading wide behind you, the physicality of the boat slicing through the ocean under your feet.

The man is still in front of you, the suddenly introduction of motion doing nothing to his footing. You assume based on his age and haircut that he’s retired from the navy. Some small part of you worries that this assumption represents some form of bigotry. He is glaring at you, still. You focus for no particular reason on that line of white stubble along one jaw line.

‘What exactly do you think I've done?’ you say. You have to raise your voice to be heard over the sound of the engines and of the water shooting backward and the slow, steady sound of the engines’ periodic closeness to the surface. You aren’t sure if you’re trying to feign innocence and naivety or if you sincerely don’t know exactly what it is you’re accused of. It’s better to check, to remove doubt.

‘Oh ho,’ the man says. He actually says this. ‘You want me to walk you through it?’

With nothing better to do, you nod silently.

‘Well,’ he pauses, ‘I don’t exactly know. At first I thought you were just stealing an old woman’s purse and things went from bad to worse, but now I don’t know. Here you are knowing what high school Marjorie went to. You know that I went there. Like I said, I don’t know what to think. Did you mean to—to kill her?’ He swallows. ‘To kill her? I don’t know who you are.’

There is movement behind the man and you see Joan, the captain, and one of the crewmen scrambling up the ladder to the open-air deck. From the other side of the man in front of you the four teenage boys scatter away from the door to the Captain’s Lounge, which is obscured from your view by the man’s broad shoulders. Joan and the crewman disappear, presumably inside. So that answers that.

‘Why me?’ you say to the man. ‘I mean, what makes you think it’s me? I didn’t do anything. I had nothing to do with any of it.’

The man snorts. ‘That little boy saw you,’ he says. ‘Started crying and screaming. Says he saw a grandmom get thrown into the water. He pointed straight at you.’

‘That’s absurd,’ you say.

‘Then who was it?’ the man says.

The engines cut out just as abruptly as they started up and the quiet that rushes in is unnerving. The boat seems to pitch forward, nose down into the sea. After a second the wake begins to catch up to the back of the boat and the whole thing begins to bob up and down haphazardly. The man with the military haircut stands with his feet planted wide.

‘Listen,’ you say, ‘I’m going to figure it out.’ You hold up your notepad with the meager two lines—one crossed out—as if it is evidence of anything.

‘You’re going to figure it out,’ he says. ‘I already figured it out. Guess what.’

There is the sound of a door being thrown open and the man steps back and turns to look and Gavin comes stumbling out of the Captain’s Lounge area where you can see Joan and the crewman standing with ugly looks on their faces. Joan shoots one your way as well.

‘There’s my attorney!’ Gavin says when he sees you. ‘Legal representation!’

‘I don’t know you,’ you say.

‘Shit,’ he chuckles, ‘you missed all the fun.’ He raises his head to shout back at Joan. ‘Am I under arrest now? Or what?’

‘I want you off my boat,’ Joan says.

‘Hey, me too,’ he replies.

The man with the rectangular hands looks down at you and then at Gavin. ‘Uh huh,’ he says. He turns toward Joan. ‘Captain,’ he says, ‘you need any assistance?’

She flaps a hand at him. ‘Get this one to own up to it,’ she says, looking at you, ‘and we can all go home.’

‘I’m Bob,’ the man says to Joan. ‘You need help, find me.’

‘Thank you so much, Bob.’ She’s being sarcastic. ‘I’ll write that down.’

Gavin comes to stand next to you at the back bulwark by the poles for the twin American flags. ‘We gotta stick together,’ he says to you. He stands very close and his shoulder brushes your own. You move away.

‘What did you do,’ you say to him.

‘I got into the bridge,’ he grins.

You uncap your Bic pen and write Bob - ? and hesitate and then, on another line, Boy – witness?. You look at what you have and draw a long arcing arrow between Bob and Diamond Ranch High School and then, along the arrow, Marjorie. The ring is still in your pocket.

Something occurs to you. You turn to Bob, the man in the coral Hawaiian shirt, and say, ‘Where would I hide a stolen purse?’

He looks at you and blinks. ‘The fuck should I know?’ he says.

WHAT DO YOU DO:
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