The sleek schooner sliced through water so black it could have been an oil slick. Bright specks of starlight hung in the interminably dark sky, and silence filled up Frank’s ears making him feel as if he were listening to the world through a pile of cotton. He looked around, hoping that he had been as invisible as he had felt when he left the dock only an hour ago. Nerves could get the best of a person who wasn’t as strong as Frank, and he was lucky that he had been raised by nomadic biker parents who had brought him up to be fearless in the face of danger. And, tonight Frank found himself in the middle of one huge shit storm.
Frank had bought the sailboat a little over a month ago, and he’d been taking lessons ever since. He imagined what his rough and worn parents might say about his purchase, how they’d laugh at his large, meaty hands pulling on the ropes and ducking away from the boom, and how pissed they would be if they knew he had spent their money on a boat. Frank had grown up on the road, on the back of a Harley. He had lived his childhood through the lens of a helmet and his friends wore leathers and carried “old ladies” on their backs. It wasn’t a surprise that Frank learned how to slug, steal, and swig with the best of them. In fact, his biker past is what had brought him here tonight, sailing well beyond midnight to a marked place in the middle of the bay.
He tugged on the downhaul attempting to fix the problem that had suddenly developed in the sails. Frank was new to sailing, and he swore at himself for choosing the middle of the night to learn. However, tonight was a necessity, and Frank knew that if he didn’t reach his destination, it wouldn’t matter if he returned because Cain would catch him and deal him a worse fate than succumbing to the wanton waters of the deep blue sea. He tried to trim the sails and right his course, but the wind was working against him.
After a few more attempts, swear words, and drops of sweat, Frank had corrected the sails and his direction just in time to see the buoy balanced at the edge of the harbor. The marker bobbed up and down on the ever-ebbing waves, and Frank wondered if this was really a safe place to do what he had to do. He imagined the Coast Guard boats patrolling the dark waters, and he stifled a chill that started to climb up his spine. He could do this. He had to do this. It was the girl or him. He had no choice.
Frank turned to the hatch where she waited, tied like a dog to the railing below deck. He hesitated, not wanting to fall this deep, to hit the final nail in the coffin of his outlaw future, but he didn’t want to die which meant she had to. Frank didn’t even know her name. He opened the hatch and slowly made his way down the steep stairs and over to the woman sprawled on the floor. Her hands were cinched tightly above her head and her blonde hair fell in messy waves over her face.
When Cain called, he had said that the job was already on the boat and that Frank just had to finish the deed. He had said a silent thank you that he hadn’t been the one to capture his soon to be victim. Now, facing her, he wasn’t sure he could follow through with the sinister plot. He was supposed to be tough, strong; he was a biker for God’s sake. He was Cain’s second. He was the VP, the boss when the boss was gone. Frank took a deep breath and fought off the insecurities and fears that tried to get the better of him. He was a bad ass, a killer, and that’s what he was here to do.
He reached out and brushed the hair from the woman’s face. As Frank’s eyes met the woman’s visage, a sharp scream attempted to loose from his throat. In his mind, he saw her blue eyes looking back at him, her bright mouth curling up at the corners, her sultry voice dipping into his ear. Frank scrambled backwards just as her lids fluttered open revealing the vision from his memory, only now a dark purple ring edged her left eye and blood crusted on the sides of her once happy smile. She stared up at him, pleading for his mercy.
Frank didn’t know what to do. He closed his eyes and pictured what Cain would do if he came back as a failure. He imagined his brothers beating him to a raw mess of meat, blood, and bone. He could feel the dust in his mouth and lungs as his family showered dirt down upon his open grave. He could picture the weight of the decision, the soil, the failure pressing on him, forcing him to make a choice. Should he save his wife or should he save himself?