Mailboat III: The Captain’s Tale

Mailboat 3 Is Coming June 1st, 2019

Book Signing Tour:
June 8 – 23, 2019
Lake Geneva, Madison, Milwaukee, & Chicago
Check for updates on my Events Page

Excerpt from

Mailboat III: The Captain’s Tale

Chapter One

(Early Draft)

I stopped at Starbucks that morning.

“Blonde roast grande,” I said to the girl behind the counter. One of the most caffeinated beverages on the menu. “I’m not used to working mornings.”

It’s funny the things you remember about thosedays you can’t forget. That day turned out to be one of them. I remember I ordered a blonde roast coffee—and never drank it.

I carried my energy bomb out to my patrol car, still wondering if the odd hours were worth not sitting on a bike seat all day. It’s a horse a piece, I concluded—then laughed at the expression, as thoroughly Wisconsin as a cheesehead hat and about as hard to understand by anyone not born in the badger state. I got into my car, radioed that I was back in service, and rolled out of the parking lot.

I had just put my lips to the slot in the plastic lid when my radio made a screech, something akin to a seagull learning to yodel. It was the emergency tone, signaling all units to pay attention and stay off the air; we had a 911 call. I sighed and raised my eyebrows. Already? We were hitting the ground running today. I tried to blink the sand out of my eyes.

The dispatcher’s voice filled my cab. “Caller reports injured male. Eight twelve Wrigley Drive. Caller advises they are at the Riviera docks, on the Mailboat.”

The Mailboat? Bailey sprang to mind—the foster girl whose abusive home I was trying to prove. A spike of adrenaline rushed through my system. I nearly crushed the coffee in my hand. It would have been no loss if I had. I was fully awake now.

I was mere blocks away. I set the coffee in a holder then brought the radio to my mouth. “Forty-four thirty-seven, I’m on it.” I hit the lights and siren. I knew Steph could see my location from one of her monitors in the dispatch room at the station. My own mobile data unit—laptop, in English—showed I was closer than both the ambulance and the other units on patrol. “Any information on the nature of the injuries?”

Static. “Sorry,” Steph said. “She isn’t very coherent. All I can get is that a male subject is bleeding.”

I didn’t like the sound of that. I doubted the schedule or the routine at the cruise line had changed since the days when I was a teenage mail jumper. The only people at the Riviera docks this time of morning would be the Mailboat captain and his crew. Captain Tommy’s son, a long-lost fugitive, had been gunned down in the street only a few nights ago. This wasn’t what life was supposed to be like in the quiet, lake-side resort of Lake Geneva.

I simply ground my teeth and depressed the button on my mic again. “Ten-four.”

With little traffic in the tourist section this early in the morning, I had the streets to myself. I rounded the bend in Wrigley Drive, the lake sparkling to my right in the sunrise, and made for the Riviera, the Depression-Era brick building that was the heart and hub of the town.

There was a restricted parking area right beside the Riv, big enough for four or five cars. I pulled into a stall, reported my arrival on scene to dispatch, and jumped out of the patrol unit. I could see the Mailboat from there. It sat placidly in the water, moored to the pier, along with the rest of the tour boats in the fleet—the sleek steam yachts and the majestic stern-wheeled paddle boats and the rest. I could hear a female crying.

I popped my trunk lid and retrieved the medical kit. I was about to slam the lid shut again when my eye fell on my tactical vest. Made of thicker stuff than my every-day vest, it was good against higher impact rifle rounds. Something told me to put it on. One of Jason’s murderers had been killed in the shootout. But the murderer’s accomplice was still at large.

I threw the vest on, then slung the strap of the medical kit over my shoulder and grabbed my rifle from its bracket beside the front seat. After double checking the magazine, I made for the pier, moving under the archways that supported the square corner towers of the Riviera. Just as I emerged onto the quay, something grabbed my eye.

A bullet hole in the windshield of the Mailboat.

I leaned against the brick pillar and keyed the radio clipped to my shoulder. “Forty-four thirty-seven, requesting backup. Possible shooting incident at the Riviera.”

Static was followed by the sign, “Ten-four,” and a request for all units to meet me.

I studied the pier and the boats quickly and systematically, left to right, top to bottom. Everything looked and sounded peaceful, except for the voice of the female crying. It was clearly coming from the Mailboat, the first on my right. Rifle to my shoulder, I moved in, praying the voice wasn’t Bailey.

Twenty-five years ago, my athletic experience as a wide receiver on the high school football team had earned me a hotly-contested job as a mail jumper. I guess they figured if I could chase a pigskin, I could leap off and on the tour boat to deliver the mail to the piers. During those long-lost summers, I had walked this pier every morning. I could almost see the ghost of my younger self wiping down windows. Stocking the snack bar. Sorting envelopes. Pulling pranks on my co-workers. I wondered how the younger me had never seen the ghost of my older self creeping down this same pier in full tactical gear.

The crying grew more distinct. I moved to the large, open window towards the bow of the Mailboat and peered inside.

It was Bailey. She knelt over the captain, crying hysterically, her hands stained with blood.

My stomach lurched. God, no.

For all those summer mornings I’d spent with Captain Tommy, the teenage Ryan had never foreseen this either. If I had carried over so much as a vial-full of childhood innocence into my adulthood, it shattered completely in that moment.

Mailboat III: The Captain’s Tale
Coming June 1, 2019

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