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Amazonia

Amazonia

Vorschau lesen

Amazonia

Länge:
457 Seiten
6 Stunden
Freigegeben:
Feb 13, 2003
ISBN:
9781466994188
Format:
Buch

Beschreibung

Oi Amigo! Experience the amazing mighty Amazon! It's the steamy setting for this colourful South American tale of an old family company dealing in jungle medicinal plants. The venerable firm is corrupted by lust, corporate greed, gratuitous affluence, shady characters, and duplicitous transactions. Genetic tinkering and environmental destruction run amuck amidst the grinding subsistence life of the Amazon natives.



Rune Erikson is cast as the altruistic hero as he comes to the rescue of a statuesque Brazilian heiress brutally targeted during a medical conference in Victoria. Hiding her aboard the Valhalla, Rune is love-struck. Hitching a ride with her on Dredmann Industries corporate jet, it delivers them unto the evil Dr. Manglar.



Bianca Penthesilia Monteiro fights back against Gunther Dredmann, known by his victims as Dr. Death, when her family's business is ruthlessly subjected to a hostile takeover.



Fast Eddie, an old buddy of Rune's who has fallen into the bottle, teams up to help with his Grumman Goose flying boat.



An ancient family enigma is revealed when a five-hundred-year-old Portuguese leather trunk is opened. A wizened soothsayer casts his cryptic prophecies as a centuries-old Portuguese sword comes scything down in an old Brazilian prison, sparking primeval powers in its possessor.



This intriguing fourth novel in a series features the somewhat jaded but dashing Rune Erikson who slogs through the piranha-infested Amazon with his Grumman Goose flying buddy, Fast Eddie, in a torturous survival trek. Rune and his Brazilian heiress babe are caught up in a sinister plot of unimaginable consequences. Coloured by romance and spiced with eroticism, this adventure lures Rune off his sailing ketch, Valhalla, in Victoria's Fisherman's Wharf into the enticing arms of a young, hot-blooded Latin American woman whose powerful matriarchal lineage is unknowingly steeped in the ancient myths and secret sagas of the steamy Amazon.

Freigegeben:
Feb 13, 2003
ISBN:
9781466994188
Format:
Buch

Über den Autor

Ernie Palamarek has recently had feature articles published in magazines and has several major works in progress including the second of a series of Rune Erikson novels to be set in exotic locations around the world. Having grown up in the saddle, ranching and farming on the Alberta prairie, he has a keen appreciation for nature's wondrous beauty and its amazing resiliency that counters the eggshell fragility of the environment. Combining his eye for detail with a vivid imagination, he roams the world in search of unique experiences - to listen, to observe and to talk to wonderfully-different people in strange, exotic lands. He experiences the adventure and journeys through life with his photographer wife, Sharon, who shares his passion for travel. He has worked in public relations for a major newspaper, in a private research and development laboratory, in his own businesses and in the service of a government agency. The author has lived in Victoria, British Columbia since he was twenty years old. Vancouver Island, a wonderful, temperate rainforest in the Pacific Ocean, is his back yard. Thundersea is Palamarek's first novel.


Buchvorschau

Amazonia - Ernie Palamarek

9876543

Contents

Chapter One

She’s A Hottie

Chapter Two

Chef’s Surprise

Chapter Three

Xanthus

Chapter Four

Take No Prisoners

Chapter Five

Licking Our Wounds

Chapter Six

Let There Be Light

Chapter Seven

The Challenger

Chapter Eight

Escapes And Escapades

Chapter Nine

The Legacy

Chapter Ten

Scribes Believe In Magic

Chapter Eleven

Roughed Up In Rio

Chapter Twelve

Sleeping On It

Chapter Thirteen

Sticks And Stones, Skulls And Bones

Chapter Fourteen

Drugglers

Chapter Fifteen

Walls, Halls, And Not At Alls

Chapter Sixteen

Amazonia

Chapter Seventeen

Up The Amazon

Chapter Eighteen

The Goose Is Loose

Chapter Nineteen

The Source

Chapter Twenty

Tribe Of The Jaguar

Chapter Twenty One

Plucking The Goose

Chapter Twenty Two

Cooking Our Goose

Chapter Twenty Three

Doctor’s Orders

Chapter Twenty Four

Delivered Unto Evil

Chapter Twenty Five

Keeping Track

Chapter Twenty Six

Chefe De Tribo

Chapter Twenty Seven

Commandos Strike At Dawn

Chapter Twenty Eight

Amazons

Chapter Twenty Nine

The Sceptre

Chapter Thirty

Retribuicao

About The Author

For Jay Palamarek

CHAPTER ONE

SHE’S A HOTTIE

WHARF ST. SIDEWALK CAFÉ, VICTORIA, BRITISH COLUMBIA. She was the one in a million; a special kind of sensuous woman who innocently draws lingering glances of admiration, whose very being lights up the eyes of both men and women, making them glow in appreciation and awe of her scintillating presence.

I became aware of this enchantress when I noticed Logan’s jaw drop as he unabashedly stared over my shoulder. I shifted my chair ever so slightly, swivelling my head to take in the object of his admiration.

She, of silken chestnut hair and tanned complexion, flashed her enticing, long eyelashes at us as she glided, feline-like, by our table at D’Arcy McGee’s sidewalk café overlooking the Inner Harbour. Just this one smouldering look from her hazel bedroom eyes set my heart racing. I noticed a certain pout, perhaps more of an aloofness akin to those of rarified regal bearing. This striking beauty was imposingly-tall; the tilting afternoon sun created a halo around her statuesque body. I was enraptured for the lady was a goddess!

We stared after this captivating creature as she moved with the grace of a jaguar along a jungle path, distracting us and our fellow café patrons from viewing the moored luxury yachts, the distant snowcapped Olympic Mountains, and the other milling passers-by. We were spellbound!

She’s a hottie! I finally managed to say. What I would give to meet that lovely lady!

I can just imagine, Logan replied, still transfixed. Hottie?

Yeah, a real hottie! You know? Hot! Hot! Hot!

Ah! he said as he embraced this new buzz word.

A midwest fellow, one of a trio of young, visiting U.S. navy types in gob hats and uniforms sitting at the next table commented, Movie star?

Mus’ be. She no skanky ho, as the brothers in the hood know, dat’s fo’ sure! said a sailor as drool ran down his thick lips. Though, I’m sure dat wid a liddle mackin’, a bro’ like me could get some play there. Wait ‘till I tell my peeps back home in L.A.! He grabbed at his crotch, scratching vigorously.

"Yeah? Well, chuck you, Farley! I don’t mean to dis you but you wish! And by the way, what you got? The crabs or the hots? Or both? declared the third sailor with a laugh. Pausing, he added, You know something? In L.A. this whole Inner Harbour would be a movie set!"

Yeah? Bite me, ya scrub! the young man retorted with a Harlem accent and a chuckle. Scrubs like you only get street pigeons to play wid!

They drive on the right here, commented the midwesterner. You’d think that they’d be British to their bootstraps!

Uh, huh.

Yeah, well that guy in the limo is sure as hell driving on the left!

That looks like a gangster ride to me!

Yeah, dat’s a phat money ride fo’ shur!

Then suddenly a black Mercedes-Benz limousine with dark-tinted windows accelerated into the left lane against oncoming traffic towards the lovely lady on the sidewalk, coming to a screeching angled halt beside her. Horns from the oncoming blocked cars blared at the offending vehicle. The front doors flew open, the driver’s door knocked down a passing cyclist, stunning him. The driver, clad in a chauffeur’s uniform, yanked open the rear door as his gun-toting accomplice ran around the front of the limo to grab the shocked woman. Then both of them dragged the screaming victim towards the rear door, sidestepping the groggy cyclist lying beside his jumbled bike. In a matter of seconds they had forced the struggling beauty into their Mercedes.

Sparked into action, I leapt over the ornate wrought-iron railing then ran down the crowded sidewalk towards the Mercedes while yelling back at Logan to call the cops. I dodged awe-struck onlookers, who were too stunned to act, while increasing the length of my stride.

The black Mercedes accelerated away in an ear-piercing squeal, thick blue smoke rising angrily from its rear tires. It fish-tailed its way through a maze of traffic.

Coming up to the shaken bike rider, I bent down and wrenched his sturdy U-shaped Krypton lock from its flimsy bracket on his wrecked bike’s frame. Running out into the busy street, I dodged vehicles as I sped along. I spotted the black limo about a block ahead, boxed in behind a line of traffic that was backed up from a red light farther ahead near the tourist bureau. Loping along, I advanced on the Mercedes’ driver as he crept forward, looking for a break in the traffic so that he could swerve around and peel away.

Reaching the limo, I frantically yanked at its unyielding doors. They were locked! Using the Krypton U-lock as a club, I smashed the side window behind the driver’s door, unlocked it and yanked it open. A swarthy thug looked back at me, startled by my sudden intrusion as he was using his arms to subdue the kidnapping victim on the floor. He reached inside his jacket for the pistol in his shoulder holster. Lunging into the vehicle, I smashed the heavy U-lock squarely into his jaw, rendering him unconscious then grabbed the cowering lady’s hand, pulling her towards me.

Don’t move! growled the driver in a heavy Teutonic accent as he turned back towards me, levelling his pistol at my chest. His feet were levered against both the accelerator and the brake as he tried to maintain his backward stretch.

Using the Krypton U-lock again, I smashed his gun hand away. He yelped in pain. I slipped a solid punch to his head. His other foot came off the brake pedal. The Mercedes starting accelerating and bounced up onto the sidewalk as I tugged the lady’s arm to drag her from the out-of-control limo as it careered towards a metal pipe barrier. I managed to pull her free just as the Mercedes slammed through the barrier and shot out into space before nosediving to fall upside down onto a dockside parking lot some thirty feet below. A heavy WHUMP rose up as the car’s roof crumpled like a beer can.

The sobbing woman desperately clung to me as I precariously hung onto the twisted pipe railing to keep us from falling over the precipice. While backing away from the edge, we stared down at the wrecked Mercedes lying near the bottom of the stone wall. She was shaking uncontrollably while I made soothing endearments to her, trying to calm her down.

"Obrigado! Oh, thank you! You are very brave to come to my rescue! Obrigado!" she gushed effusively with a trace of an accent.

It was nothing.

No! You are a very brave man, she said, shivering in the heat of the afternoon. They had guns. I could have been shot! You could have been shot!

Are you okay?

I didn’t get hurt.

The police and an ambulance should be along in a minute.

No, I’m not hurt. I don’t want to talk to the police!

But they tried to abduct you!

Still, I don’t want to talk to the police.

Why not?

You wouldn’t understand!

Try me!

I need someplace to get away, to rest, she said with a long shiver and a pleading look.

I was having a drink back there with…

I know. I saw you and…

Would you like a drink to calm your nerves?

That would be nice! she said with a trace of a smile.

My somewhat portly friend, Logan, arrived on foot, puffing from his exertion of hustling over to the scene of the incident.

Is everyone okay? Logan asked with consternation.

We’re fine, just shaken up a bit, I replied as I held the lovely lady close to me.

Holy Christ, Erikson! he exclaimed as he surveyed the smoking wreckage below. Now they’ve really done it! They should have known better than to tangle with the likes of you!

Yeah, well, somebody had to take the bull by the horns!

He was very brave, don’t you think so? the lovely lady asked Logan as she turned towards him.

That’s our Erikson, alright! The last of the brave! So what’s going on? he asked.

I don’t know. She doesn’t want to talk about it.

Ah! Then might I suggest inviting the lady for a drink?

I’ve already done just that and she’s accepted.

Well, what are we waiting for? The sooner the better, he said, taking note of her shaken condition. Oh! You’re bleeding!

I am? she asked. Where?

Your arm! It looks like something took a gouge out of it.

Logan’s right. Here, let Dr. Erikson take care of that for you, I said as I whipped out my handkerchief and tied it around her upper arm to stem the flow of blood.

Ooh! Now I remember. That nasty man poked my arm. He had a pen in his hand when we were struggling in the car.

Logan and I elbowed our way through the throng of onlookers as we slowly walked our patient back to the sidewalk café.

Want to talk about it now? I asked as the three of us sipped our drinks in the afternoon sunshine.

No, she said with a shake of her head, her eyes still downcast, maybe later.

Can you at least let us know your name?

Sorry. I’m Bianca Monteiro, she said as she met our eyes and extended her slender hand, and I owe you something at least for rescuing me from those horrid men!

A kiss would be nice.

She bussed me on both cheeks leaving me intoxicated and speechless.

And you are…?

Rune, Rune Erikson.

You’re a doctor, no?

No, actually I’m not.

Rune! What a nice name but unusual, no?

My ancestors were Norwegian.

Ah! But what does Rune mean?

It actually means a ruin. Like an archeological ruin.

As in an ancient and decrepit ruin, laughed Logan.

You should talk, Logan, I retorted, how many decades older are you than I?

And your name is Logan…? Bianca asked with a laugh, turning to him.

Logan, it is.

I’m pleased to meet you, Logan. Oh, my arm is starting to hurt a little, she complained.

Miss? I called to the server. We’ll have a vodka shooter and a Band Aid on the side. She returned shortly with both.

Oh, oh! Doctor Erikson is at it again, Logan chuckled. I like your antiseptic!

My dear Logan. The antiseptic is for me, well, half of it anyway, and the rest of it and the bandage is for the lady, I said dryly as I tossed back half the shooter. Let me take this handkerchief off your arm, Bianca. I did so then tilted and pressed the shooter glass with the vodka against her arm so that the strong liquid disinfected her wound. She winced slightly as the pain hit her. I took the linen handkerchief and carefully dabbed the surrounding skin dry before applying the Band Aid. There was indeed a neat chunk of flesh missing the size of a pen point.

You going to be all right? asked Logan. Can we take you to the hospital and get you checked out… shots or anything like that?

Thank you, no. I’ve had all my shots. I’ll be all right.

Logan and I had been basking in the sunlight of a lazy afternoon at a sidewalk café on Wharf Street in the heart of Victoria’s Old Town, site of one of the earliest settlements on Canada’s west coast. We had been enjoying a glass of wine and speculating about who owned which multimillion dollar yacht tied up to the transient floats below us. Was that Gates’ yacht there? Or was it Allen’s and Gates’ over there? Or McCaw’s or Pattison’s for that matter. They were all the same. Big, white, and luxurious. All agleam with polished brass and mirror-like chrome or stainless steel. More than a bit of plastic paradise floating in the briny sea. And which Hollywood star was in town aboard the chartered yacht with the small, two-seat helicopter on its stern? They had been seen having drinks on their afterdeck far above the hoi polloi. Ah, speculation was always rife this time of year. It was a game between the slavering lookey loos, the pesky media, and the aloof crew. The standoffish owners professed to want privacy but always flaunted their incredible wealth for all to go ga-ga over as the tittering crowds would surge along dockside for a futile look into their mysterious, dark-tinted windows.

Bianca looked down again, lost in her own thoughts.

Logan asked, Don’t the crowds around those yachts remind you of something?

They surely do! I agreed.

They remind me of patrons at a zoo where they go ape over the monkeys inside.

Bianca lifted her gaze to them and stated with a chuckle, You’re quite right, Logan.

Everyone wants to be the biggest fish in the pond, he continued, "but, as you well know, there’s usually a bigger fish in the pond. And that bigger fish is that gleaming, dark-blue yacht with all the radar and communication bubble towers moored over there at Ship Point Wharf.

Its size puts these ones to shame. Why, it must be two, three hundred feet overall!" Logan exclaimed with his bushy grey eyebrows arched upward for emphasis.

"The Xanthus?" I asked. Yes, I would hazard a guess that it ranks quite near the top of the list for the world’s largest yachts! And look at that unusual communications tower soaring by itself over the forward deck! It looks like a tree or a sturdy mast!

Bianca snorted and laughingly said, That reminds me, there’s an old saying in Brazil that translates from Portuguese into English quite well. It goes something like this: ‘The higher the monkey climbs the tree, the more of an ass that you can see!’

So, the lady has a sense of humour, I thought as we all laughed at her acerbic wit. Or did I detect a hint of cloaked bitterness directed specifically towards the biggest fish in the pond?

"It couldn’t have docked there if they hadn’t dredged alongside Ship Point to accommodate the royal yacht Britannia for the queen’s arrival back in the eighties," I surmised.

"Yeah, she must be almost as big as the Britannia, certainly as big as that other fellow’s ship, the guy that you had that run-in with a couple or three years ago. What was his name?" Logan asked.

Chung! I stated with a grimace at his recollection. Bad memories there. Chung, Min-Ho. Hawaii. The Big Island. How could I forget? I thought to myself as awful images loomed menacingly close. He had messed up lovely Kiana’s mind and murdered her cousin Neki in cold blood. I hadn’t heard of Chung since so I hoped that he had actually been entombed in that lava tube. For a while I did have some horrific nightmares that he was still walking the face of the earth looking for me. And I carried the physical scar from his bullet in my knee as well as the mental scar in my head. Actually, I added, "I think the Britannia is somewhere around four hundred feet so the Xanthus still comes up short on her."

Just then an unmarked squad car came to a sudden stop on the street beside our table as its driver caught sight of me. A blue and white fell in behind it. Were they going to make a big production and turn on the lights?

No. Good! I didn’t particularly need any more attention than I already knew that I was going to get from these guys. A grim plain-clothes detective got out of the first car. Two taller uniformed cops got out of the second car, adjusted their gear belts with their burly arms and sauntered over to our table.

Well, what is this? Old home week? Or are you guys just out for a stroll? I chided the threesome.

I might have known that you’d be involved, Erikson, scowled the detective, a gruff but likeable fellow with graying black hair by the name of Sam Slade.

How are you, Sam? Long time, no see!

Not too good. We’re still doing the paperwork from that escapade you had over at the roundhouse last year.

Hey! I used to work for the Feds, remember? You’ll get no sympathy from me about paperwork!

I heard that you were in Australia. How was it?

Awesome country. Loved it! Damned near got run over by a spooked herd of kangaroos, of all things! Unfortunately, what went on here-the murder and so on-was only the tip of the iceberg.

I read the reports and saw it come through on the news. That archeological antiquity… fascinating find! Sam declared.

Wasn’t that opal Creation Head something? I exclaimed, then continued, and the brothers Kazminski! The best Polish tag team of crime fighters in Victoria. How are you guys?

We’re okay, Rune, smiled Mike, the older of the two.

And your mom?

She’s doing fine, Rune, answered Conn, his brother.

I saw her at the Folk Festival last month. Had some of her perogies and sour cream. Had the cabbage rolls, sauerkraut and kolbassa too! She’s a real sweetheart and she makes the best perogies in town.

We know. She speaks highly of you too, Rune.

Give my regards to your mom. Okay, Cornelius?

Ah, Rune. Everybody knows me as Conn, he reddened.

You’ll still give…

We’ll give your regards to her, Rune, Conn sighed.

Well, it was nice of you guys to drop by like this. I appreciate the thought.

Oh, Rune, the detective said as if it was an afterthought, there’s that little matter of a limo pancaked onto its roof down there in the parking lot.

Yeah, a hell of a parking job that the guy did. I recommend that you lift his licence. A guy like that is a menace to all others on the road. Or off for that matter, I grinned.

We’ve got to get a statement from you and the lady, Rune.

The lady is still shaken up. She doesn’t want to talk right now. Why don’t you get a statement from those two guys, then come see us.

Those two guys are being escorted under guard to the hospital. They survived the fall quite well. Rather unscathed. Well, except one guy has got a busted jaw and the other guy snapped his wrist. You know anything about that, Rune?

Naw.

We still need a statement from the lady.

Turning to her, I gently asked, A brief statement for them, Bianca? It’s their job. For cops, they’re okay guys.

All right, she said softly as her lovely eyes gave off a brief frightened look.

It’ll be okay, I reaffirmed as I held her hands in mine. Then turning back to the trio, I said, Sit down, guys. Take a load off.

Thanks, the detective said as he pulled a notebook out of his inner coat pocket and sat down. Full name?

Bianca looked nervously about before replying, Bianca, Bianca Penthesilea Monteiro.

What’s that, Spanish? he asked.

Brazilian. Actually, Bianca is a Spanish name. Monteiro is Portuguese. We speak Portuguese in Brazil.

I wondered about that. I was trying to place the accent. How do you spell Pen… Penth…

Penthesilea? P-E-N-T-H-E-S-I-L-E-A.

Let’s see. That’s P-E…

Oh, here’s my passport. Use it for the spelling.

Okay, he said flipping it open. Now I wouldn’t have spelled Monteiro like that. I’ll need your date of birth too.

It’s in there by my name.

So it is.

Visitor to Canada?

I’m here for an international meeting at your conference centre.

The detective looked up sharply and asked, What is your occupation?

Businesswoman.

The detective gave her an appraising eye.

It’s not what you may be thinking, she blushed. I’m no convention hooker.

Flustered, Sam said, You don’t seem the type. You’ve got class! That’s not to say that you couldn’t… oh, forget it. What type of business did you say?

I didn’t. My family is in the drug business in Brazil.

Sam did another double-take as his head whipped up from his notetaking. Exactly what kind of drugs… he started to ask with widened eyes.

No, no! It’s not what you’re thinking. Pharmaceuticals! We collect medicinal plants from the Amazon jungle. It has nothing to do with that other crop from the slopes of the Andes mountains.

Oh.

C’mon, Sam! I pleaded.

Who were those two guys that tried to abduct you?

I don’t know. I’ve never seen them before!

Do you know why they were trying to abduct you?

I really don’t know! I just need to have some rest, Bianca pleaded as she appeared to be on the verge of tears again.

Hey, Sam! It’s been traumatic for her, to say the least! Go easy on her, okay? She’s a guest here in our country!

Sure, Rune, but I’ve got to investigate this matter just the same. After all, it was an abduction attempt and armed at that!

Which would have succeeded were it not for Rune, here, Logan pointed out.

Perhaps you can get her statement later when she’s regained her composure.

Sure, Rune, Sam said with a sigh as he flipped his notebook shut and jammed it back into his coat pocket.

Besides, I think you owe me one anyway, I added. Remember that crazy stalker that had you baffled until I came up with some information to help you crack the case?

I’d forgotten about that, Sam said sheepishly. I’ll leave it up to you to bring her down to the station for a statement. Okay?

Okay. And thanks, Sam.

Can we walk you to your hotel? I asked Bianca much later after the detective and the two patrol cops had driven off.

Well… she started to say.

Oh, you guys go ahead, Logan said in his most charming voice, I’ve got an errand to run. It seems that I have an invitation waiting to be picked up at one of the investment houses downtown. Supposedly, it’s for cocktails and dinner tomorrow night. The invitation has got my curiosity tweaked as it’s from some biz guy aboard his boat here. Though I can’t think of which one it could be.

Sure, I replied. Logan stood up and kissed Bianca on both cheeks before taking his leave.

What do you think? I asked Bianca as Logan trundled off through Bastion Square.

Well, I was going to tell you that it may not be such a good idea for me to go back to stay at the same hotel.

Why not?

While I was truthful when I said that I didn’t know those two guys, I do have a slight suspicion as to whom they might be working for. If I’m right, I wouldn’t feel safe staying at my hotel. They probably know exactly which room I’m in.

Ah! So there is more to the story after all. Care to enlighten me?

Perhaps later. I’m probably going to have to change hotels first.

You afraid?

No, just wary.

I’ve got a better idea. Why don’t you just stay at my place?

I hardly know you.

I displayed my most winsome smile and gave her my spiel, "I live aboard my sixty-five-foot ketch, Valhalla. It’s a very interesting sailing ship that was built in Norway. It’s ancient, really. As captain of the ship, I’m a perfect gentleman. I wouldn’t take advantage of you."

It sounds very interesting… but my luggage…

"We can walk over to your hotel to pack. I’ll have a cab deliver your luggage to the Valhalla. We can ride my Harley back."

A Harley? You have a Harley-Davidson motorcycle?

Yeah, I’ve got a Harley Fat Boy.

Oh, I’ve always wanted to ride a Harley! she gushed. Then a look of consternation fell over her face as she cautioned, But we’ll have to watch out for anyone else coming after us. I wouldn’t want to put you in any more danger than you’ve already been through!

Don’t worry. I’ll be careful, I said as we walked towards my parked bike.

Ooh, I just love the colours! she exclaimed as she took in the gleaming machine.

Vivid Black and Champagne Pearl are what they’re called. Hop on!

I took the long way back to shake off any tail that we might have attracted. Gunning the engine, I extracted a throaty roar from the dual shotgun exhaust. We toured the Dallas Road bluffs as far as Ross Bay before turning around to meet the taxi back at the Valhalla, which is moored at finger nine, Fisherman’s Wharf. Despite the helmet, her long hair whipped in the breeze as she snuggled behind me. Every time that she leaned into me to say something, I felt giddy with excitement and desire. As the captain of the ship, it was going to be difficult to be a perfect gentleman around her. I may even have to consider temporarily demoting myself. Of course, I would promote her to the rank of First Mate! Although it was heavenly to be around her, was it always going to be as dangerous as hell to be in her company?

CHAPTER TWO

CHEF’S SURPRISE

FISHERMAN’S WHARF, VICTORIA. Bianca and I parked the bike on the parking lot at the top of the wharf. We carefully negotiated the board-stepped ramp down to the floats below as the low tide increased its grade considerably. We turned left. The old familiar smell of salt water flooded over us. Sea gulls rested on bleached pilings. Lingering on the air was the odour of picked-over crab dropped by the crows to crack their shells. We side-stepped their empty carcasses. Slanting pillars of sunlight pierced the stillness of the deep green sea as schools of minnows darted amidst the kelp. Nodding and waving to friends and neighbours as we walked along, I led the way, turning right at the end of the floating wharf to go onto finger nine.

Oh! What a lovely ship you have, Rune! Bianca exclaimed upon first boarding the magnificent old Valhalla.

I fell in love with her at first sight.

Do you do that often?

What?

Fall in love at first sight, she said flirtatiously.

Sometimes, I allowed.

Like now?

I’m still in love with her, if that’s what you mean. She’s one of my mistresses… she and my Harley. And I suppose that, in time, I’ll be getting quite attached to my new Sea-Doo that I’ve ordered from the dealership. I winked at her as I deflected her double-entendre.

Is there anyone else? Bianca bluntly asked with an exaggerated pout.

Actually, there is, come to think about it.

Oh, she said with a hint of sadness.

She’s a Valkyrie.

She’s a what?

A Valkyrie. She’s the carved wooden figurehead that’s attached to the bow of the ship. In Norse legends she was one of the maidens who fly through the air picking up fallen heroes from the ancient battleground to take to Valhalla, the Norse heaven.

And she’s your mistress?

Of a sort. Sometimes I’ve felt like I was a slain warrior after having done battle for the Feds for a number of years. Anyway, we’ve had our intimate moments, the Valkyrie and I, that is, I said as I chuckled, recalling my first dreamy encounter with her when I took possession of the Valhalla.

You do have an esoteric side to you! I meant a living, breathing person.

Actually not. No, not for quite some time.

I noticed the pout on Bianca’s face turn into a slight smile.

She… uh, she had to leave… she’s far away. She’s Down Under.

Oh! I didn’t know! I’m so sorry to hear of your bereavement! I feel awful…

What? Oh, no, no, I mean she really is Down Under… she’s living in Australia, that is.

Oh, I see. My mistake… the language, you know?

We laughed.

"Anyway, I’ll give you a quick tour of the Valhalla. This is the wheelhouse."

It is large for a wheelhouse, no?

Yes, it gives me some room to move around in when I’m sailing. There’s also plenty of room for all of my sea charts and navigation equipment. Those hatches that you see outside on deck are for access to the forward holds. I sometimes store my Harley in one and I’ll keep my Sea-Doo in the other one when it arrives. I’ll just winch them in and out when they’re needed.

That’s very handy.

Yes. And down below decks… watch your head as you go down… is the saloon. It’s as comfortable as any living room.

Oh! And you even have a fireplace in it.

It’s cosy. This is the galley. It’s quite compact, really, but I manage quite nicely. A place for everything and everything in its place.

Ah, a wine rack!

And this is the master cabin in the stern here.

Ooh! An oval bed. And square window panes. Nice!

Around the corner is the head.

The bathroom?

Uh, huh.

Oh! Isn’t this the height of luxury… a claw-foot bath tub. Those are so comfortable! This ship is built with a millionaire’s taste.

Actually, it has been owned by millionaires since Dubya Dubya Two, the big shooting war. It had been commandeered by the German navy for use as a minesweeper owing to its wooden hull. Prior to that it was owned by the Leehausen family in Norway. They built it for use as a fishing vessel in 1905. I acquired it only a few years ago. At that time it was owned by a very affluent family in Seattle. Their daughter-an only child-had gotten in with the wrong crowd down in Hollywood. I had to go down there to find and rescue her from the drug and prostitution trade.

How terrible it must have been for them!

"It was. However, they managed to get their lives back in order after I brought her to a rehab clinic to get straightened out. As sailing wasn’t his wife and daughter’s strong suit, he decided to give the Valhalla to me in payment for all that I had done. It was totally unexpected!"

How wonderful for you, though.

It is. It really is.

I can see that you’ve taken good care of her.

She deserves it, I added as we went into the saloon.

What a treasure!

She certainly is.

I lit a fire in the fireplace to take the chill out of the air. A cheery blaze brightened the saloon as the flames took hold of the crumpled pages of the Times-Colonistnewspaper. The kindling crackled as I tossed a few sticks of alder wood on top of them.

Are you hungry? I asked as I put a CD selection into my player.

I probably will be in a while, Bianca replied sweetly.

Some Brazilian tunes to make you feel at home, I said as the Brazilian sounds of Los Latinos’ O Tempero Do Amor began to play.

Ah! That’s so sweet of you, Rune. Her words melted me.

I’ve got some shrimp in the fridge. They’re fresh. You like shrimp?

I love shrimp!

Bianca offered to help me shell the shrimp. I had cooked them earlier in the day. Bianca and I prepared the red shrimp by removing the tail shell, twisting off the head and peeling off the body shell. We put the messy shells onto the pages of Monday Magazine which I reserve just for that purpose. Unfortunately, it remained unread like all the issues that came my way lately. It is, however, eminently suitable for wrapping my garbage in.

Let’s have a glass of wine, shall we? Then you can watch Chef Erikson work his magic.

I uncorked a bottle of Chalet Estate Ortega that had been made from grapes handpicked from my friend’s vineyard on the Saanich Peninsula.

You like mangoes? I asked as I threw on a chef’s apron and neckerchief. There is no headroom on board my ship for a chef’s hat except for a squashed one. I tried one on anyway. Clowning, I did a pantomime of a pancake on my head. It was accompanied by Bianca’s amused smile.

I grew up on them in Brazil. There’s not much better fruit than a ripe mango.

"Good! Because I’m going to make you Chef Erikson’s Shrimp and Mango Surprise."

Surprise?

Yeah, because I’m never sure of exactly what I’ll put in it and I’m always surprised that it turns out so delicious. First, ze mixing bowl, madame! Or is it mademoiselle?

It’s mademoiselle, I’m not married, she giggled.

Ah! Mademoiselle Bianca. It is my pleasure to be able to have you… to have you as my guest at my table, I said as I wiped my brow with my neckerchief in mock concern and exaggerated relief for her lack of marital status.

Take one medium glass pan and the mixing bowl. Okay, now we must check the fridge. Ah! Peach/passion-fruit/mango spread? Oh, passion-fruit! Oui, oui! Non?

Oui!

Oranges?

Maybe.

Yeah, maybe. Ah, why not? They’re good for juggling too, I said as I hoisted three into the air and set them twirling. The show was soon over as they went flying off in the limited space of my galley.

Lime?

Yes, lime.

Oui. Peking sauce, oui. Broccoli, non. Ginger?

Yes, that’s nice.

Shrimp?

Of, course!

Turnip?

Yech! she stated with a turned up nose.

That’s a non?

That’s definitely a non!

I was just kidding. Passion-fruit nectar?

Of course! We must have passion!

Ah! Ze mango! And olive oil for the pan.

The mango looks so nice!

That it does. Jalapeno pepper?

No.

Mais oui! This pepper is going to be ze spice of ze dish!

Okay, if you say so, she laughed, you’re the chef!

I threw two dollops of the peach/passion-fruit/mango spread into the marinade bowl, added the juice of a lime along with some grated

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