Crape Myrtle (3)
Natalia spent that afternoon at the library. When she came back, Valerie offered a date out with a bunch of crape myrtles. “This is for you.”
“Thank you,” returned Natalia, “Lovely!”
“Crape myrtles,” articulated Valerie, “the tree of one hundred days.”
“No, no. It means, hundred days of a long bloom season,” she corrected her glasses.
“Where are we going?”
“A little restaurant at the waterside. I don’t drink but sometimes, a little.”
“Then at seven.”
Natalia took a deep bath and dressed in a short white mini dress for the evening. They took a short walk to a nice tavern called Les Balles at the eastern waterside. A strong breeze caught them in the waterfront. They had a couple of drinks at this garden setting and dined.
After a few tequila shots, Valerie found her voice to say, “I’m a shy person. I choose not to go to downtown. Are you a party girl?”
“A working girl,” described Natalia, “First day, I drove around and couldn’t find a café. Now I am looking for a boat called ‘Valor’. I don’t know how to find it.”
“Do you have a contact?”
“There are hundreds of marinas around town, in Ashley and Cooper.”
“Over there. Ashley River flows down south and Cooper in the north.”
“Forget it! Let’s have some fun!”
“Fun!” she corrected her glasses, “I was going to ask about it. I mean, I haven’t had real fun for a very long time. I am forty.”
“I don’t know!” concerned Valerie, “I don’t know how to ask.”
Natalia burst out, “We can work it out.”
“Yes,” she resounded, “For crape myrtles!”
“For crape myrtles!” Valerie took a toast on a huge swig, “I buy a bottle of Southern Comfort to take home.” She even stepped up to the counter to pay.
Afterwards, they sat on a parapet at White Point Garden, looking at downtown lights from James Island. A screaming wind instantly tore between Natalia’s legs to turn her stiffy.
Cloud covered the sky and winds blew from the east. She arrived at the harbour and glanced at the boats. There were many marinas in this area. She wondered if she should go in and ask one of the yacht clubs. Then she thought it could be a bad idea. She wore sunglasses and in Muay Thai outfit, again, latex under the fingerless pair of gloves. She stepped out of the Ford with her Minolta. Ran up the gangway looking for the dock and located the berth. There was no boat called ‘Valor’.
She began to walk at a moderate pace to read the names of the boats from side to side that caught her eyes in a random manner.
After three hours on the half-mile pier and in the blowing wind, she gave up without any luck. She sat down for a meal and there she thought to take a look at Ashley Marina lying to the west before quitting.
She arrived at Ashley Marina and located Berth 5 on Dock F. There lay a cruising yacht called ‘Valor’. She captured some snapshots of the boat with her autofocus Minolta camera with a normal lens. Not that it could take close-ups in great detail but pretty sharp clear shots.
Natalia climbed the yacht and opened the hatch which was unlocked. She glanced inside and called for a response. There seemed to be nobody. She descended the companionway to the galley. Whole interior polished of teak wood. Wall panels compactly designed to fit drawers and closets. To the left stood a cabin with letters ‘Tayana’ embossed on the door. There was an ashtray filled with cigarette butts left on the folding wing table. She peeped inside the cabin. It smelt of tobacco. Someone was using the bunk. Clothes hung in there. She checked the pockets and grabbed a wallet. She took a credit card and dropped it into the mesh bag. She checked a drawer with sundry. She picked a pen, a broken watch and a mini diary.
She advanced forward, picked some butts and a lighter on the folding wing table. Natalia peered into the forward cabin to find items on the V-berth bunk. Handy tools, a watertight flash, books, a bottle…suddenly, some rapid noises fired from behind. She turned briskly to find a man standing in there. A bald man with hollow cheeks and cold grey eyes. Some fright whisked down her back. He stared at her with a cigarette in his hand.
“Are you renting the boat…” she began.
He lurched forward and kicked her in the groin. She wore nothing under her Muay Thai shorts – not even a crotch guard. She got caught right in the balls and her hog sailed inside the satin. She went crazy for a moment, crouched down, grabbing her front to pass a horrendous pain through the body…signals launched at 265 mph to the brain.
He became aware that this was a dude. He came down on her. She delivered a front kick in his face. Threw him flat out on his back with a single blow. She rose to her feet, picked her sunglasses and scrambled out of the hatchway clutching her balls.
She drove to Hutton House making up her mind to leave Charleston and pass through North Carolina. At first, she took a moment to sort out the items, label them with dates in plastic zipper bags. Natalia spent one more night to nurse the shock with a thirst for Southern Comfort and make up for one hundred days of spring.
Driving through the woods in Asheville, North Carolina, she arrived at the address on Oakland Drive. A family house stood deep in the lawn covered of grass and trees around. It was a quiet neighbourhood and probably houses of some wealthy people. This particular home was occupied and windows open. Perhaps, Cyril Family lived there. She knew Thomas Cyril was not in town.
Natalia took photographs of the house and this beautiful setting around. She decided to spurn her search at this place and drove to the city. She booked in at Hotel Renaissance for the night. Developed the films and made a call to Jonathan Simms asking him to trace the owner of Valor. Faxed some photos as well. She failed to obtain the Hull Identification Number.