Ed Wilkes and I boarded the Concorde in Paris just after seven PM, and got off at Kennedy two hours earlier, local time. We had outrun the sun. My luggage consisted of a toothbrush stuffed in my shirt pocket and a paperback novel. My other jeans and shirt had been so stained with Davis’ blood that I had dumped them, and I would hardly need a pack full of camping gear in New York City.
We checked into a medium priced hotel. I left Ed making phone calls and went out to buy some fresh clothing and a suitcase. Then I stayed out, sightseeing. I had been to Washington, to Europe twice, through much of Canada, and from San Francisco to Marseille via the Panama Canal and the Caribbean. For a small town Wisconsin boy, I had gotten around. But I had never been to New York City.
* * *
Ed Wilkes’ phone calls had given us some new information. He had claimed that his wife had left a suitcase aboard one of the cruise ships. When they had not been able to locate the nonexistent bag, he suggested that they check with customs to see if they were keeping it. Customs officers, he was informed, were present whenever a ship landed, and any abandoned luggage was seen by them before being stored by the cruise line.
“I timed him,” Ed explained. “From the time he put me on hold until he told me that the bag was not there it took six and a half minutes. He could possibly have called somewhere or just checked a list, but more likely he looked in a nearby room.”
We parked our rented car between two dumpsters across the street from the pier. Most of the pier was taken up by a warehouse. On the right was a driveway, wide enough for a pickup or front end loader. There were wide yellow strips painted on the macadam to guide passengers to the embarkation lounge. Half way down the building was a sign with a stylized gull and the words Gull Lines, in English and Norwegian.
Wilkes turned to me and asked again, “Are you sure you want to do this?”
“Not particularly, but I will.”
“If the luggage is clean, it will cause no problems, but if it isn’t, it would be better if no one saw my face. I might run into some DEA officer who knows me.”
“If they stall you, they are probably calling for help. If that happens, get out fast. If we get separated, you have the number to call.”
I nodded again. I didn’t like this. Facing an armed assailant on a darkened Venetian bridge was one thing. Getting the entire bureaucratic might of Washington on my back – now, that was scary.
Wilkes slumped down behind the wheel where he could watch the entrance from behind a newspaper. I went down the yellow macadam road to the Gull Line offices. Beyond the glass doors, all was modern and cool, with a hundred steel and plastic chairs linked together and bolted to the floor, a TV, now blank, placed high in a corner and a glass partitioned ticket counter. Not unlike an airport or modern bus terminal.
A uniformed girl sent me a pert smile from behind the counter, and asked if she could help.
“I’m here to pick up some unclaimed luggage. It belongs to Ramona Cabral. She came back from Bermuda on the fourteenth of April.”
“Wow, that’s a long time for luggage to go unclaimed. What happened?”
“Lucky girl. Still, three months?”
“Actually a honeymoon and a divorce.” more tomorrow