Rebel

Fighting with the rebels in the Escambray mountains against the cruel and corrupt regime of President Batista, Morgan found love with Olga María Rodríguez Farinas
Morgan's story has been extensively covered in the Miami Herald and the Toledo Blade, amongst other papers

A clip from the documentary series aired on American television and detailing the conspiracy that brought Morgan down

Fabulous artwork, specially commissioned by me from the artist Jeremy jones

prologue

La Cabaña Fortress Prison, Havana, Cuba. 1961 

The prisoners of La Cabaña are awake as they always are on execution nights.

It’s the early hours of the morning, but still night, the time they always choose for the killings. This way, the act itself is hidden. No one sees the harsh arc lights beating down on ‘El paredón’—The Wall—nor the rough wooden post with the blood pooling on the sand beneath. But the sounds are everywhere. They make sure of that.

There are voices, the engine of a car idling, the tailgate of a truck carelessly allowed to clang open. The truck bringing the coffins. But then a thick silence. The time is close and no one, prisoner or guard, can speak or move a muscle or even breathe with any ease; interminable seconds that make men want to cry out, to scream and protest the injustice of another man’s fate. Imagination provides the pictures. The tying of hands, the blindfold, the line of soldiers, rifles by their sides. A voice, distant, pitched high with the call to present arms, to take aim. Another endless moment passes, until mercifully the hot night air is punctured by the ragged crackle of rifle shots.

The coup de grâce comes as a relief – a single shot reverberating around the granite walls of the stone fortress leaving behind it an emptiness so deep and so profound that the hammering of coffin nails seem like jumbled, long-delayed echoes.

In the condemned cell, the low vaulted arch and stone floor mildewed and dank, William Morgan hears everything. He sits at a reading lectern designed for prayer. The only light comes from a bare bulb above his head. He is writing on crisp white prison stationary.

  

‘Since the first time I saw you in the mountains you have been my love, my happiness, my companion in life and in my thoughts during my moment of death… I have never been a traitor or done any damage to Cuba… I tell you this, because you know this to be the truth…I have great peace in my spirit… my ideals and beliefs you share with me, and I know that I can trust you to defend these ideals… The words on paper can never describe the feelings that I have for you, or the love that we shared. Those who are putting us on trial and condemning us have their job to do and are acting according to the conditions set out by today’s politics. So if they are guilty of many injustices, leave it to history to straighten out such faults. Revenge is not the answer. I only ask that one day the truth be known.’

chapter one

August 1957, one a.m., half a mile off the north coast of Cuba, near the Bay of Matanzas.

 

William Morgan was sitting in the companionway to the boat’s cabin, reading a Marvel Boy comic by the light of a torch and drinking steadily from a bottle of Matusalem rum. From somewhere below, a barely audible Buddy Holly tune came over the tinny transistor radio.

Without looking up from the dog-eared comic, Morgan groped for the bottle and took another swig. The rum was sickly and warm, but it would have to do until they got back to Miami and ice-cold beer. The day had been hot, mid-nineties. The long evening had hardly cooled the air at all and the night had brought no wind, not a breath.

A drip of sweat from one eyebrow hit the comic like a breaking egg. It landed on a panel showing Marvel Boy smashing his way into a nest of bad guys, liberating the serum that will save the world from a deadly virus. Morgan’s mind somehow connected the drop of sweat soaking into the page with the serum, but only briefly—that kind of thinking was not his style. He turned the page.

Behind him, a haphazard pile of heavy-duty wooden crates littered the cockpit floor. There were ten boxes in all. Morgan didn’t know exactly what was in them, but he could guess: Garands, ex-army MIIs, a few Thompson subs and maybe a couple of Stens—though, not being American, Stens were harder to come by. Some of the arms were working models from shady dealers on the mainland, but many were bought from more-or-less regular surplus outlets as harmless decomms intended for collectors. There was always someone willing to replace the firing pin and do a bit of machining for the right price.

Ammunition was trickier. When his three years in the Army penitentiary at Chillicothe were up and they finally cut him loose, Morgan had started as a buyer for Bartone’s operation. He found out pretty quick just how hard it was to source live ammunition at all, let alone precise calibers for specific guns. This consignment, like the others he’d delivered over the past two years, would need someone skilled enough to make ramp-and-throat modifications to barrels, magazines and chambers to handle the ammunition available without jamming. But none of that was his problem—Morgan was just paid to deliver.

At the stern of the boat, Jack Turner scanned the beach and the line of palms beyond for any sign of movement.

“What exactly am I looking for?” he said over his shoulder, trying for a casual tone but missing.

Morgan had warned the younger man he’d be jumpy the first time out. He turned to see Jack gripping the guardrail as he craned forward, his foot tapping like a metronome on the teak deck. The twelve-hour trip had been hard going, what with Jack crashing around the boat, dropping things and asking dumb questions. And the nerves were only getting worse.

“You’ll know when you see it,” said Morgan.

“Is it always like this—the waiting?”

When Morgan was slow to answer, Jack’s foot started tapping again.

“Relax,” Morgan said. “Count the money. It passes the time. Here—”

Holding the rum bottle up, Morgan waggled it from side to side, keeping his nose in the comic.

“I’m good,” Jack replied, as if he’d downed some already.

Morgan smiled to himself. Yeah, right.

He and Jack had got acquainted when the army stockade in Kyoto, Japan had become home to both of them. Despite being from different units and four years apart in age, it turned out they had something in common. Both had gone AWOL for a girl, and both had gotten three months’ hard labor.

In Morgan’s case, the girl was a local nightclub dancer called Asami, whose name meant ‘morning beauty.’ They were married for a month when the MPs came and dragged him naked from her bed, and for eight short weeks afterward—just long enough for Asami to get her U.S. citizenship and a divorce. Jack was doing time for trying to catch a civilian flight home to a girl named Thelma waiting for him in Richmond, Virginia.

Behind bars, Morgan took care of the kid, making sure the corridor gang knew to stay clear. Still, the place was a jungle. The guards were bored and brutal and for Morgan, it was time to get out. He’d thought about bringing Jack in on the plan but Morgan had earned six months additional time for fighting and setting fire to his cell where the younger man only had a couple of weeks before he’d be shipped Stateside. So he decided to go it alone.

He pretended to be throwing up in one of the toilet cubicles. When the guard came to check on him, he smashed the guy’s head against the wall and tied him up with duct tape he had stolen from the workshop and hidden behind the toilet cistern. Then he stripped the guard of his uniform, which was not a bad fit, and put on the belt and sidearm. At the shift change an hour later, he’d walked out the front gate with the other guards, stopping at the barrier to get a light for his cigarette on the way.  

He’d been sentenced to five years’ hard labor for the escape and he and Jack, predictably enough, had lost touch—until the Tropicana.

That was a year ago. Seeing Jack there with Thelma was pure chance, one in a million, and the two of them had spent the whole night reminiscing about Japan. Thelma was patient and pretty, just as Jack had described her, with a short blond bob, heavy mascara to accentuate her small eyes, and the same open expression as her man’s. She seemed freshly minted, a sweetheart who actually listened to their stories and laughed in all the right places.

After the chance meeting, it was natural they would arrange to get together again, often as a foursome with Morgan and his girl, whoever that might be at the time.

It was natural, too, that sooner or later Morgan’s reticence in talking about his line of work would pique his younger friend’s curiosity. Morgan bragged a little but kept the detail light. Jack was fascinated. And the more questions he asked, the more intrigued he became until one day he said he wanted in.

For a long while, Morgan said no. But Jack kept on, and every time they got together, he brought it up. It got to be a joke between them but Jack Turner was serious. He told Morgan he was making nothing doing construction work. They were just surviving in their crummy apartment, and Thelma wanting to buy a house and settle down. He really needed the break, he said—just long enough to get a down payment together. Then he’d get out.

Finally, Morgan agreed to speak with Bartone and get Jack an introduction, but on one condition: Thelma had to know, and she had to give the idea her blessing. Without that, it wouldn’t happen.

Morgan was confident that would be enough to stymie things. First up, Jack would never have the balls to tell Thelma. Second, if he did, she’d never agree. When Jack said they had talked it over and Thelma was okay, Morgan didn’t believe him. He insisted on speaking to her in person. They all sat together in the young couple’s apartment below the South Dixie Highway and Jack got them three cold beers and they smoked Pall Malls while Morgan laid out the territory for her playing down the rewards and playing up the risks. She listened carefully and seemed to understand. Then she told Morgan she was pregnant. He thought maybe they were saying they’d changed their minds, but Thelma was adamant. She couldn’t bring a baby into the world while they lived in that apartment, in that neighborhood. And besides, she said, Morgan knew the ropes and would be there to take care of her man. He would do that, wouldn’t he?

Morgan said he would.

 

He turned a page of the comic to see Marvel Boy let loose a deadly shower of atomic radiance from his special wristbands, but something—maybe a dull head from the booze—made him lose interest. He threw the comic onto the chart table, and pulling his bulky frame upright, he groaned and yawned, tilting his head beneath the low roof of the cabin. He flicked the radio off, then the torch, and took the three stairs to the cockpit in one. Clearing the overhang, he stretched to his full six-feet-four and walked aft to join Jack at the stern.

“What have you got?” said Morgan.

The sea was black and oily with a faint, reluctant swell, and he could just make out the flat yellow-gray strand that seemed to hold the tree line suspended above the horizon. The only sound was the occasional slap of water against the stern.

“Just the beach,” said Jack.

“You smell something?” Morgan said.

Jack must have caught a whiff of smoke because his foot stopped tapping, and as he peered into the darkness, he seemed to pick out a light he hadn’t noticed before.

“What is it?” Jack asked, but Morgan said nothing.

As they watched, the light seemed to dip and rise and dip again. And then it broke into two. Dark shapes were forming beneath the lights, morphing in front of their eyes. The outline of a small boat began to emerge, no longer than a skiff but narrower, more like a canoe. Then there were two, then three, then four. From beyond the random lapping of the sea against the boat came a new sound, rhythmic and human: paddles breaking the water’s surface.

“Boats!” Jack hissed. “Coming this way. Are these our guys?”

All at once, the moon arched out from behind the clouds, and blue-white light swept across the water, revealing a line of four boats snaking toward them like some kind of religious procession. Men in white smocks and straw hats, their faces greasy and tanned, swaying kerosene lanterns on poles above their heads, their paddles rising and falling as if to a coxswain’s chant only they could hear.

“Jesus—” Jack murmured. “Don’t look much like rebels, do they?”

 

There were two men in each boat. As they pulled alongside, one or other of the men—sometimes both—stood up, swaying comfortably with the swell, gripping on to the foot of the guardrail.

The small boats were so low in the water that only the men’s faces were visible above the deck, peering up at the big boat. They said little to Morgan or Jack, merely nodding or grunting as they took hold of the first crates, but their eyes darted this way and that, taking in the boat and the gringos. When they spoke, they talked quietly to each other in a harsh, rapid-fire Spanish, swallowing the final consonants as if finishing a sentence took too much effort.

Ten minutes later, three of the boats were already on their way to shore and the fourth was waiting alongside. Morgan and Jack lifted the last of the crates from the cockpit deck to the gunwale. The crate was heavier than the others, and Jack staggered, then lost his hold, letting go and jumping back to avoid getting his toes crushed. The crate hit the deck at an angle, popping the lid with a splintering sound, and two ancient Italian carbines clattered onto the teak, the excelsior packing curling around them like dry seaweed.

“Pick up,” Morgan said, his voice taut from the effort of holding the weight.

Jack stuffed the rifles back into the crate one at a time. He appeared excited by the feel of the guns in his hand.

“Come on. The lid—”

Jack positioned the lid, with the nails protruding, and banged it down with the heel of his hand.

“Lift,” said Morgan.

The men in the small boat slowed the heavy crate’s descent until it lay between them like an undersized coffin. And then, without a word, they pushed off.

As the small boat came about, one of the men looked up to Morgan and Jack and raised his paddle in salute.

Gracias, Señores,” he said. “Cuba libre.”

De nada,” Morgan replied.

Jack said to Morgan, “You ever wonder why these guys are doing it?”

“We have guns, and they’re willing to pay for them.”

“I mean, what are they fighting for?”

“We’re done. Let’s go home,” Morgan said. He kicked at the loose straw on the deck as he reached for the stern anchor chain.

The moon had disappeared from view, and the little boats were dissolving once more into the sea.

“Hey, Bill?”

“What?”

“Thanks. For getting me in, I mean. Thelma’s already spent the money, but this is going to change everything for us, with the baby and all—Mr. Bartone only gave me a shot ’cause of you,” Jack said. “I mean, I’d still be totting a hod, and you know what working construction pays…”

Morgan let the chain slide and stood up straight, as if suddenly attentive to Jack’s words. But it was something else. The sound was distant, beyond the bay for sure. It could be anything, and he wanted to be wrong, but he’d heard this sound before. Jumping up onto the gunwale, one hand on the cabin roof to steady himself, he scanned the horizon. Morgan was looking north, toward the open sea, toward the Florida Keys, ninety long miles away. Jack was still talking.

“Lousy forty bucks a—”

“Shut up!”

Jack stopped talking. He looked up at Morgan, bewildered. He too, must have heard the low thum-thum of powerful marine engines, only he could have had no idea what the sound meant.

Morgan knew. He knew well before the silent, bright flash of the 40mm cannon briefly lit up the horizon. Before the magnesium dashes of tracer fire scored the night sky overhead, hitting the water close to the boats and sending plumes of spray into the air like decorative fountains. A PT boat, war vintage, once fitted with torpedo tubes for close attack on larger vessels, but now stripped back and loaned or given to the Cubans as surplus to requirement; mahogany-planked hull, 1,800 horsepower gasoline Packard engines. The sound they made was unmistakable—like no other boat. More like an aircraft.

The second cannon salvo followed moments later, and again the flashes were soundless for a couple of seconds. Morgan followed the line of tracer to see rounds cut through one of the small boats like cheese wire. The smallest box of all—the one with the grenades—must have caught, because just as the boat began to crumple, it exploded in a bright orange ball. The shock wave thumped into Morgan’s chest. He saw a body pirouette through the air and land awkwardly in the black sea, like a flubbed splash dive. Two of the other boats were awash, and there was burning debris on the water. Someone was howling in pain.

Morgan noticed headlights bouncing through the palms toward the beach beyond the burning boats. Jeeps or trucks of some kind. Military, police. It didn’t matter.

“Shit,” he said softly.

Jack was standing there gawping like a kid at a fireworks display.

“Get the anchor up—now!” Morgan shouted to Jack.

He lunged for the wheel and the ignition, knocking Jack to one side. He turned the key, engaged the forward anchor winch with his right hand and at the same time, pressed his thumb to the starter button, willing the engines to catch.

Instead, the motor whirred and died. The searchlight strobed over them as the eighty-foot patrol boat raced straight for their position. Morgan steadied himself. He checked the gear lever. Neutral . . . full choke . . . glow plugs ready . . . He pressed the starter button again and once more the motor whirred and moaned, but didn’t fire. He swore, then prayed briefly and took a deep breath. The clanking of the forward winch finally stopped. He pressed the button a third time. The engine and the whole boat vibrated as the crankshaft turned, forcing the pistons to life. Blue diesel smoke came coughing from the exhausts.

Morgan felt a surge of hope—until he looked around to see Jack, frozen and staring at the oncoming craft, with the stern anchor still down. He shouted again, though he knew it was already too late. They would never outrun a PT, even an old one. A boat like that could hit forty knots. He had ridden them in Japan, easing the monotony of eighteen months’ peacekeeping duty after the war. Hell, he had even tried waterskiing behind one—until the shore patrol caught them.

At three hundred yards, the PT boat slowed and came off the plane, its bows dipping and the stern rising in response. As it rocked and steadied in the water, they heard the bullhorn crackle and hum. Then a booming, distorted voice with a thick Cuban accent.

“Cut your engines and prepare to be boarded. You are under arrest!”

Morgan’s mind was working fast but coming up with nothing. He would leave the engine running, that much he knew. What happened next was anyone’s guess. The PT boat was closer now and he squinted under the dazzling searchlight at the dark figures lining the deck, each with a gun trained on them. He raised his hands and faced the light, glancing around to make sure Jack was following suit.

He wasn’t. Instead, he’d decided to haul in the anchor chain, now that it was way too late to help. He even appeared relaxed, as if they really had just gotten in a good day of fishing and were heading for port and the nearest bar.

“Leave it!” Morgan barked.

But Jack didn’t seem to hear. Instead, he kept at it, hand over hand, yarding up the wet chain and letting the slack clank onto the deck.

“Jack! Leave it!” Morgan shouted.

But still Jack carried on.

The bullhorn squawked again. “Put up your hands! Do not move!”

There was nothing Morgan could do. He stood with his arms still raised, wedging himself tight against the port side of the cockpit as the wash hit them. Adjusting his features to those of a man both surprised and innocent, he shouted to the patrol boat.

“Okay, guys, okay, relax. Pesca! You know, fishing!”

It was a vain hope, but just maybe, if they stuck to the story no matter what, there was a chance. The Cubans might not believe the fishing cover, but the guns were gone and they would have to prove otherwise. It was worth a shot.

The PT boat’s engines kicked into reverse, straining at the water and churning the surface to bubbling eddies and whirlpools. Morgan rehearsed the line: norteamericanos, vacaciones, just my buddy and me. Rented the boat in Miami. Thought we’d do a little fishing, see the sights, live aboard, you know?

He made a silent wish before glancing at Jack, hoping fervently he had come to his senses.

What he saw made him blanch. There was Jack, one hand on the wet chain, the other on the anchor, bracing with his knee on the padded cockpit seat, clutching the dripping steel in the crook of his right arm, left hand on the long shank.

Even from across the cockpit, with the anchor held like that and the look of excitement on Jack’s face, first impressions would say it was a weapon. From the patrol boat, there was no doubt.

 

For a long time after the event, Morgan would wonder that the reaction from the patrol boat hadn’t been a good deal more decisive. If he had been in the guardia’s place, looking at the excited gringo swinging around at him like that, his finger would have gone to the trigger for sure. He might even have made the shot.

As it happened, only one young man on the PT boat felt the same way. Perhaps fear kept the others from reacting. They certainly looked scared to Morgan, trying to cover him and Jack, and keep their footing as the boat rocked from side to side. And given the uneven motion of both boats, the chances of the only round fired hitting Jack in the chest at fifty yards were remote at best.

When the shot came, it was Jack who looked most astonished. The bullet must have passed straight through, between the ribs and missing the sternum, because he was still standing, still holding the anchor, even as the sound of the shot died away and a small patch of blood began to seep into his pale shirt. Only when one knee buckled slightly did he take half a step back to sit on the cockpit bench, anchor in his lap, mouth open. He didn’t even blink—just looked somehow disappointed.

Morgan reacted on instinct. He dived for cover, stretching for the throttle lever and yanking it down from neutral to full ahead, practically snapping it off. The engines revved high and loud, but instead of surging forward, the fishing boat twisted and kicked to the left, forcing its bow up and ramming the exposed hull of the PT boat. The mahogany planks splintered as the soldiers on deck pitched sideways. One went over the side and thudded off the cockpit roof directly above Morgan’s head before sliding into the sea.

Morgan made a grab for the wheel, spinning it to starboard, just enough to pull his craft back off the patrol boat and scrape along its hull. The screech of wood and fiberglass clawing at each other was like fingernails on a blackboard.

And then they were free. With the rudder set straight, the fishing boat suddenly ripped away, props gripping the water.

Keeping his head down as they put twenty yards, then fifty, then a hundred between them and the Cubans, Morgan at last allowed himself one look back at the patrol boat. It hadn’t budged, and he wondered if he had holed it below the waterline. It hadn’t even come about to give chase. The searchlight was flailing around and even found them once or twice, but by veering a few degrees to port, then starboard, he lost it easily.

Steering for the open sea, he checked on Jack, now slumped on the bench, still cradling the anchor in his arms. Eyes wide open.

 

As the sun rose, its warmth began to burn off the sea mist lingering in clumps over the ocean. It would be hot again today, but there was a chill in the air that made Morgan shiver. A mile or so from the Keys, the flat, calm water was listless and gloopy under the boat as it drifted, engines off.

Jack’s body was laid out precariously on the gunwale, arms tucked neatly to his chest, looking like a proper corpse prepared for burial. The blood had soaked his shirt from shoulder to waist. A big orange gas cylinder full of liquid propane, which Morgan had dragged up from the galley, was tied around Jack’s waist with a thick rope.

Morgan held the Matusalem rum bottle in one hand, studying the image of a bird in flight. He couldn’t be sure if the bird was a swift or a swallow, or a creature that existed only in the artist’s mind. A moment later, he hurled the bottle as far as he could into the mist and didn’t hear it hit the water. 

He mumbled the opening to the Lord’s Prayer because that was all that came to mind, then put one hand on the cylinder and one under Jack’s shoulder, and shoved.

Body and gas cylinder splashed into the clear blue water together. But when Morgan looked over the side, he saw the cylinder heading downwards with a sense of purpose where Jack seemed to hover for a moment, arms outstretched. Morgan suddenly noticed that the eyes were open. And yet he had closed them for sure. Maybe the force of hitting the water had pried them open again.

Then the rope became taut, the weight of the gas cylinder gave the body a sudden downward yank and a few bubbles emerged from the mouth, like Jack was trying to speak. The vacant stare and the arms held wide gave him the appearance of someone reaching out, or falling in slow motion from a great height.

Moments later, the body vanished in the deep water. Inches beneath the sea’s surface, tiny translucent fish darted this way and that, as if looking for something lost.

chapter two

Naturally, given the way things had turned out, Bartone was mad as hell with Morgan. He ordered him to lie low, wait for things to cool off. A couple of weeks, he said, no more. If anyone asked questions, play dumb. When the time was right, he’d get a call, but until then, best stay out of the light.

Morgan too, was mad, but at himself. He needed to talk to Thelma. He had to explain what had happened, and how. She would be going crazy. Bartone had said it was a dumbass idea and that under no circumstances should he go near the girl. When Morgan started shouting, two of the guys were on him in a flash, and he took a couple of solid gut punches before he remembered his manners. Bartone threatened at first, then abruptly changed tack and promised to make sure Thelma had what she needed. Money was not an issue, he said. Morgan should trust him, go back to his apartment and lie low.

“Understand?” Bartone had said, nodding to his goons to let go of Morgan’s arms.

 

There would be someone watching him, that much he knew. Morgan kinked the blinds to check the street out front and straightaway saw the guy sitting in a tan Ford parked across the street.

He recognized the watcher as Carl, part-time doorman at the Eden Roc Hotel and one of Bartone’s gofers. Carl was not exactly covert, smoking and tapping the bodywork in time to the radio. Morgan released the blind and went out into the hall, closing the door to his apartment behind him. At the back of the building, he opened the window and eased out onto the fire escape. After walking two blocks to make sure he wasn’t being followed, he took a cab to Thelma’s.

 

As soon as she saw him, she crumpled—before he even said a word.

He gently eased her back inside the apartment, closed the door with his foot and held her tight as she sobbed and beat on his chest. And when she finally collapsed on the sofa, Morgan covered her with a blanket and sat by her, stroking her head. He poured her a drink and then quietly told her how. He made only a few minor adjustments to the truth, telling her Jack had died instantly and gone over the side when the bullet hit him. But that was just to save her from unnecessary nightmares. In the evening, he scrambled eggs for them both, but she didn’t touch a thing. All night he sat by her bed, watching her sleep and wake repeatedly, crying dry tears and taking deep, heavy breaths.

Before he left in the morning, he made a call to her closest girlfriend—a girl called Karen—and talked her into calling in sick in order to spend the day with Thelma. When she arrived at the apartment, Morgan put some money on the sideboard, went back to his place and slept. Carl and the tan Ford were gone.

Over the days that followed, he saw Thelma whenever he could get away from his watchers. Time and again, he told her it was unlikely Jack’s body would ever be recovered, and explained that going to the authorities either here or in Cuba would only bring a storm of trouble down on their heads. His analogy became pointedly ironic when Hurricane Audrey swept up the Gulf of Mexico in June and made a devastating landfall in Texas and Louisiana. On her way past the Keys, Audrey whipped the seas into a fury, somehow bringing what was left of Jack’s bloated body to the surface, where it was spotted from a pleasure boat and reported to the coastguard.

In the investigation that followed, Thelma rushed to tell the cops everything she knew. She was mad with grief and furious at Morgan, at Bartone, the Cubans—everyone—and she named names. Bartone was hauled over the coals, but talked his way out of any direct involvement. After twelve hours in the can, they had to let him go. When he got back to the shipping office in the dockside warehouse he used as cover for his operations, he ranted and threatened, and vowed to make somebody pay. As a first step, he called his two best enforcers together and outlined his vision for Morgan.

But they were too late. Twenty-four hours before Bartone’s men broke down the door to Morgan’s apartment, he’d taken a bus over Seven Mile Bridge, then walked and hitched until there was no more road. He found a cheap hotel in Saddlebunch Harbor and spent his days lying on the single bed, drinking and watching the ceiling fan go round and round. He wondered about his chances of getting to Bartone before his goons came for him in the Keys. If he was going down, he wanted to go down fighting.

But the more he worked on a plan, the less sense it all made. This wasn’t about Bartone or Thelma—or even Jack. This was about twenty-eight years on the planet, with nothing to show but a catalogue of failure. No wonder his parents had pretty much given up on him. They were churchgoers. They lived in a good neighborhood in Cleveland and were heartbroken when their son turned out to be an embarrassment to them and a danger to himself. They knew nothing about his life in Miami, of course. It had been enough to watch him grow into manhood with a police rap sheet, two knife wounds and a dishonorable discharge. After the army and his time in the pen, they’d gotten him a job with the Monsignor as a church caretaker. It wasn’t much, but it was steady work, a breathing space. He’d lasted a month before deciding to hit the road. His father had driven past as he stood by the highway with his thumb out, and hadn’t even recognized him.

They never said so, but Morgan was sure they would have been happier had he given his life for his country. At least then they would have a flag and a medal cabinet, and could hold their heads up in public. If he had the courage, he thought as walked down the beach toward town, he would save Bartone’s goons a trip and do the job himself.

He saw the poster as he came out of the store carrying a quart of bourbon and eating cheese puffs. There was no cinema for miles around, but Saddlebunch Town Hall was holding a screening of Shane, starring Alan Ladd, that night. Morgan, and maybe twenty other people of all ages, sat on hard metal folding chairs. The sound was crackly, and the projector kept overheating so that they had to pause occasionally to let it cool off.

When the movie was over, he came out of the hot, sticky hall into the night air and walked to the beach nearby. He sat cross-legged on the sand, looking out over the black water of the ocean. And suddenly, he knew exactly where he was going—and why.

use the contact form to let me know what you think of the story so far…

 

to be continued..!

 

check back for regular updates…