The weather was perfect, no matter which way Freeman looked at it. It was warm enough that the tourists were out walking around the wharf, but there were enough clouds floating by that the water wasn't reflecting up so much that it was hard to see. It was a good day to head out to deep water, and it would be a good day to see whales.
It would be a completely perfect day if he could fill his boat with people who would pay for the gas it took and didn't spend all their time ignoring him when he said to sit down.
Freeman fished with his cousin, both of them working Freeman's father's boat. Once upon a time the family had taken cod, but those days were long over; now it was mackerel in the mornings and ten weeks of taking the paying public out in the afternoons. The sad truth was that the tourists paid for the licenses and the gas. The fishing kept body and soul together.
Freeman and his cousin John were cleaning up, making sure that the Merry Pride was ready to take guests. The morning had been okay, with calm water and a good take. If he could get the cabin presentable for the inevitable tourist who would get off shore a couple of miles and then get bored, they'd be set to start touring the wharf in search of a fast lunch and the latest gossip.
"Hey, John?" Freeman came out of the cabin with two Thermoses. "Can you take these up to the canteen for a refill?"
John nodded and took them both in one hand. "I'll get lunch, too. Burgers?"
"Yeah, fine. Get me a bottle of Coke for later. Don't forget to come back this time, neither."
John laughed and jumped out to the dock. "Back in a few." He wandered off, going no more than a boat length away before stopping to talk to someone.
Freeman shook his head and went back to cleaning, washing down the deck. The sun would dry her off fast enough. A while later he heard footsteps returning, but a glance up proved it wasn't John.
No, this guy looked like he belonged on the dock about as much as a fish belonged out of water. Cowboy hat, boots, Wranglers and a denim shirt, the man's hands were stuffed into his jeans' pockets as he slowly wandered down the dock.
Well, didn't that beat all. The east coast didn't see a lot of the cowboy look; most just wore work boots and ball caps with the logo of their feed company on them. This guy looked like he needed a horse under him and not anything a fishing town could offer.
Though Freeman could think of a thing or two he wouldn't mind putting under the cowboy.
He stayed where he was, though, and nodded hello. "Help you?" he asked politely. Tourists were money.
"Could do. I've got a ticket for a ride out to see the whales." The man handed over one of the tickets Sheila Parsons over at the travel agency gave out as a part of her package deals. She made good on them, for a ten percent discount off the price.
Freeman nodded and held onto it, but didn't put it in his pocket just yet. "Yeah, I can do that for you. You alone or do you have people with you?"
"Just me." Oh, this one was a big talker.
"Well." Freeman looked around for John and didn't see the bastard anywhere. "Give me ten minutes or so and we can head out. I need to run up to the canteen there and get some food. You can come aboard, though, and make yourself comfortable." The voucher would cover the gas, but another passenger or two would make for profit. Then again, Freeman didn't often get to be alone with cowboys. Maybe it would be like a day off, whatever that was.
"Lunch included?" the cowboy asked as he climbed aboard, boots loud on the deck.
"Only if you like burgers and fries." Freeman offered his hand. "Freeman Gallant. And this here is the Merry Pride."
The man had a firm grip, but not one of those over-manly ones. "Joshua Stubbins, and I do, thank you." Nice warm hand, calluses--this man worked for a living.
"Welcome aboard." Freeman pointed to one of the lockers on the port side. "Have a seat and I'll be right back with lunch. You ever been off shore before, Mr. Stubbins?" God, he hoped the cowboy didn't get sea sickness.
"Nope. Call me Josh." He wandered over to the side of the boat instead of to the locker Freeman'd indicated, looking out over the bow toward the ocean.
Freeman watched him and only incidentally checked out his ass. Oh, Freeman was totally leaving John behind this trip. Day off it was, then. "Be right back, Josh."
Freeman left Josh there and went up to the canteen, hoping to hell that John had gotten himself into a long and drawn-out discussion with Willy Patterson. "Give me four, Ida, thanks."
Ida didn't even raise an eyebrow, used to dishing out large orders to working men. She even had them ready to go, given it was that time of day. "Taking Johnny with you?" she asked, passing him the bag and taking his money.
"Don't know where he got to. When you see him, tell him I'm out past Founder's Bay, be back after a three hour."
Ida nodded and jotted it down on her order pad. "Have a good one."
"It'll be good if there's a tip." He took his lunch and headed back, still hoping John was MIA.
John was nowhere to be found when he got back to the Pride, and Josh was right where he'd left the man.
"So, we'll head out, spend about three hours around the point over there." Freeman was talking before he'd even gotten on the boat. "Got burgers, fries and water, help yourself." He smiled when Josh turned to face him. "Ready? We can head out right now, if you like."
"Sure. Nobody else out to see the whales?" Josh grabbed one of the burgers and went to sit.
"Not today, it looks like." No sense in telling Josh the whole truth. "Some days it's like that. You got a camera?"
"No, sir. I got eyes, though."
Freeman nodded. "Good enough. You watch and eat, I'll pilot us out of the bay. If you get lonely, come and talk to me." He grabbed a burger and headed into the cabin. "Oh, it'll be noisy until we get far enough out to cut the engine. Nothing I can do about that, sorry. Don't let the gulls steal the french fries."