That night at dinner, I sat at a different table where all the kids from the barrel sat. Adel wasn’t there but another kid who could speak English. “Adel said you now own the boat that brought us to America.”
“Yes, that’s true. In this country, when a man is convicted of a crime, the vehicle he used to commit the crime is taken by the government. So the government asked if I wanted it, and I said yes.”
I waited until he translated what I told him to the other kids. “What are you going to do with it?”
“Monday, some men are going to come to take it to a place where they will remove all the insides and paint the outside. Then some other men will come and redo the inside. I’m going to put cocoons in so that every person will have to sleep in a cocoon.” I waited for the next round of questions.
“When it’s all finished, will it look like it did when it brought us here?”
“No, it’ll look like a brand new boat. It’ll smell clean, and the floors will be polished, the food will be excellent, and the fishing will be the best.”
Now, as he was translating, the kids began to smile. “How long will it take?”
“Probably all summer. There’s a lot of work to get the evil smell out of it.”
When he translated that, they all said something, then he said, “We agree.”
“Maybe when it is ready to bring back, you all can come and sail back with us.”
“The kids were all in favor of that.”
Then the kid in a somber tone, “Adel said you wanted to take us with you when you took the boat to be repaired.”
“Yes, what he said was true. But he also said it held too many bad memories. So I decided to erase those memories with a new ship and a good time.”
“So Adel didn’t lie to us.”
“No, Amman, he didn’t lie.”
From that point on, they ate and chatted. I kept hearing one word over and over again. I asked Amman what did that word meant. He said, Father. I looked for Pat, and he looked up at me with a big smile. By the next day, everyone was calling me dad or father. Soon the new kids learned dad, and then everyone called me dad, even Tony.
Sunday afternoon, with a carload of kids, I drove to the ship yard. I parked my car inside the gate and waited for Tony to arrive. While we waited, we looked at all the boats. The manager came out, and I introduced myself. He introduced me to the crew that would bring the boat to the dry dock. I went into his office, and we discussed the work I wanted to be done. By then, Tony arrived and joined me in the office. I asked about a firm that could design and build the interior for me. I also asked if it was possible to build cabins on the deck. He said I wanted an ocean liner. I told him, yes, but I wanted to use what I had. He said he’d take a look at it when they bring it in tomorrow, and he would give me a call. I said that was fine. The three largest kids sat upfront with Tony.
When we got home, Aaron was watching us. “You look like a bunch of circus clowns.”
I looked at Tony, and he started to laugh. The guy can read my thoughts.
Monday morning, Tony and I drove to the docks early. We stopped and got a coffee while I waited for the crew to take the boat to the boatyard. We just pulled up to the dock when a police officer approached us. “Are you Mr. Williams?” “Yes” “Some gentlemen are waiting for you over at dock 7.”
“Did they say who they were?”
“Something about taking a ship to a boatyard.”
“Do you know where I can park my car?” The Officer showed Tony a parking area.
“Tony, I’m going to talk to those men while you park the car. Meet me there.”
I thanked the officer and walked to the men at the dock. I introduced myself and an older man who said he was Captain Rockford and was to take a ship to the boatyard. I told him that my partner and I would go along with him as I have never seen the boat. He looked at me a little funny when I told him that. I guess he couldn’t figure out how I had a boat and not ever seen it. He would soon find out. When Tony came over, I introduced him to the Captain and the other men.
“We should get started, Captain.”
As we boarded the boat, a man met us and identified himself as Agent Comings of the FBI. I looked at the Captain, and I think he began to feel a little uneasy “I’m looking for Mr. Williams.”
“I’m Brad Williams. How may I help you?”
“I have a release form for you to sign officially taking ownership of this vessel.”
He gave me the form which I signed. “The ship is yours. Do you mind me asking what are you going to do with it?”
“These gentlemen are going to take it to a boatyard where it’ll be painted and refitted for the use of Sanctuary.” I noticed the Captain looking at me as I said that. I think he understood why I had never seen the boat until now.
“I like to go with you, but I have no way back.”
“We can bring you back. I have a car at the shipyard.”
So with the Captain heading to the bridge, his men checking out the engine room, the boat had three passengers. As the Captain and his crew got the boat ready to sail, I told Agent Comings about Sanctuary and how I got the boat. His face went white when I told him about the kids and the barrels. Then I told him what I was going to have done to the boat and the new name. “Our first cruise will be to the Caribbean with all the kids and some important guests. I can’t wait. None of the kids will recognize this boat when I’m done.”
“How are you going to pay for this overhaul?”
“I’m not. The men who abducted the boys will pay. I’ve taken them to court and confiscated all of their bank accounts. They won’t need the money where they are going. I’d be surprised if any of them last a year in prison.”
The agent looked puzzled, “Why do you say they won’t last a year?”
“Most of the prison population hates child molesters. I know one politician that is now a lady in prison. They’ll be abused, and eventually, they’ll be found permanently asleep in their cells.”
The agent smiled as we felt the boat begin to move. We walked to the bridge. The Captain was at the helm and had a smile on his face. “Whoever owned this ship before took real good care of her. The men told me that the engine room was clean, and the equipment was in excellent shape. She handles beautifully. I wouldn’t mind sailing this ship.” I looked at Tony and smiled.
“Captain, I’m going to tour this ship. I want to see a special area. I trust you don’t need me to get in your way.” With that, Tony, Agent Comings, and I left to explore. We found a staircase that went below, walking down the stairs, “Tony, do you smell that? It smells like something died here.” When I said that, Tony got pale, and then I hurried down the steps to a large open area. “Tony, this must have been where they kept the barrels. Let’s see where these corridors lead.”
As we toured this section of the ship, pictures of these kids in these barrels kept forming in my mind. The corridors led to several rooms that were bedrooms. The other passage led to a dining hall and kitchen. There was another stair that led to another large room and the engine room.
I looked at Tony, and he was still pale. “I think we need to go back upstairs to the deck and fresh air.
We went to the bridge. The Captain and a few of his men were there chatting about the boat. “Mr. Williams, the men tell me that the engine room is designed to be operated by one man. There are sophisticated electronic controls that can be monitored from here. The ship was designed to be run with a minimal crew.”
That made sense to me. With the cargo they carried, they certainly didn’t want a lot of men asking questions. “Tony, do you think we could get a drawing of this ship showing the various rooms?”
“You don’t need to make a drawing. Here are the design drawings.” The Captain opened a drawer and removed a portfolio case with the design drawings and the operational information for the electronics, the electrical wiring diagrams, and the sizes of the various rooms. I looked at Tony with a big smile on my face.
“Tony, this will make it easy to reconfigure the ship. I won’t have to scratch everything. We’ll tear out the interior bedrooms, keep the kitchen and dining room, the space under the kitchen we’ll use as a storage area. I’ll put portholes along the side where the staterooms will be and the cocoons. We’ll paint the interior light color and have a lot of lights. I want the interior to be as well lit as a luxury liner. I’m going to add staterooms on deck like the cruise liners. This’ll be a cruise liner when I’m done. The kids will not recognize it.” I was getting excited. Tony started to laugh.
“What are we going to do until this luxury liner is ready?” Then Tony’s eyes lit up, with a big smile, “Island” I nodded.
This year we’ll spend the three months of summer on the island. “Tony how much runway will we need for the plane?”
“I’m not sure. We can ask Peter”
I think the Captain thought we were nuts. So I explained Sanctuary to him. I noticed the crew was being attentive to what I was saying. One of them excused himself when I told them the purpose of this ship and the kids making the trip in barrels. I told them about the island and the plane that was donated to us. It got quiet for a few minutes, “I hope you get those men.”
I told him how the customs officers had been warned about barrels; they called the police, who opened the barrels in a customs warehouse. The men who accompanied the voyage and the crew were arrested, the ship confiscated and given to us.
“What about the men who were going to take these kids?”
“The men weren’t too smart for businessmen. They paid the smugglers upfront. I’m sure that’s how they could finance this ship; one of the boys was in critical shape when they opened the barrels. He and ten others were taken to the hospital. The ten were released the next day; they were mostly dehydrated and underfed. If the critical boy had been kept in that barrel one more day, he would have died. Over the next few days, he began to recover. There was a friend of his in one of the barrels. When we learned that, we brought him to the hospital. From that day on, the boy made good progress. The day before he was to be released, a man called and said he was the boy’s father. Could they not release him until he arrived from the East. I checked all of the airlines, and there wasn’t a passenger with his name on the planes. I alerted the police. We moved the boy to a high-security area. The police waited in the boy’s old room and arrested the man. He was the first which led to the others.”
The Captain asked us if we wanted to learn how to navigate and steer the ship. We said yes, who would say no. He showed us the instruments and let us pretend to steer. The navigation system did the steering. The previous owners made the operation of the ship as simple as possible. Once the course was set, you didn’t need to steer. The navigational system did it all.
We watched as we approached the shipyard. The captain switched off the navigational system and manually steered the ship to one of the shipyard docks. “When you dock the ship, you have to do it manually. The navigational system will assume it’s in the open sea.”
As soon as we docked, the manager of the shipyard came out to meet us. He and the Captain spoke for a few minutes, and then it was our turn. He asked if we still want it stripped down, we said no, but we want the internal spaces to be reconfigured.
We went into his office. I selected the color for the ship and the name I wanted to be registered. Tony agreed with the name and color. “I now need to see an outfit that can reconfigure the inside, and I still want to add cabins on the top deck and a dining hall. Can you recommend someone?”
“There’s a well-known firm that the big cruise liners use; I could put you in touch with them.”
“I’d appreciate that. I’ll probably have portholes put in the lower deck, so I should see them as soon as possible.”
“I’ll make a call and see if they can send someone over this afternoon.”
“Thanks, Tony lets go and get something to eat. We haven’t had breakfast, so if you could call us and let us know what time the company representative will be here, we’ll be sure to be here at that time.”