Justyn Thyme stood on the small, wooden steps that led up to his home; a small, silver metal trailer sitting in the north-west corner of a boat yard in San Pedro. He closed the door then turned the key in the knob. He gave the knob a gentle tug and the door popped open. Yup. He shut the door again and headed across the boatyard to the gate in the east fence.
His tall silhouette glided across the ground with a practiced ease, moving his slender form gracefully and with purpose. The scent of wisteria and lilac mixed with the ocean breeze, filling his nostrils with nature. The scrapes and whines of cranes that echoed across and up the channel, mixed with the stench of crude oil and boat exhaust were a constant reminder of civilization. His growing hair was just to his collar. It was long enough to get in his face, but too short to tie up. He usually wore a bandanna around his head. Tonight, however, he slicked it down with gel. At nearly six feet and one hundred and seventy in weight, Justyn Thyme was a good looking man with blue-green eyes that changed hue with the light. His face had a gentle look, yet, was etched and hardened by his short time on the planet.
He had acquired the trailer in the boatyard when he became the night watchman for the place eight months ago, shortly after being hired on as yard boy. Justyn had thought it funny, Yard Boy at thirty-four. But the man who hired him, Calvin, was in his sixties, so it seemed appropriate.
Ten months ago, Justyn had decided to get himself together and off the streets. It took him two months of bus trips and hundreds of rejections before coming across Calvin and his boat yard. Calvin, boatyard owner, manager, accountant, etc., and black, had been the one to give him a chance.
Calvin's small operation was at the edge of San Pedro, the entrance to the channel a hundred yards up around the bend. Terminal Island was across the channel, Neptune's Mermaids about a mile and a half further down the channel. The operation was mainly haul outs and quick repairs on site, but there was a small yard for storage and longer repairs made by boat owners, and two self-serve pumps.
When Calvin discovered that Justyn was without a home, he offered him use of the trailer. The conditions were that if somebody messes with the boats, he was to call the police.
Justyn had been hesitant about taking the trailer, especially when Calvin would not take rent. "Consider it part of the salary," Calvin had said. "Besides, I'd feel better knowing someone was around after dark looking after things."
During the day Justyn would help anybody that needed it with their boat, doing what he could and learning all that he could. He had this dream of owning a boat of his own. A fixer-upper, something he could make seaworthy again.
When the opportunities arose, which was often, Justyn would have the crane operator, Marvin, show him how to lift boats out of the water and put them back in again. Marvin was also black. Marvin was also large: six foot two and two hundred eighty-five pounds but kind as kitten.
It had been their last pull of the day, a thirty-foot Cheoy Lee ketch in need of extensive hull and deck repair. As Justyn eased the ketch out of the water, Marvin said, "Went shootin' pool last night. Over at that topless place at the other end of the channel."
"Yeah. That's it. You know the place, hunh?"
"I've been there a few times," Justyn said, his concentration on the boat rising higher above the water.
"Shot a few games with a skipper there," Marvin went on. "Captain Red Beard everybody was calling him. I got the feeling he might be in need of a crew. Nice boat. Tied up across the street. He don't talk a whole lot, but he can kick ass on a pool table. I lost every game to the hairy (bleep)."
Justyn had stopped the crane when Marvin mentioned crew and now stared at him, waiting for more information. When it didn't come after a moment, he prodded, "Will he be there tonight?"
Marvin shrugged. "He'd said something about heading out soon."
"He could be gone?!?"
Marvin shrugged. "Sorry, JT. Just now thought of it."
"(bleep). Just (bleep)." Justyn sat a moment looking through Marvin. He glanced back west, then back to Marvin. "Help me get this boat cradled so I can get out of here.". . .