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Tugboat Annie's hot cargo.

"What trouble?" Already Annie was out of her bunk and grabbing her clothes.

"Bullwinkle hit something in the pass--probably a deadhead from a log spill. His propeller's jammed against the rudder, and him and the barge are driftin' down out of control!"

"Oh, brother!" Only half-dressed, Annie opened the door. "How'd ye find out?"

"I was still at the set trying to raise Port Chilkat when I caught his SOS. He's been calling the Coast Guard, Navy, shipping--anybody he can reach!"

"Can ye raise him on the radiophone? If not, keep tryin'! That barge is murder! He's got to cut it adrift! Make him see that Clem! He's too dumb to realize--"

But Clem alreadt was running back to the radio shack; so, quickly finishing dressing, Annie roused Peter and Big Sam, then shook Pinto, the cook, awake and ordered him to bring sandwiches and coffee to the messroom, where she had told the others to meet.

"If this ain't a bind, Annie," groaned Big Sam. "Wi' full tanks we could overtake 'em before they got out o' the pass an' tow 'em clear. But ya can't run diesels on hot air--an' that's all that skunk Bullwinkle left us. I'm tellin' ya--if any man ever deserved this, though--"

"It ain't on'y him, Sam," Annie pointed out somberly. "They's six others on that tug wid him. An' even if they git outta the pass safe, there's still Crescent Reef!"

"Yeah--I was thinkin' about that, too, Annie!" said Peter.

"Crescent Reef?" Big Sam asked.

"It's a big two-mile string o' half-submerged rocks off the end o' the Totem-pole Pass," Annie told him. "An' heavy surf breaks over 'em even when the sea's flat. If they hit that, an' the barge explodes, all them containers--"

She broke off as Clem pounded along the deck and opened the door. "Coast Guard's broadcasting a general Menace to Navigation alarm to all shipping to stay clear of the pass and the approaches," he approached. "And a cutter's leaving Petersburg--"

"That's more'n 200 miles!" Peter rumbled.

"--and a Canadian destroyer from Prince Ruper," Clem finished.

"All that engine power an' speed,' said Big Sam harshly. "And it ain't worth what one tankful of oil would be to us! Any kind of oil, almost, that could burn! An' here we sit--the on'y ones near enough to help--as useless as fish out o' water."

"Sam!" Annie's voice was tense. "What ye said jest now about any kinda oil. Would that go fer--fer fish-liver oil?"

"Why--why, yes, I guess so," Big Sam replied. "In fact, I read someplace where a Scotch trawler with a hold full of it run out o' fuel in bad weather an' used it to get home on."

"A diesel trawler?" asked Annie quickly.

"Yeah--it was. Cost him about $1,200--it's pretty expensive stuff--but in a North Sea winter without fuel I guess it was worth it. Why d'ye ask, Annie?"

"Oh, nothin'," Annie said bitterly now. "Jest an idear I had what can't be made to work when we're stuck here, not able to move, anyway. Clem, git back up an' keep tryin' till ye git through to Bullwinkle. Or wait--here's Pinto wid the coffee. Ye kin take some up wid ye."

"Well, at least the galley range is burnin'," Peter grunted. "Good thing the tank's so small, or Bullwinkle might ha' drained that one too. Sam, if ya're through wi' the sugar--"

There was a crash, and they swung around, staring.

"It was me!" said Annie, on her feet and mopping coffee from her front. And again her blue eyes were ablaze. "I dropped me cup--an' who cares! Sam, I'm a fool not to think of it afore! But if the galley fuel was in yer bunkers, would there be enough to take us three or four miles?"

"Just about, Annie. But what good--"

"Never mind that!" she yelled triumphantly. "Transfer it! Siphon it! Whatever ye hafta do! Git goin', quick! Peter, kick Hank an' Shif'less up on deck and raise the hook, then hustle up to the wheelhouse!"

"But--but what for, Annie?" Peter stammered, dumbfounded. "Where are we go--"

"To Deep Cove, o' course! Where else?" Annie, a sparking dynamo now, shoved them impatiently toward the door. "Come on! Come on! Shake the ballast out! What the blue-starred h-- we waitin' fer?"

It was daybreak when the Narcissus, at top speed, raced into Totempole Pass, with Peter, who was at the wheel, taking expert advantage of every current and eddy. Anxiety had been heightened when, just before leaving the anchorage, Clem finally had reached the Salamander with Annie's urgent plea to cut the barge adrift; but in mid-speech Mr. Bullwinkle's static-garbled reply abruptly had ceased, and nothing further had been heard. So a tense and constant watch was maintained on the waters ahead.

Then as the Narcissus rounded a jutting bluff two-thirds of the way through, Hank yelled and pointed from the top of the wheelhouse to where, about a half-mile ahead, the Salamander lay stranded, broadside to, on a tide-covered sandbar at the foot of a high, sheer precipice, with the sodden, frightened crew clustered dejectedly outside the galley, and the severed barge lines hanging raggedly overside.

At the jubilant shouts of his crew Mr. Bullwinkle scuttled quickly out on deck and stared at the rapidly approaching Narcissus as avidly as his men; but by the time she was within hailing distance he had assumed an indifferent, hands-in-pockets slouch against the housing and an expression of bovine vacuity.

Still moving fast, the Narcissus swung closer inshore, and Annie leaned over the rail. "Hi there, Robin Caruso!" she bawled. "See what tanglin' wid me gits ye--a wet behind an' a empty gut! So now how do ye like it?"

"Great--til you sprouted up," he replied indifferently.

"Ok, I'll leave ye to enj'y it! An' if ye git fed up waitin', ye kin allus parlay yer monkey blood into a shinny up that cliff!" she gibed and, with a long whistle blast, the Narcissus swept on.

"Stupid arse never even axed where we got the fuel oil!" Annie snapped, incensed, to Peter. "But never mind--I'll leave no stone unthrowed to even up wid him when we get back."

"If we do get back, Annie," Peter amended bluntly--a chill reminder of what might lie ahead; for the barge could be piled up as the Salamander was, spreading a deadly atomic trap for them around any channel turn.

But nothing occurred; and less than an hour later the sparkling, sunlit blue of the seaward approach opened up, foamstreaked under the whip of the morning breeze, and with surf exploding in snowy thunder against the black fangs of the Crescent Reef five miles ahead.

With wind-blown hair and flapping skirt Annie braced herself on the heaving deck while, through powerful binoculars, her tired eyes anxiously searched the tumbling waste. The she saw it--a bobbing shape deep in the curve of the far-flung reef, and drifting inexorably closer to the maelstrom of spouting surf.

Quickly she entered the wheelhouse to give Peter the course. "But if we foller her too far in, we could git the bottom tore out of us by one o' them submerged rocks," she told him grimly. "Ye--ye ain't sure you an' the boys is willin' to risk it?"

"Ya asked us before, Annie. We told ya," he said quietly. "Want to take the wheel now, while I go below and help Hank and Shiftless get the lines ready?"

Firmly her big, calloused fists gripped the spokes, and she headed toward where she had last seen the barge, the Narcissus' powerful bulk shouldering the seas away in fans of hissing foam, and rapidly the distance was closed. Then, smashing through the wild outer line of surf, the tug rose on the bottle-green spoke of a giant comber; and in seconds the boat was battling a made, white chaos, with roaring crests hurtling aft and flying high over the wheelhouse within which Annie, mastering the kicking wheel with iron hands, pitted the cunning of long years of experience against the savage fury of her ancient enemy, the sea.

With only an occasional glimpse of the wallowing barge she kept blindly on; and then suddenly the Narcissus was almost on top of it as it rose in the grip of a smoking crest, moving implacably toward a pinnacle of jagged, brine-sluiced rock less than a hundred yards away.

But in a split-second gamble with disaster Annie took her last chance and, when the rock's dripping bulk emerged from a trough, drove straight in. With pain-stabbed muscles and grinding teeth, her mastiff face a mask of indomitable determination, she spun the wheel hard over, wrenching her tug around, parallel with the barge's length. Taking a glancing collision as part of the risk, she then held unflinchingly to her position, which, for a few heart-stopping seconds, gave some measure of protection to Peter and the deck hands as they darted out from cover and threw the loop of a towline over one of the barge's towing bits.

For one terrifying moment the barge soared high above the Narcissus' rail with its cargo of potential death, of instantaneous oblivion. But with all the strength of her massive body Annie again jammed the wheel hard over the tug sheered away. With the tug clear of the sinister white hell of the reef, the towing engine reeled out the hawser; then, with easy control, picked up the slack so that gradually the barge began to lurch around, then to follow as the Narcissus fought her way back to the sparkle of sunlight on blue water and the world of ships and men.

Pale and sweating and soaked to the skin, Peter stumbled into the wheel-house. "Whe-ew! We'll never come closer'n that, Annie!" he gasped. "I just dunno how we ever made it."

"That's kinda silly, Peter," she replied quietly, kneading her cramped, numb fingers. "The Lord was on our side last night when He let us find that oil; so He sure as--as heck wasn't gonna let us down today! An' now"--she was all brisk business again--"whiles Pinto rassles up some breakfast we'll sashay out off soundin's an' dump that bargeload o' misery like we set out to do. Then after that"--and she grinned complacently--"guess what?"

"Bullwinkle?"

"An' how! An' time I let that imitation Skylock offa the skillet he's gonna be flatter'n a poorhouse pancake!"

Back on the marooned Salamander, however, after the ebb tide had run out, Mr. Bullwinkle, assisted by the sardonically amused Jake, already had taken rueful stock of his position; for low tide revealed that, although the Salamander's hull was intact, repair of the propeller and rudder would require being towed to a fully equipped ship repair yard, the nearest being nearly 200 miles away. Although the vessel had not struck hard, and probably would float free at high tide without help, because it lacked motive power this was a liability instead of an asset; for if she went adrift again she might pile up on a rock instead of sand--and, as Jake with some relish pointed out, with consequent total loss.

"So ya're gonna hafta depend on Annie, like it or not," said Jake with a grin.

"Yeah," Mr. Bullwinkle glumly agreed. "Guess that's right--if she's got enough fuel to get back here, that is. An' I'd shore as hell like to know where she got it! Anyway, if she takes the Salamander off an' tries to claim salvage--"

"After what you done to her last night?" Jake laughed shortly. "She won't just want a tooth for a tooth. She's gonna take yer whole bridge-work. And there ain't a thing ya can--"

"Aw, shut up!" his employer snarled. "Go get lost. I gotta think!"

But contemplation of the bind he was in was so depressing, the prospect of coaxing or conning Annie into a mood short of total usury so bleak, that he stomped off to his cabin and tossed in uneasy slumber until, with the flood tide filling the pass, he was awakened by the raucous blare of the Narcissus' siren.

When, stumbling and bleary-eyed, Mr. Bullwinkle reached the deck, the tide already was lapping halfway up the Salamander's hull, with her crew at the rail, staring eagerly at the rescuing Narcissus as she idled a few roaring crests hurtling aft and flying high over the wheelhouse within which Annie, mastering the kicking wheel with iron hands, pitted the cunning of long years of experience against the savage fury of her ancient enemy, the sea.

With only an occasional glimpse of the wallowing barge she kept blindly on; and then suddenly the Narcissus was almost on top of it as t rose in the grip of a smoking crest, moving implacably toward a pinnacle of jagged, brine-bluiced rock less than a hundred yards away.

But in a split-second gamble with disaster Annie took her last chance and, when the rock's dripping bulk emerged from a trough, drove straight in. With pain-stabbed muscles and grinding teeth, her mastiff face a mask of indomitable determination, she spun the wheel hard over, wrenching her tug around, parallel with the barge's length. Taking a glancing collison as part of the risk, she then held unflinchingly to her position, which, for a few heart-stopping seconds, gave some measure of protection to Peter and the deck hands as they darted out from cover and threw the loop of a towline over one of the barge's towing bits.

For one terrifying moment the barge soared high above the Narcisus' rail with its cargo of potential death, of instantaneous oblivion. But with all the strength of her massive body Annie again jammed the wheel hard over and the tug sheered away. With the tug clear of the sinister white hell of the reef, the towing engine reeled out the hawser; then, with easy control, picked up the slack to that gradually the barge began to lurch around, then to follow as the Narcissus fought her way back to the sparkle of sunlight on blue water and the world of ships and men.

Pale and sweating and soaked to the skin, Peter stumbled into the wheelhouse. "Whe-ew! We'll never come closer'n that, Annie" he gasped. "I just dunno how we ever made it."

"That's kinda silly, Peter," she replied quietly, kneading her cramped, numb fingers. "The Lord was on our side last night when He let us find that oil; so He sure as--as heck wasn't gonna let us down today! An' now"--she was all brisk business again--"whiles Pinto rassles up some breakfast we'll sashay out off soundin's an' dump that bargeload o' misery like we set out to do. Then after that"--and she grinned complacently--"guest what?"

"Bullwinkle?"

"An' how! An' time I let that imitation Skylock offa the skillet he's gonna be flatter'n a poorhouse pancake!"

Back on the marroned Salamander, however, after the ebb tide had run out, Mr. Bullwinkle, assisted by the sardonically amused Jake, already had taken rueful stock of his position; for low tide revealed that, although the Salamander's hull was intact, repair of the propeller and rudder would require being towed to a fully equipped ship repair yard, the nearest being nearly 200 miles away. Although the vessel had not struck hard, and probably would flat free at high tide without help, because it lacked motive power this was a liability instead of an asset; for if she went adrift againt she might pile up on a rock instead of sand--and, as Jake with some relish pointed out, with consequent total loss.

"So ya're gonna hafta depend on Annie, like it or not," said Jake with a grin.

"Yeah," Mr. Bullwinkle glumly agree. "Guess that's right--if she's got enough fuel ot get gackhere, that is. An' I'd shore as hell like to know where she got it! Anyway, if she takes the Salamander off an' tries to claim salvage----"

"After what you done to her last night?" Jake laughed shortly. "Seh won't just want a tooth for a tooth. She's gonna take yer whole bridgework. And there ain't a thing ya can----"

"Aw, shut up!" his employer snarled. "Go get lost. I gotta think!"

But contemplation of the bind he was in was so depressing, the prospect of coaxing or conning Annie into a mood short of total usury so bleak, that he stomped off to his cabin and tossed in uneasy slumber until, with the flood tide filling the pass, he was awakened by the raucous blare of the Narcissus' siren.

When, stumbling and bleary-eyed, Mr. Bullwinkle reached the dec, the tide already was lapping halfway up the Salamander's hull, with her crew at the rail, staring eagerly at the rescuing Narcissus as she idled a few yards off, with Annie, grim-faced staring at them from the fantail. Quickly he decided that his wisest opening gambit would be the smiling face and friendly wave.

"Hello there, pal," he hailed jovially. "Fancy seein;--I mean," he amended hastily, "glad to see ya-- glad to see ya!"

"Le's see how glad ye'll be when I git through wid ye," she responded to him impassively. "OK, you fellers," she addressed. "Get yer gear. I'm takin' ye off."

"Now wait a minute, Annie," Mr. Bullwinkle grieved. "All we need is yore towline an' a little pull!"

"Ain't nothin' in the book forces a vessel to save property. On'y lives," she told him curtly.

"But what about my Salamander?" he yelled desperately. "She's all I got! An' if the tide snatches her----"

Annie shrugged indifferently. "That aint's skin off my pachydermous. Come on, you guys. Git movin'!"

"But I'll pay ya good, pal! Honest!" he pleaded as they started away from the rail. "Please! Anythin' ya want, you name it!"

"What I want is to see you hung," said Annie. "Until then, this'll hafta do. So listen careful. I want double payment fer the oil ye swiped from me last night an' a full tank refill when we git in; fifteen hundred bucks to tow yet to Port Barry shipyard; an' double standard towin' rates fer the time ye made me lose. Them things is a must, do don't let's bandy no verbs."

"OK, OK, dear!" agreed Mr. Bullwinkle hastily. "An' now if ya'll heave us yer line--"

"I ain't through wid ye yet, ye buttsprung ape," said Anniee calmly. "There's one thinkg more yet got to pay me fer."

"Hold everythin', hcum," Jake muttered quickly. "Here comes the salvage gouge."

And Mr. Bullwinkle, bracing himself to be meek, said, "An' what was that little thing, sweetheart?"

"The fist-liver oil," Annie told him, "what we stole to fill our fuel tanks wid last night in Deep Cove."

"F-fish-liver oil?" stammered Mr. Bullwinkle. "Are you nuts?"

"Twas you t telled me about them storage tanks. But when we got there the watchman got ornery an' wouldn't give, ledn or sel.. Guess his belly's sore yet--Big Sam had to sit on it so long whiles our tanks was fillin'," Annie said.

"Wait a minute," Jake interjected. "When you was anchored ya had no oil. So how'd ya get to Deep Cove?"

"We was towed by a shark. Said he was a friend o' yours," Annie told him. "So now shut yer puss! I'm talkin' to Bullwinkle. Now like I was saying', Horatio, ye're gonna pay that too. An' ye'd better have a net handy to fall into when ye git the bill."

"How much, then?" asked Mr. Bullwinkle bravely. "Fish oil's on'y fish oil. So it can't be too--"

"This kind is--as you oughta know. Ye towed some of it. In fack"--Annie grinned suddenly--"it's so vallyable that TExas millionaires uses it her blood. But all it'll cost you is what the watchman screamed last night when we was takin' joff--$3,000."

"What I'll hafta pay?" Mr. Bullwinkle roared, outranged.

"Who else, pal?" Annie paused. Then, "Any objections?" she asked mildly, her eyes, like blue ice, on his congested face.

There was quite a silence during which Annie patiently waited, while Mr. Bullwinkle's mind performed some interesting financial gymnastics. Then he shook his head. "No," he said finally but with some difficulty. "No objections."

"Tell me somethin', Annie," Peter asked when, at length, the Narcissus chugged serenely back out of Totempole Pass, with the empty barge alongside the Salamander on a towline astern. "Why'd ya let Bullwinkle off the hook about salvage for savin' for the Salamader? Ya could ha' took him fer plenty!"

"Yeah, prob'ly. but--well, I let it dangle apurpose. He's got all them other things to pay an'--an' after all, he's got a livin' to make wid the Salamander. So I guess mebbe I never will try an' collect on that. Though I could--an' he knows it, the dirty ratscallion!"

While speaking, she had turned her back to him; and Peter saw that her shoulders were convulsively shaking.

"Aw, come on, Annie, pal," he said, puzzled and concerned. "It's yore business, o' course. I didn't mean to upset ya!"

"I ain't upset, stupid," she said. "I'm laffin'." And when she turned back to him her eyes were wet, her big body still shaking in a paroxysm of silent mirth.

"What's the joke then?" Peter asked, grinning in sympathy.

"I--I dunno. There's jest somethin' about that no-good Bullwinkle what hits me funnybone at times; though other times I could kill him! But if ye ain't got nobody to be made at an' laugh at too, what fun is they in life? So I guess I'll be a sucker fer his impident brand o' hopeless pocus as long as I live."
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Title Annotation:part 2; short story
Author:Raine, Norman Reilly
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:May 1, 1991
Words:3609
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