Anna, a twenty-something college graduate, is without a job comparable to her education. She works as a part-time bartender and also as pilot of her father’s fishing boat in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, a city proclaiming itself “the tuna canning capital of the world” in the 1990s.
Max is an academic who was maybe once in the CIA. He is a member of a staid, wealthy New England lobstering family that has branched out to buy one of the Mayaguez tuna plants. When word reaches them (thanks to Anna) of some “fishy” activities regarding their latest acquisition, they send Max to investigate.
Anna and Max would rather find out more about each other, but in no time they are embroiled in a high-seas smuggling run, tracked by the U.S. Coast Guard. The bad guy has an assault rifle in his trombone case, so it’s not your parents’ Caribbean cruise—romance will have to wait.
Anna had a reputation as the best pilot in the fleet. Running in the daytime or at night didn’t phase her one little bit. At the top of the windshield Anna had hung a little plastic Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and a similar statue of Ganesha, the Hindu god reputed to remove obstacles. She would tell anyone that asked that she piloted with the help of the saints, Hindu and other gods, and a little bit of Puerto Rican Santería as well. She was also totally skilled in the use of her compass, radar, and other instruments.
Captain Bob, who was actually the captain of the boat, stood behind his daughter. He was in his sixties. He wore a T-shirt and cut-off jeans with a captain’s cap atop his white hair. He had a worried look on his weathered face.
“I don’t like running in the dark, even for the money Señor Cofresí pays us,” he said.
“I keep telling you something’s not right with all this,” Anna replied.
Her father shrugged.
“I know we need the money, but why is he meeting these guys out on the high seas at night?”
“He’s conducting business with them,” her father said with a sigh that said the fact should certainly be obvious.
Anna rolled her eyes. “Why can’t he just call them on the phone in the afternoon?”
“They’re Cubans. The government doesn’t let us do business with Cubans. What if he calls them, and the FBI is listening in?”
Anna shook her head. “I know we need the money, since we’re not doing as much fishing these days—”
Her father cut her off. “Times’ll get better,” he reassured her.
Anna did not respond.
“Well, I’d better get down to the galley,” her father said. “Señor Cofresí is expecting a fast game of cards with the crew while you get us to our rendezvous point.”
“Crew?” Anna asked. “You, me, and Captain Jim are the whole crew.”
“Captain Jim’s not really crew.”
“Right, he’s really your drinking buddy.”
“No, he’s a captain too. He just doesn’t have a boat right now.”
“Right, ’cause he wasn’t paying attention and ran the last one he had aground.”
Captain Bob shrugged. “He needed work. I signed him on.”
“He knows his stuff,” Anna agreed. “He’s better ’n all those young guys you’ve had, pretending to be real sailors, who always end up hitting on me.”
“Good help is hard to find,” her father said. “Anyway Señor Cofresí, who is paying us well for this little nighttime trip, wants to play cards till we meet up with his friends from Cuba.”
“Daddy, I understand.”
“And Señor Cofresí told me that if this meeting has a favorable business outcome, he will have an even bigger job for us in a few days.”
“I will pray to my saints and gods for that.” Anna smiled. “And I’ll also pray that you don’t gamble away the fee we’re getting for tonight’s job, in your damn game.”
“I will be careful,” her father promised. “Besides, with your saints and gods on my side, I might just win. They always help you steer us through just fine.”
Anna did not respond immediately. She was focused on her radar screen, compass, and other instruments.
“I can see you need to concentrate,” her father said. “God only helps those who help themselves. Isn’t that what they all say? I’d better get down to the galley.”
“Yes.” Then after a pause Anna added, “There’s something I’d better tell you about all this later, maybe tomorrow after work, because I know we’re going to get back to port pretty late tonight.”