When I said I became an orphan in ’97, that wasn’t entirely true. I concluded that hearing the words “you are dead to me” made me an orphan. My father and I had a falling out when he discovered my chosen profession. One of the hazards of my business is that, on occasion, one must whack a friend of a friend; in this case a friend of family. While spear fishing off the coast of Mumbai the spring of 1997, my father had the misfortune to watch his best mate fade away to the miry abyss of the Atlantic Ocean, tethered to a rapidly sinking Hindustan Ambassador.
Charles and dad were fast mates from their time together in The Big One. Often they enjoyed hunting and fishing together with other like-minded men from L.A.S.Hunt. Land Air Sea Hunt, sometimes known as the La’Shunt club, would execute a major and usually expensive hunting expedition every year. The outing provided them camaraderie and fuel for their braggadocio between trips. 1997 was the year for the Great African elephant hunt.
Charles and the old man were transporting a collection of old, “antique” as he called them, Hindustan Ambassadors from Mumbai to Madrid with the intention of selling them to finance their share of the expedition. Spotting game fish swimming near the ocean surface, the hunters wanted to secure yet another trophy. Without their own tackle, they scoured the ship until they discovered a couple of old, “antique” as pop would call them, whaling harpoons decoratively mounted to the wall in the captain’s quarters.
Always game for big game, my dad dove in off the Starboard bow, chasing the marlin, antique harpoon in hand. Charles attempted to leap from the ship to join the hunt, but his foot became entangled in one of the straps securing cars to the deck. He dangled helplessly, upside-down, over the side of the cargo ship, the rolling of the ship causing his body to slam repeatedly against the topsides.
I worked feverishly to free Charles but a rogue wave caught the vessel port side and as the ship rolled heavily to Starboard the weight of Charles and the car were too much for the remaining straps. The aged straps gave way allowing the Ambassador to roll over the side of the ship and into the water, dragging Charles with it.
Well, that was the story I reported to the authorities. I never figured my father would recognise a classic Detroit Dangler. Nor did I think he has the resources to trace the work to Kathmandu and subsequently, me.
All of that is irrelevant right now as I sneak into the pilothouse to use the ships’ Sat-phone to call him. I have, over the ensuing years, been in touch with the old man, but only for business. My father is the only reputable manufacturer of personal jet-packs in the eastern hemisphere. His company can deliver anywhere in the world with as little as 48 hour notice. I’ve braved wind and rain tonight to make my way to the unoccupied pilothouse.