Through and Over The Sea

Through

I'm in a car with a dark-haired man who is known to me, but I can't remember his name. We're driving down an unusual road that heads out towards - and into - the ocean. The road itself is narrow, and laid with two sets of railway tracks, recessed into the ground so a car can go over them without losing its suspension. On the right hand side, there is a low stone wall, no more than four feet high. On the right is a taller wall, that is initially paneled with wood, and then later becomes algae-covered granite.

The road leads from the seashore out into the ocean - like a very narrow peninsula - and even though we are nearly a half mile away from land, the waves of the ocean never swell over the short wall on the right. On the left side, it becomes apparent that the wall is actually the edge of a narrow promontory that juts out into the sea for an unknown distance.

After an unknown time, my friend pulls over the car and we both scramble up the algae-slicked rock onto the promontory/pier to marvel at the strange phenomena of the ocean that is retained by a tiny wall. It's quite the tourist attraction, and I meet several of my co-workers there. Although the day is gray and blustery, there are dozens of people perched on the uncomfortable pier, watching the waves. Occasionally - because it's high tide - a wave will splash over the retaining wall, but those who are soaked stay in good spirits. It's a calculated risk, like sitting in the front row at Sea World.

Try as I might, I can't determine if the ocean is freakishly shallow this distance from shore, or if the short wall is some nigh-mystical barrier. Still, it's thrilling to be this close to the unbarred waves. It's like being in a small boat on the water, but with the security of feeling dry land beneath one's feet.

Over

I'm on an ocean liner, leaning on a railing near the waterline. The setting and scenery is much like Through but this is a different place and time. I'm taking in the wind going through my hair and the encroaching sight of my destination on the horizon and enjoying every moment of it.

A co-worker of mine, Jay, comes up to the railing and we start talking. Free of the work-environment, we get along very well and even flirt a little. A little becomes a lot, and we make a date to catch up with each other once we're on shore to escalate the discussion in private. Gleefully unconcerned about possible ramifications in my workplace, I go for a walk around the ship.

At one point, the ship is passed by a very strange vessel that seems to be one part oil-tanker and one part speedboat. It's large, long and narrow, riding low in the water - as per an oil tanker - but it moves at a high rate of knots and corners like a sports boat. The strange vessel comes up from behind the liner, sharply cuts it off and blasts off towards the piers, leaving us bobbing rather alarmingly in its wake. From my vantage point - still on a lower deck - I see that this large ship only has a crew of two, a man and a woman, but judging by their expressions, they were having a grand time...

We are entering a large harbor at this point, New York City, and the setting subtly shifts to the first or second decade of the twentieth century. I am surrounded by shabby, hopeful immigrants, and I remember that I have to meet someone at the aft exit when it's time to disembark. As the ship is pulling in to a quay and the passengers are patiently lining up - all of them preparing to deal with customs - I find the one I'm looking for.

My appointment is with an grizzled man in his mid-thirties - although he looks older. He is missing his left arm and leg, and he gets around rather awkwardly with crutch tucked under his right arm. I take him by the elbow and offer to help him in the line. He appreciates that, and we start to talk.         "So, what are you going to do in America?" I ask him.
        He smiles knowingly, "I'm not going to be like most of these poor saps, working for pennies a day like they did back home. I've got a job all lined up. A good one."
        I'm intrigued by this statement, but I can't divulge the reasons to him. "Oh really? Doing what?"
        "I'm joining a gang," he declares proudly. "The best gang in New York City. They need a lookout and I'm going to be it. Who's going to pay attention to some cripple begging in the street, or resting on a stoop?" The man is quite proud of his luck.
        I make a great show of thinking about what he's told me. "I don't think you're going to be a very good criminal." I tell him, slowly.
        He take offense, of course. "What makes you say that?" he demands.
        "Well, you've just told me, a complete stranger, about your plans." I shrug. "For all you know, I'm with the police." As I'm speaking, two men come up behind me, drawing closer to the one-armed man. A third man, in front of him in the line, is also drawing closer. All of them are listening to my conversation.
        The cripple laughs at that notion, of course. Who had ever heard of a woman in the police force, much less a detective?
        "Or it could be even worse," I continue. "I could be in that gang." I suggest, all banter gone from my tone.
        That brings the man up short. He suddenly notices the three others pressing in close. "Yeah," I tell him real quietly. "You could have blabbed that to a member of the gang, not only proving that you can't keep your mouth shut, but signing your death warrant in the process..."

And with that, one of the men behind me swiftly stabs the unfortunate immigrant in the back. Indeed, all of us are part of the gang who were going to hire the cripple as a lookout, and this had been our test to see if he was trustworthy. Unsurprisingly, he failed. Undaunted, we leave the body slumped against a railing and sneak off the ship.

Back in the city, I am with the leader of the gang, a young Italian-American right out of central casting - good looking, surly and given to fits of jealousy. I tell him that I met a potential patsy on the trip - Jay - and that I was going to be spending some time with him over the next few days. The boss, who I have a relationship with, does not take that well, and he makes dark mutterings about breaking Jay's legs.

I sharply remind my hot-tempered lover that these scams (sweetheart scams, maybe? It's unclear) always pay off, and he's going to have to cope with my spending time with other men from time to time. I blow in his ear and generally convince him that I love him, and I'll never leave him for any of the rubes we con. The Italian is reassured by that, even while I'm thinking Thank God I can get out of the house for a few days and spend time away from this oaf. I actually rather like Jay, and I'm feeling vague guilty feelings for setting him up, but a gal's gotta survive or something.

One of my fellow gangsters tell me that Jay's at the door, asking after me. The Italian has another episode of temper, but I manage to talk him out of storming up to Jay and tearing him in half. I tell the gangster to ask Jay to wait, while I get ready...

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