Uncle Bill Installment #12

From Nassau, I phoned Bob and we exchanged our usual topics of conversation … the daily junk that old married folk talk about when they’re apart: His golf score. The latest neighborhood news. The size, color, regularity and consistency of our dog’s poop. The mail – there’s a small  package from my cousin, Kate. Years ago I’d sent her a set of jewelry our Uncle Bill had given to our Grandmother. Kate had emailed that she’d sent it back to me. The jewelry didn’t make it in time for me to take it to San Salvador Island. It would’ve been cool to wear it there, but no big deal. During the layover in Nassau, we perused places Bill had photographed.

 

Bill’s photo of The Queen’s Staircase”. Fort Fincastle, Nassau. B.W.I. 1956.

 

My photo of the same staircase, using Bill’s Argus A2B. 2024.

 

My first flight the next morning was a 6 hour trip from Nassau to Los Angeles. My mind was abuzz and I wrote in my notebook the entire time. All the stuff on the island needed to get vomited onto the page. Fortunately for you readers, I won’t post it all here. [Collective sigh of relief.]

 

 

That psychic … She’d been so far off the mark. Or was she?

 

Still clinging to my hopes of keeping an open mind, I decided to try to prove without a doubt that each thing she said was wrong. I had brought with me copies of letters Uncle Bill had written to his sister, Jane. I re-read the letters. I also re-read copies of the Government Report on Bill’s death. I had to tell myself that I’ve read between the lines of these papers so many times, by now I’ve created my own bias. Bias toward what I thought I’d been told by my family. Did they really tell me these things? Did I jump to my own conclusions about how things were?

 

A few of Tammy the psychic’s statements about Bill:

(Here’s a link to the entire psychic medium transcript.)

 

“He just wanted to make money and retire in the Bahamas. He said he loved it there. “

 

In one of his letters, he expressed his fatigue with Mayaguana, where he was first stationed. Then he referred to the islands as a “tropical paradise”.

 

“This guy was driven by money.” :

I hadn’t thought Bill was driven by money – I set out to disprove that and found a mention in a letter where he sold fish he’d caught for 20 cents per pound, noting that he had caught 55 pounds of fish that day.

 

A portion of Uncle Bill’s letter to his sister, dated 1956.

Why would a guy who has a decent job and no financial responsibilities need to sell fish at 20 cents per pound? That’s $11.

 

“He was up to something that wasn’t on the up and up.”

Why was he in such a hurry to take the boat out a second time that day? Why did he take the boat without permission? Why did he plan to come back after dark? Was it truly to see what kind of “monster fish” was down there? It’s a pain in the ass to clean a fish after dark. Was it truly to reach 300 feet … in a hurry … after dark?

 

“He was an entrepreneur and had his hands in a lot of things…”

 

The business letterhead peaks my curiosity. (He’s written a letter on it upside-down here.) Was he running a service company on the side while working for RCA? Maybe he was “wheeling and dealing”?

 

Bill definitely was a fishing enthusiast. Always had been.

“I think he has a daughter.”

 

There’s nothing to say he doesn’t. If he does, I hope to meet her some day.

 

I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t definitely say she was wrong. About anything.

 

Snake Eyes had said Bill & Don were diving for black Coral. He’d said it so matter-of-factly. If you plug black coral into the picture, it really matches up. In 1958 it wasn’t necessarily illegal to harvest back coral, as it is now. I learned later that gathering and selling black coral back then would’ve been frowned upon. The U.S. employees had been instructed not to interfere in any way with the local dynamic. He flew on military flights so his luggage wouldn’t have been scrutinized, as it is today. Black coral is deep sea coral and he was a deep sea diver. He would’ve been returning to shore at a time when no one was around. Was that planned?

 

Back in Washington state:

 

As usual, I arrived home late at night. The next morning over coffee, I sorted the mail. Oh yeah…. the package from Kate. I opened it, remembering the mid-century modern shape of the silver necklace and earrings. I pulled the pieces out of the packaging material. A glance and immediate recognition. Why hadn’t I noticed it before?

 

Black coral set in silver.

Back to Installment #11.

 

You can keep track of updates and photos, beyond what I post on my site, on my Whatsapp channel “Outermost Uncle“.

10 Responses

    1. Pam: I’m not making plans to write a mystery novel anytime soon. Ha! There are just so many ways things could’ve gone down on San Salvador in 1958. I believe black coral is the reason my uncle went diving that day. Really, though? It could’ve been any of a number of reasons.

  1. Thanks for this Marcy – I was on the verge of writing my own installment just to tide me over until yours was posted :l

    1. Ha! Randy, I do take my own time, grinding these things out. I’ll bet you can hear the gnashing gears from where you are. I overthink an installment so much that sometimes I feel I’ve already written it.

  2. Fascinating pieces of this puzzle slowly weaving together… Anxiously awaiting the next installments!

  3. Marcy you had me so captivated and you just leave me hanging off the deep end, you ended it all too soon. Please we need to hear more in installment 13.

    1. You, my dear, are the true cliff hanger. I believe you’re up next. [Biting my fingernails …]

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