Chapter 11 A Ferry Crossing with Elsbeth Snupter

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The ferry horn blasted as the two inspectors came running up Colman Dock.

"The car deck is nearly done boarding," Fisher panted. They ran the stairs two at a time until they reached the upper level of the terminal where they could watch the line of cars driving onto the auto deck. Ferry workers directed the cars, dividing them into two steady rows to maintain balance.

"There she is," Riggs said as he pointed to a moving automobile, "the silver hardtop Bel Air, there."

Fisher nodded and the two men hurried into the foot passenger terminal. At the curved glass toll booth, Riggs straightened his hat and said, "Two tickets to wherever that ferry is going."

"Two tickets on the Winslow ferry," the man explained. He was gray and proper and apparently unimpressed with ambiguity. "Round trip or one way?"

"Round trip."

"That'll be 80 cents."

Riggs dropped the coins on the brass counter and pushed them under the glass. The attendant tore two blue tickets off the reel and pushed them back.

"How soon will it leave?"

There was an oversized black and white clock on the wall but the seasoned attendant didn't bother to look at it. "She departs in one minute. Take the doors on your right."

Inspector Riggs took the tickets and thanked him. Since the other passengers had already boarded, the smoky waiting room was completely empty and their footsteps echoed as they ran passed the high windows and long wooden benches. When they stepped back outside, the salt air hit their noses. They could see the last foot passenger ahead of them handing over her ticket. They followed onto the suspended passenger ramp that lead to the ferry's upper deck. On some of the smaller boats, passengers still had to board on the lower deck with the cars, but the Bainbridge Island crossing boasted the newest ferries in the fleet. It had all the bells and whistles, including a separated raised bridge for foot traffic.

Riggs and Fisher stepped onto the metal hanging footbridge and handed their tickets over to the ferry worker. The safety chains rattled as the boat swayed and the cars beneath them thumped rhythmically as each axil rolled from the steel bridge to the steel car deck. As soon as the rumbling stopped, a series of whistles, horns, and pulling chains indicated that the boat was preparing to leave dock. Within moments the preparations were finished and a tumultuous torrent of white water erupted between the ferry and the dock. The whistle sounded loudly as the massive boat pushed away. As it distance between the stern and the dock widened, fresh cars were already lining up on the pier to catch the next sailing.

The disturbed seagulls took flight and squawked incessantly until they were able to resettle onto their pilings. The wind grew strong and the city began to shrink into the distance. Although Riggs seldom rode the ferry, he knew it only took half an hour to reach the island. "Come on," he said, patting Fisher's shoulder. "Let's go find her. The clock is ticking and we could run out of time."

Inside, the passenger deck smelled of strong coffee, cigarettes, and sourdough bread. Small groups of passengers were claiming the best booths by the windows. And solo passengers settled in the middle seating area with their newspapers so they wouldn't be disturbed.

Riggs was just beginning to wonder if Elsbeth Snupter had decided to stay in her Bel Air when he saw her sitting alone by a window. She was wearing a blue suit and a tasteful felt hat to match. Her long charcoal coat was lying beside her and her shoes and her handbag were black.

Riggs nodded at Fisher, and the men approached her.

"Miss Snupter?" Riggs said, lifting his hat.

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