The chances of the seeing some pretty strange things in life are great, if you just pay attention. However, the chances are exponentially increased if you happen to reside in the Florida Keys. The Keys seem to be a magnet for bizarre behaviour. Bieng a professional rubber tramp and sailor, I know wierd on a first name basis and Key West is just strange enough to hold my attention. There are not too many places in the world that drag queens race rolling beds down the main drag while a fat man in a loincloth and viking horns blows in a conch shell and yells, "It's Thorsday!" on a bicyle covered in Hawaiian leis. It is an interesting town to say the least. So when I heard the story of a man stealing a jetski and heading out on the open ocean because, he claimed, the C.I.A. was after him, I knew I had to write about it.
If I must tell the truth, my original intentions were to scribble down a tongue-in-cheek article dealing with crazy Conchs with waay too many Mojitos under their tin foil hats. It would have been very funny. I know, I wrote it. I cracked up at my own jokes. I have a wicked and irreverent sense of humor. It dealt with the influx of psychedelic mushrooms in Key West lately and the fact that Derek King could not possibly have found proper mental counselling because all of the professionals were at the Conch Republic Seafood Co. for happy hour. It was hilarious.
After investigating the tale further(primarily to avoid a libel suit), I cannot do that. More tragic than comical, this is the kind of story that you sometimes, as a writer, shy away from. The witnesses are vague, the family is distraught, and no matter what you ask, it is way too personal. I knew I had to persue this but was apprehensive right from the beginning.
On Monday, April 12th 2010, Derek King, a 36 year old man showed up at Island Watersports near the Westin Resort dressed in black, and stole a jetski from his employers. Claiming to be in fear of his life from the Central Intelligence Agency, who had been surveilling him for years and had already tried to kill him once, he jumped on the blue jetski at approximately 7 pm and was seen again by a sailboat 10 miles out at around 7:25. Derek King has not been seen since. The unsinkable jetski has never been recovered. The Coast Guard conducted numerous searches as did the family, who rented their own private planes for the rescue attempt. 2500 miles of ocean were searched as were the outlying islands. No sign of Derek was ever found and the search was called off Saturday the 17th.
My first response when I read the report in the Citizen was that this brother got ahold of some bad dope. Right? If you were not thinking the same thing, something is wrong with you. The next thought was that maybe the C.I.A. really was after him. I love a good conspiracy, myself. The old adage, "Just because you are paranoid, doesn't mean They aren't out to get you..." holds a lot of water within some of the circles that I run in and I suppose it stuck with me. It doesn't help that a drinking buddy of mine happens to be a full-fledged agent with Spooks, Inc. They are here and they are watching you Key Westers. Make no mistake about it. However, he will not answer my calls of late. Something to do with leaving him on Christmas Tree Island, passed out with no ride back because his big ass was too heavy to carry. So, prepared with questions regarding prior military experience, drug abuse, mental illness, and just plain criminal activity, I made my first calls to my sources at the police station. I was told, regretfully, that since it was still an open criminal investigation, no questions would be answered that day. I can respect that. Next was to the Coast Guard who would not speak to me at all. Thanks, guys.
Garry, the supervisor at Island Watersports, was more receptive to my queries. I learned about who Derek was as a person. The other employees also tried to help me fill in the blanks. They knew him. At least as much as a co-worker can know someone, I suppose. Nice guy, funny, liked to race motorcycles and was very good at one time, always wore black to work, no military experience but brother was a Search and Rescue pilot. Father in South Carolina. Mother formerly of Key West relocated to Port St. Lucie. Some phone numbers and general details concerning the search. Very helpful people at Island Watersports and I am indebted. My questions were answered, clearly and concisely, with no hint of hesitation. That is until I asked if Derek had ever displayed any bizarre behaviour before the jetski incedent. Any cigarette break conspiracy theories? No sooner than the question is asked, heads drop and there is a long pause with a slight nod from Garry Jaworski, Derek's boss. He confesses that one afternoon, Derek had asked Garry to help him find and remove the Government tracking device that the C.I.A. had planted in his vehicle. Also, Derek had once claimed that the C.I.A. had pumped propane gas into his shop in South Carolina in an attempt to kill him for something he had seen on the Internet that he wasn't supposed to have seen. I leave more confused than when I arrived.
First of all, where did Derek think he was going? He was seen for the last time 10 miles southwest of Key West on a recreational vehicle that has a range of 80-90 miles on a full tank of gas. If he really was running from the superspies, where was he going to go out there? The last I checked, the only things out there are tiny outlying islands and the Dry Tortugas, neither will sustain a man for very long. The rangers at Fort Jefferson would have him arrested as soon as the search was announced. Right? So where was he going?
I have known a few paranoiacs and schizophrenics in my day. I am proud to call many of them "friend". I know from crazy, ok? One of my ex-wives was crazier than a shithouse rat. Off-kilter they may be, my friends, but stupid they are not. Driving a jetski out into the middle of the ocean with no water, no food, no charts, for pete sake, is stupid. You are either genuinely terrified of someone on shore, completely ignorant of how little the Earth really thinks of you, or a common thief with an overactive imagination. I was determined to find out which one Derek King was.
My next call was to Gordon King, Derek's father. Gordon's distinguished British? accent sounds tired and melancholy. He confirms what has already been told to me by the co-workers and the newspapers. He is very pleasant but concerned that I make sure the article is as accurate as possible. I imagine had he been more familiar with my work, he probably would have hung up the phone. Again I say, my original intention was to make fun of Derek and the C.I.A. in the same article. Sidesplitting stuff, I tell you. Gordon expressed to me that yes, Derek had had a history of bi-polar and paranioac behaviour but had been off his meds for well over a year. He had been doing fine for all that time. No problems. Yes, Mom lived in Port St. Lucie but had been a long time resident of Key West. No, he did not use drugs. Yes, he had claimed that people were after him and he left South Carolina for that reason but that was a long time ago.
The most intriguing answer was given when I asked Mr. King if he thought his son was still alive. "I hope so. We are holding out hope for that. Especially after the phone call." What phone call, I ask. Alledgedly, Derek called the Commander of the American Legion and asked him if he still needed his car detailed. Huh? When was this? The next day after Derek's disappearance, Tuesday the 13th, Gordon tells me. They were going to be searching the phone records to verify. Ok, what the hell is going on here?
Secondly, even the thought of running a jetski aground, say...in the Marquesas, and dragging the 800 pound behemoth for enough inland to bury it or cover it sufficiently to disguise it from search planes, would take more than one person and even then it is improbable. Even if Derek decided the best place to hide would be on one of the outlying islands, where would he get fresh water? Someone with a shallow draft boat or another jetski would have to be bringing supplies to him or else even if Derek made it to an island out there, he was certainly doomed from the start. Unless, of course, he had planned this ahead of time and knew someone with a boat to meet him offshore and lend escape. Stranger things have happened here and stranger still are right around the corner, I am sure.
My last call went to Miller, Derek's best friend and according to Gordon King, a really good guy. Miller is a commercial flats fisherman here in the Florida Keys. We talk for a while about Derek as a person and he confirms what everyone has already said. Kind, intelligent, good sense of humor, superb jetski mechanic, drank a little beer, no dope, didn't kick dogs or women, all the usual. This is a guy you want to go drinking with, he picks up the tab and is still sober enough to drive you home. A normal joe, a working stiff with a weakness for things that go fast. Except for the fact that he claimed he could not touch a computer because They tracked him that way. Except for the fact that he was delusionally paranoid and chronically avoiding the medications that would possibly have saved his life, he was just like the guy sitting next to you at the coffee shop. Or the one in the mirror...
Where is Derek King? I don't know. I wish I did. I want to drink with this guy. If I were to find him, it would probably make my career as an investigative journalist, at least until I screwed it up with my own breed of crazy. I wish I knew. Not as much as his family and friends, I am positive but I feel for this guy. I am not real crazy about what our country has become since even before the JFK assassination, Watergate, and Bill getting his willie wet and I, like everyone else wonders what They are up to and I am scared sometimes. Derek King, I believe, was scared. Scared of the beasty evils in his fuddled mind. Scared of the same crap we all are, that They have too much control, know too much. Scared that we have no control over our own lives anymore. Scared of nothing and everything at the same time. Just scared. I can respect that.
I admit that I began this column with full intentions of poking irreverent fun at an unfunny situation but I just can't. I want to, I really do. It is a habit of mine to retreat into comedy when I am upset, hurt, nervous, or disturbed. I tried but the only punchline I can come up with is this...
If you have any information as to Derek King's whereabouts, please call 305-896-1306 and ask for me. I want to buy this guy a beer. He needs one.
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