By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By David Villano
By Jose D. Duran
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Luther Campbell
Then Robb showed a new assertiveness, says his sister Linda. "Robb is interesting, I think, because he's very measured and mild. But when he feels strongly about something, you can't change his mind."
There was no way Robb could return to his studies while Harrison was missing. "My parents were very opposed to the idea of me missing any school," he says. "It meant a lot to them that I stay on and graduate. I had to fight to drop out, but I finally got the dean to approve it. I have a feeling down deep my father was pleased."
Robert Sr. showed a new confidence in his son. After some discussion, they decided Robb would do some investigating in Miami in early January while his father manned the phones in Massachusetts.
"I must admit I was very naive and very ill-equipped for something like that," Robb says. "I'd never really spent any time in big cities at all."
To save money, Robb carpooled with a cousin who was headed to Miami for spring break. He stayed in a warehouse on the Miami River that was owned by his grandfather and used to store floats for the King Orange Jamboree parade. "I remember in the mornings I would go down to the river and shave," Robb says. "I remember getting scared to death by a manatee one morning. It was just swimming along, but I had no idea what it was."
Bigger shocks were in store.
In 1963 Miami was home to a massive CIA headquarters and ground zero for anti-Fidel Castro activity. El dictador had taken over the island four years earlier, and the aborted Bay of Pigs invasion took place in April 1961. The Cuban Missile Crisis concluded only two months before Robb arrived in Miami.
Both the Miami News and the Herald picked up on the story of the missing crew. The Newstracked down Edison Higgs, the captain of the Bahamian fishing boat that found the Revenge. Higgs said the bullets appeared to have penetrated the Revenge's hull from the inside out. Headlines across the nation read like something out of a Robert Ludlum novel: "Castro Slaughter Hinted in Bahamas," "Did Gunfire Sink Lost Ship Revenge?" "Did Cuban Killer Boat Get Three Lost Miamians?"
"I talked to the man who actually owned the boat my brother was on," Robb recalls. Trevor Davies, a sunburned fellow in his mid-forties who worked at another warehouse on the river, claimed to know little about the fishing trip. He simply supplied the boat for a fee.
But Davies was sure violence had been involved. "Miami was just steeped in this talk of Castro, and everyone had a theory about what the CIA would do next," Robb says. "Davies was literally ready to kill someone. He couldn't stop talking about mounting a 50-caliber machine gun on one of his boats and hunting for the guys who did this."
Davies stormed off, and Robb was left talking to a Cuban pilot who was hanging around Davies's warehouse. "This guy started telling me about flying over Cuba on weekends in a Piper Cub and throwing sticks of dynamite out the window," Robb says. "I'm going, 'Where have I come to?'"
Robb met with various Coast Guard investigators, as well as two Miami Newsreporters who'd written about his brother's disappearance Hal Hendrix (who would win a Pulitzer that year for revealing Cuba's installation of Russian missile-launching pads and importation of Soviet MiG 21 fighter planes) and Miller Davis. He gleaned no new information from them.
Then he tracked down Gil Rahm's wife, Lila, an encounter that left an indelible mark. "I'd been calling her all week, and I couldn't get hold of her," Robb remembers. "Finally I was told, 'She's at the Hut.' She was leaning against the bar, and she looked older than 40. It was apparent that she was pretty drunk. I asked her if she knew my brother. She didn't have much to say except that she wasn't too concerned that her husband was missing....
"Then she said, 'Do you have any money?'
"I said, 'A little.'
"She said, 'How much would you pay to sleep with me?'
"I said, 'I'm sorry?'"
Robb went home after two weeks, fundamentally frightened for his brother and jarred by the surreal world he'd encountered in Miami.
Spencer Meredith sits at a wooden table at Scotty's Landing, adjacent to the Grove Key Marina, where he was once manager and co-owner, and shakes his head at four-decade-old memories. A hale 73 years old, the gray-haired retiree affects a WASPy politeness. He contends that Harrison Annable's disappearance had nothing to do with politics.
After the Bay of Pigs, Miami's anti-Castro activists exchanged more dialogue than ammunition, he says. "Everybody talked. Everybody said they were connected to the CIA or to Alpha 66; everybody knew how to get guns or weapons or whatever; everybody predicted Castro's imminent assassination. It was a lot of talk."
Meredith says the Bahamas in those years drew vessels from all over the Caribbean. "There were Cuban fast boats, there were anti-Castro fast boats, there were fishermen and poachers from all over the Caribbean and Miami, so it's easy to see how there could have been some confusion at the outset."