From the first minute she got on that cruise ship, that elderly man had called her attention. Her curiosity just grew when she heard that he had been living there for years and not many people knew about his private life.
And when the ship docked and two police officers came looking for that man, she knew something for certain: she had to learn about that man’s story, whatever it took.
Jill Levine is a divorced mom and a reporter. When this story took place, she was on vacation. And since her two kids were spending a few weeks away from home with some friends, she decided to take some days of well-deserved rest on a cruise ship.
Little did she know that she was about to be acquainted with a man that would change her outlook on life forever.
For the first few days, Jill did nothing but enjoy herself; it had been a really stressful year, and she had been looking forward to some holiday time for months.
She was quite an introvert who enjoyed going on vacation trips by herself. Perhaps due to her profession, she was used to looking at life from an observer’s perspective; traveling alone often allowed her to be a silent witness to different scenes and people. But on this occasion, things would be different.
From the first moment, Jill noticed that there was a mysterious old man among the ship’s crew. He was always alone, and she would sometimes see him wandering around the deck, especially at night.
But as she could soon see, there was one place on the ship that seemed to be the man’s favorite.
It was the ship’s lounge. The lounge, with its old-school decoration and its beaming lights, had an old-fashioned, nostalgic, classy air to it. It would often host musical performances by artists who used to play songs from the 50s and 60s.
The place was almost like a time machine; when Jill stepped into it, she had the dreamy yet somehow uncanny feeling of being transported to some other era long past. But there was something else about the lounge that always attracted her attention.
Every time she stepped into the lounge, the enigmatic elderly man was always there. He would always sit at the same table, all by himself, staring at an undefined point in the room.
It was almost like he was another piece of furniture in the lounge. And every time Jill saw him, she couldn’t help but feel shaken by a feeling of mystery and curiosity: who was that man? What was he doing there?
So one day, she decided to ask one of the members of the ship’s staff about him. And the response left her even more bewildered. “He’s been living here for years. I’ve been working here for almost 5 years now, and I’ve never seen him leave this ship. He pays rent, and he just stays here like it’s his home.”
“The cook has been here for longer than me, and she’s told me that he has been living here for the last 13 years.” Jill was amazed to hear this. But that wasn’t all.
“To be honest with you, we don’t really don’t know much about him. He’s a polite but private man who barely talks about himself.”
After being told this, Jill felt even more curious about the old man’s story and his reasons for living on that cruise ship. But when the ship docked in the Miami ports a week after Jill started her holidays, something happened that convinced her to go deeper into her investigations.
Right after the ship docked, two police officers stepped inside. Jill saw them talking to the elderly man, although she couldn’t hear the content of their conversation. Soon after, they left. But the old man stayed there.
That’s when she knew she had to learn the man’s story. The presence of police officers made her a little bit scared, but also more curious. So right after they left, she decided to approach the man.
At first, she felt a little eerie about it. But soon, she found that the old man was a friendly person who didn’t have a problem welcoming her into his room and telling her his story.
The man’s name was Morton Wilson. He was 93 years old, and he had been living on that cruise ship for 13 years now, ever since he became a widower. And as Jill soon found out, he had quite a colorful past.
He was born and raised in Brooklyn; up until 1946, he had spent time abroad with the U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence. He had seen a lot of things and had a lot of stories from that time.
After that, he met his wife and started working as a pharmacist, earning about $65 a week. But after a few years, his luck had taken a wild turn.
During his time in the navy, he was acquainted with a German textile manufacturer who asked him to introduce lace-making machines to the U.S. From then on, Wilson built what became his own successful lace-making business.
Since that time, most of the lace production moved from the West to China, where labor is cheaper. However, his company has managed to stay afloat. It still owns 45 of the 70 machines currently producing lace in America.
However, Wilson retired in 1989 and left the business in the hands of one of his grandsons. Since then, he had spent most of his time at sea; he and his wife loved cruise ships, and they would spend months sailing.
But at one point, his beloved wife passed away; and things had never been the same for Wilson. So he took a drastic decision.
He decided to spend the rest of his days living on a cruise ship. He had a condo in Boca Raton, Florida, where he kept his possessions.
But at least 3 or 4 years had passed since he last set foot there. To Jill, something still didn’t quite add up.
Wilson told Jill that, on the cruise ship, he felt like the Captain of his own destiny. He had everything he needed, and being alone allowed him not to depend on or be tied to anyone or anything.
It was a sort of freedom that he wouldn’t be able to feel if he lived on land or in a nursing home. “Where else could I feel this secure and safe? Life on board couldn’t be better,” he told Jill.
The man explained that his peculiar lifestyle meant he had to contend with unusual legal problems. Jill was suddenly very intrigued again.
He had seemed a straight-laced figure so far. Jill wondered if there wasn’t something else to the older man, perhaps a dark side.
While certainly intriguing, there was no doubt that the man’s lifestyle was also extraordinary. If he did own property, it begged the question as to why he chose to live on a ship.
On the other hand, if he was happy to live on the ship, why did he bother keeping the property on the mainland? Jill’s journalist instincts were going into overdrive.
Now that Jill thought about it, much of his story seemed a little odd. He had lived on the ship for so long, but none of the crew seemed to know that much about him.
Was that a coincidence or by design? Jill had met guarded people before. Her experience had shown her that they were usually this way because they had something to hide.
As Jill listened to his story, she kept these troublesome thoughts to herself. If the older man did have a darker side to him, she didn’t want to spook him or let on her suspicions.
It suddenly dawned on her that Wilson reminded her of another person she had once interviewed. A new worrying possibility crossed her mind as she thought of this man.
Years back, Jill had covered a story that shocked her to her core. It had made her doubt everything she’d ever known about taking people at face value.
The man in question had seemed like an ideal family man. As she dug deeper into the story, she realized how innovative criminals could be when they wanted to evade the truth.
The man Jill had previously written a story on was known as “Bobby Love”. On the surface, he had lived an extraordinary life as a family man and was beyond reproach.
However, in Bobby’s case, his wife and kids unexpectedly discovered that he held a shocking secret. It seems Bobby had been hiding his whole life.
In Bobby Love’s case, he had relocated to New York and lived an idyllic life for over 30 years. He was a devoted husband and father and an active member of his church and community.
That was until the FBI came knocking with a warrant one day. Only then did Bobby’s family learn that he had been an escaped convict who had evaded the law for three decades.
As Jill looked at the wizened old man in front of her with his kindly face and gentle demeanor, she couldn’t help but trust him. He seemed far too likable.
However, the fact that he had been living on a cruise ship all this time was weird at best. It could make sense if he were a fugitive that was afraid of ever returning to the mainland.
Jill realized she was skipping ahead and allowing her reporter brain to over-analyze everything. As she listened instead, she realized that Wilson seemed to be upfront.
He explained that since his possessions were all still stored in a property he owned on the mainland, he often needed police intervention.
He confirmed that since his property was left vacant so often, he sometimes had to contend with vandals and squatters. Luckily, he had a good relationship with the local police.
The two officers had actually wanted to see him to clarify some paperwork regarding a misunderstanding about the house. Jill was relieved but still had one burning question.
Given that Wilson was successful, he obviously wasn’t living on the ship out of necessity. He’d explained that he and his wife loved going on cruises.
However, he could have chosen to keep going on them for holidays. If he still had property on the mainland, the big question was, why choose to live on the ship full time?
Wilson told Jill that, on the cruise ship, he felt like the Captain of his destiny. He had everything he needed, and being alone allowed him not to depend on or be tied to anyone or anything.
The explanation made sense to Jill. However, she was beginning to wonder if another factor was at play in his decision. It was a little personal, so she wondered how to bring it up.
Jill wondered if Wilson perhaps felt connected to the cruise ship life in a more personal way. It was clear that he deeply missed his wife.
According to him, the pair had bonded over their cruise trips. Was it possible that Wilson clung to the seafaring life as a way of feeling connected to his wife?
Jill realized it would probably be too personal to ask about this. However, it was a sound theory, and she was content knowing that it was a possibility.
She had grown to really like the sweet old man and could tell that he was a warm person. Whatever his reasons, one thing was clear.
To Wilson, It was a sort of freedom that he wouldn’t be able to feel if he lived on land or in a nursing home. “Where else could I feel this secure and safe? Life on board couldn’t be better,” he told Jill.
By the end of the talk, Jill felt very happy and honored to have met such a fascinating person. She had come on board for a relaxing holiday but left with a gem of a story too.