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130. Dead Man’s Hand

C James%s's Photo   C James, 31 Jul 2012

        

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Dead Man’s Hand

 

The Australian press had been busy. The Geraldton bombings were a major story, and word had eventually leaked out that Trevor was involved. It hadn’t taken long after that for the press to draw the obvious conclusion; the bombings might be another attack on him. This served to renew and intensify their interest in finding him, and an enterprising reporter with some well-placed sources in Perth had found out that the navy had been sheltering a big red catamaran, a type of boat that Trevor was known to favor. A bit more digging had uncovered the fact that a boat of that description had been in Geraldton on the day of the bombings, very close to one of the blasts. Carnarvon had been checked, and when Atlantis had been spotted, they had wrongly assumed that she was the boat seen in Geraldton. Now that they knew what to look for, they had heard within a day that Kookaburra had been in Exmouth.

Like moths to a flame, half a dozen reporters descended on the area.

They learned that a big, red-hulled catamaran had been in port, and soon had a description of the two guys who had been seen aboard. Along with this had come the unwelcome news that the boat had sailed, destination unknown.

One of the reporters took the news in stride, and then made a few guesses. With a smile on his face, he set out, driving south, consoling himself with the thought that even if he’d guessed wrong, he’d at least get some exercise and a tan.

 

 

 

Aboard Kookaburra in the Gulf of Exmouth, a puzzled Trevor scowled at their mysterious tape.

Shane angled his head, his smile growing, turning into a grin. “That tape I bought; I was finally able to play it, because some VCRs can play both formats, and a friend had one that did. I don’t know how to do it even if this one can, though if I know the Blakes, the instruction booklet will be in the filing drawer of the navigation desk.”

A mad footrace to the desk ensued, though the VCR’s instruction book was not to be found. They began searching elsewhere on the boat, until Trevor belatedly thought to check one obvious place. “Got it!” he shouted, after finding it under the VCR.

Shane began paging through it, and after a minute, smiled. “It says here that American tapes use NTSC format and this VCR can play them. You just need to set it to do that.” Shane reached behind the VCR and, following the diagram in the book, flipped a small switch.

Trevor set up the tape and hit ‘play.’ The screen flickered a few times and then stabilized, though it was still slightly grainy with occasional banding, caused by degradation due to age. On the screen was the glowering image of a dour, dignified man in a business suit, sitting in a large, ornate lawyer’s office. He stared at the camera for a moment, took a deep breath, and said, “My name is Arnold J. Bellevue, and I intend this tape as my insurance policy. If this tape has been found by the authorities and I am deceased, you will almost certainly find that my wife, Bridget Bellevue, is behind my death. If this tape has been found by someone else, please ensure that it reaches the FBI immediately.

“At the end of this tape I will recite an asset list, detailing my wife’s many and varied holdings. I am in the process of divorcing her, which is why I am in fear for my life – should she find out, I believe she’ll consider me a loose end.  

“I left a few false trails for her to follow, some leading to other boats we owned, and one leading to a doll in the bow of Ares; a doll which was once the most prized childhood possession of our daughter, Stacy. I would like to think that Bridget might find it, though I doubt even that could pierce her frigid heart.  

“Bridget is responsible for our daughter’s death. Bridget and I made our fortune on cocaine, for Bridget was dealing it when we met in college. After we married, I focused on my law career while Bridget focused on the drug trade. By the time Stacy was in her teens, we were both very successful, though our marriage was little more than a shell by that point. Stacy…” Arnold Bellevue winced, a look of anguish on his face, his voice beginning to break, “Stacy became involved with cocaine, which I believe she obtained from some of the people she had gotten to know via Bridget’s dealings. I tried to get her into rehab, but she was away in college and refused. I should have done more. Then one day, I came home to find Bridget in a rage; she said that Stacy was talking about the business to her college roommate, meaning Bridget’s drug-running operation. I don’t know how Bridget knew, though I have my guesses. Two days later, a… a call came in: my beautiful Stacy… was dead from an apparent drug overdose. The autopsy confirmed that it was due to having consumed large amounts of pure uncut cocaine.” Arnold Bellevue winced, his face a mask of anguish. He took a breath, then another, before continuing, his voice now shaky. “Bridget took the news stoically at first. She did show some emotion after a while – for my benefit – but it was too late: I suspected. I investigated, and as a result I think Bridget arranged for Stacy to receive the uncut cocaine, knowing the likely result. Our daughter had become a loose end for Bridget, and that’s Bridget’s way. She’s killed before, and I believe she’s done so again.

“I not only wish to divorce my wife, I want to destroy her even if it means destroying myself as well, to avenge my daughter. However, that is not enough, for she did not act alone. The drug cartel of which my wife is a part is responsible too, for they are wrecking countless lives. They are merchants of death in the truest sense. For Stacy, and countless others, they must all pay. That is the purpose of this tape.

“Bridget is a major drug runner, usually operating several boats. She has also branched out into money laundering. Her net income often exceeds a million a month. She is well protected, due to having contacts within several Florida police departments. The one I know best is George Alfred of the Ft. Pierce department. Bridget, along with a man we know as Sanchez who operates in the Bahamas, works with Officer Alfred, who, in return for money, provides them with an inside track regarding law enforcement investigations and targets. Furthermore – and most importantly – they have worked to advance the career of him and others via feeding them information on the operatives of rival drug cartels, thus allowing them to make frequent high-profile busts, as well as passing tips to police departments throughout the country. They obtain some of their information via capturing and torturing rival operatives, and in other cases via bribery or double agents. In all this, the cartel leadership in Cali plays an active role; they often supply the information on their rivals, or serve as a conduit for it. They are in the same business, so they know the operations and practices of their rivals better than law enforcement agencies could ever hope to.” Relying on his years in the courtroom, Arnold stared right into the camera as he delivered this, his sole lie on the tape.

After a pause, and a soft, resigned sigh, he continued, “In this way, Bridget, Sanchez, and their cartel have severely hurt rival cartels, thus over the years creating room to increase their own market share drastically. They continue to do so, in spite of the danger this poses to us all, should it ever be revealed. A close look at the arrest record of George Alfred and the others will provide the proof of this. I know of a few of these cases involving Alfred, and I’ll recite some of them,” he said, picking up a piece of paper and reading a litany of arrests, case names, and convictions.     

As Trevor and Shane watched, Arnold Bellevue took a sip of water and then continued, “My plan is to file for divorce and submit the asset list into the filing, prior to leaving the country and going into hiding. That will, I hope, lead to my wife’s arrest, because that disclosure will paint a very clear picture of her illegal activities. I will also disclose to the authorities the location of this tape aboard Ares. If I am granted full immunity and witness protection for life, I will return to testify against my wife and all others involved. I have a very great deal to tell, including the names of six law enforcement officials on my wife’s payroll. Those names are my bargaining chip. I’ll be in touch within a few days of revealing the location of this tape.   

“If however I am dead, please see to the prosecution of my wife. I can give you two things to aid you; the location of an alligator farm near Yeehaw Junction, where they dispose of the bodies of members of rival cartels. The other is some excerpts from her contact book. It lists names and contact information for many of her various associates and employees – though not her government officials. I have hidden a partial copy beneath the floorboards of one of the upstairs bedrooms of our home. It is the room directly above the foyer. Bridget is the owner and operator of a large illegal enterprise and those excerpts will prove it. I have far more to offer, and it’s all up here,” he said, raising his hand to tap his temple, “though it will only be forthcoming if I am granted full immunity. Now, I will read the asset list.”

Arnold Bellevue proceeded to read from the list, reciting it from a copy of the one Trevor and Shane had found. Then, with a sigh, he stood up at his desk, facing the camera for one final time. “I have left clues in both my office and aboard the Ares to the location of this tape, ones that I believe the FBI will eventually discern. It is my hope that, in the event of my death, this tape will be found and used against both my wife and the cartel. It is a weapon of great interest, couched in revenge and wrapped in worth. It is my fervent hope that it shall prove to be a sword of bloody justice.”

For several long moments, a man over a decade and a half in his grave stared from the screen, his last plea given, his final hand dealt and played.

With a wistful, sad smile, accompanied by an expression of pained relief, Arnold Bellevue walked slowly around his desk and toward the camera, and the last Trevor and Shane saw of him was him reaching for the camera to turn it off. The screen went blank, and although Trevor fast-forwarded it to the end, there was nothing more.

 

 

 

Four days after filming the tape and secreting it aboard Ares, Arnold Bellevue’s skull had been caved in, courtesy of a porcelain rolling pin wielded by Bridget – she’d intended to make it appear that he’d been killed by a swinging boom, a ruse that had almost worked.

The tape was the final play of a skilled and able lawyer, long accustomed to adroit maneuverings and manipulation. He had known that the FBI would understand what he was giving them; evidence that Bridget and Sanchez had willfully and often violated the de facto truce between the rival cartels. His only lie had been to implicate the cartel leadership as well, in the knowledge that the lie, coupled with the evidence against Bridget and Sanchez, would acquire great veracity. The leaders of the other cartels would see this for what it was; a covert, long-term war against them. They would blame the leadership, which they would have likely done even without the lie. Thus, Arnold Bellevue had created the trigger for an open war between the cartels: a means to hurt them all.

The tape posed a special threat to Bridget. She had told the cartel that her late husband and Sanchez, along with George Alfred, had been the primary operatives in the scheme. The tape proved otherwise, which would mark her for death for betraying the trust of the cartel. The culture of the cartels was one that included strong adherence to what they considered a code of honor. Their rivals would not forgive their actions, which in their view would include conspiring with the enemy – the American law enforcement agencies. Such things, in their culture, demanded blood. Even after so many years, the tape Arnold had created was still a fearsome threat, and Sanchez’s involvement alone was more than enough to make the cartel leaders in Cali fear its release.

The tape Arnold had created was a weapon, though one bearing two edges; the cartel was strong enough that some of it would largely survive a war with its rivals, though all sides in such a war would suffer. The cartel would, perforce, seek the death of anyone with knowledge of the tape’s contents – or should those contents be revealed, all of the parties responsible would be forever marked for death.

Their culture of revenge and example would tolerate nothing less.

 

 

“Wow, she killed her own daughter. What a vicious bitch,” Trevor said, staring numbly at the now-blank screen.

“And now we know why she was after you and Kookaburra. She figured out what her husband had done, though not where it was hidden. Maybe she was after it when she was in Geraldton,” Shane said, still staring at the blank screen.

“The big question is: now what?” Trevor asked. He paused, deep in thought, and then answered his own question. “That Sanchez guy is dead, and according to what Officer Gonzalez told my dad, Bridget killed Officer Alfred. So, they’re dead, and Bridget is already on the run for murder and might be dead. Arnold Bellevue mentions other corrupt officials but didn’t name them, and he’s dead too. Those notes he left must have burned with Bridget’s house. I don’t think anything we’ve found can help get Bridget – or anybody else.”

Shane thought it over. “Yeah, maybe. But your dad’s boyfriend is suing Bridget’s estate, so that asset list might come in handy even though it’s old. Same for the safety deposit box keys; probably nothing left, but he could get access to them – maybe.”

Trevor arched an eyebrow. “Good point. We could call him and ask.”

A quick check of the time made them decide to wait a few hours – the sun had not yet risen in Florida.

They played the tape several more times, though discerned nothing new. Trevor scowled at the screen while Arnold Bellevue recited the asset list, and mumbled to Shane, “All this, for a tape. This tape would have been worth its weight in gold just a few months ago – it would have hung Bridget out to dry.”

Shane glanced out into the cockpit, where the heavy painted casting the tape had been in still sat on the table. “At least we got a new anchor for the Zodiac out of it,” Shane grumbled, thinking of all that Trevor had been through.

With a sad, wistful smile, Trevor asked, “Do you really think you can make an anchor out of it?”

Shane shrugged. “I don’t see why not. If I wire some prongs to it, it should work.” Shane glanced at the asset list, and then the tape. “Okay, now what? Do we let on what we’ve found – or keep it secret?”

“We’d better keep the tape secret, at least until we can copy it. As for the stuff that was in the beam, let’s keep that secret too, until we’ve got Atlantis. If we say anything now, Uncle Greg will want to search Kookaburra and he’d probably find that Makarov we took from the hit man. We’ll have Atlantis in a few days so we can tell him then… but what about those keys and the asset list? I want Dad and Jim to have those, and if Uncle Greg gets ‘em, he’d have to turn them over to the federal police, and what if they keep ‘em like the computer and the spear gun? On the other hand, how can we not tell him, after all he’s done?”

Shane scratched his head. “A real conundrum, mate. The asset list isn’t a problem; we can copy that. The keys we can’t. So, how about we be honest, sort of? When we get to Carnarvon we tell him what we found in the beam and give him the asset list, but by then the keys will be on their way to Florida: we could mail them from Coral Bay. Tell your Uncle Greg the truth on that; your dad and his lawyer might need them, and you were worried the federal cops would seize them like they did our other stuff. I don’t see how he could rationally object; there’s no good reason for our federals to want those keys anyway.”

“There’s no good reason for them to be keeping our computer or spear gun either, but they are. Okay, that sounds like a great plan. Uh… we’re going to need a new accumulator for Kookaburra though; if they notice the old one is missing, they’ll want to know why.”

“I’ll bet we could find one in Geraldton or better yet, Perth,” Shane said.

Trevor shook his head. “We could probably make Geraldton – we need to be in Carnarvon in five days.”

Shane grinned. “There’s an easier way, seeing as we now have Internet access. We make arrangements with the post office in Coral Bay to accept a package for us. We need to go there anyway to mail the keys and list. If we ordered an accumulator online right away, I’ll bet it’d be in Coral Bay in plenty of time – though you’ll need to pay for express delivery.”

For once, Trevor didn’t quibble over the specter of spending some money. “Great idea!”

It took just under an hour for Trevor to call the post office in Coral Bay to make the arrangements, and then to find a suitable accumulator online. It was only after ordering that he realized that there might be a problem. “It’s the same size as the old one, but it looks a bit different – mainly the color, but the fittings look slightly different too. Think Ned will notice?”

Shane shrugged. “Tell him to mind his own bloody business, or tell him the old one sprang a leak so you put in a new one. I doubt he’ll notice though; he works on loads of boats; he can’t possibly remember everything on all of ‘em.”

Trevor gave Shane a thoughtful look. “Okay, we’ve learned something about Arnold Bellevue; he was cagey. He left clues we didn’t see that were right under our noses. We shouldn’t assume that we’ve figured it all out.” Trevor glanced around, wondering what other mysteries might be close at hand.   

 

 

 

After four days of exploring the coast, Kookaburra arrived off Coral Bay late in the morning.

Coral Bay, the resort town for Ningaloo Reef, is small; just a few hotels and resorts, housing for workers, and a small shopping arcade. The beach is spectacular; white coral sand along a protected lagoon. The tranquil waters and the inviting, sheltered beach proved irresistible to Trevor; he shot Shane a grin as they motored in. Trevor checked the tide table to confirm a rising tide, made sure that the daggerboards were retracted and, with a gentle hand on the throttles, ran Kookaburra’s bows onto the sand. “This way we won’t need the Zodiac,” he announced, while deploying a small anchor on the sand to hold Kookaburra on the beach.

Trevor’s good luck with eluding the press had allowed him to become somewhat careless.

Shane checked the map he’d looked up. Glancing inland, he said, “The post office is in the shopping arcade on Robinson Street, and if this is right it’s about three hundred meters from us.”

Trevor looked at the beach and gave a friendly wave to a few tourists who had walked up for a look at the unusual sight of a big catamaran beached. He was beginning to regret his decision to beach Kookaburra; she was in full view of the town’s small beachfront hotels, and was drawing attention. 

Shane had called the post office that morning to confirm that their package had arrived. He glanced at the growing crowd of onlookers, which now numbered more than a dozen. “Maybe I should go in alone,” he offered.

Trevor hesitated, and then shrugged. “She’s wearing a false nameplate and this is a really remote area, so I think we’ll be okay. We won’t be here long. Let’s lock up and head for the post office.”

Wearing just flip-flops and boardshorts, Trevor and Shane set out across the sand. Along the way, they were given friendly nods by a few of the mildly-interested tourists. They kept going, walking southeast along a short path to the main street, where they turned left. Three of the people from the beach were heading the same way, trailing along behind, and were joined by a jogger, who slowed to a walk a hundred feet behind Trevor and Shane.

Trevor and Shane strolled into the tiny post office – just a small storefront operation, with a lone clerk on duty. “G’day,” he said, as Trevor and Shane approached the counter.

The door chime jingled again as the jogger and a tourist entered, one after the other, but Trevor ignored them. “There should be a package for Trevor Carlson,” he said, his eyes having already spotted the large box on the back counter. Trevor had ordered it under his own name, having assumed that he had to due to needing to use his credit card.

“It’s here, you’ll just need to sign for it, and I’ll need some ID,” the clerk replied, handing Trevor a clipboard.     

Trevor produced ID and signed. As soon as he had possession of the box, he said, “I need to make some copies, and send a small package to the United States.”

“How small?” the clerk inquired. 

Shane fished the safe deposit box keys out of his pocket and placed them on the counter. “Just these, plus the copies, which are ten pages,” he said.

The clerk picked up the folded papers, and asked, “How many copies?”

“Two,” Trevor replied.

“I’ll be right back,” the clerk replied, heading for the back room. Soon, the whirr of a copier could be heard.  

The jogger, standing behind Trevor and Shane as if in line, fiddled with his cell phone, holding it high as if he was checking for a signal. The tourist, who was browsing postcards near the front of the store, walked out, making the door chime jingle again.

“Is that an American accent I detect?” the jogger asked.

Trevor turned, and upon seeing the jogger’s pleasant, happy face, smiled. “Yeah, I’m from Florida.” The sounds from the copier in the back room continued, as it proceeded to churn out thirty pages.

“Are you staying in the area?”

Trevor shook his head. “Nah, just stopped in. Are you?”

The jogger shrugged. “I’m here on a combined business and pleasure trip. I’m having a wonderful time.”

“It’s a beautiful place,” Trevor said, turning to face the returning clerk. The clerk provided a thick padded envelope for one set of copies and the keys, and Trevor took care of addressing it to Dirk. Unmindful of the jogger with the cell phone behind him, he filled and sealed the envelope, and then handed over his credit card to take care of the bill. Shane took the asset list and one copy, while Trevor picked up the box, and then, on his way out of the store, Trevor told the jogger, “Enjoy your vacation.”

The door chime sounded again as Trevor and Shane left the store. The jogger shot an anxious glance at the clerk. “I’ll be back as soon as I can,” he said, dashing off in pursuit of Trevor and Shane. He didn’t have far to go; he found them browsing the window display of the tour operator in the adjoining shop. With a pleasant smile, he said, “Trevor, I was wondering if you might spare me a few moments of your time. Perhaps I could buy you and your friend some lunch?” The mention of his name made Trevor’s head snap around, so the jogger added, with a disarming smile, “My name is Kent Moorcroft.” He handed Trevor a business card, which included the name of his newspaper. 

“A reporter,” Shane said, glaring at the unwelcome intruder.

The erstwhile jogger looked directly at Trevor, and with a warm smile and a dismissive shrug, answered Shane’s statement. “Indeed I am, Trevor, and you’re a very hard guy to find. I’d like to ask you a few questions, and the offer of lunch at the resort stands.”

Trevor shook his head and began edging away. “We’re kind of in a hurry.”

“If you’re concerned that I’ll broadcast your location, or mention that beautiful red catamaran you’re on, no worries. I’m just looking for an interview, nothing more. I’m well aware that you need to keep your location confidential, especially after what happened to you in Geraldton.” The reporter watched closely for Trevor’s reaction to ‘Geraldton’.

Trevor blinked in surprise. “Uh, sorry, we gotta go,” he said, turning away.  

The ‘jogger’ had been amongst the reporters who had flown to Exmouth. With Kookaburra gone, he’d decided to play a hunch and check the Ningaloo Reef area – a well known attraction – and had made his way to Coral Bay. While there, he’d asked around, finding nothing until he’d spoken to the clerk at the post office. The clerk had recognized Trevor’s name from the package arrangements and couldn’t see the harm in making a few extra dollars.

Trevor’s luck was running out.

 

 

Trevor and Shane broke into a jog, racing back towards Kookaburra, somewhat hindered by their flip-flops and the large, awkward box. The reporter followed, shouting renewed requests for an interview, pausing only to take a few more pictures with his cell phone as Trevor and Shane hastily began backing Kookaburra off the beach. With a roar of engines, she broke free, pirouetted, and went racing out to sea.  

The reporter jogged back to the post office where, after some bickering, he agreed to the clerk’s terms.

He then made his way back to his hotel room, where he picked up the phone and called his editor. Without preamble, he said, “I found Trevor Carlson. He wouldn’t talk, but I’ve got pictures of him and his boat, plus some very interesting stuff. I’ll have something written up for you in a few hours.”

By the following morning, Trevor would again be front-page news.   

 

 

 

An hour later, at sea south of Coral Bay, a dejected Trevor and Shane sat in the cockpit. “This totally sucks. Now they know for sure what Kookaburra looks like, and Atlantis too,” Trevor grumbled, giving himself yet another mental kick. “I figured we’d be safe just darting in and out of places, but I guess not.”

Shane angled his head, turning to give Kookaburra’s mast a thoughtful look. “We foxed the buggers once by making them think Kookaburra was Atlantis, so why not try it again?”

Trevor paused for a moment, his frown fading. “Yeah… The name the reporter saw on the transom is ‘Red Roo’. I’ll bet they check Carnarvon soon, so they’ll see Atlantis at Ned’s dock. What if, when they do, she’s wearing the name ‘Red Roo’? I’ll call Ned and have him make a nameplate, stick it on Atlantis, and then make sure they can see at least part of it under the tarp he’s got on her. They’ll think we’re there.”

Shane began nodding eagerly, only to have his smile fade. “That’ll work for a few days, but it’ll bring the press to where we’re actually going.”

“I’ll call Ned and Uncle Greg, and see what they think,” Trevor prevaricated.

Trevor was about to make the call when his phone rang. He answered it, to find Greg Fowler on the line. “Hi, Uncle Greg. I was just picking up the phone to call –”

“I already know. I just got word; you were spotted by a reporter in Coral Bay, and he’s got photos of you, Shane, and Kookaburra. We’ve also got a reporter here in town; he arrived yesterday and has been staking out a local bar, but just the fact he’s here isn’t good.”

Trevor broached the idea of using Atlantis as a decoy, only to have it initially shot down on practical grounds. In the end, Fowler suggested making a virtue of necessity. “Trev, you can’t hide forever. Frankly, I’d rather you submit to some press attention in a controlled setting than have them keep hunting you. Let me contact Jason Kline and cook something up; a big media event or two in Sydney or Melbourne when you’re on your way out. I think we can deceive them as to what your boat looks like and where you’re going, plus it’ll sate them a bit by giving them the access to you that they want. It might help get them off your back. Let me ring him up and see what he thinks… by the way, it was Jason who gave me the heads-up that you’d been spotted.”

Trevor quickly looked at Shane, who was listening in. The unspoken question passed between them, and Trevor answered for them both. “Okay, Uncle Greg. I guess there’s not much choice.”

Two hours later, after a discussion with Jason Kline and a conversation with Ned, and then the reporter in Carnarvon, Fowler called Trevor back. “Ned will be ready for you in four days, which will be Saturday, so come on in to Carnarvon, nice and slow, at nine in the morning that day. Go up the Fascine and sound your horn to make sure the town gets a good look at Kookaburra, then run her up on the beach right at the end of Robinson Street. The reporter and I will be waiting, and Jason Kline will be in town as well. I’ll call you well before then to make sure all the pieces are in place, but that’s the plan for now. Jason is setting up talk show appearances for you in Sydney, plus interviews at as many other places as he can. The long and the short of it is the best way to get the press to ignore you is to make it look like you want the attention, especially if you’re blatantly out to make money on it. We’ve also got a few plans to make sure they are fooled regarding what Atlantis looks like.”

They talked for a while, going over what Trevor would need to say in Carnarvon.

After the call, Trevor glanced around Kookaburra. “We need to start packing and getting her ready for long-term berthing. We’re picking up Atlantis in Carnarvon and dropping Kookaburra off in Geraldton. Mom and Martin are going to take her out for a while, then take her back to Carnarvon to her old berth.” Trevor waited for Shane to figure out what that meant.

“So how are we supposed to get them both…” Shane’s voice trailed off as he noticed Trevor’s grin. “Oh bloody hell, you’re not serious? Trev, I can’t handle her like you can, and that’s a long run. Can’t Mr. or Mrs. Blake come up and make the run?”

“You’ve done great at the helm and I’ll be nearby, just a radio call away. However, if you’d really rather not sail her alone, Uncle Greg said Ned’s willing to go with you.”      

“I’ll do it solo!” Shane replied instantly, much to Trevor’s amusement.

“I figured you would,” Trevor replied, with a grin.

“Okay, I’ll give it a burl, but you know I’ve never sailed solo in anything bigger than the Zodiac. I just don’t want to deal with Ned. You heard what he was like when I rang up to finalize the galley gear order after we left Exmouth. He agreed with my selections, and then insulted my intelligence anyway, just on general principle!”

Trevor laughed, shaking his head. “You gave as good as you got, but yeah, I’d be worried sick at the thought of you and him stuck on a boat together. I’d need to hide the fire extinguishers.”

“I could always put this lead lump to good use by introducing it to Ned’s head,” Shane said, grinning and picking up the heavy casting that had encased the tape.

“Are you still going to try making an anchor out of that?” Trevor asked, thinking of the thing’s weight.

“Let’s get that new accumulator installed, and then I’ll give anchor-making a go before we put the tools away,” he said, getting up and heading for the tool storage.

Installing the new accumulator proved easier than Trevor had expected and, after a quick test, he pronounced the job a success. “Now you can take a shower – which you need,” Trevor said, while crinkling his nose and stifling a laugh.

“Cruel and abusive bastard!” Shane declared, giving Trevor a mock hurt look. “Okay, time for me to see about that anchor,” he said, while closing the bilge hatch. He then carried the tools to the cockpit.

“I’ll make us some coffee, and I’m going to play that tape again too,” Trevor called out.

“Turn it up so I can hear as well,” Shane replied.

Trevor made his way to the galley, where he began making coffee. He listened carefully to the tape while he waited, and this time the words ‘wrapped in great worth’ registered with him, due to Shane working on the casting. He froze, blinking as his mind raced, blanking out the continuing words of the tape as they were joined by the whirr of a drill, and then a clatter as the drill stopped.

Trevor, focused on the words, began to understand. ‘Wrapped in great worth… heavy like lead,’ he thought, his breath catching in his throat. He was already turning for the galley stairs when he heard Shane’s frantic yell, “Trev! Get out here fast!”

Acting on reflex, Trevor bounded up the stairs and out into the cockpit, where he found Shane, wide-eyed and with a shocked look on his face. Shane pointed at the heavy metal casting, mumbling, “Look, bloody look.

Trevor leaned in, staring at the hole Shane had been in the process of making, his own eyes opening very wide as his suspicions from moments before stood confirmed. “Holy fuck,” he said, reaching out to touch the gleaming exposed metal, which shone with a rich yellow glow.

“Is that what I think it is?” Shane asked.

“If you think it’s a kangaroo, then no,” Trevor replied, breaking into a broad, eager grin as he used the drill bit like a file to pierce the paint in several locations, finding the same golden aura. “I guess Arnold Bellevue was being literal when he said the tape was wrapped in great worth. From the look of it, this is solid gold: fifteen to twenty pounds of it.

Shane reached out to touch it. “How can we tell if it’s real?”

Trevor shrugged. “I don’t know. Huh… it looks like gold, and you drilled deep enough that if it was just plated, you’d have gone through. I’m pretty sure that this thing is solid, is heavy like lead, and looks like gold. That sounds like gold to me, but I don’t know how to tell.”

“I’ll bet the Internet does,” Shane said, already dashing for the satellite phone and computer.

Soon, they had answers, to a degree. Trevor scowled at the screen. “Nitric acid sounds good, but we don’t have any and I don’t have a clue how to get any. We know it’s not plated though; you drilled in too far for that. It says real gold is soft and you can make a dent in it with your teeth,” he said, while busily sanding a small area of paint off. Trevor picked up the gold casting, looked at it edge-on, opened wide, and bit it. He then stared at the resulting dents. “It’s soft, like gold should be.”

Shane looked at the screen, and then began glancing around. “We need a magnet, plus some unglazed pottery.”

Trevor frowned. “There’s a magnet in the toolbox, but I don’t remember seeing any unglazed pottery aboard. Maybe we should make port and buy a flower pot?”

Shane snickered. “Once again, the answer is somewhere you are unfamiliar with: the galley.” He dashed away, soon returning with a glazed plate.

“We need unglazed,” Trevor pointed out.

Shane grinned. “There’s a thing about glaze; it’s only on the outside,” he said, while picking up the heavy mass of gold and bringing it down on the plate with a thud, which fractured the plate. Shane picked up one of the pieces, pointed at the unglazed interior the break had exposed, and began rubbing it against the gold, which rubbed off, making a gold streak. Their next test was with the magnet, to see if the metal was magnetic. It wasn’t. “I think it’s really gold. From the look of it, eighteen karat or higher.”

“Wow… I’m sure glad you didn’t decide to chuck it overboard, I think we’ve got a hell of a lot of money here,” Trevor replied.

“Me too.”

 

With a look of awe on his face, Trevor reached out to touch the golden hole Shane had drilled. “Wow… so this is what he was hiding. No wonder Bridget wanted it. It must be worth a shitload of money. There’s sixteen ounces in a pound, and that thing weighs at least ten pounds, but I think it’s closer to twenty. Ten pounds is one hundred and sixty ounces. What’s gold cost an ounce?” Trevor was slightly mistaken on one particular, and gravely mistaken on the other. The former was the issue of ounces. Gold is measured in troy ounces, which are close to ten percent heavier than standard ounces. The vastly more serious error was regarding the motives of both Bellevues. Arnold had encased the tape in gold for use as a potential bargaining chip – should one ever be needed – with the new owners of the Ares; if the need arose, he would disclose it to them in return for them delivering the tape anonymously to the FBI. He had been attempting to cover all likely contingencies as he had the gold at hand, and had needed to hide it for the divorce anyway. An alternate plan had been to use the gold to prove the importance of the tape to whomever found it, and yet another was to recover it himself, if circumstances allowed. Like lead, it was easy to melt and mold.  

“Dunno, but I know it’s hundreds of dollars,” Shane replied, as he began furiously tapping at the laptop’s keys. A few moments later, he gave a low whistle. “Just over six hundred and thirty U.S. dollars an ounce! That’s one hell of a lot,” he said, rushing to open the computer’s calculator and punch in the numbers. “It’s worth just over a hundred thousand dollars if it’s ten pounds. Uh, now what? What are we going to do?”

Trevor paused for a few moments, deep in thought. “I think you were right all along; let’s make an anchor out of it,” he replied.

 

 

 

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Many thanks to my editor EMoe for editing and for his support, encouragement, beta reading, and suggestions.

Special thanks to Graeme, for beta-reading and advice.

Thanks also to Talonrider and MikeL for beta reading.

A big Thank You to RedA for Beta reading and advice.

Thanks also to Low Flyer, for zeta reading.

Special thanks to RickMD, for some major advice and help.

Any remaining errors are mine alone.


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131. Anchors Aweigh →