Chapter 31: Standing into Danger
“Ready to go to Mykonos?” Trevor asked, with a big grin.
Joel answered by beginning to deploy the Zodiac. “Hell yeah. How far is it, anyway?”
Trevor glanced to the east. “Five miles, or just under. At ten knots, that’s under half an hour. I’m taking an EPIRB, a GPS, and the handheld VHF radio; they’ll go in the Zodiac’s locked emergency kit, plus there are oars in the Zodiac. The forecast is for the north wind to strengthen in the late afternoon, and the strait between here and Mykonos runs north to south, so it could get rough, especially in the afternoon, according to the forecast. I think we should head back if the wind picks up. The Zodiac can handle rough water, but it’d be a slow, wet, bouncy ride.”
“Any reason to take shirts?” Joel asked, glancing down at the khaki shorts and deck shoes he was wearing.
Trevor shook his head. “I’m not; it’s summer in a beach resort. I’ve already put on sunscreen,” he said, tossing Joel the bottle of sun block.
Joel began applying sun block, and after taking care of his front and shoulders, tossed Trevor the bottle. “Make yourself useful and get my back,” he said, and then turned around.
Trevor squeezed some lotion into his hand, and then paused. “Let me guess, you’re going to scream ‘sexual harassment’ as soon as I touch you?”
Joel chuckled. “Of course.”
Trevor laughed and began working the lotion into Joel’s back. “You’re nothing if not predictable.”
They locked up Atlantis and piled into the Zodiac. As soon as they had rounded the point and set course for Mykonos, Joel asked, “Are we okay for fuel?”
Trevor tapped the plastic gas tanks, one empty, and one full. “Yeah, but I want to fill up when we get there. The Zodiac’s tank holds five gallons and it’s full, but I want to top it off and fill my five-gallon auxiliary storage too.” Trevor pointed at the white cylinder up front and added, “I put the empty propane cylinder in too, so I’ll have three aboard Atlantis full and one mostly full. The stove uses ‘em, and so does the barbecue.”
Joel eyed the plastic case mounted in the Zodiac’s nose, and asked, “What exactly is in the emergency kit, anyway?”
“It’s like the ditch bag aboard Atlantis, which is a bag of survival gear, in case I have to abandon ship. It has a first-aid kit and some emergency food and water.” Trevor scanned the horizon, and added, “Because of the fuel tanks, I’ll need to stay near the Zodiac. I’ll moor next to the marine supply place and then the fuel dock, but I don’t want to go too far; those tanks are too easy to steal. If you want to shop, we can just set a time to meet up.”
Joel nodded. “I’ll head for a grocery store and load us up with some Greek food.”
Trevor arched an eyebrow. “What? No clothes shopping?”
Joel shook his head. “Nah, it’s more fun when I can drag you along and make you suffer.”
Trevor cracked up, and flipped Joel off. “You ass. Okay, you hit the supermarket. We’ll ask where the closest one is when we get to the dock at the boating supply place.”
When they arrived in Mykonos, they tied up and got directions; there was a small grocery store open just a few blocks away. “Anything you want me to get?” Joel asked.
Trevor shook his head. “Anything that looks good. We passed the fuel dock when we rounded the point; it’s about fifty yards north of us, so I’ll be either here or there.”
Joel turned to head for the door. “I’ll be back in an hour or less, have fun.”
At the crowded supermarket, Joel grabbed several baskets and began loading up. Several times, he asked where specific items were, and mindful of the time, he hurried, filling the four hand baskets as fast as he could, only to find himself in a long line for checkout at the single register.
A woman behind Joel, with a small basket of bread and cheese, looked at his four heaped baskets, which he was guiding along with his feet. She’d heard him speak English while shopping, so to pass the time, she said, “Either there are a lot of you, you eat a lot, or you’re here for a long time.”
Joel glanced back and smiled. “Just two of us, me and my friend Trev, but we’re on a boat.”
“That’s the life. Did you rent it here? If so, could you please tell me where?”
Joel shook his head. “It’s Trev’s, he sailed it over from Florida and I flew out to join him in Gibraltar.”
“My husband Blake and I – we’re here with some friends, and my name is Barbra – were supposed to be doing that, but when we got here, we found that our charter was canceled; they’d run aground in a windstorm and holed the hull the day before. We tried to find another, but there was nothing available and our air tickets aren’t changeable. So, we checked into a resort instead. My husband is an archaeologist, so he’s very disappointed; there was a lot he’d planned to see. We did get to see Delos though, with its spectacular ruins.”
Joel nodded sympathetically, his mind already racing, seeing a possibility. “Trev and I saw Pompeii and Santorini on the way here, and Santorini is only a few hours south of here. Trev’s boat, Atlantis, is fast; it’s a big catamaran. He runs it as a charter and dive service in Florida.”
Barbra’s eyes narrowed. “A charter boat? How many guest rooms does it have?”
“Four guest suites, each with a bathroom. It’s one hell of a boat; a fifty-five footer. Being able to see the Mediterranean from a boat like that is a dream and I’ve been having the time of my life.”
Barbra gave Joel an appraising glance. “Perhaps you should come and talk to my husband. He and our friends are in the restaurant next door, having an after-lunch drink. I don’t drink so I decided to make myself useful and come in here. So, do you think your friend Trev might be willing to do a charter here? It would be for six days at most, because of our flight.”
Joel gave Barbra an open-handed shrug. “He’d probably love to, but he’s not licensed here, so it wouldn’t be legal,” Joel said, hoping that Barbra would draw the needed conclusion on her own.
They reached the register, and Joel loaded the baskets onto the counter as Barbra said, “Just come have a talk with Blake, I’m sure that wouldn’t be an issue.”
Barbra helped Joel carry his seven bags of groceries to the sidewalk tables next door, where she introduced Joel to her husband and their friends; three other couples, all from Texas. Barbra got right down to business, and said, “Joel here is cruising around the Aegean with his friend, on his friend’s yacht. His friend – Trev, was it?” Barbra asked, and then after Joel nodded, she continued, “Runs it as a dive charter in Florida. It’s a four-guest-cabin fifty-five foot catamaran. Joel, could you excuse us for a few minutes? We’ll watch your groceries for you.”
Joel nodded, and with a smile and a wave, walked to a small clothing store on the opposite side of the narrow pedestrian street.
Barbra sat down at the table, and lowered her voice to little more than a whisper. “He thinks his friend might be interested in a charter, except for not being licensed here. This sounds to me to be as good as the one that canceled on us, or better. We were going to pay fifteen thousand, split four ways, for a week on the other one, and this one’s a bit bigger from the sound of it. As long as it doesn’t cost any more, and we can see the boat first, what do you think?”
The couples shared glances amongst themselves, and after receiving a few cautious nods, Blake said, “When I put this trip together, it was supposed to be a week aboard, and we’d only have six days now. I also get the impression they’d want to be paid in cash if they agree to do this, so how about we wrangle ourselves a discount? Offer ‘em twelve grand, in euro cash, if they’re willing to do our itinerary. We’d get to see some of the islands we wanted to, and they bring us back here on the morning of our flight. We’re already dishing out a grand a night for four rooms at the resort, and this’d save that. If we can check out before one this afternoon, we’ll save tonight’s as well.”
After receiving okay’s from the other three couples, Blake said, “I’ll go get him and see if we can put this deal together before one. However, just to be safe, no money changes hands until we’re on board and make sure the boat’s okay. If it’s some rusty tub, forget it, unless they’re willing to cut us one hell of a deal.”
After a round of nods, Blake got up and walked over to the store.
Joel spotted him as soon as he entered, and Blake said, “We’re ready for you.”
Joel followed Blake back to the table, and Blake said, in a low voice, “We’d like to meet your friend Trev and see if we can arrange a six-day charter, all-inclusive, to start this afternoon. We want to see Gyaros, about thirty-five miles northwest of here, for a couple of days, and then go south sixty miles to Polyaigos and Kimolos for the remainder of our stay, and then back here. We need to be back in Mykonos by noon, six days from now, to catch a taxi to the airport. We can pay cash so there won’t be any issue with legalities, and we’re offering twelve thousand euros, firm, half when we board, half on our last day. Interested?”
Joel nodded eagerly. “That sounds great, but it’s not my boat so I can’t agree to anything. Trev is only a few blocks from here, down at the port.”
“Lead the way,” Barbra said, smiling.
Joel began picking up he groceries, only to find several helping hands.
At the fuel dock, Trevor was watching as his final propane tank was filled. He glanced up, to see Joel approaching, apparently leading a pack of eight middle-aged people.
“This is Trev,” Joel said, handing a perplexed Trevor a bag of groceries.
Blake handed Trevor another bag of groceries, and looked at the Zodiac for a few moments. “I sincerely hope this isn’t Atlantis?” he said with a wry smile, and then he gave Trevor, who was a lot younger than he’d expected, a searching, skeptical look.
“Atlantis is anchored a few miles from here,” Joel said, with an apologetic shrug. “We just came in on the Zodiac.”
After a glance back at his friends, Blake nodded once, and then leaned over to shake Trevor’s hand. “Pleased to meet you, Trev.” Blake turned to face Joel. “Not one cent, unless Atlantis turns out to be what you say, understood?”
Joel nodded, and then, seeing Trevor’s perplexed look, told Blake, “Can I talk to Trev for a minute, alone?”
Blake shrugged. “We needed to talk, so why not? Okay, we’ll be a few yards down the dock.”
As soon as Blake and his group had moved off, Trevor stared at Joel and asked, in a perplexed tone, “What the fuck is going on?”
Joel grinned, looked around to be sure no one was in earshot, and puffing out his bare chest with pride, announced, “I got us a charter, dude! Six days, and they know you can’t legally do it here, so they’ll pay cash, twelve grand in euros.”
Trevor blinked, tempted, but he had concerns. “Joel, do you have any idea how much trouble we could get in if we get reported?”
“Yeah, but they asked me, and they’re American so they’re not Greek cops doing a sting. They had a charter that canceled on ‘em after they got here. They wanted to see some nearby islands and maybe do some diving.” Joel explained the itinerary they had in mind, and then added, “You said you were worried about money, and here’s twelve grand of it.”
Joel had a point and Trevor knew it, but he decided to raise his remaining objections. “You’ve never done a charter; there’s a lot of work involved, and this would take up half your remaining trip. It won’t be like it’s been. Are you sure about this?”
Joel rolled his eyes. “Trev, I set this up, remember? I want to do it, and it’d help you out, a lot.”
The money was very tempting, and Trevor looked in the direction of the tourists. “How do we know they’re on the level? When I do a charter back home, the booking agency vets them, sort of. How did they approach you?”
Joel explained at length how the offer had developed, and added, “They seem sincere to me; they got stood up by a charter, so they want another.”
“That itinerary could be trouble; the forecast calls for rising winds out of the north, but so far it’s nothing Atlantis can’t handle. Okay, if you’re sure you want to do this...” Trevor said, and after receiving Joel’s eager nod in return, Trevor looked down the dock at the waiting group and waved for them to come back.
The group of eight ambled back, and Blake squatted on the dock next to Trevor, who said, “You’ve got a charter.”
Blake eyed the Zodiac. “Like I told your friend, six thousand when we board, the other half later. I’m not paying anything unless I see that your boat actually exists and is as described. Fair enough?”
“I can have her here in about an hour, so you can have a look,” Trevor replied.
Blake shook his head. “No can do. We have to check out of our hotel in about an hour, or they’ll sting us for another night, plus I’ve got to get to a bank. Our hotel is right on the beach, in Aghios Ioannis, about two miles down the coast from here, in a sheltered bay. You can’t miss it; the hotel is the biggest thing on the waterfront. Can you pick us up there at two this afternoon?”
Trevor shook his head. “I can be there by then, but I’ll need longer than that to get Atlantis ready; I’ve got to move stuff out of the cabins–”
Blake interrupted Trevor by holding up a hand. “We’d rather wait aboard than at the hotel, and don’t worry about polishing stuff; as long as it’s halfway clean, it’s better than the hotel we’re at. We can look past some clutter; I just want to be sure the boat is like Joel described.”
“She’s a Lagoon 55, charter configuration, four guest cabins, air-conditioning, refrigerator, bar, dive gear, the works,” Trevor said proudly.
Blake arched an eyebrow. “Air conditioning? The charter that canceled didn’t have that. If she’s what you say and you can do our itinerary, you’ve got a deal. Just be off that beach by two.”
“We’ll be there,” Trevor said, smiling.
With a wave, Blake, Barbra, and the three other couples took their leave. Joel passed the remaining groceries down to Trevor, and then hopped down into the Zodiac as he asked, “Did you get everything you were after?”
Trevor nodded, and cast off. “Yeah, we’re all topped up and I got the fuel additive. Let’s get back quick; we’ve got a lot to do on Atlantis and not much time.”
Trevor fired up the outboard and gunned it, heading back the way they had come, and Joel gave Trevor a puzzled look. “They said not to worry about it, so why the hurry?”
Trevor chuckled. “Your first lesson in chartering; don’t listen to customers on stuff like that. They might say otherwise, but they like everything ship-shape when they come aboard, and for the duration of their stay. We have to pay attention to the details; it’s the small things that keep the customers happy. Chartering is a lot of work; I just hope you don’t regret this.”
Joel laughed and shook his head. “It was my doing, so my problem if I do.”
“Has it occurred to you that there are four couples? That means four cabins, so we have to move all the food out of the one we’re using for a pantry, and then you and I have to move our stuff out as well, then change the beds and ready the cabins and the bathrooms. We can put our stuff in my crew cabin and you can have it. I’ll need to stay in the cockpit while at sea anyway, and they’ll probably want to spend days at anchor and nights on the move. I’m used to sleeping in my beanbag; I’ve had to, when Julie and I had charters with all four of Atlantis’s passenger cabins occupied,” Trevor said.
“I can help you at the con, so you won’t be stuck staying up all night. We can take turns.”
Trevor laughed. “Okay, just remember to keep Atlantis on the ocean, not on land.”
When they returned to Atlantis, they loaded the groceries that needed it into the refrigerators and then stowed the rest in the galley. Seeing the large amount of food Joel had purchased, Trevor said, “Looks like you set up the charter before you did the grocery shopping. We need three meals a day for ten people for six days, and this, plus what we’ve got, is close to enough even without the hot dogs and pork chili I’m saving for the Indian Ocean run.”
Joel shook his head. “Nah, I was just stocking us up, and I met Barbra, Blake’s wife, while in line,” Joel said, and then asked, “Where are we going to put all the food that’s in the starboard forward cabin?”
Trevor angled his head towards the salon. “We can use the storage compartments under the cushions of the sofa.”
The next hour passed in frantic activity, as Trevor and Joel moved the cases of canned hot dogs and pork chili to the salon, and then they split up to gather their things and move them to Trevor’s sea cabin. Trevor retrieved clean linen, and they changed the beds and then vacuumed.
Trevor glanced at his watch, and said, “Except for the bathrooms, we’re just about ready. We’re also just about out of time; we’ll need to weigh anchor in ten minutes.”
“You do yours, I’ll do mine. I can get us underway, then you take over for the approach. Uh, what do we wear to get guests aboard?” Joel asked.
Trevor shrugged. “I like to meet ‘em in pressed shorts and a polo shirt. We were shirtless when they met us, but in my opinion, it looks more professional to dress up a bit when they come aboard, even though we’re going to have to get ‘em in the Zodiac.”
It took a lot of hard, fast work, but by the time Atlantis rounded the point and entered Aghios Ioannis Bay, the bathrooms were clean, and Trevor and Joel had tugged on matching blue polo shirts. Trevor took the con and anchored Atlantis a hundred feet off the beach, taking care to position her broadside to the shore, for the most impressive view.
“Let’s go get our guests,” Trevor said, lowering the Zodiac.
Joel looked ashore, and spotted the group of eight, each with a suitcase, standing near the waterline. “That’s going to be quite a load. Maybe I should wait here,” Joel said.
Trevor shook his head. “No way I’ll do it in one run. We can both make the first run, then you do the second while I show the first group around. I don’t want to leave any of them aboard alone; we don’t know them.”
Trevor ran the Zodiac onto the nearly waveless beach, and raised a hand in greeting to Blake, who stepped forward, suitcase in hand. Nodding towards Atlantis, which was riding at anchor on the azure blue water, Blake said, “That’s a good looking boat you’ve got there. Can you take all of us in your skiff in one go?”
Trevor shook his head. “No, not with luggage. I can carry nine people, me included, maximum. Less with luggage.”
Blake, who was evidently the dominant personality in the group, called back over his shoulder, “One of us will need to stay here with the bags.”
Barbra shrugged, and motioned for the other three couples to go ahead. “I’ll do it, go ahead and see what you think of the boat.”
Trevor loaded the passengers onto the Zodiac, and then he and Joel shoved the Zodiac off the beach, and motored it out to Atlantis. Once they were all aboard, Trevor led the way for a tour of the salon, galley, and four passenger cabins. After a cursory glance at each of the other three couples, and upon receiving nods of agreement, Blake said, “Very nice. Okay, can you do our itinerary of Gyaros, Polyaigos, Kimolos, and then back here?”
Trevor powered on his navigation screen, and checked course and weather before replying, “Barring storms, which aren’t in the forecast, yes. There are high winds forecast, so we’ll need to anchor in areas sheltered from the north, but Atlantis can handle some rough seas.”
Blake nodded. “I’m an archaeologist, and every island I listed except Kimolos is uninhabited, though they were inhabited in the past. I’ve always wanted to see them.”
Trevor wondered what the other seven guests wanted, but kept that thought to himself. Instead, he said, “We’ll need to stop for groceries somewhere en route, otherwise we’ll run short with ten people aboard. If there are any special food preferences, I’ll need to shop here, before we sail–”
Blake waved his hand dismissively and glanced around at Atlantis’s sparkling salon. “I’m well aware that this charter was arranged without adequate notice, and frankly your yacht is in far better condition than I’d assumed. I also note that you said the cabins wouldn’t be ready, yet they are. You two must have worked like madmen to get this much done in so short a time. Anyway, stopping for supplies is fine. When we’re in Kimolos we’ll probably eat ashore for most meals anyway; several of us are very fond of rural Greek cooking. You can probably find any supplies you need in Kimolos too, so as long as you’ve got food enough for three days, I want to get underway now,” Blake said, as he fished in his pocket and pulled out a thick wad of hundred-euro notes. “There’s six thousand and I’ll give you the other half on the morning of our final day, assuming things go well.”
Trevor took the money and grinned. “Welcome aboard,” he said again.
Blake glanced around again. “It’s nice and cool in here, so you have the air conditioning on. I’m not overly fond of heat, so leave it on for the voyage.”
That, Trevor knew, would mean leaving the auxiliary generator on and use around a hundred dollars worth of diesel fuel, but expenses were part of the business.
Trevor turned to Joel and said, “Could you take care of the next shore run while I get everyone settled?”
As Joel motored to shore, Trevor let his guests pick their cabins, and then he went aft to help Joel, who was arriving with Barbra and the luggage.
While Trevor showed the guests how to work their bathrooms, cabin audio-visual systems, and other amenities, Joel hoisted the Zodiac, weighed anchor, and took Atlantis out to sea, setting course for Gyaros. A mile off Mykonos, he unfurled and trimmed the sails, and Atlantis accelerated to seventeen knots as she reached across the rising north wind.
As Blake and Trevor returned to the salon, Blake glanced out a window. “We’re really moving, but it’s a smoother ride than I expected. I’ve never been on a catamaran before. How long to Gyaros?”
Trevor flicked on the main screen at the nav desk, and checked the course and weather. “Under two hours, if the wind holds.”
Blake pointed at the island on the screen. “Zoom in close on the southeastern corner of the island.” Trevor did as he’d been told, and then Blake continued, “The first promontory north of the cape has a bay on its north side. Anchor there.”
Trevor checked the depth chart, and then asked, “Have you been there before?”
“No, but I’m an expert on the island. On the south side of the bay is an abandoned prison. Gyaros has been a place of exile since antiquity, and I want to see the prison, and some ruins that are a short walk inland. Several Roman historians, including Tacitus, wrote of Gyaros. It was populated up until sometime during the first century, because Pliny the Elder mentioned that it had a city, and there are references to it as being inhabited in classical times. But sometime shortly after Pliny the Elder wrote about it, the island became uninhabited, though no one knows why. After that time, it was notorious for its desolation and a popular place to maroon exiles.”
‘A ghost island, just great, I wonder what the other guests think about that, if he even cares,’Trevor thought.
Blake tapped at the screen, over the island’s western slopes. “On aerial photos you can discern ancient terraces, indicating olive cultivation, on the far side of the island from where we will be anchored. I plan to hike across to a flat area that could well be the site of the lost city that Pliny the Elder mentioned. It probably wasn’t a large city, more of a town, due to the lack of a constant fresh water source, but rainwater collection could have supported a mid-sized settlement.”
“What about diving? How many will be going down? I only have five sets of gear,” Trevor asked.
Blake shrugged. “I’m certified, and so are Mike and his wife, Jane. None of the others have ever been diving. The waters around Gyaros are rough, so I doubt we’ll want to dive there unless I find something. Polyaigos, on the other hand, has some spectacular beaches, and according to the guidebooks there are some superb dive sites in the area.
As they approached Gyaros, Trevor hauled down the sails and fired up the engines. Motoring into the anchorage, while Joel prepared a snack for the guests, Trevor saw the red brick ruins of the prison on a hill to his left, and that, together with the barren mountains, gave the place an eerie feel.
“Pushy, isn’t he?” said an unfamiliar voice from behind, making Trevor jump. “Hi, I’m Mike Grenouille, and while Blake’s in his cabin, I can get a word in edgewise,” said a slightly balding, grinning man with a Tennessee drawl.
One of Trevor’s cardinal rules was never badmouth one guest to another, so he shrugged noncommittally and looked at the barren, pockmarked hillside. “Kind of a spooky place here.”
Mike leaned on the rail and nodded. “Yeah, Blake likes abandoned stuff so this is right up his alley. Last year he took us all out to New Mexico, on a ghost town tour. Blake’s okay once you get to know him; he just comes across as pushy. We’ve all known each other since college, so we’re used to him. Hey, thanks for doing this charter for us; we were all real disappointed when we arrived and found the other one let us down. Blake’s not the only one who wanted to see out-of-the-way Greek islands, we all do; we’re just not as into the uninhabited ones and ruins as he is. That’s why we made him add Polyaigos to the route; it’s right next to two inhabited islands, so while he’s exploring goat paradise, we can see some rural towns and stuff.”
“Goat paradise?” Trevor asked, arching an eyebrow.
Mike chuckled. “Yeah, ‘Polyaigos’ means Goat Island. It’s got goats, rocks, beaches, and a few barely visible ruins, mainly just stacked rocks. I’m a herpetologist so I’d prefer somewhere a little less arid, but there might be some things of interest there.”
Puzzled, Trevor asked, “What does a herpetologist do?”
Mike smiled. “Herpetologist means someone who studies amphibians and reptiles, but most are more specialized than that. In my case, I focus on amphibians, and specifically the subclass Lissamphibia, and the orders Anura and Caudata. In plain English, that means toads, frogs, salamanders, and newts.”
“Are all of you scientists?” Trevor asked.
Mike shook his head. “Blake and I are the only academics. By the way, I was wondering about something... Barbra said you and Joel are friends, but you guys seem really close, and you look kind of alike, so I was wondering if she has it wrong and you’re brothers?”
Trevor grinned and shook his head. “We’re not related, but he’s my best friend, and so is his girlfriend, Lisa, who couldn’t come with us...” Trevor said, his voice trailing off as he brought Atlantis around, fifty feet from the beach, and said, “I’ll be right back, I’ve got to deploy the anchors.”
Mike kept quiet until Trevor was done anchoring, and then continued, “The inter-island ferries only go to the major islands, so chartering a boat was the only way to see the stuff that hasn’t been overrun with tourists. I’ll bet you and Joel have been having a blast out here, going wherever you want.”
Trevor smiled and nodded. “Yeah, it’s been awesome.”
“How long until you guys return home?” Mike asked, not noticing the brief pained expression that crossed Trevor’s face.
“Joel is flying home in just under two weeks. I’m going home the long way, via the Suez; I’m doing a circumnavigation.”
Mike blinked. “All the way around? Wow, that’s some journey.”
“I’ve already logged over seven thousand miles, so I’m close to a third of the way already. My best guess for a total is somewhere around thirty thousand. I’ll get home in late spring if it goes like I plan,” Trevor said, with a touch of pride.
Mike gave Trevor an appraising look. In a low voice, he said, “Blake was a bit concerned about your age... you’re a lot younger than we’d expected, to be in command of a charter yacht. You’ve been doing fine so far though.”
Trevor smiled; without Julie to act as captain, he’d been expecting that. “Thanks. I’ve been doing this for three years.”
“You sure aren’t new to it then,” Mike said, along with an approving nod and a chuckle.
It was early evening by the time they had anchored, but Blake would not be delayed. He ordered Trevor to run him ashore, where he took off on his own to have a look at the abandoned prison, while the other seven members of his party sat on deck, sipping iced cocktails served by Joel.
During a trip inside to the bar, Trevor smirked and said, “At some point, they might want to raid your beer supply.”
Joel’s jaw dropped open in mock horror. “Oh no, anything but that.” Then he chuckled softly. “Go ahead if they want it. I was able to buy alcohol in Santorini, so no big deal.”
After Blake returned aboard, Trevor chatted with the guests while Joel grilled steaks and potatoes on the cockpit barbecue. After dinner, Trevor put on a movie in the salon, and invited the guests to make use of his DVD library on their cabin players.
By eleven, as Atlantis rode at anchor in the lonely bay, the guests had turned in for the night. Trevor and Joel sat in the cockpit, enjoying the peace and quiet for a while, shooting the breeze about future plans.
Just before midnight, Trevor, in his beanbag, yawned and stretched. “I think I better sack out; tomorrow is probably going to be a full day.”
Joel stood up, and then he hesitated. “Trev, why do you need to sleep out here? We’re at anchor.”
Trevor looked out at the moonlit sea. “Feel the boat rocking? There’s a heavy north swell. This bay is only partially sheltered, and I didn’t like the feel when I set the anchors. It’s okay, I often sleep in my beanbag on charters, especially when I’m unsure of the anchors. Any changes to Atlantis will wake me up, plus I have a GPS alarm set, so you might as well have the bed.”
Joel nodded, and turned to head forward, “Wake me if you want me to take a shift. G’night, Trev.”
Trevor fell into the easy, familiar routine of a charter. He woke at dawn, checked the anchor lines and the weather report, and then headed for the galley. The normal procedure on an Atlantis charter was for the guests to pick from menus before the trip, but on this charter, they were having to make do. Trevor glanced nervously around the galley, wondering if he could make a passable omelet. He retrieved the eggs from the refrigerator, and realized that at two eggs per person, an omelet would use up most of the egg supply. With that shortage in mind, he decided to wait and see what the guests actually wanted.
Suddenly worried, Trevor checked to make sure they had an ample supply of sandwich ingredients, and then he set some frozen steaks and chicken to thaw, planning on a barbecue for dinner.
Trevor counted the coming days in his head, and began writing in a notepad, trying to come up with menus for the coming days, more sure than ever that he would need to do a major re-supply at the earliest opportunity.
Joel walked in, looking sleepy, dressed in shorts and a polo shirt. Trevor waved in silent greeting, pouring Joel a mug of coffee and using it to lure him out into the cockpit.
As soon as they were outside, Trevor said quietly, “I’m glad you’re up. I’m just trying to figure breakfast out, and then a few more meals. This is so much easier with catered frozen stuff.”
Joel gulped down some coffee and then gave Trevor a disgruntled shake of his head. “I tried some of those, they’re okay, but fresh cooked is better... and fortunately for you, I can cook. I saw the eggs, so I’m guessing you’re offering those for breakfast? Done how, or done to order?”
Trevor shrugged. “I was thinking a big omelet and cut it up, but that’d take most of our egg supply so I figured we’d see what they want first.”
Joel rolled his eyes. “You don’t have a pan big enough for that many eggs anyway. Yeah, do ‘em separate, that way they can have them how they want them... and for the sake of our guests, I’ll cook.”
Trevor smiled at the jab, and pointed at his notebook. “I’m trying to figure out meals for the rest of the trip. I want to at least have some ideas before I ask the guests for requests. You’ve been in a Greek supermarket, I haven’t, so I need your help; you know what’s available.”
Joel shrugged, “In a small village like where we’re going, it’ll probably be a small market store, not a supermarket, so I’m not sure. We might have to wait until we get there and figure it out then.”
Shortly after dawn, Blake walked out into the cockpit, where he announced to Trevor and Joel, “For breakfast, I like cereal; basically any kind that isn’t frosted. No one has any allergies except Phil, to strawberries. For here on Gyaros, we will obviously make do with whatever you have aboard today. For tomorrow, I’d like a beach cookout; I saw enough wood ashore.” Blake looked out at the island before adding, “I’ll need a packed lunch and water for my explorations today. Any kind of sandwich will do, but I need it ready in half an hour.”
Blake returned to his cabin, and Trevor chuckled at Joel’s puzzled expression. “You get all kinds of guests. He’s just kind of abrupt.”
Joel shrugged, and then nodded. “I’ll go make him some sandwiches and set out some bottled water.”
Trevor smiled. “Thanks. I’m going to grab a shower and some clean clothes.”
A few minutes later, while Trevor was still in the shower, Blake collected the sandwiches and water, put them in a backpack, and had Joel ferry him to the beach in the Zodiac. Once ashore, Blake was focused on his task, ignoring an old, worn sign as he walked inland. He gave it only a cursory glance, but it was in Greek, a language he didn’t speak.
The sign was simple and to the point; it said, “Danger: unexploded munitions.”
The remaining guests finished their breakfasts, and took books to read on the beach, leaving Trevor and Joel alone on Atlantis to clean up after breakfast, and then to prepare lunch. That afternoon, while the rest of the guests went ashore, Trevor and Joel finally had some time to relax.
Blake returned just before dinner, and Mike asked, “Find anything?”
Blake glanced back at the island. “I reached the flat promontory on the other side of the island that I was looking for. It is mainly exposed bedrock. I noted and photographed a few indentations in the rock that might have been foundation stone courses, but they are too eroded to be sure and may be the result of natural changes. The hillsides contain clear signs of terracing for agriculture and appear to date to the classical period based on cursory examination of strata erosion.”
Mike smiled and asked, “So, did you find your lost city, or not?”
Blake shrugged. “Most likely not. There are clear signs that this island was inhabited in classical times, but that is already an established fact. I judge that the promontory, due to its defensible location and the adjoining sheltered anchorage would be the most likely location for a townsite, but my observations are inconclusive. My current working theory is that the promontory, which has a main elevation of about fifty feet above sea level, may have been scoured clean by a tsunami, which are hardly unknown in this area, due to its seismicity.”
“What’s the next step?” Mike asked.
Blake looked slightly downcast. “I was hoping to identify promising locations for a dig, but so far, nothing. I took several hundred photographs, and when I get back, I’ll see if the eggheads in the geology department can shed any light on the matter. There is a very real possibility that if a town once occupied the site, all traces are lost.” Blake glanced back at the island, helped himself to one of Joel’s beers, and sat down in the salon to read.
That night, they had a barbecue of marinated steak and chicken, which Trevor cooked on the stainless steel grill on the back of the cockpit.
At the helm of her twin diesel Sea-Ray 39 powerboat, which was presently wearing the name “Sea Witch,” Bridget smiled as she slowed to enter the channel off Nassau, the capitol of the Bahamas and its largest city. Bridget smiled at George and patted the helm. “You’re right; it’s been too long since I’ve been at sea. I’ll make a point of coming with you more often.”
Detective George Alfred chuckled. “See that you do, but you’ve had a lot on your plate recently, thanks to Gonzalez rekindling the investigation into Arnold’s death.”
Bridget smiled and then began to laugh. “He’s a persistent bastard, I’ll give him that.”
“That he is. We’re lucky that he seems to be focusing on Dirk Carlson, for now.”
Shrugging and looking at the approaching city of low buildings, and then at the massive resort to the left, Bridget said, “Yes, and this meeting should take care of the problem once and for all.”
“Where are we meeting them?” Detective Alfred asked.
Bridget pointed at the towering buildings of the resort, two miles away across the glittering sea. “The Atlantis hotel.”
Detective Alfred blinked in surprise, and then broke into a hearty laugh. “Now that’s an interesting choice of names, given the target. Do you think they’ll do the hit?”
Bridget nodded. “I have no doubt of it. I’ve been dealing with them for over twenty years, to the tune of tens of millions per year. Their cartel has connections worldwide, and I’ll offer well more than the going rate. Their concern will be the investigation into me; out of fear of the damage to their operations, should the investigation unearth it.”
“Yeah, if Gonzalez’s investigation focuses on you again, and the cartel hears about it, we’ve both got trouble.”
Smiling coldly, Bridget nodded. “This will kill two birds with one stone. There was always the risk that the young fool would find the wreck of the Ares, which is why I endeavored to convince him that the Bahamas were unsafe for him. Then, opportunity presented itself, or so I thought, in the form of the investigation into Dirk, and the possibility that he could be blamed for Arnold’s killing as well. It was, in hindsight, naive of me to send those e-mails in the hope that Dirk’s lover would kill Trevor to keep him away from Ares. I suppose one form of moral depravity does not always beget another.”
Detective Alfred chuckled, and with a wicked, knowing grin, he asked, “Bridget, my dear, are you by any chance calling murder a form of moral depravity?”
Bridget snorted, and then laughed. “Only when it occurs outside the bounds of holy wedlock, my dear.” Turning serious, she said, “We do need to impress upon our associates that Trevor’s death must be anonymous and resemble the loss of Ares, otherwise it won’t cast the needed suspicion on Dirk. I have a few ideas in that regard.”
The next morning, with the sun rising over the Aegean, lighting the desolate landscape of Gyaros with a golden glow, Blake displayed no intention of returning to the far side of the island, and informed Trevor that he’d like to sail for their next destination just before sundown.
That afternoon, a hike was organized, and Trevor and Joel found themselves included. Neither of them minded; they both were curious about the island.
After a lunch of sandwiches aboard, Trevor and Joel joined their guests in exploring the abandoned prison, and from there for a short hike into the hills, following a worn trail that angled northwards up the slopes.
The trail was narrow, only inches wide in places, and Joel gave it a puzzled glance before asking Blake, “This trail looks like it’s been used recently and often, but by who, if the island is uninhabited?”
Blake shrugged. “It is uninhabited by humans. We are on a goat trail; like most islands in the Aegean, Gyaros has a population of feral goats. They tend to use the same routes, so they form trails over time.”
They paused after a few hundred feet, stopping to take in the spectacular view and feeling the rising wind that battered them on the exposed promontory. Trevor noticed Mike approaching, holding a jagged piece of twisted rusty metal in his hands. Showing it to Trevor first, and then holding it up, he said, “I don’t want to worry anyone, but we might have a bit of a problem. I just noticed a lot of hollows in the earth, and there’s quite a lot of this,” he wiggled the metal for emphasis, “around. I was in the Marines, and my guess is we’re standing on a naval gunnery target range. I’m not too worried; it doesn’t look recent, but there might be unexploded ordinance around, and it could be unstable.”
“You’re telling us we’re in a minefield?” Phil asked, a hint of panic in his voice.
Mike shook his head. “Nothing that bad. I’d just suggest being careful until we get off this hill. I was part of an amphibious-assault training op in Vieques, which used to be a navy base and target range off Puerto Rico. I went into the live target range quite a few times, no big deal. It’s just a good idea to stick to worn paths, like the goat trail we’ve been following. In all likelihood, the biggest danger is stepping on some shrapnel and it cutting through our shoes.”
“This island was used for target practice by the Greek Navy, but they stopped almost ten years ago,” Blake said dismissively.
“Unexploded munitions can become unstable over time, so this could still be dangerous,” Mike said, while intently looking at the terrain, seeing hundreds of weathered, barely discernable shell craters pocking the hillside.
Glaring at Blake, Phil said, “You knew, and you didn’t see fit to tell us?”
Blake blinked in surprise. “I knew it was once a target range for their navy, but that was years ago. I had no knowledge of any remaining danger; the island is marked as open to the public.”
Mike tried to defuse the budding discord by jumping in to say, “He’s an archaeologist, with no background in modern weaponry. He had no way of knowing, and the fact of the matter is; we’re probably safe. It’s not the whole island; I don’t see any sign of cratering on the other hills. In all likelihood, this hillside was the primary aim point.”
“Fat lot of good that does us when we’re standing on it,” Phil said, scowling and looking around apprehensively.
Trevor swallowed hard, glancing around at the suddenly ominous scenery, and said, “I think we’d better return to Atlantis, or at least get off the shelled area.”
Joel looked around, preferring to be anywhere but there.
Mike turned back down the narrow goat path, heading for the beach, and said in a cheerful tone, “In the Marines, we’d go single-file, just in case, about thirty feet apart.”
They fell into line, with Mike leading the way and Trevor next in line behind him. In that long moment, Trevor realized the reason for Mike’s advice. ‘If one of us triggers an explosion, it won’t get all of us’, he thought, his gut turning to ice.
Joel took a position near the rear of the line, doing his best to act confident and unconcerned, so as not to worry the guests.
Mike glanced back, and with a reassuring smile called out, “Just a precaution, can’t hurt. There’s probably little to no danger, especially on the trail. A passing goat would have set off anything under the trail long ago.” Mike was lying, but he felt it was in a good cause. Explosives can become unstable over time, so what was inert a short time before could very well explode from the slightest touch or vibration now. Mike felt the burning sun on his neck, which only served to remind him that heat, coupled with time, was the most common cause of instability in explosives.
Trevor nodded, not believing a word and not sharing Mike’s faith in goat trails. Turning, he made sure to smile as he told his guests and Joel, “We’ll be fine, and in a few minutes we’ll be back on Atlantis, having drinks.”
“I’ll sure need a few,” Phil grumbled, picking his way along with extraordinary care, as the goat trail led them downhill, back towards Atlantis, and unknown to anyone, directly through the most heavily shelled area of the hillside.
Atlantis' Page (see what Atlantis looks like)
© 2010 C James
Please let me know what you think; good, bad, or indifferent.
Please give me feedback, and please don’t be shy if you want to criticize! The feedback thread for this story is in my Forum. Please stop by and say "Hi!"
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, and to Bondwriter for final Zeta-reading and advice.
Any remaining errors are mine alone.