The Great Australian Blight
Trevor poured himself a big mug of coffee to nurse as he manned the helm of the Kookaburra. Alone with his thoughts, he watched the coastline pass by a few miles to port. He had hoped that, with his rescue, the nightmares would stop.
The nightmare had variations; most often, it involved the pirates, and other times, dying alone in furious seas. The sensation of being unable to breathe played a frequent role, and he often awoke covered in sweat, gripped by a sensation of terror far greater than he’d felt during the attack itself. Trevor took a deep breath, looking out over the azure waters.
As had happened so often on Atlantis, the nightmares had come again. They were often so vivid that he’d bolt right out of bed, gasping for breath. At least this time he’d managed to stifle the cry of fear on his lips. He didn’t want to explain them to Shane.
‘Maybe they’ll go away soon,’ he thought, more in hope than conviction.
When Shane returned from his nap just over an hour later, he was wet from a shower and wearing a faded pair of boardies.
“Feeling human yet?” Trevor asked, and then his stomach growled, loudly.
“Sounds like you’re hungry,” Shane observed dryly, and then added, “Me too, it’s been forever since brekkie. What do you want for lunch?”
“As long as it isn’t hot dogs, I don’t care,” Trevor replied.
“Melted cheese sandwiches with sweet chili sauce, then,” Shane replied, heading for the galley.
After lunch, Trevor remained at the helm. His conversation with Shane drifted, covering everything from sports to recent events, returning again to their shared love of surfing. Trevor looked at the chart and asked, “Shark Bay is too sheltered for surfing, right?”
“’Fraid so, mate, but there are some awesome point breaks just a few miles away on the ocean side of the barrier islands and peninsulas. But, we need to get you a board, too. There’ll be time for that once we get back to Carnarvon. Any idea how long you’ll be around? You’ll be staying until Atlantis is fixed up, right?”
Trevor turned to look north, towards Carnarvon, even though it was much too far astern to see. After a few moments, he replied, “I’ll know more after Ned has had a few days to write up the detailed estimate, but yeah, I’m probably looking at a few months. I don’t know what I’ll do. I want to be involved in fixing Atlantis, but I need to start looking for my relatives, too. I’ve also got a huge fucking problem back home; I’m supposed to be there as early as the first week of April, because Joel fixed me up with an underwater archeologist. The plan is to use Atlantis as a sonar platform, towing some kind of new experimental sidescan sonar, to try to find the wreck of Ares. If Atlantis is ready by early February, I think I can make it, barely, if everything goes perfect on the weather side. The other option is to fly home and use my rental-replacement clause to rent a catamaran with similar capabilities – if I can find one in Florida, then fly back for Atlantis.”
Shane gave Trevor a sad smile. “Finding the wreck of your mum’s boat is kind of a quest for you, isn’t it?” he asked softly.
Trevor nodded. “I need to do it. For myself, and for Mom. If I don’t, I’ll never know for sure what killed her, or if my dad was involved. I have to find her.”
“That’s loyalty, mate, and loyalty is about the best thing there is to my way of thinking,” Shane said, in a hushed tone. “Is there any way you can delay the search, so you’re not needing to race halfway around the world?”
Trevor leaned up against the Kookaburra’s wheel housing and sighed. “I’ll ask Joel to find out. The archeologist wasn’t sure on the timing; it depends on how the development of the equipment goes. The timeframe he gave was April or May, I think, and I thought I’d be there and ready. If it’s early April though... from what Ned says, I don’t see any hope of Atlantis being ready to put to sea for that kind of a voyage in time, not even close.”
Shane’s expression brightened, and he glanced around. “I might have an idea for you: what about using Kookaburra? Does she have the capabilities you need? She’s almost identical to Atlantis, just newer, right?”
Trevor glanced at the engine controls thoughtfully. “Sorta... The Lagoon 55 and 57 are nearly identical, but the hull is a little different at the bows, and the 57 has newer fittings and gear. The thing is, there are differences between even identical models of a boat, and engine power is the big one in this case.” Trevor advanced the throttles all the way forward, feeling Kookaburra smoothly accelerate. “Let’s see what she’ll do; from the feel of her, I don’t think it’ll be enough. Atlantis can do fifteen knots under max power because she has unusually large engines for a cruising cat. Ares was the same; she had pretty big engines, and I remember Mom having her at fourteen knots under power a couple of times. The issue with the sonar is they need that power to tow it fast enough, even with the extra weight and drag. The archeologist wanted Atlantis because of that. I don’t think Kookaburra could do it. Even if she could... it’d mean taking her from here to Florida, then back, then taking Atlantis home. I’d end up doing two circumnavigations! I could do it a lot faster than I have been, but it’d still take a long time, and I wouldn’t go through the damn Suez again, I’d go around Africa. It’s something like twelve thousand miles each way from here, so even pushing hard, and using the engines whenever there’s light wind, it would take over two months each way, even if everything was perfect. No way would my insurance cover renting Kookaburra for that long, because it ends the day Atlantis is ready.”
“Okay, there’s big problems with the idea, but maybe they can be worked around – maybe the Blakes would cut you some kind of a deal due to renting Kookaburra for so long?”
Trevor chewed on his lip. The idea was alluring in many ways, and would solve some of his problems. “I like it, but... there’s the insurance issues, and the cost, and...” Trevor tapped at the speed gauge, “She’s maxed out at eleven knots. Loading Atlantis down with the sonar gear, plus the drag of towing the sonar, would knock a few knots off her speed, so Kookaburra would be the same, and that’d make her too slow for the sonar gear, probably...” Trevor began to wonder if the slower speed would suffice, but then he shook his head, “It’s just not gonna work. Even if we could figure out how to do it, what do you think the chances are of the Blakes letting me take their boat around the world, even if I could find a way to handle the cost?”
Shane scowled. “About zero, I guess. Damn.”
Trevor gave Shane a thoughtful look. “If we’d have figured out a way... would you have come with me?”
“Hell yes I would! I’d love to be part of something like that, not to mention a chance to see some of the world. Besides, without Kookaburra, I’ve no home.”
Trevor looked at Shane, wishing that a lot of things were different. “Are you sure? There’s the problem of people trying to kill me.”
Shane threw a friendly arm across Trevor’s bare shoulders. “I know, but I’m not the risk-adverse sort at the best of times. Anyway, let’s focus on the next few days; the quest right now is getting you some holiday time, and you’re in the best place in the world for it!”
Trevor enjoyed the feel of Shane’s friendly arm across his shoulders, and it reminded him of Joel and his open, accepting ways. Trevor felt again the pang of missing Joel and the brotherly closeness that they shared. Trevor glanced at Shane, his blond hair blowing in the wind, seeing the similarities to Joel. To Trevor’s surprise, he was finding that Shane, in many ways, was fitting into his life in a way that Joel had, before Joel had flown home.
Trevor had only known Shane a few days, but in that brief time, Shane had filled Trevor’s craving for companionship, a need made all the stronger by the months alone and in danger.
Shane smiled and pointed at the chart display, zooming it out to show all of Shark Bay. “It’s an unusual shape for a bay; it’s open end facing up the main coast, and the two huge parallel arms. I’ll bet you can’t guess what made it,” Shane said, with a wry, knowing smile.
Trevor looked at the display for a few moments before replying, “No clue.”
Shane smiled proudly and launched into one of the memorized spiels he normally gave for tourists. “An enormous asteroid. It hit about two hundred and fifty million years ago, and made Woodleigh Crater. The crater is centered inland from the bay and was only discovered a few years ago, because it’s buried now, but they think the crust deformation was stretched out over time, and helped form Shark Bay, kind of like America’s Chesapeake Bay was caused by a far more recent asteroid strike. The Woodleigh impact is also thought to be responsible for a huge extinction event, which killed off ninety percent of all species alive at the time. It was a bloody big hole in the ground.”
Trevor gave Shane a surprised nod and a smile. “I’ve never heard of any of that... and you tell it well. I try to do stuff like that for charter guests in the Bahamas, but I don’t do it that well, even after lots of practice. I sound like I’m reading from a textbook.”
“So did I, the first time I tried it, because that’s what I was doing. So, I re-wrote it, trying to make it a bit more understandable and less dry. The ‘bloody big’ part helps, I think.”
“It does, a lot,” Trevor said, before checking the horizon and ducking into the salon, emerging with one of the sheets Shane had written up for the journalists. “You did great with this; it sounds... American, sort of, but...”
“I was going for stereotypical American, so it’s a fit for an Aussie trying to pass himself off as a Yank,” Shane replied, smiling proudly. “I’ve a way with words, probably due to talking so much.”
Trevor laughed, glancing at the paper again. “It works. You’re good at this. Got any more?”
Shane’s grin was almost predatory. “You want to see my writings? You’ve let yourself in for it now, mate; I won’t let you change your mind. I’ll dig a few out for you to look at.”
“I’d like to see ‘em,” Trevor replied, and then glanced out at the sparkling, azure waters, feeling the warm breeze on his skin, enjoying the easy pace of the day.
“Follow me,” Shane said, heading into the salon. Shane arrived at the bookcase, and stretched up, reaching for a binder on the top shelf.
As Trevor walked toward Shane, Trevor found himself drawn to the sight of rippling back muscles as Shane stretched up, instead of paying attention to where he put his own feet. Trevor felt a sudden jab of pain, wincing as his foot hit the boom. Arms flailing, Trevor pitched forward, once again in the firm grip of his old nemesis, gravity. Trevor toppled over the boom, catching himself with his arms as he slammed into the salon’s hard wooden floor with a profound thud.
Shane heard the noise and spun around, binder in hand. “You okay?” he asked, blinking in surprise as Trevor hurriedly scrambled to his feet.
“I tripped,” Trevor mumbled, looking away and running his fingers through his hair.
Shane paused for a moment, and then a smile grew on his face. “Trev, let me tell you a bit about boats; just because that thing you tripped over is called a boom, it doesn’t mean you’re supposed to fall down over it and go ‘boom’.”
“Shut up,” Trevor grumbled, with an embarrassed smile on his face, though still not meeting Shane’s eyes.
“Are all Yanks as clumsy as you?” Shane asked, and then added, “Nah, they couldn’t be, or you lot would have gone extinct long ago.”
“Shut up and show me your fucking writing before I change my mind,” Trevor shot back, still smiling as he nodded at the binder in Shane’s hand.
Shane grinned, picking a page and turned to it as they headed back to the cockpit. “This’ll give you an overview, and I’ve plenty more.”
Back at the helm, Trevor sat down and began to read, impressed by what he saw. “You’re good, real good,” he said, which evoked a proud smile from Shane.
For the next few hours, Trevor browsed Shane’s selected writings as Kookaburra cruised south to Faure Island. When they arrived, they anchored her a hundred feet off a spectacular white sand beach, as the sun slowly sank towards the island.
“The boom? Before you break your neck falling over it again?” Shane asked.
“The boom.” Trevor confirmed, heading into the salon as his cheeks flushed crimson.
Together, they carried the boom out and hauled it onto the salon roof, and then Shane retrieved a toolkit from the cockpit. Mounting the boom was a straightforward process; lift the correct end to its bracket on the mast, and replace the bolts. Then, reconnect the rigging, and unfurl and refurl the sail to make sure it worked. It took them almost an hour, and by the time they were done, they were covered in sweat. Taking a seat under the boom on the salon roof, they watched the spectacular sunset. After a few seconds, Shane clapped Trevor on the back and said, “We’re forgetting something: the beer!”
Shane returned a few moments later with two open, cold beers, handing one to Trevor. “Queensland’s finest product, other than myself, of course,” Shane said.
Trevor took a drink and laughed. “You do say that a lot.”
“It happens to be true,” Shane said, taking a drink and then sitting down beside Trevor. “I love this region, but Queensland is the best of Australia, and Four-ex is Queensland’s top beer in my opinion, and I’m always right on such matters.”
Trevor chuckled. “It’s great beer, I’ll give you that.”
After two beers each, Shane nudged Trevor’s elbow. “Hungry?”
Trevor nodded eagerly. “Starved.”
Shane led the way to the galley, and asked, “How about hamburgers on the barbie?” Trevor replied with a nod and a smile, and Shane rummaged around in the pantry until he found a few packages of onion soup mix and a bottle of Tabasco sauce. “I don’t do plain hamburgers; mine are the best you’ll taste anywhere. I make ‘em on the hot side, that okay?”
Enjoying his buzz and absently slipping into the old banter he’d had with Joel, Trevor quipped, “You can cook? Are you sure you’re...” Trevor stopped himself just in time. Shane looked at him in surprise, so Trevor quickly added, “Australian? I didn’t think Australians could do that.” As Shane began to laugh, Trevor kept smiling but gave himself a mental kick, reminding himself that Shane wasn’t Joel, and probably wouldn’t appreciate having his sexuality questioned.
Shane gave Trevor a mock glare. “Yankee interlopers coming to my country and insulting our kitchen skills! That’s a right insult, mate,” he said, in an exaggerated Australian accent. Switching to a lecturing tone, he added, “Australia is renowned for our use of the barbie, plus some regional specialties. For one thing, we do some of the world’s best seafood, and as you’ve found out, you can get some damn good Chinese takeaways. Now, when you continue your circumnavigation, if you go the south way ‘round the country, just stop in Adelaide and order a pie floater.”
Trevor studied Shane for a moment, seeing the smirk, and knew Shane was setting him up. “Okay, I’ll bite; what’s a pie floater?”
As he mixed the hamburger, Shane replied, “Okay, first, you take a good, traditional Australian meat pie – made with minced beef or lamb – which is usually loaded with as much fat as meat and surrounded by heavy pastry. You cook it, then put it in a large bowl and add a load of green pea soup so the pie floats. Then, you put a big dollop of tomato sauce on the pie, and viola, a pie floater!”
Trevor cringed, and swallowed once. “You have got to be kidding me.”
Shane shook his head. “Not in the least, you uncultured Yank. I’ve had ‘em before, in Adelaide on my way to Perth. They’re not as bad as I made them sound.”
“I guess they couldn’t be,” Trevor quipped.
“There ya go again,” Shane said, as he finished patting the hamburger into patties and put them onto a plate, and then washed his hands. “Insulting the fine cuisine of the Land Down Under. Let me get something,” he said, and bounded up the stairs to the salon.
Shane returned a few moments later, holding a large book with a glossy cover, picturing some spectacular sea cliffs. “Kookaburra has a pretty decent book collection, and I’ve read a lot of it. I think what I want is in this one,” Shane said, setting a guide to the Great Australian Bight. Shane set the book on the galley counter and flipping through a few pages. “Ah, here it is, in the Adelaide section,” Shane said, pointing at a picture;
“That’s a pie floater,” Shane continued, grinning, “Maybe I’ll make you one for your dinner tomorrow.”
Trevor looked at the picture and shuddered. “I think I’ll pass... yuck! That thing would go better in a book about the Great Australian Blight, not bight.”
Shane laughed, picking up the plate of hamburgers. “I just hope you don’t start complaining about these kangaroo burgers.” Trevor arched an eyebrow and stared at the plateful of patties. Shane laughed, and as he pulled a bag of buns from the refrigerator, said, “Don’t worry, that’s minced beef, or so they said at the store. I’ve never actually tried roo, so you’re safe enough – for now.”
They took the patties and buns outside, and Shane fired up the propane barbecue. When he judged it hot enough, he rubbed the patties down with chili sauce and tossed them, one by one, on the grill. While they cooked, he made a run to the kitchen for cheese, lettuce, a bottle of sauce, and some paper plates. Tossing the bottle to Trevor, Shane said, “Heads up, Trev. This is another one of Australia’s favorites: barbecue sauce. It’s one of Australia’s many inventions, though other countries try to rob us of that honor just because they had it first. Nothing better on burgers.”
When the burgers were almost done, Shane toasted the buns on the grill, added some cheese, melted it, and then served them up at the cockpit table, with onions, mustard, and barbecue sauce. Trevor found them to be delicious. “You’re a good cook,” Trevor said, taking another bite.
Shane shrugged. “I’ve crewed on charters so I pick up a few things, including from one of my ex-girlfriends, who’s a hell of a cook. I’m sure you’re pretty handy in a galley, seeing as how you run a charter.”
Trevor chuckled and shook his head. “Nah, I usually get ready-made meals for charters, and for a few fresh meals, Julie cooked.”
Shane arched an eyebrow, and asked, “Julie? She your girlfriend?”
Trevor laughed and shook his head. “Nope, she’s old enough to be my grandmother – and she’d kill me if she heard me say that. She was my captain; I’m not old enough to have a captain’s license – you have to be eighteen for that – so I hired her to be captain for charters to use her license to make it legal. She got a job offer in Tahiti; she’s a divemaster at a resort there now.”
“So you’re telling me that you’re right useless in the galley?” Shane asked, chuckling.
Trevor shrugged, and then reluctantly nodded. “Close enough. I can heat stuff up in a microwave okay though.”
“Takes great skill, that,” Shane said, with a derisive snort and a grin.
For dessert, they each had a heaping helping of Mrs. Fowler’s key lime pie, which brought back fond memories of home for Trevor, making him smile for reasons having nothing to do with the delicious taste.
After dinner and another beer, Trevor glanced out into the darkness, and then walked to the cockpit’s read rail to look up at the myriad stars, splashed across the sky like gemstones on black velvet. Far from city lights, they were as clear and spectacular as he’d so often seen on his voyage. As Shane joined him, Trevor looked up, and found the False Cross. Pointing at it, he said quietly, “I used the Southern Cross to navigate by on my way here. It’s good to see it and not have to wonder if I’ll be alive tomorrow.”
Shane gave Trevor a sympathetic pat on the back, and followed his gaze, studying the stars for a few moments before blinking in surprise. “Uh, Trev, that’s not the Southern Cross. The Southern Cross has five main stars, like I drew on your back, and that’s on that skateboard you bought.” Shane pointed to the left, near the glowing band of the Milky Way, “That’s the Southern Cross.”
Trevor stared at it, feeling a slight chill in spite of the tropical air. “I remember seeing it, and I figured the bigger of the two had to be it. Are you sure?”
“Yeah, that’s the Southern Cross, see the fifth star?” Shane said, tapping on Trevor’s bare back, “that’s this one, and what you were using doesn’t have it. Plus, it’s in the wrong place in the sky.”
“I think I know how I missed Réunion Island; I was steering by the wrong constellation,” Trevor said numbly, shuddering at the memory of his voyage.
For the next hour, Trevor and Shane sat out on deck, looking at the stars and talking of their respective homes. Then, Shane yawned, and said, “I’d better turn in; I’ve got to be up early. I want to polish up Kookaburra, in case Mr. Blake comes aboard.”
“We can get that done pretty quick; I do know how to shine up a boat for a charter.”
Shane shook his head. “Thanks Trev, but you’re the guest on this trip so there’s no reason for you to be polishing brass.”
Trevor elbowed Shane in the ribs, and with a chuckle, replied, “If I’m the guest then I can do as I please, so I’ll be helping. And, if you don’t like it, you can shut up about it, because the customer is always right.”
Shane gave Trevor a pat on the back, and as they headed inside, said, “Okay, I’ll keep my opinion that you’re out of your mind to myself, and welcome your help in the morning. Thanks mate... G’night, Trev.”
That night, Trevor was awakened twice by his nightmares, but managed to get back to sleep.
The sound of soft footsteps on the deck above his cabin jarred Trevor awake, and he bolted upright, breathing hard. He could hear the soft hum of Kookaburra’s generator, but even so, it took a few moments for Trevor to realize he was safe, and then he glanced at the clock, saw that it was six AM, and headed for the bathroom.
When Trevor padded out into the galley in a new pair of boardies, the first thing that hit him was the sight of Shane: blond, tan, shirtless, and smiling, in his short denim cutoffs. The second thing was the smell of bacon.
“I was up early so I’ve been cleaning windows and polishing the brightwork. Ready for some brekkie?” Shane asked, handing Trevor a cup of coffee.
“Always!” Trevor confirmed.
“Almost ready... could you make the toast, or is a toaster beyond your cooking abilities?” Shane asked, with a wicked grin.
Trevor replied with his middle finger and a laugh, and headed for the refrigerator. After peering inside, he pulled out a loaf and stared at it for a few moments. “Uh, it’s not sliced?”
Shane watched Trevor with wry amusement, and replied, “Bread doesn’t always come sliced, especially the good stuff. Here’s your first cooking lesson; you have to slice it before putting it in the toaster. You use a knife for that – the knives are the sharp pointy things.”
“It’s not smart to be insulting people who are about to have weapons in their hands,” Trevor shot back, grinning and flipping Shane the bird.
Shane just leaned against the counter, casually watching Trevor, whom he correctly guessed had never sliced bread before.
As Shane had expected, Trevor cut a couple of wildly uneven slices, one of which was too thick on one end to fit in the toaster. With a sad shake of his head, Shane observed, “I guess making toast is beyond you... here, let me help.”
Trevor snorted. “I can do this. Watch.” Trevor trimmed the slices until they fit in the toaster slots. He turned to Shane and grinned. “See? I did it,” he declared, as he started the toaster.
Shane returned his attention to his cooking for a minute, gauging the time and keeping an eye on the toaster. “Do you know what happens when you toast bread that’s thick at the bottom and thin on top?” Shane asked, glancing pointedly at the toaster.
Trevor looked, cringing as a wisp of smoke rose from one of the slots. “Shit,” he mumbled, flicking the slider up to stop the toaster and raise the toast.
“That’s a good one-word summary of your galley skills,” Shane quipped, picking up a piece of the very uneven toast, making a show of examining it. He pulled a bread knife from the drawer, and gave Trevor a smirk. “By the way, this is a bread knife. Always use the right tool for the job if you want it done properly.”
“Nowyou tell me,” Trevor replied, still smiling, but the mention of tools for the job brought back memories of the improvising he’d had to do to survive after the pirate attack. He brushed off the sudden down mood before Shane noticed, and resumed the mutual ribbing.
Shane served up breakfast: scrambled eggs, baked beans, orange juice, bacon, and toast with Vegemite.
Trevor dove in, enjoying what, to him, was the best breakfast he’d had in what seemed like forever. The baked beans made him smile. “My mom always used to do baked beans with breakfast. I guess that’s an Australian thing?” he asked.
Shane gave Trevor a puzzled look “Don’t they have baked beans in the ‘States?”
“Yeah, they do, kinda similar to these, but never for breakfast. I used to love ‘em with buttered toast. Thanks for this, it’s awesome!”
Shane grinned. “I figured you’d need a good Aussie brekkie.”
Trevor took a bite of the bacon, and then another. “I like this; it’s kind of like American bacon on one end, and Canadian bacon on the other. What we have at home is just the streaky end, though I think ours has more fat.”
Shane laughed. “I wouldn’t know; this is just normal bacon to me – it’s called middle rashers. I’ve seen some different sorts in the markets, but this is the most common.”
Trevor glanced towards the galley and asked, “How are we fixed for food now, anyway? We didn’t buy all that much at the supermarket.”
“We still have the microwave dinners which even you might be able to cook, and there’s a dozen eggs and a kilo of bacon, plus a few cans of beans, so we’re good for today and for brekkie tomorrow, but then we’re going to need to head for Denham to re-provision unless we want to live on just beer, which wouldn’t be a bad way to go. How long are we staying out for?”
Trevor blinked. “I don’t know; I was going to ask you that.”
“How long have you chartered Kookaburra for?”
Trevor gave Shane an open-handed shrug. “I don’t know that, either. Ned said it was for a few days, but he didn’t say how many. Maybe your boss will know?”
Shane rolled his eyes and laughed. “I think that’s one of the things he wants to ask you about. I guess we’ll figure it all out when we meet him.”
Trevor and Shane turned their attention to getting Kookaburra straightened up. Trevor took care of the dishes and polishing up the galley, while Shane vacuumed and dusted the salon. Trevor, remembering one thing they’d forgotten, dove over the side, and then spent the next few minutes removing the tape squares he’d placed on Kookaburra’s hulls to mimic the patches on Atlantis.
They hoisted the anchors, and Trevor grinned as he raised the mainsail and unfurled the foresail, hearing the welcome snap of canvas as it caught the morning breeze and Kookaburra accelerated south, gliding through the warm, placid water.
In Carnarvon, it was a sweltering day. Jason Kline mopped his brow, again silently cursing the heat and humidity. He’d slept poorly, kept awake by the motel room’s ancient air conditioner. Now, he faced his task with resolve; he’d scented a story, a big one, a goal made all the sweeter by his suspicion that the press fracas at the customs dock had been a ruse. If so, he could incorporate that fact – that the TV reporters had been played for fools – into his own story, a prospect that made him smile.
His first task that day was to find confirmation of the real story. He’d spent much of yesterday poking around town, and had talked to two people who had seen a different yacht at the customs dock; a very similar catamaran, but with white hulls instead of red, and looking far more battered. That, Kline correctly surmised, was the real pirate-hit yacht, and he knew that it had to be somewhere. Badly damaged as she was, the logical place would be a boatyard, for either repair, or at least a few parts. A call to the local yacht club informed him that there was only one in the entire region: Ned’s. They even gave him directions.
Kline drove to the yacht basin, parked, and walked to the entrance of Ned’s boatyard, peering in through the chain-link fence on the way, intent mainly on finding someone to question. From the entrance gate, he could see several boats at the dock, and a few hauled out and covered with tarps. He squinted, studying the tarped shapes. None appeared to be catamarans, but then his gaze fell on a large one, in the back. A single prow stuck out, but the tarp appeared round, and thus far larger than it would need to be to cover a monohull yacht. Had Kline not been looking for an attempt to conceal the boat, he’d have never given it a second thought, but now, his eyes narrowed. ‘The mast is way too small, and that prow is a single hull boat... it’s a disguise. They switched it for the red-hulled one, and hid it here for repairs,’ he thought, glancing around, and then walking purposefully to the small office, which he found empty.
Kline had no qualms about trespassing, so he walked towards the first of the tarped boats, trying to appear casual. Moving at a relaxed pace, he worked his way down the line, approaching his target. When he reached the edge of that tarp, he heard a noise inside and froze. He ducked around the nearest boat, putting it between himself and his target, and waited.
A few tense minutes later, he heard a couple of thuds, and then a rustle as Ned climbed down and ducked out from under the tarp. Kline stayed hidden, listening to Ned’s receding footsteps.
Kline took a deep breath, moved quietly to the edge of the tarp, ducking in fast – a little too fast, and banging his head against Atlantis’s hull. Wincing from both the sound and the pain, Kline looked up, at Atlantis’s starboard hull, seeing a ragged line of what looked to him to be – as indeed they were – bullet holes. Kline reached out, touching one, feeling the stickiness remaining from the tape that Ned had removed. “So, you’re real after all,” Kline whispered to himself, astounded that it had been so easy, and reaching into his pocket for his camera.
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.