Kookaburra, sailing at eleven knots, churned through the blue, sparkling waters of Hamelin Pool. The first hour had required careful handling, in order to navigate the narrow, winding channels through the shoals of Faure Sill. But now they were through and in the deeper waters, as Kookaburra made good use of the breeze.
Trevor stayed at the helm, Shane by his side, enjoying the warm morning air as they chatted about Shark Bay, Western Australia in general, and then surfing. The hours passed quickly, and Trevor blinked in surprise when he glanced at the nav display, and then looked ahead at the horizon and pointed. “We’re almost there.”
Trevor could now see the beach in the distance; a wide area on what looked like an endless ribbon of white sand. Beyond that, he could see the low, reddish desert soil dotted with scrub brush and the occasional small tree.
Shane stood up and nodded. He extracted a pair of binoculars out of a storage compartment in the wheel housing and studied the area near the jetty ahead. “It’s offseason and a Thursday, so it’s deserted. I don’t see Mr. Blake’s truck yet, but we’re a few minutes early,” he replied, scanning the area inland from the beach.
Trevor watched Shane for a few moments, picking up on the fact that Shane was a little uneasy. “What’s up?” Trevor asked.
Shane gave Trevor a bashful look. “Uh, I think one of the reasons Mr. Blake wants to meet you is Ned told him we fought, and that Pommy bastard sure as hell would make my side of it sound as bad as he could manage. Mr. Blake asked me about the fight, and I explained, but he sure didn’t sound too happy about it. I think he wants to make sure we’re getting along okay, and if I’m lucky – that’ll be all.”
“Oh shit, I didn’t think about that... He called while you were in the bathroom, and I guess I probably shouldn’t have made a crack about us fighting the whole way down here,” Trevor said innocently, making the whole thing up.
Shane’s head snapped around. He stared at Trevor for a moment, and then laughed. “You arse... you got me with that one. You’d have said if he’d called for real. Okay, Mr. Blake knows at least most of what we did to fox the press, and he knows we fought. Ned told him that I attacked you, and I told him we got into it when I mistook you for a burglar. I haven’t told him that I gave the first shove, but I won’t lie to him so I’m hoping that bit doesn’t come up,” Shane said, his eyes locked on Trevor’s.
Trevor understood the unspoken plea. “Don’t worry man; I’ll make sure he knows everything is okay and that I want you aboard. There’s also a good chance you’re worried for nothing. I’m in the same business he is, so I have a good idea what I’d be doing in his shoes: checking out the charter customer. If it was Atlantis that I’d hired out – and I wasn’t going along – I’d sure as hell want to meet the charter and see if I approved.”
Shane began to nod slowly. “That makes sense... and he did say he was coming up to meet you. So, maybe it’s you who should be nervous instead of me,” Shane quipped.
Trevor knew that Shane was joking, but his words had a ring of truth that gave Trevor pause. “You’re probably right, for real. I hated staying behind and sending Atlantis out with people I didn’t know – I did that a few times when school got in the way, but only because Julie was aboard as captain. I didn’t like it, at all, but I did it,” Trevor said.
Shane angled his head, a thoughtful look on his face. “Okay, so a similar case here; I’m sort of playing Julie’s role, so Mr. Blake will probably be fine with it. At any rate, he’s already let you have Kookaburra for a few days so he can’t be that worried about you.”
Trevor scratched his head, thinking. “When Julie was taking a charter out alone, I did swing by Atlantis to take a look at the customers, though just from dockside, trying to find any reason to kill the deal. I never did, so I just left, but part of me sure wanted to find a reason to stop it. I also wanted to interview those charters, but it was pointed out to me that they probably wouldn’t like being grilled by a teenager. If Mr. Blake is anything like me... yeah, he’s going to be real cautious, and suspicious as hell of me. I’d have never let somebody my age take Atlantis out. Plus, there’s another issue; Julie couldn’t do it as well as me, but she could con Atlantis in confined waters and she could handle her well. Mr. Blake knows you can’t do the same with Kookaburra, so he’s going to want to assure himself that I can handle her,” Trevor said, casting a worried glance towards the approaching shore.
Shane rolled his eyes. “You’re forgetting a couple of things: everything you’ve done to survive and get to Australia, and that he’s already let you sail her from Carnarvon and through the Faure Sill channels. If you had a customer who’d done what you’ve done in the Southern Ocean, in a nearly identical boat that they ran as a charter, would you worry?”
Trevor considered that for a moment. “Probably, just not as much, I guess. I hope this goes okay...”
Shane shook his head. “I was nervous and you calmed me down, but you’ve gone and made yourself nervous. Come on Trev, you’ve already got the boat, and he let you use it to fox the press, so quit worrying: that’s my job!”
Trevor nodded in agreement, giving Shane a smile, but Trevor was still apprehensive. ‘I’ll know soon, I guess,’ he thought, glancing at the horizon ahead. “We’re almost there. I better go get washed and changed before we anchor. Think I’ll be okay in shorts and a T? That’s all I have, unless you lend me your Levis again.”
Shane rolled his eyes again. “You’re fine in just shorts, but put some shoes on. That’s for the sharp shells in the beach, not Mr. Blake. The Blakes are very casual, so you’ve no worries. I’m just putting on some decent boardies and a T, and taking a Pommy shower,” Shane said, pointing at his tattered cutoffs, “I’d wear just these, if I wasn’t worried about the fight stuff.”
Trevor arched an eyebrow. “What the hell is a Pommy shower?” he asked. It was an Australianism he hadn’t encountered before.
Shane held up a finger, though not his middle one this time. “Be right back,” he said, heading inside. He returned with a stick of deodorant, opened it, and began applying it under his arms. “‘A Pommy shower’ is what we call just putting on deodorant instead of having a wash... Poms have a strong aversion to bathing, and hygiene in general.”
Trevor laughed, shaking his head. “Do you hate all English people, or just Ned?”
“Just Ned,” Shane admitted. “I’ve had British friends in the past, and yeah, I know they do bathe – just like normal people – but they’re British. Ned’s a Pom to me – big difference – plus I call him a lot of other words, mainly of the four-letter kind.”
Trevor laughed hard, shaking his head. Sobering slightly, he glanced at Shane. “If you’re putting a shirt on, I’d better do the same.”
Shane shook his head. “No need, you’re his customer: I’m his employee. There’s a bit of a difference, in case you didn’t know. Besides, I’ll be wearing the one you bought in Carnarvon; my T-shirt is dirty – I keep forgetting to wash it. If I wear my polo shirt, Mr. Blake will know something’s up, because he knows I keep it for best.”
Trevor gave Shane a mock glare. “I’ve got to meet Kookaburra’s owner shirtless because you’re stealing my shirt?”
“Borrowing, mate, borrowing,” Shane said, smirking. His smile faded, and he asked quietly, “Seriously, I’d like it if I could borrow it when I meet my boss. I swear, he’ll think nothing of it if you’re shirtless; you’re on a charter. What would you think in his place?”
Trevor chuckled. “Okay, okay, I’m sold. You can borrow it.”
“Thanks,” Shane replied, before giving Trevor a puzzled look. “Hey, didn’t you buy two? I remember seeing you holding one in the swimwear shop.”
Trevor grinned and nodded. “Yeah, and I’ll wear one of ‘em; I just wanted to make you squirm.”
“Bastard!” Shane declared, laughing. “You’re getting just a bit too good at the art of the wind-up, but you’re half Australian, so I suppose it’s to be expected. I’ll warn you now; paybacks are a bitch!”
“Like you weren’t going to get me anyway,” Trevor shot back, his concerns forgotten for the moment. “The shirts are still in the bags, in my cabin,” Trevor added, his mind returning to the coming meeting with Martin Blake.
As Shane turned to head inside, he heard the satellite phone ringing, and darted to the navigation desk to grab it and answer it. Trevor could hear only a few muffled words, but Shane soon returned to say, “That was Mr. Blake, calling to see when we’re arriving. He said he’s about fifteen minutes out.”
“Where do we anchor?” Trevor asked.
Shane pointed at what looked like a crooked jetty ahead. “No need; that’s a viewing walkway, over shallow water, and there are a couple of warning buoys about a hundred meters straight out from it. We’ll tie up to one and take the Zodiac to the beach.”
Trevor squinted at the sparkling water. “I see ‘em. Do me a favor and grab me one of the shirts and my shoes from my cabin. I’ll get us moored.”
“I’ll be back and do the tie-up; its better if I’m seen being useful, just in case he’s close enough to see,” Shane said, darting inside.
Shane returned a few moments later, already wearing Trevor’s blue T. He tossed Trevor the white one, along with the shoes. “You really don’t need to worry, but suit yourself,” Shane said, tugging on his own shoes before dashing forward to handle the mooring.
Trevor watched him go in silence. Shane’s concern over the mooring, even though he’d just said his boss was likely too far away to see, let Trevor know that Shane was still very agitated about this meeting. ‘I hope he’s worried for nothing,’ Trevor thought, wondering what Mr. Blake was like.
Shane returned to the cockpit and locked up before lowering the Zodiac. With Shane at the helm, they turned towards the beach. “I don’t see his truck yet,” Shane said, and then pointed at a flash of light reflecting off a moving windshield well inland. “I’ll bet that’s him,” he said.
Shane ran the Zodiac up on the coral-sand and shell beach, and then secured it by tying a line to a rock. They set off at a fast walk, following a trail inland, towards the dirt parking lot. “That’s him, I’m sure,” Shane said, nodding at the approaching truck and chewing on his lip.
They reached the edge of the parking lot, and Trevor smoothed his hair into place before replying, “I hope this goes okay.”
“Me too,” Shane replied, as the big pickup truck rumbled directly towards them, coming to a halt in a cloud of dust twenty feet away.
Trevor watched as a fit man, who looked to be in his early thirties, bounded out of the truck, looking in his direction and smiling. Trevor noticed that he had a mustache, which was the same color as his slightly receding but neatly trimmed brown hair. Atop his head, he wore an old, slightly tattered wide-brimmed hat at an angle. He was dressed in well-worn Levis and a very faded old T-shirt. He walked towards them, calling out, “Hi Shane,” and then stopping in front of Trevor, hand extended. “And you must be Trevor. Nice to meet you, I’m Martin.”
Trevor smiled, extending his own hand and getting a firm handshake. “It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Blake. Thank you very much for letting me rent Kookaburra; she and Shane pretty much saved my neck from the press.”
Martin Blake released Trevor’s hand and nodded, his smile fading. “I’ve heard some of what you’ve been through, including the bomb and the pirates, and then the Southern Ocean. I can’t even imagine... I’m glad you made it.” Martin shifted uneasily on his feet, breaking eye contact for a few moments before continuing, “I’m glad we could be of a little help, and now I hope you’ll be able to take a well-earned and surely much-needed break. Anyway, please call me Martin, only that one needs to call me mister, while he’s working, anyway,” he smiled, flicking a thumb at Shane, which earned him a worried smile from Shane in return.
Martin Blake turned to look at Shane. “I hear you did a great job with the press, and have been protecting Kookaburra aggressively. Is that where the black eye is from?”
Shane fidgeted, fingering his rapidly fading bruise. “Yeah, I thought he was casing the boat, and we got into it, sorry,” he said, sticking his hands in his pockets and looking at the ground, shifting his weight back and forth from one foot to the other.
“If there’s anyone who should know what to look for in a yacht robber, it’s you, right?” Martin asked crossly, and then broke into a faint, wry smile, getting a bashful nod from Shane in return.
Trevor jumped in to say, “I went aboard after getting no reply to a shout, and Shane found me in the cockpit. If anyone had done that on Atlantis, I’d have thought the same as Shane... and probably done a lot worse.”
Martin turned to Trevor and held up a hand. “Thanks for that, but...” He turned to face Shane. “Quit fidgeting; I know better than to take Ned’s version of anything where you’re concerned. Just... call the police next time instead, for your sake and ours, okay?”
Shane nodded. “Will do.”
Martin nodded. “Fair enough, for now... Good work on the press issue. Speaking of work, there’s a box in the back of my truck; give me a hand.” Turning to Trevor, Martin said pleasantly, “Please excuse us for just a ‘sec,”
Martin led the way to the back of his truck, which he’d parked with its front end towards Trevor. Martin lowered the tailgate, which let out a rusty groan. He carefully opened the large ice chest within, revealing a box wrapped in white plastic. “It’s today’s supper; it just needs microwaving. Don’t let on what it is,” he whispered.
Shane stared at the box in puzzlement, and then he nodded. “Oh, I get it... I was trying to figure out what to do for that,” Shane replied, in an even lower whisper.
Martin smiled and glanced towards Trevor for a moment, hesitated for a second, and then said in a hurried, furtive whisper, “I need to talk to Trev alone for a few minutes; run this out to Kookaburra and put it in the refrigerator for me, okay?”
Shane nodded. As he walked away, box in hand, he called out to Trevor, “I’ll be right back.”
Martin rejoined Trevor, and said offhandedly, “Just some stuff for the boat, but mainly I needed to give Shane something to do so you and I could have a chat alone. While we do, let’s walk down to the beach and I’ll show you the stromatolites.” Martin began walking in roughly the direction Shane had gone, but then taking a different path. After a few moments of awkward silence, he said, “Are you and Shane getting on alright?”
Trevor nodded. “Yeah, just great, actually. He came to Atlantis to apologize to me once he found out I wasn’t a thief, and we became friends. Before the press showed up, he showed me around Carnarvon and we had a great time, and he helped me start to get settled. I’ve only known him for a few days, but we’ve been together pretty much nonstop, and he’s been great. Uh, I run Atlantis – my Lagoon 55 – as a charter back home, so I can honestly say Shane does a great job with Kookaburra.”
Martin smiled, but kept looking ahead, not at Trevor, as they walked side-by-side. “You’re putting in a good word for him, and defending him. That tells me you’re getting on with him. Shane... takes a good bit of getting used to, but he has a good heart. He’ll take good care of you, and if you have any problems or concerns, of any kind at all, call me at once. Now, what about you; I only know bits of it, but I know you’ve been through hell, more than most people could survive. Are you doing alright? Is there anything you need?”
Trevor blinked in surprise at the apparent concern. “Uh, yeah, thanks, I’m okay... it was rough, but it’s over. I’m just so glad to finally be able to relax, with no pressure.”
Martin turned his head to look at Trevor for a few moments before replying, “If you need anything; call me anytime. Speaking of Kookaburra, how are you getting on with her?”
Trevor smiled, glancing out towards where Kookaburra was moored before replying, “She’s a beauty. She’s a 57, so she’s a little newer than Atlantis, and she’s been updated besides, so it’s been great for me being aboard her.”
Martin, his eyes fixed on Kookaburra, replied, “Kookaburra takes a bit of looking after, especially when in service, but now Shane looks after all the tasks I never liked. She’s my first boat; I’ve had her since she was new. I learnt to handle her at sea easy enough, but it took awhile for me to get comfortable conning her in tight places.”
Trevor misread Martin’s words, and replied, “She handles great, basically the same as Atlantis, and I’m very comfortable conning Kookaburra. I’ve been skippering Atlantis for years, in all kinds of weather and seas. I can give you references from back home that you can call, who know my seamanship–”
Martin held up a hand to interrupt, and chuckled. “Hold up, I wasn’t trying to quiz you to check your competency. In that regard, I’ve no doubts whatsoever; I know Kookaburra is in very good hands. What I was working up to asking is how long would you like her for? My understanding is that your insurance will provide rental-replacement – in this case, a charter – until your boat is ready, and that will be quite some time.”
Trevor hesitated, glancing towards the water. “Uh, I’m not sure yet. There are a few... issues I need to straighten out. I have a friend from back home coming to see me for Christmas vacation, and I have relatives here in Western Australia that I’m going to try to find. I’ve also been told I should stay out of Carnarvon for a few days, because of the mess with the reporters. There’s also a possibility I might have to fly home for a while, for a police interview – I don’t know if you’ve heard, but my father is on the run from murder charges. I should know more about everything – enough to make a commitment – in a week or two at most; any chance I could let you know then, instead of now?”
Martin remained silent for several seconds before replying, “We don’t have any plans for taking charters out until April, so I’m fine with that. Your friend is welcome to stay aboard if that’s a concern, just... no parties. I do remember what it’s like to be your age, after all,” Martin said, giving Trevor a smile. “For now, how about we say two weeks, and that means you need provisions. That’s part of what’s being paid for. What I’m going to do is give Shane a bank card I set up, which will be for food, beverages, and fuel. However, that’s non-alcohol only; alcohol isn’t included in our charters. Also, Kookaburra is not to be underway if you’re drinking, at all.”
Trevor wasn’t quite sure what to make of Martin or the conversation, which still had him uneasy. “No problem; I never operate Atlantis if I’ve been drinking, not even one beer, ever.”
“You’re free to explore the region, but if you want to go south of Shark Bay or north of Carnarvon, you’ll need to give me a ring and let me know, so I’ll know where my boat’s going to be,” Martin said, giving Trevor an uneasy smile.
“No problem. Shane said Shark Bay would take quite a while to explore, and I can see from the nav display that it’s thousands of square miles. Uh, if I do want to keep Kookaburra past two weeks, I’d like to be able to pick up my friend Joel in Perth, and maybe try to find my relatives in Northam, which is inland from Perth.”
Martin’s head snapped around, and after looking at Trevor for a few moments, he began to smile, shaking his head. “Absolutely not; Northam is hundreds of kilometers inland, and I’m afraid I’ll have to insist that Kookaburra stay on the water. I’d agree to Fremantle; it’s the closest port for both Northam and Perth,” he said, with an awkward chuckle.
Trevor laughed, remembering Joel’s cracks about taking Atlantis overland, and beginning to feel at ease. “I also need to call home, just a fast call, in the next couple of days. Can I pay you for use of the sat phone for that? It’d just be the once; I have a cell phone being shipped to Carnarvon and it should be here by the weekend.”
“The sat phone is for the use of charter passengers, so please feel free to use it, though I’d appreciate brevity, especially on anything international. The only place in Shark Bay a cell will work is near Denham, so far as I know,” Martin replied, with an easy smile. He looked out across the water, towards Kookaburra, as Shane was climbing aboard her. “I can tell that Shane was nervous about meeting with me today, and that’s a first. Was it because of the fight, or something else?” Martin asked, turning to look Trevor square in the eye.
Trevor’s eyes opened wide due to suddenly being put on the spot. For a moment, he wondered how to answer, before deciding that honesty was probably best in this case. “We were both nervous. Shane was worried about the fight... and I was worried you’d have second thoughts about letting me charter Kookaburra.”
Martin angled his head slightly, with an inquisitive look on his face and a faint smile appearing on his lips. “Why were you concerned?”
Trevor shrugged. “I fought with Shane, I’m young to command a boat like Kookaburra, and you don’t know me at all. There’s also the mess with the reporters.”
Martin grinned. “I’ve heard plenty about you; I’ve known Ned Kelly for years, and Greg Fowler for longer still – since our school days. Both of them hold you in the highest regard for your seamanship – as well they should, considering what you’ve done to get to Australia. As for the reporters, we signed off on Kookaburra’s involvement at that time, same as for the charter. I have no concerns regarding you. As for Shane, Sarah and I think highly of him or he wouldn’t be living and working on Kookaburra. I was just curious – and a little worried, for his sake as well as my own – as to what was making him act so oddly. He only fidgets when he’s nervous, and another clue is he put on a shirt to come meet me – he rarely wears one, and avoids it when he can. The third clue is I can tell from here that Kookaburra’s salon windows are shining like new, so they’ve probably been cleaned in the last few hours. Shane is good on things like that, but even he usually wouldn’t bother cleaning the forward windows a day into a charter, right before casting off again. Would you, on Atlantis’s charters?”
Trevor chuckled, realizing that Martin knew Shane a lot better than he did. “I guess not... Yeah, he was worried you’d be upset over the fight... and in case you haven’t heard, I took the first swing when we were arguing on the dock, when he thought I was out to rip off Kookaburra and the other yachts. It really was just a misunderstanding.”
Martin nodded, glancing towards Kookaburra. “I’d heard he didn’t throw the first punch, but thank you for the confirmation, which from my point of view is a welcome one. Shane’s had a very tough go of it in a lot of ways, especially at home in Cairns, so he’s prone to being rough around the edges. I was going to give him a severe earbashing for starting a fight, but I’m glad there’s no need now.”
They reached the waterline, and Martin pointed to football-sized lumps of dark rock sitting in a few inches of water, littering the sand. “These are stromatolites, a kind of living fossil, one of the most ancient forms of life on earth. Basically, they’re bacteria colonies, and the bacteria collect sediment and make the rocks. They live here because the Faure Sill restricts water exchange with the sea, so Hamelin Pool is twice as salty as the ocean. And that, Trev, is all I know of the famous residents of Hamelin Pool. Folks with a scientific bent seem to find them fascinating, but I’m more into scenery myself.”
Trevor looked at the rocky lumps for a moment and bent over, extending his hand to feel the slightly slimy surface and the rough texture beneath. The stromatolite was not his focus: a pressing question was. After chewing on his lip for a few moments, Trevor decided to go ahead and ask. “I know that Ned Kelly and Shane don’t get along too well–”
Martin chuckled. “That’s the understatement of the century. Saying they hate one another’s guts would be more the like.”
Trevor took a breath and carried on, “Ned has Atlantis and as things stand now, he’ll be the one fixing her up. I’ve heard you’ve dealt with him as a shipwright, and you’ve known him a long time, so I’d like to ask if he’s okay to do the work on Atlantis?”
Martin nodded without hesitation. “Ned does fine work, none better, but he charges high. Also, when it’s an insurance claim, I know he’s not above a bit of padding; he’ll find all sorts of extra things to do, to generate work for himself. That’s probably a good thing from your point of view; you’ll get a really top-level modernized boat out of this. He did the recent refit of Kookaburra and did very fine work indeed, as you’ve seen. His bill was on the high side, but he’d given me a hard estimate in advance so there were no surprises.”
Somewhat relieved, Trevor smiled. “Thanks. That’s what I needed to know. I’ll let you know as soon as I possibly can about chartering Kookaburra until Atlantis is done. I can say right now, I’d like to.”
“No problem there... in fact, I’ve just had an idea on that; Kookaburra has no charters booked, so why don’t we just say you’ve got her as long as you need her, cancelable with three days notice? That way, you aren’t tied down, and the income from having her chartered helps us out.”
Trevor glanced towards Kookaburra, seeing Shane in the Zodiac, racing for the beach. “That sounds great to me. Uh, what about the deposit? I can take care of that once I get back to Carnarvon–”
Martin held up his hand. “No need; your insurance is handling all the costs, and they’re acting as secondary coverage to my own. They’ve already faxed me the paperwork, including their approval of the charter details. You’re all set, as soon as you sign the agreement.” Martin reached into his pocket and withdrew a folded piece of paper, which he handed to Trevor.
Trevor quickly read it, finding it to be a brief, standard acceptance form between him and his insurance company, signifying his acceptance of Kookaburra as the rental-replacement for Atlantis during her repairs. Trevor stooped down and, with a pen provided by Martin Blake, signed the form on a smooth rock.
Trevor returned the form with a smile and a nod, delighted that things seemed to be working out so well.
When Shane landed, Martin waved for him to join them. As Shane walked up, Martin shook Trevor’s hand again. “I’ll be seeing you again soon, I’m sure. In the meantime, relax and enjoy Shark Bay, and it’s good to meet you. If you need anything, call me at any time.” Martin turned his attention to Shane, and said, “You’ll need to handle the provisioning; use this card for that,” Martin reached into his pocket, pulling out a white envelope and handing it to Shane. “Your pay packet as well, for this week and next, and its charter rate, starting yesterday.”
Shane took the envelope and beamed; his pay during a charter was a lot higher. He glanced at Trevor, and asked Martin tentatively, “Ah, what should I do about the bar stock?”
Martin grinned. “Sorry, but you’re both underage so I can’t be supplying alcohol. In any case, that’s not normally included in the charter rate, it’s extra.”
Shane fidgeted with the hem of his shirt. “Uh... I turned eighteen last week.”
Martin blinked in surprise. “Seriously? Why didn’t you let us know? A belated happy birthday, Shane,” Martin said, reaching out and giving Shane a hearty handshake and a clap on the back. “Still, Trevor doesn’t turn eighteen for a few months yet, and he’s the customer. And, as a practical matter, I do remember what it was like to be your age... All I’ll say is, Kookaburra is not to be underway if whoever is at the helm has had any alcohol.” Martin began grinning at Shane, and asked, “Why do I suspect there’s already some alcohol aboard? Your favorite, Four ex?”
Shane gave Martin an uneasy smile. “We got a slab a couple of days ago, but we’ve only had a few, after we anchored at Faure Island.”
Martin chuckled. “Just keep it sane.” He turned to Trevor and said, “I’ve got to talk to Shane for a moment, then I need to be off, back to my farm. Have a good time.”
Trevor took the cue, and replied, “Good to meet you, and thanks for everything.”
As Trevor walked off towards the Zodiac, Martin began walking back towards his truck, waiting until he was out of Trevor’s earshot to tell Shane, “He seems okay, but he’s been through the wringer and he refused a medical exam. Sometimes, issues take a while to show up, so keep an eye on him. Call at once if there’s any problems.” Shane nodded in acknowledgment, and Martin continued, “Now, see that he has a good time. I think he’d like seeing the dolphins at Monkey Mia, and some parasailing, so put it on the card – I’m adding it as part of the charter. You go as well, as a belated birthday present – you really should have said.”
“Thanks, I... I’m thinking of taking Trev to Rhys Lagoon in Boat Haven Loop after Monkey Mia and Denham.”
“Sounds good. Find out what he likes to eat and provision up in Denham. Okay, Shane, call if you need anything, and I’ll be in touch soon. I’ve got to be off; we’ve some ewes due to lamb and I need to get back as fast as I can.”
“Say ‘hi’ to Mrs. Blake for me, and have a safe trip home,” Shane said, smiling and giving Martin a wave as he walked away. Shane broke into a jog, heading for the Zodiac, where Trevor was waiting.
When Shane reached the Zodiac, he grinned. “That went a lot better than I was expecting. Okay, want to see some more stromatolites, or cast off?”
Trevor glanced towards the stromatolites and chuckled. “I’ve seen ‘em, and some back home as well; they have them in the Bahamas, around some of the Exuma Cays. I took a charter of marine biologists there last year. These are pretty similar, I guess. Bacteria just aren’t my thing, so let’s head out.” Neither Trevor or Shane were aware of it, but Hamelin Pool and the Exuma Cays were the two most famous stromatolite colonies on earth, the latter being the only known place where they live in normal sea water.
They shoved the Zodiac off the sand and clambered aboard. As soon as Trevor sat down, Shane fired up the engine and headed for Kookaburra. “Did everything go okay?” Shane asked, glancing back and watching as Martin Blake drove away in a cloud of reddish dust.
Trevor nodded. “A little... unusual, and not like I was expecting, but fine. He seems like a good guy.”
“The Blakes are the best,” Shane replied, and then added in a quieter tone, “I was worried he’d sack me for the fight.”
“His plan was to give you what he called ‘a severe earbashing’, but I pointed out that I took the first swing.”
“Thanks for doing that, mate. I’m also damn glad to hear he was planning on giving me a chewing out; that’s a hell of a lot better than getting the sack,” Shane said, glancing towards shore and smiling.
“He picked up on you being nervous and was puzzled why you were acting so oddly, so I did admit that you were worried how he’d react to the fight, but he already had you pegged on that,” Trevor said, above the roar of the outboard.
Shane arched an eyebrow, a surprised and curious look on his face. “I wasn’t acting oddly, but thanks for the good word.”
“Yeah you were; he noticed the windows on Kookaburra, and that you were fidgeting – even I saw that,” Trevor said.
Shane looked at Trevor and chuckled. “Yeah, I guess I did fidget a bit – and come to think of it, so did you, at first.”
Trevor laughed. “Yeah, but he doesn’t know me and he does know you, so it’s you he noticed,” Trevor replied, as they reached Kookaburra.
“I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that he’d notice that and Kookaburra’s windows... I’m just surprised he read me so easily,” Shane replied, while attaching the davit lines to the Zodiac and then following Trevor aboard.
Trevor couldn’t resist the opportunity to wind Shane up, and said offhandedly, “Oh, those weren’t the only things he said were strange about the way you were acting.”
Shane’s eyes narrowed, and he gave Trevor a suspicious look. “What? What did he say?”
Trevor gave Shane an innocent shrug. “He said you put on a shirt, and for you, that’s very strange behavior because you’re a cheeky showoff and avoid wearing them whenever you can,” Trevor replied, trying to keep from laughing, especially when he saw Shane’s shocked expression.
Shane glanced down at the T that he was wearing. “He didn’t say that, no way, you’re just winding me up.”
Trevor gave Shane an evil grin. “If you didn’t know it was true, you wouldn’t be worried about it.”
“Bastard!” Shane grumbled, shaking his head. “Come on, he’s my boss – tell me what he really said.”
Trevor laughed, and then turned to finish stowing the Zodiac, giving Shane a few moments to stew. With the Zodiac secure, Trevor walked into the shade of the cockpit. “That’s what he said, I swear – except for the cheeky showoff part. But even though he didn’t say it, you might as well face facts; your boss has you pegged,” Trevor said, with a wiseass smirk, as he sat down on a cockpit seat.
Shane, standing next to the port helm, began to smile before flipping Trevor off and shrugging. Then, an evil grin spread slowly across his face. “I just like to be comfortable in the warm weather,” Shane said, turning to face Trevor with a smirk of his own, before slowly peeling off the shirt and quickly wadding it up. “And I look better without a shirt, don’t ya think?” he said, just before hurling the wadded shirt at Trevor’s head.
Trevor, distracted by the sight of Shane’s slow peel and rattled by the question, was caught square in the face by the thrown shirt. Clumsily grabbing at it as it fell, he caught it, looked at it, and hesitated. ‘How would a straight guy answer that?’ he wondered, frantically trying to think up a reply. “That’s no way for lowly crew to return a borrowed shirt,” he finally said, a little weakly, putting the shirt down and then pulling off his own to go with it.
“Lowly crew, am I?” Shane said, grinning confidently and flipping Trevor off again. “We’ll see how you like gruel for three meals a day, you seppo bastard!”
Shane crossed his arms, snickering. “So there’s gaps in what you know about Australia,” Shane said, an evil grin growing on his face as he pondered that interesting and potentially useful bit of news, which he’d been fishing for. “Seppo is a strine word; rhyming slang. It’s short for ‘septic tank,’ and ‘septic tank’ rhymes with Yank. So, ‘seppo’ means Yank, ya Yankee bastard. Surfies like me use strine more than most people do, though I don’t use it a lot. The only time you hear a lot of strine is from tourists trying – and failing badly – to sound Australian.”
For several moments, Trevor worried that Shane was lying and ‘seppo’ was an Australian slur for ‘gay’. Trevor watched Shane carefully for any sign of deception, and seeing none, he accepted Shane’s definition as true – which it was. With a laugh and a smile, Trevor shook his head and walked forward to release the moorings, then returned to the helm, following Shane’s directions as he set Kookaburra on a course of northwest.
“We should be there in a few hours,” Shane said, glancing at the horizon, and then giving Trevor a thoughtful look. “So, what happened about chartering Kookaburra?”
One of the reasons Trevor had been reluctant to commit to chartering Kookaburra was Shane, but Trevor couldn’t tell him that, though he decided to be honest about the rest of his reasons. “He’s letting me have her for as long as I want, if I give a few days notice of ending the charter. I told him I couldn’t commit for sure, because there’s a chance I might need to fly home for a while. I also have no idea how long it will be until Atlantis is livable. So, looks like you’re stuck with me for a while.” As much as Trevor was enjoying Shane’s company, and being aboard Kookaburra, he knew he had a decision to make; come out to Shane, or ask Joel to keep the secret when he was aboard and hope he didn’t slip. Trevor had no trouble guessing what Joel would say about that, and in that moment, he knew he’d have to level with Shane at some point prior to Joel’s arrival. ‘Or sooner than that, because if Shane’s not okay with me, I’ll need to find somewhere else to be,’ Trevor thought.
Shane grinned. Putting his arm across Trevor’s shoulders and leaning on him, he said, “I suppose I can put up with you for a while, seeing as how I get paid more while on a charter.”
“Nice to know I’m wanted,” Trevor said, with a mock scowl, feeling the warmth of Shane’s arm on his shoulders. Trevor hesitated, trying to decide whether it was okay to return the gesture. ‘If he’s doing it, I guess its okay for me to do it too,’ Trevor thought, bringing his hand up behind Shane’s back and perching it lightly on his shoulder.
“I’m not ready to toss you overboard just yet,” Shane quipped, and as soon as the words were out of his mouth, he felt Trevor’s shoulders shudder. Shane looked Trevor in the face, seeing the unease in his eyes, and realized the cause. Giving Trevor a one-armed hug, Shane said, “Sorry mate, rotten choice of words on my part. I wasn’t thinking.”
Trevor gave Shane a nod and a faint smile, along with a pat on the back. “No big deal, I wouldn’t have guessed a crack like that would bother me either, and I’m the one who should know. I think it’s just... what the fucking pirates did to me is something I try not to think about.”
“I realized as soon as the words were out of my mouth. I think I’d be a lot worse than you if I’d survived what you did, mate, so no worries, and I’ll try to think before I say stuff like that. Just be warned; thinking before I speak is not my strong suit,” Shane said, giving Trevor a pat on the back and pulling away, and then changing screens on the nav display. “We’ll be there in a few hours,” Shane said again.
“Where, exactly?” Trevor asked.
“Somewhere,” Shane replied with a smirk, before shrugging and tapping the nav display. “Monkey Mia, a resort. They’ve a half-tame dolphin pod there, and they feed ‘em, so they’re very friendly. They come right up to the beach, but we’ve got an even better treat tomorrow; we’ll see some dolphins, and then Mr. Blake is shouting us a parasail ride. I’m looking forward to that: I’ve watched but never done it.”
“Cool!” Trevor declared, beaming with anticipation. He’d seen dolphins more times than he could count, but he’d never tried parasailing and was thrilled by the idea.
They anchored off Monkey Mia, broke out the beers, and had fun watching movies and playing video games for the remainder of the afternoon. Shane kept an eye on Trevor whenever he was in the galley, hoping that he would not discover the dinner Martin Blake had given them, which was now partially hidden at the back of a lower shelf in the refrigerator.
As the sun set, Shane headed for the galley, calling out, “Trev, kick back in the salon and have another beer; I’ll get supper ready – it’s my job.”
Somewhat suspicious, Trevor followed Shane to the galley. “I’ll just stay and harass you then – that’s my job.”
Shane studied Trevor for a few moments, and then scowled. “Look, you nosy Yank, this is supposed to be a surprise, which by definition means you’re not supposed to fucking know about it, so grab a beer and clear off to the salon. We can hear each other so you can still harass me, if that’s what your cruel heart wants, so be gone!” Shane said, jabbing a finger up the galley stairs.
Fighting his curiosity about what Shane was up to, Trevor grabbed an ice-cold beer from the refrigerator and headed for the salon. He flopped down on the sofa, and said, “Give me a hint and see if I can guess the surprise.”
“Nosy bastard!” Shane shot back, with a laugh. “Okay, one clue; it’s something to do with shoes,” Shane said, as the microwave began to hum. It, like the one that had been on Atlantis, was a twelve-volt model.
Trevor blinked in surprise. “Shoes... what the hell?”
“You’ll find out soon enough, so stay put. The galley is no place for you anyway... you’re likely to burn down the boat,” Shane replied a few moments later.
Trevor was tempted to sneak a peek, but instead he took a long, slow drink of beer before replying, “I only burned toast, and I can hear the microwave.”
When the microwave dinged, Shane removed its contents before putting in some more dishes and starting it again. “Yeah, shoes take a while to cook.” Shane walked into the salon, plates and cutlery in hand. As he began setting the salon table, he said, “Yep, shoes. That’s the only clue you’re getting.”
Trevor and Shane bantered back and forth after Shane returned to the galley. Soon, Shane called out, “Sit down at the table, Trev. Supper’s on its way.” Trevor sat down, and Shane appeared, grinning and bearing a steaming plate held high. With a flourish, he set it down in front of Trevor. “Roast turkey with all the trimmings, including candied yams and sausage stuffing. That’s what was in the box Mr. Blake gave me, all ready to microwave.”
Trevor looked down at his plate, smelling the turkey and stuffing, detecting a hint of rosemary. “Wow... why...”
Shane returned with his own plate and sat down before replying, “Happy Thanksgiving!”
Trevor’s mouth fell open as he looked into Shane’s beaming face. After a few second’s stunned silence, he said, “Wow... I didn’t think you had that in Australia.” Trevor had completely forgotten that today was Thanksgiving Day.
“We don’t, but the Blakes must’ve wanted to make sure you were taken care of right proper for your Yankee holiday, so this is what Mr. Blake had me take out to Kookoburra,” Shane said, around a mouthful of turkey.
Trevor began to eat, still stunned by the surprise. “This is delicious... Man, this was an awesome thing to do. It’s homemade, too... I haven’t had a homemade Thanksgiving turkey dinner in ten years. Dad and I spend it together, but he’s not much better in the kitchen than I am, so we’d usually make tacos – until Joel and his parents started inviting us to their house for Thanksgiving, but Joel’s mom hates turkey, so they have roast pork.” Trevor felt melancholy for a moment, as he wondered what his father would be doing for Thanksgiving, but he shook it off. “This is great... and I just don’t know what to say.”
“A rare problem indeed, for you,” Shane quipped. “This is very good; I’ve not had candied yams before. Other than that, this is much like an Australian Christmas dinner.”
“Make sure I remember to thank the Blakes for this... I can’t believe they went to all this trouble... and thanks for the surprise. Uh, I still don’t get the ‘shoe’ clue though.”
Shane chuckled. “I was going to tell you that making soup from old shoes is an Aussie tradition, but mainly I wanted to throw you off and give you something to puzzle over.”
Trevor grinned, and took another bite of candied yams. “These are great; butter and brown sugar. I love ‘em.”
“I’ve never had them before, but I’ll learn how to make ‘em. I’ll ask Mrs. Blake, she’s the one who must’ve done the cooking; Mr. Blake is almost as useless in the galley as you are... well, not that bad; I’ve seem him make toast before, so he’s got you beat.”
“Shut up,” Trevor mumbled, with an embarrassed smile.
After they’d both cleared their plates of every bite, Shane said, “There’s more turkey and stuffing, but you might want to save that for later; this feast comes with dessert, something I’ll bet you’ve never tried.”
Shane took the plates to the galley, returning a few moments later with a covered pie, dessert plates, and forks. He set the pie down on the table and unveiled it with a flourish. “You’ll love this!”
Trevor did a double-take on the pie, and in a voice barely above a whisper, said, “Pav... Pav something... kind of a meringue, with a layer of black cherries over it, then heavy cream on top.”
Shane looked at Trevor, and then the pie, in mild surprise. “I think that’s blueberries, but yeah, it’s pavlova, an Australian specialty, invented in Perth. I just call it pav. Very popular, especially here in Western Australia.”
“I’ve had it before, it’s... fantastic,” Trevor said in a hushed tone, and then he looked up at Shane and smiled. “You better hide your half of the leftovers or I’ll eat it all.”
Shane laughed. “Pav is one of the first desserts I learnt to make, so I’ll pick up the ingredients in Denham.”
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.