Bridget paced relentlessly in her parlor, waiting. George was at the department, so she had not risked calling him. She knew he’d be arriving at her home just after five, so she’d done as much as she could, trying to fill the hours, which seemed like an eternity.
A rumble from the garage door at last signaled George’s arrival. Bridget, breathing a sigh of relief, hurried towards the hallway. As soon as George had entered, Bridget said, “I have terrible news: I was just about to let Joel and Lisa know that they couldn’t use the guesthouse anymore... I wanted to be certain there was nothing new, so I played the tapes from the guesthouse. Lisa and Joel... they were discussing Trevor, and how horrible he must be feeling after his pirate attack. They’ve talked to him, George, that’s very clear... Somehow, the little bastard survived and made it to Australia.”
George’s jaw fell open. “But, how? We saw the photos... They said they bound him up, weighted him, drowned him, then stripped and sank his boat.”
Bridget activated her alarm and led George back into the garage. “We can talk en route. We need to take the Sea Witch; I have arranged for an emergency meeting with Sanchez, three hours from now in Freeport.”
George blinked in surprise. “That’s pushing it time-wise, let’s go.” They took George’s car, making their way to the marine services yard where Sea Witch was most often kept. Such was the stress that neither of them noticed an innocuous old sedan, following from a few hundred yards back
Bridget’s usual reserved demeanor was gone; she was almost distraught, chewing on her lip in worry. George gave her knee a comforting pat. Bridget looked at him and said, in a sad, hollow tone, “From the way they were talking... they have only heard this recently. Joel also reminded Lisa that Trevor said to tell no one, so it appears he may suspect something beyond his father.”
George parked inside a service building, and they raced into the boat shed where Sea Witch was docked.
As soon as they cleared the berth, Bridget firewalled the throttles, sending Sea Witch racing down the channel at over thirty knots – well over the speed limit – her twin diesels roaring.
Yelling to be heard over the noise, Bridget continued where she’d left off. “We knew that the gunfire could not sink Atlantis, but with Trevor dead, that was of no concern. Either he somehow regained her deck, or... we were betrayed. I think the latter, for I do not see how he could have attained Australia with a gutted boat. I told Sanchez in my last message that Trevor is alive and in Australia. Perhaps he will have news for us when we meet. What will this do to the case against Dirk?”
George scratched his head. “I’m not sure. If Trevor testifies... it depends on what he says. If he gets them off on the bombing, we’ve got a little trouble. However, you’re in the clear on Arnold’s murder no matter what; they have no hope of obtaining a conviction against you now, not on the circumstantial evidence they already had, because they’ve already filed on someone else. They’d look like fools on a fishing expedition. That kills any risk of conviction, and that means the investigation is over. Your case file as a suspect is already officially closed. The real risk is Trevor himself; he could come back and keep looking for the Ares... or worse, stir up official interest in finding her. We don’t know what he knows, or suspects, and that makes him dangerous.”
Once they cleared the breakwater and entered the Florida Straits, Bridget turned a small handle under the helm console, activating Sea Witch’s nitrous-boost system, boosting her horsepower. It was a useful system for a smuggling boat to have; it gave extra speed and compensated for the weight of extra cargo when running loaded. It was also hard on an engine when used often.
The engines’ roar grew louder as Sea Witch accelerated to thirty-six knots, tearing across the sea towards the Bahamian town of Freeport.
In Freeport, Sanchez paced on the balcony of his hotel suite, glancing out to sea, and then at his watch. He still had two hours before his meeting with Bridget, and he was furious. He knew he would have to admit failing her, failing the contract, and above all failing on his word. That galled him, at a deep and personal level: Sanchez abhorred failure above all else.
Sanchez did not yet know what had gone wrong with the pirates, but he too suspected betrayal. He set that aside for the moment; he would deal with that issue later. What mattered to him now was his honor, and that required fulfilling the contract. He opened his phone – an anonymous, disposable cell – and, after checking his encrypted notes, dialed an international number, with a country code of sixty-one: Australia.
After leaving Ned’s office, Trevor realized that he had nothing much to do. He glanced down at his tattered shorts. ‘I’ll get some new clothes before I go off exploring the town,’ he thought. Transportation was another issue; looking at the paved streets, Trevor decided to get a new skateboard when he visited the sporting goods store tomorrow.
With nothing better to do, Trevor walked around the perimeter of the marina, looking at the boats and yachts. The number of catamarans intrigued him and he saw several large ones tied up in a line at the far side of the marina. One caused him to do a double-take; even from that distance, and partially obscured by the other boats, he recognized the angled salon windows, identical to Atlantis’s.
Trevor headed for the dock where the catamaran – and several other big cats – were moored. He walked quickly down the dock, approaching the yacht from astern, seeing that her name, Kookaburra, was emblazoned on the transom in big, bold letters. When he drew closer, he realized that the yacht he was looking at was extremely similar to Atlantis. ‘That’s a Lagoon, and the only boats in the fifty-foot range that Lagoon built with raked-back salon windows were the 55s and 57s.’ Trevor studied her hull fixtures, seeing that they were more modern than Atlantis’s, and the general look of the boat was newer. Soshe’s probably a 57, a little newer than Atlantis or Ares, but almost the same.’
A Lagoon 57 is a very similar and slightly newer design than the Lagoon 55. Later models of the 57 were designated the 570 and had vertical instead of steeply sloped-back windows at the forward end of the salon, but the 57s were nearly identical to the Lagoon 55s in hull and superstructure. The actual length difference, due to rounding and other factors, was less then nine inches, visually undetectable in a boat nearly sixty feet long. Aside from the modernized fixtures and equipment, there was only one other significant difference between the 57 and the 55: a slightly different bow shape, which was difficult for anyone but an expert to discern.
However, when it came to Lagoon catamarans, Trevor was an expert. ‘One way to tell for sure,’ he thought, walking along the dock until he stood next to the catamaran’s port bow, which he studied closely, seeing that the tip of the starboard bow, from below the waterline up to the bowsprit, had a slightly greater angle than Atlantis’s, and that the point of the deck was slightly longer and narrower. ‘She’s a Lagoon 57, sure as hell.’
Trevor gave the sleek catamaran’s hull an admiring look as he walked along the Kookaburra’s length. Her sparkling, pristine paint job shone in the sun – chili pepper red on the lower two thirds of her hulls, topped by a gleaming white band up to deck level. She stood in stark contrast to Atlantis’s formerly gleaming but now battered and weathered bluish white. Craning his head to look up at the rigging, craving to go aboard, he yelled out, “Ahoy, Kookaburra, anyone home?” but was answered by silence. ‘What the hell, I’m only looking,’ he thought, and then leaped aboard, letting out another yell of “Hello,” as he did so.
Standing on the aft starboard deck, he looked forward at the immaculate catamaran, smiling, picturing Atlantis after her coming repairs. ‘She’ll look like this again,’ he thought.
An accented voice from the cockpit startled Trevor. “You’re on private property, clear off!”
Trevor spun around, seeing the source of the voice, who had just emerged from the salon, blond, tanned, and toned, wearing just a pair of tattered denim cut-offs. “You’re Australian,” Trevor mumbled, staring blankly, befuddled by the sight: shoulder length blond hair, over a perfect golden tanned and toned surfer’s body, it was mesmerizing for Trevor, who hadn’t seen so much as a bare chest other than his own in months.
“My name’s Shane, and yeah, I guess that must come as a shock to a Yank such as you, but there’s quite a few of us Australians here in Australia. And you’re a Yank trespasser, so clear off!” Shane replied, stepping into the sun to face Trevor.
Trevor blinked a few times, glancing at Shane’s tan, bare chest, and then his face. “Uh, sorry. I have a boat like this, a Lagoon 55. She’s... the one hit by pirates. You’ve probably heard... she got damaged,” Trevor said, stumbling over his own words.
Shane put his hands on his hips and replied, “This is a 57, not a 55, and I don’t care if you’ve got the bloody Titanic. It’s my job to keep trespassers off Kookaburra, so clear off!”
Shane’s hostility shook Trevor out of his distraction, and he replied, “Okay, I’m heading for the dock. Then will you tell me about your boat?”
After waiting for Trevor to step back onto the dock, Shane answered, “Nope. Now stay off.”
“What the hell is your problem?” Trevor shot back.
Shane turned towards the salon, paused, and then he stalked to the rail. Looking down at Trevor from a few feet away, he said, “For one thing, you woke me up. For another, you were trespassing. Then you fed me some bullcrap story about pirates. Now get lost, before I report you.”
Trevor was getting angry, and opened his mouth to yell back, but words failed him, so he settled for raising his middle finger in Shane’s direction, and then stalking off.
“And don’t come back!” Shane yelled, returning Trevor’s gesture.
Fuming, Trevor kept walking, looking around the almost deserted marina. His thoughts soon turned to food, so he turned to head for the convenience store. As he passed the boatyard, he saw Ned getting into an outboard skiff. Ned waved, so Trevor waved back and walked down to him.
“I’m about to check your hulls. Come on along if you’d like.”
Trevor scrambled in, and Ned chuckled. “I’d do something about getting some new clothes right quick if I were you. You’ve got a hole in your stern.”
Trevor gave Ned an embarrassed smile. “I tried closing the rip with some paperclips, but the material’s so weak they pulled out. Is there anywhere close I can buy some new shorts?”
Ned fired up the cranky old outboard before replying, “Just the sporting goods store, but they’re closed ‘till tomorrow. I can run you out to Robinson Street – Carnarvon’s main street – after we’ve checked your boat if you like. I’m not sure which stores will be open on a Monday offseason, but I’ll run you around and see what we can find though.”
“Thanks, but I’ll be okay until the sporting goods store opens. These are all I’ve had for a while, so I’ll just try to keep out of sight until tomorrow.”
“That might not be easy for you,” Ned said, as they pulled away from the dock. “You’re already famous in town, so expect official notice pretty quick. I’m betting the shire council will want to make a big deal of welcoming you; they’re never ones to miss a photo op.”
“Great,” Trevor grumbled, looking back at the town. “I really don’t want any publicity.”
“I’ll do what I can to keep ‘em at bay for a few days, but that’s about all I can promise. The whole town probably knows about you and a bit of what happened. You might as well face it; after what you’ve done, you’ll soon be famous.”
Trevor hid a cringe. What he didn’t want was for his location to be broadcast by the media, but he couldn’t see a good way around it. As they drew abeam of the yacht basin, Trevor nodded towards the line of big catamarans. “I’ve only run into one guy who hasn’t heard of me, so you’re sure right about the grapevine here.”
Ned followed Trevor’s eyes to the yacht basin. “It’s not a grapevine, it’s a damn public address system, and faster than any other means of communication known to mankind. Anyhow, I’m going to try to get you aboard a few yachts to look at my work, and so you can start getting ideas for what you’d like done to Atlantis. You’ve an opportunity here: a total modernization. She’s a blank canvas right now, so you’ve got a chance to make a lot of changes.”
Trevor thought for a few moments before replying, “A big part of me wants her put back just like she was... with maybe a few upgrades, like LED running lights to save battery power, and updated electronics.”
Ned gave Trevor a sympathetic smile. “After what happened, I can understand that. It’ll be your choice. All I’m saying is that you should have a look to see what’s possible before making up your mind.”
“I was on a few yachts in the Suez so I’ve seen a little, and come to think of it, one of ‘em had a really cool galley layout...” Trevor said, his voice trailing off as he began to wonder what might be possible.
“If it’s a new galley layout you’re after, I need to get you aboard the Phoenix. Her galley is a bit smaller than yours, but I think you’ll find it feels roomier and has more workspace. For the nav controls, I’ll take you on the Canberra – the owner’s away, but I have keys. For first-rate charter cabins with all the trimmings, and some superb heads, there’s the Star Child. For the salon layout and general decor, you need to see Kookaburra; she’s a Lagoon 57, almost identical to your 55, and I redecorated her last year, going for a very modern, elegant look, with plenty of dark woods and brass.”
Trevor shook his head, remembering his hostile reception aboard that boat. “I don’t think you’ll be able to get me aboard her; I went for a look and jumped aboard to shout for the owner. He pitched a fit, wouldn’t even talk to me after I was back on the dock.”
“Aye, so you’ve met the bogan bludger. He’s not the owner; he’s just a freeloading crook, and bad news all the way ‘round. Just keep in mind that you can’t go aboard a boat without an okay, but you’re certainly free to look from dockside, and if it pisses off the bludger, so much the better. I’ve known Sarah and Martin – the Blakes, who own the Kookaburra – for years, and I’ve advised them to fire Shane, but they won’t listen. I’ll ring them if need be, but I’ll get you aboard for a look.”
Looking back at the marina, Trevor asked, “Why so many big catamarans and trimarans? I’ve never seen the multihulls outnumber the monohulls before.”
“I’ve a two-word answer for that: Shark Bay. It’s a spectacular place; a massive system of bays and inlets – over ten thousand square kilometers of them – a paradise for yachts and divers. It’s a very popular place for yacht charters – it’s the main focus for yachting and dive charters on our west coast, and Carnarvon is by far the closest port. The waters are very shallow in places, and it’s a huge area so speed is a plus, and so is the extra room and deck space and the ability to run up on a beach, so multihulls are favored by the charter operators, and a great many pleasure boaters as well,” Ned said, as they rounded the point and turned back in towards the customs dock.
Ned pulled the skiff between Atlantis’s hulls and began a detailed examination of her, starting above the surface. Then, he pulled on a facemask to check below the waterline, and Trevor joined him, spending the next hour surveying Atlantis’s hulls. Ned continued the inspection from the inside, examining the forward bulkheads carefully.
When they were done, Ned tapped the fiberglass. “Your port bow is staved in all the way to the forward watertight bulkhead from the impact, and your starboard one’s not a lot better. They’ll need new ones fitting, plus some major glasswork on the bullet holes and such, and then she’ll need repainting, including new anti-fouling paint. She’s going to need hauling out for all that to be done, and I can do that. The good news is that her hull appears sound otherwise, so she’s surely repairable.”
Trevor let out a long sigh of relief. “I was worried she could have had stress failures from the beating she took in the Southern Ocean, and that her hull could be busted beyond fixing.”
Ned shook his head and patted Atlantis’s hull. “You can fix anything, if you spend enough. However, in your case, she’s sound; she just needs a lot of work and care. This’ll take time, but when she’s done, she’ll be better than she ever was.”
The only thing Trevor could do was smile with a mix of joy and relief.
Ned took a series of photos, inside and out, and then told Trevor, “I’ll see you in the morning, and I expect to have good news from your insurance company by then.”
Trevor watched from his deck as Ned motored away, only to be startled from behind as Officer Fowler said from the dock, “I can vouch for one thing; he’s one hell of a craftsman, and a lot of folks around here swear by him. On the other hand, he’s the only game in town.”
Trevor spun around and gave Officer Fowler a friendly wave. “Thanks for that. I’m kind of like a fish out of water here; I don’t know which way to turn.”
Officer Fowler gave Trevor a long, appraising look. “How are you doing otherwise, for yourself, I mean? You’ve been through a hell of a lot, and you’ve got no one here.”
Touched by the concern, Trevor replied, “Thanks, but I’m okay so far, I think. It’s just... strange, being here, after everything I went through at sea. I called some friends back home from the yacht club, so it’s not like I haven’t had anyone to talk to. I’m feeling a lot better now because I just got the news that Atlantis can be fixed; I was worried sick that she was too damaged to be worth fixing, and the insurance would just want to scrap her and write me a check.”
Officer Fowler nodded, and then he frowned. “I’m afraid I’ve got some news you might not like hearing: I had a call today, from a reporter down in Perth. Seems your story got out, at least in part. He knew about the pirates, and that you were solo, and that you skippered your wrecked boat all the way here under jury rig. He knows she’s a catamaran, and shot up. He didn’t mention your name or Atlantis’s, though. He sounded pretty sure you’re here in Carnarvon, and asked me what I knew. I told him that I can’t disclose official business, but that there’s no pirate-hit yachts, catamarans or otherwise, in the Carnarvon Marina. It wasn’t a lie; you’re moored at the customs dock.”
Trevor swallowed once. “Thanks... Think that’ll put an end to it?”
Officer Fowler shook his head. “Not a chance. What happened to you, and what you did to survive, is one hell of a story, and parts of it are spreading. I’ve seen the press go into blitzkrieg mode for far less. At most, I’ve bought you a couple of day’s grace. By mid-week, I think they’ll have reporters and camera crews up here, and they won’t let up.”
“Shit...” Trevor grumbled, looking around at Atlantis.
“I’ve seen a few people come by to have a look from dockside, and by now the whole town will know. If I were you, I’d make the best of it; head out and see some of Australia while your Atlantis is here being fixed. That’s got to beat sleeping on the floor of a wrecked boat.”
Trevor sighed, glancing up the mast. “Thanks, I’ll see what happens. I just want a few days to... get over what happened, and see some of Carnarvon.”
“That I can understand, and I think you’re coping very well so far, after what you’ve been through... and if you ever need an ear to bend, just give me or Craig a shout,” Officer Fowler said, before heading back ashore.
When he returned to the customs shack, he walked to the window and stood, his brow furrowing, watching Atlantis.
Trevor sat in the salon, naked, as he munched on the snack food he’d purchased, and tried again to pin the rip in the seat of his shorts shut with paper clips, and decided to take a walk to see what he could find for dinner.
He pulled on the shorts and flip-flops and set off, enjoying the tropical breeze and the late afternoon sun as he walked down the jetty towards the yacht club and town. After a few hundred yards, the yacht basin came into view, and Trevor decided to see if he could find the owners of the Phoenix or the Star Child, so he could have a look aboard.
Trevor arrived at the marina and stopped for a look. It was quiet, almost eerily so; just the faint lapping of water and the occasional cry of a gull, and the buzzing of a few flies.
Waking down the deserted, almost silent dock, Trevor studied the yachts, taking a long look at the Kookaburra, glad that Shane was nowhere in sight. Trevor kept going a few more yards, until he spotted the Phoenix. He stopped on the dock and called out, “Ahoy, Phoenix, anyone aboard?”
Only silence came in reply, accompanied by the plaintive cries of distant seagulls. Trevor gave it another try, and then jumped as a voice from behind him yelled, “You again? I thought I told you to clear off!”
Trevor spun around to see Shane, still in just a pair of shorts, glowering at him from the deck of the Kookaburra, just a few yards away. Trevor stared for a moment, badly rattled, and then sputtered, “I’m here to look at the Phoenix and the Canberra, and I was told I could be on the dock, so get off my case.” ‘I hope I don’t walk into any damn bulkheads this time,’ Trevor thought, still shaken by Shane’s disconcerting combination of good looks and threatening hostility.
“What you are,” Shane said, giving Trevor an appraising glance, “is a Yank liar, who’s gone and ruined my sleep, again. You said it’s a Lagoon 55 you’ve got, yet you’re my age and dressed like a down on his luck surfie.”
Trevor glanced pointedly at Shane’s tattered and faded denim shorts and said, “You’re damn near the first person I’ve met here who hasn’t already heard of me, and the fucking pirates stole everything, including my clothes. Unless you’ve been hit by pirates too, why are you dressed like me?”
Shane shrugged, looked at Trevor for a couple of seconds, and Trevor saw the first hint of a wry smile, though it quickly vanished. “Because I’m a down on his luck surfie, and you’re leaving.”
Trevor crossed his arms. “I’m not leaving this dock.”
“We don’t need no damn thieves around here, so clear off, or I’ll turn you in,” Shane growled, jumping down onto the dock and turning to confront Trevor. Shane stalked up, arms at his sides but fists clenched and muscles rippling.
Trevor blinked, and then replied uneasily, “I’m no thief; I’m just trying to–”
“I don’t give a fuck, clear off!” Shane snarled, taking Trevor’s distracted state for weakness, and giving him a shove towards shore.
Trevor’s slight remaining case of landlegs betrayed him, and he stumbled, which caused Shane to shove him again, harder.
Caught by surprise, Trevor stumbled backwards, temper flaring from the assault. He regained his footing, coming up on the balls of his feet and launching a hard right cross at Shane’s jaw.
The blow connected, sending Shane reeling backwards. Shane rubbed his jaw and looked at Trevor, first in surprise, and then in anger. “You fucking bastard, you’re dead!” Shane bellowed, racing forward, fists coming up, pulling back his right fist as if to aim for Trevor’s head.
With his eyes fixed on Shane’s right fist and making ready to dodge the blow, Trevor didn’t see Shane’s left undercut coming, and it slammed into Trevor’s stomach, hard.
Trevor spun away, doubling over from the pain, as Shane slammed into his side, snaking an arm around Trevor’s neck. Trevor felt the attempt at a headlock, and smashed his left elbow back as hard as he could into Shane’s solar plexus, evoking a satisfying grunt of pain.
Trevor, ignoring his aching stomach, spun around as Shane moved away, doubled over and grimacing in pain. Trevor stepped forward, intent on a knockout blow, but Shane lurched upright, arms up to fend off the attack
For a few long moments, they circled one another on the dock, each looking for an opening. They were about evenly matched: roughly the same size and build, but Trevor was still weakened from his ordeal, as well as being a little unsteady on his feet. That would have given Shane a decisive advantage, but there was an equalizer: Trevor’s rage. The pirates, and before them the bombing, had left Trevor feeling helpless. But now before him was a target for his fury, and this time, at last, it was one he could reach.
Trevor rushed forward, grappling with Shane, trying to put him in a headlock. The two foes struggled for a few moments, until Trevor landed an elbow in Shane’s ribs.
Shane grunted, pulling free. Glaring, he tried a feint, which Trevor parried, landing a glancing, harmless blow to Shane’s shoulder in return.
They circled for a few more moments, each looking for an opening, until Shane glanced down the dock and then back at Trevor. “I’m going to start hollering for the cops, so if I were you, I’d run.”
Trevor didn’t take his eyes off Shane, and had just about decided to rush him. “Go ahead; you attacked me so we’ll see who gets arrested.”
“You were fucking trespassing on the Kookaburra, casing her and these other yachts,” Shane shot back, still looking for an opening, but then he took a step back and rubbed his sore jaw. “You’ll pay for this.”
‘Great, I’ve been here a day and I already have an enemy,’ Trevor thought, but Shane was no longer poised to attack, so Trevor took a step back. “I’m not a thief; I’ve got a damaged yacht and I’m trying to find the owners of these so I can check out the shipwright’s work.”
“Yeah right, liar.”
Trevor stared at Shane for a few moments, and then shot back, “I told you the fucking truth, and you can’t order me of off this dock. I’m staying.”
Shane rubbed his jaw, and stared at Trevor, who had one hand on his stomach, where Shane had hit him. “You’re leaving now,” Shane said, taking a menacing step in Trevor’s direction.
Trevor was instantly on guard, and stood his ground. “I’m not going anywhere, and if you want another round, I’m right here.”
Shane swung a hard left at Trevor’s head, but Trevor ducked, dodging away. Shane charged, grappling with Trevor, trying to throw him to the ground, and Trevor fought back, twisting in an attempt to get out of Shane’s grasp, only to feel a flash of pain smashing into the side of his jaw as Shane head-butted him.
The sudden pain spurred Trevor on, and he broke free, landing a mild rabbit punch to Shane’s side, and backed away a single pace, tasting his own blood.
“Now’d be a good time to run,” Shane snarled, moving in to resume the attack, only to be driven back by a hard jab to the jaw from Trevor.
Shane stood back, glaring at Trevor, looking for an opening.
“Ned sent me down here,” Trevor said, taking a step in Shane’s direction, arms up, fists at the ready.
“Oh, him. Even if that’s true, it’s no point in your favor, but it’s a lie. There’s no good reason for you to be here, trespassing aboard Kookaburra, then telling lies when caught in the act. Protecting that boat’s my job, so clear off!” Shane replied, watching Trevor warily, and taking a step backwards.
“I’m staying,” Trevor said, as the two opponents again began circling one another.
Shane’s green eyes flared, but he paused, making no move to resume the fight. “I’m calling the cops. You’re casing the yachts and you’re a liar.
Trevor angled his head, and then nodded once. “I shouldn’t have gone aboard Kookaburra; I just wanted to yell and see if anyone was aboard. I’d have left if there was no reply.”
Shane took a deep breath, studied Trevor for a few moments, and then his eyes narrowed. “Yeah, right... and what about the wild yarn you’re spinning. Pirates? And another Lagoon? That’s not just a lie, it’s a stupid lie. You’re a damn crook,” Shane snarled, rushing at Trevor and taking another swing.
Trevor was ready, and sidestepped, dodging the blow and lashing out with a hard right, which connected on Shane’s left eye with a meaty thud. Shane staggered back a single step as Trevor rushed forward, following through with a hard left hook to Shane’s gut, and then landing a light left jab on Shane’s side as Shane stumbled sideways, hunching over.
Trevor lined up a roundhouse but Shane stepped clear before Trevor could swing, and halted Trevor’s attack with a wild jab, which caught Trevor in the throat, breaking his momentum and making him cough.
Shane grabbed a stanchion on Kookaburra to steady himself, and glared at Trevor.
Trevor glared back at Shane for a few moments, but Shane made no move to resume the fight, so Trevor yelled, “Think what you want: it’s true and I can prove it. I got hit near the Seychelles and they tried to kill me, then stripped my boat and shot it up. I jury-rigged her and made it here.”
Shane narrowed his eyes and stared at Trevor for a moment. “That’s bullshit. Stay the hell away from Kookaburra, or next time I’ll make good use of a boat hook,” Shane said, and heaved himself aboard with a grunt before disappearing into the salon.
Trevor stood on the dock, and in a show of defiance, took a slow walk up and down the dock, looking at every yacht other than Kookaburra, and having the distinct feeling that he was being watched, which indeed he was.
After several minutes, Trevor stalked away, and once he was clear of the dock he touched his bleeding lower lip, exploring the right side of it, finding only a small cut near the corner – the result of Shane’s head-butting – and a little minor swelling.
With an aching stomach and massaging his bruised knuckles, heading for Atlantis, ignoring the spectacular sunset.
When Trevor neared Atlantis, he noticed that he had company; a middle-aged man, who was wearing a suit in spite of the warm weather.
The man was staring at Atlantis, reaching out to touch her, when Trevor said, “Can I help you?”
The man startled, turning to face Trevor, blinking through thick glasses. “Ah, well, I’m looking for the owner of this boat. Would that be you, then?”
Trevor, who was in a foul mood, dabbed the blood from the corner of his mouth, and then brushed past the man to jump aboard Atlantis and turned to face the man. “That depends, what do you want?”
The man brightened, and nodded at Atlantis. “I’m here to see if you’re doing all right. My name is Melvin Hardcastle, and I’m with the Carnarvon Shire Council. We’d like to arrange for your official welcome to Carnarvon... a photo event at the town’s main jetty – a few words from you to the press about the pirates and your ordeal, then an official greeting from the Shire Council, with all of us coming aboard for the cameras, and then perhaps you could say a few words about Carnarvon.”
Those words did not improve Trevor’s mood. Gritting his teeth, he replied, “I’m fine, thanks for asking, but I think you’ve got your wires crossed. This isn’t my boat: I was renting her, and I got caught in heavy surf up near Exmouth and knocked on the head. I was inbound for Carnarvon, and I guess I was rambling when your customs patrol found me. Sorry, but you’re barking up the wrong tree.”
Melvin blinked. “Uh, that’s not what I was told. Our intent is only to make you properly welcome... and, what are those patches on your ship’s side? And what happened to the front?” Melvin asked.
The terminology told Trevor that Melvin was clueless about boats. Trevor kept his face impassive, glancing down as he replied levelly, “Just woodworm holes. It’s a common problem with boats.”
“And, uh, the problem with the front ends, under the tarp?” Melvin asked, looking at Trevor suspiciously.
Trevor had no way of knowing whether Melvin had looked under the tarp prior to his arrival, so he said, “Like I said, heavy surf, due to entering shallow water. They were weak from the woodworm, I guess.”
“I see,” Melvin replied, and after a few thoughtful moments, asked, “So how did the pirate claims come about?”
Trevor shrugged. “I watched a DVD, Pirates of the Caribbean, the night before. I guess that was still bouncing around in my head, and I was pretty loopy when the customs guys came by.” Trevor paused as an idea popped into his head. “Say, this welcome you’re talking about... Would there be any money involved? Or a party? Or at least some free drinks? If so, I’ll be happy to come and say and do whatever you’d like... When is it? I’ll make sure I’m there... and I’m sure I can come up with something good about pirates... do the ones around here have eye patches?”
“Ah, I’m afraid you may have misunderstood, young man, we were apparently the victim of a miscommunication of some sort–”
“Wait, no, you had it right the first time, it was pirates... and those are bullet holes, not woodworm, and they made me walk the plank...” Trevor said, trying to sound very eager.
“I’d best be off. Welcome to Carnarvon!” Melvin said, before quickly scurrying away.
Trevor watched him go, feeling rather pleased with himself, until a voice intruded. “Well played. I haven’t seen Melvin move so fast in years... he must be afraid of those woodworms in your fiberglass hull.”
Trevor spun around, to see a man with a golden retriever on a leash. They were standing near Atlantis’s bows. “Sounds like you know more about boats than Melvin did,”
The man shrugged. “So does my dog. Looks to me like your boat’s been in a nasty blow, as well as being ransacked. And don’t try telling me a woodpecker made those holes in her hulls. I’m a fisherman, have been for twenty years, and I go out in good weather or bad. I know a thing or two about boats, and I’ve heard the rumors about a shot-up Lagoon 55 that made it across the Indian Ocean after a pirate attack. You pulled the wool over Melvin’s eyes, and wound him up right proper, but you won’t fool many people that way. Why the secrecy? Most people would crave some attention after what you’ve apparently done.”
Trevor glanced around, and then sighed. “I just want some peace and quiet. It was rough out there...”
The fisherman nodded. “Fair enough. Some of the blokes on one of the other fishing boats got caught in the edge of a cyclone and damn near didn’t make it back. Two of ‘em were happy to be the toast of the town, but the other... he went off camping in the bush for a week, just to get away from the attention. You might consider that, because I think it’s the only way you’ll be left in peace before long. If you’re in need of anything, my boat is the Shark’s Remorse, and she’s docked at the fishing pier at the end of Small Harbour Road. G’day, and good luck to you,” the fisherman said, giving Trevor a friendly wave before turning and walking away.
Trevor noticed a few young teens, wearing backpacks and school uniforms, milling around near the customs shack, talking amongst themselves and occasionally pointing at Atlantis.
Still in a little pain, and feeling a little uncomfortable in the growing spotlight, Trevor retreated into the salon.
Trevor ate in the dark, using up much of his remaining food from the convenience store. Just after nightfall, not feeling like sleep, he went out on deck and leaned up against the mast, looking southwards, with the lights of Carnarvon twinkling on his left. He took a deep breath, letting it out with a sigh, putting his arms around his knees.
A distant blue flicker of lightning to the east lit the clouds, and Trevor sat watching the far-away thunderstorm, feeling the sultry, almost still air, and also feeling very much alone.
For over an hour, Trevor sat in the night, reliving in his mind the bombing, the concerns over his father, the pirate attack, and the long, perilous voyage to Australia... and the fact that someone had tried to kill him, and might well do so again... it all came flooding back. So too did the knowledge that he was in danger, and his location would not remain a secret for long. He’d been through so much, and the fight was a minor thing compared to the rest, but it was yet another battle, and in a way, the final straw.
Another distant flicker of lightning lit the skies. Had Trevor been facing the dock, he would have seen that he was no longer alone. The lightning flashed again, and Trevor’s unseen visitor took a wary glance back at the customs shack, to assure himself that Fowler and Grundig would not intervene. Then, he took a few more stealthy steeps towards Atlantis, approaching her for the first time, his footfalls muffled by the faint mutter of far off thunder.
Trevor sat, almost motionless, watching the far-away lightning, as another muted rumble of distant thunder rolled across the calm, windless waters. A flash, reflecting out across mangrove swamps, lit Atlantis – Trevor’s pride and joy, though now a shattered ruin. Alone in the darkness, the tears began to flow. Trevor didn’t fully understand why; all he knew was that he felt miserable, and hugged his knees tightly as the tears began rolling down his cheeks.
Please let me know what you think; good, bad, or indifferent.
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Many thanks to my editor EMoe for editing and for his support, encouragement, beta reading, and suggestions. Special thanks to Graeme, for beta-reading and advice. Thanks also to Talonrider and MikeL for beta reading. A big Thank You to RedA for Beta reading and advice, and to Bondwriter for final Zeta-reading and advice. Any remaining errors are mine alone.