By mid-morning, Atlantis was clear of the eastern entrance of the Straits of Gibraltar and heading east by northeast.
“So, how many days to... what was it called? Marina da something?” Joel asked, still at the helm of Atlantis, listening to the soft hiss of the passing waves as Atlantis cruised through the gentle swells.
“Marina di Stabia,” Trevor replied with a chuckle. “I’m guessing four days if the wind holds, but it’s forecast to weaken in a few days so we’ll see.” Trevor grinned at Joel, who had shed his tank top, put on sunglasses, and was kicking back in the port helm chair, steering Atlantis with his foot.
“And just two miles from there to Pompeii. You were right about the skateboards, Trev. They were super handy in Gibraltar and it looks like they will be in a lot of other places. Anyway, what’s the plan for today? Any stuff that needs doing aboard?”
“Yeah, a few things. First, I need to open the overboard dump valve in the sewage system,” Trevor said, standing up and stretching, the muscles of his bare chest rippling in the sun. ‘But first, I’m teaching Joel about the harness,’ he thought, and pulled the safety harness off the cockpit’s forward bulkhead, where it hung. He tossed it to Joel, saying, “Whenever either of us are on deck alone and we’re underway, we have to wear this. There’s a tether that clips onto the guard wires that are all over Atlantis. Make sure you use it.”
Joel looked at the harness, and then at Trevor, startled by the firmness in Trevor’s voice; it was the first time Joel had heard Trevor be so serious. “Aye aye, Captain,” Joel said, nodding and wondering why Trevor had not made an issue of the harness with him on prior trips aboard Atlantis.
Trevor put the harness back. “Okay, time for me to do the wastewater system.”
Joel gave Trevor a puzzled look and asked, “How about just talking me through it? I need to learn. How the hell does the sewer system on Atlantis work, anyway?”
Surprised that Joel would be interested in such a task – Trevor hated working in the bilges – Trevor replied, “When we’re in port, sewerage has to go into a holding tank. When we’re at sea, it’s routed directly overboard, plus I can flush out the holding tank. The pumps are electric with manual backups. Even the toilets, which pull in seawater via an electric pump, have a manual backup. They can even be used as emergency bilge pumps by turning a few valves. Seacocks are the valves where pipes go through the hull and those are all manually operated, for safety. The drains have anti-backflow valves but those can get jammed open, so in a major storm it’s a good idea to close the seacocks. The sewerage drain is a seacock too, and by law that has to be shut while in port. So, your first glamorous job this morning is going to be configuring the sewerage system and then lubing the main wastewater seacock.”
Joel wrinkled his nose. “I did say I wanted to learn everything about Atlantis, so ready when you are, Captain Bligh!”
“Did I mention that your next job is going to be cleaning out the sewerage holding tank from the inside?” Trevor asked with a laugh, as he engaged the autopilot and led the way to Joel’s cabin.
As Trevor opened the cabin door, Joel asked, “Aren’t you going to knock first?”
Trevor glanced over his shoulder at Joel, who was smirking. “Shut up. The rear bilges are part of the engine compartments, so the main access hatches are in the aft cabins.”
Trevor opened the hatch. “This is the bilge, the lowest part of the boat. Atlantis has two, one in the bottom of each hull, running the length of it. It’s mainly a plumbing and tankage space, plus engines and other machinery. It’s cramped so it’ll be a tight fit with two of us, but the ones forward are worse.”
Joel glanced down into the bilge. “I’m going to get dirty, aren’t I?”
“Yep,” Trevor said, wearing an evil grin. Trevor glanced down at his boardshorts; one of his favorite pairs, and stripped them off. Wearing just his boxers, he eased himself down into the engine room. “Grease is the main problem. Damn stuff gets into everything.”
Joel looked down at his tan shorts and nodded, stripping them off. Unlike Trevor, he wasn’t wearing underwear.
Trevor moved aside, not yet having looked up, and said, “Now for the good news; you probably won’t get wet. Most boats have a few inches of water in the bilges but Atlantis doesn’t. I upgraded her a few years ago with a dry bilge system so all drains are routed overboard or into the holding tank, not the bilges. The sump pumps trigger automatically, plus there’s an alarm if the water gets more than a few inches deep. I did the upgrade mainly to get rid of the smells; wet bilges can stink, and that smell was getting into the rest of the boat. The bilges are pretty much automatic, but I still check them at least once a day. For example, if a fuel tank or a supply line starts to leak, I need to know about it fast.”
“Yeah, I can see why you’d need to keep an eye on this stuff,” Joel said, as he climbed down.
Trevor did a fast double take as Joel’s naked body came into view, and then looked away.
Once they were both below and squatting in the cramped space, Trevor, making sure to keep his gaze above chest level, talked Joel through configuring the valves and flushing out the holding tank, which just involved opening two valves and hitting the switch for an electric motor. While the pumps were running, Trevor said, “The seacocks on Atlantis are T-handle bronze valves, and the seals need greasing occasionally. I use a grease gun for that, and shoot a little through the grease nipple in the bottom of the valve body. I use a silicone-based grease for lube and it’s messy stuff, so I’ve got rag boxes,” Trevor pointed at a grey plastic box on one of the bulkheads, “next to the access hatches in both engine compartments. Grease and engine oil can track everywhere if you aren’t careful, and it’s a pain in the ass to clean up.” Trevor opened the box and pulled out a tattered old towel, “Use this if you get any grease on you.”
Joel took the rag, and then Trevor opened another box. “I’ve got a few tools – mainly stuff for the valves and engines – here, and a full toolkit under the salon bench. Okay, now for the seacocks. They can freeze up if not worked regularly, so I like to open and close them a few times every couple of weeks. If they get stiff, some lube usually helps. Every couple of years I take them apart and do a full service, and sooner if they look like they need it. The bilge pump discharge seacock is getting a little hard to move, even though I recently lubed it,” Trevor said, pointing at it, “So that’s one I’ll need to do soon. There are seacocks for the engine cooling water intakes and for the raw seawater intake too. When you take ‘em apart, you clean them, replace the seals as needed, and then polish the internal bronze with valve-grinding powder,” Trevor reached into his toolkit, and held up a jar of the abrasive polishing compound. “Doesn’t that sound like fun?”
Joel shrugged. “It’s part of running Atlantis, right? Maybe not fun, but interesting. How about I take that bilge seacock apart and work on it now?”
Trevor grinned. “Probably not one of your real great ideas, Joel. The seacocks are below the waterline. Taking one apart with the hull opening unblocked lets the sea in, and though you may find this hard to believe, it’s usually best to keep the ocean on the outside of the boat instead of on the inside. I only work on them in harbor, after jamming rubber stoppers in from the outside of the hull, or when Atlantis is hauled out of the water for maintenance. Just try not to sink us on our first day out, okay?” Trevor said, snickering.
“Shut up, I’m still learning,” Joel said, laughing and shaking his head. He worked the sewage outflow seacock’s handle a few times, trying to maneuver the grease gun into place. It took a few tries, but he eased some grease in.
“Work the handle and then give it another shot,” Trevor said, crouched to Joel’s right, their shoulders touching.
Joel did as he was asked, and then eased back a fraction of an inch on the grease gun, dropping the rag as he did so. “Hey Trev, could you get that? I’m kinda short of hands and I got some grease on the housing.” Trevor leaned over, awkwardly trying to reach the rag without climbing all over Joel, who said, “Just squeeze in. Hurry, that grease is about to drop.”
Focused on getting the rag, Trevor squirmed around so he was facing the opposite way and shouldered in, his chest bumping Joel’s, and grabbed the rag, which he handed to Joel.
“Stay put while I get it,” Joel said, using the rag to wipe off the valve body and the grease gun’s injector. Joel lowered the grease gun and gave the seacock another wipe. “Got it.”
Trevor squirmed out, and without thinking, he put his hand on Joel’s bare shoulder as he levered himself back into a squatting position.
Trevor saw a scowl appear on Joel’s face, and then Joel’s gaze shot back and forth between Trevor’s face and Trevor’s hand on his shoulder. “Trev... you’re making me really uncomfortable.” Joel slowly looked down at his naked body, and then he shuddered and glared at Trevor. “You know I’m straight, so this is kinda... sick,” Joel said, snatching his shoulder away from Trevor’s hand as if burned, edging away from Trevor, with an accusing look on his face.
Trevor’s eyes opened wide, and he eased as far away from Joel as he could. “What are you talking about?”
Joel waved his hand around the cramped space. “All this... you’re trying to take advantage of me! Just wait until I tell Lisa that on our first day at sea, you threw some kind of a bondage harness at me, dragged me into my cabin telling me it was time to get dirty, got me naked, had your hands all over me, handed me the lube, made me play with your nipple and then you forced me to work your cock!” Joel said, flicking his thumb at the seacock, as the corners of his mouth began to twitch.
As Joel began to crack up, Trevor rolled his eyes and then punched Joel in the arm. “You ass. I should know better than to take you seriously on stuff like that.”
Joel got his laughter under control enough to gasp, “Yeah, you should! You just make it so damn easy, Trev.”
Trevor heaved himself up through the bilge hatch. Slamming it shut with a bang, he sat down on it and said, “So do you, Joel. Enjoy your new cabin.”
Joel stared up at the closed hatch, listening to Trevor’s laughter. “Hey, let me out, you jerk, or I’ll just crawl to another hatch,” Joel yelled, and began looking around.
“Good luck with that. There’s a fuel tank forward of you and a water tank forward of that. This is the only way in and out and I kinda like sitting here. Yeah, I think that’s gonna be your cabin for a few days,” Trevor said, omitting any mention of the stern access hatch over the engine. Trevor’s sides heaved, and he began rolling around, laughing like crazy at Joel’s predicament.
Joel pounded against the hatch, and then tried to push it open. “Trev, I’ll get you for this,” he threatened.
“This is well-earned payback,” Trevor replied, still laughing. “Now, what are you going to tell Lisa?”
“Everything I said, plus that you locked me up in your dungeon after sexually harassing me, and that I’m naked and you’re in my cabin uninvited and won’t leave!”
Trevor rolled his eyes. “And you think Lisa will believe you?”
“Okay, maybe not. It kind of runs against her Trevor-is-neutered theory, which is a pretty sound theory, when ya think about it.” Joel replied, and then tried heaving against the hatch again, in vain.
“You’re not helping your chances of getting out. You know that, right?” Trevor asked, drumming his fingers on the hatch. “There’s gonna be a price. I think you’ll have to take over every job on Atlantis that I don’t like. You are now officially crew, and I’m the captain, so... how about we start you with swabbing the decks?”
“Let me out, and I promise I’ll do that, and take care of the bilges for the rest of my stay,” Joel offered.
“Deal,” Trevor said, and opened the hatch.
Joel put the grease gun away and climbed out, grinning as he said, “Sucker, I’d have done that anyway.”
Trevor shrugged. “There’s always next time.”
Joel stood aside as Trevor shut the hatch. “Hey, what’s the water situation? Can I grab a quick shower? After that trip to your dungeon, I’d like to get clean,” Joel asked, standing openly, naked and unconcerned.
Trevor grinned and laughed. “Yeah, we’re topped up. The only thing is, no hot water. The calorifer – that’s what Atlantis uses for a water heater, it’s kind of a heat exchanger – doesn’t work when the engines or generator are off because that’s what it uses for a heat source. There should still be some residual heat from our run out, and the tanks are lukewarm anyway, but it won’t be hot.”
“You said ‘hot’ with me standing here naked. That’s more sexual harassment!”
Trevor shook his head and turned to look at Joel, “Shut up and get showered, you stink!”
Trevor took the con while Joel showered. Looking out at the empty horizon and the sparkling blue seas, Trevor smiled, thinking, ‘Sailing solo is great but it gets lonely. Having Joel around is more fun than I’ve ever had.’
Ten minutes later, Joel was back, toweling his hair and wearing the tight square cut swimsuit he’d bought during his Gibraltar shopping spree. Returning to the helm, he pointed at the shorts, “I’ll have to get another pair of these, I like ‘em. They even look good from the back.”
Realizing that there was only one way that Joel could know that, Trevor nodded solemnly. “Joel, I now see that I made a big mistake in setting you up with Lisa.”
“Why?” Joel asked, with concern in his voice.
Struggling to keep his voice casual, Trevor replied, “Because the perfect match for you isn’t Lisa, it’s a mirror. You did just admit to checking out your own damn ass, man.” Trevor began to double over, laughing.
Joel flipped Trevor off and replied, “Hey, I was just checking out my new clothes.”
Trevor chuckled at that and then headed inside to fix lunch. As Joel joined him in the galley, Trevor asked, “Sandwiches okay?” Joel nodded, and Trevor reached into the refrigerator. After pulling out the meat, cheese, and sandwich spread, Trevor reached in again, and froze.
Joel stared at Trevor for a second, and then he remembered their grocery-shopping trip, and it dawned on him. “Where’s the bread, oh great and wise sea captain?”
Trevor put the sandwich fixings back and stood up, his face coloring slightly as he realized what he’d forgotten. “Uh, I used the last of what I had on my second day out of Lisbon.”
Joel nodded and began to snicker. “But you did remember to buy meat, sandwich spread, and cheese in Gibraltar. Surely the great Captain Trevor Carlson, Master of the Atlantis and intrepid crosser of oceans, could not possibly forget that bread is useful when making sandwiches?”
“Shut up, you didn’t think of it either,” Trevor grumbled, and idly wondered what else he might have forgotten.
Joel shook his head. “I am but a lowly deckhand, totally dependent upon my captain’s wise seafaring ways and his great knowledge of provisioning for long voyages.”
Trevor snorted. “Okay, a frozen steak dinner for lunch for me, and cold gruel for the crew.”
Joel laughed, reaching for the unfinished can of hot dogs. “These plus cheese, pepper, and Ramen noodles will work just fine. I guess I’ll be your kitchen slave too. You can’t cook worth a damn, you know that, right?”
Trevor arched an eyebrow. “You can cook?”
Joel shrugged, and then grabbed a package of noodles from the pantry. “A little. I like Italian food and my parents don’t, so I learned how to make lasagna. I can make other stuff too, but not bread,” Joel said, snickering at Trevor.
Trevor nodded. “Let’s see... you like clothes shopping, and I don’t. You can cook, and I can’t. Are you really sure you’re straight?”
“Are you really sure you’re gay?” Joel shot back, elbowing Trevor out of the way to get to a cupboard. He found the pepper, but then his eyes fell upon a red object that was shaped like half a cylinder with rounded, flattened ends. Picking it up, he asked, “What the hell is this?”
Trevor shook his head sadly. “And I thought I was the one who didn’t know his way around a kitchen. That’s a garlic press. Julie gave it to me last year, in case a guest wanted fresh garlic.”
“How does it work?” Joel asked, turning it over in his hand, noticing that it felt heavier than he’d have expected.
“It’s got two caps, one at each end, and they snap off. I think you put the garlic in, turn the top end, and it squishes the garlic out the bottom end.”
Joel pulled the top cap off and looked inside. Then he dumped out the glass jar of salt that had been inside. “You’ve never used it, have you? And why the hell keep salt in it?”
Trevor shrugged. “It’s sea salt. I had a charter guest last year who asked for it before the trip, so I got her some. I stuck it in there to save room.”
Joel put the salt back and reassembled the garlic press. “I’ll put this to use after we’ve been grocery shopping in Italy. Italian food rocks, man, and I can’t wait to try the real thing.”
The banter continued as Joel fixed lunch. When it was done, they ate lunch in the cockpit, and when Joel asked, Trevor reluctantly admitted that it was good.
The next day, wearing sunglasses for reasons having nothing to do with the Florida sun, Dirk wheeled his sedan around the corner, driving slowly as he approached Lisa’s house. Passing by at five miles per hour, Dirk studied the house, seeing no sign of anyone. His focus on the house had been such that he hadn’t noticed the unmarked black sedan, following him from a few hundred yards behind.
Later that day, the plainclothes officer who had been driving the unmarked sedan, a sergeant by the name of Mike Gonzalez, added that incident to his report. He then cross-referenced the street name with his files, and found Lisa Whitaker’s name, which he recognized.
Dirk Carlson was just one of a dozen longtime murder suspects that Officer Gonzalez was investigating, but unlike the rest, he felt that this case had a great deal of recent activity, compounded by the mysterious disappearance of Trevor Carlson, under circumstances that appeared strikingly similar to that of Rachael Carlson.
The next set of documents he looked at were a copy of the preliminary divorce papers for Rachel and Dirk Carlson. Officer Gonzalez had read them before, and glanced at them to refresh his memory. They were a preliminary filing, the normal first step for an uncontested divorce, and signed by both spouses. What was conspicuous by its absence was a property settlement agreement. Instead, the Carlsons had marked the box indicating that they wanted a judge to decide. The same was true for the custody of Trevor. There was little else in the filing; just the self-prepared form, which indicated that no lawyers had been involved. It was the existence of the divorce papers, and especially their timing, that had turned the normal suspicion of a surviving spouse into a formal murder investigation.
Officer Gonzalez made a note to interview Lisa, and then he set the Carlson file aside, for the moment, to work on one of his other cases; an unsolved drug murder.
For the first three days after sailing from Gibraltar, Atlantis made an average of eleven knots. The winds also served to make the heat tolerable, and Joel joined Trevor in sleeping in the cockpit at night, Trevor in his beanbag and Joel on the upholstered bench.
During the days, Trevor taught Joel some of the small details involved in running Atlantis. To Trevor’s delight, Joel was enthusiastic and interested, taking over the job of monitoring the electrical system as well the already promised regular bilge check.
Joel’s biggest surprise turned out to be the electrical system and how carefully it had to be managed when the engines and generator weren’t running. He learned that the washing machine drew too many amps to run without the generator, so like Trevor, he began rinsing out a pair of shorts by hand and hanging them out to dry for the following day.
Atlantis’s navigational system used power-efficient LCD displays, which Trevor had added during an upgrade to reduce electrical loads. However, it still drew power, as did the autopilot, refrigerator, radars, microwave oven, coffee pot, and nighttime navigational lights.
During the daytime, when the solar array and the wind turbine were both putting out power, they had more leeway, especially after the batteries had been recharged. At night, they had to be more careful.
On the fourth day, the wind began to die, becoming erratic and weak. By noon, they were becalmed in the sweltering heat.
In the salon, the thermometer was reading a hundred and three degrees, which coupled with the high humidity made Atlantis feel a lot like a sweat bath. Trevor and Joel sat at the navigation desk while Trevor reviewed the forecast. “Looks like the wind is changing from northwest to south. Tomorrow it should pick up, but it looks like we’re not going anywhere for awhile.”
“Where are we, exactly?” Joel asked.
Trevor showed him. “Here,” Trevor replied, tapping the nav screen and then zooming out. “We’re about fifty miles west of the Strait of Bonifacio, which is between Corsica and Sardinia. It has some bad currents and shoals, so I wasn’t planning on going through at night anyway. Unless the wind improves a lot, we’ll probably go through under power. I’m trying to use the engines as little as possible; the vent stacks – which mix the exhaust with seawater before dumping it overboard – are nearing the end of their rated life and replacing them is expensive. It’s not critical, just an expense I’m trying to avoid, same with buying fuel in Europe; it costs a ton here. I can run the engines for over a week on one fuel load as long as I keep it to eight knots or less, so with any luck, I won’t need to refuel at all.”
“Running the engines means you can run the air conditioner too, right?” Joel, dripping in sweat, asked in a hopeful tone.
“Yeah, no problem. I could run it off the generator too, so if you’re too much of a wuss and can’t take the heat, say so and I’ll fire it up,” Trevor said.
“If you can take it, so can I,” Joel said, looking down his sweating body and wondering who would break first. Joel glanced around at the flat, glassy, windless sea, and asked, “Any reason we can’t swim? It’s hot as hell, and I need to keep in practice.”
Trevor suppressed a shudder, remembering the last time he’d been in the water when Atlantis was at sea, and how he had missed death by inches. “I’ll lower the sails just in case the wind comes up, but yeah, that’ll work.”
“I’ll get changed. I’ll race you; twenty laps around the Atlantis,” Joel said, heading for his cabin.
Trevor stopped by the nav desk and checked the radars before heading into his own cabin, where he dug out his light blue racing briefs and put them on.
When Trevor returned to the salon, he found Joel waiting for him, standing with his hands on his hips, a set of goggles in each hand and wearing the black and red speedos he’d bought in Gibraltar. “Well, what do you think?” Joel asked, glancing down at his new swimsuit.
Trevor nodded approvingly. “Those look real hot on you.”
Joel crossed his arms and shook his head. “That’s sexual harassment, you freak. I’m crew, and I was asking about the weather, you lecherous captain.”
Trevor snorted. “You’re impossible.”
“You’re only just figuring that out? Damn, you’re slow,” Joel replied, punching Trevor in the arm and then dancing away, heading out on deck.
Joel came to a halt near the aft starboard stairs, and after handing Trevor a set of goggles, began to do his usual pre-workout stretching. Standing by Joel’s side, Trevor joined in – it was the normal routine for both of them.
Joel finished with his legs and started on his arms, his chest flexing in the sunlight. Trevor glanced over, letting his eyes linger for a moment, thinking, ‘Damn, why does he have to be so hot?’
With a whoop and a running start, Joel leaped off Atlantis, cannonballing into the warm Mediterranean waters. He surfaced and then put on his goggles, just in time to receive a face full of water as Trevor landed by his side. “Ready to race?” Joel asked, lining up by Trevor’s shoulder.
Trevor replied by launching into a freestyle crawl, and the race was on. Trevor’s surprise move gained him a body-length’s lead, and he held it, barely, for a dozen laps as they circled Atlantis. Joel tried to pass Trevor twice, but he couldn’t; Trevor stayed close to Atlantis, cutting close to the bows and stern, which meant Joel would have to pass on the outside.
Kicking hard and sprinting, Joel pulled even on the last lap but couldn’t pass Trevor in time.
Breathing hard, Joel trod water, easing away from Atlantis. “You wouldn’t let me pass, you kept cutting me off,” he said, and then sent a splash of water in Trevor’s direction.
Returning the splash, Trevor replied, “Like you’d have done any different.”
After a short water fight, the two guys began circling Atlantis at a steady pace, falling into the slow, steady cadence of lap swimming.
As they swam, Trevor kept an eye out underwater, out of habit looking for any sign of sharks or jellyfish.
Half an hour into their workout, Trevor spotted a dark spot a few hundred feet away through the clear water, near the surface. He stopped near the stern, looked for a second, and as Joel swam by, grabbed his arm, startling him. As Joel’s head broke the surface, Trevor said, “We’ve got company,” and pointed. In the distance, they could see a large, loitering fin. “A shark, probably attracted by the splashing.”
“Then why are we still in the fucking water?” Joel asked, his eyes open wide, and then he sprinted the few feet to the swim platform at the base of the starboard aft stairs, heaving himself out of the water and racing up the stairs. Joel turned back to look at Trevor, and he froze when he saw that Trevor was still in the water. “Come on, get out,” Joel yelled, and then he jumped back down to the swim platform at the foot of the stairs.
Trevor casually climbed aboard. “I see sharks a lot when I’m diving and sometimes when I’m surfing. They’re more dangerous to a surfer; they hunt in the surfline and sometimes mistake surfers for prey. Sharks aren’t as dangerous as most people think, especially in open water, but it wouldn’t have been a good idea to keep swimming.”
“You could have told me that first,” Joel grumbled, shaking his head.
“It was more fun the other way,” Trevor replied, grinning as they padded onto the deck and to the deck shower. After rinsing off, they stood by the rail, drying in the hot sun.
Keeping a wary eye on the fin three hundred feet away, Joel said, “Got any suntan lotion? I’d like to lay out for a while and get rid of my shorts tan lines.”
“You should go for another swim; that poor shark looks hungry,” Trevor replied, heading inside.
Trevor returned with two large beach towels and a bottle of suntan lotion. He tossed the bottle to Joel, and then spread out the towels on the deck.
Joel began applying the lotion, still looking at the distant, slowly moving shark. “That’s spooky, the way it’s just hanging out, waiting.”
Trevor studied the shark for a few moments; it had turned parallel to Atlantis, a hundred and fifty feet away. Trevor could see both the fin and the tip of the tail, allowing him to estimate the shark’s length as around six feet. “I don’t think that’s a Mako, unless it’s a young one. Same goes for a Great White. Might be a Blacktip or a Spinner, but I don’t know. I’m not too good at identifying them, and that’s back home. There are probably a few different species over here.” Trevor held his hand out, and after Joel had squirted some lotion into it said, “Sharks are weird sometimes. They can be a lot more aggressive if there’s blood in the water. If you’re anywhere near a fishing boat, watch the hell out. They usually circle closer if they’re interested in something. Once while reef diving, I looked up and saw about thirty of ‘em cruising by overhead. I carry a bang stick – a shotgun shell on a rod – sometimes, but there’s only about fifty unprovoked shark attacks each year, worldwide. Dogs are a lot more dangerous.”
Joel shook his head, still looking at the shark. “I’ll take my chances with a pit bull any day, thanks.” Almost done putting on the suntan lotion, Joel handed the bottle to Trevor and lay face down on a towel. “Make yourself useful and get my back.”
Trevor arched an eyebrow, looking at Joel’s very inviting back. Kneeling down beside Joel, Trevor squeezed some lotion onto his hands and began rubbing it in between Joel’s shoulders.
“You just couldn’t wait to get your hands on me again, could ya, you perv?” Joel mumbled.
“Hey, this was your idea,” Trevor replied, laughing as he finished applying the lotion, and then he gave Joel’s back a sharp slap.
“Ow, that’s brutality and sexual harassment,” Joel said, flipping up onto his side and waiting for Trevor to lie down.
Trevor stretched out, waiting, and then he felt Joel’s strong hand rubbing the lotion into his back. Joel finished with a light slap for payback, and then lay down on his back beside Trevor.
As the two friends basked in the sun, the conversation turned to thoughts of home. In a quiet, serious tone, Joel asked, “Are you doing okay, about all this stuff with your dad? That must be really messing with your head sometimes.”
Trevor was silent for almost half a minute, thinking. Then he said, “I don’t know what to think. One minute, I’m wondering if he killed Mom, then the next, I’m thinking that there’s no way he’d do something like that. I just wish I knew, one way or the other.”
“That sucks... The not knowing, I mean. Fuck, that must mess with your head, especially when you’re alone. Then there’s the way he turned on you because you’re into guys; how could anyone do that to their own kid?”
“Is everyone in your family so cool with that?” Trevor asked.
Joel sighed. “No. My brother Steve is a bit homophobic, I guess. I just don’t get it, what’s the big deal? It’s like the color of your eyes or how tall you are; it’s just part of who you are. I used to like your dad, but when I heard he’d turned against you over this, I started hating him. I just can’t understand how anyone could be like that, but I can’t understand a murderer, either.”
“You think he did it. Killed my mom, I mean,” Trevor asked.
“Yeah, I do. Everything so far points that way, and he did turn on you,” Joel replied.
Trevor thought for over a minute before replying, “Sort of. I didn’t come out to him blatantly or anything, I just started sounding him out about how he felt about gay people, asking him what he’d do if he found out an employee was gay, that kind of thing. He started getting hostile when I did, so I backed off. I tried a couple of times, same result. I guess he figured it out and that’s why things were not so good even before I found the divorce papers. It’s the stuff about my mom that really eats at me though; he wouldn’t even try to explain the divorce. He’s hiding something, he has to be. He freaked when he found out I was searching for Ares, so there’s something out there off Bimini, sure as hell. When I get back, I’m going to search every chance I get. Every week, if I can.”
Joel rolled onto his side, facing Trevor. Reaching out, he put his hand on Trevor’s shoulder and said, “I’ll be there with you. I can dive now, and two heads are better than one, right? You don’t have to search alone, not anymore.”
“Thanks Joel,” Trevor said, feeling the reassuring touch of the hand on his shoulder, and for the first time accepting that his quest to find the Ares need no longer be his alone.
After an hour in the sun, they went inside the stifling salon. Trevor fired up the generator and then the air conditioning, and as it came on, they each stood over an air vent, feeling the cool air.
Joel looked at his arms, then his stomach, and then rolled down the hip of his speedos for a moment. Then he looked at Trevor and said, “I darkened up a lot, so did you.” Joel paused, a sly grin spreading across his face. He spread his arms and turned to face Trevor, “So, what do you think? How do I look?”
‘Hot as hell, of course,’ Trevor thought, and then said, “Let me guess; if I say hot, you’ll accuse me of sexual harassment again, and if I don’t say it, you’ll remind me that I’m stressing again.”
Joel lowered his arms and chuckled. “Got it in one, man.”
As the salon cooled down to bearable temperatures, Trevor walked over to the navigational desk and gave Joel another lesson with the navigational system. As they talked, Trevor glanced down, his gaze falling on the desk’s upper drawer.
“Hey, there’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you about,” Trevor said, opening the drawer and pulling out a small bright-orange cylinder.
“Either another garlic press, or one of your sex toys... maybe both?” Joel asked, looking at a line of tiny LED lights on its bulbous end and the flush touchpad buttons on its sides. Trevor laughed and Joel added, “I’ve seen these before. It’s an emergency locator beacon, right?”
Trevor nodded. “Yeah, it’s waterproof and it floats. It’s called an EPIRB, and in an emergency, you just press the three buttons on the top part at once to release the antenna and activate it. There’s another one right outside the cockpit but it’s a different kind; it goes off automatically if we sink.”
“Let’s not do that,” Joel replied, studying the EPIRB.
“Okay, now see if you can remember how to pull up the weather plots, and let’s see if we’re going to get any wind in the morning,” Trevor said, putting the EPIRB back in the drawer.
Joel glanced into the drawer, and recognized Trevor’s handwriting on a notebook. “What’s that,” he asked, nodding at the book.
“Just my personal log,” Trevor replied automatically, and then he noticed Joel’s interested glance and shut the drawer quickly, adding, “Just some notes and stuff. Okay, how’s the forecast?”
Joel noticed Trevor’s sudden unease about the book, wondered what was in it, and then began clicking through the nav system menus. It took Joel a minute, but he managed to pull up the forecast; a chart of the region showing wind vectors and speed. “Looks like we’ll have some by tomorrow afternoon, maybe,” Joel said.
“Enough to navigate the strait tomorrow?” Trevor asked, wondering if he was teaching Joel too much, too fast.
Joel shook his head. “Not in the morning, not with the current warnings for the strait, and maybe not in the afternoon. Engines?”
“Engines. We’ll go through under power,” Trevor confirmed.