After a sleepless night spent tossing and turning, Trevor got up with the dawn, still no closer to understanding. He went for a swim and then a run on the beach, and then as noon approached, he raised anchor and sailed for Mahé.
Trevor approached the coast southeast of Victoria, coming within three miles to get a solid cell signal.
Officer Gonzales was driving back to his office when the call came in. He answered immediately, pulling over and parking so he could concentrate and take notes.
After confirming that Trevor was safe and nothing untoward had occurred, he gave Trevor the news. “Looks like you’ll probably need to sail back to Egypt; their investigators want to have a look at your boat and interview you. They’ll keep her safe for you while you fly home.”
Trevor thought of his long journey to the Seychelles, and asked, “Do you know how far it is from here to Egypt, especially if you mean the Suez?”
“Uh, no, I don’t have a map with me and my geography isn’t that good,” Gonzalez replied honestly.
“Three and a half thousand miles by the route I’d need to take. There’s two other things you need to know, if you’re not familiar with sailing–”
“I’m not, I’ve never set foot on a sailboat bigger than ten feet, and not even that since I was a kid,” Gonzalez admitted.
“There’s the problem of Somalia – pirates. I got past it by joining a yacht convoy in Suez, and we think we were scouted by pirates. I don’t know how to find a convoy heading for Suez, if there even are any. I really don’t like the idea of sailing solo through those waters. The other thing is, I don’t want to go back to Egypt at all until I’m convinced it wasn’t Egyptians who tried to blow me up.”
Officer Gonzalez sighed to himself, realizing that this was going to be difficult. The piracy situation was something he hadn’t considered, and he had no intention of sending Trevor alone though pirate-infested waters. That left flying him out. “Okay, the best I can probably do is set something up so the Egyptians can send somebody to the Seychelles to examine your boat, and you’ll fly into Cairo. You’ll be safe; they’ll keep you in protective custody until they put you on a plane for here.”
“No thanks, I don’t want to leave her here, and I don’t want to go to Egypt right now, either. I’m willing to be interviewed and testify by live video though.”
“That won’t work. I looked into it, but the prosecutor shut me down cold,” Gonzalez reported.
“Look, there are a few things that just don’t add up about this whole thing. I was there when Jim came aboard Atlantis, and it doesn’t make any sense to me that he’d let it be known he was there if he was planting a bomb. He could have just planted it and gone, right?” Trevor asked.
“I can’t get into many details here, but... yes, I suppose he could have done it that way, however... killers are rarely completely rational, and even when they are, they make strange mistakes sometimes, so that doesn’t mean he didn’t do it. Now you tell me; did he have opportunity to plant that bomb? It was in a propane tank, something he could have strolled through that marina carrying and no one would have even noticed. From what I understand, you didn’t discover him until he was aboard, and you don’t know how long he’d been there,” Officer Gonzalez said, remembering his own phone call with Jim when Jim was aboard, and Gonzalez had ordered him off.
“Yeah, he could have got a tank aboard... but I think you’ve missed something. You’ve never been on my boat, so maybe I noticed something you can’t... did you know that there’s only room for two tanks in the propane storage compartment? The other two are in use, one in a separate cockpit compartment and hooked up to the galley supply line, and one under the barbecue, hooked up to it. I’d have noticed pretty much right away if one of those two wasn’t working. So I had four tanks aboard, but he could have only replaced one of the two in the storage rack, or I'd have soon noticed. That means he’d have to take one of the two full tanks from the rack and replace it, right? So where did my original tank go? Joel and I would have noticed if he was carrying one off – we walked with him, and propane tanks are kinda hard to miss. I’d have noticed if an extra one turned up,” Trevor said.
Gonzalez made a few notes, and then replied, “I wasn’t sure about your layout, but Joel described it pretty well. What you just said fits, and I did consider the extra tank. According to Joel, you were docked in at least ten feet of water, right? All he’d have to do would be slip the full tank over the side, and it’d sink to the bottom.”
“Except for one thing; full propane tanks float. I know that for sure, because I slipped and dropped one overboard last year. I guess he could have tied weights to it, but then why announce he was there?”
The mention of a floating propane tank twigged Gonzalez’s memory, and he made a note to check the Egyptian report when he got back to his office, certain that he remembered seeing an intact propane tank among the long list of recovered items. “None of this is proof, Trevor, and even if you’re right, I don’t see a way to prove it yet.”
“I know, I just don’t think Dad would be part of something like this... Are you sure Jim couldn’t have done it alone? I only met him once, and he seemed like a nice guy, but I don’t really know him...” Trevor’s voice trailed off, as he realized something he’d overlooked. “Uh, you think that the phone used in the bomb came out of the box with the rock in it, right? So why would my father send me a box with a rock in it when he’s got plenty of phones there, including my old one, which is the one I was expecting?”
That aspect had already been considered by the investigation. Gonzalez was reluctant to discuss details, but he wanted to continue the conversation, so he replied, “The bomb went off on your second day in the canal, before you reached the Suez Canal Yacht Club. Think about it... if he did this, he’d have been expecting that the package would never be picked up, so it wouldn’t matter what was in it.”
Trevor sighed with relief. “If that’s true, Dad didn’t do it. I didn’t trust him, so I had Joel’s father pick it up and mail it. Dad never knew that it would be sent to that yacht club, and nobody, not even me, realized that club is at the south end of the canal, not the north. I was expecting to have it for my transit, so were Joel and Lisa. Also, how would my father know in advance that Joel’s dad wouldn’t open the box?”
Gonzales scribbled furiously, his eyes narrowing at the confirmation. “That’s interesting, and this goes to show why we need to interview you properly. Now, did you send me that rock? If not, don’t mail it, just bring it with you, same with the phone box and packaging, but not in checked baggage in case they lose it; hand carry it,” he said, while adding five exclamation marks to his notes.
“I’ve already mailed it and the box. They said it would get to you in about five days... Look, why don’t we just wait until you test that rock or whatever. I don’t want to be part of getting my dad convicted of something if he’s innocent.”
Gonzalez could not share his opinions with Trevor, so he said, “I’m not out to convict anyone who’s innocent. My job is to find out what really happened. I’m looking for the truth... and isn’t that what you want, to find out the truth, including what happened to your mother?” There was a long silence, and Gonzalez wondered if Trevor had hung up. “Are you still there?”
“I’m here,” Trevor said softly. “I do want to find out what happened – I just don’t know what it is yet.”
“Then we both want the same thing. Nothing you’ve said today proves anything, but it raises questions that need answering. It also shows why we need to conduct proper interviews with you, because you were there and we weren’t.”
Trevor thought for a few seconds, wrestling with his conscience before replying, “I don’t like this, and I don’t want to have any more to do with this prosecution until I’m convinced my dad and Jim really did it. There’s just too much that doesn’t fit, like you thinking my dad and Jim are gay... and something else that’s bugging me too: does my Dad even know about all this, or are you just going to ambush him? If you really want to see if he’s innocent or guilty, he should have a chance to defend himself.”
Trevor’s words sent up a red warning flag with Officer Gonzalez, and he knew he had to forestall any tampering in the case. “Trevor, I’m sorry, but this isn’t up to you. As a witness, you have to give testimony when called to do so; you have no right to silence, regardless of your personal feelings. Now, I want you to listen very carefully; you are not to so much as contact your father or Jim Ainsworth in any way until I say you can. They may have tried to kill you and may do so again; don’t forget that. Also, if you contact him we’ll know, and then you’ll face charges yourself, for interfering with an investigation. It may not seem fair, but it is... he’ll have every chance to defend himself if he’s charged.”
Trevor’s temper was beginning to stir. He had a longstanding dislike of being told what he had to do, and to keep hearing that he had no choice was grating at his already raw nerves. The threat to prosecute him if he called his own father without permission was the last straw. “I’m not leaving Atlantis here, and I’m not going to Egypt, so it looks to me like my side of this is on hold until I get to Australia,” Trevor said.
“I did speak to the prosecutor about waiting until you get to Australia, but he shot me down; you’re needed in Egypt and then here. Check with your insurance agency and see if your boat will be covered while in storage there, and if not, maybe we can wrangle some coverage out of our witness and victim relations people.” Gonzales had to be careful what he promised; he wasn’t sure if he could get that or not, but he intended to try.
For Trevor, Atlantis was far more than just a thing; she was part of him, as well as his only real connection to his mother. There was also the issue of being sent to Egypt, and then home to aid in his father’s prosecution, something Trevor had no intention of doing unless he was sure. That made his decision an easy one. “Sorry, Officer Gonzalez, but the answer is still no. I’m not leaving Atlantis here.”
Officer Gonzalez considered threatening to have Atlantis impounded, but then realized he didn’t know where in the Seychelles Atlantis was, and that he had no real idea of the local police would cooperate. “Look, there’s no reason to jump the gun here: this is all tentative. It’ll take a few days to get it all sorted out, and I’ll talk to the prosecutor again. Could you let me know where you’ll be, and then call me at this time tomorrow?”
“I was at Grand Anse, on Praslin Island, and I liked it there... That’s probably where I’ll be, but there’s no cell service. I’ll come back here to call.”
After the call, Trevor stared at the hills of Mahé, two miles off his starboard beam. Atlantis was ready, and he was worried that if he stayed, he could lose Atlantis and be roped into a prosecution he didn’t feel right about. With a few taps at his navigation display, Trevor loaded the route plan for his voyage to Australia. Then, he had a far bigger decision to make.
With Atlantis barely making steerageway, Trevor sat down to brood for a while. His opinion kept changing every few minutes, bouncing between thinking his father guilty, and then flipping to feeling that his father couldn’t have done it. In the end, Trevor knew he had no choice but to act, consequences be damned. He advanced the throttles and threw the helm hard to starboard, setting course for the channel to Puerto Providence, an anchorage on Mahé, a few miles down the coast from the capital, sheltered by a barrier reef and several islands.
Trevor anchored and roared ashore in his Zodiac, heading for the commercial buildings he’d seen. As in any tourist area, he found phone cards for sale, bought one, and used it in the first payphone he could find.
When the law office’s receptionist answered, Trevor said, “Jim Ainsworth, please. Tell him... just tell him he knows me, and this is urgent.
When Jim came on the line, Trevor said, “This is Trev, I–”
“Hello Trevor, how are you?” Jim asked, surprised by the call.
“Fine... ah, I’m not supposed to be calling you... the reason I am is the police are investigating you and Dad for putting a bomb in Atlantis’s engine compartment when you found me in Italy.”
“WHAT?” Jim yelled, loud enough to shake the rafters. Then he lowered his voice to ask, “I hope this is some kind of a joke.”
“I wish it was. I just got off the phone with Sergeant Mike Gonzalez of the Fort Pierce Police Department. He threatened to prosecute me if I contacted you or Dad in any way,” Trevor replied.
That name made it instantly all too real, and Jim asked quietly, “You’re sure? Why do they think there was a bomb?”
“The Egyptian police told ‘em... they are pretty sure it was aboard Atlantis, and was part of some stuff stolen that was stolen while I was ashore – it blew up a freighter. The phone that triggered it came from Dad’s store... it was the one that was supposed to be in the box he sent me, that had a rock in it...”
“I heard about the rock, but nothing about a bomb... are you okay?” Jim asked, his mind still reeling.
“Yeah, I guess. You haven’t heard about a bomb? Did you put anything aboard when you were on Atlantis?” Trevor asked.
“Uh, no... Joel came out a few seconds after I climbed aboard, I figured he was you and you’d seen me... and Trevor, I’d never... I don’t even know where your engine compartment is, how the hell could I put a damn bomb in it?” Jim replied.
“My father could have told you exactly where the engine compartments are and how to open ‘em. He had to open them to get my glow plug wires when he sabotaged my engines.”
“Oh... Trevor, I see how this must look, but all your father was trying to do was keep you in port... and yes, he was going to take your boat, but only until you turned eighteen. I know all about him taking the plug wires; he was shocked when he found out you’d put to sea. As for telling me about your engine compartment, I don’t know how to prove he didn’t. He’s told me quite a bit about Atlantis, but that’s never been mentioned.”
Trevor was well aware that he was playing verbal games with someone who did it for a living, but it was all he’d been able to think of, so he pressed on. “Look at it from my point of view. I had a bomb in my engine compartment, the same ones Dad sabotaged in Florida. What would you think if you were me?”
“I... I guess I see your point. Due to the fact you called, I know you must have some doubts and are giving us a chance, but I can’t prove a negative... Wait. On most boats I’ve been on, the engine compartment access hatch is inside, so could I have got to it? I was in the cockpit, Trevor, not inside your main area, so I only had access to the after deck and cockpit, and only very briefly at that.” Jim said, as he tapped at his keyboard, launching a web search for ‘Suez freighter bomb’. To his horror, he found a news report about it, further confirming Trevor’s claim. “Oh shit, I just looked it up on the ‘net, and there was a bomb. Nothing about a phone though... Trevor, please tell me anything you can. Your father and I had nothing to do with this, I swear.”
“They think the bomb was in a propane tank, in my cockpit storage. Those tanks were stolen in Ismailia. I said ‘engine compartment’ because I needed to know if it was you, but you just said that you did have access to my cockpit, and I don’t think you would have, if you’d planted a bomb in it. So I don’t think it was you, and I know damn well my dad can’t travel, and there’s too much else that didn’t make sense to me...” Trevor explained about the phone, and then added, “The other thing is, you’d have had to ditch the tank you replaced, and even full, they float.” Trevor heard a warning beep, and added, “I’m using a payphone and it just beeped, we’re about to be cut off.”
“Okay, and I’ve got to look into this right away... Trevor, it sure as hell wasn’t me or Dirk, but it looks to me like either you got targeted by mistake, or somebody tried to kill you. I want you to be very careful, don’t let anyone know where you are, even me or your father for now, you can’t take the risk. I’ll do everything I can to get to the bottom of this... is there some way I can get a message to you?”
“No, I’ll be out of cell range in a few minutes and I’m on my way to Australia.”
“Trevor... thank you for doing this. I must admit, I’m surprised you did, based on what you must think about... things.”
“I really don’t know what I think. I still don’t know what happened with Mom, and now this... but like I said, some of it didn’t fit with what I knew, and I couldn’t let ‘em just ambush Dad... or you,” Trevor said.
“Thank you for that, and I promise, everything, and I mean everything, about the past will be cleared up for you by Christmas. I have to get moving on this right away. This bomb stuff... I’ll find out somehow, count on it. Take care of yourself out there, and if you need anything, I’ll make sure you can get ahold of me,” Jim said, already making frantic plans.
“I’ll call when I get to Australia, good luck,” Trevor said, as the beeping became constant and the call cut off.
After hanging up the phone, Trevor returned to Atlantis and raised anchor. As Atlantis stood out to sea, Trevor flipped open his cell phone and dialed. As soon as Joel answered, Trevor asked, “Where are you, and is Lisa there?”
“Hi Trev... I’m in the men's locker room, and Lisa’s not here... I’m early, so it’s pretty private. You doing okay, man?”
“Yeah, but Lisa would yell at me, she’ll think I’m insane, and she’s probably right...” Trevor explained everything that had happened, including tipping off Jim, and why. He finished by asking, “Joel, do you think there’s any way Jim could have gotten a propane tank off Atlantis, and does it make any sense that he’d show himself if he’d already planted a bomb?”
“There’s no way he could have got a tank off Atlantis, unless he had a partner there to swap the tank out after we left the boat. When I first saw Jim, he looked like he’d just stepped aboard, briefcase in hand. That briefcase did get me thinking, once we were looking for a bomb, that maybe he’d had one in it and stashed it somewhere, but no way could he have had a propane tank... and he was at the opposite end of the cockpit from the propane storage,” Joel said.
“There’s something else I thought of. When Jim walked us back to the boat, he had you take a picture of him and me together, with your phone. Why the hell would he do that if he’d just planted a bomb aboard? Do you still have the picture?” Trevor asked.
“Yeah, I have it on my computer at home with the rest of the trip pics. Trev, I thought you were maybe deluding yourself before, but... I think you could be right. I still think there’s a good chance Jim did this, and your dad killed your Mom, but I’m not sure anymore.”
“Then we pretty much agree. I don’t know either, but I couldn’t let Dad be ambushed like that. Could you have, if it was your dad?” Trevor asked, feeling the need for reassurance that he’d done the right thing.
“Knowing what you know... I think I’d have done the same. That stuff about the phone... yeah, how could he have known when you’d get the box, and that my dad wouldn’t open it?”
“Do you think Lisa will still yell at me and call me a fucking idiot?” Trevor asked.
“Duh, of course she will, but then she’ll calm down and see the problems. I’ll start digging into this. I’ll be careful, but I’ll see what I can figure out,” Joel said.
“Thanks man... I really appreciate this–”
“Shut up, that’s what brothers are for,” Joel replied.
“You’re the best... and speaking of, have you asked Lisa that question yet?”
Joel chuckled. “Not yet, but it’s in the works, I’ve got it planned for a just over a week from now, and that’s why I’m in the locker room early...” Joel said, and then went on to explain his plan, feeling his stomach churn.
“If you haven’t asked her by the time I call you from Australia, I’m going to bug you for the rest of your life, you know that, right?”
Joel laughed. “I’ll have it asked and answered long before then. I have to; I want to take her with me to see you, and any chance of that happening depends on us being engaged. I’ve been over to her house for dinner a few times since I got back, and her father seems to be coming around, so I’m hoping...”
“Me too, that would be awesome, I miss her a lot, and you too. I can’t wait to see you,” Trevor said.
“Have a good trip, man, and be safe out there...”
“I will, and congratulations on getting engaged, because I already know she’ll say yes. Hey, could you do me a favor and let Officer Gonzalez know I’ve left for Australia? Tell him a weather window opened up and I didn’t want to miss it... that’s not even a lie, there’s a sweet wind pattern forming up for the first leg.”
“Will do, I’ll call him tomorrow... Be safe, man. Take care of yourself, okay?”
Trevor and Joel talked for a few minutes more, but then the line began to crackle as Atlantis moved closer to the edge of cell reception range.
As soon as the call ended, Joel heard footsteps coming around the locker row behind him. He turned and saw Steve, their team captain, with a stunned look on his face.
“Uh, dude, I heard most of that... Be super careful. I was with the team when we went to get the phone, and... Trev’s father is one scary dude. None of us wanted to go in, not even together. Now somebody tried to blow Trev up, and Trev thinks his father, who killed Trev’s mom, didn’t plant the bomb? Is Trev fucking insane?”
Joel shrugged. “Insane maybe, but he might be right...” Joel went on to explain as best he could.
Steve listened, asked a few questions, and as Joel finished, Steve shook his head in confusion. “That is some heavy shit... and I can’t believe Trev is sticking up for him, but if he is, maybe there’s something to this. If you need any help, you got it, and as far as I’m concerned, Trev is still a member of this team, same as me or you, even though he’s not here now. I’m sure the rest of the team feels the same way.”
Joel smiled. “Thanks. I’ll let him know. That’ll mean a lot to him.”
“How’s he doing? He’s all alone now, right? Or did he meet a guy?” Steve asked.
Joel blinked, trying his best to look surprised. “Why a guy?”
Steve rolled his eyes. “Yeah right, like you don’t know. Worst kept secret ever, dude. Your girlfriend kept bringing guys to meet Trev after practice. Two of the guys on this team are out, and they recognized some of the guys Lisa was bringing. Name me one other reason why Lisa would be bringing gay guys to meet Trev? What I don’t get is why he tried to keep it a secret. As far as I know, nobody on the team has any hang-ups about that.”
Joel shrugged, seeing no point in lying. “Trev had some trouble. His dad used to come to our meets and games sometimes, remember? Trev’s dad is not cool about gays, and part of why Trev left was he’d tried to come out to his dad and they were fighting. With his dad being like he is, I don’t blame Trev for trying to keep it quiet before his dad knew, especially with his dad coming to the meets.”
“Shit... So Trev’s dad is a bigoted asshole who won’t accept his own son, and a murderer, and maybe he tried to kill Trev too? Nice fucking family Trev’s stuck with. And did it occur to him that maybe his dad would rather have a dead son than a gay one, and that’s part of why he tried to kill him?” Steve asked, and then added softly, “One of my cousins up in Georgia is gay, and his folks are total assholes to him now they know, so I get how parents can be dicks over the issue sometimes, and that’s without the whole serial killer thing,” Steve said, shuddering.
Joel shook his head. “Not his whole family... just his dad, at most. I adopted Trev so we’re brothers now, and he’s family to me and Lisa, but yeah, he’s alone out there. He’s in the Indian Ocean, on his way to Australia, and he’ll be at sea non-stop for up to two months. I’m going out to see him for Christmas break... and maybe Lisa can go too.”
Steve gave Joel a pat on the shoulder. “That’s cool you guys are brothers now, but if you think Lisa’s father will let her go to Australia with you, you’re as nuts as Trev. When Cindy and I went to Lisa’s house while you were away, Lisa’s dad gave me all kinds of suspicious looks, even though I was there with my own girl.”
Joel chewed on his lip, and as he heard the locker room door open and the noise of a few more arrivals, he said, “He’s warming up to me a bit since I’ve been back, and there’s a reason I called a team meeting...”
Jim’s first intention was to phone an old acquaintance, a gay man he’d helped, pro bono, with a wrongful dismissal case. Jim didn’t trust his phone or office, so he walked across the hall, to the office of another of the firm’s attorneys: a cutthroat divorce lawyer. “Benji, I need to use your private line and your office to make a call. Trust me, you do not want to know why.”
Benji gave Jim a quizzical glance. “Okay... anything for a friend.”
As soon as Benji had left the office, Jim made the call to his acquaintance’s cell, catching him on his lunch break. Jim had to beg and cajole a little, and without revealing much, Jim talked the man into checking court records. The answer he received told him of the wiretaps but nothing else; the acquaintance was getting cold feet. It was enough to confirm that Trevor had been right about an investigation, and Jim knew enough about police procedure to suspect they were working up to making arrests.
Benji was from Las Vegas, a fact his office decor made abundantly clear. As Jim hung up the phone, his eye fell on Benji’s bookcase, which was littered with Las Vegas souvenirs and trinkets, including a collection of tourist brochures. Jim swept up a few of the brochures, pocketing them. Then he made another call, this time to a florist in Fort Pierce.
Jim found Benji just down the hall, and by way of an explanation for the calls, said, “I’ll tell you when I can, but that was important, and I meant it; you really don’t want to know why.” Telling Benji would have made him a de facto accomplice, which was also why Jim didn’t mention taking the brochures.
Benji nodded slowly, his eyes narrowing. “Okay, I’m curious, but it’ll keep.”
Jim drove home, keeping an eye on his rearview mirror. He noticed a suspicious sedan, following at a distance. It reappeared after two turns, which told Jim it was probably a tail.
When Jim arrived home, he pulled into his garage and hopped out, heading for the street, as if to check his mailbox. He pretended to pay no attention as the unmarked car rumbled by. Jim reached into his mailbox, still following the car with his eyes. He flipped through the mail, keeping his head down, and watched as the unmarked car pulled over and parked, just ahead of a nearly identical vehicle sporting the same dark glass.
Jim walked back into his garage and hit the door button. As soon as the door rumbled closed, he began searching the underside of his car.
In Fort Pierce, Dirk was having another poor day; sales were down and he felt that people were avoiding him. He was right; the rumors about him were spreading.
It was almost closing time when the door chime sounded, and Dirk looked up to see a smiling young man with a bouquet of roses. The deliveryman asked, “Are you Dirk Carlson? These are for you.”
Dirk nodded, and signed for the delivery. He smiled when he saw from the card that they were from Jim, and began reading the small note that Jim had sent with the order.
Dirk, feel like some of our favorite pizza? Drive up and meet me at the house and we’ll order in. Don’t get lost.
Dirk stared at the note in horror. ‘Pizza’ was a code word they’d arranged after the last time Dirk had needed to run. It meant it was an emergency, and that Dirk was probably being actively watched. ‘Order in’ meant it wasn’t safe to use the phone. “Don’t get lost’ meant for Dirk to drive his own car, the one with the police tracking device.
As casually as he could manage, Dirk closed the store, set the alarm, and locked up. On his way to the parking lot, Dirk spotted a plain dark sedan with dark windows, parked a few spaces from his Chrysler. He could see silhouettes inside, and his suspicions were confirmed as he pulled out of the lot and the car distantly followed. Palms sweating, Dirk drove towards the freeway, and then north to Cocoa Beach. The unmarked car stayed with him, a mile behind, until he was well past the county line.
As Dirk entered Brevard County, a different unmarked took over, guided in by radio.
When Dirk arrived at Jim’s house, he found the garage door open and pulled inside, next to Jim’s work car. As soon as Dirk clicked off the engine, the door rumbled down, and Jim raised a finger to his lips and peeked out of his garage door window, watching a car drive by. He waited until it parked, and then waved for Dirk to follow him into the back yard.
Jim had a portable stereo playing loudly, and said in a low voice. “We’ve got an emergency, a big one. Trevor is fine, but the cops think we tried to blow up his boat. I’ll explain once we’re away from here, but we have to get moving: if they pick you up for questioning, even refusing to answer could clue them into the things you need to remain hidden. There’s a likely unmarked car at the end of my street, and a second car joined it a few seconds after you got here. There’s a GPS on my work car – same kind as on your car, by the look of it. If they see us trying to make a break for it, they’ll be on us like a ton of bricks. My best guess is they intend to pick us up for an interrogation any time now.”
“Somebody tried to kill Trev? You’re sure he’s okay? What the hell do we do?” Dirk asked, his mind reeling from the onslaught of bad news.
Jim flipped open his cell phone. “We order pizza, of course.”
Bridget was listening when Joel told Lisa what Trevor had done. She reacted instantly, calling George to let him know that Jim and Dirk were now aware of their impending arrest.
The call gave George a problem; he had no good way of forestalling an attempt to run by Jim and Dirk without tipping his hand. He couldn’t even go to Cocoa Beach and join the surveillance; it was out of his jurisdiction. There was also the fact that an attempt to run would help solidify the legal case against Jim and Dirk: fleeing arrest was most often seen by juries as an admission of guilt. The best result, in George’s opinion, would be for Jim and Dirk to be arrested while attempting to escape, so George settled for doing the only thing he could think of. Acting in his capacity as a member of the investigating team, he phoned the Cocoa Beach police and asked a few routine questions about the surveillance. Then he said, “Remember, Carlson has gone on the run before, so keep close tabs on him. Don’t let him give you the slip, and same goes for the lawyer. This is just a hunch, but I think they might spook and if so, they’ll run.”
That call resulted in the watch commander giving a heads-up to the two unmarked surveillance vehicles parked on Jim’s street. They weren’t equipped to monitor the GPS trackers directly, but a staffer at the station was in radio contact and watching closely.
The pizza’s arrival was heralded by the chirp of tires as the delivery car ground to a halt in Jim’s driveway. Dirk answered the door after the third sound of the chime, and delayed further on the pretext of getting his wallet.
Jim, hiding in the bushes next to his driveway, crept through the darkness towards the pizza delivery guy’s car, careful to keep it between himself and the two unmarked cars, which were still parked two hundred yards up the street and, Jim assumed, had night vision gear.
Jim felt under the front end for a suitable place on the concealed metal. Fumbling due to nerves, he slipped the two GPS tracking devices into place, each attaching magnetically to the metal with a soft thump, barely audible, but to Jim it sounded like a loud drum in the stillness of the Florida night.
Jim dashed back to the bushes, and then, on their far side, circled back through his back yard and into the house. He entered the living room just in time to see Dirk finish paying and tipping the delivery guy and close the door, pizza in hand.
“Okay, let’s eat,” Jim said cryptically, leading Dirk past a table – where the purloined Las Vegas brochures lay strewn – towards the garage. He had no way of knowing whether the surveillance included listening devices in his home, and had been operating on the assumption that it did.
In the darkened garage, Jim motioned for Dirk to get in the car, and Jim moved to the garage door and pressed his ear against it, waiting. He heard the delivery guy start up and pull away, engine racing and tires chirping.
The engine noise rapidly faded into the distance, and Jim began to think his ploy had failed. He peeked out the row of glass windows at the top of his door, and then he heard it: first one engine starting up, then another, from up the block. A distant roar of engines and screech of tires met Jim’s ears, and the two unmarked police cars roared by the house.
It was George’s call that had caused both cars to go tearing off in pursuit. They’d seen the delivery car arrive and pull into the driveway, but it was unmarked and blocked from view while in the drive. They’d seen the lights of a vehicle leaving, and then a few seconds later, a radio call had come in, alerting them to the GPS tracker movement of both suspect vehicles. There was no way for them to be certain that one of the vehicles had not pulled away without lights; the glare of the delivery car’s lights was more than enough to dazzle the light-amplification gear the police were using to observe. Their standard procedure would have been for one car to pursue discreetly while the other remained on watch, but the heads-up of a potential flight caused both cars to roar off, chasing after what they’d been told were two moving GPS targets.
Jim jumped in his car, hitting the remote to open the garage door. He started the engine, his palms sweating. The door rumbled up in darkness – Jim had disconnected its light. He casually backed out of his driveway, headlights off, lowering the door was soon as he was clear. Then, he flicked on the headlights and drove up the street at a relaxed pace, in the direction the police cars had come from. A block later, he turned a corner and resumed breathing.
By the time the unmarked cars had been guided in close enough to discern that their quarry was not one or both of their suspects’ vehicles, they were two miles from Jim’s home. One switched on its concealed grill-mounted red and blue strobes and pulled the delivery car over, while the other turned and raced back to Jim’s house, a couple of minutes too late to see Jim and Dirk leave. They drove by slowly and then parked to await further instructions, which would not be long in coming.
“Is this as bad as it looks?” Dirk asked quietly.
“Yeah, but we’ll be okay for awhile, I think. I packed some of our clothes and stuff, plus some groceries, while you were on your way here. I’ve been building up my cash supply ever since last time, so we’ve also got just over a hundred grand in the trunk. They were just about to blindside us with an arrest, I think... we were both under surveillance, so I figured I’d use those GPS trackers – they put one on my car too, and it wasn’t there a couple of days ago. The cops saw ‘em both going down the street at high speed and I hoped they’d think it was us and follow. They’ll figure it out as soon as they catch that pizza guy, or notice that it’s just one car, but hopefully by then we’ll be out of their net. I’m taking back roads inland, south of Orlando, to Tampa...” Jim went on to explain about Trevor’s call, and what Jim’s contact had confirmed. “I’ve had some time to think about this. If Trevor is right and that phone did trigger the bomb, it’s pretty damn clear that somebody tried to kill Trevor and frame us for it, and our best way to save our necks – and maybe Trevor’s – is to find out who the hell is doing this,” Jim said, and then took a bite of pizza. ~