It was a clear, cool morning in Ft. Pierce, as Gonzalez wore a path pacing down the aisle of the chandlery, waiting for Henry to arrive. He glanced around, seeing that the store was beginning to look a bit dusty, with a few cobwebs spun not far from the door. It was the first time he'd been in the chandlery alone - Henry had only recently given him a key, to facilitate their common goals.
Gonzalez angled his head, wondering who was paying the rent, and how. He knew it wasn’t Dirk or Jim, not via their known accounts. He assumed that a landlord would not let the store sit idle for so long, if the rent was unpaid.
A clatter of footsteps in the back room announced Henry’s arrival, and Gonzalez went back to meet him. “Hi, Henry. Thanks for coming on short notice. Any news?”
Henry shook his head. “I had to go back to Orlando for a while; this isn’t my only case.”
“Have you gotten rid of that bug in Joel’s car yet?” Gonzalez asked, already suspecting that Henry hadn’t.
“Not yet, I haven’t even had time to check the tapes yet.”
Gonzalez nodded. “Okay, I still want it gone, but… uh, take your time, okay? There’s something going on, something big.”
Henry arched an eyebrow, and took a seat on a box. “I’m all ears.”
Gonzalez pulled up a box to sit on, and said very quietly, “The State Attorney has been pressing me for more on George, because all we had was circumstantial evidence and theories, except for his visits to Bridget. Also, the State Attorney and I wanted to find out for sure if the threat to Trevor was over, now that the indictment of Dirk closes off any chance of prosecution for Bridget, for her husband’s murder. We both felt it would be good to confirm that Trevor is no longer at risk. Not long after that conversation, an opportunity fell into our laps; a customs officer from Carnarvon, Western Australia, called me. The Aussie customs people have been helping Trevor keep out of sight, but what I didn’t know was an SOS message from Trevor was found a few days ago, and his story is about to break in the press.”
“Shit, the last thing he needs to be is all over the news if he’s still got people wanting to kill him,” Henry said.
“Yeah, and the Aussie customs guy, Fowler, thought so too. He’d called me out of the blue so I wasn’t positive he was who he said, so after a chat with the State Attorney I called him back via his headquarters switchboard. He had a plan to bird-dog some of the press away from Trevor, by giving one of them most of Trevor’s story, complete with an interview. The thing is, Trevor’s connection to Carnarvon – where he arrived at – was about to be a blown secret, either way. So, I ran an idea by Fowler, and he agreed to play along. We’re using the secret of where Trevor was as bait, seeing as how it’s about to be blown anyway, and it looks like the rat took the cheese,” Gonzalez said.
Henry raised both eyebrows. “This sounds big.”
“The State Attorney gave me access to the department’s computer administrative information, via a tech. I have access to see who is doing what, on their own logins. One thing I’ve been keeping an eye on George for is any attempt to use the department’s computers to access any records on Trevor. We have access to a lot of state and federal government records, such as passport info. I already knew that there was nothing in Trevor’s passport records since his departure from the Seychelles, so I figured it was safe bait, and I’d had a block placed on George’s access to anything else, but done so it’d look like a glitch and also log the attempt. But, George never tried, not that I know of. However, I figured he’d be careful not to turn up any red flags, so I arranged for another officer, who I’d checked out very well after George framed him for a leak, to leave his terminal open during lunch for a couple of days, with a session recorder running. It worked: I’ve got George on camera, using it on the second day. He checked passports, and then something I didn’t think of: drivers’ licenses. He found that a replacement license had been ordered online, by someone claiming to be Trevor, and sent to the yacht club in Carnarvon. He copied the address onto a post-it note, and was good enough to take just the top paper, leaving us with an impression of his note. This tells us a couple of things.”
Henry got it at once. “Oh fuck, that’s an indicator that they still want to find him, and the only reason I can think of is to try killing him again.” Henry’s eyes narrowed for a moment. “And, we need to find out who ordered it. If it wasn’t Trevor, and if it was Lisa or Joel, and George needed to access the records to find it, it means they aren’t willingly giving information to Bridget. They’re being played.”
“Exactly, and I’m working on it. According to the records, the fees for the replacement were paid online with Joel’s debit card. Trevor might have access to that, and it’s possible he ordered the replacement himself, so we can’t be certain yet, but give me a couple of days.”
Henry chewed on his lip. “This isn’t enough to nail George, not by a long shot. Did he even violate department procedure by looking at that record?”
“No, he’s still on my task force, so looking at Trevor’s records breaks no rules. He did violate policy by using someone else’s open session, but that’s the kind of offense that gets you, at most, a ‘don’t do it again,’ from the IT department chief. However, this hurt us with the State Attorney; our theory was based on the idea that Bridget orchestrated this to end any investigation into her. That’s been accomplished and she surely knows it. So, why take risks to press on like this? This invalidates part of our theory, which the State Attorney pointed out to me loudly. The good news is he said it convinced him of George’s complicity, so he’s not pulling the rug out from under us – yet. However, we need a new theory of the crime and motive.”
Henry swallowed once. “Shit. This makes no sense. What other motive could they have? Maybe they want to make sure Dirk is framed for another hit, but why? According to Frank Tittle, even if he’s cleared tomorrow, that indictment could be trotted out by Bridget’s lawyers as prima facie evidence that the state, based on all existing evidence, thinks Dirk did it. Absent new evidence, a judge would dismiss any move to indict her as a fishing expedition by the state.”
“I’ve been chasing that around in my head, and so far, all I’ve achieved is a headache,” Gonzalez said. “We’re hitting a brick wall. I think we need to look at new angles and set aside our prior theories. Start with the premise that Bridget and George did this, but assume nothing for motive. Start fresh and see if we can fit it with known facts.” Gonzalez already had ideas on that, but wanted to see if Henry came to the same conclusions on his own, as a measure of validation for the new theory.
Henry scratched his head. “Okay, starting over… We’re both suspicious regarding drugs, due to George being on the drug task force and the strange protection on the damn boat. We also know that Bridget’s husband sold Ares to the Carlsons, and Bridget completed the sale after her husband’s murder. Then later, Bridget sold Atlantis to them, and Trevor was listed as the owner.”
Gonzalez gave Henry a thoughtful look. “It was Lisa who found the link regarding Atlantis, and she said that Bridget told her to come forward with it. Bridget apparently said her brother was helping wind down the business, and the boat wasn’t named Atlantis then, so she never made the connection, even though her signature is in the sales record. Also, I’ve heard this brother mentioned before; he’s supposedly a silent partner in several local businesses, including one Lisa’s father has done work for. I think we need to start looking at him, and see what he’s been up to,” Gonzalez said.
“I agree. What’s his name?” Henry asked.
“I haven’t been able to find it yet, which is rather odd. We need to look into that, probably via doing some legwork and paying a visit to those businesses tomorrow, as well as looking into the sales records of Atlantis and Ares.”
“Okay, I’ll help any way I can. I can do the sales record search for you,” Henry offered casually.
“Thanks, but I’d prefer it if you took care of visiting the businesses. If I do it, word might get back to George that I’m looking into Bridget’s dealings. I can get what I need via the hall of records faster than you can,” Gonzalez replied.
Henry folded his fingers, deep in thought. “Based on what we know now, one thing that sticks out in my mind is that Atlantis seems to be a common denominator here. Both of the attempts to kill Trevor would have destroyed her had they gone as intended. So, what if the target isn’t Trevor, but Atlantis? What if there’s something about her that is a danger to Bridget, George, or both?” Henry asked, and then his eyes narrowed. “Wait, we were assuming one motive, but if we’re tossing out prior assumptions, what about two separate motives? Bridget and George – one or both – need Atlantis destroyed for some reason, such as something aboard her. Maybe it’s something they only recently learned of, or could be anything, or maybe it’s something to do with the boat itself; stolen property with a fake registry maybe. Whatever the reason, they want Atlantis and/or something aboard destroyed. Now, as for Trevor: killing him would have been icing on the cake, because it would have taken advantage of a window of opportunity to frame Dirk and get Bridget off the hook. A two-for-one special, as it were.”
Gonzales nodded, just once, before giving Henry a faint smile. “The boat being the target was my hunch too; I wanted to see if you came to the same conclusion. We both came up with it based on the facts, so that makes it a sound theory. You took it further with the dual motives, and it fits. Now, the question is what is the motive to destroy Atlantis? We know she was sold by Bridget, just like Ares, an almost identical boat. What if it’s something to do with those sales…” Gonzalez let his voice trail off, though he kept a close eye on Henry. “If we can figure out what it is they’re trying to get or hide, then we have a great shot at getting it and using it.”
Henry drummed his fingers on the table, thinking. “Drug traces? The murder weapon for Arnold Bellevue? I don’t even have a good guess.”
Gonzalez stared at Henry for a moment, his brow crinkling. “Now, something interesting just occurred to me; you’re a sharp thinker, yet you just passed by something big. If Bridget and George want Atlantis destroyed for some reason, that reason might also apply to an identical boat they sold to the Carlsons, so that makes them possible suspects in the destruction of Ares and the murder of Rachel Carlson, which happens to be the one real solid charge against one of your clients. That’s reasonable doubt, and you should have jumped on that in a heartbeat. Don’t insult me by telling me you just didn’t think of it,” Gonzalez said, watching Henry carefully.
Henry silently cursed himself for blithely walking into that particular minefield. He chose his words with great care. “I’m in an awkward situation. I could have raised that issue, but then I’d be misdirecting this investigation if I did, and my clients are adamant that the threat to Trevor takes absolute priority. So, I can’t misdirect this investigation, even if it’d help my clients. I do have reason to believe that Bridget and George had nothing to do with the destruction of Ares or Rachel’s death. However, I didn’t want to tell you that, because it sure as hell sounds like the reason would be that Dirk did it and I know it. That’s not true, but I can’t say why. That’s why I tried to let that one slide.”
Gonzalez glared at Henry. “I still think this may be relevant. If you’re on the level about this case taking priority, you should tell me what you know.”
Henry saw a way out. “Okay, fair point. I will say that I don’t think it’s all that relevant, or I would have, but… You’re doing the video interview with my clients next week, so ask them. And… Mike, if they don’t answer to your satisfaction, I will, just as soon as we’re alone afterwards. Fair enough?”
Gonzalez arched an eyebrow. He assumed that, for Henry, this was dangerous ground, both legally and ethically: Henry’s fiduciary duty was to his clients. Offering to disclose information after they refused was something Gonzalez hasn’t expecting. “Okay, but what if the interview doesn’t happen?”
Henry fidgeted, intentionally. “I guess… uh, I’m almost positive they’ll answer, and that the interview will happen, but… okay, let’s set a deadline, that same day, but late, like… eleven at night. If you still want the questions answered by then, I’ll answer then or anytime after, in full, provided no one else is in earshot. You have my word.”
“Okay, and thanks. Now, we need to talk about Australia. The good news is that Australian news story that’s coming out says that Atlantis is in a Carnarvon boatyard, destined for either scrap or rebuilding for sale. There is precisely one boatyard in Carnarvon. That story, plus George finding that the license was sent to the yacht club, sets up a nice trap. If something happens that we can trace back to him, either by hard circumstance, evidence, or testimony, we’ve got him – and probably Bridget too.”
“I hope somebody is keeping a damn close eye on that boat,” Henry said, with a knowing smile.
Gonzalez answered with a nod.
Henry took a deep breath. “Okay, sounds good, but I need to know something and this is urgent. I don’t need or want to know where Trevor is or will be, but I want to know he’s nowhere near Carnarvon, just in case we’re wrong and he’s the target.”
“I don’t know where he is or where he’s going, but I have been assured he’s on his way to a safe place far from Carnarvon, and won’t be allowed back until this is over,” Gonzalez said.
“I assumed that but I had to ask. Okay, where do you want me to start?”
“Keep trying on the bug and tracer front, and make an appointment to see Joel, here, but no sooner than two days from now – I need time to confirm the source of that drivers’ license replacement order. I’ll bring the coast guard file he wants,” Gonzalez said.
Thursday dawned in Shelter Bay, and Kookaburra set sail, tacking out past Steep Point as the Indian Ocean spread out before her, and then heading south. Trevor kept a close eye on the electronic charts and held Kookaburra just over a mile offshore, as they sailed south-southeast at fourteen knots, giving Trevor and Shane a spectacular view of the towering Zuytdorp Cliffs.
In the customs shack, Fowler and Grundig browsed Kline’s story and then did a news search for related ones. Fowler cleared his throat, and said, a bit awkwardly, “Craig, I can let you in on some more of this now. I’m working with a police officer in Florida named Gonzalez, and we’re trying to set up whoever is after Trevor. It looks like a cop there is involved in it, and I just got confirmation: it appears that the threat isn’t over. The theory is that they’re after Atlantis for some reason, so we’re using her as bait, with a little help from Jason Kline. I don’t trust him, but so far, he seems to be playing it straight with us. All he knows is we think someone might show up looking for Trevor or the boat, and he’s helping, in return for an exclusive if we get ‘em.”
“What do we need to do, and does Trevor have a role in this?” Grundig asked.
“Trevor’s role is being elsewhere and keeping his head down. He doesn’t know what we’re up to. You’ve seen how he is about Atlantis, and what I saw at Ned’s the other day confirms it; that boat means the world to him. I don’t think he’d have left if he’d known. There’s really no option; the story was breaking anyway, so we’re just making use of it. The other factor is we’re drumming it into his head that he can’t use place names or any names related to Kookaburra on the phone; he slipped up with me the other day, and there’s a serious risk that friends of his in Florida might be, unwittingly or otherwise, passing the info on. As for us, we’re going to be helping the local cops keep Atlantis under observation when Ned isn’t there. Ned moored one of the yachts at his dock so her cabin companionway is pointing right at Atlantis from a hundred meters away. We’ll be setting up the starlight binoculars from the patrol boat in the boat’s cabin, so we’ll have a good view of Atlantis and her surroundings in the dark. If anyone shows up, we radio for backup to lay in wait, and see what the hell they’re up to. I hope we can let them lead us to whatever they’re after, then drop the hammer on them. I’ve been over that boat a few times, I can’t find anything, and neither can Ned.”
Grundig let out a long, low whistle. “Okay, that’s some plan. I also have a hunch that you’ve suspected Atlantis was the target all along. Is that why we were searching her, when we found Trevor’s gun?”
Fowler nodded. “By that point I’d learnt a few things, so I was playing a hunch that she might be the target. Gonzalez came up with the same theory on his own, based on different info, so maybe I’m not wrong. We’ll see. We’re coming up dry as to what it is they’re after aboard her though. Constable White has taken a look, and Ned has poked into everywhere he can think of: that’s part of why he’s pulled her apart to the extent that he has.”
“One thing bothers me, Greg. Both attacks were intended to destroy Atlantis: first the bomb, then the pirates gunning her. What if they just want her and whatever they’re after destroyed: use another bomb, or just douse her with petrol and strike a match?” Grundig asked.
Fowler sighed. “That’s a risk. Ned and I came up with one idea; put some petrol cans under the tarp with her, nice and handy. Only it’s almost all water, just enough petrol to give it a scent. If it’s a bomb, we pull back and wait for the bomb squad, though the nearest guys with that training are in Perth. It’s a risk; if they’re out to destroy Atlantis, they’ll likely bring along their own petrol, or a bomb, and they’ll probably get her before we get them.”
“I can see why you didn’t tell Trevor this. I just hope we can get ‘em and find out what’s going on,” Grundig said.
“Can you handle the early shift tomorrow night? We’re each taking a five-hour stretch so two guys can cover the night, and Ned will be around in daylight and just after. So far, I’ve got one other customs officer signed up, plus three police officers, so that’s five counting me.” Fowler said.
“Count me in,” Grundig replied.
“Thanks Craig. And by the way, it’ll be overtime pay. This is very much official business, with full approval from headquarters.”
In Carnarvon, Jason Kline read his story – linked from the main page – on the website of one of Australia’s largest papers, and then compared it to the copy in the Melbourne paper that Barney Fitzroy worked for. The layout was slightly different, but the content was the same. He’d expected no less, as they were members of the same consortium. The main story had a shared byline, with Kline’s name listed first. Several other ancillary stories, such as the case in Florida, had Kline’s name alone. Rival papers were, Kline was pleased to see, still playing catch-up; he’d caught them flat-footed.
Kline began channel-surfing, checking Australian morning talk shows, and to his delight, the story was being covered, in spite of the lack of video.
With his first check quite literally on its way, Kline was a very happy man. Now came the slow sustaining of the story, adding a new detail here and there, to keep up public interest until he could publish the interview with Fowler.
Kline did fret, for a moment, that he was sitting on some ideal additional facts. He dismissed the notion, intending to keep his word. This wasn’t out of any sense of honor, but as he’d said, self-interest. It would not have overly concerned him to go with his originally intended story, regardless of any risks to Trevor. That, he had long ago convinced himself, was not the kind of thing he need concern himself with: it was just part of his job. Kline was dedicated to his career, and what morals he had were attuned to its needs, in a very pragmatic fashion. While he had been willing to place Trevor at risk to get a story, it was the story that was his goal. Now, for purely pragmatic professional reasons, he would not burn a source. Fowler and Trevor were now under that umbrella of protection.
Kline intended to go above and beyond what he’d promised Fowler, in regard to fooling his competitors. In this case as well, his motive was not altruistic. He would do it for the sheer bloody-minded joy of it. The fact that it aided what he considered a good cause was icing on the cake.
With that pleasant thought in mind, Kline took a walk downtown, keeping an eye out for his competition. He knew they’d want to ask him questions. The TV vans proved easy to spot. Kline, with an expansive grin, sauntered up to a crew that was gathering next to their van in a parking lot, and introduced himself loudly, “I’m Jason Kline. Were you guys up here before, when the two teens pulled their con job?”
The reporter wasn’t there yet, Kline was speaking to just the crew. A cameraman shook his head, and then glanced around and shrugged. “Yeah, and it’s a real sore subject with our talent,” he said, using a somewhat derisive term for a TV reporter.
Kline chuckled, giving the cameraman a sympathetic nod. “I’ll bet. If you’ve read my story, you know you’ve just made a second dry run up here from Perth.”
The cameraman chuckled and shrugged. “I get paid the same either way, so no worries here, but the talent is ready to spit nails. We’re supposed to do a piece from the marina as soon as he’s done with his face paint, just filler footage so he gets some face time, then see if anything turns up.”
Kline smiled a warm, open smile that was anything but. “Well, I normally wouldn’t do this, but seeing as how you’ve all trekked up here to outer Woop Woop twice, I’d be willing to help out, if you’d like to interview someone who’s had a long sit-down interview with Trevor Carlson, and been on both the boat he came here on and the one’s he’s on now.”
The cameraman responded by looking at the gofer and flicking a thumb in the direction of the reporter’s room. “I’ll bet that’ll be well received by His Nibs. Thanks.”
After a brief chat with the reporter, which left Kline utterly underwhelmed, Kline ended up stoically enduring fifteen minutes of makeup, and then caught a ride with the crew to the marina. There, the reporter pretended they’d never met, and with the Fascine as a backdrop, gave Kline a lead-in, then let him introduce himself.
Kline did it with aplomb, describing his interview with Trevor, interspersed with anecdotes of how he hadn’t fallen for the con and had kept working the story. Kline kept to the outline he’d agreed with Fowler. The reporter asked a few questions, which Kline noted were scripted. One of them – the one Kline was waiting for – was about Trevor’s future plans.
“He said he’s heading for Broome, the offshore islands, then the Kimberly region, then Darwin, then home across the Pacific. I think he just wants to see where the wind takes him while up there,” Kline replied.
“When will he be leaving Carnarvon?” the reporter asked.
Kline couldn’t tell whether the reporter hadn’t read the story, or was asking for the sake of the viewers. It didn’t matter. “My interview with him was offshore, about forty kilometers to the west, and he personally took me through the treacherous strait he came through when he arrived. His old boat, Atlantis, is in a yard here in Carnarvon, destined for either the scrap yard or eventual restoration, but Trevor has another boat now, a real beauty, and so he’s continuing his circumnavigation. I’d recommend that everyone read my story: it tells it all. Anyway, he’s probably on his way to his next destination, if not already there.”
The reporter stepped away to do a few background clips, and then after the wrap, gave Kline a grudging ‘thanks’.
“My pleasure,” Kline said, trying not to smile too much.
“Are you heading for Broome too?” the reporter asked, a little sourly, already knowing that’s where his news desk would be sending him and his crew.
Kline shrugged. “I already have my story, though I would like a follow-up. I’ll probably see you up there,” Kline said, giving them a friendly wave and walking off. He’s already spotted a second TV van. And this time, he thought, he was already in makeup and wouldn’t have to endure it again. All in all, Kline was enjoying himself, in no small part because the TV reporters were giving him free airtime to promote his story. The thought of sending his competition on a wild goose chase to Broome or Darwin made it even sweeter, even without the promise of another possible big exclusive from Fowler.
By that evening, thanks to publication in one of Australia’s two newspaper consortiums – which included a major paper in every Australian State – plus airtime on the TV news, Kline’s story was a hit, even more than he’d hoped. As a result, the Australian news services were now covering the case against Dirk, playing up the sensational angle that Trevor’s father was accused of trying to have him killed. Trevor was becoming a celebrity in Australia: the hunted teen sailor. Within hours, the U.S. cable news shows were covering the story as well.
The presence of TV vans in Carnarvon was not lost on Basingstoke, who had been prompted by it to do a quick news search. He found the story, and nodded to himself. He was exactly where he needed to be.
Carefully, Basingstoke set up his toiletries in the motel room’s bathroom. He was not a vain man, but appearances, he knew, were critical. For that reason, he had grown adept at changing his. He did not carry a disguise kit, for that would be a giveaway if found. Instead, he had mastered the more subtle art of using common items to alter his appearance. Things that would not arouse suspicion.
Basingstoke had a well-developed case of male pattern baldness. As such, toupees were part of his repertoire, and he had several, in various shades and styles, along with hair dyes to match. Often, including now, he wore a neatly trimmed beard, as he often did on a job. Shaving it off afterwards made for a simple means of altering appearance. Another method he used was altering the profile of his jaw and cheeks, by the simple expedient of putting wads of cotton wool along his gum lines. Makeup was another tool in his arsenal, and he was an expert at its use. It was, so often, the subtle things a witness remembered: the shape and color of the eyes, the form of the nose, the wrinkled brow, or a prominent scar or birthmark. Basingstoke could change them all.
For over an hour, he worked, making subtle changes. Then, he crowned his work by adding colored contacts, changing his eyes from grey to pale blue.
When he left his hotel, he would be a changed man, but in many small ways. Someone who had seen him earlier would be hard pressed to note the difference, had they not paid careful attention. They would not notice – or would perhaps assume it had been covered by makeup – the small but obvious mole on the tip of his nose, or the fattening of his cheeks, or the shift in hair color to a lighter shade of brown. The art of it was twofold; subtle but meaningful changes, combined with the fact that nothing he carried would be thought overly unusual for a traveling salesman to possess. This aspect was not limited to his disguises, but to the contents of his sample case as well. In it, he had tiny surveillance cameras, listening devices of many kinds, several forms of alarms, tracking devices, encryption gear, and even an electronic box to disguise his voice when on the phone. Such an array would raise many concerns in most instances, but not for a traveling security salesman. Also in his briefcase were many brochures, all part of this particular cover. It was expert fieldcraft, at a level that would do an intelligence field operative proud.
Basingstoke carried no obvious weapons on his person or in his briefcase or luggage. That, too, would be an invitation to trouble. Preferring silent kills, he rarely killed with a gun. He could be a very formidable opponent, in spite of his modest stature and build. He did however have two Makarov 9mm handguns, deeply sequestered within his plane.
His subtle transformation complete, he slipped into his gregarious sales persona, picked up his briefcase, and set out at a brisk walk down Robinson Street, getting a feel for the town, and selecting businesses to approach. He was careful in his selections, making them fit with his cover. It would not do, he knew, to head for the yacht club first, though that was his current prime target, to confirm the lead that Sanchez had passed on to him. Always patient and careful, Basingstoke mentally scheduled that visit for tomorrow, and spent the rest of the day along Robinson Street, trying to sell his security systems and services.
Kookaburra, riding strong onshore winds, was churning along through a heavy base swell and a light chop at fourteen knots. Trevor was enjoying being at the helm, and Shane had fixed them both lunch, serving it on the cockpit’s table.
Fowler’s call interrupted their meal, and Fowler told Trevor, “Martin told me your destination, but don’t say it on the phone. From now on, please don’t mention where you are or where you’re going over the phone, to anyone. Are you doing okay, having a good sail?”
Trevor pulled Shane close before replying, “Yes thanks, we’re doing fine. We’re, ah, just past halfway between the point of land closest to what you told me about after picking me up, and our destination,” Trevor said, referring to HMAS Sydney’s sinking off Steep Point.
“Well done on that. Everything seems to be going according to plan here. One issue though: your full name is in the U.S. media reports and now Kline’s story. No recognizable pictures of you are, except a misleading one by Kline, but it does show your new hair color. I’d suggest having Shane change it again; either put it back the way it was, or pick a new color. Now, back to your name: that’s going to get you recognized if you let anyone see or hear your full name. You should be okay with ‘Trev’, but not ‘Trevor’ or your surname. That brings me to your drivers’ license. It’s got your name, so don’t use it, not for anything. Same for your passport or anything with your name. If a police officer asks and there are people about, ask him to talk to you in private, and suggest he call me. If anyone else asks, make something up, okay?” Fowler asked, in a friendly, conversational tone.
“Got it,” Trevor replied.
“Good. Incidentally, I’ve been meaning to ask, how the heck did you manage to get a new drivers’ license sent to you? I saw it was right from the state agency, and I’m pretty damn sure you didn’t fly home to apply in person. Was it online, and how’d you manage that from Carnarvon? I don’t think I could get mine like that, if I was missing it and overseas,” Fowler asked, in an offhand, curious tone.
“My friend Joel did it online for me, and they sent it right here, right after he’d had my new phone sent. I don’t know how it works, I’ve never done it,” Trevor replied.
“Computers… it’s getting so you need ‘em for everything but breathing,” Fowler replied, chuckling. “Okay, now for something very serious. I’ve been speaking to Officer Gonzalez, and… I can’t say much on an open line, but the long and the short of it is that we have something going on that might put this issue to rest, forever. However, for now, we have to assume you are still being hunted, and there are indications you might be. Don’t disclose your present or future location over any phone or radio, under any circumstances. And under no circumstances whatsoever come anywhere near Carnarvon, unless I say so.”
Trevor and Shane – who was listening in – shared a stunned look, and Trevor, in spite of being on the phone, nodded. “Uh, okay. Nothing over the phone, no exceptions, and I’m to stay well away from Carnarvon. Is… the place we’re going still a good idea?”
“Yes, I think so, but probably not as you plan it. Bring up the place on your nav system.”
Trevor changed screens on the navigation display, zooming in on the mouth of the Murchison River and Kalbarri. “Okay, it’s up. I studied it earlier.”
“Remember, no names over the phone, to anyone, anywhere. Okay, the place you are going has a tricky approach, and I know it well. There’s a nasty bar offshore, both rocks and sand. It blocks the mouth from the south side of the mouth, to past the north side, so you’ll need to enter from the north, paralleling the shore close in. You’ll be between the shore break and the bar break, and it can get pretty hairy. There are marker buoys, and the channel is sometimes dredged, but in a heavy swell, like today, it’s a challenge. There are some very strong crosscurrents, so keep on your toes. Once you’re in the center of the mouth proper, the channel turns hard to port, taking you in, and it’s easy and well marked from there to the town, which will be on your starboard side as you go upriver.”
Trevor studied the chart for a moment; so far, Fowler’s plan matched his own. “The place we’re talking about has only one high tide a day, and it’s at night right now. I’m planning on entering at seven tonight, so the tide will be two-thirds high but I’ll still have enough light to get to the yacht anchorage.”
“That won’t work in this case. Trevor, I don’t want you to be seen entering the river mouth, or from town. I also don’t want you going to the yacht anchorage, as it’s visible from the riverfront. I’d rather you hide the boat by taking her upstream. If you look at the display, you’ll see that, looking upstream, you’re heading east at first, then the channel bends round so you’re heading north. You should see a large island, the biggest in the river. I think you can get the boat there, and anchor her in an embayment on the west side, putting the island between you and the south – or east, in this spot – shore, which is the only one likely to get much by way of visitors. I want her out of sight, so that’ll leave just her mast sticking up from anywhere anyone is likely to see. You can take the Zodiac into town from there, but when you do, I want you to check in with the local police; they’ll be expecting you,” Fowler said.
Trevor studied his display; the channel would be marked for much, but not all, of the way, and there were warnings for shifting sandbars. “This is kinda risky; this boat is awfully big to be taking into narrow shifting channels, and some of them are beyond any markers.”
Fowler chuckled. “I know that river well, and the water flow is pretty decent right now, due to a wet year inland. You had no trouble at Rhys Lagoon’s entrance, so I think you can do this. However, there’s a bit more I need to tell you; I don’t want you coming in during daylight. The moon comes up tonight at ten forty, so I’m thinking you should enter the mouth at ten, with your masthead light off.”
Trevor blinked. “But… Oh shit,” Trevor mumbled, and then added, “It’d be almost pitch black, and I don’t know the area at all. As for the river, that’d be nearing peak tide and the moon would be up but low on the horizon… this sounds pretty risky; the chart says there are rocks in some locations. I’m going to have to ask Mr. Blake if it’s okay to try this.”
“Remember, no place names, at all, no exceptions. One good thing: as we know, rocks don’t usually move, so you can trust the charts for them, unlike sandbars. Also, Martin already knows; he helped me plan it. If it makes you feel any better, I’m ordering you to give it a burl. It’s the safest place I can think to stash you, because no one would think to look for a big yacht up there.”
“I can see why,” Trevor said, staring at the chart, as another concern came to mind. “I’ve heard that some places have once-daily tides, but I’ve never been in one. This place we’re going has once-daily, so any issues that causes, that I might not be aware of, like strong tidal bores in the river?”
Fowler chuckled, and explained in a reassuring tone, “A good thing to ask, but no worries in this case. It has mild tides, and I’ve only seen a tidal surge of a few centimeters there, and that was during a big storm. The Moon is the biggest factor in tides, which is why tide cycles average twenty-four hours and fifty minutes, just like moonrise and moonset, though other factors make it vary from thirty to seventy minutes. Normally, in most places, you have two tides a day – semidiurnal, or sometimes a mixed tide that varies day to day. But not there. There, it’s diurnal – one tide a day with a mixed day every fortnight where there is a second high tide. The cause is the shape of the oceans; their uneven shapes and depths cause differences in tide times and ranges. The thing with that place is it’s not all that far north of a clockwise amphidromic point – sometimes called tidal nodes – a few hundred kilometers west of Perth. So, the harmonics force a diurnal tide cycle in… the place we’re talking about, with fairly moderate ranges of about a meter. Geraldton is the same, and Fremantle, closest to the amphidromic point, has diurnal tides too, but the amplitude is more like fifteen centimeters.”
Trevor chewed on his lip for a moment before replying, “Okay, I’ll give it a shot.”
“That’s the spirit. If need be, just get inland from the yacht anchorage, then keep going at daybreak. The main thing I’m concerned about is not having the whole town know she’s up there, so doing the night entry is necessary. Hug the north side of the channel to keep as far from the town shore as you can. There’s nothing north of the river, so no power lines or bridges to be worried about,” Fowler said, and then added an afterthought, “Make sure she’s still wearing one of the two nameplates Ned made you, just in case.”
Trevor gave Shane a worried look, and then replied to Fowler, “Uh, okay, I’ll do my best.”
“Have fun, and call me in the morning,” Fowler said.
With the call over, Trevor reduced speed to four knots, to delay their arrival. For a few minutes, Trevor and Shane studied the tide table and the navigation display.
“This is going to be a cast iron bitch, and there’s some risk. Do me a favor and dial Mr. Blake for me,” Trevor said.
Shane did so, and leaned in close to listen at Trevor behest. “Uh, hi, this is Trev, and I’ve been asked to take… the boat, into a really tricky place,” Trevor said, when Martin answered on the first half of the first ring.
“Greg said you’d call, but he told you right: I helped plan this. Remember, no place names. I want the boat as far upriver as she’ll go, and in a good hiding place out of sight of the south bank. It’ll be tricky in the dark, but just go slow and back off when you hit sandbars. The bottom is pretty soft almost everywhere there,” Martin said.
“Have you ever had her that far up there?” Trevor asked.
“Nope, I’ve never had her past the yacht anchorage, never had reason to, but I’ve been up in a Zodiac and kayak lots of times. It’s doable in the boat, especially for someone who can get in and out of Rhys Lagoon without touching bottom. You’ll ground a few times for sure, but once you’re past the mouth, that’s an inconvenience, not a danger. Just sneak past the town and if you need to wait for daylight for the rest, do so. I’m not worried if the hull bottoms end up needing a bit of paint, so don’t you be. Also, I’ll have your wheels set up by Saturday at the latest, no worries, and no need for you to give ID. Have fun, and let me speak to Shane a ‘sec.”
Trevor handed the phone to Shane, and after a quick greeting, Martin said, “Shane, don’t forget to use the card I gave you to restock at the store. Make sure you get provisions for a week or more, just in case. I’m not expecting any trouble, this is all precautionary, but treat it as real. At any sign of danger or recognition, I want you both to head for the open sea, then head for anywhere, it doesn’t matter where. I hope that this will all be over in a few days, but remember, the phones aren’t safe, not to anywhere. Make sure neither you nor Trevor give any place names where you’re at or will be, or boat names, over the phone. That includes to me, of course. Take care, both of you, and thanks for taking care of Trev, Shane.”
“No worries, Mr. Blake. Want to talk to Trev again?”
“No need, he knows what to do. Give me a ring whenever you get up tomorrow, but remember, no place names. Cheers, and talk to you tomorrow,” Martin said, before ending the call. Martin then said to his wife, “I hope the parts about the phone get the message across: don’t trust the phone anymore, and hopefully he’ll keep to that rule when talking to anyone in Florida.”