Joel’s emotions warred. The suspicion that gnawed at the back of his mind would not let go, even though he’d given himself time to let the issue work itself out. It hadn’t, and he knew he couldn’t ignore it any longer. Joel snuggled up to Lisa on their beach towel, stroking her hair, and said, “Lisa, something’s been bugging me. It’s about Trev, and what you said about motive. It’s just kind of a hunch, but it sorta fits.”
Lisa smiled, hugging Joel to her, letting her hands roam idly over his bare back. “We keep hitting a wall when we try to figure it out, got something new?” she asked, looking in Joel’s eyes, reaching out to touch his windswept hair.
Joel swallowed once, mindful of Lisa’s possible reaction, but he knew he had to press on. He took a quick glance around the beach, making sure no one was within earshot. “The stuff about motive; somebody benefiting from Trev’s dad getting prosecuted. He’s been charged with two murders; Trev’s mom and Arnold Bellevue,” Joel said, letting the implication hang in the air.
Lisa nodded. “Yeah, that’s why Bridget wants to see him hang,” she said, blinking for a moment before she blurted, “Joel, you can’t be thinking–”
“It’s just a possibility, and we have to consider every angle, for Trev’s sake,” Joel said quickly, and then added, “Has Bridget ever said anything about other suspects in her husband’s murder?”
Lisa shook her head. “No, she hasn’t,” Lisa paused, and Joel felt her tremble. “She did say that incompetent cop, Gonzalez, even suspected her of it… but I don’t think she was ever an official suspect.”
Joel nodded. “If she was, though, would we know? And if she was, wouldn’t she benefit from somebody else being charged?”
Lisa shook her head. “Joel, no, she’s been like a mother to me, more than my real mom ever was. Look at all the ways she’s helped us – and Trev too!”
“I know, and I feel like a jerk for thinking it, but… somebody tried to kill Trev and make it look like his father and Jim did it. We’re trying to figure out who would have motive, right? That means we have to look at every possibility. We have to, for Trev.”
Lisa shook her head adamantly, and then paused for a few moments before sighing. “I feel like a Judas for even considering it. Joel, how on earth would Bridget plant a bomb on Atlantis? She was here when Trev was going through the canal, remember? She can’t be in two places at once.”
“She could have had someone do it for her,” Joel suggested.
“Who? It’s not as if she could just open a phone book and look under boat bombers. She’s a high society lady; she wouldn’t know anyone who does stuff like that,” Lisa said, looking at Joel in confusion.
“She’s rich, Lisa. Money talks, and lots of money talks real loud. She’s been super good to us, I know that, but if there’s even a slight chance, we can’t just dismiss it. All I’m saying is, we need to be open-minded and consider all possibilities. Lisa, she and her husband used to own Ares, but she didn’t tell you she used to own Atlantis; you found that out yourself, then she said she didn’t remember because Atlantis had a different name. Isn’t it sort of a little weird that she’d forget all about selling a yacht to the Carlsons, when Mr. Carlson turns out to be the number one suspect in her husband’s murder?”
Lisa shook her head. “She said her husband ran the yacht side of the business, then her brother helped close it up after her husband was murdered, and Atlantis had a different name then. Maybe she really didn’t know,” Lisa said, goosebumps forming on her arms in spite of the warm sunny day. Lisa stared out to sea for almost a minute, thinking. “We’ve always known she kinda knew Trev’s mom, but… when I told her about Atlantis’s registration, she told me to take it to Gonzalez. How does that make sense if she was hiding something? If she was an official suspect, maybe I’d be worried, but is there any reason to think she is… other than her saying Gonzalez suspected her? You know what he’s like; he acts like he suspects us sometimes! Besides, if she was a suspect, wouldn’t that private investigator be looking real close at her to get Trev’s dad off the hook? And if he was, wouldn’t he be asking us for information on her?”
Joel nodded. “I know, it’s not a good fit, and I’m probably just being paranoid, but we have to look at everything, right? If it’s not her, that’d be great to know too.”
“I guess,” Lisa said sourly, giving Joel a hug, “any ideas on how we can find out?”
Joel shook his head. “Not really.”
Lisa brightened. “I just had an idea! If she was never a real suspect, she’d have no motive, right?” Joel thought it over and nodded, so Lisa carried on, “So all we have to do is find out if she was. Gonzalez would know, and the PI, Henry, probably would too. We could try to find out from them… maybe offer to trade information or something?”
Joel thought it over and nodded. “Can’t hurt, and I’d sure sleep a lot better,” he said, relieved that Lisa hadn’t reacted as badly as he’d feared. With relief, he changed the subject to a less inflammatory one. “Lisa, we’re running out of time before we go to Australia. I made a list of stuff we should have a look at, and investigate–” Joel’s words cut off as he noticed Lisa’s sudden sour expression, and he quickly added, “I don’t mean Bridget. She was just one of a lot of things we need to look at. I was thinking of stuff like you did; going through county records. You found out about Atlantis’s sale, which the cops had missed. So, what about the investigation; the one into Trev’s mom’s death? There must be a Coast Guard report or something.”
Lisa nodded. “Yeah, Trev told me last year that he’d tried to get it. He can’t, without his father’s okay, until he’s eighteen.”
“I’ll bet officer Gonzalez could. Hell, I bet he already has it. Hey, hold on, Trev can when he’s eighteen? Because he needs to be an adult, right? They’d let him see it because he’s her son, but he’s a minor so he needs a parent’s okay, right?” Joel said.
“He didn’t say, but that’d be my guess. And I know what you’re thinking, he’ll be a legal adult in a couple of weeks, and that’s before we go. We could get it that way.”
“Let’s try Gonzalez first; he could get it to us faster. Trev can get it for us if that doesn’t work. Okay, there’s something else we can look into, and that’s the connection between Jim and Trev’s dad. They’re on the run together, so it’s more than just professional. Trev also mentioned his dad going to trade shows in Miami almost every week, the days the Chandlery was closed. That’s Mondays and Tuesdays. I checked the ‘net yesterday, and I can’t find any kind of trade show on those days; the ones I found are weekends. So, that got me thinking; maybe he was up to something with Jim, and that’s why they’re on the run together? Even if they didn’t kill Trev’s mom, they could be up to something that’s illegal as hell. It hit me last night what it might be, because of something Jim said when we met him in Italy; Trev’s dad wasn’t really going to sell Atlantis like he told Trev, he was going to have Jim keep her for a while. Trev’s dad can’t go to sea, but we know Jim can. And I finally figured out why all this might be going on.”
Lisa’s eyes opened wide, and Joel continued, “Atlantis has big engines, so she’s a lot faster under power than other cats of her type. And there’s something else Trev showed me in the Med; they don’t show up on radar too well if you take down the radar reflector. So, what do you do in Florida that needs a fast, powerful boat that doesn’t show up on radar?”
Lisa got it at once. “Drug smuggling! Oh shit, that fits. He owns a chandlery so he’d have all the gear, plus could ship and stuff, and a lawyer would know all the legal tricks. And… if it’s been going on for a long time, maybe other drug smugglers killed Trev’s mom? You always hear on the news about rival drug gangs… but Joel, we both know Trev’s dad. He just doesn’t seem like a drug smuggler.”
Joel nodded, acknowledging Lisa’s point and taking a moment to think. “Okay, but… What’s a drug smuggler like? Not a TV one, a real one? I don’t think they’re obvious, and that’s kinda the idea. It’s far-fetched, I know, but we do have to look into everything we can think of.”
Lisa looked out to sea and nodded. “All we know for sure is that somebody killed Trev’s mom, and know somebody tried to kill Trev, twice. You’re right; we have to look at everything, no matter how crazy. Actually, we might have a better shot with the crazy stuff, because the cops have probably looked into everything that does make sense.”
Joel smiled, reaching for his phone. “Let’s start with that Coast Guard stuff. I’ll call Officer Gonzalez.” Joel selected Gonzalez’s number – his office number, not the private one he’d given Trevor – and waited. It went to voicemail, so Joel left a message asking for the Coast Guard file, and offering to tell Gonzalez all he knew in return.
Henry Wesson’s back ached, serving as a nagging reminder of his misadventure the day before. He massaged it with his hand, wincing slightly, as he waited for Officer Gonzalez to arrive.
“Your text message said you’re injured. Is it bad?” Gonzalez asked, as soon as Henry let him into the motel room.
Henry cringed slightly as he carefully sat down. “I don’t know what hurts worse; my back, or knowing I made a stupid mistake. My attempt to plant a homing device and a bug on Bridget’s boat yesterday went badly wrong.” They’d been scheduled to meet a day later, but Henry felt he needed to let Gonzalez know what was going on.
Gonzalez arched an eyebrow. “Was she or George involved?”
“Nah, not directly, so far as I know. I tried to get into Rob’s Marine and barely got away in one piece. They came after me with two armed guards and a dog.” He’d used care, but breaking-and-entering, contrary to popular fiction, was not among the skill sets often used by private investigators. As a result, he’d made a mistake, one that had almost cost him his life.
It was simple oversight, as he went on to explain; the security cameras and alarms on any business or home are most commonly found at the perimeter. They are usually unhidden, because their deterrent effect is their greatest asset in most applications. Therefore, when Henry had looked at Rob’s Marine, and saw no sign whatsoever of security cameras or other security devices, he’d believed that he could enter, take care of his task, and leave unobserved.
Making the entry had looked easy enough; the perimeter fence was chain link topped with barbed wire, and getting under it had been a simple matter of moving a little dirt to enlarge an existing gap. It had appeared easy… too easy, in retrospect. Henry had been utterly unaware that it had been designed that way, with a thin tripwire buried in the ground directly below the fence. Gonzalez just listened, tactfully refraining from outwardly noticing Henry’s admission that he’d broken the law.
Henry continued his recount, “I got in under the fence and was making my way towards the boat shed. It was pitch black so I was using the night-vision gear. I heard a door open, real quiet-like, and turned to look. Two guys with shotguns came out, plus a big dog. The one with the dog made a beeline for the boatshed where we think Bridget’s boat is. They have over a dozen at that yard, but they went right for that one. When he got there, he sent the dog in. When it came out again, he sent it into the rest of the yard. I knew it’d find where I was hiding sooner or later, so I turned back for the hole under the fence. I saw him just in time; the other guard had taken cover beside it, shotgun at the ready. They knew exactly where I got in.”
Gonzalez got it immediately. “A tripwire but no audible alarm? And no lights at night but armed guards? Very interesting. So, how’d you get away, and how’d you get hurt? I’m hoping it’s something I could use to get a search warrant.”
Henry sighed. “Not unless I lie my ass off, though I’m willing. I picked up a couple of pieces of scrap metal and hurled ‘em as hard as I could towards some of the boat sheds. That drew the guard away from my hole, so I made a break for it. Unfortunately, the dog wasn’t as easily foxed and came after me. I wasn’t carrying a gun – I didn’t want to make it a major felony if I got caught – so I was in a fix. I was only about ten yards away when the dog came through after me. It was a big one, maybe a German shepherd or a Doberman mix, and came right at me. I got it with my pepper spray and it backed off, but I was edging away backwards and tripped over my own damn feet: that’s how I got hurt. I got up and stumbled a block to my car. Funny thing about that dog; it never made a sound except some huffing and snorting until I sprayed it, then it started making a low coughing sound but looked like it was trying to bark. Somebody not only trained that dog to be silent, but also cut its vocal chords.”
“The Nazis used that trick so you wouldn’t hear the dog coming before it mauled you. That’s what somebody does if they want to take down an intruder and not what they do if they want to deter one. There’s no better deterrent than a barking dog, and second best is an obvious security system. Third best is lights. These guys avoid all three. Hell, that place is right on the water, so I’m surprised they don’t have an alligator ramp: leave ‘em a trail of meat every night so they’ll hang out. Some junk yards and similar places do that, to fight burglars.”
Henry paled visibly. “I never thought of that. I hate alligators. I aspire to be many things, but lunch ain’t one of ‘em.”
Gonzalez nodded. “I wish we had more. Anything interesting on George’s tracker?”
Henry smiled thinly. “No surprises so far; he’s spending about one night in three at Bridget’s house, and stops by even more often, sometimes when he’s on duty. He parks in her garage, every time. Other than his relationship with her, I haven’t seen anything anomalous for a cop with his assignments. Hell, he even stops at donut shops a few times a day.”
Gonzalez rolled his eyes. “Not all cops are donut addicts, but yeah, he is. I’d like a copy of the data; I know police procedures and patterns better than you do, so maybe I can spot something. It’s also the only real proof we have that he’s involved with a suspect. Actually, it’s not even that; she’s off the suspect list since the indictments, so he’s not even breaking department policy at the moment, and we can’t prove the relationship predates the indictment. Still, it’ll help me with the State Attorney.”
Henry shoved a thumb drive across the table. “I guessed you’d want it. I’m still trying to get one on Bridget’s car, and I had an idea for the boat; that boat shed is just a covered dock, so it’d be open underwater and I could go in by scuba. The only problem there is I’ve never been diving, and doing something like this at night would be hard.”
“Put that idea on hold for a while; if you can get a tracker on Bridget’s car, it might be a lot more useful than one on the boat. What I’d really like is a bug in her house, though anything we found out would be inadmissible.”
Gonzalez pulled out his cell phone and glanced at it, seeing that he had a voicemail at the department. He accessed it, listened, and then hung up. “That was from Joel Stiles. Seems he and Lisa are trying to investigate on their own, or so he says, and he wants the Coast Guard file on the loss of Ares, and is offering to tell me all he knows in return. He seems to think the police department is in the info-trading business, and has just admitted holding out on me. The problem is, the bastard has a valid angle: I do need his cooperation, and soon, to take to the State Attorney. I could try putting the arm on him, but… I’d rather have willing cooperation, or what passes for it, for the moment.”
Henry noticed a touch of venom in Gonzalez’s tone about Joel, but ignored it. “I wish we knew for sure if those kids are working willingly with Bridget. Every instinct I have is screaming at me to warn them to stay the hell away from her. However, why would they be looking into the loss of Ares on her behalf? Maybe we should try to keep them away, and ask ‘em to keep quiet and not tell Bridget.”
Gonzalez scowled. “Don’t even think of trusting those two. Henry, I know something you don’t. Trevor’s insurance company was willing to cooperate with my investigation once I assured them that their client is not suspected of anything. The long and the short of it is, Trevor signed a letter making Joel the legal beneficiary if anything happened to him. The letter was dated not long before Trevor transited Suez. Joel delivered it to the insurance company personally, and the signatures match. So, if Atlantis had been blown up or the pirates had succeeded, Joel would be a rich boy. That’s one hell of a motive to collude with someone like Bridget, who has her own motive for killing him. That doesn’t mean he is, but it’s one hell of a motive, and it’d explain them having access to her guesthouse. We sure as hell can’t trust them, not as things stand. I think it’s time I had a chat with Joel, and not a friendly one. I’ll call him in on the pretext of agreeing to give him that file, pull the rug out from under him, then see what I can find out.”
Henry blinked in surprise. “Shit, that does look bad. I really can’t see Bridget trusting a couple of kids, but… if she was desperate, we can’t rule it out.” Henry paled slightly as something else clicked. “Joel wanted the emancipation papers Dirk promised Trevor. He’s got ‘em. With Trevor a minor, Dirk could have contested the results of anything he signed. He can’t do that now. And Joel is heading for Australia to see Trevor. Fuck…”
“Clearly, we can’t allow that, not under these circumstances. However, now for the flip side: by his actions, Joel is setting himself up as an obvious suspect. If he did kill Trevor under these circumstances, who would that help? The manipulative bitch herself,” Gonzalez said.
“She could be setting him up. Even if he turned on her after being arrested, no one would believe him without proof. Lisa could be part of it, or she could be innocent, doesn’t matter. Damn… okay, my read on them from talking to them is that they are in earnest; they want to help their friend, Trevor. However, I’m sure as hell not willing to stake the life of my client’s son on that opinion.” Gonzalez studied Henry for a moment, waiting to see if he saw things the same way. Henry did, and said quietly, “Whoa, the bomb. Joel was in the perfect position to plant it. He was aboard after they left Mykonos, and didn’t leave until Cyprus, the last stop Atlantis made before Suez. Bridget could have arranged for the bomb, and Joel could have planted it. He knew the boat and he’d know how to stash it.”
“And Joel had Atlantis’s AIS transponder code. Trevor told me that himself, and we know that code is how the pirates found Atlantis,” Gonzalez said, darkly.
Henry saw a positive implication. “This is further proof my clients didn’t plant the bomb or try to kill Trevor.”
Gonzalez shrugged. “We can’t, unfortunately, call it proof. If I take this to the State Attorney, he’ll call it what it is: an alternative theory for the crime, supported by some circumstantial evidence. That’d help your guys at trial, but the propane tank evidence exonerates them anyway. This situation with Joel also fits with some of the way he’s been acting. On the other hand, he was the first source on the exonerating evidence with the propane tank, and it would have been in his interest to obscure that. I also saw how he and Lisa reacted when I told them Trevor was dead; I don’t think they could have faked it that well. Right now, my opinion is split right down the middle; either he’s working with Bridget, or he’s being duped by her. However, those coincidences are piling up pretty damn quick. One key is: how come Trevor signed those papers? Or, did he? A match on a signature is far from conclusive. I’ll call him first. Oh, I also told the insurance company to divulge nothing to any other law enforcement officers without a court order; they told me where Atlantis is, and I sure as hell don’t want George finding out. I told Trevor not to tell anyone, I hope he listened. It sure would be nice if we knew more about whatever Lisa and Joel are up to, though.”
Henry noted that Gonzalez wasn’t sharing Trevor’s location. It would have surprised him had he done so. Henry also read between the lines; Gonzalez wanted help on Lisa and Joel, but couldn’t ask. To confirm, he asked a seemingly innocuous question; “I wonder what kind of tires are on Joel’s car?” Henry had put a tracker on George’s car by swapping a tire, so the implication was obvious.
Gonzalez gave Henry an innocent smile. “It’s too bad those trackers of yours don’t have sound,” he said, going as far as he felt he dared.
The seas had raged during the night, but with the dawn had come relative calm for the fishing trawler Antarctic Star. She was one-hundred-twenty feet long and stoutly built, as she had to be; the seas in which she operated would soon destroy a less capable vessel.
Esperance, on Western Australia’s south coast, was an ideal homeport for Antarctic Star. Located on the Southern Ocean, Esperance gave Antarctic Star access to the Antarctic regions to the south, and also to the lucrative Heard Island area.
Heard Island, along with the nearby McDonald Islands, is Australia’s westernmost territory, lying nearly two and a half thousand miles southwest of Cape Leeuwin and just under three hundred miles southeast of the French Kerguelen Islands. Heard Island, at a latitude of fifty-three degrees south, is buffeted by the raging storms of the furious fifties. Cold and desolate, it has no permanent human inhabitants. What it does possess is fish.
As an Australian Territory, the waters around the islands are an Australian Economic Exclusivity Zone. The Australian Antarctic Division of the Australian Department of the Environment and Water Resources is in charge of Australian arctic fisheries management and administers the islands from Hobart, Tasmania. They issue the permits for fishing in the waters around Heard Island.
The Antarctic Star held such a permit, and was on her way back from a successful three-week harvest of mackerel icefish and Patagonian toothfish. The crew was tired and looking forward to some shore leave. She was a thousand miles from Esperance, but to her weary crew, it felt almost within sight.
There were two men on the bridge: the helmsman and a lookout. That had become standard operating procedure for Antarctic Star when she was anywhere near the Indian Ocean and its tsunami debris. The big floating logs she sometimes sighted were capable of ripping her hull open if hit end on – a sinking in those waters would mean almost certain death. The bridge crew was well aware of the risks; they’d sighted five logs over the previous days.
They were about to make it six. The lookout saw it first, with the aid of high-power binoculars. “Two logs, three kilometers ahead. They’re together to port of our track; we should clear ‘em by two hundred meters.”
The helmsman nodded in acknowledgment, feeling that the log posed no risk. Antarctic Star was on autopilot, so there was little for him to do. Bored, he picked up a pair of binoculars and looked for the log. It took him a few seconds to find it, and he exclaimed in mild surprise, “That’s one log: a big one. The root ball and branches are above water, but the trunk between is awash –” his words cut off as he focused, trying for a clearer image. “You’ve the best eyes aboard; what’s up with the roots? Looks charred to me.”
The lookout focused in, curious and bored. “Yeah, looks odd, that. We’ll get a better view as we come closer.”
The lookout and the helmsman went back to their tasks, waiting while Antarctic Star churned along at eight knots. As they closed to within half a mile, the helmsman looked again at the log. “That’s been on fire, sure as hell,” he declared, looking at the charring on the root ball.
“Look at the other end, in the branches,” the lookout said.
The helmsman did, and spotted it right away. “That’s strange. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“Maybe it’s some sort of tracking device; the eggheads trying to figure out where the debris are drifting to?” the lookout said, studying the oddity.
“Maybe. I think the captain might know, he’s good on oddball stuff like that. I’ll buzz him,” the Helmsman replied, before hitting the intercom button to the crew lounge, just ten feet astern. “Captain, we’ve sighted something a bit... odd. A big tree, burned at one end, and on the other, in a branch, is a metal cylinder. It’s black at the ends, with one half red, the other bare metal. It’s marked by red streamers. Any idea what it might be?”
The captain didn’t reply via the intercom. Instead, he walked onto the bridge and borrowed the helmsman’s binoculars. After studying the log for a few seconds, he said, “Alter course towards it, aim to leave it close on our port beam. Engines to idle as we approach. I’d like a good look at that… whatever it is.”
Antarctic Star slowed in the gently rolling seas, her big diesel engines thundering for a moment as her helmsman brought her to a halt thirty yards from the log with a pulse of reverse thrust. Curious, the captain studied their find for a few moments. “Odd. The charring at the other end of the log could have been a signal fire, which could mean this is a marker beacon of some sort, though that’s only a guess.” He puzzled over the find for a few more moments before declaring, “The hell if I know what it is. I know who might though, especially if it’s scientific in nature.” The captain picked up a satellite phone, and dialed the Hobart headquarters of the Australian Antarctic Division. Three times he told his story, only to end up being transferred again. Finally, after speaking with a researcher, he put the call on hold and told his crewmates, “They don’t know either... and the bad news is: they’d like to. Seeing as how we’re in good seas, and they issue our fishing permits, I suppose we’d best oblige them. Willsy, launch the skiff and go get that thing.” The captain paused for a moment, and then added with a smile, “Might be for the best; otherwise we’d have always wondered what it’s about.”
While awaiting Willsy’s return, the captain chatted about sea conditions and seabird sightings, droning on a bit about seabird migratory patterns, an interest of his. The other occupants of the bridge suffered in silence, wishing the captain would find other interests, or at least speak less on those he had. The lookout idly pondered mutiny; he’d heard the captain’s verbose thoughts on seabirds many times, and by his guess was about three more retellings from permanent insanity.
To the relief of the crew, Willsy at last returned, bearing Trevor’s garlic crusher. The captain carefully opened it, extracted the salt jar, and then the papers within. He read for just a few moments, and then muttered into the phone, “Bloody hell! This is a mayday! The cylinder contains a written mayday from a sailing yacht from Florida, Atlantis, hit by pirates off the Seychelles...” The captain began reading out Trevor’s account of the pirate attack, his brief log, planned course to Cape Leeuwin, and desperate mayday. The captain finished with the date and position Trevor reported, and added, “That’s weeks ago, but he has water and some food. He’s come a hell of a long way, but he could still be out here somewhere.”
The scientist in Hobart was out of his depth, so he called in the fisheries supervisor. After a brief discussion, the supervisor took the phone. “Antarctic Star, if he continued east, he could be near Tasmania by now. If he made it to safety, we’d have surely heard of it; it’d be all over the news. We’ll send out a radio alert to fisheries ships, and contact the coast guard as well. We advise that you raise Perth Station and get them moving in your area. Please keep us advised and we’ll do the same.”
The captain ended the call and jogged over to the trawler’s single-sideband radio set. He knew that the range was too great to use the standard high-frequency emergency channel of 2182 kHz, so he selected 6215 kHz, which would put Perth Station barely in range, assuming decent atmospherics.
The radio station situation was slightly complex; Australia does not have a single coast guard; it has several, and most are volunteer agencies that cooperate with the official authorities. The captain began hailing, “Pan-pan pan-pan, pan-pan, all stations, all stations, this is fishing trawler Antarctic Star. We may have a vessel in distress: Sailing Vessel Atlantis Atlantis Atlantis, one aboard, disabled by pirates and collision damage. Message from her found. Pan-pan pan-pan, pan-pan, any station, any station, please respond, over.”
A pan-pan is just one step below a mayday, and the Australian Volunteer Coast Guard station in Perth quickly replied, “Perth Station reading you, Antarctic Star. Go ahead, over.”
“Perth, we’ve found a... a written message in a cylinder, tied to a floating log. It’s from Sailing Vessel Atlantis, out of Florida...” The captain again read off Trevor’s account of the pirate attack, his brief log, planned course to Cape Leeuwin, and desperate mayday. The captain finished with the date and position Trevor reported, and added, “That’s weeks ago, but he has water and some food. He could still be out here, over.”
“Copy that, Antarctic Star. We’re notifying Fleet Base West,” Perth said, referring to the Australian Navy’s base on Garden Island, southwest of Perth, the largest naval base in the southern hemisphere. “They’ll get a search set up, but it’s a bloody big ocean and he could have gone a long ways by now. Stand by, Antarctic Star.”
Perth station was as good as their word, sending alert notices to Fleet Base West, and, as an afterthought, to the Border Patrol And Customs Service, which also ran patrols.
Five minutes passed, and then Perth came on the air, “Antarctic Star, this is Perth. Be advised, Sailing Vessel Atlantis is not at risk. Cease transmissions on this matter. Do you copy?”
The captain exchanged a puzzled glance with his helmsman, and then replied, “Copy that, mind telling me why?”
“That comes from Customs and Border patrol. They said they have Atlantis, she’s safe, and this is an open case. Repeat, cease transmissions on this issue. Perth, out.”
The captain clicked off the radio. “That’s bloody strange: ‘Cease transmissions’? But if they’ve got the bloody boat... that means the sailor is no longer in danger, but just how the blazes would a pirate attack off the Seychelles and an emergency in the Southern Ocean be a customs case they don’t want discussed?” The captain snorted in disgust. “I’m smelling a strong whiff of codswallop,” he said, using an Australianism that roughly translates as ‘bullshit’.
The helmsman shrugged and shook his head. “That makes no sense, but... maybe they’ve got their reasons. So, now what?”
“Ahead two thirds, resume course for Esperance. They said cease transmissions so that’s what we’ll do,” the captain said, as he put the garlic crusher and Trevor’s notes in a drawer, slamming it shut in frustration. Then, he redialed the Australian Antarctic Division in Hobart to tell them what had happened, reasoning that they were a government agency too, and had need to know.
Eleven ships at sea within range of Antarctic Star’s radio had heard the exchange between Antarctic Star and Perth. The Australian Antarctic Division, via their powerful transmitter, had broadcast an alert received by over sixty vessels. They had also notified a search and rescue center in Hobart, and for good measure, had called Melbourne and then Adelaide.
Please let me know what you think; good, bad, or indifferent.
Please give me feedback, and please don’t be shy if you want to criticize! The feedback thread for this story is in my Forum. Please stop by and say "Hi!"
Many thanks to my editor EMoe for editing and for his support, encouragement, beta reading, and suggestions. Special thanks to Graeme, for beta-reading and advice. Thanks also to Talonrider and MikeL for beta reading. A big Thank You to RedA for Beta reading and advice, and to Bondwriter for final Zeta-reading and advice.