The next morning, Friday the 22nd, Trevor was the first up, and padded out in his boxers to attend the coffee maker.
He’d just finished loading it when Joel, also in boxers, padded down the galley stairs. “Hi Trev,” he whispered, while grabbing a coffee cup, ready for the morning brew.
Trevor grinned. “Shane’s still asleep. Lisa too?” he whispered.
Joel nodded. “Yeah, that flight knocked us for a loop.” He paused, and then added, “Nowhere near as bad as what you went through on the way here. How are you doing, for real?”
“I’m getting over it. Shane… he’s been awesome. He looked after me through the panic attacks, and I’m getting better.”
Joel hesitated again, and said, “I like Shane. You two look really happy, and I’m looking forward to getting to know him. Uh, one thing though, something happened just before we left. Lisa and I went to meet with your father.”
Trevor’s eyes opened wide. “How is he? Is he okay?”
Joel nodded. “Yeah, I think so. My parents found out we met with him, so I’m grounded, and that’s why they sent us here early – they wanted us out of town. Wait until later today, when Lisa and I can think again, and we’ll tell you all about the meeting. One thing though: he’s hiding something, for sure, but I don’t think he killed your mom. Lisa asked him that directly, and I watched his eyes. I don’t think he was lying.”
Trevor was tempted to tell Joel what had happened, but he wanted to wait for Shane, so he said, “Thanks, I don’t think he did either. Shane and I have been digging around a bit, and we’ll tell you about that when we’re underway. I wanted to put to sea this morning, but I gotta get ready: you won’t believe this, but some of the navy sailors here want me to give a speech. Me! I’m supposed to be on the dock by ten, and they’ll take me to whatever they’ve got set up. I cleared it with my Un- uh, the customs officer who rescued me, who’s been looking out for me. He said what they have planned will be fine seeing as how we’re sailing afterward. Long story short, that pirate attack and getting here afterwards made me sorta famous locally, so I guess that’s why they want to me to talk about it.”
“Sorta famous locally?” Joel rolled his eyes. “You gotta see the news more. You were in it a few times back home, it was a big story, still is. So if ‘locally’ means this planet, yeah, I guess that fits.”
“I’ve always wanted to be famous, and now I am, but I also have to keep hidden. Not a good mix,” Trevor replied, with a wry smile.
“You’ve sure got some top-level help, seeing as you’re moored in the middle of a massive naval base.”
Trevor smiled and nodded. “The Australians have been super to me… a lot of ‘em have treated me like family,” Trevor replied, turning away to hide a grin, and also to pour a cup of coffee.
“I smell coffee,” Shane said quietly, padding out into the galley in boxers.
Trevor handed him the cup he’d just poured and stage-whispered to Joel, “Shane won’t be fully conscious until he’s had a mug or two, but then he’ll be okay – almost human.”
“Cruel and abusive bastard!” Shane grumbled, taking another drink.
Trevor grinned. “That’s his favorite name for me. That, and Captain Bligh.”
Joel nodded. “He knows you well, then.”
Shane chuckled, clinking his coffee mug against Joel’s in salute. “You’re right, mate. We’re going to have to get together and compare notes; can’t be letting Trev get away with stuff.”
Lisa, already dressed, came down the stairs into the galley, and Trevor gave her a mock pout. “They’re already conspiring against me.”
Lisa raised an eyebrow, giving the three guys a studying look. “At least they’re working together for a good cause. So, what’s this, an underwear party? Not that I’m complaining…”
Trevor laughed and then gave Shane and Joel an evil grin. “Lisa, they are both great cooks… but which one is the best?”
Lisa put her hand on her chin in thought, and then nodded. “I think a competition is the best way to settle this rivalry, don’t you?”
Trevor nodded enthusiastically, his eyes sparking with mirth. “Yeah, agreed! A competition it is, starting with breakfast.”
“Hey, don’t we get a say?” Shane asked.
Lisa and Trevor answered as one, “No.”
“Right then. Joel? You up for this? I’m making omelets.”
Joel grinned. “Yeah, let’s give it a try. Got the ingredients for pancakes aboard?”
Shane confirmed that they did, which compelled Trevor to point out, “Uh, guys, Joel’s idea of pancakes might be a little different from yours, Shane. For one thing, I’m pretty sure there’s no maple syrup aboard.”
“Maple syrup?” Shane asked, exchanging an odd look with Joel.
Shane and Joel began looking for ingredients and chatting about cooking, while Lisa and Trevor looked on. Soon, the galley was filled with breakfast smells, a harbinger of the delights to ensue.
Aboard HMAS Perth, the newest of Australia’s ANZAC class warships – commissioned into service in August 2006 – the bridge was manned, though the ship was dockside and running off shore power. This was standard procedure for a major warship. A warship is under watch – active command – continuously from her commissioning to decommissioning. While in port, this also serves as an opportunity to train new personnel.
A modern warship is run from two locations: the bridge, primarily for ship handling purposes, and the operations room – called a Combat Information Center or CIC in U.S. usage – which is the heart and nerve center of the warship. The operations room holds the displays and control panels for the ship’s weapons systems, electronic warfare systems, communications, flight operations, and radar systems. It is from here, not from the bridge, that her captain would command during battle.
On this day, Perth’s operations room was manned mainly by trainees, who were getting their first hands-on experience with the warship’s systems. The officer of the deck that day was a lieutenant commander, just six months in grade. The most experienced man in the room was the ship’s weapons officer who was attending to the trainee seamen and midshipmen.
One midshipman, posted to the electronics warfare console, was awaiting her training run, passing the time by studying the instrumentation and the flat-screen display. Something caught her eye, and she hesitantly adjusted the display to focus on the incongruous transmission. After a few moments, she caught the eye of the weapons officer. “Sir, I’m picking up a pulsed transmission, repeating every three seconds, bearing two-three-niner degrees true. It’s at one-five-seven megahertz. What is it, sir?”
The weapons officer studied the screen for a moment, checked a reference sheet, and then scratched his head. “That’s VHF channel twenty, used for repeater operations. I don’t know what on base would be emitting on that frequency like this. There’s no ships moored outboard of us, so on that bearing…” he paused while walking over to a navigation display for a look. “Odd, that’s towards the small boat basin… and nothing else on that bearing. The airbase would be south of that bearing line. Okay, isolate the signal, then tell me what you can about it,” the weapons office said, making use of it as both a training exercise, and to assuage his curiosity.
The midshipman focused on her task, struggling to remember how to work the complex gear, but she soon had her results. “It’s just a repeating pulse, not modulated, no sign of data, sir.”
The weapons officer studied it, and then said, “Concur. That’s odd, and odder still to see it on that bearing; nothing there should be emitting.”
The operations room was the most protected room on the ship because it had to be, in order to resist battle damage. Even with no windows, there were still ways to get visual information from outside. One was a video system, though that was down for maintenance. The other was simpler still; contact the bridge and ask. “Bridge, got anything at two-three-niner degrees true that could be emitting on VHF?”
The midshipman on watch glanced out the window on that bearing, and replied, “Yes sir, a big civilian catamaran.”
The weapons officer frowned. “Oh, that.” Then, for the benefit of anyone in the room not aware, he said, “A guest of the customs service: the guy hit by pirates. This is no place for a civilian boat and what we’re seeing shows why; she’s emitting, probably due to something broken or misconfigured, which a civilian wouldn’t notice.” The weapons officer had a low opinion of civilian sailors.
The anomalous signal temporarily forgotten, a training session began. Only later, when seeing that the signal was still there, did the weapons officer decide to rattle a few cages over at the customs service by filing a report, complaining that the emissions from the catamaran had disrupted a training exercise on HMAS Perth.
After a sumptuous breakfast, the three guys got dressed, and Trevor told Lisa about his coming meeting with the Navy personnel.
They locked up, and were met at dockside by a quartet of midshipmen, who led them north, towards the acres of massive buildings clustered inshore of the warship berths. One of the buildings served as an auditorium, and as they approached, the senior midshipman told Lisa, Joel, and Shane, “Please come with me, we’ve reserved seats at the front for you.”
“The front of what?” Trevor asked, beginning to wonder what was really going on.
The midshipmen made no response, as two of them ushered Trevor to a different door. When they reached it, they led him inside, and then through the wings and to the edge of the stage, where he peeked out through a curtain. “What the hell?” he asked, seeing the packed auditorium. “Uh, I thought I was just going to meet with a few of you guys to talk about my trip through the Southern Ocean? That’s what the customs officers said.”
A midshipman gave Trevor a sympathetic smile. “I take it they didn’t tell you that it’d be more than a few? You’re quite famous for your voyage, so there’s a lot of interest in seeing you. The brass did insist on no photography, so you’ve no worries on pictures.”
Trevor peeked out and swallowed nervously. “Uh, what do I do, when does it start?”
“Just walk out to the microphone, it’s your show. Taking questions would be very welcome.”
“Now?” Trevor asked, and when the midshipman nodded, Trevor took a deep breath and stepped out onto the stage, to be greeted by the thunderous applause of several hundred seamen.
Trevor had never been on stage before, and felt his chest tightening. ‘Oh no, not a panic attack, not now,’ he thought, as he made his way to the microphone. He pulled it from its stand and fumbled, causing the microphone to clatter against the stand as he grabbed for the cord.
As the loud echoes of the microphone’s impact ebbed, Trevor looked out over the crowd, and in a shaky voice, said, “Hi… I didn’t expect to see this many people.” Trevor hesitated for a few moments, not knowing what to say next, so he asked, “Anyone want to ask a question?”
A few chuckles rippled through the audience, and several dozen raised their hands, but those quickly dropped when a balding man – who held the rank of admiral – stood up and said, in a booming voice, “Could you tell us a bit about your trip here?”
Trevor nodded, and began to relax slightly, as he faced a subject that put him at ease: the sea. He began by telling, briefly, of the pirate attack and its aftermath, and then gave a recount of his voyage.
When Trevor finished, he was feeling more at ease, though still on edge. The round of applause caused him to blush, and he began fielding questions from the audience. Towards the end, a short, bespectacled man stood up to say, “I teach survival skills at the academy, and your navigation techniques intrigue me, your method for compensating for solar precession in particular. Standard practice is to simply divide to get an average correction factor for latitude, but your method – I tried it – is more accurate, particularly near the solar equinoxes. Your method essentially creates the equivalent of a slide rule out of paper and a map, and is not in any of the guides for emergency navigation. How did you learn that method?”
Trevor shrugged. “I needed a way, and knew there had to be one. I had a lot of time to think, and I spent a lot of it staring at a map. So, drawing an arc to approximate the sun’s apparent path at daily zenith just seemed like a good idea. I hadn’t studied emergency navigation, so I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. I just came up with stuff on the fly.”
The professor nodded, and ever the teacher, turned to address the audience. “That is what’s called innovation, and innovation was the key to this young man’s survival. His jury-rigging was one aspect, but the navigational techniques he came up with are impressive. He experimented, and used what was at hand. Being able to make do and innovate is the most important tool anyone can have in a survival situation.” The professor returned his attention to Trevor. “You found an old watch aboard and used that for longitude. Tell me, what would you have done without it?”
Trevor was wearing Joel’s old watch, and held it up, pointing at it. “I really don’t know. I was going by dead reckoning for longitude before I found it. I guess… I guess I’d have kept making estimates of my daily progress, waited until I thought I was well past Cape Leeuwin, then turned north. I didn’t know then, and still don’t, any way to figure longitude without a watch.”
The professor smiled. “There’s one; a complex method using sightings of the moon, but you had neither the tables nor the equipment to try it. Guessing your longitudinal progress is precisely what ship’s navigators did before the invention of chronometers. That’s why there are so many shipwrecks on this coast. Now, one other thing, for the benefit of my students: You learned, after arriving, that you’d misestimated your longitude due to the Equation of Time – the difference between apparent solar time and mean solar time caused by the eccentricity of Earth’s orbit. You had the bad luck to encounter it at its maximum yearly westward perturbation. You did not know of the Equation of Time, so you did not know to compensate for it. Had you known of it, what would you have done?”
Trevor paused for a moment, thinking. “I’d have tried to work out what the deviation was and come up with at least a guess for a correction factor. But even if I hadn’t, I’d have at least understood why my navigation fixes where showing me as being inland, and I’d have known for sure that land was close to the east of me.”
The professor again faced the audience. “So merely knowing of the existence of the Equation of Time would have been very helpful indeed. The same is true of other factors; you knew how to find Earth’s axial tilt via the latitude of the tropic line. You understood enough about the Earth’s motion to work out ways to interpret what you were seeing. My point is that knowing a little, plus ingenuity, saved your life. Far too many times I’ve heard of people dying due to simply not trying and not thinking. Stranded in a desert by a flat tire and dying of thirst because they don’t know – and didn’t try – that you can drive for many miles on a flat tire, then the rim, especially on dirt. Dying because they find their cell phone won’t work and don’t know what to do. Dying because their outboard motor on a fishing skiff quits a mile offshore. Dying because they don’t know what to do and choose to do nothing. The human brain is mankind’s greatest survival tool, bar none, though like any tool, it is useless unless used. The ability to think, aided perhaps by a little knowledge, is so often the key to surviving against long odds.” His lesson almost done, the professor looked at Trevor and asked, “If there was any one simple item you could have had that you didn’t, what would it have been?”
“An EPIRB or a satellite phone,” Trevor instantly replied, with a laugh, and then stopped to think for a moment. “For something simple… a Swiss army knife. That would have been real handy. So would a flashlight and some warm clothes.”
The professor turned to the audience and said, “There you have it; simple tools and a way to survive the elements, plus some knowledge, and the odds of survival increase dramatically.” The professor turned to face Trevor to add, “Thank you, young man, for your inspiring recount, and for giving me the opportunity to impress upon the cadets the lessons to be had.”
Trevor had noticed many members of the audience rolling their eyes at the professor. Trevor didn’t realize it, but the reason was that they had come to hear him, not the professor, and the professor was notorious for twisting most anything into one of his impromptu lessons.
Several more questions from the audience, dealing mainly with the rogue wave, followed, and then, to Trevor’s relief, one of the naval officers thanked him for coming, bringing the event to an end.
Trevor thanked everyone, and gratefully made his way hastily off the stage. As soon as he was back stage, he said, “I hope that went okay.”
“You did fine, sir,” a female seaman replied, leading Trevor out via the side door, where he was joined by Lisa, Joel, and Shane. The seaman told Trevor quietly, “I’ve heard you’re about to sail, but if you happen to stay around, quite a few of the female personnel would love to meet you in a less formal setting. You’ve made quite an impression.” She smiled, and gave him a wink.
Trevor blinked, and then smiled nervously as he replied, “I’ve loved staying here, but I’ve really got to put to sea right away. Thanks, it’s been an experience I’ll never forget, even if speaking in front of a big crowd made me wish I was back with the pirates.”
Six paces back, Shane whispered to Lisa and Joel, “That’s the first time I’ve heard him make light of the pirates in any way. That’s a very good sign, I think.”
Lisa turned in surprise to give Shane an appraising look, as a warm smile spread across her face. A few moments later, when Shane was out of earshot, Lisa whispered to Joel, “I like what Shane said; it shows he really cares. I’ve still got my doubts, but not as much as before.”
As soon as they were back aboard Kookaburra, Trevor phoned the customs officer, to let him know he was casting off, and then got underway in record time, a feat that evoked quite a few snickers from Shane and Joel. As soon as they were underway, Joel began to laugh. “I’m surprised Trev isn’t doing twenty knots in harbor, after that invite to meet with the female seamen,” Joel quipped, as Lisa and Shane laughed, and Trevor’s cheeks turned crimson.
In Florida, the day after spotting the meeting at Bridget’s, Henry called Gonzalez for a meeting of their own.
As soon as Gonzalez was in his motel room, Henry said, “I did a stakeout yesterday, and something strange went down at Bridget’s house.” Henry began showing Gonzalez the photos of the arriving boat, Sanchez hugging Bridget, and then Sanchez’s departure. “They were inside for several hours. I didn’t spot George, and his tracker indicates he’s in Miami. I thought the visitor came alone, but about an hour after they went outside, I saw a man’s head peek out of the speedboat, which had Bahamian registry, and I got a shot of it. Bridget and the visitor looked friendly, like old pals. Any way of finding out who Bridget’s friend is?”
Gonzalez scratched his head. “Maybe. I could run the registry via the Bahamian authorities, and the pictures as well. The problem is that word could get back to George; I still have no clue what his contacts are in the department or with the Bahamian authorities. I know he has to have some legitimate contacts over there; the drug task force works closely with them. What I’d really like to do is run this by either our, or the Miami, drug task forces, but George would probably find out quick. So, the best thing I can think of is take this to the State Attorney and have him run it through the Feds.”
Gonzalez began to grin. “What I’ve got to tell you will sound even better: A woman claiming to be Rachel Carlson called me. The customs officer in Carnarvon claims to be her brother–in–law, which struck me as very convenient, so I’ll be asking her to go to a city police department soon, for fingerprinting. She said she’s seen Trevor, but I can’t go on anyone’s say-so. I’m probably being over cautious, but I have to be. I’m ninety-nine percent sure it’s her, and I was right; she knew stuff.” Gonzalez went on to recount what Rachel had said about the shipments and possible money laundering, and then his grin grew. “The forensic accountant figured it out in a flash: an artful setup for money laundering – getting illegal proceeds out of the country in an apparently legitimate way. The cash would originally be fed into the businesses as payments for the equipment or services, then there would be transactions between the businesses. Then, they’d smuggle things offshore in secret – and any shipment found wouldn’t arouse suspicion, because no laws were ostensibly being broken – and then the businesses ‘buy’ the goods for ‘import’ into the U.S. Then, she ships high-value items out and buys them all over again. It’s very clever; they clear customs just fine, and that makes it totally legitimate, on paper, that the purchase funds are leaving the U.S. in wire transfers to overseas, and from that point on the funds look legitimate in every way. This breaks a whole slew of laws, including RICO,” he said, referring to the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. “She’s fully criminally liable for what she, or those she controlled, did. The criminal penalties can be twenty years. Congress forgot to address the issue of a statue of limitations in RICO, so it falls under,” Gonzalez glanced at his notes and read, “The catch-all statute of limitations for Federal crimes: Title 18, section 3282 of the U.S. Code, which says, ‘Except as otherwise expressly provided by law, no person shall be prosecuted, tried, or punished for any offense, not capital, unless the indictment is found or the information is instituted within five years next after such offense shall have been committed.’ However, any offense within the last five years opens all of it, so Rachel’s testimony would be valid – if we can find just one example of Bridget doing anything related and illegal in this regard in the last five years. Anything will do, no matter how minor, as long as it’s related.”
Henry arched an eyebrow. “Great on Bridget, but I think the agreement Frank wrung out of the State Attorney puts Rachel in the clear for anything, including RICO but excluding violence, that she discloses to you.”
Gonzalez rolled his eyes. “She was pretty clear she wasn’t sure what was going on with Bridget, but yeah, she’s covered anyway, so don’t worry about her. Bridget sure as hell isn’t, and that’s who we’re after – her and George. I’m looking forward to snapping the cuffs on both of ‘em. Okay, back to RICO: it gives us many tools, like the ability to seize any assets to prevent them from leaving the country. Once we have enough information on what Bridget has, Rachel’s testimony should let us get a slew of warrants and really spoil Bridget’s day. Rachel can be deposed via video, though she might need to return here to testify at the trial.”
“Does the forensic accountant have a timeframe?” Henry asked, thrilled about the big break in the case.
“Yeah, one to two weeks; he needs to run down all the financial leads to find everything Bridget is connected to, and either he, or we, need to find some violation, no matter how small, within the last five years. In the meantime, he’ll be feeding us information as it comes in, so we’ll probably have businesses and other stuff to check out.”
“Sounds great!” Henry replied, and then asked, “What’s the setup for that meeting with your Carlson task force? Still on for this afternoon at the chandlery?”
“Yeah, all set up; I got George’s confirmation the day before yesterday, saying he’d be there. Got the new gear ready to go on his car?”
“Sure do, all tested and set to install.”
Gonzalez smiled. “I was furious when I learned that Rachel is alive and it had all been a scam, but I gotta admit, this has really turned the case around. The one loose end is George; we don’t yet have anything hard tying him to the case that he can’t claim was part of undercover work. We have to get something on him before we move on Bridget, or he could skate.”
“Yeah, let’s make sure we do,” Henry replied.
As soon as they cleared military waters, still on engines, Trevor nodded to Joel, who was standing expectantly near the helm. “Ready to take over?”
Joel nodded eagerly. “Hell yeah! Show me how to handle her first though; how similar is she to Atlantis?”
“Handles just about the same, but the engine controls are slightly different and so is the nav system. She’s got much newer gear, but the rigging and line handling is about the same.” Trevor ran Joel through the basics, and then stood aside as Joel raised the sails and cut the engines. He was a little rusty, but Trevor could see he still knew how, and had a genuine love of it.
“So what’s the course, Captain Bligh,” Joel asked.
Trevor flipped Joel off before replying, “North northwest, up the coast. I don’t know exactly where yet, I’ve got to call. Stay within a few miles of the coast as we pass Fremantle, so I can use my cell.”
Shane smirked, and added helpfully, “The owner of Kookaburra is a cheap bastard, so Trev tries to keep the satellite phone use down.”
Trevor wished that he could flip Shane off for that, but couldn’t. Shane’s evil grin belied the fact that he knew that too.
Joel arched an eyebrow. “The owner can’t be as cheap as Trev; nobody’s that cheap.”
Trevor couldn’t flip off Shane without giving the game away, but Joel he could, and so he did.
Shane shrugged. “I’d say he’s just as cheap as Trev, which is bloody cheap.”
This time, Trevor was able to give Shane the one-fingered salute. “What’s this, pick on Trev day?” Trevor asked, rolling his eyes and laughing.
Lisa chuckled. “Sounds good to me.”
Trevor went into the salon alone to get his cell and call Martin. The call went well at first, Trevor feeling at ease – he was growing to like Martin – but one issue was bothering him, so he asked, “How come you gave me a go-ahead to take Kookaburra to Florida if you knew?”
Martin took a few moments before replying, “I knew you’d find out in two days, and your mum wanted to tell you herself, and I daren’t have put my foot in it. As for the circumnavigation, I actually meant it: if you’re staying until Atlantis is repaired. A circumnavigation of Australia, not the world. It’d keep you on the move, and you’d get to see a great deal of Australia. At any rate, give it some thought and we’ll talk about it when you get here.” Then after a short, friendly chat – Trevor’s lingering issues were focused on his parents, not Martin – Martin told Trevor, “For right now, head back to the spot where I took the picture of you and Shane. I had to make a run to the town yesterday, so I dropped the Jeep off at the police station. The four of you can just drive to the farm – Shane has the address – on Sunday morning. Pack for two nights. Looking forward to seeing you, Trev.”
“Thanks, Martin, see you soon, and… please say ‘hi’ to Mom,” Trevor replied.
Trevor went out into the cockpit to announce, “Sunday we’re driving up to the farm for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.”
“A farm?” Lisa asked, with a big smile. “What kind of farm?”
Trevor kept a straight face as he replied, “A kangaroo farm.” He then added, “On the way, we can stop at places if we’re quick, plus do sightseeing. Anywhere you guys want to go, we can,” Trevor said, already knowing what Joel’s response would be.
Joel did not disappoint. “The outback! I want to see what’s inland, and you did say anywhere.”
Trevor looked at Shane and, after a sad shake of his head, said, “Joel was always asking me to sail over land. When he got to Europe he wanted me to set course for Switzerland! But… What do ya think, Shane? Should we sail inland?”
Shane fought to hold in a laugh. “Sounds good to me, mate.”
Lisa and Joel shared a suspicious glance, and Joel replied, “That was too easy. What are you up to?”
Trevor shook his head. “You’ll find out. But, at one place on the way, there’s a town, and it has stores.”
“Shopping!” Joel said, with an evil grin in Trevor’s direction, knowing how much Trevor hated it.
Trevor tried his best to look mortified.
Lisa paid particular attention to Shane, sitting with him and chatting, making an attempt to get to know him. She still had some doubts, but she was warming to the blond aussie.
Shane fixed a lunch of sandwiches and served it in the cockpit. As they all ate, Joel asked, “What’s the plan for getting home in time to search for Ares? Any chance of getting Atlantis seaworthy in time?”
Trevor and Shane shared a glance, and then a subtle nod. Trevor shook his head, and said casually, “Nah, and that reminds me, when you get home, please call that professor and tell him thanks, but we’re withdrawing our offer.”
For a few moments, only the sound of the sea and the wind in the rigging filled the stunned silence.
“Uh, Trev, are you sure you want to shut the door like that?” Joel asked.
Trevor nodded, and then shrugged. “Yeah, might as well. We’ve been thinking, and… this whole search-for-Ares thing… maybe it’s time to let it go, for now anyway.”
Lisa stood up, her jaw dropping open. “What? That’s been your obsession forever! You wouldn’t just give up…” her voice trailed off as she cast a suspicious glance at Shane. “Did you have something to do with this?” she asked, in a pointed tone.
Shane shrugged, and then glanced at Trevor. “Only unwittingly.”
Joel stared at Trevor for a few more moments, and then blurted, “Whoa, Trev, what’s up? There’s no way you’d just quit.”
Trevor, struggling to keep a straight face, shrugged again. “We kinda found some new clues. I’ve always been looking twenty miles northeast of Bimini, but… the position might be a little off. We need to look further south.”
“A lot further south,” Shane confirmed.
Joel blinked in surprise. “So you still want to search, but further south?”
“Yeah, a lot further south,” Trevor said.
Lisa gave Trevor a skeptical look. “What kind of clues?” she asked.
“Some pretty solid ones, I think,” he said, drumming his fingers casually on the bulkhead he was leaning against, “that’ll make finding Ares a little easier,” Trevor replied, and then glanced at Joel, who was still at the helm. “So how do you like her? Does she handle okay?”
With a confused look, Joel haltingly replied to what he took for a change of subject, “Yeah, Kookaburra handles fine, just like Atlantis, but what’s this about Ares being further south? Where, and how do we find her without the professor?”
“A lot further south,” Shane intoned.
Trevor gave a confused Lisa and Joel an innocent smile. “We think Ares is a lot easier to find now. Joel can probably find her the easiest.”
Joel blinked. “Me? Why me?”
With a cool, offhanded shrug, Trevor replied, “You’re at the helm, and I think it’s a hands-on kinda thing.”
Lisa scowled at Trevor. “You aren’t making any sense!”
Shane snickered. “When does he ever?”
Joel began to understand that something was up. “Okay, Trev, spill it, what’s going on?”
Trevor, his blond hair blowing in the wind, stepped up to the wheel housing, giving it a gentle pat, and in an offhand tone, said, “You’re at her helm. Welcome aboard the Ares.”
Lisa and Joel’s eyes opened wide, and they stared at Trevor, until Lisa turned to Shane and tapped the side of her head with her finger. “Is he…” she asked, letting her voice trail off.
Shane stood up and nodded solemnly. “Yeah, sad to say, but Trev’s mad as a cut snake, though from what I hear he’s never been sane. Still, even though he’s crazy, he’s right that Kookaburra used to be Ares.”
Trevor smiled, reaching out to pat the wheel housing. “And that’s why I’m giving up searching for Ares. Seeing as how we’re aboard her, I figured racing back to Florida to search for her might not be the best thing to do.”
“What?” Lisa gasped, sharing a stunned look with Joel, and then asked, Trevor, “What? How? Are you sure? How did you find this out?”
Trevor shrugged again. “My mom told me, when she stopped by a few days ago.”
Lisa gaped, while Joel just stared blankly. Lisa looked around the cockpit, and then returned her gaze to Trevor. “Uh, you mean, like, in a dream, right?”
“Nuh uh,” Trevor said, and then paused before adding, “She stopped by. We went out for lunch the next day, too.”
Joel looked at Shane and asked, “This is nuts, are you sure Trev is okay upstairs?” he said, tapping his temple with his finger.
Shane shook his head. “Nope, he’s mad as a gumtree full of galahs, but his mum did stop by. I’ve known her for a long time – though as Mrs. Blake.”
Trevor chuckled, and then his smile faded and he said, in a quiet tone, “I thought I’d flipped, for real and forever, and probably would have, if it hadn’t been for Shane… but it happened, she came to see me. She told me her sinking was a scheme she and Dad cooked up, so everyone would think she’s dead. That everyone included me, so all the pain I went through, it was all a lie.” A shadow of emotion, just a trace of anger, colored Trevor’s face, fading before he continued, “She came back to Australia instead. She was on the run from the law because she and Dad were waiting for the statute of limitations to run out. That’s why Dad wanted to send me to Australia for Christmas, before I had to leave – so I could see her again, and know the truth. And… the customs officer in Carnarvon, Greg Fowler, is my Uncle Greg. We’re going to meet the rest of my family at the farm for Christmas, including my grandparents. I’m still kinda numb – and angry – from finding out most of my life’s been a lie, but it’s real. We’re on Ares, going to see Mom and my family for Christmas. Welcome to the twilight zone.”
“Holy shit,” Joel mumbled, seeing that Trevor was serious.
Trevor went on to explain some of the details, such as how he’d ended up on the boat that had once been Ares. By the time he was done, Lisa and Joel no longer doubted his sanity quite so much.
Joel took a deep breath, and said, “I guess this explains why your father was so believable when he told us he didn’t kill your mother. If she’s not dead, he didn’t.”
Trevor sighed. “Yeah, and Mom said she’s helping him get the legal stuff taken care of.”
A numb silence descended over Kookaburra, though the noise of the sea was more than sufficient to mask the distant faint drone of an aircraft engine. Two miles above, soaring like a guardian angel on high, Basingstoke looked down to confirm Kookaburra’s course before continuing north, with a package by his side and the faint wisp of a smile on his face.
A Discussion thread for this chapter is in my forum, please have a look and join in. direct link here. The forum enables conversations so in many cases it's a far easier to use format than the "leave a comment" section on this page, so I suggest having a look, but use whichever (or both) you are more comfortable with . :)