Trevor, still drying in the sun after his deck shower, bounded down into the cockpit, his stomach growling. “Hey cooks, we need food!” he bellowed.
“Slave driving bastard!” Shane grumbled, looking up from the spear guns before turning to Joel and saying, “Still, the bastard has a point; it’s time to eat, and we daren’t let him near the galley; his cooking could be the death of us all.”
Trevor was raising his middle finger in reply when he, long accustomed to scanning the horizons, chanced to glance towards the east, where he saw a slight motion and an orange speck, in the direction of East Wallabi Island. He picked up the binoculars, focused, and saw a man paddling a raft, a quarter of a mile away, heading in Kookaburra’s general direction, though that also put the raft on course for the beach on West Wallabi closest to Webbie Hayes’ Fort. It was far from an unexpected sight, but given the circumstances and Trevor’s notoriety, it was a concern. “Looks like we don’t have the place to ourselves anymore,” he said, putting the binoculars away.
Shane took a glance, and then returned his attention to the task he’d begun: unloading the spear guns and their powerheads. A powerhead, like a bang stick or shark stick, is a specialized firearm for underwater use against sharks or other large predators. Fired when in direct contact with the target, it kills by essentially injecting both the bullet and the exploding propellant gasses into the target. The powerhead is the firearm part of the device and is usually in the form of a short tube – less than three inches long – in this case attached to the tip of a spear and firing a .45 bullet on impact. Shane glanced again at the distant raft and hesitated for a moment before saying, “I’ll leave these until we’re at sea. Joel, up for some cooking?”
“To the galley,” Joel replied, with a grin, leading the way.
Trevor leaned back against the cockpit’s aft rail, where he could talk to Lisa as well as keep an eye on the raft. He was about to say something about the raft, but decided against it for the moment, not wishing to worry Lisa for what he thought was probably nothing.
Lisa glanced at the island, and said, “I’ve had an awesome trip so far, I just wish I didn’t have to go home. I’d love to see more of Australia; it’s all so strange and wonderful!”
“I have a feeling you’ll be back sooner than you think,” Trevor replied, smiling, and reminding himself that he still needed to talk to Joel before Lisa went home. Trevor took another glance at the raft, seeing that on its current course it would pass within a hundred feet of Kookaburra’s bows. “Strange that anyone would paddle a little raft across the full width of the bay, when they could stick closer to shore,” Trevor pondered aloud, idly reaching for the binoculars, only to be interrupted by the warbling chirp of his satellite phone, which sent him dashing inside to answer it.
Basingstoke could see that people were aboard Kookaburra, and correctly assumed that they were his targets. His plan was to suddenly change course at his point of closest approach to arrive at Kookaburra’s sterns, shout for Trevor, and then tell him that he’d just found out about the tracking device aboard and was there to warn them that the press would arrive by morning if it wasn’t found. He planned to deal with any incredulity by telling Trevor to tune a VHF radio to the transmitter’s frequency and hear it for himself. Basingstoke was somewhat confident that the ruse would allow him aboard, and give him all he needed: a single unguarded moment. He redoubled his efforts, sweating hard in the blazing sun; paddling a raft for a mile had proven a slower exercise than he’d anticipated.
Greg Fowler, in Carnarvon, breathed a sigh of relief as he heard Trevor’s voice. Quickly, Fowler explained what he’d learned about the ‘reporter’, that he was an imposter. Before Trevor had a chance to reply, Fowler added, “We’re looking into this, but in the meantime, I want you heading for Fleet Base West, right away!”
After asking a couple of questions, Trevor agreed, and prompted by a glance out the window at the nearing raft, he told his uncle about it and ended the call. He shouted for Shane and Joel, and dashed out into the cockpit, phone in hand.
Once in the cockpit and joined by Shane and Joel, Trevor said, “We’ve got to get underway, fast. I’ll explain once we are.”
Shane nodded, and bounded up the stairs to the side deck, on his way to raise the forward anchors. From the side deck, he had a clear view of East Wallabi, and spotted the raft, now just two hundred yards away, heading in their direction. Shane blinked, and then said over his shoulder, “Trev, we’ve got company, close aboard, port quarter.” Without waiting for a reply, Shane dashed forward to take care of the bow anchors.
“Joel, Lisa, let out the stern anchors, fast!” Trevor shouted, darting to the helm, where he fired up Kookaburra’s engines.
Kookaburra had four anchors out, and raising them called for a complicated procedure: slack off the stern anchors, motor forward to raise the fore anchors, and then reverse into position to raise the stern anchors. He glanced at the approaching raft, and judged its speed as under two knots. He breathed a sigh of relief, knowing it meant they had plenty of time. His respite lasted for less than a second, until he thought, ‘Unless that raft has an engine.’
Trevor motored Kookaburra forward, and Shane, working in feverish haste, hauled the anchors aboard. As soon as the second anchor had cleared the sea floor, Trevor threw the engines into reverse.
As soon as Shane returned, Trevor said, “Make sure the spear guns are cocked and loaded, then have a look at that raft with the binoculars.”
Basingstoke, sweating hard and paddling furiously, heard a rumble and glanced ahead, at Kookaburra, his eyes opening wide as he noticed that she was moving. He put his paddle down, frantically grabbing for his satellite phone.
“Looks like that reporter who met us in Kalbarri,” Shane reported, as Lisa and Joel hauled up the stern anchors. “We’ll be off well before he can get here.”
“Unless he’s got an engine,” Trevor said, staring at the oncoming raft, and then he told them that the reporter was an imposter, and briefly explained what he knew.
“If he gets close, what about showing the spear guns? That should change his mind,” Shane suggested.
Trevor shook his head, and glared at the raft. “Keep ‘em out of sight. That way, if he tries to force his way aboard, he gets a forty-five caliber surprise, right in the fucking teeth.”
With the anchors now aboard, Trevor rammed the throttles to the stops, with only the starboard engine in reverse. Kookaburra began to pivot, engines roaring, as the satellite phone, now sitting on the helm, began ringing. Thinking it was his uncle, Trevor answered it.
As soon as Trevor answered, Basingstoke said, in a cheery tone, “G’day, is this Trevor? This is Butch Clark. I have the cash we talked about, plus a warning for you. I’m in a raft, just a few hundred meters away.”
Trevor hesitated for several moments, his face draining of color as he waved his friends close to listen. “Uh, hello, Butch,” he said, glancing towards the raft, and then asking, “What are you doing here?”
“I took a boat to the rock lobster camp. It’s urgent that we speak, and I can see you’re moving.” Kookaburra had finished her turn, and was accelerating towards the channel to the open sea.
“How did you find us?” Trevor asked.
Basingstoke chuckled amiably. “I’d rather not get into that over the phone, but it’s something you urgently need to know about, because you’ll have press here by morning. They have a way of finding you any time they like, same way I did. Pick me up so we can do the interview and I can pay you, and I’ll fill you in. I’ve got the money, all of it, in cash.”
Trevor glanced at the navigation screen, and then ahead; he was already nearing the channel through the reef at eleven knots. “Okay, but I can’t come in right now. I’ve got divers down on one of the outer islands, and they lost their skiff; I’m heading there at max speed to get them and their skiff, it’s an emergency. If you can hang around a bit, I’ll be back in a couple of hours, and the four of us are having a cookout on West Wallabi’s beach; I’d like you to come, and the steak will be great, I promise. We can talk there, no problem.”
Basingstoke scowled at Kookaburra’s fast-receding hull. The idea of waiting around did not sit well with him. A further complication was the mention of divers; if there were more than four people to deal with, his task, he felt, was unfeasible. “Will the cookout be private? I really do need to speak to you in confidence, because the press has a way of finding you that you need to put a stop to,” Basingstoke replied.
“Sure, just the four of us and you can talk to me alone if you want. I’ll be back as fast as I can. I really need that money, and to find out how you found us,” Trevor replied.
“Sounds good, mate, but I’ve got a spot of bother here; I’m in a current, I don’t think I can paddle back to the beach. Just pick me up, please.”
“Sorry, I can’t, but you’ll be fine; call me in an hour, and I’ll come get you no matter where you are. It’s only a few miles to the dive site, and there are sharks in the water. Sorry I have to go, but it’s an emergency. I’ll be back as fast as I can,” Trevor replied.
Aboard the raft, Basingstoke watched in helpless fury as Kookaburra sped away. Seeing no other option, he said in a cheerful tone, “I’ll give you a ring in a bit and see how you’re doing, assuming I’m still above water. See you soon.”
“Give me your number,” Trevor said, and then had Shane write it down as Basingstoke read it off. “I’ll call in a few minutes, I’ve got to call the divers now,” Trevor said, and hung up.
As soon as the call ended, Trevor began raising sail, even though he wasn’t out of the channel. His course would take him around the northern end of East Wallabi Island, and then southeast. “Fuck, I don’t like this,” he said, taking a look through the binoculars at Basingstoke. “No sign of him having an engine,” Trevor added, as Kookaburra accelerated to sixteen knots under the combined thrust of engines and sail – a technique known as motor-sailing.
“If he had an engine, why paddle… unless he wanted to sneak up on us,” Lisa said.
Trevor nodded. “Yeah, but I think he’d have used it by now if he had one,” Trevor replied, and then, as Basingstoke began paddling again and turned towards shore, he added, “He just turned around, I’d see an engine if he had one.”
“Call your uncle,” Shane suggested, taking over the binoculars as Trevor began dialing.
“Bloody hell!” Fowler exploded, as soon as Trevor had told him who had shown up. He calmed down slightly when Trevor had explained the conversation, and told Trevor, “Good thinking, that. Get out of there as fast as you can, and keep a sharp lookout; he might have access to a boat. Any sign of anything and you call me at once. I’ll call you back in a bit; I’m going to see if I can keep that bastard from getting too lonely.”
“Maybe I should call him in a few minutes and string him along some more?” Trevor asked.
“Good idea, but let me get things moving here first. And before I forget, give me his number; maybe it can be homed in on if he leaves.” Fowler wrote down the number, and ended the call.
Grundig, who had heard the conversation, blinked at Fowler. “What’s the fastest way to get someone there?”
Fowler scratched his head. “I’ll ring the Geraldton customs office; their boat could get there in less than two hours. A helicopter would be faster, if there’s one available in Geraldton. Anywhere else is too bloody far,” Fowler replied, as he lifted the phone again.
Trevor glanced back at the raft, now two miles astern. “I wonder if we should give Uncle Greg a hand and keep that guy busy until help arrives? If he’s not a reporter, then there’s a good chance he’s part of the attempts to kill me. Right now, we’ve got the advantage; Kookaburra and spear guns.”
Shane arched an eyebrow. “What’ve you got in mind?”
Trevor glanced at the navigational display before replying, “The best defense is a good offense. Run Kookaburra at him for a close pass and swamp that raft with the wake; that’d delay him for a while.”
Joel scowled at the raft. “We have spear guns and powerheads, but we don’t know if that guy is armed.”
Shane nodded. “There’s that, plus another worry; if that guy isn’t part of the attacks and gets hurt, you could go to jail for attacking him.”
Trevor frowned, his eyes fixed on the raft. “Good points. I just wish I knew for sure what he is; I’m totally sick of running and hiding. If I was sure, I’d run his ass under, permanently.”
Lisa studied the raft through binoculars for a moment. “I want to know how he found us, and if he’s part of the attacks. He didn’t call until we started moving, and I can’t think of any reason why other than he’s up to something bad, like for Bridget. My vote is let’s get the son of a bitch. He can’t catch us, but we can catch him. Trev, let me take the helm; that way, if there are any legal problems, we just say I didn’t know how to steer right.”
“And if he’s got a gun?” Joel asked.
Trevor nodded towards the salon door. “On engines, Kookaburra can be conned from inside, just like Atlantis. A handgun wouldn’t be much danger, but a rifle could be. I did see a box that I think is big enough for a rifle. How about you three head off in the Zodiac with the sat phone, and head back towards him but not close, staying out of rifle range, as a diversion. I’ll make a close pass at the raft with Kookaburra. If he shoots, then I’d know what he is and I can just run him under. I’d be safe enough.”
Shane realized why Trevor had really suggested the Zodiac, and glared. “If it’s so safe, then why don’t Lisa and Joel go in the Zodiac, and I’ll stay aboard with you? Better two guys with spear guns than one, right?”
Trevor was willing to take the risk himself, but he wasn’t willing to put Shane, Lisa, or Joel in the line of fire, and he knew Shane had figured that out. He gave it one more try. “These attacks are my problem, and I’d feel better if you guys left.”
“Time for a mutiny, because anyone after you is my problem too,” Shane said, sitting down and crossing his arms.
Lisa and Joel did the same a moment later, with Lisa adding, “Cut the crap, Trev. We’re staying.”
Trevor sighed, and then glanced at the navigation screen again. “Okay, okay… but I think we’ve missed our chance by now anyway; he’ll be in water too shallow for Kookaburra by the time we can get there, the way he’s going. So, how about we see what else we can do? He’s gotta have a boat somewhere, and we could get to it first; no way in hell did he get to the island in that raft. We’re about to round the northeast point, so how about we check out the island’s east and south shore with binoculars?”
Lisa, Joel, and Shane nodded in agreement, and Shane replied, “Unless he has a way of leaving, he’ll still be on the island when whoever your Uncle Greg sends gets here. Let’s go see if we can do some damage.”
Basingstoke hauled the raft ashore, his mood foul. He was growing leery of Trevor’s excuse, and feeling very exposed. He glanced at the raft, and after a moment’s thought, decided that he was safer off the island. If Trevor returned, he reasoned, so could he. With that, he glanced again at the raft, mulling whether to spend time deflating it to get it back to his plane – inflated, carrying it would be cumbersome, and it could not fit in the plane while inflated. After weighing his options, he decided to leave it behind some bushes, ready for use in case Trevor returned. He put the raft in place, and then picked up his things for the hike back to his plane.
Kookaburra rounded the northeast point of East Wallabi, and turned south, with Shane manning the binoculars, studying the island’s southeastern shore. “No sign of a boat, or that guy,” Shane reported.
“He had to get there somehow,” Trevor said, while checking the radar and seeing no sign of boats.
As the angle to the shore changed, Shane had a better view of the airstrip, which began just feet from a small jetty. “Hey, I see something… a dirt airstrip with a small plane on it.”
“I saw a plane earlier, and that’d explain how he got here,” Lisa said.
“And why he only had a raft, and maybe how he found us too,” Joel added.
Trevor borrowed the binoculars for a fast look at the plane, and then turned Kookaburra west, towards the jetty at the end of the airstrip. “It’s about a mile from the beach he was heading for to the plane. I think I could get to the plane first,” Trevor said, his eyes narrowing.
“And do what?” Lisa asked.
“Planes have tires, and I’ve got a knife,” Trevor replied.
“I’m going with you, with the spear guns,” Shane announced, wondering what a powerhead would do to a plane’s fuel tank.
Trevor nodded. “Okay. Joel, keep Kookaburra right off the beach, pointed out to sea, engines running. Lisa, you keep watch with the binoculars, and if you see any sign of the guy, blast an air horn. We’ll hear it and come running.”
Joel took the helm while Trevor and Shane strapped on knives, put on shoes, and headed for the stern after Shane picked up the spear guns.
Lisa, studying the area around the plane through the binoculars, saw a faint motion, and after a moment, she was sure. “I see somebody, walking through the brush. I can only see his head, but he’s maybe two hundred yards from the plane.”
“Fuck, we can’t get there first,” Trevor grumbled, before telling Joel, “Turn southeast and trim for best speed; I’ve got a phone call to make.” Trevor picked up the phone, and dialed. When Fowler answered, Trevor told him what they’d seen, then he took a look through the binoculars and added, “I’m too far away to see his face, but he just walked into the open, and he’s carrying a big box under his arm, just like the guy in the raft had. I’m sure it’s him.”
“Trev, the customs patrol boat from Geraldton just left the dock. They’re approaching from the southeast, and should get there in an hour and a half, give or take. Keep heading away from the island, but keep an eye out for that plane; if it takes off, see if you can see which way it goes, and let me know immediately. I’ve got to make some calls, fast,” Fowler replied.
“Uncle Greg, why don’t I call him and see if I can stall him? What can it hurt?” Trevor asked.
“Okay, just be careful, and don’t let him know you’ve seen the plane.”
Basingstoke could see Kookaburra, a mile and a half offshore and heading almost directly away under full sail. He scowled, redoubling his pace towards his plane, now just a few yards away.
His phone rang, which forced him to put the box down to answer. As soon as he hit receive, he heard Trevor’s voice say, “Hi Butch. Are you still adrift? I’m about fifteen minutes from the divers, then I’m coming right back, as fast as I can.”
Basingstoke glared at Kookaburra and replied, pleasantly, “G’day, Trevor. Yes, I made it back to the beach, thank you. Where are you at, exactly?”
“Southeast of East Wallabi,” Trevor replied, knowing that Basingstoke could see Kookaburra.
“How far do you have to go?” Basingstoke asked, his interest piqued by Trevor’s truthful reply about his location.
“Just a few more miles,” Trevor replied, glancing at the navigation screen and seeing that his current course took him close to some reefs a few miles ahead. Then, he remembered what he’d read on the plaque at Webbie Hayes’ Fort. “Uh, I was being kind of vague, ‘cause they were diving the Batavia wreck site and don’t have permits or anything.”
All Basingstoke knew about the Batavia was that it was a famous wreck somewhere in the area. “Okay, I’ll forget I heard that,” he replied cheerfully.
“I do need to know how you found us,” Trevor replied.
“I can’t say what over the phone, but the press has a way to find you. That’s how I did it, and they will in the morning, no matter where you’re at. There are five reporters coming. I’ll tell you how when I see you, and show you how to fix the problem,” Basingstoke replied.
“I’ll be back as fast as I can, and I really need to find that out. Where will you be?” Trevor asked.
“I’ll be on the beach on the west side of East Wallabi. Just anchor offshore of there,” Basingstoke replied.
“Okay, thanks, and I’ll call you after I’ve made the pickup, and sorry for the delay,” Trevor replied, and hit ‘end’.
Basingstoke picked up his box, and walked the remainder of the way to his plane, where he began stowing his gear.
In Carnarvon, Fowler had finally gotten his call transferred from the Customs Service headquarters to the operations officer for the Jindalee radar system, who was located in Royal Australian Air Force Base Edinburgh, near Adelaide. Fowler quickly explained the situation, and requested that they track any aircraft taking off from East Wallabi.
Fowler’s next call was via radio to the Geraldton customs boat, letting them know what to expect on the island.
Aboard Kookaburra, Trevor watched Basingstoke for a few moments. “He’s still at the plane.” Trevor handed the binoculars to Joel, and then Trevor’s eyes narrowed. “He won’t say how he found us, but I think I know one possible way; he gave us my garlic crusher in Kalbarri, so maybe that’s it. It’s got a bug hidden in it. Shane, where is it?”
“In the galley,” Shane replied, just as Fowler called.
Trevor answered the phone, and explained about his call, and then his suspicions about the garlic crusher. He then said to Shane, “Get it and throw it overboard.”
Fowler heard that, and shouted, “Wait, leave it alone for now, we might need to examine it; he already knows where you’re at, it can’t hurt, and you said you looked inside for your log, so whatever is in there has to be tiny. Put gloves on and have a look, just in case. If there’s any chance his fingerprints are still on the outside, don’t touch it at all.”
Trevor relayed that to Shane, who nodded, his eyes opening wide. “I’ve got work gloves, and the garlic crusher is in the galley, but we both handled it a lot on the way back that day.” He dashed inside heading for the galley. He returned with the garlic crusher, already pulling the top off with a gloved hand. Inside, they found only the sea salt jar with Trevor’s mayday inside, and no signs of anything amiss, for there was nothing to find. Trevor put the phone to his ear and said, “Looks fine, nothing inside, that’s not it.”
“He knew where you were moored, Trevor. Could he have put anything aboard?” Fowler asked.
“We’ll search to be sure, but I didn’t see any sign of anything being disturbed,” Trevor replied.
Trevor finished the call while Kookaburra motored out the way she had come. As soon as they were clear of the reef, Trevor advanced the throttles to the limit, taking Kookaburra past East Wallabi Island before putting her on a straight-line course for Fleet Base West. No longer feeling the need to motor-sail, he shut down the engines. Then, he turned his attention to the sails, trimming and balancing them for maximum speed, taking Kookaburra to seventeen knots in the near-ideal conditions. He checked his navigation plot, and let his friends know, “If conditions hold, we’ll be at the base in the morning.”
On Grand Bahama Island, Bridget, Billy, and Bridget’s duffle bag were taken aboard Sanchez’s Cigarette speedboat for the four-hour run to his island home. The Cigarette, a long, slender racing boat capable of nearly eighty knots in ideal conditions, cruised at fifty knots for most of the way, to avoid drawing undue attention.
For Bridget, her wounded leg beginning to swell, every jarring bounce was agony in a pure and exquisite form.
When they arrived, Sanchez met them at the small dock, with a doctor in tow. Sanchez scrambled aboard, finding Bridget lying on a bench seat, the leg of her slacks stained by blood, her face showing agony. Sanchez turned to beckon the doctor aboard, but Bridget gasped, “Wait. We must speak first, alone.”
Sanchez nodded, and turned to tell Billy, the boat driver, and the doctor, “Return to the main house and await my call in a few minutes. Doctor, set up to treat your patient, anywhere in the house you think best.”
Sanchez watched them hurry away, and then arched an enquiring eyebrow at Bridget.
Bridget had rehearsed what to say, a careful mix of truth and lies, well aware that she was about to take the greatest gamble of her life. She was in pain, but took care to exaggerate it slightly, her voice labored. “Sanchez, George’s perfidy was far greater than we knew. It was not merely me he sought to destroy, but likely you as well. He confessed several things to me as I was about to give him to the alligators, especially after I shot out his knee. As you know, he and I had been together for many years, even before I killed my husband, Arnold. Arnold blamed me for our daughter’s death, but what I never suspected was that he knew that George was my lover as well as my employee. George became aware of this, and said nothing, not in all these years. Unfortunately, as George admitted, after Arnold’s death he found the master copy of a tape Arnold had made, what he described as ‘an ace in the hole’. Arnold was well aware of all the uses your predecessor and I made of George, your involvement, and how George managed to advance within the police department. The purpose of Arnold’s tape, along with that asset list, was to hurt the cartel, not just me.”
Sanchez blanched slightly, and nodded for Bridget to continue.
“George admitted as much, but I believed he was merely lying to bargain for his life. It was, I regret to say, not until after you left me that day that I set out to see if the tape he had mentioned actually existed. I… I did find it, right where he said. I played it, and it is worse than I believed. In it, Arnold details the cartel’s dealings with George, all of them, and you and I are both mentioned often. I could not warn you except in person, alone, due to the risk to us both should anyone find out, especially your fellow leaders of the cartel,” she gasped, and then winced in pain, gritting her teeth.
Sanchez’s palms began to sweat. “You were right; were any to find out, I would be killed, as would you, with the blessings of the other leaders of the cartel – or they would do it themselves. A war between the cartels is something they seek to avoid. Please tell me that you have the tape?” Sanchez asked, glancing at Bridget’s duffle.
Bridget shook her head. “No, I burned it at once; I felt the risk it posed to us far too great to do otherwise. However, that was one copy. If George was truthful, as I now believe him to be, he found Arnold’s notes before I did, many years ago, and destroyed the one that told of the tape. It is with the asset list that Arnold hid aboard Ares. George shared our desire that Ares remain forever lost, in part because that left him with the only tape.”
Sanchez shuddered. It was the first time Bridget had ever seen him show fear. “I see what George’s game was. If you were about to fall, he would use the cocaine to set you up, kill you, and then he would have the knowledge of that tape to blackmail me and the cartel if he wished, or as a bargaining chip to offer your government; they would do much to ignite open war between the cartels. Tell me, when did George learn that Kookaburra is Ares?” Sanchez demanded.
“Never,” Bridget replied. “The assistant state attorney was loyal to me, not George.”
Sanchez relaxed slightly. “So George believed his tape to be the only one available, and his was destroyed. That is good, but that tape on Ares must never be found. Also, we cannot trust anyone, even Basingstoke, to recover it. I cannot leave here for long, not without losing my position. What if we have Basingstoke seize the boat and turn it over to us? He must never know what is aboard.”
Bridget felt her tension ease. Now that Sanchez knew what was aboard Kookaburra – she had been truthful about the tape – his discovery of it would no longer cause him to kill her, as it would have before. Only she and George had known that she’d known of its existence for years – it was the only tape, meant by Arnold to destroy both her and the cartel, his hand stayed only by his death. Bridget had learned of it, several years before, via notes left by Arnold, and that tape was her prime reason for trying to prevent Trevor from searching for Ares, and along with framing Dirk to clear herself, her motive for trying to kill Trevor. That secret had died with George, and Bridget had just ensured her safety from Sanchez, though the tape still held deadly danger to them both. “I find myself homeless and unemployed, so of course I shall help in any way that I can,” Bridget declared.
Sanchez looked at her and nodded. The tape was as much a threat to her as it was to him, so she was the only person he felt he could trust to ensure its destruction. In the hands of anyone else, the temptation to use it for blackmail would be too great. “We could order Basingstoke to completely destroy the boat, but I’d prefer some oversight. We must delay until your face heals from surgery; his current plan could leave the boat intact enough for the tape to be found, as well it might be, if the authorities should consider the boat a crime scene. I’ll transfer a quarter million to his account and order him to put the attack on hold for now, and then he can proceed later. I still need Trevor’s head to demonstrate to my underlings that I keep my contracts, but what of the others? Only Basingstoke is aware that they were added to the contract.”
Bridget winced in pain, and then sighed. “Lisa and Joel are of no danger to me now and have been good company, so I see no reason to kill them. Perhaps sparing them would simplify the execution of the contract? However, if they are aboard the boat when it is taken, I have no objection if they need to be eliminated.”
Sanchez nodded. “Yes, agreed. I’ll inform Basingstoke of the change. I’ll let him know that he’ll be taking the boat as well as Trevor’s head, so he can make plans. I’ll increase his pay to a million more on completion for this, so he won’t quibble over the delay or the added difficulty.”
“How soon will I be able to go?” Bridget asked, with an exaggerated grimace of pain upon her face. She was indeed in agony, but she was intentionally letting it show more than she otherwise would have, as a means of increasing her believability to Sanchez.
“As a guess, you should be sufficiently healed in three weeks. The plastic surgeon I have in Haiti is quite good; he’s Swiss, and has been in the employ of the cartel for twenty years.” Sanchez gave Bridget a rare smile. “He can do great things, including wiping away many years.”
Bridget nodded. She’d never had a face-lift, having denied herself out of concern that she’d one day need to change her appearance. Plastic surgery could not give her a completely different face. However, a face-lift, combined with some work on her nose and cheekbones, along with a new hairstyle, would hopefully be sufficient to disguise her.
Sanchez glanced back towards his house. “You’ll have a new name and identity: a Cayman Islands passport, with matching driver’s license and birth certificate. That identity already has a bank account with fifteen million in it, for the businesses and operation you have transferred to me. The finalized passport and driver’s license photos will need to wait until after your surgery, but the rest is set up.”
Bridget glanced at her duffle. “My dear Sanchez, you are most generous. However, it is making me nervous hauling all this around. Could you keep it safe for me?” The request was born of a need to show trust, though also of practicality. Carrying over twenty million with her was a risk she did not need to take. It was also a powerful gesture; aside from the many millions she had stashed away in numbered overseas accounts, the duffle contained her entire available net worth. She needed it to be kept safe, but one of Bridget’s motives was that she desired to show trust in Sanchez, for she was, for the time being, dependent upon him for her survival.
“Of course, Bridget. Now, what of your traveling companion?” Sanchez asked, referring to Billy.
“He has proven his worth; I should like to keep him with me. I do not believe his face is well known by the authorities, so some minor work and a new identity should suffice,” Bridget replied.
“He is never to know of the tape. If he should become aware of its contents, kill him. The same applies to anyone else who becomes aware; kill them, at any cost,” Sanchez ordered, and then asked, “Do you think you can find the tape once you have the boat?”
“Perhaps. I only know that it is aboard, in a hidden compartment, with the asset list. I know the boat well, so I should be able to find it, given time. If I cannot, I can put rocks in her bilges for ballast and sink her in deep water, far from shore. In that event, I shall need Billy for his muscles.”
“Assuming the doctor here can take care of your leg, you will both be going to Haiti tomorrow. Your boat is already on its way there,” Sanchez said, picking up the duffle. “I’ll bring this to you myself, as soon as you wish. You have, yet again, proven yourself. When all this is done, there will be a position open for you, in charge of my banking operation in the Caymans.”
“Thank you, my dear Sanchez,” Bridget replied, wincing from more than the pain. She had taken note of Sanchez’s orders, and orders they were. Before, as the controller of a network vital to the cartel, they had dealt as near equals. Now, she found herself reduced to a subservient role, which grated on her even worse than the throbbing agony of her wound.
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