For those who would like to follow the action on a map, here's a link to google maps, centered on Geraldton, which can also be moved and zoomed to show other areas mentioned.
In Florida, Jim and Dirk had heard the news; another attack on Trevor was underway. Dirk phoned the farm to talk with Rachel. Martin was the only one there and he shared with them all he knew about the situation, which wasn’t much.
Dirk, in a morose mood, sat on the couch. “I wish there was something we could do, instead of just sitting here. Any word from Gonzalez?”
Jim shook his head. “Last I heard, he’s still on vacation, but he’s due back in a few days.” Jim sat down beside Dirk and took his hand. “This time, the police and customs guys are on the ball; they know what to expect, and took precautions. The attacker doesn’t know that.They’ll get him, but even if they don’t, Trev and Shane should be perfectly safe.”
“I wish I could believe that, and I wish I was there,” Dirk replied, scowling towards the door.
“Yeah, but we’ve been over that; you can’t take air travel, but the same does not apply to me. I could go,” Jim offered.
“Thanks, that means a lot, but he’s got Rachel and Martin there, plus his uncle and the police. From the sound of it, it’ll be over before you could get there anyway. I just wish he was home.”
Jim, in an effort to change the subject, reminded Dirk, “Don’t forget, Trev asked me to be his lawyer to take care of getting Shane an immigration visa, so he’s definitely coming home.”
“But what if you can’t?” Dirk asked.
Jim shrugged. “I’ll know for sure in a few weeks, but he’s coming home no matter what from the sound of it, just like he said. If he can’t get Shane into the U.S. on a permanent basis, Trev asked me to set him up with a business application for the Bahamas, so he can move Ocean Star Charters there. He easily has the assets to get immigration waivers for the Bahamas, plus this would solve the issues raised by Kookaburra’s very irregular registration papers, on top of the fact that she was reported sunk. I can get Shane temporary entry visas for the U.S., no problem, but he doesn’t fit for a special category work visa – an H1B – so getting him in permanently is problematic in the short term. Once he’s been working with Trev on charters for a couple of years and gets his captain’s ticket, I probably can get him the work visa. In the meantime, they’d be coming and going from the Bahamas to Florida all the time, just like Trev often did before, so it’d be almost as good as having them here.”
In Geraldton, the breeze off the water was picking up as the sun slowly sank toward the horizon. Bridget strolled towards the yacht marina’s parking lot, just yards from where Rachel had been reunited with Trevor only a few weeks before.
On that selfsame dock, a rented powerboat was moored. Bridget glanced towards it, and saw Billy and Basingstoke walking towards her. “I trust you had a pleasant flight?” Bridget asked, in a cheery tone.
“I could have done without the rough landing, but nothing’s broken,” Basingstoke replied. He took a breath, and then nodded back towards the powerboat. “We’re set.”
“Excellent,” Bridget replied, and then added, in a concerned tone, “there are issues as yet unaddressed. You have done well, but you are one man. If something goes amiss, my companion and I will be at our wit’s end. My superiors with the cartel are desirous that we have some point of contact other than you, in case of need. We are aware of your connections with one of the Melbourne syndicates – that was how you came to be retained by us. I could work via the man you’ve been dealing with, but I was ordered to establish a direct connection. We may all need their help, and I can provide whatever financial consideration is required.”
Basingstoke shook his head. “No can do, sorry. We have a strict code regarding handing out information such as that. If I had time I could make inquiries, but we don’t.”
“I have not the time to trifle. I can have a hundred thousand additional transferred to your account before morning,” Bridget replied, with a dismissive shrug.
Basingstoke hesitated for only the briefest of moments. “I’ll do it. The name he sometimes goes by is Gray; he’s… in my line of work, and he has the connections to provide whatever help is needed. Call him only in case of an emergency, give him my name, and use a recognition word.” Basingstoke fumbled for a pen, but Bridget was ready, handing him one, along with a pad of paper. Basingstoke scribbled a phone number, followed by a word. Then he said, “Ring up and ask for Gray, and give the person who answers that word. They’ll put you in touch.” The number was to a dedicated cell phone, carried by one of the bouncers at Gray’s regular bar. “When you get him, tell him Bassy sent you, that you’re one of the goons I was working with, and that I owe him a beer, a Mountain Goat Surefoot Stout,” Basingstoke wrote down the name of the beer. “He’ll understand. You’ll need to pay him for anything he does, that’s not out of my pocket. If the worst happens and the police get me, have him contact my lawyer.” Basingstoke felt no qualms about the deal; the hundred thousand would be very welcome, and he had no intention of returning to Melbourne; he planned to be permanently out of the country within days. He knew that Gray would not approve, but reasoned that this was only in case of disaster, in which case Basingstoke would have far greater concerns.
Five miles off Carnarvon, Fowler gunned the Zodiac’s throttle, turning to race back to Atlantis, sparing only a glance at the smoke column rising to the southeast. The news that the airfield was named Bellevue had Bridget in the forefront of his mind. Turning to the federal officer, he yelled above the engine’s roar, “I think we’ve been foxed. I read the report on how Bridget Bellevue evaded the American Coast Guard; she played them like a damn fiddle. I think she’s just done the same to us – she may be the one calling the shots, no matter where she is. That was probably a diversion.”
The federal officer stared at the rising column of smoke. “So, what’s the real game then?”
Fowler scowled. “I’ve got a bad feeling. He came near Geraldton before turning north. Either he jumped, or he had the plane take off on autopilot from Bellevue Airfield,” Fowler said, not knowing that the autopilot had not been capable of takeoff. “Either way, he could be in Geraldton, or on his way.”
“How would he know they’re there?” the federal officer asked.
Fowler stared at Atlantis as they approached at thirty knots. “He could have somebody watching the port. We were expecting an air attack, so we had them go in to get them off the boat, just in case. What if that’s exactly what he hoped?”
“I’ll send word to put more officers around them at the station.” There were only a few police officers available in Geraldton; doing so would require pulling them from other duty, such as patrol, or the guarding of Kookaburra.
Fowler nodded, though he had reservations. By the time they were back aboard Atlantis and turning towards Carnarvon, his thoughts were clearer. “That would be the expected response, wouldn’t it? What if one of the local cops is on their payroll?”
“It’d be a suicide mission with other officers around,” the federal officer pointed out.
“Not if it’s something creative, like poison, or something we haven’t a clue about,” Fowler opined. He reached for his radio, and told Grundig, “Craig, tell headquarters they should put customs people, or federal officers if any are about, around Trev and Shane. Something bad is happening. I don’t know what, but it’s bad,” Fowler said, wishing that he was in Geraldton.
In Geraldton, Bridget walked alone along the sea front, enjoying the late afternoon air. It had been half an hour since she’d parked the car in front of the Geraldton police station. Nestled within the car’s trunk was a cell phone Gray had rigged with a relay, wired to a detonator cap on a single stick of mining dynamite. Also in the trunk of the car were several tanks of propane.
Bridget glanced across the vacant lot separating the beach from the police station, and continued her stroll.
Inside the police station, Trevor and Shane sat uneasily in an unlocked holding cell; it had been thought to be the safest spot to put them. They’d been kept advised of some of the events in Carnarvon – though not the fact that Fowler was using Atlantis as a target.
Trevor paced, while Shane watched from a bunk. Trying to ease the tension, Shane said, “I always figured I’d end up in a cell, but I thought it’d be as the criminal, not the victim.”
Trevor gave Shane a worried smile. “At least it’s unlocked, and we can leave if we want.”
Shane shook his head. “I doubt they’d let us, but it’s probably for the best. I can’t think of anywhere safer to be.”
The echo of Shane’s words had barely died, when Bridget, now four blocks away, finished dialing.
Inside the trunk of the car next to the police station, the cell phone reacted to the call by trying to send current to its ringer, which had been diverted to the relay. The relay closed a circuit connecting the blasting cap to a twelve-volt battery. A fraction of a second later, the stick of dynamite detonated, shattering the propane tanks.
A fraction of a second later, Trevor was about to answer Shane, when the earth moved.
The resulting cacophonous blast, just fifty yards from Trevor and Shane’s cell, sent a massive fireball roiling into the sky, along with a moderate overpressure wave, spiked with a few bits of debris, fanning out in all directions.
The building shook, the walls trembling, the roof groaning, as the lights flickered out amidst a cloying cloud of dust. They heard a massive roar, and then silence, along with the dust, settled on them. Soon, they noticed the distant wail of several car alarms, as the station’s emergency lighting flickered on.
A few feet outside their cell, the officer on guard regained his footing. “Bloody hell,” he muttered, drawing his gun in response to the unexpected event.
The explosion had done only moderate damage to the station. The propane had not added greatly to the blast, nor had it been intended to; its purpose was the massive fireball rising into the sky above Geraldton.
Bridget heard the blast, turning in feigned shock to watch the fireball rising skyward. She reacted like the many people out and about in Geraldton; a moment of staring, and then hurrying away from the scene. She kept going, walking fast along the shore, heading for her vantage point near the commercial marina, where she had another car parked. She glanced offshore, at a motorboat lazily cruising, fishing rods on display, a mile from the marina, and smiled.
Inside the jail, Rachel, who had been talking to one of the officers, dashed for Trevor and Shane’s cell, slowed by her reliance on her cane. She found them surprised but unharmed, though Shane was coughing from the dust.
“Mom, what’s going on?” Trevor asked.
Rachel glanced around, in fear and confusion, before she stiffened her back and replied calmly, “I think it was a bomb; I saw a flash, then some windows blew in.”
A police officer barked an order into the cell, “Get under the bunks, in case there’s more.”A second officer, gun out, raced in to aid the defense against the unknown threat.
Trevor gave Shane a worried look, and then asked the officer, “Is anyone hurt?”
The officer checked in on his walkie-talkie, and then replied, “We don’t know yet – it looks like a bloody big car bomb went off in the car park. If anyone was out there – it’s not looking good. The guys in the front office are a bit shaken, but no reports of injuries aside from a few scratches and cuts from the glass.”
The blast had damaged the police station’s phone system, but several officers had cell phones. A flurry of calls went out, several to the Customs and Border Patrol’s Perth regional headquarters. There, the operation commander gave the order, “Get the protectees moving.” It was a logical response; they could not assume only one bomb, or one attack. However, as a logical response, it was also a very predictable one.
Fowler docked Atlantis at the Carnarvon customs dock, and then raced for his office. He’d already heard the news of the explosion in Geraldton. “What’s going on?” he asked, as he burst through the door.
Craig Grundig shook his head. “Nothing since the last update. The only casualty – aside from a few cuts – that we know of so far is an officer from the car park in Geraldton; the blast knocked him off his feet, he’s got a broken arm and he may have a busted eardrum. He’s a bit shook up, but it looks like he’ll be okay; they’re taking him to the hospital now, though the Emergency Department is busy as hell; the blast caught about five pedestrians and a motorist and, though none appear to have life-threatening injuries, some sound pretty banged up. They were lucky; a few people saw the fireball, it was enormous.”
Fowler’s eyes narrowed. “An enormous bomb, yet just a few injuries so far? The bomb went off at the station Trevor is at, so they know right where he is… how close was the bomb to the station?” Grundig didn’t know, so Fowler made a few calls. At the end of them, he gave Grundig a worried look. “It wasn’t right next to the building. It was on the street, not parked closest to the building, and that car park is uncontrolled, so it could have been in there. I think it’s like the plane; a diversion – or a manipulation. A way to get us to set things up like they want,” Fowler said, thinking aloud.He then picked up the phone, to call his headquarters in Fremantle.
In Geraldton, Trevor and Shane found themselves being hustled out of their cell. “We’re putting you two in a patrol car and taking you somewhere else,” one of the officers said.
“Where?” Shane asked.
“We don’t know, they haven’t told us yet, just to get you two moving,” was the disquieting reply.
Rachel tried to go with them, but the officers refused; there would already be five people in the car: two police officers, and a customs officer, along with Trevor and Shane.
Trevor took his mother’s hand for a hurried squeeze, their fingers lingering, and said, “It’ll be okay, Mom. We’ll see you soon.” There wasn’t time for more; a police officer bundled Trevor forcefully into the car, which was soon speeding away.
Rachel watched it go, fighting back the tears. She walked a block to a phone booth to call Martin. During the call, a thought began to nag at her; what if whoever was behind this was watching? And if so, where were the likely vantage points? Rachel could only think of two, and returned to her car to head for the first one; the HMAS Sydney Memorial, a few blocks inland and situated on a low rise, which gave it a commanding view.
In Fremantle, the Customs and Border Patrol regional commander weighed his options. This was his operation, but the nature of it, especially the car bomb, put it well outside of his experience. Such events were very rare in Australia – though there was one particular precedent that sprang to mind. The commander was relying heavily on the advice of the Federal Police, thinking that they had more experience in such matters. The problem was, the Federal Police weren’t sure, either. Whoever was making the attacks knew exactly where the target was, and had demonstrated some frightening capabilities.
The harried commander took Fowler’s call, in the knowledge that those closest to the case often had the best insights.
After answering a few quick questions from Fowler, the commander asked, “What’s your assessment as to our best course of action?”
“Sir, we’re up against pros with considerable resources. I was given the American reports on Bridget Bellevue, who we think is behind the attacks. She’s a killer, but more to the point, she’s crafty and manipulative; a very able tactician. She manipulated the Florida Police into going after two innocent men, she killed a detective, and then she tried to fake her own death and kill a police officer by blowing up her house. She’s been running some sort of a major money laundering operation, at least, for one of the drug cartels, and doing so for decades. Then, she fled right into the teeth of an American Coast Guard operation designed to get her, and waltzed through it, taking out two helicopters in the process. She seems to like to go big; make the major play. Her name is Bridget Bellevue, and that Debonair that just put a smoking hole in the ground near Carnarvon refueled at a little dirt strip called Bellevue Airfield.”
The commander replied with an observation of his own. “Remember the Russell Street Bombing in Melbourne, back in ’86 or ’87? A car bomb attack on a police station, much like what’s happening in Geraldton. The Federal Police think that pilot we’re after is connected to the Melbourne underworld, so this fits.”
Fowler thought it through, and replied, “Sir, my gut read is she’s orchestrating this from wherever she’s hiding, so we might want to see what we can find regarding phone calls from overseas.”
“Consider it done. Now, what do we do with your nephew and his friend?”
Fowler went with his gut. “That bomb wasn’t well placed. My best guess is it was designed to make us take the expected response: draw the protection in closer. If what the Federal Police say about organized crime connections to one of the Melbourne syndicates is true, this starts to make sense: a contract killing. So, we can’t rule out an inside job – maybe one of the Geraldton police is on their payroll – and the apparent attempt to force us to draw the protection in closer makes me suspicious. The other problem is that we’re massively shorthanded in Geraldton. Where I’d like to see my nephew and his friend is Fleet Base West. I think they’d be safer there than anywhere. The other side might know they’ve been there before, and they might expect us to put them on a customs patrol boat or just drive them there. So, my thought is that we should put them on that Bombardier that was chasing after the Debonair, and fly them there direct.”
“Concur on that,” the commander replied. He hung up, and checked; the Bombardier was still at Carnarvon, where it had landed after the Debonair’s crash.He consulted with the pilot, and was told that the plane could be in the air within the hour and in Geraldton within two.
When the Bombardier’s pilot received his impossible orders from his base, he phoned in to report something that Fowler and the commander, not being pilots, hadn’t thought to check. “Sir, the runway at Fleet Base West is tiny – less than five hundred meters – so there’s no way I can land a Bombardier there.” The runway had been built in the 1970s – a time when the Royal Australian Navy still had a fleet carrier – principally for aircraft carrier pilot training and disembarking the air arm while in port, hence the short length.
That left the commander with a dilemma; they’d need to take their protectees to the airport in Geraldton, and then fly them to an airport in Perth, before driving them to Fleet Base West. After a quick chat with the Geraldton Police, he ruled out that option as too risky, at both ends of the flight: too predictable, and too exposed. The Bombardier could take them anywhere, but another issue was the fact that it would take it at least two hours to arrive in Geraldton. The customs boat at Geraldton was the commander’s other option, and he believed it to be a means of immediately getting the protectees out of harm’s way, so disregarding Fowler’s concerns, he gave the order.
The police cruiser carrying Trevor and Shane performed a screeching U-turn and raced for the Geraldton customs dock.
The Geraldton police force was small; seven officers in total, only five of whom were on duty when the events of the day had begun unfolding. Aside from the two officers driving Trevor and Shane, the remainder, plus the off-duty ones, had converged on their station to assess the damage and help with the expected carnage. As a result, when the cruiser arrived at the customs dock, they found no one, nor had they expected to.
With the customs officer in the lead, they hustled Trevor and Shane out of the police cruiser and onto the customs boat. A few distant rising bubbles far down the dock went unnoticed.
It was then that they noticed a mangled access plate at the helm station, and then wire strippings and cuttings scattered in the cockpit. The few drops of seawater escaped their attention.
“Everybody off!” the senior officer yelled, seeing what he was intended to see; signs of a bomb, and bombs were very much on their minds. In this case, the bomb was in their minds alone.
On the opposite side of the marina, obscured from view, Bridget, with a nonchalant air, pulled out one of her cell phones, and waited.
She watched the chaos near the customs boat, and then, when she judged the timing to be correct, she dialed her cell.
The resulting blast, a hundred feet off Kookaburra’s landward side, rocked the port, pummeling Kookaburra with a mild shockwave and a smattering of debris from the annihilated trashcan.
A quarter of a mile away, the thunderous roar caught Trevor, Shane, and the officers by surprise, and they spun around in time to see the roiling bulbous remains of a fireball rising into the sky, with Kookaburra’s upper mast partially visible in front of it.
“Shit, they got Kookaburra,” Shane said, his voice numb with shock, the perspective making that conclusion a logical one.
Trevor broke into a run, Shane by his side, racing ahead a few yards until he could see his boat. “She looks okay,” he said, as the frantic officers caught up.
“Looks like they’ve failed twice. Maybe they thought you’d be either on your boat or at the station, so they wanted to blow up both,” one of the officers said, before looking back at the customs boat. “We’d best get a bomb squad to the customs boat; the closest one’s in Perth.”
“Okay, lets get under cover; we’re far too exposed here,” the senior police officer, a military veteran, said. He was well aware of what a sniper could do.
Feeling helpless, Trevor ached to be in the one place he was in charge; at the helm. He glanced longingly at Kookaburra. “They tried to destroy her and may think they did, so that’s the one place they’d never think we’d go to now, right?”
The customs officer looked around again, and then at Kookaburra. “They did something to my boat, and tried to blow up yours; they’re trying to keep you ashore.”
“Then let’s head for the open sea, all of us; we’re supposed to keep moving, right?” Trevor replied, turning to sprint to Kookaburra before anyone could object.
When they reached Kookaburra, they dashed aboard, but the senior police officer had second thoughts. “Let’s search it first, just to be sure,” he said.
“What are we looking for?” the junior officer asked.
The senior officer, a balding man in his fifties, scratched at his head, and then replied, “A person – or a bomb, though if they had a bomb aboard, why try setting one off right next to her to sink her?” He glanced at Trevor and Shane, and ordered, “You two, stay inside and away from the windows. If they didn’t see us arrive, I don’t want to clue them in now as to where you are.” Trevor and Shane reluctantly headed for the galley, where they did their part by searching the drawers, cabinets, and other likely spots.
The officers checked the salon, and then spread out to search, checking the four adjoining cabins, the galley, and then the bilge access hatches and engine compartments.
When they were done – they’d found nothing amiss – the senior officer let the customs officer go to check on his boat; they wanted to make sure there were no bystanders close, in case there was a bomb. They were seriously short-handed, and they had many people to protect, not just Trevor and Shane.
After watching the distant proceedings on Kookaburra for a few moments more, Bridget walked away, chuckling to herself, and after a moment’s thought, continued walking towards Point Moore – the western tip of the peninsula that sheltered the harbors on its north side – to see if Kookaburra actually sailed. Feeling triumphant, she strolled out onto the beach, feeling the brisk onshore wind in her hair, listening to the plaintive cry of gulls. She then called Billy, who was still on the motorboat, now nearing its dock at the pleasure boat marina, a mile east of where Kookaburra was moored. “Drive to the lighthouse and pick me up when you’re done,” she said, and then she called the pilots of her chartered jet, to make certain that, in spite of the chaos in town, they were still standing by.
Bridget was not alone at Point Moore. Over a dozen people were in view, many of them out for a look around, disturbed and alarmed by what was going on in their town. Bridget ignored them, and they ignored her – all but one.
Rachel wasn’t yet sure; it had been ten years, but the facelift had erased much of the passage of time. Fowler had mentioned to her, in a call just minutes before, the name of Basingstoke’s final refueling stop, so the slight initial familiarity had even more meaning.
Rachel looked, from a dozen feet away, seeing her in profile. The face was somewhat changed, but the poise and bearing – that’s what made Rachel suspect. As her conviction grew, so did her rage. She took a few steps, approaching from the side. “G’day, Bridget,” Rachel said, watching for a flash of recognition, which was instantly forthcoming.
The words made Bridget’s pulse race, and her head snapped around, just in time to see Rachel, who was holding her cane like a baseball bat, let out a grunt, swinging her cane for all she was worth.
The blow caught Bridget in the abdomen, cracking a rib and sending her staggering backwards, doubling over in pain. Rachel hobbled in pursuit, swinging again, smashing the cane into Bridget’s leg.
Bridget reeled under the furious onslaught, collapsing backwards, landing on her ass with a soft thud as she hit the sand.
Rachel stepped forward, raising her cane above her, aiming it for Bridget’s head. “You malignant bitch!” Rachel grunted, as she swung again.
Bridget saw it coming and rolled away, the handle of the cane missing her by an inch as it buried itself in the sand. In a flash, Bridget realized that her attacker was Rachel.
Bridget, now face down in the sand, became what she had once been; a girl growing up in the hardscrabble world of poor rural Georgia, and the instincts that went with it. The instinct to fight, with whatever was at hand. Her mind flashed to her purse, now lying by her side, and the gun she’d carried for years, though it was now half a world away.
Rachel, stumbling on her weak leg in the soft sand, was about to bring the cane down on Bridget’s neck, when Bridget rolled again, and sent a handful of sand hurling into Rachel’s face.
Rachel’s eyes slammed shut, too late. Unable to see, she swung wildly, missing Bridget again.
The fight had not gone unnoticed. “Stop!” a man’s voice cried out, as he raced across the sand towards the two battling women.
“Help!” Bridget wailed, clutching her ribs as she tried to crawl clear.
Rachel aimed at the sound of Bridget’s voice, and swung again, hitting Bridget with a glancing blow, a moment before the onrushing man, an avid rugby player, caught Rachel with a vicious tackle. The two collapsed in a heap, knocking the wind out of Rachel.
Bridget struggled to her feet, and saw that several other people were coming, some at a run. “Call an ambulance!” she cried, punctuated by a sob. “She’s having one of her spells!”
The next man to arrive, who had seen Rachel’s attack on an apparently innocent victim, dashed to Bridget’s side. “You’re hurt,” he said, stating the glaringly obvious.
Bridget gave him a mournful smile. “I’ll be fine, but look after Rachel; she’s having one of her spells, worst I’ve ever seen. I’ve got a phone in my car, with her doctor’s number. Please help her, she’s out of her head,” Bridget gasped, pulling free to pick up her purse and hobble towards the parking lot.
The man was not about to let an injured woman stagger off alone. “I’ll go with you, there’s plenty to look after your friend,” he said, trotting to catch up to Bridget.
Bridget was in vicious pain, but forced herself to walk upright as she reached the parking lot, trying to avoid drawing further attention. The man helpfully by her side was but one issue that she had to deal with. She knew that if he saw her get in the car, and gave a description to the police, it would not go well for her. “Please, see how Rachel is doing, I am fine,” she adamantly protested.
“There are people with her, and you’re hurt. I’m staying with you, Ma’am, to make certain you’re okay,” the man replied, with a disarming smile.
“I shall be fine. Please, allow a lady her dignity. I must insist, leave me. I shall return shortly, after calling the doctor. Please see how my friend is; that’s the best help you can be to either of us,” Bridget said in a commanding tone, fumbling in her purse, her fingers coming to rest on the stick of dynamite, which she intended to show as a last resort if the man did not leave.
“I’ll be on the beach then,” he said, with a reluctant tine, as he turned to go.
As soon as the man had gone, Bridget pulled her cell from her purse, frantically speed-dialing Billy. “Where are you? I’m hurt, I need help,” she gasped.
Billy, who was nearing the lighthouse, was stunned as much by the change in Bridget’s usual formal speech as her statement – he’d heard that change once before, when she’d been shot while they were being hunted by the Coast Guard. “I’m almost at the lighthouse,” he replied.
The bystanders clustered around Rachel, who was still pinned by the rugby player. “Go easy on her, you great oaf,” one woman ordered, giving the rugby player a shove with her foot. “She’s not well.” She then stooped, picking up Rachel’s cane to keep it out of her grasp.
Rachel, her eyes burning and unaware of Bridget’s retreat, recovered her breath to gasp, “That’s Bridget Bellevue. Call the police!”
“Take it easy, help is on the way,” one of the men replied, ignoring the unfamiliar name and reaching for his own cell phone to dial 000, the Australian equivalent of 911. As he completed the call – a request for an ambulance – Rachel yelled, loud enough for the operator to hear, “Bridget Bellevue is here!”
The emergency operator, who had never heard the name before, made sure the ambulance was heading out, and then notified the police of the apparent assault. Due to the damage at Geraldton’s police station, the call was routed to a temporary post set up in the court house next door, and taken by one of the officers who had been on duty when the bomb had hit his station. He knew Bridget’s name from the briefing, and when he heard it, everything changed.
Beaten and battered, Bridget kept going, limping, wincing from the pain of her cracked rib, across the main street, and into the housing development on the inland side. There, she returned her cell to her ear, glanced at a street sign, and told Billy, “I’m on the east end of Anchor Way.”
Billy consulted his GPS, which showed street names, and replied, “Be right there.”
Less than a minute later, Bridget breathed a sigh of relief as she heard the screech of tires, and looked to see Billy, coming down the street at high speed.
As soon as she’d struggled into the passenger seat, she said, “Go, head anywhere, but no speeding!”
Billy pulled onto the main road, which would take them past the port.
The paramedics were the first to arrive, and as they reached Rachel’s side, she demanded, “Give me a phone; I need to call the police!”
“They’re already on the way, Mrs. Blake. They told us who you are, and they’re after that woman now. Let’s look after your eyes.”
“Later. Right now I have to speak to… Greg, my brother–in–law. This is urgent! It’s about the bombings,” she demanded.
After some back and forth, and a fast call to the police, a paramedic dialed his phone for Rachel as she recited the number, and put it to her ear. While she spoke to Fowler, he examined her eyes, and then prepared an eye wash.
Rachel managed to give Fowler a description of Bridget, before a sharp pain interrupted her call. She clutched at her abdomen, the sudden, bitter agony wracking her.
“Maybe I shouldn’t have tackled her so hard,” the rugby player, standing nearby, said, a look of abject horror spreading across his face as he saw the color fade from Rachel.
Aboard Kookaburra, the news hit like lightning as they all heard the crackling walkie-talkie, “Bridget Bellevue has been seen, Point Moore, near the lighthouse, on foot, wearing a beige business suit. Suspect is presumed to be involved in the bombings, and should be assumed to possess a bomb. Suspect is presumed armed and highly dangerous. Apprehend at once. All units, please respond.”
“We’re probably closest,” the junior officer said. It was only a couple of blocks away. “I can run there,” he prodded, edging towards the salon door.
Another call came in, bearing the confirmation that Bridget, likely wounded, had been seen entering the housing estate. It was followed by another ‘all units’ call, along with a repeat of the warning about explosives. The officers knew that they were likely the only able-bodied officers capable of responding, and also that Bridget posed a grave and imminent danger to the local residents.
“Let’s take the car,” the senior officer replied, well aware that the more feet on the ground, the better, and not willing to let his young partner face such a suspect alone. He tried to call the customs officer, belatedly realizing that they were on different radio nets. Out of time, he turned to tell Trevor and Shane, “Cast off, get out to sea as fast as you can. Keep in touch by phone.”
Trevor needed no prodding. Kookaburra roared from the dock less than thirty seconds after the police officers were ashore. He turned for the channel to the sea, ramping up the throttles to full power while still within the harbor.
Billy followed the main shore road north through town. At a traffic light, he glanced out to sea; the curve of the shoreline giving him a great view of Kookaburra, charging out of the harbor, silhouetted against the orange sky and the bright afterglow of the sun, which had dipped below the horizon just moments before.
Bridget, still wracked by pain, looked, and then fumbled under the seat for the binoculars, letting out a soft gasp of agony as she did. She studied Kookaburra for a moment, and then reported, in a dejected tone, “I see only two, both blond. I don’t believe it; this insane scheme, it actually worked!”
Billy glanced at Kookaburra for a moment, surprised that there was no sign of a police officer; they’d expected one to sail with Kookaburra, though the lack of one would make things even easier. The light changed, and Billy gently accelerated. “You sound upset, isn’t this what we wanted?”
“Yes, of course, it is just the pain,” Bridget quickly replied.
Aboard Kookaburra, now a mile west of Point Moore and running blacked out, Trevor raised sail, catching the strong onshore wind as he angled south, seeking as much speed as he could manage. As Kookaburra accelerated through fifteen knots, he said, “What the fuck is going on? Planes, bombs, and now Bridget is here?”
“They’ll get her, then it’s over,” Shane replied, hoping it was true. They didn’t know of Rachel’s encounter with Bridget, only that Bridget had been seen on foot.
Feeling hunted, Trevor laid in a course of southwest, seeking the safety and solitude of the open sea.
Trevor trimmed and balanced the sails, seeking every knot of speed, listening to the wind whistle in the rigging as he felt Kookaburra respond. She was on a tight reach, sailing close to the wind, a condition where she excelled.
The long swells imparted a gentle fore-to-aft roll to Kookaburra as she raced towards the glorious afterglow of sunset, which was still coloring the western horizon with vibrant shades of red. The motion of the boat was comforting, though for differing reasons, to those aboard her: Trevor, Shane, and Basingstoke.
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