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.
Bridget and Billy’s flight took them to Nassau, capital of the Bahamas. There, she had convened a private meeting for the following noon, with her many contacts from throughout the western Bahamas branch of Sanchez’s organization; she knew a great many of them fairly well, due to her decades in the business. She had long since chosen the ones to meet with – most had been part of the interface between her operation and Sanchez’s. They were well aware of her precipitous flight from Florida – three had been involved in the starburst maneuver off Freeport – and she’d been spreading the word that she’d had to leave millions behind in safe deposit boxes, a fact already widely suspected.
Tired though she was – their flight had arrived in the late evening – Bridget excused Billy, and then worked the phone until the early hours. She slept well, as she always did, which proved fortunate; she had a very long day planned, and it began for her just after dawn. Her alarm woke her, and soon she set off for a walk, scissors in hand.
She knew Nassau well; a small city built on the slope of low coral hills, the buildings often an eclectic mix of pastel hues. Bridget strolled with purpose, enjoying the quiet morning air, pausing every so often to snip a few flowers and place them in her tote bag.
It was, she felt, a glorious day.
“Shane, where are you?” Trevor yelled, racing through Kookaburra’s salon. He’d been ashore meeting with a customs officer, trying to find out what was going on.
After a few frantic moments, he spotted the note on the main table. He snatched it up, and saw that it was from Shane, left to tell him that the federal police had taken him to the main naval office.
“Shit!” Trevor mumbled, as he raced to the dock and took off at a full run.
When Trevor finally made his way into the building – it was a restricted access facility – he was ushered into a room, where he found Shane, along with a federal police officer.
“Do I need to call our lawyer?” Trevor asked.
Shane shook his head. “I don’t think so, everything seems okay this time. They wanted to ask a few questions about the flying hit man, because he’s dead. I told ‘em we heard about it on the news, but that’s all we know.”
The officer smiled. “We certainly don’t consider you suspects in his killing – it was within a prison, and you two didn’t leave the base during that time. We’re looking for clues he may have given before you began recording him.”
Trevor sat down and went through another recount of the events. At the end, he shrugged. “I wish we knew more. Any ideas on why he was after us? I think he was telling the truth when he said he didn’t know, but somebody has to.”
“We can’t divulge the particulars of an ongoing investigation, but we don’t yet know much that would be of concern to you.”
Trevor and Shane scowled, and then Trevor stood up. “We were almost killed. That means we’ve got a fucking good reason to know!”
The officer held up his hands. “Calm down; we can’t very well tell you what we don’t know. All we’ve learnt relates to our investigation into his murder, and we can’t discuss that with you. We haven’t turned up anything that indicates that the threat to you is ongoing, or that it isn’t.”
Shane arched an eyebrow. “What about the hunt for Bridget?”
The officer gave them an apologetic shrug. “I’m not allowed to discuss that, except to say we don’t have her yet. We’re doing all we can to get her, though.”
Trevor chewed on his lip for a moment, and then asked, “What about the rendezvous at Onslow? We’re past the time for that, and that’s my uncle out there, on my boat.”
With another apologetic shrug, the officer said, “I can’t discuss that either; it’s part of an ongoing investigation.”
Trevor was growing frustrated. “Okay, what about our computer? We need that back. I want the spear gun back as well.”
Again, the officer shook his head. “Sorry, but those are evidence in an ongoing investigation. You ought to have them back in a few months at most.”
Trevor, his temper rising, asked, “Why not just copy the files off the hard drive? That’s our computer, not the killer’s, so why do you need the computer itself for your investigation of a dead guy? It’s not as if you’re going to prosecute him, right?”
“Sorry, but I really can’t say, though it’s standard procedure to retain items of evidence while an investigation is ongoing.”
Trevor ignored the response, and asked, “We need to go see my mother; she’s in the Geraldton hospital. Can we?”
Yet again, the officer shrugged. “I really don’t know. That’s up to my superiors, to the customs service, and also the navy, seeing as how you’re on their base.”
With the interview at an end, Trevor and Shane were sent out of the room. As soon as they were alone in the hallway, Trevor whispered to Shane, “Did you catch that bit about him knowing we hadn’t left the base while the hit man was being killed? That means they checked, thinking of us as suspects, again. This, after they did such an awesome job of keeping the hit man away from us. I’m also getting really fucking sick of them asking us whatever they want, and us getting nothing back. Uncle Greg told us that Bridget didn’t show up, but they wouldn’t. Another thing; there’s no reason for them to keep the computer; they could just take the files off it and give it back. Procedure, procedure, procedure… well, fuck procedure. Feel like going to see Mom?”
Shane began to smile, and then angled his head. “Sounds good to me, but how?”
“I’ve got half a mind to just cast off in Kookaburra without telling anyone… but nah, the navy has been good to us, and so has the customs service. So, how about we go ask them if we can go? If they say yes, we go.”
“I’m old enough to hire a car,” Shane suggested.
Trevor’s eyebrows shot up. “That’s right, we could just drive. That’d solve a lot of problems. Okay, let’s go see what the navy says.”
It took some searching, but they eventually located a captain; the same man who had given them a warning upon arrival that the federal police wanted to interrogate them. After a brief conversation, he explained that they were free to leave the base, provided the federal police and the customs service did not object. Trevor and Shane smiled, thanked him, and made their way to the customs office, where a low-ranking member referred them back to the federal police and the navy.
Smiling, Trevor and Shane returned to Kookaburra. As soon as they were aboard, Trevor cupped his ears and said, “I don’t hear any objections from the federal police, so let’s pack a bag for a few days, then head for Perth to rent a car.”
“Road trip!” Shane replied, with a huge grin.
They quickly packed a bag, and then Trevor paused, glancing towards the galley; they’d hidden the Makarov by taping it to the bottom of a drawer. “I’d feel better if we took the gun along, just in case.”
“If we get caught carrying it, they’ll put us in jail. We’ll have to take a train to get to Perth, and they’d go bloody bonkers if they found us with a gun on a train,” Shane cautioned.
Trevor sighed. “You’re right. Damn it… it sure didn’t stop the hit man. Okay, how about we just take Kookaburra?”
“Aye aye, captain Bligh,” Shane replied, snapping Trevor a garishly exaggerated salute, and a big grin.
Trevor chuckled, and then replied, “If we’re doing that, we’d better wait for nightfall. The problem is we’re still trying to hide from the press, and the press is probably all over Geraldton. Taking Kookaburra probably isn’t a good idea. So, now what?”
Shane shrugged. “Okay, we’ll be driving up and back and no one will know where we’re at, so it’s unlikely we’ll have any trouble. In Geraldton, we’ll probably have police about. Maybe leaving the gun here is best.”
Trevor reluctantly nodded. “You’re right. Okay, let’s lock up and go – wait, we’ll need the car GPS,” Trevor said, and then dashed to get it from the navigation desk, where it had been stored since they’d used it to find the Blake’s farm. He returned with it and slid it into the bag.
“Good thing you remembered that; you’d have probably driven us to Ayer’s Rock without it,” Shane quipped. Then, he asked, “Are you going to let anyone know we’re going?”
Trevor grinned and nodded. “Sure, once we’re there. If anyone objects, I’ll tell ‘em we did it for security; if nobody knows where we’re at, the news can’t leak out.”
Three hours later, they were in their rented economy car, Trevor at the wheel, heading north on what their GPS informed them would be just over a four hour drive.
In her hotel suite, Bridget paced as she completed yet another series of phone calls. She knew she had long since passed the point of no return.
Billy returned from his errand to the parcel delivery service, where Bridget had directed that a package, ordered online under the name of Billy’s current set of ID, be sent and held for pickup. With a nervous smile on his face, Billy said, “I got it, it was there waiting. I got it first, then went shopping for the other stuff.”
“You have done very well, Billy,” Bridget said, giving him a grateful pat on the back. “Go ahead and order yourself some lunch, I know how you love room service, so make it a hearty meal, whatever you like. Order a Swiss steak for me, medium well,” Bridget added, as she began opening the shopping bag – from a department store – and then her delivered package.
Billy, who didn’t need to be asked twice, made a beeline for the phone and ordered up two lunches, his mouth already watering. It was a bit early for lunch, but Billy’s appetite knew few bounds.
Bridget extracted one of the four identical one-liter bottles from the bag. Billy, done with his call, came over for a look. “Dimethyl sulfoxide? What’s that?” he asked.
Bridget smiled pleasantly, and with a chuckle, ruffled Billy’s hair. “You are a curious one, are you not? It is an industrial solvent. Now, to head off your next question, Sanchez needs it so I am taking him some. It is well to stay in his good graces, and a thoughtful gift can have such a calming effect.”
Billy took a deep breath, and then asked, “He does know about me, right? That I’ll be working for him?”
Bridget gave Billy a warm smile. “Of course. He is expecting you when we arrive. However, you need not fear for your future. Should things not work out between you, I would be delighted to employ you myself. I also intend to pay you well for the help you have been; remind me when I reclaim my bag tonight.”
With a broad grin and feeling great relief, Billy replied, “Thanks!” He cast an inquisitive eye on the other supplies he’d picked up for Bridget; two glass lasagna dishes, some dishwashing gloves, a hand-cranked cheese grater, and a small bottle of dish soap.
Bridget knew a question was coming, so with a smile, she said, “And those cooking utensils, dear Billy, are gifts for the retirement party I mentioned. I shall attend to the wrapping en route. Relax, the hard part of this is over; we shall soon be safe amongst friends.” Bridget paused to fuss with the arrangement of oleander blooms she’d placed on a side table; she’d cut them long, with plenty of stem and leaves. She sniffed daintily at them. “Such a pleasant scent they have. I have so missed these islands.”
“I’ve never been to Nassau before, it’s pretty cool,” Billy said.
“We shall be traveling the remainder of the way by boat; it will be quite a pleasant trip,” Bridget remarked, and then added, in an offhand way, “Please pick us up some refreshments and snacks for the journey, as well as some ice and an ice chest.”
Part of Bridget’s reason for sending Billy on more errands was to get him out of the way for her meeting.
Aboard Atlantis, off the old town site of Onslow, Greg Fowler paced in the salon. It was two days past the planned rendezvous, and hopes were dimming. Fowler had four police officers and Craig Grundig aboard, and all were growing restless. “I don’t think she’s coming,” Fowler said, for about the hundredth time.
Grundig scowled. They’d had high hopes; the satellite triangulation track on the satellite phone had led north, and the Bombardier had taken to the air, allowing the police to slowly zero in on their presumed target, in the remote mining town of Tom Price. The police had converged on the town, and had finally located the signal in the back of the timber truck, which was delivering a load of logs to the enormous open-pit mine, for use as temporary shoring. “She sent us on a damn wild goose chase by sticking that phone in a truck,” Grundig grumbled.
“The question is, where did she do it? We have the truck driver’s route… I’m thinking that she was heading south and wanted us to think she was heading north,” Fowler said, and then gave his head a disgusted shake. “We don’t know the name she’s traveling under, and we’ve only got a description. We’ve had no firm leads for days.”
Grundig sighed. “She’s run rings around us. In spite of all we did, she got her flying hit man aboard Kookaburra. Trevor and Shane were damn lucky and got the bastard, but now he’s conveniently dead; killed right under our bloody noses inside a prison.”
“That demonstrates a very long reach. The thing is, with that kind of an ability, why all the theatrics with Kookaburra in Geraldton? Something about this makes no damn sense.”
Grundig scratched his chin, deep in thought. “I’ll bet it does make sense – to somebody. We just need to figure out how. If they just wanted Trevor dead, they could have bided their time and hit by surprise. It’s that bit about wanting his head that bothers me; if the killer was telling Trevor the truth, it’s weird. Why go to all that trouble for a contract hit? Just do it smooth and quiet, like they did to get rid of that flying hit man.”
Fowler looked around, his eyes narrowing. “We’re assuming the killer knew the motives. He said he didn’t, and maybe he didn’t. Bellevue wouldn’t tell him without good reason. What if it’s all misdirection: the real target is the boat? Think about it; they went after Atlantis in the Suez, then with the pirates, and now we’ve got her looking like Kookaburra. So, what if they fell for it but not in the way we intended; what if they thought Trevor was on Atlantis? It’d be yet another attempt to go after the boat. There has to be a reason; something aboard that they desperately want, or want destroyed. Okay, let’s get underway for Carnarvon. I’m going to ring Ned and tell him to search her.”
Grundig’s brow wrinkled. “I though he already had?”
“He did, including with ultrasound. But this time, he’s going to search until he finds whatever it is, and I don’t care if he has to grind the boat into dust to do it,” Fowler said.
Grundig blinked. “Who gets to tell your nephew that his boat is being turned into a pile of shavings?”
Fowler’s answering smile was evil personified. “The junior officer present, of course.” He sobered for a moment, and then added quietly, “I’ll do it… right after it’s done. Hopefully, Ned can find whatever it is without too much damage.”
Fowler had the right idea, but the wrong boat.
The cause of the confusion was that Bridget and Sanchez had several intertwining reasons for their various attempts on Trevor’s life.
Bridget’s primary reason was her discovery that her late husband had hidden an asset list and a tape on Ares. Trevor’s searches for the ‘wreck of Ares’ off Bimini had long been a cause of concern for her, out of fear that he might find her. However, Trevor’s flight from Florida had created an opportunity; kill him in such a way as to frame his father, including for the murder she had committed and was suspected of – that of Arnold Bellevue – and it had very nearly worked.
The tape on Ares, however, had always been her greatest fear; it was a clear threat to the cartel due to the likelihood that it would ignite a war with rival cartels. Were her true role – which she was sure Arnold had included on the tape – to be learned, she faced death.
Sanchez’s motives were parallel, but slightly differing. He too sought to make a peripheral use of Trevor’s death. At first, he had not known of the tape, and had only been acting to fulfill a contract. After the failure of the pirates, he had added Trevor’s head to his goals as a handy display to prove to his ever more fractious lieutenants that he did what he set out to do. Once he learned of the tape from Bridget, he knew that his own life was on the line; his fellow leaders of the cartel would surely kill him were they to learn of it.
Bridget’s primary motive during her mission to Australia had been outmaneuvering Sanchez. Trevor, Shane, and Kookaburra had been mere pawns in that game, not the primary target – this time.
Fowler’s error was in assuming one consistent motive, while in reality there were several, and they had shifted over time.
Promptly at noon, Bridget welcomed her longtime contacts to her Nassau hotel suite. After a brief round of greetings, she asked the man from Freeport, a longtime associate, “I have heard rumors that Sanchez’s photo is being flashed around?”
He nodded. “Yes, and my contact with the DEA says they are preparing some kind of a move on Sanchez. This has many of us greatly concerned.”
Bridget smiled. Minutes before his death, Henry Wesson had told her of the photos he’d taken during Sanchez’s visit to Bridget’s home. She’d arranged for Sanchez’s name to reach Frank Tittle’s ears when she heard that he’d been asking around. She had hoped for a more strenuous response from the American agencies. However, she judged that this would have to suffice. It was but one of many things she had put into play during her countless hours on the phone; only some of them needed to pay off.
She concluded her pitch by stating as a fact that Sanchez was falling; their choice was to pick a side, and hers offered them riches. Their other choice, left unsaid, was that they could choose to go down with him.
Sanchez’s troubles had been long in the making. The spectacle of the failed hits in Suez and off the Seychelles had been a factor, though but one of several that had undermined his power. He held sway mainly by fear; the members of his organization were not well paid, which made for a decided lack of loyalty. Further, his organization had been largely dependent upon Bridget’s, and then his failure to assume effective control of what remained of her operation had been yet another blow – though that too was partly Bridget’s doing. His perceived inability to protect Bridget had been a further sign of weakness. Several parts of his distribution network in Florida had recently been hit by police raids, courtesy of anonymous tips by Bridget. All of these factors were known by many members of his organization. In his business, a perception of weakness was an invitation to be replaced.
Bridget knew Sanchez’s ways well, and his method of dealing with his loosening grip was easily predictable to her; he had, a week before, attempted to stem the rising tide by executing another of his lieutenants – his fourth in recent weeks – which put many in fear of their own lives.
Bridget used this fact to point out the danger. “Sanchez has summoned many of you to his island for this evening’s planned events. As we’ve seen, that means he’s planning a demonstration killing, again. He has become ever more capricious with those, as his grasp on power grows ever weaker. Who amongst you shall be next?” she pondered, strolling about the room. “You?” she said, pointing at one. “Or you?” pointing at another, and then she gave them an exaggerated shrug. “It is no matter. I will take care of the problem, for I have always looked after my people. Simply take me to Sanchez and do not oppose me, and I shall reward you well indeed. His superiors are not pleased with his reign of fear or his inept, tight-fisted ways. Nor am I. You have known me for many years, and I return loyalty.”
Bridget’s presentation took another fifteen minutes, and then she concluded with, “Gentlemen, your mere presence here, speaking with me, marks you – and me as well – for death should Sanchez remain. For all our sakes, I must succeed, and so I shall. When I do, you will each be half a million richer. Now, I will give you keys to the safe deposit boxes I left behind in Florida. Identification is not required for access; a signature and a key are all you will need. I will provide samples of the various signatures for you tomorrow. All of you make frequent trips to Florida, and all of you have women in your employ that can learn to sign one of the various names I used. Should any of the funds prove unavailable, I shall make good on the debt.”
Bridget’s ploy was an effective one; they were aware that Bridget had left millions behind. That, however, proved the lesser incentive; fear of being Sanchez’s next victim was an even stronger factor. The mere fact that they’d met with Bridget put them in even greater peril if she failed. Their agreement came within moments.
Bridget pressed on. “Time is of the essence. I have created a window of opportunity, though it shall not last. I need a few simple things, and then we are off,” she said, with a voice of certain command.
Bridget knew that leaving them alone could place her in peril; one tip to Sanchez and she was dead. However, her contacts would be in each other’s company and would be so until the matter was resolved, so she believed betrayal unlikely. She consoled herself with the fact that life was not without its risks.
Plans for a rendezvous were made, and a timetable set. She then dismissed her contacts with a cheerful rejoinder that they need not worry; she would take care of them.
Bridget’s next move was to confirm with Sanchez that he would be at Exuma International Airport and expecting to meet her that afternoon.
Billy returned twenty minutes later, with the asked-for supplies in hand. They made their way to a dock in Nassau’s yacht harbor, where one of the items she’d requested – a boat – stood ready. They boarded it, with Billy struggling to carry the supplies and baggage. Bridget directed him to stow them in the boat’s small cabin, and then cast off. Within minutes, they were in the channel between Nassau and Paradise Island, the home of the massive Atlantis resort, its distinctive towers dominating the northern skyline.
Two hours later, just off the Nassau yacht harbor, a flotilla of four speedboats formed up. Bridget smiled as she looked at the other three boats, which were carrying a dozen armed men in total; Bridget’s contacts, along with a few underlings. Bridget, at the helm of her borrowed boat – a powerful cruiser with a sophisticated navigational suite – took the trailing position as her little fleet set course for Sanchez’s island, planning to rendezvous ten miles before reaching it. She then engaged the autopilot.
Bridget knew that her little force could not hope to defeat Sanchez’s people on his island, but she smiled in the knowledge that they would not need to. In her designer purse, she felt the reassuring weight of another request fulfilled by her contacts; a revolver. It was an item that she hoped she would not need again.
The drive north gave Trevor and Shane time to think and relax, and also to sweat; the air conditioner on the well-worn economy car had failed soon after leaving Perth, and the summer heat was oppressive.
“There’s a roadhouse coming up, let’s get some cold drinks and some food,” Shane eagerly observed.
Trevor glanced at Shane. “How do you know that?”
“Because I’m not utterly oblivious; there’s been two whacking great billboards for the roadhouse, and one of them had a picture of food. And I like food,” Shane replied, with a big grin.
“Remind me to cook you dinner when we get back,” Trevor offered.
“Cruel and abusive bastard! With your cooking, that qualifies as a blatant death threat!”
“Hey, you said you liked food,” Trevor objected, laughing and raising his hand in a one-fingered salute.
“What you do in the galley has absolutely no relation to food,” Shane replied, with an exaggerated grimace on his face.
Trevor pulled into the roadhouse, his own stomach beginning to rumble as he smelled the cooking. “Let’s get it to go, so we can get to Geraldton quicker.”
“Works for me,” Shane replied, as they got out, both leaving their shirts where they lay, on the back seat.
They returned with food and drinks in hand; Shane with a burger with the lot, and Trevor with two cheeseburgers. They both had huge sodas with lots of ice. As they pulled away, Shane took a drink, and then said, “At least this way we won’t melt.”
The food proved a welcome break. Soon though, their minds turned again to the problems that they faced. Shane broached the subject first. “Trev, something just doesn’t add up. If the hit man was telling the truth, they want your head, and the boat. He didn’t know why. It kinda makes sense that they’d want the boat; to get out of the country. Except, it doesn’t; why go on the one boat the authorities would be looking all over for?”
“So it does and it doesn’t make sense. That about sums it up,” Trevor replied, with a sad smile.
“It does look like the first attempts – the ones on Atlantis – were to try to frame your father. From what we know, that’d make sense, in order to get Bridget out from under the legal problems she was facing. But he’s been cleared, so why come here in person like she did? She used to own Kookaburra and Atlantis, so maybe she’s after them for reasons that go back a lot of years.”
Trevor sighed. “But why would she want them back or destroyed now? She’s on the run for murder, what could she possibly care about stuff that’s a decade or more old?”
Shane chuckled. “Yeah, if it’s evidence against her, like everybody thinks. I think that maybe they’ve got it all wrong. What’s the one thing somebody who’s on the run really, really needs? Money and lots of it. Your mum brought a load of it with her when she came back to Australia, right?”
Trevor’s eyes opened wide, and he had to struggle to keep his mind at least partially on his driving. “Yeah, that might kinda fit… maybe Bridget needs money, and there’s a load of it on one of the boats? The pirates tore Atlantis apart; maybe they were looking for it. Mom did play games with Bridget by swapping the boats’ names around, so maybe they don’t know which of the two they were looking for? Mom suspected that Bridget was looking for something… and when Mom bought Ares, it was from Arnold Bellevue, who was preparing for a divorce. What if he hid money or valuables and Bridget has been looking for it all these years? In the Suez, the bomb looks like it was aboard, then was stolen when Atlantis was robbed. So, thieves aboard, looking for something. And then the pirates… yeah. She’d think she could get away with it, because she was setting Dad up to take the blame. But why put a bomb on first?”
Shane scratched his head. “Dunno, that kinda makes no sense… unless the investigators got it wrong somehow. Or… you were searching for Ares, but with little chance of finding her until you came up with that underwater archeology idea, and Lisa and Joel lined up that professor to search. What if Bridget found out? We know she was eavesdropping on them. She found out, and wanted to be the one to find Ares. So, she goes after you, because killing you would frame your father and get her off the hook. Or maybe she didn’t need the money until she had to run for it. But either way, we know they were after Kookaburra… though maybe they thought she was Atlantis – according to what your uncle told you, that hit man did install the security system at Ned’s yard.”
Trevor sighed. “Good idea, but Ned has been searching Atlantis. If there was anything to be found, he’d have probably found it.”
Shane coughed. “Hold the fuck up… just how the hell do we know he hasn’t found anything? If that bastard found money, he’d bloody keep it.”
Trevor didn’t share Shane’s low opinion of Ned but saw no point in arguing. He also had to admit that Shane could be right. “Okay, good point. So, maybe Ned found it. Or, maybe he didn’t, and it’s on Kookaburra.”
“Or was,” Shane replied, in a dark tone. “What if it was in the bows he cut off? You’ve seen his yard; he keeps fucking all sorts of junk lying around, but he told you he got rid of the old bows. Or, maybe he found it during the refit?”
“Could be,” Trevor admitted. “But that’d mean he’s had the money for years. Does he live like he’s had a big windfall?”
Shane arched an eyebrow. “Let’s see; somebody comes into a lot of money – or stuff worth a lot of money – like maybe an extra yacht to go with the one he’s already got. Yeah, it’d be really far-fetched to think he’d still be a bloody cheapskate after a windfall, and want to hire the smallest, cheapest car he could.”
Trevor began to blush slightly. “Hey, it wasn’t just the ten bucks a day we saved on the rental; a small car uses less gas, and gas is expensive here.”
“I rest my case,” Shane replied, while rolling his eyes.
Trevor chuckled. “Shut up. Okay, you’ve got a good point, plus he wouldn’t want to do anything suspicious. So, maybe Ned found it. Or, maybe he didn’t. The thing is, what do we do about it, either way?”
“If it’s on Kookaburra, maybe we could find it. But… wouldn’t Bridget still keep coming after it?” Shane hid a sudden grin, and added, “Maybe the best way out of this is to just give her what she wants, including Kookaburra.”
Trevor cringed. “One of the things she wants is my head.”
“I’d hate to have to give in to her like that; Kookaburra is wonderful, and very useful to have. Maybe we could replace her with the insurance,” Shane said, fighting to keep from laughing. “As for your head, we could replace that with a coconut; they’re roughly the right shape and suitably hollow inside.”
“Asshole,” Trevor grumbled, and then began to laugh. “And you call me a cruel and abusive bastard. At least I haven’t proposed giving anyone your head – yet.”
Shane crossed his arms, and with a mock pout replied, “Unlike yours, mine is useful, you cruel and abusive bastard.” Shane chuckled, and added, “Okay, seriously, the thing is, if we’re right, she’s only after whatever she thinks is aboard because she thinks it’s aboard. If the police get her, our worries are over. But if not, just letting her know that it’s not there anymore might work. If we find it, we could go to the press and announce it.”
“I like that idea a lot more than giving her my head,” Trevor quipped, and then paused to think before adding, “I want to see her caught, which that wouldn’t do. Okay, she’s after something; whether it’s money or something else doesn’t matter too much. So, if we find it, maybe we could find a way to let her know we have it, and that we’d give it to her for money or something… basically, set a trap with it.”
“That’s devious and sneaky… I like it!” Shane said, and then puffed out his bare chest, “But don’t forget, if it works, it was me who thought of it.”
“Don’t distract me, I’m driving,” Trevor replied, with a chuckle.
“And you do have a knack for running into trees,” Shane reminded him, yet again.
Less than an hour out from Sanchez’s island, her cracked rib aching due to the strain, Bridget made a phone call. “My dear Sanchez, I am afraid I had to come by a different route. There was a last-moment emergency, though all is now well. I am sorry that I could not alert you sooner.”
Sanchez, waiting near Exuma International, answered tersely, “Where are you, and do you have it?”
“I will be arriving at your home in just over an hour, by boat. I have the ice chest with me.”
“See that nothing happens to it, and do not mention what it is – it must be seen as my doing. I will be there as soon as I can,” Sanchez said, breathing a sigh of irritation, coupled with relief. He was not well disposed toward sudden changes of plan.
“That may be out of my hands; your people are indeed thorough, though I suppose they can be trusted to keep a secret.”
“I’ll make certain they do not bother with your box,” Sanchez assured her, already savoring the display he’d make of it.
“Thank you. Ah, there is one other matter; the man who made the cover of a medical shipment possible, and who is with me now; he is an old associate of mine. I promised him something from the duffel bag I left in your care. Will it be available? I should prefer to take care of the matter promptly, rather than having him linger on the island; I’m sure he has no interest in your timeshare resort,” Bridget said. The implication was clear; it was someone who could not know what the island was, nor what Sanchez’s business was.
“In my vault, but wait until I get there; only I have access,” Sanchez replied, neatly torpedoing that part of Bridget’s plan. Her information was outdated in that regard; Sanchez, growing ever more paranoid, had changed the combination several weeks before, and had not given his chief of security the new one. Her plan had been to start handing out large sums of cash prior to his arrival. Now, she could not.
“I will ask him to wait on his boat,” Bridget replied.
“Very well. See you soon,” Sanchez replied, and ended the call. He then returned, along with his two bodyguards and pilot, to his small float plane for the flight back to his island. While in the air, he called his chief of security to make absolutely certain that Bridget’s box would not be interfered with – his chief of security was the only man he trusted to know of his plans. He then left instructions to prepare the main room of his house for a meeting of every operative on the island – Sanchez, as was his practice, had called in many of his people from throughout the islands for his planned display.
Sanchez’s island base was a far smaller, more modest affair than Norman’s Cay, another Exuma Cays island taken over and used by a different cartel in the 1970s and 1980s. Norman’s Cay had handled many drug flights a day, including jet transports, and had been protected by armed guards, openly patrolling with attack dogs. It had even had a radar station.
Unlike the operation at Norman’s Cay, Sanchez did not use his island for drug transshipment. It had no runway, though it did have some homes and a small pier. Norman’s Cay, by contrast, had held a hotel and a yacht marina. Sanchez had learned from their mistakes; it did not do to draw undue attention to his operation’s nexus.
The challenge Bridget now faced was difficult in the extreme; her goal was to end the day in full control of Sanchez’s operation. Just killing him would not suffice. She also knew that she was putting her own life in deadly peril. However, it was a chance she was willing to take; ever since she’d fled Florida, she’d craved a return to the power and prestige that running an operation entailed. Now, it was almost within her grasp.
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