For Trevor and Shane, their sojourn in Fleet Base West was beginning to chafe. They were not free to roam the base unescorted, and going into Perth was judged to be too great a risk with Bridget still at large and presumed to be in Australia.
In the Bahamas, it was barely forty-eight hours since Bridget had replaced Sanchez. She had moved swiftly, assuming full control of his operation in the Bahamas, and was in the process of reactivating the surviving members of her Florida operation. The one aspect of Sanchez’s organization that had proved problematic was his banking operation in the Caymans, though a phone call from the first amongst equals had ended their recalcitrance within minutes. As a result, Bridget found herself gifted with a pleasant surprise; sixty-two million dollars that had belonged to Sanchez. She knew that he had even more hidden, though she hadn’t expected to get any of it.
However welcome the money was, it was a secondary consideration in Bridget’s need for the Caymans operation: it was that branch of Sanchez’s organization that provided the working false identities she’d used, and would soon have need of again: she knew that she dare not continue using the one on which she’d fled Australia.
The task at hand was a distasteful one. Sanchez’s body now lay next to Billy’s headless corpse in the cabin of the powerboat she’d borrowed and had ultimately bought. With its advanced autopilot, it was ideal for her current needs.
Out of fear of leaving her DNA behind, Bridget was directing the preparations from dockside. “Arrange them neatly; we cannot have this appear haphazard,” she said, and then after a few moments’ consideration, added, “Run a self-test on the EPIRB.” She was absently massaging her left arm, which was still slightly sore from having blood drawn.
When she was satisfied, Bridget gave the order, and the powerboat pulled away from the dock with one of her men at the helm. A second powerboat followed. Bridget watched as they receded to the west, and then turned to her chief of security, Xavier, and said, “We will wait until they have passed through the channel through Andros Island and the driver has been taken off. Then, we shall send the fax.”
Xavier smiled; he’d found Bridget, despite her ostentatious ways, far easier to work for than Sanchez. “The driver will trigger the EPIRB when he gets off. It’s a sixteen hour run from Andros to Key Largo at the speed the boat is set for; will it hurt anything if they intercept it early?”
Bridget chuckled. “The only risk is if they do not intercept it at all, which is why we are sending the fax – or rather, our friend in Freeport is.”
Bridget’s Operation Mincemeat, which she’d named after a somewhat similar World War II British operation, was underway. 1943’s Operation Mincemeat was one of the most successful and audacious wartime deceptions ever attempted. Its premise was to prepare a corpse to appear to be a drowned British courier, carrying fake secret documents. The purpose was to deceive the Germans regarding the first Allied landings in Europe, to make them think that Greece and Sardinia, not Sicily, were the target. Sicily was the glaringly obvious target from a strategic point of view, so much so that many believed the attempt at deception was doomed to failure – the Germans would never believe it. However, the plan succeeded, resulting in the Germans deploying forces to Greece and Sardinia instead of reinforcing Sicily.
Three hours later, Bridget received the expected call informing her that the boat was now crewless and underway for Key Largo, with an EPIRB transmitting. The EPIRB, a distress beacon, sent out coordinates, so the hope was that it would make the boat easy to intercept during its leisurely voyage towards Key Largo, one hundred sixty miles away. Bridget’s first call was to Freeport, where she uttered a codeword which was the signal to transmit the fax she’d prepared to the Key Largo police department, and a second copy to the Ft. Pierce police department. Her next call was to the first amongst equals in Colombia. That call, over encrypted phones, was almost as brief. “Jefe, Operation Mincemeat is underway.”
The first amongst equals, who had looked up the World War II operation, chuckled. “I’ll send our emissary to the embassy in one hour.”
The Key Largo fax was noticed first by a bored sergeant on desk duty. He glanced at the fax, skimming it, his eyes opening wide as he realized that it was something very unusual. Fax in hand, he raced down the hallway to his captain’s office.
The captain read it twice to be sure;
“To the Key Largo and Ft. Pierce police departments;
A powerboat is underway on autopilot from Andros Island to Key Largo, with a transmitting EPIRB. Aboard you will find the man known as Sanchez, who the authorities are searching for. You will also find most of a man we called Billy, who was, along with Bridget Bellevue, responsible for the murder of police officer George Alfred and private investigator Henry Wesson. Sanchez, Billy, and Bellevue were also responsible for the bombings in Geraldton, Australia. We send you these bodies as our notice; we had nothing to do with their activities. They were embarked on a private vendetta. If we need to contact you again, we will use the word ‘Aardvark’ as an authenticator.”
At the Australian embassy in Bogota, Colombia, a smartly-dressed man strolled into the lobby and asked to see any available Australian who had connection with the Australian police departments. “It is in regards to the Geraldton bombings. I have information to give, very detailed information,” he said, in impeccable English.
The desk clerk gave the visitor a smile and a nod of her head. Embassies often had to deal with all manner of cranks and nuts, and she suspected that was what she faced. “What sort of information?” she asked.
“For one thing, the location of the remaining bomb. It is like the two used in Geraldton; triggered via a cell phone. Someone needs to disarm it before innocent people are harmed. It was left in Toodyay by Bridget Bellevue while en route to Perth airport, where she caught a flight. She intended it as a diversion, if needed.”
The desk clerk blinked as her estimation of the visitor changed. “I’ll get someone for you,” she said, hurrying away to make a call to the deputy chief of mission. After a hurried conversation, she returned to mind the visitor until the deputy chief of mission could arrive.
The deputy chief of mission, a short, balding, bespectacled man by the name of Jones, ushered their visitor into a small meeting room – one wired for sound. Once they were seated, Jones pleasantly asked, “To whom do I have the honor of speaking?”
The visitor smiled. “My name is unimportant. I have been sent here to give you information which you will find helpful. The most important is the location of a bomb. It is in a car rented in Geraldton, and is on a side street in the town of Toodyay, close to the train station, to the west of it. The car has false plates. The bomb is a single stick of dynamite in the trunk, triggered via cell phone.”
“You also mentioned Bridget Bellevue, and that she left via Perth airport?” Jones asked.
The visitor nodded. “Yes, on a flight to Brisbane, and from there she fled via Auckland to Santiago, Chile. I have the flight numbers, and also the name on the passport she was using,” the visitor replied, reaching into his jacket’s inner pocket. He withdrew a slip of paper and handed it to Jones. “She was disguised as a cancer patient. You may find some of the hair she cut off when you search that car.”
Jones took the paper and glanced at it. “Thank you. Now, what are you asking of us in return?”
The visitor shook his head. “This is not a trade or a negotiation. My orders are to tell you all that I know and ask nothing in return. I represent a business cartel. My employers do not desire adverse publicity. This attack in Geraldton was done in their name, though without their knowledge. They do not tolerate such things. Therefore, they wish to share with you what they have learned.”
Jones was convinced that the man before him was probably not a crank; he was giving very specific information, which would soon be passed on for verification. Still, it was highly unusual; as far as Jones knew, the drug cartels had never before contacted the Australian government directly. The only viable course of action for Jones was to proceed as if the visitor was what he claimed. “We thank you for the information. Can you tell us more?”
The visitor shrugged. “I am under orders to tell you all that I know. My employers have sufficient sway with the local authorities that they would not hold me for long should you attempt to have me detained, so I wish to make clear that my employers and I are doing this voluntarily. They had nothing to do with the attacks in Geraldton. The Americans will shortly be intercepting a motorboat with two corpses aboard. One is a man who betrayed us – he was known as Sanchez. He was one of the key players though we do not believe he was in Australia. The other is the young man who accompanied Bridget Bellevue on her escape from Florida, and then to Australia. They only knew him as Billy. He was the unwilling source for some of the information I have given you. He and Sanchez were part of this scheme to defame us, as a cover for stealing many millions from us.” He then handed over a copy of the fax that had been sent from Freeport, and added, “This was sent to two American police departments one hour ago.”
Jones asked a few more questions before asking the important one, “Will you tell us where to find Bridget Bellevue?”
The visitor shrugged again. “My employers do not yet know. According to Billy, they parted ways in Santiago, and he flew to the Turks and Caicos, where we found him. He claimed no knowledge of where she was going. She had millions that belong to my employers, so they would be most interested in finding her. If she turns up in some location where you cannot get her, you have only to share the information with us, and we will settle the matter.”
“What was the reason for the Geraldton operation?” Jones asked.
The visitor gave Jones a bemused look. “Apparently, Sanchez had accepted a contract in our name. We believe the contractor was Bellevue, in order to frame someone in Florida for a killing she had committed – that of her husband. Those motives apparently no longer applied once she fled America, so my employers believe that perhaps Sanchez was unwilling to accept failure of his contract. Such things are an embarrassment in his line of work. My employers are also aware that Sanchez and Bellevue were using the Geraldton operation as part of a ruse, in order to steal a large sum of money from my employers. I can say no more about that.
Jones asked a further series of questions, though he learned little more. The visitor stood up, and said, “Thank you for your time, Mr. Jones, but I believe our business is at an end. My message is this; my employers had nothing to do with the events in Geraldton.”
“What about the sailor, Trevor Carlson? Are you still seeking to kill him?” Jones asked.
The visitor shrugged. “He wasn’t mentioned to me except as the target of Bellevue and Sanchez. So far as I know, my employers had no prior knowledge of the attacks on him, nor any interest in them. Unless he was complicit in Bellevue and Sanchez’s scheme against us – he was apparently their intended victim, not an accomplice – my employers have no interest in him.”
Jones eventually escorted the visitor to the door. It was only then that he realized that the man had used his name, though he’d never given it. That, Jones correctly guessed, was part of the message: we know more about you than you do about us. Jones hurried to the embassy communications room, where he called his superiors in Australia to pass on the information and give them a full account of his very unusual encounter.
It didn’t take long. The car in Toodyay was soon found and the bomb disarmed. Inside the car, they found hair clippings and other evidence. The forensic team carefully took samples for later DNA analysis.
The provided flight numbers allowed them to review airport security camera information, and soon they had their confirmation: Bridget had escaped from Australia.
Officer Gonzalez was soon notified of the major development in his case. He reviewed the information from the Australians even before the intercepted speedboat was towed ashore, and then was one of the first police officers aboard once the boat was in Key Largo. It was Gonzalez who first identified Sanchez’s corpse, based on the photos Henry had taken. The headless corpse of Billy was puzzling. It was taken, along with Sanchez, to the local police morgue for forensic examination and autopsy.
It took three days, but finally, Gonzalez had a forensics report, and with it in hand headed off for the long drive to his meeting with Frank Tittle in Orlando.
The autopsy of Sanchez revealed the drugs and poison in his system, along with the fatal bullet wound to his brain. A search of his clothing turned up little; a wallet with no identification, a pocket knife, and some keys. Everything, along with his clothes, was analyzed. The knife showed only traces of fruit, but his shoes yielded a surprise; traces of blood. A type test revealed that it was not his own, or Billy’s.
Gonzalez, overtired and road weary, breezed past Frank’s receptionist and made his way through Frank’s ornate office to his squalid rear office. Without preamble or greeting, Gonzalez grumped, “Why don’t we meet in your big office, instead of back here?”
Frank spun in his chair to face Gonzalez, and smirked. “You should feel honored; I rarely let anyone in here.”
“Including cleaning staff,” Gonzalez replied, wrinkling his nose as he surveyed a collection of empty pizza boxes and piles of folders and papers.
Frank shrugged. “I need to keep the outer office businesslike for clients. I do my real work here. It looks like chaos but I can find what I need. I suppose we could go to the outer office, unless you actually need information of some sort.” Frank gestured at a set of metal bookcases, which contained his law library. “I have that on my PC, but there’s nothing like the feel of a real book.”
Gonzalez picked up a ketchup-stained book, and then returned it to its precarious place atop a stack. “In here will do, I guess,” he said, taking the room’s sole empty chair. “I got the forensic results from Sanchez’s body. I want to know what you think,” he said, and handed Frank a copy.
Frank put on his reading glasses and spoke as he began to read, “That means you already have an opinion, but want to see if I concur. Okay, let’s see what we have here… whoa.” Frank leaned forward, studying the page. “That stuff in his blood; a lethal dose, but somebody still blew his brains out.”
“Keep reading; the interesting bit is near the end.”
Two minutes later, Frank dropped his reading glasses on a pizza box and stared at Gonzalez. “Either that’s for real – or it’s staged.”
“Thank you, captain obvious,” Gonzalez replied, with a smirk. “You read the fax, now have a look at this, which came in from the Australians. They had a visitor to their embassy in Colombia. The bomb was right where he said, and the airport info was dead on.”Gonzalez handed over another piece of paper.
Frank stared at the page, and blinked a few times. He leaned back and closed his eyes, and thought for nearly a minute. “Okay, how certain is the DNA data?”
“Firm. They ran it twice, and matched it from samples from her cars. The hair in Australia is Bridget’s, as is that blood from Sanchez’s shoes, which also contained a few of her skin cells.”
Frank let out a low whistle. “Interesting. Very interesting. The knife would be the obvious place if it’s a plant, but there was nothing human on it. But, there was blood in the shoe stitching, just a tiny trace, in only one shoe. Here’s my read; it looks convincing, though not as convincing as they could have made it had they tried. It fits that Bridget might have tried to pull a number on the cartel, and if she had, this would be a normal way for them to react. They would also want to distance themselves from the Geraldton bombings; that kind of publicity isn’t helpful to them, and they’d object if they were set up to take the blame. However, this is really the first we’ve heard that it was done in their name, right? So, all interesting pieces of a puzzle. None fits perfectly. That’s exactly how I’d expect it to be if this is real. Exactly. And that’s why my gut tells me that this smells.”
Gonzalez sighed. “I was kind of hoping you’d tell me I was wrong, but my gut agrees with yours. I really want her to be dead, but this… this just feels wrong. Too easy.”
Frank nodded. “Yet the cartel guy at the embassy implied she was still alive, or at least that they didn’t know. If they wanted us to think she was dead, why not just say they believed she’s dead? And why not do a better job of planting evidence that she’s dead? All this shows, even if real, is she was bleeding. They could have cleaned the inside of the boat as if it had been covered with blood, and planted some blood spatter plus some under the floorboards. That’d make it look like a lethal amount was once there. My read on this is that maybe, just maybe, the cartel is partially on the level about some sort of rogue operation in their ranks. We know Sanchez was high in their organization, and they sent us his body. As for Bridget, I found their offer to get her if she was somewhere the Aussies couldn’t interesting; they seem to be after her as well, but didn’t ask for info. We’ve got puzzles within puzzles here. I think we know even less than we did last week.”
“That’s my take on it as well. One thing that has me curious is why no head on that one body? That body has a DNA match to that car in Australia, and it also fits the photos the Coast Guard took of the guy on Bridget’s boat when she escaped Florida. But why no head? The cartel guy implied they’d extracted information from him – and that’d fit with what he gave us from Australia – but the body shows no signs of abuse. Maybe that has something to do with why they removed the head – that’s where they tortured him? This thing is giving me a migraine; too damn many loose ends. If this was a ploy on their part, wouldn’t they want the pieces to fit better?” Gonzalez asked. He paused for a moment, and added, “Where does this leave us with Trevor?”
“Interesting that they didn’t flat-out deny they were after him. The cartel guy said as far as he knew they weren’t, but left it open if Trevor was an accomplice of Bridget and Sanchez. They also didn’t volunteer that; it only came out when the guy was asked. If they were still after him, I think they’d have just said they weren’t. That looks like an afterthought; something the cartel guy hadn’t been briefed on what to say, and that’d fit if Trevor was of no interest to them. Trevor can’t be an accomplice; they’ve tried hard to kill him more than once and surely the cartel knows that… or does it? Maybe they’re kind of in the same boat we are; trying to unravel this and aren’t sure of all their facts. Maybe their only source was the headless guy. One thing I am pretty sure of; this is all fallout from some scheme of Bridget’s,” Frank said, while absently fussing with an empty pizza box.
Gonzalez grunted. “Bridget and her schemes. That’d fit. However, we’re still lacking motive; how would pulling what she tried in Geraldton profit her – or anyone? She wouldn’t be involved without some major benefit to her personally. The Aussies’ visitor mentioned millions being stolen, but not how. Sure as hell they know the how.” Gonzalez’s eyes glazed over for a moment. “Wait, she was traveling under a working fake passport. That’s not easy to come by, but Sanchez could probably swing it. What if her going to Geraldton was his price, and the cartel was on the level about Sanchez needing to complete the contract for internal political reasons? And what if those reasons were some kind of power play in the cartel? That’d piss them off enough to send us his body.”
Frank drummed his fingers on his desk for a few moments, before replying, “Cartel internal politics are downright Byzantine. A power play fits, and that’s a good thought on Bridget needing Sanchez’s help for a new identity. It’d also make sense that when things didn’t go well in Australia, Sanchez might kill Bridget. If he did, that’d fit with the cartel not knowing she’s dead. On the flip side, it could all be a ruse, but then it’s a poorly done one that is predicated on the assumption that the cartel wants us to think she’s dead but bungled the deception?”
“Occam’s razor; the simplest answer is probably right – unless Bridget Bellevue is involved,” Gonzalez replied, and then sighed. “She’s either dead or on the run from the cartel. The embassy’s visitor said they’d lost her trail after Santiago, and that’s not a fit with them trying to deceive us about her; if they were, why not just pick a place and say they believe she headed there? Okay, we’ll never figure that out based on what we have, so let’s move on to other aspects: I’m getting increasingly sure that we were wrong before when we thought the boat was what they were really after. What they did in Geraldton makes zero sense if the boat was an objective; why not just steal the damn thing instead of getting the whole country on the lookout due to bombs in one of their cities? That’s just ass-backwards if the boat was what they were after, but it fits if Trevor was the real target, or if he was just a pawn in some power play. The pirates and Suez were back when Bridget still had a motive to frame Dirk. Okay, whether or not Bridget is dead, is she or anybody else still hunting Trevor?” Gonzalez asked.
Frank shrugged. “If Bridget is dead, I’d be willing to bet that she’s not actively hunting Trevor. Other than that, she’s way too damn hard to predict. Okay, seriously though, according to the hit man Trevor interrogated, it’s likely Sanchez who hired him. Sanchez is dead and so is the hit man. They killed the hit man inside a top security Aussie prison, so whoever did that has one hell of a long reach. That looks like the cartel. We know that Bridget was involved with Sanchez and also part of the Geraldton mess, so it’s logical to assume the cartel isn’t too pleased with her. So, we’re left with kind of a binary solution set; either she’s alive but likely on the run and her motives for going after Trevor are no longer in effect, or she’s dead. Either way, it looks like she’s not after him anymore. I don’t think the full cartel ever was, or he’d be long since dead.”
Gonzalez scowled. “When a crime scene is staged, they almost always try to make it clearly lead to whatever conclusion they want. This doesn’t; it just raises a slew of questions and speculation.”
Frank arched an eyebrow. “True, but Bridget was an item with George Alfred for a decade or more, and he’d know about staged crime scenes too, right?”
“Good point; she probably knows all our methods. However, if I was setting this up, I’d have put a bit of blood in other places – maybe some trace spatter – and maybe a tiny trace of skin on the knife. Okay, we keep going around and around, but what we’ve got is it looks like she’s either dead or on the run. That’s good news, and the other good news is we know for sure Sanchez is dead. As for Trevor, it looks as if he’s finally out of danger – maybe. I’ll tell him to be wary, because the fact is we don’t know anything for sure.
Trevor and Shane went with Martin to pick up Rachel when she was released from the hospital, leaving Kookaburra in Fleet Base West. They were planning on spending at least two weeks on the farm, and did their best to pitch in and help. For Trevor, it was also a chance to spend time with his mother.
On their fourth day on the farm, the guarded good news that the threat was probably over came via a phone call from Greg Fowler. This was greeted with jubilation by Trevor and Shane, intermixed with words of caution from Martin, Rachel, and Fowler.
Bridget’s Operation Mincemeat had succeeded, to a degree. She’d designed it so that the two likely opinions – that it was a ruse, or that it wasn’t – would both lend credence to the belief that the threat to Trevor was over. It had, to a degree, been effective. However, she had no immediate way of finding out whether it had succeeded.
A few more days passed, and on a hot, glorious afternoon, Trevor and Shane were out mending a barbed-wire fence, shirtless in the sun, muscles flexing as they struggled to get the wire tight and neat. Trevor, covered in sweat, stood up, wiping his forehead with a thick work glove. “Almost done,” he said, with a weary smile.
Shane chuckled. “Speak for yourself; I’ve got to cook dinner. And no, you can’t help; your mum doesn’t need to go back to hospital.”
“Then quit complaining,” Trevor replied, laughing as Shane flipped him off. Their reverie was interrupted by the warbling of Trevor’s satellite phone.
It was Ned. “G’day, Trevor. I thought I’d give you a ring with some good news; I’ve just finished with the flooring on Atlantis, and finished up the galley a few days ago. The long and the short of it is that your uncle made me hire some extra help to work on searching Atlantis, so once that was done I put them to work. That, coupled with getting her painted and ready to play decoy, puts us well ahead of schedule. We were originally looking at the end of April, but now we’re looking at around mid March.”
Trevor beamed. “That’s awesome! I’d love to come up and have a look – maybe in a few days. Uh, did you find anything when you searched her?”
“Not a bloody thing. I told Greg I wouldn’t; I’d done a thorough job the first go round, but he wasn’t having it. We’ve used ultrasound, and used a borescope on the mast. Our best guess at the moment is that whatever it was might have been in the boom; it was an odd thing for the pirates to cut off and take, and was never recovered.”
Trevor snorted. “I don’t think so; I stripped that furling boom down to its parts during maintenance a couple of months before I left Florida. If something was in there I’d have seen it. I guess it could have been in some of the other stuff those assholes stole though... or the way it looks now, it was me they were after, not the boat.”
Ned groaned. “Don’t remind me; I wish we’d have figured that out before all the searching. Anyhow, Atlantis will look and handle better than she ever has. Which brings me to a question: what name do you want on her? I’m guessing that ‘Atlantis’ would be a bad idea – your uncle sure seems to think so.”
Trevor sighed. “Good point. Okay… how about we just skip the name on her bows for now, and skip the one on the transom too. We can just use something like the removable ones you made for Kookaburra, a couple of different names, until we’re sure all this is over.”
“Will do. Okay, give me a ring when you know you’ll be heading up. Ah, you’ll be coming up alone, I hope?”
A look of anger flashed across Trevor’s face. “No, Shane will be with me.”
“Ah, okay, I’ll wait to hear from you then. G’day Trevor,” Ned said, in a cheerful tone, and ended the call before Trevor could reply.
Shane arched an eyebrow at Trevor’s scowling face. “Don’t let Ned get to you. I wouldn’t object if you wanted to go alone.”
Trevor shook his head. “I want you there. Damn it, Ned pisses me off when he does that. Does he make a habit of pissing off customers?”
Shane chuckled. “Not usually, though he’s prone to getting very familiar with ‘em. He’s pissed off the Blakes a few times too, though they are pretty close to him.”
Trevor gave Shane a strange look, his eyes glassing over for a moment. “Ned said he’s searched Atlantis all over, but maybe there was never anything to find. That’d fit with them being after me and not the boat. But… Mom did play games with Bridget a few times, switching the names. Maybe… Ned was searching the wrong boat?”
“Or the bastard found and kept whatever it is,” Shane grumbled, and then paused for a moment. “But yeah, I guess that’s possible, except for one thing – Ned did a really thorough refit of Kookaburra, so wouldn’t he have found it then? I still think that he’d have kept it if it was valuable.”
Trevor began to slowly nod. “Okay, if he found it. There are a lot of places on a boat he wouldn’t look during a refit. The foam-filled voids in the hull, for one. I’ll bet an ultrasound could find anything in there, but he’d have no reason to use it there unless he was looking for something. Maybe we should get him to have a look at Kookaburra?”
Shane shook his head. “Not without us there.”
Trevor blinked. “Yeah, you might be right – and even if he didn’t try to steal it, would he just turn it over to the police? If he did, would the Federal Police even tell us what it was? I’ll bet they’d keep it, like they’ve done with the laptop and the spear gun. I think we need to find it ourselves – we can’t decide whether they should have it unless we know what it is.”
“Okay, but how do we get an ultrasound gizmo, and how do we learn how to use it? I’ll bet they cost a packet.”
Trevor shrugged. “Let’s see what we can figure out when we get back to Kookaburra. Maybe we can find it on our own – if there’s anything to find.”
Shane angled his head. “Unless Ned found it long ago. Let’s see what happens in Carnarvon.”
In Florida, Lisa and Joel strolled along the beach, hand in hand, shortly after having been told Gonzalez’s news via Dirk. Lisa turned, looking out to sea. “I hope she’s dead, but I can’t believe it. It’s just too easy… and…” Lisa’s voice trailed off.
Joel gave her a hug. “And you wanted to get her yourself, or at least be part of it. She hurt you. She knew your weak point – your mother – and used it. She used us to try to get to Trev. That’s what she does I guess; she uses people. She’s a monster. People like that don’t die easy, so I don’t think she’s dead either.”
“If she’s on the run, where would she go? She could go anywhere – her going to Australia is proof of that.”
Joel glanced out to sea. “I don’t know, and I wish I did. The police are looking for her, and maybe the drug cartel is too.”
Lisa scowled. “What can we do to find her that they can’t?”
Joel, shirtless and in boardshorts, stood behind Lisa, wrapping her protectively in his arms. “I can’t think of anything and I’ve tried. I’m sure the police have looked into everything.”
Lisa leaned back into Joel, and was about to reply when she froze for a moment. “Hey, I think you might have an idea. She was a part owner of that air conditioning service place my dad did some computer work for. I know the police went there a few times, but it’s still in business. What if they were just, I don’t know, keeping quiet until it all blows over? Maybe we should keep an eye on ‘em.”
“Maybe, but I bet the police are too.”
“Joel, still want to go to the Bahamas for spring break? We could look around for a place for Trev and Shane, plus we could take some pictures of Bridget with us and ask around. Maybe at air conditioning places, and marinas, and country clubs?” Lisa asked. She paused for several long moments, and then brightened to add, “Businesses do business with other businesses, right? What about looking through their business records and seeing who in the Bahamas they were dealing with?”
Joel shrugged. “Yeah, but the cops would have thought of that and done it.”
Lisa grinned. “Yeah, but they’d have been looking through the current records – the ones they seized. Records kept on a computer can be cleaned up – stuff changed or deleted. But what about computer records from years ago, before all the trouble started? The police probably wouldn’t have that.”
“Would they even keep a copy? And if so, how would we find it and get it?”
Lisa smiled sweetly. “One thing about my father: he’s meticulous. He backs up everything he’s working on, usually onto CDs. They’re encrypted, and he’s got boxes and boxes of ‘em in the garage. He always uses the same password too; I’ve seen him use it tons of times. So, what if I can find the disk that’s a backup of their database, and we look through it for Bahamas stuff?”
“Can’t hurt, but do you think she’d still be in the Bahamas with everybody after her?”
Lisa shrugged. “It wouldn’t make any sense for her to be, but she’s sneaky, so maybe it’s a good place for her, if everyone is thinking she wouldn’t be there.”
“I think you’ve gone crazy, that’s really far out,” Joel replied, with a soft chuckle, before adding in a more serious tone, “but that boat came from the Bahamas.”
Lisa spun around to launch a furious tickle attack on Joel, sending him laughing and writhing to the sand. “Crazy, huh? Maybe crazy is what we need,” she said, still tickling him furiously.
Three days later, after making arrangements with Ned, Trevor and Shane set out for Carnarvon in the Jeep, timing their journey so that they’d arrive just after dark.
En route, Trevor asked, “If Ned’s on the level, we’ve got about six weeks until Atlantis is ready. What do you want to do; set sail for Florida early, or hang around for a while?”
Shane glanced at the sunset, and thought for a moment before replying, “I want to go to Cairns before we leave Australia, but other than that, I’d like to get underway. The thing is, which way? We can either go south via Melbourne, or north via the Torres Strait. The winds across Australia’s north end blow east to west, so we’d be heading into ‘em.”
“We’re definitely going to Cairns no matter what, so… let’s make it our last stop in Australia. The wind patterns would make the north route difficult. The south way is longer, but we’d see a lot more; Melbourne, Sydney, and Canberra are places I’d love to see,” Trevor said.
“By leaving early, we’d have more time to see stuff too. Same goes for crossing the Pacific. Got a route in mind?” Shane asked.
“Not yet,” a momentary frown crossed Trevor’s face, but then he shrugged. “I figure we’ll check the weather patterns before leaving Cairns. I’ll let Uncle Greg know that Cairns is where the customs service should send my revolver.”
Trevor and Shane arrived at Ned’s yard to find the gate open, and Ned waving them to pull inside. Trevor parked behind the main building and jumped out, eagerly glancing towards the dock, where Atlantis floated on the inky water, her hulls lit by the glow of Ned’s work lights. “She’s beautiful,” Trevor said, in a tone of quiet awe; it was the first time he’d seen her since her new paint job.
“She’ll be just as beautiful inside soon,” Ned assured Trevor, while pointedly ignoring Shane. “Let me ring your Uncle Greg and let him know you’ve arrived, and we’ll go have a look at her.”
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