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    C James
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Circumnavigation - 129. A Ghost in the Machine

Chapter 129: A Ghost in the Machine

 

Off Cape Burney, Kookaburra was cruising slowly, four hundred yards out past the breakers. Shane hung up the cell phone, ending the call with the shaper. “He sees us, and he’s going to paddle out, about three hundred meters north of us,” he said, reaching for the binoculars. A few moments later, he said, “I think I see him.”

Trevor looked, advancing the throttles slightly and accelerating to four knots.

The shaper, a surfer in his early 20s, drew closer, and Trevor pivoted Kookaburra on her engines, turning the bows seaward and bringing her to a relative halt.

Their visitor, paddling furiously, made his way to the starboard aft swim-dive platform, where Shane met him and helped him aboard. “Welcome aboard Kookaburra,” Shane said, eyeing Trevor’s new board. “This looks ripper!”

Due to the proximity of the beach and the tricky currents, Trevor was unwilling to leave the helm, so the shaper carried the board to the cockpit, his flippered feet slapping at the deck. “G’day, Trev. One tri-fin shortboard, with the outer skags cambered and linear rails. I trimmed the width by two centimeters and reduced the convex on the underside, to match your height and build.”

“Awesome!” Trevor exclaimed, taking his new board and studying it. “I can’t wait to try it out.”

“There’s a decent left-hand beach break, though slightly blown out,” the shaper said, flicking his thumb towards the shore.

Trevor was momentarily tempted, though the thought of the time it would take, plus anchoring Kookaburra on an exposed shore, deterred him. “I better not, though I want to. We’re kind of in a hurry anyway. I’ll be hitting the waves in a couple of days.” Trevor opened his wallet and, with a smile, handed the shaper a twenty. “Thanks for bringing it out.”

“My pleasure, mate,” the shaper replied, tucking the banknote into the pocket of his shorts. He puffed out his bare chest with pride. “I always do the best job I can. Try the board out, and if you need any more for your quiver, give me a shout.”

“I’ll do that, thanks,” Trevor replied. “Have fun body-surfing.”

“I don’t do it often, but figured now was a good time,” the shaper replied, flicking a glance down at his swim fins. Their presence had tipped Trevor and Shane to the shaper’s intent.

With a smooth dive, the shaper took his leave and began finning back towards the break. Trevor watched him until he caught his first wave, and then advanced the throttles, taking Kookaburra seaward at eight knots. “I’d love to catch a few sets, but I want to get to Carnarvon fast. Should we let ‘em know we’re coming?”

Shane shook his head. “Not this time. I want to surprise Ned,” he said, with a menacing tone.

Trevor checked the navigation display and the weather forecast, and then programmed a course that entered Shark Bay via South Passage. “Okay, three hundred and six miles to go. What time do you want to arrive?”

“Anytime after nine but before lunch, so Ned will probably be in his yard.”

Trevor did the calculation in his head. “It’s about nine now; I’ll try to have us off Carnarvon about this time tomorrow, though that’s assuming the forecast holds. We’ll go for max speed this afternoon, because the winds probably won’t be as favorable overnight.

 

 

They took turns standing watch through the night, and were off Carnarvon on schedule. Trevor took Kookaburra up the Fascine to Ned’s dock and smoothly brought her alongside. Shane handled tying up, and then joined Trevor in the cockpit. “Okay, I’m off to see the devil in his lair,” he said, while pulling on some shoes.

“Want me to come along and hang back, just in case Ned is, well, Ned, and goes apeshit?” Trevor asked.

Shane, wearing denim cutoffs and a T-shirt, shook his head, and then, after a thoughtful glance ashore, peeled off his shirt and handed it to Trevor. “Nah, I’ll be fine. I want to rattle him and piss him off a bit; it’s easier to tell when he’s lying if he’s steamed.”

“And you showing up shirtless will tick him off, right?”

“I hope so, it seems to, but it can’t hurt. Okay, I’m off, if I’m not back in twenty minutes, come rescue me,” Shane said, before hopping down onto the dock and heading for Ned’s office at a jog.

 

 

Shane paused just outside the doorway, listening, until he heard a shuffling of papers. He peeked around the frame, spied his quarry, and took a deep breath. Head back, bare chest puffed out, he breezed into Ned’s office, and cheerily said, “G’day, Ned.”

Ned glanced up from his desk. “You! What the hell do you want? Where’s Trevor?”

Shane leaned back against the wall, crossing his arms across his chest. “Trev’s on Kookaburra. He doesn’t know what I’m about to say; I figured it’d be best if we handled it just between us. I know you, Ned, better than you think. You don’t throw stuff away if it might be useful, and there was a lot of stuff that was on Kookaburra that isn’t now. The bows for one, the old stuff removed in the refit for another.”

Ned glared and stood up. “Anything I took off her was part of the job, you thieving sack of degenerate–”

Shane held up a hand and smiled. “Hold up, I never said otherwise. I know how that works; anything taken off belongs to you, no arguments. That’d be true even if you found a load of cash hidden under the deck, right?”

Ned’s fury was unabated. “No, anything valuable that the owner doesn’t say I can have belongs to the owner, but I don’t have to explain myself to the likes of a two bit surfie. That’s between me and the Blakes.”

“Trev owns Kookaburra,” Shane pointed out, still carefully studying Ned’s reactions.

“So he does, but he didn’t then: the Blakes did.”

Shane smiled. “Actually, Trev’s owned her all along. Check with Mrs. Blake if you don’t believe me. You took Kookaburra’s bows off and altered her to a 57 without the owner’s permission.”

Ned rolled his eyes. “I didn’t bloody know that, now did I? Not that it matters: Rachel was in possession and she told me to do it. Now, what’s your fucking point?”

“Look around this place; there’s all sorts of old stuff here. So where are the old bows, Ned?” Shane asked, in a neutral tone, while intently studying Ned’s eyes.

Ned gave Shane a puzzled look. “What the blazes do you want those for? Like I told Trev, I got rid of ‘em. They could have gotten Rachel in trouble, and they’re no bloody use.”

Shane angled his head and asked, in an almost respectful tone, “I’m going about this wrong. Okay, it’s like this; Trev was aboard Kookaburra a lot when she was Ares and he was a kid. He told me something a while back; he hid a seashell and one of his baby teeth in the bow void. I thought it’d be cool to find ‘em for him. It’ll be May soon; the ten year anniversary of his mum’s disappearance.”

Ned angled his head slightly, and then gave Shane a confused look. “Fair enough, though I find it hard to fathom you doing anything thoughtful. I’m afraid it makes no difference though; I got rid of the bows years ago. I broke ‘em up first, so I’d have seen anything… though maybe not if it was small. A tooth I’d miss, and maybe a seashell too. I didn’t see anything else in the bows, Shane.” Ned paused, and scratched his head. “One of the bows was damaged when she got here, but not enough for anything to fall out, I don’t think.”

 

 

As soon as Shane had gone, Trevor began to pace. Then, to take his mind from his concerns, he began studying the roast haggis recipe again. ‘I hope we’re not being stupid,’ he mused, wondering again if it was a real clue, or just an old recipe.

He began mulling over their speculation, and then, with a start, he realized that they had made a very large assumption. He leapt for the cell phone, and after a moment’s hesitation, dialed Joel’s cell. When he picked up, Trevor blurted, “Hi Joel, I’ll explain later but this is urgent. I need to know something about Bridget: did she cook?”

“Uh, yeah, she did. She cooked for me and Lisa a couple of times. She’s pretty good, especially with pastries. I talked cooking with her a few times, and we swapped recipes once or twice,” Joel replied, in a confused tone.

“Okay, what about Scottish cooking? Would she know that pasta doesn’t go in haggis?”

“What the fuck? Uh, the hell if I know… but if you need a guess, I’d say yeah, most people who cook would probably know that pasta is Italian, and Scotland isn’t. Trev, what’s up?” Joel asked.

“I’ll explain later, I’ll call back as soon as I can,” Trevor replied, and ended the call. He stared at the recipe for a few moments, and then mumbled, “So it’s not the pasta, that’s a false clue… oh, fuck!” He glanced towards Ned’s office and took off at a run. Halfway there, barely slowing, he shucked off his shirt.

 

 

Shane tried hard to hide the sense of disappointment flooding him as he came to believe that Ned was telling the truth. “Could they have fallen out where you broke ‘em up?”

Ned shrugged. “I doubt it, but maybe… though I broke ‘em up inside a shed, and I do sweep up when fiberglass has been about.” Ned’s eyes glazed over for a moment, and then he added, “There was something though. The bows wouldn’t normally have access forward of the forward bulkhead, but these did. There were access hatches cut in the bulkheads, well hidden. That’d fit with her being a former smuggling boat, like Greg thinks.”

“Was there anything at all in ‘em?” Shane asked, his hopes soaring.

Ned hesitated, and then nodded. “Yes, in the one. A child’s doll, pretty well beat up but wrapped in plastic. I wouldn’t think it was Trev’s though; it was like a little girl would have.”

Shane, hopes soaring, asked, “Do you still have it?”

Ned shook his head, and gave Shane an awkward look. “No. I gave it a good clean inside and out and gave it to my daughter. Then a few years ago, an antique dealer was in town getting his boat done, so I asked him about it. He said it was a pricey one, sort of a collector’s item, so I sold it to him. I figured it was just left behind by a prior owner, I didn’t know it was worth anything until years later, and only got a few dollars for it. It wasn’t Trevor’s, was it?” Ned was lying, though only about the price; he’d received three hundred dollars for it, which was the reason for his unease regarding the bows.

With a sad shake of his head, Shane replied, “Nope, I doubt it. But was there anything else–”

A shirtless Trevor rushed through the door, interrupting Shane. “Hi Ned,” Trevor said, with a friendly wave and a big smile.

“G’day, Trevor,” Ned said, with a warm smile. “What brings you to town?”

Trevor gave Ned an awkward grin. “We’re on our way north to Coral Bay, to do some snorkeling and surfing, so I wanted to stop in.” Trevor, who was standing partially in front of Shane, turned his head to look at him, and said, “Hi Shane, I’m, uh, kinda surprised to see you here.”

Shane shrugged. “Just stopped in to chat with Ned,” he said, and then relayed the bad news with a subtle shake of his head: no luck.

Trevor gave Shane a wink, and then turned to face Ned. “We’d love to see Atlantis while we’re here if that’s okay? I’ve got some ideas I want to bounce off you. We’re at your dock.”

“Certainly, anytime… go ahead and go aboard, though let’s let your uncle know you’re here. We don’t think there are any reporters in town, but plenty of the locals will notice that there are now two identical catamarans at my dock. I have a hunch Greg will want you to leave pretty quick; his media guy, Kline, says that the press is still looking for you, and is starting to connect the dots on Geraldton.”

“We need to stock up on groceries, but we’ll sail in a few hours,” Trevor promised, and then turned for the door. “We’ll go run and have a look before we go shopping. Thanks Ned!”

Shane followed, and as soon as they were out of earshot, he said, “All he found was an old doll, so he says, but the problem is, I think I believe him.” Shane briefly explained what had transpired.

“That’s weird… anyway, right after you left I realized we were just assuming Bridget couldn’t cook. I called Joel and asked, and he said she cooks, so I think the pasta thing might be a ruse. So, I came to try to save you from Ned – or Ned from you – as fast as I could.”

“And took your shirt off so he wouldn’t bellyache that I was shirtless. Unlike me, you can do no wrong in his eyes… might possibly be something to do with you being a major customer and me just his enemy,” Shane quipped, and then turned serious, “So if the bows are a ruse, what’s the real clue?”

Trevor shrugged, and then asked, “You said the wording of the instructions was a little strange, so maybe that’s it. Why is it strange?”

“Let’s go have a look at it,” Shane said, breaking into a run.

In Kookaburra’s salon, they sat down to study the recipe’s instructions;

Wash lungs and stomach well, rub with salt and rinse. Remove membranes and excess fat. Soak in cold salted water for several hours. Turn stomach inside out for stuffing.

Cover heart and liver with cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Chop heart and coarsely grate liver. Toast oatmeal in a skillet, stirring frequently, until golden brown. Combine all ingredients except the stomach and mix well. Loosely pack mixture into stomach. Oatmeal expands when cooked, so only stuff the stomach about 2/3 full to allow for the expansion.

Press any air out of stomach and truss securely, then submerge in boiling water. Simmer for 3 hours, uncovered, adding more water as needed to maintain water level. Prick stomach several times with a sharp needle when it begins to swell; this keeps the stomach from bursting.

 

Shane pointed to the recipe and sighed. “It’s kind of conversationally worded, but I think I’ve seen other recipes done that way. It leaves some steps out too. The first paragraph is more normal: sort of clinical. I don’t know… maybe the pasta is the clue and he never got around to putting anything but that doll in the bow? Ned said he cleaned it inside and out so he’d have probably seen anything, but he said he sold the doll long ago.”

Trevor leaned back, crestfallen. “I guess. I don’t want to just give up. We can’t. That hidden doll has gotta mean something. Maybe we could get the name of the antique dealer from Ned, then trace it somehow?”

A thoughtful look appeared on Shane’s face. “Yeah, but he’ll get suspicious if we do it right now. How about we wait until we come back and then ask?”

Trevor frowned at the recipe and nodded. “Good idea. Okay, we’ll do it that way, and in the meantime maybe we can figure this damn thing out,” he said, staring at the recipe, trying to perceive the hidden message that he suspected was right in front of his eyes.

 

 

A few hours later, at Fowler’s urging, Kookaburra set sail from Carnarvon, heading north.

Their first stop was Red Bluff, a point break, which allowed Trevor to try out his new board. They hit the waves early to avoid the expected mid-day onshore winds, spending several hours riding the glassy breakers until the winds arose and spoiled the waves.

Back aboard Kookaburra, Trevor glanced back at the blown-out break and grinned. “This new board is awesome!” he exclaimed, followed by a whoop of utter joy. Their plans suddenly changed, and they spent a second day at Red Bluff. They traded boards for a few sets, resulting in Shane pronouncing Trevor’s new ride ‘Ripper!’.

From Red Bluff, Kookaburra voyaged north, past Coral Bay to Ningaloo Reef.

For the next several days, they explored the coast, snorkeling the magnificent reefs and enjoying the spectacular white beaches. The mysterious recipe and the riddles it signified were never far from their minds, though try as they might, they made no further progress in spite of searching numerous places on Kookaburra.

 

 

 

Ten days after leaving Carnarvon, Trevor and Shane returned to Kookaburra after an afternoon snorkeling expedition. They were in their usual snorkeling attire: swim fins, dive knives, and Speedos.

Kicking off their swim fins, they dashed to the cockpit to stow the snorkels and their sole remaining spear gun – their lack of a second one evoked a string of epithets from Trevor, aimed at the Federal Police who had seized it. He’d launched a louder tirade earlier in the day as they’d prepared to go snorkeling.

Trevor’s anger was again brief, almost forgotten as soon as he and Shane reached the deck shower, flipped it on, and began washing off the salt.

When they were almost done with their shower, Trevor gave Shane a playful nudge and then froze, staring at the shower’s control valve.

“Trev?” Shane asked, growing concerned.

“I’m okay,” Trevor mumbled, raising his arm to feel the flow of water at the showerhead, which had shifted from a smooth flow to a slightly pulsing flow as Kookaburra’s main water pump kicked on. “The water… it’s smooth and even for a while, just like it was on Atlantis,” he said, his gaze far away.

Shane gave him a puzzled look. “Yeah, it’s supposed to be a smooth flow at first. That’s why Kookaburra has pressure tanks; to even out the flow. She’s got two, but I forget what they’re called.”

Trevor began smiling, though his gaze was fixed on the showerhead. “They’re called accumulators. Another thing they’re sometimes wrongly called is expansion tanks. An accumulator is bigger; it’s basically a big hollow tank hooked up to a pressure line at the bottom of the tank. Water fills it, compressing the air to about a third the volume. It acts as a pressure and water reserve, so the pump doesn’t have to run every time you turn on a tap. An expansion tank is smaller, and acts mainly like a shock absorber to stop water hammer, but also overpressure – like you’d get from a calorifer.” A calorifer is a water heater that uses a boat’s engine heat to heat water.

Now it was Shane’s turn to stare at the shower head. “You’re not giving me boat mechanics lessons for the heck of it: you’re onto something.”

“Maybe. Just a hunch, and the shower made me think of it. Bridget is apparently a good yachtsman, but I’ll bet she’s no mechanic. If stuff needs fixing, she’d pay to have it done. Plus, according to Joel, she can cook. So, maybe the pasta thing and the doll was a ruse; the kind of thing she’d see and find. That means we’re looking in the wrong place, and what’s a word that’s in the recipe instructions a couple of times?”

Shane blinked, and shut off the shower. “Expansion!” They’d both read the recipe so many times that they knew it by heart.

“The recipe talked about maintaining the water level. That’s sort of what accumulators do.”

Shane blinked. “Would those tanks be replaced during refit? And would Ned keep ‘em?”

Trevor froze for a moment, his smile fading. “They pretty much don’t wear out, but he might have… fuck. Come on!” Trevor said, already racing for the port aft engine compartment hatch.

Heaving the hatch open, Trevor chewed on his lip, already wondering if he had launched yet another wild goose chase. He leaned his head and shoulders into the engine compartment, and said, “I see it – right where it was on Atlantis.” The tank, an accumulator, was roughly the size of a barbecue’s propane tank. Trevor reached for the dive knife still strapped to his leg, using it to scrape a fleck of paint off the tank. “It hasn’t been repainted and it looks pretty new. That means Ned probably replaced it, fuck!” Trevor exclaimed, heaving himself out of the engine compartment.

“Maybe it’s still knocking around his yard somewhere? You’ve seen how he is; he wouldn’t throw something away that might be useful.”

Trevor brightened slightly. “Yeah, maybe. But would he know where he put it? It’d take weeks to search his yard.” Trevor was exaggerating, though not by much.

Shane’s eyes narrowed. “Hold up. What about the other one, in the bilge?”

Trevor shook his head. “That’s for cold water, and the recipe kept talking about expansion and boiling.” Trevor blinked. “Wait. Atlantis didn’t have two; I added the one for hot water so there’d be more for the guests. There was just one originally, and the pirates fucking took ‘em.”

“They took everything, but… Trev, what’s the difference between the hot and cold ones?” Shane asked.

Trevor raced for the bilge access. “No difference, except the cold water one is a bit bigger – it was on Atlantis anyway,” he said, whipping open the deck hatch and lowering himself into the bilge and flicking on the light. He squirmed forward to the tank, which was just downstream of the main freshwater pump. “I don’t see any marking on it,” he said, with a sigh.

“It’s on the back, I’ll get a torch,” Shane replied. He soon joined Trevor in the bilge, flashlight in hand. “I went looking for stuff that I could find an age for, back when I was trying to bust Ned for using old stuff on Kookaburra. This didn’t have anything I could get the age from.”

“I think this one looks different,” Trevor replied, using his dive knife to scrape some paint. “Dude, it’s been repainted! I think it’s the original.”

Shane squirmed in beside Trevor, examining the tank. “So you think something is inside it?”

“Maybe,” Trevor replied, trying to avoid getting his hopes up. “It doesn’t make sense for it to be this one though; the recipe said boiled, plus it’s technically an accumulator, not an expansion tank – an expansion tank would be smaller. But… some people call them the same name, plus Arnold Bellevue was a lawyer, and lawyers are tricky. He’d want the cops to find it, not Bridget.”

“Then why sell the boat to your mum?” Shane asked.

Trevor paused, remembering. “I think he died right after making the deal but before Mom and Dad took possession. That’d make a twisted kind of sense; who’d think he hid stuff on a boat he’d sold? If he needed somebody to find it, he could just tell ‘em. If he needed the boat back, he could have just offered to buy it – it damn near broke my parents at first, so they’d have been happy to sell it back then – or maybe all we found is a crazy old recipe.”

“I think there’s something somewhere. Maybe it’s here and maybe it’s not, but it’s gotta be somewhere,” Shane said, tapping on the tank with his knuckles.

Trevor used the flat of his dive knife to tap, listening carefully to the sounds. “It sounds hollow at the top, just like it’s supposed to – that’s where the air is – but it sounds hollower below the top, but that could be due to the shape. Okay, might as well find out for sure; let’s get it out of here. We’ll need to disconnect the pump and drain off the pressure. It’s plumbed in with a T fitting, so we’ll need the adjustable wrench plus some other stuff from the toolkit.”

They made their way to the main electrical panel, where Trevor threw the switch to disconnect the water pump. He then turned on the washbasin tap in a cabin head and turned it to cold. “There’s a backflow preventer on the calorifer intakes, so we should be okay just draining the cold side,” he said, as they dashed to the cockpit, where the toolkit was stowed.

They returned to the bilge. They could still hear the water running – the tank held several gallons – so Trevor turned his attention to the two straps securing the tank to the bulkhead. It took fifteen minutes of struggling and a frantic search for a short screwdriver but at last he freed the straps. Next came the large nut holding the tank to its pipe, and to Trevor’s surprise, it turned easily, and he was rewarded with a gush of water as the tank popped loose. “Got it,” he said, squirming around to hand the tank to Shane.

They took their prize to the cockpit, where Trevor hefted it, balancing it in his hands. “It feels a little heavy,” he said, before upending it to make sure all the water was out. He tapped at it a few times with his dive knife, listening to it ring. “It sounds empty,” he said, turning it sideways with a puzzled look on his face. “Let’s see if there’s anything in it.”

“How?” Shane asked, peering at the only evident way to view the interior: the half-inch water line protruding a few inches from the end.

Trevor put the tank down and tapped at it again. “Something could be on the sides or the top. We could use wire from a coat hanger to feel around for any lumps.”

Shane reached for a tape measure. “Let’s see how long we need,” he said, and fed the end of the steel tape into the tank until it hit the far end. He marked the spot on the tape with his thumb and withdrew it.

Before Shane could report the depth, Trevor blurted, “Wait, measure that against the outside.”

Shane lay the tape along the cylinder’s side, and then looked up at Trevor to say, “There’s something in there; there’s about an eight centimeter difference.”

Trevor looked at the tape to be sure, reading off the other scale on it. “Just over three inches.”

Shane stared at the tank. “Is there ever anything in these that’d stick out like that?”

Trevor tapped at the tank. “I don’t think so: it should be just a hollow steel tank. Let’s pull apart a coat hanger and poke around in there.

A wire coat hanger was quickly found and sacrificed to the cause. They straightened the wire and began prodding around inside the tank, each taking turns while the other held an ear to the tank and listened. After several minutes, Shane gave voice to their findings. “So it’s got a flat metal end inside at the top, but the outside is domed. Something’s gotta be in there, but what? And how the fuck did they get it in there?”

“We need sandpaper,” Trevor said, as he stood to dash inside.

“Starboard forward storage, second or third shelf,” Shane hollered at Trevor’s retreating back.

Trevor returned with several packages of sandpaper, and selected the coarsest grit. He began rubbing the tank at the level of the mysterious inner partition. After a few moments, he was down to bare metal. What he revealed were whorls of metal that had been sanded flat. “Looks like somebody cut it open and then welded it shut again. They sanded it flat and then repainted. That’s stainless steel, which ain’t easy to weld.”

“We’ve got a hacksaw,” Shane said.

Trevor shook his head. “We’d wear out the blades before we got this open.”

“What about drills, or the tank cutter?” Shane pondered.

“We might damage whatever it is. We need a power cutter, which we haven’t got. We also need either a new accumulator tank or a line cap so we can reconnect the water. Where’s the nearest hardware store?”

Shane chewed on his lip for a moment. “I don’t think there’s one in Coral Bay, so that means either Exmouth or Carnarvon.”

Trevor checked the navigation console to be sure. “Exmouth is a bit closer, plus we wouldn’t have to explain to anyone what we’re doing. Let’s get underway; we can be there when they open in the morning.”

Shane glared at the tank. “Wondering what’s in there is going to drive me bonkers all night.” He then sprinted forward to begin hauling in the anchors, while Trevor fired up the engines.

 

 

Trevor and Shane took turns at the helm throughout the night. The winds were calm, forcing them to run on engines, but neither was in any mood for patience. Both guys, while taking their turns at the helm, spent many an hour staring at the accumulator tank, wondering what it contained.

The next morning, Kookaburra was motoring in the Gulf of Exmouth, approaching the town’s harbor. Shane made use of their internet connection to look up the hardware store’s address, and map it. “About two kilometers from the marina,” he said, with an anxious smile, before adding, “It says they’re open Saturdays, which is a good thing; I never thought to check that.”

“I forgot what day it was,” Trevor admitted.

They docked just before ten, locked up, and raced for the hardware store. There, they told the clerk that they needed to cut into a stainless steel boiler, which evoked both a puzzled look and some helpful advice. They picked out a power wheel saw, and then a set of metal cutting blades for it. Trevor winced at the price: over two hundred dollars.

Next, they asked for accumulator tanks, only to find that the store didn’t carry them. Instead, they purchased a threaded cap for the accumulator’s water line. Kookaburra’s water supply system would function without an accumulator; its lack would just mean that the pump would come on every time the water was turned on.

With their purchases in hand, they raced back to Kookaburra. As soon as they were aboard, Trevor said, “Just to be safe, let’s get underway before we start hacking into that tank. It’s going to be noisy and take a lot of time.”

“Great, more waiting,” Shane grumbled, glaring at the tank before racing to cast off.

“Fifteen minutes at most, and we need to get set up anyway,” Trevor replied, firing up the engines, every bit as eager to start cutting as Shane.

As soon as they had cast off and were underway, Trevor and Shane began setting up their new saw, and then put on safety glasses. “Want to go first, or want me to?” Trevor asked.

“You do it; I’ll take the helm. You’re better with tools than me,” Shane replied.

Trevor picked up the saw and plugged it into one of Kookaburra’s 240V Australian-standard outlets. He revved it once, and then said, “Okay, now where to cut? We’ve got to be super careful not to wreck anything inside.” He studied the tank for a moment. “I’ll cut below the weld.”

Even with the power cutter, it took over half an hour of work to make the cut; Trevor hadn’t used a power saw on metal before, and it took a while – and one broken saw blade – to get the hang of it. Finally though, he cut the last shard of steel and the tank fell open. He carefully picked up the tank end – the most recent cuts were still hot – and carried it over to Shane. He rested it on the helm, staring at the flat steel plate that had formed the inside of the tank and concealed the domed compartment. “There’s something in there, sure as hell; it’s a lot heavier than it’d be if it was just empty space.”

Shane picked it up and studied it. “The welding is kinda messy, like somebody really went to town on it to make sure it was air and water tight. So, where’s the best place to cut it open?”

Trevor turned the tank end over end a few times, and then checked the saw. “If I cut at an angle along the weld, all the way around, that’d keep the blade out of the compartment. We need some way to hold it though. I wish we’d bought a vise.”

“Take the helm, I’ve got an idea,” Shane said, heading inside. He returned with a cooking pot and some double-sided tape. “This should fit.” Shane applied some tape to the inner lip of the pot, and then placed the tank end in the pot, dome side down. The tank end had a slightly larger diameter than the pot, so it fit somewhat snuggly. He gave it a shove to seat it, and then taped the pot to the cockpit table.

Trevor gave the tank end a tug, finding it solidly seated. He gave Shane a grin and a nod. “Awesome; I’d have never thought of that.”

“That’s because you don’t know your way around your own galley. Now get cutting; the suspense is killing me!”

Even with Shane’s improvised hold-down, the angle-cutting proved difficult. Trevor, sweating hard, kept going, inching his way around the rim.

It took over an hour, but at last, Trevor made the final cut, and then trimmed away a few remaining joining slivers of metal. “Got it,” he cried, as he set the saw down and grabbed a screwdriver. Shane rushed to his side, watching as Trevor gingerly raised the flat plate and let it fall to the table. They peered in, seeing nothing but a painted flat surface that appeared to be covering a solid lump of rough metal. “What the fuck?” Trevor grumbled, staring at what appeared to be another dead end. Then, just a moment later, he noticed a tiny gap where the painted surface met the tank. With an anxious heave, he ripped the pot off the table and upended it with a thud. With trepidation, he lifted the pot and tank end, feeling that they were now much lighter.

Their uncovered prize was a shallow dome of painted metal with a flat top. Nested at its center was an oblong plate of thin steel, four inches wide and seven inches long. Trevor pried it up, revealing a plastic-wrapped object. Along with it were several little packages – roughly the size of sugar packets – containing desiccant, to absorb any moisture.

Trevor lifted the plastic-wrapped prize out of its hiding place and began ripping it open. “It’s a video tape,” he said, ripping off the last of the plastic.

“All that for a bloody tape?” Shane said, staring at it. “Maybe it’ll tell us where the rest of the stuff is?”

“Let’s play it and find out,” Trevor said, glancing towards the salon. Then, almost as an afterthought, he glanced at the solid metal housing that had held the tape, and picked it up. “I don’t see anything else, and this feels pretty solid. Heavy as fuck too, like lead.”

“So I guess we’ve got a new anchor for the Zodiac,” Shane said, picking it up and hefting it. “Five or six kilograms. That’s why the tank felt heavy.”

Trevor’s angled his head, staring at the painted metal. “It looks like it was cast just for this. Why encase a video tape in lead? Anyway, let’s try to play the tape, maybe that’ll explain it.” Trevor checked the horizons. Finding them clear, he snatched up the tape. “Let’s go see what’s on this,” he said, dashing into the salon.

Shane followed, and found Trevor popping the tape into the salon’s VCR. He hit ‘play’ and then turned on the flat-screen TV, only to be rewarded with a jumbled hash of lines and a flickering image. He fast-forwarded to find more of the same. “It’s probably degraded from age,” Trevor said. With a sigh of defeat, he sat down to think.

“Maybe,” Shane replied, glancing at the display. “But it looks a lot like what happens when you try to play a Yank tape, and it’d be a Yank tape, right? I found that out the hard way back home a few years back; I bought an American tape online and it wouldn’t play. They use a different format.”

Trevor sighed, and shook his head. “So that means we’ve got to wait until we get to Florida?”

Shane answered with a frown, though after a few moments, he began to smile.

 

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~

A Discussion thread for this chapter is in my forum, please have a look and join in.   direct link here. The forum enables conversations so in many cases it's a far easier to use it than the "leave a comment" section on this page, so I suggest having a look, but use whichever (or both) you are more comfortable with . :)

~~~~~~~~

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    feedback.gifPlease let me know what you think; good, bad, or indifferent.

Please give me feedback, and please don’t be shy if you want to criticize! The feedback thread for this story is in my Forum. Please stop by and say "Hi!"

     

     

    

Many thanks to my editor EMoe for editing and for his support, encouragement, beta reading, and suggestions.

Special thanks to Graeme, for beta-reading and advice.

Thanks also to Talonrider and MikeL for beta reading.

A big Thank You to RedA for Beta reading and advice.

Thanks also to Low Flyer, for zeta reading.

Special thanks to RickMD, for some major advice and help.

Any remaining errors are mine alone.

Copyright © 2013 C James; All Rights Reserved.

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On 07/18/2012 04:42 AM, Daddydavek said:
Something at last, but what? Another cliffie!
But it's not a cliffie! :P
  • Haha 1

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Perseverance pays off. They said those two boys were stubborn lol.but what will they do with the tape.

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