Riding the long rollers of the Southern Ocean, Atlantis cruised east, with CapeLeeuwin – Australia’s southwestern cape – two days astern.
The wind was cold; it was early April – fall, in the southern hemisphere – and Atlantis was two hundred miles south of land. Trevor had taken her well out to sea in order to expose her to the harsher conditions and faster winds, for one of the purposes of this leg of the voyage was a shakedown; an operational test of all her systems and capabilities. It was also a time of planning; making lists of supplies needed for the long voyage ahead.
“Here’s one thing to add to the list: warm, wind- and waterproof clothes!” Shane grumbled, pulling his jacket tighter. All he and Trevor had for cold weather gear were Levis and a medium jacket apiece. They were each wearing several T-shirts, but the wind that night was biting.
“I can ease off on the sail and engage the autopilot, then we can hang out in the salon,” Trevor offered. Atlantis’s interior was warmer than her exposed cockpit, but they had yet to engage her propane heater. She could also draw heat from her engines and generators, though only when they were running. Atlantis could be conned from inside, at the navigation desk controls, but that – like the use of the autopilot – was a viable option only in easy sailing conditions or on engines, for the sheets and lines that controlled her sails led only to the cockpit. In rough conditions, attempting to command Atlantis from anywhere other than the cockpit would have been reckless – a sudden violent wind shift could dismast her, or even capsize her.
Shane shook his head. “I’m not suffering too much yet, so let’s stay put. However, tomorrow I’m making lasagna, so we’ll have to run the oven. That means heat.”
Trevor chuckled. “I wish I’d thought about testing the propane heater before we left port; it’s not something that’s good to test far out at sea. We’ll fire it up in Melbourne.”
Shane gave Trevor a mock scowl. “Bloody brilliant; test the heater right before we head north into warmer areas.”
Trevor laughed, feeling at home at the helm of Atlantis. “You’re lucky you weren’t with me the last time I was in the Southern Ocean; I had no heat, and damn near no clothes.”
“That’s cold, very cold!” Shane replied, and then, consulting the laptop’s screen, he added, “I wish I could get this book done. It’d be great to actually use the publicity you’re pretending to be seeking, but it’s taking longer than I thought. We’ve also got to decide something: make it focused on your Indian Ocean trip, or make it about the entire voyage so we can include the Geraldton stuff, and the killer coming aboard. I think we should do the whole thing.”
“Me too, and the good news is we’ll have tons of time to work on it while we cross the Pacific. I’m guessing six weeks at sea, not counting stops.”
Shane opened another document; their food supply list. “That means we’ll need to carry at least three months’ worth of food for safety, so we’ll use the starboard forward cabin as a pantry. We’ll need a lot of tinned stuff and the like. Hey, how about tinned hot dogs?” Shane said, with an evil grin.
“You do and you’ll have to swim the whole way,” Trevor replied, grimacing at the mention of the food he’d eaten day after day during his Indian Ocean voyage.
“Cruel and abusive bastard!” Shane replied with a laugh, as he began adding items to the list, starting with five cases of canned soup. “What’s the situation for reprovisioning en route?”
“We should be able to during stops, for perishables at least, but let’s take dried milk, rice, and whatever else we need, just in case.” Trevor studied the fuel gauges, and added, “We’ll be fine on fuel until we reach Cairns; Ned increased Atlantis’s bunkerage and we’ve barely used any. We can shop for food supplies in Sydney, Brisbane, and Cairns. In Melbourne, I want to concentrate on ship’s stores and other gear we’ll need, because we’ll have a big marine supply place close by.
Shane opened that list, and took notes as Trevor started listing things – starting with cold weather gear, though that was something he hoped they wouldn’t need.
Trevor paused to think. “Tomorrow we’ll get all the tool kits out; I want to make sure we’ve got everything. Ned was pretty thorough, but I had a lot of little stuff I’d added to my kits, like super glue, that I like having. Okay, make another list, this one for a hardware store. We could get most of it at a marine supply store, but hardware stores are cheaper. We need super glue, a long-handled bolt cutter, pipe clamps, a blow torch, plumbers’ tape…” Trevor went on to list a few more items.
Over the next two days they finalized their shopping lists for Melbourne as Atlantis voyaged onwards. Then, Trevor phoned the marine supply store, to make sure anything not in stock could be ordered and arrive in time. During the call, he was delighted to learn that he could e-mail the list to the store, and they’d have it ready for his arrival.
“I’m really liking having internet access while we’re at sea,” Trevor said, right after hitting ‘send’.
“I’m packed, how about you?” Lisa asked, giving Joel’s arm a nudge.
Joel laughed, turning to grin at Lisa. “Yeah, I packed last weekend. Just one small duffel bag. We’re traveling light, right?”
Lisa nodded, though she had a slight frown on her face. “I’d like to take more stuff, but seeing as we’ll be moving around a lot, I’m not. Just one bag, but it won’t all fit. I’m hoping you’ve got room for some of my stuff in yours.”
Joel had been expecting this, and had packed accordingly. “I do, but not for much.”
“Two pairs of shoes, that’s it,” Lisa promised.
“That’ll work. We’d better print out copies of our notes for the trip. Um, how are things with your father? Is he still okay with us going?”
Lisa rolled her eyes. “Depends on whether it’s an odd or even numbered minute but, so far, no major outbursts. He’s suggested – several times – waiting until next year, when we’re ‘older and married’ but he hasn’t threatened to stop me going. I guess it helps that I’ll be turning eighteen in a few weeks.”
“He gave me a dirty look yesterday, but he hasn’t said anything to me about the trip. Not one word,” Joel replied.
“We should be okay. We’ve been engaged for six months, so he’s starting to accept it, plus he likes you. Ah, I do need to tell him where we’ll be staying,” Lisa prodded.
“I worked on that last night. I found us a motel in Nassau. I’m looking at one in Freeport too.”
“Don’t forget Andros Island – one of the places on Bridget’s asset list is there. Too bad Trev isn’t here; getting around by boat would be way easier than ferries and flights,” Lisa said.
“I’m still looking at Andros. I’ve found us a place right on the beach; it’d be a good one to spend the vacation part of our trip, so we should go there last, then fly home,” Joel said, and then sighed. “The car rental places I called said we can’t rent a car. They said the minimum age is twenty-five. Some would rent to younger people, but not at eighteen.”
“I thought we’d be okay on that now you’re eighteen,” Lisa replied, with a sigh of her own. “I guess we’ll have to make do with the bus.”
“Nope. One of the car rental places I called had a suggestion; rent bicycles. I looked into it, and it’ll work; most of the places we want to go are within ten miles of where we’re staying, and that’s easy bike range.”
Lisa blinked. “Uh, Joel, I think there’s something that you don’t know about me. I’ve never ridden a bike. Before I turned sixteen, I either rode a skateboard or walked.”
Joel turned to look at Lisa, a look of astonishment on his face, which soon turned to mock horror. “Wow. I always figured that riding a bike is something everybody learns how to do, like driving a car, or breathing. You’re definitely weird.”
Lisa laughed, giving Joel a playful punch in the arm before asking, “Are there any buses?”
“I haven’t seen any mentioned outside of Nassau, but… you’re athletic, and riding a skateboard is harder than riding a bike, so maybe you’ll be okay?” Joel asked.
Lisa shrugged. “I don’t know. I guess I can try.”
“Hey, why don’t we try you out on my old bike? That’d probably be better than having you learn by jumping into traffic for a ten mile ride.”
“Okay, let’s go give it a try. We’ve got the rest of today and all day tomorrow,” Lisa said, suddenly wishing that they’d started the detailed planning of their trip sooner. Lisa paused for a moment, and then added, “We need to look for a place for Trev and Shane to live. Any idea if they meant a place ashore, like an apartment, or just a place to berth the boat?”
“I think they just want a marina, but they need some kind of an address for the business. If the marina doesn’t give them one, they’ll need a mailbox rental place or something. Last I heard they were thinking Freeport. Let’s call them tomorrow to be sure,” Joel replied.
Lisa glared off into the distance. “I’m really looking forward to this trip. It’ll be a great vacation, but what would make it totally perfect is if we could get a lead on Bridget to give Officer Gonzalez.”
Darkness shrouded a rugged, wave-pounded coast, veiling it in storm-blown mist. Atlantis, rigged with a storm jib, rode the rough seas and gale-force winds, pitching in the heavy seas, running due east before the storm. Trevor, cold and wet, stood helm as he had for several hours. He glanced down, studying the navigation screen and then the radar, which revealed the cliffs of the coast off Atlantis’s port beam.
Shane emerged from the salon, bearing two mugs of strong coffee. “You’ve got to be getting tired and cold. If you need me to take over, I can,” he offered.
Trevor smiled in the dark. “We’ll be in safer waters soon, but I’ve got to get us around CapeOtway first. According to the almanac, there’s often a five-knot current here in good weather. With this storm, I’m guessing we’re in a seven-knot current, and I keep getting lateral drift so it’s moving us around a lot. We should be in easier waters after we round the cape though.”
“How far until the cape?” Shane asked.
Trevor glanced at the screen. “Looks like two more miles and we’ll be abeam of it, but it’s a wide cape, so we’ll need to run another three miles past the cape before we turn northeast. We’ll have to stick to radar and the GPS system for guidance; I don’t think we’ll sight anything in this mist.”
Soon, Trevor thought he saw a glimmer in the darkness to port. “I think I saw a flash, really faint, about fifty degrees to port.” Shane turned to look, and Trevor added, “Don’t look right at the horizon; look about ten degrees up. The areas around your center of vision are more sensitive to light than the center is.”
“I’ve never heard that,” Shane replied, though he followed Trevor’s suggestion.
“Try it on a starry night. It works; you’ll find some stars that are too faint to see if you look right at ‘em, but look about ten degrees off and you’ll see ‘em.” Though Trevor didn’t know the name, it is called averted vision, and is well known to amateur astronomers. The reason it works is due to the structure of the human eye; the visual center contains mainly cone cells, which are excellent for perceiving fine detail and color. The areas around the focal center, however, contain a far higher percentage of rod cells, which are superior light receptors. By using averted vision, you can detect a distant light approximately an order of magnitude fainter than by looking right at it.
“I think I see it,” Shane declared, trying to resist the urge to look right at the glimmer.
“Three flashes,” Trevor said, as he glanced at the seconds on the navigation screen’s time display.
“I saw it again, and yeah, three flashes, brighter this time,” Shane said, peering into the mist.
“Three flashes, then about eighteen seconds before the next flashes, so that’s CapeOtway light. It’s about two miles from us. Now, time for your rough weather sailing quiz; what does this tell us?” Trevor asked.
“It tells us that you pick bloody awful times to give quizzes, but… uh, wait… if we can see it at this range, it means the mist is clearing?” Shane asked.
“Got it in one. The weather radar says we’re moving to an area of less rain, plus the weather report says that too. I think we’ll be in calmer, clearer conditions after we get to the lee of the cape,” Trevor said, just as Atlantis lurched, due to a breaking wave overtaking her from astern, kicking up a cloud of salt spray that the wind drove into the cockpit.
“Sounds good to me, plus I can take over. You’ve got to get some sleep sometime tonight, Trev, if we’re going to run The Rip before dawn.
Trevor glanced at the navigation screen again. “It’s going to be close. Thanks to the storm slowing us down, we’ve got about seventy miles to go and nine hours of darkness left. If the forecast is right, we’ll have a strong following wind so we can fly the gennaker and make at least fifteen knots, so that’ll put us off The Rip in about…” Trevor’s voice trailed off as he ran an estimated time of arrival calculation on the navigation system, “About five hours. From The Rip, it’s about thirty miles to Sandringham, but we’ll be on engines and speed-limited in shipping channels, so that’ll take about three hours. We should just make it before dawn, but we’ve got to keep a fast pace.”
What Trevor tactfully left unsaid was that handling the boat on a high speed run at night off a perilous shore and in stormy conditions was a very difficult task, and thus might be beyond Shane’s ability to do safely.
Shane had similar thoughts. “I’ve never handled a gennaker before. If we weren’t so tight on time, I’d have no worries – I’d just use the mainsail instead. Any chance we could lay up somewhere and enter The Rip tomorrow night?”
“There’s nowhere that we’re not likely to be seen, and staying at sea in the Bass Strait is kind of risky, especially with the weather issues. Just keep feeding me coffee; I’ll be okay until we dock, and then we can sleep. Besides, you’ve been up as long as I have.”
Two hours later, underway with the gennaker flying, Trevor judged that the conditions had improved enough to let Shane take over and ducked into the salon to grab a thirty-minute nap.
Awaking to the beep of his wristwatch alarm, Trevor returned to the cockpit, to find Shane relaxed and at ease. “You can get some more sleep, Trev; I’m doing fine.”
Trevor joined Shane at the helm. “That nap will last me, and we’re likely to encounter a lot of shipping traffic as we approach The Rip.”
Shane went inside to sleep, returning half an hour later after being woken by his alarm. He began browsing through the port guide with the aid of a small LED light, and came to a passage that concerned him. “It says yachts shouldn’t attempt The Rip in darkness or against the tide. We’ll be doing both. It also says that when you enter, you have to follow an S-curve between the heads, and the channel is very narrow, plus there are strong currents. You sure we’ll be okay?” Shane asked, with a hint of unease in his voice.
“I’m not crazy about the idea, but it’s the only way to get in unseen. We should be fine; we’re going in on engines, so Atlantis should be able to handle any current problems. I don’t like going in at night to a place I’ve never been before, especially a difficult one, but Uncle Greg is sure I can do it.”
“Has your uncle ever been to Melbourne, or entered the port by sea?” Shane asked.
Trevor blinked. “That’s a good question. I have no idea.”
“I hope he has,” Shane replied, with a wry shake of his head.
The Rip is the only entrance to Port Phillip, an enormous bay – in places over thirty miles across – on Victoria’s south coast. It is commonly called ‘Port Phillip Bay’. At its northern end lies Melbourne, and several other ports grace its shores. It is a vast body of water – seven hundred forty five square miles – and its only access to the sea, The Rip, is barely a mile wide. As a result, the tidal surges in The Rip are some of the most powerful on Earth.
Entering The Rip is treacherous; the navigable channel is narrow and serpentine, bounded by rock-strewn shoals. The approach path is guarded by a unique set of lighthouses at Queenscliff, on The Rip’s western shore, about a mile in from the entrance.
When seen from the entrance, a black-painted lighthouse – the lighthouses were also used for daylight navigation – sits on high ground. It is called High Light. It is one of only three major dark lighthouses in the world – the other two are in Cork, Ireland, and Galveston Bay, Texas. Closer to sea level and four hundred yards nearer to the mouth of The Rip is Low Light, a lighthouse with a white column. Fifty yards to the east and west of it are scaffolding towers, the western one topped with a red light, and the eastern one with a green light. High Light is painted a dark color for a reason: to allow it to stand in contrast to Low Light.
This arrangement of lights was designed to guide ships onto the correct line of approach for The Rip. The main shipping channel – used by large ships – is attained by lining up Low Light with High Light. Another entry path, just west of the main channel and called the Fisherman’s Channel, is entered by lining up High Light with the red light.
Three miles southwest of The Rip, Trevor lowered Atlantis’s sails to proceed on engines into the perilous waters. Tense, he checked the navigation system, comparing its plot with the bearings to the various lighthouses, in order to confirm that it was accurate. He took a deep breath, and said, “Okay, man the radio and monitor VHF 12, and reply to any hails. That’ll let me concentrate on boat handling. According to the port info, Melbourne is the busiest commercial port on the continent, so we might have a lot of big-ship traffic.”
Trevor made sure he had his paper chart – a backup for the navigation system, and also a legal requirement – ready, while Shane retrieved and tested the light-amplifying binoculars Ned had included with Atlantis’s gear.
Trevor guided Atlantis into the approach for Fisherman’s Channel, advancing the throttles once he had High Light and the red light lined up. “Okay, here we go. There’s an outflowing tide, so we’re going into the teeth of a six-knot current. It’ll probably get pretty rough where the waters meet,” he said, as Atlantis accelerated to twelve knots. He glanced down at the radar display, and then looked to seaward. “A big ship coming in – looks like a tanker. She’s doing eight knots, so she’ll reach the channel well after us.”
Atlantis began pitching and rolling as she entered the chaotic waters. It was a dark, overcast night, with the wind out of the southwest. With a steady hand, Trevor kept the lights aligned, keeping Atlantis on course.
Five hundred yards off The Rip, Trevor saw a sight that made his blood run cold. He pointed dead ahead, telling Shane in a calm voice, “White water ahead. Looks like a standing wave, like the guidebook warned about.” The main channel is deeper and so not prone to the rough water during outflow, but Fisherman’s Channel is shallower, and also has underwater drop-offs, causing buildups and sometimes standing waves at peak outflow, a phenomenon also called ‘arcing up’. Those are amongst the reasons why the port guides advise yachts to enter and exit only at slack tide.
“Can we get through it?” Shane asked.
Trevor advanced the throttles by a notch. “Yeah, we just have to be careful and not get twisted sideways. Oh, and hang on!”
The standing wave, essentially a stationary intermittently cresting breaker five feet in height, barred their path, but Atlantis surged forward, charging through the chaotic waters, her bows dipping as she crested the wave and began swinging to port. Trevor spun the wheel while reducing the starboard throttle for a few moments, bringing her back on course, into the heart of The Rip.
Trevor glanced at the instruments. “We’re doing twelve knots through the water but the GPS says we’re making five knots actual, so we’re in a seven knot current,” Trevor reported, advancing the throttles to increase speed by two knots.
Following the aligned lights, Atlantis churned ahead, Trevor continually steering to keep on course in spite of side currents and eddies. “This is harder than I thought, but I think the worst is over,” he said, glancing at the lights of Port Lonsdale, half a mile off his port beam.
A quarter of a mile from the base of Low Light, Trevor began the turn to starboard to follow the channel. “Do me a favor and keep an eye on the depth gauge for me; the charts say we’re fine, but I don’t want any surprises,” Trevor said, as he ended the turn on a bearing of due east. “Three miles, then we hang a left,” he added, beginning to relax. Trevor reduced throttle to compensate for the lessening current; they were now within the calm waters of Port Phillip, with The Rip behind them.
Shane glanced at the navigation screen, seeing a familiar place name. “Off our starboard beam is the MorningtonPeninsula, and on the far side of it from us, on the Bass Strait, there’s a beach near The Rip,” Shane said, referring to CheviotBeach. “Melbourne and Sydney were each, for a time, the capital of Australia, but it was that beach that caused them to decide to build a new city in the interior, Canberra, for a capital.”
“How did a beach cause that?” Trevor asked, just as Shane had hoped.
“Prime Minister Harold Holt went swimming there in the 60’s, and drowned. He was never seen again. He wasn’t the first member of parliament to drown, so it was decided to move the capital inland, far from water, to keep the politicians from drowning. However, they’re still at risk, because the first thing they did when they got to Canberra was build a mucking great lake in the middle of it. It’s a miracle they haven’t all drowned – yet.”
Trevor laughed hard, as Atlantis made her way down the channel between orderly rows of lit navigation buoys.
Shane’s story was true to a small degree; Prime Minister Harold Holt went to Cheviot Beach on December 17th, 1967, to watch Alec Rose, a British sailor doing a solo circumnavigation, sail out through The Rip. Holt, an avid swimmer and diver, went for a swim in spite of heavy seas, shortly thereafter disappearing from the sight of his friends and bodyguards. Howard Holt was never seen again, and was declared presumed drowned two days later. His body was never found. The fact that he vanished has sparked many conspiracy theories over the years.
Australians are noted for their irreverent sense of humor, so Shane’s laconic recount of the mythical cause of Canberra’s creation was one of several vignettes to spring from that tragic long-ago December day. Canberra actually became the capital of Australia in 1927, though before then, the temporary capital was Melbourne. Harold Holt, though he died by drowning, was memorialized by having a large Melbourne public sports facility named after him. It’s a swimming center.
With Queenscliff three miles astern, Trevor said, “Okay, we’re turning to port and we’ll head north, passing between Pope’s Eye and MudIsland. After that we’ll be in deeper water and can take a direct bearing for Sandringham. We’ll need to watch for cross-traffic though; that course takes us across the main shipping channel to Melbourne.”
Trevor made the turn, keeping a close watch on the light on Pope’s Eye – the annulus of an abandoned harbor fort built on a shoal.
Once in the open waters of Port Phillip, the voyage became easier, with just twenty miles to go. They motored northeast at ten knots, and soon a faint skyglow from astern became apparent, a golden glow reflecting off the overcast – the lights of the city of Geelong, thirty miles away, competing with the far brighter skyglow of Melbourne to their north. They continued on course to the northeast, deviating only once, to due east, to cross the main shipping channel at a ninety degree angle, though no traffic was in sight.
Tired and weary, they rounded the breakwater at Sandringham, a marina on Port Phillip’s northeastern shore, nine miles southeast of downtown Melbourne. They’d made arrangements with the yacht club over a week before, and the club had been happy to help cater to their special circumstances. So, as they’d arranged, they slipped into a waiting berth, just a few yards away from HMAS J7, a scuttled submarine that now lay, partially above the surface, surrounded by docks in the center of the marina.
That particular central berth had been arranged for Atlantis by the yacht club for a reason; the docks and other boats would hide Atlantis’s hulls when seen from almost any angle outside the yacht club, obscuring her in the clutter of masts and hulls of the over one hundred boats then in residence.
With Atlantis tied up and with an hour to go before dawn, Trevor called Fowler to report their safe arrival. They had been told to check in with the yacht club later in the morning, so Trevor and Shane were asleep within minutes.
The next morning, they made their way to the yacht club’s offices, where they received a warm welcome. With the details attended to, they considered their options; they had just two days in the Melbourne area and wanted to spend at least one of them sightseeing. However, practicality reared its head, and they decided to attend to their order from the marine supply store first, to leave as much time as possible to resolve any problems. That was the way of the true sailor; look after the boat, first, last, and always.
They made their way to the marine supply store, which was barely a block away. They entered the big warehouse-style store, where Trevor introduced himself, and was delighted to find that the order was ready. He and Shane examined their items, and then made their way around the store for things not on their list. They soon came to the book and map section, and Shane asked, “How is Atlantis’s navigation system fixed for maps, charts, and such?”
“It’s better than my old system, which was cartridge-based. This one loads from a CD, and holds a lot more. Ned set us up with a full set; Australia, the Pacific, and to get all of the Caribbean area he gave us the full North and South America set. I still want paper charts, just in case, but those are in the order. What I’m looking for now is a nautical almanac for the South Pacific, which has stuff like star, tide and navigational data plus customs and entry rules and requirements.” Trevor spied a promising title, and said as he pulled the book from the shelf and began paging through it, “I also want a pilot, like this one; they have similar stuff on rules and requirements, plus port guides, store information, that sort of stuff. I didn’t put those in our order because I wanted to have a look at them first. I’ve seen both good and bad ones back home.”
Trevor browsed through the two books, and then added both the pilot and the almanac to their cart. The shopping trip continued, and they picked out a few more supplies before trying on some foul-weather clothing and adding it to their purchases. During the checkout, the clerk, who had seen Trevor’s name on the order and knew who he was, welcomed him to Victoria. Several of the people at the yacht club were also well aware of the identity of their guest.
They carted their purchases back to Atlantis and then set out for the hardware store, which was several blocks inland, in downtown Sandringham. There, after picking out several items that were on their list, Trevor examined two long-handled bolt cutters, choosing the larger of the two. “Okay, what are those for?” Shane asked.
“They’re something I hope we never need; a way to cut the steel stay cables that support the mast. If your mast breaks when you’re far out at sea, you’ve got to cut it free.”
“Okay, that makes sense… but why are we getting driveway cleaner for a boat?” Shane picked up the box. “Trisodium phosphate. Sounds dangerous.”
Trevor chuckled. “That’s a tip I learned back home; mix a couple of teaspoons in a bucket of water and it’s a great deck cleaner, plus it gets rid of mold. It’s a great cleaner for lots of stuff, which is why they sell it at marine supply places. My dad’s chandlery sells a lot of it. I saw it at the marine supply store, but I knew it’d be cheaper here and it’s the same stuff.”
With their list filled, they made their way back to Atlantis again. As soon as they’d added the hardware store purchases to the pile from the marine supply house, Shane asked, “Now what? It’s three in the afternoon. Want to do some sightseeing?”
Trevor nodded, grinning at Shane. “Hell yeah. We’ll leave the long distance stuff until tomorrow; according to the map, Half Moon Bay is about two miles south of here. Let’s take the skateboards.”
On their way out, they paused on the dock to examine the submarine, HMAS J7, which had been scuttled there in 1926 as part of the yacht club’s original breakwater. As the club had grown, the main breakwater had been rebuilt further to seaward, leaving HMAS J7 half submerged, soon to be surrounded by docks and berths. Trevor grinned and shook his head. “A sunken sub in the middle of a marina. This is pretty damn cool.”
And with that, they were off to spend the rest of the day sightseeing.
It was a glorious day in Freeport, where Lisa and Joel were enjoying their first full day in The Bahamas. The first order of business was to rent a bicycle, which Joel had reserved. He’d requested a tandem bike due to Lisa’s attempts to learn to ride his bike being somewhat unsuccessful; she could ride it, though she was still too wobbly to be safe in traffic.
Astride their two-seater bike with Joel in front, and still plagued by a few wobbles, they began pedaling around Freeport which, unbeknownst to them, was where Gonzalez had handed out photos of Sanchez when he’d needed to attract attention from what was then Sanchez’s organization.
Tucked neatly into a folder were some of the flyers Lisa and Joel had printed. On them, under Bridget’s picture, was an explanation that she was a relative who suffered from Alzheimer’s and was prone to dementia, and had disappeared in the area. That ruse had been their collective idea to lessen the chances that Bridget would hear of their attempt to find her.
Their first stop on the bright and sunny day was the marina, where they inquired about renting a berth. They collected some brochures, took a few pictures, and then turned their minds to their other task. “Bridget was into yachting; let’s ask around,” Joel said, pulling out one of their flyers.
For the next half hour, they made the rounds, showing the flyer to yachters and marina workers, to no apparent avail.
After lunch, they checked a few mailbox stores, and then collected some tourist literature for Trevor, mainly free magazines that included charter ads. “Trev should have an easy time of it, seeing as how he’s famous. He’ll probably get plenty of business just by running a few ads with his name on ‘em,” Joel remarked, after taking a glance at one of the magazines.
“And that’s why we need to either find Bridget or make sure she’s not around,” Lisa replied, glaring at Bridget’s picture. “It could be dangerous for Trev and Shane to be running charters here if she’s still in the area; everybody seems to think that there’s no more risk from her, but I sure don’t. She’s… malignant.”
“That’s a good word for that bitch,” Joel replied, casting a glare of his own at her picture. “I keep hoping she’s really dead, but… I think your gut is right; she’s still around, somewhere.”
Their next stop was the beach, where they spent a few hours in the sun. The day’s end sent them in search of dinner and, after finding a small local bar that served meals, Joel said, “Let’s kill two birds with one stone and see if anyone knows Bridget.”
“Good idea. Let’s order first and then ask around while we wait,” Lisa replied.
They placed their orders and began making their way around the crowded premises, flyers in hand. The flyers didn’t contain Bridget’s name, just her photo and the explanation.
They were almost done when one man’s eyebrows shot up. “This is a relative of yours?” he asked, with a pleasant smile.
“Yeah, have you seen her? She’s my grandmother,” Joel replied, in a hopeful tone.
“I’m not sure. Let me keep this. There’s a lady who lives in my apartment building who looks a bit like this,” he replied, snatching up the flyer before Joel could agree.
“Don’t let her know we’re looking for her; her doctor said that would be bad if she’s having one of her spells and doesn’t know who she is. She gets like that sometimes.”
The man smiled and nodded. “Of course. It must be very difficult having a family member who’s prone to such things.”
Joel and Lisa shared an awkward glance, and Lisa asked, “You sound American. Have you lived here long?”
The man kept smiling. “Yes, it’s a beautiful place.” He returned his attention to Joel, and asked, “About your grandmother; I’ll try to compare the lady I’ve seen to the photo. Stop by here tomorrow; I eat dinner here almost every day.”
“Thanks!” Lisa and Joel replied as one, as the man got up to go.
They were just in time; their dinners were ready, and they were even hungrier than they’d realized. With their mood buoyed by hope that their lead would pan out, they dug into a sampler platter, getting a taste of local cuisine.
Flyer in hand, the man Lisa and Joel had met made his way to his small office. He sat down at his desk and began to write, filling in a fax cover sheet by hand, and then writing out a full recount of his encounter with Lisa and Joel. He fed it, along with the flyer, into the fax machine, which soon began its cheerful warbling as it handled the transmission. The man waited for a confirmation that the fax had been successfully sent before heading home.
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 .