(Here's alink to google maps, centered on the areas in the chapter, because I know some of you are like me, and love to follow along and see the areas they are in.)
Joy, confusion, chaos and delight. Trevor’s emotions ran the gamut as he tore aboard Kookaburra, followed by Shane, with Trevor making a beeline for his mother’s welcoming arms.
Amidst a clamor of happy voices, friends and family reuniting, Shane seized his chance to thank Greg Fowler for intervening with his aunt.
Aboard Kookaburra were Rachel and Martin Blake, Greg and Shelly Fowler, and the Fowler’s young son. It was a family trip; Shelly was Rachel’s sister.
It was Fowler who, with a proud grin, answered the unasked question: what were they doing there? “There are times when it’s best to mix business with pleasure, and this is one such time. The scheme that Jason Kline and I cooked up has a final piece, and we’re it. We decided to make it a surprise, as well as a family holiday. Rachel and Martin picked us up in Broome, and we’ve had a wonderful trip across Australia’s top end. You’re supposed to be completing your circumnavigation of Australia when you leave here, and though press interest has dropped off, there’s still a bit. So, we’re going to fill in for you.”
Rachel chuckled. “We have some other reasons as well, though we couldn’t resist making it a surprise. But we’re late; some lingering remnants of Cyclone Kara were still about in the Arafura Sea east of Darwin, and we had a few false alarms about other cyclones possibly developing, plus some thunderstorms and squalls were roaming about, so I held off going through the Torres Strait until the weather cleared a bit. Torres Strait is full of reefs and islands, plus a lot of shipping traffic; the last place we’d want to be in a storm of any sort. We knew by then we’d be a few days late, so Greg came up with the idea of having the customs office here delay your departure.”
Martin chimed in. “It’s been a great holiday, and we can spend a few days here. When we leave, we’ve got a trick or two to play that’ll make it look like you’re off to complete your trip around Australia, plus sow a few wild goose chases. By the time anyone can figure it out, you’ll be halfway across the Pacific. You’ll still be famous, even at home, but this’ll help for now.”
Trevor’s grin faded. “You’re worried about that driver in Melbourne, aren’t you?”
Fowler nodded. “Spot on, Trev. Those photos you got for us have proven useful. We’ve been showing them around, and we’re now fairly sure he wasn’t a driver of any sort. He doesn’t appear to be a reporter either. He could be a crank or a nutter – he charged you far less than a convincing amount for the day – who just wanted to spend the day with somebody famous. That’s the current best guess down in Melbourne, and one of the officers you met at Sandringham thinks, based on the photos, that he might be just that; a bloke they’ve encountered before who’s impersonated people so he could spend time with celebrities. If he’s right, this is nothing to worry about. However, I’m far from convinced and, in any case, it’s best to play it safe.” The officer who had given them that opinion was also the one with knowledge of forensics, who was in Gray’s employ.
For the rest of that day, and the next as well, it was family time; Trevor savoring the chance to spend time with his Australian family, all of whom – save for his grandparents – were aboard Kookaburra. Shane split his time, spending much of it on Kookaburra with Trevor’s family – the Blakes were like family to him as well – though he also left on his own to spend time with his aunt and cousins.
Bonzer and Bluey made frequent appearances and, to the delight of everyone, the press made none – that they noticed.
Kent Moorcroft mopped his brow. He was not fond of the tropics, though that was not the reason he was perspiring. So far, his long trip north to Cairns had proven nearly fruitless. Kookaburra and Atlantis, their names proudly emblazoned on their transoms, were docked bows-to-sterns in the most prominent marina in Cairns, in full view of everyone. So far, all Moorcroft had to give his editor were a few photos of the two yachts in return for the expense of the trip, a fact certain to earn him his editor’s enmity.
In some ways, Moorcroft was pleased by his progress on his story; his hired help in Florida and the Bahamas – the one in the Bahamas now on his way to Andros Island – had already given him some of what he’d hoped for, plus some new information. He’d been promised more within seventy two hours. It was only Cairns that was proving unfruitful. He glared at the distant masts of Kookaburra and Atlantis, trying to understand. He was certain that Trevor and Shane’s sudden shift to media-whore behavior was orchestrated, and he felt it was being done to deceive the press and return to them a degree of anonymity. He was even correct on the reason: to protect Trevor from a possible ongoing threat.
His suspicion was that a further game of boat-swapping was in the works. Catching proof of that on camera would be a major help, and he reasoned that it would make his trip to Cairns worthwhile after all. However, there was little else he could do until something actually began to happen so, ever the reporter, he decided to do some legwork, trying to find out what Trevor and Shane had been doing during their stay in Cairns. He had to start somewhere, so he began in Cairns town center, roaming around, talking to people, asking if Trevor had been seen, and what he was doing. It gave Moorcroft something to do, though he found little that he thought useful; quite a few people had seen Trevor out shopping and going from place to place, which did not seem noteworthy.
One of them was a clerk in a video store, who even remembered the title Trevor had purchased while trying to get a tape copied. “It’s not every day somebody famous comes in,” he’d said with a grin.
Bluey and Bonzer arrived at Atlantis and, upon finding no one home, walked to Kookaburra, where they asked Rachel about Trevor and Shane.
“They’ve just popped into town. They’ll be back shortly, I expect. You’re welcome to come aboard and wait; I know they’d love to see you,” Rachel replied.
The two lifesavers bounded aboard, where they found themselves under the watchful eye of Greg Fowler, who had also met them during prior visits. After a few moments, he sidled up and said, in a conspiratorial tone, “From a distance, you two look a bit like Trevor and Shane – except for the hair color.” Bluey was a redhead, while Bonzer had dark brown hair. “So, I was wondering… you’re both over eighteen, right?”
The two lifesavers nodded. “I’m twenty, he’s nineteen,” Bonzer replied.
Fowler grinned. “How would you two like to take a cruise aboard Kookaburra with us, as our guests? We’ll take you as far as Darwin, then buy you air tickets home. You’d be gone for about two weeks; we need someone aboard who can stand in for Trev and Shane from a distance. You’d have to let my wife do something about your hair color… or maybe just wigs; that’d work from a distance.”
Bluey and Bonzer shared a delighted grin, and then Bonzer replied, “We’ve both got jobs, but I think we can probably get the time off.”
“I may be able to help; if needed I can pay a visit to your employers, flash my badge, and let them know that you’re helping on official business.” It was, Fowler reasoned, perfectly true.
“Ripper!” Bluey declared, and then, a puzzled look appearing on his face, he asked, “How come you need us?” he glanced around, first at Fowler’s son, not yet in his teens, and then at Martin, Rachel, and finally at Fowler, a smile of innocent understanding replacing his puzzled look. “Oh, I get it, it’s because the ones who’re big enough are too old and fat!” Half a second later, Bluey yelped in pain as Bonzer’s foot found his.
Bonzer gave Fowler an embarrassed, sheepish glance. “Sorry, Bluey just blurts stuff out, he don’t mean nothin’ by it.”
Fowler unconsciously sucked in his slight middle-aged paunch. “Well, ah, the offer stands. I think we’re in for an interesting trip.”
It was five in the morning when Trevor awoke, finding himself alone in bed. Half asleep, he padded out in his boxers, looking first in Atlantis’s galley, then her salon, where he found Shane, sitting staring at his mother’s picture; the only thing he’d yet retrieved from his boxes of possessions. “You okay?” Trevor asked quietly.
“Yeah,” Shane replied, pausing for a moment. “I’m supposed to see Aunt Marilyn today, to say goodbye.” Shane sighed, standing up and pacing for a moment. The day about to dawn was their last full day in Cairns. “I can’t make up my mind whether to see her or not.”
Trevor could tell that Shane was wrestling with something major. “Want to sit on deck a bit? It’s cooler out there,” he said, though the stifling humidity wasn’t his only reason. He knew that Shane, like himself, found gazing out at the water calming.
They made their way outside, settling down in the cockpit, side by side on the bench seat. Shane was silent for a long time, looking out at Trinity Inlet’s inky waters, listening to the sounds of the night: distant crickets and buzzing tree frogs, the soft, gentle lapping of bubbling water against the hulls, the faint murmur of the breeze rustling nearby palm fronds. As Trevor had hoped, Shane found it soothing. After many long minutes, he continued as if without pause, “Trev, come with me. We’ll only be gone a short while.”
Trevor began fidgeting. “Maybe I’d better stay here. I don’t think she’s too keen on me.”
Shane nodded, and then sighed. “I know. She knows about us. I told her that when we first got there. She’s been to thank Officer Fowler, but she avoids you. I know you know; you’ve not said a word, but I know.”
“I didn’t want to cause any trouble. You’ve got your family back, that’s a great thing.”
Shane put his arm across Trevor’s shoulders. “I guessed as much. I love you, Trev, and this is just one reminder of why.”
“I love you too, and that’s why I don’t want your visit here to end on a down note,” Trevor replied.
“I know that as well, but I can’t just ignore it. I need to know for sure, Trev, so I’m not going to see her as if everything’s all right. So come with me – please.”
Trevor understood and, with a hug and then a nod, he signaled his agreement, and a few hours later that morning, he was by Shane’s side in the parking lot, waiting for Shane’s aunt to arrive. They both noticed that she seemed irked that Trevor was coming along, but she didn’t object.
When they arrived at her home after an uncomfortable car ride, Shane followed her into the kitchen to talk to her alone. “Aunt Marilyn, have you some issues with Trev?” He asked, barely above a whisper. He already knew the answer; he just wanted to hear it.
Marilyn shrugged, and then sighed. “It’s all very well to have friends about, but not for family time.”
“He’s a lot more than a friend and you know it. Cousin Bill brought his girlfriend along, every time,” Shane said, his voice rising.
“That’s different. They’ll probably be married one day.”
Shane glared, daggers in his eyes. “That’s not fucking different, it’s the same. I forgave you before; don’t give me a reason not to. If you try to make me choose, it’ll be a very easy choice.”
“How dare you, we’re family,” Marilyn shot back, her own fury rising. She glared at Shane, her mouth opening, though her eyes fell on a picture on the wall directly behind him: his mother. Her mouth closed, and then she turned away, her face becoming blank for a moment. Finally, she turned to face Shane. “There are some… unnatural choices that I am simply uncomfortable with. I’ve known that you are attracted to both girls and boys for a long time, though I’d always thought you’d choose a girl in the end. However, what I think is beside the point. I suppose it is your choice to make, and I’ve hardly been one to make good choices in recent years. I will not say I approve, but… I shall say no more on the matter, and keep my peace from here on in. As for Trevor, I will treat him… I will treat him as I do your cousin’s girlfriend.”
Shane simmered down, somewhat. They spoke for a few minutes, leaving an uncomfortable Trevor fidgeting in the living room, able to hear some of what was being said.
At the end of the conversation, Shane decided that his aunt had gone as far as she would. “Thank you, Aunt Marilyn,” he said, mindful that they were leaving the next day.
Marilyn returned to the living room with Shane, where she sat across from Trevor, making an effort to treat him with friendly courtesy and interest. It was a glaringly awkward time for them all.
A little earlier than they’d planned, Shane stood, leaned over to give his seated aunt a hesitant hug, and began edging towards the door.
“Shane,” Marilyn said, standing up and hugging her nephew tightly. “I’m sorry, for many things. I wish the both of you a safe voyage, and please keep in touch. Then, Marilyn pulled away from Shane to give Trevor a tentative hug.
A few minutes later, Shane paused at the corner to give Marilyn a final wave and then told Trevor, “Sorry that was a mess at first, but I didn’t want to leave that issue lying, and I’d have likely procrastinated had you not been with me. I’m surprised it went as well as it did.”
“Me too,” Trevor replied, feeling relief on many levels, not the least of which was that the uncomfortable encounter was over.
They paid a visit to the cemetery, where they sat, hand in hand, on the vacant plot beside Shane’s mother’s grave. This time, as Trevor was pleased to see, Shane was less grief-stricken than he’d been before.
On their last night in Cairns, Trevor, Shane, Rachel, and Martin awoke at three in the morning to execute part one of their plan. They carefully looked to see if anyone was around and, spotting no one, they quietly began. Without lights and working largely by feel, they took down the pole-mounted radar, pole and all, from Atlantis’s aft quarter and stowed it in an empty cabin. They then raised and mounted an almost identical one – a pole, plus an empty radome shell – on Kookaburra, in the same location as on Atlantis. Shortly after leaving Geraldton, Rachel and Martin had taken down the false one Ned had rigged on Kookaburra. The fact that Atlantis had two radars – one pole-mount, and one mast-mount – had been, from that point on and until now, the one above-water, evident difference between Kookaburra and Atlantis. It was a difference that would only likely be noticed by a trained eye, or from a comparison of photos. They left the names on the sterns untouched; each boat still bearing her own accurate name.
Departure day began with some official business. A customs officer, package in hand, arrived at the boats. He found Trevor and Shane with the others in Kookaburra’s cockpit and, after greeting Fowler, he turned his attention to Shane, handing him his new passport. Shane, delighted, thumbed through it; he’d never had one before.
The customs officer handed Trevor a package, and then a clipboard. “I’ll need a signature for the gun and ammunition. It’s to remain unloaded and under lock and key while you are in Australian waters, and this must be your point of departure from Australia. Where are you bound?”
“Auckland, New Zealand,” Trevor replied.
“If for any reason you decide to return to this or any Australian port or territory, or delay your departure past noon today, you must let us know at once.”
Trevor signed with a flourish, delighted to have his chrome-plated revolver, the one Fowler had confiscated upon Trevor’s arrival in Carnarvon, back at last.
“I’ll bet it feels good to have a gun again,” Fowler asked, carefully watching Trevor’s eyes.
“Yeah, thanks,” he said, to both Fowler and the visiting officer, the latter taking his leave with a jaunty wave, along with a wish of a safe journey.
Serious issues remained.
“Trev,” Fowler said, fixing Trevor in a firm stare as soon as he’d returned from securing his gun aboard Atlantis, motioning him to follow him into Kookaburra’s salon for a private chat.
As soon as they were alone, Fowler turned to glare at Trevor. “About Melbourne: I’ve kept my peace until now, but what you said you told that imposter driver concerns me. You said far too bloody much.” Fowler had, during several conversations since arriving, wormed out of Trevor what had been said.
“But Uncle Greg, talking about swapping the boats around and that they’re identical is something Jason Kline told us to do, and had us do on TV in Sydney, part of the PR stunt excuse thing he cooked up,” Trevor replied.
“Not that,” Fowler said, shaking his head. “First, if you’ve told me all of it, you told the driver that you had something planned for Sydney to get the press off your backs. What if he’d been a reporter – or talked to one? And why in blazes did you tell him you were leaving from Cairns?”
“I’d been drinking. He was buying us beer,” Trevor lamely replied. “I think I said a couple of stops after Sydney, then we’d leave from Cairns, but we only made one, Brisbane,” he added, cringing at the memory. “When I drink, I talk too much.”
“Letting a stranger buy you beers was bloody stupid,” Fowler observed, punctuated with a sad shake of his head. “Even worse was confiding in him. Secrecy in all things is your best defense. Unless someone absolutely needs to know something, say nothing! Or lie. At least until we are certain that the threat is over. However, we can’t change the past; all we can do is mitigate any damage done. Your driver may well have been just a crank, but that doesn’t mean he won’t talk to someone. You told him your route after Cairns, didn’t you?”
Trevor shook his head. “No... Well only kinda. I said we were going to swing south to catch the westerlies, then cut northeast to Panama. That’s like telling him we’ll be sailing on water; it’s obvious because it’s the only way to get to Panama from here. Going in a straight line would mean beating and bashing into the wind for thousands of miles. Nobody would do that. I didn’t tell him where we’d be stopping.”
“No, you just told him your destination and route. And the route wouldn’t be as obvious if you weren’t leaving from Cairns, now would it?”
“Well, kinda. We could have headed due east from Melbourne, and kinda from Sydney, but we’d still be on the same track after. And as for Panama, where else could we go?”
“Trev,” Fowler almost shouted, his anger growing. “Don’t you see? It doesn’t matter if it’s obvious. The fact is there was no reason to tell him anything truthful. None! You could be putting both your life and Shane’s at risk. I want your promise, right now; no more running off at the mouth without an absolute reason. Have you forgotten the listening devices Lisa and Joel were subject to? If someone has no rightful need to know something, they don’t get told it!”
Trevor, chagrined, nodded. “I promise.”
“You even told the customs officer here that you were bound for Auckland. Was there any reason to do that?” Fowler pressed.
Trevor’s expression grew confused. “I wasn’t sure if I had to or not – I don’t know the law on that, and he did ask.”
Fowler softened. “Okay, fair enough – you didn’t know. So now I’m telling you; you didn’t need to tell him that. It’s his business that you’re leaving Australia, not where you’re going.” Fowler kept his face impassive, remarking in an offhand way, “I’ll give you an example. The federal police gave me, and a load of others, copies of their report regarding what happened off Geraldton. There was much in it that had no business being released to so many, though they did so. They didn’t need to rabbit on about the rifling tests they’d done on the bullet that they’d dug out of your deck, and how it didn’t match the killer’s gun that was aboard.” Fowler paid close attention to Trevor’s eyes.
Trevor’s eyes opened a bit too wide. “It was kinda dark, and maybe he had two. It must have been from the other one, and bounced overboard when Shane swatted him,” Trevor replied. Both guns had been fired, and it had never occurred to him to make sure he kept the one he’d fired into the air to test, not the one Basingstoke had fired at him.
“Ah, yes, it must have been,” Fowler replied, glancing out into the cockpit. “According to the interview they did with you two, the killer was on deck, leaning over the cockpit when Shane hit him. That’d knock the gun down into the cockpit, where it’d bounce all over the place like a rubber ball then go up and out, over the side.” Fowler had to fight his urge to smile.
Guns are good for many things, but bouncing like a rubber ball isn’t one of them, as Trevor well knew – and he knew his uncle knew it too. He correctly guessed that this was part of his uncle’s lesson: keep his big mouth shut unless there’s need. “Shane must’ve knocked it up, not down. It was kinda hectic.”
“We’ll leave the discussion of Shane knocking up guns for another day,” Fowler quipped, and then nodded in acceptance, lesson over. Almost. “Trev, I certainly don’t mistrust the officer who was just aboard, but I also can’t say for certain that he’ll tell no one your next port. The fact is he should include that in his report, so many eyes will see it – just as many saw the report on what happened off Geraldton. There’s also the fact that Auckland is a busy city.”
Trevor got that message too. “So, I guess we’re not going there.”
“Lesson learnt?” Fowler asked, his eyes boring in on Trevor’s.
“Lesson learned,” Trevor acknowledged, with a sheepish, wan smile.
“Pick another place, somewhere quiet. There’s one in New Zealand I know pretty well, though I haven’t been in years: Whakatane, on the Bay of Plenty.” Trevor blinked at Fowler’s pronunciation: Fuck-AH-tany. Fowler continued, “A fine anchorage, and you ought to be okay there if you keep your stay brief – no more than two days. There are markets in town so you can stock up for the long run ahead. Now, I’m still concerned over Panama. Did you give anyone, anyone at all, any idea of when you’ll be going through the canal?”
Trevor shook his head. “No, I don’t even know that myself. There’s too many variables on a trip this long. I’ll only have a good idea of the day when we get closer. That’s another problem too; yachts have to reserve passage a couple of weeks in advance. From what I remember hearing, that list is sorta public. Do I go through as Atlantis, or under a fake name? If I try faking it, I might get in trouble. The boat’s registry papers say Atlantis.”
Fowler stroked his chin, deep in thought. “Ned might be right on that issue. A copy of the old Ares registry papers might suffice. The names Kookaburra and Atlantis are well linked to you, Ares isn’t, not to the same degree. The press wouldn’t be looking for her. Wouldn’t be legal, though there’s no fraud intended. Might be worth it for safety’s sake. If there’s any issue, have them call me and I’ll get someone high up in the service to explain the need to them. It’d carry no official weight, but it might do the trick.”
“We don’t have a stick-on for the transom that says ‘Ares’” Trevor pointed out.
“Wrong again,” Fowler said, breaking into a grin. “Yes you do, you just don’t know it yet. Ned made one for you, and we’ve brought it with us. A copy of the old registry papers too.”
Martin and Rachel took the opportunity presented by the private chat to take care of another matter. They approached Shane in the cockpit, where Martin showed him a gift-wrapped box before putting it in a paper bag and handing it to him. “Sneak this back to Atlantis and hide it. You’ll be at sea for Trev’s birthday; he’s not to know until then.”
In the salon, Fowler began to pace. “My guess, which also seems to be the consensus, is that Bridget was after that asset list or the keys you found, either to destroy them or get them. So, basing a guess on a guess, even if she’s alive, she’s probably no longer after you or either boat. We’re probably worried for nothing, at least I hope so, but it’s best to be safe. I’m hoping that we have all this resolved and behind us before you get to Florida.”
Trevor sighed. “Me too. I’m hoping they’ve caught Bridget by then; I still think she’s behind it all.”
Martin entered the salon in time to catch Trevor’s words, and asked, “Then you don’t think she’s dead either, do you?”
“Just a hunch, but no. That boat coming ashore with the bodies… I want to believe it, but I need to know for sure.”
Martin sighed. “Me as well mate, me as well. There’s been no indication of her that I know of since that time, but that boat struck me as bloody convenient. You’ll need to be wary until we know for sure that this is all over.”
Fowler chuckled. “Martin, now might be a good time to give Trevor and Shane their going-away present – the one I’m not supposed to know about.”
Martin blinked. “Uh, what–”
Fowler held up a hand to interrupt. “I’d prefer no confirmation until it’s out of Australian waters – it’s not my job after that – but let’s just say I find it most interesting that I saw you with a pool-cue case a few weeks back, not long after you were asking me questions about what’d do what to an engine block. That, plus I’m a nosy bastard. I’m sure Trevor and Shane will appreciate having a pool cue aboard, seeing as how there’s no pool table on Atlantis – it’d be a bloody silly thing to have on a boat. Or perhaps it’s the world’s narrowest violin?” With that, Fowler, whistling happily to himself, headed out on deck.
Martin rolled his eyes. “He doesn’t bloody miss much, Greg doesn’t. Okay, let me grab the, ahem, pool cue and then let’s head over to Atlantis.”
Shane had no clue what the mystery item might be, but Trevor had already guessed, a smile of relief and delight spreading across his face as they, with Martin’s pool cue case, made their way to Atlantis.
Once they were in the salon, Martin set the case on the main table, clicking it open with a flourish. “I’ve been working on getting this for a while now; it’s not easy to do it off the record due to the laws here, but I found a seller with an unregistered one who was willing to sell on the sly. It had to be this way; there’s no good way I could give you this legally in Australia – it’d have to be registered, plus there’s a load of red tape. This way was best,” he said, as he stood back and let Trevor rush in.
Trevor picked up the gift; a well-maintained bolt-action rifle. “Wow, it’s beautiful! Heavy too…” He pulled back the bolt to check the chamber. “It’s solid, and that’s a big bore. 30-06?” he guessed.
“Got it in one. Mauser 30-06, and it fires these,” he said, lifting up the padding in the pool-cue case to reveal a box of black-tipped armor-piercing rounds. “There’s one missing; I test-fired it. It blew a hole the size of my fist through a rusty old tractor engine I had lying about. Small on the entry side, big on the exit.”
Trevor flipped open the caps on the telescopic sights. “I was planning on getting something like this when we got home. This’ll make the trip a lot safer. Thanks Martin!” Trevor said, putting the rifle down and giving Martin a hug.
Shane was nowhere near as familiar with guns as Trevor, and it took him a few moments to understand, even though Trevor had mentioned it before. “For taking out the engine of a boat that’s after us, right?” he asked.
Trevor nodded. “With a gun like this, I could have held off the pirates – if I’d seen them coming. It’d outrange the AKs they had by a lot, and this’ll punch through and stop most anything. An AK round can’t.”
“Use it only as a last resort; running away if you can is still the best option,” Martin cautioned.
Trevor nodded in agreement. “I know, but if somebody came at us in something we can’t outrun, like a fast skiff or a Zodiac, this would stop ‘em cold.”
“I surely hope you never have to use it, but I’ll feel better knowing that you have it. It was your mother’s idea. I was skeptical that I could find one black-market, but I finally did. This is what I was working on while you were in Geraldton; that’s why your mum drove down alone.”
“You owe me an extra fifty for that,” Gray’s associate pointed out, his still-jangled nerves overriding his innate fear of Gray. “Never again.”
Gray didn’t see a reason to argue; he’d agreed to the fifty thousand in advance. “Worth it, and I know you took a risk.”
“A big one. Being in croc-infested waters at night is bloody bonkers. I was expecting to be attacked every fucking second.”
Gray almost smiled as he envisioned how that would have gone for the crocodile. “Fair enough, but at least it’s done.”
“Why not get her now?”
Gray gave the man a harsh glare. “Look out the damn window; we’d be scoring an own-goal at this range, not to mention drawing a fucking huge manhunt.”
“I didn’t mean with us right here,” the associate replied, though he knew that Gray’s point on the manhunt was wise.
Bridget’s orders had been explicit – deep water – though Gray saw no need to share them with this man. “There are reasons that are not your concern. It’ll be done at sea.”
“How’s the leg, Mom?” Trevor asked, as he helped his mother up the galley’s steep stairs.
“A bloody nuisance, that’s what it is. I’m all right on the flat, but stairs do a number on me. I’m afraid my chartering days are over; I doubt I’ll ever be right. Kookaburra is yours now at any rate; we’ll just keep an eye on her and take her out on our holidays and such while she’s not being used. I can handle that all right, but not the hustle and bustle of chartering,” Rachel replied.
At long last, the time had come; a parting of the ways, the long sojourn over. For Trevor, so much had happened to him in Australia: rescue, Shane, reuniting with his thought-dead mother, getting to know his Australian family.
Now it was time to go, to complete the circle.
Trevor and Shane went to Bluey and Bonzer’s cabin on Kookaburra to say goodbye, and then made their way to the cockpit for a round of poignant farewells. Trevor hugged his family, one by one. Shane hung back a moment, and then joined in, at home amidst a family that had become his as well. He gave Martin a big hug. “Thanks for everything, Mr. Blake.”
“For the last time, the name’s Martin,” Martin replied, hugging Shane back.
A small crowd gathered at the docks as the appointed hour, noon, approached. The local reporter stepped forward for a few words with Trevor, who gave a friendly wave to the crowd. “Where’s your next port of call?” the reporter asked, after a few questions about their time in Cairns.
Trevor smiled. “Darwin for sure. Probably some places along the way; we’re doing a coastal run, and some snorkeling stops.”
“Both boats?” the reporter asked.
Trevor smiled. “Kookaburra is heading south, going around the other way. They’ll meet us back in Carnarvon.”
Fowler stepped forward. “We’re bound for Innisfail first, then the islands off Townsville. After that, Sydney, though I doubt we’ll get the welcome Trevor did.” Innisfail is about sixty miles by sea southeast of Cairns, while Townsville is closer to two hundred.
Once the reporter was done, Kookaburra cast off first, sounding her horn as she entered the channel, heading out to sea with Rachel at her helm, with Bluey and Bonzer out of sight in their cabin.
Each taking turns waving at the small crowd – which included several of Shane’s friends and, to his delight, his aunt and cousins – Trevor and Shane cast off, horns sounding, following Kookaburra out to sea.
Two hundred yards away, on the far side of the Trinity Inlet, Kent Moorcroft adjusted the zoom on his camera lens again, and continued snapping pictures of the sailing.
Aboard Atlantis, Shane, still waving at the shore, asked Trevor, “Did you tell anyone about the gold or the tape?”
Trevor shook his head. “No. They already know about the asset list and keys we found. I was thinking we might want to tell them, but then Uncle Greg read me the riot act about talking too much. He kinda tested me by asking questions about the Makarov we kept from the hit man. I’m pretty sure he knows, but he doesn’t want to know, officially, because of his job. Shane, we can’t risk anybody confiscating that gold; unless this is all over for sure by the time we get home, we can’t start chartering again and we’ll need the gold to live off.”
Shane nodded, and then snickered. “Your uncle tore into me about an hour ago, giving me a right earbashing over Melbourne.”
Gray, watching from his suite’s balcony, stepped inside for privacy to call Bridget. “They’ve sailed, both of them. I’ve a tracker on the one, and fifty kilos on the primary target. I couldn’t get ‘em both rigged to blow; the diver wouldn’t go back into the water due to the crocs.”
“No matter, it is Kookaburra that we need destroyed. You have done well. Is Rachel Carlson aboard her?”
“I believe so. I got a good look through binoculars, and Trevor certainly seems to treat her like a mother. I’m pretty sure it’s her, and she was at the helm when they pulled out.”
“Superb. What are their current courses?”
Gray glanced out the window. “Right now, they’ve just cleared the inlet mouth, eastbound in the channel. The current claim is that Kookaburra is southbound, Atlantis northbound. When I talked to Trevor and Shane in Melbourne, they said they’d be leaving Australia from Cairns, though they haven’t stopped in as many ports as they indicated yet. My hunch is they might be heading north first, then coming back.”
“I highly doubt that. Their two dearest friends are getting married in August; I know they want to be there, thus they must leave soon or they could not arrive in time. The fortuitous arrival of Kookaburra also indicates that this is their farewell. No matter if they do leave; Trevor will return for his mother’s memorial service or to search for her. Kill them then. If for some reason they do not turn back, I shall take care of the matter when they reach Panama. They have no other viable route.”
“If you prefer, I could do the lot right now; the boats are close enough to each other – maybe fifty meters – that if I blow Kookaburra it’ll finish the two on Atlantis as well. They’re in the cockpit, so they’re fairly exposed. It’s shallow water though.”
Bridget was tempted. One command and her fear of over a decade would be over. It was only her iron will that prevailed, choosing certainty over immediacy. She could not risk any chance of the tape surviving the blast and being found. She judged that the risk was slight, but real. “I prefer deep water, so wait. How exactly is she rigged?” Bridget asked, concerned that the bomb could be discovered.
“I had to get creative due to only having access underwater this time. We molded the explosive into two long narrow blisters atop a sheet of waterproof flexboard, which had some netting loosely stapled to it. The explosive we used is much like modeling clay so it was easy to form, and it’ll hold its shape. The netting in it makes sure it stays put. The diver stuck the flexboard side on with epoxy, right up from each keel. Twenty-five kilos of high explosive for each hull. The trigger is radio for one, shock for the other. The radio aerial is her mast; we tapped into the main zinc which according to my mate who knows boats is connected to the mast via the lightning ground.”
“Yes, on that boat it is. How will you determine where she is?” Bridget asked.
“I couldn’t get a tracker aboard Kookaburra so I’m having to do this the old-fashioned way; one of my associates is following them. He’s on a radar-equipped powerboat. We’re in touch by satellite phone, and he’s got a trigger for the bomb. The range is line-of-sight. He’s got a depth sounder and orders to blow her when she reaches deep water – anything over a thousand meters and well clear of land, like you said. He’ll also blow her if there’s any sign of the bombs being found or any risk of her getting away.”
“What of Atlantis? What is the range on her tracker?” Bridget asked.
“Unlimited. It’s based on a satellite phone. It only sends out a brief burst once every two hours. It’s a text message; latitude, longitude, direction, and speed. Other than that, it keeps itself off. No emissions and almost no power use. The battery should be good for six months or more. It’s been aboard since Brisbane and is working fine. I could have rigged her with a bomb then but I didn’t want to take the chance of trouble, such as it being found while we wait. At that point, I had no idea how long it would be until we could find Kookaburra, and you said we had to get her first.”
“Both at once would have been ideal, though no matter; you have done the one we most need – the other will come shortly.”
Five miles off Cairns, Atlantis and Kookaburra, under full sail on a close reach, charged ahead in parallel, racing for the open sea at sixteen knots. They still had a handful of powerboats trailing; a few die-hard well-wishers – save for one, three miles back; a large powerboat.
For over an hour, Atlantis and Kookaburra, sister ships so long separated, raced due east, leaving their well-wishers behind. Then, moving as one, two greyhounds of the seas, they turned south.
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