(Here's a link to google maps, which can be zoomed and moved around, 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.)
With Atlantis moored in the Whakatane River, Shane looked at the lush green pastures to their north and grinned. “So, should we lock up and be off to fuck-a-whatsits? Or should we admire the view of the nervous sheep?”
Trevor, laughing and cringing at the same time, replied, “Do me a favor; no sheep jokes while we’re ashore. I’ve got a hunch that the locals might not appreciate it.”
“No worries, mate. ‘Sheep shagger’ is a term of endearment in New Zealand, just like ‘bastard’ can be in Australia. The nickname they hate is ‘Kiwis’, so don’t use that, but call ‘em ‘sheep shaggers’ and they’ll give you a warm reception,” Shane replied, turning away to hide a grin.
Trevor’s eyes narrowed. ‘Yeah, right’ he thought. “For some reason, I’m having trouble believing that they’re fond of a nickname that implies that their national pastime is having carnal relations with sheep.”
“Fine, go call one a Kiwi and see how mad they get,” Shane replied, his sides beginning to heave as he lost the battle to avoid cracking up.
“Uh huh,” Trevor said to his laughing boyfriend’s back, trying to decide if now was the time to share a bit of information imparted by Bluey. He decided to save it for a bit later and instead, with an evil grin spreading across his face, suggested, “Okay, you give it a try.”
Shane turned, and with a casual shrug, replied, “No worries. If any of them object, I’ll just blame it all on the captain of this boat. I’ll say the cruel and abusive bastard has been telling sheep shagging jokes for weeks.” Shane glanced at the nearby sheep and added, “Poor things. They’re probably the most nervous sheep in the country, seeing as how they’re in a place whose very name starts with ‘fuck’.”
Trevor finished locking up, and then began lowering the Zodiac. “Just try not to start a riot.”
“Cruel and abusive bastard!” Shane roared, his face a mask of mock indignity. “I’m very diplomatic, I am. It’s ignorant sods like you who are hell-bent on offending the locals.”
“Get in the fucking boat,” Trevor gasped, starting to crack up.
“If it was a local fucking boat, it’d have wool,” Shane quipped, hopping into the Zodiac as Trevor cast off. He then observed, “That reminds me; it’s a good thing we’re well stocked with Aussie beer, seeing as we’re heading for Yankeeland.”
Trevor gave Shane a wary look, deciding to take the bait. “Okay, why did that remind you of beer?”
Shane smirked. “American beer. It’s like making love in a canoe: fucking close to water.”
“Yep, you’re diplomatic all right,” Trevor replied, rolling his eyes and laughing.
They motored downriver, and soon saw a police officer standing on the river side of a large boathouse. “That’s where he said he’d be,” Trevor announced, with a relieved smile.
They tied up at the boathouse and scrambled up to meet the officer, who said quietly, “Welcome to New Zealand,” as he ushered them inside the old building. As soon as he’d closed the door, he continued, “I do need to see your passports.” Trevor and Shane handed them to the officer, who gave them a cursory glance. “Under the circumstances, we’re bending the rules a bit. You can’t bring anything ashore, though you’re free to come and go so long as you let me know. However, if you move to another port in this country, it must be an official port of entry.”
“Thanks, but we’ll be leaving the country from here. What we most need is to do some grocery shopping, plus stop at a hardware store if there’s one close. I need to top up Atlantis’s tanks with diesel, too,” Trevor replied.
The officer smiled, nodding for Trevor and Shane to follow him through the building. At the far side, he glanced out the door. “I picked this spot for you to moor your skiff in part for that reason. We’re about forty meters from the main seafront road. Cross the road here, then turn right. Go about two hundred meters and look to your left; you’ll be looking right at a supermarket. Immediately behind it from that point, just across The Strand, is a hardware store. I’m not sure what time they open though; you might be a good bit early.”
Trevor and Shane set out, walking towards the supermarket and then past it. They wore baseball caps pulled down low, plus sunglasses, in order to be at least a bit anonymous. “Let’s grab some brekkie, then have a look around,” Shane said, grinning as he spun around, taking in the quiet town. “So far, it’s not all that different from home, except for the accents.”
Glancing at a stand of trees, Trevor spotted something he’d never seen before. “Look at the palms up ahead. Except they’re not palms. Those are ferns. Fern trees!” Trevor exclaimed, pointing at the tallest, which towered forty feet overhead.
“Someone’s been reading the guidebook,” Shane observed with a grin. He’d seen the piece on fern trees also.
They stopped for a look at the fern trees and then made their way to The Strand, which is the town’s main shopping street. They turned left, enjoying the morning sun, before stopping at a small restaurant for a typical New Zealand cooked breakfast; fried egg with bacon and sausages, mushrooms, cooked tomatoes, and toast. After breakfast, they continued their walk through town, exploring and having a good time, welcoming the chance to escape from their worries.
As noon approached, they were on the inland side of the town, three quarters of a mile south of the river. There, Trevor pointed across the busy street, at a barbershop. “It’s called ‘Kiwicuts’, and according to you ‘Kiwi’ is an offensive name for New Zealanders. Why don’t you go inside and ask why they don’t call it ‘Sheepshaggercuts’ instead, to avoid, you know, offending people?”
Shane glanced at the shop. “Okay, will do,” he said, just before checking for traffic and dashing across the street.
Trevor paused to check both ways – a habit he’d learned upon arriving in Australia in order to cope with left-hand traffic – and dashed in pursuit, soon catching up with Shane, who was standing at the shop’s window, peering in. “You’re not really going to ask that, are you?” Trevor asked.
Shane snickered. “Nah, not unless I can think of a way to blame you,” he replied, as they resumed their walk.
Trevor asked casually, “Would they get mad enough to be a real brickbrain?”
Shane’s laughter stopped and he froze in his tracks. “What?”
Trevor shrugged. “It’s a term I heard in Cairns. It means a guy who’s so psycho and into head-butting when he fights that the only thing his head is good for is using it like a brick.”
“What… Who?” Shane sputtered, spinning to look at Trevor.
“I’m sure you’ve heard it before; you’re from Cairns, and everybody there seemed to know what a brickbrain is.”
“Yeah, I’ve heard it,” Shane grumbled, giving Trevor a wary look. “Who told you of it?”
Trevor gave Shane an innocent smile. “Pretty much everybody. It sounds like it’s well known there. Why do you ask?” Trevor tried, but he couldn’t hold it in any longer, his sides beginning to heave as he gasped, “Brickbrain.”
Shane cringed at the sound of his seldom-used nickname. He turned around and started walking back towards the Zodiac. “Trev, we’ve got to put back out to sea and head for Australia, right now!”
“Why?” Trevor asked, between gasps of laughter.
“So I can kill Bluey, that’s bloody why. I know it’s got to be him who told you.”
Trevor doubled over where he stood, laughing ever harder. “I’m not saying who it was… but I will say I heard it a lot. You tried to hang ‘galah’ on me, remember? Now I know your Aussie nickname. Brickbrain. It fits you so well. You head-butted me when we first met… and yeah, it is kind of brick-like.”
“Cruel and abusive bastard!” Shane declared after turning around and heading back toward Trevor. “Most of my mates know not to use it – except Bluey!”
“Does it bother you?” Trevor asked, in a more serious tone.
Shane laughed, shaking his head. “It did, before I left Cairns. I was a real aggro case back then, so I guess it did fit.”
“Now I’ve got something to call you, when you call me ‘cruel and abusive bastard!’”
“Suit yourself, Captain Bligh, monster of the high seas,” Shane replied, with a big grin as they started walking toward the store again. He glanced around, adding, “I’m having a blast just being here. It sucks that we can’t stay. I wish we could, but I know we can’t. If we see what we can of the town today, want to sail tonight?”
Trevor nodded reluctantly. “Yeah, because we don’t know what’s really going on with Kookaburra, and, according to that story with her asset list in it, Bridget is alive and still after something, and we think we might know what. I also didn’t like that one bit mentioned near the end; that I was going into video stores in Cairns. I’d feel a lot safer at sea. I’d want to be out past the mouth before it gets dark though; that’s not someplace I’d want to try navigating at night.”
After lunch, they made their way towards the river mouth, following The Strand as it became the waterfront road. With lush green bluffs to their right and the river on their left, they kept on, passing a few small hotels nestled against the bluffs.
As they neared the river mouth, they again saw the statue on the rock. It was a woman, rail thin, standing tall and peering inland. “I wonder what that’s for,” Trevor remarked, intrigued.
Just a few yards from the river mouth, a small park formed the shore. Trevor and Shane left the pavement to walk on the grass that led to the river’s edge. They peered across at the tip of the sandy hook that formed the far side of the mouth, which was only two hundred feet away. “That big rock the statue is on kind of anchors the tip of the sandy side of the mouth. The sand goes right up to it,” Trevor said, studying the waters he knew he’d need to navigate.
A movement on the far shore caught Shane’s eye. “I wonder how you get over there?” he said, pointing at a boy in swim trunks who was racing up and down the sand, tossing driftwood onto the river and then following it downstream as far as the statue, only to tear upstream to repeat. “He’s all alone over there, no sign of roads or anything.” To Shane, ever the lifesaver, the sight of a child alone by dangerous waters was always a cause for concern.
“Maybe he hiked? There are probably houses just out of sight. There’s a bridge about a mile upriver of where we’re anchored.
On a concrete post just a few feet from the water’s edge, they spotted a shirt, and beside it a pair of flip-flops on a towel. Shane eyed them with concern, and then, after a backwards glance, Trevor and Shane made their way back into town, heading for the main boat mooring area to inquire about fuel. “Just tie up by the pump, I’ll be here until six,” the attendant replied.
They found a video store, and Trevor asked about getting a U.S. format tape copied, though he had no better luck than he had in Cairns.
Their next stop was the hardware store. As they entered, Shane asked, “What do we need?”
“Remember where we found the stuff on Kookaburra? The fake beams? I want to start making a set like that for Atlantis to hide the Mauser when we’re in port,” Trevor replied. The rifle, which was too large to fit in Trevor’s secret compartment with the two pistols, was currently hidden in the bilge.
Trevor picked out some sheet metal, latches, wiring, fiberglass resin, and a few other odds and ends for the project.
They made their way to the supermarket, where Trevor told Shane, “We’re well stocked on stuff with a long shelf-life, but we need whatever perishables you can think of.” Shane had a few suggestions, and soon they were racing around with a cart, loading up on milk, eggs, potatoes, onions, cabbages, oranges, kiwi fruit, and meat. Remembering his crossing of the Atlantic, Trevor added in sandwich meat and sliced cheese. It was Shane who remembered the bread which, he learned to his amusement, Trevor had forgotten more than once in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean.
It took them two trips to load their purchases into the Zodiac, and then Trevor cast off, intending to return to Atlantis.
“How about another look at the river mouth?” Shane asked, already gazing in that direction with a concerned look on his face.
Trevor turned downriver, and then replied, “You’re worried about that kid, I can tell.”
“Yeah, I think I saw his stuff on our side of the river earlier and it’s been bothering me. If he swam over there, he could be in big trouble if he tries coming back. I figure we could offer him a lift across.”
They spotted the kid as they approached. Trevor ran the Zodiac up onto the sandy hook’s shore. They approached the kid, who looked up from the sand sculpture he was making. “Hi,” he said, giving them a wary look, along with a lopsided smile.
Shane gave him a big grin. “Hi, how did you get over here?”
The kid, who it turned out was eleven, stood up, pointing at the park on the far side. “I swam it yesterday. I’m a swimmer. It’s only a few hundred feet.”
Trevor smiled at the sound of a familiar accent.
“I’m a lifesaver, and I need to tell you that’s bloody dangerous,” Shane replied.
“What’s a lifesaver?” the kid asked.
Trevor jumped in to reply, “Like a lifeguard. He’s right; a place like this is dangerous to swim across.”
“Today I used my raft; it’s got oars. If there’s a strong current I just go upriver, it’s not so strong there and it carries me back to where I want to go. I rode the river out to sea this morning, then rowed back to shore and pulled my raft back upriver. I do it a lot, it’s fun.”
“Where’s your raft?” Shane asked.
The kid pointed up the beach. “Over there.”
Shane squinted in the glare, spotting the kid’s raft, which was more of a pool toy than a real raft.
Trevor paused to look at the sand sculpture; a mound of sand shaped roughly like the large conical rock, with a twig standing in for the statue.
The kid noticed Trevor’s glance, and had also noted his accent, so similar to his own. “I tried to copy Wairaka’s statue.”
“Is that what it’s called?” Trevor asked.
“Yes. I thought she was a mermaid statue when I first got here but she isn’t. She saved a giant Maori canoe. Maori women weren’t supposed to touch the rudder or paddles, but she did, so they built a statue of her.”
Trevor turned to look up at the statue, lost in thought.
“Do your parents know you swam across the river?” Shane asked.
The kid’s face changed from lopsided smile to a worried look. His parents – their months-long family trip to New Zealand was partially a business one – were busy with business meetings that week, and though they trusted him to look after himself during the days, they had no idea he’d been swimming across the river.
“Tell ya what, mate; we’ll tow you to the far side, but no more swimming across the river alone, okay? If I see you do that again, I’ll need to check with your parents to make sure you have their permission,” Shane said, already guessing that the kid’s parents would hit the roof.
“I’ll just use my raft,” the kid quickly promised.
“Right then, let’s go,” Shane said, leading the way to the kid’s tiny raft, which would barely have held two of him. “Hop in,” Shane said, and waited while the kid removed the oars from the oarlocks and scampered in. Trevor and Shane each grabbed an end to carry the grinning boy to the water.
They gave the kid a rope to hang on to while they used the Zodiac to tow him across the river. As they approached the far, rocky shore, he hopped out and clambered carefully on the rocks, struggling with his raft, heading for his shirt, towel, and flip-flops. “Thanks,” he said, giving Trevor and Shane a wave as they pulled away.
As they roared upriver, Shane said, “A Yank, I should have known. You’re all bloody insane!”
“Would you have swum across when you were his age?” Trevor asked, arching a knowing eyebrow in Shane’s direction.
Shane grinned. “That’s different.”
Trevor laughed, shaking his head, the wind blowing in his hair. “I’m curious about that statue he was talking about. When we stop for fuel, let’s ask.”
They returned to Atlantis and, as the sun set, put away their groceries. Trevor glanced downriver, and grinned. “I just had an idea.”
“A very rare event!” Shane replied.
Trevor’s grin broadened. “I think you’ll like this one. It’s going to take us about five weeks at sea to make Panama, and that’s a long time. So, why don’t we order take-out for dinner? I saw a Chinese place in town, and we could have them deliver it to the dock. We could get a few days’ worth so we’ll have leftovers too.”
Shane nodded eagerly. “Sounds great. Just make sure they take plastic; some delivery places back home want cash and we don’t have any New Zealand cash.” They’d used debit cards for their purchases ashore.
Trevor phoned the police officer to let him know their plans, and then called the Chinese restaurant, who were willing to take Trevor’s credit card over the phone. After some discussion, they ordered dim sum, egg rolls, cashew chicken, beef and broccoli, and a slew of side orders. In all, it was enough for eight people, and the price made Trevor cringe. “Okay, the delivery address is the fuel dock on the river; I don’t know the street address.” The restaurant assured Trevor that they knew where that was, and told him they’d deliver in half an hour. Trevor’s stomach was already growling.
They weighed anchor and set off, motoring slowly downriver to the fuel dock. With practiced skill, Trevor pirouetted Atlantis on engines, turning her into the current and then moving smoothly sideways relative to the dock, relying on her deployable bumpers to avoid any scrapes. As soon as they’d touched, Shane tossed mooring lines to the dockhand.
Trevor and Shane stepped onto the dock, and Trevor instructed, “Diesel, please,” as he pointed to the port-side filler cap. He’d already used the fuel transfer pump to top off the starboard fuel tanks from the port tanks; they’d only used a tiny percentage of her fuel reserves, but Trevor wanted full tanks before crossing the Pacific.
“I’ve never seen this big a boat in here before,” the dockhand replied, already unlimbering the fueling hose.
“It was tight coming through the mouth,” Trevor replied, hoping that their exit went as smoothly as their entry.
While they waited, a grinning young man of Maori descent approached, carrying several bags. “Kia ora,” he said, glancing at Trevor, and then Shane. “Is one of you Trevor?” Kia ora is a traditional New Zealand greeting.
“That’s me,” Trevor replied, as he and Shane eagerly took possession of the bags. “Hey, do either of you guys know the story of that statue at the river’s mouth?”
The delivery guy nodded. “That’s how the town and the river got their name. Whakatane means ‘to act as a man’. About seven hundred years ago, a canoe called the Mataatua arrived. Mataatua was one of the great canoes, waka, which brought the Maori to this land. When they landed, not far from where we’re standing, the men went ashore. They were Polynesians, from at least as far away as the Cook Islands. They weren’t used to strong tides or rivers so they didn’t moor the canoe. It began to be carried by the outgoing tide towards the rocks at the river mouth, with the women and children aboard. The paddles and tiller were tapu – forbidden – to women, but a teenager, Wairaka, seized one of the paddles and, with the help of other women, paddled Mataatua back to shore. When she did this, she shouted, ‘kia whakatane au i ahau’, which means ‘I act as a man’. She’s always been remembered; by doing what she wasn’t supposed to, she saved herself, Mataatua, and all aboard.”
“It must have been a huge canoe, to come all the way here from the Cook Islands,” Trevor said, with a look of awe on his face.
The delivery guy nodded at Atlantis. “Some believe that the voyaging canoes were multihull, like yours. No one really knows though, and most think they were single hull, like Maori war canoes, only bigger. My guess is they were multihull. I also think the Maori originally came from what’s now called Raiatea in the Society Islands.”
Trevor shuddered slightly as he heard that name. “That’s a hell of a long way.”
“It is, but there are clues pointing there. An ancient name for the island is Havai'i, and our Maori legends call their land of origin Hawaiki. They’re a close match in pronunciation. No one knows for sure though.”
Trevor and Shane said their goodbyes and cast off, heading out through the treacherous river mouth. As they passed Wairaka’s statue, barely visible in the gathering gloom, Trevor looked at it, again deep in thought, his mind in turmoil.
By dawn, they were past East Cape, heading out into the vast Pacific. Their course, dictated by the prevailing winds, was due east in order to stay in the westerlies. Their planned course was to head east for over three thousand miles, and then, two thousand miles from the coast of South America, turn northeast for Panama in a reach across the southeast trades. Their current course would pass north of Point Nemo; the geographic point on Earth furthest from any land.
Shane had another matter on his mind. “Okay, Captain Bligh. There’s one thing I don’t like about being at sea and that’s the alternating watches. You like to check the horizons every fifteen minutes or so, I understand that, but this is having a serious and unbearable impact on your crew’s daily needs.”
Trevor smirked; he knew what Shane was getting at. He’d had the exact same thoughts himself. “The sea is a harsh mistress,” Trevor replied with a sad shake of his head, feigning ignorance.
“Too bloody harsh. The sea isn’t all that’s blue, lately. However, I have a solution,” Shane said, as he dashed inside. He soon returned with a sleeping bag and pillows. “I don’t like sleeping alone,” he declared, as he spread the sleeping bag behind the port helm station on the cockpit deck.
“You’re tired, and you need a nap?” Trevor asked, before beginning to chuckle.
“Put the boat on autopilot,” Shane said, as he joined Trevor at the helm.
Trevor engaged the autopilot, and after a quick check of the horizons and radar said, “Okay, done,” though Shane was already pulling him towards the sleeping bag.
“Once a day for fifteen minutes is just not enough,” Shane declared, pulling a very willing Trevor down with him, to lie on the sleeping bag. “This way, we can keep an eye on things without interrupting other things,” Shane said, as he pulled Trevor into a deep kiss, which soon led to more.
The morning after Atlantis sailed out of Whakatane, Xavier and his team of six arrived in Auckland. They’d already been en route when Bridget had learned, via Gray, that Atlantis was at sea, eastbound. When Xavier called in to report, Bridget updated him on the situation, and then said, “She is averaging nine knots, so you would need an oceangoing powerboat to catch her now. Even were you to do so, without weapons you would have a difficult time. There is also no point; she is on a prevailing-winds track for Panama. Stay in Auckland for now in case she turns back. Doing so would require going against the winds, so I do not think a return likely unless it is soon.”
“What should we do?” Xavier asked.
“Keep an encrypted phone with you, but other than that, you may as well relax. If nothing further develops, I shall arrange flights for you and your team, five days from now,” Bridget replied. She’d already made the reservations. Bridget paused for a moment to think, and then added, “Actually, rent a car and drive down to Whakatane. See if you can determine whether they were aware that Kookaburra has been destroyed.”
The next morning, Xavier and three of his team rented a car for the four-hour drive south.
Gonzalez sat down for his meeting with an FBI liaison agent, in the FBI’s Miami office. He felt somewhat relaxed; it was a typical inter-agency meeting, mainly to compare facts, though also – equally typical – a squabble over ‘turf’.
“You were out of your jurisdiction. You should have gone through the Bureau so one of our people, or the DEA, could handle it,” the FBI agent said, to open the conversation, thus setting a mood that Gonzalez found objectionable.
“This would be the same DEA that had a cartel mole – the one I found?” Gonzalez parried, arching an eyebrow as he sipped his coffee.
“You were out of your jurisdiction,” the FBI agent remarked again, in a somewhat petulant tone.
“When you want a job done right, do it yourself. Besides, there were two young subjects in danger; I didn’t have time for procedure,” he said, referring to his interception of Lisa and Joel in the Bahamas, followed by his trip to Andros Island. “And, as it turns out, they led me to some records we’d missed. I’ve had a forensic accountant examine them. He’s not quite done yet.”
“I trust you’ll be making both the data and the findings available to us?” the FBI agent asked.
Gonzalez held up two CDs, which had been made by the forensic accountant. “Here’s the raw data from the relevant businesses. You’ll get his results when I do. Now, so far, this has been a one-way street. I’ll hand these over in return for what you have.”
The FBI agent shook his head. “Sorry, we can’t compromise sources.”
Gonzalez returned the CDs to his pocket. “Then neither can I. Consider yourself out of the loop.”
“You can’t do that,” the agent protested.
“In case you are unaware, I just did,” Gonzalez replied, getting up to leave.
This was familiar territory for both men. They’d both been in similar situations before. It was just the way the game was played. In this case, the agent had few options, but his superiors had asked for the CD data. “Wait... Look, we can’t compromise sources. We just can’t. That could put people’s lives at risk. However… to be blunt, they have found very fucking little. Rumors, mainly. Off the record, I can mention what they’ve found in return for those disks, but I cannot and will not compromise the sources. Those are need-to-know, and even I don’t actually know all of it.”
“I guess you can’t tell me what you don’t know,” Gonzalez replied, sitting back down, though he was growing tired of the game. “Tell me what you do know.”
“The dead man on that boat; he was the head of a major cartel operation, centered in the Bahamas. He was known as Sanchez.”
Gonzalez rolled his eyes. “I’ve known that for quite some time. You got his name via me.”
“I’m getting there,” the FBI agent replied. He paused for a moment and, in a lower voice, added, “That operation, it hasn’t gone away. Far from it; it appears to be doing more business than ever, and is also making inroads into the Bahamian government at various levels. We think that whoever took over is the one who killed Sanchez. If Bridget Bellevue wasn’t killed then, they may have killed her later, or they may be hunting her – or they may be sheltering her.”
“Well, you’ve sure got your bases covered with those options,” Gonzalez remarked. “I think she’s still active. As you probably know, there’s been a new bombing attack in Australia. Same boat that they tried to take off Geraldton.” Gonzalez had been in contact with Fowler and knew that Kookaburra had survived, though he was keeping that to himself.
“We’ve picked up nothing to indicate Bellevue’s status. However, the new leader of the cartel’s Bahamas operation is another story. At first, we thought it might be one of their South American heads, and we still aren’t sure. We did hear a name, though it’s one that’s not a match for any known operatives. If our source is right, he’s named Bruja, and is very effective.”
Gonzalez, who was leaning back on his chair, jerked upright, spilling some of his coffee on his shirt. Ignoring the spill, he leaned forward, putting the coffee down, his eyes opening wide. “Bruja? That’s the name that was heard? I need to know the context.” He tried his best to ignore the cold feeling in the pit of his stomach.
The agent shrugged. “Just that the name ‘Bruja’ was overheard, in reference to the new boss.”
“So you’re just assuming it’s a he?” Gonzalez replied, his frustration growing.
The FBI agent shrugged. “Aren’t they all, when it comes to the cartels?”
Gonzalez drummed his fingers on the table. “I’m guessing that none of the agents who have seen this intel speak that rare and mysterious language known as Spanish? Why am I not surprised; it’s just the language used by the top people of the cartels they are supposed to be after! ‘Bruja’ means ‘witch’ in Spanish, and these cartel people all go by assumed names. I can’t see a man in the cartel picking a female pseudonym, but I think I’ve got a hunch who they might call Bruja. A woman. One woman in particular. I hope like hell I’m wrong.”
“Who?” the FBI agent asked, and then he froze for a moment, before his eyes opened very wide. “Oh, shit!”
Gonzalez nodded, just once. “Got it in one. Bridget Bellevue.”
“If it is her, why would she go by ‘witch’?”
Gonzalez arched both eyebrows. “You haven’t met her. I have, several times. Trust me, it fits, and I don’t think she’d mind. As for whether it’s her, the timing’s a match, and this makes sense of the boat with the bodies; she took them out, then used them to make it look as if she was dead too. I don’t suppose you have a location for this ‘Bruja’?”
The agent shook his head. “None. We don’t even know if he – or she – is headquartered in the Bahamas. I’m hoping not, because the cartel is making too many inroads into the local authorities there. They’d never agree to a raid, and they’re already making life hell for the DEA guys in the islands.”
Gonzalez nodded. “I’ve read the reports on Norman’s Cay and how it operated for years, even landing several jet transports a day. They used the locals as a shield then, too. That operation only fell apart due to infighting, and the locals turned on them due to murders and other trouble they were causing.”
“For what it’s worth, I hope you’re wrong too,” the FBI agent said, though the cold feeling in his gut indicated otherwise.
“If I’m right, this means she’s more powerful than ever. We need to find out, to at least know what we’re up against. I do need to warn you that she had quislings within Florida law enforcement, and I’m far from confident that we bagged them all. Be very careful who you trust with anything to do with this case,” Gonzalez warned.
“I’ll see what I can do,” the agent promised.
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 .