With the first light of dawn coloring the eastern horizon, Joel fired up Atlantis’s engines, checked the nav plot again, and advanced the throttles, turning to a course of east by northeast, heading into the Strait of Bonifacio at eight knots. Trevor, sitting nearby, could only smile; he hadn’t needed to give Joel any pointers at all; Joel had done it all on his own.
An hour later, Joel could see Corsica on his left and Sardinia on his right as the strait narrowed. “France and Italy,” Joel said, pointing at the distant shores in turn, and then beaming at Trevor. “I never thought I’d see places like this.”
Trevor, lounging in his beanbag, replied, “If you feel like going ashore, we can.”
Joel shook his head. “Nah, I’ll wait for tomorrow, then like you said: stop a few places down south as we go through the Strait of Messina and round the toe of Italy.”
The winds picked up as they angled north to clear the east end of the strait, and then as Atlantis entered the Tyrrhenian Sea, Joel turned to starboard, following the nav plot on a course of east by southeast.
Trevor pointed at the boom and said, “I’ll talk you through raising and trimming the sails.” It took Joel a few tries and a few bits of advice, and near the end Trevor gently mentioned the one thing Joel had overlooked, “You forgot to loosen the boom’s topping lift; when the mainsail is up it keeps the boom up, but when the mainsail is down the topping lift – the line that runs from the end of the boom to the top of the mast – is what supports the boom.” After that and a few other pointers from Trevor, Joel soon had Atlantis reaching across the rising wind, pitching slightly as she forged ahead at twenty knots.
“Hot damn this is fast, we’re really moving,” Joel said, grinning, his hair blowing in the wind.
“I’ve had her faster, but not often,” Trevor agreed. “The conditions are almost perfect.” Trevor grinned, the wind whipping in his hair as Atlantis tore through the light chop.
At twenty knots, the Bay of Naples was just eleven hours away, and Atlantis neared her first Italian port of call at sunset.
Joel glanced at the chaotic radar display. “Trev, this looks complicated as hell, you better take over. It’s getting dark, there are all kinds of lights out there, and the radar is showing dozens of ships, some of them moving really fast,” Joel said, staring out into the twilight.
Trevor nodded, taking over at Atlantis’s port wheel. “You did great, man. That was one hell of a fast crossing.” Trevor checked the radio, and then told Joel, “We need to monitor VHF 16 while in Italian waters. We pretty much always monitor channel sixteen anyway; it’s the standard hailing channel, but the Italians require it by law.”
Joel checked the charge meter on the electrical system. “The port information you showed me says the public dock has an electrical hookup, right? So, seeing as we’ll be in port and can both drink, how about I load the beer into your bar fridge and fire it up? It doesn’t draw many amps and Atlantis’ batteries are just about at max charge. We’ve got to make room for the European beer we can buy here.”
“If making room is what you’re worried about, we can just put the beer down in the bilges; plenty of room for it there,” Trevor offered helpfully, and then snickered.
“Shut up,” Joel said, shaking his head. “Nobody comes between me and my beer, or in this case, between me and your beer!”
Trevor gave Joel an appraising glance. “You’re downright obsessed with beer. Are you really sure you’re not an Australian?” Trevor asked.
“Wish I was, I hear they have awesome brews there,” Joel replied, wasting no time as he loaded the beer into the bar fridge, and then he put a few bottles into the galley’s freezer to cool down even faster.
When Joel returned to the cockpit, he looked at the navigational display, and noticed that Trevor had turned in towards the northern shore of the vast bay. “Naples?” Joel asked, as he looked at the course projection.
Trevor nodded. “We need to make a fast stop there for customs clearance into Italy. The yacht entry information for Italy says that we have to make our first stop at a designated port of entry, and Naples is the closest one. After that, we can go anywhere in Italy we want, Marina di Stabia first. We’ve got enough charge to run the extra refrigerator until tomorrow. If you want to make yourself useful, grab the quarantine flag – it’s the all-yellow one – and the Italian flag from my flag kit under the starboard cockpit bench, then run them up on the flag hoist.” Trevor said, hoping that Joel would ask about the quarantine flag.
Joel retrieved the two flags, and asked, “I know about courtesy flags, but why a quarantine flag?”
Trevor hid a smile. “It’s required any time you enter a country with animals aboard.”
Joel looked up to stare at Trevor for a moment, and then Trevor added, “I got it when I knew you’d be coming aboard.”
Joel rolled his eyes. “Shut up. That was weak even for you, Trev. So, what’s it really for?”
“It just means we haven’t cleared customs yet. They might want to inspect Atlantis. So far, I’ve just had to hand over paperwork and sign declarations and stuff, no problem.”
After docking, Trevor retrieved his passport and a copy of his insurance papers from the navigation desk drawer, and told Joel, “You’ll need your passport.”
For the first time since sailing out of Gibraltar, Trevor and Joel put shirts and shoes on. Joel’s shirt was the tank top he’d worn in Gibraltar and still hadn’t washed. Trevor eyed Joel’s shirt and wrinkled his nose.
“Hey, I forgot to wash it, ok? This is your fault anyway,” Joel said.
“How is that my fault?” Trevor asked, as the two friends, passports and paperwork in hand, locked up Atlantis and headed for the portside aft stairs.
“You haven’t let me shop in Italy, and we’ve been here awhile,” Joel said, as he followed Trevor and hopped onto the dock.
Trevor arched an eyebrow. “We docked less than five minutes ago and you just took your first step in Italy.”
Joel raised his arms and yelled at the top of his lungs, “Buongiorno, Italia!” In a normal voice, he said, “We’re in Italy!”
Joel’s joy was infectious, and Trevor joined Joel in dancing around, reveling in the fun of the moment.
The stop at the marina’s state police office went smoothly, and fifteen minutes later Trevor had his clearance. As they were about to leave, the police officer – who was in charge of the customs desk – pointed at Trevor’s digital watch and shook his head. “Criminale,” he said, and then added, “many criminals in Naples,” as he motioned for Trevor to take the watch off and put it in his pocket. Trevor did so, and then, after thanking the officer, headed for the door.
As they exited the police office, they looked around. It was dark, and the Naples waterfront is known as a pretty rough area and looked it. The police officer’s warning, coupled with the ominous darkness, deterred Trevor and Joel from exploring any further that night.
“Want to look around Naples tomorrow, or head for Marina di Stabia?” Trevor asked.
“Naples! I want to see it... Can Atlantis stay where she is that long?” Joel replied, taking another glance around.
Trevor nodded as they walked back towards the Atlantis. “Yeah, we’re good for twenty-four hours.”
Joel glanced at his watch, and then grumbled, “That cop warned you to keep your watch safe, but he never said anything to me.”
Trevor laughed and gave Joel a playful punch in the arm. “Probably because my watch has a digital compass and a barometer. It costs about a hundred bucks and looks it. Yours, on the other hand, cost what? Five bucks at K-mart?”
“Seven bucks; it was the cheapest waterproof I could find. You’re right; I do need a new watch, so thanks for suggesting that we should go shopping,” Joel said, and then jogged ahead.
It took Trevor a second, but he soon realized that Joel had set him up and he’d walked right into it. With a grin and a smile, he sprinted after Joel.
When they climbed aboard, Joel tugged off his dirty tank top and glanced back at the lights of Naples. “This is going to be so wild... and duh, we forgot something!” Acting on impulse, Joel raced to his cabin and returned to the cockpit with his – formerly Trevor’s – phone. He dialed, and when Lisa answered, he said, “We’re in Italy!”
“I miss you... and I’m at work; can you call back in a half hour when my shift ends? Glad you guys got there ok!” Lisa said, and then after Joel agreed, she added, “I love you,” and returned her attention to the line of supermarket shoppers waiting for her to ring up their purchases.
Joel smiled sadly as the call ended. “It sucks that she can’t be here too.”
Trevor nodded. “Yeah, first the birthday trip got torpedoed, now this. When I get back, or not long after, you’ll both be eighteen. Next summer at the latest, we’ll take a trip, all three of us. Anywhere you guys want.”
“Thanks, that’ll be awesome,” Joel said, and then added, “Uh, three of us? Why so sure it’ll be only three? You can date, now that your dad isn’t an issue that way anymore, so maybe you’ll find somebody too?”
Trevor thought about that for a few seconds. Then he replied, “I’d like that, but who and where? I won’t be in any one place for long so it makes it kinda hard to meet anyone for more than a few days – not until I get back home, I guess.”
Joel narrowed his eyes. “Dude, you can’t seriously be thinking of staying dry for a whole damn year? I’ll be ready to burst by the time I get back to Lisa and that’ll only be a month. When I was single, I used to hook up with girls often, so why can’t you with guys now that you don’t have to hide the fact you like ‘em? Come on, there’s got to be tons of guys like you in the places you’ll be stopping, and you’re a hot looker; they’ll be all over you.”
Trevor smiled, glancing at himself in the mirror. “Okay, maybe you’re right. I don’t see me having a boyfriend by the time I get home, but that doesn’t mean I can’t have some fun.”
Joel patted Trevor on the back. “You’re doing better, cool. Okay, while we wait for Lisa, let’s call my folks... and don’t forget; there’s a question you were too chicken to ask them last time.”
Trevor blinked. “Are you sure this is a good time to bring that up?”
Joel rolled his eyes, and by way of a reply, he dialed. When his father answered, Joel said, “Hi Dad, we’re in Italy!”
Charles Stiles sat back in his desk chair, smiling. “I’ve been looking at a map; you’re early to get that far. Your mother is out shopping, I’ll let her know you’re okay. So, how was the voyage?”
“Awesome! I’m learning how to skipper Atlantis, seeing some awesome stuff, and having fun with Trev. I’m having the best time ever,” Joel replied, grinning.
“Did you get cash before leaving Gibraltar?”
Joel, in spite of being on the phone, nodded. “Yeah, I did. Like you said, I’ll only use ATMs when we’re about to leave port. Any news on Trev’s father?” Joel asked, motioning for Trevor to lean in and share the phone.
Charles sighed. “Yes. Is Trevor there with you?”
Joel leaned close to Trevor so that they could both hear. “Yeah, he’s sharing the phone,” Joel replied.
“Hi Trevor, haven’t seen you in a while. First off, I want to thank you for taking Joel; this is a fantastic opportunity for him. Before I go any further, I need to tell you that I’ve heard from both your father and the police. A plainclothes detective stopped by and asked me questions regarding your parents, and I told him the truth; I’ve only met your father a few times, and you and Joel became friends after your mother’s death so I didn’t know either of them at all while she was alive. The detective wouldn’t answer any questions, but it’s rather obvious that he’s investigating your mother’s death. He also asked about your disappearance. I didn’t volunteer anything there; that’s your call. He also wants to interview Joel, and I told him Joel is out of the country for a few weeks,” Charles said, and then hesitated for a moment before adding, “Not long after that, your father called. I said I wouldn’t speak to him, but he ignored me and told me to pass on a message: he asked that you phone him, and said that it is vital and not what you think.”
Trevor took several long moments before replying, “I’m not sure I want to talk with him. Mr. Stiles, I don’t know what to think, but I do know that I don’t trust him right now.” ‘The last thing I need is to talk to Dad,’ Trevor thought, remembering the divorce papers, and then his mother’s funeral.
Charles let out a sigh of relief. “I’m glad to hear that. I’d be very concerned for my son’s safety – and yours – if you let your father know your location. Speaking of locations, under the circumstances, I think it best if you and Joel avoid mentioning – to me or to anyone – precisely where you are. On the other hand, I’d like to know when you’re at sea, your course, and your destination, just in case something happens. Give me a day or two to work out a way. One other thing; Joel mentioned a long time ago that you have a satellite phone. Are you aware that those, much like cell phones, can report your location?”
“The satellite phone is in my dad’s chandlery. I started using it like a regular phone and he took it off me. He only let me use it for charters, so when I took off, it got left behind. Joel and I traded phones before I left; I’ve been using his and he’s been using mine,” Trevor said, his eyes opening wide as it dawned on him that the phone he was on used to be his own.
“Joel told me about that on his last call, and I hope you are doing what I said and using only his? Yours is still in your name, so your father can certainly ask the phone company for account info, which would include the location calls were placed from,” Charles said.
Trevor glanced at Joel, who shrugged apologetically and mouthed, “Sorry, I forgot to tell you that.”
“We’ll make sure to keep mine off,” Trevor said, not wanting to get Joel in trouble, but feeling a cold chill. ‘I can’t blame Joel; I knew that was a problem, and I forgot too.’
“Joel will be getting a new phone on his own account when he gets back; either keep that one off or throw it overboard. It’s not safe to use it,” Charles said, and then added, “If you decide to call your father, do so only immediately before sailing, and it might be best to do so from a pay phone. If you tell him where you are, I’ll have no choice but to ask Joel to come home immediately, and if you’re still listening, Joel, I mean that.”
Trevor and Joel exchanged a glance, and then Joel said, “Yeah Dad, I’m still listening and so is Trevor. Dad, he crossed the Atlantic alone so his father wouldn’t be able to find him, so there’s no way he’d tell him where we are. Trev is crazy but not that crazy.”
“Joel’s right; I won’t say anything. I’m not even going to call,” Trevor added.
Charles looked out the window for a few moments, thinking, and then replied, “Just be careful, both of you. I’m probably being overly cautious, but this whole thing is disturbing. In any case, enough of that. I hope you two are having a wonderful time, or as well as you can under the circumstances.”
“It’s been great having Joel here. With everything that’s going on, being alone was getting to me. Thanks for letting him come,” Trevor said.
Joel began to grin, and jumped in to add, “Dad, there’s something that’s been bugging Trev and he wants to ask you a question.”
Trevor stomped on Joel’s foot, and then as Joel pulled away said into the phone, “Uh, it’s nothing, Mr. Stiles, really, I–”
Joel snatched the phone away and told his father, “Dad, Trev is worried that you either disapprove of, or don’t know about, the fact that I’m cruising around the Mediterranean with a gay guy. I’ll hand the phone back now, if he doesn’t hit me,”
Charles laughed, relieved to have something to think about besides the murder case. “Trevor, are you there?”
“Uh, yeah, I am,” Trevor said, glaring at Joel, who had retreated to a safe distance.
“Joel told me about that months ago. My brother is gay. He and I sorted out any concerns I may have had a long time ago, so I definitely have no problems in that regard.I won’t say I’m not concerned about Joel being there, but that has solely to do with my unease over your father and possible danger. Judging by the way Joel brought this issue up, I’m guessing that you had concerns?” Charles asked.
“I did, but not now. Thank you. Joel,” Trevor glanced at Joel, who was swinging from a forestay, grinning maniacally and imitating a monkey, “has been great, trying to get me to be at ease.”
Charles laughed. “If you can endure his sense of humor, you’ll do just fine. Have fun, both of you, and call in a day or two.”
When Trevor ended the call, he turned the phone all the way off. Then he told Joel, “Okay, you were right; your dad knew and had no problems with me.”
Joel let go of the forestay and hopped back into the cockpit, grinning, “Told ya. Like I said, the only person in my family who’s a bit homophobic is my brother Steve, and even he’s not as homophobic as you.”
“I am not homophobic,” Trevor grumbled.
“How about paranoid?” Joel offered.
Trevor shook his head and then glared at Joel. “Let’s talk about the phone. You used this one, and that means my father might find out where we are. You’ve put us at risk.” Joel’s smile faded, and a shocked, guilty expression appeared on his face. Trevor felt his own pang of guilt, and he cut short the prank to say, “Gotcha! I knew about the phone too. We both forgot, here and in Gibraltar.”
“You jerk,” Joel replied, his smile returning. Then it faded again. “Okay, so what are we going to do?” Joel asked.
Trevor shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe my dad will check, but even if he does, he’ll only know we’ve been to Naples. I doubt he’ll find out soon enough to do anything.”
Joel glanced back towards the customs office. “If he did find out, could he tell them you’re a runaway and have them arrest you or impound Atlantis?”
“Uh, I don’t know. Maybe,” Trevor replied, wishing he knew for sure.
Joel looked at the lights of Naples, and then shrugged. “We’ll have plenty of chances to see other places in Italy. We should get out of here.”
Trevor nodded and headed forward. “I’ll get the lines and push off. You handle the engines.”
After they cleared the harbor, Trevor retrieved the other cell phone and returned to the cockpit. “Let’s use this one to call Lisa back.”
Joel, at the helm, nodded. “Yeah. It should still work; we’re close to shore. It’s about time; give her a call.”
Trevor stood next to Joel and dialed. When Lisa answered, he said, “Hi Lisa, are you off work yet?”
“Hello lunatic. Yeah, just on my way out the door. So how are you? I hope you’re being nice to my Joel?”
Trevor laughed, and held the phone so that Joel could hear too. “Yeah, he’s at the helm and I’m holding the phone between us.”
“He’s steering? You’re both doomed!” Lisa said, laughing.
“I heard that,” Joel said, and then added, “I wish you were here.”
“So do I,” Lisa said, with a touch of sadness in her voice. “However, I’m making myself useful. I’m on my way to see Bridget; she said she had an idea. Where are you guys heading now?”
Trevor and Joel exchanged a worried glance, and Joel said, “My dad thinks it’s a bad idea to mention that on the phone; this whole thing with Trevor’s father has us spooked. We’ll be where we’re going by tomorrow though. Can we call you back then?”
“Yeah, anytime after two, my time. Oh, you might be interested to know that an Officer Gonzalez stopped by the house and told my dad that he wanted to see me. He’s coming by in the morning and my dad will be there too. I’ll see what I can find out. Anyway, how is Italy?”
“So far I’ve seen a dock and a customs office,” Joel replied.
“How was the sail? You guys covered a long way,” Lisa asked.
“Fine, except Trevor has been sexually harassing me,” Joel replied, deadpan.
“Uh huh, why don’t I believe you?” Lisa said, chuckling.
“He’s been accusing me of it every few seconds,” Trevor said, laughing.
“Joel, it sounds to me like you’re picking on Trev. Good job,” Lisa said.
“Hey, how come you want me to be nice to him but you’re okay with him picking on me,” Trevor asked, laughing.
“Just because,” Lisa said, in a very sweet voice.
“Thanks,” Trevor grumbled.
“Any chance your father is getting over his problems with me?” Joel asked, in a hopeful tone.
“They say distance makes the heart grow fonder, and maybe it is. I know he was impressed when you decided to level with your parents about Trevor’s situation and he hasn’t been as negative since then. That reminds me... Trev, I was arguing with him and kind of let it slip that you’re into guys,” Lisa said.
Trevor’s eyes opened a little wider. Feeling the old fears return for a moment, he hesitated, and then he relaxed. ‘What’s the big deal? Dad already knows, so why the hell do I care who else does?’ he thought. He took a deep breath. “That’s okay. It’s not like it’s a big secret anymore. Uh, how did he take it?”
“He was surprised, but that’s about all I noticed, nothing negative,” Lisa replied, astonished that Trevor had taken the news so well.
After a few more minutes, they said their goodbyes, and Atlantis continued across the Bay of Naples.
It was a short run to Marina di Stabia, and one hour after sailing from Naples, they were docked and hooked up to shore power. Less than a minute later, Joel grabbed two bottles of beer from the refrigerator. He handed one to Trevor, and they headed out into the cockpit to knock back their brews in the Italian night air.
“You can drink when we’re underway, so why didn’t you?” Trevor asked.
Joel shrugged. “It’s no fun drinking alone, and you won’t drink while we’re at sea. Better to wait until we can both enjoy it. Speaking of... after we see Pompeii tomorrow, we’ll get some European beer, and maybe hit a bar tomorrow night. And maybe we can find some Italian food, too!” Joel said, licking his lips at the prospect.
Trevor took a drink of his beer and then nodded. “Yeah, they just might have Italian food here, seeing as this is, you know, Italy.”
“Shut up. You know what I mean,” Joel said, and then looked at Trevor for a few moments before adding in a quiet tone, “When we were talking to Lisa, I started to feel homesick. I miss her and my folks. But I’m only away for a month, and... You’re on the run and can’t go home. That jab of homesickness I felt kinda made me realize how bad it must be for you. I don’t think I could handle it as well as you do.”
Trevor took a long drink before replying, “Thanks, but you’re a big part of that. You coming over here, man, I’ve never been so glad to see anybody.”
‘Yeah, but what about after I’m gone?’ Joel thought, and then he made himself smile and said, “Let’s just have fun while we can. Maybe the thing with Bridget that Lisa mentioned will be a way you can go home. I hope so.”
“Me too, but I don’t want to get my hopes up.”
Joel looked around Atlantis for a few moments, and then grabbed another set of beers. “So, now you know that my dad has known about you for a long time, and now Lisa’s dad knows too. I told you it would be okay, and I was right.”
Trevor nodded. “Admitting that you are right about anything is never a good idea, but yeah, you were.”
Joel chugged on his beer. “I was right, but I pretty much always am,” Joel said, feeling good and grinning.
The conversation turned to the subject of where to go next, so they fired up the navigation system and began looking at maps and port information. By the time the beer was gone, they had a rough plan of what to see in Italy.
In Bridget’s large and ornate kitchen, Lisa dug into her second helping of brownies. “These are really good,” she said, wondering why Bridget had yet to mention the purpose of the visit.
Bridget smiled. She was a believer in formalities and had offered Lisa a snack prior to the serious and pressing matter at hand, in part because she felt that Lisa might take the news better on a full stomach. “They’re from the bakery at the supermarket where you work. I just warm them up in the microwave. Brownies are always best hot.”
Eager to hear what Bridget’s ideas were, Lisa said, “Trevor and Joel called today. They’re in Italy and they’ll be calling me again tomorrow.”
Bridget studied her hands for a moment, and then looked back up at Lisa. “I can’t say precisely how I know, but the police are pressing ahead with their investigation of Dirk Carlson. What has given the case new life is Trevor’s disappearance. As far as the police know, he has vanished at sea without a trace under suspicious circumstances, just like his mother. They do know that your boyfriend had Trevor’s phone and that is why they wish to interview him, but they apparently do not know for certain that Trevor is alive.”
Lisa stared in surprise for a few moments, and then said, in a voice barely above a whisper, “They think Trevor’s dad killed him, too?”
Bridget shook her head, and then fussed with her graying hair, as she replied, “Not quite. They do however think that it is a possibility, and that is in large part what spurred them into renewed action. This represents both an opportunity and a peril. The peril is simple; were they to learn for certain that Trevor is alive – absent any new evidence against his father – it would most likely diminish their interest in the case. The opportunity is that if they proceed to an indictment of Dirk Carlson, Trevor would then have grounds, under Florida law, to file for an emancipation hearing. Under those circumstances, especially considering his ability to be self-supporting, his petition would most likely be heard and granted. The fly in the ointment there is that by petitioning the court, he would be providing proof that he is alive, thus undermining the current case against his father.”
Lisa thought for a moment, and then asked, “If Trevor’s father was indicted, would that automatically be dropped if Trevor turned up alive?”
“That would depend upon the particulars of the indictment and also on the prosecutor. I would say that, under the current circumstances, the charges would be dropped. The issue they face is that gaining a murder conviction absent a body or clear forensic evidence is difficult under the best of circumstances, and the fact that the State claimed that he had also killed Trevor, who later turned up alive, would considerably aid the defense’s claim of reasonable doubt. Prosecutors usually will not proceed when faced with a near-certain acquittal, so they would most likely dismiss the case,” Bridget replied.
“So it’s a catch-22; Trevor can’t come home either way,” Lisa said, and then looked down, sighing.
Bridget smiled thinly. “Perhaps I should have phrased that differently, but taking an either-or approach is often detrimental to obtaining a desired outcome. In this instance, there might be a way to take advantage of the opportunity: they do not need to believe that Trevor is dead. They merely need to believe that Dirk Carlson tried to kill him, and to have done so in such a way as to lend credence to the theory that he murdered his wife by destroying the Ares at sea. From what you and Trevor have said, Dirk may have been attempting precisely that when he sabotaged Trevor’s engines prior to Trevor setting out into a rage sea.”
Lisa sighed and shook her head. “But he did that to stop Trevor from leaving, not to–”
Bridget held up her hand. “Lisa, you do not know that, now do you? You are merely assuming it. You yourself are a witness to the peril in which that act placed your boyfriend; Joel had to swim out in violent seas in order to return Atlantis’s engines to working order and allow Trevor to reach port. You witnessed that. It would be inadvisable to lie to the police, but in law, a very great deal indeed depends on how you phrase and present what you know.”
‘My God, she’s telling me, without actually saying it, how to save Trevor, and also showing by example how to say things without actually saying them,’Lisa thought, her mind awhirl. “I think I see. If Trevor’s father is indicted for that, Trevor can come home, file for emancipation, and get it.” Lisa felt the thrill of hope, able to see, for the first time, a way out for her best friend. It was all so clear that she could almost reach out and touch it; a shining escape hatch, the answer to her prayers.
Bridget nodded. “There is another matter, even more serious, which I only became aware of minutes before your arrival. Dirk Carlson has been seen driving by your home. Think carefully: is there any way that he might know that you are a witness to Trevor’s rescue by your boyfriend? If he does, then he has a motive to kill you.”
Lisa paled slightly, her mind racing as she realized that she could be the target of a killer. “I don’t think so... but Joel and I went into a marine chandlery in Saint Lucia to pick up the parts order that Trevor had phoned in while at sea. I’m guessing that he used a credit or debit card–”
“In which case, Dirk Carlson could have accessed the account, found the purchase, and called. He’s in the same business so quite possibly knows the people at that store. Did either of you give your names?”
Lisa tried to recall. “I don’t know for sure. I didn’t, but Joel might have. I don’t remember. Wait... I think Joel might have signed something.”
“If he was given a description of the two of you, would he recognize you from that?” Bridget asked.
Lisa nodded, feeling goosebumps rising on her skin. “Yeah, he knows us both and he knows that Trevor would come to us when in trouble.”
Bridget stood up, shoulders back, and looked out of her picture window. Then she turned slowly to Lisa and said, “Then I must warn you; you may be in deadly peril. If he killed once, he would not shrink from doing so again. You must also assume that he is not completely rational. Killers rarely are.”
Lisa swallowed. She felt her hands begin to shake, and clutched the table edge to hide it. Sitting up straight, she said, “Are you sure? What can I do?”
Bridget chose her words with care. “Go to the police and tell them what you know. Sergeant Gonzalez would be the one to speak with, and he already has an interview with you on his schedule. I’ll do what I can to make certain that he takes you seriously, and also that you and your father receive protection.”
Lisa knew she had to have a conversation with her father, one that she knew her father would not be pleased by. With that in mind, and feeling hunted, Lisa said her goodbyes and headed home.
Bridget Bellevue walked into her foyer and stood for a moment, looking up at her late husband’s portrait. After several moments, she spoke. “Arnold, how I wish that I possessed your skills in these matters. You had such a flair and a certainty for such things, and yet even that was not enough, not... then.” Bridget said, walking over to the mantle and gently picking up a black-framed photo, whose subject bore a superficial resemblance to Lisa. “It’s been so many years now, but it still hurts,” Bridget said, in a choked whisper. Then she returned her dead daughter’s photo to its place, and said in a firm tone. “I shall do what I can; I just hope that it is enough.”
Bridget stood up straight and walked with purpose to her phone. She placed the call, and when it connected she said, “I need to speak with Sergeant Gonzalez.” Bridget paused to listen to the reply, and then with steel in her voice, she said, “When he returns, tell him that Bridget Bellevue called, regarding the matter we discussed, and that he needs to speak with me immediately.”
A faint smile creased Bridget’s face, as she heard the subtle change in the desk officer’s tone, shifting to one of deference.
In Cocoa Beach, Dirk paced in the kitchen, waiting. When Jim emerged from his home office, Dirk asked, “Any luck?”
“Fix me some coffee and I’ll explain,” Jim replied, sitting down at his table with a smile.
Dirk opened a cabinet. Reaching for the instant coffee and flicking on the kettle, he said, “Good news, I take it?”
Jim nodded. “A good start, anyway. A faxed letter from an attorney does wonders to cut through the runaround. With Trevor being a minor, they had little choice but to make the phone records available to us. Trevor’s phone was used in Gibraltar several days ago, and just hours ago in Naples, Italy. I’ve acted on the latter and put in requests with the local and regional police in Naples. The calls were to Joel Stiles’ father, and to Lisa Whitaker’s cell phone.”
“That confirms it, he’s in the Mediterranean, and if he’s there, he’s not searching off Bimini, so that’s good news,” Dirk said, waiting for the kettle to boil.
“I do wish you’d tell me what happened with that,” Jim said.
“So I was right; Lisa knows where Trevor is. Do you still think the lawsuit against her father is a bad idea?” Dirk asked, avoiding Jim’s question.
Jim frowned. “I certainly do. Given the investigation, and her connection to your son, filing it could cause no end of complications.”
Dirk remained silent as he made two cups of coffee. He added milk to Jim’s and then sat down and handed Jim’s mug to him. Dirk took a deep breath, and then said, “Give it forty-eight hours, and then if things don’t work out with the Italian police, file it.”
Jim shook his head. “You’re digging yourself in deeper and deeper. I’ll do it, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
Dirk looked out at the ocean. “It’s either this, or I’ll have to take matters into my own hands. I don’t have a choice, Jim.”
Jim looked down at his coffee. “Very well, I’ll file it. I just hope the Italian police can solve the problem before it comes to that, or worse.”