As dusk settled over the calm seas, Atlantis crossed the traffic lanes at the north end of the Strait of Messina, and then turned southwest to enter the busy strait. Joel remained at the helm, but Trevor kept a close eye on the navigation and radar displays.
“That’s one hell of a big radio tower,” Trevor said, pointing at the seven-hundred-fifty foot tall tower on Punta del Faro, the northeasternmost place in Sicily.
“That’s no radio tower. It used to be the west end of a big high-tension set of power lines spanning the strait. I knew we’d be heading through here so I looked it up before I left home, and it mentioned the towers. They took the power lines down when they replaced them with underwater ones, but kept the towers,” Joel replied, grinning.
As they drew abeam of the brightly lit tower, Trevor replied with a chuckle, “You do make a good tour guide, I’ll give you that.”
Keeping to the Sicilian side of the strait and setting engine speed for ten knots, they watched their speed on the GPS-based navigational display increase to fourteen knots. “That’s some current,” Joel said.
“Yeah, watch out for side eddies pulling us off course. This is kind of like being in a flowing river.”
Joel looked out, at the lights of Torre Faro on the Sicilian shore. “It’s spectacular even in the dark, and the moon will be up in about half an hour. Where are we heading, anyway?”
Trevor shrugged. “I don’t know. This whole thing has me rattled as hell, especially that e-mail. I don’t like how easy we were to find, and until I find out what happened to my mom, I can’t trust my father. He still won’t talk about it, and it’s damn clear that he’s hiding something. I love him and I hope it’s not what I think, but I have to be careful. My main concern right now is figuring out how somebody knew that Atlantis would transit the straits, and when we planned to do it. They kind of got it wrong; we weren’t planning to transit today, but they sure pegged our arrival time. Anyhow, I was thinking of maybe detouring a bit from what would be our obvious course, and heading down the coast of Sicily about thirty miles. According to the charts, there’s a town called Taormina with some good anchorages. Sound okay to you?”
Joel nodded. “Yeah, and we should be there in under three hours. Hey, now your money issues aren’t as bad, how about getting some new exhaust stacks for your engines?”
Trevor thought about that for a few moments, and then replied, “We could go to a large parts supply house; any major port city would have one. I’ll keep the old ones as spares. Speaking of spares; that’s one thing I’m short of for a long voyage. I need a few rigging parts, like spare sheets. I’d also like to get a new set of fuel filters and a few other odds and ends. We can stop in Taranto, Italy; it’s not far off our course. Okay, ready to call Lisa?”
Joel nodded, pulling out the phone.
Trevor grinned. “If I were you, I’d make damn sure to emphasize who it was who made sure we got Jim to put it in writing that he was canceling the lawsuit.”
Joel gave Trevor a puzzled look, and Trevor just waited until Joel got it and began to grin. “That’s a great idea, Trev. Lisa’s dad is going to love me for that,” Joel said.
“Bingo,” Trevor replied, standing next to Joel as Joel checked for a signal, and then dialed.
When Lisa answered, Joel said, “We’ve had an interesting day. Trevor’s dad’s lawyer paid us a visit, in person.”
“What? If that’s a joke, it’s not funny,” Lisa gasped.
Trevor, sharing the phone with Joel, said, “Hi Lisa. For once, Joel is on the level. Yeah, he found us, and it was weird...”
For the next ten minutes, Lisa mainly listened as Trevor and Joel took turns telling Lisa what had happened.
“Holy fuck,” Lisa mumbled. “That bit about the e-mail sounds worse than him finding you. Don’t tell anyone where you are, not even me, because either somebody is listening in... but even that doesn’t explain it, because you didn’t tell me where you were going.”
“I know, we didn’t tell anyone, and it’s bugging the hell out of me. Jim was worried about that too,” Trevor said.
Lisa sighed. “My father knows you’ve been in Capri. I showed him the picture of Joel, and he recognized the damn island in the background. I don’t see how he could have known when you’d get to the Strait of Messina though...”
“Even if he did, that still doesn’t fit; the e-mail was specific for an arrival time, and we didn’t know that ourselves until we sailed from Capri; the wind forecast was changed right before we left,” Trevor said.
“This is giving me a headache,” Lisa said, and then added in a thoughtful tone, “I think I see a solution to some of our problems though. Joel, I’m going to exaggerate just a little, and make sure Dad knows that you’re responsible for getting that lawsuit lifted.”
Joel grinned. “Think that’ll be enough to make him like me?”
“It’s gotta help,” Lisa replied with a chuckle. Then, in a dark tone, she said, “Trev, I think you’re nuts to keep going. Your father obviously wants you to, which means he doesn’t want you here. There’s got to be a reason, and I don’t think it has a damn thing to do with you being gay.”
Trevor thought for a few seconds before answering, “I know. He wants to keep me away from Bimini. That just proves my point; there’s something to find out there, so I’ll be making that a regular project when I get home. If he keeps his word, I can be home in a few months, maybe by the end of February. If he doesn’t, then I’m no worse off than I was before.”
“Watch your back, Trev. Maybe he doesn’t plan on you making it home. Don’t let him know where you are at any time.”
“Yeah, that crossed my mind. I don’t think so though, because he already found me, through Jim, and nothing bad happened,” Trevor replied.
Lisa was about to reply, when her breath caught in her throat. Shaking with a sudden sensation of fear, she gasped, “He was on board Atlantis and he knows you’re at sea right now. Was there any time he could have left something? Like... a bomb? Trev, could a bomb explain what happened to Ares?”
“Oh fuck,” Trevor gasped, the blood draining from his face. “Yeah, it could. Joel, what was Jim doing when you found him?”
“He was already in the cockpit. I don’t know how long he’d been there,” Joel said, and began glancing around the cockpit.
“And he could have been working with someone, and he did get us away from Atlantis for a while... Lisa, we’ll call you back. We’re close inshore in the Strait of Messina and heading for the beach now,” Trevor yelled.
Joel snapped the phone closed and shoved it into his pocket, as Trevor took the con at the starboard helm, turning Atlantis sharply to starboard and ramming the throttles to full power, heading for the shore, just a few hundred yards away. Joel scrambled around, furiously searching the cockpit, looking inside every storage compartment.
“Any idea where it could be?” Joel asked, as he rummaged through the under-bench storage near where Jim had been sitting.
“No. If it was him, it’s somewhere outside, but if he had help, it could be fucking anywhere, and triggered by a cell phone or a timer or fucking anything. We’re almost at the shore, you’re going to take the Zodiac ashore while I anchor and search. Get it lowered,” Trevor ordered.
“I’m staying,” Joel replied, continuing to search.
“I’m the captain and I’m telling you, get the fuck off my boat; don’t argue with me,” Trevor yelled.
Joel ignored Trevor for a few seconds, continuing to search, and then he spun around to say, “Wait... Jim knew we were going through the strait, right? And if he wanted to blow us up, do you think he’d want to do it here, with thousands of witnesses, or like Ares, way out at sea?”
Trevor stared at Joel, thinking it through. “Maybe you’re right. It’d be pretty stupid to do it here, and he was asking about Greece. If it’s on a timer, he could set it for a few days and probably catch us at sea. I still want you the fuck off my boat, now!”
“I’m staying, so save your breath. Anchor us, then we’ll both search. What about calling the Italian police? Maybe they have a bomb squad?” Joel said, as he checked the life raft container and the barbecue.
“What proof do we have? No, I want to search, and I know my boat so I can do a better job of it than they could. Faster, too,” Trevor said, as Atlantis came within a hundred feet of the Sicilian shoe and Trevor threw the engines into full reverse, bringing her to a halt in twenty feet of water. “Either get off or take the helm while I deploy the anchors,” Trevor yelled, already running forward.
When Trevor returned to the cockpit after anchoring, he’d calmed down a little, and as he joined Joel in searching, asked, “If Jim was going to blow us up, why did Dad go through all that about having me go around the world? Why not just tell me any damn thing to get me to sail home, then a few days later, kaboom?”
“What if your Dad doesn’t know? What if the killer is Jim?” Joel asked, as he moved further aft, still searching.
“Shit,” Trevor mumbled, and then began lowering the Zodiac.
“I’m not going,” Joel said again.
“I still need to check it for bombs,” Trevor replied.
Joel paused and looked back at Trevor. “Why would Jim do all that stuff about canceling the lawsuit, and making us call the cops? Both of those prove he was here, and that’s the last thing he’d want if he was going to kill us. If he was just going to blow us up, why talk to us at all? Just plant the bomb in secret and leave...”
Trevor turned to stare at Joel, and blinked. “I think you’re right.”
“I still want to search Atlantis, at least anywhere somebody could get to,” Joel said.
Trevor nodded. “Me too... but we probably just panicked. You call Lisa and talk to her; she’s probably freaking out. I’ll search; I know Atlantis better than you do.”
“I’ll talk and search at the same time,” Joel said, pulling out the phone and dialing.
Lisa’s first reaction was relief, followed by an immediate demand that Trevor and Joel get off Atlantis. Joel managed to calm her down and explain, but it took time.
Trevor searched everywhere he could think of. He was sure that Jim couldn’t have planted a bomb underwater because, as Trevor belatedly realized, Jim wasn’t wet when he’d met him, which had been soon after docking. That didn’t rule out an accomplice, but combined with the other factors, it made Trevor less frantic. Focusing on the rear deck areas and the cockpit, and Trevor furiously hunted, checking and double-checking.
When he was satisfied that there probably wasn’t a bomb, Trevor joined Joel on the phone. “Hi Lisa, I think we’re okay. Like Joel said, what Jim did makes no sense if he wanted to blow us up.”
“Promise me you’ll check every inch of that tub before you head out to open sea again,” Lisa said.
“Count on it. We’re going to anchor–”
“Don’t say where!” Lisa warned.
“Okay, but we’ll anchor, and then we’ll search. At first light, we’ll even check underwater...” Trevor’s eyes glazed over for a second as a realization struck him. “Jim’s actions make no sense if he was leaving a bomb, but what about a tracking device? That fits... that fits everything.”
“Except it doesn’t fit how he found you in the first place, or that e-mail, assuming it’s real,” Lisa replied.
“We’ll search anyway,” Trevor replied.
“Definitely, everywhere,” Joel added.
“Keep searching and call me in the morning, your time, if not before; I’ll keep my cell on. I don’t care what time it is here, just call me,” Lisa said.
“Will do,” Trevor said, and then he returned to searching, leaving Joel to talk to Lisa in private. After the call to Lisa ended, Joel called his parents, but he refrained from telling them about Jim’s visit, or the bomb scare.
A few minutes after the phone call, Lisa heard the kitchen door open, and dashed in to see her father, groceries in hand, walking in. Forcing herself to be calm and cheerful, she said, “Hi daddy. I’ve got some news you’ll be very happy to hear.”
Robert set the groceries down, and after giving his daughter a puzzled look, prodded, “I’m listening.”
Lisa began putting the groceries away as she talked. “You need to call that law firm that was suing you. Trevor’s dad’s lawyer found Trevor and Joel, and Joel made him lift the suit by pointing out that there was no possible need for you to give him their location. Joel made him put it in writing, too–”
“Joel got rid of the lawsuit?” Robert asked, blinking in surprise.
“Call the law firm and find out, then I’ll tell you the rest,” Lisa said, smiling proudly.
Robert only nodded, staring at his daughter in disbelief, and then he reached for the law firm’s number, and dialed the phone. He spoke to the secretary, who transferred the call to one of the associates, who verified that the withdrawal order had been received from Jim, and would be filed with the court within a few hours. He also assured Robert that a registered copy of the order was already on its way to his address.
After Robert hung up, he felt as if an enormous weight had been lifted from his shoulders. “The lawsuit is gone... we’ve still got your safety to worry about, but I think this means he’s backing off, in all ways.”
Lisa nodded happily as she put away the last of the shopping. “Yep, and who do you have to thank for that, daddy?”
Robert sighed, and then smiled. “Joel. Okay, okay, you can stop with the sales pitch. I’d like to get to know him better. When he gets back, start inviting him for dinner once a week, but only on nights when it’s my turn to cook.”
Lisa’s brow wrinkled, and she asked in a puzzled tone, “Why just when you’re cooking?”
Robert smiled pleasantly and walked towards the living room, saying over his shoulder, “No point in scaring the poor guy off with your cooking.”
“Daddy!” Lisa yelled in mock anger, and then laughed, following her father into the living room, where she gave him an abbreviated version of Jim’s visit with Trevor and Joel. When she was done, she smiled sweetly and asked, “So, there’s no more danger to Atlantis, because they’ve already been found and nothing bad happened. So, can I please go see them and Italy, please?”
Robert sighed. “No, you can’t. All this proved is that they’re even easier to find than we thought, and as far as Dirk being a murder suspect, as well as an utter bastard. Nothing has changed. Just because nothing bad happened this time doesn’t mean it won’t.”
Lisa narrowed her eyes, a dark suspicion returning. “So you’re saying that the reason I can’t go is because they were found?”
Robert shrugged. “Add that to all my other reasons.”
Lisa stared at her father for a few moments. ‘He wouldn’t have... would he? That e-mail contained what the lawsuit was demanding. He knew they were in Capri, and he knew that Trevor is doing a circumnavigation, but he didn’t know that they’d be going through the Strait of Messina, or when, so he couldn’t have sent that e-mail... I can’t believe he’d do that,’ Lisa thought, her mind racing. Lisa’s emotions warred; she knew that if her father sent the e-mail, then she’d hate him. The suspicion lingered, but Lisa tried to shove it to the back of her mind, and her fear of finding out caused her to decide to avoid doing any digging, for now. “Do you really think they’re in danger?” Lisa asked.
Robert sighed. “I hope not, but I never thought Dirk would sue me to extort information, or do any of the other things he’s done. There’s also the fact he’s a murder suspect. That makes him dangerous.”
“If you’d had the information he wanted, would you have given it to him, to get out of the lawsuit?” Lisa asked, doing the digging she’d decided against just moments before.
“If I believed it wouldn’t put Trevor or Joel in danger, maybe, but I don’t like extortion so I’d have preferred to tell the bastard to shove it. But... I think he’s a danger to them, so the answer is no,” Robert said, and then added, “It’s not like I had a decision to make on that; you wouldn’t tell me where they were anyway.”
‘But you did know where they were, when you recognized that picture,’Lisa thought, and then tried again to shake off the suspicion. “My friend Cindy is coming by tomorrow and we’re going to the mall. I’ve got to figure out what to tell her; she’s sure to ask.”
“Why would she ask?”
Lisa glanced at the front window. “I think she’ll notice the police cruiser parked in front of our house.”
Robert blinked, and then nodded. “I guess I wasn’t thinking... It’s up to you. If you tell her, you have to assume she’ll tell others. My suggestion is figure out in advance just how much you want people to know.”
“I’ll ask Trev; he’s the one who’s most affected,” Lisa said, temporizing.
After two hours of searching, Trevor and Joel had satisfied themselves that there were no bombs aboard and they continued on their way to Taormina.
Atlantis passed the city of Messina, and seen from Atlantis, the modern shore-side outskirts of the city were clearly visible, due to the gentle seaward slope of the land at the foot of the Sicilian hills. Trevor tapped Joel on the shoulder and pointed at the shore, which was less than half a mile away. “The streets run directly inland. I guess they’re laid out in a grid, like at home. When we pass them, for a moment you can look right up them. There’s almost no traffic, probably because it’s so late.”
Joel looked, seeing the quiet streets. “We’re so close in; it’s almost like driving through town.”
“I think we panicked about the bomb thing, it never made sense... for Atlantis, anyway. But for Ares, the more I think about it, the more it sounds like it could be what happened. What if a bomb shredded one hull? She’d flood fast, and that’d take out the batteries, so maybe that’s why there was only that few seconds of radio call,” Trevor said, watching the lights of Messina roll by.
“That’d make sense,” Joel said.
Trevor was silent for a few moments, and then replied, “I don’t know. It doesn’t explain why there was no wreckage at all. Ares couldn’t sink, even if flooded, unless the buoyancy cells in the hull were ruptured – and a bomb could do that – then maybe the weight of the engines would drag her down... That’d take a pretty big blast, which would blow stuff everywhere... but nothing was found, so how could it have been a bomb?”
Joel put a friendly arm across Trevor’s shoulders. “Did you know that you’re debating with yourself?”
Trevor chuckled. “Yeah, kinda... I’m just trying to figure it out. There are so many contradictory things. The wreckage issue makes me think that the position report was wrong, but if that’s true, then why is Dad trying so hard to keep me away from the disappearance site?”
Joel smiled sadly, and leaving his arm in place he, replied, “You’re assuming he knows where Ares went down, which in this case means you’re assuming he killed your mom, right?”
Trevor sighed, looking out at the dark seas and passing gold-lit shores. “I don’t know. I don’t feel he killed her, but I think he knows a hell of a lot more than he’s saying. Those divorce papers, and the way he won’t talk about ‘em, pretty much proves that. I think he knows what happened. If so, he could know where Ares went down, even if he’s not the one who did it.”
“But that would mean he’s covering for someone who killed his wife, right? Why would he do that?”
Trevor shrugged again. “That’s something else that makes no sense. The only hard facts I have are that position report, and that Dad will do damn near anything to keep me away from it, even pushing me to circle the planet. That at least tells me where we’ll find the answer; twenty miles northeast of Bimini.”
Joel moved his arm so he could use his hand to change navigation screen displays, and then said, “You said ‘we’. That makes me happy, because it means that you finally understand that you’re not in this alone. And yeah, we will find Ares, no matter what.”
“Thanks Joel,” Trevor said, smiling in the dark, as he reached for the phone to call Lisa, as promised.
Dawn found Atlantis anchored in a rocky bay at Taormina, amongst a few scattered smaller yachts. Trevor and Joel, exhausted by their late night and frantic exertions, awoke at dawn to give Atlantis another searching, including underwater, looking everywhere they could think of for explosives or tracking devices. They found nothing, and by late afternoon, they had taken the Zodiac ashore, where they spent the remainder of the day exploring the small Sicilian town.
Lisa had a lot on her mind when she arrived at Bridget’s house, for their scheduled game of tennis.
After a friendly greeting, Bridget ushered Lisa inside, and they made their way through Bridget’s massive, ornate house to the rear garden, which contained, at one side, the tennis court. After three sets, Bridget approached the net and fixed Lisa in a steely gaze. “You usually win, but I’ve just taken you for three sets and it wasn’t even close. You’re off your game, and I have a hunch that something is bothering you. Can I help?” Bridget asked.
Lisa smiled and nodded. After glancing towards Bridget’s empty dock, Lisa said, “Dirk Carlson’s lawyer found Trevor and Joel...” Lisa proceeded to tell Bridget what had happened, including the bomb scare. When she was done, Lisa took a deep breath and added sadly, “That e-mail is what’s eating at me. It has Joel and Trevor stressed out as well. I keep wondering if my father sent it, but that doesn’t add up. He knew Atlantis was near Capri, but he didn’t know her course or when she’d arrive in the Strait of Messina. On the other hand, Daddy has major issues with Joel, and that lawsuit gave Daddy a lot of motive to send an e-mail.”
“I suspect that Joel arranging for the lawsuit to be lifted will go a long way to healing that rift,” Bridget said, and then gave Lisa a thoughtful look. “We’ll put our match on hold for a while. Come with me to my parlor, I think I can put your mind at ease.”
Bridget led Lisa inside, and as they passed through the living room, Bridget paused, and then turned, walking purposefully to the mantle, where with reverent care she picked up a black-rimmed framed photo. Handing it to Lisa, Bridget said, “That was my daughter, Stacy. She died when she was about your age. You remind me a great deal of her, my dear. She was so much like you: bright and energetic. Then, one day, it was as if a switch had been thrown. She became ever more listless, and after a few days, we took her to the doctor. Six months later, she passed away, a victim of myeloid leukemia,” Bridget said, gazing at her late daughter’s picture.
“I’m sorry,” Lisa said, knowing how trite and inadequate those words were. Looking at the photo, Lisa could see a general resemblance between Bridget’s daughter and herself, and with that, Lisa thought, ‘I remind her of her dead daughter, that’s why she reached out to me and is trying to help.’
Holding her head high, Bridget returned the photo to its place of honor. “Life, though so sweet, can be wickedly cruel at times. Still and all, it goes on, for those of us who remain.” Bridget gazed up at her late husband’s large portrait, and oil painting in a massive baroque frame. “She was our only child. Arnold and I were devastated. Arnold died less than two years later.” Bridget turned to look at Lisa, and then added softly, “Arnold did not die of natural causes. I had long believed his death to be accidental, but recently, based in part on some conversations with Officer Gonzalez, I have learned that the police are looking into the case, some ten years after his death, as a possible murder. This came as quite a shock to me... the man they suspect of his murder is Dirk Carlson.”
Lisa gasped in horror, shuddering. “So Trev’s dad really is a killer,” Lisa said, in a hoarse whisper. “Oh my God, after all you’ve been through, and he took your husband from you...”
Bridget nodded solemnly. “Yes. From what I’ve been told, there was a dispute between Dirk Carlson and my Arnold. It was over the sale of the Ares. I don’t know the details, for Arnold handled such things for us. I gave Officer Gonzalez the sales documents, of which he was blithely unawares, and I hope he makes use of them. Whatever occurred between my husband and Dirk Carlson, it may have been motive enough for murder. I have not told you this before, because it is, as you may imagine, quite painful for me, and I was unaware of the connection until so recently. However, now the police suspect Dirk of my husband’s death, so I feel you must be told. My dear, you must beware; you are dealing with a murderer, and they are never predictable. Dirk has already evaded the police, who have since, in a manifest display of incompetence, lifted his warrant. Apparently, in spite of our assurances to the contrary, they believed Trevor dead. With Trevor alive, that poisons part of their case, enough to rescind the warrant.”
Lisa opened her mouth, and then closed it again. Finally, she said, “That fits. It all fits. Maybe Trev’s mom found out what happened to your husband, and that’s why Trev’s dad killed her.”
Bridget’s eyes opened wide in momentary surprise. “My dear, I think you might be onto something; I hadn’t thought of that. We must endeavor to make certain the police look into that, and also that they refrain from any further bungling. My dear Arnold and Trevor’s mother have gone unavenged for far too long. My only wish is that they could be relied upon to handle the investigation with competence, though their past history strongly belies their ability to do so.”
“So what do we do?” Lisa asked, her mind awhirl, rocked back by the new information.
Sighing, Bridget glanced up at her husband’s portrait. “The only thing we can, I’m afraid; wait and see what they do, then give them a nudge or two if needed. In the meantime, on to my parlor.”
They entered the small parlor, its walls lined with oaken bookshelves containing leather bound books and all manner of maritime antiques. Walking over to the massive cherry-wood desk, Bridget opened the room’s one visible modern device: a laptop computer. “Take a seat beside me, Lisa, I think I can show you how that e-mail may have occurred. Your father works with computer databases, does he not?”
Lisa nodded. “Yes, he sets them up, and sometimes he works at businesses for months at a time, getting a custom system up and running.”
“Then it stands to reason that he would be familiar with searching for information on the internet. Lisa, what I’m about to show you may prove troubling for you, but please promise me that you will hear me out; I believe your father, if he did this, acted with the best of intentions in your regard. Now, first, I’ll show you how easily he could have acquired the information.”
Bridget opened a bookmarked site; a maritime weather forecasting page. From the main map, she selected the Mediterranean. “This would give him the wind forecast. Also, if you look at the map itself, you will see that Trevor’s route, given that he is heading east, would be glaringly obvious; he would need to pass through the Strait of Messina, which runs between Sicily and the toe of Italy, or he would need to take a several-hundred-mile detour west, around Sicily. Given a rough idea of Atlantis’s starting point and time, and her performance – easily acquired online, if he knows her make and model – he could predict, within a few hours, her likely time of arrival at the strait.” Bridget changed to a tide-forecast page. “And here, we see that the tidal currents in the strait are quite strong. Trevor would logically wish to transit when they are southbound, instead of fighting a northbound current. That would give a higher degree of certainty to the predicted passage time.”
Bridget closed the laptop and then turned to face Lisa, taking her hand. “I have just shown you how easy it would be to acquire the information in that e-mail. Now, I will tell you something that you must believe; do not hate your father for this. He had you to think about; a murderer has driven by your house, and he had every reason to believe that you were in mortal danger. Furthermore, Dirk Carlson’s inability to travel by air or sea is very well known to those who know him, or to people in the local yachting community, which is small and quite tightly knit. It is likely that your father knew of it.”
Lisa nodded, washed by conflicting emotions. “He does; I remember Trevor telling him last year, and Dad has mentioned it since.”
Bridget nodded. “Then there you have it. Your father knew with certainty that only Dirk Carlson’s attorney was in Italy, not Dirk himself. A lawyer may be many things, but they will not physically harm people on behalf of a client – that would be foolish in the extreme. Remember, it is a business relationship and nothing more. Therefore, your father would know that he was not placing Trevor or Joel in physical harm. He likely sent the e-mail – if indeed he did – in order to take a killer’s focus off of you. That he did so anonymously shows that he was not trying to lift the lawsuit, merely trying to protect his only daughter, a motive I can well understand. As a result, Trevor is no longer being hunted as a runaway, and his financial distress is abated. Lisa, this will be a hard thing for you to understand, but you must let that issue drop. Your father acted out of love for you, and very likely fears your reaction, should you learn of it. I lost my daughter, Lisa. I know the pain, and I would have done anything to save her. If your father sent that e-mail, he was doing the same, and in the knowledge that he was not placing Trevor and Joel at physical risk. A further result is that Joel now stands much higher in your father’s eyes, having rid him of the lawsuit. For all these reasons, it would be best, in my opinion, to forget the matter. I’m willing to wager that he’s seen your temper on occasion, and would thus not likely admit what he has done. Am I right?”
Lisa gave Bridget a bashful, thankful smile. “Yes. Thank you. I came here, scared that if he did this, I’d hate him forever. Thanks for helping me understand,” Lisa replied, eagerly taking, like a drowning victim seizing a life ring, the explanation that so neatly resolved the inner conflict that had been tearing at her heart. In that moment, she decided to forgive her father.
Bridget smiled and stood up. “With that behind us, let us remember the real goal here; to assure that Dirk Carlson is brought to justice.”