The Florida sun beat down on Bridget Bellevue’s tennis court, its heat made to feel all the worse due to the high humidity.
“Your game is sharper than ever today,” Bridget said, as she met Lisa at the net.
Lisa smiled and nodded. “Thanks. I’m feeling better about a lot of things. I took your advice and put aside Daddy sending that e-mail. I can understand that he was trying to protect me, and he had no reason to believe that it would harm Trevor or Joel. He did the right thing, in his mind anyway, but for the wrong reasons. So, I decided to forgive and forget.”
Bridget nodded and led the way into her palatial home. “You are wise to do that. There are times when discretion is the better part of valor, my dear. So, how are Trevor and Joel doing? Well, I hope?”
As they entered via the French doors, Lisa replied, “So far, so good. Last I heard, they were on their way to Taranto, but they should have left by now. We had one hell of a scare though: when they got to the Strait of Messina, they realized that the lawyer could have left a bomb on board. They searched and found nothing, but it scared the crap out of them – and me too.”
Bridget arched both eyebrows. “A bomb scare, you say? That’s sadly not as far-fetched as it sounds. It would explain how the Ares vanished at sea, and it would be one way to keep Trevor quiet forever.” Bridget paused thoughtfully, and then added, “Searching a boat that size would not be easy, I do hope they were thorough. Still, it would make little sense to detonate a bomb at this time, because from what you told me, the attorney made no secret of his presence there.” When they reached the kitchen, Bridget looked Lisa in the eye and continued, “They are probably safe. What will they do now?”
Lisa sat down and sighed. “Joel is flying home from Cyprus two weeks from tomorrow, and I can’t wait. Trevor... he’s decided to keep going and I’m worried sick about him. How’s this for weird: his father, after going nuts to find Trev, now wants him to continue on around the world. He even unfroze Trev’s bank accounts, but only on the condition that he keeps going.”
Bridget poured them both some coffee, and sat down with Lisa before replying, “That is indeed incongruous, were he above board. It sounds to me like an effort to keep Trevor away from the Ares wreck site, which certainly confirms that he’s responsible for that. The good news, I suppose, is that this keeps Trevor out of harm’s way for a while. What will Trevor do, after Joel leaves?”
Lisa took a sip of coffee and then set the cup down, taking great care with the fragile, gold-inlaid porcelain. “He’ll head for the Suez Canal, and then down the Red Sea. He’s going to be alone for a long time, that’s why I’m so worried about him.”
Bridget nodded sympathetically. “I understand your concerns, but try not to worry. Many have circumnavigated alone, in far lesser craft than his. Surely he will meet other yachters along the way.”
“I hope so. It’s just... I know how much I’m missing Joel, and he’ll be back in two weeks. I still have my father, you, and my other friends, and my home, but it still feels so lonely at times. Trev... he’s lost everything, and once Joel comes home, he’ll be all alone.”
“True, but it’s not as if he’s gone forever; he’ll be back within a year, and in the meantime, at least he will be safe, and though I met him just once, he struck me as a very personable and attractive boy. He should have no trouble meeting other yachters on his stops,” Bridget replied, leaning back and looking out the window, towards her empty dock. “Back when my late husband and I had the Ares, we took quite a few trips through the Caribbean, and we met a great many fellow yachters. The yachting community is small and tightly knit, sharing a camaraderie that is hard for an outsider to envision. Trevor will do well. Of that, I have no doubt.”
“I hope so,” Lisa replied sadly, and then asked, “Any news about his father? I keep hoping he’ll be arrested and then Trev can turn around and come home.”
Bridget gave a sad sigh. “They say the wheels of justice grind slowly, and indeed they do. I hope to know soon. I assure you that I shall do all that I can to see Dirk Carlson prosecuted. Don’t lose faith; things are moving along, though they may not feel that way. With any luck, Trevor will not be circumnavigating.”
“I hope so,” Lisa said again, brightening at the proffered hope.
The conversation turned to their shared love of tennis, until Bridget angled her head slightly, listened for a moment, and said, “Lisa, I’m afraid that some guests I was expecting have arrived early. Let’s get together in a few days, when I’ll hopefully have further information for you, and you can give me a rematch on the courts.”
Bridget gave Lisa a friendly smile as they both stood up, and as they walked to the front door, Lisa heard the deep thrum of twin diesel engines, coming from the waterfront side of Bridget’s home.
As Lisa pulled away in her truck, she turned left on the street, glancing between the waterfront homes. For a moment, she could see a large powerboat tying up at Bridget’s dock. It looked similar to one she’d seen there before, and Lisa’s curiosity got the better of her. When she reached the end of the street, she turned left, and then left again, heading for the road between the houses on the opposite side of the waterway.
The only vantage point Lisa could see was a view between some waterfront houses. She drove by slowly, looking intently at the thirty-nine foot Sea Ray powerboat.
Certain now that it was the same boat she’d seen at Bridget’s dock before, Lisa studied the boat. From that angle, she could see the name currently on the stern, ‘Sea Witch’, and the two large men walking up the dock towards Bridget’s house.
Puzzled, Lisa stopped to watch for a few moments, and then she pulled away, heading home. For a few moments, Lisa was hurt that Bridget hadn’t wanted her to meet her friends. Then, after considering it for a while, Lisa thought, ‘I’m being silly. I’m a teenager and she’s a rich society type three times my age, so that’s probably why she keeps me away from them. Or maybe it’s her police department contact, so she needs to keep it private.’
Bridget watched the two men walk up to her glass French doors, and taking her time, she stood up and walked over to meet them.
Opening it, she smiled. “George, please come in,” she said, to the taller of the two men. To the other, she said, “Guard the boat. We won’t be long.”
Leading George into the parlor, Bridget smiled and asked, “How was the trip?”
Taking a seat beside Bridget on the couch, George nodded. “A little rough across the straits, but other than that, everything went as planned. All in the line of duty, as they say. The reason I’m here early is it looks like the investigation is going how we need it to. Gonzalez is looking at Carlson for both killings, and get this; he thinks the lawyer, Ainsworth, is trying to kill the Carlson kid. The short version is that he’s confirmed Carlson and the lawyer are lovers, and they’re trying to keep the kid from digging into the loss of Ares.”
Bridget smiled and nodded. “I honestly do believe that Dirk Carlson killed Rachel, and so I suppose that fits. I’m surprised that the lawyer would play an active role, though.”
“Gonzalez thinks your husband found out and was blackmailing Carlson, and that’s motive for Carlson to kill him. Seeing as how neither of ‘em had anything to do with Arnold’s death, Gonzalez has it wrong there, but if he’s following that theory it could prove useful.”
Bridget snorted. “Arnold wouldn’t have blackmailed anyone. However, I’ll see what I can come up with to support that theory.”
“I’m sure he’d have been fine with blackmailing me,” George replied, with a wistful smile. “One more thing. The kid, Trevor, is transiting the Suez in nine days. If anything happens to him, Carlson and the lawyer are dogmeat, and Carlson will be charged with both killings.”
Bridget narrowed her eyes. “Something doesn’t add up. Tell me how you know it will be in nine days.”
“Gonzales was specific; he said ‘Ten days’ and that was yesterday. It was while he was telling me the rest.”
Bridget’s eyes opened wide. “I think he’s trying to be overly clever. Lisa told me that Trevor will be in Cyprus in two weeks, and if so, he cannot be transiting Suez in nine days. Think it through; does what Gonzalez told you make sense, or is he on a fishing expedition?”
“I know he’s pissed about the leak. Yeah, he could be fishing, in which case, the bastard is trying to set me up. It fits... if that version gets back to him, that nails me as the leak.”
Bridget glanced out the window, towards her dock. “If true, this means that he still suspects me, and everything he told you may have been a lie, or more likely, truth mixed with lies. We need to check this. What else did he say, and to whom? Check around your department and see what he’s told others. If you find a different version of the story, that could prove useful indeed.”
Detective George Alfred stood up and took Bridget’s hand. “I’ve got to get back to business, but how about dinner tonight?”
Bridget smiled and nodded. “Of course, as always, and breakfast as well.” She leaned in and gave George a quick kiss. “I miss our runs together; but we have to be careful until this investigation is over. Soon though, hopefully it will no longer be an issue.”
“Your namesake is ready when you are,” George said, with a smile of his own.
Bridget chuckled. “Naming my own boat ‘Sea Witch’. I don’t know why I’ve put up with you all these years.”
“Out of the dozen names she has, I had to personalize one of ‘em,” George replied with a grin, as he turned to leave. He stopped and hesitated for a moment, and then added as an aside, “We’ll need to take the Sea Witch in for engine work soon; those diesels are getting cranky from hard use.”
Bridget gazed towards her dock. “I’ll set it up; there’s a haul-out service yard down in Boca, same one we used before. We might as well get the radar upgrade done at the same time.”
“See you tonight,” Detective George Alfred said, as he strolled out the door, giving Bridget a wink.
Trevor and Joel spent the remainder of the afternoon seeing the sights of Santa Maria di Lucia, walking the narrow cobbled streets, exploring the piazzas. As the day drew to a close, they tore off on their skateboards along the concrete seafront boardwalk, doing kicks off curbs and jumps over benches, thoroughly enjoying themselves and annoying the locals.
Spying a sidewalk bar, Joel said, “They’ll have bar food and stuff. Let’s have a few beers too. Might be our last chance to hit a bar. According to what I’ve found on the ‘net, the Greeks aren’t sticklers for age, but just in case, let’s drink. It might be our last chance in a bar until we’re twenty-one.”
Trevor chuckled. “Not even close. The drinking age in the Bahamas is eighteen, so you’ll be legal there in March. I’ll probably be back around that time, so I’ll haul you out there.”
Joel grinned. “I’ll hold you to that, after we’re both eighteen, but let’s hit this one anyway.”
“Hell yeah,” Trevor replied.
They went inside the small cantina, finding every seat taken. As they turned to leave, Trevor saw a young couple get up from a booth, which was next to a window overlooking the harbor. Dashing over to the booth, Trevor and Joel took seats on opposite sides, looking out at the view, which included Atlantis riding serenely at anchor.
Happy and relaxed, Trevor and Joel talked about the sights they’d seen in Italy, and then about their planned route to the Aegean Sea. Then, Joel asked the obvious question, “What’s our first stop in Greek Isles?”
Trevor gave his best impression of an innocent look as he replied, “An island, of course.”
“Yeah, I kinda figured that. Which one?” Joel asked.
By way of a reply, Trevor shrugged, smirked, looked at the ceiling, and snickered. “It’s a Greek Island. It’ll be a surprise.”
Joel squinted. “You’re just playing with my head, I know you are.”
“I like tiny, simple toys, what can I say?” Trevor replied, with an angelic smile that was anything but.
“I’ll get you for this. You know that, right?” Joel grumbled.
“We’ll see,” Trevor shot back, grinning like a Cheshire cat.
After a second round of beer and two trays of fried mozzarella sticks in the small but crowded bar, Trevor said, “We’d better stock up on beer, just in case we can’t get any in Greece.”
Joel nodded. “Like I’d forget that. Yeah, I saw a supermarket on the other end of the beach, not far from where the Zodiac is tied up. We can get some food, too. I love the cheeses we’ve had here... except for that goat cheese, which was pretty raunchy.”
“We need to get bread, too. We’re just about out. So, how the hell are we going to do this?” Trevor asked.
“Do what?” Joel replied, with a puzzled look.
Trevor nodded out the window, towards where Atlantis was riding at anchor. “We’ve got to get enough beer for you for two weeks, and haul it out to Atlantis. That’s going to take dozens of trips in the Zodiac, and Atlantis might sink from the weight.”
Joel laughed, and resisted the urge to flip Trevor off. “Hey, you’ve been drinking as much as I have, and we only do it when we’re anchored or in port. I’m thinking around four hundred and fifty bottles, because we’ve still got that Italian brandy. I hope we can get alcohol in Greece; I’d like to try ouzo, and their beer.”
Trevor arched both eyebrows. “How can even you drink that much in two weeks?”
Joel shrugged. “I’m thinking we’ll get through maybe fifty bottles. I love the beer here, so I was thinking you could keep it on Atlantis until you get home. You’ll need to keep it cold or it won’t last that long.”
Trevor rolled his eyes. “In case you haven’t noticed, my galley and bar refrigerators are kinda small. I don’t think I could fit four hundred bottles even if I ran both refrigerators, and even if I could, that would leave zero space for anything else. I’d be stuck with just canned and dried food for most of a year!”
Joel nodded. “I know, but I think it’s worth the sacrifice, to bring me beer,” Joel said, snickering.
“Shut up,” Trevor grumbled, with a laugh of his own.
After a final round, they skated along the waterfront to the supermarket, pausing to look at the sunset.
It took an hour, but they loaded up on groceries and beer, though they stopped at fifty bottles. Then, they loaded the beer and groceries into boxes, and using their skateboards, rolled them to the Zodiac.
After loading, Joel stood on the pier and looked back at the town, which glittered in the darkness. “Arrivederci, Italia,” Joel said softly, as Trevor stood by his side. Turning to look at Trevor, Joel said, “It’s been awesome, man. Thanks.”
Trevor shook his head. “Don’t thank me; I’ve had a blast seeing all this stuff with you. It wouldn’t have been anywhere near as much fun on my own.”
Trevor and Joel climbed down into the Zodiac and cast off, motoring back to Atlantis, each lost in their thoughts.
After stowing the groceries and the Zodiac, they sat down in the salon, beers in hand. “We better call Lisa; if we wait until morning it’ll be the middle of the night in Florida. I’ve got to call my folks, too,” Joel said, pulling out the phone and dialing his parents. After talking to them for fifteen minutes, he said goodbye, and then phoned Lisa, leaning in close to Trevor so they could share.
“Hi Lisa! I miss you. But guess what; are you ready for some shocking news?” Joel said, in a gleeful tone.
“Hi Joel! Okay, I’m waiting?”
Trevor took one look at Joel’s face, and knew. Trevor tried to snatch the phone away, but Joel was ready and twisted away, giggling as he told Lisa, “Trev got laid! And oww, he just hit me.”
Lisa laughed and replied, “Miracle of miracles, it’s about damn time. Okay, get him to stop hitting you and share the phone, I want details!”
“Hi Lisa,” Trevor said, and then he thought, ‘Either I tell her all about it or Joel will, and Joel will twist it to hell and back to embarrass me.’ Taking a deep breath, Trevor said, “We were in Taranto, and Joel surprised me by taking me to a gay bar–”
“And it took him fifteen minutes after getting there to figure out that’s what it was,” Joel interjected, earning himself an elbow in the ribs from Trevor.
For the next quarter of an hour, Trevor and Joel told Lisa about their night in Taranto. Lisa jumped in to ask questions, but she was so happy for Trevor that she refrained from teasing him too much.
“See Trev, you can have fun, and don’t you dare tell me you didn’t enjoy that,” Lisa said, as Trevor and Joel finished their recount.
Trevor grinned and blushed. “Yeah, Torsten was hot and we had a blast. One night stands aren’t something I want to do a lot of, but while I’m on this trip, maybe you’ve got a point.”
“Don’t I always?” Lisa replied, laughing. “Now, where are you two off to next? Wait, I forgot, don’t give specifics...”
Joel snickered. “I couldn’t anyway. All I know is it’s the Greek Islands. Trev won’t tell me where. He says he wants it to be a surprise.”
“You’ll definitely be surprised,” Trevor said, chuckling “Joel can’t stand not knowing things, so I’m having fun with this.”
“Way too much fun, you ass,” Joel said, using his elbow to give Trevor’s ribs a light jab.
“Play nice, you two,” Lisa replied, laughing at their antics and wishing she could be with them.
Ringing up a sale in the chandlery, Dirk felt on edge. He’d been on the run, and now, on his first day back, he felt as if the police would come charging in at any second. The customer left, purchase in hand, and Dirk was again alone with his thoughts in the empty store.
The ringing phone jolted him, and he picked it up, answering automatically, “Fort Pierce Chandlery.”
For a moment, there was a crackle on the line, and then Trevor said, “Hi Dad.”
“Trev... How are you, are you okay?” Dirk asked.
“I’m fine, are you okay?” Trevor asked, a little awkwardly.
Dirk smiled. “I’m okay now, especially now you’ve called. I want to make sure you’re stocked for your trip, with plenty of spares. Extra batteries for the portable stuff too; you’d be surprised how many people forget that.”
For a few minutes, they discussed Trevor’s inventory in detail, and then Trevor asked, “Dad, speaking of stuff for my trip, there’s something I’d kind of like to have; a satellite phone.”
After a confused pause, Dirk asked, “Did yours stop working? I never touched that account, Trev.”
Now it was Trevor’s turn to be confused. “Uh, Dad, you have it. You made me keep it in the Chandlery between charters, remember?”
The light slowly dawned on Dirk. “Oh... I just thought... but there’s no way you could have got it. Hang on a second.” Dirk glanced around, his eyes locking on one of the drawers behind the counter. He checked it, and then another, before finding the phone.
“Trev, I have it in my hand. I’m sorry; I thought you had it with you. Give me an address and I’ll overnight it.”
Trevor paused, and after sharing a worried look with Joel, who was listening in, Trevor replied, “Uh, one of my friends from the swim team was going to stop by and pick it up for me.”
Dirk’s eyes narrowed as he deciphered the unspoken message. “In other words, you don’t even trust me enough to tell me where you’re at?” Dirk asked, with an edge to his voice.
Trevor ground his teeth, and then replied, “Do you trust me enough to tell me what happened with Mom and Ares?” Trevor replied, struggling to keep his voice level.
Dirk winced, and then answered, in a voice barely above a pained whisper. “Okay, fair point. Sorry Trev. I promise I’ll clear that up, in every detail, before you come home, but I will not discuss it now. So, I understand... I’ll give the phone to anyone you say; I just want you to have it.”
“Thanks Dad... I’m sorry too, I wish things were different. I love you, and I do miss you,” Trevor said, trying to give his father the benefit of the doubt.
After an awkward goodbye, the call ended, and Dirk sat in the silence, alone, as the guilt closed in again.
Trevor sat silently for several long minutes after the call, with Joel by his side, keeping him silent company. Finally, Trevor sighed. “It’s so hard talking to him. He’s my dad and I miss him, but with every other sentence, I’m wondering if I’m talking to Mom’s killer. It really messes with my head. He said he’d tell me what happened before I get home, but how can I believe that? I think he’s just stalling and he’ll never tell me. There’s only one way to find out.”
“We need to find the wreck of the Ares,” Joel said, finishing Trevor’s thought before taking a drink of beer.
“Thanks,” Trevor replied, giving Joel a weak smile. Hearing Joel say ‘We’ had helped ease Trevor’s mood.
Joel knew that Trevor was hurting, and asked, “We can drink some other time; I know it’s no fun when you’re bummed out.”
Trevor looked at his beer; it was still half-full. “I’ll just make this last and keep you company.”
Joel shook his head. “Nah, thanks, but we’ve got time; we’ll wait until we’re both in a better mood. We can play video games, or watch a movie, anything you feel like that’ll cheer you up.”
Trevor thought for a few moments, and realized that his down mood was clouding their last night in Italy. “A strip-tease and a lap dance might help,” Trevor said, trying to give Joel his best lost-puppy expression, fighting not to smile.
Joel blinked twice, and then burst out laughing, almost spilling his beer. “You ass, you got me.”
Trevor chuckled, his sadness abated. “Getting one up on you is enough to cheer anybody up. I don’t want to get smashed, but I’ll have a few beers. How about a movie?”
Joel took a drink and nodded. “Sure, load up.”
Trevor browsed through his movie collection – he had a large one, mainly for the use of guests. His eyes fell on a familiar title, and he began to smile as he pulled it off the shelf. Trevor loaded the DVD player, careful to keep the DVD case out of Joel’s line of sight. Joel noticed Trevor’s subterfuge, and asked, “Okay, so what’s the movie?”
“This is in honor of you getting us here from Taranto. Titanic: because you didn’t, as far as I know, hit an iceberg –yet,” Trevor replied.
Joel began to laugh. “You ass. I’ve seen it before, but it’s pretty good.”
Remote control in hand, Trevor sat down beside Joel as the DVD’s menu screen came up on the salon’s large, wall-mounted flat-screen TV. Trevor hit play, and then took a drink of beer before saying, “Save the empties. They’ll be great for target practice when we’re way out at sea.”
“Yeah, cool. There’re some coke cans in the garbage that we can use, too.”
An hour into the movie, Joel asked, “Hey, what about the Greek clearances and stuff?”
Trevor shrugged. “I looked that up the last time we had internet. It’s expensive and a pain: a bunch of fees, forms, and procedures. According to some posts on the yachting forum, you can get by without it, and outside of major marinas, they don’t seem to check. It’s like anything else: it ain’t illegal if you don’t get caught.”
Joel raised a skeptical eyebrow, and asked, “Are you sure?”
Trevor nodded. “Pretty much. There were posts by quite a few cruisers who had done the same thing. One issue is you’re supposed to check in with the local police in every port, and then check out again within two hours of sailing. Basically they said that if you don’t dock or go into a designated anchorage, and stick to small towns or isolated spots, you’re okay. It’ll save money and paperwork if we just skip all the fees and red tape. Besides, where we’re stopping first isn’t a designated port of entry, so if we were following the rules, we’d have to go somewhere else first. I already have a Greek courtesy flag, so I think we’re good to go.” Trevor hesitated for a few moments, and then added in a quiet tone, “I just feel safer doing it this way. If you check in and out, then the government knows where you are all the time. It would be super-easy for someone back home to send an impound order. What if my dad changes his mind again? He knows I won’t stop looking for Ares, and one way to stop me permanently is to take Atlantis. Maybe I’m just being paranoid, but the fact is we just don’t know and it’s too big a risk to take. If I’m wrong and we get caught, I’d have to pay a fine. If we do it the legal way and I’m wrong about Dad, then we lose Atlantis.”
“That makes sense, and that checking in and out every time sounds like a major pain in the ass anyway. So... where exactly is our first stop?” Joel asked.
“Somewhere,” Trevor replied, smirking.
“I’ll get you for this, count on it,” Joel said, shaking his head, and then adding, “and I won’t forget that blatant sexual harassment of asking me for a lap dance.”
“A strip tease too. Hey, if I’m going to get accused of sexual harassment, I might as well actually do some harassing, right?” Trevor asked, chuckling and waggling his eyebrows.
“Shut up and watch the movie,” Joel shot back, flipping Trevor off and laughing.
After the movie and three beers each, Trevor yawned and said, “Hey man, I’m still short on sleep, so I’m going to crash.”
Joel nodded. “I will soon. The weather plot looks good for an early departure. Want me to take Atlantis out if you’re still asleep?”
“Only if you promise to stay well clear of icebergs,” Trevor replied with a snicker as he headed for his cabin.
Joel raided the galley for a snack, and then went to his own cabin. He flipped open Trevor’s sea journal, and began reading where he’d left off.
An hour later, an angry Joel stalked into the salon. He glanced at Trevor’s door, tempted to storm in and yell, but then he decided to wait until morning. Joel browsed through Trevor’s movie collection, picked out a DVD he hadn’t seen, and returned to his cabin. Glancing at the journal, which he hadn’t finished reading, Joel ground his teeth and loaded the movie into the cabin DVD player – each passenger cabin on Atlantis had its own video and stereo system – and settled in to watch, still fuming.