The morning after their run from Rhodes, Joel awoke in his cabin, feeling the motion of Atlantis as she cut through the gentle swells. Stretching sleepily, Joel tugged on a pair of shorts and headed for the cockpit, where he paused for a moment to watch the golden sunrise. He stretched again, and then he noticed Trevor, asleep in the beanbag.
Joel glanced at the radar screens, finding them clear, and then ambled into the galley, heading for the freezer.
When Joel returned to the cockpit, he gently placed a single ice cube between Trevor’s pecs.
The unwelcome sensation of cold on his chest intruded on Trevor’s dreams, pulling him slowly awake. Shuddering, Trevor mumbled, “Joel...” and clumsily batted the ice cube away.
“You were asleep,” Joel pointed out helpfully.
“I knew that already,” Trevor mumbled, pulling himself upright and then rubbing his eyes.
“You fell asleep with us underway,” Joel pointed out in a more serious tone. At that moment, the radar console began to beep.
Trevor hit a button, silencing the alarm. “Yeah, for fifteen minutes. There wasn’t any traffic around, so I set proximity fences for six miles on both AIS and active radar, and hit the fifteen-minute snooze button. That’s how I crossed the Atlantic, and it’s how most solo sailors cope with long passages; short catnaps and the radar alarms. I wanted to get back in practice. If anything had come within six miles, the radar would have woken me. After waking me up like that, you could make me some coffee...”
Joel laughed, nodding towards the galley. “It’s already on. Now I’m up, you could get some real sleep if you feel like it.”
Trevor shook his head, and as he swept his disheveled hair back, replied, “Thanks, but then I wouldn’t sleep tonight, and we’ll be moored by then. We’ve got a busy day tomorrow; I’ve picked out a dive spot that’s a few miles north of Paphos.”
“Cool!” Joel replied, looking forward to the dive.
“And if you wake me up like that tomorrow, I’ll give you an anchor for a dive weight,” Trevor quipped.
“Okay, I’ll wait until after the dive,” Joel replied, laughing.
Trevor grinned, shaking his head, trying not to dwell on the fact that in two days, Joel would be leaving and he’d be alone again.
Sitting on Jim’s deck, sipping a Long Island iced tea, Dirk stared out at the sea. He was silent for a long time, and then said, in a sad tone, “Joel’s father came in to pick up a phone for Trev. The swim team was outside, scared to come in. They all think I’m some kind of monster... and in a way, I am. My son is circling the world because of me and what I’ve done, and he won’t even trust me enough to let me know where to send a damn phone.”
Jim nodded, taking a sip of his mint julep, trying to decide how best to handle Dirk’s dark mood. “Just a few more months, then the worst of it will be behind you. Trevor will forgive you eventually, once he knows. I’m sure he will; it’s not as if you killed her.”
Dirk took another drink, savoring the smooth blend of liquors. “Yeah, I guess, but damn near the same thing, from his point of view–”
“Careful,” Jim said, holding up a cautioning hand. “There are things we shouldn’t discuss here; you never know who might be listening. Keep stuff like that for when we’re away from our homes, cars, and businesses. Our claim on lawyer-client privilege is becoming thinner by the day, so we can’t assume that our conversations, if recorded, wouldn’t be admissible. It’s a risk we don’t have to take. Whenever you need to talk about stuff like that, let me know and we’ll go somewhere safe.”
“I’ve made your life hell too, just like I did for Trev,” Dirk replied, letting his head fall to his hands.
“You can stuff that right now, good buddy,” Jim replied, chuckling to lighten the mood. “I’m an adult, and I jumped in with my eyes wide open. Besides, it’ll all be behind us by Christmas.”
“Thanks... I don’t think I could get through this without you.”
Bridget and George made their way up the shared dock behind George’s house, where Sea Witch was sometimes kept. It was a safe haven, due to the fact that Sea Witch had many names, and was currently, courtesy of a removable vinyl placard, wearing a name and registration number proclaiming her to be the ‘Power Time’. The boat had separate registrations, under various owners, for all its names.
They entered George’s house, which was smaller than Bridget’s to avoid the appearance that he was living beyond his means. Bridget took a seat on the sofa, at ease in the familiar surroundings.
George retrieved a beer for himself and a wine spritzer for Bridget. “I need to put in some hours at work; there’s a drug task force meeting plus a few other details I need to attend to. We can’t have the department getting suspicious that I’m moonlighting on their time. I need to clear some of my case backload, too. Sanchez gave us another list of their competitor’s local distributors, so I can make a few high-profile collars. I’ll do one right away, and then another every few weeks.” That had been George’s standard operating procedure for years; the drug busts made it appear that he was spending his time running down leads. It was a very effective cover. George, like Officer Gonzalez, worked without a partner.
Bridget glanced back at her boat, and then smiled at George. “Of course. Your position on the task force is far too valuable to us to risk.” It was George’s posting to that task force which allowed them to know when, what, and where the drug enforcement agencies were focused. “However, I wish you would find some other way to make your collars; the Cartel’s rivals are dangerous. They have already tried to kill you once.”
George smiled and nodded. “That was four years ago. I’m in a dangerous line of work; it comes with the territory. Don’t worry, I’m only going after their low-level operatives, just one or two steps above the street dealers, and I let the SWAT team do the actual takedowns.”
Bridget sighed. “I know, but I love you and I do not like to see you in danger. I also have concerns regarding the Cartel; they could not risk what they are doing becoming known, for it would result in a war between them and their competitors. If they ever suspected that you might reveal what you know...”
George put his arm around Bridget, and smiled tenderly. “That’s true for both of us, but neither of us would want to give up the business. I love you too, but this is part of the lives we’ve chosen.
Bridget smiled. “True enough. Thanks to Gonzalez, these last few months have not been pleasant, and I suppose that makes me more prone to worry. I also feel a touch of remorse regarding Trevor; it is a shame that he will die so young, but I see no other way.”
George smiled in understanding, and then, after thinking a few moments, arched an eyebrow. “I just noticed an interesting contradiction in you, my love. You consider Dirk’s relationship with Jim Ainsworth to be a perversion, but you told me that Trevor is gay, and you’re sad that he has to die.”
Bridget chuckled softly. “I have never claimed to be rational in my biases, George. I suppose it has to do with Dirk being a killer, though I’m hardly one to view someone harshly for killing a spouse. Part of it is that I knew Rachel and liked her, and Dirk killed her. I suppose that another part of it is I’ve known that Trevor is gay for a lot longer than I’ve known about Dirk and his lawyer. I must say, I do find it hilarious that Trevor is running from his father in part because he thinks his father is homophobic.”
George laughed. “Talk about a lack of communication, not to mention a lucky break for us. I didn’t believe it about Dirk and the lawyer at first, because it was part of the false info that Gonzalez fed me, but he told a lot of other people at the department the same thing, just with different Suez transit dates. It makes sense though; I’ve seen the GPS tracker logs; Dirk was spending a hell of a lot of nights at Ainsworth’s house.”
Bridget shrugged. “I suppose it doesn’t really matter one way or the other, so long as Gonzalez believes it. Speaking of the department... do you think you’ll be able to get the listening device? Don’t take any risks; I can always purchase something.”
“No issue there... I have access to the equipment lockers, and I’ll just forget to sign it out. They only do inventory at year’s end, and I’ll have it back long before then, so there’s no risk. I’m more comfortable using gear I’m familiar with, and I’ve used our bugs plenty of times. I’ll install it in the guesthouse tomorrow night, and we’ll be able to test it before Joel gets back,” George said.
“I have a very good suspicion that all we’ll hear the first night are creaking bedsprings,” Bridget said, with a wry, amused smile. “I doubt we’ll have much to make use of until Trevor dies, and then we can hear what they think, which will tell us what aspects we need to push. Hopefully they’ll draw the conclusion themselves, based on the destruction of Ares and the bomb scare in the Strait of Messina, but if not, we’ll be able to steer them,” Bridget replied.
“It’s best if they reach the conclusion on their own, but I think they will; we’ve painted them a pretty clear picture.”
Bridget glanced out the window, at the Sea Witch. “The new radar seems to work as advertised. That should make things easier on our runs across the Florida straits. I’ve always hated running blind, especially at night.” The problem had been a basic one; the original radar system, like most radar, was easy to detect while transmitting, and could be detected at far greater ranges than it could see.
George strolled over to the window, giving the Sea Witch an approving nod. “Yeah, that frequency-modulated continuous-wave radar set was one hell of a find. The DEA and the coasties don’t have the gear to detect it.” The new radar operated on a different principal. Standard radar sends out a series of pulses at a specific, pre-set frequency. A frequency-modulated continuous-wave radar, on the other hand, transmits a steady signal, modulating the frequency pattern to generate the backscatter. The set Bridget had acquired was also frequency-agile, randomly shifting frequencies twice per second. Bridget had been made aware of its availability via a black market connection, and had purchased it immediately.
“The old radar is still installed and the new one is well-concealed, which should prevent its discovery via a casual search. We do need to keep working on the Sea Witch’s own radar cross section though, so she is more difficult for other radars to detect. We’ve already replaced most of the above-waterline metal fittings with composites and fiberglass, so we should be almost stealthy whenever we lower the radar reflector.”
George stared out at the boat. “She’s fast, and now she’s hard to see. We’ve hauled a lot of coke with her, but I think she’s better than ever now. That’s one thing most runners forget; the need to keep improving.”
“Practice makes perfect,” Bridget replied, taking George by the hand and glancing towards his bedroom door.
“I like practice, especially this kind,” George replied, with a soft chuckle.
Atlantis arrived at Cyprus late at night, mooring to a buoy at a dive site just north of Paphos.
The next morning, Trevor was the first to awake, cracking his eyes open and stretching, looking around his cabin, half surprised that Joel had not woken him with ice.
Trevor pulled on a pair of boxers and padded out into the cockpit, beginning his routine morning check of Atlantis. The sea was glassy calm, perfect for diving, so Trevor fired up the coffeemaker, and then began breaking out and preparing the dive gear. When Trevor was done, he tapped on Joel’s door a few times. “Hey, are you awake? The coffee is on and the diving conditions are perfect.”
“Yeah, I just woke up... You don’t need to knock, Trev.”
Trevor chuckled and as he reached to open the door, said, “For all I knew, you could be–” Trevor stopped in his tracks, halfway into the cabin, as he got an eyeful of Joel.
Joel was standing next to his open wardrobe, and with a mortified expression on his face, turned to stare at Trevor. “Naked?” Joel said, raising his hands to his mouth in mock horror as he finished Trevor’s sentence. Joel glanced down at his naked body, and then looked back at Trevor. “I hope you realize that barging in here while I’m naked is sexual harassment!”
Trevor stared at Joel for a moment, and then, with an innocent smile, replied, “You told me to come in, so this isn’t sexual harassment.” Trevor’s smile melted into a predatory grin, as he flexed his knees slightly. “Sexual harassment would be more like THIS–” Trevor yelled, springing forward and tackling Joel, sending them both tumbling in a confused and tangled heap onto Joel’s bed, where Trevor began a vicious tickle assault on Joel’s armpits and sides.
“Hey!” Joel cried, convulsing in laughter and futilely trying to twist clear of Trevor’s questing fingers. Joel began curling up, and managed to gasp out, “This is sexual harassment! I’m naked!”
Trevor laughed; redoubling his efforts and making Joel thrash and squirm. “If I’m going to get accused of it, I might as well do it,” Trevor replied.
The skin-on-skin contact was starting to have an effect on Trevor, so he laughed and rolled clear, giving Joel’s bare ass a hearty slap before bolting out of the cabin.
“You’re dead!” Joel yelled, as he pulled himself off the bed, laughing. “I think I preferred you with hang-ups!”
“Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind,” Trevor yelled back, laughing his ass off in the salon.
Joel shook his head and padded back to his wardrobe, to pick out something to wear.
When Joel walked into the salon, Trevor nodded approvingly and gave him a lecherous grin. “I very much approve of you in red speedos,” he said, waggling his eyebrows.
Joel rolled his eyes. “I’ve created a monster... a sexual harassment monster.” Joel glanced down at his speedos and then added, in a serious tone, “We’ve done a few swimming workouts on this trip, but not as many as I promised our coach I’d do. Diving will help, but I should do some distance swimming today and tomorrow, plus a workout. Too bad you don’t have a gym aboard.”
Trevor gave Joel a smug smile. “I’m glad you said that, because I need to beat you in a race again. Lets dive this morning, and then we can do some workouts and a race this afternoon.”
Joel headed for the galley and set up a couple of bowls of cereal, while Trevor made a detour to his cabin to change, picking out a pair of light blue speedos.
After breakfast, they put on their diving gear. Trevor helped Joel, reminding him of the procedures and how to use a dive time table, and then making sure he understood how to use his wrist dive-computer. Trevor then explained, “The dive site I picked out is a reef dive and no deeper than sixty feet. We’re good for half an hour.”
“Is it true what they say about flying after diving?” Joel asked.
“Yeah, they advise against it, due to the cabin pressure changes. For shallow, within-margins dives like this, it’s probably okay after twelve hours, but...”
“Yeah, I’ve heard about decompression sickness and the bends. I’d rather not risk it, so let’s do all our diving today, and do other stuff tomorrow. Okay, let’s get wet,” Joel replied, eyeing the azure water.
Trevor and Joel strapped their dive knives to their legs, deployed the diver down flags, and then, with a splash, they entered the water from Atlantis’s starboard aft swim-dive platform.
After checking that their regulators and gauges were functioning properly, they headed down slowly to the reef of rock, heading for a ravine, where they reached a depth of sixty feet.
Trevor watched Joel gliding along the rock face, surrounded by a cloud of curious wrasse, haloed in the rays of sunlight. The marine life was not as plentiful or spectacular as what Trevor was used to in the Bahamas, but there was more than Joel had ever seen.
A grouper made an appearance, swimming lazily by, and then they saw a few damselfish, which hovered around, unconcerned, until a barracuda hove into view, sending the smaller fish skittering away.
The reef walls contained a few small caves; just hollows in the basaltic rock which comprised much of that area of Cyprus. They hadn’t brought along a dive light, but the sunlight refracting down from above was enough for them to peer in. Trevor spotted a familiar looking nose amidst the gloom, and after tapping Joel’s shoulder to get his attention, Trevor wafted closer to the opening, waiting. The owner of the nose, a moray eel, had poor eyesight and also a need to open and close its mouth to supplement its small gills, so Trevor knew what to expect.
Slowly, a great, looming head began protruding from the tiny grotto, glaring out, opening and closing its jaws in a seemingly menacing fashion, providing a view of its razor-sharp teeth. The six-foot-long predator, emerging partially from its lair, was a captivating sight for Trevor and Joel, who were watching intently from a few feet away.
After observing the eel for a few moments, they went finning away, on the lookout for other things to see.
All too soon, their time was up, and they followed their own bubbles, ascending to fifteen feet for the standard three-minute safety stop. They had not gone deep enough for long enough to require decompression stops, but Julie had drummed the importance of the safety stop into Trevor on their first dives together.
Once they were back aboard Atlantis, Trevor talked Joel through servicing and stowing the gear.
They rinsed the salt off themselves at the deck shower, and then lay out in the sun to dry.
While laying face up on a towel, Trevor’s eyes fell on the top of Atlantis’s mast, reminding him of something he wanted to do before Joel left. He nudged Joel and asked, “You wanted to do a workout, right? I’ve got one for you.”
Joel raised himself on his elbow and gave Trevor a suspicious look. “Like what?”
Trevor flicked a thumb at the mast. “I need to check the mast top rigging, radar dome, and halyards.”
Joel glanced skyward, to the mast top, over sixty feet above the deck. “How the hell do you get up there,” he asked, wondering if Trevor was joking.
“Bosun's chair; kind of like a swing. I attach it to the main halyard and up I go. I can haul myself up – I’ve done it before – but it’s a hell of a lot easier for someone on deck to do it with a winch. That’s where you come in, in case you hadn’t guessed.”
Joel stood up and stretched, staring up the mast. “Are you sure this is a good idea? Maybe we should go into port and do it while tied up at a dock?”
Trevor shrugged. “The sea is glassy calm so now is a good time. I’ll be wearing my safety harness too, with it secured to the second halyard as a backup.”
It took ten minutes to assemble a tool bag and get Trevor into the safety harness and bosun's chair.
Joel manned the winch, and at Trevor’s command, began cranking Trevor up the mast, pausing every few feet so that Trevor could check the rigging and lubricate the mainsail guide groove.
About two thirds of the way to the top, just below the main spreaders and forty feet above the deck, Trevor arrived at the radar dome, which was mounted to the front of the mast. One of his purposes was to prevent something that had caused him to climb the mast the previous summer, so he detached the coaxial cable from the radar housing and reached into his tool bag for a tube of electrical grease.
The gentle rolling of the boat was magnified by the height and Trevor had to steady himself to the mast with one hand, and he opened the tube of electrical grease and leaned forward to apply it to the cable contacts. An unexpected motion caused him to bump the housing with his hand, and the plastic tube slipped from his fingers, beginning its long fall to the deck below. “Stuff falling!” Trevor yelled.
Joel had been watching, and saw the falling grease tube tumbling through the air, heading for the deck forward of where he was standing. It landed with a thud, and Joel dashed forward to get it, finding the flexible plastic tube was unharmed. “I hope you were done with this,” Joel yelled.
“No, I still need it. I’ll attach my harness to the shroud shackle to free the second halyard up, and then drop the line end down to you. Tape the grease to it, then haul it up to me,” Trevor called down.
It took a few minutes, but Trevor completed the job and reattached the coaxial cable. “When I get to the top of the mast, check that the radar is working,” he yelled.
“Why not now?” Joel asked, as he began winching Trevor higher.
“Because radar puts out a lot of radiation, and I don’t want to fry my brains,” Trevor replied.
“Wouldn’t you need to actually have a brain for that to be a problem?” Joel asked.
“Shut up...” Trevor replied, chuckling.
Trevor reached the masthead and began checking the rigging shackles and pulleys, applying a little Vaseline where needed. “Okay, fire up the radar and check that it’s working,” he yelled, looking down at Atlantis, which seemed so far below.
With the radar’s function confirmed, Trevor turned his attention to the wind transducer – the tiny wind speed sensor at the top of the mast, which gave him apparent wind speed and direction. He lubricated shafts where they entered the housing, and then spun them by hand, making sure that it rotated freely. Next, he checked the radio antennas.
Trevor gave the rigging a final check, and then shouted, “Okay, I’ve reattached my safety line to the second halyard. Start winching me down.”
“I hope you realize you’ve given me one hell of an opening to go on strike,” Joel replied, as he began lowering Trevor.
“Mutiny at sea means you get to walk the plank,” Trevor replied, as he looked around, enjoying the view now that the work was done.
When Trevor reached the deck, he scrambled out of his harness and bosun's chair. “Want me to run you up? The view is awesome.”
Joel glanced up the soaring mast, and after considering the offer for a few moments, replied, “Nah, heights aren’t my thing.”
Trevor stretched, and began rubbing the back of his upper legs. “Remind me not to do that in speedos again. Shorts and boxers give a lot more cushioning.”
Joel turned to glare at Trevor. “Were you going to tell me that before –or after– you hauled me up there?”
“After. I wouldn’t want to deprive you of the full experience,” Trevor replied, sporting a wicked grin.
“That just has to be sexual harassment of some kind,” Joel replied, shaking his head and grinning.
“One of these days you’ve got to learn a new phrase,” Trevor shot back with a laugh, turning to head aft to stow the gear.
By late afternoon, they were ready for a swim. Atlantis was moored three hundred yards off the beach, so the race would be to the shore. Trevor pointed to a tree on the far side of the sand to use as a finish line. “We can race there, hang out for a while, and then race back,” he said, and then added, “I’m looking forward to beating you again.”
“Shut up, I’m winning this time,” Joel replied, as he grabbed his swim goggles.
Trevor locked up, and then tied the key to his drawstring. “I’ve got cash – euros, which are supposed to be widely accepted here – tucked in my suit in case we want to do anything ashore, and I’ve got the key.”
Joel followed Trevor to the swim-dive platform, where they did a quick stretching routine before slipping on their goggles.
“Ready on the count of three?” Joel asked, crouching down.
When they were both in position, Trevor called out, “Ready, and I’ll wait for you in the shade under the tree, so I won’t get a sunburn.”
“You won’t have to wait; I’ll be there first,” Joel replied, and then, on a louder voice, added, “Three.... Two... ONE!”
The two friends, muscles rippling and blond hair blowing, launched out, arcing hands-first into the warm, calm waters.
Pulling hard for shore in a freestyle crawl, Joel took the lead for a dozen yards, but then Trevor inched ahead. Halfway to the beach, Joel pulled hard, giving it everything he had, retaking a narrow lead and holding it until they reached shallow water.
They reached the shallows, surging to their feet, running through the water, kicking up fountains of spray that sparkled in the sun. Joel held his lead, staying a full pace ahead of Trevor, aided by the fortunate happenstance of being on slightly firmer sand.
As they left the water behind, they kicked into a sprint on the hard, wet sand, racing inland, the sun glistening on the water clinging to their wet, tan skin.
The sand became loose and dry, and this time fortune favored Trevor, giving him slightly firmer footing, allowing him to diminish Joel’s lead.
Kicking hard on the final dash, they neared the tree, almost neck and neck. Joel dove for the tree trunk, crashing into the sand and touching it just a moment before Trevor. “I win!” Joel yelled, scrambling to his feet and grinning at Trevor.
“You did,” Trevor said, admitting defeat. “You beat me on the swim too, and I didn’t think you could.”
Joel laughed, shrugging. “It was still real close. Anyway, now we’re here, what do you want to do?”
Trevor glanced around at the beach, and then at the inland hills. “All I see are a few small hotels, and there aren’t that many people on the beach. We’re north of the nearest town by a few miles. I wanted to have a look in a grocery store, but I don’t think we’ll find one close.”
“Let’s explore a bit anyway,” Joel said, looking around as he pulled off his goggles and pulled them onto his upper arm – a common place for a swimmer to put them.
Trevor followed suit, and then pointed north. “It looks more built up that way. You wanted a workout, so let’s run.”
Trevor and Joel spent the next couple of hours along the beach, and then made their way back towards Atlantis. By the time they neared her, a light chop had developed due to the afternoon breeze.
They raced again, charging into the surf and diving in to swim all-out to Atlantis. This time, Trevor pulled ahead early and kept building his lead, beating Joel handily.
“I win!” Trevor yelled, racing up the aft stairs, arms held high in victory.
“Yeah, by a lot,” Joel replied, joining Trevor under the deck shower so they could rinse off the salt. “I think it’s the sea conditions... We’re pretty evenly matched in calm water or a pool, but you’re better in rough water.”
“I get more practice ocean swimming than you do, that’s why,” Trevor replied.
Joel gave Trevor a wicked grin. “When I get to Australia, we’ll race some more; at sea, and in a pool. I’ll bet you a six pack of beer that I’ll beat you at both.”
Trevor eyed Joel suspiciously. “You’re on, but you’re up to something. You wouldn’t put beer at risk otherwise.”
“If I win, I’ll drink my beer. If you win, I’ll drink your beer. It’s all good,” Joel replied with a laugh.
They sat down in the cockpit to dry, and Trevor glanced at the sun, which was lowering in the western sky. “Want to drink tonight? If so, we should go ahead and dock in Paphos; this anchorage is kind of exposed, plus it’s a dive site.”
“Yeah. Just some beers, I don’t want to get too blasted, but this is our last chance to drink together until Christmas,” Joel replied.
Joel headed forward to unmoor Atlantis from the buoy, and then returned to the cockpit, where Trevor motioned him to take the wheel. “She’s all yours,” Trevor said, letting Joel raise and trim the sails and set course for Paphos, just thirty miles to the south.
Joel paralleled the coast, heading south. After a few minutes, they spotted a distant freighter, which was pointed at the coast but showing no sign of motion. “I think she’s anchored,” Joel said, pointing.
Trevor looked through binoculars, and after a few moments, said, “She’s not going anywhere... ever. She’s aground on rocks but perfectly upright. That’s a shipwreck. On this course we’ll pass about a mile to seaward of her... check the charts and pass closer so we can have a good look.”
Joel looked at the navigational display, finding that the depth would allow a close pass, a few hundred yards offshore from the wreck. He altered course fifteen degrees to port, as the rusted freighter came into view.
Taking another look through the binoculars before handing them to Joel, Trevor said, “I can see the surf on the rocks all around her, and she’s pointing right at the coast, which is half a mile away. If she hadn’t run aground on that shoal, she’d have probably hit the beach. My bet is she hit in bad weather.”
Trevor was right; the ship, named the Demetrios II, had run aground during a storm in 1998. An investigation had shown that the captain’s license and competency certificate were forged.
Leaving the shipwreck behind, Atlantis arrived in Paphos, rounding the breakwater and heading for the seaward end of the yacht club’s public dock.
There was another large boat moored adjacent, which made for an awkward approach to the dock. Trevor took over, maneuvering on engines to swing around, backing in stern first to dock on Atlantis’s port side.
Joel went aft to deploy the mooring lines, and then, as Trevor powered down the engines, Joel returned to the cockpit, glancing astern before saying, “That was a tight fit.”
“That’s why I backed it; it puts the rudders and engines where they’ll have the most control,” Trevor said.
With Atlantis secured, they jumped ashore to clear customs and check in at the yacht club. As they walked down the dock, they looked to their left, seeing the small square castle that had served as a harbor fort, and then to their right, at the city of Paphos, ringed by low hills.
The man known as Sanchez had many skills, but bomb-making was not amongst them. By need, he left the actual design up to the man who would build the bomb, and simply detailed its specifications and intended use.
Sanchez had a wide variety of contacts, selected for their varying skills. One in particular came to mind; a man Sanchez had relied upon in the past for various tasks. With that in mind, he dialed a number, one of many he had memorized. This one was to a phone in New Jersey; the private line of a man Sanchez knew only as ‘The Engineer,’ who provided a relay for certain communications. When the answering machine picked up, Sanchez keyed in a code, and was soon rewarded with the expected dial tone. Sanchez dialed again, using a very different, and somewhat longer, number. It began with 011 – the prefix for an international call – and then 20, the country code for Egypt, and then 2, the direct-dial code for Cairo.
A heavily accented voice answered, and Sanchez said without preamble, “I am in need of a consultation.”
Following their established protocol, the man replied, “I can fit you in next Tuesday.”
“I will be there at three,” Sanchez replied, and then hung up. It was simple fieldcraft; a code phrase and response that bore a meaning very different from the words used.
Sanchez and his contact had no plans to meet. There was no need to do so. The call had been simply to alert the contact to check a specific web mail account, one they had established for the purpose years before. The e-mail would be encrypted, and part of the phrasing in the phone call had been to let the recipient know which decryption key to use.
Sanchez’s e-mail message was simple; a description of the bomb components, how they would arrive, and an outline of how it would be used. He included a demand regarding the origin of the explosives, encrypted it, and sent the mail on its way. Sanchez smiled and nodded to himself, pleased with what he’d asked. It was small details such as those, Sanchez knew, that so often spelled the difference between success and failure.
In Florida, Lisa stood anxiously in the late afternoon sun, waiting for Bridget’s serve.
“Match point,” Bridget declared, before letting loose with her blistering serve.
Lisa lunged for the ball, attempting a backhand but overshooting and completely missing the ball, which struck the court deck a few feet behind her, just inside the line.
Bridget strode to the net, studying Lisa carefully. “I always know when something is bothering you, Lisa. That’s the only time I win. Is there anything I can do to help,” Bridget asked softly, with a caring smile.
Lisa chewed on her lip for a moment. “I’m just nervous. Joel will be back in a couple of days and I miss him so much it hurts... but what if he doesn’t feel the same way now? He’s been gone for nearly two months.”
Bridget smiled, remembering herself at Lisa’s age. Bridget walked to Lisa’s side and clasped a hand between her own. “Come sit in the shade with me.”
They took a seat on a wrought iron bench, shaded by a hibiscus tree and with a view of the waterway. Bridget turned to Lisa and asked, “Has Joel given you any reason to have doubts?”
Lisa looked at the ground, and after a few moments, shook her head slowly, a sad expression on her face. “No, we talk on the phone a lot, and when I’m talking to him I feel fine, but lately it’s been bothering me... I love him, but what if he doesn’t feel the same about me anymore?”
Bridget patted Lisa’s hand. “My dear, at your age, a month or two can seem like forever, as I well remember. Even I was young once, as hard as that may be to believe,” Bridget said with a warm smile, and then added in an even quieter tone, “I think you may have answered your own question; when you are speaking with him, you are undaunted and not beset by doubt. Once he returns, I think you will find things returning to normal between you.”
Lisa looked up, giving Bridget a faint smile. “I’m picking him up from the airport. I’ve been counting every minute... I can’t wait to see him.”
“Love is a wondrous thing, and young love the most splendid of all. Enjoy each other, my dear, for time takes no prisoners,” Bridget replied, and then added, with a sly wink. “I trust you’ll be making use of the guest house to welcome Joel back?”
Lisa’s cheeks reddened slightly. “Our first stop after the airport. He doesn’t know yet, it’s a surprise.” Lisa’s sunny smile returned, only to cloud over. “I guess I feel bad about Trev, too. Here I am, going nuts because Joel has been away for half the summer, but Trev is going to be alone until Christmas, when Joel flies out to Australia.”
Bridget smiled primly. “Joel is going to see Trevor for the holidays? That would be good for Trevor; the holiday season could be rather poignant for him, given the estrangement from his father. As for the near term, Trevor will do fine, of that I’m certain. However, he may feel somewhat lonely at first, so you and Joel should spend some time on the phone with him when you can, such as while he is in Egypt. If the bill is a concern, feel free to use the phone in the guest house; a few long distance calls are hardly likely to bankrupt me,” Bridget said, glancing pointedly at her palatial home and smiling to make her point.
“Thanks... for all you’ve done. I don’t know how I’d have coped without you,” Lisa said, smiling at Bridget. Though Lisa was unaware of it, her feelings towards Bridget were in part due to the void in Lisa’s life which her own mother had caused; Bridget was filling the role Lisa’s birth mother had rejected, as well as Bridget becoming Lisa’s protector.
“I’m delighted to help in any way that I can,” Bridget assured Lisa, and then, as Bridget stood up, she twirled her racket and added, “Now that you’re feeling better, let’s have another tennis match. Your serve, my dear.”
Lisa stood up with a smile on her face, and proceeded to beat Bridget in three straight sets.