The days of confinement had been difficult for Dirk and Jim; the worry, the constant fear of arrest, and the isolation were taking their toll. They were confined to the small condo, largely cut off from involvement in the events that would determine their fates. As a result, tempers began to fray.
“What the fuck is taking Frank so long?” Dirk grumbled, pacing next to the fake fireplace.
Jim checked his watch. “Would you calm down? He said he’d be here sometime near midnight, and it’s now all of fifteen minutes past eleven.”
Dirk turned to face the closed door. “I’m sick of being locked up in here!”
Jim rolled his eyes. “Yeah, it’s so much worse than the alternative – a jail cell. I’ll remind you that we’re both in this mess because of what you did!” Jim blinked in surprise at his own words, and quickly added, “Dirk, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that–”
Dirk sighed as he sat down beside Jim. “Yeah, you kinda did, and you’re right. You should have taken Frank’s advice and cleared your name. You could be home by now.”
Jim shook his head. “No, I got into this with my eyes open, it was my own doing, and I’m staying put. It’ll be November 19th in a few minutes, so we’ve got a little over three weeks to go until this is basically over. Just hang in there, okay? You could also try talking to me about what’s really eating at you; you’ve been stressing about Trevor for days, and you haven’t even mentioned his name. Why?”
Dirk stared at the closed blinds covering the window. “I... I didn’t say anything because I figured you had enough to worry about. I’m just scared for him, all alone out there... He should be in Australia by now, and I figured he’d be calling your office to see about getting those emancipation papers I promised him, but not a word about that yet. He’s only seventeen and he had an ocean to cross, alone. I just want to know that he’s okay.”
Jim gave Dirk a sympathetic smile, and was about to answer when a soft knock sounded on the door. Jim got up and crept to the peephole, looked through, and then turned to Dirk with a smile. “It’s Frank and Henry,” he said, as he unlocked the door. He ushered them in, re-locking the door behind him, and then collected the nine bags of groceries they were carrying.
Once everyone was seated, Henry led off the conversation, “Frank is having me play chauffeur, because he’s worried about being followed. He drove to a mall a few miles from his office, where I was waiting. I’m not sure, but I think I saw a tail on him as he pulled in. We left in my car and took the long way here, switching to a loaner from an associate of mine on the way. I think we’re clear, but we are going to have to be on guard, even more than before.”
Frank nodded, and added, “I think this should be our last in-person meeting until December 17th, unless something occurs that requires another. Henry can still meet with you once or twice, and I’ll act as a decoy, but the police are bound to be focusing on using us to lead them to you.”
“I can get the groceries from now on. If they catch me, no huge deal, but if they get Dirk, it opens up the risk that they’ll look in places we don’t want. Besides, I do drag a hell of a lot better than he does,” Jim said, trying to ease the tension, which drew a few awkward, forced chuckles.
Henry gave Jim an update on the investigation, detailing his stakeouts and his interactions with Officer Gonzalez. He finished with his evaluation of what he’d found at the chandlery and from the alarm company, “Someone used a bypass code on your alarm. Apparently, they were unaware that your alarm system records all the codes used, and transmits a log to your monitoring company. Bypass codes are more common on older alarm systems, and are sometimes issued to police departments, to give them the ability to deactivate a ringing alarm. The code used on your system was such a code. This fits with what I’ve learned from Gonzalez and Jim; that Bridget Bellevue has someone inside the Fort Pierce Police Department. That person most likely entered your store, removed the satellite phone, and then replaced it with a rock, taken from the Carlson residence’s yard.”
“I want to know who did this. Give me a name,” Dirk said.
Henry shook his head. “I can’t, I don’t have one yet. I’m working on it, and so is Gonzalez. Speaking of... he believes that Dirk killed Rachel, but that’s the only crime he believes either of you were involved in. He wants me to arrange a meeting, so I’ve been stalling him.”
Frank Tittle nodded. “Jim, Dirk, my suggestion is to go ahead and let Henry set up a meeting with Gonzalez. We’re clear as of December 16th, so Dirk, you take care of the arrangements on your end, and let’s get the meeting set up as soon as we can after that. You’ll need to be prepared, both of you, to surrender yourselves to Gonzalez.”
The discussion of tactics and legalities went on for close to an hour. As the meeting ended, Jim glanced at Dirk, and received a nod. “Henry, we have an additional task for you; find out whether Trevor has arrived in Australia. We just need to know that he’s safe, that’s all. Will you be interviewing Joel Stiles or Lisa Whitaker? We’re pretty sure they’d be the first to know.”
Henry glanced at Frank, and seeing no objection, he replied, “I’ll do that. I plan to interview them soon, but I need to catch one or both of them at the right time. I’ll do what I can, and I’ll let you know as soon as I can.”
Dirk smiled, and glanced at Jim before adding, “Henry, when you see them, tell them I’m emancipating Trevor, and I’d be happy to send him the paperwork via them.”
In the Australian customs boat’s small galley, Trevor tore into a ham sandwich – given to him by Officer Fowler, out of his own lunch, after Trevor had explained about his diet for the past two months.
“Do you have anything aboard with vitamin C in it, like orange juice? I’m a little worried about scurvy,” Trevor said, around a mouthful of sandwich.
Fowler checked the fridge. “Sorry, nothing like that.”
Trevor shrugged. “I’ll get something when I get to shore, I doubt a few hours would make any difference. Thanks for the sandwich, this is awesome!”
Officer Grundig returned and reported, “We’re set up for the tow and ready to cast off.”
Officer Fowler grabbed a six-pack of Pepsis from the fridge, and after a brief discussion with Grundig, led Trevor back to Atlantis.
Grundig cast off, easing the powerboat ahead of Atlantis until the towline was taut. He gradually advanced the throttles.
Trevor stood in Atlantis’s cockpit, manning the rudders while Fowler and Grundig talked back and forth on their radios. Slowly, Grundig added more power, easing Atlantis up to six knots by the time he was at full throttle. Atlantis was larger than the powerboat, and her damaged bows created drag, so they were fortunate to achieve six knots.
Officer Fowler stood at the port helm for a while, though there was little for him to do once he’d determined that Atlantis was tracking properly. He sat down across from Trevor, took a glance into the damaged salon, and then said, “I have a hard time imagining what it would be like to sail solo across an ocean in a working yacht, let alone one in this condition. You’ve been through a hell of a lot...”
Trevor smiled and nodded. “Right now, I’m just scared this is all a dream and I’m still out there. I don’t think I’ll really believe it until I set foot on land.”
Fowler chuckled. “You’re not dreaming, because I’m fairly sure I exist. We have a few hours before we reach Carnarvon, so if you’re feeling up to it, I’d love to hear your story.” Fowler was honestly interested, but he had other reasons for asking; he wanted to keep Trevor talking, in order to get a better idea of his psychological state.
Trevor took a drink of soda, and began his recount, starting with waking up with a gun in his face. He told it all, leaving out only the parts about his gun and hiding place. The recount took nearly half an hour, with Fowler interrupting occasionally to ask questions. As he talked, Trevor savored every drop of the first two cans of soda, lounging in the sun as the patrol boat towed Atlantis to port.
When he was almost done, Trevor excused himself to go to the head. On his way through Joel’s cabin, he snatched up his revolver, afraid that the customs officers would confiscate it. He shoved it under some papers and scrap, leaving it concealed in the corner.
Trevor returned to the cockpit with his astrolabe in hand, and explained to Fowler how he’d navigated. He showed Fowler Joel’s watch, which Trevor still wore on his wrist.
Officer Fowler, convinced for the moment that the ordeal had not left Trevor irrational, smiled in honest admiration. “What you did was amazing... I’ve never heard of anything like it. I would like more information on the pirates, though. If you’re right, and you killed their engines, they could well be still out there somewhere.”
Trevor’s eyes grew cold. “Yeah, I’ve been thinking about those fuckers a lot. They have my sails, radios, and other gear, so they could make shore if they know what they’re doing. If they are still out there, they don’t, and aren’t likely to.”
“Do you remember the coordinates for where you were attacked? We might need to send someone out for a look.”
Trevor shook his head. “No fucking way! If they’re still at sea, they’ll probably die out there, which suits me just fine.”
Fowler nodded sympathetically. “I guess I can understand that, but I’m going to need those coordinates.” One of the reasons he wanted them was to help verify Trevor’s story, which he was still having a little trouble fully believing.
Trevor shrugged and looked away. “I’ve been at sea a long time. I guess I forgot. Too bad for them.”
Fowler was about to insist, but one look in Trevor’s hard eyes convinced him that would be futile. After a few minute’s thought, he decided on a different tactic. “If they made it to shore, somebody needs to find them. If they’re still out at sea, just what do you think they’d do if another yacht or fishing boat happened by? Do you think they’d just happily take whatever assistance offered, or would they do what they tried to do to you?”
Trevor locked eyes with Fowler for a few moments, before replying in a dejected tone, “They’re killers, so they’d probably... okay, it was at about fifty-six degrees east, twelve degrees south. That’s as close as I can remember. They were heading east the last time I saw them.”
Fowler wrote down the coordinates. “Thanks. I’ll see what I can do. That’s not even close to Australia’s search-and-rescue zone, so we’ll have to pass this along to Mauritius or the Seychelles. I don’t even know if either of them have any operational search aircraft at the moment. I’ll make sure there’s a note attached to check for your property, too.”
After a few minutes, Fowler left the helm station and walked with Trevor into the salon, glancing around, and then taking a quick peek at the galley and a forward cabin. He returned to the cockpit, shaking his head. “They really stripped her clean. They even took your galley fittings. Ah, speaking of food, I do need to ask; do you have any fresh fruits or vegetables aboard, or other restricted foodstuffs?”
Trevor shook his head. “I have three cans of hot dogs, that’s it.”
Fowler glanced back into the galley, shaking his head sadly. “I guess we won’t need to worry about the food quarantine, then.”
Trevor shuddered slightly. “I was hoping you’d confiscate those hot dogs.”
Trevor and Fowler chatted on and off through the afternoon, and Trevor found that speaking was getting easier, though he was still encountering some hesitancy.
Trevor’s lack of sleep asserted itself in the form of a few long yawns, so Fowler suggested, “I’ve got the helm, not that there’s much to do under tow, so why don’t you get some rest?”
Shaking his head, smiling sleepily, Trevor replied, “No thanks. I want to see Atlantis safe, and see for myself that we’ve actually arrived... and all this is real.”
In Victoria, the capital of the Seychelles, a police constable had a conundrum. One of his men had turned up what he believed to be some stolen electronics, discovered at a street market. One of the items was an EPIRB. It had been in the possession of two Somalis, who had turned out to be in the country illegally. They had been detained while the matter of possible stolen property was looked into.
Somali pirates were a growing problem in Seychelles waters, so the case was awarded a little more attention than a normal stolen-property inquiry would yield. They believed it would be simple to find out the truth; almost all EPIRBs are registered to their owners or vessels, so a fast check had turned up the registered owner as Dirk Carlson, and an address in Florida. A phone call to the registered phone number had gone unanswered.
The concern was that Dirk, who as the registered owner was presumed to be the one at risk, had been abducted or worse. Or, he could be safe at home. The constable had Dirk’s address from the registration, so he decided to contact the local authorities to be sure, and called in a casual inquiry to the Fort Pierce Police Department – assuming them to be the logical choice – asking if they could ascertain the whereabouts of Dirk Carlson.
When Carnarvon came into view, lit by the amber glow of a spectacular setting sun, Trevor dashed onto the front deck, where he spent a few minutes savoring the sight.
Two miles out from the point of land that sheltered the mouth of the Fascine Estuary, Officer Fowler asked, “I don’t suppose you have any form of identification left?”
Trevor replied with a nod. “They got my wallet but not my passport, which was hidden.” Trevor paused to think for a moment, and then realized that Fowler needed to stay at the helm, so couldn’t follow him. “I’ll get it, but it’ll take me a minute to pry up the hatch covering.”
Trevor walked into the salon, where he picked up his screwdriver, and slipped his magnet into his pocket. Screwdriver in hand, Trevor walked back through the salon and then forward on deck to his crew cabin hatch, where he removed the screws holding the improvised hatch cover on. Trevor jumped down inside his crew cabin and darted into the bathroom, where he quickly retrieved his passport from his secret compartment.
Returning to the cockpit, Trevor handed over his passport. Fowler nodded, taking it and flicking it open. “It’s not a real issue under these circumstances, but at some point, you’ll need a visa. You said you were planning a stop in Australia, so had you obtained one yet?” Fowler asked.
“Yes, an ETA, I think you call them. They’re electronic and I applied over the internet. I had a confirmation a few days later.”
Officer Fowler nodded. “I’ll check when we get in, but that’s just a formality.”
A few minutes later, Fowler pointed ahead, at the dock they were approaching. “We’ve radioed ahead and a paramedic will be meeting us at the dock. Carnarvon has a small but well-equipped hospital; they’ll take good care of you.”
Trevor shook his head in confusion. “I don’t need a hospital! I think my ear healed up okay, and other than that, I’m fine.”
“It’s standard procedure to have boating accident victims checked out, and from what you say, you’ve been through a far rougher time than most, and certainly for longer. They’ll probably release you after a day or two of observation if you’re okay. You might want to take the opportunity to relax too, because I’m sure you’ll have a swarm of reporters waiting for you when you get out. After what’s happened to you, and what you’ve done, you’ll be a major news item.”
Trevor cringed and shook his head. “If the paramedic wants to look me over at the dock, fine, and I’ll go if there’s anything wrong that really needs it, but I’m not being hospitalized just for observation.” Trevor glanced towards the lights of Carnarvon, thinking, ‘Procedure? That’s not a reason. I have to look after Atlantis, not be stuck in some fucking hospital!’ It was also starting to dawn on Trevor just how big a problem press attention could be for him. It also, for reasons Trevor could not yet understand, triggered a deep, gnawing dread in him. What he craved more than anything was to hide from the world.
Officer Fowler shrugged. “Let’s see what the paramedic has to say, and if not him, your parents.”
Trevor took a deep breath, and then plunged ahead, choosing his words with care. “Please wait... I can’t go to a hospital, or get my father involved. There’s some things you don’t know yet. The pirate attack was the second time inside of a month somebody tried to kill me. The first was somebody planting a bomb aboard Atlantis. It ended up sinking a freighter in the Suez Canal instead of me, and the police back home think my father did it. It would be a real bad idea to get the press or my father involved in this. That could put me in a lot of danger.” Trevor no longer believed his father was connected to the bomb on Atlantis, but lingering doubts over Ares remained, so he didn’t trust him enough to want him involved.
Fowler’s eyes narrowed. “A bomb, planted by your father?” He was suspicious, but then he looked around at Atlantis. “Okay, we can call your mother instead.”
Trevor slowly shook his head, a sad look on his face. “My father is a suspect in her murder.”
Fowler blinked, and then said in a gentle, very careful tone, “Okay Trevor, let’s put this discussion on hold until the paramedic has a look at you.”
Trevor crossed his arms and looked Officer Fowler square in the eye. “I’m telling the truth about my parents, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with me that some orange juice and good food won’t fix, so I’ll be refusing any medical stuff unless that paramedic finds something seriously wrong that requires it. I’ve sailed halfway around the world, I survived a bomb, pirates, and I’ve survived a journey through the Southern Ocean in a stripped, wrecked boat, so I think I can manage to survive in Australia without a hospital.”
Thinking that Trevor might be within his rights to refuse, Officer Fowler decided to change the subject. As he cast off from the towline and tied Atlantis up at the customs dock, he said, “Let’s wait until we get ashore, then we’ll see what the paramedic has to say.”
Once they’d secured Atlantis, it was time to go ashore. It was an hour after sunset, and Trevor paused on the port aft stairs, just inches from the dock, staring at it for a moment.
With a slow, deliberate step, Trevor set foot on dry land for the first time in months, barely resisting the urge to bend down and kiss it. He took another step, and then another, swerving a little, and then stumbling to his knees.
Dusting himself off, Trevor stood up, and under the yellow glow of the dock lights, gave Fowler an embarrassed grin. “Landlegs... I’ve been at sea a long time,” he said, by way of explanation.
The ambulance was waiting. The driver – who was also a paramedic – stood aside, giving a good-looking ambulance paramedic room to work without crowding the patient. Trevor smiled nervously and said, “I think I’m fine, and I don’t want to go to a hospital. I just want some good food, some orange juice, and some sleep.”
The paramedic told Trevor, “I think you should let me take you in so the ‘Doc can have a look at you. From what I’ve been told, you’ve said yourself on the way in that there’s a danger of scurvy onset, and you had all the signs of a ruptured eardrum and who knows what else.”
Trevor shook his head. He just felt tired and relieved, and had a fairly typical dislike of going to doctors or dentists. Spending the night of his rescue in a hospital room was not something he wanted to do without need and so far, he hadn’t been given any reason to do so. The other factor on his mind was he didn’t want to leave Atlantis alone: most of his cash and all of his paperwork was still in his secret compartment, but he wasn’t positive he’d closed it back up completely. He was also getting very worried about the press, because attention from them could reveal his location. “Unless you think I’m about to drop dead, why don’t I just see how it goes, and stop by to see the doctor if there’s a problem?”
“Why don’t you let me check you out and see what I find?” the paramedic asked.
Trevor shrugged. “Sure, sounds okay to me.”
Trevor reluctantly sat down on the ambulance tailgate, and Officer Fowler quietly suggested to the paramedic, “Let me know if you think he’s not competent.” He then told Trevor, “We’ll be back in a few minutes. Hang in there, and relax, you’re safe now, everything's going to be okay.” The two officers hurried away to the customs shack, with Trevor’s passport in hand.
The paramedic got to work; listening to Trevor’s chest with a stethoscope, taking his blood pressure, then checking his pupils for dilation, and finally looking in Trevor’s ears with an otoscope.
For the first time in months, Trevor was in very close contact with someone he found attractive, smelling his cologne, and being touched, poked, and prodded. Trevor winced slightly, feeling the pressure in his shorts and knowing that he dare not stand up.
“Your eardrum was perforated but it looks to have healed on its own. I still think you should be checked in for some blood tests and a proper examination, but I can’t see anything obviously wrong with you. As for scurvy... that’s a new one for me, so I haven’t got the faintest idea of what to look for. All I can suggest is to get some vitamin C into you somehow, though you’d be better off having some path tests – that’s pathology tests –done, just in case.”
Trevor shook his head. He could see the beckoning door of freedom, and wasn’t about to be detoured by tests, especially for a term he didn’t understand. “I’ll pass on doing any tests tonight... thanks on the rest though, and I’ll do that, especially if I can find some fruit or fruit juice tonight,” Trevor replied, valiantly thinking of naked girls to get his problem to deflate.
“Welcome to Australia,” the paramedic said, with a shrug, a nod, and a smile.
In the customs shack, Officer Craig Grundig took his computer out of standby, while Fowler stood at the window, keeping an eye on Trevor and the paramedic. A tense minute later, Grundig looked up from his keyboard. “Ah, I just did a search and there was a bomb that took out a freighter in the Suez in September.”
Fowler’s eyes darted from the window to the screen, and he said, “Do a search on ‘Trevor Carlson’.”
It took a couple of minutes. His first stop was the Electronic Travel Authority system, where Trevor’s passport number brought up the record. “Okay, he does hold an ETA visa, which looks to be in order.” Grundig kept pecking at the keyboard. “I googled his name, and he’s listed in multiple news articles as being the son of a fugitive.” He scanned a few more pages, and coughed. “Ah, the kid might be on the level. It says here that a Dirk Carlson of Fort Pierce, and a Jim Ainsworth of Cocoa Beach, are currently fugitives, and one of the things they’re charged with is the attempted murder of Trevor Carlson, with a bomb in the Suez canal... and another thing he’s charged with is the murder of his wife, Trevor’s mother... he’s wanted on attempted murder and two murder charges.”
“So the kid’s not hallucinating, he’s telling the truth. This is way above my pay grade,” Fowler muttered, staring at the screen, and then glancing out the window. “We’re going to have to bounce this up the chain of command for guidance, but for now, we’ll try to keep a lid on it. I can see the kid’s point; somebody on the loose, wanted on multiple murder changes, who has already tried to kill him once, just might try again... might not be easy for him to do so in Australia, but I imagine the same applies to the Suez Canal. Just a hunch, but I hope we find those pirates; I don’t believe in coincidences, and two murder attempts in a month is a big one.”
They returned to Trevor just as the paramedic was packing up. “I don’t see any imminent danger to his health. I’d still advise taking him in for a more thorough checkup, but he’s refusing,” the paramedic reported.
Fowler took a deep breath. “Very well, thank you, and we’ll keep an eye on him. I also need to tell you that there are some serious personal safety issues in this case, so please forget what Craig told you on the radio.”
The paramedic’s confident expression faded... “Uh, you mean about the pirate attack and months at sea alone to cross the ocean? Will do, but... I’ve already told the duty nurses and the doctor, back when you radioed in. That was a few hours ago, and the nurses, uh...”
Fowler gritted his teeth. “Okay, but let them know we need to keep a lid on this for now, and it is very important that we do so.”
The paramedic nodded, and with a wave to Trevor, turned to leave.
“We’ve learnt a few things while we were waiting. We need to have a chat, and figure out what to do next.” Fowler said.
Trevor, finally able to stand, waved goodbye to the paramedics, and then followed his two rescuers back to Atlantis.
“We’ll try to keep your story confined to my chain of command, but I’ve got to warn you that won’t keep you out of the press’s eyes for long. Carnarvon is a small town, and the sight of your boat will raise a hell of a lot of questions. It’s dark now, but come daylight, this dock is visible from south Carnarvon. There’s also a few fishing boats about a hundred yards further out, plus other businesses around, so there will be people about not long after sunup. Technically, I have the authority to close this end of the jetty to the public, but that’d just draw more attention. One option is we anchor your boat in an inlet somewhere out-of-the-way, to keep her out of sight.”
Trevor nodded. “Okay, but I’ll have to stay aboard. She’s leaking bad and needs bailing several times a day. If I don’t keep up with that, she’ll flood her bilges, maybe doing structural damage if the water is in for long. I’ll need some help getting food and stuff, though. I’m pretty much out.”
Fowler shook his head. “After what you’ve been through, I’m not having you stuck in the middle of nowhere on this uninhabitable boat, so there goes that option. We’ll need to keep her here then, until you can make repair arrangements. Okay... From the stern, from a distance, your boat doesn’t look obviously damaged, so to buy some time, how about we turn her so her bows are to seaward. Then, we could use that netting sail of yours to cover her smashed bows like a tarp, and we’ll moor our patrol boat alongside. Actually... We’ve a tarp aboard our boat, and I think we could manage to cover her name on the transom as well, which might help.”
There was agreement all around, and the three set to work, turning Atlantis by hand and re-mooring her.
When it came time to cut the netting sail in half to use it to cover the bows, Trevor refused the proffered knife, and instead untied the two big netting panels from one another, unwilling to do any more damage to one of his few pieces of remaining gear. That left just the bits of towel and other linen, which parted effortlessly at the slightest tug. Trevor shivered, realizing that his netting sail had grown even more fragile than he’d feared, and could well have been destroyed by the next strong gust.
For added protection, Officer Grundig threw the breaker to cut off the dockside lights, plunging the dock into near darkness.
With Atlantis secured, and her bows and name covered, Officer Fowler said, “Let’s go inside, Trevor. We need to see about getting some decent food into you, and getting you squared away.”
After a worried glance at Atlantis, Trevor followed the two officers across the poorly lit quay to their customs office: a small raised prefabricated building half the length of a small mobile home, which they called the customs shack.
Inside, they sat down, and Officer Fowler led off the discussion. “Now, since you’ve refused hospital treatment, your immediate need will probably be money. Under the circumstances, I can arrange some help if you need it, and there’s a bank in town but I don’t think they’ll do much for you without identification. Is there anyone you can call to wire you some to tide you over?”
Trevor shook his head and gave what he hoped was a convincing smile. “No need. Remember the banknotes I mentioned, that I used for measuring? I had a lot of cash hidden with my passport, taped inside a cabinet over a drawer, and the pirates missed it. My dad always taught me to hide some cash, glad I did. I’ll be fine if your bank can exchange American dollars for Australian ones without an account.”
Officer Fowler arched an eyebrow, but set that thought aside and said, “No chance of that tonight, they’re closed Sundays. I’ll take you in tomorrow and let ‘em know the situation so it won’t be an issue. Now, first things first: let’s get you some decent food.”
Trevor smiled, his stomach growling. “Thanks. I’ll get to the bank tomorrow. Is there anywhere in town that takes American money and delivers? You guys saved my life today so dinner is on me.”
Officer Fowler checked his watch, seeing that it was already well past the normal end of his shift and he was already hungry. “Yeah, there’s the Dragon – a Chinese takeaway – and they’re pretty good. The best Chinese restaurant in Carnarvon, and also the only one. It’s also the only place in town that delivers on a Sunday night, so you’re on.” Trevor nodded eagerly, and Fowler smiled. “I doubt they’ll take American dollars, so I’ll shout you dinner this once, and I know Craig is constitutionally incapable of passing up free tucker, so I’ll even include him as well,” Fowler said, reaching for the phone and then dialing.
Craig Grundig smiled. “I think the overtime we’re getting must’ve gone to his head,” he said, in a stage whisper, which evoked a smile from Trevor and a disgruntled snort from Fowler.
Fowler ordered two single orders of Szechuan chicken, mentioned that the order was for the customs shack, and then handed the phone to Trevor so he could place his order.
It took a few minutes, but Trevor picked out his meal: a double order of beef in oyster sauce with extra capsicum – peppers – an order of spring rolls, a side order of broccoli, and a large orange juice.
When Trevor hung up the phone, Fowler said, “We’ve checked out your story and got some details from the Internet, but we’d like to hear it from you.”
Trevor nodded, and decided to level with the two officers. Over the next fifteen minutes, he told them almost everything, including his reasons for doubting that his father was responsible, omitting only the parts about himself being gay and about tipping off Jim. He ended by saying, “I don’t know what the hell to think, and I don’t even want the police back home to know where I’m at, because right now, I don’t know who is trying to kill me, but their department knew I was in the Seychelles, and they wanted to send me to Egypt.”
“You didn’t mention that your father is currently a hunted fugitive, wanted on murder charges.” Officer Fowler prodded.
Trevor blinked, his blood running cold, and he shivered, in spite of the tropical warmth. “I didn’t know it had gone that far yet.... The last time I heard anything was when I left the Seychelles.”
The two officers showed Trevor what they’d found. Before Trevor could reply, they were interrupted by the sound of tires crunching on the gravel just outside the door.
“Dinner’s here,” Fowler said, reaching for his wallet as he got up to meet the delivery guy at the door.
His first smell of hot food in months made Trevor even hungrier, and he tore into his food in a frenzy. As they ate, Fowler said, “This situation is way above my level; I’m going to need to contact my commanding officer in Perth about this, and do some more checking of your story, but I do see the need for secrecy. If the news leaks, I’ll see what we can come up with to throw the media off until we can figure out what to do with you. Now, about that cash you mentioned... I’ll let you declare it in the morning if it’s over the ten-thousand limit: that’s all that’s legally needed, but I won’t allow you to keep it on your boat, for your own sake – there’s a thief in the area. So, you and I are going to take it down to the bank, and you’re going to rent a safety deposit box, or you can open an account, your choice.”
“I’ll need it back in American dollars when I leave, so I’ll go for the box,” Trevor replied, around a mouthful of vegetables.
Trevor gave in to some gentle hints and re-told his tale, starting with the pirate attack, for Officer Grundig. When he was done, Grundig asked, “So you snuck on their boat and came away with your garlic press, did you? Tough luck that, mate. Clever trick with their engines though. Good on ya! If it worked, I wonder where they’re at? They had your sails so they might’ve been able to get underway. Did the trawler have a mast of any sort?”
Trevor shrugged. “I have no idea. I don’t remember looking and it was dark most of the time. They have my boom, so maybe they could’ve mounted that somehow and used it as a mast.”
Officer Fowler nodded. “I’ll pass that bit on to headquarters.”
Fowler glanced towards the dock. “Now, for tonight... you’ll be needing a hotel, given the condition of your boat. There’s a motel next to the yacht club. It’s small, but they’ll have vacancies at this time of year. I’ll ring them and see.”
Trevor smiled wistfully and shook his head. “I’ve been sleeping on a cabin floor for so long that I’m used to it. Tomorrow I’ll change some cash and do some shopping, but I’ll be fine on Atlantis tonight, thanks.”
Officer Grundig gave Trevor a nod. “Through the Southern Ocean alone, in a wrecked boat.... That’s some adventure you had. You probably won’t be able to dodge the reporters for long. This is something people will talk about, a lot, and the news’ll spread sooner or later.”
The two customs officers exchanged a glance, and then Officer Fowler added, “I’ll have to send a report in to headquarters, but I’ll ask that it be retained as private. Here in Carnarvon you’ll probably be the talk of the town by tomorrow; it’s a small place, around seven thousand people, very isolated and not a lot happens. I know the nurses the paramedic said he told. One of them... well, let’s just say she’s known for gossiping. The press will probably hear about you sooner or later but the isolation here should give you some breathing space.”
Trevor smiled, and then asked Officer Fowler, “How far is it to the bank? If I need a taxi I’ll still have to bum a few bucks from you–”
Officer Fowler held up his hand. “Forget the taxi; you’re faster walking. We’re on a peninsula here, near the tip, on Small Harbour Road. If you take it the only way it goes, you’ll come to the yacht club in about a kilometer. That’s basically where town starts. Keep going for about a couple of blocks and the bank will be on your left... but there’s the matter of your cash, so I’ll run you down myself. Just meet us here when you’re up and about.”
“Will do. Uh, how long can I berth Atlantis here?”
Officer Fowler shrugged. “You’re fine where you’re at until you get yourself sorted. The dock doesn’t have a power hookup, but you don’t have anything left that would need it. There’s a marine services outfit at the yacht basin. I don’t know if they can do a haul-out on a boat as big as yours, but my guess is they do. . From the look of your boat, it’ll be a long while before she’s seaworthy again. If you’ve got insurance, have your agent contact me; I’ll be filing the report and I can answer any questions they have, which might save you some time.”
That thought made Trevor very glad that he had a comprehensive insurance policy and had paid for it in advance. For the first time, he began feeling hopeful that he could make Atlantis whole again, and smiled. “Thanks,” he said, as he glanced in a small wall mirror and was shocked by what he saw: his long blond hair, scraggly and matted, and his chin covered by the beginnings of a wispy beard. ‘I look like a castaway, which I guess I am,’ he thought.
Glancing pointedly at the hole in Trevor’s very tattered shorts, Officer Fowler said with a grin, “There’s a sports store just up from the bank. You might want to stop by and get yourself some new clothes at some point.”
Trevor followed the officer’s eyes and laughed. “Yeah, they’re kinda drafty back there. The pirates got everything else. Let me borrow a couple of paper clips and I’ll be fine until I can get to the store tomorrow.”
Fifteen minutes later, overfull and still a little weak, but feeling better than he thought possible, Trevor bounded aboard Atlantis. He paused for a moment, looking at the lights of Carnarvon, feeling the caress of the warm night breeze. For a moment, he trembled, feeling a surge of fear, sending his pulse racing. Trevor shook his head, trying to dispel the sensation, and then glanced again at the lights, attempting to convince himself that he was safe.
Leftovers in hand, Trevor stumbled sleepily into Joel’s cabin, curled up on the floor, and slept for twelve solid hours. He was so exhausted that, for the first time in many days, he was spared the nightmares.
Please let me know what you think; good, bad, or indifferent.
Please give me feedback, and please don’t be shy if you want to criticize! The feedback thread for this story is in my Forum. Please stop by and say "Hi!"
Many thanks to my editor EMoe for editing and for his support, encouragement, beta reading, and suggestions.
Special thanks to Graeme, for beta-reading and advice.
Thanks also to Talonrider and MikeL for beta reading.
A big Thank You to RedA for Beta reading and advice, and to Bondwriter for final Zeta-reading and advice. A huge "Thank you!" to Orion, for the compass design and other help! Any remaining errors are mine alone.