As Officer Mike Gonzalez walked out of the teleconference room, he glanced around the hallway, his jaw clenched, his blood running cold.
Taking a deep breath, he made his way towards his car, flipping open his phone as soon as he arrived. He dialed Henry’s number, and as soon as Henry picked up, said, “Henry, I need your help on something urgent. I’m on my way to meet with Lisa and Joel down at the marina, near Dirk’s chandlery. I... There’s been... I need to speak with them somewhere private. Could you open up the chandlery? I’ll meet you there and explain.”
Henry knew better than to ask for details over a cell phone, so he agreed, and headed for the chandlery.
When Gonzalez arrived, Henry was already at the back door, opening up. Henry took one look at Gonzalez’s sad face, deactivated the alarm, and said, “This sounds bad.”
Once they were both inside, Gonzalez glanced around the store and nodded. “It doesn’t get much worse. I just received word: Trevor Carlson may be dead.”
Henry blinked in surprise. “What? Are you sure, how–”
Gonzalez glanced out the main windows and held up his hand. “I’ll tell you all I know after the meeting. I was going to meet with Lisa and Joel out front, but I wanted privacy once I found out. I sure as hell can’t take them to the department, and I see them on the dockfront now. Do me a big favor and go grab a coffee; it wouldn’t be right for you to be here with them. I’ll call you as soon as I can.”
Henry looked around, and nodded. “I’ll be nearby, but there’s something you need to know; yesterday, Lisa and Joel paid Bridget Bellevue a visit for an hour, and when they came out, the two of them went into her guesthouse for two hours and came out looking disheveled. That’s all I know. I need to ask; any indicators that Bellevue offed Trevor?”
Gonzalez scowled. “I’ll fill you in later, but the short version is no. Damn... I knew that Lisa and Bellevue were close, but I didn’t know she was letting those kids get it on in her guesthouse... I have to wonder if she’s co-opted them, at least to a degree. Okay, you might as well know; one reason I want to tell them myself is to see their reaction, and this makes it imperative.” Gonzalez took a deep breath, and opened the front door, telling Henry, “Giving this kind of news is the part of the job I hate most.”
Henry walked out the door, and then turned to give Gonzalez a sympathetic nod. “I can sure understand that... I’ll have to tell my client that his only child is dead.”
As Henry walked away, Gonzalez walked towards Lisa and Joel, who were looking out across the marina from the end of the dock, a hundred yards away. When he reached them, he said quietly, “Thank you both for coming. I’ve opened up the chandlery, let’s go inside.”
Lisa and Joel exchanged a worried glance. They could tell by Gonzalez’s demeanor that something was wrong. “Is everything okay?” Lisa asked, as they neared the chandlery door.
Gonzalez said nothing, instead ushering Lisa and Joel inside and closing the door. The entry bell tinkled, its sound fading away, replaced by oppressive silence. Gonzalez chewed on his lip, and then turned to face Lisa and Joel, his hands joined in front of him, his head bowed. In a soft, gentle voice, he said, “I’m afraid I have some very bad news. Your friend Trevor... there’s no easy way to say this. I’ve just received word that he’s been killed, I’m so sorry.”
Lisa clutched Joel tight, looking at Gonzalez in horror.
The words hit Joel like a hammer blow, and he pulled Lisa into a tight, protective hug as a sob wracked her body. His breath catching in his throat, he looked over Lisa’s shoulder at Gonzalez. The chandlery all of a sudden seemed deathly quiet and ominous to Joel, but he knew that Trevor had survived before, so he would not let himself believe Gonzalez’s words. In a strained, breaking voice, Joel asked, “Are you sure? Who did this?”
Gonzalez studied Joel for a moment, seeing what he judged to be genuine grief. Gently, Gonzalez said, “His boat was attacked. He didn’t make it. I’m so sorry.”
Joel’s question was immediate. “When? Tell me when.”
Puzzled by the unusual response, Gonzalez replied, “About a week after he left the Seychelles–”
Joel breathed out, and then told Lisa, “He’s okay, it’s just the pirate thing.”
Lisa looked up at Joel and blinked. Her cheeks streaked with tears, she turned and looked at Gonzalez. “The Seychelles, you’re sure?”
Gonzalez’s eyes opened just a little wider. He hadn’t mentioned pirates. “I think you’d better tell me what you know, right now,” he said.
Joel glanced at Lisa before replying, “All I can say is, I know he’s alive. He called me a couple of days ago.”
“Are you certain it was him?”
“Yeah. We talked for a while,” Joel replied.
“He called me too,” Lisa offered, wiping her cheeks, and already looking at Gonzalez with suspicion. “What’s going on?”
Gonzalez was on guard, but decided to give Lisa and Joel the benefit of the doubt – for the moment. Still, always a cop, he chose his words with care. “The police in the Seychelles recovered an EPIRB beacon and wanted to know if the registered owner was safe at home; they didn’t know if it was just a theft, or a pirate attack. They caught two guys selling gear, and some of it was traced back to Atlantis. After some questioning, they admitted being on board the boat that attacked your friend’s yacht. They said they encountered it at sea and the captain ordered an intercept. Their claim is that they are fisherman and had no idea about piracy until the captain ordered the attack, and they were forced to go along at gunpoint. They say that their captain killed Trevor and forced them to strip the boat, and then sank it. They further claim that several other crewmembers mutinied, and the captain plus others were killed in the fight. The local police also found an unconscious man in the hospital with bullet wounds and infection who they think is a third pirate, so that seems to back up the story. They found the fishing trawler the Somali pirates used, and found a few items, including a life jacket with Atlantis’s name on it. Now, tell me what you know.”
Lisa and Joel shared another look, and Joel replied, “They did try to kill him. They tied him up, put a weight belt on him, and threw him overboard, but he got loose. They stripped his boat and tried to sink it. Uh, did the Seychelles cops say anything about the pirate boat’s engines? Trev snuck aboard the trawler to try to find an emergency beacon, and he put grit in their engine oil.”
Gonzalez blinked in surprise. “He did that? According to the Seychelles officers, the trigger for the mutiny was the captain accusing some of the crew of sabotaging the engines, and then attempting to attack them in reprisal. Okay, I’m still not clear what happened. Trevor triggered the beacon and was rescued? Where is he now? I’ll need to speak with Trevor myself, and very soon.”
Joel hesitated, and then replied, “Trev didn’t get a beacon; he mistook his garlic press for it in the dark. He jury rigged Atlantis and tried for an island, but he missed and had to go all the way to Australia. I... Uh, I promised to keep his location secret from everyone, because this is the second time someone has tried to kill him.”
Lisa pulled free of Joel and looked at Gonzalez. “Trev is worried that the pirate thing is linked to the bomb somehow. Is it?” Lisa asked.
Gonzalez thought through his response for a moment, with the fact that Lisa was close to Bridget foremost in his mind. In the end, he decided to be truthful though guarded. “At the moment, we have no indication that it was. The preliminary assessment is that it appears to have been a random encounter in waters where pirate attacks are known to occur. According to the Seychelles police, they’ve had other incidents in their region. Can you phone him now? I do need to speak with him.”
Joel exchanged a worried glance with Lisa, and then said, “We can’t. He doesn’t have a phone, but he should have one in a day or two.”
Gonzalez frowned. “Okay. Just make sure he calls me. I won’t be in my office much for the next few days, so tell him to use my cell number, and to call anytime.”
“Will do. Uh, is there anything going on about the bomb that he should know about?” Joel asked.
“Yes, and I’ll tell him when he calls,” Gonzalez replied.
Lisa glanced around the chandlery. “Trev’s boat was stripped, he needs a lot of stuff, and there’s a lot of stuff here. Can we take him some?”
Gonzalez shook his head. “Absolutely not. I’m breaking the rules by even having you two in here. Dirk Carlson is on the run from the law, but that does not mean his property is up for grabs. The only reason you’re in here right now is because I didn’t want to break the news to you outside. Now, the original reason I asked to meet with the two of you today was to check a few things, but they’ll wait until I’ve spoken with Trevor. Sorry for the shock I gave you, and I’m glad your friend is okay. However, there is another matter; Trevor’s father has retained a private detective, who wants to speak with the two of you. There are three choices; you can say no, you can say yes and have me there, or you can meet with him without me there if your parents agree.”
Lisa didn’t want her father learning of the attack, so she replied hurriedly, “I don’t think we want to meet with him. Could we just call him on the phone – if we decide to, that is?”
“Yes. He’s going to want to know that Trevor isn’t dead, but I won’t tell him more than that.”
Lisa’s eyes narrowed. “He knows about the attack? How?”
That question caught Gonzalez short. “We were under the impression that Trevor was dead, and he’s in the employ of his next of kin. I was the one who told him about the attack, a few minutes ago.”
Lisa crossed her arms. “Trevor didn’t want anyone knowing what had happened to him and his boat, because he’s scared his father might have him sent home.”
Joel nodded in agreement, crossing his own arms.
“There’s nothing to worry about in that regard. Dirk Carlson is a fugitive, so he’s hardly in a position to be making legal motions to return a minor to his custody. Given the charges against his father, I can’t see any court making a request to the Australians to send him back to his father,” Gonzalez replied.
“When he left the Seychelles, he said you were saying he might have to come back, because of the legal stuff,” Joel said.
“I can’t get into that with you, but I can with Trevor,” Gonzalez replied and then checked his watch. “I’ll have to cut this short, but I’d like to meet with you again soon.”
“Can I get that number for the investigator – just in case we decide to call?” Lisa asked.
Gonzalez handed her Henry’s business card, and asked offhandedly, “How is Bridget these days?”
Lisa glared at Gonzalez. “Fine, thanks.”
“I need to make something clear here; don’t mention any of this to her. We still don’t know for sure what’s going on, so the fewer people who know, the safer Trevor will be,” Gonzalez said, opening the front door and watching Lisa and Joel closely.
Lisa nodded, and as she and Joel headed for the door, said, “We promised Trev we wouldn’t tell anyone, so we won’t. We’d never do anything to put him at risk, like getting word to his murderer fugitive father – the one you think tried to kill him the first time – that he’s been attacked and his boat’s damaged.”
Lisa and Joel stormed off, letting the door close behind them.
“That went well,” Henry said sarcastically, as he emerged from the back room.
Gonzalez spun around. “I thought I told you to clear out,” he said, in a mildly irritated tone.
Henry leaned up against the doorjamb and smiled, raising a coffee cup to his lips before replying, “You said to go get coffee, so I did. Then I came back and let myself in the back door. Look, I have a duty to my clients, and per them, I have every right to be in this building. I judged it to be in their best interests that I do so, so here I am. I’ll also mention that I could have snuck back out just as easily, and you’d have never known I was here.”
Gonzalez shrugged. He wasn’t irked by the intrusion so much as the fact that Henry had been able to sneak in without his notice. “Saves me some talking, I suppose: now you know about the Seychelles situation. What’s your read on Lisa and Joel? Mine is that their reaction was real; I gave it to them bluntly as a test, and they acted like they thought he was dead. I don’t think they had foreknowledge of the attack, and my gut read is they were telling the truth about him being alive. What they said meshed with what the Seychelles police told me.”
“I concur, based on their voice tones. It’s hard to fake strong emotions. That’s a relief; I’m glad the kid isn’t fish food. Now, what’s your angle?”
Gonzalez smiled thinly. “I don’t trust them. My guess is that Bellevue has them wrapped around her finger, especially Lisa. It’s also evident that they’re suspicious of me. The fact that they weren’t shy about showing it makes them more believable, though I think there’s a major risk of anything we say to them getting back to Bellevue, and I don’t want her to figure out that we’re looking at her for the bombing. I also made sure they had reason to get Trevor to call me; I can’t be certain he’s alive until I speak with him, and I do need his confirmation of what happened in Mykonos with the propane. As for you, I wanted to talk to you before you talked to them, to make sure we’re on the same page. Lisa asked for your number twice, so I think you’ll get a call real soon. I’d prefer that you didn’t disclose anything to them.”
“I can’t, because in my view, that could harm my clients: getting Bellevue and that cop are sure as hell in their best interests,” Henry replied.
Gonzalez’s eyes flashed fire for a moment at the mention of George. After a few seconds, he remarked, “It’s ironic; George did your clients a favor, in a way. Were it not for his involvement, I would likely be thinking that your clients simply paid for a hit on the kid, but as it stands, I don’t. And I’m still waiting for an answer from you on that meeting with them I requested.”
Henry began locking up the chandlery. “Yeah, I’ve passed that along to Frank Tittle, but it’s not like we can be in frequent contact with them,” he replied, bringing the conversation to an awkward conclusion.
At the end of the breakwater, Lisa and Joel picked their way along the rocks towards the jetty light’s base.
When they reached the light, Joel looked out at the calm, sheltered waters of the Indian River Lagoon. He tugged his shirt off before sitting down next to Lisa, and put his arm around her shoulders. Joel looked around, and in a quiet voice, barely above a whisper, he said, “Trevor’s thinking place. I haven’t been out here since he left. I... Part of me thought he was dead, when Gonzalez said that...”
Lisa nestled into Joel’s protective arm. “I know, me too. Oh God, that was horrible. Do you believe him; that it wasn’t connected to the bombing?”
Joel stared out to sea for a few moments, thinking. “I don’t know. If he’s telling the truth and the cops in the Seychelles got the pirates, then yeah, I guess it fits, maybe. On the other hand, if his father didn’t do the bomb, who did, and why? I think Trev’s right to stay hidden. I just hope I didn’t go too far when I said Australia.”
“I don’t think so... and I was so shook up I almost said he called from Carnarvon. Right now, I’m... I don’t know what I’m feeling. Relieved, angry, all mixed up, I guess,” Lisa said.
“Me too. I’ll feel better after Trev calls again. He should have that new phone soon.”
“What are we going to do now? Bridget said the cops are incompetent and from what just happened, I think she’s right. Gonzalez didn’t say ‘Trevor might be dead’ he said he was dead.”
Joel angled his head, thinking back. “Yeah, that was weird. It’s not like he was shown a body or anything; he was going on what pirates told cops on the other side of the world, and they told him, and he acted like it was a fact. I thought cops were supposed to be careful about stuff like that, especially when telling people that someone is dead... and then he told the private investigator? When Trev’s dad is charged with trying to kill Trev? That makes no fucking sense.”
“Maybe we should tell Bridget and see if she can find out what’s going on,” Lisa offered.
Joel considered that for a few moments, and then shook his head. “I don’t think we should, not unless we need her. Trev said he didn’t want anyone knowing stuff, so let’s ask him first.” Joel turned to Lisa, pulling her closer and angling his head forward, until his hair touched hers. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
Lisa smiled, putting her arms around Joel. “If you’re thinking we should get more involved in digging into this stuff, then yeah. I don’t see how it can hurt, and it might help. I think we should meet with that investigator. I’ll bet he knows stuff, and we could trade information.”
Joel gave Lisa a wary glance. “We can’t tell him much about Trev, and we don’t know a lot else.”
Lisa smiled sweetly, giving Joel her best innocent look. “Who said we have to give him real information? Maybe it’s illegal to lie to the police, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t to a private investigator.”
Joel chuckled, giving Lisa a hug. “I love it when you’re sneaky.”
“I’m not just sneaky, I’m greedy too, when it’s in a good cause; remember all that stuff in the chandlery? That’s Trev’s dad’s stuff, and if he was any kind of a father, he’d want his son to have what he desperately needs, right? I’ll bet that investigator could make that happen, if we play this right. All we need to do is find out what he wants to know, then make up something he’ll really want, and offer a trade.”
Joel grinned. “This might even be fun... we’ll be out-investigating the investigator, and helping Trev out too.”
Lisa made the call, and once she’s introduced herself, Henry replied, “Glad to speak with you, Lisa. I do need to ask you and Joel a few questions, and it doesn’t need to be in person: over the phone will do.”
“We’d like to meet you in person, but we can’t today. How about Friday, around noon?” Lisa asked.
Henry paused for a moment, surprised by the willingness to meet. “I’ll meet you in front of the chandlery; at noon on Friday,” he replied.
As soon as she hung up, Lisa said to Joel, “That’s that. Now we just need to figure out what to say.” Lisa’s smile turned into a worried frown. “We need to remember that he’s working for Trev’s father – do you really think his father is innocent?”
Joel stared out to sea for a few moments, and replied, “I don’t know, but when Gonzalez was quizzing me about the propane tank, it sure sounded like Jim couldn’t have done it. I guess that doesn’t prove they’re innocent though: they could have paid somebody to do it. I’ve gone over this in my head a million times... what I keep coming back to is those divorce papers, Trev’s mom’s death, and the mess over Trev being gay. I’ve been around Trev’s dad for years, and so have you; did you ever think he could be a killer?”
Lisa shot a withering glare at Dirk’s chandlery. “No, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t one. Why did he refuse to talk about the divorce stuff? Why did he try to take Atlantis? And why the hell did he turn on his own son over the gay thing? The other problem I have is, somebody tried to kill Trev, twice. Maybe the second time was just random, but that bomb on Atlantis... a bomb is the most likely way Ares was destroyed, right? And why would anyone else be trying to kill Trev?”
Joel shook his head. “I wish I knew. What I do know is Trev doesn’t want to help the cops prosecute his father, unless he’s sure he did it.”
“Bridget is really sure that Trev’s dad killed her husband, too. I also can’t forget that he drove by my house – and as my father keeps reminding me, we were under police protection for a while, and Trev’s father filed a lawsuit against us. My father hates his guts, and for once, I agree with him.”
Joel nodded somberly. “My father hates him too.”
Lisa threw her head back, her decision made. “I think Trev would be a lot safer if his father was in prison. If he’s innocent, why is he on the run? I get that Trevor can’t bring himself to hurt him – I don’t think I could if it was my father – but if he was in prison, Trev would be safe from him. It’d also make Trev emancipated, and we both know how much he wants that.”
Joel nodded, his eyes briefly glazing over. “Trev’s father promised to emancipate him after Trev crossed the halfway mark, which Trev has. If he won’t keep that promise, doesn’t it show that he’s up to something?”
Lisa nodded. “Yeah, it would. But, we’d have to tell that investigator that Trevor is in Australia, right? The cops know that now, but they don’t know where. So, if we have to tell the investigator something, what about Tasmania?”
Joel nodded and grinned. “Yeah, that’d work.” Joel’s brow creased, and he began to frown. “When Jim found us in Italy, there was something Trev and I both thought was really weird: it seemed like Trev’s father had no idea his lawyer was in Italy. At the time, we thought they were up to something, but what if it’s true? Why was the lawyer there at all? Jim Ainsworth seemed like a nice guy, but... why was he there, really? From what Gonzalez said – if I remember what happened in Mykonos right – then Jim didn’t plant the bomb in Italy. But... what if he’s the one behind it all, and Trev’s dad doesn’t know?”
Lisa blinked. “Damn, as if this wasn’t complicated enough. Okay, then why was he there... Uh, Joel, remember how we tracked Atlantis when Trev was going through the Suez Canal? That radar thingy? Could he have been there to get that?”
Joel shook his head. “Nope, that’s the AIS and it’s set from the nav desk. There’s nothing in the cockpit that shows it, and he was never inside. We’d have seen him–” Joel’s head snapped up, and he blurted out, “Oh fuck, I just got it. That AIS... he wouldn’t need to get it from on board at all, because it’s a transponder! He did a radio check with me, from a boat. If that boat had AIS radar, it would show Atlantis’s code, and then all he had to do was confirm Trev was aboard. Then he’d know he had the right code. Shit... with that, he can track Atlantis as easy as we can. If he was working with someone, they could plant the bomb anytime. Holy fuck... that all fits; he could have done it.”
“Was that thing taken, or is it still on Atlantis?” Lisa asked, her eyes growing wide with alarm.
“It’s gone, Trev said all the electronics were taken, and they ripped the whole nav desk out. He’s safe now, but... if Jim really is behind the bomb...”
“If it’s him, either he’s in on it with Trev’s dad, or Trev’s dad doesn’t know and is innocent – of that, anyway. But why? Why would a lawyer do that? This makes no damn sense... but it fits. I think we’re onto something.”
“So what do we do with it? Take it to Gonzalez?” Joel asked.
Lisa shook her head adamantly. “No, I think Bridget’s right, he’s incompetent – or worse. He already told the private investigator about the attack on Trev. I don’t think we should go to Bridget yet, either; she’s convinced that Trev’s dad killed her husband so she wants to see him hang. But, that leaves another question: who really killed Arnold Bellevue and Trev’s mom, as well as who tried to kill Trev? Trev’s father might be guilty of some of it, or the lawyer might, or somebody else might. This is a real mess, and it’s going to take a lot of digging. I think there’s only two people who can get to the bottom of this, and that’s us. We might need Bridget’s help at some point, but for now, I think that if we play this right we can find out whether Trev’s dad is guilty or innocent – of some of it, anyway – but you’re not going to like how.”
Joel’s eyes opened wide. “If you’re thinking what I think you’re thinking, you’re right – but I know I don’t stand a chance in hell of talking you out of it. So, how do we find Trev’s dad?” Joel asked, already getting tense at the idea of a private meeting with someone who, as far as he knew, might be a serial killer.
“That’s what private investigators are for, the one we’re meeting anyway,” Lisa said, with a wicked grin and a nod towards the chandlery. “We just have to tell him something good, and then come up with a good reason to meet with Trev’s dad, alone.”
A light sea breeze was whispering in the palms, easing the afternoon heat and kicking up a few tiny whitecaps on the Fascine.
Kookaburra, sitting closed-up in the tropical sun, was stifling hot when Trevor and Shane returned. As soon as Shane had unlocked the door and entered the salon, he clicked on the air conditioner.
Working quickly, they put the cold food – and most importantly, the beer – in the refrigerator. Shane changed out of his good jeans, returning to the galley in just his old denim cutoffs. “Want some beer now, or later?” Shane asked.
“I want it now, but I’ll wait. I have to go check on Atlantis; I’ll be back in a few minutes... come with me if you want,” Trevor replied, heading for the dock.
Shane shook his head. “Those customs blokes don’t like me much: I’d best stay here. I’ll have a cold one waiting for you.”
Trevor headed for Atlantis, carrying his purchased clothing and the holey shorts. He had to make the trip: Atlantis’s leaks had only grown worse, and Trevor knew he’d need to do some bailing.
When Trevor reached Atlantis, he heard a shout from his side. “You and I need to have a talk, right now,” Officer Fowler said.
Trevor turned, seeing the two customs officers heading his way.
When they reached Trevor, Officer Fowler demanded, in a quiet but severe tone, “That’s a very nice chrome-plated revolver you had. You better level with me, right now; what are you up to?”
Trevor blinked, his mind racing. “Nothing, I only have it aboard for defense.”
Officer Fowler smiled coldly. “Set your things down in your boat, then come with us. I’ll hold off on the cuffs, for now.”
When they reached the customs shack, Officer Fowler pointed at a chair. “Park it and start talking.”
Trevor took a deep breath. “I’m a minor–”
“I know that. Try explaining the gun.”
Trevor took a deep breath. “I’m sorry about that. I have to hide it when I’m in port. If I declared it, a lot of places wouldn’t give it back because I’m a minor.”
“And just why do you have it aboard in the first place?” Fowler asked.
“I run charters back home, which means having strangers aboard.”
Fowler shook his head. “That’s no excuse for bringing a prohibited weapon into Australia. Possession of a handgun is a very serous offense.”
Trevor stared at the Glock pistol in Fowler’s holster. “Both of you have them,” he pointed out.
Officer Fowler glared. “We’re both trained in their use, and they’re part of our job.”
Trevor paused for a moment, thinking, and then offered, “I’m trained too. My father made me take courses in handgun use, and I practice.” Trevor knew he was pushing it, but he didn’t want to lose his gun.
Fowler’s eyes narrowed. “That’s different, as I said; we need them for our jobs.”
Trevor nodded. “I guess your work can be dangerous. How many times have people tried to kill you in the last couple of months? It’s only twice for me.”
Officer Fowler’s eyes flared in anger for a moment, but then he looked out the window at Atlantis and softened a bit. “Okay, let’s say I buy this, for now. Even if I agreed with you, which I don’t, you’ve broken laws here by bringing that gun in. Handguns are a class H weapon, and any firearm should be declared immediately upon arrival. I’ll concede that you had a reason, and that your arrival was far from usual, but I can’t let you have the gun or ammunition back. The best I can do is hold it as impounded for the duration of your stay in Australia, and then have it shipped to your point of final departure from Australia and returned to you there, immediately prior to sailing. I’ll overlook the violation of the law this time, but if there’s another, you’re heading for jail, are we clear?”
Trevor nodded, feeling relief, but not happy that he’d be deprived of his gun. “Thanks... and there’s nothing else aboard. Feel free to search as much as you like, anytime...Uh, how did you find it, anyway? No one has ever found my hidden compartment before.”
Officer Fowler gave Trevor a faint smile. “Oh, it wasn’t too hard. I thought it was far-fetched that you’d be able to easily hide that big a bulk of cash, so that meant you probably had a prepared hiding place: many yachters do. That and a few other things made me suspicious, so when I saw you leave, we went aboard for a look. I remembered you heading to your crew cabin for your passport, so I figured that’s where it probably was. We looked around – customs officers are good at spotting hiding places, we get a lot of practice – and I saw the big magnet on the floor of your crew cabin. It took Craig and me about half an hour to hit the right spot on the bathroom floor and get the compartment open. Who built it?”
“I did, a few years ago, to keep stuff like the gun and documents safe,” Trevor replied, a little dejected that anyone had been able to find and open it.
“It’s a good one, and that magnetic latch is very clever. If your boat wasn’t stripped, and the magnet hadn’t clued us in, we might not have found it, not without tearing holes anyway.”
Trevor nodded. “Thanks for understanding.”
“Just so we’re clear; what you did is a jailable offense. Don’t do anything like that again.”
Trevor nodded somberly, knowing that he’d been let off easy, though still upset that he’d be loosing his gun for a while. “Thanks for not arresting me.”
Fowler let out a long sigh. “You might’ve been safer if I had. There’s been other news, not good, I’m afraid. Your story is out; at least as far as the Perth press is concerned. A friend of one of the local police called in with some news; one of the Perth TV stations has booked rooms at the motel in East Carnarvon, starting for tomorrow night. My guess is that they’ll be here tomorrow morning, at the latest.”