Trevor took one hesitant step out of his cabin doorway, only to freeze as he realized that he’d forgotten something. Racing back into his cabin, he yanked open a drawer to get the swim goggles he’s bought in Carnarvon. He pulled them onto his upper right arm – his usual place to carry them, when he wasn’t using them – and then checked himself in the mirror again, where he noticed something else he’d forgotten. He looked down, past his abs, at the blue speedos he was wearing, and made fast work of tying the drawstring. ‘I gotta stop being so fucking distracted. I’d forget my head if it wasn’t attached,’ he chided himself, taking one last look in the mirror.
Trevor bounded up the stairs to the salon and declared, “I hope you’re ready to lose a race!”
Shane turned to look at Trevor, and after a few moments, he replied, “At least you look like a swimmer, but I don’t think you’ll beat me. Remember our footrace in Monkey Mia?”
Trevor grinned, looking out the salon windows instead of at Shane. Trevor’s bravado had nothing to do with believing he’d win and everything to do with not becoming distracted – or worse – by the sight of Shane in speedos. “That was on land. In the water, you’re gonna lose!” Trevor crowed, turning to jog out through the cockpit to the aft end of the port hull.
Shane followed, and as he joined Trevor, Trevor pointed at the far side of the lagoon, three quarters of a mile away. “How about we race there and back?” he asked.
“Yeah okay,” Shane replied, before belatedly noticing where Trevor was pointing. “Bloody hell, that’s over a kilometer each way!” he exclaimed.
In that moment, Trevor grinned for real, as he realized what that meant. “Don’t lifesavers ever do long-distance swims?” he asked, as innocently as he could manage.
“Yeah, but not that far in open water,” Shane replied, staring at the distant mark. “Four hundred meters is the longest I’ve done, and that was part of the qualifications for my Bronze Medallion.”
“What’s a Bronze Medallion?” Trevor asked.
Shane smiled, puffing out his chiseled chest with pride. “The Bronze Medallion is a surf lifesaving award. It means I’ve completed a very tough training program and test series, and the few who pass it get the Bronze Medallion. It’s proof that I have the skills and knowledge to react correctly in all sorts of aquatic emergencies.”
“Sounds hard, but the way you just described it sounds more like a sales pitch,” Trevor said, chuckling.
Shane nodded and laughed. “That’s my usual spiel, and a sales pitch it is. I crewed on a lot of yachts back in Cairns, and my biggest selling point was that the owner would be able to advertise having a Bronze Medallion certified lifesaver aboard. Well that, and I can cook and clean up and such.”
“Yeah, I can see how that would be a huge plus. Before I left, I was planning to get a lifeguard certification. What’s the Bronze Medallion course like?”
“It’s a series of tests – physical and mental – including the four hundred meter swim in the sea or a pool, a 200-200-200, which is a two hundred meter beach sprint, a two hundred meter swim, and then another two hundred meter sprint. You have to beat a set time or you fail. There are written tests and skill tests as well,” Shane said, thereby unwittingly confirming Trevor’s suspicions.
“Anything dangerous in the water here?” Trevor asked, turning to look at Shane, being careful to keep his eyes on his face.
Shane hesitated a moment, scratching his head. “I’ve not seen any jellyfish or sharks in the lagoon. It’s nearly twice as salty as the sea and they don’t like it. I’ve seen a stonefish once, but they’re no bother so long as you watch where you put your feet.”
Trevor nodded, pointing north, parallel to the shore, at the route he’d intended all along. “Okay, if you’re not up to an open-water swim, how about a one-way race up the shore. See that scrubby looking tree, all on its own?”
Shane squinted against the glare. “Yeah, I see it. That’s still about a kilometer but we’d be within a hundred meters of shore the whole way.”
“No getting out and running until we hit that beach; this is a swimming race,” Trevor replied.
“Bloody mind reader,” Shane muttered, chuckling and shaking his head. “I’ll just have to beat you fair and square then.”
“Have fun eating my wake,” Trevor replied, with a smug smile.
“Right, ya cocky bastard, we’ll see who’ll be eating wake. Let’s get ready to race,” Shane replied, wearing a wicked grin as he turned to face Trevor. Shane began his limbering-up routine, stretching his arms high, muscles flexing, interlocking his hands to begin stretching out.
The sight took Trevor by surprise and he froze, staring, as his breath caught in his throat.
Shane paused suddenly and asked, “Don’t you loosen up before a swim?”
“Uh, yeah,” Trevor replied, turning quickly away and sitting down on the deck, where he began reaching for his toes.
“You seem all distracted and clumsy again. What’s the matter, Trev?” Shane asked, in a friendly, offhand tone.
“I’m just getting psyched up for the race,” Trevor replied, trying to will the problem that had sprung up to subside.
“Psyching yourself out is more the like,” Shane quipped, as he cut short his routine. “You’re slow,” he announced, as he hurdled the wire rail and cannonballed into the warm sea.
Trevor felt the splash and gritted his teeth, focusing on his stretching.
“Your routine is a bit different from the one we use,” Shane said, standing in chest-deep water and looking up at Trevor.
Trevor’s problem had mostly subsided, so he stood up and grabbed the deck shower with one arm, “Our coach is a stickler for a good stretch-out, especially for the shoulders,” Trevor replied, keeping his eyes off Shane.
“Looks like it’s working, maybe I can learn something after all,” Shane replied, watching Trevor intently.
Trevor completed his stretching routine under Shane’s watchful gaze, and jumped into the warm waters of Rhys Lagoon from the swim-dive platform. Trevor stood on the sandy bottom and then launched himself forward, swimming just a few strokes until he reached Shane. “This feels really different,” Trevor mumbled, feeling how buoyant he was.
“The water here is nearly twice as salty as the sea so it’s denser – you should be right at home, seeing as how you’re so dense yourself. Mrs. Blake said it even reduces Kookaburra’s draft by a few inches. You’ll get used to it quick,” Shane said, pulling on his goggles.
Trevor, still somewhat distracted, put on his own goggles, and ducked his head under the clear waters. When he came up for air, he said, “Looks awesome! Ready to race?”
Shane glanced at the distant tree. “Where do you want to start from?”
“The swim-dive platform. I like a diving start,” Trevor replied, already heading for the port platform.
Shane joined Trevor on the platform. “Ready on the count of three?” Shane asked, crouching down.
When they were both crouched down and in position, Trevor remembered his race with Joel in Cyprus, and with a fond smile, repeated the words he’d used to challenge Joel. “Ready, and I’ll wait for you in the shade under the tree, so I won’t get a sunburn.”
“I’ll be there first, and probably bored from waiting for you,” Shane replied.
Trevor gave the count. “Ready... Three... Two... ONE!”
The two friends, muscles rippling, launched out, arcing smoothly, hands-first into the warm, calm waters.
Kicking hard in a crawl, Shane took the lead, sprinting hard, pulling away from Trevor.
Trevor held back, pacing himself, allowing Shane’s lead to grow to a dozen yards. Trevor angled slightly to his left, entering Shane’s wake, slowly beginning to close the gap, inching closer to Shane.
By the halfway point in their race, Shane’s lead had dwindled. Trevor had positioned himself carefully and was now swimming right behind Shane, just half a yard behind Shane’s feet.
Trevor had realized something; Shane, as a surf lifesaver, focused mainly on sprints: relatively short, high-speed dashes. Trevor, though, was a competitive swimmer, and knew a thing or two about long-duration races – including open-water swims, which he’d done even more often than Shane had. Shane’s comments about eating wake had shown Trevor that Shane wasn’t considering the subtle strategies that top swimmers use in open-water competitions. In this case, that meant drafting: swimming in another swimmer’s wake, to take advantage of the current their passage through the water generated. For Trevor, it meant that he was using less energy than Shane to swim at the same speed. In a long race, energy management was vital.
They were well past the halfway point when Shane figured out what Trevor was doing and began altering his course to try to shake Trevor. In addition, as Trevor had hoped, Shane tried to sprint away, so Trevor paced him, staying in Shane’s wake.
A hundred yards from their target beach, Trevor made his move, pulling to the side and launching into his own sprint – his first of the race. It was a move Shane was unable to match.
By the time they reached the shallows, Trevor held a lead of nearly a dozen yards, pulling further ahead of Shane – who had peaked too soon and was badly winded – with every stroke.
For the final few yards, Shane pulled hard, giving it everything he had, though he only managed to stop Trevor from increasing his lead.
They reached the shallows, surging to their feet, running through the water, kicking up fountains of spray that sparkled in the sun. Trevor held his lead, staying twenty paces ahead of Shane. They left the water behind, kicking into sprints on the hard, wet sand, racing inland, the sun glistening on the water clinging to their wet, tan skin.
It was hopeless, but Shane wasn’t one to give in easily. Kicking hard on the final dash, he began to narrow Trevor’s lead slightly, but Trevor was much too far ahead.
Trevor dove for the tree trunk, splashing into the sand and touching the wood, beating Shane by almost thirty feet. “I win!” Trevor yelled, rolling over, panting for breath, and grinning as Shane flopped down beside him.
“You bloody cheating Yankee bastard! You were drafting me!” Shane said, between gasps for breath.
“It’s called strategy: drafting is legal in swimming. And I won!” Trevor replied, snickering. “I knew you’d pour it on right from the start; you do mainly sprints and timed swims in the water, right?”
Shane chuckled. “Yeah, and I wanted to take the lead and keep it. I figured you for mainly a pool swimmer who wouldn’t have a chance on a long haul.”
Trevor laughed. “I do open water events too: that’s why I chose a long race. I knew I couldn’t beat you in a sprint: I’m out of practice. Hell, I’m in such awful shape that I probably couldn’t have beaten you as easily as I just did without drafting.”
“Obnoxious sarcastic arsehole!” Shane declared, laughing at the barb, still trying to catch his breath.
Trevor glanced around the pristine beach, and then at the distant Kookaburra. “Want to have a look around here for a while, or race back?” Trevor asked, purposely forcing his breathing back to near normal.
Shane was still winded and fell for Trevor’s bravado. Shane pulled off his goggles, tucking them under the hip of his speedos as he replied, “Let’s have a look about. This end of Rhys Lagoon is interesting. Lots of things to see here.”
Secretly relieved, Trevor nodded. “Okay, I’ll let you rest up a bit before I beat you again,” Trevor replied, with a sarcastic snicker, pulling off his goggles and putting them on his arm.
“I’m wise to your sneaky tricks now, mate... I think it’s high time you were taken down a peg and had that overbearing confidence shattered,” Shane replied, with a wicked grin as he got up to stretch.
Shane, in clinging wet speedos and stretching, was a sight that took Trevor’s breath away. He stared for a couple of seconds, and then turned his head away, fearing betrayal by his own body.
“What’s the matter, Trev? You seem all distracted again?” Shane asked, in a casual, offhand tone that was belied by his wicked grin.
Trevor, who was looking along the beach, shrugged and mumbled, “This place is awesome... hills on both sides of the lagoon, but a little shallow valley here.”
Shane laughed and shook his head. “Geology is the subject now, hey? Okay, I’m game... The land on the eastern side of Rhys Lagoon was once an island in Boat Haven Loop. The low valley that leads north from here used to be a channel, but it silted up a long time ago. I’ve seen it on the old maps the explorers made. If we hike north, we’ll find an area of mangroves where it joins Boat Haven Loop. It’s a short walk, but we’ll need to mind where we tread without shoes.”
“Lead the way,” Trevor replied.
They walked north along the sandy floor of the shallow valley. Shane was his normal energetic and gregarious self, and Trevor felt at home in his company, enjoying their exploratory walk, taking in the spectacular scenery – though he barely noticed the scenery that wasn’t Shane.
Barefoot on the hot, coarse sand, they turned back after a few hundred yards.
“Maybe tomorrow we can go for a run and do a circuit of the lagoon, and have a scan at this area then,” Shane said, as they returned to the beach.
Trevor nodded, smiling at Shane. “Sounds like a plan. Okay, ready for a race back to Kookaburra?”
Shane stretched again, and pulled on his goggles. “I guess so. Where do you want to start from?”
“How about the tree?” Trevor said, as he stood up next to it, pulled his goggles on, and stretched.
After a count, they sprinted across the hot, white sand, charging into the surf and diving in to begin the long swim back to Kookaburra. This time, Shane held back, pacing himself. Trevor tried to draft, but Shane was ready and simply stopped swimming.
“Giving up already?” Trevor asked, treading water beside Shane.
“Just keeping you from getting a free ride,” Shane replied with a chuckle, launching into a lazy backstroke.
Trevor matched Shane’s move, beginning a slow, steady backstroke and pulling even with Shane. “Interesting strategy, but you’re forgetting something,” Trevor replied.
“Like what?” Shane asked.
“Just keep going like you’re going and you’ll find out,” Trevor replied with a chuckle, hoping that Shane would take the bait.
Shane did just that, by flipping over into a crawl and kicking into a sprint as they neared the halfway point. Trevor was ready, moving swiftly into a draft position, just an arm’s length behind Shane’s feet.
Well into his furious sprint, Shane glanced back at Trevor and stopped swimming. That was what Trevor had been waiting for. Trevor pulled hard, blasting past Shane in an all-out sprint, giving it everything he had. Shane, at a standstill, flinched from the splashing as Trevor roared by, just inches away, passing him and opening up a lead.
Shane kicked into a sprint, but unlike Trevor, it was not his first of the swim. By the time Shane was up to speed, Trevor’s lead had grown to more than ten yards, robbing Shane of the option of drafting unless he caught up.
Trevor focused on his breathing and his pace, maintaining the sprint for a hundred yards and then slowing slightly. He spared a glance back and saw that his lead had grown to twenty yards, with Kookaburra just two hundred yards ahead.
Shane managed to cut Trevor’s lead in half as they battled towards Kookaburra, but time and distance were now firmly on Trevor’s side.
Trevor touched first and used the last of his strength to haul himself onto the swim-dive platform, flopping down on his back, gasping for breath and utterly exhausted.
When Shane reached the platform, Trevor raised himself on his elbows. “I win!” he gasped, before flopping back on the platform.
“Yeah you did, you sneaky bastard,” Shane replied, between deep breaths as he hauled himself aboard.
“Strategy,” Trevor wheezed. “You wore yourself out more than me on the race out. Then on the way back you started your own sprint way too soon, which set me up to draft a little and then blast by you when you stopped to shake me off. Long races are as much about strategy as anything else.”
“And being a sneaky bastard helps a ton,” Shane said, pulling his goggles off.
“Ready to admit that I can swim?” Trevor asked, hauling himself to his feet and pulling his goggles off. Still badly winded, Trevor stumbled up the stairs, heading for the deck shower.
Shane joined Trevor under the deck shower, where they both rinsed off the salt. “I suppose I can admit to that. It’s always good to admit to things and get ‘em out in the open, after all,” Shane said, with a wry smile.
Trevor stepped out from the shower, taking a long glance back at Shane, who was rinsing his hair while facing Trevor, the water cascading tantalizingly down his torso. “Uh, yeah, so I swim, right? Can swim, I mean,” Trevor asked, stumbling over his own words. He turned away and shook his head to try to clear it. “I think we’re hungry now.”
“So you’ve gone and humiliated me and now you expect me to fix you lunch?” Shane quipped.
Trevor, his composure returning, shrugged and replied, “Good point. So I’ll fix us lunch.”
Shane froze, and with an exaggerated look of horror on his face, gasped, “I’m not bloody suicidal! I’ll fix lunch.”
“I think I can manage making sandwiches,” Trevor replied, laughing.
Shane gave Trevor a skeptical look. “For the sake of my health, I’d rather you didn’t... but if you insist, I’ll keep a close eye on you.” Shane shook some water out of his hair and added, “We’ll dry quick in the sun, then we’ll risk letting you attempt to make lunch – maybe.”
Trevor laughed, leaning well back against the wire rail to let the sun dry his front. “I’ve made plenty of sandwiches. I crossed the Atlantic alone, and I even made sandwiches while Joel was aboard. Then after Cyprus, I damn near lived on ‘em, until–” Trevor stopped suddenly, shuddering violently as his mind led him yet again to his encounter with the pirates.
“What’s wrong Trev?” Shane asked quietly, in a tone of deep concern.
Trevor, his shaking subsiding, shrugged. “I just... thought about something I don’t like to think about,” he replied.
Shane took a deep breath, watching Trevor carefully. Before Shane could say anything, Trevor asked, “Ready for lunch?”
“I suppose I’ve no choice but to endure,” Shane quipped, purposefully avoiding mentioning death.
They were nearly dry so they padded into the galley, Trevor in the lead. When they arrived, he turned to find Shane leaning back against a counter, and swallowed once as his eyes roamed for a moment. Thinking that the extra concealment of shorts could soon be needful, Trevor mumbled, “Uh, if we’re doing the beach flags after lunch, I might as well go change back into my boardies.”
Shane chuckled and shook his head. “Beach flags are normally played in swimming togs. Shorts just slow you down. Suit yourself, but I’ll just beat you by even more.”
Trevor swallowed again, and shrugged. “I’ll get started on lunch then,” he said, trying to focus his mind on food instead of the intensely distracting Shane. It was a forlorn effort; and Trevor again had to resort to thinking of the pirates. He shuddered, hiding it from Shane’s view by turning away to reach more sandwich meat from the refrigerator.
Shane didn’t notice Trevor’s shuddering this time, and carried on, “One of the best things about speedos is they dry fast. I love ‘em for days like today when I’m in and out of the water a lot.”
Trevor gave Shane a sly smile. “Your boss is right, you’re an exhibitionist. Admit it.”
Shane laughed, shaking his head and then giving Trevor an evil grin. “I can’t often get away with lounging around in them for long on most charters. But, I know you’re hardly likely to complain about seeing me in budgie smugglers, right?”
Slightly rattled by Shane’s wicked grin and pointed question, Trevor looked away and shrugged. “I’m a swimmer so I’m used to wearing ‘em.”
“They’re standard gear for surf lifesavers. Speedos were invented in Australia, and though boardshorts are more popular for casual beachwear, they can’t beat speedos for practicality when it comes to sports in the water, or just when you’re in and out of the water a lot.”
Shane’s comment gave Trevor an opening he’d been hoping for: to begin sounding Shane out. “Back home they’re normal for swimming, diving, and water polo, but pretty rare on the beach. If you see a guy in them on the beach, he’s almost always a foreigner... or a gay,” Trevor said, wondering how Shane would react.
Shane casually turned his head away from Trevor and rolled his eyes. Returning his gaze to Trevor, Shane replied, “Sounds sort of stuffed up to worry about what people think. What about scuba diving and snorkeling? Or for that matter, surfing: did you have a wetsuit at home?”
Trevor nodded. “I had a wetsuit but I outgrew it. Some guys wear speedos under ‘em, makes it easier to change in and out of the wetsuit in public. I wear ‘em for scuba and snorkeling sometimes.”
Shane nodded, and then gave Trevor a long, appraising glance. “We both work on charters, so getting tips are a big part of our meal ticket. I’ll bet you’ve made a point of wearing speedos on a charter, when you thought it’d net you a tip from a suitable customer,” Shane asked, in an offhanded tone, though he was grinning wickedly.
Trevor’s head snapped around and he looked at Shane in surprise. “You’ve done that?” he asked.
“Too right I’ve done that,” Shane replied with a laugh. “For your information, you mad as a gum tree full of galahs Yankee dipstick, I’ve done it loads of times, most recently on the charter before last. Got a nice tip out of it, and all.”
Trevor blushed slightly and returned his attention to the sandwiches. “Same here, on my last charter before leaving Florida. It was Julie’s idea.”
Gales of laughter erupted from Shane, and when he could finally speak, he said, “Julie, your employee, who you said was old enough to be your grandmother, and it was her idea? Why do I not believe you?”
Trevor blushed harder and laughed. “Believe what you want, but it really was her idea. We used to split all the tips. I tried to wind her up about it, accused her of wanting to visually prostitute a minor, and she told me to stuff it. I wasn’t going to go through with wearing them at first, but... I took two of the passengers – both of ‘em old enough to be my mother – diving. I wore speedos most of the day and got a freaking huge tip.”
Shane laughed even harder. “I think I’d like Julie... sounds like she’s got her head screwed on right. As for me, I didn’t need anyone to push me into it. I’m not the oblivious sort, so I soon noticed that with some customers I got tips if I wore less, so I learnt to be sure to wear speedos when it brings me tips... or when I felt it couldn’t hurt is more the like. I learnt quick too, unlike you... just a few months into my first season on the charters, when I was sixteen. It helps that I’m far from shy.”
“And an exhibitionist,” Trevor quipped.
“For doing what you’ve just admitted to doing yourself?” Shane shot back.
“Hey, it wasn’t my idea,” Trevor replied, with a smirk.
“That’s proof that you’re dumb as a box of rocks, then,” Shane replied, snickering. “Or, just particularly oblivious. I haven’t decided which, though I suppose they’re not mutually exclusive.”
Trevor laughed and shrugged. “I didn’t say I wouldn’t do it again. I felt a little uncomfortable being checked out by ‘em at first, but after that, it was kinda... flattering.”
“So now who’s the exhibitionist?” Shane asked, snickering again.
“That would be you,” Trevor shot back, enjoying the mutual ribbing.
“That’s hypocrisy, mate,” Shane replied, stretching back slightly and then remarking offhandedly, turning away to hide a sly grin, “So, what sports do you like?”
Trevor was still assembling sandwiches, and shrugged. “Other than stuff I do... I like watching football.”
“I didn’t think that was popular in Yankeeland – oh, you mean American football, where the posers dress in pads and helmets. You should have a look at Aussie Rules football; it’s the best. Somewhat similar to yours – they’re both based on rugby – but no padding, no helmets. I barrack for the Brisbane Lions.”
“Barrack?” Trevor asked. It was an Australian term, which he was unfamiliar with. He turned to look at Shane, who was still leaning back against the counter, barely an arm’s length away.
“It means support. So, which team do you root for, then?” Shane asked, with an innocent smile. ‘Root’ has a very different meaning in Australia than in the U.S.
“Miami Dolphins, I guess, but I’ll pretty much watch any game that’s on,” Trevor said, having missed the double entendre.
“The whole team? That’s one way to support ‘em, I suppose,” Shane replied offhandedly, reaching in to grab a piece of cheese to snack on.
Trevor completed assembling the last of the sandwiches. It had taken him several minutes, but he’d built four large sandwiches: sandwich meat, cheese, and pickles on rye, using ranch dressing in place of mayonnaise, with a little mustard. One of the reasons it had taken him so long was that his hands were trembling and would not stop.
“So, looks like you’re about ready to inflict lunch on me, then?” Shane asked. He hadn’t noticed the trembling.
Trevor, still trembling and trying to hide it, even from himself, pushed the plate of sandwiches towards Shane, who picked one up and took a suspicious bite. “That’s pretty good; I didn’t think you could do it,” Shane declared.
“I told you I could make sandwiches,” Trevor replied, grinning, making every effort to hide the demons his mind was struggling to restrain.
Any barrier is only as strong as its weakest point, and for Trevor, his long battle against the results of his trauma had taken a heavy toll. The nightmares were his most apparent symptom, though one of many. He could not admit, even to himself, the changes his condition was imposing upon him, or that the demons were growing stronger with every passing day.
Trevor’s mind would not even allow him to wonder why he was avoiding things that his prior self would never have done. Trevor’s beloved Atlantis was merely one glaring example; he had not even thought about calling Ned to check on her.
Trevor’s self-torment of envisioning the pirates was merely a slight added depth to the wave his mind was fighting in vain to contain. In itself, the self-torment would have been a minor thing, with likewise minor consequences. Now though, it was more akin to the proverbial straw.
Everything has its breaking point.
Thunder boomed, rattling the condo’s windows. Another flash, followed less than a second later by a cacophonous clap and an echoing, rumbling roar... The lights flickered, just once, before going out.
“One thing Florida has is no shortage of: thunderstorms,” Jim said, fumbling in the dark as he headed for the kitchen, trying to remember just where the candle his sister kept there was. He found it, and lit it from the gas stove. “There, at least we’re not completely in the dark.”
“That’s about the only way we’re not in the dark,” Dirk replied, trying his best to smile.
Jim peeked around the drapes to glance outside. “Lights are still on across the street, so they’ll probably get it fixed soon,” Jim said, only to be backlit by another brilliant flash, followed almost instantly by the resounding boom.
“Damn, that was close. I don’t much like lightning,” Dirk said, as Jim took a seat beside him.
“I don’t think anyone does when it’s that close,” Jim replied.
“Are you doing okay? We’ve been cooped up in here a long time,” Dirk asked, giving Jim a wan smile in the candlelight.
Jim nodded. “I’m okay. At least we get out a few times a week. Even going to the mall is a nice break.”
Dirk laughed. “Easy for you to say: you don’t mind drag. I feel like I’m... I don’t know, just so out of place and weird.”
Jim laughed. “You’re getting better at it though, as long as you don’t talk.”
Dirk chuckled. “We better watch it and not go back to the same stores; that ‘Sore throat, can’t talk above a whisper,’ routine works, but if people notice we always do it...”
Jim laughed. “Dirk, has it occurred to you that there are more than just fugitive guys who dress up as women? You’ve heard me speak above a whisper when we’re out. Nobody has reacted badly.”
“If anybody had ever told me that, at the ripe old age of thirty-seven, I’d be going out dressed as a woman, I’d have said they were nuts,” Dirk replied.
“Yeah, you’re an old fart, a veritable fossil,” Jim said, nodding in agreement. He was in his early thirties.
Dirk rolled his eyes. “I’ve been acting like a kid lately... we’ve spent more time playing video games than teenagers do...” Dirk quipped, and then his expression suddenly changed to a dour one, because that thought had led to ones of Trevor.
“He’ll be okay,” Jim said, reading Dirk’s mood and knowing the reason.
“Someone has tried to kill him, twice. Henry still thinks it was Bridget Bellevue and that cop friend of hers. It looks like a good fit, but he doesn’t know how they arranged the pirates or planted the bomb. All he has are theories. I just hope like hell he and Frank Tittle are right and Trev’s probably safe now that the indictment against us is filed,” Dirk said. The theory was that Bridget’s motive to kill Trevor had ended once the indictments were filed. It was a good theory; it just happened to be wrong.
“What’s bugging me is that his friends Joel and Lisa are hanging out with Bridget. Are you sure they wouldn’t be part of anything?” Jim asked.
Dirk sighed. “I think so, but who knows for sure... I know them both pretty well. I can’t see either of them willingly doing anything to hurt Trev, but I think Henry has a point; they could well be unwittingly helping Bridget because they don’t realize the danger. I’ve been trying to think how to warn them off, but everyone they’d be likely to trust thinks I’m a murderer.”
“There’s also the danger that they’d tip off Bridget,” Jim said. “There are potential dangers no matter what we do.”
Dirk nodded. “We’ll see how it goes when I meet with them. I think we should ask Henry to set it up for the 17th.”
“Might as well kill two birds with one stone,” Jim replied.
“If they’re still going to Australia that might work better; they can be warned then, because it’d carry a lot more weight,” Dirk said, glancing at the covered window as another flash lit it. “I’m glad they’ll be there. He’ll need friends, and it’ll only mean waiting a few days past the 17th.”
“It’ll certainly be a Christmas to remember,” Jim said, trying to lighten the mood and giving Dirk a pat on the back. “It might take time, but I think Trevor will forgive you, once he knows the truth.”
“I wish I could believe that,” Dirk replied, as another flash lit the windows, followed by a series of rolling thunderclaps so loud that they made the building shake. The storm, like another far beyond their hideaway, was raging, destined to worsen, its fury yet barely begun.
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.