Trevor’s demons clawed at his mind, filling him with a dread certainty that he’d either die or be left insane.
Trevor clutched at Shane’s arm. “Don’t let them...,” he gasped.
The words clued Shane in, and he said sharply, “Trev, you are not at sea, it’s OVER!” Shane’s voice changed and he added softly, over and over, “You’re safe”, while hugging Trevor to him.
Trevor’s breathing finally eased, and his shaking ebbed. He fumbled for Shane’s hand, and then clenched it, rolling his face towards Shane’s, which was just inches away. “I think I’m coming out of it, I think I’m okay now. What’s happening to me? I’ve never been so scared, even when...” Trevor’s voice trailed off and his trembling increased for a few moments, as again Trevor was on Atlantis with the pirates.
Shane hugged Trevor tightly. “You’re having a panic attack. It can’t hurt you, though it sure feels that way. They don’t last long, you’ll be fine. You’re safe.”
The feeling of Shane’s arms holding him helped, and Trevor felt his breathing begin to ease.
“We’re safe here, you’re okay,” Shane said in a reassuring tone as he gently took Trevor’s wrist and felt for a pulse, finding it to be very fast. “What you’re feeling isn’t real. I know, because I used to have ‘em. You’re going to be fine.”
Trevor’s breathing eased, and he rolled onto his back, sweating hard. “Oh fuck... what’s happening to me?”
“A panic attack. They suck but they can’t hurt you. I think... the stress you’ve had today might have let it loose. I wish I’d have told you I’d figured you out before I did. I could have saved you that agro.”
“It wasn’t that, Shane. It’s not you, it’s them... the fucking pirates; they did this to me,” Trevor said, shoving himself upright and hugging his knees, feeling anger in addition to the flurry of other emotions buffeting his mind.
Shane scooted over to sit next to Trevor, putting a reassuring arm across his shoulders. “You’ll be fine. It’ll help if you don’t dwell on what happened just now, not until you’ve had some rest. Take it easy for a bit and then we’ll get you back to Kookaburra. If you’re anything like me, you’ll get sleepy.”
Trevor shuddered at the mention of sleep, thinking of his nightmares. Part of him wanted to tell Shane of that nightly horror, but he couldn’t; part of what was wounded in Trevor was his pride. The panic attack had reinforced a vague sense of shame at what he felt, at a deep and visceral level, to be a manifestation of weakness. That was doubly grating, because the pirates had made him feel helpless and weak. His was not a conscious decision; it was more of a visceral need to avoid admitting his weakness to Shane. It wasn’t logical, but the troubled mind seldom is. And so, filled with an intense desire to change the subject and think of something else, Trevor asked, “Do they make you hungry too? I could eat a kangaroo right now, no problem.” Trevor turned to give Shane a wan smile; it was the best he could manage.
Shane smiled back. “Don’t let the roos hear you say that: they’ll get hopping mad,” he said with a soft chuckle, as though all was well. He knew better, but he also knew that one of the best things to do for someone right after a panic attack was to act as if it was of no great import.
Shane escorted Trevor back to Kookaburra, fixed him a microwave dinner, and by the end of it Trevor could barely keep his eyes open. As Trevor headed to his cabin to sleep, Shane said, “Wake me if you want to talk, or need anything at all.”
“Thanks, Shane, for... everything,” Trevor replied, and then stumbled off into bed.
Shane woke shortly after sunrise, thanks to the alarm he’d set. He pulled on a pair of boxers and padded out, creeping through the galley, where he paused to peek through Trevor’s open door, which he’d done several times during the night. After satisfying himself that Trevor was sleeping soundly, he silently padded up to the salon. There, he made a beeline for the nav desk. Intent on his task, he pulled out the satellite phone. Then, moving as silently as he could, he went out via the cockpit and then forward to the port bow – the furthest point from Trevor’s cabin. There, he turned on the sat phone and hit redial. He listened to it ring, and then, when he heard it connect and a ‘Hello?’ from the other end, Shane said, “G’day, Joel.”
In Florida, it was late afternoon, and Joel beamed as he replied, “Trev! Your Australian accent is getting better! How ya doing, bro?”
“I’m doing fine, Joel, except I’m not Trev. This is Shane. I live on Kookaburra – the boat Trev chartered. He’s not hurt or anything, but I need to talk to you.”
Joel was instantly on guard. “Okay... Where’s Trev?”
“He’s asleep in his cabin. The sun’s not yet up. I’ll take the phone to him if you’d like, but after we talk. He’s a good friend of mine and I’m very concerned for him. You know him better than I do, which is why I rang. He went through a horrible thing with those pirates and then the voyage here. I’ll get to the point; I’m seeing signs of things that remind me of the way I was... after something bad happened to me. He trembles at any mention of the pirates, though he’s okay talking about the Southern Ocean. He’s avoiding things, such as calling that cop out your way to see if he has to go home. He hasn’t even called the boatyard to see how Atlantis is fairing, and he was supposed to do that as well–”
“He hasn’t checked on Atlantis? You’re sure?” Joel asked, suddenly very concerned.
“He hasn’t, and I’ve even reminded him of it. He’s also had a panic attack – I used to have those, yonks ago, so I’m near certain that’s what he had: overwhelming fear, trouble breathing, heart pounding. They last a few minutes and he’s okay – for now. I need to know: have you ever known him to have a panic attack before?”
Joel gave Lisa a worried look, motioning for her to come listen in, and then replied, “As far as I know, no, and that doesn’t sound like Trev. Uh, he did have nightmares for a while; he fell overboard while crossing the Atlantic solo and came within a few inches of being left behind and dying. He said they went away after a while.”
“He hasn’t mentioned any nightmares, but... that’d fit, now that I think of it. I don’t think he sleeps well sometimes; he looks wrecked some mornings. I had nightmares for over a year – still do, on occasion. I ought to have realized he’d likely have them as well. I did ask him, but I think he changed the subject on me.” Shane paused for a few moments, and decided to explain the basis for his concerns. “I’m a surf lifesaver and I’ve had a fair amount of first-aid training, so that, plus my own past, taught me to handle someone having a panic attack. If he has what I had, the panic attacks are a symptom and I think it’s due to the pirates trying to kill him. That’s enough to screw with anyone’s head, and then he was alone and in danger for a very long time. He gets the shakes and shudders if the pirates are even mentioned. If I’m right, he needs some help to get through this. I can arrange that but it’ll be a while. Where we’re at, we can only leave at high tide in daylight, so tomorrow is the earliest. Another problem is I need Trev to handle the boat; I can’t con her in difficult waters, not without a lot of risk. If he has a panic attack while we’re at a tricky spot, it could be bad.”
Joel swallowed once, hugging Lisa to him. “Shit... What do you think he has?”
“Post traumatic stress disorder. That’s what I had when I was fifteen. From what I understand, it’s not life-threatening but it’s best treated early, which gives the best odds of a full recovery. They caught it a bit late with me, and I still have a few effects, though I mostly got over it. I was in counseling for a while and I had help besides. I couldn’t have kept it together otherwise. I’ll do what I can for Trev – we’re good friends, so don’t worry that he’s facing anything alone: he isn’t and he won’t be. I’ll get him to see a mental health specialist as soon as I can manage,” Shane said.
“I better warn you; Trev can be stubborn as a mule,” Joel replied.
“So can I, mate, so can I, especially when the need arises. I think Trev will be fine eventually. He had a very stressful day yesterday that may have made it worse, and that was partially my fault. He was trying to come out to me, got himself all tensed up over it, and I ought to have let him know that I already knew sooner than I did. I just didn’t recognize the warning signs in time. I let him know that I figured him out over a week ago, and that he’s no worries with me. But I think that stress may have been a trigger; it was only a few hours later when he had his attack.”
‘If Trev came out to him, then he trusts him,’ Joel thought, his mind racing for a moment, wondering what he should say. “Yeah, he can stress out over that stuff... but I’d think he’d be a lot less stressed after it was over.”
“I didn’t understand what he was getting at, not at first. He was... sort of tongue-tied, worse than I’ve ever seen him,” Shane replied.
“I’ve been on the receiving end of one of his coming-outs. He does get tongue-tied and come across strange. I had no idea what he was getting at, not at first, so I’m not surprised you didn’t. Is there anything we can do from here?” Joel asked.
“Maybe. That’s part of why I rang. He told me that some of the pirates plus some of his stuff was found in the Seychelles. He avoids the issue, but I was hoping they might have arrested the lot. I think knowing that might help Trev, if it’s so, but I don’t want to push him into asking you, only for him to find out they’re still out there somewhere.”
Joel blinked. “That’s right, he doesn’t know... I think I’ve got great news: They have three pirates under arrest in the Seychelles and all the rest are dead.”
“Dead? You’re sure? How?”
“Did Trev tell you about sneaking onto their trawler when he was after his EPIRB and dumping valve-grinding grit into their engine oil?” Joel asked.
“Yeah, he’s got bloody brass ones, to do what he did.”
For the first time during the call, Joel smiled faintly. “Trev got their asses: it worked. Gonzalez – the cop who has the case here – said the pirate ship’s engines failed, and then there was a fight and a mutiny. He said what caused it was the captain accusing some of the crew of sabotaging the engines. The ones in the Seychelles are the only survivors. The rest, including the captain, are dead.”
“Bloody fucking hell... that might be a very big help.”
Joel began to pace. “I don’t care what time it is here, have him call me when he can. Same goes for you: call me anytime. I can’t think of anything else we know for sure that would put his mind at ease...” Joel’s voice trailed off as he thought about mentioning his theory that Jim was behind the bombing, but then he decided that it could wait. “Oh, one other thing; he was hoping to get some emancipation papers. I’ve got them and I’ll be bringing them with me. They go into effect December 17th. Um, one other thing... Trev has just come out to you so he might kinda push you away. He did that to me; he was stressed that I’d take stuff the wrong way and think he was hitting on me or something. I hope he knows that was stupid, but... just watch for it, because this sounds like the worst possible time for him to do something like that.”
“Which means he bloody well might,” Shane said. A few moments later, he asked, “He seems okay so far – he knows I’ve known for quite a while – but what do I do if he does?”
“I think telling him directly that he’s being a moron would normally be best, but with him stressing out... just talk to him, don’t let him push you away,” Joel said, and then thought for a moment before adding, “Joking around helps. I accuse him of sexual harassment if he so much as sneezes. I started doing that just for fun, but I think it helps let him know that I’m fine with him. He’s a good and true friend, and a great guy. He just has some... issues accepting himself sometimes, I think. He was rejected at home because of this so I can’t blame him for being on edge. Call me anytime if you need advice or help, or there is anything I can do. And if he needs me there, let me know and I’ll see what I can do to get my father to change my ticket to come sooner. I’d miss semester finals so he might not, but I can try.”
“Thanks, and I’ll take you up on your offer and ring you for advice if I need to. He’s been a good friend to me, and he came along at a time when I was alone and needed one. I’ll take good care of him and see that he gets the help he needs,” Shane replied, pausing for a moment to jot down the phone number from the digital display.
Joel glanced at Lisa, and asked Shane, “We were going to surprise Trev, but seeing as how he’ll probably be on your boat for Christmas... I’ve gotta ask somebody; Trev doesn’t know, but Lisa is coming with me for a week. We’d both need a place to stay... can we stay aboard your boat?”
Shane chuckled softly. “Trev will be thrilled. He talks about you and Lisa all the time and misses you both a lot. But, it’s not my boat; I’m just the hired help. Trev is the charter, and I’m sure that if he wants to have guests board, that’s his choice to make. The Blakes – they own Kookaburra – already know you’re coming and would be staying aboard, so I doubt there would be any worries over Lisa. At worst, they might not provide food for you two the way they are for Trev, but that would be about it, I’d wager. I’ll check, just in case, and I won’t give the game away... but it’d be helpful if we knew whether Trev will have to fly home, as that’d change all the travel plans. It would also be more stress for him.”
“Yeah, Lisa and I need to know that too. My guess is Trev won’t do it, even if the police order him to. They’ve already ordered him to go back to Egypt and then come home, but he didn’t. Unless the cops give him one hell of a good reason, – one he agrees with – I just don’t see him doing it. He does need to call though – and the cop, Gonzalez, knows more than I do about what happened with the pirates, and there’s some stuff he’ll only tell Trev.”
“I’ll do what I can. One way or the other, you’ll hear from me or him within two days, I’ll make certain of it.”
“Do you think he’ll be okay? Level with me,” Joel asked.
“Based on what I went through, and what I know of the condition – assuming I’m right – then he’ll be fine, in time. It’s important to start dealing with it soon, because otherwise some of the problems can become permanent, as they did with me. My best guess is he’ll soon have nothing the matter with him – aside from walking into trees and being his usual crazy self,” Shane said.
Joel took a few moments to carefully phrase his reply. “Yeah, that’s good news. It’ll be great to have him back to his old self again. He... he just hasn’t sounded himself sometimes, when we’ve talked on the phone since he got to Carnarvon. Please let us know if we can help in any way. We’ll be careful to keep from stressing him out.”
“Thanks Joel, and I’m looking forward to meeting you,” Shane replied.
“Thanks, and thanks for being a friend to my brother. Sounds like he needs one more than ever now,” Joel replied.
“No worries, mate. Trev’s not the only one who’s loyal to his friends. I’ll take good care of him. What he needs most right now is a good mate, and that’s what he’s got.”
“Thanks Shane, talk to you soon,” Joel replied, and hung up his cell. He turned to Lisa, who had heard most of the call, and said, “I should have known something was wrong. It sure fits, after what Trev went through. I don’t like having to rely on Shane; we don’t know him, but he sounds like he and Trev are good friends, and he sounds like he cares.”
Lisa glanced out the window, thinking for a moment. “I wish we knew a psychiatrist. This sounds bad.”
“I’ll talk to my dad when I get home. Maybe he knows somebody... If he lets me go early, would you be okay making the trip by yourself? I don’t think your father would let you miss finals. I’m skeptical my parents will, unless it gets really serious.” Joel asked.
Lisa sat down on the guesthouse sofa and waited until Joel joined her. “I’d be fine, I’m just worried.”
Joel nodded. “I think we should find out when our last can’t-miss finals are; maybe we could get there a little sooner.”
“Good idea. Joel, do you think we can trust Shane? He better take care of Trev or the first thing I’ll do when I get there is rip his head off!”
Joel put his arm around Lisa’s shoulders. “From talking to him... I didn’t hear anything that made me think he’s not on the level, and I don’t think we have a choice, not until at least one of us can get there. He works on a yacht so he and Trev have that in common, but that’s all I know.”
Lisa angled her head. “Not exactly. We know a bit about what Shane looks like.”
Joel gave Lisa a puzzled look. “We do? How? Oh yeah, I think we do... trees!”
Lisa nodded. “He said he’s a surf lifesaver and he also mentioned Trev walking into trees. We both know what makes Trev walk into stuff, like bulkheads... or racking his nuts on a pool table, like you told me he did in Italy. My guess: Shane is a hotty.”
Joel smiled faintly and winced at the same time. “Shane didn’t say exactly, but from how he talked about Trev’s coming out to him, Shane is straight. Poor Trev... but it would have been hell if Shane had been homophobic. Trev needs a friend right now.”
“Let’s just hope he can get Trev to see a doctor. You know how stubborn he can be,” Lisa said, hugging Joel to her as they settled into the guesthouse sofa.
Trevor awoke with a start, his eyes opening wide. He was breathing hard and bathed in a cold sweat, wincing as the remnants of his nightmare faded away. He jumped out of bed, trembling. He stood for over a minute, waiting as his breathing returned to normal, and padded out into the galley. Trevor was halfway to the coffee pot when he remembered that he was still wearing just speedos.
Shane heard him and came bounding down the stairs, still in his boxers. “How are you feeling?” he asked, in a quiet tone.
Trevor shrugged. “Kinda shaky. Thanks for helping me; I think I’ll be okay now. It was probably just... stress.”
Shane shook his head. “I don’t think so. Hold your hands out.”
Trevor did as he’d been asked, seeing his hands trembling badly. He clenched and unclenched them, trying in vain to make it stop. “I’m just kinda shook up still, maybe,” he said, still trying to deny, even to himself, that he had a major problem.
Shane nodded towards the galley stairs. “Grab a cuppa and let’s go to the salon. I’d prefer it if we could get a professional to have a look at you, but we’re stuck here until the next high tide, at the soonest. You and I need to talk; that’s the first step in putting this right. Will you trust me?” Shane asked softly.
Trevor looked at Shane, feeling that he could trust him, and knowing, deep inside, that he needed to. He glanced down at his shaking hands and whispered, “I do trust you... I think it’s me I can’t trust right now.”
Shane led Trevor to the salon, where they sat down on the sofa, side by side. Shane took a deep breath, and began, “I used to have panic attacks. I’ve been a bit concerned for you for a while, but when you had your attack, I finally put the pieces together. I think you have what I had: kind of a delayed reaction to a terrible event in your life. You’ll be okay in time, but you need to deal with this soon; if left undealt with, it can become part of you. What they had me do was talk about what happened and stop trying to avoid it. We both know that if a certain thing is mentioned, or you even think about it, you shake and shudder.” Shane put his arms across Trevor’s shoulders, gave him a slight one-armed hug, and then added, “And that’s the pirates and what they tried to do to you.”
Trevor shuddered and winced, cringing from a memory that grew more painful with every recall. “Yeah, it... I keep going through it, in my head. I just... want it to stop.”
“Trev, it’ll stop, but only if you don’t close up. Are you having nightmares?”
Trevor took a few deep breaths. He was dreading what he was sure would be a long and painful conversation, but he trusted Shane. “Yeah, almost every night, sometimes more than once. It changes a little in the details, but it’s always pretty much the same. I’m back on Atlantis with the pirates... sometimes I wake up then, but sometimes... it goes all the way and they throw me overboard, tied up and weighted, only... this time I can’t get loose.”
Shane sighed, giving Trevor another reassuring one-armed hug. “I wish you’d have said that earlier when I asked. I went through the nightmares too... it took a long time for me to get over them – and I had help. I should have guessed what was going on... but I tend to block those memories. Okay, now this might hurt some, but it’s important; you know that some of the pirates are in the Seychelles, but since you learnt that, you shut it out. You don’t want to know what happened. Is it because you don’t want to think of them being still out there, still a danger?”
Trevor was shuddering violently, his chest tightening up. “I... don’t know. I just can’t! I don’t want to think about them. I’ve never been so scared or so helpless... I couldn’t do any–fucking–thing, and... They were... for those first days after I got back on Atlantis, I was so fucking scared they’d come back. I kept my gun with me every minute until I’d put a few hundred miles behind me. Once I got here, I thought I could handle the nightmares, but when Joel said some had been found in the Seychelles, I... it just brought it all back, and I keep remembering how I felt in those first days, I was so scared they’d come for me again...”
“That’s part of what haunts you, isn’t it? That somehow, they might come back,” Shane said softly. Trevor trembled even harder, and Shane added, “You weren’t as helpless as you think, Trev. Not even close. They can’t come back. Not won’t, can’t. The crewmen in prison in the Seychelles are the only survivors. The engines failed and the captain thought it was sabotage by some of the crew. He went after some of the crew and it caused a mutiny that killed most of them. I don’t know the details, but you got the fuckers, Trev. They tried to kill you, but it’s you that killed them. They can’t ever bother you – or anybody else – ever again. They’re dead as a maggot.”
Trevor’s head snapped around, his eyes opening wide. “I got ‘em? The grit in the engines fucking worked? Are you sure? And how do you know about it?”
Shane felt Trevor’s trembling ease, and smiled. “I figured that some good news would help you. I was hoping they were all in prison, so while you were sleeping I rang Joel. He gave me the good news. There’s more too, but that cop won’t tell Joel. He said he’d only tell you. Sounds like very good news all around to me.”
Belatedly, what Shane had said about himself registered with Trevor. “What happened... to make you have what I’ve got, I mean?”
“I’ll tell you a little later; I think it’d be a bit rough on both of us right now,” Shane replied gently.
Trevor looked out at Rhys Lagoon, wanting to believe what he’d been told about the pirates. “What about their captain? Is he a prisoner, or dead?” Trevor asked.
“Joel didn’t say. I don’t know if he knows that or not. He did say that the cop knows more about it, but will only tell you.”
Trevor hesitated, his emotions warring. Finally, he took a deep breath to steel his resolve and said, “I need to know if their captain is dead. He’s the one who put the weight belt on me and had me thrown overboard to die. I see him... I see him almost every fucking night. Can I use the sat phone to make a couple of calls?”
Shane smiled. “That’s a big change, right there. Before, you were hiding and avoiding. Mr. Blake said you could use it, and this sure qualifies as important,” Shane said, giving Trevor another one-armed hug.
“Maybe I’ll be okay now and not need a doctor,” Trevor offered.
Shane shook his head. “Not a chance, mate. You need a professional to have a look at you. There’s no good reason not to, and a big reason to do it. I’ve already made an appointment for you at the mental health clinic in Carnarvon. In case you hadn’t noticed, I can be a pushy bastard, especially for a good cause. It won’t just be me either; I have no doubts that Mr. Blake will be fully on my side on this.”
Trevor shuddered, but this time it had nothing to do with pirates. “Please don’t tell him; he’ll take Kookaburra away from me. I know he will, because it’s what I’d do.”
Now it was Shane’s turn to shudder. “Trev... that puts me in a hell of a fix. I have to look after Kookaburra; I can’t betray the Blakes’ trust and act against them – and I can’t act against you, either. Please don’t do this to me.”
Trevor chewed on his lip, and then his shoulders slumped. “We’ve got to get Kookaburra back to Carnarvon anyway, right? The only part I don’t think you could handle if you had to is at the mouth of the lagoon, and then the harbor in Carnarvon. We’ll go super slow through the shallows here and if I start to feel weird again, we’ll just anchor, let the tide go out, and keep going on the next tide. Once we get to Carnarvon, we’ll do the same, only there we could call the customs guys to help us if we had to. I think I’ll be okay, but even if I’m not, we can get Kookaburra back to her berth. Once we’re there, she’s safe... and okay, I’ll go see the doctor. We won’t go to sea again unless he gives me an okay. Would that take you off the hook with the Blakes?” And with that, Trevor shuddered again, as he came face to face with the ugliest truth of all; in his current condition, he was no longer fit to captain a boat – not Kookaburra, and worst of all, not Atlantis. That ugly truth proved too much for Trevor to accept, so his mind once again turned away from dealing with it.
“It would. Thanks, Trev. Now, your doctors’ appointments are on Friday morning so we’ve a few days yet. We can stay here until Thursday. I have a hunch you’ll be doing better by then. It’ll also give you a chance to make your calls and unwind a bit.”
Trevor glanced at the clock. “It’s almost nine in the morning here, so... nearly eight at night yesterday in Florida. I’ll call Officer Gonzalez first, then Lisa and Joel.”
Trevor dug out Gonzalez’s number, and sat down next to Shane, holding the phone between them. Trevor dialed, and then nodded to Shane, inviting him to lean in and listen. As soon as Officer Gonzalez picked up, Trevor introduced himself.
“I’m glad you finally called,” Officer Gonzalez replied, in a slightly testy tone, before adding in a warmer voice, “Good to hear your voice again. I’m glad you’re okay, and I’m sorry about what happened to you.”
“I’ve been keeping out of sight, just in case someone tries again. I really need to know, what happened to the pirates?” Trevor asked, beginning to shake again.
Trevor listened as Gonzalez explained what he’d learned; that except for the two pirates in a Seychelles prison, all were dead – the hospitalized pirate having died the day before. Gonzalez confirmed that the pirate captain was among the dead, evoking a sigh of profound relief from Trevor.
Gonzalez quickly shifted to the main reason he’d been so insistent that Trevor call. For the next few minutes, Gonzalez quizzed Trevor about meeting Jim at the Strait of Messina and about the propane tanks. Trevor was able to confirm, to Gonzalez’s satisfaction, that the bomb could not have been put aboard in Italy, due to Trevor having filled one tank from the storage locker in Mykonos, Greece, and that the other – the one found in the Suez Canal – had been filled in Florida. That, thanks to the Egyptian chemical analysis of the tank they’d found, was proof; the swap had to have occurred after Mykonos and thus could not have been done by Jim Ainsworth in Italy. Gonzalez at last had something ironclad that he could take to the State Attorney.
Gonzalez then told Trevor that Atlantis had likely been tracked by the pirates via her AIS code, and then he asked the obvious question: “Who, besides you, knew that code?”
“I changed it back in Florida... I didn’t change it after that. So, I guess anybody who had an AIS radar could read that code. That’s some boats and some shore radars too. Uh, I know they have it in the Suez Canal.”
“Did you ever leave your boat unattended in the canal area? Could someone have come aboard and got it?” Gonzalez asked.
Trevor told Gonzalez about leaving Atlantis during his three stops in the canal, and then added, “You can’t get the code out of the system unless it’s powered up. To do that, they’d need to be in the salon at the nav station, and I kept the salon locked.”
“We know someone got aboard to switch that tank for the bomb, and my hunch is it was most likely in the canal. They could have picked the lock, or as you said, they could have gotten the code from a shore station or another boat there. Now, did anyone else know the code? Anyone at all?” Gonzalez asked.
“No, nobody, just Joel, and he’d never tell anyone,” Trevor replied, and then suddenly realized that he might have put Joel under suspicion. “But anyone with an AIS radar could have got the code. They see Atlantis – her name is on her hulls – check their radar, and there’s the code – and I did have an encounter with what was probably pirates off the north coast of Somalia. I was part of a convoy of yachts, and Atlantis was the outlier to the south. The skiff came from there, and I was told that’s a common tactic; they send a skiff from a base ship that’s out of sight. The first boat the skiff came close to was Atlantis. It paced us for a bit. I didn’t see a radar antenna, but at that range they could have had a hidden AIS set and antenna aboard.” It was a reasonable observation for Trevor to make; he had no way of knowing that the two pirate encounters were unconnected.
Gonzalez was silent for several moments. He could, and did, believe that Bridget might have somehow been able to hire one group of pirates, but two was a stretch. That left him wondering whether Joel and Lisa had been fully co-opted by Bridget, or were merely unwittingly giving Bridget information. “My guess is still that they got your code in the canal. Someone ashore in the canal area tried to trigger the bomb by phone, so my working theory is the swap for the propane tank was made there as well. Trevor, we think someone here is behind this. I can’t say who.” Gonzalez wished he could, but he judged the risk of word getting back to Bridget to be too great. “Don’t talk about this on the phone to anyone, anywhere; the risk is too high, but we think your father was framed. The phone in the bomb was taken from his store, and then he sent you the box with a rock from your house in it, unaware that the phone was gone. If he’d been involved, I think it very unlikely he’d have sent you that rock.”
“Why are they doing this, and... are they going to try again?” Trevor asked.
“We don’t know, but our best read on it is probably not. As for why... we have a good idea on that, but I can’t get into that with you. My advice to you is to play it safe and act as though they’ll try again. Keep your location a secret from everyone. Do not disclose it over a phone.”
“Look, somebody tried to kill me twice and you think you know who. You have to tell me! I need to know so I can protect myself. I need to know why,” Trevor said, a hint of anger and frustration coloring his words.
“I wish I could, Trevor. I can’t, not without jeopardizing our chance to bring them to justice and put a permanent end to all of this. I hope that will be very soon.”
“What about my mother... Please, I need to know, did my father kill her?” Trevor asked.
Gonzalez believed that Dirk was probably guilty of killing Rachel. Too much pointed to that conclusion; the timing of the divorce filing and Dirk’s attempt to increase Rachel’s insurance, Dirk’s persistent initial refusal to be interviewed even for an unrelated case in which he wasn’t a suspect, and most damning of all, something Henry didn’t know: Gonzalez had thought to check on exactly how a catamaran like Ares could sink. A bomb could do it via rupturing her built-in floatation cells, but it was highly unlikely that a radio call could have been made after a sufficiently large blast. The same was true of the only other calm-seas event that could conceivably sink her: being run under by a large ship. Thus, Gonzales had long since concluded that the voice making the ‘Taking on water’ mayday call might not have been Rachel’s at all. He also had no way of confirming where it was sent from; it had been too brief for triangulation. It could, as far as he knew, have been sent from any marine radio, and Gonzalez was well aware that Dirk had many of them. The flip side of that theory was that it was a woman’s voice on the tape – the recording quality was enough to confirm that, but little else – and someone who knew Rachel then, and in Gonzalez’s opinion did not shirk from murder, happened to be a woman: Bridget Bellevue. Dirk’s actions, especially in regard to the insurance, tipped Gonzalez’s opinion against him, but Gonzalez was no longer certain. The point was moot in this instance anyway; he could not share his suspicions with Trevor. He answered the only way he felt he could. “I don’t know, but I’m doing my level best to find out.”
Trevor sighed in frustration. “I have something set up that might answer that. If I can get back in time, I’ll be taking a professor and his new towed sidescan synthetic-aperture sonar out to find Ares. If we find her, could you... could you look at her to see what really happened?”
“That could help a very great deal. If you find the wreck, touch nothing. Keep me posted on that, and let me know in advance before you come home and get that underway,” Gonzalez replied.
“Are you going to tell me I have to fly home for the legal stuff?” Trevor asked.
Gonzalez allowed himself a wry smile. “Technically, I’m supposed to do just that; the prosecution – and the Egyptians – are still insisting on interviewing you. However, under the circumstances, my personal opinion is that you’re safer there. I also have a hunch that even if I ordered you home again, you wouldn’t come.”
“Ah... I think you’re right, officer. I’ll stay put, for now. I kind of have to; my boat was badly damaged and it’ll take a while to repair her. Uh, about that... what about my stuff in the Seychelles? Did they recover all of it?” Trevor asked, hoping.
“Sorry, all they have is a life jacket, an EPIRB, and a few bits of hull fittings. Most of your things were either dumped at sea after the engines completely gave out, or sold before they grabbed the surviving pirates. Also, the parts they have are going to have to stay there as evidence for quite some time,” Gonzalez said, and then he moved on to another issue that concerned him, “I haven’t seen any mention of your arrival on the news, and I did check. How are you keeping your story out of the press?”
Trevor briefly explained what they’d done – without revealing Carnarvon’s name – and summed it up with, “I think it worked, but we’ll be careful.”
Gonzalez chuckled. “Very clever. However, if the story breaks, see about relocating. Also, if it happens, check with the local authorities and have them contact me; I’ll tell them that I have reason to believe that your life may be in danger, and I’ll ask them for their help in keeping you safe and your whereabouts unknown.”
Trevor and Gonzalez talked for a few more minutes as Gonzalez asked a few more questions: mainly minor details about Atlantis’s layout, what the pirates had taken, and Trevor’s experiences in the Suez Canal.
When the questions ended, Trevor asked, “So what happens now?”
“I’ll keep doing what I can to get this case wrapped up. Stay in touch with me and hopefully I’ll be able to give you an all-clear soon. I’ll also tell you whatever I can as soon as it’s okay for me to do so. In the meantime, don’t reveal your location to anyone, especially over the phone.” Gonzalez still believed – thanks to the timing of the indictment – that Bridget no longer had a motive to kill Trevor. Even so, he couldn’t rule out the possibility that she’d try again. The warnings against using the phone were as close as Gonzalez felt he could come to warning Trevor not to say anything to Lisa or Joel, lest it find its way to Bridget’s ears.
As soon as Trevor hung up, he said, “I’d better call Lisa and Joel.”
Shane, of his own accord, gave Trevor space by heading for the galley. Trevor made the call, which caught Lisa and Joel at the mall. They both quizzed him on his condition and how he was feeling. Trevor then gave them a rundown on his call to Gonzalez, which included the news that he wasn’t flying home. They talked for a while, and Trevor felt the old familiarity returning.
“You’re going to see a doctor, right?” Joel asked pointedly.
“Yeah, Shane won’t let me out of it. I have an appointment and I’m going... I think I’m a hell of a lot better now that I know the pirates are dead, but... I still shudder a little when I talk about them, even just now,” Trevor said.
Lisa, who was sharing the phone with Joel, added her voice to the issue. “You’d better go. I looked up what Shane said you have; it can be nasty if left untreated. All kinds of side effects, personality disorders, you name it. But, catching it early helps a lot. So, go!”
“Remember those emancipation papers you were promised when you got past the halfway point? Your father signed them and Joel got them from the private investigator. We’ve checked; they’re valid, and they take effect December 17th. Joel will be bringing them to you, but whether you have them or not, you’re legally an adult on December 17th,” Lisa said.
Trevor blinked. “Whoa... Dad really did it, just like he promised? That’s great news! That means I don’t have to wait for my eighteenth birthday to come home,” Trevor blurted without thinking. He’d expected his exile to last until June of 2007.
In the galley, Shane was busy preparing breakfast, and heard Trevor’s exclamation. Shane froze for a moment, his smile turning into a sad, hurt frown as he resumed working.
“Okay, so, can Shane hear this call?” Lisa asked.
“My end, probably,” Trevor replied, puzzled.
“What’s he like? We heard you’ve been walking into things,” Lisa asked, in an innocent tone.
“Lisa!” Trevor hissed, knowing exactly what she was getting at.
“That means he’s a hotty,” Lisa replied, chuckling.
“True, and... yeah,” Trevor replied, smiling and feeling at ease.
Trevor kept the call to a moderate length out of concern for the bill, and promised to call again as soon as he received his cell phone.
Grinning, Trevor said his goodbyes.
As soon as the call was over, Joel asked, “So, what do you think?”
Lisa looked around the mall for a moment, thinking. Finally, she replied, “I played around with him a little to see how he reacted. He seems more like his old self – sort of.”
“I hope so... He sounded okay to me, but it’s hard to tell over a phone. I heard him admit that Shane’s hot though, and that sounded like normal for him. Still though, I’m glad we didn’t tell him what we’ve found out from the professor about the search for Ares; he’d freak if he knew he had to be back here by early March,” Joel said, wincing.
“That’s news he doesn’t need right now. What can he do anyway? Atlantis won’t be fixed in time, and you said he can’t change the boat he’s doing a rental replacement on.”
“I wonder... Trevor said Kookaburra is like Atlantis, only a bit newer, so maybe she could be used if she’s fast enough for that sonar. He’d have to leave soon, but he could probably get back here in time, do the search, and take her back again,” Joel said.
Lisa shuddered. “This is a hell of a mess. He’s in no condition to try something like that! And we both know he’d try: he’s absolutely driven to find Ares. If we don’t tell him, we could cost him the chance to ever find her, and if we do tell him, he could get himself killed.”
“Let’s see how it goes when he sees the shrink. Maybe he’ll be okay again soon. I hate it, but if he’s okay, it’s got to be his decision,” Joel said.
Lisa gave voice to another pressing concern, “We’re running out of time if we’re going to get to the bottom of whatever is going on with people trying to kill him. Do you still think Jim got Atlantis’s AIS code when you were approaching the Strait of Messina?”
“I do, and I don’t... I keep changing my mind. He could have got it before he met with us, or even after, but why the hell would he meet with us if that’s what he was up to? He could have just gotten the code from his radar and gone; we’d have never known he was there. But, he came aboard, and then the first thing he had Trevor do was call Officer Gonzalez. That sorta makes sense to get Trev’s father off the hook, but that doesn’t fit if Jim was the one trying to blow up Trev. I also can’t think of any reason why he’d want to kill Trev. And now we know that the bomb had to be planted after Mykonos, it’d mean he had to have made a separate trip with a bomb – how could he travel with one anyway – or gotten somebody else to do it. It just doesn’t make any sense no matter how I think it through,” Joel said, scratching his head.
“I agree... We’re missing something, or he’s not the one. On TV, they always talk about motive first. I think that’s what we’ve got to focus on; who would have a motive to blow up Trev?” Lisa asked.
Joel’s eyes glazed over for a moment, and he asked quietly, “What if it’s not Trev... what if it’s Atlantis that’s the target? They tried to blow her up, and then the pirates stripped and tried to sink her. What if they were after something that was on her – and got it?”
“But what, and who?” Lisa asked, trying to make sense of the confusing jumble of facts. “If they were after something aboard, they wouldn’t have tried to blow her up. And if they got it in the Suez when Atlantis was robbed, they wouldn’t have needed to go after her a second time.”
“Atlantis was Trev’s Mom’s boat, just like Ares. Jim told me that Trev’s father was going to have Jim keep Atlantis out of sight when Trev’s dad told Trev he was going to sell her. That makes sense, if there’s something about her... something they need to keep hidden. But if that’s the case, why would Jim drop in on us in Italy and make himself a suspect? And why would he tell us he’d have kept Atlantis until Trev is eighteen? None of this makes any damn sense,” Joel said, shaking his head in frustration. “We’ve got to go through with the meeting with Trev’s dad, I guess,” Joel said, his eyes glazing over for a moment as something clicked, and a vague thought began to nag at the back of his mind as they made their way to the food court.
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. Special thanks to Colinian and Low Flyer for pointing out two issues that needed fixing.