It was a beautiful afternoon as Trevor and Shane, in their matching blue running shorts, set out on a counterclockwise run around Rhys Lagoon.
Heading south, they kept mainly to the shore, turning east as they reached the southern end. Upon arriving at the shallow entrance to the lagoon, which connected it to the rest of Boat Haven Loop, they paused to look for a way across. It was mid tide, so the water was only a couple of feet deep. That made for an easy wade most of the way, shoes in hand to keep them dry.
When they reached the opposite side, Trevor stood on the shore, looking back at the shallows. “If you need to get us out of here, the best way would be to follow the GPS track I laid down on the way in.”
“I’m not worried about it, mate, as I think you’ll do fine. You seem better today, and I don’t mean just the phone calls this morning. Don’t stress out worrying you’ll have another attack; that brought on more than one of my own. If it happens, it happens. Just let me know if you feel the warning signs – so let’s see how it goes, but I think you’re on the upswing now. You still need to see a ‘doc, though,” Shane said.
They continued their run, and Trevor replied, “Yeah, I know. I’ll do it...”
Shane decided to push a bit. “How bad are your nightmares?”
Trevor shuddered. “Bad. Like what happened on the beach, only... worse. When I wake up, I’m scared out of my mind, gasping for air and covered in sweat. What scared me the most about that attack on the beach is it... it wasn’t just a nightmare anymore, I was awake.”
“Sounds to me like your nightmares are a sort of panic attack, or they bring them on. Don’t worry, you don’t need to face them alone anymore,” Shane said, giving Trevor a smile and sprinting ahead, though Trevor soon caught up.
They continued their run, returning to Kookaburra for cold cokes. With a can in hand, Trevor ambled over to the navigation console, where he began tapping keys to bring up the GPS track. “Shane, just in case I have another attack at the wrong time, I’ve set the course out of here on the display. I think you could do it, if you had to. I’ll check the tide tables–” Trevor’s words ended abruptly as he looked at the tables, and then he asked, in a confused tone, “Uh, Shane… my appointment is Friday, so we have to leave Thursday, right?” Shane nodded, so Trevor added, “What day is it today?”
“Wednesday, so we’ll leave tomorrow,” Shane said, just before a look of doubt crept across his face. “At least, I think it is.”
Trevor tapped a few more keys, bringing up the satellite weather display, which contained the date. “Uh, today is Thursday, so there’s no way to get to Carnarvon in time; we’ve already missed the last daylight high tide.”
Shane leaned in to stare at the display for a moment. “Oh, fuck… I could have sworn… Okay, I gotta make a phone call,” Shane said, reaching for the satellite phone.
Shane was in luck, and two fast calls were all it took to move the appointments to Monday. After the last call ended, Shane gave Trevor a bashful look, his cheeks coloring. “We’ll leave on Sunday’s daylight high tide. Sorry Trev, I guess I sorta lost count of the days and didn’t realize.”
Trevor glanced at the tide tables. “Sunday will work fine; the high tide is eleven-thirty in the morning. He gave Shane a thoughtful look. “Hmmm, I think I know what your real problem is,” Trevor said, which evoked a concerned look from Shane. Trevor waited a moment before adding, with a wicked grin. “Lost count of the days, huh? You can’t count!”
“A cruel and abusive bastard, that’s what you are,” Shane declared, a smile spreading across his face.
“Or,” Trevor continued, “It might be that you’re just confused and don’t realize that you’re in Australia, which perversely insists on being on the far side of the International Date Line. Or maybe the Australian calendar, in addition to having backwards seasons, has two or more Wednesdays in every week?”
“Bastard!” Shane declared, laughing and lunging at Trevor, his fingers seeking Trevor’s ribs.
Trevor darted away from the tickle attack, laughing his ass off, pleased as hell that he now had something to tease Shane about that was almost as good as walking into things. “Maybe you can count, but not numbers higher than three?” Trevor asked, backpedaling to keep clear of Shane.
“Count this,” Shane said, laughing and raising his middle finger in Trevor’s direction, which gave Trevor the opening he’d been waiting for. Trevor dashed in, taking advantage of Shane’s raised arm to reach his ribs. Trevor’s questing fingers caused Shane to spin away, doubling over and laughing. Trevor, with a laugh of his own, dashed out into the cockpit.
Shane, shaking his head and chuckling joined Trevor, and the sun lowered towards the western horizon, they decided to take a quick swim before dinner, and Shane, as usual, went to get changed. When Shane reappeared in speedos, Trevor, through a feat of intense concentration, barely managed to avoid walking into the salon doorframe – Twice.
After a swim and water fight, they re-boarded Kookaburra, laughing in the last rays of the setting sun. It had been a surreal day for Trevor; he’d feared the onset of another attack, and at times, he felt his hands shaking slightly, though the crushing fear never came. He made it through the day.
Later that night, after a movie and a few beers each, Shane vanished for a few minutes, reappearing in boxers instead of the speedos he’d been wearing. “I like boxers for sleeping in,” Shane said offhandedly.
Thinking nothing of it, Trevor nodded. “Me too, but I don’t have any right now. I just wear boardies, if anything,” he said, flicking a thumb at the boardies he was wearing, and then glancing at the salon’s clock. It was getting late, and though Trevor had come to dread sleep, he knew it couldn’t be avoided for long. “I think I’m going to crash. G’night, Shane, and... Thanks, I don’t think I could have made it through this without you,” he said, turning to head for his cabin.
“That’s what mates are for,” Shane said, getting up to follow and walking into Trevor’s cabin right behind Trevor.
Trevor gave Shane a puzzled look. “What’s up?” he asked.
“Nothing, I’m just going to bed. That means in here with you, in case you’re in your oblivious mode again,” Shane replied, chuckling as he bounced into Trevor’s bed. In a quieter tone, he added, “I know what it’s like to have nightmares. I told you my old best mate Gazza used to help me, and one of the ways he did it was sleeping with me so he could wake me when I started to have a nightmare. So quit standing there and get in here,” Shane said, chuckling and patting the bed beside him.
Surprised, Trevor hesitated for a moment before climbing in and lying down beside Shane. “Thanks... and you can trust me not to–”
Shane chuckled, laying back beside Trevor and interrupting him with a gentle elbow to the ribs. “No worries, mate. Gazza and I shared a bed loads of times. He started doing it after I finally admitted to him that I was having nightmares. He was more help to me than the counseling. He was the only person in my life, after mum died, that I could talk to. We were thick as thieves before the accident, but I pushed everyone away. After the social worker got me some help, Gazza and I talked and I told him why I’d been acting like I had. He stayed over that night and slept in my bed, the first time he’d ever done that. I ended up staying over at his house several times a week; his parents were okay with that; they knew what had happened and what I was going through. Gazza... I don’t think I’d have made it without him. I still miss him.”
Trevor rolled his head towards Shane’s, and their eyes met. “What happened to him?” Trevor asked.
Shane sighed. “Same as everyone I get close to; he left. I can’t blame him though; he was sixteen so he had no choice when his parents decided to move. His old man had gotten a job offer down in Victoria, so they all moved. That was a year after the accident, so I was pretty much okay and getting on with my life, but it hurt like hell and set me back a ways... anyway, what’s past is past.” Shane flipped over onto his stomach, snaking his right arm across Trevor’s chest. “Just relax. I’ll feel it if you start having a nightmare. You don’t have to face this alone, Trev,” Shane said, clicking off the light and then snuggling up to Trevor, hesitating before adding, “Trev, please don’t do anything stupid like… you did before, on the beach.”
It took Trevor a moment to grasp the implication: that Shane was well aware of the effect he had on him, and was warning him off thinking of pirates. Knowing that he needed to say something, though not willing to admit to what Shane already clearly knew, Trevor quipped, “You sure think highly of yourself, don’t ya?”
Shane snickered. “I’m just not oblivious to the facts, mate. I mean, who wouldn’t get turned on by me?”
Trevor blinked, and then lost it, consumed by laughter. “Holy fuck… have you got an ego, or what?” Trevor quipped, the tension gone, precisely as Shane had intended.
“You finally noticed? Took you bloody long enough,” Shane replied, chuckling and shaking his head. “I’m not really that egotistical… almost, but not quite.”
The sensation of Shane snuggled up beside him; the touch of Shane’s arm on his bare chest, the feel of warm skin against his own, was intensely arousing, and Trevor was well aware that a certain part of his body had a mind of its own and was at full attention. Instead of pirates, he thought of Shane, and that he might never see him again after sailing for Florida. That heartache was almost as effective as thinking of pirates had been.
They lay together in comfortable silence for several minutes, listening to one another’s breathing.
Trevor asked, in part to take his mind off the intimate contact, “You said you never totally got over it. What did it do to you?”
Shane was silent for several long moments, and then he replied, in a quiet, subdued, sleepy voice, “It was a long time before I got help, and so some stuff got ingrained, I guess. I don’t think you need to worry about that; hopefully we’ve caught you early enough.”
Trevor realized that Shane hadn’t actually answered his question, and wondered why. ‘He doesn’t want to tell me what it is. Either he thinks it’d scare me because I might end up that way, or... it’s like me and the pirates, he just shoves it aside and won’t think about it.’ Trevor lay thinking for quite some time, and then whispered, “Shane, maybe it’d help if you talked about it.” Trevor listened for an answer, but all he heard was Shane’s rhythmic breathing. Assuming that Shane had fallen asleep, Trevor decided to wait until the next day.
Shane felt Trevor’s breathing change as Trevor drifted off to sleep. Feeling a slight pang of guilt for his deceptions, Shane listened to the water lapping at Kookaburra’s hulls. ‘I wish I could tell you all of it, Trev, but you’re probably leaving too...’ Shane thought, feeling very much alone as his mind wandered off towards sleep.
Once again on Atlantis, Trevor felt the prod against his chest, his phantom eyes fluttering open to see the pirates gathered around. The fear, intense and cutting, gripped him, as again he was hauled to his feet and Ali strapped the weight belt around his torso. Always, there was the aft rail, waiting... and Trevor began to struggle in vain, knowing they were sending him to his death. His nightmare played on, as it had so many times before, in total, all-consuming fear. This time though, as the pirates hauled him towards the aft rail, Trevor heard a new voice, and felt a faint, warm touch around his chest. The voice was faint, growing louder, “Tell ‘em they’re dead, Trev. Tell ‘em they’re fish food.”
Confused and reassured by the soft melodic voice in his ear, Trevor raised his head to stare at the pirates. He looked into the cold eyes of their leader, eyes he had seen a thousand times, but now, he felt something in addition to fear as the rough hands grasped him. Trevor heard the voice again, its lilting, beautiful accent making him feel no longer alone. In vain, he tried to speak, but he couldn’t make his mouth work. The voice in his ear grew louder still, the phantom pirates fading, their touch no longer so real.
The sensation of a warm, caring arm tightening across his chest pulled Trevor further from his self-made hell, the terror waning, his perceptions shifting, until he felt safe in bed, with a warm form cuddled up against his side.
Trevor’s nightmare was over for the night, and he slept soundly until after the dawn.
Trevor awoke lying on his back, his head still fogged by sleep. He took a deep breath, feeling the weight of his arm across his stomach, only to glance down and see that it wasn’t his. Neither was the mass of blond hair on his shoulder.
Trevor rolled his head, lightly bumping into Shane’s. Facing each other, nose to nose, their eyes met, and Shane mumbled, “Hi.”
“Hi,” Trevor replied, with a sleepy grin.
Shane was laying face down, his right arm draped over Trevor’s midriff. He moved slightly, nestling his head on Trevor’s shoulder. “You make a nice pillow,” Shane mumbled, giving Trevor a light squeeze with his right arm.
Trevor’s right arm was behind Shane. Absently, he brought his hand up to Shane’s back and rubbed lightly in a circle. Coming more awake, Trevor realized what he was doing and thought, ‘I can’t, he’s straight, he trusted me so he could help me,’ letting his hand fall away.
Shane pulled closer, yawning, moving his right arm up to perch his hand on Trevor’s pec. “How’d the nightmare go? I felt one and half woke you up. You’ve seemed okay since. At least, nothing that woke me. Sleep well?”
Trevor, coming awake in a lot of ways due to Shane’s touch and closeness, nodded. “I remember hearing you. I don’t think I had any more trouble. Thanks...”
“I think you’ll be sleeping more soundly from here on...” Shane said, moving his right hand slightly, extending his fingertips slowly on Trevor’s pec, and then stopping abruptly, mumbling in a sour tone, “Until you go, at any rate.” Shane suddenly rolled away and stood up, calling back over his shoulder, “Time for some brekkie.”
Confused by Shane’s sudden mood shift, Trevor waited for his raging case of morning wood to go down, wondering how he could go on sleeping with Shane without giving in to his instincts.
When Trevor finally padded out into the galley, he found the coffee ready and Shane, still in his boxers, busy making omelets. Shane, back to his usual happy demeanor, grinned at Trevor. “Make the toast, if you can handle it,” Shane quipped.
Throughout breakfast, they bantered back and forth, with Trevor feeling happy, relaxed, and well rested.
The cheese omelets with bacon were delicious, a fact Trevor declared more than once.
As they finished up, Shane said, “How about some snorkeling today? There are some interesting rock channels near the drop-off about two hundred meters east of us. They’re not that deep – I don’t think anywhere in Rhys Lagoon is over twenty meters – but they’re fun to explore and there’s a fair amount a small fish.”
Trevor nodded eagerly, and then froze. “That sounds great, but what if I have another attack while we’re underwater?”
Shane gave Trevor a reassuring pat on the back. “I thought of that... I don’t think you will, but if you start to feel afraid, just surface. They don’t come on instantly, and it’s not as if there won’t be a certified lifesaver at your side,” Shane said.
“I’m game if you are,” Trevor said, wanting to go snorkeling, and needing to find out if he could still do it. He hated the way the panic attacks made him feel deficient, and hoped that he’d seen the last of them.
“I’m always game... let’s give it a go,” Shane declared.
“Should we take powerheads?” Trevor asked, thinking of sharks, plus one other reason.
“Sharks don’t like the salinity here, but bull sharks are notorious for going places most sharks won’t, such as rivers, and I’ve seen sharks a couple of times in the south end of Boat Haven Loop, which is pretty much as salty as here. Not sure what sort they were, but they could have been bulls, and bulls kill more people in Australia than all others combined. I doubt we’ll have trouble – most attacks occur in cloudy water – but it can’t hurt to take the gear.”
Trevor smiled. “I’m kind of surprised that you’d trust me with firearms or snorkeling, considering what a mess I am,” he said, broaching his second reason.
Shane scowled. “Don’t be so hard on yourself. I have it too, so I know what it’s like. It’s not like you’re crazy.”
“I’ve always been crazy, so that’s not a problem,” Trevor replied, feeling at ease again thanks to Shane’s confidence in him.
“Come on, I’ll show you the gear,” Shane said, leading the way through the salon and down the stairs to the portside corridor between the port cabins – an area occupied by the galley on the starboard side on both Atlantis and Kookaburra. Trevor looked around, seeing the main electrical panel and the pump controls, similar but newer than on Atlantis. Shane opened a tall storage locker – which looked like, and had been, a small coat closet. “This is where we keep the powerheads, ammo, dive knives, and other gear.”
They gathered up the gear, returning to the salon where they checked the ammo – it was sealed with nail polish, to keep it dry – and put loaded powerheads on the tips of spears.
“We usually leave the spear guns uncocked until we’re in the water; cocking is best done at the right time, after all,” Shane said, turning to give Trevor a wry smile.
For once, Trevor caught one of Shane’s many double-entendres, replying with an easy smirk and a shrug, “Cocking in the water works for me.”
“That’s SEXUAL HARASSMENT!” Shane bellowed, before cracking up and doubling over, laughing hard.
Shaking his head, laughing, and feeling good, Trevor glanced menacingly at the powerheads. “I think I need to take Joel spear fishing somewhere with plenty of sharks,” he quipped, and then jabbed a finger in Shane’s direction. “And anyway, you started it!”
“I usually do,” Shane replied, darting past Trevor and giving him a light punch in the arm. “But it’s still sexual harassment on your part, because you’re gay and I’m not!” Shane spun around to look at Trevor, giving him an evil grin.
“That’d make everything I do sexual harassment,” Trevor replied, chuckling.
“Took ya long enough to figure that out,” Shane replied with a snicker, turning to jog up the stairs to the salon. “Let’s suit up and go,” Shane said, heading for his cabin.
Trevor glanced down at his boardies, hesitating for a moment. The risk of wearing speedos around Shane weighed on his mind, so Trevor decided to make do with boardies.
A minute later, Shane returned, sporting a faded gray pair of speedos and a grin. Trevor’s breath caught in his throat; he’d been expecting the sight, but for a few moments, he couldn’t help but stare. Belatedly snapping his eyes to Shane’s face, Trevor mumbled, “Uh, maybe we should take the gear with us.”
Shane chuckled, leaning in to grab some of the gear. “That’s the general idea, Trev. By the way, mind the stairs.”
Distracted, Trevor didn’t notice the mention of the stairs. He picked up the remaining gear and followed Shane to the salon, where they laid it and began by strapping dive-knives to their lower legs; Shane’s on the left, Trevor’s on his right. “I’ve always heard that left-handed people are sinister and evil,” Trevor quipped, pointing at Shane’s knife. It’s normal practice to have a dive knife on the side of the dominant hand. Trevor had long since noticed that Shane was left-handed, though this was the first time he’d remarked on the fact.
Shane gave Trevor a fake glare. “You’re picking on me again? Now that’s evil. Truly evil. Shameless, you are… not to mention cruel.”
Trevor rolled his eyes. “Look who’s talking,” Trevor replied, chuckling at Shane’s antics.
“I’m always talking, in case you hadn’t noticed,” Shane quipped, as he applied anti-fog to the inside of the facemasks. “Ah, that reminds me; we’ll need some sunscreen for our backs or we’ll be red as devils.”
The mention of sunscreen made Trevor smile for a moment in anticipation, only to remember his likely reaction. Swallowing once, he returned his attention to his gear and mumbled, “Okay, good idea.”
With a smirk, Shane returned to his own gear prep, checking out his snorkel and mask before setting them down on the bar. He hesitated for a moment before handing Trevor the sunscreen and turning away. “Make yourself useful for once and get my back.”
When applying the sunscreen to Shane’s exquisite back, Trevor chewed on his lip, trying to avoid enjoying himself too much. He applied the lotion, working it in as quickly and efficiently as he could.
Moments later, they reversed roles, and Shane took his time applying Trevor’s sunscreen. Halfway through, he said, “You seem more relaxed today. I think you’re going to be fine, so long as we can keep you clear of any stress for a while.”
“Thanks, I feel better today.”
“You do,” Shane said, in a quiet, distant tone, while working the sunscreen into Trevor’s back.
When he was done, Shane gave Trevor’s back a pat. Trevor turned around to see that Shane had already turned away and was heading for the cockpit with some of his gear in hand. Trevor, enjoying the view, followed, as Shane led the way to the side railing and looked out at the lagoon.
“I’m missing my mask,” Shane said, looking at the gear in his hands but making no move to back away from the railing.
“I saw it on the bar, I’ll get it,” Trevor said, turning away and jumping down into the cockpit. He took a single step towards the salon, and paused, a sly grin spreading on his face as he realized that he had an opportunity to tease Shane for being forgetful. Trevor began to turn, saying, “You’d probably forget your head if it wasn’t attached–” Trevor’s words froze in his throat as his eyes fell on Shane, who had turned away from the railing. Speedos don’t hide much, and Trevor noticed instantly that Shane was hard.
Shane turned his head to look at Trevor, and then glanced down, following Trevor’s wide-eyed stare. He looked up at Trevor again, just as Trevor shook himself out of his distraction enough to look up at Shane’s face and say, “Uh…”
“You’re eloquent today,” Shane quipped, leaning back against the railing, not attempting to cover himself. His cheeks were coloring slightly, though it was hidden by his tan. He looked at Trevor’s stunned expression and chuckled. “I’m going to scream ‘sexual harassment’ any second now, unless you quit gaping at me like that. I’m so embarrassed!”
With a sheer act of will, Trevor forced himself to lock his eyes on Shane’s face. “Yeah, you sure act embarrassed,” he quipped, recovering a vestige of composure.
Shane chuckled. “See? I told you that you were being nuts when you were freaking out that you might get hard wrestling around. It happens, a lot, and so what. I’ve seen it happen a lot in surf lifesaving, and I know you have in swimming. It’s happened to me a bunch of times. Nobody makes a big deal about it, except you. So admit it, you’re a bonehead. But,” Shane passed for effect, raising one hand to wag an accusing finger in Trevor’s direction, “That’s no excuse for your gratuitous sexual harassment of me! Staring at me like you were; your jaw dragging on the deck, drooling, playing with yourself…”
Trevor felt his own cheeks beginning to flush, even though he knew Shane’s wild exaggerations were a wind-up. Trevor took a breath and, without intending to, snuck a lightning fast glance at Shane’s no-longer-tented speedos. Before Trevor could say a word, Shane yelled, “You’re staring at my crotch again, that’s SEXUAL HARASSMENT!”
Shaking his head and laughing, Trevor turned away, heading for the salon for Shane’s mask, grumbling loudly so that Shane could hear, “When Joel gets here, I’m going to kill him slowly for teaching you that!”
“Before you do, remind me to thank him,” Shane called out, laughing.
In the salon, Trevor picked up Shane’s mask and chuckled. He knew Shane was right: getting hard happened. He’d caught a fleeting glance of Shane half hard a couple of times, just as he had many times with Joel and other swimmers, and sometimes even fully hard. Generally, it was just ignored. ‘But it’s different with Shane and me. If I do it, he’d know it’s due to me being turned on by him. He’s as accepting as hell, but no straight guy would be that accepting. Even Joel would probably freak out over that,’ Trevor thought. He glanced down at his boardies and thought sourly, ‘What I need is a solid steel jockstrap.’
With Shane’s mask in hand, Trevor returned to the cockpit. After a few final adjustments of their gear, they were off, diving over the rail and into the warm waters of Rhys Lagoon. Then, masks in place and spear guns in hand, they finned towards the center of the lagoon, Shane leading the way.
The water, warm and buoyant, suffused the white sandy bottom with a rippling blue light, punctuated by an occasional brightly colored fish. It was paradise, which only got better when they reached the drop-off, where exposed rocky walls hosted an even richer array of sea life that had adapted to the highly saline water.
The hours passed in silent joy, though Trevor often found himself distracted by the sight of Shane, who always stayed close, even when they dove deep and spent over a minute drifting along the rock face.
By early afternoon, they were ready for a break, and by mutual unspoken agreement finned back to Kookaburra, approaching her bows. With a casual, easy kick, Trevor dove under, passing between her hulls lengthwise, looking at her sleek lines and thinking of Atlantis, and then of how he’d hidden from the pirates, sheltered between her hulls.
Approaching the sterns from beneath, Shane still by his side, Trevor glanced absently at the starboard propeller as he began his rise to the surface, only to stop in mid-stroke and spin around for another look. He swam to the starboard prop, reaching out to touch it for a moment, before the need for air drove him to surface at the stern.
As soon as Shane surfaced and vented his snorkel, Trevor blurted, “Take a look at the props! They’re just heavy steel fixed pitch, and smaller than the folding variable-pitch Brunton Autoprops on Atlantis!”
Puzzled by Trevor’s evident excitement, Shane said, “Yeah, Kookaburra spends a lot of time in shallow spots like where we entered the lagoon, and we don’t need high speed under power, so the Blakes probably wanted tough props.” Shane’s eyes glazed over for a second as he realized what Trevor was thinking. “Bloody hell, how much faster would she be under power, enough?”
Trevor nodded, his pulse racing. “I think so. These are a couple of inches smaller in diameter and a lot less efficient besides, so… with autoprops, at least two or three extra knots under power. That’d make her almost as fast as Atlantis, and yeah, that’d probably do it for towing the sonar. Still want to make a trip to Florida?” Trevor asked, with a big grin.
“Bloody hell yeah!” Shane declared, pulling closer to Trevor and grabbing him in a hug for a few long moments. Then his smile faded. “What about the Blakes… they’d need to okay it but their insurance won’t cover it, so no way would they agree. Besides, how long could you charter her for anyway? Not long enough for a trip to and from Florida, or even close, right?” Shane asked.
Trevor glanced at Kookaburra, his mind racing. “Maybe. When we were at Hamelin Pool, Mr. Blake told me that my insurance is acting as secondary to his. That means Kookaburra would be covered, just like Atlantis is, and I’m covered for rental replacement for as long as Atlantis is under repair.”
Shane blinked, and then his fist rocketed out of the water and into the air. “YES! Ned is a greedy fucking bastard and I know he likes to milk insurance companies. He’d be fucking delighted to take a bit of extra time on Atlantis!”
Buoyed by both his own excitement and Shane’s infectious joy, Trevor nodded. “Yeah, and for the Blakes this is a good deal; it means the charter would be longer.”
Shane nodded. “Holy fuck… this could work.”
“Let’s check something first; Kookaburra’s engines. That’ll confirm it’s possible,” Trevor said, already scrambling aboard and racing for an engine access hatch. He looked at the port engine and his grin returned. “Just a few horsepower less than Atlantis. Close enough that with Atlantis’s bigger varifold props, she’ll be fast enough. We can do this!” Trevor declared, at last seeing a way that he could make it home in time, and with a sufficiently capable boat, to undertake the search for Ares.
He knew it could also delay the day when he’d have to part ways with Shane. However, Trevor knew that it would be dangerous in many ways, and felt compelled to warn Shane. Descending into the cockpit, Trevor and Shane headed for the port helm, where Trevor looked at the controls. “Yeah, Kookaburra can do this. Shane, it’ll be a rough voyage; we’ll have to race the clock to get there and back before the charter period ends, so that means pushing hard and fast all the way there and all the way back. That’d probably mean a Southern Ocean run all the way to Cape Horn, and the Southern Ocean has the most dangerous seas on Earth. And there’s… somebody who’s tried to kill me at least once, and we can’t be sure they won’t try again. It could be dangerous if you came, for a lot of reasons.”
Shane shook his head. “We talked about that last bit before, when you first chartered Kookaburra and I had the idea of using her for your Florida search. I’m not the risk-averse sort, not when it comes to physical danger at any rate, and you’ll be a hell of a lot safer if you aren’t sailing solo.” Shane began to smile, though only for an instant, as his mood darkened suddenly. “Trev, we’re forgetting a lot of things. One is what’s happened to you; you need to see a doctor. I can’t see the Blakes agreeing to this easily, and not at all if you’re not well.”
Trevor sighed, his own mood souring as he again came face to face with the ugly fact that, as he was, he was unfit to be a captain. He took a deep breath, standing tall with resolve. “I’ll beat this thing, Shane, I have to. Whether it’s on Kookaburra or Atlantis, I have to get home in time to make the search. I have to. There has to be a way.”
Shane nodded, facing Trevor across the helm station wheel housing. “Your quest. I understand that, I really do. If the doctor signs off on you, I’ll do all I can to talk the Blakes into letting us take Kookaburra. I’ll join your quest, and make it my own as well,” Shane said solemnly, extending his hand to Trevor, who took it without hesitation. “We’ll go to the ends of the Earth, you and me, to find the wreck of the Ares, no matter what it takes,” Shane intoned, their hands joined as one above Kookaburra’s helm.
Deeply moved, Trevor kept hold of Shane’s hand. “Thanks Shane. That means more to me than you can know.”
Shane gave Trevor a faint smile, their eyes were still locked, their hands still joined. Then, Shane’s smile faded and he looked away, giving Trevor’s hand a gentle squeeze before letting go. “There’s not much hope we can put this together; your doctor would have to agree, and then the Blakes… more than likely, you’ll be sailing off home in Atlantis and just doing your search later in the year.”
Trevor turned to stare out at Rhys Lagoon. “I don’t know if the search can be delayed. Joel was going to find that out, and he hasn’t told me anything yet. I guess… we’ll just have to wait and see. Kookaburra might be my only chance, but yeah, the Blakes probably won’t agree. I know I wouldn’t, if I was them, no way in hell. We can try though, if I get the ‘doc and the insurance to sign off.”
Shane brightened a little. “So there’s still hope. We’ll give it a burl, when the time’s right,” he said, using an Australian phrase that means ‘give it a try’.
It was a warm and sunny day in Carnarvon, though Jason Kline’s mood was anything but. He put down his binoculars, and in irritation performed the Great Australian Salute; waving his hand to shoo flies away from his head. His vantage point, he’d soon discovered, was rife with all manner of insects.
Frustration wracked Kline, for he was not a patient man. He was also not fond of walking, and to reach his vantage point entailed a walk of a mile each way: from Carnarvon, over the jetty across the Fascine, and then through overgrown land to the shore opposite Ned’s boatyard. From there, he could peer across the Fascine at Atlantis’s covering tarp, three hundred yards away.
So far, all Kline had to show for his persistence – this was his third day of observing – was a few sightings of Ned going in and out of the tarp. He’d seen nothing of anyone who might be his target: Trevor.
Kline’s phone began to vibrate, so he flipped it open, checked the caller ID, and answered with a gruff, “Hi Barney. I hope you’ve got good news. I’m being eaten alive by half the bugs on the Fascine.”
“That’ll probably poison the poor buggers,” Barney Fitzroy replied, amused at Kline’s predicament. “Sorry to spoil your bad mood, but I do have good news. I’ve picked up a few leads within the Customs Service; they’re protecting Trevor Carlson. The reason appears to be that he’s a minor and they are also concerned that he’d had two attempts on his life and may still be at risk. We’ve both read the news reports from Florida and that’s a good fit. Therefore, they’ve decided to keep this under wraps to the extent of refusing any comment to the press. The bad news there is I’m at the wrong end of the country to find out much more; the local officers there in Carnarvon answer to the Fremantle Customs House. I’m mainly picking up internal service rumors here. So, how are things going on your end?”
Kline groaned. “A bloody fucking balls-up, that’s how. I’ve staked out the shot-up boat from across the waterway, so I’ve spent days staring at a fucking tarp. No sign of Trevor. Worse, it turns out I was likely wrong; that blond kid on the boat – the one I sent you the pictures of – probably isn’t Trevor: I showed a picture around a bit and a couple of locals ID’d the kid as a well-known thief by the name of Shane. He’s been in town less than a year, but that’s plenty long enough that he can’t be Trevor. There was another teen with him; dark hair, similar build, and had a Southern Cross tat on his back. I’m betting that’s Trevor and the tat is a fake. I’ll know as soon as he opens his mouth – if I can find him. I’ve asked around with a description of the boat they sailed off on, and it looks like it’s the Kookaburra – a local charter yacht. She usually does the Shark Bay run in the tourist season but no one seems to know where she is right now. All I can say for certain is that her berth in the marina is empty. I’ve turned up no clue as to where they went or when they’ll be back.”
“Temper, Jason, temper... If Trevor’s boat is there, he’s got to come back sometime.”
“It could be months. Hell, it could even be an insurance write-off and he’ll never be back. I’m going to have to kick it up a notch. I found out one thing that might prove useful; the clerk at the yacht club is a bored and nosey prick who likes to eavesdrop. He told me that Trevor has relatives in Western Australia and is looking for ‘em. Cost me two hundred for the family name, only to find out its fucking Smith. However, sitting here in the damn bush and being eaten alive by flies, it occurred to me that those customs officers probably have the info I need and this gives me the key to getting it – they don’t know me.”
Barney was silent for a few moments, and then replied, “I get it. Clever. I hope it works. Now, as for me, as I said, I’m on the wrong side of the country to do much more. If I could get to Perth, I might be able to shake out some more detail.”
Kline knew exactly what Barney wanted. “No can do, Barney. I can’t spring for that, not with not knowing for sure this will pan out.”
Barney sighed. He knew Kline would probably refuse, but he’d seen no harm in trying. “Then I hope your con works, because I don’t think I’ll find much else out here.”
Now it was Kline’s turn to sigh. “I’ll do what I can. We just need one break here. We’re close, I can taste it.”
“Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, but yeah, we’re close. Have fun with the bugs, and I’ll see if I can dig up anything more on this end,” Barney replied, and then hit the button to kill the call.
Kline went back to his frustrating stakeout, which was good fortune indeed for the hungry bugs.
Please let me know what you think; good, bad, or indifferent.
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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.