Aboard Kookaburra, it was Sunday morning. Trevor and Shane were nestled together in bed in peaceful slumber, as the dawn lit the placid waters of Rhys Lagoon. Their rest was rudely interrupted, as the satellite phone in the navigation desk began to ring.
Shane stumbled out of bed, heading for the salon, naked and grumbling. Trevor followed, and right after Shane answered, he handed the phone to Trevor.
The voice on the other end was grating and insistent, and a sleepy Trevor struggled to keep up as Officer Gonzalez rapid-fired questions at him over the phone. Something wasn’t right and Trevor knew it, but the questions were coming too fast for him to think.
“I need the answers fast, Trevor, so no stalling. Next question; what was your teacher’s name in fifth grade?”
“What's that got to do with anything?” Trevor asked.
“Answer the question,” Gonzalez demanded.
“Mr. Jacobs, I think, why the fuck do you need to know that?” Trevor asked, the bombardment of questions and the harsh tone getting to him.
“What was the menu for the last charter you ran?” Gonzalez demanded.
“The hell if I know. Give me a break, I just woke up!” Trevor replied, in a mix of exasperation and irritation.
“Answer my question!” Gonzalez yelled. He was using an interrogation technique he’d used many times in the past; rattle the suspect, keep them off balance with seemingly inane or innocuous questions, don’t give them time to think, then hit them with the actual questions, interspersed with the inane ones. You might not get an honest answer, but you likely would get hesitation and stalling instead of an instant truthful answer. It was far from foolproof, but it was one of many tools he used. In this case, Trevor wasn’t a suspect, but Gonzalez felt the need to treat him like one.
After Trevor answered with a guess, Gonzalez came back with, “What time is it there, exactly?”
“Uh, nine-o-five in the morning, Sunday,” Trevor replied, a little shaken by the incongruity of Gonzalez’s urgent, somewhat hostile tone and inane questions.
“Is that about the same time of day it was when Joel had you sign the beneficiary form?”
“Huh? That was… sometime in the afternoon, I think, and he didn’t get me to.”
“I already know it was his idea. Why’d you lie to me?” Gonzalez demanded.
“Hey, I’m not lying, and what the fuck is going on?” Trevor asked, his voice a little louder than normal, his free hand clenching in frustration.
“I’m asking the questions here, answer me!”
“No you’re not,” Trevor replied, just before hitting the ‘end’ button. He looked at Shane, who had been leaning in to listen, and asked, “What the fuck was that all about?”
Shane shrugged. “He was grilling you for some reason, but his questions were weird. Is he usually like that?”
Trevor shook his head. “He’s usually businesslike, but he’s never been like this before. When he called me a liar, it was like he thinks I’m guilty of something.”
That had been Gonzalez’s intent. The problem for Gonzalez was that he usually used that tactic in person, where the interviewee couldn’t instantly end the conversation. Still, it had given him a hint.
The satellite phone in Trevor’s hand rang, and he scowled, hesitating before answering. “Yeah?”
“Me again. Trevor, I need your answers and I need them now. Why’d you lie to me?” Gonzalez demanded.
“Call me a liar again and this phone is going to malfunction for the rest of the day,” Trevor replied.
Gonzalez, in a more patient tone, said, “Trevor, I know signing those papers was Joel’s idea. He admitted it. I need to know when, that’s all.”
Trevor blinked. ‘If Joel said that, he probably had a reason,’ Trevor thought, wondering whether he should lie and play along. A second option occurred to him; hang up and call Joel, to see if he had any idea what was going on. Trevor hit the ‘end’ button, and immediately dialed Joel’s number.
Joel was halfway home from Lisa’s house when his cell rang. He answered it, and heard Trevor say, in a hurried, urgent tone, “I’ve been talking to Officer Gonzalez. He’s, like, grilling me or something. He said you said that me making you beneficiary on Atlantis’s policy was your idea. I gotta know, did you?”
“He fucking what?” Joel asked, pulling his Camaro over so he could focus on the call. “He’s grilling you? You’re the fucking victim! And no, I never said anything to him about those papers, or the charter money, or nothing, so he’s lying to you. Trev, something’s going on; its gotta be. Watch your back, man.”
“Something fucking stinks, that’s what. I thought he was okay until now, but this call was like he thought one of us, or maybe both, was a criminal. What the fuck should I tell him… or, like I told him already, this phone could be just about to malfunction whenever he calls, if he called me a liar again, and he did,” Trevor said, his tone growing calmer.
“Fuck… I dunno, man, this is weird. See if you can find out what he’s up to – he’s supposed to by trying to find out who tried to kill you, not interrogate you. I think I better ask my dad about this, maybe we need to get a lawyer or something. Maybe Bridget is right about him; he’s incompetent, or corrupt, or as she likes to say, ‘in his case, those are not mutually exclusive propositions.’ Your call, Trev, just tell him the truth I guess… but try to find out why the hell he thinks those papers were my idea, and why he’d care if they were.”
“Will do, I’ll call him back. I’ll call you as soon as I get off the phone with him. Uh, one other thing; he wants to know the exact time of day they were signed. I can’t tell him that because I don’t remember. Any idea?”
“What the hell would he want to know that for? Uh, I don’t know for sure… It was off Cyprus, not long after we got up, the day I left. We went to your hiding place for the ring and the cash, plus the title for your car, and that’s when you told me about the insurance stuff. Hey, you said you’d told the insurance company already, and they just needed the live signature. The letter you gave was dated that day, so if you told the insurance company before then, that’s kinda proof that you told them before I knew about it.”
“Yeah, cool, that might help… can’t hurt. Or he’ll call us both liars. Joel, sorry if that insurance stuff dragged you into trouble. I never meant–”
“Trev, don’t even fucking worry about that. What you did… that bowled me over, man. I’ll never forget it. Let me know what happens.”
“Thanks bro, I’ll talk at you once I’m done with Gonzalez,” Trevor said, before ending the call. Then, he turned to tell Shane, “What a way to start the day,” as they returned to the cabin to get dressed.
Ten miles from Joel’s car, Henry eased one earpiece of his earphones off and looked at Gonzalez, arching an eyebrow before saying softly, “I particularly liked the bit where he quoted Bridget regarding you being corrupt or incompetent – or both.”
Gonzalez took his earphones off, setting them atop the rest of the gear Henry had set up in the spare bedroom of Gonzalez’s house. He scowled, grinding his teeth in anger for a moment. “I suppose I had that coming, for the latter, anyway.”
Henry chuckled and shook his head. “Not from me you don’t. Well, just as a joke, but there’s a serious point; sounds to me like Bridget is manipulating Joel and Lisa, rather than either of them willingly working with her.”
Gonzalez nodded, giving Henry a weak, strained smile. “I guess. Too bad in a way; that means they likely don’t know much we can use. Even though we couldn’t hear Trevor’s side of the conversation, it sure sounded to me like making Joel the beneficiary was his idea, not Joel’s, and Joel didn’t even know until the last day. That blows a big hole in the hypothesis that Joel planted the bomb; he had no chance to set it up, because he didn’t know. He’d have had to know well in advance for that, so there goes his motive – unless Bridget is paying him. If so, what we just heard does not clear him, though I’ve heard nothing to substantiate that theory. Just to be sure, I’ll poke around in his finances a bit to see if there’s any large unexplained income, but he seems like he’s okay.”
“Don’t take this the wrong way – and I helped set it up and bug his car, so it’s my fault as well – but it looks to me like what we’ve achieved is now both Trevor and Joel think of you as the enemy. We knew that would be a risk, but it’s something we need to deal with.” They’d discussed the risks, and decided to take the gamble. Their plan had been to determine if Joel had pushed Trevor to sign, or if he’d forged the documents. The possibility of Trevor hanging up and calling Joel was part of the reason Henry had bugged Joel’s car – a task made easy by virtue of him parking it outside of his house at night. Henry had only told Gonzalez of the bug after the fact, and Gonzalez had been both angry and pleased about the bug. They had timed their call accordingly, so that any call by Trevor would likely occur while Joel was driving. They’d both felt it a sound plan; their primary need was to determine if Joel was party to the plot against Trevor, and so they’d accepted the risks.
“I’d prefer to warn those two to stay away from Bridget, but we can’t run the risk of that getting back to her from him or Lisa, and we have no reason to believe she intends him or Lisa harm; she has no apparent motive for doing so, and plenty of motive not to. On the other hand, I hate letting two minors associate with a suspected killer. On another hand, the third one I guess, we still can’t trust Joel, because he’s clearly caught in her manipulative web, and I have a hunch that Lisa is worse.”
“We can’t trust him, but we can take some of what he says a bit more seriously. Maybe enough to help you with the State Attorney.”
“About that,” Gonzalez muttered, feeling a little uncomfortable due to being so far outside the realm of normal procedure, “I had one hell of a busy afternoon yesterday. I had my meeting with the State Attorney to let him know the angle we’re working, especially regarding George Alfred. I gave him everything we’ve got. He wasn’t happy: he let me know he thought what we have is thin as hell, and barely sufficient for him to give me any consideration on it at all. He can grant the conditional immunity you asked for, but... it’s policy that we never negotiate with fugitives.”
Henry shook his head. “There’s the matter of them knowing whether they are fugitives. You’d need to prove that to make a ‘fugitives from justice’ charge stick. They left Ainsworth’s residence before any warrants were issued or any kind of official notice was given.”
Gonzalez gave Henry a weak smile and held up his hand. “Whoa, moot point on that, and I did make that point to the State Attorney. The long and the short of it is, your one saving grace is George’s apparent involvement, including that deployment change he ordered right before they ran and his access to the code used on the chandlery’s alarm – a code Dirk most likely did not have access to. Another thing that helped was Trevor backing up what we thought about the propane tanks and exonerating Jim Ainsworth. The State Attorney will take into account that your clients have grounds to fear for their lives regarding George Alfred – and my department. That is why he’s willing to offer a conditional immunity regarding evading arrest and fugitive from justice, as it could be justified under the necessity defense, with the prosecution’s case further complicated by the knowledge angle that you raised. But, no matter what, he won’t okay them staying on the run. He’ll sign off on this but it’ll be conditional; they’ll have thirty days to either clear themselves entirely or turn themselves in, and in the meantime, the warrants stand. If they go past the thirty days, their immunity on the evading arrest and fugitive issue is void.”
That gave Henry everything they needed, but he couldn’t risk appearing too eager. “I guess... but if they turn themselves in, they go right into state or federal protective custody. They don’t get mixed in with the general prison population, and they sure as hell aren’t put anywhere George Alfred or anyone associated with him or your department can get to them.”
“Of course,” Gonzalez replied. “I’ll insist on that even if you don’t, and that applies no matter when they are taken into custody. I got the State Attorney to sign off on that unconditionally; there’s a standing order that they be transferred immediately to the State Police, and that a State Police officer be summoned the moment we get a location or an arrest.”
“I think we have a deal, then. They said they’d surrender on those terms, before the end of this month.”
Gonzalez nodded. “See that they do, and sooner would be preferable to later. Both the State Attorney and I would prefer an immediate surrender; we’ll take care of transporting them back here.”
Henry snorted. “Transport them how? By air would be most likely, so that is an absolute non-starter for Dirk Carlson. He won’t even consider it; he can’t fly any more than he’d travel by boat.”
Gonzalez gave Henry an appraising look. Dirk’s intense issues with travel by sea or air had caught Gonzalez’s eye early on, and due to the implications for the bomb plot, he’d found them overly convenient. It was even more suspicious, given Dirk’s apparent ease with car travel. Therefore, he’d checked Dirk’s medical history, which had proved to him that they were not a fabrication; he’d had treatment as a teenager for the condition, which the records showed as unsuccessful. He gave it one last try. “I’ll arrange transport by car or van.”
Henry shook his head. “I’ll make the offer, but getting a message to them takes time. I doubt they’ll accept; they indicated they want to drive back themselves.”
Bowing to the inevitable, Gonzalez shrugged. “Now, I’ll remind you again, I still need to interview them, and I can’t wait for the end of the month.”
“Keep your calendar open for Sunday, December 17th. I’ve set up the video conference. They’ll return to the state for surrender sometime after that, and will surrender to either the State Police or the F.B.I.”
“I don’t like all these delays, but Frank Tittle will have the conditional immunity papers in a few days, signed by the State Attorney and a judge. They will declare that your clients are not fugitives from justice, but that’ll be conditional on the interview actually taking place and your client’s full cooperation against George and Bridget, and their turning themselves in within thirty days. The thirty-day clock starts ticking as soon as the document is signed.”
Henry breathed an inner sigh of relief. He had what he needed, though he could not appear too pleased. “Thanks. I’ll do my best to make sure they abide by it.”
Gonzalez arched an eyebrow. “You need to let Ainsworth know that he’ll be free to go within hours of his surrender. The charges on the bombing will be dropped upon his surrender, and the fugitive charge will also be moot. We’d have no grounds to hold him. He can come in at any time, like right now, and he can travel by air, right?”
That put Henry in a tricky spot. “There’s still the issue of contacting them, which will take time, but I’ll raise the issue. Now, one other thing… I’ve yet to have any luck getting a tracker and audio bug into Bridget’s car. Her parking it indoors makes that hard. I’d like audio in George’s too, but same problem. There is, however, a place where I might be able to get a job done.”
Gonzalez thought he knew what Henry was getting at. “Breaking into her house could ruin everything if they get any wind of it, even a hint. We can’t spook them, not now. I think I’ll be able to get search warrants and wiretap warrants soon. Besides, you said that house has a top-notch alarm system. Can you defeat it?”
Henry shrugged. “Not with any certainty. And unlike George at the chandlery, I can’t count on using a manufacturer’s bypass code; this looks like a custom job, and most new stuff doesn’t have bypass codes anyway. Actually, I wasn’t thinking of her garage or their cars. I hope to be able to get that done elsewhere. I was thinking of the guesthouse. It does not appear linked to the alarm.”
Gonzalez shook his head. “No way, that risks a tip-off, just like the main house, and as much as I’d like to hear more of what Lisa and Joel have to say, we can’t. We’re pretty sure they’re having sex in there, and they’re minors! I think the law on that is little different to you installing a camera: a major felony. I can’t be party to that, and neither can you. Henry, I’ve broken more rules working with you than I have in my entire career. That bug you planted in Joel’s car was useful as hell, but I don’t like it, at all, and I’d have nixed the idea had I known in advance. You’re breaking laws, Henry. I justify it to myself because it’s in the service of Justice, including bringing down a dirty cop. But I can’t cross this kind of a line. Please dump this idea, for both our sakes, and please get that bug out of Joel’s car.”
Henry was surprised by Gonzalez’s admissions, and replied with a single nod. “Okay, Mike, point taken. Consider it forgotten, and I’ll retrieve the bug,” he said, calling Gonzalez by his given name for the first time.
“Thanks Henry,” Gonzalez said, with a wan smile. “Okay, I gotta ask, how the hell did you bug a car for sound so we could get this live, and do it so fast?”
Henry smiled proudly. “Joel is far less likely to check his ride for bugs than Bridget or George would be, so transmitting isn’t as much of an issue. That made it easier. What I installed is a commercially available bug that uses a voice-activated cellular connection. It’s powered by a battery, and installed next to the amplifier mounted under his passenger seat. Getting inside… well, I can’t tell you without putting you in a compromising position, but hypothetically, getting inside that model of car takes a few seconds with a Slim-Jim.”
“You keep telling me that stuff like that is outside of your normal job, but you sure are damn good at it,” Gonzalez said, chuckling softly.
Henry nodded. “Thanks, but I seriously almost never break laws. I’d be dumb to do so; it could cost me my license. I do have experience bugging and tracking cars though, mainly when one spouse hires me to see if the other is cheating. If they own the vehicle as community property, or in the name of the spouse who hired me, it’s totally legal.” Henry paused, knowing that there was another thing they needed to discuss. “Mike, something’s been bugging me ever since I tried to get aboard that boat. That kind of a security setup, as we both know, just doesn’t smell right for the circumstances. People do strange things sometimes, I know, but…”
Gonzalez scowled. “I’ve been thinking along those lines too. I tried to look at it from all sides, but what it boils down to is, if you have a palatial house with a private dock, why keep a boat miles away? She doesn’t have a boat registered in her name, but what you saw shows she had use of it. Maybe she just borrowed it, but…”
“George Alfred is on the drug task force. I need to know; does he ever do undercover work?” Henry asked, dreading the answer.
“I can’t divulge that, but… yes. The State Attorney raised the same issue, but George is also a member of my task force for the Carlson case, so if he was doing anything involving our suspects, per procedure he should have told me, and he sure as hell should have let the prosecutor know. He didn’t, so the State Attorney shares my suspicions, but it makes proving anything against him a hell of a lot harder if there is any link at all between Bridget and drugs.”
“Yeah, he could just claim he was working undercover, and skates. As for Bridget Bellevue, she doesn’t fit the profile of a drug runner at all: she’s the wrong age, a high society upper crust type, was married to a very successful lawyer, and is very wealthy. There is absolutely nothing about her that points in that direction, nothing, which would be an ideal cover. Tie that in with her relationship with a top guy on the drug task force, and the situations involving that boat, and it makes me wonder,” Henry said.
Gonzalez sighed. “Yeah, I’ve been bouncing stuff around in my head since your boat caper; it does sort of fit. It’d also explain one nagging issue: why she’d go to such lengths to close off the investigation into her. As things stood, she was a suspect, but barring a slipup on her part or new evidence, we’d have never been able to indict her. She has to have known that, because I know she’s consulted with a top lawyer. But, if she didn’t want us looking because she has something else to hide, it all starts to make sense. This would also give her the connections to make the bombing attempt and the pirates very plausibly within her abilities; the drug cartels have a very long reach and are well connected with other criminal organizations, especially smugglers. The silver lining is that her plan worked; the indictment of Dirk Carlson for her husband’s murder closes the book on her as a suspect. So, as far as she knows, she’s in the clear. That means no more motive to kill Trevor, and she has no reason to suspect she’s subject to continued department interest. That’s why I’m so reluctant to do anything that could tip her off. On the flip side, if it’s true, it’s even more unconscionable letting two minors hang around. Henry, this can’t go on, not for much longer, but I can’t let George or Bridget skate on what they’ve done, either.”
“What are you going to do?” Henry asked.
“The only thing I can. If Joel continues to check out clean, I’ll drop in for a chat with his parents, then Lisa’s father, swear them to secrecy, and tell them they need to keep those two away from Bridget. If they go to Australia, that’ll give us more time, but we can’t let this go on. The problem there is if one word reaches her ear, or she even suspects the reason why they are staying away, she can just cease all illegal activities for a while and literally get away with all she’s done, and so will George. I can’t even alert his superiors, because I have no idea who at the department, or with the Feds he works with, that I can trust,” Gonzalez said, in a morose tone. After a few seconds of silence, he added quietly, “All we have are theories and guesses. We need proof, and we need it soon. The clock is ticking down. And that, Henry, is something you need to keep in mind regarding your clients and their interview with me.”
Henry thought for a few moments before replying, “I get that, and I’ll make sure they do too. They both told me to give protecting Trevor top priority, over and above clearing them. I believe them when they say they don’t know anything of use. Maybe they do and are unaware of it, but that’s my read. I’ll see if I can speed things up though,” Henry said, regretting the necessity of a lie.
Gonzalez nodded. “Okay, Trevor has had time to cool down a bit, let’s see if I can undo the damage down under.”
Trevor answered after several rings, with a curt, “This is Trev.”
“Trevor, sorry for before. I was pushing hard, intentionally, because I had to know something. I still do. You’re not a suspect, not at all, but those insurance papers – look at it from my perspective: you signed them, and then somebody tries to kill you and destroy your boat, twice. I have to look at every possibility.”
Trevor clutched the phone as his suspicions were confirmed. “Look, you’re wrong. Signing those papers was my idea; I had to force them on Joel. He didn’t know in advance, nobody except my insurance company did. I did it because I was setting out on a dangerous voyage solo, and I knew Joel would keep on with my search for Ares if anything happened to me. He adopted me as his brother: I trust him with my life.”
“Okay, sorry, but I had to know for sure, that’s my job. And Trevor, please bear something in mind; no matter how much you trust Joel, you cannot trust his phone. Phone conversations are not private, not with today’s electronics. That means you can’t tell Joel, or me, or anyone, where you are or where you’ll be. Not by phone and not by e-mail. That’s for your own safety.”
“You have suspects other than Joel, I hope?” Trevor said.
“We do, but I can’t get into that yet. Hopefully soon. At this juncture we have no reason to believe that your life is still in danger, but we can’t rule it out. That’s why we’re being so cautious, and yes, suspicious. Now, is there anything you haven’t told me?”
“Nothing that I can think of, and believe me, I want whoever is responsible for trying to kill me arrested, probably even worse than you do.”
“Okay, we’ll need to talk again at length soon, but for now, just keep your head down. I’ll be in touch soon, and sorry for the way I was before.”
“Thanks, I guess I understand. Please let me know what you can, as soon as you can,” Trevor said.
With the call over, Gonzalez sighed. “That went as well as could be expected. Poor kid, seventeen, been through hell, and he’s probably all alone down there in kangaroo land. Henry, let’s hope we get something solid on Bridget and George, and get it soon.”
Henry nodded. “Agreed on that, Mike. I’m curious – and part of this is business – are you going to let Lisa and Joel go see Trevor?”
Gonzalez leaned back and stared at his ceiling for a few moments. “I don’t know. If we can be sure Joel’s no threat to Trevor, either directly or via word getting back to Bridget, yeah, they can go and I’d prefer they do, to get them out of the way, but I’m nowhere near there yet. It’s suspicious as hell that they seem so close to Bridget. I’d like to know how they know her, and for how long, and above all, why. I also need to be sure they aren’t in her pay. I’ll bet Trevor knows a lot of answers, but as we’ve seen, he’d probably tip off Joel right away.”
“Sounds good to me,” Henry replied. “I’m opposed to them going under the present circumstances; as I see it, they are a potential risk until we know for sure. If you need any help keeping them in the country, you can count on me. Maybe they’ll have a flat tire or something,” Henry offered.
Gonzalez laughed. “No need for sabotage. They’re minors, so that makes this easy; I’d get someone from child protective services to object to them going to see someone who has had repeated attempts on his life. That’ll result in a court order keeping them in Florida until the hearing, which would take weeks or more. That’d put a hold on their passports too, so they couldn’t leave the country.”
“Let me know what you can, and I’ll keep trying on the bug front,” Henry replied. They both knew that there were serious admissibility issues for anything Henry obtained, but they hoped that the information gained would lead them to other avenues of inquiry.
Trevor was about to call Joel back, but hesitated. He looked at Shane and asked, “Any objections if I tell him about us?”
Shane grinned. “Hell no. It’ll probably take a lot of explaining though; I implied I’m straight when I spoke to him.”
Trevor stewed for a moment. “Let’s see how the call goes. We have a lot to cover thanks to whatever is going on back home, and I know he’ll want to talk for a long time if I tell him about us. Maybe it’s be better to tell him tomorrow when I get my cell; that way I won’t be using Mr. Blake’s satellite minutes, which I’ve used a ton of, plus we can probably tell Lisa at the same time. I need to make sure the cell is working anyway, and that we’ll be able to use it in Carnarvon.”
Shane nodded in agreement. “Yeah, good point.”
Trevor called Joel, who had just pulled into his driveway, and told him what had transpired with Gonzalez.
Joel took a few moments to think before replying, “If he’s on the level, I kinda get where he’s coming from; he has to check everything. But that’s a big if. I just don’t know about him… I’ve left a message asking him for the Coast Guard file on your mom’s death and he hasn’t even returned my call. Kinda weird, even if he’s gonna say no, considering he claims he needs our help, like on the bomb stuff, which we did.”
“He could have just called and asked me about the insurance stuff, instead of giving me the third degree, so I really don’t know what to think,” Trevor said, and then added, “I can’t use this phone for too long, but I’ll have my cell tomorrow, and I want to call you and Lisa. I’ve got some good news, awesome news, but it’ll keep.”
“You told me that just so I’d drive myself nuts wondering about it, right?”
“Exactly,” Trevor said, turning to smile at Shane, the tension he’d felt already easing.
“Asshole!” Joel said, chuckling and then adding, “We’ll be at the guesthouse all afternoon and until about nine tomorrow; it’s a half day at school. Or you could just tell me the quick version now,” Joel said.
“Talk to you tomorrow, and thanks, brother,” Trevor said, before snickering and ending the call. Trevor and Shane shared a smile, and then Trevor glanced at a clock. “Shit, we need to get underway; high tide is just before eleven, and I want to be in the shallows a quarter hour before the peak of the tide.”
Trevor fired up the engines while Shane raised the anchors. As soon as Shane motioned that they were clear, Trevor advanced the throttles to three-quarters, turning Kookaburra southeast onto a course for the narrows as she accelerated smoothly to nine knots. It was just over a mile to the entrance, but Trevor preferred to arrive early and take his time feeling his way forward on a rising tide. Getting stuck on a rising tide in a soft bottom was a minor inconvenience; wait a few minutes and the rising water would free the boat. Getting stuck at peak high tide, on the other hand, ran the risk of a far more difficult and lengthy grounding.
Shane joined Trevor at the helm, and Trevor pointed at the navigation display. “I’ve brought up the track I laid down on the way in. If I have a panic attack, just follow it. Keep to about two knots in the bad spots, and if you run aground, don’t worry about it; we’ll just do some kedging and pull her free, or float off on the next high tide.”
“What’s kedging?” Shane asked. He’d never heard the term before, in spite of having been out on many charter boats.
“Basically, we’d run a couple of anchors out in the Zodiac, to about a hundred feet away in the direction of deep water, set ‘em, then use the winches to pull us off, but we won’t need it, we’ll get through, unless I flip out again,” Trevor replied, scowling at the thought.
“I think you’ll do fine, Trev,” Shane said, glancing ahead at the light blue of the approaching shallower water.
“I’ve had two attacks, and stress brings ‘em on. That call from Officer Gonzalez was stressful,” Trevor said, gritting his teeth at the thought he was no longer capable.
Shane shook his head. “You’ll do fine, but worrying about having one is a great way to bring one on,” Shane said, darting behind Trevor and snatching down Trevor’s speedos as far as his thighs.
“Hey!” Trevor yelled, tugging his swimsuit back up while Shane snickered. “We saw a boat yesterday, remember? I don’t need to try negotiating the shallows naked.” Trevor grinned at Shane, shaking his head.
Shane smirked. “Who knows, they might appreciate it,” Shane declared, darting to the side rail. “Want to do this like before, with me on the bows?”
Trevor nodded. “Yeah, start calling out depths when it’s shallow. We’ll be going against the current this time.”
As they neared the shallows, Trevor studied the water ahead and reduced throttle, feeling his ways into the oncoming current, which he judged to be near two knots. Shane, in speedos, made a supremely distracting bowsprit ornament, but Trevor forced himself to concentrate on the task at hand.
He eased Kookaburra down to three knots through the water, which gave her a rate of advance of a single knot: the equivalent of a slow walk. He steered to follow the GPS track, retracing the course he’d followed into Rhys Lagoon.
For several tense minutes, they forged ahead, the water growing steadily shallower. A moderate breeze from the south complicated matters, roiling the surface of the water with numerous cat’s-paws and also imparting a northward side drift to Kookaburra at such low speeds, which had to be compensated for. A further issue was that not all high tides are equal; they vary due to a variety of influences. In this case, the combined effect of a slightly lower high tide and making the attempt slightly before true high tide made the water effectively shallower than when they’d entered. By Trevor’s guess, the water level was about six inches shallower than when they’d entered. “How much under the bows? Trevor called out.
“Sixty to seventy centimeters, but there’s ridges and channels in the sand,” Shane replied.
Trevor clenched his jaw slightly as he did his mental conversion. ‘Six inches under the lowest point of the hulls, maybe,’ he thought, checking again to see that he was on the GPS track. He glanced to starboard, noting the lighter color of the water.
Shane suddenly yelled, “Sandbar ahead! I can’t see a way through!”
Trevor backed off the throttles, letting the oncoming current bring Kookaburra to a relative halt. He scanned the water ahead, trying to find a route. They were on the north side of the narrows, just thirty yards from the shore, so he knew north was not an option. He glanced at the bar to starboard, seeing how it intersected their course ahead. He knew at once that the shifting sands had rearranged themselves, forming a bar across their route. “How deep ahead?” he called out, hoping it was very shallow.
“Less than a meter, looks a lot less in places,” Shane replied.
The bar was blocking their way, and Trevor smiled. He knew a thing or two about tidal flows, and one of them was that water will find a way. The tidal currents might shift bars around, but where one door shut, another usually opened. In that narrow passage, he knew where the other door had to be: somewhere to their south. The tidal inflow and outflow from Rhys Lagoon meant that it almost had to be there, and one glance beyond the bar to starboard confirmed it: the swirls of current on the surface appeared faster beyond it. Trevor knew he could cut the throttles, drift backwards, angle around the end of the bar, then take the new channel, but he knew a better way. “We’re turning,” he called out, as he shifted the port engine from ahead, to neutral, to astern.
Smoothly, Kookaburra pirouetted counterclockwise, her bows coming around to point north as the current carried her west. “Shallows ahead!” Shane called out, staring at the passing northern side of the pass.
“We’ll roll out southbound to get around the bar, there has to be a deeper pass on the south side of it, and the current indicates it,” Trevor replied, as the pirouette continued and their bows pointed back towards their former anchorage.
“Why are we spinning like this?” Shane asked.
“So we’ll roll out with our bows further from where the bar looks like it ends, giving us more maneuvering room to get around it. That, plus it’s fun,” Trevor replied, chucking.
“If you say so,” Shane replied, with a laugh and a shake of his head.
Kookaburra’s pirouette continued, with her drifting west on the current, until her bows pointed south and Trevor pressed the throttles to both ahead, momentarily gunning the port throttle slightly to stop her rotation, with her bows pointing south across the westbound current. Trevor kept both throttles at ahead slow, running Kookaburra across the current until they’d passed the end of the bar. He then turned her east, feeling his way forward.
“Seventy to seventy five centimeters under the bows,” Shane called out.
After a hundred yards, Trevor intercepted the old GPS track, following it, and Shane called out, “A meter under the bows. I think we’re through the worst of it.”
Trevor studied the waters ahead, he practiced eye instinctively tracing the currents. He also spotted a narrow ribbon of dark blue, running north to south: the main channel of Boat Haven Loop. “Yeah, looking good. Stay put until we enter the channel, but we’re doing good,” he called out, advancing the throttles and easing Kookaburra up to three knots.
Soon they were in the circuitous channel, heading north, and Shane rejoined Trevor in the cockpit. “You did great!” Shane declared, giving Trevor a hug. “That’s only the second time since I’ve been aboard that Kookaburra has ever made it both in and out of Rhys Lagoon without touching bottom. Mr. Blake ran into a situation like we just did, and he ended up with the bows stuck and had to go to full astern to pull free, cursing up a storm. And hey, no panic attacks; you were having fun back there, not stressing out.”
Trevor grinned. “Yeah, I guess I was having fun.”
“The point is, you’re totally at ease doing stuff like that. Mr. Blake would have been blowing gaskets, and I’d probably be worse. You had fun; you don’t stress out at the helm. And if you don’t stress out, you don’t have an attack,” Shane said, in a serious tone, to make a point.
Trevor got it and smiled. “Yeah, thanks. I feel a lot better now.”
Shane nodded, heading inside. “We’ll be on engines for a while, so I’ll get the laundry started while we have the amperage.”
“Don’t forget the detergent, this time,” Trevor called after Shane, before laughing, feeling at ease at the helm.
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.
Special thanks to Marty, for spotting two errors in the chapter, which are now fixed. A big Thank You to RedA for Beta reading and advice, and to Bondwriter for final Zeta-reading and advice.