Officer Fowler drove north on Oyster Creek Road, taking it easy on the washboard ruts. Trevor turned to glance back, hoping for a glimpse of Shane, but distance and dust deprived him of the chance.
Fowler took a deep breath, wishing he had better news. “First the bad news. From the look of it, that imposter is a reporter, and he does have photos of Atlantis in Ned’s yard. The good news is that’s getting him a trespassing charge in addition to the fraud. He’s been asking for a lawyer and he’ll surely have one this morning, so he’ll be able to see the magistrate and get bail set – it’ll likely be small – by late today. After that, he’ll be out within an hour of posting it. Also, Customs House in Melbourne has had a few inquiries about that SOS message in the Southern Ocean, and once that mob from Perth that was up here gets wind of it, they’ll be on their way back, or they may be already. Some of the callers mentioned Atlantis by name. You might want to ask your doctor if any follow-ups can be done by phone, under the circumstances. That way, you can stay well away from Carnarvon until things cool off. I’ll be leaving my mobile number at his office, so they can let me know when you’re ready to go. If the doctor has any questions or needs to confirm what happened to you, have him ring me. The other good news is a customs boat from Esperance will be meeting the boat that found your SOS at sea, and taking custody of it. My guess is that might help, but I think we’re looking at this getting into the papers soon, no matter what.”
“Thanks for doing all you have. I just wish I knew if somebody was still after me. Officer Gonzalez back in Florida thinks they aren’t, but he says he can’t be sure. He keeps telling me to be careful what I say on the phone, so I think he’s worried. He said he has suspects, but won’t tell me anything about them or why they tried to kill me,” Trevor said, feeling hunted.
Fowler nodded. “If he doesn’t have them in custody, that means he doesn’t have enough to arrest them yet. If their procedures are like ours, he can’t disclose anything to you until an arrest occurs. We don’t, if we’re just keeping an eye on a suspect, especially if they don’t know they’re a suspect. Still, it’d be nice to know how sure he is regarding the threat and its nature. He might speak more freely to me than to you. How about I give him a ring?”
Trevor nodded eagerly. “That’d be great. I’ve got his number, but it’s back on Kookaburra. Don’t let me forget to give it to you.”
Fowler could tell that Trevor was nervous, and guessed that the doctor visit was part of the reason. Therefore, to make conversation, Fowler pointed to the intersection ahead. “We’re going to turn left on HMAS Sydney Memorial Avenue. She was a Royal Australian Navy cruiser that went down somewhere around two hundred kilometers west of Steep Point. I’m a bit of a naval history buff, and she’s well known in Australia. She sank on November 19th, 1941. She’d intercepted the German auxiliary cruiser, Kormoran, which was basically an armed merchant ship with concealable guns. Kormoran was a merchant raider, out to sink or capture any merchant shipping she could. She was flying a false flag, Dutch, and disguised as one of their merchant ships. It’s still debated what really happened, and there have been rumors that a Japanese submarine was involved – we weren’t at war with Japan at the time – but no evidence has ever turned up. What is known is that Sydney ordered the ship to stop, though they didn’t know what she was. Sydney came in close abeam, which cost her the range advantage of her big guns, which would have far outranged Kormoran’s. The Germans knew they couldn’t outrun Sydney, and they revealed their guns to start firing. Salvos were exchanged, but the first German ones took out Sydney’s bridge and gun director tower. The latter was unarmored and up on the end of the tallest mast. Knocking it out disabled the automatic fire control and also deprived them of range and bearing information, which would make the mechanical fire-control computer useless. The turrets would have reverted to local control, making her fire far less accurate. Sydney was already badly hit, and then took a torpedo. They exchanged a few more salvos, and Sydney veered off, down at the bow and on fire.
“The German ship was hit too, and had fires which were threatening the mines she carried. She was abandoned, and later most of the survivors were found in life rafts. All we know of the battle comes from them; sometime after the Germans lost sight of her, Sydney sank. A huge search was launched, but they found nothing. Sydney went down with all hands.” Fowler turned left, on a broad paved road that crossed the empty plain. It was lined on both sides with small palm trees, widely spaced, stretching on into the distance ahead and behind. “In 2001, Carnarvon turned this road into a living monument to the six-hundred-forty-five sailors who went down with Sydney. There’s one tree for each of the victims, and in front of each tree,” Fowler pointed at the closest, a small raised marker with a brass plaque, “is a plaque with the name, age, rank, and serial number of the officer or seaman.”
“So many,” Trevor said, staring into the distance at the seemingly endless line of trees. “Thanks for telling me about Sydney. I’d never heard of her.”
“Maybe one day her wreck will be found and more can be learned of what happened. There’ve been a few searches but so far, no luck. I’ve heard rumors that there’s another one planned, in a year or two, with some kind of new sonar,” Fowler said.
“I hope they find her,” Trevor said, reminded of his own shipwreck quest. In that moment, he renewed his pledge to himself: to do whatever it took to find Ares.
They arrived at the mental health clinic, a small single storey building just off Robinson Street. Fowler looked around, and seeing no sign of observation, took Trevor inside.
Trevor approached the receptionist’s desk and said, “I have an appointment, under the name of Shane Rhys, but that’s not my name. I’ll be paying cash though, in advance if you like, so I’d like to keep my name out of this if I can.”
“I’m afraid I’ll need your full name, address, and contact details for the forms,” the receptionist said, handing Trevor a clipboard.
Fowler showed the receptionist his badge. “I’m afraid we’ll need to bend the rules a bit. He’s in danger, in large part due to indiscretions by medical staff. I’d prefer that no one other than the doctor have his information, any of it.”
The receptionist stared at the badge for a moment, and nodded. “I’ll need a word with Anna first,” she said, taking the clipboard from Trevor. Fowler gave the receptionist his cell number, along with instructions to call when Trevor was almost ready, or if the doctor needed anything verified.
The receptionist hurried off, looking slightly flustered.
Trevor, his palms beginning to sweat, knew he’d have to tell the doctor everything, including outing himself. He was about to sit down when he heard the dreaded words, “The doctor will see you now, first room on the right.”
“Hope it goes well. Ring if you need anything, and see you soon,” Fowler said, seeing Trevor to the door.
Fowler turned and walked away, so Trevor took a deep breath and entered the room. As soon as he was inside, he blinked in surprise; it reminded him more of a business office than a doctor’s office. Conspicuous by its absence was the stereotypical couch he’d seen in many movies.
“G’Day, I’m Anna Babcott, Doctor of Psychology,” said a woman of barely thirty, sitting behind her desk and casually dressed. “Please take a seat, mystery guest,” she added with a smile.
Trevor gave the psychologist a shy smile as he sat down. “Sorry about that, but I need to ask; can we keep this totally confidential? My life might be at risk, and I–”
Dr. Babcott interrupted to say, “I have a hunch as to who you might be. There were many rumors around town a few weeks ago, springing in part from the nurses at the medical center, about an American teen hit by pirates and crossing the ocean alone. I can certainly tell that you’re American, and you were brought in by a customs officer who says you may be at risk. First, let me tell you that, unless I think you’re a risk to yourself or others, I’m required to keep your information to myself or anyone authorized to have it. In your case, thanks to your friend with the badge, I’ll promise to keep your information entirely to myself.”
Trevor gave her a weak smile, “Thanks. My name’s Trevor Carlson, and that was me you heard about. The pirates boarded me at night, a few hundred miles south of the Seychelles. They tied me up and tossed me overboard,” Trevor said, shuddering slightly. “I managed to get back aboard, but my boat had been stripped. I barely made it here, and I was alone for months. I’ve been having nightmares since the attack, and I’ve had two panic attacks, starting about a week ago.”
The doctor began asking questions, in a gentle, friendly tone, and soon asked Trevor to start at the beginning. Trevor took a deep breath, and began, telling it all, giving an abbreviated version of his start from Florida and then going into detail once he reached the Suez. From that point on, he left very little out, not even his relationship with Shane. The session continued, with the doctor often asking questions, focusing first on the pirate attack, and then on the circumstances of the panic attack. Trevor blushed furiously as he explained some aspects, but overall, he found the doctor’s calm, friendly, sympathetic, and nonjudgmental manner reassuring.
Almost an hour into the conversation, the doctor interrupted to tell the receptionist over the intercom, “Gladys, I need more time. Please ring Mr. Muller and reschedule. Thanks.”
In the condo that seemed more like a prison with every passing day, Jim and Dirk sat, looking out at the night. Dirk decided to try again. “Jim, you heard Henry; you could turn yourself in right now. You’d be free in a day. You’ve got your practice to get back to–”
Jim smiled as he interrupted. “Nothing doing. I’m staying put until the seventeenth, so we can put this behind us together. It’s less than two weeks now, so let’s see it through.”
Dirk smiled and nodded. “Thanks… now, what the hell do we do about Joel? Henry and Gonzalez thinking he’s involved… I’ve known him for years, I just can’t see it, and what they found with the bug seems to confirm it. On the other hand, why is Bridget letting him and Lisa shack up in the guesthouse? That’s beyond strange. I think Henry is right, she’s manipulating Lisa and Joel. I also don’t like them being around her, at all.”
“If we’re right, and Bridget did all this to forever remove herself as a suspect, Lisa, Joel, and Trevor are safe. Given how Lisa and Joel feel about you lately, the chances of them taking a warn-off regarding Bridget from us or Henry are about zero. The same goes double for their parents. They’ll be leaving soon, so that’ll help.”
“We think Bridget tried to kill Trevor twice, Jim.”
“Unfortunately, the best hope of seeing her in prison is what Henry and Gonzalez are doing,” Jim said.
Dirk was silent for a few moments, before replying, “Gonzalez is hell bent to interview me about Bridget, but I don’t know a goddamned thing he can use. Then he gets suspicious of Joel. What I’m suspicious of is why, exactly, Bridget is letting them use her guesthouse. If the threat to Trevor is over, why does she still need them there?”
Jim blinked. “That is a damn good – and damn scary – point. We’ll be talking to Henry again in a few days, let’s make sure to bring it up.”
After an hour and three quarters, Dr. Babcott began to explain post traumatic stress disorder to Trevor. “Trevor, one of the guidelines we use in diagnosing PTSD is called DREAMS. She opened a book to show Trevor what that stood for;
Reexperiencing the event
Event had emotional effects
Month in duration
Sympathetic hyperactivity or hypervigilance
“You were showing the first five, to varying degrees, and you certainly have the nightmares so often associated with PTSD. Normally, the month-in-duration part means you’ve had it for over a month, but you didn’t begin experiencing panic attacks until you were able to start to open up about what happened, and that was after your arrival. I think it’s possible that your long isolation in harsh conditions may have delayed the onset. You’re very fortunate to have a boyfriend who has experience with PTSD, and I think he did quite well.
“Your panic attacks are, of course, cause for concern, but both were under very emotionally stressful circumstances. You set yourself up for the first one without meaning to, and as for the second, you found yourself face to face with a way you nearly perished, plus you had the tremendous stress of trying to utter the three most traumatic words in the English language, ‘I love you’. In your case, they may have been far harder to say, because one of the hallmarks of PTSD is relationship issues: a reluctance to commit and difficulty in trusting. An added complication is likely your mother’s death at sea, and then the trauma of this situation with your father and not knowing if he killed her or tried to kill you. Add to that the feelings of being hunted since you arrived, and I think you’ve done very well indeed. Everyone has their breaking point though, and you reached your limit. I think the best course for you is what we call Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy: a technique of exposing the patient to, and delving into, any thought or memory that is associated to the event that caused the PTSD. This helps the patient to identify the possible triggers of PTSD and address each of them, while also lowering their sensitivity to the trigger event. This is, in essence, roughly what you have been doing with Shane; talking about what happened. I noticed that you barely shuddered when telling me what they did to you, a recount that made me shudder. The good news is; I’m hopeful that you can make a full recovery, given time,” Dr. Babcott said.
It had been a lot to digest, and Trevor was feeling somewhat overwhelmed. “What happens now? And am I safe to be in command of Kookaburra?” Trevor asked, dreading the answer.
Dr. Babcott paused for a moment, before replying, “Boating is a little out of my experience, but I can say that, if you take precautions, I’d have no trouble with you driving a car. The caveat is; you need to avoid it if you’ve had stress, especially emotional stress. Panic attacks can be life-changing, if you allow them to be. It is not uncommon for sufferers to experience a sense of shame, weakness and embarrassment as their self-image is redefined by fear. That said, I have had many other patients with panic disorders, including PTSD, and most of them drive themselves to their appointments. The ones where we have concerns are those whose fears involve driving. For many, the hardest part is to get them to resume past activities, such as piloting a boat in your case. From what you said, you had no fears when piloting Kookaburra through what sounds like a very daunting set of shallows. Indeed, Shane is likely correct, you were enjoying it, so I don’t think piloting a boat fazes you in and of itself. That’s an excellent sign, especially in light of how boating is linked to the causal factor of your condition: the pirate attack. The thing you need to remember about panic attacks is to tell yourself repeatedly that panic attacks are nothing dangerous. They arise out of fear and fear by itself cannot harm you. You seem to be facing your fears by talking about them and the event, both with Shane and now me. Getting a patient to open up about the event that traumatized them is often a long and difficult process, but you were already there before we met. The first step is so often the hardest, but you’ve already taken it. A further help to you, I think, was the news that the pirates who tried to kill you can’t harm you, or anyone, ever again. Your second attack was less severe then the first, which is also a good sign. Okay, now if you do start feeling panicky again, keep reminding yourself that it can’t actually hurt you, it just feels like it. I will advise you to try to avoid major stress if you can, as that seems to be a trigger for you. Your present circumstances make that highly problematic, but do the best you can. Also, keep working with Shane, he seems to be a great help to you, and I’m a firm believer in the old adage; ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it.’”
“I need to talk to Kookaburra’s owner, Mr. Blake, tonight. I’ve got to tell him what’s going on with me, and I’m worried that unless I can give him proof I’m okay to captain Kookaburra, he’ll take her from me. If he does, I don’t know where Shane and I can go, due to all the stuff going on. Could I give him your number, and could you give him your opinion? It might help,” Trevor asked.
Dr. Babcott nodded. “I’ll need a signed release from you for that, but I’d be happy to. I don’t know enough about boating to say for certain, but I can say I’d have no issues with you driving, where a split second can result in a fatal crash. With, of course, the caveat that you aren’t in a highly emotional state.”
Trevor smiled. “Thanks. And, uh, when you speak to him, please don’t mention anything about me and Shane being a couple. I’m not out to him, and I don’t know if Shane is, so I have no idea how Mr. Blake would react.”
Dr. Babcott shook her head. “Anything of that nature is strictly confidential. My conversation with him would only be regarding your fitness to pilot the boat or drive a car. Nothing more.”
“It might not be safe for me to come back here, not for a while anyway. Could we do the follow ups over the phone?” Trevor asked.
“Under the circumstances, yes, for some. I’d like to see you in person again though. I sometimes do training seminars and clinics in some of the small communities in the region and occasionally Geraldton, so perhaps we might be able to set something up for somewhere else. If not, I can refer you to another doctor, but you’ll end up having to go to Geraldton or further; there’s no one else in the region. Now, one more thing; I’d generally recommend getting a GP to prescribe a mild sedative to help you sleep and dim your nightmares, but to me it sounds like Shane is doing a good job of that.”
Trevor nodded, blushing slightly.
Dr. Babcott showed Trevor out to the receptionist’s desk. The receptionist asked, “What name do I put on the invoice?”
“I’ll need to submit this to my insurance company at some point,” Trevor said.
Dr. Babcott smiled. “Let’s do this the easy way. Gladys, take a coffee break and I’ll handle this. Young man, your name will be known only to me,” she said, looking up at Trevor.
Gladys was not about to object to the extra break. “I’ll be in the back. The officer arrived a few minutes ago, he’s parked just outside the door,” she said, heading to the staff room.
Dr. Babcott filled in the invoice, and then gave Trevor another form to sign, allowing her to speak with Martin Blake. “Okay, you’re set. The bill comes to three hundred even.”
Trevor blinked, and then struggled not to wince as he handed over almost all of the cash remaining in his wallet to cover the bill. He tried to console himself with the thought that his insurance would probably reimburse him.
“Thanks, Doctor,” Trevor said, putting the invoice in his wallet and giving the doctor a shy smile.
“Please call me Anna, and I hope to see you soon, or at least speak with you, in a week.”
Trevor walked out into the bright sunlight, where Officer Fowler was waiting. As Trevor got into Fowler’s car, Fowler asked, “Did it go alright?” as he pulled out of the parking spot.
Trevor gave Fowler a weak smile. “Yeah, it did. Dr. Babcott thinks I’ll get over the nightmares eventually, and I need to keep my stress down. I signed a form so Mr. Blake can talk to her about it. She doesn’t know enough about boating to say for sure, but she says I’m fine to drive a car. I’m going to call Mr. Blake tonight. Uh, if I do have to leave Kookaburra, any ideas what I should do?”
Fowler arched an eyebrow. “Is there some reason for the concern? I think Kookaburra is the best place for you for a while, due to your need to stay out of sight. Are you getting along with Shane okay?”
Trevor grinned. “Yeah, Shane has been great. He’s not the problem, not at all, he’s been helping me through it, even the doctor said so. It’s just…” Trevor’s expression changed to crestfallen, and he added softly, “I’d rather tell Mr. Blake myself, and I will tonight, but I had a couple of panic attacks since you last saw me, due to the pirate attack. I hope the doctor can reassure him – that’s why I signed the release form to let her talk to him – but I’m worried he might take Kookaburra away. Maybe it’d be different if we could just tie up in Carnarvon and stay put, but we can’t, thanks to the reporters and that fucking garlic crusher being found.”
“Call Martin tonight, but I’ll put your mind at ease in the meantime. I know him very well; he won’t take Kookaburra off you. At worst, if you need him, he might come along for a while to get Kookaburra to a safe place. He may well insist on some redecorating though, but don’t ask me to explain; you’ll find out at Ned’s,” Fowler said, giving Trevor a smile.
They arrived at the bank, and Fowler, after a look around, took Trevor inside. Trevor signed in, and was soon sent to a private room, his safe deposit box in hand. There, Trevor looked at his cash, and did some mental math. Thinking that he might need it, and better to have too much than too little, he took out two thousand U.S. dollars. After his box had been returned to the vault, he exchanged the money for Australian currency, getting over two thousand six hundred, which was far too bulky to fit in his wallet. Instead, he put it in an empty pocket of his cargo shorts, making sure the Velcro was tightly sealed.
Trevor emerged from the bank to find Fowler waiting. As Trevor climbed in, he glanced at Fowler’s civilian clothes, and suddenly understood. “You dressed that way to keep us low-profile, huh?” Trevor asked.
Fowler chuckled. “Partly right. I would have, had I been working today. However, believe it or not, I do normally wear civvies on my days off.”
Trevor gave Fowler an apologetic smile. “Sorry you had to do this on your day off, I didn’t know–”
Fowler waved a hand to interrupt. “Don’t worry about it. I’m happy it worked out this way. Look at it from my point of view; the missus had me slated to do yard work today, which I don’t like doing. Instead, I’m out and about, plus I had chance to run some errands while you were in with the doctor.”
Aboard Kookaburra, Shane tried to keep busy, spending time catching up on a few chores such as cleaning. Afterwards, he tried to work on the book, but his heart wasn’t in it. He went out on deck, looking at Oyster Creek Road and the empty expanse of Grey’s Plain, feeling lonely. He’d never minded being alone before, but now he found himself missing Trevor intensely, even though Trevor had only been gone for a few hours. ‘Come back soon, and safe, Trev,’ Shane thought, listening to the lonely wind.
When Trevor and Officer Fowler arrived at Ned’s boatyard, the gate was open and they drove through, pulling far into the back. As soon as they were in, Ned shut the gate.
“Hi, Trevor,” Ned said, as Trevor got out of the car, followed by Fowler. “Hi, Greg,” Ned said, nodding in greeting.
“Hi, can we go see Atlantis?” Trevor asked, glancing towards where he’d last seen her, under a tarp.
“Sure, but not that way. She’s over here, next to my office, where I can keep a better eye on her now the press bastards are snooping around. I moved her last night. I was bloody furious when Greg told me one had been in my yard and had taken pictures of your boat. Guess she wasn’t as well hid as we’d thought,” Ned said, leading the way to a huge tarp just a few feet behind his office.
A massive box fan had been rigged at the tarp’s edge, blasting into a plywood frame that the tarp draped across, secured by duct tape. As a result, the tarp was elevated above Atlantis in places, instead of hanging close across her upper works. “I use the fan to keep it tolerably cool inside when I’m working, and also to give more room. Come on in,” he said, lifting a loose edge of the tarp, letting out a gust of air.
Trevor rushed through, coming face to face with Atlantis. She was still on the haul-out trailer, and he felt a sudden urge to hug her, though he managed to refrain, due to not being alone. He reached out, touching her port stern.
“Climb up the ladder and I’ll show you what I’ve been up to,” Ned said, with a proud smile.
Trevor bolted up the ladder leaning against the hull, racing aboard and bounding down into the cockpit. Then, he glanced around, seeing anew the devastation that had been added to by Ned, and his heart fell.
Ned, followed by Fowler, joined Trevor. Ned swept his arm around. “She’s a mess now, but she’s on her way. I’ve been ripping out the old wiring, every bit of it, along with the old water and fuel tanks, bilge piping, plumbing, and a ton of other bits and pieces. Watch your step but go inside, and you’ll see I’ve already started putting in new wiring, starting with the main busses. I had to pretty much gut her; the tankage had bullet holes, and much of the wiring that hadn’t been damaged was old.
Trevor walking into the salon, and felt his stomach churn. He could see that Ned had been hard at work putting in new wiring, but that wasn’t all. “Why are the main windows gone?” Trevor asked.
“I took them out. Some of the seals had failed, so the only way to be sure was to pull ‘em all. The old ones were heavy glass. I can put them back with new seals, or, there’s a better way; go with some new polycarbonate windows, they’re both lighter and stronger. They can be ordered polarized with tint, to keep out all the ultraviolet light and a lot of the heat. Strong as hell too: that’s what they make bulletproof windows out of. Think it over and let me know, I won’t need a final decision for a couple of weeks,” Ned said.
Trevor reached out to touch the empty window frame, and then made his way to where the galley had been. There, he saw that Ned had finished the gutting, but hadn’t put in any wiring.
“I’m waiting to do more in here until you’ve picked a layout, so I know what needs to go where. We’re starting with a clean slate here,” Ned said.
Trevor rambled through Atlantis, his heart aching at the damage, though his spirits were buoyed each time he saw new wiring or other repairs.
“Still a bit of a shock, seeing her like this, isn’t it,” Ned asked, in an understanding tone.
Trevor gave Ned a weak smile and a nod. “Yeah, I guess I’ve been thinking of her these past weeks like she was before the pirates, and seeing all that damage again, plus the removals, knocked me back. I can see the new wiring and some other repairs though, so I know she’s in good hands.”
Ned smiled. “She is, and when I’m done, she’ll be better than the day she was launched. I’ve done a detailed examination of her hulls and glasswork: no sign of delaminating or other issues. I’ll be putting a new gel-coat on, inside and out, so she’ll effectively be a brand new boat when done. Now comes your part; you need to start picking out fixtures, fittings, options, designs, and styles. Star Child, an Oyster 63 monohull, is on my dock at the moment. She’s the one I mentioned you should see regarding the design of her heads, and her nav station as well; I put them in last year. So, if you’ve time today, we should have a look at her, to give you some ideas.”
Trevor glanced at Fowler, who responded to the unspoken question. “Sounds great to me. I’m in absolutely no hurry at all to get back to the gardening.” Fowler paused, and told Ned with a wink, “Ned, I’d appreciate it if my comments regarding gardening don’t get back to my wife.”
Ned chuckled. “Fair enough, Greg. Just be a mate and return the favor; mine has some work in the garden lined up for me, and I think your wife put her up to it.” Ned turned to face Trevor and said, “I’ve gathered up catalogs and other materials for you to look at, and I’ll be sending them off with you. There are a lot, so take your time going through them, and keep a notebook so you can write down questions, or note things you like. Once you’ve picked out most of it, I’ll start ordering. In the meantime, I’ll continue with the wiring and a few other jobs, including the hull prep. I’ve already begun sealing some of those bullet holes.”
“Thanks,” Trevor said, looking around, knowing that his brief reunion with Atlantis was almost over. “Any idea when she’ll be ready?”
“I’m still thinking late March to early April,” Ned replied.
Reluctantly, Trevor followed Ned Kelly and Officer Fowler back to the edge of the tarp, and after one last, lingering look back, ducked under and out.
Their next stop was Star Child. Trevor was very impressed with what he saw, and praised Ned’s workmanship. She was done in a more classical style than Kookaburra, and Trevor decided that he preferred Kookaburra’s modern, clean interior style. Two things about Star Child, though, caught Trevor’s eye. “I like her galley layout. Her available space is a bit smaller than Atlantis’s, so Atlantis could use the same layout, right?”
Ned nodded. “The only difference would be Atlantis’s would be a bit roomier, with more storage space as well.”
Trevor nodded towards one of the cabin heads. “I like the way you did those, even better than Kookaburra’s, or Atlantis’s old ones. Moving the shower over to one side and making it bigger, with a curved glass door instead of a curtain, would be great for the guests, and I’d like it for the crew cabin too,” Trevor said, thinking of how nice it would be to have showers aboard that could hold two people.
“That can be done. Don’t make up your mind until you’ve looked through the catalogs I’m giving you; there are tons of options and styles, plus other possible layouts. However, I think you’ve a good eye, you’ll do fine.”
They made their way towards Ned’s office, but stopped at a small work shed. Fowler grinned, telling Trevor, “Remember what I told you Martin might want? Some redecorating? That’s what we’re here for.”
Ned chuckled, pointing at a covered bench. “I did the chili-red paintjob on Kookaburra, and I always save the leftover paint in case it’s needed for a patch or something. Well, Martin and I had a chat last night, regarding your reporter problem. So, here’s what we cooked up,” he said, pulling back a sheet to reveal two chili pepper red squares. “Kookaburra’s name is only on her transom. These are made out of car-sign materiel, slightly flexible, and can be attached with waterproof double-sided tape. I painted ‘em with the same paint I used on Kookaburra, so they’ll blend right in. So, you can just slap one of these over her name.”
Trevor stared at the two large decals Ned had made, each about three feet long. One said ‘Red Kangaroo’ and the other said ‘Hot Stuff’, both in cursive black lettering. Trevor grinned. “These are great, thanks!”
Fowler, in a quiet, serious tone, said, “Trevor, I advise you to put one on when you get to the boat. The local police have been poking around in that reporter’s stuff and questioning him, and we’ve confirmed he knows Kookaburra’s description, and at least, he’s fairly sure on the name. Also, I want you to change her AIS transponder setting, just pick a random number or something.”
“Shane already did that. He shut off the AIS when we moored in Rhys Lagoon, and then he reprogrammed it yesterday, after Officer Grundig’s call,” Trevor said.
“Shane did something right? Will wonders never cease,” Ned grumbled.
Trevor tensed, wanting to argue, but he kept his peace, deciding that in this case, discretion was the better part of valor.
Fowler scratched his chin. “Good call. Change it again when you get back. She’s also marked by her registration number, in black lettering. If you need to, use some electrical tape to change a digit or two. That’s not legal, but if you have any trouble over it get them to give me a call and I’ll put it right,” Fowler said.
Ned wrapped the big red decals in cloth, and added a roll each of double sided tape and black electrical tape to the bundle. Then, he led them to his cluttered office, and pointed to a foot-high pile of catalogs and brochures on his desk. “That’s for you as well; I’ll put them in a bag.”
Fowler smiled. “Has my wife stopped by?” he asked, offhandedly.
Ned grinned. “Indeed. It’s in my mini fridge,” Ned said, heading for a back room, and then returning with a flat box.
Fowler grinned, nodding at the box. “Key lime pie.”
“Wow, thanks. The last one was awesome. Please tell her thank you for me,” Trevor said, taking the box and licking his lips. “Would you guys like a slice?” he offered.
“Get plates!” Fowler instantly declared, but Ned was already on his way to the back room. He returned a moment later, with three sets of forks and paper plates.
“Thanks Trevor, this is a rare treat for me; my cholesterol is a tad high so my wife doesn’t often fix me these, though I love them,” Fowler said, using his pocketknife to cut a modest slice.
Ned had a similarly modest slice, but Trevor had the smallest of all, due to having a plan. For a few minutes, the three ate, engaging in a friendly chat. Trevor nodded at the name decals Ned had made, and said, “I’ll bet Mr. Blake came up with those names, ‘Red Kangaroo’ at least.”
Ned nodded. “That he did, both of ‘em in fact, said they fit with her color. How’d you know?”
Trevor grinned. “It just fit, because he’s got a kangaroo farm.”
Fowler and Ned exchanged a puzzled look, and then a knowing smile appeared on Ned’s face. “Next time you see him in person, make sure you ask him about his kangaroo farm. He just loves to talk about it,” Ned replied.
Trevor nodded his mind elsewhere, taking the last bite of his pie from his plate, finishing first, as he’d intended. “Mind if I run and have another look at Atlantis?” Trevor asked.
“She’s your boat,” Ned replied with a smile, to Trevor’s retreating back.
“You’re a cruel, cruel man, Ned Kelly,” Fowler said, chuckling and shaking his head.
“I’d give anything to see Martin’s face when he’s asked about his kangaroo farm. Sounds to me like somebody, probably Shane, is doing a wind-up. Tempting though it might be to spoil his fun, this is one case where I’m inclined to let the bastard get away with it,” Ned replied, laughing.
Trevor climbed aboard and made his way to the salon, where he sat on the exposed deck crossmembers, looking around and thinking, hoping that Atlantis would soon be whole again.
The light was orange-cast, the color imparted by the tarp, and Trevor could smell the scent of fresh fiberglass. The hum of the fan was the only sound, save for an occasional wind-rustle of the tarp. Trevor glanced at the extension cords Ned had run for his power tools, and at the toolboxes lying around. Trevor could see that the work was underway, and it ate at him that he could not stay and be a part of it.
He leaned forward, looking at her exposed hull between the crossmembers, reaching out to caress it, remembering when he’d ripped up the decking to make his wooden sail.
All too soon, Trevor knew it was time to go, and after pausing to touch a bulkhead for a moment, he reluctantly made his way back to Ned’s office.
Ned helped load Fowler’s car, and Trevor looked at them both to ask, “What happens now?”
Fowler gave Trevor a sympathetic look. “My advice is return to where you were at, if you liked it, or take off and see some other parts of Western Australia. You’d be safer away from here. I imagine you must be getting cabin fever, cooped up on Kookaburra for so long.”
Trevor shook his head. “I love being on her, and Shark Bay was a blast.”
Ned scowled. “It’s just too bad you’re stuck having Shane aboard.”
Trevor chose his words with care. “Ned, he’s been a great friend to me, and I very much want him aboard.”
Ned blinked in surprise, and then smiled, shaking his head and raising his hands in mock surrender, “Okay, okay, your choice. Better thee than me. Anyway, have yourself a look at those catalogs and give me a ring in a few days. Take care, and I hope all goes well, Trevor.”
“Thanks for all you’ve done, Ned. I’ll talk to you soon,” Trevor said, as he climbed into Fowler’s car.
Ned opened the gate, and Fowler pulled away. As he turned onto the street, he asked, “Is there anything you need from town?”
Trevor shook his head, unable to think of anything, though certain he would, once it was too late. Trevor’s mind was elsewhere, thinking of Shane, who he’d missed since the moment he’d driven away. “I’d like to get back to Kookaburra, if we could. Before I forget, do you have the packages that arrived for me?”
Fowler nodded. “In the boot, next to your catalogs. Trevor, any idea where you’ll be at?”
Trevor sighed. “A lot depends on what Mr. Blake has to say tonight, but unless that goes badly, I’m guessing we’ll head for Denham to reprovision, then maybe back to Rhys Lagoon,” Trevor said, using the name he’d been calling it without thinking, and only realizing the fact after speaking the name.
“Good spot, that. Hardly any boats go in there, because the entrance is so tricky and only navigable at high water. I’ve been in once, a couple of years ago.”
Trevor looked at Fowler in surprise. “You know it as Rhys Lagoon?” Trevor asked, with an amused grin.
Fowler laughed and nodded. “I do. Martin mentioned it by that name a few weeks back, and then told me Shane had named it for himself.”
“Shane’s going to love hearing that the name is spreading,” Trevor said, his spirits lifting. Then he asked, “Any news on how that reporter found out my mother’s family name?”
Fowler hesitated a moment before replying, “Yes, and no. I stopped by the yacht club to have a word with the clerk about it, but he denied everything. He was antsy as hell though, so my guess is that’s how the reporter knows. I took a look at the offices; those walls are paper-thin, he could have eavesdropped right from his desk. Did you mention anything else on the calls from there, that you wouldn’t want the reporter knowing?”
Trevor tried to remember. He knew he’d been concerned about being overheard, and couldn’t recall anything that might cause problems. “Not that I can remember.”
“Okay, we’ll be in touch in a day or two at most, to let you know what happens with that reporter, and if any others show up,” Fowler said, glancing at Trevor and giving him a reassuring smile.
They chatted for a few minutes, until Fowler turned onto Oyster Creek Road and Trevor craned his neck, eager to catch sight of Kookaburra – and far more importantly, Shane.
“Is there any chance you could help me find my family? I’m heading for Northam when I’m in Perth to pick up my friend Joel, but so far all I have to go on is ‘Smith’.
“I’ve already begun. I know your mother’s name, so I’ve put in a request with the Western Australian records department, in search of kin, starting with her birth records. This won’t be quick because records from back then aren’t computerized, but I’m certain I’ll have everything you need by the end of the month,” Fowler said.
“Thanks, and thanks for all you’ve done.”
“No problem, just take care of yourself. Ah, and here’s your ride,” Fowler said, pointing ahead to Shane, who was standing on the beach, beside the Zodiac.
Shane grinned and ran forward, barefoot and still in just the tattered cutoffs, as Fowler brought his car to a dusty halt not far from the Zodiac.
Trevor jumped out, craving to hug Shane, but Fowler’s presence precluded that.
“Did everything go okay?” Shane asked.
Trevor smiled and nodded. “I think so.”
Fowler glanced around, and then opened the trunk of his car. “Let’s get this stuff to the Zodiac,” he said, grabbing the heavy bag of catalogs. “Trevor, those two packages that came for you are in there; make sure you get them too.”
They loaded the Zodiac, and Fowler turned to face Shane. “You’ve done very well, from what I hear. As far as I’m concerned, the past is the past. You’ve a clean slate with me, and are all right in my book,” Fowler said, shaking Shane’s hand.
Fowler shook Trevor’s hand next. “Take care of yourself, and we’ll be in touch within two days at most. Don’t forget the boat name and AIS. I think you should sail soon: that reporter will probably be released in a few hours. I think you’re safe here, though no point in tempting fate.”
“Will do, and thanks, for everything,” Trevor said, climbing into the Zodiac.
Fowler helped Shane shove them off, and then Shane fired up the engine, turning to motor slowly to Kookaburra. As soon as he felt it safe, he said, “I missed you, a lot.”
“I missed you too,” Trevor replied, smiling at Shane.
By the time they reached Kookaburra, Officer Fowler was driving away. They hoisted the Zodiac aboard, and Shane helped carry everything inside. Trevor carefully put the pie in the refrigerator, and then returned to the salon to give Shane a big hug. “I missed you,” he said again.
“I missed you too,” Shane said, pushing Trevor slightly away, “and I want this back,” he said, as he grabbed the hem of the shirt he’d lent Trevor, and pulled it slowly up and off. Shane tossed the shirt aside and resumed their hug, “it was in the way. Trev, I was alone on Kookaburra a lot before you arrived, but today it bugged me. I really missed you,” he said, pulling Trevor into a deep kiss.
When they came up for air, Trevor said, “I missed you right from the start.”
The ringing satellite phone interrupted them: Officer Fowler calling, to ask for Gonzalez’s private number.
As soon as the call was over, Trevor said, “Before I forget, we’ve got to change Kookaburra’s name, then I’ll tell you what happened today.”
Trevor showed Shane the name decals Ned had made, and said, “Pick one.”
“Red Kangaroo,” Shane said, picking up the sign and heading aft with the double-sided tape. Trevor followed him out, watching as Shane applied the tape and then hung over the aft railing to apply it over Kookaburra’s name, with a little help from Trevor.
Returning to the salon, Trevor mentioned changing the AIS again, and Shane chose the obvious ID: Roo.
They tore open the packages, and Trevor tried to set up his new cell phone to charge, only to find that, while his charger was universal voltage, the plug wouldn’t fit. Fortunately, Shane remembered an adapter aboard, found it, and soon the phone was charging. The other package, actually a thick envelope bearing the official logo of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, contained Trevor’s new Florida drivers’ license, which he gleefully sequestered in his wallet, and then returned Shane’s ATM card.
“Let’s get underway, and I’ll tell you what happened. It’ll take a while,” Trevor said, raiding the refrigerator to get them each a can of coke.
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 Low Flyer for spotting a couple of goofs.