Fowler was only halfway back to Carnarvon after dropping Trevor off when he received a call from Constable White, to let him know that the meeting between the prosecutor and the magistrate – a judge – had occurred.
Constable White got to the point. “Greg, Kline has lawyered up and won’t answer any questions, so we’re getting nothing from him. The prosecutor explained your suspicions to the magistrate and suggested the magistrate meet with you, but his honor declined, and was intractable on the issue, saying we have flimsy circumstantial concerns at best, and nothing more to indicate that this Kline is in any way connected to whoever has been trying to kill Trevor Carlson. However, the prosecutor did manage to impress upon his honor that the key to the case may well be in Kline’s computer, and made an issue of the fact that Kline gave a false identity to law enforcement officers and is refusing to give us any passwords. As such, and due to the possible risk, he agreed to delay the bail hearing until the computer can be further examined, but until no later than tomorrow morning. The computer is at the police lab in Geraldton, and they found that it’s encrypted to hell and back. They aren’t hopeful, but they say they’ll keep working at it. So, as things stand, it looks like Kline will be out on bail in the morning, at the latest. The hearing is scheduled for ten, and the magistrate indicated that the bail would be low, unless we turn up something solid in the meantime.”
“Thanks for trying. I’ll be making a call to Florida as soon as it’s a reasonable hour there, to see if they have any thoughts on the matter. I’ll keep you posted. Thanks,” Fowler said, ending the call.
Kookaburra lolled at anchor a mile south of Oyster Creek, nestled in a channel in the mangroves. They’d moved her just a short distance, wanting to remain within cell phone range for their coming calls. Their anchorage could not be seen from any road or beach, so they’d felt it safe enough.
Trevor had given Shane a detailed account of his trip to Carnarvon, and they’d spent time discussing the developments. Both were buoyed by the hopeful news from the psychologist, but the issues with the press lent an overarching hunted feeling to them both.
Trevor pulled open his Velcro pocket, extracting his large roll of Australian banknotes. He peeled off a few hundred for his wallet before asking Shane, “Got anywhere we can hide the rest?”
Shane smiled and nodded, and then shook his head, a combination of movements that made Trevor giggle. “Yeah, sorta, but maybe not for that much. I was bored a few weeks ago, so I made myself a hiding place. It’s not much of one though. I used an old coffee tin, and fit the metal lid inside the bottom, propped up by a few bits of wood I glued in. It made a false bottom. It’s in the starboard engine compartment, used to hold rags. I think it’s a good spot, unless somebody comes along and tosses it out as garbage, so I never actually used it for anything after that week’s pay was gone,” Shane said, scratching his head.
“The pirates never bothered with the rag boxes on Atlantis, so that actually sounds pretty good, and yachters value oil rags, so I doubt anyone would toss it. I think it’ll be safe while it’s just us aboard,” Trevor said, bounding to his feet and heading aft. Just as on Atlantis, the main engine hatches were built into the top steps of the stairs that were built into the aft ends of both hulls, leading to the swim-dive platforms. Shane opened the hatch with his keys and leaned in, soon finding the coffee can. He opened it by dumping the rags out and turning it upside down, and then striking it on the deck to dislodge the false bottom.
“We can put the can in one of the forward bilges, they’re harder to get to, and you have to get to ‘em from the internal companionways,” Trevor said, examining Shane’s handiwork with an approving nod.
Shane was about to close the hatch, but paused, looking at the engine. “You said these are bigger than normal for this type of boat, right? They look like they fit just fine.”
Trevor chuckled. “Yeah, poor wording on my part. Bigger horsepower is what I meant. Yanmar often makes engine in a series; same base engine with the same displacement, but for some they soup up the compression ratio, put in a turbo, and make other changes. It’s done at the factory as kind of a kit, so the engines are roughly the same size and sorta similar weight, but some are higher horsepower. I could see the turbos and the model number group, so I knew they had to be higher end performance. She has to have, to be able to do eleven knots with undersized clunky props. Factory standard engines would get you about eight knots with good props. With Atlantis, I have to be careful not to run at max very much, and be gentle on the throttle changes when I do, because the engines are kinda overpowered for the kind of drive systems she has. I maintain the hell out of them, but I was still getting leaks in the main glands and stuff. One of ‘em started to leak back in the Med, and it’ll need replacing by now, for sure, unless Ned does it. Kookaburra’s aren’t quite as powerful though, so we don’t have to worry.”
“I maintain them pretty well; speaking of, I need to change the oil this month, but we’re out of filters. We’ll have to get some… damn, probably from Ned,” Shane said.
Trevor led the way inside, where he put the money in the can. He then opened a hatch in the galley floor, to access the main bilge compartments. He looked around, blinking in the darkness. He flicked on a light and then squirmed into the bilge. After a few moments, he looked up at Shane and said, “The hull structure is a little different than Atlantis; there’s a thick hull member over the water tank. I can wedge the can up behind it. It’s a tight fit, but if I leave it rag end out, it looks just like a rag holder. The rags will be easy to get, but the can won’t be. Perfect!” A few moments later Trevor popped back out of the bilge and slammed the hatch, telling Shane, “It’ll be fine… uh, maybe. I just thought of something; can your money get wet and still be usable? It feels kinda plasticy, but is it waterproof? Bilges can get kinda damp.”
Shane laughed and nodded. “I’ve washed notes in my pockets when I’ve done laundry a few times; it seems to do just fine.”
With that task done, they sealed up the hatch.
They returned to the salon, where Trevor said, in a nervous tone, “I’ve been stalling, but I have to call Mr. Blake today. I’m going to tell him everything, and he can call my doctor if he has any worries, but I’m… I just hope it goes okay.”
Shane nodded, reaching for the satellite phone, but Trevor stopped him. “Wait, we’ll try out my new cell phone. I think we’re close enough to Carnarvon to get a signal. It’s not totally charged yet, but we can just use it plugged in. I need to see if it works, too.” Trevor said.
Trevor turned his cell on, only to find that he had to activate it by going through a few menus, and then calling an activation number. He did so, relieved to find that it worked for that, at least, and was getting two bars of signal. He then had Shane dial the number – which Shane knew by heart. Martin Blake answered on the second ring, and after a few greetings, Trevor launched into his explanation of the panic attacks, leaving out the parts involving his attraction to Shane.
Martin listened patiently, though he eventually interrupted to say, “Trevor, if you’re getting at what I think you’re getting at, I’m okay with you being on Kookaburra. She’s covered by your insurance as well as my own, and in any case, if the doctor has no issue with you driving, and conning the boat isn’t what brings the attacks on, I see no issue, especially with Shane aboard. Now, from my point of view, your insurance is paying me charter rate for Kookaburra during a season when she’d normally be tied up at the dock, earning nothing. I’m delighted to have you chartering her. If it makes you feel any better, I’ll do as you suggest and speak to your doctor, but worst case, if you feel unable, I’ll join you for a few days and get Kookaburra to a safe spot where you can hide out until this all blows over. The one thing I’m not comfortable with is Kookaburra, or you, being in Carnarvon, under the present circumstances. Actually, on that score, let me speak to Shane for a moment.”
Trevor handed Shane the phone, and Shane said, “Hi, Mr. Blake.”
Shane listened for a few moments, as Martin mentioned a few ideas for places to go. Then Shane said, “I know about Trevor’s panic attacks, and you already know I had similar, after my mum died, so I’ve been looking after him. I think he’s doing great. He’s not like me; conning the boat doesn’t make him stress. He did great; he even got us in and out of Rhys Lagoon, no problem.”
“What do you mean, no problem?” Martin asked.
Shane explained how Trevor had taken Kookaburra through the shallows, and then added that, on the way out, it was at less than peak high water, and how relaxed he’d been doing it.
“Without grounding her?” Martin said, and then added a few words that made the corners of Shane’s mouth twitch. Shane handed the phone back to a puzzled Trevor, giving him a wink.
Martin cleared his throat. “Trev, this is too bloody much. You’d never been to Rhys Lagoon before, and you got Kookaburra in and out without even touching bottom. And to add insult to injury, you managed it on the way out at less than high water. You’re making me look bad in front of the hired help, at the place he so modestly saw fit to name after himself. So, I’m afraid I must insist; if you go back there, at least be decent enough to scrape bottom a time or two.”
Trevor had been concerned at first, but now he laughed, the tension gone. “I’ll do my best, Mr. Blake.”
“The name’s Martin and you’d better,” Martin said, chuckling for a moment before adding in a serious tone, “Rhys Lagoon is a good out-of-the-way place, so you might want to return there, or see some of the other estuaries along the south shores of Shark Bay. Shane can advise you well on those, he’s been to most of them. However, you might also want to consider leaving the region. In fact, I’d advise it; a reporter might make the easy conclusion that you’re in the usual destination for charter boats out of Carnarvon, and charter a plane to scout from the air. Shark Bay is over ten thousand square kilometers, but they could search the likely areas easy enough, and Kookaburra would be easy to spot from the air with her color scheme. So, one option is you could go north, about two hundred kilometers to Coral Bay, a resort town for Ningaloo Reef, which is spectacular. Beyond that is Exmouth, a lot bigger than Coral Bay, but about half the size of Carnarvon. It’s on Exmouth gulf, which is vast, with a lot of secluded places to hole up.” Martin paused, and then added, “South is your other option. You mentioned picking up your friend in Perth just before Christmas, so you could start heading down. Kalbarri is at the mouth of the Murchison River, and inland from it is Kalbarri National Park. I’d suggest skipping the bigger ports south of there, like Geraldton, because they are on the driving route from Perth to Carnarvon, so you might encounter reporters. Now, Greg Fowler and I are cooking something up for you to be able to moor safely near Perth and not be bothered, but we’d need a few days’ notice to set it up. In the meantime, all I ask is let me know where you’re going.”
It was a lot for Trevor to take in, and he wasn’t familiar enough with the geography to have any idea what sounded best. “Thanks, and I’ll talk it over with Shane and figure it out. I’d love to see some new areas, and keeping out of sight sounds good right about now. Currently, we’re just south of Oyster Creek Estuary, and we’re planning on sailing in about an hour. We were thinking of going to Denham to reprovision, but we’re good for a couple of days. We’ll let you know where we’re heading as soon as we figure it out.”
“Okay, give me a ring when you know. Talk to you soon Trevor,” Martin said.
As soon as the call was over, Trevor smiled at Shane. “We need to pick a place to head for. We could use the nav display, but a map would be better if there’s one handy.”
Shane walked to the bookcase and picked out an atlas. “This one has a good map of Western Australia,” he said, opening it to the correct page and setting the book down on the salon table.
Trevor looked at the map, finding and then tapping the places one by one as he recounted Mr. Blake’s suggestions to Shane.
Shane sat down beside Trevor at the table, a slightly crestfallen expression appearing on his face. “I know the real reason he suggested keeping clear of everywhere south of Shark Bay except Kalbarri; the Blakes know Kalbarri is one of the few marinas I didn’t hit and rip off on my way north; it’s not on the main highway. After they’d taken me in and my past caught up to me, I told them the lot about what I’d done. They’re right; if I’m recognized in some of those places, there could be trouble.”
Trevor gave Shane a one-armed hug. “We’ll stay clear. Don’t worry, there’s tons of other places to go.”
Shane was silent for a moment, before saying very quietly, “Thanks for trusting me, about knowing where that cash you brought aboard is.”
Trevor blinked, and gave Shane another hug. “I didn’t even think about it, Shane. And you trusted me with your ATM card, remember?”
Shane smiled, returning Trevor’s one-armed hug and then leaving his arm in place across Trevor’s back. “Thanks. Anyway, that still leaves us with heading for somewhere. I’ve been on one charter up north, to Coral Bay and the reefs, then on to Exmouth and its gulf, plus the islands all around the mouth of the gulf and to the northeast. There’s tons.”
“Sounds like a good place to hide,” Trevor said, smiling, though he felt a pang of anger that they still had to.
“How long do we have to be gone for, until Atlantis is ready?” Shane asked.
Trevor shook his head, and then glanced at the catalogs. “I sure hope not. Maybe just a week or two, we’ll see how it goes. I want to be able to stop in and see Ned sometimes.”
Shane looked at the map. “Carnarvon is about the midpoint between Kalbarri and Coral Bay, they’re each about two hundred kilometers. I saw a very small grocery in Coral Bay, though there might be more. Kalbarri looks bigger, though I’ve never been there so I don’t know what’s about. Kalbarri has the gorges and stuff in the national park inland, Coral bay has the reefs.”
“So pick one and that’s where we’ll go,” Trevor said, grinning.
“Me? You’re the charter, you pick,” Shane replied, giving Trevor’s shoulder a gentle nudge with his own.
“You know this coast a hell of a lot better than I do, and besides, this is a great chance to see some stuff you want to see. Anywhere would be new to me, so you pick.”
Shane grinned. “Okay, I’m thinking Kalbarri, maybe. The stuff we need to see is inland, so that’s an issue; it’d only work if we can get transpo of some sort. Then there’s supplies. We have about three more days, then we’re going to be just about out of food. We’d need a grocery store. I’m betting there has to be one there, but I don’t know. The good news: Denham is kinda on the way to Kalbarri, so we could reprovision there. The other part of it is, Kalbarri is on the way to Perth, and we’re going to have to head down there in about two weeks if we want to go to Northam for a few days before picking Joel up.”
“Kalbarri it is, if we can figure out transportation ashore. Any ideas?” Trevor asked.
“The Blakes would probably know. They’ve been there before, plus they make all kinds of arrangements for charters, including land transportation for stops,” Shane said.
“Let’s call,” Trevor said, picking up his cell.
Trevor dialed, and when Martin answered, Trevor said they were thinking of Kalbarri, and then mentioned the issues of land transportation and supplies.
“Not a problem,” Martin replied cheerily. “Shane is over eighteen now, and has a valid Queensland license, so there’s a rental agency I’ve dealt with before that should work just fine. First though, let me ask; did you get your license okay, and are you comfortable driving on our side of the road?”
“Yeah, I have my new license now, and I think I’d be okay driving here, as long as I didn’t have to start out in heavy traffic.”
“Can you drive a manual transmission if need be?” Martin asked.
“Yeah, no problem, my car back home was a standard tranny,” Trevor replied.
“Good, I’ll set it up. I’ll have to make it in Shane’s name, as he’s eighteen – the minimum age for a rental – but I’ll set it up so you’re an additional driver.”
Trevor was about to ask if Shane could just do the driving, and then paused, putting some pieces together. ‘Oh shit… no wonder he won’t,’ Trevor thought. “Is there a grocery store there? I plan on getting some stock in Denham, but if there’s a store in Kalbarri we can head directly there,” Trevor asked.
“I know there’s one food store, and it’s bigger than the ones in Denham. There might be others as well,” Blake replied, and then added, “Watch out for the bar at the mouth of the Murchison River. It’s a tricky one, and it shifts a lot, so don’t trust the charts. You’ll need to approach close in along the shore from the north and cut in when you round the northern shore of the mouth.”
“Thanks, and we’ll call you when we reach Kalbarri, in two to three days,” Trevor said, feeling far better now that he knew for sure Kookaburra wasn’t going to be taken away. He chatted with Martin for a few minutes about the area, and then the call was over.
Trevor put both arms around Shane and gave him a hug, saying, “I figured something out when I was on the phone. Mr. Blake didn’t say it, but he knows you don’t like driving, right?”
Shane nodded. “I’m fine if I’m alone, and I can drive with passengers, though I don’t much like it. Same as conning Kookaburra; it bothers me a little, but I’m okay in open waters.”
“You were behind the wheel when it happened. I understand, Shane,” Trevor said, giving him a hug.
“I’ve been this way ever since Mum died. I’m better than I was, but it still bugs me a bit. I can drive if you need me to, and I can sure con Kookaburra in open waters to give you a break – I’ve done that for the Blakes many times – but not in difficult waters. I don’t have the skill for that anyway,” Shane said, returning Trevor’s hug and holding on.
It was already late afternoon, and after a quick discussion, they decided to try to reach Lisa and Joel in the morning, Tuesday, at five, which would be four o’clock Monday afternoon in Florida. Their plan was to begin the voyage to Kalbarri right after the call.
They ate a delicious dinner prepared by Shane, followed by a dessert of key lime pie, intending to go to bed early – and after an hour or two, get some sleep.
At nine o’clock that night, Officer Fowler made his call to Florida. When Gonzalez answered his cell, Fowler introduced himself. “G’day, Officer Greg Fowler here, of the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service. I was given this number to call by Trevor Carlson.”
Gonzalez had no easy way to verify that Fowler was who he claimed to be, but the call had come in on his private number, which Trevor had. “How can I help you, Officer Fowler,” Gonzales asked, in a guarded tone.
Fowler gave Gonzalez a rundown on the situation with Kline, and then asked, “I was wondering if you have any thoughts on the matter, or the nature of the threat? I’m trying to keep Trevor safe. I’ve been told that you’re in charge of the case regarding the attempts on his life.”
Gonzalez was close to convinced that Fowler was who he claimed to be, but could not rule out that he might be a reporter – or worse. Gonzalez knew that there were procedures for verifying the identity of a foreign officer, but he’d never done so before, so didn’t know how. “I need to verify you are who you say you are, but seeing as how you called on my private line, I’ll assume so, for now, with caution. All I can say is we believe that the threat to Trevor Carlson is over at the present time, due to a motive issue. However, we aren’t certain, so we’re proceeding, in Trevor’s regard, as if the threat is still in effect. I suggest that you do likewise. We have suspects, not yet arrested, but I can disclose no more than that.”
“His story is out, unfortunately. Trevor’s name and information will likely be in the press in a few days. This will let whoever it is know he survived the pirate attack.”
“There’s a high probability that they already know that. What needs to be kept secret is where he is or will be,” Gonzalez said.
“He’s mentioned that you’ve cautioned him about revealing anything over the phone, and he’s kept out of sight while in my area. The immediate problem, Officer Gonzalez, is that I’m concerned that those details will be in the news here shortly. I need to know as much as possible about the nature of the threats, and if you have any idea whether the imposter we caught might be more than a reporter.”
Gonzalez noted Fowler’s mention of phone security, and that convinced him that Fowler, at the least, had talked to Trevor in detail. “So far as I know, there’s no link, but I can’t rule it out. As for the nature of the threat… it’s not just one or two people. It’s someone with a long reach, as they’ve shown. The best defense is keeping Trevor’s whereabouts unknown. Also, on that subject… I note that you haven’t told me where he’s at. There’s no need for me to know that, and I’ve told him that myself. There is every reason to withhold that information from everyone here in Florida, no exceptions. Further, I’ll ask that you speak to no one in law enforcement here, except for me and the state attorney. No one else.”
Fowler’s palms began to sweat, because the implication was clear: Gonzalez didn’t trust his own people. “I understand. I’ll remind Trevor to disclose nothing on the phone.”
“I’d appreciate it, and the more, the better. He has to be made to understand; he could be putting his life on the line. I’m hopeful that we’ll know more shortly.”
Fowler gave Officer Gonzalez the phone number of the switchboard at Customs House in Fremantle, the service’s Western Australia headquarters. They would route any call to him, anywhere, and he knew it would help Gonzalez confirm his identity. He also gave Gonzalez his cell number, and added, “I won’t say where he is or will be, of course, but Trevor is currently changing locations. We’ll do what we can to keep him safe, and please let me know if there’s anything we can do, or when there’s anything you can tell us.”
As soon as he hung up, Fowler turned to look at his wife, and said quietly, “This is even worse than we thought; he told me not to disclose anything to anyone but him and the state attorney. He apparently doesn’t trust his own people, and the only way I can read this is one or more of his suspects is a cop. That’d sure as hell explain how Trevor’s father got framed for the bomb.”
Shelly turned to glance out the window, and then asked, “Any ideas what can be done about the reporter problem?”
Fowler shook his head. “I’m not sure yet, but I’ve got quite a few people working on it.”
“Perhaps it was fate that brought him to our doorstep. Had he arrived in Fremantle as he intended, with Atlantis looking as she does, the press would have been on him in an instant.”
“I just wish we hadn’t radioed in for medical help. I knew those nurses are gossips, but I didn’t think of it,” Officer Fowler said.
“You didn’t know the situation, Greg. No sense crying over spilt milk. The issue is – what to do now?”
Trevor’s nightmares returned, and again he was on the deck of Atlantis, unable to move, face to face with the pirates. The engulfing, paralyzing fear returned, as Trevor again faced the pirate captain.
“Tell him he’s dead, Trev, tell him he’s fish food,” Trevor heard, and felt a warm embrace, intruding on his terror. Trevor’s mind raced, as the nightmare began to fade, and in a brief lucid moment, Trevor forced his mouth to work, “You’re dead,” he mumbled, and then louder, “You’re dead!”
The scene faded, and Trevor’s eyes cracked open, to see Shane giving him a sleepy smile in the dimly lit cabin. “I heard you. Keep telling ‘em that,” Shane said, before laying his head back down on Trevor’s shoulder.
For the remainder of the night, the pirates remained banished from Trevor’s dreams.
Woken by their alarm, Trevor and Shane got up to make the call to Florida.
The call went through from Trevor’s cell phone.
“Did I interrupt you two having sex again?” Trevor asked, chuckling.
Lisa and Joel were sharing Joel’s cell, and Lisa replied, “Not this time, you missed by about an hour. We’re at the mall now.”
“I’ll try harder next time,” Trevor replied, and then he gave them a fast rundown on his doctor’s appointment and what was going on. He heeded Gonzalez’s warning by not mentioning the names of any locations.
After they’d discussed the current problems, Joel began repeatedly pestering Trevor for the good news he’d promised, but Trevor was enjoying keeping Joel in suspense. Finally, Joel said, “Trev, we’ve got like five minutes until the first bell. Come on bro, spill it.”
“The first bell? Nice try, but you’re at the mall and it’s nowhere near school hours.”
“Asshole. Come on, what’s the news?”
Trevor pulled Shane, who was listening in, closer, and said, “You can quit scheming to get me laid when you’re here. Shane and I… Shane is my boyfriend!” Trevor said, grinning from ear to ear.
For several long moments, the line was silent, as Joel tried to comprehend what he was hearing, compared to his conversation with Shane. A vague notion that Trevor might be misreading things and entertaining false hopes occurred to Joel, and he blurted out the first words that entered his mind, “He’s your boyfriend? Uh, does he know?”
Shane’s eyes opened wide, and he rolled away, doubling up and laughing. Trevor laughed and rolled his eyes. “Yes, he fucking knows! He heard that, and he’s rolling around laughing his ass off!”
Lisa jumped in to say, “Trev, I thought he was straight?”
Trevor, who had begun to crack up, managed to briefly explain that Shane was bi but hadn’t wanted anything to happen because Trevor was leaving, and that Shane was now coming home with him.
Joel recovered from his shock to say, “Wow, are you sure about this, Trev?”
“I love him, Joel,” Trevor said, smiling at the still laughing Shane.
“Then follow your heart, bro,” Joel replied.
Shane recovered enough to return to the phone, and asked, “Let me say hello.”
“Shane wants to say ‘hi’,” Trevor said, handing the phone to Shane.
“G’day, Lisa and Joel,” Shane said, still chuckling.
Lisa replied, “Hello, Shane. I hear you’re taken Trev’s heart?”
Lisa’s tone was a bit reserved, but Shane had never spoken to her before, so he didn’t notice it. “True, and he’s stolen mine. I love Trev, and I’ve never been happier.”
“Just… be good to him, or so help me, I’ll have your head. And by the way, nice to talk to you at last. I really like your accent. I’m looking forward to meeting you, and you’ve landed a real keeper: Trev has a heart of gold. You’re a very lucky guy, Shane.”
Joel chimed in to add, “I’m happy for both of you. I’ll see you soon, Shane.”
Trevor took the phone back, with Shane still listening in, and said, “We’ll be in touch in a few days. Like I said, it looks like the press is about to break the story of how I got here, so we’re keeping out of sight. We’ll talk to you soon. And oh, by the way, Joel… Shane has been accusing me of sexual harassment if I so much as tie my shoes, and I know exactly where he learned to do that. Paybacks are a bitch, brother, count on it.”
Trevor heard the sound of Lisa and Joel cracking up, and then Joel gasped, “Hey, look at the bright side; he can’t do that anymore, now that you’re a couple.”
“Trev, complaining about me is sexual harassment!” Shane said loudly, and then began to snicker.
“I tried that argument already, it didn’t work,” Trevor said, deadpan.
After more laughter, Joel said, “I think I like Shane.”
They chatted for a few more minutes, and then said their goodbyes.
As soon as Joel hit the ‘end’ button, Lisa gave him a puzzled, concerned look. “Trev has a boyfriend? That was a shock. Isn’t it… kinda strange, that Shane kept silent about being bi until Trevor invited him to come back here with him?”
Joel stared off into the distance, thinking. “Yeah, but I’d be a lot more worried if it had been the other way around.”
Lisa wrinkled her brow. “Trev has never been in love before. He’s had the occasional boyfriend, but never love. I hope this works out for him, but we know pretty much zero about Shane. That just bothers me.”
Joel nodded. “I feel sorta the same. The good news is we’ll be there in a couple of weeks.”
“I’ll probably feel a lot better after I get to know him,” Lisa said, and then paused for a moment before adding, “For Trev’s sake, I hope this works out. The last thing he needs, especially with all this stress disorder stuff, is a broken heart. I don’t think he could take it, not with everything else that’s going on.”
In Kookaburra’s salon, Shane turned to Trevor with a bemused look. “That’s the first time I’ve ever had someone I’ve never talked to before threaten to behead me.”
Trevor laughed and shrugged. “Lisa’s like that, which you’ll find out, once we get to Florida. Don’t worry about it: her bite is worse than her bark.”
Shane blinked. “Don’t you mean that the other way ‘round?”
“Nope,” Trevor replied, turning away to hide a smirk, and then heading for the deck to raise anchor and get underway.
The man known to some as Basingstoke felt a sense of serene anticipation as he stared down at the vast expanses of the Kimberly range, ten thousand feet below. He checked his GPS again and adjusted his course two degrees to starboard, to compensate for some unforecast crosswinds. His anticipation was of the money he’d receive for the kill; by far the most he’d ever been offered. His serenity was a function of location and circumstance.
The calm of his high vantage point allowed him, for the moment, to put aside his concerns over the particulars of his mission. He was not a man who enjoyed killing; he did it solely for the money, and the need to take a head was one he found distasteful. It was something he’d never had to do before. Still, the fee offered was more than enough for him to set aside any qualms.
Alone in his single engine Beechcraft Debonair, a streamlined four-seater low-wing retractable-gear aircraft long beloved by private pilots, he eyed the gauges, alert for any sign of trouble. An engine failure could well prove fatal, given the dearth of places to land below, and Basingstoke was a careful man. He kept a close eye on the oil pressure and temperature.
Basingstoke had, several years before, extended the Beechcraft’s range of five hundred nautical miles to eight hundred by adding extra tankage, but even that was not enough for the vast distances involved on this flight. Basingstoke had therefore planned on two fueling stops, first at Halls Creek and then at Newman.
Looking just ahead of his port wing, he could see the rugged and remote Purnululu National Park. Below and ahead were the Bungle Bungles – an eroded sandstone range, now a maze of roughly beehive shaped sandstone monoliths, taller than many skyscrapers. An emergency landing in that, he knew, would be a non-survivable event. Other areas of Purnululu National Park were even worse in that regard: towering cliffs and gaping gorges, including the famous Echidna Chasm.
Basingstoke relaxed, enjoying the view from on high. It would be a long and grueling flight, but for Basingstoke, being alone in the sky was one of the rare times he felt truly at peace.
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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.