Off the eastern Shore of Dorre Island, Trevor guided the Zodiac north, skimming along on the calm morning waters beneath the low, red, shore cliffs.
Trevor spotted her first, as they rounded a headland and entered Disaster Cove. “There’s Star Child,” Trevor said, heading for her.
“Great, I get to see Ole’ Ned again,” Shane said, wrinkling his nose.
Trevor chuckled. “Just don’t let him get to you. Maybe he’ll be okay. When I saw him Monday I let him know I didn’t like him saying stuff about you.”
Shane shook his head. “Thanks, but don’t defend me to him, Trev. Not until you get Atlantis back. It’s not worth the risk.”
Trevor was about to argue the point, but by then they were coasting to a halt near Star Child’s stern, and Ned was waving to him from the deck.
Trevor tied the Zodiac up and climbed aboard. Ned gave him a friendly “G’day,” and then scowled at Shane. Returning his gaze to Trevor, Ned said, “Moor the Zodiac on a trailing line, about eight meters, like it’s rigged for tow, like it would be for this sort of boat. I left Star Child’s skiff back at my place, so this’ll look like the Zodiac is part of her gear.”
Trevor took care of the mooring, and as the Zodiac drifted away to the end of its line, he headed for the cockpit, where he found Ned and Shane glaring at each other. “Okay, what do we need to do to get ready?” Trevor asked.
“You need to have a good look around, so you can act like this is the boat you’re on. Greg should be here in about twenty minutes. When he comes into view, I’ll head for the forward cabin, and Shane can go to the aft cabin, so we can stay out of sight. You’re supposed to be alone aboard.”
Trevor studied the controls. “I could handle her okay if I have to; I’ve been out on Oysters before. Looks pretty standard,” he said, powering up the navigation system.
“Star Child’s owners are taking her out to Christmas Island in a couple of days, then on to Thailand, and they’ll be gone a few months. I have her because I’m doing sea trials on her today, to shake down some new rigging. You and Fowler get to deal with the reporter. And speak of the devil,” Ned said, glancing to the east, where Fowler’s patrol boat had come into view in the distance, heading in at high speed.
Ned led Shane below, and Trevor stood alone on deck, sunglasses on, waiting for the reporter.
Fowler deployed bumpers and tied up alongside, giving Trevor a friendly wave. Kline waved as well, saying, “Nice to finally meet you, Trevor.”
Trevor merely nodded, unable to think of a reply that would be both honest and inoffensive.
Fowler helped Kline aboard, and then stood aside as Trevor and Kline shook hands, very reluctantly on Trevor’s part. “So, you’re going to do a story on me? Where do we start?” Trevor asked.
Kline pulled a small recorder from his pocket. “This isn’t on yet, but I’d like to interview you on tape. Basically, start from the Seychelles. Per my deal with Officer Fowler here, I won’t ask anything about before then. The charges against your father will be part of the story, but that and the bombing attack will be drawn from already-published stories, per my deal with Officer Fowler here.”
Trevor gave a reluctant nod of assent. “Okay, but don’t make it sound like I’m saying my father did it. I’m not supposed to get into why, but we’re pretty sure he didn’t.”
Kline smiled. “No problem, you’ll be speaking for yourself in this story.”
Trevor took a deep breath, and after a reassuring nod from Fowler, Trevor said, “Okay, we can do this in the Zodiac, while I show you the reason we’re here.”
Kline blinked in surprise. “I thought we’d be doing the interview here?”
Fowler pointed at the narrow, rocky strait that opened a few hundred yards to their north. “We can if you’d like, but I promised you’d see how Trevor arrived. Your call.”
Kline looked at the strait, which ran east to west. He couldn’t see through it at that angle, but could see from the entrance that it was perilous, and had swells surging out of it, crashing against the jagged rocks jutting into the water from its shores. “Is it safe?”
Fowler replied with a cold chuckle, “In a Zodiac with an expert at the helm? Yes. In a crippled, jury-rigged big catamaran? No.”
“You came through there?” Kline blurted in surprise, giving Trevor a puzzled look.
Trevor nodded. “I had to, it was that or die. Come on, I’ll show you.”
Trevor reeled in the Zodiac, checked to make sure the satellite phone was still sealed in its watertight bag, and helped Kline in. They cast off, and Trevor gunned the engine, racing for the narrow strait.
Trevor took them through at a sedate ten knots, dodging the occasional rock. “I came through on an incoming tide, with a strong current. Atlantis just had a jury-rigged sail at that point, and all I could do was run roughly downwind. I was running pretty much blind: no charts, and I’d never heard of these islands before,” he said, as they entered the Indian Ocean at the west end of the strait, which was only two hundred yards long.
Trevor gunned the engine, racing west through the massive smooth swells, until they were half a mile out to sea. He came about and pulled the engine back to idle as Kline clicked on the recorder. “I came up from the south, paralleling the coast,” Trevor said, and then went on to explain about the improvised navigational methods he’d used, and then what he’d learned since arriving about the Equation of Time. “The winds were carrying me north, but I knew Australia had to be east of me. I saw the lighthouse, probably the one at Cape Inscription though I thought it was Steep Point, and the next morning was hazy. I was trying for what I now know is Naturaliste Passage, the huge strait between Cape Inscription and Dorre Island, but I was too far north. The wind shifted suddenly, and as it cleared I could see this coast,” he said, point at the wave-battered low cliffs of the two islands. “I thought the strait was a bay at first, but it was either try to enter or be bashed to bits. I couldn’t go crosswind enough to get around to the north or south.”
“Tell me about the attack, and then what happened after,” Kline asked quietly, still staring at the deadly shore, and then, he began taking pictures of it.
Trevor began the tale the day before the attack, and shuddered mildly as he told of the pirates’ attempt to kill him. He told it, in a concise but factual way, and then continued to tell of his try for Réunion Island, and then his desperate decision, once he’d missed it, of trying the Southern Ocean route to Australia. Kline occasionally interrupted to ask questions, but mainly he – and his recorder – listened. Trevor finished the tale at the point where he was approaching the strait, and then advanced the throttle, motoring them towards it, as the sound of the crashing surf grew louder. “I had no idea where the fuck I was. The map I was using was part of a world map, and the scale was so small it didn’t show this strait, so at this point I was surprised to see open water beyond the passage.”
Kline paused his recorder. “You seem to have your story down pat. I believe it’s yours, no questions there, but it sounds rehearsed.”
Trevor nodded. “Sort of. I’ve started working on a book about my voyage, though your story is going to make that hard; you’ll be telling the best parts of it already.”
Kline chuckled. “I’d suggest you see an agent soon. You’re quite wrong; my story won’t be anywhere near as detailed as an autobiographical book, and you could do a book about your entire voyage, from Florida to Florida. What my story will do, however, is give you a ton of free publicity. Get yourself an agent, and he’ll confirm that, plus let you know how to play it. I realize you have to keep a low profile now, but hopefully that won’t always be true.”
Kline took photos all through the strait. As they entered Shark Bay, Trevor added, “I couldn’t see any land to the east, so once I was clear of the shallows and still running east, I went into the salon to study the map. I came back out, confused and wondering if I’d ever find safety. I heard a loud air horn, which made me jump, and looked to see that patrol boat that brought you out coming at me. I’ve never been so happy to see anyone. That’s how I met Officer Fowler.”
“How’d he know to be out here? Or was it just random chance?” Kline asked, as they turned back towards Star Child.
“It wasn’t chance, but Officer Fowler said he’d be giving you that part of the story, later,” Trevor said.
“Yep, after this one’s out and meets his approval. Look, I can tell you don’t like me much, but I don’t want to put you at risk. That’s not my intent. I’ve got what I was after – a hell of a lot more than I’d have gotten on my own – so I’m happy. In return, I’m supposed to help keep other reporters off your back with a little misdirection. I’ll do that, with pleasure. Let me speak with Officer Fowler alone when we get back to your boat. I have a few ideas on that, but if this comes together, you’ll be able to be on your way to wherever, without anyone breathing down your neck.”
They returned to Star Child, where Fowler was waiting. Trevor quickly said, “I’ll be in the aft cabin. Stamp your feet when I can come back up.”
As soon as Trevor was out of sight, Fowler said, “Well?”
Kline looked toward the strait. “You delivered, and how. I can tell from his accent he’s American, and as for his story, it fits with a few bits I know. I’m also sure he’s the guy I saw going into your customs office in handcuffs, with what sure looked like a big Southern Cross tat on his back. That was a clever game you lot pulled, and as I said, I’d like to make that part of the story, and in so doing get those TV reporters chasing their tails, which fits both our ends. Right now, I’ve got the story of his attack and voyage here, but I still need to build in the bit where you fooled the press.”
“There was a catamaran of a very similar model to his in the marina. A few people got their heads together to make the whole thing look like a con job.”
“That much I know, but here’s why I wanted to speak with you alone. I want to hear it from Trevor, but as I’ll be reporting what he says, I can’t coach him. I’m assuming he changed to this boat, which shall be unnamed, shortly after – to avoid publicity, thanks to the attempts on his life. I’m also assuming that Atlantis is a write off and is now destined for the scrap yard, based on the enormous damage I saw. So, I’m assuming that Trevor will now be sailing off on his new boat, now that the sale, I assume, is complete, to finish his circumnavigation, after spending some time on Australia’s top end, between Broome and Darwin. If Trevor tells me that, I’ll quote him without comment. I’d also like some photos of him and the boat, but at angles that don’t clearly show her name or type. As for Trevor, he can wear this over his sunglasses,” Kline pulled a baseball cap out of his pocket, “and you can check the pics yourself, I’ll be careful of the angle so it’s near impossible to recognize him from them. Got me?”
Fowler understood, and though this went farther than he’d intended, he agreed. “When we get back to Carnarvon, we go right to my office and you show me the pictures. I’ll be deleting any I feel put him at risk. I’ll also, ah, need a quick word with him,” Fowler said, and then stamped his foot on the deck a few times.
Trevor, who had been engaged in a whispered conversation with Shane, heard the thuds from above, and whispered, “Time for act two,” as he exited the cabin.
As Trevor emerged on deck, Kline said, “You two need to chat. Want me to go below?”
Fowler shook his head and smiled as he replied, “Just head up to the bow, this’ll only take a ‘sec. I’ve got to be heading back soon.”
Kline headed forward, and Fowler whispered to Trevor what he needed to say, and added a warning, “You have to leave the region when you return to Kookaburra; under no circumstances come near Carnarvon.” Fowler then shouted for Kline to return, and as soon as Kline did, he clicked on his recorder and asked Trevor about his arrival and his first encounter with the press. Trevor told the tale carefully, referring to Shane only as ‘my friend’, and that they’d cooked up the scheme to keep Trevor safe. Trevor, though he hadn’t been asked to, downplayed Fowler’s role, and glanced over to receive a subtle nod of thanks from Fowler, who then walked a couple of paces aft.
Trevor skipped any mention of his dye job or any boat names, and went on to say that he’d been waiting for the sale of his new boat to go through, though he’d been living on her in the meantime. “I’m sorry that Atlantis may be heading for the scrap yard, but the yard owner might do something with her eventually. I hope so, though she’s not mine anymore. As for me, I’ve very much enjoyed my stay in the Carnarvon area, but now it’s time for me to continue my voyage. I’m going to explore the coastline of the Kimberly region up past Broome, see Darwin, then enter the Pacific via Torres Strait to begin the rest of my solo circumnavigation.”
Kline clicked off his recorder and handed Trevor the baseball cap. “Thank you, Trevor. Put this on and, if you would, go stand in the bowsprit, looking forward and to the side; I don’t want the front of your face in the pictures or Officer Fowler will delete them.”
After receiving an acknowledging nod from Fowler, Trevor did as he was asked. Kline took several photos, showing the bow and Trevor standing on it, facing mainly away from the camera.
Kline returned to the cockpit, where Fowler and Trevor joined him, and Trevor returned the baseball cap to him.
Fowler nodded towards the patrol boat. “Okay, I can’t spare more time, do you have what you need?”
Kline nodded. “I do, a blockbuster story, more than I’d imagined. I’m a very happy man, and I’ll keep my end of the deal.” Kline turned to shake Trevor’s hand once more. “It’s a bloody shame you have to keep a low profile for now. Under different circumstances, you’d be feted as a hero anywhere you wanted to go in this country.”
Trevor turned slightly away and gave Kline an awkward shrug. “All I was doing was saving my own ass.”
Kline shook his head. “Don’t sell yourself short. Very few could do what you did, and it’s truly regrettable that you can’t, for now, enjoy the limelight you deserve.”
Trevor nodded in silent thanks. He wondered what Kline would have thought had he known what happened to the pirates. Trevor had mentioned thinking of trying to sabotage their engines while aboard, though he’d left it at that. As he’d only learned of their fate well after arriving in Australia, he and Fowler had decided to leave the pirates’ subsequent death out of it. The story, they knew, would be a major one without it, but if that fact was added, it would be even bigger, which would make it even harder for Trevor to hide. They’d also justified it on the grounds that it was, after all, linked to the ongoing police investigation in Florida, an area Fowler had made clear to Kline could not be discussed by Trevor.
“It’s been nice knowing you, Trevor, have a safe voyage,” Fowler said, giving Trevor’s hand a solemn shake, as if in farewell.
Kline shook hands with Trevor. “Take care of yourself, wherever it is you’re off to. Give my agent a call when you’re ready to go to press, and he might cook up some ideas that would be mutually beneficial. I hope to speak with you again someday,” Kline said, handing Trevor the agent’s card, and then Kline’s own.
Trevor helped Fowler cast off, and gave them a wave as Fowler gunned the engines, heading back towards Carnarvon on the same dogleg course he’d taken on the way out.
A voice from the companionway made Trevor jump. “I hope that takes care of that,” Ned said, taking care to remain out of sight of the fast-departing patrol boat.
Aboard the patrol boat, Kline took a last look back at Star Child, and then said, “Thank you for this. See what you think of the pictures when we get to your office, but one thing I plan on doing is stretching the picture horizontally a little, to make Trevor look a few pounds heavier. And oh, by the way, you only made one mistake.” Fowler turned to glare at Kline, but Kline laughed. “Take it easy, officer. I’m convinced that he’s the real deal. It’s just the boat he’s on… what you don’t know is, prior to my arrest, I was staking out Ned’s boatyard from across the Fascine. I saw her there, for several days. What I didn’t see was Trevor, and he said he’s been on her for a while. I’m sure that if I checked, I’d find no record of a sale of Star Child. Don’t worry, I’ll keep that totally to myself, it’s of no use to me, I’m only bringing it up to let you know I’ll keep my bargain.”
Fowler gritted his teeth and nodded. “Thanks.”
Kline wasn’t quite done. “I’d suggest that, whether he’s still on Kookaburra or not, he stay out of Carnarvon for a while, at least. I’m betting the mob from Perth will be arriving today, if they haven’t already. I’ll bet you know that too, which is why you’re doing a dogleg course in and out. I’ll be delighted to work with you to keep them chasing their tails, and hopefully send ‘em off on a wild goose chase.”
“Why are you so willing to help against other reporters?” Fowler asked, genuinely curious.
“It’s both simple and complicated. First off, they are my competition, and as you’ve noticed, I don’t mind playing dirty to get what I want. The other part of it is I’m a freelance investigative journalist, a real one, not like the talking heads they have on TV. You’ll find that most print reporters dislike the TV ones, so this is icing on the cake from my point of view,” Kline said.
Fowler gave him a sideways glance. He didn’t trust the reporter, except that he did trust him to act in his own self-interest. So far, what he’d said made some sense, but one thing concerned Fowler. “Why did you want him to specify the area between Broome and Darwin?” Fowler asked, having realized that this meant that Kline had at least guessed that Trevor wasn’t leaving, at least not via that route. Either that, or he didn’t care. However, Fowler knew he couldn’t delve into that issue without giving Kline confirmation.
Kline chuckled. “It’s a logical route for him, and it gives the reporters a nice wild goose chase. They’ll be off to Darwin for a while this way. And… if they get really eager, they’ll start checking out the estuaries in the region, looking for a monohull sailboat. Those estuaries are home to a lot of saltwater crocs, so they might have an interesting time of it.”
Fowler couldn’t help it, he laughed. “A bloody rough business you’re in, Kline.”
“Being a reporter makes you as unwelcome as the plague in many cases. But then, you know what it’s like to have a job where a lot of the public you encounter professionally doesn’t want you poking around in their business.”
Fowler blinked. “Fair point. Okay, we’ll give it a burl.”
“Just remember, none of our private conversations actually occurred. In return, I’ll gloss over any bits regarding your role in this that you might be uncomfortable with, such as taking part in duping the TV mob.”
“Thanks for that. I should be all right, as I was careful to avoid telling any actual lies, and my headquarters is on board with helping keep Trevor safe, but I’d appreciate it nonetheless,” Fowler said.
Fowler was somewhat disquieted that Kline had seen through their ploy with the Star Child, which had been intended as a backup, in case Kline double-crossed them and reported about the boat. Now, Fowler could only hope that Kline kept his bargain. Fowler’s remaining card was the charges against Kline, plus the promised story on how Trevor had been found. He hoped it would be enough.
After they docked, Fowler returned Kline’s computer and cell phone – the computer’s hard drive had been copied in Geraldton, so returning the hardware made little difference. Kline took the memory chip out of his camera and placed it in the laptop, and began displaying the pictures he’d taken on the monitor for Fowler’s perusal.
After receiving Fowler’s tentative and very preliminary okay, Kline hurried off, heading for his motel room to write.
Aboard Star Child, just after the patrol boat left, Ned and Shane were locked in another glaring match. Trevor, in a bid to avoid violence, said, “Ned, thanks for doing this. I guess we’d better be off now, and clear the area. I’ll be going through the catalogs when we get to a place we can hole up, so I’ll give you a call.”
“Happy to help, and it’s always good to see you, Trevor,” Ned replied, and then cast a withering glance in Shane’s direction. Then he patted the helm, and added, “I’d best be finishing up the sea trials and getting her back.”
“I’ll get the anchor for you,” Trevor said with a smile, realizing just a moment too late that his helpful gesture would mean leaving Ned and Shane alone for a few moments. Ned had only used a single anchor, due to the short duration of the intended stay, and it was at the bow. Trevor dashed forward to haul it aboard.
Wanting to avoid causing any trouble for Trevor, Shane sought to avoid Ned by volunteering. “I’ll help get it,” and started forward.
“Not you! Rack off! You’ll probably bloody drop it and put a hole in the deck, or screw up some other way!” Ned bellowed.
Shane froze in his tracks, temper flaring, and then turned slowly to face Ned. “If an anchor can put a hole in the deck, I see your work is up to its usual shoddy standards and a hard sneeze might sink her,” Shane remarked, with a casual shrug, knowing just what buttons to push.
“Worthless lying thieving bogan bludger!” Ned roared, his own temper erupting, and he lurched towards Shane, raising a fist.
Trevor, who had reached the bow, heard the exchange and raced for the cockpit.
Shane stood his ground, giving Ned a smirk, well aware that he could handle an attack from Ned, and thus assuming Ned wouldn’t actually start a fistfight. Ned knew that too, so, when his eye fell to a red with a white band canister on a bulkhead near his hand, he snatched it from its holder in rage, yanked its safety pin out, and aimed the fire extinguisher at Shane.
Shane blinked in surprise, and Trevor arrived at a run, jumping between Ned and Shane to interrupt their argument, just as Ned pulled the trigger.
The silence was shattered by a sudden sharp whoosh as a roaringblast of nitrogen, carrying powdered monoammonium phosphate, hit Trevor at full force from an arm’s length away. Trevor instinctively turned away as the choking white cloud engulfed him, but Ned, stunned by Trevor’s sudden appearance, kept his finger on the trigger for over a second.
“Oops,” Ned mumbled, looking in stunned horror at the billowing cloud that had engulfed his customer.
Shane instinctively darted into the cloud, seeking Trevor. When he felt him, he asked, “Are you okay?”
Trevor’s reply was a cough, and Shane led him a few paces aft, to cleaner air.
Trevor was covered in the clinging white powder, even his sunglasses were now that color. His hair was thick with it, and some was falling off his head, creating more dust in front of his nose and mouth. Trevor coughed again, and Ned said, “Better get him into the water; that powder might be caustic.”
“Come on, over the side,” Shane said, wrapping an arm around Trevor and guiding him to the rail. Trevor seemed stunned, and was still coughing, so Shane hooked an arm under Trevor’s crotch and heaved him over the railing.
Trevor landed with a loud splash, and Shane scrambled over the railing to dive in after him.
Trevor surfaced, sputtering, his sunglasses now at an angle across his face. Also on his face were milky rivulets of the remaining powder. Shane immediately dunked him, using his hands to swirl water into Trevor’s face and hair.
When Trevor came up again, he was cleaner and coughing. “Sorry Trev, I was trying to get the powder off quick,” Shane said, lending Trevor an arm to hold on to.
Trevor spat out some water and shook his head to clear it. Then he looked down at his T-shirt, which still had some of the cloying powder clinging to it. Shane helped him pull it off, and then Trevor glared up at Ned, who was still holding the fire extinguisher. “I need to get this stuff off me,” Trevor mumbled, rubbing at his torso with his hands and then dunking his head again.
When Trevor surfaced, he did a single backstroke and arched his back, to bring his shorts out of the water. “Damn, got it on my shorts too,” he grumbled, and then struggled to kick them and his shoes off, stripping down to the speedo he’d been wearing as underwear.
With Shane’s help, Trevor rinsed out his clothes and, one by one, tossed them up to Ned, who was already hosing down the deck. Shane managed to resist the urge to peg Ned with the shoes.
“Sorry about that, Trevor. I didn’t see you,” Ned said, with a sheepish look on his face.
Trevor was angry, mainly because Ned had been aiming for Shane, but reminded himself that Ned had Atlantis, and held his tongue.
“Trevor, you should come back aboard, in case the splashing attracted sharks,” Ned said.
Trevor and Shane took note of the clear implication: that Shane should stay put. Shane glared up at Ned, but Trevor spoke first. “Ned, enough with the war on Shane, okay? Getting blasted with toxic chemicals was not on my list of things to do today, and I’m willing to bet it wasn’t on his, either.”
Ned blushed, well aware of how he’d been acting, and reminded himself that, amongst other things, Trevor was his customer for a major long-term job. “You’d both best get out of the water,” Ned said, with a resigned sigh.
Trevor, with Shane following, swam to the stern ladder and climbed aboard, where he stood on the aft deck and checked his skin for signs of trouble.
Shane, in his wet T-shirt and shorts, clambered board and immediately shed the T.
Ned, fire extinguisher in one hand, approached, reading from its label. “Health Effects: Ingestion – but he didn’t eat any, so we can skip that one. Inhalation: May irritate the respiratory tract. May cause transient cough and shortness of breath. Okay, here we go, first aid measures. Immediately flood the eyes with plenty of water. Obtain medical attention if soreness or redness persists.”
“My eyes seem okay, I don’t think I got any in ‘em,” Trevor said, and then coughed.
Ned kept reading. “Skin: wash affected area with soap and water. Obtain medical attention if irritation persists. Thoroughly wash any contaminated clothing before wearing. Uh, I don’t know if the salt water is good enough; you might want to take a freshwater shower. There’s soap in the dispenser,” Ned said, pointing at the freshwater deck shower, which was mounted to a bulkhead.
Trevor nodded, padding to the shower and turning it on. He promptly began lathering up, starting with his hair.
Shane, arms crossed, took a few paces forward to stand by Ned, a dozen feet from Trevor. Shane kept his eyes on Trevor and said, very quietly, “For his sake, how about a truce?”
Ned sighed, and then glanced down at the fire extinguisher in his hands. “I suppose I’ve little choice. You’ve got your truce, until he leaves.”
“Fair dinkum? Then it’s a truce,” Shane replied, and with those words, a fragile temporary truce was born.
“Make no mistake, I still hate your guts,” Ned grumbled.
“Likewise,” Shane replied, glaring at Ned for a moment.
Trevor continued his shower, leaving his speedo on but washing them well, along with every inch of skin. He rinsed off and stepped away from the shower, dripping.
“I’ll get you a towel,” Ned said, turning to head inside.
“Don’t bother, I’ll dry fast in the sun,” Trevor replied flatly, pushing his hair back.
Ned gave Trevor a sheepish look. “I’m really very sorry about all this. I lost my temper, and I never meant to, uh, get you with the fire extinguisher,” Ned said, gingerly setting it down.
Trevor had simmered down, and after a glance at Shane, who was no longer glaring at Ned, Trevor said, “Just… take good care of Atlantis. We’d better be getting back to Kookaburra, talk to you soon,” Trevor said, reaching out to shake Ned’s hand.
“See you soon, and sorry,” Ned replied, as Trevor and Shane hauled in the Zodiac and climbed aboard. Ned gathered up Trevor’s wet clothes and handed them down to Shane, followed by the sunglasses. “Make sure to wash the clothes well before they’re worn again, and let me know if there’s any damage, I’ll be happy to pay for it.”
Shane cast off and took the helm, starting up the outboard and swinging the Zodiac away from Star Child.
With the Zodiac fifty yards away and accelerating, Trevor shook his head and said, in a sardonic tone, “That went well.”
“Sorry you got caught in the crossfire, Trev. One bit of good news, though; Ole’ Ned and I called a truce.”
Trevor shook his head and scowled. “I heard what he said to you, so I know he started the trouble today. Though, even if you had, blasting somebody with a fire extinguisher… damn, what is he, five years old?”
Shane laughed, and then noticed Trevor’s angry glare in the direction of Star Child. “Old habits die hard, I guess. Don’t let him get to you, not while he’s got Atlantis at any rate. He got me with one a few months ago. After he started trying to get me fired, I kind of made it my hobby to make his life difficult, and I’d rubbish him and his workmanship to anyone who’d listen, including a few comments about him being the same as the first Ned Kelly – a bushranger, robbing people. Then, a while later, I saw some superglue at the store and it gave me an idea. I bought it, and the next day I snuck into his yard and was gluing his toolbox lids shut. He caught me in the act and blasted me with an extinguisher. I’m lucky he didn’t have a bloody shotgun handy. He was going to charge me with trespassing, but the Blakes talked him out of it, in return for my promise to never set foot on his property again. But, today he just got to me. When we heard the patrol boat engines pulling away and came out of the cabins, he shouldered me aside and went into the one I’d been in, saying he was looking to see if I’d nicked anything. Then on deck, I knew it was getting bad, which is why I wanted to go help you with the anchor. I was trying to avoid putting you in the middle, but when he yelled at me, it set me off, and I do know how to push his buttons.”
Trevor laughed and rolled his eyes. “I’m glad he got me and not you, seeing as how it led to a truce.”
“You should have seen the expression on his face when he realized it was you he’d blasted. Bloody priceless,” Shane said, with a wry smile and a shake of his head.
Trevor kicked at his wet clothes and asked, “Did you have any after-effects from it, for you or your clothes?”
Shane chuckled. “I was only wearing shoes and shorts, but he got me good, two or three times. We were near the water, so I stumbled that way, and he got me again as I was about to dive in. I had to swim back to the marina, because no way would he have let me out of the water, so it washed off. My shorts were okay; they’re the denim cutoffs I wear. Don’t know what it’ll do to that T, though. Looks okay, but we’ll see.”
“My wallet!” Trevor said, suddenly remembering that it had been in his pocket, and fearing it might have fallen out in the water. He checked the shorts, finding the wallet still in place. He pulled it out; checked the contents; his drivers’ license and cash, but seeing that they were safe, his attention turned to the cheap fabric wallet itself, which he’d purchased after arriving in Australia. “I guess I’ll find out if it falls apart,” he mumbled.
“Send Ned a bill,” Shane said, with an evil grin.
When they reached Kookaburra, they stowed the Zodiac and prepared to get underway. Shane disappeared for a few moments, before returning to the cockpit in a speedo. “I’ll rinse the clothes out in fresh water; doesn’t do to let them sit in salt,” he said, taking his clothes and Trevor’s to the deck shower for a rinse, and then gave himself one.
Trevor grinned, taking time to admire the view. When Shane was done, he hung the clothes over a railing and pegged them in place, before giving Trevor a mock glare. “I’m shy; quit staring at me, that’s sexual harassment!”
“If you’re running around in speedos, I’m gonna look, you exhibitionist!” Trevor shot back, laughing.
Shane shook his head. “Hey, you’re the exhibitionist; you were the one on Star Child in speedos, not me. I wouldn’t have done that if Ned had blasted me with the extinguisher!”
“Yeah? What would you have done?” Trevor asked, knowing full well why Shane couldn’t have.
Shane shrugged. “I wasn’t wearing anything under my shorts, so I’d have been naked. That would have probably pissed Ned off more, so I’d have done it for sure.”
“And I’m the exhibitionist?” Trevor asked, as he began cracking up.
“Yup, sounds right to me, and I’m always absolutely impartial on such matters,” Shane quipped, heading forward to attend to the anchors.
Still laughing, Trevor started Kookaburra’s engines while Shane began letting out the anchor lines. Trevor maneuvered Kookaburra over each anchor so it could be winched aboard, and then motored out of the cove, heading south along the coast. When Shane joined him in the cockpit, Trevor unfurled the mainsail and foresail, and then cut the engines, as Kookaburra caught the wind, cruising south.
Trevor told Shane what Kline had said about the publicity of the story helping rather than hurting their book, and Shane nodded. “Makes sense, I guess. We should do that, get an agent, I mean. Probably in Florida, ‘cause it’s going to take a while to finish it. It’s taking a ton more words than I thought to cover some stuff, so we probably won’t be done by the time we leave Australia. I want to get it done soon though, because if it’s true about the story helping us, best to get a book out while it’s still in peoples’ recent memory. We should have time in Kalbarri, that’ll help.”
“Sounds good, and yeah, we need to stay out of Shark Bay and Carnarvon for a while, at least until we see if this story gets the press off our backs like its supposed to,” Trevor said.
Shane checked the navigation display, and suggested, “If we’re in no hurry, we should pull into South Passage: the strait north of Steep Point. There’s a sheltered anchorage just inside, on the north shore of Steep Point, called Shelter Bay. South Passage is spectacular, and staying there until morning would give us a great view of the Zuytdorp Cliffs all day tomorrow as we head south.
“Sounds like a plan,” Trevor said, grinning as Kookaburra churned through the large but gentle swells of the Indian Ocean.
They cruised south, past the end of Dorre Island, and continued across the twelve mile wide Naturaliste Passage, staying east of Dirk Hartog Island, enjoying the spectacular coast, heading for South Passage and Shelter Bay, which they would reach just before nightfall.
In a nearby motel, Kline was typing furiously on his laptop, while playing the tape of Trevor over and over again. When he was nearly done with his ten-thousand-word piece, he sat back in his chair, realizing that he hadn’t spoken to Barney in days. He found that his cell had flattened its battery while in police custody, so he plugged it in to its charger, and then checked his messages, seeing several from Barney Fitzroy. Only then did Kline remember that today was the day Fitzroy had intended to try to get the SOS documents from Antarctic Star. Without stopping to read the messages, Kline dialed Fitzroy’s cell.
“Hi Barney, sorry for the delay in getting back to you, but I’ve been in jail,” Kline said, as soon as Fitzroy answered.
“You got out yesterday,” Fitzroy replied crossly.
“And I only got my phone back just now. I’ve got big news, too.”
“You could have called from the damn motel phone or a payphone,” Fitzroy replied, and then added, “It was urgent I reach you; the press here in Perth got wind of that mayday message and they’re on their way north. They’ll be there tonight or in the morning. However, I’m the one with big news, Jason. I got it! I got the mayday papers from the Antarctic Star, and with them, we’ve enough to go to press first. I’m in Perth now, waiting for it to arrive. I mailed it here myself from near Esperance this morning, in case the customs boys tried to get clever and nab me. They met Antarctic Star near the port, and I know damn well what they were after. The only thing is, I beat them to it and was nearly back to shore by then. I got it, Jason, and I took pictures of the pages and sent a copy to your e-mail inbox. In a couple of days, we’ll have the papers themselves, as well as the canister they were in, but we can start writing now. Want me to head up to you once I have my package?”
Kline couldn’t resist a bit of one-upmanship. “No need, Barney. I had a good long interview with Trevor Carlson earlier today, pictures and everything, and it’s an even better story than we thought! The story will be done in a few hours, ready for the morning deadlines. I’ll email you a draft as soon as I can; see if there’s anything you want to add. A bit about the mayday message – that canister is a garlic crusher, by the way – would be great, as it plays into what I’ve got, including how it came to be there. In the meantime, I’ll look at what you sent and make sure it matches.”
Fitzroy was surprised by that news, though his momentary elation was tempered by the fact that he’d been planning to write a large part of the article, and knew he was being sidelined. However, he was still sharing the byline, so that didn’t grate too badly. “That’s one hell of a break, Jason. I figured your play had come a cropper when I heard you’d been arrested.”
“There’s a price attached. I had to agree to keep mum about Trevor’s current or future whereabouts – that, in actuality, I don’t know – plus anything about the boat he’s on, which wasn’t the one I interviewed him on. Therefore, we skip anything about Kookaburra. I’m also going to send the mob from Perth on a false trail if I can, and we’ll have the full story first, plus it’s exclusive. I didn’t mind making that deal,” Kline said, leaving out that it hadn’t really been his idea.
Fitzroy wasn’t happy; as a partner on the story, he felt he should have been consulted. “Fine on that; it’ll keep my editor from having a conniption about putting the kid in danger. Just don’t forget: my paper’s deadline is three AM, Melbourne time, which is three hours ahead of you this time of year, so midnight’s the deadline.”
“I’ll do my best and we should be ready by then,” Kline said absently, while checking his e-mail. “Ah, got the e-mail, and I can read the text in the pics of the documents, great.”
Fitzroy ground his teeth. He didn’t like the sound of ‘should be ready’, because he faced a very real risk; if Kline missed that deadline but went ahead and published at the newspapers he was dealing with that had later deadlines, Fitzroy’s editor would be furious. “We need it in by deadline, not one second after,” Fitzroy said.
“I’ll try. I better get back to work, and I’ll have a rough draft to you in a few hours. Talk to you soon, Barney,” Kline said, and then hung up. He knew he had to get the draft ready and then run it by Fowler, which would eat more time, but he didn’t want to spend time explaining things to Fitzroy.
Kline typed furiously for a while, finishing the piece, and then began to polish it. When satisfied, he ran a spelling and grammar check, and when done, he saved the document, e-mailed himself a copy for safekeeping, and shut down the laptop. Then he called Fowler. “Kline here. I’m ready for you to review the piece. Also, a heads-up; I have word from Perth that reporters are on their way up, and will be here tomorrow at the latest.”
“One TV crew is already here, checked in about an hour ago,” Fowler replied, and then added after thinking for a moment, “It’d look off if they see us meeting at the customs office. I’ll wear civvies and come to your motel. I’ll be there in ten minutes.”
“I’ll be here,” Kline replied, opening his laptop again to resume working.
Fowler arrived early, and Kline let him in, motioning for him to take a seat at the laptop. “I did the Photoshop stretch on Trevor’s picture, so he looks heavier. The article is drafted, and the pic of Trevor on the yacht plus a few of Atlantis are in the document. Give it a read through and let me know what you think.”
Fowler had news of his own, but put it on hold until later. He began to read, fearing the worst, but as he progressed, he began to nod. When he reached the end, he said, “Good, and a hard-hitting, powerful piece. I like the way you say you went out to the rendezvous on a powerboat, but left it at that, no mention of me or the service involved. Thanks, that’s greatly appreciated. The only part I object to is the bit about Atlantis’s model; you list her as a Lagoon 55, and go on to say the con was pulled with an almost identical Lagoon 57. There’s only one of those in the region, so–”
“No worries, that isn’t critical. Atlantis’s make is already in published pieces so we’ll just call her a Lagoon, but as for the rest, let’s try this,” Kline said, from his seat on the other side of the table. He pulled the laptop to him, scrolled to the offending text, and began to type. When done, he returned it to Fowler.
“…Using a very similar catamaran that was in port at the time… I like it, it’s true, yet leads astray in a way, implying that she’s similar to a Lagoon, and so not one. Go with this and you have my okay, per our deal,” Fowler said.
“There’ll be a bit more, written by my co-writer, but it’s about the SOS found in the Southern Ocean–”
Fowler interrupted to give his news. “Trouble on that front. The service tried to secure that, but a reporter beat them to it. Looks like that news is out, so I hope you get to press first.”
Kline chucked. “Good news there. That was Barney, my co-writer for this piece. We made plans to get it before I was arrested, he got it this morning, and I only found out a little while ago. That’s the part I mentioned that he’d be adding: the story of tracking it down and getting it. He doesn’t know for a proven fact that your people were after it, so we can just omit that part. Sound okay?”
Fowler nodded, and then gave Kline a faint smile. “You’re not the utter bastard I thought you were, I’ll say that much. I don’t much like the ethics in your business, where it’s okay to put a life at risk to get a story, but you’ve kept your bargain so far.”
Kline acknowledged the backhanded compliment with a smile. “It’s my job. And, something you might not know; reporters always protect sources. We have to: they are our bread and butter. You and Trevor are, thanks to the interview, sources, so deal or not, I won’t burn you; it’d be very bad for my professional reputation.”
“Strange business, but sounds good to me. So, in a week you’ll get your follow-up, about how we came to be out there and in position when Trevor charged through that strait and into Shark Bay. I was at the helm, but one other officer was with me. I can’t speak for him, so I don’t yet know if he’ll be willing to be interviewed, but I will. Are you going to stick around, or will you want to do it by phone?” Fowler asked.
“I’ll be sticking around a few days, to see what happens with the other reporters. After that, I’m probably driving back to Perth, so we’ll do it by phone, then e-mail so you can give it a looking-over. Now, about those charges I face; I’ll be looking at some serious legal fees if they aren’t dropped in about two weeks,” Kline said.
“They’ll be dropped. Ned Kelly isn’t happy about it, and neither is the local prosecutor, but it’s all agreed. If you stick to the deal, they’ll be gone,” Fowler said.
“Great. I’ll see you again before I go, and I’ll touch base on the press situation with you tomorrow. I’ve got to get back to work; I need to send this to my co-writer, and then make deadline, one of which is midnight here,” Kline said, getting up to open the door.
Fowler hesitated, and then said quietly, “One more thing. I would prefer it if the fact that Atlantis is in a boatyard here isn’t glossed over. I want that word to get out. Help me on that, and if some plans come together there might be another very big story soon, and you’ll have the exclusive.”
Kline arched a brow, wanting to ask questions, but Fowler’s expression left him with no doubt that no answers would be forthcoming. “Thanks, will do, and if I can be of any further help, just call me.”
“See you soon, and best of luck with your story,” Fowler said, heading out the door.
Basingstoke carefully moored his plane to the tie-down loops, checked in with the airport office, and then removed his gear from the Beechcraft’s storage compartment: a slim suitcase and an oversized briefcase. The briefcase contained demo equipment, and was part of one of his favored covers: a security equipment salesman. It was a good cover; it allowed Basingstoke to move around at will, asking all kinds of security-related questions. It was also a cover that could not easily be penetrated; the business was real, and Basingstoke made a decent profit at it. His visit to Carnarvon would outwardly appear to be that of a flying salesman, trying to sell security cameras and other security equipment and monitoring services to Carnarvon’s businesses, including, of course, any that had anything to do with boating.
Slipping into his gregarious salesman persona, which included large cheap sunglasses, he began walking towards Robinson Street, cases in hand and a smile on his face.
Half an hour later, he checked into a motel. In the seclusion of his room, he used his cell phone to check his e-mail. There, he saw the code-phrase message from Sanchez and smiled: he’d made the right choice, after all.