Trevor and Shane awoke just after nine on Friday the 8th, feeling the odd sensation of being hard aground. A fast check of Kookaburra revealed that, as intended, she’d settled on the river bottom as the tide went out, and was now sitting in less than a foot of water.
Trevor took a moment to look around at their surroundings. “Wow,” he said softly, as Shane joined him, and together they looked out at the rugged hills bordering the Murchison Valley, the riverside greenery standing in stark, spectacular contrast to the arid landscape of ochre rock and amber sands.
The sun was hidden behind a thin overcast, the remnants of the departing storm. Trevor looked at the flowing river and the narrow channel, and shook his head, amazed that they’d managed to get Kookaburra into such a place, especially in the dark. “I’m glad I laid down a GPS track; if we follow that at peak tide, getting out should be a lot easier than getting in, unless the sandbars shift,” he said, as he and Shane ran out a few extra mooring lines, securing Kookaburra to the trees on Stork Island.
Trevor checked the bows, relieved to find no signs of damage. Then, they began exploring the little island, making their way to its opposite shore, where they could see the main channel of the Murchison River. The main channel, over two hundred feet wide and flowing at six knots, separated them from a small tree-covered island on the opposite shore, which shielded them from the shore itself. “This is a great spot!” Shane declared, and then added, “We’d better ring Mr. Blake, to let him know we’re here.” Shane said.
“Try my cell, maybe we’re close enough to Kalbarri for it to work,” Trevor said, as they returned to Kookaburra.
Shane returned with both phones, and powered on Trevor’s cell. “No signal.”
“Let’s take both phones and try the cell in Kalbarri. We’ve got to go into town anyway; we’re just about out of food.”
“Food sounds good!” Shane replied, stomach growling. “All we’ve got for brekkie is cereal with powdered milk.”
“A real cook could make a gourmet meal out of that,” Trevor huffed, and then he began snickering.
“So says the bloke who can burn bloody water!” Shane replied, laughing and heading for the galley. “You might be in for a surprise anyway: watch and learn.”
Shane mixed the powdered milk with some dry coffee creamer before adding it to water in a jug. Trevor thought that was very strange, until he tasted it. “Hey, this is good!” Trevor declared.
“Of course it is: I made it,” Shane replied, with an obnoxious grin.
They put on shirts and shoes, encased the phones in plastic bags, and lowered the Zodiac.
“Hang on a ‘sec, we better take the GPS – the street finder one – because we’ve got no clue where the police station is, nor the market.” Shane rummaged around in the navigation desk drawers until he found it: a standard car GPS. He flicked it on long enough to check the batteries, and then put it in a plastic bag.
They locked up Kookaburra and cast off, using oars and drifting with the current until they were in the main channel. Trevor lowered the outboard and started it, and Shane gave directions: “Head downstream. You should follow the river.”
They soon came to the shallows where Kookaburra had trouble after passing Goat Island. Trevor cut the engine, letting the Zodiac slow and drift with the current. “Damn, all kinds of shoals, and barely a foot deep right now. Less in places.” Trevor pulled up the outboard and let the current decide their direction, and after a couple of minutes, he smiled. “We’re lucky we didn’t get stuck there last night,” he said, restarting the engine and moving downstream, past Goat Island.
“I want to see the sandbar, the one you rammed us hard aground on,” Shane said, with an evil grin.
“We’re almost there, asshole,” Trevor replied, laughing as they approached the sandbar, which was now fully exposed due to the low water.
They motored past the sandbar, spotting the marks Kookaburra’s bows had made. Trevor pulled in close, to reassure himself that they’d hit only soft sand, and then after more ribbing from Shane, they resumed their downstream voyage to Kalbarri.
“Hey, where do we go when we get there?” Trevor asked.
“The police station,” Shane replied.
“I know that, but where is it?” Trevor asked.
“The Kalbarri police station is in Kalbarri, most likely,” Shane replied.
Trevor looked at Shane, who was sitting in the bow, sunglasses on, and the wind blowing in his hair. He was facing forward, so Trevor was unable to see his grin, but he knew it was there. “No shit, Sherlock. Where in Kalbarri?”
“The fuck if I know, I’ve not been here before. That’s why I brought the vehicle GPS along. It’s got street maps, and I’ll bet it knows where the police station is.”
Trevor laughed, shaking his head. “Okay, so what’s it gonna take to get you to turn the damn thing on?” Trevor asked.
Shane shook his head. “Not in my job description, mate.”
“Okay then, you take over the Zodiac and I’ll do it.”
Shane shook his head again. “Nope, I’m not fond of piloting. You’re the captain, so it’s your job to figure out where we go.”
“So what is in your job description?” Trevor asked.
“Driving you crazier,” Shane replied, turning to face Trevor with a grin. Shane got the GPS out and turned it on, waiting for it to boot up. “I suppose I’ll do the grueling work.”
“We’ll have to figure out where to tie up, too. I hope the station is near the river.”
Shane watched as the Garmin GPS got a satellite lock and centered its screen on their location. “Okay, it’s working. It says we’re in the river.”
“For this, I need satellite navigation?” Trevor asked, chuckling and rolling his eyes.
“Apparently. Okay, now let’s see what it has for a police station… ah, there it is, on Grey Street, right on the waterfront. It’s past most of the town from us. Keep heading for the river mouth, then come closer to shore. We’ll have to look and see what’s about when we get close, but we can always haul the Zodiac partially ashore and lock her to something.”
As they got closer, Shane said, “About two hundred meters to the point closest to the cop shop, and I can see a boat ramp and a little jetty just past it.”
“Looks good to me,” Trevor said, heading for the jetty.
They locked the Zodiac to a stanchion and hopped up onto the jetty. Shane pointed to the southeast. “The river runs east to west here, and the cop shop is about two hundred meters that way.”
Shane led the way ashore, up to a small paved parking lot for the boat ramp. They looked around, and Trevor took in the sight; the town was set back from the riverfront by a grassy park with a war memorial, sprinkled with tall trees. The town itself looked prosperous; neat one and two story buildings along Grey Street, some in earth tones, others painted in vibrant colors.
“Wow, look, galahs!” Trevor said, pointing east, where dozens of the big, ornate, pink-hued parrots were sheltering on the grass, in the shade of some trees.
Shane nodded, patting Trevor on the back. “Your namesakes.” Shane pointed ahead along their route. “We can cut across the grass, but it might be very dangerous, so we should stick to the roads.” Shane paused for a moment, and then added, “Going on the grass would mean coming close to trees, which has proven dangerous for you – and them.”
“I’m not going to walk into any damn trees,” Trevor grumbled, blushing slightly and setting out across the grass. “But I do want a closer look at those galahs.”
Shane had seen galahs almost daily for his entire life, so he resisted the urge to roll his eyes at Trevor’s enthusiasm for what, to him, was commonplace. “Okay, let’s go see your namesakes,” he said, before beginning to chuckle.
The galahs parted at their approach, hopping lazily away, but Trevor got close enough for a good look. A big grin spread on his face. “That’s the thing about Australia; it’s full of strange, exotic, weird creatures,” he said, giving Shane an apprising look, and nodding. “Yep, very weird.”
“Cruel and abusive bastard!” Shane grumbled, before pointing at a tree and adding helpfully, “Mind the tree.”
With a laugh, Trevor and Shane continued their walk to the police station, with Shane protectively steering Trevor well away from any trees.
They crossed Grey Street, and took another glance around at the quiet town before entering the police station. Once inside, Trevor looked at the lone duty officer, who was sitting at a desk. “Hi, uh, I’m, uh, I was asked –”
Constable Chris Kaminski chuckled. “Welcome to Kalbarri, Trevor. Greg Fowler told me you’d be coming in this morning, and we don’t get too many Americans hereabouts.”
Trevor and Shane grinned, and Trevor said, “Thanks. We came in by Zodiac, and we’re tied up by the boat ramp. Will the Zodiac be okay there?”
Constable Kaminski nodded. “No problem. Say, Greg called me back last night and told me the fishing boat I thought I saw coming into the mouth was a whacking great catamaran, with the running lights moved around a bit. If so, you were very convincing. Did you get her to Goat Island okay?”
“We went a bit further up, but yeah, we got her in, and I wouldn’t want to try that again, not in the dark,” Trevor said.
“I can’t say as I blame you, but high tides will come in daylight in a few days, so you’ll have no worries getting out again.”
“What about the river flow? Where we’re moored is still under some tidal influence, but I’m betting the flow plays a big role too. If the flow goes down, I don’t think we’d be able to get out.”
Kaminski shrugged. “Any changes to flow are usually gradual, except increases if we have a downpour inland. The flow forecast, though, is for continued high flow; we’ve had a very wet year inland. I’ve never seen it this high in December before. Say, how far up did you go, anyhow? You can’t be much past Goat Island, as there’s a shallow crossing just upstream of it.”
“That’s the part I’m worried about, for getting out. We barely made it through without grounding in that part, and I did hit the sandbar at the downstream edge of Goat Island. After the shallows though it was easy going, and we’re behind Stork Island.”
“Greg said you’re good, and he’s not kidding. I often do the water patrol, so I know this stretch of the Murchison well. That side channel behind Stork Island is a great place to stash the boat; no one would ever think to look there for a big ocean-going yacht. And for what it’s worth, I wouldn’t have liked trying to get there in my patrol boat last night, not in those conditions. Okay, you might have a kayaker or two float by, though most stay in the main channel. They’re also almost all tourists, so I don’t expect any word to spread around town that she’s up there. Hopefully, things will be sorted out in a few days, so you’ll then be good to go wherever you want.”
“I can’t ask Officer Fowler anything on the phone – he warned me it’s not safe – but I’d really like to know what’s going on?” Trevor asked.
Kaminski shrugged. “I’ll be giving him a ring in a few minutes to let him know you’re moored and safe, but as for the rest, I’ve no more idea on that than you do; all I know is Greg has something going on and you’ll find out in a few days, hopefully with good news. I do know that you’re in all the papers now, so that’s a big cause for concern; we need to keep you anonymous, lest the press get wind of you. So, don’t use your name. That accent of yours pegs you as American the moment you open your mouth, so be careful.”
“I’ll let Shane do the talking; he’s Australian,” Trevor said.
“You mean I actually get to speak?” Shane replied, blinking in mock surprise.
Kaminski chuckled, leaning back in his chair. “Trevor, I’d suggest coming up with a new name. Greg said you should be safe with your nickname, ‘Trev,’ but be careful. You might want to come up with a new name, just in case.”
“Galah,” Shane suggested. “I gave him that nickname when he arrived.”
Kaminski blinked, and then laughed. “Trevor, you’ve now met a genuine Aussie larrikin. I hope you survive the encounter.”
Trevor laughed, shaking his head. “Unfortunately for Shane, my mom was Australian so I know some Aussie words – enough to know he was trying to give me a name that means ‘loud idiot’.” Trevor laughed, but then his smile faded, and he asked, “So what happens now?”
Kaminski smiled. “For now, just enjoy the town and keep your head down. And preferably, open your mouth as little as possible.”
“Great advice, that, especially that last bit,” Shane quipped.
Kaminski laughed, and stood up. “Just let Shane here do all the talking, as hard as that may be.”
Trevor chuckled, and asked, “Okay. We do need to find a supermarket to reprovision; is there a big one in town?”
Kaminski led them out the door and pointed northeast on Grey Street. “That way, about a kilometer, is an IGA supermarket, right across from the riverfront. There’s nowhere to moor a Zodiac there though… but we do have taxis in town. I can call for one to take you there, if you like. You might want to wait to do much shopping until you have a vehicle, which I’ve been told you will by tomorrow.”
“We’ll just get a few things; we’re pretty much out of food,” Trevor replied, looking up the street. “I’d like to walk, so we can see the town.”
“G’day then, and enjoy your stay. You’ll pass a big visitor information center on your way to the market, and they have maps, visitor guides, the lot. Have fun, and give us a ring if you see any sign of trouble, or if you run into difficulties.”
“Thanks, Constable Kaminski,” Trevor replied, reading his name from his uniform.
Trevor checked his phone for a signal, and found one. “Let’s make some calls while we can,” he said, knowing that it was getting late in Florida.
The first call, though, was to Martin Blake, and when he answered, Trevor said, “Just wanted to let you know we’re at anchor, with no damage. I, uh, it’s not where you said though. We got there, but felt it was kinda close to the, uh, town, and still in the main channel, and the mast might be seen over the vegetation. We kept going and found somewhere more hidden.”
“Great! Okay, just to be safe, there’s no need to tell me more right now. Let’s hold off until tomorrow, but can you two be at the police station at eleven tomorrow? It involves wheels, and a bit of an adventure.”
Trevor and Shane shared a grin. “Yeah, we’ll be there,” Trevor said.
Trevor’s next call was to Joel, catching him and Lisa at the guesthouse. Trevor gave them a brief recount of his session with the psychologist, and then mentioned that his story was in the Australian news.
“Yeah, it’s in the news here, too; all about you and getting to Australia,” Joel said, and then added, “Keep a low profile, bro, because a couple of the news websites have your picture on ‘em.”
Trevor chuckled. “Yeah, they do here too, but it’s from behind, with my face in profile, plus I’m wearing a cap. Nobody could recognize me from that.”
“No man, not that one, I mean your yearbook photo, from last year’s swim team shoot. They got that one, too,” Joel said.
“Oh fuck,” Trevor mumbled, exchanging a worried look with Shane, who was listening in. “That sucks! How the hell did they get that; the yearbook stuff wasn’t online.”
Lisa jumped in to answer, “I don’t know but I have a guess; I saw some of our yearbooks at the library last year. The pic online looks like it’s a photo of the one in the yearbook, so some reporter probably took it with a camera.”
“This sucks… uh, I don’t remember looking at that pic, was it any good?” Trevor asked, hoping it wasn’t.
Lisa snorted. “Good enough to cause trouble, but it’s over a year old so you’ve changed a bit; you already looked different the last time I saw you, plus hair was short in the pic. It’s all wet and shoved back so it looks brown, and you’re wearing a goofy grin. You also have a pair of fingers as antennas: you were standing next to Joel.”
Trevor couldn’t help it, he laughed. “I should have known. Okay, this still sucks, but it could be worse.”
Joel voiced a concern, “I hope you’re a long ways from where you were at, and found a good place to hide.”
“Yeah, we’re somewhere far away. I can’t say anything much about what’s going on here; I’ve been warned not to trust the phones. A lot has happened and I’ll tell you when I see you,” Trevor said.
“That’s good advice, bro. Just be super careful, just in case,” Joel replied.
“Hey, any word from that sonar professor yet?” Trevor asked.
Joel hesitated, but he felt he couldn’t lie. “Uh, yeah. It might change if he hits a snag in building the sonar, but mid-April. When will Atlantis be ready?” Joel asked, dreading the answer.
Trevor winced. “Shit… She’ll be done by late March at the earliest. There’s no way in hell I could make it back to Florida in time. Could you talk to him again, and see if there’s any hope at all? Fuck… this is the best chance, maybe the only chance, of finding Ares. We can make it back in just under two months if we really haul ass and get good winds, but no way in hell can we get there in a month or less.”
Joel tried to keep his tone upbeat. “I’ll call again, and mention that you’ve been in the news and why, and do what I can. What’s your best guess for when you can have Atlantis back here, for sure?”
Trevor thought about it for a few moments. “Mid May… May 15th, if you need an exact date, but maybe a bit sooner if we’re lucky on the winds. I’ll have to hurry things up here and cut some corners on the way home but we could do it by then, unless Ned is wrong on the refit time.”
“I’ll do what I can; the firm return date might help,” Joel said, planning to call first thing in the morning. He kept his tone upbeat, even though he wasn’t hopeful.
“Offer him a charter after the search. A luxury vacation on a yacht for two weeks, all inclusive. More if you have to.”
“Will do, and don’t worry man, we’ll find Ares, no matter what it takes,” Joel replied.
“Thanks,” Trevor replied.
After a few seconds of uneasy silence, Joel asked, “Try to think of anything you want me to bring.”
“Tortilla chips!” Trevor replied at once. The ones he’d found in Australia so far were Doritos and similar, not the restaurant style he most loved. “Blue corn if you can, you know the ones I like.”
Lisa chuckled, “Hi Trev. Tortilla chips are already on the list. If you think of anything else, let us know.”
“Will do,” Trevor replied, trying not to fret about the sonar issue.
They chatted for a few minutes, and then made plans to talk again in a few days.
“G’day, Archie,” Ned said, getting up from his desk as Basingstoke walked in the door, papers in hand.
“G’day, Ned,” Basingstoke replied, smiling broadly. He handed Ned several different quotes, reflecting different configurations.
Ned glanced at then, and asked, “I don’t see one for express delivery and installation?”
Basingstoke leaned back in his chair and smiled expansively. “I think you’ll like how that turned out. The long and the short of it is I’m an installer as well as a traveling salesman, and I need to be heading on up to Exmouth soon. It’s worth it to me to foot the express delivery charge rather than come back to do the install, so I’ll do so.”
Ned looked at the estimates’ bottom lines, and was pleasantly surprised. They were all under two thousand dollars, some well under, installation included. Ned had phoned his insurance company earlier, and had been informed that he’d save just over seven hundred dollars a year with a monitored system. Ned glanced through the paperwork, and saw that he would be tied into a one-year monitoring contract, for twenty dollars a month. “What about the monitoring after the first year? Does the rate go up?”
Basingstoke nodded. “Yes, currently to twenty-three dollars with that firm. However, this system, unlike some, is not coded to a specific monitoring company. You could change services at the end of a year, if you wished, and a market average is twenty to thirty right now. There’s a subsidy deal involved in this case; you’d be getting the equipment basically at cost, in the hope that you’ll become a long-term customer.” Basingstoke was actually offering Ned the systems at just over half of what they would normally cost.
“I need to make some small changes. I’d like the cameras and sensors to be inconspicuous. How big are the black plastic housings you mentioned, and could they be mounted under roof overhangs instead of on poles?”
“Yes, quite easily.” Basingstoke pulled a small camera from his briefcase. It was encased in black plastic, forming a half-sphere four inches across, with a round dark glass window embedded in the curve. “I could mount these anywhere, and internally they are the same as the ones we discussed, including the night-vision feature, and they are panable. The case is weatherproof, so just wipe the glass with a soft cloth a few times a year.”
“Will my computer need to be on all the while for the monitoring to work?” Ned asked.
“Not at all. These, the motion sensors, and the door and window alarms, all link into a central security box – about the size of a shoebox – I’d mount in your back office. There’s an arm and disarm keypad for your gate and entry doors, too. The main box needs to sit near your ADSL modem, wired between it and your wireless router. It has an internal battery, so even a power outage won’t take it offline, and I see your ADSL and router are already plugged into a battery backup, so you’ll be set in case of an outage. So, whether the power is on or off, if anything is amiss, the security monitoring office rings the local police, and then whomever you specify, such as your mobile phone.”
Ned nodded, and then picked the middle priced estimate. “I like this one, but the fifteen-hundred price is more than I can afford to foot. If you can do it for twelve-hundred and have it running in three days, you’ve got a deal.”
The normal price for the system, even without installation, would be over three thousand, but Basingstoke wasn’t interested in the money. Still, he knew he couldn’t give too good a deal, not without appearing suspicious. “I can’t do it for that, but I could do it for… twelve-fifty. We can invoice it to your business – it’s fully deductible – and there’s no interest or fees if it’s paid in full within ninety days. Also, everything is covered by a full five-year warranty for parts and labor, and there’s a thirty-day free-look: if you are unhappy with the system, you can cancel the purchase.”
Ned wrinkled his brow. He was hiding it, but he was absolutely delighted with the proffered deal; he’d looked online for prices of similar gear, and had been expecting to pay far more. “I can’t, sorry… but do it for twelve hundred and thirty and you have a deal.” Ned figured that there was no way the salesman would pass up a large sale over twenty bucks.
Basingstoke nodded, feigning reluctance. “Okay, I’ll kick that in out of my commission. If I place the order within the next hour, it’ll make the afternoon airfreight pickup, and all being well I’ll have it fully up and running Monday or Tuesday. I’ll need to do some wiring prep over the weekend – I’m licensed to do electrical work – and I can start this afternoon, if that’s okay,” Basingstoke said, handing Ned a pen and indicating where he should sign.
After Ned had signed and been given a copy of the contract and the work order, Basingstoke said, “I’ll go take care of the ordering, then I’ll come back with my tools and equipment.”
“Thanks, and a pleasure doing business with you, Archie,” Ned said, standing up and giving Basingstoke a hearty handshake.
Basingstoke left to make the orders, using one of his usual suppliers in Melbourne.
Ned picked up the phone and was about to dial Fowler’s cell, but then hesitated, and decided to go to the customs shack in person. It was only a five-minute walk.
In the customs shack, Grundig checked his watch. “We should know soon how Ned has gone on the security setup. If he gets that system, it’ll be a help.”
“That it will; we can keep a much better eye out, and I’m pretty sure they’ll be back,” Fowler said.
Grundig hesitated, knowing that he needed to get something off his chest, but not sure how to go about it. Finally, he said quietly, “Greg, I’m not asking for an explanation, and I know there are things going on that you can’t share. I know, okay? A big chunk of it, at any rate. You drawing your gun on Kline the way you did, as fast as you did… I had a lot of time to think while sitting watch in Shark Soup, and it finally dawned on me why and how. Greg, I’m not asking any questions, none at all. I just want you to know that you can count on me.”
“Thanks mate,” Fowler replied quietly, wishing that he could bring his longtime friend and partner fully into the loop. “I’ll tell it all just as soon as I can, which won’t be long. For what it’s worth, I don’t think the Service would object to what I’m currently doing.”
Grundig smiled and nodded. “I think so as well; you’re trying to keep a minor, who has had two attempts on his life, from being killed, and catch who’s responsible. Headquarters ordered us to do that, and it’s very much under the purview of Customs and Border Protection, so I can’t see them having any ground to object.” An awkward silence descended, so Grundig changed the subject by saying, “By the way… I’ll wager you a fiver that if Ned’s getting that security system, he’ll try to bill the Service for it, today, and he’ll pad the hell out of it.”
Fowler chuckled. “No bet. I think he will as well.”
Grundig shrugged. “I’ll bet he more than doubles what it actually costs.”
Fowler thought about that for a few moments. “I’ll take that bet. He’s usually not that outrageous with his padding.”
Ned entered the customs shack ten minutes later, smiling. “G’day and good news, Greg, Craig. I’ve gone ahead and ordered that security system and it should be up and running by Tuesday. The video cameras have a low-light mode, so our stakeouts just got a lot easier. Say, seeing as how this is a Customs Service approved operation, shouldn’t the Service help me defray the cost a bit, so as I’m not out a couple of grand?”
“Ned, it’s going to be bloody hard getting my bosses to approve a permanent security system for a private business; I couldn’t even get one for the customs dock last year. Besides, you told me you’d been thinking of doing it anyway?” Fowler asked.
Ned shrugged. “I was, but not this high-end a system. I’ve been thinking of doing something ever since Shane snuck in with the superglue that time.”
Fowler snickered, shaking his head. “I don’t think the Service is going to foot the bill to protect you from a teenager with superglue… However, for costs directly related to what we’re trying to do, I could give it a burl. Worst they can say is no. So, maybe the cameras and sensors covering the area Atlantis is in, and the stuff you mentioned for under the tarp?”
Ned feigned a shocked look. “Greg, what of the rest of my yard? I have a great deal of expensive gear, and I had fire damage last night. The intruder might not stop with Atlantis.”
“Yep, about twenty dollar’s worth of fire and smoke damage to that old tarp. Look, I’ll try, but the Service won’t spring for the whole system. I also suspect that you’ll make more profit on Atlantis’s repair than I take home in a year, so some expense will be seen as warranted on your part – a cost of doing business. So, how much are you out for just the mobile stuff, and for whatever covers just the area around Atlantis?”
Ned scratched his head, thinking. “Around five hundred, plus two hundred forty for the monitoring.”
Fowler nodded. “Okay, let’s say five hundred total, because we both know you’re padding it, and as for the monitoring, that’s twenty a month, and I’ll see if I can get that prorated for however long the operation lasts.”
“I suppose… thanks, Greg.”
Fowler smiled. “Ned, I’ll need the itemized receipt, of course. They won’t issue a penny without one, and I’ll need to vouch for it as well.”
Ned handed over a copy, accompanied by a slightly bashful look. “Ah, make the cost of the gear for Atlantis three hundred, not five: I hadn’t realized that you’d have to vouch for me.”
Fowler studied the document for a few moments, and then glanced at Grundig. “I could have sworn he said a couple of thousand when he walked in, but this gives a total of one-thousand-two-hundred-thirty dollars.”
“Now hold up, it was a damn sight higher before I haggled him down, and that sum doesn’t include monitoring.”
Fowler rolled his eyes. “The Service isn’t going to pay you to keep this running for years after the operation. I’ll try for three hundred, but that’s it.”
“Don’t forget the pro-rated monitoring,” Ned said, with a happy smile. “Anyhow, that’s not the only reason I stopped by. I got to thinking; what if something is inside Atlantis’s structure? Glassed into the hulls or something? We’d never find it, not normally.”
“Good point, but is there any way to find it without chopping her to kindling? I hate to think what Trevor’s reaction would be if we do that, though if there’s no other way–”
“Ah, but there is a way: ultrasound. It wouldn’t be hard to scan her entirely, because we don’t need accuracy, just a fast scan to spot anything odd that needs following up. It wouldn’t even cost the Service all that much, maybe a thousand for getting the gear and the search.”
Fowler arched an eyebrow in Grundig’s direction before scratching his head and asking, “Ultrasound? A couple of months back I saw you using some kind of gear like that to spot stress fractures? Isn’t that ultrasound? So you have the gear already, and I’ll bet you’ve been using it on Atlantis anyway, as part of the fiberglass work that you said is starting next week.”
Ned scowled. “Come on, Greg, you can’t stand between me and my livelihood!”
“Make it a reasonable and fair bill, to reflect what you’d actually charge a customer over and above what you’ll be doing anyway, and I’ll see that the Service squares with you for your time.”
“What about my recurring equipment costs?” Ned asked, feigning horror.
“Costs? For equipment you already own?” Fowler asked, arching an eyebrow. “Ned, do you really want to put me in the position of having to tell your wife that you wouldn’t do something to help Trevor out, with gear you already have and would be using anyway? And, unless I miss my guess, you’ll be billing his insurance for, too?”
“You’re playing rough today, Greg,” Ned replied, holding up his hands in surrender. “I’ll get her done. Just see what you can do with the Service regarding the security system, and I’ll make the ultrasound bill fair dinkum.”
“G’day, Greg, Craig,” Ned replied, nodding to each and heading out the door, his mind already working on the angle of billing Trevor’s insurance for the remainder of the security system, due to it being necessitated by Atlantis.
Grundig handed over five dollars to a grinning Fowler. “I lost, but not by bloody much. So, do you think the Service will spring for that three hundred?”
Fowler chuckled, nodding. “Yep, they said they would, I’ve already asked. I just wanted to make Ned work for it, or he’d have pushed for more.”
Grundig laughed, and then sobered before asking, “What’s the next step, for the investigation?”
Fowler shrugged. “Wait and see, I suppose. We know we have some kind of a pro in town, so I’ve put the word out to keep an eye out for outsiders, though that won’t do much good until the press clears out – I just hope that none of them catch wind of what happened last night. There are tourists as well, so picking out our intruder will be hard. Ned’s new security system should help. In the meantime, Ned is rigging up a few tripwires and such, so they’ll be less able to sneak about. At this point, we’re back to a waiting game. That security system should make things a lot easier.”
Trevor and Shane began walking east on Grey Street, only to come to a halt within fifty feet. “Look, a little shopping center, and they’ve even got a surf shop,” Trevor said, angling in that direction.
“I wonder if there’s any good surf spots near the river mouth?” Shane said, as they made their way to the surf shop.
As soon as they were inside, Shane asked about the local breaks.
“Jake’s point is one of the best known in the state; a ripper jacking lefthander reef break, but the locals can be territorial, especially on weekends. It’s just a few klicks down the coast from town. There are sometimes some great breaks on the bar at the river mouth, but it depends on the surf. There are some ripper beach breaks on the shore north of the mouth, but getting there is damn hard,” the clerk replied.
Trevor and Shane looked around for a few minutes, and then left. “High priced boards. You’ll do a lot better if you go to that shaper I told you about in Carnarvon.” Shane’s stomach growled, and he sniffed the air. “I smell food! Let’s get some lunch.”
Trevor had yet to eat in an Australian restaurant, and was eager to try. He was also every bit as hungry as Shane, so they followed Shane’s nose to a small restaurant in the little strip mall, and a glance at the menu in the window showed that their lunch menu was mainly sandwiches and burgers. Shane smiled, and reminded Trevor, “Remember, let me do the talking, Yank!”
Before Trevor could answer, they were inside, and Shane led them to a corner table, which offered the most privacy, though not much. The restaurant had no serving staff, just an order counter, so Shane walked up to it and said, “Two burgers with the lot, and two cokes.” He then paid, and returned to the table.
Trevor shuddered when he heard the price; the burgers were ten dollars – each. “Thanks Shane,” he whispered, when Shane returned to the table.
It took fifteen minutes, but the cook placed two baskets on the counter, along with two cups and two cans of coke. “Two with the lot,” he announced.
Shane set Trevor’s burger, which had a side order of chips – similar to french-fries, but thicker and heavier – in front of Trevor. Trevor stared at the towering concoction, and blinked.
Shane sat down, and Trevor whispered, “Could you get me some mustard?” Shane went to the counter, where he asked for, and received, a bottle of Australian mustard, which he gave to Trevor as he sat back down.
Trevor was examining the burger with a very puzzled look on his face, so Shane grinned and asked, “Haven’t you ever had a burger before?”
“Not like this… what’s this round purple stuff?” Trevor asked, pointing at the thick slice of canned beetroot.
“That’s beetroot, mate. A burger with the lot has, as you might guess, a lot. It varies a little, but this place uses sourdough buns, which are great. Then you have a big beef burger patty, lettuce, sliced beetroot, bacon, a big slice of fresh pineapple, sliced tomato, a runny fried egg, cheese, tomato sauce, barbecue sauce, and onion. It’s an Aussie classic.”
Trevor blinked again, thinking, ‘Am I in Australia, or the Twilight Zone?’ as he stared at the six-inch high towering concoction. “Uh, how do you eat it, it’s way too tall to eat like a burger.”
“Watch and learn,” Shane said, putting one hand under the bottom bun, his other hand on the top bun, and compressing the burger before picking it up.
“That’s still too big, even for your mouth,” Trevor whispered.
“Cruel bastard!” Shane mumbled, before angling his head and taking a few bites from the side of the burger.
Trevor followed suit, taking a few hesitant bites. Then he opened the burger and removed the beetroot and pineapple. “I’ll eat these separately; they taste weird in a hamburger. Uh, were you serious, this is normal for a burger?”
Shane nodded. “It is for one with the lot. You’ll find these all over Australia, at non-chain burger places, fish and chip shops, that sort of thing. You’ll also find a very similar ‘Aussie burger’ at Hungry Jack’s, which is what your Burger King chain is called in Australia.”
Trevor took another bite, and then reported, “This is awesome, once you take the beet and pineapple out.” He then put some mustard on the burger, and then more on his chips. He dipped a chip in the mustard and tried it. “Kind of like restaurant fries at home, instead of fast food fries. A bit soggier, though.”
Shane rolled his eyes. “You eat chips and fries with mustard? Now that’s weird! Chips are eaten – by normal people – with tomato sauce or vinegar.”
“Tomato sauce is what you call ketchup, except not as sugary, I think… but vinegar? Now that’s weird. I tried vinegar potato chips when I got to Carnarvon, kinda strange,” Trevor said, still whispering.
“What’s strange is you, mate,” Shane whispered back, snickering and reaching for the bottle of vinegar on the table – each table had a three-piece holder for a saltshaker, a peppershaker, and the vinegar bottle.
They finished their lunch, and left feeling stuffed. They took their time, taking in the town, as they made their way to the nearby visitor center, where Shane again handled the talking. They were given maps of the area and attractions brochures for everything from Kalbarri National Park to sand boarding.
When they walked outside, Trevor studied the map. “We could walk inland along Porter Street for a block, past the cricket oval, then hang a left and make our way towards the supermarket. I’ve never seen a cricket oval, or any Australian towns except a bit of Carnarvon and Denham.”
“It’s a walkabout, then,” Shane said, as they backtracked a hundred yards down Grey Street and headed inland on Porter Street.
In Florida, it was a glorious day. The birds were singing, the sun was shining, and Bridget was ensconced in her palatial home, reading the good news from Basingstoke, sent via Sanchez, which she’d just decrypted. She fired off a reply, with copies going to both Sanchez and Basingstoke, and then poured herself a cognac before heading for her garden to enjoy the fine day, and to savor the good tidings from a land far away.
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. And thank you Daddydavek for alerting me to a typo so I could fix it. And Thanks to MartyS, for alerting me to a misplaced word so I could fix it.