Again, Trevor felt the cold grip of nightmare, placing him on the deck of Atlantis, in the company of pirates.
In his mind’s eye, Trevor felt fear, and the cold hand of death. Again, as many times before, a whisper intruded, growing louder. “Tell him he’s dead. He’s fish food.”
Looking the pirate captain in the eye, feeling no longer alone, Trevor struggled to form words. His mouth didn’t seem to want to work, but he concentrated, forcing the words out. “You’re dead,” Trevor mumbled. The nightmare vision clouded, shifting from one impossible perspective to another. “You’re dead!” Trevor gasped, loud enough to partially wake himself up, only to feel Shane holding him close.
“Thanks,” Trevor mumbled, easing back into sleep, having won that night’s battle, though not the war.
A cool breeze was blowing as Joel and Lisa strolled up to Bridget’s front door to ring the bell, dressed in white and on time for their Sunday morning tennis game.
“Come in, come in,” Bridget said, over the still-ringing carillon of Winchester chimes, opening her front door wide and smiling, tennis racket in hand. She ushered them inside, leading them through her ornate home to the large, private area between her home and the canal. Bridget’s tennis court and formal gardens were thus private, as was her adjoining dock. The property lines were demarked by high, neatly trimmed hedges, and scattered about were blooming magnolia trees. Lisa looked around the neatly trimmed gardens, and asked a question that had been on her mind, one she now felt comfortable in asking. “These gardens, plus the upkeep on a house this big, must be a lot of work. I’ve never seen a maid or a gardener though. Do you do it all yourself?”
Bridget smiled warmly. “Indeed I do; the work keeps me fit and I enjoy it. I do have a gardening service and a cleaning service come in twice a year, though I do the rest myself.” Bridget would have preferred to have a full-time maid and gardener, but her security concerns precluded it.
“It’s beautiful,” Lisa said, glancing around.
“Why thank you, my dear,” Bridget said, smiling primly.
They began their tennis game; Bridget and Lisa playing doubles against Joel, their usual warm up. Joel won, but was careful not to do so by more than one set.
Their usual routine was for Lisa and Bridget to play next, and then Joel would play the winner. This time though, Bridget suggested a second round of two-on-one. It was already warm, and just before his third serve, Joel mopped his brow and resisted the urge to peel off his shirt, cowed in part by Bridget’s formality and the ostentatious setting. The main reason, though, had to do with an inner feeling of disquiet, which left him far from comfortable. Still, he managed to take the set. This time though, Joel, to his chagrin, lost the match and asked for a rematch.
“It is a rare thing for us to get the better of you,” Bridget said, with a soft chuckle. “A rematch it is, though after some refreshments.”
As soon as Bridget had gone inside, Lisa asked, “I’m about to burst! When are we going to give her the good news? Before or after… that question?”
Joel shrugged, glancing warily at the house. “I guess when she gets back. That way, she should be in a good mood for the question, and off guard.”
Bridget returned with teacakes and lemonades on a silver platter, and as she sat down, Lisa beamed, her head held back and a broad smile on her face. “Bridget, Joel and I were wondering what we could get you for Christmas, and we had an idea. We didn’t say anything because we didn’t know if we could get it set up, and we wanted it to be a surprise. We know how much your charity work means to you, so we’ve been organizing at school, and so far we have almost forty people definitely committed, and twelve maybes, for your charity event in Orlando, to destroy Trevor’s car.” Bridget was halfway through taking a drink of lemonade and gagged for a moment, her eyes opening wide in shock, which Lisa took for delight, and carried on, “Most of ‘em know Trev and are looking forward to donating some money to get a swing. A lot of ‘em want to swing the hammer and help the crippled children’s fund, as well as put Trev’s car out of our misery – they know it well, and hate it. They’ll be carpooling, and we’ve given them the date, but we need to let ‘em know the time and location. Merry Christmas!”
Bridget sat in stunned silence for a moment, and then, her voice slightly unsteady, said, “This is certainly a surprise.” She blinked once, and regaining her composure, added, “What a thoughtful gift. I am quite taken aback, and am truly touched. We are still negotiating for a suitable location, though I expect to have that for you soon. I regret having to raise an issue that might be a fly in the ointment, and I truly believe that it is the thought that counts, however I must mention that I have no control over the price the organizers are charging, and we anticipate a thousand dollars per attendee – minimum. Thank you so much for the effort though, it has truly warmed my heart, and that in itself is a very precious gift.”
Now it was Lisa’s turn to blink in shock. “Oh… I don’t think any of them could afford that.”
Joel smiled confidently. “Let me see what I can do. I’ll get the swim team and maybe some of the other sports teams to see if we can put together some kind of a contest, and Lisa, Trev, and I can kick in some of the money you gave us for the car, and the winner of the contest gets to attend. That way we’ll still be helping your charity.”
“That’s, ah, truly generous of you,” Bridget said, struggling to keep her true emotions from showing.
They resumed their tennis games shortly thereafter, and Joel had to trim his score, because Bridget’s game had markedly worsened.
After the game, as Bridget led them back towards the front door, Lisa glanced at Joel and then at Bridget, before asking her, “Bridget, any news on Officer Gonzalez? I don’t like how he’s been acting lately.”
Bridget arched an eyebrow and paused just inside her door. Turning to face Lisa, she asked, in a concerned tone, “Has that incompetent bungler been up to no good?”
Lisa nodded. “Yeah, he has. He was on the phone to Trev and grilled him, as if Trev was the suspect. Trev was furious and hung up on him. How could Officer Gonzalez even think of treating a victim like a suspect? Have you ever known him to act like that before?” Lisa asked, having chosen her words with care.
Bridget snorted in disgust. “Nothing that man does would surprise me. I truly do not know what he is thinking at times, or for that matter if he is even capable of thought. There were occasions, shortly after he took over the case of my beloved Arnold’s vicious murder – it pains me to say it even now – when he attempted to question me as if I was a suspect. I was outraged beyond words. I can only imagine how poor Trevor must feel – did Gonzalez accuse him of the attempts on his own life?”
Lisa shook her head, feeling goosebumps in spite of the warm day. “No, he was just super abrasive and rude.”
Bridget nodded. “Yes, that does seem to be his way. Very crass and uncouth, as he has always been. Please tell Trevor to inform Gonzalez that henceforth Gonzalez will treat him with civility or the conversation is over. Furthermore, inform Trevor that if Gonzalez balks, Trevor should phone me so that I can put him in touch with my attorney. This is most uncalled for; Gonzalez should be spending time finding Dirk Carlson, the man who murdered my Arnold, Trevor’s mother, and has now tried to kill Trevor. That he is still at large is utter malfeasance and ineptitude of the highest order.” Bridget showed Lisa and Joel to the door. “Please forgive me, but I am running late for an appointment at the beautician’s. Have yourselves a wonderful day, and thank you for your kind and thoughtful gift; I shall never forget it.”
As Lisa and Joel walked away, Joel asked, “Where to now; the guesthouse, or want to go for a drive?”
“A drive, maybe to the beach or down the coast, but could you drive?” Lisa asked, her hands beginning to tremble.
Joel nodded, keeping his peace until they had climbed into Lisa’s truck. He peeled off his shirt, tossing it, followed by his tennis racket, into the back seat, and noticed that Lisa was still clutching her racket. As he put the truck in gear and drove off, he asked quietly, “Are you okay?”
Lisa shook her head. “No, I feel like a Judas. I know we agreed that I’d ask her that question about being a suspect, but now… I feel… half of me feels like I betrayed her, and the other half is screaming that if she was a suspect, she could be… I don’t even want to think it.”
On Monday, Lisa and Joel left from school after the final bell, heading for the chandlery and their meeting with Henry. Lisa scowled, shaking her head. “I just wish we knew who we could trust. I can’t even talk to my father, because he’d probably flip out and cancel my trip to Australia. This sucks. How are things going with your parents on this?”
Joel shrugged. “My dad is furious, and my Mom is pissed off too. My dad hates Trev’s dad and thinks he’s a killer, so I didn’t let on anything about us meeting with Henry, and I sure as hell can’t say anything about us wanting to meet with Trev’s dad. I did tell him about what Officer Gonzalez did though, and Dad said that if he makes any more of it, even a bit, he’ll get me a lawyer. Dad told me not to talk to Officer Gonzalez, and if he tries, just clam up and demand a lawyer.”
“What did he say about the money?” Lisa asked.
“That’s a big part of why Dad said not to talk to Gonzalez or the police anymore. If they find out about the money from the charter, it looks suspicious, plus it could get me in legal hot water.” Joel said, with a worried look.
“Did he say anything about the cash from Bridget’s car?” Lisa asked.
Joel shook his head. “No, ‘cause I didn’t tell him yet. I was thinking of changing it to traveler’s checks, but not with the police maybe snooping around; I don’t know what he can find out. I checked; we can legally take up to ten thousand each without declaring it either here or in Australia, and we’ve got way less than that, so we’d better just take it to Trev as cash. I’ll buy us some money belts.”
They arrived at the Chandlery, and Henry let them in. After a fast greeting, he smiled, and with a flourish, handed over the report on the Ares sinking. “This is all of it.”
Joel browsed through the folder for a few moments. “Okay, thanks. There’s something else we think we should talk to you about; Officer Gonzalez tried to interrogate Trev, and pretty much said I was a suspect because of Trev making me a beneficiary on his insurance. That was Trev’s idea, not mine, but the thing is, Officer Gonzalez was treating Trev like a suspect, and he’s the victim.”
Henry gave Joel a sympathetic look. “I know that must sound bad, but it’s common procedure. I doubt that Officer Gonzalez thinks you’re a suspect. Most likely, he’s just crossing off possibilities, which is good police work, though it’s disquieting to be on the receiving end.”
Joel swallowed once, and got right to the main point. “There’s something we need to know; has Bridget Bellevue ever been a suspect in either the murder of Trev’s Mom, or Arnold Bellevue?”
Henry stifled his reaction, and asked in an offhanded tone, “What makes you ask?”
“I just need to know, because if she was, maybe… it’d be in her interest for what’s been happening to have happened,” Joel replied, stumbling over his own words.
Henry found the question interesting on many levels. Bridget knew she had been a suspect, so there was no danger in confirming that fact. The danger lay in Bridget finding out that she was the current suspect. “I’m not supposed to get into that, but… she was the prime suspect in Arnold Bellevue’s murder. Was, as in past tense – the indictment of Dirk Carlson permanently closed any chance of prosecuting her, because barring any new hard evidence, the prosecution would look preposterous to any jury if they indict one person, then later indict another as the perp, based on the same fact set. So, she’s no longer a suspect.”
Lisa blinked. “Did she know she was a suspect?” she asked.
Joel swallowed once, his palms beginning to sweat. “Was she ever a suspect for killing Trev’s mom?”
That put Henry on rather dangerous ground, so he deferred. “I’m not really involved in that, so I can’t say for sure.”
Joel stood tall – he was half a foot taller then Henry – angling his head slightly downwards to look Henry in the eyes. “I still need to meet with Trev’s father.”
Henry smiled as he replied, “It’s in the works, and it’ll be before you go to Australia. It’d help if you told me what you suspect, and why.”
Joel shook his head. He’d long since dismissed his prior thought that Jim was the culprit, but he still wanted to meet with Dirk. “No can do.”
“Okay then, on to another matter. Dirk had nothing at all to do with Trevor getting a rock in lieu of a satellite phone, so Dirk told me to have you pick out two, any two, and check that they work, then take them to Trevor.” Henry stepped behind the counter and pulled back the door to the cabinet, which he’d already unlocked. “Pick any two, then open them here to make certain there hasn’t been any more tampering. Activate and test ‘em when you get home.”
Joel blinked, and stepped forward, peering into the cabinet. “Two?”
“Two. That’s one more than one and one less than three,” Henry replied, chuckling before adding, “Dirk wants to be absolutely sure Trevor has a working one, so he said send two.”
Joel picked two boxes from near the back, both the same model as the one originally intended for Trevor. He opened both boxes, showing Henry the phones and chargers. “No rocks,” he said, closing up the boxes.
Henry smiled. “I’ll call soon. In the meantime, call me anytime.”
“Thanks,” Joel replied, somewhat rattled by the revelations regarding Bridget.
Lisa followed Joel outside, and when he began to speak, she said, in a strained voice, “Please wait until we’re back in my truck… and you drive.”
When they reached Lisa’s truck, Lisa shakily handed Joel the keys. “Please drive,” she said again.
As soon as they were both inside, Lisa cradled her head in her hands and Joel gave her a tender hug. Lisa coughed once, and then said, in a voice barely above a whisper, “If Henry is telling the truth, Bridget has been lying, or at least not telling us everything. She was the prime suspect, and according to Henry, she knew it. I… I want to think Henry is lying, but why would he? Joel, Bridget has been like a mother to me, ever since… ever since I first called her. Now, part of me wants to go right to her house and ask her what’s going on. Joel… you know how my mother treated me like dirt, and how much that hurt. If Bridget is… I don’t even want to think it. I sure as hell don’t want to think that she’s the one who’s been trying to kill Trev. Why didn’t she tell us? If she wasn’t involved, why? Maybe she was just embarrassed – she’s very proud – or angry, but… she’s told us so much else, why not that? We can’t trust her anymore, not until we find out for sure.”
Joel could tell that Lisa was hurting and badly shaken. “I know, that got to me, too. Look, this might not mean what it looks like, but we’ve got to be careful. We’ve also got to find out what’s really going on.”
A few moments after Lisa and Joel left, Gonzalez emerged from the storage room. “Interesting conversation. Sounds to me like they didn’t know Bridget was a suspect. Not the kind of thing I’d expect them to ask if they were in cahoots with her, which makes me wonder if it was intentional: a false flag. However, they’d need to be good actors to pull that off though, and they sounded genuine. You could see their faces; what’s your read?”
“Lisa went pale. You can’t fake that. I think they were on the level,” Henry replied.
Gonzalez nodded. “I concur. By the way, when do you plan on setting up that meeting? I don’t much like the idea of them meeting with your client alone.”
Henry smiled. He’d been hoping for that question. “I’ve been meaning to ask you about that. Once they turn themselves in, could you arrange for Joel to meet with Dirk in a partitioned interview room, sometime before they leave for Australia?” Henry was pleased that he hadn’t lied, but had instead obscured the truth with a question.
“Shouldn’t be a problem, there’s no danger in a partitioned visiting room. Okay now, one other little detail. I’ve been wondering how come this place hasn’t been seized by the landlord for non payment of rent,” Gonzalez asked.
Henry felt his stomach churn; that question hit far too close to things that had to remain secret for five more days. Henry decided that the best response would be telling Gonzalez what he probably knew anyway. “It’s not leased. It’s owned.”
“Yes, it is, although the shops along here aren’t on separate parcels. The five stores on this end of the marina, plus the adjacent docks and slips, are part of one big parcel of land, owned free and clear by Dirk, and it seems the rent checks from the other stores and the boat slips have been collected and deposited to Dirk’s account.”
Henry’s palms began to sweat. He shrugged casually and nodded. “Yep, by me. Dirk has me collect the mail. Why?”
Gonzalez gave Henry a hard look. “He paid off the mortgages and loans early, finishing with several big payments not too long before Rachel died.”
Henry shrugged. “Okay, but I don’t see your point?”
“It would have been community property, and it’s worth a lot of money,” Gonzalez observed, and then added casually, “Dirk is a heck of a lot better off financially than a casual look would indicate.”
Henry shook his head and chuckled. “That’s weak as hell and you know it, especially given the time frame.”
Gonzalez shrugged and smiled. “I need to ask when things strike me as odd, it’s my nature.”
Gonzalez let Henry change the subject and they chatted for a while, reviewing the investigation into Bridget and George, and Henry turned over the latest set of tracking logs from George’s car. “He went to that boatyard again, three days ago, and I saw him take the boat out, at ten at night. He took the Intracoastal Waterway south and I lost him. His car log shows it moved at nine the next morning.”
“About right for a drug run,” Gonzalez said darkly, and then added, “And the fucked up thing is, even if we nail him red-handed, he can just claim he was working undercover. We’d be able to can his ass from the force for a rules violation like that, but making a criminal charge stick would be damn near impossible, unless we can show he’s pocketed money from it.” Gonzalez glanced towards the back door, and asked, “What’s the situation for Sunday?”
“I’d like to pick you up at around noon, if that’s okay. I’ll take you to where I’ll have everything set up.”
“And if it falls through?” Gonzalez asked, arching an eyebrow.
Henry sighed, and gave what he hoped looked like a reluctant nod. “Like I promised, I’ll fill you in on everything I know.”
“Okay, thanks, and what about turning themselves in?” Gonzalez asked.
“That’s something they want to discuss with you, to set it up, as long as the deal holds that they aren’t going to be put somewhere that George can get to them,” Henry said.
“That much you can count on; you have my word,” Gonzalez replied.
Adventure beckoned, so Trevor and Shane were up early, making their preparations: packing canned goods, cooking supplies, and a cooler full of food. They tossed in a few clothes, the GPS, its suction cup mount, and a few other odds and ends. Shane had breakfast ready, which they quickly ate.
Trevor gave Shane a concerned look. “I can’t make up my mind what to do about the cash we hid in the bilge. Would it be safer with us, or here?” he asked.
Shane scratched his head. “I dunno. Let’s go have another look at it. Maybe take half?” he said, leading the way to the bilge access hatch.
They shoehorned themselves into the bilge, and Trevor studied the hiding place. “The can’s wedged up in there, and stuffed with rags. Nobody knows it’s here, so it should be safe, but I’d like some cash with us. I think you’re right: let’s take half.” Trevor struggled to work the can free, grumbling, “It’s wedged up in here tight, I can’t get it past the beam. I’ll open it in place.”
“It’s a good hiding place. Maybe we could use it on Atlantis too, if the new tanks fit in the same place; Lagoon 55’s and 57’s are pretty much identical except up front, right?”
Trevor pulled the rags free and then opened the false bottom. He then removed all the cash and pulled it out to divide it. “I think they had some other changes, and this is one of ‘em. This beam is structural, but there’s not one here on Atlantis, so it’s something new they did on the 57’s, maybe for added strength. No big deal though: I built a great secret compartment on Atlantis. That’s where Officer Fowler found my gun, but I don’t think he would have if I hadn’t messed up and given him reason to think I was hiding something, plus left the magnet there.” Trevor counted out half the cash, and then put the other half back, carefully setting up the can so it again looked like a rag holder. “We can still use the can somewhere, it’s great. It’s sneaky, just like you.”
“Cruel and abusive bastard!” Shane declared. “Brilliant and creative isn’t the same thing as sneaky!”
“Your ego knoweth no bounds,” Trevor quipped, as they locked up the bilge access.
They made a run in the Zodiac to the Jeep to drop off their gear, and then returned to Kookaburra. It was time to go, so they changed into shoes and speedos for their swim, and began locking up. After checking the moorings again, Shane put the boat keys on his drawstring, and Trevor did the same with the Jeep keys.
“Let’s get wet!” Trevor declared.
They scrambled ashore onto Stork Island, making their way through the brush to the far shore, which was on the Murchison’s main channel. There, they looked out across the fast current, studying the river. The murmur of the water, punctuated only by the buzz of insects and the distant, passing hum of a small Cessna, made for an idyllic scene of sun and water. “You’ve swum rivers before, right?” Trevor asked.
Shane shrugged, and then shook his head. “Not this big. I figured we’d just keep swimming across the current until we got somewhere on the other side. It’s only a couple of hundred meters.”
Trevor nodded. “That’s what I was thinking too. The shoes might slow us down a little, but it should be an easy swim; I’ve crossed rivers, but they were moving a lot slower than this one.”
“Okay, let’s go,” Shane said, wading out into the water. He stopped when it was waist deep, and with Trevor by his side, dove forward, pulling into a crawl and aiming across the current, but not at any specific point on the far shore. They both knew that trying for a fixed point and ending up fighting the current was a common mistake when swimming in moving water.
The water was cool, but not cold, and they pulled hard as the current carried them downstream.
Nearing the shore, Trevor stopped and put his feet down, finding the water chest deep, and Shane did the same. The current had carried them a little further than they’d planned, but the more immediate problem was the shore ahead of them. “That’s a thick line of trees and bushes at the water’s edge,” Trevor said, and then pointed downstream. “I see a break, about fifty yards down,” he said, launching into a crawl.
They emerged from the water at the break, wading up onto the sandy shore, three hundred yards downstream of the Jeep. They began walking, enjoying both the sun and the sight of each other, wet and dripping, their tan skin glistening in the morning sunshine.
“Mind the tree,” Shane said, chuckling and grabbing Trevor by the arm, easing him off a collision course with a log lying in their path.
Trevor laughed, angling inland slightly, giving his head a bashful shake as he glanced at the log he’d nearly stumbled over.
They were almost dry by the time they reached the Jeep and lowered the top. Shane took care of emplacing the GPS on the windshield with its suction cup, and Trevor opened their bag. “Hey, exhibitionist, want any clothes for the drive?” Trevor asked, snickering.
Shane crossed his arms, gave Trevor a mock glare, and grumbled, “Cruel and abusive bastard! Toss me some boardies.”
Trevor retrieved two pair, and he and Shane kicked off their wet shoes before pulling them on.
“You did remember to pack some sunnies, didn’t you?” Shane asked, with a hopeful look.
Trevor nodded, handing Shane a pair of sunglasses and pulling out a pair for himself. “Okay, ready to hit the road?”
Shane nodded, and jumped into the passenger seat, grinning.
Trevor fired up the Jeep, put it in gear, and they were off, heading towards Kalbarri, the wind blowing in their hair. Trevor leaned over and gave Shane’s bare shoulder a nudge with his own. “This is awesome. We’re going to have a blast!”
Shane grinned, and resting his hand atop Trevor’s on the gear stick for a moment, he replied, “Yeah, this is ripper!”
As they neared Kalbarri, Shane studied the GPS, and then set it to compute a route to Murchison House Station. “Okay, it says turn left two hundred meters ahead, on Anchorage Lane, then left again on Kalbarri road.”
When they neared Kalbarri road, Trevor saw pavement and pulled over to take the Jeep out of four-wheel dive. He scrambled back in, tearing off and heading away from town on Kalbarri road. He glanced at the GPS, and asked, “It says turn left in just eight kilometers. I thought we’d be on this road for a while?”
“I, unlike you, looked at the map this morning, so I know it’s not far to Murchison House Station. There’s a little airfield – Kalbarri Airport – ahead on the right; if we see it, we’ve gone too far. We turn left, then it’s four klicks on a dirt road to the station, and that’s it.”
Trevor nodded, and then asked, “How far from the station to the stuff in Kalbarri National Park?”
Shane unfolded the map and had a look. “The main turnoff for The Loop and a bunch of overlooks is just past the airport, then it’s about thirty klicks. But… it looks like there’s a dirt road direct from the station; we’ll have to ask about it.”
Ahead to the left a white sign with an old metal spoked wheel on top came into view, announcing the turn for the station. Trevor turned, and he found that the road, although dirt, was smooth and recently graded. There really wasn’t any need, but he pulled over to put the Jeep into four-wheel drive.
When they arrived at the station, they found it to be laid out around a long dirt parking area, with buildings on both sides, sitting at the edge of a low bluff overlooking the Murchison River. A few antique vehicles, including tractors and a World War II amphibious tracked landing craft, added even more uniqueness to the station.
Trevor parked, and they pulled on shirts before walking to the main building, taking note of the swimming pool beyond. They were warmly greeted and shown to their cabin, just a few yards past where they were parked.
The station wasn’t like Trevor had been expecting; the landscape was green, not desert, and the buildings were brick and nicely made. Trevor smiled as he took it all in, thrilled to be seeing the outback and a real range station, and also, for the first time since leaving Rhys Lagoon, no longer feeling hunted.
Trevor and Shane settled into their cottage, where they would spend several days, enjoying guided four-wheeling tours and then drives on their own deeper into Kalbarri National Park.
Bridget, George couldn’t help but notice, was acting somewhat distraught. He poured them each a cognac and then sat down on the sofa beside her. Bridget turned her head to give her late husband’s gilt-framed portrait a withering glare. In an icy tone, she said, “This entire mess is his fault, done by his treacherous hand, with vile intent. That asset list was ghastly enough. What he put aboard Ares along with it was meant to be the death of me, and still, after all these years, it hangs over my head like the sword of Damocles.” Bridget sighed, and shook her head. “He is truly the root of it all. To end my status as a suspect in his murder, we needed someone else indicted for it. To end the threat of anyone unearthing Ares’ secrets from the deep, we are compelled to stop Trevor or anyone else from seeking her wreck. Every last bit of it was caused by Arnold. After all these years he plagues me yet, and yesterday I had a reminder, in the form of a rude surprise: Lisa and Joel took it upon themselves to help with the charity event they believe I plan for Trevor’s car. They’ve told others, George, quite a few, and in a supreme irony, they intended this as a Christmas surprise for me.” Bridget went on to tell George what Lisa and Joel had been doing: getting Trevor’s former classmates interested in attending the event.
“We’ll sort it out and get it taken care of,” George replied, silently cursing Lisa and Joel for their meddling.
Bridget scowled at Arnold’s portrait. “From beyond the grave he haunts me still, and this debacle with Trevor’s ridiculous car is merely the latest turmoil he has caused.” Bridget’s gaze returned to George. “How I regret not killing him sooner. Betrayal is unforgivable, and Arnold’s betrayal was absolute. Bah, enough of these laments. Let us deal with the issue itself; what are we to do about Lisa and Joel’s public revelations regarding the charity event? I see several options, though the most attractive one to me, at this juncture, would be to have the car simply vanish, after telling them that the event has been canceled.”
George took a few moments before replying, “That could work, but it’s still a mess; too many people now know, well in advance of Lisa and Joel’s arrest, that you bought the car. So, they get arrested and tell the cops they’ve been staying in your guesthouse, and that you bought that car from them for a charity event – and that part of it can be confirmed thanks to them telling people about it in advance. It casts things in a whole new light from an investigative perspective. I think the best bet is to go ahead and set up a real charity event; you’ve got the society connections to do that with ease.”
“Interesting angle; the news is out, so no harm in making it real. However, what if they have also been indiscreet regarding their use of the guesthouse?” Bridget asked.
“You were advising Lisa due to the threat from Dirk – that business with him driving by her house. That’s known, so build on it; you gave Lisa a key so she’d have a safe place to go in an emergency, and you didn’t know she was sneaking her boyfriend in and using it on a few nights.”
“Perhaps. I am loathe to engender any connection between myself and cocaine; the plan to have Lisa and Joel imprisoned has become entangled to a vile degree. Any official interest would result in observation, which would curtail our activities in their entirety. We have that situation now; Sea Witch hasn’t left the shed in over a week, due to the need to be cautious. If this state of affairs continues for long, I shall be forced to leave the business, for others will fill the void. I cannot leave it, George; it is too much a part of me. I came up from nothing. I made myself, by doing what few can survive for long, for over forty years. I started small, though it was enough to put me through college. I have always taken care, and not once have I ever been arrested. Forty years, George. You tell me; how many have survived in this trade for so long?” Bridget asked, her back stiffening with resolve.
“Few, if any. Sanchez has proven very durable, but he’s the exception rather than the rule, and you’ve been in the trade for even longer than he has.”
Bridget smiled with cold pride. “I made myself, and I made Arnold. Without me, he would have been less than nothing. I could have retired from the trade long ago, to sit out my days in comfort and luxury, though that is not my way. It is who I am, too much a part of me now, which is why I keep my hand in.” Bridget sighed, and gave George a respectful nod, “I do freely admit that our partnership has aided my survival; without your information and connections, I would perhaps have been caught by now. We make a good team, you and I. We must not endanger what we have by taking unneeded risks.”
“I know, but Lisa and Joel are loose ends that have to be tied up, so we need to take a small risk to eliminate a big one. Now that we have a general location for Trevor, we don’t need to keep the alternative option of using them to find him open, and we have to keep them from going looking for Ares. We have to do something to take them out,” George replied.
“Yes, and loose ends must be dealt with,” Bridget said, her mind made up. “Then I suppose we must proceed with some variant of the plan to frame them with the cocaine, with a trip to the farm for a backup option. I’ve been needing a new handbag,” Bridget said, smiling coldly, and then adding, “I do indeed regret the necessity of what is to come, George. They are charming, and have been good company. It is a sad thing indeed when love turns to death. Still and all, what must be, must be. Let us proceed with our original intent, with the farm as a backup. I shall arrange for a fundraiser in Orlando, for one of the children’s charities. I’ll make sure the event is a success and that every cent goes to the charity, so there shall be no question that it was legitimate in every particular.”
George nodded. “We’ll get it done. They’ve put a couple of empty suitcases in the guesthouse; I think those are intended for things for Trevor – there’s a bunch of grocery bags full of tortilla chips there as well. The cases are standard soft-sided luggage, kind of worn. I think the best method – one I’ve seen drug mules use – is to put the coke in a thin layer around the inside of the case – up against its plastic stiffener – and encase it in layers of cellophane. They won’t feel it, and they won’t notice the extra weight if it’s split between the cases. I can do it a night or two before they go.”
“Excellent,” Bridget replied, with a single approving nod of her head, before taking a sip of her cognac.