On a bright and promising Sunday morning, the 17th of December, 2006, Lisa picked up Joel and they drove towards downtown Ft. Pierce, both uneasy and nervous. “I feel like we’re about to have an audience with Satan,” Lisa mumbled. “Your whole swim team, plus a few guys from the football team, were scared to death to go into the chandlery when they were supposed to pick up the satellite phone.”
“Yeah, and you were getting ready to go in alone if they chickened out,” Joel said, giving Lisa a proud glance, only to realize that he’d just undermined the argument he planned to make. “I still think I should go alone.”
“Well, you’re not; if it’s safe for you to go, it’s safe for me as well. We’re in this together,” Lisa said, to close the door on that issue.
Joel smiled giving Lisa’s hand a squeeze. “One way or the other it’ll all be over soon.”
“You sure could have worded that a lot better,” Lisa replied, with a wry chuckle and a flick of her hair. “Okay, we’re supposed to phone Henry.”
Joel made the call, which was brief. “He said he’d meet us at Denny’s.”
“Okay, it’s still on then. I really thought they’d cancel,” Lisa said, with a determined look on her face.
When they pulled into the Denny’s parking lot, Henry was there, standing beside his car. Lisa parked next to him, and jumped down to ask, “What happens now? Do we go with you?”
“Lock up and follow me,” Henry replied, leading a confused Lisa and Joel towards the street, on foot.
They reached the sidewalk and walked for a half a block. En route, Henry kept a wary eye out for any sign of pursuit. Seeing none, he led them around a corner and towards a small cafe. Under different circumstances he would have taken more precautions, but now there was far less need.
They entered the cafe, which was decorated on the theme of a 1950’s ice cream parlor. Only a few of the tables were occupied, and soft 1950’s music played in the background. The strong scent of coffee filled the air, coupled with just a hint of vanilla ice cream. Vivid yellows gave the room a bright and airy feel, which stood in stark contrast to the dread pervading Lisa and Joel.
Henry led them to a booth, which had his jacket on one of the seats. The waiter approached, and Henry ordered them all coffees.
“Okay, now what?” Joel asked, settling in beside Lisa.
Henry slid over to the wall side of the booth before looking at Joel and smiling. Before Joel could question this, two people got up from a nearby table, and slid onto the bench beside Henry.
Joel blinked in surprise at the two, decked out in billowy print sundresses with matching handbags, accompanied by plastic clip-on earrings, and wearing oversized feminine sunglasses.
“Holy fuck,” Lisa whispered, as Dirk, sitting across from her, removed his sunglasses for a moment, and then replaced them.
Dirk, feeling very uncomfortable in drag, said quietly, “Do you still need to talk to me alone, or can Jim and Henry stay?”
Joel managed to close his mouth, which had been hanging open. He swallowed once, and then said quietly, “We’re trying to figure out who is after Trev – and what’s going on.”
“So are we, but this first,” Dirk replied, before reaching into his purse and pulling out an ATM card. “Before Trev’s emancipation went into effect, I arranged for a new ATM card for him, and I made a deposit. I know you let the bank know to cancel his old one, which I’m guessing was lost in the pirate attack,” he said, handing the card to Joel. “I set the PIN to his old one.”
Joel took the card, giving Dirk a puzzled glance. “Did you have anything to do with the attacks on Trev, or the killing of his Mom or Arnold Bellevue?”
“Absolutely nothing,” Dirk replied, and then added in a morose tone, “I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that his leaving may have been a trigger of some kind. I could have handled things better, and then maybe…” Dirk’s voice trailed off.
Lisa scowled. “So none of this would have happened if you hadn’t driven him to run away?”
Jim shook his head. “We really don’t know – and unfortunately we can’t talk about what we’re trying to do. All we can say is we’re trying to put a stop to it.”
“So are we,” Joel said.
Lisa stared at Dirk for a moment, and then whispered, “Mr. Carlson, please take off your sunglasses for a moment.” Dirk did so, and Lisa stared into his eyes, leaning forward as she asked quietly, “Tell me why you drove Trev away?”
Dirk paled, but he maintained eye contact. “Lisa, that’s probably my greatest regret. I reacted badly… I found out he’d been out searching for Ares, in very dangerous waters. He’d also made Atlantis the total focus of his life. I can’t get into all of it, but you’ll know soon, I promise. I should have… I don’t know, but I know I handled the whole thing about Jim and me in the wrong way. I should have set Trev down to talk about it, but he kept sniping and I guess I took the easy way out, thinking he’d come around.”
Lisa blinked. “What thing?”
Jim and Dirk shared a puzzled look, and then Jim glanced at Joel and asked, “You know, don’t you? When we met in Italy, Trevor said you knew?”
Joel slowly shook his head. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to know?” he asked, his words as jumbled as his mind.
Dirk glanced at Jim, and then turned to face Lisa and Joel. “I was sure he’d tell you two about Jim and me. That’s a big part of why he left and won’t talk to me; he doesn’t approve.”
“Approve of what?” Joel asked.
Dirk took a deep breath. “Then I hope you two take it better than he did: Jim and I have been dating for over three years. I hid it for a while, but then I tried bringing it up to Trev, and he, well, he’s homophobic, and that’s a big part of why we were fighting before he left.”
Lisa and Joel turned to look at each other in shock. Joel opened his mouth, but Lisa stomped on his foot, and then turned to tell Dirk, “I can’t get into details, but I think there’s been a huge misunderstanding. Trev doesn’t know about you and Jim – uh, you’re gay?”
Jim gave an awkward shrug. “I am, but he’s bi.”
Lisa blinked again, and managed to say, “I’m absolutely sure Trev doesn’t know. I also don’t see him having any problems with it, at all.”
Joel gave his head a shake, as if to clear it, and said, “Yeah, he doesn’t know.”
Dirk’s eyes narrowed. “Then why did he–”
Lisa scowled again, and glared at Dirk as she said, very softly, “Oh, I think I know. Try those divorce papers you refuse to even discuss – plus some other things – that all pointed to you being his mother’s killer.”
Dirk shook his head. “This makes no sense… we were fighting even before he found those. But, yeah, those made everything a hundred times worse. I can’t blame him – he has every reason to think what he does about those papers, but he’s mistaken, and I’ll be able to prove it soon and explain it all.”
Henry had been silent so far, but he gently broke in to ask Joel, “You said you had information to share?”
Joel exchanged a sad glance with Lisa, and then replied, “Yeah. We don’t know anything for sure, but… we figured out that someone would have kind of a motive to kill Trev. It’s Bridget Bellevue, and according to Henry she was once a suspect for her husband’s murder, but that went away once you were charged.”
An icy silence descended. Henry had warned Jim and Dirk to avoid telling Lisa and Joel that Bridget was their suspect as well, and he saw Dirk’s mouth open so he jumped in to head him off, “Thank you for that, but that’s really all we can say, as we can’t discuss the case.”
Dirk ignored Henry and said, “You’ll be leaving in a few days, so it might be best for everyone if you steered clear of her or her property, just in case you’re right. I promise you’ll be told the rest when you get back from Australia, if not before.”
Eager to change the subject, Henry jumped in to say, “Joel, why did you, at first, insist on meeting with Dirk alone?”
Joel gave Jim an apologetic look, and then replied, “For a while, I thought I knew who did it. I figured Jim could have gotten Atlantis’s AIS code when he intercepted us off the Strait of Messina, just by looking at a radar screen. We tracked Trevor through the Suez online that way, so we knew it could be done, but… anyway, we later changed our minds about you. Glad we did, because one of the things that made us so suspicious is why a lawyer would be doing all he’s done, but now we know.” Joel paused, and then added awkwardly, “Uh, congratulations, by the way.”
Jim gave them an awkward, faint smile. “Thanks, and I’m glad you don’t still think I did it, and by the way, the boat I rented didn’t have radar at all.”
Dirk looked at Lisa, and then Joel, and in a sorrowful tone, he said, “When you see Trev, please tell him – tell him I love him and I’m sorry, but I did what I’ve done to protect him as well; he’d have been hurt too, including losing Atlantis.”
Joel replied with a puzzled nod, but he could see that no further explanation would be forthcoming.
Henry glanced at his watch, and said, “Okay, one thing; don’t disclose to anyone, and I mean anyone, any information you have on Trevor’s current or future whereabouts. I want to commend you for telling me Tasmania, and I hope you’ll be equally circumspect with everyone.”
Dirk took a deep breath. “Please take care of Trev while you’re in Australia. He’s going to need your friendship, more than he ever has.”
Henry glanced at his watch again. “Okay, we’ve got to be going, but thank you both for coming, and I’ll be in touch before you go.”
Joel looked at Dirk and asked, “When will we see you again?”
With a sad sigh, Dirk put on his sunglasses and picked up his handbag. “After you return, I hope. Have a safe trip.”
Lisa and Joel took their cue to leave, and after a few fumbled goodbyes, awkwardly made their way to the door.
As soon as Lisa and Joel had left, Henry whispered, “Head back to the hotel, Frank should be there by now.”
In Jurien Bay, Western Australia, far to the south of Kalbarri, Basingstoke relaxed in his hotel room, just a few blocks from the airport. He’d accomplished part of his mission: he’d found Trevor. He smiled at the irony; he’d assumed that the security system would be his means, but spotting Kookaburra from the air – his backup plan – had been the one to bear fruit. Now, he knew he could find her at any time. It was, he felt, further proof that it was always wise to have more than one means to an end. It helped that the security system might yet have purposes to serve.
He set up the small receiver console – barely the size of a tablet PC – and let it search for a signal. It found nothing, but that was to be expected. The transmitter he’d attached to Kookaburra used her mast as an antenna, giving the device a range of around twenty miles – at ground level. The reason was line of sight: from Kookaburra’s mast top nearly eighty feet above the water, the horizon was about ten miles away. The signal, very similar to VHF radio, could go past line-of-sight, but not greatly so. However, simply by taking his plane to fifteen thousand feet, he’d be a hundred and fifty miles from the horizon. Adding that to the line of sight from Kookaburra meant that, at a minimum, he’d be able to detect Kookaburra from a hundred and sixty miles away – and more often closer to two hundred miles – whenever he wanted.
The installation had been a stroke of luck; Basingstoke had originally hoped to only attach a tracker externally under the salon, but finding Kookaburra unoccupied had given him time to examine her. A look in the anchor locker had given Basingstoke a happy discovery: lightning protection provided the means for a better installation, and Kookaburra being unoccupied gave him the opportunity. Ship’s masts are very prone to being struck by lightning, so the mast is grounded by a heavy wire from the mast’s base to a sacrificial anode in the hull, below the waterline – the same sacrificial anode that provides a ground for the electrical systems. These anodes are normally zinc, and serve to prevent electrolytic corrosion due to charge imbalances between the boat and the seawater.
Now that he had the means to track Kookaburra, the remaining issue was Basingstoke’s desire to make Trevor’s death appear to be something other than a professional hit. That, he knew, would not be difficult to arrange. All it would take were the right circumstances, and he now had both the time and opportunity to create them.
Lisa and Joel, still in a daze, began walking away from the café where they’d met Jim and Dirk, only to go a dozen yards before realizing they were going the wrong way. They turned around, and Lisa said, “Is that the weirdest thing ever?”
“I kept expecting to hear the theme from The Twilight Zone. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it sure fucking wasn’t to see Mr. Carlson in heavy makeup, in drag, with his boyfriend,” Joel said, glancing back at the restaurant for a moment and then slowly shaking his head.
“Sorry I stomped on your foot, but I thought you were about to out Trev.”
Joel gave Lisa a puzzled look. “I guess I was; I didn’t see how it could hurt.”
“I was worried they were lying, or it might be something to do with Trev’s mom’s murder, and it sure as hell could have a lot to do with the divorce. I don’t really know what I was thinking exactly, but I just thought it was a bad idea to do any outing before we knew. Uh, did you notice how Henry jumped in a few times to change the subject?” Lisa asked.
“Yeah, good point. But… what the fuck, they’re a couple? A huge part of why Trev left was because his dad wouldn’t accept –” Joel froze in his tracks, blinking, and then his jaw dropped. “Holy fuck, I just got it. We’ve both been on the receiving end of Trev’s coming-outs. How’s he come across?”
Lisa angled her head in thought, and then her own eyes widened. “He tries to sound you out, and he comes across as homophobic, because he calls gays ‘those people’ and stuff like that, and phrases his questions really weird. And, we know he’d been sounding his father out, getting ready to come out to him – oh, shit!”
“Talk about misunderstandings,” Joel mumbled, scratching his head.
Lisa was silent for a moment, before taking Joel’s hand and saying softly, “I looked right into Mr. Carlson’s eyes when he said he didn’t kill Trev’s mom or Mr. Bellevue. I’ve known him years, and I can’t be sure, but I don’t think he was lying.”
“I hope not, for Trev’s sake.”
“I know that’s part of why he left; those divorce papers. If Mr. Carlson didn’t kill Trev’s mom, why did he flat out refuse to talk to Trev about them?” Lisa asked.
“I wish I knew, but… I’m happier about things than I was before the meeting. It sure didn’t go like I expected,” Joel replied.
The issue of who killed Arnold Bellevue if not Dirk chased through Lisa’s mind, but she wasn’t yet willing to face that possibility in full. She felt a need to change the subject, along with a greater need for Joel’s touch, so she took his arm, intertwining it with hers, and squeezing his hand. “A while back, I was wondering about Jim and Mr. Carlson, but when I broached the idea to Trev, he laughed and said ‘I’m not stupid, Lisa, I’d know’. Joel, do you realize what this means? Trev took off for the opposite side of the freaking planet because he thought…” Lisa pulled Joel to a halt and turned him to face her. “Joel, I have to be the one to tell Trev about his father. Please!”
Joel smiled, and then, envisioning it in his mind, began to crack up. “Okay, but only if I’m there to see it,” he gasped, laughing, reveling in both the humor and the release of stress it proffered.
“Boy, are we going to have a surprise for him when we get there,” Lisa said, the tension easing as they approached her truck.
“We already are: you… but this one will blow his mind for sure,” Joel replied, shaking his head, a look of stunned disbelief still on his face.
Later that Sunday morning, Henry arrived at Gonzalez’s house, feeling relieved that the deception was almost over.
“Good morning, Mike,” Henry said cheerily, as Gonzalez met him at the door.
“Is everything still set?” Gonzalez asked.
“Sure is, hop in,” Henry said, nodding towards his car.
Gonzalez locked up, and waited until they were pulling away before saying, “I need to call the State Attorney soon after we’re done; he’s expecting my call. I’ll be needing a timeframe on Carlson’s surrender.”
Henry resisted the urge to chuckle. “He’ll probably be willing to go along with anything you suggest.”
“Anything new on Bridget and George?” Gonzalez asked.
“You’ve probably seen the data on George’s tracker by now,” Henry replied. He’d recently set it up so that they both had access to the data. Gonzalez nodded, so Henry continued, “I’ve been trying to get one on Bridget’s Mercedes, but she doesn’t go out too often. I tailed her once, but she went to a drive-through window at the bank, and then another damn drive-through window at a Mexican restaurant, then home.”
Gonzalez thought it over. “Good try, but be real careful. We can’t risk spooking them. If they find out they’re being looked at, we’ll have a lot less chance to catch them, plus we’ll never find out who they’re working with.”
“You’re preaching to the choir, Mike,” Henry replied with a chuckle, and then added in a more serious tone, “I’ll be careful. What I’d really like to do is get a tracker on that damn boat. If I can’t, any chance the Coast Guard could help by watching to see where it goes? Maybe if they had a cutter offshore, with radar?”
Gonzalez shook his head. “Not a good idea. The Coast Guard liaises with the drug task force, so George knows a few Coasties, sure as hell. There’s too much of a chance that he’d get word, we can’t take the risk.”
Henry drummed his fingers on the steering wheel for a moment. “Okay, that means the Coast Guard is a bad idea, but it doesn’t mean using a boat with radar to track them is bad. How about I look into renting one?” Henry pondered.
“That has possibilities. We’d need to be very careful, but yeah: keep out of visual range and follow them with radar. That might give us some new leads, and the best part is every bit of it would be admissible. Good plan, Henry.”
Henry grinned. “I’ll need to get a few hours’ training – I’ve never driven a speedboat. So, we need radar, and something faster than that Sea-Ray they have. I’ll get to work on it.”
They talked over a few other ideas, until Henry, having taken a circuitous route, pulled into the parking lot of a two-story hotel. He parked, and led Gonzalez up a flight of stairs and towards a room door, which opened as they neared it.
“Hello, I’m Frank Tittle, and you must be Gonzalez, glad you could make it,” Frank said, in a cheerful, flippant tone, around a mouthful of cheeseburger.
“What are you doing here? I was told I’d be able to interview them without hindrance,” Gonzalez replied, as he walked into the hotel room, glanced around, and shot Henry a questioning glance. “And where’s the videoconferencing stuff?”
Frank shrugged. “Nice to meet you too. What you’re after is in the adjoining room. You can talk to my clients unhindered, on pretty much anything that concerns Bridget and George. I’m just here in case they have any questions.”
Gonzalez rolled his eyes. “Let’s get on with it.”
Henry smiled, and with a flourish, opened the connecting door to the next hotel room and walked through, followed by Frank, motioning for Gonzalez to follow.
Gonzalez walked in, and blinked in recognition when he spotted Jim, sitting next to Dirk, on a small sofa. They were no longer in drag. “Hi, Officer Gonzalez, good to see you again, it’s been a while. Hope you don’t mind, but we decided to skip the video stuff,” Jim said, in a cheerful tone.
Gonzalez stopped in his tracks and took a wary glance around the room. “Good to see you, counselor, and good to finally meet you, Dirk,” Gonzalez said, and then paused for a few moments before adding, “I’m surprised to see you two in person.”
Jim took a sip of water. “Okay, all we ask is hear us out before trying to arrest us.”
“Fair enough, now let’s get to the point. What do you know about Bridget Bellevue, all of it?” Gonzalez said, taking the offered seat across from Jim and Dirk.
Dirk took a breath, and replied, “Not as much as I wish I did. Her husband sold us Ares, then later she sold us Atlantis. She–”
“Wait, she sold you Atlantis herself? In person?”
Dirk nodded. “Yes, but to Rachel, I wasn’t there. Rachel handled the talking because she knew Bridget, and I would have had to shut the chandlery for the afternoon to go.”
Gonzalez glanced at Henry and said, “That means we have her in one lie; she told Lisa her brother handled it – the brother who doesn’t seem to exist – but she did it herself.” He returned his attention to Dirk. “What else?”
“I think Bridget arranged some business for Rachel a few times. As for Arnold Bellevue, he gave us advice on how to finance Ares, advice that got us in a real mess, especially after Ares turned out to need a lot of mechanical work – her engines were worn out. We owned the chandlery plus the adjoining buildings, but we had a huge mortgage, which we could barely handle. We couldn’t get a loan big enough for the purchase of Ares, or so we thought. Arnold told us to cut a deal with our tenants; pay a lot more in rent for that month, then get a rent holiday later to more than make up for it. That way, it increased our income on paper by inflating the rents beyond what they really were, and commercial income property is valued largely based on its annual rents, which we faked by using just that one month and multiplying by twelve, plus doctoring the past revenues. We did it, and with that plus fudged lease agreements managed to get our existing line of credit expanded enough to buy Ares. That put us in a real bind; we found Ares needed a lot of expensive work that would take time, plus we were looking at huge payments combined with the gap in income from the tenants once the rent holiday hit. We’d have lost everything if Rachel hadn’t been able to start chartering when she did.”
Frank Tittle, who was sitting nearby noisily eating french-fries, said, “In case you’re wondering, yes, my client just admitted to bank fraud, and yes, the statute of limitations has expired. That can’t shield him from a civil suit for damages, but there are none; the loans were paid off in full long ago.”
Jim – who was a civil attorney – knew he was the best one to explain the next part, so he said, “There’s a law called the Jones Act, also called the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. It deals in part with who may, and who may not, run any kind of marine passenger or charter service in U.S. waters. I can tell by the look on your face that you haven’t heard about it, and you aren’t alone; neither had Rachel or Dirk. In a nutshell, the laws have changed a little since then, but at that time it was illegal for a foreign built boat – Ares and Atlantis were both built in France – to carry paying passengers between, or in and out of, U.S. ports. Dirk and Rachel didn’t check on that prior to buying Ares because they intended to resell her, not run charters. Today, you can apply for a waiver, but back then, the only way to get one was via a literal act of Congress. So, Rachel had to run illegal charters. Rachel wasn’t a U.S. citizen, so they tried applying for waivers under Dirk’s name, then Trevor’s – that’s part of why they registered him as the owner – but getting a member of Congress to add a line to an omnibus bill for an individual waiver is very hard, and it didn’t happen. They were stuck.”
Dirk took over and said, “Rachel ran some illegal charters out of Florida to the Bahamas and back, and then tried to get set up to run in just the Bahamas – which would have been legal – but most of the customers back then wanted to leave from and return to Florida, so that didn’t work out too often. She kept at it, and she made a lot of money, especially after we got Atlantis going as well, but it was still illegal, which meant we couldn’t declare it as income. We used some of it to pay off the loans, and then the property mortgages too, including our house. We wanted to find a way to make the business legal, so we kept exploring options and trying things – such as incorporating – but we were in way over our heads and couldn’t find a way out.”
Frank Tittle took a slurp of his milkshake and weighed in with a flippant tone, “Yes, my client just admitted to a slew of tax offenses, up to and including major fraud against the United States Government, but yet again, the statute of limitations has expired.”
Frank was about to start expounding, but Gonzalez gave him an irritated glare. “You can cut the legal spiel; I’m mainly here to get information on the Bellevue case. The legal maneuvering can wait until after your clients’ surrender.” Gonzalez turned to face Dirk and asked, in a more pleasant tone, “If Rachel couldn’t legally run charters out of Florida, how did Trevor do it with Atlantis?”
With a sad shake of his head, Dirk replied, “After a couple of years, the law had changed and Atlantis got the Jones Act waiver we’d been after for so long. I hired a retired couple – both had licenses – to take Atlantis out on charters. They moved away, but they’d taught Trev how to handle her. I didn’t want him taking her out on charters, but he came up with a way – hire a licensed captain, Julie, but he’d be the one doing the work. I guess I figured it’d never work, so I let him, and he made a go of it. His charters were legal, due to the waiver.”
Frank took another loud slurp of his milkshake before jumping in to ignore the last exchange and say, “Ah, yes, Gonzalez, about that surrender issue. I don’t think surrendering is advisable, and I believe that you’ll be recommending exactly that to the State Attorney very shortly. For one thing, we aim to prove to you, now, that all charges against my clients are entirely groundless.”
Gonzalez’s dislike for Frank Tittle was growing, and he didn’t mind showing it. “I’ll recommend no such thing, not for Carlson anyway. We’re already well aware that the Bellevue murder charge gets tossed, along with everything else except for the remaining murder charge, which is why I have gone along with this charade thus far – but he’s going to stand trial for the murder of his wife.”
Frank, who was enjoying himself, smirked. “We’ve got a lot to talk about here today, but I think it’s time to clear that particular issue up. Dirk was framed for that, and we can prove it.”
“Framed? By who?” Gonzalez asked.
“By me,” Dirk replied, in a sheepish tone.
Gonzalez’s jaw dropped for a moment. “Your defense is that you framed yourself for murder? There’s not a chance in hell you’ll make that one fly.”
Frank stood up and walked towards his briefcase, saying, “It happens to be true, and as I said, we can prove it. Okay, Gonzalez, I’m not obligated to do this until the discovery phase of the trial, but I have a little something for you. It’s a list of the witnesses I plan to call. Actually, make that witness, as in just one.” Frank dug around in his messy briefcase, until he found what he was looking for. With an obnoxious grin, he handed a puzzled Gonzalez a sheet of paper.
Gonzalez glanced down at it, a cold feeling growing in the pit of his stomach as he began to think they were going to call Bridget Bellevue as a witness for the defense. Gonzalez’s eyes found the single name on the otherwise blank paper, and his hand shook for a moment as he read it. For a fraction of a second, he felt relief that it wasn’t Bridget, but then realization struck and he breathed in sharply, with a soft hiss, raising his eyes to Frank’s leering face. “You’ve got to be fucking joking,” Gonzalez said, and then glanced around the room, his mind racing.
“I’m serious as a heart attack,” Frank replied.
It was time.
The uneven onshore wind gusted, roiling the Geraldton Marina’s waters.
“Hey, lowly crew, make sure the mooring lines are attached at both ends!” Trevor shouted, grinning in the last rays of the setting sun as he watched Shane securing the mooring lines to the dock cleats.
Shane looked up and laughed. “Shut it, Captain Bligh.”
With Kookaburra safely moored and hooked up to dockside power, Shane bounded aboard and they began getting dressed to go explore Geraldton for the evening. It was Trevor’s first chance to see an Australian city – Geraldton had several times the population of Carnarvon and Kalbarri combined. Their plan was to spend the evening exploring and then visit the Geraldton commercial port and rail freight yard as soon as it opened the next morning, before setting sail for Perth.
They locked up, and were about to step down to the dock when Shane glanced shoreward, his eyes opening wide in surprise, a warm grin appearing on his face as he waved in greeting. Trevor looked too, and his own eyes opening in mild surprise as he saw a woman, thirty yards away, wearing a flower print dress and using a cane, as she made her way slowly up the dock in their direction. As she drew closer, Trevor glanced at her face, seeing a faint glisten.
“Ahoy!” Shane called out, grinning widely, waving again.
Trevor glanced at Shane in puzzlement, and asked, “Who’s…” Trevor’s voice trailed off as he looked again at their approaching visitor, as she drew closer still.
The woman with the cane, her pace slowed by more than injury, her eyes focused on her goal, kept a slow and steady pace, her muffled footsteps on the dock punctuated by the soft thud of her cane.
Trevor saw, cradled by her arm and clutched in her shaking hand, the biggest seashell he had ever seen – an enormous conch shell, the brilliant internal colors of the shell’s mouth glowing a thousand shades of ochre in the sunset.
Trevor looked again at her face, and in his mind’s eye the years melted away, the surreal becoming the impossible. Time slowed, his world standing still, as Trevor felt the pressure burning in his chest, his hands clutching at the rail. For long, eternal seconds, he stared, his blood turning to ice, his pulse roaring in his ears. The wind from the bay briefly eased, its soft rush replaced by a silence pierced only by the plaintive cry of wheeling gulls.
From five yards and twice as many years, a familiar voice, torn by emotion from a face streaked with tears, “Trev…” she said, followed by a muffled, desperate sob, almost lost – yet so loud – amidst the returning troubled gusts.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ “The sea gave up its dead, and death and the grave gave up their dead. And all were judged according to their deeds.”
Revelation 20:13, New Living Translation. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
A Discussion thread for this chapter is in my forum, please have a look and join in. direct link here. The forum enables conversations so in many cases it's a far easier to use format than the "leave a comment" section on this page, so I suggest having a look, but use whichever (or both) you are more comfortable with .