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|Chapter 17: Pompeii|
Feeling a shiver in spite of the hot, humid day, Lisa sat in her truck for a few moments, trying to make sense of the thoughts raging in her head. She glanced back at Bridget’s house, looking past it, seeing the empty dock, which reminded her of Atlantis, and that led to thoughts of Trevor and Joel. “I sure wish you guys were here,” Lisa whispered, as she fired up her truck.
The stereo, which Joel had given her for her birthday and later installed, came on with the ignition, and Lisa’s mind turned to how much she missed Joel. ‘I don’t just miss him, I need him,’ she thought, with an ache in her heart.
Driving slowly, heading for nowhere, Lisa mulled over what Bridget had said. The thought that she could be the target of a murderer made Lisa shudder, but the initial fear was fading.
Eventually, in a calmer mood, Lisa turned for home. As she drove, she remembered Joel’s swim out to Atlantis, wondering if the engine sabotage could have been intended to kill Trevor. ‘Why would Trev’s father want to kill me for seeing Joel swim out, when Joel would be a much better witness to that?’ Lisa wondered, suddenly glad that Joel was so far away. ‘If I don’t figure this out, Joel could be at risk when he gets back.’
By the time she was home, Lisa was feeling a great deal more assured. ‘Before I do anything, I’ll talk to that detective and ask some questions, and then I’ll talk to Trev and Joel,’ Lisa decided, hoping that they would call soon. After mulling it over, Lisa realized that she had to let Trevor and Joel know what was going on, and wrote out a text message on her phone, telling them what had happened. When she was done, she sent it to the number she’d grown so used to using for Joel: Trevor’s old phone.
The next morning, Joel was the first up. He fired up the coffee pot and walked out on deck, looking northeast at the looming, ominous peak of Mount Vesuvius as it caught the early morning light, rising in menacing grandeur above the dawn’s haze.
“Looks awesome,” Trevor said, as he came out to stand beside Joel.
After breakfast, Joel said, “I forgot to wash out my tank top and I don’t heave any clean shirts. Got something I can wear?”
“After what you’ve said about my lack of style, you’re willing to subject your precious good looks to my clothes?” Trevor asked, feigning a look of shock.
Joel narrowed his eyes. “Did you just call me good looking? That’s sexual harassment!”
Trevor shook his head. “Fine, you’re hideous. Happy now?”
Joel snorted. “Shut up and lend me a shirt. The Pompeii page said shirts and shoes required, so make it a good one, not one of your usual fashion disasters.”
Trevor rolled his eyes. “Whose red shorts did you borrow that Lisa liked so much? Mine. So, which is it; Lisa and I have bad taste, or we both have good taste?”
Joel shrugged. “Even a broken clock is right twice a day so yeah, those shorts were great. Your shirts, on the other hand...”
Trevor was about to reply when he remembered one particular shirt, one he’d never worn. “I might surprise you. Wait here.”
Trevor walked out on deck and headed forward on the port side until he reached the hatchway to his crew cabin. He’d moved most of his things to the passenger cabin he was using, but not the contents of the under-bunk drawer.
Trevor fished out the shirt he had in mind, one Lisa had given him for his sixteenth birthday. Smiling, he locked up his crew cabin and returned to the galley, where he handed the shirt to Joel. “What about this one? Lisa picked it out, so go ahead and say it’s ugly, I dare ya.”
Joel laughed. “I knew it wasn’t one you chose because it looks cool, a lot better than that one,” Joel said, pointing at the plain pea-green T-shirt Trevor had pulled on.
Trevor shrugged. “Whatever. Ready?”
Joel nodded, and stood up to pull the black T-shirt on. Joel checked himself out in a mirror on the salon wall and then, combing his hair, said, “Lisa has good taste, and this doesn’t look like it’s been worn. It goes good with these shorts too,” Joel said, pointing at his khaki cargo shorts. “Why don’t you ever wear it?”
Trevor shrugged. “I like to wear stuff out before using new stuff.”
“You have no sense of fashion, you’re just hopeless,” Joel said, and then turned to face Trevor, eying his green T-shirt. Then Joel reached into a galley drawer and unclipped a pair of scissors. “Give me your shirt,” he said, holding out a hand.
Trevor gave Joel a suspicious look, but Joel just stared back, looking smug, so Trevor shucked off his shirt and handed it to Joel. “What exactly do you have in mind,” Trevor asked, happy to keep Joel’s mind off the shirt he had been loaned.
Joel didn’t reply, concentrating instead on the shirt in his hands as he began cutting, with the tip of his tongue clenched between his lips. When he was done, Joel held up his creation with pride. “There, that will look a lot better.”
Trevor eyed the result; Joel had cut the sleeves off just above the seam. Tugging the shirt on, Trevor walked to the salon mirror and looked.
“That looks a lot better. You’ve got great arms for a muscle shirt, and that T was damn ugly the way it was. Now it looks good on you. So, how do I look?” Joel asked.
Trevor gave Joel a slow, appraising glance, focusing on the snug-fitting sleeveless T-shirt he’d loaned him, which had ‘Stonewall’ printed on the front and back in a rainbow gothic font, framed by a triangle. Trevor nodded approvingly. “At the risk of being accused of sexual harassment again, that looks great on you,” he said, fighting to keep from laughing.
“Definitely sexual harassment, you perv,” Joel said with a laugh, grabbing his skateboard. “Come on, let’s go see Pompeii.”
Skating through the narrow Italian streets, dodging traffic and irritating pedestrians, Trevor and Joel tore along towards Pompeii.
“I see restaurants,” Joel said, pointing at a sidewalk trattoria. “We can grab a meal on the way back. According to what I’ve read, Pompeii is like anywhere else; avoid eating near a tourist attraction.”
“Think you can go that long without food?” Trevor asked, cutting Joel off and doing a jump off a curb.
“If I have to,” Joel replied, rounding a corner and stopping to look at a crowded shop-lined street. After checking the map they had printed out, he said, “I think it’s this way,” and as Trevor passed him they continued heading northeast.
They rode across a small bridge over the River Sarno, and Joel stopped to look. “It must be laundry day,” he said, seeing clothes hanging from the upper floors of almost every building, which had been the case ever since they left the marina.
Trevor looked around, grinning, “Yeah, but you like looking at clothes so you should be happy.”
Joel laughed, grabbing Trevor and swinging him around, “I am happy, we’re in Italy, and I love it.”
After another glance at the map, they skated away, towards a toll plaza ahead. When they arrived, staying to one side of the cars queuing up, Joel looked at the map again. “I think we have to go through here.”
Trevor pointed at a sign. “Uh, that says ‘Autostrada’ and I think that means freeway... but it’s got tollbooths, so that makes it more like a turnpike. You yelled ‘buongiorno’ last night in Naples. Do you speak much Italian?”
“Not a lot. The only words I know are that buongiorno means good day, Roma means Rome, per favore means please, and birra means beer. I think Italian is kind of like Spanish, but I don’t speak as much Spanish as I do Italian,” Joel replied.
Trevor shook his head. “In other words, you know how to say good day before you order beer, and you were about to take us skateboarding on a freeway. Why does this not surprise me?”
Joel shrugged. “I know how to say ‘pizza’ too.”
“Yeah, it’s ‘pizza’. I think we’re lost. That’s what we get for letting you navigate,” Trevor said, giving Joel a playful punch in the arm.
“Hey, I know where we are, we’re here, probably,” Joel said, pointing at the ground, and then he pointed northeast, “And Pompeii is that way, about half a mile. I’m just not sure how to get there from here. The map says this way, but it does look like a freeway onramp past the toll booths, and if this big curving line is a freeway, it’s in the way,” he said, pointing at the map.
Trevor glanced at the map, which was nothing more than a black and white line drawing they’d printed out from Trevor’s port information database. “Looks like we can detour around to the left and it’ll only cost us about a mile.”
Joel held up a finger. “Think outside the box. We don’t need no stinking roads! Look over there,” he said, pointing to their right. Trevor looked, but Joel could tell that he wasn’t seeing the obvious. “Train tracks and they go the right way,” he added.
Trevor gave Joel a skeptical look. “That’s a great way to get a ticket back home,” he said, and then shrugged. “Okay, you’re the tour guide.”
They jogged along the train tracks and through a narrow tunnel under the autostrade. Two hundred feet further on, Joel pointed at a small road that approached from their right and then turned to roughly parallel the tracks, heading north. “If I’m reading the map right, that’s Via Massoria Curato, and it goes right to Pompeii, in about a third of a mile.”
Trevor looked around at the landscape, which had changed to farm fields when they’d passed under the autostrade. “I still think we’re lost.”
“You’re always lost, come on,” Joel said with a laugh, skating north up the street. Then he looked ahead and pointed, “Lost my ass, look at that!”
Trevor looked up, seeing a tree and shrub covered crumbling red brick wall a few hundred yards ahead, looking like a low, flat hill. “The old city walls, right?” he asked.
“Hell yeah, and the entrance should be straight ahead,” Joel said, increasing his pace.
They skated to a halt in a small plaza and followed the multilingual signs, walking along a tree-covered concrete path for a few hundred feet, parallel to the walls of Pompeii.
When they approached the admission booths, they joined the long line and Joel fished out his wallet. Trevor shook his head and said, “Mine this time.”
“Nope, on me,” Joel replied, pulling out a British banknote then staring at it.
Trevor looked at the British note and chuckled. “Forget something, Joel? Like maybe that you’ve got Pounds, not Euros?”
“I’ll pay you back as soon as I get to a bank,” Joel said.
Trevor shook his head. “No way. I told you, I’ve got money. You paid for the stuff in Gibraltar and–”
“And you’re going around the whole fucking world alone. On the level, do you have enough to do that and pay for stuff you’ll need?” Joel asked quietly.
Trevor remained silent as the line inched forward for a few feet, and then he said, “I don’t know. It depends. If I defer a lot of maintenance and nothing major that I can’t do without breaks, I’ll be fine.”
“What does it usually cost per year to keep Atlantis running?” Joel asked.
Trevor thought for a minute and then answered, “It varies, but if you don’t count insurance, docking fees, diving gear costs, guest-related costs, and you mean just mechanical, maybe thirty thousand, but a lot of that is regular maintenance and replacement, and some of it can be delayed until I get back.”
“Like your engine exhaust pipes that are due to be replaced?” Joel asked, arching an eyebrow.
Trevor shrugged. “Those’ll probably be okay. Even if they fail I can jury rig it, probably, and those I could afford to replace anyway.”
Joel gave Trevor a skeptical look. “I remember you had Atlantis hauled out of the water last year for cleaning and painting. How much was that, and when is it due?”
“That was part of a full haul-out service, including copper-based antifouling paint, so I don’t need to repaint for a few years. I’ll need to clean the hull bottoms in a few months, but that’s it. I can do that in my dive gear, and I’ll probably only need to get Atlantis out of the water once before I get home,” Trevor replied.
“And that costs a ton, right” Joel asked.
Trevor gave Joel a smug smile. “Not with a catamaran like Atlantis. She doesn’t have keels and the daggerboards retract. It won’t cost anything to get her out of the water; I’ll just pick a sheltered place with decent tides and a flat, sandy beach. Then the tide goes out and Atlantis will rest on the sand, giving me access to most of the hull.”
As they neared the admission booth, Joel asked, “So, yes or no; do you have enough money for the trip? What about sails? I remember you complaining last year that you’d had to replace the mainsail and the new one cost thousands.”
Trevor sighed. “When we get back to Atlantis, remind me to show you something, okay?” Trevor said, motioning with his eyes at the people close by.
Joel understood, and nodded. “Okay, we’ll talk about that later.”
Glancing to his left, Trevor saw two guys on their way out of Pompeii, who were smiling at Joel. They stopped, and one of them walked up to Joel, holding up a hand in greeting and speaking in German. Joel just smiled and shook his head, signaling that he didn’t understand.
The German guy, lean with close-cropped hair, who Trevor judged to be around twenty, gave Joel a slow, appraising up and down look, and then nodded approvingly, looking at Joel’s shirt. He glanced at Trevor, giving him a subtle wink, and then spoke again in German before rejoining his companion. They paused to give Trevor and Joel a wave and a thumbs-up before turning and walking away.
“People are sure friendly here,” Trevor said, and then quickly added, “I better get my money out; we’re next.”
“Yeah, I can see that, along with the fact that you have a keen grasp of the glaringly obvious,” Joel said, looking at the booth and shaking his head. After a glance at Trevor, Joel asked offhandedly, “I wonder what that guy wanted?”
Trevor shrugged. “Probably just asking for directions,” he said, pulling out his wallet and extracting a twenty-Euro note.
The attendant in the admissions booth took the money and gave Trevor his change, and then pointed at their skateboards, shaking his head. In broken English he said, “No ride Pompeii.”
Trevor and Joel got the message, and nodded. The attendant handed them each a guide pamphlet and a set of headphones, and they were in.
The pathway led through a large gate in the old wall, and they tuned the yellow receivers to channel sixteen, for the English version of the electronic guide. It was a low-frequency system, and whenever they were within about a hundred feet of a specific covered site, they could hear information about it. Their first stop was the gladiator school.
Walking north along a main street, they saw a row of stone blocks crossing the pavement.
Joel took a glance in the pamphlet, and then announced, “Speaking as your official tour guide, I can inform you that either the Romans used those blocks as stepping stones to cross the street because it would often have a lot of water running in it, or they used them to keep cars out of the pedestrian areas.”
“I’m guessing it was to cross the street,” Trevor replied, with a laugh and a shake of his head. They paused to wait while a throng of people – part of one of the many tour groups – ambled slowly by, and then Trevor, growing tired of the crowds, pointed to the right, at a small side street in the ruins. A barricade with multi-lingual ‘No Admittance’ signs on it separated the side street from the main avenue. “Let’s go that way,” Trevor said.
They left the open-to-the-public areas behind, walking slowly along the ancient street, looking into the ruins of what had once been homes. The roofs, destroyed during the eruption that had buried the city in 79 A.D, were gone, but the walls and masonry were mainly intact. In many places, modern tile roofs on supports had been erected to protect the ruins from the weather. Joel turned around in a circle, and then said in a hushed tone, “I read about Pompeii, but seeing it... it’s different than I thought. In some ways it looks like pictures of the old Italian towns I’ve seen, but those are hundreds of years old, not thousands.”
Standing at a street corner, Trevor looked east. “I just noticed something: the streets from the marina to here weren’t on a grid pattern like at home, but these are, the main ones anyway.”
Their route eventually let them back into the public area at The Pavilion, which had once been a massive swimming pool surrounded by ornate gardens, enclosed on two sides by a covered walkway, shops, and food stands.
“It’s almost like a strip mall,” Joel said, imagining what it had been like two thousand years before.
Next, they headed for the amphitheater, a massive oval four hundred forty two feet long, and three hundred forty feet across, which had once hosted gladiatorial games.
Following a small tour group, they entered the amphitheater from the north, via downward-sloping tunnel, emerging onto the arena grounds. Trevor looked around in awe. “This is like a modern sports stadium in a lot of ways,” he said.
After listening to their electronic guides, Joel said, “It must have taken a lot to dig all this out. It was buried right to the top.”
“They’d have to do it carefully too; archaeologists can’t use bulldozers near the levels they are interested in. I saw some marine archaeologists working on a wreck site once; they were using tiny hand tools.” Trevor’s eyes glazed over for a moment, and then he spun around and put his hand on Joel’s shoulder. Looking Joel in the eyes, he said in an excited but hushed tone, “Marine archaeologists. That’s it!”
Joel stared blankly at Trevor for a moment. Then he said, “That’s what?”
“That’s how we’ll find Ares,” Trevor replied, nodding to himself. “Marine archeologists use all kinds of fancy gear; sidescan sonars, metal detectors, you name it. If we had that kind of gear, or we could get them to help us, we’d have a hell of a lot better chance of finding Ares than just cruising along in Atlantis and diving.”
Joel smiled at Trevor’s use of ‘we’; it was the first time Trevor had included anyone other than himself when it came to finding Ares. Joel frowned as he saw a glaring flaw in Trevor’s plan, and said softly, “Trev, that kind of gear costs a lot, and archeologists wouldn’t be interested in Ares.”
Trevor grinned. “Yeah, but I’ll bet some of ‘em would be interested in a kind of a training and equipment-testing run, meaning a few days or a week on a luxury yacht, for free.”
Joel’s eyes opened a little wider, and he smiled. “Yeah, that could work. I’ll start poking around the universities when I get home, asking who to talk to. I think you just might have figured out how to find Ares.”
Trevor beamed. “And I got the idea from a city that was buried for two thousand years, how weird is that?”
“I always said you’re weird, so it makes perfect sense to me,” Joel replied with a chuckle.
Trevor let go of Joel’s shoulder and glanced around at the other tourists, who were paying them no attention, except for two middle-aged guys. What caught Trevor’s eyes was that one of the men nudged the other and pointed at Joel. Trevor relaxed as he saw a happy smile appear on the man’s face.
Hoping to distract Joel so that he wouldn’t notice the two men, Trevor punched him in the arm and danced away, heading back towards the amphitheater’s entrance. “Come on, we’ve got a ton of stuff to see!”
On the way out through the access tunnel, Trevor saw two girls walking hand-in-hand, coming the other way. One of them glanced at Joel’s shirt, and smiled. To Trevor’s relief, the girls passed by without stopping.
Trevor and Joel’s exploration of Pompeii continued, and after leaving the amphitheater, they walked north for a few hundred feet, until they saw a gate on their right, passing through the ancient walls. Joel checked the map in the pamphlet and said, “If we go out it and turn left, we can walk along a still-buried area and then hit this uncovered road to the north, and that’ll take us towards the forum.”
With a nod of agreement, they headed for the gate, again ignoring a sign that prohibited entry.
After passing though the ancient gate, they turned left and walked along a raised path. Joel checked the site map, and then looked around before saying, “We’re on top of the city wall; this part of Pompeii is still buried.”
To their left, inside the perimeter of the buried wall, they could see a modern winery, and in the distance, towards the center of Pompeii, what looked like, and had once been, a seventeenth-century church. “Any idea why they closed so much of the excavated area off to the public?” Trevor asked.
Joel shrugged. “No idea, but if we go back in by the next gate, we’ll be in another closed section.”
Reaching another excavated section of the wall, they approached the next gate. To reach it, they descended a winding path through a tranquil, tree-covered glade, until the path became the arrow-straight ancient Roman road leading up an incline and through the vaulted gate, back into Pompeii.
Passing another barricade, Joel began taking more pictures, and then Trevor and Joel took turns taking each other’s photo, with the ruins as a backdrop.
To their left was an unexcavated area, where only the road and the fronts of the buildings had been uncovered. Staring at the steep bank of earth, Trevor said, “It’s at least thirty feet deep, probably a bit more. That’s one hell of a lot of ash. No wonder this place lay buried for so long before being rediscovered.”
They continued walking, heading towards the forum, when a shout from the side startled them. Turning to look, they saw a man in coveralls, gesturing angrily. They couldn’t understand Italian, but the meaning was clear enough. “Let’s go!” Joel said, breaking into a run.
Bridget waited for what she felt was a suitable amount of time before opening her massive front door. “Hello, Officer Gonzalez. It is a pleasure to see you again.”
Officer Gonzalez, in plainclothes, stepped into the ornate foyer before replying, “Thank you, Mrs. Bellevue. I do need to inform you that I’m here in an official capacity and anything you say may be used in court.”
Bridget waved dismissively, her head held high. “Yes, I recall that from the last time. I’m not senile you know, though I suppose the formalities must be observed.” Bridget led the detective inside, to her formal living room.
Taking a seat, notebook in hand, Officer Gonzalez looked around the room, and then out the picture windows at Bridget’s formal garden, and beyond it, at the sleek power yacht at her private dock. The notebook was there only so that he could jot down his thoughts; his recorder was already on. “Mrs. Bellevue, you said that you had some information.”
Bridget took a seat beneath a large portrait of her late husband. “Yes. As you are aware, I still keep in touch with some of Arnold’s,” she glanced reverently up at the portrait, “contacts within your department. What prompted my call is the Carlson case: the murder of Rachel Carlson. I happen to know that you are, quite rightly, investigating Dirk Carlson for that. You are also looking into the disappearance of his son, and suspect that of being a murder as well. I ought to mention at this point that Lisa Whitaker, a friend of Trevor’s, is also a friend of mine.”
Officer Gonzalez nodded, just once. “Yes, I am scheduled to meet with her,” he said, seeing no harm in disclosing something he was certain Bridget Bellevue already knew.
Folding her hands primly in her lap, Bridget looked at Officer Gonzalez for a long moment, and the only sound in the room was the slow ticking of a massive antique grandfather clock. After several seconds, Bridget said, “I won’t mince words. When you last came here, I was deeply offended, and I was also of the opinion that you were either delusional or incompetent. Since then, and based in part on recent developments, I have amended that view somewhat. I am now willing to entertain the notion that a murder may indeed have occurred, and I recommend that you look closely indeed at this Dirk Carlson.”
“That was not what we discussed–” Officer Gonzalez said, only to be cut off by Bridget.
“Indeed, but it ought to have been. You droned on at great length regarding motive. Had you been thorough, you would have unearthed a glaring connection between the two cases, one that indeed plays directly into motive. I rather suspect that you did not, because your mind was closed to other possibilities. Therefore, I have unearthed it myself,” Bridget said, in a haughty tone.
Keeping his temper under control and maintaining a businesslike demeanor, Officer Gonzalez ignored the insult. “And what connection might that be?” he asked.
Bridget smiled coldly. “A motive, of course. Perhaps it would be best if you see for yourself.” Bridget stood, walked across the room, and opened a small credenza. Withdrawing a manila folder, she handed it to Officer Gonzalez. “You can easily verify these sale records and I suggest that you do so.”
Officer Gonzalez opened the folder, and after reading several of the old documents, he allowed his eyes to open wide in surprise. “This is... interesting,” he said softly, and then added, “I’ll need to keep these.”
Bridget nodded. “Of course you may. After all, you might well be dealing with a serial killer, and in spite of your prior conduct, I will do everything in my power to aid your investigation. I shall start now by telling you that you are once again on a wrong track: Trevor Carlson is alive and well. I know this for a fact, because he came here shortly after the attempt on his life.”
“He was here?” Officer Gonzalez asked. It was a standard question, under the circumstances, intended to prompt the interviewee to elaborate and confirm.
“Yes, and I said so a mere moment ago, a fact which I am certain that your tape recorder will confirm. Trevor had a captain for his boat, Julie, who happens to be an old friend of mine. She arranged a meeting. He was seeking advice, regarding methods by which to evade his father’s grasp. The boy was badly rattled, and to my discredit, I assumed he was merely a runaway, evading some family issue. I advised him as best I was able, telling him to return home. Only later did I become aware of the attempt on his life and the death of his mother under markedly similar circumstances.”
“Do you have any proof that he was here?” Officer Gonzalez asked.
Bridget shook her head slowly. “Proof? No. However, when you speak with Lisa Whitaker, who is in contact with him, she can confirm that he is alive, and perhaps arrange for him to tell you so himself. She was also a witness to the attempt upon his life, and as such, I believe that she is in grave danger. I informed her of the fact that Dirk Carlson was seen, by you, driving slowly past her home.”
Officer Gonzalez’s stomach began to churn. He was well aware that Bridget had contacts within the department, but what she had just said indicated that her contact had given her at least partial access to the case files, which were supposed to be highly restricted. “I’d like to know exactly how you came by that piece of information,” he asked, in a level tone.
“I have no doubt that you would,” Bridget replied, with a prim, satisfied smile, as the room returned to silence, punctuated by the deep ticking sound of the clock.
Officer Gonzalez, though he was young and had only been on the force for a few years, was unaccustomed to being talked down to, and he was angered by the apparent fact that someone in his department was leaking confidential information. He wanted to find out the source, so, acting out of both habit and instinct, he decided to turn up the pressure. “You have just admitted to interfering with an ongoing case by disclosing illegally obtained internal information, which is chargeable as obstruction of justice. You have just admitted to a felony, Mrs. Bellevue.”
Bridget waved her hand in a dismissive way, and paused for a moment to light a cigarette. “Oh, fiddlesticks. Given the objective facts in such a case: that the actual source is a member of your own department, and that you have ignored a clear and present threat to the life of a young girl who happens to be a material witness, can you imagine what the team of attorneys that I could hire would do with such a charge? Furthermore, at this moment, you have asked about what you perceive is a leak. What you have most tellingly not done is to inquire about the attempt on Trevor Carlson’s life, which I have mentioned twice. I find your focus... troubling, from a competency perspective, as might Lisa Whitaker’s attorney, were she to retain one at my urging. It would be most amusing to take these matters into open court, so by all means, officer, arrest me,” she said, and then blew a leisurely smoke ring in his direction.
Officer Gonzalez remained silent for a few moments, as he realized that he’d just been adroitly maneuvered and then threatened. The mention of attorneys – which he had no doubt that Bridget Bellevue would be delighted to arrange and fund – was a clear threat. The claim, he suspected, would be that by withholding information, he had placed Lisa at risk by depriving her of the chance to take precautions. That, he knew, was a legal argument that was likely, but not certain, to fail. However, he also knew that if any harm befell Lisa, that equation would change. Bridget had also presented him with a stark choice; admit that he did not know about the attempt on Trevor’s life, or carry on as if he did, depriving him of information relevant to a murder case. Bridget was powerful and well connected, and that, he knew, made her potentially dangerous to his young career, particularly if armed with facts that could be construed – especially by a lawyer of the caliber she could afford to hire – to draw a picture of incompetence on his and his department’s part. Taking a deep breath, he swallowed his pride and said, “I would, of course, have asked about this reported murder attempt, and I’m doing so now. Also, I will make sure that Lisa Whitaker receives police protection.”
Bridget gazed at Officer Gonzalez for a few moments, and then nodded once. “Very well. See that you do, and we can place this unpleasantness behind us. As for the attempt on Trevor Carlson’s life: his boat’s engines were sabotaged. This left him disabled and unable to enter harbor in a rage sea. The only reason he survived was that Lisa’s boyfriend, Joel, swam out in heavy seas, at risk of his own life, with parts so that a repair could be effected. Lisa witnessed this, and Dirk Carlson is likely well aware of their involvement, because Lisa and Joel picked up the parts from a marine supply chandlery, which just happens to be Dirk Carlson’s line of work. I believe that it was hardly a coincidence that he drove by her home. As for the sabotage itself, it ought to be a simple matter to prove who is responsible.”
Officer Gonzalez nodded. He was not inclined to disclose the fact to Bridget, but he already knew, because Dirk had mentioned disabling Atlantis’ engines when he’d filed the runaway report on Trevor. “I’ll look into that,” he said, and then realized that Bridget may well already know: she’d already demonstrated that she had access to information from the Carlson file.
“See that you do so. Given that Rachel Carlson was lost at sea aboard the Ares – a sister ship to the Atlantis – and under similar circumstances, I think you ought to look very closely indeed. I will also hold you personally responsible for Lisa Whitaker’s safety. Bridget paused for a moment, and then added, “If you have further need of my assistance, feel free to contact me at any time. I have no wish to detain you from your duties any longer.”
Realizing that he’d just been dismissed, Officer Gonzalez ignored what he considered a mild affront. Standing up, he again glanced around the room, and then replied, “I’ll see myself out.”
As soon as Officer Gonzalez had left, Bridget stubbed out her cigarette and turned to gaze up at her husband’s portrait, one of several in the house, as a faint, satisfied smile appeared on her lips.
Cutting a corner and darting towards a side street, Trevor glanced back at the angry Italian, and seeing that the man was not pursuing, Trevor slowed to a jog and said to Joel, “I think we’re okay, he’s not coming after us.”
Joel fell into pace at Trevor’s side. “Yeah, but maybe we’d better get out of the closed area anyway.”
They tuned right, still moving at a jog, and passed by another barricade, returning to the public area at the north end of Pompeii’s enormous, tourist-packed forum.
They walked slowly, taking in the sights, and then Trevor looked back, and pointed, “Take that shot, it’d be awesome; the forum of Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius in the distance.”
Joel nodded. “Looks like Vesuvius is four or five miles away. That must have been one hell of an eruption, to bury this place from that distance,” Joel said, and then he took the picture.
Trevor felt a tap on his shoulder and turned to find himself facing a pair of smiling girls, the ones he’d seen in the amphitheater. One of them handed him a camera, asking, “Would you take us, please?” in a strong British accent.
Trevor nodded, watching as the girls stood in front of Vesuvius, put their arms across each other’s shoulders, and smiled.
Trevor took the photo, and then the girls joined Trevor and Joel. One girl, a platinum blond, said, “Thanks. Do you speak English?”
Trevor nodded and grinned. “Yeah, we’re American.”
“He can talk,” the blond girl said with a laugh.
“Not very well, and it takes him awhile,” Joel replied, and handed her his cell phone. “Could you take us?” he asked.
After receiving a nod in reply, Joel and Trevor stood side by side in front of the view, and then Joel put his arm around Trevor. The girls waited until Trevor had put his arm around Joel, and took the picture.
The blond girl returned the camera to Joel, and then nodded at her brunette companion, “Inga here is from Sweden and doesn’t speak English, but fortunately I speak Swedish. We’ve been together a year. How about you two?”
Trevor tensed, and then relaxed a little as Joel replied with an easy smile, “We met about three years ago.”
The blond girl looked past Trevor and Joel before saying, “We’d best be off or we’ll lose our tour. Enjoy the rest of your holiday.” With a smile and a wave, the two girls hurried off in pursuit of their group.
As soon as the girls left, Trevor watched Joel carefully, and not seeing any reaction, Trevor said, “They were pretty cool.”
“I wonder what she meant when she asked how long we’d been together? It was almost like she thought we’re a couple,” Joel asked in an offhand way, while casually looking at a building.
“Probably just the way the English say stuff,” Trevor replied, sneaking a glance at Joel’s shirt. ‘He’s gonna kill me when he finds out,’ Trevor thought, fighting to keep from laughing.
© 2010 C James
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.
Any remaining errors are mine alone.