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|Chapter 40: A Package from Home|
Trevor’s call found Joel on his morning break, sitting in Trevor’s car in the high school parking lot, wolfing down a snack that he’d picked up on the way to school. Joel flipped the phone open and said, through a mouthful of food, “Hello?”
“I’m in Egypt, and you’re insane,” Trevor said, and then asked, “Is Lisa there too?”
Laughing, Joel replied, “Hey man, I miss you... No, Lisa’s not here: she just ran for her next class so she could stake out a good seat. I’ve only got about five minutes of morning break left, and I’m sitting in your car eating.”
“You’re always eating, but in my car? I know you miss me, but isn’t that going a bit too far? Hey, make sure you don’t get any crumbs on my upholstery,” Trevor quipped.
Joel glanced at the Honda’s deeply split seats, and the foam stuffing that was coming out in tatters. “Crumbs would be an improvement. As for why I’m in yours, my car had a dead battery, you ass, and I’m about to declare this to be sexual harassment,” Joel replied, chuckling, and then he gave Trevor a fast rundown on the guesthouse, and what had happened with the ring.
“Damn, you must have been shitting bricks! But hey, at least you got it back, and it’s cool that you guys have a place to yourselves whenever you want it,” Trevor replied.
“I’ll do the paperwork stuff and deposit the money after school; it’s all safe in my room right now. Hey, are you on your satellite phone?” Joel asked.
“Nope, that was sent to the Suez Canal Yacht Club, which I found out is on the other end of the canal.”
“So the intrepid crosser of oceans can’t tell one end of the Suez Canal from the other? I hope you don’t take a wrong turn halfway through and get lost in the desert,” Joel said, snickering.
“Shut up, you’re the one who thinks Atlantis can go on land,” Trevor replied, smiling at the memories of past banter.
Joel checked his watch. “Lisa and I are meeting up tomorrow at the guesthouse; leave your cell on about three our time and we’ll call you. I’ve got to get to class but I’ll talk on the way,” Joel said, scrambling out of Trevor’s stifling car and beginning to jog towards his new math class. They talked for a few more minutes, and then the bell rang and the call had to end.
The sudden end of the call left Trevor feeling a little down, so he moped around for a while, killing time, and then got showered and dressed for the cocktail party, hoping that it wasn’t formal, because he didn’t own any formal clothes. He wore the best he had; khaki shorts and a polo shirt, the same as he did when greeting charter guests.
Trevor climbed aboard the Thaddeus, listening to the chamber music playing through the yacht’s many external speakers. He began walking astern, and Eric, accompanied by a few casually dressed people, stepped out on deck to greet him. “Everyone, this is our circumnavigator, Trev. He’s on the catamaran moored alongside. Come on inside, Trev, I’ve got the AC on and the drinks are flowing.” Eric paused, and then gave Trevor a conspiratorial wink, “I don’t know the drinking age here, or if alcohol is legal here at all, so we won’t check your ID.”
With a chuckle, already feeling better, Trevor followed Eric and his guests into Thaddeus’s large, ostentatious lounge. Trevor glanced around, seeing mainly mahogany and gold trim, in a heavy-handed Edwardian style. The room’s very essence seemed to be a declaration of wealth and power, and as Eric stood in its center, like Zeus on his Olympus, he snapped his fingers at a tuxedo-clad crewman, and pointed at Trevor. The crewman came over, and asked, “What can I get you, sir?”
“Beer, please,” Trevor replied.
The server smiled patiently, and asked, “What kind, sir? We have a wide selection aboard.”
“Anything European,” Trevor replied, after trying to think of a name.
The crewman nodded and departed, returning moments later with a large, frosted glass of slightly cloudy beer on a silver tray. “A weissbier hefeweizen – a German unfiltered wheat beer, a favorite of our captain. He prefers it chilled. If you don’t like it, I’ll get you something else.”
Trevor took the beer and replied, “This’ll be great, thanks.” He took a sip, finding the wheat beer a bit tart, but liking the unusual flavor. ‘Joel would love it,’ Trevor thought, taking a moment to memorize the name.
Trevor took a seat in a plush chair, listening to the conversations buzzing around him. A smiling man he hadn’t seen before walked up, taking a seat beside him. “So you’re the circumnavigator. You’re young for it. I’m from the UK, and I’ve done a few trips to the Med and the Caribbean. My name’s Red, and you’re Trev, right?” Red asked.
Trevor smiled, glad to have someone to talk to. “Yep, I’m from Florida... Where are you bound?”
Red chuckled. “I’m on an Islander 36, moored at the far end of the line, heading for the Red Sea to do some diving.”
“I run Atlantis as a dive charter,” Trevor said, finding himself fitting in and having a good time. He talked to Red about dive sites for a while, and then a tall, aristocratic-looking man stopped by and took a seat.
“Hi, I’m Jan, and it’s good to meet another multihull guy. Red and I have been going the rounds on multi versus mono all afternoon.”
“Jan’s ride is the Talon, a Gunboat 62,” Red announced.
“Mine is Atlantis, a Lagoon 55,” Trevor replied.
Jan smiled approvingly. “I’m a big fan of Lagoon, and almost bought one before I decided on the Gunboat 62, which I fell in love with in spite of its price tag. I saw yours from the rail; you’ve got the big, raked-back windows, pretty much the same as mine. How are those in the sun?”
“They can be pretty hot. I had a coating put on mine that blocks most of the heat and UV, but the salon heats up a lot if I’m moored on a hot day. I have powered vents, which help, or I run the AC. How are yours?”
Jan shrugged. “Mine are coated too, but the salon gets hot sometimes. I don’t go into the tropics much, though. I love the angled windows when I’m taking heavy seas forward; the waves are deflected instead of making a solid impact on the superstructure.”
Trevor and Jan talked back and forth about the common features of their boats, and Red let them continue, until the subject of daggerboards came up. “Give me a weighted fin keel any day,” he jumped in to say, grinning. “I don’t like boats that capsize and stay capsized.”
Eric stopped by, taking a seat to join in the conversation. “I’m not much of a sailor – that’s the crew’s job – but that’s one thing that’s always scared me away from multihulls; if they get knocked all the way over, they don’t come back.”
Jan chuckled, and made a point of glancing around the lounge. “And if this big schooner of yours capsized, you think she’d self-right and be just fine?”
Eric shrugged, and ordered another beer before replying, “Probably not, but the Thaddeus is big enough that she’s not likely to capsize.”
“My Islander can self-right. I’ve done it; a couple of years ago I had a knockdown, a bad one. A wind gust shoved me all the way over until the mast and sail hit the drink, but I thought she’d come back. Then I got slammed by a wave and the next thing I know, I’m in a heap in the cabin ceiling, looking at water out my porthole. She leaked a lot, but she righted herself,” Red said, shuddering at the memory.
“You did tempt fate by naming her ‘Jinx’,” Jan added, laughing.
Eric glanced at Red, and then at Jan. “Yeah, that may be, but you’re tempting it worse than he is, crossing an ocean in a catamaran. If you flip, there’s no coming back.”
Trevor had been in monohull versus multihull debates a few times, and was in his element. “That’s very rare for a big cat, and monohulls can capsize too, like what happened to Red. There’s no way to right a catamaran at sea after a full capsize, but they can recover from a knockdown. Catamarans and monohulls have two positions of stability: stable-one and stable-two. For both of them, stable-one is right side up. For a catamaran, stable-two is upside down, floating on the ocean, with no way to right it. Take a wild guess what stable-two is for a monohull,” Trevor said, with a grin.
Eric narrowed his eyes, trying to figure it out. After a few moments, he shrugged. “It’s gotta be the same; capsized, right?”
Trevor laughed and shook his head. “Nope. The difference is ballast; the heavy weights – often several tons – which monohulls have built into their keels to keep them right side up. Once they capsize, that weight is above them, and an overturned hull usually doesn’t hold enough air for long to keep the boat on the surface. In other words, stable-two for a monohull is on the bottom of the sea. If a catamaran capsizes, she’ll stay afloat. There was a case like that in the Pacific a few years ago, with a trimaran: the Rose Noelle. The crew was able to go inside the overturned hulls – there was plenty of air space – for shelter, food, and fresh water. They lived for five months until they washed ashore. I think that’s a lot safer than having your boat head for the bottom of the sea.”
Red shrugged. “In warm water, that can work, but in cold seas, they’d die of hypothermia. The fact remains; a monohull can often recover from a capsize. A multihull can’t.”
Jan took a drink, and then replied, “You’ll find that most capsized multihulls are smaller ones. I don’t think there's ever been a case of a big cruising cat of fifty plus feet capsizing, or if there has, it’s damn rare. Like any boat, the danger increases the faster you go. If you’re trying to surf down big waves in high winds, you’re taking a risk. If, on the other hand, you reef in your sails or are on just a storm jib, I don’t think you’re in any danger of capsizing a big multihull.”
“What about a sudden massive gust, like in a squall, that hits unexpectedly when you’re under full sails and sailing to windward?” Red asked.
Jan shrugged again. “That’s rare too, and don’t forget that a multihull can often recover from a knockdown; it’s just when the mast submerges that you’re not coming back.”
Trevor hated to argue against his own boat, but he felt compelled to do so, at least to a degree. “Atlantis came close to a knockdown in the Aegean, off Sifnos. We caught a hurricane force downslope blast that came out of nowhere. If I hadn’t seen the signs of it on the water as it approached, I think we’d have had a knockdown.”
“Ah, the Meltemi,” Red said, with a knowing smile, “If that was your first time in the Aegean, I’ll bet you weren’t aware of the Meltemi and how it can cause treacherous localized conditions. There is often no substitute for local knowledge, and monohulls can be far more forgiving than a catamaran zipping along at fifteen knots or more. You need a great deal of skill to handle a multihull.”
Eric patted the wall beside his chair. “I’ve always been of the opinion that the bigger a boat is, the safer it is. So tell me, if you were in the path of a monster of a storm, such as a category five hurricane or a supertyphoon, and couldn’t get out of the way, which of our boats would you rather be on?”
Jan jumped in to answer, “That’s easy, yours.” He paused for effect, and then added with a subtle shrug, “We’d be dead on any of these boats, yours included, but you’ve got good beer on tap, so we could go down in high style.” Jan’s quip prompted a round of laughter.
Red nodded. “That’s true enough. And, if I’m being honest, I’ll say that one of the good points about the big multihulls is their speed. The hull speed on my islander is seven knots, so that’s about as fast as I can go,” he glanced towards Jan and Trevor, “But your catamarans can easily cruise at fifteen knots or higher, and more under the right conditions if you want to push it. That’s handy for getting places fast, and getting out of the way of storms. I’m still no fan of a boat that can’t self-right, but I’ll give you this; they are damn fast.”
“I’ve had the Talon at twenty-nine knots, but that was under ideal conditions,” Jan said, with a satisfied smile; he knew that his boat was the fastest of those present.
Red chuckled. “Considering that a gunboat 62 runs, what, about two and a half million American, you paid dearly for that speed.” The Gunboat catamarans were often considered the Ferraris of the yachting world, and were priced to match.
Trevor gave Jan an admiring nod. “That’s fast. Our boats have similar hullforms, but your extra few feet and lightweight carbon fiber reinforced epoxy hulls make a big difference. The fastest I’ve had Atlantis is twenty-three and a half knots, and I was running light with nearly empty fuel and water tanks.” Trevor found that he was very much enjoying the nautical banter. It was a very old argument; both types of boat had their distinct advantages and disadvantages, and thus both had their passionate adherents.
Eric looked at Trevor. “That’s still almost thirty miles an hour. I like comfort over speed – that’s why I drive a Humvee instead of a Ferrari – but I have to admit, that kind of speed is attractive.” The mention of tankage spurred a memory, and he added, “Are you thinking of taking on water here? If so, forget it. I made that mistake last time; it tastes like chlorine and it’s cloudy.”
“I’ll skip it then, thanks. I’m down to about a hundred and fifty gallons, but my water maker can top me up in about nine hours if I’m under power and in clean water. I figure I’ll have to run on engines sometimes in the Red Sea, so I’ll do it then,” Trevor replied.
“What about fuel? Diesel, right?” Red asked.
Trevor nodded. “The agent said they’d arrange for me to tank up in Suez. I’ll need about a hundred and thirty gallons.”
Red shook his head. “Don’t. Egypt subsidizes diesel, but the government tries to prevent it being sold at that price to foreign vessels. If you can wait, do so. Along the Red Sea coast opportunities to buy it at fuel station prices sometimes occur, and if so, you’ll save more than half.”
Trevor still had over half of his fuel supply remaining, so the extra distance was of no concern. The conversation eventually wound down, and Eric broached another by saying, “Another difficulty we face is Somalia – pirates.”
Red shook his head. “Not me; I’m not going that far.”
“I’m going to the Maldives for a while and then coming back, so I’ll have to run them twice,” Jan said.
“Your boat could outrun them,” Eric pointed out.
“Only if there’s wind. I’m limited to ten knots under power,” Jan replied. The Gunboat 62 was specifically designed to be light weight for high speed under sail, and one of the design tradeoffs was that it had small engines.
“I can do fifteen,” Trevor added.
“The Thaddeus can do fourteen on a flat sea,” Eric said, and then, with an authoritative note to his voice, pointed out, “According to the warnings, the pirates often launch skiffs from a large boat, and attack with those. If they’re using inflatables with large outboards, they could still outrun either of you, even under full sail. The only advantage you’d have is it would be damn near impossible to board you at high speed, but you might get shot up. More likely, they’d be using wooden skiffs, and they aren’t as fast, but they still might get close. However, there’s safety in numbers, and a lot of yachters form convoys when leaving the canal southbound.” Eric stood up, and in a booming voice, asked the twenty yachters present, “Anyone heading past Somalia whose boat isn’t armed, raise your hand.” A few hands went up, then a few more, totaling more than half of those present. Eric scowled and continued, “That’s worse than I thought, but that still means we’ve got several armed yachts. We’d all be safer sticking together.”
“You’d be limited to the speed of the slowest yacht,” Red pointed out, glad that he wasn’t going that far. He supported the convoy idea; his reservations were based solely on Eric’s domineering manner and lack of seamanship.
Eric shrugged. “We could shoot the shit out of any approaching skiff, because we’d have multiple fire points. Some of us – those with rifles, and I have a few – could engage at long range. We’d also have some cover; they wouldn’t. I don’t think they’d try to attack a convoy anyway; they usually go for isolated ships and boats. So, we’ve got a choice; convoy, or go it alone.”
There wasn’t much of a debate; every yachter present who was going that far signed on, and Eric’s convoy, totaling nine yachts, was born. The agreed-upon end point was north of the island of Socotra, a large island belonging to Yemen, two hundred miles past the Horn of Africa. There, their routes would diverge as the yachts, past the danger zone, proceeded to their various destinations. For many of them it would be the Maldives, so they would head due east.
“I have no objection to the convoy while we pass Somalia, but just getting there means over fourteen hundred miles at slow speed,” Jan observed, doing the math in his head. “That’s a couple of weeks or more, if you take into account stops and spells of unfavorable wind. Trev and I are single handing, so that would make staying in convoy twenty four hours a day pretty well impossible for us.”
Eric shrugged. “The faster boats may break ahead if they want, and rendezvous with the rest of us at the strait of Bab-el-Mandeb – which means ‘Gate of Scars’– before we leave the Red Sea and enter the Gulf of Aden, which is where the danger is. That’s about thirteen hundred miles from here.”
Red shook his head. “Bad idea. The straits are between Yemen and Djibouti, and to get there you have to pass Eritrea on the African side and a lot of Yemen on the Arabian side. There have been a few reports of piracy near the straits, but nowhere near as bad as the Gulf of Aden. So my suggestion is have your rendezvous at Jabal al-Tair Island. It’s a very prominent landmark; a cone-shaped volcano rising from deep waters, roughly equidistant between Eritrea and Yemen, and it’s about two hundred miles this side of the strait. There’s a Yemeni military garrison there, and the island is used as a waypoint by lots of shipping.”
The only remaining issue was that two of the yachts were scheduled to transit a day after the rest, so it was agreed that they would all meet at the Suez Canal Yacht Club, at the Red Sea end of the canal. The slower yachts, led by the Thaddeus, would depart in convoy, and the faster multihulls would make their own way to the later rendezvous at Jabal al-Tair Island. After much bickering, it had been decided to set a rendezvous date of three weeks after leaving Suez.
For the remainder of the evening, the yachters discussed details such as courses and anchorages, and Trevor found himself making new friends and having, much to his surprise, a very good time.
The only sour point for Trevor occurred after he returned to Atlantis and went to bed. A sharp knock on the glass salon door roused him from sleep, so he pulled on his boxers and padded out cautiously, a dive knife in hand, drawn by the repeated knocking.
Trevor could see the silhouettes of two men in his cockpit, so he turned on the cockpit lights. The two visitors, who were wearing disheveled grey uniforms and carrying revolvers in black leather holsters, blinked at the sudden glare, and resumed their knocking.
Trevor assumed they were police – reasoning that armed bandits would be unlikely to knock – but he wasn’t certain. The other factor on his mind was the risk of Atlantis being seized on orders from his father. With some trepidation, Trevor set his dive knife on a bookshelf and turned on the salon lights, illuminating himself, and said, loud enough to be heard, “What do you want?”
“We are Marine Police,” the elder of the two men announced, pointing to the badge on his chest, and then producing what looked like some sort of official ID, written in Arabic. “We are checking passports.”
Trevor glanced at the clock on his wall. “At one in the morning?” he asked, incredulously.
One of the policemen shrugged. “We have our orders.”
Trevor had been keeping his passport, plus a Xerox copy, in the navigation desk’s top drawer for convenience while in the canal, so he retrieved the copy and approached the door. The men had made no hostile moves, so Trevor unlocked and opened the salon door. “All I have right now is this; the canal agent still has my passport.”
The two policemen smiled, and the older one took Trevor’s passport copy, giving it a cursory glance and then returning it. “Thank you. Do you have any alcohol on board?”
Trevor felt his stomach begin to churn as he remembered the Islamic prohibition on alcohol. After a moment, he also recalled seeing a bar in the yacht club, a few yards from where Atlantis was moored, with a large selection of liquor displayed. Confused, he said, “A little: I run the boat as a charter, so I have some for the customers.”
“Beer?” The younger officer enquired, with a hopeful look on his face.
‘Is this a shakedown?’ Trevor wondered. Most of Joel’s beer was secured in the bilge, but four bottles were in the refrigerator. “I think so, just a few bottles, why?” Trevor asked.
The older policeman’s face turned mournful. “We are paid next to nothing. We would appreciate some beer and cigarettes, and perhaps something to remember the boat by.”
Trevor was furious, but felt that he didn’t dare let it show. “I have very little,” he said, in an even voice.
The older police officer shrugged, and gave Trevor’s boxers a pointed glance. “We have decency laws here. It would be a shame if you were to be arrested for indecent exposure, and your fine yacht impounded.”
Trevor’s temper began to boil to the surface, but he stamped it down, judging the threat to be credible. “I was asleep when you knocked,” he said, and then, gritting his teeth, went to get the four bottles of beer and the cigarettes. More demands and threats soon followed, and by the time the police left, Trevor had ended up giving them an additional ten dollars each.
“Passport check my ass, that was just an excuse to shake me down,” he grumbled, watching sourly as the canal police took their baksheesh to their car before moving on to the next yacht.
For Bes, the days were long but rewarding. After receiving notice from Sanchez to have the bomb ready, Bes ran a final test of the bomb’s electronics, and then, with exquisite care, he assembled the two halves of the propane tank and joined them with epoxy. He waited impatiently for the adhesive to dry, and then sanded it flat before painting the tank.
The next morning, Bes reapplied the tank’s label, and stood back, surveying his handiwork with pride. To all appearances, it was merely a propane tank, and its weight was appropriate for a full one. Bes caressed the tank with his calloused hand, smiling with pride in the fine work and craftsmanship of his creation.
Bes loaded the bomb into the back of his dilapidated old pickup truck, along with an old barbecue and two other propane tanks. The real propane tanks had older paint, making it easy for him to tell them apart from the bomb.
Bes detailed one of his men to guard the truck, and walked into his store, to notify Sanchez that the package was ready to be delivered.
The bomb remained in the pickup truck’s open bed, baking in the blazing Egyptian sun, which caused the old sticks of dynamite to begin to sweat nitroglycerin.
It took three hours for Sanchez to reply. The instructions Bes received were brief and to the point; Bes would deliver the bomb to a pilot boat operator, Mufid, a man Bes had worked with several times before. It was always useful for smugglers to have people on the ‘inside’.
Sanchez sent Bes the orders for Mufid, which were simple. A description of Atlantis, along with a photo of a Lagoon 55, instructing him to use the propane tank to replace one in Atlantis’ cockpit storage area.
It was Bes who spotted what could have been a problem; Sanchez’s instructions were in English, a language which Mufid spoke somewhat, but did not read at all, due to the vast difference between the Latin-based alphabet used in English and the cursive script of Arabic.
Bes quickly hand-translated the document into Arabic before printing out the orders and the photo. He checked them over thoroughly, and once satisfied, he turned his attention to the money. Sanchez had offered Bes ten thousand American dollars in total, but Bes would be responsible for paying Mufid. Bes had decided on the amount, and counted out five thousand Egyptian pounds. He stuffed the money into an envelope; it was equivalent to just under nine hundred American dollars, which Bes considered to be a large sum for what he assumed would be a simple task.
By late in the afternoon, with the bomb baking in the heat, Bes set out on the long drive east, to the canal’s northern end. On the way, he contacted Mufid by phone and arranged a meeting.
They met at Mufid’s small home, four miles from Port Said, where Bes gave Mufid the money, instructions, and the bomb. Mufid looked in the envelope and counted it; displeased by the amount, but he reluctantly agreed. He too assumed it would be an easy job, and he wanted to keep the cartel happy.
Mufid checked his orders again, committing them to memory before burning them, keeping only the Lagoon 55 photo and Atlantis’s name.
On the day before Trevor’s scheduled transit, a pilot boat, with Mufid at his usual place at the helm, carried a Canal Authority measurer out to the waiting string of yachts. The assignment was a popular one, placing the pilot and workers in an ideal position to demand baksheesh. In Mufid’s case, his job also enabled him to keep an eye on both the Cartel’s shipments and the activities of the customs service, for which the Cartel paid him far more than his Canal Authority salary.
The propane tank containing the bomb was nestled in a storage locker aboard the pilot boat. Mufid was unconcerned; it was unlikely in the extreme that the pilot boat would be searched, and even if it was, there were five other propane tanks aboard, along with emergency life rafts, ditch bags, sails, and other items pilfered by the pilots and boat drivers from unwary yachts. Unless the bomb was inspected closely, it would appear to be just another looted item.
The bomb’s condition was degrading due to the heat; the sticks of dynamite were now coated with a fine speckling of tiny amber drops, almost like morning dew. The drops were mainly nitroglycerin, and enough had sweat out so that any violent jarring of the bomb would result in its immediate detonation.
Mufid’s usual practice was to take the measurer to each boat, or at least accompany him, in order to obtain baksheesh. However, on this day, Mufid had more important things to do than shaking down yachters for packs of cigarettes. Mufid docked the pilot boat at the quay, and let the measurer go about his business while Mufid sought out the target.
Mufid waited until the measurer had gone aboard the big schooner, and withdrew the photo of a Lagoon 55 from his pocket.
It was only then that Mufid realized that he had a problem; the name Bes had printed on the paper was اتلانتيس, which is Arabic for ‘Atlantis’. The western Latin-based alphabet used for the names on the boats’ hulls was as unintelligible to Mufid as Arabic script would be to someone unskilled in the written form of that language.
Mufid gnashed his teeth in frustration, cursing himself for not realizing the problem sooner. His first thought was to call Bes, but he dismissed the idea; it would not solve his issue of being unable to read the foreign alphabet. Then, after another glance at the photo, he began to relax, believing that he could identify the boat from the picture alone. It was a catamaran, which ruled out all but six of the yachts that he could see, and most of those appeared too small to be a match. He studied the picture, glancing up frequently, and then smiled in recognition as he spotted the large catamaran moored two hundred yards ahead, halfway down the line of yachts. His smile turned to a sullen frown as he noticed a very similar large catamaran moored a few dozen yards past it. Mufid glanced repeatedly at his photo, trying to discern between the outwardly similar Gunboat 62 catamaran, Talon,
Mufid checked the picture one more time, and though it wasn’t taken from the same angle, he was certain that he had his target in sight.
He was in an understandable hurry to deliver the bomb and put distance between himself and it. Mufid waited impatiently until the measurer went aboard and headed forward to begin his task. He casually leaped onto the catamaran’s stern, bomb in hand, inadvertently bumping the bomb lightly against the fiberglass hull as he casually hopped down into the cockpit – he would never know how close he came to detonating the unstable explosives.
Mufid looked around for the propane storage, finding it within moments. He began to extract one of the two tanks it contained from the compartment, easing it out and replacing it with the outwardly identical bomb. He closed the storage compartment's lid, thanking fate that the owner had not thought to put a lock on it. Mufid returned to shore, and then his pilot boat, with the real propane tank in hand.
On Atlantis’s forward deck, the measurer surprised Trevor by asking for a rope to use to measure Atlantis – the normal procedure for the measurers, though Trevor was unaware of it, and had expected them to bring their own equipment.
Trevor stood by with trepidation as the measurer worked. When he finally paused, Trevor gave him what he hoped was a friendly smile. “Cigarettes?” he offered, extending several packs to the dour little man. The atmosphere changed in an instant, and Trevor’s smile was returned as the cigarettes were accepted.
With Trevor’s help, the measurer quickly finished measuring Atlantis; checking her length, beam, and girth from the deck, down around the hulls, and up the other side.
Five minutes later, with a friendly wave and a request for yet more cigarettes, the measurer returned Trevor’s line and moved on to the next yacht.
Trevor had hoped his baksheesh would garner him a little leniency in the transit fee. It didn’t: an hour later, a representative of Trevor’s agent arrived, with Trevor’s stamped passport in hand. Trevor looked over the contract, which included a breakdown of all the fees: insurance, pilotage, mooring, quarantine, stamps, processing, the transit fee itself, and a long list of others. Trevor felt his gut clench as he read the total line: One-thousand-eight-hundred-fifty-nine dollars, and forty-seven cents.
Suez Canal yacht fees were notoriously uneven, and due to the transit fee being calculated on volume rather than displacement, catamarans were hit even harder than most. Even so, the price was excessive, and Trevor would have been outraged had he known that the Talon – a slightly larger and considerably more expensive catamaran – was being charged almost two hundred dollars less than Atlantis.
The price was higher than Trevor had hoped for, and he argued, but the agent was adamant; pay now, or face long delays at best. It was a bluff – a standard tactic – but Trevor was uncomfortable with the idea of attracting official attention, due to his questionable legal situation. Trevor, thinking that he had no viable recourse, consoled himself with the thought that the bill could have been even worse. Gritting his teeth, he paid the agent in cash, counting out the sum in twenties and hundreds, rounding up to the nearest dollar. “Keep the change,” Trevor said, with a sarcastic scowl.
Aboard the Talon, Jan was reviewing his own contract. Jan was satisfied with it, and as he’d already paid, he set that issue aside and began baking biscuits on his galley. He was preparing for the party he was hosting that night, the last before his scheduled transit.
When Mufid returned to shore later that day, he contacted Bes, reporting via a code phrase that the bomb was in place. Bes, relieved that the mission had gone so well, passed the news to Sanchez via e-mail, in which he included the bomb’s phone number and three-digit detonation code. The Suez Canal had cellular coverage for its entire length, so the bomb could now be triggered from anywhere in the world that happened to have a phone.
Sanchez reviewed Bes’s e-mail, and scowled at the screen when he realized that the phone number bore an Egyptian prefix. He knew at once what had happened; Bes had activated its cell service and nothing else. Sanchez considered that for a moment, and then realized that it could work to their benefit. He wrote a message to Bridget, encrypted it, and sent it on its way.
When Bridget decrypted the message, she was displeased at first, until she read Sanchez’s reasoning. She copied the number and code, and then showed the message to George before deleting it. Bridget drummed her fingers a few times, deep in thought, before she said, “He’s right, this does make it better, or at least no worse, and there is little point in fretting about it now. All we have to do is wait until Atlantis is in transit so we can be certain that Trevor is aboard. Check into the payphone situation; there must be one somewhere close to Dirk’s store.”
© 2010 C James
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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.