|Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Any similarities to persons living, dead, space aliens, goats, forum posters, editors, beta readers, musicians, or writers are purely coincidental. There may be sexual content so if this, in any form, offends you, please cease reading this lest it send you screaming from the room. If you are not of legal age to read this, please don't.|
|Chapter 43: Fifteen to Twenty|
Moored at the Suez Canal Yacht Club, Trevor slept poorly, waking at every slight sound, fearful that Atlantis was again being robbed.
Trevor had made plans to join the other yachters for breakfast aboard the Thaddeus, but he had an errand to run first. He hesitated before going ashore, looking first at the nearby armed guards, and then at several yachters on nearby boats. He judged that Atlantis would be safe enough for a few minutes, and locked up.
The Suez Canal Yacht Club was the largest yacht club on the canal, and counted amongst its amenities a large yachting supply store. Trevor walked in and asked for propane tanks, only to be barraged with several questions regarding his tank specs. He didn’t know the specs he needed, but he did know how to find out, and returned to Atlantis to retrieve the propane tank from his barbecue.
Trevor carried the tank into the yacht club, where one of the salesmen looked it over. It was, like his remaining one in the galley, a U.S. standard twenty-pound tank. There is no worldwide standardization of propane gas cylinders, valves, regulators, their output operating pressures, or the related fittings. Trevor had been lucky when getting his tank filled in Mykonos – they’d had an adapter – but now he was dealing with having to replace hardware. This proved difficult, and the salesman had to call another man over for a discussion in Arabic. Finally, they managed to pick out two tanks that were a close match in size and operating pressure, plus an adapter for the fittings. The salesman filled them, and then topped up the tank Trevor had brought in. Trevor paid, and yet again had to deal with the baksheesh issue, but this time he didn’t mind; the salesman had spent time helping him, and as Trevor staggered out the door with the three heavy tanks, he hoped that would be his last encounter with Suez Canal baksheesh.
When he returned to Atlantis, Trevor checked to make sure the fittings on the tanks were compatible with his own and then stowed the tanks. He added a small padlock, muttering a few profane epithets about the thieves who had raided Atlantis.
With his propane problem taken care of, Trevor locked up and headed for the schooner Thaddeus. When he arrived, he found that Eric’s idea of breakfast was gourmet food, cooked to order by his crew. Trevor, knowing that it could be a long time before he had another chance, feasted on crepes, blintzes, eggs benedict, sausages, bacon, omelets, a stack of American style pancakes, and then some fresh fruit.
“You eat enough for a crew of five,” Red quipped, giving Trevor a hearty smile.
Trevor chuckled, looking at his most recent plate. “I’m not much of a cook, so this might be my last chance at a good breakfast for a long time, maybe until I get home next year,” he said, omitting Joel’s planned trip at Christmas for the sake of brevity.
“Nonsense,” Eric declared, from the head of his elegant table. “I’ll be hosting meals at the rendezvous, so we’ll make sure you’re well fed.”
Red glanced at Trevor. “You should try Egyptian food, but not in the canal. There are some great resorts and dive sites along Egypt’s Red Sea coast, and they have some very good food. My destination is Al-Quseir, about three hundred miles south of here. It’s a town on the Red sea, with a few resorts. It’s on your way, and there’s a lot to do there. It’s worth a stop.”
Trevor knew he would have time to kill, so he nodded. “I’ll meet up with you there. What I need most though is a good anchorage, in calm waters. I’ll be crossing the Indian Ocean, and I’ve heard a lot about the big floating logs from the tsunami a year and a half ago. I’ll only be running at four to five knots, but I could still do damage if I hit a massive log, so I came up with an idea on how to make my boat safer. That’s why I need the good anchorage; so I can install it.”
Jan, who was heading for the Maldives, asked with interest, “I’d love to hear your plan. The worst of the debris are reported to be in the Indian Ocean Gyre, which I won’t be gong through, but there will be some risk once we leave the Red Sea.”
“Pool noodles – those foam logs that people play with in the water. I have some aboard for my charter customers and they have a hole down the middle, which is what gave me the idea. I’m going to make a kind of a harness for Atlantis... run a rope under both hulls, at the bows. Then, run ropes from it up the bows to the bow anchor chain plates, and have those ropes running through pool noodles, holding them vertically to the point of the bows, from above the waterline to well below it. They’ll form a kind of a bumper that way. I might need to add in some support lines, but I think it’ll do the job,” Trevor said.
Red nodded slowly. “That could work; the noodles would spread the impact load. I wouldn’t advise going over five knots even with the bumpers, or you could still cause yourself some serious repairs.”
A quick discussion of rigging details followed, and by the end of it, Trevor had even more confidence in his plan. So too did several other yachters; Trevor noticed several guests making their way hurriedly ashore, heading in the direction of the marine supply store. He hoped the store had a large stock of pool noodles.
Trevor agreed to meet up with Red and Jan at Al-Quseir. They would proceed separately, Jan and Trevor arriving first, due to their faster boats.
Trevor sailed at noon, putting the Suez Canal behind him, heading out into the ship-cluttered northern end of the Gulf of Suez.
The breeze was from the west, allowing Trevor to sail at ten knots and put the majority of the waiting shipping behind him. He followed the shipping lane, keeping close to the western shore, looking at the surreal scenery. The mountains rose abruptly from the sea, barren and dry, stark spires of rock between the blue of sea and sky. Trevor sailed on, marveling at the magnificent desolation.
After two days at sea, Trevor arrived at Al-Quseir, following the GPS coordinates Red had provided to a fine anchorage, sheltered to seaward by coral reefs. Trevor anchored Atlantis on the white sand bottom, near the Talon, which had arrived several hours earlier.
Jan zipped over to Atlantis in his skiff, and together, the two set up the pool noodles. It took two hours, but they learned by their mistakes, enough so that equipping Talon the same as Atlantis took only an hour.
The next morning, Jan talked Trevor into doing some sightseeing, and they motored ashore in the Zodiac to the nearby resort, taking a walk to check out the nearby Roman ruins, and then, in the afternoon, taking a tourist camel ride in the desert. Trevor had a picture of him on a camel taken with his phone, intending to send it to Joel and Lisa the next time he called.
When Trevor returned to Atlantis, he knew he could no longer put off a call he’d been dreading, and dialed.
“Dirk’s Chandlery,” Dirk said upon answering.
Trevor took a deep breath. “Hi Dad, it’s me. I’m in Egypt, on the Red Sea.”
“Trev! It’s good to hear you... are you okay? If you’re on the Red Sea, I guess you got your satellite phone working. Don’t worry about the bill; I’ll take care of it.”
Trevor blinked in surprise, smiling with relief at his father’s assumption that the satellite phone had arrived. “I’m fine Dad, but I’m anchored just offshore of a resort, so there’s cell coverage here. The satellite phone didn’t arrive, not all of it. The charger and stuff were in the box, but there was a rock where the phone should be.”
“A rock?” Dirk yelled, trying to comprehend what had happened. “Trev, I gave the phone to Charles Stiles to send to you. I sent a new one because I didn’t know if you had your charger, and I was worried the battery pack on your old one could be wearing out. I took it right out of stock, Trev.”
Trevor listened carefully, and his gut feeling was that his father was being truthful. “Dad, my guess is it was stolen here in Egypt. The canal is like a den of thieves, really bad. I asked some of the other yachters, and they advised against having anything valuable sent to the yacht club at my next stop. I don’t see any way to get one to me before I get to Australia.”
Dirk was silent for a few moments. “Trev, I don’t like this. You’ve got a long way to go over empty ocean.”
Trevor sighed. “I don’t like it either, Dad, but I don’t see a choice. I’ve got my EPIRBs in case of an emergency, so I’m not worried.”
Dirk wasn’t happy, but he couldn’t think of a solution. He began quizzing Trevor to make certain that Atlantis was ready for the long voyage.
After they’d talked a while, Trevor broached a subject he’d been worried about. “Dad, did you mean it when you said you’d emancipate me when I pass the halfway point in my circumnavigation?”
Dirk remained silent for several moments, battling conflicting emotions. “Yes Trev, I did, and I will. I’ll have Jim take care of the paperwork and court filings. I’ll send you the notarized originals... but that’ll be when you get to Perth, in Australia. Look, I know you won’t tell me, but could you please file a floatplan with someone here in Florida, with your route and estimated times of arrival? I don’t like the idea of you being out there with no one knowing where to look.”
“I will, I’ve already set that up. I’m very careful, Dad.”
“I’m going to see if I can figure out something for your phone... Maybe there’s a way,” Dirk said.
“Thanks... Dad, are you... doing okay?” Trevor asked, missing his father, and wishing there was some way to breech the wall that stood between them.
“I miss you, Trev. Ah, you have my cell number with you, right?” Trevor confirmed that he did, and then Dirk decided he had to mention another number. “Trev, if you’ve got a pen and paper handy, I’d like you to have another contact number. It’s Jim Ainsworth’s house, and I’ll also give you his cell and office number.”
Trevor fished Jim’s card out of the nav station drawer. “I have his card, from when he was here, it has both.” Trevor read off the numbers, just to be sure.
“Yep, that’s both of them. I spend a... lot of time up at his place in Cocoa Beach. Did you and Jim... get along okay, when you met him?” Dirk asked, wondering if Trevor’s attitudes had changed.
Trevor thought the question an odd one, but he answered honestly. “He seems like a nice guy from what I could tell, for a lawyer.” Trevor also found it odd that his father was making his lawyer such a big part of his life, but then Trevor remembered how close he was to Joel, and smiled, glad that his father had a good friend.
Dirk choked, and then laughed out loud. “I’ll be sure to let him know you said that,” Dirk said, relieved that Trevor hadn’t raised other issues.
That was the first time Trevor had heard is father laugh in months, Trevor reveled in the moment. “Tell him I said hi... It’s been good talking to you, Dad. I’ll try to call from my two Indian Ocean stops. I’m rendezvousing with a big convoy, at least twenty yachts – a lot of ‘em armed – for the run past Somalia and into the Indian Ocean. I should be okay to call on my first stop, but I’ve been told the second one has intermittent phone service.”
Dirk was relaxed enough to speak freely. “That would be Rodrigues. I’ve looked at the wind and weather plots, and you can’t go direct or you’ll be taking the northeast trades head-on. So, you pretty much have to detour south and go via Mauritius or Rodrigues, and from what I can see, Mauritius is a big place so the phones would probably be fine, but it’s off the shortest course.” As soon as the words left his mouth, Dirk knew he’d gone much too far.
Trevor hesitated, thoughts of what his father had done, and may have done, flooding his mind, making him feel hunted again. The idea that his father had been researching his route and trying to figure out his stops sent a shiver down his spine, reinforcing Trevor’s fear that his father would try to seize Atlantis. A contradicting thought was that if his father had anything untoward planned, he’d be unlikely to have mentioned what he just had. Trevor’s eyes narrowed, as he saw a way to use the opening he’d been handed. “Dad, I’m as comfortable talking about that with you as you are talking about what happened to Mom with me. Are you... will you talk to me about that?”
Dirk clenched his teeth, silently cursing himself for having broached the issue, and feeling anger at Trevor for not letting the issue drop. “No, Trev. Not now. ”
“Fine,” Trevor snapped back, and then he paused to add in a softer tone, “I’ll still be in touch when I can, Dad. I miss you too.” They said their goodbyes, and Trevor ended the call.
When Red arrived the next day, he accompanied Trevor on a scuba dive to the nearby reef.
When they reached the coral,
Trevor was mesmerized. The clear, azure waters, corals, and a
myriad of brightly colored fish were similar to what he was
familiar with in the Bahamas, but differences soon became
apparent. Like the Bahamas, the sea life was rich and varied,
but with different species.
One of the first Trevor
encountered was a brilliant red lionfish, hovering in stately
menace above a coral head.
Working his way along the reef
face, Trevor paused every few yards, stopping to gaze at each
fantastic sight. He saw several varieties of lionfish, and a
host of species he could not identify. Some were familiar forms
but in bizarre colors, such as a stingray with blue polka dots.
The parrotfish were very similar
to the ones he was used to, and a few nosed close, giving Trevor
a spectacular view.
The dive progressed, and when Trevor eventually surfaced, he was nearly speechless, lost in the wonder of what he’d seen. It was no longer a mystery to him why so many people traveled to the Red Sea to dive; based on what he’d seen, he felt it was the equal in richness and density of marine life even to the best sites in the Bahamas.
On the following day, Trevor relaxed ashore at the resort with Red and Jan, enjoying some of the Egyptian foods. The meal he would remember the best was fried falafel, served with tahini sauce; a sesame paste mixed with lemon juice and garlic.
That evening, the three friends gathered aboard Red’s Islander 36, the Jinx, and Trevor sipped a beer as he said, “I’m thinking of heading out in the morning. Thanks for getting me to stop here, Red. It’s been awesome.”
“I’m staying another month, then I’m heading home via Suez,” Red said, wincing slightly at the thought of facing the canal again.
“I’m going to stay one more day and then head for the rendezvous. I’m taking a tour in the morning, to the temples of Luxor. It’s only ninety miles inland from here. You’re welcome to come along if you’d like.”
Trevor was tempted, but he had nearly a thousand miles to go before the rendezvous, and was about to decline, when he thought, ‘I’ve got time, and I might never get another chance.’ “Thanks, that sounds great,” Trevor said with a grin.
When Trevor returned from the trip to Luxor, he phoned Lisa and Joel, telling them all about the spectacular temples and seeing the Nile. Then, he broached the subject of his floatplan: his planned route and stops.
Lisa glanced at Joel before saying into the receiver, “We should have set up a code or something... I don’t like the idea of talking about this over the phone, but we’re on Bridget’s landline, which should be a lot safer than a cell.”
Trevor described his route and plan – including the convoy – all the way to the Seychelles. Then he added, “Joel knows my route to Australia from there. I’ll find a way to call from the Seychelles, but just in case I can’t, don’t worry. Worst case, I’ll send a postcard.”
“Did you get everything you need for Atlantis, like propane and food?” Joel asked.
“Yeah, got the tanks and checked ‘em, and I’m fully stocked with food, water, and fuel. If I’m careful, I could make it to Australia non-stop from here if I had to. I’ll re-supply in the Seychelles – I’ll be craving fresh food by then – but I’m set, and Atlantis is ready. I’m just glad to get out of the canal... that place was driving me nuts,” Trevor said.
“Yeah right, like you’ve ever been sane,” Joel replied, snickering.
“When he’s right, he’s right,” Lisa added.
“Thanks a bunch,” Trevor replied with a snort and a laugh.
Officer Mike Gonzalez was having a bad day. His Bellevue investigation was stalled. He had far less than he needed to get the prosecutor to indict, and he knew he needed a break in the case. Part of his irritation was aimed at Jim and Dirk, who were still stalling when it came to a direct interview, a fact which was making him ever more suspicious of them. He looked around his cubicle and drummed his fingers on his desk, ‘Time to make my own luck,’ he thought, deciding to put in a little unpaid overtime on the Bellevue case.
Trevor’s transit of the Suez was one item on his mind. The mysterious e-mails had ceased, but the second – and last – had focused on Suez. Officer Gonzalez, obeying his instincts, called Lisa.
“Hello Lisa, this is Mike Gonzalez. I just wanted to check in and see if anything had turned up, and to make sure that Trevor got through the Suez Canal okay. Any news?”
Lisa, who had received the call on her cell while at work, paused for a moment, thinking through what she’d say. She decided to hold nothing back, and correctly assumed that Officer Gonzalez would want as many details as she could provide, no matter how trivial. “He last called us from a resort on the Red Sea coast, two days ago, so he made it through the canal in one piece. He was delayed for a while by a bombing of some kind – of a freighter, but not near him. Atlantis was robbed, but they mainly took fuel; both gasoline and propane... plus some life jackets. Other than that, I don’t think anything unusual happened... oh, his phone was stolen. Joel’s father and I sent Trevor a satellite phone, for him to pick up at the Suez Canal Yacht Club, but when it got there, it had been replaced with a rock.”
Good cops are inquisitive by nature, and although Officer Gonzalez could not yet see a reason, he followed up by asking about the phone.
Lisa explained in detail how it had been picked up from the chandlery and mailed, which led to even more questions.
Officer Gonzalez listened carefully, taking notes even though he was recording the call. So far, he did not discern a connection, but he suspected Bridget as the source of the e-mails, so anything odd was worthy of his notice. He thanked Lisa, asked her to call him with any news, and promised to be in touch.
After the call, he ruminated on the information he’d been given. Something – he wasn’t sure what – was tickling the back of his mind. Setting it aside to let his subconscious work it through, he left the station and drove his unmarked car to Bridget’s neighborhood.
His casual drive-by of her house revealed nothing, so he checked his GPS, looking for a vantage point across the water from her home. He found one, and set his GPS to the position. On his way, he detoured just long enough to pick up some dinner from a drive through.
It was dark by the time he reached the position across the waterway. Using the GPS, he confirmed that he was looking at Bridget’s house and dock. A movement caught his eye, and he saw the lights of a sleek power yacht motoring away towards the intercoastal waterway. He couldn’t make out a type, or even be sure that it had left from Bridget’s dock rather then just passing close by, but he made a note of it, and then sat back to eat his dinner, while keeping an eye on Bridget’s house. The next note he wrote down was a reminder to himself to bring a night vision scope the next time he staked out her house.
After an hour, seeing no sign that she was even home, Officer Gonzalez returned to his station. He badly wanted to place a department GPS tracker on her vehicles, but he knew the chances of that being approved were slim. Her power and connections, which had served for so long to blunt the investigation into her husband’s death, made the police chief leery of provoking her without hard evidence. Officer Gonzalez had already pushed the investigation as hard as he dared and knew he needed more in order to proceed officially. That, he decided, left him with unofficial options.
The GPS trackers the department used were supposed to be checked out of inventory only with permission from the prosecutor’s office. However, there were ways around that, such as claiming to be supplementing an approved deployed unit. In this case, Officer Gonzalez had an approved tracker on Dirk’s car, and simply implied that he needed a second unit for another of the suspect’s vehicles.
When he returned to his cubicle, Officer Gonzalez checked that the GPS was working properly and ready to be deployed. On a whim, while he had the tracking software open on his computer, he checked the log for Dirk’s tracker, seeing only a few trips from his home to the Chandlery – just under two miles away – and back in recent days.
The thoughts of Dirk brought Jim to Officer Gonzalez’s mind, and in an instant, something went click, and though he didn’t yet realize why, Officer Gonzales found himself remembering Jim’s visit to Atlantis. Then, in a flash, he understood: he’d ordered Jim off the boat, concerned that he’d try something, and one of the vague concerns that he’d had was a bomb. It was just the way his mind worked; sometimes things came to him haphazardly, welling up from his subconscious, something he’d long since learned to make use of.
The reason he’d thought of a bomb when Jim was on Atlantis in the Strait of Messina is that a bomb was listed in his files as one of the possible causes of the destruction of the Ares. What had tickled his mind was that concern, coupled with Lisa’s mention of a bombing. Officer Gonzalez could see no logical connection, and was about to dismiss the thought, but his subconscious hunches had often proved valuable, so he decided to take a fast look at the Egyptian case.
His first stop was a news search on the internet, which merely confirmed Lisa’s story.
Police departments often have need to contact their counterparts overseas, and Officer Gonzales had, in the course of prior cases, exchanged information with police in the Bahamas and several Caribbean countries.
The department computer system had a set of contact numbers for police agencies in various foreign nations, and he found one for Egypt. Though he technically needed authorization to make contact with a foreign agency, he made a call to the Egyptian National Police.
What Officer Gonzalez had thought would be a fast and easy call turned into a trying process. Several times he had to explain what he wanted, as his call was bounced from the Egyptian National Police to Interior Ministry, and then back again, only to be passed through three more people. On his sixth explanation, Officer Gonzales was about to give up when National Police Colonel Duqaq el-Masri replied, in serviceable English, “I can probably help you.”
Officer Gonzalez gave an abbreviated explanation of Trevor’s situation, status as a possible witness who might be at risk, and then asking if there was any connection between the yacht and the bombing.
Colonel el-Masri searched the case database for occurrences of ‘Atlantis’ in both English and Arabic, finding only that she had been one of the yachts in Ismailia, and then the mention of the thefts. He told Officer Gonzalez what little he’d found, and added that the bombing investigation was in its early stages.
Neither man could discern a connection based upon what they had, but they agreed to exchange their contact information and let each other know of anything relevant that developed.
After the call ended, Officer Gonzales chided himself for wasting so much time on a wild goose chase.
Colonel el-Masri, in his office in Cairo, added a personal note to the file, indicating that Officer Gonzalez had called, and detailing why, along with the contact number.
The Colonel had been honest with Gonzalez, telling him the truth, though not all of it. The dredging had yielded bomb debris, including circuit boards. Colonel el-Masri had withheld that for reasons of both security and relevancy; he saw no reason to disclose it.
The debris also contained metal fragments, and unknown to the Colonel, one of the on-scene investigators had just discerned that they came from a propane tank.
Aboard the Sea Witch, Bridget advanced the throttles for the high-speed run to Bimini, where she had arranged a meeting with Sanchez. She glanced at George, and said above the roar of the engines, “I was reviewing the guesthouse tapes, and we have another problem. From the sound of it, Joel plans on meeting with underwater archeologists to put together a search for Ares. This complicates things, to say the least.”
George scowled. “That’s bad news. With high-tech gear in the hands of pros, they’ll probably find her. Maybe we need to think about taking him out of play as well.”
Bridget frowned. “Perhaps, though I am leery of that. It could look suspicious if he dies around the same time as Trevor, and that could draw unwanted attention.”
“There are other ways to take him out besides killing him. I’m thinking a drug bust... maybe half a kilo of coke in his car. Any large amount is automatically considered proof of intent to sell, and anything over four hundred grams carries a mandatory fifteen-year minimum sentence, with twenty being more likely. If we make sure that some of his DNA is in the package, that’s a slam-dunk conviction,” George suggested.
“That sounds like an excellent plan, and his car would be readily accessible when he’s in the guesthouse with Lisa. However, he did clearly refer to Trevor as his brother, which came as a surprise to me. Oh well, it is perplexing, and perhaps he did not mean it in a literal sense. I do not see it as being relevant for us, except for the fact that it makes Joel more likely to be committed to the search, and he must be stopped,” Bridget said, with an edge of resolve to her voice.
“He will be. We’re bringing back a load, so just let Sanchez know you’re buying half a kilo of it,” George advised.
“I will do so... but we have a far more pressing issue to discuss with Sanchez. The tapes of Lisa and Joel include a few mentions that Trevor’s boat was burgled in Ismailia, and propane tanks were amongst the missing items. Therefore, it appears that the bomb was aboard, but was stolen. We cannot tell Sanchez this.”
“I agree. That would absolve the Cartel of some of the blame, especially because we came up with the plan and the timing. It doesn’t explain all of it, but it gives the Cartel an out.”
When they arrived at Bimini, they found Sanchez waiting for them on the dock. At his suggestion, they headed out to sea. It was one place they felt sure of privacy.
Sanchez, still fuming over the events in Suez, led off the conversation. “Bridget, you have my profound apologies for the debacle the bombing became. We do not yet know all of what transpired, or what the current situation is, but we will find out. All of it.”
Bridget, still at the helm, nodded graciously. “I appreciate that, Sanchez. Can you share with us whatever you do know?”
Sanchez shrugged. “I have not yet been able to confirm any of this, but my people are adamant that the bomb was placed aboard a large catamaran. The man who actually emplaced it did reluctantly admit that, due to a language problem, he is not absolutely certain that the catamaran was Atlantis, but was positive that the bomb was aboard a very similar catamaran of some sort. Needless to say, I am furious that they placed the bomb when there was any doubt that they had the right vessel. The other issue is the bomb’s failure to detonate – this we know more about. It is clear, based on the recording, that it was not receiving a signal, perhaps because of the other operative’s failure to follow instructions and activate its satellite service as well. An utterly unprofessional operation, in every aspect.”
“Any idea how the bomb got onto a freighter?” George asked.
“No, and we are far from sure that it did so. We do know that it was not actually aboard the freighter; we’ve been receiving information from one of our people who is part of the investigation, and he reports that the damage is only consistent with a detonation on the exterior of the hull. As for whether it was your bomb, we are not certain. We do know the precise detonation time, and operatives report that they never achieved phone contact, though I find it very coincidental that the detonation time is so close to their attempts. I trust little that they say at this point, and I have made exquisitely clear that they will not be paid.”
Bridget exchanged a glance with George, and they both turned to Sanchez, as Bridget said, “My dear Sanchez, thank you for your candor. What will happen now?”
Sanchez sighed. “Now, I must gather information as to what actually occurred. We are not yet positive that it was your bomb, and bombings are not a unique occurrence in that troubled region, but I find the timing and location far too close for it to be a coincidence.”
Sanchez stared out to sea for a few moments, mulling his decision. He made up his mind, and slowly turned to directly face Bridget and George. “We have done business for many years, which has been immensely profitable for us and you. We accepted a contract and your money – a very generous amount – to take care of a problem. That problem will therefore be taken care of, no matter what. At most, we are experiencing a delay. The boy will die in such a way as to implicate the father. This will be done as soon as possible, but at worst, you have my personal guarantee that he will not live to complete his circumnavigation.”
Bridget again exchanged a glance with George, and then gave Sanchez a genuine smile. “Thank you. No one could ask for more.”
Sanchez paused for a moment, deep in thought. “There is a further... complication, which is also an opportunity. The Egyptians are investigating very thoroughly, and have already recovered some bomb components. If the bomb at the freighter was indeed, as I believe, yours, and they trace the components, it could still be seen as a failed attempt by Dirk Carlson to kill Trevor, which I think would fulfill the most urgent need. Am I correct?”
George knew the question was directed at him, and replied, “Yes. I think that would be sufficient to implicate Carlson, at least enough to end the investigation into Bridget, and I’m in a position to steer that a little. However, that would still leave the problem of the search for Ares, which risks unearthing Bridget’s asset list, which we believe is aboard.”
Sanchez smiled coldly. “That would be no problem at all, for the boy could then be killed by any means. Perhaps a sniper while he is in port somewhere, or more likely what appears to be a robbery attempt gone awry. With no need to arrange his death to suit other purposes, killing him becomes a simple and easy thing.”
Bridget judged that the time was right to broach the other matter. “There has been a new development regarding Ares. It appears that Trevor has a brother, who is beginning to prepare a search, a very professional one involving marine archeologists. I do not wish him killed due to the suspicions that could cause, but incarceration will suffice nicely. This is not part of our contract, so I would like to purchase half a kilogram of the cocaine we’ll be transporting tonight. With that, we can easily achieve our goals.”
Sanchez arched an eyebrow. “Yes, it would be best to preempt such a thing. Your load tonight will be fifty kilos, so what you are asking for is merely one percent of that. However, tonight’s run is already packaged and is assigned to buyers in Florida, but I’ll have an additional packet prepared with your next shipment, if the need is not urgent. However, there is no need to purchase it. It is, after all, serving our joint purposes.”
Bridget smiled warmly. She knew that Sanchez was not being as magnanimous as it might appear; the street price of cocaine could often reach a hundred dollars or more per gram, but that was at the end of a long chain of suppliers. Like anything else, the price went down with volume, and the real cost was getting it into the United States. What Sanchez had offered, Bridget judged with close accuracy, would have cost the Cartel two thousand dollars at most. Still, it was a generous offer, given that she had expected to pay something close to ten thousand dollars. “Thank you, Sanchez. As always, it is a pleasure to do business with you.” Bridget knew that Sanchez was a high-ranking member of the Colombian Cartel, but Bridget had no idea just how high; he intentionally obfuscated the fact, but he was one of eleven men who comprised its leadership.
They returned to Bimini to drop Sanchez off, and then proceeded at full speed to the rendezvous with a Bahamian fishing trawler off Andros Island. The pickup method and location varied continuously, but transfers at night at sea were commonplace, and preferred over shore-based transfers, for security. The trawler crew handled the loading of the fifty one-kilo packages, and in return, George handed over two large duffel bags of cash, each containing one million dollars. That too was part of their normal procedure; they ran the Cartel’s cash outbound and cocaine on the return.
As Sea Witch approached the edge of Bahamian waters, Bridget activated her new radar, sweeping the area. The radar displayed several targets, and also identified the types of transmitting radars, some of which were well beyond its target display range.
George watched the display. “Nothing but commercial sets. The Coast Guard is doing a joint opp with the DEA tonight, in the straits up near Grand Bahama Island. I think we’re in the clear this far south.”
“So good of them to share that information with your department,” Bridget quipped, smiling as she advanced the throttles, heading northwest towards Miami, where she would take the intercoastal waterway towards Ft. Pierce.
“Interdepartmental cooperation has its uses,” George agreed with a chuckle.
The planned drop-off that night was at a boat service yard in Boca Raton, one they’d used before. The transfer occurred in the early morning, under the watchful eye of the Cartel’s local operative, inside a covered dock. The Cartel operative checked the cargo, and then paid Bridget and George with a backpack full of unlaundered cash.
Bridget conned the Sea Witch to George’s dock, arriving at one in the morning. They retired to his house for some much-needed sleep. For that night’s work, they had each received a hundred thousand dollars, as they did several times per month. The connections were Bridget’s, so her share was absolute, whether she went on the runs or not.
The Cartel’s profit for that run would exceed one million, which was the largest part of why Sanchez was eager to complete the contract on Trevor: Bridget’s operation was simply too profitable for the Cartel to risk.
The other reason was far more basic: Failure would tarnish Sanchez’s reputation, and that he would never willingly allow. For him the contract now became a personal issue, as close to a matter of honor as he was capable of feeling.
© 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.
Thank You to RedA for Beta reading and advice, and to
Bondwriter for final Zeta-reading and
Any remaining errors are mine alone.