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|Chapter 50: Crushed|
Deep in the merciless grip of the sea, Trevor’s valiant fight reached its end. The crushing pressure was compressing his lungs and driving the fluids from his limbs into his chest, one pain amongst many.
Death was near at hand. With what little of his mind could still perceive anything but agony, Trevor could feel it, Death, reaching up from the abyss, drawing him down into the darkness that would be his home forever.
The sea he had so loved was killing him... and in so doing, giving him one final chance.
The pressure at one hundred feet is immense; over eight thousand pounds per square foot. Long before such depths are reached, the human body’s automatic responses begin. If they did not, dives below ninety feet would be fatal.
The first response is Reflex Bradycardia: a drop in heart rate, by as much as one third. This also reduces blood pressure. As the water pressure increases, the spleen contracts, releasing oxygen-carrying red blood cells. A further effect is Blood Shift; blood is forced into the lungs’ blood vessels.
One of the most pronounced effects is Vasoconstriction: The blood vessels, particularly arterial vessels, are compressed, forcing the blood away from the limbs and into the chest cavity – lymphatic fluid is similarly relocated, to a degree. One side effect of this is that the external diameter of the limb’s extremities is reduced as the tissue looses turgidity. This includes the wrists and the base of the hands.
The searing cramps in Trevor’s left forearm tugged at his tendons, pulling his thumb against the knife-edge of his hand, allowing the cuff of rope, now no longer tight, to ease down, just a little. Reacting to the pain, Trevor twisted and thrashed, feeling the ropes that trapped his wrists biting into his flesh. Trevor heaved again, this time feeling the ropes work their way a little past his wrist, just a faint promise, but one his desperate mind seized upon.
With his lungs burning and driven by his raging thirst for air, he kept straining, and with a final, desperate heave he snatched his wrists apart and his hand flew to his stomach, his numb fingers snatching at the latch and releasing the weight belt. He felt it slip away, which told him which way was down.
With his arms numb and sore, his legs exhausted, Trevor struggled towards the surface, sure that it was already far too late, but his craving for air could not be denied.
For what seemed like forever, he clawed his way upward through the darkness, driven purely by instinct, beginning to gray out from lack of oxygen.
Unable to control his lungs any longer, Trevor began to exhale, and then, as his lungs emptied, he felt his arm breach the surface.
Nearly three minutes since leaving the surface, Trevor emerged from the deep, battered but alive. As soon as his head cleared the waves he took in a gulp of air, then another, his chest feeling like it was on fire. For several long minutes, Trevor drifted on his back, half-conscious and breathing hard.
The pain battered Trevor back to awareness. The burning in his chest began to ease, as did the pain in his ears. Slowly, Trevor recovered, carried by the placid swells, keeping himself on the surface with gentle strokes of his aching arms.
Trevor eased his head up so that he floated upright, feeling a wave of dizziness. His ears felt full, and were still giving him some pain, far worse on his right side than his left. He raised his hand and let it splash, hearing very faint muffled sound, just the lower frequencies, as if he was wearing a good pair of earplugs, but he was still too dazed to understand the meaning: one of his eardrums was ruptured.
Then, as a swell crested, he looked around, spotting Atlantis’s lights, two miles away. “No way I can catch up,” he muttered to himself, certain that he was about to lose sight of her forever.
Trevor let himself float, wondering if he had any possible hope at all. He was alone, at sea in the dark, over a hundred miles from land. All he had was the rope that still clung to his left wrist and the red shorts he wore. ‘Out of the frying pan and into the fire,’ he thought. ‘My chances of a ship coming close enough to see me are about a million to one.’
Trying to float on his back and occasionally slapped by the chop, Trevor looked up at the stars, glittering brilliantly in the moonless sky.
Massaging his rope-burned wrist, Trevor wondered if he was bleeding, from either his wrists or his ears. ‘Just what I don’t need, sharks,’ he thought darkly, and then wondered if being eaten alive might be better than the slow death he otherwise faced.
The pain in his ears was fading, and as Trevor’s mind cleared, he began to understand its cause. He touched his hand to his left ear and then looked at his fingers. It was too dark for him to be able to see blood, so he put his fingers to his lips, tasting nothing but salt water. He retried his right ear, tasting a slight tang of copper “Oh fuck, I’m bleeding,” he mumbled aloud, as images of voracious sharks filled his mind.
Angling his head to the left to keep his bleeding ear out of the water, Trevor reached inside his shorts and ripped out the pocket liner. He ripped it again, tearing the liner in half, and then twisted a piece into a tight pointed roll before screwing it into his ear. He winced from the renewed pain, but hoped he’d stanched the flow of blood enough to avoid attracting any predators.
Every so often, Trevor scanned the horizon from the crest of a swell. Occasionally, he saw the pinpoint of light from Atlantis, but the distance had grown greater still. Time passed, and Trevor began to wonder why he still caught sight of Atlantis’s lights. He’d lost all sense of direction so he looked up at the sky, spotting Orion’s Belt, which gave him his direction, and along with it, the realization that Atlantis was still south of him. ‘They’re dead in the water. Why?’
Ideas flashed through Trevor’s mind, and he wondered if he could catch up before they got underway again. That plan, and the faint glimmer of hope it offered, lasted for only a moment. ‘Even if I get to her, they’ll just shoot me,’ he thought, but then, without even a conscious decision, he began swimming towards Atlantis.
After only a few strokes, hindered by the ropes still tied to his right wrist, he stopped to rid himself of them. Treading water, he worked on the knots with fingers and teeth. He made little headway. Deciding that he had no time to waste, he dealt with the problem by lashing the loose rope around his wrist, and resumed his steady swimming.
A long and brutal hour later and a mile closer, Trevor could see that Atlantis was not alone; the fishing trawler was moored to her side and showing no lights at all. It was barely visible in the starlight but it blocked some of Atlantis’s lights, allowing Trevor to see the silhouette from his position a mile to the north. He resumed his swim, his mind racing, ‘Why are they moored like that?’
Trevor was near exhaustion, and his swimming slowed further. Occasionally, he eased his fatigue by resting and then switching strokes to a slow backstroke, using the stars to guide him. For what seemed like forever, he kept on, growing weaker and forced to spend more and more time resting. For long periods, Atlantis seemed to grow no closer, but Trevor forced his leaden limbs to keep moving.
At last, Trevor could see he was nearing his goal, and its nearness spurred him on.
Two hundred yards from Atlantis, Trevor stopped again. He’d been swimming with a freestyle crawl, but now he felt the need for silence and resumed his swim with a slow breaststroke, moving silently through the dark water.
A hundred feet from Atlantis’s stern, he again stopped, seeing the men working aboard her, aided by a few lights, the glare of which flickered across the water. ‘There must be at least half a dozen of ‘em, and if I get much closer they’ll see me,’ he thought, and then his eyes fixed on the space between Atlantis’s hulls.
Trevor rested for a few minutes, slowly edging closer, steeling himself for what would usually be an easy swim, but in his exhausted state would be far harder, he breathed hard for a couple of a minutes. Then, with eighty feet to go, he ducked underwater and swam towards Atlantis, trying to guess his distance.
Looking up, Trevor could see the shimmering light, and kept going until total darkness engulfed him, letting him know that he had reached his destination.
Moving slowly, he rose to the surface between the hulls of his boat. Exhausted, he paddled to the starboard hull, feeling its glassy surface, wishing for a handhold, but he knew there was none to be had.
Trevor heard the water lapping at the hulls on his left side. His left ear had recovered most of its function, but his right ear, still aching, was useless.
Trevor trod water, listening to the thumps and bangs of the pirates working above in the salon. He remembered his .357 revolver in its hiding place, just a few feet away, but there was no way for him to reach it without climbing up on deck and descending into his crew cabin. ‘Even if it’s still there, it might as well be on the damn Moon.’
Again, Trevor touched the hull of Atlantis, wishing for some kind of handhold that would allow him to rest. Then, he remembered the rope still coiled around his wrist and set to work, with teeth and fingers, untying it.
In his battered and exhausted state, it took him ten minutes of painful struggle, but he finally loosened the knots, leaving him with a four-foot length of rope. ‘Damn, not enough.’ Then, he remembered his shorts and slid them off. Working by feel, he pulled the drawstring out and ran it through his fingers, finding that it was about three feet long. He tied it to the rope and then clenched the rope securely between his teeth.
Taking his shorts in hand, he grabbed each side of one leg opening and pulled hard, until he heard the fabric begin to tear. Cringing at the sound, fearful that he may have been heard, Trevor froze, listening and waiting.
The sounds from above remained unchanged, so he submerged the shorts to muffle the noise and continued his shredding. His goal was to rip the material free of the waistband, which he soon succeeded in doing. The waistband was partially elastic, and he tied it to the end of his rope. Then, he tore the remaining fabric into strips, knotting them together. So tired that he was barely able to keep afloat, he measured the rope he’d created, arm span by arm span. ‘About twelve feet, hope that’s enough.’
Clenching the rope in his right hand, he swam forward until he could see stars peeking through the netting that stretched between Atlantis’s hulls, from the front edge of the wing to the bows.
The netting was attached to the front edge of the hull wing by tie-downs, leaving a gap of four inches. That was Trevor’s target. First, he coiled the rope and then, gripping the end he’d crafted from his shorts in his teeth, he hurled the rope towards the stars.
It took him seven tries, but at last he threw the rope skyward and it did not all come falling back down. Using an eggbeater kick, wincing against the pain from his still-tender muscles, raising his torso halfway out of the water, he stretching up, and in the dark he felt the dangling far end of the rope and grabbed it, pulling it back down.
With the ends of the rope in each hand, he held on, pulling them to him, resting for several minutes. Then, he tied the two ends together at the waterline, and slipped his shoulders through the loop, flipping onto his back, feeling the welcome support, and at last, he could fully rest.
Trevor was at a loss for what to do next. Vague ideas raced through his mind, and the first was, ‘If they take Atlantis to Somalia, maybe I can ride this way until near shore and then swim for it...’ As Trevor thought that scenario through, he cringed. ‘If they go to Somalia at ten knots, that’d be over a week with no food or water, then a long swim, and then I come ashore in Somalia, stark naked.’ He wondered if the locals would help him or just return him to the pirates. ‘Doesn’t matter. No way could I last that long without water.’
Looking up in the dark, Trevor wondered if the pirates would see his rope, or him, during daylight. There was nothing he could do about that risk, so he tried to put it out of his head.
He felt heavy, his limbs like lead, as the exhaustion overwhelmed him and consciousness slipped away, plunging Trevor into a deep and restful sleep.
For Jim and Dirk, it was another afternoon on the run. Like the ones before, they were spending it eating pizza and watching football on cable TV, trying not to dwell on their ongoing trouble.
There had been plenty of time for talk since their escape from Jim’s house, so Dirk knew everything that Jim did. What remained was what to do about it.
During a halftime break in the pre-recorded game, Dirk glanced at the condo’s kitchen. “We’re running low on food. I got us into this mess, so I’ll make a grocery run.”
Jim shook his head. “We’re in this together, and that’s how we’ll get out of it. I’ve got an idea on how we can go out... we can’t use the car yet; the police will have figured out the plate issue by now. When I put it into the condo’s parking spot, I backed it in, right to the wall, so no one can see the plate without moving the car. I’ve got an idea on how to fix that, but it’ll have to wait until I get ahold of one of my friends from my law firm. In the meantime, there’s a small grocery store within walking distance.”
Dirk fidgeted on the sofa. “Sitting here is driving me nuts. Somebody tried to kill Trev, and what if they try again? And how long until the cops decide to check out your sister, and see she’s got a condo in Tampa?”
“Trev should be safe for a while; he’ll be at sea for weeks. By the time he makes landfall, I’m hoping we’ll have this thing solved. As for the condo, it’s my sister’s, but it’s not in her name. It’s owned by a Nevada corporation I set up for her as a liability shield, and Nevada won’t casually disclose corporate ownership. I don’t think they’ll be able to run that down anytime soon. I’m also sure she won’t tell them if they call her,” Jim said.
“We’ll have to go out so you can make calls, and our pictures have been on the news. I think we should try to disguise ourselves... sunglasses and baseball caps would be one way. If we could get hair coloring, it would help.”
Jim nodded, and then ran his finger along Dirk’s stubbly chin. “I was wondering why you quit shaving. A beard might help, but not enough. I’ve got an idea, but I’ve been holding off on telling you. Maybe I should just show you...”
Jim stood up, and led Dirk into the condo’s second bedroom, the one usually used by Jim’s sister. Jim opened a closet and said with a shrug, “Carla hates packing so she keeps a lot of stuff here. That way all she has to do is hop in her car and drive down.”
Dirk stared into the closet for a few long moments, and then he looked at Jim, seeing a slight smirk on his face. Dirk’s eyes opened a bit wider as he realized what Jim meant, and then Dirk glanced back into the closet, mumbling, “Oh, shit...”
Jim smiled, and then chuckled. “It’s no big deal. A guy I was dating a few years ago liked to do drag occasionally, and he got me to try it a couple of times. Not my thing, but you have to admit, it’ll make a decent disguise. It’s just a damn good thing Carla likes wigs and hates high heels, or there’s not a chance in hell we’d pull this off.”
“Oh shit,” Dirk mumbled again, staring at a flowered dress as Jim pulled it out of the closet.
Another hour had passed, with Atlantis still adrift. Trevor’s left ear – which had not ruptured, though it had been traumatized – had cleared enough for him to hear moderately well on that side, allowing him to hear loud, inconstant thumping noises above, jarring him back to consciousness.
Squirming in his improvised harness, which had supported a few pounds of his weight under his armpits, mildly pinching the sensitive nerves there, Trevor felt his arms and hands begin to tingle with a pins and needles sensation as the circulation returned.
Trevor began massaging his partially numb hands as he listened to the noise for a few moments, and as his mind cleared, he finally understood. ‘The fuckers are stripping her, so they’re busy...’
Fury welled up within Trevor as he reached out to touch the hull of his beloved Atlantis, along with the frustration of being unable to save her. Trevor gritted his teeth, trying to think of some way to save Atlantis, and himself.
Trevor’s first thought was that maybe, if they were preoccupied, he could slip onto the deck, get into his cabin, and get his gun... if it was still there. The flaw in that plan, he knew, was that he’d almost certainly be seen, and that even if he reached his gun, he’d be trapped, outnumbered, and outgunned. The noises from above drummed home that point. ‘Damn, it sounds like they’re all up there working... OH!’
Trevor mulled it over for a few moments, and decided that the vague plans he had in mind, while they would probably get him killed, might be his best and only hope. Taking a deep breath, then another, he slipped out of his rope and swam to Atlantis’s starboard hull before diving.
Feeling his way to the surface along the barnacle-encrusted wood – so different from Atlantis’ sleek fiberglass – Trevor eased his head out of the water, looking up at the stern of the trawler. He waited, listening, hearing only the noises from Atlantis, and reached up, aided by an eggbeater kick, slipping his hand into a drain hole.
Slowly, ignoring his aching muscles, Trevor inched his way up a few feet, until he was able to peek over the stern. He froze, listening and looking, wishing that his hearing wasn’t impaired, and then his heart sank as he saw, dimly lit by the reflected light from Atlantis, a man in the Algol’s wheelhouse. ‘Damn, so much for me using their radio,’ he thought.
With the idea of a radio fixed in his mind, Trevor watched as a pirate carried an armload of gear over from Atlantis and then descended into the hold of the trawler. ‘If I could find one of my EPIRBs, I’d have a chance,’ Trevor thought, wondering how long it would take help to arrive after triggering the emergency locator beacon.
As Trevor watched, a pirate, with another armful of gear, hopped over from Atlantis and walked towards him. Ducking down, Trevor listened as a hatch creaked open, and then he heard the man grunt, accompanied by a clatter of falling gear, and then the hatch slammed shut again. Hearing the pirate’s retreating footsteps, Trevor raised his head to watch again.
Over the next ten minutes, listening to the working pirates and the muted, steady low thrum of a pump, Trevor saw several pirates carry armloads from Atlantis, mostly carrying it down into a forward hold. The AK-47s slung casually over the pirate’s shoulders gave Trevor both pause, and ideas. ‘If I could get my hands on one of those and surprise ‘em...’ he thought, hoping for the opportunity, and then wondering if there were any guns in the holds.
The hatch in front of Trevor was shielded from direct view from the wheelhouse, and he’d only seen it entered once, so Trevor decided to try it first.
Taking a deep breath, he crept over the rail, naked and dripping, and then, after a glance towards Atlantis, he eased the hatch up, cringing at the groan of a hinge, and dropped through into the darkness, easing the hatch shut behind him as the acrid stench of rotting fish and diesel oil assaulted his nostrils.
A dim red glow was all he could see at first, cast by a single tiny light on an ancient control box. It only took his already-dark-adjusted eyes a moment to adapt, and the tiny indicator light from the box was enough to let him discern two old diesel engines.
Going mainly by feel, Trevor searched what he now realized was the trawler’s engine compartment. In one corner, furthest from the hatch, he found a pile of sailcloth. It was his storm jib, but in the dark, he couldn’t tell, nor would he have much cared. To Trevor, it served a more important purpose; he could hide under it if anyone opened the hatch.
Feeling around, he sought whatever he could find. A plastic box proved to be one of his bilge toolboxes, sitting in a jumbled pile with his microwave and dishwasher, along with the sink from one of his heads. Frantically he searched, hoping for a weapon, his EPIRBs, or his life raft and ditch bag. Knocking open the toolbox, his fingers found his grease gun, and then, probing further, the heavy metal shaft of an adjustable wrench. ‘This’ll give somebody a headache,’ he thought, holding it in his teeth while he continued his frantic search of the engine compartment.
Growing frustrated with his almost-blind search, Trevor glanced at the faintly lit engines and allowed himself a thin, cold smile as he remembered what else was in the toolbox he’d found. ‘Paybacks are a bitch, you pirate bastards.’
His fingers were still a little numb, and it took him a few moments longer than he’d expected to find the two oil-filler caps, unscrew them, and dump in the contents of the two jars of valve-grinding compound, one for each engine. With a satisfied nod, Trevor replaced the caps and hid the empty jars in a scupper under the sail. ‘Have fun getting anywhere without engines,’ he thought, allowing himself a brief moment of satisfaction as he envisioned the fine abrasive grit slowly destroying the trawler’s engines. It wouldn’t be quick, he knew, but in less than a day, they’d be dead in the water, with their engines ruined beyond repair.
With that task done, Trevor resumed his search, finding nothing but more parts stripped from Atlantis, none of which fit his perceived needs.
Several times he froze, hearing thumping noises from the forward hold. In a quiet interval, he felt along the engine room’s forward bulkhead, finding a small hatch.
After undogging its rusty latches with some help from his wrench, Trevor slipped through, again finding himself in near total darkness. He began feeling around, looking first for a hiding place. He found one just in time; no sooner had he felt the pile of fishing nets than he heard loud footsteps above.
Just barely in time, Trevor dove into the netting and yanked a piece over him, realizing only when the light dazzled his eyes that netting makes for poor concealment.
The pirate, laden down with a mattress, didn’t look before heaving it onto the pile of fishing net and then ascending the ladder, the flashlight that had been between his teeth now in his hand.
Panting with relief, Trevor pushed the mattress aside, his mind now focusing on something that had been revealed by the brief flash of light; the flatscreen monitor from his nav desk. ‘One of the EPIRBs was in the drawer right under it,’ he thought, fumbling towards the monitor.
Trevor, racing against time, felt the monitor, and then, not far away, an upended wooden drawer. Then, amidst the jumble, his partially numb fingers closed on a smooth metal and plastic tube. Trevor clutched it hard, feeling its shape – cylindrical and somewhat heavy, with faint ridges around the middle and one end – in his hand. ‘Holy fuck, I’ve got my EPIRB!’ he thought, grinning in the dark.
Another clatter from above prompted Trevor to dash through the hatch into the engine room, easing it shut behind himself just barely in time. Breathing hard and sweating, clutching the wrench in his teeth and his prize in his left hand, he felt around for his toolbox, put both items in it, and snapped it shut. Then, fearful of discovery, he moved towards the deck hatch.
After listening and hearing nothing close by, he peeked out. ‘Now is as good a time as any’ he thought, and slithered out, closed the hatch, and slipped over the rail.
For several minutes, Trevor held on, occasionally peeking over the rail. He looked towards Atlantis, where his Zodiac still hung on its davits, so near, yet impossible for him to reach and launch without discovery. Trevor’s questing eyes spotted the pirates’ inflatable skiff, returned to its mounting on Algol, and he wanted it. ‘With that, I could get clear, lose ‘em in the dark, and then set off my EPIRB,’ he thought, trying to think of a way to do so, but there was no way he could do so without being seen, and he grudgingly accepted that his plan had failed.
Lowering himself into the water, the starry night feeling uncomfortably bright, Trevor swam awkwardly with the floating plastic toolbox in hand, along the trawler’s hull, inching his way forward, back to his haven between Atlantis’s hulls.
He slipped himself back into his rope support, exhausted and relieved. After resting for ten minutes, he eased the toolbox onto his stomach and carefully undid its snaps. As he raised the lid, the slap of a wave almost knocked the toolbox away, and Trevor clutched at it, his heart racing. He put one hand inside, partially lowering the lid and clutching the box against his stomach with the other, and began working by feel, first trying to flip open the cover concealing the extendable antenna, and then giving up and seeking the slight raised buttons that would trigger an EPIRB’s beacon. After half a minute’s awkward struggle, and another near-loss of the box’s contents, all Trevor could discern was smooth, curved plastic and metal, so he reluctantly decided to wait until dawn to try again. He closed the toolbox, which was now the focus of his hope, clutching it tightly to his chest.
Trevor clung to that embodiment of hope for the next terrifying hour, listening to the occasional bump and muffled voices from the pirates working above.
Having no way of knowing when, or if, the pirates would leave, Trevor decided that his best chance would be to swim clear and then, using his plastic toolbox for flotation, wait for dawn to activate his EPIRB. As quickly as he’d considered it, he realized that doing so could seal his fate. He was exhausted, and a long way from land. ‘Can I stay afloat long enough for help to arrive? Even if a plane was sent out right away, it would take at least a few hours to get here and drop a raft. More likely it would take even longer, and I’d be dead or shark food by then.
As he mulled over his options, Trevor heard the soft purr of a pump, and correctly guessed that the pirates were taking Atlantis’s fuel. That led him to believe that the pirates intended to abandon Atlantis, and that thought caused Trevor to decide to stay put for the time being.
In Atlantis’s cockpit, Ali paced, looking east every few seconds at the still dark sky. Stripping Atlantis was taking longer than he’d hoped, which was souring Ali’s mood.
Ali barked orders, trying to spur his men to a faster pace. The high value items such as the electronics and appliances had already been taken, but the plumbing and electrical fixtures had proved time-consuming. Two of his men had spent half an hour removing the batteries and voltage regulator, while two others had taken almost as long to take down the wind-turbine.
Ali stormed into the salon, which was now lit solely by the pirate’s work lights, and found one of his men tearing out some wood paneling. “Leave that! We have little time. Search again for any valuables,” Ali snapped in Somali.
The crewman looked around and replied, “We have searched well, captain.”
Ali stormed over to the large map of the world, which decorated part of one wall. “Then explain why this has not been moved? Hidden things are most often hidden, you fool,” Ali yelled, as he ripped the map off the wall and tore it to pieces in frustration. He glared at the wood paneling his action had reveled, and flicked his thumb at it. “Put a hole in this and check behind it, but hurry.”
After finding a few more men to yell at, Ali returned to his pacing in the cockpit. One of his crew appeared, a can in hand, which he gave to Ali.
Ali took one look at it, seeing the small cartoon pig atop the picture of hotdogs. Ali heaved the can into the sea in disgust, and he ordered his man to leave such useless things behind. Ali’s religion forbade pork and alcohol, and though he and his men had no qualms about taking and drinking the liquor and beer from Atlantis, they would not touch pork.
Glancing again to the east, Ali saw a faint glow. He glanced astern, two of his men were in the engine rooms, cutting electrical wires and diesel lines as they prepared to cut open the deck and rip Atlantis’s engines out.
Ali wanted to be clear of Atlantis by dawn, with her sunk or sinking, for he feared being spotted by air, knowing that the sight of a trawler moored alongside a yacht in these waters would certainly raise alarms.
He looked astern again, seeing two of his men bickering over the best way to proceed. That told Ali that the engine removal could prove time consuming, so he made a snap decision and commanded, “Leave the engines, there is too little time. Make a final check of the yacht; take anything that you quickly can. We depart in ten minutes.”
As Trevor saw the first glimmers of predawn, he heard voices shouting and renewed activity above. He tensed, breathing hard and making ready to dive, thinking he’d been seen. Then, he heard the dull rumble of the trawler’s twin diesels firing up, and hope surged through him. ‘They’re going, they’re going!’
Trevor heard the clatter above suddenly end, and then the trawler’s diesels chugged and roared. A minute later, Trevor saw the silhouetted bow of the old trawler come into view between the bows of Atlantis.
Shrugging his way out of his improvised harness, holding on tightly with one hand to his toolbox, Trevor took a few deep breaths and then submerged until only his eyes were above the water, making ready to dive to remain out of sight. It was still dark enough that he felt concealed, but any shining light could easily reveal him if he stayed on the surface.
Trevor watched as the Algol pulled ahead of Atlantis and then turned away to starboard. Trevor’s sigh of relief as the trawler left his view lasted just a few seconds, ending as the quiet was shattered by the staccato roar of gunfire. Acting on reflex, clutching his toolbox in his fist, Trevor dove, thinking that he’d been seen.
Underwater, he felt and heard the thuds of the bullets hitting on the far side of the starboard hull, some close, some further away. It seemed like an eternity to Trevor, but it was over in under a second.
Ali surveyed the damage in the faint dawn light, seeing the bullet holes stitching the waterline and the waves lapping over them. Satisfied, he shouted orders to bring the trawler around for a pass at the other side. Ali was slightly familiar with monohull sailboats and was operating on the assumption that, like most monohulls, Atlantis had lead weights built into her keels.
For a standard monohull, stitching the waterline with gunfire would result in sinking the vessel, because the heavy weights, often weighing tons, would drag the vessel down as it filled with water. Ali had disposed of a sailing yacht in that manner once before and felt confident that it would suffice to sink Atlantis.
The Algol, diesels chugging, resumed her course to the east, towards the fishing grounds.
Trevor watched as the trawler rounded Atlantis’s sterns and then disappeared from sight. A few seconds later, as Algol passed close by Atlantis’s port side, Trevor again dove as gunfire crackled.
When he was no longer able to hold his breath, he surfaced, and was rewarded with a view of the trawler’s stern as it motored away, resuming its journey to the fishing grounds. ‘Those engines should be wrecked in a few hours,’ he thought, as he watched the trawler pull away, heading east.
Trevor waited fifteen minutes, until the Algol was out of sight, before letting out a long sigh and swimming into the growing dawn light, towards the sterns of Atlantis.
Reaching the starboard aft stairs, Trevor tried to climb them but collapsed, weak and exhausted, half out of the water. It took all of his feeble remaining strength to heave the waterlogged toolbox onto the steps. After resting for a minute, he crawled up the stairs, easing the toolbox from step to step, and then raising his head and peeking across the deck, just in case he was not alone aboard.
What Trevor saw shocked him. Atlantis, his pride and joy, had been devastated. The first thing he noticed was that the mainsail, along with the furling boom, had been hacked from the mast and taken away. Debris lay scattered everywhere. The mast and the forestay still stood, but the boom was gone, as were the sails. His Zodiac was missing from its davits, and his liferaft box stood empty.
Trevor stumbled forward, naked and in a daze, his hard-won prize still in his hands, as he saw the damage to the cockpit; the two wheels were gone, only their shafts remaining, and the two wheel housings were shattered in places, where the navigation controls and screens has been ripped out.
Trevor looked up the mast and saw that his radar dome was missing, and then he turned to look astern, seeing his fuel filler caps – port and starboard both – open to the sky: the pirates had taken his fuel.
The lockers hung open and Trevor could see that they had been stripped; his sails were gone, along with the ropes and rigging. Then he looked up, at the empty racks in the cockpit canopy, and muttered, “The fuckers even took my surfboards.”
Taking a deep breath, realizing that his peril was not yet over, Trevor staggered through the doorway into the salon, and grunted. It was in ruins; every fitting had been ripped away, and where his navigation desk had been was now just an empty hole with dangling wires.
‘First things first,’ he thought, sitting down heavily, so weak and dizzy that he toppled over on his side. He fumbled at the toolbox, intent on activating his EPIRB, thinking that its position-reporting emergency beacon would bring help within a couple of days at most.
Trevor opened the toolbox, reaching for the red plastic shape, seeing it clearly for the first time, which caused his breath to catch in his throat.
Wracked by a sob of despair as he lay on the salon’s debris-littered deck, Trevor clutched at the metal and plastic cylinder. It was the weight and shape that had fooled him; it was very similar in shape to one of his EPIRBs, and the glass jar within made it similar in weight. In the dark, his slightly numb fingers had conspired with his mind to color his judgment, letting him think that what he felt was what he’d been searching for.
“Oh fuck, NO!” Trevor groaned,
as exhaustion and despair claimed him, pulling him down into a
deep and dreamless sleep, with the object he’d risked his life
to retrieve still clutched in his hand: his garlic crusher.
© 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