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|Chapter 51: Time to Improvise|
Aboard the pirate trawler Algol, Ali smiled as he used his satellite phone to transmit some photos he’d taken of Atlantis’s AIS display, immediately before it was ripped out. He then sent a few other shots he’d taken, including one of Atlantis as the bullets riddled her side.
The pictures were for Ali’s contact in the Seychelles, who would pass them on to Sanchez, a man Ali had never even heard of except as the nameless source of a bounty on anyone aboard Atlantis. All that remained for Ali to do in that regard was deliver the nameplate he’d removed from the cockpit and receive his thirty thousand American dollar bounty. Algol had refrigeration for her catch holds, so a stop in the Seychelles en route back to Somalia from the fishing grounds would be no issue at all. Perhaps, Ali mused, he could sell his catch in the Seychelles, and thus be able to bank his entire take from this voyage, instead of taking the risk of returning to Somalia with it.
Ali looked out of the wheelhouse windows, at his trusty old trawler. She needed some work, but he felt sure that doing so would only require a small portion of his bounty.
Algol was cruising eastward at eight knots, and was now fifty miles from Atlantis. The tension Ali always felt during piracy was ebbing, and Ali began to enjoy the sunny day. His pleasure lasted a few moments more, until he looked aft, seeing the first sign of Trevor’s gift to his engines: the sooty cloud from Algol’s smokestack was thicker and blacker than normal. Ali didn’t know it, but this was due to lubricating oil entering the cylinders and burning.
Ali studied the smoke, unsure of what it meant. The wheelhouse engine gauges, which would have warned him of the soaring temperatures and diminishing oil pressure, had not worked in years. Ali shouted for his mechanic, and when the sleepy man emerged from the crew’s bunkroom, Ali pointed at the smoke, and ordered the man into the engine room to check the engines.
Inside the engines, Trevor’s fine abrasive powder had been at work ever since the Algol had pulled away from Atlantis. The grit, used for grinding valve metal, had entered the engine oil sumps, mixing with the oil.
Algol’s engines, like most large marine diesels, used a partial-flow filter system. Unlike in a car or small diesel where all of the oil passes through a filter with each pass through the pump, a partial-flow system diverts a small percentage of the oil for filtering, with the majority bypassing the filter and going directly to the engine. In this case, it meant – as Trevor had known – that most of the abrasive grit, in suspension in the engine oil, would be pumped directly through the engines and would be delivered to the engine’s lubricated moving parts: bearings, valve guides, and the engine cylinders themselves.
Every moving part in Algol’s engines that was lubricated by engine oil had been, and was continuing to be, damaged to one degree or another. Bearings were moving less and less freely, causing heat and drag. The engines’ horsepower was declining a little as a result, but that was not the greatest concern.
The cylinder’s oil seal rings had been ground down by the grit, allowing engine oil into the combustion cylinders, where it burned. This was the cause of the smoke. The greatest danger came from the oil pump themselves, as their bearings, worn down by the grit, began failing, impeding the flow of oil – which was also needed to help cool the engines.
Already damaged by the grit, and now robbed of their lubricating oil, the engine’s internal temperatures began to soar, further distorting the rapidly moving parts.
The mechanic opened the engine room hatch, where he was greeted by a rattling, thumping sound, growing louder by the second.
The mechanic jumped down into the noisy engine room, and took one step towards the engines as a fast-rising screech filled the engine compartment, shaking the bulkheads as it reached a painful crescendo.
Red-hot metal failed; the oil and compression rings on two cylinders breaking free as the starboard engine seized, coming to a sudden and very permanent halt.
The mechanic knew what had happened, but not why. In concern, he glanced at the gauges of the port engine, which indicated an oil pressure close to zero and an engine temperature well past redline.
The mechanic lunged for the
engine’s controller box, slamming the kill switch with his hand,
and the crippled port engine chugged to a halt.
Several hours later, it was mid-morning in Florida as Bridget opened an e-mail from Sanchez: an encrypted text accompanied by the attached pictures. Bridget studied the photos for a moment, chewing on her lip, and then decrypted the text to read Sanchez’s brief note.
George, looking over Bridget’s shoulder, was the first to speak. “I’d say this calls for a drink. Feel like some wine?”
Bridget shook her head. “No, I think a snifter of Cognac would be more appropriate. Trevor is dead, and I must say I feel greatly relieved, though a touch saddened. Still and all, it is for the best. George, would you do the honors and prepare the Cognac while I compose a reply to Sanchez? He has done well, and I do feel that a thank-you note is in order. I shall offer him our profound gratitude. I must admit that I was skeptical regarding his ability to achieve these results in such a remote region but Sanchez has proven even more resourceful than I had hoped.”
While Bridget dashed off a short, eloquent note to Sanchez, George poured generous measures of Cognac into two crystal brandy snifters.
Bridget sent her message and shut down her computer. She joined George on her loveseat, taking a brandy snifter and rolling the amber fluid within. Then, she raised her glass in a formal toast, “To us, to Sanchez for a job well done, and... to Trevor, the intrepid sailor, may he rest in peace.”
George nodded, clinking his snifter with Bridget’s, and then took a sip of the fine Cognac, feeling it warm his tongue. “I’m glad this worked out so well. To be honest, I also kind of doubted that Sanchez could pull something like this off so quickly. My guess was he’d wait until Australia, where he’s got a few Cartel people, or even Panama, which is in the Cartel’s backyard. But he did it in the middle of the goddamn Indian Ocean. That man has a long reach.”
Bridget sipped dourly at her Cognac before replying, “Indeed. That is why I fear him; were he to find out what is aboard Ares, and that we knew of it and did not warn him, he would almost certainly kill us both. By killing Arnold before he could use it, I inadvertently saved your life, as well as my own.”
George shuddered. “Yes, you did. That asset list was bad enough, but trying to attack the Cartel... do you think Arnold knew he was signing your death warrant? Me I can sure understand, but not you.”
Bridget glared at Arnold’s portrait. “I have no doubt that he did. I was beyond furious when I realized that, but he was already rotting in his grave by then, so there was nothing I could do to repay his treachery. I look forward to the day when I can burn his portraits. I detest having them here, but appearances demand it, until the investigation into me is forever closed.”
George chuckled, and took another sip of Cognac. “I remember that day, you were livid. I’ve always wondered if he did it because he knew about us.”
Bridget shrugged. “To the best of my knowledge, he never suspected. He always spoke well of you, until Stacy died from her overdose. I think that drove him over the edge, and the fool wanted revenge on both me and the Cartel.”
“Speaking of the investigation... Dirk and his lawyer have been formally charged, but we need a grand jury indictment of them for Arnold’s murder to completely seal off any chance of a case against you. That’ll be in two days; their running makes it pretty much a done deal, and the moment that indictment is handed down, the investigation into you heads for the dead file, permanently. How about taking off for the Bahamas for a few days when that happens?”
Bridget smiled warmly. “I would like that.” Then, her mood soured slightly. “We are still not fully clear, not so long as Joel is still set on finding Ares. I hope he forgets that notion once he has the insurance settlement, but the more I get to know him, the more I believe he will press on in Trevor’s stead. In any event, it would be unwise to rush this, tempting though it may be. We shall see how he and Lisa take the news of Trevor’s death.”
“Any idea how they’ll find out?” George asked.
Bridget shrugged. “I’d imagine Atlantis will be found eventually; if Sanchez is right and they tried to sink her with gunfire, she’s adrift. However, that is a remote region, so it may take a long time for a ship to chance upon the floating derelict. On the other hand, she may wash ashore somewhere, depending on wind and current. If she is not found before Trevor’s scheduled arrival in Australia, a search may occur after a while. I would hazard a guess that by Christmas, Lisa and Joel will at least suspect that Trevor has perished at sea. Their reaction, particularly Joel’s, should tell us what we need to know.”
“What about the guesthouse? We’ll have to keep them at arm’s length prior to the arrest, or the police might come snooping around,” George said.
Bridget savored another sip of Cognac. “True. Once we know for certain how to proceed, I shall rescind their access, citing legalities or some such. Incidentally, they’re engaged, and are planning on asking to have the reception here, in the main house. They’ve yet to tell me, and they haven’t mentioned a date, but I’ll agree to it to keep up the charade. In fact, I wouldn’t mind at all if it is soon; I think they make a lovely couple, and it would be nice to see them have some joy before they go to jail.”
“I’m nervous,” Joel said, as he met Lisa in the driveway of her house.
Lisa gave Joel a hug and a kiss. “Don’t be. You’ve been over to cook dinner for me and Daddy several times since you’ve gotten back, and Daddy hasn’t said a bad thing about you, yet.”
“Not yet, huh?” Joel replied, glancing nervously towards Lisa’s house, absently spinning a bag of groceries in his hand.
Lisa chuckled, shaking her head. “I didn’t mean it like that, you goof. Daddy was thrilled with you for getting Trevor’s dad’s lawsuit lifted. And, it galls me to admit, he loves your cooking. The fact you haven’t been sneaking into my room has helped, though he is getting a bit suspicious as to where I’m spending so much time.”
“Maybe now isn’t a good time to tell him we’re engaged,” Joel said, staring at the front door.
Lisa crossed her arms and shook her head, her hair cascading across her forehead. “And just when did you have in mind?”
“I was thinking after the wedding... like maybe our fiftieth anniversary,” Joel replied, with an uneasy smile on his lips.
“I wasn’t planning on waiting quite that long,” Lisa replied with a chuckle, slipping off her engagement ring and placing it carefully in her purse. “I hate having to hide this. I think he’ll be okay with the idea, as long as we make sure to tell him we’ll be getting married when I’m eighteen.”
“I think we should tell my parents first, maybe tomorrow, as a kind of a test run,” Joel said, giving Lisa a patently fake innocent look.
Lisa rolled her eyes. “Considering we already told them yesterday, and they were fine with it as long as we waited until we’re eighteen, I don’t think telling them again will prove much.”
Joel chuckled and shrugged. “Hey, can’t blame me for trying to stall...”
Lisa gave Joel a swift slap on the butt. “Get moving, you. We’ll tell him together. The question is, when?”
“How about when he’s just started eating?” Joel suggested, letting Lisa lead him to the front door.
“You mean when he has a knife in his hand? I’m surprised you’re so daring,” Lisa quipped.
“I did wear running shoes,” Joel replied, as they reached the door.
Inside, Joel said hello to Lisa’s father, Robert, in the living room. After the exchange of greetings, Robert smiled and glanced pointedly at the plastic grocery bag dangling from Joel’s fingers. “What’s for dinner, Joel?”
Joel glanced down at the bag as he replied, “Bacon-wrapped chicken surprise.”
Robert nodded and chuckled. “That sounds interesting. What’s the surprise part? Other than having good food around here, which we only do when you come over and cook.”
“Daddy!” Lisa grumped, giving him a mock pout.
Joel fidgeted with the grocery bag for a few moments. “The surprise is what the chicken thighs are stuffed with. It’s blue cheese, cashews, and some herbs and spices.”
“Joel is just full of surprises tonight,” Lisa added helpfully, with an innocent smile.
“I better get started,” Joel said, eager to be elsewhere, turning to follow Lisa as she headed for the kitchen.
When they arrived in the kitchen, Lisa helped unpack the grocery bag, whispering, “It’ll be fine, Joel. Don’t stress.”
“I’m just nervous,” Joel replied, and then gave Lisa a mock glare. “That ‘full of surprises tonight’ crack nearly made me piss myself.”
Lisa gave Joel her best angelic smile. “I couldn’t resist. Hey, how did you buy this?” Lisa asked, pulling a bottle of chardonnay wine from the grocery bag.
“I got it from home; Mom let me have it when I told her what I had planned, and that I needed it for this recipe. That’s the first time she’s ever trusted me with alcohol. I stuck it in there when I left the grocery store, in case I got pulled over. Could you stick it in the freezer to chill? Pack some bags of frozen vegetables around it.”
Lisa put the bottle in place, and as she arranged the bags, asked, “You need it cold to cook with?”
“Nah, I only need a little. I figured I’d serve your dad some before dinner, and then some more with dinner.”
“Plying him with plenty of alcohol before breaking the news. I love your sneaky side,” Lisa whispered.
Joel chuckled as he pulled a large, flat baking dish from the cupboard. “I thought it might help.”
Joel’s recipe was fairly straightforward, so he began by chopping some garlic, and then the cashews.
Lisa looked askance at the chopping board. “Joel, I’m surprised you’re doing that... nut-chopping would have been the last thing I’d have thought you’d want to get Daddy thinking about tonight.”
Joel choked, and then laughed, replying softly. “Thanks a lot, Lisa. I could have done without that mental picture.”
The recipe called for chicken breasts, but Joel preferred using chicken thighs, which he’d purchased already skinned and boned.
Joel washed the fresh basil he’d bought, and cut the leaves off the stems. “Okay, we’ll need a corkscrew and a wine glass. Just one, no point in pushing it.”
Lisa took care of opening the bottle and pouring the wine. “You should take this to him,” she suggested.
Joel took the glass and headed for the living room, where he tried to look relaxed as he handed it to a surprised Robert. “I needed some for the cooking, but there’s a whole bottle,” Joel said.
Robert took a sip. “Now I know what Lisa was on about regarding surprises. I’ve only got one concern...” Robert let his voice trail off for a moment. “And it has nothing to do with your age. You’ve left Lisa in the kitchen, and that’s never safe.”
Joel began to laugh, and returned to the kitchen.
Lisa crossed her arms as Joel returned to his cooking. “I heard that. He’s one to talk; his cooking is worse than mine!”
“You’re probably both better than Trev,” Joel quipped.
“I’ve had his attempts at cooking, so I know that’s not saying much,” Lisa replied, chuckling.
Joel prepared the filling by sautéing the nuts and garlic, plus a few dried herbs, in butter. He used the mixture, combined with wine, basil leaves, and blue cheese, to stuff the thighs, rolled them up, and then wrapped them with bacon, pinning it all together with toothpicks. He coated them with teriyaki sauce and put them in the oven to grill while he made a sauce from wine, butter, flour, and parmesan cheese.
Lisa and Joel began setting the dining room table, and Robert called out, “If you two would like some wine, go ahead and set glasses out.”
“None for me thanks, I’m driving,” Joel replied, trying to make a good impression.
A few minutes later, the dinner, with a side dish of wild rice, was served. Robert helped himself to two of the bacon-wrapped chicken rolls, and asked, “How did you get the bacon crispy all the way around?”
Lisa refilled her father’s wine glass, and poured one for herself. Joel and Lisa took their seats as Joel replied, “I just turned ‘em over halfway through the grilling, and then once more, a minute before taking them out.”
Robert took a bite, and nodded in vigorous approval. “You’re one heck of a chef. Every time you’ve fixed us dinner, it’s been something different and great every time... but I think this is the best yet.”
Joel knew that it was now or never, so he took a bite of his dinner, and then said, “Lisa came to my swim meet on Saturday–”
“How’d you do?” Robert asked, digging into his dinner. .
Joel swallowed once, and Lisa took his hand under the table, giving it a squeeze. Joel took a deep breath and replied, “It went great, I think. Only, it wasn’t really a swim meet, but Lisa thought it was at first, like I told her, and it went pretty well, it was kinda a surprise thing, a proposal, and then a celebration, we had music and stuff...”
Robert glanced up, with a bemused look on his face. “Somebody got engaged at a swim meet? That’s a unique way of doing it, I guess. Was it one of the staff, or students?”
Lisa noticed Joel’s panicked expression, and reached into her purse. “It’s a beautiful ring; want to see it, Daddy?” Lisa said, holding up her diamond engagement ring.
Robert noticed Joel’s pained expression, and then he stared at the ring. “Why do you have...” his voice trailed off. For a long moment, an oppressive silence filled the room, only to be shattered by the sound of Robert’s fork falling to clatter on his plate as Lisa slipped the ring on her finger. “No! Pumpkin, you can’t be serious, you’re far too young! I refuse to give my permission to this insanity–”
Lisa stood up, scowling and crossing her arms. “Daddy, please calm down. I don’t need your permission; I’m getting married on my eighteenth birthday. I would like your blessing, but either way, I’m marrying Joel.”
Robert glared at his daughter. “You’re far too young to make that kind of a decision, or commitment–”
“I’ll be older than either you or Mom were,” Lisa pointed out.
“Considering how that turned out, that’s no help,” Robert snapped. Lowering his voice to an almost civil tone, he added, “Eighteen is too young to marry, and seventeen is sure as hell too young to get engaged.”
Joel stood up beside Lisa, and said, “I love Lisa. We chose a long engagement because we thought it’s what you’d want, and also so we’d be sure. I love her and I want to marry her.”
Lisa took Joel’s hand before saying, “Daddy, you and Mom were engaged just a few weeks, right? Joel and I will be engaged for nine months.”
Robert’s eyes opened wider. “Nine months? Lisa, please tell me you’re not–”
Lisa snorted. “No Daddy, I’m not pregnant. I’m doing this for love.”
Robert deflated a little, and sat back down. “I still think you’re far too young, and that goes for both of you. Would you at least give this a year?”
Lisa shook her head. “I don’t want to wait that long. Joel and I will be starting college, together, in September. I want to be married before then, so I can have my honeymoon in the summer.” Lisa glanced at Joel and asked, “How about the first week of August?” Joel nodded, and Lisa turned to look at her father. “We’re trying, Daddy. We just changed our wedding date for you, so I’m hoping you’ll accept this.”
Robert stared at his wine glass for a few moments. “Pumpkin, I just don’t want to see you making the same mistake I did. Your mother and I married far too soon. I’d only known her a short time... I guess August is a long ways off, and once you’re eighteen I can’t legally stop you.” Robert looked at Joel, and nodded once. “I like you, Joel, and my opposition has nothing to do with it being you. If you two are still determined next August, you’ll have my approval and support.”
Joel let out the breath he’d been holding, and replied, “Thank you... we’d both like it if you’d be part of the ceremony.”
Robert gave Joel a faint smile. “Planning the wedding already? I hope the date change didn’t mess up any bookings.”
Joel shook his head. “We aren’t going with a commercial hall or anything, or a church. We’re thinking of having the reception at Bridget Bellevue’s house. She’s got a dock, so right after the reception, we’d get married on Trevor’s boat, Atlantis, and sail off. He’ll be my best man, and he’s taking us on a cruise for our honeymoon.”
Robert narrowed his eyes. “Ah, Joel, the reception comes after the wedding.”
Lisa shook her head. “We know it usually does, but we decided we’d do it this way; it works better, and it’s non-traditional. We’re writing our own vows, too.”
Robert took another bite of his interrupted dinner before replying, “Are you sure Bridget Bellevue will go along with all this?”
Lisa nodded. “We haven’t told her yet – we wanted you to know first – but I’m sure she’ll agree.”
Robert arched an eyebrow, but when he spoke, he said, “Come here, Pumpkin, and let me have a look at that ring.”
Lisa got up and walked over to her father, holding her left hand out in pride, “Joel got it for me when he was in Turkey. I love it.”
Robert looked at the ring, and then glanced up at Joel, “You’re getting married on Trev’s boat? I’m fine with that, as long as that bombing homicidal maniac of a father of his is behind bars by then. If he’s still out there somewhere, he could plant another bomb...”
Joel didn’t want to argue that particular subject, so he replied, “I’m sure all that’ll be over by then, but if not, we’ll figure something out.”
Atlantis drifted slowly, sideways to the gentle westbound breeze, as Trevor slumbered amidst the wreckage.
After two hours, he began to dream, finding himself again beneath the sea, craving air. His nightmare caused him to roll, and as his back hit a lump of broken wood, the pain returned him, gasping for air, to consciousness. His eyes cracked open, exchanging one nightmare for another.
Trevor stared at his garlic crusher for a few moments, feeling utter despair as he lay on the salon’s littered deck.
Letting the garlic crusher fall from his hand, Trevor swallowed, his throat raw, and struggled to his feet, his sore muscles protesting. He staggered into the galley in search of water, only to find that the galley tap was gone; ripped out, along with the sink, refrigerator, stove, and washing machine. Everything was gone, and the storage cabinet doors hung open, their contents vanished with the rest.
Breathing fast, his fear returning, Trevor undogged the portside bilge access hatch and looked into the darkness below. He waited for his eyes to adjust, and then he saw the water tank, half submerged in seawater along with the rest of his bilge.
Dropping through the hatch, landing with a splash, Trevor traced his hands over the water tank, feeling the two bullet holes on the side nearest the hull. ‘Oh shit.’
The holes were below the level of the seawater, but only by a few inches. Trevor found the supply line that ran from the bottom of the tank to a pump, and yanked it free, bringing the end up out of the seawater. He put it in his mouth and sucked, savoring the slightly salt-tainted but drinkable water.
After slaking his thirst, Trevor carefully stuck the end of the waterline into a gap between the tank and the hull, so its end would remain above the seawater in the bilge.
Looking around, he spotted a few old rags, and stuffed one in the bullet hole to preserve the remaining water, which he guessed was about forty gallons, if not less. If there were unseen holes, he knew, the water would soon be undrinkable due to seawater contamination.
Dreading what he’d find, but hurrying in case some could be saved, Trevor raced for the starboard hull, undogged the bilge access hatch, and dropped through. With trepidation, he tapped at the water tank, and was rewarded by a solid thunk. ‘It’s full, or near enough, so that’s about a hundred and thirty gallons’ he thought, with a sigh of relief.
A fast search of the storage areas revealed that all his emergency gear, including his survival rations, were gone. Trevor knew that he could survive for weeks without food if he had to, so he turned his mind to more immediate concerns.
The thought of the pirates prompted Trevor to head out onto deck and then forward, to one place that he had not yet checked – his crew cabin. He found the hatch missing, and dropped through; landing in a heap as the ladder he was so accustomed to being there proved to be gone as well. He glanced around, seeing that his cabin had been ransacked.
Stepping into his bathroom with care, trying to avoid stepping in the shattered remains of his mirror, he glanced down at the deck grating that concealed his stash spot, seeing that it appeared untouched. He looked around, searching for his soap dish, and found the dish itself on the countertop, but its magnetic base was gone.
Trevor looked around for anything he could use as a pry bar, intending to smash his way into his stash spot. Glancing again at his soap dish, he picked it up, and then he realized what had happened. ‘They wanted to break the mirror to see if anything was behind it, so they threw the first heavy thing they could find at it,’ he thought, and then began looking around the floor in search of the magnet.
Trevor found the heavy magnet under a piece of mirror, behind the toilet. He lifted the floor grating, and used the magnet, along with a little prying from the soap dish, to open his stash spot. Snatching up his revolver, he took it out of its bag. ‘If the bastards come back, at least I can take a few of ‘em with me,’ he thought bitterly.
Trevor scrambled back up on deck and headed aft, gun in hand. He checked the engines. To his surprise, he found them still in place, just stripped of a few parts, including the glow plug wires, and the diesel lines cut. Wondering if he could rig them somehow, he went forward and checked the fuel tanks, only to have the hollow echoing thump confirm to him that they had been completely drained. “Guess not,” he muttered.
Trevor checked the first passenger cabin, finding it largely stripped, the mattress and most everything else stolen, the head in ruins; even the showerhead was gone. The sink and countertop were missing, along with the circular shower curtain rod, but the curtain itself remained, crumpled in a corner.
Trevor checked the cabin he’d been sleeping in next. His closet and dresser stood empty, and all his drawers were not only empty but also gone. ‘Just great! I’m adrift, no way to call for help, no food, and I’m naked.’
Treading gingerly to avoid the shards of glass that littered the floor, he checked, gun in hand, the remaining cabins, finding much the same, though two toilets and one sink remained aboard. One of the toilets was in the port aft cabin’s head, and Trevor felt the need to use it. He grabbed some pieces of paper from the salon to use as toilet paper and headed in.
When the time came time to flush, Trevor waited for the familiar hum of the electric pump, and chided himself when nothing happened. “Duh, no electricity,” he mumbled, as he used the toilet’s hand pump to draw in seawater.
The bar and its contents were gone from the salon, and there was only a hole where his navigation desk had once been. The pirates had even taken the cushions from the built-in sofa.
With every radio gone, his engines useless, and his sails and rigging lost, Trevor was adrift with no means of calling for help.
Trevor continued to search, and when he rechecked the forward starboard cabin – where the canned foodstuffs had been stored – he saw that, like all the others, its mattress was gone and the bedclothes thrown aside. Stepping over the sheets so that he could look in the head, Trevor yelped as his foot came down on the edge of something hard and cylindrical. Jumping back, he whipped the bedclothes away, and gaped.
Lying between the bed and the bulkhead, just a couple of feet from where he had stowed them, were his two cases of canned hot dogs, with the cans from one partially strewn on the floor. ‘Why would those thieving assholes take everything else but not these?’ he wondered, looking at a can, and then seeing the smiling cartoon face of a pig. ‘Oh, the bastards don’t like pork.’ That realization spurred Trevor to pull aside the remaining bedclothes and shattered paneling, revealing several scattered cans of pork and beans, plus a few cans of pork chili. “Now if only I had a can opener,” Trevor muttered, leaving the cans in place.
Trevor wished that he could rest some more, but he knew he didn’t have the time. ‘Nobody’s going to save me, so I’m going to save myself and Atlantis too,’ he thought, with a look of cold determination on his face. He began by making a fast survey of everything, making the lists in his head until he found a pencil and a couple of pens under some debris. As Trevor went from compartment to compartment, he began the long process of cleaning up, moving things aside and making clear walkways, looking for anything that could be of any potential use as he surveyed the looted hulk of Atlantis. His heart sank as he began to understand just how little was left.
Every so often, Trevor scanned the horizon, hoping to see a passing ship he could hail, but fearing that what he'd see was the pirate trawler. He wasn’t sure how long it would have taken the abrasive he’d added to wreck her engines. His guess was less than a day, but he was afraid it was just an hour or so, and if they sighted Atlantis, they could come for a look in their skiff, or Atlantis’s Zodiac. ‘Maybe crippling the fuckers so they’re nearby wasn’t the best idea in the world, but I’m glad I did it,’ Trevor thought, glancing at his revolver. He’d already decided to ambush them if they returned, though he knew he’d almost certainly be killed.
There was one sure answer to his dilemma: get Atlantis underway and leave the area, and Trevor made that his first goal.
When Trevor went forward, he saw his rope, the one that had saved him, and stooped to haul it up. Almost absently, he glanced at the two large panels of netting stung between the forward hulls, and realized that, had the pirates tried to take them, he would surely have been seen and killed.
Shuddering at the thought, he glanced again at the netting, and the vague outlines of an idea formed in his mind as he looked up the mast, at the spreaders. ‘If I could attach the bed sheets to the netting and string it up, it would be a sail...’
That thought sparked another, and Trevor remembered that in the forepeak of the starboard hull was a storage compartment. There were two ways in: via a bulkhead hatch in the forward starboard cabin, and via deck hatch. The compartment was his storage area for general stores, a spare patch kit for the Zodiac, a few cleaning supplies, plus some old fishing gear he’d long since replaced, but also – and far more importantly now – his spare anchor and sails.
Racing to the cabin, Trevor looked at the forward wall, seeing that the picture that covered the hatch was missing, and the open hatch was half covered by the dumped bedclothes.
Trevor pulled the hatch further open, sticking his head through. The compartment was lit by the skylight in the overheard deck hatch, and Trevor’s heart fell as he saw that the compartment was mostly empty, and what little was left had been left in a heap on the floor. He found an old, half-empty bottle of dish soap, the old exhaust lines he’d kept as spares, an empty coffee can, and assorted other debris, left over from the ransacking pirates. Then, he found the old plastic toolbox he’d hoped was there. It sat open, tossed aside by the pirates, but Trevor smiled as he spotted fishing line, a tire gauge, a roll of tape, some brass polish, and an old, rusty screwdriver.
Trevor moved the dish soap and the toolbox to the cabin. The marine tape was his most immediate need; his only chance to use it would be before raising any sail. The bullet holes along the waterline, while they could not sink Atlantis, had let water into the bilges, and Atlantis had settled one foot deeper than normal into the sea, even though she now weighed far less. The weight of the water would make her wallow in any rough seas and impossible to get underway with any speed. He could have jammed scraps of cloth into the holes, but the marine tape would do a better and easier job.
The marine tape was much like duct tape, except it would adhere when wet with salt water, even underwater. Taking that in hand, Trevor wondered whether he was still too weak for the task at hand, but did not pause as he headed for the side and jumped overboard.
It took him an hour and a half, but by working his way along the port hull, going mainly by touch, he found and patched the bullet holes, and then swam around the bows to the starboard side, noticing that his pool-noodle debris-guards were still roped in place.
Nearing exhaustion, Trevor taped the holes he found on the starboard hull, his count reaching thirty-seven for both hulls. He hoped he’d found them all.
Hauling himself back aboard, exhausted, dripping, and naked, Trevor knew he was too weak to finish the next step of dealing with the water, so he deferred it and chose something else to do. He stumbled into the cockpit and examined the wheel shafts, wondering if the rudder linkage still worked. ‘One way to find out.’
Taking two pieces of wood that had once been part of the salon bookshelf trim, Trevor positioned them on each side of the wheel shaft. Then he tore at the loose wires protruding from the housing, using a jagged scrap of torn metal to saw through the electrical wires. He wrapped the wire around each end of his improvised clamp, using the screwdriver shaft to twist it tight. Then, he twisted the assembly, feeling the wheel shaft – akin to the steering column of a car – rotate. He stumbled to the stern and dove over, checking the rudders, finding them parallel and angled twenty degrees to port. A few quick turns of his improvised clamp centered them, and with that, he had taken the first small step in restoring Atlantis to some semblance of life.
Trevor stood up, feeling a little lightheaded, and heard his stomach growl, and Trevor felt ravenously hungry as well as tired. He grabbed a can of hotdogs, his screwdriver, and a chunk of wood, and then sat down out on deck to pound the can lid open. It took him ten minutes, but then he bit into the first hot dog, savoring it, amazed that anything could taste so good. In the heat, he didn’t know how long the hot dogs would last, so he ate the entire can.
His exhaustion, which was compounded by his injuries and the abuse his body had taken, could no longer be denied, and in the sweltering late afternoon heat, Trevor, with gun in hand, retreated to what had once been Joel’s cabin. There, he wedged the door shut and cleared a place on the floor. He lay down, his gun by his side – he still feared a reappearance of the pirates – and let his eyes close. He slept for three uncomfortable hours, sweating hard in the stifling cabin, his nightmares waking him. It was dark outside, so Trevor let himself return to sleep.
The nightmares remained at bay for most of the night, allowing Trevor the sleep he so desperately needed, but they came again, with the first hint of the new day.
Waking up drenched in sweat, still weak but knowing that he still had a lot to do, Trevor stood up, feeling a little lightheaded and dizzy – a symptom of his ruptured eardrum. He glanced outside, seeing the rosy light of dawn. After leaving the cabin, he walked out into the cockpit, and sat resting for a few moments, feeling the warm, humid breeze on his bare skin. He scanned the empty horizon, again wondering how far away the pirates had gotten before their engines seized, and knew what his next task had to be.
Trevor dragged every bed sheet, liner, pillowcase, shower curtain, and towel he could find to the netting that was strung between his hulls forward of the salon. Working from above, balanced on the netting, Trevor used the sharp tip of a wooden shard to poke holes in the cloth, so he could use the fishing line to tie them to the stretched netting. He found the sheets and shower curtains to be not quite large enough, but a few discarded towels and pillowcases sufficed to fill in the gaps. When Trevor reached the center, where the two panels of netting met along a spar, he released the line of tie-downs and tied them together, joining the two panels before covering the gap with stretched towels and pillow cases.
The task had taken hours, but at last it was done: the two large panels of netting stretched between the hulls were now covered by the patchwork pieces of cloth. Sweating in the afternoon sun, Trevor detached the netting by releasing its edge tie-downs: starting at the front and hauling it back, folding it lengthways, accordion-style, in front of the salon windows. It was twenty-five feet long. ‘Now comes the hard part,’ he thought.
Trevor glanced up, studying the mast, looking intently at the spreaders more than halfway to the top. They stuck out roughly nine feet to port and starboard; heavy aluminum tubes, which attached to the port and starboard shrouds – heavy steel cables from the deck to the mast top, to reinforce the mast – giving the rigging added strength.
Trevor headed for the cockpit, where he began ripping wires out of what had once been his helm stations. Then, he moved on to the salon, where he was able to pull long lengths of heavy wire out of the conduits that had led to the navigation station.
Sitting on the floor, Trevor selected the longest, strongest lengths of wire, and joined them together, end-to-end, forming a cable.
Trevor tossed the wire rope he’d created at the foot of the mast and kept on going, all the way to the port bow, where he jumped into the sea, feet first, to begin removing his pool-noodle debris bumpers and their precious rope. He had anticipated it being a difficult task, but the ropes unknotted easily, allowing him to finish within minutes.
Climbing onto the roof of the salon with the rope, Trevor looked up at his halyards, glad that the pirates had not stripped them from the mast.
Trevor knotted his rope every two feet, and then carefully tied one end of it to an eye in the halyard and ran it skyward, to the spreaders. Then he tied off the halyard, and with his improvised wire cord coiled over one shoulder and across his chest, he began climbing his knotted rope.
Breathing hard, his abused and injured muscles protesting, Trevor reached the spreaders and climbed onto the port one, straddling it and shimmying out to the end, grimacing as the warm metal pressed up hard into his bare crotch. He slid the coil off his shoulder and passed one end of the wire cord through the retainer where the shroud joined the spreader, tied it in place, and let the free end fall to the deck.
Struggling, holding on tight, Trevor pulled himself up on the shroud until he was standing on the spreader, feeling slightly dizzy due to the heights, the motion, and the lingering effects of his ruptured eardrum. He waited, fifty feet above the sea, timing the motion of the swells, which imparted a significant movement so high in the rigging. Trevor crouched and jumped, arms windmilling, keeping himself upright as he plunged feet-first towards the sea below, feeling the rush of speed, and then the jarring impact as he entered the water.
Even though he landed feet first, with his feet angled and his arms out and up, his speed took him deep enough – a few feet would have been enough – to reignite the pain in his ears, and Trevor raced to the surface, already resigned to climbing down the next time he went up the mast.
Scrambling back aboard, Trevor took the dropped end of the improvised wire cord and tied it to what had been the port forward corner of his webbing. He then took the free end of his knotted rope and attached it to what had once been the starboard forward corner of his webbing.
Trevor’s next step was to prepare what would be the bottom supports of his improvised sail. He tied a length of wire to what had been the aft port corner, and measured it with his arm spans so he could tie it to a deck cleat on the outer edge of the port hull, leaving a dozen feet of slack. He repeated the process on the starboard side, and then groaned as he glanced skyward.
Doing his best to ignore his aching muscles, Trevor again climbed his knotted rope to the spreaders.
Trevor hauled his heavy jury-rigged sail up with the knotted rope, a few feet at a time, and then, when almost taut, tied it off on the tip of the starboard spreader. He heard it flapping in the breeze and was thankful that he’d remembered to raise the windward edge first.
Moving out to the tip of the starboard spreader, and knowing that he’d have to be quick or the sail would catch the wind and make his task nearly impossible, Trevor hauled up on the knotted-wire rope. It was far easier this time, because much of the sail’s weight was already supported. He pulled it into place and tied it off with the line taut, fixing his new sail in place.
Trevor’s improvised sail, roughly rectangular and just under three hundred square feet in area, was suspended from the spreaders, it’s bottom edge ten feet above the salon’s roof, held taut by the ropes from its bottom corners to port and starboard deck cleats. It would only work for sailing downwind, and was less than a third the size of his former mainsail, but it was far better than nothing.
Atlantis had been drifting ahull – sideways – to the wind, and the new sail was edge-on to the wind, but even so, there was some wind drag on its surface. As Trevor clung to the spreader, he sensed a change in Atlantis’s motion, faint at first, but as he watched, her bows began to swing towards the west. He remained in place, watching in case any adjustments needed to be made, as Atlantis completed her downwind turn and steadied on a course of west-southwest. Atlantis was underway again.
With a whoop of joy, Trevor took another look around at the empty horizon, squinting against the setting sun, and then climbed down the free end of his knotted rope.
When he reached the deck, Trevor sat down, exhausted, and heard
the faint and gentle whisper of water moving against Atlantis’s
hulls. He remained there for the next several minutes, enjoying
the feeling of accomplishment, watching the sea slide past, at
what he estimated was just under two knots. Tomorrow, he knew,
would entail a lot of work, and with the light fading, he
considered sleeping in the cockpit, but with no alarm with which
to wake himself, and little ability to steer, he decided against
it, and was soon asleep in Joel's cabin.
© 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 expert advice, and to
Bondwriter for final Zeta-reading and