Terrors of the High Seas
The restaurant was charming. The sunset was gorgeous. The food was interesting and very tasty, and she was sitting across from what was definitely the best looking woman in the place. Kerry lifted her glass of wine and raised it in Dar’s direction, then took a sip of it, savoring the slightly spicy, sweet taste. There was really no more one could ask for, now was there? “Great choice.”
Dar lifted her own glass and touched it’s rim to hers and smiled. “Nice place, but the company’s what counts.”
Kerry accepted the compliment with a smile, then rested her wrists on the table and looked around.
The building had once been a sugar mill, according to the
menu. Parts of the structure still remained, and they’d cleverly fit the
restaurant into it overlooking the water. The food was a mixture of
Kerry leaned back, enjoying the breeze as it brushed across her bare shoulders. There was a gently fluttering candle on the table, and she could smell the warm scent of the wax as it melted, adding to the atmosphere. A steel drum band was perched on a patio nearby, playing softly, and all around her a mixture of lilting accents wove in and out of the music.
She noticed that the guests were mostly couples. There were very few families, and those there were had older children. Most of the couples were traditional, but Kerry had spotted at least two other sets of women, and three other sets of men seated together and she felt comfortable in the place.
Even with the fact that Dar kept tweaking her toes under the table. Kerry snuck a glance at her tablemate, who was studying the driftwood salt and pepper shakers, turning them in her fingers curiously. Dar had her hair loose, and her brightly colored cotton shift clung to her body, outlining it’s muscular grace very nicely.
The shift was pretty, but god… Kerry had to admit. It was so not Dar. It was like putting a racehorse in a tutu.
Dar chose that moment to look up, and their eyes met. Dar’s face creased into a grin, and she put the shaker down. “Something wrong?”
“Not a damn thing.” Kerry rested her chin on her fist. “That
sunset is indescribable.” She added dreamily. “You think it’s this nice in
“Hmm.” Dar regarded the spectacle. “I don’t know. I’ve never
actually been there except on a layover on the way out to
“You’re on.” Kerry said. “How about mid February?”
“Valentines Day on
Kerry made a mental note to nose around for some
reservations when they got home. Their
waitress appeared at that moment, and set down a tray, from which wisps of
steam rose. She watched as a plate was
set in front of her with a sizzling piece of broiled fish on it, propped up
with prawns half the size of
The waitress set down a side plate of vegetables. “You’re very welcome.” She smiled at Kerry, then lifted Dar’s plate and set it in front of her. “Anything else for you ladies?”
Dar inspected her surf and turf, a filet mignon nestled next to a lobster tail. “Nope. Not right now.” She said. “Thanks.” She picked up her fork and knife, separating the two items around the island of whipped yams and starting to cut the filet into pieces. “This looks great.”
“Smells great, too.” Kerry craned her neck to see. “What is that sauce?”
“Pinapple and bay rum.” Dar dipped a square of meat into it, then offered it to Kerry, who neatly took it off the end of her fork.
“Mm.” Kerry mumbled approvingly. “ I’ll try that next time.” She offered a taste of her fish in return, which Dar accepted.
“Tastes like Mandarin oranges.” Dar commented. “Nice.”
Kerry had taken one bite of her fish, when her attention was caught by a couple entering. “Yrch.” She caught Dar’s eye, and indicated the door. Christina and Juan Carlos had just stepped inside, and were being greeted by the host.
“There goes the neighborhood.” Dar nibbled a bit of her filet. “Wonder if she paid for that dress by the inch.”
Christina was wearing a gold chain outfit, barely covering her tanned and very fit body from her mid thighs to her chest. The outfit had gaps in the side, and a jeweled belt hung below her navel. Juan complimented her in a silk jacket and leather pants, in a matte black with a gold silk shirt.
“Someone forget to tell them they weren’t visiting
They were led to a prime table near the edge of the open air seating, and as Christina sat down, she spotted Dar and Kerry across the room. She put a hand on Juan Carlos’ arm, then made her way over.
“Yip, yip yippee yahooey.” Dar rolled her eyes, then straightened as the woman neared and assumed a cordially neutral expression. “Evening.”
“Why, hello! Imagine bumping into you two here.” Christina greeted them. “Visiting, or… staying here?”
“We’re staying here.” Kerry answered her smoothly. “Did you just get in?”
“Last night.” Christina replied, with a smile. “Isn’t it great? What a beautiful spot.” She leaned on the balustrade next to them, her gold chain outfit clinking gently. “I’m glad we bumped into you again. I was afraid we’d lost you when you disappeared from the docks… you didn’t get caught in the weather, did you?”
“Just went on a cruise.” Dar answered that one. “We got back in late.”
“Really?” Christina was watching Dar closely. “Listen, some friends of ours ran into trouble out west of that little island. You didn’t happen to see them out there, did you?”
Dar’s ice blue eyes chilled and shaded. “Friends of yours?” She asked softly. “No. We didn’t see anyone in trouble last night.”
Kerry kept quiet, recognizing the change in Dar’s demeanor.
“Oh. Well.” Christina replied. “I really didn’t get the whole story, but they think someone might have run them aground… but that wouldn’t have been really friendly, now would it?”
“Depends on what they were doing to make someone want to do that.” Dar looked her right in the eye, projecting a sudden air of surprisingly dark menace.
They fenced for a moment, then Christina laughed, a touch uncomfortably. “Well, who knows? Maybe they were mistaken, or… knowing them, they goofed and are just trying to cover it up.” She backed off a step. “Anyway, we’ll see you around. Maybe we can do lunch?”
“Sure.” Dar let the word roll off her tongue, keeping her eyes pinned on the smaller woman. “Anytime.”
Christina beat a hasty retreat. Dar kept up her testy glower for a moment, then relaxed, hiking an eyebrow at the attentively watching Kerry. “Well?”
“You get a ten from the American judge.” Kerry held up her napkin, peeking behind her to see Christina and Juan in close consultation, complete with uneasy looks in their general direction. “You know Dar, for someone who’s dressed like a passion fruit sundae, you really can scare the pooters out of people.”
Dar snickered, then shook her head. “I shouldn’t laugh. That probably wasn’t funny.” She eyed the two newcomers.
“You don’t think those goons’ll seriously try to find us, do you?” Kerry asked. “I mean, for running them aground. They were chasing us, Dar.”
“I don’t know.” Dar sliced a bit of her filet off and ate it. “Let me get back to you after I have a chance to check out what Mark sent.”
“Okay.” Kerry went back to her dinner. She was a little surprised at how unworried she was about this new wrinkle, she felt more intrigued in fact, than scared. She took a forkful of the fish, enjoying the half sweet, half tangy taste, then washed the mouthful down with a long sip of wine.
Maybe she was turning into a little bit of a risk taker. “Dar?”
“Hm?” Dar looked up from her task of decimating her lobster’s tail.
“You think this is dangerous?”
Dar paused and folded her hands, resting her chin on them. “Dangerous?” She asked. “I think we bumped into some folks who are used to getting their own way.”
“Mm.” Kerry nodded.
“They shot flares at us last night.” Dar went on, seriously. “Not bullets.”
Ah. That was very, very true. “Shot them off the sides, too.” Kerry realized. “So you think they’re overbearing obnoxious bullies, but only willing to go so far to achieve their goals?”
“Exactly.” Dar went back to her plate, with a satisfied look. “Unfortunately.” She looked back up. “They’re up against an overbearing obnoxious bully who won’t stop until she gets what she wants.” A wink. “And I want a nice, peaceful vacation.”
Kerry cocked her head, and thought about that. “I don’t think you’re overbearing and obnoxious, and you’re not a bully.” She finally stated positively. “But I do agree they’ve bitten off more than they can chew with us.” She gave a brisk nod, then bit into a prawn and ruthlessly ripped it from its shell.
Dar merely chuckled, and shook her head.
They had a surprise waiting when they got back to their room. Kerry eyed the basket of flowers warily, and gave Dar a look. “You’re the only person I’d welcome getting these from, but I’m guessing they’re not from you.”
Dar regarded the floral intruder. “No.” She examined the arrangement for a card. “I know what kind of flowers you like, for one thing.” She said. “Tulips not being one of them. Ah.” She plucked a small square of cardboard from the leaves and held it to her head, closing her eyes. “The answer is… Bob.” She handed the card over without looking at it.
Kerry sighed, taking the card and peeking at it. “Can we rent you out to Miss Cleo?”
Dar shook her head. “Ker, you’re just going to have to tell him to back off. You’re taken.” She advised wryly. “He’s one of those guys who can’t picture two women together and think anything other than ‘lunch.’”
“Yeah, I know.” Kerry laughed helplessly, removing the basket to the table near the door and plopping down onto the bed. “I figured referring to you as my partner and saying this was our delayed honeymoon would have clued him in, but I guess not.”
Dar slid down beside her and plucked the card from her fingers, tossing it over her shoulder as she found something lots more interesting to concentrate on. “Know what I like about these bawdy excuses for cut up tablecloths?”
“Tch.” Kerry smoothed her hand over Dar’s hip. “You look cute in it.” She protested. “But no, what?”
Dar closed her teeth around one of the ties holding the wrap closed and tugged on it, pulling it loose. “They come off easy.” She peeled one edge back, exposing Kerry’s chest, then went for the lower tie. She pulled it slowly, her eyes tracking up Kerry’s body to meet her eyes. “See?”
Kerry felt Dar’s hair brush against her thighs as she loosened the fastening and laid her body bare to the soft breeze coming in from the window. She eased up onto her elbows, watching Dar’s back arch as she prowled her way on up. “Sweetheart?” Kerry murmured.
“Yeees?” Dar rested her chin against Kerry’s navel.
“I would love to spend the next few hours being ravished by you, but don’t you think we should pick up Mark’s stuff first?”
Dar sighed, a rush of very warm air that caused goosebumps to lift across Kerry’s breasts. “No.” She growled softly. “But…” She slid all the way up Kerry’s body, bringing a rush of raw sensuality with her and dipped her head to capture Kerry’s lips for a long moment. “I guess we have to.”
Kerry now regretted saying a word. She exhaled as Dar lifted herself up and off the bed, and rolled over, standing and trotting after her as she went to the briefcase tucked between the dresser and the wall. She waited for Dar to unlock the top, then slid her arms around her partner and started playing with the strings on Dar’s shift as she pulled the laptop out and put it on the table.
“Thought you wanted me to set this up.” Dar glanced over her shoulder.
“I’m helping.” Kerry untangled a cable, and plugged it in, still with her arms around Dar’s body.
“Ah.” Dar booted the laptop, and flipped it’s cellular antenna up. “Thought we weren’t bringing this?”
“Yeah, I know.” Kerry poked her head under Dar’s left arm, watching the screen. “But I figured if some catastrophe did happen, and they did need us, we’d need this to do anything about it.”
“And if they called us for something stupid, we could toss it overboard, and make Mark get you a new one in that snazzy blue color you like so much.” Kerry found another string to tug on, and Dar’s shift fell open as hers was. “Oo.. nice desktop.”
“I could put this one on.” Dar casually clicked a few keys, and replaced her peaceful forest scene with one of Kerry on the beach.
“EEEK!” Kerry slapped at the mousepointer.
“Heh.” Dar relented, and switched back to the forest. “You’re so cute.” She started the laptop into it’s dialup routine. “Now.” She turned around and gathered Kerry into her arms. “Before I was so rudely interrupted by logic, where was I?”
Kerry pressed her body against Dar’s. “Here, I think.” She wound a hand around Dar’s neck and was about to kiss her when a knock sounded at the door. Kerry paused, and looked at her partner, then at the door in highly visible outrage. “What the heck?”
“Hotel better be on fire.” Dar uttered, the raised her voice. “Yeah?”
There was a moment of silence, then a voice answered. “H… hello? I’m looking for Kerry?”
Kerry fell forward against Dar’s chest and shook her head. “Bob.”
“Bob.” Dar repeated. “You stay here. I’m gonna bob Bob.” Dar headed for the door with determined strides.
“Ah..bu..bu… Dar!” Kerry scuttled after her, grabbing hold of her loose shift and pulling her to a halt. “Whoa…”
Dar turned, her eyebrows lifting in outraged question.
Kerry tied the shift closed. “Blind eunuchs have it tough in the job market, sweetie.” She whispered. “Let me handle him, okay?” She adjusted her own dress and slipped ahead of Dar, putting her hand on the door handle and turning it. “Yes?” She leaned on the jamb, opening the door just wide enough to make eye contact.
“Kerry! Great. I found you.” Bob beamed. “Can I come in?”
Kerry got her thoughts in order, and assumed one of her more no nonsense expressions. “Bob, it’s late. Is there something you need? We’re pretty tired.” She tried not to hear the low, vibrant growl that was buzzing the air behind her.
“I was hoping we could talk.” Bob explained, shyly.
Okay, Ker. Dar’s right. Polite ain’t cutting it this time. “About what?” Kerry asked.
The hallway was empty, though Bob glanced to either side just in case. He put his hands in his pockets and managed an almost engaging expression. “Look… I know we barely know each other.. “
Kerry felt Dar move closer, as the heat of her body warmed Kerry’s back. “That’s right.” She answered Bob. “We don’t.”
“But I was thinking maybe we could see each other a few times, you know.. I think you’re a really..”
“Bob.” Kerry opened the door a little wider, and straightened, holding both hands out in a stopping motion. “Hold it.”
“No, I know you’re really modest, but I think..”
“BOB.” Kerry’s voice lifted.
He peered at her anxiously. “Yeah?”
“Thank you, but I have a significant other.” Kerry stated firmly. “One that I’m very attached to.”
“Rowwwrrrll….” Dar’s growl turned to a purr.
Bob took a breath, giving her a determined look. “I figured you had a boyfriend, but I really think we can get to know each other better, after all..”
“Bob.” Kerry sighed. “I don’t have a boyfriend.” She slowed her speech, enunciating carefully. “I have a partner.”
His brows contracted in puzzlement. “A partner?”
Dar’s patience, never really extensive, snapped. She poked her head above Kerry’s, as she raised a hand over her shoulder. “That would be me.”
Bob looked from one to the other of them, his head cocking to one side in patent confusion.
Kerry turned and looked at Dar. “See what happens when you eat too much Wonder bread?” She asked her, then turned back. “Bob, Dar and I are lovers.” She painfully clarified for him. “We’re gay. Am I making a connection here?”
Very slowly, comprehension dawned. “Oh.” Bob finally murmured, turning a deep, brick red. “Sorry. I didn’t.. um..”
“It’s okay.” Kerry now felt a little sorry for him.
“Okay, well, then, have a good night. I’m sorry.” Bob said, backing away. “Sorry.” He escaped down the hallway, almost crashing into the corner in his haste to get out of sight.
“Mmph.” Dar watched the last of him vanish, and issued a satisfied grunt. “What an analog mindset.”
Kerry nudged her backwards and shut the door. “Aw, he’s not that bad. He meant well, Dar.”
“No he didn’t.” Dar objected. “Kerry, did you hear what he said after you told him you had an SO? He didn’t care! What a creep!”
Kerry chewed the inside of her lip. “Ew. Yeah.” She admitted. “That was pretty skuzzy.”
Dar shook her head and ambled over to where the laptop had finished downloading. She picked it up and took it to the bed, then rid herself of her shift and settled on the covers, extending her naked body out as she studied the screen. After a second, she glanced up over the lcd and crooked a finger at Kerry. “C’mere.”
Kerry put thoughts of Bob and his scuzziness out of her mind, and joined Dar in bed, removing her own clothing and snuggling up next to her lover. “What did he send?”
“Look.” Dar pointed. They read together in silence, tanned faces outlined in the screen’s light.
Kerry woke up first for a change the next morning. She let her eyes drift open as the sunlight poured in, the slatted windows making stripes across the bed. For a few minutes, she just lay there in a lazy half doze, watching Dar’s chest move rhythmically. The sun made the soft, fine hairs on her torso glisten, and Kerry rubbed her thumb over a few of them as she pondered the information they’d gained the night before.
She’d expected… well, to be honest, she hadn’t really had any idea what to expect. Maybe that the big black boat and the little white wiener following it were international jewel thieves, or something. Instead, what they’d discovered was that the boat was owned by a wealthy broker of art and collectables who was known for his aggressive acquisition and auction of just about anything worth good money he could get his hands on.
Nothing illegal about that. Kerry nuzzled Dar’s shoulder, as her nostrils picked up faint traces of coconut from the tanning oil she’d spread all over Dar the day before. But they’d read some clips about how the man had forced his way into excavations and bought up rights for salvage, often taking valuable goods out from under the original, and sometimes rightful owners eyes.
John DeSalliers. Not a nice guy. But that wasn’t illegal either. What Kerry couldn’t figure out was why they’d been so set on chasing after her and Dar. After all, if they could get this information on who was registered to that boat, it was just as easy for the black boat to get the same information about Dar.
“I just don’t’ get it.” Kerry sighed. All they’d done was dive on a decrepit wreck. Surely they didn’t think there was anything valuable on an old fishing vessel did they? Why bother?
It didn’t make sense.
Their friends Christina and Juan turned out to be registered private detectives, apparently on a hefty retainer. They were both very well off, and Christina was apparently quite the wild woman of the world if you believed the society gossip clips Mark had pulled off of god only knew where.
But. Kerry kept coming back to that. Why bother she and Dar? If you were looking for something, why take the time out to tangle with a pair of IT execs out on vacation? It just didn’t make sense.
“Whatcha frowning about?” Dar’s voice interrupted her musing.
Kerry tilted her chin up and looked at her newly woken partner. “Trying to figure out what’s going on.”
“Ahhh.” Dar nodded solemnly. “How about we figure out breakfast first?” She arched her back and stretched. “For one thing, thinking requires my brain to boot up, and for another, I’m not sure I want to waste the synapse firing on them.”
“Even after what happened the other night?” Kerry asked.
Dar shrugged. “They ended up grounding their boat.” She reminded Kerry. “We won. Why push it?”
Kerry eased up onto an elbow and studied Dar. “You’re not curious as to why they did it?” Her voice rose in surprise. “Or what they’re after?”
Another shrug. “Yes, I’m curious, but I don’t know that I’m curious enough to waste part of our vacation on tracking it all down.” Dar answered honestly. “If I really wanna know, I can find out when we get home and make their lives retroactively miserable.”
Kerry ran her fingers through her hair as she considered that. “Well, yeah.” She said. “I can see your point there, but what if they do something else?”
Dar half turned on her side to face Kerry, and perched on an elbow, mimicking her posture. “I’d say they’d be stupider than I thought they were, but if they do, then we have to deal with it if it happens.” She said. “But I’d rather forget about them until then.”
Kerry’s brow puckered. “I don’t like it.” She admitted, thinking about the angles as Dar waited with commendable patience for her. “I want to know what they were up to, and why they were chasing us, and what’s so important about that patch of water.”
Dar relaxed onto her back and put her hands behind her head. “Okay.” She said. “How?”
“Aside from chasing them down and demanding they tell us what they’re up to, how do you figure on finding out what’s going on?”
Kerry sat up cross legged, resting her elbows on her bare knees. “Well…” She said, then stopped.
“We planning on following them around?” Dar inquired, with a barest hint of a twinkle in her eyes.
“No.” Kerry shook her head. “I guess you’re right. Unless they approach us again, there’s really no way to do this.” She looked up at Dar, who was gazing back at her. “You’ve already figured all this out, haven’t you?”
Dar pointed a finger at her own chest. “Me?”
Kerry poked her in the ribs. “You, little Ms. Ice Cream won’t melt in my mouth.” She sprawled across Dar’s middle, pinning her to the bed. “It just bites my shorts to let those scurvies just mess with us and walk away.”
“They didn’t.” Dar reminded her. “They’re probably laying out ten grand for patched fiberglass right now, remember?”
“Mm.” Kerry grunted. “But won’t that make them want to get back at us?”
“Maybe.” Dar conceded. “I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.”
Kerry bowed gracefully to the logic of it. Dar’s points were good ones. Unless they were willing to get the local authorities involved and press charges of what kind she didn’t know, there really was no investigation they could do outside direct confrontation or some back alley skulking.
She didn’t feel like skulking, and while she had every confidence that they could present a very effective direct confrontation she understood Dar’s reluctance to engage in conflict. “Okay.” She agreed. “Now, weren’t we discussing breakfast?”
“How about we toss on some clothes and go foraging?” Kerry suggested. “I think I saw a little place out by the beach we could try.” She said. “Right next to the windsurfing area.”
“Ah hah.” Dar chuckled good naturedly. “I sense an ulterior motive.” She took hold of Kerry’s hand and held it, for no particular reason other than wanting the contact. “I don’t want to hear you complaining tonight about getting bounced off the ocean the whole day.”
Kerry smiled. “Yeah, but if I whine enough, you’ll give me a massage.” She countered. “Besides, maybe I’ll have better luck than I did last time. I’ve been doing some upper body work at the gym.”
Dar’s eyes wandered over her upper body, and a cheeky grin appeared. “I’ve never had a problem with that part of you.” She drawled. “To hell with windsurfing.”
“Wench.” Kerry laughed. “You know that’s not what I meant.” She sat up and tensed both arms, showing off her biceps. “See?”
An even bigger grin split Dar’s face at the view. Kerry’s arms and shoulders had gotten more defined, but the expression of uninhibited self pride on her face was what really made Dar smile. “I sure do see.” She agreed, giving Kerry’s leg a pat. “Maybe you’ll be pulling my butt out of the water this time. C’mon.”
They rolled off the bed together in a tangle, only barely getting their balance before they ended up crashing into the wall. Taking advantage of the windows, they peered out.
“Gorgeous day.” Kerry decided, seeing the bright sunlight and the breeze blowing the branches nearby. “But we’re gonna need sunscreen.”
“Waterproof.” Dar agreed, picking up the bottle from the dresser. “I slather you, you slather me?”
“You’re on.” Kerry replied. “Then let’s go find some biscuits. I’m starving.”
“With or without clothing?”
Kerry followed Dar out onto the beach, feeling her stride change as the moved from the wooden boardwalk into the sand. “Ah, nothing like coming out to the islands to get some really exotic cuisine.” She commented.
Dar chuckled. “I thought the bagels were pretty good.”
“They were.” Kerry agreed. “I just never figured on coming
“Playing to the marketplace.” Dar guided her down towards where they windsurfing boards were stacked. “You want to stretch out for a few minutes, or start the torture now?”
“Tch.” Kerry bumped her. “Hey, if you really don’t want to do this, we don’t have to.”
Dar’s lips quirked. “Nah.” She said. “I just like spending time under the water more than skating on top of it. I’ll live.”
Kerry eased in front of her as they reached the kiosk, meeting the friendly grin of the man behind it with one of her own. “Two.” She indicated herself, then Dar, then handed him her credit card. “We’ve done this before.”
He took them through the safety drill anyway, Kerry noted.
Possibly because he’d heard tourists claim bogus experience before. She
listened attentively checking the rig out to make sure there wasn’t anything
new or unusual on it. They’d windsurfed
several times before – both at the island, and the last time they’d gone to
Dar finished inspecting her board, then nodded. “Ready.” They moved into the shallow, crystal clear water side by side, heading for the deeper sections. “Not that much wind today.” Dar said.
“Enough.” Kerry felt the breeze flutter her hair. They were both dressed in shortie wetsuits, and she was looking forward to getting into deeper water because the neoprene was getting pretty warm in the sun.
It had taken her time to get used to wearing the substance, and to get used to the smell of it. The wetsuits fit snugly, zipped up the back, and after she’d taken the time to break hers in, had gotten pretty comfortable. They did tend to squeak a bit when dry, though, and unless you were in the water, they were capable of sweating pounds off you if you weren’t careful.
Their suits were mostly black, but hers had purple shoulders and arms, and a flash of bright orange down each side. Dar’s in addition to being older and more broken in, had a soberly gray yoke around her neck, with dark blue piping.
They reached deeper water, and Kerry took the opportunity to duck under the waves, letting the cool ocean penetrate her suit and cool her off. She stayed like that for a moment, then emerged, shaking her hair out of her eyes and spraying water across the crystal green, shimmering surface.
“Be careful.” Dar gave her a pat on the behind, as she moved a little away and prepared to get on her board.
“Yes, mom.” Kerry splashed her. “You be careful too. Don’t fall on a jellyfish like last time.”
Dar stuck her tongue out, then boosted herself up onto her windboard and got her feet set into the pockets, before she reached down and lifted the sail up. The wind caught the nylon at once, and filled it with a fluttering rustle. “Last one down the beach has to buy the beer.” She yelled back.
“You skunk!” Kerry scrambled up onto her board, catching her balance carefully before she attempted to pull the hinged sail up. That was the toughest part, really – once it was up, you could use your weight to keep it up, but pulling it against the drag of the sea and the wind really made Kerry glad she’d spent the extra time in the gym recently. “When I catch you, you’re sunk! Hear me!!”
Dar’s laughter floated back.
“You laugh now, Dixiecup.” Kerry felt the wind fill her sail, and the water started to slide by under her. “If I win, you’re gonna owe me a lot more than beer!!!”
The beach bar was an open, tiki type structure, with a bartop made of a slice of wood taken right out of the heart of some native tree. Dar and Kerry entered from the beach side and settled on stools next to each other in the moderately busy place.
“Can I get something for you?” The bartender leaned on the other side of the bar from them.
Dar paused in the midst of unzipping her wetsuit. “Get the lady a nice, cold beer.” She indicated her companion. “Pina colada for me.” She added. “Since I’m buying.”
“Heh.” Kerry smirked. She pulled the zipper down on her own wetsuit and peeled the upper part off, letting it drape down over her lower body. They were both wind and sunburned, and lightly dusted with sand collected on the walk up from the beach. Kerry rested her arms on the bar and reveled in the sensation of being a true beach rat, if only for a moment. “If you have anything amber, on draft, that would be great.” She told the bartender.
“Gotcha.” The boy grinned at her, and turned back to the taps.
Dar pulled her wetsuit down and adjusted the strap on the swimsuit she was wearing underneath. “I shoulda known I didn’t have a chance if there was beer in the deal.” She ran both hands through her damp hair and grinned. “What was that hopping about, anyway?”
Kerry stretched out her arms, feeling a pleasant ache in her shoulders. “I thought I saw a dolphin.” She confessed, with a chuckle. “I didn’t want to hit it. Felt like I was on a bucking horse for a minute there, though.”
“Ahh…” Dar glanced up at the menu. “You up for a burger?”
Kerry heard her stomach growl at the mere suggestion. It was late afternoon, and breakfast seemed a very long time ago. “Sure.” She grinned at the frosty mug the bartender plunked down in front of her, and tugged it closer, taking a sip. It was nutty, and very cold and she sighed happily as Dar ordered them both lunch. “What a great day.”
Dar was busy chewing the pineapple from her drink. She swallowed and turned toward Kerry. “That was a lot of fun.” She admitted. “I can see why you want one of the motorized ones.”
“Oh yeah!” Kerry sat up and mimicked holding the control rod. “Vroom! Vroom!”
“Wild woman.” Dar offered her the cherry from her drink. “Here.”
Kerry took the fruit neatly between her teeth and plucked it from it’s stem. “No fair.” She sucked the cherry and rolled it around in her mouth. “I don’t have one to give you.”
Dar’s eyes twinkled wickedly, and Kerry realized what she’d just said. She chewed and swallowed the cherry, then stuck her now reddish colored tongue out at Dar. “Of course, you’ve always had mine anyway.”
“Ahem.” Dar cleared her throat slightly, glancing around as her skin turned a fraction of a shade darker.
“Oh, Lord. Don’t tell me I just made you blush.” Kerry lowered her voice, smothered a chuckle.
“I’m not blushing.” Dar reassembled her dignity. “It’s sunburn.”
“Uh huh.” Kerry snickered. “I see that blush.”
“It’s not a blush.”
Dar rested her elbow on the bar and half turned on her stool, assuming a very seductive look as her eyes slowly, lazily made their way from the tips of Kerry’s toes up to her top of her blond head.
By the time she hit Kerry’s chest, it was bright pink. “Now that.” Dar met her eyes, lengthening the words out to a southern drawl. “Is a blush.” She reached over and put her finger on Kerry’s nose, which wrinkled as her lover couldn’t prevent herself from smiling.
“You’re such a troublemaker.” Kerry sighed.
“You started it.” Dar turned back around and took another sip of her drink as they watched their pasteurized process milk product and half pound of chopped animal protein become a pair of nicely cooked cheeseburgers accompanied by something called island fries. Dar inspected one, and found it to be a French fry with a coating of spices and coconut. “Mm.”
Kerry centered a slice of tomato on the top of her burger and placed lettuce over that, then dabbed some ketchup and mayonnaise on the bun before she replaced it. She was about to pick it up and take a bite when motion caught her attention from the corner of her eye. “Uh oh.” She nudged Dar in the ribs.
Dar looked up, pausing in mid munch as she spotted the small group of people walking across from the docks. Three women and two men, their clothing in some disarray were being escorted by two policemen. They seemed very agitated, and one of the men had his arm around one of the women in a protective attitude. “Huh. Wonder what that’s all about?”
“Another one?” The bartender nudged one of the waitresses, who had just come to pick up a bar order.
“Yeah.” The girl shook her head. “Carazy pirates. Devils, I think.” She picked up her tray and walked off.
“Pirates?” Kerry leaned forward, projecting her voice.
The bartender jumped a little, then turned. “Oh, it’s nothing, ma’am… we were just…”
“Just not wanting to scare us, yes, but what about the pirates?” Kerry interrupted him.
He looked like he’d been caught in headlights that barely
“Sure.” Dar said. “You don’t want to scare off the tourists.”
“Yeah.” The boy grinned. “Glad you understand.”
“We’re not tourists.” Kerry smiled at him “So don’t worry about it. Tell us about the pirates.”
Reassured, the bartender leaned on his elbow near them. “Been six hijackings this month.” He told them. “Boats comin in, they get pulled over by these guys, and whap. No more boat, no credit cards, no cash, you name it.”
Dar and Kerry exchanged glances. “Wow.” Kerry said, finally. “No wonder you don’t want it to get out.”
“Big money, you know?” The boy shrugged. “They just been lucky. No body got hurt so far.” He looked up as his name was called. “Scuse me.”
Kerry let her wrists rest on the bar. “Good grief, Dar!”
Dar watched the group cross into the resort building, a concerned look on her face. “How in the hell can they not tell people?” She said, in an outraged tone. “There should have been a god damned travel advisory at least!”
“Six hijackings?” Kerry shook her head in disbelief. “I know it’s tough on the economy, but… Jesus!”
Dar interlaced her fingers, leaning her chin against them. Her eyes flickered rapidly over the interior of the bar, a sudden intensity to her demeanor absent moments before, yet very familiar to Kerry. “Those people could have been us.” She frowned.
“Well.” Kerry took a bite of her burger. “It almost was, Dar, except it was you they were chasing not them, and you don’t put up with pirates, right?”
“Mmph.” Dar muttered. “Doesn’t make sense… that guy’s too public to be a pirate, and Charlie said….” She stopped speaking for a moment. “What was he trying to say?” She continued softly. “Maybe he was wrong. Maybe this guy’s really running the pirates.”
Kerry nibbled a fry. “Why?”
She asked. “Dar, this guy’s worth millions, if that data is right. Why
run a bunch of boat hijackers in the
“Well, it doesn’t.” Kerry murmured.
“I know, I know.” Dar said. “But what are the odds that we get chased down by someone who isn’t part of the lowlife scum chasing down other expensive boats in the area?”
“Hm.” Kerry sighed. “Yeah, that is kind of a coincidence.” She lifted her mug and took a few swallows. “Do you think we should tell the police about what happened, though? Especially since we know who did it?”
Dar took a few minutes to finish off her cheeseburger before she answered, which also gave her time to consider the question. “I don’t know.” She finally admitted. “If the word’s out not to tell anyone, how reliable are the police?”
“Maybe they’re not the ones who are putting the lid on.”
“Maybe.” Dar murmured. “If we do tell them, then what? We’re not going to press charges, not out here at any rate.”
“He could buy them off anyway.” Kerry replied, with hard earned skepticism. “But at least, if the police know, then if they are really trying to find these guys, they’ll have the information.”
“Would it make you feel better?” Dar queried. “Telling them?”
Kerry nodded, then her lips quirked a bit. “Besides, while we’re telling them what happened to us, maybe we can get them to tell us what’s going on.”
Dar’s eyebrows lifted, and she gave Kerry an approving look. “Good point.” She conceded.
Kerry blew on her nails, then buffed them on her own bare shoulder. “Besides, they have something else in common.” She added seriously. “Those guys, and the pirates – according to our friend the bartender, no one got hurt in the hijackings.”
“Just like with us.” Dar mused. “Once they had the boats, they could have just killed them.”
Kerry nodded. “Not left witnesses alive.” She said. “Who knows, Dar. Maybe this guy’s got some angle on all this. Maybe he…” Her imagination kicked in. “Maybe he’s taking these boats, revamping them, and selling them for twice what they’re worth to the same guys buying that art stuff from him.”
“Hm.” Dar sucked on her straw, considering the possibility. “It would be the right market.” She said. “More money than brains.”
Kerry chuckled. “You know, I’ve got relatives like that.” She said. “In fact, you met most of them.” A ripple traveled through her at the words, as she recognized a certain sense of distance on hearing them. The rawness she’d felt over her father’s death, and the ugliness she’d faced with her family afterward was easing, she realized.
“S’okay.” Dar gazed at her quietly. “You met my contributions to the four bit gene pool too.”
True. Impulsively, Kerry reached across the top of the bar and clasped Dar’s hand, squeezing it briefly then letting it to. “Our family doesn’t have that problem. Even our dog is a genius.”
Dar chuckled. “I’ll remind you of that when she steals your socks the next time.” She glanced around the bar. “You done?”
Kerry nodded. “Let’s go find some trouble.” She slid off the stool and followed Dar out of the tiki bar, as they headed towards the main resort building.
Dar unlocked the door to their room and pushed it open. “Might as well get changed first.” She commented. “I hate talking to cops in a sandy wetsuit.”
Kerry slipped past her and walked right out onto the porch, stripping completely out of her wetsuit and leaving it on one of the chairs inside out. “Give me yours, and I’ll rinse it.” She called back over her shoulder.
“Sure.” Dar pulled the neoprene suit off and slung it over her shoulder, then she stopped, and looked around, warned by a faint prickling of her senses. The room was neat, as they’d left it – only the freshly made bed an indication that the maids had been in to tidy up.
Neither she or Kerry tended to leave things out, and before they’d left they’d both tucked things away either in the drawer, or in their bags. So nothing was out of place.
And yet. Dar frowned, then looked up as Kerry stuck her head back inside. “Here.” She walked over and handed her the wetsuit. “Something’s bugging me about this place.”
Kerry ducked outside, then eased her entire body back in the room, standing inside and watching Dar curiously. “What is it?”
Dar turned in a circle. “I’m not sure.” Her eyes swept the room, searching for whatever it was that was bothering her. Nothing was missing, everything was right where she’d left it, including her laptop sitting on the table, it’s theft label warning bold on the outside.
Curiously, she walked over and flipped the top up, breaking the login sequence and rattling off a series of commands to the operating system. No, the machine hadn’t been touched since they’d left. It wasn’t the computer, it wasn’t their things…
Then she realized, it wasn’t something visual at all. Her nose twitched and the alien scent she’d detected came back to her as her mind tried to identify it. “You smell that?”
Kerry stepped inside, and shut the outside door. “Smell what, hon?”
Dar waved her hand vaguely. “In the room. Something that isn’t us.”
Resisting the urge to walk over and check Dar for fever, Kerry dutifully sniffed at the air. “Well, I can smell salt water, neoprene, and sunscreen. I guess that’s us, right?”
Kerry walked around near the bed. “Sorry, Dar. I don’t…” She paused. “Wait, you mean that sort of roseish, alchoholy kind of smell?” It seemed vaguely familiar, but nothing really popped into her mind as to why.
“Yeah.” Dar circled near the dresser. “It’s strongest here.” She stated positively.
“What is it?” Kerry asked. “It’s not cleaning solution. I know what that smells like. All hotels use the same kind.”
“Perfume.” Dar replied quietly. “Our little friend Christina’s perfume.”
Kerry stared at her. “Are you sure?” She asked. “I didn’t even notice she was wearing any.” One blond eyebrow lifted slightly.
“I noticed.” Dar replied. “Because I hate the brand. It’s the same one Eleanor uses.”
“Ah!” Bingo. Kerry slapped her head. “No wonder it seemed familiar.” She paused. “Are you saying she was here in our room?”
Dar sat down on the bed, letting her elbows rest on her knees. “Can’t think of any way for her perfume to get here without her, so yeah.”
“Yeah.” Dar frowned. “I’m going to go check the boat.” She got up and headed for the door.
“Dar.” Kerry had unzipped Dar’s overnight bag. “Here… not that I mind you storming around like an escapee from the swimsuit competition of the Ms. Aggressive America, but..” She tossed her lover a long black t-shirt with a snarling tiger on it.
“Thanks.” Dar pulled the shirt on over her bathing suit and picked up the pouch she’d carried their keys in. “Be right back.”
“Be careful.” Kerry called after her, watching as the door shut behind Dar. For a moment she just stood there, then she put her hands on her hips and shook her head. “Boy, this sucks.” She opened her own bag and riffled through it’s contents, wondering what the creepy woman had been looking for. They’d only packed a few shirts, their suits, and some other casual wear in their bags, and even the most avid of detectives probably couldn’t have gotten much information from their choice of bathroom toiletries other than the fact that they had a preference for mint toothpaste and apricot body scrub.
Of course, the laptop was a complete mine of information,
but it might as well have been in
So what had they been looking for?
Then another thought occurred to her. What if they hadn’t been looking for anything? What if they’d planted a bug? “Son of a bitch.” Kerry sat down and flipped the laptop open, starting and waiting for the login to come up. When it did, she logged in, waited for it to validate her, then started up the broad spectrum data analyzer program Dar kept on the drive.
Bugs weren’t really that complex, and one of the first things Dar had taught her was how to find them. She’d felt a little funny knowing how frequent their use was in their particular trade, but competition was fierce, and salesmen were not above using them to get any advantage they could.
Dar, she’d been told, never bothered with them. Sometimes when she knew they were there, she’d have fun with them and pass along the most outlandish information, waiting for it to come back in a bid meeting which it sometimes did.
The program started up, and she configured it, setting it to scan using two specialized ports for all frequencies across the bandwidth used for radio transmission. She started it running and propped her chin on her fist, waiting. You could do this with cell phones too, and anything else that used electronic signals that went through the air like wireless networks, which was what the program had really been designed to analyze.
It showed nothing, until she started reciting the pledge of allegiance. Then the program picked up scans on two frequencies, and Kerry shook her head in irritation. She left the program running and slowly walked around, continuing her speech and watching the screen. Near the ornate lamp, the signal peaked. Kerry regarded the lamp, then she simply unplugged it, picked it up, and carried it outside. She set it on the porch, in the far corner, and went back inside.
Now the program showed a clean scan again. Kerry gave it the acid test – she started singing. Even at her top volume, the scan remained quiet. With a nod of satisfaction, she went back outside and picked up the small hose attached to the spigot, turning the water on and rinsing off their wetsuits with careful thoroughness.
There was nothing. Kerry sprayed the insides of the suits. Nothing on earth that smelled worse than a dirty wetsuit.
After a moment, she glanced over, then sprayed the lamp for good measure. Except skuzzy rose water wearing obnoxious detectives.
Dar headed for the docks, aware of a growing anger in her guts. She hadn’t been asking for trouble out here, in fact, she’d gone out of her way to avoid it, but damn it, the bastards kept coming after them and now she was starting to get really pissed off about it.
She made her way down towards the slip they’d docked in and used the key she’d been given to unlock the steel gate that blocked off the slip. It appeared undisturbed, but so had their hotel room door, and Dar wasn’t stupid enough to think whoever got paid off to let the slimebags in there hadn’t also done the same for the gate.
The boat was floating quietly tied to it’s pylons, the umbilicals plugged into dockside power to run the few things they’d left on like the refrigerator. Dar stepped onto the deck and dropped down onto the stern, looking carefully around before she went to the cabin door.
It was a small brass lock, not really intended for serious security, and Dar fitted her key in and turned it without encountering any resistance. She peered at the brass plate, then pushed the cabin door open and slipped inside, closing the door quickly after her.
And, at once, she relaxed. Just as the faintest hints of strange perfume had triggered her senses in the hotel room, the absence of anything she hadn’t expected reassured her here. Dar inspected the interior anyway, moving into the very front of the bow, then checking the master bedroom where the scent, since the hatches were closed, was definitely very familiar to her. “Well.” She spoke into the silence. “Long as I’m here, might as well shower and change.”
She went to the dresser and took out a pair of stone washed shorts overalls and a dark blue shirt, leaving them on the bed as she went into the bathroom and flipped the water on. Sliding out of her swimsuit, she ducked under the water, and quickly scrubbed the salt off her skin.
A moment more, and she’d rinsed the soap out of her hair, and was stepping out of the shower, turning off the water and grabbing one of the towels draped over the holder in the small space. She dried herself off and wrapped the towel around her, then emerged and headed back to the bedroom.
Now that she was sure the boat was secure, she started considering both what had happened, and her options. She dressed as she thought, tucking the shirt into her overalls and buckling the shoulder straps. When she finished, she reviewed the results in the mirror. “Cute and conservative. You’re starting to look like Kerry.” Dar sighed, then unsnapped one of the shoulder straps and let the front of the garment hang rakishly half down. “That’s better.” She added her wraparound sunglasses, then grunted, satisfied with changes.
Passing back out through the living area, she paused, then sidetracked to the equipment locker. She opened the top, moving aside Kerry’s shotgun to get to a blue milk crate underneath. Inside there was a thick piece of hardened steel chain, which she pulled out, and a padlock. She looped the chain around her neck and picked up the padlock, hefting it as she left the cabin and locked the door behind her.
On the deck, she paused, acknowledging her territorial reaction over the boat. It wasn’t as if they had anything truly valuable on board – or even that personal, but she regarded this vessel as part of their private space and the thought of anyone invading it made her hackles stand right up.
With a slight snort, she stepped up onto the side of the boat, then leaped to the dock, landing lightly and padding barefoot back up to the gate. She slowed as she approached it, hearing voices on the other side, then stopped when she recognized one of them as Juan Carlos.
He was standing with a security guard on the other side of the gate, and they both stopped speaking when they looked through the bars and spotted Dar.
Dar leaned on the gate and stared steadily at them from behind her sunglasses. “Something I can do for you?” She asked, in a tone usually reserved for budget meetings.
The security guard looked, if anything, relieved. “Ma’am, this gentleman was asking to be let into your slip.”
“Why?” Dar kept her stare on Juan Carlos, who was stone faced.
“Sir?” The security guard turned to him questioningly.
“I have reason to believe some of my property is there.” Juan Carlos said, smoothly. “I wish to look.”
“Then call the cops.” Dar replied calmly. “File charges, and let them get a search warrant instead of trying to bully the staff into doing something you, and they.. “ She gave the guard a look. “Know is illegal.”
“This does not have to get nasty.” The detective said.
“It already is.” Dar said. “And it’s going to get a lot nastier when I get over to this resort’s corporate offices, and file a complaint not only for this, but because they let your little partner into our hotel room.”
Imperceptibly, the security guard edged closer to Dar, and further away from Juan Carlos.
“Ms. Roberts, I do not think you know who you are dealing with.”
Dar smiled, then she pulled off her glasses and pinned him with a stare. “No.” Her voice dropped to a low rumble. “I don’t think you know who *you’re* dealing with.” She pulled the gate open and emerged onto the dock. “So take your slimy boss, your stinky partner, and whatever idiotic business you’re involved with and get all of it out of my sight unless you want more trouble than you know what to do with landing right on your ass.” She pointed at Juan Carlos’ chest. “Now move it.”
“If you force us to take this to the authorities, you will regret it.” He said, apparently unintimidated. “I can get a search warrant, and I will.” He turned and walked slowly away, assuming an air of casual disinterest.
Dar shook her head. “What a moron.” She turned and wrapped the chain around the gate. “How much was he offering you to let him in?” She asked suddenly, turning to the guard who was still standing there watching her.
The guard had the grace to look embarrassed.
“C’mon.” Dar leaned on the gate. “Pencil neck like him wouldn’t scare someone like you.”
The guard shifted his brawny shoulders, responding to the compliment with a sheepish grin. “Twenty dollars.” He admitted. “He was about to go to fifty when you walked up.”
“Cheapskate.” Dar finished putting the lock on the gate, closing it with a distinct click. She opened the pouch she was carrying and removed two bills, reaching over and sliding them into the guard’s khaki shirt pocket. His eyes widened at the amount. “I can buy his boss for petty cash.” Dar said. “So you tell everyone if they get an offer from them, look me up first. I’ll do better.”
“Yes, ma’am!” The guard responded enthusiastically. “I’ll make sure everyone knows!” He gave her a little wave, then trotted off down the dock, taking a moment to examine the contents of his pocket as he ran.
Dar dusted her hands off, then followed him. “When you care enough to buy the very best…” She muttered, shaking her head. Now things were getting to the point where she knew she had to do something about them. The question was, what?
Well. Dar considered, as she walked. Usually she solved problems by cutting to the chase and going to the very top. She didn’t know where John DeSalliers was, but she bet if she went high enough either at this resort, someone did.
And she bet she could make them tell her.
Kerry ran a brush through her damp hair, peering at her reflection in the room’s mirror. She’d showered and slipped into a pair of neatly pressed khaki shorts with a pristine, white tshirt tucked into them. The fabric made a nice contrast with her tan, and she smiled back at the face in the mirror as she pulled her chain out and let the ring threaded on it rest against the hollow of her throat.
The sound of the door unlocking made her look around, and she stepped back from the mirror as it swung inward, admitting Dar’s tall figure. “Hey.”
Dar turned a pair of stormy blue eyes on her, then put a finger to her lips.
“Already found it.” Kerry replied in a normal tone of voice. “It’s outside.” She stepped forward and gladly accepted the heartfelt kiss on the lips. “Hey, I had a great teacher.”
Dar gave her a hug as well. “Good work. I just prevented her slimy partner from searching the boat.”
“You look cute.” Kerry observed, flicking the hanging strap on Dar’s overalls.
“Cute wasn’t what I was going for.” Dar sighed. “They think we’ve got something of theirs.”
“Really?” Kerry took her hand and led Dar into the room, sitting down on the couch and pulling Dar down with her. “What?”
“I have no idea.” Dar propped one bare foot up on the table and studied it. “I was going to just go right up to the manager’s office and start yelling at people, but I realized I don’t have enough data to yell intelligently.”
“I hate when that happens.”
“Me too.” Dar agreed. “So I decided to come back here and maybe between the two of us, we can start figuring this thing out.”
“All right.” Kerry felt a surge of pride at the statement, though. It felt good to hear the confidence in her inherent in Dar’s voice. “I could use some coffee. You?”
Kerry got up and went to the well stocked coffee maker on the dias near the window. She busied herself starting a pot while she assembled her thoughts. “Okay. First off, here’s what we know.”
Dar squirmed around and got comfortable, stretching one arm out along the back of the couch as she listened to Kerry.
“First, we encountered a large vessel, acting in a very rude manner crossing the Florida Straits.” Kerry began, as she set up two cups. “Despite your giving them a friendly warning, they returned the warning without consideration.”
“Second, we encountered a smaller vessel, circling us after we dove that little wreck not far off Charlie and Bud’s island. The boat did not approach or contact us, but appeared to be watching what we were doing.”
“Right.” Dar agreed again.
“Third, after we get to Bud and Charlie’s island, the small boat follows us there, and two people get off and question us about where we were diving.” Kerry turned and leaned against the credenza as the coffee brewed. “But they don’t ask us specifics, they just make a claim to that area.”
“Fourth, when we are out in that same area having dinner, we get accosted by what appears to be the same rude large vessel, attempting to board us. We also get chased by them, without explanation.”
“But they don’t shoot at us.” Dar added.
“Even though they must have seen me on the stern with a loaded shotgun.” Kerry nodded. “Okay, fifth – we pick up a man from a capsized boat who just coincidentally is here apparently trying to recover something from the very, exact same small wreck you and I happened to dive on the day before.”
Dar’s eyebrow lifted.
“And, who just coincidentally happens to have tangled with the two people from the small boat, and probably whoever is in charge of the large boat over that spot of the ocean.”
“Yeah.” Dar murmured.
“Are these coincidences all piling up for you like they are for me?”
“Sixth, now we get here, and coincidentally find the people from the small boat staying at the same resort we are, and are now snooping in our hotel room and trying to search our boat for some unknown reason.” Kerry turned and poured out two cups of coffee, stirring them and bringing them both back over to the couch. She handed Dar hers, and sat down cross legged next to her. “So, what the hell is going on?”
Dar sipped her coffee thoughtfully. “Well, I think it’s safe to assume they think we pulled something up from that wreck.” She said. “Question is, what could be of interest to anyone from an old fishing trawler?”
“There wasn’t much to see, Dar.” Kerry said. “Just some old crates.”
“No, there wasn’t.” Dar replied. “It’s not a bad wreck, there’s a lot of good coral there, but why it’s of interest to a bunch of… “ She stopped speaking, her brow creasing thoughtfully. “We did bring up something.”
Kerry stared, then exhaled. “The box.” She would have slapped herself if she hadn’t been holding a cup of coffee. “But Dar… it’s just an old wooden box, half covered in coral.” She protested. “We couldn’t even open it it’s so encrusted.”
“I know.” Dar agreed. “You and I know that, but if someone saw us bringing up the catch bag, and looking at something, how would they know what it was?” She got up and paced. “So the question is, what is it they’re really after, that they think we might have found?”
What indeed? Kerry cupped her hands around her coffee and drank from the cup slowly. “First off, we need to find out more about that fishing trawler, right?”
Dar smiled at her. “Right. More about that, and more about your friend Bob’s grandfather, who ran it.” She picked up the laptop and sat down next to Kerry again. “I think we need to start collecting ducks, so we can pin them down in a nice, neat row.”
Kerry snuggled closer, putting an arm around Dar and leaning against her shoulder as the laptop booted up. Dar’s login came up and her partner put in her information, then they both watched as the autonomic systems kicked in and started establishing a satellite cellular connection to their world wide network.
It took less time than most people expected. After about sixty seconds, Dar was presented with the same desktop she usually saw on her machine in the office, right down to the collection of broadcast messages sent to their local Miami group ranging from parking violations to a test of the fire alarm system.
Dar started up her database parsing program and cracked her knuckles as she waited for the screen to come up. When it did, she typed in her request.
“Is that the boat’s name?” Kerry asked.
“Lucky Lady? That’s what the dive maps have it as.” Dar answered, adding a few other details. “Did Bob say what his grandfather’s first name was?”
“No.” Kerry said. “You’re not going to ask me to go find him and find out, are you?”
Dar chuckled dryly. “No. Let’s see what this comes up with first.”
“Good.” Kerry rested her cheek against Dar’s shoulder. The long day on the water in the sun was starting to take it’s toll, and she found herself getting a little sleepy, as the rattle of Dar’s keystrokes lulled her. “They were really trying to get on the boat?”
“Uh.” Dar murmured.
“What if they try again?” Kerry asked.
“I fixed that.” Dar said, watching the response on the screen. “Damn. Nothing on that name.” She shook her head, then typed in another command. “Okay, we do this the hard way. Gimme all the maritime incident reports in this sector… damn.” Dar cursed, closing her eyes. “What the hell were the coordinates of that blasted wreck.”
“Oh.” Kerry stirred, then got up and trotted over to her notebook. She opened it to her dive log and studied the page. “Here you go.” She recited the longitude and latitude. “I logged it.”
“You rock.” Dar typed in the numbers, and hit return. “That’ll take a few minutes.” She said, putting her arm around Kerry as she resumed her seat. “You know something?”
“What?” Kerry curled up against her, one hand stroking Dar’s thigh absently.
“We are one damn good team.”
Kerry’s eyes twinkled happily. “We are, aren’t we?” She agreed.
“Yes, we are.” Dar kissed her on the head. “I couldn’t ask for any better.”
“Me either.” Kerry relaxed, putting her head back down on Dar’s shoulder. She watched the scanning markers on the screen, her eyelids drooping shut after a few minutes of it.
Dar heard the faint change in Kerry’s breathing, and she glanced over, suppressing a grin at her dozing partner. She carefully shifted a little to a more comfortable position and rested her head against Kerry’s, content to let her well designed program do it’s job.
Dar’s voice nudged her out of a very pleasant dream, one that involved her, Dar, and a bunch of grapes. Kerry let her eyes drift open slowly, taking in the glistening sunset complacently for a moment before her mind kicked in and woke fully up. “Oh.” She lifted a hand to stifle a yawn. “Sorry.”
“For what?” Dar inquired. “Sleeping’s not a punishable offense, even in our division.”
“I know, but we’re supposed to be solving a mystery here.” Kerry peered at the laptop. “Anything?" She could see a table of information in Dar’s usual structure on the screen.
“Lots.” Dar said, in a dry tone. “I managed to exclude all the non relevant shipwrecks. That took me forever, because they’re a dime a dozen around here.” She brought the laptop closer. “The wreck has to be this one, here.”
“Lucky Johnny?” Kerry read the screen. “Oh, I can see where they’d confuse that with Lucky Lady.”
“Mm.” Dar pulled up a screen. “Problem is, there’s nothing special about the damn thing. It was just a forty foot working trawler, out catching crabs.”
“Ah.” Kerry read the details. “Storm?”
“Uh huh.” Dar said. “Capsized and sank. Two survivors, both mates. Captain went down with the ship.” She brought up another screen. “This is Bob’s grandpa.”
Kerry peered at the whiskered, scraggly looking man in the blue macintosh. “Holy crap. It’s Popeye.”
“That explains a lot.” Dar chuckled. “He mostly trawled the north Atlantic. I don’t know what brought him all the way down south, but the boat couldn’t take it. It was his first, and last, Carib run.” She studied the picture. “Nothing on him – just a working sailor.”
Kerry’s head cocked to one side. “Yeah? I thought Bob said his family had money, though. At least that’s the impression he gave me.” She added, with a touch of droll humor. “How’d they get that from a rig like this?”
“Well.” Dar tapped a few more keys. “He didn’t lie. According to this tax filing, old Popeye left a ton of cash to Mrs. Popeye, and they’ve got a place that’s worth another ton up in Maine.” She scratched her jaw. “Maybe he had it and just decided to fish for a living because he could.”
“Maybe down here, Dar.” Kerry shook her head. “I’ve spent time in Maine. No one does that if they’ve got a choice. It’s a hard, dangerous life fishing the North Atlantic.”
“Okay.” Dar sent off another probe, this one into financial databases. “We’ll see what we can come up with for Popeye in Duks’ side of the house.” She leaned back. “Still doesn’t explain why a storm wreck is stirring up all this interest, all this time later.”
“No.” Kerry agreed. “If there was something weird going on, they’d have come after it before now.”
Dar drummed her fingers lightly on the keyboard. “That’s true.” She mused. “Unless…” The screen beeped, and she looked up at it. “Huh.”
Kerry peered over her shoulder. “Wow.” She murmured, running a fingertip along the data. “Those must have been incredible hauls.”
“Mm.” Dar frowned. “But it’s still not making sense, unless he took a pile of that money, converted it to gold coin, and it went down with him in the storm.” She said. “Why would they be interested in that hulk now, is the question.”
They both were quiet for a moment.
“Unless the why behind those numbers went down with him.” Dar spoke slowly. “And now that why is worth something.”
“Is the family society now?” Kerry asked, suddenly.
Dar gazed drolly at her. “I don’t know, hon. Where do you check for that kind of thing?”
Kerry slid her hands between Dar,’s and started typing. “That’s easy.” She hit a few keys. “The local newspaper, and let’s hope they actually use public archives.”
“Let’s say they are.” Dar said. “You think it has something to do with the whole thing?”
“I think people will do a lot to avoid family embarrassment.” Kerry stated, in a quiet, very flat tone. “Especially if they have something to lose by it.”
Dar put her arms around Kerry and pulled her closer, not saying anything.
Kerry pushed the laptop away a little and accepted the comfort. “You know what I think about the most, when I think of what my father did to me, last year?”
“What?” Dar asked.
“How awful it felt knowing I was such a disappointment to him.” Kerry whispered. “When I woke up in that hospital, how ashamed I felt.” She paused. “Before I got so ripping mad I put that aside.”
“You’ve got nothing to be ashamed of.” Dar said.
Kerry sighed. “I know that now.” She said. “Heck, I knew that then, but it brought home to me how family and love can take second place to image and ego.” She watched the screen. “Pride does strange things to people.” Her finger traced a headline on the list that popped up. “So maybe you’re right. Maybe what went down with that boat is information – a secret someone doesn’t want anyone to find out about.”
“Uh huh.” Dar studied the screen. “If that’s the secret they think we brought up from that wreck, we could be in a whole new ballgame right now.” She said. “And where, I wonder, does Bob fit in?”
Kerry untangled herself from Dar’s embrace, not before giving her a healthy hug, though. She stood up and stretched, working a kink out of her neck from sleeping. Then she walked to the window and opened it, letting the ocean breeze blow against her face.
After a moment, Dar joined her, perching on the sill and gazing out over the water.
“So, what’s the plan?” Kerry finally asked.
Dar folded her arms and nibbled her inner lip thoughtfully. “We’ve got a couple of choices.” She said. “We can just get the hell out of here, and leave them to their games.”
“We can call in legal, make a mess for them for the bugging, and the attempted pullover.”
“We can play it by ear, and see if we can find out what the real story is, then decide what we want to do about it.
“Yeah, that was my choice too.” Dar admitted.
“You think they’ll make the next move?” Kerry asked. “Or will they wait to see what we do?”
Dar considered the question. “I’m guessing they’re waiting for us.” She said. “So why don’t we get movng, and go find us some calypso dance music, and see what happens?”
“You’re on.” Kerry held a hand out. “They’re not gonna know what hit em.”
They shut down the laptop, and walked out the door hand in hand, heading down the path towards the casual, beachside restaurant, from which they could already hear the sound of drums rising. “Hey Dar?” Kerry suddenly asked. “Remember what I said about rum and the samba?”
Dar eyed her. “Yeeesss?”
“This could get dangerous.”
“I never did tell you what happens when *I* get into too much rum, did I?”
A pause. “No, I don’t think you ever mentioned that.” Kerry allowed. “I guess this might get *really* dangerous., huh?”
“Only to your reputation.”
“Wh…. Oh.” Another pause. “You mean you…might get, um…”
“You do like the way I kiss, doncha?”
“Way too much.” Kerry grinned rakishly. “Maybe we better stick to beer.”
They joined a string of people headed in the same direction, as the light faded to twilight. In the shadows behind them, two other figures slipped in, trailing them with watchful eyes.