Susurrus

Episode II
A Necessary Journey

A Novel by Rory Tillitson

CHAPTER FOUR

Moving into danger




The dawn brought the clear sound of rain falling on the deck above, as Mitch woke up. He lay there listening to it for some moments. Then he climbed out of bed being careful not to wake Sally/Susan. He went through his normal routine very aware of the rain above. As it was coming down hard, but the boat was steady. Which he knew meant this wasn’t a squall.

Almost no wind blowing, more like a tropical monsoon at sea. Somewhat a rarity but they occur sometimes and could last for days, if no winds blew them away. He was very aware of the seeming lack of forward motion from the boat. While there was some it felt to him that they had slowed a great deal.

He left the cabin and went to the nav station. Where he pulled up a screen that showed all the boats systems values. What he was looking for was clearly displayed. Speed… three knots. They had slowed to a crawl. He then pulled up the GPS screen and checked their location. He quickly figured out that perhaps due to the lack of wind the current had taken the boat many miles north during the night, and that the ship board computer “Sue” was trying to tack into almost no wind to regain the preset course to take him to the way-point that he had given the computer.

Now he went up on deck but only for a moment as the rain was really coming down hard, however in those few moments he had seen just what he wanted to… solid cloud cover.

Mitch thought,”Perhaps this storm is a blessing in disguise.” He went to the nav station console and pulled up the satellite feed. He was elated at what he saw on-screen. He was looking at a large pod of whales occasionally making blows as they cruised through the sea. Mitch said out loud,“The Aussie came through, they think I am there.”

He scribbled down the coördinates from the upper right of the screen. He put them in the GPS software as a destination to see where the whales were. The whales were just north of the Bismarck Sea off of Papua New Guinea they were moving for the Philippines.

Mitch exclaimed,“Wonderful! It worked!” Susan had gotten up awakened by Mitch in the salon. She asked,“What is so wonderful, it’s raining cats and dogs outside... I think we stopped moving.” He turned around to see the naked woman leaning in the doorway of the aft cabin. He laughed out loud. He said,“The transponder. Jack the Aussie, he must have put it on one of these whales (pointing at the screen), and the idiots are trying to find us. Instead they are finding a pod of whales. The storm has shielded us visually for some hours. It has moved us way off course. Which is easily corrected, but it has also made it harder for them to find us again by a visual lock. So they locked in on the transponder. It’s great.”

On the other side of the world. An operator is trying to explain what they are looking at on the ten foot wide-screen on the wall. He said,“Honest you have to understand. I just entered the frequency again, and the satellite keeps going back to the whales. The best answer I can give you is... we screwed up and used the exact frequency of a unit that some researcher is using to track some whales, and for some reason their signal is stronger than the one under the boat. So the satellite keeps going back to the whales every time. Because of the storm in the area we can’t lock in on a visual. That trace was lost soon after the clouds obscured the area some seven hours ago and it looks like it will hang around for most of the daylight hours. By then who knows where he will be. We will look at his last known location and follow that heading he was on. However it’s extremely hard to find a boat that size in the open ocean, and our agent said the elder on the last island he was had no idea what his next stop could be. As he had never bothered to ask.” The superior officer, “So you are saying we just lost him, and we can’t even begin to know where to look?” Operator, “I’m sorry. We will keep trying but it doesn’t look good now. We will need some luck I’m afraid. Right now he is the one getting aces full and winning the pot.”

She said, “So what do we do now... are we stuck out here? Don’t you have a motor or something?” Mitch laughed. He said,“Yeah, we have a diesel engine, but it isn’t designed to power us across the ocean for long distances. We wait here for a while soon the wind will pickup and we’ll be on our way. Just don’t ask for a lot of wind... these downpours can turn nasty in a heartbeat. “Sue” will get us back on course as soon as she can. Hell she’s already making some way and there is almost no wind to speak of.”

Sally said, “OK... I guess… so what do we do, till the storm passes over?” He answered, “Well the first thing is have some breakfast. Since we aren’t going anywhere very fast and the boat is steady. I’ll whip up some crepes and we can have the remains of the fruit that the kids gave us before they spoil. I’ll puree the passion fruit for some jam for later. It’s getting just about soft enough. If you haven’t had it before you are in for a treat... However the coffee is done. So we’ll start with that OK?”

She just laughed, “That wasn’t exactly what was in my mind but I suppose that will do for now.” Smiling she sat down at the table watching intently. As he began getting the items laid out to cook breakfast. Then she said, “Look, maybe I should at least put on some shorts... what do you think? Then I can help by cutting up the fruit or something else.”

He gazed at her for a moment, saying,“OK, but shorts only.... at least for now and you can help cut the fruit. I’ll get out a board and knife while you put your shorts on... bottom drawer remember? She went into the aft cabin quickly got a pair of shorts then she was checking to see if he was busy and couldn’t see the cabinet. She opened the top drawer began to hurriedly look around under the items in it finding nothing of interest. She turned her attention to the middle drawer. There in the back right corner she found a small wooden box the size of a shoebox.

Just then Mitch said, “What’s the matter can’t make up your mind? Just like a woman… buck naked... and still concerned about how she will look in each choice... you should be like me... buy sixteen pair, all the same size and color, no choice required.” As he was talking she closed the drawer without opening the box putting on a pair of yellow-flowered shorts. She returned to the salon, saying,“You aren’t that much different from other men you know... you just lead a girl to believe you are different. Then after a while your true man self rears its ugly head.”

As she spoke she was laughing and he joined her understanding she was kidding him. Guiding her to the bowl of fruit on the table. He motioned to the cutting board and knife. He said, “Just cut this into pieces about the size of half a strawberry. OK? I don’t have any heavy cream for whipped cream, but I can whip up a sour cream, sugar mixture, with vanilla and a touch of cinnamon that is pretty good.” Mitch made fast work of the sauce and the crepes were flying off into a pile on a plate. They were having breakfast in a short time.

While they ate she gazed at him for a few minutes then she said, “So... you haven’t been doing this your whole life. What did you do before selling groceries to semi-stranded islanders?” He chuckled, “I have done many lines of work some clean did computer programming for a while. That was too boring, long hours, no sleep…some dirty construction laborer, bricklayer even welder… some time I can’t talk about. Then I decided to build this boat and do the “Get away from it all” thing. That’s about it. Now it’s your turn.”

She paused, “You built this boat all by yourself? You’re kidding right?” He replied, “Well I did have help, but yeah I designed her... did a lot of the actual welding. Two of us did the woodwork, the decks, cabinetry all that and I had two other guys help install the mast and rigging, the wiring was all me. The engine, generator, and other equipment like the ice maker, for that I hired a fellow from New Zealand to come over to New Caledonia. Where she was built down on the southwest coast at a place a friend owns. It seems that when we were finished I took her out for sea trials and plumb forgot to go back and register her. Maybe someday who knows?”

She just stared at him. He said, “Now it is your turn… Sally.” She stammered, “What? You know…. How long… have you known?” He wiped his lips, “I sent a query... the first night you came aboard, the story thing about getting to Manila... can’t use regular transportation, all that didn’t fit and I had to know what I was getting into. The answer came back awhile ago.”

Mitch continued,“You are Sally Runyon, your father is Harry Runyon, also missing... owner of a chemical company, that does some sort of mysterious government work, and do I need say more? So what did you do in the past few years and don’t say you worked for a modeling agency please.”

Her demeanor changed as she visibly sank in her seat, “I am sorry, I didn’t mean to lie… I mean at first... I started to tell the truth, then I thought... I don’t know you and it dawned on me that carrying all that money around... it might cause more trouble… well the lie just kind of spilled out and once it got started, I … I couldn’t bring myself to tell you the truth... I mean everything was going so good between us… I was afraid if… if I said anything, that you would get angry and… I don’t know, all sorts of horrible thoughts went through my mind.”

She paused then said, “OK, listen… I really do work for an agency… or at least I used to before coming here. I did actually dress down to avoid entanglements… I had a really bad relationship several years ago and had become quite afraid... of having another relationship. It’s just so … Well... it is hard to trust someone and yet here... I have quite literally put my life in your hands and… for the first time in years... I feel really relaxed even with all that has happened to us… to you. Even your friends... I feel terrible about Jerry, and I really fear the men... that were on the boat. All that said... when I’m with you, it’s as if... I know deep down, that everything is going to be... OK… and that nothing bad will happen to me as long as I have you by my side. As to my father, I admit I did some stupid things. I didn’t even think to ask to talk to him. I have no idea if he is still alive or not and yet I was going to walk in... wherever and hand someone bags of cash in the hopes that he would be there, and he would be alright. I’ve been a fool... I am an idiot now. I suppose… I’m in denial, and just can’t admit that I am finished.”

She put her head down on the table in her folded arms and began to sob uncontrollably. Mitch sat there for the next five minutes watching this lovely woman cry, until she had no more tears. He thought, “Well Mitch, you opened your mouth and as is usually the case. You just stuff both feet in sideways. Now you know the truth. Hell the best academy award-winning actress could never get though those lines. She is the genuine article. A beautiful woman in trouble and of all the people on the planet. She was dropped on your boat. Now that I’ve stepped in the shit, how the hell am I gonna get out of this one?”

He got up slowly and cleared the table. He walked around behind the half-naked woman, put his hands on her shoulders. Then he gave her a kiss on the neck and said, “Madam would care for dessert, or just coffee?” She slowly raised her head, and looking through red watery eyes laughed and said,“Just… coffee please, that would be nice.” Then she began to laugh in earnest. As if all of a sudden she had heard the funniest joke of her life. Then the two looked at each other and said as one person, “I love you!” They kissed deeply for a long minute and then he rose up, saying, “Sorry... I forgot the coffee, coming right up.”

All was right with the world… the stars had aligned… peace ruled the planet… there were no more wars… all religions prayed as one…well, it really only seemed that way to the two people on board Susurrus.

Sometimes in life... all we have... all we can ever have... is a moment where everything seems good in life... even if for that ever so brief piece of time we realize, that this too shall pass.

Yet it is the human condition to always wish, hope and pray, that a moment like this is possible… We need these moments to survive the quest that is life. These two will need these moments just to survive.

They sat across from each other sipping their coffee. All the while their left hands embracing lightly and all the while their eyes locked, as if the two souls were becoming as one. The sound of the pouring rain, dancing on the cabin roof was creating an almost dreamlike environment.

Then they both were aware that the boat was quickly gathering speed, almost as if something had come up behind them and began to push the boat faster. She spoke first, “What was that? The boat is moving faster… what is happening?”

He said simply, “The storm outside… the winds are picking up... I have been neglecting my duties as your skipper… sorry. I had better check the weather.” Then he went over to the console and brought up the latest weather satellite photo. The image slowly appeared on the screen. He thought to himself, “Damn it, the weather code should have picked this up mental note. Check the fucking weather code sequence.”

Sally was looking over his shoulder, “What is that? It doesn’t look good not that I know anything about a weather map.” He chuckled and said, “Well it just so happens that you are right. Anyway that’s a typhoon about one hundred miles to the east, and moving just to the north of our position.” She gasped, “We are in a hurricane!”

He laughed loudly and said, “Actually not per se. We are on the southern edge of the storm’s path, here the storms move clockwise meaning the winds on the bottom or southern edge, blow in a westerly direction and while they’re strong they are not nearly as strong as closer to the eye wall. I need several pictures before I could plot its path to some degree.”

He then sent a command to download the past three images knowing that Geo-weather satellites all keep a few images taken over time. After a few moments he had what he wanted. He began to click them in order making a little slideshow of sorts. Then he had what he needed. He turned to Sally, “Well we might be in luck, or perhaps in real trouble. Either way we’ll know soon enough.” She had not understood what he said or meant, but had a sinking feeling about the near future.

He then put on a bathing suit and headed for the cockpit. She almost jumped into the aft cabin. Rummaging in the drawer she put on another bikini. Then she followed him up. He saw her emerge and started to tell her to go below. Instead Mitch said, “You better sit down... and hang on to something... this could get rough.” She noticed that the rain while it continued, was not coming down as hard as before, but for the first time since being on the boat she definitely felt the wind on her back.

He looked around at the rigging and having reassured himself that all was in good order spoke, “Sue.” The computer replied, “Yes Captain.” He commanded, “Unsock the spinnaker... rig for wing on wing... downwind run... maximum speed.” At that moment Sally looked up. She noticed, that something at the top of the mast snapped and a huge piece of fabric began to billow into the wind. Mitch slowly moved up by the mast there he released a long thin pole from its mounting on the foredeck. Then he was drawing it out and snapping the pins of sections together. When he had brought it to its full length he hooked one end to the bottom of the Genoa sail. As the computer released the tension on the line he shoved it out until he could connect the other end of the whisker pole to the bottom of the mast. The huge Genoa was now nearly perpendicular to the bow to port. The Asymmetrical spinnaker was likewise on the opposite side.

She gasped, “What are you doing? I’m not a sailor, but I thought in a storm you're supposed to lower the sails right?” He turned saying,“I designed the boat hull to “Surf” or plane on top of the water never actually tried to do that but in theory we can move as fast as the wind is blowing... perhaps faster.” Then the big sloop began to pick up speed. Mitch had opened the console screen and brought up the status display the knot meter was reading twenty-five and climbing.

Soon the wind that they had felt diminished to a breath at their backs and it was easily clear that the large sailboat was well up out of the water. They had almost matched the speed of the waves they were cruising in. The boat was “surfing” ever so slightly forward. He smiled at Sally saying,“Well I’ll be damned it worked we’re on top of the water and matching wind speed... look our speed is thirty-eight knots and steady.” She was listening to the noises from the boat and said, “How is that possible? Is this normal? The boat sounds like it doesn’t like it at all.”

He relaxed now the computer in control, “It is OK, there is a short wing on the bottom of the keel set at one degree up plane for lift. We are running like the water skis that you see some people use that pushes them up above the water. The wing won’t do that it should only give enough lift so that the hull rides with a minimal contact and we ride along like a surfboard with the wind. In theory we will match the forward speed of the storm, perhaps even gain on it a bit due to the edge winds.” This did not comfort the young woman and she remained tense.

For the next several hours they continued like this just moving quickly through the ocean. Mitch occasionally walking around, placing his hand around the various down guys, trying to keep up a feel for the stresses that the boat was undergoing. Each time he had felt satisfied that all was OK. He had decided early on to oversize the cables and their anchor mounts. Installed during the rigging of the boat as insurance against failure because this was what usually caused mast collapses aboard sailboats.

While he could feel the “heartbeat” of the boat when he placed his hand on the carbon-fiber mast. He was confident that everything was working just as he had hoped when he was drawing up the design originally. At one point Sally had gone below and finding some sliced ham. She made some sandwiches. Which they had eaten in silence. A long period of time passed. The boat had slowed to a fairly steady thirty knots. Then the speed was flickering to twenty-nine, then it was twenty-eight.

Mitch had changed the screen, so it displayed the speed in three-inch letters, easily seen from the aft deck bench. Sally finally said, “I wonder what time it is, it's still dark.” Mitch sitting with his right arm around her shoulder, said, “I have no idea exactly threw my last watch in the ocean in Maui years ago. I would guess that it is almost dawn, but no way of knowing till this breaks up so we can see sunlight again.”

Then he realized that they were leaving the edge of the storm and that the boat was ever so slowly beginning to return its hull to the embrace of the sea. He could see daylight on the starboard side and discern ocean and the clouds above. They were moving north of the typhoon and as such losing the winds associated with it. He was also aware of the sails beginning to luff as they were moving off the following wind. The boat was following it preset course again.

He proceeded to begin preparations for changing from the wing on wing configuration by readying the clips on the whisker pole and saying, “Sue.” The computer replied, “Yes Captain.” Mitch said, “Ready to release wing on wing status.” The computer replied, “Aye... Aye, Captain.” The motor hum let him know when he could remove the pole. He unhooked the end of the pole. Retrieved it as he pushed the buttons, collapsing it back to its stowed size. He unclipped it from the foot of the Genoa.

He said, “Sue” The computer replied, “Yes Captain.” Mitch says, “Resume course, sail on.” The computer replied, “Aye... Aye, Captain... resume course” With that the various motors began to hum, and the lines were tensioned. The spinnaker returned to its stowed place. As the sock covered it recapturing the thin material and the boat returned to a normal state. Moving toward their destination. He looked to the north and saw that the sky was definitely clearing quickly. Then he saw land on the horizon.

Mitch thought, and quickly pulled up a chart then, he said,“Sue.” The computer replied, “Yes Captain.” Mitch said, “Plot a course for six degrees five two minutes north latitude... one five eight degrees twenty-two minutes east longitude... set sail... drop the anchor.” The computer replied, “Aye... Aye, captain... Plot a course for six degrees five two minutes north latitude... one five eight degrees twenty-two minutes east longitude... set sail... drop the anchor.”

Then he went below and picked up his satellite phone. As he reconnected with the government satellite and began to retrieve the “video” feed. He dialed a number and after a few moments Tamalu answered,“Torrance is that you? We were about to think the worse, did you come through the storm out south of here?” Mitch chuckled, “Hi Tamalu. Yeah, we were in the shit for a time, but all is OK now. However I would like to transfer the goods just off the mouth of that cove by Tamworohi. Can you make that happen... we got shifted around by the winds.” Tamalu replied laughing, “Sure thing buddy no problem, we’ll meet you there in about two hours that OK?”

Mitch said, “Fine see you there.” He turned to see Sally looking at him. He said, “Well, here we drop the last of the goods. Then our vacation is over. We head on to Manila and your date with destiny.” She smiled, “I am not sure anymore... if I want to do this, my father could already be dead. Then I am only placing you in danger, as much as myself.”

Mitch said, “OK, listen carefully to what I have to say… You must have been given some way to contact these people... certainly they wouldn’t expect to just greet you at the airport, so how would they know when you arrive?” She said, “A phone number... It was in my purse, and I haven’t seen it since I got here. I’ve lost it somewhere.”

Mitch laughed and said, “Oh that’s not a problem.” He went to the panel above the TV and pushed, with a “snap” the hidden panel sprang open. He reached in to withdraw a plastic bag containing her purse, shoes, and the dress she had come aboard with. He tossed this to her, saying, “Here... I hid this. When we were putting you in the below deck area. I also happened to notice that there wasn’t any bra or panties… you always travel in that fashion?” She ignored his comment and quickly looked inside her purse. She handed him a slip of paper upon which was a phone number that he realized was a satellite phone, not a number in Manila.

He watched her rummage around in the bag for a moment. He said,“Looking for this?” He held out a small chrome plated automatic pistol. Her face flushed red. She said,“Yes… I… I thought I might need it, but I never even shot the thing. Really I haven’t!” He chuckled,“I apologize now, but I looked inside as I was stashing your stuff and found it. I believe you because the damn thing is empty. You forgot the bullets. Somehow, you climbed on an airplane carrying a gun without getting stopped. Along with checking bags of cash. I have no idea how you managed that and it was a waste of time. Because it is not loaded did you even bring any bullets with you?”

She stammered, “I had a box in my other bags. That I left in the Sydney airport.” He thought, saying,“I suppose you traveled with name tags on all your bags right?” She said,“Yes, why do you ask everyone does that.” He said,“Well I’m sure that shortly after you left. Airport security confiscated the bags you left sitting with no one around… checked through them and besides knowing you wear a thirty-six C cup and size six underwear... if you even packed any that you are in the habit of transporting ammunition aboard airplanes. I would assume that information is now on pretty much every major carrier’s computer. Probably along with a photo. Perhaps a scan of your passport. Which I assume was in your bags as well?”

She held up her passport and said, “No I have that with me.” He just looked at her and shrugged his shoulders. He said, “OK... mind if I see the name… only to confirm what I believe is the truth.” She handed the document containing the picture of her and the name Sally Runyon. He looked and instantly recognized the photo as being the one Mutt and Jeff had shown him up on the cockpit deck. He thought,“No wonder it looked so bad… a passport photo is their means of id for her... interesting, very interesting information.”

At that moment the boat motors began humming. As the sails were stored and the computer commenced the sequence for coming into the anchorage. He handed her the passport and went up on deck to watch the island come into view. A normal south pacific island, like most it had a mountain that was a long dormant volcano well overgrown by lush jungle vegetation. That included the normal tropical fruit trees, as well as a few south pacific pines. The latter rising dramatically above the rest of the trees, such as mango, papaya and bananas.

The trees and green vegetation were thick, except for a thin white line that was obviously manmade. It led from the thin strip of sandy beach along the edge of the island, to the top of the peak. Apparently many decades ago the inhabitants had made a path to the peak. For a lookout for raiding parties. As the natives were very warlike in their past. Here the locals had continued the tradition. Today, usually a young man kept watch with a telescope from that peak.

Mitch glanced over port side he noticed the storm clouds were well in the distance. He was glad that they had come through what could have been a really bad run in with the typhoon, and yet all had gone well.

He now knew that his “racing downwind” mode actually worked. As bad as it may have been to test it under those circumstances. At that moment he was aware of three large canoes appearing around the edge of the island. Still a ways out but obviously headed his way. He said,“Must be Tamalu and his boys… good. I’ll be glad to lighten my load and get on with this little adventure the sooner the better now. Get this over with perhaps have some chance of life returning to normal.” He knew inside of course that life would never be the same now. No matter what was the outcome of events in Manila.

He began to lower the rope ladder at the stern in preparation for the arrival of the locals. Then he realized that before their discussion he had started to look at the satellite feed. Having a couple of minutes he went to the console and looked at a choppy image of several whales blowing water in the air and almost split a side laughing. He said,“What idiots.” Sally said, “Who is an idiot?”

Mitch turned saying,“Have you gone completely bonkers? What are you doing up here... get below before they see you.” She stuttered, “I… I’m sorry… I forgot… Sorry!” She returned quickly into the salon area. He said, “Just go into the aft cabin and close the door these guys are no threat and they won’t look in there.” A few minutes later Tamalu and his friends arrived at the stern of the boat. Tamalu said, “Ahoy Susurrus... Mitch long time no see bro. How have you been... still alone? I must be seeing things, I guess… for a moment. I actually thought I saw Susan on deck... sorry if I upset you, but it sent a chill through my body.”

Mitch paused, “Thanks, it’s good to see you too. No I’m still alone… and you must be having hallucinations, if you are seeing ghosts. Have you been smoking Ganja again?” Tamalu said, “Just like old times huh, I never could get anything over on you. Yes... I actually have a great crop this year… want some? I have a small bag here.” He handed Mitch a small baggie he brought out of his pocket. Mitch reached out, taking the offered bag. He said,“Thanks... haven’t had any in a long time, perhaps for later use. Shall we go below?”

They proceeded into the salon. Where Tamalu handed Mitch a crumpled piece of paper containing a list of the desired items. Mitch gathered his list from the nav station. Which doubled as his desk and compared the two. Then turning he said, “You know where it is, almost everything in there is yours there are only a few items not on the list that I carried as extra stock.”

The boys began moving boxes of canned goods, bags of flour, rice and salt up to the deck and down into the canoes. All the while Mitch was keeping one eye on what passed by and was counting out the wad of American, Australian and New Zealand dollars. All was in order. When they had finished the loading. Tamalu said, “Mind if I see what you have left?”

Mitch shrugged, “Sure, be my guest.” After a minute looking in the forward berth. Tamalu came back, saying,“You have three more bags of flour, two cases of beans and four bags of rice, how many could I buy off you?” Mitch said, “You can have ‘em all. I have what I need in my cabinets.” Then Tamalu added, “The three cases of Budweiser?”

Mitch, “Sure take them as well.” Tamalu did some calculating in his head, reached in his pocket and peeled of several American bills handing them to Mitch. He said,“That right?” Mitch didn’t even glance at the money tossing it into his cash box. He answered, “Right as the rain that falls on the peak of the island my friend.” Then he reached under the sink cabinet. Handing Tamalu one of the paper wrapped bottles of scotch. As the boys left with the last of the goods for the canoes.

Tamalu handed Mitch a piece of paper. He said,“My requests for the next voyage, and as usual if there is anything left... you know I’ll probably take that as well... So where are you headed now my old friend?” Mitch thought for a moment, as Tam had never asked such a question. He answered, “I thought perhaps maybe Tahiti. I haven’t been there in a while, why do you ask?”

Tamalu spoke in a soft voice, “You know I would never cause you any trouble, neither would the boys out there… Bro, some people came by here... a few days ago looking for the Susurrus. Everyone to a man said that they had never heard of such a boat. They even offered a lot of American dollars, but no one gave you up, OK? I don’t know why they were asking, but I think they mean you harm… be very careful my friend. They left on a big navy ship, headed westerly... one of the boys watched them by telescope from the top of our mountain till they disappeared over the horizon.”

Mitch reached for another bottle of scotch handed it to Tamalu, he said, “I appreciate your concern, and you might as well know. I’m aware of these people. Believe me when I tell you, they are rotten to the core. I have reason to believe they killed a friend of mine in Sydney and I’ll be careful. I really appreciate your peoples help be sure they know that OK?”

Then Tamalu went up to the deck and the canoes soon were in the distance. Mitch glanced at the screen and seeing whales being whales turned it off and went below. Sally came out of the cabin. She said, “They are gone right? I couldn’t hear what he was mumbling about. What’s going on?” Mitch looked at her. He said,“Mutt and Jeff were here as well... shit they probably stopped by boat, or chopper on every damn island in the area. Well if it is any consolation almost no one who lives out here would turn a friend over to a government type even for a load of money. Even if they knew for a fact that me or anyone else around here had murdered someone. It is just an unwritten code about what sails by, sails away and no one knows anything about anything.”

She said, “I’m sorry about going up on deck… he saw me didn’t he… I heard what he said to you up there… about Susan. I mean… I’m truly sorry.” Mitch looked at her for a moment. Then he said,“Listen... you probably need to know this OK? I lost Susan a long time ago… another life it seems… anyway she was not a constant thought at all... until you happened to choose that name for your pseudonym. It simply brought up a lot of old memories… I am, for whatever reason not a person who lives in the past. While it bothers me that she is gone... well, I let go a long time ago realizing she went doing something she loved and no one on this earth could ask for more. The only guarantee we have is that someday our lives will come to an end. It is how we live that life. How we choose to go about living and doing the simple things that may give us some pleasure or make us feel joy for a moment. That determines the final outcome. One has to enjoy whatever he or she does and perhaps that brings a few moments of joy to another. If you can do that you have had a full life. End of story.”

This stunned Sally, she had absolutely no comeback. Here was a man, an extreme rarity, that knew who he was, where he was, what he wanted out of life and simply lived as all of us at one time or another have wished to. He owed no one had everything he needed to exist and apparently went through life only touching others with kindness and respect. She felt very lucky to have spent time with him. “If only the circumstances were different…” she thought.

He had moved over to the nav station, and was looking at a chart. Then he said, “Sue.” The computer replied, “Yes Captain.” Mitch said, “Plot a course for six degrees, thirty-nine minutes north latitude... one, five, nine degrees, forty-five minutes east longitude... set sail... drop the anchor.” The computer replied, “Aye... Aye, Captain... Plot a course for six degrees thirty-nine minutes north latitude... one, five, nine degrees forty-five minutes east longitude... set sail... drop the anchor.”

Then they both listened as the motors began humming. The anchor raised, at the same time the sails unfurled. In preparation for the boat moving from their current location. After a few minutes Sally noticing the turning of the boat said, “Mitch we are heading towards the East into the Sun is that right?” He grinned and said, “Yeah, we’re heading for a small atoll to anchor for a while. I told Tamalu I was going to Tahiti, and if they are watching us he won’t have to lie if Mutt and Jeff come back.” She said, “He told you they were here?”

Mitch said, “That was what he was telling me that you couldn’t hear he said they offered a reward for information. While I really don’t think anyone would give me up for money. There is no reason to make it easy for them. If someone were to let them know I was here and told them I headed to Tahiti so be it. By the time they give up looking for me we will be in Manila or at least close by there. We can relax by the atoll for a while. Then I’ll lay in a couple way-points to the south back the other way.”

On board the ‘Searcher’ Mike (the taller of the two) is saying to Jim (the shorter), “Damn... this boat is going to sink. Where did this storm come from anyway?” The Captain of the Searcher says, “Typhoon, we saw it coming but there’s almost no way we can out run it. We are heading for a leeward anchorage as we speak. I just hope we get there before the eye wall hits us. If we get caught in the open sea… while the boat can handle a storm... we could sustain some damage.” Seaman says, “Captain our radar shows the eye only about ten miles out and closing fast.”

The ‘Searcher’ tossed violently in the rough seas, so much so, that her screws keep clearing water. Making her progress tenable at best. Just then the large boat heaved up then plunged down. Slammed into a wave as it dove bow first down into a trough. Mike slammed into a bulkhead hitting his head and knocking him cold. As Jim bent to his aid, he too was thrown sideways. He had his side pierced by a bracket used to secure piping on the wall of the ship. Bleeding profusely he screamed, “Help… we need a doctor over here.” Then he passed out.

The Captain yelled,“Get a corpsman up here on the double!” Seaman says,“They are busy below decks. We have several people injured down there. I’ll try to get one up here.” Just then a huge wave completely engulfed the ship passing five feet above the masthead of the ship.

As he neared the place that he felt would be a good spot to do a check Mitch brought up the mast camera on the console. Aiming it back towards the island. He saw only the very top of the mountain. Where, as he had correctly imagined as he zoomed in he saw a young man was watching the boat as it disappeared over the horizon. He thought, “Well I hope the only person you need that information for is my friend Tamalu.”

If they were to succeed in this trek they would need a little luck and he knew that. He then went below. He saw Sally cleaning some frozen shrimp from their shells watching her for a moment he said, “Can I be of some help?” She simply turned and said, “No, I am a one trick pony, but I do know how to make Thai shrimp and rice. I found everything I needed already, but thanks for asking.”

Mitch sat down at the nav station, and realized the screen was still on the weather feed. So he updated the pics. He watched as the huge storm had progressed further to the west, and even seemed to have gotten stronger. He said out loud, “Whoa... that is ugly… I certainly hope no one’s out there now... I would bet there are fifty to sixty foot seas underneath that cloud layer. Along with winds up to one hundred twenty knots maybe more at the eye wall. The eye is almost twenty miles across. That is one of the worst ones I’ve ever looked at and it just kissed us yesterday.”

Then he thought, “We were lucky. I was a fool. I could have sunk us right out there ‘testing’ a theory. Someday I will be wrong then the end would come and hard I’m afraid. You’re supposed to be more cautious as you get older right… guess that means I’m not quite there yet.”

Sally interrupted his thought, she said ,“OK, dinner’s ready. I have to tell you… as much as I really wanted to cook for you. I am really apprehensive since you are clearly a better cook than me. So be gentle, if you don’t like it… please, keep it to yourself. Please?” He sat down laughing.

As he began to eat he realized that this was really good food. Tasting like he remembered from his visits to Thailand. He said, “This is great. I have no idea what you worried about. This is really good food. Thank you.” She felt warm all over. She had prepared herself for a ‘Well its OK… but…’ comment and was pleasantly surprised at his reaction.

When they had finished the meal. She looked up and jokingly said, “Your turn to do the dishes!” He said, “No problem, I can handle that.” She sat there while he washed up and when he had put away the last item. She rose and dropped her clothes. As she walked to the aft cabin, she said, “I’m going to shower… want to join me?” He waited a moment then followed her. They had a cool bathe together in the shower.

Although the shower was designed for one person they managed. Although it was harder than it should have been with the giggling and well… An hour later they were lying on the queen sized bed exhausted. When they both heard, “Alert... contact... off the port bow... bearing ninety degrees... range two thousand meters... speed eight knots... interception in one five minutes.” The computer voice of Sue filled the cabin. This ended the relaxation for the two. As Mitch pulled on a pair of shorts and made his way up to the cockpit. Where he opened the console and brought up the mast camera.

He swung it around to a bearing of ninety degrees and zoomed in on another sloop. This one smaller. He guessed about thirty-eight feet, white hull with red bottom paint, marked by a black stripe at the waterline and carrying the trappings of the cruiser. A breed of people seen throughout the south pacific sometimes young couples, but more often an older couple that retired and are meandering about the globe taking life easy. Seeing a piece of the world that few people see, except during an overly short vacation. Where quite often a couple spend a goodly amount of time traveling, nursing sunburns and not having the fun time they expected.

The cruising community as it is sometimes called is a lifestyle of sorts, chosen by some and enjoyed thoroughly by most. They usually keep in contact with others of their ilk by some means. Even joining up from time to time with others for side trips of various types. In fact most these days are seldom seen alone because of incidents on the oceans of the planet, such as pirates. An altogether too common occurrence.

Then the computer said, “Voice transmission on channel sixteen... shall I broadcast it?” He said, “Broadcast channel sixteen.” The speaker came alive, “Elanor… if you can read me go to channel twenty-one… This is Elanor … If you can read me go to channel twenty-one… This is Elanor… If you can read me go to channel...” Mitch hit the cancel button, and picked up the microphone, “This is Susurrus going to twenty-one.” Then he switched the radio to channel twenty-one and waited. Then he heard, “This is Sam Mathews of the Elanor out of Miami Florida, who am I talking to please?”

Mitch said,“Mitch Torrance of the Susurrus… you’re a long way from home friend. Where you headed?” Sam,“We were just looking for an anchorage. We got chewed up in that storm and lost most of our electronics. Including our GPS unit. However the radar and radio are working now, but I don’t know how to use a sextant, even if I had one.”

Mitch thought for a moment,“I can’t leave them out here.” He said,“OK Sam... apparently you have us on radar follow me. I’m putting in at a small atoll about an hour’s sail from here.” Sam,“Wow, thanks my friend we were beginning to get worried.” Sally was standing in the doorway, she said,“What are you doing? You know these people?”

Mitch laughed. He said, “Nope, but the law of the sea says we have to help anyone out here in trouble. Sorry, I didn’t write the laws and I only obey that one… it is just... good karma.” She said, “I suppose... I have to stay below again?” He thought and said, “Hell no, we should be fine. We aren’t where anyone would be looking. At least not for a while and these people are probably just some cruisers. A little down on their luck… come on up for a while.”

As a precaution Mitch then pulled up a view of the Elanor with the camera and was reassured by what he saw. An older couple. A man at the helm and a woman presumably his wife. She was standing next to him talking nonstop. He said, “She is probably more paranoid than you are… looks like she’s giving old Sam there hell, for following what could be pirates into some trap.” Sally watched the woman her jaw constantly moving, but she couldn’t figure out what she was saying, but she had to agree with Mitch as Sam didn’t seem too happy.”

An hour later the boat came alive. Motors were humming again and for the first time Sally saw what actually happened. As the main lowered into the main boom storage. A winch was rolling the Genoa on the fore-stay. She felt the big boat begin its slow loss of forward momentum. They approached a pile of rocks barely six feet out of the water. She said, “That’s it, that’s the atoll?” Mitch laughed and said, “Yep that’s it… an anchorage. Otherwise the anchor chain would have to be six thousand feet long!”

Sally heard the anchor take its plunge into the sea, and a couple of minutes passed before the bow dipped slightly as the hook caught bottom, and the computer wound back some tension on the line attached to it. She then looked to see they were only a few hundred yards from the rocks of the atoll. Then she said, “How does the computer know not to crash on the rocks?” He replied, “It doesn’t. I look at a chart and give a way point just offshore. Sue just brings the boat to that site. That’s why the folks following us so desperately need a GPS. So they know where they are and where to go next by a chart… the ‘road map’ of the seas.”

Sally stayed on deck while Mitch went below. She was on deck having spent the last… how many hours hiding from satellites and visitors. She climbed into the hammock and was enjoying the fading sunshine as she heard voices in the distance. Before she turned to look it was clear that the man’s wife was still giving him hell. She chuckled and thought,“Wow poor guy. I wonder if I were to make it through all this and stay with Mitch. Could that be me in some years down the road? Damn I sure hope not file that in the memory banks girl.”

Sally turned to see the boat complete its approach. Her first thought was that the boat was way too small for being out here in the south pacific. She spoke aloud,“What were they thinking coming way out here in that thing?” Mitch laughed and said,“They are your usual garden variety cruiser genus they have a boat just big enough to make an open sea crossing, yet small enough that the two of them can handle it.”

Mitch said,”If aboard Susurrus the computer were to break down. I would be hard pressed to run this big boat. While I can do it. I would be wiped out and have to anchor every night or simply let her drift. While I got some sleep.” Sally looked at him intently then said, “You’re serious? It is that hard to sail a boat?” Mitch said, “I wouldn’t say hard exactly but it’s time-consuming. Steering the boat unless you have an autopilot and even with that. You should still watch it in the case that something were to jam or break. Then at the same time you have to adjust the sails for trim. When tacking or jibbing you have to handle the lines and winches for the jib or Genoa. Not really strenuous, but it can be pretty much a constant movement at times.”

Mitch saw that Sam was preparing to drop anchor. He was up on the bow after dropping his sails. Nervously facing towards Mitch with his wife at the wheel. So he put both hands in the air and shouted,“Welcome neighbors... when you get settled in come aboard. We’ll have some dinner, OK?” Sam looked visibly relieved at the sign that Mitch appeared unarmed, wearing only a pair of shorts and that there was a lovely young woman in a bikini standing at the stern.

Mitch went below and started cooking some spaghetti and heating some sauce from a bottle. When Sally saw this, she remarked, “Wow, I thought you made everything from scratch. What gives with the bottled sauce and spaghetti?” Mitch said simply,“I want them to feel comfortable, but not stay too long. I don’t like strangers aboard that I didn’t invite. I won’t trust them until I get to know them a little better.” It was then that she noticed the butt of the gun in the rear of his shorts.

Then they heard Sam as he called out, “Ahoy the Susurrus, permission to board?” Mitch went up and tossed the rope ladder down the stern and awaited the couple while they tied up their small skiff. Soon they were on deck and Sam said, “Hi, I’m Sam and this is Rita, my wife.” Mitch said,“Welcome, I’m Mitch, and this is my girlfriend Sally. Glad to meet you, let’s all go below, shall we?” Mitch was careful to allow the couple to follow Sally down the steps, all the while looking for any sign of a weapon. Seeing nothing out of the ordinary. He followed openly placing the forty-five on the nav station. He said, “I applaud you two for being way out here alone. How did you happen to get here? Most of the cruising boats move more southerly.”

Sam then placed a thirty-eight revolver on the table, being careful to point the barrel at himself and said, “We were with a group of eight boats, but no one had any weather info. That storm caught us by surprise at night. We had rafted the boats together and the next thing we knew all hell was breaking loose around us. Each boat cut their lines tried to make sail and get moving. We maintained radio contact for a while then it went out. I later figured out that a fuse had blown and got it working but no one answered till you came along. I hadn’t seen you on radar till you were on the air. Just lucky I guess that someone else didn’t come along.”

Mitch placed some spaghetti and sauce on plates. He said,“Water or soda… I don’t allow alcohol aboard.” Rita spoke up, “Water for me. Sam probably wants a soda but he wouldn’t ask for it.” Sally said,“I’ll get the drinks.” Sam after looking around the salon said, “The two of you handle this boat alone? It’s huge... there is no way we could handle this.”

Mitch started to say something, then paused and said, “It’s controlled by a computer for the most part. We only have to check our position now and then or handle her in and out of anchorage.” Sally said nothing, just looked at him. After dinner Mitch went to the nav station and pulled something out of a drawer. Sally watched him as he got several batteries and loaded the device turned it on and once he was sure it functioned he handed it to Sam saying,“That’s about ten years old, but it still works. Fresh batteries should get you back on course so to speak.”

Sam looked at the Garmin GPS unit a handheld one but a lifesaver nonetheless. He looked at his wife then Sally and finally Mitch. He said,“I… I don’t know what to say... here w… we were worried... you might be bad guys... and here you give me a life saving device. I…”

Looking at his wife before continuing, Sam said,“Look I have some cash aboard. Let me pay you for this... how about five hundred American, is that enough?” Rita spoke up,“Really this is too much... you have to let us pay you… please?” Mitch said,“If you insist, but as far as I'm concerned... I would just as soon you pay it forward…. That is do something nice... for the next two people you run across... that are down on their luck somehow.” Sam and Rita looked at each other for a long moment, and tears came to their eyes.

Sam said,“You got it… not a problem… we’ll do the same thing, OK?” Rita looked at Sally and said,“Honey, you got yourself one helluva man here... you hang on to him, and never let go, do you hear me?” Sally said,“Yes mam. I already knew that, but yes mam. I got it.” Looking at Mitch. Rita nodded her head in silence. Just then the computer barked, “Alert... contact... bearing one eight zero degrees... range one thousand yards... speed sixteen knots... collision course... estimated arrival one half hour.” Mitch said,”Sue... I got it.”

Both the guests said,“What is that?” Mitch said,“I apologize. Sally, fill them in while I take a look-see.” He went to the console and brought up the camera turned it due south and saw a ship. It was a tanker. It looked like it was under full power. Sally was beginning to try to explain ‘Sue’ to Rita as Sam leapt up to follow Mitch to the nav station. Upon zooming in Mitch could see clearly into the control room above the deck and there was no one there… no one was driving the ship.

He turned to Sam who was standing behind him, “We need to move my friend and quickly.” Sam looked at him and said, “What kind of boat is this anyway. You got more gadgets than James Bond for Christ’s sake.” Mitch just said, “We have to move and quickly, or we are both going to get hit by that tanker, got it? Question and answer time later. OK?” Then he hustled the couple up on deck, and into their skiff. All the while Mitch was saying, “Sue.” The computer replied, “Yes Captain.” Mitch said, “Up anchor now... course two seven zero degrees... use auxiliary engine... full throttle.”

The computer replied, “Aye... aye, Captain... Up anchor now... course two seven zero degrees... use auxiliary engine... full throttle.” He turned to Sam and Rita. Mitch said,”Head west as quick as you can get away from here now!” They jumped into the skiff. Sam jerking the outboard to life, and steering towards his boat. As Mitch pulled up the ladder Susurrus’s engine came to life, before the anchor was fully aboard and the helm was already turning the boat around to move due west.

Rita along with Sam in the skiff, had turned around and was watching all of this with wide-eyed amazement. Then they reached Elanor they clambered aboard, tying the skiff to the stern. Sam was starting his small engine, while Rita pulled up the anchor. All eyes now were on the tanker on the horizon. Now less than five hundred yards away. Mitch and Sally watched intently as their new friends slowly began to complete the turn to head in their direction. Looking first at the tanker and then at the Elanor. Sally said,“Will they be able to get out-of-the-way in time?” Mitch said,“I certainly hope so.”

He almost held his breath as two hundred yards behind them the Elanor was now slowly moving towards them. Mitch judged the tanker was empty due to her draft, as she was riding very high in the water he noticed the water passing the number six at her bow waterline marking. The tanker passed less than a hundred meters away from Elanor’s stern. The wake it created caused Elanor to raise up and for a moment almost stand on her bow.

Then the sailboat raced towards them. As all four people watched the tanker make horrible grinding noises as it slid across the tiny atoll and continued its northward bound journey. Mitch said,“Sue,” The computer replied,“Yes Captain.” He said,“All stop.” The computer replied,“Aye... Aye, Captain, all stop.” Then there was silence except for a put-put sound from Elanor, as she came along. Sam simply said,“I suppose we could go back now... huh?” Mitch grinned and said,“Yeah, we can go back now.”

A short time later both boats are back in their anchorage. Sam and Rita are aboard Susurrus in the cockpit deck relaxing and having some ice water. Both men were staring at what was left of the atoll, a large red-painted gash across the middle of the rocks. Sam finally said, “OK, so you command a boat. That besides being as beautiful, as this young woman here. Talks to you, runs the boat like the car in Knight Rider and you run around helping people in distress. What are you, some kind of superhero?” After a long pause Mitch said, “I deliver groceries.”

A few moments passed while his comment sank in. Then they all began to laugh out loud, even Mitch. Sam said,“You’re serious?” Mitch turned to Sally,“What did we do for the past few days sweetheart?” Sally, looking at Sam and Rita said,“We delivered cases of canned goods, bags of rice and flour, to a couple of villages, on some small islands.” Sam and Rita just looked at one another in amazement.

Sally broke up the staring with,“I know, he never seems to stop amazing me either.” The couple finished their drinks, and Sam said,“Well it is well after dark, so we better let you two have some time alone. Listen if you’re around in the morning the two of you are welcome to come over for some breakfast. Rita cooks up a mean stack of flapjacks!”

Mitch responded,“We wouldn’t miss that for the world. We’ll be there... barring more tankers in the middle of the night.” With that said they all had another good laugh, and Mitch and Sally watched Sam and Rita until they were back aboard Elanor. Then after sitting wordlessly for some time looking at the star field. Which was breathtaking as it usually is the clearest following a storm. The rising moon was somewhat obscured by distant clouds. Sally got up and said, “I feel like getting naked and bathing right here... it’s so wonderful up here tonight.”

Mitch looked at her then he said,“Go ahead they’re already below and even if they were watching, somehow I don’t think it would stop you. Hell I’ll join you, who really gives a damn anyhow, life is too short.” Then they were both naked. Standing under the shower the cold water dancing on their bodies in the brightening moonlight. Then they made love on the deck and showered again.

An hour later Mitch commented, “Look there’s a full moon tonight.” Sally looked towards the east to see a huge full moon slowly rise out of the clouds. It looked almost close enough to reach out and touch. She said, “Why does the moon seem so much larger when you see it rise like that. Than when it’s overhead later?” Mitch said,“Hold out your hand, make a fist and see how many knuckles it takes to match the moons size. Now remember that and six hours from now. Do the same when the moon is high in the sky. It will still be the same size.” Sally said, “OK Smart ass, I'll take your word for that, but why does it look so much larger now?” He said, “Because now, you have a point of reference to another object, the object being the earth, to visually compare size. Later when it gets up above there is no comparison object.” She said, “OK, smart guy. Why the hell are you so damn smart and know everything?”

Mitch just said,“I think it’s time we went to bed, and maybe an hour or so from now we go to sleep.” She smiled, turned and kissed him, “Let’s go... you’re on.”



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