On the bridge his first mate was in charge and had relaxed a little once they had reached the Australian coast. They were now inside the Great Barrier Reef and the waters here were always relatively calm. He had time to turn on the TV and watch the world cup; hopefully the home country could be successful against all comers. There was no need to worry too much as the ship was being navigated automatically and all shipping reports showed the passage to be clear.
Captain Martine woke with a start and a nervous feeling in the pit of his stomach. He looked quickly around his cabin. Who was there? His eyes adjusted to the dark and he searched every inch of the room. Nothing. He could hear nothing unusual and the hum of the PATRIDA’s engines put him partially at ease. He would be happy when this voyage was over and that cargo delivered. It made him very nervous. There had been some pretty rough weather and strong seas on this particular journey but the last few days had been easy going.
He rose slowly from his bunk, remembering the good times when he would have been able to reach for a shot of whisky before preparing for his next shift at the helm. His back ached a little as he straightened slowly and began to dress. This would be his last trip he thought, there would be no need to make another.
Martine had been at sea for most of his life and hadn’t been averse to taking the odd risk, the bigger the risk the greater the reward, today though he just had this bad feeling. As he shaved he began to think about being at home and staying there. Sure, there would be times when he wished he was on the open sea, he knew that, but to be with his family and for them to know he had made them rich, well that was the ultimate prize. He looked around the small cabin once again at the pictures of his wife and their two daughters which he picked up and gently kissed. One last trip.
He was still smiling when he was suddenly thrown across the room, slamming into the wall and hearing the crack of broken bones. The screeching sound of the ships hull scraping on rock or reef was unmistakable. He blacked out for a second but was back with it almost instantaneously. The throbbing of his arm left him in no doubt as to what he had broken and as he struggled to his feet he cursed. The ship had come to a complete stop now and he knew at once what had happened. Stantinidis, his first mate, had been watching that God-forsaken TV and now we’d hit something.
The captain knew he had to move and get on deck quickly. He hoped like hell he hadn’t killed anyone and headed to the control room to assess the damage. Once on deck it became obvious what had gone wrong and the pain in his arm seemed to intensify as he cursed.
They’d hit the reef.
Captain Martine knew how much the Australians loved their bloody reef, and they would be all over them come morning if they were still here, and that kind of pressure he didn’t need. Martine was a man of action and he took control instantly.
“All engines half speed astern,” he called to his engine room.
The ship didn’t move so he called for full power. Nothing.
Turning to Stantinidis he said, “You Bastard. What the hell did you do? I suppose you were watching the fucking soccer. Well, we’re for it now you little prick, you and I will be in jail and if they ever search the cargo, well God help us all.”
He knew his life would be worthless if the cargo was discovered.
“Damage reports, and get ‘em now God-damnit.”
Sending Stantinidis below deck he left his Crowley in charge and returned to his cabin. He paced up and down for awhile waiting for the reports. He knew he had to make a call, two in fact, but not wanting to make either and not knowing which one to fear the most. Eventually he dialled the number he knew deep down would be the most dangerous.
“Sir, we’ve got a problem.”
“What sort of problem, Martine?”
“We’ve hit the bloody reef, sir, Can’t get her off. I’m afraid I have to call the authorities and they’ll want to be all over us.”
“You incompetent prick. Jesus. Look, call the authorities and I’ll make sure I get some of my people onto it and try to run interference. We only need to get you to the docks for Christ sake.” The man they only knew as Bane was not stable and Martine knew it.
He made the second call then instinctively reached for the whisky in the top drawer. “Shit,” was all he said.
Will Stromme watched out the window, his dive gear all ready packed in the Patrol. Santo would be late for his own funeral, he thought to himself then cracked a grin, that’s if Santo ever died. Will was thin, but strong and beginning to show the first signs of hair loss. His face had been one that always showed a sense of humour but that had largely disappeared over the last three months.
A squeal of tyres was followed by a blue BMW braking to a halt. Will was beginning to get used to life on his own but he was a long way off being Okay just yet. It was especially hard when the thing you love most in life takes the person you built your whole life around. For Will it had happened that day in August when his wife and he had been diving on the reef. He had lost sight of her for a few minutes, watching a beautiful green turtle and she had just disappeared. Apparently she had an aneurysm which had burst and even if he had seen her at the time there would have been nothing he could do. It didn’t hurt any less.
Santo belting on the door snapped Will from his thoughts. Santo didn’t know how to do things softly or in half measures. He was a fit athletic man whose European background was obvious the minute you laid eyes on him.
“Let’s get my gear in your bloody truck and get a move on Will; we wouldn’t want to keep the reef waiting. Your twice-yearly chance to be my guide on God’s greatest creation is here.”
Santo Allura was an easy-going guy who seemed to flow from one job to another without a care in the world. He had studied Art at uni while Will had worked hard at becoming a Marine Biologist. Will had been rewarded by being given the role of Marine Park Manager on part of the reef while Santo had wasted his schooling. That was his nature though and Will supposed he would never change.
“I’ll just grab my phone Santo and then we’re off. I’ve got a real treat to show you tonight.”
“Another bloody fish I’ve never seen before, eh?”
“That’s the thing with the reef good buddy, there’s always something new to discover. It’s a completely different world at night. C’mon, let’s go.”
Sarah Connell had danced the night away with her latest boyfriend and they had had plenty to drink. On evenings like that she normally took her boyfriend back to her place for the night and tonight had been no exception. The sex had been great, but it always was when she was drunk enough to let herself go and enjoy it. She didn’t worry about the phobias her mother had put in her head or what Dad had said happened to dirty little girls. She was able to act normally, and God knows she didn’t mind that at all. Right now though it was the middle of the night and she was up, drinking water and taking Panadol. The morning was going to be rough but she had nothing planned.
Her latest story had sold lots of papers for Mitch and she was due a few days off. She had done a follow up piece to the robbery of the Swedish National museum in which armed gunmen stole three paintings worth around fifty-five million dollars. It had been a well-organised robbery with diversions being set to draw police away and no sign of the men or paintings had been seen since. They knew what they were after picking just these three from around twelve and a half thousand pieces at the museum. The Rembrandt self portrait dated back to 1630 and would be a great buy on the black market. The biggest art theft in Sweden was eight years prior, in 1993 when thieves got eighty-five million dollars from Stockholm’s Modern Museum and Sarah had tried to find a link. So far there was none.
Right now though she had other things on her mind. If only she’d liked the latest boyfriend when she was sober she may even had considered going away somewhere. I’ll dump him this morning she decided.
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