History and story-telling fascinate me. During my visits to Bermuda I discovered that the island and the town of Halifax were hotbeds of Confederate spies during the American Civil War. What a great starting point for another of Will and Harley’s great adventures while bringing to life some of Bermuda’s more interesting historical characters.
This novel is dedicated to the memory of
Joseph Hayne Rainey
A free black man, he fled the Carolinas at the outbreak of
the American Civil War and
became a prosperous barber in St. George, Bermuda.
During his exile, he taught himself what was illegal
for a black man in the South: to read and write.
After the war, he returned to the Carolinas and became
the first black man elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
Press play to hear chapter one, or scroll down to read.
Chapter 1 – Paradise Lost
Motorsailer: a boat that relies equally on motor and sail for propulsion, often over long distances.
Will couldn’t tell if the person sitting in the open boat was alive or dead. Will treaded water as he stared at the face covered in gauze, sunglasses, and a floppy hat tied under their chin. To Will’s right was an equally strange sight. A man in a black suit appeared to be sitting on the water, his dark skin contrasting with his long blond curls. He pulled a wedge of orange from a basket and held it out for Will. His sad expression grew concerned as he looked to the figure in the boat who sat still as death. The hands didn’t tell Will if it was a man or a woman because they were covered in gauze gloves. Suddenly, the gauzed left hand rose toward Will, who jerked back in surprise. The covered hand held out four old-fashioned envelopes, letting the first three blank ones fall away till only the last one, which had “H.M.S Lily” written on it, remained. Just as the ink on the envelope started to run, as if was wet, the person’s right hand pointed a gun at Will and fired.
Bang! The sound pulled Will from his dream. His cousin, Harley, reacted to the explosive sound by throwing the helm over hard. The change in course hurled Will from Wavelength’s banquette where he had been sleeping. He whipped his arms up defensively as he sailed out of the cockpit and plowed into the warm Bermuda water. Now fully awake, he whipped the salt water from his face with a double headshake. The life ring Harley threw at him scythed through the air and splashed within reach behind him.
“Will! Are you all right?” she screamed, her face scrunched with concern.
Will arced his right arm over and touched his head in the scuba divers’ signal that said he was okay. Harley’s look of concern told him she hadn’t done it as a joke. He also knew that, for a seventeen-year-old, she was both serious and safety-conscious when it came to boating.
To show her he really was okay, he ignored the life ring and got back to the motorsailer with a few strokes of Australian crawl. Harley flipped the ladder over the stern and he clambered aboard, then hauled the life ring back in.
“What happened?” he asked, wiping his face and hands with the towel she handed him.
“Don’t know. I heard the crack and I turned her into the wind in case it was the rigging. Never imagined you’d be thrown clear. But I think it came from below deck. Here, take the wheel and I’ll have a look.”
She started up the diesel and slipped it into gear, giving it just enough throttle to stop the wind from pushing them off course. The shoals and reefs in Bermuda had claimed ships for centuries. It wouldn’t do to let your ship drift off course when your depth gauge fluctuated between thirty and twelve feet.
Harley spun around and skipped down the companionway backward. She lifted the floorboard grate on the starboard side to stare at the water tank. That one hadn’t worked since before they’d sailed from Nova Scotia. The owner, a Mr. Bennett, had told Harley that it leaked but that he was sure the port-side water tank would be all two people would need for the short sail to Bermuda, especially as they could refill it as they moored in ports along the way to their final destination.
Harley’s face was scrunched in surprise as she ran a finger along the edge of the tank before lifting the top, which hinged backward.
“Somebody cut it open and put a hinge on it,” she said, staring inside.
The light from the portholes showed a piece of equipment the size of a small ottoman sitting on the bottom of the tank. She held up the frayed end of a red ratchet strap.
“This wore through till it snapped from the tension exerted on it by this, whatever this is,” she said peering at it more closely.
“Well what is it?” asked Will.
“Some kind of pump, and there are coils of hose here too.” She shook her head before adding, “Weird. Why did Bennett tell us the tank had a leak?”
“Maybe it had a leak so he used it to store stuff,” offered Will.
“No. Tanks are supposed to be sealed. Somebody deliberately cut into this tank. There’s something fishy about this.”
Harley scampered back topside and dropped the sails in order to motor the remaining distance. Harley called Bennett with the cell he’d given her, to say that they were close to the rendezvous point and to inform him about the broken strap in the water tank. A man called Drury answered and said Bennett was out but that he’d relay the message.
An hour later, they dropped anchor about a mile off shore. Their gear was packed and ready to leave when Drury roared across the water in his sixteen-foot Zodiac, which was rigged like a dive boat. After tying up in the lee of the motorsailer, he introduced himself as a friend of the owner’s.
“That’s nice gear you have there,” said Will, nodding to the new-looking wetsuits and dive gear in the Zodiac.
“You dive?” asked Drury.
Will grinned. “I got my license three days before we set sail from Nova Scotia so we could dive while we’re here.”
“So what is that gear we found in the water tank?” asked Harley
Harley’s tone was neutral but the question made Drury look away.
“It’s some kind of pump, isn’t it?” she pressed.
“It’s a backup bilge pump,” said Drury.
“What? No it’s not. Way too big. It’s a pump and with all those lengths of hose, it’s for a lot more than a bilge,” said Will smiling, thinking Drury was kidding.
“Well, I’m not much of a boat guy, I just assumed it was,” said Drury, not looking them in the eye. He asked if they’d reported the hoses to the customs officials when they had stopped in at St. George to sign the papers.
“We just found them so we couldn’t have reported them. But why are you concerned about what we reported to customs. Is this some kind of contraband?” asked Harley, her eyes narrowing.
Drury pulled a pistol from his backpack, and pointed it at the cousins. “It’s too bad you found that equipment, because now it changes everything.”