Nautilus – Part 9 . . .

Saturday 23 – Sunday 24 June 2018

‘The Lady Windermere sailed at five a.m., Detective Gates. Mrs. Miller was captaining her.’

Gates kicked the ground. He’d lost Claire Miller yet again. She’d done her deal with Narcotics, been released on bail on her own recognisance, and now she was sailing off to God knew where. He snapped back to the harbour master.

‘Any idea where she was heading?’

‘Sorry,’ the harbour master shook his head as he spoke. ‘Can’t say she ever let us know in advance where she was going. Always thought she was heading to the Caribbean.’

‘Sorry . . . what?’ Gates asked.

The harbour master repeated himself. ‘She wasn’t one to log her journeys with us. When she used to take the Lady Windermere out, she’d let us know she was going, but never tell us where. Always came back tanned and glowing though. That’s why I thought she headed to the Caribbean.’

‘I thought her husband, Harry, was the great sailor in the family.’

‘He was alright, but she’s better than he. I remember she once told me she came from a family of sailors. They were always out on the water. But for some reason, she never wanted me to let on to Harry that she was at home on the ocean. Something about making him jealous if he knew. Got the impression he was a bit handy with his fists. Better off that he didn’t know about her sailing secret. Least not from me.’

‘So, you’re telling me, that Claire Miller is a veteran sailor?’ Gates couldn’t believe his ears. Steven Benson had mentioned that she suffered from severe seasickness whenever she went out on the water.

‘Yes. Knew how to handle vessels larger than the Lady Windermere too. She said that was tiny compared to what her family had access to.’

Stunned, Gates looked at the harbour master who simply nodded his head.

‘She comes from a family of sailors. Well, that’s just the icing on this very screwed up cake.’ He clapped the harbour master on the shoulder and began to wander in the direction of his car.

‘Don’t you want to know where in the Caribbean she’ll be going?’

Gates spun around and dashed back to the old man. The harbour master didn’t wait for an invitation to speak.

‘Mrs Miller always sails to Saint Lucia. She spends about a fortnight there, then heads back here before she sails home. Has done for years.’

Gates’ eyes lit up. ‘Just out of curiosity, how often does she make that trip?’

The harbour master squinted as he thought about Gates’ question. ‘Maybe five or six times every year.’

The penny dropped and suddenly everything seemed clear to Gates. He ran back to his car, phoning Turner as he did so.

* * * * *

By the time Gates arrived back at the station, Turner was already on the phone to the authorities in Saint Lucia. He paced nervously in front of her desk as she passed on Claire Miller’s details. When she hung up the phone, Gates pressed her for information.

‘So, I spoke with the Commissioner of Police, let him know what we have on Claire Miller, and before you ask, yes, I emailed the intel to him as well. He’s agreed to appoint a couple of his officers to the case. He was very interested in the fact that Claire Miller has made so many trips to his island. I may have dropped that we thought she was involved with the trafficking of drugs to keep him interested.’

‘Good, good. And do we know where she is? Exactly? And don’t say in the ocean, Turner. I can see what’s going on in your head.’

Turner sniggered. Gates had read her mind.

‘No word from the Coast Guard yet. And there are a couple of other vessels from other undisclosed departments floating around out there but no reports of the Lady Windermere.’

Gates sucked air in through his teeth. The hiss grated on Turner’s nerves but she didn’t say anything to Gates. He was under an enormous amount of pressure. It was all self-inflicted but still, Turner felt for him. He was the most driven boss she’d ever worked for, and he always got the best out of his team.

‘What’s she up to? I want to know as soon as any report comes in on her whereabouts. I want to know as soon as the Saint Lucia PD sight her.’

‘Yes, boss,’ Turner replied.

‘Hey, a question . . . anyone got eyes on Steven Benson? I mean since Claire Miller did her deal and fled the country?’

‘I’ll check it out, boss’

* * * * *

Claire relaxed on deck and watched the world go by. The seas were smooth, the weather was favourable, and the pitcher of margarita she’d made was going down a treat. A fortnight on Saint Lucia was exactly what she needed, especially the untraceable pile of cash she’d get for the shipment of narcotics she was going to offload. She thought it was nothing short of stupid that she was released on her own recognisance, and even more ridiculous that the Narcotics Department didn’t manage to locate the last shipment of drugs that Harry had stashed away in the hull.

‘Why’d you do it?’

The unexpected voice from behind Claire made her jump out of her skin. She swung around to face Steven, confusion and surprise spreading across her face.

‘What the hell? How did you get on board?’

‘Kind of irrelevant questions, Claire.’

Claire stood up and backed away from Steven. Unsteady on her feet, she wished she hadn’t consumed half of the pitcher of margarita.

‘I don’t think they are.’

‘Why’d you drop me in it? Why pin Harry’s death on me?’ Steven was agitated.

‘Honestly? You were there. Nothing personal, really.’

Steven grunted and nodded. ‘Nothing personal, really,’ he repeated Claire’s words. ‘Nothing personal.’

‘What do you want, Steven?’ Claire’s voice didn’t betray the concern she was feeling.

‘A lot of things, Claire. But currently, at the top of my list is vengeance. Sounds a little old fashioned, but I really do believe in people getting what they deserve. And you, my sweet Claire, deserve something special.’ Steven strode towards Claire, forcing her towards the bow of the Lady Windermere.

‘What are you going to do, Steven? Kill me?’

‘Well, that’s my ultimate goal, but there’s a hell of a lot of things I plan on doing to you before we get to that point. For example, are you starting to feel a little drowsy perhaps?’

Claire glanced at the margarita. Benson followed her eyes to the pitcher.

‘Yep, that’s right. Let’s have some fun, Claire.’ He smiled, and she noted how the creases around his eyes made him look younger rather than older. Steven Benson, she suddenly realised, was a handsome man. It was the last thought Claire had before the waves of sedation overtook her.

. . . The end . . .

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About Danielle

I like to write. What more is there to know?
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