They surfaced, far enough to be out of gunshot range. He handed her the sat phone and the list of numbers.
“This is the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service. How may I help you?”
“This is Brenda deMay. I have just escaped the turtle poachers who have kidnapped me. Their ship is disabled at ...”
She gave the GPS co-ordinates and told them to hurry.
Explanations could wait.
She handed back the phone. “Can we get back closer?”
“They know they’re trapped. As soon as they get word from their spy in the police department, they’ll dump all the turtles–try to get rid of the evidence.”
He took them down and she was right. Turtles were being tossed by the bucketful overboard into the shark infested waters. Some were instantly gobbled up, but there were so many, fleeing in all directions, that most were escaping.
Nemo frowned. “I wish you had a camera.”
She looked up. “We do have a camera.”
He looked puzzled, “We do?”
She grabbed the laptop and fired up a program. A tiny light appeared above the screen, and she was staring at her bruised and damaged face.
She shifted her position, and the towels draping over her shoulder to look reasonably decent, and then clicked the record button.
“This is Brenda deMay reporting. I have just escaped a crew of sea-going poachers that have been collecting and killing the endangered sea turtle. Just moments ago, they realized that their ship has been disabled and have begun dumping the turtles as the Cayman Islands police race to my rescue.”
She turned the laptop around so the built-in webcam could pick up the carnage. Letting the camera run for several minutes, there were some dramatic shots–some of the sharks crunching the turtles in their teeth. Many of turtles swimming close to the Manta in their race to escape.
Finally, she turned it off.
“I can’t watch this any more.”
“I’ll move us away again.”
As they started to move, there were bullets zipping into the water. A couple even got close enough to bounce off the hull, but by the time they reached that depth, the shells had spent their energy.
“Is turtle poaching even illegal here?”
She nodded. “Yep. Fines, imprisonment, the whole thing. Besides, I claimed kidnapping. That should get a response even if there is some problem with the turtles.”
He put his hand on her shoulder. “When I Karl and I were tracking you down....”
“You were working with Karl?”
“Yes. Neither of us knew you were missing for several days, until I called your office. He though you’d come to visit me.”
She frowned. “I guess I’d better put in a call to him as well, before he fires me.”
She made the call. He was greatly relieved to hear from her.
“I’ll be sending video, once we get network. And Karl, although I will be taking a break, don’t you dare give my job away to someone else.”
Nemo put the Manta on a slow autopilot course for Grand Cayman as soon as the shooting between the police and the poachers was captured on the laptop video. The poacher’s ship would have to be towed to harbor.
“Lie down on the couch.”
“Just do it.”
He checked her out from toenails to split ends. He had no bandages other than what he made himself, but he got her various wounds cleaned and sacrificed the edge of one of the blankets to bind the worst of them. The bruises would have to heal by themselves.
“This is just to get me naked.”
“Hmm. Stay put.” He dabbed at the cut by her eye. “Without cosmetic surgery, this will definitely scar.”
“Maybe I’ll leave it. Make me fierce.”
He asked, “Do you want to be fierce?”
“I...” she paused, and tears started flowing. “I was so scared.”
He held her tight. “Do we have to go back to the land yet? I could just coast out here and take care of you.”
He made a call. He explained the situation.
“She’s been traumatized–kidnapped, beat up, threatened with rape, trapped in a dark hold, with people who would kill her without a thought. She’s perfectly willing to give a statement and by trial date, she’ll be ready to spit in the eye of a dragon, but right now, she needs to stay with me, calm and protected.
“I can’t come ashore–I’m a US citizen, but my passport is in the bottom of the sea off Antigua. If we could arrange to meet a boat...”
It was a spectacle. The Manta coasted to a stop in the shallow waters dubbed ‘Stingray City’ where dozens of tourist boats were already there so that people could swim with the stingrays.
The Manta was like the creatures’ giant-sized brother, almost too big for waters.
Brenda, dressed in Nemo’s old clothes, while he wore his white suit, stepped out on the wing as a RCIPS officer in uniform stepped over from her boat to join them. Nemo apologized for the lack of chairs, but they got down to business. Brenda made her statement before the police camera and signed papers. With thumb drives, they made copies of the videos and swore oaths they were true copies.
By the time the police were done, the TV crew from channel 27 appeared.
Brenda and Nemo were both star attractions, and he was glad to be able to say, “Enough” after a few brief statements. The cameras followed them inside and kept rolling as the Manta slipped away.
“Where are we going?” she asked, as she changed out of his clothes and into the lacy nightgown he had kept ready for her.
“I thought Miami? Although we could go by way of China if you wish.”
“Jacksonville. Definitely Jacksonville. You need to have a serious talk with Frank Hancock, and I need to be there to make sure he doesn’t take advantage of you.”
She described the situation, and although he was willing to let it ride, she insisted.
“You need me to take care of you.”
“I thought you wanted to get back to your job.”
She stretched out, with her head in his lap. He straightened her curls.
“Well both, actually. I’ll be all over the Caribbean, and so will you. We work well together. I can help you and you can help me.
“I want us together. Maybe not every day, but why can’t we be partners and lovers and friends?”
He smiled. “You know, there’s a word for that. There’s even a ceremony that goes with it.”
She felt a wave of confusion and panic. He stroked her good cheek and held her hand.
He pressed his case. “It won’t be traditional. Neither of us could fit into that lifestyle. You can keep your professional name, and I’ll probably do the same.”
“Yeah. I’ve gotten used to it.”
“You know they’ve named your volcano Nemo’s Seamount on the charts?”
“What else could they call it?”
She put her hand to her bruised face. “You know I’m a mess. Are you really sure you want marriage?”
“You know my history. Do you think I could settle for anything less? I’d love it.”
He kissed both cheeks. “I love you, Brenda, Girl Reporter.”
“And I love you, Captain Nemo.”
A long while later, she asked, “How long will it take to get to Jacksonville?”
“Several days. It’s over a thousand miles. We have to go around Cuba and then up the Florida coast.”
“We could stop by Key West and visit a county clerk, couldn’t we?”
“Yes, we could.”
“Any way we could make the Manta go faster.”
He chuckled, “Yes. How do you feel about roller coaster rides?”
“Life with you is a roller coaster, Nemo. Let’s go!”