Chapter 17 -- Come About
He can’t be thinking.... But Mr. Valente did look like he suspected he and Bree had been up to something R-rated. Who did he mistrust, his daughter or him? Then, Marvin noticed the dog at their feet.
“Hello, Bert,” he said, and visibly shook off his suspicions. He ran his hand from his forehead across to the back of his head.
“Sorry. It’s been a rough day.” He looked Tommy in the eyes, and asked politely, “I noticed the boat changing course. Have you made a change?”
Tommy nodded. “I’d left Bree on watch and she noticed some kind of navigation platform.” He pointed and Marvin noticed the lights behind them. “I steered around it, and figured we were far enough out from shore to set course for Milwaukee. We should get supplies at a marina there, no matter what our real destination.
“I’ll get you where you need to go, but I really do need to know where that is.”
Marvin nodded, and looked again at his daughter for a second. He moved up to the mast and braced himself against it. The boat was swaying as it moved at an angle to the oncoming waves.
“None of us has a real plan. Not anymore. Now that Nick’s out of it.” He shook away a distasteful thought.
“My family needs to go into hiding. We know people in Canada.”
“Where in Canada?”
“Thunder Bay, Ontario.”
Tommy nodded. Even in the cold months, when sailing was impossible, he would sometimes pull out the maps and imagine. Thunder Bay was on Lake Superior. Easy enough to get to. But how to deal with customs?
Marvin looked back at the hatchway. “I know Ruth was planning to stay with Nick, but I have no idea what we’ll do about that now. Dek has no plans. He just wanted out. I don’t know anything about the others. Maybe they’re okay.”
“How many of you were in this?”
“There were about sixty employees. Only Nick knows the exact number. There were six division heads, and we each had our own little group. It was very compartmentalized. I know about my advanced electrical systems, but I don’t have any idea what the other divisions did. We never chatted. It wasn’t allowed.
“If Nick hadn’t been the man in charge, I would have left long ago. You could tell he was doing his best against a rigid organization. He had such enthusiasm! Even if he couldn’t tell you what he had in mind, his dreams seemed to radiate.”
“So you don’t know what he had planned?”
“No. Just the little bits and pieces that touched my people. At first, I know he had some big grand project, but then when things started to tighten up, it all changed.”
Marvin looked over at Bree, as she stared out over the black waters, pretending not to listen. “I should have gotten out then.”
Tommy waited, hoping for more hints about what his father had been doing for the past year, but Marvin seemed to have said as much as he’d intended.
“Thunder Bay is quite a ways -- days on the water. We’ll need supplies. Do you have an objection to Milwaukee?”
Marvin shook his head. “No. If you think it’s best. I have no experience on boats.”
I wonder. How much does he know about Marissa’s changes? ‘Advanced electrical systems’, he said.
He tested him. “There’s another problem. We’ve been running on the diesel system because the mast is down. Two problems, really. Running on diesel all the way to Canada means lots of stops for fuel. If we could do it under sail then we’d be able to steer clear of harbormasters and custom’s agents.
“Second, we stick out like a sore thumb. A sailboat with its mast down is okay next to shore, but out on the water, it’s suspicious.
“If we could luck into a boatyard with a crane to raise the mast, it’d be good.”
Marvin nodded to himself as Tommy explained. “Yeah, I guess. You think Milwaukee has a place to do the work?”
“Oh, yeah. I’m sure they would.”
And he didn’t blink an eye about running on diesel. He doesn’t know about the magical generator.
Mrs. Valente called for her husband, and he went below.
Bree said, “It’s getting chilly.”
Tommy smelled the air. “You have to bundle up at night, especially when you’re just standing or sitting. Did you bring a jacket?”
“Probably. It was just throw everything into a bag and run out to the car, with Daddy yelling at everyone.”
“Did you get an explanation?”
“Ha. Like that ever happens.”
“Yeah. I couldn’t understand what was going on, especially going into finals week.”
She smiled, “That, I don’t mind in the least.”
Ruth appeared in the hatchway. “Tommy, could you come down.” Her face was strained.
Bree said, “I’ll keep watch for you. Go.”
He nodded. “We’re going faster now. You’ll have less warning time.”
Nick seemed more alert, sitting upright next to Ruth, but Marvin did the talking.
“Tommy, we think Nick needs medical attention, sooner rather than later.”
Ruth spoke. “Soon. Whatever town is nearest. I’ll get him to a hospital.”
“We’ll be in Milwaukee before dawn.”
“Dawn will be good enough,” Marvin assured him. “It’ll be hard moving him. It’d be worse in the dark. He isn’t critical. It’s just that he’s getting worse. We don’t have the skills to take care of him.”
He could tell Ruth didn’t like waiting that long.
Tommy nodded. Nick was watching him, seeing how he would react. He remembered that look, during the dark times. Consciously, he straightened up. “Don’t look like the weight of the world is on you,” Mom had said, a week before she died. “Your Dad worries.”
Marvin cleared his throat. “We need to know... Are you going to go with him, or will you stay with the boat?
“The thing is -- none of us has experience on the water. We could certainly use your skills. But I know you want to stay with your Dad. The choice is up to you. We’ll understand either way.”
Leave Nick? Or, leave the Marissa to a bunch of clueless landlubbers? They’d run her aground in a day.
He looked at how possessive Ruth sat, with her arms holding Nick upright. He was too weak to support himself.
How could he make a choice like this? It wasn’t fair.
No one said anything, trying to give him time to think, but their eyes were on him, and he could almost feel their thoughts.
Marvin wanted him to sail the boat. Marilu wanted him to be comfortable, but she moved her head with that same tilt as her husband’s. Nick had talked at length about body language. She wanted him on the trip as well.
Dek didn’t care. He didn’t even make eye contact. He could be ignored. Dek was more concerned with what Marvin thought.
Ruth was just anxious to be off to the hospital. Nick was her only concern.
Nick watched him watching them. His eyebrow shifted. Under his pain, he was amused.
“People.” He coughed. “Could I have a moment alone with my son?”
“Of course,” Marvin took his wife’s hand and they headed up the steps. Dek followed, and after Ruth helped him lay back down, she followed.
Tommy moved close. “It’s good to hear you talk in complete sentences. You’ve been out of it.”
He nodded. “Tommy, I’ve made a royal mess of things. I’m sorry. I messed up your life, and all of theirs, too.” He closed his eyes, and for a second it looked like he was drifting off again.
“Nick, what do you want me to do?”
He struggled to be clear. “It’s very important that the Marissa not fall into the company’s hands.”
“Because of the changes you made to the engine?”
“Yes, and other things.”
“Then I’ll stay, and get the others to safety. Are you okay with that?”
“Yes. Yes. I know I can trust you. Ruth will take care of me.”
Tommy didn’t know how to respond to that.
“Son, I’m sorry I caused all of this. But the secrets... the discoveries were too important to hide away.
“I found records of a precision muon-beam system that could target individual cancer cells selectively, and they just filed it away! They could have saved her.”
Tommy felt a tension growing in his chest. His eyes began to blur. It stifled his breath and rang in his ears.
A device like that -- something that could destroy all the cancer cells in her body and yet leave her healthy cells to recover -- it could have saved Mom. Suddenly, Tommy realized what had pushed his father into this mess. Doubts about the legality of what he’d done, and whether it was “stealing” were suddenly not important any more.
Nick had a plan, and he needed him to finish it for him.
“I’ll do it.”
Nick’s eyes were closed again. “When you’re alone,” he whispered, “check the documents.”
“I’m staying with the boat,” he announced to the people on deck. “But we’re not going to wait for dawn. We’re still fairly close to Racine. I’ve reviewed the charts. There’s a big marina close to where I picked you up. We can unload Nick straight to the dock, without using the dinghy at all. You say there’s a car parked near there?”
“Good, then it should still be in walking distance. Ruth could get it and have transportation for getting him to the hospital.”
“This is crazy,” Dek snarled. “We just got away, and now we’re going back!” He went below.
“It’s a good plan,” said Ruth, heading below herself to check on Nick.
Marvin thought about it a moment longer. “Okay, Tommy. If you think it’s doable. But if there’s any sign of the security team....”
“We can check the shore with binoculars before we move in. If there’s any activity by the car, we’ll just sail on by.”
They discussed it. It was a risk, but everything was a risk right now. Security agents were known to be in Racine, but leaving the car by the harbor was pointing an arrow at the boat. If the company had already discovered the car, they would have no reason to believe the owners would return for it.
And if hospitals were being monitored, then it would be better if Nick were discovered in Racine, than in Milwaukee while they were taking on supplies.
“Good. Then go below and get Nick ready. I’ll put her about.”
Marvin nodded and did as he was told. Bree watched his interaction with her father and looked at him strangely, a strange grin on her face. Then she went below to help.
Tommy saw it all, and understood. Weird. I guess it’s crazy giving orders to adults, but if this is to work at all, then I’m the captain, and captains give orders.
A few minutes with the GPS and he changed course -- heading them all in to the lion’s den again.