Chapter 25 -- Sunset
Tommy moved to help the lady. She was obviously unsteady. “Come on over here and sit.”
She took his hand and moved to one of the side benches. “I’ve been nervous about being up here. I can’t swim.”
“That’s okay, Mrs... Marilu. Many sailors can’t swim. You’re not really supposed to fall off into the water anyway.”
He opened one of the storage hatches and pulled out an orange life vest. “Here, put this on. It’ll make you feel better. If I were a by-the-book captain, I’d make everyone wear one.”
He showed her how to fasten the straps.
“This is snug. Thank you, Tommy. Bree, wouldn’t you like to wear one?”
She shook her head. “I’m doing just fine. Besides, I can swim.”
“Don’t count on doing a lot of that. The water is colder out here. It’s not like a swimming pool.”
He thought he was being cordial, but Bree didn’t like the comment, and her mother was too concerned about the boat’s rocking to care. He hoped she would ease up. It wouldn’t be much fun traveling with someone in mortal fear of the water.
She hadn’t seemed worried when she was down below. Familiar settings, he guessed.
The chartbook was on the bench where he’d left it. Thumbing to the right page, he checked their co-ordinates.
“No.” He deliberately added a smile for the lady. “Just checking out where we are. We’ve gone a bit farther to the south than I’d intended, but it’s easily correctable.”
Thirty miles farther south than I’d intended. My fault for letting Bree and Marvin sail blind.
“Bree. I need to take over for now.”
She pouted, but stepped back and moved over to the opposite side of the boat from where her mother sat.
Tommy moved with efficiency, setting a goal point on the GPS and letting it give him a course to follow. He moved the wheel and then pulled the sails in, trimming for good speed.
Marvin appeared, carrying a small canvas bag.
“Just a trim. Heading east-northeast.”
He nodded and then sat beside his wife. “I found only two. I couldn’t find your study Bible.”
“Oh, I hope I didn’t leave it behind.” She dug into the bag. “At least we have the family Bible.” It was a hefty black leather bound version. She ran her fingers through one of the title sheets.
Marvin frowned. “You know, if we have to permanently change our names, those records of births, deaths, and marriages could be dangerous to keep.”
“I couldn’t give this up.”
He looked away, saying nothing. But he wasn’t happy.
Tommy stared out at the horizon. There was another Bible like it, at home in the living room. He hadn’t looked at it since Mom’s death. Presumably, there was a line on its family records page where someone should have entered the date Marissa Dorie died, but he hadn’t done it. He was sure Nick wouldn’t have been able to do it either.
Now, no one will.
The house, and all its treasures and memories would sit and gather dust until someone, probably a neighbor irritated at the grass, would investigate and discover them missing.
Unless the company took action to quietly remove evidence of their escape and sell the house. According to Kati, they’d already moved in.
In any case, the only Dorie family records were the ones he could remember. Maybe I ought to write down a few things, while I can still remember them.
In code. Just in case.
With the sun to his back, and with the sky dotted with clouds, light faded more rapidly than he’d expected. Looking back over his shoulder, he saw that sunset was not too far off. He’d originally planned to find a deserted stretch of coastline and anchor for the night, but that was before all the course changes.
He’d be sailing in the dark unless he decided to just drift for the night. The lake was too deep for anchoring.
He looked at his passengers. Bree was staring off at the horizon, thinking her own thoughts. Her parents were reading.
He’d about decided that this private meditation was what Marilu had meant by a worship service, when she started singing.
“Anywhere with Jesus, I can safely go.
“Anywhere He leads me in this world below...”
She started out quietly, and he wasn’t sure what was going on until Marvin started adding his own voice to the melody.
It wasn’t a hymn he was familiar with, but when even Bree, almost against her will, was drawn into the song, he realized it must be something sung often where they worshipped.
He could almost hum along with them. Like a lot of good church music, it was easy to pick up.
And he wanted to join in, but it was hard.
They’d gone to church regularly, before Mom’s death. But in the grieving time afterward, they fell out of the practice.
If she’d been there, they would have gone.
But Nick seemed grateful to be distracted by his work, and it took months before he found his own voice in family affairs. Even now, I wait for her to tell me when to act.
After a brief pause, Marvin began a different song, but he wasn’t a leader, and his voice hunted for the right rhythm until his wife joined in and sang the melody.
“When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
“When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost...”
This one I know.
He opened his mouth, and with a push, added to the words.
“Count your many blessings, name them one by one.”
They sang a half-dozen songs, and Tommy hummed when he didn’t know the words. Bree sang most of them, but dropped out, propping her head on her arms, criss-crossed, resting on the railing. Something bothered her, and she choked up.
He was far too familiar with the feeling. He was careful not to look her way. It’s easier to regain your composure when no one’s looking.
Marvin began a prayer. It was simple and unstructured, lacking in a lot of the standard phrases Tommy was used to from his church.
When he asked for protection for his co-workers, he began listing them by name.
He’s doing that for himself. It was plain as he struggled to remember the names. Marilu prompted with a few more.
And then, Marvin passed the prayer over to her. She prayed for her family and for their relatives, who would be distressed when they went missing.
Bree joined in, but she only spoke of ‘the group’, and her own fears.
“Tommy? Would you like to add something?”
He hesitated. There was a lot he could pray for, but the only thing he could put into words was, “Take care of Nick.”
His heart was pounding, and his voice locked up after that.
Marvin put a closing “Amen” to the prayer, and there was silence for a while.
“Look at the clouds,” Marilu prompted.
And the sunset had turned magnificent. A golden glow from the vanishing sun was illuminating everything from the underside. From second to second, the colors shaded through gold to red, as the sky darkened.
Bree got to her feet and dashed down the hatchway.
Her parents exchanged a look, and then Marvin began stowing the Bibles in his bag.
“Tommy, are you going to be sailing late.”
“Unfortunately, yes. I want to be within sight of the shore before stopping.”
Marilu said, “I’ll have supper in thirty minutes or so. I think I’ll go below and get started.”
“Would you like me to take a turn at the wheel?”
Marvin had stretched out on the bench, petting Bert.
Tommy shook his head. “Maybe later.” To tell the truth, he was terrified at the idea of turning loose of the wheel as they sailed in the dark. Letting them hold the wheel during a bright sunny day in relatively calm weather was one thing, but they had no training for anything more.
If he tripped and fell overboard, they’d not even be able to turn around to rescue him. They’d likely do something stupid with the sails and injure themselves or run the Marissa up on the rocks.
Marvin went below after a bit, leaving him alone, except for Bert. The dog was off in his own thoughts. Tommy had his.
The prayer had forced him to think about Nick. He’d been successful in walling those worries away. He had practice at that.
But how was his father doing? Had he made it to the hospital unmolested, and had the doctors been able to patch him up? What if there had been complications, like a blood clot to the brain, or an infection caught too late?
He had no way of finding out. All the old phone numbers were useless. That blog URL he’d been given -- how soon would that be active?
And if the Cleaners caught him, what then? He’d never find out.
Marvin re-appeared about five miles later.
“Dinner is ready for you down below. I’ve already eaten, so I can take over for awhile.”
“Oh. Okay, I guess. Are you sure you want to do this? It’s different in the dark.”
“Sure. I follow the compass, right.”
Tommy tapped a setting on the GPS, and the screen showed a compass arrow. “I’ve got it set to follow the course track. The arrow should point straight up when you’re on bearing.
“But only check it every now and then. Keep your eyes out on the water. Look for any lights and avoid them, no matter what the GPS says.
“We shouldn’t see land for hours yet, so that’s not a problem.
“Anything else, hit this switch. It’ll drop the sails, and you can just coast.
“And put on this life-jacket.”
Marvin chuckled. “Okay. Don’t be an old hen. I’ll yell if anything comes up. Now go eat.”
Each time he went below, things had changed.
Marilu pointed to the bow, explaining as they ate. “I’ve been moving all our things into that room. Marvin and I can sleep there. Bree will sleep here.” She pointed to the settee berth along the wall. Bree’s insincere smile showed she didn’t look forward to sleeping on a narrow bench. He made a note to show them how to remove the back cushion and set up the lee-cloths so she wouldn’t roll out when they were in rough water.
“And you have the aft bedroom. Marvin said you needed that one because of all the equipment.”
Tommy thought a moment. “Yeah, I need to get in there from time to time, but it’s the biggest room. I don’t need all that space. I figured I’d sleep up on deck most of the time anyway.”
She disapproved. “No. It’s your boat, and we’re not going to take over. And I wouldn’t expect anyone to sleep outside all the time. If you catch a cold, where would we be?
“Now finish your green beans and I think you should take a nap before going back up. Marvin said he expected to be up there for quite a while.”
Tommy heard an echo of his mother’s voice. “Tommy, take your nap.”
He smiled. “Okay, but just for a little bit.”
Careful to finish off the last of the sauce she’d added to the chicken and mushrooms main dish, he went into his room and sat on the bed.
I need my timer. He listened to rhythmic creaking and felt the ship shifting with the swells. Everything seemed perfect. Maybe he could get a little sleep. It was still hours until they reached the shore.
The recessed pull ring that marked the access port to the machinery below nagged at him. He would have to find time to make a complete inspection down there.
But his eyes closed. “I do need a little nap.”
He was out thirty seconds later.