Chapter 37 -- Patchwork
“Hey, that hurts!”
He kept walking rapidly. “There’s a cop inside, didn’t you see?”
She jerked her arm free. “Yeah. Duh!”
“Well, he’s hunting me. The whole state is up in arms.”
Her eyes went wide. “What did you do?”
“Nothing! It’s the company. They spun a story -- claimed my father is a child abuser, or worse. Some kind of kidnapping tale.
“Where’s the bike? I saw you swing past.”
“In back.” She pointed. “So they aren’t after you, just your father?”
“I don’t know. Somehow,” he was hesitant to mention the credit card, “they noticed me while I was shopping. The next thing I know, my license plate number was on the police scanner.”
There was the motorcycle, lying on its side. Bert was standing guard. She’d left it lying on top of the saddlebag. He could just imagine the laptop now.
What a fiasco!
“Good thing I painted over the numbers, huh?”
He pulled the bike upright. They had to get out of there, before the cop finished his meal.
“Yes. But the police roadblocks are specifically hunting for motorcycles with Illinois plates, and that’s still Lincoln’s face, no matter what the numbers say.
She tilted her nose up, a familiar pose.
He sighed. “What’s going on?”
“I, ah, didn’t actually get permission to come hunt for you.”
Somehow, that didn’t surprise him.
He straddled the bike. “You have the dinghy?”
She got on, and put her arms around his waist. Tommy headed for the beach, but he drove slowly. Bert ran alongside.
As they left the town streets and approached the beach parking, the view of the lake opened up.
“Where’s the ship?”
Bree didn’t reply.
“I don’t know. They may not have made it back yet. We were pretty far out.”
He reached the parking lot. The little boat wasn’t visible either.
“Bree? The dinghy?”
She pointed off to the left. “Over by the bluff.”
Into the sand, the steering was mushy, but he could finally see the boat, pulled crookedly up onto the beach.
“I was going so fast, you wouldn’t believe! Daddy yelled, but it did no good. I bounced along on the water. It was rough going, but before long I saw this bluff, so I knew I was headed the right way.”
“You brought Bert along?”
“Oh, he did that himself. He almost gave the whole thing away when I dropped the dinghy into the water. He was barking up a storm! But then when I got in, he jumped in after me.”
“And Marvin let you?”
“Oh, he was below. We’d been fighting, and he’d gone down to get an aspirin.”
Hesitantly, he asked, “You were arguing to come back for me?”
“Yeah, me and Mom both. But you know Daddy, when he gets that stern look on his face he won’t listen to reason. We’d waited past the deadline, and when you didn’t show, he was ready to run. He was sure something had happened to you.”
Tommy nodded. “It had.”
He slowed as they reached the dinghy. It was obvious why it looked crooked on the sand. It was partly filled with water.
Tommy had to lay the bike down. It wouldn’t prop up in the sand. But his eyes were on the boat.
“What happened here?”
Bree chewed on her thumb. He got a closer look.
“Bree? Did you aim at the only rock on the sandy beach?”
“Not exactly. I mean I was going pretty fast, and I didn’t know how to slow down. Hey, there’s no brakes on this thing.
“I’d been heading for the creek bed. I didn’t know it’d have rocks and stuff.”
He ran his hand over the hole that had been shoved into the bow of the dinghy. A piece the size of his fist had been knocked out of the fiberglass.
“Well, we can’t head back to the ship like this.”
“You know,” she said timidly, “that could be a good thing.”
“What do you mean?”
“We don’t have to go back to the ship.”
He looked at her in the eye, puzzled. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, we could just stay on shore. Mom and Dad could go on to their new place, and we could go on to ours.” She had a hopeful smile.
Tommy was stunned. He knew she’d been flirting, but had she really wanted to be with him? He didn’t know what to say. Regardless, it wasn’t the right time for romance.
He spoke softly. He had to make her understand the fix they were in.
“Bree, the cops are searching high and low for me and this motorcycle. We can’t go anywhere, and we can’t stay. It’s a small town. People would notice and say something. The cop eats lunch here every day.
“And besides, the motorcycle is running out of juice, and we can’t recharge it.
“Our only hope is to get back on the ship, and you’ve knocked a hole in the dinghy.”
Her eyes were a little watery. In a small voice, she said, “I’m sorry.”
He sighed and shook his head in frustration. “It’s okay. I’ll patch it.”
He grabbed the bow of the boat and began heaving, dragging it farther up on shore.
“There’s a store in town. I’ll go buy some duct tape.” He turned the boat over, dumping the accumulated water. He checked the impact spot from the outside.
“Will that work?”
“Yeah, for the trip back. I’ll have to make a more permanent patch once we’re back on the ship.” He flexed the bent and torn patch of the hull. With luck, he could push it back into place.
“Maybe I should go get the tape -- if they’re looking for you.”
He considered it, weighing the risk of being spotted against sending the inexperienced girl in to get the right thing.
“No, you and Bert stay here.” He patted the area around the hole. “I want this area as dry as you can make it by the time I get back.”
He turned the bike around and mushed away through the sand. It would be safer to walk, but he was in a hurry. Paranoia had his senses on high alert, and he trusted it to get him though this.
Tommy had no trouble at the store. Marine rated duct tape suitable for patching a hull was a staple item. Of course, the store owner was inclined to chat, and was curious.
He gave the man, almost word for word, what he’d overheard from the couple at the next table at lunch. Tourists from the campground who bunged up their equipment was a totally believable tale.
Bree was eager to see him. “Any trouble?”
“No, it went fine.” He worked on the fiberglass. Bree’s shirt showed signs of being used as a towel. In spite of all the trouble she caused, he liked her. She didn’t flinch when things needed to be done.
Stubborn and persistent. She doesn’t give up easily.
Once the hull was bent back into its original shape, he began applying the duct tape in long swaths, both inside and out, in overlapping layers.
“There, that ought to do it.” He wheeled the bike over and set it down flat in the bottom.
“Get in Bert.” No sense in making the dog get wet.
Together, he and Bree pushed it out into the lake getting thigh deep in the cold water before he told her to get in.
He held the boat, now floating, watching the patch for signs of leakage, until he was satisfied. Then he climbed in, and took the tiller.
The engine worked fine, but he tested it in low power mode as they motored back toward the beach parking lot.
Still no signs of leakage.
“Okay, which direction is the ship?”
Bree looked out at the horizon. She looked one way, and then the other.
Tommy kept his frustration to himself. “Okay, I’ll head out to the original drop-off point. Maybe we can see them from there.”
He lined up the landmarks he’d remembered from the morning. There was the road. There was that row of trees.
Advancing the throttle, he sped away from shore, enjoying the spray on his face, a tremendous relief from the stress of the day.
But he kept an eye on the patch. Still good. Any sign of weakness and he’d turn around instantly. He’d have the both of them ride next to the transom and find the right speed to keep the bow high.
But for now, everything was going fine.
Tommy slowed down, checking his position, finally turning off the motor.
“Why did we stop?”
“This is roughly the spot where we unloaded the dinghy. Marvin and I marked this location on the GPS. He was supposed to come back here, where he could see me on the beach with binoculars, before he came back to pick me up.”
“It’s not here now.”
“And we have no idea where it is. Any direction we search would just make it that much more likely they’ll never find us.”
If Marvin were still searching for his daughter. Tommy wouldn’t say that, but the man was faced with getting his wife safely away, too. And hadn’t they discussed leaving Bree behind, for her own safety. Maybe they’d just chalked her escape up to fate and moved on.
“So we just wait?”
The whitish bluff, rising higher than the green of the shoreline, made an easy landmark. He’d have to be careful they didn’t drift too far from this location, not if he had any chance of ever getting back to the Marissa.