[Please note: The events in this story take place at the end of RITES OF SPRING (BREAK) and are a complete spoiler for everything that occurs in that book. If you haven’t read that novel, you’re probably not going to follow anything that is going on here.]
Someone else’s feet pounded down the dock. Someone else ignored the calls of friend and foe. Someone else evaded Salt’s grasping hands and leapt for the deck of the yacht. Someone else pulled the ropes free of the moorings and pushed the boat away before his pursuers could climb on after him.
It had to have been someone else. James Orcutt, Knight Poe, Order of Persephone, Club of D176, Eli University graduate—he doesn’t do things like that. He doesn’t disobey the elder patriarchs, he doesn’t act impulsively, and he doesn’t steal yachts in the middle of the night without the first clue of what to do with them once he’s at sea.
At least, I didn’t before I met Amy Haskel.
First thing’s first. At the cockpit was a radio, and next to it, a list of handy-dandy emergency procedures. I tuned the radio to channel 16 and hailed the police, wondering if they’d expect me to speak in naval code. Which I could, if you’re curious.
“Hello? I’m calling the police. Lee County Sheriff’s Office or Coast Guard please come in. This is an emergency. I’m calling from a boat off the shore of Cavador Key. Lee County Sheriff’s Office or Coast Guard please come in.”
“Cavador Key, Cavador Key, this is the Lee County Sheriff’s Office Marine Division. Please switch and listen channel 17 OVER.”
Okay, maybe a little naval code. I switched to 17. “Sheriff’s Office?”
“Cavador Key, this is the Lee County Sheriff’s Office. Please state the nature of your emergency.”
Back on the island, I could see the others gathering on the dock. I couldn’t make out words, but the tone grew increasingly frantic and finally, a few of them boarded the other boat, including Salt. I had very little time.
“We have reason to believe that one of the guests here was forcibly taken off the island by rowboat. She doesn’t swim…”
The other boat zoomed by me and rounded the tip of the island. George and Demetria waved from the deck as they sped past. They’d convinced Salt to try the other island, then. I breathed a sigh of relief and gave the rest of the information to the police.
Alpha Mike Yankee. Golf Oscar November Echo.
Even in code, it sounded dire.
The police promised they’d send a boat, but not how quickly it would come. I avoided telling them that I was stranded out here as well. But as soon as I got off the radio, the enormity of my actions began to sink in.
I’d stolen a yacht. A yacht that probably cost more money than college and law school put together. Felons had an awful hard time passing the bar. Frank had better adhere to his oaths and not press charges.
Then again, I hadn’t set a very good precedent on that account just now.
I turned on all the lights I could find. Though I wouldn’t be able to help crashing into something, I could avoid someone else crashing into me. I was surprised how quiet it was out here. No boat motor rumbling beneath my feet, no sound of sails and lines straining in the wind, no chatter from the Myers or Malcolm. Just waves and the soft creak of the boat.
I was drifting farther and farther away from shore. I supposed I should turn on the motor and try to pilot the yacht, if not back into the slip—which I gathered was a rather tricky maneuver—at least closer in.
It was absolutely what I should be doing right now. And yet, I didn’t move.
This was becoming a rather familiar sensation. When I first realized that I felt something for Amy Haskel, I wondered if I’d become possessed.
- The day I punched Micah Price, it was as if some force outside myself had moved my fist.
- Had I been in command of my actions, I certainly would not have endangered my life by jumping off the boat after her on the way to Cavador Key.
- And surely it wasn’t me that had tracked her down and practically attacked her in the shower house the other night.
James Orcutt doesn’t do things like that. You can ask anyone you like. So there was only one explanation. I was possessed.
Despite what you might think, given my habits, predilections, associations, and forms of dress, I’m not a big believer in the occult. I’ve never seen a ghost, I haven’t used a Ouija board since I was ten and learned that any answer was a result of my playmates pushing the pointer, and an entire year of chanting, robe-wearing, skull-cup-using and other nonsense in Rose & Grave failed to produce even the slightest otherworldly experience.
And yet, how else to explain my strange behavior? I became a different person around her, one I barely recognized. One over whom I had very little control. It was uncomfortable. It was uncanny. It was unwelcome.
Actually, no. The shower bit had been rather nice. Aside from that interlude, however, I was way out of my depth when it came to Amy.
Malcolm was signaling to me from the island, his blond hair shimmering in the harsh dock lights, his face deep in shadow. He waved wildly, then cupped his hands around his mouth to shout.
“Jaaaaaayyyyyyymeeeeeeee….” Floated lazily across the water.
“Baaaaaaaaack!” Followed shortly behind.
Easier said than done.
I hoped my hunch was right, and that Darren had taken Amy to the other island. Who knew what the little shit was up to, though? If he’d laid a finger on her, I’d wring his neck, and I didn’t care if it meant I’d never pass the bar.
If he’d conked her on the head and tipped her overboard…
My hands tightened on the deck rail. What the hell was I doing here? What a stupid move! Trapped on this boat while everyone else went to go look for her, clueless as to whether she was dead or alive… What if the rowboat just slipped into the water? What if he had her on our island somewhere? Maybe the whole thing was just another elaborate ruse on Darren’s part, and he hadn’t kidnapped her at all. Maybe Amy was ignorant of all of this. Maybe she was just hiding out under the osprey nests, cooling off after our fight. Maybe she didn’t know that we were turning the world upside down searching for her.
She had a habit of not picking up on things like that, after all.
Or, maybe she’d simply gotten knocked over by a wave or dragged out by an undertow and drowned. Maybe the last sentence I ever spoke to her was a ridiculous accusation about her sleeping with George on the island—one I didn’t believe even when I hurled it at her. Maybe the last look she ever gave me wasn’t her usual smug smile, or haughty glare, or adorably annoyed frown, or even this new expression of cautious interest I’d caught on her face in the past few days. Maybe it was hurt, and confusion, and betrayal, and abandonment. Maybe she died wearing the same one.
And if I hadn’t said those things to her, if I’d chased after her when she ran from me this afternoon, if I had left her alone after dropping her off at her cabin when we’d first arrived on the island, if I’d never forced her into the water or kissed her in the shower house or admitted that for her I’d break more than plates—I’d break every rule that Rose & Grave had ever taught me—would any of this be happening?
Where the hell were those police boats? Hadn’t I been sitting out here for months by this point?
I paced the deck for a few minutes, then realized that perhaps the surface of an unmoored, aimlessly floating object was not the best place for a extended session of self-abasement. I turned the engine on again, and very gently started to steer the ship back toward the Cavador docks.
From the left—port—side, the island’s boat reappeared, skimming across the water at breakneck speed. I twisted the wheel and the ship shuddered beneath me. I pulled back on the throttle and the controls whined, and I heard gears grinding before my forward momentum slowed almost to a standstill. The engine was idling, but the controls seemed locked.
Great. First I steal the yacht, then I break it. I wondered if my father’s car insurance covered boat repair.
Salt’s boat whizzed by me, and I saw figures moving around on the deck, but try as I might, I couldn’t make out one that could be Amy. Under the glare of the dock lights a crowd had gathered—every person on the island was waiting to see what that boat brought back. Everyone but me.
From my angle, I couldn’t see anything on the dock once the boat pulled in. The odd shout floated back to me over the water, but mostly, the island was a black hole, swallowing all sound, all news, all hope that I could discover what was going on over there. I ran from one side of the deck to the other, hoping for a better view. Was Amy on that boat? Was Amy anywhere?
For a long time, I heard nothing but the boat engine and the sound of the waves slapping the sides of the ship, and then I heard sirens in the distance. A police boat whizzed up from the far end of the island and docked, and there was more hustle and bustle underneath the flashing colors. I seriously considered jumping overboard and swimming back, but I figured that Frank would kill me if I abandoned his ship.
Ages passed. Continents rose from the sea in a fiery inferno, then crumbled back into nothingness. Stars were born and died and got sucked back into themselves. I stayed on the boat and quietly freaked out in a way that Jamie Orcutt has never once done. Or at least, hasn’t done since I was six years old and my parents told me that my mother’s cancer was terminal.
Like every other kid in America, I’d studied Edgar Allan Poe in high school. Too bad no one in D175 had been imaginative enough to think through the details when they’d bestowed the name on me. It was surprising how well it fit. That guy had had a really tough life. Like me, he’d been born in Virginia, and his mom had died young. Like me, he had a stronger than passing interest in cryptography and the occult. The similarities stopped there, though. I’d never gone for a thirteen-year-old cousin, for example. However, Poe had been utterly destroyed when the woman he loved died at twenty-two years old.
Amy had better fucking be okay.
Eventually, the police got back on their boats and pulled out, and the crowd on the dock began to disperse. I could see Malcolm coming over to the edge of the dock and I waved at him. He lifted a large flashlight and flickered it at me.
Flaaaaash. Flash. Flash. Flash. Flash.
Morse code. Cryptography strikes again.
Flaaaaash. Flaaaaash. Flaaaaash. Flash. Flash.
Channel 68? I waved at Malcolm and turned to the radio as he hopped on board Salt’s ship.
“Malcolm Cabot to the Lone Ranger, come in,” he said through the speakers.
“Very funny. Is Amy okay?”
“She’ll be fine. They both will. Jamie, you have to get back here.”
What had happened? I was dying to ask. “I can’t. I screwed up the motor.”
Malcolm was quiet for a moment. “Okay, I’m coming to get you.”
I saw him jump off the dock and cut through the water like a pro. Alaska had been very good to my friend. Maybe that’s where I should run away to get my head on straight. This behavior—it was unacceptable. All of it was. I was completely out of control, utterly powerless.
It had to stop.
I released the ladder on the back of the boat and Malcolm climbed aboard, dripping from head to foot. I pounced. “What happened? Where were they? Did the police take Darren away? How is Amy?”
And then I clamped my mouth shut. I was even talking too much, just like her. That was it. When I got back to shore, I was getting a hold of myself. This couldn’t continue.
Malcolm looked at me for a long moment, then sighed. “Here’s the thing…”