Fatal Impact (Chapter 18)

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Chapter 18

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina Christopher spent an endless night tossing and turning on the hard and painfully thin mattress. Finally, he gave up his attempt to get some meaningful sleep and decided to brave the inlet after all. He stood to slip on his jeans, then paused before the porthole when he caught the rays of the rising sun just as it broke over the tree line on the opposite side of the bay. The sun stood alone in a sky of deep baby blue. It's going to be a good day for sailing, he thought. Or, at the very least, it did not look like there was any rain in sight.

He pushed open the wooden hatch and stepped out onto the deck. The cool morning air filled his lungs, and he felt suddenly refreshed despite the lack of sleep. It was a brand new day and the start of a journey that would hopefully lead to a big pot of gold. He folded his arms and leaned against the mast.

"What are you doing here?" he mumbled to himself. After so much time spent alone, he was starting to talk to himself more and more. He would ask himself advice, and then give it right back; he was fast becoming a mumbling old man on a park bench. Yeah, and this crazy boat trip to nowhere won't help break the habit. The marina was still quiet and peaceful. A low hanging mist hovered over the dark water, reminding Christopher of the legend of Loch Ness.

Christopher was startled from his musings when a woman approached the gate that kept unwanted night visitors out of the marina. She fumbled with the lock for a few seconds before walking out onto the dock that ran parallel to the one Christopher's boat was moored to. She glanced over and smiled "Morning."

"Morning," he answered. "Looks like we're in for a nice day."

She nodded. "I hope so. Can't ever tell, though."

"Yep." He watched her walk on to the end of the pier and step down into a small fishing boat.

The marina was so dead quiet that he could easily hear every move she made, though she was a good distance away. He turned then, and went below to get a carton of milk out of the cooler. He poured himself a glass; his usual breakfast. He was not much for eating early in the morning. Most of the time though, something cold hit the spot and got him going.

Next came the job of rigging the sails, which were still laid out on the deck. The job went smoothly; partly because there was no one around to get in his way, but mostly because he had no idea what he was doing. He was afraid that the crash course in sailing George gave him over the phone was not going to be enough.

There was absolutely no wind, so he used the onboard motor to get out of the cove. The five-gallon can that sat on deck was half-full. Enough to get me by in a pinch, he decided. And another thing to add to the list if put in to a port somewhere. Slowly working the rudder with his right hand, he angled the boat out of the marina and across the bay.

The Atlantic Ocean was like a sheet of glass; as motionless as he had ever seen it. The fresh, salty air felt good going down his throat. A dozen or so squawking seagulls hovered around the top of the mast, swooping down to break the surface of the water, and then ascending again. They're investigating this strange beast, he thought.

Christopher contemplated the idea of just tossing out the anchor and relaxing. He would easily be able to see another boat approaching, even if he would be a sitting duck. But, he decided, it would be nearly impossible for Matthew Fox to locate him anyway. There was only way for him find out, and the one way was one that Christopher did not even want to fathom. Jenny and George were the only people who knew where he was. If Matthew got to either of them-and if he threatened their safety-they could be persuaded to talk. Feeling suddenly like the hero in some spy movie, Christopher stopped letting his mind wander in the possibilities.

He killed the little motor and drifted to enjoy the silence. The boat sat dead in the water.

A large cargo vessel off in the distance left a trail of gray smoke, and a high-flying jet marked a white streak across the empty blue sky. It was an utterly beautiful morning. He wished Kristy was with him. He wished that Jenny still loved him. In short, he wished things were different.

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