Fatal Impact (Chapter 22)

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Chapter 22

Atlantic Ocean Christopher Gilbert was already growing irritated with his choice of escape routes. This is no way for a real man to face an adversary, he thought. It was silly. He sat off the coast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, drifting aimlessly.

Though it had only been a week, he missed talking to his daughter. He missed Jenny, too, though he was sure she did not give him a second thought after he walked out the door that last night. He even missed his dingy little apartment. In short, he was in serious trouble.

The sailboat was surprisingly nice, however. It was his own little slice of heaven. The deadly quiet and serenity were a Godsend to his troubled mind. The only sounds, other than his own breathing, were the gentle lap of waves against the fiberglass hull of the boat and the flapping of seagull wings. The latter were becoming a nuisance. They came in bunches to visit the stranger on the water, swooped down to get a better look and squealed for a scrap of food.

After spending a long morning on deck trying to decide if the darkening haze on the horizon was, in fact, an impending storm, he opened his first beer. The cooler was stowed down in the cabin and out of the sun to preserve the supply of dwindling ice. If a storm did blow in, he really was not that far from land. With enough time, he could easily angle the bow westward and pull in the jib. With a little luck, he would be able to make landfall in an hour or so.

The built in bench seat that surrounded the steering column in the rear of the boat was perfect for stretching out and catching a few rays. Clad in only a pair of shorts, Christopher had to be careful not to fall asleep. A serious sunburn was something he did not need. The beer was as refreshing as a hot meal to a starving Eskimo. He finished the first bottle in three big gulps, propped up his feet, and rested his head on the bench. The soft lap of water against the hull and the gentle clang of the rope against the yard arm lulled him to sleep.

The sharp wail of yet another seagull awoke him before a deep burn could set in. His chest and the tops of his legs were pink though, and the hard bench had produced a crick in his neck. The remedy was another cold beer.

He went below, reached down into the icy comfort of the cooler, and plucked out another bottle. This time he remained in a sitting position on the bench seat. If he were to fall asleep again, he might not be so lucky as to have his friend the seagull around to wake him.

He squinted into the distance, trying to make out the outline of buildings and hotels tucked neatly into the endless expanse of beach. Suddenly, he missed civilization with a passion. He needed people. He needed conversation…even if only for a while.

Christopher turned the boat into the wind and headed for the marina. The first order of business would be to find a phone and call Kristy. Maybe if he could just talk to her for a few minutes and catch up on what she had been up to the last week, he could continue on. She's almost like fuel for my heart, he thought. He needed contact with something more concrete than old memories.

The seagulls still hovered; no doubt they wondered what he was up to now. He tried not to pay much attention to them. After three beers in the blazing hot sun, every time he looked up he got dizzy. It was a good dizzy though, not a sick dizzy.

Within an hour, he was gliding into the marina between two large columns of lashed posts that marked the entrance. He did not look for his own slip. Instead, he docked at the one closest to the boathouse. If he remembered right, there was both a pay phone and an ice machine at that location.

The marina was busier than when he left. In fact, there seemed to be activity everywhere he looked. A group of suit-clad men walked down one of the long piers and several families adorned the others. Marina workers were also busy with their daily tasks. The every day comings and goings would definitely be more interesting to watch than the seagulls.

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