Susan Wolf Johnson

Gasparilla King Blog

The sky had grown a deep purple above them, and a gust of wind blew through the yard with a fury. Becca picked up a chair to arrange it with some others in a semicircle under the live oak. The tree's limbs spread out like arms stretching across the backyard. A pair of jenny wrens hopped along the branches, squawking intensely at them. "They've been scolding me all day." Just as Becca said the words, the male swooped down and pecked the scarf off her head.
The lighthouse beam flashed on, and the masked man crouched low on the deck, his limbs crawling spiderlike. The revolver had landed within a foot of him. He lunged at it, sweeping it into his hand before Victor or Kurt could stop him. In an instant, the man sprang to his feet. He held his own pistol in his right hand and stuffed Kurt's gun into the back pocket of his black jeans. "Nice boat you got here," he said, waving Evan down from the ladder. "How about I borrow it for a while." 
Suddenly Victor realized Salazar had left him and Evan unprotected on the Blew Bayou. He immediately started searching the bait wells, the pockets alongside the boat, for a weapon. He'd grope around in the dark, grab hold of something, and then examine it when the lighthouse flashed on. He found a fishing gaff, some lines, a net, and a set of boning knives. When he opened the leather box, the knives were lined up by length. He pulled out the two shortest ones and handed one to Evan.
As the Lady Luck approached Egmont Key, whenever the lighthouse beam flashed across the water, Victor could see Captain Mortenson on the Bertram's fly bridge, wagging a cigarette at them. Once within earshot, Mortenson told them to throw the anchor. Evan scrambled down the ladder to follow the captain's bid. A southeasterly breeze had kicked up with enough gust to dry the sweat from Victor's T-shirt and ruffle his hair. But in spite of the wind, the water gleamed as smooth and reflective as God's own mirror.
While Victor and Evan motored out to Egmont Key to head off the smugglers, Becca and Natalie waited in the living room of the Westcott Mansion for Victor's Uncle Carlos to relay any news from the search.  Natalie had grabbed the phone when it rang, hugged the receiver to her ear. 

"Early?" Natalie asked, her voice aquiver. Becca knew she was talking to Carlos Mendoza. She clasped her hands over her belly and waited. The air conditioner clicked on with a whirring noise, like the old vacuum that droned through the house so loudly that when Niobe turned it off, the house became still, somber as a deserted church. Becca didn't know which was worse, the eerie silence or this new arrival. She shivered.
At nine o'clock Monday night, Victor and Evan followed the Blew Bayou out of the marina at the yacht club into the Hillsborough Bay. Even though the sun had set over half an hour ago, the evening came on heavy as a hog's breath. The night weighed in at ninety degrees. Victor sat bolt upright in the captain's chair, his senses firing at top speed. Earlier that afternoon, Captain Mortenson had shown him how to navigate the Lady Luck. While it proved to be much like driving a car, the captain had suspected immediately that Victor had little boating experience.
Chief Salazar and the search team were headed out to Egmont Key this evening with Captain Mortenson's boat and Hank Poppy's new Bertram. Becca had stayed up late last night explaining to her grandmother how Victor had ended up on Daniel's search instead of his yacht-club cronies. She fell back on the pillows and pulled the covers over her head.
"Salazar trusts Carlos Mendoza," Becca hold told Nattie. "They're like brothers, and Victor's the son Carlos never had." In order to secure the hunt, the chief needed to involve the fewest amount of searchers possible. "We don't know what's going to happen out there, Nattie," Becca said. "It's best the Gaspar Krewe knows only about the bogus search to Freeport, for now."
Becca suspected there was more to the cover-up that they wouldn't let on to anyone, but that was okay. She ran her hand over her belly, which was beginning to round. She, for one, understood secrets.
On the porch the night was steamy, heavy with the scent of confederate jasmine that hung thick form the trellis next to the porch. Natalie swept a piece of hair from her forehead. Not a breath of air blew in off the bay. She thought to fetch a couple of electric fans from the pantry when Victor's Camaro shot into the driveway like a silver bullet. He jumped from the car and bounded up the stairs carrying a bottle of wine.
Yesterday, Chief Salazar called and said the Sea Booty had been hijacked by a gang of smugglers, and there was a chance Daniel Westcott was on the boat. King-napped. Natalie had pressed the phone to her ear to steady her hand. The way Salazar chose his words¸ she knew he was trying to downplay the danger. She let him talk on. He'd just received confirmation that the Sea Booty was anchored at St. Ann's Bay, Jamaica. They didn't know exactly when the boat would head out and return to Tampa. But Salazar said he and Carlos Mendoza were putting a crew together to head off the smugglers before they reached the desolate spit of land on Egmont Key. When he stopped talking, an awkward pause followed. Natalie's mind raced. She thought to thank him, to apologize for the inconvenience. Nothing seemed right. So she invited him—and Carlos Mendoza—to dinner Sunday evening.
The night Becca hid beneath the live oak waiting for Adam, she opened her suitcase and pulled out the first volume of Rebecca's diary. The floodlight, positioned to illuminate the tree, shone on the journal while Becca remained unseen within the remaining darkness under the oak. Becca remembered the story that Rebecca had recorded in the diaries that dated back to the mid-1800's. Here is an excerpt from that journal.

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