[Music treat at the end. This story will be posted in full after the Challenge for those of us that like to read everything in one complete telling,]
QUAKE – Sunday Evening
Quiet meals in quaint country restaurants can sap resolve. Not tonight when we all have questions. Like what are the sea jewels? Not drugs.
Peder and Pia Pilkvist collected us as arranged, taking us to a French bistro well above our normal budget. Somewhere we aren’t known.
We are encouraged to choose anything – and the wine flows freely.
“Did you eat Latin food in Patagonia? Or Welsh?”
“Welsh with an Argentinian twist.” I smile and add, “seafood became our favourite as it was fresh from the sea at Puerto Madryn.”
“Perfect, I recommend Quenelles de Homard.” Pia explains. “The lobster is local, maybe from off the Aberdaron coast.”
“I prefer Caille en Escabeche,” says Peder. “With the quail, I’m partial to the blend of Latin and French – fusion is an art form. Spare no expense when you order. We can afford this luxury.”
And the yacht. GEE is not an overtly rich company. No high value electrical or engineering items. Certainly not garden gnomes.
“I’ll have the Escabeche,” says Rashmi.
I choose the quenelles, but my mind is tapping my bracer. Q for Q-ships. Not what they seem. A disguise to hide weaponry. Like Quenelles de brochet and pike bones.
“Great choices require the right wines, “says Peder who then talks with the sommelier in passable French.
We aren’t meant to understand. But policing tourist areas has advantages. But nothing triggers alarms – yet.
If G is for Garden Gnomes, is W for Weapons? H for Herrings and more bones?
“Before the wine leaves us unfit to race tomorrow, what do you need me and Sioned for? As divers or sailors?”
Pia dips her head to her husband. We’re not meant to see as he is asking the sommelier for a bottle of vintage rosé Champagne.
“Divers primarily,” says Pia. “Your competitive reputation is impressive. But you will need your boat.”
Our doctored qualifications were straightforward for NWP to upload on the Internet. Our Q-ship.
“After we race tomorrow? No sooner I hope.” Although our participation is not vital. But I falter as if dismayed.
“Race, but then we need you. We will bring our yacht,” says Peder. “Then we’ll take you to the dive site.”
Late afternoon or later? Warning qualms kick in.
“Before the regatta ends?” Rashmi plunges deeper. “Or later when people disperse? A night dive will cost you more.”
Pia smiles and I shiver.
“After your race, join us on our yacht. No need to spoil this quiet meal with details.”
N for Night – W for no Witnesses. And for Warnings.
They suspect us. No more quizzing them tonight. Maybe not even on their yacht – their Q-ship. Or is that the freighter? The ship that is meant to be in Sweden.
Or is it? Another loose end. But we’re alone as money rules.
I attempt to quell my fears with food. By quenching a thirst for information that alcohol only stimulates.
Keeps them chatting. They’re digging too. Why? Do they know we’re police? Queer and a threat? Quislings.
We are being interrogated with a smile. About Patagonia. About diving competitions.
“How long have you two been together – diving? Amazing, your families are both from the Llŷn.”
Pia pushes – gently. A for Attitude and Alarm.
“Fate – except our families left together, so it was inevitable we were friends at school. And on the swimming team together.”
Rashmi is inventive, but Pia’s face indicates the story is disbelieved. Why? Who are they? More than smugglers.
S for Sail, Swim and Smugglers.
I shiver. Quake as my fears build. No coincidence.
I for Inside Information and Interrogation. R for Renegade – the cop that ratted on us.
RAIS – raison d’être. Why betray us? Prejudice or high-value goods? Or both?
Or RANG – ranged weapons?
In too deep without backup. The jeopardy thrills again. Quivering and riled. Rats.
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And now for something completely different.
“Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.” William Congreve – The Mourning Bride