[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,]
ROGUE – Monday Afternoon
Regatta races are never routine. Padrig’s factors are in play as he leads us rank and file racers. We were warned. That includes the risk awaiting us on the Swedish yacht. Ffion tried to alert us, but thrills win every time.
Evading rivals, we jibe too violently. Lose ground – and the wind.
Patience. Rationalize. But we like to win – whatever the odds.
As I steer us back into the breeze, my mind dual-tracks. Sailing and strategy. Both risky but only one roils my stomach.
Rashmi shifts her weight as my next jibe is precise.
We’re no longer last.
Will Peder and Pia Pilkvist expect better? Reject us for shit boat-handling? Fail us – with the case wide open?
Unlikely. They implied time was tight. But They know something.
A boat closes on us. The next turn needs to be tight. No room for error.
Setup perfect. Jibe gentle. Danger passed.
Smiles. For now.
Mistakes have been made. We know we have a renegade copper. A police officer with a price. Our heads?
No suspects before we left Porthmadog. None now we are on our own.
We cut inside another boat on the next turn. Gain another place.
Sailing might become a serious pastime. Rashmi’s beaming’s face underlines that – if we can abandon swimming.
I glance at my watch. Not long left
Raucous cries ring from the shore. Local fans and tourists. Drowning out the roars from crews exhorting their partners for a final push.
Our interaction is mental. Written on our faces and in our pounding blood. We are a team. Unstoppable.
Except in a regatta. Trailing in mid-pack – also-rans. Padrig and his racing partner win again.
“Do we congratulate them?” I ask. But Peder and Pia Pilkvist are waving us over to the night-black luxury sailing yacht that looms offshore.
We lower our sails as we draw alongside. Peder motions to the stern which rears over us. He throws us a line, and we secure our Aberdaron boat.
A metal ladder hangs off the yacht. We climb up, past the blood red name
“Welcome aboard the Njörðr Hämnaren,” says Pia, simpering like a snake. “She can out-sail most yachts in her class – when we choose to compete. Not today though.”
The couple lead us to the cockpit which I recognise as highly automated. A necessity with a minimal crew.
“Did you sail her here alone?” I ask, wondering if we are expected to help with the yacht.
“All the way,” says Pia. “With all the technology installed, especially the computer-controlled electric winches controlling the sails, it was leisurely.”
State-of-the-art navigation equipment from what I can tell. Someone has money from somewhere. Illegal goods?
“All we lack,” says Peder, “is a submersible.” He laughs. “Human divers are preferable – especially at night and close to the rocks.”
So, a night dive. No witnesses. What does that mean? Has the rogue cop set us up? Rocks are treacherous too.
Cold fingers crawl up my spine. T for Treachery.
“Our money. The risk – deep diving at night close to the shore.” My lowered voice is not fake concern. Every tattoo screams. “Five thousand pounds at least.”
Am I provoking a fight? Or testing their commitment? Our worth?
“Acceptable.” Without hesitation. “But first, we move the Njörðr Hämnaren around the coast.” Pia’s mask slips. Warning light. “While you two check the equipment we acquired for you. Best scuba gear available.”
An attachment on the sonar depth indicator catches my eye. Like a vehicle tracker. My glance shifts to an out-of-place garden gnome. On a yacht? An electronic component smuggled into Wales?
But the gnome is staged. For us.
Peter taps his watch.
“Time to run those safety checks in the aft cabin. Go below and it’s the one nearest the stern. We will tell you when we’ve reached the dive site.”
As we head into the plush space below, Rashmi says, “Every sense says get off this ride. Our cover is blown. But we are reduced to one choice. Dive.”
I squeeze her hand as we reach the smallest cabin and inside find the scuba gear.
Brand-new with labels still attached. Staging? Sizes are right. Air tanks are full. We run through all the checks Varley taught us.
“These gloves, boots and hood fit snugly. But we use our own special wetsuits – for luck,” says Rashmi. “And certainty.”
S for Safety and Security. T for Treacherous and Tanks. E for Electronics. P for Price.
STEP. Forward or into the unknown?
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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