Nigel tried to console me by reminding me that I was going home too. He meant well, but his words only deepened my sorrow. Fighting back tears, I shoved my letter to Rachel in my back pocket, shook his hand one last time, and boarded Captain Knowles’ boat. Twenty minutes later, we had left the harbor and were heading north. Captain Knowles, the boat captain when I had been meeting secretly with Nash, explained what would happen next. Given that we were on his boat and the detailed planning involved with my departure, I assumed Nash had lent a hand. For that I was thankful.
We were headed fifty miles north to a small island called Fanny Cay, where I would be dropped off along with a kayak Captain Knowles had aboard. From Fanny Cay, I would kayak two miles north to a larger island called Great Harbor Cay, where I would spend the night.
Captain Knowles left me alone. I didn’t know what he knew, and I didn’t care. I didn’t care about much of anything. I was on autopilot. He dropped me off with the kayak, said goodbye with a casual salute, and headed back toward Nassau as I paddled toward the island due north that he’d pointed out. The waters were calm due to their position east of the Berry Islands, a string of small islands running north to south, and I made good time.
When I arrived at Great Harbor Cay, I abandoned the kayak and hiked into town and found my way to a small, seaside bar where I met a woman named Jessica who was related to the Bastian family, one of Javon’s cousins. She provided a cot in the back room for me. When I rose the next morning, there was a note waiting for me she had slid under the door.
“Make yourself at home.”
Which I did. I made a pot of coffee and helped myself to some coconut bread. The food in the Bahamas was one thing I would miss.
I was standing on the beach as the sun was rising when a familiar looking 53’ Hatteras came into view. I watched as the man at the helm dropped anchor and lowered a small rubber dinghy into the water. He started up the small outboard engine and set off for shore. He pulled the dinghy up onto the beach and approached, holding a mug of coffee in his hand.
“Captain Bootle at your service.”
I gathered my things and boarded the boat. We delayed our departure for the States out of fear that Lasko would suspect that’s where I was heading and would launch a full-scale manhunt. We headed to Abaco Island instead, where we stayed with members of the Bastian extended family, folks we could trust. Then late Monday afternoon, Captain Bootle and I headed for the coast of South Carolina.
The following morning, Tuesday, October 3rd, In the Atlantic Ocean, motoring west toward the United States
We took turns manning the helm. We had two long days ahead of us and expected to come alongside the eastern seaboard of the United States a few miles off the coast of Beaufort, South Carolina late Wednesday night. We shared the task of preparing food, we slept from time to time, and rechecked our route, all in a silent rhythm. As with the first time we met, some five years earlier, not much was said in transit.
Captain Bootle did not know what I was running from five years ago, and unless someone had told him, he still didn’t. But we had worked together several times over the years, me as his first mate, and we were friends.
“You’re going home, are you?”
“It would appear.”
“Will it be safe? What drove you away five years ago, does that no longer concern you?”
I didn’t know how to answer that question because I didn’t know myself. If Kimberly’s killer was caught, then I’d be safe from prosecution. But would I be welcome? Was I going home? This is what concerned me as my eyes scanned the horizon.
Captain Bootle waited for an answer, and none came. He tried again.
“So, my friend, are you going home?” he asked.
I still had the letter I had written to Rachel in my back pocket. At first, I was numb to the pain, but the anesthetizing effect of the shock of the news had worn off, and now, I simply hurt. Captain Bootle wanted to know if I was going home. As I tossed my letter to Rachel into the ocean, all I knew for sure was that the Bahamas was no longer my home.
“Captain Bootle, I don’t know. I honestly don’t know.”
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