The A to Z Challenge – 2023 — S is for “Surviving”

It was a wild and stormy morning half-light half dark with roiling seas around us.

If anyone had seen us from the shore, they’d say we were stark staring mad.

We were.

Trying to come ashore in the sort of weather that had wrecked many a ship along this stretch of coast.  What would be one more boat among many at the bottom of the sea?

We were too busy trying to stay alive to be sick, and I felt very, very ill.

At the wheel Christina was looking very resolute, fighting the ocean trying to turn the rudder against her ministrations.

I was keeping the sails at the bare minimum, and at least the wind was taking us ashore and not out into the ocean and where the huge waves were waiting.  Not that going ashore was any more attractive given the rocks alternately submerged and exposed.

I’d just repaired a snapped rope and got the sail back into position after nearly being decapitated when it broke free.

“There it is.”  I could just barely hear her before the wind snatched the words away.

I followed her outstretched arm to see a break in the white water crashing on the rocks, a narrow passage that led to calmer water and a remote landing place.

This we had been told was good weather.  I’d hate to see what was ‘the bad’.

We rose up and slid down the waves hoping when we came up again, we’d be heading in the right direction.

Luckily, we were.

Christina had sold the voyage as a sailor’s dream, to cross the Atlantic at what was supposed to be the calmest time of the year.

The fact that no time of the year was calm was carefully omitted from the sales pitch, but I had to admit I’d had worse weather heading north from New York to Nantucket.

The real selling point was the fact we would not advertise our departure nor our arrival, a definite plus in remaining anonymous when anonymity was a must.

She had been right to suggest we leave, with two more attempts on our lives, a car bomb, and a long-range sniper.  Someone seriously wanted us dead, or if not the two of us, me.

Now it was a matter of hoping the sea didn’t finish was someone else started.

On the other side of the reef the weather hadn’t changed, the skies were still very dark and the rain was sheeting down, but the movement of the boat had settled, and we were gliding across almost still waters.

I’d heard about Scotland’s bleak weather, and this was everything one could expect.  It could only get better.

I leaned against the stern rail just behind her, now more relaxed, watching the rain pouring off the wet weather gear she was wearing.  On top of the endless layers to keep out the intense cold, she looked more like Santa than the woman who, barely a week before, had turned every head in the room at her father’s birthday bash.

It made me wonder why she was willing to go through what we had to get here.  It was no secret she detested what her father represented, and there was no doubt he wasn’t happy about her living with a policeman, yet willing to accept his help when trouble came knocking.

There was no doubting that bond between them, despite the circumstances.

The coastline stretched before us, as did the Cove, and somewhere there a sea cave, a place to hide the boat.  It was the stuff of legends, that Cove, reputedly to have been a lair for pirates, whiskey smugglers, and Scottish patriots hiding from the British back in the days of Bonnie Prince Charlie.

“Are you feeling like the Vikings?”  I said the first time I could hear my own voice above the weather.


“The Vikings?  They were reputed to come ashore, do some pillaging, then go.”

“We’re not here to pillage, as you call it.”

“No, but you can just imagine it.  I doubt this shoreline has changed much in a thousand or so years.”

“Except for the plastic washed ashore.”

I didn’t have to see her face to register the disdain, it was in her tone.  She was a loud and passionate advocate for the environment, sometimes the lone voice in the crowd.

Whereas once I just threw the empty plastic bottles overboard, she insisted we collect them and dispose of them properly.

I shrugged.  Our minuscule efforts were not going to change the world.

I moved to stand next to her, putting my hand on hers on the wheel.  I changed the subject.  “That was some pretty good navigation.”

She turned to look at me.  She was tired, if not exhausted.  “Where else would you want to be?”

I hadn’t realised she loved being in a boat, sailing.  It was her other world; one I hadn’t known about.  The boat we were on was hers, one of three.

It was just one of several revelations that I learned in the last week.

That she owned and ran a very successful legitimate internet business.

That she owned properties in five different countries, including the one we were heading to now.

That she collected vintage cars and had a museum.

That she shunned the limelight and preferred to blend in as just another ordinary person.  I’d only seen her once in elegant clothes, her usual garb rarely changed from workout gear or simply jeans and polo shirts.

It made it all that more difficult for me to understand why she would be interested in me, and more so the potential harm I could do on the other side of the law.

Her father was certainly icy about the relationship, and a few of the others at the birthday bash had intimated that my ongoing relationship with her would cause an early demise.

Until her father put an end to it.

“Do you really own all this?”  I waved my hand across the shoreline.

“Yes.  As you say, it’s one of the few places on this earth that has not changed in the last thousand years.”

We had reached the edge of the Cove and as she rounded the point we could see the cave, actually one of six or seven though most were relatively shallow.

But that was not only what could be seen.

There were two people waiting by the cave, and when I looked at them through the binoculars, I could see they were not a welcoming committee.

“Are you expecting anyone to greet us on arrival?”

“No.  I didn’t tell anyone but you we would be coming here.”

“Then make a detour, out of the sight line, and drop me off.  Anchor there if you can, and I’ll go ask them.  Politely, of course.”

Ten minutes later I was about to go over the side, and wade ashore.  She handed me a gun, with a suppressor.  “Just in case they don’t understand the word polite.”

So much for a new start in what we thought was going to be obscurity.

©  Charles Heath  2023

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