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.
Natalie twisted the fringe on a silk shawl that she'd draped over her shoulders. She thanked Carlos and set the receiver back in its cradle. "Cuda's ahead of schedule," she said. A stray hair sprang from her bun and bounced wildly as she talked. "They had plenty of time, but now they don't. They're racing to catch the Sea Booty at Egmont." Natalie wrung her hands. "They could miss it."
"They won't miss it," Becca said.
Becca leaned forward and rested her elbows on her knees. They might miss Cuda, but they couldn't lose the Sea Booty. Victor had told her this afternoon how Cuda had planned to pile the bales of reefer onto skiffs and motor them to Tierra Verde. "And leave the Sea Booty?" she'd asked. Victor said someone would drive the boat home. "My granddad?" It'd all clicked into place then. Becca knew Salazar suspected her grandfather was involved with the smugglers. She chewed the nail on her little finger while Natalie fretted, too worried to tell Becca to stop. She eyed Nattie. "You think Granddad's on the boat?"
Natalie shrugged. "Carlos says he's been king-napped."
"But what do you think?"
"I don't know." Natalie's voice rose an octave. "Should I know?"
Becca leaned back in the chair. She'd quit asking questions after Victor told her Salazar's men wanted to get to the ruins on the south end of the island to hide out and wait for Cuda. She couldn't help but picture Fort Dade, the old military outpost on Egmont Key. The relic from the Spanish-American War had been described in the first volume of Rebecca's diary. The Seminole Indians had been interned there before they were shipped out to reservations in Oklahoma. Victor said the island was like a ghost town now. Some of the original houses and barracks were intact enough to walk through, but in some cases all that remained were piles of brick and bits of concrete.
The grandfather clock chimed eleven. They hadn't heard a word from Carlos in over an hour. Becca started pacing, but Nattie told her to sit down. She was driving her crazy. Natalie had lit a candle and placed it on the piano. A vigil for Daniel, she'd said. The wax had burned to nil, and Becca wondered how they would manage the hours ahead.