At nine o'clock Monday night, Victor and Evan followed the Blew Bayou out of the marina at the yacht club into the Hillsborough Bay. Even though the sun had set over half an hour ago, the evening came on heavy as a hog's breath. The night weighed in at ninety degrees. Victor sat bolt upright in the captain's chair, his senses firing at top speed. Earlier that afternoon, Captain Mortenson had shown him how to navigate the Lady Luck. While it proved to be much like driving a car, the captain had suspected immediately that Victor had little boating experience.
Victor trailed two boat lengths behind the Blew Bayou as they headed south toward MacDill Air Force Base. Evan sat next to him on the fly bridge, on a separate, cushioned bench. The captain had given him a charter T-shirt that he'd tucked into his cargo shorts.
Evan gazed out over fly bridge into the water. "We've had extreme tides lately," he said.
"Why's that?" Victor kept his eyes riveted in front of him.
"The super moon." Evan pointed to the glowing ball, three times its normal size and the color of wild salmon. Victor couldn't help but ogle it.
Mortenson had said Cuda would wait for a full moon to unload his stash on Egmont Key. Moonlight made it easier to navigate the waters and to spot pirates. Now that Cuda controlled the Sea Booty, he had to watch out for smugglers who would cruise the night in old tenders, searching for a powerboat to hijack. Victor mused, if pirates plundered the Sea Booty tonight, they'd find her belly already stuffed with six thousand pounds of weed.
Victor gripped the helm. He understood the sea thieves would also be eyeing the Lady Luck. But the most dazzling prize would be the Blew Bayou. Forty-two feet of prime smuggling vessel. Yachts like these didn't roam open waters at midnight. But Chief Salazar had assured them he'd taken every precaution to ward off pirates. Both boats carried armed men solely for that purpose. While Evan talked on about the super moon, Victor wondered how they were going to catch Cuda. He knew they were going to stake out on the north end of Egmont Key near the lighthouse. They would wait until eleven to send Tiger and Slick out in the thirteen-foot Boston Whaler they towed behind the Lady Luck. Then Salazar's men would head toward the ruins on the south end of Egmont Key where Cuda was supposed to unload his stash. The men would wait for the smugglers to pile the bales of weed onto a couple of skiffs that would be waiting for the transfer. Victor felt the sweat rolling down the back of his neck. That's where Salazar wanted to catch Cuda—at the ruins—red-handed with the reefer and the Sea Booty. If they missed them there, the chief would be forced to chase the smugglers through Tampa Bay to Hurricane Hole on Tierre Verde. Salazar never said, but Victor knew the chief suspected Daniel would be the one to motor the Sea Booty, clean as a whistle, back to the yacht club. The perfect crime.