While Becca Slept. . .
The first morning Becca was back from New York City, she slept upstairs in her childhood bedroom in the Westcott Mansion. She was oblivious to the newspapers as they hit the porches of Ybor City. She had no idea what the paper said as it was tossed onto the red-bricked driveways in Ballast Point and carried up walkways to the Bayshore mansions.
By nine o'clock, the entire town was abuzz with the whereabouts of Daniel Westcott. The Tribune quoted the dock master at the Tampa Yacht Club saying, "Danny set out early that Thursday [the day he disappeared] with a young feller, a hairy sort, all mustache and mutton chops. I'd never seen the likes of him before." Then he said the two of them had rigged up Daniel's thirty-six-foot Hatteras with seven-foot ugly-stick rods and thirty-pound test monofilament. They filled the bait wells with live shrimp, pinfish, and mullet and headed south to track silver king tarpon. They returned that afternoon empty handed, having thrown back a couple of barracudas. Sometime in the wee hours of the next day, the dock master claimed the Sea Booty must have taken off again, because when he came into work at 5:00 a.m., the boat was gone.
At the yacht club, the news was not surprising. Everyone knew Daniel was hell bent on breaking the tarpon record. At breakfast that morning, a few of his cronies scoffed at the headline: Westcott's Sea Booty Adrift.
"Adrift my ass!" one of them said. They'd bet their bottom dollar that Daniel and his fish whisperer had slipped out that night and were living on the boat. They'd be throwing out lines just as the moon popped the horizon, when the waters were moving and the tidal feeders were quick to act. As fishermen themselves, they understood. They poured a little whiskey into their morning coffee and toasted their king. Let the old king hunt silvers! The peak migration had already passed, schools were thinning, but they knew what Daniel knew—the biggest daddies held out through June.
Not everyone in town was as confident about Daniel's situation as his krewe mates. In Ybor City, Victor Ramirez ordered café con leche while his uncle clipped the end of a hand-rolled Butera and brushed the tip onto the floor. Carmine's buzzed. Patrons stood clutching newspapers, smoking and waiting for tables to clear. Victor slid his chair in close.
"He's gone too long," Carlos said. "Without sending word, I mean." He tugged sharply on his beard as if to pull answers from the snowy whiskers. He talked on in a Spanish/English mix about Daniel being caught in the Gulf Stream, swept away by the river within a sea. "El Triangulo Diablo," he said. His eyes grew wide, and he licked the end of his cigar. "Or it could be piratas."
Victor held the steaming mug to his lips. The piracy on the Caribbean, rampant in the last few years, was a secret to no one. Led by gun-slinging pot smugglers, the sea thieves would cruise the night in rusted old dinghies, searching for a powerboat to hijack so they could pick up their stash in Colombia. They would gut the yachts for maximum capacity and then paint water lines on the hulls to give the illusion they weren't riding low even when laden with marijuana. Afterward, they would sink the boats.
Victor was not the only one to imagine Daniel Westcott trolling the midnight waters, the lights on the Sea Booty bringing in tarpon. His uncle said surely Daniel would carry a pistol and spot the thieves riding too close. He would fire his gun into the night to ward off attacks. But what if the scoundrels kept coming? The Sea Booty would make a dazzling prize for their illicit affairs.
All this happened while Becca slept . . .