Susan Wolf Johnson

Gasparilla King Blog

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.
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.
Chief Salazar and the search team were headed out to Egmont Key this evening with Captain Mortenson's boat and Hank Poppy's new Bertram. Becca had stayed up late last night explaining to her grandmother how Victor had ended up on Daniel's search instead of his yacht-club cronies. She fell back on the pillows and pulled the covers over her head.
"Salazar trusts Carlos Mendoza," Becca hold told Nattie. "They're like brothers, and Victor's the son Carlos never had." In order to secure the hunt, the chief needed to involve the fewest amount of searchers possible. "We don't know what's going to happen out there, Nattie," Becca said. "It's best the Gaspar Krewe knows only about the bogus search to Freeport, for now."
Becca suspected there was more to the cover-up that they wouldn't let on to anyone, but that was okay. She ran her hand over her belly, which was beginning to round. She, for one, understood secrets.
On the porch the night was steamy, heavy with the scent of confederate jasmine that hung thick form the trellis next to the porch. Natalie swept a piece of hair from her forehead. Not a breath of air blew in off the bay. She thought to fetch a couple of electric fans from the pantry when Victor's Camaro shot into the driveway like a silver bullet. He jumped from the car and bounded up the stairs carrying a bottle of wine.
Yesterday, Chief Salazar called and said the Sea Booty had been hijacked by a gang of smugglers, and there was a chance Daniel Westcott was on the boat. King-napped. Natalie had pressed the phone to her ear to steady her hand. The way Salazar chose his words¸ she knew he was trying to downplay the danger. She let him talk on. He'd just received confirmation that the Sea Booty was anchored at St. Ann's Bay, Jamaica. They didn't know exactly when the boat would head out and return to Tampa. But Salazar said he and Carlos Mendoza were putting a crew together to head off the smugglers before they reached the desolate spit of land on Egmont Key. When he stopped talking, an awkward pause followed. Natalie's mind raced. She thought to thank him, to apologize for the inconvenience. Nothing seemed right. So she invited him—and Carlos Mendoza—to dinner Sunday evening.
The night Becca hid beneath the live oak waiting for Adam, she opened her suitcase and pulled out the first volume of Rebecca's diary. The floodlight, positioned to illuminate the tree, shone on the journal while Becca remained unseen within the remaining darkness under the oak. Becca remembered the story that Rebecca had recorded in the diaries that dated back to the mid-1800's. Here is an excerpt from that journal.
On the corner of Seminole and Powhatan just north of downtown in the Heights, Emmeline and her granddaughter sat on the front porch waiting for the sun to set.
After Adam backed out of the driveway and left Becca sitting beneath the live oak, she glanced down at the diary in her hands.
Before Adam arrived at the Westcott Mansion to pick up Becca, she was in her bedroom packing her suitcase. At the last minute she threw in the diaries she'd found on the front porch days ago.
Victor leaned over the map that was spread out across the bait wells. A fishy odor, mixed with the scent of gasoline and strong coffee, rose up near the three men. Victor accepted a Styrofoam cup filled with the black brew.

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