January 6, 1991
Cool water, smooth as glass as Kelby swam through it. Jesus, he was thirsty. He knew all he had to do was open his lips and the water would flow down his throat, but he wanted to see beyond the arched doorway first. It was huge and ornately carved, beckoning him forward. . . .
Then he was through the arch and the city was spread before him.
Giant white columns built to stand forever. Streets laid out in perfect order. Glory and symmetry everywhere . . .
He was being shaken. Nicholas. He came instantly alert. "Time?" he whispered.
Nicholas nodded. "They should be coming back for you again in five minutes. I just wanted to make sure we're on the same page. I've decided we scratch the plan and I take them out by myself."
"You'll blow it for both of us. You haven't had anything to eat or drink in three days, and you looked like a truck ran over you when they brought you back to the cell."
"Shut up. It hurts my throat to argue." He leaned back against the stone wall and closed his eyes. "We go as we planned. I give the word. Just tell me when they start down the hall. I'll be ready."
Go back to the sea. There's strength there. No thirst that couldn't be satisfied. He could move without pain through the buoyant water.
White columns shimmering . . .
"They're coming," Nicholas murmured.
Kelby opened his eyes only a slit as the door was unlocked. The same two guards. Hassan had an Uzi cradled in his arm. Kelby was so hazy he couldn't remember the other guard's name. But he could remember the toe of his boot as he kicked in his rib. Yes, he could remember that.
Ali, that was the bastard's name.
"Get up, Kelby." Hassan was standing over him. "Is the American dog ready for his beating?"
"Get him, Ali. He's too weak to stand up and face us again."
Ali was smiling as he came to stand beside Hassan. "He'll break this time. We'll be able to drag him into Baghdad and show the whole world what cowards the Americans are."
He reached down to grab Kelby's shirt.
"Now." Kelby's foot lashed upward and connected with Ali's nuts. Then he rolled sideways, knocking the Arab's legs from beneath him.
He heard Hassan mutter a curse as Kelby leapt to his feet. He got in back of Ali before he could get off his knees, and his arm snaked around Ali's neck.
He broke it with one twist.
He whirled to see Nicholas smashing the Uzi into Hassan's head. Blood spurted. Nicholas hit him again.
"Out." Kelby grabbed Ali's pistol and knife and ran to the door. "Don't waste time on him."
"He wasted a lot of time on you. I wanted to make sure he'd gone to Allah." But he was running after Kelby down the hall.
In the front office another guard jumped to his feet and reached for his gun. Kelby cut his throat before he could lift it.
Then they were outside the hut and running toward the hills.
Shots behind them.
Nicholas looked over his shoulder. "Are you okay?"
"Fine. Go on, dammit."
Sharp pain in his side.
The adrenaline was draining away and weakness was dragging at every limb.
Go away from it. Concentrate. You're swimming toward the archway. No pain there.
He was running faster, stronger. The hills were just ahead. He could make it.
He was through the archway. White columns gleamed in the distance.
Marinth . . .
Lacy golden fretwork.
Someone coming toward her.
It was going to happen again.
Helpless. Helpless. Helpless.
The scream that tore from Melis's throat jarred her awake.
She jerked upright in bed. She was shaking, her T-shirt soaked with sweat.
Sometimes she wasn't sure. . . . It didn't matter.
Only a dream.
She wasn't helpless. She'd never be helpless again. She was strong now.
Except when she had the dreams. They robbed her of power and she was forced to remember. But she had the dreams less often now. It had been over a month since the last one. Still, she might feel better if she had someone to talk to. Maybe she should call Carolyn and--
No, deal with it. She knew what to do after the dreams to rid herself of these trembling fits and get back to blessed normalcy. She tore off her nightshirt as she left the bedroom and headed toward the lanai.
A moment later she was diving off the lanai into the sea.
It was the middle of the night, but the water was only cool, not cold, and felt like liquid silk on her body. Clean and caressing and soothing . . .
No threat. No submission. Nothing but the night and the sea. God, it was good to be alone.
But she wasn't alone.
Something sleek and cool brushed against her leg.
"Susie?" It had to be Susie. The female dolphin was much more physically affectionate than Pete. The male touched her only rarely, and it was something special when he did.
But Pete was beside her in the water. She saw him out of the corner of her eye as she stroked toward the nets that barricaded the inlet. "Hi, Pete. How are you doing?"
He gave a subdued series of clicks and then dove beneath the surface. A moment later Susie and Pete came to the surface together and swam ahead of her toward the nets. It was strange how they always knew when she was upset. Ordinarily their behavior was playful, almost giddily exuberant. It was only when they sensed she was disturbed that they became this docile. She was supposed to be the one teaching the dolphins, but she was learning from them every day she spent in their company. They enriched her life and she was grateful that--
Something was wrong.
Susie and Pete were both squeaking and clicking frantically as they approached the net. A shark on the other side?
The net was down.
What the hell . . . No one could unfasten the net unless they knew where it was connected. "I'll take care of it. Go back home, guys."
The dolphins ignored her, swimming around her protectively while she examined the net. No cuts, no tears in the strong wire. It took her only a few minutes to fasten the net again. She set off back to the cottage, her strokes strong, purposeful--and wary.
It didn't have to be a problem. It could be Phil back from his latest journey. Her foster father had been gone for nearly seven months this time, with only an occasional phone call or postcard to tell her if he was alive or dead.
But it could be trouble. Phil had been forced to go on the run almost two years ago and the threat was only partially eliminated. There could still be people out there who wanted to get their hands on him. Phil wasn't the most discreet person in the world, and his judgment wasn't as keen as his intellect. He was a dreamer who took more chances than--
She became still, paddling in place, her gaze on the lanai a short distance away. She could see a man's silhouette outlined against the lights of the living room. It wasn't Phil's small, wiry frame. This man was big, muscular, and vaguely familiar.
"Melis, I didn't mean to scare you. It's me, Cal."
She relaxed. Cal Dugan, Phil's first mate. No threat here. She had known and liked Cal since she was sixteen. He must have moored his boat at the pier on the other side of the house, where she couldn't see it. She swam toward the lanai. "Why didn't you call me? And why the devil didn't you put the net back up? If a shark had gotten to Pete or Susie, I'd have strangled you."
"I was going to go back and do it," he said defensively. "Nah, I was going to persuade you to do it. I'd have to know Braille to be able to hook it up in the dark."
"That's not good enough. It only takes a minute to pose a threat to the dolphins. You're just lucky it didn't happen."
"How do you know a shark didn't get in?"
"Pete would have told me."
"Oh, yeah. Pete." He dropped a bath towel on the lanai and turned his back. "Tell me when I can turn around. I guess you haven't taken to wearing a swimsuit?"
"Why should I? There's no one to see me but Pete and Susie." She hoisted herself onto the tiles and wrapped the large towel around her. "And uninvited guests."
"Don't be rude. Phil invited me."
"Turn around. When's he coming? Tomorrow?"
He turned around. "Not likely."
"He's not in Tobago?"
"He was setting sail for Athens when he sent me here."
"He told me to hop on a plane out of Genoa and come and give you this." He handed her a large manila envelope. "And to wait here for him."
"Wait for him? He'll need you there. He can't do without you, Cal."
"That's what I told him." He shrugged. "He told me to come to you."
She glanced down at the envelope. "I can't see out here. Let's go inside where there's light." She tightened the towel around her. "Make yourself some coffee while I take a look at this."
He flinched. "Will you tell those dolphins I'm not going to hurt you and to stop screeching?"
She'd barely been aware they were still beside the lanai. "Go away, guys. It's okay."
Pete and Susie disappeared beneath the water.
"I'll be damned," Cal said. "They do understand you."
"Yes." Her tone was abstracted as she went into the cottage. "Genoa? What's Phil been up to?"
"Search me. A few months ago he dropped me and the rest of the crew off in Las Palmas and told us we were on vacation for three months. He hired some temporary help to sail the Last Home and took off."
He shrugged. "He wouldn't say. Big secret. It wasn't like Phil at all. It was like that time he went off with you. But this was different. He was on edge and he wouldn't say anything when he came back and picked us up." He grimaced. "It's not as if we haven't been with him for the last fifteen years. We have shared a hell of a lot together. I was there when he brought up the Spanish galleon, and Terry and Gary signed on a year later. It kind of . . . hurt."
"You know when he becomes focused on something he can't see anything else." But she had seldom known him to close out his crew. They were as close to family as Phil would permit near him. Closer than he would let her come.
But that was probably her fault. She found it difficult to be openly affectionate with Phil. She had always been the protector in a relationship that had sometimes been both volatile and stormy. She was often impatient and frustrated with his almost childlike single-mindedness. But they were a team, they fulfilled each other's needs, and she did like him.
She glanced at Cal to find him gazing awkwardly at her. "Would you mind putting on some clothes? You're one gorgeous woman, and even though I may be old enough to be your father, it doesn't mean I don't have the usual responses."
Of course he did. It didn't matter that he'd known her from the time she was a teenager. Men were men. Even the best of them were dominated by sex. It had taken her a long time to accept that truth without anger. "I'll be right back." She headed for the bedroom. "Make that coffee."
She didn't bother to shower before she put on her usual shorts and T-shirt. Then she sat down on the bed and reached for the envelope. It might be nothing, totally impersonal, but she didn't want to open it in front of Cal.
The envelope contained two documents. She took out the first one and opened it.
She stiffened. "What the hell . . ."
"Stop arguing. I'm coming to get you." Melis's hand tightened on the phone. "Where are you, Phil?"
"At a tavern on the waterfront. The Delphi Hotel," Philip Lontana said. "But I'm not going to involve you in this, Melis. Go home."
"I will. We're both going to go home. And I'm already involved. Did you think I was just going to sit around doing nothing after I got that notification that you'd deeded the island and the Last Home over to me? That's the closest to a last will and testament I've ever seen. What the hell's happening?"
"I had to turn responsible sometime."
Not Phil. He was as close to Peter Pan as a man in his sixties could be. "What are you afraid of?"
"I'm not afraid. I just wanted to take care of you. I know we've had our ups and downs, but you've always stood by me when I needed you. You've pulled me out of scrapes and kept those bloodsuckers from--"
"I'll pull you out of this scrape too, if you'll tell me what's happening."
"Nothing's happening. The ocean is unforgiving. You can never tell when I'll make a mistake and never--"
"I've written it all down. It's on the Last Home."
"Good. Then you can read it to me when we're on our way back to the island."
"That may not be possible." He paused. "I've been trying to get in touch with Jed Kelby. He's not been answering my calls."
"Maybe. But a brilliant bastard. I've heard he's a genius."
"And where did you hear it? His publicity agent?"
"Don't be bitter. You've got to give the devil his due."
"No, I don't. I don't like rich men who think they can make toys of everything in the whole damn world."
"You don't like rich men. Period," Phil said. "But I need you to contact him. I don't know if I'll be able to reach him."
"Of course you will. Though I don't know why you think you have to do it. You've never called in help before."
"I need him. He's got the same passion I have and the drive to make it happen." He paused. "Promise me you'll get him for me, Melis. It's the most important thing I've ever asked of you."
"You don't have to--"
He wasn't going to give up. "I promise. Satisfied?"
"No, I hated to ask you. And I hate being in this spot. If I hadn't been so stubborn, I wouldn't have had to--" He drew a deep breath. "But that's water under the bridge. I can't look back now. There's too much to look forward to."
Excerpted from Fatal Tide by Iris Johansen. Copyright © 2003 by Iris Johansen. Excerpted by permission of Bantam, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.