By four, Raven was asleep. I wanted to be away from the Wahini before the port authorities arrived, so I set the alarm for two hours sleep. When it went off, I would have thrown it overboard if I had had the strength.
We rag-bathed by lamplight, lavish with soap and water for the first time now that we were in port. Quarters were cramped, so I helped her and she helped me. Somehow, that made the process take longer.
By the time we reached the street, the fish market had been underway for an hour. The sounds and smells were comfortingly foreign. Notre-Dame de la Garde was lovely in the early morning sunshine as it looked down on Marseille.
The embassy wouldn’t be open until later in the morning, so we took our time. Raven was lovely in her shore going clothes, but it was a testimony to her, not to them. She was a fair seamstress, and I had sewn up the Wahini’s sails. Between us we had managed to turn a spare piece of terylene sail cloth into a simple shift. It was a little crude to look at, but I could guarantee it wouldn’t blow out in a fifty knot wind. I bought her a pair of sandals at a street stall to complete her outfit. On the Wahini, she had gone barefooted.
Raven was preoccupied. She walked at my side, holding closer to me than was her habit, and smiled. But she should have been electrically alive. How many people get pulled out of the ocean and whisked off to Europe on a private yacht? By someone who becomes an enthusiastic lover? I may not be a fairy tale prince, but I am not Beauty’s beast either. So we sat on a bollard overlooking the fish market and I asked her what was wrong.
“How is it since you rescued me, Ian?”
“Fifty-two days.” I had all the facts ready so I could tell my story with accuracy at the embassy. “I picked you up on April thirteenth. My lucky day.”
“Not so lucky for me.”
“Depends on how you look at it.”
“You could be dead. Instead of walking around Europe with me, enjoying the sunshine and the smell of fish.”
She patted my leg and smiled, but the smile went away quickly. She said, “I was supposed to catch a plane back to San Francisco the night my ship got to New York. Someone was supposed to pick me up at the airport early that Tuesday morning.”
“And you weren’t there. It wasn’t your fault.”
“I’ve been speculating about what happened then. Daddy would notify the airline and they would check to see if I ever got a boarding pass. Then he might check on later flights. If I didn’t come back within twenty-four hours, he would probably call the cruise line.”
“And they would say you never got off the ship.”
“No, Ian. That’s what is bothering me. When we got off in Bermuda, the Bermudan customs people checked our passports, but the cruise line people didn’t make a head count. If they did the same thing in New York on the way back, they would have no way of knowing that I never left the ship.”
“Leaving your disappearance a complete mystery. Maybe Davis and his sidekick had that in mind?”
“Maybe. That isn’t what I was thinking of, either. If I never got home, Father would not think I had drowned in mid-ocean. He would think I had turned left at the terminal with some guy I had just met and gone off to raise hell without telling him.”
I didn’t like thinking of myself as one of a cast of thousands, but she looked so glum that I said, “If that is true, then he has just been spared unnecessary grief.”
She nodded. “True. And I’m happy for him, but I’m not feeling too good about myself.”
It must have been contagious. Suddenly, neither was I.
As I have said elsewhere, this set of events couldn’t happen today, because of ubiquitous, instant, worldwide communication.