Hunter at Sea|
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Brice Throckmorton, seventeen year old heirto the Throckmorton billion dollar empire, stood on the deck of the family vacation home overlooking the lagoon on their private island in the Bahamas. His father, Robert Throckmorton had invested wisely, but ultimately, it was who he knew that got him the CEO position at a major oil company with an annual salary of fifty million dollars. After five years of somewhat questionable service, he stepped down and received an eight hundred million dollar retirement package.
Brice attended the most elite private schools and was poised to attend Princeton, just like his father. He inherited his father's good looks with soft almost jet black hair, piercing green eyes and the jaw line of a model. His father worked out in the private gym at the club, while Brice was sweating on the Lacrosse field. Just in the last year, he had finally surpassed his father's six foot frame. Side by side, they were a picture perfect portrait of father and son. But that was where the similarities ended. There was no love loss between the patriarch and his son. In fact, they hated each other. It had been another one of the infamous Throckmorton shouting matches that ended up with Brice being sent off to the Bahamas.
Kicking the warm sand, Brice sauntered along the beach of the private lagoon while seagulls laughed in the distance. The small waves lapped gently on the pristine white sand while palm trees lightly swayed in the warm breeze. The setting was picturesque, but Brice hated it. His physique reflected his frustration and muscles tightened, breathing increased and fists clenched tightly. His jaw was set straight and his green eyes could cut through metal. The rage reached its pinnacle as Brice forcefully kicked at the water's edge, sending a shower of water out on the lagoon.
"Fuck you!" he screamed.
The rage naturally simmered into a resolute longing. It was the classic "this is where I am, but this is where I could be" thinking.
He father sent him to the island because he knew his son hated it there. To a middle aged billionaire, it was the perfect retreat. To a teenager, it was detention. The island was beautiful, even Brice couldn't argue with that, but it was isolated. Sure, there was the staff, but there was no one Brice's age. There was no one to talk to and no one to hang out with, even if Throckmorton's didn't "hang out." They socialized like proper "new money" families did in hopes of looking like "old money." The talk was always cheap, the brandy expensive and the cigar smoke thick enough to cut with a sword.
Spring break was supposed to be spent with friends. Instead, Brice was on the family island with a butler, cook, maid and a groundskeeper. He kicked viciously at the water again. Brice glanced back at the huge house, then blatantly shucked his Speedos and ran headlong into the water.
His time on the swim team had honed his body and it was obvious as the youth sliced easily through the water. When he reached the center of the lagoon, he dove straight down. Fifteen feet below, Brice turned and swam along the sandy bottom. It was much like a swimming pool as there was no reef to attract fish, just crystal clear warm water. He returned to the surface and gulped in a breath of air.
"Master Brice!" called the butler. Brice turned and looked back toward shore. "I took the liberty of having lunch brought down, sir. Lobster Coquille, Jasmine rice, Arugula salad and a bottle of Louis Jadot Pouillt-Fuisse."
Brice slammed his fist down on the water and shouted obscenities that would make a Vegas comic blush. Couldn't he be like normal kids his age? Why did he have to put up with his father's insistence that he eat like a properly brought up gentleman?
"What the hell's wrong with a burger and fries?!?" he screamed.
* * * * *
Hunter stirred the Dinty Moore beef stew. It was slowly heating up in a pan on the gimbaled stove and the boy salivated at the aromas coming from it. He buttered a piece of toast and put it in the toaster oven. Grabbing a plastic box of baby spinach, he made a quick salad topped with crumbled Feta cheese and drizzled a generous amount of Balsamic Vinaigrette.
Hunter had spent last evening in deep thought. Time spent in the cockpit with the multitude of stars shining brightly above you allows a person to dissolve into deep thought. His first thoughts turned to Jesse and then frustration and sorrow quickly reared their ugly heads. Jesse was promptly put aside. Then Hunter's thoughts turned to Jesse again, but these thoughts were happy thoughts. He relived the multitude of weekends he and Jesse had spent onboard the "Pearl." Those thoughts brought forth a longing so strong that it actually made Hunter sit up. He looked up into the billions of stars overhead and wished that he were on the "Pearl" again. He wished to re-live that one night he was able to hold Jesse in his arms. He wished for that warm feeling again. His wishes dissolved into the night as the boom suddenly clanged over to port.
Best Jesse could tell, the prevailing winds were pushing him south. If he was far enough out to sea, and he figured he was, then the Gulf Stream wouldn't affect his progress. Heading south, he was sure to run into something. It'd be kinda hard to miss the islands of the Bahamas or much less, Cuba. With the makeshift rig, it was impossible to tack or even run a beam. All he could do was run downwind and hope for the best.
He'd tried the television, but it didn't pick anything up. All the radio picked up was Spanish speaking stations and he couldn't understand a word of that. He did find a station that played Caribbean music and that was what he currently swayed to as he fixed lunch.
The toaster oven dinged and Hunter pulled out his piece of toast and put it on a plate. Then he poured the beef stew into a bowl and sat that on the plate. He grabbed some silver and sat down at the table. He poured some Castle Rock Merlot into a tea glass and dug in. The beef stew left a lot to be desired. It certainly didn't need any more salt. The toast was, well, toast but the salad was delicious. The wine was okay, but to Hunter it was exquisite. Besides sandwiches and breakfast fare, this was the first real meal he'd eaten on the trip. Hunter grinned. The meal was in fact a matter of necessity, since he'd eaten all the sandwich meat and all the eggs.
He dumped his empty plate and bowl in the galley sink. Since the engine had been running for about an hour, he figured the batteries were sufficiently charged, so he cut that off. Topside, Hunter relaxed with a full stomach. He stretched out in the cockpit and listened as the "Rum Runner" sliced almost silently through the gentle waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The soft sounds of Caribbean music coming from below deck provided the perfect background as Hunter yawned and decided that an afternoon nap wasn't entirely out of the question.
* * * * *
Max Westphal eased the crippled Guardian Jet onto the runway. Fire trucks and rescue equipment immediately followed. As they coasted to a stop, Ted let out a whoop.
"Dang, capt'n. That there's got to be the wildest ride I've ever had." Max's sentiments mirrored those of his co-pilot, but they were also tempered by the thought that his son would be waiting for news about his best friend. Max took no delight in the forthcoming conversation with his first born.
"Man oh man, I wish these baby's had guns on 'em. I'd uh given' them bastards a right run for thar money. Ya know, I won first place in the turkey shoot every year runnin' til I took up with the Coast Guard." Max couldn't help but grin.
"How'd you end up with a name like Ted? I'd think you'd go by John Boy or Billy Bob," Max teased. Ted puffed up his chest.
"My paw wanted me to have a sophisticated name, so he named me after Theodore Roosevelt. He was a president of these here United States, ya know." Max bit his cheek to keep from busting out in laughter.
"Leave it to you to be the comedic relief, Ted. Thank you for that," snickered Mac as he pushed his seat back and started to get up.
"What the hell does that mean? Is that a good thing or a bad thing?" Ted asked as he made his way from the right seat to follow the captain toward the door. "I'm thinkin' it's probably good, but I'm not sure." Max rolled his eyes and opened the door. "Ya know, my momma once told me not to listen to them thar comedians, but me and my buddies, we once got a hold of a cassette tape by Richard Pryor. I swear I never laughed so hard in my life! That man could cuss. I swear he was worse than cousin Bubba. I think I learned most of my good cuss words from that thar tape."
A sea of fire and rescue personnel greeted Max and Ted as they exited. They walked down the steps and turned to look at the port engine. A long series of holes were strewn from one end to the other. There was no wing damage. That was the blessing in disguise as fuel was stored in the wings. Max took a deep breath and wiped the sweat from his brow.
"Whew wee!" exclaimed Ted as he surveyed the damage. "Capt'n, we need us a Blackhawk Helicopter so we can teach them dang drug runners a lesson. My maw used to get a Hickory switch, but paw just got out his leather belt. Them drug runner boys need a lot more than that."
"Captain Westphal, the commander would like to see you," a Coast Guard Enlisted man said, gesturing to a nearby jeep. Max nodded.
"Ted, stay here and oversee things. I'm going to see the CO."
"Right you are, capt'n. I'll take care of things here. You just get us that Blackhawk and be sure to tell the CO I'm a crack shot." Max nodded and headed for the jeep as Ted continued to talk to anyone that would listen.
"I'm a crack shot I want you all to know. I won every turkey shoot …" Ted's voice disappeared into the background as Max's thoughts turned to his son.
A short ride later, Max found himself standing in front of the CO's door. Two sharp knocks later, he was invited in. Commander Walsh sat behind his desk with a grim look on his face.
"I don't like it when my planes get shot up," he said gruffly.
"And I don't like getting shot at, sir," Max said as he sat down in front of the CO's desk.
"Captain Hoover just radioed in. Your drug boat's been captured and your original assessment about there being a body onboard was correct. We have the sole survivor in interrogation aboard the "Stroud" and should know something shortly."
"Well, that's good to hear. Ted wanted a Blackhawk so we could hunt them down." Commander Walsh laughed out loud.
"I swear, Lieutenant Hagan is one of a kind and I'm damned glad he's assigned to Jacksonville." Commander Walsh took a sip of water from a glass on the side of this desk. His demeanor changed over to almost solemn. "Your boy's here." Max took in a sharp breath. "I know this has got to be tough on you, Max. If it were my boy's best friend out there, I'd be fightin' tooth and nail to find him, just like you. I don't want this setback to cause any more pressure on you. Max, we're depending on you. No stress intended, but you're our ace. I have every confidence in you. We'll find the "Rum Runner" and we'll find her soon. You and your boy, well, you two need some time and I'm gonna give it to you." Max started to protest, but the commander waved him off.
"Look Max, I have kids too. My youngest is twenty eight. If I could have that time back … back when they were all teenagers, I'd grab that opportunity in half a heartbeat." The commander looked Max in the eyes with a pleading expression. "You have the opportunity that I never had and I'm damned jealous of you, Max. You take this opportunity and talk with your boy. Don't let his words go in one ear and out the other. Really listen to him. Listen to the way he says his words. Read between the lines. Sons need their fathers. You're his hero, Max. Don't let him down." The commander sat back in his seat and sighed.
"Sorry, I tend to get rather passionate when it comes to my kids." Max sat in his seat and smiled. He understood Commander Walsh more clearly than the commander realized. He loved his son with all his heart and would do anything to protect him. The CO cleared his throat and took another of sip of water.
"I've got another Guardian set aside. You and Lieutenant Hagan will be taking off later this afternoon. Right now, I want you to spend some time with your son. He's in the commissary with Dan Dutton. Talk to him, Max. He's frightened and he needs a father's reassurance."
* * * * *
Brice reluctantly sat down at the table, grabbed the spotless pressed linen napkin and out of habit, placed it on his right knee. The butler had already poured the glass of wine and made himself scarce after his employer's son had screamed profanities for nearly three straight minutes. Brice took a sip and savored the flavor. Despite what he thought of his father, being privileged did have its benefits. He pushed the Jasmine rice around the plate and finally stabbed at the lobster. As he shoved the elegantly prepared filet of mignon of seafood into his mouth, he thought about his overbearing father. He chewed viscously imagining his father squirming in a biology classroom seat.
"That crusty old bastard would never make it through school today," Brice thought. His father had had it easy with all his professors in his grandfathers' pocket. Of course, his father never once injected his significant influence upon a professor on Brice's behalf. He believed his son should earn his place in academia and in the social order of the financial elite.
Despite his rebellious attitude, Brice had actually done well in school. He was at the top of his class academically and was captain of his Lacrosse team. What dear old dad didn't know was that Brice was secretly enjoying the benefits of an all-male academy. The boy, while a year younger, was eager to share his impressive sexual experience with Brice. And Brice loved every minute of it. He wanted to spend his entire spring break with Tyler, but his father was adamantly against it. He'd listened to his son tell of his friendship with the young Tyler and recognized it as potentially harmful to the reputation of his family name.
Robert Throckmorton thought back to his own days at Stonewall Academy and his thoughts turned immediately to Andrew. His roommate was more outgoing than Robert was used to, but he became friendly with Andrew and the two had ended up sharing a night of teenage experimentation. Robert wasn't ashamed of what he had done that night, in fact, he was proud that he had finally made it through the experimentation stage of adolescence and was quite ready, thank you very much, to move into the heterosexual aspect of growing up.
The senior Throckmorton become incensed that his son's teenage experimentation seemed to stop at experimentation and sent him off to the family island while he figured how to either get rid of Tyler or move his son to a different school. The latter was not even open for discussion. Teenage sexual frivolity was not going to interfere with the father's plans for his son. And there were plans … plans to show his son off to his friends and business associates. He would be looked upon with admiration for his parenting skills while his son would surround them both with lovely young ladies.
Brice had reduced himself to begging his father, but it was to no avail. Once the family patriarch made up his mind, there was no amount of arguing that could change his mind. His son would go to the family island while the father "fixed" things.
Brice's green eyes gazed out over the azure waters of the Bahamas. He brooded over his father's decision. While his father's monthly stipend was generous, Brice saw no practical use for the five thousand dollars and deftly tucked it into his own personal checking account. Several hundred thousand dollars later, Brice was tempted to just disappear. His hatred for his father had become an all encompassing obsession. Brice desperately needed a way to get out from under his father's oppressive thumb.
He stabbed viciously at another bite of lobster. He really missed Tyler. That boy definitely knew his way around the male body. The ensuing memories brought both pleasure and a healthy blush to the young man's face.
Brice's blue eyes glanced up and looked out past the lagoon. What he saw intrigued him. Not more than a half mile away, a sailboat was headed straight for his island.
* * * * *
Jesse sat in an overstuff chair staring blankly into the television. Lieutenant Dan Dutton sat in a nearby chair and carefully watched Captain Westphal's son.
"I know you're worried, Jesse, but your dad's the best. If anyone can find your friend, it's your dad."
"Hunter," Jesse said solemnly.
"His name is Hunter," Jesse said turning to look at Lieutenant Dutton. "Hunter Ward. And, yes, he's my best friend. And, yes, before you ask, we had a huge fight just before he set sail. And, yes, I said some things that I wish to God I could take back. If something happens to him …"
"Easy there, Jess. Give the boy his due. I've been told he's an experienced sailor and he's with an old salt that can tell if the barometer is falling just by the feeling in his bones. I really don't think there's a whole lot to worry about."
"He's right, Jesse," Max said. He'd walked in on Dan's pep talk. Jesse stood and ran into his father's arms, tears streaming down his face. "Hey, bud. It's gonna be okay." Max was surprised by his son's emotional outburst. He knew his son was worried about Hunter, but this reaction was unexpected. He wrapped his arms around his son and held him as the tears turned to great wracking sobs.
"I'll leave him to you, Captain," Lieutenant Dutton said softly as he made his way out of the room. Max nodded his thanks.
"Jesse, son, come on, pull yourself together," the father plead as Jesse fought to control his emotions.
"You, you don't, you don't understand," Jesse sobbed. Remembering Hunter's exact same words brought on a new wave of uncontrollable sobs. Max tightened his arms around his son. For Jesse to react to this situation in such an emotional way meant something. His mind went into military examination mode and recalled everything his son had said in the last few days. The evidence was there, it was up to Max to figure it out. The two young teenage boys were best friends. They'd had a falling out. One was lost at sea. The other was totally devastated. The possibilities of explanation were pretty wide, but Max zeroed in the obvious. His son had more than a friendship with Hunter. His son's emotional reaction was evidence enough. That meant Jesse was emotionally involved with Hunter. There was no other explanation that made sense. Max tightened his hold on his son even tighter as the realization settled in.
"You love him, don't you?" Max whispered in his son's ear. Jesse's hold on his father tightened and his sobs increased. That was all the answer Max needed. "It's okay, son. I understand. And I promise you that I will do everything in my power to bring Hunter back to you." There was no judgment in the father's voice, only love and concern.
* * * * *
Sailboats passed near the family island from time to time, but not one had ever tried to boldly sail directly into the lagoon. There were signs, after all, warning that the island was privately owned and visitors were definitely not welcome. Apparently, whoever was at the wheel of the approaching sailboat either couldn't read or didn't care.
Through the years, Brice had seen a number of sailboats and powerboats come close to the family island. He watched them as a young boy and often wondered where they were headed and what kind of people would be on such wondrous boats. He dreamed of being on one of those boats, headed away from the family island toward exotic ports of call. The thoughts of escape filling the young boy's dreams. Even at an early age, Brice knew he wanted to get away from his domineering father. He wanted to be his own person, not someone that was expected to act and be a person who he declined to be.
The sailboat continued forward, boldly dismissing any concerns over privacy signs and navigation concerns as it reached the outer boundaries of the island.
Brice took a quick breath and stood, hastily knocking over his glass of wine. He immediately shouted toward the main house and ran down to the water's edge. The sailboat appeared to be damaged. The mast was not nearly tall enough for the boat and there didn't appear to be anyone on board. Yet, the sailboat continued on a direct line toward the lagoon. Having spent years growing up on the island, Brice knew the boat would probably hit bottom. The waters on the north side of the island were no more than five feet at best. A sailboat that size would need at least six or maybe seven feet of water. Brice could not stand by and watch a disaster in the making. He had to do something.
"Turn back! It's shallow there! Turn back!" he screamed as loud as he could. He waved his arms in the air desperately trying to get the attention of whoever was on the sailboat. The time for preventative action had passed. Now it was time for preservation.
* * * * *
Max and Ted made their way across the flight line. Ted noticed the solemn look on the captain's face and wisely kept his mouth shut. Lieutenant Dutton had filled him in on the emotional confrontation the captain had had with this son. Ted wasn't sure what to make of the news. He'd known that Tommy Lee and Billy Ray were more than friends. He'd even caught them in the hayloft at Tommy Lee's daddy's farm. Unlike a lot of his friends, Ted had seen the true affection between his classmates and acknowledged it for what it was … love. It didn't matter to Ted that they were two boys. What did matter was that they truly cared for each other.
Ted heard all the boastful tales of his fellow football players. Barbara Jean had sucked Bobby's dick. Yeah, right. Barbara Jean's father would have shot the balls off any boy who'd even thought about even kissing his daughter on the cheek, let alone trying anything else. While it was true that Barbara Jean made no excuses about her blatant desire to have sex with anybody, anywhere, anytime, it was a wise teenage boy who remembered that Barbara Jean's father could clean his shotgun while sharpening his knife at the same time. There was not one boy in his high school class that wanted to take the chance of losing his manhood for a few hormonal minutes with Barbara Jean.
The sight of Tommy Lee and Billy Ray in the throws of passionate lovemaking was more than enough evidence to leave Ted knowing that not all love was traditional in the sense of the word. In his mind's eye, two boys loving each other was better than two boys never having known love at all.
Ted wondered to himself about the captain's son as the HU-25A Guardian Jet rose into the afternoon sky. Maybe he was the same as Tommy Lee and Billy Ray. He glanced at the captain and decided that he was a person who would see things the same way he did. Ted knew that if he had a son in the same situation, he'd love him no matter what. Ted grinned to himself. He was sure the captain loved his son unconditionally. He could see it on the captain's face. The concern was there, not for the suspected relationship of two boys, but for the emotional weight of the situation. The determined look on Max's face was enough for Ted. As they started their search grid, Ted silently prayed they'd find the missing sailboat, soon.
* * * * *
Hunter's nap was interrupted by the sound of surf and, someone yelling? The young boy bolted up and looked forward. The sight of palm trees shocked him. Was this a dream? Were the palm trees real? Was the very handsome young man on the shore an illusion? The "Rum Runner" skidded across a shallow spot and the illusion became reality.
As relief washed over him, Hunter locked his sights on the person on shore frantically waving him off. Why would someone be waving him off when he'd been lost at sea for four days? Reality hit him again as the "Rum Runner" hit bottom again. Hunter almost lost his balance, but he grabbed on to the wheel. The forty-five foot sailboat skidded across the sandy bottom. There was nothing Hunter could do. He had no steerage. It was all up to the wind. "Rum Runner" hit bottom again, hard, but bounced back up and continued forward. Hunter's sailing instincts kicked in and he quickly pulled the sail down from the makeshift mast. Forward momentum carried him gently into the lagoon of the island paradise that had suddenly appeared in front of him. He was flushed with an elation that was so intense, he couldn't help himself as he whooped with joy. The "Rum Runner" slid leisurely to a stop as her keel slid into soft white sand. Hunter ran to the foredeck dancing like a wild man. His ordeal was finally over.
The young man standing on the shore finally dropped his arms and watched as the sailboat came to a stop. Hunter looked at the young man standing there on the shore and his heart filled with gratitude. Without a second thought, Hunter dove into the lagoon and swam as hard as he could toward the first real live friendly human being he'd seen since the start of his trip to hell. The angel on the shore was his salvation and he fully intended to thank him properly.
Brice stood at the edge of the lagoon with the warm water gently lapping at his feet. He watched the sailboat come to a stop in the middle of his lagoon. Then he watched as the most beautiful person he had ever seen dove into the waters he had just been swimming in. The person swam quickly across the lagoon. His lean figure rose from the water and ran toward Brice with an expression of pure joy. Brice was totally unprepared to be knocked down and wrapped into the most intense hug he had ever experienced.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you," Hunter sobbed as the reality of finally being found hit home. The storm, death of Captain Turner, the lightless freighter, the makeshift rig, the burial at sea and the endless hours of worry had finally come to a head. Whoever the boy he clung to was, didn't matter. He was safe. The warm body he held was testament to that.
Brice didn't quite know what to do with the blond haired god the heavens had seen fit to bring into his lagoon. The boy, who had to be close to his own age, clung to him as if the future of the world depended on it. The sound of a jet flying overhead didn't even register.
On to Chapter Four
"Declaration of Intention"
Back to Chapter Two
"Certainty of Truth"
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