To start at the beginning, use this link: Link to Chapter 1
Jaime piloted the boat while Dave had a conversation with Allen and Renna. Dave had a diver’s notebook that Allen and Renna could use to communicate with him, and he used the time to catch up on the details of how they escaped and what had transpired since then. Renna stayed in the pool and rested her arms on the side while she wrote, but Allen had to get out and sit on the side so that he could reach the notebook with his limited arm movement.
“I think I can cut through the silicone and get your arms free.” Dave told Allen.
“That would be great.” Allen wrote. “Fernando and I have felt so frustrated and limited in these restrictive costumes.”
“Let’s get some rest and we’ll work on cutting the two of you free in the morning.”
Allen was still excited about their rescue, so he went back into the pool to swim around for a time. Most of the other mermaids were awake as well, since they had spent the last day or two laying around in a cabin. Dave had been working all night to arrange their rescue, so he went to the cabin in the front of the yacht and slept on a small bed in the captain’s cabin. He slept past dawn and didn’t wake up until Jaime shook his shoulder.
“I think you had better come look at this.” The captain said.
Dave threw his clothes back on and followed Jaime out into the cabin. Jaime pointed to the East, where a large military-style patrol boat was rapidly approaching them.
“I didn’t know the Belizean Coast Guard had any ships that big.” Dave said.
“That’s not a Belizean ship.” I tried to look at the markings, but they have some kind of dark cloth covering them up.”
“That sounds ominous. Can we outrun them?”
“Not a chance. This boat wasn’t made for speed.”
“I guess we’ll see what they want then.”
Within a few minutes the boat had pulled up alongside. Two machine guns mounted on the front and back decks were pointed at La Reina. The ship was easily twice the length of the yacht, and now that it was close Dave could see the large black tarp that had been attached to the hull to cover the normal markings. Given the size of the vessel and the armaments, Dave assumed that is was a military ship, probably belonging to Guatemala. So he was not surprised to see a man in a silk shirt come to the gunwhale and look down at him.
“Carlos Ruiz, I presume.” Dave said. “That’s quite a ship you’ve got there.”
“Yes, it is very nice. I had to rent it when your friends sank my own ship.”
“What do you want?”
“I want my mermaids back.”
“They were never your mermaids.”
“I don’t have time to quibble. Stand back while my men come across.”
With the machine guns pointing down at them, there was little choice but to obey. Dave backed away from the side while several men from the larger boat threw some lines across and pulled the yacht up next to their patrol boat. Next they affixed a gangplank between the two boats and Carlos crossed over, accompanied by six armed men. Two of the men motioned Dave and Jaime over to a railing behind the cabin and locked their wrists to the railing with handcuffs. Then one of them went into the cabin and fired a burst of bullets into the radio.
“You can keep the men. I never had much use for them anyway.” Carlos said. Then he turned to the pool, where Allen, Fernando, and all the women were lined up along the side, watching the proceedings. “Who’s going to be first? Swim over to the end of the pool here.”
The mermaids looked at each other, and Lacy was the first to swim across. Her fingers flew for just a moment.
“WE MUST LIVE TO FIGHT ANOTHER DAY.” She signed.
Two more men came across from the larger boat, carrying a long metal box like a coffin. They set it down next to the pool. When Lacy got to the end next to them, they reached down and pulled her out of the water by her wrists. Another man grabbed her tail. Carlos flipped open three latches down the length of the box and opened the lid. He motioned to the men carrying Lacy and they set her down in the box in a sitting position. The inside was lined with a latex material that conformed to the shape of her body when she sat in it. One of the men pulled a couple of the breathing discs from a pouch at his waist and replaced the disks in Lacy’s collar. Then they pushed on her shoulders to make her lay down in the box.
“After you escaped, I put quite a bit of thought into some new sleeping arrangements.” Carlos said. “I had a bit of trouble coming up with an idea until I remembered that with your collars you don’t need any air. That’s when I came up with these handy boxes. They are very comfortable and cozy, and they will protect whoever is inside from bumps and bruises, but they are also very secure.”
Carlos nodded his head and one of the men closed the lid. The inside of the lid was covered with the same stretchy latex material as the bottom, and when the lid closed the material pressed down against Lacy’s body and face. The black material completely blocked her sight, but Carlos had been correct in saying it was comfortable. There was apparently a layer of air under the material and it supported Lacy’s body, keeping her away from the hard sides and bottom of the box. Once the lid was closed, the men flipped the three latches closed and then one of them took a padlock out of his bag and slipped it through the center latch before locking it. Another one of the men took a small compressor and hooked it up to a port in the box. He flipped a switch and the compressor ran for a minute or two. Nothing was visible to those on the outside of the box, but Lacy felt the latex press down around her body, sealing her tightly in place. She was now totally immobile, blind and nearly deaf. She could hear a slight murmuring sound from outside the box and feel the gentle swaying of the boat, but otherwise she had no idea what was going on outside the box.
“I am the only one who knows the combination to these locks.” Carlos was saying. “So you will all be quite secure until we arrive back at my house. Gretchen has been eagerly awaiting your return and we have big plans for you all. But things will be different this time. We have re-organized our facility to make it much more secure.”
While Carlos had been talking, his men had been traveling back and forth to their ship, bringing back six more of the boxes. After the last trip, two of the men picked up the box with Lacy inside and took it back across to the larger boat. Carlos motioned to the mermaids and Carla swam over to be the next one boxed up. She was followed by Daphne, then Renna, Audra, and Anna. Maria was the last to make the trip, her heart pounding within her breast. She had always been afraid of confined spaces and her previous experiences with Carlos had not helped her fears any. But the guns pointed at her friends strengthened her resolve as her fear of seeing them hurt overcame her claustrophobia. So she let the men lay her down in the box and close it over her face, enveloping her in the dark, rubbery material. No one outside could hear her whimpers as the lid closed and the latex was pressurized.
Once all of the boxes had been carried back to Carlos’s ship and tied down on the deck, Carlos pointed to Allen and Fernando.
“Shoot them.” He told his men.
The instant he heard the words, Allen grabbed Fernando and pulled him down under the water. He dove to the very bottom of the pool, pulling Fernando with him. He remembered seeing a television show that demonstrated what happened to bullets shot into the water – how only a few inches of water would completely stop a bullet. The men above emptied their clips into the water as they tried to obey Carlos’s command. But Allen’s memory had been correct, and the bullets were stopped long before they penetrated to the depth where the two were hiding. Bits of lead drifted down around Allen and Fernando, but they had been shattered and flattened by their impact with the water and they had no energy left to harm the two men. When Carlos realized what was happening, he motioned to his men.
“That’s OK. Just get back to our boat and release all the lines. There is more than one way to solve this problem.”
Carlos went across the gangplank and his men released the lines holding the two boats together, then pulled up the gangplank. They backed away from the yacht and turned their boat around until it was facing the smaller boat. There was a large, turreted gun on the forward deck, and its barrel lowered until it was pointed at the yacht below the water line. The gun fired, blasting a large hole into Jaime’s boat, which immediately began to list to the side. The larger boat turned and motored away quickly to the south.