"I got a good look at their files," Kate said. "They're interested in a place called Hopkins Cay."
"That's a good place to check," Denise said.
"How so?" Carrie asked.
"For starters, we don't have a better idea of where to go or what they are doing. Also, the name may mean something. The name of the cay is that of the commander of the American force that raided Nassau in 1776."
"They wouldn't be making all their preparations if they didn't intend to go somewhere," Ashley said. "We'll need to make some of our own and fast."
"Right," Kate said. "If you two can get enough food to last us three or four days, we'll see about renting a boat and getting a hold of some charts of the area."
By a stroke of luck, Kate and Carrie were able to find a boat that had a small galley and a flat keel. Denise and Ashley bought food for the trip. After a quick trip to their hotel to get some clothes, they set out for Hopkins Cay.
"Okay, Navy, do we have much of an advantage over them with this little thing?" Carrie asked.
"We can beach this thing," Kate said. "Which means we can go directly ashore rather than using a rubber raft, which they will need to go ashore. Also these waters are dotted with shoals and other shallow bits which we can cross over, but they can't risk in something the size of the Grail. Doubly so because it will be getting dark soon. They may have a head start, but we can take a more direct route."
By the time the quartet left the harbor, it was dusk. Fortunately, the boat had the most up to date GPS equipment available for a small craft. All lights were on though most commercial traffic was at a minimum and pleasure craft were nonexistent. A quarter moon gave some light, which allowed them to see the cay. Kate cut the engine and dropped anchor. Beaching could wait until morning.
They woke at dawn. After breakfast, Kate beached the boat and they went ashore. The cay was small and low lying, though there was a small hill offset from the center, with a few trees and shrubs. It seemed to be about the size of a large college campus. "Okay, we're ashore," Carrie said. "Now what? We have the right island, but where do start looking?"
"Since this little hill is the only prominent feature on the island," Denise said, "that's the best place to start."
They climbed up to the top of the hill. Grail was anchored on the other side. There was a small group of people already ashore and rubber boat was heading back to it's mother craft, presumably to pick up another group. Somebody picked up a radio and spoke was on it for a few seconds. The group was split up. "What gives?" Ashley wondered.
"We've been spotted," Carrie said.
"Back to the boat!" Kate said.
The four scrambled down the hill toward their boat. They were almost to the boat when shots rang out. They hit the ground, laying themselves flat. "Is everybody all right?" Kate asked.
Her companions all answered in the affirmative. While they lay prone, the armed thugs were able to get close to them. "On your feet," one of them ordered.
Kate, Carrie, Denise, and Ashley were marched to other side of the cay. "Tie them up!" Blanca ordered. "Except this one," she pointed to Kate, "I want to do it to her myself."
Kate was forced to watch while her companions were bound at the wrists and ankles then made to sit down before they were gagged. Blanca then bound Kate's wrists. Almost immediately, Kate felt her fingers go numb. After Blanca bound Kate's ankles, the adventuress shoved the sleuth to the ground. From there, Blanca produced a filthy-looking rag and stuffed the center into Kate's mouth and tied the ends tightly behind her head.
While all this was going on, there was some digging going on. Denise could barely conceal her disgust as tools and utensils were dug up and carelessly tossed aside. Eventually a wooden box was unearthed. Percival and Blanca eagerly went through the box as they looked through the contents.
Frustration soon set it. "Papers," Blanca said in disgust. "Nothing but papers."
Blanca put the papers back in the box and slammed the lid shut.
"Let's go," Percival said. He went to Ashley.
"What are you doing?" Blanca said.
"Letting them loose. They're liable to die of thirst if we just leave them."
It was obvious that Blanca wouldn't mind that one bit. "I'll loosen the knots just a bit. We'll be gone before they will be able to leave," Percival said.
Blanca agreed grudgingly. Percival loosened the knot securing Ashley's wrists. Still, Ashley waited until everybody was on their way back to Grail before shucking off the ropes. Once free, Ashley untied Carrie , who proceeded to untie Kate while Ashley released Denise.
"That was a whole lot of trouble for whole lot of nothing," Carrie said.
Denise was looking through the box. "What's that all about?" Carrie asked.
"There might be something in here that somebody might find useful," Denise said. She indicated a piece of paper in her hand. "This seems to be the day's orders for a ship called the Alfred."
"Then it is valuable," Kate said. "A ship's orders are countersigned by the executive officer, who in the eighteenth century was known as the first lieutenant."
"Anybody we know?" Carrie said.
"John Paul Jones, the father of the American Navy. Also, look for documents from the Navy Board. One might have the signature of John Adams."
"That's what separates the professional from the amateur," Denise said. "There are different ways of determining value, monetary or otherwise. Let's get this back to the boat."THE END
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