Sunday, July 9, 2140 hours
Luke Haggerty squeezed into the tiny bathroom and pulled the door shut behind him.
Not the bathroom, he reminded himself. The head. Luke knew he'd been sentenced to this boat for the next month. What he didn't know was that it was going to be a never-ending vocabulary lesson. Not walls — bulkheads. Not beds — berths. The kitchen was a galley; a room was a cabin. And who cared?
Sudden pounding on the door-was it still called a door?
"What are you doing in there?" growled the voice of Mr. Radford, the Phoenix's first mate. "Writing an opera? Let's go, Archie!"
Luke reached for his belt and bashed his elbow against the small sink. This bathroom — head — was a shoe box! "Ow!"
More pounding. "You okay, Archie?"
"My name is Luke."
Even as he said it, he knew it was a waste of breath. All the way from the Guam airport to the marina, Radford had leaned on the horn and cursed out Archie the truck driver, Archie the cop, Archie the pedestrian, Archie the cyclist, and even Archie the priest.
By pressing himself into the corner and resting his left hip against the sink, Luke managed to finish up in the head. He hesitated. The flusher was some kind of pump. Instructions were scribbled on a plastic-coated card tacked to the wall-bulkhead: open valve, pump three times, close valve, pump three times, duck.
Duck? Why duck?
Wham! He smacked his head on the low doorway on the way out.
"Watch your head," grunted the mate, not at all better late than never. "Did you remember to close the valve?"
Luke nodded. "What's the big deal?"
"The head flushes with seawater. Last thing you want to do on a boat is let the sea on board. That's a one-way ticket to the bottom."
Luke felt queasy. Ever since he'd learned he was coming here, his uneasy dreams had been a catalog of all the ways to die at sea — hurricanes, tidal waves, giant sharks, and collisions with supertankers, just to name a few. Now he had to add toilets to his list of things to worry about.
"Okay," he sighed. "Where's my cabin?"
Radford brayed a laugh. "You're standing in it, Archie."
"But this is just the — uh — " His voice trailed off. He had been about to say, "The hallway outside the bathroom." But in the dim light, he could make out four narrow bunk beds — bunk berths? — two on either end, and two mini-dressers — all built right into the bulkhead.
"These are your quarters."
"Quarters?" repeated Luke. "As in a quarter of a room?"
"This ain't a luxury liner." Mr. Radford shrugged. "Archie, meet Archie. Lights out at 2200." He heaved himself up the companionway out onto the deck.
Luke cast his eyes around. A tousled head of sandy hair poked out from one of the upper bunks. "What time is it?" Sleepy eyes peered down over rounded, heavily freckled cheeks.
"2145," Luke replied. "I think that's a quarter to twenty-two."
The boy groaned and yawned at the same time. "My system is totally messed up. I was on planes for twenty-one hours to get here."
"Tell me about it," said Luke, beginning to fill a narrow drawer with the contents of his duffel bag. "Why Guam?"
"It's supposed to be just us and the ocean," replied the other boy. "No ports, no nothing. The brochure said we probably won't even see another boat for the whole month." He sounded mournful, like it was a death sentence.
Luke applied a hip-check to the overstuffed drawer. "Nobody showed me any brochure."
"Really?" The boy was surprised. "How'd you end up here?"
The horrible movie replayed itself in Luke's head as it had so many times before. The crack of the judge's gavel; that single word: guilty; his mother's tears. And later, in the judge's chambers: "I'm reluctant to sentence a thirteen-year-old to Williston, especially on a first offense. There's one other possibility. It's a program called CNC — Charting a New Course. . . ."
Luke cast his roommate a strange smile. "I'm a convicted felon." He held out his hand. "Luke Haggerty."
"Wow!" The boy's eyes widened. "I'm only here because I fight with my sister. I'm Will," he added, shaking hands. "Will Greenfield."
"Fight with your sister?" Luke raised an eyebrow. "So your parents had to put an ocean between you?"
"Nah, she's in the girls' cabin next door. I guarantee you'll hate her. I should have been an only child."
Luke laughed shortly. "I am an only child. It doesn't help. If you don't have any brothers and sisters, your parents are on your case extra."
The lights flashed once and winked out. Except for the dim glow from the porthole, the cabin was in total darkness.
"Well, I guess I've decided to go to sleep," Luke said sarcastically. He established himself on the lower bed — bunk — berth! — on the opposite side of the room. Uncomfortably, he curled up in the coolest spot he could find.
For a few minutes, the only sound that could be heard was the creaking of the mooring lines and the soft lapping of water against the hull. Then — "What felony?" Will asked.
Luke laughed without humor. "Not murder, if that's what you're worried about." But even as he said it, the voice of the prosecutor was ringing in his ears: "Felony possession of a firearm."
"Come on," coaxed Will. "I told you why I'm here. What was it? Breaking and entering? Vandalism? I know, assault!"
"That'll be my next felony," yawned Luke, "if I ever get my hands on the kid who put that gun in my locker."