A Star Tribune serialized novel by Jane Fredericksen

 

Chapter 10

The story so far: Kacie is missing, then found.

As they reached Outer Island, a quick drizzle peppered True Wind. Ronnie checked her watch: four o’clock, just as Kinney predicted. Like he said, it didn’t last long. The winds had died by the time they reached the island and they had to motor in. But the storm in the heart of Redemption threatened to linger far longer.

Both crews now sat in Redemption’s cockpit as the sun crept toward the horizon. Two voices argued in the cabin below. Kinney sounded as frayed as a worn-out rope, Kacie as stubborn as a knot in its strands. Everyone else strained to hear if the rope would break and, if so, in which direction.

Even though both sailboats were moored at Outer Island, any sightseeing was out of the question. For now, they were all held hostage by a 12-year-old stowaway.

Ronnie decided to make the best of the situation. “Drinks, anyone?”

The other crewmembers shook their heads, focused on the discussion below.

Kinney clomped up the steps. The others waited expectantly. The skipper exhaled slowly.

“She won’t come out,” he said.

Ronnie shook her head. “Let me talk to her.”

“Good luck.” As Ronnie headed to the cabin, Kinney took her place on the bench and massaged his forehead.

Ronnie’s eyes struggled to adjust to the cabin darkness. She crossed to the bathroom door and rapped sharply. “Kacie, you can’t stay in there forever.” Catching a whiff of the well-used toilet, she wrinkled her nose and added, “Probably not even very long.”

Kacie’s muffled voice answered, “I don’t want to talk to you, Ronnie. I want to talk to him.”

“Come on, Kacie.”

“No, Ronnie. Not you. Him.”

Ronnie sighed. She called to the cockpit. “She wants to talk to you.”

Kinney’s head poked through the companionway door. “Tell you what, let’s just swap boats. You take Redemption. My crew and I will move our gear to True Wind.”

“You’re not solving the ultimate problem here,” Ronnie pointed out.

Kinney sounded exasperated. “What problem? It’s not my problem!”

Kacie’s voice rang out. “It is so! You don’t want to talk! You probably never really talked to anyone in your whole life!”

From the cockpit, Kinney shouted, “I don’t even know you!”

“And that’s your problem!” Kacie yelled.

Kinney faced his crewmembers. He held up his index finger and said, with icy sweetness, “One minute, please.”

He swung down into the cabin to stand beside Ronnie. She took a step back. It would be interesting to see what kind of poker player he was.

Kinney gripped the frame and addressed the closed door with all the warmth of a SWAT negotiator.

“OK. What do you want?”

“I want to talk,” Kacie said. “You owe me that.”

“I don’t owe you anything….”

“Is that too much to ask?” Kacie interrupted. “Just one night. Just the two of us. To talk.”

Kinney’s fingers curled in frustration. “I have a crew to think about.”

“We’ll take your crew,” Ronnie said, but Kinney held his hand, palm up.

Don’t make it easy for her!”

“Sorry.” Ronnie backed off.

She looked toward the cockpit. Six heads craned over the cabin door, listening eagerly. As Kinney turned to see them, they ducked out of sight simultaneously.

Kinney ran a hand through his hair and sighed. He turned back to the locked bathroom door and shook a finger at it.

“Just one night,” he said, through gritted teeth. “Promise?”

Kacie sounded hopeful. “To talk.”

“You go back with Ronnie in the morning.”

“I promise.”

Ronnie watched the young captain struggle for a few seconds, obviously reluctant to give in, but he finally folded.

“OK.”

He did not take defeat well, Ronnie decided. She tagged behind as he stormed up the cabin stairs.

When they reached the cockpit, other crewmembers parted like the Red Sea.

Kinney faced them. “I’m really sorry about this.”

“Mr. McKinney,” Hattie interrupted.

Kinney turned to the gruff nurse. A smile crawled over her craggy face. She patted Kinney’s arm and only Ronnie noticed his momentary flinch.

“We understand,” Hattie reassured him. “We’re parents, too. Come on, Pet. Get your gear.”

They entered the cabin as Kinney sputtered in protest, “But I’m not!”

He strangled the rest of his thought, sighed and followed the others downstairs.

“I’ll let Pete know,” Ronnie called after him. She was perfectly willing to wait a few minutes before joining them in the cabin. Best to let the dust settle first.

Tomorrow: Chapter 10 continues.