IS IT POSSIBLE for a 100-meter hyper expensive yacht to go into a fog bank with one name and exit the fog bank with another name? Can that yacht be sailing at end nautical twilight with one superstructure and at sunrise have another? Can the yacht, whose listed speed is twenty-four knots, sail faster than a modern warship? Is it possible that no one can locate the yacht’s last refueling stop? What if any of those were true? What if all of them were true?
* * * * *
THE FOLLOWING MORNING, he began with the logical, the cruise lines that service Los Angeles Harbor and San Pedro Harbor. Since he was an attorney, and missing persons were involved, the cruise lines were cooperative. His was looking for Mr. and Mrs. Enzo De Luca that sailed one month ago. From Carnival to Norwegian to Royal Caribbean and any other cruise line, no Mr. and Mrs. De Luca as passengers.
THE FOLLOWING DAY he spent checking the yachts that were berthed in San Pedro that were large enough for a two-week cruise. Seven yachts fell into that category, five were in port and the two that were at sea had only been gone for seven days. None of the remaining five had taken the De Luca’s on a cruise and the two at sea had been in port a month ago. Another dead end.
HE BEGAN WITH the harbor master. Once again, his status as an attorney helped. The harbor master smoothed the way for him with the berthing supervisor.
“My client’s parents disappeared approximately one month ago. The only information she has is that they were going on a two-week cruise. The cruise lines proved negative, as did the yachts that are berthed here permanently. I’m attempting to find out if any yachts berthed during that period had the capacity to stay at sea for fourteen days.”
The supervisor went to his computer. “During that timeframe, only one yacht berthed here that had that kind of range.”
“Tell me about her.”
“Her name was the Esmeralda, one hundred meters, new, Panamanian registration, crew of thirty-five, sailed from Maui. I never saw her myself, but two of my employees said she was the most beautiful yacht they had ever seen.”
“How long was she here?”
He went back to his computer, “She stayed five days.”
Christian asked, “Where did she fuel?”
“Hmm, unusual, I don’t show her fueling here.”
“What was her speed and cruising range?”
“Speed, twenty-four knots, range five thousand miles.”
Christian declared, “Unusual, if she sailed directly from Maui, she’d need to fuel, if she were going to sail for fourteen days.”
“That does seem logical, doesn’t it?”
“Paid by the purser. That was unusual also. Most yachts that size pay with the yacht’s credit card. The purser left a two hundred-thousand-dollar cash deposit and told me he’s pick up the balance on the day they sailed. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but there was something strange about the purser.”
“More mystery. What nationality was the crew?”
The supervisor shook his head slowly, “I only saw the purser, but I couldn’t say what country he was from. My employee that went onboard said the same thing. The crew could have been from anywhere.”
“The Coast Guard had the same reaction?”
“I talked to the officer that went onboard. He told me the officers were cordial and very cooperative, but he wasn’t sure if the crew was the same nationality; they could have been from numerous countries.”
“Where was she berthed?”
“Pier number eighteen, berth twelve and thirteen. A yacht that size requires two berths.”
“I may talk to some of the dock personnel and see if they know anything important.”
“Take my card and tell them that I said it was alright to talk to you, since it involves missing persons.” He also gave him a pass for the dock area.
“I sincerely appreciate all your help.”
“It was my pleasure. I hope you find the missing parents.”
“I’m going to do my best.” He shook hands in leaving.
After some minor bribing, he finally located the man that had assisted the Esmerelda when she was docked. He was Mexican and his documentation papers had been forged. He was reluctant to talk to Christian, fearing he might be from INS. His voice had a definite Mexican overtone.