“Is that a…” she began.

            “It’s a sailboat,” Wylie answered.

            “A big sailboat,” Tull added. “More like a schooner or a yacht.”

            “Should we try and flag them down?” Harper wondered, glancing at each of them.

            Tull turned to his father. “Whaddaya think? Overtake? Or ignore?”

            Wylie gave them his two cents’ worth. “I vote we stay low and hope they don’t see us.”

            Bud narrowed his eyes. “I gotta bad feeling about this, too.”

            “Why?” Harper pressed. “You don’t think they’ll take us aboard?”

            Wylie turned to Tull. “You said we’re a couple of days from the coast?”

            “Give or take.”

            “So why is that vessel this far from the open ocean?” Wylie asked. “Also…” He held out a hand. “How much wind have we been getting lately? Zero to none, right?” He pointed to the craft. “Those sails aren’t doing shit for them. They have to be using their engines. Plus, they’re going against the current.”

            “Maybe they’re here to try and find supplies like we’ve been doing,” Harper suggested.

            “That’s a possibility,” Bud acknowledged.

            “Think they’re armed?” Tull softly asked. Wylie suspected the question was meant for Bud.

            Bud sighed. “Unless we discover differently, we’ll always have to assume the worst from here on end.” He looked directly at Wylie. “You still have that pistol?”



            “Uhh, guys?” Harper pointed. “I think they’re coming toward us.”

            “Think they spotted us?” Wylie inquired.

            “We’ll soon find out,” Tull answered. “Here’s the deal. Keep your gun within reach. Act nonchalant. If they hail us, don’t reply, but don’t flat-out ignore them. That’ll look too suspicious.”

            “What are we supposed to do if they try to board us?” Harper asked, voicing the same problem Wylie was about to address.

            “That’s when we defend our property,” Tull answered in a voice that was all-business.

            Wylie smiled to himself. He wasn’t the least bit worried. Not with these two guys on their side.

            Harper moved up to his side as all eyes remained on the oncoming vessel. “Should I try to stay out of sight?”

            Bud replied, “Come get inside the tent, out of sight. If shit goes sideways, huddle down against the sides and away from the middle of the boat. Make yourself as inconspicuous as possible. With luck, if they believe we’re all guys here, they’ll have second thoughts.”

            Wylie gestured to her. “Go get inside now before they get any closer.”

            She gave a nod and with Tull’s help, climbed into the inflatable and into the tent. Wylie noticed the man didn’t zip up the opening and asked about it.

            “If they see it closed, they might suspect someone’s inside,” he explained. “I’ll make sure she remains out of their line of vision.”

            “Where are you taking a stand?” Bud questioned him.

            “I’ll sit in the pilot seat.”

            “Okay. Dad’ll sit outside the tent with an oar. I’ll pretend to tinker with the outboard. You just follow our lead.”

            Nodding, Wylie went to sit. To whomever was approaching, they’d get the impression that the two crafts were travelling together, and the inflatable was having engine problems. They’d never suspect their prey also had a plan in mind.

            Before long, the deep sound of the vessel’s engine came to them, confirming his suspicions. He had to admit the sailboat looked much more intimidating with all its canvas deployed, and wondered if that was done for show, or on the chance they might catch a breeze here and there.

            A lone figure moved onto the bow sprit and waved at them.

            “Don’t reply,” Bud murmured.

            Wylie didn’t and tried to appear both curious and uncaring as they continued to watch.

            The boat came closer, but at a slower speed. This time the guy yelled at them. “Ahoy! Ahoy, there!”

            “Ask him what he wants. Don’t be nice,” Bud whispered.

            “What do you want?” Wylie loudly demanded.

            The guy waited as his boat came within a hundred feet. For Wylie, that sense of impending danger was rapidly becoming sirens and flashing red lights. It was an effort to keep his hands on the wheel and not reach for the pistol lying a few inches away.

            Before Bud could say it, Wylie addressed the stranger again. “That’s close enough. What do you want?”

            “It’s good to see another living being!” the man called back. “We were afraid everyone else had drowned!”

            We. The man had said we.

            Wylie started to get to his feet when a shot rang out. He instinctively ducked, snatching his own weapon, when he realized the shot had come from behind him.

            He was aware of the guy on the bow sprit pulling a weapon from behind his back when a second shot exploded. Blood blossomed in the middle of the guy’s chest, stark red on the white t-shirt, and the man fell backwards.