The next evening, as the sun set over the endless water, Pierre and Yan dined with the captain. He still hadn’t provided his name, but he had provided a cask of respectable red wine, and more than enough salted beef. Silverware clinked and scraped as the trio ate around a small round table at the point of the bow.
“If we were en route to Tripoli,” Pierre asked. “Wouldn’t we see the African coast?”
“Perhaps we’re crossing the Gulf of Sirte right now,” their captor countered, “and the coast lies just over the horizon.”
“But it isn’t,” Yan claimed. “Because we aren’t going to Tripoli.”
“No,” he admitted after a sip of wine. “Two relatively smart individuals such as yourselves could not possibly think I would reveal our destination so easily.”
“Then where are you taking us?” Pierre inquired.
“Monsieur, did you hear what I just said? Perhaps you’ll end up in Algiers, or Barcelona. Istanbul or Beirut. Or maybe we sail in a big circle and dock in Alexandria. All that matters is that I deliver you, alive, to my employer.” He speared another bite of braised beef. “Then I receive a heavy suitcase of cash, and my next assignment. I am certain that your occupations are not so dissimilar.”
Yan’s eyes met Pierre’s, an instant later, she jumped out of her seat and dove off the railing into the darkening waters.
Their captor remained stoic. “Return Monsieur Christoph to his quarters.” Two sets of burly arms hauled Pierre belowdecks.
He sat and stared across the room at Zhang Yan’s unoccupied bench. A flurry of movement echoed down the short corridor before the door opened. The same two men carried Yan into their shared cell, and locked her to the floor. She was dripping wet and shaking in a dark slip. She must have removed her dress, no sense in carrying another 25 kilograms while trying to swim for land.
“Is that a shark bite?” Pierre nodded toward the bleeding hole in her right calf.
“No,” Yan winced. “When they saw I wasn’t going to turn back, they harpooned me. Took them four shots, I was nearly out of range.”
“Mademoiselle Zhang, we need to trust each other, and work together on this. I am confident we can escape, given the right circumstances.”
She cast an appraising glance over the increasingly-disheveled senior citizen before her. “Between us,” Yan observed, “we have decades of espionage experience.”
“More of that on my side of the room.”
“In that case, Pierre Christoph, what is your master plan?”
“Well, Zhang Yan, it involves significantly less copious bleeding than yours.”