The Birth of Modern Merlin

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Chapter 13

The Next Morning, Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Marcus and I were up early, well before sunrise. Better to wake early, get well prepared, including Plan B, than to run late and get surprised when things don’t go as planned. But things rarely go as planned. I never understood how supposedly intelligent people can go through life missing appointments and being routinely late. It’s life disorganization run amok. Never be late. Add extra time to your plans. Expect things will go wrong. Why? Because they will. Time enhances preparation; preparation breeds confidence.

“I thought about it much of the night. Eilidh might be right,” I said. “We were getting way too worked up about this sword of Robert the Bruce. Let’s get back to basics. What’s most important? What’s our prime responsibility?”

“I can’t help you,” said Marcus. “I’m not Merlin; you are. I’m focused on the sword we’ve got, not the one we don’t; and MacLean.”

“We need more information,” I said. “I think I should go ashore and find this Donald Og. I know it’s sooner than our original plan, but information is power. We’re still running blind here. If Gordon Graham can take me to him, fine. But if something goes wrong, I still need to be on that island so I can find him myself. I need to go to Coll now, before MacLean gets here.”

“Alright,” said Marcus. “There’s a backpack, small tent, sleeping bag, camping gear in the storage closet near the sail locker. Take a walkie-talkie with you, there’s no cell coverage this far north. You might be gone a couple of days. Take food and water to last a while.”

“Sounds good,” I said. “But he’s expecting me to be there at 10am. If I don’t show up, that’s a problem.”

“Right,” said Marcus.

My newly minted Time Pilot comrade had this uncanny ability to think three steps ahead of everyone else and it seemed like he already thought through that aspect of the plan and came up with a workable solution.

“We have the advantage here,” continued Marcus, explaining his plan. “MacLean doesn’t know what you look like. He would recognize my voice and Eilidh’s voice, but that’s it. At 10am, I’ll go ashore in the dinghy with Eilidh. I’ll be dressed in a foul weather sailing suit. I’ll pull the hood up over my head so he can’t see my face; I won’t move a muscle. I’ll look like an unconscious lump sitting on the floor of the dinghy. And I won’t get out, either. If I was truly sick or unconscious I wouldn’t be able to stand. We’ll show him what he’s expects to see.”

“And what about the sword of Robert the Bruce?” I asked.

“It won’t go in the dinghy,” he said. “If everything checks out, when MacLean asks about it, Eilidh can play dumb, say she forgot it and go back to the boat to get it. But, if something seems out of place, she can still say she forgot it. Then we head back to the boat, weigh anchor and sail away into the safety of the open ocean. Nobody will follow us if we head west. When it’s safe, we return the sword to its rightful owners. But you’ll be on Coll and MacLean will just assume it’s you who went back to the sailboat with Eilidh. That should buy you enough time to get away and do what you need to do. You’re right; you’re safety and the mission, those are the most important things.”

It sounded good. We had a plan and a Plan B. I just hoped we wouldn’t need a Plan C.

About a half hour before first light, when it was still quite dark, Marcus and I got into the dinghy with my loaded backpack and fired up the old outboard engine.

Marcus dropped me off on the beach, and then returned to the sailboat, still at anchor in the well protected inlet at the northern end of Coll.

I made my way to some nearby sand dunes where I could hide and yet still observe the beach at Solisdale Bay where the meeting with MacLean would take place.

At five minutes before ten a red pickup truck arrived from the south. Shortly thereafter, the dinghy came out from behind the starboard side of the giant sailboat. Sitting alone in the stern of the small inflatable boat, Eilidh ran the engine. Her companion, the hooded hulk, sat lifeless on the dinghy’s floor. Three minutes later, they were on the beach.

Eilidh got out of the dinghy and walked up the beach towards the man walking towards her, leaving the motionless Marcus in the boat.

“Are you Gordon Graham MacLean?” asked Eilidh, reaching out her hand to shake his.

“That I am,” he said. You can call me G.G. That’s what I go by here on Coll. How was your trip from Oban?”

“Foggy and rainy to start,” answered Eilidh. “We had to rely on the radar and GPS going through the Sound of Mull. We couldn’t see the ends of our noses. After we cleared Mull the skies cleared up. It was good from there. Heavy seas though.”

“Is that our sick Time Pilot there in the boat?” asked G.G.

“Aye,” said Eilidh. “I don’t know how sick he is anymore. He seems to be getting better, like he’s recovering from whatever bug bit him.”

“That’s good,” said G.G. “But do you have the sword of Robert the Bruce? We cannae see Donald Og without it.”

“Oh, I’m a daft munter, I am. Stupid; stupid,” said Eilidh, launching into her dumb lassie routine. “I was so concerned, trying to drop him into the dinghy without dropping him into the water, I forgot the blade. I’m sorry.

You should have seen me, all alone, trying to get a half dead man from the sailboat into the dinghy without drowning him. I’m glad there’s no video. It would go viral, fer sure.

I can get the blade to you tomorrow,” she continued. “This looks like a nice island. I planned on taking a nice hike to the center, play tourist for a bit. I can get back to the boat tonight. I’ll ring you up tomorrow before I leave. Meet you at the ferry terminal.”

“Oh, that won’t do, miss, not at all. We have to have the sword of Robert the Bruce today, right now. It’s very important.”

“What’s so important about that old thing?” she said. “We’ve had it for over a month. We shut down all the sites on uncle’s list. Another day shouldn’t be a problem.”

“I cannae explain it. Let’s just say it’s not the sort of thing a woman would understand.”

“Uh-Oh,” I thought. “Did he just say what I thought he said?”

“Say what?” exclaimed the newly irritated young lass. “And just what is it women cannae understand, Mr. G.G? What’s that mean, anyway? Gingin Goon? You sound like a sexist wanker to me, Mr. MacLean.”

Damn, she sure knew how to pick a fight. Now we’ll see what MacLean’s really up to.

“Nobody talks to me like that, NOBODY!!” said the enraged fat man. “Certainly not some quality bitch come sailing in on a big arse boat. Turn your pretty cunt around, go back to your yacht and get the sword… NOW! When you bring it back, I’ll take your blootered friend to the taibhsear and you can go back to the palace with all your posh friends.”

“How ’bout this?” she said, defiantly. “I head back to my posh friends and I’ll keep the fuk’n sword? It’s a nice sword. It’ll look good hanging over the door to me dungeon. That’s where all us cunts keep fat wankers like you prisoner til we’re ready to drop ye into a cauldron. Boil up yer fat arse, we will. We’ll have a nice witch’s party. There’s enough of you to feed the whole coven. Until then…See Ya! Let’s go, Marcus.”

Hearing his name, Marcus stood straight up in the middle of the dinghy, removed the hood covering his head, and started the engine.

“Hi; how are you?” he said, smiling, addressing the fat man.

“Who the hell are you?” said MacLean, caught off guard.

“I’m Magnus. No, wait; foolish me, that’s the other guy. It’s a miracle! He’s fine. He sends his love and regards. Me? I’m Elvis; nice to meet you. We’ll be going now, I think.”

“You think you can just sail away, do ye?” said MacLean, much calmer now, knowing he had an ace up his sleeve. “This ain’t over, lassie. We’ll meet again.”

Marcus and Eilidh crawled back to the sailboat in the dinghy while MacLean ran as fast as he could to the red pickup. Unbeknownst to him, I was hiding in the sand dune nearby and could hear everything he said. He got on the radio in his truck and called to somebody on the other side of the island.

“They’ve still got the sword,” he said.

“And what about Merlin?” said the voice on the radio.

“He’s not here either. He might be back on the boat but he might be on the island. I don’t know,” said Gordon Graham “But she also said they were going to keep the sword and sail away. I don’t know where.”

“That’s a problem; it needs to be fixed. Now!” ordered the angry voice.

“Don’t worry, Mr. Black, they’re not going anywhere soon,” said MacLean into the radio. “They’re on a sailboat. Even under power the best they can do is about 12 knots. I’ll just head back home, pick up the boat and I’ll hunt them down like a shark tailing a wounded fish. They can’t out run me.”

“Fine,” said the voice. “But get that sword, and don’t let it touch the ground. If Merlin is on that boat, take him. You have radar, right?”

“I do,” said MacLean. “And three 350s on the stern. And plenty of fuel. They can sail to the moon if they want, I’d still catch them.”

“Alright, get on it. We’re behind schedule. Don’t fuck this up, MacLean, or you’ll be shark bait, too.”

Gordon Graham MacLean sped off in his pickup truck. Now I was scared; we hadn’t planned for this. We had an angry, motivated fat man pissed at us and he was coming back. I got on the walkie-talkie and called Eilidh and Marcus, who just arrived back at the sailboat.

“Eilidh, Marcus, he’s coming your way. Do you read me? Over.”

“Yes, Magnus, what is it?” said Eilidh over the radio.

“I overheard MacLean talk to someone on the radio. Marcus, you called it right. They’re up to no good. The sword is a HUGE thing. And he also knew I was Merlin. I don’t know how he knew that. It’s not just the sword they’re after, they want me, too.

He’s headed off now, going to pick up his boat. It’s a fast boat, with radar and a lot of fuel. If you planned on sailing away you’ll never make it. He’ll catch you. Over”

“Magnus?” said Marcus, now on the radio. “When we tied up in Tobermory, you filled up the boat with fuel. Did you also fill up those three petrol canisters we keep in the engine compartment? Over.”

“Yes,” I answered. “They should still be there. I never touched them. Why do you want the petrol canisters? Over.”

There was no response. I waited twenty seconds before calling on the walkie-talkie again.

“Marcus, come in. Why do you want the petrol canisters? Over”

After twenty more seconds there was still no answer. I got very concerned. I looked around the edge of Solisdale Bay and saw a wooden row boat tied to an iron post imbedded in the rocks. Luckily, it was high tide and it wouldn’t take much effort to steal, I mean, borrow. I needed to get back to Poseidon’s Trident ASAP. I untied the line and began to push the small boat into the water. When it was fully afloat and ready to go, I tried to step into the water before climbing aboard and shoving off. I couldn’t. It was like something kept me from going into the water. The row boat went into the water, but I couldn’t. I pulled the boat back onto the shore, tied it off and walked 15 yards to the south, still on the sandy beach, and tried to wade into the water. Again, I couldn’t. It was as if there was an invisible wall at the water line, preventing me from going any further.

“Marcus. Eilidh. Can you read me?” I called on the radio a third time.

Eilidh’s voice came on the radio, but only briefly. “Magnus, I hear you. Stand-by.”

That was the worst thing she could have said. What does “stand-by’ mean? Does it mean: ’wait ten seconds then I’ll talk to you again?” Does it mean: ‘wait fifteen minutes and I’ll talk to you again?’ ‘Stand-by’ is a license to worry.

So I waited and worried. Poseidon’s Trident bobbed quietly at the end of her anchor line in the middle of Solisdale Bay. Something was happening on the other side of the boat, out of sight and that disturbed me. Then I heard Eilidh’s scream.

“NO, you cannae do that!” she shrieked.

“Marcus. Eilidh. Come in,” I commanded. “Answer me, now. Over!”

I waited fifteen painful seconds before the radio crackled with Eilidh’s panicked voice.

“Magnus. He’s in the dinghy. He’s leaving. Here, talk to him.”

“Marcus?” I shouted into the handset. “What’s going on? Talk to me, buddy.”

“Magnus,” crackled the radio. “We don’t have a lot of time. If we stay on the boat, we’re dead. If we go back to Coll and head towards the ferry terminal, we’ll have to avoid everybody. They’ll look for us there. If we stay on Coll, it’s their island; we won’t be able to escape. We don’t have any good options. But, if I leave now, and get a head start, before he can get that fast boat moving, I might be able to make it to Mull with the sword.”

“Are you crazy?” I said, yelling into the walkie-talkie. “You’ll never make it in that little dinghy. Even with a head start. It’s only got a 7 and a half horse motor. He’s got three, 350’s. Game over.”

“That’s my advantage,” said Marcus. “The sailboat is too slow and returns too much of a radar signature. It’s easy to see. But this little thing might be small enough to fly under the radar. Especially, if the waves are big. He might not be able to see me. It doesn’t matter how fast he is if he doesn’t know where to go.”

Once again, Marcus was three steps ahead. Of all our bad options, this bad option sounded the best. It might actually work, with a little luck.

“Ok, genius, you might be on to something. What if it doesn’t work? What if he catches you before you get to Mull?”

“He won’t catch me. He won’t get the sword, either. That, I can promise you.”

I knew exactly what he meant. I didn’t like his worst case scenario; not one bit. But there was nothing I could do. He was a hundred yards away. I was stuck on Coll.

“Marcus, there’s an old Boy Scout compass in the drawer on Swede’s desk. Take it with you. Take three bearings before you leave and write down the results: the far left side of Mull, the far right side of Mull and somewhere in the middle. That will keep you headed where you want to go. It’s too easy to get turned around out there, especially at night or in the fog.”

“Done,” he replied.

“Good. One more thing. It’s a new development. I just tried to come out to the sailboat and I couldn’t. Something prevented me from going past the waterline. Do you have any idea what that might be about?”

“I was afraid of this,” he said. “If I’m right, Coll might be the new Avalon. The Tunguska Event accelerated the process and some unknown players back at Time Keeper Central are taking advantage of that. It’s why they wanted Glastonbury shut down. Or it’s why others didn’t want Glastonbury shut down. Glastonbury is old Avalon; Coll might be the new Avalon.

“So what’s that got to do with me not being able to walk into the water?” I asked.

“I’m afraid it’s not good news. It’s like you’ve been placed in a time out from time. They’ve activated the walls, keeping you inside. It’s probably a wall of dark energy surrounding the island. If that’s the case, it won’t affect normal humans, like the residents of Coll, but it affects people like us. We can’t get through.”

Marcus’s insight was devastating. He was right so often, I had no reason to think he wouldn’t be right again. Was I to be trapped on this rock for the rest of my life? For all eternity?

“Thanks for the heads up, old buddy. I appreciate it,” I said, not fully conveying the depth of my fear. “But what happens if that crazy plan of yours actually works and you get to Mull with the sword? What then?”

“That’s easy. I go to Somerset, touch the sword to the ground at Glastonbury Tor, finish the job and shut it down. I hope any Time Pilot can do the job, not just you.

I guess I’m off. Wish me and my old motor well, my friends. And pray the witches on Mull don’t eat me when I get there.”

“Be safe, my friend. And God’s speed,” I said, not knowing if I would ever see my colleague again. Ever is a long time, especially if time just became dead to you.

I saw the dinghy pull away from the sailboat and head east, towards Mull, plowing forward at full speed, barely making progress against the strong waves. Luckily, the light winds were at his back so even a small tailwind would help. Counting on such an old engine to save the day, a motor which more properly belongs in a museum? That was a lot to ask.

“Magnus? Are you still there?” said Eilidh, over the radio.

“I’m here, babe. How are you doing?”

“Not so good,” she said. After a few moments of silence Eilidh came on the radio again. “Is that true what Marcus said about you being trapped on Coll?” she asked.

“I don’t know, babe. He was just speculating. Nobody knows for sure. This is all new territory for everybody.”

“You might be trapped, but I’m not. I’m diving in that water and swimming towards you. The water might be cold but I can swim a hundred yards. I need to be with you.”

“No,” I said; “Don’t do that. Marcus needs you to stay there. If MacLean comes your way in his fast boat, every minute you delay him gives Marcus more time to get away. I know it’s scary, babe, but he needs you to do this. Stay there. You might be able to monitor his progress on your radar.”

“You’re right. I just wanted to be with you,” she said. “I’ve got the radar turned on now. There he is; he’s a little green dot on the ocean. Damn, he’s got a long way to go.

Wait. Didn’t he say his plan was to be so small and stealthy the radar couldn’t see him? I see him, just fine. That can’t be good.”

Eilidh was right. Being seen on the sailboat’s radar wasn’t good. I tried to put the best face on it I could.

“Your radar unit is up high, on the mast,” I said. “That gives you a great reading. Marcus will show up on your screen pretty well. I’m thinking the radar unit on MacLean’s boat won’t be that high, he won’t be able to see as well as you can. Maybe Marcus was right and he can still fly under MacLean’s radar. Let’s hope so.”

“I hope he doesn’t show up here again,” she said, a small note of fright in her voice. “I know I can sound tough when I want to, and I’ve got a big mouth, but I’m not tough, not really.”

“Eilidh, you’re tougher than any woman I’ve ever met. Back in the 18th century, when I lived in Colonial America, there were tough women back then. Hacked their way through dense forests; built a new country. They were tough women. But Eilidh, dear; you’re tougher than all of them put together. You’re doing great.”

“Thanks,” she said, weakly. “I’m going to lie down for a while. We should probably save our batteries. I’ll keep my eye on the radar and call if I see a boat approach the dingy. Damn, he’s got a long way to go.”

“OK, babe, I’ll talk to you later. I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

The radio went silent. Nothing to do but wait. Couldn’t leave; didn’t want to stay. If this was what stuck in time was like, I hated it already.

I don’t know how much time passed; I might have fallen asleep. Then again, I might be immersed in my new normal, unable to judge the passage of time. Whatever the reason, I was jolted back to reality when the walkie-talkie came alive.

“He’s here,” she said and the radio went silent.

Anchored 100 yards away from my position, Eilidh saw the powerful, black boat before I did. The relative quiet of MacLean’s three outboard motors was both impressive and misleading. The boat looked every bit of thirty feet long, built to handle big ocean swells. This was one, nasty boat; fast, capable of handling anything King Neptune could throw her way. And now she slowed to a crawl, approaching the starboard side of Poseidon’s Trident, in perfect position to board the helpless sailboat.

Might there be a second man with MacLean, two angry dudes on a luxury sailboat with one beautiful, vulnerable young woman? And no witnesses…I dreaded the thought.

Five minutes passed, five agonizing minutes. Five became seven. Yes, this was good news for Marcus and his fledgling escape plan.

I didn’t have binoculars. Trying to see anything from 100 yards away was difficult; it all looked so small. I didn’t see any movement and until I did, I had to contain my anxiety. The peaceful quiet of a warm Coll morning, a delight at any other time, felt like a storm of silence; the nothingness, a maddening intrusion.

Here’s the thing about silence: It’s like quiet, magnified. Background noises become leading men and leading ladies. When it ends, the intense, decibel rush seems louder than normal. And if that silence crusher is an unexpected shotgun blast, you’d swear a battleship just fired its sixteen inch gun.


The loud sudden sound careened across the calm waters of Solisdale Bay. Then that damned silence intruded again. The walkie-talkie remained at rest. The green light was on but the speaker remained quiet.

Two minutes passed. The ominous black boat started its engines and sped off at high speed, towards Mull. Only then did the walkie-talkie come to life.

“Are you still alive? Or should I call the medic and have them go there and remove your heart from your throat?” said Eilidh, calm and in control of a situation that seems to have resolved itself.

“I’m fine,” I said, lying just a bit…OK, lying a lot… The truth? I was a nervous wreck.

“What just happened?” I asked.

“MacLean comes up in that scary, black boat,” began Eilidh. “That thing must do 40 knots if it does two. He pulls up, ties her off and starts asking questions:

‘Where’s the sword?’…‘I don’t have it.’

‘Where’s the other guy?’…‘I don’t know.’

‘Where’s the dinghy?’…‘I don’t know.’

Kind of what you’d expect him to say. I was stalling for time, just like we said. It was going pretty well.

But before he got there I decided to do something he wouldn’t expect. I had an open bottle of that Humelochan whisky and I pretended to be totally phished. I invited him on board; I did the smily, flirty thing; I even unbuttoned me blouse some. And when I hung out over the gunwale, he got a quality view of me giggling tatties. Nicer than you’ve ever seen, bucko.”

“You’ve got to be shitting me,” I said, amazed at her cockiness and bravery.

“No, but that’s not all. He looked like a bawheid who never got any. I mean, never. None he didn’t have to pay for, anyway. In my best slurred speech I said, ‘wanna party?’ I did; I actually said that. I invited him to go below and forget all this sword stuff. He didn’t expect that, and why would he? He NEVER got offers like that. I hoped he sensed it was a trap and he would be stupid to come aboard and take me up on my drunken offer. It worked. He stayed on his boat and said, ‘No, maybe later.’”

“That was SO dangerous,” I said. “What if he said, ‘Yes’ and came aboard? Then you’d be in a fine mess”

“Sweetie, you’re a good teacher and I’m a good student. All that stuff you and Marcus preached about having a Plan B? I had Plan B, right beneath the gunwale.

MacLean looked at his radar screen, got his binoculars and looked towards the east. Then he said, ‘Nice try bitch, but I just spied your friend in that little dinghy. I’ll head off now, pop his wee balloon boat and take the sword.’”

The walkie-talkie went silent again. She was toying with me.

I knew her pretty well by now. I just waited and didn’t push the transmit button. It was a game…Who would push their button first?

“Aren’t you going to ask?” she said, with a cute playfulness in her voice.

“Ask what,” I said, not taking the bait.

“You blootered Yank! Aren’t you going to ask if I blew off his fuk’n head? I know you heard the shot.”

“Yes, I did,” I said calmly. “But I also saw the boat speed off so MacLean is probably still alive. But I’ll play along. A-hem. But Eilidh, my dearest, that big BOOM I heard. What ever was that? Is everybody alright?”

“Nice attempt, Yank. You’re a shitty actor,” she said. “But since you asked. No, I did not blow off his ugly, fuk’n head. When he said he could see Marcus on his radar, I took out the gun, told Gingin Goon to move towards the stern, and when he was clear of me barrels, point blank, five yards away, BOOM, I put one shell from Uncle’s old double barreled, bird gun straight through his radar dome. Plastic and bits of electronics flying everywhere. He was so pissed.

Then I told him if I ever saw him again, I’d aim the second barrel right between his balls. That’s when he zoomed off.

The odds are better now. He’s blind and Marcus is slow. If the weather is anything like it was yesterday, the fog around Mull will be thick as pudding and all that speed won’t do him a damned bit of good. Then, maybe, Marcus will have a chance to make it to Mull.”

I pushed the transmit button a few seconds after she finished and said, “I don’t know what to say. That was SO brave. That was SO smart. Marcus would be very proud of you right now. I know I am. I know your Uncle would be, too. I love you so much, Eilidh. I just wish I could be there with you.”

“Like I said before,” she responded. “I can make the swim. It’s only a hundred yards. We can build a fire, cuddle up in the tent, share a sleeping bag. I can swim with a bottle. I can even show you a lot more than what I showed G.G. I know you’d like that,” she said.

It killed me to say this but I had to keep my head screwed on straight. We weren’t out of danger, not yet. MacLean would come back, soon, and we had to be soberly realistic.

“Eilidh, I’d like nothing more than to do just that. We can’t. MacLean is out there and he’ll be back, maybe tonight if he can’t find Marcus. He’ll be drunk and he’ll be furious. If you’re not on board, he’ll board the boat, cut the anchor chain, tow her ten miles out to sea and scuttle her. You’ll lose the boat, Eilidh. Then he’ll come looking for you.”

The walkie-talkie went silent for thirty seconds before Eilidh came back on, much less happy and excited than she was before. She knew I was right. There would be no cozy fireside hugs tonight.

“OK,” she said, resigned to the sad facts before us. “What do we do?”

“Do you think you can handle the boat yourself?” I asked.

“I think so,” she said. “It’s getting the sails up that’s the hardest. I’d rather not to do that alone. I’ll just keep her under power. I should be good.”

“How much fuel do you have?”

“Only a quarter, maybe three eighths of a tank.”

“Would that be enough to get you back to Islay?” I asked.

“I wouldn’t want to test it. That’s a long way away,” she said.

“You need to head somewhere safe,” I said.

“The only safe place is right in the middle of that fog bank. If I’m in the fog, I can see MacLean on my radar but he can’t see me. I’ll head south, till I get further away from Coll, then I’ll head east towards the fog until I get to some port where I can put in for a while.”

“That sounds good,” I said. “I’m going to hit the road now. I’ll move towards the south end of Coll. I should be in cell range when I’m closer to the middle of the island.

“Magnus,” she said, “I’m looking at the radar and I’m getting concerned about Marcus.”

“Why, what do you see?”

“I see MacLean’s boat closing in on his position. And I can see the fog bank, visually. It might also be raining over there. But I can’t judge the distance. The fog doesn’t show up on the radar. I cannae tell if Marcus is safe, in the fog, or if MacLean might catch him.”

“Just watch the radar for a while. If MacLean slows down and there’s space between them, it means he hit the fog bank and had to slow down. If the separation between them widens, it means he’s lost Marcus and he’s just guessing.”

“Magnus, they’re getting so close now, I don’t know if he can make it.”

“Just keep watching and tell me only if something changes.”

The walkie-talkie went quiet for two minutes. It was so frustrating not being on board Poseidon’s Trident; not being able to help Marcus, all of it. Just waiting.

That seemed to be the story of my life, now and always. 18th Century. 19th Century. Now. Always waiting, not able to control my circumstances.

“It looks like the signal coming off Marcus’s boat is going in and out,” she said. “Sometimes it’s there, sometimes it’s gone.”

“That’s probably what Marcus said, that his boat is so small the radar can’t tell the difference between it and the waves. It’s like he is hiding from the radar in between the wave crests. Where’s MacLean?”

“He’s really close to Marcus’s last position. But he’s not on top of him. He slowed to a crawl. I’m not seeing Marcus’s dot anymore.”

Two minutes passed.

“MacLean is moving north. No sign of Marcus,” she said. “Are you still there?”

“Yes, I’m here.” I said. Waiting; just like you.”

“From your position, looking towards Mull, does that look like rain?”

I looked east and saw dark, heavy clouds which completely obscured the Isle of Mull and much of the ocean between the two islands.

“Yes, babe; you’re right. Heavy rain, just like we encountered in Oban yesterday.”

“That’s what I thought. My screen went totally green for three miles to the west of Mull. I can’t make out a thing anymore. He’s gone, Magnus; they’re both gone.”

It felt like we were down to Plan G.

“Babe, let’s keep our chins up. Marcus is the smartest guy I know. He’s fine. We saw no signs MacLean grabbed him; we just don’t have any information, that’s all. We need to switch our focus and make sure we’re OK. That plan of yours, to motor into the safety of the fog; I like it. But you’re too far away from the fog bank now. If MacLean quits his search, heads west and emerges from the fog, he’ll spot you. You’ve got that huge mast sticking up in the air. You’ll be a sitting duck.”

“You’re right,” said Eilidh. “Got any ideas?”

“Yes, I do,” I said. “Start the engine and weigh anchor immediately. Since you’re so close to the north end of the island, just motor around to the ocean side and put Coll between you and him. In ten minutes, maybe less, you’ll be out of his visual sight lines. All he’ll see is an empty ocean between Coll and Mull. He’ll know you’re gone, but he won’t know where.”

“I don’t like the idea of going on the ocean side of Coll,” said Eilidh, “not alone. But I think you’re right, it’s too dangerous if I head towards the mainland.

Alright, I’m weighing anchor now.”

“Good, when you get to the south end of Coll, head to Tiree,” I suggested. “Or, if you feel confident, just head into the ocean, maybe heave to and drift through the night. Have you done that before?”

“NO. And I’m not going to try now. I’ll be fine. You take care of yourself,” she said.

“Let’s touch base in, say, two days. I should know more then, after I find Donald Og.”

“Be careful hon,” she said. “MacLean knows him. He could be hooked up with whatever MacLean is involved with.”

“You’re right; I’ll be careful. But I’ve got a strange feeling this guy is some kind of witch doctor. What did MacLean call him, a taibhsear? He sounds like the kind of guy who would hang out with Merlin.”

“Wonderful. Why doesn’t that make me feel any better?” she said.

“I’ll call you in two days. I love you. Over.” I said, signing off.

“And I love you, too, Magnus or Merlin or Yank, whatever the hell your name is. I love you, too,” she said. “Over and out.”

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