Outlaw Online - Ted Dekker Page 0,1

The keel. Or worse, the hull.

Salt water crashed over the railings as I spun toward the open hatch behind me, grabbing for purchase, sopping wet. The water spilled through the doorway.

I threw myself down the ladder, reached up and slammed the door shut, then jerked the lever down to lock the door tight, muting the sound of pounding waves.

Stephen slept in peace.

I began to shake.

For a long moment I allowed myself to imagine that it was all a mistake. I was still asleep beside my son aboard the Pan American flight high in the sky, angling toward Australia, enduring a nightmare from which I would soon awake. Safe.

But then the boat lurched wildly, hurling an empty stainless coffeepot from the shelf to the floor, and I knew it was no dream. Large raindrops began to pelt the windows.

Amazingly, Stephen breathed evenly in a peaceful sleep. It was the only blessing of that moment. My maternal instincts demanded that I protect my son at all costs. He would continue to sleep without a hint of discomfort or fear—this became my sole purpose in the galley of that boat.

Pushing away all thoughts of the pounding storm, I dropped to my knees and scrambled under the table. A single latch locked the tabletop to the stand. I clawed at the lever, popped it open, then jerked the top off the stand and stood it on end, bracing it against the cushions where Stephen slept so he couldn’t roll off. I’d seen a box of canned goods along the wall behind me, and I fought for balance as I hauled it into place to secure the tabletop.

In truth, nothing could possibly be secure in that storm.

I knew nothing about making a sailboat go or turn or stop, even in a glass sea. The boat’s mainsail was straining in the wind. Looking out the round porthole window, I could see that we were being flung over the waves, tipping first one way and then the other in a dramatic fashion. The power of the storm would surely capsize us unless I could find a way to lower the sail. From what I could see, there was no way to accomplish that task from inside the hull.

I had to go back up and face the storm.

My mother and father were eccentric but made of iron. Some of that mettle had found its way into my bones. Faced with what seemed like certain death, I was finally able to set my panic aside.

I can’t tell you that I had any idea what I was doing or that I had any real hope for accomplishing it, but I knew I had to do something.

I staggered back onto the main deck, the memory of Moses being hurled overboard large in my mind. Why he hadn’t lowered the sail was beyond me. Perhaps he had been desperate to get out of the storm using as much wind power as possible.

Seawater soaked my blouse and capris to the skin, but the rubber soles of my canvas shoes didn’t slip. I grabbed one of the ropes to steady myself and pulled myself to where the sail was tied into the mast. There was a metal crank there and I tugged at it, but the lever refused to budge. Spray slapped my face. I could hardly see, and if not for my firm grasp on the rope, the bucking deck might have thrown me from my feet.

I searched in vain for a locking mechanism. I couldn’t figure out how to release the crank. It came to me that I had to cut the rope.

Lightning ripped jagged lines in the sky. Thunder crashed over my head. Angry clouds unleashed torrents of stinging rain, forcing me to squint to protect my eyes. The sail was dragging us over the crests, threatening to capsize us at any moment. Maybe I could release the sail by cutting the line. There had been a red bucket and a filleting knife on deck earlier, but no more. Both were long lost to the sea.

I clawed my way back to the hatch, descended the ladder without falling, retrieved a knife from the galley, and returned to the deck. With each step I took, the waves seemed to rise higher, like rolling mountains on either side. I had to get the sail down!

But the moment I tried to saw into the rope, I realized that it wasn’t rope at all. It was a cable. Thick strands of steel wire.

I stood there,