Global warming. Sea level rise. Floating Community. Attempted Robbery at a pearl farm.
In the floating Community of Shellfish Shoals, the local Courtroom was located inside the Harbormaster's Official Barge, along with most of the local government offices. The Official Barge was moored in the center of the community, overlooking the Main Channel's broadest section.
On Monday morning at 7:30 AM, a Harbor Patrol boat moved along a side channel. The vessel came up and stopped alongside the Harbormaster's Barge. Sergeant Torrance and another uniformed officer disembarked accompanying Quin and Xavier, who were both in handcuffs.
They escorted the two through a side entrance and into the Courtroom.
A few minutes after 9 AM, the Judge who was seated behind the bench, called the arraignment into session. Xavier and Quin stood behind the defendants' table, no longer handcuffed.
The Judge asked them, "Have either of you counsel?"
Xavier shook his head, while Quin said, "Yes your Honor."
Xavier looked at his partner. "We do?"
The Judge asked, "Who is he? Where is he?"
A male voice called out from among the spectators, seated in the gallery behind the defendants.
"Here your Honor!" His voice was strong and confident.
The man, who'd called out, now stood up among the spectators. Unlike most of the casually dressed residents of Shellfish Shoals, the man in his mid-forties wore a very expensive looking suit, tie and vest, in which he sweated in the mid-morning heat. His full head of black hair was neatly combed. He also wore a pair of glasses, giving himself a distinguished look.
He identified himself. "W. Parker Harrison, Attorney at Law. I have been hired to represent both these defendants your Honor."
There was murmuring in the Courtroom.
Xavier whispered to Quin. "One of your 'powerful connections'?"
Quin nodded. "Hired by them."
The Judge, who also sweated under his robes, spoke to the Attorney. "Oh yes Mr. Harrison. I thought you looked familiar. I've seen you often on TV News shows and televised debates. Please step forward."
The Attorney made his way out from among the local people in the gallery, and stood before the Judge.
The man behind the Bench asked, "Are you the owner of that gigantic yacht with the three masts that arrived here on Saturday afternoon?"
"No sir." The man told him and everyone in the Courtroom, "I'm a passenger. The vessel belongs to my wife."
The Judge went through the customary process of swearing in the defendants' attorney. W. Parker Harrison then came over and stood beside his clients.
Now the Judge spoke to Xavier and Quin. "You are both charged with the Crimes of 'Trespassing, Breaking and Entering, Armed Robbery, Grand Larceny, Assault and Attempted Murder'. How do you plead?"
W. Parker Harrison answered, "My clients plead 'Not guilty to all charges.' your honor."
"Very well. Bail is set at one-hundred-thousand dollars a piece, for each of them."
"Your Honor." The Attorney said, "I have been granted authority, by another client of mine, who desires to remain anonymous, to act as his agent, and pay the bail for both of these defendants standing here before you today."
Now there was more murmuring in the Courtroom.
The Judge tapped his gavel. Everyone quieted down.
"Very well." His Honor looked very puzzled. "The defendants are released from custody, but are forbidden to leave this Community of Shellfish Shoals, until the case against them comes to trial."
He tapped the gavel again. "Court's adjourned."
The Judge got up and headed out of the courtroom toward his chambers. The spectators got up out of their seats, and began drifting toward the exit, while Quin and Xavier came over to speak with their Attorney.
Quin said, "I'm honored to meet you Mr. Harrison. I've read every one of your books."
The lawyer shook both Quin's and Xavier's hands.
There was murmuring in the crowd. A few people were heard speaking distinctly.
"His wife owns that yacht?"
"Yeah. Don't you know? He's married to the actress Clarissa Kellington. You know, the one who's on that TV Show 'Desperate Fishwives'."
"Oh? He's married to her? I can't believe it. She's such an airhead."
"No. Not really. That's just the character she portrays. In reality she's very smart. Next time the show's on take a look at the credits on the screen. She actually directs some of the episodes."
Back beside the defense table, W. Parker Harrison laughed slightly. "She's also one of the Producers. How do they think we can afford that yacht?"
The Courtroom was quickly emptied of law officers, staff and spectators. Only Xavier, Quin and their Attorney remained, now seated behind the defendants' table.
"Listen." Mr. Harrison told them, "These charges against both of you are very serious."
Xavier grunted. "Tell us something we don't know, Mr. Celebrity Lawyer."
"Don't talk." Quin said, "Listen to him."
Xavier shrugged and nodded.
The man went on. "They are serious, but they are also very hard to prove. According to the Police report, the only witness to the crimes is a Mr. Theodore MacKenzie, who was unable to identify anyone who actually took part in the raid; except for a Miss Andalib Elkart. Miss Elkart has also been charged, and is now also free on bail, that was paid by the same Mr. MacKenzie."
Xavier growled softly.
"Miss Elkart is the only one who can identify either of you, as taking part in the raid."
"Then there's no problem." Quin told him, "She'll be exercising her right to remain silent. Not gonna say a word against either of us."
"That's good to know." W. Parker Harrison said, "But I'd still like to speak with Miss Elkart."
"Yeah!" Xavier spoke sharply. "So would both of us!"
"I understand" their attorney said, "that she's now staying nearby, at the Langosta Boatel. I'd like you to go and speak with Miss Elkart, and please let her know that I'd also like to speak with her myself. If you and she agree, I'd like to invite both of you along with Miss Elkart to come and join my wife and I for lunch today, at the Amberjack Restaurant. After we've eaten, we'll discuss your case in more detail."
A half-hour later, the bailed out Quin and Xavier headed along the Langosta Boatel's dock, and stopped outside room 16, which Ted MacKenzie had rented for Andalib. They knocked on the door.
From behind the door they heard her muffled voice. "Just a minute."
Then they heard the bolt slide open, and the door opened inward. Andalib stood in the doorway, wearing dark shorts, a light green halter and dark blue sneakers, along with an aggravated look on her face.
Quin said, "Hi Andi. How you doin'?"
She spoke with an aggravated tone. "How am I doing?"
Xavier said, "We already know who."
She shouted, "I ought to slam the door on both of you!"
Quin raised both his hands. "Easy girl. We have to talk. It's important."
She sighed. "Right. Come on in."
They entered the basically furnished room, and she shut the door behind them.
"Whatever either of you have to say to me, be quick about it and leave. I have an appointment to get eaten by an alligator, which I find preferable to being with either of you, for any amount of time!"
"Andalib." Quin spoke in a calming voice. "We both understand why you're angry."
"You understand? I understand that you were too much of a whimp Quin. You couldn't wait a few extra seconds, so I'd have the time to jump aboard, before you pulled out?"
Xavier said, "We were gonna come back for you girl."
"When it was safe. Until then, we were guarding the haul."
She asked, "'Guarding the haul'? What haul? According to Eric Mann, all you hauled were five burlap sacks of oysters, without one pearl inside any of their shells."
Quin said, "The oysters we took came out of the section, where you said we'd find the pearls that were about to be harvested."
Andalib sighed and nodded. "That's where Ted MacKenzie said they were."
Xavier said, "Sounds like this 'really nice' MacKenzie guy conned you, Miss Smart Gal."
"I know." She sighed again. "That's a reasonable precaution that he takes with any stranger who'd ask for details about the pearl farm. He also told me that while he may be a fool, he isn't an idiot. He's right about that. The biggest fool here in Shellfish Shoals is me; and I'm working with a pair of idiots!"
"Hey Andalib!" Quin spoke sharply. "We were following your plans! You've got no business calling us names."
"No? Then how'd you get caught? You couldn't even make a good run. You were caught within 48 hours. Why shouldn't I call you 'Idiots'?"
Xavier pointed at Quin. "Blame him. Mr. Elitist Snob here, who thinks he's so smart, forgot to fill up the tank in all the time we were resting here."
Andalib gagged and sighed, putting her head into her hands.
"Getting eaten by an alligator," she said, "is beginning to look like something I really would welcome."
"Hey Andalib." Quin tried to speak in a comforting voice. "It's not all that bad."
"We've all been bailed out."
"Well hooray for us."
"And we've got one of the best Attorneys in the Country representing us."
She removed her hands from her face, lowered her arms and looked back at her partners. "One of the best?"
"That's right. Have you ever heard of W. Parker Harrison?"
Xavier nodded. "That's right. He's married to the actress Clarissa Kellington, who isn't really an airhead."
"Right." She'd lost her anger, but now looked puzzled. "I've heard that she's the one who sailed in on that giant yacht that's down in the marina, on Saturday afternoon. Is she the celebrity who paid your bail?"
Quin said, "Looks that way, but whoever it was wants to remain anonymous."
"What going on?" She asked, "Why would a high priced celebrity lawyer and a major TV star, have any interest in our case?"
"Mr. Harrison didn't say; but he's invited the three of us to meet him and his wife for lunch at the Amberjack. That's when they'll explain everything to us."
"They've invited us to lunch? Me? Andalib Elkart is going to meet Clarissa Kellington for lunch? She's one of the most glamorous ladies in all of show business."
Xavier leered. "Also one of the sexiest."
Andalib screamed, "I haven't got anything to wear!"