“Bruce,” Lyle said, “It’s critical that you tell us what time you left, what day it was and which port you sailed out of.”
“I know for a fact that it was the 14th of July, 1992; and we left out of Galveston. As for the time we left I’d have to guess and say around 11:00 A.M. I remember thinking life was good and nothing could be better than sitting on a boat with my family and enjoying the views. But that didn’t really last very long. It seems like we lost power the next day and just started drifting. I remember my father saying that someone would come looking for us soon and that we would be missed.”
Lyle responded, “Great! That’s where we will start then. Stuart, I need you to pull the current charts for the Galveston area beginning second week in July 1992 and then move slowly through the Gulf of Mexico. If the boat lost power within one day and drifted, I doubt it even managed to get to the Atlantic.”
“Bruce, do you have any idea how long you drifted before the storm hit?” Monica asked.
“I remember that it started off as just part of the adventure. We were swimming and fishing and eating as if we were on a vacation; but after a week of that dad realized that no one was coming and he suggested we start rationing our intake. I have to say that we drifted for close to two months. The weather had definitely started to turn and days were getting shorter; but I’m sorry, I can’t give a definitive answer.”
Stuart chimed in, “Not a problem, I’ll look at storm activity for September and October 1992 after we plug in the currents.”
“How big was the boat?” Lyle asked. “That’ll give us a better idea of how much damage the currents could do.”
“It was around thirty feet, I think.”
Monica chimed in, “It was thirty two feet long.”
All heads turned her way. “How do you know that?” Stuart asked.
“I asked the charter company. I also found out that they’d recommended sending a seasoned sailor along and your father refused,” Monica aimed her response towards Bruce.
“That makes no sense to me,” Bruce said. “As far as I know he had never been on a boat before in his life. He told us that he knew how to commandeer the boat and it was as easy as driving a car. He had taken a course on sailing and it was just common sense. I had no idea that he turned down an experienced sailor. That seems rather odd to me.”
Lyle looked towards the siblings and said, “This is going to take a couple of hours for us to pull charts, currents, storms and geography. Do you want me to come find you when we get it together?”
Bruce nodded, “Yeah that would be great; thanks Lyle.”
Monica and Bruce headed towards the deck in silence. Bruce leaned against the rail and stared off into the distance. All he saw were riverbanks and trees; lot of them. Every so often something would come to the surface for air and then disappear. The landscape had an eerie feeling about it as if death was just around the bend. Monica was also examining the riverbanks, but her mind was focused on what lay beneath the water.
She’d told Bruce the purpose of the expedition was to study and chart indigenous tribes, and that was mostly true. Her goal however was to study the life in the water. Her Marine Biology studies had led her to seek out the lesser known species that inhabited the earth’s waterways. That was how she was given a government grant, but what she had said about her mother funding this was also true. When Amanda discovered ‘Sam’ was missing she became frantic, calling her children to come home immediately. Monica had been in Florida looking for a job and Jack had been in Oklahoma working in the oil fields.
They spent about a month investigating the comings and goings of Sam Patterson. What they discovered changed their lives forever. Sam Patterson did not have a job, he did not have clients and he had been lying from the beginning. It turned out he was a successful grifter, managing to con many people out of large sums of money. As soon as a con was completed he would come home and then go work on another mark. They discovered this when they put an ad in the local, state and national papers with a picture of him and the caption, ‘Do you know this man?’
The first response to come back was from the actual charter company. They not only knew him, but wanted him for stealing a boat of theirs. Digging into that more they learned what size boat, where it was taken from and when it was stolen. Amanda was obviously in denial as she knew that her husband would never steal a boat. She just figured they had the wrong man.
Then more and more responses came in, all with the same story. They knew that man. Each one identified him with a different name and told a very similar story. He had entered their lives looking for work and as they got to know him they found how easy it was to talk to him. They would tell him their life stories, their joys, their worries, their problems and all their personal information. Soon thereafter he told them he had a family emergency and had to go back home to California. A day or two after he left all of them discovered that he’d wiped out all of the family savings and any other assets they had. He had even managed in some cases to get his name on the property deeds and then put massive liens on the property.
The response that came back that was the most disturbing was from a family in Nebraska who claimed that man was their son-in-law. Amanda lost it. She had learned in a very short time that the man she married was not really the man she knew at all. He had been lying to her since the day she met him and that their life together was a sham. She also found out that he had another family and he had stolen people’s life savings. How could she have been so blind? She wanted answers and the only to give them to her was missing.
Monica and Jack became worried for her well-being and that of their new baby sister. The two of them started with the charter company and gathered as much information as they could. The boat had a GPS system that was attached to the radio but it had been disabled on July 15, 1992. That was where their journey began. Jack was an engineer and he tried to reverse engineer the steps that boat had taken. It led him back to Galveston. Between the two of them they looked at maps and charts and tried to figure out where a man on the run would hide with a boat. Their best guess was that he would try to make it to South America.
Monica did not take long before she had submitted a grant to the United States Oceanography society seeking funding and equipment to identify living species indigenous to the Amazon River basin. There had not been any research recorded from that area in over seventy-five years and the society gave freely. She hired the best crew available and set off on their journey on May 31, 1995.
It took almost six months for her equipment to get to the mouth of the river. They had left from Galveston, as her father did, and traveled through the Gulf of Mexico into the Caribbean Sea and down the eastern most portion of South American until hitting the Amazon. All the while she had been sending her helicopter team out to take topographical images. She could see where marine life was residing, as well as if there were any ships in the area.
By the summer of 1996 Monica’s exploration team was doing what they had set out to do. They were charting the Amazon, sending cameras into the water to identify new species and sending the helicopter up for imaging. The Amazon is over four thousand miles long and the goal was to complete the task by June 1, 2002.