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Authors: Vincent Bugliosi,Bruce Henderson

And the Sea Will Tell

BOOK: And the Sea Will Tell
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with Bruce B. Henderson


Copyright © 1991 by Vincent Bugliosi and Bruce B. Henderson

All rights reserved

First published as a Norton paperback 2006

For legal reasons, some of the names in this book have been changed.

For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book, write to Permissions, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110

Manufacturing by R. R. Donnelley, Harrisonburg

Cartography by Jacques Chazaud

Production manager: Amanda Morrison

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Bugliosi, Vincent.

And the sea will tell / by Vincent Bugliosi with Bruce B. Henderson.

p. cm.

1. Henderson, Bruce B., 1946-. II. Title.

PS3552.U393A82 1991

813'.54—dc20 90-37457

ISBN: 978-0-393-32796-0

W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

500 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10110

W.W. Norton & Company Ltd.

Castle House, 75/76 Wells Street, London W1T 3QT



No sweeter or more wonderful
woman ever lived




Frank Cooper, Wayne Alexander, Esq., Charlie Flowers, and finally, Robby Wald, without whom this book would not have been written.


An ocean is forever asking questions,

And writing them aloud along the shore.



I had a foreboding feeling about the island. It was more than just the fact that it was a ghost-type island. It was more than that. It seemed to be an unfriendly place to be. I’ve been on a number of atolls, but Palmyra was different. I can’t put my finger on specifically why. But it was not an island that I enjoyed being on. I think other people have had difficulties on that island

—South Pacific yachtsman


forbidding, this uninhabited tropical atoll is off the well-traveled path of the trade winds. Situated dead center in the Pacific Ocean, Palmyra was discovered by accident only in the nineteenth century. If one were to search the high seas for a setting that would lend itself to impenetrable mystery, this lonely outpost would not disappoint.

From afar, Palmyra is seductive: tall coconut trees and stretches of beach are enveloped by a coral reef and the brilliant shallows of the tropical ocean.

Once ashore, however, one finds that the vegetation that looks so lush and inviting from a distance is impassable except with a machete. Hordes of land crabs claim squatter’s rights to much of the island. The beaches are not sandy, but rocky, and surrounded by coral as sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, capable of shredding the ribs of the sturdiest vessel. Only a narrow passage in the reef on the south-western side allows access to a lagoon populated by schools of colorful fish, temptingly meaty but poisonous to eat. And it doesn’t take long to notice in the crystalline waters the menacing gray shadows of nature’s most perfect eating machines.
. There is, finally, no escape from the blazing sun and stifling humidity.

Only the most adventuresome, or desperate, would plan an extended stay here. This is the true story of two men and two women who did. One married couple, two lovers. Four lives forever changed on an island that never wanted company. Each of the visitors sought escape from the world, but for very different reasons, their destinies intersecting on this deserted atoll. Not all of them would leave alive. The mystery shrouding their fate would be as dark and chilling as the ocean floor deep beneath Palmyra Island.


, H
1, 1974


the night, one of those warm tropical showers that leaves the air heavy and sweet. A steady breeze born far out at sea touched the shore at sunrise, rustling the coconut palms. The clouds, like the folks around these parts in no hurry to move on, scattered slowly as the sun rose out of the ocean and washed the sky with bold streaks of light. A few arcs of rainbow loitered above, offering promise for the new day.

Hawaii’s locals make a clear distinction between themselves and haoles, the sunburned tourists from the mainland. It is less a term of contempt than bemused pity. On the scenically spectacular island of Maui, most of these visitors pick up their rental cars at Kahului Airport and drive directly to Kaanapali Beach on the western coast, where they stay in glitzy resort hotels, down premixed MaiTais served by waitresses in synthetic grass skirts, and tap their toes to the canned melodies of Don Ho. Haoles just don’t know any better.

The real soul of Maui is manifest on the south shore, with its endless stretches of blinding white beaches. The sun-bleached dunes roll up to wide verdant fields of pineapple and sugar cane. Herds of cattle graze contentedly on the grassy slopes of the West Maui mountains. Majestic Haleakala, the highest point on the island, is a two-mile-high peak topped with a massive volcanic crater, a dramatic reminder that this is a land of sudden, violent change.

At Maalaea Bay boat harbor, Charlie, the winch operator, was working a squeaky crank that unwound a cable still wet from the rain. “Never thought I’d live to see the day this old gal went back in the water,” he offered to anyone within earshot as he controlled the speed with which a trailer bearing a thirty-foot wooden sailboat rolled down a launching ramp.

Boat launchings were hardly uncommon hereabouts, but a small crowd of locals had gathered to watch this particular one. These folks and a few hundred other kindred souls lived aboard boats in the bay. Most were dreamers who collected sea charts, atlases, and books about faraway places, yearning to pull up anchor and sail away, just like the excited young couple whose boat was now the center of attention. But few would do so.

Tall, shirtless Buck Duane Walker walked with long strides next to the trailer as it carried his boat toward the water. Thirty-six years old, he still had the athletic swagger of a younger man. His face and torso were deeply tanned, his shock of hair sun-streaked. He could have been just another aging surfer, but his glittery cobalt eyes darted quickly back and forth, as if he feared discovery.

A smiling strawberry blonde on the deck of the boat gave off a completely different air. Jennifer Jenkins, wearing cutoff chinos and a pastel halter top, also looked younger than her age, twenty-eight. She was five-four and, in truth, not the type to win a beauty contest. But she radiated an appealing apple-fresh quality. Neither coyness nor guile seemed hidden beneath her open, happy-go-lucky nature. Jennifer clutched a magnum of champagne for the traditional christening, but because people walked barefoot around the ramp area, she did not intend to smash it on the bow the way she’d seen it done in old newsreels of ship launchings. Instead, she planned to pop the cork with appropriate fanfare, baptize the deck with only a splash of bubbly, and drink the rest with Buck.

When they’d bought this boat four months before, it was mastless and unrigged. Since sinking at its anchorage here in Maalaea Bay years earlier, the
had earned a rep as a hard-luck boat. In lifting the submerged vessel from the harbor depths, a salvage crane had accidentally snapped her mast, and no one had bothered to replace it. After sitting on wooden blocks for two years, the boat was sold for four hundred dollars to a young married couple with ambitious plans for restoration. They fiberglassed over the cracked wooden planks of her hull, then painstakingly stripped and refinished the woodwork inside the cabin. Eventually, however, they became dispirited by the hard work that still remained to be done and sold the boat and trailer for $2,260—nearly all of the money Jennifer and Buck had been able to scrape up.

While Buck dedicated himself to the challenge of mending their sorry-looking vessel, Jennifer kept her assistant manager’s job at a seafront bar favored by locals in Wailuku, Club Ginzo, so they had income to buy materials and supplies for the boat. Not being mechanically gifted or knowledgeable, Buck did not find the work easy. His only previous boat-repair experience had been helping his dad build some houseboats. But he had checked out library books on yacht design, construction, and repair. Setting up a portable generator so he’d have light for night work, he busied himself round the clock. He began by patching new cracks in the fiberglass and painting the hull. Manufactured masts were prohibitively expensive, so he joined together three forty-foot Douglas fir two-by-sixes to make a homemade mast and bolted it to the boat’s frame from under the deck. Following one book’s explicit instructions on how to secure the mast above deck, he fashioned a forestay, a backstay, two upper shrouds, and four lower shrouds to brace the mast. Working daily on the battered
, he was pleased to see that the effort toughened him physically for what he jokingly called “the sailor’s arduous life.” He had little idea just how arduous it would prove to be.

Jennifer’s shift ended at midnight. After work on hot, muggy nights, she’d take a couple of cold beers from the bar cooler down to Buck at the dock. They’d sit side by side on their beached boat, planning a life together, smooching in the moonlight.

Ignoring the warning of sailing folklore that renaming a boat is bad luck, they called their little vessel the
, a name Jennifer had suggested. “In Hawaiian,
means ‘to life,’” she had explained to Buck, who thought it an ideal choice. Finding a new life was the aim of all their effort. He had responded with a toast: “To the
. May she sail the seven seas and never more see the bottom of the ocean.”

This morning, the
was finally ready for launching. She’d never be mistaken for an America’s Cup entry, but the improvement over her previous condition was significant. “What a marvelous transformation we’ve wrought!” crowed Buck. She was thirty feet long on deck with nine feet of beam. Her hull was freshly painted an azure blue. Her secondhand sails, crisscrossed with stitched repairs, lay along the foredeck, ruffled by the breeze even though tied down to the jerry-built stanchions. The
’s deep keel was made of cast iron, ensuring that the vessel would not list too severely at sea, even under full sail in a strong wind. This characteristic was ideal for novice sailors like Jennifer and Buck. Both had gone only day sailing; Jennifer had never even steered a boat by herself.

“Slow down, Charlie!” Buck suddenly yelled.

On deck, Jennifer beamed like a new mom. She would release the last of the lines that secured the
to the trailer when the boat hit the water—another minute or so. And then, in a day or two, she and Buck would be on their way.

Someone might well have described Jennifer as a hippie, and she would not have objected. Much about the Establishment seemed hypocritical and otherwise distasteful to her. Just six months earlier, the Vice President of the United States had resigned after pleading “no contest” to charges of tax evasion. And impeachment hearings against President Nixon were scheduled to begin in a few weeks. Jennifer and her generation had come of age in an era of political malfeasance at the highest levels and during a widely unpopular war in Vietnam, a period of conflict that sapped the nation’s collective spirit and caused her and many of her peers to reject some of the older generation’s values. “Make love, not war” sounded right on the mark to her.

Although Buck would join Jennifer in condemning government officials, the police, and virtually anyone else in power, his rhetoric had a coarser edge. She deplored, but he threatened. Indeed, the tattoos on his arms suggested something more than the trendy espousal of love and peace. On the left, a heart encircled with a ribbon stretched across his biceps, and his first name rippled in bold letters on his muscular forearm. There was nothing overtly sinister in the designs, not like a pirate’s skull and crossbones, but they were crudely drawn and the skin beneath the indelible ink was scarred. They were exactly what they looked like: the kind of homemade tattoos that angry and bored men behind bars give one another.

Jennifer and Buck had met two years earlier in Hilo, the major town on Hawaii’s Big Island. It had been an accidental meeting, crossing paths, as they did, in an apartment complex courtyard filled with blooming hibiscus. They exchanged hellos and friendly glances, and Jennifer, in a long green granny dress, tossed her mane of reddish-gold curls and kept walking. Buck, captivated, wheeled around and caught up with her. Later, he told her he’d made a split-second decision not to let her big dreamy eyes and bright pretty smile get away. That afternoon they shared some red wine under a palm tree in a nearby park, listening to the traditional music of a live band celebrating a Hawaiian holiday in honor of an ancient Polynesian king.

The sun dipped early that day behind a bank of pinkish clouds, and light died from the sky. The glowing sunset, the pulsating music, and the natural chemistry between them combined with a few hits off a joint to make Jennifer feel giddy with sensual delight. Buck leaned over and kissed her lips.

“You got an old man?” he asked.

She smiled playfully. “Nope.”

They kissed again, this time more passionately.

Lying in each other’s arms that night and talking in the hushed tones of new lovers, they discovered they had both ended up in Hawaii for not dissimilar reasons. She had arrived three years earlier to work for her uncle, who was recuperating from a near-fatal heart attack and needed help running his Kaneohe Bay resort. Buck had come to the islands to help his father build a cabin on the Big Island. Their unplanned tryst seemed like fate. They dubbed Roberta Flack’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” their song, and soon were living together in the one-room cabin Buck and his father had built in Mountain View, an isolated mountainous area twenty miles southwest of Hilo. It wasn’t much of a cabin—Jennifer thought it looked like an outlaw’s hideout—and they had no electricity or indoor plumbing. But they moved in thrift-store furniture, she sewed lacy curtains, and it became home. A wood-burning stove warmed them on chilly mornings. Jennifer looked forward each morning to taking a mug of steaming coffee outside and strolling among the wild orchids and ferns as the golden sunshine poured through the treetops. She enjoyed leading a simple life, valuing friends and her man above material consumption. Here it was possible to live life more peacefully, more thoughtfully than she’d been able to in the anxious urban canyons of Los Angeles or the tensely electric atmosphere of New York. They talked marriage, and even went so far as to have blood tests, but getting a piece of paper that declared them a “legal” couple never ranked as a high priority.

Unfortunately, it soon became urgent that they depart their sylvan mountain hideaway. In fact, they had no choice but to leave Hawaii entirely. Against her advice, Buck had gone into business with an ex-con pal who was a big-time drug dealer in California. Buck had been arrested in Hilo selling several thousand dollars’ worth of MDA (methylene dimethoxyamphetamine), a wicked combination of speed and a potent LSD-type hallucinogen, to a federal undercover narcotics agent; Jennifer had been arrested too, and both were facing federal charges. Worse, this was the second time Buck had sold MDA, shipped to him by his California connection, to a narc, so he faced two counts. Already on parole from a California state prison, where he’d served time for an armed robbery conviction, Buck’s main fear was being sent back to San Quentin as a parole violator and having to finish a five-to-life sentence at one of the toughest prisons in the country.

If they were going to have a life together, it would have to be far removed from civilization—from courts and prisons and authorities. A few weeks ago, they had flown over to Honolulu and checked out books about Pacific islands from the main library. Buck thought one little island neither of them had ever heard of, called Palmyra, looked particularly promising. It sounded like a real Robinson Crusoe setting, with a protected lagoon, an unlimited supply of coconuts and fish, and balmy weather year-round. Best of all, it was uninhabited. No police, no prosecutors, no narcs, no arrest warrants. Of course, that also meant no grocery stores, no repair shops, no doctors, no help of any kind. They would have to fend for themselves.

Suddenly, there was a thud as their sailboat slipped on the trailer and tilted sharply to one side.

“Jen, hold on!”

Buck’s warning came too late. Losing her footing, Jennifer fell and nearly rolled off the deck to the concrete below. But Buck was there to save her, his powerful arms reaching up and helping her down.

Out of inexperience, Buck had used nylon ropes to secure the boat to the trailer. They stretched, of course, so the hull slipped, causing the support blocks beneath it to topple. The wind cable had slipped only momentarily, but the boat had instantly lurched forward.

Frightening as it was for Jennifer, the mishap should have caused only a minor delay in the launching. But when the boat tipped to the side, two steel support beams angling up from the trailer pierced the hull below the waterline. And there the
sat, skewered like a pig at a luau.

Buck, livid at the disastrous sight before him, clenched his fists and spun furiously on the open-mouthed winch operator.

For a moment, Jennifer was sure Buck would attack fat, red-faced Charlie, even though everyone standing there could see it hadn’t been his fault. But Buck didn’t completely lose it. He took a step or two toward the man, then shouted a curse and bolted for the parking lot and his old pickup, without even glancing toward Jennifer.

BOOK: And the Sea Will Tell
9.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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