STORY SO FAR: Having captured Aaron, the Sea Wolf’s captain holds him with the Chinese immigrants he is smuggling into Vancouver. Aaron cries for help. The hatch opens. A rifle is aimed at his head.

“Shut your trap!” snapped the captain. The hatch banged shut.

“It’s better,” said the girl in a voice that seemed too mature for her age, “if you remain quite calm.” Then she rolled away, curled into a ball like a cat and nestled her head in the old lady’s lap.

I lay there in my wet clothes, in the dim orange light, and struggled with what was real and what was not. Fatigue rained down on me. The next day was the last day of our kayak trip, but I knew that now it might be the last day of my life. Dad won’t leave me, I told myself, and didn’t Lisa say, “It’s better if you remain quite calm”? Or was it the Chinese girl?

I shook my head. The Chinese girl was breathing rhythmically. The old couple was snoring. The hull seemed to breathe in and out.

My bones shook and exhaustion swept over me. Suddenly, I was falling through a torn shroud – and plunging into deep, dark water. The sea was burning in a ring of fire, and I was drowning and gagging. I tried to say something, but I couldn’t. Then I heard my mother call my name.

I woke up to Wong, the Chinese diver, shaking me. He held a finger to his lips.

“What? What’s going on?” My eyes were clogged with sleep.

He pulled something from his belt. The blade of a large fishing knife caught the orange light.

This was it. He was going to slit my throat!

“You must promise,” he whispered, “not to report us. This family pay thirty thousand dollar each to join relatives in Canada. Relatives pay same when they arrive – if they arrive. All get deported if you report us. And I go to prison.”

“So, I don’t get it. You’re letting me go?”

He sawed through the rope with his fishing knife. The Chinese girl rolled toward us. Her eyes opened, then closed again.

“Why?” I asked. My stomach squirmed like eels. My mouth was a dry tomb. It was the middle of the night, in the middle of the ocean. Nothing made sense.

“I no kidnapper, no killer,” he said. “I not go to prison for this. I geoduck diver. I help Chinese people come to Canada. But this a mistake. Captain bad man. I must do right thing now. Yin-yang.” He stood up.

“What?”

“Come!” he whispered urgently. “No time now.” He started to climb the ladder up to the deck.

My bones ached as I got to my feet, and my sandals squished wetly as I climbed behind him. When I reached the open hatch, I looked back down into the hold. The girl gazed up at me, and the image of Lisa in my dream flashed like lightning in a dark place.

“What will you tell the captain?” I said as Wong helped me down into the dory.

“Shhh. I say you had knife. You cut rope. You cut me.” He drew his blade swiftly across the back of his hand. Blood seeped out, a string of shiny red beads.

I grabbed my own hand, as if it had been sliced instead of his.

“Now, go!” he hissed, and climbed back up on deck.

The Sea Wolf guarded the entrance to the inlet. I rowed back toward shore. I almost waved, but Wong had disappeared. The oarlocks rattled, and my heart thumped. I rowed harder. Amber lights glowed in the stern and the bow of the Sea Wolf. Moonlight seeped through ragged holes in the dark clouds.

A fake bird’s whistle floated my way. My dad! It was like a song from home. I whistled back, softly, and continued to row toward shore.

Dad and Cassidy grabbed the bow and pulled me in.

“Dude. I was gonna come and save ya!” Cassidy said as I climbed out of the dory. His face was blackened with charcoal, like a commando. I was about to say something like ‘It’s a good thing you didn’t – you woulda got me killed!’ But in that instant I understood something. I realized that, yes, he was rash and violent, but a secret part of me envied him – his strength, his courage – and though his actions would have only added to the danger, his intention was to watch my back.

Dad drew me into a silent hug. I think he was crying. Lisa kissed my cheek. I pulled away from Dad, but she’d already turned away.

“You had us worried,” said Willie, patting my back.

“How ya doin’, matey?” Roger said, grabbing my shoulders.

I loved everybody in that moment, with a shimmering kind of love.

“I’m good,” I said, but my voice cracked and a hollowed-out darkness seemed to yawn behind my eyes.

Cassidy said, “Me and Willie were gonna raid the boat, like Navy Seals, but Roger and your dad got in our way. They wanted to go for the Coast Guard.”

“Cut the gab!” Willie whispered. He turned the flame down on a camp lantern standing nearby. “What happened out there? How did you escape?”

“That Chinese diver, Wong, cut my rope while the others slept. He said …”

“So when the captain wakes,” he cut in, “they’ll be coming for us.” He lifted the lantern. “We’ve gotta split. Pronto!”

• • •

They had already broken camp and loaded the kayaks by the time I had returned. Now we lugged the kayaks, one by one – all of us hauling each boat – to a stretch of shoreline that was out of sight of the Sea Wolf. But we knew we weren’t out of danger yet.

As we lowered the last heavy kayak to the small, sharp stones, where the water lapped, there was a stillness like before a storm. Our ears tuned to every sound. If I had heard a motor cough into action, I think my heart would have exploded.

(To be continued.)

Question/predict/evaluate

1. Who freed Aaron and why? Should Aaron keep the promise he made?

2. Who is Wong? Is he a smuggler or a refugee? What does Wong mean… “I must do right thing now. Yin Yang?”

3. How does the diver hope to convince the captain that Aaron had a knife? Will the captain believe it?

4. What were the two plans put together to save Aaron? How do the plans represent the people involved? Which do you think was the better plan and why?

5. Aaron comes to some realizations after this scare with the Sea Wolf. What does he learn?

6. What is the mood at the end of this chapter? How does the author create this mood? What words does he use?

7. How would you like to see Bella Bella end? What would make a satisfying ending to our story?

Vocabulary/context/definition

Fatigue: “Fatigue rained down on me.” (tiredness, exhaustion)

Deported: “All get deported if you report us.” (unwillingly returned to their native country)

Yin-yang: “I must do right thing now. Yin yang.” (positive/negative, male/female, In Chinese philosophy, the two cosmic forces of creative energy, everything originates and depends on the interaction of these opposite and complimentary principles)

Commando: “His face was blackened with charcoal, like a commando.” (a member of a military unit trained for hit and run raids into enemy territory)

Chapter 16 answer

1. Wong, the Chinese diver, frees Aaron. Answers will vary.

2. Answers will vary.Wong is a smuggler because he said he would go to prison if Aaron reports them. Wong says he must try to counter what the captain has done. Perhaps his one good deed will counteract the bad thing the captain has done by kidnapping Aaron.

3. Wong purposely cuts himself to be able to convince the captain that Aaron attacked him with a knife and got away. Answers will vary.

4. Cassidy (wild and aggressive) was going to attack the ship like a commando with Willie. Roger and Aaron’s dad (thoughtful and cautious) wanted to go to the Coast Guard. Answers will vary.

5. Aaron realizes that Cassidy is really strong and courageous and he admires him for that. Cassidy really would have tried to save him. He also realizes how much his dad loves him.

6. The mood is tense and urgent because they realize they have very little time to get away. “…they’ll be coming for us.” “We’ve gotta split. Pronto!” The night is still; they are listening for every sound. “If I had heard a motor cough into action, I think my heart would’ve exploded.”

7. Answers will vary.


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