We tried it again. This time I peered overboard, half fearing to catch sight of something as I looked down into the emerald depths. Once more, we found nothing. "Bastard!" Hornsby cursed.
He circled the boat. We were silent now, alert, surveying the sea for some sign of life. Around and around, in ever-widening circles we went. At 6:40, 25 minutes after the great fish had struck at Kingsley's lure, Hornsby spotted four gulls hovering above the water, 100 yards away. "There's a fish under them." he said.
As we neared, we saw the huge fin and tail slashing clearly above the waves. The marlin may have been feeding, or it may have been sunning itself, hoping that some bird would dart down to pluck the sea lice from its back. Hornsby steered straight toward it and, suddenly, the marlin vanished, creating barely a ripple as it submerged. As the boat reached the spot where the fish had been, we scanned the water left and right. We looked ahead. Then—zappppppp!—a stinger line snapped. It was Kingsley's again. The fish was right behind the boat, its mouth open, slapping at the Konahead with that awful clublike bill. It was so close you could see its black empty eyes.
But it didn't hook up. "Sonofabitch!" Kingsley yelled when the marlin again disappeared. He slammed his fist against the gunwale. "Take it! Take it, damn you!"
Hornsby spun the wheel, turning the boat around. He was calm, concentrating. His eyes scanned the sea. "She's coming back," he said. "She's coming back. I know she is." He was looking for the birds again, sweeping the sky for the gulls.
"She's on the outrigger!" Kirk shouted.
The marlin was back, its great wake closing in on the outside lure. My lure. My heart rose into my throat as I watched it take. "No!"
Zappppppp! The stinger line snapped. Then—zzzz-zzzz-zzzz—the line was spinning off the reel.
I didn't move. I watched the reel numbly, full of dread.
"Strike it! Strike it!" the others yelled. We had been over it many times. So I leaned back on the rod and struck, once, twice, three times, with all the strength I could muster. The great tail fin was still visible, slashing through the water, putting up a fine spray. The others were shouting and cheering. There had been so little to shout about. And now this.