Fair Winds and Following Seas
“You know what?” Dar climbed back into the truck, still perched on the sidewalk. “People were told to have three days supply of things in their house. That’s what I heard every damn person say.”
“It’s been three days.” Kerry closed the door on the passenger side, twirling a reddish leaf, newly fallen, between her fingers. “So now what. Is that what you mean?”
“That’s what I mean.” Dar started the engine, and reached up to take her sunglasses from their holder, sliding them over her eyes. “You know what we need?”
“Combuses.” Kerry smiled briefly. “Oh lord I remember those showing up.” She paused, suddenly, as Dar rocked the truck down off the sidewalk and onto the road, turning around and heading back north along the street. “Huh.”
“No, was just thinking of something.” Kerry murmured. “They need to start getting things open again, Dar.” She turned on the truck’s radio, where one of the never ending, circular, pervasive status reports was underway. All the television stations were simulcasting to the radio channels and just like you could not get anything but local news on the local channels, the same went for the radio.
No music today. Hadn’t been since the storm. “Hard to believe I miss repetitive top 40.” Kerry leaned back in her seat, as they listened to the update. “But I do.”
“Portable kitchens. Food trucks. Why can’t they?” Dar asked.
“Probably no one thought of it.” Kerry exhaled. “Which is a damn shame, because let me tell ya, they could be roaming around all over the place making an absolute killing right now.” She propped her head up on one hand, her elbow leaning on the car jamb. “Why didn’t Sasha think about that?”
“Sasha’s probably kitting out Scott’s Airstream right now to go mobile.” Dar found a side street and turned down it. “Lets see if there’s a route that doesn’t involve me going up on the sidewalk.” She went west a block and turned north again, down a street that was filled with branches, but no full trees.
This was the edge of the business district, and the houses here were very small, and old, and battered. Most had chain link fences around them, and there was visible damage everywhere, and most of the yards had people out living in them, not inside the homes.
Some had tarps up for shelter, some had put up tents, one had just taken six or seven large umbrellas and a folding chair and made do.
The scent of charcoal burning was everywhere.
It was midday, and hot and hazy, and yet there were children laughing somewhere, and the sound of Latin music competing with the powerful thumping of electronic jams so loud they could clearly hear them through the rolled up windows.
A man was pushing a cart down the road coming in the opposite direction, and loaded on top of it was random wooden debris, and some pieces of aluminum siding. He gave them a cheerful wave as they maneuvered by, and Kerry returned the wave.
“Some life around.” Dar commented mildly.
“Making it happen, like we are at the office.” Kerry agreed. “That’s good to see, you know? It seems like there was less flooding here.”
Kerry looked thoughtfully at the neighborhood they were rolling through. “Is this all really on top of that ridge thing you were talking about?”
Dar was silent for a few minutes. “Actually, I think it is.” She sounded slightly surprised. “Which makes sense I guess. We had surge, but not much flooding by the office and in that area.” She considered. “Which reminds me I guess we should see if our lamented landlord had flood insurance.”
“Wouldn’t he have to?”
“This is one of those Florida things right? Because this whole state practically is flat as a pancake. Everyone should have to have flood insurance, Dar. We have it at the condo.”
“Sure. It’s an island. We have it at the cabin too.” Dar readily agreed. “But both the island and our cabin are in an official flood zone. If you’re not, you don’t have to buy flood insurance.”
“That office is a block from the water.”
“But you have to go down four steps and it slopes to the parking lot.” Dar turned back onto the main road. “I never thought about it until right now. Our first floor can see the roof of the sailing club.”
“Wait. You mean our office is on this thing too?” Kerry sounded incredulous.
“Or built on top of a trash pit. Could go either way around here.”
Kerry pondered this as they navigated Main Highway, which now had a lot of cars on it, moving slowly through the lightless four way stops. “I think I’m getting to really be fond of this Miami rock ridge, Dar.” She mused. “Even though I literally just heard about it.”
“So I’m guessing where Maria lives isn’t on this ridge.” Kerry said, then paused, her eyes opening wider. “Hell, it’s in a hollow behind it, isn’t it?” She said. “I mean, if there’s a ridge, by definition what’s not that is in a valley, right?”
“Apparently. Though honestly it’s not something I ever really paid much attention to.” Dar admitted. “I’m not really into geology I just knew about the ridge because of a report I had to do for… “ She paused. “High school biology maybe? Something about frogs.”
“Frogs?” Kerry frowned, distracted. “What do frogs have to do with it?”
“Habitat. They live in the water and on land. Ask my mother.”
“My mother. She had to go and kick the principal around because they thought I copied it from the Encyclopedia Britannica and my father was deployed at the time.” Dar replied absently, as she studied the street they were moving slowly along. “Yeah, all dry here.”
They slowed to turn into the parking lot, and the national guardsman on duty moved out of the way to let them through. He lifted a hand in brief acknowledgement, nodding when Dar returned the gesture.
“Seems okay.” Kerry hazarded. “Maybe they figured we really did them a favor?”
Dar parked the truck and they got out, and as they walked towards the front door to the office, Kerry appreciated the slight rise to the ground, and the uneven cast to it with new eyes. She hadn’t really thought about it at all, but now she could see it, and the dip and trench in front of it that she always figured was on purpose.
Was it? She resolved to find some material on it once things had gotten more normal and caught up to Dar, slipping her arm through her partners and clasping her hand.
They walked up the steps to the fortified porch and through the open door, where the sounds of some kind of sports reporting was echoing.
Everyone was in the central space, the office itself was absolutely empty. There was no work going on in the lower hall, and the upper hall was silent. “Its Saturday here, I guess.” Dar remarked.
“Good.” Kerry nodded. “Everyone deserves a break. Even us.”
They walked through the hallway and out the back door and paused on the threshold, watching the activity outside.
Sasha was seated in a director’s chair behind the now four grills and one portable cooktop next to a refrigerated case that had a cable running from it to a square black box nearby that had a quadrangle of spread panels pointing up at the sun. “Hey hey!” She greeted them cheerfully.
“Solar panels?” Kerry pointed. “Are those solar panels on that UPS?”
“My brother brought them.” Sasha confirmed. “He’s looking at that club there.” She made a vague gesture towards the water. “Tear it all down, a mess! But he likes the dock, yes? He has his boat tied up to it.” She said. “One of those boys, he said you had a phone call, Kerry.”
“Not surprising. Was it from the island? I don’t think we gave many people that number.” Kerry said. “Nevermind, let me go up there and see what that’s all about. I’ll just dial back from the caller ID.” She turned and went back into the building, trotting up the steps.
She went down the hall and into the room they’d put the radio in, where the phone was still sitting, squat and innocent on top of the white square switch. She sat down at the table and looked around, checking in vain hope for a message pad.
No. She then addressed the phone, calling up the history and seeing the last caller.
The inner yard was busy. Beyond the barbeque pad, and the Airstream parked next to it there was a group of mixed veterans and bodybuilders, with a few nerds thrown in playing baseball. It was a very short field, and there was more crap talking and laughter than serious play, but it sounded like fun.
Against the far wall, where there were now ten tents set up, some of the construction workers were seated on wooden stools, listening to a radio that was issuing the noise they’d heard, which Dar now translated as a soccer game.
Zoe and Mayte were seated, on a pair of camp chairs watching the ball game, a pitcher of something between them. Hank was nearby on the back of his Humvee, fixing something.
Pete was under one of the trees in a low slung beach chair, a ball cap over his eyes.
Dar had a brief flash of memory, of a much younger time when they’d lived on the base down south and weekends had sometimes been a little like this, small pockets of people just relaxing and enjoying some time off, but together in a community.
A community. She thoughtfully examined that notion.
“That soldier was here.” Sasha spoke up after a short silence. “Looking for you I think maybe. His whole bunch was here buying breakfast from me.”
“He’s pissed at my father.” Dar came over to examine the solar panels. “I bet he wants to talk about that.” She concluded. “This is a great idea.” She indicated the panels. “We should get more.”
“Stupid man then.” The short woman concluded. “But I gave him a sandwich. He liked it.” She regarded the panels. “You want? No problem. Let me tell my brother. He said he was going to get a big bunch sent to here from Vietnam.”
“He could make a killing.” Dar stood up. “We should get solar panels on the damn roof.” She looked up at the building, turning slowly. “I bet we have enough footprint.” She looked at Sasha. “You just take everything for granted.”
Sasha smiled, ruefully. “Yes yes. You think the power, the air conditioning always there.” She looked around. “But we’re doing pretty good here, you know?”
“Yeah.” Dar exhaled. “Well, let me go find out what the army wants.” She turned and walked back through the building and out the front door.
A gentle puff of warm air hit her face as she went along the sidewalk and she was conscious of the sun as it striped her body coming through the remaining branches of the trees around the office.
The storm had stripped them. It made her think of what they looked like in winter, when the dry season brought to Miami what small changes there were to indicate the passing of the year. Cooler, drier weather, with a few days that were downright brisk.
What would be spring, or early fall anywhere else, and what made Miamians bring out sweaters and in the most extreme cold days, furs from yesteryear smelling of mothballs. It only lasted, perhaps, two days, and then it was back to seventies and eighties but at least it was drier, and comfortable to be outside.
When you could walk to your car, for example, and not be sweating by the time you got inside.
The leaves were all over the ground covering the walk, and she could hear the faint crunching her hiking boots made as she walked over them, crossing over the small dip that the sidewalk bridged on it’s way to the parking lot glad despite the heat that she was wearing jeans and a collared shirt for this unexpected visit.
The captain was likely going to be a jerk. She was likely going to end up being an asshole to him, and she was self aware enough to know that was more effective when you were not distracting things with animal physical presence.
Which she had. Dar wasn’t blind to that.
Dar understood that she really had no responsibility over what her father had said. He was his own man, and had his own views and she would no more have told him to hold them off than he would in the reverse.
Besides, she agreed with the sentiment. The guy had been a jerk to the crowd, no matter how nice he’d been to Kerry. She settled her attitude around her and went to the gate of the encampment, ready to deal with whatever was presented.
The guard recognized her, and willingly went to go find his captain at her polite request, apparently glad enough to get out of the sun that was baking the tarmac covered area.
Dar remained near the entrance, gazing idly around at the camp. The guard soldiers were all busy, moving around and mostly stocking boxes from a large 18 wheel truck into the back of smaller vehicles. Everyone was sweating, their uniforms dark with moisture.
It all seemed orderly, no one even gave her a sideways look and Dar relaxed a little, shifting her thoughts to the property they’d just come from, pondering the possibilities of just how much trouble and heartache they’d opened themselves up for there.
Probably a lot. The more she’d looked at the house the more she’d started to realize there were going to be issues with the two of them trying to use it in the short or even the long term, with the legal entanglements that probably now existed around it.
And yet. Dar thought about the trees, and the pond, and all that space and she couldn’t do anything but smile. Just walking around there had made her happy, and while she never would have considered buying a horse, the idea that KERRY had made her even more happy.
She imagined, for a moment, coming there to the shed and finding a horse in it, and felt her face break into a grin. What kind of horse, she wondered, figuring without question it would be a pretty one with a soft, prickly nose.
Dar jumped a little and turned, to find the guard who’d gone off standing there. “Hi.” She focused on him. “We ready?”
“Yep, c’mon with me.” The man gestured and turned, and headed off, clearly expecting Dar to follow him which she promptly did
There was a medic tent set up, and as she passed, she could see two people inside, with civilian clothes on, and talking to one of the mechanics were a couple of police officers, in dusty beige.
Dar was ushered into a tent at the back of the encampment, and as she entered the plastic lined door she could feel a puff of – not cold, but cooler air. At the back of the tent was a table, and on either side were smaller ones covered in what looked like radio gear.
The captain was behind the table, and now he looked up at her.
“My staff told me you were looking for me.” Dar said. “What can I do for you?” She removed the sunglasses she was wearing and tucked them into the collarline of her shirt and stood there waiting for his response.
“I was.” The captain said. “Sit down.”
For a moment, Dar paused, as though considering remaining standing, and then she took a seat on the folding visitor chair he’d put in front of his makeshift desk. To one side of it, there was a corrugated hose about a foot in diameter, and that was producing the cooler air and the pretention of it made her lip twitch.
She folded her hands, interlacing her fingers and stared at him, until he looked away.
“I just want to get something clear between us.” He said. “About all this high and mighty stuff.”
Dar remained staring at him, and he avoided her eyes. “You and I have had about two minutes of conversation and none of it was anything other than random Spanish translation about water.” She said, in a deliberate tone. “Is this about last night?”
“We have a mission here. It doesn’t involve pandering to unprepared residents.” The captain said, flatly.
“Okay.” Dar responded in a mild tone. “No one forced you to pander to anyone. We did it ourselves because we could. Seems to me like that should satisfy all around.”
He stood. Dar remained in her seat. “I have done all I can do to help you. You had no reason to call my brass and get them involved.”
Dar’s brows creased at once and she felt her face tense into an expression of bewilderment. “Excuse me?”
“No, I don’t excuse you.” The man was furious. “Telling my bosses we’re a bunch of hicks? That we don’t know what we’re doing? Bold words, coming from the likes of you.” He leaned forward. “Maybe I should tell all them people what you are.”
Dar’s brow remained creased. “What I am?” She asked, in a puzzled tone. “Those people, in the building there?” She pointed at the office. “You going to tell them I’m gay? They know.” She now was wondering what the actual hell was going on. “Why would they care?”
“That you all, you bleeding hearts, you’re the granddaughter of a Grand Dragon.” He said. “They know that? They think you’re all lets be fair and equal?” He lifted his hands up. “Preaching all that be good to your neighbor mish mash?”
Dar stood up. Then she put her hands on his fake desk and leaned forward, making him abruptly straighten to move back rather than go nose to nose with her. “They wouldn’t care any more than I do about some guy I never met who my dad turned his back on when he was sixteen.” She stated. “Or did you think I didn’t know?” She leveled her eyes at him. “That the game?? Shame me on it?”
“Well makes all that lefty spouting a lie, don’t it?” He said, after a long pause, his anger replaced with sudden uncertainty. “Wasn’t sure your old man told you.. I heard he didn’t get on with his pa.” His head jerked. “But you know what I’m talking about. You don’t believe all that we’re all the same bs. No way you do, not coming from where we come from.”
Dar stared at him for a long moment. “Do I believe we’re all the same?” She finally said. “No. We’re all different. But what color we are, or where we were born or who we sleep with doesn’t matter in what we bring to the table as an individual.”
He stared at her, visibly working that out.
Dar helped him out. “Bigotry is stupid and a waste of time.” She clarified. “Exceptional people come from everywhere.”
“A hundred generations of my family thinks that’s bs.” He said, bluntly. “And there’s a lot more of us, than of you, thank the Lord.”
“My father was right.” Dar sighed. “You are an asshole, and what’s worse, you’re a stupid one.” She removed her sunglasses from the neckline of her shirt and shook her head. “I’ll do us both a favor and not tell him we had this conversation. But for the record.” She put her sunglasses on. “I didn’t call anyone about anything last night.”
“I’m sure you didn’t.”
“I didn’t.” Dar repeated. “But now I just might.” She turned and went to the door, thrusting the flap open and nearly bowling over a young guardsman standing just outside as she strode towards the gate.
Kerry put the phone down and sat back, picking up the pen on the desk and twiddling it between her fingers. “Hm.” She pondered the scribbling she’d scrawled down, then paused as she heard the distinctive sound of Dar climbing the stairs at the end of the hall.
Always at a jog trot, not enough weight to be one of the guys, but with a power and energy she immediately recognized. She got up and went to the door, sticking her head out as Dar reached the top of the steps and started her way.
She was pissed. Kerry emerged all the way out into the hallway, preparing herself to deal with whatever it was that had ticked her partner off. “What’s up?”
“Stupid moron.” Dar came to a halt, her nostrils flaring a little bit. “I’m going to kick their asses out of our parking lot.”
Kerry reached out and put a hand on Dar’s stomach. “Hold on. What happened?” She asked. “I thought it was Dad he was mad at. Isn’t he? Let him be, Dar. If he dumb enough to mess with him he’ll end up with his head planted in his ass on the corner out there.”
Dar took a breath and released it. “Someone called that moron’s boss and told him he was being an ass.”
“Good for them. He was.” Kerry nodded. “Why is that a problem?”
“He thinks it was me.”
Kerry hooked a finger into one of Dar’s belt loops. “Lets get some coffee.” She suggested, and they retreated to kitchenette. “Does he think it was you because of what dad said?” She took out two cups, puzzling at the situation while Dar leaned against the wall, arms folded. “And I mean, who cares?”
She poured coffee into the cups, looking back over her shoulder at her glowering companion. “What on earth did he say to get you so upset?” She handed Dar a cup, waiting for her to take it before picking up her own.
“He wanted to know how the grand daughter of a Grand Wizard got off calling him a bigot.”
Kerry paused in mid sip, absolutely still, staring at Dar over the rim of her cup in utter silence for a long moment. Then she put the cup down on the small table covered in carefully clipped and wrapped bags of potato chips and pretzels. “He fucking said what?”
The reaction seemed to mollify Dar. “I told him I didn’t call anyone, but now I might have to.” She took a swallow of the coffee, giving her shoulders a little shake as though settling ruffled feathers. “And he threw it at me like he was going to tell everyone and it would matter.”
“He actually said that?” Kerry leaned forward against the table, still incredulous.
“He actually said that.”
“What did you answer for that?” Kerry straightened up and put her hands on her hips. “Did you tell him.. what did you tell him?”
“I told him my father was right. He was an asshole, and what’s more, he was a stupid one.” Dar dutifully reported. “Its just bullshit. Ticked me off.” She started investigating the bags. “Oh… Fritoes.” She unclipped it and removed a handful of the chips, crunching one contentedly. “What was the call?”
Kerry sat down on the nearby stool. “Hold on, let me finish being seeing red level mad. “ She said. “Of all the completely idiotic things for that bozo to pull out of his ass. What a piece of trash.” She felt almost lightheaded, looking up at Dar who was standing next to the table, watching her with bemused concern. “What an absolute piece of trash.”
Dar put down her coffee and came around behind Kerry, putting her hands on her shoulders. “Total.” She remarked, briefly. “When he first started hinting he was going to spill something about me I thought it was that I was gay.” She said. “And I was like, yeah, they know.”
That brought a short, almost barking laugh from Kerry. “Our staff you mean?”
“Everyone around here.”
“Yeah, no one’s asked me if we’re sisters in a while.” Kerry leaned back against her. “Jesus, that’s so… I mean, why would it even matter, Dar? He’s your grandfather. You never even met him. You can’t change who he was.”
“I can’t change being gay.” Dar replied simply. “Wouldn’t want to.” She wrapped her arms around Kerry. “But I guess from his world view, blood matters.”
“It doesn’t.” Kerry said, softly. “But my father believed the same kinds of things. He wrapped fancy language around it, but it was all about that.” She mused. “All about hate, all about how everyone who wasn’t exactly you or your kind were bad, were evil.”
“Were going to hell.” Dar finished for her.
“That too.” Kerry said. “But you know, that was never part of the dialog, Dar. We were never pitched that going to hell line, we were just told we’d be thrown out of the family and when all you know is your family, that’s even more terrifying than hell.”
“Didn’t want to be an outcast.”
“No.” Kerry paused, and then she twisted around in her seat to look up at Dar. “Did you ever feel like that, Dar?” She watched that strong profile shift a little, as her partner thought. “Like you didn’t want to be the outsider? Wanted just to be… normal?”
Normal, meaning conventional. Not gay. Traditional. A Christmas card that had a man, and a woman, kids, a pious, solemn engraving with a clear, undisputed place in the world.
She met Dar’ s eyes, knowing the truth even before her partner spoke.
“Me??” Dar smiled suddenly and engagingly, a roguish twinkle appearing in her eyes as she shook her head. “Nah. I was always the outsider, Ker.” She looked fondly down at her. “The most normal thing I ever did was marry you.”
Utter truth, and Dar both lived that truth and was totally comfortable with it. She enjoyed being a unicorn, albeit that her unicorn manifestation would have a pirate patch over one eye and go around biting people on the ass.
Kerry had endured a different history. She was glad, though, that Dar didn’t have to carry that burden and reckoned she, herself, would come to that lived truth eventually.
“Heh.” Kerry released her anger. “What a derp that guy turned out to be.” She concluded. “We should kick them out of our parking lot. Being there might give us a bad name.” She added, then moved on. “So the call. The call was one of my prospects, telling me they were going to kill their project for now. I don’t blame them, it was a sales gig.”
“Don’t blame them either.”
“They did like my pitch though.” Kerry said. “It was a weird one.. you know, they wanted to open up a sales office that could service all three counties but not have to have their sales people travel.”
“Anyway.” Kerry went on. “I pitched we set them up with a back office in Miramar, and then three traveling tricked out mobile homes, bring the sales pitch to the customer but with a sat service so their people could work.”
Dar was momentarily silent. “Wow.” She said then, her eyebrows lifting. “That’s a great idea, Ker.”
“I know.” Kerry grinned. “They would have gone for it. But…” She lifted one hand and made a vague gesture. “Anyway I’ll have to call the mobile rental agency and cancel the hold I’d put on three of them. Bummer.” She leaned against Dar again. “So that’s zero clients except for the government that’s going to be any net new. Maybe that Colorado office really does need to spin up, huh?” She exhaled. “If we want to keep making payroll.”
Dar was silent for a long minute. “I’ll send Mark out there.” She said. “And call that agency, but don’t’ cancel them. Have them deliver those things here.”
“Here, and have them set up service for them. We’ll use them to let people live in them while things are getting done here, and Maria and Tomas can use one.” Dar said. “They can’t live in that house, but they can live in there and go back and forth.”
“Holy crap why didn’t I think of that?” Kerry exhaled. “I didn’t even remember about that pitch until they called me.”
“Call them.” Dar gave her a bump. “Fast, because everyone in South Florida’s going to be thinking of that if they already haven’t.”
“On it.” Kerry hopped up off the stool and strode out of the kitchenette, leaving Dar to finish her coffee and a handful of Fritos.
Dar was standing talking to Carlos in the courtyard, the long shadows of early evening striping it when the sudden vibration against her hip made her jump and let out a faint squawk.
“What?” Carlos whirled, clearly expecting trouble, jerked out of absorbing the tale of Dar’s interaction with the guard captain. “What’s wrong?” He searched the area quickly.
“My damn phone.” Dar dug her cell phone out and inspected it. “Holy crap I have signal.”
“What?” Carlos turned and cupped his hands to his mouth. “Hey everybody! Cell’s back!” He turned back. “Lemme go get mine… I left it upstairs.” He moved quickly towards the door. “Progress!” He yelled, lifting both hands into the air and shaking them.
Dar nodded, as she watched her phone sync it’s messages, with a somewhat wan, but apparently sufficient two bars of radio power. She turned to see Kerry sprinting out of the door and held the phone up, spreading out her other hand in question. “Look!”
“Wasn’t expecting that!” Kerry agreed, her own phone in her hand. “Wow!”
“Mixed blessing.” Dar inspected the message counter. “There’s one from Richard. Let me call him and see how it went with those lawyers.” She selected the number and hit the dial. “Call Colleen and tell her the lines are up again.”
Kerry glanced up, actually in the act of doing that very thing, but Dar had half turned and covered her other ear, as the crowd in the courtyard started coming together chattering, everyone checking their phones.
She sat down on one of the camp chairs as the phone was answered. “Hey Col!”
“O.. wh.. oh!” Colleen responded. “It’s you!” She sounded immensely surprised. “They said there wasn’t going to be phones down there for another week! We were just talking about that, me and Mr Mark here.”
“Not sure where the signal’s back, but we’ve got some here at the office now.” Kerry told her. “Not surprising since we’re not that far from city center.” She stretched her feet out. “How’s it going? You all at the hotel today?”
“Calls are going fine, and so far, the customers are happy.” Colleen reported. “We’ve got the place set up pretty nicely, but I have to say the team misses being back there.”
“They do.” Colleen confirmed. “Even though it’s a mess there, and we’re comfortable here, it’s not home.” She paused to listen to something. “No that’s right, Mark, we haven’t had time to really look around much, but still.”
Kerry pondered that. “Well, they can’t really do much here… even if we’ve got some cell back and there’s a generator around the corner powering some stuff in the office and we have…” She glanced to her left. “Some solar panels.”
Colleen laughed. “Surprised Dar hasn’t fixed up a hydro engine over there by now. Any way I think the folks here have been talking to the folks down there and they’ve got a case of the FOMO’s.” She admitted. “Had two of them ask me yesterday before we left that office when we could go back.”
“Huh.” Kerry said. “Let me talk to Dar. It’s so crazy here, Col. And we have no real way to keep the phones up – I don’t know how stable or permanent this cell signal is...”
“I told them it’d be a couple weeks at least.” Colleen reassured her. “So don’t you worry, there, madame they’re not going to start a caravan just yet. I just wanted you to know how they felt, and now if the phones are back .. oh wait you said you didn’t have city power yet.”
“No. So our company is being run from a shoestring out on that island that could honestly go down any minute. If I was going to do a caravan I’d do it in the other direction.” Kerry sighed. “Col, we can hold on like this for a little while but there’s a ton we can’t do.”
“Hold on.” Colleen said. “Mark wants a word.”
Kerry waited for the phone to be transferred, glancing aside to watch as Dar paced slowly back and forth, under one of the trees. The gathering twilight in the courtyard and the rich, vivid orange of the sun still visible on the roof marked the end of the day, and in that she could also feel a cooler breeze coming from the water not far away.
She was surprised to find herself feeling comfortable, sitting there.
“Hey poquito boss.”
“Hey Mark.” Kerry focused her attention on the phone. “What’s up? You guys doing okay up there?”
“Barbara’s super happy. She’s got a desk all set up in our office and an internet connection, and air conditioning. Her company’s happy with us.” Mark said. “I’ve mostly just been grabbing calls since I got here.”
“Some.” Mark admitted. “Got some calls from those guys in Brazil wanting to know what was going on. They were supposed to kick off on Monday.” He paused. “Wasn’t really sure what to tell them.”
Kerry closed her eyes. “What is it they need… oh, that was the new support team, wasn’t it. They were supposed to onboard this past week.”
“Yeah. We told the sourcing op to hold on because of the storm… I tried to call them to find out if they still have those guys lined up but I couldn’t reach em, like anyone else down there.” Mark confirmed. “Maybe now that you’re back up though…”
“Crap.” Kerry exhaled. “Okay let me review the scope for them and see what options we have.”
“Not your fault!”
“No, I know.” Mark said. “We just had a lot of stuff going on.”
“I can try to find some folks up here?” Mark ventured. “We can just set them up in the office where the rest of the team is, y’know? I think .. maybe not here in Melbourne but maybe closer over in Orlando we can find some people with that skill set, the cloud guys.”
Kerry pondered that. “Damn, I’m torn. It’s a great idea, but we went through a great round with that team from here, and I thought they were a really good fit for the customer. It’s going to take weeks to get back to that point with new people.”
“No, I know. Do it.” Kerry gently cut him off. “At least, get that in motion, and either way lets get an area set up for them up there.”
“Got it.” Mark sounded more confident. “And I’ll call that guy back on Monday and tell him we’ve got a plan.” He added. “We’ll figure it out.”
“Dar’s going to call you and talk to you about a startup office in Colorado.” Kerry said. “Its all tied up with that new advance they made with the AI platform she’s doing for the DOD.”
Mark was momentarily silent. “Wow.” He said, finally. “They want us to open an office there for that?”
“No, she’ll explain it. Someone else is interested in using it for something else.” Kerry said. “it’s kind of…” She hesitated. “Um…”
“On the Q. Got it.” Mark cut her off this time. “Did you like it when you got to try it? I heard you did, the kids down there won’t shut up about it.”
“I did.” Kerry drew in a breath and exhaled. “it is really something else.” She confirmed. “I get what the big deal is.”
“Cool. Here lemme give you back to Colleen. It’s awesome you guys are back online. We’ll try to hold the fort down from here, Kerry. Don’t stress.”
“Was I stressing?”
She consciously cleared her throat a little, acknowledging there were people in her immediate circle who now knew her well enough to know that, just from her speech. “I’ll do my best, Mark. We just found out this morning it turns out we did get that property we ended up with.”
“Yeah, like we needed that complication. Anyway, get some rest, and tell Col I’ll call her tomorrow. Just wanted to let you all know we had some service back.”
She hung up, and let the phone rest against her thigh, idly watching the groups of people standing around in random groups, checking phones, or talking on them.
It was strange. When they’d been so cut off, it seemed like they had time to deal with whatever it was that was happening and now that she knew they weren’t, she felt like she was now aware of time ticking, of things left undone.
Of people’s expectations they were maybe going to let down.
Dar came over to her and sat down in the camp chair next to her, clasping her phone in her hands. “Considering taking a weed whacker and going to find the closest cell tower and sabotage it.”
Kerry eyed her, eyebrows raised.
“Historical society legal team is driving down and wants to meet at the Point tomorrow.” Dar informed her. “Apparently we’re legally responsible for any changes that were made to the property since they received the affidavit.”
“Dar, that’s ridiculous. We just took ownership.”
“Richard agrees, which is why he’s on his way here bringing another legal buddy of his to help us.” Dar sighed. “He seems to think these people are kinda on the wingnut side.”
“On the other hand.” Dar continued, extending her hand out between their chairs. “It’s the end of the day, it’s Saturday night, and I’d like to take you home and go to bed with you.”
Kerry took her hand. “You’re on.” She forcibly dismissed the anxiety that had started to crash over her. “Lets go. Tomorrow’s another day.”
“Tomorrow is.” Dar stood and pulled her up, leading her away from the cookpit, and towards the door, leaving the busy courtyard behind them.
The breeze off the water was acceptably cool, enough to make the warmth of the hot tub both comforting and comfortable as Kerry stretched her legs out and relaxed against the smooth side wall, glad to simply wait for Dar to finish pouring out some wine from her seat next to her.
The sky ahead of her was dark and the Atlantic Ocean just the rush and rumble of waves, and below the patio in the garden she could hear the muffled clanks and rumble of speech of the men working in the glare of the outside lights, invisible past the edge of the patio half wall.
Dar handed her a glass of wine, and leaned back at her side. “There.”
“Where did your mom say they were going?” Kerry asked, after a sip of the chilled pale beverage.
“Fort Lauderdale.” Dar supplied. “Something to do with the Coast Guard. I didn’t really ask for details.” She tipped her head back against the edge of the tub and regarded the invisibly cloudy sky. “They said they’ll be back on Monday.”
Kerry nodded. “So the storm is now rolling over New York.” She mused. “But its only a Cat 1.” She said. “Or is it just really a Northeaster?” She asked. “I saw there’s flooding in Manhattan. I’m pretty sure we were walking in some of those tunnels they were showing.”
“Glad we’re not there now.” Kerry concluded. “Based on that news report, it’s more chaotic there than it ended up being here.”
“Me too.” Dar slid closer and pressed her shoulder against Kerry’s. “I can imagine all those tunnels filled with water.”
Kerry pondered that. “Can rats swim?” She asked. “Because that would be terrible, wouldn’t it? There’s a hell of a lot of them down there.”
Dar turned her head and looked at Kerry. “if they can’t, they’ll probably just take over the subway cars and ride uptown.” She said. ‘But yeah, I think they swim. The ones here do.” She took a sip of her wine, and exhaled. “What a day.”
The sound of the bubble jets was soothing, and the smell of the chlorinated water familiar. There was a pot of soup warming on the stove inside for their dinner, and the promise of a peaceful night ahead of them.
Somewhere, off to the east, thunder was rumbling, but it was far away, as was the lightning on the horizon. Chino and Mocha were curled up on the couch inside and for the first time in days, it seemed okay to just sit back and chill.
It was awesome to just have it be quiet, and sort of normal. Kerry wiggled her toes, feeling the jets against the bottom of her feet, and then she set her glass down and rested her head against Dar’s conveniently nearby shoulder.
“Surprised we ended up having signal here.” Dar remarked idly.
Kerry eyed her. “I’m not.” She said. “A, we have power, B, the governor’s here, and C, money talks.”
“Well that’s all true.”
“Too bad it’s just voice service.” Kerry said. “I mean, it’s better than nothing, but it would be great not to have to deal with that satellite any more.”
“Yeah I’m sure they cut off data because they’ve only got one tin can and one string up.” Dar slid down and enjoyed the jets pounding against her back. “Better than nothing though.”
It was. Kerry finished the wine in her glass and floated quietly for a few minutes, and then she pushed herself up and swung her legs over the side of the tub. “I’m going to make sure the soups not bubbling over.” She slid down to the tile and picked up one of the two towels nearby, draping it around her swimsuited body.
She slid the glass doors open and went inside, feeling the brush of the chill air against her skin. She crossed into the kitchen and took the cover off the soup, picking up a wooden spoon and stirring it experimentally. “Looks good.”
She turned on the convection oven to toast the bread standing by and started a pot of tea going, then she went over into the bedroom to exchange her suit for a worn tshirt, ruffling her hair dry with the towel.
Chino lifted her head and watched her as she returned, ears perked. Mocha was dreaming, his front paws twitching and soft grunting yelps coming from between his lips. “Hey kids.” Kerry said to them, as she went by. “It’s nice to have a quiet night, huh?”
“Growf.” Chino barked gruffly.
She went back to the kitchen and studied the toasting bread, then glanced out the window to watch the gardeners at work below, outlined in the glare of a pair of worklights on poles on either side of the open gate to the beach and the wall mounted lights from their home.
It seemed like they were almost done. Kerry had been charmed to see the improvement, even more so when Dar had diffidently admitted to her machination of it.
Plants in the yard – frivolous and in the long run of things, unimportant. Yet the orderliness of it did in fact make her feel better regardless of how insignificant it was in the broader view and thinking of Dar pausing in her work to meticulously arrange for it made her smile.
She heard the glass door slide open and looked to the left as Dar’s tall form appeared in the opening to the kitchen. “You know what?”
“What?” Dar tucked her towel in and folded her arms across her chest, leaning one shoulder against the doorjam.
“You are the best.” Kerry came over, stretching up and giving her a kiss on the lips. “I love you.”
Dar responded with a pleased smile, and she returned the kiss. “Back at ya, Ker.” She paused, letting her forehead rest against Kerry’s. “No matter the craziness of the world, we got this.”
Dar kissed her again. “Let me go change. We’ve got a night to ourselves and I’m damned if I’m not going to enjoy it. “
Kerry gave her a pat on the hip and sent her on her way, and then turned back to finishing up the preparation of their light meal.
“Everything going okay there, Mayte?” Kerry sprawled on the couch in Dar’s office, aware of the sound of kitchen door opening and the hustle of toenails on the floor outside.
“Yes, it is quiet.” Mayte reported. “Some people came by here, and they were looking for you and Dar. I took down their information and sent a note over.”
“They said it was important. Something about your new house.”
“Oh boy.” Kerry sighed. “Well, it can wait for Monday. Nothing’s going on there tonight or tomorrow I can tell you that.”
“Si, I told them, but that made them upset. So I asked them what they wanted, you know?” Mayte said. “To see if I could help them but they said it was private.” She sniffed audibly. “I think they didn’t want any help.”
“Some scam, probably.” Kerry stifled a yawn. “Okay, thanks Mayte. Everyone comfortable there? Those soldiers didn’t cause any problems did they?”
“Oh no. They have not come here.” Her assistant assured her. “Zoe told me that Hank has told her they were told to stay away from us.”
Kerry had mixed feelings about that. She didn’t really want to have an antagonistic relationship with a large group of armed people, but on the other hand, they were being led by a jerk and probably some of them were of the same mind and she didn’t really want them around her people either.
“Good.” She said, briskly. “Just so you know, they kind of had a mix up with Dar earlier.”
Mayte chuckled a little. “Si, we heard about that. Some of them told us because they could hear it, and we know the boss of them is mad at us because we helped those poor people. Carlos called them some names.” She said. “And Hank was telling everyone about how these people should not be bothering Dar because she will kick them.”
Kerry took a breath to dismiss the idea, then paused. “Well, that’s true.” She admitted finally. “But they shouldn’t bother Dar for a lot of other reasons. Or any of us. We did the right thing.”
“Yes, we did that. Zoe was telling everyone all about it and she told the news person who was here too.”
“News person?” Instinctively, Kerry leaned over and looked out the door towards the television, where the governor was holding what appeared to be a press conference.
“Si, they came here because they heard about the water. Someone told them.” Mayte said. “I think I am becoming good with talking to reporters.”
Kerry could well imagine it. “Okay, I can’t wait to see where that ends up. But you all stay clear of the soldiers. We don’t need any more trouble.”
“Okay, no problem.” Mayte said. “We will leave them alone but some of them are upset, because they liked very much the food from Sasha and I think they will come here anyhow.” She told her boss. “Some of them are not bad, I think so?”
“I’m sure that’s true, Mayte. Just be careful.” Kerry told her. “And hey, I have a surprise for you all tomorrow that I hope’s going to work out, and maybe after that we can convince the soldiers to move along.”
“Yes. I’m going to wait to see if it works out before I say anything.” Kerry smiled. “I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up. But I think it will really help.” She said. “And, by the way, we do have cell signal out here. So if these phones go down, you can reach us that way.”
Behind Mayte, Kerry could hear the sound of music. A guitar, maybe, and the wooden noise of mallets hitting something and once again, she felt a tiny bit of envy at what seemed both interesting and kind of fun, if physically uncomfortable experience happening out there.
“No problem, and everyone is very glad they can use their phones now.” Mayte told her. “I was talking to Mama before, and Zoe was able to talk to her sister. It makes everyone feel better, you know? To know things are okay.”
“Like I do right now.” Kerry smiled. “Okay, you guys go have fun, and we’ll see you tomorrow. We have to go by our new place, and then we’ll be over there and maybe we’ll have some good news for you.” She paused. “And your parents.”
“Oh yes?” Mayte repeated the question, which was now audibly a curious question. “Mama told me the doctors said yes, they will let Papa go out of the hospital tomorrow. I told her it would be good for her and papa to go out to where Colleen and Mark are, but she won’t listen to me.” She added mournfully.
“No, me or Dar either.” Kerry commiserated with her. “Your mom’s a stubborn woman. But we’ll see what we can do for them and cross your fingers it all works out.”
“Okay Kerry, have a good night.” Mayte said. “We will see you tomorrow.”
Kerry hung up the phone, then she got up and went into the living room just as the kitchen door opened and Dar came back in, with both dogs in attendance. “They done?”
“Done.” Dar came over, and extended a hand to her. Between her fingers was a flower, and Kerry leaned over and sniffed it delicately, with a smile. “Looks a lot better than it did this morning.”
“I bet.” Kerry took the flower and then she walked over to one of the bookcases, selecting a large book and opening it. “Lets see.” She settled the flower between the pages and closed the book. “Remember I put that at Chapter 4, will you?”
She put the Modern History of Computing back on the shelf. “We attracted news attention again, according to Mayte. Someone came by about the whole water thing.”
“Nice.” Dar rolled her eyes. “Wish I knew who kept poking that bear.” She muttered. “Didn’t think there were that many people around that night watching.”
Kerry watched Chino noisily lapping water from her bowl. “And some random dudes came by looking for us about something to do with the Point.” She looked up to see Dar making a face. “Yeah, I know – I told Mayte to just leave it all alone and go to bed.”
“Great idea.” Dar took her by the shoulders and turned her towards their bedroom. “Lets go do that.”
“Lets.” Kerry allowed herself to be nudged towards the room, where she could see through the door the waiting comfort of bed and the cool tones of the walls.
She could already smell the scent of clean linen, and the wood of the new corner dresser they’d recently put in and from behind them the lingering hint of lemongrass from the soup they’d shared.
Dar pulled her t-shirt off over her head and paused to fold it neatly, setting it down on the dresser, her tall body outlined in the dim lamplight.
Kerry took off her own shirt and detoured into the bathroom, half turning to check if the sunburn she’d gotten the other day had faded. “Hah.”
Dar slid in behind her. “No peeling.” She observed. “Nice.” She ran her hands over Kerry’s shoulderblades, and then gently kissed the back of her neck. “Wonder what happened to your pilot. Think he hung around with those guys out west?”
Kerry turned and slid her arms around Dar’s waist. “Depends how much they offered.” She looked up and studied the pale blue eyes watching her. “I hope they treated him good. He did us a good thing, bitching all the way through it. “
“He did.” Dar kissed her, then reached out to shut off the bathroom light as she backed towards the bed, her arms draped around Kerry’s shoulders. “Bitching or not.”
They paused by the edge of the bed and kissed again, standing there in a light embrace that shifted as they started exploring each other and thoughts of airboats and their troubles evaporated.
They slid into bed, and Dar untangled one arm long enough to reach out to turn off the light, plunging the bedroom into darkness save only the faint stripes of moonlight coming in through the not quite shuttered closed windows.
The next morning dawned bright and with only a scattering of clouds in the sky. The air was full of moisture and even the early morning sun shimmered against it.
Dar was putting their backpacks into the truck when she heard the crunch of footsteps on the drive behind her and stepped back to see who was coming.
“Morning.” The stocky, middle aged man coming towards her said, shortly.
Oh great. Dar turned and waited. “Morning, Jim.” She responded just as shortly. “You just get back?” She added, not really thrilled with having the island’s developer coming at her so early on a Sunday morning. Their relationship, always strained, had been positively negative the last few months.
He nodded, coming to a halt at the bottom of the driveway. “Landed about an hour ago.” He glanced around, then back at her. “God damned mess.” He concluded briefly. “Airports a wreck.”
Warily Dar came forward, detecting a note of reluctant cordiality she hadn’t expected. “It is.” She agreed. “We did pretty well out here though. No doubt at all your people knew what they were doing.” She offered the compliment at face value, and in fairness because it was utterly true.
His body posture shifted, and he relaxed visibly. “Yeah, team did a good job. Only place in the tri county that was prepared and got through it.” He paused. “Don’t want to keep you. Just wanted to stop by and say thanks for helping the team out, that first day there, and with the cabling and everything.”
“No problem. Was glad to do it, and it helped me out too, that last part.” Dar responded easily. “More or less my usual line of work.”
“I know that’s your area.” Jim said. “And I know we don’t see eye to eye a lot, but I wanted to come over here first thing and tell you how much I appreciated you doing it.”
Dar paused a moment, honestly quite surprised at the stolid sincerity in the man’s tone. “You’re welcome.” She responded.
He nodded again. “Anyway, let you get on your way. Thanks again, and give your family my regards.” He lifted a hand and turned, jogging back up the slope towards the road.
Kerry had emerged onto the porch as he left and now she was standing on the top of the steps, hands on the balustrade, looking down at the entrance to the parking. “What the hell was that?”
Dar spread her hands out. “He came to thank me for fixing his cameras.” She said. “And I guess, for setting up the sat.”
Kerry reached behind her to open the door again, allowing Chino and Mocha to emerge and bustle past her down the steps to where Dar was standing. “Well okay then.” She closed the door and locked it. “That’s some way to start the morning.”
“Maybe it’s a sign.” Dar put her sunglasses on and went around to the driver’s side of the truck. “At least it’s a positive one.”
Kerry opened the back door to let the dogs jump in, then got in the passenger side, holding up her other hand with her fingers crossed.
Dar was about to park the truck up onto the sidewalk in front of the gates but realized as she got close the gates were actually unlocked, the large chain and padlock missing. “Huh.” She pulled the truck to a halt and popped the door open. “Be right back.”
She walked over to the gates and pulled them open one leaf at a time outward, noting the marks in the wrought iron and the bent portion from their visit the other night. Then she went back to the truck and climbed back into the driver’s seat. “Maybe it’s a sign.”
Kerry had her camera out, and she idly took a picture of the open steel portal. “Someone expecting us?” She wondered, as they slowly pulled through and onto the paver lined path beyond. “Should I get out and close them?”
Dar pulled the truck to a halt and looked around for a long minute, but the area was devoid of any obvious life. “Yeah.” She said. “They’re blocking the sidewalk. Hate to have someone do a header into them those suckers are heavy.”
Kerry got out and went back to the gates, pushing closed first one, and then the other. She looked around for the chain and lock, but it was nowhere to be found. “Huh.” She echoed Dar’s earlier comment, returning to the truck and climbing back inside. “Lock’s gone.”
“I saw.” Dar had been watching in the rear view mirror. “Maybe Richard called ahead.”
Kerry checked her phone. “No signal here.” She announced. “Who would he call? A bird? Maybe the eagle scouts just figured they’d see who showed up if they left them open.”
“Doubtful.” Dar put the truck in gear and they trundled slowly on. “What do you think, kids?” She asked the two dogs, who both had their heads stuck between the front seats and were peering around with great interest, their pink tongues hanging out and dripping saliva on the console.
“Growf.” Chino pronounced, pulling her head back and then going over to the side window to peer intently through the glass. “Growf!”
They drove through the trees and past the garden shack, along the dirt and algae covered pavers and through the second wooded area until they could see the house ahead of them. “Ah hah.” Dar pointed. “That’s who opened the gate.”
Parked near the entrance to the garden was Hank’s Humvee, with it’s trailer, it’s flatbed loaded with what looked like cases of water.
“Well at least he left the gates in one piece this time.” Kerry observed. “Wonder why he’s here?”
Dar shrugged. “I think he said that night he wants to be our gardener.” She mused. “Maybe he’s rethinking that with all this foliage?”
They stopped near the Humvee and opened the doors, Kerry pulling open the back door to allow the two now wildly curious and excited Labradors to jump out. “Here we go, guys.”
“Growf!” Chino looked around, then went nose down and started sniffing the area. Chino spotted a squirrel, and galloped off towards it, ears flapping.
Kerry came around to the front of the truck to join Dar and they watched the two dogs race around in a frenzy of discovery for a minute. “This must be so cool for them.” She observed. “They’ve never been any place like this.”
“Whole new world.” Dar draped her arm over Kerry’s shoulders. “ C’mon. Lets go see if we can find Hank.”
They walked past the Humvee and then onto the stone pathway that led through the delivery area, and then past the empty garden to where there were steps that led up to the kitchen. There was no sign of anyone, but when they mounted the steps up they could see the kitchen door was open.
“Mysteriouser and mysteriouser.” Kerry remarked.
Dar pushed the door all the way open and they entered. Inside was a passageway, in the same wood paneled white washed motif they had seen elsewhere in the house. To the right was the entrance to the kitchen and they turned into it.
It was quiet, and clean and empty, all the evidence of coffee makers and supplies removed, and the area carefully dusted off. Light streamed in from the tall, bubble glassed windows, providing a mild and diffused visibility.
The kitchen was large and it was obvious that it was intended to be a workspace. There were built in storage shelves, all wood, all custom, all in the same bland whitewash color. The long table on the inside of the room was butcher block.
“That table is expensive.” Kerry remarked, as she roamed around the space.
“Is it? It’s pretty.” Dar studied it. “I like it.”
The light fell on the table from the windows. Around it were the short, mid height square wood stools they’d sat on and she briefly imagined a group of people there preparing some large amount of food.
A workspace, Kerry found herself thinking again, like the kitchen had been in her parents house. Not meant to have the family sit in. “Did he have big parties? Seems like he meant to.”
Dar had her hands behind her back, and she’d been standing in the center of the room, looking around with interested curiosity. “Like a hotel kitchen or something.”
They moved from the kitchen back into the hallway, which then widened into a double width space lined on either side with built in cabinets.
Kerry paused and took hold of the iron handles of one and tugged it open. It moved reluctantly, the wooden doors stiff and a little swollen from the humidity. Inside were shelves of a good depth, but they were completely empty and their surface had no markings on it.
“Painted these to sell the place?” Dar observed, over her shoulder. “Doesn’t smell fresh.”
“No.” Kerry thoughtfully closed the cabinet.
They walked on to the end of the hall, where swinging doors opened up into the large spaces beyond. Here, today, in the light they were almost overwhelming in their bland, high ceilinged reach, and they walked out into the room at the back first.
There was nothing really architecturally graceful about the house. Kerry walked across the stone floor, whose surface was matte and had a grain to it. It was built square, the windows tall and well fitted, and let in a lot of light but the lines had no curve to them, and there were no moldings anywhere.
Just good, solid workmanship.
She went to the doors at the back and opened them, finding a set of doors to the outside.
“We came in that way.” Dar came up behind her. “I thought it was the front door, but it’s not really,”
“No.” Kerry looked around. “Well, maybe it is. It’s an entry foyer. You come in and then can go right upstairs, or into the room here. I guess this was the living room.” She glanced behind her. “Yeah, there’s a fireplace.”
The staircases on either side of the end of the room were the only pop of color, the treads a warm, honey colored wood, and the bannisters an inky black wrought iron. “What’s the upstairs look like?” Kerry paused, next to one of them.
“A lot of empty rooms.” Dar said, after a moment’s pause. “We were a little short on time. I just skated through them.”
“Ah.” Kerry started up the steps. “Well, since Richard and gang aren’t here yet, lets take some time to look.”
They got to the landing, and found a narrower set of steps continuing to the third floor. Kerry glanced at them, then proceeded along the corridor, poking her head into the doorways. There were two large inside rooms in the center. “These’d make good offices.”
“No windows.” Dar made a mild protest. “I think there are some on the third floor, with portholes. I think I like natural light better when I’m working.”
“Yeah, me too.” Kerry closed the door to one of the inside rooms and they walked on, then turned into an inside hallway that had medium sized rooms on the outside that when they were opened up, proved to be what were meant to be bedrooms.
All empty. All with the same whitewashed wood paneling. Here they had wooden floors though, that matched the stair treads. There were no closets, and the wood had been removed from the windows outside to allow the light to come in. “I see what you meant by lots of rooms.” Kerry remarked.
“Mm.” Dar made a sound of agreement. “I like the floors.”
“We’re going to have to put in ten thousand rubber backed scatter rugs.” Kerry concluded. “But I think the stone floors downstairs are not slidey enough to need them.”
They walked along the hallway and found, at the end, a corner that turned into a hallway that went the width of the house, that had a large entry with double doors in the center of it. The inside of the wall had more of the cabinets.
Kerry opened one. “Oh. A walk in closet?” She sounded surprised. “A walk in cabinet?”
It was a large space meant for storage, and on either side of the inside wall of the space there were brackets that held old, belled, glass lamps. The walls of the space were lined with shelving, and the edges of the shelves had a wrought iron bar that allowed a wood and iron ladder to slide along it to give access to the higher ones.
“Nice.” Dar said. “The master suite’s on the other side here.”
Kerry closed the cabinet and then stood back as Dar opened the double doors opposite, allowing a blast of light to illuminate the inside hall from the floor to ceiling windows inside. “Oh wow.”
Like everything else, it was completely empty, but the room spread across the width of the side of the house facing the water, and here, unlike the bubbled glass on the first floor, the glass was clear and they had an unimpeded view of the water, and the curve of the point.
The sun outside was pouring in the glass in a slanted wash of light, and here the floor was a beautifully inlaid pattern of light and dark wood boards.
The view of the blues and greens of the bay, with its lightly fluffy chop was stunning. Kerry could easily imagine waking up to it.
“Nice, huh?” Dar commented, rocking up and down on the balls of her feet.
“Very.” Kerry turned and gave her a hug. “It’s amazing.”
Dar smiled. “Yeah, seeing this kind of sealed the deal for me.” She admitted. “That and just… all the space.”
Kerry released her, and went across the room to another doorway and looked inside. “Well, they had indoor plumbing.” She eased inside the large bathroom, which had a big, square stone lined bathtub inside it, and cast iron piping.
A stone shelf sat under a bare wall, with spaces and pipes for a big sink.
There was an alcove off to the inside, and she looked inside, to find more cast iron piping, standing ready. “Does it go to a septic system, Dar?”
Dar regarded the unfinished bathroom, apparently waiting for it’s toilet and sinks. “Given when they built this, it was either that, or… “She glanced over towards the water. “Have to have this place really checked out. Can’t be that far from city sewer hookup.”
Kerry turned and leaned against the door to the toilet area, folding her arms. “Would chickie boo have removed the fittings Dar? Or did they maybe just…” She trailed off. “Seems weird.”
“Seems weird.” Dar agreed. “Maybe they were in a really bad shape, and she had them pulled out.” She suggested. “Or cracked, the porcelain.”
“Yeah, that could be.” Kerry nodded. “Anyway, I’m glad to see there’s piping so at least we know it’s possible.” She said. “This is a big room.” She regarded the bathroom, which had some built in cabinets in the wall and along that wall a long stone bench to sit on.
“it is.” Dar studied the bathtub. “Now I’m wondering if we’re going to be able to do anything as simple as putting a shower in.”
“Oh.” Kerry regarded the space. “Hm.”
They walked back out into the bedroom and then they looked out of the window at the battered, weathered pool deck and it’s algae and mold covered surface. “Oh Dar.” Kerry sighed. “This is going to be such a pain in the ass.”
“It is.” Dar agreed mournfully. “Cmon. Let me show you the rooms upstairs and we can go find Hank. Hopefully, Richard’s here too and the wingnuts. Lets get all the bad news on the table at the same time.”
“it’s a great piece of land.” Richard Edgerton was seated in the back seat of Dar’s truck. “I mean, seriously. I checked out the satellite shot of it when you told me about the place, Dar, and to find this size property in this area relatively undeveloped… my goodness.”
“We haven’t even explored all of it.” Kerry said. “Though by now probably the dogs have.”
Both dogs were laying down in the grass, in the shade, visibly wet and in Chino’s case, covered in mud that turned her cream colored coat almost brindle. Both had their tongues lolling, but if there was a look of contented delight that could be expressed by a canine, they had them.
Dar had the air conditioning in the truck running and she and Kerry were half turned in their seats in the front to face Richard. He was dressed in a short sleeved khaki shirt and slacks and loafers, with sunglasses perched on the top of his head.
Richard checked his watch. “The historical - or as I referred to them to my buddy yesterday as the hysterical society people should be here in the next couple of minutes. Jason is over at the county government building, seeing what documentation he can dig up on this place.”
“Are they hysterical?” Kerry asked. “Or just passionate.”
Their lawyer grinned briefly at her. “I should be used to pedantic people, shouldn’t I? I’m a lawyer, and a son of a lawyer, and a grandson of a lawyer. My whole family’s either in the legal trade, or college professors.” He chuckled. “Anyway, I just found these folks very impenetrable, in their area of expertise.”
“Ah.” Dar grunted. “Not sure there’s much for them to get excited about here.”
“Well, that’s their point, you know? That everything just gets wiped clean like it did in the thirties, and there’s no respect for the past.” Richard said.
“It got wiped clean in the thirties because it literally was wiped clean. Big ass storm came in and scoured the whole area.” Dar said. “Wasn’t anyone’s fault.”
“Anyway.” Richard said. “They are livid, and I mean livid, that apparently the young lady who sold you this place did like that storm and wiped out everything in the house and threw it all away.” He added. “Her view was, it’s hers, and she’s got the right to do what she likes with it.”
“You spoke to her?” Dar asked.
“Of course I did.” Richard nodded agreeably. “I mean, I did the paperwork on the deal. She was glad enough to talk to me about it.” He added. “She said it was nothing but a mess, and she had a company come in and just empty it all out, bout a month ago, before she put it on the market.”
“Well, I can see the point.” Kerry said. “Did she even know about the historical designation?”
Richard nodded briskly. “Sure, she did. Didn’t care.” He said. “She told me it was just a government scam and she was sure you’d figure a way around it.”
“She’s an ass.”
“Well, Dar, from a strictly financial, hardheaded viewpoint, I get it.” Richard told her. “She thought the old man had done that just to screw her over, and she was determined she was going to get what she could out of the place before everyone figured it out. “ He paused. “Which she did, with you all.”
“No wonder she took the deal, no questions asked.” Kerry mused. “Dar, you must have been like an angel sent from heaven to her.”
“She really didn’t have much respect for the old man. Got nothing against you two, by the way. Said she wished you well with it.” Richard said. “So at any rate, those folks from the historical society are just fit to be tied. I did talk them off the edge of trying to hold you responsible, though. Thanks to the timestamps on the pictures you sent me from here before the storm, it’s clear who was the culprit.”
Kerry leaned back against he window. “So where do we go from here? Does it make sense to try and recreate what was inside that house? If they just use modern materials – how is that even interesting?”
“Well, here they are, so we can ask them.” Richard pointed out the passenger window, to where a light green Prius was pulling up behind them on the path. “Try not to get all crazy with them. I just got them talking like adults with me.”
He opened the door and slid out.
“That doesn’t sound promising.” Dar put her sunglasses on and shut the car off, popping the driver side door open. “What do you bet me our dogs growl at them.”
Kerry chuckled briefly as she got out on the passenger side and shut the door, putting her hands into her front pockets as they waited for the three people in the car to sort themselves out and join them. “Lets be positive, Dar. Maybe we’ll get lucky.”
The three people got out and walked over. Two men, one tall and bearded, with a little stoop to his walk, a second shorter, and the third a woman with frizzy brown hair and huge eyeglasses. The men were dressed in cotton twill pants and tucked collared shirts, and the woman had on an ankle length skirt of many colors and a peasant blouse.
Dar came around the truck to stand next to Kerry, content to allow Richard to move forward and greet the newcomers and handle the pleasantries. They were standing in the shade and it was tolerably breezy, the leaves on the trees all around them rustling.
Kerry allowed her attention to wander a bit, spotting several butterflies amongst the bushes nearby. They were yellow and blue, and some red, and they flicked in and out of the beams of sunlight coming down thorugh the trees.
“So, folks. Let me introduce you all to these ladies, Dar and Kerry Roberts, who are the new owners of the property.” Richard was leading them over, and Kerry felt Dar’s elbow come to rest on her shoulder as they neared. “This is John Siward, Larry Rogers, and Mitsie Higglebotham.”
“Hi.” Kerry answered. “Nice to meet you.” She added, as Dar remained silent next to her. “Thanks for taking the time to come down here on a Sunday.”
The taller man nodded at her. “Can we go inside and take a look around?” He pushed his glasses up on his nose. They had a bit of fog on them from the heat. “We kind of understand what happened here but we want to see for ourselves what the situation is.”
“Sure.” Kerry gestured to the kitchen door, which they’d left standing open. “After you.”
The man nodded jerkily at her. “Thank you.” He gave Dar a sideways glance, but Dar merely kept her position, eyes hidden behind her dark shades. “Excuse us.” He muttered, nervously.
Kerry waited for them all to pass by, then she gently poked her partner in the ribs. “Stop that.”
“Me?” But Dar smiled, taking her elbow of Kerry’s shoulder and sliding her arm around them instead, as they started following the group back up the path to the back door.
Chino alertly watched them move off. Then she stood up, shook herself vigorously sending bits of bark and leaves flying in at least a six foot radius. She ended the shake with a wiggle of her tail, then trotted after them, with Mocha a belated moment after.