Fair Winds and Following Seas
“We just made it.” Kerry leaned back in the passenger seat of the truck. “Holy crap that would have been a mess if we hadn’t.”
Dar shrugged slightly. “We would have ended up staying in the office.” She said. “But I’m glad we got to the ferry in time.”
Kerry idly stroked Chino’s head, which was sticking out between the seats. “I think I’m going to like not being reliant on a boat to get home.” She remarked, as the ferry undocked and started the slow churn towards the island they lived on. “Aside from the rest of it.”
“Mm.” Dar grunted agreement. “Yeah.”
“No neighbors. No condo association.” Kerry mused. “The more I think about it, the more I’m liking the idea.” She stifled a yawn. “Crossing my fingers your gamble pays off.”
Dar reached over and took Kerry’s hand in hers, squeezing it gently. “Do my best to make it happen.” She promised. “But lets get past this damn storm first.”
Kerry chuckled wryly. “Fair.”
The cut was full of ruffled white waves, and as the ferry approached the island dock they could see the trees moving in fitful bends, the ground already showing evidence of downed fronds. Palms were designed for that, though. The branches were meant to give with the wind, and the trunk was smooth to let the force of it pass unrestricted.
Coconuts, though.. a gardner in a maintenance cart was moving quickly along the line of the trees, picking up fallen branches and nuts, and stopping to use a pole with a hook to pull down those that looked perilous.
The other two ferries were already in their maintenance bays, with lines securing them, and the ramp had been stripped of its usual lines and guides, the landing looking very bare as this last ferry slowly nosed into place.
“Looks like it’s really starting up.” Kerry noted, as Dar started the trucks engine. “Is that thing moving faster?”
“Lets check the eight o clock intermediary.” Dar said. “The outer bands were pretty spread out. But if it’s moving faster that’s maybe not good either.”
“Faster is bad?” Kerry asked. “I thought the weather guy was saying the other day faster was better?”
“Well, Andrew was a speedy little buzz saw, but it came with embedded tornadoes that laid waste to most of South Miami.” Dar exhaled. “Two or three more recent ones weren’t as powerful, but they just sat there off shore in weak steering and spun and spun and dumped rain and storm surge across all three counties.”
“Bad either way.” Kerry remarked.
“Bad either way.” Dar agreed. “Depends on the steering currents too and that stalled front. Could pick it up and haul it north and end up slamming into the Outer Banks, or hell, New York.”
“All around pain in the ass.” Kerry concluded. “How did I ever think tropical storms were fun?” She glanced at Dar, with a faintly impish grin. “Oh. Right. I got stuck with you in my first.”
Dar smiled easily. “I can see where that would skew your viewpoint.” She said. “Back in that day it wasn’t such a stressball though. Had more options.” She added. “Miami was just one of many.”
“Mm.” Kerry waved casually at the dockhands as they moved from the ferry deck onto the shore, just as a squall came over and nearly whited out the truck’s windshield before Dar got the wipers on high. “After hearing it a half dozen times today from customers.. would we consider relocating the company, Dar?”
“No.” Dar turned onto the perimeter road, feeling the wind push against the sides of the vehicle. She glanced at Kerry, who was watching her with hiked eyebrows. “We’ll find a more redundant, foolproof way to run operations.” She clarified. “I’ve got a list the length of my arm of all the crap I should have done when we started taking on clients and didn’t.”
“We didn’t.” Kerry protested mildly. “I was there.”
“Okay, we didn’t. We were too busy getting to our vacation.” Dar responded bluntly. “And that’s fine, because we both agreed to all of that.” She conceded. “I remember myself clearing saying I didn’t give a crap I was going rafting.”
“But we’re paying for it now.” Kerry nodded. “I know.”
“I know you know.” Dar sighed. “I just feel idiotic for not seeing where it was all going.”
“We could have not done it.” Kerry reasoned. “We could have just stopped, then, and taken a few months, take our vacation and actually planned this company instead of going headfirst down into it. But we didn’t.” She shrugged slightly. “Hon, we are who we are, we did what we did, and we’re in it. No point in kicking yourself. It’s done”
“Yeah it is.” Dar pulled into the parking garaged attached to the building their condo was in, and parked next to Kerry’s SUV. “Dad said he parked his truck down by the marina and he and mom are down there just making sure everything’s secured.”
“Slip comes with a spot.” Kerry noted. “C’mon kids.” She clucked her tongue and opened the door to let the two dogs out of the cab. “Lets get you all settled before it really starts to be weather.”
They went up the steps to the entrance, where the windows were already covered with mechanized shutters, only the door itself left unencumbered by them. Dar keyed the lock and pushed the door open, and the dogs rushed inside with their usual enthusiasm.
Inside the condo was atypically dark, the windows covered and the air with an extra sting of chill. Stacked near the opening to the kitchen were cases of water and pet food.
The dogs went to the kitchen door and looked over their shoulders at Kerry expectantly, as she came in behind them and opened it to let them out into the walled garden. She peered outside as they bounded down the steps, watching the whitecaps building offshore.
Curtains of rain were sweeping across the surface, and she could see waves already coming up to wash against the seawall that bounded the beach, sloshing over it and spattering the coral walk that bordered the edge. The wind was gusting, and it disordered her hair as she watched the dogs explore their little domain, oblivious to the rain.
Behind her she heard the television come on, already tuned to the weather channel. She ducked back inside and regarded the kitchen, which unlike its usual state had supplies and oddities stacked up on the counters much like the office had.
Cans of sterno, in case the gas line the stove and oven, along with the hot water heater were on went out to ensure the all important morning coffee. Powdered creamer for same. Packets of hot cereal and cold cereal, cans of beans and franks, a large cooler standing open waiting for a load of ice.
All in case the generators failed. Kerry hoped they didn’t, remembering the steamy mugginess without the AC. Then she felt a little embarrassed at the thought, knowing herself to be one of the very privileged when others were huddled in shelters.
“Everything looks pretty squared away.” Dar appeared in the doorway. “I’m going to shower off all this gunk from the storage room.” She regarded the smudges on her arms. “But before I do, we got anything in the fridge or should I go scavenge?”
Kerry pondered the question. “I’ve got those chicken breasts I should use and some pasta. I’ll do chicken parm it won’t take long.”
“Sure?” Dar came over and bumped her a little. “Been a long ass day.”
“Rather that then you having to fight the rest of the island for whatever avocados are left or sandwiches from the café.” Kerry smiled. “Lets go shower off, and then chill.” She hooked her index finger into one of Dar’s belt loops and started out of the kitchen, tugging her along.
Dar went willingly, following her out and through the living room across into the large bedroom suite that held their waterbed. In here, too, it was dark and the inside shutters that covered the windows were closed and Kerry flipped on the lamp as she released her.
She sat down on the bench in front of the bed and took off her hiking boots, pulling off her socks and stuffing them inside. Then she stood and unbuckled her worn leather belt and pulled her shirt out from the waistband of her jeans.
Kerry had gone into the bathroom, and from the half open door Dar could hear the shower start up, and she could already feel the faint sting of the water pressure against her skin as she removed her jeans, walking over to the closet and tossing them into the laundry basket inside, followed by the rest of her clothes.
Then she went into the bathroom and opened the glass door, releasing a gust of steam. “Ahh.”
“Ahh.” Kerry repeated, returning from adding her clothes to the basket and joining her inside. “Damn this feels good.”
“I like this shower head.” Dar remarked, glancing up to where the multiple socketed device spread a drenching rain over the entire length of the shower. “I’m glad we had it put in.”
“Me too.” Kerry handed her a scrubbie and took one for herself, squeezing out a glob of apricot scented gel on it. She started washing her arms. “Remind me next time not to put pieces of tape on my skin when I’m sealing up boxes.”
Dar came over to inspect. “Absolutely not with duct tape.” She said. “What were you thinking?”
“Wasn’t. Just wanted to get the damn boxes sealed up so they could put them on the tables.” Kerry grimaced at a line of adhesive. “Did you ever hear from the landlord?”
“Nope.” Dar said. “But he said he was going rafting in Costa Rica, and we know what that’s like.” She took some shampoo and started washing Kerry’s hair. “He’s probably going to get out of whatever river he’s on and his phone’s going to explode.”
“We know what that’s like.” Kerry echoed. She scrubbed at a stain on Dar’s skin across her ribcage along one side. “How in the hell did you get ink under your shirt?”
“Carrying a printer sideways.” Dar said absently. “Don’t ever do that.”
“Ah.. so that’s what that big blotch on the floor was.”
“Yeah. Lucky it was an inkjet not a laser. That toner never comes out.”
Kerry started chuckling a little, as she watched the shower carry slightly raspberry tinted suds towards the drain in the stone tiled floor. ‘We have the most romantic conversations, you know that?”
“Hey we could be talking about those asics in the new gaming controller.” Dar didn’t miss a beat. “I think that might really turn out interesting.” She finished washing her own hair, as Kerry rinsed herself off. “I got a call from someone who wants to talk to me about the framework.”
“Hm.” Kerry put the scrubbie on it’s hook. “How’d they know?”
“Patent filing.” Dar said, briefly. “At least, that’s what they claimed.” She acknowledged wryly.
Kerry turned off the water and pushed the door open. “They from some big company you think?” She asked. “They might just be fishing.”
“Could be.” Dar wrapped a bath sheet around her and handed one to Kerry. “But I don’t know. I think I kind of would want one of the big guys to buy the licensing for it. I don’t know that I want to touch retail.”
“We don’t.” Kerry shook her head. “I totally am on the page with you there.” She ran a brush through her short hair and watched as Dar combed out her longer locks. “But if they’re big enough, I want to be sure you get royalties on the patent, Dar.”
“We get royalties.” Dar remarked. “Half my brain belongs to you remember.”
Kerry leaned over and kissed her shoulder. “Well, as you said before, lets get past the storm first, and our other customers screaming at us, and whatever we have to deal with that office, and then we can worry about making money off your brain.”
She put the brush down and gave Dar a pat on the behind, before she emerged back into their bedroom and traded her towel for a tshirt and shorts, walking barefoot back through the living room. She spared a glance for the television, with it’s now familiar buzz saw shaped satellite view as the track and cone now seemed centered pretty much on downtown Miami.
“Ew.” She grimaced. “This is not going to be good.” She went into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator, removing the chicken and putting it on the counter, and then retrieving her pans and utensils. “Noooot good at all.”
Dar was sprawled in one of the easy chairs, one leg slung over the arm of it, a diving magazine propped up on her knee as she browsed the pages.
She could hear the squalls lashing against the shutters, the wind coming and going, blowing gusts that spattered against the surface before going quiet again.
Hurricanes were large, spinning disks, and the squalls were the outer arms of them, extending hundreds of miles from the center or eye of the storm. They were freaks of meteorological nature, low pressure centers that acquired rotation, like tornados on a grand scale that sucked up energy from warm water, hence why summer was their general season.
As the central pressure of the storm dropped, the wind speed increased around the eye and what you ended up with was a giant circle of ratty weather with a middle that could blow buildings apart. Even with the storm still a hundred miles out to sea, disruptive winds would shut down airports and make driving large vehicles difficult.
Dar glanced up at the television, where the buzz saw, now shown in infrared, was inching closer. “St. Thomas is getting slammed.”
“Are they?” Kerry came in with two large cups, handing Dar one. “Wow that looks nasty.”
“Hundred and fifteen.” Dar said. “And the eye hasn’t hit the Gulfstream yet.” She watched the screen. “Dar, why do weather people do that? Stand out in the rain, I mean? Look at that guy in Key West.”
It was dark in the picture, and the man was standing right near the well known marker that showed the southernmost point in the continental United States, in case his audience weren’t aware of where Key West was. He had a television light on him, which showed the marker, and his face, and his Helly Hanson rain gear, and the rain that reflected in the camera light but not much more.
Occasionally the camera would pan up to a palm tree, which was swaying in the wind.
“Why do they do that.” Dar started laughing a little bit. “Because weather events which take days and provide this much anticipation and entertainment are a god send to the cable news industry, Kerrison.” She regarded the screen with wry fondness. “They never made that big a deal of them before Andrew, and then everyone was really just kind of meh.”
“Hadn’t been a storm in South Florida for like twenty years before that.” Dar explained. “No one paid any attention. I remember… what was his name… Brian Norcross running around screaming like a damn banshee trying to convince everyone this thing was going to be a monster and no one listening.”
“Oh, crap.” Kerry was surprised.
“Finally everyone realized and by then it was too late. Wasn’t any plywood or supplies left and people ended up surviving in their bathtubs under their mattresses as their windows blew in and their roofs blew off.”
Kerry sat there, cup in hand forgotten, her eye wide open as she stared at her partner.
“They’d allowed the codes to degrade, all kinds of shenanigans. That’s why a lot of those areas in South Miami got blown apart.” Dar continued. “So the next time they didn’t make that mistake again. Now, we have tax holidays for hurricane supplies and when we hear there’s something brewing everyone makes a mad dash to top up their stores.”
Kerry glanced at the kitchen. “And buys water and Vienna sausages.”
“Uh huh.” Dar nodded. “It’s why the supplies are so damn random – you never know with these things.” She went back to flipping the pages of her magazine. “Here’s one. Two week all included livaboard dive vacation, Truk Lagoon. What do you think?”
“We’ll be boarded by two headed pirates from the lost city of Atlantis.” Kerry responded. “And cause an international scandal by finding, and domesticating a giant sea squid who turns out to speak Dutch.” She took a sip of her hot chocolate and wiggled her eyebrows.
Dar chuckled, toasting her with her own cup.
Kerry folded her arms and looked out the small window in the door that opened up to the garden. They had left the shutters off it, so they could see outside but at this hour, before dawn there really wasn’t much to see.
Behind her, she could hear Dar crunching her morning cereal. “Are we in for a whole day of this?” She indicated the window.
“Uh huh.” Dar mumbled. “If it keeps on this track, we’ll be on the dirty side.”
Kerry turned and looked at her.
“Right hand side of the forward motion.” Dar clarified, lifting her bowl and drinking from the side of it. “I should call down to the marina and find out when my folks are going to head up here.” She went over to the sink and rinsed the bowl out, along with the spoon she’d used.
“Guess I’ll get some work done while I can then.” Kerry sighed. “Let me go throw some ratty clothes on and see if I can finish those contracts before I start getting calls.” She added. “Mayte forwarded my desk phone and yours.”
“Yay.” Dar wiped the milk moustache off her lips with a paper towel. She went over to the land line phone on the small credenza near the door and picked up the receiver, dialing the number of the slip Ceci and Andy’s boat was docked in.
Kerry went through the living room, dodging the two dogs who were tussling over a tug toy and trotted up the stairs to the condo’s second level. There was an office there that was hers, a guest bedroom, and the second master suite where she’d once stored her things when she’d first moved in with Dar.
That was long past. She still occasionally sat on the second level patio to read or have a cup of tea, but their possessions were mingled in the big walk in closet downstairs and now the upstairs suite only held the overnight bags belonging to Dar’s parents.
The laundry room was there though, and she went in and opened the dryer, pulling out a pair of pair of cargo pants and a tshirt to trade her nightshirt for. She tossed the shirt into the hamper near the washing machine and went into her office.
Like their bedroom downstairs, this was at the front of the condo. Kerry sat down behind her desk and gave her trackball a whirl, bringing up the screen and leaning forward as her large monitor resolved her desktop. Despite the early hour, her mail was already dark with new entries.
“Here we go.” Kerry grimaced, as she opened the first of them. “C’mon people, I know this storms’ on CNN. Give me a break here.”
“Yes?” Kerry lifted her voice as she heard Dar’s hail from downstairs.
“Want another cup of coffee?”
“I love you.” Kerry responded.
“On the way.” Dar called back, her voice retreating as she went back to the kitchen.
Kerry returned her attention to the mail, and started a reply to it.
Good morning Erin. Our offices are closed today due to the hurricane, but we have some staff on duty, so the calls are being covered by a team up in Melbourne, Florida. If your staff is getting long wait times, let me look into it and see what I can do.
“I can only imagine what Dar’s inbox looks like.” Kerry picked up her phone and opened a text message to Mark.
Hey, Technodyne is complaining they’re waiting forever for the desk to pick up. I know it’s early – what’s the status up there?”
A moment later, the text came back.
Hey Kerry. Let me buzz them and find out.
Kerry put her phone down and went back to her inbox, scanning the headers quickly to identify what burning fires she needed to look at first. On an ordinary day she might have one or two, but she’d also shut down early the previous day to help finish buttoning up the office.
Her phone buzzed and she glanced down at it. Then she shook her head and went back to her original email, opening a second reply.
Hey Erin – just got off the line with that team and they asked me to ask your group to hold off calling them for weather status. It’s what’s jamming the lines up. I think maybe they don’t realize they’re upstate now and know pretty much the same as the Weather Channel.
Thanks – Kerry.
People were so weird.
Kerry put her mail aside for a minute, then she half turned and set up her wall mounted monitor to show the metrics screen Dar had written for them. It showed the status of the systems in the office, their cloud based phones, project progress, and had a ticker on the bottom that now held the hurricane updates but most often carried tech news.
Since all the storm had brung was rain, and a little wind, everything looked relatively normal except for the high call rate into the support desk, and the low number of calls to the rest of their departments because no one save Carlos was in the office.
There wasn’t really that much to monitor, yet, but Dar had built the program anyway, amusing herself by creating a screen that also measured the health of everything inside their building and linked to the security cameras.
Occasionally, Gopher Dar would appear, and ramble through the metrics, tapping on graphs and chittering before disappearing out the other side of the screen.
“Okay.” Kerry looked up as she heard steps on the stairs, and paused as Dar entered with a large mug and two dogs at her heels. “Ahhh… thank you.”
“Airport’s closed.” Dar set the cup down. “Ports are closed.” She reported. “Anything blowing up?” The dogs climbed up onto the couch against the wall and lay down, tails idly thumping.
“Not really, not yet.” Kerry said. “Phones are hot, because everyone is calling support to ask about the damn storm.”
Dar stared at her in bewilderment. “What?”
“I think they just know where we’re located.” Kerry chuckled. “And it’s the out of towners. At least our local clients are not bothering us.” She cradled the cup in her hands, savoring the contrast of the warmth of it against the chill of the air conditioning.
Dar’s dark brows knit together. “People are weird.” She echoed Kerry’s previous thought. “I’ll be downstairs working on the database matrix. I promised our client we’d have a baseline by today.” She turned and went back out.
Kerry glanced at the couch, as the two dogs lifted their heads and watched her retreat. Then they both turned to look at her. “Go on.” She told them. “I know damn well whose dogs you are.” She adored both of their pets and enjoyed interacting with them but there was no doubt who they regarded as their pack leader.
The two Labs seemed to consider for a moment, then Mocha hopped down off the couch and trotted out after Dar, while Chino put her head down on the couch arm and settled her paws comfortably crossed, issuing an almost human sigh.
Kerry rested her chin on her fist, wondering as she had a few times before just how intelligent the animals were. Did they communicate with each other? Was there a dog language, perhaps in a sound level she couldn’t hear? Did they discuss the daily happenings at the condo, and decide things like which one should go sleep where, and who should watch the back patio to bark at the birds?
Did they critique their meals?
Her email binged softly as another message came in, and she reluctantly left off imagining the thought bubble world of her pets and went back to her screen, finding a list of orders in progress whose delivery was now put in doubt. “Ah crap.”
Chino opened one eye and regarded her, then twitched her nose and closed her eye again.
Dar had just finished setting up the screens the way she liked them when her phone rang. She glanced at it, didn’t recognize the caller ID, and debated letting it go to voice mail. Then reluctantly she answered it. “Hello?”
There was a long moment of silence, then a man’s voice emerged. “Ah.. can I speak please to Dar Roberts?”
“Speaking.” Dar answered briefly.
“Ah, yes, hello. This is Michael Hengraves. I left you a message the other day? About your patent.” The man said. “Do you have a minute to talk? I know it’s early.”
Dar considered the question. “A few minutes. It’s a busy day.” She finally said. “You spend your day watching patent filings?” She asked.
“I don’t. My staff does.” Hengrave said, in a mild tone. “I represent a group of clients who invest in new technology. They provide funding to bring revolutionary products to market. So we watch patent filings to see if there’s something out there that could be interesting to them.”
“Well.” Dar leaned back in her chair. “A lot of patents never go anywhere. They’re just filed to protect ideas.”
“We know.” Hengrave said. “We’ve been doing this for a while and we’ve had a few successes, and some failures, and some.. “ He paused, and she could hear the faint shrug in his tone “Some that are just treading water.”
“So what’s interesting about mine?” Dar asked.
“One of the lines in it, one of the descriptions.” He answered promptly. “But I’m not really qualified to talk about the technical side of it. I have a partner who is, I just wanted to know if you were interested in, at least, having a discussion about potential commercial uses for it.”
Dar considered. “Any of those investors actually produced anything?”
Hengrave chuckled a little. “If you mean, did they build the widgets, the answer is no. They acquire the intellectual property, so to speak, the idea, and they broker it to companies who can.”
He hesitated. “Not sure I understand the question.”
“Give me an example of one of your successes.” Dar said, keeping her tone very mild. “I’ve been in the tech industry a while. Something I may have heard of?”
“Oh. Ah. Hold on a moment.” The line went mute, and then he returned. “Can I call you back? I just had another urgent call come in.”
“Sure.” Dar said, relatively certain he wouldn’t. “Take your time, and have that example when you do.” She heard the line go dead and she put the phone down, chuckling softly under her breath. “Hasbro potty trainer, probably.” She returned her attention to her screens.
There were two, large and vivid, attached to a docking station she currently had her laptop connected to. One held the framework design program, with its multiple windows and intricate circuit tracings and the other her programming software with its endless lines of code.
She spent some time re reading the last block of instructions, turning to glance at the window in her office when the branches outside hit the glass. They had left the shutters off this one as well, and Dar smiled a little, remembering that first, almost insignificant storm when she and Kerry had looked out of it together.
She turned back to the screen and reached out to her trackball, laying her fingertips on it and moving the cursor to select a section of code.
It was almost done. This framework which would act as the natural language interface for the middleware she’d written for their government contract.
It wasn’t as cool as the AI she’d just submitted the patent for, but this was a bread and butter contract and a billable milestone. A big one, requiring her to go and demonstrate the interface in real time, using real systems and real data.
The code itself was stored in their offices, in a secure server her machine was connecting to, encrypted and segregated from the rest of their systems, the programmers working on parts of it only allowed to check out specific sections.
With her being the only exception. Dar had the master encryption key for the repository, and access to all of it. She had the responsibility of being the check on the check, reviewing all the sections as they were worked on before she allowed them into the golden copy.
Her programmers were good people. They’d passed security checks. She liked them. Dar studied a line, then she went in and made a slight syntax change. But this would have her name on it and in so far as any software could be perfect she wanted it to be.
A touch obsessive. Dar owned that and recognized there was a downside.
In a corner of her screen was the network communications app they used to quick chat and now it popped up. She clicked on it, seeing it was from Carlos.
Good morning. So far just rain here.
She typed back.
Here too. Still have power?
Carlos had probably just woken, he and his buddies having set up cots on the second level, bringing supplies and a small gas stove into the break room there. For a brief moment, Dar almost regretted them not staying as well.
Yeah – hey the landlord stopped by! His plane was the last one to land at MIA he said and he was kinda blubbering all over the place. I told him to expect a big bill for all the work and materials and all that stuff and asked him for a copy of his hurricane insurance on the building.
Dar pondered that. “We probably should have asked him for that before now.” She remarked aloud.
He said he gave that to Kerry with the rest of the paperwork might want to check?
“We might want to check.” Dar touched the intercom on her desk. “Hey Ker?”
“Yes, oh love of my life?”
Dar smiled. “We’re sure they’ve got a windstorm rider on that damn building?”
There was a pause on the other end. “Don’t they have to? I mean, it’s required isn’t it?”
“For a mortage, yes.” Dar agreed. “But y’know, this is Miami.”
“Let me check. I’ve got the paperwork scanned in. Let you know.”
Dar put her hands on her keyboard.
Kerry’s checking. Not that we can do anything about it now if they don’t, and really, regardless, if the place takes a direct hit it’s not going to matter.
Carlos paused before he answered.
I guess we just find someplace else?
They would, and now, Dar took a moment to think about what Kerry had asked her on the way across on the ferry. If the worst happened, and they did have to move the company, would she keep it here? So far trying to handle the expansion of the company in the area they’d picked had been tough.
Coconut Grove wasn’t built for that, really. Dar sat back and considered. It wasn’t, but it was funky and cute, and a nice place to come to work every day. There were shops and cafes to walk to, and it was right down the road from the water.
She liked it. She’d liked it when she’d lived here back in the day, and though sections had changed, the streets with their differentiated houses, overhanging trees, and just general air of old Florida appealed to her.
Yep we’ll find somewhere else. We’ll figure it out.
Dar typed back to Carlos, because that, at least, was true. They’d figure it out. She didn’t really want to go back into a business park, like ILS had been in, or move inland where it would be mostly strip shopping malls and traffic.
Kerry had meant, though, would they move the company outside Miami and no, Dar didn’t think that was in the cards. For sentimental reasons, sure, but it meant relocating everyone who wanted to stay with them and that was a huge disruption that went past just her fondness for her hometown.
No. Dar went back to her screen, with a little nod. They would just learn from this experience, as she had in her past, and build ways to make it not matter that they were based in the middle of Crazytown.
A small alert flashed. She touched the intercom again. “Hurricane warning’s up at the 8am, hon.” She told Kerry. “We’re centerline in the cone.”
“Great.” Kerry responded. “He’s got a rider, for what that’s worth, Dar. Hey, they’re evacuating the beach. Do they evacuate here?”
“No.” Dar told her. “They know we’re a bunch of rich assholes that won’t listen anyway, or have bought here as investment property.” She said. “And these things are bunkers.”
“Okey doke.” Kerry clicked off.
Dar returned her focus to her screen, making another small change, and committing it. She reviewed the last sections of code that had been checked in, and went over the wiremap and flow one more time. “Well.” She closed the repository and sealed it with the encryption key. “That’s as good as it’s gonna get for now.”
She extracted a visible diagram and published it to an encrypted share for the team to review, and felt a sense of relief that she could mark this closed before the uncertainty of the storm coming overhead.
She moved to her mail program and opened up a note to her project contact in Virginia, attaching the milestone validation and a link to the published schema and sent the note off.
By the time they’d reviewed it, she reasoned, it would be a week or so and at least they’d know the worst of what the situation would be here. She opened another mail this time internal and sent a brief, congratulatory note to her team for getting all the segments in by the deadline, then she stood up.
Mocha looked up at her from his spot on the couch, tail wagging gently.
Dar went over and sat next to him, scratching him behind his ears. “You ready for this, buddy?” She asked. “It’s going to be loud and scary, and you’re still just a baby boy.”
“Gruff.” Mocha responded, rolling over and wriggling on his back, rubbing his nose on her leg. “Arouf.”
“Is it time for a cookie?” Dar laughed, as the dog tried to lift his ears upside down. “I think it is. Lets go get one.” She got up and followed Mocha out of the office and into the living room, pausing to watch the television as the storm inched closer.
Like a slow motion train wreck. Dar shook her head and moved on.
Kerry ran her eyes over a mostly completed page, reviewing the answers she’d given to the request for proposal from a potential new client.
On the surface, it wasn’t a complex request. They were looking to open up three satellite offices in the South Florida area, but needed to keep costs down and be highly flexible in the work environment. They weren’t fond of the idea of having the staff work from home.
Home office was in Augusta, Georgia. The new locations were an attempt to make inroads in a new segment of their business, the nature of which was somewhat vague, but which apparently was sales related and required the employees to pitch face to face to new customers.
Kerry tapped her fingertips lightly on the keys of her keyboard, rereading the page. She’d given the standard answers to the standard questions, but as she read them, the whole thing felt a bit stale to her. There was nothing new or special about the proposal.
Sometimes, she reminded herself, a banana was just a banana. There were only so many ways to configure computing devices, connectivity, and desk space. But one of the things Dar had said she wanted to come out of their company was for their solutions to be, if not totally out of the box, at least have components that showed they thought that way.
So was there something different here? Kerry exhaled, and her eyes narrowed a little bit. Reading between the lines she sort of got the impression that the company wasn’t that confident in their ability to home run whatever it was they were going to be peddling.
Hence, the request for flexibility and low cost. By definition, it made it lower risk.
Having the teams work from home would be both, but they’d written specifically into the request their strong desire to have the teams be collocated for supervision and management.
One team in each county, meant they couldn’t share a common space, so three rental offices, with three sets of connectivity, three build outs, and three installations of hardware and aside from putting them in a tent on the lawn at Bayside that meant there were limits.
They wanted the offices to be client facing, so that meant more limits, because it meant Class A office space for 20 people per office.
Kerry leaned back in her chair, studying the screen and faintly shaking her head. Then her mail dinged and she glanced over at the other screen briefly, seeing an advertisement come in trying to sell her a motor home. “Boy did that rental put me on a list.”
She reached over to delete it, then paused. She opened the mail and studied the colorful pictures, remembering the cross country convenience of having their little home away from home with them. “Hm.” Her mind, thrown unexpectedly on a completely different track, pondered.
She pulled a pad over and took a pencil, scribbling some notes. What if she proposed a single, industrial space as a home base, for back office, and three traveling, tricked out motor homes to sell their proposals to clients?
Weird and radical, and possibly just laugh inducing from the prospective client. Kerry discarded her almost finished proposal and started a new one.
But definitely out of the box.
More rain. More wind.
The shutters made the usually open and sun lit condo like a bunker. Dar peered out of the small window in the back door, watching the ruffled waters of the Atlantic churn past the seawall. Behind her, she could hear the sounds of a press briefing on the television, by this time the storm having taken over all the local programming.
Not that she watched much on television in any case. Usually either it was Animal Planet or Discovery, or Cartoon Network.
That was an option now, but she was reluctant to turn away from the reporting, even though she knew it would be hours and hours before the storm’s main event would take place. Literally, as she had thought earlier, like watching a slow motion train wreck in process and just as impossible to look away from.
“They opened a pet shelter this time.” Kerry noted, as she entered the kitchen behind her. “I can only imagine what that’s like.”
“Like the humane society on a bad day.” Dar agreed. “But it’s damn good they did with all the people who didn’t evacuate last time because they couldn’t take their pets.” She watched a bird get blown backwards across the back area, landing in a flurry of ruffled and bewildered feathers.
“Very true.” Kerry came over and looked out the window past Dar’s shoulder. “Your folks still down at their boat?”
“They’re socializing at the marina.” Dar bit off a grin. “You know my mother. She’s enjoying herself.”
Kerry merely chuckled. She moved over to the fridge and looked inside, pondering her choices for lunch. “How do we feel about the generators?” She asked. “Should I use this chicken now, Dar? I can do some stir fry or fajitas in case we do end up losing power.”
“Good idea.” Dar said. “I know they tested the damn things, and with the Belcher tanks they’ve got fuel who knows?” She looked over at the television. “I think the storm surge is going to come right over us.” She said. “I hope it doesn’t trash the slips.”
Kerry paused, a package of chicken breasts in her hand. “You think the Dixie’s going to be okay?”
Dar made a face. “I secured the deck. Dad helped me.” She said. “And if anyone knows how to do that it’s him.”
“True.” Kerry drummed her fingers on the counter, then retrieved her wok from it’s hook. “I heard a couple of our neighbors in the market saying they’d wished they’d had their boats taken up state or into one of the covered Marinas in Lauderdale.”
“They were full.”
“That’s what they said.” Kerry agreed. “And it was too late to have them taken any further.”
“It is what it is.” Dar turned. “I finished the drop and sent it over to Jenkins.” She leaned against the refrigerator with one shoulder, folding her arms across her chest. “I’m debating on whether I should start setting up the delivery for Broward County or not.”
“I’m pretty sure that’s one you can hold off on for a few days hon.” Kerry got out her chef’s knife, it’s long, silver surface reflecting the light. “I was just listening to the county manager up there on the TV and they’re more worried about the fact they can’t get the drainage canal gates open.”
“They’re probably going to offer everyone west of I-75 a canoe.”
Dar chuckled. “Well, let me do the setup for them and maybe I’ll reach out and offer to redo their control software while I’m at it.” She winked at Kerry, and then she wandered back out, idly pushing the sleeves of her long sleeve T-shirt up over her elbows.
“Don’t offer to go out there today.” Kerry called after her, glancing to her left as her partner’s place was taken by two dogs, who seated themselves with hopeful eyes on her, tails sweeping across the stone floor. “Oh. You think I’m cooking for you, little pirates?”
“Gruff.” Chino barked softly.
“Not with Szechuan peppercorns, my dear.” Kerry informed them. She finished cutting up the chicken and deposited it in a bowl, sliding the cutting board over into the sink for washing along with her knife and trading it for a smaller one of both for the vegetables.
Bamboo shoots, and minature corn, and snow peas. She assembled the rest of the ingredients and turned the fire on under the wok, waiting for it to heat up.
On the television in the living room a man was standing, covered in a yellow rain jacket, on the edge of some dock somewhere with the obligatory palm tree behind him while rain blew sideways against his head.
The palm tree was swaying in the wind, and the waves were crashing up against the dock, the water washing over the concrete and running across to where he was standing.
A can, driven by the wind, blew across behind the man and the camera turned to focus on it as it rolled off the edge of the pier and into the water.
The camera pulled back and then the picture was framed in a square panel in a newsroom, and you could see two other anchors seated half turned to watch it, with concerned expressions.
It was replaced with a radar view of the storm, the outer fringes now sweeping over land and soon would cover most of the area they lived in.
“Conditions will now start deteriorating.” The anchor was intoning, in a serious voice. “Everyone should rush all their preparations to completion. Get off the roads and into secure shelter.”
On the bottom of the screen, a ticker was running, listing off all the shelters that were open and had space to evacuate to, and what now was closed, like the airports and seaports, and government offices. Kerry walked over and glanced out of the window that faced due east, right into the oncoming storm.
Was it really smart for them all to stay here? She went back to the stove and poured some peanut oil into the wok, adding a spicy red pepper mix with it. Dar had weathered big storms here, and seemed confident, and Andrew had agreed, once he’d done his own inspection of the place.
But Christ, they were right on the edge here. Kerry stirred in the chicken, giving her head a little shake. Literally on the edge, if the storm track was about to come right up Government Cut, the channel on the left side of the island that led to the port and Biscayne Bay.
True, they were not the only ones staying. Ceci had commented, in some amusement, that it was the most expensive hurricane shelter in the state and better attended than most and she’d reported that the management of the commercial center had stocked up on damned near everything.
And well, they were here. Kerry mentally shrugged. No matter what happened it probably wouldn’t end up either as uncomfortable or dangerous as their last vacation so what the heck.
What the heck.
Once she’d gotten back to her desk, Dar found she really didn’t have an urge to sit down behind it, going over to the window and looking out over the front of the house instead.
This view was far less dramatic than the one from the kitchen, showing the common front area of the group of condos of which one was theirs. She could see the steps that led downward to the ground, and the slope of the tarmac that went under to the parking.
Rain was drenching everything. The plants that lined the front walks were beaten by it, and the pointsetta bush near the steps seemed to have shed it’s pink blossoms. She could see one on the sidewalk, looking a bit like a deflated balloon.
Past the access road, she was looking across at the tree lined golf course set in the center of the island, the subtle nets that were strung between the branches taken down in deference to the storm and not likely to be needed to catch errant golf balls.
They were relatively new, as were the trees. A resident had sued the developers the previous year after a shanked ball had hit him in the back and Dar had laughed over seeing the story in the little local rag.
It was an unchallenging nine hole course and no one took it seriously. Dar had always regarded it as more a welcome patch of green that wouldn’t be developed since she’d never tried the game but a few avid players had moved in and now hearing the whack of balls being smacked was fairly common.
For her, mostly on the weekends as she and Kerry left early and arrived home late. Now she studied the carefully groomed and cropped green lawn and watched as several men in a golf cart sped across it collecting some left behind tools.
Her phone rang, and she reluctantly turned and went to pick it up, glancing at the caller ID and answering it. “Dar Roberts.”
“Hey! Dar!” A man’s excited voice came blurting out and made her hold the phone slightly away from her head. “I got that link.. holy cow!”
Dar sat down behind the desk. “That didn’t take long.” She ventured. “I just sent it over Scott. Figured I would before..”
“Yeah yeah!” He interrupted. “So listen, I sent it to Brad and Allison and they loaded it up into the simulator and they’re running it now.”
Dar’s eyebrows hiked. “Now?” She glanced at her watch. “You all are in full gear today.”
“Anyway.” Scott exhaled in audible satisfaction. “I was able to update the nabobs on the morning call, and they’re pacified for now.” He said. “Great way to start the week, you know? So thanks for that, Dar.”
“Well.” Dar was a bit nonplussed. “I’m certainly glad we could make the checkpoint. I had some doubts since we have all this weather going on down here.”
Dar’s dark brows contracted. “The category five hurricane about to hit Florida?” She ventured, in a quizzical tone. “I’m sure the news up there gave it a brief mention?”
“Oh, news. I don’t watch it.” Scott said. “You know we’re buried here in the mountain. Half the time when I leave I have no idea what time it even is.” He admitted. “Anyway, it’s just rain, right? How bad could it be? I was a little surprised when you said it might be a problem for delivery.”
“Well.” She said. “The last cat five that hit this area caused, I think… 28 billion in damages, took out a naval base and made part of the county unlivable for a year.” She paused. “Had nearly a hundred and seventy mile per hour winds. Enough to peel the roofs off houses.”
“Oh.” Scott sounded truly surprised. “Does that happen often?” He sounded astonished. “I mean, we have snowstorms here but my goodness why do you live there?”
“Because we don’t have snowstorms here and most of the time we don’t have hurricanes either.” Dar said. “Anyway, let me know what the team thinks about the new algorithm. I made some adjustments based on their notes from our last meeting.”
“For sure!” Scott said. “Thanks again, Dar. I’ll probably be in touch later, after they run it for a few cycles. We should know if they have any big notes by then. Better plan on heading up here if it passes the smoke test.” He warned. “They’ve been holding off the bigwigs on this thing but the pressures getting crunchy.”
“Figured.” Dar responded. “Let me know what the team thinks.”
“Will do.” Scott agreed. “Good luck with the storm thing.” He added. “I should probably go look it up and see what that’s all about I guess.” He chuckled. “Later!”
Dar put her phone down and studied it in some bemusement. Then she shook her head and turned her attention to her screens, pondering a moment before she called up another project into her programming tool, leaning against the desk to inspect it.
Not the county one. This schema was completely different, a cryptic assembly of hardware instructions she now contentedly started to fiddle with, setting up a preview on her other screen, and glancing from one to the other to watch the effect her changes were having.
Kerry watched Dar watch the rain out the back window. “Hey hon.” She put down the magazine she’d been reading. “How about we put on some ponchos and take the cart out.”
Dar turned. “Go out in the rain?”
“See what’s going on.” Kerry agreed. “Go see what your folks are getting into, see if the market’s still open. It’s not that windy out right now.”
“Isn’t that exactly what the news yonks are telling everyone not to do?” Dar, however, looked both entertained and interested.
“No one listens. You saw that guy who was wind surfing.” Kerry countered. “Every time you see that reporter in the slicker on the pier there’s someone strolling along behind them.”
“That windsurfer got blown into the side of a building.” Dar reminded her. “But yeah, sure. Let’s go around the perimeter road.” She went to the hall closet and opened the door, poking her head inside. “I brought the foul weather gear in from the boat.”
Kerry got up and joined her. “Ah ah ah.” She turned and held her hand up to the two dogs, who had come rushing over.
“Oh let them come.” Dar handed her a dark green rain jacket. “They’re water dogs.”
They donned the waterproof gear and pulled the hoods up. “Wear these.” Dar handed Kerry a pair of water shoes. “They’re grippy.”
“And neoprene.” Kerry followed her out of the front door, with the dogs frisking behind her and they walked downt he steps and into the lower level parking where their cars were, along with their cart.
Mocha and Chino jumped into the back of it, well used to the conveyance and Kerry put up the back gate behind them.
The cart was modified. It had four seats and a cargo bed, which had wooden braces with leather covered pads on them and a thick mat for the dogs. There was a metal water dish clamped to one of the supports and two leashes and collars were looped and fastened near it, though seldom used.
A squall had recently passed through, and they were in a lull between them, so there was only a spattering of rain and gusts of wind as Dar guided the cart out of the parking depot and up onto the road. She looked both ways, then turned left and started along the edge of the golf course.
“See?” Kerry pointed in the distance where other carts could be seen. “People are still out and about.”
“Good time for a break anyway.” Dar agreed. “Plenty of time to be locked inside.”
The marina was a surprisingly busy place. Dar parked the cart on one side of the building that housed the facility among a scattering of other vehicles and they went under the overhang that fronted the docks.
The dockmasters were all there, in their white shirts and blue shorts, with blue rain jackets on as they talked to the thirty or so boat owners who were gathered around.
A table was against the outer wall, with what appeared to be chilled dispensers full of lemonade and something pinkish in them, and servers were roaming around with trays offering cold canapes.
“So this is how we cater a hurricane party here?” Kerry commented dryly. “There’s your folks.” She indicated the easily spotted Andrew Roberts near the edge of the patio. “I’ll get us a drink.”
A television was tucked inside a wooden framing, showing the National Weather Service broadcast, and next to it, inside the service window Dar saw two of the marine workers watching a large radar.
“It’s gonna be nasty.” Dockmaster Jack was saying as she came up next to a small group of other residents. “Oh, hey there Ms. Roberts. Your slip’s all secure.”
“Yeah, my father said.” Dar agreed briefly. “We just came down to see what was going on.”
“Like everyone else.” A man standing there, hands in the pockets of his Bermuda shorts said. “I’m already bored to death watching the Weather Channel.”
Kerry came over with two cups full of the pinkish liquid. “Here.” She offered Dar one. “Cranberry.”
Besides the man in the Bermuda shorts, the rest of the gathering had fallen silent, most were watching Dar and Kerry with at best noncommittal expressions.
They had never really been that popular. Not, at least, once Kerry had moved in with Dar and their lifestyle had become known, and it had become common to see them around the island together along with their sometimes boisterous dogs.
Most had pretended they were sisters or cousins right up until the time Dar had casually kissed her in the middle of the formal dining room, flipping off the shocked watchers as they just as casually strolled out.
But they were uniformly polite to everyone and so far, they’d avoided any unpleasant clashes. Their impending departure had become known and subtly celebrated until everyone had encountered Andrew and Ceci and realized, belatedly, what the term out of the frying pan into the fire meant.
Certainly not everyone felt that way. Many were part time residents and really did not care one way or the other. Some, that certain percentage, were gay or gay friendly and made that known to them as well. But there was a core of conservativism that lately had become louder and some of the men in the room at the moment were part of that.
Dar took a sip of her cranberry fizzy drink and let her elbow rest on Kerry’s shoulder, enjoying the faint twitch of some lips.
A squall swept through suddenly, and they all herded over near the wall of the building to avoid the sideways rain that spattered over everything. Mocha and Chino had trotted out onto the dock, and now they came back over, shaking themselves violently and adding that spray to the rest of it.
“Water’s already coming over the seawall on the east side.” Jack said. “They’re bringing in a truck with sandbags just to throw them on the back side of that thing for safety’s sake.” He looked at Dar. “I know your back yard’s right up against the edge there.”
Kerry took a small fruit tart from the tray held out to her by one of the servers and handed it to Dar, then took one for herself, struck suddenly by the difference between the understated competence of the team around them and what they’d seen by their office.
There was a plan. A plan that was not only thoughtful, but executed by professionals with no sense of panic, or lack of preparedness here. Kerry had the sense that though the storm was dangerous, and everyone was worried, that they would weather it because the ground they were on had been thoroughly prepared.
Why wasn’t everything like that? Kerry nibbled the fruit tart. Was it just a question of money? “Yeah, we saw the water coming over into the swale there, up to the inner gates by our place.” She said. “What’s the thought on the new generators?”
“Manufacturer’s got a team here. They’re going to stay through the storm with us.” Jack said, with quiet confidence. “So if it conks out, won’t be for lack of attention. They ran feeder lines over from the Belcher docks so we’ve got plenty of fuel available.”
Carlos, the server had paused to listen. “Yeah, we’ve got around a hundred of us on the hotel side who volunteered to stay on duty here.” He told them. “Safer here than my place in Cutler Ridge.” He offered the tray to the three other men who were standing around Jack. “We’re all bunking out over at the mansion. They brought in cots and all that.”
Jack nodded. “Marina staff has a full shift on base for the duration too.” He said. “All of us were glad to be over here, not dealing with all the crap landside.” He turned his head and looked out over the marina. “Everything’s as locked down as we can make it.”
“We’ll be fine.” One of the men standing by said. “I’m just worried about surge lifting up the docks. That eye’s vicious looking.” He indicated the television. “There’s a lot of boats in the marina.”
“True.” Jack agreed, with a rueful smile. “I was a little surprised. I thought more would be heading out and over to the Med, but not so much this year.”
“Staying away from going out there.” The man said, shortly. “Too much chaos. I’ll spend my money in the keys this year or go out to Belize.”
Andrew and Ceci came over to join the small group. “Hey kiddos.” Ceci greeted them. “Run out of problems to solve?”
“Taking a break from them.” Kerry smiled. “You never run out in our business.”
“Aint’ that true.” Andy pronounced. “’Lo, all you all.” He added to the group. “Had me a chit chat with that there Coast Guard captain just came by and he said they closed up all the inlets.”
Some of the men eyed him with a mixture of resentment and wariness.
“It was nice to see Larry again.” Ceci remarked, with a smile. “We should do a barbeque for him and his crew after this is over.”
“Could play us some baseball out on that green patch in the middle.” Andy agreed solemnly.
The squall intensified, and as if by common accord all of them edged inside the marina building itself, which housed the business office and the dock shop where they offered boat supplies and fishing gear for sale. It was luridly fluorescent lit inside, the windows covered with mechanical shutters.
There was a large desk in the center, and past that, mostly darkened, was the command center with it’s weather radars and radio gear. The sound of marine frequencies drifted into the store from it, the harbor masters using headsets and boom mics as they responded to queries.
It smelled of plastic and fabric, and Jack pulled the doors closed after everyone had crowded inside, and they watched in silence as the squall brought rain in such a heavy curtain that they no longer could see the boat slips or even the sidewalk past the edge of the patio.
“Whoof.” Jack muttered.
The wind suddenly produced a deep howling sound and the doors rattled a little, and through the rain they saw palm fronds whipping by on the ground, rolling towards the water, and the contents of the table outside were pulled along to join them.
“Sorry.” One of the marina staff stuck his head inside from the command center. “We saw that one coming but it got here too fast to warn ya.”
“Wall.” Andy eyed the door. “Once this here lets up we should get us back ovah to that there house.” He said. “Ain’t gonna get better from here until this thing’s done.”
“Gruff.” Chino was sitting next to Dar’s leg and now she let out a small bark of protest.
“Yeah, that’s nasty.” Jack was standing against the wall between the store and the command center. “We just got a call from some commercial fishing boats that wanted to dock in here.” He shook his head. “No way. I’ve seen the gear on those things get loose and take out a crane.”
“Some of them are coming in and just dropping anchor in the bay.” One of the residents said. “Hope they don’t end up in anyone’s backyard.”
“Ton of hulls coming up from the Keys.” Dar commented. “I heard that on the news this morning, John.” She looked at the resident, a man who’d always been friendly and once he’d found out Andrew’s Naval background even more so having served himself. “Bet a lot of folks are just tying up in the mangroves.”
He nodded. “Everyone realized over the weekend this was going to blow up.” He pointed at the screen. “If I’d have known, I’d have taken a flight up to Long Island but my wife’s got two cats and a poodle here she won’t leave.”
“We know what that’s like.” Kerry indicated the two wet Labradors. “Just as glad the whole family’s here.” She indicated Dar’s parents.
The man next to him stepped around Kerry to lean on the counter, looking into the command center at the radars. “Well, I’m going to get out of here.” He pulled the hood up on his jacket and fastened the flap at his throat. “Since I can’t get my family all taken care of.”
He pushed past Jack and went to the door, shoving it open and walking out into the squall, the wind yanking the glass door outward and letting in a blast of rain.
“Carlos, can you..” Jack started away from the wall.
Carlos put his tray down quickly and went over to grab the door, shielding his eyes from the rain with his other hand. He leaned back to pull it shut, but his shoes slipped out from under him on the wet concrete and he ended up flat on his back on the ground.
There was a moment of silence, then two of the dockmasters rushed for the door to help. They were beaten to the opening by Andy, who got his hand on Carlos’ belt as he tried to get up and hauled him to his feet, putting him gently behind him as he got a grip on the door and hauled it shut. “Easy there.”
“Oh!” Carlos grimaced. “Oh man that hurt.” He reached for his back. “I hit the sill.” He limped to one side of the store. “Thanks Mr. Roberts.”
“All right.” Jack looked around with a touch of nervousness. “We should probably get everyone out of here and home and shut down. We need to get the shutters over the doors.”
Kerry had dodged between the stirring residents and gone to Carlos’ side. “You okay?” She asked. “You hit pretty hard.”
He was gingerly moving his legs in a slight marching motion. “I think so.” He said. “Teach me to volunteer, huh?” He gave Kerry a wry grin. “Glad the boss isn’t here.”
The rain, just as abruptly, slackened, and the wind died down outside, and the view went from almost white out conditions to a soggy view once again of the marina. “Lets go.” John said. “While we can.” He started herding his friends out.
“Good idea.” Ceci sidled up next to her husband. “The idiot meter’s going up again.” She added. “Wayne’s pissed off because they wouldn’t let his cousin bring in the boat he just bought at the boat show. Stupid thing is 72 feet long and they don’t have space, but does he care?”
“Ah.” Dar was waiting for the crowd at the door to ease. “What did he want them to do, kick someone else out? He’s that kind of asshole.”
“Yes.” Ceci said. “Us, actually. Not that the slip we’re in could handle that size, but it didn’t matter.”
Dar swung around and stared at her mother.
“Don’t worry dear.” Ceci patted her arm. “Your father handled it.” She smiled without much humor. “These Sir Buckalots talk a good game, but really they’ve got the backbone of a slinky.”
The store had emptied, and now Jack came over to them. “You guys are almost residents anyway.” He said, speaking frankly. “So even if Mr. Roberts hadn’t said he was going to kick the crap out of him, we wouldn’t have moved you.” He assured them. “Just so you know.”
Andrew chuckled silently.
“Dingleberries.” Ceci sighed. “I swear I’m going to paint a pentagram on the outside wall of that place once we move in here.”
“Gruff.” Chino barked softly again, standing up and going over to the door, and then looking back over her shoulder. Mocha got up and joined her, his tail wagging gently.
“Ugh.” Kerry shook herself and went to the door. “Glad we missed that little scene.” She eyed her father in law, who winked. “He’s a jerk, but I bet he took you threatening him better than he would if Dar had done it.”
“Probly.” Andrew assented, zipping up his rain jacket. ‘But I do swear people are just jackass sometimes.”
“Most times.” Jack remarked. “But I didn’t say that out loud.” He added. “Anyway, we’ll keep an eye on your two boats, clan Roberts, and hope this thing passes over fast.” He held the door for them as they went out, going around the corner of the building to where their cart awaited.
“Ugh. That’s a job done.” Kerry went into the laundry room and threw the two large and now muddy colored towels into the washing machine. “Amazing how much dirt can get on two dogs between the driveway and the door.”
“They were chasing a squirrel.” Dar leaned into the doorway. “And given all the rain, the mud’s not totally a shocker.”
Kerry started the machine going. “Well, let me get these cleaned before something tragic happens and we have to live with the smell of wet muddy towel in the house.” She wiped her hands off and joined Dar in the entrance to the room. “I have meatballs defrosting for dinner.”
“You say that to everything.”
“You don’t make me salads.” Dar countered, with a charming smile.
“And I have some eggplant parm for your mom.” Kerry felt a sense of satisfaction at this inadvertent result in her casual planning. “So let me go see if anything blew up in my email while we were out.” She bumped gently against her partner and went past.
Dar retreated back into her office, aware of the faint sounds of her parents upstairs in the second master suite. She went behind her desk and triggered the lift to raise it up to standing height, resting an elbow on it as she unlocked her desktop.
At the same time, her phone rang. With a sigh, she answered it without looking at the caller ID. “Dar Roberts.”
“Hello, Ms Roberts. It is Manuel.”
Slightly surprised, Dar adjusted the phone against her ear. “Hey Manuel. Didn’t expect to hear from you today. I thought you were busy with your duplex in Hialeah.”
“Si, yes.” Her real estate agent agreed. “But I have just gotten a call from Ms Hunter about the property we discussed yesterday. You did not give her your phone number?”
“No.” Dar said, briefly. “Never occurred to me to.” She glanced up as Chino came trotting in, jumping up on the leather couch and curling up on one end, with her head resting on the stuffed arm. “Why?”
“Because the young lady demanded of me that I give it to her.” Manuel said. “And I did not, though it made her very upset with me.”
“Well, good.” Dar said. “Is that what you wanted to discuss?”
“No.” He said, with a slight chuckle. “Not at all. It is this – she wishes to accept your offer.”
“Yeah, she said she would probably do that.” Dar said. “I sent the paperwork over to my lawyer. But we both know we can’t close on anything without insurance and I can’t get that until the storm’s over.”
“The young lady does not seem to understand this law.” Manuel said. “And… forgive me, Ms Roberts, was it your intention to pay on cash basis for this?”
Dar was briefly silent. “Yes.” She answered, slowly. “I did say that. I figured it would grease the skids for her to say yes. No bank process bullshit, as long as she has clear title.”
“Si, that is what I thought.” He said. “If you are not looking to secure a mortgage, you can purchase this property, yes? Without signed insurance coverage.” He paused. “I do not recommend this, Ms. Roberts, is understood yes? To purchase a property at this time, with this storm coming, and not insure it would be very stupid.”
“O… K… “ Dar knew she had a very confused look on her face. “We’re on the same page there, Manny. That would be stupid.”
“Si. But this young lady has said, if we do not complete the transaction today, she will sell it to some other person who is willing also to close very soon.” He paused again. “So I felt it would be good for me to speak to you about it.”
What the what? Dar shifted and gave her trackball a spin, more to do something than anything else. “Why in the hell would a couple of days matter?” She wondered out loud. “Does she hate the place that much?”
Manuel cleared his throat. “I do not know, Ms. Roberts. But I can say this, it could be.. “He hesitated. “If this person does in fact have clear title, it is possible there is no financing on it. She maybe owns this outright?”
“Could be.” Dar said. “So?”
“Perhaps it is she who does not have insurance, and at this time, cannot obtain it.” He said, in a practical tone. “And so she is removing her risk.”
“Hmph.” Dar made a low noise in her throat.
“Not so stupid, in this view.” Manuel said, in an almost apologetic way. “Because let us say, if the worst thing happens and the property is destroyed, it is of much, much less value.”
“Would be.” Dar agreed. “Okay, Manny, I need to talk to my lawyer, and I need to talk to Kerry. Let me call you back in around a half hour. That work?”
“Si, that works very well.” He sounded relieved. “I hope you understand, Ms. Roberts. I am not looking to push you to do this. I feel it is unwise, and a very big risk. But I did think you would want to know about it.”
“You’re right on.” Dar said. “I did want to know.” She paused. “Even if I really didn’t want to know. You know?”
“Talk to you later.” Dar hung up the line and put the phone down, making a face as she met her reflection’s eyes off the monitor. “Ker!” She let out a yell. “Got a problem!!”