Fair Winds and Following Seas
Dar opened the door to the pool and deck and walked out into the breeze from the water. Behind her, she could hear the discussion continuing but the stuffiness inside the house had started to get to her and she halfway seriously considered just jumping off into the water.
The bay water, not the green, algae covered storm leavings in what could be, if given the opportunity, a nice pool. There was only about four feet of the murky sludge and Dar wasn’t really in the mood to break an ankle.
She went down the layered steps past the pool and over to the edge of the point, then she sat down on the grass covered rock ground and dangled her legs over the Bay, listening to the swirl and rush of the water against the land.
To her left, there were trees and foliage to the edge of the water, blocking any view in either direction. To her right, the point sloped around to the south giving her a view of the far off shore of Key Biscayne across the channel.
To the south there were more houses, but she couldn’t see them, and there were more to the north, but she couldn’t see those either.
There was sea wrack under her boots, but not that much, and the water itself smelled briny and rich, and she really did feel like leaving the contentious historical arguments behind. She wished they had the Dixie there, with her store of diving gear as she had a sudden urge to slip a mask on and explore the dock.
She felt a little bad about leaving Kerry to hold up their end of the argument, but she figured she’d been very close to telling them all to just kiss her ass, and that wouldn’t really have done anything positive for anyone.
She heard doggy toenails behind her and turned to find Chino and Mocha trotting towards her, looking ridiculously pleased that they had discovered her sitting there. “Hey guys.”
They collided with her, and Mocha rubbed his face on her back, bringing the smell of damp dog fur and mud with him. “Are you having fun?”
Their tails were wagging, but that, she knew didn’t really mean that much since they were typically wagging constantly, reflecting the mild, happy disposition of their breed. Chino sat down and regarded the water, lifting her nose up and sniffing the breeze.
They did like the place, Dar decided. It was large and had endless ground and trees and plants and animals to explore and there was a naturalness about it that appealed, she felt, to them the same way it appealed to her.
She turned around and looked up at the house, it’s entrance elevated over the deck and allowed herself to feel the irritated annoyance at the stubborn, intractable attitude of the people from the society, who seemingly could only see the situation from one point of view.
Chino licked her ear, and she glanced at the dog, almost getting another lick right on her eyeball. It made her laugh in reflex, and she reached over to give the animal a scratch behind her ears. “Thanks Chi.”
Mocha stretched out on the ground next to her and put his head on her leg, watching a seagull as it coasted above the water, searching for fish.
“You haven’t really answered my question. “ Kerry said, for the tenth time. “Do you have records of what this property looked like so it could be restored?”
She was sitting behind the kitchen worktable, on one of the square stools, her legs extended out and her arms crossed over her chest. “I don’t think we’re going to get anywhere arguing about how this happened. We weren’t here. We have nothing to do with it.”
Richard Edgerton nodded. “Exactly.”
The woman from the society, Mitzi, looked frustrated. “You really don’t understand.” She said. “We had very little contact with Mr. Hunter before he passed. We’d just started to collect information about his life, and the property.”
Richard took a breath to answer, but Kerry stood up. “You don’t understand.” She let her voice lift, and take on an edge. “It does not matter how we got here. What matters is, can it be restored or not.” She put her hands on the table and leaned forward. “So either put your documentation down on this table, or get the hell off my land.”
There was a small silence when she finished talking, as everyone stared at her.
“Not kidding.” Kerry added, crisply. “I appreciate the frustration here, but I have to deal in the world of reality. And that world says if you want me to do something you have to give me data to do it with.”
“Well, you have to get it from his family!” Mitsi stated. “That’s not our responsibility!”
Richard leaned back against the kitchen counter, folding his hands. “His family states they have no documentation on anything to do with the property.” He said. “I asked.”
“Someone has to know.” Mitsi said. “You have to find them. I can only tell you what the rules of the society are.”
“Then I guess we have to find a legal route to have those rules revoked.” Kerry said, calmly.
Just then, there were footsteps in the back passage, and then a tall figure appeared in the doorway, stopping short and looking at them in somewhat startled surprise. “Oh.”
It was one of the rangers they’d encountered the previous visit. He had smears of mud and foliage all over him and was wearing a tool belt. “Sorry I..” Then his eyes fell on Kerry and he relaxed a little. “Oh it’s you.”
“It’s me.” Kerry agreed. “Hi John. Sorry for the unexpected intrusion.” She said. “These are some folks from the historical registry, and our lawyer, Richard Edgerton.”
Richard lifted a hand and waved it.
“Oh, hi.” John gave the historical trio a brief glance. “Didn’t mean to interrupt. We were just working on some of the plants… that fella that came with you dropped by and brought us some water. Nice guy.”
Kerry smiled. “Yes, Hank’s a great guy.”
“I’ll just come back later.” John started to move backwards.
“Hold on.” Kerry said. “You might be able to answer a question for all of us, matter of fact.” She moved around the table and went over him.
“Sure.” He halted in the doorway and waited, furtively brushing the bits of bark and moss off his arms. “If I can?”
Where to start? Kerry studied him. “We’re having an argument, because these good folks here issued a registry for this place based on it’s historical value.”
John paused, then nodded, with a faintly confused look. “Okay.”
Kerry paused herself to consider how to ask the next question. “When Mr. Hunter passed away, what was done to this place? What did his daughter do, in terms of, moving things in and out, furniture, that sort of thing.”
The three people from the historical society listened with interest. “Who is this?” Mitzi asked. “Does he work for the property?”
Kerry held up one hand. “Let him answer.”
“I’m not sure what you mean.” John said. “She came in, sent a big company in here to clean up. We worked with em. Lot of stuff got dragged off.”
“What about from the house, here.” Kerry asked. “Did they take any pictures? What it looked like before they cleaned up?”
“Here?” John seemed surprised. “No need to do much here, ma’am.” He looked around. “Wasn’t nothing in here. Old man never lived in the big house here.” He gestured to the kitchen. “Used this, just a bit, but Minnie didn’t care for it, my dad said.”
Kerry stared at him. “What? He didn’t live in the house?”
Mitzi came over. “That’s crazy. He built it, didn’t he?”
John nodded. “Oh yeah, he built it. Him and maybe… I don’t know.. ten other guys. They built it themselves, for sure. He just never lived in here. Nobody did. That’s why there ain’t nothing here, nothing upstairs, neither. Didn’t even put fixtures in.”
Kerry held a hand up again. “Wait.” She said. “You mean it just looked like this?” She gestured vaguely around. “Just empty rooms?”
“Yes, ma’am.” He nodded. “They came in and swept, you know? Mopped the floors and put some paint up on one wall that had some stains and all, but cept that, it’s always just been empty.” He looked around a moment. “The cleaning, y’know… that was stuff on the grounds. Busted up stuff, and a couple old cars and stuff.”
Kerry looked at Mitzi. “No one came here to see what was being registered?”
Mitzi was just stunned silent. She turned and looked at her two companions, who just looked back at her, wide eyed.
John looked at all of them. “You want to see where he lived? Him and Minnie?” He asked, turning to Kerry. “I guess it’s yours now, but we hid it from that kid. Didn’t’ want her to send them to clean that place out.”
Kerry blinked. “Of course we would.” She said, after a pause. “Lead on.”
“Sure.” John gestured towards the back hallway. “C’mon.” He walked out, and they followed.
Dar noted the boat was back. She observed the lightly scuffed work boat come around the edge of the point and return to the area she’d seen them searching in the last time, motoring slowly around in a circle over a specific location.
There were divers onboard this time, and Dar watched with interest as they prepared to go overboard, feeling just a bit envious of them. She could see now that they were closer, she could see this wasn’t a police boat, and there were three men aside from the captain and the divers who were dressed in business casual.
“Gruff.” Chino’s ears cocked, as the boat dropped it’s anchor, and a short time later, the engines cut off as boat swung into the line of the current and they pushed a dive ladder overboard.
“Wonder what they’re looking for, Chi.” Dar kicked her boots idly against the seawall.
The divers rolled over backwards into the water and went under, a faint flush of white foamy bubbles coming to the surface in their wake.
The men on the boat stood there talking, and after a minute, Dar saw them point at the edge of the shoreline, on the other side of the pool deck from where she was seated. Curious, she got to her feet and dusted herself off, then she walked down the edge of the seawall towards where they were working.
She reached the edge of the point, the dogs at her heels, and watched as one of the divers came up, holding on to the dive ladder as he took off his mask and spoke to one of the men.
Then one of the other men looked up and spotted her.
Dar folded her arms as she watched that man, tap the shoulder of a second and point at her, and then the third man gestured for the diver to come up on deck, then knelt and banged a dive weight against the dive ladder still extending into the water.
“I sure hope that’s not a box of cocaine and I’m now a witness, Chi.” Dar muttered, as it became obvious the men were intending on cutting short their dive and moving in her direction. “Maybe I should have stayed inside.” She sighed. “What do you think? Six guys versus me and two dogs?”
“Gruff.” Chino sat down at her side and watched the boat.
Well, it was broad daylight. Dar reasoned. And if they got really saucy, she could .. She paused thoughtfully. Well, she could do something.
The boat’s engines turned over and a minute later the bow was headed in her direction. With a sigh, Dar sat down on the seawall and put an arm around the dog on either side of her and waited, as the boat came close and then turned so it’s starboard side was even with where she was. “Hi.” She called out.
“Hey!” One of the men was leaning on the railing. “How’d you get in there!” He pointed at the land.
Dar cleared her throat. “I bought the property.” She yelled back. “Came with a set of keys.”
That seemed to cause a huge splurt of excitement, and all three of the business casual guys were now at the railing, while the diver’s were on the other side, pulling off their gear. “You what?” The first man yelled. “For serious? You the owner there? For real?”
They exchanged a lot of inaudible, yet visually excited conversation between the three men. The boat’s captain just leaned on his console, watching the tide, and the distance of the boat from the shore.
“Hey, can we come talk to you?” The first man finally yelled at her, cupping his hands. “Can we ask you something?”
“This could end very badly.” Dar told the dogs. “But what the hell.” She lifted her voice. “Dock over there!” She pointed at the boat dock to one side. “I’ll meet you down there.” She got up and started for the pier, as the boat curled around in a circle and headed in the same direction, in a slow, rolling rumble.
They walked along one of the paths through the foliage, going south from the house in a direction Kerry didn’t recall her and Dar exploring yet. There were tall trees and rock ridges on either side of the track and the ground was well worn as though many had used it in the past.
“Not very attractive, the planting.” Mitzi commented. “It would be a lovely garden, if you took all those rocks out.”
Kerry, who was behind John, saw his back stiffen and she saw his hand close into a fist.
“This is actually part of the Miami Rock Ridge, and a hardwood hammock.” Kerry commented casually. “It’s part of an endangered ecosystem.” She had turned her head towards Mitzi when she said it, and when she turned to face forward again she saw John looking over his shoulder at her, with a huge grin on his face.
“Oh.” Mitzi murmured. “Like the Everglades, I guess.”
“Nothing like the Everglades.” John muttered, but not loud enough for her to hear.
Kerry heard, though. “We realized the other day that our offices over north in the Grove were on a piece of it also.” She told him. “It made a lot of what we saw, with what areas were flooded make sense.”
“Yes, ma’am.” John agreed. “It’s special.”
“I really like it.” Kerry said, raising her voice a little to make sure the others could hear her. “And Dar loves it. She grew up down south where there was some of it, and now it’s gone.”
“Thought she was born in these parts.” John glanced back at her. “Talks like it.”
They walked between a thick stand of pines, half of which were leaned over against each other and one which was lying down completely with it’s roots sticking up in the air. “Wind.” John commented, briefly. “We were going to work on replanting that one next.”
The path crossed a circular area, with a stone firepit in the center, made from carefully fitted rocks, whose interior was stained a deep black from long use. John led them to the right after that, and they walked along ground that was littered with dead leaves towards a gap that was blocked by a gate made of what looked like twisted vines.
John pushed it open and walked through and then they were in a small clearing, and on the other side of the clearing was a hut.
It was made of wood, it’s walls covered in tree bark, and had a thatched roof, and to one side of it was a wooden rack that was about six feet high, and half falling down. The hut itself seemed intact, though there were patches of thatch laying on the ground nearby.
“It’s in here.” John went to the door of the hut and pushed the bead curtain that formed it’s door aside. “Go on.”
Kerry slid past him and entered, walking into the hut far enough to let the rest of them follow her and then stopping and just standing there, turning her head and looking around at a completely unexpected interior.
It was the size, really, of a one car garage, only square. On one side there were two wooden platforms, with wool covered mattresses on them, and tucked around them were beautifully knit blankets with still bright colors in them.
Next to the platforms were stools constructed from wood sticks, their seats padded with more brightly knit wool covered pillows, and on the walls were pieces of string art, like spiderwebs made from tiny colored pebbles strung on some kind of twine.
The walls were wood planking, well fitted, the joints caulked with a lighter colored substance. The roof was held up with sturdy posts and the vertical ones had hooks set it in them that held up bags and sacks in both cloth and some hair colored animal skin.
Near the beds was a table, full of writing implements and stacks of paper, and two lines of colored ink. On the top sheet of paper, Kerry could see an illustrated bird, in watercolor. “Oh wow.” She murmured, briefly imagining Ceci’s delight on seeing all of it. “Look at that!”
“The man who owned this property lived in here?” One of the two men who had accompanied Mitzi said, in a disbelieving voice. “In this century?”
There were gas lanterns hanging on hooks, and a small gas stove on the other side of the room, with a set of tin pots and a wooden box with some worn lettering on it.
“This is where he lived.” John confirmed. “He liked it. He spent a lot of time drawing the plants and birds and things.” He looked around. “This is where he lived with Minnie.” He said. “There’s a path outside, goes over to a spring. He would sit out there all the time.”
“I’ve seen it.” Kerry murmured. “This is beautiful.” She walked over and went behind the table, finding a wicker chair there with a comfortable looking set of pillows on it, and imagined him sitting there, painting.
The top sheet had dust over it, but even through it she could see the clarity of bird’s form, and it’s pert, intent eye looking at her. She glanced up over it at John, who was watching her with a bright eyes, and a smile. “He was a good artist.”
“He was really into nature.” John nodded solemnly. “We got one from him, of a squirrel he gave my dad in our house on the wall.”
She looked at Mitzi. “You found your history. Here it is.” She gestured around at the hut. “Isn’t this amazing?”
There was a brief, awkward silence. Then the taller of the two men removed his glasses, and cleaned them on the tail of his shirt. “Okay.” He looked up and over at Kerry. “Lets go sit down and talk. We need to make a deal.”
Dar walked down the stone steps to the dock, noting it was high tide, and the water was only a foot or so from the bottom of the pier. She stood there with her hands in her pockets, watching the workboat make it’s way in and as it closed with her, she pointed at the cast iron cleat sunk into the stone and extended one hand for them to toss a rope ashore.
The captain gave her a little wave of understanding and called back to one of the two divers, who was standing on the deck in his wetsuit, the top portion peeled down off his shoulders and hanging behind him.
The diver went to the sidewall and got up onto it, walking up to the bow and picking up a coiled line. He waited for the captain to maneuver close, and then threw it shoreward.
Dar caught it, and got a wrap around the cleat, pulling it in as the boat approached and tying it off with casual expertise as the hull bumped against the pier.
The diver stepped off the aft as the captain tweaked the engines and brought the back end in, and then he tied the aft rope to a second cleat.
Two of the men in business casual scrambled off the boat onto the pier and came over to her. Dar knew at once they were in technology.
They had that nerdly engineer look though no one had a pocket protector. The men all wore glasses, and they had expensive watches on their wrists. “Hi there.” She greeted them amiably. “What can I do for you gentlemen?”
One of the extended his hand readily, with a card in it. “Hi! Thanks for letting us land!” He said. “Specially out of the blue like this.. we wont’ take much of your time we just have a few questions for you.” He took a breath. “I’m Charles Depant, and this is Joe Evers, and we work for a company you probably never heard of called Level 3.”
Dar glanced at the card, then back up at him. She slid the card into her pocket and extended a hand to him. “Dar Roberts.” She pronounced. “And I have heard of your company.” She added, with a wry anticlimax, as they both reacted to her name.
They both just stared at her for a long, silent minute, with a shocked reaction somewhere between startled and delighted.
Dar looked from one to the other. “So thats going to make this conversation a lot shorter, right?” She asked, with a brief grin. “Cuts out a lot of explanation.”
“Oh boy yes.” Charles finally spluttered. “I had no idea… I mean…I have to admit you are the very last person on the planet I expected to meet on this dock today.” He belatedly took her hand and shook it, then relinquished it for Joe to do the same.
“What he said.” Joe just nodded. He was taller than his companion, and had a long, somewhat mournful face. “But yeah, that sure makes this a shorter ask.” He said. “So damn I’m glad it was, and regardless, it’s nice to meet you finally.”
Dar nodded. “Back at you. So now what’s the story here?” She asked. “What’s on the bottom there, fiber?”
The captain shut off his engine and sat back in his chair, and the two divers found a shady seat and were drinking cans of energy drink, idly listening.
“We got two trunks down there. They go into the NAP. NAP’s got ten feet of water flooding it and we can’t get near there. We want to bring the trunks up on shore, and we need an easement to our Biscayne South ring, it’s about a block west.” Charles said, launching right into it. “Of the front of the property, I mean. Cross the road.”
“Where does it go now?” Dar asked. “Along the coast?” She glanced to her left.
Charles nodded, then rushed on. “All the way north, then west. No one was able to get any utility grant on this bit of land here, so it lands about a mile up.” He said. “But the onshoring path there’s totally trashed. Snapped the trunk, picked the darn sealed repeater up out of the water and it ended up wrapped around the Metromover pylon. Whole thing has to be replaced, and we’ve got to rerun everything.”
He paused. The boat captain, who’d been listening, just shook his head and said something to the divers, who also laughed. “You’d save us a ton of time and money letting us bring it along here.”
The Level 3 guys looked at Dar expectantly.
Dar turned and looked at the seawall thoughtfully. “Buried?”
“Sure.” Charles nodded. “My predecessor one back tried to get this done here, trench, relandscape, the whole nine yards but the owner wouldn’t even talk to him. Didn’t want any part of it – not for any price.”
“Yeah I bet.” Dar murmured. “Tell you what. Put in a ring splitter and give me a couple line rate 10G ports off it, and you got a deal.” She put her hands in her pockets and cocked her head, one eyebrow lifting as she tossed the metaphorical ball into their court.
Charles eyed her. “No easement tax?”
Dar shook her head. “Getting service in here’ll be more than worth It to me.”
“We’d have to bring power down.” Joe said. “Have to be two trenches for that.”
“Even better. I’ll take a tap off that while you’re at it. Can you bring in a 440 line from the street?” Dar responded. “Not much service of any kind out here.” She glanced around at the house. “We just bought it, about a week ago.” She explained. “Right before the storm came through.”
“Bold.” Joe said, solemnly.
“Got a good deal on it.” Dar shrugged.
Charles stuck his hand out again. “Put her there, Ms Roberts.” He said. “We’ll be able to get the whole government service back up in a month shorter time than we promised. You’ll be a hero.” He said. “I’ll be a hero. We’ll get to stay in a hotel with air conditioning. Hot damn my life just got a half ton better.”
Dar shook his hand, but grimaced. “Leave my name out of it, wouldja?” She asked. “I’ve got them asking for favors already and I don’t have time to mess with them.”
“Oh sure, no problem.” Joe turned around. “Hey, Gus – we can bring it onshore here! Grab some measurements and I’ll radio home base.”
The third business casual man gave him a thumbs up, and a big grin, grabbing an over the shoulder bag made of canvas with a company name blazoned on it, and hustling over to the side of the boat. “Nice.” He stepped up onto the dock. “I knew today was going to be lucky. I told you, didn’t I?”
“You told us.” Joe agreed. “Over stale Rice Krispies and powdered milk at breakfast.”
Dar took a step back to let him past and leaned against the seawall. “There are dogs up there.”
The third man stopped, and looked back at her.
“Labrador Retrievers.” She reassured him. “Just don’t let them knock you over.”
Relieved, he continued up the steps at a trot, and after a slightly awkward pause, Charles and Joe followed him, leaving Dar behind on the dock.
The captain and divers looked at her with some interest. “You one of these techy people?” The boat captain asked. “Seems like you understand their jabberwocky.”
Dar came over to the side of the dock. “These fun to drive?” She asked, pointing at the work boat. “What are those, two seventies?” She looked at the engines. “Twenty one feet? What’s the draft?”
The captain leaned on the side of the boat. “What the hell are you?” He asked bluntly.
“Boat handler.” One of the divers said. “You saw her tie up the bow.” He looked up and winked at Dar. “Bet you dive.”
Dar’s eyes took on a twinkle. “Matter of fact I do.”
Kerry led them back to the house, and the kitchen, and as they reached the steps to the back door Hank caught up to them and followed them inside without any invitation. “Hey Hank.”
“Hi there.” Hank returned the greeting. He was in a work coverall in blue camouflage, and with his worn military boots, scarred face and the visible handgun in it’s holster in the small of his back it was obvious he both startled and discomfited everyone who didn’t know him.
Kerry was glad of his presence. “Glad you’re here.” She told him. “This is Hank, he’s a friend of the family.” She indicated the work stools around the table. “Sit.”
John had stayed behind.
The society group settled on one side of the table, while Kerry, Hank and Richard took the stools along the wall on the other side, the two men flanking Kerry who put her elbows on the table, folded her hands together and pinned her gaze on the taller of the two society men. “You were saying?”
Larry Rogers, the taller man, cleared his throat. “Let me put the cards on the table.” He said. “This property has been of interest to many for a long time. It’s large, it’s in a valuable spot in the county, it could be worth a lot of money.”
Kerry deliberately misunderstood him. “What does that have to do with it’s historical significance?” She asked. “That’s what we’re here talking about, aren’t we?”
“Of course.” Mitzi said.
“No.” Larry shook his head.
Hank giggled softly under his breath.
Mitzi looked at Larry. “What are you talking about?” She asked. Their third companion just kept his mouth shut, his elbows tucked close to his sides, elbows resting on his knees.
Rogers hesitated briefly. “It’s a question of the value.” He said. “Look we want all of us to come out ahead on this, don’t we? There’s some potential for this to be very lucrative if we work together on this place.”
Kerry sat back, straightening up. “I’m not sure I understand. From my perspective, what I want is to be able to live on the land. That’s coming out ahead for me. What do you mean by lucrative?”
A little more confidently, he nodded. “I get it. Look you bought this place as is. “ He glanced around. “As is, it’s not worth a hill of beans.. We can’t draw people in to look at anything here because there isn’t much.”
“Draw people in?”
“That’s where the money is, Ms Roberts.” Rogers was a little condescending. “No one wants to come see empty structures and mud huts. We need to make this place an 19th century Florida showplace. Fix up the house. Put in period looking furniture. Make a beautiful garden. Put in a café on the water. You see?”
“Turn it into Fairchild Gardens?” Kerry’s brows lifted.
“Larry, no.” Mitzi seemed scandalized. “This isn’t a theme park!”
“Of course it is.” He eyed her. “Lets cut out the sanctity of our history, Mitz. That went out the window when they expected us to make a profit.” He looked back at Kerry. “We’re not protecting things just to protect them and leave them mouldering. This place could make a good pitch. It’s a good location, and we could do a deal with the local hotels to push it.”
“But there’s nothing really historical here but that hut.” Kerry said, slowly. “Or are you suggesting that we create an old Florida fantasyland here for people to come see?”
Rogers nodded. “That’s what I am suggesting.” He said. “No one’s going to want to come to just see that hut. But we can pitch you some funding to fix the place up, put in gardens, and facilities, bring in services - we can rig the commercial codes. Then we set up packages, and most of the profits come to us until all that’s paid back.”
Kerry regarded him somberly.
“You really don’t have a choice.” Rogers said. “You can’t do anything with this place. That’s why we were told to issue the certification.”
“Were told?” Richard spoke up, quietly.
Mitzi and the other man, John, were staring at Larry.
Larry nodded. “C’mon people.” He said. “This is just a black hole, from a monetary perspective. No one could buy it and develop it. But if we did what we were asked..” He stared at them. “And we were asked… and make it historical we could make money from it. Us..” He indicated the three of them. “And the government of the county, who needs those taxes.”
Richard took a breath to speak, but without looking Kerry reached over and covered his hand with her own. “No, we’re not going to do that.” She remarked, in a calm tone. “I’m not going to live in a theme park, we’re not going to bastardize this beautiful place for tourists.”
“You really don’t have a choice.” Larry told her. “Look I know it’s a shock and all..”
“There’s always a choice.” Kerry cut him off gently. “So you can leave now, and we can continue this discussion through legal briefs.”
Richard nodded in satisfaction. “Glad I was here to hear that.” He said, in a pleasant tone. “Saves some time.”
With a shrug, Larry stood up. “It’ll cost you a lot of money, and you’re going to lose in the end. Suit yourself.” He turned and left the kitchen, heading down the hallway. In a moment they heard the door open and close.
Mitzi looked across the table, with a stunned face. She looked at the other man, then back at Kerry. “I’m sorry.” She finally said, as she stood up. “For what it’s worth, I thought that little place was fascinating and I… “
Her words trailed off. “:Come on, John.” She tapped him on the shoulder. “Lets go.”
The other man stood, and finally spoke. “You know, Larry’s right.” He said, with a twisted little grimace. “His uncle’s a county commissioner.”
The two of them just left, without further comment and for a long moment it was silent in the shadowed, warm, whitewashed kitchen.
Kerry smiled briefly. ”Well that was fun. I should have probably told them just how little it matters to me that they know a politician.” She sighed. “Given my mother’s a senator.”
“And I’m a lawyer.” Richard said.
“And I’m a crazy man with a gun.” Hank piped up. “And they really ain’t had to deal with the real powerhouses of the family yet cause Dar could probably get up into their computers and make em forget this here spot ever was.”
“That ‘s actually true.” Kerry admitted, with a wry grin “But don’t suggest it to her yet.” She turned her head and looked at Hank. “So why are you really here?”
“Found us a primo spot to put a still in.” Hank supplied at once. “Got them boys real interested in Andy’s family recipe from that last little run up here.”
Kerry gave him a thumbs up.
“Should we go find Dar and fill her in?” Richard sighed. “I think I heard those dogs barking out there somewhere.” He stood up and dusted his hands off. “This is going to be one hell of a mess.”
“We should.” Kerry also stood up, gently nudging the stool back and out of her way. It was going to be trouble, and it was probably going to be expensive, and yet, it was good to know the worst of it. “We’ll start doing stuff here anyway. I don’t really give a crap about those guys.”
“You know, Kerry.. “ Richard began. “Maybe let me do some research first?”
Kerry shook her head and led them out of the house. “Really no point. Dar’s not going to go for that plan no matter what research you do, so we might as well just move on.”
They walked outside. The historical society’s car was gone, and as they went around the side of the house towards the water they spotted Dar and the two dogs coming back towards them.
“Did it rain while we were in there?” Richard asked, in a puzzled tone. “Dar’s soaking wet.”
“So are the dogs.” Kerry remarked. “Not sure I even want to ask.”
Dar met them at the corner of the pool deck and was in fact completely drenched, her cotton shirt and shorts plastered to her body. “Found out who those guys in the boat are.” She announced. “You work things out with those guys?”
“Told them to get off my land.” Kerry said, putting her hands in her pockets. “Who were the guys?”
“Oh really?” Kerry’s eyebrows rose.
“Really.” Dar casually folded her arms over her chest, the sunlight sparkling on the water droplets on her tanned skin. “So are we in deep legal crap with them?” She asked Richard. “Cause I just told L3 they could trench from the edge of the water there to the road.” She looked from Richard to Kerry. “Twice. But I figured buried cables weren’t going to be much of an issue. Are they?”
“Probably.” Richard mournfully agreed. “You might want to ask Kerry what their deal was. I’m still shaking my head.” He said. “Anyplace around we can get a sandwich? I need to see if I can find some signal and see how my buddy’s doing at the archives.”
Dar reached up to run her fingers through her wet hair . “Lets go back to the office. Got food and signal there.” She said. “You can tell me what happened and I can tell you what Level 3’s going to do here.”
“Deal.” Kerry paused. “Do I get to hear why you’re soaking wet?”
“That’s a whole other story.”
“Do I want to hear it?”
The wet dogs, wet human and Kerry drove back north along the coast with Richard following them in his rental car. Kerry could smell the rich, mineral tang of sea water so she wasn’t surprised to hear they’d ended up diving in and hey, it was a hot day so why not?
“So, they wanted to show me where the junction box was in the bay, so we moved the boat out to take a look at it.” Dar was saying. “I went over the side with a mask and a tank to check it out, and the dogs freaked out.”
“Thought you were drowning?” Kerry guessed, easily picturing their loyal pets jumping to the rescue. “Are you heros, kids?” She glanced back in the back of the truck, where both damp dogs were lying down on the leather seat, tongues lolling. “You’d think they’d be used to that from the cabin.”
“Growf.” Chino barked in response.
Dar glanced in the rearview mirror at her. “No idea. They ended up swimming out to where we were and we had to drag their furry asses back onboard before they went paddling after a pelican.”
Kerry chuckled. “So they’re bringing their main line onshore across our property?” She asked. “And you traded that for a big pipe and power?”
“You’re such a rock star.”
Dar eyed her as they paused at a four way stop. “Ker, that took exactly zero brain cells to agree to.” She drawled. “C’mon.” She directed the car forward. “Key point to that being, they have emergency power for that interlock and it puts us on the priority grid.”
“Underground.” Dar agreed. “What do you think about putting solar panels on the roof of the house? That’s a big surface.”
“Not sure those society folks would appreciate that. But I like the idea.” Kerry mused. “I like the idea a lot. We should do that at the office too. What about.. “ She glanced reflectively behind them. “Could we put up a windmill?”
“Oh that’d be popular.” Dar laughed.
Kerry chuckled as well. “Can you believe that historical guy pulled that though?” She shook her head and exhaled. “That kid was kinda right about it being a scam.”
“This is Miami. Of course I can believe that. You always have to suspect a scam when local politics is involved. Google Miami rapid transit if you don’t believe me.” Dar answered calmly. “But now I want to go back and see that little house.”
“Huh.” Kerry frowned, her arms folded over her chest. “This could be a huge mess, Dar.”
“Let Richard worry about it.” Dar advised. “Meanwhile, lets see if your RV’s showed up yet and figure out what we’re going to do with them.” She got in the right hand lane so they could turn onto the street that their office was on.
“Not much I can do anyway.” Kerry sighed. “It is what it is, Dar. And they actually thought we’d go along with that plan.”
Dar just laughed again.
“Wait till they hear about our bootleg hooch.”
“That might actually be more historical than you think.”
There was a conspicuous lack of the National Guard camp when they turned and saw the office, and the entrance to the parking lot was open and unimpeded.
“Well.” Kerry hitched one knee up. “At least we have room now for the RV’s.”
Dar picked a spot near the three large vehicles speckled in tree shaded sunlight, looking sleek and clean. “Have to admit I’m glad the National Guard is gone.” She glanced at the front half of the parking lot. “At least they left it clean.”
“Me too. I wasn’t really looking forward to another confrontation today.” Kerry opened her door. “Let me go see if you have any dry clothing upstairs.”
Dar got out and opened the back door for the dogs to jump down. “It’s sunny. I’ll dry.” She riffled her fingers through her hair to put it in some kind of order. “There are the guys who dropped those things off.” She pointed with her elbow at two men in gray shirts and black pants, talking to Carlos and Mayte.
They walked over to the four of them, the dogs trotting at their heels, and a moment later Richard caught up to them after parking nearby.
“Signal.” He held up his phone. “I was able to get hold of Jason. He managed to get some info for us, he’s headed over here right now.”
They met up with the RV delivery men, and Carlos and Mayte.
The deliveryman nearest was already holding out his hand. “One of you Kerry Roberts?”
“That’d be me.” Kerry returned his clasp. “This is my partner, Dar, and our lawyer Richard Edgerton.” She half turned. “How’s it going here today, people?”
“Guard left.” Carlos jerked his square jaw towards the lot. “Didn’t say anything to me, but I think some of their guys talked to Sasha cause they came over to get breakfast.”
“Yeah we saw.” Kerry said.
“Good riddance.” Dar added.
“So, Ms Roberts, we have your three RV’s here.” The RV deliverer said. “I set up every other day service for em, including fuel. Just remember to turn em over to charge the batteries.” He glanced around. “Don’t suppose you’ll be getting a power hookup any time soon.. but we’ll pump out the washrooms and restock supplies, and of course fill up the gas tanks.”
“Thank you.” Kerry smiled. “You all must be really busy.”
“BPpprolfff.” The man made a noise. “You’re lucky you had these reserved. We’re all out as of tonight, most of them on long term rental. Had to hire a half dozen guys to do service. Boss said, it was an ill wind that blew nobody good and it sure did good for us.”
“I signed the papers for them, Kerry.” Mayte spoke up. “They are very nice.”
The RV men waved and left, walking over to a beat up looking open topped Jeep and getting into it.
“Sasha inside?” Dar asked, waiting for Carlos to nod. “C”mon Richard. Let me get you a sandwich.” She pointed to the office, and they started walking over towards it.
“Change your shirt!” Kerry yelled after her. She saw Dar lift a hand in response, then turned her attention back to her two staff. “What a day.” She said. “So, now these RV’s. C’mon.”
“Was it raining at your new house?” Mayte asked. “It did not rain here.”
“No.” Kerry said. “Dar jumped into Biscayne Bay to look at something.” She glanced at her two employees, who were nodding as though this was an unsurprising statement. “Our lives being what they are, it turns out there’s a major subsea communications cable just off our dock that’s now going to be routed over our property and provide us with both electricity and internet.”
Both Carlos and Mayte nodded again. “That’s awesome.” Carlos said. “Mabye we should move the office over there until it’s done here.” He suggested. “Sounds big enough.”
“Hm.” Kerry made a thoughtful sound. ‘Yeah, there’s plenty of space all right.”
They walked over to the three large vehicles, parked at the front of the lot, their noses pointing at the building. Kerry went to the first one and opened the door. “They should all be the same.” She walked up the steps into the RV.
It had a plush seat for driving, which reminded her of the one she and Dar had driven across country. Behind it though, was a space that was designed somewhat for business. It had two slide outs, and a table that folded out and down, with cabinets behind it for storage and a folding wall that separated the section from anything aft of it.
Kerry went over and opened the folding door to look behind it.
There was a bathroom on the left, and on the right, a compact kitchenette with a mini fridge. Past that, two small sofas facing each other as part of another slide out and in the very back a bunk room with two lower single bunks and two upper bunks that were folded up out of the way.
It was utilitarian, but it smelled new and clean. Kerry turned inside the bunk room and faced them. “So.”
Carlos was standing behind Mayte, his hands braced against the entry door to the bunk room. “What was the idea here, boss?” He asked. “Those guys said you grabbed these before the storm.”
She turned and faced them, leaning against the edge of the folding door. “I did. It was part of a pitch to a client.” Kerry said. “That’s now on hold, but I had these reserved, so here we are.” She looked at Mayte. “You think your mom and dad would be able to use one of these?”
Mayte blinked, then she looked around and behind them, then back at Kerry. “To stay in here?” She asked. “Oh yes!” She nodded vigorously. “They could manage it, yes I think so.”
Kerry looked past her at Carlos, who was smiling back at her, a deep, kind smile that made his dark eyes twinkle with understanding. She winked at him.
“How about I drive this thing over to the hospital with ya and pick em up?” He said. “That work, Mayte? We gonna be able to pitch it to em, or do we need to bring Dar with us?”
“Oh no, no I think it will be okay.” Mayte broke into a relieved grin. “It is perfect, you know? If they must go to the house, they can go and see, but it is safe. Kerry, it’s amazing.” She added. “What a good thing to think of!”
Kerry smiled. “It was Dar’s idea.” She demurred. “Having them sent here. That out of the box brain of hers didn’t take more than five seconds to bring it up.” Her eyes went to Carlos. “Her idea was, one for Maria, and two split for some people here so they can get some comfortable rest.”
Carlos nodded confidently. “I figured, girls and guys?” He suggested. “One bus for each I mean.”
“There are more boys than girls.” Mayte informed him. “That is not fair.”
“Most of the guys are cool with their tents.” Carlos disagreed. “Probably won’t want to bunk here unless I force em to.”
Kerry chuckled. “Okay, I’ll leave it to you guys to sort this out. Let me go find Dar and see what trouble she’s gotten into in the ten minutes we’ve been talking to each other.” She hopped out of the RV and headed for the building, hearing the rumble of rock music as she neared the door.
As she mounted the steps to the porch, a puff of warm but not hot air came out of the open door, and it had the smell of Korean barbeque and charcoal on it. “Hope Richard likes spicy.” She remarked as she entered the main hall and paused, glancing around.
The conference room was on her left, and she noticed the supplies had multiplied and branched out, now including soap and cases of toilet paper along with the boxes of chips and peanut butter and cookies. On the opposite side of the hall was a second, smaller conference room but that had been left empty, but had it’s windows and door open to aid in ventilation.
She walked past the reception desk, it’s surface empty and clean, and then took a look in either direction, where the walls had gotten an initial coat of plaster, and she could smell the slightly musky scent of that along with freshly cut wood.
She crossed the hall and went out the back door into the central courtyard, where she realized the sound of music wasn’t coming from a radio, but from four men and one woman standing near the weight lifting benches playing instruments and singing.
There were fifty people seated in the grass listening. Kerry counted perhaps thirty that she knew.
Dar was standing on the cooking platform next to Sasha and Richard was seated on one of the coolers, eating a sandwich.
Kerry walked over to them, as a song ended and everyone clapped. “Mayte thinks the RV’s going to work out. I told her and Carlos to drive over to the hospital in one of them.” She reported. “They’re basic inside, but there’s decent space for a couple people.”
“Good deal.” Dar had taken off her sunglasses and tucked them into the collar of her shirt. “Tell Ker what the guard told you, Sasha.” She prompted. “Before the concert starts up again.”
Sasha was seated on her padded wooden stool from her shop. “Nice boys.” She said. “Some of those kids. They sent the whole bunch of them out to the Everglades. Didn’t want to go.” She opined. “Rather stay here where it’s dry, and no mosquitos.”
“I can imagine.” Kerry glanced up at the canopy that had been put up over the grilling area, providing a nice pocket of shade. To the left, a solar powered fan gave them a breeze. “Well, I’m guessing they can do more to help out there than hanging around here.”
“Some big shots came and sent them, they said.” Sasha said. “Everybody’s sure it was this one.” She pointed her thumb at Dar. “They said Dar told their big man she’d do it.” She studied Dar with one raised eyebrow. “Yes?”
“I did say that.” Dar mildly agreed. “But I didn’t do anything.” She added. “By the time I got home the hot tub was more interesting than assholes.”
“Let them think you did.” Kerry patted her on the back. “Having people be scared shitless of you is great leverage sometimes, honey.”
Dar rolled her eyes, a puckish grin appearing. “Anything for you.” She said. “Lets just hope he doesn’t decide to show up here tonight and make trouble.”
“Ah, don’t think so.” Sasha waved off the suggestion with one hand. “Maybe they come to have barbeque.” She winked at Dar. “Maybe so.”
“I know they were good customers Sasha, but I’m kind of glad they’re gone.” Kerry said. “Hopefully they can help out some people out there like they were supposed to here, and are too busy to haul their asses back across the county to mess with us.”
“No problem. Got more people come by here anyhow.” Sasha pointed at the central area. “Band from the bar. They made her close today, too much trouble down there.”
The band was taking a break, and everyone was just taking it easy, relaxing in the grass, absorbing the sun that was pouring down from the partly cloudy sky.
Dar had been standing there, arms folded, watching the audience break up into smaller groups, sharing a cooler of beverage cans and bags of chip.
Now she turned to face Sasha. “Did you say your brother was bringing in a ships worth of solar panels?” She asked suddenly. “Containers of them?”
Sasha eyed her. “You want talk to him?” She suggested shrewdly. “You buy them, put them here? Good for solar. Nothing blocking.” She got up and pointed in all directions. “No big buildings, right on east coast.”
“Yeah.” Dar agreed. “Here, and on our new place. Same angled roof surface and sun exposure.”
“Now Dar.” Richard swallowed hastily. “Hold on there, not sure you can do that, with that society agreement.”
“Don’t care.” Dar told him. “Figuring that out’s your job. We’re going to move out there and start working on the place, and when you need us to come testify, call.” She nodded a few times. “Be right back.” She took her sunglasses out and put them on and stepped off the concrete pad and into the sun, heading towards the group.
Richard looked at Kerry, who had her hands clasped behind her back and was rocking a little bit on the balls of her feet. “That’s really not a good idea.”
“Oh yes, I know, and actually Dar knows that too.” Kerry agreed readily. “But we’re going to do it anyway. We talked about it on the way back here. She figures, with what that skanky guy said, there’s money and politics wrapped around it and at some point, someone’s going to want something we can trade it all off for.”
“Like what?” Richard took a bite of his sandwich and chewed.
“Technical services. Consulting.” Kerry supplied promptly. “How to get around having your internet sniffed.” She winked at him. “Our promise not to call random people in the government we know and cause trouble for them or have Dar figure out how to route all their political donations to PETA.”
Richard chewed thoughtfully, and swallowed. “Can she do that?” He watched Kerry nod, her eyes twinkling a little. “Well, that gives me something to work with anyway.” He shook his head, but with a smile. “You two certainly keep me busy these days.”
“Funny, Dad says that too.” Kerry smiled back. “I think he went off somewhere on the boat to get away from our crazy for a day.”
Her cell phone rang. “Excuse me.” Kerry removed it from her pocket and walked to the end of the concrete before she opened it. “Kerry here.”
“Ker!” Mark’s voice had a faint echo to it. “Wanted to give you an update on the Brazil issue.”
Brazil issue? “Oh! Right.” Kerry said. “Sorry, we’re having an exciting day down here with our new place. What’s up?”
“Not good, huh?” She guessed.
“Well, there are folks up here who speak Portugese, and there are folks up here who do high tech.” Mark said. “Problem is I’m having some trouble finding both in one person.”
“Not saying I can’t do it eventually. I found two guys.” Mark said. “But not in time for tomorrow morning.” He admitted. “And we need to kit them out with an image for that client.. it’s going to take me at least another week for it.”
“Be easier if we could do it here.” Kerry concluded.
Kerry pondered that. “I can’t see that happening, Mark.” She concluded regretfully. “I mean, I’m sitting here thinking – what if I can find the resources here, and get them over, and set up one of the RV’s with a satellite dish we don’t have to get them connectivity, and use some of the PC”s from the office.”
“Still don’t think we can do that before 9am tomorrow morning.” Kerry sighed. “Finding the resources being the hard part, because I have Dar for the second and the PC LAN team here for the last.”
“I can keep trying.” Mark said. “What RV’s are those?” He asked, belatedly. “I saw on the news they were talking about getting FEMA trailers down there.”
“We have three commercial RV”s.” Kerry said. “Long story. But anyway let me talk to Dar and see if she has any other ideas. She’s been batting a thousand so far this weekend.”
Mark chuckled softly. “Since I’ve known her.” He said. “But anyway, I’ll call the guy tomorrow morning and tell him we’re going to have to delay the start. I don’t want to bullshit him. He’s a good guy. Colleen said she’d call with me so the guy knows we’re trying.”
“Okay.” Kerry said, after a brief pause. “Not really much in the way of options right now. Let’s see what he says. Maybe he’ll agree to hold off a week.” Even saying it made her grimace, despite the fact that Kerry realistically knew that a natural disaster was something just outside their control.
Natural disaster was, yes. Response to natural disaster was something they had to get better at, and she was fully conscious that they had done a piss poor job of planning for bad things to happen. All of those customers who’d been calling them had every right to be angry.
“Not fun.” Mark said, mournfully.
Kerry exhaled. “A lot of opportunity for learned lessons.” She agreed. “Let me know when you call him – no matter what he says, Dar and I will call him afterward and apologize.”
“You got it.” He hesitated. “Things there okay?”
Kerry turned around, scanning the area. Dar was over talking to the brown haired bearded man with the guitar slung over his back that she now, in fact, recognized from the small bar down the street. She thought about the challenges with the property, and the customers, and smiled. “Things are good here, yeah.” She told him. “We’ll get through all this Mark and we’ll end up better for it.”
“Barb said the same thing to me at breakfast this morning.” Mark admitted. “Anyway, talk to you later. We’re going to take a ride up to see Cape Canaveral. Talk to you tomorrow.”
Kerry closed her phone and turned it in her hands as she pondered, watching the shadows start to lengthen. She walked back over and sat down on the bench next to Richard, still chewing his way through his sandwich. “Crazy world.”
He wiped his lips. “Tell you what, Kerry.” He said. “We’re only given one life to each of us. Might as well be as interesting as it can be, you know?”
“Yes, yes.” Sasha nodded vigorously. “Take everything and use it. No worries.”
Which, Kerry reflected, was what Dar would say if she put it to her. “Yep.” She extended her legs in front of her. “We’ll figure it out.” She shrugged off the worry for the time being. “It is what it is.”
Pete walked around the internal courtyard, pausing every ten feet or so to light the tiki torches planted in the ground near the walls. The smell of citronella was strong, and mixed with the scent of charcoal and cooking food, and the odd crosspoint of toasting marshmallows from the small hibachi near the camping area.
It was just getting dark, the sky in the east was already black, and the last streaks of light with their mellow pink and purple tints in the west were fading.
Kerry perched on the hood of Hank’s Humvee, arms braced behind her as she listened to the circle of the staff around the front of the vehicle talk about the day.
Carlos and Mayte were still out delivering the RV.
Hank had the driver’s seat of his rig tipped back and he was napping, his hat over his face, his clothing almost black with soil and debris from his long day working at the Point.
Several large racks of ribs were in the largest of the barbeques and they smelled amazing. There was a pot of baked beans on the smaller grill gently bubbling and there was a plastic square container of cole slaw waiting nearby.
Where, Kerry wondered idly, had the ribs come from? There was no supermarkets open anywhere, and no restaurants, and yet, there seemed to be an endless supply of fresh food here.
Where the hell was it coming from?
Zoe came over with a pitcher of ice tea, and offered her a refill of the cup she had clasped in one hand. “Miss Kerry, I have to tell you, Mayte was so excited to see the truck houses.” She confided, filling the cup. “She said we could stay in one of them.”
“All true.” Kerry smiled. “You guys deserve it. I think Carlos and some of his friends are going to use the other one.”
“Zoe.” Kerry leaned closer to her. “Where are we getting all our supplies from?”
For a moment, her admin looked puzzled, her brows drawing together. Then Kerry held up her cup in question. “Oh!” She said. “You mean, the foods and things.”
“The foods and things. Yeah.” Kerry said. “I know some things must have come from Sasha but not those ribs?” She pointed out. “And I saw all the stuff stacked in the conference room.”
“I think some of the people who came here, brought the things they had.” Zoe said. “And some of the people who are Papa Andy’s friends brought us some cases of things, I think they had been frozen? So now we have to cook them.”
Kerry eyebrow quirked up a little bit.
Zoe waited, watching her expectantly. “It smells good yes?” She finally asked.
“Smells great.” Kerry acknowledged. “Barbeque is something I’ve never been able to cook. Never really had the time.”
“No me either.” Zoe leaned against the Humvee. “My papa has a box, you know? For the lechon. That takes many hours also, and we only do it for special times. It is nice here, to get to try different things.”
A movement caught Kerry’s attention and she glanced to her right as Dar came through the door into the office, her hair slicked back and damp, and wearing a blue company t-shirt a little too big for her, it’s sleeves rolled up to expose her biceps.
A moment later she came around the side of the Humvee and joined them. “Hey people.”
“Feel better?” Kerry asked.
“I felt fine before really.” Dar protested. “But since the shower’s up there, and I got the water filter installed, I thought might as well.” She leaned against the car. “At least we’re getting use out of that box of sample shirts that sales guy sent us.”
Kerry could smell the clean, sharp scent of soap, and the newness of the cotton of the tshirt. “He did a pretty good job.” She observed, studying the dark blue material. The company logo was embroidered on the upper left chest, and a larger image was printed on the back.
“He did.” Dar exhaled, idly looking out over the yard. “And the water doesn’t smell like chemicals anymore.”
Kerry reached over to untangle a bit of her hair from the shirt collar. “Where did we get a water filter?”
Dar shrugged. “It was on the worktable upstairs.”
“I think someone brought it this morning.” Zoe supplied. “I saw it when I was answering the telephone, it was sitting there. I think Carlos said he was going to see if someone could fix it.”
Dar winked at her. “Someone did.” She said. “I remembered I had my toolkit in that cabinet in my office. Had the right size wrench for it.”
Of course she had. Kerry had to smile. “You know, this is nice.” She indicated the central area. “A little medieval, but nice.”
The band members had finished playing another set and were seated around the hibachi, where not only marshmallows but a bottle was being passed. Everyone looked relaxed, and there was some laughter on the light breeze that drifted across the grass.
“It is.” Dar said, musingly, after a thoughtful pause.
“Yes.” Zoe nodded. “Mayte said it would be good for us, and it is true.” She hesitated. “It feels nice to be here.” She felt the pitcher. “I will go see if there is more tea. Would you like some, Ms Dar?”
Zoe trotted off to the large coolers, two of which now had cables running from them to the large battery pack that was connected to the solar panels.
“I feel like staying here tonight.”
“You think we should stick around?”
They both spoke at the exact same time, pausing, and then laughing. “You’ve been wanting to hang out here all week.” Dar said. “But yeah, with the guard gone, I’m twitching a little. We should stick around.” She concluded, watching the ring around the hibachi. “I’ll go in and send an email to the guys over on the island, let them know.”
“Works for me.” Kerry rested her elbows on her knees and clasped her hands together. “Now I wish I’d thrown one of our overnight bags into the truck though.”
“Check out the conference room.” Dar said, dryly. “Most of what we need is probably in there.”
Kerry leaned over and whispered. “Where is all that stuff coming from, Dar?” She watched the shadows shift as Dar frowned. “Should we ask?”
“Where do you think it’s coming from?” Dar whispered back. “You think they’re raiding the Costco down the road?”’
“I don’t know!” Kerry hissed. “What do we do if the cops show up here if they did?”
Dar considered. “Offer them barbeque and beer.” She concluded. “No one’s going to much care about a couple of boxes of toothpaste and some toilet paper, Ker.” Her expression became thoughtful. “Wonder if they managed to pickup a big can of peanut butter.”
“It’s kind of illegal.”
Dar nodded. “It is, and I wouldn’t have agreed to it if they’d asked me, but I’m not going to call the cops and try to have them involved in it either..” She said, in a practical tone. “For all we know someone went out and bought the stuff. It’s not like we pay minimum wage.”
Kerry thought about that. “Well that’s true.” She mused. “Let me ask Mayte when she gets back.” She slid forward and got off the hood of the Humvee, landing with a little thump on the ground. “Let me go check out those supplies. I’ll send the mail out ot the guys. Enjoy the music.” She leaned up and gave Dar a kiss on the lips. “Be right back.”
She walked around the truck and went into the office, going across the hall and into the front conference room, noting that Pete had started setting up his guard post nest on the porch. That made her pause for a moment. Was he twitchy too?
Better safe than sorry. Kerry turned her attention to the supplies, moving boxes around and peering into them, taking out bottles and tubes and putting them onto the table as she sorted through what was there. She examined the boxes, but they were plain brown boxes, there was no tags or labels on them, though they did seem to be the kind of thing you’d find in a warehouse store.
Basic, but functional and she took her selections and put them into a small, empty box while she put everything else back into place.
She picked up the box and went upstairs with it, vaguely aware she could hear the sound of the barbeque being opened, and a cleaver being put to use echoed softly through the open windows.
It was very quiet on the second level, everyone was outside in the yard, and she walked through the outer area of her and Dar’s offices aware of the sound of her own footsteps on the newly sanded wooden floor.
She glanced at the little nest Zoe had made as she walked past her admin’s desk, one of the army pallets that Andrew had brought with a sleeping bag neatly tucked around it, and Zoe’s backpack sitting on top, the small stuffed kitty looking wide eyed up at her.
It made her smile. Kerry went into her own office and put the box down on her worktable, turning around to regard her space. Then she went next door into Dar’s office and stood with her back to the window, considering.
Then she went back into her office and went to her storage closet, opening it up and hunting around inside of it for anything she could use to make their night comfortable.
For obvious reasons, she was somewhat short on things like pillows and blankets, but given the temperature of the office they probably wouldn’t need the latter anyway.
Kerry paused, thoughtfully. They could, she acknowledged silently, commandeer one of the two remaining RV’s. But that really wouldn’t change the comfort level because all it would do would be add air conditioning, since they did in fact have a shower here on the 2nd level, and a kitchenette, and the couch in Dar’s office was both wide enough for both of them and quite comfortable.
Didn’t change not having a change of clothes. With a shrug, she continued pushing aside various boxes of supplies and then paused, as she saw something dark on the floor in the back of the closet. She removed the flashlight from her pocket and turned it on, shining it into the space, hoping like hell it wasn’t that damn cat.
No, it was a raincoat. Kerry knelt down on one knee and reached inside, taking hold of the slick fabric and pulling it back towards her. “Could have used this. Don’t remember sticking it in ….”
The fabric slithered around her knees as she looked past where it had been shoved, seeing a rounded surface of scuffed leather beyond it and resisting the urge to slap herself on the forehead. “Jesus, I totally forgot about that.”
‘That’ was a leather dufflebag, with handle on the end fastened with brass hardware. She grabbed the handle and hauled backwards, yanking it towards her as she backed up, intent on retrieving it and so she didn’t hear anything behind her until something cold and wet hit her in the back of the neck. “Yahhh!”
She whipped around, to find Mocha staring wide eyed at her, his nose the culprit. “Mocha!”
He sat down, then after a pause, licked his lips. “Burf.”
Kerry had to laugh. “You scared the hell out of me.” She chuckled, then turned back to her prize. “But it’s okay, honey. Look what I found!” She pulled the bag and half turned so it was between them. Mocha agreeably sniffed the bag, and his tail started wagging.
“That solves a lot of problems.” Kerry stood up, picking up the bag and moving over to put it on her worktable. She unzipped the double zipper on top and opened it up, nodding a little. “Yes, it does.”
She then took the box with it’s assorted bottles and things and went back downstairs with it, Mocha trotting after it.
Dar into an incongruous plastic Adirondack chair that suited her long legs and cradled the the cup of tea Zoe provided to her in her hands. She tasted it and found it to be mint, and refreshing. Pete had come up into the cooking area and was opening up the barbeque, and nightfall had brought the temperature down just enough to be bearable.
Chino had laid down next to her, and was regarding the courtyard, tongue lolling idly. “Have a fun day today, Chi?” Dar reached down with one hand and gave the dog a scritch behind her ears, causing her tail to thump on the ground.
The door to the Humvee opened and Hank emerged, stretching and yawning. He spotted Dar and ambled over to her, dropping into a camp chair at her side. “Hey junior.”
Dar grinned tolerantly.
“Them kids out there are all right.” Hank said. “A little boy scouty, but I figgured they’d be okay after they asked me bout the shine.” He eyed Dar. “You all know that little pond there, that’s spring fed.” He said. “Comin up from the aquifer I figure.”
“Brackish?” Dar asked. “It’s so close to the Bay.”
“Nope.” Hank shook his head firmly. “Took me some chemical readings. Pretty decent. Got some dissolved limestone and all that you’d spect.”
“Drinkable.” He said. “I told them we could use it for the hooch.” He paused thoughtfully. “What’d you think about that little hut thing.”
Dar set her cup on the arm of the chair and then folded her hands on her lap. “What do I think. I don’t know that I think anything about the hut.” She said. “It’s just the bare essentials you need to live in, I guess.”
“I like it.” Hank replied. “I think that fella was a little sideways but that’s all right. I’m a little sideways too.” He winked at Dar. “You gonna keep them kids on there? They want to stick around. Made a point of tellin me cause I guess they figured I’d make a point of telling you. Which I now done.”
Hank let her think about it, glancing up as Zoe came over with her pitcher of tea. “Hello there little sister.” He accepted a cup of the tea with a smile. “Why thank you.”
Would she? Dar considered. The property was more than big enough to need some people around to do things to it. Things she didn’t know that she wanted to do herself, though the thought of getting a riding mower was kind of fun. “What do they actually do in real life?”
“No, I mean.. they do something to make a living for themselves, right?” Dar asked. “I mean, they’re not stupid guys.”
“Most of em do stuff like work at hardware stores, that kind of thing.” Hank agreed. “Sorta blue collar boys. None of em been to college. Just got out of high school and their after school jobs went full time I guess.” He crossed his military boots. “Like me. S’how I ended up in the Navy. Got tired of bagging Publix.”
Zoe had sat down next to him on one of the small beach chairs. “My mama likes Sedanos, but I was saying to Mayte just before I like Publix better.” She said. “My brother works there as well. He makes sandwiches in the deli.”
“Now that’s a job.” Hank grinned at her. “I coulda done that. Skipped out on all the mess of the military.” He glanced over at Dar, who was silently pondering, a faint crease between her eyebrows. “But those are pretty decent guys, junior. Got good hands, good hearts.”
Dar’s pale blue eyes fastened on him. “You want to come run them?”
Hank remained silent, just watching her face. He put his hands behind his head and leaned back, his eyes narrowing a little bit.
“We have no idea how to take care of a property like that.” Dar said, after a long pause. “And it needs a lot of taking care.”
“Well.” Hank said, slowly, thoughtfully. “I’d come and do for you whatever you want, Dar.” He shifted a little bit in the chair. “I just don’t know how much I’d like running folks.” He said. “Not sure I’d be any good at it, y’know?”
Dar leaned on the arm of the chair nearest him, her eyes twinkling a little bit. “No I wasn’t either.” She admitted. “Actually I figured I’d rather get everything done myself. It was easier than trying to explain myself to everyone all the time.”
Hank made a spectacle of looking all around the courtyard, and at the office building, and then looking at her with an expression of disbelief.
“Eventually I figured it out.” She acknowledged the look. “Sort of. Kerry’s a lot better at it than I am.” She picked up the cup and took a sip of the tea. “Think about it. Let me know.”
“Hey!” Pete let out a yell. “Bring that table over here. We got a lot of ribs to plate!”
The group around the hibachi got up and came over, two of them detouring over to where there was, now, a stack of folding tables on the ground. They picked up the top one and brought it over, unfolding the legs and bracing them near the concrete pad.
“Get another one of them.” Sasha directed, a large metal bowl in her hands. “Need a place for the dishes.”
“C’mon.” Hank got up and gestured to Zoe. “Mess call.”
Dar was about to get up and help when she saw Kerry coming through the doorway, with Mocha in attendance and a big grin on her face. She waited for her partner to come over, waiting to hear what had made her steps so jaunty.
“Hey!” Kerry dropped to her knees on the ground next to Dar’s chair and leaned her forearms on the arm of it. “Do you remember what we were doing when we heard about this damn hurricane?”
Dar peered at her with a bewildered expression. “Should I?” She eyed her partner in question.
“We were planning a trip down to the cabin.” Kerry informed her. “We were going to take the boat to the sailing club dock, then leave from there last Friday, and head on down.” She said. “Then you looked at the weather channel and said…”
“I said, oh crap. Okay.” Dar agreed, a touch hesitantly. “Yeah, I do remember that but..”
“Do you know where I ended up tossing our go bag?” Kerry arched her brows, her eyes a soft honey color in the light from the torches. “Because I packed it on Thursday morning and brought it to work with me?”
“Ah!” Dar’s eyes lit up in comprehension. “You left it here.”
“I left it here. So we’re covered.” Kerry half turned to watch as everyone came over across the grass to the tables. “So now we can relax and enjoy ourselves.” She exhaled in contentment. “I think they’re going to do more music after dinner. This is going to be fun, Dar.”
Dar leaned back and folded her arms. “It’s going to be something.” She sighed. “At least it doesn’t look like rain.”