Fair Winds and Following Seas
“Dar, that’s crazy.” Richard Edgerton enunciated into the phone, with an audible sigh chasing the words. “Not only is it crazy because of the weather, it’s just plain crazy. That woman is just looking to put a scam on you.”
“Don’t disagree.” Dar said. “Can she do it? Does she have the standing?”
Her lawyer sighed. “She has clear title.” He admitted reluctantly. “The report came back about twenty minutes ago.” He said. “But something else came back too, and that’s even more dangerous.”
Kerry, Ceci and Andrew were sitting on the couch in Dar’s office, listening. They all had remarkably similar skeptical looks on their faces given the vastly different faces involved.
“That is?” Dar was seated behind her desk, leaning back in her chair, one knee braced against the edge of her desk. “Thing built on a super fund site or something?” She guessed. “Or an old Indian burial ground?”
“No.” Richard chuckled faintly. “But it is on the register of historic places.” He said. “Which means, you can’t materially change that building.”
“Ho boy.” Ceci muttered, rolling her eyes.
Dar considered that. “What if it gets flattened in the storm?”
Richard was briefly silent. “I’d have to check on what the regulation would be on that.” He admitted. “But it does mean there are limits to what you can do with any renovation. Maybe she knows that limits her choices in selling as well.”
“Old man prob’ly got that done on purpose.” Andrew said, stretching his long legs out along the floor and crossing his ankles. “Grunty cuss. “
“Did you know him, Dad?” Dar asked. “I heard of him, but we never met.”
Andrew nodded. “Met him a few times doing this and that.” He said. “Didn’t like nobody telling him what to do.” He cleared his throat. “Had him an open hand. Gave food, and whatnot to them that needed it. See him sometimes downtown, just pulling along a cart with him and handing bags out to fellers.”
Kerry, who had been watching Dar’s face, smiled a bit, and leaned back into the soft leather of the couch. “You just engaged Dar’s Robin Hood gene.” She remarked, but in a mild voice. “For what it’s worth – I think we should do it.” She paused as everyone looked at her in some surprise. “Yes, I think she’s trying like hell to dump this place, but I think we should risk it.”
Dar regarded her with interest. “You do?”
“Yeah, I do.” Kerry folded her arms. “I say we tell this chick we’ll sign, but take fifteen percent off the offer since we’re assuming the risk.” She said. “Take it or leave it.”
“Throw in we know about the historic designation.” Richard suggested, sounding interested. “Let her know we know that limits its marketability.”
“Does it though?” Dar asked, one dark brow lifting skeptically. “Yes, I know it’s on the whatever, but this is Miami.” She reminded them. “Throw enough money at it and some big suit could change that.”
“Does she know that?” Richard asked. “You said she’s from the west coast. Doesn’t like it here.”
“Old man’d like it.” Andrew spoke up briefly.
“That place isn’t bad looking.” Ceci said. “From the pictures I saw. It’s a nice structure. Sort of reminds me of the frontage at Viscaya.” She eyed Kerry. “What the hell you two are going to do with all that space though I’ve got no idea.”
“Yeah.” Kerry chuckled. “It’s way too huge for us. But I liked the idea of having all that space outside the house. We’ve been looking all over the area and we’ve seen some nice places, but they’re all up crammed together. This isn’t.”
“I’m assuming you’re going to move on this, Dar?” Richard said. “I agree with Kerry. Lets get her to discount for our assuming all this risk and getting her a fast sale. If she agrees, I’ll set up the wire.”
Dar nodded. “Okay.” She said. “I’ll call Manny back. Let’s see where it goes.” She said. “Thanks Richard. I’ll let you know.” She hung up the phone and regarded her family. “Crazy day.”
Kerry got up. “Dinner’s ready.” She said. “So make your call and lets go eat.” She glanced outside the window, where another squall was washing the surface with rain. “Then we can go watch more Weather Channel.”
“Ugh.” Ceci exhaled. “I’m tired of that one guy’s haircut. It’s making me crazy.”
“With the pointy spikes?” Kerry led the way out of the office.
“Where is it now?” Dar returned to the living room, after a brief view out the back window.
“Eye’s reforming.” Ceci remarked, watching the television. “Just our luck its going to be built back up right before it hits.” She observed, as the radar pictured the huge, circular storm inching closer. The round eye, which had been razor sharp earlier, was now obscured with clouds.
“Going over the gulfstream.” Dar said. “Look at those bands.” She regarded the thick lines. “What was the last reading? 163?”
The faint smell of garlic and tomato sauce lingered in the air, and there was a pot of French pressed coffee on the table. The two dogs were wandering around, sniffing here and there uneasily.
“They know.” Dar observed, watching them. “Air pressure’s changing.”
“I can feel it in my sinuses.” Ceci agreed. “I think the last dropsonde reported what.. 901? That’s insane.” She looked around. “As insane as we are to be sitting here right in its path, by the way.”
“Too late to do anything now.” Her mother concluded. “My sister called earlier. I told her we were going to turn the boat into the storm and drive right through it.”
Dar laughed. “She was worried?”
Ceci chortled. “Who, Candy? No.” She shook her head. “She was taking one for the family team. Someone had to call and ask since they know we live here. I didn’t expect Charles to do it.” She went over to the couch and sat down, pouring herself a cup of the coffee.
Dar had been perched on the back of one of the leather chairs. Now she let herself slide backwards and landed on her back on the seat of it, her head hanging down and her legs dangling off where she’d been sitting. She folded her hands over her stomach and regarded the ceiling, kicking her socked feet idly. “Maybe we should have gone somewhere.”
“Where?” Ceci asked. “You know how these things are. Go one place, think your safe, the stupid thing turns and you end up in it’s path again. We’d have had to go to Colorado and the last time you went that direction turned out a little nutty you know?”
“No, I know.” Dar assented. “Or you do all this dramatic stuff and the thing dies.” She glanced to one side, as Chino came over and regarded her upside down posture with a puzzled expression. “Hey Chi.”
The dog licked her face.
They could hear Andrew and Kerry talking in the kitchen, and the faint sounds of dishes clinking. A soft howling penetrated the walls, and far off, crashing waves thundered.
Dar pulled her phone out of her pocket and typed onto the screen, then paused to wait for an answer. “Power’s still on at the office.”
“Surprising.” Ceci said. “I think they said a hundred thousand were out already?”
“Something like that.” Dar agreed. “No, Carlos says so far so good.” She announced, in a surprised tone. “He says there’s some street flooding, and branches down, but nothing else.”
Kerry and Andrew returned at that moment, and Kerry put down a plate on the table next to the coffee that had some cookies on it. She regarded Dar’s posture with some amusement. “Honey, are you that bored?”
Dar put her hands down, then pressed her body up into a handstand before she turned around and folded herself back into a seated position on the chair right side up. “It slowed down.” She agreed mournfully. “Went from ten to six miles per hour. “
Kerry poured a cup of coffee and picked up a cookie and handed it to her, then got her own. She sat down in the chair next to Dar’s and exhaled. “Yeah, the beach is getting pounded. Even those reporters got the heck out of there.”
It was dark outside. Kerry wasn’t really sure if that was better or worse – when it was daylight you could see out the small windows and on the television the windswept areas, the frothing seas, but now at night all you could do was listen to the sounds of wind thrumming against the walls.
“Do hurricanes always come at night?” She asked, suddenly. “Or is it just a fifty fifty chance?”
“Just chance.” Andrew said. “Tho that one that done come through here last time came during the night.”
“The one that’s named for you?” Ceci snickered.
“That is not mah fault.”
Dar checked her watch. “Guess Manny never heard back from our friend in California. Maybe she didn’t like the deal.” She shrugged slightly. “Which is fine.” She added. “I was willing to leave that one to fate.”
“Maybe she decided to hang onto it and continue to taunt everyone.” Kerry suggested. “You know, put advertisements on billboards offering it for sale and then telling everyone no?”
“Maybe.” Dar munched on her cookie, taking a sip of coffee to wash it down. “I just don’t get the attitude. Is that still a thing? Did I just miss out on that because I grew up here?” She glanced at her partner, and then at her parents, who were exchanging looks themselves. “Or am I just oblivious?”
“Well.” Ceci cleared her throat. “It’s probably true that you’re the only one in the room who didn’t grow up surrounded by that attitude, Dar.”
“Yeap.” Andrew nodded. “That is for sure the truth. Mah family did not care for anybody that did not look the same as we did.” He said, then looked at Dar. “Most folks feel that way.”
Dar was silent, blinking a few times. “What?”
“It’s true.” Kerry reached over to put her hand on Dar’s arm, rubbing the skin there lightly with the edge of her thumb. “You know my family.” She said. “You knew my father. You remember Karl?” She paused, thoughtfully. “Until I went to school, and then moved down here, I lived in a bubble.”
“There are still a lot of people, even here, some who live right on this island, who think immigration’s a terrible idea, Dar.” Ceci said. “They feel free to share that with me, because they assume I’m one of them.” She paused. “And aside from a quirk in the brain, I would have been. My siblings are.”
Dar set her cup down. “But everyone here – everyone, even your family were immigrants once.” She said. “That’s the whole point of the country isn’t it? Everyone came from somewhere else?”
“It’s true.” Kerry said. “I took a class on this whole thing when I was in college. After I got over the whole shock of the whole evolution thing.” She gave her partner a wry look, and her eyes twinkled. “I was interested, because I thought, well, maybe some of this weird stuff we do has to do with that, you know?”
“Tribalism?” Ceci nodded. “I was watching a documentary on that the other week. No idea how they got funded to make it. Seemed radical, even for me.”
“It all has to do with survival.” Kerry said. “If you accept evolution, and that we evolved as primates, given what we see with groups of gorillas and chimpanzees then the groups we evolved into were small tribes who depended on each other to survive.”
“What does that have to do with immigration?” Dar asked, cautiously.
“Let me get to it.” Kerry held a hand up. “Maybe by the time I’m done that stupid storm will finally be here. Anyway.” She said. “So the idea is, your group is everything. Your mother and father, brothers and sisters, aunties and uncles, all that, they form an organization around you that’s safe.”
She paused. “Everything outside that, is an enemy.” She said. “Everyone who isn’t us, is them, and they are competitors for land, and resources, and food and if they have it, we don’t.”
Dar closed her eyes and gave her head a little shake, then opened them again. “We aren’t hunter gatherers in Africa anymore.” She pointed out. “We’re smarter than that now. Aren’t we?”
“Ain’t been near long enough.” Andrew commented briefly. “S’what war’s all about, Dardar. You got what I want so I’m gonna take it.” He put his hands behind his head. “We ain’t much but critters yet. I seen it up close.” His lips twitched a little bit. “From both sides.”
Dar looked thoughtful.
“So on top of that we have a natural, inborn instinct to trust people who look like we do, and act like we do.” Kerry said. “And even though intellectually it doesn’t make sense, we want that. We want everyone around us to think like we do, and believe like we do, and people who don’t make us uncomfortable and honestly, since it’s below our thinking minds we don’t really even know why most of the time. “
“Can’t fight what’s in the gut.” Andy summarized. “Aint up here.” He tapped his head. “Ah think about folks I grew up with. Sweet folks, give you their shirts, last bite of food from their houses long as you’re the right color, go to the right church.”
“I really never thought of anything like that.” Dar admitted. “It just seems so stupid to me.” She said. “I’ve seen the contributions people make and read some history.. I mean, we’re all one species.” She concluded. “Whatever differences we have are just cosmetic, aren’t they?”
Ceci smiled. “As a radical anarchist parent, you make me very proud, Dar.” She pronounced. “Even though honestly we didn’t subvert you on purpose.”
Dar looked from her parents to Kerry and back. “Aren’t they? People are all people?” She lifted one hand. “Biologically I mean. I realize we all have cultural differences. We speak different languages. We have different color skin and hair and all that, but at the cellular level. We’re all homo sapiens sapiens.”
Kerry nodded, with a faint smile. “Which is why bias and prejudice is universal. We really are all the same, underneath. There’s no one anywhere who doesn’t feel, deep inside, that their way of thinking, their tribe, isn’t the only best kind.”
Dar frowned. “So she’s not the weirdo, I am?” She mused. “Or is she just honest.”
There was an awkward silence. “I think.” Kerry finally said, a little slowly. “It surprised me that she would actually say what she said, out loud. Because I know, in my family that is what all of them thought.” She paused. “It was accepted, you know what I mean? But no one ever said it, not that way.”
“Your pastor was pretty clear.” Ceci remarked dryly.
“About our being gay you mean.” Kerry acknowledged. “Yeah that’s true. I felt when we were there the last time that everyone felt like they could say stuff like that where as when I was a kid, it wasn’t like that.”
“No.” Ceci said. “There were always code words. But I remember hearing conversations about someone Candy was going out with at one time and they grounded her because he was Puerto Rican.” She paused thoughtfully. “I think that might have been when I decided to take off.”
“Hmph.” Dar grunted softly. “Never thought about it.”
“No, because we.” Ceci indicated herself and then Andrew. “Well, for one thing we were so different from each other where would you start? One week you’d go to a Southern Baptist Sunday school and the monster truck races the next I’d take you to a coven after your oil painting lesson?”
Kerry started laughing, covering her eyes with one hand.
“So we decided to just see what you wanted to do and let you do it.” Ceci concluded, with a grin. “It was a lot easier on everyone.”
“Get ourselves out of the way.” Andrew agreed. “Sure didn’t want you to get any of what my family gave me.” He added. “But don’t you worry about that there gal, Dar. Life’ll learn her one way or t’other.” He got up. “Going to go close up that window back there I hear it rattling.”
“Ugh.” Kerry half turned and looked at the television. “I vote we go to bed and maybe this thing’ll be done when we wake up.”
“Great idea.” Ceci stood up. “Lets just hope for the best.”
She and Andrew retreated up the stairs and Kerry turned back around. “Shall we?”
Dar was sitting, with a thoughtful expression on her face. Then she gave herself a little shake and nodded, putting her hands on the chair arms and pushing herself upright. “Let’s imagine tomorrow as a better day.” She held out a hand and Kerry clasped it. “All the waiting is making me nuts.”
Kerry came abruptly out from a vague, beach involved dream to unusual sounds and Dar’s hand shaking her shoulder. “Huh.. uh?” She grunted, rolling over onto her back. “Wh..” She blinked, bringing her partner’s face into focus. “What’s going on?”
“Eye’s coming ashore.” Dar said, briefly. “All kinds of I don’t know what are banging into the walls.”
“Oh!” Kerry felt a jolt of adrenaline chase the sleep back. “Are we okay?”
“So far.” Dar rolled out of the other side of the bed and started pulling on a pair of worn jeans and a tshirt.
“What tim..oh.” Kerry sat up and braced her hands on the rail of the water bed, as the clock swam into focus. “Power’s still on.” She said, after her brain acknowledged the four am led’s. “That’s good at least.”
A loud bang jerked her right up to her feet and she looked quickly around to see Dar paused in the act of putting her shirt on, head cocked to listen. “Where the hell are the..” She sensed movement to her right and looked towards the wall. “There they are.”
Mocha and Chino were sitting up in their beds, tongues lolling, ears pricked up.
In general, storms did not bother them. Both had grown up from puppies in Florida, and half the year thunderstorms were a daily event but the loud bangs were disturbing and their brows were both furrowed.
Kerry pulled on her cargo pants and a tshirt, and patted her leg for the dogs to join her as she made her way out of their bedroom suite into the living room.
Dar was putting on the television, and they were both aware of a howling sound that penetrated the walls and was growing louder. “Wish we could see outside.”
Kerry went past her, rubbing her eyes with one hand. “I’ll get some coffee on.” She jerked as another loud bang sounded, this time an impact against the shutters covering the window. “Hope that’s just coconuts.” She went into the kitchen where a nightlight was glowing gently golden.
“Hope so.” Dar was flicking through the channels. “Cable’s down.” She said. “Guess its over the air or nothing. Old school.” She switched signal inputs and picked one of the local stations, somewhat jerkily as the signal pixelated in and out. “Oh wow.”
Kerry popped back into the living room as she heard stirring upstairs. “What?”
“Looks like they’re in a bunker.” Dar indicated the screen.
The reporters were in polo shirts and pants, around a wooden table in a square room that looked completely unlike a television studio. “Looks like a conference room.” Kerry said. “Hey, good morning.” She greeted Andrew and Ceci. “Looks like the fun’s starting.”
“Been.” Andrew said, briefly. “Ah been listening to the radio I got. Wind’s ripped down them cranes in the port and blew out windows in some of them buildings already.”
Dar watched the screen, which showed a lurid radar of thick dense circular clouds around a distinct ring that was just about to their east. “Probably ILS’s.” She said, after a pause for thought. “Glad I didn’t have to worry about that this time.”
“Was that your problem?” Ceci asked, curiously
“Everything was her problem.” Kerry answered for her. “Mostly because no one else had the common sense of a seagull in that place.”
“Not until you got there.” Dar folded her arms and smiled briefly.
The wind around them was a steady, ceaseless howling noise that vibrated through the walls and floor, and the two dogs were trotting around the living room, for once without their tails wagging.
“Wow.” Ceci had curled up against one arm of the sofa. “That’s a mess.”
Andrew had an earplug in one ear, and a wire from it was trailing down his tall body to one of his multitude of front pants pockets. “Power’s out most places.” He reported. “Big old mess in the airport. Tore up one of them big hangars and put bits of airplanes all over.”
“That airports a mess anyway and always has been.” Ceci said. “Its been under construction for fifty years. They probably won’t notice.”
The television team was just reporting the power outages, showing a map of the lower half of the state, where large blocks were shaded red.
“Roof just came off that there coast guard station cross the way.” Andrew said, in a calm voice. “Damn good thing they sent them cutters off out of here.”
The reporters looked scared. There were computers scattered on the table and screens leaning against the wall, and the lighting in the room was irregularily dimming and brightening.
“Cell signal’s out.” Kerry was inspecting her phone. “I’m guessing our internet is out too.” She shut the phone off and tossed it onto the table next to the couch.
“Probably.” Dar said. “It’s a separate circuit but with all that power out there’s no way that POP is up.”
“Hey, we still have air conditioning.” Ceci got up and went into the kitchen, where the coffee machine was just finishing up its task. “I think they just said that stations running on generator.”
Kerry went to go sit next to Dar, and both Chino and Mocha came over to press against them. “Does it seem surreal to anyone other than me to be sitting here watching this as that thing is about to hit us?”
The howling got louder, and Kerry felt her ears pop. “Oh!” She swallowed in reflex.
Dar glanced at the shutters covering the sliding glass doors on the patio, then she walked over and looked more closely at them. “Holy crap.”
Andrew was at her side instantly, pulling a flashlight from one of his pockets and shining it where he could see Dar was looking. “What?”
“It’s pulling the metal outward.” Dar pointed. “The wind, I mean.”
“Maybe you two should get the hell away from that glass then?” Ceci said, sharply. “I know you both can swim like fish but getting your asses sucked out into the Atlantic ocean is not how I want this morning to go.”
“They’re bolted into the concrete.” Dar said but she backed away from the windows and turned, heading off into her office instead. “Hope that inside window’s as protected as I thought it was.”
Andrew had crouched down and was examining the outside floor, where the shutters had bolts extending into slots in the tile. The wind pressure was pulling the panels out, but the depth of the bolts so far seemed to be sufficient and he stood up with a satisfied grunt.
“Ahm gonna get me some coffee.” Her husband ambled into the kitchen. “Figure that’ll hold.”
“I sure hope so.” Kerry put her arms around Chino and Mocha. “We realized the other day we don’t have any inside rooms.” She said. “There are windows in all of them.”
“There are.” Ceci agreed. “Even the laundry room upstairs has one.” She glanced over head. “When was the last time you had the roof inspected?”
The droning increased, and now the vibrations were palpable, and then they could all hear, closer and more ominous, the sounds of the structure they were in creaking around them.
Kerry exhaled. “I don’t know the answer to that question.” She admitted as Dar reappeared. “Do you?”
Dar paused in the act of dusting her hands off on her jeans. “Do I what?” She asked, after a moment’s silence. “The window’s in a deep sill. Seems okay.” She said. “But I’m going to close the panel anyway soon as the wind drops.” She watched Kerry’s brow crease. “Once the eyewall passes.”
“I was just asking when the last time was the roof was checked.” Ceci eyed her daughter. “I know you both have been pretty busy.”
Dar came over and sat down next to Kerry. “The association is supposed to take care of that.” She said. “They do the whole complex at once since it’s connected.”
“Sure they do?” Ceci asked.
“They certify it and it’s their master insurance policy.” Dar said, dryly. “So they’re motivated to.”
“Ah.” Her mother nodded, looking a bit relieved. “It’s always better when someone’s bank account is on the line.” She looked up as Andy returned and sat down on the couch next to her. “The walls are creaking.” She said. “I wasn’t sure concrete block could do that.”
Dar got up and walked to the wall between the patio and the kitchen, and put her hands against it, ignoring the roaring of the wind outside.
A flicker made her turn her head to one side, and she saw the picture go out on the television, going from the inside of the room to a fuzzy gray blankness. Over the speakers, though, she heard a muted scream and a crash. “These walls are moving.” Dar commented. “I guess theirs are too?”
“The WALLS are moving?” Kerry asked, sharply.
“Get away from them?” Ceci suggested. “In fact, maybe we should go into your office there, in the front? It’s the furthest away from the ocean.” She got up and grabbed a handful of Andrew’s shirt sleeve to tug him along. “C’mon, people!”
Dar backed away from the wall, flexing her hands, and almost tripped over Chino who had come up behind her. “WH..oh!” She hopped once or twice, then got her balance and joined Kerry as she circled the leather chair and they headed for the office.
They heard something rattle against the wall on the outside and then, a moment later, a cracking sound somewhere nearby.
“That’s probably that tree.” Dar said, after a moment.
“Maybe close that panel?” Ceci suggested, pointing at the window. “Not wait?”
“I don’t think the mechanism is strong enough to pull against the wind.” Dar responded, in a calm tone. “That’s why I want to wait for the wall to come past, we’ll be inside the eye.”
Andrew went to Dar’s desk and pulled the radio he had in his pocket out, setting it onto the surface and removing the plug from his ear, then the end from the device.
Radio crackling emerged from it’s front speaker, clipped and slightly garbled.
“Navy station.” Andrew said, briefly. “Got them updates from NOAA too.”
“They transmitting from that bunker down south of Card Sound?” Dar asked.
The radio had a stream of non stop content, the voices changing every few minutes as different sources checked in. Most of it made sense only to Andrew, who knew the jargon, but they heard when the storm’s eye came ashore.
Heard on the radio, and then around them as the wind sound became so loud they all flinched and the walls around them shuddered in motion.
Andrew went over and closed the door, and the two dogs crawled up onto the couch, whining, ears pinned down to their heads. He came back over and sat down next to Ceci, and clasped his hands.
“Storm surge, twelve feet.” The radio reported. “Structure collapse reported mid beach, twelfth street.”
“Twelve feet. Holy bananas.” Kerry muttered. “I hope like hell everyone really evacuated off Miami Beach.”
The long, narrow stretch of land to their north was a barrier island that, extending all up the coastline, bordered the mainland on the other side of the intercoastal waterway. On the south end, though, it stood between the Atlantic ocean and Biscayne Bay.
Fisher Island was the very southern tip of it, separated from South Beach by a manmade channel called Government Cut that had been built to allow cargo ships access to the mouth of the Miami River.
“Twelve feet is going to come up over the wall outside.” Dar said.
“It’s going to take out the parking garage too.” Kerry said.
“They closed them doors on the outside.” Andrew spoke up. “Heard em when we got back.”
A loud crash sounded outside, and then they felt a deep thrumming through the floor. Bangs and cracks followed and Kerry wrapped her arms around the shivering Mocha, his pale eyes wide and round and his nostrils flaring. “Easy honey.”
“Twenty twenty hindsight.” Ceci said, after a moment of silence when even the radio seemed to be pausing to catch it’s breath. “This was stupid.”
Andrew snorted a faint chuckle. “Got too big.”
Dar was next to Kerry on the other end of the couch, her arm curled around the apprehensive looking Chino. “Yeah. This was dumb.” She admitted. “Lets not do this again.”
“Shelter in place. Shelter in place.” The radio burst out. “We have one hundred seventy knots at the buoy.”
The roaring built and built and after a minute Dar lifted her hands to cover her ears, with a grimace, as the thumps and bangs got louder and louder and went on for what felt like forever. Kerry put her free arm around Dar’s waist and hugged her close as they huddled there, just enduring it.
Felt like it was never going to stop. Felt like hours, and the noise was brutal and exhausting, the unexpected bangs making everyone jump.
And then like a knife cutting bread the howl abruptly faded.
Everyone opened their eyes and looked around in question. Then Dar got up off the couch and went to the window, triggering the controls that would close the mechanical shutter on the outside. There was a crack, then a whine, then the panel folded out and over the window, seating itself into the latch and bolts with a very audible crunch.
“Are we in the eye?” Kerry got up. “We must be, right?”
“Yeap.” Andy said. “Got the back side of it coming.”
“But that means the edge is probably over the office.” Kerry said. “Holy shit, Dar. That buildings never going to hold up in this.” She said. “It’s going to be… “She paused. “I wish we hadn’t had Carlos and his friends stay there.”
Dar turned. “Too late now.” She said. “Lets take a walk around and upstairs. See if we see any damage before the backside hits us.” She paused, shaking her head. “I’m damn glad all our support guys are up in Melbourne. Wish we’d sent the whole damn company on that bus. ”
“Me too. I’m worried about Mayte and Maria and Zoe and..” Kerry exhaled. “About everyone.” She glanced at the radio on the desk. “I’m glad Mayte got those sat phones.”
“Smart young lady.” Andy said. “S’good idea to check out what we can.” He indicated the door. “No sense fussing about stuff outside. Can’t get there.”
Kerry was closest to the door and she got to it and opened it, peering cautiously into the living room where the television screen was still on, but the picture had returned, and the reporters were all seated around the table, most with headsets on, two with microphones.
They looked completely freaked out. Kerry felt a certain sympathy as she went past the couch, leaning over th turn on the lights so they could see better.
Andrew and Dar went up the stairs. Ceci joined her as she went along the walls and then into the kitchen, a little surprised that despite all the chaos outside, everything inside seemed pretty much as it was before they went to bed. “Hm.”
“A little water here.” Ceci observed, inspecting the inside of the kitchen door that led down to the garden. “Got forced in under the sill, I guess.” She went over to the roll of paper towels sitting on the counter and unrolled a few, returning to drop them on the tile floor.
Kerry was checking the windows. “Dry here.” She reported. “I’m going to check the patio.” She went back out and turned on the dining room lights. The sliding glass doors were in one piece, and she could see past them, to the patio floor that was awash with water, the metal shutters folded across the front of the space visibly dented.
There was a gap in them, she realized, when she studied the small gray patch that puzzled her until she realized it was after six am, and the sun was coming up somewhere. “Those are bent.”
Ceci came over to stand next to her, shading her eyes and peering out. “All sorts of who knows what blowing against them.” She agreed. “Coconuts, chairs, small yachts, microwaves from people who didn’t have the sense to lock their boats down..”
Kerry chuckled a little bit. “Must be a mess.”
The wind was only gusting now, and rattling the shutters, sending spatters of rain to hit the tile of the patio and the edge of the jacuzzi, covered and secured, outside.
“Gruff.” Chino came over to stand next to them, looking out.
“Crazy that the power’s still on.” Ceci remarked. “Coffee?”
“Might as well.”
Andrew was standing on the set of drawers that he’d dragged along the carpet underneath the hatch that gave access into the crawlspace above the ceiling. “Hey Dardar?”
“Hang on.” Dar’s voice sounded muffled. “I’m checking the laundry.”
Andy grunted, shining the beam from his flashlight into the space, relieved at least not to see any slivers of outside light that might indicate a gap they had to worry about. The ceiling itself was unstained, and he hadn’t seen any evidence of damage, but the sounds he’d heard of shattering tiles made him leery.
Dar appeared. “Seems okay.” She said. “I checked the vent, there’s water inside it. So probably from the hot air escape.”
“Yeap.” Andrew nodded. “This here looks all right. You want to take a peek?”
Dar hoisted herself up onto the chest of drawers next to him, feeling the furniture wobble a bit under their joined weight. “We should hurry up before that starts again.” She put her hand on her father’s shoulder and looked past his arm as he lifted the hatch up again and directed the light against the inside of the roof.
The crawlspace was full of insulation, and the roof was sprayed with it, covering the surface. But it was intact, and she saw no evidence of any waterstain. “It’s metal.” She said. “Not sure I mentioned that. Metal frame and metal overlay, with felt and wood over that, and a rubber seal.”
Andrew looked at her. “Do tell.” He said, with some interest. “That is somelike they do in the military.”
Dar nodded. “It’s a bunker.” She agreed. “I wasn’t kidding. In order for them to get anyone to insure this place since it’s sits on its ass at the edge of the damn Atlantic they had to.”
She jumped down to the ground, and dusted her hands off. “I smell coffee.”
Andy set the hatch back down and shut his flashlight off, sliding into one of the pockets in his military style work pants. He merely stepped down off the chest of drawers and then he turned. “Give a hand with this here.”
Dar helped him move the chest back over to the wall. “That was pretty scary.” She said. “I can only imagine what its like everywhere else.”
“Yeap.” Andy clapped her on the back. “Lets go get us a biscuit and some joe before that all starts up again.”
“I think we have doughnuts not biscuits.”
“That’s all right too.”
Kerry lost track of what time it was. With the shutters down, and the howling seemingly never ending, it was just hour after hour of listening to Andy’s radio, all of them huddled in Dar’s office.
They had thirty minutes of respite, before the wind came back, in the opposite direction. Long enough to get cups of coffee, and some trail bars, along with the doughnuts they’d brought back from the market the night before.
Power was still on, and it seemed a little surreal for the inside of the condo to be warmly lit with the task lights on Dar’s desk as though nothing were going on outside at all.
It felt real, and yet unreal at the same time. Kerry remembered being in this same office, but with no power, the stuffiness of the inside air uncomfortable, but without the incessant howling outside since the winds in that older storm had been only half at most what they were now.
The intermittent bangs and crunching sounds made it impossible to do anything needing concentration, even Dar had abandoned her desk and was sitting on the floor between Chino and Mocha, leaning against the couch.
She had her forearms resting on her knees, twiddling her thumbs idly. “Wish I had a deck of cards.”
“Knew we forgot something.” Ceci said. “We have one on the boat.”
“Last time I saw a deck of cards was playing Solitare on my desktop.” Kerry admitted. “Cards were not an item in my past.”
Ceci eyed her. “Your father didn’t play poker with the boys?” She asked, in a mildly disbelieving tone. “Really?”
“Oh no. Gambling wasn’t done in his house.” Kerry said. “He thought that was an absolute sin against God. Not to mention, there was just no way he was going to have that surface in some article with all the campaign claptrap he used about purity and clean living and whatever.”
“Huh.” Andy grunted. “Don’t that figure.”
“Peculiar religious hypocrisy.” Ceci said. “One of the reasons I ran from Christianity.” She idly played with one of Mocha’s dark, silky ears. “It’s just an excuse to self righteously frame your bias in a way that makes you feel virtuous.”
“Asshole justification.” Dar said.
“That’s what I said.” Her mother smirked briefly. “Admittedly, religion was mostly window dressing in the hallowed halls of my growing up, but nothing quite gave me a thrill more than announcing my paganism in company in the living room.”
“Christianity ain’t got nothing to do with Jesus Christ nowadays.” Andy said. “All them folks better hope he ain’t really coming back here cause they’re gonna get their butts whipped.”
Kerry chuckled a little, flinching as a bang came from the shutter covered large window behind them. “I like belonging to a family of anarchists.” She said. “I remember a time when I thought I was the only one in the world.” She tilted her head and regarded her partner. “Then I met you.”
Dar grinned, then she propped her head up against one fist. “Is this thing ever going to end?” She asked plaintively, glancing over at her father. “Feels like it’s been over us for eight hours.”
“Almost, Dardar.” Andy patted her shoulder. “Offshore drop’s down sixty.”
And then, in time, the wind died down, at least enough so that it no longer was thrumming the shutters and the howling had muted. They could still hear rain hitting the aluminum, but it was more in spurts and it seemed, at last, that the worst was over.
Dar looked at her watch. Then she got up and went to the door of the office, opening it and looking out into the living room. “Okay.”
“Eye just gone over the airport.” Andy said, standing up as well and collecting his radio, stuffing it into his thigh pocket. “Turned some north. Going all up the palmetto, seems like.”
“Went right across the center of the city.” Kerry said, as they all went into the living room, where the television was still on, the reporters were still in their conference room, a screen hung on the wall behind them showing the radar view.
“Everything Andrew didn’t do.” Dar said. “Let me see if I can look out the back door.” She went into the kitchen, almost getting thumped into the door itself as the two dogs eagerly clustered behind her. “Hang on, mutts.” She warned. “I’ve got no idea what the hell’s out there.”
Kerry and Andrew grabbed the two animals and moved them back, as Dar triggered the window shutter. It whined and groaned, but stayed in place. “Hm.”
“Bent.” Andy grunted.
“Probably.” Dar unlocked the door and cautiously pushed against it, feeling resistance as the seal around the edge of the door gave way with a faint sucking sound and she took in a breath of water logged air as she leaned her weight against the panel.
Warm and salt tinged wind blew into her face, and wet as she pushed harder, getting the door open enough to stick her head out and look around.
The door was blocked by palm fronds and debris. One was across the back of it, and Dar hesitated, seeing the thick spines. “Ker, give me that pair of gloves in the drawer willya?”
“Hang on.” Kerry fished the leather work gloves out of the miscellaneous drawer and handed them over. “Here you go. What’s out there?”
“A lot of junk.” Dar got the gloves on and gingerly eased the frond back, shoving it aside sufficently to push the door open enough for her to get her body sideways through the opening and out onto the small porch at the top of the stairs.
She looked around for a long moment. “Holy crap.”
“That doesn’t sound good.” Kerry poked her head out and peered past her elbow. “Whoa.” She said. “Is that the Atlantic ocean there right below us?”
The little walled garden at the bottom of the steps appeared as though a junkyard had been emptied into it, debris covered the ground and plants were uprooted and most washed away, at least half of the space covered in water.
Dar took a step further and allowed the rest of them to ease out behind her, as she took a few steps down. The gates that had been in the wall were gone, waves were lapping past the opening and the seawall that had been past it was no longer there.
“Gruff.” Chino had come out and was standing behind Kerry, emitting sounds of doggy astonishment.
Dar turned around and looked up at the wall of the condo, which looked like it had been painted over with Army camouflage paint. “What the hell?”
Ceci had walked down the steps and she turned to look at what Dar was looking at. “That’s actually sort of attractive.” She commented. “Must have been from all the branches and trees hitting the wall. Look, there’s a pile of branches on the ground there.”
Chino and Mocha descended warily, staring around at what was usually their neatly kept playground. The winds were still gusting, but they were between squalls and between the shredded gray clouds whipping overhead there was even a very brief splotch of sky.
“Careful kids.” Kerry went down to join Ceci, and they picked their way through the debris to look at the water surging through the gates, bringing a white foam and both flotsam and jetsam as waves rolled up to where they were standing. “Holy crap the whole beach is gone.”
“Some mess.” Andy stated. “All that there wall’s down.” He made his way over to where the gates had been, the surf soaking his boots and pants as he got to the edge and looked around it. “Mah lord!”
Everyone hurried over to join him. “What?” Ceci said, grimacing a little as the water washed up against her knees. “What is it, And..” She stopped talking, as she got to where she could see past him. “Whoa.”
“Oh wow.” Kerry whispered. “Is that water up over the streets there?”
The rock ingress that lined Government Cut was completely gone, and past it, what had been the southern end of Miami Beach showed buildings with floors caved in, glass blown out, the marina was a wreckage of collapsed and capsized boats.
In the middle of the cut was a large fishing vessel, turned sideways and half sunk, only the bow protruding up from the waves that were rolling, lashing across the opening no longer restrained by the seawalls that had once protected the channel.
Water lapped up to the wall they were standing behind, fully eight to ten feet of land was missing, and what was once a beach and path could no longer be seen.
“Is that .. “ Kerry started to ask.
Andrew went past where the gates had been and sloshed into the surf, the wind blowing against him and plastering his tshirt and cargo pants against his body. He looked to his right, then he paused, and extended hs hand into the surf surging around him. “Wall’s still here.”
Dar had edged out after him and gotten around the curve of the wall, looking past it. All along the beachfront she could see waves breaking, some rolling up past where the pools were and swamping them.
“Mah god.” Andy came up next to her and put his hands on his hips. “Some damn mess.”
“Yeah.” Dar exhaled. “Well, we should probably make sure the rest of this place is in one piece, then break out the sat phones. It’s maybe clear enough to use them.”
“Probly not.” Andy glanced up, as another squall came over, and they were suddenly drenched in rain. “Got nother name here they’re gonna retire I figure.”
Dar entered the kitchen, ruffling her hair dry with a fluffy light blue towel. Behind her in the living room the television was on, the local station now evacuated out of their conference room and back in the more familiar confines of their studio.
Chino followed her inside, then sat down next to her bowl and barked.
Dar paused and regarded her, then she looked over at the clock in the microwave. “Oh.” She said. “Sorry Cheebs. I guess there was so much going on we forgot about that.” She draped the towel around her shoulders and then went over to pick up the two steel dog food dishes near the wall.
It all seemed so weirdly normal, surrounded by surreal lack of anything being that at all. She filled the dishes, the sound of the food hitting the metal attracting Mocha from where he’d been sleeping on the couch.
He trotted in and sat next to Chino, tag wagging happily. Chino turned her head and licked his ear.
Dar chuckled, watching them. Their fur was damp, and she could smell the wetness of it, but they had towels spread out on the tiles to sop up most of the rain and sea water they’d brought back in as the squalls returned.
“Looks like everything’s pretty much intact, at least from the inside.” Kerry entered from the living room, running her fingers through her hair, a dry terry cloth short sleeve hoodie having replaced the tshirt she’d been wearing. She was barefoot, and had traded her wet jeans for a dry pair of cargo shorts.
“Yeah, we should leave the shutters in place though.” Dar put the food bowls down and stepped back out of the way as they were engulfed. “Dad checked the crawlspace again. Still dry.”
Kerry came over to stand next to her. “You sure were right about this being a bunker.” She told her partner. “I saw what those winds did to South Pointe.”
“Lower profile.” Dar said. “The way they built these, with all those angles there’s not much surface for the wind to grab.” She nodded in satisfaction. “They just said the winds are down to a hundred twenty.”
“Still bad.” Dar agreed. She took a glass from the cabinet and opened the refrigerator, dispensing milk into it. “No one really knows though. They can’t get out to do any visuals yet.” She set the glass down and then retrieved a jar of peanut butter and opened it.
“Should we consume our cans of beanie weenies?” Kerry mused. “Can’t think of any other opportunity for it.”
“No.” Dar was busy spreading peanut butter on a slice of bread. “What they usually do is collect any of the canned goods no one uses after the season and donate them to Camillus House or one of those things.” She folded the bread in half and took a bite from it. “I’m fine with this.”
Kerry settled for a bottle of ice tea and a container of yogurt. She followed Dar into the living room and sat down on the couch next to her, as they watched the news reports.
“Front’s going to pick that up and take it back out over the Atlantic.” Dar predicted. “They just put up hurricane warnings up the coast.”
A ticker was scrolling across the bottom of the screen, providing them with snippets of information in a repetitive loop. “Numbers to call.” Kerry said, thoughtfully. “Could we call any of them right now Dar?” She asked. “Since they took out all the old copper, I mean?”
“No.” Dar chewed her sandwich. “One of the reasons I was so against that.” She frowned. “No internet, no voip, no digital, no phones.”
“Good thing Mayte got those damn sat phones for sure.” Kerry said. “Maybe we should have one all the time?”
“Maybe I’m going to order an Inmarsat dish as a backhaul.”
“Twelve foot storm surge.” Kerry diverted her attention back to the ticker. “Does that mean a twelve foot high wall of water, Dar?”
“Something like that.”
Kerry was silent for a moment. “Twelve feet high? That’s what washed across our back area there?” Her voice was hollow with disbelief. “Twelve feet?”
Dar nodded. “That’s where all that debris is from. Probably when it sucked back out it took the gates with it.” She confirmed. “Good thing this place held up. We would have had our asses pulled out into the ocean. Probably be halfway to Nassau by now.”
Kerry stared at her in silence, eyes wide.
Dar glanced at her. “Didn’t happen, right?” She took a sip of her milk. “No point in freaking out about it.” She watched Kerry’s face, and it almost made her smile, so vivid and evident were the emotions crossing it. “Wasn’t half as scary as going down that river was.”
“But we chose to do that.” Kerry said, after a long pause.
“We chose to do this.” Dar half shrugged. “All relative risk.”
Kerry gave her body a shake, and then she went back to peeling the cover off her yogurt. “I’m glad I didn’t know there was a twelve foot high wall of water going to come across this damn place.” She admitted. “Mother nature does not mess around.”
“Mother nature does not.” Dar confirmed. “What is that, is that from the television station?” She indicated the screen. “Yeah, it must be.” She said. “They’re in Kendall.”
“Where I used to live.” Kerry said. “Holy crap.”
The wind was still whipping, and trees were in motion as the camera panned around. It was being hand held, there were spots of water collecting on the lens.
Then it tilted down and showed a lake, water lapping against the feet of the camera holder, standing on some platform.
“He’s standing on the top of the station mobile van.” Dar said, after a moment.
It was the parking lot of an office plaza, but all that could be seen was water, washing out any landmarks save the tops of some trucks parked nearby. Then the camera turned around to show the building the station was broadcasting from, a three story building with a parking garage, on the roof of which was a square, bunker like structure they could just see the top of a satellite dish sticking out of.
Long cables were running from the camera, up a flight of concrete stairs to a second level door, propped open, and filled with stunned faces also just looking around. The sound cut in now, and they could hear the loud rumble of a generator nearby, and far off the sound of a siren.
Kerry paused in mid spoonful. “My entire apartment would have been flooded.” She said, after a moment. “Our parking lot used to flood in a bad rain. I can’t even imagine.”
“If that’s what its like in Kendall.” Dar said. “And they were in the fringes.”
Kerry put her yogurt down. “What are we going to be left with at the office, Dar? What are we going to do?”
Dar folded her arms, regarding the screen with somber concern. “Well.” She said, after a pause. “Lets see what contacts we can make as soon as the weather clears. Find out what’s going on.”
Kerry eased the front door to the condo open and peered outside. “Looks like a Christmas tree blood bath happened out here.” She pushed the door open, gently kicking the branches covering the steps out of her way.
She pulled the hood on her jacket up as she felt rain splatter against her face, and started down towards the ground level driveway that angled one way towards the road, and the other under the building where they had their cars parked. “Don’t try opening the gate, Dar.” She called out. “It’s flooded.”
“Figured.” Dar emerged, with both dogs on their seldom used leashes. “Got your camera?”
“Got.” Kerry removed one hand with her digital camera in it, then waited as Dar got herself untangled and picked her way carefully down to join her.
It was still overcast. Rain was still intermittent. Winds were still gusting. But the gaps in all that had been slowly increasing, and now they were going to see what there was to be seen on this, the more protected side of the facility.
Kerry turned the camera on and took some pictures. The front of the condo was covered in broken branches, coconuts, metal debris, wood debris, pieces of net from the tennis courts, and paper. The walls were scuffed with green, but not as wildly as the back was, and the gates that protected the walk up to their front door were intact.
Dar pushed the gate opened and they emerged onto the path, looking both directions warily.
There was water everywhere. Across the path, where the golf course was, a lake now stood, the wind making rough waves in it as it spread through the trees as far as they could see.
And the trees were mostly either leaning over, or on the ground, as though a giant hand had flattened them, branches sticking up out of the water, many laying across the road.
“Which way you want to walk?” Kerry asked. “Towards the cut, or towards the marina?”
“Towards the cut.” Dar said. “Maybe the sat phone’ll connect.” She handed one of the leashes to Kerry and pulled a phone out of her pocket, checking the display. “It sees the bird.” She remarked. “Let me try Mark.” She said. “He lives down south. Might be clear enough there now.”
They turned and walked slowly along the road, as Dar fiddled with the handheld device. She tried dialing Mark, but though the phone seemed to be reaching out, there was no answer. “He might still be inside.”
“Yeah, he’s a smart guy.” Kerry said. “Try Carlos.”
Dar dialed, but again, got no answer. “I guess it’s too early.” She said. “I just wish I knew what was going on.” She juggled the phone, then put it back in her pocket.
They could hear the rumble of generators in the distance. But otherwise, aside from the wind, there was almost no sound. Dar looked over at the golf lake. “Birds are gone.” She said. “I remember that from the last big one. They know and they all disappear.”
“I noticed the ducks weren’t around.” Kerry said. “I wonder where the peacocks are? Where would they all go?”
“I think Clemente puts them in a compound.” Dar paused as they reached a bend in the road and could see past it, to where the ferry ramp was. “Oh wow.” She said. “Is that a .. I think that’s a pilot boat.” She studied the wreckage piled up against the ramp, the boat turned on it’s side. “Must have broken loose.”
They walked closer to the edge of the island, as the wind gusted fitfully against them, fluttering their jackets against their bodies.
“Gruff.” Chino barked softly.
“Hope no one was on it.” Kerry shaded her eyes as she peered across the cut at the end of South Beach. “Jesus. The whole damn beach is gone – is that sand up on the sun deck there?”
She could see two figures inching along on what was the second floor of the nearest building, looking down at the ocean, surveying the damage much as she and Dar were. Kerry was sure there were more people starting to get out and look around, despite the news saying not to.
Very human, to be curious. Kerry was surprised they hadn’t met any of their neighbors yet in fact. “Think everyone else went the other way?” She asked Dar.
Dar kept walking, until they were on the concrete pad that led to the ramp for the ferry. The security shelter was closed up tight and empty and the ground around it was littered with shards from the barrel tiles that had come off it’s roof.
She got to where she could see up the shipping channel, past the berths that had once held some decrepit old cruise ships towards the turning basin and the line of buildings that edged the waterfront of the city.
“Trees down all along the causeway.” Kerry said. “There’s a truck in the water over there, near the Star Island turnoff.” She took out her camera and started taking some pictures, using the digital zoom to get a better look. “Oh, hell, the whole road into Star Island’s gone.”
“South Pointe Marina’s a mess.” Dar said. “Glad mom and dad at least weren’t there.” She shook her head, the hazy light and mist obscuring the scene, but the toppled sails and capsized hulls were evident even from where she stood.
They heard the sound of tires crunching on gravel and they turned, to see one of the island golf carts coming towards them, with two men in rain gear in it.
“They’re going to yell at us, Dar.” Kerry said, taking a picture of the cart as it approached.
“They’re going to try.” Dar smiled briefly and without much humor. “If they whip out a bullhorn I’m going to shove it up their asses.”
Kerry stuffed the camera into her pocket and took the leashes of the two dogs from Dar as her partner turned to face the two men.
Dar had a particular way of standing when she was facing confrontation and now she fell into that posture, her weight over her center of balance and her hands resting half open at her sides as she positioned herself between the cart and Kerry.
Kerry really didn’t think the men were any threat. They were both sweating under their rubber rain gear and they looked more flustered than angry. She recognized them as security, but one of the many that spent time in roving patrols rather than at the ferry dock.
“Ms Roberts!” The driver said. “Oh Ms Roberts!”
“Yeeeessss.” Dar rumbled a response, eyes narrowing.
“Great. Glad we found you.” The man said. “Mr Lou said if we could find you, to ask you to come over to the command center.” He jumped out of the cart and came over to them, pushing the hood back off his head. “Everything okay at your house?”
Kerry watched Dar’s freight train of attitude get abruptly derailed, and she relaxed. “Everything’s fine.” She assured the man. “What’s going on? Is there a problem?”
She drew his attention to give Dar a chance to take her hackles down and muffled a smile as her partner eased over to her side, hands now in her pockets.
The man nodded vigorously. “They got some stuff not working and Mr Lou, he knows Ms Roberts knows all about that stuff. So will you come with us?” He looked from Kerry to Dar. “We were headed your way when we saw you out walking. George recognized the pups.”
“Um. Sure.” Dar glanced around. “Give us a ride back to our place, and we’ll drop off the dogs.” She said. “How’s the other side of the island?”
“What a mess!” The other guard said. “Surge threw a manatee up onto the Beach club porch! Some of the guys were trying to get it back into the water when we left there.”
“Oh my goodness.” Kerry got into the back seat of the cart with the dogs, while Dar stood on the back gate. “Dar, hang on!”
Ten minutes later, after dropping off the dogs and giving Dar a chance to grab a backpack they were in the back seat of the cart heading up the road towards the marina. As they went past the other condos, a few residents were visible, most taking pictures of their homes, and the damage all around them.
Two men had crossed the road and were standing on a slight rise, looking at the lake that now filled the center of the island.
“Those are those golfers.” George said, half turning in his seat to face Dar and Kerry. He was a man in his mid forties, with thinning brown hair and a stocky build. “Ruined their fun for a while huh, Sam?”
“They’re gonna have to pump that out.” Sam shook his head. “Just glad this rain’s mostly done.”
No sooner than he’d said it, a squall came over and swept across the road, drenching the cart, and George cursed as he scrabbled to get his hood up and hauled the plastic rain guard down. “Ya had to say that didn’tcha?” He yelped.
Dar blinked the rain out of her eyes, glad they were alone on the road as the cart careened from one side of it to the other, nearly going through a deep puddle. “Yew.”
“You didn’t pack our scuba gear in there did you?” Kerry uttered, under her breath. “We might need it.”
“On the boat.” Dar muttered back. “I was going to bring it back to the house, but figured hell, if anything happened we were due for new gear anyway.”
“Sorry about that, ma’am.” Sam said. “Here we go, hang on.”
Dar had her hand clamped around the roof support post and her other arm wrapped around Kerry, and it still almost wasn’t enough to keep them from sliding off the seat as the cart turned sharply and went up a narrower path towards what looked like a huge thicket of downed trees.
“What th..” Kerry paused. “Oh wow.” She said. “That whole ring is down.”
The command post for security was a thick, squat building artfully hidden in foliage that was now toppled everywhere, exposing the concrete block structure and blocking the path save a small gap that Sam was aiming for. Inside the ring of destruction was a small parking lot, and two cars that were parked in it were buried under fallen branches.
The building windows were covered in shutters, and the shed to one side of it had been blown open, tools and supplies scattered across the area randomly. The tall radio tower that had been on the roof was over in one corner, wrapped around a tree trunk whose top half had fallen over.
One corner of the overhang roof near the door was hanging down, but the building seemed intact aside from that.
Sam and George got out and they joined them, hurrying over to the door as another squall came through. The front surface of the door was dented, and the light fixture outside was bent aside and destroyed, glass from it littering the ground.
Going from the windy, damp, warm outside into the ice box chill inside was a shock. Kerry almost flinched, and now she was glad they had their rain coats on as she blinked her eyes against the cold, dry air.
Inside the building there was a lot going on. There was a desk near the door that under normal conditions some administrative person would have been seated, attending to visitors.
Now, it’s surface had been cleared, it’s contents behind it wrapped in black garbage bags, and the top of the desk was covered in various types of food along with jugs of things to drink, and stacked on the side of the furniture was boxes of paper cups, plates and plastic silverware.
Behind that there was one big room, with consoles along every wall of it, desks and monitors but most of the stations were empty and the monitors were either dark or full of fuzzy nothing.
To the right was an office, and that’s where most of the noise was coming from. Sam and George had turned and headed into it, pushing open a partly closed door that released a din of voices outwards towards them along with the strong smell of coffee.
“Wasn’t figuring this to go this way.” Dar commented, as they stood there somewhat awkwardly. She had her backpack on her back. “Let me go see if this phone’s any good yet.” She pulled the sat phone from her pocket and turned, going back outside.
Short attention span, gets bored easily. Kerry went over to the expresso maker near the wall and picked up a small paper cup, pressing the buttons required to obtain a shot. “Lou!” She called out, as the machine grumbled and sputtered, steam wisping from it.
A moment later, a tall man with a crew cut and surprisingly large ears stuck his head out into the room. “What was that? Oh!” He came all the way out into the room. “Oh, hey! Uh..”
“Kerry.” Kerry supplied amiably. “Dar’s outside trying to make a phone call. What is it you need her to look at? We’ve got a lot of stuff going on.”
“No, yes, Kerry, I know.. sorry.” Lou Rogers came over to her. “Sorry about that. I didn’t realize George and Sam brought you back with them. They just said they found you.” He said. “Our big system, you know, the one that runs all the cameras and all that stuff? It won’t turn on.”
“Okay.” Kerry nodded. “I’m going to assume it has power.”
“What?” Lou said. “Oh! Yes, of course it does. We checked the outlet, it can run the teapot, so we know there’s juice there but it keeps stopping at some screen. Could you.. or could she look at it? They didn’t keep any of our IT people island side they sent them all off.”
He was looking at her with an anxious expression. “I know there’s so much to take care of, but it’s hard for us not to be able to see all our cameras, you know? We have to send patrols out and the place is a mess.”
“Where is it?” Kerry asked, taking a sip of her expresso. “Sure we’ll take a look, but next time, take my advice and keep a nerd around.” She said. “You always need them.”
“It’s over in there.” Lou pointed at a closed door in the back. “That’s where all our IT stuff is. Door’s unlocked.” He glanced behind him. “We’re going to rig up an antenna for the radio..so..”
“Go on. I’ll take Dar in there when she comes back.” Kerry reassured him, watching him gratefully escape back into the big office past the door. She shook her head, standing there quietly drinking the hot, fragrant dark roasted and finely ground coffee.
A moment later, the door opened and Dar reappeared, with a frown on her face.
“No luck?” Kerry read the body language effortlessly. “C’mere, lets see if you can fix their system. Then we’ll steal a cart and go check out our boat. Sound like a plan?”
“Mm. Coffee.” Dar observed her cup. “That what they’re paying us? Sure. Where is whatever it is? No answer yet on these damn phones.”
Kerry led the way over to the closed door and pushed it open with one shoulder, the very familiar sound of technology escaping at once and washing over her like sea foam.
No matter the size or content, they all looked and sounded alike. The smell of cabling, forced air, metal and components being cooled, and the sound of fans pushing hot air out of densely packed gear with a particular, peculiar scent of ions.
The pitch of the noise was known to both of them.
This room had two rows of racks on either side of an open aisle, and the doors were open on several of them, with keyboards and monitors pulled out keeping them propped open.
Dar, predictably, went one by one and pushed the keyboards back into place, then closed and latched the rack doors as they went down the aisle to the workbench at the back, which had a single console and a thick, padded chair.
Kerry waited for her partner to shrug off her backpack and sit down. “Let me get you a cup of this, hon.”
Dar paused, and turned. “Kerrison.”
“Yes?” Kerry’s brows quirked a little, as she took in Dar’s surprisingly stern look.
“You are as much a computer professional as I am.” Dar said. “Why the hell would you be running around getting me coffee?”
“Aw.” Kerry went over and ruffled her hair. “Because there’s only one chair, my love.” She said. “And I know how to quantify and qualify my tools and make sure they’re applied in the best use case.” She leaned over and gave Dar a kiss on the forehead. “Go fix.”
She bumped Dar towards the table, then she turned, chuckling, and went out of the IT room and back to the coffee maker.
Dar did surprise her sometimes, with things like that. Though they were both aware of their relative subject matter expertise, and level of nerdiness her partner sometimes seemed to think – or at least – often vocally expressed – the notion that they were total equals.
Socially, yes. Kerry busied herself with the expresso maker. They were partners. But Dar’s aptitude for technology was at a genius level and hers was not. Though she had a significant knowledge base of her own, and she had far stronger pure business skills than Dar did, there was one true master nerd in the family and she wasn’t it.
Her technical skills were acquired. She’d gone through school and gained knowledge the old fashioned way, and built on that as she’d built her career. Dar’s were far more innate. She had a synergy with how things worked and how to make them work that was absolutely instinctual.
She’d watched Dar problem solve sometimes. Dar had done something, or drawn a solution to something, or typed something and Kerry had asked her how she’d known to do whatever it was and the answer was almost always just a look at her with knit brows.
Dar didn’t know how she knew. She didn’t know, and that was why Kerry had realized, that they’d left ILS in such a pickle when they had because though Dar had documented what she did as thoroughly as any human being could have, with full integrity it hadn’t helped.
Hadn’t helped because she could not document, could not mentor, could not teach anyone how to do what she did because she didn’t know herself how to frame that information and it was so natural to her that she didn’t understand why everyone else didn’t think the same way.
Kerry picked up both Dar’s cup and her second, and made her way back to the room, bumping the door open with her hip. She let the door close behind her and went over to the worktable, setting down the coffee at Dar’s elbow.
There was a screen there, and Dar was reviewing it, her hands draped in a relaxed pose over the keyboard. “Take a power hit or something?” Kerry suggested. “Or maybe a bad hard drive?”
“No..well, I don’t know.” Dar said. “I don’t think so. Its more like.. some change or something got done and then it restarted and barfed.” She indicated the screen. “It’s all compiling and missing link errors.”
Kerry sat down, as Dar picked up her cup and took a sip. “Can you undo whatever it was?”
“Well.” Dar regarded the screen. “It would be easier if I knew what it was.” She said. “But yeah, let me script a routine to go find all the changed files in the last twenty four hours and see if there were backup copies made.” She shook her head and started typing. “Nice of them to leave this logged in as root for me.”
Kerry covered her eyes with one hand and snorted in soft laughter. “Maybe I should pitch them a deal to take over their IT.”
Dar stopped typing, and looked at her, both eyebrows lifting nearly up to her hairline.