Fair Winds and Following Seas
Dar had taken off her raincoat, and draped it over the padded office chair. It was chilly in the room, but the damp squeak of the jacket had gotten on her nerves and she’d decided the tradeoff was worth it.
The problem she was working on wasn’t that complicated. The system itself was a Linux variant, one she was tolerably familiar with, and the file structure wasn’t overly obscure.
Whoever had tried to do whatever they had tried to do had made a mess of it. Dar had to wonder why anyone would want to change anything right before a humongous hurricane came over but since there weren’t any IT people around there was no one she could ask that question of.
Part of her was sort of questioning why the hell she was even doing this. Dar reviewed the results of her script, comparing it to a scratch file she’d built. The island management weren’t friends of hers, and she was trying to move off it anyway.
Some jackass would probably walk in any minute and demand to know what she was doing here. Dar could almost hear the blustering horn honking in her head as she wrote another script to rewrite the backup files back to original and copy the new ones to a different directory.
Probably some dipshit old buddy of Jim’s, who would then throw her, and Kerry out of the security building where at least then they could be on their way towards doing something more personally meaningful. “Jackass.” She spoke aloud, giving the screen a little slit eyed glare.
On the other hand, she would probably get a little bit of warning because he would have to get past Kerry, who had gone back out to try and find out the status of the rest of the island and try her own sat phone.
She finished typing, reviewed her results, and then shrugged. She restarted the system and leaned back in the chair, folding her arms and watching it as it booted back up.
Idly she looked around, approving the orderly cable trays and neatly tied bundles of cable, some of which came into the room from large, round penetrations on both ends of the room. She got up and went over to one of the racks in the back, peering inside at the equipment.
Lots of blinking lights. She studied the machines, opening up one rack to stick her head inside.
Someone had done a good job. She approved the neatness. She closed the door and wandered back to the console, leaning on the back of the chair and peering at the screen.
The lines of code crept along as the machine went through it’s startup sequence, then it began to assemble itself for some kind of use. “Well. That’s farther than it got the last time.” Dar said, encouragingly. “C’mon, buddy. Get your act together so I can go do something else.”
She watched the green text scroll across the black screen, the monitor’s edges covered in bits of old tape, and dark with the fingerprints of a thousand nerds whose hands had recently left a pizza.
It was always pizza. Dar could even imagine she could smell the distinctive scent of old, cold pizza congealing on cardboard and only just kept herself from looking around to find it.
In their new office there was occasionally pizza, but more often burritos from the taqueria that had opened up on the next block. You could eat both with one hand, she mused, but at least with burritos you didn’t end up with large greasy pieces of cardboard hanging around.
“Ah.” Dar regarded the computer screen. “The crap you think if while waiting for Linux to boot.” She leaned closer. “Finish damn you!!”
The system obligingly finished its work and presented a login screen to her, and since Dar had no login, she considered her job done. She peeled her jacket off the back of the chair and shrugged into it, then she turned and made her way to the door, turning the latch and pulling it open.
Kerry crossed her legs at the ankle as she leaned against the wall, ostensibly watching the television mounted to one side of her.
What she was actually doing was listening to the argument inside the office, which didn’t seem particularly confidential, and was certainly loud, collecting tidbits of information that could end up valuable at the most or mildly amusing to relate to Dar at the least.
She had her cup of coffee in one hand, and her other hand tucked into her cargo pants pocket, and her right ear twitched as she heard someone slam their hand on a table.
“God damn it, we don’t have enough people here to run those kind of patrols!” A loud, exasperated male voice echoed into the outer room.
“Larry, look.” Another male voice interrupted. “It’s not anyone’s fault the surveillance system isn’t working. We’re bloody lucky that’s the only thing down right now.”
“No one’s fault. My ass!” The first voice said. “Someone was screwing around with it. Those things don’t just break themselves.”
Well, actually. Kerry suppressed a smile. Sometimes they did. Sometimes what seemed like cosmic rays from space would send a system sideways.
In this case, though, given what Dar had found, she had to admit in the private silence of her own mind that Loud Mouth was probably right She cleared her throat, and glanced up as the front door opened and a tall, slim man entered, shoving a rubber rain hood back off his head. “Hey Miguel.”
The man looked very surprised to see her. “Well, hello there Kerry.” He undid the catches on his rain gear. “Something wrong? I mean..“ He glanced around. “Aside from the obvious?” He acknowledged with a grimace. “Everything okay at your place?”
“Fine.” Kerry said. “We lost a lot of beach and it’s a mess on the ocean side, but everything else’s intact as long as the garage didn’t flood.”
Miguel took off his raincoat and put it on a peg near the door, then he went over to the table full of snacks, rubbing his hands. “Cold pizza for breakfast. Nice.” He sighed. “Marina’s a mess.” He looked over at her. “Some of the floating docks came up out of the water and slammed into the boathouse.”
“Wow.” Kerry said, after a brief pause.
“I think your canoe’s okay.” He picked up a piece of stone cold pepperoni and started to walk over, looking to his left as he did, and coming to a halt. “Oh. Hah.” He said. “Stupid thing started working again! Hey LOU!!!” He let out a yell. “Your pictures are back!”
“What?” The loud voiced man’s voice got a lot louder, as he, and then a handful of others came pouring out behind him, almost plowing into Kerry as she hastily moved out of the way. “Where… what happened?” He went into the command alcove. “Oh shit look!”
Sam came over to stand next to Kerry, folding his arms over his chest. “Where’s Ms. Roberts?” He asked, in a low tone. “She do that?”
“I’m sure she did.” Kerry replied, watching as the men all clustered into the area, tuning screens as two of them pulled out chairs and sat down to work. “I mean, that’s what you asked us over here for right?”
The door to the IT room opened and Dar ambled out, glancing at the group of men. “Nice.”
“Good job, honey.” Kerry complimented her. “Sam, want to give us a ride around to the marina before they ask us to fix something else? I’m going to have to start charging by the hour for her.”
“Sure.” Sam said. “But you know, he shoulda at least say thank you.” He gave his boss’s back a sour look. “I mean, that’s not nice, you know?”
“Don’t care.” Dar poked Kerry towards the door. “C’mon.”
They moved away from the alcove but their motion caught the eye of Lou, who had gotten out of the way of the technicians. “Hey! Hey!” He came bustling out. “Oh hey.. I didn’t see you here! Sam! Why didn’t you tell me these ladies were out here?”
“I did.” Sam said.
Lou rubbed his hands together. “Well, thanks so much for coming over here. I guess our problems sorted themselves out, but I really appreciate it.” He said. “Can I get you some coffee? We’ve got a pan of breakfast burritos over there, in the slow cooker.”
Kerry lifted her coffee cup. “We’re good thanks.”
“Lou, Ms Roberts fixed your stuff.” Sam interrupted, pointing at the IT room. “You should offer her more than a burrito.”
Lou looked at him, then at Dar, in surprise. “You did?” He said. “Oh!” He looked around. “How did you.. um.. Hey can you come into my office for a second?” He sidled back out of the way. “I just want to ask you.. um… “
Dar looked at Kerry, who sighed and shook her head. “I’ll go wait in the cart. C’mon Sam.” Kerry said. “Make it short explanation please, Maestro.” She pointed to the door. “Scoot.”
Dar followed Lou into his office, and he closed the door behind her.
The office, a large space with a worktable in the front, a bulletin board on one wall, a white board on the other, and in the back, a big, plain desk covered in papers.
Stuff was everywhere. Blueprints, and plans, and on the wall, a mounted television playing the same local channel they’d had on at the condo. “Cable’s down.” Dar remarked. “That, internet, and phones.”
“It’s a mess.” Lou agreed. “But hey listen.. what was wrong with that thing?” He asked. “It went down halfway through the storm, and we were going nuts. I couldn’t see anything that was going on, and couldn’t send any of my guys. All we had was the radios.”
“Someone tried to upgrade it.” Dar said, in a straightforward way. “Not really sure why anyone would try it. I rolled it back.”
Lou sat down on his desk and looked at her. He was a big man, who’d spent two years as a professional football player with the Dolphins and he had on a bush shirt with large pockets and work cargos in dark blue. “Huh?”
Dar sorted through the words, sorting out of there was a simpler way to answer. “You got anyone on your staff here who likes to play around with computers?” She countered. “Someone was on the system playing around. Probably trying to make it do more things. Probably didn’t mean to tank it.”
Lou frowned, then he shook his head emphatically. “I got two guys who take care of the cameras and all that stuff. I sent both of them off the island yesterday on the last staff ferry.” He said. “None of the rest of us knows a damn thing about it.”
“Well.” Dar put her hands on the back of one of the worktable chairs and glanced down idly at the blueprints. “All I can tell you is what I found. The program stopped working because something made changes to it and made it stop working. Didn’t get that way by itself.”
“You know, I said that myself.” Lou nodded vigorously “I mean, I don’t know anything about this computer stuff. I’m a physical security guy. But this stuff lets us do more with less people, you know? Budgets are always so tight around here.”
Dar cocked her head to one side a little. “Really?” That surprised her, since she’d never had the impression the operational staff ever lacked for funding, given the yearly fees they all paid and the price of the real estate.
“Talking out of turn.” Lou stood up and waved his hand at her. “Anyway. Thanks very much for coming over here, ma’am. It really helped us out.” He looked at Dar, then looked away. “I know you and the big cheese don’t see eye to eye and all that, but my guys all say you and your friend are good people.”
“Glad to help.” Dar wasn’t sure to be amused, or disgusted, or just throw up her mental hands in a whatever shrug. “Might want to put a note out to your whole team that you know someone tried to do something and not to do it again.” She suggested. “Just be vague.”
“That’s about all I can be.” Lou said, with a wry smile. “Thanks.”
Dar escaped from the office, going past the group of security guards now contentedly doing whatever it was they did with their camera systems, oblivious of her passage. She slipped out the door and closed it behind her, finding that it had once again stopped raining, at least for the moment.
Miguel was outside, with a bit of pizza still clutched in one hand. talking to Sam and Kerry who were seated in the cart. Kerry had one booted foot propped up against the dashboard, and she had both hands wrapped around her knee, head tilted slightly in a listening posture.
As Dar angled towards them, though, Kerry turned her head and their eyes met, a wiggle of an eyebrow and the slightest hint of an eyeroll telling her all she needed to know about the subject matter.
She increased her pace and the two guards broke off the conversation. “That’s that.” She got into the back seat of the cart and folded her long legs into a somewhat comfortable position.
“See you later, Miguel.” Kerry gave the other guard a slight wave. “Hope things work out.”
“Thanks Kerry.” Miguel stepped back and away from the cart as they turned around and started back out along the road.
“Miguel thinks our boat’s fine.” Kerry had half turned in her seat to address her partner, putting her elbow on the seat back. “But there’s a lot of damage.” She concluded. “But looking at the other condos on the way here seems like they held up pretty well.”
“Yes.” Sam agreed. “All the places I saw, except the beach and the marina, and .. well, we can’t get around to where the maintenance docks are. A bunch of trees are down across the road there. But anyway the houses all look okay.”
“You said they were bunkers.” Kerry said to Dar. “You weren’t kidding.”
They came around the curve in the road that arched along the side of the island where the protected marina was built in. Along the way they could already see a lot of trees down, and near the road the flash of a white hull of a boat that had been thrown up onto land.
Like on their side of the island, much of the edge of the land of the island was gone, sucked into the ocean along with bushes and trees that had been planted there. Flotsam and jetsam was everywhere, and a huge pile of sea wrack was stuck in the small square cutout usually frequented by manatees.
Sam steered the cart around a fallen tree, both Dar and Kerry hastily grabbing hold of the seat supports as they bumped and trundled over the branches and debris before they could get back onto the road, and as they emerged behind a thicket of flattened bushes they could now see the marina.
“Holy crap.” Dar uttered.
Kerry just let out a soft whistle. At least a dozen large, expensive yachts were in pieces, half sunk in the water, or lying on their side, and two rows of docks they had been tied up to were exploded into thousands of shards, a dumpsters worth lying on the roof of the marina building itself.
Along the marina past that there was debris and wrack, the docks themselves awash with ocean waters and their lines pulling the boats askew.
“Yeah. A mess.” Sam agreed. “Glad all those guys ended up bunking at the mansion. They were going to stay down here, y’know? But they heard they were doing a cookout up there since that’s where the chefs were bunked so they went up there to get in on that.”
Dar peered past Sam’s head, as they got closer and caught sight of both the Dixie and her parent’s boat, tucked into slips along the most protected side of the marina apparently intact. Unlike most of the boats, theirs had been moored nose to tail with their backs to the wind.
Most of the slips sat sideways to the onshore winds and the craft had taken the brunt of their force. Dar could see some debris on the back decks of the Dixie, and it seemed like the radio antenna was bent, but her lines were in place and the dock structure alongside was in one piece.
Her father’s expert preparation, no doubt. “Looks like they both made it, Ker.” Dar pointed at the boats. “And they’re in slips we can get out of.” She added, shading her eyes as she looked at the entrance to the marina. “Barely.”
“Yeah the rest of these, it’s gonna be a while.” Sam agreed. “You want me to let you off or take you back to your place now that you seen this?” He had pulled the cart to a halt, and was leaning he elbows on the steering wheel. “Cause I don’t’ want to be round here when some of them other fellows start showing up to see their stuff.”
“Back to our place I think.” Kerry said. “We’ve got things to get sorted out, too.”
Sam nodded and turned the cart around, starting back the other way just as a couple of men in rain gear appeared near the edge of the marina building, half it’s roof caved in from the impact of the docks hitting it. “Just in time.”
He sped off, as a shout sounded out behind them.
More people were out on the road, some wandering over to the lake that was the golf course and looking at it, when they came back around the curve of the island to where Dar and Kerry’s condo was.
“I lot of people stayed out here.” Kerry commented.
“Sure.” Sam nodded. “Anyone who didn’t fly out did. Why stay in some janked out shelter if you could stay here? In your own place with your own stuff?” He carefully steered the cart around a deep puddle in the road. “My wife convinced me to go to one of those shelters last time. Some high school gym, you know? Ceiling leaked, smelled like old socks.. just a mess.”
“Can’t imagine staying in my high school gym.” Dar said. “That would end up a Mad Max scenario.”
Kerry chuckled wryly, having once been in Dar’s high school gym. “So is your wife here with you?”
“Hell no. I divorced her. No idea where the hell she is in this one.” Sam said cheerfully. “It was just me, and when they asked me to stay here? That’s different. I knew we’d be all right here, and no leaking roofs.”
Kerry looked over her shoulder at Dar. “Oh.” She said. “Uh.. sorry.”
“Don’t be!” Sam said. “We never really got along. Not even sure why I married her.” He slowed down as they approached the turn in and the slight rise that would then slope down to the parking garage and the path up to their doorstep. “Hang on!”
Both Dar and Kerry grabbed hold of the roof support bars and Dar braced her feet out as the cart turned and went up over the slight bump and between the gates of the concrete half wall that bordered the complex.
A moment later a huge blob of water was heading their way, coming at them from near the path to the door. It hit the oncoming cart and since the plastic sides were rolled up in deference to the mugginess it drenched all of them.
“Hey!” Sam yelped, as the cart nearly went out of control.
“Oh crap!” Kerry got her hands up in time to intercept the water before it hit her face. She swayed as the cart veered to one side but was grabbed by the shoulders from behind and steadied. “Whoa!”
“Dad” Dar let out a bellow. “Hey!”
Sam got the cart to a halt, blinking the muddy water out of his eyes, and shaking his drenched hair. “What in the world was that all about?”
From the slope to the understructure parking, Andrew Roberts appeared, dressed in cargo shorts and a tank top, damp from the rain and wearing knee high fishing boots. In one hand he was holding the handle of a very large bucket. “Sorry bout that.”
Kerry got out and shook herself off. “What are you doing, dad?”
“Bailin.” Andrew said, coming over to them. “Wanted to get that door opened, see what the underneath looks like.”
“Oh.” Sam was wiping his face. “Yeah, there’s supposed to be drainage but Lou figured it’s all full right now.”
Dar walked over and saw that the slope to the garage, which had been flooded to the level of the road when they’d left was now half emptied. She glanced at her father, who’d come over to stand next to her. “Both our boats look good.”
Andrew nodded. “Figured it might be like that.”
“About a dozen of the ones tied into the floating dock got trashed.” Dar said. “Two of them ended up upside down on the beach.”
Andrew clucked his tongue. “I done told them people. Didn’t figure to listen to someone who knew something about boats.”
Dar chuckled, a touch maliciously.
Kerry had trotted up into the house and returned with a towel, which she handed to Sam who showed no inclination to get back in his cart and leave. “I’m going to try my phone again.” She went over, and out into the roadway.
Sam walked over to join Dar and Andrew. “You made a dent in that, Mr. Roberts.” He remarked. “Had someone stop me on the way over here and ask me to find a pump for them. I didn’t think about suggesting they try a bucket.”
Dar stifled a laugh, and Andrew didn’t bother to. “Lemme get back to it.” Dar’s father said, shaking his head. “Aint nothing to do anyhow but watch them weather people.” He picked up the bucket and went back down the slope into the water.
“Yeah, cables all down, and internet’s all down.” Sam started backing away towards the cart. “Let me get out of the way and back to work. Anyway, thanks for coming to help out, Ms Roberts. I know Lou really appreciated having all those screens back on it sure helps us.”
“My pleasure.” Dar lied amiably, giving him a little wave as he backed the cart up and turned it around. She stepped backwards up onto the stairs as another wave of water came up from the garage, leaning against the railing and putting her hands into her pockets.
It was still overcast, and the air was so thick with water it might well have been raining. She could feel the sweat gathering under her shirt, and the wind only brought a sheen of moisture to her face.
After a moment of random thought, she took her hands out of her pockets and removed her shirt, pulling it off over her head and starting the process of wringing it out while she waited for Kerry to return. That didn’t make the air any less muggy, but exposing her skin to the breeze helped make it a little more comfortable.
She could still hear the sound of trees being whipped by the wind, and it howled as it came through the buildings. But the clouds overhead, moving fast, were not as dark and there was a sense that the storm was passing. Dar wondered where the eye was, and if it had dissipated any.
She wondered if Melbourne, where they’d sent their team, was safe. The last angle she’d seen on the path of the storm was moving it south of the town but you never knew.
You never knew. Their whole office could be gone. Everything she and Kerry had built up in the last half year could be gone. That they had been so lightly touched so far was mostly a matter of luck. Dar twisted the fabric in her hands, watching the droplets land on the tile steps.
Luck. When she’d decided to move into May’s old place she’d never considered hurricane security. It had just been a cool place to live away from people that had a great view. What it would be like to sit in it while a monster storm came over head never crossed her mind.
Now she knew. Dar draped the damp shirt over her shoulder and went down the steps.
“Paladar, what the hell are you doing?”
Dar paused as her father came up the slope with another bucket of water. “Going to see if Kerry’s having any luck with the phone.” She answered. “Why?”
“With half your damn clothes on?”
Dar spread her arms in a gesture of inquiry. “No worse than a bathing suit.” She said. “It’s too sticky.”
“Here then.” Andrew tossed the bucket’s contents at her unexpectedly. “Cool yer self.”
“Yah!” Dar tried to dodge but there wasn’t space to, and a moment later she was wet through. She pulled her shirt off her shoulder and stretched it out, spinning it between her hands and then heading her father’s way. “C’mere!”
“Oh ho ho!” Andrew bounded backwards as she approached, snapping the shirt with audible cracks in the air. “Don’t you get saucy there, young lady!” He ducked the makeshift whip as Dar jumped into the puddle with both feet, sending a splash of water over him. “Gimme that!”
Dar got in a hit on his leg, ducking as he scooped up a bucketful of water and slung it in her direction and plunging sideways through the puddle. She sent another splash heading his way by hopping up and down and a moment later they were in a full out water fight.
Kerry heard the commotion and folded up her mostly useless phone, trotting across the street and into the driveway arriving just in time to get smacked in the face with a torrent of warm muddy water. “Blah!!!!” She let out a squawk, as the chaos now turned into laughter.
She wiped the water out of her eyes and put her hands on her hips as Andrew and Dar sloshed out of the puddle, both completely soaked. Andy was still carrying the bucket, Dar had her shirt in her hand, wrapped around her fist in a ball.
They had almost identical grins on their faces.
“What in the hell’s going on here?” Kerry asked, spitting a bit of debris from her mouth from the water.
“We were just messin round.” Andy said, glancing behind him. “Ahm gonna open up that there door, Dar. Aint enough water left to drown much.”
“Yeah, I think I soaked up a good bit of it.” Kerry regarded her now wet through body. “I guess it doesn’t really matter now if it starts raining again?”
“Not much, no.” Dar started idly twisting the shirt in her hands, watching the water drain from it.
The door to the condo opened and Ceci peered cautiously out. “Ah.” She emerged and closed the door quickly to keep the dogs from escaping. She looked from her husband to her daughter and chuckled dryly. “I see things never change.”
“The boats are okay, mom.” Kerry told her. “There’s a lot of damage around, but I didn’t see anything really catastrophic.”
“Not to us.” Dar remarked. “Not sure some other boat owners would agree.”
“They’re starting to get pictures in from the rest of Miami.” Ceci told them. “I think we were lucky. I just saw one where all the windows in the Intercontinental hotel were blown out and one of the interchange overpasses collapsed.”
“No luck?” Dar asked Kerry.
“Can’t even get a signal now.” Kerry told her. “Said whatever the sat equivalent is of all circuits are busy.”
Andy had retrieved a manual crank from a box near the garage door and inserted it. He cautiously started rotating it, applying pressure when it resisted. He braced his booted feet apart and pulled harder, the muscles standing out under the skin of his bare arms.
Dar had half turned and was watching. “Hang on.” She said, handing her shirt to Kerry. “Hold that for a minute wouldja?”
“Sure.” Kerry took the wet item, silently laughing. “But there’s only room for one of you to haul on that crank, hon.”
Dar looked over her shoulder at her partner dryly. “It’s the seals.”
“It’s A SEAL.” Kerry amiably agreed, pointing at Andy, glancing up to where Ceci was now sitting on the small bench outside the front door, holding her sides laughing. “C’mon, it wasn’t that funny.”
“Nnnno.” Dar whined, looking around the driveway. “The seals on the DOOR.” She went over to the box where the crank had been. “I need a crowbar.” She said. “Which are all of course inside the damned garage.”
Andrew had stopped trying to turn the crank, and was now standing, holding it, looking at the door speculatively. “Ah do believe you are correct there, Dardar.” He let the crank drop onto the ground at the top of the slope and started off down the driveway. “Lemme see what I can find round here.”
“I’ll go too.” Ceci trotted down the steps. “Goddess I’m tired of that damn weatherman.” She caught up to Andy and tucked her hand inside the crook of his elbow.
Kerry watched them disappear around the corner, then she returned her attention to her partner, who was smiling a little, eyes slightly unfocused. “You and your dad are so funny.”
Dar looked up, the blue of her eyes looking surprisingly vivid in the overcast, gray light. “Kinda stupid.” She half shrugged, looking a touch embarrassed. “We used to have hose fights in the yard when we lived down south. Drove the neighbors nuts.”
“Kind of beautiful actually.” Kerry disagreed. “You realize I never even got invited to play golf with my father? He wouldn’t so much as play catch football with Mike for the press.” She shook out Dar’s wet shirt and hung it over the stairway railing. “I don’t think I ever even saw him in a t-shirt.”
“Muppet.” Dar said, succinctly. “Why have kids if you’re not going to have some fun with them given what a pain in the ass they are?”
Kerry laughed, leaning against the railing and folding her arms across her chest. “Having a water fight definitely would not have been his idea of fun.” She said. She glanced up at the entrance. “I guess we should go back inside and see what the television is showing. Maybe we’ll see something of Coconut Grove.”
Dar looked around. “Yeah, there’s not much else we can do out here. Saw what we needed to see for now I guess. When we get this door open, we can take the carts out.” She fished the sat phone out of her pocket and turned it over, watching some water run out of it’s folds. “Hope these are waterproof.”
“If we stay outside, more chance for the team to get hold of us.” Dar concluded. “Worse comes to worse, we can take the boat out and go over to the shoreline there. See if we can dock close enough to get to the office.” She looked up at the sky. “We’ll either beat the coast guard out or get our asses chased down by them.”
Kerry exhaled. “I’m thinking about how much email I’m eventually going to have to look at.” She said. “How many pissed off clients to deal with.”
“It’s a storm, Ker.”
“They don’t care, Dar.”
Dar sighed, and folded her arms over her most bare torso. Her skin was spackled with storm debris, bits of wood and dirt washed down into the puddle. There was a leaf plastered along her ribcage and tucked into the waistband of her cargo pants a twig was poking out.
Kerry went over to her and removed it, twirling the twig in her fingertips. “I’m worried about our people.” She said, after a long pause. “I’m worried if they’re safe, and I’m worried that if something’s going to happen to our company it’ll affect all of them.”
Dar regarded her somberly. “What about us?”
“Not worried about us.” Kerry said. “At least.. I mean, Dar, there’s any of a hundred companies who’d hire either of us in a heartbeat. And, we have a lot of personal resources.”
“True.” Dar agreed. “And worse comes to worse…” She winked at Kerry. “We can live on my little island and I’ll fish for our dinner.” She smiled. “Cause that’s all I need in life.” She added casually. “You.”
Caught offguard, Kerry blinked a few times as her mental train ran off the tracks and ended up floating in a lake somewhere.
“Let’s worry about things when then happen.” Dar said. “And before we do that, let’s go take a damn shower because I think I have a pollywog in my underwear.”
The condo had partially at least returned somewhat to its usual internal view. Kerry had gotten the shutters on the kitchen window and the door open, and cleared the debris off the backyard steps, and Dar was outside on the patio working on the bent panels protecting the outside.
Chino and Mocha were seated inside the sliding glass doors, watching her intently. Behind them, the television was showing loop after loop of storm wreckage and destruction, and if Kerry concentrated she could hear helicopters outside now that the winds had mostly died down.
“Power is out throughout most of South Florida.” A reporter was saying. “Pumping stations are down, and there’s a boil water order in effect.”
Kerry stood in the doorway to the kitchen, a pot of chili on the stove behind her softly bubbling away as she watched the scenes flash on the screen. An airborne view of the Port of Miami, just west of them, showed multiple cargo loading cranes toppled into the channel.
The docks that would normally have cargo and cruise ships, were, of course, empty. PortMiami had closed before the storm and every ship had run from it, going south and west into the Gulf of Mexico.
“The storm surge, measured at over a dozen feet high, picked up containers and they’re now in the water on either side of the terminal.” The reporter said. “Palm and Star Islands are completely cut off. The surge washed over and destroyed the causeways onto those man made islands.”
“What a mess.” Kerry shook her head.
“Parts of MacArthur and Venetian Causeways are underwater, and the police are advising everyone to please stay off the roads. I am going to repeat that. Please stay off the roads, and do not try to travel away from your homes unless you are in need of emergency medical assistance.”
It wouldn’t stop people. Kerry knew it, the reporter knew it, and the police surely knew it. There were people out right now, she was sure, who were driving around looking at what there was to be looked at. After all, wasn’t that what she and Dar had done?
People wanted to see what was going on. With no power, and no internet, no cell service, no way of surfing around to see what was being said, the only real way to know was to go look. So they would. She was almost sure that aside from random drivers, there were people out taking drone movies, and soon, there would be boats on the waterways.
She felt bad for the police. They were people. They had families, and those families had also been in danger, and were possibly in homes that were damaged or somewhere unsafe, and yet they had just showed the command center in West Dade where all of them were showing up there.
Reporting for work when perhaps their own homes were destroyed.
The reporters at the television station, there in their flooded out building, were showing up. At the staging yard on the edge of the Everglades in Sunrise, Florida Power and Light’s linemen were gathering.
“The eye of Hurricane Bob has moved off the coast, and is now going northeast as it gets caught up in the flow of the frontal boundary.” The reporter said. “The edge of the eyewall has just missed to the south Port Canaveral, and hurricane watches and warnings are now going up along the southeastern seaboard.”
A flood of new light made Kerry turn her head, to see the metal shutters peeling jerkily and reluctantly back from the edge of the patio, with some strenuous encouragement by Dar. She went to the sliding glass and slid one panel open, allowing the dogs to scoot past her. “Nice job, hon.”
Dar dusted her hands off as she finished shoving the shutters back into their side pockets. “We’re going to have to have those replaced. Bent as hell.” She turned and put her hands, encased in leather gloves, on the railing of the patio wall, looking out over the still roughly churning ocean.
At that moment, however, the clouds parted just a bit, and a wan, pallid bit of sun came through, splashing the dark green and white ruffled surface with a emerald sparkle and as if in signal of it, a muffled burble sounded from the thigh pocket of Dar’s cargo pants.
‘Here we go.” Dar fished it out. “Ready or not.”
“Aint nobody else answering.” The voice echoed a bit, the sound of wind behind it. “So I figured since you people were the most east, maybe it was clear.”
“About right, Scott.” Dar said. “Glad everyone’s safe there.”
“Yeah, on generator, noisy as hell.” Scott replied. “Had to hump my ass up the stairs to the roof here to use this thing since they can’t power the elevators on it. Cheap jackasses.”
Dar was momentarily silent, her mind busy imagining their tech in his wheelchair effectively hopping up the emergency steps. “Ah.”
“Everything’s flooded around the building. So anyway.” Scott said. “Everybody on the damned planet is calling this number to find out whats going on down by the office. You know anything?”
“Not yet.” Dar admitted. “As you figured out, no one else is answering their phones yet. We can see a lot of damage everywhere from here but no pictures yet on the television from Coconut Grove.”
“So you can tell anyone who’s calling that we’re still evaluating the storm damage.” Dar said, briefly. “I’m probably going to have to go over there by boat and check it out.”
“Figures.” Scott repeated. “Anyway that cloud phone thing worked out at least. No problems there. Stupid things ringing off the hook downstairs I better get back there.” He paused. “Only thing we can’t call from that thing is these stupid sat phones.”
Dar frowned. “You should have been able to… “ She paused. “Oh crap. We probably didn’t turn on the codes for them to allow the dial out.” She sighed. “Damn it.”
Scott laughed a trifle. “Better for you.” He said. “Otherwise someone’d have some bright idea to forward calls to you from this thing and it’d never stop.”
Dar chuckled a little herself. “That’s true.” She admitted. “Anyway, thanks for taking the time and hassle to get a line out, Scott. Glad everyone’s okay, just keep things going best you can there. I’ll see what I can do on this end to figure out what’s going on.”
“Roger that.” Scott sounded relatively content. “Bye.”
He hung up the line and Dar did the same. She put the phone back into her pocket and regarded Kerry, who was standing next to her listening. “Well, at least they’re okay up there.”
“I can only imagine the calls they’re getting.” Kerry grimaced slightly. “Twenty twenty hindsight, I should have sent an admin with them to field all that cruft.”
“Twenty twenty.” Dar agreed. “Anyway, lets see if Dad’s had any success in finding a crowbar to open up that door.” She went past Kerry and slid the doors open, crossing from the fitfully windswept moist heat of the patio into the chill interior of the condo.
Kerry followed, sliding the door shut as Mocha and Chino came over to investigate, a little puzzled and doggily concerned about all the uproar in their normally sedate home.
They all went to the front door and Dar opened it, just as they heard a loud bang very near by.
Kerry grabbed Dar’s arm. “What the hell was that?” She asked. “Was that a gunshot?”
“Hope not.” Dar paused, blocking the door with her knee. “Chino, Mocha, stay!”
Kerry went and opened the nearby hall closet, ducking her head inside and flipping on the light. She reached over and grabbed the shotgun from it’s rack on the wall and swung back around the door frame, pausing to check it’s load.
Then she cradled it in the crook of her arm as Dar cautiously eased her body around the front door and peered outside. “Dad?”
Andrew came up the slope and craned his neck to look up. “Yeap?”
“Was that you?” Dar asked. “That noise?”
Dar paused. “Did you shoot the door?” She asked, in a puzzled tone.
Andrew came a few steps further and planted his hands on his hips. “Did I what?” He asked. “Why in the hell would I do that?”
Dar came out onto the landing. “Heard what sounded like a gunshot.” She explained to her father. “Thought maybe you shot the door in frustration.”
“Say what?” Her father said, his voice lifting.
“I would have.” Dar said. “That’s why Kerry’s the gun owner.” She moved aside as Kerry appeared, having put the shotgun back in its rack. “Any luck?”
Ceci entered the gate, a small digital camera in one hand. “I got some great shots.” She said, in a satisfied tone. “I think I’ll start a new set of paintings. Start with all the mourners over there at the golf lake.” She grinned. “Call the first one Disaster Strikes the Senseless Rich. What do you think?”
“I think it’s going to be a hit.” Kerry went down the steps to join her mother in law, coming around to see the screen of the camera as Ceci displayed her shots. “Ceci Roberts, the Irony Series.”
“Hehehhe.” Ceci chortled. “I like that. Nice ring to it.” She flipped through the pictures. “I really shouldn’t laugh, because it’s a goddess awful mess. But no one here’s hurting.”
Dar went down the slope to where there was a handle poking out of the remaining puddle. “What is that?”
“Sledge hammer.” Andrew went over and picked it back up, bringing the head of it out of the water, and moving further down the line of the door. “Ah figure I can give it a few good bangs here.”
“Yeah, I want to get the carts out.” Dar said. “Get over to the marina, and get the boat over to see what’s going on shoreside.”
Andrew looked over his shoulder at her. “No word from them all?”
“Just from Scott, up north.” Dar said. “Nothing yet from anyone else.” She watched as her father selected another spot and swing the sledge hammer, producing another sharp report as the head of it hit the frame of the protective roller door.
She went over to the manual crank and inserted it, applying pressure first in one direction and then the other as Andy kept up his pounding, making the door shift jerkily up and down in it’s tracks.
Ceci regarded them as she stood next to Kerry. “Single minded.” She commented.
“’Always.” Kerry watched her partner with an affectionate smile. “Door has no idea what it’s up against.”
A helicopter rattled overhead and they both looked up, to see a large Coast Guard chopper heading due west, it’s large rotors shimmering in the gray light. Kerry pulled out her phone again and opened it. “Might as well give this a try again.”
“I’m going to see what’s on the news.” Ceci walked up the steps to the condo. “They were showing the airport before we left. I think I saw at least one of the jet things across the runway.”
“Got it.” Dar poked her head inside the kitchen, where Kerry was setting down a double bowl of kibble for the seated and waiting Labradors. “Finally.”
“Good job, honey.” Kerry straightened and looked over at her, then started to laugh a little. “You need another shower.”
“Muggy as hell out there.” Dar glanced down at her sweat drenched shirt and wood debris stained skin. “But we got the door open. Sort of.”
“Sort of?” Kerry got out a glass and went to the refrigerator, opening it to dispense milk into it. She handed it to Dar.
“Ended up taking it out of the track completely and bending it flat against the wall.” Dar informed her. “Really at the end it was just me and dad shoving.” She took a swallow of the milk and winked at Kerry. “Good to do something not involving a keyboard for a change.”
“No damage inside?”
“Just some debris, and the puddle that we let in.” Dar said. “Cars are fine. Dad took one of the carts out to go see if his truck survived.”
“Well. Not much we can do with the cars anyway right now, with that ramp the way it is.” Kerry said. “I think your idea with the boat is probably our best bet right now. “ She looked out the window at the still gray skies, though the trees outside that were standing were now only fitfully waving.
“I’m going to get dry.” Dar took her milk with her and disappeared back into their bedroom.
Chino was standing at the back door, and now she turned her head and barked gruffly.
“Are you done?” Kerry went over and opened the door, checking her watch and then following the dogs down the steps into the wreck of their back garden. She moved away from the walls a little and went down nearer to the outer gate, where ocean was still surging, washing sea foam and debris up into the yard.
She opened the sat phone, and to her surprise it rang. She quickly answered it. “Kerry.”
Kerry felt a sense of relief. “Mark! It’s great to hear your voice.”
“I can hear the ocean in the background there.” Mark said. “What a bleeping fricken mess.” He went on without waiting for her to answer. “I just got this stupid phone to work. Nothing else is. We don’t have power, cable, phones, nothing.”
Kerry glanced at her surroundings. “We have generators.” She said. “But no cable, or net or anything.” She added. “Cellulars all down everywhere I hear.” She paused. “Our place here made it through okay. The back wall got taken over by ocean, but everything else is fine.”
“My house made it, but I lost part of the roof.” Mark said. “It was the part over the bedrooms. We’re camped in the kitchen but we’re lucky. Did you see those pictures of Doral?”
“I did.” Kerry said. “That whole area’s flooded. Did you see the airport?”
“Hell yes!” Mark said. “Someone said it’s going to be closed for who knows how long, and that whole interchange collapsed at Golden Glades.”
Kerry looked out the gate over the ruffled surface of the ocean. “The channel’s full of who knows what.” She said. “We could see it from here. The cargo cranes are all toppled over.” She walked down to the water edge. “South Beach is a mess.”
“I got a pair of solar panels here. We saw a little bit of the coverage.” Mark said. “This ain’t gonna be a quick fix, boss.”
“No.” Kerry murmured.
Mark was silent for a moment. “It was scary as crap.” He finally said. “Barb’s really freaked out. When the roof went, I was wishing I’d taken her and stayed with the guys at the office.” He paused. “I haven’t heard from anyone else yet. There are trees down everywhere here. I’m going to take my bike out and see how far I get.”
“Mark, be careful.” Kerry warned. “We’re just running around here with golf carts and it’s dangerous.”
“No, I know.” Mark said. “But I’m worried about the guys. Carlos and his buds.”
They were both briefly silent again.
“Yeah, me too, and the rest of the staff.” Kerry sighed. ”I think we’re going to take the boat out and see if we can get over to the shore there, by the end of the waterfront.”
“They’re telling people to stay home.” Mark observed. “Not that anyone’s gonna do it.”
Kerry chuckled briefly. “Dar figures even if the docks are gone down there she can get us close enough to swim in.”
Mark made a small sound of protest. “And you’re telling ME to be careful?” He asked, in a quizzical tone. “Jesus, Kerry. There’s like whole National Guard things being sent here.”
“And?” Kerry said, watching a seagull appear, skimming over the new shoreline. “On a list of what they’re going to care about, where would a small IT services company end up, Mark? They’re going to be focused on hospitals and facility.”
“Just the truth.” Kerry turned, spotting Mocha chasing something over near the back wall to the house. “Besides, you know Dar. The eye barely cleared us and she was out fixing the island camera systems and annoying the neighbors. She’s not going to hang around waiting for the National Guard.”
Chino came over and sat down next to her, observing the wake coming into the yard and depositing luridly purple seaweed at the dog’s feet. She bent her head and sniffed at it, then she stood up and gingerly walked into the water.
“Chino, stop.” Kerry said. “Anyway Mark, I’m going to keep trying to get hold of Maria and Mayte. They’re over near the airport.”
“I’ll let you know what I find.” Mark promised. “We’re pretty far south but I might be able to get up around there using 27.” He paused thoughtfully. “Might want to pack an inflatable kayak past that though.”
“It’s kinda late.” Kerry observed, as they drove carefully around the edge of the marina, heading towards the protected side. Near the front, where the most damage was, a number of men were out, some with cameras and others just standing by.
“Yeah.” Dar agreed. “But we can probably get over there and back before it gets all the way dark.” She aimed the cart around the back of the marina building, detouring around two fallen trees and one of the island pickup trucks that was serving as a workspace for the five or six marina staff standing around it.
Dockmaster Jack was one of them. Spotting them he took a step back from the truck and waved, and they slowed down as he walked over. “Hey there.”
“Hi Jack.” Dar said. “What a mess, huh?”
“What a mess.” Jack agreed. “I told the chiefs those floating docks were going to be a humongous bad idea, but they didn’t want to pay to sink pilings like we did on the perimeter.” He looked at the marina building. “Total loss. They’re going to have to rebuild the whole thing.”
The entire roof of it was caved in, a further collapse since they’d been there before. The storage shed behind the building had been deconstructed, and two of the four walls were lying on the ground, the contents of the shed scattered all along the back part of the path.
Jack shook his head. “Weather station’s gone, radio sets… Jesus.” He looked around at them. “And everyone coming over here to chew us. I think you and your folks did all right.”
“We did. We came over to check it out earlier, and dad was here before.” Dar agreed. “Matter of fact, we were going to take a ride out over across Biscayne Bay.”
Jack blinked. “Now?”
“We’ve got some people over there we’re concerned about, who stayed in our office.” Kerry explained. “We can’t get hold of anyone.”
“Oh, I don’t know.” Jack seemed taken aback. “It’s dangerous out there. Currents are crazy, and there’s so much debris.. I’d hate to have you all get through the storm fine then crack your hull.” He said, as the winds rose again and he indicated the sky. “Honest, I would wait.”
It was good advice. Kerry knew that. She also knew they weren’t going to take it. “Thanks Jack, we’ll be careful.” She could feel Dar’s body shifting, the twitch of the muscles in her hands as she gripped the wheel of the cart and the faint jumping of the muscle just over her kneecap indicating her impatience. “We’ve got some pretty solid gear onboard and Dar’s a great driver.”
“Oh I know, I’ve seen you come in.” Jack said. “Well, like I said, take care.” He stepped back from the cart, and gave them a little wave as he rejoined the rest of the staff standing by the truck.
“Are we being .. um…”
“Stupid?” Dar hit the pedal and started the cart along the path, having to take the time to dodge debris every few feet. “No more than we usually are.” She grimaced as they bumped over a bit of aluminum decking. “I can’t cope with more sitting in our living room watching endless loops of helicopter footage.”
Kerry chuckled briefly. “Fair point.”
“Besides, we’re taking my father.” Dar concluded, as she edged the cart along the far side of the marina, where the seawall had protected the two slips that were aligned alongside it, the furthest from the marina. “We’ll be fine.”
Two slips on the very end of the inlet, tricky to maneuver into, tucked into the curve of the protective stone wall with lines only on their port side.
Dar found a place to park the cart and she removed the fob from it, in case anyone got the idea they’d like to borrow the vehicle. She lifted a backpack from the back of it and joined Kerry as they carefully made their way along the plaswood surface towards the boats.
Andrew was visible on the bow of theirs, which was tied up in front of his own. He was coiling a line expertly in both hands, watching idly as they approached. “Lo there.” He greeted them amiably.
“Hi dad.” Dar stepped from the edge of the battered dock onto the gunwale of the boat and then onto the deck with easy grace. “Amazing nothing’s broken.” She inspected the space.
“Just that there whippy.” Andrew indicated the antenna. “Back here got washed out. Got me a coconut out of that there corner of it but the sump took care of the water.” He looked around the back of the boat. “Nothing cracked, and it’s dry down there in the engine well.”
Dar nodded. “Lets get this party started.” She said. “I don’t really want to be dodging bits of someone’s backyard barbeque in the dark.” She slid the backpack onto her shoulder and started up the ladder to the flying bridge.
Kerry heard the dual inboard engines start up, and she left off checking the interior of the cabin to return to the back deck. She looked over the aft well wall where the engine wash was bubbling up debris, and then to the starboard side where bits of wood and chunks of foam were floating.
Andrew stepped up onto the gunwale and walked along the side of the boat to the bow, kneeling to untie the ropes that were holding them to the dock.
Kerry did the same for the aft cleat and felt the boat shift and start to drift away from the pylings. She looked up at the flying bridge, watching Dar standing at the controls, legs braced as her hands worked the throttles.
Out of habit she went to the radio console, opening up the teak hatch and taking out the hand held transmitter before she paused in thought. Normally, she would call the dockmaster, and clear them out.
Did the dockmaster even have a handheld radio to hear it?
Would the dockmaster even for one moment give a damn?
Kerry put the transmitter back into it’s clip and closed the hatch.
“What’cha doin there, kumquat?” Andy came back from his task and joined her. “Everything shipshape in there?”
“Yeah, it’s all okay I think.” Kerry said. “I was going to call in our leaving, but I don’t think it matters.”
“Naw.” Andrew shook his head. Then he went over to the side of the boat and watched as they drifted towards the wreckage of the floating dock and the first of the overturned yachts lying on it’s side. It was mostly under water and the fully fitted out cooking pit it had on it’s deck was hanging half bent across it’s port railing.
The Dixie’s direction gently changed, moving backwards in the water at almost idle as Dar nudged the big boat past the damaged craft, sliding it also past her parent’s on their port side.
Andrew watched calmly as they came within a foot of his boat’s fiberglass hull, standing there with his hands in his pockets.
“She’s pretty damn good at this.” Kerry commented from her place next to him. “She brings this thing into those little marinas down south and everyone’s usually going ‘how in the hell?”
He chuckled. “One thing mah kid did not get from me.” He readily admitted. He drew in a satisfied breath of the warm, damp air as they cleared the second slip and Dar started to swing the boat around almost within it’s own length.
“I’m going to go grab my camera.” Kerry said, as they completed the maneuver and headed cautiously for the entrance to the marina basin. “I’m totally sure I’m going to need it.”
“Aint no doubt.” Andy glanced up at the flying bridge. “Good job there, Dardar.”
Dar smiled, but didn’t turn, her attention focused on avoiding the sunken structures and nudging the floating debris out of their way. She did glance to her left as they approached the edge of the protective sea wall, spotting the dockmaster on the far side of the destroyed marina building watching them go out.
She took one hand off the throttles and waved, and Jack waved back. Then she moved past the last overturned boat and reached the opening , feeling the chop of the water start to jostle the hull.
The channel water was rough and churning as she edged out into it, and the wind hit them, pushing against the boat and making the guy wires stabilizing the flying bridge sing. Dar reached over to turn on the marine radio out of long habit, settling into the captain’s chair as her eyes flicked over to the digital sonar screen and the depth gauge.
The marina let out onto the southern side of the island, into Norris Cut, and she turned west from there, moving very cautiously along the coast of the island. The wind was sharp enough to make her blink, and she wished she’d remembered to bring her sunglasses with her as it felt like particles of salt were being driven into her eyeballs.
Along the edge of the channel she could see trees by the hundreds down, the entire south side of the island had been laid bare and much of the landscaping was in the water forcing her out a little to avoid it. Ahead of her was the causeway, and beyond that the heart of the city and the mouth of the Miami River.
The storm surge had gone pretty much right up the river’s path. This far away Dar couldn’t see what damage there was yet, but one thing was obvious and that was there was no power anywhere. The only lights showing were the channel markers winking red and green on either side of her.
It felt lonely. The Dixie was the only vessel moving in her sight, and the sound of the diesel engines rumbled softly underfoot as the boat rocked in the chop as she went at a dead slow speed, keeping one eye on the waters ahead of her and the other on the sonar.
Would suck to run into something. Dar had no intention of being a sound bite on WPLG, some stupid nitwit out for a joyride that had to be towed in by the coast guard after running aground or into sunken debris.
She only hoped Kerry would forgive her for the motion.
Kerry looped the strap of her camera over her head and made her way back out onto the deck, glad of the bit of ginger candy she was sucking on.
She’d gotten more used to the motion of the boat over the years. Especially when they went out for some diving, and they had to anchor in place, the back and forth, up and down rocking had become familiar, and she’d developed reasonably steady sea legs in moving around on deck.
Still. She swallowed some of the ginger flavor. The channel was far rougher than usual.
Andy was sitting in one of the comfortable back chairs, watching the passing scenery with interest, and Kerry took the other seat, taking off her lens cap and testing her focus.
There was a pile of debris along the southern coast of the island they were passing and she zoomed in on it and took a picture of it, then paused, trying to determine what it was. A small boat, probably.
They passed another and she lifted her head up from the eyepiece. “That’s a car.” She pointed.
“Yeap.” Andy agreed. “Probly came up off the front there.” He pointed at the approaching coastline. “Road’s all washed out.” He extended his long legs along the deck, crossing his worn military boots at the ankle.
Was there someone in it? Kerry hesitated, then refocused, but it was impossible to tell. Should they stop? She looked at the angle and then slowly lowered the camera. The water covered the entire cab, lapping over the top of the vehicle. “Hope it was empty.”
“Probly.” Andy said. “Tho.” He added, thoughtfully. “Some fellas do live inside their cars in that city there.” He sniffed and folded his hands over his stomach. “Probly went into them shelters.”
Unexpectedly, Kerry’s phone rang. “Ah.” She rapidly put the cap back on and dug the phone out of her pocket, opening it up. “This is Kerry.”
“Hey Col.” Kerry felt a sense of relief hearing the familiar voice. “Great to hear from you. How’d it go?”
“Oh my goodness gracious I’m digging a cellar to get into for the next time.” Colleen said, in an exasperated tone. “We’re swamped up to the second floor here, girl. That your generator rumbling?”
“Um. No.” Kerry said. “We’re on the boat, heading to see what’s up at the office.”
For a moment there was dead silence.
“Of course you’re on the boat heading for the office.” Colleen was half laughing and half groaning. “Have you seen the news? Are you out of your ever loving?” She protested. “Kerry for the love of God!”
Kerry glanced at Andrew. “What?” She asked. “I saw the stuff on the tv, sure. What does that have to do with anything? We left Carlos and some of his guys at the office. We want to make sure they’re okay.” She said. “We did all right out on the island.”
Why was Colleen so surprised? Kerry wondered. When Dar had suggested this idea, it had sounded eminently logical, and both Andrew and Ceci had nodded in agreement as well. Was it so surprising they’d want to do this?
“Figured you would. That place is a bunker.” Colleen said. “Well, you just be careful. I heard there’s all kinds of flooding down near the water there, and buildings damaged. The bridge over to the port came down.”
Kerry glanced to her right and shifted. “Yeah, we’re passing it right now. No kidding.” She stared at the spans, one whole side twisted and tumbled into the water. “Wow.” She added. “No, Dar’s being careful. We have sonar onboard, and her dad’s with us.”
“Ah.” Colleen said. “Well, with no power, no phones, no internet, no nothing – soon as the water goes down here I think we should shift ourselves up to the north, with the support folks. You think?”
“Yeah. Not sure we’re going to have any other choice.” Kerry said. “I talked to Scott. They did fine up there.”
“Righty ho. Let me know how it all works out, now that it’s clear enough for these lovely phones to work.” Colleen said. “Thank the lord Mayte thought of it.” She paused. “You hear from her yet?”
“No.” Kerry said. “We’re worried about that too. Not her, or Maria. I heard from Mark.”
“Well. This one just started now, after the clouds cleared up a bit. Give it some time.” Colleen advised. “Let me go get the candles out. Going to be a hot steamy night.”
Kerry hung up the phone, and sighed. “This is such a mess.”
Andrew had gotten up and now mounted the gunwhale and started up along the port side towards the front deck of the boat.
After a moment, Kerry got up and followed him, holding onto the railing as they hit some chop. She jerked as the boat’s horn sounded lightly, and she looked up to find Dar standing at the controls, peering at them.
“Careful, people.” Dar’s voice sounded on the intercom, echoing softly over the engines.
Andy half turned and gave her a thumbs up, as he took up a position on the front of the boat, standing with his legs braced and his arms folded, surveying the waters they were crossing through.
Kerry stayed where the cabin arched up to the bridge on the port side, where there were grab bars fastened into the fiberglass and she could lean against it. She took out her camera and took some shots, then, as the boat wallowed a little in the cross current, she decided more ginger was required.
Returning back to the back deck, she opened the door and went into the cabin, which was blessedly free of wind and comfortably cool. She put the camera down on the galley table and went past it into the compact bedroom with it’s queen size bed and maximized storage space.
On the countertop there was a soft fabric bag and she grabbed it, fishing inside for another of the candies, leaning back against the wall as the boat rocked.
The intercom crackled. “Hey Ker?”
Kerry went to the wall and pressed the response button. “Aye Aye, captain.”
Dar’s deep, warm chuckle came through the speaker. “You think we have a pair of sunglasses down there?”
Kerry blinked. “Is the weather gotten that much better in the two minutes I’ve been down here?” She asked in a puzzled tone. “Really?”
“No.” Her partner said. “Spray’s getting in my eyes.”
“Oh!” Kerry said. “Yeah, let me look around for some and I’ll bring them up. Want some coffee?”
Kerry went back up the steps into the main part of the cabin and detoured into the galley, flipping on the coffee machine as she hunted in the various drawers for glasses. She found a pair of wrap around Oakleys and stuffed them in her thigh pocket, then got some coffee going.
It occurred to her, then, that they had satellite access onboard and she turned and removed the seldom used controls from the drawer and turned on the bulkhead mounted television.
“Poor signal.” Kerry sighed and just turned the mute on and went back to getting the coffee sorted. The satellite was subject to rain fade and never that reliable in any case, and they usually only relied on it for some random CNN watching and the weather.
She poured the coffee into a thermos, added cream and sugar from the small fridge into it after checking the date on the cream, and capped it. Then she put the strap of the thermos around her neck and went back outside.
Behind the boat the twin prop wash from their engines was frothing the water and the air was full of the smell of rain, of sea water, and a touch of diesel. Kerry climbed up the steps to the flying bridge, and joined Dar standing behind the console.
The bridge was mostly white fiberglass, in deference to it’s exposure to the weather. There was the console that Dar used to drive the boat, which had a circular wheel with hydrolic steering controls down to the large inboard engines, and the twin throttles that fed them fuel.
That was at the front of the bridge, with plastic flaps Dar had rolled up to allow her a good view of the front of the boat and the water around it. Behind the bridge were fiberglass seats and teak tables on either side, where the boat’s guests could sit and socialize while keeping the driver company.
Kerry had never actually used them. When she was on the bridge and keeping Dar company she would sit in the second pilot’s seat next to her, and slowly over time had learned all the controls and gauges that covered the space.
She had never, actually driven the boat anywhere. She certainly had started up the engines, and had a good working knowledge of the dials and switches but she knew that the casual ease with which Dar handled the large vessel was deceptive.
“I love you.” Dar accepted the offered cup, and ducked her head briefly for Kerry to put the sunglasses around her ears. “Damn salt water.” She put the cup in it’s gimballed holder and adjusted the throttles, increasing the speed of the boat a trifle. “We’re in deep water here.”
They were moving past the channel that went under the collapsed bridge, and directly in front of them was the mouth of the Miami river and the city buildings on either side of it. A little further west and Dar would turn south, and go along the coastline towards the Grove.
Ahead of them, the triangle of manufactured land that was Brickell Key showed stunning damage. Two of the condo apartment towers were missing parts of most floors, and the hotel on the south end had collapsed onto itself.
Now that they could see the buildings a little better, they could see the damage. Windows were blown out everywhere – drapes and tattered blinds were lashing in the wind, and the storm surge had come up over the seawall and debris had been pulled back out into the water as far as they eye could see.
“Wow.” Kerry said, after a pause.
Dar sighed. “Look.” She pointed to the southwest.
Kerry counted. “Oh, that’s all of the tenth floor blown out.” Her eyes went wide. “Jesus, Dar, I hope no one was in there.” She said, as they turned to go south, and passed by what had once been their daily commute endpoint. The tall glass building that was ILS’s Southeast headquarters had taken a lot of visible damage.
“I’m sure they did.” Dar took a sip of coffee. “The only idiot who would have stayed in that place keeping things running doesn’t work for them anymore.”
Kerry gave her a sideways look. “Idiot, and idiot staff.” She corrected her. “Because, my love, if you’d have stayed, all of us would have.”
There were no people yet visible, that close to the water. As they went by the buildings, they could see between them streets full of water, debris, trees, concrete, piles of roof tiles, flooded cars.. Kerry went back down and got her camera, then returned and started taking some random pictures.
That area had been evacuated, mostly. Kerry knew that in the midst of that, there were people who had refused to go, ignored the mandatory evacuation, hid from the police, from the county officials patrolling the streets before the storm struck getting people out.
The radio crackled, making them both jump. “Coast Guard, Coast Guard.” A voice said. “Anyone out there?”
Dar looked at Kerry, who picked up the radio mic, and held it. “We’re not the coast guard.” Dar said, after a pause. “Let see if they answer.”
“I was waiting.” Kerry replied. “But I can’t.. I mean, they must be somewhere out of this area, Dar. We haven’t seen another boat on the water.”
“Just us.” Dar agreed, as they started through the South channel, and approached Rickenbacker Causeway. “That seems to have made it.” She indicated the concrete and steel pylons of the bridge, which were visibly intact. “Tore up the toll plaza though.”
Kerry went to the side of the bridge and peered across the water at the roadway. “There’s a truck parked across it too.” She said. “Boy this is going to creepy after dark.”
The bridge itself was empty. They passed under it.
“Coast Guard, Coast Guard, do you copy?” The voice on the radio repeated, as Andy climbed up onto the bridge and settled in one of the tables behind the bridge. “Hello? Is anyone out there?”
Kerry sighed, and lifted the mic, then held off when she heard the channel open again.
“Calling station, this is Coast Guard Ops.”
With a satisfied grunt, Kerry put the mic back down.
“Thanks Coast Guard. This is Crandon Beach I just want to report.. well, there’s a tanker here on the beach.” The voice said. “It’s leaking oil all over the place, and we can smell diesel everywhere.” It added. “It’s huge.”
“Roger that, Crandon.” The coast guard answered. “We’ll put it on the list.”
“Someone going to come look at it?”
“Not right now, Crandon. We have to bring all the craft back into the area.”
“Explains why we didn’t see any of them.” Kerry remarked. “Coast Guard, I mean. Or hear them on the radio.”
“Went up to Virginia.” Andrew supplied. “Captain that stopped by said they were all going out.” He paused thoughtfully. “Might have ended up better going to Orleans, turns out.”
Dar adjusted the throttles a little, as they cleared the bridge, and moved along the flooded coastline. “Oh crap that’s right. Damn storm is heading right that way.” She paused. “Where’d they send Navy, dad?”
Dar shook her head a little. “Bet that was popular.” She increased the speed of the boat, now that they were clear of the bridges, and solidly in what seemed to be a clear channel. “See if I can make up some time.”
“Aint nobody round to stop ya.” Andrew concluded. “Let’s go.”