“So, what do you think?” Kerry was glad the clouds had finally cleared out, exposing a half circle of brilliant stars for her appreciation. “Bear?”
“Hm.” Dar gazed up at the sky speculatively. “More like a pig.”
“Pig? C’mon.” A wave rippled under them, and they rode it atop the rugged canvas float tied off to the dock. It rested at water level and let the ocean wash over them, but prevented them from being tugged out to sea at night, which could ruin the day of even the most avid of ocean lovers.
The sea was warm, and only lightly choppy, bucking them up and down every few minutes in a pleasant rhythm. Dar was lying on her back with her ankles crossed, and Kerry had chosen a spot at right angles to her, using Dar’s belly as an opportune pillow.
“How can that be a pig? It’s standing up on it’s hind legs. Describe to me the last time you saw a pig do THAT.”
Dar sighed. “Well, it’s a really fat bear then. Look at it’s belly.” She described an arc. “Must have eaten all the pigs.”
“Hm.” Now it was Kerry’s turn to ponder. “Maybe it’s getting ready to hibernate.”
“Eh.” Dar pointed at a different set of stars. “I think that looks like a horse.” She paused. “With a cart behind it.”
Kerry looked. Then she rotated her head to look again. Then she turned and pressed her cheek against Dar’s stomach, peering up at her partner. “When was that optometrists appointment, again?”
The dark haired woman solemnly stuck her tongue out. She flexed her body, making the raft ripple and bringing a wash of seawater over them complete with a floating chunk of fragrant seaweed. Dar batted the weed overboard, and exhaled, closing her eyes for a moment.
It was extremely peaceful, Kerry acknowledged, if you could block out from your mind the knowledge that they were floating over thirty or forty feet of water filled with all kinds of critters. Most harmless, a few not, and the truth was she’d never grown to be as comfortable as Dar was at night in the sea.
But the raft helped a lot, and having Dar there made up the difference, so she was able to relax and enjoy the pretty sky overhead after their swim. “I’m glad it rained today, but I’m even gladder it cleared up.” Kerry said. “It’s so pretty to look up at the sky like this.”
Dar draped an arm over Kerry’s body, the edge of her thumb rubbing gently across the fabric over her ribcage. “It is.” She agreed. “I could do this every night.”
Kerry’s eyes flickered briefly closed, then they opened again. “Me too.” But not in Miami, she silently added. While their condo was most certainly right on the water, the thought of floating in the sea that close to the port made her grimace.
Dar cleared her throat gently, and took a breath to speak, but then hesitated when the sound of an approaching boat engine caught their ears.
They lifted their heads and looked north, spotting running lights not that far offshore and heading in more or less their direction.
“Would it be outstandingly paranoid of me to wonder who’s out there?” Kerry said.
Dar patted Kerry on the stomach and slid out from under her as she sat up. Shading her eyes, she studied the oncoming boat with a frown. It was small, about half the size of theirs, and appeared to be a low profile model, without the flying bridge a fishing vessel would have.
Sport boat, at night, wandering around in the Florida Straits. Either he was lost, or… Dar rolled over and off the raft, entering the water without much noise and taking hold of the edge of the float. “Ker..”
“Yeah, yeah.” Kerry slid over the side and joined her, peering at the boat over the pontoons that ringed the canvas surface. The water, though warm, was not as warm as the air, and after the long swim and the fact that she’d half dried out made her feel more than a little chilled. “It could just be a party boat.”
“Sure.” Dar agreed. “Even better reason for us not to be up their lounging in our swim suits.” She remarked dryly. “I’m not in the mood to be yelling kiss my ass in three languages tonight.”
Kerry edged closer to her, pressing her shoulder against her partner’s as they floated there side by side. The boat meandered around in a circle for a few minutes, then approached the shore again, heading directly for their dock. They got close enough for her to see there were three people on board, but it was too dark to see any details beyond that.
Since that meant it was also too dark for the people on the boat to see them, it was a workable trade off. Kerry let her chin rest against the pontoon, the scent of seawater and plastic coming strongly to her nose. “Doesn’t sound like a party.” She murmured under her breath.
“Nu uh.” Dar agreed, sinking lower in the water until it just covered her mouth. She tugged Kerry down a little, her partner’s pale head far more visible in the low light than her own. “Sure doesn’t.”
Kerry slid an arm around Dar’s torso, glad of the warmth as she pressed against the taller woman. “What in the hell are they looking for?” She whispered into a now conveniently close ear.
“You really think so?”
Kerry was answered when a bright spotlight erupted from the small boat, throwing a powerful beam of light to explore the dock and the approach up to their cabin. She drew in a breath in a mixture of shock and anger, releasing the air in a stream of bubbles as she ducked lower in the water.
Dar moved lower as well, only her pale blue eyes now showing above the surface, narrowed and glinting in the faint light. The boat moved closer, circling around the raft – it’s inhabitants paying the floating canvas little attention.
“Ahh, for a spear gun.” Dar lifted her mouth clear of the water for a brief moment.
“Ahh, for a bazooka borrowed from your father with live rounds.” Kerry uttered back. “Jesus Christ, Dar… who in the heck do these jerks think they are?”
“More to the point, do they realize they’re about to trespass?”
They watched the boat approach the dock and pull alongside, one of the figures jumping out to tie a rope to one of the stanchions.
“C’mon.” Dar released the raft and started towards them, using a stealthy breast stroke to move herself through the water.
“Wh..” Kerry looked around, then shook her head and followed, trying to make as little noise as possible. She wasn’t as efficient a swimmer as Dar was, but all the practice she’d gotten since moving to Florida stood her to good stead as she kept up in the mild surf.
A mask and snorkel would have made her life easier. Errant little waves tended to end up splashing her in the mouth, and she kept spitting out sea water, but after a few minutes they were approaching the dock. The other two people had gotten out, and all three were now creeping up the wooden gangway towards the cabin.
Bastards. Kerry felt a flush of anger sweep through her, taking the chill away and replacing it with a fierce heat. The outlines of the three didn’t, though, look familiar to her, though she could see two were men, and one was a woman. “Think it’s the reporters?” She caught up to Dar as they reached the outer edge of the dock and grabbed on.
“Dunno.” Dar pulled herself along the dock until she was just across from the boat, craning her head to see where they intruders were. “Not sure I care.”
The tone in her partner’s voice alerted Kerry at once. “What are we going to do? Confront them?”
For an answer, Dar swam over to the boat and reached up to grasp the railing, pulling herself up and over the side in a brief moment of starlit muscularity.
“Uh oh.” Kerry grabbed hold of the wooden ladder fastened to the side of the dock and got up on the bottom rung, peering over the edge of the boat to see what her partner was doing. “Dar!” She whispered urgently.
For a moment nothing happened, then a dark head appeared over the side, and Kerry saw the boat start to drift away from the dock. “Oh ho.” She chuckled low in her throat. “Bad girl.”
The craft bobbed closer to her, as the outgoing tide took it gently from it’s berth. As it passed, Dar stepped onto the side and then onto the ladder, holding something in her hand. She released the wood and dropped into the water next to Kerry, jerking her arm down as she fell.
The boat’s engine suddenly roared to life and it veered crazily off, heading southeast at a rapid clip.
They heard a yell from the shore, and Dar swung to the inside of the ladder, grabbing Kerry and tugging her under the dock, a grin visible even in the dim light.
“You are so bad.” Kerry snickered, watching the boat disappear into the surf. “God, Dar.. what’s going to happen to that thing? Someone could get hurt!”
“Nah.” Dar nestled her jaw up next to Kerry’s ear. “They were about to switch to the other tank. Not much gas left.” They both looked up as footsteps pounded on the top of the pier, accompanied by curses. “Now.” She uttered softly. “Do we rise up out of the sea and kick their asses, or what?”
Kerry listened to the voices over her head. “It’s the reporter, isn’t it?” She uttered back.
“I think so, yeah.”
Strategy. It was tough to work that out while you were stuck under a dock in the presence of curious night fish nibbling your heels. If they remained quiet, then the culprits had no one to blame but themselves, and nothing to say about Dar or Kerry.
If they confronted the trio, then their complicity in the boat’s startling disappearance would be clear, and they would have to deal with the publicity, not to mention calling the police.
It was late on a Saturday night, and Kerry didn’t want to spend the rest of the night calling the Marathon County police and explaining the whole shebang.
On the other hand, she really wanted to kick that reporter in the shins. “I think we should go kick their asses.” She finally said, hearing the nascent panic in the voices over her head.
Dar merely began swimming to the other side of the pier, tugging Kerry along with her to the ladder on the opposite side. She went first, climbing up to the top of the wooden platform and waiting for Kerry to join her as they stood behind the three intruders.
“Son of a bitch, that ain’t stopping.” One said. “We better go call the Coast Guard or something… what kinda idiot were you to leave the engine on, Virgil!”
“I didn’t!” The other man replied in an exasperated tone. “I told you that ten times already!” He half turned. “Look, Ms. Cruickshank, why don’t you just go over there and sit down while we figure out where we’re going to go to get a phone and..”
“You could use ours.” Dar interrupted this engaging drama, pitching her voice low and projecting it across the dock.
All three intruders jumped, and turned to find Dar’s tall form standing menacingly behind them, with Kerry a shorter, more visibly irritated counterpoint to her right. The two swimsuited figures were outlined in starlight and threw oddly large shadows across the dock to spill over them.
“Oh.. uh.. hi.” The reporter summoned a weak smile from somewhere.
“You might as well use it before I call the cops.” Dar went on. “And then you can explain to them why you’re trespassing on private property.”
Pat Cruickshank stepped forward. “Okay, okay – just hang on. I can explain this.”
Kerry actually just laughed. “So can I.” She said, folding her arms across her chest. “And you know, maybe we should call the local paper, too. I’d love to see this on the front page.”
Dar glanced at her in some surprise.
“Now, hold on.” Pat said. “Tell you what. Let’s go up there and we can talk while these bozos figure out how to get their boat back.”
“I’m going to call the police.” Dar turned and headed for the cabin. “And trust me… I’ll press charges.” She called back over her shoulder.
“Shit.” Virgil sounded panicky. “Man, I told you we shouldn’t have done this.”
The reporter turned to Kerry. “This isn’t what it looks like.”
Kerry looked at her, looked at the darkness around them, peered off at the rapidly disappearing boat, then looked back at the reporter. Both her eyebrows hiked up. “Okay.” She said. “I’m game. Explain to me how three people sneaking up in a boat to a private dock, then creeping towards our house is something other than what it looks like.” She spread her hands out in a questioning manner. “I’m waiting.”
Cruickshank hesitated, looking at the two guys with her.
“Okay, nevermind. I’m over it.” Kerry went to the end of the dock and reached under a bit of rock, removing a small key and opening a locked, watertight box. She lifted the radio receiver inside and keyed it. “Coast Guard, Coast Guard, this is Dixieland Yankee portside, over.”
“Wait.” The reporter came over to her and lowered her voice. “Listen, I know you’ve got a right to be pissed off. But would you please just let me explain? This isn’t against you. I’m just trying to get some information that will let me work in your favor.”
Kerry merely eyed her. “Coast Guard, Coast Guard, come in.” She repeated into the mic.
“Dixieland Yankee portside, go head.” A man’s voice erupted from the radio. “This is Cutter Avalon.”
“Avalon, we have a pleasure craft underway without anyone aboard just southeast of us.” Kerry unkeyed the radio. “You’ve got whatever time it takes for the cops to get here. Don’t waste it.” She said.
“Yankee, we copy, we see it. “ The guard officer sounded exasperated. “Good gravy.”
“We have the boat operators here.” Kerry informed him. “Over.”
“Thanks, Yankee. We’ll get back with you.” The radio fell silent. Kerry put the mic inside and locked the box, then she turned and headed for the cabin, without another word.
After an awkward moment of indecision, the reporter ran after her.
Dar entered the cabin shaking her head and muttering under her breath, slamming the door behind her as she evaded Chino’s curious snuffling and headed for the phone. Then she hesitated and stopped, putting her hands on her hips. “Chino, if I call the cops, what do you bet it’ll be two hours before they get here.”
“Gruff.” Chino seemed in total agreement.
After a moment’s indecision, Dar headed for the bedroom instead, figuring putting on some kind of clothes was probably a good strategic idea before re-confronting their unwelcome guests. She pulled a shirt and shorts from the dresser and stripped out of her swimsuit on her way into the bathroom, grabbing a towel and drying herself off before she changed.
She glanced cursorily into the mirror. “Ugh.” One hand reached up to remove a string of purple seaweed from her neck, and dropped it into the waste basket. “Can’t believe I didn’t feel that.” Pulling on her clothes, she ran her fingers through her wet hair and turned, hearing footsteps impact the porch outside.
A single set, and to Dar’s ears, a distinctive pattern. She was not surprised when the back door opened and Kerry walked in, her face twitching a little and a stormy look in her eyes. Her hands were half balled into fists, but despite all that, she looked amazingly sexy and Dar couldn’t help grinning at her.
“What?” Kerry caught the grin. “Did you call the cops already? I got the Coast Guard.”
“Not yet.” Dar bumped her towards the bedroom. “Go change. I assume our reporter friend is right behind you? I’ll take care of her.”
Kerry exhaled, but headed towards the inner door. She paused and turned as she reached it. “Was I doing something funny when I came in? You were grinning.”
The door opened abruptly, preventing an answer. So Dar merely looked her partner up and down, and waggled her eyebrows, before she turned to face Pat Cruickshank.
Kerry sniffed. “Ah..hah.” She entered the bedroom and shut the door behind her, ears straining as she heard Dar’s low rumble start up. “Stupid idiotic son of..” she paused at her reflection in the mirror. Then she sighed. “Dar, you could have told me this damn thing was semi transparent wet.”
At least it had been comfortingly dark outside. Kerry quickly removed the unexpectedly risqué suit and replaced it with a pair of worn denim short overalls, tucking a sedate white tshirt into them before she buckled one strap over her shoulder.
Impatiently, she flicked her fingers through her hair, and then she turned and marched back into the living room.
“Look, I know you’re pissed off and maybe you have a right to be.” Pat was saying.
“Maybe?” Dar paused in mid motion. She was in the kitchen pouring herself a glass of milk.
“This isn’t what it looks like.” The reporter came over and faced her over the counter. “Look, Ms. Roberts, I thought we had an understanding.”
Dar gave herself a moment’s thought while she drank her glass down, the only sound in the cabin outside Kerry’s rustling in the bedroom her swallowing. She finally put her glass down, just as her partner emerged and braced her arms on the counter. “My understanding is that I am a public officer of a public company, and I perform my public duties during working hours.”
“This is not a working hour.” Dar cut her off. “I’m not sure why you don’t understand that. I am off the clock. Out of the office. On vacation. Not answering my email. What OTHER..” She slammed her hands down on the counter, with a smack. “Way do I have to phrase that so it makes sense to you?”
“But this is not just a working hours story!” The reporter shot back. “This is about people, it’s about people who are in this situation, trying to make something happen. You think everyone else is just taking the weekend off?”
“I don’t care.” Dar replied evenly. “It’s not my problem what anyone else does.” She pointed at the reporter. “Why is it a problem to anyone else what I do?”
“Okay, look.” The reporter eyed Kerry warily as the shorter woman strode past her into the kitchen, taking the milk jug from Dar’s side and drinking directly from the opening. “It’s my job to tell the story in this special. Now, I don’t mind telling stories, and I don’t mind making them up when they’re not interesting enough for me.” Her attitude was more direct now. “But I also don’t like being fed a tale, and you know, I think I’m being fed a tale.”
“Okay.” Kerry put the milk jug down. “But that doesn’t explain why you’re here.”
Pat looked at her. “Honey, its you two who are feeding me the tale.”
Dar looked at Kerry, Kerry looked back at Dar. They both looked across the counter at the reporter. “What?” Dar’s brow creased. “I haven’t told you anything.” She glanced at Kerry. “Have you?”
“Um.. no, I’ve only cursed at her so far.” Kerry shook her head. “What are you talking about?” She asked the black woman.
“Oh, don’t play that game with me.” Cruickshank said. “You are two smart cookies, and it’s way too late to pretend you don’t know what’s going on.” She put her hands on her hips. “So let’s drop the act, okay?”
Dar picked up her glass, poured more milk into it, and then wandered out of the kitchen shaking her head. She walked right past the reporter and went over to the couch, dropping into it and extending her legs out across it’s surface. “What do you think, Ker?”
“What do I think?” Kerry put the milk back into the refrigerator. “I think she got stung by a bunch of jelly fish. Want me to call 911? Hallucinations’ll be next.” She leaned on the counter. “Lady, you’re nuts.”
“I’m nuts?” The reporter’s eyes widened.
“We have no idea what the hell you’re talking about.” Kerry told her in a confidential tone.
Cruickshank looked from one to the other. She pointed at Dar. “ You told me from your perspective this whole bid was just business. Right?”
“Right.” Dar acknowledged.
“So, then tell me, Ms. Roberts, how professional it is that your father’s been working at the Telegenic’s ship, causing trouble?”
Uh oh. Dar outwardly refused to react, not even to let her eyes flicker over to where Kerry was standing. “My father?” She mused. “My father’s a retired naval officer who takes odd jobs on the waterfront to keep busy.” She said. “I find it hard to believe he was causing trouble.”
Kerry had to strain not to smile, despite the shock of the words.
“And he just so happened to take one there?” The reporter asked sarcastically. “Just like your.. “She turned and looked at Kerry. “assistant just happened to attack your competition at a restaurant?” A snort. “Give me a break.” She said. “This is all about personal issues, and you’ve got as many as anyone else does.”
“Actually.” Kerry chose her words carefully. “Your friends at Telegenics were trying to get me to come out with them, so they could attack my partner here.” She circled the counter. “I got called out of town.. on business.” Her smile was icy. “And my assistant was being courteous in letting them know I wasn’t going to make it.”
“With a chili bowl? I think an email would have been enough.” Cruickshank shot back.
Kerry half shrugged. “Your friends were.. very professionally… sitting in a hamburger shack dissing us at the top of their voices. My assistant took exception to that. I don’t blame her.”
“Honey, that ain’t how I heard it.”
“My assistant is eighteen years old, and she was with her mother.” The blond woman sat down on one of the counter stools. “I believe what they told me.” She shrugged slightly. “But for that matter, if Dar and I did react in any way, it was because they were pushing us to the wall.”
The reporter looked around the cabin. “I just don’t believe that. You know what I think? I think they’re right. All those people are up there working their butts off to make this happen, and you two are here in your…love shack.”
She turned and walked to the door. “Call the cops. See if I care.” Her voice was now cutting. “But let me tell you, ladies – I know exactly how I’m going to play this story, and for you… it’s not going to be pretty.”
Cruickshank turned and left, slamming the door behind her.
There was a brief silence in the cabin, as the two partners regarded each other. Finally, Dar shifted her position, rolling onto her side and propping her head up on her hand. “Love shack.” She mused. “I like it.”
Kerry rubbed her eyes. “Dar, this is not funny.”
“No.” Dar agreed. “But what in the hell are you going to do, Ker? Dad was doing exactly what she claimed, and we’re here.” One shoulder shrugged. “And the battling burritos did what they did. It’s all in the spin, and she’s got the turntable.”
“Nice.” The blond woman trudged over and sat down on the couch next to Dar. She let her hands fall slackly between her knees and extended her bare feet across the carpet. “So, now what?”
Now what. Good question. Dar really had no idea now what. “I just don’t get what the big deal is about us being up here. It’s not like you and I are running the cables.” She temporized. “What’s that all about?”
Kerry pondered. “They’re control freaks, so they think everyone else should be too?” She thought a moment more. “And, well, you know hon…. I can remember projects where you were a little like that too.”
She peeked at Dar to gauge a reaction, but got a mildly bemused expression in return.
“I know.” Her partner nodded agreeably. ‘But I got over it. You helped me, matter of fact. I sniffed around one of yours one time too many, and you told me what I was going to die of.”
Kerry’s head dropped forward a little. “I did no such thing.”
Dar’s lips quirked. “Well, not in those words, no.” She admitted. “But you did.”
“I did?” Kerry thought back, trying to recall the momentous occasion. Had she really told Dar to back off? Then the memory surfaced, and she exhaled, picturing a scene in Dar’s office with her pushing a set of colored project folders across her bosses desk. One of us really needs to own these, Dar.
Dar had cocked her head to one side, she remembered, and then casually pushed them back across the desk with a smile.
No, not quite in those words. “Okay, you got me.” Kerry admitted. “But I don’t get why it matters to them. After all, if we’re slacking off, isn’t that better for their side?”
“And, she told me she had information that would be to our advantage.” Kerry suddenly remembered. “Was that just to get inside this place and have her say? I don’t get it , Dar. This isn’t adding up.”
“No.” Dar curled her body around Kerry’s and wrapped an arm around her for good measure. “I thought that woman had a more balanced viewpoint. Something happened.” She said. “Either she bought into Michelle and Shari’s pitch, or something else happened that made her turn around. I know she was probably playing me at lunch, but I really…”
“Really. I didn’t get that vibe.” Dar shook her head. “I got the feeling she was trying to find the other half of the story.”
Kerry sighed. “Wonder how dad got outed? Maybe in retrospect that wasn’t the smartest thing we ever did, asking him to go in there.”
“Eh.” Dar turned her head as her cell phone rang. “That’s probably him. I’ll ask.” She picked it up and answered it, surprised to see the office’s caller id instead. “Uh oh.” She flipped it open. “Yes?”
“Oh, Ms. Roberts? Good.. this is the security desk.” The voice answered, sounding relieved. “Listen, I have the security guy at the pier on the line, he needs to speak to you.” There was a click, then a another line was connected.
“Hello?” Dar ventured.
“Uh.. oh, hi, Is this Ms. Roberts?”
“This is Steven at the pier, ma’am. We’ve been trying to call Ms. Stuart, and there’s no answer. “
Dar looked inquiringly at Kerry, who sat up and peered around like a startled meerkat searching out her cell phone. “She’s here. What’s the problem? You need to talk to her?”
“No, well.. it’s not.. “ The guard seemed unsure. “It’s the port, ma’am. They’re going nuts here. There’s television cameras and all kinds of stuff all over the place, and I think they’re asking everyone to leave.”
“Huh?” Kerry took the phone. ‘Steven, this is Kerry. What’s happening? Was there an accident?”
“No, ma’am, But some kind of government people are here, and boy, they’ve got this place lit up like a Christmas tree for sure. I think they’re looking at the ships. Something’s wrong, I guess. They won’t tell us anything.”
Kerry held the phone out a little, and lifted her free hand in question.
Dar was at a loss. “Okay, well…” She rubbed her jaw.
“Did they make all the workers leave the ships, Steve?” Kerry asked. “Are our contractors still there?”
“No, oh, wait. Hang on.” The sound went muffled, then came back. “Ma’am, one of my guys just came in to relieve me and he said he heard it’s an environmental thing.’
“Environmental.” Kerry repeated. “Okay, but are they asking you to leave the pier?”
“No, ma’am, apparently what some of these people want is for the boats to leave the pier.” The guard now sounded much more sure of himself. “It’s not about us at all.”
“Phew.” Dar exhaled. “At last, something that has nothing to do with us, for a change.”
“Yeah.” Kerry agreed. “Okay, Steve, you guys just sit tight near the office, okay? If they make everyone get out, give me a call.” She paused, “Wait, give Dar a call because my cell phone’s AWOL at the moment.”
“Okay, ma’am, will do.” Steve replied. “Sorry to bother you.”
Kerry hung up the cell phone, which she handed to her partner. Then she got up and started roaming around the cabin, searching for her own. “Where in the dickens did I put that thing, Dar? I know I had it when we got here.”
“Sounds like Quest’s got a real problem on his hands.” Dar put the phone down and rolled to her feet, joining in the search for the missing cell. “Something he can’t blame us for.”
“For a change.” Kerry paused, then slapped herself on the head. “Damn it, I left it in on the bike.” She groaned in disgust. “Be right back.” She disappeared through the front door, with Chino chasing after her.
A knock came at the back door. Dar scrubbed the fingers of one hand through her hair and went to answer it, wondering if it would be their reporter’s boatmen, the coast guard, the cops, or the National Enquirer. Nothing would have surprised her at this rate.
She opened the door. “Yes?”
“Okay, listen.” Pat Cruickshank said. “Can we start over?”
Well, almost nothing.
Problems for them tending to be rated by the number of pots of coffee they required while solving. Kerry pressed the button to start pot number two, while she listened with half an ear to what Dar was saying in the living room.
“Let me get this straight.” Dar rubbed her temples. “You came down here because Shari and Michelle convinced you that we were trying to screw up your filming project by deliberately making them look bad.”
“And we didn’t do anything to change that idea.”
Dar folded her hands and rested her chin on her clasped fingers. “So why are you here? Just write your story. They’re struggling good guys, we’re monolithic bad guys trying to squash them.. makes for great television. Go for it.”
Pat got up and paced. “You know, you know… I really want to go for that.” She used her hands when she talked for the first time, her fists clenching and unclenching. “It’s a great story, you’re right. Make great television. Just what my boss was looking for.”
Dar’s ears pricked. “Your boss.”
Kerry brought the new pot of coffee in, setting it down on the tray quietly and taking a seat next to her partner.
“My boss. Really wants this show.” Pat agreed. “Something new, you know? Yeah, it’s travel related, but it’s also got a big human angle, and people like that.”
“Mm.” Dar nodded. “But?”
“But.” The reporter repeated softly. “But you know… “ She turned and faced them. “Sweet as this story is, the good guys in it aren’t the people I want my boss to see.” Hesitating, she finally shrugged and went to the seat across from the couch, sitting down on it. “You’re not the only ones with a personal agenda here.”
Kerry blinked, positive she was missing something. A quick glance at Dar’s profile clued her in to the fact that her partner wasn’t.
Dar’s head lifted, the entire expression on it shifting from bewilderment to understanding from one breath to another. “You want your boss to see how we work.” She indicated Kerry and herself.
Pat nodded. “Yeah.” She said. “Because let me tell you, those other two have tried their damndest to convince me that you two are as dysfunctional as they are, and believe me, they’re a pair of head cases together.”
“Dysfunctional?” Kerry frowned, then turned her head to face Dar. “We never malfunction, do we?”
A wicked twinkle appeared in Dar’s very blue eyes. “Not that you’ve ever mentioned to me, no.” She drawled. “And I’ve got no complaints.”
Kerry looked puzzled for an instant, then she reached over and tweaked Dar’s nose. “Wench.” She shook her head and faced Pat again. “I don’t understand how they’d give you that impression.”
Pat’s lips twitched. “Whole lot of talk.” She concurred. “Especially that Shari. She’s got a lot to say about you… “ She looked at Dar. “And it sure isn’t complimentary.”
“That’s just because Dar keeps kicking her butt every time they square off.” Kerry snorted. “Shari should learn better business tactics.”
The reporter leaned forward and rested her elbows on her knees. “It’s not business she’s talking about.”
“Ah.” Dar chuckled shortly. “Let me guess – Shari’s painting me as a half unstable meglomaniac with twisted personal issues stemming from my upbringing.”
“What?” Kerry barked.
“Who beats her girlfriend.” Pat added crisply.
Dar just snorted. Kerry gave an excellent impression of boiling teakettle without stirring a muscle as Chino trotted over and pushed her head against her shorter mother’s knees. “Boy, does she have her lines crossed.” The dark haired woman shook her head. “I’m not the Tazmanian devil in this relationship.”
“I’m gonna cross her lines.” Kerry got out from between clenched teeth. “Has she really been telling people that?”
“Well, she had me half buying it, and to be honest, that’s the real reason I came down here.” The reporter admitted. “You can act however you want in the office, but like you said, this is not your office, and it’s off the clock.” She looked around. “And this ain’t no movie set.”
Dar scratched her nose and produced a brief smile. “No, it’s not.”
“Dar, do you think that’s where all that crap in the office came from?” Kerry turned and looked at her. “From Shari? Is that possible, that she fed all that bs to someone inside?”
“That would be the obvious choice.” Dar sat forward and started pouring herself another cup of coffee. She very gently nudged Kerry’s bare foot with her own. “But you never can tell. Could be the other way around.”
“Problems inside your office?” Pat asked alertly.
“Just more of the usual chatter.” Kerry shrugged it off. “We had a good laugh about it.”
Dar stirred her coffee around counterclockwise just hearing that characterization of her partner’s reaction. “So.” She set the spoon down and took a sip. “What are you going to do?” Her eyes lifted and met Pat’s. “Now that you’ve achieved your goal and interviewed us today.”
Dar’s cell phone chose to ring at that moment. With a faint sigh, she leaned over and picked it up, then answered it. “Yeah?”
“Hey boss.” Mark’s voice sounded aggravated. “Listen, I traced down the IP we saw, and it was one of the Marketing bullpen machines. Could have been any of ten people using it.”
“Okay. Get me full scans on those ten.” Dar replied quietly. “And put traces on them.”
A pause. “All the way?”
“You got it.” Mark said. “Hey, you know what? It’s been a lot cooler around here since you put that stuff on the big pipes. I haven’t had nearly as many alerts.”
Inwardly, Dar smirked. “And you’re surprised?”
The MIS manager chuckled. “Nah. I knew you hadn’t lost your touch. We’ve only got one little bastard who keeps trying. I’m keeping an eye on it though.”
“Good work. Keep me in the loop.” Dar said, and then she hung up. “Well?” She turned her attention back to the avidly listening reporter. “Decided what your angle’s going to be or what?” Leaning casually back, she stretched one arm across the back of the couch and sipped her coffee, watching Pat over the rim of the cup.
Kerry decided to settle back herself, ending up by design in the curl of Dar’s arm, and with one hand resting lightly on her partner’s thigh. She recognized Dar’s fencing mode, and figured it would be better all around for her to stay out of the match until she could get more fully clued in on what was going on.
“Well, not yet, no.” Pat said. “It’s kind of a tough situation, you know? I mean, if Telegenics wins that bid, it’s going to be real hard for me to slant my story any way except for what everyone’s expecting. We need to have our viewers happy about who comes out on top.”
“Well.” Kerry pursed her lips. “Y’know, with two sets of dykes in the mix, you probably need to recruit some heteros or you’re going to be upsetting most of your viewers no matter what if either of us comes out on top.”
That caused a bit of a silence. Dar prudently stuck her nose in her cup and slurped up some coffee, as the reporter merely goggled at Kerry briefly.
“It’s true.” The blond woman said, with a slight shrug.
“Maybe they should back a dark horse.” Dar mused. “Knock those lousy lezzies off their pedestal – that’d make a good story, don’cha think, Ker?”
“Mm. I wouldn’t watch it, but… sure.”
Pat shifted uncomfortably. “Are you making fun of me?” She asked, with a slight hesitation. “We don’t practice discrimination in our telecasts.” She got up. “So that part of your lifestyle never came into the picture.”
Kerry got up also, neatly drawing her attention. “How can’t it? She asked. “You’ve got Shari and Michelle, who are very out, and Dar and I, who are also very out. We’re competing for the same prize, and we’re in a dog fight with all the dirty tricks stops pulled out.” She cocked her head to one side. “How do you intend on portraying that without mentioning our sexual orientation?”
“Well, of course we were going to mention it but…”
“We could always arrange for a jello wrestling match.” Dar launched herself from the couch and prowled over to the back window, watching outside and bracing both hands on the window. “That’d get ratings.”
“Wrestling.” Kerry looked thoughtful. “I’d go for that.”
“Wait a minute. This isn’t supposed to be about you all fighting each other.. well, not like that..” Pat protested.
Dar turned. “Either you go the personal route, or you don’t.” She leaned against the window. “If you take that path, you have to deal with the dirty parts. You want your boss to see how we mix living and working? Then you have to show how Shari and Michelle don’t well, and that means you have the Dueling Dykes show.”
“She’s right.” Kerry picked the ball up effortlessly. “Mention why you were here, and you have to go over why Shari talks about Dar the way she does. It’s not for business reasons.”
Pat looked cornered. “Wait a minute…”
“Tell you what.” Dar swiped the ball back. “Invite your boss to dinner with us. Save the drama, and stick with the business line on your program. You’ll end up with happier sponsors for it.”
Kerry chuckled. “At the least.”
Pat looked at them both uncertainly. “But the people angle…”
“Find another people angle.” Dar pressed her. “Think about it.” She turned and opened the back door, gesturing towards it with one hand. “Your boat’s ready. I think the coasties even left your drivers intact.”
Slowly, Pat walked towards the door, watching them both until she was in the doorway with her hand on the sill. She took a breath to say something, then she merely shook her head and walked out, without looking back.
Dar swung the door shut. She and Kerry regarded each other for a brief moment, then both sighed at once. “This is gonna be a mess if she doesn’t take that advice.”
Kerry joined her. “You got that right.” She agreed. “But… I think it’s a mess anyway.” She exhaled. “I think we really did mess this one up, Dar.”
Dar put an arm around her shoulders. “I think you may be right, Ker.” She admitted. “I think we made some bad choices. But we can’t change that now, so let’s just make the best of it we can.”
“Break out the mops.”
The morning sun rose gently over South Pointe Marina, gilding the forest of pristine white fiberglass that graced it’s many slips. Towards one side of the marina, in an area relatively uncrowded in the summer a sixty foot Bertram yacht rode peacefully within it’s dock, rocking back and forth slightly as a tall, broad shouldered figure paced across it’s stern deck.
Andrew whistled softly under his breath as he worked, laying out a new set of white cotton lines for the big boat in orderly loops. His hands worked the rope with almost unconscious skill, fingers half twisting the lines to release the kinks in their new fabric.
It was Sunday, the weather was fine, he had work to do on his boat, and Ceci had promised him a hamburger for breakfast. Life, he reflected silently, just did not ever get any better than this. Especially given where his life had been so short a time ago – he had no doubt at all this was just a gift from God he had no expectation or explanation for.
Coulda been a reward, he acknowledged, for the years he’d spent in Hell already. Or it coulda been a nod from the feller upstairs over them lives he’d saved getting into all that trouble.
Andy perched on the side wall of the boat and blinked into the sunlight. Maybe it wasn’t any of those things, though. Maybe it was just dumb luck, and the catchback he’d gotten for pouring his heart into fatherhood, since if it hadn’t been for Dar, all what he had now would just be some damn dream.
He exhaled contentedly. Turned out a damn good kid, after all that. It irked him, a little, that he’d gotten taken out of the ship job. Being Dar’s little bit of trouble inside there had been a good thing, and now, them women could be getting up to all kinds of no good without anyone to keep an eye on them.
Not a good thing. Andrew sighed. He hated half finished missions.
The cell phone clipped to the wooden cabinet near the door buzzed, surprising him. He dropped the rope and walked over to the door, picking up the device and opening it’s lid. “”Lo?”
“Hey, Ugly! Where the hell are you?”
Andrew studied the phone receiver as though it had morphed into a wholly unexpected weasel. “This here Bradley?” He queried.
“Sure is! Where are you, man? I told you I wanted everyone working today.”
“Wall.” Andy crossed his arms and leaned against the cabinet. “Them folks told me not to come back yesterday.” He said. “They talk to you?” He added curiously. “They were pretty fussed up last night.”
Ceci emerged from the boat’s cabin and cocked her head curiously. “Who’s that?” She was carrying a plate containing a cheeseburger, surrounded by a veritable cornucopia of vegetables and fruit bits. She put it down near Andrew’s elbow and leaned next to him.
“Feller thinks he’s my boss.” One of her husband’s grizzled eyebrows waggled, as he covered the receiver with the palm of one large hand. “Ain’t figgered he isn’t yet.” Carefully removing the burger from it’s nest of healthiness, he nudged aside a carrot curl threatening to contaminate his breakfast and then bit into it.
“Ah, the mental midget who made your first petty officer look like Einstein. Gotcha.” Ceci walked over to the canvas bucket chair on their back deck and seated herself, resting her head against the wooden seat back and contentedly absorbing the early morning sunlight. “Anyone ever tell him that whole Christian Sunday is the day of rest stuff? Only thing in the whole rigamarole that ever made any sense to me.”
Andrew reached over to tweak a bit of her hair. “Yeap, ah am still here.” He spoke into the phone. “Did you talk to them folks? Got their shorts in a big old twist yesterday.”
“Yeah, yeah.. I talked to them.” The supervisor sounded dismissive. “Listen, that lady was just spouting some crazy stuff, and yeah, she doesn’t want you around here but I got a spot on that other boat behind this one and I really need you to help me out.”
“That big blue one with the patches on one side?” Andrew asked.
“Yeah, whatever. The one behind this one.”
Dar’s boat. Andrew took another bite of hamburger and chewed it thoughtfully. “Hm.”
“C’mon, buddy. I figured you could use the cash, right?” The supervisor sounded a touch desperate. “My guy over there walked out this morning, said he’d gotten a better offer. Tell you what.. I’ll give you a buck an hour raise.”
Forty bucks a week. Andrew mused. Well, it’d pay the phone hook up fee for the month, at any rate. “All right.” He agreed. “But I got to finish what I’m doing here right now, so it’ll be a bit.” He told the man. “Then ah will be over there.”
Ceci stuck her tongue out.
“Okay, but not too long, huh?” Bradley said. “This place is a mess. Wait till you hear what happened last night after you left with the government people. It’s chaos.”
‘”Yeap.” Andrew agreed. “I do believe the gov’mint usually does cause that. Bye.” He hung up the phone and set it on the counter. “Seems like some body done hired this guys’ feller off that boat Dar’s working on.”
“Oh, really?” Ceci regarded him, a mildly sardonic look appearing on her face. “I wonder if I can guess who that might have been, hm? My goddess, those women are a pair of hairless Mexican cats.” She frowned. “Can they be that desperate, or are they just that pissed off about you?”
“Beats me.” Andy finished his breakfast, licking a bit of juice off his thumb. “That was damn good hamburger, ma’am.” He complimented his wife. “Do you want your part of this here MRE?” He handed over the plate of plant matter.
Ceci took a tomato slice and bit into it. “You only wish you ever got these in those.” She retorted. “So you’re going to go work on Dar’s boat now? Doesn’t really help much to know what those women are up to.”
Andrew shrugged. “Do the best ah am able to.” He said. “Sides, got me a one US dollar an hour raise out of it.”
“Oo. You’re taking me to dinner on your paycheck this week, sailor boy.” Ceci laughed. “And we’re not ending up in that chicken wing place, either.” She got up and slid her arms around him, giving his solidness a fierce hug. “I’m glad you’re helping out the kids. I think this one’s throwing them out of whack a little.”
“Ah’m sure they’re having themselves a good time down south.” Andrew said. “Without none of this here stuff to bother them.” He gave her a return hug, then ducked his head an surprised her with a kiss, even though they were standing in what was now broad daylight on the back of the boat.
After a moment, they parted, and Andrew looked down at his wife, his eyes twinkling in the sun. Ceci reached up and stroked his face gently, her fingertips tracing the scars that, though faded, still crossed his skin. “I was looking forward to spending the day with you.” She admitted.
“Yeap.” Andrew kissed her again. “Me too.” He said. “But I told that man I had something to take care of before I went over there.”
“Well then.” Ceci smiled. “What are we standing out here for then? Unless you want to shock the neighbors.” She paused. “Again.”
“Nope.” Andrew courteously opened the door, then followed her inside.
“Augh!” Kerry reached for the Frisbee, flying high over her head and knew she was going down. She took a quick breath as she hit the water, then kicked for the surface, her head breaking the waves as she looked around for the bright pink disk. “Darn it, Dar!” She struck out for the toy, swimming quickly towards it before the thing got pulled out to sea.
“Not my fault you’re short.” Dar bobbed up and down in the surf, not far offshore on the far side of the dock near the cabin. It was fairly shallow there, not like the deep draft they’d had dredged for the Dixie, and the surf was almost calm, perfect for playing Frisbee in.
Well, almost perfect. Dar watched Kerry reach the disk and grab it, turning to swim back far enough for her to stand up and throw it back. Chino was racing along the shore barking, frustrated that her owners were somewhat beyond her reach.
“C’mon, Chi!” Kerry got to where she could stand up, and tossed the disk back to her partner. “Come swim.”
“Gruff!” Chino bounded halfway in up to her chest, then bolted away as a wave came chasing after her.
“Goofy dog.” The blond woman shook the wet hair out of her eyes, then set herself as Dar threw the Frisbee back. It was a little high, but not nearly as much as last time and she made a grab for it, pulling it out of the air despite the drag of the water against her body as she moved. “Hah!”
Dar grinned. Kerry always approached the playful sports they engaged in with a healthy dose of competitiveness, which at first had surprised her. Then, when she’d learned more about her partner, she’d come to realize that Kerry had been forced to fight for recognition at every turn in her life, where standing out had never been a problem for Dar.
It wasn’t as though she wasn’t competitive herself, in business of course she was. But in her personal life, she’d never really had to do what she often kidded Kerry was fighting for kibble.
No siblings. No competition. Dar saw the disk headed her way and she lunged through the water after it, uncoiling her body and jumping clear of the surface as she snatched it just before it went sailing on a trajectory that would have taken it under the dock. “Wench!”
“Work for it!” Kerry yelled back, clearly enjoying herself. “Teach you to call me short, huh!”
“If I have to go diving under that dock, you’re gonna be more than short, ya little chipmunk!” Dar let fly with the Frisbee, chortling as her partner had to scramble for it, bouncing through the waves and kicking up spray as she went for the intercept.
“I’ll chipmunk you.” Kerry grabbed the Frisbee, and then, instead of tossing it back just headed in Dar’s direction, rambling through the water like a miniature freight train. “You’re toast!”
Run? Dar considered the effort of escaping from her partner’s nefarious intentions, and weight it against the pleasure of suffering them. She grinned, and as Kerry came within range, she dove right towards her, disappearing beneath the waves and colliding with Kerry’s legs as she tried unsuccessfully to stop in time.
Way overbalanced, Kerry let out a yelp and tumbled over, landing mostly on Dar and grabbing at her as they wrestled half in and half out of the water. “You.. you…”
Dar got a hold around Kerry’s middle and then got her legs under her, standing up and hauling the blond woman out of the water like a sack of oats. “Yeeeesss?” She purred into Kerry’s ear. “Me what?”
Kerry paused to catch her breath from her run through the waves. “You… punk.” She slapped Dar on the thigh. “You tricked me.”
“Into charging at me like a rhino?” Dar laughed. “Uh.. okay, honey. If you say so.”
“Bah.” Kerry let her head rest against Dar’s chest. “Where’s the Frisbee?”
“Didn’t you have it?” Dar looked around. “Oh.. rats.” She spotted the disk floating under the dock. “You stay here, cuttlefish. I’ll get it.” She released Kerry and headed for the pier, diving under the water as she got close to it.
Neither of them was really fond of swimming right under the wooden surface, since several large sea bass had taken up residence and they loved to nibble intruding humans. At night, the fish were sleeping, but during the day… Dar blinked her eyes open quickly in the salt water, then just as quickly closed them. She surfaced and located the disk, swimming over to it and grabbing it just as something bit her foot. “Yeow! Bastard!” She kicked out in reflex, then kicked with her other foot just for good measure. She felt a spongy impact, then she turned and headed out from under the pier.
Kerry was already at the edge of the wood reaching for her. “The fish?”
“God, I hope so.” Dar felt a sharp sting where she’d been bitten. “Ow.”
“Sorry.” Kerry took hold of her arm and started heading for the shore. “I should have kept track of the damn thing.”
“Residential hazard.” Dar winced, as she hopped out of the water, grateful for Kerry’s supportive arm around her waist. “I should have known better…”
“Should have just let the silly thing float off. We have a dozen of them.” Kerry muttered as they got on shore, and sat down in the sand together. She scooted down a little and lifted Dar’s foot up, setting it on her thigh to look at it. “Let me see.”
“Ah ah ah. We don’t let plastic into the ocean ecology.” Dar peered at her foot, which was covered with an alarming amount of blood. “Wow.” She fended off Chino, who snuffled around them anxiously.
“Yikes. We better go inside and clean this off.” Kerry leaned closer. The fish had really chomped down on her foot, making a semi-circle of punctures which were liberally leaking blood. “I don’t think it’s deep, but..”
“But it hurts.” Dar observed. “Stings like hell.”
Kerry gently wiped the blood away and bent over, kissing the spot. “Let’s go. We’ve got some peroxide in the cabin.”
Dar cautiously withdrew her foot from Kerry’s clutches. “It doesn’t hurt that bad.”
“Well, it doesn’t.”
“C’mon, big baby.” Kerry got to her feet and offered her partner a hand up. “Those are puncture wounds, and a very good friend of mine taught me that those have to be cleaned out really well.”
“Yeah.. well, you shouldn’t always listen to your friends.” Dar accepted the aid, hopping along the sand over to where the porch steps were. “Look, it’s stopped bleeding.”
“C’mon, chicken little. What if that was a barracuda?” Kerry took a firm hold on her reluctant incipient damsel in distress and tugged her towards the house. “Bet we’ve got mercurochrome, too.”
Kerry opened the door. “Was that you, or Cheebles?”
In the end, Dar gave in gracefully to the attention, lying down on the couch with her injured foot in Kerry’ lap as her partner tended to it. The cleaning hurt, as she’d expected, but it was offset by the look of gentle concern on Kerry’s face, and the obvious care she was taking to do the job right.
The punctures were deep. “I know you were kidding about the barracuda.” Dar kept her eyes closed, the better not to see the holes in her foot. “But you might be on to something there.”
Kerry looked up from her task, holding up the cotton swab she’d been using the clean out the punctures. “You really think so?”
“Too narrow a jaw to be the bass.” Dar said. “Besides, it’s much more macha to say I got bit by a cuda than by a poky old sea bass.”
Kerry chuckled softly, giving Dar’s ankle a little pat. “You realize this means I’m driving home, right?” She painted the top row of punctures with some lurid mercurochrome, admiring the well formed, powerful arch under her hands. “You have such pretty feet.”
Dar chortled. “I do not.”
“Yes, you do.” Kerry traced a line across the side of one. “Have you ever worn toenail polish?”
Dar was quiet for a moment. “Are you suggesting I should?” She wiggled her toes, then wished she hadn’t, as the injury protested. “Have you?”
“Me?” Kerry finished the top, and then she shifted to do the punctures on the bottom of Dar’s foot, scattered across it’s ball. “Oh no. The idea if my wearing open shoes in public… I think I’d have had them cut off if I’d tried it. I wasn’t even allowed to use anything other than clear or a light pink fingernail polish.”
“Did you want to?”
“Yeah.” Kerry smiled as she worked. “Bright, flame red.” She painted a somewhat deeper puncture. “Oo.. Dar, that’s a bad one.”
“Ow.’ Her partner sighed. “Well, you could now.”
“Could now what?”
“Wear bright red nail polish.”
Kerry looked up and over her shoulder at her partner, a quizzical expression on her face. “Do I look like a red nail polish kind of girl to you?” She asked. “I said back then, Dar. Now I just don’t consider myself a red toenail type.”
Dar studied her back for a moment, wondering about toenail polish among other things. She could honestly say wearing polish of any kind on her feet wasn’t something that had ever crossed her mind, since taking her boots off to find that would have caused her merciless kidding probably right up until this very day. “Well.” She considered. “I think a nice sea green would be pretty on you.”
“Mmhm.” Kerry agreed absentmindedly. “Probably. You would look good in coral.”
Dar considered further. “Kerry?”
“Why are we having this discussion?”
Her partner shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know. I’m sitting here playing with your feet, so I guess the thought just came to me. I remember it was the topic of conversation regularly when I was in college.” She finished the last bite mark. “There.” She studied her handiwork. “I’m going to put a bandage on this. You shouldn’t walk on it.”
“I’m not walking on it.” Dar agreed, wriggling into a more comfortable spot on the couch.
“I meant after you get up.” Kerry gently set the foot aside and rose, heading towards the bathroom.
Dar folded her hands across her stomach and relaxed, sure that the worst of the tending was over. The injury now stung more than anything due to the cleaning, and she felt confident that it wasn’t anything serious.
She still felt a little stupid, though, that she’d been bitten by a fish underneath her own dock. Dar wiggled her toes speculatively. Maybe she could tell people she’d been bitten by an alligator. That sounded more interesting.
Not to mention, heroic. Maybe Kerry would say she’d rescued her from it.
“What’s so funny?” Kerry came back with a roll of gauze bandage and proceeded to mummify Dar’s foot with it.
“Nothing.” Dar squashed the temptation. “Just wondering what cock and bull story I’m going to come up with for people at the office tomorrow to explain why I’m limping.”
“Well.” Kerry said. “You could tell them I got revenge for you hitting me by stomping you with a stiletto heel.” She suggested.
“Or I could tell everyone you saved me from a vicious barracuda.” Kerry continued on without hesitation. “There I was, swimming innocently, not realizing a barracuda was about to bite my ass, when…you jumped in and saved me at the last minute.”
“Like that one better?”
“You tell good stories.” Dar chuckled. “Even if they are completely fabricated.”
Kerry finished her bandage, and patted Dar’s calf. “Not completely. You’d have done it if it’d really been after me, right?”
“Right.” Dar agreed almost without thinking. “Anyone trying to bite your ass has to go through me to get there, No question.” She reached over and snagged a finger into the waistband of Kerry’s shorts. “C’mere.”
Kerry gladly leaned back, stretching her body out next to Dar’s on the couch. “Know what I wish?”
“I wish we weren’t going back tonight.”
Dar pondered the thought. “Okay.” She agreed. “We won’t.”
Her partner laughed shortly. “Stop teasing me. You know we have to go into work tomorrow, Dar.”’
“I’m not teasing.” Dar replied. “I had this cabin installed with the gear I did for the specific purpose of us working down here from it. So let’s do it. We can log in from here, and probably get three times the amount of work done. If we need to conference, we can finally put that god damned expensive teleconferencing center I paid for to work at the office.”
Kerry turned over so she was facing Dar. “You’re serious.”
“As a heart attack.”
Should they? Kerry thought about what she had on her schedule. The ops meeting, sure, and fallout from the weekend which had to be handled by conference call anyway. No clients, and the executive committee meeting wasn’t until mid-week.
Hm. “Okay.” She sounded surprised even to herself. “Why not? You don’t have anything that needs face time tomorrow?”
“Nope. Just more work on my program.” Dar confirmed. “Absolutely I’ll get more done from here on that, without someone sticking their heads in my office every five minutes.” She liked the idea more and more every passing second. “And, then I don’t have to make up a no shit I was barracuda story.”’
Kerry had to admit to feeling a little bit apprehensive, only because she knew what the view would be from their co-workers if they both didn’t show for work tomorrow. Then she thought about that for a minute, and decided the hell with it. They talked about them bullshit anyway, might as well be doing what they wanted.
Besides, Dar was probably right. She got more done when she was not in the office as well, and she had several prospective client write ups she hadn’t had a chance to do the last week that really needed to get taken care of.
Or was that just more self-justification? “What about the ship?” She asked. “You think it’s going to be a public relations nightmare with them finding out Dad was working on it, and all that? If we don’t show up for work on top of that, it could be a problem, Dar.”
“Hell with it.” Dar replied obstinately. “What if it’s a problem? What if the media comes to interview me on it, Ker? What am I going to say, I didn’t know?”
“Ah. Good point.”
“I think it’s a good idea to let that blow over a little.” Dar decided. “In fact, I think the less we get involved in the whole press nightmare the better right now. Let’s let out work stand for itself. Get the job done, then they can make what they want of it. The more we play into this, the worse it gets.”
Kerry was quiet for a moment, and then she sighed. “We’re really good at talking ourselves into things, aren’t we?”
Dar had to smile. “Yeah.” She sounded a touch sheepish.
“But maybe you’re right.” Kerry went on. “We’ve been playing right into their hands, haven’t we? Reacting like we have, and getting all into the spotlight. Maybe it’s time to lay low and just get the job done, like you said.”
Dar kissed the top of her head. “We could even paint each other’s toenails.” She suggested. “No one has to know.”’
Now it was Kerry’s turn to smile. “Renegade. Only if I can paint yours freaking scarlet.” She relaxed against the leather, though, her entire body reacting to the knowledge that there would be no late night drive home ahead of her at least tonight.
And, who knew? Dar was really a very good strategist, and maybe this would turn out to be another one of her brilliant solutions. It had happened before, and she’d never regretted trusting her partner’s instincts yet. “You up for an omelette?’
“Only if the deceased baby chickens don’t touch anything resembling a green pepper.”
Continued in Part 21