Winds of Change

Part 14

“So, are we kidding ourselves, and no one’s not actually calling us, or considering calling us?” Kerry was seated on the windowsill, manipulating a shrimp with her chopsticks. “How long are we going to hang out here?”

Dar was chewing a very red spare rib. “Well.” She paused, and licked her lips. “We just saw them go over the Interbank outage on CNN, and they said they were searching for a senior spokesperson from ILS. Either they’re crapping their pants and trying to find my phone number right now, or they’re going to blow them off.”

“They cant be that stupid.”

“They can. So either they’re going to call me in the next fifteen minutes or we’ll just go home.”  Dar took another bite of her rib.  “They can’t afford to have all their customers start calling CNN.”

“Well, maybe they’ll figure it out themselves.” Kerry suggested philosophically.  “I don’t really want to end up with my ass parked in that mausoleum lobby tonight anyway.”

“I hope they do.”  Dar picked up her bottle of green ice tea and took a swallow. “Then we can finally leave them behind.”

Kerry leaned against the windowsill and hiked one boot up on the wooden surface.  She fished out another shrimp and bit it in half, swinging her other leg a little to the soft new age music playing in the built in nearby.

Everyone else had gone home, in some cases at their insistence.  They were alone in the building and they had the doors locked with the security system in place.  The street outside was quiet, befitting the middle of the weekday night it was and she could hear the faint sounds of a softball game going on at the field down the street.

“We could form a company softball team.”  Kerry commented, after a moment. “That would be fun. Want me to see if there’s a league around here?”


“I’d like that  I thought that league we started to be part of before 9/11 was going to be fun but it would be more fun if we had our own team.  We can get uniforms in our colors.”

“Sounds good.” Dar munched thoughtfully. “You look adorable in those baseball pants.”

Kerry rolled her head around and gave her partner a droll look.

“You do.”  Dar insisted. “You’ve got a really cute butt, hon.  Those pants show it off.”

Kerry actually blushed.  “Dar.”

Dar opened her eyes wide in mock hurt, and lifted her hand up and spread the fingers out in question. “What?”

Kerry stuck her tongue out.

“Same to you.” Dar finished up her ribs and put them in the silver lined bag they’d come in. “Let’s go home. Screw it.” She got up and shut her laptop down.  “I’m out of patience. With any luck they’ve solved everything themselves and I won’t get shanghai’d when I walk into the Pentagon tomorrow.”

Kerry was more than ready enough to leave.  She wrapped up the remains of her meal and Dar’s and took them downstairs to store them in the refrigerator.  She glanced around, nodding in approval at the neatness from the cleaning service, then she went back in the hallway just in time to see Dar trotting down the steps with both their bags.

She took hers, then waited as Dar triggered the exit allowance for the alarm system.  She opened the door and they walked quickly out, Dar locking the door behind them as they heard the alarm reset softly inside.

It was a nice night.  Kerry drew in a breath of cool air, savoring it since they were on the long downhill slide into summer, and in a month or so, any chance of outdoor comfort while fully dressed would be gone.

So she enjoyed the crispness, and the smell of the leaves in the trees around the building.  She waited for Dar to join her and then they walked down the sidewalk together towards the parking lot.  “Glad we left the pups home today.” She commented. “Would have made a late night for them.”

“Mm.” Dar agreed. “I think they like it though, being with us.” She beeped open the doors to the truck. “Everyone pays attention to them in the office.”

Kerry opened the passenger side door and put her bag inside, then hoisted herself up after it. “We should have gotten a running board for this thing. I feel like I’m doing a vault.”

Dar chuckled. “I’ll call the dealership tomorrow.” She promised, then paused, looking out over the steering wheel through the front window. “Oh crap.”

Kerry looked up quickly and spotted the group near the trees on the side of their building. “Is that.. oh, yeah. It is.” She recognized their rowdy antagonists, and in the middle, the shorter outline of Scott in his chair. “Well, poots, Dar.”

Dar opened the door and slid out. “He’s one of us now.” She remarked, as she hitched up the sleeves on her shirt and started towards the gang.

“Wouldn’t have stopped you in any case, Crusader Dar.” Kerry reconciled herself to some after hours conflict and got out on her side, shutting the door and trotting quickly after her partner.

The group was clustered around Scott, and it was obvious they were pissed.  Kerry caught up to Dar just as they came up next to the group and she got her balance set, and squared her shoulders.

Not that either activity really would come off as imposing. Not nearly as much as Dar’s did when her six foot plus partner stood up straight and glared at the men.

“What the hell’s going on here?”

The men turned abruptly, one of them letting loose of Scott’s chair arms.  He looked up in surprise and saw them, and Kerry saw that brief moment of relief that almost put a smile on her face.

So yeah, he’d crossed that line too.

“What the hell is it your business?” The closest man responded, turning and facing them revealing himself to be Joe, the group troublemaker.

“You’re messing with an employee of mine.” Dar responded. “In front of my office. I thought I made it clear to you people I wasn’t going to put up with that.” She stood square on to him, her hands in her pockets.

“You don’t own him, you bitch.” Joe said. “Get out of here.”

“No.” Dar took a step closer to him.  “I don’t own anyone. But I value people which is a lot more than you do.  You want to get away from me? You leave.” She suggested. “And it’s his choice to leave with you, or stay.”

“I’m not going to take that from you, lady.” Joe hauled back and swung on Dar and in a second they were grappling as she blocked his punch and put an elbow into his chin.

Kerry watched the gang carefully as she looked around for something to use as a weapon, not nearly as confident in her martial skills as her partner was.

Joe backed off and touched his jaw, watching Dar’s tense figure and flexing hands.  “You know how to fight.”  He sounded  surprised.

“I do.”  Dar answered shortly.  “I don’t want to, and I don’t like to, but if you push me I will.” 

Joe studied her for a minute. “I want to, and I like to, but I don’t like fighting with women.” He answered with surprising honesty. “My daddy didn’t raise me to hit girls.”

Dar really had no answer to that, but as it turned out she didn’t need one.

“Wall.” A voice came out of the darkness with more than a hint of amusement in it. “Y’all are out of luck then, boy, cause I didn’t raise her to care about what was in the pants she was kicking.”

Dar relaxed, and smiled. “Hey dad.” She said. “Didn’t know you guys were back.”

Andrew Roberts sauntered into the lamplight, hands in the front pocket of his hoodie but the hood pushed back to reveal his scarred and rugged face. “Hey there, Dardar.  We done just tied the boat up at that there marina down there.”  He said. “We gave your other place a call and didn’t get no answer so we thought we’d try this here one.”

He observed the men, who were all now watching him with extreme wariness.  “What all’s going on here?” He asked, after a moment of silence.

“Hi dad.” Kerry chimed in, moving past Dar to put her arms around her father in law.  “Glad to see you. Is mom around?”

He returned the hug. “On her way up here. She done passed one of them little knicky shops on the way and stopped to look.” Andrew allowed. “You boys standing around here for some reason?”

“Scott here works for us.” Kerry indicated the man in the wheelchair.  “These other people are some friends of his.”

Andrew observed them closely. “Ain’t that nice.” He said, in a flat tone.

“We’ll be going.” Joe lifted a hand and started walking off.  “Night.”

Andrew caught him by the back of his jacket and hauled him backwards. “Now.” He looked him in the eye. “Do not be here hanging around no more bothering my children.”  He said, clearly.  “You find yourselfs some other place to do nothin.”

Joe looked at him. “That some kind of threat?” He asked.

“Yes.” Andrew answered, then he stopped talking, and went very still.

“Okay.” Joe held his hands up.  “I got it. We’re leaving.”

Andrew released him, and stared at the rest of them until they all backed off, leaving Scott to sit there quietly in his chair watching them go.

“Peh.” Dar’s father shook his head. “What the hell they teaching these kids these days.”

“Thanks dad.” Dar remarked in a mild tone. “I wasn’t looking forward to soaking a sore hand tonight.”  She looked down at Scott. “Sorry if we embarrassed you.”

Scott was sitting there with his hands clasped in his lap, with an expression of mixed amusement and thoughtfulness on his face. “I’m all right.” He said. “They were just being assholes. I’m used to it.”  He put his hands on his chair wheel rims. “Maybe they’ll clear out of back behind there. Easier to bunk there than the church.”

“In the bushes, behind the office?” Kerry asked. “I thought there was an opening in there.”

Scott nodded. “Little house back in there, in the other property, but you can’t get at it from that side.  Just was a.. “ He shrugged. “Maybe a kid’s place?  Has some bunks and stuff.”

“Y’all living in there?” Andrew asked, with interest. 

Scott nodded again.  “Sometimes.” He clarified. “When the rest of them are someplace else.” He started around them. “Night.”

“Night.” Dar responded.

“Night,  Scott.” Kerry echoed.

They watched him roll past, and turn up the small path that went between the buildings, then Andrew folded his arms across his chest and regarded the two of them. “Y’all gonna show me this new place?”  His eyes twinkled. “S’got my name all over it?”

Dar grinned back at him. “Sure. Glad you caught us before we left.” She started to lead the way towards the door. “We stayed late because.. well, it’s a long story.”

“Figure it can wait for your mom.”

“Yeah, it can. I’d hate to have to go through it twice.” Kerry agreed. “I’m so glad to see you. I wasn’t looking forward to how that was looking at ending either.” She put her hand on Dar’s back. “Not that I had any doubt in what the result was going to be, still.”

“Jerks.”  Dar muttered.

“What’s up with them boys?” Andrew asked as they came around the corner and they paused, looking at the sign and the small front porch.

“They’re a bunch of veterans who are out of work and something homeless.” Dar said, as she put her hands on her hips. “Like the sign?”

“Ah surely do.” Her father said, with some immense satisfaction. “Looks better than it did in them pitchers.” He glanced at Dar. “So you done hired one of them fellers?”

“Part of the long story. Let’s go inside and sit down.”  Dar led the way to the door and opened it, then ducked inside quickly to silence the alarm. “C’mon in.” She said, as she flipped on the recently doused lights.

Kerry was the last in, and then she turned as she heard light footsteps behind her. “Hey!”  She waved at Ceci, who had stopped to admire the sign in her own turn.

“Well, hello yourself.” The short, pale haired woman waved back. “What a trip across the gulfstream.” She caught up to Kerry and scooted inside the door.  “How are you?”

“Where do I start?” Kerry gave her a quick hug. 

“Uh oh.”

“So many things have happened since the last time we saw you… holy cow.” Kerry said, as they followed Dar and Andrew inside, her partner giving a running commentary of their space. “We were late here tonight because we were pretty sure Dar was going to get a call from the people running ILS now.”

“Oh?” Ceci seemed surprised. “Are they different people from the ones that were doing that before we left?”

“Oh yeah. Most of the company, at least our part of it, quit.” Kerry said. “Anyway, they did something to screw things up there and we started hearing about it in public earlier on.”


“Yes, the CNN crew that was here had to go run and find out about it.”  Kerry cleared her throat. “Where was I?”


“They were interviewing Dar.”  Kerry pinched the bridge of her nose. “And we knew things were going south because Gerry Easton called from the Pentagon, saying they were having problems. So we figured they’d finally cave in and call Dar but they didn’t.”

Ceci started to whistle softly under her breath.

“So I guess maybe they sorted things out.” Kerry concluded. “I’m glad if they did, because I don’t want to have to deal with that when we go to Washington tomorrow.” 


“Dar has to go explain advanced heuristics to Congress.”

Ceci stopped and burst into slightly hysterical laughter, falling back against the wall and holding her stomach.

“Yeah, I know.”  Kerry smiled, and waited. “I’m going to bring a camcorder.”  She said. “So with that we don’t want the government all of a sudden to stop in the middle of it and ask us to fix what is now, not our problem.”

Ceci let her laughter peter off.  “You’re probably screwed, in that case.”

Kerry sighed.

“There isn’t a problem on the planet that doesn’t end up on your platter, kid.” Ceci patted her arm. “C’mon. Let’s go finish the tour, and find a beer.”



They ended up at a café a short walk down the road, seated outside as Kerry ran through the whole catalog of recent events. 

Dar contented herself with her spiked coffee, listening to her partner and watching the expressions on her parents faces react. 

“They did what?” Ceci leaned forward. “You mean this guy deliberately screwed everything up?”

“Well.” Kerry lifted her hand off the table and turned it palm up, then put it back down. “Depends what you consider deliberate. Like Dar said to someone, the fact that they did something was deliberate but she doesn’t think the intent was to screw everything up.”

“Had me some Navy jobs like that.” Andrew commented.

“Unintended consequences.” Ceci said. “Frankly. I think you two should go hike the Himalayas for a couple months and stay as far away from this thing as you can.”

“Yeap.” Andrew nodded.

“We think so too.” Kerry said. “That’s what we’ve been trying to do but because we’ve got customers in common, and not just the guys down the street kind of customers, it’s tough.”


Dar gave her father a wry grin, at the dour comment.   “Maybe we should start our vacation early.” She suggested. “I don’t reall…” She paused, as her cell phone range.  With a sigh, she fished it out of her pocket and looked at the caller ID.  “Mark.”

“This could be good, or bad.” Kerry said, as she watched her partner answer the phone.  “Hopefully, it’s good.”

Dar sat listening, her elbow propped against the table, brows twitching a little.

The other three fell silent, watching her and waiting.

“Okay, so, that guy called you?”  Dar said, after a long while. “What does he want you to do?” She paused again. “Oh. He wanted you to call me . What a little smarmy chickenshit.”

Kerry sighed.

“That doesn’t sound promising.” Ceci said.

“He said what?” Dar’s voice rose.

“Uh oh.”  Kerry pulled out her Handspring “Let me get a note off to our lawyer.”

“Rich Edgerton?” Ceci asked.

Kerry nodded.

“He must be having the time of his life.  He once said going into investment management was almost as boring as being a library card sorter.”

“Well, well, what do we have here.”  A new voice interrupted them. “I do believe I know you people.”

Kerry looked up in surprise. “Hi, Hamilton.” She indicated a seat. “Join us. I’m sure you want front row center at this circus.”

Dar had also looked up and smiled. “Never guess who just showed up here.” She said into the phone. “Hamilton Baird.”

ILS’s ex legal council took the chair, raising his finger at the waitress who was watching him like a hawk, and pointing to the beer mug in front of Kerry. “I just dropped by your new place and was told I might find you here by a man in a wheelchair on your front porch. Never is boring around you ladies I will say that.”

“They collect personalities.” Ceci remarked, in a dry tone.

“Mark, we’re at the café down the road from the office. C’mon over.” Dar said. “Bye.”  She disconnected the call. “Smarmy little jacktard said he ‘found’ Mark’s number on a sticky note.” She took a sip of her Irish coffee. “Said he was willing to pay him to contact me and get some technical information. “

“Million dollars a word, maestro.” Hamilton smiled. “Want me to negotiate that for you?”

Dar sat back and hiked one knee up. “Hello, Hamilton.” She said. “What brings you to Miami?”

“You.” Baird responded promptly.  “Ah am now representing a consortium of ILS investors who want to stage an unfriendly takeover since they have seen their shares plummet in the last month.”

The waitress arrived and put a cold mug down in front of Hamilton.  “You folks like anything else?” She asked. “We’ve got a bar snack platter special tonight.”

“Sure.”  Kerry responded. “Bring enough for everyone.”

The waitress smiled at her, and vanished.

“Hamilton, I want no part of it.” Dar said. “Not that I don’t sympathize with the investors. I do.”

“Hear me out, Maestro.”  He leaned back and took a sip of his beer.  “These are the smart people who tossed money at ILS, not the dumb people.  I would not be bothering my coon ass self with the dumb people. I had enough to do with them when I was still drawing a paycheck.”

Andrew chuckled under his breath.

“Why do I get the feeling there isn’t enough liquor in that bar to cover this.”  Ceci said.

Dar sighed again. “Let’s wait for Mark to get here.” She decided. “It’ll hold another ten minutes.”  She caught the waitress’s alert eye and pointed at her mug, now empty.   “If I have enough of these I can use it as an excuse not to put my hands on a keyboard.”

“Darlin, even drunk off your ass you have to be more competent than those idiots in there right now.” Hamilton drawled.  “Jacques just got off the phone with me on the way here, and he’s ready to do whatever.”

“Whatever?” Kerry eyed him.

“Whatever. As in,  whatever it takes to get the wolves eye teeth out of his buttocks.”  Hamilton clarified.  “Where they are verily implanted.”

“I don’t get it.” Ceci said, after a moment. “They’re the ones who decided they wanted to get rid of these kids here. So why now is everyone losing their minds and wanting action? They did it.”

“Yes, they did.  And they were told what fools they were.” Hamilton agreed. “But that, for some reason does not spur in them a desire to get down on their knees and apologize to the world and God for it.”

Dar pondered that in silence for a moment. “Doesn’t spur in me a desire to help them regardless of the scheme you’re going to pitch me.”

“Now Dar…”

“I’m not kidding, Hamilton.” Dar cut him off. “My first advice would be – put everything back the way it was before you broke it. There were safeguards in place that stored copies of everything so that could be done. This person, this moron they hired, deliberately circumvented and deleted them. They should be arresting him.”

Ceci was nodding. “What she said.”

Hamilton steepled his long fingers together and tapped his lips with the tips of them. “You sure about that, maestro?”

“Am I sure? I’m sure when I left there was a configuration repository that was configured to save a devices configuration every time a change was made, yes.”  Dar responded. “And I’m sure that the operations directives for infrastructure had that requirement in writing.”

“It did.” Kerry confirmed.

“So if that fella said there wasn’t no record of how things were set up before he got there, he’s not telling the truth?”

“No.”  Dar and Kerry answered at the same time.  “He’s lying.” Kerry added.

Baird made a little face. “I don’t suppose you kept a copy of that stuff somewhere?”

Dar took a breath to respond.

“Like your head?” Hamilton gently interrupted her.

Dar exhaled. “The only old copy of configs I had I already turned over to one of the guys who was trying to help, but they never let him use it. They fired him.” 

“Moron upon moron upon idiot.”  Hamilton sighed. “Okay, cut to the chase, Dar. If you had to, could you go in there and go into those things and make them right?”

They paused, as the waitress returned with a big, round platter full of exceptionally unhealthy things. She put it down in the middle of the table and handed around long handled forks and napkins. “Go for it, folks.”

“Thanks.” Andrew said. “Get me another of these?” He held up his mug, and the waitress scooted off.

Then all eyes went back to Dar. 

After a moment she shrugged. “Sure.” She said. “I designed it.  It would take me a while to undo whatever it is they did, but I could.”

“What’s your price?”

Dar shook her head. “Hamilton, I won’t do it. Not can’t, won’t.” 

“Why not?” He asked. “Dar, these men are literally willing to give you whatever in the world you want to save their shorts.  How many times do you get that kind of opportunity?”

“What I seen, ever other month.” Andrew said.  “They done got her saving some damn thing or other thing cause some dumbass made some bad choice.”

“Hamilton, I appreciate that.” Dar said. “There’s just nothing I want that they could give me.” She glanced briefly at Kerry. “I’ve got everything I  need pretty much right here at this table.”

Her parents smiled.  Kerry smiled.  Hamilton looked wryly exasperated.

“There’s nothing and no one left there for me to even feel like I would want to do it to make their lives better.” Dar concluded. “Even Jacques, whom I like and respect, was ready to throw me down the river a few times. Hell.” She half shrugged. “Even you and Alastair were. I had no friends there.”

Hamilton’s face shifted into a quiet, serious expression. “That’s not one hundred percent true, Dar.” He said. “But I get it.”

“Ah remember being in that big old place.” Andrew spoke up. “Listening to them fellas want to fire her that last time.  She’s right. Aint no one was on her side in that place.” 

“I remember when I started working there.” Kerry chimed in. “How many times people there tried to throw Dar under the bus.  I remember hearing what they said. I remember seeing what they did.  ILS didn’t deserve her.”

Dar looked from one to the other.  “Sometimes I was driving the bus.” She suggested.

“No, Dar, that’s not true.  Every time you made  a decision, no matter who got hurt or in the way, it was the right decision for the company. For all of us.” Kerry stated firmly.  “You don’t owe anyone there, especially the stockholders, a god damned thing.”

The sound of a motorbike ended conversation briefly as Mark arrived, parking his bike in the front of the café and stashing his helmet before joining them. “Hey.” He sat down next to Kerry, who handed him a fork, and a napkin.  “Um.. thanks.”

“No, darlin, you don’t owe them anything.”  Hamilton said. “You produced value for the company for a good long time.  That’s not the issue here. No one’s saying you should do this, no one’s saying you have an obligation.”

“Well.” Mark had retrieved a mozzarella stick.  “That guy says he’s going to tell everyone you broke in and sabotaged the company unless you make things work.” He chewed thoughtfully, watching Dar’s face. “I told him to fuck off on your behalf.”

Hamilton sighed, and covered his eyes. 

“So. That’s why I’m not going to do anything.” Dar concluded. “Because if I do, no matter what anyone says, or does, or infers, everyone on the planet will believe I screwed it up.”

“Glad I sent that note to Richard.”  Kerry  muttered. “If that asshole ever comes near us he better hope I’m not driving Dar’s truck because I will so help me god run him over with it.”

“I told Jacques he needed to fire those guys.”  Dar said.

“They  have contracts.” Hamilton responded. “Very expensive ones to buy out, and it will be, as you don’t need me to tell you, a publicity nightmare.”

Dar lifted her hands up. “What are you having now?  CNN took off to go cover the Interbank outage. I’m surprised they haven’t called me back for commentary on it.”

Her cell phone rang, and she glanced at it, then held it up before holding it to her ear. “Hello, Dar Roberts.”

“This.” Ceci scooped up a bit of ranch dressing with a celery stick and munched on it. “Is one big fat mess.”

“Yeap.”  Her husband shook his head.  “This is a squad with the trots and one outhouse kinda mess.”

“I told em Dar wouldn’t do it.” Mark said “Matter of fact, since I had him on the phone I told him exactly what kind of no brain ears out the sides of his asshole jerkwad he was.”

Dar had one hand over her ear, and the phone pressed to the other. “Yes, I hear you.  No, I really don’t have anything to comment on about that since it’s not my problem anymore.”   She took a sip of her coffee.  “I’m sorry they’re having issues,  but I suggest they direct their questions to the management at ILS.  I don’t know what’s going on.”

“Lord.” Andrew sighed. “This ain’t never gonna end good.”

“You got that right, daddy Roberts.”  Hamilton said. “Let me go call those poor idiots who sent me and tell them they should go off and buy some banana plantations in Curacao and get out of this damn technology business.”

Kerry reached over and put her hand on Dar’s thigh, feeling the tension under the fabric of her jeans and the slight vibration as she jiggled her foot restlessly.   She met Ceci’s eyes across the table, exchanging a faint shake of the head with her mother in law as she tried to reason a way through the problem.

There was no reason, though. That was the problem.   She could only consider the actions of their replacements as some kind of ego driven insanity and she agreed with Dar one hundred percent that she should stay the hell out of it.

“Yes, I agree it seems odd that a system that was working well stopped working, but again, you would need to ask the current management.” Dar said, in a firm tone.  “I don’t want to speculate on what would have caused it.”  She listened, then glanced at Kerry and rolled her eyes. “Do I think it’s a cyber attack?  I have no idea.  I have no data at all to base any theory on.”

“You’re actually being extraordinarily kind to those people.” Ceci said.  “They’re lucky its you their talking to not me.”

“That guy really was an ass.” Mark said to Kerry, lowering his voice. “I mean, like really. Just all snide and creepy. He made it out like he knew we’d planned this all out, and when I called him on the whole change thing he did, he said he’d sue me if I told anyone else that.”

“Wait. He called you for help and then said he was going to sue you? Really?  He must be nuts.” Kerry said. “What in the world is wrong with these guys? They think this is some kind of stupid game?”

Mark shook his head.  “I felt so slimy after talking to him I took a shower.”

“Well, yes, I could do that.” Dar was saying into the phone. “If it’s a general interview on how that type of technology works, sure.” She glanced at her watch.  “I’m at a café down the road from our offices. If you want to come back over, I’ll give you a few minutes.”


“C’mon Dad, don’t you want to be on CNN?” Kerry smiled at him.

“No, I do not.”

“Okay see you in a little while.” Dar released the line and let her head drop back against the back of the chair. “Son of a bitch.”

“Wouldn’t take no for an answer?” Ceci guessed.  “Well, I’ve seen you on television, kid. You draw eyeballs.”  She regarded her tall offspring and smiled at the droll expression directed back at her.  “Make sure you get a nice plug in for the new company.”

“Kill me now.” Dar sighed.  “Mark, where did you leave it with this jackass?”

“Told him he needed to clean up his own shit.”  Mark said.  “Sorry, Dar. I just wasn’t going to let him talk smack to me, especially when he was calling me to beg for help.”

“Didn’t have the guts to call me directly?” Dar smiled briefly. “I know my home number’s in the records there. Hasn’t changed in years. He wouldn’t have even had to search for a sticky note.”

“Well, the angle he took was, he was doing this as like a favor to me, sort of letting me come back in and help you help him so you didn’t have to get dragged in the mud.” Mark said. “He said if he went public, you could kiss your new business goodbye.”

Hamilton had been listening.  Now he turned his head towards Andrew. “What do you say,  we go visit this gentleman?  He’s from the North, y’know.”

“Wall.” Andrew looked thoughtful. ‘If that there feller is making threats at my kids, I do believe I should go talk with him.”

“Let’s wait until after CNN interviews Dar for that.” Ceci took a sip of her wine. “Because that would be too much excitement for them to handle and I want to put a deposit down first on that little cottage in St Johns for us to escape to first.”

Dar leaned forward and put her elbows on the table. “Hamilton.” She said. “Can you get me the number of the jackass who replaced me?”

“He didn’t.”  Hamilton said, straightforwardly. “But I can get you his phone number, sure.”

Dar made a come hither gesture at him. “Let me make one stab at giving him some advice.  Jacques wouldn’t take it, maybe he will.”

Hamilton started fishing in his cell phone, shaking his head all the while.  “More chance of getting a pig to sing.” He lamented. “But what the hidey hell. Let’s give it a whirl.”


“Okay.”  The CNN lady producer turned her ball cap around and settled it back on her head.  “So just for some prelim, we went over and tried to get some information about this outage that’s apparently affecting a good portion of the banking business. “

“Interbank.”  Dar agreed.   She was seated behind her office desk, leaned back in her comfortable chair and had her hands wrapped around one hiked knee.  “It’s a central clearinghouse, a meetpoint for a lot of the large banks where they exchange information.”


“Lets you use some other bank’s ATM from your own.” Dar said.

“Exactly.” The producer said. “So ILS runs it.” She watched Dar shake her head.  “No?”

“No.  Interbank runs itself.  It happens to have contracted a third party to carry the connections instead of building their own network. Lot of companies do that. Building and maintaining a wide area LAN is hellish expensive and complicated.”

“Ah.” The woman took a seat across from Dar. “How does that work?”

“Same way as you buy telephone service for your house.”  Dar’s eyes twinkled a little bit.  “Or to be more familiar to you, it’s how you buy satellite transponder space from Intelsat to send your signals to and from Atlanta.”

“Ah!” The woman nodded.  “So they buy transport.”

“Yes. Transport and the management services that goes with it. Making sure there’s enough bandwidth, tracking outages, rerouting, all the things that go with keeping the data going from point a to point b.”  Dar said.

“So what’d they screw up, Dar?” The woman asked. “I  know you know.  I heard them talking in the background in a different room than we were in. Didn’t  know we were listening.”

They were alone in the office. Kerry and the rest of the gang were entertaining the camera team and the on screen talent downstairs, serving them gratefully received strong coffee.     Hamilton had driven off to go have a meeting with someone,  and Dar was hoping as soon as they were finished talking she could take her partner home and fall into bed.

Long ass day.   “I can’t discuss that on the record.” She said, candidly.

“Why?”  The woman asked. “You don’t work there anymore.  It’s a cock up, we know about it.  Why not give me a scoop?”

Dar shook her head. “Sorry, Cheryl.” She said. “If they decide to go public, I’ll comment on it, but I’m not going to talk about someone else’s problems.”

“That’s an interesting bit of integrity.” Cheryl responded. “Because I’m pretty sure if you’d been the one who caused the problem they would have outed you in a heartbeat.” She smiled a little bit. “I tried to make them.”

Dar smiled faintly back.  “It’s always better to stick to the truth.” She said. “Or nothing at all. “

They studied each other in silence for a bit. “So no, huh?” Cheryl finally said, with a sigh. “It’s frustrating for us, because we know there’s news here. You get a sense for that after you do what I do for a while.”

“There is.” Dar said, straightforwardly.  “Unfortunately, it’s not my news to discuss. It’s their issue, it’s their customers.”

Cheryl eyed her thoughtfully. “We could make this off the record.  I could make you an anonymous source. They don’t have to know.”

“I’d know.”

The producer lifted her hand up and let it drop down.  “Okay, fair enough. Mind if I ask you one more question?”

“Nope.” Dar glanced at her Handspring, hoping Briggs wouldn’t pick now to call her back.

“How did ILS deal with your being gay?”  Cheryl asked. “I assume they knew.”

“They knew.” Dar responded. “There were people who probably cared and were disgusted, but as a corporation ILS didn’t care.  Even when Kerry and I became an item, they didn’t care. They put an exception in our employment records and we carried on.”

“Because you were important.”

Dar nodded, after a brief pause. “If I was working in the mailroom, probably would have been a different reaction. I was useful to them. They needed my skillset, and, in fact, they appreciated Kerry’s.”


Dar stood up and stretched.  “We did a good job for them.  Now we ready to do this interview?  My day’s about to end.”  She pondered taking the following day off before the flight to Washington, the idea becoming rapidly very appealing. 

“Sure.” Cheryl said. “The reason I asked about that is the guy we talked to over there inferred that you left because you felt you were being pressured to leave due to your lifestyle.”

Dar laughed.

“No, huh?”

Dar took a step back and leaned against the windowsill, folding her arms over her chest.  “I’ve been out of the closet for a lot longer than I was being strategic for ILS. “ She said. “The only pressure I was feeling in terms of getting out of there was the pressure to be my own boss.”

“Hon?” Kerry poked her head in the office.  “Can we get this show on the road? The kids are waiting for dinner.”

“We’re heading down.” Dar pushed off the sill and waved the producer ahead of her. “I was just being grilled on the nervewracking consequences of our bedroom.”

Kerry stopped in mid motion and looked from Cheryl to her partner. “Uh what?”

“You have kids?” Cheryl went with the flow. 

“Dogs.” Kerry held the door open. “Two Labrador Retrievers.. now what was that about our bedroom?”


“Think he’s going to call you back?”  Kerry had the car seat pitched back and she was sprawled across it, eyes closed as the ferry rumbled it’s way across the channel. “At this point I sure hope not.”

“Don’t care.” Dar responded, eyes also closed.  “We’re taking tomorrow off.”

“I love you.”

Dar smiled into the darkness of the interior of the trunk. “Did I do okay with that interview?”  She turned her head and looked at Kerry. “I felt kind of dorky.”

“Actually, you came off as reserved yet mysterious.”  Kerry rubbed her nose, pinching the bridge of it. “I liked when you started talking about BGP routing metrics after he kept asking you about what could cause stuff like that to go down.”

“Mm.  Well, that is one reason it might stop working. Wrong metrics.”  Dar said, stifling a yawn. “Maybe that is what that monkey did.  Skewed the metrics. That would fit the symptoms.”

“Well great, Dardar. When that guy sees the CNN report maybe it’ll give him a brainwave and he’ll fix his problem.”  Kerry patted her partner’s leg.  “Tell you what though, I’m glad mom and dad are back.”

“Me too.”

Kerry smiled at the prompt, and immediate response.  “I hope we get this contract all settled out in the next couple days. I don’t want that hanging over us when we head out to the Grand Canyon.”  She said. “This is going to be so much fun, Dar.”

“I think I’m going to wear those new hiking boots to the gym tomorrow. Break them in a little.”  Dar decided, as the ferry pulled up the dock and she moved her seat upright.  “I don’t want to mess with blisters on the trip.”

“We can hike around the island too.” Kerry said, straightening up her own seat as they got ready to drive off the deck.  “That’s a really good idea.”

Dar put the truck in gear and drove up the ramp, giving the man directing traffic a casual wave.  They got up to the top of the slope and she was about to turn left onto the perimeter road when a figure in a security uniform trotted towards her, waving his arm. “Ah.”

“Oh please no drama.” Kerry moaned.  “It’s too damn late, Dar.”

Dar pulled the truck to a halt and opened the window. “Hey Charles.”

“Ms. Roberts!”  He leaned on the side of the vehicle. “Glad I caught you.  Listen, have you heard from that guy, that Billy, since the other night?”

Dar shook her head. “Not a word. Why? He suing?”

“We don’t know.” Charles said. “We haven’t heard a peep from him and Clemente went over to do his cleaning service and there’s no sign of the guy. We were just wondering if you’d seen him, or if he’d contacted you.”

Dar looked at Kerry, who was leaning on the console.  “Maybe he took off for a while?” She suggested. “Figured he’d let things cool off?”

“Maybe.” Charles said. “But we don’t have record of him going off island and he didn’t have a boat.”

“Could have gone on someone elses.” Kerry said. “Or he could have been in someone elses’s car going off the island. You all don’t check everyone in the back seat, do you?”

“That’s true enough ma’am, but it just seems strange, you know?  He was around and about the island for weeks before that, kinda bothering everyone, now poof. He’s gone.”

“Well, in a week or so we’ll be gone so if we see him before that, we’ll  let you know.” Dar said. “Ker and I and the dogs are going on vacation.”

Charles smiled. “We’ll keep an eye on the place for you, Ma’am. Don’t worry.”  He tapped the door, and stepped back, giving them a wave as Dar rolled up the window and they proceeded on.

“That was weird.”  Kerry said, as they pulled into the lower level parking, and Dar tucked the truck into the spot next to her SUV. “Dar did it sound to you like they thought we might know if something happened to that guy?”

Dar rested her hands on the wheel and considered. “No.” She said, after a moment. “I think they were just asking everyone they knew was involved with him.” She opened the door to the truck and slid out, shutting the door and heading for the steps up to their home.

As she reached the door her Handspring started ringing, and she pulled it out as Kerry reached around her to key the door open.  “You know what?”

“What?” Kerry pushed the door inward and stepped in quickly to greet Chino and Mocha’s exited wigglings.

“Fuck him.” Dar hit the ignore button and shoved the phone back in her front pocket, sending the call to voice mail. “I gave him a chance. I’m done.”  She followed Kerry inside and shut the door, reaching down to pick up the frantic Mocha puppy. “C’mere, squiglet.”

“Are you glad to see us, kids?”  Kerry knelt and gave Chino a hug. “Did you take care of the little man today, Chi?”

“Growf.” Chino wagged her tail gently.

“Time for dinner.”  Kerry stood up and moved towards the kitchen, picking up the mail on the dining room table and sorting through it as she walked.  She put the stack down and went to the cupboard, taking out two portions of dog food and retrieving a mixture of chopped beef and chicken from the refrigerator.

“Yap! Yap yap!” Mocha hopped up and down at her feet, his front paws scrabbling at her kneecap. “Yap!”

“Yes, I can see you’re hungry.” Kerry assembled the meal and put it down, getting back hastily out of the way as the two dogs hoovered the contents as though they were being chased down by wolves threatening to take it away from them. ‘Take it easy, guys.”

Dar wandered in behind her and draped her arms over Kerry’s shoulders.  “I turned off my phone.” She said. “I think we should just move on.  Let’s go to DC tomorrow, and just leave ILS behind.”

It sounded good.    “I’m all for that hon. I just hope ILS doesn’t chase after us given our mutual customers.”  Kerry enjoyed the warmth surrounding her.  “You want some tea?”

“Sure.”  Dar said. “I’m going to go change and chill out. “ She gave Kerry a squeeze, then released her and stepped over the dogs, busy licking their dishes clean. “Like little vacuum cleaners.”

“Growf.”  Chino left her empty dish and went to the dog door , bustling through it as Mocha first made sure she hadn’t left any food behind, then chased after her, yelping as the door flap swung back and nearly knocked him over.

Kerry chuckled and went to the door. “I’m going to stretch out a little.”  She opened the door and went out onto the landing, watching the dogs bolt down the steps and into the cozily lit garden. “Nice night.”

It was clear overhead and the stars were vivid against the darkness.  Kerry went down the steps and walked over to the seating area,  going into the work space and putting water on to heat.

She could have done it inside, of course, but there was something sweet in the air that made her want to savor the night, and she got out the small tea set she kept in the outdoor cupboard as she hummed softly under her breath.


Kerry glanced over her shoulder, giving the dogs an indulgent smile as they chased each other in a circle.   She set the pot on the burner and stepped to one side, reaching up and grasping the chinning bar Dar had installed there and letting her back stretch out.

It felt good, easing muscles that were cramped from too much sitting around during the whole of the long day.  She slowly let her knees unlock and relax, taking her weight on her firmly gripped hands and feeling her shoulders rotate and pop into place. “Ah.”

Chino spotted her and paused, then picked up a sadly bedraggled stuffed  lamb and came racing over.  

Kerry pulled herself up, getting her feet under her as she was nearly knocked off them. “Hey!” 

“Growf!” Chino pushed the sodden toy into her thigh.

“Yuk.” Kerry took it and tossed it across the garden, then retreated back to the little outdoor stove to measure out some dried green tea leaves and added a handful of mint leaves along with it into the ceramic teapot.


Dar’s voice echoed softly over the garden, along with the rasp and scuff as she trotted down the steps. “Give me that.”

Kerry  smiled, as she poured the heated water over the leaves, then set the top on to let the herbs steep.  There was something charming and old fashioned about the beverage, and she enjoyed mixing the tea leaves with other things to mix it up a little.

“Got orange peel in there this time?” Dar cocked her arm and tossed the ragged lamb. “I brought out the cookies.”

“Mint this time.” Kerry left the pot alone and went over to the bar again, gripping it and steeling herself for the effort of doing a chin up.    She paused a moment then lifted herself off the ground,  and letting her legs relax.

“Nice.” Dar sprawled in the canvas bucket chair, watching her.  She took the lamb Chino had just tossed onto her stomach and threw it again.   “You’re getting better at that.”

Kerry managed a grin as she got through a couple more of the exercises, feeling the burn in her arms. “Thanks honey.”

“And you look sexy doing it.”

“Dar, no one looks sexy doing pull ups.” Kerry let herself down and released the bar, shaking out her hands. “At best, you don’t look like a wuss.”

Dar chuckled. “When I was in school they always tried to make me use the girl’s bars.”  She related. “Idiotic.”

“Cause you were too butch?” Kerry leaned over the chair and gave her a kiss on the head.

“No. I was nearly six feet tall at the time.  The bar was only a foot over my head.”  Her partner said. “I could hop and get my chin over it. I finally just started using the guys high bar.”

“And your gym instructors didn’t realize this?  Where did they park their guide dogs?” Kerry asked. “Or were they just oblivious?”

“I was a smart ass. They didn’t like me.” 

“That’s my favorite part of you.”  Kerry grabbed the lamb and sent it flying.  “Their loss.”  She went over to the table and retrieved the teapot, pouring out two cups and adding honey to them. Then she came back over to where Dar was sitting and set the tray down.  “Of course, I never got the chance to try that in high school.  We did do the uneven bars when I messed with gymnastics though.”

“Bet you were cute.” Dar picked up her tea and blew cautiously on it, then sipped.

“Bet I was a complete dork, and I have pictures to prove it.” Kerry disagreed. “I think I hold my school record for falling flat on my butt or worse on my head.” She handed Dar a cookie and took one, then sat down and leaned back as the dogs came trotting over.  “Ah, the cookie monsters heard us chewing.”

Dar broke off a bit of her cookie and offered it to Chino.  “Want to turn on the news?”


“Me either. Turned off the phone, and I’m just going to enjoy the rest of our night.”

Kerry lifted her tea cup and they touched edges with a soft clash of crockery.  “Sounds good to me.”


Kerry  tapped her boxing gloves together and paused, then edged around and started punching the heavy hanging bag in front of her from a slightly different angle.   

It was midmorning, and she was thoroughly soaked in sweat, but satisfied with her efforts so far, feeling a deep burn in her shoulders as she pounded the bag’s surface.

Dar was doing bench presses nearby, flat on her back on the pressing bench, steadily lifting a bar in an easy rhythm up from her chest.

Kerry moved around to get a better look, and amused herself by watching the play of the light on her partner’s near bare body, admiring the sculpted shape as she studiously exercised.

A moment later the swinging back swung a little further than she’d expected and whomped her backwards, making her rock back off her feet and land on her butt , arms flailing. “Whoa!!!” She yelped. “Ouch!”

“Hey.”  Dar racked her weight bar and got up, scooting over to where Kerry was now flat on her back, knees hiked up and one arm over her eyes as she laughed silently. “You okay?”  She went down to one knee and put her hand on Kerry’s stomach. “Ker?”

“Hahahahahahahaha..” Kerry chortled softly. “Yeah, I’m fine.” She wiped the sweat from her eyes. “Serves me right for lusting after you in public.”

“Huh?” Dar sat down next to her.  “When were you doing that? “ She glanced around, but the gym was empty save the two of them.  She reached over and smoothed the sweat dampened hair form Kerry’s eyes and watched them close briefly, then open again.

“Just now.” Kerry extended her legs out on the padded surface, and folded her hands over her stomach.  “I was so busy watching you I didn’t realize the bag was swinging at me and it smacked me in the head.”

Dar leaned over and kissed her on the lips.  “You really give my ego a boost.”  She smiled. “But try not to do that, hon. You’ll end up with a bruise.”

Kerry contentedly absorbed the look of affection in Dar’s eyes as she regarded her.  “My ego raises your ego one” She exhaled.  “What a couple of goofy saps we are.”

“We are.” Dar said.  “Want to go for a swim?”

“Yes.” Kerry  sat up and started to untie her gloves by tugging on the strings with her teeth. “That would feel absolutely awesome right now.  I’m soaked.”

Dar gently removed the strings from her incisors and untied the gloves for her, both of them sitting there on the padded ground splashed in warm sunlight from the windows.   “Indoor pool, then hydro, then shower.”

“Then lunch.”  Kerry got up and collected her gear.  “I’m so damn glad we took today off.” She followed Dar through the gym towards the changing area. “Its so nice just to chill out and spend some time just doing stuff.”

“Uh huh.”

“Just during the week, when it’s really quiet here instead of on the weekend, when it’s packed.”  Kerry exchanged her boxing outfit for a swimsuit.  “Not  having to be at the office.”

“Tired of our new one?” Dar came over and leaned on the teak wood locker.

Kerry thought about that as she got her towel out, and laid it around her neck.  “I like our new place.” She protested, as they walked towards the gym’s indoor pool.   They passed through the door into a humid, chemical scented space with thick plastic panels surrounding a placidly lapping concrete lake.

“I do too.” Dar said, after a long silence.

Kerry put her towel on a ring hung on the wall. “I just like spending time like this not working.” She admitted, with a wry grin. “Maybe after our vacation I’ll get it out of my system. I think I got the idea of not working in my head after we got let go that minute of ‘oh cool!’’s still in there.”

Dar nodded, in a thoughtful sort of way.  She hung her own towel and stretched her arms out, flexing her hands and then putting them on her hips.  “Yeah.”  She eventually responded.  “Is what it is I guess.”  She walked over to the side of the pool and dove in.

Kerry folded her arms over her chest and thought about that for a long moment, long enough for Dar to surface and stroke across to the other side of the pool with an easy motion.   Then she shrugged, and went to the side of the pool, preparing to dive in herself.

Almost there, her attention was drawn by the sound of the door to the pool room opening and closing and she glanced over to see a tall, heavily built man entering.   “Good morning.” She said, vaguely remembering the man’s face but not entirely sure of from where.

He paused, and regarded her. “Morning.”  He responded, changing direction and heading her way.  “Been wanting to speak to you two people.”

Kerry wasn’t surprised to hear the motion of water and a splash as Dar came up out of the pool, and the slight rasp of her bare feet on the concrete verge, sensing the compression of the air as her partner arrived at her back.

The man’s voice had been gruff but not threatening, but it was nice to have that presence behind her anyway. “Sure.” Kerry responded. “What can we do for you?”  She remembered who the man was just as he closed on them.

“Hello, Jim.”  Dar spoke up.  “What’s up?”

The man nodded at Dar. “My daughter told me all about what happened at the store.” He said.  “I appreciate your getting involved, Roberts, because I don’t like people being jerks to anyone on this island much less my kid.”

“He was a jerk.”  Dar said. “I didn’t appreciate that either.”

The man nodded again. “So thanks for that. But now we come to this,  I don’t like the way you people live, and I don’t want my kid exposed to it.”

He stopped speaking, and regarded them.

“Too fucking bad.”  Dar responded promptly.  “Grow up and come into the twenty first century.   Kerry and I don’t bother anyone.”  She put her hand on Kerry’s back, feeling the tension under her fingertips.

“I know that.” The man said.  “Or I’d have already had you kicked out of here.  I’m not into bullshit and I don’t think you are either. But my daughter means everything to me.”

Kerry put her hands on her hips. “What exactly do you think we’re going to do to her?”  She asked. “She told us you didn’t like gay people.  Okay. I get it. My father didn’t either. But you think we’re going to sell her tickets to a Melissa Etheridge concert and turn her gay or something?”

He paused and looked at her.

“I was gay before I met Dar.” Kerry said. “And I was brought up in a very conservative family,  went to Sunday school,  went to Christian high school, you name it.  Didn’t stop me from being gay.”

“We don’t recruit.” Dar looked and sounded faintly amused.  “Jim, I grew up on a Navy base.  If proximity to testicular overload could have kept me straight, it would have Trust me.  I saw more well hung naked men before I was ten than you probably have in your life.”

Kerry pinched the bridge of her nose. “That was a mental image I didn’t really need.” She muttered.

“That’s not the point.” Jim said. “I don’t want her getting any ideas.”

“Well,  all I can tell you is, any ideas she might get won’t be from us.  We’re in a closed relationship. “ Kerry said. “I’ve never talked to your daughter about anything other than artisanal cheese and French bread.”

Dar leaned closer. “I get the protective father thing, Jim. I’ve got one too.”  She said. “Lucky for me he’s not a closed minded bigot like you are.”

“I’m not a bigot.”  He said. “I just don’t like gay people. I don’t want them around my family.” He didn’t seem angry, just resolute. “So my advice to you is, find some other place to live, because I’ve got ways to make it very uncomfortable for you here.  Don’t push me to that.”

Kerry felt Dar’s whole body stiffen up and she put her hand out to stop her forward motion as she started to come past her. “Not worth it, hon.”

Dar stopped and went still, taking a few breaths. “No you’re right.” She said, in a flat tone.  “Jim, you  better find yourself a new place to  live. Because if it’s the last thing I do on earth, I will ruin you, and you will truly regret ever saying that to me.”

It put a chill down Kerry’s spine, the ice in Dar’s voice she’d only heard a time or two before.  She stayed still, watching the developer and her partner lock eyes, keeping her jaw locked shut on the torrent of angry words piling up behind her tongue.

Jim’s eyes narrowed. “I don’t take threats well, Roberts.”

“Neither do I.”  Dar responded instantly, a rasp on the edge of her voice.  “Especially not a slimy, pointless threat like yours is.  I’ve lived here a decade and paid your residents fees and you took them and you knew damn well what my lifestyle was.  So now I save your damn daughter from being raped and you threaten to have me evicted?  Fuck you. Fuck you and everyone like you.”

Dar was furious.  Kerry had never actually seen her partner this angry, and she was at a loss to know what to do to defuse it.  Or if she should, because that anger felt clean, and right to her. 

It was at that point where dangerous things could happen, and for a moment she was sure they would.  Dar’s body was vibrating with tension, and  Kerry knew there was a potent actual threat  in the tall frame next to her.

Maybe Jim realized it.  Or maybe he was smarter than he appeared, because he took a step back and lifted one hand up in a holding gesture.  “I can see this has the potential of getting very unpleasant for both of us.”

“Are you used to having people just run away or cave in when you threaten them? “ Kerry found herself asking, with a note of curiousness in her voice. “Please don’t expect that from us.”

He turned his eyes to her. “I am used to that, and people usually do back off. I’ve got a lot of power on this island and most people who live here really want to.”

“Listen.” Kerry felt Dar shift next to her. “I appreciate that. It’s a very nice place to live.  But the business Dar and I are in? You don’t really want to get in that kind of fight with us.”

He exhaled, and put his fists on his hips, shifting his attention from Kerry to Dar’s set, cold expression.  “Know what? You’re right.” He said. “You did me a big favor.  I’m just scared, and my wife is scared, that you’re going to influence our daughter. Especially that she told us you offered her a job.  I get crazy.”

Kerry felt Dar slowly relax next to her.  “That was my screwup.” She said. “She said she wasn’t going to college, and we just started a new business,  and she’s a bright kid.  I had no idea you were a homophobe until after I asked her.”

He shook his head. “She’s going to work for me. “ He said. “But I’m.. “ He lifted a hand again and then let it fall. “Apologies.  Just stay away from her.”   He turned and walked hurriedly out of the pool area, letting the door swing shut behind him.

Dar let out a long, shaking breath. “Mother fucking son of a bitch.”

Kerry inhaled. “What you said.”

“I think I’m going to throw up.” Dar folded her arms over her stomach, hunching her shoulders and blinking.  “Holy crap.”

“We absolutely are going to move.” Kerry said, after a moment, putting her hand on Dar’s arm.. “But at our time, and when we feel like it not his.”

“Yeah.” Dar went over and sat down on one of the high top chairs scattered around, leaning back and covering her eyes with one hand.

“You okay, hon?” Kerry went over to her and took hold of her free hand, chafing the cold fingers between her own. “I thought for a minute I was going to be a witness to murder there. I  don’t think I’ve ever seen you that mad.”

“Close. I was seeing blood red.”  Dar admitted. “What an idiot.”

Kerry could see the pulse point fluttering against the skin of Dar’s neck and she shifted her hands, moving them to her partner’s shoulders and gently massaging them.  “Easy, babe.” She murmured. “Just breathe, huh?”

“Ungh.”  Dar grunted. “What a jerk.”

“Maybe we should have gone into work instead.” Kerry said, mournfully. “This wasn’t was I was expecting to get out of our pool session.”  She continued to knead the skin across Dar’s shoulders, feeling the tension very slowly ease.  “Dar, Dar, Dar.”

“Holy crap he pissed me off.”

“Yeah. I know.” Kerry leaned over a little and kissed the damp skin right behind Dar’s right ear.  “Really  not worth you getting so worked up, my love.  There are always idiots in the world, you know?”

Dar exhaled. “I know. I just didn’t expect…”  She leaned to one side, resting her elbow on the chair arm and letting her head lay on Kerry’s shoulder. “Didn’t expect to get that kind of reaction for doing something I thought was right.”

No.   Kerry sighed, and draped her arm over Dar’s shoulders.  She remembered, with somber vividness the moment in her own life when she had to face that hatred and she knew in the gut what Dar meant.

“Why the hell do people have to be so damned stupid?”  Dar asked. “At what point is humanity going to grow the fuck up and stop inventing reasons to hate?”

“C’mon. Let’s go back home and play with our kids.” Kerry said. “I’ve about lost my taste for the facilities here today.”

“Urmph.” Dar got up off the chair and took Kerry’s hand in hers, as they walked across the concrete deck back towards the gym. “You know what we could do?”

Kerry cleared her throat a little. “Find a place in the Grove?”

“Mind reader.”


Kerry finished packing their overnight bags and set them down near the door.  She glanced over her shoulder at the couch,  where Dar was curled up with both dogs draped over her as she studied a small notebook.

She was wearing a pair of dark cargo pants and a rugby shirt and looked quite adorable to her partner’s appreciative eyes, especially with Mocha curled up behind her left knee resting his small head on it.

It was quiet and peaceful, and the stress of the morning had slowly dissipated, though the feeling of disappointment hadn’t.  Looking around at this place she’d called home for the last few years now made her a little sad.

Ah well.  Kerry sighed and leaned against the door, dismissing the thoughts as unproductive.  

It was late afternoon.  They had about a half hour before they would have to leave for the airport, and she’d just gotten a call from the marina letting her know that Andrew and Ceci were pulling into a guest slip and tying up.

“Hon?”  Kerry went over and perched on the arm of the couch. “We going to tell your folks about Jim?”

“Yes.” Dar said, without looking up. “In case he decides to try something stupid while we’re gone I want them to know what’s up.”

“You think he will?”

Dar shrugged. “Depends. Did he really back off or did he just not want to end up in a boxing match with me?”

“Eh. “ Kerry  got up and went to their laptop bags, her briefcase and Dar’s somewhat retro looking messenger bag and started putting the folders full of presentation material into them.  “Are we letting your dad drive us to the airport?”

“Nah, I’ll just park the truck there.” 

Dar got up and set Mocha down on the floor,  then walked over to the dining room table and handed over her notebook.  “I’m glad we’re going out of town tonight.”

“Me too.  I still feel kinda slimy after what happened this morning.” Kerry tucked the notebook into Dar’s bag along with a sack of hard candies, then she fastened the flap and stood back, resting her hands on a chair and considering if she’d remembered everything or not.

“Thanks.” Dar nibbled her ear, sending her thoughts rapidly off track.  “For taking care of al the details so I don’t show up there with half my gear forgotten.”

Kerry smiled. “My pleasure.” She lifted Dar’s hand and kissed the knuckles, then ducked past her as the front door bell rang.  “I’d get some beer ready.  I think they’re gonna need it.”

“Mm.”  Dar detoured to the kitchen, listening to Kerry’s voice as she greeted Andrew and Ceci as she opened the refrigerator and studied the contents.  “Beer, or milk?” She mused. “Maybe a beer for mom, and a chocolate milk for dad?”

“Dar?” Kerry’s voice echoed softly from the dining room.

“On the way.”  Dar plunked a choice of beverages on a round wooden tray and headed out into the living room, where Andrew and Ceci were now occupying the love seat, having gained the rapt attention of the two dogs.  “Hi.”

“Hi” Ceci eyed her. “What exactly are we going to hear about that you’re bringing everything from seltzer water to vodka out?”

“Vodka’s for me.” Dar said, putting the tray down. “It was that kind of morning.”

“Lord.” Andrew sat up and stared at her.  “What in the hell happened? You get drafted? By the Army?”

“Don’t give them any ideas, Andrew”


Continued in Part 15