A Novel: Excerpt

CHAPTER

“Good morning, Daddy,” Allie said as she shuffled into the kitchen pulling her long blond hair back into a ponytail.

“Sweetheart!  How did you sleep?  Good, I hope.  Though you are up early.  I didn’t expect you up until at least nine.  Christ, child, it’s 5:30.”

“Pops, I told you this isn’t a vacation.  I’m here to work.  Besides, I love sunrise.”  Looking around the kitchen, she’d forgotten how small this house really was. “Why don’t you get a bigger house? It isn’t like you live on a cop’s salary with a family to feed.  Do you by any crazy off chance have tea bags?”

“No, just coffee, but I can pick some up today.  Chamomile – you still drink that stuff?”  Allie nodded.

“And why should I move into a bigger home?  I know, I’m sheriff now, but Allie, a bigger home would be lonely without anyone else in the house.  I think this small beach bungalow is part of my charm. Don’t you?”

“Yeah, a lot of good the charm’s done ya huh?  You need a great woman in your life.  Hey, speaking of great women – how’s Mags doin’?”

“Oh she’s good.  Got herself a man.  His name is frank or maybe Fred – I don’t know.  Doesn’t say much, just sits at the end of the bar watching Mags work.”

“I think I’m gonna have lunch there today.  Is Group still the cook there?  I guess I’ll have a cup o’ joe,” pulling a mug out from the lily white wood paneled cabinet.

“Damn, you have been gone a long time!  Group is playing activist now – doing well for himself saving the Indian River and all, but doesn’t have time to do the cooking anymore.  But don’t you worry, his burgers had such a great reputation that the cook there now spent two years as a burger apprentice,” he chuckled, “before Group left to pursue his other endeavors. What do you have going on today?  Will you be at Harbor Branch or out on the river today?”

“Well…I’d like to go out on the river – but…do you think I could borrow the boat? I don’t have to be at the labs until tomorrow; and I’d really like to get a feel for the river again…alone…before I’m strapped with a bunch of boring scientists who only want to collect water samples and study the bloom.”

“Allie, you are one of those scientists –“

“I am NOT that boring!  I am an oceanographer – I dive, I snorkel, I have fun swimming with the sea life.  I am not like some of the people I will be with for the next few months,” She said adamantly, trying to convince herself really.  “Oh hey!  Are you sure its okay to crash here – I know you said it was fine, but you’ve had time to think about me cramping your lady’s man space here in the bungalow – is it still okay?”

“Of course it is.  How could I tell my only daughter no?  It’ll be fun getting to know you again.  And I promise I will try to remember you aren’t seventeen.”

“Okay, cool.  Thanks, daddy.  I have to get going.”

“I’ll see you later.  Keys are in the boat. I may see you out there today.  There’s someone I want to go see – but I’ll take a patrol boat out if I need to go on the river.”

“’kay chief.  Thanks.” With an impish grin she added – “the taxpayers don’t get ticked when you tool around the waterways on their dime?”

She walked back to her room to get her gear and change into shorts and a tee shirt.  It occurred to her that it had been entirely too long since she’d spent any long amount of time with her father.  She’d missed him those years she was away at school; and being an oceanographer had taken her to foreign oceans.  That was the path – intern on a research ship.  She’d had a great stint on NOAA ships, but all those research projects made her long for her Indian River.  For the last year, she’d been working on procuring the means to get back to Fort Pierce.  She’d seen the research – the Indian River and the St. Lucie Estuary were in serious danger.  The health of the waterways was failing.  Finally, she was able to find a temporary research scientist position at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute.  So, she applied and was hired on, with the option to stay permanently.

“Ah well,” she sighed, “we’ll see what happens…”

As she was about to leave, she stopped in the kitchen to say goodbye to her dad. “Hey Chief, do you think I could dock the boat at the Sandhurst hotel?  Then I could just walk down to Maggie’s and maximize my boating time.”

Sheriff “Bo” Sumner looked up from the report he was reading and with a twinkle in his eye said, “Oh I’m sure it will be okay.  You know the sheriff.” Chuckling he added “I’ll call over there and tell them you are coming with my boat.  If there is a problem, I’ll go by and pay the day fee.  I’ll radio and let you know the deal – umm, or would you rather me call the cell and leave a message?”

“Yeah, use the cell – I may anchor and explore some underwater areas.  Bye daddy, I’ll be safe.”  It had been a long time since either of them had heard her use ‘daddy’ so many times in so short a time span.

As he watched his only child throw her wetsuit and duffle bag into the back of the Jeep Wrangler, he couldn’t help but admire the chic woman his daughter had become.  She was doing well for herself – academically, she had been top of her class, she had been published multiple times, and she was nothing like he was.  He saw a lot of her mother in her.  At that moment, he hoped that she would not find out all there was to find out about him.  He had always been fairly okay with her never moving back to Fort Pierce.  If she realized all the choices he’d made, she would be disappointed in her old man.  And Christ, this was the worst possible time for her to be here.  Shaking his head as he walked away from the window, he vowed to himself that she’d not have the opportunity to be disappointed.

“Bungalow!” She thought as she drove down Indian River Drive to the Fort Pierce Marina.  It wasn’t a terribly small house, but may get smaller as her stay goes on, she thought.  Her mom had told her a few things about her dad that had mildly shocked her, but she had been willing to push them out of her mind when her mom passed away a couple of years ago.  Not only was this trip about saving the Indian River, it was also about rekindling her relationship with her father.  She had no adult relationship with him and felt the need to reconnect.  A person can only throw herself into her work with plants and animals for so long, she mused.  The ringing of her cell phone interrupted her thoughts.  Based on the salsa ring tone, she knew it was her dearest friend from college. “Hola Chica!”

“Yeah, I’m here.  Morning is going great.  Daddy gave me the boat for the day, so I’m heading out to the marina.”

“Yeah, talk about memory lane!”

“Okay, I love you too, I’ll call you in a couple of days.”

As she hung up, she saw her old “second home” – the two story white Victorian home with the widow’s peak.  Thinking about her high school sweetheart, Brett, she said out loud to the purring of the engine – “Not sure how many trips I can take down memory lane without losing my mind, that’s for sure!”

CHAPTER

“Man, I’ve missed these waters!” the first mate on the Dreams of Treasure exclaimed.

“Yeah, me too.  How longs it been Marlin?” asked Captain Billy Sample.

“Damn, Billy – too long that’s fer sure!  Twelve years too long to be exact!  Hey, I’ma go down and put some joe on and call Group and Mama – let ‘em know we are here.  How long ‘fore we get underway?”

“Prolly ‘bout an hour.”

As Marlin disappeared into the cabin on the 46’ sailboat that he and Billy lived on, Billy pulled out the scuba tanks, checked them for air and working parts.  After he was satisfied that their dive equipment was in working order, he decided to enjoy the sunrise while waiting for his coffee, then he would give the vessel the once over before taking her out for the day.

As he was taking his own little trip down memory lane, reflecting on his childhood in Fort Pierce, he thought about how much he owed to Group, Marlin’s dad for hooking him up with Eugene.  Eugene had taught him about treasure hunting and he owed just as much to him as he did Group.

About the time he started thinking about the reasons he left town in the first place, a Jeep Wrangler pulled into the marina parking lot.  “Hmm…maybe this town ain’t so bad anymore,” he said to the sea gulls overhead, as he watched an elfish looking woman climb out of the Jeep, pull a duffle bag from the back seat and head down the same dock he was berthed at.  His thought process has been utterly interrupted as he surveyed this woman’s features.  He assessed her at about five and a half feet tall, thin frame, long brunette hair, and eyes as blue as the waters off the Virgin Islands.

“You’ll probably want to put the bra on the Jeep…” he yelled before she got too far away from the parking lot.

“A little rain never hurt anyone,” she quipped, making eye contact for the first time.

“May not hurt anyone, but it may hurt the interior…”

“Damn!  That’s probably why it looks like it does!” she said as she laughed and continued walking towards him.

‘-and she’s witty, Billy thought.  He added to the original assessment ‘she’s carefree if she doesn’t give a damn about a little water in her floor boards.  Maybe there are low maintenance women in this world yet!’ he mused to himself as he flashed her his best dazzling smile.

As she walked adjacent to his boat, she gave it the once over and said, “You really oughta criss-cross your stern lines here – storms blow in pretty quick – if you get in the habit,  you’ll always be prepared,” and continued on to the next berth.

‘This just keeps getting better and better – she knows her way around a boat,’ Billy thought, noticing for 57’ Mako in the next berth for the first time.

The woman threw her cargo on deck and hopped on.

“You going for a ride on that big vessel alone?  She’s mighty big – might be a bit hard to handle,” he said trying to muster up a concerned voice – though really he was in awe of this creature.

“Oh! I’ve handled, and ridden, bigger,” she yelled, nonchalantly, as she started switching on the navigation equipment.

Billy, enchanted by her sense of humor and confidence on deck of the vessel, watched her start the engine.  She went below; and when she came back out, she’d replaced her shorts and tee shirt with a wet suit, which only enhanced Billy’s intrigue.  As she starting casting her lines, he offered to untie the stern lines from the dock.  When she refused his offer, he realized he didn’t want her to leave.  Shaking off that foreign feeling he noticed the boat’s name – The Lone Ranger – ‘Interesting,’ he thought, ‘that explains why she’s alone.’

She expertly maneuvered the vessel around the pilings, out of the berth, turned towards his direction, waved and yelled – “My name’s Allie – nice to meet you!” And before he could respond she was maneuvering straight out through the marina to the channel.

“Billy – mama wants us to come to dinner tonight, you game?  Billy?” Marlin questioned as he was making his way to the bow where Billy was staring out at the River. “Billy…!”

“Yeah, yeah – dinner would be great.  Marlin, my man, I think I just had a vision of my future.”

“Yes, mama – we’ll be there.  As long as this crazy fool is okay – he’s talking about visions.  Alright, 7’o clock.  See ya then, I love ya mama.” Hanging up the phone, Marlin looked at Billy who was still staring out at open water.  “Billy, what happened?”

“Mar, I just met the person I’ve been looking for my whole life,” Billy said wistfully.

“Cap’n, I’m hurt…and just for the record – I know every inch of these waters, and to my recollection – LOOK AT ME BILLY – wait for it…wait for it…There ain’t no mermaids in these here waters!” he said chuckling.  “Now, come on, let’s go do what we do best!”

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