Special Thanks to BlackRandi for organizing this event. I also appreciate her editing this story for me (which may cause her to NEVER organize to edit another story ever again) While I have recycled a few characters in this tale, they are just stories and as always any and all errors are mine.
The sun was high over the ocean and I could feel the warmth on my face as I reclined back in my beach chair, singing along with Van Halen’s “Beautiful Girls” on a blaring radio by my side.
“ ... now, I’m a seaside sittin’, just a smokin’ and a drinkin’, I’m ringside, on top of the world.
I got a drink in my hand; I got my toes in the sand.
All I need is a beautiful girl...”
As I dug my toes deeper into the beach soil and took a swallow from my frosty beer bottle, I glanced over at my fiancée Janet. She was laid back in the chair next to me. Blinding rays from the sun made it hard to see Janet’s face, so I reached out my hand to touch her.
Suddenly the vocals of Van Halen’s David Lee Roth coming out of the radio were replaced with an annoying buzzing. Turning the station dial, or volume control on the radio did nothing to stop the aggravating noise, it was getting louder and...
SHIT! I opened my eyes to the still darkness of a cold bedroom.
I was not on the beach, but in my bed, the buzzing was the damn beeper jumping around on the nightstand with its irritating noise. Janet was beside me, in a deep sleep, hogging all the covers as usual. Anyone who thinks females are the weaker sex has never tried to pull the blanket off a sleeping lady on a cold night in a warm bed.
I silenced the beeper and peered at the number display.
“Damn, it’s the TV station. F’n satellite dish deicers must have had failed again,” I muttered.
Janet rolled over, but did not open her eyes. “Gary, did my snoring wake you?”
Janet was a loud snorer; most nights she sounded so much like a tornado was approaching I often was tempted to grab Toto and head for the cellar.
“Not this time, Janet,” I showed her the beeper. “Damn ice storm last night probably has the satellite dishes froze up again. Let me call and then go warm up the car. If I am not back in 10 minutes, avenge my death.”
Janet yawned before snuggling back into the warm covers. “I’ll wait 20 minutes, but I promise nothing.”
The clock display in the kitchen read 4:39 AM as I phoned in the number. A pleasant female voice answered on the second ring.
“Channel 4 Weather.”
It was Vicki, the weekend weather anchor. Vicki, who was the talent for the weekend news, looked like your typical “Weather Bunny”, young, blond, pert, with a tight body that had legions of male fans from college frats to senior homes tuning in to watch her deliver the weekend forecast. However, Vicki was not your common TV bubble headed teleprompter reading bleach blond. Vicki was a real actual licensed meteorologist with a Master’s degree. It was common knowledge she was putting in her time doing weekend newscasts before moving to a more major market and bigger bucks.
“Hey, Vicki, it’s Gary. Did you call me on this cold morning to come warm you up?”
“Why yes, Gary, but only if you bring your hot bride-to-be along. If you are a good little boy we may let you watch.”
“Damn, Vicki I do not know if you are kidding or not.”
Vicki was what is known as a lipstick lesbian. No one in the newsroom cared, and as long as she got ratings none of the brass gave a damn. Vicki had been around the mostly male TV business a while and could trade insults with even the most crusty of the Union crew.
Vicki gave a laugh. “My girlfriend catches us and she would break all three of us into pieces and not even work up a sweat.”
This much was true, Vicki’s long time live in companion was a truck diesel mechanic whose size made even the most hardcore homophobes keep their slurs out of her hearing range. With heart of gold, she adored Vicki and was more protective then a guard trained Doberman.
“Enough foreplay, Gary. Get your tiny dick out there and get my satellite dishes working, I need the morning NOAA maps.”
Hanging up, I turned on the coffee maker and headed out to start the car.
As I came back in from starting my car, I flipped on the radio
“It is another great day in the Winter Wonderland!” The dumb ass radio jock crooned in fake enthusiasm. “Wind chill will keep us down around zero Fahrenheit and the high for today will be around noon at almost 10 degree! Break out the beach chairs and sunglasses!”
Janet walked into the kitchen with the blanket from the bed still wrapped around her. She stifled a yawn as she reached for the coffee pot as the DJ extolled Nokias new candy bar 200 phone over the strains of George Michaels and Elton John’s latest song release.
“Janet, go back to bed,” I said pointing at the clock still not at the 5AM point
Janet scratched her bed hair while pouring coffee. “Nah, Gary, I am up already and I want to go over my stuff for the church’s Sunday school class today, Plus, later the girls and I are gonna do lunch after looking at bridesmaids outfits for our wedding.”
While Janet stirred her cup, I, for the millionth time, wondered what I had done to get a girl like Janet. Even just out of bed, she was a hot babe, and I thought, out of my league. Janet was a dental assistant. We had met thru mutual friends. Quickly, “A” led to “B” and a few months later, we were living together. A year after that, I proposed, and in a few more months we would be married.
Janet voice broke into my thoughts “Gary, Gary, are you listening to me?” She was waving her hand in front of my face. “Don’t forget we see Hal at the Pawn Shop later today. Hal said he got something to give you before you leave for Florida.”
“Okay, Janet. I just hope it is something warm, because I just froze my nuts scraping ice off the damn car. Christ it is 1992 already; you think they would have something to keep ice away that worked.”
Janet put her cup down, walking over to give me a kiss on the lips. “You know I appreciate you letting me keep my car in the garage.” She trailed her hands to my waist while unzipping the fly to fish out my dick. “Maybe I can find a way to warm you up?”
Dropping to her knees, Janet engulfed me with her mouth.
“Okay,” I thought, as all the blood rushed to my groin. “The Satellite dish ice will still be frozen, so a few more minutes won’t matter...”
A burly older man buzzed Janet and I into the pawn shop. Hal limped a bit as he walked around the table to greet us. Janet gave me her coat and then ran to give him a warm hug.
I stamped my feet to shake off the snow and get some feelings back into my limbs.
Hal was a retired beat cop, the limp a result of a bullet in the hip from a punk in a botched robbery that got Hal both a commendation, and bounced off the Metro Squad on medical. He had bought a local Pawn shop and was well known as the man you went to solve things quietly, as he knew every cop and every robber.
Hal, as always, had a book in his hand. The man was a gimping encyclopedia, and I urged him to go on a quiz show and kick butt.
“Gary, come with me.” Hal said. Still holding Janet’s hand, he turned to gesture at the black massive bulk of a man sitting by the door. Hal employed him to keep transactions ‘civil’. “Rayray, keep an eye on things, please.”
Hal then pointed Janet at the jewelry display. “And you my beautiful bride, go check out some of the new shiny things we got in. I’ll make you a good wedding price.”
Janet squealed in glee and gave Hal another big hug. “Hal, you are the best!” Janet loved coming into the pawn shop and knew Hal always kept his eye out for items she might like.
I chuckled to myself as Janet dashed to the display case with Rayray eyeing her shapely butt.
As I followed Hal to the back room, I said “You do know Janet thinks she is a master bargainer and can talk you down on price.”
Hall just grunted. “That will be the day atheists get insurance against acts of God. Business is business.”
Now I had to laugh. “Really Hal? How did that turn out with the wedding rings?”
This time it was Hal that laughed. “I must be getting soft in my old age, besides that was different. I let your bride get the price on the wedding rings as a wedding gift.”
As we reached the back room he asked “Tell me about this satellite thing again?”
“Okay Hal, General Motors owns the old Howard Hughes company ‘Hughes Aerospace,” now called Hughes Electronics. They are gonna put a bunch of satellites in the sky and compete with cable to let regular people at home watch CNN, ESPN, and other programs from the satellites.”
Hal turned back to me. “Who is gonna put them big assed dishes in their backyard?”
“No, Hal, that is a C band signal. The C band needs a large 9 foot or so dish. The new service is called DirecTV and uses KU band, so any house can get the signal with just a dish less than two feet, about the size of a bedroom window Theses satellite dishes can be mounted anyplace you have a view of the sky.”
Hal smiled, “And you are going to Florida ... why?”
I rolled my eyes. “It is an old Nike missile relay compound way down in south Florida in the middle of nowhere. It will be used to pull down and uplink some Spanish stations from central and South America.”
Hal stroked his chin. “What does your bride Janet think of moving?”
I pointed at the melting snow on my shoes. “What is not to like? Sun, sand and no snow. Game plan is I go first to set up this satellite place, come back for the wedding and we both move down around Miami. We will only be apart a couple of months. They set me up with a network TV station there after the satellite dish install.”
Hal seemed skeptical. “You sure? I thought Janet was a big skier?”
“Yeah, I had to promise a few ski trips up North for Janet. But hey, what can beat sex on the beach?”
Hal rolled his eyes. “Listen to me Gary. Marriage isn’t just for you. It’s not about you. Marriage is about the person you marry.” He waved his hand. “Sex is sex, but sex will not make a marriage. More than 90 percent of women thought that being a good father was a very important quality in a husband, while less than half thought that being a good sexual partner was very important.”
“Hal, it is not like Janet and I are virgins. Today it is not a big deal about who had what experience. It is not like she lost her virginity on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Ranger to the flight crew. Besides I have such poor vision I can marry anybody.”
Hal shook his head. “Your Dad and I go back to Korea. I promised him and your mom I would look after you. So while we are all born ignorant, do not be one of those who works hard to remain stupid, okay?”
Before I could answer Hal pulled down two white boxes off the shelf.
“What are these for?” I asked
Hal looked at me and grinned. “They are Fax machines you fool. The best thing since sliced bread. And no, I do not know what the best thing before sliced bread was.”
Handing Janet’s jacket to Hal before kneeling to look at the fax machine, I asked “Why can females carry a baby for nine months, but cannot carry a coat for 30 minutes?”
Hal shifted his coat to his other arm. “Got these brand new, never used, fax machines last week. A business went bankrupt and some of the employees got paid in office equipment. I figured you are gonna need a way to send papers and documents and such when you two are apart.”
Standing up I said “Nice Hal, nice,”
Hal grinned enjoying his role as benefactor “Not going to need these soon. I read last year where a couple of guys, Berners-Lee, posted a short summary of the World Wide Web. The paper said The WorldWideWeb project aims to allow all links to be made to any information anywhere project on the alt.hypertext newsgroup, The project was started to allow high energy physicists to share data, news, and documentation. So the fax machines will be as obsolete as carbon paper in a few years. And you can get anything you need with a computer hook up.”
“You mean, Hal, like the BBS? Janet is pretty computer phobic.”
Hal waved his hand. “Much, much simpler to use. Going to change everything from porn to Space Shuttle launches.”
I was studying the side of the fax machine box. “I hope the people working on that are smarter than the ones we got now who put braille on drive through bank machines.”
Okay, South Florida in the summer months was not a “Prime Destination spot.” The tiny town near my work site was hours away from nowhere. I mentally thanked Hal every day for the fax machines, as phone service in my location was spotty at best. Janet and I ended up mostly trading fax notes like two high schoolers passing notes in class.
Once we got the uplink operational, I knew I could piggyback off the beam for voice data to make free calls to Janet from the teleport site. We had been only separated a few weeks, and while the sexual sendoff Janet had gave me was still memorable, even for her, I still wanted to be together.
The town was a little more than a gas station which doubled as a video rental place and closest place to shop. I think churches outnumbered people, who were either seasonal migrant workers, confederate flag waving rednecks or black folk, like Rufus my host.
Because I did not want to drive two hours to the Uplink site every day, Rufus had rented me out his “guest house”, which used to be the Overseer quarters back when Rufus’ grandparents had lived under “different times.”
Rufus was of undetermined age, and caretaker of the old Nike relay site that had closed in the late 1960s. Part of my rent was attending Rufus church service every Sunday. Now I had been going to church every Sunday morning as long as I can remember, but the Sunday event at the Holy Gospel First Baptist was nothing like my Catholic experience.
A voice with a strong Scottish accent broke into my thoughts. “Get up you lazy bastards! Lunch break is over,” bellowed Shane MacIssac, the project manager/crew boss/lead engineer, also known as “Mac”
“I thought you Brits had tea time?” I answered back, knowing it needled Mac, a Scot, to be called British. Mac was former military and had a distain for anything not in precision.
Mac knew my jabs were in jest. I was a Military brat growing up on base and knew how the game was played.
Mac pointed his finger at me, but turned his attention to our roughnecks, the redneck crew wrapping up the remains of some type of meat sandwiches I could not identify on a bet.
Most all of the people in this town were the model of southern hospitality (although I did learn DammYankee was one word) but as in any group, you had your A holes.
“Red,” was the leader of our manual labor gang. I do not think Red owned a shirt that did not have the sleeves torn off. With his pick-up truck flying the confederate flag, Red would have been right at home as an extra in the TV show “Dukes of Hazzard”.
“Fucking calm down, Mac, this ain’t your boat for special retard service.” Red said as he took his time getting up while his similarity attired cronies snickered behind him.
“I have neither the time nor the crayons to explain to you about the Special Boat Service.” Mac snapped back. “Get the next leg of the tower up before quitting time.” He looked my way “Gary, I want the hard line terminated all the way to the ACU.”
The crew groaned, and as I wiped the sweat off my brow, grabbing my tools, Red passed me by. “Now boys, look here at this Damn Yankee. Spent all his time in school, not like me that got ‘Street Smarts’.”
“That so, Red?” I answered back not looking at him. “What street would that be? Sesame Street? I mean you do look like a Muppet, were you Bert or Ernie?”
Red scowled at me but a look from Mac had him join the rest of his crew.
Returning to my small place, I was pleased to see several sheets of curled paper in the fax machine drawer. It had been Friday afternoon since I had last spoken with Janet. This was not uncommon, due to the bad phone service and our schedules, but what was uncommon is I had not gotten any “fax love notes” from Janet, despite sending a few out to her.
The cover sheet was not from Janet’s fax number, but the number was from my hometown up north.
Even odder, the fax papers contained the mug shot and recent arrest report from my hometown PD on some guy I had never heard of.
Now, I had no idea who this grimy looking fellow was or why it was sent to my fax number. However, this was not the first time I had gotten a wrong fax delivery.
I dropped the papers into my lap as I sat on overstuffed chair in the small sitting room and turned up the noisy AC unit window unit.
“Is this is the new junk mail?” I thought, and glanced at the phone. “Janet would not be home for a while, so I might as well entertain myself.” I began looking over the interaction this guy had with law enforcement from my ole stomping grounds up north.
The dude in the fax had been a bad boy, his address being well known as a “drug hangout” according to the report. In the cold factual verbiage of police reports everywhere, the details were laid out, an argument over drugs gone bad, guns and bodies. Sadly, one injury being a child.
Stretching my arm, I read the next part about bail and bond. It was $100K, with the 10% cash bond being paid by...
Suddenly the whole room became ice cold and my pulse stopped. The bottom of the page displayed Janet’s signature, neatly handwritten under her typed name as the person posting bond.
I stared at her signature I had seen a hundred times when my stomach objected. Never making it to the bathroom, I vomited into the kitchen sink. After heaving for several minutes, I rinsed out my mouth and returned to the papers scattered around the floor.
It was Janet’s signature and the next page displayed a copy of a cashier check from our bank that told me where our house deposit money was now.
Grabbing the phone I had half dialed Janet’s number when I stopped.
Only ONE person I know could have gotten this information.
Hal answered on the second ring.
“HAL! WHAT THE FUCK!”
He sighed before speaking. “I am so sorry to be the messenger, Gary. I was at hanging out at Metro PD bullpen BSing with some of the old gang Friday night, when I saw Janet at receiving. I was heading over to talk to her when they released that scumbag.” Hal hesitated before continuing. “You do not need to be a detective to know the greeting they gave each other was one of a long history together. And I do not mean a long lost cousin.”
“Fuck Fuck FUCK!!” I muttered into the phone.
There was silence before Hal spoke again. “I still got some friends on the squad and I wish I had better news. That asswipe is a real long term douchebag, and his one phone call after booking was to Janet.”
I was holding the phone so hard my hand was going numb, so I forced myself to relax. “Damn HAL! Why? Why? You sure this was not a relative? A cousin or something? Without data, you are just another person with an opinion.”
Hal reflexively went into ‘just the facts’ mode every cop uses when on the witness stand. “Gary, anything is possible. However, the welcome that scumbag gave Janet was one I never saw at any family reunions, unless on the Jerry Springer Show about inbreeding.”
The phone felt like a snake in my hand.
“I ... I can’t even begin to process this Hal. We have only been away from each other a couple of weeks. I mean, she just faxed me over the damn guest list for the wedding last week! Why would Janet do something so stupid?”
“Listen, Gary, you now I like Janet, but the average woman would rather have beauty than brains, because the average man can see better than he can think.”
“F’n great, Hal, but I just cannot picture Janet cheating on me.”
There was silence again before Hal spoke. “Only Janet has the answers for that, but she may not know herself, or never tell you. And, Gary, do you really need or want to know why? Does it matter? There is an old saying of never take a check at a poker game.”
“Look, Hal, I gotta go take a walk or something. My whole body feels like it is going to implode. Think of what my options are here.”
“Okay, Gary, but if you do not know your options, you do not have any. Call me if you need anything okay?”
Two hours and a long walk later Janet’s voice on the phone sounded no different than when we last spoke.
“Gary, where have you been? I called three times.”
“I could ask you the same thing, Janet. I have not heard from you since Friday.”
“Sorry, Gary, it has just been so crazy with wedding stuff. The girls and I went to a few halls to listen to some bands for our wedding on Friday and Saturday nights. Sunday we had a cake tasting after brunch.”
“You see anything you like?”
“You mean bands?” Janet giggled. “Well, nothing I would wanna bring to our wedding.”
“Really? You know, you and I differ in what is a ‘good’ band music. I think I should call the maid of honor, she and I have same tastes in music. Hell, she introduced us at a concert you hated, remember?”
“Oh, Gary, um I don’t think she will not be able to help. Ah ... she had a head cold and couldn’t hear anything.”
“Oh I am so sorry, let her know I hope she feels better.”
“Oh sure, Gary I’ll pass it along.”
“I got great news, Janet. Remember when we loaded Hal that $1,000 to buy that gold at the pawn shop and he turned it into $3,000?”
“How could I forget, that brought us almost 1/3 the way to our house down payment money. Hal is a genius!”
“Awesome then. Hal has a similar situation now. I need you to give him $9,000 from our house down payment account tomorrow. We should get close to double our money in about 90 days.”
There was hesitation before Janet spoke. “Um ... I don’t know Gary. I would not feel comfortable carrying around that much cash to the pawn shop.”
“Not a problem, Janet. Hal is gonna have that man mountain, Rayray, meet you at the bank. Just get a cashier’s check. I’ll call the bank manager tomorrow morning, he is an old high school buddy of mine, to have everything ready.”
A bit of desperation was creeping into Janet’s voice. “That is almost all of our house down payment fund, which does not seem wise. Maybe we should talk about this some more.”
“Janet, can you think of a better use for our money? You do not think we can trust Hal? He has never cheated me before.”
“I just worry, that’s a lot of money.”
“Janet, it’s rarely the things we worry about that really matter in the long run.”
“It’s not that, Gary, it just ... ah, I do not think I can get to the bank tomorrow.”
“Can’t make it to the bank? What could be more important than the place we are going to live together? Our future together?”
Janet started to go on with some lame excuse, I was growing weary of the game. Time to end it.
“Tell you what Janet, please hang up and I am going to fax you over some papers that will change your mind about everything, I know it changed my mind.”
I hung up the phone before Janet could respond. I thanked Hal that he had given us one of the fax machines that had an internal memory of incoming feeds. This way I could just “forward” the fax Hal had sent me about Janet’s Jail bird buddy, no need to rescan to send the whole thing.
The phone started ringing 10 minutes later. Just to be a prick, I did not pick up until the fourth ring, Janet started talking even before I said a word.
“OH MY GOD, GARY! Where did you get this!”
“Seriously, Janet? That is your major concern? Where I got the fax from? Is your sole purpose in life to simply serve as a stupid warning to others?”
“No, Gary, I mean I ... I ... I am just in shock...”
“Shocked, Janet?” I interrupted, and in a sarcastic tone said. “I can’t even imagine how shocked you must be.”
I could almost hear the wheels turning in Janet’s head from a time zone away when she answered. “It is just a quick loan to someone I know. I know I did not talk to you about it, and that was wrong, but that all this was.”
“Really?” I replied. “So your make out session with this guy in the receiving area of the Metro PD station was a service fee for the loan with OUR money?”
“It was nothing like that, Gary.”
“So who is this guy you are fucking? How long and why”
“I am not fucking anyone but you, Gary. You do not know him, it is ... complicated, I really don’t want to go into it now.”
“BZZZZ!!” I exclaimed. “WRONG Answer. I have a VHS tape of the security camera cued up on my TV right now. In Living Color, well two colors -black and white, I can see you and your love jailbird doing a whole lotta PDA. You know, Public Display of Affection? Good thing you two went off to get a room. If you were not my former fiancée to be married in August, and he was not a scumbag. I would think the groping scene was pretty hot.”
Now, of course, I was bluffing and had no VHS tape, but I was betting Janet would not know that.
“What! No, no, no, it was nothing like that. I do not know what you are looking at, but I ... I just went along because I did not want to create a scene there at the Police Station. Wait, what do you mean ‘former fiancée’?”
“Two comments on that, Janet. Number one, if you were just ‘going along’ with almost fucking that dickwad at the Cop Shop, I do not even wanna know what you two did in the car in the parking lot after you left. Second...”
Janet interrupted. “That’s not what it was! I just...”
Now it was my turn to interrupt. “Whoa, Janet, I am not done yet. However, number two, we are done, completely finished. I said ‘former fiancée’, because do you think I am going to marry someone who fucks other guys behind my back, plus gives my hard earned money to her side dicks?”
“Please Gary, this is ... nothing ... a misunderstanding. Noting physical happened. Give me a chance to get you to understand. We ARE going to be married August 24. We have a down payment on the hall, the church reservation, my gown, the cake, all the people...”
“Janet, you will not tell me who this guy is, or what is going on. I would no more marry you than take navigation advice from the Captain of the Titanic. But, tell you what, you said our ten grand you gave for your boyfriends bail money...”
“Gary! He is NOT my boyfriend, I...”
“Fuckbuddy, sidedick, whatever, Janet.” I broke in. “You keep the ten K and use it to pay off the wedding expenses. We are already living in separate states, and my shit is already in storage. So look, let us just part company now. I would say ‘have a nice life’, but Mom taught me not to lie. Don’t call here anymore because I will not talk to you on the phone anymore.”
With that I hung up the phone and disconnected the cord from the wall.
To say I was useless the next few days would be an understatement.
“Gary, you look like shit.” Mac said, looking down on me as I cursed after botching another hard line termination.
“I feel like shit, Mac,” I replied, getting to my feet.
Mac got up close to me. “Of all the motley crew, you are the last one I thought I’d have to tell to get his bloody head out of his ass.”
Just then, Rufus passed by. “Leave him be Mac. Poor boy gots lady troubles.”
Mac raised his hands to the sky. “Damn birds are the Devil.”
Rubbing dirt off my hands I replied. “Well I would not say she is the devil, but to be honest I have never seen her and Satan in the same room at the same time, so one never knows.”
Suddenly there was a splash from canal behind us, followed by loud cursing from Red on one leg of the Tower.
Mac looked at Red, who was scrambling down the tower and then at the murky water in the canal. Mac’s face got flush as he tried to control his temper. “Christs cross, Red, don’t tell me you dropped another LNB feed assembly in the drink.”
Red hopped the last cross member onto the ground. “Not my fault, Mac.” Red whined. “Those damn things are slippery.
Macs hands were clenched as he closed his eyes. “Red, that was the spare unit. Those units have a 3 month lead time! We gotta get that one or the whole project is gonna be fucked.”
Red eyed the canal. “Um Mac, there could be gators in the water.”
I pointed at the place where we had last seen the feed assembly.
“Shouldn’t be a problem for a famous gator hunter like you. Weren’t you just telling us about all the gator hunting you and your pappy been doing since before you could walk? Your family is part reptile for three generations.”
“Back off Yankee” Red fumed. “You think it’s so easy, you go dive your bluebelly ass in the drink.”
I shrugged and started to take off my shoes. “Okay, gator boy.”
Red came up to me as I was taking off my shirt. “What do you think you’re doing?”
Mac stepped between us. “Which one of you ugly bastards is going to get my Feed assembly?”
Red looked at the water, and then at his minions who were gathered to the side and said nothing.
I stepped out of my pants wearing only my boxers.
Mac looked at me, then at Red. “Red, either sack up or back up.”
Red threw up his hands. “Probably ain’t no gators in there anyway. I ain’t got no change of clothes and am not getting the inside of my truck all muddy.”
Mac put his hand on my chest to stop me from moving. “Rufus, get me the Lee.”
Rufus ran into the old concrete motor pool garage that he keep an ancient school bus he drove for his church and came back with a rifle. Rufus gave the gun to Mac.
Mac pulled a clip from his pocket, inserted the clip into the Lee-Enfield rife and racked a .303 round.
“What’s that for?” I asked
Red clapped his hands. ‘You one of them Northern faggots afraid of guns? Hell, boy, guns don’t kill people.”
“That so, Red?” I said walking toward the canal. “If guns do not kill people, why do we give soldiers rifles before they go to war?
Mac grinned at me. “Just in case of gators. Don’t you worry, you are too ugly to attract any gators.”
I waded into the water and turned back to Mac. “You sure you can handle a firearm? You see well enough to hit the gator, or do you need some glasses?”
Mac hefted the rifle to his shoulder in one smooth practiced move. “I have been hitting head shots at a 100 meters while you were still trying to find your mother’s tit to suck on.”
I was waist deep in the water now. “That was a long time ago Mac, you sure you could even see a tit at your age?”
Mac was peering thru the guns sight as he scanned the water. “Just get the damn feed, you pup. Let us grownups worry about the weapons.”
After a few minutes of searching, I located the feed assembly. Just as I pulled the unit out of the mud one of Reds minions yelled “GATOR!” and pointed at a pair of hooded eyes silently gliding in the water toward me.
Everyone started yelling and gesturing. Mac was still peering calmly thru the guns sight as he said evenly. “Gary, get your bloody ass to shore now.”
Wading franticly toward the nearest bank, I saw a splash of water behind me followed by a gunshot. Mac worked the bolt so quickly cranking off rounds you would think he had an automatic, not some WWII relic.
Literally leaping onto the shore, the gunshots ceased as Mac lowered his rifle. I saw Red and his crew hauling in the carcass of a five foot alligator.
I never felt so alive. Jumping to my feet I held the Satellite part above my head. “Who’s your Gator DADDY now, Red!” I did a Rocky like dance. “And they say firefighters are the real heroes; I am a real life Rock and Roll Action Hero!”
Suddenly a familiar female voice rang out behind me. “All you need now is a Cape and a Theme song.”
I turned, and was stunned to see Janet standing there.
Mac scowled as he unloaded his gun and cleared the action. “Who is this Lass? And more important, who let her in here?”
Rufus looked at Janet’s torn pant leg, dirt smeared shirt and blood trickling from a cut on her arm. “Mac, it looks like our little lady here climbed over the barbed wire fence.”
Janet put her hands on her hips. “No one was at the gate, and I was not going to sit there honking the car horn all day.”
I put down the satellite feed assembly. “Janet, what are you doing here?”
Janet did not take her hands off her hips. “You said you did not want to speak by phone, so here I am.”
Mac tucked the gun under his arm. “This is all bloody sweet, but can we get back to work and stop staring at the lass like you never seen a female before.” He turned toward me. “Gary, take your girlfriend into the MCR bunker, there is a first aid kit there. Get her squared away. But first, give me that damn satellite feed and for the love of the Queen, put on some clothes.”
I was about to say “She is not my girlfriend,” When Rufus grabbed us both, pushing us toward the MCR Bunker.
I was putting on my shirt after cleaning out the small scratch on Janet’s arm. “Okay, Janet, what are you doing here? What part of ‘we are done finished’ did you not understand?”
Janet fingered the bandage on her arm before answering. “I quit my job, loaded my car and gave away everything else and drove non-stop here to be with you. Don’t I even get a hug?”
“You take turns driving with Lover Jailbird on the way here, or is he waiting in the car by the gate?”
Janet just stared at me.
“Oh sorry, Janet, my bad, he is probably not allowed to leave the state.”
“Gary,” Janet began, taking a deep breath. “We both had a history before we met. I know mine did not interest you, but I may have glossed over my ‘wild party girl’ phase.”
I rolled my eyes. “Let me guess, drugs, sex and rock n’ roll?”
Janet looked down at her fingers. “I am not proud, but I’ll own it. However a lot of those two years are a blur so...” She shrugged her shoulders.
“You better have more than ‘been there done that, can’t remember most of it’, because that was the past not the present.”
Janet took a deep breath again. “I was with ... that guy, for almost the whole two years. The only good thing about that I do not regret is the dog he had.”
“Seriously, Janet? You are going with a Dog Tale? Old Yellar, Spot, Rin Tin Tin, Lassie?”
“No, Gary, I am just trying to lay some groundwork, a perspective. The only thing that keep me sane during that time was his dog.”
“ ... and the dog had our phone number around his neck.” I interrupted. “Like a Saint Bernard with a whiskey keg?”
“No, Gary, one of my friends met him last year and gave him our phone number. I admit when he called I did talk to him, but I never met him. We just talked a bit, I told him I was no longer in that life. We wished each other the best and I thought that was the end of it. The event was so ... inconsequential, I do not remember if I said anything to you about it.”
“How nice for you, Janet. But I do think I would recall if you said over dinner ‘ ... guess who called today? My old drug dealer boyfriend...”
“He did not matter, Gary, not even a little bit. I frankly forgot all about him.” She stopped speaking.
“Until?” I prompted.
Janet exhaled. “Yes, until that night when he called from jail. He just wanted me to go get his dog that was being held at the city pound. The Animal Control people would not release the dog to me, only to the owner. They were gonna put the dog down in three days. I could not let that happen. I ... I didn’t know what else to do. That’s is why I used our house money to post bail.”
I grabbed the back of my shirt and made an effort to turn it around. “Hey Janet, can you tell me if the ‘STUPID’ sign on my back is on straight? I hate when it gets cockeyed.”
She grimaced before continuing. “It’s the truth, Gary. The event at the Metro PD was as embarrassing to me as it was to you to watch. But NOTHING happened. The next day we went to the Dog Pound, got his dog and I have not seen him since.”
“You never saw him again? Just like our money, oh yeah, except for the night you two spend together.”
Janet pulled an envelope out of her purse. “There was no night together Gary. After you sent me that fax I went to the court and revoked his bail.” She handed me the envelope. “There is $6,000 in there, it is what is left after jail fees, and paying off all the wedding stuff.”
I fingered the stack of crisp $100 bills. “And the dog?”
She grinned sheepishly. “I kinda kidnapped the pooch before I pulled the bail. The dog is happily living a good life with my maid of honor.”
I tossed the envelope on a desk. “So now what?”
Janet leaned in and touched my knee. “I know there is no wedding date anymore, but I am gonna win you back. I am a dental assistant, I can get a job anywhere.”
I pointed at Red and his crew toiling outside. “Have you seen my coworkers smile? The Dental care business is not a growth industry in this town.”
Janet got a job about three hours away. She was staying with an elderly Aunt just north of Miami. She drove down every Friday and stayed until late Sunday. It was awkward at first, but we slowly got back into the groove.
Then came that bastard Andrew.
We were pulling down a NOAA feed off the large C band dish. I had not been paying attention to Andrew; when it was just a tropical storm. Even when Andrew became the first Hurricane of the season I was not concerned, but living my life far from either coast, I know about as much about Hurricanes as I did about thermal nuclear physics.
Mac, being an old sailor, was uneasy and started getting our site prepared for the worst.