Sea Eyes Prologue and Chapters 1-2

2 08 2007

 

Glossary of terms used in this book

Blow The visible spout of air and water vapor made when a whale exhales (as in ‘There she blows.’)

Breach When a whale leaps from the water exposing two thirds of its body or more.

Dialect A unique set of calls made by both individual whales and fellow pod members.

Echolocation The process by which dolphins and other toothed cetaceans obtain information about their surroundings by producing rapid, high-frequency clicks which echo off objects. Similar to SONAR.

Flukes The horizontal projections which form the tail of the dolphin or whale.

Hydrophone An underwater microphone.

Logging A group of orcas floating at the surface of the water

Offshore Killer Whales:   A population of killer whales found in offshore waters off the British Columbian  coast about which very little is known but which appear to travel in larger groups than either residents or transients.

Orca From Orcinus orca, the scientific name for killer whale.

Pod One or more sub-pods of resident killer whales that travel together.

Resident A type of killer whale which feeds mainly on fish and maintains

Killer Whale a highly stable social structure and territorial allegiance.

Saddle Patch A gray pigmented area found at the posterior base of the dorsal fin of a killer whale which is unique to each individual.

Spyhop Where a whale raises its head vertically above the water to obtain a view above the surface, then slips back below.

Transient A type of killer whale which is smaller than residents and which

Killer Whale feeds preferentially on marine mammals such as seals, porpoises, whales and dolphins. Transient killer whales have a less stable social structure than residents, with a smaller group size. Other differences include dorsal fin shape, behavior and vocalizations.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘This commission will be known to history as a small body of men who failed to act responsibly in the terms of a very large commitment to the world and who protected the interests of a few whalers and not the future of thousands of whales.’

The Mexican Delegate to the 1974 meeting of the International Whaling Commission


Prologue

IWC Meeting Tokyo – Thirty three years later

Joseph Matagonu leaned back in his chair and belched contentedly, the excellent four-course luncheon he had so recently ingested now repeated as a tantalizing smorgasbord of flavors. Opposite, the Norwegian delegate, unhampered by digestion, was on his feet; spraying the audience with heavily accented guttural syllables as he attempted to exert the same kind of pressure upon those present that several bottles of Asahi beer were presently having upon Joseph’s bladder. Not that his argument was wasted upon Joseph alone, considering that twenty-six of the seventy two IWC members had chosen to boycott the meeting. Those present largely being in favor of resuming commercial whaling activities and those absent being opposed.

The agony of having to sit still while his mind was bombarded with facts he had neither the faculty nor the desire to join with his food reminded Joseph of being back in school. Joseph viewed his time spent trapped in the meeting with the enthusiasm a committed truant reserves for compulsory detention. In truth, Joseph had hoped for a less animated speaker to open the afternoon’s proceedings. One whose cadences would assume a soothing monotone and thus afford him the additional luxury of an afternoon nap. Unfortunately this was not to be. The Norwegian’s address intruded upon Joseph’s comfortable digestive ruminations like tourists in a hermitage, making the introspection necessary to do such a fine repast justice, impossible. Joseph however, was not about to let the business of the day interfere with the more important matter of digestion. His thoughts were still at the table and not with the argument tabled before him. So, Japan, Iceland and Norway wanted to hunt whales. Who cared? As far as Joseph was concerned there were still plenty of fish in the sea, some of which had gone into the truly excellent sashimi he had just recently consumed.

Joseph had little interest in the issues involved, as did his government. In fact, when he stopped to think about it, were in not for the incentives on offer, he was not at all sure that the IWC was a club he wanted membership of. IWC membership was hardly contingent upon past or present participation in whaling. It was a club to which any nation could belong, even those like Granada, Tobago and St. Kitts; Caribbean states like Joseph’s own, who had never at any time in their history supported a whaling industry. Countries who, unlike Groucho Marx, did not mind joining any club who would have them for a member and whose subscription, as well as their votes, had been bought and paid for by their sponsors, the Japanese.

Like many Caribbean nations, Joseph Matagonu’s country was a poor one. A small British colony in the West Indies still coming to terms with the fact that night had long ago fallen on that Empire upon which the sun would never set. Deserted by a commonwealth that was now an outdated ideal rather than a political power, its subsistence economy relied heavily upon the tourist dollar but its facilities offered little to rival those of the neighboring islands, such as Jamaica or Antigua. And in a world economy where your primary export crop, bananas, fetched less than three cents a kilo, it was little wonder that economic, rather than environmental survival, tended to take precedence.

Years had elapsed since Britannia ruled the waves or even a minor member of England’s royal house had crossed them to see for themselves how the subjects of this tiny colonial outpost were faring. Instead the Japanese had come. Representatives from the Land of the Rising Sun, bringing with them the promise of a bright new economic dawn. Hotels, restaurants and shops filled with expensive designer goods that few locals could afford but tourists expect to be able purchase as souvenirs of paradise. At the new marina, ocean going yachts were strung about the berths like huge white seashells where just twelve months before the bilges of fishing trawlers and sluggish sewers discharged their effluent. And a new government building graced the nation’s capitol, a corner of which Joseph, a man of little talent but great ambition, aspired to occupy. The Japanese it appeared, had an open check book when it came to enlisting support in their fight for the right to eat whale meat.

By rights the island’s Minister for Sports, Recreation and Fisheries should have been in attendance had he not slipped and broken his leg while inspecting the site of his new villa; yet another sprat the Japanese had proffered in an attempt to catch a whale. So it was Joseph, his under-paid, under-appreciated underling who had been dispatched in his stead. Joseph Matagonu, plucked from obscurity by fate to place both feet firmly in the dining trough of world events.

Probing with his tongue, Joseph finally managed to extract the morsel of salmon that had remained stubbornly lodged in a rear molar, his post-lunch ruminations untroubled by matters of conscience. The Norwegian finished speaking and returned to his seat. Joseph closed his eyes but his relief was short lived. The Icelandic commissioner was on his feet and approaching the microphone. Joseph sighed, recalling an address the man had made the day of his arrival. How his accent had hammered through his comfortable fog of apathy like a strident beacon. Compared to him the Norwegian spoke in tones so low only an elephant could hear. Or maybe a whale. Joseph chuckled. A whale whisperer. There was a nice irony in that. He took the cap off his IWC ballpoint pen and jotted it down before it fled with the rest of his post-lunch cogitations. It would sound good if he got interviewed later. Like he cared even. About the whale thing. One way or another.

“I schtink I schpeak for all of ush here ven I expresh the disappointment I feel that scho many of our member nationsh have chosen to boycott shish meeting.”

The Icelandic delgate sounded as if his consonants were slowly being extruded from a mouthful of cheese. Joseph wriggled in his seat as if dodging a volley of verbal bullets, but it was not the man’s accent that was the cause of his discomfort. The need to go to the bathroom was becoming more urgent. The bath house, extrapolated Joseph’s mind which was easily distracted. That’s where he’d really like to go. He’s read about them. Or was that a Tea House? It was where the Geishas were, that was all he knew. Joseph liked his women small, quiet and submissive. And while many of the women of his country could not by any stretch of the imagination be termed small, they had until quite recently known their place. That is until they started to get all kinds of ideas from Oprah Winfrey and other unreliable sources. Now all they talked about was self-esteem and respect and expressing feelings. When all Joseph wanted was a quiet life. Which was hardly likely to be his while the Icelandic commissioner was still speaking.

“Ve appear to belong to a club whose exclusivity is defined by schits rapidly declining memberschip,’ droned that gentleman. “Dare I schuggest that ve ourselves are becoming an endangered schpecies?”

Scattered laughter washed over Joseph whose mind was now busy with a scenario involving several soft-handed Japanese women attending to his every need, one that he found so engrossing that momentarily it would appear to anybody observing him that he was favoring the speaker with his undivided attention. Sadly, his fantasy was limited by the realms of possibility and therefore short lived.

“The former whaling nations have become the pariahs of the international community and continue to be ostraschized by zose members of this commischion who by their abschence, choose to reinforce the negative image accorded usch by the world’s media by fostering an atmosphere of dischent within this organization.”

Applause.

Yada, yada, yada thought Joseph as he waited for the applause to die down so he could make good his escape. Like he needed a lecture. His eyes cast about the room where the tables for each delegation were arranged in rows, reinforcing the illusion he was back in the classroom. A five star one to be sure, but a lecture hall nonetheless. It was not a place his thoughts were inclined to linger. Joseph’s eyes followed his mind, wandering out through the conference room doors, along the corridor to the elevator which would take him to the lobby where he could pick up some pornography from the hotel newsstand to take to the bathroom. One thing about the Japanese, he thought. They really had a thing for schoolgirls. He pushed back his chair.

            “Mr. Matagonu?”

His flight was put paid to by the sudden appearance of a hotel busboy. Nodding his assent, Joseph sank slowly back into his seat as with great deference, as if it contained something of incalculable value, the man placed a large gift box before him. “With the compliments of the Japanese commissioner, sir.”

It was not unusual for the Japanese to pass notes to their allies during the course of a referendum, indicating which way they should vote, just like schoolchildren passing notes between themselves during class. Crucial tactics when according to IWC ruling one ‘no’ vote could neutralize three ‘yeas’ and for Joseph a welcome distraction from the tedium of debate. In the unlikely event that any of them be required to speak, they would be handed their lines already written. Voting however was postponed until the summit later in the year in Anchorage and this was obviously some kind of gift as opposed to a directive. A glance at his fellow delegates revealed him to be the sole recipient of such generosity, but this did not strike Joseph as odd. As far as he was concerned it had clearly been sent to reinforce his position amongst other representatives from Caribbean nations as the most influential one there.

Overcome with largesse, Joseph reached into his pocket and tipped the busboy a yen, missing the momentary flicker of disdain that crossed the man’s features like a sudden squall. Although dressed in the hotel’s standard livery of maroon and gray he carried himself more like a guest than an employee. Given that he appeared to be in his mid 30’s, his contemptuous attitude did not entirely explain his lack of career achievement, as he radiated the quiet authority of one used to giving orders rather than taking them. His long, dark hair was secured in a ponytail and despite the fact he was indoors, he sported a pair of dark glasses like a celebrity attempting to evade recognition, something that only in hindsight would strike Joseph as peculiar along with the fact that he was Caucasian and not Japanese. Pocketing the tip and murmuring what could have been either thanks or an insult, the man withdrew as discreetly as he had entered.

But Joseph was not interested in contradictions. Even the need to urinate had been suspended as he found himself in the presence of the box. Plain white, its lid secured with a red ribbon, like the boxes florists used to deliver long stemmed blooms but larger and altogether more substantial, the pristine exterior affording no clues as to what lay within. Ignoring it was impossible. Its mere presence teased and tantalized like Pandora’s box. Who could say what mysterious delights it contained? A magnum of champagne perhaps? Some Russian caviar or perhaps something entirely more illicit? Like a child on Christmas Eve, Joseph abandoned himself to the hedony of speculation, even as his impatient fingers itched to put an end to the mystery as they fondled the silk tie securing the lid.

A thump on the podium sent his hands scurrying back onto his lap but the Icelandic commissioner was caught up in the righteousness of his argument and oblivious to all else in the room, especially Joseph’s guilt.

“Vot is becominck apparent, no, inevitable is zat the IWC is facing a schhhhhhhhism,” the man blew out his consonants like a chain-smoking python. “Vitch vill divide it into two branches. Vun for conservation and the other whose mandate muscht be to protect the interests of the remaining nations whose vhaling industries represent a traditional and revered way of life for those whose livelihood comes from the schea.”

Rumbles of what might have been agreement. “Shustainable commercial valing is now poschible as the data provided by Russia, Norway and Japan will schow.”

As if on cue Joseph glanced towards the Japanese contingent and finally succeeded in catching the Commissioner’s eye. Smiling and nodding deferentially he indicated the box, hoping to convey a suitable measure of thanks. His gesture was met by an implacable stare as he came up against the puzzling wall of inscrutability behind which the Japanese concealed their modus operandi. If anything the Commissioner appeared irritated. Perhaps they did not wish him to draw attention to their apparent favoritism, Joseph reflected. After all, he of all people knew the value of discretion. Satisfied with this conclusion, Joseph leaned back in his seat and pretended to follow what the Icelandian was saying even while focusing his complete attention upon the box. The gesture was unexpected, generous even, but when he stopped to think about it, clearly deserved.

“Humpbackschs vill within ten yearsch, once again be a viable harvestch. Minke vales are in schutch numbers they need to be culled.”

The man really should come with subtitles, Joseph thought. For him rhetoric took a back seat where gratification was concerned. More urgent now than the need to relieve himself was the overwhelming desire to know what treasure the box contained.

“Zche vay forvard isch to avoid zisch body being scheen as divided between the pro and anti-valing lobbiesch. Ve need to focusch on vhale management as polarizaschion of zchis nature will not only highlight our isshhhues of division but even with a three-to-one vote, ensure our interests vemain negated.”

As if possessed of a will of their own, Joseph’s fingers tugged at the ribbon securing the box and it slid to the floor with a sigh. He glanced about him to see if he was being observed. The last thing he needed was for it his benefactors to think him a man lacking in patience or self control, but the room’s attention including that of the Japanese, was riveted upon the Icelandic delegate.

He noticed the table in front of him was damp. Condensation appeared to be running from the box and the words ‘whale whisperer’ that he had jotted down earlier were now blurring into Rorschach blots on the damp paper. Clearly, whatever the box contained it was perishable which made it all the more imperative that he discover its contents before they were ruined. He lifted the lid slightly. Just a little higher and he would know what delights lay within.

“Vhale management isch more zan just non-inflammatory, politically correct media jargon. The future of the world’s vhaling nationsch ~”

His speech was interrupted by a scream like a tern. All eyes turned to Joseph, who, keening terribly, recoiled backwards out of his seat, scattering the box and its contents before the shocked delegation. Inside, curled in the same position it had occupied prior to being sliced out of its mothers womb and resting on a bed of ice like the finest champagne, lay the two foot aborted fetus of a Minke whale. The room erupted as the bloody horror fell from the table and slid across the floor.

Joseph’s recently ingested meal of sashimi, beef teriyaki, exquisitely prepared tempura and Shabu-shabu made a sudden and very unwelcome reappearance in the lap of the Russian delegate seated next to him. To his right, the commissioner from St. Kitts fainted clean away.

By the time Kyle Raitt was seated in the tourist section of the JAL flight from Tokyo to Los Angeles the following day, the box and its grisly contents had been thoughtfully disposed of by the hotel staff. The Russian delegate’s suit was at the dry cleaners and the conference facility scoured of the odor of disruption in preparation for the following days business. In the privacy of his darkened hotel room Joseph Matagonu lay quietly sedated. He wished to God that he had never heard of the IWC and fervently hoped that the whales would continue to forever frolic unmolested in the oceans of the world.

As the jumbo sped down the runway Kyle removed the yen from his pocket that Joseph had tipped him the day before. He turned the coin over and over in his hands as if considering the source. It was just as he had always maintained. With its bloody history of decimating both indigenous humans and marine mammals, there was nothing like whaling for bringing out the best in people.

At the precise moment the wheels lost contact with Japanese soil he allowed himself the luxury of a smile.

Thanks for the donation guys. Every little helps.


APOLLO BAY BLOCKADE CONTINUES

Members of the radical environmental group, Freeseas, continued to disrupt the building of a marine wildlife park at Apollo Bay by manning a round-the-clock protest, blocking the entrance to the bay with inflatable boats.

The Seabourne Institute which plans a $25 million aquatic park and research facility for the bay, yesterday failed in its attempts to get a court order to remove protesters from the area.

Freeseas maintain that the proposed sealing of the bay to make an enclosed tidal pool to house marine mammals will not only disrupt the tidal flow resulting in coastal erosion, but that plans to increase the depth of the bay by explosive charges poses a severe threat to marine life in the area.

A spokesman for the Seattle-based group many have dubbed ‘Green Terrorists’, said that Freeseas intended to continue their protest until Seabourne was forced to abandon the project.

If completed, the facility, located fifty-five miles north of Seattle, will include the largest marine mammal park in the northwest Pacific region and feature seals, dolphins and killer whales.

Seattle Post Intellegencer


Chapter One

In Denton Lour’s opinion, the truth was something the general public had no business knowing anything about. Especially a populace naive enough to believe the highly fictitious versions of it they were fed by the media, all of which bore very little resemblance to actual fact. For Denton however, the truth was hard currency, and like any scarce commodity there was always someone, somewhere, ready to pay top dollar for either its dissemination or suppression.

When asked his occupation Denton would reply ‘Information management’ and it always amused him how readily this answer was accepted without much inquiry, which for him was further proof of Joe Public’s inherent ability to ignore the truth even when confronted with it. A populace whose collective subconscious proudly proclaimed: Ignorance is bliss.

But it was no wonder he could easily be taken at face value. ‘Nondescript’ was the portrait he worked hardest to maintain. Go into any bar, any grocery store and you’d find him. The personable, bland and totally inoffensive guy who takes your order or starts a conversation about the price of tomatoes as you stand in line for the check-out. The kind of guy who if he asked you out for coffee you’d feel safe saying ‘Yes’ to. Not because he possessed any remarkable attributes with regard to looks or personality but due primarily to his pleasant manner. And even though he carried about him an obsession which clearly belied his given purpose, it was this very contradiction those he encountered found so very unsettling and therefore were eager to forget.

In Denton’s line of work anonymity was his greatest asset. A creative thinker, hired to implement the unthinkable. Even his paymasters often knew him only as a flat, disembodied voice on the other end of the telephone. It was for this reason that they called him The Confessor. It was a nomenclature that could not have been more apt. The name pleased him, the more so because it had been bestowed upon him by others. It added an almost canonical testimony to what was already a fearsome reputation. But unlike any priest he was not bound by the sanctity of the confessional. Espionage was his religion. Subversion his creed but information was his God. A God he would readily betray whenever the price was right.

The truth however was all a question of application, and of course, perspective. The truth could topple governments, build utopias, destroy reputations or create messiahs. It could liberate, embarrass, coerce, punish or imprison. One version of the truth could set you free, another consign you to eternal damnation. The truth, in Denton’s view, demanded respect. The right information, used correctly, was like holding a loaded gun to someone’s head and depending on the information Denton held, a loaded weapon was often preferable, as his last subject could have attested were he still alive to do so. But that’s what came from living a lie. If Martin Stevens had agreed to sell his under-capitalized manufacturing company when first approached, then Denton would not have been dispatched to find the leverage to make him capitulate. It hadn’t taken him long to discover that Steven’s frequent visits to the Philippines held a more sinister motive than merely sourcing components from suppliers using cheap third-world labor. Or for him to hack into Steven’s personal computer and discover the child pornography stored on the hard-drive.

It took even less time to convince him that a buy-out was now inevitable. But Martin Stevens wasn’t about to hang around to face the accusations of either his family or his board of directors, let alone the law enforcement agencies. When he received the envelope containing the DVD which graphically depicted what he and two other men had done to a nine-year old girl in a backstreet hotel room in Manila, Martin Stevens had taken the stairs to the roof of his office building and calmly stepped off.

Denton felt no emotion at the sight that greeted him as he emerged onto the sidewalk. It merely confirmed his faith in human nature. Confession after all was good for the soul, but sometimes the truth was hard to live with. It was his job to relieve them of their sins and ultimately the burden of their blighted and insignificant lives. He genuflected over the body once.

Bless you. Bless you.

His smile was a benediction as he walked on past.

Of course, there was always the odd screwball who didn’t want to confess. The maverick who just didn’t seem to realize that the hand his opponent held was well and truly stacked against him. Who, despite the threat of public embarrassment, disgrace or incarceration, decided it was better to live with the truth than be buried with it. Publish and be damned, was their creed. And it was on these occasions that he’d had to perform extreme unction. On a couple of occasions he’d performed it anyway. Not because it was needed, but just because he’d wanted to. After all, every job should have its perks.

Presently Denton was parked opposite a squat warehouse building in the area straddling downtown Seattle and Yesler’s Way in an anonymous gray compact he’d rented at SeaTac airport with a credit card that bore the name of a man who had long since ceased to need it. Intermittently the wipers swept aside the torrent that obscured his view of the building across the street. Christ, he hated this fucking city. Didn’t it ever do anything else here but rain? It seemed to fall from the ground up while the ever present clouds hovered at zero altitude, concealing the retro dish of the Space Needle and any other landmark over fifty feet behind an impenetrable veil of moisture. The very walls of the buildings seemed to ooze with bone-rotting saturation. It beat him why Meg Ryan would have given up life in Baltimore to go live with Tom Hanks in the arthritis capitol of the northwest. Just sitting here he could feel the damp leeching into his joints. Sleepless in Seattle was as close as anyone in their right mind would want to get. He’d seen the movie sixteen, maybe seventeen times. But then he’d seen all Meg’s movies. He kept on meaning to download them – as if he needed to buy them on DVD, so he could watch Meg whenever he wanted. She was, what was the word he was looking for? Luminescent. That was it. She kind of lit up the screen and everything around her. Even if she hadn’t been in any good movies recently. Those dicks in Hollywood who ran the studios had no idea of what they were doing. Denton could only dream of the day when he might be asked to go check Meg out. Maybe he’d go do it anyway. California had this soaking shithole beaten hands down in spite of the earthquakes and the smog. Besides, Meg never had a fan like him. Maybe it was time she knew how lucky she was.

But for now he was stuck in Seattle, back to tie up some loose ends on the same frigging job he’d started almost five years ago. Thank Christ surveillance jobs like this one were becoming increasingly rare. A quick trip down the Information Superhighway was the only traveling he usually needed to do to gather the information he wanted. Here databases beckoned like fast food outlets. All you needed was the technology and you could pull in to any one of these digital roadside attractions and order anything off the menu.

Of course, most systems were protected by some kind of security. firewalls, complex passwords or encrypted codes designed to deter even the most determined hacker. Or fail-safe devices that if tripped brought the entire system crashing down at the mere sniff of an intruder. But for Denton there were no barriers to the truth. There wasn’t an entry code he couldn’t crack or a back door he couldn’t sneak through. Most were insultingly simple. Especially those set up by the government agencies. Why the entire FBI network could be accessed just by punching in the name of its most notorious director. Others presented more of a challenge. Like the Canadian aviation company whose systems were protected by an entry code so random and complex that after a month he’d had to resort to one of the more lowbrow methods of espionage – bribing an employee. But sometimes the simplest solutions were the most effective; which was why he was here, watching the windows fog over while the Seattle downpour attempted to drill through the roof of the Hyundai. It was the only way he could make sure the job was done right and it was also his willingness to attend to the minor details that kept him so much in demand.

Through the brief prospect the wipers opened in the deluge he glimpsed a cab pull up. A man got out carrying an overnight bag and ran through the rain and up some steps to the door. Denton watched as he punched in a code on the keypad next to it and then disappeared inside. He wondered what the code was but after four days he was no closer to accessing either it or the buildings computer system. Still, there was always a way in.

He smiled. He liked a challenge but hated unfinished business.

I wonder if I’m here in case they fail, or just in case they succeed? he thought.

It was the puzzle he took with him as he started the motor and drove away.

They even had a name for it now. Seachange. To Ben it sounded a lot better than mid-life crisis which is what his father, had he still been alive would have called it, and what his former boss and coworkers probably thought. After spending the majority of your working life so far in pursuit of money, success and professional accolades, once they were achieved you jacked-in the huge corporate salary and the corner office (or in Ben’s case, cubicle, even if it had come with peerless views of Elliott Bay), and down-shifted to something that fed the soul rather than just the ego or the bank account. Where the emphasis was on the quality of your life rather than the quantity of your possessions and the time you spent with your loved ones rather than the overtime you put in at the office. Usually it also involved a move from the rat race to where the only racing was done by the tide. Hence the name: Seachange.

Not surprisingly, giving all this up took money. Which was probably why Ben’s Seachange, while taking him from Head of Software Development at the Maestro! Corporation to a tiny, antediluvian recording studio with purple 70’s carpet stapled to the walls of the sound booth, had so far failed to remove him from the Seattle environs.

Ben made the ‘O.K’ sign with his circled thumb and forefinger to the man seated in the studio beyond the glass partition before reminding himself that there was no way Alby could see the gesture. Instead, he attempted to transfer the appropriate level of appreciation for the previous effort and encouragement for the next, into the intonation of his voice as he opened the intercom.

“Got a couple of clicks in there, Alby. I might be able to edit them out but let’s do one more read for safety then we’ll call it a day, okay?”

Alby’s memory was phenomenal and his delivery flawless. Rarely did he need to refer to the Braille notes he carried. However, from his last read, Ben could tell he was tiring. Not just from the catch in his throat on the last read through but also by the two missed cues resulting in needlessly re-recording a piece they’d already laid down previously. It had after all, been a long session. They had been in the studio since ten this morning and it was now coming up to four-thirty. Alby, ever the consummate professional, was unlikely to admit fatigue. He did however reach for the glass of water in front of him. His dog, Banjo had lain unmoving at his feet for the entire session but she rolled her chocolate brown eyes heavenwards as if to say: When do we get out of here?

Alby cleared his throat, his cue he was ready to go on. “Whenever you’re ready, Ben.”

Ben cued the tape. “On my mark, three, two, one, mark . . .”

As Alby’s well modulated tones were fed back into the studio Ben adjusted the recording level for the umpteenth time that session even though it was no longer necessary. The trouble with a mid-life crisis, sorry, Seachange, was that a complete change of career direction meant that at forty you were competing with guys younger and hungrier than you. Guys who had yet to hang themselves with commitments, financial or otherwise, and could therefore afford to work twenty hour days for peanuts and the privilege of being able to say they were part of the business.

So Ben had quit his office in the venerable Pioneer Square building he’d occupied for the past twelve years, and ended up here, at the Northwestern Institute for the Blind, where three days a week he shut himself away in a tiny recording studio which was already out of date when Madonna bought her first bra, using an Ampex ATR-12 two-track, putting down audio books for the vision-impaired. He felt a momentary pang of envy for the Neve 88R 72 channel consol and digital mix-down which Zed took for granted. Not that he had ever deluded himself that his long sublimated desire for a career in the music business was likely to lead to him stepping up to the mike at the grand old age of forty-one (not that age seemed to be deterring Jagger but he had at least made his mark forty years previously). But he had allowed himself to indulge in the fantasy that maybe he might have something to offer on the production side of things. So far however, the Chili Peppers had failed to call.

“Are you happy with that read, Ben?”

Alby’s question and the sound of quarter inch tape silently spooling from reel to reel jerked Ben back to the reality of quarter inch tape and razor blades, indicating that J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘The Children of Hurin’ had finally been laid down for posterity. He toggled the intercom switch. “Great as usual, Alby.”

“Want me to hang around for a bit, just in case?”

“No, you run along. I’ll finish up and if there’s anything we need to drop in we can always pick it up next week.”

Alby gathered up his things and reached for Banjo’s harness, giving her the command to move forward. They left quickly as if to forestall the possibility of Ben changing his mind. Winding back the tape gave Ben the opportunity to review the session. He’d edit the tape, add sound effects, take it to mix-down then finally dub to digital audiotape or DAT for release dubs on CD. Next week he’d be back in here with Alby when they’d be joined by Donna Goodman, a sighted voice-over artist who donated her services for free, to start laying down the first chapter of the latest bodice-ripper to top the New York Times bestseller list. Literature like music embraced many genres and while some people wanted to listen to the Three Tenors, others preferred Eminem, it was as simple as that.

Ben glanced at his watch. 5.35. Normally he’d call it a day, but what the heck. Another two hours and he could have the first three chapters spliced together. The last thing he wanted to do was get into a routine and sink into the comfortable rut of domestic bliss. He reached for the sound effects CD’s he’d pulled from the library the previous day and sent the tape spooling back to zero.

For Kyle this was home and not the neglected Queen Anne house in Magnolia with the overgrown but environmentally friendly lawn that so annoyed his neighbors, that nowadays he slept in all too rarely. Home was Freeseas.

Stepping out of the elevator, Kyle walked past ranks of computer terminals listening to the quiet chatter of state-of-the-art pieces of technology talking to each other over vast distances. Sights and sounds duplicated in thousands of corporate headquarters across the globe, the exception here being that all this was paid for by private donations and that the building itself resembled a military bunker rather than an executive office suite.

After Greenpeace and the Sierra Club, Freeseas was the largest environmental organization in the United States. Unlike both the former it concentrated its efforts solely upon the oceans, mounting a worldwide campaign for marine conservation. Campaigns that not only its critics, but often other environmental groups dubbed as out-and-out war. Freeseas rammed whalers, destroyed miles of drift netting, blockaded fishing villages and in one highly publicized incident, resorted to kidnapping when they ‘liberated’ three dolphins and a beluga whale that were being kept in a tiny, excrement filled tank beneath a marine park in Buffalo. Freeseas went beyond the Greenpeace prohibition on the destruction of property but drew the line at deliberately injuring humans. Despite this embargo, many of their opponents saw them as little more than terrorists.

But their methods weren’t always so confrontational. There was Operation Flotsam, for example, which had encouraged fishermen to bag their trash and bring it back to shore instead of merely tossing it overboard. Freeseas had handed out thousands of free garbage bags at practically every port on the northwest seaboard. Then the fishermen’s union got behind the campaign. The result – a 94% reduction in floating debris, especially in the Puget Sound region over the past three years.

Arriving at his office which would have afforded spectacular views of Elliot Bay had there been windows, Kyle sat down at his desk and began to sort through the pile of mail and faxes that had accumulated during his absence. Turning to his computer he tapped in his password and waited while his email messages downloaded. Another few keystrokes would allow him to access the latest environmental reports from any of the world’s major news groups. Another command and he could tap into one of the world’s most comprehensive environmental databases, Freebase, which could provide him with the latest research on anything from the decimation of the Great Barrier Reef to the estimated population of the Indus River dolphin. It all formed part of Freelink, a sophisticated satellite communications network that the head office in Seattle with it’s regional offices in London, New York, Sydney, Cape Town, Buenos Aires and it’s flagship, the Crystal Voyager.

It was the kind of system usually only available to government agencies or multinational corporations, but with three million donors in the United States alone, generating more than ninety million dollars in revenue each year, Freeseas had the resources to fund not just the battle, but to mount entire campaigns, anywhere around the world.

“So, how’d it go?”

Kyle looked away from reading a message from the Argentine office to see Tomio Basho, Freeseas computer Samurai and the person responsible for setting up the system they had all come to rely on, standing in the doorway.

“Let’s just say I think we made our point. Here ~” he rummaged in his pocket and tossed Tomio the dollar coin Matagonu had tipped him. “He even made a contribution. And I’d like a receipt for that.”

“You took quite a risk. What if someone had recognized you?”

Kyle shook his head dismissively. “Nah. I’ve got the kind of face that’s easy to forget. I just blend in with the wallpaper.”

Tomio walked over and parked himself on the corner of Kyle’s desk. “But what if you’d been caught? My point is I don’t think you realize the position these little statements of yours put us all in. You’re not easy to replace.”

Kyle glanced across at Tomio as if seeing him for the first time since he’d entered the room. It wasn’t like Tommo to get so agitated. If he didn’t know better he’d think something had the guy spooked. If that was the case then for some reason he was reluctant to air it. He changed the subject. “So, what’s been happening while I’ve been away?”

“Voyager’s en route to Korea with a full media contingent on board. They’ve come up with an interesting new fishing technique that involves dropping explosives on shoals of tuna from the air and blasting them clean out of the water as well as anything else that happens to be swimming by at the time.” He continued, his voice heavy with irony. “I guess they finally paid attention to what we were saying so they got rid of the drift nets, except it makes Mururoa Atoll look like an exercise in conservation.”

Kyle shook his head in disbelief. There seemed no limited to man’s inventiveness when it came to reeking destruction upon his environment and those unfortunate enough to have to share it.

“After that I thought we’d send her up north. Take a look at how global warming’s affecting Santa and his little helpers this year. So, how was the Flipper sushi in the land of the Rising Sun?”

“I didn’t have time to indulge. I was too busy clubbing baby seals.”

“I love baby seal clubbing time in the Ginza. You’d think they’d publicize it more instead of always focusing on cherry blossom. It’s just so kitsch.”

“You get a free blue whale sushi with every ten baby seals you club,”

Kyle added. During their time working together, he and Tomio had found that the only way to cope with the atrocities inflicted upon the Earth and those unfortunate enough to share her with humanity, was to develop a sense of humor as black as the practices they sought to combat.

Tommo shared his fellow countrymen’s love of whales ~ just not as a delicacy. Born in Maui to an American father and Japanese mother, and raised in the 50th state, he’d spent his childhood watching the Humpback whales play in the crystal clear waters off Lahaina. Having grown up with these gentle giants he was appalled at any threat to their existence, and since graduating from MIT with a major in computer science, had worked at Freeseas for the past six years, using all his skills to create the communications network that would help to ensure their survival.

“Seabourne got another orca to replace Panda.”

Kyle sat up. Now that was news. “So where’d they get her?”

“Him. From our friends the Russians. They’ve since been given orders for five more. One for Australia, two for a marine park in Mexico City and the other two for our old friend Hugh Mordred.”

Kyle spat out an expletive of disgust. Mordred was the owner of the Buffalo amusement park from which they’d taken the dolphins and beluga three years ago. The animals had been jammed like sardines into a tiny cesspool of a tank located in an underground car park beneath the facility. They never saw daylight of felt the whisper of an ocean breeze. Men like Mordred made him sick.

“Get onto our New York office. Have them picket the park. A few fliers with pictures of how he likes to keep his pets should get the message across. Maybe if we remind him of how easily his animals can go missing we can scare him into canceling the order.”

“If we have to organize another break out and you get caught you won’t get away with a fine this time. You’re set to do time,” Tomio warned.

Kyle sighed. So that was what was bugging Tommo. He might have known. “First they have to catch us. Then they have to prove we did it. Beyond reasonable doubt. It’s called due process. You really ought to familiarize yourself with it.”

“Just bear in mind that something as large as a killer whale, correction, two killer whales aren’t the kind of thing you can just shoplift and waltz out the front door tucked into your panties. Besides, I’ve seen the size of the dossier the FBI has on you and let me tell you, they’re just hanging out, waiting for the first opportunity they get to reel you in.”

“So what happened to Panda? Did they let him go like they promised?” Kyle asked thinking it was time to change the subject again.

“What they promised was the usual media circus which of course they failed to deliver. Having invited reporters from every TV station and newspaper from here to Anchorage to witness the event, they called the day before he was due to be released and canceled the entire show. Said that the presence of so many people might interfere with his assimilation back into the wild.”

“I find that very hard to believe considering he’s been performing four shows a day in front of several hundred noisy spectators for the past two years. So how do we know they kept their word?”

“Fran went up there the next day and the orca pen was certainly empty. According to McHugh they tagged him with a satnav transmitter and he’s quite happily swimming around Johnstone Strait even as we speak.”

“Do we have the frequency?”

Tommo shook his head. “McHugh wouldn’t release it. Said he doesn’t want anyone going up there and quote, ‘Harassing my whale’, unquote.”

“Can we get it?”

“Might take a while. I’ll see what I can do.”

Tommo paused then sighed as if expelling the weight of the world from his lungs. Whatever he’d come in to talk about, Panda and the fine art of fishing with explosives were clearly the tip of the iceberg. He seemed to be steeling himself before broaching the next subject. A subject which, if his hesitancy was anything to go by, could only be unpleasant.

“Kyle, we found Connie.”

His heart leapt. For five long years he had waited to hear those words. After all this time, the years of fruitless searching, the avenues of pursuit that had only led to one more dead end. But he had never given up. When he closed his eyes at night his final thought before sleep overtook him was always to wonder where she was and what she was doing and when he opened them the following morning, the first was always the hope that today would bring him those answers. People had thought him crazy. ‘Maybe she doesn’t want to be found,’ was an argument he’d heard on more than one occasion. Even so, he’d had to try. But even Tommo with all Freeseas resources at his disposal hadn’t been able to track her down. Until now.

“Connie? Where is she? How is she? Did you talk to her? Goddammit Tommo, how long have you known about this?”

Where have you been? Why did you run away? Why no word for almost five years? So many questions he needed to know the answers to. He had to know. He had to speak to her. Dammit – he had to see her! But most of all he had to hold her and having found her tell her he was never, ever going to lose her again.

“Kyle, she’s dead.”

The house that hope had built came crashing down around him. But then he of all people should have known that hope was never a solid foundation upon which to build reality, and the reality was that he was too late. Connie was dead. He felt a wave of nausea wash over him as the room seemed to yawn suddenly like a great trough opening in the ocean that threatened to pull him under. By some small miracle he managed not to throw up.

“Are you sure?” Useless question. There was no way Tommo would have come to him with this unless he had been absolutely certain. His voice seemed to come from outside of himself like a ventriloquist’s trick. As if he had been suddenly rendered merely an observer in this tragedy, instead of its participant.

Tommo withdrew a fax from his pocket which he slowly unfolded and slid across the desk. “She committed suicide. Kyle, I’m so sorry.”

His fingers touched the edge of the paper. It burned as if it had been transmitted from hell. He kept it there, at arms length, as if drawing it closer would somehow dignify what it contained.

“It came in yesterday from Winnipeg. I know how much she meant to you. To all of us. I’ll be outside if you need me.”

Kyle nodded. It was only after Tommo had left, closing the door quietly behind him that he finally found the strength to pick up the fax.

It was a copy of a report in the Thompson Gazette on the death of the local librarian, Constance Leong. Connie had been found floating in her bathtub, blood from her slashed wrists turning the water crimson. The note in her bedroom read: ‘I’m sorry for all they have done.’ The Coroner had returned a verdict of suicide. Neighbors and co-workers described her as quiet and hard working and a memorial service was scheduled for the following week at the Thompson Baptist Church which she had attended without fail, every Sunday since her arrival in town four and a half years ago.

The final paragraph, as cold and as factual as an inquest, concluded with the number of the Thompson police department appealing for anyone with information on Ms. Leong’s next-of-kin to contact them.

Connie was dead. Her life reduced to a couple of column inches in a provincial newspaper. He read and re-read it, as if by sheer power of will he could bring about a retraction. Another Connie Leong perhaps? How many of them could there be? It had to be another. Connie, his Connie, could hardly have been described as quiet, neither had she been particularly religious. But even as he desperately scanned the piece for something that would refute the facts he knew it had to be true. Tommo would never have brought him this without checking it out thoroughly first. Now he had his answers but they were not the ones he wanted and in turn had only succeeding in raising further questions.

He turned back to his computer, this time punching up Freeworld, one of the most comprehensive geographical, environmental and political atlases available. The computer gave him a choice of eleven Thompsons, spelt a variety of ways and scattered over three continents. The one he was looking for was located in Manitoba, five hundred kilometers inland from Hudson Bay. It was the last place on earth he would have thought of looking. Maybe Fran and Tommo had been right all along. The only reason anyone would move to a place like that would be because they didn’t want to be found.

Which begged the question: For whose actions was she trying to atone?

One thing he knew for certain. Whatever the reasons it had something to do with what happened on that winter’s night at Apollo Bay almost five years before.

As long as they remained in U.S. navigable waters there wasn’t anything anyone could do about it and Kyle intended to remain there until the oceans ran dry or Seabourne was forced out of business. Hopefully the latter would come sooner. The Strait of San Juan de Fuca on a winter’s night was not somewhere you wanted to spend prolonged periods of time. Especially when your vessel was nothing more than a rubber inflatable with an outboard motor attached and currently in danger of being swamped by swells churned up by a chilling nor’easterly screaming down the Gulf of Alaska. And although the sea was a little calmer within the bay itself, not even the natural harbor it afforded could shield him from the torrential rain now whipped into needle-like projections by the shrieking wind. No one could be expected to endure conditions like these for long, which was why the protest was organized into six four-hour shifts. Tonight Kyle had drawn the short straw and the graveyard shift, midnight to four a.m.

Kyle winced as the cold, angry needles of ice were driven into his skin. He swung the tiller, the motor wailing its protest as they fought the raging tide, idling the tiny craft against the natural breakwater that sheltered the cove from the screaming gale without. Kyle knew that if they relaxed their vigil, even on a night like this, Seabourne could well take advantage of their absence and commence blasting. It wasn’t a risk either he or any of the others were prepared to take.

He glanced at the fluorescent dial on his watch. 4.35. Dammit. Where the hell was Connie? He’d long since lost all feeling in his extremities and now the raw January chill was beginning to eat into his very marrow. He’d donned a dry suit as a precaution against an unplanned ducking under which were several layers of clothing starting with thermal underwear and topped off with a down-filled parka. He looked like the Michelin Man. Hell, if he ended up in the drink, even with the lifejacket he’d probably sink without trace. Right now though he didn’t care. All he could think about was going home, having a very hot shower, a large Scotch and then sleeping for at least fourteen hours.

Scudding clouds blew aside to reveal a gibbous moon. In its watery glow he could see clear across the small, horseshoe shaped cove. With protective headlands sweeping around in a ‘U’ it was the perfect natural marina. Too perfect. I guess that’s why they chose it, he reflected ruefully. In the summer, orcas came to rub themselves on the pebbles that lined it’s steeply shelving beach. An activity that seemed to afford them an inordinate mount of pleasure although no one had yet ascertained why the animals did it. One school of thought held was that it was to rid themselves of small parasites. Another that they were merely trying to scratch themselves, a difficult task when one had flippers instead of hands. Privately Kyle thought they probably did it just because it felt good.

This ‘rubbing’ beach had become a big tourist draw during the summer months when large numbers of the whales passed the bay, following the trail of salmon north along the Washington coast. He’d come here many times himself. Like thousands of others who made the pilgrimage, enchanted by the playful antics of these marine mammals. Awed by their strength and apparent unending delight they found in their environment. Their need for nothing more than each other, the water they swam in and the air they breathed. When it came to simple contentment it was apparent human beings still had a lot to learn.

When Kyle had heard of the plans to dynamite the bay and turn it into some kind of aquatic circus he’d been appalled. Up until then he’d paid small service to environmental issues. Sure he recycled, but then, who didn’t? Gay Whales Against the Bomb, the category under which he’d mentally lumped all ecological issues, held little interest for him. But this was different. This was happening right on his doorstep. That was his beach where he liked to hang out every summer. Those were his whales. He’d watched them return every year. He’d even learned to recognize some by their markings. Sometimes there was even the addition of a calf or two. No, this wasn’t somebody else’s fight. This was personal.

His part-time job as a waiter at a Pike Place seafood restaurant gave him plenty of free time. Originally he’d taken it because it left him free to attend auditions. His undistinguished career as an actor had so far amounted to a walk-on part in a play that closed after seven performances and two commercials for a used car outlet. So instead of his Tuesday afternoon acting class he headed for Freeseas who in those days had occupied a shabby second floor walk-up above a hardware store and had asked the question that was to change the entire course of his life: Tell me, what can I do to help?

At that time, Connie was their promotions officer. It had been her idea to mount a round-the-clock floating blockade which, unlike a protest on dry land made it almost impossible to have the demonstrators removed. They’d begun their vigil six months ago. He and Connie had been lovers for four of those, snatching a night here or a few stolen hours there, whenever their shifts permitted.

He glanced once more at his watch. 5.03. Cold and impatience were rapidly being replaced by foreboding. It wasn’t like Connie to be late. In fact, he had never once known her to be tardy. She knew how cold it was out here. She was hardly likely to leave him freezing his butt off unless something major had come up. Mentally he berated himself for over-dramatizing the situation. There was probably a simple explanation. A flat tire, an alarm that had failed to go off. Anything.

A light beckoned him shoreward. He gunned the motor, angling the dinghy towards the shallows. He hoped to God that she’d remembered to bring a flask of coffee with her otherwise he’d probably die of hypothermia before he made it to the car.

Pulling the Zodiac out above the waterline he looked around but there was no sign of Connie. The light that had guided him in had been extinguished before he even made it ashore. He called her name but received no reply, the wind tearing it from his lips before the word was even formed and tossing it out across the black, angry ocean. The pines that marched almost to the shore moaned in a chorus, hiding a darkness amongst their legions that could shelter an army, which was where she had to be, Kyle surmised. Out of the wind.

The first blow came from behind, smashing into the back of his head. He fell forward onto his knees, the rough shoal cutting through his gloves. More blows were rained upon his head and back. He had no way to defend himself. The insulating layers of clothing he wore were designed to protect him against an environmental assault, not a physical one. Afterwards he wasn’t even sure of how many of them there had been. Three or maybe four. He wasn’t certain.

They started to kick him repeatedly in the small of his back, aiming for his kidneys. With each blow he was sure his spine was about to snap. There was no point in crying for help. No one around or to hear him above the surf and the raging storm. Besides, he knew enough to know that whoever was behind the attack had hired professionals. Begging for mercy wasn’t likely to do him any good either. Not that he was planning on giving them the satisfaction.

Right at the end, when he was laying bloodied and beaten upon the shore he had tried so hard to protect, when the blows finally stopped, right when he heard the sound of boots turning away and crunching landward up the gravel, right when he felt that the ordeal might finally be over and relief washed over him that he was going to come out of this alive, something crashed into the right side of his head with such force all he could think of in the few seconds of consciousness remaining to him was that he had been shot.

When he came too only one eye would open and all his groping hands found was a vast hole on the other side of his head.

No trace of Connie had ever been found. Her landlord later told him she’d packed her things and moved out of her apartment the very same day as doctors battled to save his right eye and work began to widen the Apollo Bay channel. She left no forwarding address and closed down all her bank accounts. It was almost as if she had never existed.

If Seabourne had been behind the attack, predictably they denied all knowledge of the incident. The police could find no evidence that linked them to the assault in any way. Whoever his assailants were they had been professionals, sent to deliver a message. Kyle was convinced his eye had been a mistake. Whoever had remained to deliver that parting blow had done it for one reason only. Pure sadistic pleasure.

Seabourne might have won the battle but their victory ensured that Freeseas would have enough backing to continue the war. The press were quick to pick up the story. Eco-warrior injured in the line of fire. It was the kind of publicity most organizations could only dream of and overnight he became Freeseas greatest asset. Donations flooded in from all over the country, most addressed to him in his hospital bed. Both he and Freeseas went from non-entities to notoriety overnight. For some reason both the press and the public alike attributed the entire Apollo Bay campaign down to him, a myth Freeseas were happy to encourage. Realizing he was too valuable to lose they had offered him Connie’s old job as Publicity Manager upon his discharge from hospital. Since then he’d taken them from an obscure, under-funded, disorganized band of Eco-rabble and turned them into a crack team of law-breaking, in-your-face, anarchistic environmental soldiers.

He glanced at the fax once more. What drove you to it? What was going through your head as you picked up that razor blade and prepared to stroke it across your wrists? He knew he’d never have the answers. Only the certainty that the trail of events that lead to her death had begun that night in Apollo Bay.

An eye for an eye. He’d never deliberately hurt another human being in his entire life but one thing was certain. If he ever got his hands on the person behind all this that was going to change.

I’m sorry for all they have done.’

He opened his desk drawer and took out a small digital video camera. Smoothing out the fax he placed it inside the drawer then locked it. He’d mourn later. Right now there were other scores to be settled and other lives depending on him.


They say the sea is cold, but the sea contains

the hottest blood of all, and the wildest,

the most urgent . . .

The Right whale, the Sperm-whales, the

Hammer-heads, the Killers.

There they blow, there they blow,

Hot wild white breath out of the sea.

Whales Weep Not

D.H. Lawrence


Chapter Two

“Environmentally friendly, dolphin safe, that kind of thing.”

“Lennie, just because a product has a picture of a dolphin on the label doesn’t necessarily make it environmentally friendly.”

“I know that, you know that, but does your average consumer appreciate the difference?”

“People are a lot more savvy than you give them credit for, especially when it comes to environmental issues. This may come as somewhat of a shock to you Lennie, but some of us actually care about what goes into the products we use.”

“Carson – get real. Your average American consumer is motivated to make his purchase by his wallet and not from any ulterior desire to save the whales. You really think he cares about drift net fishing or global warming if he can buy cheap tuna or save five cents on a pack of toilet paper?”

“If that’s what you truly believe then why bother positioning this as the environmentally sound choice?”

“The state of the canned food market is ~”

“A market never bought a can of tuna, Lennie. Markets don’t buy products, consumers do.”

Lennie took off his glasses, closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose, a sign Leigh had come to recognize as one of extreme fatigue. Exhaustion drained the color from his face, making the boy who was just one generation from Roma look as sallow and wan as any other sun starved northwest WASP. Right now Lennie Como did not resemble the wunderkind creative who at twenty two had been pulling down six figures as Como Schofeldt and Kurtz’s youngest ever Creative Director. Tonight he looked about ready to retire. Hardly surprising considering it was now eleven p.m. and they had just put in their third fourteen-hour day in succession. Lennie even longer. He’d been in the recording studio since seven that morning, laying down the music bed for the demo jingle. No wonder he looked tired. So much for the glamorous world of advertising, Leigh thought ruefully.

She and Lennie only ever argued when they were tired or under pressure to meet a deadline. In this instance it was both. The bone of contention lay between them on Lennie’s desk, worried like the half-chewed crusts left over from the pizza they’d ordered three hours before. The new logo he’d designed for Dapple Foods, the West Coast’s largest cannery which depicted two dolphins circling a stylized globe in the shape of an apple with the tag line ‘Dapple. Foods for Life’ that Leigh had created, which now she wanted replaced with the more politically confrontational statement of ‘No to Driftnet Fishing’.

Presently Como, Schofeldt and Kurtz were involved in a four-way pitch for the account with the presentation scheduled for two days hence. The company had maintained their corporate headquarters in Vancouver, as well as a string of cannery plants stretching along the Pacific coast from Mexico to Alaska, and were thought to favor a West Coast agency. But with stiff competition from a couple of New York and Chicago’s finest agencies and with billings of over eight million dollars at stake, Lennie and Leigh both knew that geographical advantage alone was insufficient leverage to win the account.

An advertising agency was only as good as its end product – the creative. Which was why every element of the entire campaign, no matter how small or inconsequential it appeared, had to be able to stand on it’s own, and when combined produced an integrated strategy that would with luck, blow the opposition out of the water. The campaign they’d devised was comprised of transactional elements ranging from a press and television campaign and consumer education in the form of recipe book give-aways to a complete re-design of the logo and packaging. A campaign designed to emphasize the convenience and nutritional value of a range of canned seafood products ranging from sardines to microwavable tuna Mornay.

As the copywriter, Leigh’s task had been to come up with a memorable catch phrase which would position Dapple ahead of the competition in the mind of the consumer and ensure that whenever they reached for a can of fish it had Dapple on the label. Her solution had been a catchy jingle and tag line for the press and television campaigns which posed the question ‘Have you had your Dapple today?’ as well as the more corporate statement ‘Foods for Life’. Her last minute decision to replace this with the driftnet message on the tuna products had resulted in the somewhat heated debate which had now raged for well over an hour, during which time, she now belatedly realized, she could have been home soaking in a well deserved hot bath.

“I’m sorry. You’re right. I’m becoming obsessed with details. Besides, it’s a non-argument anyway. All tuna sold in the U.S. has to be dolphin safe, everybody knows that. There’s no need to labor the point when the logo is already doing all the hard work. We should both be home, making the lives of our loved ones miserable instead of stuck here giving each other hell.”

Lennie opened his eyes and replaced his glasses. With his horn rims he always reminded Leigh of Clark Kent, albeit a truncated one. And like Superman he could change identity at will. One never knew when the cocksure Catholic confidence he’d inherited from his Italian father was going to be replaced by a quivering heap of Jewish anachronisms courtesy of Sylvia from Queens. Lurking behind Stallone, Woody Allen was always waiting to grab the spotlight. For now, Rocky was back in control. “Don’t apologize. Obsession with detail is what separates perfection from mediocrity. Look at it this way, without Obsession, Calvin Klein would be just another red spot special in K Mart. It’s what makes you the best goddamn copywriter west of the Rockies. It’s why I hired you in the first place. That plus the fact you’re bigger than me.”

It was true. At five eleven she towered over him and even without her high-heeled pumps could look down upon the quarter-sized bald spot on his crown that nobody in the agency who wanted to collect their Christmas bonus dared mention. But forget the hype about shorter men finding tall women attractive, and when you were Leigh’s height around eighty per cent of the male population fell into that category. Maybe it was true if you were Jerry Hall but not if you were a thritysomething advertising executive with the bottom heavy light globe shape that no designer had been able to disguise since the ‘80’s. Luckily for Leigh the power suit had been relegated to a past life along with the shoulder pads. Seattle was a lot more relaxed than Madison Avenue and nobody raised so much as an eyebrow if she turned up for work in the jeans and baggy work shirts she preferred.

Lennie reached up and snapped off the angle poise, which apart from the glow of her computer monitor and the light shedding in from the hallway, remained the only illumination on their floor. “You’re right. Let’s go home and put in the zee’s instead of standing here arguing about where to stick the use-by date on the fucking planet. By the time the pitch is over Miriam won’t even remember my name, let alone a description to file with Missing Persons and you’re probably already persona non grata as far as Mister Gonads is concerned.”

Mister Gonads was the supposedly neutered ginger tomcat Leigh had rescued from the local animal shelter, whose pungent aroma and predilection for late night caterwauling led her to believe that his reproductive system was possibly more intact than she had been led to believe. The mention of his name reminded Leigh that her determination to make it to the market to stock up with cat food had evaporated along with the intention of being home by eight. Ducking back inside the office she grabbed a couple of tins of Dapple tuna before following Lennie to the elevator.

Down in the car park Lennie’s Beemer and her fifteen-year-old Jeep Cherokee were the only cars remaining on the lot. Too tired to indulge in anything but the most cursory farewell she climbed into the cab, hoping as she turned the key in the ignition that tonight would not be the night when the alternator finally decided to head for that great spare parts bin in the sky. Thankfully it caught first time and she followed Lennie’s fast retreating taillights up the ramp and through the gate, the security guard glancing at his watch as they passed, shaking his head in amazement at either their foolishness or dedication.

Lennie shot away, eight powerful German cylinders taking him smoothly from zero to sixty in under four seconds. Ten minutes later, with the windows rolled down to ward away fatigue, following in his wake along Aurora, she and the Cherokee were still struggling to top fifty-five. Pedal to the metal she watched as the needle headed for sixty. I think I can, I think I can. I think I c-c-can, the engine stammered. She eased up and dropped back to fifty, listening to the change in the motor’s affirmations: I thought I could, I thought I could. Somehow the story of the ‘One careful owner’ who had only driven it around town and to the Cascades ‘No more than once or twice a year’, now seemed about as nebulous as Mister Gonad’s missing testicles.

Not that it mattered. She enjoyed the leisurely drive home. It gave her a chance to review the day. Besides, she who goes slowly arrives without a speeding ticket. Since acquiring the BMW, Leadfoot Lennie had collected so many he was now on first name terms with almost half of Seattle’s finest. Further proof in Leigh’s book that torque and testosterone were never meant to mix.

Back in New York a car had been more of a handicap than a convenience. A luxury reserved for those who could afford off-street parking and whose salaries merited not just the corner office but their name on the parking space nearest the elevator. Over the years, catching the subway to work, supplemented by the occasional cab, had become a necessary evil. But out here in the spread-out Northwest four wheels were no longer a luxury but a necessity and Gridlock just an unpleasant memory as were mounds of rotting garbage and even higher rents. New York was like a nightclub whose decor had become shabby and worn and whose fashionable clientele had long since departed, but which still insisted upon charging the same price for admission even though the beautiful people had long since moved on.

Even then Leigh had preferred flicking through the LL. Bean catalogue to that of Victoria’s Secret and a subscription to Outside rather than Glamor. She’d filled the apartment she’d shared with Rob with stripped pine, calico curtains and a huge refectory table with that genuinely distressed look that only being abused by a couple of generations of farmhands could produce. It dominated their tiny kitchen to an extent that prevented them from ever fully opening the refrigerator door. It was a look more suited to the Oregon backwoods than West 63rd Street.

If Leigh had been asked to sum up her relationship with Rob she could have done so with one word. Comfortable. From the day they met they were destined to flounder in ambivalence. Over the next three years they’d slipped into such passionless co-habitation that even the decision to separate was taken one evening over a plate of linguini Alfredo totally devoid of drama, in much the same way as one partner might announce they were planning a long weekend away in the Catskills. I think maybe one of us should move out. I was thinking the same thing myself. Shall I or ..? No, I will, after all, you were here first. Could you please pass me the Pecorino? Thank you.

Looking back it seemed like one of those New York affairs of convenience where a common career path and the need for affordable housing is mistaken for love. Despite the lack of drama it had been the break up of the relationship that had given Leigh the impetus to relocate. Maybe the way she preferred to dress and decorated her apartment was a true reflection of her needs. Why be content to picnic in Central Park when she could climb the High Sierras? Now there was nothing keeping her from heading west and living the dream for real.

A road map and a couple of guidebooks and she’d arrived at the city of the smiley face purely by process of elimination. The two weeks vacation she was owed saw her on a plane to Seattle, her folio and reel packed alongside her hiking boots. After Manhattan, Seattle was spacious, precipitous and surprisingly sophisticated. From the top of the Space Needle she could see clear across forever. Not quite as high as the Empire State building, but the view was far more picturesque with a panorama that encompassed Puget Sound, the ice-encrusted Olympics in the west and the blue ridges of the Cascades in the east. While to the south, Mount Rainier flickered in and out of the mists like a ghostly magic lantern slide. She went bargain hunting at Pike Place, drank gallons of the best coffee she’d ever tasted, ate acres of clams, listened to every kind of emerging band from garage to house, caught the ferry from Bremerton to San Juan Island where she watched the Orcas dance from Lime Kiln Park, stayed Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas and hired a mountain bike and headed for the rain forest. Two weeks passed all too quickly, but when she returned to the Big Apple amongst her souvenirs were three firm job offers, and of the trio, one from a small boutique agency, Como, Schofeldt and Kurtz which she decided to accept.

Mister Gonads sat silhouetted upon the fence like a fat golden halo, one part Persian, three parts disreputable. At the sight of Leigh’s SUV he broke off his serenade and abandoning his enraptured audience of two tabbies and a Burmese Blue, raced to meet her. The sound of tins rattling in her purse causing him to issue a greeting of endearing meows that could almost, but not quite, convince Leigh that his affections were genuine and not to be purchased by something as trite as a tin of KiteKat.

The house was a rental but a good one. Set up on a hill overlooking Lake Union with two good size bedrooms, a dining area large enough to make her table seem like a whimsical corner setting and a deck which still offered matchless views across the lake despite the proliferation of apartment blocks which seemed to spring up on any vacant plot of land like weeds. And all for around half the rental she’d been paying for what amounted to a spacious hamster cage off a common entrance in Manhattan.

She stopped to check her mailbox. An AMEX bill for the last lot of repairs to the Cherokee and a reminder to renew her subscription to Ad Week. She bent down to scratch the cat’s head. He butted against her legs insistently, impatient at the delay. “C’mon kitty, come see what mommy’s got for you.”

Inside Mister Gonads wound himself tighter and tighter about her legs like a spring, vibrating with anticipation. He gave a snort of appreciation as she placed his dish before him, launching himself face first into the bowl. When it came to indulging in the pleasures of the flesh, Mister Gonad’s appetites could be described as neither dignified nor half-hearted.

Leigh showered, changed into the oversized T-shirt that served as night attire and thankfully slipped into bed. In seven hours she’d be back at her desk, making the last minute changes to the campaign before the presentation, now less than thirty-six hours away. The cat leapt up onto the bed and after kneading her thigh for several minutes to achieve the right consistency, lay down, curled up in the crook of her knees and gazed at her adoringly as if to say: Look how devoted I am. How can you doubt my love is anything other than unconditional?

Listening to the cat’s rhythmic hum her final thought before sleep was how right she had been to come here. In fact, it was turning out to be the best decision she’d ever made.

The phone rang dead on nine o’clock just as Ben was overlaying the sounds of battle in Middle-Earth. “Saved by the bell,” he muttered depressing the pause button to bring mix down to a halt. “Studio,” he announced needlessly as he knew exactly who had to be on the other end of the line.

“Good evening, Sir. I’m calling from the Capitol Hill chapter of Workaholics Anonymous. Do you know of anyone, a family member or friend perhaps who indulges in dangerous bouts of binge labor? Have you begun to suspect that they might be covering up clandestine sessions of late night toil? If the answer is ‘Yes,’ then don’t wait another minute. Our three-point program of beer, burgers and pool turns tycoons back into underachievers and puts an end once and for all to the misery of overtime drudgery.”

“Thanks, but I already gave at the office.”

“My point exactly, sir and it seems to me you are in desperate need of our intervention. If I may have a few minutes of your time to read you the following testimonial and I quote: ‘Until I discovered Workaholics Anonymous I just couldn’t stop mainlining on the work ethic. Sixteen, eighteen, even twenty hours at a stretch. I even told my family it was just ‘recreational’. It wasn’t until I’d amassed a personal fortune of eighty billion dollars that I realized the error of my ways. Now I just lie to the boss and what’s more, I believe me! Thank-you, Workaholics Anonymous for turning me into a regular, lazy, nine- to-five task-dodger just like every other cog in the machinery of corporate America. Signed W. Gates III, Seattle’.”

“Is this some kind of oblique way of asking me to come home?”

Zed paused on the other end of the line. “Not necessarily. But I was kind of wondering when you’d be through.”

The accusation, though silent, was there. Ben didn’t normally work back. He supposed he really should have called to let Zed know he was working late. Neatly sidestepping guilt he changed the subject. “So, how was your day?”

“Okay, I guess. Some advertising agency poseur came in first up to record a jingle. You know the type, big German car, three thousand-dollar suit, a Blackberry in every pocket. None of which manage to disguise the fact that basically the guy is an asshole. Got all precious when I told him the lyrics for his stupid tinned fish commercial didn’t fit with the melody line we’d already laid down because he’d neglected to inform us that the dipshit who wrote them had re-written them yet again. I mean, what does it matter? They’re selling sockeye salmon not composing the Missa Solemnis. The session ran two hours over and this afternoon I get a call from the agency producer saying that as it’s just a pitch they think I really ought to reduce the costs. Strictly on the understanding of course, that should they win the account I can charge through the nose when it comes to putting down the real thing. How many times have we heard that before? You know as well as I do that if they win it they’ll take it straight over to those ass-kissers at Metropolis where they can be intravenously hooked up to a bottle of Dom Perignom all for the privilege of shelling out four hundred bucks an hour.”

So that explained it. Zed wasn’t just cheesed off at him for working late, he’d merely been looking forward to unburdening himself of the day’s disastrous details. “Whatever happened to ‘This is all for my greater good?’” Ben asked. “Don’t those books of yours tell you to do some creative visualization at times like these?”

“Sure. Right now I’m visualizing his BMW lying upside down in a ditch.”

Ben chuckled. So much for the peace, love and charka-enhancing philosophy Zed usually embraced. “That sounds like bad karma.”

“Bad for him, good for me. So, what time were you planning on leaving?”

Ben glanced at his watch. He really wanted to finish the battle before calling it a day. “I’d like to give it another hour if that’s okay with you. Want me to bring anything back for supper?” On the other end of the line Zed hummed noncommittally. Ben tried again. “Chinese? Vietnamese?” Vietnamese was Zed’s particular favorite.

“I was thinking more along the line of tonight’s special at Annie’s.”

“What, no boar in black bean sauce?”

“Had it for breakfast.”

“Look, why don’t you go ahead and I’ll meet you at Annie’s in an hour.”

Annie’s or Anne of Green Tables to the locals, was their local bar. There was no video jukebox, no snack foods that weren’t encrusted in salt and fat and no imported bottled water. The clientele was made up of locals and a handful of university students who had heard that the food was cheap and served generously. It was strictly the kind of place you went to relax and shoot a few games of pool. The posing ‘til closing crowd were not encouraged and even if they stumbled upon the place would have found little to persuade them to idle which was just the way the regulars liked it. Sudden popularity could poison the atmosphere of a place faster than rush hour in Mexico City.

After Zed had rung off Ben placed gaffer tape markers on each channel to show what sound effect it contained. Clashing swords on two. Horses hooves on three. Elf horns (actually from Tibet) on four. Ambient sounds five. Ben wasn’t content to give his listeners a straight read but liked to overlay the soundtrack with as many effects as the antiquated desk would allow in order to give each recording added depth and feel. He enjoyed painting pictures with sound for those would otherwise not see them. And if you had asked him if his unprecipitated career change had been worth it, the lack of security, the drop in income, the loss of the company car, health plan and expense account he’d always taken for granted, he would have answered without hesitation an unequivocal ‘Yes’. Not just because what he was doing gave him a real sense of satisfaction, but also for the simple reason that without any of this he never would have met Zed.

There had been no one in his life since he and Grae had parted three years ago, little knowing at the time that neither of them were to set eyes upon the other again. Protracted periods of celibacy didn’t worry Ben. And in a world gone crazy, where making love to someone could kill you, it paid to be if not exactly chaste, then certainly circumspect. Zed ran Puget Sounds, a small recording studio and engineering school located in the basement of a Belltown movie theater with arthouse pretensions, whose somewhat prurient program nevertheless passed in some circles as Cinema Verite. It was here that Ben had signed on for the twelve-week course that as it turned out was to transform not just his working life but, his personal one as well.

Zedidiah Laban Rivers. Former child star turned wanna-be-star-maker. Born-again Buddhist baby with his surfie blond hair, love beads and permanent high. Not from any controlled substance as most suspected, but purely from an undiluted love of living. Zed with his library of self-help books, whose constant quest for self-improvement drove him to embrace the philosophy of the current ‘Guru du jour’ whose promises of enlightenment and riches amounted to little except to engender sufficient motivation to purchase the author’s next book. Zed who dreamt of taking the music world by storm with a new sound: Zen Funk. Zed who squeezed the toothpaste from the middle of the tube, flushed his coffee grounds down the sink and always left his sailboard propped in the hallway ready to topple over the moment Ben opened the front door. Zed who in turn irritated Ben and whom Ben adored in a thousand different ways.

They made quite a couple. Ben with his buttoned down Brooks Brothers suits, Zed with his flouro board shirts and Southpark T shirts. Bill Gates meets Tom Robbins. A marriage between Mogadon and Ecstasy, Ben had once joked. But for some reason it worked. Timing said Ben, karma said Zed. But wasn’t that the same thing? Now Ben had replaced Brooks Brothers with Levi’s while Zed had learned how to run Microsoft Office on his PC instead of just Zelda.

Zed continued to run his courses, usually filled with students with the acoustical aptitude of a post, while Ben brought the word to those who could not see. Both biding their time, waiting for the big break. The chance to make an album with an up-and-coming band that could take Zed Funk to the masses at which point the Seachange would be complete and they would head for the San Juans. The deaf and the blind. There had to be a joke in there somewhere, albeit a politically incorrect one.

Ben was just marking channel six in which he’d stored the sound of a flamethrower which just might have to double for a dragon, when his telephone rang for the second time. He glanced at his watch. As only fifteen minutes had passed since the last call it had to be Zed ringing back to say he’d changed his mind about Annie’s. The switchboard was long since closed down for the night and the only calls to come through at this time would be from those who had the number of the direct line to the studio.

“Ben Galloway?”

The voice carried a distinct Irish brogue. If not Zed then who?

“Speaking.”

“Forgive the interruption but I called your home and was told you were still at work. My name’s Conor McHugh. I’m the director of the Seabourne Institute up at Apollo Bay. David Cooper gave me your name. Said that he thought you might be interested in helping us out with an echolocation project we’re currently working on.”

David was Northwest’s Director and Ben’s employer. That certainly explained how McHugh had got hold of his number, but not why the Head of an aquatic theme park would telephone Ben late at night, or at any other time for that matter.

“Echolocation?”

“In layman’s terms, dolphin sonar.”

“You’ve lost me. Listen, are you sure you’re speaking to the right person? I mean, I don’t know what Coop has told you but I’m a sound engineer. The closest I’ve ever been to a dolphin is watching re-runs of Flipper and what I know about them wouldn’t fill a fishbowl. Sorry, Mr. McHugh, but I think that you’ve been misinformed.”

“It’s Doctor McHugh actually Ben, but I’d prefer Conor. And from what David’s told me I’m pretty sure I’m talking to exactly the right person. What we need up here is someone who not only has the basics in sound engineering but also a thorough knowledge of computer programming. Coop tells me your backgrounds in software development which could be very useful in the research we’re currently conducting.”

“This isn’t anything to do with the military is it? You know, like teaching dolphins to attach mines to submarines or any shit like that?”

The Irishman chuckled. “No, no shit like that Ben, I can assure you. Our organization relies on private sponsorship and the revenue generated by the park itself to fund its research. We have no links to the military or any government department. Besides which we strongly oppose the use of marine mammals for military operations of any kind.”

“That’s good to know Dr. McHugh, but I still have to tell you that you’re wasting your time. I’m very happy here at Northwest and have no intention of leaving, so whatever your offer is, I’m going to have to decline.”

There was a pause on the other end as if the listener was engaged in an inner debate whether to advance the argument with some incentive or retreat. Finally McHugh sighed with the resignation of one faced with ceding the battle but unable to relinquish the war. “I appreciate your frankness, Ben. It’s nice to know Coop’s got some loyal people down there at Norwest. Believe me, it’s a rare quality to find in an employee nowadays. Anyway, I won’t take up any more of your time. Just remember that circumstances change. Nice talking to you, Ben.”

“Nice talking to you too,” Ben replied by rote then hung up and promptly forgot the conversation had ever taken place.

La Sirena, or The Mermaid was a filthy black bitch of a boat which proudly stank of her vocation. The ring of rust about her hull was all that passed for a Plimsoll line and even berthed she listed badly to starboard. She had the graceful lines of a brick and looked to be about as seaworthy as a kettle. Were it not for the sight of her crew swarming about her decks, making ready to catch the tide Kyle might have thought her a wreck towed into port for salvage. Never one to be superstitious, Kyle nevertheless found himself throwing up a silent prayer to Saint Peter as well as any other seafaring deity who might be disposed to listen. It was apparent that she was going to need all the help she could get just to clear the harbor markers.

He’d neglected to shave since his arrival in Panama City. Three days growth combined with as many nights sleeping in his clothes in humidity so rank that the walls of the filthy room he’d rented seemed to sigh with moisture, had left him with the beginnings of an interesting fungal infection that had started between his toes and which was now rapidly spreading to any unventilated part of his anatomy. The eyepatch didn’t help either. Sweat pooled behind it like a tortuous collection of tears, while the elastic burned into his skull like rawhide. Unfortunately it was an essential accessory to the disreputability he was trying so desperately hard to cultivate. Ahead by the gangplank, one of the ship’s officers leant, content with just watching the others make ready to set sail, his role of observer clearly the sole privilege of his rank.

“Hear you’re looking for a cook?”

The man looked up at his approach, subjected him to a rapid assessment and finding this wanting spat profusely, adding yet more credibility to Kyle’s already disreputable deck shoes. “You heard wrong.”

American. Kyle wondered just what unfortunate career curve declination had sunk the man to skippering a filthy tuna seiner out of Panama. “If you’re referring to Montse he’s still sleeping off his shore leave in a Meat Street whorehouse. When he comes to the only dish he’s likely to prepare is sidewalk pizza and a ship’s crew needs more than left overs for ballast.” Kyle shrugged as if to emphasize the futility of further discussion.

The Captain remained unmoved. “You a friend of his?”

“You could say that.”

Indeed last night Montse had considered the American he’d just met in a waterfront bar not just a friend but a brother. He did not question why the stranger was so free with his money and his liquor, even to the extent of paying the fifty dollars for the blonde whore that Montse had had the mind but not the wherewithal to fuck since they’d put in to port a week before. As fate transpired, by the time his new found companiero had helped him up the brothel staircase to her room he was too far gone to perform any of the athletic feats he had been so colorfully boasting of all evening. However, another two fifty dollar bills had ensured that the girl would remain to give him a second opportunity when he finally surfaced, provided his head and stomach would allow it, at least until after the ship had set sail.

“He felt bad about letting you down,” Kyle lied. “That’s why he sent me.”

For the first time the man smiled, showing large, white and incredibly even teeth, clearly the benefit of some past company dental plan. “Don’t sound like Montse to me. He wouldn’t give a flying fuck whether we set sail with bellies as empty as our hold. The man’s about as reliable as the Magellan Strait in winter and his cooking was just as unpredictable.’” Memories of Montse’s past culinary disasters were clearly sufficient argument for his replacement. He held out a meaty hand which like his vessel and the rest of his weather-beaten features was grizzled with grime and hopelessness. “Jake Priestly.”

Kyle reached out and took it. “Sam. Sam LaBudde,” he lied for the second time in five minutes.

The galley was surprisingly clean and well equipped although stores were somewhat depleted. A couple of sacks of flour, rice, onions, dried beans and okra. Tucked away in the corner of the storeroom he discovered a sack of potatoes whose contents had begun to explore the darkness with obscene anemic shoots in a desperate search for somewhere to take root. The icebox contained a side of bacon, some cheese with a distinct green patina and several dozen eggs of indeterminate age. The freezer, large pieces of some kind of animal flesh whose origins he preferred not to dwell on. Along with the potatoes he found a case of tequila, three boxes of extra hot chili sauce and several large drums of vegetable oil. It was abundantly clear from this inventory that if the crew’s diet was to include anything fresh it would have to be caught.

Picking up the oil cans, Kyle shook each one in turn, finally selecting the two lightest and draining off the remains into the fryer on top of the galley stove. With an opener he then removed the top of the first can and wiped down the inside, carefully removing all traces of oil. With a sharp serrated edged knife he cut a small circular aperture in the side, some four inches from the base, about an inch and a half in diameter. Bending the sharp metal edges back inward, he then lined the hole with aluminum foil.

He worked fast. Since the real Sam LaBudde had brought a camcorder aboard a similar vessel in the ‘70’s and filmed the wholesale slaughter of dolphins dying in tuna nets, no skipper worth his salt would allow a crew member to bring one on board. Especially a new one. If he was caught, well ~ plenty of accidents happened at sea.

A throbbing from the bowels of the vessel told him they were about to get underway, the engine’s caliginous roar announcing their departure more effectively than any siren. From the kit bag he’d brought on board with him he took out his bedroll, inside which the tiny digital camcorder had been carefully hidden. Working fast he checked the battery then wrapped the body of the camera in a plastic bag, which he secured with an elastic band, leaving the lens free. He then placed it inside the canister, wedging it snugly with some kitchen rags and pieces of egg carton, the camera lens flush with the hole he’d created.

Working quickly he took up the second canister, again removing the top but this time cutting lower, leaving a half-inch border from the rim. Bending this inwards slightly he pushed the lid down on top of the drum containing the camera until the sides were flush with the top. At a quick glance it was now indistinguishable from the others. Carefully, so as not to disturb the contents within he placed the canister on a shelf just below a starboard porthole with the hidden camera facing seaward.

Sweeping the remains of his handiwork into the garbage bin Kyle lit the burner under the griddle just as the door to the galley opened and a voice inquired: “Hey Cookie! What’s for supper?”

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One response

17 06 2008
Maria

I loved the beautifully written “My Stroke of Insight – a Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey” by Jill Bolte Taylor and her incredible talk on TED dot com. Dr. Taylor’s unique perspective as a Harvard neuroanatomist having a stroke, combined with her sensitivity and awareness, produced something as powerful as I’ve ever witnessed. I want to share Dr Taylor’s story far and wide because it’s a wonderful story and a great book to read, but more importantly, this is the message we desperately need if we are to survive as a species.

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