By the time Ted and Carly Evans finished calling in another APB to the police station, there was a crusier in front of the resort waiting to escort them to the hospital. They listened to the attending physician's report in stunned silence. Their son was lucky to be alive, she told them crisply. A passing boat had seen him floating in the surf and hauled him out, but he been awash for at least three minutes. "Very possibly he was out there for longer. Frankly, I don't know how he managed to survive."
"Could we see him?" Carly asked in a shaking voice.
They walked down the hall to one of the small rooms in the ICU. The shift nurse opened the door for them, and they saw Cooper lying there so terribly still, the machines feeding him oxygen, the monitors recording his sluggish pulse. Carly sobbed quietly into her hands. Ted's shoulders trembled, but he was quiet.
"There is an officer waiting in the reception area for the two of you," the doctor said. "He needs to speak with the two of you to confirm the boaters' story. I'll walk you over there when you're ready."
Carly nodded and left the room. Ted lingered for a bit, not quite able to reach past the tubes and wires to his son. "I had no idea he wanted to fish so much."
It didn't take Grant long to decide that he did not care for Dania's fiance or friends much at all. Stiles was a deeply unpleasant man to be around, and her friends, while much more cheerful and talkative than Stiles himself, were just what they seemed to be--bored soccer moms. He tried not to imagine Dania turning into this a few years down the road, but it seemed practically inveitable.
The conversation turned to the latest novella from a local author. Grant attempted to stifle a yawn.
"... Rebecca loved
that series. She had the hardback editions."
"Are you kidding? How did she manage to get those? I looked all over the place for them!"
"Oh, she picked them up while she was traveling for work, when she went up to Jersey."
Grant shifted his weight slightly, leaning in just a bit. "She went six states up just to get a series of books? That's dedication."
"No, of course not," Dania giggled. "She was always on the road."
"Was she in sales?" Dania asked her friends. They pursed their lips, deep in thought. "I thought she did some kind of sales, why else travel so much? ... no, she wasn't in sales, wasn't she some sort of trainer? Or a supervisor, remember the time she had to file all of those reports in, like, eight hours? We had to bring her so much coffee ..."
"Personally," Stiles interrupted unexpectedly, "I bet she was a crook."
"C'mon, now. She always worked at night, she never invited any of you over to her house. None of you even know what company she worked for."
"You could say that about a lot of people though," one of the women argued.
"Really? What was her last name?"
There was an uncomfortable pause. Someone finally ventured, "... Starke?"
"No," Dania said quickly. "She told me it was Barrington."
"Wasn't Barrington the name of her ex-husband?"
Stiles looked triumphant. "See? None of you even know, and you're all supposed to be her friend."
At this bit of rudeness, one of the women stood indignantly. "I've had it. This was supposed to be a pleasant get-together, and you've managed to ruin it as usual. Dania, I'll call you later." And she stomped off. The other women, taking the hint, made similar excuses to leave and vanished into the crowds, leaving Dania alone and looking visibly deflated.
"I'm sorry, Grant. This always seems to happen when I invite everyone out together. But ... well, anyway. It's a beautiful afternoon, enjoy it." She and Stiles excused themselves and moved away. His phone buzzed in his pocket. Naturally she calls now.
"Your hunch was appropriate, but I think we can both safely say it's a bust. Go on home and pack up. I'll have a charter come down for you around 10."
It didn't take him long at all to arrange his things and lock up the cottage. He was sorry to leave the garden, but figured that he could just start another wherever he ended up next.
His phone rang. The caller ID flashed Dania. Why would she be calling at this time of night? "Hello."
"Hi there." Her voice echoed in his ear and in the air. She wasn't even one hundred feet away, standing by the rocky shore. He hung up and approached. "Making a late evening of it?"
"I couldn't sleep. (15) You fishing?"
"I couldn't sleep either."
The waves roared behind them as they stood there silently, looking at each other.
Finally, Dania laughed self-consciously. "Grant, you'll have to forgive me. It's possible I'm being very stupid ... but what Stiles said today actually made me think for a while. As much as I liked Rebecca, I didn't know her well at all, and in a weird way, you remind me of her."
He leaned forward, pretending to adjust the sweater neck. The wire lay securely against his chest. "How's that?"
"Hard to describe ... but it's something about your eyes. They're observant. Like you're watching everything around you." She smiled, but more for herself. "Rebecca just always gave me the impression that she was a lot more than she appeared to be. I'm sorry, I'm not explaining this well--"
He gestured to her to go on.
"As little as I really know about her, I always considered her to be one of my best friends. I'm sure that's foolish. But now she's gone and she isn't calling anymore, and well ... I'd really like to have another good friend."
The wire burned his skin.
"Are you cold? You're shivering."
"No," he said abruptly. "Just trying to figure something out."
"About Stiles, I guess?"
"No, I think I understand him." He leaned in closer. Her eyes dropped, then met his again, registering confusion. But for a split second, he had seen just what he was looking for--fear. No one else would have known to look at his chest. He caught her hand quickly, and just as he expected, she instinctly attempted to break his grip--not by pulling away, like most people, but with an explosive movement of her hand. The martial arts training never lied. "There is no Rebecca, is there."
Her cornered look gave it away. "The agency has a long reach, I see. I'd hoped laying low in a backwater town on the coast might keep me safe for a little longer. I was wrong. Again." She looked down, deep into the sand. "It's embarrassing, you know. Did they even tell you why they're trying to haul me into court?"
"I'm afraid I didn't ask."
She snorted derisively. "I'm a whistleblower. A little too much embarrassment for a couple of executives with their hands in the cookie jar. For all of the federal laws that are supposed to protect people like me, when worst came to worst it was easier to cut me loose. So I thought I'd do them a favor and take off. Of course, all that did was give them an excuse to serve a federal warrant for my arrest." She looked at Grant bitterly. "All this because two idiots couldn't keep their paws off each other during working hours. Poor me, all I did was walk in to drop off a file."
She stood there sulking for a few moments before realizing that Grant hadn't moved. "Well? You've got a job to do, agent. Aren't you going to arrest me?"
She looked taken aback. "No?"
"Consider it a favor from a friend. Besides, you're getting married to one of the most asinine men I've ever met. That's probably worse than federal prison."
"There is that," she said dully. "But if you're wired, someone already knows that you've found me. How are you going to explain coming back empty-handed?"
"For starters, I muffled the mic a while ago since I don't like wearing them. Besides, you're a spy like me. You already know that you can make anyone see what they want to see. My boss already believes that I'm sleeping with you, I'll just tell her that we did and afterwards you punched me out."