Writing Samples, Thoughts, New Projects
GABBY (Gabriela Addison Babich)
Gabby is the new book I'm working on. I may change the main character's name and/or book title prior to publication. I'm hoping to complete this by the summer. I love this character and have wanted to write someone like her for a long time. She's an incredibly strong, determined, disciplined and gifted young girl who grows up in a very patriarchal, poor, South Florida family. Her mother, while loving, is unimaginative and uninspiring and Gabby's logical life path is dim until she develops a relationship with woman who is everything her mother is not. To compensate for her diminutive stature (Gabby is just 5' tall) she becomes a student of Krav Maga which is just one of the many skills I give her in this first book of what I expect to be a really compelling series.
Gabby Part 1, Chapter 1
His hands were dirty; the nails chipped and broken. The key he was manipulating through the other side of the door trembled ever so slightly as the screwdriver made initial contact. He felt it and smiled before slowly pushing the key backwards out of the old lockset. Once clear it fell end over end to the floor landing silently on several pages of newspaper he’d slid under the door in advance. Besides deadening the sound, the newspaper also allowed him to pull the key back under the door to his side.
I was just 12 years old at the time and showering; clueless of the true depravity of men. Locking the bathroom door was something all of us did to prevent another family member from inadvertently walking in and causing embarrassment. It was never intended as a serious security measure. My hair was full of soap and my eyes were screwed shut.
Once he had the key in hand, he held it up proudly in front of his three co-conspirators and smiled cruelly. All four of them looked like characters from Deliverance, dressed in filthy jeans, camouflage shirts and mud laden work boots. They shuffled their feet impatiently leaving clods of dirt on the floor. They’d probably just come from murdering an innocent drey of squirrels.
Gabby Part 1, Chapter 2
My name is Gabriela Addison Babich, but no one calls me any part of that. Most people just call me Gabby or Gab. I’m twenty-eight-years-old. My mother and father’s given names are Francis and Harley; my brothers are Damon and Harley. I grew up with my family in the township of Ada alongside the Caloosahatchee River right next to Fort Myers, Florida. The Gulf of Mexico is just a 30-minute skiff ride downriver from our dock.
We straddled a geographic and a cultural intersection. A geographic one because we lived right on the line between vast open ranches and farms that make up most of the land area of Florida and the coastal people, who live in gated communities and 1/8th acre canal-front homes alongside the Gulf and the Atlantic. It was a cultural one because it’s the same line where the wealthy and privileged met the poor and hardscrabble. We fell in the latter category. Daddy’s been a shrimper his whole life and still keeps his boat, Damon & Harley, tied up on San Carlos Island when he’s not out in the Gulf. It’s also where he offloads his shrimp and fuels her.
Our driveway is off a no-name, single lane, paved road that went literally nowhere. It stopped a half mile past us with no warning; no turnaround, nothing. It’s like the road man got dementia one day and simply forgot where he’d been paving the day before. I’ve been told a developer put the road in back in the 70’s with plans of putting up a vacation resort. He must have had dementia too as there’s nothing at the end of it but fields full of cow flop, swamp and river.
Gabby Part I Chapter 3
I have a 142 IQ and got straight A’s all the way through high school. I’ve been a runner since the age of 11 and I’ve done 10 marathons and two Ironman Triathlons. I’m proud of those Ironmans and finished both in under 9 ½ hours, but they really aren’t my cup of tea. They’re hard on your body and I realized after doing them if I really wanted to be competitive at that sport, I’d have to give up darn near everything else to train. There were too many other things I wanted to do. My point in telling you about me being physically fit and a runner is I want you to know I’m disciplined. I’ve always been willing to put in the work to excel. I’m not the best at anything I know of but I’m darned good at a lot of things. Life is like a giant buffet and I want to try as many dishes as possible before I die. I don’t put any limitations on myself and will try anything.
I know how to sail; I can run any power boat with no regard to size or number of engines, I can fly a plane, frame a house, tie a fly, carve a bird out of wood, dress a deer and back up a trailer. I can also cook. I love food and I always tell people if you can learn to fly an airplane then you can also become an excellent cook. Both skills involve being able to plan, monitor and control lots of different things at the same time. Same thing with being a boat Captain; if you learn your basics well enough, you don’t even have to think about actually driving which frees up a big part of your mind for noticing and acting on the multitude of minutia that in the end determines whether you’re just a good cook/Captain/pilot, or a great one. People, as a rule, are so impatient these days they never get good at anything and take the easy way out and voyeuristically watch other people do things. Getting good at something takes work and lots of repetition. I’m also a second-degree black belt in Krav Maga which I’ve studied and practiced since the age of 16. Krav Maga is taught to all Israeli Defense Forces cadets in Israel. It’s a form of martial arts which helps me compensate for my petite stature.
Those are some of the things I can do; what about who I am? That’s more of a work in progress thing. At 28, I’ve still got a lot to learn if the past is any indication of the future. You already know I’ve got some issues with men and the fact that the system is mostly run by them and is rigged in their favor has influenced how I’ve gotten ahead over the years. Some of who I am is manipulative, but the majority of me is intuitive, disciplined and determined. I always keep my eye on the prize and keep plodding forward no matter what obstacles are in my path. I don’t compromise my honor or my values and, most importantly, I endeavor to bring excellence to everything I do. It’s amazing the effect this attitude of excellence has on people, especially when you’re willing to do the uncomfortable, inconvenient or mundane.
I don’t kiss-up to people or get them to talk about themselves because it’s their favorite subject and likely to have an associative effect on their opinion of me. No, I simply do any job asked of me to the very best of my ability, all the time. Bright men and women sense this commitment to excellence right away. They trust you and advance you. The ones that don’t are the ones you want to avoid. And if you can’t avoid them, work right through them or around them.
What do I look like? God, I wish looks weren’t such a powerful determinant of how we’re all treated in this world. I don’t think of myself as a beauty. I don’t even like the term. When I’d hear my brothers or other boys talk about some girl as being really pretty it always seemed to me that whoever they were talking about, was never anything but pretty. It was as if her physical appearance was her whole identity. I can see whether or not a man or a woman is attractive, but my next thought is always, ‘I wonder what he or she does, or what that person is thinking?’
See if you can make any sense of why I would draw the attention of men. Once I got through those early, awkward, pre-adolescent years, I did fill out some, but not much. My hips got a little bigger and I developed breasts. But they weren’t the ‘big’ sort sought by most men, they were the small, proud variety. I had and still have curly, shoulder length, dirty blonde hair but it’s average at best. It’s unruly and doesn’t take direction well. It does what it wants, when it wants.
My face is….well, it’s just my face. I don’t have any fancy cheek bones or some patrician nose that would set me apart. I might even call it a little smushed. And when I laugh, I’ve been known to snort if I really get going.
I’ve got dozens of freckles to either side of my nose and under my eyes which seem to procreate in the sun, and an annoying mole above my top lip on the right side which looks like a mistake or a misplaced accessory. It serves no useful purpose. Thankfully there’s no big ole hair growing out of the middle of it.
My lips are full but not the pouty kind like men fantasize about. My teeth are anything but perfect. They’re white, but orthodontics was not in a shrimping family’s household budget. My top two middle teeth have a gap between them, and both have a little twist of about 3-degrees away from one another as if they aren’t speaking. I’m also missing a tooth on the left side, right behind my canine. Harley found a golf club in someone’s trash when we were kids and wanted to show me how far he could hit a pinecone with it. I was standing too close behind him and his back swing got me. Daddy took me to the emergency room to get looked at and asked if they knew how much an implant would cost. The doctor told him about $4,000. Daddy didn’t respond until we were back in his truck.
“Four grand for a tooth! I don’t think so. Damn girl, you’ve still got 30 or so left, I don’t think you’ll miss it.”
Daddy was right, and as long as I don’t smile, no one can tell it’s missing.
To finish off; my arms are striated and sinewy from hard work and running, my stomach’s flat, thanks to not having had kids yet and years of martial arts. My legs are strong and defined (also from running), but they’re also short which contributes to an overall height deficiency. I am just 5’ short.
I saved the one feature I like about me, for last. It’s my eyes. I think all those hours helping my mother make jewelry out of semi-precious stones gave me an appreciation for my eyes. They’re gem-quality jade in color and clarity. Tiny, yellow, starbursts resembling sunflower petals surround my black pupils and then explode outward in thousands of micro-rivulets of a unique grey and green color. People stare at them a second too long when I’m introduced, and sometimes, I even catch people I’ve known for years studying them, trying to figure them out. They must break some sort of eye rule.
In summary, I’m a flat, short, average woman with a wild head of hair, a face and mouth full of distracting imperfections, I have the musculature of a Kenyan long-distance runner and, I’ve got really cool eyes. That’s it. Why then, have men of all ages always been attracted to me?
I know for certain it’s not my no-nonsense, direct, stubborn, demeanor, my book smarts, fitness or outside interests. It’s not my ability to drive damn near anything or engage on any subject. All these things just piss most men off and remind them of their own limitations. I’ve got a theory but will wait till later to share it.
Maelstrom Part I (From Chapter 5)
Below, Ryan lay curled up in the aft quarter berth directly below the starboard side of the cockpit, alternating between the coma his body craved, and the half-awake/half asleep fitful rest his mind would allow. Lying there, he kept thinking of Tory. No matter the depth or difficulty of the distractions that he’d faced in the weeks preceding their departure, the moment his mind was not specifically focused, challenged, or otherwise directed, it invariably wandered to her and the children, much the way water seeps into a hole dug at the ocean’s edge. Sweet, mysterious Tory: fiercely independent and self-sufficient, yet tender and vulnerable at the same time. To date, their physical contact had been limited to small passing touches and their intimacy to a close familiarity that came from working closely towards a common goal. He’d been content to just be with her and savor the dichotomy of her personality rather than rushing into an intense, short-lived, sexual experience that was the norm for him.
He also knew that she was completely devoted to Jan and Willy, a relationship that was almost symbiotic. The three of them came as a package deal. He also suspected, from the way she jealously guarded and protected them, and the way they seldom left her side, that there was more to their family history than she’d chosen to share with him so far. He wondered if the roles were reversed whether he would have been up to the challenge of raising two children alone and slid gratefully back into his comatose state without an answer.
On deck Tory fought an increasingly strong windward helm with the waves frequently washing down the leeward side of the deck. The anemometer now indicated a steady 24 knots of breeze with gusts to 28. Tory was suffering from a false optimism and paralysis that often afflicts helmsmen on dark nights; if they wait just a little longer, the wind will calm some and it won't be necessary to wake everyone to reduce sail. If you’re skirting a passing squall it’s often possible to change course and trim slightly and accomplish this alone, but she did not yet have the experience to differentiate between a passing squall and an approaching front line, nor did she have the confidence to alter course and trim sail on her own. If she’d gone below during the previous hours to look at the barometer, she would have seen that the pressure was falling, rapidly, indicating more than just a passing squall. But she hadn’t.
The first indication Ryan had that something was wrong was Tory’s scream as Parthenia rounded up into the wind. The wind spilled from the sails, the boat came quickly upright out of her 20-degree heel and the sails started luffing, the crisp Dacron luffs of both the main and the jib cracking back and forth in the escalating wind. Ryan woke up immediately and launched himself out of the bunk to the companionway stairs and slid back the hatch not knowing what to expect on deck. He quickly assessed the wind, sea and sky and knew they had to head off the wind and reduce sail immediately or run the risk of shaking the rig apart. The blackness on deck was total except for the instrument and compass lights and the phosphorous kicked up by the boat pounding into the oncoming waves. Conditions had decayed dramatically from when he’d turned the helm over to her at midnight and he cursed himself for not having acted on the harbinger of high thin clouds that had been moving in as he went below. He should have taken a reef before going below.
He rushed up the companionway ladder into the cold night air and yelled to Tory to turn the boat away from the wind and pointed downwind. Bending over the genoa winch he started to ease the sail out as the boat started its turn downwind.
“What's your course now?”
“185 degrees,” she yelled back.
“Take her down another 30 degrees.” Tory continued to turn the wheel and watch the compass. Ryan slackened the mainsail along with the jib as they came off the wind. Within moments the boat was moving through the water once again at a good clip with the wind now aft of the beam. Once Tory was settled on the new course Ryan climbed up behind her and stood on the lazaret hatch with one hand gripping the backstay. From this vantage point he could see how well she was able to steer the new course he’d given her and better assess the overall conditions. He also knew it must have scared her the moment they rounded-up into the wind and he wanted to reassure her that things were again now under control and that she was doing a good job.
She steered the new course with rigid determination, convinced that she’d almost killed them all. He watched their course for several moments and then leaned close enough so he didn’t have to yell.
“Why didn't you wake me earlier before the wind increased so much?”
“I did! I stomped on the floor over your head for almost five minutes like you told me to, but you didn't hear me!”
He leaned down and put his arm around her shoulder. “I’m sorry, I must have been really out. We'll work out a better system in the morning. Can you stay on the helm for a few more minutes while I get on a harness? We’re going to have to get back on course and I need to reef the mainsail to do that.”
Tory nodded yes, and Ryan went below to get a safety harness and flashlight. He also wanted to check on Willy and Jan who were both anxiously peering over the webbing wall he’d rigged to the outside edge of their bunk up to the cabin ceiling to keep them from falling out of the bunk they were sharing. “You guys OK?”
Their two shy, tousled heads nodded yes. “Is Mom OK?” Jan asked.
Ryan smiled down at both of them reassuringly. “Yeah, she's fine. The wind just got a little stronger since you went to sleep. I’m going to take some sail down so we can be more comfortable.”
He got into his safety harness then reached behind the companion-way ladder to the central switchboard and flipped on the overhead spreader lights. Instantly the mast and foredeck of Parthenia were illuminated. The lights would make his job of reefing the mainsail easier. The downside was that Tory would have to concentrate harder on steering an exact compass course as the bright light would ruin her night vision and make compensation for wave action more difficult. He reached over the cockpit combing and clipped onto the lifeline that ran fore and aft along both sides of the deck. Before heading forward he explained to Tory what he was going to do and what was expected of her. “The most important thing for you to do is keep a steady course and stand ready to make adjustments when I yell them back to you. Ready?” She nodded and he stepped out of the cockpit onto the deck and crab-walked up the windward side holding the cabin roof-rail as he went. He used extra caution as he moved. Tory had learned a lot over the previous days, but he knew there was little chance that she’d be able to manage the boat alone and less that she could return to find him if he did fall overboard in the current conditions. When he reached the base of the mast, a cold, stinging rain started and quickly soaked him. Still dressed only in his underwear he muttered an expletive as goose bumps quickly rose on his near naked skin and he bent to untie the main halyard and lower the mainsail several feet to the first reef point.
Tory looked up from the compass every few seconds to check on his progress. When the rain began and started pelting her in the face and eyes, she lowered the visor on her foul weather gear another inch. “What the hell am I doing here?” she wondered. When she’d originally asked Ryan if they could all accompany him, she’d had visions of soft trade winds, hot sunny days and exotic fruit drinks in tropical, out of the way anchorages. This was anything but that. She trusted Ryan and his judgment, but the natural forces present were intimidating and underscored their total isolation from the outside world.
Ryan realized they’d have to head back up into the wind several degrees as the main was still too full to pull the tack of the sail down far enough to slip the reefing ring over the hook on the gooseneck. He yelled back, “Tory, bring her back up into the wind 10 degrees.”
Tory put her hand to her ear signaling that she hadn't heard his instruction and he pointed with his hand in a windward direction which she understood. Gradually she steered Parthenia back up into the wind until the main started luffing again. He held his hand up for her to stop. She assumed correctly that this was the new course he wanted her to maintain and returned her focus to the compass. After securing the new tack point on the reefing hook, Ryan grabbed a winch handle from the deck box at the foot of the mast, tightened the halyard again and turned his attention to the second half of the reefing operation which entailed winching in all the excess sail at the rear or “luff” end of the boom and bringing it down tight. He did this, then standing for a few moments at the base of the mast, looked forward and sized up the sea and wind again. “Better to take another reef,” he thought, and reached down to lower the mainsail yet another few feet and again took up halyard tension and winched in the excess luff. He then started to work his way back to the cockpit on the cabin roof using the reefing ties as he went to tie up the excess sail now hanging uselessly below the boom.
Tory watched as Ryan worked. He’d been in such a hurry to get on deck and reduce sail that he hadn’t put on any clothes before coming on deck and was still dressed in only his underwear. Tory smiled and critically appraised him in the harsh lights of the spreaders. Ryan was only about 5-foot-10, but he was incredibly fit and it showed in the striation of every muscle as he went about his work. He had large shoulders with lean defined deltoids, a hard, flat stomach, good pecs, sculpted ass and truly great calves, she mused. Tory didn’t work out but, in the weeks, leading up to their departure she’d noted his routine of running several miles every other day and lifting weights at the local gym at least three times a week. It showed and his dedication over the years had left him with an enviable physique for someone half his age.
“What am I thinking,” she said to herself. “Here we are in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, in a raging storm, and I can’t keep my eyes off this guy.”
He looked back towards the cockpit several times as he worked and was aware of her appraisal. He was nearly naked and as he climbed down into the cockpit suddenly felt exposed and self-aware in his wet briefs. He tried to cover his discomfort. “Let's head back up to our original course and I’ll trim as you bring her up.”
Tory nodded with a smile and slowly brought the boat back to 162 degrees.
“What are you smiling at?” he asked.
“Oh, nothing,” she chuckled gently and pointedly averted her gaze in a direction away from him.
Ryan turned serious again. “Can you stay at the helm just a bit longer so I can go below, check our position and maybe get on some clothes and foul weather gear?”
Tory sputtered then laughed before nodding. Ryan went below, plotted their position on the chart and then looked up to the barometer to note it in the log. He looked at the earlier barometer notation from three hours earlier. It had fallen substantially in the short period. He also checked the wind speed again on the anemometer and noted that it had risen to a steady 30 mph and was now gusting to 35. ‘This is going to get a lot worse before it gets better,’ he thought and went forward to dig the small storm jib out of the sail locker. In all the years he’d owned Parthenia and the dozens of trips south he’d made, Ryan had only had to use it a handful of times. On the last occasion, the wind had peaked at 72 knots with seas as tall as the masthead and at the height of that storm they had taken a knockdown and the three-burner stove had broken free from its gimbals and nearly killed a close friend who was asleep in a bunk across the cabin. The heavy stove had shattered his friend’s shoulder and caused considerable damage below before they were able to wrestle it into a corner and tie it to the mast. The next day they had him airlifted off the boat by the Bermuda Coast Guard.
With that in mind and before going back on deck, he made a thorough check around the cabin to make sure everything was stowed and dogged properly, including the lids on the battery boxes and the heavy propane stove in the galley. He hoped they didn't have a repeat of the storm he’d endured several years ago because it was sure to terrify Tory and the kids, but he’d every confidence in Parthenia’s ability to weather anything short of a hurricane. After checking on the children, he pulled on his foul-weather gear, grabbed the storm jib and climbed back up the ladder into the black night.
“Tory, I’m going to replace the No. 3 with a smaller storm jib.”
She looked up at him. “Do you really think we need to?”
“The barometer has fallen a lot over the last few hours and there’s a good chance it’s going to get worse. With us shorthanded I’d rather make the effort now while I can still work the foredeck. Can you hang in there for another 15 minutes?”
She was shivering from the damp and cold and dead tired, but she nodded yes. Ryan snapped into the lifeline again and grabbed several sail ties and started working his way forward, dragging the bagged storm jib behind him. The seas were breaking over the bow with increasing frequency and he knew it would take longer than usual to get things squared away. He secured the storm jib to the base of the mast, then worked his way back to the cockpit and had Tory bear off the wind some more and eased the sheets accordingly. He figured they’d probably take less water across the deck on this point of sail and went back forward to drop the No.3. Manhandling it to the deck, he rolled it forward to the bow, tied several sail ties around it, unclipped the hanks, then dragged the whole sodden mass back to the cockpit. Normally he would have dropped it through the forward deck hatch, but with the seas they were taking decided against it. One good-sized wave through the forward hatch could take them straight to the bottom. He rested for only a moment before heading forward yet again; this time to hank the tiny storm jib onto the forestay and to raise it. The only sail reduction left was to take a third and final reef in the main or lower it altogether. As they came back on course he felt a little foolish because their speed had dropped from 7 knots to just 3 knots and they were now underpowered for current conditions. But experience told him he’d made the right decision and he decided to wait things out and see if the storm developed over the next few hours. He set the Aries self-steering vane, turned and put his arm around Tory. She was still shivering. “Are you hungry?”
“Not for food, but I could drink something warm and I’d like to check on the kids.”
“Ok, we’ll both go below and I’ll make some coffee. You can change into warm, dry clothes.”
Tory pointed nervously to the Aries self-steering vane. “Can we really trust that thing to keep us on course?”
“For short periods on this point of sail, but I have to overhaul it when we get to Bermuda. I think it has a lot of salt built up in the gears.”
Tory nodded, but really didn’t understand the self-steering vane. Ryan told her before leaving that it would make their lives simpler, but it had been temperamental and ill-mannered since the first day and she didn’t trust it.
Ryan went below first, dragging the wet No. 3 jib up into the forward cabin. Then he started a pot of coffee in the coffeemaker and knelt down and petted Clifton as Tory explained to the children what it was like up on deck. When the coffee was ready, he filled two mugs and after passing one to Tory, sat down at the single side band radio to listen to the high-seas weather forecast. Tory clambered over the webbing into the large bunk the children were sharing and read them a story as she drank the hot liquid. Clifton made his way over to Ryan's side of the cabin and curled up at his feet under the chart table.
The high seas forecast for their area east of the Gulf Stream called for winds up to 55 knots from the northeast and 25-foot seas. A gale center had formed up off the coast of Hatteras and would pass directly over them during the next 12 to 24 hours. Ryan compared the broadcast position of the low with their position and realized there was a good chance they’d face much steeper, breaking seas as the wind built. He was glad he’d made the sail change when he had. Clifton whined several times as he made his 4 a.m. log entry and after Ryan finished what he was doing, helped him up the ladder and into the cockpit after attaching a lead to his collar. Once outside in the enclosed area of the cockpit Clifton gave him a disgusted look and lifted his leg against the inside. Not a fire hydrant, tree or wheel rim, but after eight straight hours below what's a dog to do? Clifton climbed back up to the companionway entrance and let Ryan help him below again.
The wind increased steadily over the next two hours and Ryan watched with dismay as it rose past 45 knots. He found he had to trim the sails every few minutes to keep them full because as it increased, it was also clocking around to their beam. As the wind increased, so did the seas, and it was a wild world he beheld as the sun slowly rose out of the east. By 6 a.m. it was gusting to 55 knots and even with the wind behind them, a storm jib and three reefs in the main, they were overpowered.
“Tory, I need you up on deck!”
Tory was feeling seasick after laying in her bunk below. With all the hatches and portholes closed the air was fetid. Normally quiet below, the noise and violence of the storm that raged outside easily penetrated Parthenia’s hull, making sleep impossible except for short catnaps. Sleep was also made more difficult by their excessive angle of heel and the jarring crashes that shuddered through the boat as waves slammed into her side. In many ways she felt even more tired than when she’d come below from her earlier watch just from the physical effort of trying to stay in her bunk. She was awake when Ryan called down to her and got out of her bunk, opened the hatch several inches, and peered out. Ryan was back at the helm with his legs spread wide for balance and head slightly down to deflect the wind and spray.
“How’re you doing?”
He smiled before replying. “It's getting pretty bad up here and I need you to take the helm while I take in the rest of the mainsail. Do you feel up to it?”
She didn’t but nodded her head yes anyway.
“Good. Get on some gear and don't forget your harness,” Ryan yelled above the maelstrom.
She went over to Jan and Willy’s bunk to check on them and let them know she was going back on deck. “We have to get some more sail down. You doing OK?”
Jan nodded. “I guess.”
“This storm can’t last forever. We’ve been through worse stuff on shore anyway right?”
Jan knew what she meant and just nodded.
“Good. Keep an eye on your little brother and I’ll be back below as soon as I can. Love you.” Tory leaned over the nylon webbing that kept them from falling out of their bunk and gave her a kiss on the forehead.
“Love you too, Mom. Be careful.”
Tory had taken longer than she meant to with Jan and rushed into her foul weather gear and safety harness. She knew if she stopped too long to think about what it was like on deck she might lose her nerve and when she finally slid back the hatch and crawled out into the cockpit, it was worse than she’d imagined. The wind had risen another 5 knots to 60 and was starting to blow the tops right off the waves. “What do you want me to do?” she yelled nervously.
“The same as last night,” Ryan shouted back, “First we’ll come up into the wind some and I’ll trim as we go. Hold the course I give you and I’ll go forward and get the rest of the mainsail down. We’re starting to take some waves in the cockpit now so make sure to clip your harness onto the binnacle and keep a good grip on the wheel!” Tory hesitated a moment building her courage.
“Don’t worry. You’ll be fine as long as you’re clipped in,” Ryan yelled, sensing her nervousness.
Tory took a deep breath, eased herself the rest of the way into the cockpit, and clipped herself to the binnacle.
“Wait a minute for your eyes to adjust to the darkness,” Ryan shouted. She did as he suggested and braced herself next to him for a minute or two before reaching for the wheel.
“I’ll be OK now.”
Ryan nodded and turned the wheel over to her. She immediately started a slow turn back into the direction of the wind. He prepared to move forward. The turn increased the wind coming over the deck and now instead of running with the waves, they’d be going into them again. They started taking large swells over the bow that roared down the deck. Ryan tried to time his departure from the cockpit to move forward between the larger sets of waves. When he judged the time was right, he gripped the starboard lifelines in one hand and the cabin top rail in the other and crab-walked quickly forward. He stayed low to reduce the body mass he exposed to the oncoming waves. Despite his caution, twice his feet were swept out from beneath him leaving him hanging precariously by his arms. The waves would then slam into the cockpit combing, become airborne and drench Tory in spray and backwash. The cockpit drains at her feet quickly became overwhelmed at the volume and before long Tory was up to her knees in water, the cockpit full of hundreds of pounds of seawater. She watched Ryan struggle down the deck and realized with new and sudden clarity how totally dependent she and the children were on him. Her faith in him and his abilities had been complete to this point, but the scale of the forces present in the howling wind and hissing waves was eclipsing that trust. For the first time, Tory felt truly scared and was weak-kneed as she watched him work his way forward to the relative safety of the mast. Everything was out of scale. The boat which had seemed so large and strong out of the water, now felt hopelessly inadequate. The wind, which had been their silent ally only hours before, now threatened to tear their sails and capsize them as they climbed to the top of each wave and were exposed to its full fury. The seas were mountainous, each wave thousands of tons. Her thoughts turned to the life raft still securely lashed forward of the cabin house. The thought provided little comfort with the knowledge that it was only about a twentieth the size of Parthenia when inflated. She turned her head forward to check on Ryan’s progress, but even breathing was difficult as the wind and spray tore at her face. The next time she looked up Ryan had reached the relative security of the cabin-top behind the mast and was facing aft towards her. His face was in shadow from the overhead spreader lights, but it almost looked to her as if he was smiling. He stood there for several moments with his arm hooked around the mast getting his breath and at one point tilted his head back and looked up the mast. His face was momentarily illuminated, and she could see that her earlier impression had been correct. “What on earth was there to smile about?”
Ryan let off the main halyard and brought the sail down the last few feet. Immediately the boat’s motion through the water was smoother and more upright. After tying the halyard off to a cleat on the mast he began working his way aft along the cabin roof holding onto the boom and wrapping sail ties around both it and the excess sail to secure the loose, hanging sail material. Anything left unsecured would flail in the high winds and eventually tear if were not tightly tied. Parthenia’s motion through the water was much smoother after the sail reduction and Tory breathed a short sigh of relief. The storm continued to batter them, but she felt they had regained some measure of control over the boat.
Ryan stayed on the windward side of the boom using it to lean against as he tied the sail material to the boom. Normally a simple operation, the seas they were in made it far more difficult than normal. Compounding this was the lack of any mainsail aloft. The boom was now free to swing from side to side as they rolled in the troughs of the waves. If there had been another crew aboard, they would have taken up the excess main sheet slack before Ryan tied off all the reefed sail. But there wasn’t and he instead hung on to the heavy boom as best he could as he worked his way aft. As he approached the cockpit he leaned over the boom to tie the last sail tie and smiled down at Tory conveying that the job was almost complete.
Tory smiled back nervously. Suddenly a large irregular swell slapped the side of the boat causing a pronounced and unexpected roll. When the wave hit, Tory had her eyes glued to the compass. Rather than looking up immediately in response to the boats shudder, she instinctively ducked her head in anticipation of the wall of water she knew would follow. One came, as she’d expected, and she kept her head down for a few extra seconds as the water washed over her and into the cockpit. When she did finally raise her head, Ryan was gone.
Maelstrom Part II (From Chapter 12)
Tory was hungry when she returned to the boat and went below to the galley to make herself a sandwich. She was just sitting down to eat when she heard the whining, pinging sound of an outboard pulling alongside and then Clifton started barking. She climbed on deck expecting to see Ryan and the children. Instead, she was met by Paulo and one of the other crew off the White Lady. They were hanging onto the side of her boat looking up with agitated looks on their faces. Clifton seemed unusually upset and protective and continued to bark.
“Clifton, stop already!” She’d never seen him act that way before and had to yell at him several more times before he reluctantly backed off some and stopped barking. “I’m sorry, I don’t know what’s wrong with him this morning. He’s usually friendly to everyone. Can I help you?”
“Yes, I think so anyway. Do you live here on this boat with a man and two children?”
“Why yes. Is something wrong?”
“I’m afraid so. The man who lives here on the boat with you asked that we bring you across the harbor as quickly as possible. There has been some type of accident and one of your children has been hurt.”
Tory’s heart lurched. “Oh my God, which one? What happened?”
“I don’t know Senora. I’m very sorry. He just asked us to come and get you as quickly as possible and said only that one of them was hurt.”
Tory didn’t hesitate even long enough to grab a pair of shoes and jumped down into their dinghy. As soon as she was in, Paulo stole a quick, smug glance at the other crewman and accelerated the dinghy up onto a plane away from Parthenia and back across the harbor. As they sped across the water Tory’s mind was so concerned about what may have happened that she didn’t even notice that they were not quite headed to the customs pier area and did not suspect anything was amiss until they suddenly veered to starboard and pulled up to the stern of the White Lady.
“Why are you stopping? I thought we were going across to the landing in St. Georges?” she asked, still not yet suspecting anything.
The engineer and another crew quickly stepped out onto the stern platform as they came to a halt. Paulo was anxious to avoid a struggle in broad daylight and smoothly said that he had to get something and would only be a moment. As soon as the lines were affixed, the two crew quickly grabbed her by the arms and rushed her off the platform and through the aft engine room door to get her out of sight as quickly as possible. Tory started to struggle. The watertight doorway into the engine space was sufficiently small that both crew could not stand on either side of her and drag her through and she almost broke free until one of them slammed his fist into the back of her neck several times. Still conscious she continued to struggle as they dragged her into the engine room and one of them finally punched her hard in the stomach and cuffed her sharply on the side of the head with his hand. That ended the struggle.
Tory awoke about 10 minutes later in Edward’s opulent cabin, her hands and legs bound with duct tape, lying on his bed. He was sitting in a chair looking calmly down on her when she came around and Paulo was standing at the foot of the bed. She immediately started screaming.
Edward sat passively listening to her for several moments and then casually got out of the chair leaned down and slapped her. “No one can hear you, but it annoys me, so stop, or I will hurt you. Understand?”
Tory sensed that what he said was true and stopped. “What do you want with me? I don’t even know you.”
“I know. But I know you, and I know the man you live on the boat with. It’s not my intention to harm you, I am simply lonely and want someone to party with. I’ve been watching you for several days and you look like someone who would be fun to party with. That’s all.”
Tory was confused. “What on earth are you talking about?”
Edward reached over and started to pull her shirt out of her shorts. Tory struggled against the tape that was binding her. He slapped her again several times.
“What? You kidnapped me so that you can rape me? That’s insane. You’re in the middle of Bermuda harbor on a small island in the middle of the Atlantic. Do you think you’ll be hard to find after?”
Edward pulled his chair closer to the bed and again reached for her shirt and pulled it up before answering. As he started his reply, he stared fixedly at her chest and could see her heart fluttering in fear just beneath the skin. He casually ran his hand over her breasts and pinched one of the nipples until Tory flinched.
“Yes, very nice. As I was saying, I’m just a lonely man who is looking for a party companion. I was watching you last night and it seems you have some very healthy appetites. And no, I’m not particularly worried about being caught as I doubt very much that you will say anything to anyone.”
“You’re crazy. The second I get off this boat I’ll report you to the authorities. Now, if you stop right now before it goes any further, I won’t say anything. Just take me back to my boat and I will say nothing. You have my word.” Tory replied.
“No, I think not. I have a little plan and I don’t believe you would keep your word anyway. You seem like far too willful a woman to allow my insult without retribution of some kind. So, as I said before, we will first have a little party and then we will discuss you leaving.”
Edward got up from the chair, walked over to the dresser, and folded back the flap on a little kit that he occasionally used on himself. Inside were a syringe and several packs of sterile needles. He made sure that Tory could see what he was doing as he slowly broke the seal on one of the packages and screwed the needle onto the syringe.
Tory was frantic at this point and struggled anew with the tape that bound her wrists behind her back. Did he intend to kill her? Tears started to flow down her face as she struggled with the rope and she started to hyperventilate. All the while Edward ignored her as he made his preparations. After preparing the syringe he opened the top dresser draw and pulled out a baggy of rock cocaine and after opening it and inhaling several breaths of its strong chemical smell sat down again in the chair next to her and held the bag up for her see.
“I understand from my men that you have a strong love for this.” He brought it closer to her face so she could see it clearly and again held the bag open, this time close to her nose so that she could smell it.
“Almost pure, Peruvian flake. Nice, eh?”
Tory stopped struggling only because she suspected that he might have something other than killing her in mind. “I still don’t understand. Why’re you doing this? What have I ever done to you?”
“You, my dear, have done nothing, but the man you live with, is he your husband?”
“No matter,” he continued. “In any case he, bothers me. Let’s just say he’s inconvenienced me and that’s why you’re here.”
“What are you going to do?” Tory asked.
“Very little. I’m just going to give you one shot and you will do the rest.”
“I still don’t understand. Ryan annoyed you so you kidnap me and are going to shoot me full of drugs? What will that accomplish?”
“Let’s just say I’m an expert of sorts on the effects that drugs can have on the family unit. Quite simply I intend to punish him for his interference through you. If that seems a bit excessive, well, so be it. That’s just the type of man I am, excessive. Yes, I like that. Perhaps it would be easier for you to just think of me as a very bad person. My mother always felt that way.” Edward got up again and returned to the dresser where he lit a small propane torch. Then he carefully poured a small amount of the coke into a spoon and put it under the propane flame. It quickly melted.
Tory frantically tried to think of anything she could do or say to slow down this impossible chain of events. If anyone had told her an hour ago that she was about to be kidnapped and drugged by an insane madman she would have thought that person crazy. She knew she had little chance of escaping the cabin, let alone the boat, before he carried out the rest of his plan. Her shirt was still pulled up over her breasts and the ugly little man with the bad teeth just stood there at the end of the bed staring at her. She tried squirming back and forth and upwards on the bed in an effort to drag the shirt back down over her chest. As she did so Paulo just smiled and a small bit of saliva drooled out of the side of his mouth.
“Senor Edward, do you think I might enjoy the woman a little bit before we send her back?” he asked.
“I think not Paulo. You tend to play a little rough and I don’t want to leave any marks on her, just yet, although I can promise you some time with her daughter if she fails in any way to do what we say.”
Tory reacted to his comment like someone had stuck a cattle prod in her side.
“You fuck! I still have no idea what you’re doing with me but if you touch either of my children I’ll spend the rest of my life looking for you and cut your fucking diseased balls off!”
Edward tsked her. “Such language. And from so small a woman. No matter, I’m almost done here and then you’ll be much more civil.”
Tory’s mind spun as he finished his preparations. Did he really know what he was doing or would he overdose her? Would this reactivate her obsession and compulsion for the drug as he obviously planned? What would Ryan’s reaction to the whole thing be?
He finished up and sat back down in the chair at the edge of the bed and she looked over at the needle which he tapped several times as he held it up to the light and then looked down into her eyes.
“Now, this won’t hurt a bit. Actually, I’m rather counting on the fact that you’ll enjoy it.” He took a length of surgical tubing and tied it securely just below her bicep on the arm closest to him. Then he swabbed her arm with a little cotton ball soaked in alcohol as if sterility was a concern, then lay the tip of the needle against the largest of the veins now swollen in the crook of her elbow.
She made one last attempt to get him to stop. “Please don’t do this. Do you have any idea what that shit did to me?”
“Not specifically, but I know from one of my men who has been watching you that you used to have a passion for it. Not to worry, there’s plenty more where this came from and it’s my hope that we will become close friends after.”
Throughout his meticulous preparations Tory had watched, on one level, frightened to death, on another, the addict in her had definitely stirred. Just the sight and smell of the quality flake had twitched some little synapse in her medulla oblongata, almost like the feelings of arousal she felt prior to sex. It was totally involuntary and against everything she’d worked so hard for over the previous year, but it had been there none the less, and she hated her body for betraying her.
“Please, I’m begging you, don’t do this.” A single tear dripped down Tory’s cheek.
Edward smiled and slid his answer into her arm. At first she felt only the sting and then like a master he smoothly injected about half the drug, stopped for several moments and then withdrew the plunger drawing some of her blood back into the syringe. Then he waited again. Tory began to feel the wonderful warmth and exhilaration of the drug entering her system. Her eyelids twitched several times from the pleasure. Then Edward booted the rest home.