“Diego!” I shouted. “Diego, it’s Rafa!” The wind whipped my words into the wet blackness. “Diego!” Squatting at first, and with one hand still clutching the security line overhead for support, I knelt, leaning so close to the water I could taste the salt spray on my tongue and lips. I shouted to him again. If he answered, I couldn’t hear his words above the wind and the pounding water. Then in a flash of lightning, I saw a sight that chilled me more than the storm around me.
Strands of Diego’s long hair now lay caught and snarled in the anchor line of The Bail Bond.
Was he still alive? Was he dead? I knew the stupidity of jumping into the water fully clothed to rescue a drowning person. But was Diego drowning? He wasn’t waving to me or shouting for help. I refused to believe he might be dead. He might be alive. CPR might save him. Maybe he was doing the dead man’s float, gasping for breath between the times when the waves and the sea covered him.
Cell phone! Find the cell! I slid my right hand down the side of my yellow slicker feeling for a familiar lump in my jumpsuit pocket. No. No lump. No cell. I remembered leaving it in the glove box of my Prius. Bad decision. My only option now—a dash to the car to call help.
Diego’s head still bobbed in the water, disappearing, then bobbing again. I forgot about dashing. Impossible in this storm. Gripping the catwalk line, I struggled toward my car in the parking lot. No problem finding the Prius. At this time of night and in this storm, it stood alone in front of the marina. Groping in my pocket for my keys, I pressed the open button, missed it, and hit the alarm button instead. In seconds the car horn began an intermittent blaring. I struggled for a moment, trying to quash the noise. But why stop it? Maybe the sound would signal help.
It took all my strength to open the car door and hold it against the gale that threatened to tear it from its hinges before I could slip inside and slam it shut. I welcomed the car’s dryness and warmth for a few seconds before I opened the glove box. Scrabbling in its contents, I breathed easier once I found the cell and punched in 9-1-1. The dispatcher’s voice, tranquil, businesslike. helped me calm down long enough to give the necessary information.
“Your name and address please.”
“Rafa Blue. The Blue Mermaid Hotel on Whitehead Street. In Old Town.”
I spieled out the number of my penthouse suite.
“Where are you now, Ma’am?” she asked.
“The Vexton Marina. Daiquiri Dock.” I almost panicked. “Bayside. I don’t know the exact address.” The dispatcher’s voice calmed me again.
“I know the place well, Ma’am. You’ll have help in a few minutes.”
“Catwalk C,” I said.
“The officers will find it. You stay right there.”
“Yes, Ma’am.” Where did she think I might go?
I tried to think of friends I might call for more help. Pablo? Diego’s son. Pablo lived mostly on the beach. No phone. Brick and Threnody? Yes. I’d keyed their number into my speed dial. Now I punched it and let the cell ring 5 times. Five rings. No answer. No invitation to leave a message.
Kane Riley? I’d placed my boyfriend’s name first on my speed dial. But no. No point in calling Kane. Damn! If he’d spent the night with me as he did many nights, he’d be here right now. Tonight, the Fantasy Fest traffic would be backed up around the Historic Seaport District and the Harbor Walk where Kane docked his shrimp boat. By the time he left The Buccaneer and started his work truck, the crisis would have ended. Stop wasting time, Rafa. Do something. Think! I debated a moment about leaving the cell or taking it with me, then I tucked it back into the glove box. Better a dry phone here than a wet phone on the catwalk or dropped into the sea.
Leaving the Prius and letting the horn continue its blaring, I tried to hurry to Diego. The diminishing squall allowed me to jog along the catwalk. What if I couldn’t find him again? I peered into the water near The Bail Bond. For several moments I didn’t see him. Then his head appeared again, a little deeper in the water.
“Diego! Diego! Help’s coming!”
Peering into the water, I waited.
Again, I couldn’t see him. “I called 9-1-1!” I shouted. “Help’s on the way.”
After what seemed an eternity, I saw his dark head bobbing closer to the surface again, his hair still tangled in the anchor line. Now he appeared to float. Face down into the water. I could see his back, his hips. Good sign. No point in exhausting himself trying to swim if he could save his strength by floating for a few moments.
“Diego!” I shouted again during a short lull when the wind dropped.
He didn’t respond, but turned his head slightly and looked as if he were trying to raise an arm. Was he trying to motion for me to join him? To help him? I could do that for him, couldn’t I? And I could yank his hair free. Or, if he had a dive knife strapped to his leg, I could cut his hair loose from the anchor line.
Seeing someone near might give Diego the will to hold on until more help arrived. And what about sharks! Sharks fed at night. I couldn’t bear the thought of Diego’s body, nor mine, being ripped to bits by a hammerhead or a yellow. I forced myself to forget that thought. One could never tell about sharks. Even weathered seamen couldn’t say for sure what a shark might do.
Skinning from my slicker and the jumpsuit I’d grabbed when I left my bed, I regretted my predilection for sleeping in the altogether. I stood for a moment, shivering until I felt the sting of rain against my bareness. Then I slipped beneath the security line I’d been clutching and splashed into the sea near Diego. I told myself a shark would never notice my small splash among all of Mother Nature’s gigantic splashes.
I held my breath, yet I sucked in a mouthful of brine. I tried to stay calm and breathe with greater caution. Tread water. Tread water. Following those silent commands, I kept afloat until I caught a clear view of Diego—until I saw his face. The sea splashed into his open mouth. His eyes looked like white marbles rolled back into his head. I knew then for sure he was dead.