Chapter 12: Shark in the Water

A tall building, the second story sticking out of the water and topped by a lookout tower. The houseboat is peddling toward these buildings, with Joey as usual pacing on the roof, looking for underwater objects. Joey points to the right, directing Finegan to go right.

Some sort of roof tops to the left, in rows.

Finegan stops peddling to joins Joey to have a look.

Those are barracks.

They see the top of a barbed wire fence, where the outgoing tide is ruffling over the barbed wire. Finegan has just noticed this ruffling along the fence tops, showing the square outline of the compound.

Oh shit.

Finegan spins on his feet to look back where the houseboat entered the compound, and sees this now exposed barbed wire too.

We'll have to wait here until the tide rises again. . . I might do some diving while we wait, check out those barracks.

Finegan glances in the direction of the tower.

. . Or check out that tower.

A guard can be seen in the shadows, seemingly wrestling with himself. Then it becomes apparent that he is taking off his clothes, and suddenly dives, nude, into the water and swims in the direction of the houseboat. Seeing that he is not a threat, being without a weapon, Finegan and Joey hop down and prepare to help him onto the deck.

The guard is African American and very fit. He swims with a strong stoke to the front of the houseboat and heaves himself up, twists sideways to sit on the edge, and pulls his feet out of the water and to one side, sitting alongside the edge. Joey and Finegan move to boxes in front of the guard, to talk.

Don't want toes in the water for too long . . I saw a young shark in here once, the other day.

The guard notes the fishing net hung up to dry on the line just to the side of where Joey and Finegan are seated and points to it.

Shark makes good eating. Maybe we could troll for it! . . If he's still in here I expect I stirred him up. Got any bait aboard?

Finegan has gone into the house and returned with a pair of shorts, and tosses them to the guard, who rises to step into them. Finegan is grinning at the situation, their nude guest.

Only the three of us. But if we fish awhile we might catch something and then we can put blood in the water.

The guard says,

Fishing sounds good. I haven't had anything to eat since the last of the dried food ran out.

______________________________

Finegan is throwing the net out over the water, waiting until the open mouth of the net sinks, and then pulling the net along with ropes attached to the four corners. One side of the net has floatation corks and is the side that traps fish. The other sides are being pulled up and toward the houseboat. Finegan pulls hand over hand along the ropes that close the mouth of the net, pulling the catch onto the front deck. Twigs, weeds, seaweed, small flopping fish, and a crab or two are among the catch. The guard grabs the fish and crabs and puts them in a bucket, brushing the trash back into the water. Finegan is curious.

So you're the last here?

The guard says,

We were told to hold our posts, so that's what I did. . . Everyone else gave up and left. Going home, ya know. I got no home. . . Was foster raised and all and left that for the Army.

The guard sits back, looking at Finegan, and sighs.

We couldn't raise anyone after it hit. You seen anything of a command post?

Suddenly the net starts jerking around in Finegan's hands, and the guard jumps up to help him haul it in. A small hammerhead sharp is in the net, attracted by all the commotion in the water. Joey brings a wooden bludgeon and starts whacking it in the head and the shark stops thrashing. Barney is going crazy with barking, remembering the day he lost his leg to a hammerhead shark.

______________________________

The camp grill is out and slabs of shark meat are sizzling. Finegan is putting pieces in a pan at the side, for supper. The guard has been stuffing his face, famished, and delighted at the houseboat setup.

This is great! You eat like this all the time? (swallow) How'd you come by this setup?

Finegan says,

Mostly, I built it. I saw what was coming, the coastline eating away and all.

Finegan is dumping the coals into the waterway and Joey is taking the pans and dishes to be washed at the other side. The guard raises to go wash his plate beside Joey.

Can you take me to land later? I got some things back in the tower. I could swim it, but everything would get wet .

______________________________

The houseboat is pulled alongside the tower, tied to a post at the corner of the lookout tower. The guard is lowering bundles down to Finegan, who stashes them at the side. Finegan asks,

You got any booze?

The guard answers,

That was the first thing that went.

The guard heaves himself over the side of the lookout tower and drops down to the deck of the houseboat. Finegan has his back turned, stashing the last of the guard's bundles, while the guard pulls a pistol out of his jacket pocket. When Finegan turns, he looks started and puts his hands in the air. The guard says,

The water's up now, we can get outta here.

Finegan moves to the back of the houseboat and starts peddling away. The guard is facing him, seating on some boxes at the back. Joey is pacing back and forth on the roof, watching for objects under the water and the best spot to cross over the barbed wire fence. The barbed wire is just under the surface of the water now, with the tide in. Seeing they are leaving the compound, the guard says,

All right! . . Boy, you come down here now where I can see you.

The guard does not move from his spot, fearing Finegan more than Joey, and keeps his eyes on Finegan. Joey appears overhead on the roof, just behind the guard, with the wooden bludgeon used earlier to kill the shark. He clubs the guard over the head. Finegan leaps to his feet, rushing forward to disarm the guard.

______________________________

The houseboat has moored to the shoreline, temporarily, and the guard is walking the plank toward shore. He is dressed, but has only a couple of his bundles with him. He is protesting loudly.

Look, I just wanted to be sure you weren't goin to rob me or somethin.

Suddenly some men dressed in various Army garb emerge from the bushes nearby. They are a mixture of African American, Hispanic, and white. The guard is horrified to see them. He is backing up the gangplank and encounters Finegan's pistol in his back. The men in front of him are unarmed but seem to be bearing a grudge against the guard. Trapped, the guard addresses the crowd, edging forward.

Common guys, no hard feelings, eh? You'd a done the same. . . What'cha been eating? You look pretty fit. . . I done you a favor, actually.

Finegan stands guard with his pistol, the only weapon in the vicinity.

Joey dashes across the gangplank to toss the grappling hooks back on board, then pulls the gangplank onto the houseboat. The houseboat is slowly moving away from shore in the now outgoing tide. One of the soldiers on shore says,

Yeah? We might eat you, ass hole. Get his gun.

The group is frisking the guard, discovering that he is unarmed. When they are safely away from shore, Finegan goes to the back of the houseboat, tucking his pistol in his pant waist at the back, all the while keeping an eye on the men on shore. He back pedals to move the houseboat further out beyond any waves. The guard is in the middle of the group of men, who are pushing him around and occasionally giving him a punch. Finegan looks up at Joey, who is standing at his post on the rooftop. Finegan says,

There was a shark in the water all right, but not the one we ate. . .