I kept seeing it - the rocket. This time I was in the limo with David when the rocket hit. Flames were everywhere and there was no escape. Then came the visions of when we were back in Guatemala and taking heavy fire. David’s breathing was becoming more and more labored and I knew he’d die if he didn’t get medical attention soon. I’d always thought we’d have more time together. Always more time . . .
“Dad,” the sweet, angelic voice of my son rang out, seeming to pull me back from certain doom. “Dad, wake up,” he called out again.
I opened my eyes to find myself back in my office in the Underground White House, and Josh’s face was just inches from my own. And then I remembered that David really was gone and the tears started to flow all over again. That was all it took to set Josh off, and we ended up hugging each other as we cried our eyes out.
Just as Josh and I were starting to get our emotions under control, Sandy walked in and the tears started up again. David was a wonderful husband and a wonderful father. We all missed him so.
As we again started to regain control of our emotions, Sandy turned to her brother and said, “Josh, you stink!”
I hadn’t really noticed it before, but Josh was sweaty and indeed smelled more than a bit like a locker room.
“Sorry Sis, Dad,” he said. “I was playing a game of horse with Cousin Frankie and his boyfriend, Mike.
“Be right back,” he added with a sheepish smile. “I’m gonna go take a shower.”
“I’ll be here,” I replied. After Josh left, I hugged Sandy and asked, “How’s my teddy bear holding up?”
“It’s hard, Dad,” she answered. “I miss Pop so much, but then I think of how lucky I am to have you and Josh. I mean, most of my friends at school never even see their parents. You and Pop always made time for us, no matter how busy you were.”
“Growing up, I hardly ever saw Grandpa Tom and Grandma Cynthia,” I replied. “Truthfully they’ve spent far more time with you and Josh than they ever did with me. When Pop and I decided to have children, we vowed we’d never be absentee fathers. Sure there were times when we just couldn’t give you the time you deserved, but we always did our best to keep those times as short as possible.”
“I know that, Dad.” Sandy acknowledged. “Josh and I are the luckiest kids around.”
Looking up at my beautiful seventeen-year-old daughter, I said, “You’re not really a kid anymore. You’re a lovely young woman. In eight months you’ll be an adult, legally.” Smiling, I said, “You’re growing up.”
“It’s hard to imagine,” she replied. “I don’t feel any more like a grown-up than I did last year, or the year before that. If I’m so close to being an adult, why do I still feel like a kid?”
“Sweetheart, adulthood comes when you reach eighteen,” I explained, “but maturity is something that comes gradually over time. We adults have a dirty little secret . . . deep inside, were really just grown-up kids. I feel much more mature today than I did even when I was forty. Maturity is relative. I may be turning fifty, but I still feel vulnerable. That’s something that never really goes away but, as you pick up more of life’s experiences, you learn better how to cope with the trials life throws your way.
“The one thing I do know is that you’re an exceptionally mature young woman for your age.”
“Thanks Dad,” Sandy said as she squeezed her arms around me.
Just then Josh returned and plopped down on the loveseat, resting his head on one armrest and putting his feet up on the other. He was wearing only a pair of Speedos.
“Going for a swim?” I asked.
“This is the only thing clean I could find,” he answered. “I sure as hell wasn’t going to put that sweaty, smelly shirt back on and everything else I have down here is dirty.”
“I hadn’t thought of that,” I acknowledged. “I’m sure there’s a laundry facility of some sort down here. I’ll see what I can find out about it . . . and I’ll see if I can get someone to bring some of your clothes down from upstairs.”
“Thanks Dad,” Josh said with a smile, “and while you’re at it, could you see if someone could bring me my guitar? I’d just about kill to be able to play it down here. Maybe then I wouldn’t be so bored.”
“I’m sure Henry could grab your guitar while he’s getting our clothes, Joshy,” I answered. Just like Trevor, Josh had a great singing voice - maybe even better than Trevor’s, which was saying a lot. He started taking guitar lessons from Trevor when he was only five and was really quite good at it. We’d gotten him his own Strat for his Bar Mitzvah and it quickly became one of his most prized possessions. Looking at my son, dressed only in his Speedos, I couldn’t help but notice how good looking he was. Like his father at that age, he was a stud. Both of our children were exceptionally attractive kids.
“It was fun playing basketball with Frankie and Mike,” Josh continued, “but seeing them together . . . how they interact . . . the way that they look at each other and the way they constantly touch . . . sure made me feel lonely. I want what they have so bad.”
Sighing, I reminded my angel of what David and I’d been telling him for the past couple of years. “Your time will come, Josh. Most people don’t find the love of their life until they’re in their twenties or even later, but that makes it no less special. What Pop and I had was rare. Most high school relationships don’t last and a lot of people who do get married right out of high school end up getting divorced. Probably most of them do. Instead of moping around and lamenting what you don’t have, you should enjoy life. Go out there and meet people. Make friends. The best relationships start out as friendships.”
“I hear what you’re saying, Dad, but I still want a boyfriend.”
“There’s no reason not to have a boyfriend, Josh,” I countered. “Just don’t expect your first boyfriend to be your last. It’s rare that we marry our first loves. Your Pop and I were the exception.”
“And our Uncles . . . Trevor and Kurt, Randy and Altaf, and Uncle Brad and Aunt Kayla,” Josh reminded me. “Need I go on?”
“Our extended family does have an unusual number of successful first loves,” I agreed, “but that really is a rarity. However, I think you forgot, but Uncle Randy was not Uncle Altaf’s first love.”
“You’re right, I did forget,” Josh added. “I can’t even begin to imagine what Uncle Altaf went through, fleeing for his life knowing his boyfriend was being executed, and losing his father too.”
Sitting more upright, I addressed my children in a more serious tone. “There’s a story I never told the two of you about Altaf and Fareed, his first love. It’s kind of sad and it never seemed relevant before, but perhaps now would be a good time to tell the two of you.
“When Uncle Altaf fled Pakistan with his mother when he was fifteen . . . your age, Josh . . . he secretly hoped that the village imam ended up sparing his lover’s life at the last minute. He didn’t see how anyone could viciously execute an innocent child.
“That hope was dashed midway through Altaf’s sixteenth year, when he received an unusual package from his Aunt in Detroit, the same aunt who made him leave when she found out he was gay. There was no card enclosed, but it came not long after the end of Ramadan, a bit later than he would have expected for a gift, but it’s not unusual for the mail to be delayed. It was also Christmastime and Chanukah, so there were multiple possibilities. When he opened the box, however, what he found inside was another box, but this one bore an address from Pakistan. It was from Fareed’s parents. Inside the second box was a wooden box made of sandalwood . . .”
“Wait a minute,” Sandy interrupted. “Isn’t sandalwood traditionally used to hold the ashes from cremation?”
“Yes it is, and you can imagine the shock to Altaf when he opened the sandalwood box.”
“Oh my God!” Josh exclaimed. “You mean Fareed’s parents sent his ashes to Uncle Altaf?”
“I didn’t think Muslims cremated their dead,” Sandy added.
“They don’t,” I explained, “but apparently none of the community cemeteries would allow Fareed to be buried there. You see, Muslims have the same admonition against the man who lies down with another man as does the Torah. Therefore many fundamentalist Muslims see homosexuality as an act of suicide and the burial of a person who kills himself is strictly forbidden in a Muslim cemetery. Fareed’s parents therefore had a difficult choice. They could either dump his body in the countryside, or they could take his body to the Hindus for cremation. They chose the latter.”
“How horrible,” Sandy practically cried.
“Needless to say, your Uncle Altaf was quite distraught,” I continued, “and he ended up lashing out at Uncle Randy in anger. Uncle Randy was patient, however. Out of concern for his boyfriend, he went to see his rabbi, who in turn referred him to the imam at a local mosque . . . an imam who was as horrified at what had happened as we all are. The imam arranged a proper burial and funeral for Fareed. Not only that, but Uncle Randy helped Uncle Altaf reconnect with his religion, and they’ve attended services at a synagogue and a mosque every week ever since.”
“What a wonderful story,” Sandy voiced aloud. “Sad, but wonderful. Uncle Randy is such a mensch. He really cared about his boyfriend.”
“Uncle Altaf truly loved Fareed,” I summarized, “but had it not been for what happened, he would never have met Uncle Randy, the true love of his lifetime.”
“Thanks for telling us that story, Dad,” Josh added. “It really helps put things in perspective.”
“Speaking of perspective,” I continued, “Your Pop and I never told you just how close he came to dying in Guatemala.”
“But you’ve told us all about Guatemala, at least a thousand times before,” Josh complained.
“Yes, and we even told you that we were both shot, but we always let you think they were mere flesh wounds. In my case it was true, but in Pop’s, it couldn’t have been further from the truth. In reality the bullet pierced his right lung, causing it to collapse. Everything he did that fateful day, he did with only one lung, but it was even worse than that. As his chest slowly filled with blood and air, he came closer and closer to going into shock. Had it not been for the limited medical training we’d been given, your Pop would have died that day . . .
~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~
Monday, August 5, 2019 - Twenty-four Years Earlier
“This is insane!” I shouted to David, so I could be heard over the sound of the engines.
“Think of it as an adventure!” David shouted back.
We were strapped into what passed for seats in an old C-295 transport, making our final approach into Puerto Barrios, having flown out of Belize City earlier in the day. There had been a lot of turbulence on the journey down, and the twin-engined propeller plane was being severely buffeted around as we made our descent.
It was August 5, 2019 and David and I were part of a 67-person contingent of the American Red Cross that was being sent in to verify conditions on the ground in the Izabal ‘department’ of Guatemala and to help coordinate humanitarian aid. We were just past the halfway point in our two-year stint with the Red Cross and were looking forward to returning home for a little ‘R and R’ after the current mission was complete.
When David suggested joining the Red Cross, I thought he was out of his fucking mind. We had both recently graduated from Harvard Law at the top of our class, and were clerking for the Supreme Court. The court only took forty-five clerks per year, so it was a major coup that both of us were accepted. After finishing our clerkship, we could virtually have written our own tickets. We could have walked into any of the most prestigious law firms in America, or perhaps the world, and been offered jobs on the spot. We could have entered politics directly as assistant district attorneys or even run for city council or state assembly.
David, however, had his sites firmly on the White House and felt strongly that as ‘Commander in Chief’ he should have at least some military experience. I had to admit, that sounded reasonable, but neither one of us wanted to sign up for a stint in the U.S. military. Our troops were still embroiled in the Middle East and the last thing either of us wanted to do was to gain experience through a tour of duty in Afghanistan.
The Reserves were another possibility, but that would have meant a long-term commitment with no guarantee of doing anything more than training exercises, except Heaven help us if we did see any action. We thought about service in a U.N. peacekeeping force, but that still would have meant joining the U.S. military first with no guarantee of assignment to the U.N. Besides which, U.N. peacekeepers were increasingly finding themselves in harm’s way. David and I wanted experience, but not at the cost of our lives.
It was David who hit on the idea of volunteering in the American Red Cross. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies coordinates humanitarian aid societies throughout the world, providing disaster relief, helping to maintain order and verifying the humane treatment of prisoners of war. As one of the largest national organizations, the American Red Cross often participates in humanitarian relief efforts on a global scale, particularly in the Americas.
Traditionally, security had been provided by the local police, guardsmen and the military. However, two back-to-back ambushes of Red Cross volunteers in 2017 caused the International Federation to re-evaluate its policy, which resulted in a decision for Red Cross volunteers to carry defensive weapons under a clearly defined set of rules.
Thus the American Red Cross instituted a policy of training and using their own security personnel and equipment whenever sending volunteers into war-torn areas. The first security force was recruited in 2018 and David and I were among the volunteers. The security operations were small and light - just sufficient to deter violence and to protect the non-combatant volunteers until help could arrive.
We underwent intensive military training that was fully equivalent to military boot camp. Indeed, our instructors were retired military personnel. I’d never before shot a gun and was even morally opposed to their existence, but being able to fire a weapon might be critical to our survival. David and I were now decent shots with a variety of automatic and semi-automatic rifles and handguns. Needless to say, our training largely dictated our role in the Red Cross.
Over the course of the past year, we‘d been involved in providing disaster relief after Hurricane Gina sacked the coast of Honduras, assisting the people of Malaysia to recover from devastating mudslides and monitoring a peace agreement between insurgents and the government of Ecuador. It had certainly been an interesting year.
That we were back in Central America was no coincidence. Hurricane Gina had wreaked havoc in the entire region and flooding in the low-lying coastal areas of Guatemala had been extensive. Guatemala City had been very slow to react to the needs of its people and in the absence of leadership, the drug cartels in nearby Mexico seized upon an opportunity. As a result, the government of Guatemala, which was tenuous at best, found itself embroiled in a conflict with so-called insurgents and had lost control of nearly the entire eastern and northern third of the country. It was a civil war, with the democratically-elected government fighting against the Mexican drug cartels.
A few weeks before, the U.S. had managed to broker a cease-fire between government troops and the cartels so that international relief agencies could deliver much-needed aid to the region, which was still reeling from the natural disaster of Hurricane Gina. The Guatemalan Red Cross was the lead agency that would provide assistance and David and I were part of the first contingent of American volunteers. Our job was to ensure that order be maintained so that larger numbers of relief workers could safely deliver food, medicine and other critical supplies. The U.S. Navy had a ship just offshore in the Bahia de Amatique, just in case any trouble arose.
“Oh shit!” David cried out as the plane suddenly lurched upward, and then slammed down onto the runway. We could all feel the plane veering to the left as the pilot struggled to keep it on the runway.
“Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” I cursed as the plane continued to veer to the left for what I presumed would be a crash landing. I worried that one of our tires might actually have blown. However, the C-295 is a bottom-heavy plane and remarkably stable. I could hear the pilot revving up the left engine, trying to regain control of the aircraft.
Slowly, the plane veered back to the right as it accelerated slightly. “Oh shit!” David cried out once again.
Finally, the pilot eased off on the throttle and the plane slowed down. We all breathed a sigh of relief once we slowed down to a more usual taxi speed and eased our way to the terminal.
“Man, that was scary!” David exclaimed.
“You’re the one who signed us up for this,” I noted.
“Don’t remind me,” he replied.
Once the plane stopped, the door was opened and lowered to the ground, providing a series of steps onto the tarmac. As we deplaned, we were loaded onto a pair of military transport trucks, which took us to a nondescript building a few miles away. There, we were all given an extensive briefing by the Guatemalan Red Cross that took the rest of that day and all of the next. Our overnight accommodations were quite luxurious - a large gymnasium filled with cots, and the adjacent locker rooms with their communal showers.
It seemed that Puerto Barrios was the only municipality in Izabal still under government control. The entire district was otherwise in the hands of the insurgents, who were little more than hired thugs that answered to the Mexican drug lords and no one else. Acre upon acre of forestland, heavily damaged by the hurricane, had been cleared and planted with coca plants by the villagers, conscripted to work the fields while being provided next to nothing in return. Boys as young as ten had been forced into the insurgency, killing indiscriminately to reinforce the sense of terror among the population.
We alone could do little to change the equation on the ground but, by providing cover for the groups of volunteers that would follow, who would provide food and medicine, at least we would be doing something to help alleviate all the suffering.
Nearly all of the roads connecting the villages of Izabal, which were little more than dirt paths in the first place, had been washed out by Hurricane Gina. Fortunately, most of the communities were located on the coast of Bahia de Amatique, on Lake Izabal itself or on the many waterways that threaded their way throughout the region.
David and I were assigned to a five-person group in charge of maintaining order in the small village of El Rincón, which was little more than a collection of shacks lining Río Sarstún, separating Guatemala from Belize. Directly across the river was the densely forested Sarstooth National Park, which we were told was being used by the insurgents as a staging ground for their attacks. The dense cover made it virtually impossible to track the insurgents and so they could cross back into Guatemala and strike with impunity.
Besides David and me, our group consisted of Gerry Cashion, a pre-med student from Baton Rouge, Derrick Hughes, a kid from Albuquerque who’d decided to see the world before starting college, and Latoya White, a 33-year-old veteran. Yes, our group leader was a woman. A dyke, a couple of fags and a couple of babies, as she put it. At 26 we weren’t that much older than Gerry, who was 23. However, at 19 and with a baby face to match, Derrick really did look young.
Out of necessity we all spoke Spanish. David and I took three years of it in high school and continued our Spanish studies in college, so we were pretty fluent in the language. Derrick grew up around Hispanic people and was the most natural Spanish speaker of us all.
Leaving by boat early on the morning of our third day in Guatemala, we didn’t arrive in El Rincón until late in the afternoon. The village was pretty much as billed - a collection of wooden shacks clustered along the river and at the edge of the forest. We were met upon our arrival by the mayor of the village, who was allowed to govern at the pleasure of the insurgents. In spite of the dire situation, he provided us a warm welcome.
We set up camp in the village using our own tents. David and I shared a tent, as did Gerry and Derrick. Latoya had a tent to herself. There was also a tent where we kept our munitions and supplies under lock and key. As an added precaution, we decided to guard our encampment in six-hour shifts, day and night. Latoya was exempt from guard duty, as she had more than enough extra work to do as the group leader.
We all drew straws to see who would take which shift. Unfortunately, I drew the two to eight AM graveyard shift and David drew the eight PM to two AM evening shift, which guaranteed we wouldn’t be sleeping together. Not that we expected to have the time for sex, anyway, and with daytime high temperatures well into the nineties with humidity to match, it was just too damn hot and humid to snuggle up together in any case.
Our mission was to get to know the villagers, to gather information on the insurgency in the area and to set up a basic infrastructure for the volunteers who would soon arrive. It turned out that the villagers were scattered over a fairly wide area, mostly along the river, but also along a tributary that went inland. Because of the logistics, it took days to meet everyone and we were surprised at the actual size of the community. What at first blush appeared to be a village with only a few families and perhaps some thirty people turned out to be a village of around 250 men, women and children, we estimated. Unfortunately they either didn’t know anything about the insurgency, which was unlikely, or they were just too afraid to talk.
At the same time that we were getting to know the villagers, we expanded our encampment, digging a latrine, erecting tents for the volunteers and setting up a small clinic for the villagers. A portable generator powered our radio, lighting for the clinic and water purification equipment. A contingent of thirteen volunteers, including a doctor and a nurse, arrived on August 15. They were making their way from encampment to encampment and as word of their arrival spread, people made their way from villages deep in the forest, swelling the population to more than five hundred.
It was a dangerous time as, with so many people visiting the village, insurgents could easily have infiltrated without us even knowing it. The danger came not from those visiting the village, however, but from across the river in the Sarstooth National Park.
Hell arrived in the early morning hours of Sunday, August 18. I was at my post as the sky started to lighten. I knew that I was about halfway through my watch and was looking forward to being relieved by Gerry in a few hours. Noticing a scrap of paper on the ground that one of us must undoubtedly have dropped earlier, I bent over to pick it up. As I started to reach down, there was suddenly a loud crack of a sound that pierced the night and I literally felt something whiz by me, right where my head had been a moment before. In the time it took me to process what was happening, there was another crack and I felt a stinging sensation on the left side of my neck.
By now I realized that a sniper was firing at me, so I dropped down to the ground and yelled out, “Sniper! Sniper!” My shouting was superfluous, however, as everyone had been woken by the sound of gunfire. Within moments David, Gerry, Derrick and Latoya came barging out of their tents brandishing their automatic weapons and dropped down next to me, aiming their weapons across the riverbank, just as I was doing - just as we were trained.
Unfortunately, some of the volunteers who’d also been woken by the sound of gunshots, their curiosity piqued by the all the activity happening outside their tents, also started to emerge.
“Get down!” Latoya shouted, but the volunteers didn’t seem to understand the danger. The single crack of a sniper rifle along with the sight of someone falling to the ground was all it took for the volunteers to realize what was happening but, rather than laying low, they seemed to panic and started running. At least they ran away from the riverbank but the sound of another gunshot piercing the early morning sky dispelled any illusion of their ability to outrun a bullet.
“Open fire!” Latoya called out and we all started spraying the opposite riverbank with gunfire. Our automatic weapons were no match for a sniper rifle when it came to distance. At least our spray of bullets would likely keep the sniper or snipers away from the riverbank, which was within the 400-meter effective range of our weapons, and perhaps keep them from shooting again.
“Cover me!” Latoya called out, and then she ran back to the tent where we stored our munitions and emerged a moment later with a rocket launcher, which was loaded with a light antitank missile. Lifting the weapon onto her shoulder, she crouched low, took aim, and then fell backwards with a thump as blood started to soak through her uniform from her chest.
“Fuck!” Derrick shouted as David, who was closest to where Latoya had fallen, grabbed the rocket launcher from her hands, hoisted it to his shoulder, crouched down and fired. He too was thrown backwards and to the ground, but I realized with relief that it was probably from the recoil of the rocket, as he quickly got back up and resumed his position on the ground.
With a deafening roar, the forest on the other side of the riverbank erupted in a massive fireball that lit up the sky.
“Well, that should take care of the snipers for a while,” my husband said with a bit of a smirk.
“Trouble is, they’ll be back with a hell of a lot more firepower,” I realized aloud, “and when they return, they’ll probably level this village along with everyone in it.”
“Shee-it!” Gerry exclaimed. “It sounds like we don’t wanna be around here when that happens.”
“No way, José,” Derrick agreed.
“I’m not sure I could ever go to sleep at night again thinking about all the children we might have saved,” David countered.
“I’m not sure we have the firepower to fight the insurgents, even if we wanted to,” I pointed out. “I’m all for saving the children but, if we can’t make a dent against the insurgents, why commit suicide in the process?”
“I say we hightail it outta here,” Derrick stated, making his opinion clear.
“Our first priority is to the volunteers,” David challenged. “It’s why we’re here in the first place. We cannot leave until we can ensure their safe escape, period. Beyond that, if there’s a way we can rescue some of the children too, I think we’ve gotta do it. It’s a moral imperative, even if it means putting our own lives at risk.”
“I’m with Derrick,” Gerry added. “I’m all for rescuing the volunteers and getting them to safety, but I didn’t sign up for a suicide mission. This civil war was going on before we got here, and it’ll continue after we leave. As much as I’d like to help the villagers, it’s not our responsibility.”
“Saving lives is always our responsibility,” David countered, “and it’s not really a civil war. The government may have a long and sordid history, but the insurgents are driven by Mexican drug money. They’re nothing more than thugs.
“When we signed up, we all knew there’d be some risks. I’m not gonna keep anyone who wants to from leaving with the volunteers . . . after all, they’ll need our help to get outta here . . . but I want to do everything I can to help the villagers, too.”
“David, if you stay, I’ll stay too,” I added.
“Before we talk about that, we need to get the volunteers out of here,” David reminded us. Turning to Derrick, he said, “Why don’t you see if you can raise someone on the radio . . . let the Guatemalan Red Cross know what’s going on and see if we can get any help? Perhaps we can get some instructions on how to proceed.”
Turning to me, he said, “Jer, why don’t you and Gerry check on the volunteers? While you do that, I’ll stand guard in case the insurgents come back.”
Much as I hated leaving my husband alone, he was right about what needed to be done and, with Latoya dead, it was only logical that he or I take charge.”
Gerry and I headed off to see how the volunteers were holding up. They were all huddled nearby, consoling each other over what had just happened. As I’d feared, two of them, including the doctor, were dead. It was the nurse who pointed out that I was wounded. With all the excitement I’d forgotten the earlier shots fired at me, and one of them had apparently grazed my neck, leaving a long superficial wound without having actually penetrated my skin.
After making sure everyone else was OK, Gerry and I regrouped with David and a very somber-looking Derrick.
“I wasn’t able to raise anyone on the radio,” he informed us. “I tried the one in the boat, too. I think someone’s jamming us,” he added.
“Which means the insurgents are close,” Gerry concluded, stating the obvious. “That’s all the more reason to get out of here.”
“Let’s think this thing through,” David countered. “We have the boat the volunteers came in, but it’s not very fast and it’s not very maneuverable. As tempting as it may be to load all of us up and hightail it outta here, what if the insurgents have set up a trap? We could be heading right into an ambush.”
“Fuck, you’re right!” Gerry agreed.
“What I think we should do is send two of us on another boat,” David told us. “That way if there is an ambush, only two of us will be killed. There are some boats tied up in the tributary that are much smaller, lighter, faster and easier to steer. There’d be a much better chance of getting away, particularly if we take a rocket launcher along. You’ll take one of the radios along and as soon as we get the boat free of the jamming signal, those on board can call for help.”
“That’s a good plan, Dave,” I added my agreement.
“Yeah, I agree,” Gerry chimed in.
“The question is, who’s gonna take the boat, and who’s gonna stay behind and defend the volunteers?” David asked.
“I spent my teenage years on a lake,” I pointed out. “We had a boat and I got to be very good at piloting it.”
“Admit it, Jer,” came David’s retort, “you spent a lot more time in your swimming pool.”
“I grew up on the water,” Gerry told us. “I’ve sailed and motored all around Lake Pontchartrain and the Gulf. I’m the best man to try and get the boat out of here.”
“I guess I could go as your backup . . .” I suggested, but Derrick interrupted me.
“We used to spend our summers on a houseboat up on Lake Powel. We always rented a motorboat and went skiing, too. Much as it scares the shit outta me, I’d be a much better backup to Gerry and besides, you and David should stay together,” he added looking at the two of us.
“For what it’s worth, if the boat gets ambushed, it doesn’t matter who’s on the boat and who’s back here,” my husband pointed out. “We’d all be done for.”
“Cheery thought,” Derrick responded with a smile.
“OK then, you guys try and get us help while Jer and I guard the village,” David summarized.
An hour later, Gerry and Derrick were on their way. It was as we headed back from the boat dock that I noticed David’s shirt was soaked with blood.