Out of the Water, Part 1
Another mod emergency has reared its ugly…fin.
The minute I was able to fly again…well, I started having to fly again. With a lot more pre-arrangement involved than before, of course – have to make sure my ID and passport will actually be accepted at any airport I’ll have to go through before I get to that airport. So far we haven’t had any problems, the people who’ve requested our help have been really on the ball when it comes to making sure all the details from their end have been worked out in advance. There was one place, a hotel, that insisted I had to have proof of current rabies vaccination before I could stay there, but luckily I had my tags with me. Yes, official rabies tags, the same ones you get for a dog. The guys and I have always been vaccinated because that’s just playing it safe when you work with animals, but the usual HDC vaccine given to people won’t work on me now so Doc in his near-infinite attention to detail had created a hybrid version. And sent the guys the vaccination schedule for the other two follow-up shots I was going to need after the initial one, and also his notes so we could re-create the vaccine every year. Oh, and he’d provided the tags, which I admit to having been pretty annoyed about when I found them attached to my keyring after the kidnapping, but they were registered in the county’s system so I hung onto them. So I guess I owe Doc an apology for being annoyed…
…Okay, maybe not. He may be an honorable and weirdly thoughtful bastard, but he’s still a bastard.
Anyway, Joey and I had been in India. Again. This time because some idiots had decided to play around with DIY mod kits they’d gotten off the black market, because they thought making elephants meaner would stop poachers. News flash: Elephants can be plenty mean if they feel like it, they don’t need any help with that. Indian elephants aren’t nearly as big as their African cousins, though, and a little too high a percentage of crocodile mod made their first project even smaller and quite a bit slower thanks to short, stubby legs and a heavy body. Still pretty huge, though, and now with meat-eating, tail swinging action thrown in. So basically, a low-budget four-ton dinosaur with a prehensile trunk. And then they’d tried a more complex mod on another elephant and came up with the high-end version, which came out more like a carnivorous woolly mammoth with tiger stripes.
Luckily India already has several preserves where large animals can be kept. Not the Elephas tigris indicus, because it was basically an eating machine and had to be put down. But Elephas makara maximus settled into his own corner of the big elephant preserve just fine and even killed and ate a couple of poachers who attacked one of ‘his’ elephants the first week – yeah, we didn’t dare make another makara to keep him company, but luckily he bonded with the elephants and now he’s really territorial over them. Word is the poachers are fleeing the area in droves, and some of them even tried complaining to the government. The government responded by having a public celebration in honor of the makara and giving the preserve more money, because they really, really hate poachers.
Anyway, Joey and I and Larry, the security guy who normally travels overseas with us, had just gotten back from India, had in fact just gotten off the plane and headed for Customs, when we saw Dave and Pete waiting for us. And a Customs official with a dog, Mike from the security agency, and a guy in a suit who looked like he was about to vibrate apart. Everybody smelled nervous. “Oh crap, what happened?”
“Nothing to any of us,” Dave reassured me quickly. “But you’re flying right back out again. Someone got stupid at one of the resorts down in Cancún.”
He held out his phone, which showed a picture of something in the beautiful blue water just off the pristine beach of a fancy resort. Something big and black with a big fin sticking up. And there were smaller black somethings in the water with it. Joey made a face. “Well, that’s not an orca,” he said. “Or a whale. Do we know what it is?”
Pete shook his head. “The tourists are going crazy trying to get pictures of it, but so far nothing good enough has been posted to give us a lead.” He indicated the man in the suit. “This is Mr. Ortega, from the Mexican embassy – he brought the paperwork and the plane tickets, and because this is an emergency he requested a waiver from Customs.”
That brought the Customs agent into the conversation. His name tag said he was R. Henry, and although he was a little bit agitated his scent said the change in his routine was welcome rather than annoying. “This is an emergency, so we can be fast,” he told us. His dog was already sniffing our suitcases, and when it tried to sniff me a little more intimately he pulled it back. “I just need to know that you don’t have any fruits, vegetables, plants or animals with you, and if you’ve got your paperwork for your specimen case I’ll take that and you can switch out for a fresh one with Dr. Montoya – I already checked his, and the paperwork is inside.”
I handed the paperwork over, and gave my specimen case to Pete. My stomach was dropping right through the bottom of my shoes. No way everyone was this panicked if there weren’t human casualties. “How many people, guys?”
Mr. Ortega was the one who answered me. “Somewhere between six and fifteen. As it is a resort, it can be difficult to track the guests with any accuracy.” He made a face. “ This only came to my attention a few hours ago. I am sorry to ask you to get right back on a plane after a twenty-hour flight, but the official lab in Mexico City is not up to handling this yet. And my government worries it may be the work of terrorists.”
“We both slept for most of the flight from New Delhi, it’s fine,” I assured him. I wasn’t lying, not really – jet lag may make us cranky, but it won’t kill us. Because fifteen people unaccounted for, possibly the work of Ancient Fire? That’s an emergency. “Do you have any information we can look at on the flight? That way we can hit the ground running.”
He handed over a folder. Three boarding passes were paperclipped to the front. “I’m switching out with you, Larry,” Mike said. “The docs can afford to be jet-lagged, you can’t.”
“I already checked his bags, he’s good to go,” Agent Henry said absently; he was going over paperwork. “Dr. Cristal, are all of these souvenirs you declared on the form just tchotchkes you took a liking to, or are you planning to open up shop?”
Joey smiled. “Just regular souvenirs – some of them came from the impromptu festival they had to celebrate their new makara, and our host loaded us down with more for Hana before we left. Apparently she’s pretty popular over there. They knew better than to give us candy or anything like that.”
“Works for me. Makara?”
“Elephas makara maximus, just ‘makara’ for short,” I elaborated, pulling out my phone to show him a picture – which actually made him do a double-take. “Yeah, that’s what happens when you mod an elephant with a marsh crocodile. He’s even bulletproof, some poachers got onto the preserve about a week ago and proved it. And then he ate them.”
“I’ll let my superiors know we’re about to see a decrease in poached ivory from that area,” he said. “Black market or more terrorists?”
Yeah, word about Ancient Fire has gotten around – especially in law enforcement. “Black market, they were DIYing it, trying to make the elephants less poachable. It did work, but since those elephants are endangered the authorities weren’t too happy with them for making them into a different species.”
“I don’t doubt that.” He finished checking over the paperwork, then handed part of it to Dave and one sheet back to Joey. “Don’t re-declare the souvenirs when you come back through,” he told Joey. “I already signed off on it, and made a note that you went right back out again, so just give them a new form if you have anything else and this one along with it.”
“Thanks.” Joey tucked the paper in with his other travel documents. “Anything else we need to know about coming back in?”
Agent Henry shook his head. “Nope, next time you’ll just go through the regular way. Have a good flight.”
“Have a boring day,” I responded, which made him grin, and then he was directing Dave and Pete and Larry to the regular exit and I turned my attention back to Mr. Ortiz. “Okay, so our flight leaves in ten minutes, is there anything else you need to tell us before we run for the gate?”
He shook his head. “It should all be in the paperwork I gave you, and whoever meets you at the other end of the flight will have any new information.” He shook hands with both of us. “Thank you, gentlemen.”
“Hopefully we’ll be able to help,” I told him, and then we took off for the gate. If anyone stopped and stared along the way, I was moving too fast to see them.
They had an airport security guy waiting at the gate for us – making sure the plane would wait, apparently – and a baggage handler was there to whisk our suitcases down to be loaded. We handed over our boarding passes and were escorted onto the plane and seated in the aisle by the emergency exit, and within minutes the plane was taxiing down the runway and we were being given the usual spiel about what to do if we experienced plane-fail – Pete’s term for it, of course. Takeoff went smoothly, and as soon as the all-clear light came on we pulled out the paperwork and started trying to figure out what we were flying into.
There wasn’t much to work with. The pictures we’d already seen, a few eyewitness descriptions that would probably have been dismissed as the result of too many margaritas a year or two ago, some speculation, and that was it. “So, we’ve got a big black thing in the water, and it has babies,” Joey summed up.
“Don’t forget the shark fin.”
“I’m hoping it’s not a shark fin,” he shot back. “You don’t know how hard I’m hoping that is not a shark fin, because that means they modded something even bigger with shark, which means…I don’t know, someone doesn’t like tourists? Someone is trying to make a found-footage horror movie? Someone was just stupid? You tell me.”
“I’ll tell you to take a nap,” I told him, taking the papers out of his hand. “Cranky doesn’t become you. And Angela says we’re supposed to keep up your training when she’s not around.”
He stuck his tongue out at me but settled back in his seat – not all the way, because that would have been cruel to the person behind him, but far enough so he could get at least a little bit comfortable. Whoever was back there let out a put-upon sigh, though, and started smelling annoyed, so I wasn’t surprised when the flight attendant came over to answer their call. “Is there a problem, sir?”
“Yes, I want to know why there’s a dog sitting in that seat. Isn’t it supposed to be in a crate or something? My wife is allergic to dogs!”
I guess he hadn’t been looking when we were seated. I took pity on the flight attendant, who I could tell really wasn’t sure how to start answering that, and turned around, peering over the seat at him. “Well then I guess we’re lucky I’m not one, aren’t we?”
The guy almost squeaked – he’d just been hoping throwing his weight around would get him something, I could tell – and the flight attendant smiled a real smile at me instead of her professional one. “Thank you for clearing that up, Dr. Darling. My apologies…”
“Not a problem, I get that a lot.” I turned back around and went through the process of settling in again – getting long-haul comfortable in an airplane seat designed for a tailless primate takes some doing. I held back a yawn. “Sorry if I’m a bit snippy, we just came off a twenty-hour flight.”
“You’re fine. They told us you’d just come back from India?”
Ooh, curiosity – and her wanting to rub it in to the complainer that we were Very Important People. I pulled up the picture of the makara on my phone for her. “We were, yes. Someone thought this would be a good way to protect endangered elephants.”
She was delighted. “That looks like a dinosaur!”
“It thinks it is a dinosaur,” Joey supplied. “It also appointed itself the protector of the other elephants on the preserve and ate two poachers. The local government had a huge party in its honor.”
“I would have too.” She went back to professional again. “Did you gentlemen need anything?”
“Unless you have a cure for jet lag or you’re an ichthyologist, I think we’re good,” Joey said, covering a yawn of his own. “Thank you for asking, though.”
He went to sleep before she’d even made it back to her station, but I didn’t feel like sleeping yet so I thumbed through the pictures on my phone. It was a shame we’d had to put down the other modded elephant, she’d been really pretty – vicious as hell and inclined to see other elephants as a food source, but still really pretty. The preserve was having her taxidermied, in fact, they expected her to be very popular with visitors. I also had some pictures of Dave’s wolf-modded dog, Sheena, which was already every bit as spoiled as Fred had been, and some pictures of Siberia Ivor had sent me. He was still there, the project they were on had in fact run long and was still running it, but his usual security detail back in Moscow had appealed to someone and gotten permission for him to use a phone.
After someone told him what had happened, of course. He’d been outside the research facility to take the pictures because he was out stomping around on the tundra to cool off. He’d even sent me a selfie of him with his ‘Siberia beard’, because apparently it was just too damn cold for him to want to shave. And he’d sent me about fifty text messages, but the signal up there was kind of sketchy so he’d had to send something, wait for it to upload, and then wait for whatever I sent back to show up in return.
The wait between messages had been absolutely nerve-wracking. Especially after I sent my selfie back.
But his response had been: You are too adorable for words. I will be sure to compliment the madman’s skill before I kill him.
Followed by: You will be all right?
The delay getting that reply back to him hadn’t entirely been the fault of the weak signal. Yeah, I’ll be all right.
I did eventually manage to get a couple of hours of sleep on the plane, and between that and some coffee Joey and I were both about as alert as we needed to be by the time the plane landed. They had us disembark first, and at the end of the ramp another nervous man was waiting. This man was so nervous, though, that Mike went on alert. “Okay, I don’t like that.”
“Dude is scared,” Joey said, wrinkling his nose. “Like, all the way around scared.” He raised one hand in greeting. “Hola! Are you here to meet us?”
“Si…I mean, yes, I am. Miguel Cabrera,” he introduced himself. “I was expecting Dr. Darling and Dr. Cristal…but I do not know this other man?”
“Michael Lucas, Elite Defense VIP Escort and Security Services,” Mike introduced himself, and got a reaction that made him frown. “Mr. Cabrera, may I ask which government office you’re with?”
Cabrera swallowed and pulled an ID card out of his pocket. “The national tourism agency.”
“Oh, you’re with Fonatur.” Mike was nodding. “That’s fine. I thought you guys would probably be out for this.”
“We should grab our bags and get going,” I said when our escort didn’t move. “Mr. Cabrera, do you have any more information for us?” The fear-smell spiked. Uh-oh. “The embassy official who saw us off at LAX said whoever met us here would give us any new details that had come up while we were in the air.”
“New…” He was feeling his way. “I am not sure how much information you were already given, Doctor.”
“Big black thing and smaller black things in the water, no decent pictures, possibly up to fifteen people missing from the resort,” Joey summed up. “All we could see in the pictures we were given was big and black and a fin. Do you have better pictures yet?”
“The tourists are taking many photos,” Cabrera offered. “But the large creature has not come nearer. The scientists from the lab in Mexico City and the expert they brought, they believe it holds back for fear of beaching itself, that it must be a creature of the deeper water.”
“Nobody’s gotten a closer look at it?” He shook his head, and Joey frowned. We’d reached the baggage claim, and a baggage handler brought our bags to us; I noticed they’d been tagged with green tape and a government sticker. Something was off. The Mexican government considered this an emergency, and they wanted us here working on it. Which made sense, because their official lab didn’t have a whole lot of practical experience yet – none at all when it came to dealing with Ancient Fire – and GenoMod is the go-to resource for getting to the bottom of this kind of thing. So you’re rushing to get your experts in-country and on-site, because holy shit something the size of a bus is out having babies right next to a luxury resort and tourists may be missing, but the guy you send to meet them is shaking in his shoes and claims he has no new information to share…
Mike looked down at me, apparently taking in the change in my body language – which I have so much more of now – and gave me a little nod and the hand-signal that meant ‘don’t say anything’. Joey had noticed before he had, of course, but he didn’t say anything either. We’d get out of the airport and out to the resort first, and then we’d figure out what Miguel Cabrera was hiding.
The resort was one of the newer luxury ones, a tall white rectangle of a building whose ends curved inward to embrace the ocean view, fenced in at its foot by a walled courtyard dotted with palm trees and colorful umbrellas surrounding a generously-sized pool area. The white beach beyond the wall had been cleared, though, so the pool area was somewhat overcrowded now and the balconies on the upper-level rooms were mostly all occupied. Some of the curious and/or pissed-off guests were even sitting on top of the wall, and I thought I could make out a few on the building’s roof as well.
Nothing was visible in the water, though, at least not from where we were standing, and none of the watching guests seemed to be seeing anything either. “I’d like to get up on the roof, see if anything is visible from up there,” I told our now even more nervous escort. “First, though, Dr. Cristal and I would like to clean up a little, since nothing seems to be going on right now. Do we have rooms here?”
Cabrera fidgeted. “The hotel is booked full. Perhaps you could change in one of the cabanas…”
“Joey!” A youngish man with dark, spiky hair had come out of the building’s main entrance and was making right for us. “Dios mio, Danny! They said they had sent for you, but we weren’t sure you would be able to catch the flight.”
“We almost didn’t – they had airport security hold it up for us.” Joey held off the impulsive hug. “Ramon, we’re gross right now – twenty-six hours on planes will do that to you.”
“Don’t care.” Ramon hugged him anyway, and then gave one to me too after a split second of hesitation – which I didn’t hold against him, since this was the first time he’d seen me in person since the incident. “Mierda, the bastard made you shorter and cuter. I’m going to have to beat Maria off of you with a stick.”
I laughed. Ramon and Maria – Drs. Luna and Villegas, respectively – are the researchers from the Mexico City lab, and we’ve all been friends for a while now. “If you let us use your shower, I’ll let her get in one ear scratch,” I told him. “She’s not touching the tail, though.”
He looked behind me, raised an eyebrow. “That’s only going to work if you don’t let her see it – stay in front of Joey.” He let go, extended a hand to Mike. “Dr. Ramon Luna. Aren’t you Larry’s boss?”
Mike grinned at him and shook. “Yeah, I’m Mike, nice to meet you. Everything looks really quiet?”
Ramon rolled his eyes. “Oh believe me, that will only last until the sun begins to set. Come on, let’s go up to the suite and we’ll go over all the information we have – which isn’t much so far.” He gave Mr. Cabrera an unfriendly look when it seemed like he might protest this. “If the pattern of sightings holds, the creature is going to start breaching again about two hours before sunset – once we’ve brought GenoMod up to speed we’ll all be going up on the roof, so you may join us there later if you wish.”
He herded us into the resort before Cabrera could find a response, snapping at wary bellboys in Spanish to get them to take our luggage and then having a more respectful short conversation with the worried concierge who was hovering nearby. The concierge rolled her eyes at whatever it was Ramon had told her – I knew it probably wasn’t very complimentary to Mr. Cabrera, since Joey and Mike were both snickering – and approached us at once. “Gentlemen, we’re very sorry about that…misunderstanding,” she apologized. “We had expected you would be working closely with Drs. Luna and Villegas, that was why we cleared the suite for their use – it sleeps seven. I’ll have Housekeeping send up extra towels, and we’ll let the kitchen know you’ll all be having dinner on the rooftop patio. I believe Dr. Vargas should be back by then, did you want him to join you?”
“Si, gracias,” Ramon told her, and started herding again, this time toward the elevators. “That’s Jorge Vargas, from the big aquarium in Mexico City,” he said once we were in the elevator. “Maria and I thought we might need a fish expert.”
“We might,” Joey agreed. “My specialty is marine mammals and so is Angela’s – and she couldn’t have come anyway, she’s still not steady enough on her feet.” That got him a look. “We can’t let it get out yet, but Danny just may have figured out a way to use the mod process for, shall we say, ‘repairs’.
Ramon’s eyes lit up. “It worked?”
Joey smiled. “It worked. Two hours after we injected the mod serum, she was wiggling her toes. And a day later she was bitching me out because she’d started having cramps for the first time in years and saying she was seriously wondering whether she should have agreed to marry a man who thought that was funny.”
That got him a slap on the back and a sideways hug. “Felicitaciones, amigo! When…”
“You’ll know when you guys get your invitations. We wanted to see how her PT was going to go before we set a date. It’ll be a beach wedding, though, we already decided on that.”
“And Hana already told him he couldn’t wear Pete’s board shorts,” I put in. “So you can’t either, Ramon.”
He laughed, waving that off. “I know better than to even think of it. My abuela would come back from the grave to murder me, and my mother and sisters would help her.”
The bellhops were just leaving the suite when we came off the elevator, and Ramon ushered us in around them. “We have roommates now, Maria! And Danny said you could have one ear scratch if he gets to use our shower – that pendejo from the tourist board was trying to tell them they’d have to change in a cabana.”
“I’ll deal with him later,” she promised. Maria is the lead geneticist in their lab, and she’s all the woman Ada Jones is never going to be. She looked me up and down. “That cabrao, he made you shorter! That had to be on purpose, wolves are big!”
I let her sweep me into a lavender- and rose-scented hug – her soap and shampoo respectively, Maria doesn’t wear perfume when she’s at work. “Wolves are big, foxes aren’t.”
She pulled back for a better look. “Oh si, I can see it now. You have a species name yet?”
I’d been trying hard not to think about needing one. “No.”
“I will fix that.” She ruffled my ears the same way she used to ruffle my hair. “What about tu novio ruso?”
I pulled out my phone, opened up Ivor’s selfie. “Someone told him, and they got him permission to contact me. He sent me this selfie – apparently it’s too cold to shave in Siberia.”
Maria laughed. “He looks like un leñador, from a movie. What did he say?”
I shrugged. “That I was adorable but he was going to kill Doc.”
“He’ll have to get in line,” Ramon said, and gave me a little push. “Go on, go shower – the suite has two, so you don’t have to wait.”
I twitched my tail out of Maria’s reach as I went to dig in my suitcase for clean clothes. “Is it still fifteen people missing?”
“The unofficial count is twenty-three,” she said. “Unofficial because Fonatur does not want to make it official. We think they might have known something, before word got out.”
“I thought Mr. Cabrera might be hiding something. He smelled like he was.”
“Yeah, he smelled like fear when we got off the plane,” Joey agreed. “We knew something had to be going on.”
“Probably a cover-up,” Ramon said. “Of what, though, we are not sure.”
“Or why,” Maria put in. “The tourists, they like the híbridos – even if it was eating people, more people would still come to see it. Which is bad for safety, but good for Fonatur.”
“And Fonatur is all about keeping the tourist money rolling in,” Mike agreed. “So, something else must be going on. Doctors, have you had any problems since you got to Cancún?”
“Only with the asshole who met you at the airport,” Maria told him. “But we have also only been here for less than two days.” She cocked an eyebrow at him. “You think we should be expecting it?”
Mike shrugged. “I don’t know. What I do know is that Mr. Cabrera was nervous enough to be rude when he met us at the airport, and frightened enough that Dr. Darling smelled it on him before we even got close. And when they asked if there was any new information he almost wet his pants, and he wanted to know what information they’d already been given before he said anything. So yes, I’d say he’s definitely in possession of information he’s not supposed to share with anyone else, and it probably has bearing on what’s going on here. As to how far they’ll go to keep that information from coming to light…well, your guess is as good as mine. But based on my company’s dealings with Fontanur in the past, the one thing they really don’t like is bad publicity and they’ll go…farther than I’m comfortable with to make it go away.”
I thought about that all the way through my shower – which, after twenty-six hours on planes, was more satisfying than sex and took roughly four times as long. Farther than Mike was comfortable with is probably not as far as you think; he and the other guys from Elite are professionals, and it’s written into their client agreements that if a client asks them to break the law their service contract with said client is declared null and void at that moment. Doesn’t mean they won’t make that call on their own if they determine that it’s the right thing to do, but Mike’s idea of when it’s the right time color outside the lines is still pretty conservative – I mean, these aren’t loose-cannon ex-commandos from a movie, they’re former U.S. Army soldiers, most of them former military police. That’s why Luke knew exactly how to address the police’s standard questions when Hana and I went missing, and why Mike can run an investigation almost as well as Detective Angelo.
So if Mike is certain Fontanur – which I’d never even heard of – is covering something up, they probably are. And I had a suspicion about what it might be…because whether it’s the ocean or not, that was an awfully big fish to just appear overnight with a bunch of babies in tow near a heavily populated area, wasn’t it?
I’d taken my time with my shower, and then of course it took me almost that long to dry off and brush myself down – don’t want to shed all over everything, it’s rude – but I was still out before Joey was. “Guys, what if it’s not just 23 missing people? Has anyone checked the missing-person stats for the surrounding area from, say, the last six months or so? Because if there was a spike…”
“…Then that was when our mystery fish showed up.” Maria slapped her forehead. “Estúpido, we should have thought of that! If there were more missing people…”
“Then Mr. Cabrera and his bosses may have good reason to be frightened,” I finished for her. “Tourists might like to look at hybrid creatures, but reports of people being eaten at resorts isn’t going to make people want to stay there – think shark scares. So this problem may not be as new as the tourism board wants everyone to think it is.”
“And they sent their mouthpiece to play chauffeur for the people who will be figuring that out, maybe hoping to keep speculation down.” Ramon was already on his laptop. “Or was he maybe afraid you already knew? He was reluctant to give more information until he found out what you’d already been told.”
“That would make sense.” I sat down on one of the couches, or rather, sank down into it. This was a really nice resort. “What did Dr. Vargas think about it?”
“He said it is not unusual for big fish to not be seen,” Ramon said. “He thought it might have come out because it needed more food. So he went out on a boat, looking for a hungry big fish in the water.” My ears went all the way up, and he laughed. “It’s fine, he does this for a living – that was what he said when I didn’t think he ought to go out, anyway. He was hoping he could get a better picture of our mystery creature, but he wasn’t planning to try to bait it.”
“I still think it was stupid.” Maria rolled her eyes. “If it eats him we will be missing a fish expert, and then people will look at us funny when we have to use Google to find out what something is.”
“That’s why you always wear your lab coat,” I told her. “When you have a lab coat on, everything you do looks legit.”
“And they have nice large pockets to carry things in,” Ramon agreed absently. “I may have something. Ten disappearances over the past four months near El Rey. The officials attributed the deaths to inexperienced divers and surfers being swept out to sea, and to rising sea levels causing the currents to change.” He checked something else. “The annual average when there is not a hurricane is two deaths, maybe three.”
“So this creature may have been working its way up the coast, looking for more food,” Mike said. He was typing something on his tablet. “Okay, I passed that along to my office, they’ll get back to me if they find any more information that might be relevant.”
“I’ll pass it along to Pete too,” I said, forcing myself up out of the couch to get my phone – I’d plugged it in to charge while I was in the shower. Once I hit the button, though, the screen filled up with messages. “Or not, looks like he beat us to it. They didn’t noise it around, but one of the diving excursion companies in El Rey suspected they might have a predator problem and got the bigger resort there to deploy some buoys that put out a low-level sonar pulse, sort of like an invisible underwater fence to discourage sharks and things from coming into an area to hunt. It apparently worked, but a week later two men who had been fishing north of there disappeared and the only thing found was some wreckage assumed to be what was left of their boat.”
Joey came out of the suite’s second bedroom, looking and smelling somewhat alarmed. “Did something else happen?”
“Not here, and not recently,” Maria told him. “Our big hungry fishie may have been working her way up the coast.”
“Over the last few months, if not longer,” I elaborated. “Pete was blowing up my phone while I was in the shower.”
He made a beeline for his phone. “Okay, yeah, mine too.” His eyebrows went up. “Danny, the orange dot is blinking.”
“What?!” I looked at my phone again, dropping back onto – into – the couch. Sure enough, the dot was blinking on my phone too. “Son of a bitch. Mike…”
He’d already gotten up to check Joey’s phone. The blinking orange dot is part of an app Pete came up with to let us know when an outside connection was being made to our phones and by what. If the dot had been blue it would have just been a tower ping, green would have meant an incoming text or call, and red was a full connection. Orange was just somebody trying and failing to eavesdrop. “They must have expected you to log in to the hotel’s wifi,” Mike said. “Don’t worry about it – it’s probably just a damage control measure, honestly, and it might not even be aimed specifically at you. Places where high-visibility VIPs come to visit do this kind of thing sometimes. The suite isn’t bugged, though, I already checked.”
“Well, that’s a good thing.” Joey dropped down next to me…and then sprawled out with a groan of appreciation. “Oh my god, so this is why people stay at luxury resorts. I think I’m going to sleep right here tonight.”
“They do count the couches as beds, for occupancy,” Maria told him. “Two people in each double bed, two out here, and my bed has una cama nido that pulls out from under it.”
“I’ll take that one,” I told her. “I’m the only one here short enough to be comfortable on a trundle bed.” Not to mention the only person present – for multiple reasons – who it wouldn’t be considered inappropriate for her to share a room with. Some parts of the scientific community can be surprisingly prudish when it comes to things like that. “So, we don’t have much more information than we did before we got on the plane, unless one of the tourists has gotten a better photo of the creature that the ones we already have.”
“None so far,” Ramon said. “All anyone has seen is big and black with a fin that sticks up, and la criaturas just look like fat little black blobs in the water. The resort has tried to help us, they made it a contest to see who could get the best photo, but so far there has been nothing which might give us more information.”
“And we are not so crazy as Dr. Vargas that we will go out and try to chase the giant hungry fish down in a boat to get a closer look,” Maria put in, standing up. “Yet, anyway. Come on, we will go up to the patio on the roof now and have dinner. There really is not much else we can do until the mystery fish decides to show up again.”
I hauled myself back up out of the couch. “You don’t think Dr. Vargas is going to find anything?”
She shook her head, made a face. “I am not sure he would come back from it if he did, so I hope not. He knows his fish, yes…but we have no way of knowing if this is just a fish.”
Nobody really had anything to say to that.