“Tax-i!” Steven waved his arm wildly, flagging down the first cab he saw. He opened the front door and slid into the seat. “Calusa Shores,” he said as Roderigo and Yvonne climbed into the back. “416 Bay Road.”

     “Ritzy,” the driver said. “Dr. Carter’s house, right? I take it you’re friends of his?”

     “Family actually,” Steven said.

     Roderigo looked back at the pillar of smoke rising from behind the terminal. “Fire’s been out for a while,” the driver said.

     “I know. We had to circle for an hour before they’d let us land.”

     “Them’s the breaks.”

     Steven leaned back in his seat, resting his head in his hands. “You know, I would’ve assumed they’d have the airport on lock-down after that.”

     “Yeah, it was a pretty bad,” the driver said. “But they don’t think it was intentional. Apparently, there was a fuel leak in one of the engines. It caught fire and almost tore the plane in half.”

     “Christ, did anyone survive?” Yvonne asked.

     “A few people. The one in the news is some college chick coming back from her vacation. Says her mother shielded her from the blast. I don’t know about that, though. With the heat and smoke, you’d need to have God Himself watching out for you.” He took a sip from his Cherry Blitz.

     “That’s debatable,” Steven said. “Though it is pretty weird.”

     “Like I said,” the driver snickered. “She’s got a friend in a very high place.”

     The drive was silent for a while. They were too tired to chat. The driver noticed this, and put on some soft music so they could get some sleep. However, it soon became clear that they couldn’t, and as they approached the Causeway Steven gazed out at the ocean. As the driver threw his now empty cup out the window, Steven could tell that the silence was going to end.

     “So this Dr. Carter,” the driver said. “Is he as big of a badass as the press makes him out to be?”

     “Guess so,” Steven said.

     “I mean, did he really take on Frederick Sanns? From what I hear, that guy was a first class loon.”

     “He wasn’t crazy,” Roderigo said. “He was psychopath. And no, Bat didn’t take him out on his own. There were a few others with him, although we didn’t exactly go out looking for a fight.”

     “We?” the driver said, gazing into the mirror.

     “Yeah….” Roderigo hadn’t meant to let it slip out, and now that it had he wasn’t as keen on discussing it.

     “All three of you then?”

     “I wasn’t there,” Steven said.

     “Just you two. What exactly happened?”

     Roderigo gritted his teeth. The incident was one of many memories he’d rather forget. But it was clear the driver wasn’t going to let him slide, and they still had a good hour left. Roderigo took a deep breath, and began to tell the story.

     The northern shoreline of Calusa Shores’ main island was bordered by the protected waters of the Everglades National Park. No commercial or recreational fishing was allowed there, and boating was heavily regulated. Devon Carter himself had a federal permit to catch samples, but he used a modified gill net that allowed him to remove them quickly and with little stress. However, sometime during 1997 he began to see a sharp decline in shark populations, and by 1999 he was pulling up dead sharks. Their fins had been cut off and they had been dumped into the ocean to either drown or starve; this wasteful practice was known as finning, and was so highly profitable that poachers would frequently invade protected areas and fish them dry.

     Roderigo didn’t know how Devon linked it to Frederick Sanns, or if he even knew before that night that the old man was involved. But a few days before Christmas in 1999, Devon Carter set out on the Oceanus and caught Sanns on tape. However, he accidentally drew the trawler’s attention, and Sanns’ men opened fire in response. Despite this, Carter’s gambit was a success, and he passed the video on to the authorities. The police then passed the information onto the FBI, who sent Yvonne Sawyer to investigate.

     What no one knew was that Sanns had been bribing officials in anticipation of this. One of his takes was a clerk with the district court, and when a warrant application passed through that office it didn’t take long for the news to reach Sanns. His men attacked and killed two of Carter’s business partners, and Yvonne was afraid Carter would be next. However, when she attempted to place Carter in protective custody, Carter refused to leave his home.

     Roderigo felt uneasy about the situation. He bought a revolver from a local pawnshop and applied for a concealed carry permit. He knew his illness wouldn’t be an obstacle–Roderigo had never been arrested or involuntarily committed, and as a result was not barred from owning a gun. However, he kept the purchase a secret from Carter, who he knew would not appreciate him carrying a firearm when inside his home.

     Around that time, Yvonne was alerted that a wiretap unrelated to the case had uncovered some startling information. It seemed that Sanns’ name had turned up during the investigation of a gunrunning ring in Key West–there was reason to suspect that Sanns had been stockpiling illegal weapons for months. Yvonne contacted the ATF and brought them onto the case, and they began attempting locate Sanns’ warehouses. Yvonne requested that the Carter house receive protective detail, but her superior refused, saying that Carter’s testimony was no longer necessary. Frustrated, she resigned herself from the case and filed for a leave of absence.

     Carter, who continued to work, gave his staff the option to take some leave time. While most of them took him up on the offer, his new intern–young biology major Simon Carlton–continued to come to work. Carter was grateful enough to invite Carlton to meet his family. After some discussion, they agreed that Carlton, Roderigo and the Carters would take the Oceanus out for a leisure tour of the Calusa Shore coastline, and set the date for New Year’s Eve. When he learned that Yvonne had not returned to Miami, he invited her as well.

     Although Yvonne was no longer involved in the investigation, the authorities continued to pursue leads. By New Year’s Eve, they had located what they believed to be Sanns’ primary warehouse and began to prepare a raid. SWAT, the FBI and the ATF all converged on the property just after nine, but they were in for a nasty shock. Sanns had been tipped off, and his workers open fired before they were able to get inside the door. The fight spilled out of the docks and into neighboring communities, overwhelming law enforcement as they struggled to keep the body count down. Despite collateral damage, the warehouse fell rather quickly, but the real battlefield was now the streets of Calusa Shores.

     The chaos was barely visible from the deck of the Oceanus, but it was clear something was happening on shore. As they watched and listened to hell unfold, Carter spotted what he thought was Sanns’ trawler depart from another dock, and to his horror he realized that the bloodshed was just buying time for Sanns’ escape.

     Carter ordered his family down into the cabin, and the rest of them began to talk. Carlton attempted to make contact with the Coast Guard on the distress channel, but no one responded. Roderigo suggested searching the non-emergency channels for any news, and managed to make contact with a nearby cutter. To their shock, they found that that a communications blackout had been issued for area; the Coast Guard wasn’t responding because no one was monitoring the lines. Instead, all communication was being done over federal switchboards, and all civilian vessels had been advised return to port.

     Sanns was likely going to escape.

     Carter, however, wasn’t about to let that happen. He suggested that they attempt to apprehend and hold Sanns until they could reach law enforcement. Yvonne wasn’t happy with the idea–besides the idea violating federal law, she didn’t want to put Carter and his family in danger. However, she admitted that the alternative was worse, and rather than risk Sanns escaping prosecution, she suggested a different plan.

     As Carter began to pull alongside Sanns’ vessel, Yvonne contacted the trawler on a non-emergency channel. She identified herself as an off-duty federal agent and requested permission to board. The trawler responded with gunfire fire. They had expected this, but their aim was a little too good–one of the bullets crippled the engine, leaving the Oceanus dead in the water, another took out the radio.

     Their plan, however, didn’t need either. They simply were attempting to draw the the trawler close while keeping Sanns’ eyes on what was happening on that side of the Oceanus. On the opposite side, where Sanns’ and his crew could not see, Roderigo had slipped into a diving suit and rebreather, and was waiting for the trawler to get close enough for him to sneak aboard. Meanwhile, Yvonne Devon and Carlton would remain on deck while Fiona, Princess and Pepper would hide below. Yvonne and Carlton would attempt to lure the trawler’s crew onto the Oceanus, where they would keep them distracted so that Roderigo apprehend Sanns.

     It worked; the trawler approached the stalled vessel, only to find Carlton and the others armed with shotguns. The handful of crewmen were forced to drop their weapons. But when Roderigo slipped aboard the trawler, he was surprised to find a pair of deckhands that they hadn’t seen, and was forced into the cabin at gunpoint. The crewmen removed Roderigo’s mask and respirator, took his revolver and chained his hands to a pipe. The senior crewmen then took his leave, unaware that the chain wasn’t secure.

     As Roderigo worked his way free, he drew attention away from his hands by taunting the guard. Eventually, the frustrated deckhand grabbed Roderigo by the collar and placed a diving knife to Roderigo’s throat. It was what Roderigo had planned–he wrenched his wrists from the chain and kicked the crewman in the gut, following it with a hard jab to the throat. The blow crushed the man’s trachea, and he collapsed, gasping for air.

     Roderigo had to act fast. He grabbed his revolver off his captor and hid himself behind the door, waiting for the other deckhand to return. When it opened, he fired a single shot into the man’s kneecap and quickly headed into the wheelhouse where he found himself staring down a startled Sanns. In a panic, Sanns grabbed a handgun, but before he could fire he was struck in the eye by single round.

     “Well, the story is certainly more interesting that what the papers printed,” the driver said. “You guys went through hell, didn’t you?”

     “Yes,” Roderigo said. He stared out the window, refusing to make eye contact. He was glad his face was difficult to read; there was more to the story than he cared to tell.

     As the cab pulled in front of the driveway, Yvonne tapped Steven on the shoulder. “You’re paying, right?”
     “Oh yeah.” Steven began to dig through his wallet. “How much?”

     “That’ll be 152.50,” the driver said. As Steven handed him his credit card, he told the driver to add 10% for a tip. “Well thank you,” the driver said with a smile.

     “Well, to tell the truth, this is the first time I’ve heard the whole story,” Steven said. “I’d tip Rod too, if I thought he’d accept it.”