Sample: “Jonah, of Earth”

Jonah, of Earth.ocean

PROLOGUE

Present Day.

Boredom. He was overcome with a profound sense of boredom. Separated from what little family he had, there was no one really to turn to. Call it malaise, ennui, lassitude…people who had never experienced this kind of depression could never understand. Past friends and lovers were just that…in the past. Having money at such a young age should have given him freedom but the indifference he felt kept him from enjoying it. He decided to end his life.

Leaving no note behind he drove to the marshy shoreline south of the Key Bridge. He elected to do this thing without shedding his clothing. This would be beneficial. The soft cotton flannel and heavy boots would drag him down till he couldn’t breath any longer. Slowly, he stepped into the cold water and began walking. This is the way it’s done, my friend. One step at a time. After several steps the water covered his shoulders, then his head. His lips and eyes felt the salty sting. He walked on. The air ran from his lungs and he could feel a cold stillness inside. Still he walked on.

He walked till he could walk no further.

ONE: THE BEGINNING

CHAPTER ONE

June 1, 1971

Cape Flattery, 60 miles south of Victoria, British Columbia

Coming up directly beneath Bugara’s position, the strange, alien craft’s intentions couldn’t have been more obvious. The thin, triangular ship meant to ram her, disable her, and steal her precious cargo. The Captain of Bugara, an out-dated battery-diesel powered Balao-class submarine, stared wordlessly at the large shape beneath him. His sub was skimming the surface of the waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, leaving no sea-going advantage at all. Bugara had no downward-facing weapons or depth charges,. Even if there had been support vessels near her position, their presence would have offered no help. The craft was directly underneath, explosives would do just as much harm to the sub as it would to the alien vehicle. The Captain’s crew was minimal; a boarding seemed imminent.

His only hope was Whidbey. He prayed that the Phantoms from Ault Field would get there in time.

The Captain trained his eyes on the night sky. The skies of the Strait were normally overcast and rainy and this night was no exception…a light wind pelted his face with rain. His ship, on orders, was running with no lights. The only light visible was the soft blue/gold from the intruder below.

His well-trained ears detected something. Yes! There it is. The high-pitched whine that can only be one thing…

The submerged alien craft struck the sloped bottom of the Bugara, sending Commander Hightower to his knees, his head clanging against the conning tower’s bulkhead.

At that precise moment, one of two F-4B Phantom IIs unleashed a single Aim-7 Sparrow missile.

                                                                    ***

December 24, 1992

Seattle, Washington

When Mark Hensley saw the dead baby he thought his heart would stop. As it was, he immediately doubled over and vomited violently onto the cement, his eyes tearing. His buddy Gordie, busy rolling up the metal doors that separated the fish market from Pike Street was too far away to see him in distress and Mark couldn’t draw enough breath to scream although in his head he felt that his choked breathing was deafening. Tears streaming down his face, he chanced a second look and the sight made him fall to his knees, his gutting knife clattering on the ground.

It was supposed to be a good Christmas. Mark had been excited when he got the call. Not for the money but because he had a standing order for quality shark and he hated filling in the order for Malo’s with the usual sand and blacktip shark. A Tiger shark, especially one of this size, made his early morning rise a treat and not just another day at the docks. Tony on the Deception had been specific: a twelve-foot Tiger male, accidentally caught in their nets, he’d let it go for the standard rate and would Mark pick up a couple of cups of real coffee at Walmen’s? No cream, just sugar. Mark had already risen, as he did every day at four, his fish truck already started by Suzy his wife and warmed up and purring in the driveway. He’d made the drive from Capitol Hill in record time; scooped up three large Kona blends, took Columbian Way; and met Tony at his usual mooring at Pier Fifty, the sun just barely peeking over the horizon. After a quick weigh-in, Captain Tony and a couple of his boys help load the Tiger and a couple of containers of tuna, salmon, and kelp into his old Ford truck. Mark settled his bill, shot the shit for a moment, and then drove off to get “Seattle’s Fin-est” open and ready for business.

He would gut the fish himself.

Gordie was the first in; he always was; and he assisted Mark with winching the big fish onto the cleaning table. When they were struggling with the Tiger, Gordie had groaned at the weight.

Shit! What is he? Fifteen…sixteen?”

A thousand-four.” Mark had said, still jacked about the score. “I had to write a check. Tony stiffed me for a couple of coffees but I got some pretty sweet tuna. They’re going to make another run but we’ll have to hit the Rose for the rest.” The Portland Rose was one of Seattle’s Fin-est Fish Market’s best suppliers.

Once they had the Tiger situated on the cleaning table, Gordie had run off to open the doors and Mark had started a salt water hose over the fish. The run-off would spill into the grate and eventually find its way back to the ocean where it would probably make some lower form of sea-life very happy. Taking his gutting knife, he had removed the fins and tail, segregating them into a box for later sale to Yoshi’s for their soup, and placed the razor-sharp blade at the anal fin and made a single, long horizontal cut to the pectoral.

Guts and blood and the baby spilled out.

Hearing the knife strike the ground, Gordie looked and saw Mark’s kneeling posture and ran over to see if his Boss had slipped or fallen. It was cold. Dawn on the waterfront was always a moist, dewy affair. On such a wet, slippery surface as the cutting area, falling wasn’t too uncommon.

Gordie had just cleared the front shrimp and crayfish bins when his eyes caught sight of the gutted shark and the pale, tiny form on the table. Gordie’s face went white, his eyes flew open, but he kept his breakfast.

Oh my God! Are you all right, man?” He tried to bring his employer to his feet. “Sweet Jesus! What do we do now?”

Mark got shakily to his feet, wiping his mouth with a flanneled sleeve. Both he and Gordie stood rooted to the spot and forced themselves to look at the gruesome sight. The baby, perhaps two-feet long, appeared to be intact but its form was a morbid chalky-white. Its eyes were closed and if it weren’t for the deathly pallor, one could imagine a six-or-seven month old baby curled up in fetal position as it slept unperturbed in a crib somewhere. The body was completely naked except for a shock of brown hair on its head.

Mark was crying. He found it hard to find enough air but he managed to speak. His shallow breath made thin wisps of December smoke.

Oh, Lord—this is not right. Why, oh why, would the Good Lord above allow something like this to happen? Gordie, how could this be? We should pray.”

Gordie wasn’t quite as pious as his employer. Mark was a born-again, and Gordie had no problem with that, but he himself was a little more pragmatic.

Hey, no shit, Boss…we got to call the cops. And we have to do it before anyone else gets here. There gonna have questions and I’ll be damned if I know what we’re going to tell them.”

They both stared at the baby. The Tiger, rivaled only by the White as to size, was known as the “garbage can of the seas”. The Tiger’s usual prey was smaller fish, seal, and sometimes dolphin, but it was known to swallow up anything in its path with no regard to whether it was animate or inanimate. Gordie himself had removed license plates, beer bottles—once even a pair of eyeglasses from the belly of a Tiger but this was a first for him: a poor, defenseless little baby.

How could this have happened?

Gordie, call the cops.”

Crying, his hands shaking, Gordie got out his cell and dialed 9-11.

Yes? Seattle Police? I’d like to report a…”

A what? A drowning? Gordie couldn’t imagine a scenario where a new baby fell from a pleasure boat and nobody reported it. A murder? No one could do that! No one could cast a naked baby into the ocean and just go on about their business; no father could something like that, certainly no mother! A kidnapper? To what end? The whole thing made no sense.

Gordie looked at the baby. It lay on its side, covered in gore and viscera, its tiny arms and hands drawn up in almost a prayer-like position. He blinked his eyes. In the watery distortion of his tears he could almost swear he counted six fingers on each tiny hand.

9-11? I’d like to report…” He looked at Mark, who was staring at the tiny appendages.

I’d like to report…a death.”

CHAPTER TWO

The police were brisk and efficient, suppressing their revulsion and despair and ordering an emergency medical team even though it was apparent the baby was dead. Two hardened professionals went through the motions and drove the small body to Harborview Trauma Center and then abruptly broke down and cried when they had to relinquish the body to a receiving nurse. Hurriedly, vital signs were taken again and when there were none the baby, now identified as Baby John Doe, was transferred to the County Morgue in the basement level of the six-story medical hospital. In spite of the early hour and the holiday, word traveled quickly and the morgue was visited by no fewer than three doctors, four nurses, and the two devastated paramedics who had escorted Baby Doe.

A flurry of activity greeted Medical Examiner Charles Nagatani when he arrived at 10:00am, one day shy of a holiday. Statements had already been taken from the two fish-mongers at Seattle’s Fin-est, the paramedics were in the hospital cafeteria with a young detective, giving their account of the call to the emergency line and the subsequent journey to Harborview; and several assistants hovered near coffee and snack machines even though it was far past the end of their shifts. Nagatani ignored them. A fifteen-year veteran, Nagatani had seen it all: bombings, victims of fires, gunshot wounds, car accidents…there was nothing that could shock him or cause him to break his cool, methodical work routine. Or so he thought.

After washing and prepping himself in the small locker room adjacent to one of his surgical tables, he fitted and adjusted the lavaliere microphone that would carry his voice to one of two TEAC digital recorders nearby. He drew close to the small, shrouded figure on the table, selected a scalpel from a sterilized tray and threw back the white sheet. He gasped.

Baby John Doe was perfect. Nagatani was aware the body had been exposed to sea water for a period of time and he fully expected to see what he was accustomed to seeing. In similar cases the Coast Guard had brought him in the past, what remained of the victim was usually almost soup: the flesh sloughing off like over-cooked chicken with bones and musculature exposed, surfaces like eyes and lips opaque and distorted. This body looked untouched. Almost pristine. It wasn’t even bloated. And its color was “good”.

He had one thought: Drowned…and recently.

His head nurse had wept as she described how this baby was found in the carcass of a large shark and he expected bite signatures and torn flesh, not fine, unbroken skin. Even the amount of gas displacement and autolysis was negligible.

Thinking of his own young son, now proudly using the toilet on his own, Nagatani swore, bent, found the critical juncture of tissue directly under the terminus of the sternum, and moved to press the scalpel for the first exploratory cut. He toggled his lapel mike and then…he thought he heard a sound.

Re-pressing the microphone switch, he stated, “Subject Baby John Doe is exhibiting sounds of gas displacement. Subject appears to be a male, twenty-three-point-two inches in length, fifteen pounds, ten ounces in weight, with brown hair and…” Nagatani placed his face over the supine body and prepared to open the victim’s eyelid. Once again he restarted the recording and said, “Subject’s eye color is…”

Baby John Doe’s eyes flew open, revealing silver.

Holy Mother of God!”

Nagatani dropped the scalpel, its blade skittering across the bare tile flooring as he backed up against a wall. He could not bring himself to speak; to call for his nurse but he didn’t have to. The tiny body laying on the table suddenly came to life, arched its small back and let out a blood-curdling scream. Tiny arms twitched, the baby’s mouth sucked air, and Baby John Doe began crying continuously, the sound echoing off the tile walls.

Gleason, his head nurse, came rushing in, taking the scene in at once. She rushed to the baby’s side, took a long look at the contorted face crying so loudly, and promptly picked the naked form up into her arms and rested the pale head on her shoulder. Nurse Ella Gleason had been wearing latex gloves in preparation of assisting Nagatani so she quickly discarded one and with one deft move poked her index finger into the baby’s mouth. The infant went silent immediately, the silver eyes growing wide as it explored the new object in its mouth. One suckle, a second…and the newly alive baby began cooing as it gummed the nurse’s finger.

Nagatani was still glued to the wall. His mouth was open and he was panting like a caged animal, both eyes fixed on the child.

As if it were the most natural thing in the world, Nurse Gleason and baby turned towards the Medical Examiner and one set of blue and one set of gray eyes set on the doctor.

Very softly, she said, “Third floor. Trauma cart. We’ll need an aspirator and glucose just in case.”

Nagatani was frozen. Gleason didn’t want to chance yelling at the doctor so she carried the baby over to him, pulled her free hand back, and slapped Nagatani as hard as she could. In the resonate room, the sound reverberated like a gunshot. Baby Doe’s gray eyes got even bigger but he continued to gnaw at the nurse’s knuckle.

Nagatani was jolted into alertness. He felt the sting on his cheek, took one quick look at Baby Doe, one into his nurse’s eyes, and ran from the room, the cantilevered doors swinging wildly behind him.

Off in the distance Nurse Gleason could hear Nagatani raising a ruckus as he ran down the long hallway. She shifted the baby to her opposite shoulder, replaced her wet finger with a dry one and said, “You’re a miracle, little one. You know that? A Christmas miracle.” Brown-haired Baby Doe stared up in wonder. “When I first saw you I cried like…well, like you. Like a baby.”

God has saved you for something special, you know that? That’s all it could be. I don’t know how you survived but I’m not going to waste the Lord’s time by questioning his works. He’s got better things to do.” She removed her finger and smoothed the baby’s brown, sparse hair. Little Baby Doe stayed quiet. “You’re special and we can’t have a special little man like you walking around with a name like ‘Doe’ now, can we?”

Baby Doe” almost smiled.

Nah. Not a cutesie-wootsie little thing like you!” Now the baby did smile. “We need to name you something big and strong like the big boy you’re going to grow up to be. How about…” Nurse Gleason thought about the strange circumstances of how this boy came to be here, right now, on this special day. A room reserved for death. She rubbed a finger under the baby’s chin. A tiny right hand came up and wrapped six little fingers around her own.

Reborn from water, she thought.

It might be stretching the tale a bit, but I’d say it was in the Good Lord’s plan for you to be called the same as one of his favorite children. I’m going to call you…’ She placed a baptismal kiss on his head.

…Jonah.”

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