Authors: Carly Fall
All Rights Reserved
Editing by: Madison Seidler
Cover Design by: PJ Friel
“By Sea is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used FICTITIOUSLY. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is purely coincidental.”
Brody Teller sat in his beach chair digging his toes into the cold sand of the Corpus Christi, Texas beach. Before him the gray ocean stretched for miles, reminding him of blustery weather, but the waves lapped gently at the shoreline. There wasn’t a storm in sight.
The sky was just beginning to turn blue, the sun rising to the east. In a few hours, the ocean would sparkle, the sand beneath his feet would warm slightly. The die-hard surfers and beachgoers would be out in force, even if it was late November, and the temperature hovered somewhere in the low to mid-seventies during the day.
But for now, he had this stretch of sand to himself and was glad he wore sweatpants and a sweatshirt. Everything was quiet except for the seagulls squawking above him in the early morning light, and the odd one who dared to come near him looking for a handout.
Brody sipped his coffee, letting the liquid heat and the relative silence of the morning relax him. Gazing out over the water, he noticed a pod of dolphins bouncing around the gentle waves.
“Good morning,” he murmured, raising his mug to them.
Shutting his eyes, he leaned back in the chair, wishing he could sleep more than a few hours at a time, but he hadn’t been able to do so since the accident that brought him home from Guatemala seven months ago.
He didn’t know how much time had passed when he heard footsteps on the sand. Brody opened his eyes and turned to see ten-year-old Charlie Stills approaching. Brody smiled as the boy came closer. He had met Charlie and his mom, Lara, about four months ago on this very beach. Brody had taken an immediate liking to the blond boy, and Lara was nice, as well. Sometimes, when Charlie slept over with friends, Lara and Brody became friends with benefits. She wanted nothing from him, and he had nothing to give, so it was a win-win for both of them.
“What’s up, my man?” Brody asked.
“Nothin’,” Charlie answered, sitting down in the sand next to Brody’s chair. “Mom says we’re moving again.”
Brody nodded and studied the boy. During the summer, Charlie’s hair turned a light, golden blond, a stark contradiction to his current mousy brown hair. However, the smattering of brown freckles across his nose remained year round. His long, lanky body was beginning to fill out just a little across the shoulders, and his feet looked too big for him. Brody smiled, knowing in the next few years he would eventually grow into them.
Lara had mentioned a couple of weeks ago she was thinking about packing up, but she hadn’t mentioned any set plans.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Brody said, meaning every word.
“It sucks, but she says she can get a good job if we move to North Dakota with all the oil drilling going on up there.”
Lara currently worked as a waitress and bartender at one of the local beach bars, and during the off-season she really struggled to get by, just as he did as a charter fisherman. Very few people wanted to be drinking beers at the beach and out on a boat when the temperature hovered in the 60s to low 70s.
“It’s smart,” Brody commented.
There was a small stretch of silence, and Charlie said, “Yeah, but it’s cold up there.”
Brody took a sip of his coffee to cover his chuckle. He hated being cold, too. “You’ll get used to it,” he murmured. “When do you leave?”
Charlie shrugged. “I don’t know. Mom said she should know about her job in a few days.”
“We’ll have to make sure we go fishing again,” Brody commented.
Charlie smiled for the first time that morning. “Yeah, we will.”
Brody grinned at his little buddy. He never intended to take on a fatherly role with the boy, and he’d been successful. There was a possibility that he fell into the cool uncle character, but he just preferred to think of them as friends.
“The dolphins are out again,” Charlie said, glancing up at him.
Brody nodded. Charlie was the one person on Earth who knew his secret.
“Where’s your mom?” Brody asked, realizing a ten-year-old kid probably shouldn’t be walking the beaches alone at 6:30 a.m.
“She’s still sleeping,” he said.
“You should be at home, not out here by yourself,” Brody said.
Charlie shrugged. “I’m not alone, Brody. I’m with you.”
Well, that was a hard point to argue. Charlie had been his shadow since they met four months ago, and Brody couldn’t say he minded it in the least. Charlie had accompanied him on a few fishing trips, helped him out with boat maintenance, and his general innocence reminded Brody that not everything in the world was as fucked up as his dreams and his past led him to believe.
Charlie looked left and right, and then scrambled to his knees in front of Brody. “Can you do it?” he whispered. “Please? Just one quick one before I head home?”
Brody smiled and glanced around, making sure they were truly alone. “A small one, Charlie, and you’ve got to promise me again you won’t tell anyone.”
Charlie smiled, and Brody noticed it looked as if the kid had lost another tooth. “I promise, Brody!”
Brody set his coffee cup down in the sand and spun his left index finger in a counter-clockwise rotation. About thirty seconds later, a small funnel of water appeared at the ocean shore. Brody continued to spin his finger, and the water tornado grew larger, the sea whipping around faster and faster until it stood about five feet in the air. Just beyond the funnel, the dolphins jumped in the waves, screeching as if they were cheering him on, urging him to make the cone larger.
Charlie’s eyes danced as he watched the small show.
Brody set his hand in his lap, and the funnel slowly disappeared, but the dolphins continued to play in the surf.
“That’s so awesome!” Charlie exclaimed.
Brody nodded, not sure he agreed with that assessment. Before the accident in Guatemala, he hadn’t been able to cause water tornadoes and make dolphins dance in excitement, and the worst part was that no one seemed to be willing or able to offer an explanation of why this was now part of his make-up.
Standing, he smiled at the kid. The bank holding the deed to his boat,
, was located on the east coast, and their offices opened a short while ago. He needed to talk to them about the repossession letter he received in yesterday’s mail. “I need to get going, my man. I’ll walk you home, okay?”
Charlie got to his feet.
They walked along the beach in silence until they reached Charlie and Lara’s apartment. Like, Brody, Charlie and his mom lived above one of the local restaurants. Their apartment smelled like grilled steak, while Brody’s always reeked of Mexican food. He hadn’t been able to eat fajitas for months.
“Do you have school today?” Brody asked.
Charlie nodded. “Yeah, I do. I don’t want to go, though.”
“I get it, but if you want a better life, you need to go and sponge up everything they tell you. Education is the key to getting ahead in life, Charlie.”
The kid stared at the ground and then turned to look up at his apartment window. “I hate school,” he mumbled.
Brody could relate. As a kid, he never liked school either. However, he knew the importance of a good education, and Lara always drove the point home to Charlie as well. Both of them scraped to get by, and Brody often thought how much different his life would have been if he hadn’t gone into the military. Perhaps he’d be living in the ‘burbs somewhere with a wife and a couple of kids, mowing the lawn every Saturday. If he’d done well in school, maybe he’d be holding down a job as an accountant or mid-level manager somewhere and bringing home a regular paycheck.
However, deep within his soul, he knew he wasn’t cut out for that type of life. He never was, nor could he ever be, a desk-jockey. One day he could see himself marrying, but women didn’t exactly flock to a guy who could control the sea, was threatened with death on a monthly basis if he were to ever tell anyone, and was about to lose his business—his boat—to foreclosure.
“I’ll tell you what,” Brody said, tousling the boy’s hair. “You go to school, pay attention, and don’t get in any trouble, and I’ll take you out on the boat tomorrow afternoon when you get home. Deal?”
Charlie grinned. “Deal!”
He turned and ran up the creaky stairs leading to his apartment just as Lara glanced out the window. She smiled, her blonde hair disheveled, her eyes sleepy. Brody gave her a wave and a grin, and she turned as Charlie walked in.
As she disappeared from the window, Brody made his way back to his own place.
Rayna Lopez crouched down behind the table, her heart beating quickly, her gun drawn. She counted the shots the assailant fired. He had kidnapped a mother and small son and was now holed-up in a hotel kitchen.
The pans rattled with the shots, the air thick with the smell of gunpowder and grease, and the cries of the mother and her child tore at Rayna’s heart. She wanted this bastard.
She waited a beat, focusing her gaze on the cement floor about a foot away, pouring all of her concentration into listening to what was going on around her. If she stood, there was a good chance he’d kill her. The florescent lights above shone brightly, and she was thankful for this. At least she wasn’t going in blind. She blocked out the victim’s shrieks, and focused her attention on the shooter. He’d fired six shots and had to reload at some point.
As if on cue, the distinct sound of a gun chamber opening met her ears. Standing, she quickly assessed the situation and saw the mother and son standing to the kidnappers’ right. Exhaling, she steadied her hands and pulled the trigger three times, each bullet landing in his chest.
A loud buzzer went off, and Rayna set her gun on the table, wondering if the stress at training exercises for CIA agents mirrored real life situations. Taking a deep breath, she tried to calm her nerves.
“Nicely done, Rayna,” John, her superior, called, coming into the room. “Way to engage all your senses and get the job done quickly and efficiently. No collateral damage. Just the way we like it.”
He grinned at her and offered his fist. She bumped.
She smiled, pride welling within. She wanted out of her desk job and into a field job so badly, and she’d been working hard to show her superiors she was ready. She appreciated when they recognized her efforts.
“I need to talk to you,” John murmured.
He turned to the rest of the room. “Okay, people! Places in five minutes for the next agent, Bob Margols! Everyone did excellent. Susan,” he called to the woman playing the child, “ramp up the screaming this time. Bob hates kids. Let’s see how rattled we can get him.”
Rayna followed him out the door of the training facility into the cool, Virginia morning air and gray day. She glanced up, certain they were going to get another fall shower, and she tightly pulled her sweater around her. Give her the hot tropical sun any day—being of Mexican heritage, she often thought her preference for the heat was bred within her. “What’s up, John?”
As far as bosses went, she supposed John was a good one. In her two years at the CIA he’d been her only superior, so she didn’t have anyone to compare him to. At almost fifty years of age, his brown hair was starting to gray at the temples and little lines framed his dark eyes. He worked out relentlessly, keeping his six-foot frame trim.
“I have something I need you to do,” he said, crossing his arms over his chest.
Rayna’s heart beat a little faster. Was she finally going to get into the field? “What?” she asked.
“I need you to take a little day trip for me and check up on someone.”
“Who? What’s this about?”
John sighed. “This is really sensitive information, okay?”
Rayna nodded, her mouth going dry. This could be the break she’d been hoping for. He’d never asked her to do anything outside the office, so a day trip definitely meant fieldwork.
“As you know, the war on drugs is never-ending. We’re sending soldiers down south to help the Latin American governments combat the drug runners all the time, and the American people rarely hear about it.”
Rayna nodded, a knot growing in her stomach.
“Unfortunately, sometimes there are tests done on these unsuspecting soldiers, and those who survive need to be supervised. Usually the military takes care of their own monitoring, but because of the their budget cuts, they’re passing the job off to the CIA since we just received a bump in our funding.”
“What kind of test?” she asked, not surprised in the least bit as she had read plenty of history books on the theater of war and knew governments were always looking for ways to make their combatants stronger and more efficient.
John shrugged. “Not sure. There was a whole unit that was affected by the experiment, and all of them were honorably discharged.”
“Why did the military discharge them? Aren’t they able to perform any longer?”
“I don’t know all the details, Rayna—this just fell into my lap yesterday,” John said.
“And what exactly do you want me to do?” Rayna asked.
“I need you to go on a little daytrip and monitor one of the soldiers—a Marine.”
Inwardly, Rayna groaned. She wanted her skills to be used for situations like she’d just practiced, not babysitting or checking in on some soldier.
“What did they do to them?” she asked.
John shrugged. “Don’t know, and it doesn’t matter. You just need to check in with him, make sure he’s following the rules that will keep him alive.”
Rayna ran her hand through her short black, wash and wear hair. “What are the rules?”
“I was told that you just need to observe, make sure he’s living under the radar, that he’s keeping to himself and not talking about the experiment. Just make sure your presence is known to him, make him aware that he’s being monitored.”
It truly was a babysitting job. “John, I—”
“Look, Rayna, this is sensitive stuff. I need someone who can keep things to themselves, someone who isn’t going to go out for drinks one day and run their mouth about the government doing experiments on their own soldiers.”
Got it. He needed someone who came to work, went home, and didn’t do much socializing. He needed someone who lay in bed night after night, alone, someone who didn’t have anyone to share pillow talk.
She was perfect for this assignment, and it irritated her to no end. However, she lived her life the way she did because she knew that if the CIA found out about her father, she very well might be fired. She loved her job, and she loved her family, and she wanted to keep both in her life.
As a few drops of rain fell, she felt defeated, but asked, “When do you want me to leave?”
John smiled. “You’ll leave tomorrow morning, and be home tomorrow night. Easy in and out.”
“Where am I going?” she asked.
“Corpus Christi, Texas.”
There’s a first time for everything, right?”
“I guess so,” she murmured.
As the rain fell harder, John said, “Let’s go inside and see if Bob shot Susan, and I’ll email the detailed file to you later today.”
Rayna smiled as disappointment ran through her. However her curiosity was piqued. What did a solider who had been experimented on look like? Two heads? Four arms? Missing ears? She was anxious to find out and hoped it wasn’t too awful.