The A to Z Challenge – F is for – “Fortune favours the brave”

It had been a last-minute decision to move from the city to the suburbs.

Of course, the benefits far outweighed the minor inconvenience of the extra commute, but there was room to grow, and for the same money, instead of a cramped two-bedroom apartment, we had a four-bedroom three-bathroom two-story residence with land, a garage with a workspace, a lawn to more and a garden to tend.

And half a street away, the ocean, so near I could sometimes hear the waves, and certainly when the wind was blowing in off the sea, the aroma of salt in the air.

Every morning I woke up and said a silent prayer to the Gods that had made our wishes come true

I woke up to the sun streaming through the bedroom windows, another morning in paradise.  I looked sideways, but Tiana was already up and about, more than likely on her early morning run.

I didn’t have the same enthusiasm, for rising early and exercising.  I went out onto the balcony and looked in the direction of the ocean, a cloudless sky indicating another hot day was coming.

I went downstairs, and the first thing I noticed, Tiana’s computer was missing.  Another check showed she had gone to work, apparently forsaking her usual exercise regime, something she rarely did, and not in the time I’d known her, which was coming up to five years.

I turned on the TV to get the morning news as I did. Every morning while making and drinking that first cup of coffee, and some muesli.

A breaking story.

Tiana worked at the TV station, but her role was to work on the evening news stories, after giving up the morning news role and the 3am starts when we got married.  Less pay she said, but less stress, it was one of the reasons we moved to the suburbs.

I hadn’t heard her phone, but she must have been called in, her experience a factor, she was the best in the business, and other stations had tried to lure her away.

The screen was frozen on the words, breaking the story, as if they were building tension.

Then the power shut down.

We’d been having intermittent issues with fuses, and it was probably just another fuse.  I went out to the garage where the fuse box was, but all the fuses were intact.

I went out to the street, where Larry, the next-door neighbor was looking first one way, then the other, trying to locate a cause.  A few of the other neighbors were doing the same.

I was reminded of a report that was passed on to us to read, about what to expect I’d there was a sudden loss of services, fuel, and food.  Each premise preceding such an event was unrealistic, oil supplies stopped, electricity power stations were sabotaged, being attacked by foreign missiles since the latter items were now capable of traveling long distances.

But what was predicted to happen after that was even more unbelievable, that society as we know it would start showing cracks after two weeks, then if nothing improved, two months before complete anarchy would reign?  I had faith in mankind and wrote it off as scaremongering.

“What do you think is going on, Dave?” He asked me.  “Your station should have some idea.”

Larry thought, because I was a policeman, I had the answers to everything.  The fact I was a beat cop held no significance.

“Not a clue.  It’s probably just the power station struggling to deal with the heatwave.  I suspect it’s probably a brownout.  I’m sure you got the same letter from the power company as we did saying supplies might be cut off from time to time.”

“I don’t think it’s that.  It’s a bit bigger than just in this neighborhood, my brother just called, and it’s the same thing 30 miles away.  This is big.”

Which in my mind had bigger ramifications?  With no power, and no communication, especially between police officers, the propensity to commit crime was huge.  Was there a crime syndicate behind this?  A few months before an attack on a power station stopped supply for a short time, after which it was discovered there had been a spate of robberies.

Criminals were getting more inventive.

“I’ll find out,” I said, heading back inside, hoping my mobile phone still had a signal.

The house was eerily silent without anything running, and it felt weird knowing there was no power anywhere. 

Unlike most people, I had a survival kit, all the items we had been trained to set aside in case of a disaster, one we hoped would never happen.  Medical supplies, torch, battery-operated radio, and long-life food in the form of bars and cans.

I kept it on the back of a cupboard in the garage, the torch, and radio the most accessible items.  I checked my phone and there was no signal.  The towers were down.

I put the batteries in the radio and turned it on.  The first station I tuned into was in the middle of an announcement.

“…there is a city-wide blackout with all power stations temporarily off-line.  The repair crews are on-site and expect the power will be restored imminently.  Those with radios who can hear this announcement, please tell everyone to get a battery-operated radio and listen for further instructions.

All police, medical, first responders, fire services, and military should stand by on their respective communication devices for further instructions.”

I hadn’t given that a thought. 

Something else I hadn’t remembered was that some time ago I had given Tiana a device similar to the two-way radio I used for work, that used a spare frequency that no one knew about.  Yet.  I’d found it by accident, tinkering.

I went into the house and up to the clinic in the bedroom where the two devices were kept.  If she had left it at home, it wouldn’t be much use, but being called in like she had, I wonder if she suspected something more sinister was developing.

I looked in the box and Tiana’s was missing.

Now I was worried.

When I went back out to the street, I could hear the sound of emergency service vehicles’ sirens, in the distance, and getting closer.

There was a scratchy sound on my device, an indication someone was about to talk.

Then, a voice, Tiana’s.  “David, I know you’re there?”

When I turned my device on, it sent a signal to others on that frequency.

“I am.  What’s going on, do you know?”

“From what we’re being told, and, at the moment, can’t tell anyone, is there’s been a highly coordinated attack on a dozen powers stations and sub-stations effectively blacking out the city.  No one knows why yet, but there’s a chance one of the saboteurs is going to escape the way he came, by sea, near where we live of all places.  They tracked his arrival, one the got a photo of him.”

The FBI was very good at tracking people, but I imagine it was a concerted effort between the CIA, the FBI, and local police forces.  I guess, being my day off, they thought it best to leave me in peace.

She gave me a description of the man and signed off because someone was coming, and she would get into trouble, or worse.

I also had a gun stashed in the same place as the radios, checked it, and, safety on, put it in my pocket.

Just in case.

A saboteur was on the loose.

It explained why the sirens were so close.  Were they chasing him, or just heading to where he was expected to leave?

Was he in a car, or on foot?

I heard what sounded like someone stifling calling out, just the start of a word.  Coming from next door, I wondered if Larry had hurt himself.  He was, by his own admission a handyman, but according to everyone who knew him, he was not that handy.

I went next door, down the side towards his workshop in a large barn-type building in the yard.  The sliding doors were slightly ajar, he was probably inside and hurt.

It wouldn’t be the first time.

I put my head in and saw him with another man at the back where Larry was fumbling with a set of keys trying to unlock the back doors.

On the other side was a pickup with a boat and trailer, ready to head out fishing, when he got the time.  I’d been once with him, and the boat was borderline seaworthy.

He’d been tinkering with it a few days before.

“Everything all right Larry?”

“We’re fine.  Larry asked me to go fishing with him, and now seemed like a good day,” the man answered for him.

Larry looked panic-stricken.

I’d seen people like that before, usually with a gun or knife prodded into their ribs.

A closer look at the man, he could be the one Tiana described.  Certainly, the height, and the look of a construction worker or tradesman.

“Perhaps I might join you since it’s my day off.”

Larry turned, and his expression told me exactly what was going on.  “We’re in a hurry, Dave.  Just room for the two of us.  Another time.”

With the unwritten ‘please leave’ on his face.

I shrugged.  “OK.  Catch you later.”

I had about a minute, possibly two, before the man realized, I was not going to leave.  He knew it looked suspicious.

It just depended on how long it took Larry to open the doors.

I dodged abound the side, and under the window, as I passed it to the other end of the barn.

Just as I reached the end, I heard one of the two doors open, but no talking.

A sixth sense perhaps, told me the man might have come back to the front, and suspecting I hadn’t left, was about to come around the corner.  If he did, there was nowhere to hide.

Gun out, safety off, pointing in that direction, I waited.

Nothing.

If he wasn’t…

The sound of a crumpling aluminum can from behind gave me just enough time to turn, make sure it was the man, and shoot.

Not to kill, but to stop.  Only after he fell to the ground did I realize he had been holding Larry as a shield, and it was he who stepped on the can.

How he managed to get that fraction of separation, I don’t know, and he probably would never be able to explain it, but there wasn’t time for analysis right then, or for me to realize how stupid I’d just been.

And not a story I was going to tell Tiana.


© Charles Heath 2022

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