“We need to go, Mrs. Sands.” Rachel O’Malley stopped the elderly lady from turning into the living room of her home and instead steered her toward the front door and the waiting Red Cross volunteer. Shutters rattled and a misty rain blew in the open door, dampening the hallway. The Des Plaines river was surging through the levee and getting people to safety was the priority. It was Tuesday, March 13th, and rains across Chicago had triggered flooding along six miles of the river.


“I need my pictures.”


“Yes, Ma’am. But I’m afraid there isn’t time.” Rachel shifted the bird cage and medicine bag she carried to help Mrs. Sands with her rain coat. “This wind is strong, so let Nora and the officer help you.” With twenty minutes warning to leave their homes, residents were able to grab a few clothes and personal items and that was it. Nora took Mrs. Sands arm to help her walk to the waiting rescue vehicle. Rachel handed the personal items to the officer.


In the twilight, torchlights bobbed like fireflies along the block as three police officers and two other Red Cross workers took part in the evacuation search. Rachel worked disasters for a living, but she would never get use to floods. There was little that could be done once the flooding took ground. Rachel placed a bright red fluorescent square on the garage door of 58 Governor street to mark it as confirmed empty. Cold muddy water swirled over her boots and reached to her jeans as she waded into the water to cut across the yard.


The next house was set back from the road with sloping, landscaped grounds. Located nearer the river, the house was suffering the most damage of any so far as water poured in through the backyard and rushed around the house to flow down Governor Street. Rachel fought against it to walk up the driveway. The water took her feet out from under her. She instinctively threw her arms up to protect her head as she was swept downhill toward the street. It was the second dunking of the day.


She slammed up against fireboots.


“Got you.” The reassuring words came moments before hands slid around her Red Cross jacket and hauled her to her feet. Captain Cole Parker stood in the rushing water with his feet braced apart and let the current break around him. He’d been buttoning his fire coat.


“Thanks, Cole.” Everything on her was wet. She leaned forward and dried her face on his shirt. It was tough blue denim and she could see the white t-shirt beneath it. He’d planned for the reality of this weather better than she had, with layers to fight the chill. The breadth of the man stretched the fabric taunt.


“My pleasure, Rae.” His hands pushed back her dripping hair, as he laughed. “You are really wet. The water bang you up any?”


“I’m okay.” She was embarrassed and annoyed he’d seen that fall, but there  wasn’t much she could do about it. She blinked water out of her eyes and sniffed, finally reached for his hand and dried her eyes on the back of his cuff.


“I wish I’d brought at least a hand towel.”


She tilted her head to dislodge the water in her ear. “You’re enjoying this.”


“I’d love a camera right now,” Cole confirmed, his smile widening. He put his hands on her shoulders and helped her turn against the rushing waters. “Go with Jack. I’ll check the last house.”


Her brother was crossing the street toward her. He was a Lieutenant in the same fire company where Cole was a Captain. Cole often said his premature gray hair was at least partially Jack’s fault. Jack was a careful, safety conscious firefighter, but he invariably led his men from the front of the firefight, especially when there was someone at risk. Jack was here, and Cole - Company 81 must have been dispatched to the scene. “I didn’t know firemen fought floods.”


Cole tugged straight the now sopping red cross jacket from being bunched around her back. “It looks like we’re going to learn. The Corp of Engineer guys are stretched thin. The bridge is ours to defend.”


She raised startled eyes to meet his. “Who’s black list are you on?”


Cole laughed. “I hope it only looks impossible. Jack said it sounds fun. You have a change of clothes at the shelter?”


“If I don’t its going to be a miserable couple hours drying out.” The water was inching up around them. She glanced at the house which had been her original destination. “You’d better go check the house while you can still get to it. But please, be careful.”


“Always,” Cole promised. “Get me a headcount at the emergency shelter and ask around about pets. I’ll be pulling my guys back from this street in about twenty minutes.”


“Will do.” Rachel grabbed Jack’s hand to keep her balance in the fast moving waters and headed up the street toward the truck on higher ground. Cole was defending the bridge. She smiled. Well at least she knew where to find him for the foreseeable future. The idea of staying at this scene working at the nearby shelter suddenly had more appeal.



* * * * *


By Friday night, the rushing waters were a roar in the night that grew louder the closer Cole got to the Des Plaines river. One of the residents of Governor Street forced out by the flood waters had raised an American flag to fly over the sandbag levee workers had named the Alamo line. The flag waved in the night breeze, backlit by the emergency lights being used to keep an eye on the bridge now cut off and surrounded by water. It was a defiant symbol. It fit the attitude of those dealing with the disaster over the last three days.


Today had been rough. When he hadn’t been hauling sand bags, or fixing pump equipment, he’d been working with the guys doing the dangerous job of breaking up and hauling out debris that stuck and piled up beneath the bridge. Cole felt a bit like a general inspecting the state of his troops as he made his evening rounds. Fighting water was far from his specialty, he led the arson group, but his men had met the challenge. They’d fought the river to a draw today, and it felt great.


Cole kept a lookout for Rachel as he walked. She’d been keeping them supplied with hot coffee and news about sports scores. If he couldn’t have the pleasure of her company on a date tonight, he’d settle for a few minutes to talk with her and enjoy that smile that lingered in his memory long after she left. 


Cole didn’t see her, and he hoped that meant she was finally tucked away somewhere getting a few hours sleep. She’d been staying at the emergency shelter rather than leave and return to her home a few miles south, the sleeping bag and duffel bag brought with her well used. There were odd things in that duffel bag she considered her emergency kit. He’d seen fingernail polish and stickers and all kinds of colorful hair ribbons alongside aspirins and envelopes and postage stamps. He’d slipped in a funny Hallmark card he’d picked up at one of the few businesses on this block determined to stay open. He wanted her thinking about him with a smile and a laugh tonight.


Spotting the yellow smiley face on the back of her brother Jack O’Malley’s firecoat, Cole changed directions toward the blue pump engine. The engine had been retired and replaced by more modern equipment years ago but in a fight like this one anything that could pump water had been called out.


Jack was working on the top of the sandbag levee, heaving thirty pound bags around. Beside him a six inch main firehose was taunt, stretched up the wall of sand and over the top of it, dumping water into the river as fast as the pumps could throw it back. Cole stopped by the front bumper of the pump engine, curious as to what was going on, cracking another peanut while he waited for Jack to finish what he was doing. The pocket full of peanuts was turning out to be his dinner tonight.


His friend hauled the six inch hose into the new cradle he had made. The shoot of water over the levee back into the river became a water fountain lit by the spotlights lighting the flood area. Jack reached down and lifted a flat cardboard box up onto the sandbags. Moments later a yellow rubber duck with black sunglasses was dropped into the shooting water and reappeared in the middle of the river.


Jack was playing.


The swift moving water carried the yellow duck down river and under the bridge where it disappeared.


“Nice shot.”


Jack turned on his perch. “We’ve got 10,000 of them. I figure they wouldn’t miss a couple dozen.” He dropped another one and the water shot it into the river where it bobbed, righted itself, and got slaughtered by a tree branch that slammed into it.


The local chamber of commerce had been planning a duck race as its opening event in a charity fundraising drive. They had 10,000 rubber ducks stored in the fire department’s maintenance garage. It looked like they would be stuck with them for a good long time. The event had been canceled.


“Hold onto a box for Adam tomorrow. He’ll love it.”


“That’s what I was thinking.”


The boy’s home was visible during the day through the trees, the water now up to the middle of the living room windows, the mailbox at the roadside underwater. Adam was down here every day, helping them. He was having to watch the river destroy his home. They were all trying to make the situation a little easier on him.


“Does the river look like its picking up speed to you?”


Jack reached for his inside pocket and pulled out a stopwatch. The next duck got timed as it raced between the two poles they’d marked with red flags. “8.2, its really moving now.”


“The crest should hit in another forty-eight hours.”


“I saw what looked like a small propane tank go flowing by getting rolled like a cork. Someone’s backyard grill probably got ripped apart.”


“The cemetery off Rosecrans Road flooded this evening. That ground was as much loose sand as dirt. I bet this river current is eating it up like mulch.”


“You know the most ugly things.”


“I work at it,” Cole agreed. He didn’t mention that Jack’s sister Lisa had stopped by to drop off two body bags. The medical examiner remembered the last time he’d received a body pulled from the river sent in wrapped in a curtain for want of a better covering. He’d sent out his central staff today to make sure rescue crews were prepared. It was inevitable that someone would try to drive across a flooded street, try to reach a flooded home, or otherwise act before they thought. The river would have no mercy.


Cole gestured toward the pump engine. “How’s it holding up?”


“Beautifully. This baby can pump the whole river if we asked her to.”


Jack was wet and tired, the hyperbole was getting a bit thick, but he had cause. He’d been keeping the old pump engine in top shape through scraped knuckles and frustrating part replacements. This was her moment to shine. And so far the old engine was holding its own against the heavy seepage.


The sandbags were slowing down the river and forcing the water to soak through, rather than slam through, the levees. The pumps still had to keep up with the fact the river would flood the city sewers with more water than they could handle if the water working it’s way through wasn’t repelled.


“I’m laying a new line of bags around the bank just in case. It’s going to rise at least another six inches before the crest. Anything you need?”


“Coffee. Dry socks. Cassie.”


“Interesting order you put those in. I won’t tell Cassie you made her third.” Cassie and Jack had been dating since last fall and Cole was looking forward to seeing them married someday. A former firefighter, Cassie had been badly burned in a nursing home fire, and there was no one Cole admired more for the way she’d dealt with that tragedy and rebuilt her life. “Coffee and socks are not a problem. I’ve got Cassie supervising the hauling out of the library historical documents. If it can’t be replaced there’s no use taking chances.” He glanced at the ducks. “But I’ll send her down later if you want to put her name on one of those.” He dug out a black waterproof marker from his coat pocket. “She’ll get a kick out of it.”


“Thanks, Boss.”


“Don’t fall in.”


Jack laughed. He picked up a duck to start his artwork.


Cole moved on to check the rest of the guys working the front line.



* * * * *


Rachel O’Malley’s legs were numb and her left arm ached. She would not have moved for the world. Nathan Noles was finally asleep, hiccup sob sighs still occasionally shaking his small frame. Tear drenched lashes covered his big brown eyes; break her heart eyes. Life was rough when you were three and your favorite blanket was missing, swallowed in the fast moving waters which had swirled into his home on Governor street.


Rachel rubbed her thumb in a small circle on his back. They were buddies. The teddy bear she had offered him to take the place of his blanket was now muddy in spots and still clutched under one arm. Nathan had latched on to it and refused to let go.


She didn’t have a family of her own, but she had her dreams. There was a lump in her throat as she looked at the sleeping child. She wanted a son like him. She kissed his forehead and soothed out wrinkles in the warm pajamas top, then tucked the blanket up around his shoulders.


The family had arrived at the emergency shelter while she was setting up tables for the Red Cross help desk. Rachel found her duffel bag tossed in a corner on arrival, pushed aside her blue sweatshirt and retrieved the bear tucked in the corner. “This is Joseph. He’s old and kind of beat up, but would you like him, Nathan? He’s a friendly bear.”


The boy’s big brown eyes flickered from looking at her to looking at the bear. The boy sniffed and reached out to wrap his hand around the bear’s arm. He tucked Joseph close and sighed. He leaned his head back down against his mom’s shoulder.


A shared smile with his mom and Rachel made her first friend of this tragedy. Ann was a single mom who worked emergency dispatch for the 911 center. Ann was staying optimist that there would be something in her house that could be salvaged. Rachel found in her a kindred spirit.


Nathan’s brother Adam was asleep, his sleeping bag spread on top of one of the gym mats. Rachel reached over and picked up the paperback he’d been reading with the help of a small flashlight, marked the page he was on, and slid it in his backpack. A teddy bear had helped Nathan, she was still working on something for Adam. The flooding had destroyed a four year collection of comic books he had mowed yards and run errands to be able to buy.


Ann would be moving her family from the shelter to stay with friends tomorrow for it would be some time before they could get into their home to start the cleanup. Adam wasn’t thrilled with the idea of going back to school on Monday. The guys working on the levees had made him welcome. It was much more exciting than school.


Rachel leaned her head against Nathan’s, closed her eyes, and sought a few moments of rest. Her days began before dawn. Floods were harder for her to work than tornadoes for it first exhausted people fighting against the water and then presented them devastation. The tragedy would strike home anew when people could see the loss—chairs punched through ceilings, furniture piled up by the water and smashed, plaster collapsed, appliances destroyed. Exhaustion and dashed hopes would overwhelm people. Rachel built her life around helping hurting people, she just wasn’t as young as she used to be and the pace wore at her. Not everyone was able to stay as optimistic as Ann and keeping other people’s spirits up inevitably drained her own.


How was Jennifer doing?


Rae closed her eyes, paused in her day, and her thoughts returned to her sister. Jennifer’s cancer had gone through a brief remission and had come back more aggressive than before. This return stay at John Hopkins was lasting longer than her first admission a year ago. The news wasn’t good. Rachel had to get back to Baltimore to see her.


Having a close family was one of those dreams that had come true with the O’Malleys, and the idea of losing her sister to this cancer...the thought was enough to make tears return. Jennifer was the most precious friend she had.


“He’s in love.”


Rachel opened her eyes and blinked away the moisture before turning her head and offering a smile. She hadn’t heard Cole come into the gym. “So am I.”


He sat down on the mat to her left. Mud had stained the shirt he’d put on this morning. She was tempted to reach over and try to brush some of it off. It would dry stiff and be uncomfortable, but she knew he wasn’t in for the evening. He’d be walking the sandbag levee several times through the night.


He opened his duffel bag he’d left near hers and found dry socks. “Did you get dinner?”


“They brought in chicken tonight.”


“I’ll buy you a real dinner when this is over.”




He paused to look over. “Really?”


She chuckled at his reaction. “How many times have I pleaded work lately?”


He smiled at her. “Three, but who’s counting?”


She’d spent enough time with Cole since Christmas to know she more than just enjoyed his company. She knew she was looking at a guy she could spend the rest of her life with. And as hopeful and joyous as that idea was, as much as she wanted to explore what their relationship might become someday, she just didn’t have much time or energy left to offer at the moment. Cole was a guy that was ready to settle down. She’d probably been more cautious than warranted. “Not Mexican.”




“Sounds good.”


“I’ll look forward to it.” His gaze shifted the boy she held. He reached over and tucked Nathan’s teddy bear closer. “He looks comfortable.”


“I like kids.”


“I do too.”


She smiled and rested her head against Nathan, choosing to let the comment pass.


“Ann was just finishing up at dispatch,” Cole mentioned. “Are you okay with the boys for another twenty minutes?”




Cole leaned his head back against the wall, folded his arms across his chest, and closed his eyes. “Wake me when she gets back.”


Rachel hesitated for a fraction of a moment, just for a instant doubt creeping in that she was reading Cole interest in her correctly. “Sure.”


He didn’t open his eyes, but he did smile. “She’s a friend, Rae, I like her boys. But it’s your brother that has his eyes on their mom.”


“Stephen?” There was only one brother not involved in a serious relationship at the moment. Her surprise woke Nathan.


“Hmm. Only reason I can think of for why a paramedic hangs around dispatch on a Friday night.”


She could think of another, but still…“He offered to help them move to her friends tomorrow.”


“I heard that too.”


Ann had mentioned she’d met Stephen, but she hadn’t asked anything beyond a couple general questions. Rachel thought about it as she rocked Nathan back to sleep. “Stephen?”


Cole chuckled and reached over to pat her shoulder. “You’ve been busy.”



* * * * *


Rachel saw the sliver of light appear as the door to the gym opened and the person entering the room paused to let their eyes adjust to the dim light inside. Ann crossed the room with care and eased down on the air mattress beside her.


“Nathan woke and realized you were gone,” Rachel whispered. She waited until Ann was settled then eased Nathan to his mom’s lap, immediately missing the weight and comfort of holding him. A tissue tugged from her jeans pocket wiped away a tear trace from the boy’s cheek. “How was work?”


“Hectic.” Ann lowered her head against her son’s and closed her eyes. “I’m so tired the air mattress is going to feel like a feather bed tonight.”


“I put your ice pack in the freezer. Want to use it for twenty minutes before you crash?” Ann had taken a hard shot from a floating tree limb when she’d waded into the flooding to help a neighbor.


Ann nodded. “I could use it. Thanks.”


Rachel went to get the ice pack. She snagged two of the tapioca pudding cups and spoons on the way back. It was nice, having a friend to share the quiet moments with at the shelter. Pausing inside the doorway, she searched among the 3x5 cards on the cork board with her penlight. She found five message cards for Ann and took them with her across the gym. Ann was cuddling with Nathan.


“A few messages were left for you today. And Cole said he needed to talk to you.” The man was sleeping so soundly he hadn’t stirred at their quiet conversation. Rachel knew his exhaustion had to be complete after three days of fighting the river. Every time she had seen him he’d been in the middle of the work, leading by doing.  


“Let him sleep. He was passing on a message from my cousin and I got it just before I left work.” Ann leaned around Nathan and settled the ice on her knee. She sucked in a breathe at the cold. Rachel winced in sympathy.


“You need to see a doctor.”


“It’s just bruised. I should have gotten up and walked more today. Sitting just made it stiffen.”


Ann relaxed and opened the pudding cup.


Rachel offered the Hallmark card Cole had left for her. Ann accepted it, interested, and laughed as she read it. Ann glanced at the sleeping Cole, then back at Rae. “He’s sweet on you.” She handed back the card.


“Maybe.” Rachel tucked it in her bag to make sure it got home with her. “I’m thinking about being gone for a couple days,” she said, testing out the idea.


“Going out East to see your sister?”


“Trying to figure out the logistics of doing it.”


“You should go.”


The kids needed her. Her sister Jennifer needed her. Rachel was stuck between the reality she couldn’t be two places at once. “I’ll be back before the water recedes.”


Ann smiled. “Trust me, the water will still be here.” Ann laid Nathan down and stretched out beside him. “I heard a rumor today.”


“What’s that?”


Ann reached over rubbed Adam’s back. “Jack was behind my son’s desire to toss a ship in a bottle into the river.”


Rachel licked the lid of her pudding cup. “My brother is a kid at a heart.”


“I noticed that. Adam talks about him all the time. He’s a good man.”


“They all are. Stephen is the responsible one,” Rachel offered. She bunched her pillow and stretched out on her own sleeping bag.


“I’ve noticed. He brought me flowers tonight.”


“Did he?”


“Hmm,” Ann murmured.


Rachel hesitated, wondering if Ann would say more. “I’ll babysit for you if you’d like to go out.”


“He didn’t ask me.”


Rae pushed herself up on her elbow. “Why not?”


“Good question. Ask him for me.”


Rachel reached for her jacket and her phone.


Ann stayed her hand as she smiled. “Tomorrow is soon enough.”


“You’re ruining my fun.”


Ann chuckled. “Thanks, Rae.”


“For what?”


“Telling Stephen to bring me flowers.”


She’d been found out. “You’re welcome. I kind of figured you needed something to brighten your day.”


“Don’t apologize. A nice guy bringing me flowers and flirting fits the bill beautifully.”


“I didn’t tell him to flirt.”


Ann smiled. “Exactly. It was nice for morale. I’ll take you up on the babysitting. Tell Stephen I like a good steak and salad.”


“Done.” Rachel had never met a crisis that flowers couldn’t help. It sounded like sending Stephen on that errand had turned out to be a good move. Rae tucked her arm under her head and closed her eyes. It was after eleven, and in six hours she would be starting another long day.



* * * * *


Rachel woke to the sensation of someone tickling her wrist. She moved her hand, smiling, thinking it was Cole, only to realize it was her pager. She had clipped it to a sweatband on her wrist to insure she would awake if it went off. She tugged it free and looked at the number. Her heart broke at the special number, suspecting what the page meant. She crept from the sleeping bag, left the gym, and in the quiet hall returned the page.


“Rachel, he didn’t come tonight.”


Marissa was crying.


“Oh honey, I’m so sorry.” Rachel walked outside and sat down on the steps, hearing the hurt, and wishing Mr. Collins could see past his own grief to understand what he was doing to his daughter. Marissa was a junior in high school, the music competition had been tonight, with the top awards including scholarships to college. Tonight had mattered.


“I got your message. Mom said I should call you back in the morning.”


“I asked you to call,” Rachel reassured. “Trust me, friends don’t care about the time. How’d you do?”




“I’m proud of you.”


“Linda took first. Her solo was wonderful.”


“There’s next year.”


“I wanted dad to be there.”


“I know honey. He gave his word. He should have been there.” Marissa had lost her leg in a car accident two years ago. Traumatic enough for a young girl, but her dad had been driving and he’d never been able to get past his own grief; he had walked out last year. Broken promises hurt when you were an adult, but when you were a child and it was done by family - she’d been there and the hurt didn’t entirely fade even decades later…the only thing Rachel could do at this point was be a friend and listen.


“Mom took me out to eat afterwards. I was too nervous before then.”


“What did you have?”


“She talked me into trying the scampi. It was pretty good.” The girl’s tears were fading. “I just thought he might come.”


“Love always hopes,” Rae said softly. “He’s still hurting over the fact he was driving.”




Marissa had fought for two years to get her life back. But family wounds hurt so much deeper than the physical ones.


“Am I doing something wrong?” Marissa whispered.


Rae closed her eyes. “No. Your dad always wanted to protect you. Now he feels a need to protect you from himself. It will eventually get better Marissa. Remember we talked about how years change people? Keep giving him opportunities into your life. There will be a day he’ll feel able to come. When he does come, just start with I love you.”


Silence lingered. “Thanks.”


“Time, M. It will help.”


Rae leaned over to pick up two jacks a child had missed picking up.


“Greg Sandford asked me to the prom.”


“Did he?” Rachel was pleased to hear the news for she knew how much Marissa had hoped to be invited. “I’ve got to meet this gentleman. I already like him. What did you say?”


“Yes. As long as he wouldn’t ask me to dance. We’d just go.”


“Trust me. Greg has been there for you this last year. You’ll have a wonderful time.”


“I wish he didn’t graduate and leave in four months. I’m going to miss him.”


“Did he get his acceptance papers?” Rachel asked, feeling out the changes coming for her friend.


“From the Air Force Academy. He wants to become a pilot like his dad.” Marissa hesitated. “Do you think we could maybe have a soda next time you’re in town?”


“I’m nearby,” Rachel reassured. “I can meet you tomorrow, or we can do something next week when I get back from visiting Jennifer.”


“After school next week would be nice.”


“It’s a date.” Rae used her pen to write a note on the palm of her hand until she could update her day planner for the month of March. She knew what this kind of fatigue did to her memory. “Anything you need or want me to tell your mom?”


“Everything there is okay.”


“Anything you’re not telling me I should know?”


Marissa paused to think about it. “I’m okay there too.”


“Then I’ll see you next week. If you want to talk before then, you promise to call me?”


“Yes. Thanks, Rae.”


“Honey, I’m proud of you.” Her pager went off again. “ I’ll call your mom tomorrow to confirm arrangements for next week,” Rachel said calmly even as she got to her feet. It was a page from Jack, and that meant trouble at the levee.



* * * * *


“Cole.” Rachel shook him gently, wishing she didn’t have to wake him. He’d fallen asleep sitting against the wall with his chin tucked against his chest, arms folded. She admired the man’s ability to close his eyes and drop off. If the man worried about things, she’d never been able to figure out when. They certainly didn’t affect his sleep.


Cole opened his eyes, blinked, and focused on her.


“Jack paged. They need you at the levee.”


He took a deep breath, sighed. “Okay, I’m awake.”


“It’s one am.”


“I didn’t ask.”


She let her hand settle on his forearm as she smiled back at him. “I know, but your watch stopped. It’s blinking this strange pattern of red and white numbers. Nathan thought it was your nightlight.”


“Water and watches do not mix. It’s never going to dry out.”


She stepped back as Cole rose to his feet.


“What’s going on?”


“Jack said something about too much mud in the water, it’s clogging the pumps.”


Cole reached forward and rested his hand on her shoulder, gently rubbed his thumb along the line of it. “You were up.”


“Another call.”


“If you need a place to hide to get some sleep, try the front seat of one of the fire department vehicles. No one will find you.”


He was taking care of her in the same way he took care of his men. It was nice. “Thanks.”


“Take me up on it. And bring Adam down to the levee tomorrow morning, Jack’s got something he should see.”


“I’ll do that.”


“You really did say yes to dinner.”


She chuckled. “Chinese.”


His thumb rubbed her shoulder blade. “I would hate to think I had been dreaming.”


He was stalling, not wanting to break this moment. She didn’t either. He was so good looking half asleep she wanted to give him a hug and get swallowed in one in return. “Go to work, Cole.”


“Yes, Ma’am.” He smiled at her and headed toward the door.


Rachel watched him leave and then settled back on her own sleeping bag. She reset her pager and tugged over the pillow to wrap her arm around it. When she closed her eyes, she was still smiling. A smile from Cole and an invitation to dinner was nearly as nice as getting flowers.



* * * * *


“What’s happening, Jack?” Cole found Rachel’s brother in the parking lot where they had the flat bottom fire rescue boat parked, testing brake lights on the trailer.


“I didn’t want to worry Rae. Lisa needs us. She said to bring a body bag.”


“Where is she?”


“Rosecrans Road.”


Cole squeezed the bridge of his nose and tried to get past the fact it was one am. “Please tell me she knew I was joking with her earlier. Is the body embalmed?”


“Lisa’s first words to me when I returned her page were ‘the water is destroying my crime scene!’ Then she got testy. It sounds real to me.”


“You’ve got interesting sisters.”


“Tell me about it.”


Cole pulled out his keys. “I’ll drive. Do we need more than the two of us?”


“It sounds like she needs us for transport. Company 42 is working in the area.”


Okay. Let’s go see what she’s gotten herself into.”