Global warming. Sea level rise. Floating Community. Attempted Robbery at a pearl farm.
The sun had set two hours earlier. Inside the maintenance shed at the oyster farm, Ted sat in the dark. He had not turned on the light. If he had, he wouldn't be able to see through the windows, and wouldn't know if anyone came inside the fencing.
"Until we hire a full time guy," he'd told Andalib, "the temporary watchman will be me."
After everything that's happened, he thought, it's going to take a good amount of time to find someone who'll be willing to do this job, and we're going to have to pay him a lot more than we paid the last guy.
If we hadn't bought that alligator in the first place, and just hired a new watchman, he'd be on the job here tonight, and I could be having that fling with Andalib.
Andalib said she was looking to "Get laid. Get my rocks off."
She'd offered to keep me company here tonight, but nobody except employees are allowed inside the facility, so I won't be skipping celibacy practice tonight.
So no fling for the son of the Pearl King. At least not tonight, or for the remaining nights while Andalib's staying here in Shellfish Shoals. Tonight she's probably flinging with somebody else, and laughing about me and about the Bible study.
No! Don't think that way!
The scripture says, "Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Resist the devil and he will flee from you."
It looks like that's what happened. Instead of spending the night with Andalib, I'm spending it here alone in the maintenance shack, overlooking the oyster farm, until after the sun comes up in the morning. This is my victory in the Lord?
So what do I do for the rest of the night?
A laptop computer/satellite TV was open on the desk beside him. On the satellite TV, he had a choice of almost 1,000 channels, with nothing he wanted to watch on any of them.
He decided to go on-line, and see where the Internet would lead.
He switched on the laptop, went to Google, and wondered where to log-on. Then he had an idea that he hoped might be useful.
He logged on to, "Security at Cultured Pearl Farms", and tapped "Google Search."
The first websites he read were news reports from last week, concerning the escaped alligator, which ate the woman in Shellfish Shoals. One of the articles actually included the "clever" rhyme by Ogden Nash:
"His lovely bride, they told him later,Ted went on to other websites, about actual robberies that had been attempted or committed. One particular article caught his attention. It was about a robbery that had taken place about a month ago in Lake Shore, another floating community about 150 miles to the north of Shellfish Shoals, where a pearl farm that had been guarded by an alligator was robbed.
Had been eaten by an alligator.
The Professor then could only smile,
And say 'You mean a crocodile'."
"Wow." Ted breathed and then leaned closer to read the article.
'Shock, is the obvious word to use as you stare at the scene of the pilfered cultured pearl farm here in Lake Shore this morning. Shock and dismay as two years of hard work and careful planning have been ruined, says Mr. Daniel Rodgers, owner of the farm whose entire year's crop was stolen in the space of three hours.
'It's the work of professionals. Of outsider people who have done this sort of thing before.' Rodgers acknowledges as he surveys the destruction of empty lines before him. 'It has to be. No one else would dare set foot inside the pens. Not with the gator in there. Hell, I'm afraid of the beast and I bought her.'
Rodgers explains that the alligator he bought and kept on the property was kept in the inner pens of the farm where the mature pearls were ready to be harvested in two days time. The alligator, known to all around here as Bessy, would have been safely herded into the other pens before the harvest where she would have remained for the next eight months until those crops were ready to harvest, then she would have been moved again.
'We've been doing things like this for the past three years. Never, in those years have we had any trouble. The word 'gator' scares a lot of people and in the beginning, we had tons of people come and see Bessy, but no-one ever, ever came too close to her, or the pens. I even had to give all my staff raises, just so they would stay!'
Rodgers' staff are even more baffled. 'I work closely with Bessy,' Mr. Joe Harnett says, 'It's my job to feed her and make sure that she's healthy. So I know that, even though she is a darling of a gator, she was also a mean-tempered b**** at times. Just like a woman really, full of mood swings. These last couple of days, Bessy had been acting more mean-tempered than usual. I told everyone around here that she was acting up, so everyone was careful and didn't go near the interlocking fences. They each in turn told everyone that knows about Bessy to be careful so no-one would come too close and set her off.'
According to reports, none of the inner pens' gates and fences were breached; just the one outer gate, far away from the pens that Bessy was in, was broken open.
Mr. Hank Theodore, night watchman at the farm, claims he heard a strange noise and went to investigate. 'It sounded like someone singing.' He smiles, 'A woman. I figured that somebody was outside, with a radio turned on.' I went to look and see if I could see anything and as I was on the walkway heading to the inner pens, I - I saw a figure in the water with Bessy. That's all I saw before I was knocked on the back of the head.' Theodore was found safely locked in his watch station this morning. 'Nice of them not to leave a bleeding man lying unconscious out in the open with Bessy there.' Theodore smiles.
The question of what Rodgers will do now to provide for his family and the families of all his employees remains a mystery. 'That harvest was going to see us all through until next year, it was the biggest harvest we've ever had and now we have nothing.' Rodgers says and shrugs.
The mystery surrounding the identities of the thieves, as Rodgers feels there must be more than one person involved in a heist of this size, is also a mystery. No physical evidence was found at the scene that could link anyone to the crime. 'It's like it was done by ghosts.' Rodgers says, 'All the mechanical systems were functioning properly. The only things that aren't where they are supposed to be is Bessy and the outer gate. That and the oysters with the pearls in them. At least they were considerate enough not to let Bessy out of the farm,' Rodgers says as he looks at fifteen foot, six year old Bessy. 'That's at least one good thing to come of this.'
Ted stared in fascinated horror at the article and shook his head.
What happened here wasn't thieves, he thought. What happened was a storm that let our alligator out, to make a meal of Doris Schaffer.
As he continued to stare at the screen, he saw that there were links to other sites, also about pearl farms being robbed while there was a gator on guard.
Going to the links, Ted read article after article about the thieves who had become known as the 'Gator Bandits'. Some towns claimed it was a couple; others as many as six. The more Ted read, the more he was convinced that the unidentified woman that had let their gator out, was the same woman mentioned in all the articles.
"I can't believe anyone would actually - " he broke off when he heard what sounded like a muffled thud from outside.
There was no-one else about at this time of night, just him so the sudden sound from outside and the articles Ted had just read set him on high alert. Picking up the buckshot filled shotgun,
Ted slowly inched the door open and stepped outside, peering into the night. The moon was sitting high in the sky so it had to be around midnight, a perfect time to get up to mischief, Ted thought and smiled slightly when he couldn't hear anything but the lapping of the water against the outer walkways.
As he turned to go back into the shed, he saw quick movements on his right and spun in that direction, lifting the shotgun at the same time. Following the fleeting figure as he or she ran along the outer walkway, Ted hesitated, he didn't want to actually shoot anyone, just scare him, or her. "Hey!" He yelled, "Stop or I'll shoot!"
The figure didn't stop running and Ted swung the gun away and fired out over the open water, the crashing echo of the shot extremely loud in the dead of night.
The figure instantly fell to the floor and Ted watched as he or she then timidly got up again, hands held high. "Come over - " Ted called out but was cut off by a blow to the back of the head.