To start at the beginning, follow this link: link to chapter 1
Allen woke to find Maria shaking his shoulder. He opened his eyes to see that the sun was just peeking above the horizon. Maria looked upset, and she pointed to Allen’s left. He looked in the direction indicated and immediately understood why she was concerned. A crocodile was climbing slowly up out of the river onto the sandbank, and it seemed to be very interested in the mermaids. Allen was the closest to that end of the bank, so he started scooting away towards the water. Maria worked quickly to wake the rest of the group, and they gathered up their supplies and slipped into the river. Allen reached the river just ahead of the crocodile and started swimming as hard as he could after the rest of the group. Just when he thought he had escaped the crocodile, he felt a rush of water near his side and felt the jaws of the crocodile bite down on his body. He kicked out as hard as he could, trying to dislodge the reptile from its hold on him. Renna noticed his distress and swam back to try and help, but he shook his head violently. He didn’t want her to get hurt as well. She ignored his protests and grabbed the crocodile by its tail, trying to pull it away from him. The crocodile clamped down harder and tried to roll, but when it did, one of its teeth punctured the compressed air canister hidden inside Allen’s tail. The air rushed out, blowing Allen up like a balloon and forcing the crocodile’s jaws apart. The startled animal swam quickly away. Allen floated helplessly to the surface, and Renna took his hand and pulled him along after the others. Before long, the holes in Allen’s tail created by the crocodile’s teeth allowed the air to leak out and he shrank down to his normal size again.
The mermaids regrouped and found another small sandbank nearer to the mouth of the river and dug more holes for fresh water. They all drank until their bellies were sloshing, trying to stock up since they didn’t know when they would find the next fresh water river or stream. Renna looked carefully at Allen to see if he was injured, but the tough silicone material of his tail seemed to have protected him from injury other than a few bruises. Once they felt ready, they all headed back out into the sea, swimming out about a mile from the shore and then following it northward. They swam for about an hour and then noticed a few houses along the shore.
“WHAT DO YOU THINK?” Allen signed. “SHOULD WE CHECK OUT THIS VILLAGE?”
“IT’S TOO SMALL.” Maria replied. “IF CARLOS HAS ANY AGENTS THERE, THE WHOLE VILLAGE WILL KNOW ABOUT US AND THERE WILL BE NO WAY TO KEEP IT A SECRET. WE NEED TO FIND SOMEPLACE BIGGER.”
After a short discussion, the other mermaids agreed and they continued swimming north. They didn’t see any other settlements for some time. About mid-day, they saw another river, so they swam in to shore and found another place to get fresh water. They saw a few more crocodiles in the river, but this time none of them thought the mermaids looked appetizing. After drinking their fill, they continued their swim along the shore. Wherever they were, it was apparently not very heavily settled. Not long after leaving the river, they began to notice that the water seemed shallower, and a profusion of coral reef sea life burst into view around them. They slowed their swimming to enjoy the view, but kept moving. After another two hours or so, they could see a larger settlement on the shore. This one had a long pier and there were several boats plying the waters nearby.
“DO YOU THINK THIS TOWN IS BIG ENOUGH?” Allen asked.
“IT LOOKS PROMISING. WHAT SHOULD WE DO?”
“I THINK WE SHOULD WAIT UNTIL DARK, AND THEN TRY TO APPROACH AN ISOLATED HOUSE.” Said Lacy.
“THAT SOUNDS LIKE A GOOD IDEA.” Answered Maria. “LET’S KEEP SWIMMING AND FIND SOMETHING ON THE FAR END OF TOWN.”
They swam another couple of miles, surfacing frequently to keep the shore in sight. The town looked small, but spread out along the coast somewhat, with a road following the shoreline. They passed the majority of the buildings and saw a small river outlet, but then the number of buildings increased again as they passed another smaller town or neighborhood. Finally they could see the road turn away from the beach and a single house behind some trees at the corner. Beyond that house the jungle stretched away to the north. It was early afternoon, so they decided to wait until it got dark and then have two mermaids approach the house. Maria was the obvious selection for one of the two, as she spoke fluent Spanish. After some discussion, they settled on Daphne for the second person to send as she was perhaps the strongest and most athletic of the mermaids. Once the decision had been made, they found a clear spot on the bottom and sat down to wait for sunset.
“SO IF WE FIND SOMEONE, WHAT DO WE DO?” Asked Daphne.
“WE’LL HAVE TO FIGURE OUT A WAY TO COMMUNICATE – WRITING PROBABLY. THEN FIND OUT WHERE WE ARE AND TRY TO GET ACCESS TO A PHONE.”
“BUT WE CAN’T TALK. HOW CAN WE CALL SOMEONE?”
“WE’LL HAVE TO SEND A TEXT OR AN E-MAIL.”
“WHO SHOULD WE CALL?”
“DAVE JOHNSON.” Said Allen. “HE’S WITH THE POLICE AND HE KNOWS US. HE SHOULD BE ABLE TO ARRANGE FOR SOME HELP.”
Allen still remembered Dave Johnson’s phone number from their previous interactions, so he gave that number to Maria and Daphne to memorize. They each had a relative they could try as well, in case the first option didn’t work out. As the sun set behind the trees, they all swam near the shore. Maria and Daphne crawled out of the water and slowly made their way up through the trees to the house they had spotted earlier. They could see some lights on in the windows, so they hoped that someone would be home. Once they made it through the line of trees, they could see that there was a house and a large barn or garage with a gravel driveway behind them. They crawled across a well-kept lawn to the back door of the house, and Daphne knocked.
A few moments later, the door opened and a woman looked out. She seemed a bit startled to see two women with mermaid tails at her door.
“Hello? Who are you?” She asked.
Maria and Daphne were surprised to hear her speak in English. They made motions to indicate that they couldn’t talk, and then Maria pantomimed writing something.
“You can’t talk?” The woman asked. “And you want something to write with?”
They both nodded their heads.
“Well, you might as well come in.”
The woman held the door for them and they crawled into the house. The back door led into a kitchen, and the woman waved at some chairs around a table, then went to a cabinet and started rummaging around in it. Maria and Daphne pulled out some chairs and climbed into them. It seemed like a difficult task at first, but with arms strengthened by countless hours of swimming they found that they could grab the seat of the chair and lever themselves up into position without much trouble. A moment later, the woman came back and put a piece of paper and a pencil in front of them. Maria pulled the paper over and began to write, with the woman watching over her shoulder.
We need help. Maria wrote. We were being held captive somewhere south of here and managed to escape. Where are we? Do you have a phone we could use?
“You were being held captive?” Asked the woman. “By who?”
Carlos Ruiz. He was using us for entertainment. Wrote Maria.
“Oh, my. If Carlos was your captor, you are in great danger. His people have been snooping around town lately, looking for something. I suppose that would be you?”
Both mermaids nodded their heads.
“As to where you are, you are in Punta Gorda. And I do have a phone. But how will you talk?”
What country are we in? Maria wrote. She had never heard of Punta Gorda before.
“Oh, I’m sorry. Welcome to Belize. Where are you from?”
Texas, in the United States.
“You are really a long way from home, then. But you didn’t answer me. I can get you a phone, but you can’t talk, so what good will it do you?”
We were hoping that you had a cell-phone so we could send a text or an e-mail.
“Of course. Yes, my phone is a cell-phone. You can send a text.” The woman pulled out a cell-phone and handed it to Maria, who immediately started tapping out a text to Dave Johnson. While she was working, Daphne pulled the paper and pencil over in front of her and began to write.
My name is Daphne. And that’s Maria on the phone. Can we have some water?
“I’m Susan. Of course you can have some water. I’ll be just a moment.”
Susan went to the sink and filled two glasses with water. She brought them back and put one in front of each mermaid. Daphne lifted her glass in silent thanks, then drank it down.
I was surprised that you speak English. Daphne wrote when she was done.
“Belize was a British colony, so English is our official language. But most of us speak Creole or another language in addition to English.”
Thank you for helping us out.
“I’m happy to do what I can.”
Where can we stay while we wait for someone from the US to come get us?
“I wish I could let you stay here, but if Carlos Ruiz is after you, no place in town is safe. Maybe if you take off your mermaid costumes we could figure out some sort of disguise.”
Unfortunately, our tails are glued on, and it takes a special solvent to remove them. We can’t take them off until we get back to Texas.
“Where were you being held? In Carlos’s estate?”
I think so. It took us two days to swim here from there.
“You must be some very fast swimmers to come that far in two days. Did you swim straight across the bay?”
No. We followed the shore.
“That’s probably 30 or 35 miles. I’m impressed.”
Maria started jumping up and down in her seat. She waved the phone and then held it so that Daphne could see. She and Susan read the text message chain as she and Dave communicated.
Dave, this is Maria Cruz. You helped us when we were kidnapped before. I am with all of the other mermaids and we have escaped from Carlos Ruiz. Can you send help?
Maria! We have been looking for you all. Where are you?
Punta Gorda, Belize.
Did all of you escape?
No. They took Katherine away the night before we escaped.
I think I might know where she is. I’m working on rescuing her. I’m not at home right now, but I will work on sending some help your way. Where should we come to? Are you safe?
No, we are not safe. Carlos is looking for us.
I will try to move fast then. Where should I send the rescue team?
Both mermaids looked at Susan.
Is there a place we can hide while we wait for help to come? Daphne wrote.
“How about an island?” Asked Susan. “There are some coral reef islands about 10 miles north of here. Maybe you can hide there.”
Is there any fresh water on the islands?
“No. But I have something that will help with that. Do you have food?”
Enough for a few days.
“Bien. Wait here a minute and I’ll get a map and show you something.”
While they waited, Maria went back to texting.
We are at the house of a friend, but we can’t stay here. She is getting a map to some islands where we can hide.
OK. You can take a picture of the map when she gets it.
Susan came back with a map showing the nearby coastline. It showed a shallow bay to the north, with two lines of coral atolls paralleling the shore. The most distant set was about five miles from shore, and Susan showed them an island with a central lagoon.
“I think you could hide here.” She said. “These islands are mostly mangroves with a little bit of sand, so no-one uses them except for fishing.”
They put the map on the table and Maria pointed to the island in question while Susan took a picture and sent it to Dave.
Got it. Dave texted. I’ll send a rescue team to that island. They will look around for you on or near the island.
Wait! How will we tell they aren’t Carlos’s goons?
I’ll have my team put up a yellow flag on their boat.
Good we’ll look for a yellow flag.
It may be a few days. It won’t be easy to organize this.
Good luck. I’m looking forward to hearing about your escape.
Maria handed the phone back to Susan.
Thank you so much for helping us. Maria wrote.
“I’m glad you came to my door. Anywhere else in town and you might have been caught by now. I need to get my desalinator and then you had better go. My husband is due back soon, and he may feel he has to tell Carlos about you in order to protect me and our house. How many of you are there?”
There are 9 of us.
“Nine? Well, I think this says it will provide water for up to six. Hopefully that will be enough, especially if you can catch some rain. Wait here while I get it.”
Susan came back in a few minutes with a portable desalinator. It had a hand pump to push the salt water through a reverse osmosis filter, and it was relatively compact. Since it was designed for boats, it even had a lanyard with a clip for attaching it to the boat. Susan also had a mesh bag with five or six bottles of water in it. She handed the bag to Daphne and the desalinator to Maria, then ushered them back to the door.
“You’d better leave quickly now. My husband will be back any minute. Good luck.”
They had left their paper and pencil on the table, so Maria and Daphne had to say thank you with a hug. Grasping their new supplies, they crawled back down to the water and swam out to the other mermaids. Susan took the paper with their messages on it and tore it up into little pieces over a trash can.