To start at the beginning, use this link: Link to chapter 1
Once they got back to the apartment, Katherine packed a few things. She didn’t need much because most of what she needed was already stored in her room in the mermaid quarters. But she did pack a few bags of food and some cleaning supplies. At about 5:00, Dave called Janice again.
“I have some bad news.” He told her.
“What? Is Allen hurt?”
“Not that I know of. But when our agents got to the pickup area, there were no mermaids to be seen, and they found a net and a broken spear gun on the bottom of the lagoon.”
“Oh, no! Do you think Carlos got to them first?”
“We don’t know for sure. The net looked too large for a typical fishing net, and it was weighted down with heavy weights. They think it was designed to trap the mermaids. But since it was found on the bottom, they think maybe the mermaids managed to escape. I’ve made arrangements to fly to Belize tomorrow. We’re going to keep searching the area to see if we can find any clues as to where they might be.”
“I hope you find them. What will you do if you find out they’ve been recaptured?”
“It will be difficult because the government of Guatemala isn’t cooperative. But we will probably put together some kind of raid on Carlos’s compound.”
“OK, I’ll tell Katherine.”
“It may sound insensitive, but are we still on for the date tonight?”
“Why not? It will be better than sitting here worrying. Can we take Katherine over to the aquarium at 9:30?”
“Sure, that should be fine.”
“OK then, we can still go.”
Janice told Katherine the news, and they spent an hour or so in fruitless speculation and discussion. Had Allen and the others been caught? Or had they gotten away? If they escaped, where were they, and why hadn’t they tried to contact Dave again? Or, had Carlos gotten tired of chasing them and simply killed them? Luckily, the presence of the net made the last possibility sound unlikely. At last, they decided they had no choice but to wait and hope. They dried their tears and Janice started to look for something to wear on her date. She hadn’t brought much clothing with her, so she didn’t have a lot of choices, and many of the ones she had were casual. She wanted something nicer to impress Dave.
“What do you think?” She asked Katherine. “I only brought one dress with me, to wear to church on Sundays. Should I wear that tonight?”
“You could, it’s relatively nice, or you could borrow some clothes.”
“Dear, are you forgetting that I’m bigger than you? I doubt you have anything to fit me.”
“I’m not talking about my clothes, Mom. This is a shared apartment, remember? I’m sure the other girls wouldn’t mind if you borrowed something for one night. I think Lacy and Daphne are pretty close to your size.”
“Are you sure they won’t mind?”
“When they get back, if they complain you can buy them something new. But several of us have shared clothes before, so I’m sure they won’t mind.”
Convinced, Janice allowed Katherine to show her the other half of the closet, where Lacy kept her clothes. They found a short green dress that Janice liked, even though it showed a bit more leg than she was comfortable with. She tried it on and found that the fit wasn’t bad. But she wanted to look for something a little different, so Katherine led her to the rack of clothes in the other bedroom and she looked through Daphne’s dresses. She had several nice options, but Janice finally settled on an ivory-colored gown with long lace sleeves and a high-low type skirt. She found that it fit even better than the green dress had. Both she and Katherine agreed that it was a good choice. So she put on a pair of her own pantyhose and shoes, and she spent some time on her makeup and hair.
“You look lovely, Mom.” Katherine told her when they were done.
“Thank you. It has been a long time since I got all dressed up for a man.”
Dave picked her up a few minutes later. He looked very handsome in an open-collared shirt and a sport jacket. A few hints of gray were sprinkled through his short hair, but the muscular body beneath the shirt told the story of a man who took good care of himself. The weather was nice, and Dave took her to a small restaurant where we could sit outside at a quiet table. Janice asked him about his past, and was not surprised to hear he had been in the military and spent time as an Army Ranger before retiring at 20 years and starting a career in police work. He asked her about herself, so she told him about marrying right out of high school, having Katherine soon after, and then losing her husband to a rare cancer. She had worked as a secretary while attending night school, then took a job as an accountant after graduating. Not a very exciting story, but Dave seemed interested enough. Before they knew it, their drinks were warm and the waitress was pointedly looking at the check where it had been sitting on the table for 45 minutes. Dave paid the tab and then took her hand as they left the restaurant. They had just enough time to pick up Katherine and take her to the aquarium by 9:30.
“Did you two enjoy yourselves?” Katherine asked as Janice and Dave helped carry bags of food out to the car.
“I had a wonderful time.” Janice answered.
“And so did I.” Dave said. “Your mother is a ravishingly beautiful woman, and I find myself very attracted to her.”
Katherine was pleased to see her mom positively glowing at the compliment. Janice had been alone for far too long, working so hard to give her daughter a happy life that she hadn’t had time to think about her own happiness. Dave helped her get into the back seat of his car and then the three of them drove to the aquarium. They unloaded the bags Katherine had packed, hanging them from the handles of the wheelchair and putting one in her lap, then Dave pushed her up to the door. Jacob was there waiting for her. Katherine was already wearing one of her swimsuit tops, so Jacob took her up to the training pool and lowered her into the water. All of the items she had packed were in sealed plastic bags, so she just had Jacob toss them into the water beside her. With a few quick trips she would be able to shuttle it all to her sleeping pool.
“Carmen will be coming in the morning to help you feed the fish, and Josephine has the afternoon shift. I will send you an e-mail in the morning with some information about all of our new mermaids and the times they are available to work. Then you can make up a schedule. I think the aquarium will be closed for at least a week, so we can just do a minimal crew for now.”
“That sound good. I’ll work on it tomorrow. Have a good evening, and thank you for being willing to come in the evening and help me.”
After dropping Katherine off, Dave took Janice back to the apartment.
“I enjoyed our dinner.” He told her. “I hope we can do it again sometime.”
“So do I. Let’s plan something as soon as you get back with Allen and the other mermaids.”
“That’s a deal.”
Janice wasn’t quite sure what to do next, but she waited, looking up at Dave. He leaned over and gave her a gentle kiss.
“Have a good night.” He told her, then turned and left.
Janice watched him drive away, then went into the apartment and sat down. She thought that it would be a good night, but she didn’t think she would be getting much sleep.