Nine of Swords

Nightmares. Despair. Hopelessness. Torment.


3. Chapter Three

Jess’s room was destroyed. The hail had broken the windows and water had damaged a good portion of her bedroom. Her desk, which was sitting under the window, had broken from the weight of the ice. The computer’s lights didn’t blink, and all her papers and books were sopping wet.

There was broken glass and debris all the way over to her bed. As if the force of the window breaking had exploded and sent it flying across the room. She couldn’t remember how violent the wind had gotten before the storm let up. But it must have been bad. She had no place to sit, and so she was forced to lift a pillow and sit on it on her bed to avoid stabbing herself with bits of glass.

The storm left a bad taste in her mouth. She had seen thousands of storms in her life, but nothing quite like this. The worst storm she’d ever seen had left her bedroom windows rattling and shaking. Water had dripped in from the corners, but the glass stayed where it was. The storm had lasted all night, and they’d been expecting it. She lasted until midnight before running to her grandparents’ room to hide under their bed.

Her heart was heavy with worry. She was certain some of the boats had been damaged, even on the docks and she found it hard to believe anyone still out on the sea would have made it. She knew Bosko’s arrival should have brought her comfort. If he could sail through that storm, then so could Art. But he never went out very far. He tried to always keep the island within sight. And there wasn’t a single spot left on the horizon.

She could hear Georgie leading Bosko up the stairs to find an empty room. There was a small section of the house blocked off just for the family. It consisted of four rooms. Two bedrooms, a bathroom, and another bedroom that they used as a family room. They needed places to escape when the inn got overwhelming. It was locked off by a door that let out into the hall of the main inn. But Jess’s room, previously her mother’s room, was right by the door. So she could hear the sound of the stairs creaking and Georgie’s voice as she explained that they didn’t have time to clean up the mess before Bosko arrived. He offered to help out.

Before she knew what she was doing, Jess leaped off of the bed and went to the door that opened to the main hall. She had it yanked open by the time Georgie had found a suitable room for their single guest. The two of them were standing in the corridor, looking back at Jess as if she had startled them.

“You want to help?” she said. Bosko looked confused for just a moment before nodding once.

“Of course,” he said.

“Then take me out on your boat.”

“Jess, I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Georgie remarked.

“I need to find grandpa.” Jess could tell that Georgie was worried too, but she was always better at hiding her emotions than Jess. Georgie had a business to run, and she put on a mask in the presence of customers. Jess knew her well enough to see the way her fingers trembled on the door handle and the redness around her eyes.

“It could be dangerous,” the elder woman reminded Jess.

“I don’t care.”

“I do.” Bosko looked back and forth between the two of them for a moment before speaking.

“It won’t be a problem,” he said. “I can take her out. I might be able to get my radar up and running again.”

“And if another storm hits like that?” Georgie asked.

“We won’t go too far. We’ll stick close to the island. If we see anything brewing out over the sea, we’ll head right back.” Georgie’s mask began to crumble. Her chin trembled, and her eyes became glassy.

“Just—give me a moment to talk it over with my granddaughter,” she decided. “Please make yourself at home.” Then she hurried forward and pulled Jess back into the private room that divided their section of the old house. She shut the door and turned to the younger girl, who was technically an adult, but still very much the little girl Georgie had raised like a daughter. “You barely know this man,” she said.

“I don’t care,” Jess retorted. “I need to get out there to find grandpa. What if he can’t find his way back?”

“He always finds his way back.”

“We’ve never had a storm like this before.”

“Radios are dead. Navigation is off. If you go out there, it could be dangerous. That’s not counting the strange man you’d be out there with.”

“I know how to sail better than anyone. I also know how to make it look like an accident. I have a knife.”

“Jesus, Jess.”

“Grandma. Please?” The woman sighed and rubbed her worried eyes. The mask had broken, and now the concern was painted all over her face. She was going to relent. If only because she was worried about her husband.

“I want you back here by sundown. I don’t care if you find him or not. If I don’t see that boat on the water by sunset, I will have the police out looking for you.” Jess doubted Georgie would be able to contact the police. The island had a small district, but they were hardly a police force. And if the electricity didn’t come back on, they wouldn’t be contacting anyone.

“Fine,” Jess agreed anyway. She spun on her heels and turned into her room to fill her waterlogged backpack with what she would need for her trip.

“I’ll go find something for you guys to eat,” Georgie said as she left to return to the inn.

Within a half hour, the three of them were standing out on the docks. Bosko was draining the water out of his boat while Jess watched and Georgie kept her eyes on the eerily calm sea.

“Something is weird about this,” she said as she twisted her fingers, no longer caring if a guest saw her mask crumble. “There aren't any lights on land.” Jess turned to look at the stretch of land on the other side of the island. The city of Seattle seemed strangely still.

“Electricity is probably out all over the city,” she explained. “Nothing to worry about.”

“Something just doesn’t feel right. I’ve lived on this island for forty years, and I’ve never seen anything like that storm.”

“We’ll be back in a few hours,” Bosko told her as he reached out his hands to help guide Jess into the boat. “I’ll finish helping you guys clean up. Do you have an uh—town hall? Something like that? Something big where you can fit everyone on the island at the same time?” Jess clamored into the boat and immediately began looking around, taking in the wheel and controls and making mental notes of how to navigate the vessel.

“I suppose so, yes,” Georgie said. She hurried to release the boat so they could set out. But Bosko remained where he was as he waited for her to continue. “We have an auditorium.”

“Great,” he said with a nod. The boat began to drift away from the dock but remained close enough so that Georgie could hear him. “If we’re not back by sundown—get everyone into the auditorium. Lock it up. Don’t come out until dawn.”

“What?” He moved toward the sails to help Jess release them.

“Just do it. Trust me. I’ll keep her safe.”

“I don’t understand.” The boat had drifted too far now, so that even if the young man replied, she wouldn’t have heard him. She stood on the dock for a long time, watching her whole world sail away with a stranger.


Holy crap. I actually got something written on time this week.

I was stuck. And then I had a terrifying nightmare. And now I know what to do. Thanks, subconscious.

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