The water was warm.
It’s always warm. One of the many nice things about living on a small Key at the tail end of Florida is that the water is almost always warm. I like to swim and am a fairly strong swimmer. When I lived up North, winter swimming meant an indoor pool. The ocean was off limits unless you were one of those polar bear people which I never was. Of the many reasons I picked this little island to be my primary residence, warm water and a nice beach was one of the important ones.
You won’t have heard of my Key. Like No Name Key it’s not hooked up to the electrical grid and unlike it, my island truly doesn’t have a name. It just had a numerical designation when I bought it. In the tax records it’s now known as Residence of Sam Howell. Sam Howell is not my name, by the way, except on a few documents scattered randomly about. Old Sam has the barest of backstory, just a few dates and numbers that satisfy certain requirements. He’s almost a non-person. Like my home is almost a non-place. They were both designed that way.
I mentioned that I’m off the electrical grid here. Water too. No public utilities at all. I have two small solar arrays, though, and a small wind turbine. I also have a fairly experimental wave power buoy system. It doesn’t generate a lot of electricity but between the three I have more than enough for what I need. I also have a diesel generator and a two hundred gallon tank buried near the house. That is part of the failsafe. I had the tank put in by a local company but I did the work on the other systems myself. I have a lot of eclectic knowledge.
I named my island Getaway Key. Not overly clever, perhaps, but there you have it. No roads lead to it. You’d need a boat or helicopter to reach it, though it’s only about a mile from Marathon (coincidentally just outside the twelve hundred foot area of incorporations) which is where I park my car. It’s no big chore to make a trip to town to check the mail or get groceries. I even have satellite internet.
I designed the house myself. It fits into the surroundings. Looks like just the sort of beach house you might expect on a little key. I did the best I could to keep it energy efficient but you really can’t build an Earthship kind of place on a subtropical island unless you really want people to talk about it. Also, underground homes are not ideal in a place that gets hit regularly by tropical storms and hurricanes. My little home was sturdy though. I was sorry when it blew up. But I always knew it would. In a manner of speaking, that was one of the design features.
They came at three in the morning. Statistically, that’s the best time for a covert assault. People tend to be in their deepest sleep. Response times are slow, even for those awake. It was three teams, two by water, sweeping in from the Northeast and Southeast with a fast rope air assault team timed to arrive as the other two converged on my little house. The approach of the two sea teams cut off any escape towards Marathon or North to the Glades. The air team approached from the Northwest. The entire operation would have constant satellite surveillance. It would be easy to see anyone trying to escape west to avoid the assault teams. The ideal would be a swift and silent convergence on the house followed by a multi-point breach which would, hopefully, give me just a brief moment of confused wakefulness before I was killed. Then the house would be quickly searched, sanitized and destroyed in a fire which would be blamed on an electrical problem that spread to the diesel tank nearby. All teams would be home by sunrise and certain people would enjoy their first trouble free breakfast in three years.
That would be the ideal.
Don’t think so.
My first death was just five years ago. The airplane I was in suffered complete engine failure (brought on by C4) and went down in the Catskills. It took them a week to find the wreckage. In the life just before that I was an analyst. I analyzed…patterns…and trends. I was very good at probabilities. I was good enough at patterns and probabilities to notice certain patterns that some of the people I reported to didn’t want noticed and good enough at probabilities to recognize the probability that I might become very fatally accident prone. I was also good enough to have seen that outcome as a possibility many years before and plan accordingly. If you’re privy to most of the big secrets that move the world along, it’s not too hard to make sure you have the resources for a backup plan. When the wreckage was found (two days before it was reported found, by the way) there were enough pieces to make a positive DNA match to me. That gave me a little breathing space.
But I knew they’d come.
The first burst of gunfire came from my bedroom window as the teams converged on my house. It was returned immediately, first from one, then from all sides. Bullets tore into the house but I’d reinforced the walls from waist height down. The soldiers fired efficiently, in controlled bursts, suppressing return fire as they moved quickly on the house. Once they reached the walls, two men moved to every entry point. At every window and door the man on the left tossed in a flash bang and the man on the right tossed in a frag grenade. I guess they were counting on the walls to stop the fragments. Would have worked if the house hadn’t blown up. I don’t know for sure but I’ll bet you could have seen that fireball even in Marathon.
I have to hand it to the support and over watch. They recovered quickly. I’d barely gotten to the end of my escape tunnel (yes, trite but effective) when coms reported, “Runner near the beach, heading east”.
I ran hard for the beach.
I could hear the pounding of combat boots behind me.
Only one man, dark against the waves, between me and the warm water.
I raised my rifle.
He moved into the water.
With a “whup, whup, whup” an Apache gunship (really, an Apache just for little ol’ me) dropped into view just ahead and opened fire.
Tracer fire stitched a brilliant line across the dark sky.
Bullets tore through flesh.
No chance to survive that.
Well, not really “poor guy”. He was not a nice person. The list of really nasty things he’d done was long and repulsive. I’d spent quite a few months finding him and then convincing him that some “rivals” had a bad end in mind for him. I’d kindly let him stay, for a generous sum (actually a lot more generous than he was aware), on my island for the past week, until I could handle the situation for him.
I knew they were coming.
When the teams swept in from the corners they swept right over my hide. I rose up just behind them, dressed identically, and joined the assault on my home.
I hadn’t expected the gunship though. That almost blew things apart for me. Fortunately, one of those fifty caliber rounds was a direct head shot. Not reconstructing that face. Truthfully, there was little left of the body. Apaches are not really designed to be used against a single human target but they are very effective against one. Since he was already waist deep, most of the bits of him washed out. What could be recovered would match the DNA profile stored on me. Again. That makes me smile. It wouldn’t last forever. The people who were looking for me wouldn’t stop unless they saw my unquestionably dead body and had God sign the death certificate. Maybe not even then. It would buy me some time though.
By the time the teams had gathered their dead (I have some regrets about the soldiers but they were there to kill me) and the clean-up team had arrived I was finishing the swim to Marathon. When the sun rose over the Keys the assault teams were almost back to their base, my house was a warm pile of ashes and I was crossing the Georgia state line. I had a cozy little home (well, a bit more of a bunker really) in the mountains.
I wouldn’t be telling you about it if it was still there.