Flukes - Nichole Chase

Nichole Chase - Flukes

Flukes
Nichole Chase

Prologue

The brisk wind ruffled his hair as he pointed his boat down the coast. Marion sat at the front, large sunglasses concealing most of her face. Even from where he was, he could see the tiny lines along her mouth. They were the only indication of her grief. His heart clenched, and he had to swallow around the lump in his throat. Nothing seemed to help her with the emotional pain, and she had been drifting further and further away. Between the miscarriage and the destruction from the hurricane, things looked really bleak for their small family.

The refuge center they had taken over last year was in terrible debt and, after this storm, there might not be enough left to bother saving. They would be lucky if they were able to pull together enough money to even move out of the center. Shaking his head, he let his eyes travel along the shoreline, noting the debris washed ashore. His keen gaze looked for beached animals and grounded birds. He couldn’t afford to take in any more animals, but there was no way he could let them suffer.

“Ben!” Marion had a hand over her eyes to shade them from the light peeking through the clouds. “Look over there.”

Turning his head in the direction she was pointing, he grimaced. There were several deep-water buoys tangled together in what looked like a fishing net. Something was thrashing about and a pitiful keening noise reached his ears. Without thought he turned the Whaler in the direction of the trouble and sped toward the struggling animal. As they drew near, he cut the throttle and coasted next to the mess.

The loud squeal of a dolphin caught his attention, and he leaned over the edge of the boat to see how badly the animal was hurt. A large, old-style fishing net was wrapped around the buoys and the dolphin stuck inside thrashed when he tried to pull on the line wrapped around its tail. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out his multi-tool and flicked out the knife. Slowly and carefully, he began to cut the net away from the dolphin’s tail and dorsal fin.

“Marion, come over here and pull the net closer. We’re drifting.” Something shiny flashed next to the dolphin and he paused to examine it a little closer, worried that there might be something in the net that could hurt the animal even more. Tilting his head, he moved a little closer to try and get a better look. Reaching his fingers into the net, he prodded the shiny material and was shocked when it felt soft under his fingers. “Marion, where are you? There’s something stuck in this net with the dolphin.” She didn’t respond and he tore his gaze away from the net to look over his shoulder. “Marion?”

“Do you hear that, Ben?” She was looking over the opposite side of the boat in confusion.

“Hear what?” Keeping his hand on the net so that the dolphin’s blowhole didn’t dip under the water, he kept his eyes locked on his wife. Something in her expression made his heart skip a beat. It was fear and determination.

“It sounds like a baby.” Her voice was so quiet he almost didn’t hear her over the water splashing against the boat. Shaking her head, she turned around to him and bit her lip for a minute. Taking a deep breath, she moved over next to him and grabbed firmly onto the net.

Not sure what to say, he looked back at the dolphin and pointed to the shiny area underneath. “See that? I’ve never see anything like it before. It almost looks like a scale, but it’s soft.”

Marion leaned over, and he could see the scientific part of her mind take over. “Maybe it’s not an animal. It could be some type of trash that was swept away in the storm. Finish cutting the dolphin free and then we’ll find out.”

He slid the knife back to the net that was wrapped around the animal and carefully began to remove the old ropes. He made soothing sounds as he worked, and was careful to not knick the dolphin, which was hard with the waves rocking the boat. The sound of another dolphin surfacing surprised him and he stabbed his knuckle. Muttering a curse, he looked to his right and smiled. There, floating next to the boat was a small dolphin. If he were to guess, he would say it was only a couple of months