Voyage to Armageddon Book Segment Preview | Nature

TABLE OF CONTENTS

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Prologue Chapter 1 Queen’s Castle Chapter 2 Eerie Adventure Chapter 3 Girls Will Be Girls Chapter 4 Artificial Canyons Chapter 5 Legend of Lost Harbor Chapter 6 Western Door of the Longhouse Chapter 7 Ontario Sun Chapter 8 Americans Invade Canada Chapter 9 Prom Night in Kingston Chapter 10 Escape from Thousand Islands Chapter 11 A-Plan at A-Bay Chapter 12 Eviction Order Chapter 13 Dislodging the Dead Chapter 14 Return of the Mohicans Chapter 15 A Militia is Born Chapter 16: Sleeping With the Stowaway Chapter 17 Maelstrom at Montreal Chapter 18 Elevator to Heaven Chapter 19 Eastern Door of the Longhouse Chapter 20: Paradise Under Seige Chapter 21: Holiday Point Summit Chapter 22: Lost Castle of Champlain Chapter 23: Nine Pound Holocaust Chapter 24: The Diversity Ball

Chapter 25: Concrete Nesting Places Epilogue

Latter Half, Chapter One: “Pardon me, is Dexter here? I need to ask if it’s okay to head out on Lake Erie today.” The man threw aside a stack of job orders as if it had no earthly value and addressed himself to the intruder. With a tough look about him and graying at the temples, he was evidently competent to answer the main question. However, after looking her over and determining that she posed no threat, he calmly attempted a sip from a stale cup of coffee before responding bluntly. “Sorry. I’m just a mechanic. Dex is at the boat show this morning, and he gave strict orders not to be interrupted. He won’t be back ‘til four.” “Oh wonderful, now what do I do? I just can’t wait that long. You see, we’re on a very tight schedule and I bought that new Huron motor yacht out there. I need to know if it’s advisable to risk the conditions out on the lake today.” “You mean Queen’s Castle? You got nothing to worry about lady. That boat can handle ten foot swells. If you leave right away, you might even avoid them altogether.” Tonya pretended not to notice the man’s peculiar fidgeting and he never did swallow any coffee. But no mention was made of the open bill for recently purchased accessories, and that was odd. She could easily dispose of the bill with that credit card, but he showed no concern for their safety. She concluded the exchange with a mental note and a courteous thank you. Tonya took it all in stride. The input made her feel a bit more confident in the decision she was hoping to make anyway. The girls had struggled to make these weekends available, and the thought of another night with Barnacle Bill and Charlie lurking in their midst would make anyone eager to depart, even on the Titanic. At the outdoor stairway, Tonya put off her descent to the lot for a survey of conditions. The sky was partially filled with thin clouds and a cold brisk wind was kicking up along the riverfront. She stretched herself over the railing to get a glimpse of the mighty Erie, but the lake was well beyond her vision. The bright sun made it appear warmer than the forty-eight degrees showing on the wall thermometer over the office mailbox. There were people milling about in the back lot as the morning progressed. Some of the tables in the picnic area were occupied by families eating breakfast prepared on the public grills. Then, suddenly, all of the activity at this marina was suspended by a white Subaru Outback working its way up the access road. Just as the mechanic was recomposing himself inside, he was startled all over again and turned to look out his window. The vehicle patched out on a curve halfway up to avoid hitting Billy’s skank of a wife who had been chewing him out moments earlier, something

about trailer rent that had never been paid. She jumped from its path and landed on all fours in a ditch colored by mud and lubricant, reducing her appearance to a new low even for these parts. Tonya was drawn to the scene by the vulgar shouting which followed from behind the new arrival. It finally came to a stop in the owner’s reserved parking space after leaving a skid mark on the new pavement. A sheet of dust was unleashed by this exhibition, causing the picnic area to be swallowed whole in an instant. Before tempers could flare, a tall stylish woman exited to command the scene. She wore a shiny black skirt, gold colored blouse beneath a tailor fit blazer, shaded glasses with natural blonde hair feathered back over her ears. Despite the attention she generated, intentionally or otherwise, the woman appeared totally unphased, screening the hulking vessels all around for a familiar face. When her eyes made contact with Tonya, now approaching her from the bottom of the stairway, she removed her glasses, one leg still angled in her vehicle and let out a scream that only added to all the prior embarrassment. “Teeeens!” It reverberated in decibels beyond anything achieved by Karen earlier, prompting those gulls to seek asylum in Ottawa. “Where’s the cruise ship? I hear you got Chippendales on-board. Remember, I got dibs.” Kate Marszalek was about as discreet as a cheerleader on Super Bowl Sunday. A successful stockbroker, she flew in from New York and took advantage of a

complimentary rental car offered by a business associate in Buffalo. It would be retrieved after their departure to facilitate a return flight from Kingston on Sunday. She embraced her good friend with a kiss and then repeated the formalities all over again with the customary hellos, look at you and other greetings. Kate had just celebrated a thirty-eighth birthday, but her ongoing war with nature gave this the appearance of a mother-daughter reunion and a fortunate reprieve from all the tongue lashings it deserved. “So, Teens, who’s that crack-ass who stopped me at the entrance gate, and I’m not talking about controlled substances here. He had more beef sticking out the seat of his pants than a heifer in a slaughter house.” “His name’s Billy, your one and only Chippendale. You want him, you’ll have to follow us in the dinghy.” “I’d rather be disemboweled at the slaughter house.” Teens was the nickname affectionately reserved for Kate’s former attorney. Most people assumed that it was simply a slurred abbreviation, but it actually derived from a time when Tonya was representing Kate in a wrongful discharge case on Wall Street. Kate’s employer was an investment banker looking to suppress her reports of criminal activity to a regulatory commission. They appeared so outlandish to Tonya that she proposed a settlement without monetary recovery which Kate rejected vehemently. Tonya became so frustrated that she referred to this resistance as teen behavior. It occurred in the advent of the Bernie Madoff scandal, and when Kate was

later vindicated, she refused to let Tonya off the hook. The name stuck, and its origins were forever remanded to attorney-client confidentiality. But there was always room for a new one to fit the occasion. “By the way, Captain Nemo, is Karen here? You know I might need that dinghy after all, or a plank for her to stroll off.” She studied her friend’s face for a supportive reaction. “Now behave,” Tonya answered with a compromising smile. “Karen means well and you gotta admit, we could all use her culinary skills.” “Nah! Come on Teens, it’ll be fun. We’ll just cover her eyes and make her feel like she’s on a fashion runway in Vegas. It’s all fool-proof. No one will even know that she sank to the Edmund Fitzgerald wherever it is out here.” It was becoming difficult for Tonya to hold back a laugh or two, so she quickly changed the subject and nudged her friend toward the back of the vehicle. “Okay enough already, let’s get your stuff. Then I’ll give you a tour of my new boat.” “Sure, as long as it doesn’t end like all your other tours, with a pail and a scrub brush.” Tonya helped with the luggage and accessories in the trunk and rear seat. A wagon was required to make their delivery to Queen’s Castle. There was so much to catch up on that neither woman bothered to move the rental car from the reserved spot. Billy was now arguing at the gate with the Sheen character, and about the only abnormality left behind at this marina was the activity of the mechanic on a cell phone in the repair shop.

By the time the girls settled into Queen’s Castle, the sun was nearly overhead, shifting winds had picked up a notch or two, and the cove entrance was beginning to show signs of turbulence. Tonya fired up the twin engines, and they were off, the Castle bumping a mere five times along the contours of the slip as she eased it out into the river. Shifting the starboard engine to reverse, she spun the vessel around slowly like a top with Karen on the bow and Kate on the aft deck busy securing the lines to the cleats. Meanwhile, the navigator was preoccupied at the flying bridge next to the captain. She had just engaged the radar, adjusting its range, gain and sea clutter knobs to match the constrained environs. Many of the navigational features here were duplicitous given all the parallel ones now available on the varied mobile apps in the girls’ possession. But satellites could malfunction, and accidents do happen- like a smart phone dropping into the rapids. At this very moment, they were entering some very treacherous rapids along a section of river in Tonawanda, an Iroquois term meaning swift waters. It would be awhile before this vessel accessed the open lake and these women were prudently getting ready. Their skills might become the difference between life and death in these frigid waters. Reminders were everywhere in the ice chunks drifting down river. The new dinghy, powered by a six-horse outboard, was certainly a comfort factor and aptly selected for Adirondac Lake, but it was no match for the volatile expanse of the great Erie.

Tonya was the only one who may have substantially appreciated these factors apart from Dexter, the marina owner, who provided three of the women with a crash course on piloting this vessel the day before. But that was prior to this morning’s forecast, and even then he was rather lax in his orientation, conceding ignorance of certain aspects of this bridge panel. As he explained it, his experience was more focused upon marina operations. In fact, a succession of cell phone calls forced him to cut short their introduction to Lake Erie at the Peace Bridge where he paused to outline a course for accessing it. Then he simply turned the vessel back around. What Tonya did not know twentyfour hours later is that her instructor was at that very moment ripping into his assistant manager on that cell phone for allowing them to depart in the first place. The argument ended poignantly. “No Sparky, it’s the weather conditions and their experience you should’ve thought about, not the capabilities of the vessel.” The man being scolded in this fashion could care less about his new boss or what he thought about this crew. Newly hired together with a team of mechanics, he was concerned only with the boat’s interior design and the recent adjustments made to its engine compartment. The owner’s manual for Queen’s Castle did not describe these adjustments. Nowhere in the warranty were they covered.

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