Thursday, December 20, 2012

There’s a Victim

It was shortly after midnight, and the Sheriff's search-and-rescue helicopter was cruising just below the rain-laden clouds over every back inlet they could find in the area where Ernie had last seen the Bellardis' houseboat. Ernie had been so sure he could direct the chopper right back to the houseboat. A flash of light in the corner of his eye caught his attention. "What was that?”

The captain angled the chopper toward the flash, dropped toward the surface of the water, and opened up the throttle. "There!" Ernie said excitedly, pointing ahead. Something is burning." In seconds they were over the burning houseboat at about eighty feet. We're too late, Ernie thought.

The houseboat listed in the water at about forty-five degrees. Burning debris littered the surface for a radius of three hundred feet. "I see a victim," Ernie announced. If there's only one victim, who is it? Ernie worried. If it's Wes, where's Matthew? Did he manage to escape and make it to shore already? "Hope that's not our boy, Ernie. Looks like a fatal to me,” the pilot said. A voice came through the headset. "The victim is alive—barely.

The victim was completely covered when the basket reached the doorway. At first he thought the victim looked African-American. Ernie directed the light into the grotesque face of the unconscious victim. Recognition rocked Ernie like a blow to the stomach. "It's the senator's son."

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