You toss a halfhearted wave upward in the direction of the glaring bridge window and jog in through the door into the interior of the passenger cabin. By the time you get inside everything has changed. The open standing area at the front of the cabin and the central aisle between the rows of airplane seating are filled with passengers clustering around four figures: Rick Chavez, holding Royce’s elbows behind his back, expertly and with an assured strength; and Gavin, grappling with Drew, the high school student, Gavin’s long arms grabbing for Drew’s and losing them and grabbing for them again, as Drew strains forward toward Royce. Drew has the beginnings of swelling on the crest above his left eye and Gavin is shouting at him but there is so much noise and clamor that at first the shouting is just so much more background noise and you cannot focus on it and force it into words.

‘Just back down,’ Gavin is shouting. His thick-framed eyeglasses are askew on his face.

Rick Chavez is saying something low and quiet to Royce. You realize that this is the first time you’ve seen Chavez standing up—he is smaller than you’d thought. Something about the thinness of his limbs and the trim of his hair made him look like a very tall person, stretched into rails, but he is average height. He handles Royce with what you assume is a physicality born of breaking up countless schoolyard fights.

You find Esme, standing just inside the door. The chopping motion of the boat speeding beneath you toward Long Beach adds a surrealism to the crowd.

‘It was you!’ Royce screams at Drew from the straightjacket of Chavez’s grasp.

‘You don’t know a goddam thing,’ Drew says back. He lunges again for Royce and Gavin stumbles and falls and manages to pin Drew on the floor beneath him. Behind them in a lacuna of crowd you see Mrs. Shorter’s body still covered in that cartooned beach towel.

‘What did she do to you,’ Royce says. ‘What did she do.’

You look at Esme’s face and it is mortified. It looks locked in a close-mouthed scream.

Chavez wrenches Royce backward and twists him over his hip and forces him down into the front row of blue upholstered seating. ‘Stay down, man,’ Chavez says to him. Royce isn’t looking at him.

The air and the noise changes around you and you turn and see Esme going back out the door onto the bow and you watch her through the smoky tinted glass as she heads toward the starboard ladder that leads up to the open-air deck. You watch her until you cannot see her any more.

You push past a high school boy in a black teeshirt with a band logo and crouch down next to Drew, who is lying face-down, his cheek pressed to the thin patterned carpet, with Gavin pressing his full body weight down on top of him. Gavin has one elbow in the back of Drew’s ribcage and he grins up at you.

‘Gonna need my own representation after this,’ he says.

‘Drew,’ you say. You look at him until his one visible eye looks back up at you. ‘Where is Pauline. What’s going on.’

‘I didn’t do anything,’ he says. His words are blurred by the corner of his mouth which drags against the carpet. ‘This fucker jumped me.’

You look at Gavin and he nods his chin over to where Royce is sitting with Chavez’s hand pressed against his chest. The boat moves underneath you. The high school students and mothers and vacationers are standing en masse uneasily in the aisle and leaned against the blue seats and you spot Ernesto, the crewman, standing at the front of the aisle on the periphery of the circle of onlookers. He has a comical twist to his expression.

‘Gavin,’ you say, ‘what’s going on.’

He nods. ‘Yeah, Captain Boyfriend over there just clocked this guy outta nowhere.’

‘On a fucking boat!’ Royce shouts.

Behind you, where you cannot see, the mainland is approaching. Seagulls circle and cry in the air and pirouette on the currents and the ocean grows shallower and shallower. Catalina retreats into invisibility. Eric and Lavinia—you may as well be dead. You are on your way, well on your way, and above you, her feet down toward you, Joan steers the Islander Express toward whichever genuine authority figures exist and have been alerted to stand by at the dock. Sharp white uniforms or sharp blue uniforms: they are sharp, whatever they are. You look around. The woman with her son is looking at you and standing behind Ernesto and you can see her son, cradled in her arms, his head laid back against her shoulder, looking up at the nondescript ceiling. Above and aft, Bob sits his big square hands on the bulwark railing and perhaps his daughter approaches him, or perhaps she does not. He is up there.

Gavin is studying your face and he places a knee on Drew’s back and Drew makes a small gasping sound which Gavin ignores. You look at Rick Chavez, at Royce on the blue upholstery, at Ernesto with his clipboard. You wonder what Drew has done with your notepad with the jaunty Islander Express logo and your haphazard, useless notes.

Someone pushes past the woman with her son and past Ernesto at the head of the aisle and it is Pauline, a glower on her face. She looms above you. She is looking down at Drew but his head is turned against the carpet such that he cannot see her.

‘You fucking pig,’ she says. In one hand she is holding a rust-colored backpack with the zipper yawning wide open. Inside you can see a rough shuffle of dog-eared papers and uncovered textbooks.

There is something buzzing in your head.


A.    Go up to the open-air deck to talk to Esme and Bob.
B.    Instruct Gavin to haul Drew out to the bow where you can speak to him alone.
C.    Get Rick Chavez to walk Royce out to the bow with you.
D.    Head up to the bridge to tell Joan what you know.
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