One: T-minus 4 days 5 hours
HURRICANE WARNINGS TYPICALLY MAKE front-page news in the Caribbean, unless a psychopath escapes a mental health facility and kills a tourist, or two.
Unfortunately, no amount of technology can predict when a maniac might terrorize a small Caribbean island. Unlike HEWS (Hurricane Early Warning System), which can detect the creation of a hurricane from conception; the best a person can do when a killer is on the loose is to hide behind locked doors and stay tuned to their local news station.
The weather channel can take a back seat.
Jayson L. Riley sat stiff as a cobra in a high-back leather swivel chair, blinking moisture into his weary eyes—eyes transfixed on the two large flat-screen monitors at his HEWS console—witnessing the birth of a hurricane; a seedling off the west coast of Africa. The National Hurricane Center hadn’t yet investigated—their classification of a potential hurricane would begin with labeling it an Invest; ironic, given how he used to track storms for investment advantages. When the NHC did recognize it, it would be labeled Invest 92L, due to the fact it was in the Atlantic basin. HEWS, on the other hand, would now label it Study 92L. Nothing to be concerned about yet, he decided, unlike the report of the escaped patient. He took his eyes off a homogeneous ultrasound image of the budding hurricane and glanced up when a reporter mentioned the killer's name. His spine tingled; both threats were potentially deadly. His heart galloped in anticipation of which threat might cause the most damage.
He knew the psychopath personally.
At that moment, 3,200 miles east, a decrepit freighter departed West Africa with precious cargo in its dark, dank holds, bound for Columbia under pearl-gray clouds and a shroud of ones and zeros. Its captain, D.R. Hewitt, chose his departure time and route with precision and purpose for the 84-hour journey.
His hurricane-tracker sidekick, Hunter—a nickname he’d apparently earned on a tour of duty somewhere—rose from his seat at the console next to him and padded across the lounge to the galley, leaving moist footprints in the dark teak flooring like Bigfoot. He stood bearishly before a three-door, polished stainless-steel fridge—a triptych of modern technology. “Ready for a beer, mate?” he said, opening the left-hand door, removing two cans of Budweiser before Jayson had a chance to reply. “It’s five o’clock somewhere,” he said, laughing like a seal. He shoved the door closed with his elbow.
Jayson massaged his eyes with his knuckles as time ticked away in his head like a bomb. It’s five o’clock somewhere. He blew out a breath and let Hunter’s clichéd humor defuse an explosive thought.