The Conch Pearl – scene 2

Up in the apartment, Noel opened the big panorama window and let the breeze in.  He wanted to hear whatever weather could get to him, through the mass of the City.

He got into his email, and there was the shiver.  Sean had written.

“Wow.”

“What?”

“An email from Sean.”

“Who’s Sean?”

“A friend from Key West.”

“Oh, what does he say?”

“He doesn’t even use email.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean he’s computer illiterate.  He’s never even turned on a computer.”

“Well, what does he say?”

“It’s brief:  ’Nole.  Sailin to Ca Sal Bank.  Quinn expectin conchs ready.  back in 2 weeeks.  if not come after us. Sean’”

“What does that mean?  Where’s the CaSal Bank?”

“He means the Cay Sal Bank.”

“Well, where’s that?  What is he asking you to do?  Go get him?  Who’s Quinn?”

“I don’t have to go get him. Yet.”

Noel pulled away from his email and went to the bookshelf.  He found a faded postcard from between two scrapbooks.

“You’ve never heard of the Cay Sal Bank?”

“No, should I have?”

“No, few people have.”

“It’s here.”

He put his finger on a spot of light blue on the card.  It was a small simple map of the North Eastern Caribbean, the Florida peninsula, Cuba, and the Bahamas in greens and yellows, the Florida Straits in turquoise and in deep blues where the Gulf Stream ran.

“You see this light blue spot here, right in the middle between Florida, Cuba, and the Bahamas?  Looks like it’s underwater, right?”

“Yes.”

“And it is.  But it’s a bank, a high spot on the ocean floor between the currents that run North along the Grand Bahama Bank, and North East between Florida and Cuba, the Florida Current.”

“Noel, you know I’m no good with directions.”

“They meet here and become the Gulf Stream.  The Cay Sal Bank is right here in the middle, the currents just carve around it.   You can see the bottom when you cross it, but it drops to thousands of fathoms on all three sides.  On the edges of the bank are small strings of islands.  Uninhabited.  They’re not on most maps, they’re too small.  No one knows about them, except for Cuban smugglers, Bahamian fishermen from Andros, and some Florida fishing guides.  No Americans ever go fishing there – “

“Why not?”

“unless they do it illegally.  Because the islands belong to the Bahamas, and you need a foreigners’ fishing permit, which you have to get up in Bimini, the closest point, way up here.  Most fishing tourists, if they go across from Ft. Lauterdale or Miami for a fishing permit, are going to stay up there.  They’re not gonna then come nearly all the way down to Cuba.  Too expensive and too much time.”

“So why are Quinn and Sean going there?”

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