Joshua & Blair

an excerpt

Chapter One

Pausing as he packed the last of his perishable food into his chilly bag, Blair's stomach knotted. Half an hour ago the warning sirens had sounded and radio stations became filled with the warning of an imminent tsunami.

Blair had grown up knowing the dangers of living in New Zealand--the country wasn't called the Shaky Isles for nothing--but he never imagined a disaster would ever directly affect him.

No one in the nursery, either other employees or the shoppers, had actually waited for the tsunami announcements to begin. To seek higher ground after a strong, prolonged earthquake was drilled into people as much as drop, cover, hold was the instruction while it lasted. This one had sent pot plants flying from shelves. As soon as the jolt stopped, people scattered--including the staff.

His bach along with the rest of those sitting on this beautiful stretch of coastline was in the tsunami's path. Compared to some of the other holiday homes, his was extremely modest, but a big enough tsunami could level them all. Hurrying outside to his truck, Blair shook his head. It's not just water. People think of a wave. Some even imagine it's like a big breaker you can surf. But it's not. A tsunami is a churning nightmare of water, sand, and debris. He stared at the single story building. Baches aren't built to be robust. They're holiday getaways. At least most of the time.

Shoving the chilly bag under the tarp covering the flat bed of the truck, Blair dashed quickly back into the bach and looked around. His bedroom area was on a small mezzanine, just a few steps up from the rest of the room. Blair had piled his small electrical goods onto his bed. The truck had his camping equipment, which was more important since he had nowhere to live except his bach. I don't know how high the water will be, or how much flooding there'll be. I can only hope it doesn't reach my mattress.

In the kitchen area, Blair lifted his small fridge up onto the workbench. All his perishable food was in his kit and everything else on top shelves. There was a limit to what he could take in the truck, but he didn't have much anyway. I never realized how fast thirty minutes went until now. I can't hang around any longer. Only a couple of others living along here have shown up. They just collected their pets and went.

A round of barking drew his attention. His dogs and cat were already in the battered truck, along with his camping gear, and his well-stocked survival kit. They were the first things he'd ensured he had. As a keen camper, he had supplies enough for several days. But if I lose my bach--

There was nothing he could do. Running back out to the vehicle, Blair checked everything and then choked out a cry. The boys weren't creating noise because of the situation. Oh no, Whiskey's cat basket was old and the fastening less than robust--especially for a determined cat that hated being inside it. The lid was open and Whiskey nowhere to be seen.

"No. No. No. Whiskey! Whiskey, where are you? Come on back here."

Blair took off back to his bach. Expecting Whiskey to come when called was like expecting the tsunami to divert and miss hitting the tip of South Island just because he asked it to. With the siren sounding in his ears, he called again, hunting around the cat's favorite bushes and shrubs.

A different siren sound caused him to stop and look over his shoulder. A police car had parked alongside his truck and a tall policeman was easing his bulk from the car. Settling his cap on his shaven head, the constable headed toward Blair, waving.

"Hey, mate. Time to go. You should have left by now. Tsunamis don't run to any timetable but their own. Could be here anytime now. Look at how far the sea's gone out."

Pushing hair that had come free of his ponytail back behind his ears, Blair nodded. "I know. I was ready. But my cat's run off."

"Sorry, mate. I've got one of my own." The officer patted Blair's shoulder, but made sure to usher Blair towards the road. "But they're resourceful. Don't have nine lives for nothing. Let's get out of here." The big man looked around the area, shaking his head. "Such a shame. If that wave's as bad as they say, this little lot will be badly hit. At least they're just holiday homes."

Unresistingly, Blair let himself be led away. Perhaps we'll be lucky. Perhaps it'll reduce in size, or miss the area. Blair swallowed hard. Worry for his missing pet and the thought that this could be the last time he'd see his home hit Blair so hard that for a moment he lost his balance, staggering slightly. The constable's steadying arm was the only thing that stopped him from falling.

"Take it easy, bro." The policeman's tone was softer now. "Your cat'll be fine. You'll get him when we get the all clear. It's going to bring your holiday to an abrupt end though."

Blair choked back his first thought. More like my whole life. "Thanks. Can I come back later?"

"You can't tell how long the tsunami will have an effect here. Everyone has to stay away from the area for twenty four hours. Then we'll probably cordon it off for another full day after that. Safer that way. Should be okay then. But check with Civil Defense. They'll let you know. Guess it all depends on the big wave."

Clambering into the truck, Blair headed away, driving to higher ground. The nursery he was working for had some land they were allowing him to camp on, and even if the lower ground was caught in the tsunami, he'd be safe. His camp site was at the top of a hill on the inland side, not the seaward side.

Although Blair knew he should count himself lucky, the thought of Whiskey out there alone played on his mind. I can only hope the cop was right about cats being sensible and having nine lives. Whiskey might be stubborn, but he isn't stupid. The dogs sensed his distress--or perhaps the impending danger--all three sitting quietly, huddled together, the way they would if there was a thunderstorm or a fireworks display.

Trundling along the little used track, Blair forced himself to keep his mind on the road and not his missing pet. If he ran off the road now, no one would know. The area was a reception black spot for cell phones. If he rolled the truck, they'd be stuck. No one would be risking themselves with an impending tsunami steaming toward the island.

The track rose steadily, winding around several tight corners, the bush thick and verdant all the way down into the steep valley. This was still rampant native bush. The owner of the nursery liked it that way. As Blair understood it, expansion was never ruled out by the owner. But neither had he made any move toward taming this area.

At that moment, Blair was glad he hadn't. The back of the hill was a good safe place for him to be able to camp. Blair worried that if the waves came far enough inland, how much the closest to the coast would end up under water.

There was nothing anyone could do. Especially not him.