Out of Water – Chapter Thirteen

Herrigan grimaced as lukewarm water sloshed over the tops of his shoes. A gasp came from Lauren then she said, “Is there a hatch open already?”

“No.” Herrigan knelt and dipped a finger into the water, sloshed it around a moment to wash any sweat off of it, then touched the tip of his finger to his tongue. “Fresh water.” He spat out the water, which didn’t taste great but wasn’t salt water either. “The whole area would flood in minutes if there was an exterior hatch open. My guess is he plugged up the drainage channel and is letting it back up.”

He stood back up and waded a few steps further in, Lauren tentatively following. The light from her flashlight as she pointed it down to examine the floor. Herrigan wasn’t particularly interested, short of sticking a snorkel out of the water and lying in wait there wasn’t much chance that the fish could be anywhere in this section. They would have heard him by now.

“How deep in here can he be?” Lauren asked.

“Not too deep,” Herrigan murmured. “At this incline it would only be four or five more sections before he’d be under water.”

“And we’re not sure that’s what he wants?”

“I don’t know.” Herrigan reached down and slowly pulled out his riot gun, his body lapsing into a cautious, quiet state with senses alert and muscles half tense, the rest perfectly relaxed. “I’m not a psychologist. Quietly, now.”

He didn’t actually hear Lauren’s teeth click together as she shut her mouth. At least he was pretty sure that was his imagination. For a second he felt bad, since the silence was more to help him clear his head than to attempt stealth. Any sound they were making was being carried straight through the water in the drainage channel to wherever their fish was. Regardless of how much noise they made now the cat was already out of the bag. Question was what to do about it. With a flick of his finger he took the safety off of his riot gun.

With eight shots of quickly expanding foam that would adhere to pretty much any solid surface, riot guns were a great way to tangle up and take down someone without causing them any kind of serious long term injury. But in the current situation the weapon was less comforting than normal. For starters, the close quarters made it less useful than otherwise, although in tight spaces it was just as easy and almost as effective to stick foam on the walls or floor and let people run into it as shoot it directly at someone.

The problem was the water. Riot foam was designed to bond quickly on wet surfaces, which normally made it harden near instantly on the always damp clothes, walls and floors on Alcatraz. But hitting standing water caused the foam to deploy early and being submerged turned a sticky lump of foam into a football sized lump of hard but squishy plastic in a couple of seconds.

Then he had an idea. “Lauren.”

There was a half second pause. “Are we done being quiet?”

“Sort of.” He turned around and handed her his flashlight. “The cat’s already out of the bag, most likely.”

“Oh.” She took his flashlight tentatively. “And?”

“Cats like fish.”

——–

“A truly stupid thing to say,” Lauren muttered five minutes and a quickly whispered explanation later. “A cat would never do something as silly as this.”

Herrigan didn’t reply because he had stayed in the previous compartment because he apparently thought he was a reincarnated crocodile. She’d been given both their torches and Herrigan’s revolver and essentially become the bait in their little fishing expedition. Another decidedly uncatlike thing. Cats expected their food delivered, they didn’t go hunting for it. Alcatraz didn’t have cats in the first place.

To be fair, the idea was pretty sound. She just wished she didn’t have to be the bait. Sure, it made sense to have the person who’d actually had a little hand to hand training be the one to try and catch their target by surprise but that didn’t mean she had to be happy about being dangled out on the end of a fishhook for whoever to come out and grab.

After some fumbling she’d decided to hook one torch to her belt and keep the other held out a bit to the other side at shoulder height, not only letting her see a fair bit more of the hallway but hopefully at least giving the impression of two people still poking through the corridor rather than just one. The gun he’d given her was in the other hand, it’s rubberized grip firm but scratchy. The torch, on the other hand, was made of that smooth, vaguely textured ceramic Herrigan had been so proud of and he’d assured her it was completely watertight which was good because the water was now all the way up to her mid thighs and soon the one on her belt would be completely underwater.

And she was so focused on where her lights were and whether they’d stay on under water that she almost missed the head bobbing up over the water just to her right. It wasn’t until they whipped their head around, short hair flinging water in all directions as the whites of their eyes suddenly came into view and focused on her, that she realized it was there and yelped.

Something grabbed one of her legs and yanked, she wound up in the water and got a mouth full of tepid, mold flavored swill before her hands found the floor and pushed her upright enough to get her head back above the surface. The fish, or at least what she assumed was the fish out of water they’d come for, scrambled to his feet, not particularly graceful but steady and deliberate. Lauren matched his steadiness with a frantic scramble backwards and, without thinking, threw the torch. It hit him in the shoulder but didn’t slow him down as he waded forward. Belatedly she remembered she had a gun in her off hand and swung the barrel around, firing.

Of course with both electric torches underwater there was no way for her to get a clear picture of what was going on and she was pretty sure the shots missed as the only indication of a hit was a a couple of inorganic sounding thumps further down the hall. She was trying to fumble her gun into her other hand and get the flashlight off of her hip when a sudden splash preceded Herrigan, who’d apparently masked his own approach by crouching down in the water just as the fish had, suddenly rose up out of the water with his arms wrapped around the other man’s waist and slammed him against the wall. Sodden chaos reigned in the hall for a second as people scrambled and grunted.

Lauren figured shooting now would be stupid, the foam from the pistol wouldn’t hurt either man but sticking them together would still be bad, so she swapped gun and torch and gingerly approached the two men as the grappled. As the light steadied she could tell the fish had somehow swapped positions with Herrigan and he was now the one against the wall so Lauren dropped the gun, wrapped both hands around the handle of the torch and rammed the butt end of it into the side of Herrigan’s opponent. That rocked him enough that Herrigan was able twist around and reestablish the dominant position, pressing the other man against the wall with an arm across his chest. The struggle looked like it would go on for another couple of minutes if left alone so Lauren reached over Herrigan’s head and clobbered the far man’s skull with the flashlight. He slumped a bit and Herrigan gave his noggin another bounce against the wall for good measure, on which the fish went entirely limp.

Herrigan nodded, stood up and gave Lauren an appreciative grin. “Nice work.”

She just fished the other flashlight out of the water and held it out to him. “Let’s just get out of here, shall we?”

He nodded and slung the unconscious man over one shoulder. “Lead the way. I’m ready to go somewhere dry and well lit myself.”

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