CRESCENT CITY by Jack Caldwell


Ruin and Renewal
Volume Three of CRESCENT CITY

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(Excerpt from Chapter 1:)

Friday, August 26, 2005
K minus sixty-two hours

Richard Fitzwilliam closed the trunk of his wife's car. "You have everything, honey?"

Olivia Fitzwilliam was just securing their daughter to the car seat. "I'll gas up north of Hattiesburg, and we'll break up the trip at a rest stop somewhere in Alabama for a few hours before continuing to Atlanta." She and Megan were evacuating to her parents outside of Atlanta. By leaving on Friday night, they were certain to avoid the traffic jams, well remembered from Huricane Ivan.

Fitzwilliam nodded and waited by the back door of the car until Olivia was finished. He then leaned in and kissed his daughter. "Be a good girl, now."

"Come with us, Daddy!"

"No, sweetie. Daddy has to protect the city. You have a good time at Grandma and Grandpa's, and I'll see you real soon. I love you." He kissed her again and closed the door. He then took his wife into his arms.

"When do you report?" she asked.

"Right after you leave. I'll be at Third District for the duration."

"I wish -- oh, Fitz, I wish you were coming with us. Goddammit, I hate your job."

Fitzwilliam said nothing; he only held her close. A couple of breaths later, they shared a kiss.

"Call me when you stop, okay?"

"I will."

Fitzwilliam thought of something. "You have the charger for the cell?"

"Right in the car. I'll plug it in as soon as we leave." Olivia kissed him again and then got in the driver's seat.

Fitzwilliam stood in the driveway of his home and watched his family drive away, his mind already focused on the job ahead.

***

K minus sixty hours: Lafayette

Elizabeth was back in her hotel room by the time William called her again. She told him Chris and Marianne had decided to go through with the ceremony the next day, and they talked about how quiet the rehearsal dinner had been.

"What time does the wedding end?" William asked.

"It starts at one, so we should be at the reception hall by two-thirty. Why?"

"Okay. I can have the jet land at four. Will that be long enough?"

"Jet? What are you talking about?"

"The DGS jet. We're flying out of here with Lakefront Airport being so low. It'll hole up in Oklahoma City until we can bring it back. I can have it pick you up at Lafayette Airport at four o'clock."

"You're going to Oklahoma City?"

"I'm not -- you are. I've got to stay here and manage things."

Elizabeth almost dropped the phone. "I'm not leaving! I'm staying here with you!"

"Honey, please. You'll be safer out of here."

"And what about you?"

"I'm staying in the city until Sunday. I'll hunker down at Pemberley during the storm."

"Let me get this straight. It's too dangerous for me to stay, but it's not too dangerous for you? That makes no sense!" Elizabeth tapped down her anger at William for making plans without her input again.

"Look, I'll feel better if you're somewhere safe."

"I'm not leaving. Either we both leave, or neither of us does."

"Lizzy, please, listen to me--"

"No." She knew facts, not screaming, were the best way to change William's mind. "You've told me Dansereau Plantation is built like a tank. It has a natural gas generator that can run the whole house. All that satellite equipment is there. If it's safe enough for you, it's safe enough for me."

"Yeah, but what if we got hit by a tornado? The house can't stand up to that! If something happened to you--"

"Elizabeth pleaded, "Will, don't you see? What makes you think I would want to be somewhere else if something happened to you at Dansereau? Do you think I would want to live without you?" There was silence on the other end. "Baby, if we had children like Jane and Chuck, it would be different. But it's just you and me. I want to be with you. I need to be with you. Don't do this; don't cut me out."

There was a pause. "You're making this real hard, Liz."

"I'm not trying to be a problem, but I'm not abandoning you, and I'm not going to let you leave me behind. Besides, I have my work, remember? EDNO will need me if we get hit. So, there you are. You'll just have to put me up for the duration."

Another pause. "All right, you win."

"Will, this is NOT about winning or losing. It's about us being a couple, being a team." It was important that he understood that.

"I DO think of us as a team." She could hear him sigh. "What are you going to do tomorrow?"

"After the reception, I'll drive to Pemberley. I'll be going against traffic, so it shouldn't be too bad."

"I'll have Mrs. Reynolds open up the house for you. She'll be staying with us."

Elizabeth tried to lighten things up. She hated fighting with William. "Will, it'll be all right, you'll see.."

"Yeah, I just love you so much, it's scary."

"It's scary for me, too. We'll get through it together."

"All right. I better go. I've got to have the flight plan changed, and there's this call I've got to put in to London at midnight."

"Okay, honey. I love you. Don't work too late."

"I'll get some shut-eye after the call. Talk to you tomorrow."

Elizabeth's mind was still unsettled after she hung up. She understood William's concern, but he was wrong. She only hoped she handled it properly, that she didn't insult him. The old Elizabeth would have gotten angry and stormed about. The new, more mature Elizabeth used reason instead of emotion, and it seemed to work much better.

As she undressed for bed, she knew she still had work to do. She had convinced William she wouldn't be a burden during this emergency. After she got to Pemberley, she would have to prove it.

***

Upper Ninth Ward, New Orleans

Greg Wickham watched the hurricane coverage with a smile on his face. The governor had declared a state of emergency and had recommended that people in the New Orleans area evacuate. Wickham had no intention of following the governor's advice, but he hoped others would.

Wickham had found it impossible to rebuild his empire in New Orleans. Other gangs, large and violent, had a stranglehold on the drug trade. But this storm might be just the chance he needed to take a few of them down.

Wickham knew where several of the gangs stored their product. If a major hurricane threatened the city, some of the gang members might flee. The drug caches would be only lightly guarded. If one heavily armed man was daring and fearless, he could reap a fortune.

He glanced at his closet. He still had a half dozen hand grenades from the Columbian boat massacre so many months before. That kind of firepower should give him an edge.

Wickham sat back and tossed a few potato chips into his mouth. If everything went right, G-Daddy would spread a little chaos in the city in a few days.

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