Is it possible to fall in love from nothing more than a few phone calls and e-mails? Dr. David 'Bear' Berickza thinks so. Despite the distance and limited contact, Bear can only think about Travis Michaels, a fellow veterinarian in the small town of Timber Creek.
When he hears that Timber Creek is directly in the path of Hurricane Lauris, Bear makes a promise. He will be there to help Travis and his daughter, the smart-mouthed Tina, to save the abandoned animals.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and when Lauris hits, Bear and Travis find that despite their best efforts, it's going to take more than that to save any lives, including their own.
Due Out 09/2014
“…the devastation is near complete. Hundreds dead, many more in need of food, water, and shelter. Hurricane Lauris has ravaged coastal towns on the Eastern Seaboard and battered those further inland, leaving death and destruction in its wake. Many, mostly the elderly, were unable to evacuate. Those who did left behind everything in an effort to get out of the path of this killer storm. Areas that had prayed for rain now find that the waters are rising, and claiming the towns as their own. Lauris is estimated to make landfall in North Carolina sometime late Thursday or early Friday. With winds expected to hit—”
Dr. David “Bear” Berickza turned the television off, steepled his fingers, and sighed. Another hurricane meant more abandoned animals. When Katrina slammed into New Orleans, he’d seen firsthand the fear on the faces of the dogs and cats left behind, at least those who’d survived. Back then he’d cursed the government for not allowing people to gather their animal companions, instead leaving them to the mercy of the elements. Many died in the flooding, while others starved to death after being locked up in barns or sheds. Even now that the rules had changed, some people still viewed their pets as expendable, or had left in a panic, figuring that a dog or cat would have a better chance of making it through a storm. Never mind that animals were every bit as frightened as humans were, and trusted their companions to see to their safety.
Bear had gotten the e-mail from Dr. Travis Michaels, another veterinarian who took part in one of the mailing lists Bear was a member of. Travis had begged for help from the members. His small animal hospital was overrun with dogs, cats, and other assorted pets that people had dumped on him before they fled, that animal control had picked up, or others that were too sick to travel. The problem wasn’t the animals Travis already had, it was the ones who were abandoned to the elements, including farm animals, that would die if there weren’t enough hands to help with the rescue efforts in the town of Elsbeth.
A farming community, the people didn’t place a lot of stock in pets. If you couldn’t get milk, eggs, beef, or some other product from an animal, it was generally not a priority. They’d remain unfixed, allowed to run loose and the population skyrocketed, many becoming victims to predators or illness. Veterinary costs were a premium that people couldn’t afford, especially when a new pet cost considerably less than getting one fixed up.
Bear’s phone chimed, indicating an incoming text message. He glanced at it, then hit call back for the number.
“Timber Creek Animal Hospital, may I help you?” came the harried voice of what sounded like a young girl on the other end of the line.
“This is Dr. Berickza. I think Dr. Michaels is waiting for my call.”
Without comment Bear’s call was transferred.
Travis sounded exhausted. His last e-mail said he’d been sleeping about two hours a day since news of Lauris bearing down on them, and even then it was in the back of his clinic/house where he could keep an eye on the animals. He and his daughter, Tina, were the only ones around and they were mostly cut off from the rescue efforts because of damage to the area from the storms that preceded Lauris. Being a small town, they weren’t high on the priority list like the cities.
“How’s it going, Trav? I’ve been watching the news and it looks like it’s going to be awful.”
Travis grunted. “That’s an understatement. I doubt they’re going to be showing you my town, or any of the others around here. I don’t know what I’m going to do. Some of the folks here had volunteered to help with the rescue efforts, but when they came and told people to evacuate nearly everyone left. So it’s been me and Tina heading out to farms to make sure everything is okay.
“Lauris is still two days away, and we’ve got heavy rains and wind battering the area. The creek is nearly out of its bank, and the water is still rising. We went to one of the farms yesterday and…oh, God, Bear. They locked their dogs in the pen and left. The flood waters kept rising and they couldn’t get out—”
Bear heard Travis pull the phone away and sob.
“There were six of them. We found their bodies floating in the pen. There are so many bodies. I’ve…lost count of the ones we couldn’t save.”
Bear’s chest ached. Though he hadn’t met Travis, he thought they’d become strong acquaintances, if not friends, from the e-mails and calls they’d exchanged. Knowing that his friend was in trouble had Bear wanting nothing more than to help. Especially considering that Travis had become important to Bear. More than he was willing to admit.
“What can I do? Tell me what you need and I’ll make sure you get it.”
Travis let out a sigh. “I need more people. This isn’t a big town, but since it’s just me and Tina…” His voice trailed off. “Let’s just say we can’t do it all.”
“Today’s Wednesday. I can make it there by late Thursday, maybe early Friday to lend an extra set of hands. Would that help?”
“The roads are washed out. They’re not going to get to us for at least a week, probably more. It’s expected that it’ll hit us before Friday. In addition to high winds, she’s expected to dump even more rain on us. Weather service is talking the possibility of another six to eight inches on top of what we already had dropped on us. The creek is three feet over its banks already. It’s the highest it’s ever been. And Lauris dropped four to six inches an hour in other places, and has gained in strength as it makes its way up the coast.
“We’ve got no clean water and the power is spotty, and I don’t expect it will be long before it’s out completely. I stay off the laptop as much as possible so I don’t run out of a charge. My cell phone is for emergency use only. So thanks for the offer, but I don’t think there’s much you can do for us. As it stands the military made a few airdrops and evacuated the rest of the people. I won’t leave. I can’t go and let all these animals die. I told Tina to get on the helicopter, but she said she’d just come back if I made her leave.”
Bear tapped his fingers on the heavy oak desk. He could hear the desperation in Travis’s voice. He imagined Travis pacing in his office, worrying his lower lip. They’d never met, but Bear had an image in his mind of what his friend looked like. He’d be shorter than Bear, maybe five-ten, dirty blond hair, and green eyes. Bear wasn’t sure why, but he knew that Travis had green eyes.
“I’ll be there as soon as I can,” Bear promised, already scratching out a shopping list for his trip to the local supersaver store.