San Francisco, Sausalito Wednesday 10th March, late afternoon
THE seal point Siamese kitten sat quietly for a moment. It was waiting and watching. Oblivious of the view of the bay it was mesmerized by the crumpled ball of Christmas wrapping paper. Tied tightly with string, attached to the center of the window frame above, it could swing freely just above its head. Unerringly, the kitten’s paw patted the ball, stopping its swing. The warm, low sun silhouetted its body with a halo. Its whiskers were bright, the veins clear in its transparent ears. It had been playing by itself for the past half-hour. Suddenly, letting the ball dangle, it jumped down and ran through the doorway of the apartment towards the sound of voices in the bedroom.
“Well that should be enough clothes. Its autumn there isn’t it? How long do you think you will be away Carrie?” Amber Jones, sitting on the bed, looked up at her flat-mate who was cradling a pile of clothes in her arms.
“I’m not sure.” Carrie’s reply seemed to justify the look of concern on her friend’s face. “Maybe a week, perhaps two. They’re not sure. Do you think this is enough?”
“Yep. It looks enough. You’re going to be on a boat most of the time aren’t you? It should be cruisy.” She giggled at her own joke. Reaching down with her right hand, she scooped up the kitten nuzzling at her leg.
“You’ll miss your mommy won’t you little Lucy?” she crooned as she held it to her chest.
“It’s all happening so fast.” Carrie sat down on the bed placing the clothes in a separate pile. “I didn’t expect to go so soon. You know I’ve never been on a major field trip before. And to go to New Zealand.” Her voice lifted with excitement. “That’s fantastic! They’re really advanced with their research on baleens and maybe I’ll have a chance to see how they tag them.”
The kitten wriggled free. Amber looked across at Carrie, glad that at last she was showing some excitement. Ever since Carrie had received the direction to go to Auckland, she had been in a tizz. Vacillating between her eagerness to accept the challenge and her natural reluctance to change, Carrie had needed her help.
Working in the computer section of the Whale Division of Greenpeace’s Research Center, one of Amber’s jobs was to prepare the monthly STROW. Carrie had worked late the previous night to analyze the results in time for Petra van de Roer to present to the weekly executive committee meeting of International. The disappearance of nine bull sperm whales over the last two months was very odd. Carrie’s suggestion that the Japanese whaling fleet in Antarctica might be involved was a brilliant piece of deduction. But unsubstantiated. It needed investigation, urgent investigation, and Carrie, the research specialist had to go.
“Shall I take my pack?” Carrie’s request was for guidance as well as support.
“Don’t think so. You shouldn’t need to do any hiking as you’ll be on a boat most of the time.” Amber’s giggle was infectious. “You can borrow my suitcases if you like.”
“Oh great! Thanks Amber, I would appreciate that.” Her quick reply expressed her relief as another decision was made. “I’ll need my wet suit though won’t I?”
“Yes you’d better take that.” Then, as an afterthought, Amber smiled as a joke came to her mind. She looked at her tense flat-mate sitting in her white robe, nervously running the fingers of her left hand through her long blonde hair. “Maybe you’ll have to protest in an inflatable!”
“Do you think so?” The response was immediate as she sat up with a start, her voice rising an octave.
“Who knows. I’m only kidding. You’ll find out when you get there. So don’t worry about it now.” Amber’s voice was soothing. “Look, you have less than an hour before we leave. I’ll get the suitcases.”
“Thanks Amber. I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t come home with me. It’s all such a rush.” Her voice lowered. “I do hope Alan and Sandra can carry on while I’m away. You . . .”
“C’mon Carrie. Cut that out” Amber interrupted. “They’re very capable of looking after the Center while you’re away. Now get yourself into gear, girl. You haven’t much time left if you’re going to catch the seven o’clock shuttle to LA.”
Carrie reached out and caught the kitten hugging her close so her cheek lay against the soft fur. “Will you miss me while I’m away?” she whispered.
The room was quiet. Stillness broke only by gentle purring.