Eva and Esther
By M. E. Riddle
The saboteur pushed off into the surf on a moonless night on a beach off the coast of Southern California, the package firmly attached to the nose of the surfboard with duct tape. The device in the package was in effect a letter of resignation.
The task was simple.
The darkened figure was to paddle out to oil Platform Esther one mile offshore, secure the surfboard to one of the dozens or so well head pipes extending below the surface of the ocean, set the timer and swim back to shore sans surfboard.
Tampco Oil would never be the same.
After decades of raping Southern California of its’ offshore oil supplies it had effectively raised a salute to its’ residents with an index finger that bears the state’s name.
Tampco had the audacity to begin packing-up and relocating to Indonesia where the pickings were better and the people more naïve to American business practices.
For the most part of the last decade its’ corporate moguls had been secreting observing the tens of millions of people thirsty for the trappings of North America-things like cars, refrigerators, television sets and microwave ovens, items that required oil to produce.
The sea was calm, tide low. Temperature, a balmy sixty two degrees, normal for these waters in early spring.
The silhouette kept paddling, the surfboard continually outlined by the continual strobe of phytoplankton disturbed by its’ oncoming wake triggering blue flashes of light.
Esther loomed in the darkness of the ocean, her arc lights illuminating the surrounding waters into a carnival like atmosphere minus the calliope and clowns. The only sound audible was the heavy breathing of the invader and the gulls invisible in the night above. A bell buoy repeated its’ forlorn cry somewhere in the darkness, adding to the isolation.
The intruder continued, laboring closer to the destination.
After securing the surfboard amidst the forest of wellhead pipes, the timer was set and the perpetrator began the grueling swim back to shore with only the wet suit keeping the body warm and buoyant.
Esther was a cold, dark brooding spinster and like her sister Eva some five miles distant, were erected decades earlier when the word ‘environment’ had not yet come into vogue, the word now bastardized into and advertisement jingle coined by detergent peddlers and doomsday Sayers barking their prophesies figuratively from street corners on the screens of household television sets.
Eva was Esther’s twin, standing mutely in the darkness closer to Huntington pier and nearer to the eyes of tourists who innocently assumed she was a local landmark for their viewing pleasure and camera backdrops of Uncle Fred and Lois visiting from Des Moines.
Struggling out of the crashing surf under cover of darkness the lone figure turned and standing on the beach, turned and admired the accomplishment. Climbing the cliffs of Bolsa Chica to a waiting parked car the figure disrobed the wetsuit and left it abandoned alongside the highway.
Climbing into the vehicle the car quietly drove off into the din of early morning light, blending imperceptibly with the few other transient late model cars occupied with young people trying to get to the surf on time.
Two months earlier………
Len cautiously poked his head through a bulkhead door and peered in. Carlos was laboring at his desk, head down, a pencil in his hand feverishly making noises like gerbils feeding.
“Carlos?” he softly whispered.
Carlos abruptly turned his head and flashed those dark, pupiless eyes at Len momentarily startling him.
“The engineers are here,” he stated funereally.
“Be right there,” he replied, resuming to his desk. Underneath all the paperwork were framed pictures of his wife and daughters taken years ago that rarely see the light of day.
Carlos and Len stood together, leaning against the railing of the drill deck platform above the engineers disembarking the transport boat that ferried workers to and from the platform each shift.
Carlos Cabral was Platform Esther’s chief operations foreman. Safety was a keen issue with the man, not necessarily for altruistic reasons but simply in regards to the bottom line, that is, if you get hurt on his platform he wouldn’t receive the yearly safety prize of a color television set or baseball season tickets.
“Seems like everyone made it alright,” Len commented.
Carlos simply walked away, not responding to Len’s words. Len understood Carlos was pre-occupied with the new construction about to commence on his platform. Still, Len couldn’t help but feel disked.
Carlos ascended the ladder and approached the group of engineers. His eyes immediately caught the cool stare of Donna, a delicious, full figure woman maybe thirtyish with large breasts and painted on denims. Her gaze was unwavering. She had ample amounts of blonde hair flowing out of her hardhat and a cool, confident smile.
Carlos immediately smelled trouble.
He could see right through her.
A woman working in this field had to be tough or have assets. He knew her game. Most tough ones’ were not that especially attractive. He concluded in order for her to survive she must attach herself to the Alpha Male, that being himself. He dismissed the notion but still kept it in the back of his head for future reference.
“Attention everyone!” Carlos barked. “How many of you have had a piss test?” he shouted in reference to a mandatory drug test.
A few raised their hands, including Donna smiling. Others stood with those wide open stares indicating guilt.
“Apparently, some of you have not been tested?” he defiantly shouted.
A few nods. Some eyes averted their stares.
“Alright. Anyone wishing to work on my platform must be tested within a week or you will not be allowed on my platform. Is this understood?” he asked. his voice lowering into a serious tone.
Everyone nodded. He caught Donna wink at him.
“Did you just wink at me?” Carlos demanded, his voice angry.
The question startled a few. Donna’s expression became serious.
“There will be no winking on my platform, is that understood?”
Donna appeared to be almost in tears. Sensing this Carlos continued.
“Listen people. If I find any of you engaged in any activity deemed inappropriate I will personally throw you off this platform into the ocean, understood?” His voice softening, his tone half-hearted for the benefit of calming Donna.
“We are all professionals here. In a week the construction personnel will arrive. They will be given the same speech as you, so don’t feel singled out,” his voice still softened, his eyes directed at Donna.
Carlos turned to Len at his side and took a clipboard from his hands. Flipping through the pages he continued.
“I want the engineers from Energy Systems to stand to one side while the engineers from Spec Systems over there.”
After re-assembling Carlos continued.
“So, lemmie get this straight. Energy Systems is in charge of the oil processing while Spec Systems is doing the water treatment.
A few heads nodded.
“I want you kids to play nice, understood? The powers that be decided this project would be divided separately between two different engineering companies. Personally, I think this is a bad idea but here we are. Again, I want to re-iterate. Anybody causing trouble will be asked to leave. I realize there will be competition between your two groups but again I repeat, we are all professionals here. The man to my right is Len Veenmass, chief maintenance mechanic here on Platform Esther. He will review with you all the safety requirements on this platform. When he is through I want both senior engineers from both companies to report to my office immediately.”
Satisfied he made his point Carlos simply walked away, leaving Les to finish addressing the group.
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