The Dangers of Showboating

By Janet Brayden

It was a bright, warm, sunny day in Southern California – King Harbor to be exact. Cayce McKenna, honorary sister to the Riptide Detective Agency, was visiting from her ranch in the Sierra Madre foothills. She loved the men, but even she had to admit that sometimes Nick and Cody were a danger to themselves – and others. Murray not so much. Murray didn't take chances like the other two did. They watched over him. Cayce, her family and her employees watched over him. They watched over her. Nobody could have foreseen the consequences of a day on the water. Nobody except Nick who should have known things were going too smoothly.

"If I've told you guys once, I've told you a thousand times – I'm not afraid of the water and you know it!" Cayce was exasperated.

"Then why won't you try water skiing?" Cody asked.

"Because I don't want to," she replied.

"Why not?"

"Because I've watched you guys. You take too many chances."

"I promise we won't take any chances while you're learning," Cody told her.

"Honest, Cayce, no stupid stunts while you're learning," Nick promises.

"Yeah, right."

"Guys, I don't think it's a good idea to push the issue," Murray said, trying to calm the waters so to speak. "If she doesn't want to try it, leave her alone.

It was rare for the computer whiz to criticize his partners. In this case, however, he felt perfectly justified. Cayce wasn't afraid of the water. She went swimming, whenever she got the chance, during the summer. She could swim perfectly well. The problem was that her parents had been killed in a boating accident when she was a little girl. It had been a careless boater in what she called a "stinkpot" – a motorboat – that had rammed the canoe they were in on what was normally a peaceful lake. Cayce, at the age of ten, had been left an orphan. Her father's brother, Brian – then a captain in the army, had been called back from duty in Vietnam and he had immediately started proceedings to adopt his youngest niece.

The young woman wasn't truly afraid of them but, as she always said, she had no reason to love them either. Besides canoeing allowed you to get some exercise, fresh air and get close enough to the birds and wildlife to get pictures of them.

Nick, walking at her right side, put his arm around the young woman's tee shirt clad shoulders. Cody did the same from the left. Murray followed behind as they walked down Pier 56 to the Riptide – the men's home and office which was moored at Slip 7.

The little band of "siblings" approached the Riptide. Nick stayed on the dock in order to cast off. Once Cody was ready to pull out he jumped aboard and they headed out into the harbor for what was supposed to be a day in the sun.

Cayce, Stetson pulled down over her eyes, sat in one of the deck chairs with her long legs stretched out and dozed while Cody piloted the cabin cruiser out into what should have been safe, open water. The warm air, and the cool breeze, soon lulled Cayce into a light doze with the men's voices buzzing in the background.

"Are you sure you don't want to give it a try?" Nick asked, startling Cayce out of her doze. "I promise – and Cody promises – nothing bad will happen. "

"I'm sure," she replied squinting up at him. "I'll just stay here and watch while Cody skis."

"Well, okay, but I think you'd enjoy it."

"No, I wouldn't."

Nick left without another word to take over piloting the Ebbtide so Cody could water ski. His turn, if he wanted one, would come later.

"No luck?" Cody asked as he and Nick switched places.

"No. That girl is as stubborn as they get," Nick replied.

"Well you know she always says she's part Irish, part Scot and part Missouri mule and she's not sure which one has the biggest stubborn streak."

Nick had to grin at that. It was what she told them all the time and she told him he was as stubborn as any ten Missouri mules.

The brunette started the engine and they headed out to open water so he would have room to get up the speed necessary for water skiing.

All went well for a while. Cody was having a good time. Cayce was chatting with Boz and enjoying the breeze on her face while keeping an eye on the computer whiz to make sure he kept his hat and long sleeves on. She didn't want him to get badly sunburned like she knew he was apt to and had suffered in the past.

All was well for about half an hour. Then another cruiser showed up and this one, belonging to a wealthy department store owner, had a considerable number of equally wealthy passengers on board. One in particular, a lovely redhead, caught Cody's attention. From then on his safe and sane sport became a game of one upsmanship when one of the young men aboard the other boat challenged Cody to a race. The blond, foolishly wanting to impress the young lady, agreed. No arguments, or attempts at dissuasion, from his friends, could convince Cody that it was a bad idea.

"Come on, what's it gonna hurt?" he wanted to know. "It's just a short race."

"Lots of things can go wrong in a 'short race', Cody," Cayce reminded him. "Barrel racing is a 'short race' but a horse can stumble, overreach and kick itself – not to mention fall with, or on, their rider. This is a very bad idea."

"She's right, Cody," Murray said. "There's too much boat traffic now. It's not a good idea."

"This has to be one of the dumbest ideas you've ever had," Nick sounded off now.

It all fell on deaf ears. Cody was bound and determined to run this race and come out the victor – with Nick's help.

Reluctantly, Nick got behind the controls of the Ebbtide and started the engine of the sleek powerboat up. Slowly he started out until he was able to bring the speed up to where Cody needed it. The driver of the other boat, a speedboat roughly the same size as the Ebbtide, did the same.

The race was on. Cayce and Boz watched anxiously from their seats on the Ebbtide to see that Cody wasn't in any danger. Cody, and the other racer, were busy showing off for the women on the other boat and paid little attention to anything else. Nick had to watch where he was going. The pilot of the other boat pushed it to its limit forcing Nick to do the same thing. Everything might have been ok except that, in the course of the race, the other pilot steered to avoid a careless boater. The racers watched each other but weren't very alert to trouble coming up just ahead.

"Cody! Look out for that boat!" Cayce screamed as she watched.

Murray's voice joined hers but Cody didn't seem to hear them. Nick did, but a boat doesn't stop on a dime the way a car will. Cody, who hadn't been paying attention, stood no chance as his momentum kept him moving forward even as he tried to ditch his water skis. He collided with the other boat hard enough that everyone within about twenty yards heard the thud as first his right arm, and then his head, hit the side of that boat.

Before Nick could react to those who were trying to draw his attention to Cody's accident, Cayce was in the water, and swimming in a fast crawl. The other pilot never saw the accident but was quick to come back once his passengers told him about it. By the time either speedboat was there Cayce had already reached the blond and was holding him around the chest, keeping his head up while she treaded water.

"Cayce?" Nick's voice was anxious. "Is he ok?"

"He's got a bloody lump on his head," she answered. "It's also possible, from the looks of things, that he's got a broken arm. I don't think we should try to get him out of the water until the fire department gets here. He could have a spinal injury. It's best to take him out on a backboard to be on the safe side."

"The paramedics are on their way," Murray called to them. "I just called them on the Ebbtide's radio."

Nick slid into the water and took charge of Cody for a minute so Cayce could catch her breath. Then, until the paramedics arrived, fifteen minutes later, they took turns spelling each other. Cayce would not let Nick help her into the Ebbtide until she knew that the paramedics had him.

It was a solemn group that gathered in the Emergency Room at King Harbor General. Everyone that had witnessed the race from the deck of either the Riptide or the Celtic Dream, was gathered awaiting word of Cody's injuries.

The paramedics had taken him out of the water on a back board and then splinted his arm before loading him into the ambulance for the ride to the ER. They were pretty sure Cayce was right about the arm but the spinal injury assessment wasn't something they were prepared to do in the field – it had had to wait until they got him to a doctor.

An hour and a half into their wait a harried physician finally came out to speak to them.

"Anyone here for Cody Allen?" the tall, slender, brunette woman asked.

"That's us," Nick said, indicating Murray, Cayce and the others as well as himself.

"You're all family?" the doctor asked.

"As close as he's got in this area," Nick told her. "His mom lives in Connecticut."

"I see. Well Mr. Allen will be fine. He's got a mild concussion from the head injury and his right arm is broken."

The group heaved a collective sigh of relief.

"When can he go home?" Murray asked for himself and his partner.

"He's being released as soon as he signs the paperwork."

With that the physician left them to return to another patient. Fifteen minutes later a volunteer wheeled Cody to the waiting room in the required wheelchair. The blond was pale, bruised and had a bandage on his right temple. His right arm was encased in a plaster cast from elbow to the base of his fingers.

"Cody, ready to go home buddy?" Nick asked.

"More than ready," Allen answered. "Let's get out of here."

The group walked out together to the parking area where several of their vehicles, including Cayce's Ford Bronco, were parked. Cody was assisted into the front seat of the Bronco and his seatbelt fastened for him. He was finding out that being right handed had its drawbacks when seated in the passenger seat of any vehicle.

Nick, with Cayce's permission, got behind the wheel. They said good-bye to the other boaters and headed back to Pier 56. They had brought the Riptide back to her slip while Cody was being transported to the hospital. After a fifteen minute drive, across town, they arrived back at the Riptide. Cayce excused herself long enough to take a fast, but hot shower. She seldom traveled to King Harbor without having a change of clothes in whichever vehicle she drove down and kept spare outfits in her helicopter and plane as well.

Returning to the main salon, with a towel wrapped around her medium length hair, she found Nick and Murray sitting with Cody who was stretched out on the built in sofa. She sat down next to the slender scientist and frowned at her oldest "brother".

"That was a fun day," she said sarcastically. "I really appreciate the scare, Cody. After you promised nothing would happen, look at you – bandaged head and a cast on your arm - all because you were showing off for that redhead."

"She's right, you know," Nick told his friend. "That's got to be the dumbest, stupidest thing you've ever done."

"Maybe he's learned his lesson," Murray put in.

"Yeah. Maybe." Cayce smiled at Murray before turning back to Cody. "Maybe he learned his lesson about the dangers of showboating."