“Are we there yet?” Katie yells from inside the travel net to her parents pulling it ahead.
Mr. Bramble raises a fin at her as if to say keep quiet. They are still swimming in unsafe waters and certainly do not want to alert any of the Lee family wisesharks scouting the ocean floor for fugitives.
Yes. Fugitives from the lawless is what they have become. Dragonfin Lee is not likely impressed at Charlene Bramble’s failure to remit the weekly protection dues this morning. They must swim on quietly at least until they reach the southern tip of the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge.
After sneaking past the 50 miles of coastline, Charlene takes a quick look around them and declares: “Phew! We made it through without picking up any thugs.” She releases the tow rope, swims up to the surface for a time check, then rejoins the family. “We can still make the boat if we hurry, Skip.”
They pick up speed as they bridge the gap to Nantucket Island, snapping up some cod along the way for fuel.
Skip flips a few cod to Katie and Joey resting in their makeshift pup carrier. Mrs. Bramble curls her torso to watch as the little ones play pass-the-fish and smiles. Then suddenly, Skip and Charlene whip backwards and slam into the their pups as their pups shoot forward.
Horror! The Brambles are caught in a longline!
Skip doesn’t skip a beat. He starts chewing the carrier at the hook point, while Charlene attempt to untangle little Katie from the carrier. And Joey, determined not to let the fear spiral him, sits on the line with his tail fin to stop it from signalling a catch to the vessel above.
Time is against them now. If they can’t free Katie, they will miss the pickup at Nantucket Island.
Charlene is starting to panic. She gnaws violently at the netting in sheer desperation. Just then Joey spots a sharp piece of metal on the ocean floor and yells “Dad! Look!”
Mr. Bramble is on it. He races to the debris, picks it up with his teeth, and starts sawing away at the line, cutting his gums in the process.
At last their pup is free! But the carrier is tangled. They must leave their belongings behind.
Charlene salvages a shark tooth necklace, the remains of her ancestors, where she will add her own tooth one day and pass it on to Katie, and instructs the pups to hop on, bite down hard, and don’t let go. The couple races to their destination with their little ones attached to their dorsal fins.
Once at the island they cautiously approach the large freight carrier moored off shore. A heavy net comes down on them and hoists them up into a huge bin on wheels filed with salt water. Skip trashes about in a display of parental assertion as the captain orders the trolly to the secret tank in the ballast.
Their cell is filled with others just like them, looking for their chance at a better life. Charlene whispers to Skip, her voice quivering: “And to think we almost didn’t make it.” Skip looks over at Katie and Joey already making new friends and finally relaxes.
A human form appears over a glass window, notices Joey’s mangled fin, and puts her hand to her mouth in sadness. She lingers there for a moment shaking head head, then waves at Joey and smiles.
A joyful Great White shark approaches the Bramble family and gives them some fin.
“I was getting worried. We were just about to leave without you,” Monique White’s brother Pierre explains. “Rest assured you are in good hands. I’ve made this trip dozens of times. Captain Steward would rather eject the ballast in the high seas than let the finners get us. She is a Woman Not Waiting for us to go extinct that’s for sure.”
The anchor lifts and Captain Steward orders the trap window sealed.
They will travel the rest of the journey in darkness.
…to be continued in Fiji Ahoy!