Two days after they had arrived in their new search area, Jennings found himself sitting in the pilot seat in the helicopter, searching the area to the north and east of the Eldridge. Juan was in the Jump jet, searching the ocean to the south.
So far they had found nothing, and Jennings was starting to feel disappointed and worried, his time in the navy was running out, his contract soon would expire and so far, he was no closer to finding the island than he had been before they had jumped to this location. He was worried, and did his best to be optimistic as he glanced from the vast ocean below him to the picture of Mae he had taped on the console in front of him.
It was at that point when he received a call from the Eldridge, telling him to return at once, they had found something.
A half hour later he had landed and followed a crew man to the rear of the ship, where Captain Tie, Juan and several others were gathered around a crane lift that was leaning over the side of the ship. As Jennings drew closer he could smell a horrible odor, the stench of decay, which was coming from a huge blob of what looked like a gray and red slab of blubber that was hanging half off of the deck, held up by the cables from the crane. Several marines were standing around it, as well as other navy personal.
Jennings walked over to Juan, who was standing beside Captain Tie, and as he reached the two men he heard Juan muttered something in Spanish before saying, “that thing stinks to high heavens.”
Jennings pushed between the two men, focusing his full attention on the thing before them, and he could just make out the side of the head, a huge head suspended on a neck and the bone of a powerful jaw partially visible beneath tattered and rotting flesh. It had huge teeth.
“What the hell is that thing,” Juan asked from behind them.
“The watch spotted it,” a Petty Officer Second Class remarked. “Looked like a blob of whale blubber floating on the ocean but when we got closer we realized it wasn’t a whale.”
“That one of your dino-boys, Jennings,” Captain Tie asked.
Jennings nodded his head as his eyes looked over the decaying body of the huge animal that hung half off of the side of the ship. “It is,” he said in a soft tone.
“What type is it,” Juan asked. “Sort of looks like a whale. The head at least does.”
“It’s an Allosaurus,” Doctor Sanders said as she came walking over to them, dressed in her work outfit, wearing green rubber gloves and goggles on her forehead. Her red-blond hair pulled back in a ponytail and covered over with a red bandana. “She’s been floating in the water for a while,” she explained as she looked at Jennings, “but there’s no doubt about what killed her,” she then remarked as she held up a large, pointy hooked like object for them to see.
“That a tooth,” Juan asked.
“No,” Jennings said as he looked over the large, razor sharp, pointed hook. “That’s a raptor claw.”
Doctor Sanders nodded her head. “I pulled it out of the vertebrae in her neck.”
Jennings felt his heart start beating fast, excited by what this meant. “How long would you say,” he finally asked, hopeful?
“Judging by the decomposition of the body,” Sanders said as she looked behind her at the remains of the dead dinosaur. “A little more than a week. But I’m guessing based off other larger known animals. It seems like the raptors brought her down somewhere near the shore, and ate what they wanted and left the body there. Tide and maybe a storm probably pulled the carcass out into the ocean and it’s been floating out here for a few days to maybe a little more than a week.”
Jennings nodded his head, thinking. “We’re close,” he whispered.
“I would say so,” Sanders agreed.
“Doc,” Captain Tie then said as he glanced from the dead Allosaurus half hanging off the side of the ship to Doctor Sanders. “You got what you need from that thing?”
“I got all the samples I need, Captain Tie,” she replied as she held up the raptor claw for everyone to see. “And this.”
“Good, then we don’t need that damn thing anymore,” Captain Tie said as he stepped forward and shouted to the man operating the crane lift. “Hansone, get that stinking sack of shit off my boat!”
“Aye-aye sir,” the navy crewmen shouted back while the assisting marine trooper with him laughed.
Jennings stood there a moment, watching as the remains of the dead dinosaur were dumped back into the sea, while Sanders walked over to him. “We’re close,” she said again.
Jennings just nodded his head, fighting the urge to get back in his helicopter and fly out over the ocean to keep looking.
That night, Jennings was sitting in the corner of the lounge, looking down at the picture of Mae he always carried with him. He felt both hopefully, and worried at the same time. Hopeful that they were finally close to finding the island, and worried that when they did find it, he might not find Mae alive. Five years was a long time . . .
Nearby, Juan was sitting before a small, round table playing cards with the captain of the marines and two other officers. All of them trading ideas on how and when they would like to die. Most would find that an odd and morbid thing to talk about, but it was actually not uncommon for those in the military, who often were put in life and death situations, and all of whom had already made out their last will and testaments, to think and talk about.
When the captain of the marines asked Juan how he would like to leave this world, Jennings had expected the tough, muscular pilot to remark that he would like to go with a beer in his hands and a beautiful woman beside him, but the answer Juan gave was both comical and unexpected.
“Me, I want to die at my granddaughter’s senior graduation,” Juan explained. “Trampled to death by a high school marching band playing the worst rendition of ‘Louie, Louie,’ you ever heard.”
For a moment the other three men just sat there looking from Juan around at each other, and then the marine captain simply said, “what the fuck?” and everyone burst out laughing.
Jennings himself chuckled at that as he slumped back in the corner and that was when Doctor Karen Sanders came over and sat down beside him. Jennings nodded his head at her, noticing that she glanced down at the photograph he was holding.
“Who’s that,” she asked so Jennings showed her the picture.
“Mae,” he replied.
“You’ve a daughter,” Karen Sanders asked?
“No,” Jennings answered with a smile and then went on to tell her about how he had rescued the first group of children from the island and how he had accidently left Aoki behind.
“That was five years ago,” Sanders remarked.
“I know,” Jennings said with a sigh.
“That’s a long time,” she told him. “She was only ten at the time, you said? If she managed to survive she would be fifteen now?”
“Fifteen going on sixteen next month,” Jennings told her.
“You know the odds,” Karen started to say and then fell silent as she looked down at the deck between her sneakers.
“I know,” Jennings replied. “It’s crazy thinking she’s alive after all this time. Especially on that island. Most of me understands that she’s not. But I have to go back there. I have to at least know for sure. I have to . . .” he sighed as he looked over at the other four men playing cards and talking. After a moment he looked back at Karen Sanders and just nodded his head as he tucked the photograph of Mae back in his shirt pocket.
After a moment, Karen Sanders patted him on the knee before she stood up. “I’m turning in. See you tomorrow.”
Jennings nodded his head at her. “Good night doc.”