There had been women, certainly. But Harold never lost his distance, and the closer someone drew him the more aloof he seemed to grow. Invariably it would end, and sooner rather than later.

Most of them had talked about the weather before ending things. “There’s a cloud hanging over you,” Andrea had said. “I think that, when it’s gone, you’ll make someone very happy.”

“I need a little blue sky every now and then,” he’d heard from Hailey “I just don’t see that the way we’re going.”

“I heard once that we all have to cry a certain number of tears before happiness find us,” Beatrice had said. “The way a rainbow follows a thunderstorm.”

Harold wasn’t sure how he felt about that last one, implying as it that he’d soon be shedding tears over Beatrice and keep doing so until he met some mythical true love. But the more he thought about her line, the more he liked it.

Before long, Harold was using it on others.

The best way to sooth restive passengers, Kayleigh had found, was with a little humor. A quick internet search was enough to turn up dozens of corny lines which she jotted down on notecards and trotted out whenever the occasion demanded.

The run to Santa Mayo was always rough due to the crosswinds that constantly buffeted the island’s airport and Trans-Pac’s refusal to bring in smaller planes. Santa Mayo was increasingly popular with tourists, so a smaller jet or turboprop wouldn’t have been economically feasible, or so they said. But it wasn’t Trans-Pac suits enduring the bone-crushing landing and braking on every hop, either.

That day the flight had been particularly vicious, with heavy turbulence caused by an incoming weather front buffeting the plane as it made the trip. Kayleigh had gone through almost her entire stash of notecard air travel jokes to calm alarmed mutters from the passengers, winding up with her very last card as the jet came in for a landing which rattled her to the teeth.

“Welcome to the Santa Mayo Regional Airport.” she said, fumbling with a card. “S-sorry about the bouncy landing; it’s not the captain’s fault. It’s not the co-pilot’s fault. It’s the asphalt.”

A few snickers, but the tension in the air was still high. Kayleigh pulled out another rough-landing card. “We ask you to please remain seated as Captain Kangaroo bounces us to the terminal.”

The day’d left as it’d come in: hot as hell and twice as stuffy. Anyone with the cash and the knowhow had their AC on, which meant a moment of disorienting fog when passin’ from inside to out.

Jake gave his sunglasses a thoughtful rub and replaced ’em. Some people said he’d be a damn fool to wear sunglasses at night, but he always enjoyed the sheen they threw over the world–amber ‘n hyper-real.

Outside, it was silent and dead. Not a whisper o’ wind nor a soul to be seen, not even a car windin’ down the access road. Only flashes of distant lightnin’ did anything to break the calm.

Jake hefted his umbrella over one shoulder. There was gonna be trouble that night. You could feel it in the air, see it in the sky, hear it in the buzz and chirp of the nearby marshy patch.

Yep, there was gonna be trouble that night. And Jake aimed to start it.

It had been clear and calm earlier in the day, but since Jacobs’ death an unsettled feeling had fallen over the valley, though Karen couldn’t be sure if the link was real or imagined. Still, when she left the house, she had to pause for a moment to take it all in.

A scene of incredible beauty and power greeted her when the door opened. Dark clouds rolled from horizon to horizon. There wasn’t a breath of wind, just an eerie twilight and the distant rumble of thunder.

“The calm before the storm,” Karen murmured. “I’d better get a move on.”