It was cold on board ship.
Roxy pulled her coat more tightly around her, shooting a glare across at a shivering deck hand who had dared to suggest they turn back. Suitably withered by her gaze, he drew back, spreading his hands in a gesture of submission before disappearing back down the stairs to the hold.
Roxy drew a deep breath, steeling her resolve. It was pitch black now, and the only lights were those from the shore and the feeble beams the small searching ship emitted through the thick darkness. The light glinted eerily off the water, making ripples seem like shadows, and it was hard to see anything, even in the brief moments that the moon emerged from behind clouds.
She glanced at her watch, noting as she did so the first spatters of rain that splashed off the dial. Muttering a curse, she wiped it dry, squinting at the numbers. Three thirty two. Soon, she knew, she'd be pressed into returning to the lakeside by someone more senior than the deck hand, and she knew, too, that the last hope of finding her brother alive would be gone.
"So I have to keep going, no matter what." She murmured. "He kept going to find me, after all...no matter how far it took him, he tracked me down. It can't be that hard to return the favour...dammit, Justin, where the hell are you?"
She gritted her teeth against a particularly chill gust of wind, moving to the railing and gripping it tightly as she stared out across the expanse of glittering water. They were not far now, she knew, from the area where Justin's boat had been when it had got into difficulties, and pieces of the doomed vessel had been pulled already, along with two dead members of crew. It's captain had been rescued half-drowned not long after...but despite search efforts, no trace of the missing photographer had been found.
"But he has to be here." She said stubbornly aloud, as if daring the water to contradict her. "So obviously someone hasn't been looking hard enough. Damn him...why can't he choose nice places to take his stupid photographs? This lake sucks ass."
That was the captain's voice, and she turned, meeting his gaze with an impassive one of her own.
"We've sighted nothing, Miss." The captain spoke frankly. "I'm sorry, really I am. But we're having no luck and well, we oughtn't even be out here, not at this time of night. We should be heading back to shore."
"We ain't going anywhere." Roxy flexed her fingers, and the captain cast her an uncertain look. "Listen to me, buster. My brother's out there and I ain't going back to shore till we find him and drag him out. Do you understand me? Things will get very sticky for you and your boys if you don't do as I say - trust me on that. I came to Michigan to find him, and I damn well am going to find him. And you're going to help me."
"I know how you're feeling." The man shook his head. "But..."
"But nothing." Roxy interrupted. "I'm deadly serious. Justin is not just another loser caught skinny dipping at high tide. He's damn near the only family I have, and I'm not going to leave him here."
"Miss..." The captain hesitated, then, "There really isn't much chance of us finding him alive, now. You do know that?"
Roxy shot him a stony look.
"I believe he's alive." She said softly. "But even if he wasn't, I wouldn't leave kin of mine to rot in this cess pool. He's not going to be fishbait. Whether he's alive or he isn't, he's coming back to California with me. And we're going to find him. So I suggest you stop whining to me and get to it."
She raised an eyebrow.
"You did say your company was subsidised by Gabor Industries?" She added.
"I'm a very good friend of the family." Roxy said coldly. "I'm sure that they would make it very difficult for you if you didn't choose to see sense and do things my way. We're not turning back. Am I understood?"
The captain sighed, defeated.
"Very well, Miss." He said at length. "But I think it's a hopeless search. If he's drowned and got caught in the boat's mechanism when it went down, he'll be too deep for us to locate. And, well, even if we did...it might not be a pretty sight."
"I'm not afraid of blood." Roxy said witheringly. "I'm not some weak and feeble girl, you know. I'm a Misfit. And we're used to getting what we want."
The captain looked at her, then he shook his head, turning on his heel and heading back across the deck. As he did so, however, her sharp ears picked up his final words.
"Maybe you are." He muttered. "But even you can't take on the Grim Reaper."
Her eyes narrowed.
"Wanna bet?" She mused to herself. "Damn you, Justin...where are you?"
She leant up against the railing, trying to tell herself that she wasn't cold or wet. Her mind flitted absently back to her days living rough in Philadelphia and a bitter smile touched her lips. Even then, when she'd had nowhere to go and nothing to hold on to, she had never felt under as much strain as she did right then.
"When you have something, you have something to lose." She said softly. "And I have a hell of a lot to lose. Even if you are dense enough that you married Jetta, you're still my family and I know you wouldn't turn your back on me so easily. I know you'd do what was right, because that's how you are. Annoyingly. You'd know what decision to make...and not to give up, either. So I'm not damn well giving up on you! I know you're here...oh, but Jesus, I wish I knew where!"
A shout from the foredeck made her start and she turned, seeing one of the men waving his hands excitedly. Others clustered around him, and, hope flaring in her heart, Roxy hurried to join them, demanding to know what all the fuss was about.
"We've found something, Miss!" A young man told her breathlessly. "Something in the dark...we're wheeling round to get in closer. The radar picked it up...and we've got it in visual range. It looks like a section of the broken up ship!"
Roxy's heart sank inside of her, but she nodded her head curtly.
"Can we get to it?" She asked.
"We've got the winches on standby, but if it's just wreckage, we're not going to bother bringing it home." The first mate told her simply. "Still, this is the area where your brother's vessel was last seen - it seems likely that it's more of the same boat. It did break up, after all - the captain said something in the engines exploded and sent him flying into the water. We haven't managed to find all of it in our searches, due to the fog and the bad weather. Now it's clearer, even if it is night. We're finding things we missed before."
Roxy bit her lip.
"Meaning that Justin could've been right out there and you went past him?" She demanded.
"Not on purpose." The mate hastened to assure her. "But in thick lake mist, well, it's hard to see everything right away."
Roxy's lips set in a grim line, and she glanced out across the water. In the glimmering moonlight she could now make out the shape they were approaching, and she narrowed her gaze, squinting as she tried to make it out. The vessel sounded it's horn, once and then again, turning the full beam of its lights towards the object.
And then, from somewhere in the blackness, Roxy heard a cry.
In an instant she was at the railing, her heart pounding in her chest.
"Did you hear that?" She exclaimed. "There's someone out there! How many people are still missing from this boat? Because someone's out there...and you wanted to go back and just let them damn well drown?"
"I didn't hear anything." The mate frowned. "Bosrell, tell them to sound the horn again."
This last to his companion who nodded his head, scurrying off to carry out his orders. In a moment the horn sounded anew, and the ship slowed, pulling alongside the piece of broken wreckage. This time there was no mistaking the feeble human cry for help, and Roxy's breath caught in her throat.
"Justin." She whispered. "Oh God...Justin!"
She shrieked his name out across the water. "Justin! We're coming!"
There was no reply, and Roxy cast a desperate glance around her at the assembled men.
"Do something!" She exclaimed. "Do something now, or all of you are going in there with him, I swear!"
There was an immediate commotion on the deck, as orders and commands were given out and men scurried this way and that, preparing the winches and producing a lifebelt.
"But how we're going to get it to him..." The captain frowned. "Miss, it looks like he's tangled up in the wreckage. It's probably kept him afloat, but it's also going to prevent us from bringing him abroad. We need some other strategy."
Roxy pursed her lips.
"I have a strategy." She said darkly. "Give me that."
Before the captain could stop her, she had grabbed the belt, kicking off her shoes and diving cleanly over the edge of the boat. The first shock of the cold water almost drove all her breath from her lungs and she dipped beneath the water briefly. Then resolution flared in her heart and she pulled her head to the surface, gripping more tightly on the lifebelt as she swam in the direction of the stricken man. There were shouts and exclamations behind her, but she was oblivious to everything but the fact that her brother was alive, and that she had to help him.
In a few deft strokes she had reached the floating wreckage, grabbing the edge to stabilise herself against it. As she did so, she caught sight of her brother for the first time and she uttered a string of expletives, reaching out a hand for his. One arm was twisted back against the torn metal of the boat, holding him above water but tearing the skin and leaving the muscles of his arm bare. His fingers were cold to her touch, and for a moment she was afraid she was too late. Then he uttered an incoherent noise, and Roxy got a grip on her composure.
"You're an idiot." She said frankly. "But I guess that's no reason to let you die. Hold still, all right? We're going to get you out of here. Yeesh, this water's damn cold!"
Her name was feebly spoken, but it gave her reassurance and she nodded her head, squeezing his fingers.
"Yeah. Your worst nightmare." She agreed. "Listen. Your arm is caught, and I'm gonna have to wrench you free...it's gonna hurt. Okay? So don't go sissy on me and faint. I'm going to put this life belt on you, but I can't do it until you're free of the boat so...you're going to have to trust me."
There was a faint sound Roxy took for consent, and, gritting her teeth she grabbed his arm tightly, pulling it firmly away from the damaged remains of the fishing boat. Justin let out a cry, but Roxy ignored her brother's pain, working against the swell of the ripples to get the lifebelt around him. The chill of the water was starting to affect her, she knew, and she was not sure how far the rescue vessel was from where they were.
"I hope I can swim us back." She muttered. "It's goddamn cold!"
The call was nearby, and turning her head, Roxy saw that the boat had manoeuvred up alongside them. A hook was thrown down and, with frozen fingers she grasped at it, her grip on her brother and the belt never lessening. With some difficulty, the crew pulled the two, rescuer and rescued up onto the deck of the boat where Roxy fell to her knees, gasping from the shock and the cold of her efforts.
Men rushed forwards with blankets, and Roxy did not refuse the warmth, sitting back against the edge of the boat and shivering as she watched people fluster around her brother. The last effort had rendered Justin unconscious, and under the brighter deck lights she could see that he was deathly pale. His arm was badly torn, but there was little blood, and she bit her lip. Little as she knew about medicine, she knew that wasn't a good sign.
"We've alerted land that we've found him." A sailor dropped down beside her. "And that we're bringing you both in. They'll want to look at you too - that was damn brave, Miss. Damn brave!"
"Well, someone had to d..do it." Roxy managed, through chattering teeth. "I don't need a d..doctor. Just to w..w..warm up."
"Well, we're going full pelt for the shore now." The man assured her. "They'll have ambulances waiting, and your brother'll be taken straight to the ER. His arm looks a mess, but I'm guessing that bit of boat has saved his life. It's a miracle, for sure. He should be dead. God only knows how he survived so long in that water."
"He's a Pelligrini. We're t..tough." Roxy drew her blanket more tightly around her. "His arm ain't bleeding much...that's not good, is it?"
"Hypothermic." The man told her succinctly. "Bad case, for sure. But they'll see him right at the hospital - if something can be done, they'll do it. And you know, fate has smiled on him already once."
"Yeah." Roxy glanced across to where three of the crew were doing their best to make the stricken man comfortable. "Don't you people ship out with a medic, when you go out on rescue?"
"That depends if we're forced into the water in the middle of the night." The sailor told her ruefully. "But we're not far from the shore now. It won't be long...don't worry. He'll be in the best of hands. You both will."
Roxy shook her head.
"I'm not going to the hospital." She said quietly. "Or at least, I'll see him there, but then I have to go back. I'll be fine - I've been colder than this before and lived, and I'm a damn good swimmer. But I'm not the only one who needs to know Justin's been found. His wife..."
She faltered, then shrugged her shoulders.
"She's in a bad way over it." She said evasively. "I ain't gonna keep her in the dark."
"Well, you take it up with the doctors when we get to shore." The man told her. "I'm sure the hospital could call his woman and tell her the news."
"No." Roxy shook her head again. "No. This is...family business. It's gonna be done in person."
She cast another glance towards Justin's still form, then,
"He'd want me to do it that way."