It's the Saturday evening before Halloween and I'm running episode 4 of Beach Patrol: Saturdays.
Sunset Paradise Hotel A 12 storey 3-star hotel located on the San Diego Bay coastline. Currently undergoing repairs and renovations
Lower South Bayside Conference Centre A purpose built conference centre with multiple halls and meeting facilities on the San Diego Bay coastline, close to hotels, amenities and transit connections. It is also the venue for the annual Lifeguard Health and Safety symposium.
Taylor Christanson Served in the Navy SEALS with Ditch. Following operations in Grenada he was dishonourably discharged during a court martial in which Ditch testified. Consequently, he has a irrational hatred of Ditch.
The day after agreeing to help Ralph Stone get the samples he needed, our heroes went out to the waters outside the Santa Monica Marina, dived down to the seabed and acquired the samples he needed. They then delivered the samples to Ralph's home in Santa Monica without mishap.
The next morning at around 8.30am, Doc got a call from Ralph who was sounding desperate. Ralph explained that he wasa on his commute into L.A. when he was certain that he was being followed, so he stopped at a greasy spoon in downtown Santa Monica and called Doc for help. Doc gathered up the others and drove over to the café in his 4x4. It was located on a large, busy road, at the back of a small parking lot. Inside, Ralph Stone was sitting at a booth in the most visible part of the café with a large suitcase on the adjacent seat, our heroes went and joined him. Ralph was glad to see them, he pointed out of the window and across the road at a parked-up black transit van with tinted windows.
Our heroes decided to check the van out, Stella and Winter went into the parking lot, pretended to be taking photos with Winter's instant camera and casually meandered towards the van. Whoever was in the van made them though and as soon as they reached the sidewalk, the van peeled off with wheel-spinning tyres and disappeared round the block.
After the duo returned, our heroes came up with another plan. Art took the keys to Ralph's sedan and along with Winter sneaked out to the car and drove off, Art made a point of heading away from the I-10. After passing a couple of blocks, the black van roared out of a sideroad and stalked after them. Art accelerated and the van kept pace. Back at the greasy spoon, Stella and Ralph, along with Doc headed out to his 4x4 and they set off. Ralph told them the quickest way to L.A. was on the I-10.
Meanwhile in the sedan, Art was watching the van in the rear-view mirror, he drove aggressively, weaving through traffic and taking hard turns, trying to look like he was trying to escape without actually escaping. After a couple of miles they hit uptown and the van began closing in, whoever was in the van had to suspect something. The sedan didn't have the horsepower to escape and got shunted, the vehicular tussle continued through the relatively quiet suburbs of Santa Monica and the sedan took another couple of hard bumps. Art could feel the steering wheel begin to shake, it wasn't a good sign and he'd had enough, looking out at the van, he could make out two silhouettes in the windows, maybe there was only the two of them? He told Winter to take the wheel and pulled himself on to the sedan's roof. The next time the van swiped into the car, Art leapt on to it's roof. The van's back doors swung open and two men clambered onto the roof, one was strikingly handsome and the other had a wild, unrestrained look to his face.
On the van's roof, Art precariously exchanged blows with the two men as the van continued trying to ram the sedan off the role, Winter drove well and gave as good she got, but the sedan was in a bad way, steam was beginning to billow out from the hood. The van closed again and the car took another hit causing the rear axel to buckle, the car span, then flipped several times before rocking to a halt. With the scream of tortured tyres, the van skidded to a stop and the doors swung open.
As Winter climbed out of the window of the wrecked car completely unhurt, coughing and dusting herself down, she saw two men get out of the van; an older man wearing black leather gloves and smoking a cigar along with a burly man porting a mohawk, they began walking towards the sedan. The cigar guy pulled out a submachine pistol and unloaded it at Winter, it's staccato filled the air as bullets sparked off the sedan all around her, but none hit. Cigar guy looked quizzically at the firearm before discarding it. It was now that Winter and Art decided that it was a good time to escape, Winter sprinted into a side alley and Art jumped off the van and ran at the mohawk guy. "I pity the fool!" Art shouted as he swung an open handed slap at the mohawk guy. Unfortunately, it was a wild miss, but Art kept running behind. "I'm gonna git you sucka!" Mohawk shouted and gave chase as did the handsome guy. Fortunately, Art was fleet of foot and made distance on the pursuers who quickly gave up in the warren of back alleys. Winter and Art hid, holding their breath. After a couple of minutes they heard the squeal of tyres, their pursuers must have realised the samples weren't in the car and they'd been played.
The journey into L.A. on the I-10 was uneventful, Stella, Doc and Ralph arrived at the EPA regional office without incident. Doc parked up, then Stella and he watched as Ralph went through security into the offices. A few minutes later they saw the black van, now dented and scuffed, slowly drive past.
Ralph had told them he would be in the office all day, so our heroes met up and spent a few hours amusing themselves in L.A. and picked him up later and gave him a ride home, after all, he didn't have his car right now. On the way back, he told our heroes that a formal investigation into Lily Blush Products was underway, he also asked where his car was, Winter and Art gave each other long stares before answering that had disappeared after they had returned it to the carpark, probably best to report it to the police as stolen!
June 15th 1996
This week was the week of the Lifeguard Health and Safety symposium in San Diego and upon receiving an invitation, Ditch had agreed to put on a demonstration of Beach Patrol’s specially modified Nimrod 9m speedboats. He was looking forward to it and hoped that this improved design would be rolled out across all of California’s coastal lifeguard facilities. For the past few days, Ditch and our heroes had been practising their demonstration and now, they were ready. After the demonstration there would be a charity dinner, which was a black-tie event. Ditch instructed our heroes to get to Beach Patrol HQ at 7am with an overnight bag and a suitable change of clothes for the event
It was about 120 miles to San Diego and taking the Nimrods down there would take 2-3 hours. Since the modified Nimrods had much smaller fuel tanks to increase performance, their range was reduced to 60 miles. This meant that they would need to refuel halfway there.
Walk On The Ocean
Our heroes set off early, the first leg of the journey was uneventful but pleasant, the powerful speedboats cut through the swell and easily navigated the light sea traffic before arriving at Oceanside, a fairly picturesque and modestly sized coastal city. Ditch led our heroes into the south side of the Oceanside harbour, it's jetties packed with moored pleasure boats, it's shoreline bustling with restaurants and colourful tourist attractions. After tying up, Ditch told our heroes to get some brunch while he dealt with the refuelling.
They were relaxing and enjoying some alfresco cool drinks under the sunny sky when they heard a loud splash, recognising it as the sound of body-sized object hitting water. Stella sprang up and went to investigate, she saw two things, an agitated crowd gathered to look at something in the water and a man running away from the crowd. Without hesitation, Stella dived into the harbour, a man was thrashing about and throwing up water, she swam towards him and with her lifeguard skills pulled him to the closest jetty ladder. After dragging themselves out of the water, the man introduced himself as Griff Watson and thanked her. Dressed in scruffy jeans and a hooded sweatshirt, there was something about Griff that Stella couldn't put her finger on, he looked quite thuggish, but there was something else? Stella handed him a towel to dry himself with from her overnight bag, as well as her business card, she tried to get some info out of him, but Griff was evasive, all the time watching the bay shiftily and looking like he was about to run. Stella tried to convince Griff to stay but he ran off.
Doc had chased the other man down, catching and tackling him as he tried to run out of the harbour, the fleeing man squirmed and failed to wrestle free. With a little leverage, Doc managed to wheedle a name out of the man; Luke Beck Jr. He tried denying having anything to do with the man in the water, but when pressed he admitted to pushing him in. He told Doc that the man had come aboard his boat, The Kirkcaldy Seahorse to try and push drugs on him and that's why he pushed the man off and fled. Doc couldn't think of a reason to detain Beck Jr, so let him go and joined the other. Our heroes returned to Ditch an they set off on the uneventful final leg of their journey to San Diego.
San Diego bay was vast, 12 miles long and in parts 3 miles wide, the bay enjoyed the natural protection provided by a long spit of land that ended at an peninsula, giving it some 34 miles of coast. Ditch led the way in, passing moored up massive container ships and cruise liners as he followed the curving bay to their destination; the Clearwater Marina.
The Sunset Paradise Hotel was our heroes next destination after mooring, it was a 12 storey building that overlooked a stretch of the bay to the west. The hotel's entire northern wing was under renovation when Ditch and our heroes arrived to check in, the day manager apologised for any noise and disruption they might experience. They all had rooms reserved on the 6th floor, Stella and Winter shared a room, as did Doc and Art, Ditch had his own room. Once everybody had dropped their personal effects off, it was time to make the short walk to the symposium.
A custom built facility, the Lower South Bayside Conference Centre was lively and buzzing with the Lifeguard Health and Safety symposium. Seminars, talks, demonstrations and presentations filled numerous conference areas and meeting rooms, it was time to press the flesh and Ditch introduced our heroes to the many people he knew in the lifeguarding community, including the 3 organisers of the symposium; Dalton Booth, Posie Jackson and Taylor Christianson. When Ditch shook hands with Taylor Christianson, there was a moment of palpable electric tension between the two. Once Ditch and our heroes had made off, they asked him about it? "I don't want to talk about it," Ditch replied.
Our heroes had been at the symposium for about and hour when it was time for a light lunch, as organised by the symposium itself. Everyone congregated in one of the largest halls in the centre to eat and Dalton Booth gave the assembled lifeguards a speech about the constant need to improve lifeguard techniques, responses and skills.
Once lunch was over it was time for the speedboat demonstration. Our heroes headed back to the marina and took the boats out into a specially reserved area of the bay while symposium attendees relocated to the shoreline in order to observe. Winter and Doc did the piloting whilst Ditch was onshore with a megaphone, giving out a spoken description for the demonstration. Their manoeuvres went as intended and many of the spectators were suitably impressed by the improved performance provided by the modified Nimrods. When Winter and Doc returned to the symposium, they were complimented on their piloting skills.
The symposium still had a couple of hours to go and Ditch was keen on dragging all our heroes to as many seminars and talks as he could fit in, much to their silent begrudging. When they were briskly walking from one lecture to another, our heroes noticed had gathering in one of the larger halls, there were numerous attendees and member of the press and they were gather round a tall and strikingly attractive woman in a 3-piece dark blue business suit. To those gathered, she announced herself as Gloria Ortega, CEO of Fairmont Medical Services, a healthcare provider based in L.A., Gloria also announced that her company would be lobbying the governor, pressing him to put out tender to allow private contractors to run lifeguard services along California's coastline. She also said there would a talk about this in one of the halls. Ditch was deeply sceptical that contractors could ever provide a solution to rival the current lifeguard service.
I'm Too sexy
Soon after, the symposium reached its conclusion, Ditch and our heroes returned to their hotel and changed into evening wear and headed to the charity dinner. The hall had been decked out for the event and was quite busy when they arrived, a band was playing on the stage and waiters circulated through the gathered guests with trays of hors d'oeuvres and champagne. It was at this time that Ditch turned to Art and Doc and confessed that he had entered all three of them into the charity bachelor auction. "What!" Exclaimed Doc. Art seemed quite happy with this turn of events.
Before the auction began, the three of them were led backstage to wait as one-by-one they were led out. Art was first, he confidently strutted out in front of the gathered ladies, they seemed quite impressed, bidding started at $200. Unbeknown to them, Stella was sitting among them and pushed up the bidding, it was a risky gambit, but she managed to push it up to $1600. Doc was next; a somewhat grizzled and world-weary man stepped out, he momentarily struggled with flashbacks to 'Nam as the spotlight was swivelled on to him. Bidding started at $100 and topped out at $700. Finally it was Ditch, as he strode out, he cut quite the figure with his tailored tuxedo and flowing mullet and it stirred a murmur amongst the ladies, bidding started at $500 and eventually topped out at $4100.
Once the auction was over, our heroes went off with their 'dates' for the night, behaving like perfect gentlemen. The remainder of the event was unremarkable and as the small hours approached, our heroes retired to their hotel rooms.
Because The Night It was 4am when Doc woke up, something was buzzing round his face? He sat up on the edge of the bed and flicked on the bedside lamp. Art was sleeping, having come in late from his date, Doc looked around and saw half a dozen flies circling and swooping round the room, he stood and began searching for the source of the flies, as he walked across the room, he heard a voice, perhaps a woman's, just outside the door, somehow muffled and distant, muttering a constant stream of short phrases. Doc quietly walked to the door and opened it.
Outside, it was empty, the beige wallpapered corridor and red-orange carpet barely lit by gloomy wall lights, it was silent too, except for the muffled woman's voice coming from one door, Doc listened at it, the voice was definitely behind it. He discovered the door was unlocked and entered. To his surprise, he found the room was undecorated with exposed floorboards and brickwork, while a polyethene sheet covered the window and billowed softly. The only furniture here was a single table and chair, on the table was a radio. It was the source of the voice. Distorted by static, the woman's voice was reading out a stream of numbers in an unchanging flat tone: Seven. Six. Nine. Three. Seven. Eight. Six. Four. Nine. It was endless.
As Doc walked up to it, he noticed more flies flittering around. Doc checked around, there were no other ways out of the room and it was definitely unoccupied. He looked out the window, an impenetrable night-fog had rolled in off the Pacific. He turned the radio off and walked back down the silent corridor to his room. As Doc reached his room, he heard the woman's voice again, once more flatly muttering one number after another.
Stella gasped for air, sure that she was suffocating, once she sat up in bed however, the sensation had simply evaporated? Even so, she felt bad, the air felt bad? Pulling on a robe and slippers, she walked into the corridor, relieved that the air was clearer here. The gloomy corridor intersected another and down the left branch, Stella heard the audible click of a door closing and locking. Before she could move to investigate, a massive dog appeared, a Rottweiler so black it almost seemed nothing more than a silhouette, it stood there growling her way, teeth bared. A few seconds later, it turned to the right and went out of view.
Back at his room, with some consternation, Doc got dressed and strode back to the room with the radio. It was tuned to 6425 kHz, he turned the tuning dial, trying to find another station, but all he got was an earful of more static, in the end, he turned the radio off again. Heading back into the corridor, Doc encountered Stella and she explained that she had witnessed a dog running loose in the hotel, it could prove a risk to other people. They decided to wake the others and see what they could do. When Stella woke Winter, the teenager moaned a lot but eventually rose and joined the others!
Our heroes walked down the dimly lit corridors, encountering no one else in the lonely silence. Eventually they arrived at the elevators, noticing with dismay that they were dead, no lights on any button or panel shone, none of the elevators were functional. They also noticed the area was buzzing with flies. They went on, arriving at the fire door that went to the stairs leading down, the door could easily be pushed open. It was the only way, so they went down. To their alarm, they realised that the stairs lacked any handrails, they were on the 6th floor, a slip could spell death! Keeping close to the walls, with utmost caution and lit only by emergency lighting, our heroes began their journey downwards. Hours, days perhaps, they imagined, had passed during their slow descent into the inky bowels below. Halfway down however, they felt the air becoming bad and they had to fight the urge to gag, the very darkness around them seemed to become stifling and crushing.
Continuing on, they reached the first floor, exiting the stairwell took them into might have been some sort of darkened foyer, it was hard to tell, they only had inadequate emergency lighting to go by and flies buzzed around them. Before they could look any further into it, they heard aggressive dog growling breaking the silence and coming from a corridor to the north, so they followed. Protective dirty, paint stained white sheets covered the corridor's red-orange carpeting as they walked over it, above, barely visible cables dangled from the exposed ceiling and various piles of building supplies could be seen stacked up in various side rooms. As out heroes rounded a corner, they were confronted with Ditch, barely fending off the black dog with a two-by-four.
Stella turned to Winter and told her calm the dog down, Winter was incredulous, Stella explained that Winter had the best chance to calm the dog down? "Whatever," Winter muttered, stymied by Stella's logic and reluctantly, she stepped forward. Sensing something, the black dog dashed off into the darkness.
There was no time to delay, our heroes, after helping Ditch to his feet, again followed the dog. It led into a large unlit room, ringed by a circle of support pillars. It might have been a hall or function room and as our heroes ran in they could see it was currently in the middle if it's renovation and was littered with piles of building materials and tools. In the gloom, somewhere in the centre, they could see a large crate or box, an indecipherable noise came from it. As our heroes moved towards it, in the periphery of their vision, they could fleetingly catch something moving from pillar to pillar. Our heroes went closer and obfuscated by darkness, they saw an indistinct figure tied to the crate. Moving still closer, they reached the figure and in the dimness, they saw it was a gagged Ditch! Then who was it behind them?
It took an agonizingly long split-second for our heroes turn around, before them stood Taylor Christianson, an unhinged, maniacal glaring expression twisting his features in the half-light, with fire axe in hand and about to swing! Instinctively, Art lunged for him; a struggle followed as they exchanged blows and soon, both men were bleeding, Winter and Doc helped as they could, but Christianson swung the axe with a madman's strength, proving a ferocious enemy. Stella had turned to Ditch, having pulled a pair of scissors from here handbag, she managed to cut him free and despite being disorientated from a dripping scalp wound, Ditch managed to land one of his trademark haymakers on Christianson and the lunatic went down. The fight was over, our heroes trembled from the overflowing adrenalin harshly coursing through them, only their harsh breathing could be heard in the silence, they didn't notice how it'd become harder and harder to breath until their vision began to dim, the dark overcame them and they slipped into unconsciousness.
End Of The Road
One by one, our heroes were greeted by the starry vista that was the night sky as they awoke to find themselves sprawled on gurneys with attendant paramedics outside the hotel, along with all the guests from the 6th floor. Ditch was there too, with his head bandaged. A band of gold along the eastern horizon meant that dawn was not too far away.
When our heroes were given the all clear, Ditch explained that Taylor Christianson had been behind everything. He had been planning 'revenge' against Ditch ever since Ditch had given evidence against Christianson at his court martial; both men had served together in the Navy SEALS. Christianson had ensured that Ditch received an invitation to the symposium and would attend. Then that night he had pumped sedatives into the aircon for the 6th floor, it's side effects included hallucinations. Our heroes asked Ditch about their encounters, the radio hadn't existed, neither had the flies, the fight between Ditch and the black dog had never happened, he had been tied up at this time and the dog never even existed! Stella was disappointed by this, she'd hoped to find the black dog and decided when she returned to Bay City, she would get a one from the animal shelter.
When our heroes had rested, they returned to Bay City. Later, Stella would go to a Bay City animal rescue sanctuary and acquired a wirehaired Slovakian Pointer.