This is the seventeenth part of a fiction serial, in 710 words.
Once he had got rid of Mayhew senior, Mel was consumed with tiredness. When the memory cards were locked in the safe, he told Ursula he was going home, and left by the back door into the alley in case any reporters were still stalking him. In a cab on the way, he tried to get his head around the sheer enormity of the discovery of an unknown creature that could try to actively communicate with humans, and was a combination of both the familiar and unfamiliar. He looked up the scientific name for Sea Otters on his phone. Enhydra Lutris.
Somehow, he was going to have to work out a new name to include a reference to their intelligence. He liked the sound of Lutris Sapiens. That would do for now.
The next day was a Saturday, and with no active projects running, the office was closed. Mel walked in, refreshed after a very long sleep, and carrying a large black coffee he had bought at Cafe Nero. It was time to really hit the memory cards, and see what had happened in the sea cave.
Anita was now filming Glen. Two of the biggest Lutris were on the rock shelf next to Anita, eyeing her with great curiosity. She turned and pointed to the water.
“Look, she’s feeding a baby, Glen”. The camera panned to a medium-sized creature lying on its back, floating. A very small one was suckling, its mother’s arms around it. Then some of the short barks came from along the tunnel leading out into the sea, and the one that had swum away earlier appeared. The biggest one, still holding the mirror, spoke to it in some form of rapid squeaks, and it produced a telescope from under the water, swimming over to place it in front of Anita.
Her face was a picture of delight. “It brought me a gift in exchange for the mirror. How wonderful is that?” She held up the ancient spyglass, and smiled at the big male, nodding her head and placing a hand over her heart. “Thank you. That is a lovely gift”.
It occured to Mel that the Lutris were not going to understand anything Anita was saying, but she was doing a great job of non-verbal communication, even throwing in some recognisable sign language.
Suddenly, the big creature reached out and grabbed her hand, pulling her down into the water as if she weighed nothing at all. Then it started to swim along the tunnel with her, both their heads just above the surface. All the other creatures turned and followed, as Glen stopped filming and jumped straight into the water after them.
Fast-forwarding, Mel saw water on the screen. Glen was filming again, and he was in the ocean, the island behind him. The Lutris and Anita were a long way ahead, moving too fast for Glen to catch up. Anita’s head appeared above the swell, and it seemed she was still being towed along at speed by the large male. Glen started speaking, over the sound of the sea splashing against the camera housing.
“She looks okay, but where are they taking her? Too fast for me, and I can’t afford to get into difficulties out here. My only option is to go back to our camp on the beach and wait for her”.
He sounded out of breath, and then the time ran out on the memory card.
Mel was thinking about just how big this was going to be. Forget swimming with dolphins, or sitting in a group of gorillas, what had happened on Balleycragg was a different level entirely. A new species communicating and interacting with humans, this was going to make Unicorn Films world-famous overnight. Before putting in the next card, Mel went into the staff room and made some coffee. He needed to be fully alert as he viewed the footage.
His mobile phone kept buzzing, and he checked the missed calls. An unknown number. There was a text message too, from a Detective Constable Sandra Moon. It was from the same number, asking him to return her call as soon as possible.
He switched off the phone and put the next card into the laptop.