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True North Chapter 1

Cam St. Angelo woke from a dream she was having ever more often. She dreamed of the year after her mama’s death. She had returned to LSU for one more year, another shot at making it to the Women’s College World Series for softball, and a final year with her lover Tab Fortner. She had taken a few business courses and was surprised to actually use some of the things she had learned in running the family businesses.


They had made it to the College World Series but bounced out of the tournament after three games. Cam remembered the first game as if it happened yesterday instead of ten years ago. She was up at bat in the first game and it was the bottom of the seventh inning; they had two outs and were behind by two runs. Cam had faced this same scenario her freshman year in the regionals, and only a miraculous catch by the center fielder robbing her of a home run had kept the team from Oklahoma City that year.


She kissed her good-luck charm and tucked it into her jersey before stepping to the plate. The wind that had died down earlier was now blowing out in left field. Tab and her teammate Parker were both on base. Cam’s time was now. A home run would keep them in the winner’s bracket. She smiled at the opposing pitcher, who was shuffling nervously on the pitching mound. The other team had brought in their ace reliever to finish out the game. Cam had hit her pitching well before, but her heart still pounded as she settled into the batter’s box and waited for that first pitch to arrive.


Oh no, she did not throw me a fastball. Cam would remember that thought for years to come. She felt her bat start to swing, and what a great swing it was. Her bat caught the ball on the bats sweet spot, and she held her breath as the ball left her bat. Cam took tentative steps toward first base as the left fielder raced back to the fence.


Please let there be enough distance on that one that no one can touch it, Cam remembered praying.


The stands grew deathly quiet as all eyes watched the trajectory of the ball. Unbelievably, it was still flying higher as it crossed the fence out of the reach of the outfielder’s desperate attempt to haul it back into the playing field. Ball game over, the Tigers’ had won. Unfortunately, they lost the next two games, but they had made it to OKC as a team at last.


Tab collected her diploma when they made it back to Baton Rouge and moved on to Duke to attend law school. They had kept in contact the first year, but by the second year, Tab had found a new love and their friendship faded into the past. Life had moved on for them, and both were happy for the time they had shared together. She smiled at the memories.



Cam crept from the bed as quietly as she could and slipped into the bathroom for a quick shower. When she returned to the bedroom, her lover, Luce, was still sleeping soundly, her blond hair fanned out across the pillow. The sheet had fallen down her beautifully naked body. When Cam leaned down to cover her, Luce stirred, and her warm chocolate brown eyes opened.


“Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you.” Cam sat on the edge of the bed. “You still have an hour left on your alarm, so go back to sleep.”


“Kiss me, and I’ll go back to dreaming of you.”


Cam leaned down and kissed her lips. “Have a great day, and I’ll see you later tonight.”


“You be safe, and good luck on opening day. Love you, Cam.”


“Love you too, Luce.” Cam tucked the sheet under Luce’s chin and left the room.



Cam stepped out onto the porch and slipped into heavy rubber boots as she looked across the homestead. Lights burned in each of the homes as everyone prepared for work or school. The last of the lightning bugs danced for their mates as she picked up a small tote and headed across the meadow to the docks. Her baby sister, Sandy, was storing a cooler on the boat when she arrived. She looked up at Cam.


“Did you sleep at all last night?” Cam asked.


“Unlike you, I didn’t have a beautiful woman to keep me up half the night, big sis, so yes I slept like a rock.” 


“As soon as the rest get here we’ll be ready to roll. Did you pack a thermos of coffee?”


“Your mug is waiting for you on the console.”


“Thanks.” Cam took out her .45, placed the holster on her belt, and tied the bottom of the holster to her thigh. She stored the tote with extra ammunition for the pistol and rifle under the console with the large bundle of bright yellow tags. Gator season was about to begin.


Willow stood at the dock, her tail wagging in hopes of going for the ride. Cam stepped onto the dock and knelt in front of her. Tab had given her Willow as a pup for Christmas over ten years earlier. When Cam returned to school after her mama’s death, Sandy and Willow became inseparable, and Cam was content being able to see her on a daily basis. Willow loved Sandy and slept at the foot of her bed every night.


“I’m sorry, Willow, but gator season starts today. We can’t have you in the boat with those mean old gators. If we get in early, Sandy can take you for a ride.”


Willow licked Cam’s face, trotted slowly back to the back porch of the main house, and curled up to watch them.


Sandy smiled at her. “I’m glad you did that. I always hate telling her she can’t go.” 


“It’s just too dangerous and she doesn’t move as fast as she used to.”


“Heck, none of us do.” Sandy untied the line and stepped onto the boat.



The wind blew briskly through Cam’s hair as she raced her younger sister, Wanda, down the False River in Pointe Coupee Parish near their Morganza, Louisiana, home. The sun was breaking the horizon as the sisters were eager to bait their lines on day one of alligator season.


The St. Angelo family had harvested alligators in Pointe Coupee Parish for hundreds of years, and Cam with her four sisters intended to keep the family tradition intact. No strangers to hard work, the women harvested alligators for meat, hides, and tourist souvenirs during the thirty-day season ending in October. It was a brutal month of long, hot days and physically draining work, but the gator season jump-started their run into the fall hunting season. This year their tag quota had increased to three hundred tags, so the women of Gator Girlz, Inc. would need to run both boats daily to meet it. It was a lofty goal for such a short season, but the St. Angelos never backed down from a challenge.


So, on an unusually cool Wednesday morning for September, the two boats raced the encroaching sun to get their first lines of the season prepared to begin the harvest. Cam covered her eyes with dark sunglasses to block the wind and then threw her hand up in a wave as Wanda and their sister, Teresa Boudreaux, veered off to the right and split off to cover the western edge of their leased waterway.


Cam slowed her boat and grinned down at Sandy. “You ready to hook some gators?”


“Dontcha know it,” she hollered back.


“Let’s get our lines set and hope for some hungry gators.” Cam cut the motor and coasted toward a large tree along the edge of The Island. No fancy name was necessary for this large property, just The Island, as the locals knew it. The St. Angelos owned 100 acres of the marshy landmass, home to their hunt camp and several other business ventures the family operated. In addition to raising crawfish in the numerous ponds and sloughs on the property, Cam and Sandy led private hunts for white-tailed deer and wild boar for out-of-town hunters.



Their fifth sister, Karen Boudreaux, remained in Morganza at the St. Angelo homestead, a cluster of four homes on thirty acres of land. Karen and Teresa had married two of the Boudreaux brothers, Buster and Jeffrey, who worked offshore on oilrigs two weeks at a stretch, then came home for a week. Karen saw the three Boudreaux children off to school, went shopping, and prepared items for another of the St. Angelo clan’s business ventures. For a hundred years, the St. Angelos had been known to the locals, to be the makers some of the finest and most potent moonshine in South Central Louisiana. Customers throughout the state and into eastern Texas regularly purchased their Swamp Juice and Bliss line. The Gator Girlz produced and delivered the product to two major buyers, one in Baton Rouge and another in nearby Opelousas in St. Landry Parish, who managed the distribution.


Karen had seen the kids off to school and headed to town to the local feed store and farmers market. She’d buy a load of cracked corn, a portion of which she’d feed the wild game on The Island and the rest to ferment to create a mash for processing into the corn liquor they called Swamp Juice. At the farmers market, she would purchase watermelons, pears, or apples, and sugarcane for their Bliss ingredients. Buster and Jeffrey purchased bulk supplies of glass gallon jugs, five-gallon buckets, cane sugar, and yeast in New Orleans and kept them in stock for the sisters. Karen would process the ingredients in large mash barrels and tend to the fermenting mixtures for a week to ten days, sometimes longer, until they were ready to cook at the still.


When a batch of mash was ready, Cam, Sandy, and Wanda transported the barrels to the hunt camp on the island where they cooked and proofed the shine at night. The different products fermented at different rates, so there was always a batch to cook. The latest would be watermelon, which turned into Red Bliss, which was popular during the hot, muggy Louisiana nights.



Cam smiled as she watched Sandy bait and set the hook on the first line of the season. They would set a total of sixty lines with the two boats, and if they could average ten gators a day, they would meet their quota. If the weather remained hot, they probably wouldn’t need a month to fill their tags. Running two boats this year should help that happen, but it all depended on Mother Nature. A freak cool front could drive the gators onto land or into deeper warmer water, which could severely impact the total harvest.


“Twenty-nine more to go,” she restarted the motor.


“I have a feeling this is going to be a great season.”


“I hope you’re right, baby sister. I’m planning to put at least eight-footers on each of those lines.”


“We can do this. We know the big ones are out here.” She turned to look at Cam. “Do you think we’ll get a shot at Bubba Gump this year?”


“I sure hope so. I’d love to finally haul that big son of a bitch in. He’s got to be well over fifteen feet by now.”


Cam’s attention drifted as her memories of hunting the big gator resurfaced. On several occasions, she had hooked him, but could never successfully bring the reptile close enough to shoot.


“Earth to Cam,” Sandy shouted over the roar of the motor.


Cam’s attention snapped back to the boat.


“We’re gonna miss our next line if you don’t slow down.”


“Sorry.” Cam backed off the gas and coasted in to the next line.


“I know you want him as bad as I do, but we’ve got to pay attention,” Sandy stated. “He’d be a great prize, but we’ve got plenty of other tags to fill.”


“Yes, we do. Let’s get these lines set and circle back to meet T and Wanda for some lunch. I know it hasn’t been long since breakfast, but I’m starving.”


Sandy tossed her a bottle of cold water. “Here, maybe this will help for a little while.”


Cam took a long drink, then recapped the bottle to place in the console. She tapped her fingers against the holster strapped to her thigh, holding the .45 she planned to put to use by midmorning when they circled back to check their lines. Fighting an angry alligator of several hundred pounds was exhausting work, so she and Sandy would alternate at each line. Sandy was a good three inches shorter, and thirty pounds lighter, than her older sister, but she was strong for her size. Cam was proud of how well her baby sister had learned all the family trades.


As Cam slowed to approach the next line, Sandy turned abruptly and pointed across the water. “Bubbles,” she called to Cam.


“I see them. I’ll get the rifle and hook ready while you set this line. If he breaks the surface and is close enough for a shot, you can have a go at bringing in our first gator.”


Sandy was an excellent shot with her rifle and high-powered scope. It wasn’t unusual for them to bag a few gators each season with her sharp-shooting and treble hook.


Sandy baited the hook and secured the line to a solid branch as Cam removed the rifle from the storage case and checked the load. The treble, coiled on a hook on the side of the boat, was ready for action. She caught the gleam of excitement in Sandy’s eyes as she turned toward her and reached for the rifle. “Let’s go get us a gator.”


“Can you use the trolling motor to see if you can get us a little closer?”


“You’re reading my mind again, baby sis. Keep your eyes open.”


Cam switched over to the smaller electric trolling motor to pull away from the shore. Sandy scanned the surface for signs of the gator.


“There he is,” Sandy whispered and pointed to an area about seventy-five yards away. “Let’s just coast and I’ll see if I can get a shot on him. Will you be ready with the hook?”


“You know I will be. We can’t let him sink and take a chance of losing him. He looks to be good size.”


She watched with pride as Sandy steadied her aim, and when the gator’s head turned toward the movement of the boat, she took her shot. The kill area on a gator’s head was small, no bigger than a half-dollar, so an errant shot would deflect off the armor-like plating and the gator would escape.


“Got him,” Sandy whooped.


Cam handed her the hook. “Keep an eye on him, and I’ll get us closer.”


When the boat was close enough for a decent throw, Sandy launched the hook and snagged the gator carcass before it began to sink. As she pulled him closer, Cam killed the motor, opened the strap on her holster, and pulled out her .45. She was relatively certain Sandy had made a kill shot, but she would be ready just in case her shot had stunned the gator instead. The last thing they needed was a live, angry gator in the confines of the small boat.


A stream of oily blood trailed the gator. Sandy’s shot had hit the mark perfectly, and she holstered her pistol. “Good job, Sandy.” She let out a whistle as the gator drew near to the side of the boat. “Our first ten-footer of the season, high-five, baby girl,” she added and slapped hands with Sandy. “Let’s get this big boy on board and under a tarp.”


They worked in unison until they got the front half of the gator over the edge of the boat, and Cam pulled the tail section on board. “He’s definitely a good ten feet.” Smiling, she pulled off the first yellow tag of the season and handed it to Sandy. “Tag him and let’s set the rest of the lines.”


Sandy ran the tag through a slice in the gator’s tail and used a tarp to keep the direct sunlight off the hide.


Salt was beginning to form on Sandy’s bright pink Gator Girlz T-shirt as the Louisiana morning heat and humidity had arrived with a vengeance.


“Take in some water,” Cam instructed as they set the last of the lines.


“Yes, Mama,” Sandy shot back with a grin.



Cam, now thirty-one, had pretty much raised Sandy from a scrawny preteen when their mom passed away from cancer. After Cam, her sisters were all stairsteps, barely two years apart, except for the baby Sandy, four years younger than the next youngest, Wanda. Her mother had been pregnant with a baby boy between them, but he was stillborn. When her mother passed, her father was at a loss for how to raise five girls, so Cam, being the oldest, took on the role. Her parents had been childhood sweethearts, and he knew there would never be another love like the one they’d shared. Three years after her death, he followed his beloved to the other side. Cam, barely in her twenties, took on the added role of business manager as well as parent to her four younger siblings. She smiled. Her parents would be proud of the women they had become.


When the last line was set, Sandy turned back to Cam. “You mind running up that slough and see if there’s another big one in the water?”


“That sounds like a good plan to me.”


Cam guided the aluminum boat through the slough with as much stealth as possible. Several smaller gators were sunning themselves along the banks, but none the size they were looking for. She had just turned the boat around when a large gator entered the mouth of the slough and swam toward them.


“This is way too easy.” Sandy lifted her rifle, took careful aim, and fired. “Two shots and two kills,” she crowed.


“Let’s collect him and go find T and Wanda,” Cam said as they worked to get the gator into the boat. “Not a bad morning so far, got all of our lines set, two tagged in the boat already, and we haven’t run our first string.”


“I told ya, I thought it was going to be a good season.”


“Don’t jinx us. We still have 298 more tags to fill.”


“Yes, boss.” Sandy saluted and turned back to the front of the boat.


She let her baby sister take a seat, then gunned the motor as they went in search of their siblings.



T and Wanda were setting their last line when Cam and Sandy arrived. “You’ve already got a gator?” T asked, gesturing at the tarp spread across the floor of the boat.


“Nope, not a gator, two,” Sandy replied as she pulled back the tarp to show her sisters.


“Annie Oakley here popped off two already with no problems. Better put some water on them before they start to dry out, though,” Cam warned. “What do you say we drop these two off at LB’s, then take our lunch to the dock at the hunt camp before we start running lines?”


“Fine with me,” Wanda answered. “We’ll be right behind you.”


Cam raced across open water until they reached the slough that would lead them back near the hunt camp. She waved to Wanda as they broke for camp, then she and Sandy made the quick run to LB’s to drop the two gators.


Tony Doucet smiled as they pulled into the loading dock. “Man, the sun’s hardly up good and you two are already bringing in gators.”


“We got these two before we got all the lines set.” Sandy tossed him the line to tie them off at the dock.


Cam smiled up at the big man. “We gotta get back out there to work our lines. We thought we’d drop these boys off so you’d have some practice before we bring the big loads in later.”


“Let’s get them unloaded and measured, then.” He watched Sandy tie the first gator to the line and started his winch. “Good size on these gators.” The second gator was unloaded and stretched out alongside the first on the concrete. “Both right at ten feet.” He recorded the size and length on his chart.


“That’s a good start. See ya soon.” Cam started the motor as Sandy coiled the line.


They raced across the water to join their sisters for lunch, and Cam slowed the boat as she entered the slough. She pulled beneath a covered section of the dock and tied off while Sandy unloaded their cooler. The sisters had built a small picnic table, which was perfect for a lunch on the go. Sandy pulled out the sandwiches, drinks, and chips.


“Would you like turkey or turkey?”


“I think I’ll have turkey.” Cam joined her at the picnic table and popped open a gallon of sweet tea. She poured a glass and took a long drink. “Damn that’s good.”


T and Wanda had carried their cooler to join them at the table. T grinned as she looked at the sandwich Sandy was holding, “Turkey day, huh?”


“Yes, but I can’t complain that Karen gets up early enough to pack everyone’s lunch.”


“Me either, Cam,” Wanda said. She nodded toward the cooking shed in the distance. “What are we cooking tonight?”


“Red Bliss. Karen says the watermelon mash is ready to cook.”


“Which of you wants to post as lookout tonight?”


Wanda looked at Sandy. “Liz is off tonight, so would you mind us taking lookout so we can do some stargazing?”


“Is that what they call it now, stargazing?” Sandy teased. “Yeah, that’s no problem. You and your nurse goodbody can play doctor up in the stand while Cam and I slave away at the still.”


 Cam’s eyes instinctively moved to the camouflaged netted deer stand thirty feet above the swamp floor. The stand doubled as a hunting post as well as a lookout tower when they were making shine. From that location, they could see quite a distance, and night-vision goggles made detection easy at night. They hadn’t had an issue with law enforcement in many years, but Cam insisted they remain vigilant against raids. Besides, it was also fun to watch the wildlife as they foraged at night, and as Wanda had pointed out, it was a great place to stargaze away from the pollution of manmade light.


“I was thinking about something this morning,” Cam announced.


“Should we be worried?” Wanda joked.


“Maybe.” Cam smiled at her. “The fruit we use for mash is a seasonal commodity, and once the local produce has come and gone, the imported stuff is too expensive to buy. I was thinking about something we have a plethora of here all year long that would take us in another direction and keep us cooking something other than Swamp Juice through the winter.”


“We have enough cane in the back fields to last us all winter,” Wanda replied.


“You’re on the right train of thought. We can turn some of the cane into molasses, and distilled molasses converts into rum. We could give those boys up in Lafayette a run for their money.”


“I like the idea,” T stated, and the sisters all nodded in agreement.


“I’ll ask Karen to start making the molasses when we get home tonight.” Cam stood and then stretched before dropping her trash in a small bag. “How did your area look this morning? Any signs of activity?”


Wanda grinned at her. “There were quite a few large slide marks on the banks, so we hope those big ones are ready for some of Papi’s secret sauce.”


Cam took a step, then turned back to her sisters. “Same deal as last year? The winning team filling the most tags splits a thousand-dollar bonus and the biggest gator landed gets five hundred.”


“I’ll get my wallet ready,” Sandy said as she packed up their cooler.


“Let’s run our lines and meet up at LB’s to offload before heading home. Be safe, and let’s have a great first day,” Cam said as she grabbed a handle on the cooler.


“Fine, you offer to help when it’s near empty,” Sandy groaned as she picked up the other side.



Cam saw the slump in Sandy’s shoulders when they reached the first line to find that the bait was untouched. “Relax, it’s just the first line.” When they reached the next line, their season truly started. “Grab the line and let’s get him onboard.”


She watched with pride as Sandy reached down for the line and began taking up the slack. “Be prepared for his run.”


Sandy turned to her. “I have done this once or twice, you know.” She was about to make another comment when the angry gator felt her pulling on the other end of the rope and did his best to bolt for deeper water. The powerful surge pulled her toward the edge of the boat.


“Uh-huh,” Cam chuckled. “But that gator still outweighs you by at least a couple hundred pounds.”


“More than that, if this pull is any indication,” Sandy answered between gritted teeth.


“Holler if you need me to take over.”


“I’ll wear him down a bit for you first. There’s no way I can land him solo.”


“Just say when,” Cam replied as Sandy lunged forward and braced her right foot against the railing of the boat.



A five-minute battle with a large gator fighting for his life seemed an eternity to Sandy. The first line may have been empty, but the beast on this line was more than making up for her disappointment. She reckoned he weighed in at a good four hundred pounds, and her muscles were beginning to scream for relief. As much as she hated handing off the fight to Cam, the gator would break free if she tired too much to bring him near enough to the boat to get a good shot off.


“Okay, Cam, he’s all yours,” she growled.



Cam took the line from her and fought the gator. “Get some water into you and then get ready to shoot this monster.” The gator had amazing strength and she was proud Sandy battled him as long as she did. Slowly the beast ran out of fight, and she was able to inch him closer to the boat. She felt Sandy’s hand pull the pistol from the holster and Sandy stepped to the left of her to get a clear shot.


“He’s on his way up.” Her muscles remained tense because the gator might make one last attempt to escape to freedom. “He’s coming quick; be ready.”


“I’m on it.” Cam could hear the excitement in Sandy’s voice as she lifted the pistol and aimed. As the gator’s head broke the surface, she fired and he no longer fought for freedom.


“Great shot. Help me pull him onboard.”


Neither realized how big the gator was until they pulled him onto the boat. “I guess we should be thankful he didn’t pull one of us overboard.” She turned to Sandy. “What do you think, close to eleven?”


“If not, I’d be surprised.”


“Good job!”


“Thanks, but I just wore him out. You landed him.”


“No, we landed him together, but he is your gator. Are you ready for the next line?”


“Is it hot out here?”


“Why hell yes, it is.”


“Let’s go, then.”


Cam walked back to the console and for three hours, they took turns fighting the gators until they had a total of sixteen on board and the boat was riding low in the water from the weight. She waited until Sandy baited the last line, then turned the boat back toward town.


“I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for a cold one. I’ll supervise the unloading if you’ll walk over to get a twelve-pack of Abitas.”


“You have a deal, big sis,” she answered and slumped back in her seat as they drove slowly back into town.


As they passed the opening to the western leg of their lines, they could see T and Wanda nearly finished with their lines. Their boat was also riding low in the water. Cam nodded toward them. “It looks like the Gator Girlz had a great first day.”


“It’s always a relief to be ahead of schedule,” Sandy said.


“Amen to that, little sister.”



When they pulled up to the unloading dock at LB’s, Cam handed Sandy a twenty. “Now that you’re legal, you can make the beer run. Hurry back and we can watch the measuring together.”


“I’ll be right back, then.”


Tony guided Cam into the slip. “You two are the first boat in today. Looks like you’ve got a great load.”


“Hey, Tony. Yeah, we can’t complain for a first-day harvest,” Cam called to him as she slowed the boat.


He and Sandy tied it to the dock, and she took off for the store as Cam pulled back the tarps to reveal their catch to the growing crowd.


Hank Le Blanc walked up behind Tony and whistled. “You got some brutes today,” he called out.


“T and Wanda won’t be too far behind us. They should have a good load too.”


Hank nodded. “How many tags you got this year, Cam?”


“Three hundred.”


“You keep this pace up and you’re gonna have a quick end to the season. Sixteen on this run plus the two from earlier?” Tony recounted.


“That’s right,” she answered as she looped the hauling rope around the first gator to lift it from the boat. She smiled as the winch groaned as the gator rose from the pile. “He’s not even the biggest.” She grinned.


Tony watched the numbers on the digital scale continue to climb. “Damn, 420 pounds is a good-sized gator.”


“Just the beginning, Tony.”



 Sandy rushed across the street to the general store and pushed open the door. The blast of air conditioning hit her with a gale force. “Damn, that feels good.”


“A hot one out there, isn’t it, Sandy?” a woman called from behind the counter.


“Yes, it is, Carol. It’s time for something cold to drink.”


“I’ve got a twelve-pack in the freezer for y’all. I actually remembered today was the start of gator season.”


“Carol, you’re an angel. If you weren’t already married, I’d have to propose,” Sandy teased the blushing older woman, as she handed Carol a twenty-dollar bill.


“Same time tomorrow?” She placed the change in Sandy’s hand.


“Lord willing.”


Carol leaned across the counter closer to Sandy. “Herb said to ask if y’all have any Red Bliss yet? He’s been out for a week and is grumpy as ever.”


“We’re running a batch tonight. How much does he want?”


“A gallon if you have one to spare.”


“That shouldn’t be a problem. Tell him I’ll bring it in a couple days, so hang tight.”


“Thanks, Sandy.”


“Thank you, Carol. Keep the cold ones coming,” she called back as she picked up the container and hurried through the door.


They were taking the last gator off the boat when she returned to the docks. The gators were spread out across the concrete floor. Cam waited for their measured lengths, which set the price of each gator.


Cam calculated the totals in her head, “Twenty-eight-hundred pounds is a good day’s haul. No wonder the boat was riding low.”


The sound of an approaching motor made them turn to see T and Wanda arriving. Tony looked at Cam. “Do you want us to water down your catch and measure them all at the same time?”


“That’s fine, just don’t mix them up, unless you toss a big gator my way. You know we always have a competition.” 


“Sure thing. If you’ll go ahead and pull your boat through, we can get started unloading the second.”


“I’m on it.” Cam drove the boat through the unloading dock and tied off to a pylon. When she returned, Wanda was guiding the boat into the slip. “What’s your count?”


“We got thirteen, and you?”


“Sixteen,” Sandy answered as she handed Cam a cold bottle of beer.


“Twenty-eight-hundred pounds, but we haven’t measured yet. Thought we’d add your catch to it and do it all at once.”


A loud whistle turned their heads, and one of the men in the growing crowd called out to Luce, who approached from the parking lot. “You can cuff me anytime, baby.”


“I’ll probably be seeing you Saturday night, Howard, so be warned to be on your best behavior,” Luce tossed back at him.


“Damn, that is one sexy woman in a uniform.” Sandy sighed as she followed Luce’s approach with her gaze.


“She looks even better out of it.” Cam winked. “Hey baby, what’s happening?”


 “I got a call to come provide crowd control at the docks. Apparently some sexy, hot women are unloading some really big gators, getting the menfolk all excited.”


“We got thirty-one today between the two boats. No total weight or lengths yet, but it’s going to be good.”


Luce looked at the line of gators already stretched across the concrete. “Did you two bring these in?”


Cam nodded at Sandy. “Yeah, we did.”


“May I take you out to celebrate a good first day?”


“Sorry, babe, but I’ve got some work to do at the hunt camp. Can I get a rain check until tomorrow night?”


“Of course you can. How late will you be?”


“Hopefully no later than eleven.”


“I’ll keep some food warm in the oven for you.”


“Thanks. I’d appreciate that.”


“This crowd looks pretty much under control, so don’t go getting them all stirred up.”


“Yes, ma’am, Sergeant Munroe.”


“Damn, that’s a big gator,” Luce said, causing Cam to turn back to the dock. “Love you, baby,” she leaned in and whispered in Cam’s ear before striding back to her cruiser.



 “Two hundred ninety feet, with the longest of eleven feet eight inches belonging to Sandy’s monster is not a bad first day,” Cam announced the results to her sisters as Sandy passed them ice-cold beers. “Sandy and I’ll go back to the house, load up supplies, and head out to camp. Pick up Liz and join us as soon as you can, please.”


“Will do,” Wanda promised. “You know, one day you’re going to have to share with Luce what you do at the hunt camp at night.”


“Probably so, but it won’t be tonight.”


“For gosh sakes, Cam, her boss is one of our oldest regular customers.”


“I know, but Luce still frowns on illegal activities. I’ll tell her when the time is right, and hopefully she won’t arrest us all.”


Wanda shook her head. “See you soon.”


“Let’s go, hotshot,” Cam called to Sandy, who was inspecting the measurements.


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