The Select Oil Company charged the nightshift it cobbled together near Port Fourchon with preparing for the morning’s cleanup. The international petroleum and gas conglomerate had sent out teams of managers in the afternoon to gather local day laborers and whoever else they could find to help unload the 30 semi-trailers headed for different locations on the Gulf Coast of Louisiana.
When the truck at Port Fourchon had been unloaded and the supplies all lined up in neat columns and rows, the nightshift workers were paid by a supervisor in cash and sent home. The Select Oil Company had also ponied up for a security guard to watch the supplies overnight, and the 72-year-old former cop arrived on site five minutes early, ready like Freddy. The site manager and the dayshift crew would be there at seven.
The supplies that Murray Landau (corporal, Port Fourchon Police Department [retired]) was to keep a lookout on consisted of 125 bright blue plastic barrels of petroleum-eating bacteria swimming in ocean water. The Select Oil Company’s landmark 100th oil spill of the year had been a real “sumbitch,” as the day laborers dubbed it. A Select semi-submersible drilling rig floating out in the middle of the gulf exploded night before last. Millions of gallons per day of “Louisiana Light Sweet” crude pumped into the saltwater from the broken wellhead.
Round about 4:30 a.m., Murray was jolted from his deep slumber—and from a pleasant dream about himself, drinking Chianti and dining on chicken parmesan—by the sound of hundreds of rounds of AR-15 fire. Not only that, but also the distinct sound of projectiles popping holes into the plastic barrels. By the time Murray fumbled his old six-shooter off his hip and into the ever growing lake of ocean water and bacteria forming around his patent leather shoes, the shooting had stopped. He reckoned he had lived to tell about it, but he was none too happy about having to explain it to the boss.
Murray Landau radioed in the untoward events of the preceding 10 minutes, but Select management was abjectly unprepared for anything of this sort. Their m.o. was cost-cutting in order to boost profits and keep investors happy. This was not only a business strategy, it was an unspoken mission. A small group of wealthy VPs leased the prospects and exploited them. Everyone else cut corners. No one was sure how or when this became Select’s default operations plan, but the boss made it clear it was what he wanted.
In any case, by the time Lafourche Parish Fire’s hazmat truck arrived on the scene, the bacteria water had made its way down into the bayou and, if not for the overturned, shot-up plastic drums, you couldn’t tell anything had happened at all.
That’s when Warren Pascal, a junior firefighter on the hazmat squad, saw it. Lurching up from the shoreline and into the bayou, its lumbering gait much like that of the Bigfoot in the famous blurry film. Warren had a knack for estimates, and he put the thing at 12-foot tall and five-foot wide, glowing green like a neon beer sign in a dive bar. Looked to be upset about something.
My upcoming novel, ULTIMATE ERROR, is about an oil spill cleanup gone terribly wrong. As humankind teeters on the edge of self-annihilation, how many more widespread catastrophes can we endure? And how well can we endure any of them at any given time? Domino effects are more powerful than ever in our world, interconnected and small. What will we do when they start to fall?