Penny LaFero walked the dark beach with a red flashlight. She wore a yellow reflective band like a school crossing guard would. It marked her as a member of the Friends Unit, Poke Island Turtle Guardians.
People like Artie Buchanan abused these reptiles by stealing them from nature, and raising them in their homes. People like Penny were determined to save the turtles from that fate, and from a worse one. In reaction to a warming world, the annual northern migration of sea turtles was occurring earlier, and some of these creatures, confused and weak, were washing up on mid-Atlantic beaches.
Penny’s job, as volunteer, was to count the misguided reptiles, document and report to the Turtle Guardians.
So she was roaming the surf line, scanning with infrared light, when she heard a gasp. Trained to listen for the human-like gasp of a sea turtle, Penny scanned with her red beam until she saw the big creature crawling in the wet sand.
She squatted to get a better look.
“Help me,” it moaned.
Within minutes, Penny and the wounded, bleeding, soaked Butchie Block were surrounded by drunken, stoned and astonished partiers. Artie Buchanan ran for his satellite phone and called the Sheriff.
There wasn’t a medically trained person in the crowd, but Steffie Voss sat beside Butchie, keeping his head up out of the sand and talking to him in a low sweet voice. The crowd babbled with a useless murmur. One drunken young man approached Butchie and, perhaps as a test of life, kicked him in the thigh. Steffie’s shouts backed him off.
A vague popping noise came out of the sky and there appeared a pinpoint of light that got bigger and bigger until it resolved into a roaring rescue helicopter that landed on the beach, blowing up a whirlwind of sand and scattering the gawkers.
Working in the illumination of the chopper’s landing lights, medics strapped Butchie to a rescue board and loaded him in. Just as the pilot re-started the engine, Butchie gave an agonized growl.