This too-small flare meant yet another setback.
A group of the refinery's executives, including the two resentful people in front of her, had also tried to purchase the refinery in a management buyout but hadn't been able to raise the cash.
A frown pulled at Dwayne Thomas's tobacco-stained lips. Lynn glanced at him and the woman sitting next to him, angled back in metal-frame chairs.
She wondered if she could get all four of the VPs to pull together before she and they lost their jobs or worse, were reassigned to suffocate in Special Projects. We want to answer questions about the merger of Centennial with TriCoast. Where are the others?
Dwayne hacked a smoker's cough and clamped his ham-sized hands together. Riley Stevens told me he had a morning meeting.
Riley's probably at a banker's breakfast. If he valued his job he'd be here. Lynn had met the Centennial CFO only twice. But in the last few weeks she had heard rumors about his attitude toward women.
Jean-Marie Taylor, a six-foot-tall woman who was VP in charge of safety and pronounced her name John-Marie, nudged Dwayne and rolled her eyes. And Jay's on a golf course somewhere.
They're accounted for so your worry is irrational. Hurricane season was starting. Luckily, only a few TriCoast employees had been missing after Katrina. But it took weeks to find their bodies.
Dwayne kept staring out the window. Lynn followed the gaze of the operations VP. An easy-to-read beacon of the refinery's health, the flame atop the ten-story, needle-like structure telegraphed in a glance whether operations were normal. The same flame was still too short, too skinny. Dwayne turned. Lynn, when you combine your existing Ship Channel refinery with ours, how many of us will you fire?
What will you say this time to reassure him? We need everyone. Now more than ever. Except one.
I don't mean now. I mean . . .
Five operators down! They heard Reese's yell just before the wail of hydrogen sulfide alarms echoed off every tower, exchanger, and furnace.
The three of them jumped and rushed to the window, as if they could spot the source of the poisonous gas. But they knew hydrogen sulfide had no color.
Where? Lynn strained to hear over the high whine of the alarms.
Reese sprinted in from the hallway. Adric thinks the leak is at a pretreater. That's why the flame on the flare is so short and skinny. The control center supervisor, Adric Washington, had likely turned off oil flowing into the pretreater to isolate it. By stopping the oil he was stopping the production of deadly gas.
How many souls on board? Reese asked quietly.
Souls on board. What a pilot says when the plane's going down.