White Bahamian. Protagonist. Strong, fit and capable. A natural leader. Inherited Lignum Vitae Cay in the Exumas incl. the Club and Salvage business when his disappeared in a Cessna 206 last year. Ben carries an intensity in his eyes: ambition, fearlessness and a hint of sensitivity. An extremely versatile mechanic and mariner. He has a soft spot for his younger brother, Patrick, over whom he’s assumed an almost fatherly position since their father’s “death”. Madly in love with his wife, Kathryn. They have a passionate relationship on all ends of the spectrum. Ben’s greatest struggle is with himself. He’s taken on the responsibilities of marriage and running a business at a young age – and sees himself as the only person capable of keeping the family together. While he’s morally upstanding and rebukes people who tempt him into the drug trade, he’s eventually forced to salvage some dumped bales of dope to pay for Patrick’s Medivac to Florida. Once he realises how uniquely suited his salvage skills are to drug running, he finds himself in a deeply compromised position: tied to his ideals but forced to exploit his situation to survive. As we follow his descent, we see him transform from an innocent bystander into a fearless protector. Ben is motivated by two simple desires: to protect his family and preserve his way of life.
White Bahamian. Ben’s younger brother. A true romantic who models himself on Juan Cadiz from Wind from The Carolinas. Tall and wiry with a mop of curly blonde hair. An artist who’s deep sensitivity belies a dark side that comes out when he’s drunk. Patrick’s a talented guitarist and plays the local dive bars to great acclaim. He lives life by the day and the night: loves no one woman but samples many. Funny, gregarious – a true free spirit. Extremely capable as a freediver and anything else marine-based but terrible mechanically. Patrick rarely considers the consequences of his actions and thinks Ben takes life way too seriously. His impetuosity gets him laid but also invites trouble and controversy. Patrick was very close with his father and turned to drugs and alcohol after his “death”. He loves Ben but holds a hidden resentment towards him for assuming leadership of the family business. Nonetheless, he would die for his brother and vice versa. After his accident, Patrick gets sucked deeper and deeper into the drug trade – eventually salvaging cocaine bricks and selling them on the black market – against Ben’s repeated warnings.
Ben’s stunning wife. Afro-Bahamian with beautiful coffee-coloured skin and almond eyes. Known as “Kat”. Equally strong and determined yet very different in her own right. Elegant and adventurous. Kathryn’s father is Lester Pyfrom, a well-respected Nassau businessman with interesting in shipping, construction, marinas and cement. Her mother was a beautiful shop assistant at Home & Garden in Nassau who died tragically in a car accident. She’s passionately in love with her husband who she met at school. She disobeyed her father’s will to marry him and move from Nassau to the Exuma Cays cementing herself as an outsider in their family. A born rebel with an insatiable wanderlust, she runs Lignum Vitae Cay Club with Ben, taking care of guests and a multitude of other day-to-day issues. Kat’s tough enough to handle out-island life yet feminine enough to make everyone feel at home. She can also fly a seaplane and assists Ben in the salvage business and life-aid flights. She’s flirtatious with other men but never takes it too far – just enough to make Ben jealous. She dabbles with marijuana (keeping her own secret weed garden behind their cottage) and enjoys sneaking joints with Patrick after dinners.
Ben and Patrick’s father. Founder of Out Island Salvage Ltd.. Disappeared mysteriously the year before when he flew off in a Cessna 206 and never returned. Some say his plane crashed; others say he intentionally ran away. This enigma is a constant presence throughout the story – especially when we meet him in flashbacks. A legendary sailor, freediver, fisherman and drinker, he ran cargo on clipper ships long after they were out of fashion. His pictures are all over the house. Raised the boys single-handedly after his wife died from pancreatic cancer when they were just kids. Neil Young wrote a song about him, Capt. Kennedy.
Slick runs the best bar in Staniel Cay, The Slick Chicken. He’s a tall, heavy set man with short styled hair and a scar across his cheek. He has the world’s largest coconut in the bar: a huge, dried nut with a measuring tape wrapped around it. Tucked into the trees off a residential street, The Slick Chicken is where the local community comes to party and stash their ill-gotten gains. Slick keeps a book of everyone’s deposits – thus holding many secrets. This is where deals go down, pool gets played and gossip (“sip sip”) gets started. Slick’s wife serve a delicious souse on Fridays: chicken, mutton or sheep’s tongue.
An undercover DEA agent posing as a marine biologist. Fiercely intelligent, driven and a little mysterious. Sam is an enigma to the locals: she spends every day diving on the local reefs conducting research. This evolves into a covert surveillance operation on Norman’s Cay. Sam is extremely innovative: she devises a system of tracking drug boats by ‘dinking’ their propellers so they make recognisable sounds in the water. Patrick repeatedly hits on her but she rebuffs his advances. Quietly, however, she develops a crush on him. Their unconsummated romance is an endless source of frustration for them both.
An old fashioned British insurance verifier who runs the Lloyds of London insurance office in Nassau. A stickler for formal process and due diligence, Dumpfrey has a reputation as a fastidious penny pincher. His cold, emotionless detachment to the job constantly clashes with Ben & Patrick’s no-holds-barred approach to business. Dumpfrey loves hiding behind rules and the brothers have an openly fractious relationship with him. A committed bachelor, his irreproachable, stiff upper lip eventually betrays darker habits and sinister secrets. Dumpfrey also develops a crush on Samantha, pitting himself against the Lawson brothers in more ways than one.
A Chinese/Cuban local who owns Juan’s Laundry in the heart of Nassau. Juan was on the forefront of the local dope smuggling in the early 1970s and made a good bit of cash from it. But he saw the writing on the wall and got out before it got too hot. He’s married to the diminutive Betty, also Cuban-Chinese, and they live in a charming little cottage behind the laundrette. Juan is the comic relief of the show: he yells in Spanish or Chinese depending on his mood. He opened the laundromat as a front for his ‘retirement’ business: laundering money and drugs for locals through his connections in Florida. He develops a close friendship with Ben and Patrick who come to him for help with the ditched dope bales they’ve been salvaging.
Lehder is the charming but devious figure behind the Medellin Cartel’s business in the Bahamas. With thick dark hair and a penchant for white tennis shorts and medallions, Lehder’s charisma belies a dark, unchecked ambition. After growing up in Medellin and New York, he started stealing cars and eventually went to jail in Danbury, Connecticut at just 21. Extradited back to Colombia after his release, he masterminded the industrial scale delivery of cocaine by buying Norman’s Cay and charging the Cartels a transportation fee. Lehder was also instrumental in laundering the Cartel’s cash through banks in the Bahamas and Panama. Rumored to be bi-sexual, he presides over his island fiefdom like a demi-God, gradually getting addicted to his endless supply of pure cocaine. Under his control, the island becomes both a militarized drug den and hedonistic hippie paradise. Lehder’s two idols are John Lennon and Adolf Hitler: a paradox that sums up his conflicted personality. When a drug plane carrying a vital briefcase crashes on its way to Norman’s Cay, Lehder hires the Lawson brothers to salvage it. This begins their relationship.
Ricky is a former Vietnam War Air Force pilot who grew up in Jacksonville and returns there after the war. Suffering from PTSD and brutal headaches, he starts smoking weed to dull the pain. After failing to hold down a series of jobs, Ricky’s wife files for divorce. Struggling with his alimony payments, Ricky is seduced into the weed business after seeing all the cash his best friend, Greg McClure, is making. When Greg tells him they’re looking for a pilot, he throws his hat in the ring. When he realises he’s perfectly suited for low altitude flying of drug running, Ricky finds a renewed passion for life. He marries a young dental assistant, Dolly, and they start printing cash. While stopping off on Norman’s Cay to pick up fuel, he realises the island is a perfect transshipment point for his Florida to Colombia flights and buys a house. A friendship with Montoya develops. But can the two men both operate independently?
McClure is an all-around American. A natural athlete, he enlisted in the Marines in Vietnam then went back to his native Indiana after active duty but quickly grew depressed. He drove long haul trucks drunk for a couple years until he eventually got fired and decided to call in on his only friend: Ricky Ward. Got a job teaching gym at the local high school but got fired for hitting on a female student. He now works as a mechanic at a Honda repair shop in downtown Jacksonville. He often bicycles over to Sears to smoke joints on lunch breaks with Ward. One day, he asks his friend and weed dealer, Ed-Henry, how much money he’s making. When he finds out it’s mid-six figures in cash, he can’t believe it. Ed-Henry explains that he could be making a lot more if he had his own plane and pilot. McClure pitches Ward the idea of buying a plane and flying to Colombia to get into the weed business. McClure’s an adrenaline junkie: a fatalistic character who goes deep into the dark side of his haunted psyche and never quite makes it back.
McClure’s friend who gets him into the weed business. Sets up the introduction in Colombia and flies down with them. Inherited a bunch of farm land in Georgia where the guys keep their plane and land on a strip of open field. Ed-Henry attracts the attention of the DEA when he walks into a BMW dealership and buys a car with cash from a paper bag without even checking the price. They start going through his trash and make the connection to Ward and McClure. The DEA then place a transponder on Ward’s Beechcraft Bonanza and trace it to Norman’s Cay. This is how they eventually discover the industrial scale cocaine operation on the island.