Book Six in the Charles Oliver Jones Series
Summer comes slowly when you’re surrounded by water, especially by salt water. It has to do with the ability of water to absorb and surrender heat or cold very slowly. On Martha’s Vineyard, the ocean has to warm and the winds have to come round to blow from southerly climes and the Gulf Stream has to move closer to shore before summer can arrive.
And just then, sitting on the beach with my oldest buddy, Pete Heyward, looking south out over the cold gray ocean, our backs to a bluff that sheltered us from a brisk northerly breeze, summer seemed a long way off.
What was not a long way off was the little submarine that had surfaced about a quarter of a mile out. Naturally, with all the terrorist talk around, I decided I needed at least an M-9 bazooka.
But having none within reach, I picked up my cell phone and called the Coast Guard to tell them that a small submarine had just surfaced right in front of us, about four hundred yards from shore.
I looked around at Pete, who like me, was home from college, though his break was a good deal shorter. He’s a Division One quarterback and Division One athletes spend the early part of the summer taking courses so they can lighten their course load for the football season.
"How far out do you think it is?" I asked and then bit into one of the famous fat jelly doughnuts from Millie’s, the ones with real raspberry preserves inside.
"I don’t know." Pete said, "I’m only good at distances within a hundred yards."
Which, because that’s the length of a football field, was understandable, if not helpful in that particular case.
"I’m gonna guess maybe a quarter of a mile," I said.
"That far, you think?"
"At least." I looked around. "I wonder where I could find a bazooka."
"A bazooka would reach that far?"
"An M-9 would. Be safer with an M-20, though.
"Maybe we ought to go for a missile," he said.
"Kinda hard to get hold of."
"And bazookas are easier to find?"
"No idea." I chased the doughnut with a long swallow of strong Green Mountain coffee. "Maybe there’s no reason to get excited here. We don’t know that there’s any danger. It could be some kind of a research vessel."
"What? A small sub surfaces off our island and you don’t think it’s a problem? It doesn’t have any markings and it isn’t moving, which probably means it’s waiting to rendezvous with some drug dealers or maybe off-loading some illegals or maybe a pack of Muslim terrorists."
"The guy at the Coast Guard station didn’t seem very excited."
"He probably thought you were some nutbag."
I grinned and looked around at the guy I’d known since I could remember. "The first thing he asked me was whether it was yellow and then what I was smoking."
"Where’s that coming from?"
"So ... ancient history then."
"Absolutely. The time of the Beatles and other rare life forms."
"Wasn’t there a song?"
"My folks love it. ‘The Yellow Submarine’."
"Adults need to grow up," he said.
"It’s a new guy at the station."
Pete laughed. "I’m thinking he’s gonna get a little surprise when he tells the Lieutenant who called. Man, I’d like to be there when he says some guy named Charlie Jones was perpetrating a hoax."
Pete looked the same as he had before going off to college, maybe a little more ripped from all the time in the weight room, and a whole lot more confident after being named freshman of the year in the Big East and leading his team to a bowl victory, but there had been some other changes, too. His vocabulary had gotten a whole lot better.
"Perpetrating?" I asked. "Where’d you dig up that word?"
"College can be good for you." He stuffed a doughnut into his mouth and bit it in half.
"You know what’s amazing here, is that the sub is holding position without being anchored. Wind, tide, current seem to have no effect. They must have some kind of positioning system that uses water jets tied into their GPS."
He swallowed, added a mouthful of coffee and swallowed again. "Did you know that Dunkin’ Donuts spells doughnut wrong?"
All I could do was laugh.
"What? What’s so funny?"
He shrugged. Then he remembered. "Hey, we used to argue about that, didn’t we? I gotta tell you, Charlie, this college thing is paying off."
In the distance I could hear the Coast Guard helicopter coming over from Cape Cod. "Chopper’s coming," I said.
"I guess they listened to you, after all."
I pointed at the sub which had turned and was moving forward and starting to submerge. "Look at that. They must have all kinds of warning devices on that thing."
But unlike any movies I’d seen about subs, this one went down really fast without gaining much headway at all. I stood and looked back to where the chopper would show and just as it popped over the trees, the sub disappeared and left a swirl that looked like a whale had surfaced for air.
Apparently, that was enough for the chopper pilot, and he turned the copter and brought it right out to where the sub had gone down. Then he hovered.
From the charts I knew there was only about thirty-five feet of water and from the air they’d be able to see the sub. They also carried highly sophisticated underwater tracking gear.
Then something else occurred to me. If they were meeting someone, the shore guys would have to be nearby and the only reason the meeting hadn’t happened was the two guys sitting on the beach eating jelly doughnuts and drinking coffee.
I poked Pete’s arm. "We gotta get busy," I said.
"Why? I wanna see what happens."
"If it was a rendezvous, then there’s somebody on shore to meet them and that puts the chopper at risk."
He grabbed the doughnut box, we drained our coffee cups, and moved in close to the bluff, then slipped into one of the cuts where the rain had eroded a deep slot. I had no idea whether I was guessing right, but I was pretty sure they would be on top of the bluff, hidden in the brush and trees.
Near the top I slowed, eased my head up to where the brush thinned at the top and then pulled back quickly.
"Oh man! They’ve got a rocket launcher and they’re getting ready to use it." I opened my cell phone and called the Coast Guard.
"This is Charlie Jones. Radio your chopper. There’re some guys here with a rocket launcher."
No more than ten seconds later the chopper heeled over and ran for the open ocean, using the tailwind to pick up speed.
"How far away are they?" Pete asked.
"Twenty-five, thirty yards."
"You go left, I’ll go right and we’ll take ’em out."
Maybe it was a dumb idea, and maybe it wasn’t. But they had no idea we were there. They couldn’t have seen us from the bluff and now the sub couldn’t give them our location. We had to move. I had no idea what the range was on that rocket launcher or whether they were firing heat-seeking missiles, which meant we had to get to the guy with the launcher before he could fire.
I poked Pete and pointed and we popped up over the edge, and keeping low and running fast we came at them like human rockets. Pete slammed into the guy holding the launcher and I hit the guy who was next to the box of rockets and then whirled and launched a punch into the pretty much astonished guy who must have been their leader. I got him in the solar plexus with everything I had and knocked him cold, while Pete grabbed a fourth guy by the neck and simply slammed him into the ground, bouncing his head off a pretty big rock.
I grabbed one of the rifles and handed it to Pete. "You watch them. I’ll find out if there’re any more." I picked up another rifle. "Check them for hand guns and keep your distance in case one of them comes to."
"You gonna be okay?"
I grinned. "They’ll never see me."
And, in fact, they didn’t. I knew they’d be looking south toward the water and I came in from the north, through the woods. I hit the first guy I came to with the butt of the rifle, slamming into the spot where his head joined his neck.
I didn’t need to check for I.D.’s or other credentials. This was Old West kind of stuff: shoot first and ask questions later. Except, there would be no shooting unless they fired first. I was hoping they would, but these guys weren’t even armed.
"Down!" I shouted. "On the ground!"
I swept the gun barrel toward them and they dropped to their stomachs. I checked them one at a time for weapons and I had almost finished when one of them decided to attack. It was a really bad idea. I brought the rifle butt straight up and into his jaw and he crumpled.
I took out my cell phone. "Charlie Jones again. We took out the missile crew and a bunch of other guys. There’s room here to land the chopper."
"We got a ground crew on the way. We’ll let them secure the area and then bring in the chopper. Anybody hurt?"
"Some of the bad guys are in rough shape." He chuckled. "What’s your guess?"
"Probably trying to find a place for a summer vacation."
"What are we talking here?"
"Camel jockeys," I said. "Lots of beards and bushy eyebrows." He laughed.
"Could you radio your ground guys and identify us?"
"Hey, you guys are good."
"And getting better with practice."
I heard the roar of a Humvee. "Your ground guys are here. Talk to you later."
The sergeant in charge, a guy named Hooper, was not Coast Guard and neither were the other ten guys. They were dressed in civilian clothes, jeans and light jackets, but their eyes were not civilian. This was a well-trained and highly motivated anti-terrorist unit, and in seconds they had cuffed the bad guys and marched them off to the big van that had come in behind the Humvee. They had to carry the guy with the jaw problem as well as the guy whose head had ricocheted off the rock. When it was clear, Sergeant Hooper turned and looked at us, well, me, anyway. When he looked at Pete he had to look up.
"Nice piece of work here. Nobody told us you guys were home."
"No reason to," I said.
"How’d you just happen to be here?"
"Wind’s from the north," I said. He looked puzzled.
"You wanna sit on the beach with doughnuts and coffee, this time of year, you wanna stay out of the wind," Pete said.
"Doughnuts and coffee?"
"Stakeout food," I said, "and for that Millie’s doughnuts can’t be beat. It’s also a tradition."
He laughed. "We’ll be in touch." He stopped and looked around. "Where’d you park your vehicle?"
I pointed off toward the next cottage. "It’s for sale. Didn’t want to bother anyone."
We watched them leave, then turned, and started walking toward the vacant cottage.
"Just like the good old days." Pete laughed. "Hanging out with Charlie Jones. How do you manage to always be in the right place at the right time, I mean, like, why did you pick this place?"
"My mother has the listing on the cottage. I knew it was empty and it gave us a place to park."
"So just pure chance?"
"Has it ever been any different?"
He laughed. "Nope. Never."
"Well, there you are then. An explanation that doesn’t explain anything."
"Like the course I had in sociology," Pete said.
"Mostly girls take sociology," I said.
"I was only one of two guys in the whole lecture hall."
"So, good hunting, then?"
"Awesome! Absolutely awesome."
We opened the doors to the truck and climbed in, Pete setting the doughnut box on the seat.
"How many are left?"
"Four. But we need some coffee."
"We’ll hit Alley’s."
"Good call." He waited for me to start the truck. "You think what happened here, I mean, you think there’s more?"
"No idea. Might’ve been a one shot deal, get some people ashore and then take ’em over on the ferry. Once they’re on the beach, no one’s checking."
"Oh, by the way, you’re gonna get a call from our new coach."
"He showed us films of the game you had against Trinity. He says you’re the best outside linebacker he’s ever seen and you’re a short reception guy like Wes Welker."
"Heck of a compliment," I said.
"Yeah, it is. But your numbers were awesome, man."
I laughed. "Well, you’re to blame. If you hadn’t needed someone to catch the ball to pad your stats a year and a half ago, I’d have never gone out."
"You know what’s weird?"
"Well, that’s true enough, but I was talking about the way our lives are going. What’s weird is that what you said a long time ago turns out to be true. You never know which way things will go but if you’re prepared, if you’re good at what you do, it’ll work out."
"I said that?"
"You did. Took me a while to figure it out, though."
"I must be smarter than I thought."
"And a whole lot nastier. I never heard of a guy getting ten sacks in one game."
"That was against Tufts."
"Not real strong, huh?"
"About where Bowdoin’s been for the last twelve years."
"Coach used the clips from three games to show our linebackers what you did to get past people. He said you never used the same move twice."
I turned into the parking lot at Alley’s Store. "It’s the best part of playing defense. Once the ball is snapped, you’re on your own. You have to read the offense, you have to figure out what they’re running and then get to the spot where you can stop it. There are no rules about how you do that. Highly creative stuff. Ninja training helps a lot."
He laughed. "You wouldn’t consider changing schools?"
"That’s why your coach is gonna call?"
"I think it is," he said.
"Pete, how big are the guys your linebackers go against?"
"Most all of them are over three hundred and the shortest lineman I saw all year was six-four."
"And they’re not slow, are they." It wasn’t a question.
"You got that right."
"My goal is to have fun playing football and graduate in one piece. My chances of doing that playing Division One are zero."
He shrugged. "I won’t lie to you, Charlie, those guys hit really, really hard. The quarterback coach spent a lot of time teaching us how to never present a solid target. You have to keep your legs in motion, stopping only long enough to throw, and then you spin and twist and never keep your feet planted on the ground for longer than you need to get the ball away." I laughed and opened the door to Alley’s. "Sounds like Ninja training."
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Robert G. Holland
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