The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
Nearly an hour later they felt the vibration of the ship's powerful diesel engines shudder to a stop. That meant they were anchored somewhere beyond Grand Cayman's north reef.
When they heard the door lock being thrown Scott rolled out of the bunk, motioned for Robinson and Sheila to stay where they were, and pressed his back against the bulkhead behind the door just as it swung open. He didn't wait to find out who was coming across the threshold; he slammed into the door with his shoulder. Napoleon Bocce grunted with pain as he was flung against the doorframe. Scott thrust the needle into the man's neck and twisted Bocce around as a human shield to protect him from the Latin giant, who had the Astra in hand and was trying to get a clear shot at him.
"Tell your friend," hissed Scott into Bocce's ear, "what will happen if I inject air into your carotid artery, Doctor."
Bocce didn't say anything. His face was twisted into a rictus of pain. Beads of perspiration glistened on his cheeks and forehead.
"Tell him to drop the gun and kick it in here," said Scott. "Do it!"
Bocce spoke to the Latin giant in Spanish. The gunman complied. The gun skittered across the decking past Scott's feet and into Robinson's hand. Scott backed up, bringing Bocce with him; in Spanish, he told the Latin giant to come into the room. As soon as the Latino had complied, Scott kicked the door shut, then removed the needle from Bocce's neck and threw the physician onto the nearest bunk.
The Latino had been waiting for his chance. He lashed out at Robinson, who grabbed his arm and dropped, at the same time scissoring his legs around his adversary's ankles and rolling. The Latino's size didn't matter; he had to fall -- and he did. An extension of the roll brought Robinson up onto the man's back. As he drove a knee into the spine he tossed the Astra to Scott. He didn't want to use the gun if he didn't have to -- and he didn't have to. He wrapped an arm under the Latino's chin, just so. A man named Shimoto had coached him in the martial arts; a very small, very softspoken and very old Japanese, Shimoto was, in Robinson's opinion, the most dangerous man on the face of the earth. He had taught Robinson many ways to immobilize or kill. Robinson chose to do the former in this instance. The Latino was strong, but the more he struggled the tighter Robinson squeezed, cutting off the flow of blood to the man's brain until he'd passed out.
Getting to his feet, Robinson glanced at Scott, who was peering out the door into the passage beyond. Scott nodded curtly -- the coast was clear, at least for the moment. Robinson turned to Sheila.
"Come on, honey. Let's book this joint."
Scott led the way, down the passage to a companionway.They were halfway up the metal steps when a man appeared above them. Scott took him for an islander, and a member of the ship's crew; he was unarmed, and he turned to run. Scott knew that the longer he could go without firing the Astra the better their chances of escape. But now he had no recourse. He fired, hitting the crewman in the leg and dropping him. In passing, Robinson delivered a karate chop to the back of the man's neck and put him out.
Directly across a short passageway, a door opened to the starboard deck. In a glance Scott realized he was on the main deck of a 160 ft. power yacht. A glance was all he had time for -- another crewman appeared towards the stern. This one was armed with pistol. His first shot whined past Scott's head. Straight ahead, across an inky expanse of sea, were a few lights -- he assumed they marked the north shore of Grand Cayman, and might even be the lights of Rum Grove -- about a quarter-mile away.
"Jump!" he told Sheila, spinning in a half crouch and emptying the Astra at the crewman, who performed a grotesque dance of death as the bullets struck. Scott didn't see him fall -- he was already vaulting over the rail, following Sheila into the sea. Robinson was right behind him.
They surfaced fairly close to each other. Men were shouting on the deck above, but until they got some lights on the water Robinson wasn't too worried about them. The push and pull of the ocean was easing them away from the yacht.
"Can you swim to shore?" he asked Sheila.
"Yes," she gasped.
"Good. Spanish Bay should be directly behind you. But remember the reef. Once beyond that the water will be calm and it'll be easier going."
"I know. What about you?"
"Unfinished business. Now get going, and whatever happens, don't stop."
Without another word she turned and began to swim with strong and graceful strokes, fighting the chop. Robinson was worried about her, worried that she might be cut to pieces on the reef. But he couldn't go with her this time. Bocce would get away. And that he couldn't allow. By doing away with the doctor and his crew, he could damage Cordillo's operation.
A high-powered flashlight beam danced across the choppy surface of the sea in front of them, and then a submachinegun stuttered and hot lead splashed too close for comfort. They filled their lungs with air and dove. Beneath the surface, they swam towards the prow of the yacht. Just before they had to come up for air, underwater lights came on in the stern, a hundred and sixty feet away. Bocce was sending down his divers. But how many? The men on deck had stopped firing, probably at Bocce's order; gunfire might attract the wrong kind of attention. How long, before Bocce would conclude that they had gotten away? At that point he would weigh anchor and set sail.
Treading water, Robinson threw a quick look around. "There's only one way to get them off our case, Jack."
"Yeah, sink the ship," said Scott. "But I forgot the limpet mines."
"Me, too. Well, I guess we can't let the bad guys get away, huh? That would be considered bad form."
"Yes sir. Very bad form. If we did that we'd have to turn in our decoder rings."
"We could run her up on the reef," suggested Robinson.
"Sounds like fun," said Scott. "Shall we?"
They dived -- and stayed as close as possible to the keel, knowing that this would make it more difficult for Bocce's divers to see them. For their part, they could locate the divers quite easily. There were three of them, and each carried a powerful underwater torch. They also carried spearguns. They were moving slowly from stern to bow, and a little to starboard of the yacht, in loose formation with one a considerable distance behind the others. Robinson and Scott both knew that he was their best shot. The first two divers were looking for them in the direction of the reef; they were assuming that the fugitives they sought would be making their escape towards the island. The third one, though, was checking in the vicinity of the yacht.
Robinson and Scott came at him from above, through his bubbles, and he had no idea there was trouble until Robinson grabbed his leg with one hand and removed the man's diving knife from its ankle sheath with the other. The diver twisted around, trying to bring the speargun to bear. Scott ripped off the diver's mask; that bought Robinson the time he needed to drive the blade to the hilt into the diver, right below the sternum, then twisting it upward to puncture the heart. The man opened his mouth to scream, and the mouthpiece floated up in a wash of bubbles. Scott held onto him for a moment, then felt the life ebb out of him. He knew that his partner had to kill and do it quickly; this was not the time nor place for scruples. Still, for all his years in a business where killing was a fact of life, Alexander Scott could not overcome entirely the horror of violent death.
The diver's corpse began to sink. So did the speargun, but Robinson caught it before it sank out of sight into the murky depths. The other two divers were several hundred yards away, the light from their torches mere streaks of light. He and Scott surfaced for air, then swam to the stern and the swimmer's platform located there. There was activity on deck, but it was nearer the bow; they got aboard unseen. Ninety seconds later they were slipping into the cockpit bridge. Bocce was there, along with a crewman at the wheel. Bocce was holding a bloodstained handkerchief to his neck, applying pressure to the point where Scott had jabbed him with the hypodermic needle. When he saw them his eyes reflected a mixture of surprise, anger, and fear. The crewman reached for the pistol under his belt -- but froze when Robinson swung the speargun in his direction.
"Hey, Doc," said Robinson cheerfully. "We just couldn't leave without saying goodbye. Oh, and my friend here has been thinking about buying a motor yacht. You don't mind if he takes this one for a test spin, do ya?" He motioned with the speargun for Bocce and the crewman to step back. It was a gesture that required no verbal clarification; they backed away from the controls. Scott took the crewman's place, checked the controls.
"You can drive this thing, right, Scotty?" asked Robinson.
"Well, I can ride a bike. How much harder can this be?" He beamed at Bocce and the crewman, then pressed one of a bank of buttons marked START BOTH. A throaty rumble came from somewhere amidships. "What you're hearing, gentlemen," said Scott, in his best tour guide tone, "are a pair of Daimler-Benz four-stroke Diesels with, I would venture to guess, a couple of Brown-Boveri superchargers thrown in for good measure. Which means this baby can go about fifty knots."
"No kidding," said Robinson. "I'm impressed."
"You should be, sir." Scott pulled the electromagnetic gear shift to SLOW AHEAD BOTH. Robinson felt the deck tremble a bit beneath his feet. The yacht seemed to settle a little in the stern as Scott pulled the gear shift to FULL AHEAD BOTH. It was then that Napoleon Bocce realized what they were about to do.
"Turn her about!" he shouted frantically. "Turn her about or she'll run aground! Do something!" This, to the crewman standing beside him. "You fool! They will kill us all!"
The crewman reached for his pistol. It was a desperate play -- he had to know he didn't stand a chance. Robinson triggered the speargun. The bolt drove straight through the man's right shoulder and pinned him, writhing in agony, to the bulkhead. He dropped the pistol and Bocce dove for it. Robinson was quicker. He brought the speargun down on the back of Bocce's skull, knocking him out cold.
"Time to say goodbye," warned Scott, already on his way out of the cockpit bridge. Robinson was right behind him. Someone took a shot at them as they went over the rail, but neither of them wasted time trying to locate the shooter.
They surfaced just in time to witness their handiwork. There was a terrific grinding sound as the motor yacht's hull of aluminum and magnesium alloy smashed into the reef; the bow of the craft titled sharply skyward, and then the yacht seemed to roll to starboard and there was a muffled explosion, followed by a much bigger one and a ball of orange-yellow flame abruptly consumed the stern of the yacht. The concussive force of the explosion dazed Robinson; he sank below the surface, shook his head to clear it, and came up again. Scott was nowhere to be seen. Flames were spreading across the surface of the sea now, fed by an expanding oil spill. Robinson dived but could see nothing in the dark depths of the sea. Fighting back the onset of panic, he surfaced for air -- and this time he saw Scott, twenty feet away and in trouble. Robinson swam to him, saw the blood on his face, assumed his semi-conscious partner had been struck by shrapnel hurled by the explosion. He got an arm around Scott's chest and began the long swim to the island.
Almost exactly forty-eight hours later, Kelly Robinson was driving down the coastal highway into the town of Hell, at the helm of another car provided through the auspices of Will Ives -- this one a sporty little BMW coupe. The top was down and the whipstream played through Sheila St. Cyr's cinnamon hair. She was wearing a pale yellow sundress and, physically at least, looked none the worse for her harrowing experiences.
"You're sure you want to go through with this?" he asked, and not for the first time.
"I'm sure," she replied firmly.
Despite it's name, Hell was a pleasant little Caribbean hamlet, with neat little pastel-hued houses with neat little yards encompassed by neat little picket fences. All the roads save the highway were unpaved, but kept clean and graded. Turning off onto one of them, Robinson drove through a sleeping residential area to a group of warehouses. These were all closed up. Mercury arc lamps burned over stout hangar-type doors. Going to the very end of the road, he turned behind the warehouse on the left. To their right was a canal, and beyond the canal a levee which separated Hell from a mangrove swamp. A silver Princess Daimler was parked about fifty yards away, near a group of thatch trees clustered at the back corner of the warehouse. Robinson cut the BMW's engine but left the headlamps on.
"Is that him?" asked Sheila in a fierce whisper.
"I'll find out."
Robinson got out of the car and walked slowly to the Princess Daimler. As he drew near, a muscular, blond-headed man in a chauffeur's livery got out.
"Hands on the hood," said the man.
Robinson complied. The pat-down was very professional and turned up nothing. There was nothing to turn up. Robinson was unarmed. Finished, the man stepped away, and at the same time a back window rolled silently down. Robinson went over to it and looked inside. Ives had provided him with a newspaper photo of fairly recent vintage, so he recognized the thin, darkly tanned face with its aristocratic nose and full lips and square chin. The man wore a stylish Poole Cut three-piece suit in dove gray. The diamond studs on his Movado watch flashed in the headlight beams of the BMW.
"Mr. Robinson, I presume." Very clipped and proper, with just the right touch of condescension.
"Mr. Tabor Ebanks, I gather."
"Before we proceed, I think I should warn you that my driver is armed."
"Aw, well, you shouldn't have. I'm not here to cause you problems, Mr. Ebanks. But I might be able to solve one or two for you."
"That is devoutly to be wished." Ebanks reached over and pulled a briefcase onto his lap, worked the spring latches, lifted the lid. The case was filled with neat bundles of American currency -- all hundreds. "Is that Miss St. Cyr in the car?"
"Yep. I'll go get her."
Ebanks raised a hand. "One moment, please. I would like to know why you're doing this, Mr. Robinson. Shortly after you met Miss St. Cyr I made some inquiries. You're a tennis bum. You travel around the world playing matches on which your benefactors win large sums of money. In return, they let you leech off them. Sometimes you serve as a gigolo for wealthy women. So I'm curious to know in what way you were involved with the sinking of a motor yacht off Spanish Bay last night. The vessel was registered to one Napoleon Bocce, a physician by trade who also happened to be a lieutenant of Raoul Cordillo."
"You know, I heard about that," said Robinson, leaning insouciantly on the car and shaking his head. "Tragic. Someone must have pulled the plug by mistake."
Ebanks smirked. "You know a lot more than you should, I'm afraid. I could get her without your help, you know. I'm not paying you a hundred thousand dollars for her. I'm paying you for your discretion. By accepting this money, you become an accessory."
"With a hundred grand I can afford a guilty conscience. Now I'll go fetch the lady."
Ebanks gestured the go-ahead. Robinson returned to the BMW and opened Sheila's door.
"It's showtime, sweetheart. Are you ready?"
"Yes, I'm ready."
They returned to the Princess Daimler, and the chauffeur took her firmly by the arm, escorted her round to the other side of the car, opened the door, and placed her, none too gently, in back beside Tabor Ebanks. Robinson took his place at Ebanks' window.
"Ah, Miss St. Cyr, we meet at last," said Ebanks smoothly. "You're a lovely young lady, and quite courageous. Your father must have been proud of you."
"Where is my father? What have you done to him?"
Ebanks smiled faintly. "Perhaps you know that it was I who first found George St. Cyr, washed up on a beach near the bungalow in which I resided those many years ago. I was a young, junior-grade official in the colonial government at the time. When I learned from St. Cyr of the Bright Hope's cargo and of the navy's miscalculation of the wreck's location, I convinced your father to keep silent as to its whereabouts. That wasn't difficult to do. He had been the ship's navigator, as you know. It was due to his drunken negiligence that the vessel ran up on the reef and sank with all hands. Save one. I played upon his fear of indictment and incarceration. And, of course, I recovered the crown sovereigns. Held onto them for ten years. Remarkable restraint on my part, wouldn't you say? They formed the basis for a banking and shipping empire worth hundreds of millions today. In the long run it paid for my promotion to Commissioner of Internal Security, my Q.P.M., my membership in the Legislative Assembly."
"Where is my father?" asked Sheila.
"He's dead, I'm afraid."
"You killed him," she gasped.
"No. He died of natural causes, several weeks before you arrived. I am not a violent man, Miss St. Cyr. But I am a very good judge of character. And I concluded that you were not going to stop poking about down here until you found out the truth. And we can't have that, now can we?"
"Okay," said Robinson, "I think that covers just about everything. Come on, Sheila, let's go home."
Ebanks stared at him, slow to comprehend. "Is this some sort of joke? Calling off our deal, Mr. Robinson? It's entirely too late for that. She's staying with me. You're going to take this money and go away and keep your mouth shut -- unless you want to hang right alongside me."
"Actually," said Robinson, lighting a cigarette. "The joke's on you."
He didn't even hear the gunshot -- he knew the Browning .22 sniper's rifle had been fitted with a suppressor -- but he saw how the bullet punched the chauffuer high in the shoulder and knocked him down. Robinson reached through the open window and clutched Ebanks' right arm before the man could brandish the little automatic Robinson had noticed weighing down the right coat pocket of his impeccably tailored suit. He lifted the arm and plucked the gun out of Ebanks' hand. Ebanks was focused on the tiny Beretta hideout that Sheila St. Cyr had taken from a thigh holster. She'd exposed a good deal of leg in getting to the gun, but Ebanks didn't notice -- he couldn't seem to drag his gaze off the Beretta, which was aimed at a spot right between his eyes.
"I ought to kill you," she muttered.
"That wasn't part of the deal, Sheila, remember?" asked Robinson.
"Yes. I remember."
Robinson went around the Princess Daimler. The chauffuer was trying to crawl away, clutching at his shoulder. Robinson rolled him over, relieved him of the pistol in a shoulder rig. Sheila was getting out of the car, keeping Ebanks covered. Working swiftly, surely, Robinson took the keys out of the ignition, tossed them into the black water of the canal. He smashed the car phone with the .45 automatic he'd taken from the chauffuer, using the gun like a hammer, then tossed it into the canal, too. Finally he leaned back into Ebanks' window and smiled, fiddling with the cufflink on his right sleeve.
"You see this little doodad, Mr. Ebanks? It's the most amazing little gadget. Looks like your ordinary, garden variety cufflink, doesn't it? Fact is, it's a microphone and transmitter. My partner got everything you just said on tape. He's right over there, on the levee. With another man, who has a .22 sniper's rifle. He's a really good shot, too. Just ask your chauffuer if you don't believe me. Now, my partner and I are going to drop the tape off with the authorities. But the other man is going to stay and keep you company until the police arrive, okay? I'd advise you to stay in the car, sir. Oh, and one more thing...."
He took the briefcase off Ebanks' lap.
As they walked back to the BMW, Robinson handed the briefcase to Sheila.
"It's pretty heavy," she marveled.
"It's a lot of money."
"Don't you want some of it?"
"Nah. All my bills are paid for the month." Glancing across the canal, he saw Scott, atop the levee, carrying the case that contained the reel-to-reel recording device. He couldn't see Will Ives, though, who was hunkered down, somewhere, with the .22 sniper's rifle, keeping an eagle eye on the Princess Daimler and the man inside of it.
"Maybe I'll give it to charity," she said. "Or, better yet, have a monument built to honor the brave crew of the Bright Hope -- who were all lost at sea that night."
"Your father would like that."
She reached out and took his hand. "Thank you -- for everything, Kelly. You don't mind if I call you Kelly, do you?"
Robinson grinned. "I thought you'd never get around to it."