Stranded in Paradiseby Robin Ray / Actions & Adventure / Historical Fiction
Stranded in Paradise
Stranded in Paradise
Copyright © 2016 by Robin Ray
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher, addressed “Attention: Permissions Coordinator,” at the url above.
This is a work of historical fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s vivid imagination or used in a purely fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Dedicated to all the bullies who made it impossible
for me to go out and play like normal people,
forcing me to stay hidden inside
and brush up my literary and musical skills.
Other Books by Robin Ray
Wednesday, April 1, 1960
THE QUARTERMASTER stares as his enamel cup of coffee teeters and slides off a counter in the bridge. He’d been warned by the captain several times about bringing drinks to the helm, but for the past few days, their mission in the Baltic Sea to help rid the area of Nazi-planted mines had been so uneventful, the rules were relaxed.
Now tonight, somehow, the USS Arcadia, a Klondike-class destroyer tender, is in trouble. She is tossing wildly. The frigid water of the North Atlantic comes rushing through every conceivable opening in her hull, from dented stem to rusted rudder. Capt. Heinrich Wieck orders all the crew to man their stations. All non-essential areas like the libraries, chapels and rec rooms close. The bridge communicator emits distress signals to neighboring fleets. The helmsman and engineering staff do all they can to keep the ship steady while the medical crew tends to the fallen. Every other man on board gets busy by draining the ship of the floods that threatens to take her under.
The ruckus lasts for about an hour, but the damage seems immeasurable. After a quick head count, they discover fourteen crewmen have perished. They also realize tons of equipment has been damaged and oil is now spilling into the sea, though that amount can’t be ascertained. Everything seems to happen so quickly, but the call the captain receives from his superiors appears to last forever.
Friday, April 17, 1960.
The much-decorated Capt. Wieck, flanked by his stalwart purser William Bainbridge and attorney Milton Buchanan, sits casually at a cluttered table facing the three members of the City of Miami Naval Review Board. The temperature in the room is a stifling 92 degrees, but Wieck, a handsome German-American in his 50’s, is hardly perspiring. Despite the room’s inherently saturnine demeanor, Wieck, sharply dressed in a crisp, white double breasted jacket with matching white pants, resembles Cary Grant during his French Riviera days with Grace Kelly.
Oscillating fans are on in every corner of the room. Even the photograph of President Dwight Eisenhower up on the wall behind the three board members seems to be sweating. The wooden slats of the blinds, as well as the windows, are wide open, allowing a clear unrestricted view of the United States Southern Command center. The Under Secretary of the Navy, Fred Bantz, is wiping his forehead with a handkerchief. His two assistants are also as hot and bothered as him. A court stenographer is off to one side in this chamber which, luckily, has no jury, spectators or news people, a gawking crowd Buchanan is more than happy to do without.
Wieck, after reviewing his notes and conferring with his attorney & purser, gazes at Bantz.
“Looks like you boys picked the wrong day for a fight,” he opens.
“Captain Wieck...” Bantz begins, only to be cut off by the insouciant officer.
“I've given 20 years of service to this fleet, now I'm being court-martialed like a buck private? This is insulting given my history.”
“Your view,” Bantz proceeds, “that this proceeding amounts to character assassination in an attempt to humiliate you is most disturbing and unexpected of a naval officer. This is only one phase of your competency hearing. An investigative committee has concluded that your drinking problem may be a causative factor in your…errant behavior.”
Wieck leaps to his feet. “Listen, Bantz. I've petitioned for a year for a Class 5 Sonar. You don’t know what that is because you’re a civilian, but if your people weren't so damn cheap, we would've never run aground on that iceberg in Helsinki.”
Bantz taps his gavel. “Don’t be foul, captain. You spilled 400 gallons of crude oil over 350 nautical miles and I’ve read you dared to blame that on instrument failure? Come on!”
Wieck, after a few months of teeth gnashing, sits down. “We can take every known precaution in the world to prevent spillage,” he explains, “and our engineers and midshipmen can perform every serviceable function known to man, but when you factor in instrument failure, what else is left?”
“Failure,” Bantz answers.
“Human error,” Wieck corrects him.
“Your honor,” attorney Buchanan interjects, “this hearing is making everybody tense. I'd like to motion for an adjournment.”
Bantz shakes his head. “Motioned denied.”
Wieck turns to his purser.
“These boys couldn’t spend a week at sea without wanting to gut themselves.”
Bantz bangs his gavel again. “Captain Wieck, would you like me to hold you in contempt of court?”
“We were part of an international clean up force,” Wieck insists. “The Russians and Europeans would laugh at these proceedings.”
“You never received orders to go as far north as Helsinki. Is the USS Arcadia an ice cutter? The Finnish could take care of that area.”
“They requested our help.”
“Time and time again, Capt. Wieck, you bend the rules to suit your present needs. Your very behavior makes the chain of command seem arbitrary. Is anarchy your end game?”
“I object!” Buchanan yells.
Bantz turns to the stenographer. “Strike my last statement from your record.”
He looks at Wieck. “You, sir,” he scolds him, “placed your men at risk in the Baltic. In complete disregard for their safety, and without conferring with your superiors, you journeyed approximately 300 miles past Copenhagen to aid a supposedly stranded cutter but ran aground on an iceberg. The court hereby fines Heinrich Wieck, captain of the Class A Queen Victoria II Caribbean Cruiser, $9000.”
Wieck leaps to his feet again. “What?! You little...”
His attorney quickly grabs his arm. “Be careful,” he warns him. “You're already looking at five years.” He then turns to Bantz. “Thank you, your honor. We accept the punishment.”
Wieck sits down, sips his water, and glances sharply at the panel while the three board members confer among themselves. Seconds later, they finish and Bantz turns to Wieck.
“Captain Wieck, we understand that, as you are now employed in the private sector, we have no jurisdiction there. This board can do nothing but allow you to command your next voyage to the Caribbean, but just remember, as soon as that trip is over, you belong to us.”
He bangs his gavel.
A flock of screeching fruit bats takes to the moonlit sky at Samana Cay in the Bahamas as a dark van pulls up through a forest to the shore at the edge of this remote tropical island outpost. The driver and passenger come out. The passenger, a tall man in a black jumpsuit, shines his flashlight in all directions then hikes to the back of the van and opens the rear doors. Four men, also dressed in black, emerge. They bring out a motorboat and drag it to the shore.
The driver grabs an armful of equipment, including a lantern, a metal bucket, a tarp and fishing net from the van and places them in the boat. The tall man strolls confidently to the shoreline where he's met by the driver who sticks out his hand to receive payment for his services.
The tall man nods secretly to one of his Men who promptly whips out a gun and shoots the driver in the back of his head. The driver falls dead. The four men drag and lift him into the back of the van and lock the doors. The tall man releases the van's brakes then all five push it into a nearby cove. As it sinks, they board the boat called “Sea Monkey”, start her engine, and sail off.